From Endurance to Dressage
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.
Izzy is once again on Prednisolone for his reaction to gnats and other biting insects. We finished last year on a positive note; all of the corticosteroids helped control his reaction to the bites. Wanting to get a head start on the season, I started with the Prednisolone two weeks ago (with my vet's approval).
Last year, we only did two shows while Izzy was on the drug, so I didn't do a lot of research. Based on USEF's Drugs and Medications guidelines, the detectable time is seven days, so I followed that protocol for both shows. Since we're doing more than two shows this year, I decided to find out exactly what the rule is for administering Predisolone. I emailed US Equestrian over the weekend, and by Monday morning I had a response.
If you've ever needed to consult the USEF Guidelines for Drugs and Medications pamphlet, you'll know that it's pretty comprehensive, but not necessarily easy to find what you're looking for. Just because a drug is prohibited doesn't mean you can't use it. The biggest issue is when you can use it. For that, you need to determine how long the drug is detectable. For some drugs, that might mean merely hours, but for others, it may mean days, weeks, or even months.
There are other drugs like Pergolide/Prascend, that are prohibited, but riders can apply for a Therapeutic Use Exemption which permits the rider to administer the drug as prescribed. Speedy was the beneficiary of a TUE. Equally confusing are the Medication Report Forms. For some drugs and medications, riders can still give certain banned substances up to 24 hours before a show as long as they fill out an MRF.
To my surprise - we all know I don't think too much of US Equestrian, I received a reply to my email from an actual person. Not only was there a reply, but it was actually useful. Sarah, who I assume is a member of the Equine Drugs and Medication Program, clarified the rule for me by quoting the actual language from page 16 under the Guidelines for the Therapeutic Use of Dexamethasone and Other Corticosteroids. Alternative Number 3 spells it out pretty clearly, and the good news is that I can continue giving the Prednisolone up to 24 hours prior to competing as long as I complete an MRP. Izzy's skin will appreciate that.
What makes US Equestrian's Drugs and Medications rules so confusing is that there are prohibited substances that can still be given as long as:
To further gunk up the works, there is an entirely separate page dedicated to FEI prohibited substances. Things like, wait for it ... Pergolide. That's right, Pergolide is fine for Fourth Level horses but not for Prix St. Georges. I don't tend to give drugs or medications with any frequency, at least not until this past year or so, so navigating the minutiae of the guidelines has been time consuming.
Speedy's Prascend was the first drug I've ever needed to give daily. Now with Izzy's ulcery tummy and sensitive skin, it looks like the USEF Guidelines for Drugs and Medications pamphlet will be moved to the front of my pile of show materials.
It's just one more thing ...
On Tuesday, I took my students on a field trip to Bakersfield Large Animal Hospital (BLAH). It was virtual of course, but I sure had fun doing it. Early spring is when I typically take my boys in for their spring vaccinations and dental work. It's also when my vet does a thorough hands-on job of assessing their general health: body condition, gut sounds, eyes, temperature, and so on. I usually ask questions, and we also discuss Speedy's PPID, commonly referred to as Cushing's Disease.
Since our appointment fell during the school day, I asked my students if they wanted to come along. Not everyone did of course, but I had a few takers, including their brothers and sisters who wanted to see a real horse. The appointment was for 2:00, so I instructed my kiddos to login to our Google Meet anytime after 2:00. I deliberately arrived 30 minutes early so I could get my boys settled before setting up my iPad and establishing an internet connection.
Dr. Tolley is a great vet. He's extremely knowledgeable, pleasant to work with, and well educated. Even after more than thirty years in practice, he still participates in learning opportunities, and loves to answer questions - mine at least. So when I told him what I was planning to do, he thought it sounded like a great idea.
Speedy was up first, as usual, so after weighing him outside - he came in at 970 pounds, I set up my iPad in the bay where Dr. Tolley does most of his work. The office manager happily gave me the wifi code, and suddenly, we were live! It took a few minutes for kids to jump on board, but once I started seeing their faces, the field trip began.
The kids are used to seeing my face on their screens, and I have long since gotten over seeing myself on a screen, but Dr. Tolley hadn't yet done anything in the COVID virtual world. I was really grateful for his attempts to interact with my students by explaining what he was doing. I hadn't expected him to do that. Of course, dental work is usually quite loud, so for most of the time, no one could hear anything over the machines.
When he wasn't using power tools, Dr. Tolley showed the kids his equipment and explained what it was for. He also showed them the inside of Speedy's mouth and counted teeth and explained what the different teeth do. When a student asked if horses can bite, Dr. Tolley showed them Speedy's canine teeth and explained that those were fighting teeth, the ones horses use to bite each other. He also told them that girls don't have those teeth.
As Dr. Tolley continued using his power tools, I walked around the hospital pointing out different things and explained what types of things the doctors do there like taking x-rays and helping sick horses. I also carried my iPad outside so the kids could see the pens for sick or recovering horses.
Once Dr. Tolley had finished up with Speedy and all questions had been asked and answered, we thanked Dr. Tolley, and I thanked my students for coming along with me. I am not sure how exciting it was, but since we haven't done a field trip in so long, it seemed like an experience that was at least worth trying out. I said goodbye to my students and we hung up.
Once Speedy was resting comfortably in the drunk tank - Dr. Tolley had to give him two doses of sedative, we brought Izzy in for his dental work and vaccinations. Of course we also put him on the scale on the way in - he came in at 1,350 pounds. I was really happy to see that because that was his weight two years ago before he started having some intermittent tummy trouble. Last year he weighed around 1,270 pounds, and I just couldn't get the weight back on him.
I showed Dr. Tolley the bag of GastroElm that i brought along with me and explained how beneficial it has been for Izzy. We talked about gastric ulcers and other gastrointestinal issues. Dr. Tolley agreed with my approach: reducing Izzy's stress level during rides (I've been working on that) and continuing with the GastroElm, increasing it as needed. Izzy's weight gain started right after I introduced the GastroElm, so I know it is helping.
I always enjoying going to BLAH. All of the staff are friendly, helpful, and looking for ways to better serve their clients. I am pretty sure this was the first virtual field trip that Dr. Tolley has ever done, and I am grateful. With kids being sequestered in their homes for so long, they're missing out on life experiences that are crucial for their development.
The kids have been asking to see the horses. I am not sure if this is what they meant, but it was at least something!
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 the lower levels. 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%
2022 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2022 Shows Schedule
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
2022 Completed …
2022 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2 Scores/1 Judges/60%: