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Greetings, Mr. Lumpy

By Cindy Hale

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

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Life with horses can sometimes be a bumpy road, both figuratively and literally. Wally’s seasonal allergy has kicked in, which means I’m greeted nearly every morning by a blaze-faced gelding that resembles a topographical map of the Appalachians. Interlocking masses of soft lumps and welts cover large patches of his body, primarily wherever his coat is exposed to the air. For the last couple of winters I’ve combated the problem by swathing Wally in horse clothes until he’s practically mummified.

Essentially my stout Paint has become the horse in the bubble.

Putting Wally in his pajamas (stretchy “sleezy” hood, gusseted turn-out blanket, and a set of polo wraps) is a nightly ritual. Neither Wally nor I enjoy the process, although I have made an interesting discovery: much like any other boy he prefers his macho camouflage colored PJs over his sissy plaid ones.

Of course I’ve consulted with my vet. She had me try various tactics, like restricting feed additives, alternating brands of shavings and liberally spraying him with insect repellent. Nothing seemed to help. I even shuttled Wally across town to my parents’ place and he broke out in hives there, too.

Then my vet and I considered allergy testing for Wally. But that’s horribly expensive, not always productive and ends up with the owner (that would be me) administering specially concocted injections to the horse on a regular basis throughout the allergy season. Since it requires a tag team of professional wrestlers to give Wally his annual vaccines, that whole allergy shot scenario simply wouldn’t work out.

Hence my other tactic—besides wrapping Wally up like a Christmas package—has been to give him an occasional packet of Azium, a short-acting steroid that quickly eliminates the hives. But that’s not something that should be done on a regular basis. So when the lumps aren’t too bad, I just ignore them. Truly, they don’t seem to bother Wally; they don’t itch and he acts no different than usual. Since they rarely pop up in the saddle area, I tend to ride him as usual, despite his outbreaks.

I just end up saying repeatedly to folks I meet on the trail, “Yes, I know my horse has hives.”

(Everyone feels compelled to mention my horse’s hives to me, as if perhaps I hadn’t noticed them).

Lately, however, the hives have been erupting even beneath Wally’s pajamas. So I decided it was time to take further action. My vet’s solution was to try daily doses of hydroxyzine, a strong antihistamine that’s compounded into a flavored powder for horses. A two-month supply cost about the same as my monthly feed bill, but what choice did I have? If Wally wasn’t made miserable by his allergy, I was.

So last night I opened the jar of antihistamine and used the enclosed dollhouse-sized scoop as directed to dose Wally’s pellets. Just to make sure it stuck to the feed, I drizzled some corn oil onto the pellets. He gobbled it all up and I went to bed.

Guess what? No hives this morning! Huzzah, it worked!

Unfortunately this means I’ll have to budget horse antihistamines into my already hefty backyard barn bill. But I figure a happy horse with a smooth coat is worth it. It’ll be one less bump in the road.

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Greetings, Mr. Lumpy

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Reader Comments

Sharon    Las Vegas, NV

11/18/2011 8:10:56 PM

As I'm sure you long ago learned, horses have an innate ability to know just what the budget is ... and then plow through it, LOL.

I'm glad you may have found a solution to Mr. Lumpy's lumpiness. :-)

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