Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Forsooth! SCA at Iron Ridge!

The SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism)

What are those people doing?
And why?

Mr. Fry enjoys a cigar
while talking to a tall dark stranger (Jason).

Nita watches the fun with
Fiacha the Blue.

To read more about the day, see 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Do You Hear What I Hear?

 Tommy, can you hear me?
Can you feel me near you?
— Pete Townshend (The Who) from the 1969 album, "Tommy" 

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving to my American blogger buddies. I hope you all had a wonderful day that included pie. Well, I guess anybody’s day could be wonderful and include pie, so the wish can be all-inclusive.

As mentioned in my previous post, we have known since birth that Daltrey is hearing impaired to some degree due to his extreme splashed white pattern (read about splashed white here, and look in the right column for links to all the color/pattern posts).

Not all foals with splashed white pattern are born deaf, but there’s a fairly high probability that they will be hearing impaired to some degree. Mating two affected horses will not necessarily produce an affected foal. Not all splashed white foals have blue eyes. It is inaccurate to attribute hearing impairment to the blue eye color; both traits are caused by splashed white in horses. Hearing impairment is caused by a lack of pigment in part of the inner ear.

Figuring out if your horse has a hearing problem and/or to what degree is not as easy as you might think. Like night blindness, some horses adapt better to it than others. Poco is night blind, but you'd never know it. Because Daltrey is so young, he’s still trying to figure out how his world works, and he has the double whammy of being both night blind and hearing impaired.

Some horses, like some people, are more reactive than others. One horse may spook at the slightest sound, while others seem to take everything in stride. Also like people, horses do not respond to every sound they hear. Although horses instinctively pay attention to the vocalizations of other equines, as well as sounds that are not part of their normal repertoire, they filter out much of what they hear. This helps them make sure that only relevant sounds are acted upon. We ignore most of the sounds around us even though we can certainly hear them. It’s this ability that allows us to filter out dozens of different conversations at a cocktail party and focus on only one.

I’m still learning what Daltrey can and can’t hear. I think that overall, his hearing is muffled or muted to some degree. For example, I have fed him in the run-in shed during rains and high winds, with acorns and stuff hitting the sides and roof. Sometimes he seems to acknowledge sounds, but isn’t startled or upset by them. What’s funny is when the other two bolt because of a noise, and he bolts because they do, though I know he has no idea why he’s running. I think the only sounds he perceives as sharp are percussive sounds like gunshots, car backfires, etc. I believe most of his impairment is in the mid-range. I know he can hear the sound of my voice when I call him, even if he’s in the back pasture. He can also hear things like the chain saw, weed whipper, electric saws, etc., that are higher pitched. He doesn’t react to a whisper or a soft voice inches from his head.

I’m not overly concerned about Daltrey’s hearing impairment. In fact, everything in my research pretty much brushed it off as being no big deal. Combined with his already laid-back temperament, it should be an asset for a trail horse. The biggest repercussions involve modifying training techniques. They can’t rely on voice cues, so must be trained using visual cues on the ground and tactile cues under saddle. The only other major consequence is learning to help your horse not be startled by the unseen and unexpected approach of people or other animals. But don’t most of us already do that, for safety’s sake?

Disclaimer: I am not a veterinary professional. Information in this post is for entertainment purposes only and came from the following sites: www.equisearch.com, www.frankbuchman.com, www.thehorse.com, www.australianwesternhorseshowcase.com.au.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Behind Blue Eyes: Congenital Stationary Night Blindness

Tommy, can you see me?
Can I help to cheer you?
— Pete Townshend (The Who) from the 1969 album, "Tommy"

One evening soon after Daltrey came home, I was spreading Fly Eliminators in the back pasture. The sun had set, but I could still see clearly. As I headed back to the house, I noticed Daltrey standing close to the culvert that bridges the front and back of the property. It seemed odd, because at that time, he still stuck pretty close to his nannies, who were nowhere to be seen. In any case, he wasn’t grazing, just standing there, about 50 paces away. I greeted him in a normal tone of voice, and the little guy jumped straight up. He obviously hadn’t seen or heard me coming, although he was looking right at me.

If you followed Heather’s genetics posts, you know that Daltrey exhibits a number of color and pattern traits gone wild. Seems like if there was any chance of a pattern gene expressing itself, it did in him. We’ve known since his birth that Daltrey is congenitally hearing impaired to some degree, related to his extreme splashed white pattern (read about splashed white here, and look in the right column for links to all the color/pattern posts). That’s a post for another day. The splashed white pattern is also responsible for Daltrey’s startling blue eye color, which does not affect his sight.

However, Daltrey is also homozygous for leopard-pattern complex (LP/LP), which was directly tied to congenital stationary night blindness (CSNB) in a 2005-2006 study. Appaloosas that are heterozygous for LP (LP/lp) are not affected by CSNB. Horses that are true solid, non-characteristic Appaloosas, with no dominant copies of LP (lp/lp), are also not affected by CSNB.

Click on chart to enlarge.
Daltrey is best represented by the bottom row, third from left.
Poco is bottom row, second from right.

So, coat patterns that indicate the presence of two dominant copies of LP are associated with CSNB. The amount of white patterning they display is not important, except that when they have moderate to large amounts of patterning, they are easier to classify correctly as being homozygous for LP. Horses homozygous for LP born with no coat patterning are also night blind.

There may be a variety of causes for CSNB in horses, but we’re looking only at the type found in Appaloosas. CSNB has been detected in other breeds (Paso Fino, Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, Belgian), none of which were Paint or Appaloosa patterned.

Night blindness is not a single disorder. A horse can have a form of night blindness and not have CSNB (uveitis is the most common other cause). In general, the term CSNB is used to describe impaired/absent night vision, which is present at birth, inherited, and non-progressive.  Incidentally, the "stationary" part of the name refers to the fact the condition is non-progressive, and has nothing to do with whether or not the horse is standing still. CSNB-affected Appaloosas usually have normal day vision.

Because we typically don’t interact with our horses after dark, we might not ever see some of the symptoms, such as anxiety or closely following another horse at night. Under normal circumstances, affected horses cope with the condition because they're born with it. They just think that's the way the world works: at night, they can't see. The world is completely black, unless the horse looks straight at the moon or some other light source that is bright enough to appear as a light spot in its field of vision. Poco has it, though he is either not impaired to the degree that Daltrey is, or he is just that much more accustomed to it because he's older (and his hearing is fine).

There is nothing structurally wrong with the eyes of horses with CSNB. The problem occurs during the process of transmitting information from the eyes to the horse's brain. Cone-shaped photoreceptors transmit color and day vision, while rod-shaped photoreceptors are responsible for vision in the dark. In horses with CSNB, the information normally carried by the rod-shaped photoreceptors is dropped or not transmitted properly.

The study linked CSNB in Appaloosas to the leopard complex, but that doesn’t explain how two apparently independent genetic features are actually related. Research in 2008 proved both CSNB and leopard pattern in Appaloosas are caused by a gene whose simplified name is TRPM1. Simply, decreased expression of TRPM1 in the eye and the skin alters signaling from the rod-shaped photoreceptors in the retina as well as the function of certain pigment cells in Apps, thus causing both CSNB and leopard complex.

I may not have ever noticed the degree of Daltrey's impairment were it not for having to play Cafeteria Lady each evening. I have seen first hand that he operates by feel and memory. For example, if he raises his head to chew a mouthful, and he either takes a step or two, or I slide the feed pan, he has to feel around to find it again. It doesn't seem to bother him. I have not found him to be anxious or apprehensive at all. And (knock wood), he has not injured himself.

Gives a whole new meaning to Mike's coining of the term daylight pony for Baby D.

Disclaimer: I am not a veterinary professional. This information is presented as entertainment only. I attempted to obtain permission from the authors and publishers to use this information, but after more than 60 days, my efforts have not been acknowledged. Information came from the following sites: www.appaloosaproject.com, www.horsetalk.co/nz, www.genetics.org and www.thehorse.com. Regardless, most of the actual data about CSNB is the result of a 2005-2006 study by Lynne S. Sandmeyer, DVM, DVSc, DACVO; Carrie B. Breaux, DVM; Sheila Archer, BSc Hons; and Bruce H. Grahn DVM, ACBP, DACVO. The information about TRPM1 is from a 2008 study, which also included Dr. Sandmeyer, as well as Rebecca R. Bellone, Samantha A. Brooks, Barbara A. Murphy, George Forsyth, Sheila Archer (of the Appaloosa Project), Ernest Bailey, and Bruce Grahn.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Autumn Becomes Us

Got up Sunday morning severely lacking in motivation. I knew for sure I was in no mood to mess with Poco after the ride from hell two weeks ago. Then the text messages started arriving from the Pony Pals. I was successfully booted in the pants, however, I could not be prodded to hook up the trailer and haul a horse. I grabbed my tack and headed to Iron Ridge.

My ride on the ever-dependable Doodles (Heather's dad's horse) was as vanilla and undramatic as I could have hoped for. I took pix of some of the new horses, but I'll save those for another day. 

I was home by about 1 p.m. and decided to feed early to take advantage of the sunshine. I'm the cafeteria lady for the foreseeable future, and during the week, it's dark by the time I get home, so feeding in the warm sun is a treat.

I can't give Daltrey all his food at once because he flings it, and the big Boyz will take it, in any case. It takes him at least 45 minutes and often longer to eat his two scoops of feed.



I will make you give me the contents of
that bucket by the power of my superior will.

The closer I get to you, the more distracted you'll be.
You won't notice that I'm also close enough
to bite that baby and take his chow.

To the patient go the spoils.


Not a foal or even a weanling anymore.
Daltrey is a young horse.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Daltrey Helps the Delivery Men

The Lowe's delivery guys showed up last weekend with our new washer, dryer, and gas grill. That could be a post in and of itself, if anyone cared other than we who had to cough up the ca$h, albeit unwillingly. As soon as the truck got here, Poco and Jaz were outta here. They took off to the back pasture, stuck their FAT heads in the round bale and prolly never looked up.

Daltrey, on the other hand, thought everything about that truck and what was in it, including the two delivery men, were the most interesting things ever. He completely charmed the delivery guys. 

The truck had one one of those hydraulic platforms that moves up and down, which banged loudly when it stopped, or when they folded and unfolded it. Daltrey flinched the first time it banged, but didn't even react after that. He followed the men with the dolly up onto the porch slab, and would have walked in the laundry room door had there been room for him to do so. The old appliances were also quite interesting to Baby D.

Sorry to disappoint, but I was too busy to get pix. What a shame, cuz he was too stinkin' cute!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Walk on the Wild Side

'The Wild Card'
from Dessa Hockley's book,
"Is Your Horse a Rock Star?"

It's probably been 6-8 months or longer since I used my round pen. Whenever Mr. Fry mows, he tills it for me, after which more rocks come to the surface, as they also do every time we get any significant rain. Where do they come from? I had to walk around for several minutes, chunking the bigger ones over the rails, and there were still a bunch, not to mention huge divots from where I dislodged them. Poco was not happy about the footing. The shaded side was still damp, and every lap we took found more rocks dislodged.

We rode for maybe 20 minutes before he tripped over a huge rock, enough that I was grateful not to be launched over his head. The ride wasn't stellar, by any means. Poco doesn't like the round pen at all. The free-longeing part went well, though. I'm getting better at communicating with my body language. That will come in handy when I start Daltrey.

When we got outside the gate, all bets were off. Poco was immediately jumpy and nervous, which I think is mostly an act, since this is his old familiar pasture. He just didn't want to. I rode him around for a minute or so, then got off and walked him back across the culvert to dismount. He's a mess.

I took him to Iron Ridge this week for pony play day, and there's no other way to put it: he was a total shit. Part of it was because this was the first time I took him away from Jaz and the baby since they've been home. Mike said one or both of the remaining Boyz carried on the whole time we were gone. I would have liked to know exactly whom and for how long, but that's not important to Mr. Fry.

I ran Poco around the arena before I tacked him up. Although mostly cooperative, he was just barely with me. He was so squirrelly, everybody else was really having to look out for us. When they left the arena, I tried to ride him out. He grabbed the bit at the gate and actually lifted his fronts off the ground. I rode him to the far end of the arena, got off, and backed him the entire length to the gate. I took him out, tacked him down, brought him back to the arena, and ran him some more. I only pushed the gate to, and he pushed it open and took off. Caught him, brought him back, and ran him some more. Basically until he was pleading to stop.

He was a contrite suck-up when I hosed him down. We had a brief discussion about doing it the easy way (my way) or the hard way. Then I made him stand there tied while I yakked with the pony pals. Oh, the indignity of it all. He was more than happy to get in the trailer. There was much calling and carrying on when we arrived back at Casa Fry.

I think I know why he is — call the anthropomorphism police — frustrated. He wants to GO. FAST. I am still not ready to just let him go, and especially when he's like THAT. We've got to be in "the zone" together before I can even think about letting him go. We were definitely not anywhere remotely close to that place and haven't been for several rides now. But we'll work through it like we always have before.

As much as I might like to take Jaz for a play day sometime soon, Poco has sealed his own fate until he gets back with the program. Heather asked how long it had been since we had seen Psycho Gelding, and it's been awhile. It would be unrealistic to think my Appy had changed his spots.
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