In the Shadow of Horse

In the Shadow of Horse
In the Shadow of Horse

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Swift Dam, last best novel review

"Swift Dam," the new novel by veterinarian and writer Sid Gustafson, is a beautifully evocative exploration of memory and landscape, history and generational relationships. It is set on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, where Sid grew up as part of the prolifically creative Gustafson clan.

http://lastbestnews.com/site/2016/06/swift-dam-a-mesmerizing-account-of-family-remembrance/

Review is linked below. 

Ed Kemmick reviews Swift Dam, the Montana veterinary novel




The guts of the book are the ruminations of Oberly and Vallerone on life, love and mortality. Vallerone, apparently subject to some kind of sleep disorder, has trouble keeping his dreams separate from real life, or disentangling real history from myth and misremembrance.
The point seems to be that we all are disordered when we try to reconstruct the past, that we all live to some extent in a waking dream.
The book is also full of veterinary particulars, which might sound dry but are anything but. Vallerone is an old-fashioned healer who does much of his diagnosis and doctoring with his hands—hence the nickname “Fingers”—and who is a proponent of the Blackfeet way of raising and caring for horses.
Sid, who in his own practice specializes in the care of thoroughbred race horses, goes into loving detail about the proper care of livestock, and he takes several detours to damn the damage done to animals by modern ranching techniques and the scourge of using drugs to treat every ailment.
Sid writes of veterinary medicine, and much else, with a poetic voluptuousness, as in this description of the aftermath of a cesarean birth: “The new mother heaves a sigh of relief as the calf exits her incised womb. Doc elevates the calf to drain her wet lungs, and lays the neonate out and revives the baby, too long inside. He clamps her umbilicus to make her inhale, and inhale the little creature does, taking in first air, continuing to inhale, gestating nine months to inhale. Fingers threads his needle with catgut suture and the newborn sits to her sternum and issues a faint bawl. He stitches the mother back together, the newborn flapping her ears, stars singing hallelujah.”
Sid also knows the Blackfeet, whom he grew up around up on the family ranch. He writes of Blackfeet past and present with a clear understanding of the indignities they have suffered, but also with an unsentimental appreciation of what they might teach those who care to listen.
- See more at: http://lastbestnews.com/site/2016/06/swift-dam-a-mesmerizing-account-of-family-remembrance/#sthash.fkJi9UPf.dpuf


Toward the end of the book, Vallerone “watches the new dam through the drizzle, his bones pained by the rain, joints in need of ambulation. He walks, walks to lubricate his joints, to stiffen his bones, to condition his muscles. He knows locomotion is the key to longevity. To keep living, one must keep moving. All of the animals taught him that to move is to live. All becomes dependent on locomotion in the end. When you stop moving, you stop living. When the water stops flowing, all is over.”
True words, for sure. The Gustafson children lost both their parents in the past few years, but Sid and his his siblings don’t seem to be slowing down in the least.
Details: “Swift Dam,” by Sid Gustafson, published by Open Books, 2016. 152 pages, $15.95; ebook, $6.99.
- See more at: http://lastbestnews.com/site/2016/06/swift-dam-a-mesmerizing-account-of-family-remembrance/#sthash.HudXholk.dpuf





Dr Gustafson is a practicing veterinarian, equine behavior educator, and novelist. The application of behavior science enhances optimum health, performance, soundness, contentment, and longevity in animal athletes. Behavioral and nutritional strategies enrich the lives of stabled horses. Training and husbandry from the horse's perspective result in content, cooperative horses who are willing to learn and perform.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

High Altitude Trouble in Dogs and Horses


High Altitude Disease in Dogs and Horses: Pulmonary Edema
Signs, Prevention, Treatment
Sid Gustafson DVM

Practicing in Big Sky, at 6000-10000 feet and higher, our practice sees and treats many cases of pulmonary edema, altitude sickness, and heart disease in horses and dogs are exacerbated by the altitude.



Difficult Breathing is the first and most obvious sign.

Altitude Sickness
Pulmonary edema/altitude sickness can include swelling of the lungs or accumulation of fluid that interferes with effective breathing. Struggling for air is uncomfortable, and afflicted dogs and horses cannot catch their breath, even at rest.

Causes: Unacclimated to high altitudes accompanied by high altitude activity. Distressed, rapid, relentless, or difficult breathing may be associated with underlying med¬ical conditions such as heart disease, respiratory infection, asthma, collapsing trachea, etc. That said, the healthiest dogs and humans can succumb to the vagaries of altitude sickness from time to time. The body likes oxygen, and when oxygenation becomes impaired, breathing troubles can be intense. High temperatures contribute to the breathing distress. Make sure your dog and horse stay cool. 
Heart weaknesses and lung conditions contribute to the severity of the condition, as can allergies and infection. Gradual, measured acclimation to altitude is recommended. Subtle conditions not apparent at lower altitudes may present themselves clinically under the duress of altitude and exercise. Aging dogs become susceptible as time wears on. Just because Fido had an uneventful climb last year doesn't mean the trip will be a merry one this year. Don't forget your dog's annual physical before tackling the mountain peaks this year. Make sure your dog stays hydrated during mountain adventures.

Signs: Difficult and labored breathing caused by airway inflammation or fluid in the airways and/or lungs. Your horse or dog tires easily and requires frequent rests, refuses to continue (can’t continue); relentless panting fails to diminish with rest.The dog may refuse to sit or lie down, as those postures makes breathing more difficult. As the condition worsens, coughing and blood-tainted spittle accompany shortness of breath. Milder cases of altitude sickness manifest as coughing at night, often beginning a few hours after activity has subsided. The dog may prefer a sitting position with the elbows held wide and head stretched out, refusing to lie down. Other signs include a worried expression, distressed eyes and unremitting panting. When horses pant, the condition is sever. In young dogs and horses, the cause can be congenital heart disease or anemia from internal parasites. Older or heavy dogs and horses may suffer from congestive heart failure. that is severely worsened with exercise at altitude. Backup of fluid into the lungs from a weak or aging heart is aggravated by strenuous or even mild activity at high elevations. Intake of untoward amounts of salt can aggravate heart disease and pulmonary edema. Many aging dogs should be on a low sodium, or sodium-free diet. Adequate hydration and maintenance of normal electrolyte levels becomes compensated at high elevations, and medical problems ensue on several levels.
Prevention: Careful conditioning and gradual acclimation to high altitudes are recommended before all high altitude trips. Proper medical treatment of underlying health conditions can prevent exercise-associated breathing complications at any altitude. Avoid strenuous exercise—especially at high altitudes—to which your dog is not accustomed, difficult snow (deep, wind-pressed, crusted) and extremes of hot or cold weather. See your veterinarian for a physical exam and consultation prior to departure. He or she will discuss proper conditioning and consider the need for administration of preventive and ameliorative medications, which can be critical as pulmonary edema and altitude sickness can be life-threatening. Retreating to a lower altitude is always recommended and often required for the breathing to return to normal. Avoid salt, and salty treats, bacon, ham, and cheap dog treats, as these cause additional fluid retention and contribute to pulmonary edema. Many dogs coming to altitude manifest symptoms of underlying heart disease that was asympotamtic at sea level. Weak hearts and lungs become even weaker at altitude. It is possible to prevent lung and heart issues with medication prescribed by your veterinarian.
Treatment: Discontinue activity. Transport the dog to a lower altitude in a manner that allows easy breathing. If the gums become pale or purple, mouth-to-nose breathing may be necessary until the gums regain their normal color and refill time. Administer oxygen if available, which it often is at high altitudes. I recommend that you bring oxygen for yourself and your dog if you plan to travel at unaccustomed elevations where there could be problems. Simply allow the oxygen to flow near your dog's nostrils, rather than into the mouth, in a wind- free environment.
Seek veterinary care if breathing difficulty doesn't improve with rest or the return to a lower elevation. Subsequent or underlying lung disorders or infections and aggravation of pre-existing medical conditions can complicate altitude sickness. See your veterinarian if your dog experiences difficulty breathing or tires easily on high altitude hikes. Furosemide is a commonly employed pharmaceutical treatment. It is a diuretic which lowers the arterial blood pressure in the lungs. Side effects include electrolyte imbalances and dehydration. Other preventive medications include triamcinolone. Cortisones that have a fluid retention effect should be avoided (prednisone and the like).

Dr Gustafson is a practicing veterinarian, equine behavior educator, and novelist. The application of behavior science enhances optimum health, performance, soundness, contentment, and longevity in animal athletes. Behavioral and nutritional strategies enrich the lives of stabled horses. Training and husbandry from the horse's perspective result in content, cooperative horses who are willing to learn and perform.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Locomotion: Essential Horse Health

Horses in natural settings eat two thirds of the time, walking and grazing together. The key to keeping confined horses healthy is to re-create this scenario in the stable as best one can manage. All systems of the horse are dependent on miles of daily locomotion for proper function. Digestion, respiration, metabolism, behaviour, learning, training, and hoof health are all dependent on abundant daily locomotion. Horses are born to move, and move they must to maintain health and prosperity. The last place a horse evolved to live is in a stall. When horses are stalled, natural must be re-created for them.


 Movement is necessary for normal, optimal digestion. Roughage is the diet of preference, and horses in natural settings arrange their lives to generally always have grass roughage in their stomach and grass roughage before them. Horses at pasture move most all the time. In caudal cecal grazers such as horses, digestion is linked to locomotion. Digestion is dependent on locomotion accompanied by near-constant grazing.

Colic is often initiated by deprivations of locomotion. Digestion is locomotion dependent. For the horse's gut to move, the horse must move, abundantly. Stalled horses require miles of daily walking to maintain digestive health. When stalled they should have constant access to appropriate forage. Bedding stalled on horses on clean straw helps re-create the constant moving and grazing horses are won't to do. Horses bedded on straw (with 24/7 access to hay), spend hours moving about, head down, lipping, and tonguing through the straw. Straw encourages the constant movement that aids digestion in a big way. It is relatively easy to keep stabled horses' stomachs full with roughage. Appropriate hay should always be present, in addition to the straw bedding. The straw bedding needs cleaned of manure and fluffed several times a day.
Behaviourists know stomach volume, and so now do all of you, 1-4 gallons. How easy is it to keep a horse's stomach full of a gallon or two of hay? Quite easy
Listen to McGreevy: Lack of forage is the most important management factor causing the development of stereotypic behaviours. 
Please understand horse's dependence on roughage, and please come to fully appreciate that the horse did not evolve to assimilate grains or concentrated protein, please. And for goodness sake, do not feed locomotion deprived horses grain, as the practice is detrimental. Only moving horses can handle grain. Long-standing horses fed grain develop obesity, and metabolic syndrome, laminitis follows, keeping the veterinarians busy, and the horse owner bank accounts depleted.
Tell me the ways that horsefolk in-the-know provide stabled horses roughage to graze two thirds of the time, and the necessary movement and locomotion to digest and assimilate the roughage.
Of course, by now we all know what failing to provide these simple roughage and stomach-content requirements causes in horses (poor learning ability, stereotypies, lack of motivation to perform, lameness, tying -up, ulcers, more veterinary bills...)

Oh, and do not forget water. And where the water is placed.
Tell me the reasons why when you lead a horse to water she will not drink the water, please, and remember horses will seldom eat when they start to become dehydrated (when they are thirsty), or after you clip their vibrissae.
Remember horses' good and essential friend, salt. Lead a horse to salt and she will lick and later drink. Make sure salt always travels with your horse. It seems lack of salt while traveling causes a lack of hydration, which leads to colic. Horses require salt and water 24/7 as they do forage and locomotion.
Minerals may also be required to be supplemented, and of course the most important minerals after salt are calcium and phosphorus, balanced please. Calcium and phosphorus make up bone, and bone makes a horse durable and sound. Do not forget the bone minerals, please.

Healthy horses make happy and willing partners.
When we have problems with a horse in this class, we all know to first make sure that the forage, friends, and locomotion are adequate, plentiful, and appropriate before devising some heavy handed training strategy. Unhappy horses are hard to train, yes, as are horses who are not pairbonded to their trainer.
When confronted with a horse with behaviour or training issues, we have all learned to first consider stabling as a primary factor in teaching, learning, and training. The proper method to address training issues is to first address stabling and socialization issues. 
Locomotion is also essential for pulmonary health. Horses locked down all day bleed into their lungs when exercised strenuously, as in a race. The leading cause of bleeding in racehorses is a lack of abundant daily locomotion. 
Metabolic disease and laminitis are caused by a lack of adequate locomotion. Colic is caused by a lack of locomotion. Obesity is caused by a lack of locomotion. Tying up is caused by a lack of locomotion. Bucking is caused by a lack of locomotion. Cribbing is caused by a lack of locomotion and constant chewing and grazing. Take locomotion away from a horse and she will give movement back to you in the arena in ways you do not prefer.
Happy horses train up happily. Set yourself and your horses up to succeed, please. Keep your horses happy with friends, forage, and locomotion, and grooming. 
Stalled horses require movement. For horses unable to move because of injury, we must re-create movement with massage and passive flexion of all the limbs.




Dr Gustafson is an equine veterinarian, veterinary behaviorist, and novelist. Applied veterinary behavior enhances optimum health, performance, soundness, contentment, and longevity in animal athletes. Natural approaches to development, training, nutrition, and conditioning sustain equine health and enhance performance.
Behavioral and nutritional enrichment strategies enhance the lives of stabled horses. Training and husbandry from the horse's perspective result in content, cooperative horses. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Vetwrite: The Textured Life

Vetwrite: The Textured Life:
This month I spoke with Dr. Sid Gustafson, equine veterinarian and author who lives and works in Montana. Sid has just published his third novel, Swift Dam, a story of a veterinarian, Native Americans, and the land. Sid is also the author of numerous short stories and non-fiction pieces, including magazine articles, and a New York Times column. His take on the balance of veterinary medicine with a hobby is refreshing and inspiring for those of us looking for a creative outlet. Here's what he had to say.
Sid Gustafson, DVM, teaching at the University of Guelph
Sid has always written. As a young man in the Air Force Academy and even prior to that working at a cattle ranch away from home, his letters to his parents received accolades. "I didn't think they were any big deal but my father just appeared stunned and commented several times on the nature of the writing in an approving way," Sid says. "When you get patted on the back for writing when you are young, you keep doing it."
Sid's third and most recent novel
Somewhere in the combination of 



Dr Gustafson is a practicing veterinarian, equine behavior educator, and novelist. The application of behavior science enhances optimum health, performance, soundness, contentment, and longevity in animal athletes. Behavioral and nutritional strategies enrich the lives of stabled horses. Training and husbandry from the horse's perspective result in content, cooperative horses who are willing to learn and perform.

Dr Gustafson's novels, books, and stories