Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Starting to Rebuild: Physically and Emotionally

When we arrived at the large animal hospital, my husband dropped me off at the office to deal with paperwork and went to hitch up the trailer. I was handed a multi-page list of discharge instructions to review and see if I had questions while they found someone to come answer them. The instructions were thorough so I didn't have many questions when the doctor came out. One was that it stated Percy had mild electrolyte imbalances on arrival.  I asked if that was simply due to the sweating and stress of the trip down. He said most likely it was and that the fluids he received would have taken care of it.  But I knew this would be important for me once I got him home again.

I was also given a small box of supplies, including a month's worth of sedative to be sprinkled on his daily feed.  I was amazed to hear they said he ate it easily as he is pretty fussy about anything added to his food. Once I got him home, I found that he gobbled it right up. I need that recipe. I asked about the possibility of weaning him off it and how to do so if I decided to try. Finally, there was a bottle of SMZ tablets to continue his antibiotics orally for a week. I had told them I had bute at home and didn't need more.

When my questions were answered and my thanks expressed, they said I could go wait outside and they'd bring him to me.  What? I wouldn't get to see where he'd been?  I knew Ally had been in to visit him so wasn't sure why I couldn't go get him, but it wasn't important so I went back outside to wait. 

As anxious as I was to see him again, I wasn't expected a Hallmark reunion. I remembered back to the year he was born and my daughter, who owned his dam, had moved across the country and was gone for several months.  When she returned, ZoĆ«, Percy's mom, acted like she didn't know her. Worse actually because she wouldn't even let her catch her and she wasn't a hard mare to catch. I won't pretend to know why, but I wasn't going to be surprised if he was miffed. I'd just dropped him off at the Worst Summer Camp Ever for a week. 

Finally I heard voices on the other side of the overhead door in front of me. The door went up halfway and stopped.  I saw a familiar chestnut leg and another leg bandaged to the hilt. The door went up the rest of the way and there stood Percy, head straight up in the air and eyes bugging out. If I hadn't seen all Ally's photos of him looking so sleepy, I'd have been asking for eye muscle rehab for the poor boy. 

He was led forward and I think his eyes briefly glanced my way but went right back to staring at his surroundings.  I took his lead rope and offered him the carrot from my back pocket. Nope. Ok, I thought, let's take you home. I sent some wishes up to the trailer loading fairies and walked up the ramp.  He came to the top of the ramp and stopped, looking left and right. This time I had a firm hold on the rope. The connection we'd had when I dropped him off was not there. I knew he was on the sedation drugs and as yet had no idea how they'd affect him.  And after his last trip, followed by the week he had, I couldn't blame him if he'd wanted to take flight. I gave the rope a little tug and he walked in.  This time I asked my husband to deal with the partition, butt bar, and ramp while I stayed up front talking to him. After tying him up, I offered him the carrot again but still no interest.  I broke it in three pieces and stuffed them into the hay net that had ridden all the way down with him. When we'd get home four hours later, they would still be there. I shut the door and we started our journey north.

Just as before, he was in a black sweat at the first check, with drops coming off his midline. At the second check, we stopped long enough to use a bathroom and he looked like he relaxed a little bit in the few minutes we were stationary, but he still wasn't eating any hay. The trip was smooth sailing until we were a mile from the turn onto our own road. A huge manure truck pulled out of a side road in front of us, pulling a flatbed loaded high with round bales. I said to my husband that at least we wouldn't have to follow it far, thinking we'd turn off in a mile. His reply was, "he's probably going to our house".  Sure enough, this was hay being delivered to our sheep barn and we were going to follow it the rest of the way.  It's three miles from the end of our road to our driveway and two of those miles are pretty much straight up. That rig crept up the hill and we crawled along behind it.  I tried not to imagine what would happen if one of those round bales came off the back of the trailer and rolled toward us. The kind of sensible thinking one does in those situations. 

When we finally stopped at the horse barn, I asked my husband to throw a flake of hay to each of the horses before he ran off to his own animals. This was their normal turnout time and no way was I putting anyone out. I wanted everyone else in, quiet, and calm. When I backed Percy off the trailer, the poor guy was shaking from head to toe. His butt and tail were roughed up from the butt bar. I'm guessing he sat on it during our slow climb up the hill. He followed me in to the barn and then stopped dead when I tried to lead him into his stall. Not only had I sent him to the Worst Summer Camp Ever but I'd rearranged his room while he was gone. The stall guard was up over his door and there was a new hay bag hanging in the corner where hay had never hung before.  It was all too much. It took me longer to get him in his stall than it did to get him on the trailer. Luckily my husband was still there and he took the stall guard down and out of the stall. Percy was able to walk in then and investigate the hay bag. 
spots of sweat just dripping off
so much sweat that it pooled and ran

At first I just unclipped the lead, leaving his halter on, just in case.  But one of the first things he did was throw his poor itchy, sweaty self against the side of his window to rub. I was afraid he'd get his halter caught on one of the new screw eyes so I went back in and took it off. He stopped shaking and took a bite of hay. Then he walked in a circle, looked out his door, took another bite of hay, walked in another circle, looked out the door, another bite of hay, and repeated it. This is what he would do when upset in days to come.  The sedative seemed to take the edge off enough so that what was left was restless circling instead of panic. 

I started to unload things and clean the trailer, making trips back in to check on him.  He seemed fairly quiet so when I had done all I could there, I went in for dinner, leaving windows open to listen and looking out frequently. I ate in record time and went back out to the barn. Now I had to deal with turnout.

The summer routine for my horses is that they go out at about 4: or 5: in the afternoon. The ones who have stalls in the barn: Percy, Walter, Kizzy (sometimes) and Stowaway, spend the night in the paddock attached to the barn.  In the morning, they all go out on grass for several hours until it gets hot and buggy, at which point they come in their stalls. Because we'd left at 8: AM that morning, they had come in earlier than usual, and they hadn't been turned out at 4: when we got home.  I couldn't delay it any longer. Walter actually has his door open all day so he can go in and out but he spends most of the day in his stall. 

After dinner, he had taken himself out and was hanging out in the shed outside Percy's stall. I was glad that this had been the routine previously so didn't worry about Percy being upset with Walter out when he was in. But now I needed to put a pony out too. Percy knows the routine and in the past, he was the first one out. How would he react when Stow went out and he had to stay in?  I had already decided that Stowaway and Kizzy would share babysitting duties. They are both laid back and I thought would be able to handle more stall time than normal. Kizzy, in fact, had decided this summer that she preferred her stall to being outside, since the bugs drove her so crazy. I'd put her out with the others and in an hour or two she was begging to come back in. So she got the first shift. I put hay out for Walter right outside Percy's door and another flake on the other side for Stowaway. That would keep them close at least until the hay was gone. Percy watched closely when I put Stow out, circling slowly, but went back to his hay bag. He looked across the aisle to where Kizzy was eating in her stall and seemed content with that. 

I cleaned all the stalls and then it was time for 8: meds. He was due for his SMZ tablets and his sedative.  As I mentioned, I put the sedative on his feed and he ate it right up. The SMZ tablets had to be ground up and mixed with what I call peppermint juice for oral dosing. Percy loves peppermints and I have found that's the best vehicle for getting oral meds into him. I soak a peppermint candy in hot water until it partially melts, and then dissolve the meds in that water. He accepted it quite well. Before. 
18 SMZ tabs twice a day requires a coffee grinder

Peppermint juice being brewed

mixing up the concoction

I approached his stall and lifted his halter off the hook. Usually this had him right at his stall door, ready for anything. Instead, when I opened his stall door, he turned and put his head in the corner. When I spoke to him and walked up, he turned again, so that his butt was to me. A little crack in my heart. I left his stall and put on my training vest. I don't usually use treats for oral dosing until I'm done (when he gets what's left of the melted peppermint) because food in the mouth just makes it easier to spit out the medicine you squirt in. But we needed something here. I returned to his stall and waited. When he glanced at me, I clicked and offered some hay stretcher pellets. He took them and from there I shaped him into allowing me to put his halter on. Now I understood the four inches of gauze wrap that had been tied hanging off his halter. I bet they couldn't catch him in his stall. 

His head went up when I presented the syringe, but by moving slowly, I got it into his mouth. His reaction when I dosed him resulted in white splatters all over his face, the far wall, and me, but I hoped enough went down for that night. We'd try again in the morning. He seemed happy with the peppermint scrap. 

I still wasn't comfortable leaving him. I've seen horses jump out over the top of dutch doors (and others attempt to and not make it). I've seen Percy lean on his door with all his weight in excitement to get out. Because of his fear of the stall guard, and not knowing if he'd try to push his head around it, that plan didn't seem feasible. I was afraid that shutting his top door would upset him further since he wouldn't be able to see his friends. I wanted to be right there to make sure his first night home was supervised. My husband helped me carry a cot up the hill and into the barn. When everyone had their late night hay and water, I collapsed onto the cot. For several hours I listened as Percy circled and chewed, circled and chewed. At last the circling stopped and all I could hear was chewing. I think that was when I finally slept. 

The circling woke me again at 2:45 in the morning. I wondered if Walter and Stowaway had moved too far for Percy's comfort. There was a lovely full moon and when I got up to look, I could see Walter lying down in the paddock about 20 feet from the shed with Stow standing over him. But Percy's hay bag was empty, the hay on the floor was gone, and his water bucket was empty. All that sweat needed to be replaced. I filled both hay and water, he resumed eating, and stopped circling. I went back to sleep. 

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