Sunday, September 30, 2012

Drought Post-Script

Dry weather caused most of us to miss out on half our hay crop this year, which in this part of the world is a really big deal. Hay prices are up and hay tonnage is way down in spite of significant rains in August. As hard as it may be to believe from looking at the lush pictures we still have an 8 inch moisture deficit which is fairly severe. It wouldn't take much dry weather to put us back into a grass killing drought situation. We're sure hoping that the extra 3.6 million gallons of water it would take to bring our farm back to normal falls between now and next spring. However, we really do need to be thankful for what we've got. Most of the country is in much worse shape than we are and it's showing in elevated grain and feed prices.

Farmers have no shortage of cliches from which to choose advice on how to run their operations from the pooled wisdom of generations past. Much of the time the message contains at least a grain of truth and once in a great while the message is a hundred percent right. Such is the case with the old saying, "Good land is worth what it costs". In this part of the world the first requirement of good land is that it needs to be deep enough and have enough organic matter to be able to hold onto whatever water falls on it. You can spend your life savings on seed and fertilizer but if it doesn't rain enough to keep the soil moist it really isn't going to matter very much because nothing is going to grow. Water is by far the most important nutrient for both plants and animals. This dry summer the difference between poor land and good land was two months worth of grass growth and grazing. We fed hay for six weeks this summer while those with poor land fed hay for three months. If we had been called on to feed hay for three months we would have completely exhausted our supply. That is a big difference and one that we are incredibly thankful for.

How is the dry weather affecting you and your horses ? What are feed prices doing in your neck of the woods ?


Lily and Maisie

Rampal and Clayton

Sam and Africa


Did someone say it's time to eat?  Winston, Silver, Gus, George, Titan, Lotus, Romeo and Faune


Rocky and Toledo

Elfin and Grand

Homer and Moe

Trigger and Levendi

Thursday, September 27, 2012

End Of An Era

It is definitely the end of an era here as the The Don is gone.  The Don was the name I gave to the rooster that showed up at the farm almost 10 years ago with a flock of hens (yes, we have stray goats and stray chickens!).  I named him The Don as it became apparent after living with him that he was like the head of a Mafia family, as in he liked to put hits out on his fellow chickens.  

The original flock he wandered up with consisted of him, a couple of other roosters and several hens.  First he killed off the roosters.  Then, much to our surprise, he started picking off the hens.  He did not carry out his hits day after day.  There would be long stretches where he let everyone live and then all of a sudden another one would be gone.  His favorite hen was around for several years but in the end he killed her too.  

Whenever any of the hens would hatch a flock of chicks he would keep a close eye on the flock.  As soon as he could tell which ones were going to be roosters he would kill them immediately.  Despite his violent ways towards his own kind he was quite friendly to all the other species on the farms.  He harbored no ill will and never showed the slightest bit of aggression towards people, dogs, cats, goats or horses.  In fact after he killed off his last hen he spent the last few years hanging out with the goats.  In the mornings he was often in the goats' stall with them, usually crowing away loudly much to Mina's chagrin. 

The wild turkeys often wandered around the barn to eat the corn the goats and The Don had left behind.  The Don would usually go over and socialize with them for a few minutes.  The first time we saw this we momentarily were sad for The Don. I said to Jason "oh look, The Don is lonely for some poultry friends."  Then The Don had had enough of the wild turkeys and he started going after them and ran them off.  This became his normal pattern with the wild turkeys.  

Last Thursday evening Jason walked over to the barn to put the fainting goats in their stall for the night.  He saw feathers scattered all around the barn that looked like they belonged to The Don.  We held out hope for a few days that he was maybe just a bit beat up but otherwise ok.  Unfortunately we have not seen The Don for seven days now and it looks like the pile of feathers is all that was left behind of him.  After being a daily part of my routine for almost ten years I really miss The Don.  Sure he terrorized and killed all of his chicken friends but he was quite friendly to the rest of us.  Jason thinks The Don finally got what was coming to him.  His comment was "if you live by the sword at some point you are going to die by the sword." 

It is so strange to not have him come running over begging for corn when we go to the barn or to see him hanging out with the goats.  Jason is contemplating getting some more chickens now that they will have a shot at living without The Don around.  I think I would rather have The Don.

The Don

Mina and The Don napping in the sun

The Don hanging with the goats


Jason holding some of The Don's offspring several years ago

RIP The Don


Silky and Cinnamon

Largo and Rampal

Norman and Cuffie doing some early morning grazing

Toledo and Johnny on the go

Rampal wasn't too far behind

Africa and Johnny grooming while hanging out in the woods

Fabrizzio, Noble, Snappy, Walden and Thor

Asterik and George

Titan and Gus

Sebastian, Dutch, Johnny, Lighty and Wiz were heading somewhere with a purpose


Thomas and Hemi are big friends

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Benign Neglect

Benign neglect is one of many terms that many people use to describe the decision to turn a horse out for a period of time in the hopes that the end result is soundness.  Usually this decision is made only after exhaustive attempts have been made to return the horse to soundness. Usually some combination of the following has been done to unsuccessfully rehab a horse: stall rest, surgery of some type, joint injections, shockwave, PRP or IRAP, tildren, chiropractic care, therapeutic shoeing, use of a treadmill or aqua treadmill, very controlled under saddle work, every supplement under the sun, or any other of a number of things.  Eventually you run out of things to try, or maybe run out of hope, or are just plain tired of racking up large vet bills to continually be frustrated.  

Most vets recommend a year of turnout if all else has failed.  Some vets feel that certain aspects of the horse's program needs to be maintained during this time, usually the specific shoeing protocol, and other vets don't.  However for all of them the 12 month mark seems to be the magic time frame.  

Typically we first meet our clients when they retire a horse with us.  They get to know us through this process and realize that we really do provide actual care and the horses are not just running free with no human interaction on the back 40 somewhere.  At a later point if they have another horse that has been through a thorough yet unsuccessful rehab they will ask us if the horse can come live with us for a year of "Doctor Green."  As space allows we are happy to do this for our clients so at any given time we typically have a few horses living with us whose owners are hoping for a sound, rideable horse after a year or so.

Since the vet(s) involved almost always tell their clients that the 12 month mark is the magic time frame this tends to give the owner involved a skewed idea of what is going to happen during this time frame. In their minds if they look at the horse every couple of months they should see a gradual, linear improvement in soundness.

I've rarely seen it happen this way.  Usually what happens is the horse spends the first six months falling apart and regressing to some degree (sometimes a lot, sometimes a little) in soundness.  They've typically gone from stall rest to turnout which means their bodies have to adapt to continual low impact movement, they are not being propped up with joint injections, chiropractic care, massages, and anti-inflammatories, and the whole program is just plain different.  The horse's exercise and movement can no longer be carefully controlled anymore as they go about the business of being a horse in the pasture.  So we typically watch the horse go backwards during the first few months.  

After they finish what I call the falling apart phase then they start putting themselves back together.  However the putting together phase does not happen in a linear fashion either.  They will look a lot better, then seem to regress, then look a lot better, then maybe plateau for awhile.  Once this phase is over you hope their final plateau is because they have come sound.  

No matter how many times I tell people that you shouldn't even bother to evaluate the horse in the hopes of soundness until the 12 month mark no one ever listens  I completely understand why, because at this point they have a lot of time, money and emotional energy wrapped up in the whole process.  At the six month mark they are desperate to see how things are going because at this point their hope is that things should looking 50% better.  In my experience the horse is just wrapping up the falling apart phase but despite being warned of this the owner is understandably freaked out to see the horse looking worse instead of better.

Given that all of the horses we have watched go through this experience have been unsuccessfully treated for a long period of time by world class vets and farriers with the most current treatments available, the odds are certainly not high from the start that the process will be successful, and it is not always successful.  When it does work it is fantastic for all involved, especially since the owner was probably quite disheartened when, despite our recommendation not to, they just had to evaluate the horse at the six month mark (again we understand why they feel the need to evaluate).  

In our experience if the horse has not come sound by the 18 month mark then it probably is not going to happen at all.  My number one recommendation if you find yourself going the "just be a horse route" as a last ditch effort is don't torture yourself by constantly checking their soundness.  Decide what time frame you are comfortable giving the horse (and we do think a year is usually the minimum and 18-24 months the maximum) and then let things be.  The odds are good that if the horse does come sound the path it takes to get there will be curvy and random, not tidy and linear.  



Kennedy, Toledo, Johnny and Tiny



Thomas and Chance

Lighty just realized he was all alone and was looking for his friends

once he spotted them he was off in a hurry

Lily and Cuffie 

Calimba, MyLight and Cinnamon

Norman and Traveller grooming and hanging out

Homer, Moe and Levendi

Apollo, Hemi and Thomas

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Change In The Air

I've noticed in the last few days the horses are starting to shift gears.  We've spent the last few months in summer mode.  The horses are generally laid back and they spend a lot of time quietly hanging out and lounging around in the woods.  

This past week, although the daytime temperatures are still in the low 80's, the nights have been much cooler.   The horses are starting to gear up and get more active.  You will notice from the pictures in the last couple of blogs that there has been a lot of rambunctious playtime as well as a lot of galloping around for fun.  A change of season is definitely coming and fall will be here soon.  

If the horses getting friskier was not enough of a hint that summer will be giving way to fall soon, the appearance of the candy corn pumpkins in the stores is a dead giveaway.  I think I could eat five pounds of candy corn pumpkins in a single sitting.  So far I've had enough self control to limit myself to one really small bag but it is a struggle to walk past them every time I go to the store.  Jason does not share my affinity for candy corn pumpkins. I can't really comprehend this but at least when I do break down and buy some I don't have to worry about Jason stealing them.  Step away from Melissa's candy corn pumpkins and no one gets hurt!


B-Rad, Darby and Alex

Walden, Thor and Lucky

Gus enjoying a nice roll; Titan, Romeo, Silver and Lotus are behind him

George and Silver


Winston and Faune

Dutch, Murphy, Johnny, Sam and Wiz on the run

a few strides later

Sam had so much fun he kept going and galloped off by himself

our newest resident, Africa

Africa is enjoying the early days of retirement. Lighty is resting his head on Africa's back and Johnny is grooming him