Wednesday, December 23, 2009


When I went out to feed last night, I could tell just by the way that Diego was walking in the dark that something wasn't right. He had his head lowered down to ground level and was making strange slobbery noises. I quickly flipped on the lights in the barn and took a look at him. He had foamy drool coming out of his mouth and was continually "yawning" and trying to chew, but was not swallowing from what I could see. I knew right away that he was choking.

Thankfully, Diego seemed to realize that I would be able to help him out and he stood pretty still for me to do some exploratory searching in his mouth (I never did bother to halter him during this whole ordeal). I was able to pull out a few longer pieces of hay and a semi-chewed wad that he had been working on. Note: He's been getting a 3-grain hay for the past couple of months and seems to really like it, but it is more coarse than the previous grass hay I had been buying and, being a 3-grain, has various seed heads and such. I massaged up and down his neck, but could not feel any obvious lumps or firmer spots. Eventually, I had to grab his tongue and pull it out one side of his mouth so that I could work my whole hand around in there. I found about a full, big handful of chewed up hay bits, seed heads, and some stems that was somehow wadded up underneath his tongue. Dig wasn't very fond of this portion of the procedure, but he tolerated it well and only threw his head up a few times.

After I had cleared his mouth, I just stood back and looked at him for a little while. He was still kind of licking and chewing, and his eyes were still somewhat stressed looking, but he no longer appeared to be in distress or straining. It was more like he was just checking things out and tentatively making sure stuff was still working. He never had any sort of nasal discharge during this, so I think I caught his choke pretty early and was beginning to believe that it was the wad under his tongue that was the main culprit. After a few minutes, where he relaxed further and quit chewing, I decided to give him a small bit of pelleted grain (small like pencil eraser sized pellets) to see if he could chew and swallow that down without any issues. He eagerly ate his grain, but started to put his teeth on the plywood around the panels on the inside of his barn area and make a funny face at me - something I've never seen him do before. Bits of slobbery grain drool were coming out of his mouth. I realized he may still have an impaction further down in his throat.

I'm not an expert on choke, having only dealt with it once before with Sinatra during a ride. I knew that horses aren't as worrisome as people when they choke, since generally their airway is not compromised and they can still breathe. However, horses are unable to vomit, so they can't force any obstruction up and out, but rather have to work it down for the most part. There is the worry that they may aspirate some particles into their lungs, which could lead to other problems. Since Diego seemed to be able to swallow for the most part without issues, I was hopeful that if I could get him to drink/slurp up a wet soupy bran-type mash, that it might help push down and clear whatever blockage he may still have. I was hopeful that the warm wet mixture would help to soak and relieve whatever might still be causing him problems.

So I hurried back down to the house and returned quickly with a big jug of hot water (thank you instant hot in the kitchen!). I poured this into a bucket with a mixture of his pelleted grain and some wheat bran, and added a nice scoop of electrolytes as well to help encourage further drinking. Diego was watching me eagerly, but still had a bit of a stressed look in his eye. After the mash had quickly soaked (it takes less than a minute for the pellets to come apart), I added some cold water so it wouldn't be too hot and gave it to Dig. As he slurped and drank the mixture down, I massaged his throat, finding a somewhat harder spot directly behind his jaw bones in his throatlatch area. Since firmly massaging my horses throats while they're eating/drinking is not part of my normal habit, I couldn't say for sure if that was "normal" or if that was some sort of blockage. Either way, I worked my hands firmly up and down his throat, massaging, pressing downward and generally trying to loosen any harder or more firm spots. When Diego was mostly finished, I noticed that he was shivering somewhat, I figured it was probably stress induced but I put my winter weight blanket on him anyways for good measure. I fed him some nice soft pasture grass hay (not the 3-grain) and watched while he finished his mash and started eating that. His eyes looked normal again, no longer stressed, and he seemed to be eating and swallowing just fine. No more drool, no more biting the fence. He was looking perfectly normal when I went out later to check on him before bed.

So disaster averted it seems. I'm now a bit worried about the 3-grain hay, of which I still have probably 15+ bales. Not sure if this was a freak occurrence, or something that may continue. I think I'll call the feed store today and see if I can possibly exchange it for something else.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New Toy? FAIL

I bought one of those blow-up exercise ball things to play with and use around Diego as a de-spooking object. I also got an "anti-burst" ball, thinking that maybe I could leave it in his corral for him to play with. So this weekend, after a nice lunging session in our remaining slush and mud, I decided to blow up the ball and see how he reacted. He was mildy curious as I was pumping my little heart out, making strange whooshing sounds, but he merely deigned to look across at me with a "And just what are you up to now?" expression.

After it was all blown up (I was disappointed to realized exactly how SMALL the 65 cm ball was), I carried it over to Dig for him to check out. He walked over and sniffed the ball briefly for a millisecond and decided it wasn't worth his attention. So I lifted it up and dropped it over the top rail into the corral, about 4 feet in front of him. He looked at it, bored. So I asked him to put his head down and sniff it, he bumped it with his lip and proceeded to try to go back to napping. So I pushed and kicked the dang thing around (it has sand inside so you have to shove it) and he could hardly be bothered to watch what I was doing. After a bit, I put my hand under his chin (he was loose, not haltered) and had him walk over and "kick" the ball a couple of times by bumping it with a front leg. Overall, he was totally unamused and bored with the whole idea, if "This is stupid and I'm too mature to play" had a face, it was the one he had on.

The only reaction I got from him out of the whole thing was when I finally picked the ball up and threw it over the top corral panel rail and into the barn/shed, over his back and behind his head, where it bumped around and made a few small crashing sounds, at which point he had the decency to hop his back feet over 6 inches to the side so he could see that it was only the ball that made that noise.

So despooking - SUCCESS, toy - FAIL

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Planning for next year

I hate this time of year. Shorter days means it's dark by the time I get home and bad weather along with continued cold temperatures mean too much ice and snow on the roads for me to brave getting the trailer out. This is when not having access to trails (that are suitable for a green horse) or even a proper riding area at home are a major hinderance. They only plus side is that with still having 6+ inches of snow at home from different storms over the past two weekends, the footing out back is a lovely soft snowy (mess) that covers all the rocks and gravelly bits and Diego was very happy to run around and play on the lunge the other night.

All I do this time of year is plan and think about riding. Not getting out very much last year has be craving rides and being out on the trails very badly. I've been prone to pissy-ness and sporadic bad moods lately. I've also been very unmotivated with other aspects of my life, and then feel overwhelmed because those things aren't getting done. I'm practically positive it all has a direct correlation to lack of time in the saddle.

So, in an effort to cheer myself up - I'll post a tentative ride schedule for next season. Diego turned 5 in September, and since this will be his first season of endurance, our goals are pretty moderate to reflect that:

Rides of March - probably the 30-mile LD, this will be our first official AERC ride and the LD is sufficiently difficult that it should be a value-added experience for Diego.

High Desert (mid-April-ish) - Diego's first 50. This was
a 2-day last year, but we'll probably aim for our first 50 on Saturday and then just play Sunday by ear. I'm guessing we'll just do the one day though. The Ride Managers also host a two-day fall ride and if you ride a 50 for at least 3 days you get a blanket.

Washoe in May - probably only one day, these are good tough rides.

Manage the Nevada Moonshine Night Ride in June

Bridgeport in August - this one I've wanted to do for YEARS but it has never worked out with my schedule. Hopefully this will be the year. I've marked trail on the first 20-mile loop before and it's just a beautiful ride in the Twin Lakes area of California. Lots of good friends usually attend this ride as well.

High Desert in October (mid-Oct-ish) - Final two days to get the blankie, 50/50 each day

Other maybes:
Hat Creek Hustle in June
Tour de Washoo in July
Patriot's in September

If we do all the rides planned above, that would give Dig and I 250 miles for his first season. A lot less than many people start with, but I feel comfortable with this level of riding and mileage for him since he's still so young. Here's hoping that all my plans work out.
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