Sunday, February 15, 2009

Spencer Day-to-Day

What's Spencer been up to lately? I'm frequently asked that question in emails and it makes my heart swell that so many people care about him.

Well, with the weather being yucky and the days short, and me busy as heck, poor Spencer has been kind of bored. My niece says he reminds her of a woolly mammoth right now, with his fuzzy winter coat on.

But Rich and I have promised ourselves that we are going to start working with him at least every other day to get him safer and cooperative, especially, with his feet.

Last week, I was able to get a gigantic front foot up on my stand long enough to clean it and take 2 nips. WOW! That was exciting! It was our first time!

But then for the past few weeks he's been nursing abscesses. First, he was lame on his left front, and as soon as that foot started feeling better, another abscess in his right foot decided to surface.

I wanted to make him feel better by offering him some bute. I stood next to him with with a syringe full of bute mixed with applesauce, but each time I tried to get him to open up, by putting my fingers into the side of his mouth, he'd smush his lips tight and lift his head way out of my reach.

He's the kind of horse who really seems to understand when you look into his eye and try to reason with him, as weird as that may sound to some, even to me. But it works, so I explained to him that I was trying to help him feel better and needed his cooperation.

His response was to press his big ol' head against my chest, letting me know that he'd like to oblige, but he was feeling bad enough, he just didn't want anything yucky squirted into his mouth. Please.

He's so great at communicating his feelings. I don't get how his past owners couldn't see that in him and were so cruel to him at times causing him to become billigerent and mean.

So his grain was laced with applesauce and bute for a few days, which he didn't mind, and the abscesses soon ruptured and he was walking better almost instantly.

The first thing I noticed about Spencer when he came here was that I never saw him laying down. Ever! But the pain in his feet caused him to get off of them often. It was really good to see him laying down actually, even if it was because his feet hurt. I think a horse who can't lay down is just always on guard and always a bit stressed and that's not good for anyone.

(Spencer is taking a load off his painful feet while his gal Pearl, normally nearly white, watches over him.)

So after he was moving better, we decided to get back to working on trimming his feet, when I asked for him to set a foot up on my stand, he said NOPE!

So we are going to forget about trimming and get cooperation and just work with him, which will help with all other aspects of his behavior. This is a horse that needs handled frequently or he easily reverts back to his old ways.

For instance as I was brushing him, when my brush would get near his flank area he'd launch a big old Belgian draft horse kick. Thank goodness, this isn't a typical behavior for most drafts, or there would be lots of draft horse owners' dead bodies found lying near their horses.

Rich, who lost his left hand in an accident, is practicing PNH with Spencer which was great to see. Spencer was really trying for him even though we have to work on Rich's tool handling. (To give a perspective of Spencer's size, Rich is 6' 5". And at times, he enjoys coming off as intimidating as Spencer does!)

When you're working on the tool handling for the first time, it's not easy to handle the rope, stick and string with two hands, let alone one-handed. But when we work together, I can help Rich out with the stick while he deals only with the rope. We'll work it out.

Spencer is a great project horse for Rich. They are both my big guys!