Time to limber up

This winter, at least in the Northeast, has been tough. Normally at this point in time I’d be well on my way to getting my horses fit, but this year they’ve spent a lot of time sitting in their paddocks.

The video below gives you an overview of eight stretches to help get your horses ready for the spring (which I assume is going to get here soon.)


Your Horse Has Ulcers.

Liz Goldsmith:

I agree 100% with this post. We need to feed horses the way they were meant to be fed. Freedom is a worrier. No doubt he came off the track with ulcers. He lives out 24/7, gets free choice grass hay, very low starch concentrate, and soaked alfalfa/timothy cubes (the alfalfa is a good buffering agent for stomach acids). This approach has gone miles toward keeping him comfortable.

In fact all our horses get unlimited turn out and pretty much as much hay as they will eat. I am very lucky to be in a place where 24/7 turnout is possible. While there certainly are horses that like the comfort of their stall, most seem content braving the elements and having enough space to chill.

Originally posted on Horses |AnnaBlakeBlog | Equestrian:

WMshadowpartner I don’t usually say it that bluntly but I wanted to get your attention. I need to make a payment on a debt. Usually I start with the term sour stomach . No one likes to hear ulcers because it opens the flood gates of guilt, blame and angst. Not to mention the check book. But that’s about us, can we talk horse? May I explain my thinking?

First: Horses were never designed to live at our convenience. They have a prickly digestive system that runs best on grazing 24/7 in nice green pastures. Frankly, they weren’t designed to be ridden either. Big bodies on small feet, and the task of balancing a rider on their back is a big physical challenge to them, one we humans love to underestimate.

Horses have another huge weakness. They are all very sensitive. We like to think some horses are more sensitive than…

View original 798 more words


Freedom recovered

Today Freedom is back to his normal self and looking bright eyed, happy, and hungry. I didn’t get any pictures of him yesterday — I was too busy worrying about him.

Well, the Roller Coaster Temperatures caught up with Freedom. Yesterday morning when one of my barn-mates went to feed she found Freedom lying down (highly unusual) and not interested in breakfast (even more highly unusual). When I got to the barn, he was flat out on his side and looking pretty miserable. Even though he stood up, his head hung low, his eye was dull and he exuded discomfort.

He had no temperature but didn’t want me to even touch his stomach. Colic. Even though I had been doing everything I could think of to keep him healthy, the weather had gotten to him.

A quick call to the vet practice revealed that they would have a vet near me later in the morning. In the meantime, I gave him some Banamine paste — one of the essentials for any barn to have on hand.

Half an hour later, he was looking more comfortable. By the time the vet arrived, he’d even passed some manure and had gut sounds and a normal heart rate. The vet performed a rectal exam and thought she could feel the beginnings of a blockage. Of course, a horse’s GI tract is so long that often a vet can’t get far enough to make a definitive diagnoses.

I suppose we could have stopped there, but horses being horses, I figured the best course of action was to have him tubed and oiled. Better to be proactive at noon than have an emergency at midnight, especially given how cold it’s been at night. I was so grateful that he chose to have his

In all the time I’ve had Freedom, this was the first time that he required tubing. I have a new respect for the unpleasantness of having a tube inserted down your nose since I had an intestinal blockage a few years ago. I was tubed and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Freedom required sedation and a lip chain but finally submitted. Tubing helped relieve some of the gas in his stomach and after that, he got a good dose of mineral oil to lube things up.

Twenty minutes later, the sedation had mostly worn off and he started to want food. Normal behavior reasserting itself. Unfortunately, he was limited to a little bit of hay and, that night, a small portion of thoroughly soaked hay cubes.

Today, he seems back to normal: bright eyed, curious, and very, very hungry. One more day at half rations and he’ll be very glad to get his “normal” meal on Saturday.

I am so very glad that he showed his symptoms early which allowed us to get treatment for him right away. And so very glad that he responded so well to treatment!

More information:

Here’s a great article from Dave Ramey, DVM – How do you know if your horse needs colic surgery

And hoping that none of you need to make that decision.

Massaging the resistant horse

Freedom is a thin-skinned horse who is very sensitive to touch. Basically, he’d prefer you didn’t touch him at all some days. He will tolerate grooming, but just can’t tolerate the stimulation of a bare hand — it’s too much energy transfer for him. He benefits greatly from massage, but of course that generally means that you have to touch him.

He does better when I supplement with magnesium (more on that later) but I also came across a video where Jim Masterson (the Masterson Method) speaks specifically about horses like this. His advice is to step way back from the horse and use your hand to direct your horse’s attention to different spots on his body. It’s a bit like Reiki — a form of energy healing.

Here are two videos that I’ve found helpful. One shows hands on techniques for getting your horse to accept treatment; one includes suggestions for horses like Freedom who sometimes need to be treated without physical touch.

Journey through the Joints

Check out this cool tool from Equine Guelph a not-for-profit organization serving the horse and its industry through education, research, healthcare promotion and industry development..

This interactive learning tool illustrates what is normal — and what is not — when it comes to a horse’s joint and how to manage inflammation.

Journey through the joints.

Click on the image to watch the video.

How to recognize the early signs of laminitis

Illustration of founderCatching laminitis early can help minimize permanent damage to the internal structures of the hoof. However, the signs can be subtle.

Laminitis can be sudden — brought on by a fever or an overload of carbohydrated — or it can be gradual. So, what should you look for? Keep in mind that no one symptom indicates laminitis and in some cases, a horse might not exhibit a common system, such as heat in the hoof, and still have it.

Foot soreness — while this can also be an abscess or bruising, if your horse becomes tender-footed, make sure to check his digital pulse and determine if there’s any heat in the hoof and ask your vet to apply hoof testers. An abscess typically

Reluctance to move – if your horse appears to be very stiff and is reluctant to move, check his feet.

Hind feet tucked underneath its body – laminitis more typically presents in the front feet so if your horse is standing with his hind feet further under his body than usual, it may be a sign that the front feet are sore.

Lethargy or reluctance to eat - if your horse typically has a good appetite and turns up its nose at grain, lack of appetite can be a symptom of laminitis.

Atypical weight bearing – a horse that has a limb injury can cause a horse to put too much weight on the opposite limb, triggering an episode of laminitis.

The best defense is to know your horse and take all deviations in “normal” behavior seriously.

Knowing when to call the vet

Fortune was stocked up

When I first saw Fortune I realized she was uncomfortable but I thought it was her hind legs — her injury is on her RH but her LF was quite stocked up. Later I found out it was her front feet.

One of the only things I don’t like about being in a co-op barn is that when a horse looks not-quite-right, it’s up to the person feeding that day to

a) notice,
b) know what to do, and
c) decide whether you have identified a problem or are just being alarmist.

No one thanks you if you call the vet unnecessarily; no one is happy if you don’t call the vet and there’s a problem.

On Tuesday, it was my turn.

Luckily, it was a morning where I’d chosen not to hunt. I’ve been feeling behind for days, if not weeks, and I thought a nice quiet day would do me good.

So, I wasn’t in a hurry when I fed. Which was just as well because Fortune just didn’t look right. She’s been on stall/paddock rest for the past two and a half months recovering from a fractured sesamoid and a torn suspensory ligament. But she’s been a good patient and has been looking pretty content.

That was not the horse that greeted me. She was lethargic, not interested in her breakfast, her hind legs were quite stocked up and she was reluctant to move (normally she walks cheerfully into her paddock for her grain). What bothered me the most was how she was standing. Her hind legs were too far under her body and too close together. And she was shifting the weight on her front feet.

I watched her for a few long minutes. One of the advantages of taking care of the horses is that you get to know them pretty well so that differences in their attitudes or posture stand out. I know my own horse very, very well but it’s harder with another person’s horse. I tried to encourage her to walk. She looked stiff and uncomfortable but she wasn’t running a fever and there was fresh manure in her stall. I didn’t want to unnecessarily panic her owner so I called the vet. One of the things I really, really appreciate about the practice that we use is that they are happy to talk to you on the phone. She listened to my observations, and agreed that a farm call was probably in order. So I called Fortune’s owner who scheduled the visit.

I had just gotten back from my ride when the vet (a different one from the one I’d spoken to earlier) showed up. I explained what I’d seen and showed her some photos I’d taken of her hind legs which showed the swelling. I still felt a bit sheepish about having the vet come out but hoped it wasn’t something serious. When I left, they’d ruled out colic and the vet was pulling out her hoof testers.

An hour and a half later I was back at the barn . . . and the vet was still there. Not good. It was the early stages of laminitis and they were already icing her feet. Her discomfort had been real but instead of hind legs, it was her front feet.

Fortune was moved to the vet’s clinic for the next few days so they could manage her care. Luckily, the films show only a tiny (2 degree) rotation of the coffin bone. The vet thinks the laminitis was brought on by a combination of rich second cut hay and inactivity, but it’s hard to know.

I am glad I was paying attention and glad that I suggested a vet visit. Delaying would have only caused the situation to become worse.

Generally, for my own horse I call my vet if something seems wrong just to give them a heads up and find out when they plan to be in the area. I only get a vet out immediately for a wound, a serious colic (I’d call and give Banamine first), or an incident like choke. Often if a horse looks slightly off or has a puffy leg, I’ll cold hose, ice and wrap it first to see how it responds (when Freedom injured his check ligament I knew right away that it wasn’t just a sprain. It looked serious). But it’s so much easier to make those decisions with your own horse. I’ve had other barn members want to wait before calling a vet — in fact, several years ago a pony at our barn was showing classic signs of laminitis but I couldn’t convince the owner to call in a vet. The pony foundered quite severely and while she recovered, it was touch and go for awhile.

When do you call the vet about someone else’s horse? I have to say that it was one of the days when I really would have liked to turn the whole thing over to a barn manager!