Viewing entries posted in July 2010

Seven sets of hooves

Posted by Hannes on 29 July 2010 | 6 Comments

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A few months after we moved to Angels Rest, someone asked me if we would consider a few horses on the farm purely for grazing. He had a few young fillies that needed to be kept aside as they were too young to breed with and caused interference with the colts and leading stallion. Soon we had two young mares over to see if all would go well and if they would manage on their own and probably also to test us to see if we would cope with them. Lady and Sea Biscuit were quick to adapt and soon made good friends with the dogs and the chickens. It was very different having horses on the farm and we enjoyed watching them run and graze together. A month later another three young horses came to join the two mares. Maya was one of these. She was only six months old. Alexander was not much more. Henry was a much older colt and we battled keeping him from jumping fences. He left a few months later. Sea Biscuit (Bisqui) gave birth to Merlin early summer! We never expected to see a foal so soon but fell in love with the new youngster immediately. He was most entertaining and got very tame with us. Roman and Jade joined the family six months later and stayed very close together for months after. Then Cuba came, a bright young filly with typical thoroughbred stature but yet so much Arab built. Knowing these horses didn't belong to us, we struggled not getting too attached! They were here for grazing and safe keeping only so we never interfered with their owner's decisions regarding their well-being. Some would leave us and some would stay. Lady and Bisqui left eventually. One super stunning morning their owner came over and informed us he would like us to adopt the horses on the farm on a permanent basis as he was planning on selling his stud. They were ours to keep! It was one the most glorious days of my life! We started a 'clean up' programme to detox them from worms and ticks and all the parasites that pestered them. Six months after the intense programme, the three mares went in season and for the first time we saw Alexander perform his duties like a real stallion. Maya (now the leading mare), Jade and Cuba were all mated but we were never sure if they were pregnant. Time would tell! I got a call from their previous owner asking if I would be interested in buying Bisqui. They had sold many of their best horses and knew how much we loved her. A week later she was back on the farm and as a bonus she was also pregnant! It was good having the girl back where she belonged. We called the local vet to check up on the four girls and he was happy with their condition and confirmed all four were pregnant. Our stallion Alex and the two colts, Roman and Merlin, were gelded that day to ensure no more breeding. It was a sad day for me watching the whole procedure. Not knowing what to expect made it worse than it sounded. They recovered well. It took two weeks for the wounds to drain and the swelling to drop. What an experience for all of us. Gestation in horses takes 11 months, or about 340 days counting from the last mating. With our girls It's impossible to be entirely accurate, but we have followed the signs and know the time is getting close. We check their udders regularly for size and signs of waxing (an excretion of fluid two to three days before labour begins). A day before the foal is born the mare looses appetite and just hours before birth she starts sweating. At this time she would seclude herself from the rest and choose a safe place to have her foal. Birth usually takes place in the early hours of the morning. We kept a close eye on Merlin when he was born. We didn't want to interfere too much but had to help Bisqui to let him drink. Liz managed to milk Bisqui slightly to release some of the pressure from her full udder and once Merlin discovered the nipple, Bisqui was happy to let him suckle. He grew very attached to her udder in the days that followed and they formed a very pretty picture indeed. The joy that little foal brought us will repeat itself in the months to come I'm sure. We love our horses and, as we learn, every day we improve.

Merlin and Bisqui, day 1
Merlin, week 1

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My boy, Jack

Posted by Liz on 25 July 2010 | 0 Comments

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Three years ago my two cats, Jack and Rimmer, affectionately known as ‘the boys’, came from England to become farm cats in South Africa. They settled in right away and over time have even made friends with the 4 somewhat lively dogs that share their space. I tried to look on the succession of night time gifts of mice as their way of telling me they were having fun, although unfortunately their presence did nothing to reduce the rat population in the chicken house. Perhaps they were just too big (the rats that is). Six weeks ago, at the ripe old age of 12, Jack was diagnosed with kidney failure. He had become a bag of bones, and this was a cat who regularly weighed in at 7kg. He loved his food and didn’t seem to know when to stop but now it didn’t matter how much he ate, he never put on weight. He spent hours sipping at the water bowl and then got so desperate to pee he couldn’t always make it outside. Mats and cushions were permanently on the washing line. Everything I read about kidney disease in cats described Jack – the cat is likely to have lost 70% kidney function before showing symptoms, typically weight loss occurs quickly, coat is out of condition. Kidney failure is a one way street. There is no cure and the best hope is to try to prevent his kidneys from getting any worse. I didn’t really know what to expect for his future and we all felt very sad that night. The vet prescribed ACE inhibitors to improve Jack’s kidney function and a special diet but after 6 weeks he didn’t seem any better. Perhaps I had been too optimistic to hope for improvement. Hannes suggested a second opinion and what a good idea that turned out to be. This week I loaded Jack again into his international flight basket, which doubles very nicely as a cat carrier. At the clinic he behaved impeccably throughout a whole range of examinations and tests and, it has to be said, captured the heart of everyone who saw him. It turned out he had high levels of glucose in his urine so more tests were ordered and the results would be available at the end of the day. I waited all afternoon for the phone. It was nearly 6 when the vet called to say Jack’s primary problem is diabetes. I let out a shriek that had all the dogs barking. That was fantastic news! Like humans, diabetes in cats can be treated with diet and/or insulin so Jack’s outlook had just improved enormously. I’ve started giving him twice daily insulin injections and, being a special boy, when distracted by food hardly seems to notice my fumbling around the back of his neck. He also has a special slow release diet which helps to keep his blood sugar more stable. It’s early days but already he seems more alert and I’ve started to imagine he may even be putting on weight. Time will tell... we’re going back to the vet next week to monitor his response to the insulin, but I am cautiously optimistic once more. Hannes will witness that I sometimes get frustrated with the boys when they call for food, or (as I perceive) constant attention, or run pirouettes with the dogs for no reason other than to cause chaos on the stairs. One time I even said I wished I had left them in England, wash my mouth out. But really I love them and wouldn’t be without them, and this whole episode with Jack has served to remind me how special they, and how lucky I am to share my life with them and all the other animals of Angels Rest Farm.

Jack relaxing, 2008
Jack, July 2010

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Plettenberg bay - Garden Route - South Africa