Blow, Wind, and Crack Your Cheeks!

Work: great hopes for today, nothing realized so far.
Report: getting this out early in case the weather poodles are right about the oncoming storm. [Of course that was deliberate. I would have thought the LEGO posts would have given away the geek thing.]

Ramblings: The plan is to move Rodney’s exercises out of the ring and closer to the barn, where he feels more comfortable. The theory goes that if something you are doing is making your horse tense, take a step back, correct? For example, if cantering is causing a meltdown, drop down to trot. If the trot; then walk; etc. So, we will do the exercises to build his sense of accomplishment. Once they are old hat, move them into the big, scary ring. I would have thought excessively simple exercises in the ring was a small enough step to work with. However, I am not privy to the noises the chattering monkeys make inside his head. We just get to enjoy the results.

What happens when you run out of backing up?

Spring Fever Starting?

Work: PM heat therapy/EVE groom.
Report: today was Rodney’s day to gallop. He came zipping up when it was time for heating pads. I tried not to get all My Friend Flicka about it, but how can you not love your horse running toward you? Then, when Mathilda and I where halfway through the first lap of our walk, he came at a mad rush FROM the barn TOWARD the far end of the pasture to join us. You should see the skid marks in the mud. He stayed with us for the rest of the lap. When we passed the barn, he went back in to wait. Change? Certainly. Different? Definitely. Progress? Possibly. Probably. Hopefully.

Ramblings: I know that a herd-bound pair can be a total pain, but I am counting that as an improvement over hiding in the barn in what I have decided to call insecurity.

Mathilda is not pleased. The high-spirits of the first canter necessitated a flying kick at her on the way by. On her walk, bad enough she has to tolerate me, then the dog, now him. Her whole neighborhood is going to double-hockey sticks.

How does your horse celebrate spring?

Guest Post by Karen Briggs: The Oily Truth

Writing From the Right Side of the Stall
Author of Understanding Equine Nutrition
Work: day off.

Backstory: Previous Horse and the mare had their feed top dressed with vegetable oil for years. They were so shiny that dirt just rolled off. When Rodney showed up, on he went. Then Greg read a paper saying that corn oil made horses less nervous. We switched Rodney & the mare over. Big mistake. On corn oil, Rodney had his worst day ever. Once I realized that it might stem from his diet rather than my horrible horse handling, we dropped all oil. Unfortunately, this lead to dry fur and static shocks. We compromised with flaxseed oil. After Rodney seemed to do well, we switched the mare over figuring that if corn/vegetable oil is hard to digest on a sensitive stomach, perhaps it is hard for an older horse to digest. On the flax/rice, her weight picked back up, her coat brightened, and she stopped looking quite so geriatric. Apparently, we inadvertently stumbled unto a hot topic in horse nutrition. Equine writer and equine nutrition expert Karen Briggs has agreed to explain more fully. Welcome Karen:

In nutrition textbooks, where we can isolate the variables and monitor down to the nanogram the ingredients we’re feeding, horses tend to react in predictable and similar ways to changes in their diet.

In the real world, not so much.

Although you can make lots of generalities in nutrition, there will always be one horse who was put on this earth to make you look like an idiot. It’s important to remember that each horse is an individual, that there’s an exception to every rule, and that feeding is nine parts science to one part witchcraft (or at least, the willingness to try something else).

So…. fat. We’ve known for a few decades now that, despite horses have virtually no sources of fat in their natural (ie. ‘wild’) diets, they digest it well and can use it as an aerobic energy source. There are a few advantages to this:

a) fat contributes almost 2 ½ times as much energy, ounce for ounce, as carbohydrates, so it can serve as a concentrated energy source to replace a portion of the grain in a high-performance horse’s diet

b) Carbs (grain) can only be processed at a certain rate in the small intestine; anything that doesn’t get digested there, gets fermented in the hindgut instead, leading to cecal acidosis, and possibly colic and/or founder. Fat, on the other hand, is easily digested, doesn’t trigger cecal acidosis, and also doesn’t cause major fluctuations in insulin levels.

c) horses who aren’t working hard tend to do the same thing we do with fat – turn it into body fat. So it’s great for putting weight on a hard keeper or a geriatric.

d) Studies have shown that horses fed a fat-supplemented diet are “less reactive” (ie. calmer and less spooky) than horses on a hay and grain diet with no added fat.

e) A nice byproduct of feeding fat is a shiny coat and flexible, less brittle hooves.

Among the ‘traditional’ ways of adding fat to the diet is top-dressing corn oil. Before we understood the benefits of fat as an energy source for horses, we top-dressed it merely to improve the coat, and horses always seemed to do well on it. Corn oil was long preferred over other types of vegetable oils because it’s very palatable to horses – unlike some other sources, like canola oil, which most horses think tastes a bit funky.

Closer inspection, however, has recently revealed that corn oil has a rather unsavoury proportion of omega-6 fatty acids as compared to omega-3. Omega-sixes are fatty acids which are considered ‘inflammatory’; that is, they can aggravate inflammation on a cellular level throughout the body. Omega-threes, in contrast, are thought to help control inflammation on a cellular level.

Some other vegetable oils, such as soy oil and flaxseed oil, as well as rice bran (which is about 20% fat and is often top-dressed as a fat supplement) have better ratios of omega-3 to omega-6 than corn oil, and are gaining in popularity for top-dressing, even though they aren’t as yummy. (The very best source of omega-threes, by the way, is fish oil, but good luck getting most horses to eat that.)

So did hyper-sensitive Rodney react to the omega-sixes in his corn oil? It’s certainly possible, and there are plenty of anecdotal accounts about, of horses responding similarly.

Does every horse react like that to corn oil? Nope, or it wouldn’t have been such a popular feed additive for the last umpteen decades.

Can we pin Rodney’s behaviour definitively on the corn oil and only the corn oil? Nope, because in the real world it’s really hard to isolate the variables, and Rodney, as we know, has issues about a lot of stuff, not all of which are physical in origin.

We also don’t yet understand what the ideal ‘dose’ of omega-threes might be, and the truth is it is probably going to be different for every horse, depending on how much in the way of inflammatory processes is already going on in his body.

But if Rodney is more agreeable on another fat source, and if that fat source is also delivering benefits for his geriatric companion, then it’s definitely the right call.

Have you had a horse who reacted badly to the addition to corn oil in his diet? Have you tried other fat sources and noticed a difference?

Casting a Shadow from Beyond

Work: rain.

My post yesterday proves that I don’t let go of trauma any better than I let go of anything else.

Previous Horse was the most stubborn being I have ever met. When he said No, he meant, No, that is not physically possible, no horse has ever done it, I will not even consider it. Once you got him into an armlock and forced him into a wash stall, or into a left bend, he would look about and say Well, that was easy. What are you so hot & sweaty about? And then I never had to teach him that lesson again.

You had to meet Caesar head on. Nothing else got through to him. Whatever subtlety I had – and I had very little as even those who love me would tell me – atrophied from two decades of navigating Caesar’s monstrous ego.

So, not only is poor Rodney living in the shadow of another horse, he has to deal with me unconsciously in attack mode. I don’t like to think that my affections can be purchased, but I suspect a few blue ribbons might have gone a long way to ease the transition.

After losing a horse, how did you move on to the next one?

Warning – Dreary Monday

Work: PM1 heat session/EVE grooming scheduled.
Report: lots of yawns. While I am all for happy horse, I wish there was a way other than hindsight to tell if this quantity of mouth motion meant permanent progress or just temporary satisfaction.

Ramblings for the day: started off by reading a moving description of the loss a horse, The Grasshopper, and spent the day in gloomy, weepy mood. Mind you, I have never met Hopper or his rider. The story made me realize how much I still miss Previous Horse. Okay, he was a cranky, opinionated PIA. You get no argument from me. He never loved me about all else, as Hopper apparently did. Caesar only ever loved Caesar. He cared not a whit if I fell off. But I totally trusted his athletic ability. If I could stay over the top, he would get us out of whatever hairy mess I tossed us into. Provided he deigned to go near said hairy mess in the first place.

It’s been a 2 years 9 months and I still choked up as I wrote a sympathy message on the post. Can’t swear to being dry-eyed as I type this either. Yet, Caesar’s passing was in the fullness of time. He was well into a happy retirement when he passed away suddenly and, as far as we could tell, painlessly. If I was an enlightened sort, I might be able to accept this as the circle of life.

The point? I have no point. I want my horse back.

I’m Ready For My Close-up

Work: day off, for no particular reason.
Report: My plan to put everything off until spring includes not fussing – or at least attempting not to fuss – if I don’t get to the barn 3 hours a day, every day [3 sessions @ ~1 hour per, excluding feeding]. I must learn to stop putting in more than I am getting out. That way lies madness.

Ramblings: from our Christmas photo session, the reason it is so hard to get a decent picture of Rodney:
On the other hoof, Mathilda hates having her picture made. The sound of a camera shutter will send her galloping off. After 22 years, we probably have that many pictures of her.

Your horse(s): camera hog or camera shy?

A Thing of Beauty

Work: PM1 heat therapy/PM2 company walk.
Report: The gentlemen joined the ladies for the first part of the mare walk. I would have said that Rodney was pulling on the halter more than circumstances required. Greg saw it as a 17+h Thoroughbred having trouble gearing his long legs down to strolling speed for a 15+h geriatric Quarter Horse. They went back to the barn and we proceeded. At aphelion on our final lap, Rodney crested the horizon at Mach 2 with his halter on and leadrope blowing in the breeze. Therefore, I’m gonna vote that my analysis was closer to the mark.

Ramblings for the Day: Rodney & Mathilda eat twice the amount of hay that Mathilda and Previous Horse ate. That means four times the amount of manure spread over eight times the area around the feed buckets. When one has more fertilizer than land and weather can process, one needs a drag to spread the piles. Voila:

Build from two fence posts & a leftover bit of fencing and driven on its maiden flight by my in-house mechanic. I tell you, he’s a keeper, the occasional horse fit not withstanding.

What is your favorite piece of farm equipment?