Saturday, March 30, 2019

Today Ginger got to go into the arena, along with her colt Ian, aka Bookbinder, and Reggie, the orphan from our wonderful show mare Born A Lopin Machine.  The story about Ginger has been told  and so many of you have followed her journey through her surgery.  She had her first shoeing since the surgery, one month ago.  She had her digital flexor tendon surgically severed to allow her coffin bone to rotate back to a proper angle.  Yesterday, our vet and farrier were at the barn together, along with one of our farm hands, Natalie, and I was there to watch.  Ginger's feet were x-rayed to make sure that the bones were in proper alignment and they were.  This was great news!  Ginger has been on 30 days of stall rest along with her colt Ian.  They have both been unbelievably tolerant and good about the confinement, but they were anxious to get out of the stall.  Before that could happen, Ginger had to be reshod.  Shoeing Ginger with this special shoe and wedge takes a long time, extraordinary skill and a lot of patience.  Our farrier, Clinton Smith, who is remarkable, was very patient with her and took almost two hours to do her feet.  The shoeing involves a special 10 degree wedge and shoe that has to be glued on around a special padding material.  The shoes are just glued on in the back, near the heel, and then a layer of glue is layered around the perimeter.  Ginger's toe is cut back to begin the process of reshaping her hoof capsule.  This is a complicated procedure.

When the shoeing was completed, the foot had to be wrapped in a food wrap type of material to allow the glue to set.  After the glue had set up, we were able to handwalk her in the arena.  This allowed her and her foal to go out into the arena.  We took advantage of this to allow Ginger, her foal and Ian and Reggie to get to know one another.  Reggie is the orphan that is two months old.  The hope is that he and Ian will get to know one another, play and become horses together and maybe, Ginger will take him on as her own.  The photo at the top of this post gives us hope!  I've said this before, Ginger is very good minded, without any meanness in her bones.  She is kind and if anything, she has become even better minded throughout this ordeal.  There are quite a few months to go to say we are completely out of the woods but today was very heartwarming.

After I brought in Reggie to his stall, Natalie let Ginger roll, which she loves to do but hasn't been able to do for 30 days.

This was just icing on the cake!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

A quick update on Ginger and then a few words about Adrian, Reggie, Charlotte and Mae.

Ginger is recovering from her surgery, and will be for the next several months.  When she first returned home she was moving reasonably well, however after a couple of days, all of the pain relievers that were given to her during the surgery wore off.  She's been getting Equioxx, which helps a little, but she is now pretty sore.  This was expected.  Both the surgeon and the farrier warned of this and they said that we would notice some improvement after two to three weeks.  It has only been eight days since her surgery so we are managing through this.  Natalie changed her bandages on Saturday and on Monday, our vet will remove Ginger's stitches.  Two weeks after that, our farrier will be out to do her first post-surgical shoeing.  She is very good about the confinement, she is getting all the hay she wants and she gets grain, which I have begun supplementing with a calcium and phosphorous powder to meet the needs for peak lactation.  Her colt is now three weeks old and the peak period for milk production is around four weeks.  Making sure she has all the nutrients she needs can prevent some other problems so that is why I'm supplementing her.

That leads us to Adrian.  Born A Lopin Machine, aka. Adrian, was our best show horse.  She won futurities in 5 states, she won an NSBA Reserve World Championship, and a bunch of AQHA Highpoint awards.  She carried and delivered her colt by A Touch Of Sudden with no difficulty this year and she foaled out with little complication.  Four weeks after delivery she showed signs of colic, was rushed to an equine hospital.  The vet recommended and we approved emergency surgery.  I notified the insurance company, they wished us good luck and said to proceed.  Sadly, she did not survive the surgery.  She had a double torsion of her colon and too much of  her intestinal tract was damaged to save her.  The technical term of her condition is a "large colon volvulus".     The most common horse to develop this condition is an 8-10 year old mare 30-60 days after foaling.  Tragic as this was for us, we recovered and are now focusing on what we can do for her orphaned foal and what changes we can make in the future to try to prevent this from happening.  I have to say that without the guidance and care of our dear friends at BSB Quarterhorses, we would be lost.  I am in awe of how much they know and what they can do.  These are great horsewomen.  They did everything possible to save Adrian and they did save her foal Reggie by keeping him nourished and calm and adjusting to life without a dam at just five weeks of age.  In this month of honoring women, these are the women I would like to honor.  Their job is thankless, requires tireless work and dedication, with constant stress and not nearly enough compensation.  They even provided Reggie with a buddy, Johnny Deer.

Then there's Charlotte and Mae.  Charlotte, Certainly A Maiden, is our newest broodmare.  She delivered a beautiful filly by Lazy Loper on January 3rd.  Mae is her name and she is big and strong and was developing without a problem.  About a week ago, our other farm hand Tracy noticed she was coughing and acting lethargic, so I took her temperature and it was almost 104 degrees.  I immediately called the vet and she said get her to Michigan State ASAP because we had a case of rhodococcus last year and the symptoms presented were reflective of rhodococcus.  My wife and I got her and Charlotte in the trailer's box stall, which is essential for a breeding farm, and we headed off on the 100 mile drive to Michigan State.  It did not take long for the veterinarian staff to confirm the diagnosis of Rhodococcus.  Fortunately, Mae responded well to the treatment and after one week she was allowed to come home to our farm for further treatment.  She gets Rifampin and Azythromiacyn and she will be on them for up to three months.  However, her temperature is in the normal range and to look at her you wouldn't know she is sick.  She still coughs a little but nothing like she was.  This is a long haul but her prognosis is good.

This is what we've learned from this experience.  Take your foal's temperature regularly and be aware of any change to their behavior.  We did buy our own ultrasound machine to monitor changes in their lungs. We have learned to look for certain changes and if anything suspicious occurs we call our vet.  This is something the big thoroughbred farms in Kentucky do and we decided to do the same thing. 

It's been quite a week at Painted Plantation, one we won't soon forget.  Next time you think about breeding your mare, be ready for the unexpected!  Their lives and the lives of the babies depend on you and your ability to take care of them.  And sometimes, despite taking every precaution and following the best practices known, tragedies can happen and you've got to prepare yourself for that as well.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Yesterday, Ginger had her surgery.  The procedure on her left front leg involved severing her deep digital flexor tendon, which connects her coffin bone, (it's the pointed one on the bottom), to the muscle toward the top of her leg.  When she foundered, the laminae, which normally keeps the bone in the proper place,  gave way and the tension from the tendon pulled the bone back toward her heel.  This rotation caused the bone to point down, shown in the before photo on the right.  The procedure was done at Conley & Koontz Equine Veterinary Hospital outside of Ft. Wayne, Indiana by Dr. Ryan Rothenbuhler.

Ginger was sedated but not put to sleep.  Instead she was standing throughout the surgery.  Her lower leg was given a nerve block so she could not feel anything.  An incision was made on the outside of her leg, about three inches above her foot and extending up about four inches.  The doctor moves aside the exterior tendons to gain access to the deep digital tendon, which is about as thick as a human pinky finger.  He cuts the tendon to release the tension.   In Ginger's case, the tension was so significant that the gap between the severed tendon was about four inches.  This allowed the bone to rotate forward, which you can see in the after photo on the left.   

Ginger's incision was closed with five stitches and her leg was wrapped with sanitary wraps, then wrapped with gauze and finally wrapped with vet wrap to hold everything in place.  She was given a long lasting antibiotic to prevent infection.  She will get a second antibiotic injection on Monday, when our vet will replace the bandages and inspect the incision.

Now that was only half of the procedure.  The second half, which is done immediately after surgery, is to fit her with a special shoe, the profile of which you can see in the x-ray on the left.  The best way to describe it is a donut shoe with a wedge of about 6 degrees built into it.  It is put on so the angle goes up from front to back.  Her foot was packed with a cushioning compound, the heel was filed down significantly and the toe was pulled back then reshaped with epoxy.  After 4 to 6 shoeings the goal is to have a normal shape to the hoof and a normal placement of the coffin bone in her foot.  Our regular farrier attended the surgery and the shoeing so he could consult with the specialist shoer used by the clinic and he could also consult with the vet doing the surgery.

Ginger was given banamine for pain control on the trip home.  

During the entire procedure, Ginger's foal, Ian, who is two weeks old, was being held by our assistant Natalie, while I was holding Ginger.  The procedure, from beginning to end took about one hour and yet, he remained very patient and quiet.  The few times he got excited, a quick scratch on the withers or the dock of the tail and he quieted right back down.  I was very proud of him!

We left the farm at 11:15am, arrived at the clinic at 2:10pm, left the clinic at 4:30pm and got back home around 7:15pm.  Today, we expected Ginger to be sore but she was remarkably comfortable and moving well in her stall.  She is on stall rest for 30 days, to prevent the tendon from reconnecting.  Exercise would stimulate this growth so we do not want her to get much exercise.  This will be the biggest short term challenge because it means she will have the colt at her side constantly and he will need some excise and mental stimulation.  Can you say jolly ball, beach ball, lick toys, etc.!  

Today, he also got a second dose of plasma, just to make sure he is off to a good start and that he gets some protection from rhodococcus.  So our vet came out to the farm today and with Natalie's help, gave the foal his plasma, and checked on Ginger.  Our farrier was also at the farm and gave Ian his first trim, plus did the feet on the remaining horses.

If you ever go through this with your horses you can maybe learn from our experience.  You have to make a choice.  Ginger will never be ridden again but she can be made sound enough to have a full life.  That is what we are trying to do.  But it doesn't come cheap.  Those of you with horses can add up the costs and you'll know what all of this will amount to.  Less expensive options could have been tried and they may have worked and they may not have.  The value of the mare, from a purely business perspective, is another factor.  In Ginger's case, she's got that going for her because she's by Certain Potential and out of a mare by Invitation Only and out of Shesa Hot Cookie.  It is impossible to duplicate these bloodlines and they represent some of the best bloodlines in the quarter horse world.  The other thing is Ginger is a pleasant horse to be around, with normally good manners.  If you want to do your horse a big favor, teach it manners so that people will want to work with it.

As we move on with her recovery I'll post x-rays and pictures so you can follow along.

Monday, February 4, 2019

She always was pretty!

When Ginger was a baby I went to see her at BSB Quarterhorses in Sturgis, Michigan.  This is where she was foaled.  She was laying in this position for a nap while her mom, Hot Cookies Only, or Sugar as she is called, was taking a break to eat some hay.  I got down on the ground with my iPhone and I took this photo.  This photo ended up in the AQHA was selected by the AQHA museum as a fundraiser for the museum's expansion.  You will never see a more photogenic horse.  She was beautiful then and she is beautiful now, four years later.

She is a little better moving around.  The different medicine and the change in shoeing has made a difference.  She is now less than 3 weeks away from her due date and the foal has been moving around to get into position.  We are anxious to she what she has and to move on with her surgery.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Ginger is actually doing a little better over the last couple of days.  Our farrier stopped by again on Friday to trim and shoe two other mares and while he was here he checked on her.  She still isn't putting her heel down as much as he'd like so we are going to keep checking each day and if she isn't doing that regularly in one week, he will come back and put an even larger wedge pad on that foot.  Today, I spent time with her in her stall and in the arena.  I noticed her relaxing that foot a little more than she has.  When I was hand walking her in the arena she actually jumped at the wind noise and then she just walked back to me like there was no problem.  That was the most encouraged I've been in a while.

The only other change we've made is to change her pain medication.  On a recommendation from our friends at BSB Quarterhorses, we asked our vet about switching to Equioxx, which is a different nsaid than we've been using.  It has less of an impact on her digestive system and it impacts different pain receptors.  They used it on a horse they cared for with a similar problem and it made it difference.  Our vet sent me a bottle and she's had it now for three days.  So far so good.  If you don't rely on the knowledge of others you will never get anywhere with horses.  No matter how much you know, how much you study, how much you read and do, there is always something to learn.  I've said it before that they are a great resource and they have more experience than I will ever have.  They are such great horse women and I truly appreciate their friendship.

So now we are about 1 month away from Ginger's delivery.  I anticipate more ups and downs but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

As for the picture, Ginger was being hand walked by Natalie and she layed down and rolled.  She stayed down for a minute to just rest and while she was down, her pasture buddy, Ernie Drives A Lexus, came over to check on her.  They really like each other and Ginger just let Victoria rub on her and groom her.  Some people like mares and some do not.  I love mares because at the soul, they care about their herd mates.  They are also capable of incredible tenderness.  I see it with the way they care for their babies and I see it when they care for each other.  Not a day goes by when I am not touched by their tenderness. 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

New shoes for Ginger

Today our farrier reshod Sugar Cookie.  He took notes, studied surgical videos and measured angles.  He used a different shoe, special pads, gel cushion and a special trim.  The nerve block she was given the other day did not make much difference.  She was still sore during the process but she got through it.  We noticed an improvement in her walk last night and this morning.  The hope is this will continue to provide her with some relief through the foaling process and afterwards.  Her due date is February 23rd.

Last night I went out to the barn and brushed her.  She is the definition of an "in your pocket" mare.  She just wants attention and a rub under her chin and along her throat latch.  When you do this she wraps her head around you and lays her muzzle on your outside shoulder.  She's more of a pet at this point than a brood mare.

We are supposed to only hand-walk her because her hoof wall on the bad foot is very fragile.  In fact, a portion the size of a quarter literally fell off during the shoeing process.  What is happening is the circulation in her foot has been compromised by the pulling on the coffin bone by the deep digital flexor tendon.  I am told and I have read that the laminae that connect the bone to the hoof wall are being pulled away and that is what is making the hoof wall fragile.  So I am going to try to walk her around the house and maybe around the neighborhood.  We did this years ago when "A Pretty Sensation" was recovering from her first colic surgery.  The neighbors are used to us doing this and often they will come out and pet the horse, take pictures and so on.

I wish I knew what caused all of these problems for Ginger.  I blame myself and I blame fate but really, there is no one to blame.  We've raised a lot of horses here at Painted Plantation and we have reached the point where we do a good job.  So as a breeder you just have to accept the fact that sometimes, there is nothing you can do.  Sometimes these things just happen.  You get over the disappointment and frustration by looking at the cute week old filly in the next stall.  You bring up old win photos of horses that you've bred and sold to others.  You look at the ribbons and trophies in the barn and the house.  You think about the people that you've supported and the work they've put in by helping to raise and care for the horses.

And then you move on.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The next step

Ginger was given a nerve block in her left front leg today.  Our vet consulted with two other vets and between them they agreed on the medication and dosage to administer.  I can’t tell you how many times I marvel at the effort veterinarians put in to do best by our animals.  I also admire their courage.  They demonstrate it by admitting they want a second opinion.  I respect that because in my profession I do the same thing.  No professional knows everything.  It is instead the true professional that parks their ego and seeks the opinions of others and then thoughtfully comes to a conclusion.

I also spoke to our farrier, who is coming out tomorrow to reshoe her.  He also consulted with another farrier and they discussed past therapies and strategies and then they came up with a plan.  He had to drive to Ohio to get the necessary shoes for tomorrow.  Between the nerve block and a dose of bute in the morning she should be comfortable enough for the work on her feet.

In the meantime she is happy today and bickered for her food.   Onward and upward.