When I took Asad out to my back field today to give him a chance to roll in some nice sand and stretch his legs, he did just that, for the very first time. Asad has been here for 14 months now, so the routine is nothing new. It is the details that have changed.
We walk out back, I unclip the lead and give him a few wither scratches. He wanders off a few steps, finds the right spot to paw and drops to the ground to roll.
When he had a wheelbarrow load of parasites, Iowa mudstone grit and chronic inflammation in his guts, he would lie down, thrash a bit, roll up onto his sternum when he couldn’t make it all the way over and then heave himself to his feet. He’s let loose a few hacking coughs and then plod off the check his manure piles and the perimeter. Sometimes he would nibble on the few blades of grass growing, but if I didn’t keep an eye on him he would settle into one of his favored spots to eat dirt.
There have been small signs of improvement accumulating as his guts have improved. One sign was that he was able and enthusiastic about rolling ALL the way over. Sometimes several times, making sure he gave both sides and his back a good and dusty rub. And then getting up and giving a vigorous full body shake from head to tail. Now his shakes are often vigorous enough to shake his halter half way off and leave the head strap hanging over one ear.
There have also been small signs of improvement accumulating as his hooves have improved. His willingness to dance about in greeting has radically increased. But his enjoying his discovery that when he smacks his front hooves down in front of him in joyous celebration, the clop-clop echoes through the barn and being willing to repeat it means at long last, his front feet don’t ache.
Not least, his food intake has suddenly dropped by about half. Of course, since it coincided with the onset of cold weather, I was sure that meant more gut problems. Since the most effective treatment (and prevention) for sand colic is feeding two to three times the basic requirement of roughage, I have made sure that Asad always has access to plenty of hay as well as his medicinal mush.
It turns out that with the inflammation in his guts easing up, he just hasn’t needed to eat anything compulsively- hay or dirt. For the record, any one dealing with horses that are chronic dirt eaters, ulcer symptoms, equine colitis, intensely itchy everywhere, not just around their anus and generally doing poorly, figure out how to deal with any pinworm infestation. Asad’s pinworms were completely impervious to ivermection, moxidectrin and oxibendazole. Febendazole gave him a couple of weeks of relief from itchy tail syndrome when I used the double dose prescribed for tapeworms.
What finally made a dent in Asad’s pinworm population was following up the febendozale with a double dose of pyrantal pamoate, also prescribed for tapeworms, five days later,. That combination, which is also the safest least toxic approach I could come up with, got him four weeks of respite the first couple of times. And, after the third dose at 4 week intervals, he began to show real improvement for the first time in 14 months. Whew!
Not least, is the very slow and gradual improvement in the old injury to his right shoulder,muscles and tissue of the hyoid apparatus and subluxation of his right side TMJ and hyoid bone. He has a horse shoe shaped dent around his right shoulder joint from a kick that some how miraculously didn’t shatter the joint. But combined with yanking his head around, poor tooth care and poor hoof care, getting his whole front end working properly is a challenge.
Asad has managed to pop first his his jaw and more recently his hyoid bone into place spontaneously. Actually, the bones relocating themselves is probably a result of slow steady improvements in his hooves, condition and movement. Horses are made to move and given half a chance they can correct all sorts of human caused issues.
I have been putting off getting his teeth floated because he has had such difficulty opening his mouth as well as a totally justified reluctance to let people mess around with his head. I recently got a dental float and took him and the float into the round pen to see if I could persuade him to cooperate before I called the vet. He was curious about the new tool, and once he’d picked it up I showed him how it could rasp the rough edges off his misaligned teeth.
Now that he realizes that his lower jaw can realign itself with the sharp edges on his teeth gone, he is a willing patient. Even when the float makes his entire head resonate and vibrate with every pull because the edges on his teeth are so rough. And with his jaws able to align, he has less drainage out of his right eye, less tenderness behind his right ear and less coughing as he also has much better drainage from his right guttural pouch.
His right eye had so much fluid and mucus coming out of his tear duct this summer, I thought he might have equine eye worms. Yep, eye worms are a thing. Since Asad absolutely hates fly spray, I resorted to giving him bright pink Swat wound ointment and fly repellent warpaint around his eyes to discourage the face flies.
He has been really good about letting me clean up his eyes, but pulling long thready things out of his tear ducts after a few hours with the ‘kills insects on contact’ ointment on his face was a bit much. He tended to engage in some serious head rubbing, which made it hard to track exactly what was coming out. Fluid, mucus and worms all become pretty indistinguishable when they are instantly dehydrated by New Mexico dirt.
So getting Asad stabilized, never mind feeling good, has been a long slow haul. When he threw himself into his roll this morning, flipped back and forth half a dozen times, then leapt to his feet, bounced straight up into the air and tore off around the acre field bucking and boxing for several minutes, it was a milestone.
I think Asad is going to be ok.