From Endurance to Dressage
It has been a month since I've done an update on Speedy's junk, so here goes: On June 11th, Dr. Tolley wrapped Speedy's man parts in a sock in an effort to prevent flies from depositing habronema larvae in Speedy's urethra. You can read about it and see pictures here. That sock was the second attempt to thwart the flies. For the second go-round, Dr. Tolley also gave me a steroidal solution to swab over Speedy's urethra several times a day. That was five weeks ago today.
I am thrilled to report that Speedy's urethra is summer sore free. Some time during the two weeks that Speedy stayed at STC Dressage - Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer, took really good care of both boys, the summer sore cleared up and has stayed gone. And despite being completely gross and disgusting, the sock is still on!
I called the vet a week or two ago and asked if I should try to remove the sock or simply let it continue to ride around as is. Dr. Gonzalez, the other practicing vet at Bakersfield Large Animal Hospital, advised me to let it be as it is still acting as a barrier against the flies. As gross as it is - it gets saturated with urine every time Speedy pees, the sock doesn't seem to bother Speedy at all. Sometimes I can see it hanging out, but most of the time, he retracts it within his sheath so that only a tiny portion of the sock is visible.
About every other day or so, I try to catch Speedy in a letting it all hang out moment so that I can check the condition of his urethra. Since it's tucked away in the sock, I have to roll the sock up so that I can get a clear view of things. He doesn't seem to mind the sock, but he does mind me poking around up in there. Thankfully, he is back to normal other than having his ding-a-ling wrapped up in a sweater.
I'll take a mare next time, please.
Warning: Not all images are suitable for all viewers, especially the third one.
On Friday, I took Speedy to Bakersfield Large Animal Hospital to have his junk scraped and cleaned again. This summer sore business is no joke, it's not cheap, and it also (probably) really hurts. Poor Speedy.
Since Speedy is so shy about his man parts, there was no way to assess the state of the summer sore without giving him a sedative. Izzy's ding dong hangs out all the time allowing me a daily opportunity to check things out; I know his penis is in good shape. I wish Speedy weren't so reserved. Before Dr. Tolley could do anything else, he had to give Speedy a little mid-morning cocktail.
The summer sore wasn't nearly as ugly as it had been the week before, but Speedy's body is still working overtime to get rid of the Habronema larvae. Instead of just ignoring the little larvae that are trying to burrow through his urethra (so, so gross), Speedy's immune system is launching a full scale attack, killing the larvae which leaves yellow granules of dead larvae. At least his skin tissue hasn't gone necrotic this time, but Dr. Tolley explained that the remnants of the larvae do create a sore that is painful. And since the sore is in Speedy's urethra, it probably feels like what you think it would. Not good.
I thought Dr. Tolley dug deeply the last time we were there, but for this visit, he really got in there. I didn't know the urethra could be opened that much, but obviously it can. Dr. Tolley was especially thorough this time around. He wanted to be sure to catch every bit of dead larvae that was stuck. Once the larvae is completely removed, Speedy's body won't have anything to which to react.
Once Dr. Tolley felt confident that Speedy's urethra was free of Habronema larvae, he and Dr. Gonzalez put a fresh sock on Speedy's penis. Based on my feedback about the last one, he decided to keep this one long. The purpose of the sock is to act as a barrier around Speedy's penis much like a mosquito net around your bed. If the flies can't get to his lil' dude, they can't lay eggs on it. In addition, Dr. Tolley gave me a liquid steroid that I am "painting" on the sock which should soak through to cover the top of Speedy's penis. The steroid is supposed to reduce the inflammation and reduce Speedy's reaction to the flies.
For the next two weeks, Speedy will get his penis and/or sock (depending how long the sock stays on) painted with a liquid steroid twice a day. He'll also get covered in fly spray twice a day. Every other day he'll get a 5 cc/mL injection of Dexamethasone. He is also going to stay in the barn at STC Dressage in Moorpark which has a fly system. Unfortunately, this is all we can do for him. His body simply has to stop reacting to the fly larvae. It would be much simpler for him if the larvae could just pass through his system, land in his gut, and get pooped back out as eggs that hatch into flies.
My fingers are crossed that this next two weeks clears things up.
If you are squeamish, simply read the condensed version that follows. If you dig learning about all of the weird crap that can happen to horses, stay tuned. It's about to get weird(er). Here's part one.
Speedy does indeed have a summer sore in his urethra. Summer sores are caused by fly larvae. They typically occur on a horse's moist areas such as eyes, corner of the mouth, and occasionally, the penis. Treatment includes steroids, to reduce the inflammation and allergic reaction, and dewormers.
Holy hell, summer sores are gross, creepy, and not something you ever want your horse to have anywhere near his junk. As I suspected, Dr. Tolley thought I should bring Speedy in, and the sooner the better. I called on Tuesday morning, and we were there by 2:45 that afternoon.
I unloaded Speedy and walked straight into the hospital's examining bay. Dr. Tolley didn't mess around. He asked a few questions, and then he brought out a sedative. Speedy has proven to be a roaring dragon when he's in the stocks getting messed with in a serious way, and Dr. Tolley wanted no part of that business as he was messing with Speedy's ... business.
As soon as Speedy's lil' dude dropped, Dr. Tolley took hold and peered closely at the urethra. It was nasty. I mean, I had seen it, felt it, and held it up close and personal, but seeing it exposed in full daylight without Speedy snapping it back inside showed how disgusting and crusty it was. What Dr. Tolley had to do next made it all even worse.
Dr. Tolley used a very pointy pair of scissors and dug inside the tube of the urethra, scraping and scooping all of the funk out. As Dr. Tolley is wont to do, he scraped the gunk into my hands for examination. Speedy isn't always the best patient, and I am a hands on type of client, so Dr. Tolley long ago gave up using "real" assistants. I am now the assistant, so handing him the soaking cotton and squirting soap onto it as he passed me the necrotic tissue to examine was no big thing.
Even sedated, Speedy wasn't too happy to have the inside of his you-know-what scraped with a long pointed object. I couldn't blame him. Before long, the dead tissue was scraped away and blood was dripping to the floor. I didn't know you could dig into that little opening quite that far, and I am sure Speedy wasn't aware of that fact either. Either way, it had to be done.
While Dr. Tolley is happy to explain what he's doing, I have learned to be a tiny bit patient and let him do his job. So while I wanted to keep asking, and then what are you going to do? I didn't, but I so wanted to. Instead, I waited and watched. Once Speedy's manhood seemed to be free of all things nasty, Dr. Tolley brought out some Elastikon tape and a thing that looked like a baby sock. Yes, you read that right, and yes, it was actually a penis sock. Dr. Tolley didn't call it that, but that's what it was.
Unlike vet wrap, which only sticks to itself, Elastikon sticks to everything. In fact, if you were to wrap it around your arm, you would lose all of the hair once you pulled it off. It is STICKY. I can see you doing the math right now, and yes, you would be right. Dr. Tolley wrapped that super sticky tape around Speedy's ding-a-ling and actually WANTED it to stick. Before wrapping it around though, he first slipped Speedy's penis into the sock and then taped the sock to his penis using the super sticky Elastikon. I swear this was not a scene from the movie American Pie.
Once the sock was taped securely in place, Dr. Tolley applied a huge handful of Triamcinolone Cream - the same steroidal cream he prescribed for Izzy's gnat bites, to the entire head of Speedy's very tender doodle. Before finishing completely, he also gave Speedy a dose of dewormer and an injection of Dexamethasone. Once all of that was finished, Speedy was taken to a paddock, and Dr. Tolley and I had a powwow.
What I wanted to know (and I am sure you do, too) is how did that happen, and what the heck does one have to do to not let it happen again? In short, summer sores are the result of a nematode (worm). Rather than explain the life cycle, read this bit from Arizona Equine (full article here):
Summer sores are commonly found on the lower limb, corner of the eye, and the urethral process of geldings and stallions. They can also be found on the face neck or any other area of the body that has had an open sore or wound. They are characterized by a non-healing sore with small yellow granules, and decayed tissue.
For now, I'll be giving Speedy injections of the Dexamethasone for the next ten days, applying liberal amounts of Triamcinolone Cream to his kicky-wicky, and dousing him with fly spray. Because his body's immune system is over-reacting, his eyes are also filled with puss because of the flies, so I am adding an ointment as often as possible. And while Izzy will probably have them torn to bits, I covered Speedy with a fly sheet and fly mask. Surprisingly everything, including the penis sock, was still in place yesterday afternoon.
Normally, Speedy is fly-free. I don't know why they've bothered him so much this year. I rarely even use fly spray on him, and they are never on his face. They love Izzy instead. My fingers are crossed that we can kill off any lingering Habronema. My boys are wormed regularly, but since not everyone worms their horses, reinfection is possible.
And that my friends, is one of the grossest things one of my horses has ever had!
Uh-oh. Speedy has a boy problem that has me quite concerned. Sometime in the spring, I cleaned both boys' sheaths. They're really good about me doing them, and I am not squeamish.
A few weeks ago, I noticed that Speedy wasn't dropping all of the way to urinate, so I've kept my eye on things. Over the weekend, I realized that I needed to do more than keep on eye on things when I saw his urine spray out like water from a clamped off hose.
If you've never seen male horse urinate, it shouldn't look anything like what comes from a pressurized hose. I grabbed some Excalibur Sheath Cleaner and a bucket of water. I carefully worked my hand and arm up into his sheath, scrubbing gently as I went.
If you've never cleaned a horse's sheath, I'll spare you the worst of the details, but it's rather funky up in there. The only way to describe what comes out is shmegma - clumps of black gunk.
This next part is not safe for kids. Little by little I was able to work my hand up to Speedy's actual penis, tucked up like a turtle in its shell. As gently as I could, I poked around his man parts until I could feel his urethra. It was quite swollen and crusty. It is not supposed to be crusty. In fact, the little tube should be very soft and squishy. Speedy's is not.
I gently picked away at it removing the blockage as best I could. Normally, when a gelding gets a "bean," it will be gray in color and almost feel like clay or wax. The junk that Speedy has in his urethra is hard and feels like compacted hay and dirt. I was able to remove a good portion of it, but without getting the penis to drop, it's really hard to see how bad the problem actually is.
Yesterday, I repeated the cleaning, hoping that things might have softened up overnight. They did not. I was able to get the inside of his sheath very clean, but the urethra is definitely still clogged. Speedy always pees when I bring out his bucket of feed, so I made sure to time the arrival of the bucket for a time when I could closely watch him pee. To say it is a Pavlovian response would be very correct.
Speedy trusts me, so as he was peeing - oh my gosh this is so gross, I reached over and grabbed his penis to see what the urethra looked like as he urinated. Not good was the answer. He doesn't seem like he's in any pain, but things are definitely not right "down there."
I will be calling Dr. Tolley today for some advice. Does Speedy need to go in? Should I just continue trying to soften and clean it? I'll let you know what he says.
Boys and their junk.
I have used this title before, I am sure, but if the shoe fits ...
Last summer, the gnats attacked Izzy with a vengeance. He ultimately rubbed out his entire mane, all the hair at the top of his tail, and the hair off his withers and shoulders. I tried no less than a dozen products including all manner of wipes, sprays, muds, salves, and oils. None of it worked. I finally took him to the vet where he was prescribed a hefty dose of steroids - injectable, topical and oral. By winter, his hair was growing back and he felt much better.
In mid-March, as prescribed by my vet, I started the prednisolone again - 20 tables every other day. My vet's recommendation was to try each dose for two weeks. I could then reduce it by 2 tablets every two weeks until I found the lowest dose that kept Izzy from reacting to the gnats. Until about two weeks ago, he was on 16 tablets every other day, and his mane and coat looked fabulous. It was so nice that at our last show someone asked if she could take a picture of his mane.
About ten days ago, I showed up to the barn and saw some messy mane, a clear sign that Izzy had been rubbing. I bumped his dose back up to 18 tablets. A few days after that, I came out to the barn to see a hunk of his mane rubbed out.
I immediately called my vet to see what was the maximum dose of prednisolone tablets that I could safely give and for how long. According to my vet, prednisolone is a corticosteroid that works on the immune system to help relieve swelling, redness, itching, and allergic reactions. It is a short acting corticosteroid which is good in some respects - it's not as likely to cause problems like some steroids, but on the other hand, it only stays in the system for about twelve hours. By giving it every other day, it gives Izzy's body a break from the steroid.
Since Izzy is such a large animal, he can tolerate a higher dose than a small horse like Speedy. Even so, there's only so much you can give safely. For now, we're bumping him up to 20 tablets every day for two weeks to see if we can calm down the allergic reaction. Then I'll go back to every other day, but in all likelihood, I won't be able to get down to a lower dose like I had hoped. What's so frustrating is that it has been really cool here, especially in the mornings, which means the gnats aren't even at full strength yet.
For Izzy's sake, I hope this high dose eases his itchiness. If he would only wear a fly mask and fly sheet, it would help a whole lot, but he won't. If anyone has a miracle gnat repellant, I'd love to hear about it.
I guess the good thing about no mane is that I won't have to braid. I'd rather braid.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at Second Level. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 SCEC (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read