A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses

I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

If you invoke it's name, it will come

Ok, I made a boo boo. I posted about vet care (although very minorly thank goodness). So naturally, I wake up this morning, sit down, try to figure out which way is up while J makes the coffee. (Side note here, J always makes the coffee, and I love him more for that!). Then, J walks in with this bad look on his face, and doesn't even break the news gently "Katy's lame. Katy's VERY lame." Figures.

So, I hop up, walk outside the back door and see Katydid, one of the Sugarbush fillies, walking around the rim of the pond. Well, not walking exactly, she was hopping. Complete 3 legged lame.

I got that tight feeling in the pit of my stomach. You know the one, that "oh, this can't be good, am I looking at a dead horse?" feeling. She was completely non weight bearing on her front left. In order to move forward, she had to rear back, shifting her weight to her hind legs, then lurch forward with her forehand.

I sent J for a halter, I went to check the horse.

As I got closer to her, I could see that Katy was holding her leg bent at the pastern, and it was HUGE. I mean from mid cannon down was very swollen. I mentally reviewed the last time I knew she was sound. With the recent rain, I hadn't had a good look at the horses. I mean I had SEEN them all, but no one was really moving around, and I wasn't about to wade into the icky cold wet nastiness to make them. I knew that only yesterday I had seen Katy grazing. I swear she was standing normally. Wouldn't I have noticed if she was trying to graze with a front leg all bent up like that?

As J returned to us with the halter, I asked him when he last saw her move. "Last night" he said. Oh thank goodness! I'm not crazy! Last night, my old TB mare had decided to make a fuss, about what I'm not sure, and had the entire herd running. Now, Katy is black. I have a few black horses, and quite a few with similar markings (light appaloosa roaning). At night, across the pasture, it's pretty hard to be sure that Katy isn't Velvet, and Velvet isn't Dee, and none of them are Princessa. Black horses at night... not so easy to look at.

But lucky for me, when I went to grab the old dog off the front porch (he gets lost... he's very old) J took a look to see what was stirring up Ash. Katy whizzed past him, so he's sure that she was able to run flat out. Today, she wasn't able to even stand.

I had J hold her... you know, just in case, and I started feeling around her leg. If it's broken, then there's really no sense in making her lurch up to the barn for treatment. If it's broken, Katy would be allowed to graze and be pampered until the vet got there to make sure she didn't suffer. That was my fear, especially with a sudden injury this serious.

*push* *Squeeze* *prod*

Nope, not broken! YAY! But, the tendon that runs down the back side of her leg was very swollen. She refused to allow me to flex it too much (as in, she's stronger then me) but she reacted with minimal pain to my prodding. Ok, so that means it's treatable. *whew*

Of course, that means a hobbling walk to the barn. Poor Katy. Half way there, i changed my mind, and decided that the long pen - a paddock that runs the length of the arena, has horrid fencing right now, and I am trying to grow grass in - would be a better place for her. I just had visions of a 1400 pound filly trying to lay down in a stall. Not enough room.

So we poke, prod, smack, and force Katy to hobble her way to the long pen. Once she got going, she kept picking up speed. The only gait she can really manage is a slow canter. A slow canter on a draft horse, is a medium run for a human!We'd get 3 to 4 paces, then she's stop to rest. Other times it was 6 or 8 paces. Either way it's rather intimidating to have a lurching mass of horse that's barely in control of it's movements moving that close beside me.

Once in the catch pen, I went through the normal checks. Picked feet checking for rocks and debris. Nothing. Mashed on sole, looking for an obvious abscess. Nothing. Attempt to flex pastern to find reaction point. Well, she didn't care for me trying to straighten it, but no serious responses to pain. All is good.

Well, kinda. Downside is, that means a vet call. And there's NO way I'm making this horse load up and try to balance in a trailer to the vet clinic. With the vet coming out, i did not want to give pain meds, so that he could get a true evaluation, so I left Katy in the paddock to pick at grass. Gave her some grain to keep her happy, and went to grab my phone.

Did I mention that I hadn't had my first cup of coffee yet?

I started making calls, waiting on call backs (receptionist had to check with the vet who was on a farm call) and dearest J brought me a cup of coffee. Got the vet scheduled for a few hours later, so proceeded to take care of the rest of the herd, who was rather upset that breakfast was LATE.

The vet arrived only a bit late (not bad for squeezing me in!) and checked her out. He agrees with me that nothing seems to be broken. There's no sign of an obvious abscess, although sudden lameness like this is usually an abscess. Agrees with me about the tendon, gives me a treatment regiment to follow for that (cold hosing, DMSO wraps, call if not better in a day or 2). We discuss concerns, such as when to worry about the opposite foot, how long to keep wrapped, and such. he also said that he has a suspicion that there's a deep abscess in there. He said that it's only a gut feeling, as his exam shows nothing to indicate that besides some swelling that could easily be explained by the tendon. None the less, he said if I can soak her, to give it a try. Dr. G is an amazing vet, and he's so often right, that I'll do it. Besides, it sure won't hurt, and Epsom salt is cheap to experiment with.

All in all, Katy's in the barn now, on some bute for pain, soaked, hosed, and wrapped up, and tickled to have her sister next to her so she doesn't have to suffer alone. Poor Sweetie was "forced" to be stalled tonight and eat grain. It's a rough life.

Oh, side note.... any horse that can be pastured at this time of year (i.e. not stallions) gets to have only pasture grazing for their diets. I have WAY too much and too good of grass to give them anything else to go with it. Been there, done that, and one horse foundered. Of course, the horses still love their grain.

So yeah, that's my day. I vow to never invoke the name of the vet agian.... bad things happen!

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