10.12.03: The Golden Boy is Back

Several months back I received a phone message from a woman at Universal Ultrasound, a company that sells ultrasound equipment. The American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention was in Baltimore this year, and Universal Ultrasound would be holding workshops at the conference and was in search of a facility to be able to demonstrate the machines for the vets attending the conference. She detailed their requirements for use of the facility and offered a generous donation for the use of the horses and facility space. Holly and I quickly accepted, and as the date came closer, the arrangements were made to have seven horses, plus a few extras available to be able to demonstrate the machines working on various parts of each of the horses. Knowing the way that Storm had been behaving in the past few weeks I was rather concerned about how he might handle the situation since it was so far outside of his norms.
I started the morning very early with Storm and I in the round pen at 8:30 in the cold morning. Holly let me know the night before that she wouldn't be able to get to the barn until about 10:00, and that I needed to try to have the horses groomed up so that they would be ready when the first people showed up to start clipping body parts. The trouble with this scenario was that Tuesday into Wednesday we had a lot of rain that drug cold temperatures in behind it when it rolled out. So Wednesday evening all the horses came into the barn wearing mud plaster. Fast forward to Friday morning and the plaster was still stuck strong. There is a reason they made plaster with horse hair in it...
I headed straight down to the round pen to get things going, and as we approached the deer were moving around in hollow behind the round pen again. Storm was concerned, but yet at the same time, was not overly worried. I was able to work through some of the focusing exercises to begin with to test where his mind was. I figured if he was really unable to concentrate he would probably eventually move off and take off around the round pen. If he was able to focus, he would probably stay still, and I would be able to ask him to move off when I was confident that he was maintaining some level of focus.
He responded beautifully, and we practiced the focus for a little while, and then I gently asked him to move off around the round pen. We settled into working on walk trot transitions focusing on pushing from behind. He settled right into the work and never went into any kind of emotional blow out. We worked for a long time balancing between walk and trot, and working on pushing from behind. He never gave me anything spectacular, but he was putting a lot of thought and effort into the work.
We worked for quite a while, and finally switched directions easily. I heard Marta banging around in the barn getting the morning horses fed, and figured we needed to wrap up pretty soon to get started on the grooming chores. We headed up to the barn and I put Storm into the stall and began to bring in the other horses that we going to be needed for the workshop. I tossed everyone hay to keep them content and grabbed Julius and began applying elbow grease to remove the stucco that was caked on his coat. The dust was billowing around us so bad I had to stop every now and then to get some fresh air. Once he was sufficiently curried, I brought him out and liberally applied the vacuum. Sadly, the vacuum filter was in desperate need of being changed, so it took a lot more effort to suck away the dust and dirt than it should have, but it was much better than simply using a brush.
Holly arrived about that time, and put her two horses into stalls and then began grabbing horses and grooming away. We got Storm back out and we all put a little effort into scrubbing him clean and getting the caked dirt off his belly and legs. Holly finally set to vacuuming him while I went to dig out the detangler to make his tail look a little bit less like dreads.
Just in time we finished up with all the horses and swept up the dirt mess out of the barn aisle again just as the crew arrived from Universal Ultrasound. They got started with the clipping, working on the horses that had the most experience with clippers first. Chesney's hock got clipped, Skip's front leg and down to his pastern, Di's stifle, Charlie got clipped over his sacrum and on the side of his neck. Storm's front leg got clipped from the inside just above his knee all the way down the back of his front leg. At first he was concerned about the clippers, and acted like he was going to fret. But suddenly he simply relaxed and ignored it as if he'd always had his leg clipped.
I put him back into the stall and waited as the rest of the horses were clipped, including Julius' belly from the line of hair up his flank and diagonally down to his front legs, and all the way around to the other side. Nancy watched with slight bemusement knowing she was going to have to blanket Julius almost constantly until his hair grew back in. Julius wasn't impressed by the entire process.
The group leading the workshops gathered to go over the details, and the vets attending the workshop arrived by shuttle shortly there after. The barn was full of ultrasound equipment looking like a hospital from one end to the other. Quickly seven horses were set up down the barn aisle next to equipment, and small groups of vets were studiously watching fuzzy black and white shapes on the screens.  Dr. Haugh checked up and down the row keeping an eye on all the horses to ensure they were all calm and settled, and giving anyone that needed it a bit of sedative to help maintain calm.
Storm was a bit squirmy at first, but there were so many people in the barn, plus all the strange equipment set up everywhere. He settled down at least to the point where he was holding still, other than me needing to correct his focus to a small degree. I simply kept after him and made sure that he stayed steady and held still. Each rotation of a group turned out to be 30 minutes, which was a long time to stand still. Storm ended up against the stall wall to allow more room for everyone and the equipment since he is so big.
The afternoon continued to wear on one half hour group at a time. A group came through that had one vet in it that was very interested in pushing the equipment and experimenting with what it could really do. The person assisting at our station was actually a rep from France that came over to help demonstrate the machines (this particular machine was made by a French company), and these vets were very interested in really exploring what the machine could handle. He quickly asked if he could check out Storm's stifle, to which I replied, sure! He attempted to view through Storm's thick winter coat, and quickly found that wasn't going to work, and asked to shave his stifle so they could have a look. I replied that was fine, and they set to work getting his fuzziness off of his stifle. They started to explore the joint, and the vet was excitedly showing the others in the groups the tricks to find different parts of the joint with ease. He started checking out the meniscus and found that there was some signs of inflammation in the joint. When I questioned what he was looking at he quickly responded "nothing to see, nothing to worry about, its not a problem...!" with a humorous ring to his voice. He laughed, and showed me a little of what he was talking about, and then asked if they could shave the other side just to compare the two joints. So then they shaved a 4 inch square up under Storm's right hind leg. He was able to split the screen on the machine and checked the left side, and then paused the image, and flipped to the other side of the screen to view the right side. The side by side comparison showed that the left side had signs of inflammation from some time ago, and the right side was clear. I realized that it explained Storm's unwillingness to go to the right when I first bought him. The left hind leg would be the pushing leg on a right hand circle, and the weakness in the leg was causing the issues, not some sort of behavioral situation. I was pleased to be able to see that on the screen, and enjoyed being able to discuss it with the vet.
The afternoon wore on, and we took a short break, and then were right back to it again with another rotation. The worst Storm managed was to sneeze on me perpetually in the beginning, and then at one point he stuck his front leg STRAIGHT out in front of him. His legs are LONG when he does that. I quickly corrected him to put it back on the floor, and he stood quietly afterward. At one point he was moving a little, then went into the dropped head relaxed stance and one of the vets in the group asked if he had been sedated. Nope, I replied, not a bit...
I was pleased as punch that he behaved so well, more than 5 hours of standing in the barn aisle by himself, after being in his stall all morning was quite a trooper. He never needed sedation and behaved himself so well.

10.12.11: One Hour Two Long