I can’t believe it’s been a year since I thought about the blog.. funny how it’s time, then chores, then work, then circumstance until ultimately life gets in the way and updates are left and forgotten… but I’ve posted to face book.. wonder if that counts. So what news of Deacons Gate Shires? Read on, if you can spare the time to catch up on a year’s worth of horsey news and entertainment.
Where to start, looking at my last post we had Cerefin up for sale… gosh that seems an age ago now, when our world was fairly mundane, before our delightful Cerefin entered a world of pain when she contracted a rare heart condition known as, Endocarditis.
Endocarditis is a very uncommon disease in the horse. It is caused by bacterial infection of the endocardium resulting in damage to the valves, although vegetation may also be found on the chordae tendineae or on the surface of the ventricular lumen. The endocardium and heart valves of horses can be infected by bacteria. STREPTOCOCCI and ACTINOBACILLUS are common but other organisms can be involved. Endocarditis can be the cause of valve regurgitation. Aortic regurgitation is most common in the horse with endocarditis. Bacterial infested thrombocytic lesions are the cause of these murmers and valve dysfunctions.
With all things that become dramatic and shocking, 17th March started out fairly benign – Cerefin’s back legs swelled up rather rapidly during a regular washing one Sunday afternoon, no discomfort or change of personality, no temperature, no loss of appetite, no puncture points, no scratches, cuts, bees or ticks. Her legs were just ballooning from the fetlock right up into the groin at an alarming rate. As the swelling didn’t subside with icing/hosing we called the vet.
Cerefin’s presentation was perplexing and the vet wasn’t able to determine what was wrong as there was no evidence of illness and a course of antibiotics was prescribed just in case. Her leg swelling reduced after another round of ice packs and hosing and we turned her out with a feed and thought nothing more until she presented with a temperature and a snotty nose 5 days later at which point the heart murmur was heard and we packed her off to the equine hospital with some urgency.
Endocarditis was determined and Cerefin spent two weeks in intensive care during which we thought we would lose her several times because of colic and when the hospital could do no more, we brought her home. She was quiet, clearly still in pain and we were living with our hearts in our mouths watching her struggle. At one point I thought she was going to give up altogether as she got so depressed, it was just hard living through this pain with her but not be able to take any of it away.
An exceptionally bad bought of Colic presented one afternoon and she was suffering, it was unbearable and as she wasn’t responding to treatment, we made the decision to euthanise as she was lying, groaning, rolling about in excruciating pain but at the point of ending it all, Cerefin miraculously got up. Thinking back on this dreadful night I remember telling myself, If she’s fighting this pain, there was no way I can take that life from her… a turning point was reached in that dire moment, for all of us.
On telling the vet not to complete the task set, I smile at the memory of hearing them swear, it is the only time I have ever heard the vet swear and can only imagine the preparation in taking a life, having to prepare the injection and keeping mentally firm for us during this charged and emotional time, took its toll on them just as it was us. So what to do now?… back to basics, we spent the next few hours pumping 20 litres of saline through her, by morning she was weak, she was hungry and the pain seemingly gone, but gosh it was still touch and go for this stubborn little filly.
We agonised about why she was struggling with these vicious pain racked boughts of colic so, against veterinary advice, we decided to take Cerefin off all drugs (a combination of antibiotics for the heart infection). You see, due to her previous life threatening health issues/surgery as a foal, Cerefin had become super sensitive to medications, the more potent, the worse her reaction was, so we felt the colic was a direct result of this sensitivity. Torn with worry that our decision would damage the heart more, or worse still, kill her, we waited and after a week her demeanour improved, her appetite and brightness returned and she was improving slowly. The first scan since coming home and our decision not to medicate, confirmed the damage, several lesions and at least two roaring jets where the valve wasn’t closing properly, but she’d had no further instances of colic (and hasn’t done to this day).
Of course the worry remained that she’d not be able to manage these heart leaks, lesions and ventricle swelling as this sort of damage never heals…. surviving Endocarditis is rare so there aren’t many reported cases charting treatments to be guided by, so we were never far from thinking we’d only prolonged her pain… but she kept improving. Once she was stable enough we put her back on drugs to manage the infection – the heart doesn’t have its own blood supply so treating an infection within it, means you have to hope the passing antibiotics in the blood stream is enough to prevent it getting hold again – with hope in hand, we booked the next scan which thankfully revealed no further damage and this “no change” prognosis was the best our furvent hopes could wish for with every scan thereafter.
The weeks melded into fortnights, then months and we trialed a week off drugs but the infection took hold again causing her temperature and heart rate to skyrocket so back on the meds again. Amazingly Cerefin never looked back on that dark day, she steadily kept on improving. We maintained heart rate and temperature checks three times a day for months until we felt the infection was clear and trialed off meds again. That was August, no relapse, all is clear and she’s stacked on weight and height showing she’s not been impeaded by this medical event. It’s been a rollercoaster for Cererfin, she’s had to cope with oral pastes twice a day, every day for 5 months (she’s the only horse I have known where you can walk up to her unhaltered in a paddock and squirt paste in without a second thought and believe me the stuff is bitter, don’t think that apple smell relates to an apple taste, cause it doesn’t .. yuk), she has gone from being stall contained, to yard, to paddock then back in with the herd, she’s had at least 4 scans that show no further damage, the latest shows the lesions have now healed and the leaks less explosive.
So we don’t worry hourly about her condition any more, she’s been off the drugs for a month now and all is normal, she is very happy, growing well (16.3hh a week ago) and has now reached that gawky stage (she’s two next month DOB 25/11/2011) where it’s all legs and looks like we never feed her. She’s still scared of our miniature horses that all boss her about despite the fact she’s 5 times their size, she loves to eat and is still the softest personality despite her traumas. She is of course bomb proof, nothing fazes her. An escaped, attack tarp went sailing through the paddock the other day and whilst all others were snorting, white eyed and freaked by the BIG BLUE plasticky thing flapping about, she raced over to investigate, pawed at it, grabbed it, dragged it about, tripped over it as it tangled in her feet until the wind died down and she got bored with it and left it in the water trough after she hydrated and took her interest elsewhere. The other horses, BIG and small, refused to go near the trough until I had removed it completely from the paddock.
We’ve forged an awsome bond with our Cerefin and we’ve decided not to sell as her heart will never cope with harness or riding exertions, but we hope she’ll be fit enough to carry a foal from our stallion, Salazar, once of age – under strict vet/heart checks of course.
Meanwhile Salazar is quietly maturing into a wonderful stallion, gentle in nature and wider in stature as the months go by. We decided to train him for semen collection and tested his viability last August 2012 but he was just too young to really work out what was required. He went back in Sep 2013 and he’s all good to go. He’s still got a few issues to iron out with the collection process but viability is good so we will be inseminating Duchess this season. Sadly we didn’t attend Ekka this year due to the mandatory Hendra vaccinations. We decided against going as testing of the full virus on vaccinated animals has not been completed, once this data has been released we’ll probably consider vaccinations…. a bit too costly for us right now with 5 shires needing 6 monthly boosters just to remain current. Lots to consider and we hope the costs are reduced and that boosters are determined 12 monthly in the future.
Both Pearl and Duchess were inseminated last season but sadly Pearl absorbed her pregnancy but Duchess successfully carried her foal and delivered a beautiful filly, Deacons Gate Aurora, 14/09/2013. We are currently readying the mares for breeding next month.
We had another flood event at the end of February causing the roads to be cut off once again but this time the silt left behind was thick and smelly and required heavy earth moving equipment to scrape it off when it dried hard as concrete in furrows left behind when vehicles tried to drive through it. The road was closed to traffic for weeks.
The menagerie is doing really well, we have eggs most of the time despite the hot days, the flock has settled and we’ve managed to find the clutches of eggs before they turn into surprise fluffies this year so no new members to introduce. We have finally plumbed the two 100,000 litre tanks into the line and also electrified sections of the stallion fence, much to the disdain of all that share it’s boundary.
I expertly bent my ankle backwards sliding down the dam wall last May. Ashleigh (next door neighbour) and I were trying to extradite Cerefin out of the stallion paddock after she had fallen through the fence trying to reach his food bin – she of course was not injured and thought it was a fun game to bolt about the paddock at dusk. Zar initially bolted about with Cerefin until she told him off for rough play and he took himself off to sulk about the intrusion into his paddock. Made catching him easier whilst we concentrated on the flying filly until I inelegantly tested the alternative exit down the slope. The whole event was spectacularly painful, drawn out of course with the obligatory hospital emergency waiting room antics and necessary x-rays that cleared any notion of it being broken but didn’t take away any of the stretched ligament screaming that was going on in the inside and is still going on to this day. Interesting how aging isn’t recognised by the brain … only endured by the body.. painfully sigh.
Work continues, Dale still afternoon shift and I’ve gone part time (4 days) to co-ordinate the horsey things we need to do. We are totally enjoying the delights a foal brings as she discovers her outside world and we hope the coming summer doesn’t bring fire with it given the heat filled spring so far.
Our lives are seemingly banal when reading through this missive, there have been many other small excitements that just weren’t worthy of a mention when compiling a catch up of this proportion, Cerefin’s recovery has over shadowed much of our lives making it hard to remember what they all were now, but we power on sorting next year’s show dates and I hope to schedule updates more regularly.
Updating yearly just takes too long…:)