A “Big” Scare

Since Sackett’s death, I’ve been more wary of our horses’ wellness, especially when it comes to anything related to possible sand ingestion. Read about sand colic and other forms of colic.

IMG_0420Over the last month or so, Jolene seemed to be getting bloated. She was eating and drinking well. Her poops were fine. She seemed to be in good spirits. Her heart rate and digestion noises were fine, but at one point I thought I could hear the swooshing of sand when I listened to her gut with a stethoscope.

Yikes.

Sackett had had “shovelfuls of sand,” said my vet when she performed a necropsy. Could Jolene be quietly suffering, too?

Dr. Kate Schoenhals of South Mountain Equine agreed to try to get to the bottom of things while still keeping an eye on our budget.

The Vet Visit

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Dr. Kate Schoenhals

The mule has been challenging to train. So, it wasn’t surprising that Jolene was challenging to medically treat, too. In order to examine her (draw blood, take abdominal x rays, perhaps do a rectal exam) and knowing how difficult she can be, I gave her a full tube of Dormosedan gel 30 minutes before Schoenhals arrived.

It had almost no sedative impact.

When Jolene saw the vet, she became anxious. Kate had given her spring shots, after all. In this mule’s mind, that made her Public Enemy No. 1. (Mules tend to be less forgetful and less forgiving than horses.)

We thought perhaps a less familiar visitor would be more effective. Schoenhals’ vet tech, Shylee, stepped forward to administer IV sedative.

Or not.

Just getting this big, molly mule sedated became a lengthy, three-person challenge that included snubbing, gentle ear-twitching, and crafty vet work. Not coincidentally, she stayed reactive even with an inordinate amount of sedative on board.

Schoenhals took x rays of several aspects of the abdomen and saw no sand to speak of. She drew blood and we later found everything, including liver and kidney function, to be normal. I did not opt for further diagnostic work to rule out enteroliths or cancer, figuring it would be a costly pursuit of discovering something that IMG_7942we could do almost nothing to remedy.

What x rays did show was something I had missed in my worried, colic-focused state: a thick layer of fat.

In hindsight, I noted that her added weight coincided with a new load of good quality hay. This hay replaced a six-month supply of poorer stuff. Mules – as noted by many, including the Baja vaqueros here – can sustain themselves quite well, even on crappy forage. It shouldn’t have surprised me that Jolene would bulk up on good hay. And, since mules tend to carry their chubbiness a bit differently than horses, I had missed what was staring right in front of me.

Marching orders were clear: more exercise!

(Orders also could have included less hay, but that’s a management hurdle when Jolene is fed with herd mates. Separating them would mean more work for me, more stress for her.)

I had been riding Jolene about twice a week. Now, we ride about four times a week. She also might hike with me and the dogs, or come along as a ponied mule. Slowly, she’s trimming down.

 

 

 

Ask the Expert: Moore responds

Ask the ExpertAsk the Expert is all about listening to horse-related questions readers and helping them expand their learning with advice from our partners, professionals who share a like-mindedness with BestHorsePractices and its principles. Got a question? Contact us!

l and mFor our first question below, we asked horsemen Elijah Moore and Libby Lyman.

Our Ask the Expert query comes from Nina Fuller at Lily Brook Farm in Hollis, Maine. She writes:

My question:  I have a horse that was given to me two years ago. She’s great except for a few things.  She won’t stop moving sideways and backwards when I go to get on.  If I was younger, I would just hop on. That’s what someone has been doing all her life. She is 18. 

But now that I am not young, I want her to stand still so I can get on her when I am alone and no one is holding her.  I have tried to put her against a rail or a fence, but she just wiggles away and avoids me as best she can. 

Any suggestions?

Elijah Moore moves a horse at his Flying M ranch in Searsport

Elijah Moore moves a horse at his Flying M ranch in Searsport

We talked with Elijah Moore about it. Read more about Moore here.

Moore might be getting on in years (He’s a spry, 70-something.), but he’s a dedicated lifelong learner. He likes to audit other horsemen, like Martin Black and Joe Wolter, whenever they travel east. Read about that here.

When asked about Nina’s issue, he talked about working on a fence, like so many cowboys start horses. Watch this excellent video on working a fence with Bryan Neubert.

Moore responds:

“You have to control those feet,” said Moore, who grew up in Utah and spent years starting horses there and in Arizona. “Take the back end away and bring the front end through. If he moves too much (when you’re mounting), move him around. Pretty soon, he understands that if he moves, he’s going to be a bit uncomfortable.”

Moore had the chance to attend the late Ray Hunt’s clinics back in the day (Hunt died in 2009.), but said he was too busy at the time. He’s been kicking himself ever since. “I missed out on the greatest opportunity,” said Moore. His advice to Nina echoed the natural horsemanship pioneer, who liked to say: “Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard.”

Coincidentally, Moore recently rode a horse who balked when he mounted. It mystified him, as the gelding had never done it before. He asked his wife, Dr. Cynthia Reynolds, a vet who practices chiropractic and acupuncture medicine, to take a look at him.

“Sure enough. We found that his back was sore,” recounted Moore. So, you also have to watch to make sure it’s not something physical.”

After groundwork, his horse stands and waits.

After groundwork, his horse stands and waits.

 

 

Ask the Expert: Lyman responds

Ask the ExpertAsk the Expert is all about listening to horse-related questions readers and helping them expand their learning with advice from our partners, professionals who share a like-mindedness with BestHorsePractices and its principles. Got a question? Contact us!

l and mFor our first question below, we asked horsemen Elijah Moore and Libby Lyman.

Our Ask the Expert query comes from Nina Fuller at Lily Brook Farm in Hollis, Maine. She writes:

My question:  I have a horse that was given to me two years ago. She’s great except for a few things.  She won’t stop moving sideways and backwards when I go to get on.  If I was younger ,I would just hop on. That’s what someone has been doing all her life. She is 18. 

But now that I am not young, I want her to stand still so I can get on her when I am alone and no one is holding her.  I have tried to put her against a rail or a fence, but she just wiggles away and avoids me as best she can. 

Any suggestions?

Libby Lyman provides a Gentle Approach to Horsemanship in her clinics and private lessons, held in California, Maine, and DSC00320.198155502_stdpoints in between. Check out her Maine clinics here.

Lyman replies:

Sometimes a horse’s unwillingness to stand to be mounted can be associated with other riding-related activities. It may not be the initial source. Make sure you pay attention to catching, grooming, leading, saddling and bridling. See that the preliminary work has the horse relaxed and in a willing and learning frame of mind.

Also, bear in mind that some horses have a habit of walking off or being anxious because of the ride itself. People often ask the horse to walk off immediately after mounting, so horses learn to anticipate the pressure.

Stand for a moment with a relaxed rein before asking the horse to move off.

Often, a horse isn’t squared up before mounting, so they are in a habit of moving to re-balance while the person is mounting. Then, the person holds the reins tight to prevent the movement. But the rider misses that he or she has only prevented movement, instead of settling the horses mind to the job of standing.

Lyman uses a fence or round pen for this exercise.

Lyman uses a fence or round pen for this exercise.

You can help the horse by setting it up so that mounting is a place of release. It needs to be a spot on the planet where she finds comfort. If she walks off, or, is worried, make a little flurry of activity that will cause her to search for a different solution. Pretty soon, the horse will figure out that where she lines up to be mounted is the place of no pressure.

After working her in this way, don’t mount up immediately! Show her that it’s all good. Prove there is relief.

Some cautionary notes:

Riders may make three mistakes when hearing these instructions:

  • Making the horse busy, but worried as well. Make sure you’re not getting yourself or the horse upset about it and that the horse gets relief for PREPARING to line up.
  • Not gauging the appropriate pressure for the horse. Sometimes, what you’re asking for is almost nothing. Sometimes, you’ll use a whole bunch of intensity. It depends on the willy_mount2.250144227_stdhorse. Use as little or as much as it takes to motivate the horse to search for the answer. Reward the preparation not just the finished product.
  • Some might succeed in training the horse to stand, but it’s not an act of free will for the horse. Instead, we want the horse to learn that it’s a good place. Not just a place where she has to be.

 

 

 

An Evidence-Based Entrepreneur: Meet Monique and Hay Pillow

NickerNews’ & BestHorsePractices’ Emily Thomas Luciano spoke with our new partner, Hay Pillow’s Monique Warren, from logo copyher California-based operations.

What inspired you to develop this product?

 MW: Hay Pillow™ Inc. was born when I had attempted several variations of homemade slow feeders over a 2 year period and finally designed one that worked. After learning the importance of slow feeding and eating from ground level I could not purchase one that slowed down my horse’s consumption rate enough.

What’s your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?

Monique Warren

Monique Warren

MW: The wide variety of tasks on a daily basis and the creativity involved in marketing and developing new products. It’s exciting!

How long have you been in business?

MW: The website, www.thehaypillow.com, launched April 15 , 2013

It’s obvious that you’re a proponent of keeping your horse care as natural as possible. Is that the way you’ve always cared for your own horses, or did you have a light bulb moment?

MW: I was always open minded even though I’ve been a horse guardian for over 40 years. The biggest changes started when I had a horse that wasn’t “right” and I needed to investigate alternatives on my own, after all, I was ultimately responsible for her wellbeing. It started with transitioning my horses to barefoot which then prompted me to study diet and lifestyle extensively. I then realized that all of my horses benefited from the more natural lifestyle, not just the one that wasn’t “right.”

After reading your “About Us” page, it sounds like developing The Hay Pillow was quite a process. Tell us about a couple of the prototypes— the most disastrous, perhaps, about the light bulb moment that led you to the final model.

article-1I had no intentions 6 years ago of starting a business when I started making slow feeders. I had a need that wasn’t met by products available on the market. I desperately wanted my horses to eat and live together full time offering hay 24/7 without  consuming more calories than necessary to maintain a healthy weight.

I initially started with numerous hard-sided feeders. Some with metal grates or holes drilled in the bottom. Either the feeders fed too fast or they could not eat at all. In addition, some voracious individuals can actually wear grooves in their teeth or the enamel wears off with stiffer webbing. None of the bags, nets or feeders on the market was slow enough to allow for limited hay 24/7. The only solution was netting, this allowed a smaller size opening and enables them to eat from it, because it conformed to the hay. It also encouraged them to use their lips as well as their teeth to extract hay which is more natural and they seemed to enjoy it. The initial Hay Pillow prototypes were designed to be clipped in a tub. After trying a wide variety of closures and fabrics, I ended up with a bag that could be used on the ground.

How many states/countries/continents have you sold to?

MW: All 50 states, Canada, England, Switzerland, Netherlands, Ireland, Germany, Italy, France, Austria, Norway, Denmark, Australia, Finland, Israel, Spain, Saudi Arabia and United Kingdom. 15% of our sales are International.

hqdefaultAny closing thoughts?

MW: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are meals consumed by humans, but are not natural for a horse. Equines are grazing herbivores with a digestive system designed for constant uptake. If your equine does not have forage available 24/7, consider implementing a slow-feeding program. This can be accomplished by using a grazing muzzle when on pasture or a slow feeder for hay. Extending meals will not produce the mental and physical health benefits of free-choice forage. Mentally and physically, horses require free-choice forage.

I appreciate the interview! Let me know if you have any questions.

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