The cribbing post

cribbing post
Since Freedom will always be a cribber, I’m trying to direct him toward a “target” cribbing post. You can tell that cribbing releases endorphins. He looks pretty blissed out.

Freedom is a confirmed cribber. He came to me as a cribber and even with 24 hour turnout, free choice hay, lots of grass and a cribbing collar, he will crib.

Over the past few months he’s pulled a few posts out of the fence line and generally made a nuisance of himself. As an experiment, the owners of the barn installed his own personal cribbing post, a post where he can’t cause any damage to the rest of the fence.

Of course, convincing him to use it? You’ve heard the story about leading a horse to water? To make it more appealing, I’ve been installing electric fencing to keep him off the actual fence line. Finally, when he had his collar off this week, he honed in on that target fence. Look at the expression on his face! If he were a human, he’d be a chain smoker.

You might ask why I’m not trying to completely stop his cribbing. The problem is that this type of OCD behavior won’t just go away . . . it will be replaced by something else. Let’s face it, for whatever reason (most likely a strong genetic predisposition) Freedom needs an outlet. With a cribbing collar he doesn’t crib to the point of obsession — he’s not one of those horses that would rather crib than eat — and as long as he doesn’t bring down the fencing he can go wild.

Thank Goodness for Banamine



Freedom Feeling Better
Freedom is feeling back to normal

Freedom is feeling better now but on Sunday, he gave me a bit of a scare.

I’d taken Zelda out for a ride. He looked fine when I arrived; he’d galloped up to the fence and begged for some extra hay. But, when I got back, he was just not right. You know what I mean — you come out to the pasture and your horse is standing funny or has an odd expression on his face, or is just not looking like himself.

In Freedom’s case, he was standing with his back to me, slightly tucked up and his tail was held to one side. I pulled him out of the paddock and he started to clench his tail down hard.

He didn’t look colic-y, but he didn’t look right either.

A quick call to the vet confirmed my suspicion that Banamine was required. My vet also suggested some milk of magnesia, as Freedom’s muscles were very tight.

Thankfully, he responded well and twenty minutes later, he looked noticeably better.

I’m still not sure what made him feel off — my guess was the big temperature swing we had here. It was 93 on Saturday and just 61 degrees on Sunday. It’s possible he also ran a bit when Zelda and I were out, although he wasn’t hot when I got back.

I’m just glad his body language was so clear and direct — and that I had Banamine on hand.

Lily the “paintball horse” adopted by Jon Stewart and wife

Tracey Stewart and Lily
Lily, who was abandoned at the New Holland auctions, was adopted by Tracey and Jon Stewart. Photo: CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer

Lily, the white horse abandoned at the New Holland auctions in March has been adopted by comedian Jon Stewart and his wife Tracey, who are opening an animal 56eacd954a7a6.imagesanctuary in New Jersey. It’s a happy ending for the elderly mare who was found after the auction closed tied to a post, covered in paint stains, suffering from uveitis in both eyes, and severely malnourished.

Lily has raised considerably awareness of the plight of abandoned horses. Her story hit the national news when it was reported that she had been shot more than a hundred times with a paintball gun.

Thanks to surveillance cameras, the man who left her there was identified as Phillip Price of East Providence, RI. Price was subsequently convicted of three counts of animal cruelty  a single count of dealing and handling animals without a license, and a single count of importing animals without an interstate health certificate. He was ordered to pay $3,056 in fines and $10,178 towards Lily’s care and recovery.

Lily was treated by the vets at New Bolton
Her right eye was removed but thanks to an experimental treatment, she regained 80% of her sight in her left eye.

Lily was treated at the New Bolton Animal Hospital where one of her eyes was removed; she has regained 80% of he sight in the other eye. Then she won the adoption lottery when she was adopted by the Stewarts.

However, the story isn’t quite over.

Lily’s original owner was recently found. Doreen Weston, who owns Smoke Hollow Farm, claims that the horse “might” have been hers and that the paint was from birthday parties, not paint ball. She says she owned a white Arabian horse that she used for riding lessons and birthday parties, where children used the horse as a canvas for finger paints.

Weston explained to reporters that Lily was 35 years old and that she had given the horse to Price when her health deteriorated because she “assumed” he would have it euthanized. Right. After you own a horse for 15+ years, you ship it off to a horse dealer. She claims that Price told her that he “had a place he could take her” and that she thought he meant a retirement facility. Right again. That’s exactly what dealers do — spend their own money to humanely euthanize a horse, or place an old sick horse in a retirement home.

Even worse, Weston is claiming it might not even be her horse because the Vets at New Bolton described Lily as an Arabian/Appaloosa mix, while Lily is just an Arabian.

“I have doubts this is my horse,” she said. “If it is, somebody is making a big mistake in their evaluation.”

Sure, there are lots of 30 year old gray mares dumped at New Holland that are covered in paint, have uveitis and dental problems. Your horse’s doppelganger just happened to be dumped at New Holland by the same dealer that you gave your elderly school horse. A horse that was still covered in paint from the last party she worked for you. A horse that looks remarkably like one pictured on your website.

“I consider myself a respectable horse person and animal lover,” Weston said.

Shame on you Doreen Weston. That horse deserved better and no thanks to you, she had a soft landing.



Zenyatta’s 2016 foal succumbs to meconium aspiration syndrome

Zenyatta - War Front Foal
Zenyatta’s colt by War Front, born on April 11 has succumbed to meconium aspiration syndrome. Meconium is the manure produced by a foal during it’s first 12 to 24 hours of life. When it is expelled in utero, the foal can aspirate feces during its first breaths.from materials ingested while in the uterus.
Zenyatta has returned to Lane’s End Farm in good health and is currently turned out with another mare, Vixana, who is also owned by Jerry and Ann Moss. Zenyatta and Vixana are the same age, and they trained together under John Shirreffs at Barn 55. The two are becoming reacquainted and have already shared a drink at the water bowl.

The Endless Abscess

the abscess
You can see by the damage to his hoof just how long it’s taken the abscess to grow out. Why didn’t I start him on a hoof supplement earlier?

Last summer and into the fall, Freedom had an abscess that lasted and lasted. He was slightly off for some time and then terribly lame. Eventually the vet drained it at his toe, and then it also traveled up through the hoof and out through his coronary band.

The remains of that abscess are still with us. The damaged part of his hoof has grown out and now the hole, left by the abscess, is just at the point where it will threaten his hoof wall integrity and potentially make him sore.

With the benefit of hind sight, I realize I should have started him on a hoof supplement last fall with the goal of accelerating this hoof growth. Silly me. He’s on one now, so I’ll just have to wait and see. My farrier and I are already discussing strategies for keeping him comfortable. Glue on shoes may be on his horizon.

Have any of you dealt with the aftermath of a terrible abscess? How did you handle it?

Staying Warm

Bitter cold
This is the coldest weather we’ve had in a long time. The high today was 11.

Today, when I woke up at 6:30, it was -10 and felt like -27. When I checked again at 8:30, it had warmed up to -8. In preparation for the cold snap (the winter so far has been mild) we bundled the horses up in their winter jackets.

Winter jackets
The horses are much happier now that they are bundled up. I even put an extra layer on Freedom.

Up until now, we’ve been leaving them naked for the most part and I’ve been surprised by how well they’ve been doing with just their fur. Although many horse owners blanket as soon as the air gets nippy, horses are much better able to withstand cold than heat. An article in The Horse, interviewed Amy Gill of Equine Marketing and Consulting in Versailles, Ky. who explained how cold it needs to be before horses have difficulty staying warm:

The critical temperature below which horses must begin to use calories to maintain body core temperature, called thermoregulation, is -10° C (14 °F). When the temperature is above 14° F, there is no increase in energy requirement needed to maintain body temperature in a maintenance level horse which is not gestating, lactating, growing, or in work and is not subject to windy or wet weather. This information applies to the maintenance level horse turned out for the winter.

The 500 kg (1,100 lb) horse will experience a 35% increase in metabolic rate and heat production to stay warm once the temperature falls below -10° C (14° F). For every degree centigrade the temperature drops below this level, one must increase the digestive energy, or calories, by 2.5%. For that 500 kg horse, you would increase his caloric intake by .408 Mcal of digestible energy daily. This horse needs 16.4 Mcal daily for maintenance, and you are adding about one-half a Mcal per every one-half degree drop in temperature.

Obviously, we have reached that point here in Massachusetts.

By Thursday, Freedom, at least, made it clear that he was cold. He was grouchy. And unhappy. A blanket and some extra hay cheered him up immensely. But hay alone didn’t do the trick.

Figuring it was going to get even colder, I added an extra layer on Friday morning. They all made it through the really cold night and when I fed tonight, they were still warm. Although I think that Freedom, like I, is seriously considering Aiken as our next winter destination.


Hitting the Hay

Horses sleeping in the sun
Here’s an old picture of our herd with three horses sleeping and two standing guard.

How many hours a day does your horse sleep? I hadn’t thought about it much but I came across a statistic that made me tired just thinking about it! What’s your guess? 8 hours? 10 hours? 5 hours? 3 hours?

The answer is 3 or less.

Lots of people are surprised to see our horses flat out, sleeping on the ground. Everyone knows that horses sleep standing up, so over the years people have helpfully told us that our horses were dead!

Horses, it turns out, do need to lie down to enjoy REM sleep, but if you blink you might miss them because they don’t sleep much — often less than 3 hours per day and sometimes just snatching a few minutes of deep REM sleep at a time.

As prey animals, safety is paramount. You know from watching your horses

Curly takes her mid-day nap.
Curly takes her mid-day nap. She doesn’t care if anyone is watching and she doesn’t care about snow.

that they don’t get up from the ground quickly, so to stay alive, horses relax while standing up. They are able to lock their knees and stifles so they can drowse and go into slow wave sleep (SWS) while standing up.

As shown in the photo above, the horses in our herd tend to take turns with some standing guard and the others lying down. Curly is the exception. She takes a nap mid-day, every day. She enjoys her beauty sleep.

I rarely see Zelda lying down so she must do most of her sleeping at night. Freedom enjoys a good snooze, as does Willow.

How about your horses? How often do you see them flat out and asleep?





Horses and sheep and their amazing eye movements

UC Berkeley and Durham University optometry scientists have discovered the reasons for the horizontal pupil shape of some animals’ eyes — after analyzing  214 species of land animals, they have concluded that species with vertical pupils are more likely to be ambush predators that are active both day and night. Animals with horizontally elongated pupils are likely to be plant-eating prey species with eyes on the sides of their heads. And animals with circular pupils are either active foragers or animals that chase down their prey.

Researchers found that the horizontal pupils of grazing animals like horses, expanded the effective field of view. When stretched horizontally, the pupils are aligned with the ground, getting more light in from the front, back and sides. The orientation also helps limit the amount of dazzling light from the sun above so the animal can see the ground better.

When horses, sheep and other grazing prey animals put their head down to eat, their eyes rotated to maintain the pupils’ horizontal alignment with the ground.

Read more about the study here.