Saturday, January 22, 2011

old horse blues, and chickens too

Work In Progress pics will resume tomorrow I think. There's work in progress, just not photographed.

My old horse, Gwen (~24ish) came down with a tooth infection and some pretty funky nasal discharge about a week ago. The vet was out on Tuesday (the horses were due for routine vaccinations anyway) and said that Gwen would need to go in to the clinic for an extraction. Oh boy.

So of course all week I'm thinking about Gwen, and what's in store, and how bad will it be, and how much will it cost, and she already has chronic foot pain and a bunch of other issues, and I already often wonder about her quality of life, etc etc. In other words, how far can treatment go before big heavy questions need to be asked. Right, fun stuff to think about. *sigh* But you have to make those decisions when you have animals. I hate to say this, but old animals are like old cars, little things keep falling apart and it gets very expensive to keep them running. But unlike cars, you have to take the animal's happiness into account too. I suppose old people are like that too. I don't want to get old. But that's another topic.

Gwen went in to the vet clinic this afternoon, many thanks to Lisa D. for driving us there and back. She had two teeth pulled. One was infected and the other was loose. I am not looking forward to getting the bill. Gwen's life will change. She's not supposed to eat hay anymore, she won't be able to chew it up well enough to get the nutrients she will need, and she'd be likely to choke on it. She's on green pasture now, and that will continue to grow and feed her for a couple of months, and she gets a small quantity of senior feed as well to supplement her. And then it's going to be time to ask big questions again. Is she happy? How are her feet and other body parts holding up? Putting her on a special non-hay diet would eventually more than double her yearly feed cost, that's not something to take lightly. She would always have to be separated from Shylah, because she no longer pushes Shylah away from the feeder. Is it fair to her? Is it fair to me? I guess I have a few months to find the answers. And she at least has a few months to enjoy the sunshine and green grass.

I hate this part of owning animals.

My first horse, Thunder, was 24 when she died. To contrast them, Thunder had fabulous teeth. They got the pointy edges filed down every two years, but she was fat and sassy and eating hay at that age. Thunder foundered in May of 1999. She hung on until late July. She had actually seemed to be turning the corner and getting better when she suddenly got worse. It was nothing I did, that's just how founder goes, and in the end there was no question of what to with Thunder... the coffin bones in her front feet had dropped down to where they were touching the soles. She was in massive pain with no chance of recovery. In hindsight, sometimes I think I should have had her put down as soon as it happened, because her last two months of life were terrible. You just don't want to think about that stuff though.

But I don't want Gwen's life to get terrible. Gwen foundered too, years ago, and also years before I bought her (which I didn't know when I bought her). Her feet have stabilized, but her bones did rotate, putting them closer to the sole than they should be. Rocks and rough terrain hurt her. Walking up hill hurts her. Sometimes cantering and even trotting seem to hurt. She's retired, so I never ask these things of her. Now there's teeth problems. And other problems too.

So... we'll see how it goes in the next few months.

And then late this afternoon I looked at all my young birds, which didn't take too long because there aren't all that many. A few months ago, I thought I had a lot of really promising youngsters. Boy did they disappoint me. There are some really hot stuff Black pullets, I must say. But aside from them, bleh. The cockerels over-all are terrible. I don't know why, just an off year I guess. I've mentioned in the past this huge problem of them not growing out their sickle feathers. It's worse this year. There are a bunch, in all colors, that never properly feathered out. I don't know if this is genetic (I do NOT keep these birds, I NEVER breed from a bird that doesn't have a full round tail! So why are there so many of them?!) or if it's nutrition or if it's just time of year. It seems a lot worse this year, and that was the latest I've ever hatched birds, so no more of that crap. I'm going back to the old schedule, and I'm setting up breeding pens next month. I'll hatch birds early, and sell eggs later if I can.

Anyway, of all the cockerels that I had cooped up months ago (5 BBRed, 6 Black, 2 Blue, 2 Blue Brassy Back, 3 BBRedXBlack) I will keep 1 Black and 1 Blue. The rest have got to go, and most aren't worth shipping out as breeding stock. What a disappointment this year.

Okay, I've got less than a week to finish (um, start) my sales tax forms, and finish the Toucan knife. Taxes and Toucans. Whee.

Sorry, I'm not exactly a barrel of laughs tonight am I.

Oh, right, and here's another crappy thing. The vet clinic I use is closing their large animal practice in a month, because there are apparently no longer enough large animals in the area to employ the vets. That's just freakin' sad.


Anonymous said...

We currrently have a 30-some year old horse with almost no teeth at our place. We feed him hay pellets soaked in water and he has been fat and happy all winter so far. Just wanted to say horses with no teeth can still be quite happy- and ours doesn't really get much grain or senior feed, just the hay pellets. Another thing we do to keep him happy is chop up all his hay into short pieces and this way he can eat it even with his poor teeth. Anyways... good luck!


Katherine Plumer said...

Oh I know, I'm not saying she'd be impossible to feed, I know there are plenty of options out there. I just need to evaluate the whole picture, from her overall health and happiness, to my ability to afford to maintain a high level of health and happiness.