As the anxiety ratchets up a notch, I try to find some solid ground. Anxiety is such a tough adversary. I find myself grappling with it. so I think it is best to write everything out.
I knew the moment I laid eyes on the mare she was sick. But she was already here. Despite having done 5 weeks of quarantine at an offsite facility. We quarantine offsite because it actually saves us time, effort and expense. Horses coming from auction are almost all exposed to various diseases. The most common among them is a bacteria called Strep. Equi, also know by its common name strangles. It is called strangles because it almost always affects the lymph nodes of the neck and throat area. Kind of like a really nasty version of strep throat. Unlike people, who just get the sore throat, the horse’s nymph nodes swell, abscess and eventually open to drain. What makes the disease so problematic is that it is extremely contagious. For me to work with the mare, I need to be gowned, gloved and booted. Within the quarantine stall, from there it is a change of clothes, hand sanitizing and a shower before coming in contact with any other horses. On average, I need to see this mare 3 x a day, to take her temp and monitor her condition. That is a serious amount of time, not to mention stress. The QT protocol isn’t difficult. But it is rigorous. All my mind can think of is the one freakin breach it takes to break quarantine. One bird going from the QT barn to the main barn. One person not reading a sign, and going from one barn to the other. All these things go over and over in my mind. The ritual of dressing and undressing. The obsessive cleaning, and scrubbing, and keeping everything straight. Even down to using a separate entrance in the house, and undressing there. The over and over and over. My nerves are fried and we just started. On average the horse spikes a temp within 1 to 3 weeks of exposure to the bacteria. Each horse presents a little different. The older horses that may have some immunity have a milder course of illness. Youngsters tend to get really sick and present with all the classic symptoms including lymph node abscesses. With this horse she has no temp, no swollen nodes. My head worries, is she at the front end of this thing? is she at the tail end? Can I trust what the QT provider is telling us? What do we make of the neurologic symptoms? Strep Equi can find anywhere in the body to create an abscess, including their brain. When it moves from the traditional neck, throat nodes and ends up elsewhere it is known as bastard strangles. So of course I worry for her, and what is going to happen. So, now I have daily qt maintenance , worry about the mare herself and then the ticking time bomb. It is the ever-present worry will another horse get sick. We have 30 horses on site, of those 15 might be considered at higher risk due to proximity of one barn to the other. They have had no exposure to the mare directly, though I still can’t stop worrying about possible ways. I take full responsibility for making the choice to bring the mare here. It was an error. One I can’t go back and undo now. I can only grapple with my anxiety.
Each day I wake up dreading what I’ll find when I go out to the barn. Will she be worse? will she be dead? will she be fine? Will someone else on the property get sick? If it gets running, strep can run thru a herd normally causing 80% or more of the horses to get sick. It is a disease that pushes a facility to its breaking point financially and physically. It all sits on my shoulders. I have to maintain extreme measures to keep this property and its residents safe. We are already at our breaking point financially. This mare can become the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
In order to move forward we need to figure out what is going on with the mare and get her better. In order to do that we need to spend money we don’t really have. Just the basic nasal swab to run PCR and culture is about $200, not including the vet call. That test needs to be repeated at intervals to see where she is at. Once she tests clean, we need to repeat 3 of these one week apart to finally release her from QT. In order to get her clean, we need to scope her and flush the gutteral pouches with antibiotics. It is an intensive process, and it takes weeks. Until this is done, the property is in essence on lock down. No animals can come or go. That means, no adoptions can leave, no horses can come in.
We have clients here that will need to be made aware. I am waiting for the culture to come back before approaching that task. There is nothing worse than Strangles in the industry. The stigma attached is extreme. Many barn owners will try to keep an outbreak secret, and it ends up a disaster. I am an ethical person, and would never consider that approach. If we get a positive culture, I have to explain what is going on. Often times people have an absolute fit, and demand to move the horses. This isn’t possible because the facility is in lock down. It makes for a very unpleasant experience for all parties. Many get angry because of the vet expense, and the possibility their horse might get sick. Rarely are their clients who are ok with it. We really need the income from these clients and the idea of pissing them off is rattling my brain.
So at the end of the day, it isn’t so far-fetched my anxiety is off the charts. So much is riding on the next few weeks. What may happen…..it could all come down to this, and it could be a disaster. How do I keep my mind from going down that path, thinking about the worst possible probabilities. I hate being in this position. I have to try and keep my shit together, and get thru this.
Too much is at stake.