Spring Is Coming! Wait.. It Already Did.

What on earth could I mean by that?

For your horses, spring began when the days started getting longer.  Hormonal changes are triggered by the sun shining later into the day.  This is subtle at first but as the year progresses we begin to see the things we associate with spring – shedding, sometimes allergies to gnats and – uh oh, the grass is growing.

If you have a young, high-metabolism type horse, the grass coming in is the happiest time of the year! However, if you have older horses, fat or metabolic horses (horses with crusty necks and fat pads) or PONIES, this means you need to be considering how to manage your equine friends now – NOT when the grass shows up.  Your horse is already gearing up for breeding season! WHAT, you say?  My gelding can’t breed and I have no intentions of breeding my mare! It doesn’t matter.  Your horses hormones pay no attention to what we want to do and continue to act accordingly. This is even true for geldings – not all hormones are affected by gelding. Ask your vet for more information if you are curious.

This means it’s time for you to consider what your horse has been eating all winter. Often we have upped feed sources to accommodate cold weather burning calories and a lack of grass.  Please take off the blankets and reassess your horses body condition now.  Consult a body scoring chart and be honest.  Does your horse have a cresty neck?  Does he have fat pads over his withers, ribs or tail head?  Is he just plain FAT?  Or alternatively, was winter tough on him?  Can you see ribs and does his neck look thin?  Step behind him *carefully* and assess his topline from behind.  Does he fall off from the croup?

Whatever the situation is, if it’s not perfect, the time to deal with it is now.  Horses and ponies who are metabolic or overweight need changes made to their diets immediately. Often a truly easy keeper can do perfectly well on a high quality vitamin/mineral supplement such as those made by Uckele and hay, with some sort of omega 3/6 supplement.  The horse coming out of winter thin needs accessible protein, attention paid to possible worm-load and careful calories and high nutritional value feed stuffs.  The metabolic horse needs a customized program that may include special supplements to help regulate insulin and decrease the inflammatory process present in these horses.  Extreme care needs to be taken in vaccinating this group of horses, please discuss this with your veterinarian.  If they are not aware of this, do some research on your own before vaccinating so you can make a plan with your vet.

Whatever the situation is, there is an answer.  I hope you’ll consider contacting me if you are not confident in how to handle what you find when the blankets come off.  Here at Dry Creek farm we have a pony who is one diet, a metabolic horse who is on another and two middle of the road TB’s who have yet another diet. I know that processed feeds say you can feed that one feed to all horses – but I feel sure that common sense tells you there’s something not right about that concept as all horses are not the same!

I look forward to hearing about you and your horse.

 

 

 

Why yes, that is a fat OTTB!

One of my frustrations is the stereotype that Thoroughbreds, and particularly OTTBs, are hard keepers.

At one point in my life I rehabilitated and resold horses off the track.  I still do it when a connection has a horse they think would suit my market, but it’s no longer my day job.  But I have a tremendous amount of experience feeding OTTB’s.

Feeding OTTB’s processed feeds creates a vicious cycle. Not only are they prone to being reactive to soy, flax, corn and wheat, they DO metabolize feedstuffs into energy easily. Perhaps energy you aren’t interested in dealing with during the retraining process or perhaps never, depending on your riding goals.  Sadly it’s been accepted that Thoroughbred and particularly horses off the track are spooky, nutty and reactive.

There is a definite adjustment period necessary for some of them to wind down from a busy lifestyle and some of them truly are hardwired for high energy, I won’t deny that.  But the majority of them are not, and I have found that many eventually have ZERO interest in galloping again, sometimes even cantering is a stretch!  And quiet – wow. These horses have seen everything from a young age. If they make it out sound, no amount of riding through pool noodles and “desensitization” clinics can equal what they’ve seen, done and been expected to handle.

In short, the reason OTTB’s are challenging is usually because of what they are fed, how much turnout they receive and the experience of their handlers and riders.  I’ll save that last sentence for another post but I will add that what most OTTB’s want is what they had – a firm expectation of good manners and professionalism. Horses on the track are not abused; but bad manners are not tolerated.  Horses can be and are ruled off the track for bad behavior.

So if you have an OTTB and he’s hot, ulcer-prone, difficult to train and keep weight on – you should start with revamping his feed program to one that is  forage and nutrition based first, calories being focused on last.  The usual recommendations to put weight on an OTTB focus on calories fed through processed feeds and this backfires – so much that there is a fortune being made in selling supplements with names like “Cool Calories”.  The amounts required to be fed to meet all the nutritional needs of any horse in a processed feed are designed for you to feed A LOT OF FEED – so you buy more feed.  Horses stomachs cannot process more than 5 lbs of feed at a time – and this is pushing it – so it’s a recipe for ulcers and malnutrition, not weight gain and a quiet minded horse.

I hope if you are struggling with an OTTB you’ll contact me. I love the American Thoroughbred and would like to help you enjoy yours.  I can be reached at TheWholeHorseNC@gmail.com

Ownership credit of above gorgeous, fat OTTB goes to Amy Bissinger.

Parasites, Part 1—Bots

By Notafly (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Notafly (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0  (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Warning:  if you are squeamish, you might not want to click on this link.. if you’re like a lot of horse people, you are going to yell, “Oh, gross … that’s cool!”

Bots In A Horse’s Stomach Seen Via Scope

Credit goes to Jim Meeker.

Ok, so if you’ve watched this you’re wondering how do I make sure my horse doesn’t have these in their stomach?

You deworm them.

Bots don’t show up on fecals.  If you have been deworming based on fecals, it is likely your horse has bots in its digestive tract. If you want to know more about how bots get into your horses body, do a Google search.  There are some areas of the world where there are no bots; I do not live in one of those and you probably don’t, either.

Equimax is my preferred bot killer.  Living in a subtropical environment as I do, I don’t wait for the first frost (the usual advice) to deworm for bots.  You may live somewhere that you have killing frosts in October, in North Carolina we don’t.  So I deworm for bots as soon as I see their frequency slowing down and then I deworm again after it gets truly cold with QuestPlus as part of my entire deworming program.

Bot infestations mimic many things:  ulcers, horses who are “picky” eaters, they can create colic and colic symptoms, and they certainly will stop your horse from gaining weight if that is your goal.

I am hearing more and more reports of people having horses scoped because of ulcer suspicions and finding a stomach full of bots instead.  The current trend of deworming based on fecals is causing a lot of misunderstanding; I suggest you discuss it with your vet and if you are not advised to deworm for bots then you will have to do some research on your own.  The video speaks for itself in my opinion.