Monday, October 27, 2008

Halo Health Update

Well, there's good news and bad news, neither dramatic. Bad news first - the vet doesn't know exactly what is causing Halo's lymph nodes to be so swollen. The good news is that he doesn't think it is serious, and it is likely either allergies, or just a baby "cold" of some kind. She seems fine, and is alert and happy. Unless her lymph nodes get very hot and large, he says she's cleared for her move this Thursday. Phew. I should be getting a report of some kind by email that I can show to the new barn owner.

This morning the current barn owner sent me this picture of my goofy little mare:

Silly filly!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


My horse has a fat head. Well, mouth and esophagus, mostly.

Pictures first for readers with short attention spans:

Here is the worst of the swelling. This is the lymph nodes underneath her jaw, and some other lump pictured just below them. The asymmetry is what makes me especially nervous about this. The lymph nodes are soft to the touch, while the darker lump below is extremely firm.

Here I've drawn a circle around the area that concerns me most.

Although her off side was initially the most swollen, the only picture that really shows the swelling on her muzzle is the near side.
It's very difficult to see in photographs, and I also think it looks somewhat better than it did. But you can still see a peculiar notch in the middle of her upper lip where the swelling end. She's then swollen from that notch back to the corner of her mouth as outlined below.
The swelling around her mouth is extremely firm to the touch, and she also violently objects to any probing. She's usually a little bit cautious about hands around her mouth, but she has never been reactive like she's been since this swelling cropped up.

Here is the other side of her mouth for comparison. You can't tell from the picture, but it is swollen back at the corner of her mouth as well, fairly symmetrically. However, it doesn't have that funky notch in it like the other side.

Something else very noticeable in these pictures are Halo's lovely warts. She got them from the mustang filly she's out in the field with. To my knowledge, these are just regular juvenile warts and should drop off in 1-3 months.

The area she was very swollen in on Saturday that had me really alarmed was her right cheek. It looked fine to me tonight, but maybe one of my enlightened readers will see something odd that I wasn't able to distinguish. Honestly at this point I'm so paranoid I'm likely to hallucinate a hole in her head.

The picture below outlines the area that was formerly quite swollen.

She's had some or all of this swelling happening since last Wednesday. I was out of town the weekend before, so unfortunately I didn't see her then and don't know when it all started. The only thing that has changed since then is the warts. I wormed her last Wednesday with Panacur, but she was already swollen at that point. 

Her symptoms are limited:

- No temperature.
- Lymph node swelling.
- Jaw swelling.
- Muzzle swelling near the mouth.
- She's eating and drinking normally.
- No nasal discharge other than occasionally a little bit of clear (like in the wart picture).
- She did have some lymph node swelling when I first bought her, but she was put on antibiotics and nothing ever came of it.
- She's out on 24-7 turnout in a pasture that could have pretty much any sort of native central Texas plant in it. She gets 1/2 flake of alfalfa and 1/2 scoop of Equine Junior each day.

WTF is going on with my horse?!

My thoughts are:

a. Allergies.
b. A dental issue (probably would have been my first reaction if she were older).
c. Strangles or some other upper respiratory issue. (PLEASE GOD NO!)
d. Bee sting or other insect (seems like it would have gone down more by now).

 The vet is coming on Friday to take a look at her, but if anyone has thoughts or ideas, it always eases my mind to do some research. Okay, so "eases" may be the wrong word, but at least it gives me something to do with all my nervous energy!

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Move: Final Decisions

Well, it's narrowed down to two places for Halo's future home.

The first was #1 on my previous post, the nice boarding barn. I went out there again last night. It's priced VERY reasonably for what it offers. It's also a real community. They do a lot of shows, playdays, trail rides, etc just to expose the horses to various conditions. This is definitely a place I would love to have Halo once she is started under saddle. The do a wide variety of activities, accept riders of all disciplines, and are still not a "show" barn. It's a long drive from where I live now, but won't be too terrible from the area we hope to move to in December/January. The big downside is that for now it is further to drive, and it's also about $70 more expensive per month than the other place (this includes the cost of gas, assuming 3x week visits to the barn). It is also 5 or 6 miles further from where I work than from home, and traffic is usually nasty near work.

The second place is the self-care co-op. It's the same distance from work and home, and is at least $70 cheaper per month even after factoring in hay, grain, and gas (assuming 5x week visits). Seeing Halo more frequently would be a big advantage here. I also miss cleaning stalls and doing chores - as strange as it sounds, I do enjoy just spending the time around my horse. Being the food lady has perks too - it's nice to hear your horse nicker when she sees you. The quality of the hay is very good, and the other co-op members are very responsible and conscientious horse owners. The barn itself is pretty nice, and each stall has a small individual run, so even when they are in at night they still have extra room to move. What concerns me is that the fencing is a little bit questionable for a younger horse. The fences are mostly wire (not barbed) with some hotwire and one area of barbed wire (but it's in the cedars where the horses don't usually go). The pasture is rocky, and there are TONS of prickly pears. I was worried that Halo might hurt herself on the prickly pears, but the co-op members say they haven't had any injuries related to the foliage. A temporary issue is that I will be out of town a lot for the holidays. The co-op members usually adjust their schedules to cover other people's absences, but I would feel guilty having two full weeks of travel in the first two months of boarding there.

What I think some of the choice comes down to is whether I want to join a horse community and immerse myself in that lifestyle. Alternately, the co-op will offer solitude, which I have enjoyed at my current boarding barn. As Halo matures and I do more with her training, it would be nice to have others around to share ideas and thoughts. Of course there is always the other side of that - people whose thoughts and opinions I could do without! Casi has pointed out that it might be nice to just move her where she's going to go and not have to deal with moving her again. And it is likely that I will want her to be at a busier barn once I'm starting her to ride. It's good to have people around to dial 911...

I'm feeling very conflicted. If anybody is out there reading, I'd appreciate your comments.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Spa Day at the Stable

Though not as extensive as some of our bath days, Halo got a good grooming on Sunday. I have been wanting to try a trick for tail whitening that I learned from Amy of the Guns & White Roses blog. Apparently soaking in vinegar is the trick to a glowing white tail! It seemed like a good idea to me, and since it's non-toxic and bleach free, I figured it was better than trying endless rounds of products.

Before starting, I was cautioned to make sure to put a flymask on so that Halo couldn't swish the vinegar into her eyes. She was less than thrilled at first (head-tossing ensued) but once she realized there were treats to be had if she put her head down nicely for it, it was on in short order. However, I did have to laugh at her expense once it was on.

First I did the vinegar soak, and followed it with a round of rather nasty smelling purple whitening shampoo. Then she got a deep conditioning for several minutes, and this was the result:

When I got her tail clean I noticed that not only does she have a few random black hairs, she also has some chestnut ones. There aren't many, but they stand out much more with her tail nice and clean. It's not unusual for a palomino to have random colored hairs in the tail; I believe the PHBA allows horses to have up to 15% of the hair be a different color. Halo has so few you can barely see them unless you're right up close.

While waiting for her tail to dry, I also made the long-suffering filly tolerate being braided. After the completion, I realized that maybe this was beginning to get a little creepy; after all, I'm old enough now that I don't view my horse as a large My Little Pony.

I have to admit that I get a lot of satisfaction from grooming my horse, though. There's something nice about spending time with her just fussing over her, even if all the dirt winds up all over me instead.

As if I hadn't tortured her enough, I took advantage of the trailer being parked and open to see if she'd load up. None of my previous horses have been easy to load or haul, so I was completely shocked when she followed me in with absolutely not a twitch of her ear or roll of her eye. Here she is unloading herself the second time I loaded her (the first time I DID have a halter on her).

She may be a little silly and spazzy, but she does amaze me sometimes with her aplomb.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Time to Move On

The news came last week. I mentioned offhand to the barn owner where I board that Casi and I are probably moving back to downtown when our apartment lease is up in December. Part of that move would include finding a new place for Halo. I drive 13.2 miles each way to see her now, and with a move to downtown that distance would double. I am a practical much as any horse owner can be, I suppose.

Last week I got an email from the barn owner the day after our discussion, and she informed me that she would like us to find a new barn. She said they had been planning to ask me to leave November 1st with 30 days notice anyway. Brilliant. While I wasn't thrilled to hear that we were being booted out, for reasons I can't quite identify, I know that it is probably in the best interest of myself and my horse. But finding a new place can be such a challenge!

Behind the Bit has a fantastic checklist for the neurotic barn owner. Fortunately, Halo's requirements are minimal at this time. The biggest problem is that she is so young that it is silly for me to a) be at a fancy riding facility and b) lock her up in a stall all day. I am not comfortable with it at all. I want her to have a foalhood and be a horse. Stacey of BtB is right...finding the right barn really is like finding a nanny for your child!

To add to the complication of finding a new barn, not only are we moving in December, but my office is moving in December. At least I know where the office is going, whereas we don't have an apartment lined up yet. So I'm trying to make this decision with a lot of variables at play. Obviously Halo's well-being comes first, but I would like to be able to see her on a regular basis as well.

My options as of now are as follows (names withheld to protect the innocent):

1. Boarding/Lesson barn in Manor, TX. This is about 19 miles from the approximate location where we will be living, and 27 miles from my work. Pasture board gets a small pasture with other horses, run-in shelter, free choice coastal hay, mineral/salt lick, and Nutrena Safe Choice. The pastures are not very big, but they seem safe. The horses are all fat and friendly, and the tack room is the cleanest, most freakishly organized tackroom I have ever seen. I really like the barn owner. I rode a horse of hers for a while last winter, and he was an absolute pleasure to ride. Definitely not push-button, but very soft and responsive. He reminded me that I once was a very good rider! Also, I know that this barn owner would find me another one of her horses to ride for free until Halo is ready. $265/month.

2. Small, private boarding barn in Manor, TX. This is 23 miles from home and 31 miles from work, but in reality it's pretty close to the other Manor barn. They have 23 acres cross-fenced into three pastures. Run-in shelter, free choice coastal, salt/minerals, Safe Choice, and daily worming. I have an appointment to see this place on Sunday. This barn only has three boarders right now, and they are in the process of building an arena and possibly another part of their barn. It doesn't matter to me since I can't ride anyway, but it might be nice in the future. The downside is that there wouldn't be any extra horses for me to ride, and it is furthest away of the barns. It will be very hard for me to get out there with any sort of daylight left in the winter months. $270/month.

3. Co-op barn in South Austin. Initially I thought this was further away, but after checking distances it is no worse than Manor. That said, going south of Austin during rush hour is NOT the same as going east. Traffic is MUCH worse. Austin is a tall, narrow city from north to south, and traffic is much worse if you're trying to take one of the two main thoroughfares in either of those directions. Anyway, this place is equidistant from work or from home at 17 miles. There is a barn, 6 acres of pasture. There are three other horses - a 27 year old mare, her 10 year old daughter, and an older gelding. I don't know how that dynamic would work for Halo since she's a very playful little thing. Luckily she wouldn't have to fight for food since the horses are brought into their stalls to eat every night and turned out every morning. The cost of hay and farrier visits is split between the boarders, and I would need to buy my own grain. The only thing that initially worried me was them saying that they "just throw the same amount of hay to every horse." Hmm. Then again, if I go out and their horses look healthy and well taken care of, there's nothing to complain about. To board here, I would have to feed and turn horses in or out probably at least 3x per week. I will find out more details tomorrow when I visit. $85/month.

4. The final option is similar to the first, but much closer than any of the others. It is a H/J and dressage barn 9 miles from work and 15 miles from home. The benefit to this is that I would be able to get there fairly quickly after work, which would be fantastic on the weekdays. The disadvantage is that there seem to be lots of kids here. It's also the most expensive of the three options. On top of that, I'm not into showing anymore, and while I would like to do so again someday (and take some lessons) it's not a concern at all right now, and won't be for a couple of years. Pasture, stall, or pen board is available. Pasture board provides free choice coastal, salt/minerals, and Safe Choice. The owner told me that the pastures are "rocky" and that any horse pasture boarded would need front shoes at least. My reaction was WTF? given that I have been taught that rocks are good for a barefoot horse with good feet. (Granted, this does not mean you should ever make a habit of tearing around on gravel or pavement). I will not put shoes on Halo unless I have a reason, especially when I can trim her feet myself. Anyway, this is a nice facility with a big jumping arena and a lighted round pen, both of which would be great to have in order to further Halo's training. The round pen would be especially useful to get her longeing nicely. $315/month.

Clearly I need to SEE these places to make a decision. I hope the answer becomes easily evident, and that it turns out to be a solution that's good for me and my horse. I may be a horse owner on a budget, but I want to do right by Halo in every way possible.