December, 2003 Monthly Report
On Dec. 3 Fire destroyed large areas of the Preserve. No horses were injured. A third of the newly installed fence was destroyed and about half of the green fodder. The fence was replaced within one long, intense day. The horses were observed over the next two weeks to be eating toasted cabbage palm, toasted briar leaves and toasted poison wood, even though they still had plenty of green material available. The mares look fit, and are showing more muscle definition. There have been no signs of lameness after the brief episode noted in November and the horses move nimbly over the rocks and hills in the area.

The stallion Regulus died on December 15. Though he was the smallest stallion, he was the most ‘typey’ of them all, the most exotic; before he ruined them in the bush his mane and tail were remarkable. His mane was so thick it parted on his neck and fell past his shoulders on both sides, with heavy waves.

As ‘assistant’ to stallion Altair, he was always fighting. Last spring he sustained a large gash on his lower back. It left a large scar. During November he began to lose weight. He was moved onto the Preserve, was seen climbing up and down the hills, but his coat was dull and badly scarred. Early December saw him looking weak, and not walking well. Two days before he died we were fortunate to have an equine vet on hand. He agreed that the problem looked neurological. Regulus’s hind legs just weren’t working well. Regulus was given pain killers and muscle relaxants.The next day he was up and though walking very slowly, he was grazing and it seemed all would be well. The next day he was down, but I kept thinking he would rally. He died in the early morning the next day.

I got a close look at his lower back area. Near the bottom third of the scar was a red spot that had never healed. The vet had noted that his back look flattened in this area. We cremated him. Later, I looked at his bones. Granted, the fire was hot, but in no place had it destroyed the bones that protrude in a ridge along a horse’s back. Yet, in the area of the wound, there were no protuberant bones and in fact in four lumbar vertebrae the matrix of the bone was visible. The exposed bone cores were right under the scar area. Best guess: during the fight he either backed under a tree limb or came up under a piece of farm equipment and damaged the bones. He could have done nerve damage, enough to start the long slow decline. Or possibly infection could have destroyed the bone. Whatever happened, over the course of time some nerve(s) somewhere deteriorated to the point where he could no longer walk properly. The vet said he didn’t believe it was any sort of virus because that would have moved swiftly.

This death points up the need for extending the preserve to its originally planned length in order to provide an area for the ‘bachelor’ stallions where they will form their own group. Once away from the mares they will be far less likely to fight and injure or kill themselves. The need for the area is further emphasized by the fact that the one bachelor remaining in the Preserve (two bachelors and a pair are still outside) is pushing stallion Altair very hard now that Altair’s assistant Regulus is gone. Altair is blind in one eye and at a severe disadvantage. Since there is nothing wrong with Altair, we are considering pushing Achernar back out of the Preserve until the bachelor area is complete. This will allow the two breeding groups to live in peace and hopefully start to reproduce.


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