Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Ride in Blanco,TX on Lola

While I am very interested in getting Joey back in shape and riding, I do have 3 other horses that need riding, and I have some updates where they are concerned.

I am strongly considering entering an endurance ride to take place on October 1, 2011. I have yet to decide which horse to use, however. Woody, my grade horse of unclear background that I'm pretty sure is an Azteca, has great endurance and is super-broke, but has a rougher trot than I care to ride for miles on end. Vaquero, my paso fino with tons of brio, has a smoother gait and more motor to cover miles, but can be tough to calm down, and I worry he won't get his pulse down fast enough to complete a 25 miler. So I have stepped up riding them both on alternate occasions, and will probably make up my mind as they progress. I plan on riding one and ponying the other when I can't find friends to help me ride them.

Vaquero after a recent bath.


Woodrow "Woody" and his amazing chest girth

Woody from the other side showing off his mane.

Yesterday, by buddy Alex told me about a place up the road in Blanco, TX, run by a cowboy. He said they had some cutting horse training going on over there, so I thought it worth a look-see. The cowboy's name was Dick, was about 6 foot 5 inches tall, and was quite a colorful character. He did have those ropes that run a flag back and forth, and he told me I could bring Joey over there for a few months, and get him used to tracking that flag. Apparently, that's part of cutting training.

Dick proceeded to give me a few tips for riding Lola, all of which were appropriate, and things I knew, but had gotten sloppy about. He reminded me to NOT lower my hands, keep them up. Give reining cues from a more up the neck position, etc.

Lola rode well, and we worked on correct lead departures, always a challenge for her. She is very left lead dominant. She would barely take the right lead EVER when I first got her. Even at liberty in the field, I don't recall ever seeing her in the right lead. But after some work, I've been getting her in the right lead more often. We were riding in a nice big arena, with good footing, and so we worked on cantering in circles and for long stretches. She did very well.

After one terrible stop, all my fault, we worked on her stops too. Dick saw my terrible stop, where she stopped quickly on her front end and with me jammed into the saddle horn, and he quickly went about correcting my behavior. Of course, I had NOT given her time to stop. I had just been riding and then slammed on the brakes. After his not so subtle reminder, I took care to lead the stop with my seat, energy, and only last and gently, did I add the reins. Her stops were much better, and I didn't impale myself on the saddle horn. Why is it always my damn fault when I'm riding the horse? Why couldn't it just ONCE be the horse's fault?

The country was beautiful, Texas Hill Country gorgeous. Lola did well, and it was a lot of fun to be riding in a new place. I hope to go back more often, and hope to add more stories from this place to my storybook of horse adventures.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Surgery for Joey

Hmm...can I eat these shavings?

His home away from home.

Joey underwent surgical correction for his cryptorchidism at the Texas A&M Vet School on July 12th, 2011, under the direction of Dr. Peter Rakestraw. He underwent laparoscopic evaluation on both sides, and the retained testicle was found on the right side, intra-abdominal position, and very high. It was well proximal to the inguinal ring, and was never a testicle that had descended and then "sucked back up". This testicle had never descended and was never going to descend.

There were no complications. In fact, the only tough part of the experience was the shock of seeing the large area of skin that had to be shaved and prepped. It is easy to see from these pics, that grullo colored horses are truly "black duns".

This is the right side, where the testicle was removed

They explored the left side as well, to confirm there was no testicular tissue on that side.

He has been recovering well. I removed the sutures on July 24th, 2011. He never experienced any drainage from any of the incision sites. That was a big concern of mine, given the flies this time of year, but it proved to be a non-issue.

He is cleared to return to work 2 weeks post-op, which is today, July 26th, 2011, and I'll start him in the round pen and bring him back into shape with ground work for 7-10 days.

He needs some more time to grow his hair back, but it's progressing well. His latest pics are below.

You can just see some peach fuzz coming in...

Can't wait to get him all shiny again.

His behavior has slowly been improving. He's always been a good horse, but very easily distracted by mares. Since I've had him back, he has progressively been less attentive to my mare. Lola. I've only seen 1-2 erections in the last 2 weeks, where that had been 1-2 an hour before the surgery! He seems more submissive as well. I guess the real test will start as I put him back to work, and increase his exposure to mares and other geldings.

Through all of this, the persons (2nd owners of the horse) I bought the horse from have been helpful and paid for the entire cost of the surgery. I appreciate their willingness to do the right thing. As we all know, this isn't always the case in the horse world.

Why did Joey even have to endure this surgery? Well, it started with an unscrupulous veterinarian who was willing to perform a partial castration on a horse. Clearly, only the left testicle was ever present, and was removed. More ethical vets will not proceed with castration if they only palpate one testicle. They inform the owner that to PROPERLY geld the stud, a more extensive surgery will be needed, and they will not perform a partial castration. The surgery to remove the retained testicle is then performed at a later date, when BOTH testicles can be definitively removed at the same time.

When the unethical vet performed a partial castration, the owner then had the responsibility to disclose this condition to potential buyers, or correct it.

I can tell you with certainty that the vet who performed the castration does not follow ethical practices, because he admitted it to me. I called him, and he told me "If there is only one testicle, and the owner wants me to remove it, then I remove it". He then went on to tell me that he tells the owner that the horse only had one testicle to remove. When I asked if he had records to document that he disclosed this, he told me he had no records of the procedure. Keep in mind, this "gelding" was performed 2 years ago. I spoke with 3 other vets who told me it a requirement to keep records for far longer than that.

So we know the vet had no problem with performing a partial castration. But I'll never know if he told the owner about the condition.

I asked the original owner/breeder if she remembers the procedure. She stated she was out of town when the procedure was performed, that the vet was not her usual vet, and that she was not told the horse only had one descended testicle.

In any event, the horse was sold as a gelding at the age of 2. Seeing as he was young, and kept mostly around other geldings, and has a naturally good disposition, he never was reported as acting "studdy". The 2nd owners sold him to me as a gelding at age 4, and I firmly believe they never knew about his cryptorchidism. At my place, he was exposed to new geldings, and a mare in heat, and his "stud" behavior became quickly apparent to me. Chemical testing revealed his elevated testosterone levels.

A few people in this horse's case did NOT do the right thing. This could have truly been a disaster for me, the horse, or some other poor unfortunate to encounter a "gelding" who was not truly a gelding. I mean, who thinks that their gelding isn't a gelding? I thank God that I'm a physician, and fairly distrustful of newly purchased horses, or I may have never questioned Joey's behavior or pursued the testing needed to make his diagnosis.

And I also thank The Jones's (sellers of Joey and 2nd owners), for not leaving me hanging through this experience and for paying for Joey's surgery. I know his condition was not their fault, but they did the right thing anyway, and that's good karma, and I know it will bring them blessings in the future.

Yet another lesson in the wonderful world of horses!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Cryptorchidism rears its ugly head...

Thus far, I have posted only great things about Joey. He has been a nice horse. He has shown steady improvement in all areas. I was really hoping he was going to be all that I had hoped he would be.

EXCEPT for a few things. The first time I turned him out with the rest of my herd, which included a mare and two geldings at the time, he charged at every horse in the herd, acted very possessive of the mare, and bit all the other geldings to hell. He reared on his back legs and was very aggressive in rearing to paw at my alpha gelding. I had never seen the alpha gelding have to respond that vigorously to get another gelding in line. And I watched the whole thing; Joey initiated the aggression, no question. That entire episode lasted about 15 minutes tops, before I caught the horses up and separated everyone.

After that, Joey stayed in the back paddock for a week, to allow him to interact with the other horses in a more safe manner. Later, I tried to turn him out with another colt gelding that joined my herd. They had an acre to themselves. I had to stop that experiment after just a day or two, because the other colt gelding was getting severely bitten by Joey.

So except for a few brief periods of time, Joey has been by himself, either in an acre turnout area, or in a large paddock. He just never seemed to get along with the rest of the herd.

A few weeks ago, my mare Lola came into heat. She was very brazen in her attempts to get Joey's attention. And he returned her attention. It was very difficult to walk him anywhere near her while she was in heat, because he would tug on the lead line and whinny loudly to her. At one point, I had him in a stall next to her for all of 5 minutes before I had to pull him out and move him away from her because he was acting as if he would tear the stall down to get to her. He was on his rear legs, and looked ready to mount her.

The neighboring mares came into heat about the same time as Lola, and while the other geldings just acted normally, Joey would whinny loudly and pay gobs of attention to the mares.

I took Joey to a roping practice, to work the steers in the chute from one end of the arena to the other. Joey worked well, until he spotted a mare, and then he dropped a full erection and began to whinny loudly to her. He was easily distracted and couldn't keep his mind on the cows when she was around.

Also, I had noticed that Joey drops and achieves a full erection often. Just about every time he's handled as a matter of fact.

Through it all, Joey has been easy to work with while riding and in the round pen, as long as a mare isn't anywhere too close and not in heat. But bring a mare too close by, and he will shift all attention to her, and ignore me completely, until she moves off and I get him to focus on me.

This behavior concerned me enough to ask my vet about it. He didn't hesitate in telling me he thought we should check Joey's testosterone levels. So at the recent vet check, we did that, in addition to pulling wolf teeth and floating his teeth.

The results are definitive, and we did use HCG to stimulate and checked levels 1 and 2 hours post HCG. Joey has cryptorchidism. His testosterone levels were CLEARLY abnormally high for a "gelding".

Joey is a great horse, but his behavior towards other geldings and mares is now explained by the effects of testosterone, and the fact that he is not a true gelding.

I am in talks with the breeder that owned Joey at the time of his "castration" and with the person from whom I bought the horse. I hope we can all work this out. Joey needs corrective surgery. Deep palpation and inspection while sedated for the teeth floating revealed no testicles, so the testicle or two that he retains, is higher than can be felt, and he will need surgery to remove it (them).

I am really sad about this whole thing. I think Joey is neat little horse. But for what I paid for him, and for what I want, he isn't going to work out. He will need a surgery estimated to cost $1,000 and a 6-10 week recovery period. That takes him out of the summer fun and training I had hoped to do with him. And there is no assurance that the surgery will correct his aggressive behavior, particularly at this late age. I am hopeful for him, however, and beyond correcting his behavior, I want to him to have the surgery to remove the intra-abdominal testicles(s) that are at high risk of developing cancer.