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CNER United States Pony Club Dressage Rally - May 11, 2019

Our very first ever PC rally was this past Saturday at Apple Knoll Farm in Millis, MA. It kind of cracks me up that I joined PC for the express purpose of access to more jumping instruction opportunities, and my first mounted experience is a dressage rally hahaha.  

But honestly, it was so much fun.  Maybe it is because I am so used to showing alone or maybe because I love the show prep and set up just as much (if not more) than the actual riding, but competing in a PC rally is now one of my most favorite experiences.  And I cannot wait to do more!  I think the only thing different for this show was having to label EVERYTHING with my name.  Otherwise, my show prep was just the same as normal.

Sadly, our original team of four riders ended up dwindling to just two, as one young rider ended up sick with a 103 fever and a barn was quarantined because of a horse with EHV-4 so none of the PC members from that large boarding barn could attend. Therefore, my remaining teammate and I were split …

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease aka COPD

So, now that I have discussed Sparky's scary health issues (though I neglected to speak on her colic issues or Cushing's disease.....that's a whole 'nother post or two!), it is on to Dreamy.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease that is similar to human asthma. COPD is common in horses who are shut up in airtight barns or where hay is dusty. COPD horses are usually allergic to pollens, chemicals, microbes and other substances found in foods, medications, or the environment.

After managing Dreamy's COPD for over six years, it still amazes me to go into a barn that is all closed up. One winter, I visited to a large boarding barn that was all shut up and "warm". While it might have been comfortable for the humans, the STENCH of urine was unbearable. It was an environment just asking for respiratory issues. I never shut my barn anyways, but especially with a COPD horse, shutting up the barn can mean a respiratory emergency. I much rather have a cold barn with excellent airflow. Even when we stay overnight at shows, I have to request an end stall with good airflow, to be sure Dreamy will be able to breath. I never sweep when Dreamy is in the barn. I am just always thinking about airflow and air particles now.

Dreamy came to the farm in May 2003. She had already had her spring shots, so I waited to have her looked at by my vet until the fall, when I schedule routine teeth floating. I split up spring shots and fall floating on purpose, not only to spread out the hefty vet bill, but also so that my horses see the vet about every six months. For older horses, it gives me peace of mind.

Just about a week before the appointment, she began to cough. During the vet visit, her lungs were loud and harsh, but there was good air movement and no wheezing present. My vet diagnosed her with early COPD, which means Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. It has also been called "heaves" and recently the name has been changed to "RAO" or Recurrent Airway Obstruction. The change in name to RAO was mostly to differentiate it from human COPD, which is nothing like the equine version. But everyone, including my vet, still calls it COPD.

We put her on a hay soak trial to see if it improved the cough and started leaving her with 24 hour access to turnout. She was no longer locked into her stall at night. (My barn is very airy, with no hayloft, and the ceiling is literally 50 feet above the floor. It is very open and I never shut the doors anyway.) On a side note, her teeth were AWFUL. It had been YEARS since her teeth had been done, poor thing. :( I cannot imagine neglecting a horse's mouth.

The hay soaking did the trick. During the winter, I ceased soaking and she was fine. I soaked it all spring and summer of 2004, but again, her cough returned just days before her fall teeth floating appointment. Her lungs were harsh and wheezy. The vet prescribed a five day round of the steroid Dexamethasone and I checked her temp daily.

Again, I soaked her hay until the cold temperatures made it impossible. She did fine all winter on dry hay. The following spring 2005 she had a terrible COPD attack the morning of spring shots. Funny how her "attacks" always seemed to coincide with already scheduled vet appointments! LOL! This time, it was not just a cough. This was a full blown "asthma attack" where she was struggling to breath. It scared the heck out of me! I had never seen a horse unable to breath and I hope I never see it again! Thankfully the vet was able to come out an hour early when I called him. She got IV doses of Dex and banamine, and again was on a round of powdered Dex for two weeks. We also started her on the prescription supplement Tri-Hist. Oh, yeah, more daily temp. checking. So fun. Dreamy got to the point where I swear she was rolling her eyes every time I entered her stall with a thermometer and glob of Vaseline. Poor girl! LOL! We held off on her spring shots, of course, and I had my vet come back out a month later to do the shots and give her a thorough check-up.
Tri-Hist is a great product. But it is completely impossible to feed if your horse will not eat it topdressed on grain. And Dreamy is seriously one of the pickiest eaters I have ever met. When I first got her, she refused to eat anything for treats except apples. She REFUSED CARROTS, people! LOL! So there was NO way she would eat the Tri-Hist. If it were just a regular power, like the Dex, I could just mix it with a small amount of water and syringe her twice a day at feed time. But oh no, the Tri-Hist is mixed with cornmeal, so it will not mix with water.

So after many many trials and errors, I finally came up with a way to feed the Tri-Hist. I would mix it with applesauce, place it on a rubber spatula, and literally spatula it into her mouth! Oh yeah, that was a ton of fun. I had to do that twice a day. Oh yeah. Good times!

After months of this, I had to do something different. After lots of research, I put her on a product called Wind from Emerald Valley Equine. Basically, it is an aqueous infusion of devil's claw along, licorice root, peppermint and eucalyptus leaf. (I had Sparky on the product Evitex from the same company and really liked it). It smelled good, it was a pure liquid like water, and best of all, Dreamy would EAT it without any fuss when I put it on her grain. Finally!

So that fall, 2005 she had been on Wind and I had been soaking her hay. All was well. Surprisingly, her COPD was completely under control throughout 2006. But then in 2007, that changed! The day before her spring shots appointment, she had a copious amounts of green discharge from her nostrils. It was gross. All over her stall wall, all over the outside door, just everywhere. Her TPR was normal though. We put her on a 10 day round of Tri-Hist and SMZs just to be safe. She ended up being fine and did well the rest of the year, still on the Wind and soaked hay. The wrost part of soaking her hay was that we started showing! So that meant big heavy hag nets of soaked hay! OH FUN! This is the worst part of showing for sure!!!! LOL!

In 2008 she had another attack in late summer. This was the Bad Hay Experience, where my hay guys sold me hundreds of bales of hay that turned completely white with mold within a few weeks. They refused to take it back, etc. etc. It was so frustrating and upsetting! Just having the crap hay in my barn is what set her off, I am 100% sure. (Since then, I changed my hay guy and have no issues. Thank you Justin, for saving me!) I had my vet out and we put her on a round of Dex and back on Tri-Hist, along with the Wind. More daily temperature checking. :D She ended up being fine, and all we missed was one competition due to her attack.

During late November of 2008, the mercury dropped and I stopped soaking her hay as I had for the last five years. But this time, she immediately began to cough. I had that gut feeling since the Bad Hay Experience just three months earlier that her COPD was worse. So short of soaking her hay in my bathtub, I made the decision to put her on Lucerne Farm's Hi Fi product. This is a chopped hay product that is dried at high temperatures to kill any spores that cause respiratory ailments. Basically, it is dry bagged hay for COPD horses. She did well all winter, maintaining her weight, which was my biggest worry about the Hi Fi.

During the show season of 2009, I decided to move up from local schooling shows to rated USDF shows. This meant that I could no longer feed her the Wind supplement because it contained devil's claw, which is a banned substance by the USEF. Oh great! Now what was I going to give her!? There was NO way I was going back to Tri-Hist on a 2x daily length of time. Thankfully we tried another Emerald Valley product called Immuzim, which is just Echinacea. It seems to be as effective as Wind.

Dreamy did well all through 2009 until the week before her fall floating appointment. She had another huge gunky nasal discharge problem. I consulted with my vet but did not have him come out right then; she had a normal TPR, her lungs sounded fine, and she was eating, drinking, and pooping just fine. We put her on a round of SMZs and Dex and he examined her thoroughly at her floating appointment. She was fine, thankfully.

So far, she has been fine for 2010. This winter she is on Hi Fi again. Besides the Immuzim, she is on a product called Recovery-EQ, which is not only for her joints, but supposedly helps horses with COPD as well. At first, the COPD seemed scary but as I have found the best way to manage her, Dreamy has been just fine. Seeing the gunky nasal discharge is disheartening, as I always worry that her COPD will worsen. But there is not much use in being stressed out about it. I just do the best I can, always cognizant of her breathing and keeping her environment as clean and airy as possible. I know I am lucky, as her COPD could be much worse. :)

Comments

Anonymous said…
Our Lily has/had COPD, including the horrible almost-not-able to breath attacks. Due to our climate, she had to spend too many nights indoors - ordinarily she was outside in a paddock with a shed. So this summer I sent her to retire in Tennessee where she can be outside 24/7, and she's doing great at 20. For her serious attacks, we used oral ventipulmin, which worked well.
AareneX said…
WOW, here's something to be grateful that I don't have to deal with--how frustratingly complicated for you!

Dreamy is lucky to have a person so committed to her health and well-being.
STB Eventer said…
Kate - That is great that Lily has a nice retirement home that also helps her breathing! :) I did not realize you had Lily...

Aarene - YES be VERY grateful!!! It is such a PIA, but after this long it has become second nature. I always wonder what it would be like to have "maintenance free" horses.....LOL! Reva is so far, but then again, I have only owned her for seven months! Give it time and she too will find a complicated something for me to deal with! LOL! :D And thank you, I do think my horses are rather lucky..... ;-)
LiveToFly said…
Dreamy is lucky to have such a good mom managing her health! One of my biggest pet peeves in the winter are people who strap their barn shut and never turn their horses out because its cold. My TB mare is a rescue and came to me with some respiratory problems too (nothing as bad as poor Dreamy's though!) For years and years I kept her boarded at stables where she was a) always lame or injured and b) coughing terribly every time you rode her in the winter. I finally brought her home in 2008 to a friend of the family's house just down the street from us. She lives in a renovated cow barn and lives out almost all summer. She was totally sound in two weeks and hasn't coughed since. I brought her up to school with me last month and her cough just started coming back this week now that she's spending most of her time in a stall again :( It's amazing what fresh air alone can do for our horses! Have you ever heard of/tried Wind Aid?
LiveToFly said…
Poor Dreamy! Good thing she has such a great mom looking out for her health!
STB Eventer said…
Thanks LTF. :) Sounds like your girl needs more turnout, huh? I think sometimes COPD can be managed by lots of turnout and soaked hay. I have been lucky that Dreamy has not had to live on Tri-Hist, and the "natural" supplements work for her.

I did try Wind-Aid one time when I was waiting for a shipment of Wind to arrive (sadly it does not come in SmartPaks so once in a great while I end up running out for a day before a new shipment arrives.....thankfully it is mailed from NH, so it only takes 24 hours to arrive). But Dreamy won't eat it...of course!!! I tried syringing it, but that is messy. Wind/Immuzim works so well, that I have never done it on a regular basis. Do you use it for

Have you soaked Emmy's hay? That might help her as well. :)
STB Eventer said…
That sentence should say, "Do you use it for Emmy?"