Update

The last four months have been difficult for various reasons and I see I haven’t been very good about updating here so let me do some news on everyone:

Dulce: it took a while but she slowly gained weight back. It’s been a struggle. I tried several different equine senior feeds (which she all refused) and then she decided she would eat a Mare and Foal feed (high fat) until she decided one day she wouldn’t eat that either, so we are back to the Grostrong 13.

Her winter coat is in so she looks much larger then she really is. Come spring we shall see but I am trying to keep a feel of her ribs to know how she is doing.

I’ve left her halter on as there is no easy way to catch her when needed for hoof trimmings and while I’ve used clicker training, whatever her life was in her past has left deep, emotional scars.

Dancer: About two weeks ago I realized that one day, probably sooner then I want, I’ll have to say goodbye to my dear little pony. We continue to struggle with her feet and I realized that with the Cushing’s diagnosis one day it will simply catch up to her.

Mood and attitude on both ponies is very good. For Dancer, I’m going to try another grazing muzzle (though she has escaped them in the past) and buy her some hoof boots for the front feet in hopes of getting her more active.

Dante: I’m still not doing much with him. This is a major problem. Either I need to start doing something or find him another home.

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For the last three months I’ve been struggling with the idea of should I stay boarding where I am – and if so, how to solve the problem of horses getting fed. This plays into not working Dante, because I have to wait until he’s finished eating to work him and that means staying out there longer (doing nothing) then I want to do.

Or move Dante to a full care boarding facility? If I choose this option, then I lose my privacy (which I value highly) and lose control over how I want his life managed (i.e. less pasture time, more stall time, more expenses, nosy neighbors etc…).

I did hire a feeder but she doesn’t live on the property and I could never afford her (at $20 per day) to feed everyday. I did visit another facility that offers an option for feeding at $7 a day in addition to your boarding fee but it also has an arena and a roundpen. The problem is no vacancies and some other issues (which I won’t go into here).

So I bit the bullet and asked my neighbor if he would feed at a rate of $50 a week (on top of my $140 pasture fee for Dante) = $340 less the cost of hay and feed. With ponies this brings up my boarding fees to $420. Hay, feed and supplements will be on top of this.

He starts to feed Dec. 1st and I’ll give myself 3 months to see if I will be more interactive with Dante. If not, in the spring, I’ll send him to a trainer and arrange for him to be re-homed.

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What I don’t go into here with my blog is my mental struggles which I really don’t want to discuss here anyway. About a month ago we decided to euthanize our senior dog due to major loss of quality of life. Three weeks later the other dog went in for some surgery. I do run a small shop over on Etsy and I’m in a quandary whether I should grow it more (it has a limit as to what it could do) or go ahead and start thinking of closing it down.

I’m trying to decide what to do with my time and life. Especially as we look towards selling the house in two years and begin a life of travel to find a retirement location. There’s a lot of re-shuffling of priorities.

Life seems to get in the way and I’ve been with horses in some way or another a long time. I’m trying to keep things open ended on my horse decision but some sort of decision needs to be made next spring for Dante’s future.

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Dulce continues her decline

Dulce continues to not gain weight. She has me very worried at this point.

I tried Equine Senior and she refused to eat it. So I stopped her Pergolide (which can suppress appetite) and went back to Grostrong 13 (which she will eat) and doubled the amount of food. After 3 weeks of that, I tried to get her to eat some Equine Senior mixed with her Grostrong 13, yesterday and today and she again turned up her nose.

She does not like it!

I’ve tried other fat supplements and she won’t eat them either.

As of today, I’ve increased her food amount again. I’ve also let her be under the fan in the barn but she prefers the shade tree.

The vet comes out Friday to do Dancer’s dental and I’m going to speak to her about Dulce again. Last time she was here, she thought Dulce probably had other health issues – such as her foaming at the mouth (a lot) right before she is fed or when she gets nervous.

Other then looking like a skeleton, she is chipper, is bright and alert, desires to eat (just not Equine Senior), and actually has a shiny coat (WTF??) so I’m at wit’s end right now and will see if the doctor has any recommendations.

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For the rest of us it is HOT HOT HOT. I’m giving Dante hose downs when I can but he still will only use the fan in the stall occasionally and prefers to hang out under the tree or in the pasture eating grass.

Work has stalled due to some very rainy days, too much heat and me injuring my back. Typically, this heat keeps going up until we get through mid August when we should start seeing some breaks in the weather.

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The real cost of self care boarding

I’ve been in self care boarding for over 8 years or there about. Only when we lived in Missouri for a year were the horses on my own property – in all other situations I had to drive out (30 minutes, usually 50, one way) to get there.

I can deal with the cost of buying my own food and hay. I can deal with pooping scoop. I can deal with dumping and scrubbing out water tanks. What wears me down though is the day in and day out responsibility with no break. It starts to kill my enjoyment of my horses; I become a caretaker with little time for friendship.

It’s not that I don’t love the horses but when you are doing something day in and day out the “special” is soon removed. You see the same burnout in Stay at Home Moms who end up doing all the cleaning and cooking with little time to be the “fun” activity mom for their kids.

I tried getting someone this year to help out but I ended up firing her within three weeks due to no-shows. I’ve been advertising on Craiglists and at feed and farm supply stores, again with no luck. The problem is I have to find someone in the area because if they have to drive more then 20 minutes one way themselves the cost of it to me becomes too high due to gas mileage.

For example, I talked to someone that does barn sitting and she was going to be $35 and thought she might have to increase that price because of the drive. 😦

Yesterday, I had the bright idea of looking for a dog sitter that might live in the area. I found someone who lives 12 minutes away and who grew up on a farm (had cattle and dad had horses). YAY!

She came out to visit with me today and I am tentatively getting excited and thinking this might work out. She’s an adult who wants a business looking after animals, lives close by and felt the routine was very easy.

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The routine is now easy because of the changes I made on the fenceline back in April-May of this year which allows me to separate all three horses. Since the horses now know the routine, everyone easily goes to where they are suppose to be fed as long as you feed them in the CORRECT order 😉

When you look at the diagram, Dante eats at point A and is fed first; Dancer eats at point B and is fed second; open the gate and let Dulce through and she eats at point C (just close the gates so horse’s can’t mingle).

I meet with her next Thursday for her to review the process again and then she starts doing my Fridays. If things work out, I hope she can do twice a week starting this fall.

For those interested in the cost we agreed on was $20 for a weekday, $25 for weekends, and $30 for national holiday. This price is reasonable because she can get there in 15 minutes or less, and my feeding system takes less then 25 minutes (the only real delay is you have to wait until Dulce finishes so she can be moved back into the dry lot with Dancer).

The other feeder was also in charge of some grooming and care for the horses but I learned my lesson. I will keep those duties to myself and if I do hire someone to help groom, bathe, etc… I will have them work alongside me, not on their own.

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This is part of the huge shift in our life. We both know that we will be selling our house in 18-24 months and downsizing.

Our plans at this point is to buy land in Arkansas, near Eureka Springs, where we can build a one bedroom barn house so we can stable the horses. Meanwhile, spouse will also have a 1 or 2 bedroom, near downtown, condo which we will travel back and forth from as his work will let him telecommute. The tentative plan is that I would be in ES 3 weeks out of 4 and spouse will be with me 10-14 days then back to Tulsa for a week, and then back to me etc.. while both of our kids are away at college.

These are big dreams but it means we need time these next two years to take vacations, look at land, be available to do research out of state, work on this house so it’s ready to sell, etc… which means we need more TIME to get crap done. And me feeding horses every day, and having to be here on the weekends, doesn’t allow for that.

I REALLY hope this one works out!

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Pergolide dosage for Cushings

Tomorrow both ponies go to full dosage on their Cushing’s medication, Prascend. I did a “loading” dose at half the prescription to hopefully avoid the Pergolide Veil (a kind of zoning out that horses on this medication can experience; see side effects here). Both ponies are interested in food and their environment; so far so good.

Dulce’s alertness level has increased each day since she had her dental. She seems totally comfortable with her mouth now and has one more day of her antibiotic. While the haircut looks horrible and she is still way too thin, she seems to be slowly gaining weight back now that I’m feeding her equine senior.

Dancer ended up being tender on her back feet; I’m thinking this was due to loss of frog because of thrush (we had some unexpected, long days of rain). She also seems to be better today and is alert and interested in things.

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The mysterious stench at the barn has vanished.

There was a horrid smell as you walked out to the pasture gate. It was intense – and more of a sewage like stench then a something dead smell. This smell though has been consistent for at least a month or two.

At the time I put it down to our next door neighbor whose owner was not cleaning up her horse’s poop. The horse came to the barn with some sort of really horrible skin condition and underfed. When she pooped, it was more like cow patty stench.

However, the person renting the house portion of the barn has left (YAYYAYAYAYAY!) and two days later the smell was gone too. So I don’t know if he had left trash in the barn….? Seems to me to be too much of a coincidence but the barn owner has re-rented the property and says he doesn’t know of any smell when he cleaned the house (or was he lying? Because he looked away when saying that to me and didn’t pursue asking me about it).

Another possibility was that Dulce’s mouth was causing the smell but that isn’t where she is kept and I’ve been close to her and didn’t smell it. The vet also didn’t mention a smell when she worked on Dulce’s mouth (and I was nearby so I would have smelt it if it was rot in her mouth you would think?). But she has been on antibiotics so if it was her, then after four days whatever was causing it, cleared up.

Whatever it is – it has mysteriously vanished from the ether.

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Dealing with realities

I’m starting to have that overwhelmed, hopeless feeling again. Last week I ended up being sick and after a trip to the urgent care discovered I had walking pneumonia. That put me down and out for about 8 days and I know that after coming back from respiratory issues it is easy to feel depressed so I’m trying to remember that.

After Dulce’s dental and getting some of her body hair trimmed off, it really showed how she has become a rack of bones due to the Cushings. I’ve known for some time she was losing too much weight because Dancer is dominant. After the fencework got done, I’ve been separating her to feed and giving her more but it just hasn’t been enough so I’ve put her on a Senior Feed and Weight gain supplement.

She’s on her Cushing Pergolide loading dose, a 7 day course of antibiotics and a couple of days of bute. Today, her eyes had gone back to being gunked up and I’ve put her back on her eye ointment.

I suspect due to the eyes, the mouth, and the fact she occasionally foams when she eats or slobbers, she has some real deep health issues that are going to shorten her life significantly. Right now, that hopelessness feeling is because I want to help her and don’t know what more I can do, or even if there is a way to help her (because I suspect incestuous genetics has caused some malformations that cannot be corrected).

So I’m on a “wait-and-see” – hoping the dental makes her a lot more comfortable and that the Pergolide gives her a better chance of gaining weight.

Next, I don’t know that I really have Dante’s PSSM under control. He never or very rarely shows any desire to move other then an ambling walk. There is no play in him. So I’m wondering what, if anything, I can do here?

There’s some equipment I want to buy for him to help on his rehab but that has to wait because of $$. The heat is starting to grow oppressive and my ability to deal with being outdoors in over 95 degree weather is lessening.

ARGH. Horses. ARGH.

Posted in Cushings disease, Dulce, PSSM | 2 Comments

Dulce’s Dental

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Dulce got her dental today and the damage to my pocket book wasn’t too bad – under $200. She had a lot of hooks and two teeth just fell out and one is still wobbly but she should have a much better bite right now.

Got a tetanus shot, some Banamine, and a course of antibiotic. I’m to keep an eye on her and see if she gets diarrhea because of her health and Cushings this could happen. It looks like she may have more health issues (the vet commented on how pale her gums were) but we will just manage the best we can for her.

Dulce is a companion pet and she will live out her life with me whatever life she has and that is far more then the home she had from the people who inbred her to be the hot mess she is. The poor little thing continues to be shy but at least I can sit by her when she eats now and with the new stable-fence set up, I can separate her to feed so she doesn’t get harassed by Dancer too much.

Meanwhile, the vet looked at Dancer’s mouth (scheduled her a dental next month) and while she is a good 10 years + on Dulce, due to her superior genetics still has most of her teeth and has far better health (despite off the chart Cushing readings) then the younger geriatric pony.

So I have my own personal dental hell next month with two crowns over back molars and Dancer will get her July dental. Starting in August, I will start through all the home pets (3 cats, 2 dogs) with dentals and health exams. When I was working for vets, I got these at big discounts but that was 2 years ago so I need to get them back in and on a schedule.

Both kids will get updated routine dentals in August before returning to college. Next year the youngest will go into Invisalign.

Again, caring for the animals and our own health can now be done because our financial improvements (better job for husband, raises and bonuses, removing debt from our monthly budget and watching our spending) as well as buying a better medical and dental plan for ourselves. None of this would have been possible financially for us 3 years ago.

Life is improving and I am especially glad that I can provide the care that my horse and ponies really need. How much can be done for Dulce is rather doubtful, but a good home with routine medical care can be done at the very least.

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Both ponies tested positive for Cushings disease

The test results for the ponies came back and both are positive for Cushing disease. At a baseline of 110, Dulce was 182 and Dancer was 462!! That wasn’t a surprise on Dulce but for Dancer, I guess that explains that the hoof issues we’ve been having for the last five years.

Knowing this, I realize that once again we’ve been playing Russian Roulette where a little too much grass, a little too much sugar, a little too much weight and the situation could spiral into an extremely dangerous, even a life threatening situation.

I picked up their Pergolide medication (Prascend tablets) with their full dose at .25 m or 1/4 a tablet. I started it today at half dosage (1/8 of a full tablet) for about two weeks as a loading dose to try to avoid the Pergolide Veil that Dr. Kellon and her Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistant webgroup have experienced.

In 6 months, I’m going to have the ponies re-tested again to make sure that this level of medication is controlling their disease.

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On a personal note, Cushing Disease and I are old enemies. Cushing Disease is what killed my horse Pepper (or rather the side effects of laminitis which most likely ended in heart attack after 3 months of unrelenting stress).

Emotionally, this all took me by surprise but I shouldn’t have been surprised. Dancer is over 30 and now I know Dulce is over 20.  I know Dulce lost a lot of topline last year and had a long hair coat which eventually shed near the end of summer.

Dancer has been battling hoof issues now for about 5 years; her winter coat was slow to shed and she does have a longer then normal hair coat but I chalked it up to age. All tipoffs pointing to Cushing Disease.

Like I discussed though with husband, many differences exist from the time that Pepper was diagnosed and I was helpless to today:

1.) I can now buy a low sugar feed. 10 years ago finding a low sugar horse feed in my area was impossible. Because Insulin Resistance is now being more widely recognized these feeds now have a market.

2.) Being in self board, I have my area set up for dry lotting the ponies. Something I didn’t have at any of my other setups.

3.) Balancing hay was impossible when I was boarding because hay suppliers were constantly changing. Now I buy my hay from the landowner where my horses are which means the hay is consistently the same in its composition. This allows for more accurate testing and thus better hay balancing.

4.) Supplements – finding them 10 years ago was far harder then today. Now that Cushing Disease and Insulin Resistance are in the public eye, where before many of these supplements were obscure, difficult, expensive and non-palatable to the horse, now I can find them in a form that a horse will easily eat.

5.) Pergolide is now FDA approved. This means it is easier to obtain and is consistent in its formulation. Hunting it down years before could be a nightmare.

6.) Money, money, money. My money situation is so much better then it was before. I can afford to buy the supplements that before I couldn’t. Flax seed, Magnesium, Vitamin E, Copper and Zinc, and meds, are all expensive and have to be bought, month in and month out.

7.) I have a great farrier now! My husband can maintain my horse’s hooves and keep them in shape.

Posted in Cushings disease, Dulce, Pandora, vet visit | Leave a comment