Doc Watt

So I heard through the grapevine that my horse vet passed away in his sleep yesterday morning. Doc Watt was an old-time rural horse vet. He graduated from Ontario Veterinary College in 1960. And he literally practiced until the day he died.

I happened across an article in the OVC newsletter that quotes Doc Watt at an alumni function:

“I’m still working because I honestly don’t know what else I’d do,” said Watt, who celebrated his 80th birthday in February and has operated an exclusively equine practice for 30 years. “I guess my practice is my life. I don’t play sports. I’ve never learned to golf. I’ve made a lot of good friends through my work and enjoy a good relationship with my clients, and I still feel an obligation to be there for them.”

He was a very wise old vet. Not too modern of course. And some of his equipment looked like it had been around as long as he had. But he always had simple, common-sense, and usually inexpensive suggestions to try before going the expensive and/or invasive route. He didn’t talk a lot, but what he had to say was to the point, and occasionally pointed. He once treated two horses with simultaneous bowed tendons. In talking to the owners, the story came out that they had galloped around in deep snow for several hours the day before. His only comment was “buy a snowmobile”.

Two years ago we had a very serious, and ultimately tragic colic in one of our foals at work. He knew she was in deep trouble and suggested we take her to his son’s clinic (his son is a very good veterinary surgeon, and Doc was very proud of him). When she staggered and went down going up the trailer ramp, he picked that filly up (she was not a newborn – had to be well over 150lbs, maybe more) and carried her on. I was in total awe that a man over 80 still had that kind of strength.

When King was stolen and later recovered, Doc Watt came out to check him over. Unfortunately he arrived right after the news reporters showed up. Doc was not a chatty guy. And very understated. The poor man was not particularly thrilled to be on camera. But King turned out to have a high temperature and a respiratory virus so I’m glad Doc tolerated all the attention and carried on with the exam.

He was a good vet, and a great many people and horses are going to miss him.

Such a Good Pony

I haven’t mentioned my pony a whole lot in this blog. Well… other than to publicly shame her for being a complete failure at foster parenting the orphan foal at work. But Nikita is actually a cutie pie. And today she redeemed herself somewhat.

Her feet have been getting very long. As usual, King and Dressy are getting all the attention and Nik is standing around looking unkempt and neglected. So I brought her in and tried out the angle grinder on her feet for the first time. And just like King and Dressy, it was a total non-event. She was just happy to have me pay attention to her. She’s good with her feet anyway. My farrier has always quite liked her manners. I started up the grinder, asked her for her foot, and she picked it up nicely for me and stood as usual. No muss, no fuss.

Why is it that when I expect trouble from my horses they turn into paragons of virtue?

The grinder works very nicely I must say. It doesn’t grind down quickly since it’s just a flap disk (sandpaper). But it makes the foot very smooth and level. And it’s so much easier to just hold the grinder steady and float it over the bottom of the foot than to rasp it by hand. My technique is not great yet. But I’m starting to get the hang of it a bit more with each session. I think that I will eventually want to buy a grinder with a bit smaller body to make it easier to handle with one hand though.


Ares is Greatly Improved, King Not So Much

Ares is vastly improved after his allergic reaction. When I checked him again last night, his head looked normal. He has a little swelling remaining under his chin, and also between his hind legs. But that seems to be it. He’ll be on antihistamines for another day. I have both Ares and Zamaluck in the round pen for now, so I can keep a close eye on Ares.

He was very funny when I got home from work. Linda came to see him too, and he was a sap. Lapping up the sympathy, resting his head on my shoulder, begging for face rubs. He moved back and forth between Linda and I, working his audience perfectly. Looking appropriately big-eyed and sad when we said “Poor Ares!” It’s taken this horse a while to settle in, but he’s turning into quite a pet. He’s going to need to go to someone who really likes to spend time with a horse, because he’s going to be just like a friendly dog with the right person.

King and I went out for a short ride in the evening. Nothing taxing. He felt reasonably good when he was moving, but he did stop a couple of times. His latest selenium levels are back up in the mid-normal range. So that’s been dealt with. But he’s still not right.

So we are trying him on the EPSM (aka PSSM) diet. Equine Polysaccharide Myopathy is a muscle disorder that mostly occurs in draft breeds and Quarter Horses. But it can occasionally crop up in Arabs. The correct way to diagnose it is with a muscle biopsy. But given my vet bills this year, I’m putting off the biopsy and just trying the diet. EPSM horses sometimes have a fairly dramatic improvement on the diet so it should be a fairly good diagnostic tool in itself.

The down side is that the diet consists of 20% of the total diet coming from fat. So King’s hay and pasture have been cut back to control the calorie intake. He is getting a meal in the morning and the evening (you would not believe the drama involved – King is beside himself with joy at getting meals) of beet pulp, roughage cubes, and a cup of oil. Then he is staying in the stall all night with one measly flake of hay. He doesn’t care though, he loves his stall. And he gets MEALS! He actually pushes the beet pulp aside so he can suck up the water and oil directly. It’s absolutely revolting to watch him eat. Ugh.

He is going to have to stay in work though. No matter whether he gets muscle cramps or not. I’m terrified that he’s going turn into a great giant marshmallow of a horse on this much oil.

Power Tools and Horses

I keep my horses barefoot. It’s not a religion for me. I do think it’s better for them to be barefoot. But I also think that there are horses and circumstances where shoes might be better. I just don’t have any of those horses or any of those circumstances. And frankly, it’s just way cheaper to have barefoot horses and boot them when they need a bit of extra protection. Typically, I have my farrier trim every 8 weeks, and keep Dressy and King trimmed myself every few weeks in between. I’m not really good about staying on top of it unless I’m riding regularly, so having the farrier in regularly catches everyone up.

However, my regular farrier is quite ill right now, and has taken six months off for treatment. I figured it was a good opportunity to save a bit of money if I just do the horses myself. Which means I also have to do Nikita (my pony). And then of course, Ares arrived. So now I have four to do. And I let Dressy and Nik get a bit overlong. So the job was looking a bit bigger by the day.

I was reading some barefoot sites and happened to read about horses being trimmed with an angle grinder with a flap disk. A flap disk is basically just overlapping sandpaper, so it’s not too aggressive. That sounded like it would be a whole lot easier… assuming a horse would stand for it. And as it happens… I have an angle grinder. All I needed was a flap disk, so I picked one up. Watched a few videos to see how it’s done.

Today I put it to the test. Starting with King. Now King has a fascination with power tools, so I sort of figured he wouldn’t mind too much. At least up to the point where I actually put the grinder against his foot. But to be safe, I turned the grinder on at the other end of the barn. King was standing in the cross ties resting one hind foot, half asleep. He didn’t even wake up when I turned it on. So I brought it to him. Still nothing. Gave him a push to stand him up on both hinds and asked for his front foot. He gave it to me and stood calmly while I sanded the hoof, Other than one moment where he tried to get his nose down to the grinder to see what it was doing, he never moved at all. I don’t even think he found it that interesting. I did all four feet with the grinder, then finished off each foot with the rasp to make sure I didn’t get too carried away. It worked really well.

Dressy was much the same. Though she did get somewhat alarmed when Diego got all upset at the noise of the grinder and started spinning in his stall. I don’t think she knew what he was afraid of. But after Misha took him outside, Dressy relaxed again and let me finish.

I was prepared to do some clicker training to get them to accept the noise of the grinder, but it wasn’t necessary at all. Neither horse was worried about it. Amazing what horses will allow us to do sometimes!

Of course, Nikita and Ares may be whole other story, I don’t know. But at least it reduces the amount of labour involved if I can do two of them with half the effort.