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  • The Horse Lady

There is Venereal Disease in the Animal World

Now we are almost down to the wire. Suzy's date with the man of her dreams is in about three weeks. She is in great physical shape, having gained about 200 lbs since her dental procedure last fall. She is still shedding out her winter coat - I have it in my eyes, my nose, my mouth, and a few places I would rather not admit. All three horses have been on a vitamin mix for a few months now, and their summer coats are coming in well, they have no skin or hair conditions, and they all look like a million bucks.

So check off several things from the list I made over the winter of what we have to do to look after Suzy to prepare her for pregnancy. She's doing awesome, and I'm fiercely proud of her. So when a friend suggested that I should call my vet and have her looked at before the heaven sanctioned coitus, I figured it would be a formality.

When I called the vet, they suggested about five hundred dollars worth of diagnostics. And no matter how kind they are and how much I like the staff at the clinic, there is always this vague insinuation that if you don't spend a bomb on your animal you are somehow negligent. Or maybe I'm paranoid.

The first thing they recommended was an ultrasound of her uterus. The purpose of this is to check for damage, injuries from previous births, tumors, etc. The value of this test is about $300 not including the farm visit fee, and a few other nifty little fees. In the first year that Suzy came to live with us, she had just such an ultrasound. It was to check if she was pregnant. She had been "serviced" by the stallion of her previous owners, but presumably due to the stress of the move, it did not "take". But the vet on that occasion, not from our current clinic, raved about her uterus, her health, and that she was again fertile, if we wanted to run her over there lickety split and try again. While i did not choose to try breeding her again, I did take the rousing endorsement of her uterine health as a good sign. Coupled with the knowledge that Suzy has had three foals in the past, I figure her uterus is in good shape. May Suzy forgive me, and all implications of my negligence aside, I declined the ultrasound.

The other test that was strongly recommended was taking swabs. Rube that I am, I responded with an ever so eloquent "Huh?" The recommendation was repeated, that we should take uterine swabs. A little light dawning, I asked why. Apparently we need to know what bacteria live in those deep dark depths. Okay, I could get that, but I didn't quite have the brass ring, so I asked "what exactly are we looking for?" The answer was, well, its really to protect the stallion, because he could be detrimentally affected by some bacteria she could carry. Many stallion owners expect you to have the results of these swabs on the day when you show up. My response was a whoop of glee and gales of laughter. "You want to test Suzy for V.D?!!!!!!!!" I think the lady at the vet clinic was a little embarrassed by my delight. She assured me that it was just bacteria, and not like any of the things that affect humans. Of course, that sent me off into peals again. So of course, because I wouldn't dream of letting Suzy hurt a stallion in any way (that I could control), I agreed to have the swabs done.

In order to take swabs of a mare's uterus, she should be in season, because things are naturally open, and there is less chance of hurting her. So since I had been watching her pretty carefully since January, I figured I knew when she would go into cycle and made an appointment accordingly. Almost right after I got off the phone, I went out to visit with the horses. I touched their beards, kissed their noses, and generally made sure they were having a good day. On a whim, I moved Suzy's tail to one side and discovered the unthinkable - she was in season a full week early! Oh damn.

I phoned the lady at the vet clinic back, both a little awkward and in a panic, as I know how busy they are right before horse show season, but I explained my mistake. And God bless them, the vet came out, on short notice, squeezed between two other appointments, the next day. She wanted to try to take the swabs without sedating Suzy, because on principle, they try not to sedate draft horses who are very susceptible to complications from the drugs, and because it would take time she did not have.

I had Suzy in the box stall by herself, and I had Duke only a few feet away. He was put out to be excluded from something that involved Suzy, but he would get over it. But I knew she would take comfort in having him close. So, skipping some of the less pleasant details, the mare is washed down and cleaned up to prevent contamination during the procedure. Her tail is wrapped and held to one side to keep her from slapping the vet in the face with it. And then, quite simply, the swabs are taken.

There is one other smallish detail which I share here for the specific interest of my female readers. The swabs are three feet long. I confess to my mouth falling open when I saw them. I dont care how big her uterus is, or how long the path is to get to it, no female anywhere in history ever wants her body penetrated by anything that looks like that.

My job was to keep Suzy calm in her un-sedated state, especially since our vet, Melissa, is about 5'2", and for this procedure she was completely hidden by Suzy's giant behind. And since I was in physical contact with Suzy the whole time and she senses every emotional vibration from human contact, I couldn't let my reaction to those two super long q-tips give me the willies.

Of the three of us, I don't know who did the better job. Melissa got her samples quickly and efficiently, and I truly do know how to comfort my mare (give her a reason why she has to comply with my requests), but Suzy was stellar. With each probe she arched her back a bit to suggest that the sensation was unpleasant, but she never, kicked, fussed, or tried to get away. She wasn't nervous or ill tempered. She took Duke's nickers as the comfort he intended. And once again, I learned something about one of my horses that deeply impressed me. 'Cause had one of those suckers been headed for my nether regions I would have headed for the hills.

I got the result back in a voicemail left for me yesterday when I was working at the hay job. Clean as a whistle. All systems go. Go to it girl!!!

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