The flood worsens. I just spoke with Marshall Thornberry, Fort Collins Parks Crew Chief, who tells me they tried to unclog the big pipe going under the bike trail yeserday and made the beaver-clog worse. Water is rising, now completely covering the pipe to the river, and expanding across the south end of our lower pasture onto the track. Click here to see the complete slide show.
Plan B: Get the sewer crew out with a super-duper, anti-beaver flushing device. Goal: Tomorrow. Reality: Unknown.
We aren’t building an ark for the horses yet – I have alerted the City of Fort Collins that we think beavers reinforced their castle inside the big pipe that goes from our land, under the bike trail to the river. Over the weekend, we pulled out a forked, 6-foot-long, beaver-chewed tree branch conveniently placed across the Poudre River Stables end of the pipe. I later spent an hour in waders using a hoe to troubleshoot the pipe under our now submerged land bridge (click on photo at right). Forgetting that the pond shallows had grown from 18-inches to 3+-feet-deep, I bent over too far and took a refreshing bath down my front and into the legs and feet of the waders. Nearly swamped by water, I grabbed at nearby trees to climb out. Amazing rodents, beavers are. Give them a few handfuls of mud, twigs, branches, a plastic garbage bag, a dead fish or two, and they can build the Taj Mahal. What if the pond floods and goes over the bike trail? Where is Jaws when you need him?
The higher Colorado 4-H Horse Project riding levels tests make a big jump in turnout. Workman-like attire and turnout are acceptable for Level II, but by the time you hit Level III, expect to demonstrate show quality turnout for horse and rider. This photo (click to enlarge) demonstrates acceptable western showmanship attire. Technically, you don’t have to get this dressed up for your 4-H Levels test. The western rules call for long sleeves, long pants, riding boots, belt and headgear. Show-quality grooming of the horse is required. Always practice with new equipment and clothes before performance day. High-quality turnout seems like a lot of trouble, but it is important to be proud of your appearance, especially when performing. Learning how to create a successful image is a real-world professional skill. As a teen, I rode into an individual workout for a Saddle Seat medal class, only to have a trainer completely unravel me as I entered the arena by shouting, “Turn your collar down!” Proper attire builds confidence, and confidence builds a better performance.
Quarantine – it sounds harsh, but good barns do it. As disease rolls across the landscape, the only way to prevent infection in your stable is to implement a quarantine program.
Our health plan includes routine quarantine of new horses for two weeks. Quarantine goes to a month if local disease conditions worsen, and we have been known to go into lockdown of the entire stable.
From a business standpoint, quarantine hurts, even though, as you can see in this photo, it is a pleasant space at our place. Quarantine does take up valuable real estate.
Last spring, our rush of new customers caused a quarantine bottleneck. The clients in quarantine, horses and owners, feel singled-out, and barn morale suffers. I will still pay the price, though.
Long before my boarding stable days, my thoroughly-vaccinated 11-year-old gelding contracted strangles from an infected public water trough. Rivers of greenish-yellow mucous poured out of his nose, the glands under his jaw swelled terribly, he ran a high fever, suffered depression, and could not eat. This went on for two weeks. If that’s not enough of a picture for you, read John Steinbeck’s classic book, The Red Pony. The specters of nursing multiple horses back to health, or perhaps losing a beloved friend, make quarantine a bargain.
We have decided to give our personal horses the rabies vaccine. It looks to me like rabies is slowly closing in on Northern Colorado, and I would rather be ahead of than behind the curve. It does concern me that one of our client horses, an aged but otherwise vibrant gelding, developed colic two nights ago from a reaction to a combination of shots that included the rabies vaccine. One of our human clients reminds me that her 8-year-old, robustly-healthy mare, also acted “down” and looked bad enough to warrant an oral banamine dose on the advice of her vet following vaccinations that included rabies. The grim fact remains however, that unlike many diseases, once rabies develops, it is fatal. There is no cure. Wildlife carriers for rabies include bats, foxes, raccoons and skunks, all of which are common on or around semi-rural farm properties like our Poudre River Stables. To minimize the discomfort of a reaction and to prevent inflammation, we plan, at our veterinarian's suggestion, to administer phenylbutazone (“bute”) along with the shots our horses receive. For our 25-year-old Morgan mare, who is healthy and strong, but generally sensitive, insulin resistant, and a laminitis survivor, we plan to maintain bute for three days. On a hopeful note, another client's gelding, who comes from Illinois, where they receive many more inoculations than we do in Northern Colorado, has repeatedly been vaccinated for rabies with no ill effects. I would like to thank Equine Medical and Dr. Allen Landes for the links below. Please read carefully before making your own decision.