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We Are Flying Solo

November 30, 2014

Haircuts & Happiness

Tractor w Drag
It IS satisfying, though...
Yep, that’s what passes for excitement around here – unless you really want to hear how gratifying it is to drag a 3-acre pasture.  The satisfaction of decimating every little poop pile…

*ahem*

Sorry, where was I?  Oh yes, a brief update, aka “weird things that horse people find thrilling.”

Haircuts!

Saturday found me bound & determined, with a set of T-84 blades in hand, on my most beloved AGC2's (dang, they used to be a lot cheaper AND I got a #10 blade included) & a can of Cool Care at the ready.  I truly hate that sweated, matty winter girth-hair.

It's a start -- my clip jobs are generally piecemeal works over the course of weeks, heh.

*not sure why these photos are showing up blurry, but if you click to embiggen, they will sharpify, sigh*

Solo Nov 2014 Clip 002 (Small)
Oh no, she haz teh clipperz...
Encore Nov 2014 Clip
Relax, bro, I feel pretty...

Happiness

Even simpler.  Work & the other 500 aforementioned sources of stress have left me with little energy to climb on horses.  We won’t discuss why this picture does not include liver chestnut ears.  But bliss is the perfect word for Solo & I with a small piece of the world all to ourselves:

30 Nov 14
In riding a horse, we borrow freedom.
-Helen Thompson, author, b. 1943

November 26, 2014

Join The Horse Blog Community Gift Exchange & Take A Live Equine Blog Tour!

Sorry for that bit on the left, the interwebz made me do it... 

BUT -- Fun Holiday Things To Share

If you missed it on our Twit/FB inanity, Fly On Over is hosting the 2nd Annual Equestrian Blogger Gift Exchange (I will not hide my fury that I missed out last year) -- and your sign-up is due this Friday, Nov. 28th!!

http://flyonovereq.com/second-annual-gift-exchange/
DO IT NOW!
Not Only The Fun Of Gift-Giving But...MOAR PONEH PICTURES!

Ok, I'll confess, I do not quite know what a live blog tour is yet, but that didn't stop me from signing up!  If you have a blog to share or otherwise want to participate, the amazing Kristen from If The Saddle Fits has posted a signup in (a FB group that is growing rapidly) Blogging From The Barn.  You can also click the image for a direct link. 

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1CWAHjyrq6oBQYyLbevHjnAbP5jciQJB_fbLvXCzmmlQ/viewform?c=0&w=1
She even makes it so pretty...
It could happen...
I've already discovered a couple of great new-to-me blogs, including the lovely, crisp design of Hand Gallop (warning: may scar your memories of My Little Ponies temporarily...) & this hilarious contribution from The Maggie Memoirs (who also gets mad props for eventing her painted Mustang/Arab, way to be part of the 'I refuse to be conventional' club, yeah!!!!).  Watch out, the latter may cause moisture to explode out of your face onto your keyboard.

November 23, 2014

Misleading Marketing Madness: Lesson 1 – Horses Are Not Earthworms

*Disclaimer: you can thank insomnia for this one...and hold it responsible for any level of insanity*
 
That’s right, horse owners & consumers, YOU, are being lied to.

By a myriad of companies who’ve hired scores of marketers with the primary goal, naturally, of maximizing profit, as a proper business should (one of many reasons I work in the still-flawed, but significantly different section of the public sector I do).

I know, fetch your smelling salts & contain your tears of shock:  an advertiser LIED to you?  Say it isn’t so…  *do we have a sarcastic font yet?*

Oooo, Oooo, Who's In Trouble?

So inconvenient...
No names.  And certainly not a blanket indictment of all.  Just basic science & physiological realities that, er, clash with some not-so-realistic ad copy.  Anecdotes, psychosomatic responses, & non-causative results all create bias in our conclusions every day, even if only subconsciously.  Science exists to investigate WITHOUT bias, preferably in a standardized & repeatable fashion, & then to inform & educate. 

GOOD science, though, stands out from its slimier cousin (in our business, the latter is named ‘The Biostitute):  it is unafraid to say, “I was wrong.  Let’s re-examine…”

Which is a perfect place to add:  if I do mis-speak (it could happen…in theory…or even *gasp* reality), I absolutely welcome further education!!

So many haystacks, where to begin?

Encore shows Wyvern Oaks' jenj where things go IN!
How About Hydration?

Here’s a concept whose basics are easily grasped by most sentient adults.  The simple requirement of a mammal (in the instance of our beloved money pits) to somehow replace water lost through sweat/evaporation & urination (& your occasional drooler).  What goes out, must come in.  Fail = die.

Seems a clearcut equation, made even easier by the fact that for most purposes, horses only have one “in” port (we’ll leave out IV fluids) known as the drinking hole, or mouth (no one likes that feeling when water goes down the air hole…).

Well, according to some manufacturers, we can kiss that limitation goodbye!  I can’t decide whether to be aghasted (thank you, COTH) by their clear ignorance or disregard of 8th grade science, or impressed by their sheer audacity in assuming their clientele is either incredibly gullible or incredibly uneducated.

Solo wears the decidedly NOT majykal
The Majykal Hydrating Fabric

One fabric, when sewn into the shape of a $9 ear bonnet, claims to “increase H2O hydration.”  (In this context, is there a type of hydration that DOESN’T involved H2O?  Yes, redundancy bothers me.  I hate repeating things.  See what I did there?  Yeah, I crack myself up)

Simultaneously, this mystical fabric is “breathable,” i.e. capable of releasing not only moisture, but “toxins,” as sweat evaporates.
  1. Commit, oh Majykal Bonnet – you cannot simultaneously inject moisture into Dobbin’s head AND let it out.  That’s like trying to hold water in a bucket made out of a basketball net.
  2. This may surprise you, but horses are not earthworms or amphibians.  They cannot absorb water or breathe through their skin.  Otherwise they’d drown every time it rained, which would result in a massive increase in turnout sheet prices!
  3. Mammalian bodies process “toxins” using three large & valuable organs, the liver & two kidneys.  There is no skin filtering, sorry, & even if there was, what do you even mean?  Are you claiming to suck things out of my horse's head?  Filter "horse brain pollutants" before they harm the ozone?  What purpose would this imaginary power serve?
Hydration’s Relationship With That Cardiovascular Stuff

Further product claims of this type assert that a more hydrated horse will have “increased oxygen levels & rate of circulation,” which we are generally programmed into equating with MOAR BETTER HEALING & PERFORMANCE.  Alas, while I do envy the marketers’ salary, I cannot let sleeping lies…lie?

No sweating here, mom, er...
Performing muscles do require that blood, infused with oxygen by the horse’s massive lungs, is pumped quickly through the body to deliver its precious energy food.  In addition, blood heated by a hard-working horse must circulate faster to small blood vessels close to the surface of the skin, so body core temperature does not reach dangerous levels.

At the same time, that blood loses some of its liquid component to sweat:  a minus because this will reduce the volume of blood & increase its viscosity (thickness, think cold molasses), but a plus in that evaporating sweat will help keep that core temperature out of the red zone during exercise.

Two important changes occur here: 
  1. The horse has had a subtraction from his overall fluid levels, thanks to this evaporation (the well-known road to dehydration).
  2. He also now has thicker blood, which is harder to push through vessels, further complicated by the spleen’s programmed red blood cell (RBC; mixed in stored plasma, just like the glycogen we talked about previously) dump in response to the body’s “HEY! We need some O2 over here!” demand.  
When your human spleen takes a dump (poop jokes never stop being funny), you get about a 10% RBC boost.  Dobbin’s spleen, just like his colon, is a mite bigger than yours, so he gets a 50% boost.  Which sounds great until you put it under your trusty microscope & discover that approximately 75% of that dump consists of old, stiff RBCs (it happens to the best of us).

You guessed it:  that bumps blood viscosity even higher.  That significant human/equine difference is what makes them more susceptible to rapid-onset dehydration complications.  Now you’re stuck in a negative feedback loop where the more blood volume muscles & organs demand, the faster that volume is decreased.

So…Is There ANY Connection Between Hydration & Oxygenation? 

Let’s go back to those claims about oxygen & circulation.  Even if he does snort some water up his nose, the horse still cannot increase oxygen levels in his blood through rehydration.  He can only do that by inhalation (ok for horses, not for US Heads of State, apparently).  His heart can only pump so much blood per minute around his lungs & then out to his body.  You can’t make his heart volume any larger with water either, nor will it make the organ beat any faster.

Therefore, unless someone’s invented an Equine Camelback so he can take a sip mid-gallop, it is impossible for a horse to regain fluids while he’s working.  Even if he could, this would have no impact on the oxygen levels in his blood.

Which bring us to what you already knew:  the critical importance of (a) giving your horse ample opportunities to drink and (b) conditioning him well before asking him to perform at a competition or other maximum level of exertion.

Iz fit.  Bring it.
Dehydration IS related to reductions in available blood plasma, which occurs in part due to fluid loss.  The bucket of clean water is the no-brainer.

Fitness Is More Than Muscle

This is why it is also vital that your training is more thoughtful than 3,000 20-metre circles.

Building your horse’s cardiovascular fitness tends to
  1. Increase the volume of blood his heart can pump with each beat, so fewer beats are required for performance, which means a lower heart rate at peak exertion. 
  2. He can also build more capillaries within muscles &...
  3. More mitochondria (read: energy makers in muscle cells), both of which enable more efficient use of received oxygen.  
As a result, you’ve built a horse who can send more oxygen-rich blood through his entire body, with less cardiac strain, & increased energy production efficiency.

Now THAT, my friends, is how it’s done.  For the total cost of…$0.  I even saved you the effort of Google-typing. 

Drinking filter fabric…puh-lease…

The truth doesn't hurt.  For long.

November 16, 2014

All Farm Residents Are Actually Still Alive

We all gotta nom, man...
Well, unless you count a few deer, but they fed coyote puppies.  Even if you don’t like coyotes, if you don’t think puppies are adorable, you obviously have no soul.

But to the larger point, I’m sure there are thousands five of you (ok, four if you don’t count my mother) who have been scratching their heads because dry winter air makes your scalp itchy wondering “where did eventer79 go?”  I’m still here.  Mostly.

There is a robust collection of half-finished post drafts & more thoughts & intentions that I can shake a stick it.  Problem is, I’m too tired to pick up the stick.  Will you settle for an acorn cap?

So What's The Deal, Slacker?

I would put a very narrow confidence interval (fellow geeks, you’re welcome) around my certainty that many of you have found yourselves in times where the demands of life greatly exceed the ridiculously small number of hours astronomers give us each day (it’s easier to be annoyed at humans than an enormous star which will eventually massacre us all-seriously, click this, it's one of the awesomest infographics ever!).  Not to mention your own finite capacity to meet said demands with energy, planning, and production of deliverables.

One target: the Everglades Pygmy Sunfish
My Real Life Job is an extremely complex one, full of research plans, coordination between uncountable layers of government, non-profit, & private sectors who are not so good at that whole communication thing, reports, 60-hour weeks chasing 40-mm rare fish in swampy ditches (yeah, everyone thinks it’s all fun & games, I dare you to come out with us!) that require a four-hour commute, prioritizing which of a state’s natural resources are more important than others because we have neither bottomless coffers nor more than six staff members…holy crap, I’m getting tired just writing that…and I didn’t even get to the daily “putting out inbox fires” part…OMG, that's the longest sentence ever...

And they all have little red flags...
So Drink A Beer On The Farm, Right?

Obviously, there is plenty to keep a person busy & in normal circumstances, those magical 0.3 miles of farm driveway form a bridge to an oasis of recovery.  From the outside, it can certainly look that simple.  However, as most of us learn after a modicum of time in Adult World (aaaand here come the porn hits, thank you, Google), there is nothing the universe loves more than conspiring to see how many boulders, made of types of rock you didn’t even know existed, it can stack on your head before you sink.
 
My neck is tired.

I don’t put this forth as a whine-fest, though, I have a pretty narrow selection of cheeses I actually like.  Actually, the same goes for wine, but I did taste this amazing Japanese plum wine at a work conference this week…

FOCUS, WOMAN!

TL;DR:  eventer79 is simply exhausted, over-stressed, overwhelmed (NOT AT ALL contributed to by her complete lack of an over-commitment problem).  When your therapy is getting on your horse, but it takes everything in you to just hand food to said horse, matters get complicated.  We’re working on that.

For now, we try to hold on to small moments.  As years go by, you learn how truly precious, finite, & fragile these are.

Red Horses:  Ok

Aside from a minor balancing act to work out involving forever wussy front feet, Solo is bright & healthy & thanks to Minion Erica’s generosity & horsemanship, once again has the hocks of a 10-year-old.  Encore is healing from a small tear in his left gluteus muscle (only my dear Encore could sprain his ass…), which will take several months, but Dr. Bob says just keep him in half-work-intensity & he is improving.  I did tell David O. that I’m fairly certain this horse carefully plans so he is 100% fit & sound…when it’s cold & dark.

Scenery:  Freezing But Scenic

So I will leave you with this, a gift from the most beautiful fall I’ve seen since I moved to NC in 2005.  Who needs New England when my yard looks like this?

shadowfx01's Fall 2014 Slideshow album on Photobucket

Hug your horses, stay safe during fall hunting seasons, & to my fellow horsey blog friends, I’m still reading & following your wonderful journeys; please don’t take offense at my radio silence.  An erratic flight is still technically not a crash, don’t call NTSB yet!

November 12, 2014

The Sage Speaks: Better Yourself, Better Your Horse

If ever someone encapsulated the goal & spirit of not only this blog, but my own strong convictions in regards to building equine partnerships through thoughful training...well, the legendary Ray Hunt (I know, big surprise) has done it.

Your food for many levels of thought, from the master himself --

Solo owns Longleaf Pines HT, 2010; Photo by Pics of You

November 9, 2014

My Webmaster Sucks

Can you hear me now??

To be fair, I think Google messes with things sometimes just to see if you're paying attention.  I did all these nice repairs in September, including a self-lecture on, erm, paying attention to your own software.  I swear, a check box unchecked itself though!!

(Re)Repaired
  • Those damn sharing links at the bottom of the post
  • I got my comment replies working, woot!!!
I'd also be oh-so-grateful if you'd share any problems you have in the poll (look to your left!).  If there's something not listed, your comments are wonderfully helpful!

I've also made the Official We Are Flying Solo User's Guide a permanent fixture in the top menu (just look up and to your right!), so if you are a new visitor, or, like me, forget your name on a daily basis...

That's right, I pushed it!

November 6, 2014

Pt. II: What Every Horse Owner Should Know About Feed (And Botulism!)

In our previous post, my personal Triple Crown (TC) superhero had already gone above & beyond the call of duty...but she wasn't done stealing my heart.


Is it hot in here?
eventer79 (23 July, 10:34 am):  Thank you (yes, I believe we were in a competition to out-thank each other) so much for taking the time to type all that out!

In the spirit of self-education, would you be able to tell me if the feed is heat-treated at any point & if so, to a specific temperature?  I'm always trying to learn more about feeds & equine nutrition & wondered if processing included any types of those bacterial controls, particularly for things such as botulism?  I really have no idea.


Interjection:

It is painful for the biologist in me to admit, but I didn't know what I didn't know about the botulinum toxin.  My understanding was that horses were at risk primarily from dead/decaying animals in hay.  I don't feed round bales (greatest risk of Unidentified Dead Things Included), so I decided keeping an eye on my hay was sufficient, & Dr. Bob said that was fine.  So I have not traditionally vaccinated for botulism.

Enter Google:  a fantastic resource tool with the simultaneous ability to scare the shit out of you (a pleasure I shall naturally share with you!).  After I sent the above question, I realized I didn't even know if the toxin could be killed or anything about its life cycle.  Bad, bad biologist (to be fair, I determinedly avoid studying things you need a microscope for)!

Warning:  Science Geek-Out Imminent

Clostridium botulinum (all EIGHT types; horses usually suffer from Type B & C - we only have a vaccine for the former, humans from A, B, E, F, & G) is a fascinating, if unfriendly, bacteria.  The bacteria itself, along with its spores, offers little direct threat.  The problem occurs as bacterial cells die, releasing the potent neurotoxin that is botulinum.  Direct cell death happens with ingestion of live bacteria, or of spores, which germinate in anaerobic environments, create an overpopulation of cells...that then die.

C. botulinum under an SEM -- amazing!
Holy Crap, Are We All Doomed?

Fortunately, every system has weak spots.  Live C. botulinum perishes with the use of many disinfectants, including sodium hypochlorite (bleach, chlorine) & 70% ethanol (sorry, you can only have that if you are my co-worker or have your own TTB, formerly ATF, permit), & cannot survive if any oxygen is present in its microenvironment.

The botulinum toxin, a large protein, is similarly vulnerable:  sunlight will denature it within three hours, as will heat above 80C (176F) for 20 minutes or above 85C (185F) for five minutes (i.e. boiling; values vary slightly with toxin concentration & surrounding pH).  

But the spore.  Oh, the impressive spore.  Able to live 2-3 years, these babies can even germinate if damaged by extreme environmental conditions.  To ensure complete Spore-maggedon, you pretty much need access to an autoclave so you can heat them to 120C (250F) for a minimum of 15 minutes.

With that in mind, we return to the conclusion of our conversation -
  

TC Rep (23 July, 2:51 pm)Absolutely!  The pelleted portion of Complete is heated to 130 – 140 degrees (F) in order to form the pellet, but the rest of Complete is not.  We do use bacterial & mycotoxin preventatives in the feed, these function within the horse’s gut to bind & remove bacteria & mycotoxins before harm can be done to the gut, or if the horse ate or drank something else that was contaminated.

These precautions are for gram-negative toxins; botulism is a gram positive toxin:  the best way to prevent botulism is to vaccinate.  Hope this helps! Thanks!

Stacy Andersen800.451.9916
  | | | dealers
PO Box 220 | Mohnton, PA 19540
(someone give this woman a raise!)



The Conclusive Non-Conclusion

Needless to say, the boys just received their last round of the initial botulism vaccine series.  In the objective big picture, our risk of infection is still relatively low, but the 24 hours I spent staring out my bedroom window trying to decide if Encore looked like he was developing hind-end paralysis were...not something I care to wonder about again!

You may now consider yourself informed.  You're welcome.

However, this is the tip of the iceberg that is equine metabolism & nutrition.  My quest for TEH LEARNING is far from over! 
It's still true...

November 1, 2014

How A Dead Mouse In My Feed Bag Made Me A More Loyal Customer (Pt. I)

Finally!!  The (new) final segment in our nutrition mini-series.  AKA:  What every horse owner should know about milled feed!

Scene 1:  Feed Shed

Eventer79 doles out dinnertime rations of Triple Crown (TC) Complete from her Precision Engineered Storage Receptacles in Specialized Delivery Carriers.  As a full scoop slides into Encore’s mixing bowl, all action freezes upon this sight:
He squeaketh no more...
Initial gut response sounds like… 

OMGWTF, is that a…wow, EW, but oddly fascinating (biologists do not have an off-switch), must examine closer.  Damn, you were one unlucky little bastard.  

Brain kicks in…

Uh.  Now what?  

More helpful part of brain kicks in…

Wait.  Ok.  Pull tags from all bags poured into that container (I keep them till it’s fed out).  The several TC reps I have met (they sponsor our 3DE’s) have been very informed & customer oriented.  I should notify TC immediately & they probably have a process.  The horses have grass & alfalfa pellets, they won’t starve in a day or two (this was in July). 
We might...
Scene 2:  The Epic Email Exchange Of Grain Education Awesomeness (edited for brevity)

eventer79 (21 July, 7:30 pm): Tonight, I scooped out my TC Complete to find a very smashed dead mouse & a variety of other strange bits including pieces of corn, which I had found in a couple previous bags as well.  I will have to dispose of all the feed I have on hand.  The contaminated bags were from lots N4184 (4 sequential bags) & N4167 (1 bag).  Thank you.


TC LogoTC Rep (who quickly revealed much fabulousness; 22 July, 12:29 pm): Thanks so much for the detailed information; I am turning this in to QC.  Please provide me with your mailing address & I will send you 6 coupons for free bags, 5 to replace your affected feed & 1 for your inconvenience.

Here is a good article that explains how you may have seen some of the corn, etc., in your feed.  I again apologize for the inconvenience, please let me know if there is anything else I can provide.  Thanks!


Always important numbers
eventer79 (22 July, 1:35 pm)Pic attached...just because.  I know it is IMPOSSIBLE for every bag to be perfect & expecting a feed mill to be free of mice is akin to expecting to fly when you jump off a roof.  All I ask is for a company to keep up best QA/QC & take care of their customers, which is what keeps us coming back!  Thanks again for your quick response and assistance, & I'll be watching the mailbox.


TC Rep (22 July, 1:44 pm)Thanks so much for this.. and yucko!  We do appreciate that you are practical & understanding about it.  I don’t even want to know how many bugs I eat in food from human grade facilities, LOL.  Coupons are going out in tomorrow’s mail. Please let me know if there is anything else I can provide. Thanks!


eventer79 (22 July, 9:35 pm):  I did wonder if you could tell me if our area supplier recently switched processing facilities?  I was able to find a different lot at my feed store tonight (#N4190, early bags in the series, 004X).  The horses are eating the new batch, I just want to be certain that they are safe & I know what I am giving them!  Appreciate your assistance!


Field to mill...
TC Rep (23 July, 10:17 am)N indicates that the feed is produced in Cleveland, NC, so the mill has not changed.  The corn contamination can happen if a feed that does have corn is produced shortly before the Triple Crown Complete.  Also, mills use corn & oats to “flush” out the systems before making a new type; sometimes things can get hung up, as I am sure you can imagine all the different elevators, bins buckets, etc., that have corners & such.  Even the ‘top shelf' grains are expected to have some other grains mixed in after trucking, elevators, equipment to harvest & manufacture are shared.

That'd take a lot of mouse traps...
Our mills clean everything out frequently & the feeds are sequenced so they produce the most sensitive feeds first (grain free, molasses free, etc.) & then proceed to the ones most similar to each other to minimize accidental ingredient carryover.  The first 10-25 bags of each type produced are set back & sold as scratch feed as an extra precaution.  If carryover that would affect quality still occurs after all of these precautions, we guarantee all of our feeds & will replace anything that is incorrect.

I have turned all of your information & descriptions into QC at the mill so they can go back to the lot & see if there is anything further they can do.  They are top notch; many of them have livestock themselves & take their jobs in QC & production very seriously because they use what they produce.

To be continued…