Saturday, October 27, 2012

Injections not a concern for horses

As featured Saturday, October 20, 2012, at
It took nearly a day to work up the nerve.
Intramuscular may not sound so bad to those in health professions, but to a layman reading the instructions on the back of a plastic wrapper, it can sound downright horrific.
And it was enough to get the package shoved in the fridge for the evening  — a stalling, feet dragging case of,  “have to, but really don’t want.”
It’s hard to tell how he did it, but the theory was the gelding had gotten a nail stuck in the toe of his hoof, though the offending nail was never located by the time trouble surfaced.
He started acting strangely, not wanting to put his foot down, but a check of his leg revealed nothing out of the ordinary.
Then a couple days later there was some swelling and he couldn’t put much weight on it, and still no sign of a wound.
Several hoof checks and leg and foot soaks later; there was still no explanation as to what was going on.
Finally the farrier found the source of the trouble, a puncture wound hidden in the hoof had gotten infected.
The wound was easy enough to address once it was discovered. A good cleaning and some iodine did the trick and he showed immediate signs of relief.
But there was still a lingering concern — tetanus.
With parting instructions to clean and flush the wound, the farrier recommended buying the shot and administering it.
It was a great idea, extremely economical and efficient and it was about time to learn how to administer shots, a skill that’s always good to have when there are animals  — and the occasional rusty nail  — around.
In a community where many people give their own injections to pets and livestock, finding a single-use shot at a local store was simple enough.
It was even pleasantly surprising to see how inexpensive it was, but catching a look at the shining needle in the package tainted the savings almost immediately.
The woman who helped with the purchase sensed my reservations as she gave some parting words of advice on how to go about it.
“Got to learn to do this sooner or later,” I said when she offered to come out and do it for me, but I took her number just in case something went horribly wrong.
And the list of things that might go wrong causing pain, too much medicine, poor placement of the shot, oh, and just giving a shot in general — all accompanied the syringe into the fridge.
The next day, the dreaded needle in hand, I hopped the fence and made way towards him, half expecting he would sense what was in store and run, but of course he approached with curiosity as always.
Step one down, we weren’t out of the woods yet, and images of how horses stomp and swat at the light touch of a fly dominated the next few seconds of rubbing the skin on his neck.
Then it was time.
Grabbing a chunk of skin and shaking it, the needle was in and out in a fraction of a second — and he never so much as flinched, not even a little.
Nor did he look back or side-step or even move.
In fact, it was so easy, it didn’t even come close to earning the apprehension that went into it and almost immediately all the other immunizations that had been beside it on the store shelf came to mind.
Best of all, tetanus free, wound healed, the event was a non-event to the horse who still flinches when a fly lands on him but isn’t likely to notice all the shots in his future.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bailing twine can have many uses

As featured Saturday, October 13, 2012, at

Ingenuity and creativity surfaced in those times when it was boring inside on long summer days, yet if you made the mistake of getting caught underfoot you were sure to be given a chore.
Out of sight, however, a kid could often stay out of mind as well.
Ropes, halters, plant hangers, you name it, they were born of such out-of-sight times, left over bailing twine and countless such hours of sitting in the barn – hours spent braiding and tying.
While braiding lengths of bailing twine together to hang a swing from the door of the barn for kids to use, that familiar feeling surfaced with memories of those hours of the past.
Of course, rather than in days gone by, when the natural fibers of the twine left splinters and tore at the skin, this twine was bright pink and yellow and made of plastic strands.
And braiding 20-feet of rope didn't hurt and lock-up the fingers back then, but otherwise it was a surprising realization to discover not much had changed, including the calming comfort that came with sitting in the quiet and crossing strand-over-strand, over and over again.
Bailing twine is one of those nifty little collateral items that just become part of the scenery in a barn.
With two or three strands wrapped around each bale of hay, they start to add up over time and if allowed, can even cause quite a mess.
But when you see them hung neatly over a nail or railing, you know you are in the barn of someone who treasures the value and versatility of bailing twine, or "hay string" as some call it.
Proportionately, barn work often seems to outsize the time one gets to spend with their horses, so it seems fitting that their food comes with such a one-size-fits-all tool.
And in a functional and pragmatic barn, the pink ropes can often be spotted holding railings together, serving as door pulls, bucket handles, netting, or hangers for tools, picks and brushes.
One might assume a farmers' young daughter has run rampant trying to "pretty" up the barn, but though the colors are catchy these days – with hues of mostly pink, but also orange, yellow, red green and sometimes black or white – those bright strands are simply a solution to just about any fix-it dilemma.
Recently a friend shared a photo of a young boy at her barn with pink twine looped and tied to his jeans because he was getting ready to ride, but had forgotten his belt and couldn't keep his pants up.
The image got the wheels turning about all the different ways the stuff has come in handy over the years.
Tie a circle at the end of a piece of twine, slip it over the nose of a horse, bring the loose end around behind the ears, tie it off, and you have an ultra-quick catch halter that fits in a pocket.
Braided into long ropes and tied to those metal clips that always seem to turn up around a barn, they make for strong leashes and lead ropes.
Strands tied to rails and twisted together in a grid pattern can create a temporary fence.
Tightly wrapped around a hose, twine can seal off a leak long enough to finish filling a tank, and tied from one corner to another, it makes a great place to hang spray bottles, blankets and more.
Some people out there get really creative with their bailing twine, weaving it into hammocks, rugs and bags, and one website even suggests strands of it tied to a horses tail as a makeshift fly swatter/hair extension for those whose tails have met unfortunate ends.
But perhaps best of all, a pile of twine, out-of-sight times, the idle hands of a child, and a quiet spot in the barn can weave incredible memories.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Accidents happen: Animals forgive

As featured Oct. 6, 2012 on

Popping off the ground, the barbed wire flew up and in an instant her legs were planted in the middle of it.
And the predictable happened.
She stepped forward, her front legs met with the resistance of the wire, then her rear hoof snagged.
Her eyes enlarged her breathing quickened and the next few seconds were like those that come after a firecracker is lit and tossed.
But the funny thing about firecrackers is you can’t run over and check, you just have to wait and see if they’re going to blow — And much the same, the wire puzzle, though potentially disastrous, had to be left up to her.
Panic and terror made her shake, but the mare pushed through, overcoming the barbs that snagged and scratched at the skin on her legs until she gave one final bound and jumped clear, leaving the fence to pop back into its place.
The next hour was spent cleaning her legs and rubbing salve on her thankfully superficial wounds, with repeats every day for a week after.
It hardly seemed a sufficient penance, considering it had been my dumb idea to hold the fence down so she could cross in the first place.
In hindsight, it’s easy to see how accidents happen, but of course that’s hindsight.

• The cat meowed like it does every night — meow to be let out, meow to be let in … after a while, the meows start to blend.
Tired and feeling a little bit of tough love take over, he shut the door and locked up for the night, heading off to call it a day.
The next day, eyes cast downward, he told guiltily of how his wife found the cat that morning, sandwiched between the storm door and the back door of the house — thankfully this time, still meowing.
• She put her son’s hamsters together in a cage and didn’t think a thing of it, certainly not imagining it would end in disaster, much less a childhood trauma.
That is until one of the boys found his brother’s hamster having a victory meal on one side of the cage and few remaining pieces on the other.
• His cat loved to go for walks and responded well to a leash, a perfect solution for an apartment pet.
Her enjoyment of their leisurely strolls led to the next natural step and he upped the pace, happy when she raced to keep up with him.
When she slowed, he tugged the leash, hoping to help her burn off some pent up energy.
Finally, she refused to go any further and plopped to the ground.
Leaning down, he was horrified to see she wasn’t being obstinate as he had thought, but rather the soft flesh on the pads of her paws was raw and bleeding.
In hindsight, it’s easy to see how accidents happen, but of course that’s hindsight. 
Sometimes even the best intentions go awry — the fastest path, a curfew lesson on a warm, starry night, generous accommodations with a bonus pal or a healthy jog through the park — at one time or another, most pet owners experience a good thing-turned disaster.
If only they could talk, they might tell us, “I can’t walk over that!” “Hey! I’m stuck!” “My feet hurt,” or, “Don’t leave me here, he’s mean.”
As luck would have it, however, (not counting the unfortunate hamster) animals seem to know when the intentions are a world apart from the results and are quick to pick up right where they left off with you.
… Even if they do pause to glare at the door, hiss at the leash or snort at barbed wire.