After Care at HJC
What is after care?
Horse after care services are offered to people with horses that need to rest after an injury, or need extra daily help that the owner is not able to give. If your horse has just left the hospital and you are not able to look after it, we may be able to help you. Please read Cheech’s story and contact us for more details.
After Care Services at HJC
- Short term board by day\week\month based on your needs. Horse will be kept with company and weather permitting will have access to outdoor stalling to ease passage of time.
- On site supervision day and night. HJC design allows for easy supervision overnight.
- Bandage changes.
- Hand walking and grazing.
- Access to 60 x 120 indoor arena for lameness exams and exercise programs.
- Routine grooming.
- Cold hosing as required.
- Wifi enabled barn area for Skype or Facetime vet and farrier visits for owners who are unable to attend appointments.
- Medication administration orally or intramuscularly as required by veterinarian.
- Specialized feeding program.
- Prices on case by case basis.
HJC has built in features which make us idea for equine recovery:
- 60 x 120 indoor arena
- Outdoor 10 x 10 stalls
- Small temporary paddocks
- 10 x 10 indoor stall with rubber mats
- 20x 20 indoor stall
- Grooming areas
- Quiet retired horses for equine company.
- Location 10 minutes from Atlantic Veterinary College and 15 minutes from Charlottetown Veterinary clinic.
- Well lit arena for evening checks and lights in each grooming stall for evening treatments.
- Refrigerator on site.
- Hot running water for mashes.
- Indoor feed storage.
- Indoor heated viewing room.
- Online booking system to schedule arena times.
After a hard winter with snow covered and insulated electric fences one of our horses, Cheech, had an unfortunate accident when he got too close the fence. The resulting injury was a cut to the bone and a severed extensor tendon.
Cheech was transported immediately to our local veterinary hospital where he underwent surgery and a month long hospitalization as the tissue began to cover the bone.
Cheech had until that point always lived with other horses. The environment he required in order to heal physically - began to effect him mentally a couple weeks into his stay. In the beginning the vets used Cheech as an example for vet students because of his calm and willing attitude. Toward the end, it required two separate doses of tranqualizer to keep him calm enough to change the bandage. As two people who had known this horse for a number of years - this was not like him at all.
We knew Cheech was going to heal physically from his injury, as traumatic as it was, faster if we could get him home and back mentally to his old self. Brainstorming we began to come up with ways to settle his mind well enough that when we went to change his bandage, we could do so without the support of sedation.
We decided early on that Cheech would never be kept alone at home. Plans were made to build two outdoor 10x10 stalls bordering on our horse field and to create a stall within a stall for stabling inside where we could set him up with a horse babysitter. The idea was in many ways to create “Cheech TV” allowing him to see what was going on around him while maintaining his physical restrictions.
The truth is no matter how much planning and preparation - all of it was going to be trial by fire.
When he arrived home he came with new behaviours we hadn’t known him to do previously - he had turned into a stall walker, a weaver and a head bobber. His coat once silky and soft was dull and rough and if you so much as looked at his bandaged leg he’d hike it out of your way. Once affectionate, he could hardly tolerate touch. In so many ways this was the most heartbreaking part of Cheech’s injury - the toll his recovery took on his heart and mind.
Please note: we are in NO WAY criticizing the care he received while in hospital - his students, vets and techs loved and looked after him so well. The hospital environment was what we believe hurt his head. Bill Strickland is quoted as saying: Environment builds behaviour. He was referring to people however in this case it very much refers to Cheech and his experience.
It was emotional to see Cheech interact with his first horse nurse, Dewy, who seemed in many ways to understand what Cheech needed better than we could. Not a horse you would normally see grooming another, he went at Cheech as though he was on a mission! And allowed himself to be groomed as long as Cheech felt necessary.
Our first bandage change occurred 3 days after his arrival home. We left it as long as possible hoping that time to get used to the environment would settle him enough so a call for ambulatory and sedation wouldn’t be necessary.
Knowing the trouble the veterinarians went through we were both on edge and determined to go as far as we could so long as we were not worried about our own safety. As I mentioned previously, on Cheech’s last day in hospital, he required 2 doses of sedation in order for the bandage to be changed. We were present for part of that change and built our plan around what we saw that day.
As soon as Cheech was led into the treatment room he seemed to be on the defensive (his muscles were tight and his head high). To help at home with this portion of the change, in the 3 days leading up to our bandage change we led him into the stall we would change him in and groomed him. We fed him there and tried to make it a happy place. On the day of our bandage change we also tied a horse in the grooming area next to him (so he could see), with the hope he would take comfort from another horse’s presence. We took to feeding him hay while changing the bandage and tried to break up the process to give him breaks after we achieved a level of success. After all both of us had the luxury of clearing our schedules and making this a priority.
From watching him in the treatment room and knowing he was already on the defensive (when the vet went to touch his leg he would hike it and try to keep it away) we tried to alter our process. Instead of approaching Cheech’s situation as a care taking mission, we chose to approach it as a “training” scenario. The goal being for Cheech to learn to accept the process just as he had once learned to accept a saddle and rider.
For our bandage change we took an old dressage whip and tied some cotton on the end of it. Before I ever tried to get my hand near the bandage we tested it out with our make shift flag. We learned that Cheech despised the sound of the scissors and the feeling of them on his skin as they were cutting the bandage away. Our goal at this point was not to force him into getting the bandage off. Our goal was for him to come to a level of acceptance with the process. We kept telling ourselves “you have to go slow in order to go fast”. There were a few moments along the way where Cheech would get disrespectful and push his boundaries. This was not ok and he would be reminded of what was acceptable.
Part way through our first change we realized that instead of being goal oriented (the bandage must come off) we had to change tack and say the goal is for you to learn that you can stand happily on your “bad” leg while it’s being un\wrapped. We helped to achieve this goal by using a rope (not to restrain but to steady the leg) to apply pressure when the foot came up and release of pressure when the foot was on the ground.
5 hours later we had our first bandage, without sedation. Two days later our second change took two hours, on the third change we were down to an hour and our best times began to average between 15-20 minutes.
We are convinced that there were many contributing factors to Cheech’s success and recovery. Keeping him always with another horse was huge and one of the most important aspects to his recovery. Instead of using treats and jolly balls to keep him occupied we hung a hay net with very small holes to challenge him and make him work for his feed. While teaching advanced lessons I would bring Cheech into the arena with me for a change of scenery. He was grazed, stalled outside during the day, fed low calorie feed with supplements of garlic and canola oil to help his coat, given a mineral lick, groomed and as often as possible made a part of daily stable life. We even played music for him (he had his own play list) and got him reiki treatments - anything which had potential to help him back to normal was discussed and tried. We spoke to horse training and behaviour experts, vets, vet students and horse professionals - read everything we could get our hands on watched videos and tried to develop a plan which ultimately worked for him.
We have tried to balance Cheech’s mental health with his physical recovery along the way, staying ahead of negative behaviour. If the scar ends up bigger due to increased paddock size, so be it. That ultimately was the decision of Cheech’s owner as she is the one who knows his heart best.
Currently (as of 2015) Cheech is being ridden and is back out with our herd of 17 horses. His wound is open and scrubbed daily with no negative side effects. He is happily enjoying his 20 acre paddock and his group of friends.
If this type of holistic approach sounds right for you and your horse contact us today so we can work together toward your horse’s recovery.