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!


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


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...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Really not fair

After reading the blog entry from last week on Red mowing my front bed for me, one of my three blog readers asked me why I would get out the weed whacker and chop down the grass, instead of letting Red continue to munch. She pointed out that it would be much more environmentally friendly - Red would get a tasty snack and I could save electricity or gas by not running my weed whacker.

Johnson grass.

The answer is simple - the stuff that Red was eating is Johnson grass. It's toxic to horses, because of the potentially high levels of cyanide in it. Purdue has a good web page on the stuff.

As you can see, we've got quite a lot of the stuff growing in the front flower bed. Maybe this is a hint that I need to plant FLOWERS in the flower bed...

While I realize that it's probably relatively safe for the horses to eat the mature grasses, I'd just as soon not take any chances. We've got plenty of good hay and non-toxic grasses for the boys to eat. However, as my friend pointed out, it's really just not fair that a grass exists that's toxic to horses! Red wholeheartedly agrees.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Hunting at 7IL

Today, Fuzzypony and I went hunting at 7IL. The hubby was out of town, so Fuzzypony took Red while I rode Saga.

Watching the sun rise on a beautiful day like today is always a treat. We took this picture traveling east on I-10 at about 7 a.m.

The start of the hunt: Foxhounds and first flight take off!

Red and Fuzzypony during one of our walk breaks.

First flight gallops by in pursuit of the hounds.

At the end of the hunt, the hounds went for a swim and got a drink from one of the stock ponds.

On the way home, we stopped for lunch at Schobel's in Columbus, TX. Not a half-bad BLT, but Fuzzypony and I don't recommend the Buttermilk pie.

We had a lovely time and can't wait to go again next week!

Friday, October 1, 2010


The other day, Fuzzypony and I went to do some conditioning work to get the boys a bit more fit for foxhunting season. The weather was GORGEOUS, the sky blue, and the ponies were awesome.

We worked for about 45 minutes in the lower field at the greenspace I often go to.

Lovely grasses and great footing.

Does it get any better than cantering across a field on a day like this?

Fuzzypony boards where we used to board our horses. She commented that it was really nice to have the "outdoor arena" all to ourselves. :)

I hope everyone else is getting lots of outdoor activity in with all this fabulous weather we're having!