My little shrimp started to cough in mid December during a training session.
A 3-years old in our stable had a cold at that time, he stands kitty-corner to Barleys’ box and we were out on a ride together shortly before that date, so I figured, Barley also got it.
Just a few days after he had started to cough, his nose started running. At first a clear secretion, which quickly turned white and green.
His coughing got so bad and I felt really sorry for him, I was about to call out the vet, but everybody tried to calm me down.
“It’s just a cold. Give him 2-3 weeks of rest and he’ll be ok again.” I tried to reassure myself that I can’t over re-act on my horse having a cold, so I pushed through.
We took 30-45 minutes walks and sometimes I took him to the indoor arena to jog for some 2-3 minutes, just to check if some mucus would loosen up. I found that he didn’t cough as much on the walks after one week,
But when he did cough, it sounded like it came from deep inside of him.
I bought him a horse lick “respiratory” with eucalyptus oil and aniseed oil, hoping it would help the mucus to loosen up, too. Well,…. it did help, oh boy, did it help! I just had given him the horse lick for ten minutes and he seemed to enjoy it quite a bit.
When he put down his head a flood of snot came running out his nostrils. Fortunately I already had made kitchen paper as part of my stable basket. And I used lots of it to clean him up again.
The weather was of course not helping at all. We had minus degrees before Christmas but no snow, the ground was frozen solid and even when he was turned out (in his previously so muddy pasture), he was reluctant to move in his uneven pasture.
Though he had fresh air, maybe some more movement would have helped to get rid of the mucus, instead he was standing on one spot all day. Of course, it was the very carefully chosen spot directly between the water barrel and the box filled with hay and silage.
I had made sure to have a fleece blanket on him at night and added to that a turn-out rug with 100 g filling for the day. We just had -10° C during the day, when I came to the stable, he was already inside for about an hour.
It was not that he was somehow different, he welcomed me and went on eating when I entered the box, but he felt cold to my touch. I decided to take his temperature and there is was, 36° C, that is 1.8° C lower than his normal temperature when he is healthy.
From that day on he got a thicker stable rug plus is normal turn-out rug with neck.
Last Monday I called my vet and we agreed, that she should come and check on him on Friday, January 16th. I barely heard him cough anymore and he was happy as a fiddle. On Wednesday I took him to the indoor arena for some lunging and groundwork (just to occupy his mind a little, too).
It was meant to be some very light work, but Barley had some other plans, he was feeling it! He started racing around so fast, I had to let out the complete 7,5 meters of rope, because I was afraid he would crash galloping that fast on a circle that was intended for some very light jogging.
He kicked up his heels, bucked, blew out lots of times and wore his tail in the air like he was a stallion (have to show him his papers again, I guess!) Although he was racing around me in an unbelievable speed, he did not drag me along, I still had plenty of slack in my rope, so I forgive him his little outburst.
It’s difficult to get mad at him when you see that he really enjoyed letting off some steam after almost 4 weeks of simmering on the bench.
After that performance, I thought about to call my vet to cancel our appointment. He didn’t cough a single time while racing and kicking and bucking, not at least until 20 minutes later in his box. So no, no cancellation.
Friday came and my vet started checking him out, lungs sounded perfectly normal, there was no mucus anymore, he was breathing perfectly normal. She asked me if I want her to do an endoscopy. I didn’t even hesitate, better to pay a vet bill and to be able to sleep again than worry afterwards about if I should have done it.
My shrimp was a champ, we decided to not give him any sedatives, I just stroke his neck and talked to him while my vet maneuvered the endoscope through his nostril all the way to the lungs.
On the way back through his trachea he started coughing so much that it sounded like he had difficulties to breath, since my vet stayed completely calm, I am convinced that I was just emotional and overreacting. I tugged those emotions away to be able to reassure him that everything is going to be alright.
He stood perfectly still, just watching me out of his big eye. Barley trusted me enough to make the right choice yet again.
When she came out of the wind-pipe, she found the herd of the infection. Apparently his heavy coughs had loosened up some mucus that was now oozing out of these little pockets right and left of the entrance to the trachea. My vet offered me to have a look through the endoscope but as soon as I lifted my hand off him he throw his head back and the tube slipped out. Well, that just gave me the last bit of evidence that he actually endured the whole procedure while I was with him but as soon as he felt that I had abandoned him, his patience was over. A lot of praise followed for my little Quarter-Pony and thanks to my vet of course! It is invaluable to have a vet that is calm and gentle and yet very efficient at the same time!
Alright then, 10 days of penicillin and mucolytic, plus 3-4 more weeks of taking it slow.
“You will have to buy another horse to be able to ride!” This was a suggestion by someone from the stable after I told that Barley is not yet fit enough and that some more rest is needed. I couldn’t help myself, somehow I felt offended. I know that Barley has had his fair share of injuries and now being sick, but that does not mean that I put him in a corner and concentrate on something new and ‘more exciting’. NOBODY puts Baby in a corner…..! Sorry, just couldn’t help it 😀 Who says, that the time spend with your horse not riding is a waste of time?
It is actually possible to learn more about your horse, just being around him, than you do when you are riding him. I am totally convinced of that. Apart from that, I actually believe that horses are much more aware of things than we give them credit for. If you just rush to the stable, rush through your chores, throw in a couple of minutes of riding and be on your way again, I believe your horse knows that he was not your first priority!
We people tend to quickly get bored with things that don’t work, this is just a fact. Times have changed fast and time even seems to pass faster than a couple of years ago, because everything is faster. Just think about it the next time your internet browser takes 5 seconds to load the clip you want to watch….those 5 seconds are for some people the new equivalent of eternity. 5 seconds are enough to get annoyed and make you burst out “Come on, can you get any slower?????”.
Most of the time I have to rush, too. To work, during my work day, to get all the things done, this email and that case that needs to be closed, because the recipients of the answers or support can’t wait anymore, back home, household, friends, family, etc.
Have you noticed the modern answer to the question “When do you need this?”?
Many times you will get the feedback “Well, yesterday!”. I am not throwing the first stone here, I am as guilty of that as anyone, but do I like it? No!
When I got Barley at first, he was very insecure. He came to me as a 3-year old. To me, an unfit leader to a young horse. I was equipped with no knowledge of horses, no experience of caring for a horse, let alone the slightest clew on how to train a horse. All the basics required to help him become a confident, calm and balanced individual that can handle every-day challenges with ease. We were the living proof of the proverb ‘Frustration starts where knowledge ends’. Both of us. When did it change? When I acquired the strength to slow myself down, started to breath and think again and I accepted the fact that I will do things wrong, no matter how hard I’d try not to. From that day on we took things slow, one day at a time, sometimes even one moment at a time.
Now I am looking forward to Barley getting healthy again and to spend as much time as possible with him. The challenge I see for myself is to give him the rest he needs but also to keep his mind occupied and you know what?
I will enjoy every second of it!