Wednesday, January 26, 2022

since Iggy

It's been just about 3 months since Charlie lost his best horsey friend, Iggy. Obviously it's not unusual for there to be changes in large groups at busy boarding barns -- horses come and go from Charlie's herd for a multitude of reasons. 

Horses transition to different groups, leave the farm entirely, or go on brief or extended stretches of stall rest and/or limited turnout. Charlie himself has gone through various shifts in his turnout routine, including lengthy rehab stints and even moving farms in 2017. And ya know, it's never really been an issue. 

don't let that majestic confident stride fool you, charlie is happiest when he's nose-to-tail with a trusted friend
But with Iggy.... I dunno, it's different. He and Charlie were so close, always together, always going through the motions of life in lockstep with each other. 

Charlie did get to say goodbye, at least. He saw Iggy in the barn shortly before Iggy shipped up to New Bolton. And based on Charlie's reaction in that moment, it seemed like he knew Iggy was sick and possibly dying. You can call that anthropomorphizing if you want, but I believe it. 

And actually, Charlie happened to see a deceased horse about a week later (a dearly beloved elder statesman of the farm who was humanely let go, but not yet interred) and had a pretty strong reaction so.... Yea. They know, ya know? 

bentley and charlie have always gotten along, my sense is charlie is gravitating toward him as his new BFF
Since then, there have been some observations and perceptions that I'm inclined to link with this change in Charlie's social life. 

First up -- not long after I wrote about Charlie's "great hoof year," including crediting his farrier as a key player in Charlie's wellness.... Well. Charlie flunked a farrier appointment. As in, the farrier had to make a snap safety assessment based on Charlie's behavior, and opted to end the shoeing session and reschedule for another time. 

apparently charlie was dancing around like a maniac with ants in his pants, wildly tossing his head around, and disinclined to let steve get a hold of his hind feet.... yeesh buddy, c'mon :(  
Some background: as you may know, Charlie's home farm is large, large enough to secure fixed-day weekly visits from 3 farriers. Boarders can simply add their horse's name to their farrier's list for that week, and staff take care of details like bringing the horse in and holding as needed for the farrier. Charlie's farrier comes on Tuesday mornings, so I'm almost never actually there for the appointments and have only really met him in person about a half dozen times, tho we communicate often via text. 

It's been my understanding, however, that Charlie's generally a pretty reliably decent citizen for his shoeing appointments. Barn staff all seem to agree on that point, and actually my farrier confirmed that himself -- saying that's what made this particular episode with Charlie so unusual. 

more charlie and bentley, plus moose nose cameo <3  i  love this pic bc the longer you look, the more awkward it gets
He said that had the shoes been in rough shape, or had there been some urgent necessary reason for Charlie to get shod on that day, he could have made it happen -- possibly via some strong-arming of the horse. But he did not feel like that was in Charlie's best interest, nor did he particularly want to risk injury to his own self. 

Of course, I agreed completely and apologized profusely on behalf of my emotional 1,400lb wrecking ball of a creature.... And we scheduled a follow-up appointment where I could be there to hold the horse myself. Naturally Charlie was on his best behavior for that appointment too, so who knows, it could have been a fluke. 

Y'all already know I tend to be a little trigger-happy when it comes to 'better living through chemistry....' So, that episode, combined with some other really fussy and unsettled behaviors I observed in the horse, prompted me to put him on another multi-week Ulcergard protocol. 

Charlie's not really a classically ulcery horse, but I still end up treating him 1-2x annually -- mostly due to his travel frequency. This seemed like as good a time as any, so we went for it. Obviously I'll never know if the treatment truly makes a difference unless I scope the horse, but eh. 

did 7 total full tubes/day, then the tapering protocol outlined above. always check with your vet first about your horse's medical care
After a couple weeks with the liquid gold, Charlie returned to his normal sedate and relaxed self. Would the change have happened without the medication? Mebbe. Possibly. Probably? Idk. The change happened, tho, and that's what matters to me. 

So... At this point, only one remaining aspect has changed about Charlie since losing Iggy. And.... it's kinda a weird one. Charlie's bathroom behavior is.... different

Like, yea. He's a retired race horse. He's always pissed like one, ya know? True story: for the first year or so of owning him, he'd pee within minutes of dismounting from a ride. Better get him into a stall ASAP bc homeboy's gonna GO. Even now, I avoid cross tying him after a ride. 

clearly he's been busy out in the field since he's legit covered in mud spray lol
Lately tho.... he's peeing before rides too. Actually, he starts 'assuming the position' basically the moment he gets into the cross ties. Doesn't matter if he's coming in from the field, or if I'm pulling him out of a stall. He gets into the cross ties, and wants to GO. 

Obviously, I'd prefer if he didn't, thanks. So I usually try to stop him and throw him back into his stall. Where... as often as not, he'll get distracted by hay or whatever, and won't pee. Then I'll pull him out again and, boom, back to assuming the position. 

He does usually pee once back in his stall (even if it takes multiple trips lol), at least, so it is a genuine urge. And he'll definitely pee in the cross ties if I leave him. Honestly, half the time I groom and tack in his stall entirely now, rather than deal with it. Tho, naturally, Charlie has his own preferences about our routine and often wants out of the stall, go figure. 

So idk. It's strange. Definitely a shift in behavior too. Could be coincidental, of course. And sure, I've considered potential health implications. But I dunno. I honestly think it's related to Iggy. 

oh sir, you sure are a character!
My best guess is: Charlie and Iggy were always together. Maybe whenever Iggy peed, Charlie would be like, "Huh, great idea, buddy, I'll pee too!" Or some horsey-consciousness variation of 'monkey see, monkey do,' ya know? And now that Iggy isn't there peeing.... maybe Charlie isn't peeing as much either? Then he gets to the cross ties and is like, "Wow geez, yea I really gotta go!" And actually, at this rate, maybe the cross tie area itself is becoming a new trigger? 

Like I said, I don't really know. It's weird. It's not really something I've seen or heard about much with horses -- that even such basic physical functions could be impacted by their separation? Idk what else could explain this change in Charlie, tho. 

So. Overall, on one hand, I'm relieved to see Charlie behaving more calmly and relaxed, and appearing to forge closer relationships with his herd mates. He was a little depressed there for a minute, but seems recovered. This peeing thing tho... Ugh. Buddy. Hopefully this passes too?? Preferably not via a smelly puddle in the middle of our tack locker aisle?? 


  1. I get this so much. I saw so much behavior change in Subi after losing Batt, even after he overcame the initial grief. He's a different horse. He's happy, he's content, but his personality is...different?

    In Subi's case, he makes a different woofing/snuffling noise when we bring him in. He NEVER made this noise pre-Batt. But, he makes it all the time now. I don't know how to describe it, but it's a very comforting snuffle sound. After his initial clinginess to Nay Nay, they both seem to accept each other, but aren't best buddies. Nay is the dominant horse these days and Subi goes and does his own thing, sometimes with his trusty sidekick Jiminy. They're completely OK with this. Nay Nay is obsessed about keeping track of everyone, but Subi doesn't care (unless Nay Nay is doing something odd outside of the field like when I'm trotting for soundness then he pulls antics because I guess it's fun to watch be get run off with? Horse has jokes).

    But, yeah, it's amazing how these bonds and losses change them. I don't care what anyone says about anthropomorphizing. Bonds exist. Personalities exist. Loss happens. Animals react. Watching the the change is fascinating.

    1. agreed completely --- it's so easy to get sucked into the rabbit hole of whatever the horse is doing with me for the 1-2hrs a day i see him, but realistically the remaining bulk of his time has a much more meaningful impact on his behavior and overall quality of life...

  2. Horses definitely have a response to death, I have seen it way too many times for it to be coincidence. Here is to hoping Charlie is able to mourn the loss of his friend and grow as an individual but it is a process. What a devastating loss though :(

    1. i feel so badly for him, iggy really was his everything :( it's a relief knowing there are a few solid candidates for the role of "New BFF" -- apparently the bay boys all like to stick together within their herd group (vs those wild unruly redheads lol), but it's definitely been an adjustment for chuck

  3. I definitely believe that they know and grieve. I think doing the ulcer treatment was a great idea.
    As for the peeing- maybe have an old bucket handy to put underneath of him? Carmen will pee often when she sees me coming with the halter and always after a ride (although she usually waits until she's in her stall). It's quite handy really.

    1. definitely agreed on feeling like the ulcer treatment was timely. again, it's impossible to know if it did anything real inside his guts beyond lightening my wallet and making *me* feel better.... but i'm always happy to tick something off the list! and omg... i honestly can't really imagine trying to catch charlie's pee in a bucket, omg, but maybe that's what it'll come to????

  4. I believe the peeing thing - one of my mares is always triggered to go when my other one (her best friend) says it's time! And, same, if I start tacking up it's like it reminds her she needs to go...which I actually appreciate, better that than doing the pee dance all ride because she dislikes peeing while tacked up. I suspect it would take her a bit to figure out her own schedule if/when she doesn't have a reminder.

    1. dude apparently some of these horses literally cannot be bothered to relieve their own selves without that reminder.... and i'm seriously starting to believe/worry that charlie's new replacement reminder is when i put him on cross ties. ugh it's getting downright predictable now bleh

  5. Cupid has some designated "no splash zones" where he likes to pee - the shavings in his stall and wood chips outside the covered arena are his favorites. Thankfully he's never gone in the cross ties - it has a rubber mat and I think he can tell it would splash! He also stretches way way out like a hackney show horse and gets about a foot shorter, he really hates the splash!

  6. Ahh poor Charlie <3 I hope the ulcergard is helping him to at least feel a little better. Animals definitely feel the loss of their herd-mates and any bonds they had with other animals. Oscar wasn't that close to Choco, but he knew when we had to put her down. Oscar knew something was very very wrong when my sister (his person) was killed. Animals absolutely understand that in my opinion, and they all have their own way of grieving, and I don't think that's anthropomorphizing at all. He spent so much time out there with his best horsey friend, and it's certainly a loss not to have Iggy there anymore <3 I hope Charlie starts finding Bentley a good companion, and settles a little more in the next few months <3

  7. I absolutely believe animals know. :( Poor Charlie.


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