Thursday, October 1, 2009

Lost Again and Typical Care Issues

Remember our stray dog Flossie, the elderly lab mix who lived with us for a few days? Well I met up with Flossie again one day last week. She was walking down the middle of the road, right on the center line, with a line of cars behind her and heading in the direction of our farm. She wasn't too far from home at that point so I loaded her in my car and took her home. Thank goodness the other traffic on the road was creeping along at 1 mph behind her.

This morning Jason drove to the bottom of the driveway as he was heading out, and lo and behold but who is at the bottom of the driveway, right at the edge of the road? You guessed right, it was Flossie. So Jason loaded her up and drove her the mile and a half home again. I think Flossie is getting a little bit senile. She is well cared for and likes her family. However there is no fenced in area for her and clearly she is starting to forget where she lives. Or maybe she just liked living with us better, but I really don't think so. I really don't want to find Flossie flattened in the road one day.

Someone asked in the comments about the health issues of the horses here. Did some of them have IR or Cushing's, did they get supplements, etc. We do have a couple of residents with Cushings. We have actually been able to successfully manage them without administering pergolide, even if they were previously on pergolide. If the day comes that they need pergolide (or anything else) then they will get it. We have a couple of residents who have previously foundered as well. Believe it or not we've had no issues with founder here, even in the previously foundered, with all of the grass. I know the next question will be "why" but I don't know that I have an answer.

I think there are several factors. The pastures are large so the horses naturally get a lot of movement in each day. We really stay on top of their feet and keep their hooves in the best shape we can. Hoof form can certainly be a big contributor to founder. The stress level on the horses is very low here. There are not horses coming and going from their groups regularly, and there is no lesson or training program here. The most content place for a horse is with their herd. Just as in people, lower stress levels lead to a healthier horse that is better able to maintain itself.

There are some residents that do get daily medications, for example a couple of the residents are on daily Thyro-L. Although most of the horses were on joint supplements prior to retirement most of them are weaned off of them here. We do have some residents that receive a daily joint supplement and a couple of residents have regular Adequan injections. There is nothing better for joint health than being out of a stall. Constant movement keeps the joint fluid flowing better than any supplement ever will. Thus most of the horses no longer need their joint supplements once they are out of the typical show barn routine.

Of course with horses there are always various lumps and bumps. I have to admit that sometimes I truly think it is a miracle that horses did not become extinct a long time ago, they really are born looking for ways to kill themselves! Occasionally someone has, for example, an oozy eye. Of course we have the vet out, the eye is dilated and stained, and we are given various topicals to put in the eye. It is amazing how strong a horse's eyelid can be when you are trying to pry it up to apply eye ointment!

The majority of the (thankfully rare) injuries that occur here are usually related to the wood fence. One of my vets made the comment once that he sees as many injuries related to wood fencing as he does with barb wire. If a horse happens to stomp at a fly and catch the fence, or roll right next to the fence, or whatever, wood splinters and cracks. It doesn't matter how new the wood is, it just happens. We've had more than one horse roll right next to a fence, including one of my horses! This baffles me. They have acres and acres of pasture in which to roll, but they have to roll six inches from the fence. I feel like saying to those horses "here's your sign."

The most typical change I see in aging horses is that at some point many of them go from really easy keepers to harder keepers. This is a normal part of aging, and the point it which it occurs is different with every horse. As they age their teeth aren't as good and their bodies are not working as efficiently any more. For example, Harmony is 29 years old this year. About a year ago we had to really increase the amount of feed we were giving her to maintain her same body condition and we added a pre-biotic to her feed as well. On the other hand Clay is 30 years old this year and he has yet to show a need for any feed changes. We soak every horse's feed to some extent, and the truly elderly horses get their feed soaked almost to a mush. Yes it is a pain to soak that much feed every day but we feed a really low NSC feed and so it is a fairly dry feed. I'd rather deal with soaking feed every single day than deal with one choke if I can avoid it. That being said soaking feed is not a guaranteed way to avoid a choke but it is a very big help.

All in all we are very low key here. Our goal is to give the horses what they need while not wasting their owner's money giving them things they don't need. I see relaxed, healthy and happy horses all around me every day. We may not get everything 100% perfect but I think we do a pretty good job. Hope that came close to answering the question Lytha!

Trigger and Baby hanging out; Trigger is 9 years old and Baby is 10 years old. Both showed on the A circuit in the hunters. Trigger is a horse we weaned off of daily bute. He is moving better with each month that goes by even without the daily bute. Baby was on a daily ulcer supplement as he was very prone to gas colic. Baby has been off his ulcer supplement for almost a year and hopefully he will continue to be just fine without it.

Traveller grazing in front of the pear trees. Every year that one pear tree changes color and loses its leaves almost a full two months before the other trees.

B-Rad and Asterik were on the move! All of this constant movement while grazing and playing is great for their joints.

Sebastian decided to follow them

Sebastian again

Then I saw Slinky trotting through his pasture
Sebastian, Faune and Asterik grazing

Chili and Mr. O'Reilly grazing together

Lightening, Teddy and Lucky; I like their three distinct coat colors against the green grass in this picture

B-Rad and Winston

Trillion in the front and Asterik behind him

Ogie; he is a wonderful elderly statesman and even though he tries to convince you he is a grumpy old man he is really so loveable.


Kate said...

I like your do as little as possible but whatever is necessary approach to supplements and special care. The seniors do take extra care sometimes, and getting them to hold weight is a challenge - probably more for us with our colder climate in winter.

Thanks for the pictures, as usual!

Catherine said...

'here's your sign'...LMAO!

Jason said...

It never ceases to amaze me how many of the things we choose to do for our horses may not necessarily be in their best interests.

Without fail, sound nutrition, lots of exercise, being in small "herds" all day long, a stimulating natural environment and low levels of external stress do wonders for the elders in our care.

In most cases on this farm we let the horses tell us what they need and then(of course) we do it ! I'll say that the caveat is that you really have to know the horses in question, as well as how to read their behaviour and movement in order to get this part consistently right. Without trying to brad, both of us are really good at doing this.

RuckusButt said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. You and Jason have such a wealth of knowledge it is a privilege to read about the issues you encounter. Your approach to horse health is so refreshing - informative, open-minded, and as natural as possible. I love that you guys don't dogmatically follow one particular approach for all.

If you are ever looking for blog topics, more detail on any of the health issues you have dealt with would be very interesting to me (I know you're busy, so just a suggestion if you're interested). I don't care about identifying the horse really, but would be interested in hearing about the issue and what was done to manage BP (Before Paradigm!), the transition, and after awhile. Or new issues that come up.

Also, you've mentioned the down side of wood fencing a few times. Would you prefer something else, or is this just one of those things where nothing is perfect courtesy of those seemingly suicidal horses?

lytha said...

Melissa and Jason,

Thanks for answering my questions. I see the truth is that you are not protecting medical confidentiality, as much as you don't have much to divulge!

Natural living brings the horses back in time, doesn't it? So glad that this way of horsekeeping is becoming popular, even here in Germany. (There is a little disclaimer sign at my old riding stable: "Horses are wandering animals. They need to be outside. Do not complain or report us when you see our horses outside in winter!")

I like the idea of doing Before Paradigm (BP) stories, to demonstrate how natural living improved a preexisting condition, but I suppose it would be hard to get the owners' permission on that.

Oh dangit, I forgot one important question. Do you use a daily vitamin and/or mineral supplement on any horses? I went to a nutrition seminar once where I was told that green grass contains most of the vitamins a horse needs.

Interesting how you said horses usually switch from being easy keepers to hard keepers at some point. I definitely saw this with Baasha. In your photos, it would be impossible for me to pick out the hard keepers.


Mrs Mom said...

That reminded me of a wood-fence story... way back when in my late teens I worked for my equine vet. A patient came in- very nice and very well bred TB colt, fixing to head off to race training- with a splinter wedged deeply into the point of his shoulder. Well, that was the entry point. The splinter wound up being wedged well back, almost to his first rib. He got it when he bashed through a wooden fence at his farm, trying to get to the filly in the next paddock.

It healed well, and he went on to race. Don't really know much about him from there.

Wonderful pictures here, and thanks for taking such great care of the "seasoned" citizens and those who have had a physically tougher start!

Jason said...


The horses have white salt and a commercial mineral supplement either loose or in blocks available to them at all times.

Green grass does contain most minerals and vitamins that a horse needs, with some excpetions. In the early spring, just at and after green up, most grasses are low in Mg; we use a high Mg mineral supplement here for that reason from Feb to the end of April. Our hay feeding season is short in Middle Tennessee; typically they eat more hay than pasture from the 1st of January through the end of February, but I notice consumption of mineral goes way up during that timeframe. Stored forage loses vitamins and some minerals quite rapidly and horses will compensate for this by increasing their mineral intake !

FlyingHorse2 said...

Wonderful post and I loved the pictures! I think the supplement aisle at a tack shop is a nightmare and stock my barn more so, from the dollar store! I'm actually going to write a book about 1001 things to buy for your horse from the dollar store....gotta get a shorter title though! LOL! Great post! Thanx!

raphycassens said...

I love that you explain the process of what you do!

phaedra96 said...

I think if I were a horse and could choose my retirement; it would be with you. I notice a couple had cribbing collars. What a horrible habit and how sad their herd life could not change that. I just wonder how you manage finances; I would worry about taking care of a high maintainance horse and the owner cannot pay any longer. How do you deal with that? On the other hand; it would always be in the back of my mind that most of these guys and gals are elderly and will move on to greener pastures. It would be so hard to love them knowing tomorrow could be the end. I think this makes you and Jason even more special because I would have a hard time putting my heart on the line knowing that. Kudos to both of you.

phaedra96 said...

A side note to Flying Horse2---WRITE that book! I would buy it!!

Kathleen said...

Heck, I'm a *person* and I'd like to retire with you all! What a wonderful place you have and what a marvelous thing it is that you do for these horses.

Dressager said...

Greta is the only horse in my barn buddy posse who is kept out at pasture: all of my other friends keep their horses in stalls. I was thinking about moving Greta in one too, subconsciously for "well, everyone else is doing it" reasons, but once I actually thought about it, she was much happier and much healthier in a pasture.

And with all of the rain Texas has been getting, the mud is a PITA but the green grass that's coming through is amazing!

Greta doesn't need daily exercising, she is learning how to manage very nicely in her little herd of four, she doesn't need any supplements (save rasberry leaves when she's in heat and small handfuls of BOSS as treats, good for her coat and hooves) she has lots of room and lots of shade, she has great barefoot hooves, she doesn't have any nervous disorders, she is less likely to injure herself when being worked: all in all, she's pretty dang healthy! And I guess that means she won't be needing an excess of joint supplements in the future?

Kudos to your happy healthy horse management and pasture board in general. It's all-nat-u-ral.