Monday, October 15, 2018


As GP Trainer commented on my Instagram post about this... "For the love of Pete, get it together horse!"

Last week PA finally decided it was time for fall/winter. And it decided that "OMG I'M LATE BETTER DO IT RIGHT NOW." And our temps went from 80s to 40s/50s overnight. Not kidding. Wednesday last week, the high was 81 at 2:10pm. It was still warm and super muggy when I rode Penn that evening. The high on Thursday was 71, and it happened at 2:53am. The morning was muggy and awful, and by afternoon it was windy, frigid and downright cold at around 55 degrees. Just under 30 degrees in 24 hours. That same night, severe thunderstorms came through the area, forcing Penn to stay in since he doesn't have shelter and sometimes the storms upset him. When I put him away Wednesday, he was ANGRY.

When I went to get him from the dry lot Thursday evening? He was sick.

"I don't feel good."

He was just standing out there, hanging his head, butt to the wind. He called to me when I approached the paddock, but then went right back to hanging his head. He called again when I got to the gate, then resumed hanging. I called for him, but he didn't even glance my way. I walked over to get him and he nickered a little but went back to hanging. I pulled off his fly mask and his eyes were just glazed and dead. I ran my hands over all of him while he was still in the field- nothing. No bug bites, no swelling, no hot spots.

I called the barn owner, hoping that he was being naughty at some point during the day and they aced him to keep him quiet... I didn't get a hold of someone right away, so I went to bring him in to take his temp. And he wouldn't move. I had to drag the poor horse back to the barn. He was puffing, looked exhausted, and was having muscle tremors standing in the barn. I left him in the aisle (hell it would be a good sign if he got up the energy to run away!), pulled out a thermometer and got to business- he had a fever of 102.2 and looked like absolute misery. I had a minor crying meltdown- this poor horse is having a terrible year and now he has a fever. And of course, in my head, he's dying.

Such a sad creature.
Note the untouched hay in the background.

After getting back some emotional control, I called the emergency vet line next. They connected me with the on call vet, who was out 30 min later. While we waited, I took him back to his stall and basically plopped him right on top of his water bucket. He was like "Oh water... that's icky. Oh wait, maybe I'm thirsty." He tried to lap it up like a dog, made icky faces, then settled in to take a good drink. He did that a couple times and by the time the vet showed up, he had drank about an inch and a half of a normal water bucket.

Looking sedated. Only he's not.
Poor guy. 😔

I took his temp again while the vet went over every inch of him- 102.8 a half hour ish after I took it the first time. His other vitals were good, but he had decreased gut sounds. We weren't too worried about colic, not with the fever, and the decreased gut sounds were logical since he hadn't eaten much since the night before. He didn't want his breakfast (normal) and was still angry in the morning from being in alone (normal). What wasn't normal was him not touching his hay in the dry lot. It was still as pristine as it was when they dropped it for him that morning.

Barn owner reviewed his turnout and stall hay for freshness, mold, and any possible weeds and found nothing amiss. We checked out his Alfalox (which I had given him A LOT of the night before), and it also smelled and looked just fine. I was concerned it had molded, since I open a bale of it and it takes a month or so to go through it all.

He had no swelling, no cellulitis, no bug bites, no digital pulse, no abscesses brewing... nothing. The vet settled on anaplasmosis because there just wasn't any outward evidence of injury. It's a tick borne disease that causes high fevers quickly. Penn had a similar diagnosis last winter, except his legs swelled badly. When I went through the basic list of illnesses, my brain crossed it off because he only had a fever and the symptoms of a fever. There didn't appear to be any fresh tick bites, but OK since tick diseases do funny things.

He got IV banamine first, and after about 10 minutes he perked up considerably. Enough that he went to his hay net and was like, "Ooo, nommies!"

Sorry, didn't realize this was blurry when I took it!

Next she drew a lot of blood- enough for a CBC, blood chemistry, anaplasmosis test, and some extra if things were wonky. She would run the CBC that night, if it came back with anything unexpected, she'd run the blood chemistry, and we'd hold the anaplasmosis test for if he wasn't getting better. It has to be shipped to Cornell, but we wouldn't have results for it on Friday or over the weekend, so we opted to hold it since I would spend about $150 on that. If he wasn't making enough progress, we'd send it and do other tests.

Finally, he got IV oxytetracycline. This needs to be followed up with 2 weeks of doxy, which he's currently still getting.

The last instruction was to take his temp AM and PM to make sure it didn't spike again.

I sat with him for a while Thursday evening to make sure he stayed interested in his hay. Barn Owner put her mobile security camera in his stall so she could watch him from her house during the night. When I left him about 3 hours after originally finding him, his temp was down to 101.8.

I got a text from the barn owner the next morning; he ate a lot of his hay, all of his dinner from the night before, and was interested in people again! He also pooped like normal, wahoo! Horse people are so funny about poop. He was a bit upset at having to stay in, but I was glad to hear about that very normal response. His temp was 101.4. Apparently that's in the "normal" range for horses... except he's usually 99.2-99.5, so that was still 2 degrees higher than normal for him.

The weekend carried on in an excercise of "OMG is he ok" "what is his temp" and "is he still eating".

This stall is not nearly walked enough.
He didn't feel better yet. 

So what exactly caused this episode of "Scare the Shit Out of Your Mother?" Weather maybe? Angry horse? Ticks? All of the above? I have no idea.

So as of this writing, Penn is back to normal. When I checked on him Sunday morning, he was back to his usual shenanigans. I stopped on my way to his paddock to talk to someone, but apparently I took too long. He had come up to the gate and was displeased, so he started pacing... then attacked a barn cat that was walking on the fence. He pranced up to it, then spun and double barrel kicked at it. Don't worry! The cat was never in any real danger.

I took him for a short ride since he was well enough for those shenanigans and he felt fantastic. Oh the perks of doxycycline! It seems to have taken care of his lingering hoof inflammation.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he stays on the up. Come on Penn, haven't you ever heard that it's ok to be boring sometimes?


  1. How scary! Glad he is feeling better. My girl Penny had a similar tick borne illness but she was sick for a few weeks. Glad you caught it quick.

  2. Jeez Penn, it's not like your mum has other things to do than worry about you. Stay healthy already!!!

  3. Bobby's Lyme would usually turn him into a depressed, creaky slug whenever he had a flair up from a weather change. Hopefully the meds keep him feeling good and he's done with causing unplanned vet bills!

  4. OMG PENN. Glad he is on the mend. Fevers scare the crap out of me! Even though most of the time it's just some tick borne shit.

  5. Ah geeze, I'm glad he's feeling better but way to put your heart through the wringer