Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I Still Hate Blankets

Behold! The reason I hate blankets! (Sorry, more iPhone pics!)

Do you see how his little cheeks hang out the back? This is the Amigo 600D Medium Weight turnout blanket. I love the weight, the material, the surcingle front closure instead of those irritating buckles, and the fit (even though I usually prefer the shoulder gussets), but I can't seem to get it to fit my horse. My tack store had it for $89, and it's $105 online everywhere I checked, so it's a great deal too. I had the 78" before and it seemed too big, and this is the 75". Too small, right? Or is it ok that a little bit of his behind sticks out?

I know it's hard to tell how it really fits with that sheet hanging all over the place, but I think it looks too small.

This is a Dura-Tech Aquanon I got from Schneider's, which I actually bought for Lilly but it needs to go back because it's too heavy. I got the medium weight but I guess I just need the sheet (which will inevitably be too light... that's how my luck goes). It's a 75" and looks too small for him too.

It was quite gusty today, so I had a heck of a time keeping the sheet on him while I tried to blanket him. I thought for sure he was going to freak out when the sheet started whipping around, but he didn't move a muscle. Try to walk him over white lines on pavement, though, and see what happens. :)

I've tried 4 blankets now and they've all been either too big or too small. Is bigger better? Since all these blankets only come in 75" or 78", I guess I'll have to go with the bigger one. Perhaps when he weighs what I want him to weigh it'll fit better?

The good news is, the Schneider's one fit Lilly perfectly.  The bad news is that it's just too heavy and I hate the buckles on the front.  The sheet will probably be too light and I'll have to send it back too.  I really only want a rain sheet with a little bit of fill, so then I'll be back to square one.  The Amigo seemed a bit tight on her in the shoulders, or I would just keep that one for her. She needs the shoulder gussets, I think.

Maybe one day they'll both have a nice blanket that fits.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Co-ops, Ultrasounds, and AJ!

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! My time with friends and family went by far too quickly as always, but it was definitely a fun weekend.

One of the girl's participating in the co-op has bailed on us and is putting her horse back on regular pasture board the first of the month. There was also a bit of drama going on between her and M, but that happened after she decided to go back to regular pasture board. Something about someone not cleaning someone's stall... petty things that get in the way of horses being cared for. So now it's just me and M.

I can't feed in the evenings and she can't feed in the mornings, so that means I have to get up early every day from here until eternity to feed the horses.  I have no idea what we're going to do about Christmas because I have plans to be in Michigan for 9 days.

I won't last long on six hours of sleep a night, I can guarantee that. I know there are people who get less than that, but I need a whole eight hours or I get a little bit cranky.

Here is a picture of my mare's leg this morning. Comparing this one to the one I took last week doesn't show much progress in the swelling department. Still no heat and no lameness, but her leg is still very swollen.

Still puffy...
I decided to go ahead and set up an appointment with the alternate veterinary practice to get my second opinion. Of course the vet I want is on vacation until next week... why would she be able to come out this week? So next Tuesday morning she'll be out to take a look at Lilly.

Just for fun, here's AJ enjoying what's left of his breakfast... all that flavor on the tongue must not go to waste!!

"Squeak, squeak, suck, suck..."
It was quite amusing because he drooled all over the floor, blew spit bubbles, made squeaky noises, and continued to suck on his tongue even after I turned him out. That's some good breakfast!

A few of the relatives of the BO were out this weekend and fell in love with him. They just love hugging on him and he is eating up the attention! That's one neat thing about him being on stall board. He gets to interact with people a lot more. When he's on pasture board, he just gets fed by strangers and that's it, aside from the attention he gets from me. People aren't able to meet him and find out what a sweet boy he is. He seems to really be enjoying this whole stall board thing.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Being Thankful

Hopefully you are able to spend today with friends, family, and loved ones.

We really should remember what we're thankful for every day, but life tends to get in the way. So as is tradition, I am stopping to count my blessings, and I am very thankful for what I have:

  • I am very thankful for my job. So many people are still out of work that I feel lucky to have mine.
  • I have two happy, relatively healthy horses. Even though Lilly has had her ups and downs this year, she is still enjoying life and hopefully on the road to recovery. AJ is thankful that he gets to eat more food per day than he's ever seen in his life.
  • I am thankful for my family and friends, and for all they do for me.
  • I am thankful for my health, and the health of my family and friends, and the health of my animals.
  • I am thankful that I have a warm, dry place to call home.
I hope you all have many wonderful things to be thankful for!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

So I Called the Vet...

When I checked on Lilly again today, she was definitely still swollen. And since I can't sit around and wonder what's going on without going stir crazy, I called the vet to get her opinion. The ligament is swollen, there is a little bit of heat in there, but she isn't lame and it isn't sore to the touch. Nothing has changed regarding her turnout, I haven't started riding her again, so there's no real reason why there should be swelling.

My vet wondered if maybe she just ran around a lot and it caused a bit of inflammation, but Lilly runs around like a lunatic quite often and I haven't noticed any swelling in the days that follow. In fact, that day I took AJ for a ride and she was jumping ditches and full out galloping around the field I didn't notice any swelling.

She's not too concerned since Lilly isn't lame and it isn't painful to the touch. The problem with that, though, is that Lilly spent over 118 days on stall rest from last November until March of this year with swelling but no lameness and no pain. That didn't mean the ligament was fine, though... we knew it wasn't fine because the ultrasound said otherwise.

So she just wants me to watch the leg and if anything changes, we can ultrasound, wrap, ice, stall rest, etc. Since I was going to start riding next week, I'll keep an eye on it for a week and then go from there.

At least I have Baby to ride... and I called M and told her what was going on so I could have another pair of eyes on Lilly's leg.

I Hate Blankets

I really do... I have a super heavy blanket for AJ, a show sheet for Lilly, a fly sheet for Lilly, and a currently missing cooler for Lilly. I hate them all.

Just when you think you know what size your horse is, you order a sheet in a 74" and as it turns out, you actually needed to order a 78". That's what happened when I bought Lilly's fly sheet, so I had to keep sending it back and ordering bigger sizes.

I recently decided I wanted to get AJ a midweight turnout for rainy days. Some midweights have 400g of fill and some have 200g of fill. I just want 200g. I don't want it to function as a blanket, just a waterproof turnout he can wear when we have cold, rainy days. I bought a really nice Amigo at the tack shop and it was a 78, a size bigger than I thought AJ was, but I figured I'd give it a try. It swallowed him whole... so I figured a 74 would probably fit since the 78 was SO big. Nope. Too small. So now I have to take another blanket back. The tack store lady said she can order me a 76, but I've only seen them in 75 or 78.

I tried a Weaver turnout on him too but it was really square in the back.  Does anyone know a horse with a square ass? Do you buy a blanket big enough to cover the cheeks, or just let them hang out? And what's with the one strap that goes across the back of the blanket to replace leg straps? It seems to hang right in the direct line of fire...

The day my farrier was out, we had a really cold rain, and when I brought Lilly up from the pasture (she was still on pasture board) her little muscles were quivering and she was quite chilly. So I need to get her one too. I would also buy the Amigo for Lilly but it only comes in one color and I prefer not to have identical blankets for different horses. In a perfect world, I would have navy blue for AJ and hunter green for Lilly.

I just can't find anything I like, and I refuse to spend over $100 on a midweight turnout they'll wear a few times per year, and that AJ might actually ingest. I found some decent looking, reasonably priced, 1200D ones at SS Tack but as always, they're on back order. And then if they don't fit, or have a square ass, I have to send them back.

It seems like most blankets now only come in increments of three...  72, 75, 78, 81...  Lilly measures a 74 and AJ measures a 76.  So do I get a 75 for both of them?

It's such a pain.  And that's why I hate blankets.

There.  I feel better now having vented to sympathetic ears.  Time to keep shopping...

Monday, November 22, 2010


I fed at the barn this morning and noticed Lilly's leg looked a bit more swollen than normal. Usually she just has a very prominent bump where her lesion was, but today the bump was less noticeable and surrounded by some fill.

My least favorite sight.
It was just a little warmer than the other leg, so I pea treated her for about 20 minutes before turning her out. I'm trying to remain calm and reasonable. She was in the stall all night, so the swelling could just be from that. Or, I guess if things never actually heal up, her ligament could have good days and bad days? I'm really just guessing...

She wasn't lame at all, and when I turned her out she took off running and bucking as if she was trying to make some kind of point.

Depending on what I find when I go out tomorrow, I may end up calling the vet again. I've dedcided this time I'm going to call the other practice, though, and have their lameness vet come out. I've been wanting a second opinion and this would be a good opportunity to get one.

This is all right on schedule because I was cleared to start riding a week from Wednesday. Here's hoping the swelling is nothing and gone by tomorrow!

On a side note, I gave Lilly an extra hug and took a few extra moments with her today in honor of Denali. I was brought to tears as I held Lilly's face in my arms and thought about Denali. Lilly, AJ, and I wish Denali and her mom the very best.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Busy Weekend

It was a busy weekend!  Why do weekend days go by so quickly and work days seem to drag on and on? Oh, and why do squirrels keep running out in front of my truck and STOPPING there?? Then they look up at me with terror in their eyes. I've managed to avoid creaming both of them but the third one might not be so lucky. Hello...  keep running!!

I got some new hay on Friday and it's really nice. It's a fescue/orchard grass mix and it smells delicious. I got 10 bales to try before getting a trailer load and AJ loves it. He also has pure orchard grass hay with some red clover in it, but I just got the fescue. From what I've read, fescue is the least nutritious of the hays, but if AJ will actually eat the fescue with gusto, I think I'm better off with fescue.  Lilly eats anything (oink) and since she's not a broodmare (who would want to pass on those genes anyway?), we should be good.
Of course I have no idea about the value of this particular batch of fescue without having it tested, but I don't think the general difference is great enough to keep feeding the coastal when AJ clearly enjoys the fescue more. Timothy hay is nice but it isn't grown too much around here and has to be shipped in, so the cost is substantially more than the coastal or fescue hay.

AJ has also been banned from the mare pasture as he was enjoying Baby a little too much, if you know what I mean... I don't need him getting kicked. So he's back in with the other geldings. He was very sad today, but it's his own darn fault.

Speaking of Baby, I rode her yesterday morning and she could very easily be my dream horse. She's western pleasure trained and is so much fun to ride! I have to wear spurs, though, and use them or she totally ignores your leg. M kept saying, "Use your spur!!" It feels weird to actually use a spur, and I'm definitely not used to having to put that much leg on a horse. She said I'm welcome to ride her whenever I want and when it's time to start riding Lilly again we can ride together and she'll help me work with Lilly to get her to slow down.

So I have a temporary horse to ride that will spoil me to death. Super! :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

The 400th Post

Wow, I talk too much... 400 posts?

In honor of post number 400, I decided to take you on a trip down memory lane, from where we were when I started this blog, to where we are now.

When you first met Lilly, it was April of 2008. I was just getting back into showing, and Lilly had very limited experience. She was shown some as a yearling in halter and showmanship, but otherwise we just went trail riding with friends. She was fairly successful in showmanship, and won quite a bit as a yearling against full grown horses, but my main goal was to be competitive in western pleasure.

What a cute trail pony, but she should be a show pony!
As we transitioned from trail horse to show horse, we had quite a few challenges to overcome. Our first big challenge was walking. Yes, walking. :) She simply did not want to walk. Why walk when you can trot or canter and get there faster? We've got places to be! And if she couldn't trot or canter, then she wanted to walk really fast.

She was also really bad about anticipating and trying to read my mind. (she was usually wrong, by the way...) If I decided I wanted to to canter, I had to wait and do it at the very end of the ride because she absolutely would not walk at all after a canter. So working on her leads was pretty much out of the question. We were far from western pleasure superstars but it didn't stop us from trying!

Faking the funk!
We placed here and there because the judge had no other choice, but we had fun. Lilly was a good girl at the show grounds and stood nicely at the trailer. She's always a pleasure to be around and that made showing a lot more fun.

We still struggled at home, though. I didn't feel like we were making much progress and I soon learned that I was in over my head. In an exhaustive June 2008 post I stated, "I swear, she gets more difficult to ride each time I ride her. The more she learns, the more challenging she becomes." She was terribly complicated and extremely sensitive. Any kind of reprimand didn't work with her and I was at a loss as to how to communicate with her. She was desperate to please but we just weren't in sync.

I decided I needed help so I started taking lessons from a local Dressage trainer. The lessons went well and we even attended a weekend clinic to get some extra help. We made a lot of progress despite a few injuries that set us back.

Wait, what? Injuries? You don't say!!

A ripped off shoe here, some torn up pasterns there, a couple visits from the chiropractor... Oh yeah, and that's when our friend diarrhea made her first appearance, but that's all status quo around here!

By the end of the year we had 4 PAC points and even won a couple year end awards from the Johnston County Horse Show Series and the Carolina Mane Event Show Series. We won 3 giant ribbons and an impressive trophy as proof of all of our hard work!

Very snazzy!
Somewhere along the way I gave up on my western pleasure dreams. It was obvious we were far from being competitive, and I decided to focus on a discipline that allowed me to use two hands and maintain slight contact with the bit. I had also stopped taking lessons in late December because of the holidays and I thought it would be good to take a break and work on the techniques we had been taught without worrying about adding more to our workload.

The following year brought many challenges. I was laid off from my job and was worried about the future. I was very lucky to snag another job quickly, but it wasn't a favorable schedule and since I'd be working weekends I wasn't sure if I'd even be able to show. After spending some time training in Baltimore, I was able to work out a deal with my new boss and he agreed to allow me to come in late on days I had shows. So we were back in business and wasted no time getting back out in the show ring.

Happy to be showing!
In 2009 we graduated from the walk and moved on to the trot. Her walk issues had come along quite well and she would walk around on a loose rein for the most part. I still struggled with her after trotting or cantering but progress is progress and we were making headway.

I started my lessons again in April but things weren't the same with my trainer. She didn't like how slow I was taking things with Lilly and we just weren't on the same page so I stopped the lessons again in June. I was getting some great advice from Lilly's fans, most notably Dressage in Jeans and it seemed to be making a much bigger impact than the lessons.  She helped me find Lilly's buttons and for the first time in quite a while, I was feeling good about our training.  This is when Lilly really started to blossom. She was getting it, and I was getting it. We were finally starting to communicate.  It was a beautiful thing!

That's my girl!
We made our debut in the dreaded canter class (and won!), started doing pattern classes (and won!), and attended our first ever breed show. In the fall we showed at the State Fair and by the end of the year we had accumulated 38 PAC points in various events and had been division champions in two separate divisions at our last show of the year. We won a variety of year end awards and a very special Equine Achievement award which is given out to the horse who is most improved. I was beaming and very excited about the future.  She had exceeded my expectations and achieved every goal I set for us.

And the show season wasn't even over yet...

Well, until November 3rd when my sweet mare tore her inferior check ligament (incorrectly diagnosed initially as a DDFT lesion). That's when our showing came to a screeching halt.  To say I was absolutely devastated would be an understatement. We were looking at 6 months of stall rest and praying for a full recovery.

Sausage leg.
Black on the ultrasound is never good.
We decided PRP (platelet rich plasma) treatment was the best course of action along with stall rest and hand walking. I hand walked her every day from December 23rd until she finally got to experience turnout again in a small paddock on February 28th, 118 days later.

We were still having skin issues on that leg and also persistent soreness. We decided the wedge pad we had put on her injured leg was probably the culprit and decided to remove it. Shortly after removing the pad, she developed an abscess. This set her rehab back about 4 weeks, but we picked up where we left off and I was able to start hand walking her again. Shortly after that, I was able to ride her again. It was wonderful to feel her under saddle again.

I was able to slowly bring her back into work and we even made it to one show at the end of June. I took it easy with her and we only did a few easy riding classes, but there was no way we were going to miss showmanship. With 10 horses entered, we won first place and received 3 PAC points. Last year we had fallen 1 point shy of qualifying for her Certificate of Recognition, so those 3 points pushed us up to 22 PAC showmanship points. She was going to receive her certificate!

Go Lilly, go!
It was during that same time that I decided to move the horses, and then move them again, which brings us to the barn we're at now. It has been a struggle ever since! More ripped off shoes, another debilitating abscess, a battle with cellulitis and dermatitis, an upset ICL, and most recently a colic episode.

I've only been able to ride a handful of times since our first and last show in June, but she's been cleared for riding in December. I'm very excited to pick up where we left off and take the show ring by storm next spring!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mmm... Purina!

First things first...  Operation Pond Water was a dismal failure.  There was a very small amount of water missing from the bucket, but it's possible he hit it with his rear end while he was churning his poop into the bedding.  He went right down to the pond when I turned him out in the pasture.  Grrr, AJ!!

I don't really have a plan d... other than soaking something in water I'm not sure what to try next.

The nutritionist came out this morning and I was all ready to go with my notes and my pen.  He came out with the owner of the feed store and wore his black fleece vest with Purina logo...  uh huh.  He was most definitely a Purina approved nutritionist!  He was very nice, though, and did have a lot of knowledge about horse condition and feeding recommendations.  I think I surprised him a bit with my questions.  Some of them he could answer and some of them he said he'd to get back to me about (like specific values in the feed). 

We took a look at AJ first.  I told him all about AJ along with the story about how/when he started losing weight and told him what I was currently feeding him now and what I had been feeding him prior.  We weight taped him and he did a more thorough Henneke exam; 1,100 lbs and barely a 4 on the scale. 

We chatted a lot about ideal weight and condition.  He said stock horses should be between a 5 and a 7 on the scale and he preferred his horses to be a 6.  He said AJ would probably do better at a 5 because of his arthritis but that was up to me.  I asked how much weight he thought AJ needed to gain and he replied, "how ever much it takes him to get to a 5 on the scale".  He said we shouldn't really categorize horses according to their weight because body types vary so much.  Weight should only be used to estimate things like the amount of feed they require and how much dewormer they should get.  I've been focusing like a laser beam on weight, when I should really be looking more at overall condition.

He said if AJ was his horse, he would increase him to 7 lbs of Equine Senior per day, but still give him the same amount of hay I'm giving him.  I could cut out the Weight Builder and he would expect to see AJ gain weight with no problem.  I asked about cutting him back once he had put weight back on and he said seeing as how winter is coming, he would leave him at 7 lbs through the winter and then adjust in the spring.

That's all well and good, but prior to June of this year, AJ was on a 12% pellet and ate 2 pounds of it per day.  He was at least a 5 on the Henneke scale, although he had a rough coat and wasn't very shiny.  I was thinking I might need to increase his feed for a while until he gained the weight back, but then would be able to drop him back to a regular feed (not a senior feed) and he could eat much less than 7 pounds per day. 

Could his digestive tract have turned 'senior' in less than 3 months?  He is 24, but he did great last winter and only started dropping weight in the heat of the summer when he had to eat sweet feed and was on pasture only (no hay).

So I'm still not sure what I want to do with him...  but moving on to Lilly.  I voiced my concerns about her only eating 2 lbs of SafeChoice per day and whether she was getting her vitamins and minerals or not.  He said she very likely was not, but feeding her 5 lbs of grain isn't really an option since she is very nearly a 7 on the scale.  She also taped in at 1,100 lbs. 

My 15 hand mare weighs as much as my 16 hand gelding.  That is most definitely not good.

Lilly is a bit of a wild card, though.  She has essentially been resting since November of last year, so her extra pudge could be due to that.  WHEN I start riding her again in December, she might need a few extra calories, especially since winter is coming.  Honestly, I doubt it, but it is possible.

And wouldn't you know it... Purina has the perfect product for a horse like her!  It's called Strategy Healthy Edge.  To be fair, I've actually been reading quite a bit about this product and know a lot of people who like it.  It provides all the benefits of regular Strategy but is higher in fat and fiber and lower in starches and sugar, and has Amplify in it.  So it is nutritionally beneficial for horses like Lilly because she can eat as little as 3 lbs per day but still get all the nutrition she needs (or so they claim).  It's 12.5% protein, 8% fat, and 18% fiber.

He also mentioned their Enrich 32 product, which is designed for horses who are able to easily maintain proper body condition on virtually no grain and can't consume recommended amounts of feed to get the proper protein, vitamins, and minerals.  This might be a better option for her in the spring when the pastures are growing and she's getting larger amounts of forage.

I'm seriously considering the Healthy Edge for Lilly because after looking into vitamin/mineral supplements, the one I would get for her runs $17 per month.  I think she'd do ok on 3 lbs of grain without gaining too much weight. 

Don't quote him, but according to Mr Purina nutrition guy, the MCal value for Healthy Edge is 1.24.  Equine Senior is 1.22.  He's supposed to double check and let me know.

Off to do more reading and research...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Operation Pond Water

Operation pond water is a go!  It's in full swing as we speak. 

I hauled 5 gallons of pond water up from the pasture today with two mares hot on my heels.  "Whatcha doing with that water bucket?  Can we have a drink?"  It got really heavy, really quickly!  I know, I'm a wimp, but we need a pond that's closer to the barn!  :)

The salt didn't work.  I think it probably made him more thirsty, but he still didn't drink until he went outside to the pond.  He didn't seem interested in the Gatorade either, but I haven't tried the apple juice.  I figured he wouldn't bother with that either so I'd just switch over to pond water and see if he drinks that.  

I feed in the morning so I'll know exactly how much (if any) water AJ drinks tonight.  I'll be in trouble, though, if he only wants to drink pond water.  I don't think I'll be able to convince the others to haul up pond water...  And I'm not sure I'll be able to slowly switch him over from 100% pond water to hose water because he still gets to keep drinking pond water all day while he's outside.

But, who knows!  The boy just needs to drink!

I just confirmed that the nutritionist is still coming out out tomorrow, so I'm looking forward to what he has to say.  Hopefully I get some useful information!  

Monday, November 15, 2010

More Numbers

Neither myself, nor SillyPony, nor JenJ is a veterinarian or equine nutritionist. Please make sure you do your own research for your own personal horses. I am simply trying to figure out what is best for my two.

I really appreciate all the comments and suggestions from everyone regarding AJ's nutrition issues.  One thing is for sure, there is a LOT of information out there and a lot of products to choose from.  It is all quite overwhelming. 

SillyPony has gone through something similar with her horse, although he was on the portly end of the scale, and JenJ is currently working on her hard keeper.  I've been stealing information from their blogs and have been bothering them with questions via email.  Neither of them have blocked me yet.  :)

I wanted to get some hard numbers down on paper because I'm visual and it'll give me a place to start getting organized.  First, here is what I think I understand, and where I'm at so far.

The consensus seems to be that horses should eat, on average, between 1.5% and 2.5% of their total body weight in feedstuffs each day.  That varies, of course, from horse to horse because of a variety of factors ranging from age, to work load, and even whether the horse is used for breeding.  Maintenance horses require less, mares with nursing foals require more.  That part sounds easy enough...

So with regards to my personal situation, I have a maintenance horse and a horse in light work (eventually...).  My maintenance horse, however, is underweight, so that will play a part in his numbers.  I'm still skeptical that the weights I got the other day were accurate (they seem high...), but for the sake of this post, we'll assume they are close.

Both horses are turned out on pasture for roughly 8 hours per day, but the pastures are really poor, so I don't know if they're getting much value out of them at this point.

24 Year Old Maintenance Horse (1.5% - 2.0%)
16 Hands, 1145 lbs
Minimum Weight of Feed = (Body Weight in lbs) x 0.015 = 17.2 lbs
Maximum Weight of Feed = (Body Weight in lbs) x 0.020 = 22.9 lbs

AJ is currently eating:
4 Flakes of Hay @ 4 lbs per flake = 16 lbs of forage
3 lbs of Purina Equine Senior & 2 lbs of Nutrena SafeChoice = 5 lbs of concentrates
2 scoops of Weight Builder (4 oz)

Total = 21 lbs per day

He is well within range, and even on the high side of the scale, which is where I want him.  Even if his weight is less, let's say 1050 lbs, he still falls between the minimum and maximum.   

10 Year Old Horse in Light Work (1.5% - 2.5%)
15 Hands, 1062 lbs
Minimum Weight of Feed = (Body Weight in lbs) x 0.015 = 15.9 lbs
Maximum Weight of Feed = (Body Weight in lbs) x 0.025 = 26.5 lbs

Lilly is currently eating:

3 Flakes of Hay @ 4 lbs per flake = 12 lbs of forage
2 lbs of Nutrena SafeChoice = 2 lbs of concentrates

Total = 14 lbs per day

Lilly doesn't even fall into the range I've caluclated for her.  Even if I were to guesstimate her weight at a more probable 950 lbs, that would make her minimum 14.3 lbs per day, so I'm still not feeding enough.  If I increased her feed, though, she could very easily become overweight. 

That's about as far as I've gone.  AJ most likely needs a variation (more fat probably) as well as Lilly (probably a vitamin/mineral supplement), but what?  That's the tricky part I'm still trying to figure out.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Co-op Feels Good!

This morning I officially contributed to the co-op by heading out to the barn to do the morning feeding.  I had been going out every evening since Thursday because of Lilly, but I had to go back to work today so I offered myself up for the morning feeding.  I'm very comfortable with the other two girls but I want to keep an eye on my two at least once per day for a while to make sure all is well.

It feels good to be taking care of my horses.  I was having so much fun this morning doing chores that I cleaned all 4 stalls, dumped all the water buckets, cleaned them, and refilled them.  The barn looks lovely, and the horses are going to be spoiled!  :)

AJ isn't eating much hay in the stall, although he's been eating a little more here lately.  Hopefully he's getting used to being stalled at  night.  He isn't drinking any water in the stall, though.  He goes outside in the morning and drinks and drinks and drinks from the pond... so I know he's thirsty, but he isn't drinking in the stall.  I even gave him two different kinds of buckets in case he liked one more than the other.  I might have to try putting some apple juice or something in his bucket...  I'm assuming he just doesn't like the smell or taste compared to the pond water.  He's also been attacking his grain when I bring him in, so I need to figure out something to do there too.  He will take 2 giant mouthfuls of grain and then eat slowly until the rest of it is gone, but he makes a huge mess with the first 2 bites.

He doesn't keep his stall very clean, and I haven't seen any bedding on his coat, so I don't think he's been laying down, but other than that, he's been doing really well.  I haven't noticed any stiffness when I turn him out, which was my biggest concern.  Baby has been tolerating him in her pasture too.  She'll pin her ears and run at him, but he stands his ground and pins his ears back at her.  So she'll dart off and go back to grazing with Lilly.

Speaking of Lilly, she hasn't shown any other signs of colic.  I'm counting the days until I can start riding her again, which will be two weeks from Wednesday.  I hope we're still having nice weather by then!

Friday, November 12, 2010

What Happened?

Thankfully, Lilly seems to be doing just fine this morning.

But what happened?

I put the horses to bed last night around 5:30. They both ate their grain and seemed perfectly ok when I left to come home. Looking back now, I realize that Lilly wasn't really interested in her hay, but I had given them hay earlier in the day and she was more than happy to eat cookies so I didn't think much of it.

When my cell phone rang at 10:30 last night, I immediately thought about AJ. When I saw it was the BO's number I got even more worried. Instead of talking about AJ, he was talking about Lilly. The guy who lives above the barn heard a lot of kicking and had gone down to check on things. He found Lilly thrashing around in her stall. He was kind enough to get her up and walk her for me until I could get there. The BO also came over and called the vet.

Lilly looked miserable. Her heart rate was up, she was breathing hard, and she wanted to lay down. She acted as though she didn't have control over her hind end because she was literally stumbling while I tried to walk her. There were a couple times where I thought she might fall down and the guy from upstairs had to hold her up.

He also said she had pooped a couple times while he was walking her, so the combination of that and the way she was walking had me concerned that there was something else going on.

The vet arrived quickly because she was on her way back home from another emergency call. After doing her initial exam she said she thought Lilly just had gas colic, almost as it it wasn't a big deal. Just gas colic? Lilly was miserable!

She gave her some Banamine and a sedative and then did a rectal exam. There weren't any impactions or twists, so she tubed her. Her heart rate went down pretty quickly, as did her breathing so we put her back in the stall and waited for her wake up a bit.

I stayed with her for a while after that and when I left she was perky and seemed to be nearly back to normal.

She had gas colic once before, but the circumstances were much different and she didn't behave the same way. I had ridden her after she ate dinner that day and I attributed her gas colic to that. She seemed to be in much more pain and we finally decided to let her lay down as long as she stayed quiet. She just laid on the ground groaning... it was awful to watch. Much different than this time.

I have no idea why this happened. She's dewormed regularly, she drinks a lot of water, her food and hay are the same... the only difference is that she was in the stall. But even that isn't different because she's been on stall rest so many times since August. I wonder if she would have coliced in the pasture too? I hate to think about what would have happened then. No one would have known about it until she was fed this morning.

Lilly and AJ were turned out with Baby today. I had my camera ready in case I had a chance to get some action pictures, but everyone was pretty calm, which I prefer! AJ and Baby had a little tussle at first, but then they all went their separate ways.

I got a few scales today to weigh the grain and hay, and each flake of hay weighs about 4lbs. I gave AJ 3 flakes last night but he barely ate any of it. Hopefully he eats more of it tonight.

Well That Was Short Lived...

Lilly had a bout of colic this evening. I had the vet out and she's doing ok now. More on that later, but for now I'm going to bed.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Warm and Snuggly!

I spent all day shopping for co-op goodies. I had to get grain, bedding, a trash can, a scoop, and feed pans. TSC made a killing off me today, but I got everything I needed. Once I had the goodies, I needed to move Baby to a new stall so AJ and Lilly could be next to each other. That required me to strip 3 stalls, put Baby's bedding back in her new stall, then bed Lilly and AJ's stalls. I'm using the Equine Fresh pine pellets (because they are awesome) so it took quite a few bags to get each stall as full as I wanted.

I set up each stall with 2 buckets of fresh water, hay, and grain. All I needed now was to add two cute horses.

I found these two roaming around outside and felt sorry for them:

Hey mom!  Look at all the food in here!

You're kidding right?  He gets to come inside too?
I could not believe how good AJ was. Even though it was dark outside, he walked right into his stall and promptly started eating his grain. He never spun around, never paced, and didn't seem upset at all. I figured I was going to have to shut the bars on the top of the stall but he seemed more content than Lilly. He'd stick his nose through the bars to Lilly's side every now and then, but otherwise he quietly munched his food.

For a little while he was eating the bedding. At first I thought he just dropped some grain and was cleaning it up, but after a few minutes I decided he really was eating pine shavings. Eventually he gave that up and went to the hay, but I was starting to get concerned.

Otherwise it was uneventful. Once M and I got all the shutters closed and the doors shut, it got nice and warm in there. I think he's going to like coming in at night.

I also think I'm just as content as they are. :)

And a Happy Veteran's Day to all my fellow veterans. May God bless each and every one of you!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Body Scores and Weight Calculators

The nutrition gods have shined down upon me!! I think they feel bad because of how cruel the soundness gods were to me this year, so they're trying to make up for it.

I went to the local feed store today to invest in a new weight tape. Mine is super old and I've heard the new ones are more accurate these days. Instead of being 150 lbs off, they're only about 50 lbs off. They actually gave me one for free!

It still ended up being an expensive trip because I found a blanket for AJ. I wanted to get him something that was waterproof but would also provide just a smidge of warmth. They had an Amigo blanket with 200g of fill, but it felt really thin... not sheet thin, but not as puffy as the blanket next to it that also claimed to have 200g of fill. It was $90, which I had decided was a fair price as blanket prices seem to have gone up since I last purchased one. It's a 78, so I hope it doesn't swallow him whole, and I hope he doesn't snack on it as he has been known to do.

Anyway, back to the nutrition gods. :)

While I was there, I was talking to the nice ladies about AJ and how I know next to nothing about nutrition but have suddenly decided to take over feeding my two horses. It just so happens that they have an equine nutritionist coming into the area and he has offered to spend a day evaluating horses. He'll travel to your barn and answer questions and recommend feed programs according to each horse's needs. So I have an appointment with him at 11:30 next Thursday. I AM BEYOND EXCITED! This will be so great!! I wish it was tomorrow since I'll be buying grain tomorrow that he may tell me to stop feeding, but I guess I'd have to slowly change them over anyway... I've decided not to buy the big load of hay I had planned though.

I snapped some pictures of AJ today and weight taped both of them. I'm ashamed to say that Lilly was AFRAID of the weight tape. I had to beg her to stand still and even then she was giving the tape the stink eye.

The sun was not doing me any favors, and AJ refused to cooperate because of his hay pile, so these are the best I could get. I wanted to see where I thought he fell on the body condition scorecard. I think he's right there between a 3 and a 4... What do you think?

You can see his spine, his hip bones, and his ribs in this one.

His tailhead is pretty prominent...

And I think his withers and shoulders are also pretty prominent.
He just looks bony to me, and I can't stand it.

For a score of 3 it says, "Thin. The backbone stands out, but fat covers it to midpoint. Fat can be felt over the ribs. The backbone and ribs are noticeable. The tailhead is prominent. Individual vertebrae cannot be seen. Hook bones are visible but appear rounded. Pin bones cannot be seen. The withers, shoulders and neck are accentuated."
Here are the results from the weight tape:

Weight Tape = 1150 lbs
Heart Girth = 74 in
Body Length = 69 in
Online Calculator = 1145 lbs

Weight Tape = 1130 lbs (oink)
Heart Girth = 74 in
Body = 64 in
Calculator = 1062 lbs

I was shocked that their heart girths measured the same. I measured 3 or 4 times, but always got the same measurement. I had no idea Lilly weighed that much. I pegged her to weigh about 950 lbs... oops. These measurements aren't super accurate, though. I had to use the height measurement side of the tape to measure their heart girth and body length, and then convert it to inches. I also did it alone... so... they could be off a bit, but I think they're a good starting point, ball park estimate.

But 1145 lbs doesn't sound underweight to me...  Perhaps my perception of weight is off because I never really knew how much any of my horses weighed, but let's say he's 100 lbs underweight (because now that I look at the pictures and the body scorechart, I think 75 lbs might be too low).  He'd weigh 1245 lbs?  That seems like a lot.  He's nearly 16 hands, but that still sounds about 150 pounds heavier than I thought he weighed at a healthy weight. 

Guess I better get back to reading this nutrition book because I'm even less educated than I thought!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nutrition Nightmare

When the co-op idea first presented itself, I didn't really think too much about the specifics.  I figured I'd just start feeding my own hay and grain to my horses to make sure they're getting what they need, at least until my barn decides to supplement the pastures with hay.

The main reason for this, of course, is because I think AJ looks to be about 75 lbs underweight (according to the tape), and I don't see him gaining any weight despite the increase in feed (be it ever so small), and the Weight Builder supplement. The missing ingredient, we've all determined, is hay.

I've been quite lucky throughout my horsey life to have low maintenance, easy keepers and we just 'fed' them. They ate some random amount of sweet feed from the mill, whatever hay we could find that was inexpensive, and they thrived. Who cares what the fiber, fat, protein content is? They look great!

Once I started boarding, I paid even less attention. Someone else fed them and as long as they looked good, it didn't matter too much to me what they ate, or how much. They didn't get anything above and beyond, except for when AJ was put on his joint supplement. If anything, they were a little overweight.

Up until now, AJ has been in that easy keeper category. He used to survive on air. Now I'm faced with a horse I think is about 75 lbs underweight and I'm having to take matters into my own hands. I thought this might be a good opportunity to take the time to learn a bit more about equine nutrition and what's available to horses. That was until I started reading the plethora of online articles about equine nutrition. It's enough to make my head spin!

You can supplement with any of the 16 weight gain supplements currently offered by SmartPak, you can add corn oil, black oil sunflower seeds, rice bran, or flax seed. Feel free to add a little beet pulp or soaked alfalfa cubes, and even some hay stretcher if needed. Purina suggests Equine Senior, Omolene 200, Athlete, Equine Junior, and Strategy as good feed for an underweight horse, while Nutrena suggests SafeChoice, Life Design Senior, Life Design Complete, and then you can supplement those feeds with Legacy or Empower. Then there's hay! Alfalfa, orchard grass, coastal bermuda, timothy?

Currently, AJ is eating 1 lb of SafeChoice and 1lb of Equine Senior morning and night (I pay extra for that), and he's getting his MSM and 2 scoops of Weight Builder. Until this past summer, he was eating only 1lb of grain morning and night, so he survived on 2 lbs of Blue Seal pelleted sweet feed and hay for nearly 3 years without issue.

Lilly, being my more traditional easy keeper, gets 3/4 lb of SafeChoice morning and night.

Neither of them are getting any hay. Well, they weren't getting any hay until about a week ago when I started feeding them hay from my personal stash. I take hay down to them when I go out in the afternoon and sometimes M will throw them some for me too if she's around. Lilly RUNS wide open across the field to meet me and then nickers continuously until she's able to grab a giant mouthful of hay. I think she's hungry...

Lilly was on stall rest for pretty much August, September, and October so she was actually being fed hay. AJ was out in the pasture eating grass until about the middle of October when it seemed there wasn't any left, and nothing new was growing.

So then the question arises: are they getting enough nutrition? AJ obviously is not, but even though Lilly is in good weight, is she getting enough? Nutrena says a horse her weight, in light work, should eat ~5 lbs of SafeChoice per day. Honestly, if she ate 5 lbs of grain per day, she'd be the size of a blimp. But does she need a vitamin/mineral supplement, or will the hay cover that? Perhaps her mineral and salt block are enough to cover that?

And to think I used to feed "half a coffee can of sweet feed and 2 flakes of hay" per feeding. Ah, those were the days!

So, do I keep feeding him his current ration of grain, but supply him with hay and wait for the hay that he should have been getting to kick in and help him put the weight back on? OR, do I supply hay, increase his feed, perhaps even change his feed to something with more calories, and wait? OR, do I shovel him hay, increase his grain, add corn oil, and beet pulp/rice bran? He can't have alfalfa or I'd have to add soaked alfalfa cubes to the list...

Should I be proactive and go crazy, or simply add hay and take the wait and see approach? Perhaps I'll just go crazy MYSELF.

Edited to add:
As a side note, does anyone actually feed the recommended amount of feed noted on the bag? I have a brochure for Equine Senior and it says to feed 13 lbs for a 1,000 lb horse. THIRTEEN POUNDS? Yikes... I wouldn't feel safe feeding that much unless it was over 3 or 4 meals per day. That 13 lbs is if you're not feeding any hay, of course, but still.

It also says to reduce the amount of Senior by 1 lb for every 2.0 lbs of hay. So if AJ got 20 lbs of hay per day, that would drop him to 3 lbs of Senior per day. But then it also says that no less than 6 lbs of Senior per day should be fed, otherwise they aren't getting enough nutrients. They go on to say that if your horse gets fat on 6 lbs of Senior and hay per day, you're feeding the wrong food and you should look at one of the other Purina products.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Great Barn Hunt

So far, the great barn hunt has been anything but...  and I'm not very happy about it.

M went out to look at the "indoor arena" barn on Friday after work.  She's very picky, so I took her review with a grain of salt, but she gave it two thumbs down.  I decided I needed to go check it out for myself so I could make my own informed decision. 

It's an older place but it's pretty well maintained.  The stalls are a bit small, and there are a lot of horses in the pastures.  They have quite a few pastures and the horses are rotated, but in the pasture board pasture, there were at least 7 horses of mixed ages and genders, and the pasture was not very large.  Most of it was a pond.  There wasn't any grass to speak of and there were piles of manure everywhere.  It just felt crowded...  they had a large number of pens in the pasture, though, for feeding, so almost all the horses had their own pen to eat in so they can eat without being disturbed. 

The outdoor "arena" was really just a pasture converted to an arena, so it was small and covered in grass.  The indoor arena was pretty small also and VERY dusty.  I don't think more than 2 horses could be in there at once.  The round pen was nice, though.  Their hay is lovely but they feed a low quality grain, although all the horses looked really well fed.  The weirdest part, though, was that they don't allow blanketing in the pastures at all.  No rain sheet, no fly sheets, no blankets EVER.  Sleet and -32 degree weather?  Sorry...  should have purchased stall board so your horse can stay in and have a blanket.  But if you're going to blanket in the stall, you'll probably want to blanket outside.  So that was odd.

I actually saw an old horsey friend of mine, so she boards her horse there and loves it.  Her mare is on stall board and she said when she first brought her there, it took a while for her to find her place in the herd and she kept getting giant scrapes all down her back...

...  ?  ...

So, I think there are too many horses in the pastures.  I haven't totally ruled it out as a last resort because it could work, but I would prefer not to move there.  It was a definite no for M, mostly because of the blanket restrictions.

My friend gave me another place to check out that she said was really nice, so I called them up and they let me come right over.  When I pulled in the driveway I wished I hadn't scheduled a visit because I wanted to pull right back out of the driveway.  I humored the man, though, and he was really nice, but the facility wasn't near what I needed for the price he was asking.

I was 0/2...  but I was holding out hope for the place M and I were going to visit together.  It did  not disappoint...  lovely fences, lovely pastures, great stalls, nice arena, private tack lockers, nice, knowledgeable people, but they wanted $25 for trailer parking (WHY??!!).  It was a bit on the high side for pasture board, but M was going to talk to her hubby and I wanted to ponder the nearly $200 increase I would have to absorb before agreeing to move.  I think deep down we knew we were going to move, we just hadn't said so out loud.

Late last night, though, I got an email from the owner saying that she had told me incorrectly and they actually didn't have room for any more pasture board geldings...  AJ could come on stall board if I wanted, but their gelding pasture was full.  So I called M and she said if I wasn't moving, she wasn't moving either.  So there went that barn too.

I don't have any more prospects...  M doesn't have any more prospects either, so we'll have to stay put for now and keep our eyes and ears open for a new situation. 

In the meantime, I've decided to bite the bullet and put both of my horses on co-op stall board.  That way AJ can come in at night when it's cold, eat his dinner as slow as he wants to, and have a giant pile of hay to munch on during the night.  I wouldn't be so desperate to move if he wasn't underweight and actually being fed, so by doing this I know he'll be getting the proper amount of food and hopefully start putting weight back on.  In the meantime, we keep searching.

My vet said stall board was ok for Lilly as long as she gets out for most of the day to stretch her legs.  I'll probably start the co-op on Thursday and hope AJ does ok in a stall.  I'll put him next to Lilly, and Baby will move across the aisle so our little group can be together.

I don't know what else to do...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It Isn't Winter Yet!

The weather today was nasty... it was COLD and rainy!  I just got done saying what pretty weather we were having too.

I had scheduled the farrier to come out today, so I wondered how AJ was going to do inside the barn. Last time we had to take him outside in the hot sun so Greg could get his feet done because he wouldn't stand still.

Today he was a good boy. He stood still and didn't give Greg too many problems, so there must be something about the bright sunshine that messes with his vision enough to make him uncomfortable in the barn. He did keep turning his head funny (cocking it to one side) when I would bring him a cookie. His cataract is in his left eye and he kept cocking his head to the other side like he was trying to get a better view. That's something I don't remember him doing before.

Lilly seems to still be attached to her mare BFFs. Even after I gave her and AJ a pile of hay she kept running over to the fence trying to find them. They were all in the barn because of the weather, so she would look for a while, then go grab hay... back to the fence to look, and back to the hay. She hasn't buddied back up with AJ like I thought she would. Hopefully her attachment to the girls will pass.

I found another ad for boarding that sounds too good to be true:

Full board and pasture board available. We feed a high quality feed along with orchard grass hay from NY state. Indoor and outdoor arenas, round pen, all board fencing, free trailer parking, indoor wash rack, full time manager and owners on site. Individual lockers in tack rooms, and drama free.

There's only a phone number on the ad and I don't want to call late, so I'll give them a call tomorrow. The price for pasture board there is less than what I pay now, and their stall board is also cheaper. Do you know how happy I'd be if I had an indoor arena to ride in??!!

It's about 30 minutes from home, which is my limit, but when I scoped it out on Google maps, it looked to be a real place with barns, arenas, fences and everything. LOL

I emailed M to see if any of the information sounded familiar to her. With any luck, they have room and I can add this place to my list of places to check out.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bad Influence

All was well at the barn today. Lilly was in with AJ like I had requested, although all the other horses had been moved around and mixed up. I saw that Baby was pastured all by herself in the biggest of the pastures. I called M to let her know Baby was turned out solo, but it was refreshing to know it didn't matter to me who was where... my two were together!

I took some of my quality hay down to give Lilly and AJ and put it in one big pile like I used to. They're buddies and usually eat together. However, spending two weeks with 3 other witchy mares has had a negative effect on my normally sweet girl.

Here's the face she gave AJ when he tried to join in on the hay pile!

Mean mare face!
BAD MARE! You share with your brother! She got cranky with him once more after I told her to knock it off, but eventually they got things worked out and agreed to share.

Aww...  that's more like it!
M and I are probably going to look at the barn on Saturday afternoon. I wanted to go tomorrow but she works during the day. I think she's pretty fed up with the whole situation too, because even with co-op you still have to deal with the BO to a certain extent. So hopefully this place will work out and we can hit the road. She has a friend that boarded her mare there for a while and didn't have any complaints, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Notice my mare has two whorls on her forehead... some say that makes her crazy! LOL

The weather today was beautiful! We've been having a real fall this year, and it's wonderful!

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Official Countdown!

I'm officially starting my countdown today... in only 4 weeks I can start riding again!  Lilly won't know what to do with herself when it's time to go back to work.

An interesting thing happened yesterday.  I went to the barn around noon to check on Lilly and I had also purchased two salt blocks for AJ (since none are provided for whatever reason...) so I wanted to put those out in his pasture.  When I got there, Lilly was turned out with Baby and Snowflake.  I assumed M turned Lilly out when she turned Baby out...  you know, because I had asked the BO not to turn Lilly out and I know he would never defy my request. 

Eh hem.

Anyway, later that afternoon M called because Lilly was in her stall and Snowflake was in the bottom pasture.  She wanted to know if I wanted her to turn Lilly out for a couple hours.  I was confused because Lilly was already out earlier when I was there. 

M said she hadn't turned Lilly out so that meant the BO did.  Imagine that!

So we speculated that something was going on with the 3 girls and Lilly was banished to her stall while Snowflake got turned out in the other pasture.  Why Snowflake wasn't moved and Lilly left out with Baby is beyond me.

I spoke with the BO about it today and he said Baby was chasing Snowflake around and being mean.  I still don't know why Lilly had to go into her stall, but he actually said, "his horse has priority and she gets to be turned out in the upper pasture before anyone else's horses."

That is definitely the wrong attitude to have when you're running a business.

Snowflake and Lilly were turned out today and the BO forbid me from turning Baby out.  (I've been turning her out for M when I go over in the afternoon)  I called to give M the good news as I was sure she would be thrilled to hear that.  I'm trying to stay out of that drama, but wanted her to know why her horse wouldn't be turned out.  I just want Lilly put back out with AJ so I can stop being so terribly frustrated every day.

Which brings me to my next point...  I have another barn I'm looking into.  The website looks nice and they claim to actually feed the horses grain AND hay.  It's crazy!  ;)  It's $150 more than I'm paying now and about $50 more than if I did co-op, but I figure I'll save that in gas since I won't have to be driving around buying hay and grain.  Plus, I can sleep easy at night and go on vacation without worry!  (I hope...)

I'm planning to visit on Saturday if I can set something up with the owner, and I'm taking M with me!  I just convince myself to stay where I am with everything that keeps happening there, and I don't want to leave her behind!