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.

 

Hello Again! Long Time No Write.

I’ve always allowed myself to be pushed forward through life by what doors open next.

I’d hoped that I could help horse people feed their horses better through customized programs. I found that was very hit or miss and I’m no longer providing that service. Mostly I comment on FB groups that horses need forage. Forage, forage, forage. And I let it go, in part because the word is getting out and people are realizing that their horses don’t need to be fed by Purina.

It’s a good thing.

I’ve felt a strong pull to be present on my own farm more. Not just physically but mentally. More intimately involved with my own horses, friends and family.

Slowly, without really realizing it, I restructured my work with horses to focus around bringing them here for rehab and working closely with local owners and trainers on their own horses. Recently I’ve had a string of school horses all go barefoot and sound; much to their owner/trainer’s delight.   So the fun has gotten closer to home than further away, not exactly what the age of the internet projected.

Right now there’s a steady stream of horses coming and going, along with my long term boarders and my personal horses. I still have Love and he’s completely sound and in steady work. He wears four shoes, a fact I like to point out to people who are barefoot fanatics. He needs a minor palmer angle correction behind and he dislikes any lack of traction up front on grass. So he’s got shoes. Turns out he’s quite talented and he may be going off to somewhere more upscale to be sold as a happy happy hunter… we’ll see.  In the meantime I’m enjoying him.

The biggest upswing of Love being in shoes may be that I’ve gotten to work closer with my farrier and the group of farriers HE works with.  It’s been fantastic and highly educational.  I think I learn more from them than they do from me but our conversations are always lively.  I’ll be heading to the big farriers convention this January because hey.. why not?  I’ll learn more things.

The one thing that hasn’t changed is that I still feel the need to help people understand horses.  I’m still on that road.  I’ve had some things happen recently that I’m going to write here about in hopes that they help other people understand their horses.  The focus will probably stay on OTTB’s and TB’s in general although there will be things that apply to all horses.

So stay tuned. I’m excited about it all and hope you will be, too.

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!

Your Horses Feet – What You Put In Is What You Get Out..

I recently had the pleasure of having lateral radiographs done of a client’s horses feet.  We took them because it’s smart to have baseline rads in a younger horse for future comparisons and because he has a slightly club-like foot and I wanted to know how much lower I could take his heels.

Turns out his angles were perfect.  This horse has beautiful feet on the outside, concave on the inside and is sound barefoot on nearly every surface. However, his films revealed something – in the year we’ve had him, he’s grown a much healthier, hardier foot – but the work is not done yet.  His soles are still not yet thick enough to shorten his toe anymore than it is – it would drop him down onto his coffin bone.

It’s a process.  It’s a process.  It’s a process.

Here are nutrients found inside horses feet, borrowed from Progressive Nutritions website:

Table 1: NUTRIENTS FOUND INSIDE THE HORSE’S HOOF from high to low
Protein/Amino Acids (94%)
Fat/Oils (3%)
Sulfur
Calcium
Zinc
Copper
Selenium
Carotene (Vitamin A)
Alpha-Tocopherol (Vitamin E)
Biotin

Please note that biotin is LAST on this list.  Protein and amino acids are FIRST, followed by fats and then SULFUR and then a slew of minerals and a few vitamins.  Yet most “hoof supplements” are based on biotin.

Hoof quality, or lack thereof, is the thing I hear the most complaints about.  I do trim, and I do advocate for horses being barefoot but there is a caveat – if the horse is fed correctly, a tremendous amount of improvement can be made in almost any foot. If not, you can forget about it.  The single biggest hoof killer is carbohydrates.  Again, the formula for a healthy horse and foot is forage and nutrition first and carbs last.  If a horse is not fed correctly great feet will not happen.

My vet was thrilled with those films, as both his owner and I were.  We are in this for the long haul.  Another six months or so and those soles will be super thick and the toe will be able to be brought back even more.  Thinking long term is critical when considering what you feed your horse.  While feet get the big complaints, the most common question is “how do I put weight on my horse?”  The usual answers are the answers that cause secondary problems like poor hoof quality.  If you focus on only weight gain, you may sacrifice having a sound horse in the long run. I like a horse in good flesh as much as anyone does – frankly, I like mine a little fat.  But I want that horse standing on good, solid feet and nothing will do that but proper nutrition.

The beautiful thing about this is that the science has been done and the questions have been answered.  There is no need to reinvent the wheel.  Minimize carbs and provide the proper building blocks and every horse will grow a better foot.  Will he trot sound on gravel like this guy? I can’t say.  But if you are struggling with hoof quality, please stop feeding for weight gain or a shiny coat.  You can do your own homework – there are many resources – or you can contact me and I’ll guide you through the changes in your horses diet that will improve his hoof quality.  Incidentally, shiny and fat will follow right along!

 

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.

Let’s Talk About Forage

My feeding philosophy is simple:  horses weren’t designed to live the life we’ve put upon them and it’s our responsibility to feed them in a way that duplicates their natural lifestyle when at all possible.  Let’s look at forage requirements on this page.

The first hard and fast rule about feeding horses is this:  THEY NEED FORAGE.  Horses should have 24/7 access to forage. If your horse is an easy keeper, then this might mean low quality forage that is low in sugar and starches, perhaps even in a slow feeder bag, or grazing in a field that has little grass available.  If your horse is metabolic or prone to laminitis, you might have to soak that hay in order to provide 24/7 forage and still put it in a slow feeder bag.  If your horse is in work and you’re always struggling a bit to keep him in good weight, then higher quality forage is necessary.  If your horse is in hard work then the best quality, free choice forage will be essential.

Providing horses with forage 24/7 can be very expensive. For example, I break out the feed costs of all my horses and one of mine eats $4.50 in hay every day.  That’s $135.00 a month in hay costs alone.  If you are boarding your horse, please understand that the biggest upfront cost your barn has to handle is hay.  Many barns keep costs down by not feeding adequate forage.  The ultimate cost of this is passed onto the consumer, who then often has a horse with ulcers that is difficult to keep weight on, has behavioral issues and truly is mentally focused on getting food instead of work, because that’s how horses are hard wired.  This then translates to buying ulcer medications (cha-ching!), weight gain supplements (cha-ching!) and behavioral supplements and extra training (cha-ching!), vet bills for colicing horses as well as having an unhappy horse and an unhappy owner in general.  Hungry horses just really aren’t their best selves.

Many commercial barns do not have adequate pasture for horses to graze in the summer.  This can very region to region but where I live, in the southeast, we have optimum grazing situations if managed correctly.  For example, I have approximately 15 acres in grass and my pastures are managed for easy keepers, medium keepers and horses who need to gain weight.  I try to keep no more than five horses here at any given time so as to ensure adequate grazing.  In summer, when horses come in during the hotter, buggier part of the day, they have hay in their stalls.

An unfortunate part of horse keeping and horse ownership is that it is expensive.  However, where you choose to spend your dollars can be crucial to your horses health and it is worth crunching numbers to determine if you are boarding in a situation where you’d be better off paying more somewhere else and getting the forage your horse needs to be healthy.  If you keep your horses at home, you have complete control over this and should make it your first priority.  Once you are sure your horse is receiving adequate forage, you can focus on nutrition.

The bottom line is this:  forage should be the mainstay of your horses diet.  Since we have taken away the option of horses having the ability to go seek out their own forage, we have to provide it.  It’s not possible to have truly healthy horses and not provide adequate forage.  I am happy to refer you to hay dealers that I have found to be reliable and trustworthy.

The Whole Horse – How It Came To Be

Hey there.  I’m Gayle Dauverd and this is The Whole Horse.  I’d like to tell you how I got here and why it’s important.

My childhood was of the typical hunter kid barn rat; I moved on to riding dressage horses in my later twenties and eventually began training and teaching.  But it wasn’t until 15 years ago that I began becoming more involved in what my horses ate, and the big awakening came when I bought my own farm and could not only control what they ate, but had the opportunity to live with them and really, truly observe them.

During that time I also began trimming horses feet, and that has also brought me a tremendous amount of knowledge about how what goes in a horses mouth affects every aspect of its body but that’s a side note to explore later.

What I began discovering through the journey of becoming very ill myself and having to take a hard, close look at my personal diet was that I was feeding my horses processed feeds that at worst contained mystery ingredients and at best, still contained things that horses tend not to tolerate well, like soy.

My attitude towards supplementation was willy-nilly. Need a shinier coat?  Feed flax, one person advised. But how?  Whole flax? Ground flax?  Stabilized ground flax?  Keep it in the freezer?  Really?  Ok, so how about oil.  Uckele makes a great supplement called Cocosoya, it will put shine on anything.  But it’s very expensive.  I began wondering, what causes a shiny coat?  Is this related to strong feet, since hair and feet are basically made of the same substances?

Then there were the gut supplements. Ulcers were the big ticket item then, and it seemed like every horse was on Gastroguard.  Even the smallest bit of research revealed that long term use of gastric acid inhibitors used in humans can cause serious secondary issues.  So why were we keeping horses on Gastroguard for what seemed to be forever ?  Why when they did come off of it were other supplements being recommended?  Why weren’t we trying to figure out why these horses had ulcers in the first place?

At that point I took a big step back and looked at what I knew to be true. Horses are made to ingest forage 24/7 and they are designed to move. I researched Jamie Jacksons work “Paddock Paradise” and everything else I could get my hands on.  At that time barefoot trimming was becoming a fad, and a dangerous one at that.  I was beginning to carefully trim my own but under supervision and training; but we were routinely seeing horses being trimmed in very destructive ways.   What I had not yet connected were the foot problems and the food problems. I had already understood how incorrect riding affect the feet but here was one more piece of the puzzle and I was determined to figure it out.

So as I said, I went back to forage.  The advice at the time was to analyze all forage and then base a nutritional plan around the results.  This seemed like the answer until I realized that not only could I not analyze grass, I did not feed the same hay all winter AND the hay I did feed came from many different places even if it was the same supplier. So for the most part I threw this idea away and went with generalized standards of nutrition for average hays.

Around this time the Chronicle of the Horse was running a free forum that was acting as an incredible crowdsourcing resource. People from everywhere were happy to discuss what they were feeding and why; what the results were and listen to others input.  That resource has since passed, but we also were able to do a tremendous amount of research on parasites, which is something I will talk about in a later post.  Be prepared, because I LOVE parasitology!

One thing I found was that there were people who were NOT feeding their horses processed feeds. Some were feeding only (copious amounts of) forage, some adding vitamins and some other form of protein.  Across the board these peoples horses had one thing in common – no ulcers.  Other people were feeding incredible amounts of processed feeds to their horses and while some reported no issues, many were commenting on behavioral issues and interestingly, their horses still being ‘hard keepers’.

At that point I knew that I had to learn what a horse RDA was for each necessary vitamin and mineral and how to make that work with a forage based diet, because the writing was on the wall.  How that all went is a story for another post, but I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing how I finally figured out where to begin this journey.  Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll be back for more!