Friday, February 10, 2012

Using a Blow Dart on a Horse....

Did that get your attention?   Yes, sometimes we do need to use a blow dart on a horse and it is usually when they are either too afraid for people to approach, not trained enough to them to stand for an injection or injured and it isn't safe for someone to try to give them an injection.

Luckily for us, it was Cinnabon that we tried this with and it was because she just isn't trained enough yet to stand still for an injection and we really needed to have her feet trimmed.   Not having had the opportunity to work with her on picking up her feet, it was also a safety issue to have her nice and relaxed for the trimmer to do it safely without injury to either human or horse.

Most of you know that Dr. Dawn Brown, who is on our Board of Directors is on active duty in Afghanistan right now and won't be returning until July.  With her gone, we have been so pleased to have Dr. Christi Garfinkel, my prior personal vet, as the treating vet for the horses at the ranch.  Her practice has been kind enough to offer a discount for services of the horses in the rescue which we greatly appreciate because every dollar saved helps so much.

Yesterday, Christi had the time to come out and help us get Cinnabon's feet trimmed.  Joining us was Jessy Olson, a recent graduate of PIMA Medical Institute and RVT who, before moving to California, was a hoof trimmer in Washington State.   Jessy rearranged her work schedule specifically to come help us get her feet trimmed.

Looking at this as yet another opportunity to learn more horse husbandry and share it with you.  Christi gave both Jessy and myself a lesson on the entire processes from testing the dart, to determining the amount of drug and safety when using the blow dart.  I found it fascinating and now wonder if it might not be a prudent thing to have one on hand (may have to put it on the wish list).

In the picture above you see Dr. G is simply holding the blow dart, more of a stick looking device, and just letting Cinnabon look at it. Nothing threatening, just a person with a stick.  She is used to being rubbed with a lunge whip, so this really was no big deal to her.  The only problem we kept having was her curiosity in Dr. G, she kept turning to face her.  A little bit of patience and finally the dart was sent and there was perfect placement in her left hip.

You can see the dart with an orange feathery end sticking out of her left hip.  It wasn't even enough of an irritant that she tried to rub it off or anything.  When utilizing an intramuscular shot like this you do need to use a larger amount of drugs and it does take longer to take effect.  We counted off half an hour from the injection of the dart before working with her, letting the drugs take a nice deep tranquilizing effect.  Though after about 15 minutes the dart was removed.

First order was to put a halter on her.   I got one on her a couple weeks ago, but it was a rope halter and she rubbed it off and with the 12 orphaned foals here, I just didn't have time to get another halter back on her.  Jessy and I went through the halters we had in the tack room and picked out a nice leather one so if it got caught on anything the halter would break before causing any injury.  Christi got the halter on her with no fuss at all.  She is SO good at dealing with young horses, I just love watching her work with them.

Next they stood her by the fence so if she started to move she could lean against it and they started working with her left front leg.   Keep in mind that as far as we know, no human has touched her leg or picked up her feet yet.  She fussed a little at first, but no kicking or thrashing with her hoof and then with it being held steady, she just relaxed and let Jessy do her job.  You have about 40 minutes before the drugs start wearing off so you need to plan to either get the job done in that time frame or plan on administering more drugs.  Since they are already sedated, you don't need to use the dart again.

Cinnabon did a good job of being patient and letting Jessy work with her feet.  Here you see Jessy and Dr. G on her right side and Jessy is rasping the hoof.   Dr. G has the lead rope around the pipe on the corral like a fulcrum just in case something startles Cinnabon and she wants to pull back quickly.  This will allow here to slow down that movement and not get her hand burned by the rope.  It is essential to use a cotton lead line or rope rather than nylon for that same reason.  Leather gloves can also be worn for protection.   Having had the skin burned off my fingers on both hands using nylon reins and trying to ride out a bucking horse, I won't use a nylon rope any more when working with horses.

At first, not knowing what Cinnabon's fear response was going to be, Christi tried to help hold up Cinnabon's hoof for Jessy to use her nippers.  Realizing she was being pretty calm, Jess was able to rest her hoof between her knees while she used the rasp to shape her hoof.  Luckily her back feet looked pretty good and we only needed to work on her fronts this first time.

Out of curiosity though, Jessy did work on picking up Cinnabon'sCinnabon her first round of vaccines.  What we call 4-way and also a West Nile Virus.  She will need a booster of each in another month.

Job well done, she got some nice scratching and rubbing on her back and hips as a reward gesture to make her feel good and learn to like this process.  We may need to do this one more time depending on how she reacts when I start working with her feet when she is not sedated.  With the young horses, I always like to consider the safety of those working on the horse and the stress level to the animal with any task.  I just don't want to create bad memories along the way.    It costs more to do it this way, but well worth the money all the way around.  The better the experience they have at these young ages, the easier they will be to work with  as they get older and it helps build their confidence in themselves and the people around them.

I was very pleased with the outcome of this event.  This was a very positive experience for us all.  Cinnabon has had no side-effects, no swelling, soreness, limping or anything.  Her mood the day after was very sweet and she approached me like she has on other days.  If this had been a bad experience for her, she would leave and go the other direction with me around rather than approach me.

Some how I always envisioned 'darting' a horse as a high energy, high stress/tension sort of thing and that just wasn't the way it happened.  I am really happy we tried it this way!

Thanks to both Dr. Christi Garfinkel and Jessy Owen for having the skill and the patience to help a young horse get her feet trimmed.

Normal trims cost anywhere from $30-60 dollars depending on the need of the horse, Jessy, bless her heart charged only $30.  The process of sedating utilizing the dart, sedatives and the call fee of the veterinarian adds $150 to that expense and the vaccines were another $80.  We appreciate any donation you might like to make to help cover these costs and thank you for helping us make this a positive learning experience that will certainly teach her not to fear trimming in the future and also protect the safety of the humans helping her.

If you would prefer to send a check to EqWBR, PO Box 324, Ramona, CA  92065
The generosity of so many caring people allows us to care for these horses in need.

Thank you all so much!

Christine, Founder