Fall Founder

Fall is a tricky time of year, at least here in Montana. We have lovely cooler days with very chilly nights and mixed in there is some rain and even a little snow! All this is the perfect environment for those cool weather grasses to start growing again.

The above photo shows just how dry it’s been around here this summer. But hidden down close to the ground is this:

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This is the short green grass that REALLY packs a punch! Because it’s a cold weather grass it thrives in these cooler temperatures and does not use up it’s sugars during the night. So this grass can actually be deadly for some horses and will cause founder in others.

Dr. Getty has written a wonderful article that explains what is going on with both the horses and the grasses in the fall and you can find that HERE.

At least take the time to walk out into your pastures to see if you have this green grass growing right now… If so it might be time to lock the horses off the grass for a little while. Until the snow flies and we get a few good frosts!

Miniature Horse Hoofjack

A dear friend of mine and her family bought me a Hoofjack a few years ago as a thank you for helping them with their horse’s hooves. I LOVE that thing! It has significantly saved my back over the years working on Billy’s feet. Billy learned to really love it as well!

The Hoofjack was too big for the minis so I’ve been just holding their feet. However it is very difficult to be exact when trimming in this manner. Not to mention my back was killing me!! So I finally broke down and bought a miniature horse Hoofjack… It is adorable. I was surprised at how small it is! At first I wondered if it would be useful. But oh boy is it!!

Here it is next to Bonnie to give you a size reference…

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And her hoof in the cradle…

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Just another angle!

Bonnie did quite well with it. She didn’t have too much trouble adapting.

Sky was a little stinker but she quickly came around with some well timed carrot pieces!

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TaDa!!! Our new Miniature Horse Hoofjack!!

 

Hill Therapy

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I’ve started both girls on hill therapy. They are both over weight and need to bump up their exercise a bit. I am still starting them slow and easy because I don’t need any lame ponies. So for now they are trotting each direction for 2 minutes with a 1 minute rest between direction changes and after they are done. This one minute at the end gives me time to make up with Bonnie if she has gotten emotional.

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On a side note: I am so so proud of Bonnie! We were gone for 12 days straight when we went to Alaska to visit my best friend Teresa. Then I didn’t make it out to the ponies until the second day we were home. Only to check on their hay and water. I was so tired! But when I re-approached Bonnie was just as easy to catch as she was when I left. And the fly spray continues to be a non issue! Whoot whoot!! Slow and right beats fast and wrong. Every time.

Anyway, hill therapy. Hill therapy is very interesting and can help a horse really learn how to use it’s body. I did it with Billy with awesome results. I’ve changed it up a bit with the girls because I don’t have a hill. To start with I’ll have them trot over a couple of rails, two on each side of the circle. That’s been interesting as they both kind of trip over and trot ON them. So clearly they need to start to pay attention! Then I will move them onto jumping a jump, one on each side of the circle. I’ve started them slow and easy but they will work up 5 minutes each direction trotting or cantering with a 2 minute rest. Hill therapy looks like this:

  • Daily for the first week. By the end of the week I’ll have them up to 5 minutes
  • Then three times a week for the second week.
  • Then weeks 3-6, two times a week!

If you are doing this with a big horse you can’t ride them for this six weeks as they are changing their back muscles. It can make them quite sore and if you ride them you may injure their back or stop the good changes that can happen with this therapy! I don’t ride my minis of course and neither are driving right now. I can still take them for our walks so our schedule won’t change much. If I was driving them I would give them a break from pulling during this six weeks.

Bonnie is doing very well. She backs up beautifully. Her send needs some work as she wants to either freeze out there or come back in, bounding! But I am working on my body language to be sure she totally understands what I’m asking. She wants to be pleasing so if she doesn’t do something I’ve asked then I’ve asked her the wrong question or wasn’t clear.

Sky was interesting today. Last night when we did this she was so responsive and soft on the line. Today she was dragging her feet, breaking down into the walk, tripping all over the rails. I attributed all this to her feeling resistant to what we were doing. She would have rather just stood and ate the hay in the middle. I have hay there for them during our break. They can come in and have a little snack! I don’t want to be giving them lots of treats as they both need to lose some weight. This hay is not their favorite so they kind of munch on it.

I am so excited to see the changes in these girls over the next 6 weeks! This will be so great for Bonnie’s confidence. When I was doing this with Sky on the first direction, Bonnie was loose. When I asked Sky to back up, Bonnie went back so quickly and smoothly! When I stopped asking Sky, Bonnie stopped too. Then when I sent Sky out on the circle, Bonnie just stood there on the edge of it and watched the whole 2 minutes. It was so cute and I was bummed I didn’t get that on video! I think Bonnie will be a great liberty horse as long as I can convince her not to leave me!

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Feelings

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As I watch Bonnie go from scared to confident I’ve been thinking about her feelings. Natural horsemanship programs talk a lot about how the horse feels about what we are doing. Are they engaged and connected or do they feel like we are doing things TO them? That is the question I ask myself every time I DO anything with Bonnie.

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Don’t get me wrong. There are times I just have to do something to her so we can get something done. For instance if we are walking and she starts to have a little temper tantrum about the walking, then I will show her that her temper tantrum takes more energy than the walking. If you were watching this exchange I’m sure it would look like I’m doing something to her and not with her. And I know that she feels that way sometimes, but when she finds neutral again she immediately calms, finds relaxation, licks and chews and will even trot out and lead us down the road.

However there are many more times that I can help her through an issue by listening to how she is feeling and then waiting. Every single time I wait she will calm down and I can continue on. That did not happen at first! She gave me very few green lights. I started to get frustrated and knew that wasn’t going to help either one of us so I contacted my favorite Parelli Instructor and in so doing found out that we had actually moved forward by leaps and bounds! It’s funny how things can look so different when you are standing in the middle of it all. Obviously she had made changes and so had I… I just couldn’t see them until I made a video!

Today I gave the girls a bath. This was Bonnie’s second bath with me. Her first bath was all drama, running around in circles, snorting and striking at the water, spreading her legs wide and trying to leap away, sometimes leaping on ME! I would wait and give her time to think, but as soon as the water came near again she was on the move! That day I did not get frustrated and just took my time, but didn’t feel that we made any head way by the end. She did not get on board with my idea at all! Today everything was different! She stood quietly… not always calmly but she was actively searching for that calm feeling. She did not try to run away, she did not walk on me, she did not leap around. She. was. awesome. I swear I nearly burst with pride for her! She let me spray and spray her, I sprayed her legs, her belly, her girly area, her back, her butt, high up on her neck by her face and her chest. Everything. She took it all in stride.

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As I was bathing her I was thinking about how I’m sure she has had other baths in her life, before me. But the difference between those baths and the two she has had with me is that I was thinking about her feelings the whole time. I was trying to help her find peace and calmness within the bath. I was rewarding every try and every time she was calm. When you go about these simple tasks with that in mind it’s amazing how the horse will change and how much faster you can get through these simple tasks!! It’s so much easier to help a horse find calmness than to argue with them every time you need to give them a bath. Or spray them with fly spray. By the way. She stands perfectly every time I spray her with fly spray. I can spray her legs, her belly, her back, her neck… every where!!

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I had to put this one in! I love Sky’s face!!! She is always putting her nose up by my cheek so I can kiss it. Adorable.

Before & After

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Bonnie about a month and a half after I brought her home.

Bonnie came to me in seemingly good shape. She wasn’t fat at all. Her feet were not great and needed some TLC, but to just glance at her you would have thought she was healthy.

Now that she has been on the Crypto Aero feed for 75 days (2 months and 15 days) I can see that she wasn’t as healthy as I originally thought. I like my driving horses to have some body on them. She was thin, but didn’t have any muscle tone at all. After packing on some pounds (she’s a little fat!) she is starting to develop some muscle tone and is looking much healthier for it! It’s my opinion that people tend to keep their minis either too skinny or too fat. There are very few in the middle. Those that seriously drive their minis tend to keep them in better health. Because a thin mini can’t drive very far. Neither can a fat one!

I choose to manage weight with exercise instead of the starvation feeding program. So all of my minis are on the heavier side. However I believe this gives them a great place to start building muscle. The two girls and I walk 3-6 miles nearly every day right now. When I get Sky in cart we will trot 4-6 miles a day and both will slim down a bit but keep that round, blossoming look that I love so much!

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The photo on the left is before I trimmed her. Photo on the right is today. She was trimmed about a week ago. You can see all the new growth and how it is growing down from her coronet band in a healthy way. I wish I had grabbed this photo a bit further back so you could see how much healthier her heels are! No more underslung…

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Photo on the left is after her first trim. I was able to get all that long slipper foot off but she had a long way to go… photo on the right is from today, about a week after her last trim. What a long way we have come in a short time! I attribute this to Crypto Aero Feed and consistent trimming, plus lots and lots of exercise!

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Though at first glance most people would rather their pony look like the one on the left, however when you really get to looking at these two photos you can see just how round and blossoming Bonnie is now in the photo on the right. If I had asked her to stretch she still has that nice neck under there… But what I am loving is how round her shoulders are and how nice her butt is now. She is more balanced. I’m not too concerned about her neck. We aren’t showing after all and she will be able to stretch down and collect up when driving just fine. She is already doing this on our walks! I drive both the girls ahead of me down the road on one rein and Bonnie spends a lot of time stretching down and relaxing as we walk. Actually I should take another after photo now of her body as she has changed a bit more from all the exercise!

Sometimes we have to look a bit deeper and be willing to think outside of the box to understand just what makes a healthy horse. I write often about how I have my horses on 24/7 forage and just 1/2 a cup of Crypto Aero once a day. I truly feel I’m doing the best I can for my horses, keeping things as natural and close to nature as I can. And in so doing, I believe my horses reflect great health!

Easyboot Mini Hoof Boot

 

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The two girls and I have been walking about 4-5 times a week together for nearly two months. At the beginning I noticed that Sky was wearing her toes off a bit on the gravel road. She was a little tender on the rocks and as her toe wore down, more she got more tender. I started looking into the Easyboot Mini Hoof Boot. I wasn’t sure about them. They look so thick and heavy and awkward.

Then I remembered that my mom saved the little mini hoof boots I had specially made many, many years ago for a little stallion I had that was very tender on the gravel and pavement. I dug through my stuff and found them! With a little trimming I got them to fit Sky and she went down the road merrily after that.

This last week I noticed that Bonnie was getting quite sore on the rocks. She is a trooper and would just keep on truckin’ but she was gimping along. I trimmed her up and knew that she wasn’t going to be able to go out on the rocks without boots so I started looking into the Easyboot Mini Hoof Boot again. Again I thought they looked awkward. I could not find very much information about them anywhere on line. I googled miniature horse boots and found lots of pictures of minis wearing other types of boots but not many of these particular boots. I found photos of minis wearing the Easy Boot Epic style, but they don’t come quite small enough for my minis.

When I finally made up my mind I went to Valley Vet Supply to buy a pair of size 3 boots. Of course they were out of stock! I contacted Easy Care and they told me I wouldn’t be able to get a pair until the end of August! Well with only 4 days off Bonnie has gotten quite chubby again and I knew I couldn’t wait until then. I searched around and found a pair on eBay. Thank goodness! I had to laugh that I went from not really wanting a pair to frantically searching everywhere for some!

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They came in the mail yesterday and after unpacking them I was quite impressed! They are tiny. The soles are quite thick, but they are not heavy. In fact they are lighter than the other boots I have that Sky has been wearing. The uppers of the boot are very soft. I think they will squish down a little bit on the back of the boot under the pastern. That is where they come up a bit higher than I would like. They are very easy to put on and take off, yet they stayed in place perfectly on our walk with lots of trotting and Bonnie climbing around in the tall grass on our breaks. She was climbing up and down the steep hills along the road looking for the best grass to nibble on and the boots stayed on perfectly! And they didn’t fill up with rocks or get cheat grass stuck in them. I love that part!

I’m not sure how they would be in the water. They don’t have drain holes, so I think they would fill up with water and possibly rub. When I took them off I noticed a little rubbing just above the coronet band on the front of her feet. I may have to wrap that part of her feet with some vet wrap, but I’ll keep an eye on that area. It may have just been ruffled hair.

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Bonnie LOVED them! After the initial awkward feeling of having something on her feet (she walked lifting her front legs up really high at first! I tried to get it on video but could not manage both horses, the ropes and my phone at the same time… LOL) she walked right out. She did a lot of trotting, which meant I did a lot of jogging. All good for us! Her ears were up the entire time and she was licking and chewing and blowing out a lot. I could tell that she was very happy to be out and with all her forward, clearly the boots felt nice on her feet! We only walked 3 miles this morning… I will work her up to 4-6 miles while wearing the boots. Even their slight weight is more than she is used to. I don’t want to sore up her shoulders and back.

On our first day with the boots I have to say I really like them. I’ll keep you updated as we put more miles on them!

Bath Day!

All four ponies have been so dirty. They are all itchy and were in need of a bath! So I hooked my hose up to the washing machine water so I would have warm water and lined them all up.

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Everyone was so patient waiting for their turn. Sky was the best about it all. I also clipped up her mane as it was heavy and thick. I thinned it for her and then bathed her. She likes to be pretty.

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On the left is Sky’s before Crypto Aero feed photo taken on May 23rd. On the right is Sky today, 52 days after I started her on it!

Then I bathed Bonnie. She did great! She had her moments, but was a really good girl. She’s been having some issues so I have her on an oiling regiment. After her bath I oiled her up. She smelled so good.

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On the left is Bonnie’s before Crypto Aero feed photo. This is the photo I saw when I knew I had to bring her home! On the right is her after 43 days on the feed.

Next up was Zorro. It was his first bath. He was awesome! He was curious and a little gentleman about the whole thing.

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Photo on the left is Zorro before the Crypto Aero and the photo on the right is after 52 days of being on the feed!

Last up was Captain Planet! He is a good boy too. He wasn’t sure at first and then settled right down when the water spraying him was warm and not cold. I’m telling you, they appreciate the extra effort and I think they are cleaner when warm water is used!

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Photo on the left is Captain Planet before starting the Crypto Aero feed, the photo on the right is after 52 days on the feed!

The ponies are all looking so great on the Crypto Aero feed! I’m thrilled with it. It’s so easy, no mixing this and that for one pony and a different set of supplements for another. They all have access to loose white salt, fresh water and forage 24/7.

The girls have started walking with me in the mornings. I walk my dog about 4-6 miles a day. The girls are just starting so I’ve shorted my walk to about 2-2 1/2 miles. We’ll work up to 4-6 miles plus trotting poles! Then I’ll restart Sky in cart. Once she is driving again we can do miles and miles of trotting and Bonnie can tag along behind the cart and get exercise as well.

The boys run around all the time. Zorro is very active and pushes Captain into playing. They are so much fun to watch and get lots of exercise too!

Slow Feeders

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I have been using some form of a slow feeder for several years now. The entire time I had Billy he had feed 24/7. He had a slow feeder, a slow feed net and/or access to pasture.

Now that I have the minis I did not want that to change. Because I thoroughly understand the importance of a horse having access to forage all times of the day and night I knew I wanted that for my minis as well. I have three hay nets, the 70 pound bale nets to be exact.

Forage is the foundation of every equine’s diet and needs to flow steadily through the digestive tract. Gaps without forage can lead to ulcers, colic, behavioral issues, stall vices, gorging, choke, cribbing, and even laminitis. Truly, the only way to avoid these problems is to allow your horse steady access to forage, free-choice, all day and all night.

The Correct Way to Use Slow-Feeders by Julie Getty, Ph.D.

Horses produce 1.5 liters of stomach acid every hour. Regardless of whether they are eating or not, they are producing stomach acid. This stomach acid can be responsible for stomach ulcers. Saliva can help balance out the stomach acid. Saliva is only produced when the horse chews. So having hay or forage in front of them 24/7 solves this.

Having access to forage also helps with colic. Especially sand colic. It’s been found that having hay in their system will help push the sand out better than the traditional Psylliuym.

Horses in a natural setting eat small amounts of forage as they wander in search of the next tasty morsel. They eat virtually all day and night, taking time to socialize and rest every so often for a few minutes at a time. When they know that they always have access to forage, they become calm and relaxed, rest more often, and walk away from their hay, knowing that it will still be there when they return. In other words, they “self-regulate” and eat only what they need to maintain a healthy body condition.

The Correct Way to Use Slow-Feeders by Julie Getty, Ph.D.

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This is shot of my two dry lots. The mares have their own side in front and the boys have their own side in the back. Both dry lots are huge and encourage lots of movement!

It’s a common thought that horses using a slow feeder will be fat and lazy. If they are locked in a small area this is true! If they are not encouraged to move they will stand around and get fat. I am not a fan of using food restriction to manage weight. I think movement is the only way to regulate weight.

There are some horses, however, who gain weight very quickly when given forage free-choice. The reason has to do with the sluggish metabolic rate they’ve developed over time. When forage is parceled out only a few times a day, the horse responds by going into “survival mode,” where his metabolic rate significantly slows down in an attempt to conserve body fat. A cycle of ever-increasing obesity is created that can be reversed only through exercise and removing the hormonal fat-storing response that forage restriction creates.

The Correct Way to Use Slow-Feeders by Julie Getty, Ph.D.

I’ve been witness to people wanting to try the slow feeder, but not having the patience to wait for their horses to self regulate. This can take time if your horse has been used to the starvation diet of one, two or three meals a day. It takes consistency on your part to make sure they are never without hay in their slow feed nets because if they are out for even 10 minutes their brain will switch back into starvation mode and you have to start the process all over again.

They need to be refilled frequently (unless a whole bale size is chosen). Horses who run out of hay (even for 10 minutes) will never get the message that hay is always there and will not self-regulate.

The Correct Way to Use Slow-Feeders by Julie Getty, Ph.D.

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Another important point, from an equine body workers point-of-view, is to be sure your slow feeders are at ground level. Do not hang them so the horse has to reach up to eat. This is not natural for a horse and causes their jaws to misalign, as well as causing them to have to twist their head and neck when eating which causes the TMJ and the poll to go out. This is very painful and can definitely affect your horses attitude about being ridden or driven.

Chewing with the head low is more in line with the horse’s natural physiology, creating even pressure on the teeth and allowing the jaw bone to move freely in all directions. Furthermore, the muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments and bone structure are not stressed when horses can grab hay in a straight downward motion. Eating with their heads down also protects their eyes and respiratory tract against mold spores and dust and provides for better nasal drainage.

 The Correct Way to Use Slow-Feeders by Julie Getty, Ph.D.

My ponies look great having access to feed 24/7. They all got fat at first and then leveled out. Bonnie is still in the process of regulating, though she will walk away from the hay nets now and hang out. She and Sky can share a net without any food aggression at all. I am very pleased with how my ponies look and how calm they are about food.

Sky is a 13 year old mama. She hasn't been driven for about 7 years and has just been a pasture pet. I know that when I start driving her she will tuck back up again!

Sky is a 13 year old mama. She hasn’t been driven for about 7 years and has just been a pasture pet. I know that when I start driving her she will tuck back up again!

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Bonnie is a 4 year old easy keeper. She is still self regulating and will slim down when I start playing with her more.

Captain Planet is an 8 year old gelding who has always been a pasture pet. Even when he was on the "starvation" diet of two feedings a day he looked exactly like this! He has been on a slow feeder for over 2 years now.

Captain Planet is an 8 year old gelding who has always been a pasture pet. Even when he was on the “starvation” diet of two feedings a day he looked exactly like this! He has been on a slow feeder for over 2 years now.

Zorro is the baby. He is a yearling and in his awkward gawky stage right now. Every day his belly changes depending on how much he runs around that day!

Zorro is the baby. He is a yearling and in his awkward gawky stage right now. Every day his belly changes depending on how much he runs around that day!

I have at least two if not three hay nets out at all times. I will toss out a flake here and there too. They also have access to pasture for no more than 4 hours in the early morning hours. I get up at 4:30 to let them out and bring them in by 8:30 to ensure they are not out when it starts to heat up and the sugars make their way up the grass stem. They are fed 1/2-3/4 of a cup of Crypto Aero once a day, in the morning as well.

With some patience and education you can be successful at using a slow feeder for your horses too!