Saturday, July 9, 2011

Endurance driving

Friday was a long day. Up at 6 a.m., home shortly after midnight. I spent most of that time sitting in my Avalanche, a comfy truck with many amenities. It occurred to me more than once that I could spend the same amount of time on a horse (sans amenities) at Tevis.

This was not a comforting thought.

Working in medical publishing has not changed the way I see my own health at all. What it has done is made me very sensitive about the qualifications of the people who see to my horses' health. And that is why I was willing to drive 5 hours over a mountain range to get Blue to a professional equine dentist.

I loaded him at 7:30 a.m. and started my audiobook.

And drove...
It was a bright, sunny day in the Yakima Valley, about an hour into our trip. Up and to the left are the famous Horse Heaven Hills.
And drove...
Still sunny as we descend into the Kittitas valley. But what are those gray things on the horizon?
And drove...

That wet stuff on the windshield is a western Washington weather phenomenon. I can't remember what it's called, but we sometimes have it in the winter where I live.
And drove...

Almost to the summit...
At this point traffic picked up, and I decided that taking photos was maybe not the safest while towing a trailer. The vet clinic is in Buckley, which is south of Puyallup. I tend to get claustrophobic in western Washington, but luckily the road to the vet mostly skirted along the foothills and kept me out of the city.

We arrived at Performance Equine Dentistry (soon to be Foothills Equine Dentistry) about half an hour before our appointment. As soon as we got there, everyone went above and beyond to make Blue and me comfortable. He got to be loose in a round pen (which he visibly enjoyed after two days of stall rest and a five-hour trailer ride!), and I ate my sandwich and wandered around the place. I think we were both happy to stretch our legs.

The main barn at the clinic has stalls and a large exam room, but the dentistry part is done in a custom-built trailer.
Blue enjoys his freedom as "the locals" look on.

This little guy is a Fresian/Gypsy Vanner cross born this spring. This picture can't show you how friendly and people-oriented he was. He stood around and watched us almost the whole time, just begging to be petted. He's going to make someone a really nice horse in a few years!
 It wasn't too long before we got started with the main event. While Blue was getting settled into his anesthesia (where he again proved his lightweight status), Dr. Vetter's wife, Kathy, began a mini-clinic on equine oral health. It is a fun coincidence that one of my favorite teachers back in Nebraska was also named Kathy Vetter.  This new Kathy Vetter was just as wonderful as the old one. I walked away feeling like I knew a lot more about horse teeth than I did when I walked in. (Speaking of which, they have a ton of fantastic information and pictures on their website:

Kathy had real skulls and diagrams to run me through the basics of what they would be looking out for and what Dr. Vetter was trying to accomplish in Blue's mouth. The basic idea is that the ideal tooth (for a horse) is perfectly flat on top, and the whole line of teeth is level all the way down so nothing catches as he's trying to chew. Simple enough.

Blue's teeth, after a thorough exam, appeared to be... well... here's the chart:

That part in the middle is not an EKG. That is the shape of Blue's teeth when we arrived. The Vetters were so wonderful—they propped him open and showed me all of this. And even my untrained eye could easily see what a mess there was. He had almost everything that could be wrong with a horse's teeth: waves, ramps, hooks... the works. I brought him in originally because of the broken front tooth and the drooling. As it turned out, those were the least of his troubles.

So it was time to get down to business grinding, drilling, rinsing and grinding some more.

The photo is a little dark, but he's holding the x-ray plate in his mouth so Dr. Vetter can get a picture of the broken front tooth.

Recovering from the IV drip. Kathy got tired of holding his head, so we propped him up on a stool!

The "broken" front tooth that was the whole purpose of the trip turned out not to be broken at all. Both of his front-center-upper incisors are abnormally small. Dr. Vetter says the permanent incisors don't grow in until the horse is nearly a year old, and the likely scenario is that either trauma or poor diet at that age may have stunted Blue's front teeth. That seems pretty possible to me—he was still living in the wild at that age. At least now we know "all he wants for Christmas." (...And now you all have the song in your head, too. You're welcome.)

While he was still sedated, I also had them microchip him. So now he has a freeze brand, a chip, and plenty of distinctive markings. No one is taking this horse from me!

Blue needed almost two hours of recovery to come out from under the drugs and then to get something in his stomach. I took the opportunity to nap in the truck. The Vetters offered me their couch for the night (talk about personal service), but I wanted to get home.

So, at 6 p.m., we set out again.

And drove...
Coming down Tiger Mountain.

And drove...
Snoqualmie Summit

And drove...

Coming down into Selah. That lump off to the left is Mt. Adams.

And finally, we got home.

I let Blue out of the trailer. He was more than happy to go. I put him in his dry lot to walk around a little while I made up his SMZ/beet pulp/alfalfa pellet/senior feed slop. Then it was back into the pen for him and home to Brian for me.

I woke up at noon today.

All is right with the world.


  1. Hey, you used my dentist! Kathy sure is great, and reads horses really well. It's odd for me after so long to see the inside of that trailer again. I sure wish we had qualified mobile equine dentists here in Germany. *sigh*

    Oh, and Tiger Mountain was one of my training ride hills cuz my horse lived in Issaquah.

    Thanks for the pics of my home!

    ~lytha in germany

  2. I've been enjoying your blog too. I wish you all the luck in the world with your shopping. :)

  3. Well, I guess you're not in Western WA after all, but Buckley is familiar--I lived in Enumclaw a long time, and then Buckley for a little bit. I know what you mean about hitting a wall of clouds on the other side of the mountains, though!