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We Are Flying Solo

Showing posts with label feed. Show all posts
Showing posts with label feed. Show all posts

April 8, 2015

When Bad News Is Good News

Yes, Batman Dr. Bob confirmed that Encore proved his talents yet again by pulling both stifles.  He’d just healed his pulled ass, so naturally he had to think of something new!  :/

What The…What?

I’d noticed a bit ago a new soreness/swelling in the muscle behind his right stifle (of course, he also let Solo bite him there) & had been applying Dr. Bob’s Majykal Butacort Creme (no, seriously, it IS majykal!).  However, since our dear vet was coming to pull Solo’s blood (red blood cell check due) & collect bags of poo for a worm update, I asked him to apply his wizard hands to Encore as well.

Resisting temptation, I won’t rhapsodize on repeat about why I love my Dr. Bob (but I’ll link it!), but after watching Encore take 3 steps & approximately 5 joint pokes, I had my answers.  Not the muscle knot I’d guessed.  A shot of Winstrol to help boost the oncoming soft tissue rehab/strengthening, an Rx of basically what my current work is anyway:  focusing on rebuilding that hind end after our time off.
 
Approximate SE distribution in US soils; horseuniversity.com
In addition, supplement his dinners with a Vit E/selenium compound:  the Southeast is a very selenium-poor region & it is an important part of muscle function.  SE itself is part of the Vit E molecule/complex & horses can store some amount (cows cannot & Dr. Bob reports many problems with cattle toxicity from lack of SE, including his own) in muscle cells, but they must have enough coming in first!

We’ll reassess in 3-4 weeks.  If progress is not “satisfactory,” (don’t ask me for a specification on that, I’m not sure), poor Encore will get internal stifle blisters.  I say “poor” because as Dr. Bob described how it works, my own buggered-up knee began to holler in sympathy pain!

So What’s An Internal Stifle Blister?

Stifle blisters are an old-school treatment that were traditionally externally applied (never did like the look of that), but we science’d & all that, so now we have a better option.  In essence, the stifle joint is injected with an irritating agent, such as a B12 mixture, so it creates scar tissue around the muscle/tendons on the outside of the stifle (same as our patella).

Immediately, I had to know why creating scar tissue was a good thing.  It’s all about tightening up those strained tissues, which have resulted in laxity around the stifle.  Solo had extremely loose, poppy stifles when I bought him due to complete lack of condition, so the concept was a familiar one.  His resolved quickly in regular work, but Encore’s motto is generally “go big or go home.”

Ze Stifle. Thanks to Project Gutenberg.
I do hope we won’t have to go the blister route, although neighbour Vanessa offered heaps of excellent tips, as she’s used it several times with great success.  Still, all digits crossed that he continues his current gradual improvement trend on his own.

This Is Good News?

Indeed – because I finally had the courage to ask the question I’d been afraid to ask.  I’d had a long-nagging background worry about the possibility of neurological issues due to Encore’s “what, I don’t have hind legs!” attitude.  And no one wants that confirmed.

At the same time, he’s done a Training HT with no issues (other than needing more fitness).  But I still needed a proclamation.

He just prefers to be airborne... Pic by High Time Photos.
And The Verdict

Dr. Bob agreed that he saw no neurological indicators whatsoever.  *pause for relief*

Why is the beast so addicted to his vet then?  It is as simple as “it is who he is.”  As a TB, centuries’-worth of moving, running, energy, is in his blood.  As any horse who has energy to burn & is a forward-thinking creature, if you don’t use that energy, he’ll come up with his own methods.  Which in his case, are Pasture X-Games.

Where this backfires:  Encore also has the mindset of human X-Games participants, despite being not nearly as fit due to our horrific winter & my own limitations.  The fact that practicing airs above the ground & racing oneself in one’s paddock when it has rained for a zillion months (approximately) will probably result in multiple wipeouts?  Not a deterrent; just hop back up & try again!  Playing is MOST IMPORTANT THING!  *facepalm*

Solo, on the other hand, has always been very careful about his footing & general balance.  You could ask him to gallop through a mud bog & he would pointedly ignore you & proceed at the pace he felt was safe.  Wipeouts are in his “unacceptable” column.

It's what they do.
You’re Still Happy About This?

Absolutely.  Doing dumb things in the pasture…well, they’re all horses.  One way or another, they just will.  And his professional work ethic under saddle means he is attentive to the job at hand; his X-Games penchant does not extend beyond the pasture fence.  This is definitely a good thing, as if it did, well, that is NOT a ride you’d want under you!  0.0

So it means my horse…is a normal horse.  While it would be nice if he would follow Solo’s more cautious approach, that might just make him perfect & we all know there is no such thing as a perfect horse!!  And I don’t have a saddle that fits “imaginary.” 

January 11, 2015

There Was Riding! Among Other Things...

I can't see you...
Two horses in one day!!

The Browner Orange One

Ok, fine, be pedantic.  I long-lined Encore as he is due for his yearly back injections (we match, only he gets four & I get three, although thankfully, mine are still holding at three years) & he is quite clear in his reminders of this fact.

One of the almost magical parts of truly getting to know a horse over days & years is learning not only every detail of his body, but expression, posture, & which level of The Horse Finger that tail swish indicated.

So now I am edu-ma-cated:  Encore generally walks up to me in his pasture, begs for work, & doesn't bother trying until a jump gets to 3'.  Around mid-January, he instead walks AROUND me (equine efforts at false nonchalance are hilarious), loses impulsion, falling out behind often, & rushes anything higher than 18". 

It's an odd relief, but relief nonetheless, to calmly surmise, "Oh, lubrication time approacheth," as opposed to the horse owner's traditional spirals of mental agony & the worst torture of all:  the unknown.  So he will remain on a relatively light schedule until his "oil change" (I say, as if I would otherwise have him on a full training schedule during 187% work overload insanity).

I would never...
The Super-Orange One

His little big brother appears to feel this gives him freedom to take over anxiety-instigation duty.  Cod forbid one own a horse calmly, I believe that would break some universal law!

Solo has definitely lost condition.  Sadly, his minion has gone & incapacitated herself; along with our string of simply horrid wet cold weeks, I've had few chances to stretch his legs.  He seems to be running on fumes, though, & I confess to being mystified.

He is still shiny with a winter hay belly, a springy trot, his trademark deep meal nicker, & takes a good prance gallop around the field with Encore.  But his face looks tired & although I enjoyed our ride today, he fatigued very quickly, even though he was not out of breath.

I just wish my favourite face could elaborate a bit?
What's Up, Dude?

Perhaps it is simply muscle loss.  When I first began working with Dr. Bob, he had a similar problem & a simple CBC revealed Solo had a low red blood cell count.  With vet approval of ingredients, I put him on SmartVite, which he's had ever since, & his count popped up to normal almost immediately.  It dropped again when he had a heavy parasite load from a previous facility, but I have dewormed with vigilance & now am in charge of my own pasture management. 

I've added more fat to his diet, although he certainly is working hard at maximizing intake of my lovely winter hay supply!  We'll run another basic CBC in a few weeks, as Dr. Bob comes out at the beginning of February for his spring collection of large amounts of invisible TFS cash (Encore will also get a set of check-up lateral radiographs on his front feet to make sure WunderFarrier & I are on the right track).

An odd sight after so long
There ARE Good Things

Recently, Solo did get his front shoes back.  While his Cavallo Sports were wonderful for trails & light pleasure, when it came to schooling & jumping, he just wasn't comfortable.  He felt like there was too much sole concussion.  He certainly felt happier about his feet today & reached out those giant shoulders with a freedom I've missed, so it's not all bad news!

Let's see...what else can we throw imaginary money at add to Dr. Bob's hard-earned retirement fund next month??

Who knew-there's a WikiHow for "how to solve all horse problems!"

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…

October 22, 2014

Nutrition Reboot, Pt. III: A Much Updated Refueling Of The Tanks

dr julie n tex
The flying Tex!
Before I continue with our reboot, I must give a shout out to my beloved Waredaca 3DE (it's so cool, even Colleen Rutledge can't resist competing, even though she's already a clinician - thanks for the support, Colleen!)!  Today is opening day AND I AM NOT THERE.  *insert very sad & upset eventer79*  

In summary, despite my attempts to prove to my doctor that horsewomen are, in fact, superhuman, he cruelly (ok, he is actually amazing, but still) prohibited my plan to roll to Maryland at 0630 this morning & work four excruciatingly long days of awesome.  Sadly, my body does not seem to time its failures well & I’ll just say it’s been a long year.  My begging cry of “IT’S ONE OF MY 3DE’S, THEY ARE NOT OPTIONAL!” did not sway him.  

There may be a silver lining, though:  it is always a special year when one of our core Team Waredaca 3DE Staff gets to ride.  This year, it’s our vet box champion, Dr. Julie’s, turn!!  She & her boy, Texas Riddle (Tex), have been on fire this year, so I am fairly certain that since I will miss it, they will definitely score not only that coveted completion ribbon, but piles of prize swag!  May ALL the 2014 riders have a safe & exhilarating journey this week; Solo & I are galloping with you in our hearts.


Carrying on, we are all now experts on equine metabolism, right?  Accordingly, I have updated this part of the series quite a bit!  

We also know that the horse must be fit if he is going to do his job well.  We know that he needs fat & glycogen stores in place in order to power his muscles.  He then will need carbohydrates & fats in his diet in order to restock his larders after a workout.

Running on vapours...
So should we stuff him full of fat & sugar the night before a competition so he will have fuel busting out his ears?  Only if you want him to die of colic & laminitis at the same time.

But I Carb-Load Before My Ultra-Marathons!

Equine digestive systems cannot handle "loading" of substances the way a human system would.  Studies have demonstrated that it takes 24-48 hours for a horse to completely refill his glycogen tanks, so it's best to offer him a meal 60-90 minutes after he's tapped them.  Then, if he has really drained the well, a second meal can be offered about three hours later.

What To Look For In Your Rocket Fuel

My base feed (Triple Crown Complete) is a fixed-formula textured grain with 12% fat and 12% protein.  I have heard stated many times that, for the performance horse, you want to maximize the protein content of his diet.  However, this is another instance where understanding the unique functions of equine physiology will help you build a better plan.  Unlike the human body, your horse’s body cannot store protein & very little can be converted to energy.  Instead, protein is catabolized (broken down) into amino acids, which are then used to build new proteins, such as muscle fibre.  If protein levels exceed what the body can immediately process, it will be converted to urea, increasing urine output & simultaneously increasing rate of dehydration.  So while it is an important component of nutrition, for the your horse, it is far less useful as an energy source than fat.

Love The Fat

Fat supplies 2.5 times more energy pound for pound than starches.  How much needed on a daily basis will depend on your horse.  Given that I am not blessed with easy keepers, I top dress feed during work with Legends Omega Plus, an extruded flaxseed pellet with 25% fat.  That is a recent switch for us; I used their rice bran pellets (18% fat) for quite some time due to reduced cost, but a recent price change made it more practical to bump up to the higher fat content & I’m finding I can also use less with the same result.

Bonus tidbit:  if you supplement a horse's diet with fat, he uses less energy for heat production in his body.  He then has more energy available to do other stuff with.  Like a lot more.  Like up to 60% more. 

Ok, don't love it THAT much
All Things In Moderation

Before you go on a lard spree, though -- if the fat content of the diet gets too high, you can actually inhibit the storage of muscle glycogen (that's that thing we really need for anaerobic activities like galloping & jumping, remember?).  Just like everything else involving a horse, as soon as you find something good, you find several ways for him to damage or kill himself with it.   

It’s just not as much fun when you are kicking your horse's guts out just to stumble through the finish flags & slide off while he gasps in exhaustion.  It's not very satisfying to try to pilot him around a challenging stadium course when he's got no gas in the tank & you wonder if the next set of jump poles might end up in your face.  Hopefully, you are now armed with some new information to consider in the context of your own management program.  If you can prepare your horse’s body to maximize the use of your fuel, then you'll have plenty left for that victory gallop at the end of the day. 

October 18, 2014

Nutrition Reboot, Pt. II: Oxygen Optional

Alas, no credible reports have been filed on the location of eventer79-brain.  Even her horses are beginning to show suspicion.  However, Amy's comment on Tuesday's post provided the perfect segue to the next article in the series.  Updated & edited a bit for (hopefully) improvement.



Do. Not. Want.
We were talking about nutrition. And you've been up for days waiting for the secret to growing that unicorn horn (don't lie, own it).

Too bad.

Here's another, equally as important tidbit, though:  different athletic disciplines make different demands on a horse's body. I know, thank you Captain Obvious, right?

Breaking It Down:  The Two Types Of Equine Metabolism
  1. Aerobic - the muscles use oxygen while generating energy; a slow process
  2. Anaerobic - yes, you guessed it, genius; the muscles generate energy without oxygen; much speedier
Which Is When?

A horse working in a long, steady fashion (think endurance racing or your dressage school) creates energy aerobically.  Fat, the horse's go-to fuel, requires oxygen to complete the conversion to horsepower (just like your fireplace must have a flow of oxygen to burn up your firewood & create heat).  He has an advantage:  this is a much easier & longer-lasting method of energy production.

However, if Dobbin has to work hard & fast (think sprinting or jumping), he cannot get oxygen into his body & burn fat fast enough to meet his increased energy demands.  So his muscles turn to glycogen stores (a carbohydrate stored in the liver & muscles that the body can convert to glucose [muscle fuel]), which can be burned anaerobically.

Life Is Full Of Trade-offs

To complicate matters, glycogen is a finite resource & stores are much smaller than his fat supply.  Burning it also produces lactic acid, which fatigues muscles.  So, you, as pilot, want to save those precious reserves until you really really need it.  Save that hard sprint or gallop for your horse trial or other vital moment.  And once burned, you MUST to take time to replenish the storehouse before you ask again.  

ALL TEH SCIENCE!!
If he gets really desperate, Dobbin can also turn to blood glucose for energy.  This is a critical resource for nervous system function, though, & there isn't much of it (about 1% of the body's fuel supply), so we don't really want to push him this far.

Is your brain fried by science-geekness yet? I could go into ATP & muscle cell pH, so be grateful...

Why Should We Care About All This?

Knowledge is ALWAYS power when it comes to horse management.   If I understand what my horse's body needs to do his job & how it uses what I give him, I am better able to meet those needs & maximize his performance safely.

In addition, understanding all of that helps to understand this, the point of action: the more fit your horse is, the better he is able to utilize his fat stores first.  The unfit horse may have to get up to 40% of his energy from his glycogen reserves during even light exercise.  With conditioning, he can drop that percentage dramatically even during moderate exercise, giving you both more time under saddle & reducing the chances of equine metabolic distress.

So What's The Plan?

Do we then stuff our horses full of lard?  How do we refill his glycogen tanks?  Those answers are up next, along with a brand new addition to the series:  why choosy 'moms' choose...uh...their feed very carefully.

October 14, 2014

Throwback...Tuesday: Rocket Fuel & Other Stories

A brain belonging to eventer79 has left the building.  If found, please return to your nearest Missing Blogger Station immediately.  

To fill the static-y void in the meantime, I have brushed the dust off our miniseries on equine nutrition (which you can access in full under the handy Education menu) for new readers.  Ummm, new as in "what, you haven't been reading my riveting brain-dribbles for the past four years straight?!"  



So I have been reading about nutrition (the horse's, not mine, who cares about that?).  Why?  Well, because I don't want to do the actual work I am SUPPOSED to do, so why not. And if it has the word "horse" in it, then it is a pre-ordained given that I must read it. Who am I to argue with those that ordain??

Lots of interesting things to share with you. How horses use their feed, what different types of feed items offer, and what magical food will make your horse grow a unicorn horn (calm down, BFF, one of these items may or may not be fictional). 

Those of us who grew up obsessed with horses learned many important horse-keeping rules that have been passed down through generations.  One of those things that I always heard was that you never worked your horse hard right after he ate. Much like nagging Aunt Margaret told you never to swim right after you ate or else you'd surely get a cramp & drown. I always held equal skepticism for both. Turns out, I was partly justified.

Wait, So I Will Not Kill My Horse By Riding Him After Dinner?

After your horse eats, his body begins to metabolize his food. This means that his blood insulin will spike, which reduces the efficiency with which the body burns fat (fat is generally the go-to energy resource for horses). So, if they need energy when insulin levels are high, their bodies will instead turn to stored glycogen reserves first. While this is hardly deadly, glycogen is something you want to save until you really need it (I'll explore why in the next post).

Psh, can eat AND work...
So, what's a rider to do? Well, you have two choices. It takes about four hours for that insulin spike to return to baseline. So you can (a) wait four hours (Suck! Who wants to do that?!) or (b) ride immediately. That's right, the spike doesn't really get up there for about two hours, so if you hop on within thirty minutes, you can have your ride & then put Dobbin away before he has to switch over from fat metabolism. What you want to try to avoid, for maximum energy accessibility & efficiency, is hitting it right on that two hour mark, when insulin levels are highest & burning fat is the most difficult.

Now, obviously, we're not going to get this right every single ride, but it's something to shoot for as a general trend & a handy bit of info you can toss out if someone gives you crap for riding your horse right after he ate.

Scorecard: Science, 1, Anecdotes, 0!

November 22, 2013

I Hate Darkness

What my horses are doing right now.  Why the mud pillow?
The time change:  it's what every working horseperson dreads.  You come home from work, it's dark already and feels like the day is already gone and it takes all your willpower to layer up, saddle up, and mount up.

And I'm wishing that was the only thing I had to worry about!

I apologize for being an absentee blogger so much this fall.  It feels like someone flipped a switch in my life:  I was hanging out all summer, my horse was lame so I didn't have much to do outside of work and I had all this free time.

Now I would give my arms for a little boredom -- is there a happy medium??  It will take me considerably longer to put together the horse trial story, so will some photos of an awesome OTTB trying his heart out do?

Let's see, what else have I got:

This happened:

Yes, that is a Shed-In-A-Box full of my boys' winter supply of hay.  I ran about in a panic once we finally had time to assemble the shed on the farm (it is just a simple ShelterLogic thingy from HomeDepot, since I am poor and in a hurry) because I wanted to buy decent hay before the price rocketed to winter levels.  So if their shelter ever arrives, the boys will have a selection of either a slightly sun-faded but still quite good orchard/rye mix or a leafy green timothy/orchard mix.

We crammed my horse trailer and another small truck with as much hay as they would hold (which turns out to be 75 bales) and sprinted back to finish the shed and fill it before that evening's forecasted rain.  I already had my moisture barrier and pallets from my house construction site, so after we got the shed walls on, we started stacking.

Watching skeptics swore I would never fit it all in, but I had done very careful math (even geometry, for cod's sake) with volumes of hay bales and sheds so I held the faith.  DANGIT, IT FIT!!  Vindication feels good.  Although now I am annoyed that I forgot to turn the bottom bales on their sides, but I'm not taking it all out to fix them.  So far it's nice and cozy and dry and I'll add a few pieces later to critter proof it.

OH!  And this happened:
I am fostering BFF's tractor because she is awesome and we had a chat (she previously owned a farm, but the tractor has been mostly sitting in the woods since they sold the farm).  It took me approximately...42 seconds to become obsessed with it.

It's had a lot of time off, but still runs beautifully and it brought its good friends, Bush-hog, Harrow, Augur, and best of all, Bitey Bucket (yeah, yeah, 4-in-1, but that sounds boring).  So I am hoping I will able to beautify it again over time and will certainly be able to keep it from being bored.  I completely confess to squealing with glee when I picked up an 8' telephone pole with said bitey bucket and moved to a different location.  Bonus:  bucket can also open up and be used a box blade or light-duty dozer or backgrader.  Theoretically.  I need to practice more before I am any good at that!

What can I grab next?
Because of work and house and farm duties, I haven't been able to see the horses much, aside from quick visits.  I purposefully did not touch Encore for a week after his horse trial; he had gotten a bit work sour and cranky and was looking a tad ulcer-y.  He's getting a few weeks of ranitidine (already gets U-Guard and alfalfa pellets), but when I visited yesterday, he was already looking happier!

So the young'un gets some time off for now, then he will spend the winter getting strong on the trails and fine-tuning some skills.  He showed me he had the scope and was ready to attack Training Level, so a-schooling we shall go!

Next week, I hope to hop on Solo and play around.  He needs something to do too this winter, so once I get tractor and fence put together, hopefully I will have earned some more weekend time to myself!

March 5, 2013

The C Word

No, not that word.  Although I hate that one too.  But I have now officially decided I hate this one more:

Colic.

It sends a shudder down any horse owner's spine, that unpredictable monster hidden deep in your horse's guts which can twist and cramp and snatch his life away from you in a matter of hours.

Yeah, it scares the living bejeezus out of me.

Sunday night, I was on feeding duty and noticed Encore had stopped eating mid-meal and walked out of his shed.  He stood making funny faces for a minute and I watched with concern, as he is a steady, if slow, eater who works his way through the meal, then goes and gets a drink.  He returned to eating and I continued my rounds, but with a yellow warning light in my head.

As I finished turning out the herds, I returned to my pasture and found Encore standing rather pitifully by the shed divider next to Solo, with a sad eye and a half-finished meal.  He peed and it appeared he was dehydrated.  Now that light turned to red.

I led him down the barn, his head hanging, his feet dragging at a slow walk, which hardly helped as this TB usually takes a big swinging step that I can't keep up with.

I called the vet on the way down and put him in stall with warm water while I simultaneously crouched in the dark with my ear against Encore's belly and tried to carry on a conversation with Dr. Bob's junior vet.  He got some very mushy food with bute mixed in and I went to hang out in the BO's house for an hour to see what happened.

I was kindly fed a delicious dinner while I worried, but I came out to find my horse perky, with good gut sounds, and when I led him up to his pasture, he took a drink from his trough and wandered off to comfort an annoyed Solo.  Driving home, I breathed a sigh of relief and assumed an "all clear" text from the BO Monday morning.

Yeah right.  Never worked for him either.
So you can imagine my blood pressure when instead, my phone rang at 10 am and I answered it to a, "Well...."

Encore had eaten his breakfast, but was laying down in the field.  He may have wanted to nap in the sun, but BO put him on the hotwalker to keep him in sight for easy monitoring just in case (Encore's owner may or may not have a reputation for being the crazy lady...).  The horse got some more bute and mushy alfalfa pellets, but no more dry hay, and he was relegated to a prison cell for water and poop monitoring.  His owner was forced to drive to Southern Pines for a work presentation, a fine chance to work on her stomach ulcers.

After flying back north following work, I arrived to find Encore pouting quite noisily in his cell, demanding release after knocking one water bucket over, although hopefully at least drinking part of it.  I stirred a possibly illegal amount of salt and electrolytes into an alfalfa pellet mush and confess to being slightly shocked that he actually ate it, albeit stopping and slapping his tongue out after every bite at the brine component.

Oh, because we have a really important thing in 5 days!
He was left in his prison last night, in hopes that the salt would force his mouth to eventually shrivel up and force him to drink.  His guts were moving so he is allowed to be pardoned pending empty buckets.  I await my notification this morning with guarded optimism.  He will certainly be kept on electrolytes for the rest of the week.

Our insanely bipolar weather is no doubt to blame, although the biologist in me finds it completely nonsensical that weather should have any effect on a endothermic animal's digestive system.  But Dr. Bob and his junior sidekick were all over the place tending to moaning horses, so it wasn't just us.  When it is 60-20-50-30-70-20-55-20-30 all of us are just damn confused.  It will be 70 today and then 42 again tomorrow.  I curse they bones, climate change...

October 29, 2011

It Only Takes 30 Minutes To Feed The Horses

Especially on a cold, rainy evening.  There's only six of them, easy, right? Bring horses in, dump the feed, turn them back out, done!

Except the water on the beet pulp's gone cold and I want to run some hot water in there.

Except since it's raining and 45 degrees, I want to put a rain sheet on Solo.

Except he's got festy gnat bites on his belly that won't heal and I want to clip around them and spray tea tree oil on there.

Then I decide to go ahead and clip his back white foot because the fungus is always attacking.

Then I need to smear some more desitin on that foot anyway.

Then I need to take Solo's rain sheet off of Encore and put it on Solo.

Now Encore gets Solo's mid-weight blanket because it's not QUITE cold enough for his winter blanket but he's skinny so he needs more than a sheet.

Then Danny needs his sheet because it's wet and cold.

Danny and Solo can finally go out but now I have three leftovers.

Tigger's pasturemate is out of town and he can't stay alone. I can put Tigger with Pete and Encore but now they all need their own hay piles.

Except there are no open hay bales so now I need to climb the stack in the extra stall and roll a couple down.

Then I need to take hay out to each horsey so no one feels left out.

Then I have to scrub all the feed buckets so they are ready for the next morning.

Then I discover Tigger and Pete both left presents in their stalls for me.

Then I need to sweep up fallen hay and make sure everyone has water.

An hour and a half later, I can finally go home.

August 6, 2011

From The Horse's Mouth. Or Guts: Feed Needs

I have been horrendously remiss.  What with all the medical issues and whatnot, I have fallen behind on, well, everything.  Mea culpa.

Around about the time I was ever-so-gracefully kissing the dirt in Virginia, the folks at Woodruff Sweitzer and Zinpro Performance Minerals sent me a CD-ROM about horse nutrition and their 4-Plex EQ Performance Mineral line for my rambling genius review.  I finally managed to watch it!  It is in part a description of the Zinpro equine mineral line, but also a lot of information about equine nutritional needs.  I was actually quite surprised how thorough and informative it was!  They've done a good job condensing a very complex field (I know just enough to be dangerous) into some very useful highlights, focusing, of course, on the horse's unique mineral needs.

The disc was made up of four chapters, two focusing on your horse's nutritional needs, both generally and specifically. Included: fun facts (oh, they know my weakness...).

-The mature horse at rest drinks 5-8 gallons of water a day. On a 100 degree day, that amount will increase to 20 gallons. Put him in intense work, make that 25 gallons.

-While the energy needs of each horse vary, even very light work increases his need for fuel (calories) by 25%.

-The horse's small intestine absorbs proteins, sugars, starches, fats, vitamins and minerals.

-His large intestine absorbs (large colon) volatile fatty acids, B-vitamins, and (small colon) water.

-Minerals are generally considered in two classes:  (1) Macro -- phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, sulfur  (2) Trace -- zinc, copper, cobalt, manganese, selenium, iodine, iron

Each of these have different vital roles to play in your horse's body and many will have more than one job to do.  For example, calcium is needed for muscle contractions, bone structure, and milk production in lactating mares, while phosphorus is used in the nervous system, for energy transfer, and helps calcium on bone and milk duty.

Looking at trace minerals, zinc influences your horse's coat, immune system, skin & hoof function, muscle development, and appetite, just to name a few.

Now, before you go hurling things into your horse's feed pan, there are some important points to remember.  Chiefly, all things in moderation and you CAN have too much of a good thing.  Selenium toxicity is very real and you can watch your horse's hooves slough off.  Raise his zinc levels too high and he will be unable to absorb any copper, which he needs to run his nervous system, among other things.  The zinc:copper ratio should lie between 3:1 and 5:1 to keep one from blocking the other.  Which is why BALANCED nutrition is so important.

We as owners need to know what we need, too.  Where I live, selenium levels are highly variable and I am also on the edge of cobalt deficient soils.  If you really want to dig, check out your water as well; it can contain all kinds of minerals in differing ratios that are very much a part of your horse's diet.

I know, I know, you are already slavering about the mouth, "ZOMG, tell me where I can order a perfect mix of minerals so my horse will be a healthy champion RIGHT NOW!"  That's what I thought Zinpro was going to tell me, too.  Turns out, their Performance Minerals are already in many horse feeds and they do not sell them individually (quantities fed out each day would be ridiculously small).  Speaking of which, they can use the word "performance" because their product has passed a certain level of research, testing, and certification, so there is some measure of security there that at least SOMEone has checked the stuff out before chucking it in a bag.  Just as important though, these minerals have been formulated to be highly bioavialable to your horse -- meaning they have been bound to "carrier substances' which will allow the intestine to absorb the minerals.  Otherwise, Dobbin just craps it out with the rest of the stuff that doesn't make it through the lining of his gut. 

You, however, have to read your feed tag to find out if it's in your bag -- which their handy CD helps you do.  While you will not often see their logo on the bag, the ingredients will contain 'zinc methionine complex, copper lysine complex, manganese methionine complex, and cobalt glucoheptanate.'  Bite me, spellcheck.  

There is a great deal more information contained on the CD -- you can request a copy of your own at the Zinpro website listed above and I encourage you to do so if you'd like to learn more about what makes your horse tick.  It's got several great tools, including more feed bag label tips, a water analysis tool, and a link to some other health educational materials.

I'd like to thank Emily Stoutenborough for taking the time to contact me and send me the materials.  My sincere apologies again for taking so darn long to actually look at them.  You can be sure I'm going to wrestle down some feed tags tomorrow and start digging for information.

March 5, 2011

Take The Time

It is so important to do the little things to keep your horse sound and mentally and physically fit no matter what his job is. Far too easy is it to get lost in the rushing and scheduling and riding that consumes us on a daily basis. But it's those tiny tasks, many that take only seconds, that collectively add up to a well-managed horse. This is what makes a horse(wo)man, not just a rider.

Take the time to palpate your horse's neck, back and haunches before and after a ride to look for tender spots. Just running your fingers down the big muscles with medium pressure can tell you a lot.

Take the time to run your hands down each leg so you know if that knot is new or old.

Take the time to lay a palm on each hoof as you pick them to check the temperature.

Take the time to wiggle each shoe to check for tightness when you lift his feet.

Take the time to really notice the colour, shape and texture of his frog and sole so you know if they change.

Take the time to run your fingers up the back of his pasterns to check for fungus like scratches.

Take the time to take him out on a hack to condition him on hills and uneven ground at the walk and trot, getting him fit the RIGHT way. Don't get trapped in the sandbox.

Take the time to watch him walk away from you as you turn him back out to watch for any stiffness or unevenness.

Take the time to give him a day or two off for a grooming spa or some quiet handgrazing so his body and mind can rest each week.

Take the time to dip his bit in a bucket of water after your ride so there are no sharp-edged crusties next time you tack up (and you don't have to scrub later!).

Take the time to lay out your girth and saddle pad after riding so it can dry and stay mildew and fungus free.

Take the time to glance into his feed bucket -- is he cleaning it up? Sorting out the supplements he doesn't like?

Take the time to watch him eat hay or grass. Is he chewing easily and evenly or does he just mash it and let it fall out of his mouth?

Take the time after you pull his saddle off to curry the matted, sweaty hair, letting air reach the skin and re-fluffing his coat.

Take the time to inspect his manure and watch him pee. Is everything normal coloured? Is the flow and consistency of all his waste the same every day?

I am sure there are others; the take-home message is that these seemingly miniscule things can catch a problem early, saving you potential headaches, vet bills, and missed competitions. They also help make your horse's job more pleasant so he doesn't resent what you ask him to do. Keeping his body and mind fit is 100% vital to keeping him going year after year, not to mention it goes a long way to keeping your maintenance costs down. Fight the urge to rush, be a horse(wo)man, and train yourself to a routine that incorporates getting to know your horse's body and habits so that when something does change (oh yes, we know it will), you will be the first to know. The faster you notice, the faster you can fix it and get Dobbin back on track, which only gives you both more time to enjoy the good stuff!