Tuesday, August 24, 2010

In Between the Rising Full Moon and the Setting Sun . . .

. . . we found the perfect ride. Words won't do it justice so here are the pics.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hmmm, What is Red Horse Thinking?

Saturday I was late getting to the stables. I heard that Red Horse had been waiting by the gate for a couple of hours. Funny. He sure ran from me when I tried to catch him earlier in the week. He has been working really hard and got in a lot of trail miles this summer. Hmmm, wonder what he was thinking?

Red Horse to Cayenne: "FINALLY! She is here.
Geeez, don't humans know how to keep a schedule?"

Red Horse to Chere: "Oh, so you're here? I've exhausted myself standing here waiting."

Red Horse to Cherie: "Ah, do you still have those peppermint crunchies?"

Red Horse to Cherie: "You DO! So open this gate already, get me outta here."

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Summer Trail is Coming to an End . . .

It wasn't long ago that I posted Sha-na-na's Summertime on fb
and enjoyed the exhilaration and anticipation of the first days of summer.

I'm so lucky that I am an adult and I have the blessing of summer vacations.
Now the wheel has turned and here we are in the last days of summer.

(my friend Steamer)

Sweet, sad days full of longing. For? For childhood hopes
and dreams long slipped away into the stream of experience.

For the days spent living in my barn clothes, dirt under nails and hay in my hair.
A misplaced cowgirl, I've got to rejoin the grown up world.

I love my job, love those I work for, and those I work with.

And deep in my bones I will cherish the memories of strolling
through late afternoon sunlit meadows, calling for my Red Horse.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wordless (almost) Wednesday: Our New Stall in the Redwood Barn

My horses are rarely stalled, they hate it.
Our new stall is in the Redwood Barn, close to our tack room and friends.
The well-used window opens to the world.
It will help simplify feeding challenges this winter.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Neck Thread Worms, Part 2


(throughout this article, click on the many links to read full articles that are cited)

One and a half years ago I did a post on Onchocerca cervicalis entitled "Neck Thread Worms and Midline Dermatitus". In spite of what I learned, I somehow avoided the sad fact that keeping Red comfortable from the effects of neck thread worms will require lifelong vigilance - an ongoing battle for the rest of his life.

Onchocerca cervicalis, AKA neck thread worms, do NOT go away. Adult neck thread worms are not touched by worming compounds and can live from 8 - 14 years. Every year when biting midge season arrives, their nasty life cycle starts over again with very uncomfortable consequences for your horse.

Yep. This totally sucks! However, the effects of neck thread worms CAN be controlled.

What the heck am I talking about? Onchocerca cervicalis is a member of the genus Onchocerca, the Filaroidea tribe, of the Nematoda Phylym. The common name of Onchocerca cervicalis is "Neck Thread Worms". It is estimated that 85% of older horses are infected with Onchocerca cervicalis (Gary Richard Mullen, Gary Mullen, Lance Durden, Medical and Veterinary Entomology, pl 178).

These nasty buggers live contented lives deeply embedded in the connective tissue of our horses. They do not show up in fecal counts as they never enter the digestive tract. Females may grow to be 30 cm. (think 11 inches). They coil and can often be felt as a bump under the skin of your horse (http://www.fundamental-horsemanship.com/info/Deworming-Your-Horse-and-Parasite-Prevention/Deworming---Internal-Parasite-Prevention.html). It is NOT the adult O. cervicalis that causes most of the problems endemic to this parasite, although heavy infestations can cause swelling and pain. It is the 4th stage larvae that is responsible for skin and eye reactions.

The lifecycle of the neck thread worm depends upon the help of their best friend, the two winged biting midge (Culicoides gnats).
Thank you SO much, biting midges of the world. O. cervicalis depends on this vector both to complete its lifecycle, and to spread from horse to horse.

For a visual represenation of the lifecycle of Onchocerca cervicalis - Click HERE.

What are the symptoms of neck thread worms? Surprisingly, some horses are hosts to very large numbers of microfilariare without showing symptoms. Mordecai Siegal, et al, (UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Book of Horses, 1996, p. 161) suggests that symptoms arise once the horse develops a sensitivity to the dead microfilaraie. There are two different "patterns" of affliction:
  1. Lesions (itchy, crusty spots) develop around the eye and face. Bloody, itchy lesions in the center of the forehead are generally due to neck thread worms. There is evidence to suggest that some forms of uvitius are due to neck thread worms living within the eye.
  2. An inflamatory response involving the underside of the body, centered around the midline, resulting in intense itching. This is called "midline dermatitis".
Basically, your horse itches like crazy with itching centered along the midline. They will literally swoon when you do them the favor of scratching. Folks may see the condition and say your horse has sweet itch. This is a separate condition. O. cervicalis is often misdiagnosed as "sweet itch".

According to The U.C. Davis Book of Horses (pp. 161-162), the diagnosis of neck thread worms involves a thorough history, the finding of microfilariae in skin scrapings, and/or the response to treatment. Treatment may temporarily increase the discomfort of your horse as they often experience a severe, allergy-like response to the dead microfilaria. Ivermectin is usually the treatment of choice:

The dermatitis caused by Onchocerca microfilariae is 100% responsive to ivermectin at the regular dose. Disappearance of the skin lesions also validates the diagnosis, although complete resolution of the lesions might take up to a month. Midline edema within the first 48 hours after treatment was a common problem when ivermectin was first introduced. This was thought to be due to the acute death of the microfilariae. Relapses might occur within two to eight months because adult O. cervicalis continue to live happily in the nuchal ligament. They are not killed by any of the anthelmintics that are available and can continue to produce filariae, making repeat treatments necessary at appropriate intervals (although ivermectin might disrupt their reproductive success (The Horse.com, PARASITE PRIMER PART 5—BOTS & BEYOND: LITTLE-KNOWN PARASITE ENEMIES, pp 22-23).

Treatment is NOT a one time event. Once your horse becomes infected, it will have repeated seasonal recurrences of microfilaria-induced itching. This is going to be linked to the arrival of biting midges and will continue throughout their season. This will differ depending upon your geographical location.

Does your horse seem to share the misery afflicting my Red Horse? Prepare your strategy of attack:

1. Keep records and take pictures. Talk to your vet. Your vet may be very familiar with Onchocerca cervicalis, or not. You might need to share information to help obtain an accurate diagnosis. Ask for a biopsy to see if microfilariae can be found in the skin scraping.

2. Develop a yearly treatment plan.
  • If there are neck thread worms in your horses' eyes BE VERY CAREFUL and have a plan with your vet to treat the secondary symptoms caused by the microfilariae die off.
  • Because O. Cervicalis depends on the biting midge for assistance in the completion of its life cycle, be prepared and worm with Ivermectin at the onset of midge, or gnat season. Consider worming with Ivermectin at 8 week intervals throughout the season. Consult with your vet about how to include this in your rotational worming schedule.
  • Be prepared to treat your horse's response to the die-off of microfillariae. Things may get worse for a few days. What started as many small, hard bumps up and down Red's neck opened, oozed, and finally went bald, all the while itching like crazy. Many articles recommend asking your vet to prescribe something to help reduce the intense itching.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Best Wishes to My Friend Joe

My friend Joe was sold today. He won't be walking up to me in the general pasture, hoping I have a spare carrot yet content for a few scratches. I accompanied his Mom to "show him". When the deal was closed, we both cried.

How can horses tolerate being traded amongst humans?

I think Joe went to a good family. If I didn't already have have 3 horses, he would have stayed with me. I wish I could have a herd of 20, no 40 horses. I wish all the horses of the world could be guaranteed the safe, loving families they deserve.

Joe was as good of a friend as many of my human type friends.

Joe, I'm really going to miss you.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wordless Wednesday (almost): Autumn and Moose

A brief discussion . . .

Autumn to Moose: Can you see her, do you think she's after me?

Moose to Autumn: Don't worry sweetie, I'll wait for you like always.

Autumn to Moose: *huge sigh of relief* Ah, she got Red and Lyra, we're OK then.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Groundsel Will Kill Your Horse

If you love your horse, if you love horses period, you need to know about this plant. I thought I was well-educated regarding plants that could harm my horses. This weekend I heard the chilling story of four horses who lived in the Central Valley of California and died after eating, over weeks or months, enough groundsel to destroy their liver. The groundsel was in their hay. I have never considered that the yummy looking hay I buy, imported from outside of Humboldt County, could be the delivery system for this deadly, toxic plant.

The scientific name of common groundsel is senecio vulgaris. It is a member the senecio genus, the Senecioneae tribe, and the vast clan of the Asterceae family. Members of the sencecio genus are responsible for more livestock poisonings than all other the other poisonous plants in the world combined (Gravendeel, Barbara, van der Meijden, Ruud, Pelsen, Pieter B., Tackling Speciose Genera: Species Composition and Phylogenetic Position of Senecio sect. Jacobaea (Asteraceae) Based Onplastid and nrDNA Sequences, American Journal of Botany. 2002;89:929-939. Web. 1, August, 2010).

Tansy and Ragwort are other well known and equally deadly members of the Senecio Club. Thriving in the Pacific Northwest and California, they especially love pastures and hay fields. These deadly plant thugs kill through pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA). While the taste of PA compounds tends to repel animals under most circumstances, when dried the taste is much less noticeable.

The Merck Veterinarian Manual stresses that exposure to PAs is usually chronic and clinical signs may not become visible until some time after initial exposure. Damage occurs over time and results in liver failure. We need to know the symptoms of PA poisoning. While symptoms of PA exposue vary, here is a list of the symptoms most consistently described in online articles (each symptom is linked to the source):

The tragic truth is, by the time symptoms are visible our horses are already compromised. If you suspect that your horse has been eating hepatotoxic plants, call your veterinarian immediately.

Prevention is possible!! Learn how to recognize the deadly plants in your pasture and in your hay.

Related Links

Please read this excellent article on Ragwort Poisoning that is offered on a British websiteRagTag UK.

A related post script: Think about it . . . alfalfa producers have got to lose years of sleep figuring out ways to keep groundsel and other toxic plants out of their fields. The recent furor overRound Up Ready alfalfa takes on new significance considering the devastation of PA promoting plants. I don't have an opinion on this (other than my general rabid aversion to mucking around with the DNA of the planet) but now I understand a bit more about farmers' desire to implement this genetically modified seed.