The Ant Farm Effect

ant farm
There are distinct pathways through the field, cutting through the vast expanse of untouched snow.

The horses have adapted to the snow. Like a giant ant farm, they have created their own “tunnels” or pathways to travel between the important parts of the field — to the fence line, where they meet over the fence, to the gates (although it’s practically too icy to leave the fields), and to each of the stalls.

In between are vast expanses of untouched snow, now hard and crusty, too deep and dense to be inviting. Freedom will come to meet me at the gate and instead of turning around will back up all the way to the barn to avoid the deeper snow.


Home recipes for electrolytes

We’ve had a brutally hot summer here in the Northeast with lots of humidity. If your horse is in work (and it’s a big if some days), this is the kind of weather where electrolytes might be beneficial.

Keep in mind that electrolytes are mainly used to replace minerals lost from sweat and to encourage your horse to drink. I know that many people feed electrolytes as part of their horse’s daily diet but I’ve never found that to be necessary. It’s something that I might give Freedom after a hard ride on a hot day, although I always add some salt to his diet and have a salt block available to him.

According to an article by Dr. Martin Adams, Equine Nutritionist for Southern States, horse sweat contains the electrolytes chloride, sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and a few other trace minerals.

I’ve seen a couple of recipes out there for home-made electrolytes. They call for regular salt, light salt and usually some variation of magnesium/calcium (Tums or Epsom salts are common). The ratios all are different so I will leave it to you which you want to try out. They are all simple and inexpensive alternatives to commercial products and also allow you to control the amount of sugar in them (some commercial electrolyte solutions contain quite a bit of sugar).

Dr. Sarah Ralston of Rutgers University suggests this recipe:

  • 1lb. Salt (NaCl)
  • 12 oz. Morton’s Light Salt
  • 1 roll of Tums (flavored is fine!)
  • ¼ cup molasses

Give 1 tablespoon (1-2 oz) of the mixture orally, per hour of hard work. You may add enough water to one tablespoon of mixture necessary to pull up into a dosing syringe.

This one is from Dr. Kerry Ridgeway.

  • 2 parts table salt
  • 2 parts Lite salt
  • 1 part Dolomite (natural calcium/magnesium) Tums antacids are also used in place of the Dolomite for the calcium and protection of the stomach.

Harold C. Schott from Michigan State University presented on The Challenges of Endurance Exercise: Hydration and Electrolyte Depletion at the 2010 Kentucky Equine Research Conference. His recommendations are the simplest: Mix regular salt and light salt 1:1 and feed an ounce of the mixture a.m. and p.m. in grain.

Do you feed electrolytes? If so, do you buy a commercial product or mix your own? Post your recipe in the comments.



Beating the heat

Freedom stayed inside to stay cool
Freedom stayed inside to stay cool and I helped him out by sponging him off. Unless it’s hot out, he’s never inside.

Three days of temperatures in the mid to high 90s with high humidity had people and animals alike searching for a way to cool off.

Freedom spent most of his time inside. His stall is in a bank barn and although I can’t remember the last time I actually put him in his stall (he hates to be stalled), I could barely get him out of it! Definitely, it was definitely the coolest place to be.

To help him stay comfortable I hosed him down a few times during the day, tried to keep his stall clean, and tried to get him to drink as much as possible — I kept the water as cool and clean as possible and soaked his grain until it was soupy.

What do you do to help your horse beat the heat?

What does your post-ride care entail?

Applying a standing wrap over poultice
In the old days, after a hard ride, I would apply poultice and a standing wrap to my horse’s legs — now I just turn out.

When I started eventing, back in the 80s, I can remember that when we came home from an event we always poulticed and wrapped our horses’ legs and fed them a bran mash for dinner. Then they were tucked into their stalls for the night.

These days, when I come back from a hunt (which is arguably more taxing than a novice level event), my routine is much more minimalistic: I check my horse for cuts and scratches, make sure there are no saddle marks, feed him a snack and then turn him out.

If the ground has been really hard or rocky, or we’ve done a lot of galloping, I may also pack his feet to prevent bruising (for this I like to use Magic Cushion).

Interestingly, I think the horses are sounder than they were with the extra care. In particular, I think that turning them out keeps them from stiffening up.

Magic Cushion
My horse is barefoot so after I apply Magic Cushion, I cover the bottom of the hoof with paper, vet wrap it into place and stick a hoof boot over it.

For a horse that’s a bit stiff or if I think we’ve jumped more than usual, I might give my horse some bute but I actually prefer dosing with Previcox before the hunt.

What do you do? Do you still wrap? Do you cold hose? Keep your horse in? Or turn him out?

The test results are in

I got the results of the multiplex test today. Freedom is on the low end of positive — his titer is 1600 and they recommend treatment for anything above 1200.

My vet recommends keeping him on Doxy for six weeks. Since he’s showing no adverse signs to it, that’s what I’m planning to do.

Interestingly, from what I’ve read, the severity of clinical symptoms do not necessarily correlate with higher titer readings. Did anyone else experience that?

Now I just need to find the best source for the Doxy. The two week supply of peppermint flavored powder was $160. He’s eating it, which is a plus. It would be even better if it cost less!


Freedom came back from our ride covered in hives.
Freedom came back from our ride covered in hives.

When I returned from my ride on Monday, Freedom was covered with hives. They were mostly around his throat latch but they spread out in diminishing intensity across his body.

My first thought was, “did I miss those when I groomed him?” But no, they were pretty large and angry looking. They certainly were not there when I’d left.

My next thought was how to treat them. Luckily I had a severe allergic reaction to either a bite or a poisonous plant over the summer (like horse, like owner) so I had an industrial size bottle of allergy tablets from Costco. A quick call to the vet on the dosage revealed that the “average” horse should get 10 tablets twice a day.

By the time I’d gone home to get the pills, the bumps had subsided but I gave him a dose regardless.

Yesterday the vet was at the barn to look at another horse and I asked her about the hives. She reported that several people had reported breakouts of hives over the past week or so and she suspected that either a certain insect had just hatched or a plant had bloomed.

Riding yesterday I focused in on the swarms of mosquitoes and gnats. My bet is on them. In fact, that might explain the magical swarm of dragonflies that I saw on Monday — the aftermath of Irene was a huge number of mosquitoes. I hope those dragonflies keep on eating!