Rocky

Unicorn wannabes and other equine oddities

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A vet once told me, “Sheep are looking for a place to die.” The meaning: by the time one seems sick, it is probably a goner.

Apparently our sheep’s sludgy, algae-covered water trough is a fountain of youth, because our crew refuse to the kick the bucket. (Check Funny Farm next week, to see if I jinxed them with that statement.)

Setting sheep aside, I can attest to this fact: if you own a horse, he will get hurt or sick. Remember, Benjamin Franklin famously said: “Nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes, and that your horse will get injured or ill.”

The last part is often omitted.

Fortunately, most ailments are recognizable to owners: colic, hoof injuries, skin lacerations — routine stuff that may or may not need the vet.

But every so often, a horse will throw you a curve ball.

Like Chance, my older Thoroughbred. I rarely ride him so he receives minimal attention — a cursory glance to make sure nothing’s broken or bleeding, and that his 4 legs aren’t sticking straight up in the air.

But earlier this summer, it was impossible to miss the lump protruding from his forehead. It was rock-hard and didn’t appear to be injury related.

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This particular condition has a name… which I’ve presently forgotten. But my vet assured me that it isn’t causing him discomfort and it should go away. So far, it hasn’t receded much. He appears to be sprouting a unicorn horn.

Jazz, my other horse, has his own facial imperfection. It also appeared without provocation: a trail of distended veins on his right cheek.

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This is a permanent development but it is benign. Really, no big deal. (I texted my vet for the medical terminology for this veiny disorder and Chance’s unicorn head, but apparently she’s too busy working — stitching wounds, saving horses and such — to field my random blog questions.)

Not all of our weird equine ailments have been harmless. In my last post I mentioned Rocky’s eye. (And kudos to Brynn for noticing, “something’s wrong with Rocky’s eye.) Ultimately, he was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, a tumorous growth on his eyelid. The tumor was surgically removed (a more conservative option than taking the entire eye). But with this approach, we decided to follow up with chemotherapy, which may reduce the chance of recurrence. It comes in the form of a topical gel, applied inside the eyelid, three times a day, for several staggered weeks.

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Ironically, on Monday — the same day that Rocky received his first dose of chemo ointment — Brynn also began a new course of meds: a foul-tasting antibiotic, also three times daily. It’s thick and gloppy, and according to Brynn, “tastes like rotten peppermint and salt.”

Brynn isn’t thrilled but accepts her meds as long as we provide strawberry milk or a candy chaser.

Rocky, however, is a noncompliant patient. Very noncompliant.

Treating him is a two-person circus three times a day: Martin physically, forcibly, wrangles Rocky into submission so that the pony’s head is still, while I try to pry open his tightly clasped eye, and deposit a 1/4 inch dab of Mitomycin-C inside the lid.

I’d like to say that it’s getting easier over time, but it ain’t. And safe to say, Rocky hates the sight of us.

If nothing else, these thrice daily episodes enforce the mantra that Rocky and other ponies believe: Kids are generally kind and less troublesome. Those big humans are not to be trusted.

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Hunting & Dancing with Hounds

New Funny Farm content coming soon. But after a busy weekend, I can only proffer up a few pixs and captions.

On Saturday Brynn hunted untethered — “off the leash,” as she likes to say. In other words, without any speed moderation from yours truly.

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What does this mean?

It means that I’m dispensable.

I’m still useful when it comes to tacking up the pony, or tightening his girth. I am menial labor.

But in the hunt field, I am a nonessential employee.

Last week, Brynn was frightened to ride down steep slopes and cross creek beds. This week she was blase. Freed from the lead, she announced that I could fall in behind her. “You can stay back there,” she said, gesturing toward Rocky’s tail.

She’s a teenager, embodied in a kindergartener.

Which is impressive and annoying at the same time.

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Chatting on the hack home

 

In the meantime, Hadley is still honing her hound handling skills. Pictured, this isn’t Kennedy, but another effusive hound in the pack.

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Dancing with hounds.

Or just bonding.

Either way, it’s a feel-good experience.

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(Photos by Karen Kandra & Robert Keller)

The sound of autumn

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Circa, 2014

Last week, I heard the distinctive sound of fall.

No, not rustling leaves, but the steady, whirling brrrrrrrrrrr and the rattling clickety-clack from neighboring properties.

The sound of clippers, mowing through miles of horse hair.

Last week, spurred by warm weather, horse owners everywhere uncoiled their clipper cords, sized up their blades, and cleared store shelves of blade wash and coolant spray.

Most horses who work hard in cold months need a haircut; otherwise, cooling down takes hours. (Blankets make up for what’s been removed.)

In the best of circumstances, body clipping is a loathsome chore. A royal pain in the butt.

Why? It’s time consuming. The clippers easily clog and the motor can overheat; the blades dull with use. And if you don’t cut with meticulous care, your horse will look mouse-chewed and shabby.

For the human, it’s an itchy task; a raincoat and slick pants will help repel hair, but bits always find their way into underclothes.

Last week I heeded the sunny, warm days and contributed to autumn’s song.

But clipping Jazz wasn’t just onerous, it was perilous.

He’s a thin-skinned, squeamish Thoroughbred, so I sedated him last year. And planned to do so again. Unfortunately, Jazz currently has a skin infection (“rain rot”) which leaves tiny scabs. Removing them is uncomfortable — I tried in advance, but Jazz was intolerant. So I planned to clip them off, assuming sedation would override his discomfort.

I was wrong.

When I steered the blades into his scabby patches, dozing Jazz tried to kick my lights out.

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Sedated looks are deceiving…

But once you start clipping a horse — especially one freshly-bathed and temporarily tranquilized — you gotta finish. I spoke soothingly to Jazz, growled, hollered and tried cutting as gingerly as possible. Sometimes he’d issue a tail-swish warning, other times he’d just let hind foot fly.

Eventually, Martin restrained my horse while I plowed on, cursing a lot and dodging sporadic kicks. When done, I felt like a boxer who’d lost a match.

Jazz was quasi-clipped. The barn looked like a crime scene.

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Two days later I attached fresh blades and hacked off Rocky’s wooly coat. A veteran show pony, he was far more compliant.

When done, I stood back and admired my work.

Rocky looked much better than Jazz.

As though the rodents had spared him.

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