December Vet Visit

The December 9 visit from the vet confirmed that the minis are doing great in their new home. Their 2-month quarantine period is almost over and Dr. Hamilton, from Veterinary Associates, came all the way from Waimea (an hour and a half drive) to check them out and draw blood for the required follow-up Coggins test. The Coggins test checks for equine infectious anemia and is usually performed anytime a horse leaves its home turf, for transfer to a new home or to attend a parade or show that would put it in contact with other horses. Horses that are imported into Hawaii from the mainland or other countries are subject to a two-month quarantine, staying at least 200 yards away from other horses on the owner’s property or under surveillance at a state-approved facility to ensure they’re not carrying any infectious diseases. Failing to provide the follow-up Coggins test can result in a $10,000 fine, so I was excited to find Dr. Hamilton and schedule the appointment.

The vet arrived with an assistant and a vet student from UC-Davis gaining additional experience on the ground. Having been through the time-wasting scenarios when owners don’t have their horses ready for the vet or massage therapist, I was prepared with the horses haltered and on lead ropes when the vet’s SUV pulled up just minutes after the appointed time.

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Dr. Hamilton (in pink) and visiting vet student Jim listen to the horses’ hearts and lungs.

We got right to work, with Dr. Hamilton and the vet student taking over the horses and the assistant filling out paperwork, while I photographed and asked questions.

I explained that we were experimenting with new coffee-themed names for Comanche and after a few ideas were tossed around, the vet suggested “Mr. Peaberry”. I think we have a winner. For those not familiar with the coffee industry, a peaberry occurs every now and then when only one coffee bean develops inside the cherry instead of the usual two. Because it’s a single, it is usually larger than normal and some feel that makes it more robust in flavor as well as size. Peaberry coffee is therefore considered a premium product. Comanche, I mean, Mr. Peaberry, certainly seems to fit, robust and a little on the large side for Falabellas (although still extremely tiny at his current 29.5 inches). Certainly a premium product.

He was first up for an examination and right up until the time when a needle became part of the deal, he did great. He stood patiently while first the vet student then the vet took all his vital signs and listened to his lungs and heart through a stethoscope. He even stood still while they tried to wade through the long, silky hairs on his neck to find the jugular vein. It was just when the poke came that he lost it a little and reared. Now when a regular horse rears, it’s a terrifying thing. When you think about the damage a sharp hoof could do to someone’s skull when driven downwards with the force of a 1000-pound horse behind it, it’s a serious problem. When a miniature horse rears, I hate to say it, but it’s a little comical. Certainly, an ill-placed hoof or head butt could do some damage, but even on his hind legs, he still wasn’t as tall as the student. It didn’t take long for him to settle down to his usual easy-going self and the necessary blood was drawn. One down.

The entire time that Mr. Peaberry (still trying it on, but I like that!) was being poked and prodded, Java was standing close at hand, watching with calm, cool interest.

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Java, always suspicious with new activities, seemed okay with having her vital signs checked.

After he was done and his halter was removed, she was up and although she’s normally the more skittish of the two, she stayed relatively calm through the whole ordeal. Well, the horses thought it was an ordeal, but I have to say the vet and her assistants did a very efficient and humane job throughout.

Everyone agreed that these were two of the cutest little creatures in existence, so of course, I’ve found the vet we’ll be using from now on. Since I’m still new to horsekeeping on the island, and it’s a very different environment than my previous horse experience, I asked a lot of questions and Dr. Hamilton was quite kind to answer them all very patiently. She said the feeding regimen I have them on seems to be just right to meet their nutritional needs, but suggested I might add a capsule or two of Vitamin E to their feed daily. Since hay and pelleted feeds have to be shipped in they are never as fresh as their mainland counterparts and tend to lose a little nutritional value along the way. This makes sense to me and I’ll begin adding that supplement.

She also clarified that annual vaccinations here are a little different than the mainland. The important vaccines are tetanus, rhinopneumonitis, and equine flu, which I can buy from the feed store and administer myself. Equine encephalitis and West Nile virus aren’t usually found here, and although there was an outbreak some time ago, most vets don’t currently recommend vaccinating for them. And rabies is nonexistent on the island so not even dogs are vaccinated against that disease. She suggested a quarterly deworming regimen, and double dosing Strongid to get rid of tapeworms.

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Finding the vein amidst all that hair takes a lot of practice.

Since most tubes of dewormers carry a dose for horses up to 1200 pounds, I should be able to get a year’s worth out of one tube. Fortunately, the tubes are marked for weights ranging from 200 to 1200 pounds, so I can scale down the dose easily.

Dr. Hamilton liked my setup with the free choice mineral block and shade shelter (to which we’ve added rubber stall mats so the horses will always have a place with dry footing). She noticed I have a couple of small feeder goldfish in the water tub. I explained that I have always done that to avoid breeding mosquitoes, especially important right now since we’re facing a dengue fever outbreak on the Big Island. The horses also seem to get a kick out of watching the fish swim around and I imagine the water must taste better with a little fish waste – at least they seem to think so. I have to take them out when I clean the water tub, but they don’t seem to mind taking up temporary quarters in a cup for the few minutes it takes to do that every other day.

All in all, it was a great vet visit, and good to hear that I’m keeping my little ones healthy and happy. Although they won’t be out of quarantine in time for the Kailua-Kona Christmas parade this year, we’ll soon start working on crowd response and noise conditioning so they can participate in the next one.

 

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