Juniper Eye Update

End Is In Sight

The vet was out last week for fall vaccinations and wellness checks for both Leeloo and Juniper. Leeloo was acting oddly again and did not want the vets to touch her anywhere from the base of her neck back and was particularly put out by the stethoscope. This is very unusual behavior for her and was even weirder considering we had just done a really thorough grooming session the previous day and I touched literally all of her and she hadn’t minded.  The one thing her not wanting to be touched episodes have in common is a change from warmer weather to cooler weather so I’m considering that as a factor, but even then very out of character. We will continue to monitor her to see how things go. Leeloo also apparently developed a very minor heart murmur which can apparently come on from out of the blue and can sometimes resolve itself just as quickly and is also apparently not that big of a deal so I’m trying to not panic much about that. 

Now on to the good news. Juniper’s eye is looking much, much better according to the vet and the ophthalmologist she consulted with here is a progression of how Juniper’s eye has been doing over the past two months:

Taken September 14, 2022

Taken September 29, 2022

Taken October 9, 2022

Taken October 30, 2022

I will be honest and say I don’t see much of a difference between the last three photos but the vets were happy and more importantly.

This is the REALLY important part.

We are down to giving both medications just three times a day!!!!!

This will be life changing for me. I was giving medications at 8:00 AM, 10:00 AM, 12:00 PM, 2:00 PM, 4:00 PM, 6:00 PM. Every time I would have to stop whatever I was doing, possibly change clothes if I wasn’t outside doing outside work, and wash my hands and go give the eye drops. Then wait around five minutes doing nothing in particular and then give the ointment. Going down to three times a day is just so much more reasonable and I am so relieved.

And we only have to give both the drops and the ointment for one more week, which will be done this coming Thursday, and then we just have one more week of just the ointment and then we are done! DONE!


For anyone who may need to give eyedrops to a horse or pony in the future I did make a video of our process because doing something six times a day for six weeks makes you pretty good at it and I was so very intimidated by giving eyedrops in the beginning I thought there might be some other people out there that would find this helpful.

Giving Eyedrops to a Horse or Pony

A few notes before we get to the video:

  • We used positive reinforcement or clicker training to help with the process. I go through the steps quickly in the beginning of the video but the basic idea is you have some sort of vocal cue (that you don’t use for anything else!) that you make when you are happy with your horse or pony’s behavior and then you give them some sort of treat. They learn that the vocal cue means they did something right and a reward is coming. You and your horse or pony (or dog or cat) don’t have to have any previous experience to use this process though there is the possibility of creating some “manners” issues with horses or ponies trying to get to the treats (and when a 600 lb animal or 1200 lb animal is trying to get to your pockets that can cause some problems) which is why there are usually some basic ground rules you teach your horse or pony first. Juniper so far has never had issues but I will go through those ground rules before I try to use clicker training with her for anything else.  There are many great resources out there for teaching how to do clicker training with your horse and this Adele Shaw’s website was one of my favorites and I have really enjoyed Alexandra Kurland’s book
  • Eye ointments get too soft if you have them in a pocket next to your skin (like a pants pocket) or in your hand so you either need to have a coat or a fanny pack to keep them away from your body. I like the fanny pack because (A) keeping the medicines in the outer pocket kept them away from my body heat (B) the inner pocket was great for holding the treats (C) Juniper learned to recognize the fanny pack as medicine and treats time and I think that has helped with the not looking for treats anywhere else on my body.
  • I know that the method of putting may hand under her halter is really, really unsafe. If you decide to try that method (A) I am telling you not to so if you get hurt it is not my fault and (B) make sure you keep your hand and wrist really flat so if your horse or pony does move suddenly (say because another horse comes up and is upset they are not getting treats and the pony you are trying to give medicine to wants to get away from said jealous horse) your hand will slip back out again without getting you dragged along with your horse. But again – unsafe. But it worked for us. 

I just want to say again – unsafe to have my hand under her halter like that. 

Here is a video giving the eye ointment. In the beginning I wasn’t very picky about how I gave the eye ointments but I felt like I got better results when I tried harder to get it on the inside of her eyelid. This is the part where having clean hands is really important because you are actually touching inside their eyelid. 

Only one and a half more weeks!!!!! What am I going to do with all that free time?

All Used Up

I have two ten-page papers to write for the two classes I am taking this fall and they are using up all of my writing brain cells and then some.

While my writing abilities recover enjoy this video of Juniper being excited about her favorite part of the day – breakfast! (sound on)


Juniper is also the messiest eater. We are aware that the issue is most likely dental and we have a dental appointment scheduled for next week.


Hopefully my writing brain cells will recover in time for a decent post on Monday. 

Projects Galore

Much Done, Much To Do

The weather the last few days has been perfect and we have taken full advantage. Sometimes I look at the never-ending to-do list and feel like no progress is being made, but today we’re going to stop and acknowledge the many small but important projects we did get done.

The mud-grids have been laid out along the roughest part of the track system where pulling the cart gets the hardest. We’ve had an insanely dry year so mud hasn’t been an issue, but I know it will be muddy this spring and this was in preparation for that. I’m also hoping it will be easier to have a set track to pull the cart through in the snow. We went with these mud grids because they don’t require any site prep and they can be moved to a new location pretty easily so when we do get the barn (I will get my barn!) and we set up the permanent track on the other side of the house these grids can be moved to a new location there.

Leeloo and Juniper helping with the mud grids

Path of less resistance 

We also put out some mats and mud-grids by the gates and under their water tank and put out two mats to feed them on. Juniper is an incredibly messy eater and Leeloo gets impatient sometimes at how slow she is eating and will paw her food dish over if I don’t hold it for her and I don’t always have time to hold it. Leeloo will at least eat up all her spilled food, Juniper mostly ignores hers; Leeloo will also eat Juniper’s spilled food if given the chance.

Leeloo and I have been at eight different boarding barns and I visited several others each time we moved and I have never, ever, seen a barn that didn’t have issues with mud so I’m hoping some of these steps will at least minimize the issues we have with mud when spring gets here.

We also got another four hay boxes (mostly) completed for a total of six! That means we have two complete hay stations for two horses. It is recommended that at every hay station there is one more hay box (or hay bag, or hay pile on the ground, etc.) than the number of horses you have so if someone (*cough* Leeloo *cough*) is pushing another horse around the horse at the bottom of the pecking order can always get to new hay pile to eat from. Since we currently have two horses that means three hay boxes per hay station. Still on the search for that third horse and I’d like to have a third hay station so another six hay boxes need to get made, but they are lower down the priority list. Here is Leeloo enjoying the newest hay box.

The hay-net lids for the hay boxes remain elusive. I thought I had a really good solution and got two lids made, but someone managed to break the lid within an hour so it is back to the drawing board for the lids. Getting the hay off the ground and into the boxes is a huge improvement in and of itself. Not only does it stop the wind from blowing it everywhere, having the hay in the boxes also stops them from walking through the hay piles and spreading it everywhere as well as using the hay piles as bathroom spots or as rolling/sleeping spots. Though I do respect Leeloo’s desire to nap somewhere other than directly on the ground, so we collect all the old hay from the previous week that they didn’t eat and create rolling/sleeping piles for them. Here is Leeloo making good use of her roll pile.

Though sometimes they decide that now that the hay that they have ignored for an entire week is in a new location it is suddenly tasty again – Juniper, that is the roll pile!

We also got the water tank cleaned and scrubbed one last time before winter, got the gate latch on the small gate fixed so hopefully I stop shocking myself (the latch would slide down and make contact with the Electrobraid sometimes and I didn’t always notice before I grabbed it) and we gave both Juniper and Leeloo a really good brushing.

Overall, it’s been a good few days.


the good, the bad, and the sleep deprived

As I mentioned in this post, they put my on steroids for my neck, they were a mixed bag. Absolutely helped with my neck and arm issues; there was an immediate improvement in symptoms, which was great. Now that they are done (Tuesday morning was the last dose) the issues in my neck are definitely making themselves known, but overall they are still better than they were and my left arm is significantly better. However, steroids also compromise your body’s ability to fight off infection and for me they made it impossible to sleep. For over a week now I haven’t gotten more than two consecutive hours at a time. Those two things combined to weaken my immune system and now I find myself with a cold on top of everything else; just when we have what may be our last string of nice weather for the year my body decides it doesn’t want to do anything but be in bed. For once I am trying to actually rest at the onset of a cold, instead of pushing through like nothing is wrong, which is my normal method. That method almost always leads to the cold turning into either a sinus infection, or an ear infection, or strep throat, or that really fun winter break when I got a double ear infection and strep throat – good times. I’m trying to be smarter this time around. I actually called in sick to work on Wednesday (!), have been napping (I never nap!) and going to bed early, and generally trying to let my body rest. It has been a struggle – I am not good at resting.

The other fun side affect of terrible sleep is the impact it has on my mental health. Even the most minor things feel like disasters and things that are genuinely not good are cause for a complete meltdown. The biggest of which was Leeloo deciding she didn’t want me to touch her anymore. On Monday a friend came over to drop something off and meet the horses and as we were by Leeloo I went to touch her side and she pinned her ears and made an aggressive head swing at me. She has never done that to anyone, much less me, in her life. My first thought was that something might be wrong physically, but we watched her, and she was eating, drinking, and pooping just fine. That doesn’t eliminate every medical cause, but I am not concerned about anything being immediately life threatening. It also means the cause may just be me, or more likely the fact that our relationship has changed drastically and neither of us is handling it well. I am now out in her space 6+ times a day, but never spending time with her. I’m always doing chores or dealing with Juniper’s **** eye, I’m never spending time with Leeloo, other than to occasionally yell at her when she takes two bites of the hay we just put out and then steps forward and is about to pee in it! (This is why we need to get those hay boxes done!) But Leeloo not wanting attention and being aggressive instead is like the sun rising in the west; it is absolutely unheard of.  I was very upset. I would have been upset no matter what, but that combined with extreme sleep deprivation meant I really, really did not take it well. I know that what we need to do is spend some quality time with just Leeloo and I, outside of the “horse space” and in a “human/horse space.”  The problem is I don’t have such a space, and I won’t for weeks yet. But I cannot just ignore this, so I have been intentionally making time to be with Leeloo every day; going up to her first every morning, instead of going directly to give Juniper her medicine, and spending the time waiting between eye meds with Leeloo when she wants to, which she doesn’t always want to (which is so abnormal – I just cannot explain how unusual it is for Leeloo to not want attention). We are starting to see some improvement, and Thursday she let me pet her neck and her back without pinning her ears and moving away, so I am hopeful that this fracture in our relationship can be repaired relatively quickly; but it has been heartbreaking.

Luckily (for my sleep, we’ll see about my neck/arm) the steroids are done which means I should start getting more than two consecutive hours of sleep at a time – which will be a huge boost for my mental health. Then we just need these eye meds to wrap up (3-5 more weeks) and the hay shed to get here (4ish weeks) – just need to survive until then!

Thank you to my friend Cara for taking this photo of Leeloo and I – realizing I have very few photos of the two of us since usually I’m the one taking the pictures. We’ll need to add a photo shoot to our endless to-do list.

How To Make Compost Bays

sounds so much better than poop containment

First – I am feeling much better, though the steroids will be done on Tuesday, and I am going to start doing more of the chores again Monday so we’ll see if I still feel better come the end of this week; but for now, I am happy with my improvement. I have not however made that acupuncture appointment yet. Or the dentist appointment I have been meaning to make for myself since March. However, I did get Juniper’s dentist appointment scheduled. Priorities!

There are many, many projects we need to get done, and all of them will be easier if completed before winter. But the poop does not stop coming so the compost bays keep winding up on the top of the list. Once the corn is harvested for the year we will just spread the poop around the field. I know that’s not a long term solution with my hatred of bugs (poop = bugs), but the one upshot to winter is no bugs! I had hoped to make real compost that would be good for a garden but (A) we don’t have the equipment and knowledge to do that properly – though I’m hoping to learn more over the winter and (B) with Juniper on so many antibiotic and antifungal meds I’m not sure what the impact would be on a real food web which is what I am trying to get going for my plants. The field around our house has been conventionally farmed for years so it doesn’t have a food web to speak of so no concern there. I had really, really hoped, that this was our last year being surrounded by pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. But with the decision to buy the hay shed instead of building it, the money has to come from somewhere and I think it’s going to come from the money that was supposed to go towards planting native prairie-based pasture and hayfield on the land. Which means we’ll probably be leasing it to the farmer for one more year. I’m still not 100% sure that is the best course of action. Nate and I always hide in the house when they are spraying the field with their various chemicals, but I can’t bring Leeloo and Juniper inside. Also, sometimes the well water turns funny colors after they spray and/or plant the field. Maybe I need to start a native-prairie OnlyFans to pay for it…

We did get a decent start on two more hay boxes this weekend and we got some of the mats laid out in preparation for a future muddy spring, but our biggest accomplishment was finishing another compost bay. We have learned from our first two and now have a pretty decent process.

How To Build A Compost Bay

  • Find three pallets, two of which are approximately the same size.
  • Set them up in a U shape.
  • Use scrap wood to screw them together along the back and/or sides depending on how you had to lay them out to maximize your space.
  • Use L brackets in the lower inner corners and possibly the upper corners – or more scrap wood. 
  • Use scrap wood to screw them together along the top on the back side of the U.
  • Line with chicken wire – a staple gun makes this job go more smoothly. It is also easier if you set the U up so the two long sides are pointing straight up and the back is lying flat on the floor. This way gravity is working with you instead of against you.
  • It is easier to build it in it’s permanent location; but where our compost bays reside it is not even remotely level or even, so we decided to build them in the garage and move them. Moving them is not an easy task, the best method has been to slowly “roll” the completed bays from back to front and over again down from the garage to their final location.
  • Make a lid from scrap wood and scrap rubber roofing material and attach it with hinges that are designed for a full 270 degree opening. If you do not use the correct hinges the first strong wind will tear all your hard work right off.

Set up in a U shape – note L brackets in corners.

Scrap wood on the top an the side for stability

We started adding more scrap wood and a big block at the top that we screwed into both the back and the side for more stability

Look at that beautiful lid. With the wrong type of hinge.

Compost Bay Building Tips:

Find free pallets. Ideally, they should be heat treated and not chemically treated and free of any mystery spills or liquids.  If a pallet is heat treated it will have an HT on it somewhere like one of these pictures.

We’ve been getting pallets from a closet design company (they were posted on Craigslist) so I feel pretty safe using them for compost and for under our hay.

If you are doing the compost stuff by hand, then you want to maximize your depth. Getting the poop up high without equipment means shoveling it out of your cart onto the top of the pile which is a pain.

Line it with chicken wire! This was an “optional” thing on many of the sites I saw, but it makes a huge difference.

No chicken wire – look at all that escaped poop!

Hopefully by next spring I’ll have fixed the lid situation which will help in the actual creation of useable compost. Once we get this compost thing figured out, I am sure we’ll have tons to share! 

Know When To Fold Them

Apparently, my body can read my posts, because after the last post where I mentioned that I had hurt myself but wasn’t going to be able to get to a doctor for at least a week I woke up in the middle of the night in a bad way. You know that feeling when you hit your funny bone on something? The radiating, buzzy, pain, like a terrible current. Now imagine that feeling radiating from your shoulder, down through your elbow, down through your wrist, and into your hand; and it won’t stop. That is what I woke up to at 1:30 AM and stayed awake to for over an hour. It was not fun. The next morning I canceled the Get Out The Vote Event I was supposed to run and made a doctors appointment instead.

The doctor is pretty sure I did something to my very upper back/neck when I slipped down those stairs so she prescribed a week of steroids, muscle relaxers as needed for a month, and some physical therapy. If that doesn’t take care of it we’ll do some imaging. Of course now I need to find a new physical therapist because my long term one retired. I went on Thursday to my first new PT appointment, and she was pretty good, I think I’ll stick with her, at least for now. She agrees it’s most likely something in my upper back/neck and assigned some very low key exercises to do for a few days and I will be going back next week. The PT also thought it would be worth going to acupuncture for the increased carpal tunnel issues in my right hand; which have been steadily getting worse all summer and that I have been meaning to do something about but never prioritized. We’ll see if I actually get that appointment made; I’m very good at addressing my horses’ medical needs, not so much my own.

Overall though, I am doing better. This is a combination of the drugs and the fact that Nate has stepped up in a HUGE way in helping with the horse chores. The horses and having a horse hobby farm has always been my dream; one that Nate has supported, but hasn’t shared. I also always said from the very beginning that I knew we both hated physical labor and being hot, cold, buggy, sweaty, and/or tired and that if we didn’t have the money to do this thing right, we wouldn’t do it. Something went sideways on that path and here we are, without the money to do anything even remotely right. Despite that, Nate has continued to be amazingly supportive and helpful getting this whole thing up and running and continues to be.

At some point Nate will have to take care of the horses while I am gone (either to conferences or to Wisconsin to visit family and friends) and he has agreed to do everything but dealing with the poop. He drew the line at horse poop. Which is totally fair because I long ago drew the line and cleaning the toilet. I will clean everything else in the house and do any of the yardwork, but I categorically refuse to clean a toilet. I never have and I never will. I will pay a cleaning service to come regularly to do that one single task for me. Therefore, I was totally understanding at Nate drawing the line at poop. Since the horses came home Nate has helped with all the chores (except for poop) once a week, because having help makes the job better, but also so he would feel more comfortable about taking care of them while I’m gone. As I said in the previous post my pain in my hands/arms was steadily getting worse all week, so Nate started helping more with the chores and did everything but Juniper’s eye meds and the poop on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. But then the morning after that horrible nighttime arm pain of awfulness Nate came out to help as he has been but when I went to start picking up poop, he took the pitchfork away from me and did it himself. I don’t think I’ve ever been more grateful of anything ever. Because I’m tall and have had so many back issues, the pitchfork handles are just too short for me, so I have developed a poop picking method that saves my back but is really hard on my hands and wrists, and of all things I have to do that is the task that hurts the most – or rather that hurts the most that I have to do the most. Other things hurt as much but I only have to do them for a minute or two, not the twenty to forty minutes every day it takes to pick up poop.

Between the medications and Nate giving my body a chance to rest I am feeling much better. We did however sit down and have a long conversation about the f***ing hay shed and the fact that my body is just not currently up to the labor and Nate has a fulltime job and we just don’t have the resources here to get the job done in the time it needs to get done. Plus get done the million other things we really need to get done before winter is truly here. So, we are admitting defeat and purchasing another pre-made shelter. Of course the company we got the first shelters from are booked out until the end of December so we’re going with a different company and its not going to match. But as Nate pointed out, the one we would have made wouldn’t have matched either. Plus – PLUS! – this company does the anchoring for you!!! Which is a huge relief, because that process sucked! Of course the money for this hay shed needs to come from somewhere, not sure the Fleet Farm job is going to bring in enough, so something else will probably have to give. 

Now we will turn our attention back to the hay boxes! And the mats, and the mud control grids, and getting the gates up on the soon to be “barn” shelter, and getting the solar light hooked up in said “barn” shelter, and fixing the gate latches on the actual gates (which were cheap work-arounds that aren’t working around that much), and building another compost bay or three, and why did I think this was a good idea?!

At least I have one amazing spouse!

Left Hand Down

Why does my body forsake me?

This will be a relatively short post; though I have said that to Nate before I started writing the last four posts, we’ll see if this one is actually short. This time I think it will be because my hands/wrists/forearms have been really bothering me; steadily getting worse all week and today they’ve been pretty much non-stop pins and needles and achy/sore.

This may be because we running out of room for poop and I haven’t had a chance to go get more free pallets to make more compost bays because all my free time is taken up with trying to build this hay shed plus the working 10 hours a week at Fleet Farm (seemed like a great idea, but wow that eats up more of my actual time than I thought it would!). Anyway – we didn’t have any place to put any more poop so Friday I just had it and decided to unload the oldest poop from the first compost bay so we could line it with chicken wire and start using it again. We do not have any equipment yet for dealing with, well anything, so that meant I shoveled it all into the poop cart, then shoveled it all back out again to its new location.

Of course my hands/wrists/arms may also be bothering me because all these mats and mud-control grids arrived and I started unloading them and placing them in their various homes. We got a super great deal from Cashman’s and with the freight shipping it worked out better getting them all at once than getting some now and waiting and getting more later. I know I will use them all eventually, even if they don’t all have 100% certain homes yet. I am also nowhere close to being done with that project (shocker).

Or the issue may be because I sort of fell down the stairs a little bit on Monday. I mean, it was more of a slip and slide down three or four steps before catching myself on the railing, but it wrenched the heck out of my arm and shoulder.

Regardless everything I do hurts at this point: cooking, typing, playing on my phone, using the mouse on my computer, picking up poop, laying down in bed. I should probably go see a doctor, but I don’t have time this week because I have two shifts and Fleet Farm and I have two days of Get Out The Vote events to run at my regular job at North Hennepin Community College and I’m trying to build this F***ing hay shed.

Remind me again why I wanted to have my horse at home?!

Oh yeah – this is why:

Can’t beat breakfast in bed. Also this is why we need to get those hay boxes built! The hay is for eating Leeloo, not sleeping!

Copy Paste

Stuck in a Loop

First, an update on Leeloo from this post. Leeloo is doing much, much, better. The morning after our scare she was already looking 90% better. I found a giant welt on the left side of her stomach, which was the side where the swelling in her legs was worse, so I’m pretty confident all of her symptoms were a reaction to a bee or wasp sting. Since she was doing so much better, I decided to hold off on the next dose of banamine and wait a full 24 hours. She continued to improve, so we decided not to give any more banamine. I also called the vet and we opted not to send her blood to the lab because that would cost an extra $180 and she was doing fine. Even though it turned out to be unwarranted, calling the vet was the right decision. Her symptoms could easily have been a reaction to something she had eaten and some of the toxic plants or bugs that can work their way into hay can have fast-acting and deadly consequences. I’m happy it was nothing more serious and that she’s doing better, but very annoyed that she had to get stung on a Sunday – of course she had to get stung on the most expensive vet call day there is. 

Now on to our never-ending tasks.

Lately it feels like I am stuck in my own version of the movie Groundhog Day. Every day seems like a repeat of the day before: eye meds, hay shed work, panic about all the other things that aren’t getting done and how quickly winter will be here. It’s hard to see progress being made; I went to take a picture of where we are at now with the hay shed project and you can’t tell the difference from the previous pictures I took. That being said, we are slowly, soooooooo slowly, making progress on this building.

We have one 36-foot, 6” x 6” beam finished and two of the 11-foot 6” x 6” beams finished and all three are in position outside. We are also 2/3 finished with the second 36-foot 6” x 6” beam. Everything takes us longer than I think it should, and probably longer than it would take someone who knows what they are doing, had all the proper tools, and had dimensional lumber. We do not know what we are doing, we do not have all the proper tools, and we are working with rough cut lumber. I’m hoping once we get past this part, creating beams from smaller boards, it will start going a little faster. One of the choke points in the process is the insufficient number of clamps. We have enough to do two short beams or one long beam which means there is a lot of downtime while we wait for the wood glue to set. It is minor, but frustrating.

You know what else is minor, but frustrating? Having to give two different eye medications, four-to-six times a day, that have to be given at least five minutes apart from one another, that I also have to have clean hands to apply.

When you just hear it, or read it in the email from the vet, having to wait five minutes between the meds seems like no big deal. But because we’re dealing with an eye that already has an infection it is important that my hands are clean when I give the medications and it is almost impossible for me to just stand there for five minutes without doing something that invariably causes me to have to go back in the house and wash my hands again: filling up the water, getting more hay, petting Leeloo, who has come up to see if maybe this time one of those carrots in the bright blue fanny pack is for her – because sometimes I give in and give her a carrot because I’m feeling guilty that we haven’t spent any time together since she came home. I do always make her work for it. Our current game is the “go find it” game where I touch her nose with the carrot and then toss it and point at it and tell her to “go find it.” I can’t throw it very far or she gets distracted by grass and stops searching or just looks at me like, “Why you got a be a jerk? Why can’t you just give it to me?” It has however come in handy a few times when Juniper is being particularly possessive of me and cranky at Leeloo; I’ll walk some ways with the carrot, touch Leeloo on her nose and toss it just far enough that she can still find it, but in the opposite direction as Juniper. It usually buys me enough time to get the meds done.

Hopefully this weekend we’ll make some more substantial progress on the hay shed. In the meantime here is a picture of baby Leeloo, because who doesn’t love baby Leeloo?!

Taken at Horseplay Ranch in Corcoran MN when Leeloo was eleven days old.

Sugar is Evil!

Leeloo decided Juniper was getting too much attention

Sugar is evil, truly evil. No matter what type of health issue you are dealing with, mental health, physical health, chronic, acute, whatever, sugar makes it worse. I’m not talking carbs, I’m not talking fruit, I’m talking sugar. If you are dealing with any health anything, but particularly any mental health things, I would really encourage you to consider giving up sugar for two or three weeks and see if you notice a difference. Of course, you will need to be very careful to read EVERY label of EVERY food or drink you put in your mouth because they put sugar in EVERYTHING!

In 2011 Nate and I totally changed the way we eat and now follow the paleo diet, or at least we usually do, and one of the biggest things about that is cutting out sugar. Again, I’m not saying no carbs, we get plenty of carbs (probably too many), but we are pretty careful about actual sugar intake. Anytime we are not careful about our sugar intake many things go wrong. We’re both more physically tired, mentally tired, unfocused, cranky, short-tempered, and headachy. Even worse for me, is that sugar makes my depression and anxiety so much worse. SO MUCH WORSE. You would think knowing all that, we would be good about not eating sugar. But sugar is evil – EVIL! – and so tasty, so very, very tasty, and is so very, very, addicting. And the reality is “willpower” (which some argue isn’t even a thing the way many people define it) is severely hampered when you are stressed and tired and we’ve been working so hard on getting this hay shelter built and giving Juniper two different meds that both have to be given six times a day, but not at the same time, we are exhausted. All of that combined to work against us and we broke Saturday and got some desserts. That meant Sunday morning I was suffering from a major sugar hangover and my mental health, which has already been under pressure for the above-mentioned reasons, was just not up to what I found in the pasture.

Nate has been helping me with chores on Sunday mornings, mostly so that when I am gone and he has to do them himself he feels more comfortable, but also because things are always better with a buddy. I was dealing with Juniper and her five million different medications and not really paying attention to Leeloo, other than thinking it was odd she wasn’t coming over for her breakfast like normal. Nate asked if he should go get her and I said yes and went on to step one thousand of Juniper’s morning routine. It took them forever to get over to us and then I handed Nate Leeloo’s feed to give her. As she’s eating I finally LOOK at her and realize her back left leg is really swollen from about halfway down the cannon bone to her hoof. I palpate it, and it is very tender and warm, but there is no obvious injury. Then I realize her front left leg is also really swollen from about halfway down the cannon bone to her hoof and she also doesn’t want me touching that leg. And so is her front right leg, though to a lesser extent. Then I touch her chest and she is hot, which considering she was just standing in the shelter doing nothing and it was relatively cool outside made no sense (I didn’t take her actual temperature because I couldn’t find my horse specific thermometer and I wasn’t prepared to sacrifice our human one yet; once a thermometer is used on a horse, it can never go back). She also had discharge from both nostrils and I remembered that I had found two coughed up mucus things in the pasture the last two days. Great.

I decide to give her some bute and call the vet on Monday (because of course it was Sunday so any vet call will be an emergency call which costs significantly more money – sometimes I think Leeloo has a calendar and specifically waits for the weekend to have health emergencies). Unfortunately, my bute was just a bit expired (2016) but I did have some powdered aspirin and decided to try that. She ate about two bites and stopped, so she didn’t get much aspirin. As I walked away with the uneaten aspirin, I actually saw Leeloo move for the first time that morning and I immediately got teary eyed and went to call the vet. For those of you new to Leeloo, Leeloo has been lame a lot. A LOT. It would fill a LOTR length book to talk about the many different ways Leeloo has been lame and the number of different vets and farriers and equine health specialists we have seen. I used to call the vet out pretty frequently, but at this point I’m pretty good at recognizing most things and I’ve also learned that many things just need to heal on their own (hoof abscesses – I know people have very different opinions than me on dealing with hoof abscesses, but after dealing with an untold number of them I have found that most of Leeloo’s didn’t heal any faster or better when we messed with them than when we didn’t mess with them, so unless the pain is unmanageable I let them work themselves out) or can’t be fixed, only managed (arthritis). This was none of those things, Leeloo looked like she was drunk and in pain, her limbs didn’t seem to be moving in a coordinated fashion and every step seemed to hurt. My brain instantly went into this super helpful train of thought “of f*ing course, you finally, FINALLY, get Leeloo home and you manage to kill her in less than a month – way to go!”

I call the vet and get the weekend emergency receptionist who says “How can I help you today?” at which point my teary-eyed went into full on crying and I’m trying to talk through the crying, which never goes well, and explain what is wrong with Leeloo. We agree the vet should come out and look at her and I go back outside to finish morning chores, which is 90% picking up poop.

As I’m picking up poop and trying not to cry, Nate is raking up the various hay piles from this past week so I can scoop them together to create Leeloo’s rolling pile of hay. Leeloo prefers rolling, and sleeping, in hay, which is annoying because I would like her to eat said hay. I’ve been trying to compromise by collecting the older hay into a suitable rolling/sleeping pile and hoping she’ll leave the new, for eating hay, alone (this is reason number one I need hay boxes). It is sort of working, sometimes. However, after a week as a rolling/sleeping pile I like to take that hay out to use as mulch for our trees. So, I’m picking up poop, and Nate is raking up hay and dumping out the two hay boxes to get all the little hay crumbs out and to move the boxes to a different position so we’re not making any one spot too muddy/dead. As he’s doing that, I see Leeloo very slowly follow behind, picking over every newly raked up hay pile and newly exposed tasty hay crumb from the hay boxes. I also watch her drink some water, and pee, and realize that maybe I overreacted just a tiny bit. She’s still not sound, she’s still very clearly in pain, and there is still the fact that three of her four limbs are stocked up and sore to the touch which is not normal, but she’s not dying. The call to the vet could maybe have waited until Monday but it wasn’t unreasonable to have called today, however the crying was unnecessary as was the super fun mental diatribe of “this is why we don’t ever try anything and just sit around and read books because you finally bring your horse home and manage to kill her” both of which were absolutely the fault of that sugar from the previous day. SUGAR IS EVIL!

The vet calls, we talk about what I’m seeing, and she agrees Leeloo should probably be looked at today. Of course by the time the vet gets to us Leeloo is doing better, still swollen in three of the four legs, still clearly uncomfortable and not as coordinated as normal when moving, but definitely better, and had I found Leeloo in the condition she was in when the vet arrived I would have waited to call said vet on Monday. We talk through possible causes: could be an allergic reaction to something she ate or experienced in her environment, could be an infectious disease, could be a tick-born illness (great). There is an in-the-field blood test they can do for infections, if the result is over 50 it means that there is some sort of infection present and antibiotics should be started. Leeloo scored a 48. We opted to do more blood work and give her some banamine for the day, and I’m going to continue to give her banamine for the next few days. Neither of us thought it was enough of an emergency to pay the through-the-nose cost of having the blood analyzed on a weekend so we’ll get the results late Monday or early Tuesday.

As we were doing that last blood draw and administering the banamine I noticed a bee flying around Leeloo’s chest. We have had a ton of bees and wasps around our house the last few weeks. I asked if it was possible that this could be a reaction from a bee or wasp sting and the vet said it could be, she could have gotten stung on her left side which is why that side is having more of a reaction, and had she just gotten stung that morning it would be why she was so bad then and why it was already getting better.

By the end of the day Leeloo was looking much better and moving more comfortably. I saw her trotting around a bit as well, mostly to herd Juniper to wherever Leeloo wanted them to be. We’ll get the results of the bloodwork soon but my current working theory is that Leeloo heard me tell Nate this morning that at least we didn’t have to pay board this month so that saved us some money and she decided to fix that for us.


Photo of Leeloo taken at Elysium Farm, in Maple Plain MN
I didn’t think of taking any photos of Leeloo this morning (sugar makes you mentally foggy too – nothing good comes from sugar!) so enjoy this photo of her taken at one of our previous boarding facilities.