ORIGINALLY POSTED MARCH, 2011.
You who have had a sick equine know exactly what I mean here…
THE MEDICINE DANCE…
The medicine dance is not only the physically improbable contortions one goes through while trying to administer the very important but nasty tasting medicines to their beloved horse – it is also the brain twisting feat of out-witting the horse during this noble endeavor.
The aforementioned highly strategic maneuvering is what I call ‘The Medicine Dance’.
Today, I’d like to speak about the medicine that goes into a syringe…
NASTY TASTING MEDICINE
I melt into a puddle of anxiety when the vet uses that phrase, “dose by syringe”. Ahhhhhhhhgh.
Me: Why can’t I just put it on his food?
Vet: “Because it has to hit his bloodstream in one dose.”
Me: I’ll moosh it all up with molasses and put it on his grain. He’ll eat in in one bite!
Vet: In the syringe, Dawn.
Me: (weeping quietly) But, but…
Vet: (turning and walking away) By SYRINGE, Dawn.
Me: (thinking up diabolical plans of administration that no vet has thought of yet but will work for sure as I walk, hunched, back to the tack room.)
If you have ever had to administer a nasty medicine by syringe, you are probably nodding your heads right now. Yuk. The horse hates it, You hate it and the horse hates you for giving it to him.
HOW IT USUALLY GOES…
This is how it usually goes. I start sweating about 15 minutes before the dose is due. My hands start shaking and I read the dosage instructions about a hundred times, over and over, to make sure I got the MLs and CCs correct.
(For all of you who are like me and run inside the house to Google the conversion chart for MLs to CCs… well, they are the same thing. Sheesh. I just wish they would get together and call it one or the other!)
Then, I prepare the concoction. Sometimes the vet offers a liquid remedy. That is always nice. But sometimes they ask you to mash up a zillion pills and create a watery YUK for your baby. This is my least favorite. Those mashed up pills remind me of taking mashed up vitamins. Eeew.
Now that your sink and counter are a mess of pill bits covered in a fine white powder, you suck that mediciney yukture up into your horse-sized syringe. This is when you have the great idea to schmear honey or mollases all over the tip to mask the smell/taste of the medicine… (It sounded good at the time.)
THERE IS A SYRINGE BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE
As you prepare to administer the medicine for the first time, your horse still loves you and is unsuspecting of your true intentions. You enter the stall and coo at him as you apply the halter. The horse is happy to see you and is wanting to interact.
You pull the syringe out from behind your back – or on the ledge or wherever you placed it – and your horse doesn’t know what hit him as you insert the syringe and push! YUUUUUUUUUUUK.
Your beloved tries to spit it out as he gives you the Stinkeye from Hell.
“I THOUGHT YOU LOVED ME BUT YOU TRICKED ME AND I HATE YOU NOW.”
You apologize profusely and whip out a treat to appease your 1000lb seething spitter who now wants nothing to do with you.
You: “Here, I brought this for you…it’s your favorite. You were such a good boy and Mama loves you. Take this treat.”
Horse: NO, I HATE YOU AND I DON’T TRUST YOU ANYMORE.
You: “Pleeeeeze. I’m sorry but this is for your own good.”
Horse: FOR MY OWN GOOD WOULD BE TO LET ME OUT OF HERE SO I CAN GRAZE ON THAT GRASS OVER THERE. IF YOU LOVED ME, YOU’D LET ME OUT AND GO AWAY.
You: “Here, take the peaceoffer treat I brought for you.”
Horse: Oh alright. (taking the treat and promptly spitting it out) IT TASTES JUST LIKE THAT MEDICINE! YOU TRICKED ME AGAIN! I’LL NEVER TRUST YOU NOW!
And so it goes…
THE NEXT DAY
Of course, most medicines are not merely one dose. Most medicines are administered over a week or so. Some twice a day. This is where the real dance comes into play.
You see, the next day, the horse is ready for you. He is totally aware of where both of your hand are at all times and is looking for what may be in your pockets. He’s agile, tightly wound and ready to bolt if he sees anything suspicious. Ears pricked, nostrils flared.
You try to be smart about it. You talk yourself into a strategy.
“OK, here’s what I’ll do. I’ll hammer the pills on a towel to muffle the noise. Then, I won’t run the tap water, I’ll use water in this bucket. OK. Then, I’ll hide the syringe, upright, in my top pocket that he never sniffs. I’ll give him a treat so I can put his halter on and then I’ll whip out the syringe and pop it into his mouth, move it gently to the back of his throat and push!”
But deep inside you know you are fooling yourself. You know that this simple chore, which should take a mere 2 minutes, will cost you a half hour and your pride.
THE SYRINGE SALSA
As you approach your horse, seemingly normally, with your syringe hidden upright in your upper pocket, your horse smells your fear.
Immediately, your little pony becomes the wild stallion of THE HORSE WHISPERER fame. You try to keep it together but you are unraveling quickly. You know you have to get this medicine into him and he knows that you won’t.
You enter his stall and the Salsa begins… da dunt da da dahhh, daddoddydahdee… dudunt da da daaah….
Your horse is now touching the ceiling with his nose and turning his head so far the other way you realize he’s been faking or ignoring you during your previous warm-up exercises…
You grab the halter and try to pull his head towards you. He turns his butt and you drop the halter. You pick up a lead rope to wrap around his neck and he raises a back foot in a warming. This gesture pisses you off so you yell, “Don’t you dare lift a foot at me!” which cements the horse’s idea that you are in there to do him harm.
Da da dunt da da dahhh, daddoddydahdee… dudunt da da daaah….
You move up one side and he backs down the other. You stretch out your arm and he stretches his neck.
Da da dunt da da dahhh, daddoddydahdee… dudunt da da daaah….
Both of you are now heightened in awareness and your senses are picking up everything in hyperdrive… Your brain flashes National Geo clips of bulls and matadors or the hunter and the hunted. You both won’t back down. You both need to win.
Finally, your horse give just an inch because he knows he has no where to go. He agrees to let you put on his halter.
So, you do. You praise him and give him a treat which he takes but he won’t give you any satisfaction. He knows the dance is just in PAUSE.
And, you know that this is your time. This is when you have to get the syringe up into the back of his throat and push the plunger all the way. There will be no second chances… But first, you need to make sure the treat is fully chewed and swallowed in case he chokes or uses that to spit out the medicine.
But your horses is no dummy. This isn’t his first clambake. He knows you want him to finish his treat and swallow… so he doesn’t. He holds that treat in his mouth until the drool pools and slides out of his mouth onto your shoe.
OHFERCRISSAKE. SWALLOW IT!
This is when you go for your upper pocket. There you find your honey-laded syringe which is now covered with pocket lint. You try to remove the lint with your fingers which becomes sticky and covered in every loose piece of hair/hay/shavings/dirt in the stall.
Your horse’s eyes get really big and his nose shoots to the ceiling once again. But, you’re ready. You are hanging onto his halter for dear life.
You: BRING YOUR HEAD DOWN
Him: Uh uh.
You: OK, I CAN STAND HERE ALL DAY
Him: So can I.
After 10 minutes of wrangling, you’ve dropped the syringe 5 more times, it is full of shavings and hay which you need to wipe on your jacket – one handed – always keeping it upright so as not to loose any precious medicine. You feel like you are holding a Faberge Egg as you stand on your tippy toes and push against his tightly pursed lips.
You: THIS IS GOING IN!
Him: (through clenched lips) Nooooooooooooo, not today, sucka! Look how high I can hold my head.
Finally after a dance and a wrangle far superior than anything you’ve ever seen on TV, your horse gives up and squints his eyes while he unpurses the farthest corner of his mouth. He gives you a tiny entrance area and you grab at the chance!
You glide that syringe gently to the back of his throat and you push! Except you are too short or he is too tall so you have no pushing leverage. This is when you make one last tug on the halter and in a perfectly choreographed move you plunge the nasty juice past his spit-out mechanism.
Immediately, he spits what he can and looks at you as if you have just poisoned him for the last time.
But then, the air clears. You both know that the deed is over for this particular encounter. He sighs, you sigh and he takes the treat you offer. There is peace and harmony on the dance floor.
Until we meet again…