I don’t remember who said it but someone once said that horses are large animals that spend their entire lives trying to kill themselves. And it’s amazing how easy it is. Frequent Our First Horse reader Laura wrote on her blog recently about a scary colic incident with her horse Little Horse (LH for short). She just had a good day of riding and returned to the barn. Soon after, her horse began acting strangely including kicking her own gut. Fortunately, Laura knew this was a sign of colic. Her story ends well but the thought occurred to me that she was quite lucky to have seen these signs before she left the barn. If she had missed them or didn’t know what they meant, LH could have died that night. Check out the story on Laura’s blog (the colic post was 5/18/08 and is titled ” A scary Friday night with LH”).
Laura is pretty seriously into horses. She even took a cattle-herding class this week. That’s pretty hardcore cowboy stuff. I’m not quite ready for that but it’s fun to read about her adventure.
We had the vet out to look at Moonshine yesterday. She had good news for us – she says it looks like just a sprain, and there’s no evidence of serious damage to either her leg or her insides. Both hind legs are swollen, especially the left. We sprayed it down with a cold hose for a while, then Kristina slathered it with Magna-Paste, wrapped it and gave her a shot of Banamine, an anti-inflammatory. (Since she was poking her already, she did her spring vaccinations too. If ya’ll haven’t done that yet, it’s time.) She left more Magna-Paste and dressings with the trainer, with instructions to cold-hose it again in the morning and re-wrap it if it was still swollen. Unfortunately, our planned ride tomorrow will not include Moonshine, because she will need a few days to recover.
Now that the medical side is under control, we have to address the bigger question: is Moonshine safe to ride? Three experienced horse people – Shari, the trainer and our vet – think she may be too dangerous based on this incident. We want to heed their advice, because obviously they’re about a zillion times more knowledgeable than we are. But part of us (is it the emotional part, or the logical part?) thinks that since she has never done anything remotely like this, there must be a logical explanation. We had suggested that perhaps she was stung by something. Bill suggested yesterday that it might have been fire ants. They are very common here, and both her actions and her symptoms both fit that theory – when Bill was stung on the leg by fire ants last summer, his leg swelled up like crazy. Both her back legs are swollen, and she certainly didn’t hit that car with her hind end. But the vet says the swelling is due to muscle strain, not the impact, and the trainer says that even if she had been stung by something, she shouldn’t have gone nuts like she did. He says he’s been riding a horse when it was stung by wasps and it didn’t go crazy. (That horse is tougher than I am – I most certainly did go crazy when I was stung by wasps!)
So what do we do? Moonshine is a total sweetheart on the ground – affectionate, calm, obedient, gentle. Her only problem thus far was that she “crow-hopped” when being ridden, usually at a canter. We were making progress with that – the trainer said that she never did it if he longed her before riding, so we just planned to longe her before every ride, and Bill would learn how to react if she did do anything funny. But now we have a horse that may or may not be unpredictable (like any horse isn’t). Shari has long been of the opinion that we should sell her, but who would buy a 10-year-old horse without an impressive bloodline that few people can ride? We’d have to sell her at auction, most likely, and her future would not be bright. We couldn’t do that. So if we can’t ride her, we’ll have a very expensive pet for the next 20 or so years.
She will be coming home from the trainer the middle of next week. Shari has promised to ride her on our trail rides together, to get a feel for how unpredictable she might really be. I guess we’ll just evaluate her over the next few months and see how she does.
So please keep us and our sweet, nutty Moonshine in your prayers. We’ll all need them while we work through this, hopefully with no further injuries to either horse or riders.
I don’t have all the details yet but Mikki called a little while ago to tell me Moonshine was tied up at the trainer’s barn and suddenly went berserk, bucking continually all the way down his long driveway and into the road where she met a car. No one was hurt and it appears Moonshine sustained only minor injuries. The car, apparently, was no so fortunate. I’m told the impact dented a door and broke a window.
Obviously this raises several concerns and questions:
Is Moonshine really OK? Time will tell.
Why did she suddenly go nuts, bucking down a half mile driveway? Is she safe to ride? Was she stung by a bee or something?
Who is responsible for the damage to the car?
We have LOTS of other things to write about but obviously this gets the most attention first.
Our condolences to those who lost loved ones, pets and property in the violent storms that rolled across the south in the past 24 hours. MSNBC is reporting 52 people confirmed killed as a result of the storm. I was looking at the photos of the wreckage in Tennessee a few minutes ago and noticed a photo of two people hugging next to destroyed property. A few feet away sits what looks like a saddle. It reminded me that storms like this can happen almost anywhere in the country. If a tornado hit, what would you do? There is very little any of us could do because there isn’t much time to react, if any. Seek shelter. But what about the horses? Sadly, I think there is little to nothing we could do to prepare our horses for tornadoes. I once saw a show on the Discovery Channel (about peculiar homes) where a couple had their barn underground. Maybe that would help but who can do that really?
I suppose the best we can learn from this is to be prepared. Think of options in advance. Where would you go, where would you take your horses if your barn was destroyed, what would you do it your fence was down and your horses got out, etc. And perhaps have supplies in stock to help others if a storm spares you but not your neighbors.
By the way, we’re in far east Tennessee and best I can tell the majority of in-state damage was in the far west section of the state. Thanks to those of you who contacted us for a welfare check, though.
Note: the photo above is Richard Burton on photo site Unsplash and is not directly related to this particular storm.
Last night was a sad night in our little corner of the world. Yesterday afternoon, our pastor was doing some groundwork with a young horse, Nipper, when Nipper spooked, reared, and fell, hitting his head on the ground. You can tell by the title of the post how it turned out. The fall apparently caused a brain injury; he was bleeding from one ear and didn’t rouse for quite a while. He eventually came to, ate hay and neighed to his stablemate but couldn’t control his head movement and couldn’t get his back legs off the ground. After 11 hours of sitting with him, watching him periodically struggle to get up, they decided it was best to let him go. The vet came back around 11 p.m. and put him down. It was very, very sad. They have two little girls, 9 and 8, and it was just heart-wrenching to see them cry over their horse. The pastor’s wife took it even harder. They got this horse when he was only 6 weeks old and raised him. He was two years old.
And as rough as yesterday was, guess what they have to deal with today? A thousand-pound horse that’s laying in their pasture. I can’t remember if I’ve addressed this issue here before – I think I have – but a sad fact of horse ownership is that you need to have a plan in place if your horse dies. The reality of it is, a horse is really big and really heavy. You can’t just get the shovel out, dig a little hole and lay him in it like you would the family dog. So what do you do? There are a couple of options.
Our pastor (and we) own a big piece of property, so a good option is to bury the horse on the property (that’s what our pastor will do, and we would too). The problem with that is, most people don’t own the equipment necessary to dig a hole large enough for a full-grown horse, and to move that horse to the burial site. Luckily, we know people who do.
Another option is cremation. There are companies who will come and get the horse and cremate the remains. I imagine it might be kind of expensive, but I haven’t checked into that. There are also agencies – municipal, county or state – who will dispose of an animal for you (again, probably for a fee). And for those of you who aren’t as soft-hearted as we are, there are even companies who will take the body and render it for goodness-knows-what. I’m all for recycling, but I’ll have to draw the line there.
Whatever you think is the best choice for you, plan ahead. You think it won’t happen for a while, you pray it won’t, but it does. And it seems that things like this happen at the most inopportune time – late on a cold night during a holiday week, the night before it’s supposed to rain, for instance. So, as painful as it is to think about, I urge you to be prepared. It will make a difficult time a little less of a burden if you have a plan in place.
(If the photo is hard for you to see, the inscription is “The air of heaven is that which blows between a horse’s ears” and is inscribed on a memorial to Mary, Lady Towneley, on the Pennine Bridleway in Derbyshire, England. I found the photo at www.idonohoe.com, a mountain biking site.)
Our feeding routine is a little different these days. With three horses, all of which have different nutritional needs, it’s not as simple as it was with one horse. Still, it’s not three times harder.
First, Moonshine gets her half-scoop of Purina Strategy. As alpha-horse, she gets her ration first. Next, Valentine gets his one and a quarter scoop of Strategy. He likes to hang out up on the hill until the feed hits his bucket. Then he bolts from the top of the hill next to the barn straight for the gate at full speed. He’s serious about supper time. Finally, with Moonshine and Valentine in their stalls, poor bottom-of-the-totem-pole Sinbad can eat freshly tossed hay without being run off. He doesn’t get any grain, just hay, by order of his owner, who is a vet. And don’t worry, we put the daily hay ration in three piles so Sinbad is getting plenty. Fifteen minutes later, when Moonshine is trying to eat her wooden stall (she cribs), I know to let her out. Valentine takes longer, though. Not only does he eat more but he has a bad habit of sloshing the feed out of the bucket and onto the stall floor where he would spend the next ten minutes vacuuming his stall if we didn’t stop him. Yup, he sucks the Strategy pellets off of the ground. This of course increases his chances of getting colic, since ingesting sand is apparently a factor.
Our horses have all kinds of bad habits and this is yet another one. So I guess we’ll be looking into one of those feed buckets that makes it hard to slosh feed onto the ground.
Of course we try and stop him from doing it but he won’t budge without some force. And since it’s hard to push a 1300 pound horse who doesn’t want to move, we often grab some old hay twine to make an impromptu halter and lead him back to the pasture. This works surprisingly well.
You can get some really good information from infomercials. You just have to exercise self control when it comes to the signing on the dotted line (or picking up the phone to order) part. We’ve attended Purina Mills’ Horse Owners Workshop events twice in the past, and enjoyed them very much. They presented good information about horse ownership in general, had a great guest speaker (Sam Powell both times), had free samples of various products (not just Purina), and fed us dinner for free!
The event coming up is slightly different. (Here’s a link to Purina’s site.) It’s a live video feed, so I guess there won’t be a guest speaker; I don’t know if there will be samples or not, but I hope so; and since it starts at 7:30 p.m. – and there’s no mention in the flyer – I suspect there will be no free dinner. All the same, we hope to learn some new things. Check out this link to find the Horse Health Fair near you, and if you’re anywhere near Lenoir City, Tennessee on October 18, we’ll be attending the event at Critter Country there that night at 7:30. Come on out!
And yes, the soft sell works pretty well on us…we feed our horses Purina Strategy. Darn infomercials. 🙁
A few weeks ago, our horse friends, the Watsons, told us they had a source for hay. We were pretty excited because east Tennessee and everywhere around it has been in the grip of a major drought for months, so hay is getting to be alarmingly scarce, and expensive when you can find it. Jeff Watson knew someone at work who was cutting hay for the first time (the VERY first time) and would let us pick it up in the field for $2 a bale! There were wildly varying estimates of how much hay would be available, from about 250 bales to about 1,000 bales. The fact that the hayfield owner couldn’t narrow it down to within 750 bales should have been a red flag, I guess. Shari asked Jeff to make sure that the hay was good stuff; Jeff was assured that it was. So after a couple of weeks of scheduling problems, we finally made it out there about a month ago.
It was about an hour from our house. We brought 3 trailers in case the 1,000-bale estimate was closest. When we got to the field, it was about half the size of, and as hilly as, our own pasture. That is to say, maybe 3 acres with very rolling hills. What we could see looked to be about 150 bales. And the parts that weren’t mowed yet were just as brushy and weedy as our pasture, too.
An hour later, we had 189 bales and were glad there weren’t more. This hay is full of goodness-knows-what. There’s some good hay in there, but there are sticks and twigs and spiky stuff too. And something that we guess is poison ivy, because poor Bill ended up with a rash wherever he wasn’t covered, and I didn’t – it seems that I’m one of those lucky people who aren’t sensitive to poison oak or poison ivy, because whenever Bill, the Kid and I have accidentally blundered into a patch of either one, only Bill suffers (a little bit of trivia: we’re told that Native Americans are naturally resistant to poison oak and poison ivy, and I’m part Cherokee and Osage – as is the Kid, since he’s my…kid).
Anyway…so we have 99 bales of $2 hay, and we may have overpaid. Our barn is full (of hay that only I can touch), and the horses have been eating it for about a month now with no ill effects, but we are definitely going to look elsewhere for good hay for the winter, when their nutritional needs are so dependent on the forage we provide.
I just want to be clear, though – we are VERY glad to have this hay, despite the problems, and relieved that we have some when so many people are having to sell their horses because they can’t find or buy hay. But, as is the case most of the time, you get what you pay for.
It’s been a hot few weeks in east Tennessee, with highs around 107 in the sun. Our two horses are consuming water at the rate of about 50 gallons a day. It’s way more than they normally drink. As I mentioned before, we’ve taken to showering the horses once or more a day to cool them off. Today I filled their drinking water barrel up to the top around noon but by three o-clock I noticed they hadn’t been by to drink any. In fact, I don’t remember seeing them all day (our pasture is hilly and the rear part of the property isn’t visible from the barn). Worried, I grabbed Mikki and we headed out to find our horses. We found them up at the old barn taking shelter in its shade. To our relief, they seemed fine and happily followed us down to the barn where we fed them cold watermelon and showered them with cool water.
Now I know there are wild horses roaming the hot desert in Arizona and figure they find a way to deal with the heat there. But today I worried about heat exhaustion. We’re not working or riding our horses in this heat but I wondered how working horses dealt with the heat. Despite global warming claims, 100 degree days are not new to this area so what did farm horses do?
There is a website I visit often that shows pictures of the old days. The website is called Shorpy, named after a child laborer in one of the pictures displayed on the site. Horses are often featured and today I came across the picture below. Apparently in days past, animal rights groups spent a lot of time pushing for ethical treatment of working horses. It’s not something we think much about today since there aren’t nearly as many but it was clearly important back then. Click the photo for more info from Shorpy but be forewarned, the link takes you directly to a page showing the photo of a horse that died on the street from heat exhaustion. The photo below was taken in 1911 in New York and is entitled “free shower baths for horses” from the G.G. Bain Collection of photos. You’ll find it referenced in the comments of the photo at the link.
The photo of the horse that died from heat exhaustion is sad but was probably part of every day life in the city during hot summer days.
You may recall we decided to garden this year with special attention being paid to food horses would like. That was months ago so it’s time for an update. Until the heatwave that is gripping the south started a few weeks ago, our garden was loaded with fruit and vegetables and I’d be kidding you if I said they were all for horses. This year we mostly planted carrots for them but since we learned how much our horses love watermelon, we’ve saved some of those for them, too. All these things take time, lots of weeding and sweat. Buying vegetables at the store is so much easier, though less satisfying. But I did find one thing that’s easy to grow in our garden and VERY low maintenance:
I’m here to tell ya, the easiest horse-friendly garden crop is…GRASS. This time last year, our garden was part of our lawn. One of our neighbors had mercy on us and brought his tractor over to turn the garden this spring, saving us a heap of manual labor. The tractor dug in deep and turned the soil up nicely but months later that grass figured out which end was up and thrived in our little garden. We didn’t weed for a week and the grass and weeds took over! I cut some of the grass with some hand clippers and gave the horses some and they seemed to like it as much as the carrots. Why the heck are we working so hard to produce veggies for them when they love the grass so much and it’s so easy to grow?
Seriously though, we have a tub of carrots we’ve harvested and they love them. I wish they were a little faster growing but we’ll be planting them again next year. Watermelon, too. The heatwave and lack of rain have all but killed our garden now so I guess the summer gardening season is over but we’re already planning for next year and our horses will continue to influence what we plant.
Did you grow some things for your horse this year?