Saturday, January 5, 2013

Nearly had a horse-induced heart attack!

This came up as I was attempting to solve a bit issue that I already had a thread going in the tack section, so I typed this up there as an update in that issue. If you already read that, save yourself some time and don't read it twice. However, I did want to share this as its own thread just because it was so strange... but so simple.

Snickers was very slobbery today and has been for the last day or two. Not like "foam when you put the bit in" but rather huge strings of thick drool hanging from his mouth all the time. I wasn't sure what was going on....

I've been trying to find a bit that was comfortable for him, and my latest bit came in the mail this morning. I brought him up and saddled him, and he was doing really well. Then, I wanted a picture of him with what he was doing before, so I put the curb bit in his mouth and rotated it, but no matter what I did, he didn't react at all (he was gaping and pulling his lips back before). Instead, he just drooled. Interesting....

I put him in the new bit, and it was awesome and crappy at the same time. He rode like he's never done before - that head was automatically in the perfect position the entire time, no throwing his head, no fighting, nothing. And he was doing things for me that he's never done - perfectly responsive to all my cues. In fact, I was riding with a lighter hand than I usually ever have with him. It was great! Except.... He was girding his teeth the ENTIRE time, like 30 minutes straight. It was the strangest thing - how could he be SO good (I was shocked!), but be so pissed the entire time??

But the story doesn't end there... During this time, he continued drooling the entire time, and I even saw a hint of what looked like blood after he'd been grinding his teeth for so long. I took a look inside his mouth and couldn't see anything, and there wasn't any more blood, so I just wasn't sure....

I put him back and my BO called me on my way home. We've been talking about his eating habits - he drops a lot of food and seems to have trouble chewing. She'd been watching him eat that morning and agreed with me it wasn't normal and she was worried about him. Between the food issues and the bit issues, we decided it might be good to have his teeth checked again. I called vet #1 who's known him since before I bought him and did his teeth last February. He said he really didn't think he could have a problem with his teeth since he did them, but suggested thoroughly checking my feed for cheat grass. Funny enough, we just switched feed last week, and that's when the drooling started and I think the teeth grinding (in addition to the gaping with a bit) started around then, too. I called my BO and she went and threw them some of her hay (I'm her only boarder and we take care of our own hay). I then called vet #2, who checked his teeth a couple months ago and who I'm much more comfortable with. She took the time to talk to me and thoroughly explain different aspects and hear me out about all my concerns from the hay to the bit to the girding, and she said she'd bet money it's cheat grass in the hay.

Then, things got scary. My BO called - she'd given them new hay in a different bin and he wasn't eating. He kept putting his head down to the food, but never ate anything. This is NOT like him, at all. Especially with straight alfalfa that he'd been eating before I got my own hay last week. So, I prepared a mash with about 2 lbs of beet pulp, 2 lbs of Triple Crown, and a bunch of alfalfa cubes soaked in hot water (he NEVER turns down his beet pulp mash, even if he's stuffed himself) and called vet #2 back. As I was driving with my mash back to my boy, she explained that he was probably in too much pain with the cheat grass in his mouth and it made him not want to eat. I needed to take a syringe and rinse his mouth.

My BO got a 60cc syringe and a bucket of warm water, and I caught my horse. He was standing at the barrel with the hay that likely had cheat grass and looked like he'd been digging through it, but not eating. There aren't any outdoor lights, so we brought him right up to the front porch on the yard. She held him while I inserted the full syringe and emptied it in his mouth... Nothing. It was so strange - where did the water go? We did this a few more times, and concluded he must be swallowing it lol. He just kept letting us stick that syringe in there and give him a drink over and over! What a strange horse... But that's nothing I didn't already know, it just added to his list of strange things he does. Anyway, nothing was coming out, except the same slobber like crazy. After a few more times, I got out the mash, but he sniffed it and turned away. Now I was worried - that is extremely unusual, even if he was somehow full (but we really doubted that was the case). He was acting normal, except just not eating. I'd seen him eat his regular daily mash and drink water just 2 hours earlier. This didn't feel like a colic, but he still wasn't eating at all and rinsing his mouth wasn't working. I stuck him in the round pen with the mash while I called the vet - we decided it probably wasn't an emergency and could probably wait until morning to see if he ate then, so I decided to go with that. Wanting to give it one last go, I went and got him and rinsed his mouth with the same result. I even pried open his mouth before I rinsed it and it really didn't help any. Now, he was getting a little annoyed though. Finally, I did what any mom would have done for their child - off came my nice, warm, waterproof gloves, and my hand went in his mouth. Turns out, if he feels your hand in there, he won't bite hard enough to make it hurt. He was obviously not to thrilled with it, but allowed me to explore his entire mouth (all the way up to my elbow) and get out the crud. There were two main wads of food under his tongue, but I could guarantee after that that there was nothing left in that mouth. And my arm smelled TERRIBLE!! I did feel two rough spots about the size of dimes on the side of his tongue that were different than the rest, but there wasn't any more food in there for sure.

And guess what? After a few minutes, he started stuffing his face with the mash! He truly was just in so much discomfort from those bits of food that it made him not want to eat at all. After a bit, I returned him to the pasture and filled his (and my other horse's) buckets with the rest of the mash. I went back inside and called my husband to tell him I was almost done and that Snickers was doing fine, talked to my BO. And then drove my car out to the gate so I could see what was going on and finish my last job. Snickers was still stuffing his face :) No, there was no way he was sick haha. With my headlights helping me see, I emptied their entire tractor tire that I use for free-feeding of the bale of hay or so that I'd fed yesterday and threw it over the fence. I got it out all the way down to the dirt and felt I did a pretty thorough job, especially for being in the dark. Then, I went and got some of that alfalfa hay that I know he likes and offered him a bite before throwing it in the barrel. He eagerly took it! In fact, more like Snickers than anything, he left his mash for the hay as soon as I threw it in the tire. (Of course, Flash, my colt, was very pleased since he'd finished his bucket and was waiting for a bit of Snickers' lol).

I called my vet back and left a message telling her what I'd done and that he was fine, and she called me back (What a fantastic vet on a Saturday night!). She said those rough patches were probably ulcers, like a bad canker sore, and that that was likely why he'd been grinding his feet the entire time we were riding. Sticking a bit in there just put more pressure on his tongue and caused him discomfort. His ulcers should heal up on their own in 4-5 days, so then we should be good to go. In that time, I'm definitely going to be getting them new hay!!

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