Keeping a one-ton animal happy while you poke him with needles

Today was vaccination day for Boulder. Mary agreed to come over after she got off work to do the honors. This was also my day off, and I had horsey Things To Do.

First off was a stop at Double H. It was time to get Boulder his own grooming tools (shared grooming stuff is a good way to unintentionally transfer any number of ickies from horse to horse). They had everything I wanted except for a mane-and-tail brush (I wanted one like Bob’s). I checked for draft-size fly masks, but they didn’t have any big enough. Cashel appears to make a true draft-sized mask, though, so they put in an order for it. I looked at their anti-thrush stuff, but there were none that didn’t contain nastiness like formalin or copper naphthanate. The headstall I had ordered for Boulder still hadn’t come in yet, so I paid for my stuff and headed out.

Next stop: Walgreen’s. Gentian violet is what I wanted as a thrush remedy. GV is an antiseptic and antifungal. It is gentle enough to use in human mouths (babies get thrush), but still very effective. It is also one of the active ingredients in a number of equine thrush remedies (e.g. Thrush Buster). But based on advice from the hoof trimmer, I didn’t want something that had caustic substances that were going to get rid of the thrush but destroy enough tissue to make a reinfection more likely. So, straight GV is what I was after. And they had it, for $3 for a 1-ounce bottle. In the “Hispanic section” with a bi-lingual label, right next to a bunch of folk remedies. Go figure. Some cotton rounds to go with it, and I was off to my next stop.

Double H isn’t a Purina dealer, so next up was Champion Feed to get a sack of Amplify for Bob, as he was running low. While I was there, I looked for black fender hobbles for Kim’s saddle. No luck. Just for grins, I checked for thrush remedies that didn’t contain nastiness. No luck there, either.

Then I happened to glance at the headstalls and spotted two huge ones. Sure enough, draft sized! One was made by Weaver (same as the one I ordered from Double H). The other was made by Big Horn (style #3480). The one by Big Horn was only a few dollars more, but looked much better made, with 1″ leather instead 3/4″, better stitching, and nice brass buckles. I called Double H and canceled my order for the Weaver.

I headed for the barn and began a happy afternoon of horse tinkering. The new headstall was the right size, so I transferred the bit and reins and freed up the headstall that Mary had lent to me (ingeniously made large enough for Boulder by Mary with the addition of a spur strap and some dental floss on one side in between two buckles). Boulder liked it.

I’m not entirely sure what I did out there for a couple of hours, but I was quite content. Eventually, Mary and Mark came over. We introduced Mark to Boulder, and Mark seemed a bit dubious that this large creature was actually a herbivore.

With a bit of guidance from Mary, Boulder and I had a really nice ride in the arena. He stood stock still for mounting today. Whoo hoo! Walk and trot went well, and I remembered that he has awesome brakes from the trot—by voice, by rein, or both! He tucks his hinds under him kind of like a very large cow horse.

Cantering… well, I got a canter very briefly twice, but on the wrong lead. We finally figured out that he was tender enough on his fronts that cantering just wasn’t comfortable for him with me on him. He did do some haunch turns and got a couple of forehand turns. We got in a really nice 45-minute ride.

Next, I made a bit of a mess with gentian violet. I thought that the cotton pads would make great applicators. Let’s just say that I ended up with very purple fingers, a purple spot on my jeans, and purple stains on the rail between the crosstie stalls (uh oh…). The pads were good for getting the stuff down deep in the hoof grooves, though.

And then, it was time for shots.

  • West Nile virus: left breast
  • Equine encephalitis and tetanus: left neck
  • Influenza: right neck
  • Rhinovirus: left butt
  • Potomac horse fever: right butt

As Mary got each shot ready to give, I stood at his head with a treat behind my back. Mary would count, “1, 2, 3,” and I would give a treat at the same time that she gave the shot.

Boulder thinks shots are pretty cool now. Seriously, he barely even flinched. What a good boy! As Mary said, “With a 2,000 pound horse, it really doesn’t matter how many treats it takes to keep him happy while I’m giving him shots!”

About Mike

Michael Heggen is a horseman, maker, and thinker who lives in Salem, Oregon with his wife, Kim, and "three to eight cats". He stays quite busy riding, driving, and caring for their three horses, Boulder, Shasta, and Bob. Among other things, Mike has been a fencing coach, police chaplain, computer consultant, aspirant to the diaconate, computer salesman, box boy, carpenter, computer technician, typesetter, church youth leader, copy machine operator, and network administrator. His other interests include juggling, reading voraciously, and (pretty occasionally these days) cycling.
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2 Responses to Keeping a one-ton animal happy while you poke him with needles

  1. Gene Jordan says:

    I HAVE to ask! It’s driven me a bit crazy for years and you’re just the person to answer the burning question.

    Being a fencing instructor, you’ve certainly seen The Mask of Zorro with Anthony Hopkins & Tony Banderas and enjoyed (?) the eternal fencing duels. How in the world can ONE man duel FIVE and come out alive?!? I certainly realize it’s fictional and dramatic. Not only that but I would think that following the rules of engagement might make a duel boring. SO: In the rules of engagement is etiquette a priority? If so, that would explain why one of the five attackers wouldn’t sneak up behind our hero (Zorro) and stab him in the flank or slice his spinal column and mortally wound him. Instead, they (bad guys) seem to wait their turn to face and fight. On the other hand those guys being the bad guys wouldn’t care about rules and regulations in a battle to slay the invincible hero.

    Also, when Zorro fenced with his future wife, he wound up slicing certain parts of her garments so she was left holding her clothes together. Is ANY of this plausible?

  2. Mike says:

    Hi Gene… I am finally getting back to you!

    By definition, a duel is between two people (or two teams or two somethings)—it’s the same root word as duo and dual—so what you described is a fight, not a duel.

    Fencing is neither dueling nor fighting, although it has connections to both. The fight scene you described is Hollywood, as is the bit about slicing clothing and not the person.

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