Monday, October 31, 2016

Choke in a Horse

The other night one of our horses, an 25 year old QH Gelding, developed choke. Choke in a horse is when something, usually pelleted feed, gets lodged in the horse's esophagus. The most likely cause is by and far dry, pelleted feed and this was the cause with our horse who was eating a small amount, maybe 1.5 lbs, of small pelleted feed. Dry pellets can expand so that's why most people who feed large amounts of pellets usually soak them for a bit before feeding. Horses who have dental problems or needing their teeth floated are at risk for choke as are horse's who eat their feed too fast. Horse's who did not completely chew their feed can swallow larger pieces of pellets and make it more likely that a pierce will get lodged in their esophagus.

While I have only seen maybe five horses with choke, all the symptoms were the same - the horses appear to be choking - imagine that. The horse will extended his neck and emit a deep cough or appear to be having a gagging reflex, usually followed by colored discharge from his nose and mouth. The horse can also sweat in the exertion of trying to get the offending piece dislodged from his esophagus. The horse can breathe but cannot swallow, but immediate Veterinarian care is needed.

Our Vet, Amy Starr DVM owner of Paws n Hooves Mobile Vet services, arrived, sedated the horse, then tubed the horse with a nasal gastric tube, going through the horse's nose then down into the stomach. The tube hit the blockade in the esophagus so we pumped several ounces of warm water into the tube trying to soften the offending pellet, then let drain, repeating this several times until the Vet was able to pushed the tube into the stomach and we could smell the recently eaten grass hay through the tube.

I could not get a good picture as I was the one pumping the warm water through the nasal tube so the picture at bottom right is just after out Vet pulled the tube and the horse was still sedated.

The need to get the Vet out right away is something you should not dilly about on, The horse can aspirate some of the saliva and bits of feed into their respiration tract and develop feed pneumonia and that is bad news.

Post tubing care was to not feed for at least 12 hours then feed wet hay only, no pellets, for a couple days giving the esophagus a chance to heal from any trauma to the esophagus caused by the tubing - which can occur no matter how careful it is done.  Best case is that the esophagus is mildy irriated and worst case is that you can tear the esophagus building scar tissue and making it further restrictive. And even though it was the first time that this horse choked and we have his teeth floated once every 12 months we stopped feeding him pellets.  Sometimes once a year is not often enough for some horses with floating.  After a couple times floating a horse's teeth, the Vet will have a good idea on what timeline will work for any particular horse.    

You can give the horse Banamine to help him relax or Bute to help with any pain issues. We gave our horse Banamine once that night and decided not to continue it in the morning when it wore off.

Again choke prevention includes feed pellets after soaking them first so they are easier to chew and break up, as well as expand with the liquid before the horse swallows them. Rather than feeding pellets in small bucket where the horse can get a mouthful at a time, spead out the pellets in a larger feeder, slowing his eating, and making it harder for the horse to choke on a mouthful of pellets.  And please don't waste time getting the Vet out if your horse develops choke. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Bad Habits?

I have had several readers either write comments on my You Tube videos or send me e-mails notifying me of my bad habits. While somewhere I appreciate that, I'm also actually surprised people take the time to address my peculiarities. I don't take offense to these comments, but for a sense of accuracy I'm taking the time to address these bad habits here.

Wearing Spurs. I don't always wear spurs and rarely on a horse I'm riding for the first time, like a young horse. But comments like "you'll never achieve the next level of horsemanship with spurs - get rid of them!" just don't consider the fact that it's not the tool, it's how the tool is used. If you don't know how to use spurs then by all means, don't wear them. Sometimes I even suggest that a particular rider ditch the spurs so they can have some more freedom trying to use their legs as aides without worrying about gouging their horse. Besides I don't know what the levels of horsemanship are,.....I'm just trying to get to be adequate.

Always Wearing Gloves. These comments have ranged from "Why do you always wear gloves" or telling me that "if I had any skills I would not be wearing gloves". Well, my lack of skills has nothing to do with wearing gloves - it may likely be associated with a general lack of intelligence, but my lack of skills certainly ain't because I'm not trying. I pretty much always wear thin pigskin gloves and I don't think I give up any feel by riding in them or working a horse from the ground. I ride, throw a loop (not well but I try), tie knots and practically have gloves on anytime I'm outside the house which is a consider time. Heck, I even tried to eat supper one night with my gloves on, but my wife pitched a fit so I took them off. In my near 60 years I have had many weeks and months of down time with a hand injuries such as rope burned palms, broken fingers, or, cut and badly chapped fingers. Wearing gloves greatly reduces this, in fact, I'd recommended it.

Holding a Lead Rope in a coil. While I never teach people to coil a lead rope when walking or working a horse from the ground, but I pretty much always do myself. Sure, carrying the lead rope in coils, especially small coils, can be dangerous if the horse bolts, and that's why I don't let youngers do it. I'm used to coiled ropes and it's easier for me to manage and feed the rope out of my hand when I am sending a horse or otherwise needing more slack in the rope.

And many ropers every day across America carry a coiled lariat rope when roping and have learned to be safe with it. Bottom line is that if you don't believe something is safe, then please don't do it.

Dismounting. When I dismount, say coming off the left side, my right leg swings over the cantle then plants on the ground then my left foot slides out of the stirrup. I do not lay across the saddle, with both feet out of the stirrups then slide down so that both feet hit the ground at the same time. People who write to tell me there is a better way to dismount,....well, I don't know, maybe if I was riding an 18 HH horse then I may dismount that way - both feet out of the stirrups and sliding down, but I kinda limit myself to horse's I can mount from the ground,....without a ladder. I was at odds with competitive organizations who penalized the way I dismounted with their rules that both feet have to hit the ground at the same time. It's likely more important to have control of the reins, slightly tipping your horse's head to the side of the dismount - to keep him from moving into you as you dismount. And it's likely as or more important to have a horse that stands still during and after the dismount. Some other things also come into consideration for dismounting safety, like how much foot you keep in the stirrup, what material the stirrup surface and the sole of the boot are. I always ride in leather covered stirrups and leather soled boots. This is more slippery than a rubber soled boot and easier to adjust foot position while riding, as well as easier to get your foot out of the stirrup. The weight of my foot in the stirrup pretty much keeps it in place and my riding heel keeps my boot from sliding forward through the stirrup.

While I have many more bad habits I think I'll stop here even those its against my wife's urging to come fully clean. But I told her that leaving the toilet seat up was not necessarily a bad habit nor had much to do with riding horses.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Breast Collar Fit Question

I received a YouTube Video Channel comment from 3d3nd3n1 regarding a video on Breast Collar fit saying, "Hi, great video. I just purchased a pulling collar but am not sure how to affix it to the swell of the saddle. Can you do another video and explain that? If it isn't too much of a bother."

I don't have a fixed, U shaped Pulling Breast Collar currently in my tack room. But the one you have is likely attached through the gullet and around the swell of the saddle with a strap that has a O or D ring at one end. You feed the strap through the gullet around the swell then back through the D or O ring, tighten it up then take the running end of that strap to the D ring or buckle attachment on the breast collar.  Similiar to the picture below. There may be different attaching point on your breast collar. Some of the attachment straps (the ones running through the gullet of the saddle) may have a snap hook to clip to the D ring on the Pulling Collar and a buckle for adjustments somewhere on the attachment straps, rather than a buckle on the breast collar like the one on the photo.  

You can see that the saddle above does not have breast collar attachment D rings. Many saddles have D rings that are positioned too low to keep the breast collar off the chest and positioned in the natural "V" between the horse's chest and the neck. If your saddle has Breast Collar attachment D rings that are high enough on the saddle, like on the Wade saddle in the photo below, you may be able to attach your Pulling Collar at these points if that still allows the breast collar to be high enough off the chest, but low enough not to choke the horse.

If you do have Breast Collar attaching D rings on your saddle that you want to use but the breast collar position is still too low, you can run a strap from the breast collar D rings over the horse's withers to bring the breast collar up and into the correct position which is more comfortable to the horse, doesn't affect his stride nor rub his chest, and isn't high enough to put pressure on his throat.

Some makers offer straps for just this purpose (breast collar over the withers) but you can certainly make an expedient strap. While I have seen riders use hay twine for this purpose, something flatter like a saddle string or a wider piece of leather would work better I would think.

Once you have your Pulling Breast Collar fit just right, check to see that there is some play in the breast collar at the point of the chest where the breast collar comes together. I like to have 2-3 fingers width play or looseness here. See photo below.  I reckon if you had really thick fingers, you may be able to use one finger. Don't laugh, I used to know a gent whose fingers were so thick we called him "sausage fingers".

I hope this helps you fit your Pulling Collar in the absence of a video. Safe Journey.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Cowboy Humor - Looking for your Wife

At a local rodeo the other night two Cowboys, one an older man around 60 years old and the other a younger man around 30 bumped into each other, almost knocking each other down, while walking through crowd and the pens, each looking for their misplaced wife.

"Excuse me young fella, I wasn't paying attention, sorry I almost knocked you over, but I lost my wife and I was looking for her."

The younger Cowboy replies, "Same here Sir, I wasn't looking where I was going either, and I am also looking for my wife."

The older Cowboy asks "Well, what does your wife look like?  I may have seen her."

'Well, my wife is in her late 20's, small waisted, long blonde hair, very pretty,.....oh, she has a really big,..err.,,chest."  say's the young Cowboy.  Then he asks the older Cowboy, "What does your wife look like?" 

The older Cowboy replies, "Never mind that, let's go look for your wife!"