How To Not Ruin Your Baby Horse

I’ve been starting horses and restarting horses off the track for many years now.  Decades, actually. I’m getting old!  But the upside to getting old is that I’ve learned a lot of things and one is that horses don’t lie.

Horses don’t lie.

I freely admit that it took me a while to really believe this. It went along with horses don’t think about you when you’re gone, horses don’t plot to spook and dump you, horses don’t have an agenda or think about dressage when you’re gone.  Ok, I have one horse who does perhaps think about dressage but he’s a freak.  Most horses want to eat grass and have friends to hang out with.

But over the years I’ve come to realize they don’t lie. Some of them SCREAM at you that there’s a problem by bucking or rearing but some of them are quiet about it.

This picture is one of two caps taken off a three year old in training here.  His teeth were done a little less than six months before, so his mouth is being well cared for… this is not the product of neglect. It simply is how a horses mouth develops.  Adult teeth are formed under caps and caps come off when the adult tooth pushes it off. But they don’t always just come off.  Sometimes they stay on and wear into points – or daggers, as you see here. This horses mouth had bloody holes where the caps had dug into his gums.

A week before I went to bridle this normally cheerful guy and he refused the bit.  He just turned his head away.  I turned it back and tried again. Nope.  I got a little more assertive and he pinned his ears and threw his head up.

I’ve never seen him do this before.  Horses don’t lie.  So I put the bridle away and we went for a walk into the river bed instead.

What would have happened if I had insisted?  There’s no telling. He’s a pretty good natured baby horse so he might have just sucked it up. Or maybe he would have acted out and I would have disciplined him for it, teaching him that he cannot communicate to me that he is in pain and get relief.  It’s likely it would have caused at least some small problem that he might have carried around mentally his whole life.

This is how quirks start.

We do dentals here every six months without exception.  In his case, he should go to three months as he is retaining one more cap that was not quite ready to come off yet. When a horse comes here for any reason we do their teeth, get them chiropracted and have their feet straightened out before we ever get on them.  So many problems are caused by not attending to the details of correct care.  This lovely little guy may have learned to rear and flip over backwards if he’d hit one of those sharp points at the wrong moment.. we could have both been injured or died over something routine and simple not being done.

Resistance in training is inevitable.  If you have done your due diligence you can be confident that when you are in the saddle you can train through it.  We only accept horses in training whose owners put the horses comfort and happiness first – the owners who know that horses don’t lie.  Good owners are  our partners in training and earn my respect for being patient and keeping their eyes on the prize – a quiet, willing, trustful partner.

 

Probiotics – worth the money?

Some are. Some aren’t.

Gut health is finally being recognized as an essential, if not vital source of well-being for horses.  A tremendous amount of time, energy and money is spent by owners trying to figure out how to prevent ulcers, how to cure ulcers, how to fatten horses up, deal with elderly horses and malabsorption issues and more.

Many horses are put on Gastroguard (omeprazole) without any plan for what to do when they come off of it. This is unfortunate because all gastric acid pump inhibitors cause a rebound effect when they are stopped.  Often horses go right back on them and sometimes even stay on them – sometimes at half or quarter doses – forever.  For what it’s worth, they were never designed for humans or horses to be kept on for long periods of time because you and your horse really do need stomach acid to digest food and they inhibit uptake of calcium.

So what can you do?  If you haven’t considered the link between processed feeds and ulcers, you should. Forage first, nutrition second, calories third.. can all be achieved without a bag of processed feed.  Grass is the ultimate ulcer cure if you have the patience for it to work its magic.

Other things besides ulcers and omeprazole cause gut issues.  Antibiotics are the obvious one.  They kill all bacteria including the good ones.  When you need them, you need them – but afterwards you need to do something to fix the damage.

An often overlooked issue in the gut is laminitis. Laminitis – unless you’ve bedded your horse down on black walnut shavings, or your horse is PPID, or has something like a vaccine or steroid reaction – begins in the hind gut.  Horses who are laminitic need gastric support also.

I do use and recommend a probiotic.  I tried things like Probios.. I saw no change.  I stumbled across this stuff more years ago than I can remember and gave it a try. I liked that it is made by a small company ( was VERY small at the time) that bred dogs and specialized in supplements. I liked how accessible they were and how their product actually worked.  15 years later, I’m still using it.

The Probiotic I Recommend

Nature’s Farmacy Website

I like it so much I’m just going to leave the link here.  I hope it’s of use to ya’ll.  I don’t rep for Nature’s Farmacy like I do Uckele.  They do have a referral cash back program so if you tell them Gayle Dauverd sent you by using one of these links I get a 5% kick back.  That’s nice.  But it’s nicer if your horses stomach doesn’t hurt and a small business makes a solid living.  Cheers!

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.