Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fun With Hoof Abscesses


Before this past spring, the only advice I could have given anyone about dealing with hoof abscesses would have been soaking in Epsom salt. Not because I had actually ever done it, but because anyone and everyone had heard that remedy. 

However, I have now had the title of "Abscess Veteran" been bestowed upon me by my farrier, so I thought I would share with you some "Absces Do's and Don'ts" that I learned by trial and error (lots and lots of errors). Keep in mind to take everything I say with a grain of salt. I'm not in any way, shape, or form a veterinarian, and I only can speak from personal experience:)


--PLEASE for the love of all that is good and wonderful, BE PREPARED. At the very least, buy a pair of hoof testers and know how to use them. Have a bag of Epsom salt in your possession. Two very easy things.

--Invest in two products: Animalintex Hoof Poultice Pads (used to help draw out an abscess, think Epsom salt hoof soak on steroids) and Magic Cushion Hoof Packing  (used post-rupture to keep dirt/debris out of abscess hole)

--Soak offending foot in warm water (hottest you can comfortably put your own hand in) and Epsom salt to help draw out the abscess.

--Pick up a a tube of ToDay from Tractor Supply. Yes, wet cow mastitis meds. It really is great for shoving in a ruptured abscess to keep the area from getting re-infected (FYI also awesome as a thrush treatment).

--Don't be scared to get your vet and farrier on board, at the very least theyll do wonders for your anxiety

--Expect to go broke on Epsom Salt and Duct tape #horseownerprobs


--I BEG YOU not to let anyone dig a hole in your horse's foot. Not a vet, not a farrier. PLEASE. Learn from my mistake and let the abscess work its way out on its own. Chances are, when you dig into the foot, even if you hit pus,  you aren't draining the whole thing. Therefore, the pressure that the abscess needs to burst is gone, but the infection remains...Missy had two abscesses. The foot that we dug into took a month and a half to heal. The foot that ruptured on its own took a week.

--After the abscess ruptures, don't soak the foot anymore. While Epsom salt does wonder to get an abscess to the point of rupturing, soaking a foot with an open abscess can introduce bacteria into the wound and cause another infection to form

--Dont try to keep the horse on any form of stall rest or try to limit his mobility. Movement is GOOD for abscesses and is needed for them to rupture (however, I don't condone riding lame horses)

--Don't get caught up in any sort of time frame. The lucky people deal with an abscess for a week or two. The unlucky people dealing with them for 3.5 months (raises hands and grudgingly yells "Me!"). Depending on the location/cause/other external factors, the time frame will vary. Don't be in a hurry because you'll only end up disappointed.

To Bute or Not to Bute?!

Phenylbutazone is an NSAID--a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, so there are big arguments about whether or not it is contraindicated with hoof abscesses. Many people feel that it prolongs an abscess and will inhibit it from rupturing as fast (because it is an anti-inflammatory), but as my vet explained it, if a horse is in a lot of pain they aren't going to want to move around and use the foot because it hurts. The horse needs to be active for the sake of healing, so making them more comfortable with a little a gram or two of bute is probably worth it.

*** Note: You NEED to be sure that what your dealing with is a hoof abscess before buting. Pain keeps horses from hurting themselves further and you don't want to take away that safeguard without knowing what you are dealing with (I.E. the best option is always consulting a vet)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Two Horse Tack

A few weeks ago, I got an email asking if I would like to review a product of my choice from Two Horse Tack. I knew nothing about the company, but there was no chance that I would turn down a chance to try any horse-related product, so I readily agreed. After scanning their website, I learned that Two Horse Tack is a company in Kentucky that specializes in custome beta biothane products (halter, bridles, harnesses, breastplates! If you can name it, they probably make it!). While I am both a soft-leather junkie and a bit of a dressage princess, I thought it would be fun to give one of their bridles a try!

In the past, when I've thought of of biothane, I've always associated it with endurance riders and perhaps a sect of the trail rider scene. And it makes sense. Biothane has a leather-like consistency, but holy crap is it easy to clean. All I needed was a wet towel and a little soapy water to make the bridle look like it had never been near a barn. Considering all the money I've spent on expensive leather cleaners and conditioners, I can certainly see the appeal!

Originally, was was going to go with a regular all black biothane bridle (I've become so boring), but at the last minute I said hell with it and got something a little more fun to try: yes the bridle is still black but with a very fun red overlay!  Two Horse Tack offers many different colors of biothane and many different overlay colors as well, the options really are so very endless!

Moral of the story, if you are looking for a custom, high quality bridle that's also insanely low-maintenance, Two Horse Tack would definitely have you covered:)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Stories From Poland

Originally, I had no intention of writing anymore about my trip...this is a horse blog afterall, however most seemed to be really interested, so I figured I'd share some stories from my trip. If you don't have any interest, then don't read it (but this is important stuff my friends...more so then the horses, I think). My blog, my posts:)


Flying to poland was an adventure to say the least because believe it or not, non-stop flights to Poland are kind of in the lacking department. So between going there and coming back, we rode 6 airplanes (I now consider myself a veteran...I had never been on a plane before!) Anyway, I left my house at 6:30am Sunday June 29th and drove to Pittsburgh, PA. From Pittsburgh, I had an hour and 20ish minute flight to Chicago [insert 7 hour layover here] and then the flight from Chicago to Dusseldorf, Germany was a little over 8 hours (I enjoyed Lufthansa). From Düsseldorf (such fun name to say), we were able to fly to Warsaw, Poland and begin what would become a life changing week.

But let me back up...before we could enter Germany, we had to go through passport control, where these intimidating German men sat behind glass and eyed us suspiciously (they were actually very nice). There's a big group of us all going through at once and I'm towards the beginning of the line. My teacher from HS was at the very front and he was the first to go through. The German man asks him what his business in Germany was. My teacher, attempting to be diplomatic replies that we are on a study seminar (we were). The German man made the mistake of asking him what we were studying. The look on the poor guy's face when my teacher said "the Holocaust," definitely made it look like he wasn't expecting that answer...and it had definitely hit a sore spot. So then the next person goes through and he again asks what they plan to do in Germany...same answer. I was third in line and he stopped asking by then. He stamped my passport without hardly looking at my face. 

Lublin is a city in south eastern Poland (fairly close to the Ukraine border). It was established sometime in the 11th century, though it is thought to have first been settled in the 6th. In other words, it is very very old and very very beautiful. However, Lublin was, what many refer to as "the heart of the Holocaust," because of its close proximity to most of the death camps, in particular, a camp called Majdanek.

While it isn't the largest or most famous camp, Majdanek is pretty unbelievable. It is the best preserved of the camps (because of how close it was to the USSR, the Soviets overtook it without much warning, so the Nazis didn't have time to try to hide what they had done) and it is right in the city, literally sitting just off a very busy main road in Lublin. One minute you are driving through a neighborhood with house and families and playgrounds and children and the next minute there lies Majdanek, in all it's horror.

I could tell you a lot of things about Majdanek: What it feels like to walks into a gas chamber for the first time, the dome that contains 9 tons of human ash, the rows of bunk houses with a view of the city behind them, the barbed wire...the guard towers...the crows that never stop crying...there's so much I could tell you about any of those things, but I'm going to tell you about the roses.

One of the historians who was on the trip with us mentioned that Majdanek was a fraction of the size of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and I'm pretty sure I gasped out loud because to me I couldn't imagine anything being bigger then the camp I was standing in. It was truly immense. The gas chambers are located right at the front of the camp, but the crematoria is located all the way at the back of the camp. So we walked the entire length of the camp, winding in and out of bunk houses and sections of barbed wire, until in the distance I could see a very large chimney...

Inside the crematoria are rows of brick ovens, which the Nazis used to burn bodies. 78,000 women, men, children...the victims of Majdanek. You walk into this horrible place, with a chimney that towers into the sky and any sense that people are inherently good leaves you immediately. It's so emotional that you can't cry because not only are you sad, you are horribly angry. You go numb.

All I could think the whole time was how much I wanted to get out of that place, it was the same exact feeling when I had first walked into the camp and walked into the building with the concrete walls, the gas chamber. I walked around and took pictures for the benefit of others, and then I left. I needed out. And I was surprised to see directly as I walked out the back door, that there was a garden of roses. Something so incredibly beautiful contrasting with something full of so much evil. It was almost a comfort. Mark, our amazing guide and historian for the week came out behind me and as we gathered around the garden of roses he told use that they had been there since the war. The Nazis had planted them...fertilizing them with human ash. 

The tears flowed.

The most famous of the death camps is Auschwitz-Birkenau. It is the largest of the camps and the deadliest, though technically it is made up of three separate camps (Auschwitz I, Birkenau, and Monowitz). However, they are all so close together that most consider them one system. They currently estimate that 1.3 million people died there, a number so immense that I cannot grasp it...especially when you realize that within that 1.3 million, is an individual who was loved and laughed and lived a life. It's hard to think about...

Most people recognize Auschwitz by its infamous sign that reads over the entrance to the camp "Arbeit Macht Frei" which translates "work will make you free."'A finally cruel irony of the people hope.

The Commandant of Aushwitz, Rudolph Hoess, raised his family in a house only a couple hundred feet from where the gas chambers at Auschwitz were. That disgusts me enough as it is...but I was absolutely appalled to discover that the house is not owned by the museum! it is privately owned and there is a family that lives there now. How is god's name do you live just outside the gates of a place like that? It's absolutely beyond any level of my understand. It actually makes me sick.

I'm not sure if I mentioned it, but a survivor, Howard Chandler, and his family came with us on the trip. His mother, older sister, and younger brother were all killed at a camp called Treblinka (we also went there) and he and his father and brother were all sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The gas chambers at Birkenau, the ones that held 2,000 people at a time, were destroyed by the Nazis in an attempt to cover up what they had done, but the one at Auschwitz is still standing. It is much much larger then the one at Majdanek and probably held hundreds of people at a time.

All I could think about the whole time, Howard standing in front of me as we walked inside that horrible place, was how strong of a human being you have to be to enter into a building that you just narrowly escaped going to yourself. God, the tears are flowing all over again at the memory...

Later that day, we went Birkenau, and we all, sat in a bunk house, surrounding Howard and he told us his story. It was surreal. Howard is truly the most amazing human being I have ever had the privilege to meet.

After we left Auschwitz, before we headed to Birkenau, we took a break and ate lunch. I happened to walk over to Howard who told me and one of my friends that there was another survivor here today who had been one of Josef Mengele's victims. He offered to take us to meet her and we definitely wanted that honor. For those of you who have never heard of the infamous Mengele, he was an SS doctor who conducted experiments on people. He had a particular fascination with twins...

Eva had a twin sister named Miriam and both of them had been experimented on by Mengele and both had barely survived the experience. When I met Eva, all I could think was how much like Howard she was...people that had experienced more than any of us could imagine, yet remained kind and caring people. She told us a little bit of her story and then the four of us took a group picture (I've been begging my friend to send it to me). One of the most powerful moments occurred when she and Howard put there tattooed arms together. Wow. (Only the victims at Auschwitz were tattooed).

Eva now lives in the US and her son was with her. Small world moment occurred Ehen Eva's son asked us where we were from and we said West Virginia. He looked at us and said, where? And then proceeded to tell us that he had just been in the town we live in 2 weeks prior, playing tennis with a friend. We were on the other side of the world and still making connections. It was crazy!

On our last day in Poland, we went to the site of what was the forced labor camp, Płaszów. Now Płaszów was made famous by the movie Schindler's list, as that was the camp where Oscar Schindler got his workers from Amon Goeth (we also went to Schindlers actual factory on the trip, which was cool, and we went to a couple places in Kraków where the movie was filmed). Howard's wife was actually a prisoner at Płaszów. Anyway, there is nothing left of this particular camp. There is a sign in both Polish and English that says what happened there and there is a very powerful memorial erected on the top of the hill, but the only thing left at Płaszów from the reign of the Nazis is the irregular, uneven sections of earth where mass graves were located (before the SS officers at the camp were ordered to dig up all the bodies, burn them, and abandon the camp). 

Płasów really upset me, to be honest...because there were several people there before us, but they were not their to pay respects to the dead. Most were sunbathing in bikinis and skimpier articles of clothing, and a couple people were riding bikes and flying kites in what was the mass graves...yes, there was a father teaching his kids how to fly a kite in the spot where thousands had been murdered.

My best friend and I were so upset by the site, that we went up to the man and asked if he spoke English. We wanted to see if he knew what had happened there. He claimed not to speak English but I think he was was really really upsetting to see people so blatantly indifferent about history.

With this story in mind, I do have to say something about Poland in general that you have to understand, something that you don't truly realize until you get there. 

Prior to WWII there were some 3.3 million Jews in Poland. Today, they think the high estimate might be about 25,000. Kraków, the beautiful old city that both Auschwitz and Płaszów are located near was once considered the Jewish capital of Europe, a fourth of the entire population of the city was Jewish. Now, less than 300 Jews live in Kraków. So what you have to understand is that when it comes to the Holocaust, Poland didn't do it and because there are so few Jews there now, in essence it didn't truly happen to them. In a lot of ways, there is a great level of indifference towards what happened (WWII is a different story, in a lot of ways there is still hurt feelings when it comes to feelings towards Germany about the war). It's sad, but true.

I remember standing in the vastness of Birkenau and having an overwhelming feeling of horror when I looked around myself and just saw the absolute determination of the Nazis to make the Final Solution (that was what they called the murder of Jews and other undesirables) come to be just The Nazis were completely determined to murder these people and they took every measure possible to do just that. It's truly sickening to think about how that was the goal above and beyond all goals. And I guess, to me, the truly powerful realization came when I figured out that the most unbelievable thing about the Holocaust isn't that so many people died. That was what the Nazis wanted, and they went through painstaking effort to fulfill this. The truly unbelievable thing is that anyone survived at all...

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Trip of A Lifetime

Yeah, I haven't been around lately! Not only have I not been posting but to be honest I haven't been reading much either...lots to get caught up on!

I do sort of have a semi-decent excuse! I had an AMAZING (yet also horrifying and humbling) adventure in Europe. I went with a group (consisting of three of my best friends from HS and several others) to study the Holocaust. We were mainly in Poland, but also spent a little bit of time in Germany, as well. It was unbelievable. I truly can't put into words everything I saw and touched and felt. It was so hard and absolutely life changing, especially because we went with a Survivor and his family. I still don't think I've fully comprehended everything...

So hopefully in my next post I can get caught up on the horsey side of my life:) it's good to be back!