Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Not-So-Happy Camper

Ben added a few more grey hairs to my head this morning because he decided to do this for several hours rather than get up and act like a normal healthy donkey...

I gave him breakfast in bed.  I also switched his pain meds back to banamine rather than the bute that the vet suggested.  

A side note for all donkey owners:  I have found that donkeys seem to respond better to banamine than to bute.  This is anecdotal and you should talk it over with your vet, but I have found it to be true in every instance thus far.  It is also a well documented fact that donkeys metabolize pain meds faster than horses and generally require higher doses at more frequent intervals regardless of which drug you are using.  If you need corroboration of this for your vet, contact the UK Donkey Sanctuary.  They have documentation available for any vet who is willing to read it.  

This has certainly held true for Ben.  Once I got another hefty dose of banamine into him this morning, he decided to get up and rejoin the land of the living.  He is now getting 10 mls of banamine three times a day instead of two.  I will continue this until Monday and talk with the vet again.

I also started Ben on antibiotics this morning because my gut instinct is telling me that this had to have been triggered by an outside event - such as a tick borne disease.  His little quirks about water are long established and should not have been able to cause this.  There is also no earthly reason why a healthy, adult donkey on a strict low-sugar, hay-only diet would suddenly founder in the middle of winter.  There has to be some triggering event, either metabolically or externally.  Ben has shown no metabolic signs and there have been no external events.  That just leaves the eff'ing ticks.

Ben is now about ten hours into antibiotic treatment and he seems to be feeling a bit better, which is strengthening my suspicions.  I think I will know more tomorrow when we hit the 24 hour mark.

I am leaning more and more heavily towards the idea of thermonuclear warfare.

The Holiday Weekend Curse

It started out as a totally normal, boring morning.  I headed out to feed the herd and instead of three happy donkeys and a happy horse, I found two happy donkeys, a horse and one very unhappy Ben.

I love my donkeys, I really do, but sometimes, I think they might be the death of me.

I found Ben standing against the wall in the barn, shivering uncontrollably, unwilling to move and in clear distress.

Emergency protocol: Look the animal over from head to tail, noting everything, but not focusing on anything.  What I see in a ten-second assessment is:

  • Ben is alert and aware, but in clear distress
  • respiration is fast, but not noticeably labored
  • hard shivering
  • tension/pain throughout the body
  • subtle, but constant shifting of weight 
  • unwillingness to move  
  • reapeatedly curling his upper lip (flehman response)    
  • no signs of rolling or gut pain
Immediate emergency assessment:  I have an animal who is not about to drop dead, but is in clear distress and needs help.
  • Step 1:  Grab the first blanket-like object I can reach and toss it over Ben to help him get warm (in this case, it was Emma's old blanket.  MUCH too small for Ben, but better than nothing)
  • Step 2:  Get a bale of hay for the rest of the herd and feed them away from Ben in order to distract them and get them safely out of the way.  
  • Step 3:  Take Ben's temperature and do a more thorough hands-on inspection
  • Step 4: Get the heavy-weight turnout blanket that I have had in storage for many years (the one I was just thinking about finally donating to someone - good thing I have trouble throwing things out) and get it on Ben 
  • Step 5: there are no signs of colic or choke so offer Ben hay, which he dives into hungrily
  • Step 6: call the vet
My initial diagnosis is that Ben was "tying up".  Most of the symptoms fit, but it is not something I would ever expect to see in a quiet, laid-back donkey.  It is usually seen in Thoroughbreds or Quarter Horses who are in heavy work.  

After a lengthy discussion with the vet, the three most likely diagnosis are:
  1. Tying up - Ben does not fit the profile, but most of the symptoms fit.  An electrolyte imbalance caused by dehydration because Ben is absurdly fussy about his water could, maybe, be enough to cause him to tie up.  I did make some minor changes to the water trough this week, which I thought Ben was OK with as I saw him drinking.  However, this is a donkey who will not drink out of the purple bucket, but will drink the same water out of a blue bucket.  He will not drink ice cold water or warm water, it has to be tepid.  Also, I did run out of his vitamins for three days because Christmas messed up the shipment.  The combination could, maybe, be enough to create an electrolyte imbalance serious enough to cause muscle spasms.
  2. Laminitis - this is always a major concern for donkeys and can occur as a secondary response to another problem.  Ben is on a hay only, low sugar diet and there have been no changes to his feed.  Sudden onset of laminitis in all four feet is not likely.
  3. Acute Lyme disease.  A real possibility even though Ben is 2/3 through a Lyme vaccine protocol.
If this turns out to be Lyme, then I think the only appropriate response is to drop a nuclear warhead on this whole county. 

As treatment, I gave Ben a very mushy mash made of hay pellets and warm water with two teaspoons of salt in it.  This should help raise his sodium levels and increase his desire to drink.  He will be getting electrolytes for several days and will be getting salt and magnesium in his feed every day from here on.  He got a big dose of anti-inflammatory pain-killer and will continue to get them for the next few days and he is now sporting on overly large green blanket.   

By evening, he was showing improvement and was willing to go out and walk around on his own for a bit.  Hopefully, he will continue to improve and I won't need any help because getting a vet out here on a holiday weekend.....not likely.  

I hate holidays.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Old Man

Fourteen Christmases and still going strong.

I hope you all enjoyed Christmas as much as the dogs did.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Sledding We Will Go

All harnessed up....

A sleigh sled filled with presents hay....

And a crowd gathered to laugh when we crash cheer us on.

Here comes Santa Clause Benjamin, here comes Santa Clause Benjamin (who's wayyy better than Santa Clause)....

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

By the Numbers

Picking winners for the fudge contest always turns out to be much harder than it should be.  It seems simple right?  Make a list and pick some random numbers to fit the list.  It never quite works out that way though.

There are always a few people who comment, but who also don't want fudge, which is fine.  Please don't think I am complaining.  Like all bloggers, I love comments and greatly appreciate them.  I love  hearing from all of you, especially right now as my blogging mojo seems to have taken a vacation without me.  Actually, all of the mojo seems to have absconded lately.  How do I figure that into my fudge list though?

Then there is the issue of getting my helpers to cooperate when they clearly have their own agenda.

Since it was only about 10 degrees, I decided to just work with what was offered and then leave everyone to their daily holiday and get myself back in close proximity to the wood-stove.

On offer here is: ONE horse, THREE donkeys, EIGHT ears and SIXTEEN hooves.  That gives me four winners this year.

So, the winners are (if I counted right):

ONE: TeresaA
THREE: Steph Schmidt
EIGHT: Delrene
SIXTEEN: Suz - in Ohio

Please send me an email at aerissana at gmail dot com with your address and I will send out the fudge to the lucky winners.  Thank you all for participating and, more importantly, thank you all for being here.  I appreciate it more than you know.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Annual Fudge Giveaway

It's that time of year when everyone gets some of my All Purpose Holiday Fudge and I would, once again, like to give all of you a chance to try some.  Just leave a comment on this post and the donkeys and I will pick some winners in a few days.  Good luck!

Thursday, December 15, 2016


I read about a location bloghop over at a Journey With a Dancing Horse and since I am having so much trouble writing anything these days, I thought I would join in because the only cure for not writing is to write anything.  Right?

Cost of keeping a horse (or donkey):

Hay is mixed meadow grass and costs $2.50 - $4.00 per small bale, generally 20-30 pounds.  Round bales are going for $30-40 per bale.  I've been paying $3.50/bale for the past few years.  This year was a great year for making hay in this area so I could have bought hay out of the field for $2.50/bale.  However, since I had surgery this summer and could not handle hay, I ended up paying $4/bale, but it was delivered and and stacked, which was quite a novelty for me.

I know this may sound cheap for a lot of areas, but this is a deeply depressed economic area and these figures are a substantial increase from just a few years ago.  The cost of owning horses in this area is rising at an alarming rate given how poor the rest of the local economy is.

Boarding:  I don't have much current experience with this, but would say prices range from $150 - $500 per month depending on facilities.

Farrier care:
I do my own farrier work and work on a few other horses.  The cost of local farrier care is generally around $30 for a trim and $50-80 for a pair of shoes.  This varies a lot depending on who is doing the work and on who is paying the bill.  There are a lot of re.

Property:  This has been all over the place and prices still vary a great deal.  There was a huge land rush a few years back when everyone thought that hydraulic fracking for natural gas was going to happen here.  Land prices shot way up, then the bottom fell out. Prices are back down, but have not really stabilized yet.

Lessons:  I have no idea.  I would guess $30-70/hour depending on the facility/discipline.

Feed:  Donkeys and FAT horses don't get grain, much to their dismay.  I do feed small amounts of hay pellets with their vitamins and a bag of timothy pellets is about $17.

Vet bills have skyrocketed in recent years.  It is also hard to get vets to come to this area.  They all travel at least an hour to get here and are often unavailable.  I do most of my own vet care, but I always have someone come out at least once a year to retain my client status with them as they won't come out at all if you're not a client.  Since I can't rely on any one of them, I alternate between the vets who are willing to come here.


The weather sucks.

OK, OK, I will try to be objective about this and I will state, for the record, that my current opinion may be influenced by WEEKS of dark, dismal, grey bleakness that is steadily progressing into a cold, snowy, harsh winter and it is only December.

So yeah, the weather sucks.

The weather is the thing I find the most difficult to deal with.  The summers are hot, humid and buggy.  The winters are harsh and particularly brutal here on Hellwind Hill, because - HELLWIND + lots of snow + more wind + arctic cold + even more wind.  Need I say more?

We generally get a couple of glorious weeks in the Spring and early Fall.

Riding Demographics:

It is mainly trail riding in the immediate area and there are a lot of great trails as long as you don't mind rough terrain and doing some bushwhacking.  Drive 1.5 - 2 hours in any direction and you will find whatever riding endeavor you want.

Tack shops are few and far between.  Online shopping is the best bet.

Donkeys are rather few and far between. We make things up as we go.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

And Then the Sun Came Out

I didn't mean to disappear like that.

There is just noting much beyond survival going on at the moment and it has been so relentlessly dark and bleak that I seem to have lost all my words.

I have also felt the need to avoid computers lately.  I am working on a computer based course that I am finding rather a slog - very similar to trudging through half frozen mud in the deep, dark grey of December.

To add insult to that, the hospital where I work has just "upgraded" the lab software.

Is there any other term so false and misleading as the word "upgrade" has become?

This latest "upgrade" requires yet more time fighting with software so poorly designed and onerous that slogging through half frozen mud actually sounds fun in comparison.

As always, the hospital opted for the cheapest up-front option that will ultimately cost a fortune in lost productivity and decreased patient care.

But I really don't want to talk about the problems of modern day healthcare.  I know I don't have enough words for that - or perhaps too many.

The sun finally made a brief appearance this afternoon and I took some time to walk away from all things computer related to go out and get some reminders of why I am still here.

I will try to keep finding words.  A little bit of sun does help.