Tuesday, February 9, 2016

EQUUS Consultants: Heaves & Nosebleeds

EQUUS magazine's stable of experts has answers to readers' tough questions on heaves and nosebleeds. 

Question: My 11-year-old gelding had been prescribed prednisone to control his heaves, but I found that -- as you reported in the March 2001 issue (see "Hold the Prednisone," EQUUS 282) -- that it did not help much and that environmental changes were much more effective. I wet down his hay and keep him outdoors as much as possible, which has really helped. However, he still suffers from signs such as nasal discharge, especially after trailering. I'm taking extra care in making the trailer as clean as possible and I wet down his hay before putting it in the trailer. Is there anything else I can do for him?

Answer: It sounds as if you are taking the right steps to protect your horse's respiratory health. The best management for the majority of "heavey" horses--the exceptions being those whose heaves is associated with pasture--is fulltime turnout with access to an open shelter. This strategy is healthy and humane even where winters are severe and prolonged.

Your horse's nasal discharge probably does not reflect any current or new disease in his lungs. Extra mucus is produced by the lung in response to inflammation. If an allergy, irritation or infection is prolonged, the hypersecretion of mucus persists for months or years--and may even last a lifetime. The extra mucus is sometimes cleared by a few wet coughs early in exercise or after a play session in the field, and most of the fluid drains away as the horse lowers his head to graze.

However, when a heavey horse is trailered for more than a few minutes, these secretions tend to pool at the point where the windpipe divides into the two large bronchi that enter the lungs. This accumulation provokes little, if any, coughing during the trip, but when the horse is unloaded and either allow to graze or asked to move about, the mucus either drains or gets coughed out, appearing at the nostril. After a road trip, I recommend giving horses with heaves an opportunity to graze before being bridled or put to work so that their lung secretions can be cleared rather than sucked deeper into the airways.

So, in answer to your question, there are a few more things you can do for your horse. For starters, keep him out on pasture full time. And to help clear his airways during transport, unload him from the trailer and allow him to graze at least every two hours. Better still, haul in him with two feet of slack in the tie so he can put his head down and cough. You might also try withholding hay when trailering and, instead, allowing him to graze 10 to 30 minutes after you arrive at your destination.

Why the Nosebleed?

Question: Two days ago, I came home to find my 29-year-old Standardbred mare hot and sweaty with blood trickling from one of her nostrils. My mule (who was out with her) was also a little sweaty and warm to the touch. Shortly afterwards, my mare cooled down and has seemed fine since. What would have made her nose bleed? I don't believe my mule kicked her, as she is definitely the alpha of the two. She had no visible bites nor was any swelling evident on her face, neck or anywhere else. She has never bled before but I wondered whether I should be worried about this episode.

Answer: Keep an eye on your mare but don't worry: Most nasal trickles are harmless, isolated occurrences, not harbingers of horrors to come. A routine case of bleeding from one nostril, especially after exertion, could have any of a dozen causes, the most innocent being a poke inside the nose with a sharp twig or hay stem. Exercise can also cause an equine nosebleed by raising the blood pressure enough to rupture already-weakened vessels near the surface.

On the other hand, recurrent bleeding from the same nostril is rarely innocent. Such bleeding has three primary causes:
  • a tumor in the nasal cavity or sinus 
  • an ethmoid hematoma, a pocket of blood in the mucosal lining of the nasal passages that develops for unknown reasons
  • a fungal infection in the guttural pouch that has weakened a wall of the carotid arteryEndoscopic examinations of all these chambers and passageways, together with radiographs of any suspicious areas, are necessary for a definitive diagnosis. However, from your description, I doubt any of these more serious conditions caused your mare's nosebleed. The more time that passes before a second episode, the less likely that anything serious has happened.

This article first appeared in the October, 2001 issue of EQUUS magazine.

This article is copyrighted and first appeared in EQUUS Magazine. It is reprinted here by permission.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Secret Lives of Horses

Dino the Gentle Giant

By Pam Gleason

Photography By Gary Knoll

Wherever he has gone in his life, Dino has always stood out. This is literally true: Dino, a 1992 chestnut Thoroughbred gelding, is a giant at 18.3 hands tall. This makes him one of the tallest Thorough-breds on records, and certainly a horse to make you stop and look.

Jean Bickley, who owns this gentle giant, explains that Dino is just his barn name - it comes from the purple dinosaur in the Flintstones cartoons. His name when he was showing was, appropriately enough Jem Hill, also the name of Jean's grandparent's farm in Pennsylvania. Officially, on his Jockey Club papers, he is Kenogami, after a town in Canada.

Like most Thoroughbreds, Dino was bred for the racetrack. His father was the immortal Slew O'Gold, a two-time Eclipse Award winning stallion by Seattle Slew who was inducted into the Thoroughbred Hall of Fame in 1992, the same year Dino was born. His dam was Wondrous Me, a broodmare sired by My Dad George. Dino was bred by Joseph Allen, who is most famous in racing circles for breeding the champion War Front, currently one of the leading sires in the world. Dino was born in Kentucky on February 28, 1992, a solid chestnut colt with long legs and a big heart.

Although he was broken for the racetrack, when it came time to train him seriously and send him to the races, it was decided that he was just too big. So Joseph Allen, who still owned him, decided to turn him into a riding horse. At first Dino went to a show horse trainer, but then Mr. Allen decided that he wanted to ride the horse himself, and so brought him home to Connecticut. Mr. Allen was not, however, a rider, and didn't have as much time to devote to his new project as he had expected. At the time, Jean Bickley was galloping racehorses for Peter Brant, who is Joseph Allen's cousin. When Allen realized that he wasn't really going to be riding his giant 3-year-old Thoroughbred, he offered the horse to Jean.

"I think I paid a dollar for him," says Jean, explaining that she rode on the hunter circuit as a junior and wanted to get back to showing as an adult, "He was a nice project, and he was affordable because he was basically free."

Jean trained him and showed him in the hunter and adult equitation divisions at shows in Connecticut and the surrounding area. A sweet-tempered and willing horse, Dino was always ready to do anything.

"He was very all-purpose. He did the hunter shows, then he would go out and do a hunter pace, and then he'd do combined tests. I took him to clinics for eventing and for hunters. He was very easy to handle. You could load him on the trailer with your pinky finger, and he'd stand there all day." In addition to these things, Dino also enjoyed riding on the trails and on the beach near his home in Fairfield, Conn.

Dino's exceptional size did require some accommodating. His bridle needed to be a combination of a regular bridle and an oversized bridle, because a regular bridle was too small and an oversized bridle was designed for a different type of horse and did not fit well on his Thoroughbred head. He always needed extra long reins. To groom him, most people used a ladder. He was never easy to wash because he like to put his head up during a bath,  usually resulting in the bath-giver getting almost as wet as the horse.

But he had a good sense of his own size and he was never clumsy or awkward. He was also very good about standing still at the mounting block, or allowing his rider to get on from a fence post, a rock or whatever was handy.

"He was probably the most sure-footed horse I ever rode," says Jean. To ride him, it was important to remember his extra long stride. "Once I took him to a double cross country event, and my friend, who is a very good eventer, was urging me to go faster on the course. But I knew his stride - he covers so much ground that you would think you had to go faster, but you really didn't. I actually hit the optimum time, and we came in first.

Jean says that for her, Dino was an all-around great horse, who was always very kind and never took advantage of his size. "You could put a little kid on him," she says. "He never bucked, he never reared, he never spun. He wasn't the fanciest horse in the world, or the most expensive. When I was showing, I had trainers who helped me who were very patient, because he was not like the typical warmbloods around here. But when he was good, he was really good. It was cool, because I love the Thoroughbreds, and we were always surrounded by warmbloods. It's nice to be different."

In 2007, Dino injured his stifle and and Jean retired him, sending him to stay with her friend, the trainer Sue Sisco, at her farm in Pennsylvania. It was Amish Country "and I think he had a heart attack when he saw his first cow." When Sue relocated to Aiken, Dino came with her and has lived here ever since at Sue's Sunfield Farm. Jean has three horses in Aiken and comes to visit regularly.

Sue and Dino at Sunfield
These days, Dino spends his days hanging out in the paddock with his friends. Although his serious riding days are behind him, Jean says she and Sue are planning to take him on an outing in the Hitchcock Woods this winter along with another retired show horse, just so he can enjoy the experience.

"He's been a great horse and he's so lovable," says Jean. "For me it was cool that he could do so many things. He doesn't owe me anything and he's an excellent baby sitter for other horses. He'll stay with Sue for the rest of his life. I believe when you have horses you are responsible for them, and you need to make sure they have a nice life. A lot of people don't recognize that, but for me, it's a priority. I think if you can afford to be out there showing, you can afford to take care of your horse when his career is over."

This article is copyrighted and first appeared in The Aiken Horse. It is reprinted here by permission.