Thursday, November 14, 2013

We Almost Lost A Horse Last Night From Choke . . .

Choke in horses is a very scarey thing . . . .

I have done my best to prevent choking in my horses by making sure that their hay flakes are always shook out, that they always have fresh water, and that any treats I feed (including baby carrots) are broken in pieces small enough to prevent choking.  I'm also a nut about checking hay for any foreign bodies like paper, plastic, and even the little chopped pieces of baler twine that falls onto bales after the knotter has tied off.

Despite my precautions I almost lost Joey, are 7-year-old AQHA gelding.  If I had it would I have blamed myself for feeding him a handful of alfalfa pellets . . . .

I have never been an advocate for feeding hay alternatives like cubes for the simple fact of the choking hazard they pose . . . even if you soak them like you should ALWAYS do.  I have felt pretty comfortable feeding pelleted timothy and alfalfa and do so usually in a handful amount in outdoor feeders when I don't want my horses dropping hay in their dry lots after a hard rain.  I have also mixed them in with a couple of handfuls of senior feed for our 24-year-old gelding . . . on days when it's really cold out . . . for a mid-day snack along with his hay. 

So when I decided to give Joey a handful of these last night, instead of a new low-carb grain I had been feeding him (which despite claiming to be low carb/starch smelled very sweet and had made Joey - who's already a high-strung animal, very hyper), I wasn't concerned about there being a problem.  He usually gets a handful or two a day in his stall or run-in, anyway, and I had never had any issues with him eating pelleted feed.

I thought hay pellets were a good idea instead of grain and in the interim while I looked for another grain alternative for him.  I added his regular 1/4 oz of biotin, 1 oz scoop of bran, and 2 oz of ground flax and added a little warm water to get the supplements to stick to the pellets.

You can only image my horror when 5 minutes later he was thrashing around the stall and appeared to not be breathing very well.  I knew it couldn't be colic . . . . Fortunately I have read about choke and did what I could.  I aggressively massaged Joey's throatlatch and upper neck area where the esophagus is located.  I did this for about 5-6 minutes.  When I saw some relief and he started to breathe more normally and chewed some, I administered a full dose of Banamine.

Within 10 minutes Joey was back to normal and resumed eating his evening hay.

Lesson Learned:  You can never be too careful.  I fault wetting the pellets, however, this is what you are supposed to do when feeding them to horses that have poor teeth.  I would now warn anyone who wets their pelleted hay pellets to make sure they have fully dissolved, which could take up to 20 minutes when soaked in warm water.

For me . . . I will probably NEVER feed anything more then a handful of pellets at a time and will scatter them in a feeder . . . . . NEVER again wetting them.

I was lucky and Joey was lucky that I always check my horses after they've been grained to make sure everything's OK and that they are eating a drinking normally.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Prepare Now For Winter Mud

We just got three inches of rain in 24- hours.  You would think my pens would be mud pits, but they're not.  I attribute this to my being diligent about picking up manure daily and raking up any uneaten hay.

I've also learned that if you don't stay on top of these two tasks you'll regret it once we get into the winter.
Here are some other tips for keeping mud under control in your pens:

  • Don't feed hay in pens, or if you do: feed only your best hay.  When horses eat all of the hay it won't get mixed in the dirt, which contributes to mud.
  • Consider feeding hay pellets in pens; horses don't waste these.
  • Position your feeders on the highest spot possible in a pen (this will help drainage away from the spot) and move periodically (this will give the spot a rest).
  • Pick up manure daily.  Manure mixed with dirt instantly creates mud when it rains.
  • Clean up hay and other bedding that gets drug out of run-in stalls into outdoor lots.
  • Create drainage pits in your pens and fill with sand in any other low spots (in front of doors and gates).
  • Monitor eating patterns.  We have a horse that likes to push his hay to the run-in opening and then outside.  Moving his hay to another spot in the run-in shed prevents him from rolling it outside and into the lot where it mixes with the dirt.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Distaste For Clinics . . . . .

I was recently reminded why I’m not fond of clinics.  Don’t get me wrong, I think there are a handful of good trainer clinicians out there .  . . ones that keep their training in context, consider each horse as an individual, and put the safety of the horse and rider first and foremost.  Julie Goodnight, Craig Cameron, and Chris Cox are among the clinicians that I believe meet all three of these criteria.

Others, I sometimes have to chuckle (although it’s not really funny) at what they present at their clinics . . . Usually my first question is WHY?  Are some of these exercises valid, and really something a horse and rider can add to their exercise regimen, or are they just something new to try to wow a tired audience that may have been coming to see them for years.  Or maybe it’s more for the clinician groupies who have attended every clinic with a particular clinician  . . . so that they feel like they’ve done something new – assurance that they will continue to return and pay big bucks for yet another weekend clinic. 

Unfortunately I suspect that several of these clinicians have crossed the line from being a horse trainer to acting like a guru.

My first bad taste of clinic came while attending a session at a large national equine expo.  I wished the presentation came with disclaimers as I worried how many green horse owners would go home with the clinician’s training stick (of course they were being sold at his booth) and try to teach their green or untrained horse how to disengage their hindquarters.  I could only image how few people would be successful, and the larger number that would get run over by their horse. 

My best advice regarding clinics is to save your money and put it toward lessons with a good, reputable horse trainer in your area.  One-on-one training, rather then being in the ring with a dozen or more other riders, is the best, and safest way to learn good horsemanship!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Back To School School Mean Putting Your Horse :Out To Pasture" Till Next year

It's that time of year . . . back to school for both K-12 and college.  For many of us it also means the end of our show season . . .

Although it's hard to find time to ride and condition your show horse when the fall school routine kicks in, it's beneficial to both you and your horse to continue with some sort of exercise and grooming regimen.

Maybe you don't have time to ride for an hour, but you can probably squeeze 15 minutes in on a lunge line or handwalking.  Maintaining muscle tone is crucial for performance  . . . .and it isn't fair to your horse to wait until one week before your first show next year to ride.

Grooming, especially for halter and showmanship horses is something that should be main-round if you want to have a good healthy coat and bloom.  Horses should still be groomed at least 2-3 times a week during the non-show season.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Just Because You Can Own A Stallion Doesn’t Mean You Should

I have been amazed at the number of stallions that have shown up this year at one of the discipline association circuits I show with . . .  

In recent years the number of stallions being shown has been low, mostly due to the sluggish horse economy and breeding.  I felt this wasn’t a bad thing as the stallions still being shown and promoted for the most part were good representations of their breed and were trained well and handled by experienced horsemen and women.

I’ve had to be somewhat amused to see so many (12 to be exact) at one of our state shows . . I’m assuming this is because there had been one or none in these classes . . . so anyone who had a stallion thought they could come and clean the division up.  It, however, became less amusing to see that for the most part these horses should not be kept stallions, nor should the people handling them own a stallion.

For the sake of everyone I wish people would use their heads.  Just because you CAN own a stallion, doesn’t mean you should.  

The only reason to keep a horse a stallion is for credible breeding purposes.  By credible I mean the stallion represents the breed well, has no unsoundnesses or vices, and there is a demand for his bloodlines.  In addition, it is only a service to our industry if the animal is trained properly and handled in a professional manner. 

Please share this with anyone you know who is thinking it is “cool” to have a stallion.  It will be safer for all of us and better for our horse industry . . . .

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Difference Between Making Hay & Making "Good" Hay

Last week when we finally wound up making the last of our first cutting hay I was reminded of the difference between people/farmers who make hay and those of us who make "good" hay.

The drought of 2013 definitely brought out the worst in those who just make hay . . .

In our struggle to get up our first cutting (between rain every day or two), we had an abundance of hay because we went well into June to get our fields cut.  The surplus allowed me to meet both a hay buyer and another farmer that we brought in to cut two of our fields on shares.

My hay buyer literally begged up for anything else we had.  He told me horror stories of the hay he purchased last year that had sticks, huge thistles, leaves and everything else in the bales.  He and his wife drove 40 miles each way three separate times last week to buy the overflow from our fields.  He even told me he would wait out the summer in hopes that we would sell more after we get our second cutting.

Making good hay is an art and I learned from the best: my dad.  Few people are willing to do what he did to make good hay, and what I do to get ours up dry and weed free . .

In addition to fertilizing in the spring and fall and weed control throughout the year, I religiously pull weeds (any that have been missed by other forms of weed control), in the days leading up to dropping our hay.  Then I will walk the fields once the hay is down and pull out anything I may have missed.  One of our fields borders a woods, so I make sure to pull out leaves, sticks, and other things that may have fallen into the windrows.

Once our hay is cut I also check all of the rows for large clumps left by the haybine.  These are a bear to dry out if they aren't forked up and spread out.  Last, but not least, if there are every any heavy sections or parts of the fields that tend to not dry as fast as the other rows, I literally hand turn and check the windrows through that area.

When our farmer that came in and did two of our fields on shares (we only did this as a means to get our hay down in the 3-4 days we had between rain storms) I was reminded how most guys make hay: fast.  He sped through the fields mowing at top speed and left numerous clumps that he said he wasn't worried about.  (I was and spent and hour spreading them out so they would dry).  Then they skinned the heck out of my fields by running the rake too low . . . which also kicked up roots and dirt into the windrow.  These guys may be able to brag that they put up 10,000 bales a year, but again there's a difference between making hay and making "good hay".

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Politics Of Horse Showing

For anyone who shows we all know the politics that go on in and out of the show pen . . .

Over the years I have been involved in several show organizations and seen them thrive and then shrivel into non-existence.  The reason, for the most part, has been politics.

Some might argue that currently the economy is the biggest killer of attendance at horse shows.  While this is somewhat true, I believe the last straw is and always will be the politics that surround the competitive environment of horse showing.

While I don't  like it, I have grown to accept the unwritten code of judges tying trainers over the average Joe in the show ring.  It's just what it is.  Not fair, but the little guy can hardly buck the system. 

What I really can't accept, though, is blatant disregard for a show association rules for certain individuals.

Several years ago I started showing an association where excessive silver on tack and bling on show clothes was not allowed and would result in a DQ.  Many who got involved with the association did so because they felt the horse should be judged instead of the tack and attire.

Last weekend at one of our state shows I was shocked to see several riders attired in clothing and using tack that was in clear violation of the rules in our national rule book.  When this was pointed out to show organizers the comment was made that one the exhibitors was "so and so's daughter".  I merely thought, OK, here we go again. 

The handwriting is already on the wall, I believe.  When you stop following the rules and making exceptions for certain people, you may keep those people happy but will lose others . . . .

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Reactions To Vaccines

I urge anyone who has had a horse react from their vaccines to take the related survey at

Once again, despite splitting up my horses’ vaccines and having half done in one visit and the rest in a second visit two weeks later, my horses had reactions.  Two of the horses had snotty noses and stopped eating.  The third, stocked up on her hind legs for 3-4 days.

Again, I have looked over recent information put out by various equine health organizations and veterinarians regarding the side-affects of vaccines.  Most claim reactions are rare, however, I suspect otherwise.  Either the combination of multiple serums into one shot is the reason for the number of times I have had horses react, or it’s the carrier in the vaccine.

Last year I heard of many other horse owners having horses react, yet it appears that the drug companies have not done anything to change their vaccines.

The results of this survey will be presented by Good Horsekeeping to both the vaccine manufacturers and to the pertinent equine veterinarian organizations.  In addition to taking part in the survey, you can also email me at

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Know Your Horse's Normal

The magazine The Horse has a great article on Knowing Your Horse’s Health in the May issue . . . and urge everyone to read this piece and to pay better attention to their horses.

I can’t stress the importance of knowing what is normal for your horse both in vital signs (temp, pulse, respiration, and capillary response of the gums), but also behavioral things like drinking water after grain, calling for you when you come home for work, etc.

If I had not known these, and had not know what was normal and not right for my mare, Bees (the one featured on the home page of our website ) she would not be with us today.  After 8 long weeks of working with two vets (one of which as recently as last week urged me to put her down and was the same vet that I blame for being aggressive enough with a diagnosis/treatment and for only offering the option of putting her down), Bees appears to be on the road to a full recovery. ***Please see earlier post for initial story.

In my 40 years of horse ownership this has been the biggest test of my will and of my gut instincts.  Seeing Bees trotting again and walking almost normal is better then any award we have ever won.  It took everything I had in me to take care of her from hand feeding her and watering her in those early weeks when she laid down for 10-12 hours at a time to getting only 4-5 hours sleep for the past five weeks so I could break up her meds and feeding regimen as a means to prevent colic and ulcers.

The x-rays last week showed minimal rotation and now after being one-week on an antibiotic (for what my original vet thought was a shoe boil . . . . even though I said is was way beyond a shoe boil when Bee’s entire forearm, chest, and leg swelled up), she has dramatically turned around.  I pushed for the antibiotic feeling in the back of my mind there had been some kind of weird infection that caused her original lameness and possible case of laminitis.

The message I want every horse owner to get from my hard and horrible experience is to know your horses, pay attention to them.  Although I do, and know when they even have a hair out of place, I fault myself for not getting a second opinion earlier.   Don’t be afraid to question your vet, and if you think you need a second opinion, get it!  When I finally called in another vet, Bees had a fighting chance . . . .Although with the new vet’s help and my tenacity of believing something else was going on besides laminitis, she’s alive today.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Making Sense Of All Of The Horse Care Information Out There . . .

The  past 6 weeks has been very insightful regarding all of the horse care information out on the web . . . . as I continue to treat and care for my laminitic mare, Bees.  Nearly everything I have researched from the meds the vet prescribed to some of the herbal remedies has been met with contradictions . . .

It's frustrating enough to read studies and articles from credible equine professionals that can't agree on protocols or medicines for treating common equine ailments . . . .then go to some of the forums and discussion groups and you really want to pull your hair out trying to figure out what might work.

It doesn't even seem like anyone can agree on whether or not you reduce swelling with heat or with cold compresses!!!  Very frustrating as I've been dealing with some secondary things that have cropped up from my mare's convalescence, which most recently has been a large shoe boil.  Yesterday I spent over one hour trying to decipher the best way to treat it.  Some said cold washes and DMSO, others said heat, others said leave it alone, while even others said drain it . . .

About the only thing there seemed to be agreement on is the use of a shoe boil boot to protect the elbow when the horse lies down.

Finally, I decided once again to follow my gut on the treatment.  I used a bag of frozen green beans as cold compress to get some of the heat out of the boil, and applied some Arnica to the swelling, and put a rear shipping boot (turned backwards) on the leg so that the lower flare of the boot covers the hoof.  It looks better this morning.
So I guess the bottom line here remains:  do your research, make sure Internet sources are credible, and whenever in doubt, follow your own instincts.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Picking Up The Pieces . . . . My Mare Is Alive, But Will Pay The Price For Not Calling Another Vet . . .

It’s been four weeks of pure hell!!  By the grace of God, my mare, Bees (the one featured on the homepage of is alive, but will probably never be shown again and it’s too early to judge the damage caused by what probably was founder.

I write this to prevent anyone else from going through this.  In my opinion founder and colic are two things that vets NEED to be proactive with.  If an owner, especially one like myself with 40 years of horse experience says it looks like something  . . . regardless of there not being the classic signs, it probably is.

To say I’m mad as hell, would be an understatement.  I previously had a foundered horse . . . one with 12 percent rotation.  I know what the classic signs are; I pulled that horse through two bouts with founder and I managed to keep her sound for 20 years.

When Bees seemed a little sore around Valentine’s Day, after weeks of frozen ground and ice here in southwest Michigan, I didn’t sit back and just wait and see.  My blacksmith immediately came out and checked her (she does have thin soles and has had minor sore feet issues in the past).  He ruled out anything other then the hard ground and we put shoes on with snow pads.  She stepped away great and moved like normal for the next day.  When she seemed to back slide a little and I felt a slight digital pulse . . . I called my vet.  Initially he wanted me to wait and see.  However, I insisted (being hypersensitive about founder) and said I would feel better if he checked her and paid for the emergency call.  In his opinion she was just sore and didn’t show the classic signs of founder.  Give her time, he told me and soak her feet in case there’s an abscess. 
That’s what I did.  When she continued to get worse I had him out two additional times. . . .with my blacksmith being out of town for a week he said we would wait till he was back to pull the shoes.  Upon my instance during the second visit I pleaded with him to leave me what he would prescribe for laminitis.  He did, but still felt she wasn’t foundering.

In that week I questioned whether I should call in another vet.  Several of my professional horse peers told me I needed to trust my vet, and that I shouldn’t undermine him by calling someone else.  After all, he has been practicing for more then 25 years, just built a new, state-of –the art clinic, and had always been good about coming out on farm calls.  Normally I probably would have said “to hell with it” and called another vet, but knowing that Bees is very difficult to work with (she had some former training abuse, which causes her to be very anxious around new and strange people), I decided to take their advice . . .   BIG MISTAKE!

By the second week she could hardly stand . . . . An emergency meeting was set up with my blacksmith and my vet.  My poor blacksmith nearly cried when he saw her.  When the shoes were pulled off and my vet determined there were no abscesses he suggested we put her down, because she had foundered!
For the next 15 minutes we stood with her in our hay barn . . . as my blacksmith and I saw her look more relieved from having the shoes pulled, my vet tried to convince me that the right, and humane thing was to put her down.

With a song and a prayer, I uttered “I have to give her 24 hours”.   I wasn’t sure at the time if I did the right thing, but I had to give her at least that much time.

That night we took the boards down between two of our stalls that open into a dry-lot pen.  I set up small hay and water stations so she didn't have to move that far to eat and drink.  I have been on a constant vigil since then . . .spacing out her medicine and Bute to help prevent stomach problems from all of this.  If she’s lying down, I take her water (and yes, she does drink).

Please pray for us.  She’s 200 percent better then she was.  At least she’s standing fairly good (most of the time), alert, eating, drinking, and pooping.  God Bless.  And seeing her alive, is better then any blue ribbon she has ever won.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Spring Is Oficially Less Then Two Weeks Away!

As much as I'm anxious for spring after having 8 weeks of heavy snow, ice, and hard (frozen) ground, I'm not sure what it holds for me . . .

We've been struggling or the past 10 days with my show mare, Bees, and her sore feet.  Initially we thought it was brought on by the hard frozen ground and put shoes back on with snow pads. Our vet initially ruled out founder and only detected a slight sensitivity in one hoof.

Don't know.  The past few days have been tough.  It's hard to see her so unstable when she gets up . . . .I'm having the vet out again today for another exam.

I've never really seen anything like this in my 40 years of horse ownership.  Still not sure there might have been a stroke/seizure involved . . . although my vet says no.

Please keep  us in your thoughts . . . .God Bless to all, and I hope spring comes soon or everyone.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fewer & Fewer Breeders Spells Trouble For Horse Industry

Last week a read Western's Horsemen's current issue that addresses the state of the horse breeding aspect of the horse industry.  It pretty much confirmed what we've been seeing for the past couple of years: a drastic downturn in foal crops, small breeders, and now large, longtime mare and breeding operations scaling down to help reduce their costs.

Coincidentally my vet was out Sunday to check on my sore-footed mare . . . and when I asked if he had had any foals this year he told me "one" and that was the only one for this year.  He then told me he'd sold off several of his broodmares last fall to cut back on expenses. I was a little surprised.  At the same time it's a real attest to the state of the horse industry:  we're not talking about losing the backyard horse person, or even the recreational horse owner: when professionals are cutting back to lower their costs we can't deny that the horse business is in real trouble.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Proposed Gas Tax Increase Will Be Bad For Michgan's Horse Industry

As if the horse industry in our state hasn't taken a big enough hit between our high unemployment, and last year's drought and hay shortage . . . .now our governor is talking about increasing the tax on gasoline by 35 cents.  That's a lot.  And while I agree that our state needs to find some extra funding to help repair our terrible roads, the gas tax will really hurt the horse industry.

Already people here are struggling to keep their horses - either from suffering a downsize in their income, or the increase in feed costs . .  .  .and for may- it's both.

The gas tax will not only affect the cost of hay next year, but will also affect many who show.  We're already seeing fewer people willing to haul to shows more then one-hour from their home.  Adding 35 cents to a gallon will make it even tougher to justify traveling to very many out-of-town equine evemts.

I urge everyone to contact their state representative and tell them this increase will hurt both the horse industry and our state's ag community.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Horses Are Starting To Shed . . . .

Hopefully Mr. Groundhog was right in his prediction last weekend that Spring will be early . . . .

As we await another winter storm today here in the Midwest that's expected to merge with another storm for those of you who live on the East Coast I find some comfort in the sighting of one of my horses starting to shed!

Yes, it's true.  As I finished lunging Joey, my 6-yr-old AQHA (an abbreviated session as the footing was not good with our 12+ inches of snow) I rubbed his forehead and was surprised to see white hairs falling out of his blaze.  Horses are always a good indicator of the weather to come.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Wholesome Ads Still Are In Favor With Americans

It has been great to see the reviews this morning of the Super Bowl ads, as well as the tweets, praising the "Brotherhood" Budweiser Clydesdale ad, and the Dodge Ram " So God Made A Farmer" spot.

It goes to show that sex doesn't always sell.  We still want to see emotion, gratitude, and a connection with nature . . . . despite our high-tech society.

These companies should be commended for giving those of us who love God, farming, and horses something to really feel good about!!!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Watch For Hypothermia When Temps Drastically Drop

With the drastic swing in temperatures horse owners need to keep a close eye on their horses to help prevent hypothermia.  Go to to read more about prevention . . .

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Who Will Name The Budweiser Foal?

I'm looking forward to the Super Bowl - in particular, seeing the Budweiser commercial . . . .

It's always fun to see the commercials that feature their Clydesdales.  My favorite is still the one where the young horse aspires to be like its peers and practices kicking the football.  This year's appears to have great emotional appeal - featuring a colt and prompting views to name him.

"Little Bud", anyone?-->

Monday, January 28, 2013

January Thaw Can Be a Horseowner's Nightmare

While it always seems nice to hear of a 60 degree day in the middle of winter, most longtime horseowners (especially those who keep their own horses) will tell you its a nightmare.  Mud and wet coats (which lend itself ti cases of rain rot, etc.) are some of the problem . . . .  Even worse is the swing in temperatures, which can be tough for horses with arthritis and can throw mares off with their cycles.

I would just as soon have it stay in the 20s then this.  We spent the weekend cleaning up our hay barn so the area I have to either hand walk our horses, or to ride a small circle, is larger.  By the end of the week when temps drop back into the teens - this will be the only option for working horses around here.  Cement hard ground outside (which it will be after all of this rain and then a 40 degree temperature drop) is a sure recipe for sore feet . . . and a good reason to think more about building an indoor arena.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

It's Soooooo Cold Outside!

Winter is finally here for us in southwest Michigan.  The sub-zero temps and wind chills don’t bother me much, actually I’ve looked forward to having a couple of these days -when I’m not tempted to ride or work horses.  Still, chores take more time . .  . shuffling horses so everyone gets some time outside, keeping the run-in doors dug out, and monitoring water pails.  Fortunately, we have hot water in the barn, which we add to our horses’ pails every couple of hours.  It keeps our pails from freezing and keeps our horse drinking – something that’s very important in the winter so horses don’t colic.