Tuesday, October 19, 2010

First Frost- time to worm

We had our first frost last week, followed by many more of them! We are always lucky to hold out so long in this area but we are in a protected valley where the cold air slides off the garden most nights...the lower fields get frosted before the garden.

I'm not a big fan of regular worming for several reasons. First of all I don't like the fact that we are producing resistant species of parasites. Research has also shown that many horses are resistant to parasites themselves and do not need regular worming- local vets suggest doing fecals to determine the parasite load of individuals and worming accordingly. While I haven't done a fecal in years, the tendency toward rotund of my ponies does not indicate a parasite load! Last, but not least, because we rotationally graze (and that means only 2 or 3 days on a paddock and then on to the next- 30 days rest for each paddock before being grazed again), exposure to infestation is less than in other management scenarios.

That being said, I do like to worm in the fall and sometimes spring. We do see bot eggs on the horses and though I try to remove them, I don't know that I get them all. I like to clean everyone out before winter comes to be sure that all the feed that I'm paying for is being utilized by the intended recipient! This year we got a double dose of bots for some reason. Normally we see them in later August- this year I saw some in late July, then again in September. So when I ordered a blanket for Mariah and they had a sale on Ivermectin with a boticide, I added them to the order.

Day before yesterday, I stocked my pockets:
Right front- weight tape
Right back- paper and pen
Left back- one tube at a time of wormer paste
Left front- trash pocket!

It was great fun to see the different reactions. I remember when crinkly wrapper meant wormer and everybody suddenly refused to be caught! Not so with clicker ponies :) Crinkly wrappers mean goodies! Stowaway is the most suspicious but also the least reactive so I chose to do him first. He, Kizzy and Rumer were all in their run-in paddock together. I had waited until I was sure all hay was long gone as I know the magic of putting wormer in a mouth with any hay just means that the hay catches the paste and it gets spat out! Sure enough, Stowaway eyed me suspicously. He hasn't gotten many, if any, wrapped peppermints- mostly hay stretcher pellets, so the crinkly paper wasn't too convincing to him. But even though his head and eyes showed suspicion, he stood still for me to tape him and then easily administer the paste.

I could have worked with each horse with treats first, but again, I did not want to fill their mouths with goodies only to have them spit it out with wormer on it. I wanted those mouths empty and was relying on established trust...not "train today because I need results today".

When Rumer heard the crinkly wrapper, she came over to volunteer as the next patient. Always front and center, she happily stuffed her head into her halter, stood like a statue as I taped her and poked the tube in the corner of her mouth. I realized how nice it was to have all the youngsters familiar with the weight tape this year! No one new to introduce it to. It's always a windy day and nothing like a fluttering weight tape flapping about while I'm reaching underneath bellies to grab the other end. She was puzzled at the lack of fun involved with this process but didn't seem the least concerned about the wormer or offended that all she got was a an appreciative word and face rub for her patience.

Kizzy was standing off- fully aware of the process but always game for crinkly paper. She ignored my rude comments about her weight, obviously sure that it was her fuzzy coat and nothing to do with the fact that ribs are a theory-only with that pony. Times like this, I always look back at the pony she was when I got her- couldn't be caught, extremely head shy and worried about people. I adore her pudgy, furry self and am so glad of how she's turned around.

On to the other paddock: Percy, Ande and Mariah. I had put them in the round pen so I could drive through their paddock with the tractor to deliver hay to the barn. It was right next to the run-in so quite handy to my pile of wormer tubes.

But oh dear, when I went in the round pen. Two little boys had been hearing crinkly paper and seeing me others and and they could not WAIT to see what I had planned. I decided to use jealousy in my favor with Percy the youngest (and most likely to say it's his way or no way) so I started with Ande. Of course I had one hanging over each shoulder trying to stuff heads in one halter- rather a challenge but I did manage to block Percy long enough to let Ande put his halter on. That, however, did not deter Percy's curiosity. While I taped Ande, Percy pulled the pen out of my back pocket. I retrieved the pen from his teeth and quickly scribbled down Ande's weight while Percy pulled the fluttery weight tape out of my front pocket and Ande tried to push him away because this was HIS game. Good grief. I let Percy pretend to fly a kite with the weight tape while I administered Ande's wormer and told him what a good boy he was to hold stock still and not even move his head. Then I retrieved a very soggy weight tape from Percy's mouth. The empty crinkly wrappers were shoved deep into my trash pocket where he couldn't get at them. While Ande tried to figure out what that stuff was in his mouth, I put Percy's halter on, much to his delight. He gave his best "I'm being good, I'm a statue, see me not mug you?" pose, while his little lip pooched with the effort of self control. The little red statue stood while I taped him, stood while I wrote down his weight and then really thought he ought to help with the crinkly wrapper. When the wrapper went into the pocket and he saw the wormer syringe, the expression changed to Worried. Having had stitches in his lip as a weanling, he's had his share of unpleasant experiences...see http://bookendsfarm.blogspot.com/2009/03/owie.html

I was wearing my treat pouch so I decided that I'd risk food in the mouth to reinforce a good experience. First I let him target the syringe for CT. Then I held his halter gently to prevent him from targeting it with his muzzle and just touched it to the corner of his mouth for a CT. Then he understood it was a "will you let me do this to you" game. If he moved- no CT. If he stood and let me touch him with it- CT. Then I let it poke him > CT. Then I poked it between his lips > CT. By now he was into the game and not moving a muscle as I worked the syringe further and further into his mouth each time. The worry was gone. I tried to give him plenty of time to chew each hay stretcher pellet so that he didn't have a big mouthful of food. Finally I pushed the plunger down and that was that. I wore a little of it along with some well mashed pellets but most of it stayed in his mouth. Then I continued the game- but even though he let me put the syringe back to his lips and even in his mouth, he did not want the treats. That's the bummer about wormer. It's such a strong taste that everything you give them afterward just tastes like wormer. But, the point was, he was not upset by the process and there had been no battle, no restricting and the worry had gone DOWN in the process, not up.

Last but not least, Mariah. When I took Percy's halter off (by the way, I would have done them all without a halter if they'd been in their stalls but in a group in paddocks, it was easier to organize with halters on), I turned to Mariah and laughed out loud. Her owner says she makes me whimsical and indeed she does. She was standing there, for all the world looking like a matron waiting in line for her flu shot. She was as close to the boys as she could get- firmly in line so no one who came along could get in front of her but not rudely pushing either. The expression was one of bored impatience. She knew she had to do this bloody procedure but she wished the technician would hurry up as she still had the grocery shopping to do. Ears to the side, back leg resting so that in my mind I could see her enormous pocketbook slung over her shoulder as she waited. Relieved that it was finally her turn, she stepped forward to her halter and stood like a stone as I crossed my fingers that my weight tape was long enough to go around her huge frame (barely!). She waited while I wrote it all down, didn't fuss as I wormed her (had that head gone up in the air, I would have had no recourse whatsoever), and then turned to go when I was done. What a hoot.

Anthropomorphize? Me? Never.





1 comment:

Mary H. said...

Loved reading all the details.

Worming is always an adventure at our place too.

Last time, Trixie pony WOULD NOT leave us alone after she got her wormer. She gets quite jealous of anyone else getting attention.

We had a bit left in one tube (the draft cross gets a tube and a half) so offered her extra. She willingly took it in her mouth and let us squirt it in. silly little mare.

Glad to hear all yours did well with the worming.

Mary