Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Change of Command

On 12 April, B Troop finally got a new commander.  Over the years we've had a variety of different kinds of individuals command the troop, but for the first time a naval officer took command.  We had to train him not to use navy lingo during the ceremony such as responding to commands with "Aye," but he managed to get through it okay. 
We were a little short handed and had to pass the unit colors with only three people instead of the customary four, but it really didn't make much difference.  We went through the traditional ceremony and concluded with our usual cavalry charge up the field. 
Afterwards, we had refreshments in the gazebo and mingled with the spectators.  The cannon crew decided to don naval head gear and offer a little salute to the new commander, which everyone enjoyed.  B Troop has been commanded now by officers from all of the service branches except the Marine Corps.  I shudder to think what that would be like. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mountain Howitzer Artillery Harness

On Saturday, B Troop was tasked to support Fort Huachuca's Celebration of the Military Child event--a festival of sorts for the local community.  The weather was excellent and a good crowd showed up to participate. 
The artillery harness on display
I had despaired that we would not have enough people to support the event, and at one point cancelled our participation.  We had only five people to support, of which only three were riders.  Not enough to put on a riding demonstration as we had been asked to provide.  However, the five people who signed up were committed and soon a few others began to sign on until we had a total of nine people on the team. 
We still didn't have enough riders to put on a show, so the troopers elected to set up a small saber course with which to demonstrate their riding skills.  In addition, a couple of ladies agreed to ride sidesaddle, and several of our cannon crew members set up a static display of their equipment. 
The two mountain howitzers
B Troop has had for many years an artillery harness for its 1840 mountain howitzer.  I moved it into storage years ago as we never used it and it was just taking up space.  However, in the last few months, our cannon crew has grown substantially and we welcomed a couple of experienced artillery reenactors, Donnis and Priscilla, who owned their own mountain howitzer.  I told them about the artillery harness that was gathering dust in our old mule barn and they were very interested in it.  They offered to clean it up and put it on display for the Military Child event. 
The B Troop encampment
What they accomplished in the space of five days was nothing less than miraculous.  The cleaned and oiled the entire harness set and had it on display in all its glory.  They also brought their own howitzer, complete with limber.  These two individuals are a great asset to B Troop and their enthusiasm and knowledge of all things artillery, is impressive.   Now we just have to train up a team of horses to pull the cannon and we can give the other Army horse detachments a run for their money.    

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Horse Bee Stings

One of our retired Army horses, Bandit, had a bad run in with some bees today.  I had put all the horses in the north pasture so I could unload some sand into the horse pens which are in the south pasture.  The horses were spending the afternoon happily nibbling at the new shoots of grass growing in the north pasture.  It was pretty peaceful save for a little fusing between Regent and Wyatt who is a retired Army horse on our neighbor's property.  Regent and Wyatt are old rivals and it was necessary to discuss a few things over the fence. 
Poor Bandit covered in bee stings. 
However, the afternoon calm was shattered by the sound of Bandit, who is lame, galloping madly for the gate to the south pasture.  Debbie heard all this and went out to find Bandit frantically trying to scrape his sides on the fence and kicking at himself.  She saw that he was covered in bee stings.  She let him through to the other pasture and led all the other horses over too.  Fortunately, none of the others had any stings.  Debbie put Bandit into a stall and tried to calm him down, but he was extremely agitated and didn't want her to touch him.  She gave him some antihistamines she had on hand and called the vet to see if there was anything else she could give him other than banamine for the pain. 
Bandit calmed down after a while and will spend the night in a stall until he feels better.  I went out into the pasture to see if I could find a hive, but found no sign of any bees.  Apparently a swarm had come through and Bandit just happened to be in the way.  I'm guessing they weren't Africanized bees or Bandit would probably be dead by now.  Its just one more thing you have to watch out for here in Arizona.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

More Horse Vaccination Reactions

After the incident yesterday with Ruger, we discovered four other horses having bad reactions to the vaccinations they received.  Apache, Blade, Duke, and Charlie were all found to be stocked up in their legs.  Duke was only stocked up on the back legs, but all the others experienced swelling in all four legs.  Charlie also developed swelling at the injections sites on both sides of his neck. None of the horses lost their appetite or became sick, but Charlie developed a slight fever for a while.  We're trying to determine if there is something wrong with the vaccine.  We have never experienced anything like this. 
The swelling on Charlie's neck

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Horse Vaccination Reactions

Our horses were due for their vaccinations in March, but due to the bureaucracy associated with the new budget restrictions, the vaccines didn't make in until this week.  The mil vet, with her team, showed up this morning and jabbed all the horses (accept for Blade, who I had to hold during the injection).  I then sent an email message out to all the troopers to warn them to look for swelling or other reactions to the vaccines. 

Later in the afternoon while I was in the office, one of our ladies wandered in and started asking questions.  I may not have the exact words, but the conversation went something like this:

"So, a horse lies down when its tired and it lies down when its sick.  So how do you know the difference?"  she asked.

"Well, it depends on when the horse is laying down.  For instance, if your feeding and the horse is laying down, he's sick,"  I replied.

"Oh, well, I just tried to give an apple to Ruger, but he wouldn't take it," she said.

"Well, some horses don't like apples," I replied.  "Has he ever refused an apple before?"

"I don't remember if I ever tried before," she answered.  "He wouldn't even lift his head," she added. 

I was kind of distracted by some work I was doing on the computer, but as she went out of the office her words began to sink in a little.  I decided I'd better go out and see what was going on. 
Ruger, a couple years ago--just a little guy then.

Ruger was laying flat out on the ground in his stall.  He is a young horse, about five years old.  He's not the kind of horse that stays on the ground when someone walks into his stall.  I walked up to him and tried to harass him into standing up.  After a little bit of flapping my hat at his back, he struggled to his feet.  We put a halter on him and I took him over to the medicine shed to check his vitals.  I tried to give him an apple treat, but he wouldn't take it.  Normally, he snaps it out of your hand.  I checked is heart rate and temperature and found he was at 52 BPM and 101.5 degrees.  He had bowel sounds and was passing manure, so I figured it was a reaction to the vaccinations.  I called the mil vet and took him back to his pen.  We kept him up and walking around until the vet arrived.  While we walked him around, he developed bad diarrhea. 
The vet arrived and confirmed the vital signs we had found and I noticed then that his respiration's were up also.  He was desperate to lay down, but we kept him standing.  The vet gave him banamine and began to treat him for colic.  First, she stuck her arm up his backside to check for obstructions or twisting.  Everything seemed to be okay so they then tried to get a tube down his nose to pump water into him.  Ruger was pretty well sedated, but he was having none of that.  Unfortunately, he got a bloody nose in the process which was getting spattered all over everybody and every thing. 
They were never able to get the tube in him, but it didn't seem to be necessary.  All the trauma associated with their treatment efforts seemed to get him through the colic.  The banamine probably did the job as it usually does in cases like this.  Once the pain was gone, he started feeling hungry and normal again.  We took his food away per the vet's instructions, gave him electrolyte paste, and left him plenty of water.  He was looking pretty normal about 30 minutes later, so I stopped being concerned.  The vet promised to come back later to check on him. 
Just another dull day at the office.  It just goes to show that you have to sometimes read between the lines when someone is talking about horse behaviour. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Regent's Hoof Surgery

One of our finest horses, Regent, began showing signs of lameness in his front feet last year.  After a trip to Arizona Equine and an MRI, it was determined that Regent had keratomas in both hooves.  A keratoma is a rare, benign tumor that grows in the hooves of horses.  Regent, somehow, managed to get them in both hooves. 
We schedule the surgery to have the tumors removed in early December, but due to a very complex and confusing government contracting process, we weren't able to get it done until after Christmas.  The surgery was very successful and Regent did extremely well considering that both hooves were operated on simultaneously.  The veterinarian, Dr. Howard, took a large strip out of the front of both hooves and pulled the tumors through the gaps.  We were told the recovery would take at least nine months.
We brought Regent home with instructions to replace the bandages on his hooves every two days.  As you can imagine, Regent didn't much care for this process, but because he trusts both me and Debbie, we were able to get the job done without too much trouble.
Regent's hooves in February--about 6 weeks after surgery
The bandage consisted of sticking a betadine-soaked piece of gauze into the hoof gap and then putting, I kid you not, diapers over his hooves.  The diapers helped absorb the drainage from the wounds.  Next, we wrapped the hooves with vet wrap and, finally, covered the whole thing with a duct tape boot.  Because Regent was missing a significant amount of his hoof wall, the farrier bolted a couple of steel plates to the bottom of his feet to provide support. 
Of course, the worst part of bandage changing was removing the gauze from the holes in his hooves.  Regent hated this part and it was only the fact that we had formed a solid relationship with this horse over a period of ten years that we were able to perform this task at all. 

Eventually, we were able to stretch the bandage changes to every three days and then, not at all.  His hooves are still growing in and he is only about three months into his recovery.  We let him out to walk around now, and he seems to be recovering quicker than we expected.  We hope to begin the process of reconditioning him sometime in July. 

Regent's feet now--3 1/2 months after surgery

He is an excellent horse and has become a much more affectionate horse since coming to live at our house during his recovery (that is mostly Debbie's influence, I'm guessing).  We expect a full recovery and look forward to the day when Regent can charge up Brown parade field again. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bad Hats

This is a photo of the 71st New York in 1898 after having just returned from Cuba during the Spanish-American War.  Note that they are still wearing the same campaign hat and blue, wool over shirt as worn by B Troop which represents the 1880s.  However, they do not have suspenders for their trousers and their hats are not blocked in to any particular standard.  Most have creased the crown in the center, but a few have varied from that standard, and the brims seem to be influenced more by chance than anything else.  It is also interesting to see that one individual is wearing what appears to be a white T-shirt. 

Photo by Detroit Publishing Company


Gang Tat Dancer

We finally got Blade freeze branded today with the 'US' placed upon his shoulder.  A previous attempt had failed because Blade does not get along with the mil vet and wouldn't stand still to be sedated.  Debbie worked with him for a couple weeks to see if he was afraid of needles, but it turned out he was just afraid of the vet.  The vet managed to sedate him today, but not enough to compel him to stand still for a brand.  She asked me to hold him while she tried to apply the brand, but he was having none of it.  She tried additional sedation and manged to get the syringe into his neck, but Blade danced away before she could push the plunger.  Fortunately, he was less afraid of me, so I was able to administer the sedation.  I stroked his nose and calmed him down until he stood still.  I went to the bucket where the brand was and calmly walked over and applied it to his shoulder where the vet had shaved him.  I was holding on to Blade's lead rope with my left hand and applying the brand with my right.  After a few seconds, Blade could feel the cold of the brand and began to move, but I kept the brand on for the full 15 seconds required.  I don't think I got a good brand because of a ripple in his upper arm muscle.  Because of the angle I was holding the brand at and Blade's movement, I couldn't really push the brand flat.  The 'U' should come out okay, but the 'S' may not be complete.  It will be a few months before I know for sure. 
After all that, we then had to put the microchip in.  We put microchips in all our horses.  Ruger got his today, but he was no trouble.  Blade, not so cooperative.  Again, the vet managed to get the syringe with the chip into his neck, but I had to grab it and push the plunger.  After all the trauma, I stood with Blade and stroked his nose to calm him down.  I removed his feeder since he was too "drunk" to eat properly, but after an hour he was pretty much back to normal.  It amazes me how some horses can resist sedation.  Anyway, Blade has his "gang tat" now and is a full member of the herd.