Friday, December 04, 2020

Rehabbing the EPM Horse/ Update on Keil Bay

 Keil Bay begins his third month of Marquis today. He’s on 8000 ius of vitamin E, reduced from 10,000 as I felt he was a little spooky and that can be one side effect of too much E, and both Equioxx and Duralactin for inflammation (and since he’s 31, for mild arthritic issues). I added Smooth Run Equine’s Challenge supplement, which is bovine colostrum + mushroom extracts to assist with immune system support, per a research study I found online. This combo had a very good positive outcome rate for horses with EPM, and Keil is doing well on it. He often looks totally normal, but there are still days when he sticks one of his hind legs out to the side when standing, and days when he comes in and leans against the barn wall to rest. 

At 31, it’s hard to tell what is neurological and what is normal aging, with some of the more minor symptoms, and I know with my own aging body that healing and recovery from simple things (like the slip and fall I did on a plastic syrup bag in the apiary) can take longer than when I was young. So I am trying hard not to stress but to follow my daughter’s wise advice - let him live his life. Do the things I can do, watch for problems and signs that he’s unhappy, but don’t let my own desire for everything to be perfect make me think he’s not. 

He is turning out normally now, and has been for a month or so, and the hills in our main pastures offer a daily PT exercise for him. Going up and down the gentle slopes is, I think, good for him, and when I researched rehab exercises for neurological deficits in horses, one of the common ones recommended is to hand walk the horse up and down gentle hills. So he is getting that every day, on his own volition, with his herd, and I think it’s the best medicine I can offer.

This week we have started some additional rehab/PT with him, to see if we can help with the leg sticking out issue. He looks the best when he’s moving - at the walk, trot, and canter, which he does off and on during the days of turn out. It’s always when he stands that I see his symptoms. The proprioception piece, which is a big part of EPM - his brain seems not to be always able to tell his hind legs where to go. So I brainstormed some exercise we can do that might help rebuild that. We started yesterday, and my husband is helping, as it’s easier to do and observe with two people. 

We took Keil in the arena with halter and lead rope, hoof pick and hoof brush, and his favorite Red Bird peppermints. I did the walking, at first going around the arena as if we were warming up for a ride, but with me obviously on the ground. After a few circuits I stopped randomly and had Keil adjust his feet as needed so that my husband could lift one leg and clean that hoof. 

My hope was that the muscle memory of Keil getting his feet picked, and knowing where his feet normally rest for that, might be engaged, and combined with the forward movement that he’s already doing well, we could make some progress toward a more normal stance, more of the time. Rebuilding those neural pathways. At the same time we’re working on his balance for hoof cleaning and trimming. 

It went very well, and I made this up myself, so we’ll see how it goes. After we did all four hooves, we did some large circles and a couple of smaller ones, following the dressage patterns he’s done most of his life, which again, I hope might help engage brain/nervous system/muscle communication. 

Near the end we put a ground pole down and walked over it from both directions. He navigated that perfectly and he seemed quite happy to get his peppermints and do this bit of focused work. We’re starting with 10 or so minutes. I want to engage the nerves and muscles but I do not want to push into fatigue. 

For more info on rehabbing EPM horses, there’s a nice article HERE.

I’ve also ordered a book that uses Linda Tellington Jones’ T-touch exercises specifically for rehabbing neurologic deficits. I’m eager to apply these when the book arrives, as I’ve used her exercises in the past for other things and found them very helpful.

For an overall picture of what we’re tracking with Keil, his vets are pulling CBC panels regularly, as the anti-protozoa meds can be hard on the system, and also to insure the Equioxx is not taxing his kidneys. So far he’s normal. 

Because he tested into PPID range in October (even factoring in seasonal rise), he’s now on 1 mg Prascend and his PPID came down to normal since he tapered onto the full dose. We’ll keep an eye on his ACTH level and adjust the Prascend as needed. 

He’s also getting acupuncture once a month (and more frequently if I think he needs it), plus he’s back to his chiro adjustments and his hoof trims. 

And finally, I also have him on homeopathic remedies for both PPID and EPM. I’m coming at this from every angle and while I will have no idea which thing is helping the most, or not helping at all, my goal is to get the best outcome possible for him. 

I’ll update as we go. And I have to say thank you to his entire treatment team, which includes four vets and my husband and daughter, and his herd. Cody is a best friend he literally leans on if needed, and Redford has become a constant companion who stands near Keil Bay no matter what. We’re lucky to have Keil Bay and he’s lucky to have all of us! 

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

A Tribute to Rafer Lewis Johnson, Olympic Gold Medalist who died today at 86

 I’m sad to report that I got an email today letting me know that Rafer Lewis Johnson, an Olympic Gold Medalist and the man for whom our own Rafer Johnson was named, died today at the age of 86.

I might never have known who this athlete was except that Rafer was named for him and we were told the reason why by Rafer’s first family, Ken and Marty, who took the naming of their donkeys to a high art form. Rafer’s mom Contessa was very much ready to give birth, and when they went to check on her the day Rafer was born, he was already being born. Contessa ran to her shelter where the delivery was completed, thus Rafer Johnson was running before his hooves touched the ground. He still runs, in a very fancy athletic way that makes me think of an Olympic athlete, so his name truly suits him, and every time he meets someone new and I say his name, they mention how distinctive it is - and I get to tell this story all over again and share the story of the man he was named for.

Over the years, I have read articles about Rafer Lewis Johnson, a Black athlete who retired from running after winning the gold medal and went on to have quite a remarkable life. One notable thing was his friendship with Robert F. Kennedy. Mr. Johnson was present at RFK’s assassination, and tackled and wrenched the gun from Sirhan Sirhan’s fingers. The death of his friend left him traumatized and depressed, but he went on to help launch the California Special Olympics and remained involved with that cause the rest of his life.

There are many more aspects of Rafer Lewis Johnson’s life that made him special. It’s a huge honor for our Rafer to be named for such a remarkable man. I encourage you to read about him in his LA Times obituary, HERE.

In this year of pandemic and the long overdue focus on Black lives, Rafer Lewis Johnson is a beacon and an inspiration. Our little Rafer Johnson and we are sad that he’s gone. His spirit lives on though, and I’m so glad we came to know of him. Rest in peace, Mr. Johnson.

Monday, November 30, 2020

November Hill farm journal, 113

 It’s hard to believe today is the last day of November. We’re having a rainy, windy day that is quite warm but on the other side of this is a cold front, so we’ll soon have chilly days and even colder nights. Fitting for the season, though, and conducive to thinking of decorating for Christmas. We got a live tree yesterday at a very near to us Christmas tree farm, and it’s up in our living room with about 3/4 of the lights put on. We’ll continue working on it today. I replaced my fall season gate wreaths with the winter season ones yesterday, and we’ll begin the annual tradition of bringing up bins with decorations tonight. 

Yesterday while it was still dry I made candy boards for the honey bees and we removed the syrup in advance of the colder weather. Did I mention here that two of my hives robbed the third hive and they left? I suspect I triggered this by disposing of some old syrup near the hive, which is a big no-no, but I simply forgot that it was a very bad idea. 

I hope that colony has found themselves a place to be for the winter. It’s not likely they’ll make it given they will have no honey stores. It’s also likely they were not a very strong hive if they weren’t able to defend against robbing, so from that perspective they have culled themselves from my apiary genetics. A hard truth.

The two remaining hives are very strong and okay. I hope to be able to catch a swarm off the very strong hive, as they seem to be thriving and I’d love to replace the lost hive with their genetics in the new year.

In the barn, I’m happy that the semi-annual barn cleaning got done, and I’m still making my way through the feed/tack room. The horses are good. Keil has had several weeks of being super good and now has had a few days of holding a hind leg out again. We’re in the final week of the second month of Marquis treatment, and I feel we need to go a third month. I’ve read that many horses need a 90-day treatment. I’m checking in with the vet today and we’ll figure it out.

This month our barn roof is scheduled to get some updating done - actually it is being repaired along the edges which unbeknownst to us were never properly finished by the guy who installed the roof three years ago. I’m annoyed, and when we first noticed a seeping issue coming in from one edge, I tried to get him over here to fix it, but he didn’t respond to my messages until I mentioned it on a FB group based in the town where he lives (big horse community that we’re a part of from way back) - once I said in that forum that I was trying to get a response from him, it was only a half hour until he reached out to me. By that time I had waited several months and already had someone else lined up. I hope this is it for the roof. We love it, but obviously things need to be installed properly to work!

Next week my farm helper and his friend will be replacing the railings on our back deck, and widening the steps so the three dogs can more easily go up and down without a logjam occurring. I’m also installing a ramp for Bear! We had planned to put a full back porch on in place of the deck, but after sitting with that plan I realized the roofline would interfere with several upstairs windows, some pipes along the back of the house, and the existing roofline and gutters. Visually I’m not sure how it could be integrated so that it looked like it was meant to be that way. For now, we’re repairing what needs to be fixed, creating something that works better (the wider steps plus ramp), and an area for the cats to have near their cat tunnel entrance that is secure from the dogs, who like to run over there and interfere with comings and goings. My desire for a covered space may be able to be met a different way - we’ll see. In the past I’ve considered enclosing the square deck area to make a sun room/den area and maybe that’s a better way to go. I guess part of the fun of living in a place is plotting how one would make it better. Certainly that’s true for me!

Right now I’m in my garret and the clouds are blowing away to reveal blue sky and some sunshine, so it’s nice to have gotten some rain and nicer still to have it move on through so the horses aren’t in the barn too long. 

December! I love the solstice time of year and it’s sweeter this year thanks to election results and also the vaccines that will start being distributed to those who need it most. 

Friday, November 27, 2020

Shopping the Day After Thanksgiving? Jane Smiley’s New Novel!

 Actually, for us, today IS Thanksgiving, as we shamelessly changed the day to accommodate our own needs. I spent yesterday leisure making some of our favorite Thanksgiving entrees, all of which are ready to be popped into the oven when we get hungry today. 

I have never shopped on Black Friday - our tradition leans to going for a local hike or simply walking out with the herd, but I did read emails this morning and when I saw that Jane Smiley has a new novel coming out, I scurried to a new tab in my browser and looked it up.

It’s a novel about a race horse named Perestroika who lives on a track in France and escapes one day to visit Paris. Okay, Jane, you won me over. I’ve now shopped on Black Friday and pre-ordered this alluring new book for myself.

Jane Smiley is a prize-winning author and she is a horsewoman. I’d check this one out if you need an engaging, horsey read. It’ll be extra good if you also love Paris. 

Read more and order here.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

A Goal To Sing

 I Worried

Mary Oliver

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?
Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?
Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows 
can do it and I am, well,
Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?
Finally, I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

Isn’t this perfect? I worry about everything, not so much in a stressed out oh my god kind of way, but more like if I think of everything that might go wrong, I can fix it ahead of time so it doesn’t. 

This of course takes its own toll, and manifests in a lot of to do lists and a running monologue inside my head. The horses have taught me other ways to be, and I’m grateful to them. 

On Friday and again yesterday, instead of mucking pastures, I began to clean the tack room - most importantly the tack. For someone who has not ridden in over a year, this is singing, don’t you think? Holding the reins in my hands, lifting the saddle, its weight and heft, gauging which length of stirrup and leather I might need as I clean them.

It was a lovely day, and Keil was good, and while I am not setting a goal to ride him again, the possibility that such a thing might present itself was potent. Cody was hanging around as if making an offering, and I imagined taking him up on that.

When I walked across the top of the front pasture, this is what I saw:

The X is Gebo, the rune of gifts and partnership, and the sun was there glowing like a beacon of light, not at the end of a tunnel, but omnipresent and all knowing. I know the optical explanation for the two orbs, but am taking them to be my first horse Bo-Jinx, and Salina, hanging out with the herd and letting me know they’re here. 

I remember my first ride as a child holding the reins, feet in stirrups, and I remember the first ride on Keil Bay, in a sunny indoor arena with mirrors at one end, hardly able to believe that the woman in the mirror was me. Keil Bay sailed us through the sunbeams that day. A month later he came to live with me.

I see the next ride, the culmination of every ride, but without the worries. Just the song.