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Colic and the Birdie
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Sam
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 Posted: Fri Jul 6th, 2007 12:43 am
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Hi folks,

I was not sure if this topic could have attached itself to Julie's re the hill ride or not as it is about the Birdie.  I have been loath to put this question onto the forum for fear of feeling silly.  But have been having another look at the birdie book very breifly and there is mention of colic and the birdie.   My 'giant Shetland' has been with me since last Nov and in such a short time has become my greatest teacher and friend.  I first 'met' him just over two years ago and at that meeting we knew one day we would be together......just knew.  But it took a looonnnng time for him to journey to me but the timing was devine.  Anyway, he is nine years old and came to be as he is small, round, was 'difficult', not a childs pony as a fellow of his stature is 'supposed' to be.  He also has lots of history of inhumane handling.  He has told me in no uncertain terms I can't just 'hug' that history out of there so I have let it go or I was going to really put him and me into trouble.  Coz I am human I have put him and me in trouble a few times but thankfully he is not out to get either of us killed and steps in to save the day.

 I am getting side tracked....is it possible for the horses Birdie to fly into his tummy to give the appearence of colic, if he has no idea of how not to send it there????   'Shetty' is shiny, regularly wormed, soft in the muscles, supple as far as reaching the most unusual places to scratch, built with plenty of timber, a little long in the loins very deep of girth and flank.  I can't think of physical causes for his colics.  He gets two 'forms' of colic, one appears to be feed/moon(???!!) related or maybe an ulcer he gets Magnesium/toxinbinder and corn oil for this aspect and is only on hay, so no yuk grasses.  Early in the month he gets an attack of this colic, this has happened for the last 3 months.  I don't have to be near him for these attacks to happen, I thought they were random but it is starting to appear they have a patten, monthly!

 

Back to the other 'colic'.....another aside is when I first got him if you took him for a ride his birdie would fly to his feet (if this is at all possible!) He would, stamp all four feet and scratch his coronet with his mouth, front and hind feet, generally behave as though there was 'something on them!' I thought he might have grass allergies or lice but investigation proved nothing, we got over this one , I just acknowledged where his birdie was(?) would then take it off his feet and get it to fly with him in a better spot.

My clearest example of his attention going to he tummy is when I had my saddle repacked to fit him,  I could see the tension building and the feet a stomping, the eyes going 'inward', the ears folding back, if kept in that state he 'goes so far away' I can't do a thing with him and don't even try once he is gone.  Unfortuneatly at the time of the saddle fitting I couldn't go to him to help him before he 'departed'as our saddle fitter was in very poor health and I as scared of him 'departing'!  Thankfully we all survived.  So since then I have made an attempt to keep my ponies birdie before he feels the need for it to fly into his tummy.  On the last two occasions I have been able to help him not to think of his tummy and we had a successful time together.  The flying of the birdie into the tummy is random, some days there is no sign of anything other than a happy pony other days the 'angels are calling'.  Does anyone else have experience with this sort of thing, or am I reading too much into what I am seeing.  Can the attention go to certain body parts and stay there?   Does any of this make sense?  I hope I have written this so it does.

Regards Sam

DrDeb
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 Posted: Fri Jul 6th, 2007 01:22 am
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Ahh, well, Sam, we all might sound like screwballs sometimes and yet not be.

Yes, of course the horse's Birdie (which is our word for his consciousness, the focus of his attention, his desires) can fly to anything, including parts of his own body.

This will be the case anytime there is discomfort involving the particular bodypart the horse seems to be paying attention to. So for instance, it is very common for stablehands, barn managers, owners, and veterinarians to report that when a horse is colicking and has discomfort in his guts, that he stares at, kicks at, and/or bites at his belly.

Likewise, if your horse is rubbing his head against his feet, he may either have something bothering him about his feet or about his face. In the case of a NZ horse, I'd say the face was more likely (facial eczema, facial nerve tingling) but either one is possible.

So these things are really very straightforward and in fact, there's no special need to explain them by using the Birdie metaphor. The intention I had in writing about the horse "swallowing its Birdie" in the Birdie Book was where this happens at another level. There I was speaking of the sour mare (or occasionally gelding or stallion) -- the sort of horse who is always making a sour face -- no matter what's on offer, if whatever it is is brought up to her, or she is brought up to it, or she is asked to work with it, then you get sour ears and downturned corners of the mouth and a wrinkled and flattened nose. What has happened here is that the thing the mare is being asked to work with, she feels, is pushing on her, and it's pushing her Birdie down to the inside of her, or we can say she has "swallowed" it. To get her over being sour, then you do what you need to in order to draw the birdie out of her again, to put it up out in front where it belongs.

But, to return to your particular horse: you need to investigate the obvious stuff first, and the first and most obvious thing to investigate in a horse that's having regular bouts of colic is what he is eating and how he is eating it. "What" would involve figuring out whether he could be ingesting anything that can cause a phytobezoar, i.e. such as persimmon fruits or the dry pods of some kinds of plants, or any extremely fibrous, difficult-to-chew material. If it's WHAT he's eating, this could explain the monthly bouts. Does anything sort of different happen on your farm once per month at the beginning of the month?

Next you need to think whether you've had the horse's teeth properly attended to, and by this I do not just mean floating or touch-up. It's an older horse and if he has not had regular dental care by a QUALIFIED equine dental technician or veterinarian, then he's very likely overdue. By "qualified" I mean that the person has to specialize in dental care, has to have had more than a weekend course (that's all many vets have actually had in dentistry), and has to understand how to do full-mouth equilibration. You should plan on this costing a minimum of several hundred dollars; it's the backlog of all that was "owed" this horse through his lifetime but not previously paid.

Finally, we'll come back to the Birdie, the deeper, non-physical thing that relates to the animal's emotions, to his thinking, and how he feels about life and situations. And in this area too -- yes, if you keep him "with" you, he will always feel better and less anxious. But you also need to be asking this not just in particular situations, but in a more global way, that relates to his whole life. He needs to be OK in his stall or turnout and not worried constantly about another horse beating him up, or not worried about having another horse take away his food. These are suggestions; you'll have to look at his situation, whatever it actually is. The bottom line is he needs to have a place where he can get himself OK and stay that way. This is your basis that you then build on when you take the horse out and work with him to teach him things and ask him to perform work. And of course when you ARE working with him, you are alert to anytime he is starting to get not-OK or less-OK, and if you see that, you stop what you are doing immediately and return him to OK before once again proceeding with the lesson or work.

Best wishes -- Dr. Deb

Sam
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 Posted: Fri Jul 6th, 2007 07:26 am
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Phew, thanks Dr Deb, I feel much more grounded regarding my pony's tummy aches, I get all carried away with the 'wifty wafty's'!  I did have his teeth done by a proper (full time dentist more than a weekends course)  horse dentist, earlier this year, she seems to me to do a good job, checks all teeth even the incisors etc.

I had a good look around his paddock today and the only thing with a pod is Tree Lucerne and they have no pods at present,  am going to keep a note of what he is eating, weather, what bale of hay etc for a few months.   My vet has suggested blood tests or a scope of his tummy so I will have a chat to her next week to see what this entails.

Thanks for explaining further about 'Birdie'.

Regards Sam

Joe
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 Posted: Sun Jul 8th, 2007 04:52 pm
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Persimmon?  We have persimmon trees, and the horses relish the fruits.  I had no idea they could cause blockages.  So far, no trouble.  How worried should I be?

Joe

Sam
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 Posted: Sun Jul 15th, 2007 04:58 am
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Hi everyone,

Has anyone ever cleaned a geldings sheath?  Also from an anatomical point of view whats up there, and how far up does it go?  I have never really bothered about cleaning sheaths as I thought that area was better left to its own devices, so to speak.  But my above mentioned gelding has suggested to me to clean his sheath....as the week after his monthly attacks of colic he get a lot of black stuff on his legs and around the opening of his sheath and smells not his usual sweet self, all very embarassing to a chap.  I want to give this region a good tidy up and see if this has any effect on the colics, before I spend money on bloods, scopes etc.  I have spoken to my vet about it and she has given me the necessary gel, so as to not strip away good microbes etc, gloves and swabs, there is lots of information on the net about how to do the job but I really think I need to know what the area looks like and how it all functions.  If the penis is hanging out does the sheath go in just as far as when the penis is retracted?  One web page said I need to be prepared to go in up to my elbow!!! is this area that well endowed...I have no idea.  The last thing I want to do is hurt my gelding so really want a lot more info before I get the job done.  My gelding is very happy to have me in that area, stands like a mare feeding a foal, so I am not worried about getting kicked, I am wearing a hard hat and not taking liberties without telling the horse first.  Any helpful hints would be greatly appreciated.  Also where does all that black stuff come from?  Has anyone heard of a gelding with a sore sheath looking like he had a tummy ache? 

Kind Regards

Sam the first.

PS When you were in the Fielding RDA, Dr Deb you pointed out a gelding whos penis was  curled back toward his hind legs and suggested he had a bean, my geldings penis is very clean and hangs straight so I think no bean  but were do I look? 

Sam
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 Posted: Sun Jul 15th, 2007 05:02 am
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DrDeb wrote:
 

You should plan on this costing a minimum of several hundred dollars; it's the backlog of all that was "owed" this horse through his lifetime but not previously paid.



Thank you Dr Deb this little statement speaks volumes to me, and I am working very hard to get this adorable pony's funds into 'credit'.

Kind Regards

Sam the first.

Julie
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 Posted: Sun Jul 15th, 2007 07:40 am
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Hi Sam and all, I have a lovely new horse and been told that he does not like having his sheath cleaned at all.  I stratched under his belly today just as you do and noted a fliching of the tail, may be habbit but does anyone have any ideas about getting them use to that as well as Sams question.

Many thanks Cathie Julie

Tasha
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 Posted: Sun Jul 15th, 2007 08:09 am
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If it is of any help Sam, I used to think my shetland Beau was on the verge of colic at times because he would kick at his belly. I can't remember what prompted me but I cleaned his sheath and he hasn't kicked at his belly since. If you google "sheath cleaning" there are a few different sites that will give you info on how to find the bean. I've found the easiest time to get the bean is when the horse has been sedated, eg for dental work, that way everything is hanging out.

I highly recommend using gloves when you're doing the cleaning since the smega (a naturally occuring lubricant) which is what you'll be cleaning off really stinks and you don't want that smell on your hands.


DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Jul 15th, 2007 08:33 am
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Well, good evening folks....seems we have several things here to discuss.

Joe: Yes, you should not permit your horses to eat persimmons, they are quite dangerous. Let me quote you verbatim from my copy of Knight and Walter's "A Guide to Plant Poisoning of Animals in North America":

"Persimmon fruits contain water-soluble tannins, which precipitate in the acidity of the stomach to form a sticky coagulum of fruit, skin, pulp, seeds, and gastric protein that becomes a solid mass or phytobezoar. Once formed, the phytobezoar is abrasive and can lead to ulcers and even rupture of the stomach of horses that have eaten large quantities of ripe persimmon fruits. Severe colic results when impaction of the stomach occurs, or when the phytobezoar causes an intestinal obstruction."

To continue: Clinical Signs: "Intermittent colic and weight loss are often the non-specific presenting signs associated with persimmon ingestion in horses. The severity of the colic depends on the degree of obstruction or impaction. Persimmon phytobezoars can be difficult to diagnose, but can be suspected in the fall when the fruits are ripe, the horse has had access to the fruits, and the persimmon seeds can be visualized in the stomach using an endoscope.....Persimmon trees should not be planted in horse enclosures where the animals could have access to the fruits."

And an additional note on this to our readers in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, Australia and New Zealand: the same applies to Black Sapote, which is in the same genus as Japanese and American persimmon, Diospyros.

Now, Sam, as to your question: yes, 'tis embarrasin' to a bloke. The first thing to realize here (and I am SO glad you accepted the advice about having the horse's teeth done): those two things are related, and they are also both related to intermittent colic. The relationship is this: in order to chew its food properly, a horse not only has to have an equilibrated mouth so that the teeth meet and grind properly, he also has to have adequate saliva in his mouth -- moisture. In order for the chewed food -- the bolus -- to go down the right pipe smoothly, once again also there has to be moisture in and around the bolus. And in a normal horse's digestive tube, if you cut him open right after he dies, you will find the same thing -- it is a slurry of green particles -- properly chewed particles are no bigger than cornmeal, on the order of 2mm to 4mm -- mixed with a considerable amount of water.

Now, though, if a horse has a bean -- that's the term for a wad of condensed, waxy smegma -- then many times he is not going to want to urinate. Smegma is the normal secretion of the glans of the penis, meant to lubricate the glans where it is covered by the foreskin. When the horse extends his penis in order to urinate, the glans is pushed out past the foreskin and most people don't notice that the horse even has a foreskin. But all male mammals have a foreskin unless they have been circumcised, and circumcision is not practiced on horses.

The foreskin is a thin, stretchy flap of skin that covers the upper half of the glans like a hood. Normally, whenever a horse urinates and he pushes the glans out past the foreskin, any excess smegma will be pushed out from under the foreskin and while he's extending or urinating then it just falls off.

However, it can sometimes happen that some of it gets caught in the pocket between the glans and the foreskin, and then it's retained there. Once a little bit of it is retained, since it is like a sticky wax, more of it will tend to stick on, until a wad of it builds up under the foreskin. This is what a "bean" is.

When a horse has a big enough bean, it will start to hurt him when he goes to extend. Sometimes you can tell that there is a bean very easily -- you'll watch him go to urinate and you'll notice that instead of the stream coming out in a forward arc, it is directed downward or even backward. This is because the bean is squashing the glans down like somebody pressing their finger over the end of a hosepipe.

If a horse has a bean and it is hurting him to extend -- whether or not the stream is visibly deflected, because it isn't always -- then the horse will become reluctant to pee. He will hold his pee until he just about is at the bursting point, because he doesn't like that pain.

And when he starts holding his urine, then he also stops drinking, because he's smart enough to know that there is a connection between drinking water and then needing to pee.

And when he stops drinking, you will start seeing him have difficulty chewing, swallowing, and moving food through the digestive tube -- you may start getting mild, intermittent colics.

It's just as if you had him "corked" at the lower end. When you get the cork out of there, it may very well occur that you stop seeing the colics.

Now, removal of the bean is not the only part of cleaning the sheath. It is the most dangerous part, though, and you may not, in fact, be able to get it done by yourself IF the bean is big enough. Because to get it out, you have to take a firm hold of the end of his penis, and using thumb and finger, squeeze the bean out from under the foreskin. And you better believe this is a pretty big YOWCH to the horse. Many of them will take a swat at you with a hind leg if you do this, and you can't blame them. The best time to remove a bean, I think, is therefore when you have your equine dentist. He will either be a veterinarian or bring a veterinarian with him, and the veterinarian will sedate the horse for the purpose of performing the necessary dental procedures. While the horse is under the influence of the drugs ("chemical restraint", which makes it difficult for him to voluntarily move), his penis will hang down flaccidly, and you can then ask the vet to show you how to remove the bean, if there is one, and nobody gets kicked.

The rest of cleaning the sheath is relatively simple. Yes, the book you read that said that you should be prepared to put your arm up in there up to the elbow is correct. Apparently, you have never seen a breeding stallion jump a mare....the erect penis of a full sized horse is better than three feet long (an amusing story is that, during the conquest of Mexico, Cortez ordered that "the randiest stallion in the troupe be brought into view of the Aztec chiefs, while a mare in full heat was hidden behind the tent where he could smell her" -- this was done, of course, to impress the chiefs....I am not sure if it did impress the Aztecs, but the amusing part is that the Spaniards thought it was impressive. And this must be somewhat universal....I well remember the expression of astonishment on my younger brother's face -- he was about four years old at the time -- the first time he saw a horse pee).

The way the anatomy is arranged you can visualize like this: think of a soft pipe with a diameter of about 8 inches(20 cm). The upper end of this pipe is capped off. There is a hole, however, in the center of the cap, and that hole connects and extends downwards to form another pipe, this one of about 4 inches (10 cm) diameter. The outer pipe is the sheath, and the inner pipe is the penis. When you go to clean the sheath, where you are putting your hand and forearm is into the long space between the inner pipe and the outer pipe.

The penis (inner pipe) is formed of tissue that can expand greatly. When not expanded, it collapses and folds up -- it folds in circumferential rings, kind of like an accordion, or (I don't know if you have these in Australia) like the silver vent-pipe that ducts the exhaust from a clothes dryer to the outside of the house.

When you clean the sheath, you do not have to use gloves, because you're not going to find anything up there that will hurt anybody. It's just some more smegma, in this case secreted by the inner wall of the outer pipe to lubricate the shaft of the penis so that it can retract or extend easily. It does sort of stink, but it's going to stink whether you wear gloves or not.

Neither, if your hands are clean when you begin, are you going to import anything from the outside up into the sheath that could cause the horse a problem (i.e., sand, dirt, etc.). What WILL cause him a BIG problem is soap: you must use absolutely NO kind of soap. What you can use is either the gel the vet gives you, or just plain water.

The other thing you should make sure of (I am not sure whether I am talking here to Sam I Am or Sam I Ain't) -- but if you have long fingernails, then do use the gloves so you don't scratch him. And of course be sure to take off any finger rings, other jewelry, and your watch (oh THAT would be funny -- makes me think of the croc in Peter Pan).

My great old gelding, Painty, taught me to clean his sheath just the same as your pony is trying to teach you. It happened one day that I had ridden him but felt that he was, somehow, to a very subtle extent, not willing to take as big a hind step as usual. But it was subtle. Having gotten off, I went to do my usual "thank you" scratch, working on his neck and then back toward his left flank. Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather when, as I was scratching the flank-belly area on the left side, he suddenly lifted up his left hind leg real high, as if to cow-kick -- but he didn't kick. I mean he lifted it up like a male dog does when he goes to pee on a fire hydrant.

And he just held it up there. And I turned around and looked at his eye, and he saw me do that and you couldn't have had a more clear signal with a horse's nose than if Snape had pointed his wand at that horse's sheath. I mean I never saw such good pantomime for "PLEASE scratch me THERE!!!!"

And I also had noticed, in the couple of weeks prior to this, that Painty's sheath had seemed to get bigger and thicker. This is what happens when they are dirty -- it sets up a contact dermatitis on the inner surface of the sheath, and then they get an edematous swelling -- the smegma gets mold growing in it and that's what turns it black and makes it smelly -- and then it both burns and itches like absolutely crazy.

So, after this big gobsmack and I realized what Painty was trying to tell me, I went and got a small plastic bucket and filled it with nice warm water. NOT HOT (you know the funny story about the vet who was out to do A.I. with a bloke's bull, and they had one of those older type A.V.'s that is structured as a pipe with a long bag inside of it, like a double pipe. So the vet says to the farmer, who is totally new to this procedure, "please go in the house and fill the A.V. with water" -- there's a stopcock so you can fill the space between where the bull's penis is going to go, and the outer wall of the A.V. And the farmer goes in the house and fills it from the teakettle and corks it up good and tight....and that bull goes in there and his eyes get real big and he BELLOWS and comes out mighty quick -- that's the hottest cow he's ever come across, of course).

So, I think you're now all set -- be gentle and be brave, because once the horse figures out what you're trying to do for him, usually they like it very much and do everything they can to help you do it. Start by scratching him with the rag on the area of his belly just in front of the sheath, then around the orifice of the sheath. At that point he will probably indicate to you that he wants assistance, either by spreading his hind legs, or lifting one up like Painty used to, or pointing with his nose. Some horses extend when being cleaned, but not all of them, and unless it is a breeding stallion they do not have to extend and you can still do a very good job. Remember too that you don't have to remove every flake of the clear/yellowish waxy smegma that you'll sometimes see adhering to the shaft of the penis. It's there for a purpose, so you do not have to make your gelding look like the bald man in the front pew at Sunday service. Take it in small bouts, and everything should go just great.

Best wishes -- Dr. Deb

Joe
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 Posted: Sun Jul 15th, 2007 03:19 pm
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Good heavens.  We have wild persimmons all over and Ihave actually fed them to horses (who love them).  Nothing like learning just how ignorant one really is.

The sheath cleaning can often be done by the vet if one wishes to avoid the distasteful task.

Let me express regret at the comparison of a horses' member to a bald guy.  We middle aged, sparcely hackled fellows can be sensitive...

Cheers

Joe

Sam
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 Posted: Sun Jul 15th, 2007 11:34 pm
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Dear Dr Deb,

Thank you so much once again for all the time spent sharing your knowledge with us.  I feel much more confident about the sheath cleaning now and I must let you know you are talking to Sam the first here as himself has distanced himself greatly from this 'department' and had decided ignorance in bliss as far as what his misses gets up to cleaning her pony's sheath!!!!!!

Kind Regards

Sam I am

 

Back again, Thanks Tasha for telling me about your shetland (aren't they wonderful) I was really worried about putting this thread on the internet, feel much better now.  You are right, there is heaps on the net regarding sheath cleaning but they don't 'know' stuff like Dr Deb does.  At least I now have an idea of how it is all structured and have a better mental picture of what is happening down there.  To Dr Deb, From what I understand of your help regarding my question, if I see the clear/yellow/crusty stuff on my horses penis, this is the 'good' stuff that is ment to be there. If all black and smelly goop that gets on their hind legs from scratching the sheath starts to appear, they are 'dirty' and need assistance in cleaning this area?  So I am taking it that if the black smelly stuff appears, it is not the 'healthy' goodies a sheath should have, it has fungus, eekkk.  I have nine geldings here, three of them have never had 'stinky willy', two almost never and four who get it often but not as bothered by it as Giant Shetland.   But then they must be 'bothered' to a certain extent coz they scratch this area on their hind legs as they get up from rolling.  I am not about to turn all this into my latest 'pony worry' but was intersted.

Also love hearing about Painty, moments of clear communication between us and our horses is divine.

Kind Regards

Sam the first



Last edited on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 08:44 am by Sam

Sam
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 Posted: Thu Aug 9th, 2007 09:17 am
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Hi Folks,

Touching huge bit of wood, we have gotten to the 9th of Aug and my giant shetland has only had two attacks of tummy discomfort end of last month and early this month but there is a marked decrease in the duration of the attacks....trouble is I threw so much at him as the 'colics' were causing me great distress.  He was wormed, had his sheath cleaned, upped his magnesium and got the clumps of grass seeds out of the folds in his gum near his canine teeth!!  The most interesting thing has been the sheath cleaning, as, what a surprise, he loves it, that ponies birdie is perched on his forehead with no thought of moving and whilst he doesn't help me as much as Dr Debs Painty he cocks his opposite leg so the certain department is easier to reach, how cute!  Anyway he has informed me that this task is probably going to need doing a couple of times a month...oh joy...but am intersted to see if this need will lessen over time and if it helps the 'tummy troubles' I am only too happy.  Thanks again Dr Deb for you information on the anatomy, once I got brave enough to 'go there' I had a clear mental picture and didn't feel at all in the dark!!!

Kind Regards

Sam I am and Giant Shetty


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