This morning I collected a fecal ball from my horse and took it to my vet's office for a fecal exam. I know, not a particularly pleasant subject, but one worthwhile to discuss.
I would venture to guess that you could ask a dozen horse people what their method for worming their horse is and you would get many different answers. I believe that there is no one right way, but finding the way that is right for your horse and farm is important.
Chemical wormers have their place–there are several classes of them, some will target bots, some will target tapeworms, while some only target stronglyes and other common worms found in the horse. These are the wormers that you are most often familiar with. Notice the word I used–chemical–something I am not readily willing to subject my senior horses to without thoroughly thinking it thru.
If a horse is battling a significant health issue, instead of going ahead and worming them, I will collect a fecal sample and have the test run. It will tell me if worms are present, which ones and how many. Then I can plan my course of action.
If a horse is healthy, my worming program consists of rotating the chemical wormers used every 2 months. I support the digestive tract by using a good pre/probiotic at least a day before, the day of and the day after the worming which will help prepare the body for the chemical wormer.
The last time my horse, Haley received a chemical wormer was October of 2008. He has had a fecal test run every 2 months since then and each time the test comes back negative. Amazing! He is a very special needs horse who has battled multiple neurological disorders and stress and strain must be kept to a minimum. I have often wondered if the wormer he had back then was enough of a stressor to his system to cause a neurological attack. We will never know the answer to that.
Good pasture management and horse health hygiene are also key factors in minimizing the horses exposure to worms. Keeping herd sizes small, picking up manure daily and routine dragging of horse pastures are practices that Ferrell Hollow Farm has in place for it's senior retiree residents.
It has been unseasonably warm here this month. Usually July and August are the hot summer months, but we have been enduring temperatures in the mid to high 90's for at least two weeks now, with no reprive. The humidity is high with very little chances of rain. Like it or not, we must prepare ourselves to deal with it.
Senior horses can be very sensitive to seasonal changes and have more difficulty adjusting to the increase in temperatures. We at Ferrell Hollow Farm take every measure to ensure that our senior retirees stay as comfortable as possible. Here are some of the things we put in place for them.
Access to clean drinking water at all times. The run in sheds have gutters on them for catching rain water. Large holding tanks are set up on each end to collect the water with a trough in front. In times of drought we have holding tanks secured to a trailer that we fill up in the city and drive into the pastures and fill whichever tanks are low.
Horses will usually consume more salt in the summer and it is fed loose in mineral feeders in each shed.
We have electricity in each shed which enables us to plug in fans for the horses. This morning I had to drive into town to purchase 2 more fans to replace 2 that were no longer working. The horses really come to rely on being able to stand in front of the fans in the heat of the day.
Haley enjoying hay today with his fans on! Tess loves to stand in front of her fan!
Ferrell Hollow Farm has recently released it's newest product in it's line of natural grooming tools–our Natural Coat Spray. It is truly an amazing product. It includes lavender and witch hazel among other pure essential oils and is wonderful to spray on the horses when they are hot to help cool them off. It also will remove the sweat and grime after it has dried. The horses and the dogs get the benefit of being sprayed with this product every day that it is this warm!
Email email@example.com if you are interested in purchasing the Natural Coat Spray.
One last measure that we like to do for the horses is to soak Ontario Dehy Timothy Balance hay cubes in cool water and when they have softened, add some organic herbs or mix in a handful of Skode's trail mixes. http://stores.skodeshorsetreats.com/StoreFront.bok
I'll be the first to admit that all of the animals at Ferrell Hollow Farm are very spoiled, however I feel it is our duty to keep as many of these items in place to keep our residents happy and healthy!
It has been four weeks since Haley's last trim. I was curious to see what Elizabeth had to say about his right hind foot. The outside of the heel has abscessed open and he has had fairly regular pain in that foot recently. Her expression when viewing the foot was something like "Oh My!" The hoof underneath the exposed laminae was about ready to split apart. See for yourself:
Fortunately Haley was very calm and quiet today which made the already dauting task of shaping his feet a bit easier. He is able to pick up the right front foot and have it trimmed normally but not the others. The left front did get a pretty good trim but he had to have many breaks and had great difficulty trying to balance his hind end.
He has abnormal growth ring patterns on the front feet, they have always tended to flare when growing out and now has a split in each toe. I was told to use my rasp and do the best I can to work on filing the front week at least once a week in between the trims.
The left hind foot grows abnormally due to bearing weight unevenly on all legs. This foot stays nice and short and rounded on the inside where he puts the most pressure, while the outside of the hoof flares out.
Creative trimming practices are a must when working on this horse. Since the foot can not be picked up, the nippers are used to trim off small pieces from the outside of the hoof and then the rasp is used to attempt to smooth out the trim marks.
The right hind foot isn't pretty, but it is what it is and he is dealing with it the best he can. Short of having a sling or lift, we can not wrap or boot it.
I never know what the next day will hold, but I wake up each day ready to face the challenges presented before me.
This morning I had to apply some herbal first aid to a wound on Tess. She has a cut on the inside of her right elbow, with a piece of skin flapped open. As I was cleaning it, it was bleeding a good bit.
Achillea Millefolium, common name Yarrow is a natural haemostatic, which allows the blood to clot. Since I have many yarrow plants in my garden I had this medicinal herb readily available. I applied two separate Yarrow flower heads to the wound and the blood did thicken and clot 🙂
Yarrow in Cindy's garden. It was all harvested yesterday with the flowers on their stems hanging upside down to dry and the leaves on drying racks. Then it will be properly stored and available for the senior horses who need it here.
Growing up it was only natural that horses were out on wide open spaces full of grass and trees in order to mimic as natural as environment as possible. After all grass is full of nutrients that a horse needs and oftentimes is responsible for putting a "spring bloom" on a horse.
I take pride in keeping my horse pastures clean, mowed, neat and safe—I spend countless hours dragging, mowing, weedeating, checking for down limbs, rocks, and anything else that would be a hazard. I have 70 acres of combined pasture and woodlands to upkeep.
So why would a horse need a big open space full of only dirt or sand and no grass? As I wrote in an previous blog Insulin Resistant horses may not be able to tolerate being on grass either some or part of the time. Therefore a dry lot environment could be useful for some of their turnout.
On my farm I have what used to be a regulation size dressage arena footed with sand as a dry lot for any horse who may need this sort of turn out. It has shelter and special hay feeders I built that keeps the hay covered and allows the horse to eat in a natural position with their head near the ground. This also avoids any issues with the horse ingesting sand.
My large dry lot is located within a large horse pasture so if it happens that only one horse needs to be on the dry lot, they have buddies in a field right next to them. As always my goal is to keep these senior horses happy, healthy and comfortable for their remaining days.
Today was just another day of life on Ferrell Hollow Farm. Well, not exactly…
I needed to bush hog Haley's 6 acre pasture today. My husband has insisted that I not operate the tractor while he is gone but has conceeded that I may do so if someone else is on the property at the time. You see, he knows from first hand experience how bad a tractor accident can be. Exactly 5 years ago while we were building our log home, a valve exploded while he was on the tractor, he slipped off from the greasy residue and the tractor and bush hog ran over him. Thank goodness the blades were not engaged! I was nearby at the time and rushed him to the emergency room and the long ordeal began of trying to repair his injuries-broken bones, torn ligaments, surgery, months of physical and occupational therapy….so I do respect the fact that I should not be on the tractor when no one else is around.
Ok–back to my day. My farm helper, Rachel, was on the riding mower mowing a secondary entrance and I drove the tractor down the road to assist her. Well, as I was driving the right rear tire slid off of the road, pulling the bush hog with it sideways into the ditch. I was most definitely stuck. The back tire just kept spinning out deeper into the dirt. It's really not any fun at all when you realize the equipment you are sitting on is leaning with a front tire up in the air! So us girls proceeded to round up a farm vehicle and a heavy chain and get that tractor out of the ditch.
I'd like to say that we were successful on our own, however the construction crew who is laying the city water lines in our rural area came by, stopped, and offering to pull me out with their backhoe. I decided it was best to take them up on their offer, and in a matter of minutes, I was back on the road again!
It was time to get off of the road and into the horse field where that tractor belonged! And so I managed to get Haley's pasture mowed despite the slow start.
There's never a dull moment around here–and that my friends is Life on the Farm!
I am sure that people manage Insulin Resistance in their horses in different ways. I'd like to share a successful experience of my own.
In February of 2007 a 25 year old TWH mare came to me to be retired. She is large boned for her breed and looks more like a Morgan than a TWH to me. She was also on the plump side but initially I was not aware that she needed any sort of dietary restrictions. The spring grass came and went and into the first winter we went. In the dead of the winter with no grass growing and receiving grass hay and no grain, she was actually putting on weight! I discussed with her owner the need for having some blood testing done and sure enough she tested as Insulin Resistant. So that spring (2008) we knew we had to make some significant dietary and management changes in order to keep her healthy. We wanted her to loose weight and avoid laminitis.
Let's fast forward one year and look at Dawn now.
Dawn is fed soaked timothy balance cubes as a carrier for her supplements in the morning and a handful of grass hay pellets at night, mainly as a treat. She spends a good deal of her time on a very large dry lot turnout with tested low sugar/low starch grass hay–I like feeding a variety of orchard, timothy and bermuda. She is able to handle a few hours of turnout in a small grass paddock every day wearing a grazing muzzle.
I am pleased that we have been able to develop a plan that works for the horse, her owner, and myself!
Haley is getting ready to abscess in his right hind hoof–again. I have known it for about 2 weeks now. The signs have been there. This morning he tells me it is imminent. He was standing about 10 feet from the shed stall, unable to get there–just spinning around in circles instead of moving straight or even sideways. In times like these, I halter him and lead him–it's more like a pull to the right–as he is unable to turn to the right–has not been able to do that since the EPM took hold back in November 2008.
So the outside of the coronary band of the right hind hoof is hot and painful. I cleaned it and soaked it–he was very tolerant. He can not lift the right hind leg if you ask for it, but will lift and hold it in the air periodically. So I must wait until he lifts that leg, slide the soaking pan underneath, clean it, soak it, and wait until he lifts the leg to slide the pan back out. That's how it goes. It is impossible to put a soaking boot on. I have to get creative. Ziploc bags work pretty well. I have icing bell boots which do work well as I don't have to lift the leg to use those. He is a challenge to work on to say the least.
He is in his own zone this morning–refusing to eat anything–and just wants to rest. He did have a very good energy session yesterday–I wonder if it is helping this process along?
We have been worried for awhile now that he might have another laminitic episode on that hoof. He has been abnormally weight bearing for so long now that this same thing occurred in February 2009. My vet and barefoot trimmer have been very concerned that this may happen again.
We call what is happening to him Mechanical Laminitis. Laminitis is an inflammation in the hoof. It can be caused by many things. For Haley, he leans to the right, putting most of his weight on that right hind foot. That foot is very ddifficult to trim and not shaped correctly because of that. An abnormal weight load will invariably lead to laminitis and/or abscesses.
If you were to ask me what my all time favorite herb would be, there's no doubt I would quickly answer Lavender! The smell is intoxicating and soothing. I am fortunate to be able to grow gorgeous lavender plants at my house. I walk out the door to my back porch and see the beauty before me!
I have pea gravel paths that wind and twist thru my landscaping. The path straight off of the back porch is lined with lavender plants. They are in full bloom right now. My husband asked me the other day if I could cut back the lavender because it scratched his legs as he walked by as it was leaning into the path. I said absolutely not until it is time to harvest the flowers!
I will harvest the lavender stalks when they are ready and use them for a variety of things such as in the Coat Spray I make for the horses, for Potporri, for Dryer Sachets just to name a few. I have it in the house in baskets just because it is pretty.
A gorgeous butterfly enjoying himself on the lavender plants this afternoon.
As I was sitting in my office browsing the internet for local herb farms this afternoon, I peer out the windows to do a scan on 2 pastures in which I have an unobstructed view of several of the senior horses. If anyone thinks that older horses are easy to care for, I will most certainly tell you that you are mistaken.
Maggie is limping—oh dear what could be wrong! So I rush out to inspect and my goodness there is a nail shoved into her frog! Many things race thru my mind—how could this be–I keep my fields meticulous, did I overlook something? Should I speak to the vet before I pull out the nail? I knew I needed to. I called and left a message for my vet and he promptly returned the call within minutes. I relayed the situation and he proceeded to instruct me on what to do and to call him back and let him know how much of the nail was in the foot.
Fortunately my farm helper, Rachel, was here to assist me. I told her we had to gather up the supplies and "perform surgery" on Maggie :) So we disinfected a foot pan, filled it with water and iodine and cleaned her foot thoroughly. I used a rag to make sure the foot was as clean as possible before removing the nail. I had to use pliers to pull out the nail as she was very ouchy when I gently pulled at it with my hand. It was very important that she only place her foot in the foot bath and not on the ground (even though I had towels handy) so as not to attract anything that could set in an infection. So the foot got scrubbed, soaked, polticed, wrapped and booted. She was a very good patient and was rewarded with the Skode's horse treats I keep on hand.
I spoke to my vet again and told him the nail was 1 inch into the frog. He said to put her on anti-biotics and update her tetanus shot right away. Of course I will be cleaning and replacing the bandage for several days watching carefully to make sure no sign of infection sets in.
Then once the emergency was over, I called and spoke to Maggie's owner to let her know what had happened. She said she could not thank me enough for taking care of it so promptly and if Maggie had been at any other farm, it surely would have gone un-noticed and not properly cared for. She often tells me she sleeps peacefully at night knowing that Maggie has been retired to my farm and gets such wonderful care.