The Strangles Debacle by ROTH Instructor, Katie Dixon

strangles for Katie article

Katie Dixon is our most recently certified ROTH Instructor.  Katie has lots of background in many areas, but she stands out with her knowledge of equine medical issues.  Enjoy her article on handling a case of strangles with grace!

On July 2, I was going through my normal lunch feeding routine at Renegade Equine, our home-based, 30 horse equine education facility. As I tossed our gelding herd’s hay over the fence I heard Jack, a big beautiful Quarter Horse cough a few times. Coughs are not uncommon for this time of year as we live in the desert and many horses have dust sensitivities. I paused to watch him chew and swallow to make sure he wasn’t choked, and as he showed me he could do both, I moved on. Fast forward to dinner feeding. Again, I hear Jack cough a few times at his food but this time it sounded more restricted, and as I moved through the field to do physical inspections of the horses for the evening my heart sank as I noticed a large, firm lump under his jaw. There was what looked like an abrasion. Perhaps he had developed a puncture that was brewing an infection, or was this strangles? I immediately haltered Jack, took some pictures, called the owners and our Veterinarian. Jack is a rescue horse with a BIG spook and a lot of fear, so taking Jack’s temperature was going to be a challenge. Thankfully, we had been working together since the previous October, and he and I had a good system of working through new fears together. I implemented the positive reinforcement training we had utilized before and clicker trained our way through taking his temperature. The result was not good; he showed he had a decent fever. When Dr. Jones arrived, she did a full examination of the lump and Jack, and determined since it was nearing darkness and he had a high fever, it was not the best time to sedate and we would meet again in the morning to ultrasound the lump and take a culture to mail out. In the meantime, we built a Quarantine area for Jack, just in case, and sectioned him off from the other horses. I believe that this step, on this first day, is a big piece of what saved us from having strangles move through our herd. I called the owners of the horses who were in immediate contact with Jack to fill them in on the possibilities of what this could be, from best to worst-case scenario. And per the advice from our amazing Vet, informed the owners of rule #1 with possible strangles: DO NOT PANIC.
The next morning, Jack’s fever was down having administered Banamine the previous evening, so it was safe to sedate, drain the abscess, collect the sample and send it off to incubate the cultures. Jack was incredible! He bravely allowed an IV injection by a stranger and had people surrounding him with plastic suits while the procedure was performed ( this is a proactive step taken when communicable diseases are suspected to protect the surrounding horses.) Still, we all hoped for the best, and in one week would know what we were dealing with. In the meantime, we decided to Quarantine not only Jack, but all horses he had direct contact with. This meant that they stayed in their paddocks. We also Quarantined the entire row of pastures on that side of the farm, though there was a gap between Jack’s fence line and theirs, there was a slight likelihood of contamination by feed buckets getting stacked together, hay bag cross-contamination, or contamination by foot traffic and human carrier. All owners with horses on that side of the property were informed at this time, and strict quarantine protocols were put into place. Thank goodness we did, as the results came back 5 days later: Streptococcus equi, commonly known as Strangles.
Here are some basic rules and practices of our Quarantine Procedures which helped us be successful in confining a highly contagious disease to just one horse:

Inform those who need to be informed:

This includes all staff, volunteers, other professionals who come to the property (ie farriers, bodyworkers, etc) and owners of animals on the property. I found that by properly educating, sending a few easy to read scientific articles, and NOT PANICKING, we were able to maintain a calm, matter-a-fact approach to the situation. Everyone was well-informed which kept the facts straight and the rumor-mill from starting.

Eliminate the foot traffic through the affected areas:

We allocated 2 people who were solely responsible for all of the quarantine areas and eliminated all other people from entering the areas unless trained on the protocol.

Minimize chances of spread of disease with good quarantine protocol:

We had bleach footbaths at each entrance/exit to the 4 affected pastures, each of which got changed out every time a human entered the pasture. We also bought bleach wipes which were kept in bins by the gates, and put boots by each gate that were specific to each area. Each area had its own wheelbarrow, muck rake, water tank brush, and hose. Hoses can be one of the easiest ways to spread diseases like strangles. The 11 Quarantined horse’s feed buckets all moved to a location by their pen, hay was moved close to each area, and their supplement baggies all stored near their gates.

DECONTAMINATE!

We decontaminated EVERYTHING on our farm. Hay Bags, halters, leads, troughs, buckets, hoses, training equipment… you name it, we bleached it! In case the bacteria had somehow been carried to the other side of the farm, we wanted to halt it in its tracks. Thankfully, we already had a color-coded hay bag system to keep the same colors with the same herds and individual horses. Each horse also has their own feed bucket. These two protocols likely contributed in big ways to zero spread of the disease around the property prior to our knowledge of it.

Signage:

Multiple signs were posted at the entrance to our property, as well as along each fence line and at each gate declaring the Quarantine areas to eliminate the possibility of someone petting a “QT” horse and then another in a “clean” area. We wanted to eliminate the risk as much as possible of someone new coming to the property and unknowingly spreading the disease.

Monitor Herd Health:

A fever is one of the first signs of strangles incubating a horse’s body. We took temperatures of every horse on the property for 3 days, and monitored the temperatures of the 11 Quarantined horses two times a day for ten days. Thankfully we get normal vitals on all of our horses when they are healthy, so we know what “normal” is for each of them. On the upside, all of our horses got really comfortable with getting temperatures taken!

Facility lockdown for 30 Days:

The decision was made that no horses would leave the property, and no new horses would come in for lessons or training. The QT horses would remain in their pastures but could be worked within their areas, so we delegated certain equipment to these areas. The unfortunate part of that was that most of our riding horses lived on this side of the farm. Although this was quite a blow to our typically busiest month of the year, we did our best to make the most of it. My teaching business moved off the property for those with privately owned horses, we had 3 rideable horses that could be worked with on the “clean” side of our farm, and we got creative with lessons and worked with many of our horses on the ground who cannot be ridden.

To clear our quarantine, a few things needed to happen:

1) 30 non-symptomatic days for Jack, No fever, cough or snots
2) No abnormally high temps for anyone else on the farm during this 30-day period
3) 3 consecutive, clean, nasal washes on the 3 other horses directly exposed
4) A clean scope of Jack’s guttural pouches to officially clear him.

I firmly believe that our thorough and fast-acting decision to treat this as a highly communicable disease from the onset was what saved us from having Strangles go through our herd. Though we didn’t have an answer for 5 days, locking down and treating it as Strangles kept our herd healthy and minimized the spread. I was challenged by boarders, clients, and students to lessen the strictness of the Quarantine, was told it was “overkill”, especially on the horses who were not directly exposed but lived on the same side of the property. I stood firm in our decision and as a result, we have 30 healthy horses now.
As trainers, instructors, and horse people, we need to be highly aware of our decontamination practices between farms and facilities. Horses can be non-symptomatic carriers of communicable diseases, and unknowingly diseases like Strangles can be spread easily. To do your best to prevent the spread of disease, consider disinfecting after each session or interaction with different horse properties. Disinfect your boots, equipment, clothes, and skin. If we all keep our awareness heightened, we are doing our part to keep our horses healthy.

 

A Rave Review for Escaping Tradition

ROTH Certified Trainer and student Instructor, Katie Dixon of Renegade Equine in Bend, OR, received the following review from one of her local clients with regards to Escaping Tradition.  Please enjoy as the trust-based methods continue their reach far and wide.

Katie

I am the mother of a 12 year old girl who has fallen in love with horses. Our whole family loves all animals and are very sensitive to their individual personalities. Bits, Spurs, whips and other methods of training horses was just not working for my daughter (or me) mentally or emotionally. Luckily, I found the book Escaping Tradition and knew this was the training philosophy that would work for my daughter (and me!).

The goal of establishing a relationship out of respect and love works as a training method. Fear based anything for anyone is not a “true” relationship or training tool that should be used. These animals have a language and they have opinions and curiosity about us and the environment we put them in. How can we expect them to be successful and learn if we don’t listen to them? Why should they only have to listen to us? This book explains just that. The stories shared by individuals in the book, shows us a way of thinking about horses as equal partners and gives them the voice they need.

The personal experiences shared in the book are examples of what horses can do for humans on a much deeper level than performance. This book points out the “real” fact that all horses are different and we need to understand them and listen to them so we can have a rewarding successful experiences together. Trust is the foundation for all successful relationships. Why would it not be the same for horses. Would you trust someone who inflicted pain, or asks you to do things you do not enjoy, or worse never listens to you? Most humans would not trust or continue to work with someone who treated them that way. So, if we are to raise the next generation of horse trainers, owners, and advocates, then they must agree with this philosophy of training.

I can only hope the book gets into as many hands as possible. Vets, trainers, breeders and the young equestrians to be. The young people have not had years of training to unlearn, they are also much more open and sensitive to animals if allowed to be.

Thank you for writing it and I’m happy to promote it.

Kristine Klees

A Total Eclipse of the Heart…

Eclipse

I’ve always known my herd was not yet complete. When my mare, Promise, was pregnant I felt very strongly she was having twins. (Luckily for us both, I was wrong!) I considered naming her foal, Eclipse, but when the foal came it was clear her name was Journey.

Fast forward 4.5 months. I had a huge intuitive hit that I needed to pay attention to the ROTH Foal Gentling clinic being held by Anna Twinney in Bend, OR, in partnership with Warm Springs Horse Alliance who rescues native foals from the Warm Springs tribal land, for which I have a strong affinity.  Perhaps in one of my many trips over the mountain where I greet the horses as part of ritual each time, I saw he and his herd roaming free before they were rounded up.  This part I will never know.

When they named him Eclipse I just knew.  That deep in your soul “YES” that won’t let go… The same feeling I had about Promise.  The same feeling I had so many years ago with Legacy.

Eclipse is 4 months old just like Journey.  Twins, sort of.  I knew I had a feeling and I was right. The Universe just planned it far more perfectly.  It always does.

Julie Jacobs

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Reflections on Foal Gentling with Tribal Foals in Oregon By Laura E. Schumann

Laura and Crunchy

In this photo: Laura with the affectionately named “Crunchy.”

Part I:

My lessons are never soft and comfy.  Never easy, never simple, never just handed over and told, here you go-this is what you need to learn. Nope, not me, if there is a more challenging way to get my lesson, surely that will be my direction.  And the horses seem to know this as well.  And, well, so does Anna.  As a teacher myself, I can only confess I must say the words every teacher loves to hear.  So….here it is…..Yes, Anna you are right.  Now, to be honest, she knows this, but I am saying it anyway, because it is true.  I never doubted it, but sometimes a teacher can appreciate the honest acknowledgement-so herein, my acknowledgement.   (I will explain this in more detail further on).   In an end of day wrap up session, I listed off the variety of horses I have worked with in courses and clinics, and it was really one strong challenge and challenging horse after another.  So, live and learn, I grow and thrive, and I believe that this foal gentling was one of my most powerful, profound, and successful ROTH experiences.  In this very moment in time, as I sit at my desk at school preparing my next lecture, there is nowhere I want to be more than back with my foal-he was almost pushy, if you will, in reminding me of my lesson of being in the moment.  And although I must be in my moment now, I confess, I’d much rather be in that moment-with him J.

So, I really prepared for this.  Did my homework. Watched and watched the videos.  Remember- the farrier prep, the TLC, the haltering, the reach out, approach and retreat, grooming, back of the hand, not a claw, etc, right—got it, really prepared!  My horse was assigned to me: Crunchy.  Hm….not sure about the name-unique, quite the big personality, for a 4-month old still on milk….and oh, by the way—surprise! He’s dropped, too……

It seems my boy Crunchy already had a home and had been there for 3 weeks- he came back to us because his owner couldn’t catch him or really even get near him….and I quickly discovered he was a clever lad; he had learned exactly how to escape and knew just what would work—he knew to pin his ears, nip and bite (or, threaten it more than anything), and now and again, turn his bum… a clever boy indeed.  So-he absolutely pushed me to learn and grow. 

Day 2 we connected, he quickly grew bored of me and I became his plaything.  He was amused, but nothing more-at least I was getting close.  Day 3 was the rough one.  Something happened during lunch-maybe because his little buddy —- was out and free, and he wasn’t.  He became extremely riled up, and when I came to work with him, his energy hit me and I absolutely became jittery.  I was then in the pen with him, insecure and edgy, definitely ‘turnt up’, but not in a good way.  He immediately knew it, saw it, and took advantage of the situation-pinning, threatening, man he absolutely caught me and I was fearful of getting bitten or worse.  My confidence was low and he was indeed in charge of the pen and surroundings.  Sara was teamed up with me, and kindly volunteered to work with him.  With more confidence, she was able to approach and do some desensitizing, and we discovered that with her, his escape was to put himself into the corner, whereas with me he would pin ears, etc.  Interesting and helpful to discover.

On the upside, I had a golden moment that day anyway.  The little horse that was quite gentled came over to me as I sat watching others while my youngster slept-she came and stayed with me-to say, hey, you’re ok, it’s ok.  And so, when it came time for her to go-she had to get on the trailer, I asked if I might help.  As we began, I was told she hadn’t ever lead, and we would just herd her in—I asked if I might just go ahead, give it a shot- see if we couldn’t make it happen.  And sure enough, step by step, she came with me- we got her to the trailer, no panels, just a little help to motivate her from behind with a bit of energy-and I got her front feet onto the trailer with me-her caretaker gently lifted her back legs on-we did it!!! We lead her onto the trailer in a halter- a new trick for the caretakers involved!  My spirit flew.  Success for one foal- a new trick for the caretakers to see.  Chalk up another for the ROTH team!

We had our end of day wrap up, and everyone was more than kind-wanting me to open up to discuss the situation, and in a wonderfully supportive manner.  The conversation brought out my recounting several of the horses Anna had allocated to me throughout my studies, I named each one in turn, even surprising Anna with how many ‘challenging’ horses I’d had. 

As we moved forward, I determined to face him with my teaching energy.  And thus….he began treating me the same way as he had Sara.  He stopped threatening….we actually started to communicate, bond, create trust…and learning.  I recall struggling with an attempt to get the halter on.  Anna watching….called out, ok if you don’t’ get that halter on I’m coming in to do it.  Perfect. Just the motivation I needed-nope. NO WAY! My horse, I will halter.  And magically, I got the halter on….

…And the moment I got to his off side, He had blocked and blocked me, I finally asked, just the right way, with a little halter help-and there I was rubbing away on his neck, his head, his belly, all the off side.  Beaming proudly I called to Anna to see-and a quick little bugger he was-knew I’d left the moment set out to nip—what a reminder! What a powerful communication to remind me to stay in the moment-to remain totally and completely-with him.  Powerful lessons.  Powerful experience…even at 4 months I have nothing but great respect and admiration for the equine world and continue to be awestruck at the lessons, the journey, and the phenomenal ROTH experience.

On the final day, Crunchy’s owner came to see him and bring him home.  He walked over to the side of the pen where she stood, allowed her to touch him…she was blown away! She had chased him for three weeks and never got near him.  The trailer loading was a bit difficult.  I really wanted to try to lead him, but perhaps he just wasn’t ready.  So we herded him in, but the sun was so directly in eyes that I kept waiting for him to get out of that sun spot—doing something of a rather inconvenient dance—and I confess, as a teacher with a doctorate and I like to think with a few smarts-it never occurred to me to tell Anna the sun was blinding me-finally she noticed it, and came in to help-so the loading wasn’t as smooth as we would have liked, and unfortunately I had lost some valuable time with waiting for him to move out of the sun-but eventually we found success and he was headed for home.

I think about him often…..wonder how he is doing, hoping his owner is a bit more cognizant of his bold personality and awareness of his person being in the moment with him.

 

Part II:

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And with this awesome experience, I was recently reminded of something I had written for the ROTH newsletter my first time at White Stallion Ranch in AZ.  This was a few years ago, earlier in my ROTH journey.  We often struggle with our own abilities, insecurities, why am I doing this, etc etc….and yet I continue to pursue my path with ROTH.  Albeit slowly-something continues to compel me to remain on the journey. 

My year with horses last year was a very exciting and rewarding one.  Prior to the foal gentling, I had a few very encouraging experiences along the way.  I had returned to White Stallion and was given a different horse to ride- a very forward Arabian named Cash.  I’ve never had particularly strong feelings for Arabians—but this one caught my heart.  And….saved my bacon (so to speak).

We had a newer guide on a ride, and all things being considered, hey, everyone has to start somewhere, so I have no qualms about that.  She didn’t, however, quite have the gist of stopping a galloping string of horses.  And I must say, as much as I adore Cash, his gallop gets pretty wild.  It’s definitely a hang on style of run- so we were galloping pretty hard, and suddenly we see the horses in front of us completely stopped.  He spied it about a split second before I did, and honest to goodness, I heard him say to me “Oh Shoot!” (word edited here for courtesy).  As he did his best to skid to a stop, there was nothing he could do to not slam bam right into the horse in front of us- so he planted his front feet as best he could, and did an almost rodeo style massive flip to the left- landed in a bush (thank God not a cactus!) and as my friend Tori came up behind me (in a better position to see and slow down)—she said I have no idea how on earth you held on to that and didn’t go flying right off.  I said, I don’t know- he told me.  Somehow he just let me know he was going left and I just rode it over.  And I had the connection.  I got the message-I heard the whisper (although it was more than a whisper…..)

Part III:

And then I was at Anna’s clinic in West Virginia.  A few amazing, and frankly, life changing moments there.  One in particular stands out:  The night before, several of us helped bring a client’s horses into the barn/pasture area.  I was there barely in time to man the wide gate—and 1 horse,  Visionquest (whom I had met earlier that day and knew she was powerful with a big, bold, and commanding personality) came bounding past the 5 people placed  to hold her-straight toward me and the open gate.  No time for me to close the gate, and not a good thing for her to escape-I stood in the middle of the opening-and as she headed my way-we made eye contact.  And in that amazing 3-8 tenths of a second I heard the whisper.  I saw that 3/10 of a second hesitation in her eye.  And I looked right back and said, yup, that’s right; I’m not going to let you through this gate.  And just as she got to me, did the most amazing 180 turn back into the barnyard.  My heart was pounding, but in that crazy, defining moment-I stood my ground, because I had caught the whisper of hesitation.  She slammed around 5 other people (horse people, at that-who later, by the way, told me they weren’t about to stop that charging horse!) but I caught it.  And I stopped her.  And that, simple small, amazing moment, was defining.  And—here Is the part where I say Anna, you were right; you can’t teach feel you just have to feel feel. And as I continually grope, and struggle to get that- I knew, at least in that moment-I had gotten it.  One brief, fleeting moment-but it gave me just enough, just that feeling to say, yea, ok, I get it.  I still have a lot of work to do-but in that moment, I got it.  And what a WOW moment! Funny how one split second can provide so much.  And, it then gives you the drive, the courage, the desire to carry on, to know that you can learn so much, and maybe, just maybe….make a difference.  Might not be big, but that one moment-was worth a great deal.  That moment says; keep working, because you want another moment like that.  And that moment could make a difference for a horse or a person.

And so the journey continues.  And I am more than grateful for the opportunity to continue it with the truest and most authentic and sincere horse whisperer around.  Anna truly does this all for the love of the horse (and all animals), for the opportunity to catch the whisper and be the voice of the horse-while training people with life lessons and opportunities that simply don’t exist elsewhere.

Interested in Foal Gentling or working with the Untouched Ones?

Check out these DVDs offered by Anna to help give insight into successful handling methods and training techniques that take the whole horse into account.

Tell me more about the DVDs!

 

If you really want to experience the experience then join Anna on one of these courses in either Bend, Oregon, or in Shingletown, California this year!

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Babies are my FAVORITE!! Tell me more!

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Or if you prefer the wilder side of things, Reach Out to the Untouched Ones with Anna in Shingletown, CA, this August.  Space is limited for this one-of-a-kind experience in gentling mustangs with one of the world’s greatest equine behaviorists and linguists.

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Are you telling me there is a course for gentling mustangs?  Show me how it’s done!