Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mum is trying to kil us!

Reddums here.

This morning mum brought us some nasty slimy goo she called "flacks" for breakfast. She said it was good for us but it was horribul - I think she's trying to kil us! She put some karrits in it but I wasn't fooled even a bit. It smeled icky and gross and I didn't want to eet it but then she mixed it with some of our regular foods and it was OK. Saga wouldn't eet it though but he's a big sissy so i had to eet his part too.

If anyone comes out to visit us can you pleeze bring lots of karrits and do not feed us any of this flacks. It's gross you'll see.

- Reddums the Feerless War Pony and Saga the sissy, but mostly me, Reddums

Feeding the boys, part VI

DISCLAIMER: I am not a vet or an equine nutritionist. This information is purely based on research I have done myself. Please do not mistake my research for actual advice on what to feed your horse. I'm just sharing my experiences so that other horse owners can have the information.

This is the sixth in a series on how I'm determining what to feed my two horses. For Part IV, visit here.

In the last installment, we calculated the NSCs of Saga's ration, along with the Selenium and Vitamin E content of Red's ration. We also discussed how important it is to read feed bag labels and feed according to the recommended quantities for your horse's weight and level of work.

On your own
At this point, the really important thing to know is how to determine how much of a particular nutrient your horse is getting, and how much of that nutrient he actually needs. Finding out what your horse actually needs is a little challenging, but there are two fairly good sources I've been using:
Based on these two sources, I've created a table that shows the most common nutrients and the recommended daily allowances for mature horses in light work.











































































































Nutrient
Equi-analytics recommendation
(for an 1100 pound horse)
Nutrition & Feeding recommendation
Crude Protein
820 g/day
1.08 g/kg BW/day
Lysine
29 g/day0.054 g/kg BW/day
Crude Fat -
5%
Calcium
25 g/day
60 mg/kg BW/day
Phosphorus 17.8 g/day36 mg/kg BW/day
Magnesium 9.4 g/day19 mg/kg BW/day
Iron335 mg/day0.8 mg/kg BW/day
Potassium31 g/day57 mg/kg BW/day
Copper
84 mg/day0.2 ppm/kg BW/day
Zinc 335 mg/day0.8 ppm/kg BW/day
Manganese 335 mg/day0.8 ppm/kg BW/day
Selenium 0.8 mg/day0.002 mg/kg BW/day
Vitamin A 22500 IU/day45 mg/kg BW/day
Vitamin D 2510 IU/day6.6 mg/kg BW/day
Vitamin E
669 IU/day1.6 mg/kg BW/day
Biotin - 0.2 mg/kg BW/day
Iodine - 0.007 mg/kg BW/day
Cobalt - 0.001 mg/kg BW/day
Thiamine - 0.06 mg/kg BW/day
Riboflavin - 0.04 mg/kg BW/day
One thing that is interesting to note is that the sources don't always agree with each other about the recommended quantities. For example, Equi-analytics recommends that Saga get 820 g/day of protein, while Nutrition & Feeding recommends 540 g/day (1.08 g x 500 kg). On the other hand, for Potassium, Equi-analytics recommends 31 g/day, and Nutrition & Feeding recommends 28.5 g/day (0.057 g x 500 kg). I don't know who's right, but at least I've got some ballpark numbers to work with!

And now, more math
I promised to calculate the quantity of protein, fat, calcium, and phosphorous that the boys were getting, since these are often the nutrients people look at most. For simplicity, I'll do all the calculations for Saga, and assume he weighs 500 kg.

Saga should get between 540 and 820 g/day of protein.
  • Purina Ultium is 11.7% protein, and Saga gets 9 lbs of it daily. That's a total of 1.053 lbs of protein/day (9 lbs x .117)
  • Bermuda hay is 10.6% protein, and Saga gets 15 lbs of it daily. That's a total of 1.59 lbs of protein/day (15 lbs x .106)
  • Add these together and you get 2.643 lbs of protein/day. Converted to grams, that's 1198.844 g/protein/day. He's definitely not hurting for protein!
Saga should get 5% of his diet as crude fat.
  • Purina Ultium is 12.4% fat, and Saga gets 9 lbs of it daily. That's 1.116 lbs of fat/day (9 lbs x .124)
  • Bermuda hay is 1.8% fat, and Saga gets 15 lbs of it daily. That's a total of 0.27 lbs of fat/day (15 lbs x .018)
  • Add these together and you get 1.386 lbs of fat/day. Since he gets a total of 24 lbs of feed daily, that's 5.8% fat/day. So, he's right in line.
Saga should get between 25 and 30 grams of Calcium per day. Calcium calculations are a little trickier, since most feed bags give a min and a max amount, in percentages. We'll calculate both to figure out the range
  • Purina Ultium is 0.85 - 1.0% Calcium, and Saga gets 9 lbs of it daily. That's 0.07 - 0.09 lbs of Calcium/day.
  • Bermuda hay averages 0.5% Calcium, and Saga gets 15 lbs of it daily. That's a total of 0.075 lbs of Calcium/day.
  • Add these together and you get 0.145 - 0.165 lbs of Calcium/day. Convert to grams and you get between 65.7 - 74.8 g/day. That's more than double what he's supposed to get. But what's really important is that he is getting a Ca:P ratio of about 2:1. So let's calculate P.
Saga should get between 17.8 and 18 grams of Phosporous per day.
  • Purina Ultium is 0.5% Phosporous, and Saga gets 9 lbs of it daily. That's 0.045 lbs of Phosporous/day.
  • Bermuda hay averages 0.19% Phosporous, and Saga gets 15 lbs of it daily. That's a total of 0.0285 lbs of Phosporous/day.
  • Add these together and you get 0.0735 lbs of Phosporous/day. Convert to grams and you get between 33.3 g/day. That's more than a third more than what he's supposed to get. However, if he's getting ~66 g of Calcium/day, then the ratios of the two minerals are about right.
On that note, I'll leave you to your own calculations. Are your horses getting what they are supposed to in the ratios they are supposed to have them?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tall... and short

In today's lesson, we learn about tall and short.

And on that note, we are done for the day.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Longeing near-fail

Tonight, instead of chasing the boys around the pasture for a few minutes, I decided to dust off my longe line and do a bit of longeing with Saga.

The main reason I want to start longeing him again is to get him more balanced in the canter, and also to help clean up our canter transitions. Out in the arena this last weekend, our transitions were horribly, embarrassingly sloppy, and Saga even bucked a bit on the right lead canter depart as I yelled, "NO! NO! BAD PONY!!!" The idea is to do lots of transitions without me in the picture so that he can find his balance and regain his strength and coordination - none of which will be helped with me flopping about on his back.

So I got out my longe line, put Saga's halter on, snagged my longe whip, and... oy. First, Saga ran madly in circles to the left (and I am NOT a fan of running your horse around on the longe. It's a training tool, not a way to tire your horse out!). Then he spun around and ran madly the other way, longe line wrapped about his big lug of a head. The only thing that did go well is that he didn't drag me halfway across the pasture, and he didn't fall down. So from that standpoint I guess it wasn't a complete fail.

We did eventually manage to get a few circles of decent (i.e. not running around like a mad man) trot and one canter depart each direction. I didn't want him to get too warm, since it was getting dark, so we didn't do more. It was good for me to watch him go at the trot - I didn't see any unevenness anywhere, even when he was doing a really big trot, so that's great. The canter was very telling - he's more unbalanced to the right, falling in and just generally running in the gait instead of a steady three beats. Left isn't great either but again, I think it's due to lack of balance and muscle. He's had nearly a year of no serious work, so it's understandable if somewhat frustrating.

On the positive side, I now have something I can do with him several times a week if I get home and don't have much time before it gets dark. Even if I only longe him for 10 minutes and do a few trot/canter transitions each way, and a few canter circles, it will help with his strength and make it that much easier under saddle.

Oh, and next time? I am SO longeing in a bridle or a cavesson.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Flat

Saga's back feet are really, really flat.

Flat like a pancake. No concavity here.

Well, maybe a teensy bit. This is his RH - the concavity is on the inside, which is sort of interesting.

You can really see the wear patterns here. Nice fat frog that is clearly making contact with the ground, along with the heel - but the sole is as well, especially in the quarters. Is that normal? My trimmer comes out this week, so I'll ask her.

And another thing that worries me - the new hoof growth is so... flaky. What's going on here? At first I thought it was just normal coronet band, but now it's extending past that. Anybody got any ideas as to what's going on?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Probably you should not try this at home

Most of the time when I ride, I take just one horse out and the other one stays at home. If I'm lucky, the hubby or MC will come along and ride the other one, but it doesn't happen all the time. So, I figured I'd give ponying a try and see if that was a viable way to exercise the boys together.

I decided I'd ride Red and pony Saga, since a) Red's boss, and b) Saga has probably been ponied since he was a race horse. I would have liked to have a rope halter for Saga for a little extra control, but I don't, so we made do with his regular nylon halter. I rode Red in his hackamore, since I knew I'd be riding one-handed.

Red was a total star and acted like he'd done this all before - and who knows, maybe he has? We trotted some on the road, and even got a short canter in on one of the trails. He rated well and was just a dream to ride. What a fun little guy!
Adorable pony ears!

Saga, on the other hand, showed his stubborn side. When we'd turn back away from home, he'd plant his feet and refuse to move. Moron. I had to turn Red around twice and smack Saga on the butt with the lead rope - after that he moved along well.

Saga looks less than thrilled at this prospect.

We also found out that there's a trail at the end of the street.

I hadn't tried it before because of this sign, but if you stay to the right, you'll find the trailhead.

The trail eventually meets up with another one that leads to the arena. Woohoo, a shortcut!

The part you shouldn't try at home? I admit I filmed some video while trotting. Unfortunately it turned out too bouncy to watch, but I managed to juggle Red's reins, Saga's lead, and the camera without dropping anything, including myself off of Red's back. Not bad, but definitely not recommended.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

How long?

How long between the time when you notice something is "not quite right" with your horse and when you decide to call the vet?

In an emergency, how long will it take your regular vet to get to your house or your barn? Do you have the facilities necessary for the vet to deal with your horse? Do you have adequate lights, stocks, etc? Or is it faster and easier to haul to a clinic?

How long does it take to hitch your truck to your trailer, by yourself, in the dark? Is your trailer empty and clean, so you can load and go?

How long does it take to load your horse, by yourself, in the dark? Can you even load him by yourself, especially when he's not feeling well? If you need help, how long will it take someone else to get there to assist?

Does your truck have enough diesel in it to get to the vet without stopping? Have you checked your truck and trailer tire pressure recently? Changed the oil on schedule? Do your brakes and lights work? Is your vehicle registration and inspection current, including the trailer?

And in case you're wondering why I'm asking all these questions, Red choked again, but this time it didn't resolve quickly. I ended up hauling him to Elgin Vet Hospital because honestly, I don't have stocks, I don't have a barn, and treating him on-site could have been a challenge. Fortunately, the little booger managed to clear the choke on his own sometime in the last 20 minutes of the ride (I pulled over and checked on him halfway there, and he was a mess, so I kept driving, but then apparently he coughed it up on his own).

Still, it's scary in an emergency situation when you're by yourself, and as I was driving to the vet clinic, these things kept going through my mind. What if Red hadn't loaded? What if my brakes didn't work, like happened a few months ago? It makes me really glad that I try to keep up with making sure the truck and trailer are ready to go at any time, and that my boys both load on the first try. In an emergency, I know I can get to where I need to be with minimal fuss, and concentrate on my horse instead of my equipment.

And Red is now extremely put out with the mush that he's getting, but hopefully that's the last episode of choke we'll ever have to deal with. How he managed to choke on ONE POUND of Triple Crown Lite I'll never know...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

New duds for the boys

Saga and Red's new turnout sheets came in this week. They fit pretty well, and I like the cut, which is pretty much exactly like the Rambo cut.

Red looks pretty cute in his new navy and red sheet. All it needs is a big white star and he could be the Texas flag! (KIDDING!)

I am not as excited about Saga's teal with "lemon" trim outfit. (The trim is really more of a chartreuse. Ick.) I could have gotten it in java with brick trim, but I would have had to wait for another month for it to come in. Whatever, he'll survive in this.

Remember when blankets came in hunter with navy, maroon with gray trim, or navy with gray trim, and that was it? So many choices nowadays...

Friday, November 19, 2010

We need all the help we can get

Saga tends to be very helpful when we're working out in the pasture. He likes to supervise.

Last weekend, he helped us repair a hole in the roof of the shed (we had to replace 2 panels).

Be sure to get that roof panel on straight... you need to move it a little to the left!

And he made sure we correctly fixed a couple of pieces of loose trim on the shed door.

Are you making sure that loose metal trim is well attached? We wouldn't want any sharp bits sticking out!

Saga didn't get to supervise on this project since it was inside the feed shed. We put up a quick blanket rack with a 2x4 and some blocks of wood - not pretty, but definitely functional!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

OooooAlfalfa!

Red loves alfalfa, probably more than Saga does. Of course, he only gets a handful or two of alfalfa per day, while Saga gets an entire flake morning and night.

I keep my alfalfa in hay bags, mostly because it makes a mess whenever you pull off a flake. When I'm done with the bale, Red gets the leftovers.

Today, I was moving two new bales of alfalfa to the back shed, and Red decided he didn't want to wait till the bag was empty to get his share.

Ooooh! Could it be... a fresh bag of alfalfa?!?!

Mine! Mine! All mine!

Naturally, Red is starving. Just ask him about it - he'll probably forget to mention the entire pound of carrots that MC fed him when she came out to ride him today...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Feeding the boys: Part V

DISCLAIMER: I am not a vet or an equine nutritionist. This information is purely based on research I have done myself. Please do not mistake my research for actual advice on what to feed your horse. I'm just sharing my experiences so that other horse owners can have the information.

This is the fifth in a series on how I'm determining what to feed my two horses. For Part IV, visit here.

In the last installment, we figured out how much hay and concentrates, in pounds, I was actually feeding the boys. Here's the recap:
  • Saga was getting 15 lbs of forage and 9 lbs of concentrates (Purina Ultium), or a total of 24 lbs per day. That's within the range of 16.5 and 27.5 lbs that he's supposed to get, but it's an awful lot of concentrates. Plus, he still looked ribby, and his feet seemed to be increasingly sore on the Ultium.
  • Red was getting 15 lbs of forage and perhaps 1/2 lb of concentrates (Nutrena Lite Balance) daily. So he's well within the 13.5 to 22.5 lb range that we calculated for him, if a little on the low end. Red was in good weight, but he tied up after our last hunt. Is he selenium and/or vitamin E deficient, like the vet suggested?
Now it's time to get down-and-dirty with the math regarding how much vitamins and minerals the boys were actually getting, and how much they are supposed to be getting. Since there are a lot of nutrients in feed (my current count is 34), I'm going to concentrate on calculating some key values as examples.

NSCs
Let's start with calculating non-structured carbohydrates, or NSCs. This is the combination of sugars and starches in a feed. Sugars, and therefore NSCs, are known triggers for laminitis -which is why you're not supposed to let horses graze on sugar-rich spring grasses. "Metabolic" horses, i.e. those with Cushings, are recommended to have no more than 12% NSCs in their diets (again, your mileage may vary depending on your source). Some non-horses appear to be more susceptible to increased amounts of sugars in their diet - for example, some barefoot horses can become "footy" within hours or days of having additional NSCs in their diets. Since Saga has been off-and-on footy, I was curious if the amount of NSCs in his diet might be causing some issues. However, I wasn't sure how much he was getting.

To calculate the total NSCs in your horse's diet, you need to add up all the NSC values for all the different concentrates and forages he's getting. Some feed companies post the NSC value of their feed right on their web site. Others you have to dig for online - and sometimes the numbers you find aren't consistent. If it's not on your feed bag label or on the company's web site, call the company and ask.

  • The reported NSC value for Purina Ultium is 16% (reference: COTH forum)
  • The average NSC value for Bermuda grass (coastal) hay is 13.2% (reference: equi-analytical). Ideally, I'd have my hay tested, but since I have not yet done so, we'll go with the average value.
To calculate the total NSCs your horse is getting, you first need to calculate how many pounds of NSCs your horse is getting for each feed source. Since NSCs are reported as percentages, to calculate pounds, you need to multiply the pounds of feed by the percentage of NSCs. Then you add the pounds of NSCs together and divide by the total amount of feed (in lbs) they're getting. Here are the calculations for Saga:

  • (9 lbs of Ultium) x (.16) = 1.44 lbs NSCs from Ultium

  • (15 lbs of Bermuda hay) x (.132) = 1.98 lbs NSCs from Bermuda hay

  • (1.44 lbs + 1.98 lbs) / 24 lbs = 14.25% total NSCs
So, Saga wasn't getting huge amounts of NSCs, but certainly there's room for improvement. In addition, I read the label on the Ultium bag carefully, and for a horse in moderate work (remember, Saga is in light work), he should be getting about 6.5 lbs of grain per day. I was over-feeding by 2.5 lbs per day, and he was still ribby. Eeek! I needed to cut back on the Ultium and change something else.

Selenium
For Red, my main concern was that he might be Selenium and/or Vitamin E deficient, causing him to tie up. So, I needed to calculate the amount of these nutrients in his diet. Here are the calculations for Red:

  • Nutrena Lite Balance has 1 ppm (that's 1 part per million) of Selenium per pound of feed (reference: Nutrena web site).
  • Bermuda hay has no Selenium (reference: equi-analytical).
Since Red was getting approximately 1/2 lb of Lite Balance per day, that means he was getting .5 ppm of selenium per day.

Now the question is, how much Selenium does Red actually need? According to the book "Equine Nutrition and Feeding" by David Frape, a horse in light work needs 0.002 mg/kg BW/day. Let's decipher what this means:
  • milligrams (mg) = parts per million (ppm). So, 1 mg = 1 ppm
  • kg/BW/day is "kilograms of body weight per day". This means you need to convert the number of pounds your horse weighs to kilos. In Red's case, he weighs about 900 lbs, and 1 lb = .454 kg, so Red weighs 408.24 kg. I'll round up to 410 for easier math.
Now, we need to determine how much Selenium he needs based on his body weight by multiplying the number of mg by his body weight in kg:
  • 0.002 mg x 410 kg = 0.82 mg/selenium/day
We've already figured out that he's getting .5 mg (remember, ppm = mg, so .5 ppm = .5 mg) per day from his feed, so he's .32 mg/day short. That's nearly a third less Selenium than he needs!

Vitamin E
Now, let's do the same calculation for Vitamin E, since Vitamin E deficiency is another cause of tying up.

At 1/2 lb of Lite Balance per day, Red was getting 125 IU of Vitamin E per day.

How much Vitamin E should he be getting per day? Equine Nutrition and Feeding says 1.6 mg/kg BW/day. Doing the math, we get:
  • 410 kg x 1.6 mg = 656 mg Vitamin E per day
But wait, our units are off again! We need to convert IU to mg.

IU are "international units," or the measure of effect of a substance (reference: Wikipedia [yeah, Wikipedia, I know. Shoot me later.]) . The conversion factor for IU to mg is different for each type of vitamin. For Vitamin E, you divide the number of IU by 1.10* to get the number of mg. So Red was getting:
  • (125 IU/day) / 1.10 = 113.6 mg/day
YIKES! He's supposed to be getting 656 mg/day, so he's WAY low!

Since Red was low on both Vitamin E and Selenium, the vet's recommendation to add a supplement to his feed was probably a good one. If only I'd done the math beforehand, I'd have known this was a problem!

Feeding recommendations
One thing I realized as I started to read feed tags is that I was not feeding either concentrate within the recommended feeding levels. Nutrena recommends feeding Lite Balance at a rate of 0.25 to 0.5 lb (kg) per 100 lb. body weight (reference: Nutrena). If I had been feeding Red in the recommended quantities (2.25 to 5 lbs per day for a 900 lb horse), he would have had no problem getting the amount of Vitamin E and Selenium he needed.

HOWEVER, it's important to note that even when you feed in the recommended doses, your horse may be getting too much or not enough of something. For example, Saga needs 1 ppm of selenium/day (0.002 mg x 500 kg). If he had gotten the recommended 6.5 lbs of Ultium per day, he would have gotten 3.25 ppm of Selenium/day (Ultium has 0.5 ppm MINIMUM per pound of feed). I was feeding 9 lbs of Ultium per day, which is 4.5 ppm/day. Either dose is way too much! In fact, a little research on selenium toxicity in horses shows that the maximum a horse should ingest per day is 3 mg, and more than 5 mg/day can result in a horse that is "lame, loses weight easily and has a dull coat." HOLY CRAP! Saga was definitely footy on the Ultium, and he wasn't gaining weight. Maybe this was due to getting too much Selenium instead of getting too much NSCs? Since I didn't do a blood test, I'll never know, and he's no longer getting Ultium. Even so, it's a scary thought.

Now let me be clear - I am not disparaging either feed. It is my own fault for not reading the feed labels and following them. It is my own fault for not doing the math and understanding the possible consequences of feeding too much or too little to my horses. This is why being educated about feeds is so very important.

Next steps
I realize that my over-analytical self has probably gone overboard on all the math for feeds, and we only calculated a few key nutrients for our horses! There are lots of other things to looks at - fat, protein, calcium, phosphorous, iron, copper, manganese... and the list goes on. Since this post has already gotten so long, I'll wait till next time to discuss other nutrients I was concerned about, including protein, fat, calcium, and phosphorous. I'll also be posting the list of nutrients that I've accumulated along with the recommended doses for each nutrient from several different sources. That way you can do your own calculations for all these details.

And then... I have to figure out what to feed the boys!

* Ok, kidding, it's not that simple. It depends on if it's natural Vitamin E or synthetic, and what type of Vitamin E it is. See this page for more info. The ingredient list for Lite Balance says "Vitamin E supplement," so I don't know what kind of Vitamin E it is, but I guessed that it was d-alpha-Tocopherol. If someone else has better information, please let me know.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A bit of grooming assistance

This weekend, MC was out to ride Reddums. She also kindly spent some time grooming Saga, since I was working on the house and couldn't go for a ride.

First, she groomed him and gave him a good vacuuming.

Clearly, Saga hates this.



Then, she washed and conditioned his tail, combed it out, braided it, and put it in a tail bag. We're trying to do something to salvage his rather pathetic tail, and this was her suggestion. We'll see how it looks in a couple of months!

It's really wonderful to have someone you trust come out and help look after the boys. Thanks, MC, for all the help!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Feeding the boys, Part IV

This is the fourth in a series on how I'm determining what to feed my two horses. For Part III, visit here.

In the last installment, we'd figured how how much feed, in pounds, the boys were supposed to get. Here's the quick recap:
  • Saga should get between 16.5 and 27.5 lbs of feed per day, with no more than 11 lbs of concentrates.
  • Red should get between 13.5 and 22.5 lbs of feed per day, with no more than 9 lbs of concentrates.
The next step is to figure out how much the boys were actually getting. Since I didn't have a scale for the feed room, and my kitchen scale was too small (only goes up to 2 lbs), I dragged our bathroom scale out to the feed room. I weighed myself, then picked up whatever I was weighing, and weighed myself again. Here's what I figured out:
  • A scoop of Purina Ultium weighs about 3 lbs.
  • A scoop of Triple Crown Light or Nutrena Lite Balance weighs about 2 lbs.
  • A decent-sized flake of Bermuda grass hay weighs about 3 lbs. However, small flakes can weigh as little as 1.5 lbs.
  • A decent-sized flake of alfalfa weighs about 5 lbs. Alfalfa weight did vary widely - I had one densely-packed bale and one that was much less dense. You need to be careful if you're feeding by volume instead of weight.
So, at the time, Saga was getting:
  • 1 flake Bermuda 2x daily, plus 3 flakes at bedtime (15 lbs Bermuda)
  • 1.5 scoops of Ultium 2x daily (9 lbs concentrates)
  • 2 scoops BOSS 2x daily (maybe 0.2 lbs)
  • Daily Strongid wormer (negligible weight)
  • 24/7 pasturage (but it's quite poor as we haven't had any rain)
Based on our math above, Saga was getting 15 lbs of forage and 9 lbs of concentrates, or a total of 24 lbs per day. That's well within the range of 16.5 and 27.5 lbs that he's supposed to get, but it's an awful lot of concentrates. Plus, he still looked ribby, and his feet seemed to be increasingly sore on the Ultium. What's a horse to do?

Red was getting:
  • 1 flake of Bermuda 2x daily, plus 3 flakes at bedtime (15 lbs Bermuda)
  • 1 cup of Nutrena Lite Balance 2x daily
  • Daily Strongid wormer
  • 24/7 pasturage (but it's quite poor as we haven't had any rain)
Based on this math, Red was getting 15 lbs of forage and perhaps 1/2 lb of concentrates daily. So he's well within the 13.5 to 22.5 lb range that we calculated for him, if a little on the low end. Red was in good weight, but he tied up. Possible mineral deficiency?

So, now we know exactly how much feed the boys were getting. How much is your horse getting? If you haven't already gone and weighted your feed and hay, you should do it now. In the next installment, we'll look a feed tags and do some math on vitamins and minerals. Grab your calculators!

Friday, November 12, 2010

My fantasy barn

Someday - hopefully sooner rather than later - we'll get around to building our barn. And while I wish I could have one of those beautiful places with 14x14 stalls, varnished wood doors, and wrought iron bars, that's really not how I keep the boys. Let's face it - what's best for horses is for them to be out 24/7, and if that's not possible, then at least they should get as much movement as possible. Keeping them bundled up in stalls isn't good for them, and it's sure a pain for me when it comes to mucking! Sure, I need a place so I can feed them separately and/or a way to keep them in if someone gets hurt, but otherwise, they really just need a place to get out of the weather in the winter and out of the sun and bugs in the summer.

So, I will end up with a glorified run-in shed with a tack room, hay storage, and a nice spot for grooming. But within that area... muahahaha.... I can go hog wild! I'm talking about things like a wood-paneled tackroom, a rubber-brick grooming pad, and... well, a horsey vacuum cleaner.

I know, you think I'm crazy for wanting a horsey vacuum. But the barn I boarded Cash at when we lived up in New York, Larkin' Hill Farm, had one and OMG it was awesome! You'd think the horses would be afraid of the noise, but after a brief introduction to Mr. Vacuum, all of them chilled right out. And most of them loved being groomed with it! Maybe it was like a massage, I don't know, but they would make the silliest faces when you ran the vacuum over them - most of them would really get into it.

And nothing, but nothing, makes winter grooming a fuzzy, unclipped horse easier. I don't care how much you hot towel, curry, or brush, there is no way to groom out the dirt that's deep down in the coat. With a vacuum, it's so easy it should be illegal.

At the encouragement of a "friend*" who was probably tired of listening to me whine about how hard it is to groom fuzzy horses, I checked out the local Craigslist ads for horse vacuums. I mean, really, what are the chances of someone listing a horse vacuum for sale, just when I decide to go shopping for one? Because really, I do not need a horse vacuum. I need to ride more. I need to finish the ceiling in the bathroom. But, because the stars were in alignment (or something), there it was on Craigslist - a nice, compact, Rapid-Groom vacuum for $75! SCORE!

So, I have the vacuum. I have dirty horses. Well, OK, now I have Very Clean Well-Vacuumed Horses - at least, until they roll. Now, all I need is the rest of the barn to put the vacuum in, and I'll be all set.

I know, I know. One step at a time. :)

* Thaaaanks, MC. Really.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Feeding the boys: Part III

DISCLAIMER: I am not a vet or an equine nutritionist. This information is purely based on research I have done myself. Please do not mistake my research for actual advice on what to feed your horse. I'm just sharing my experiences so that other horse owners can have the information.

I started researching my feed in detail because Saga has been somewhat footy, off-and-on since I took his shoes off earlier this year. Excess sugar and non-structured carbohydrates (NSCs) are two known causes of laminitis, and low-grade laminitis seems to be the most common cause of footiness in barefoot horses. It affects shod horses too, but for various reasons* doesn't manifest in a noticeably "off" horse.

I also started researching feed because Red tied up after our last go at foxhunting. The attending vet suggested that he might be deficient in Vitamin E and Selenium, so I put Red on a supplement at the vet's recommendation. And then, somewhat belatedly, I started on my research.

If you start researching what your horse is eating, you realize very quickly that there are a lot of variables involved. How much hay, how much grain? Are you feeding alfalfa? What about supplements? How much should you be feeding of each? How much NSCs is he getting? What's the nutrient content of what your horse is eating versus what your horse is supposed to get on a daily basis? Is he getting too much? Too little? The math gets complicated quickly, and the information sources can be highly variable, so you really have to do your homework.

Over the next few posts, I'm going to break down what I've figured out for my boys, step-by-step, and provide all the calculations I've used so that you can figure it out for your horses as well. The first step is figuring out what our horses should actually be eating, in terms of weight of dry matter. Here's what Google has to say:
Taking the average of these numbers, let's say a horse should get between 1.5% and 2.5% of his body weight in total feed per day, with no more than 1.0% percent of that being a concentrate feed. (NOTE: These numbers are for horses in light work. If your horse is being ridden more, the percentages will increase.)

Red
Red is 14.2 hh, an "easy keeper," and in light work. By light work, I mean he works 3-4 hours per week at things like trail riding, dressage, and jumping. We do some conditioning with him, but it's not too strenuous even though we hunt. Ideally I'd like for him to be better conditioned, but there's that time factor. I estimate that Red weighs 900 lbs.

According to our math, Red should get between 13.5 and 22.5 lbs of feed per day, with no more than 9 lbs of concentrates.

Saga
Saga is 16.2 hh, a "hard keeper," and also in light work. I estimate that he weighs about 1100 lbs.

According to our math, Saga should between 16.5 and 27.5 lbs of feed per day, with no more than 11 lbs of concentrates.

Your horse
To calculate how much feed your horse should be getting, here's the formulas:
  • Minimum total weight of feed = (Body weight in pounds) x 0.015
  • Maximum total weight of feed = (Body weight in pounds) x 0.025
  • Maximum total weight of concentrates = (Body weight in pounds) x 0.010
Hang on to these numbers, you'll need them later.

Coming up next...
So now we know how much in dry weight each of the boys should get, but how much are they actually getting? Your homework is to go weigh your grain, hay, and whatever else your horse gets in a day and write it all down. While you're at it, grab the tags off your feed bag and supplements, and ask your forage supplier if they test their forage, and if so, would they share that information with you. I'll be doing the same, and we'll compare notes in the next installment.

* I'll discuss these reasons in more detail in another post.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Time for a shave?

Lately I haven't been able to ride much in the evenings, so I've been trying to spend 10-15 minutes chasing the boys around the pasture so they can get some exercise. They really get into it after the first few minutes, bucking and playing with each other, trotting with high steps and flagged tails - it's fun to watch them. I can also assess how they're looking when they're not under saddle, which is especially important since Saga's been having some footiness issues of late.

Unfortunately, it's often warm in the evenings (80 degrees F last week!), and the boys have grown in their winter coats. Neither of them get very fuzzy, but in weather this warm, they sweat easily. And then they take FOREVER to dry, even though they cool down fairly quickly.


Still wet with sweat 45 minutes after his frolic in the pasture.

In fact, Saga sweats so much after very little exercise that I'm thinking about doing a Neck and Belly clip or an Irish Clip (here's a nice site that shows the different types of clips). Poor guy needs something in this heat, and I've got blankets to keep him toasty when it gets cold, as well as turnout sheets on order.

So, do you clip your horse? What clip do you prefer? And any hints on getting the lines straight?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Getting creative

Those of you who know me well know that I'm a rabid recycler and in general try to maximize reuse. I carry plastic grocery bags in my purse so that I don't have to get new ones at the store, and I've been known to drag cans and bottles hundreds of miles home from camping trips just to put them in my recycling bin. So I often look for things to do with stuff that would otherwise be thrown out to see if I can get that extra mile out of it or come up with a creative new use. Because, well, that's just fun to do!

Lately I've been looking for ways to slow down the boys' hay eating habits. You know how it is - your horse grabs a giant mouthful of the stuff (Miss Manners would be horrified!) and munches, while wisps fall to the ground. Hopefully your horse is a neat eater and vacuums up the bits afterward, but we all know this isn't always the case. Ideally, the boys would have to work for their hay and move around to get at it... but well, I'm working on that concept.

So I'd been researching ways to feed them hay that would slow them down. There are a couple of sites with slow feeder ideas, which seemed useful but expensive. I looked to see if anyone was making "hay pillows" - solid fabric bags sized to fit a flake or two, with small holes to slow consumption. Since I sew, I figured I could make some pillows with scrap fabric, or even leftover poly feed bags. And as I was searching the web for ideas, I came across How to Make a Hay Net out of Bailing Twine. Does it get any more brilliant or reusable than that?!? I've got LOADS of bailing twine, so I decided to give it a go.

I started off with 12 strings and tied them together in a big knot at the top end.

Next, I tied pairs of strings together using an overhand knot.

I continued on down, tying alternate pairs of strings together to form the diamond mesh pattern.

As I quickly discovered, if you want a small-mesh net, you need to tie your knots fairly closely together. However, this makes for a fairly narrow hay net - more like a hay tube, really. I think I would need double or even triple the number of strings to make a small-mesh net that opens wide enough to get a couple of flakes of hay in it.

So, I'm saving up more bailing twine for the next go. The boys are happy to help with the twine collecting process, diligently munching their way through the hay so I can get the twine. Kind of them, really. It's probably a good thing that they don't know the eventual outcome - they'll have to work harder for their hay thanks to the small mesh bags!



Thursday, November 4, 2010

Riding with friends

A few weeks ago, Fuzzypony hauled Taran down and MC came over for a visit, and the three of us took the boys out for a trail ride.

Saga was feeling slightly uneven at the trot (but perfectly fine at the walk), so I ended up parking him in the middle of our usual riding field and taking pictures of Fuzzypony and MC. Unfortunately, the lighting was low so a lot of the pics turned out blurry, but there were a few decent ones.

Fuzzypony walks by with Taran.

MC and Red looking lovely at the trot.

Taran canters off into the sunset while Red follows. At this point, I think Saga was munching on grass as I took the pictures.

Taran canters by.

Another lovely trot moment from MC and Red. Red's such a cutie, for all that he's a midget monster.

We ended the ride with a walk down the street to see MC's "new house" at the very end of the street - OK, she's not moving in, but she sure does lust after it!

I have to say, it's pretty amazing to be able to halt your horse, let go of the reins, and take pictures while your friends canter by. Saga is such a good pony!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Feeding the boys, part II

In my last post on feeding the boys, I mentioned that I had recently switched from feeding round bales to feeding square bales, and I thought I'd share my thoughts about why I did that.

First of all, the boys were out during the day on pasture and in at night with the round bale. Red wasn't getting any grain, but he was FAT. He actually sort of looked like a round bale! Saga looked OK, but wasn't fat, even though he was getting 1 scoop of Safe-n-Sound 2x/day. So I had one horse that was too fat and another horse that wasn't quite right. By feeding square bales, I'd have more control over who got how much hay, and hopefully would be able to get Red a little more svelt and Saga a bit more plump.

Secondly, round bales are a PAIN to move. We don't have a tractor to move round bales, so we had to drive our truck to wherever we wanted the round bale and then push it out of the back of the truck. This is not something I can do by myself, so if I needed to do it while the hubby was out of town, I had to call a friend for help (thanks, Foxfire!). And while moving and stacking square bales isn't my favorite thing to do by far, I can do it.

And while we're on the subject of moving round bales, I should mention that when it rains, we can't get the truck out in the back pasture where we were dropping the bales. So I had to keep a supply of squares on hand anyway for those times when we couldn't get the round bales back there.

Now, about the cost. My feed store (which isn't the cheapest place to get hay by any means) charges $90 for a round bale and $9 for a square*. If you figure a round bale weighs roughly 1000 lbs and a square bale weighs roughly 50 lbs, it doesn't take a math genius to figure out that it costs $180 for 1000 lbs of square bales. So you'd figure that feeding round bales is about half the cost and should last twice as long, right?

Oddly enough, that doesn't seem to be the case. It is slightly more expensive to feed squares than rounds as far as I can tell (the data is still coming in on this one, and Ill share it with you when I have it all compiled). However, there is almost NO WASTE. A round bale would last me anywhere between 10 and 20 days, and perhaps 1/3 of it would be wasted - pull out, stepped on, laid on, and peed in. 20 square bales lasts me about month (I use roughly 2/3 of a bale per day) and there are literally a few wisps left, if anything - even when I feed on the ground. So for me, the real savings comes in the work I don't have to do forking and shoveling out wet, dirty, rotten hay (and man is that gross!) and the trips to the dump I don't have to make to dispose of the nastiness.

Yes, it takes me a little longer to feed since I actually have to take the stuff out of the shed and put it in a feeder - or several feeders, since I try to spread it around so the boys have to work for it. Yes, it's a bit more expensive. But for me the ease in handling, the ease in feeding, the known quantities of feed and the lack of waste and subsequent cleanup makes it well worth it!

* Note: I have since found a new hay supplier who charges $6 for a square bale, and it's a mixture of Tifton and Coastal Bermudagrass. Very nice stuff!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Mmmm, crunchy!

We recently moved the horses back to the east front pasture. As soon as they got there, they both started munching the newly-fallen acorns that were all over the ground.

And there are lots of acorns this year...

At first, I thought it was somewhat amusing to listen to them crunch the acorns, and then I realized... oak trees are toxic to horses due to the tannic acid in the leaves (that's also why nothing grows underneath an oak tree). So of course I headed inside to check Google to see if the acorns were toxic as well.

As it turns out, acorns are toxic, especially the green ones. According to this web site, "Symptoms of toxicity include poor appetite, weight loss, constipation followed by diarrhea, kidney failure and edema. In severe cases oak poisoning can lead to death." Awesome! We immediately headed out and taped off the part of the pasture under the oak trees to limit the munching.

Of course, there are still acorns out there under other trees, just not in the quantities you see above. Red definitely has a taste for them - you can see him out there diligently searching them out with his prehensile lips. We're keeping a close eye on the boys, though, and limiting their time in that pasture, as well as providing plenty of hay to distract them from the acorns. Hopefully all the squirrels will get the acorns sooner rather than later, and we won't have to worry. I will probably try raking or sweeping up the acorns over the weekend so that there aren't quite so many. But if you have oak trees in your pastures, you might want to be careful and be sure that your horses don't ingest too many acorns!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Excuse me...

Excuse me, but is it dinner time yet?

Good thing he's a cute little booger. Otherwise, I'd've had to smack him when he tried to rip the shed door off the hinges 2 seconds after I took this picture.

I swear, some Reddums are just so demanding when it comes to food. I'm pretty sure it's because I starve him.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Monsieur le Spot

This weekend, the hubby and I wet out to visit Cash. It's been waaaay too long since I've seen him - I'm a bad horse mom - but I know he's being amazingly well cared for.

He looks great - fat, happy, and dirty (his personal favorite). He's now out with only two other horses, one of whom visited with us quite a bit. Maybe it was because we had lots of treats?

Hi there!

Mmmm treats!

Super cute!

A wee bit on the plump side, I think.

Does this angle make his butt look big?

Still pretty flexible for an old guy!

The hubby discovered that Cash's pasture buddy Neeno liked to have his nose played with.

Neeno also insisted on visiting with us - he was like the photobomb horse.

I'm holding Neeno out of the picture here so that I can actually get a photo with just Cash and I!

Awwww...

I really, really wish I could bring him home...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Book review: Paddock Paradise

The main concept in Paddock Paradise, by Jamie Jackson, is that horses in the wild lead a very different life than their domesticated counterparts. In the wild, they are constantly moving, searching for food, water, and minerals, and evading danger. They don't move randomly but have regular "tracks" that they stay on, bunched together for safety. This lifestyle promotes healthy, rock-hard hooves, glossy coats, and virtually no opportunity for laminitis, founder, colic, or other common ailments of stabled horses.

Jackson recommends recreating this track concept for optimal domestic horse and hoof health. He suggests fencing off the perimeter of the property and a few larger areas, then adding features like ponds, sand rolls, rocks, pea gravel, mineral licks, and shelters, to keep horses moving constantly and exploring their surroundings. Feed (primarily forage) is spaced out over the entire length of the track, further encouraging movement and slower, more natural eating habits. The track concept can accommodate any size property - the example that Jackson gave was for a 20 acre property, but the last chapter in the book showed a track that went around a 4 acre property.

The book is a very quick read - it took me about two hours to go through it from cover to cover. While the information about how wild horses spend their time is useful and the ideas on how to recreate their lifestyle is interesting, it's unfortunately not going to be very practical for most horse owners, especially those in a boarding situation. I wouldn't recommend purchasing the book, primarily because you can find the information that's provided in the book by doing a quick Google search and reading up on it. In fact, here are a couple of good sites I found:


Having said all that, we need a way for our horses to get more exercise, eat less grass, and wear their feet more naturally, so we are working on a plan for a track system around our property. It will probably take us some time to figure out the details and actually get it built, but I'll keep you up-to-date on how it's going!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Some people just CANNOT take a HINT

This Sunday, Fuzzypony and I went foxhunting again. We had a really GREAT time - we both ended up shadowing one of the slower first flight riders, so we actually felt like we were part of the hunt, instead of just following along. It was awesome!

However, in hind sight, The Powers That Be kept telling me that I probably shouldn't go. Let me 'splain...

Saturday, I took Saga to a jumping lesson to try out a new jumping saddle that I have on demo. I had been feeling rather under the weather on Friday, but after a day and a half of rest felt much, much better. So, off we went to the lesson... and then my trailer brakes locked up. HARD. And would not let go, even with my foot entirely off the brakes. Fortunately I was going fairly slowly at the time so nothing broke and Saga wasn't too jostled, but I ended up unplugging my brakes so I could make forward progress. Fortunately we didn't have far to go, but it's unnerving to drive without brakes, brake lights, or a turn signal.

So at the lesson, I hopped on and it was pretty apparent that Saga was Not Quite Right. I put his Easyboots on, and still he was short - not lame, just kinda funny. I switched out to my dressage saddle, since he was doing the hopping-at-the-trot thing that he used to do when the saddle bothered him, but that didn't fix it either. So I packed him up and headed home. (BTW, I loooove the saddle, but I don't know if it's actually going to work for us. Gotta wait till Saga is better so I can try it out, you know, jumping?)

With Saga out of commission, I decided to take Red hunting, and Fuzzypony had planned to take Taran, so we agreed to take the two of them in her brand-new trailer. We loaded up at 6 a.m. on Sunday and pulled out of the driveway, and when I closed the gate I noticed that she had no running lights. Did I mention this is her brand-new, first-time-being-used trailer? We tried wiggling the plug around but nothing helped, so we decided since we had brakes and turn signal, we'd go anyway.

Fuzzypony's shiny brand-new trailer!

You'd think at this point I'd at least start to suspect that the Fates were telling me that perhaps hunting this weekend was a bad plan, but noooooo. I cheerfully blundered along, determined to go. We managed to arrive at the fixture with no incidents, despite pea-soup-like fog, but then as we were tacking up, I tripped on the trailer hitch and went SPLAT on the pavement (we were parked literally on the side of the road). As my elbow was bleeding through my brand-new white shirt (thank GOODNESS I was wearing long sleeves!), I realized that I had left both my vet kit and my human first-aid kit in my trailer... which was at home. Nobody else had anything either, except an old, sticky roll of vetwrap. I wrapped my elbow to stop the bleeding, took three ibuprofen, finished tacking Red and hopped on.

Here's why you shouldn't use old vetwrap - when you peel it off, it sticks like a giant band-aid. YEEEEOWCH!!!

The hunt itself was great - we had three Tally Ho's (although I didn't see the coyote) and most of first flight had a lovely chase. I joined up with a first flight rider who was guarding the eastern property line, since the lady leading second flight was going Way. Too. Slow. Red was a little fireball and very antsy to start with, but he calmed down for the most part after we got a good run in. We did have one lady come off and we helped catch and return her horse to her, but both she and the horse were fine. I did learn that one shouldn't use Easyboots on the hunt - Red lost both of his within the first 20 minutes (there goes $120 down the drain) but fortunately never took a misstep, and the ground was very forgiving.

After returning to the trailers and untacking, I was offering Red water when I noticed that his flank was twitching. Having just read about a horse tying up on another blog, I knew exactly what was happening. I pulled my iPhone out of my pocket, Googled "tying up," (I know, we live in the mobile device age, what can I say?) and was reading up on what to do when one of the first flight riders came and introduced herself as a vet. Apparently the key to preventing a major tie-up is getting the muscles to relax, since they are essentially firing without stopping. We managed to find some Ace and she gave him 1.5 CCs IV, then another .5 CCs subcutaneously for longer action. Within two or three minutes, Red had stopped twitching and was looking much more comfortable. She suggested that we follow her back to the farm, where she had some Methacarbomol, which is a much longer-acting muscle relaxer. She gave him 10 CCs IV and drew up another syringe to take home, just in case. Fortunately, Red's muscles never got hard and he never had difficulty walking, so we either caught it early or it was a minor episode, or both. I feel very lucky!

Red and Taran, post-hunt. This was about the time I noticed Red was trembling.

The trip home was also uneventful - Fuzzypony dropped me and Red off, then took Taran and her rig up to the barn where she boards, about 40 minutes northwest of our house. I put stuff away, fed the boys and all the other farm critters, and was juuuust about to step in the shower when Fuzzypony called to say that Taran was tying up. Argh! Of course, the extra syringe of Methacarbomol was with me, so I hopped in the car and drove up to her place to deliver it. A quick injection and the muscle spasms went away within minutes, and Taran relaxed. He seems fine now, so apparently it was also a mild tie-up.

Of course the question is, why would two horses (one of whom is at least reasonably fit) boarded at different places in different situations both tie up? My best guess is that because neither of them get much grain (both get about 1 cup 2x per day, although the grain they get is different), they are both Selenium and Vitamin E deficient. That's a known cause of tying up. Another thing is that Red tends to get very, very excited hunting, and this weekend's hunt was no exception. He did a lot of head-flipping, despite being ridden on a soft rein, and spent some time at the beginning doing a nervous Missouri Foxtrot. Horses being over-excited or working harder than they are fit for also seems to be a cause of tying up. Maybe he needs a little B-calm or something just before the ride?

The upshot of all this is that I will be doing some research on a feed for Red that provides him with the vitamins and minerals he needs, without the fat, sugar, and starch he doesn't need. He also now has a Selenium/Vitamin E supplement. I'm considering loading both horses with paste electrolytes before and after each hunt, just in case. I've gotten a new mineral block that's got more to it than just salt, and am looking at other alternatives. It's funny - I've ridden for almost 25 years, owned horses for more than 15, and I've NEVER worried so much about what they're eating as I do now that they're home. Bizarre.

And I have to say, next time my horse is off, my trailer brakes don't work, and my friend's trailer isn't right... I think I'll take the hint, stay home, and go for a trail ride.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Feeding the boys: Part I

Like most horse owners, I want my horses to be in good weight, sound, and healthy. Unlike most horse owners that I know, I'm starting to obsess over what I feed the boys.

Where we were...

First off, Saga has been sort of a "hard keeper" since I got him. He came to me maybe 100 pounds under weight. When we boarded, he got 2 scoops of 12% pellets 2x per day, plus 2 cups of rice bran 2x per day. I estimate that he got about 13 lbs of concentrates per day, plus hay. When the horses were in due to inclement weather, I think they got about 3 flakes (maybe 9 lbs) of hay per day. When they were out, they had access to a round bale as well as a little bit of grazing.

Red, on the other hand, has always been a butterball. Even though he was on pasture board, he was boss, so he would happily eat his scoop of 10% pellets and then whatever else he could steal. He always had access to a round bale, and as a result, he highly resembled one of the Thelwell ponies.

Where we are now...
We've gone through a number of changes since we got them home. First, we had round bales, but so much ended up wasted and Red was so fat, we switched to square bales. I should note that Saga was actually in fairly good weight at that time. The boys were on Safe-and-Sound when we had the round bales - Saga got about 1 scoop 2x/day, and Red got a cupful or so since he was so fat.

And, since Red was so fat, about the time we moved to square bales, I switched him to Nutrena Lite Balance. He's been doing well on that until recently - more on that later. Saga I switched to Purina Ultium, since it had significantly more fat, and I added rice bran (2 cups 2x/day) back to his diet, as well as some black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS) for even more fat.

To compound issues, we pulled their shoes in April, when I realized how horribly dished Saga's feet were and decided I wanted them to have a chance to grow out into a more natural angle. Red was fine within weeks of pulling his shoes, but Saga's been "footy" somewhat on-and-off ever since then.

To be continued...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Choke

Tonight, as Red was eating his grain, he choked.

I was in the feed shed at the time measuring up tomorrow morning's grain, and heard a very strange, deep cough. I almost didn't recognize it as a cough, but the second time it happened, I stuck my head out the door to check on the boys.

Red was standing with his nose to the ground, mouth open, weight rocked back on his hind legs. His stomach muscles tightened and he rocked further back as he coughed again.

Cash had choked before, and the barn owner described the incident to me very clearly, so I knew exactly what was happening. I slammed the shed door shut and locked it, grabbed Red's feed tub so he wouldn't eat any more, and sprinted for my phone at the house to call the vet. It was definitely one of those instant panic moments, which all sorts of thoughts running through my head.

First: Would he be able to walk to the trailer so I could take him to the vet? Would he get in? The hubby's working late tonight, I'd have to load by myself. Red's a great loader normally, but choke isn't normal.

Then: Crap, my truck's not hitched to the trailer. I'll have to hitch it. Which I can do by myself, but it takes a few minutes. And it's getting dark.

And then: $h!t, the trailer brakes aren't working right. I'll have to drive with no brakes. Or lights, for that matter. Maybe a vet can come out instead?

As I was frantically dialing my vet (and then my other vet, since of course it was after hours and nobody answered), I realized my phone was almost out of battery. Dammit. So I'm standing in the house with the phone charging, watching Red out the back window to make sure he doesn't go down, while waiting for the vet to call back...

Fortunately one of my vets called back almost immediately - and told me not to panic. Choke in horses isn't immediately life-threatening, since it's the esophagus that's the problem, and not the windpipe. So they can breathe but not swallow. Still, she advised me to bring him in ASAP so they could clear it. I thanked her and hung up, then headed back out to Red.

About halfway between the house and the shed, I heard him cough again, and saw a big glob of grain land on the ground. He chewed air for a moment, then sigh and went after his hay tub (which I had left out in my mad dash to the house).

Horses. I swear. Scared years off my life.

If you want to read up a bit on choke so you know what it looks like and what to do, here are a few articles I found:

Also, it's apparently time to ask my vet for a vial of Ace and a vial of Banamine. Just to keep on hand for emergencies...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Some light reading

I got a couple of books in from Amazon recently, mostly about caring for barefoot horses.

Feet First. I bought this one since I frequent the Rockley Farm blog, and Nic is the co-author on this book. Nic has also been extremely patient with my newbie questions about feeding for barefoot performance. I'm very interested in what this book has to say!

Next, Paddock Paradise. Instead of turnout in paddocks, Nic uses the concept of tracks for the horses at Rockley. This book is supposed to have lots of great information on making tracks work, even on small acreage. Should be an interesting read!

And lastly, Holistic Horsekeeping. I bought this on a recommendation from the owner of my feed store, who is going to have the hay tested at my request (!!!). He talked to me about the concept of forage first and doesn't roll his eyes when I ask about the NSC values of various feeds, so I figured I owed it to him to give this book a go. Plus, Madalyn Ward is about 10 minutes from our house, so... might as well give it a go!

I'll let y'all know what I think of these books as I start reading them. Has anyone else out there read anything that I should get my hands on? I'm always looking for a good excuses to buy more books!

Monday, October 18, 2010

At peace

One of my favorite times of day around here is dinnertime for the boys. I feed them, then I hang out with them and just watch them for a while and listen to them munch. Often, I'll get out some brushes and a hoof pick and spiffy them up a bit. Just because I can.

The headless horse. I've stopped using a nose bag for now - more on that later - but the feed tub seems to corral most of the goodies that Saga drops so that he can vacuum them up on the second go-round. Or the chickens. Whichever.

Red munches hay thoughtfully. As in, he's thinking of new ways to break into the feed shed.

It's my time of day to be selfish and have a few minutes at peace with the boys. It's just the best - one of the reasons why I love having them at home.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The fairly odd couple

They boys' new fly sheets came in yesterday, and I had to snap a few pictures while they are still clean and whole.

Shiny new fly sheets!

It occurred to me as I was ordering the sheets that our horses are rather... oddly matched.
  • Red wears a 68 and Saga wears an 82.
  • Red is 14.2 hh and Saga is 16.2 hh.
  • Red is The Bossy Pony, and Saga is The Cuddly Teddy Bear.
  • Red is quite smart and mischievous, and Saga is... well, let's just go back to the teddy bear image.
Only a small difference in size, really!

I guess I get used to seeing them out in the pasture together, with their mismatched sizes, but ordering the sheets reminded me of just how odd of a couple they are.

And then again... maybe there is a wee bit of difference in size...