Wednesday, January 26, 2011

So you want a horse of your own

When I was little, I was horse crazy. I wanted to be around them, pet them, ride them, have one for my very own. We lived in the middle of Illinois in a sub-suburban neighborhood that wasn't zoned for horses. My parents didn't have much money, but none of those things were the reason I was never given the opportunity to know a horse.

My mother didn't want me around horses because she didn't like them, and thought I'd get hurt.

That made me just plain crazy. I would dream about horses, but I wasn't allowed to ride them in my own dreams. I'd wake up arguing with myself ("Gayle, you're having a dream. You can do anything you want.")

Do you know how weird that is?

Flash forward to today, when I own two horses and dream about riding them anytime I want. Life is glorious, unless it isn't.

I went to the ranch today to have a lesson on Snoopy. He was very quiet when I got him out of the stall. Didn't try to eat me. Didn't grab the halter while I tried to put it on. Walked at a respectable distance from me. In other words, he wasn't my horse.

After I groomed and saddled, then lightly lunged him, I met Niki as I led him back to the crossties. "What's wrong with my horse?" I asked her.

She took one look at him and said, "Ooo, he's got boogers."

I saw a big green mess dripping from his right nostril. "That wasn't there before."

"The lunging probably worked it up," she told me. "We'll take his temperature and watch him today."

The thermometer showed why he was being so quiet. One hundred three point eight. Normal for horses can vary between 99.5 and 101.5, so it's a little higher than humans, but 103.8 is definitely too hot. We put him back in his stall and called the vet.

Dr. Garloff came out an hour later and examined him. His temperature had risen to 104.1 by then, so she gave him a Banamine injection, drew blood for testing, and took a little nose snot for a culture. She left me with medication, instructions and a bill.


Yes, you read it correctly. When a horse vet comes to call, it's not cheap. First of all, you pay for the call, since you can't always just throw your horse in a trailer and take it to the doctor. Then, the medications are not cheap because horses weigh 1,000 pounds and you have to use more drugs on them than, say, your pet chihuahua.

Finally, there's the testing. When I get a cold, I get some cough drops, Advil, and a decongestant. A horse cold is much more serious. It can be contagious and go through the barn. It can be something called strangles, which is a very bad virus. Snoopy has been vaccinated for strangles, but viruses are funny - you never know when one of them is going to morph into something that resists a vaccine. So the blood work and nose culture are needed to make certain it's just a cold.

So, Moms and Dads, when your horse crazy daughter (or son) comes to you wanting to be oh-so-near horses, please find a way to encourage their dreams, but think twice about horse ownership. Then do your homework on the actual cost and think one more time.*

*I love my horses and would never discourage responsible horse ownership.

P.S. By the way, Snoopy and I won our Novice Amateur Trail Class!

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