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February 14, 2008



Regarding Kaluga: although I am not a vet, the pathology of heart failure in all mammals is rather similar, so here is my humble opinion. It is essential to know in a bit more detail what happened and how it all started. You state in your previous post that it began “suddenly”. That’s very important - it may signal a transitory failing muscle or pericarditis as a result of a previous infection (viral more likely, that may go barely noticed; bacterial still possible). If the failure would be the result of a long, slow-progressing condition like increased preload/afterload, ischemic complications or myocyte structural disorder, all permanent conditions btw, the onset would not be sudden but slow, over a few years. In addition, it is important to distinguish between left and right heart failure. I do not know how much attention vets pay to these things or how quickly they may write-off a horse with manifest heart failure, but for a better picture I would ask the following: what is the normal life-span of a well-maintained work-horse in rural Romania? What are the specific Kaluga’s manifestations (breathing, blood pulling in extremities, edema, eating habits, recent infections or wellbeing changes she may have experienced over the last year etc)? (losing condition is a bit too general). Are there any specific findings your vet shared (heart murmurs for example)? In any case, she definitely needs rest, and the recovery, if this is temporary, may take months, but the additional info would help.


emil is right about the details being important. When our mare first collapsed it transpired that the heart problem was causing restricted blood flow. The collapse was actually due to hyperthermia (it was this time of year) We put triple rugs on her and leg wraps; gave her warm mash feeds. She picked up considerably and lived to see one last summer. Of course, she did not have to earn her living and it was expensive to keep her going, but she did have the pleasure of a few more hacks out which she loved.


Very interesting. I can smell the welding when I read your post.

Living where you live is obviously not for beginners.


Emil, thank you for these detailed observations, and Sue also for your thoughts.

I recognised last year that Kaluga was ageing, and that her capacity for hard work was reduced. I anticipated that she would be restricted to lighter work. She is approaching the normal life span for a large draught horse of her breed. However it was nothing more than I would expect for an older draught horse. Certainly, her working life here has not been hard, and most of her work has been hauling hay locally.

Kaluga had been working occasionally around the village until a couple of weeks ago, when abruptly she seemed to lose weight. She seemed to shrink almost overnight, and lost her appearance as the huge, rounded horse that we knew so well. (This reminded me of my father's demise to heart failure. He rapidly lost a lot of weight, lost almost all his stamina, and suddenly began to look shockingly old and frail.)

We looked at the obvious things: Kaluga is getting plenty to eat, has a good winter coat, her teeth are in fair shape, and she had been given medication for intestinal parasites.

Veterinary facilities out here are not as good as in the West, however we did find an experienced vet to examine her. She was trotted up and examined with a stethoscope. There is nothing any more advanced available. The vet was quite certain of his diagnosis of developing heart failure.

At the same time, Kaluga has a good appetite and is alert, so I am sure that she is not suffering. Even though her stamina is plainly very much reduced, she is coping with a sedentary life. It seems that she lay down in the trailer and had trouble getting up, rather than collapsing. She is kept inside at night where it is warmer, however she is keen to go out during the day, and remains inquisitive. I don't think that she is particularly affected by the cold, since she is getting a lot of hay and maize to eat, and has a thick coat.

I believe that, in her present condition, though unable to work, she is not suffering. Se has no joint degeneration and is not lame in any way, and her teeth (though nearly worn through, a sign that she is nearing the end of a normal life span) are good enough that she can eat fairly well. I am simply aware that her condition has worsened abruptly, and that it may worsen further. I think that a further worsening will warrant prompt euthanasia, because any further loss of condition will compromise her organ functions. If she does not lose further weight, she may perhaps make it through the spring and even maybe summer, when the weather is warmer and the grass brings fresh nutrients. I don't like how thin she is, however she is an old horse. We can just take each day as it comes. I would like her to see a last spring, if that is a realistic hope. She is a good, kind horse who has served us faithfully, and I want her to pass her last days happily and restfully, and then end her days before she starts to suffer.


Thanks for posting the shoes! I've been dying to have a look :)
Those are some crazy studs. Seems like a ton of work to do. Although I like that they last a long time.
I can only imagine how they tear things up. I know they use caulks and studs on the jumpers around here for traction. There is a story going around about a girl killed after she came off and her horse stepped right on her helmet. The studs cracked through her helmet and it killed her.
I think of that every time I see them.
Sue's right. Your life isn't for beginners!!


Those are some crazy studs on those shoes.


They are big studs. However they keep us safe and secure on the ice. It is a lot of work keeping horses well shod, with studs in winter and with borium in summer.

Back in Britain, I knew someone who fell and her horse stepped on her head and crushed her helmet. She was lucky to escape blind in one eye and with minor brain damage. The horse had plain shoes, no studs. I guess that a stud could penetrate the skull.

There is also a story out here that a vet didn't anaethetise a stallion properly when gelding him so, when the incision was made, the horse came round and bit the vet somewhere delicate. Thus, in one fell swoop, stallion and vet were both castrated. Dangerous creatures, horses.


We are coming into ice season pretty soon as temperatures are supposed to rise to close to 0 degrees C next week and we will get snow thawing during the days and re-freezing at night from then on until spring. My horse who works gets borium studs, too. He is the only one and gets turned out with the others (all broodmares) because he is too arthritic in the hindquarters to kick.

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