Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Things No One Tells You About Owning a Horse

Good Tuesday morning, folks.  It's my Monday morning here at the farm, since we're closed on Sundays and Mondays.  Of course, the farm only closes to the public, because we never actually stop.

A lot of people have very romanticized notions about owning a horse.  They'll buy a foal for their child to grow-up "with." Wrong answer, really wrong. But, that's another day's topic.

People believe all of the images they see in movies and on tv about horses.  They don't realize the amount of work horses require to stay healthy.  Even people who own horses, but board them with me or somewhere else, don't realize how much work the barn employees do to keep their horses looking good and feeling healthy.

Even if you know all about the work.  Even if you know about horse health.  Even if you're a person like me. Occasionally, you get surprised by some new task a horse is going to require.

I got this surprise last August.  Mack was here to do six month shots on the horses and a dental on Chief.  He noticed Milagro's tail had been rubbed.  Horses generally only rub their tails for one reason: worms.

Wait a second before you start judging me about worming horses.  My horses are actually on a worming schedule designed by my vets to be specific to their needs.  They get a daily preventative wormer that is fed through with their grain.  Then, they get a purge wormer that's given as a paste orally every three months. This is an outstanding worming program.  It's also an expensive one.

The daily feed through wormer, ain't cheap. A large bag of it costs about $270.00 every few weeks.  See, not cheap.  The paste wormer can range from $2.00 a tube to $12.00 a tube.  Or, if you've got to use a really serious wormer like Panacure, you're going to be looking at any where from $18.00 - $28.00 per tube.  One tube is generally one dose.  I have eight horses.  You can do the math.

You also have to rotate paste wormers every quarter to make sure the parasites that may have made it past the daily preventative wormer, don't become resistant to it.  So, you can't just stick with the cheap $2.00 a tube on sale generic ivermectin wormer.  Nope, at least once a year, you'll have to do a more expensive wormer, usually in the fall, to prevent tape worms.  Tape worms are only prevalent in the fall in my area.

So, with all of this wormer, neither Mack nor I could believe one of my horses may have worms.  I had to get a sample.  That's all he said.  I called the office later and asked, "Do you want a stool sample?  How does he want me to get a sample?"

No, to get a sample, you have to put clear packing tape across the horse's...well...um...business end.  You know, under the tail.  Then you mash it down with your thumb to get it to make an impression.  It looks a lot like if you kiss an envelope with lipstick on.  Only, the horse doesn't have lip stick on that end.

Then, the vet can put the tape under the microscope to look for any worms.  At first, I thought Mack's office manager was kidding me about this.  She wasn't.

Then, it gets worse.  Mack didn't see any parasite's on Milagro's sample, but couldn't think of another reason she'd be rubbing her tail.  Guess what?  There is a strain of pin worm that has become resistant to wormer.  Like those super bugs that have become resistant to antibiotics, this worm has become resistant to wormer.

To make it stranger, one horse in a herd may get them and no one else.  Or, in our case, Milagro got them, but not Merry.  They share a paddock. They are together all the time.  Nope, Merry's tail was just fine.  Then, I heard Tar rubbing his butt in a stall one day.  1600 lbs of tail rubbing sounds like the barn is going to fall down.

I took a sample in.  Again, no parasites present.  But, what else could it be?  I was going to have to treat them both.  If you think getting the sample is an experience, wait til you hear about the treatment!

The treatment is 60 ccs, that's about a quarter cup, of liquid medication in the same end I got the sample from.  How do you get it in there?  With about a 12 inch long rubber tube and a great big syringe, no needle necessary.  Use your imagination.  The tube doesn't tie around the horse's tail like a pony tail holder.  Nope, it goes in the "backdoor."  How many of you are reconsidering your love of horses right now?

You have to get someone to hold the tail up, while you do the dirty work.  In my case, unfortunately, it was Mindy--my former employee who wasn't all there. She had a 21 year old body with an 8 year old mind.  I have no idea how that girl got into the Bible College.  Well, why didn't you wait until someone more sensible arrived?  Because you have to time this special treatment just right...like right after the "trash" is taken out the "backdoor."

Think about it friends.  I'm now stalking my horses to see when they go #2 so we can rush and stick this tube in there.  Lovely.  I thought that was a joke in the beginning, too.  I told you Mack has a sense of humor.  This time, he wasn't kidding.

A tube of Panacure, the expensive wormer, has to be given orally as well.  I do that first in case that backdoor treatment makes my horse mad at me.  So far, so good.

Then, we have to wait three weeks and repeat this treatment.  Lord help me!  Well, with Tar and Milagro, it actually went well.  They were easy.  Mindy was more aggravating than they were.  I would have butt wormed her, too, just to shut her up if it hadn't been a somewhat costly process.  Can you tell the poor girl was getting on my last nerve?

I had no idea what would be in store for me several months later.  Good ol' Chief started tail rubbing.  Sh*t!!!!  Chief is a Paint.  Paints are just a little off mentally, I think.  He's the third one I've owned.  I'm starting to see a pattern. It's been confirmed by other Paint owners. They are just a little different.  Worming a horse who's marching to the beat of his own drummer through the "backdoor," isn't as easy.

Chief is a pig.  He'll eat himself to death if I'm not careful.  His head never comes up from the hay bale.  I have to put him inside every night just so he'll take a break from eating.  Do you know how much fiber that horse has inside of him?!  More than I could have possibly imagined!

It took FIVE wormings before we were able to get him not to poop it out.  That means the process, instead of costing $15.00 a pop, cost $75.00.  That was just the first round!  Remember, we have to do it again!  In fact, this Saturday is round two!

It took fasting Chief for 20 hours, then he still pooped five times, before we could get a dose to stay in him!  I told Cowgirl Slim,"You like to pretend Chief is your horse, you get to worm him."  She was a trooper and did it, all five times.

Of course, this process with Chief was a three person job.  One to hold his tail up.  One to do the dirty work.  And, me to hold his head still and get him to stop dancing around.  Talk about a group effort!

This is one of the many things no one tells you about owning a horse.  So, now you can't say I didn't tell you!  Who still wants a horse?  Who's still going to buy their kid a pony for her birthday?  Ok, don't say I didn't warn you!

Thanks for reading and have a nice day.

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