Category Archives: Misc Equine Topics

4 Low-Tech Ways to Fight Frozen Water Troughs

By Kelly Munro

Frozen stock tanks and water troughs in our paddocks and pastures not only pose a dehydration risk to horses, they create a lot of extra work for us. In order to keep fresh water available to our horses at all times, we are constantly breaking and removing ice, hauling hot water from the barn, or installing costly electric systems.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an easy and inexpensive, low-tech way to eliminate or at least reduce this burden? Well, good news! Here are some simple #barnlifehack tricks that do a surprisingly good job of keeping the water ready to drink, even in the single digits, without constant management.

1: The Floating Object

Just as a river rarely freezes compared to a lake, moving water stays liquid longer. How can we use that to our advantage without leaving a hose running all night long? The answer is as simple as placing some large floating objects in our stock tanks.

A basketball, tennis ball, or other non-sinking object bobs and floats around in the water, agitating the surface and making it difficult for an ice skin to form over the top of the tank. Plus there’s an added benefit in really cold weather! If an ice skin does manage to form, the floating object creates a weak spot in the ice that your horse can more easily break by pushing down on the ball to create a drinking hole.

Be careful that the object you use isn’t imparting a funny flavor to the water or scaring your horse away from drinking deeply. If you don’t see horses comfortably approaching the trough, stay with them and use treats and kind words to show them that the new floating objects are safe to drink next to.

2: The Salt Water Bottle

An old cowboy trick is to fill milk jugs, or other sealed plastic containers, with salt water and place a few in the stock tank. Saltwater has a lower freezing point than freshwater and tends to stay liquid even in the coldest weather.

In fact a water to salt mixture of about 3:1 won’t freeze until around -5 Fahrenheit. That’s the cold! So a saltwater bottle can easily last all night in the single digits without freezing.

But what good does this really do? While this scientific property of saltwater is fascinating, it’s not actually particularly useful to us since horses can’t drink saltwater, and freshwater freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit no matter what.

Does this bottle of unfrozen saltwater make it warmer in the tank water? No! The temperature of the liquid saltwater is just as cold as the freezing freshwater. The idea that the proximity to the saltwater somehow keeps the freshwater from freezing is a myth. However, the floating bottle does agitate the surface which helps prevent and ice skin from forming and horses can push the bottle down with their nose to break a hole in the iced over tank.

Myth busted? Well, sort of… the saltwater bottle does work well to prevent stock tanks from icing over, but not necessarily because of the salt. It works in the same way as any floating object would, by agitating the surface of the water. A partially filled saltwater bottle does float especially nicely in the tank and is more difficult for horses to remove than a lighter bottle.

3: The Insulated Side Walls

Insulating the sides of our water tanks can keep them warmer which delays or prevents freezing. How does this work? Heat is lost from your horses’ water to the surrounding atmosphere primarily via the principle of conduction. Heat energy is transferred from the warmer substance to an adjacent cooler one where they are touching. In our case, the air is cooler than the water as temperatures drop outside – at night, for example.

On the side walls of the stock tank, the air first touches the material of the stock tank and heat transfer occurs between those two media. Then the heat transfers between the water and the walls of the tank. Some materials are more conductive than others. For this reason, a plastic stock tank freezes more slowly than a metal one.

To prevent this type of heat loss through the sides of your water vessel, you can insulate it to create an even slower transfer of heat to the surrounding air. There are insulated buckets available to purchase. You can wrap the tank in foam, partially bury it in dirt, manure, or bedding, or use large tires filled with spray foam to surround a round bucket or tank. The tire and foam materials are not very conductive and the black tires warm easily in the sun creating more heat to hold in.

In your efforts to insulate, be careful that there is nothing a horse could get trapped in or easily ingest and that no sharp edges were created. Drink responsibly!

4: The Floating Lid

This is the same principle as putting on a hat to keep from losing heat from the top of your head. You can do this with your horse’s water by using a floating piece of foam the size and shape of your vessel to insulate the surface of the water from direct contact with the air, which prevents heat loss much like a pool cover.

When the horse pushes his curious nose on the floating foam, it sinks a bit and water flows over the top for him to drink. Some commercially available foam water covers even have a bowl shape in the top that water pools in for easy drinking. If you are making your own, be sure to use a stronger structural foam that is difficult to damage by biting. You don’t want your horse ingesting little bits of styrofoam or other material as he plays with the water.

Alright, technically this is just two low-tech methods for keeping your horse’s water available to him in freezing conditions: agitation and insulation. To recap, you can try to prevent the ice from skinning over by agitating the surface with a floating object, or you can insulate your water to prevent conductive heat loss. Within these two principles are many ways to accomplish your goals, so be creative and have fun designing your own #barnlifehack that will keep your horse watered and your chore list short!

How to Check Your Horse’s Gut Sounds

https://www.proequinegrooms.com/tips/health-and-well-being/how-to-check-your-horse-for-gut-sounds

Fecal Water Syndrome

My senior Belgian Draft mare has a chronic condition where her stools are relatively solid but after having a stool, she passes fecal liquid separately, Her tail and hind end, and legs are covered. Initially when she came to me she had loose stools and the vet did a fecal and we put her on Biosponge. Her Fecal Sample showed minimal infestation and the Biosponge did not do much. Over time, her stools became more solid but the liquid continued. Now, after being with me for about 6 months we are still having this issue.

So, I did some research and came across an article on something I had never heard of before- Fecal Water Syndrome. According to an article on SmartPak.com, Fecal Water Syndrome is typically caused by the following;

The underlying cause of FWS in horses is not known at this time and there are many theories as to why some horses develop it. A group of researchers in Germany set out to explore some of the proposed theories and discovered that neither dental disease nor a heavy parasite burden seemed to be associated with FWS. However, it was found to be more likely to occur:

  • in horses of low rank or “pecking order” in the social hierarchy of a herd
  • in winter when subordinate horses were confined to a smaller space, leading to anxiety
  • in geldings vs mares, which are usually more dominant than geldings
  • in paint horses

However, the article also noted that due to FWS being a relatively new diagnosis, more studies are needed to look at the role stress, nutrition, and potentially, other factors in the development and management of FWS.

Diagnosis of FWS

Most veterinarians approach the diagnosis of a horse with FWS similar to one with diarrhea or loose stool. That is, they start by taking a thorough history from the owner, then perform a complete physical examination with special emphasis on the digestive system, and finally may recommend specific tests to evaluate the health of the horse in general and the GI tract in particular. It can be helpful to confirm the presence of soiled hind limbs and tail as well as dirty stall walls and bedding. While on the farm, the vet may want to walk through the regular feeding and management programs including turnout and herd status.

Treatment and Management of FWS

Although there is no standard treatment or set of recommendations for the care and feeding of horse suffering from FWS, all potential causes for disruption in the GI system should be addressed, including social stress.

  1. Making adjustments to the horse’s turn-out time and group.
  2. Making adjustments to the diet (with the input of a veterinarian and nutritionist.)
  3. Trying out various medications and supplements one at a time on the passage of fecal water. For example, adding omega 3 fatty acids for a normal inflammatory response in the gut, and to the stabilizing effects of “baker’s yeast” or Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
  4. Make sure to keep the hindquarters clean and dry to prevent any sores for forming.

Building Your Own Barn

We are beginning to build a barn on our property!!! While it is super exciting, there is much more to the process than I could ever imagine. I will be updating my site throughout the process. Below are some helpful resources along with the plans/lay-out for our barn.

Resources:

http://www.stablewise.com/construction.html

https://www.buildingsguide.com/faq/how-much-does-storage-horse-barn-cost/

https://practicalhorsemanmag.com/lifestyle/build-horse-barn

https://www.wickbuildings.com/blog/a-dozen-tips-for-building-horse-stalls-and-barn-storage-space/

Plans for a 6 Stall Barn

The Most Wonderful Gift For Any Animal or Horse Lover

I love these little mini (3×3) portraits I had done by the super talent artist, Alex Birchmore! I now have all of my horses and donkeys painted and framed in my home. Alex captures the soul of the animals she paints and her prices are amazingly inexpensive (~ $33.00/ per). She is also great at combining photos to paint the absolute perfect depiction of your pet.

You can find her Etsy store at https://www.etsy.com/shop/AlexBirchmoreArt

Does Your Horse Need Electrolytes?

By. Casie Bazay

It’s summer, aka the sweatiest time of the year. Hooray!

And while sure, there are things to enjoy (like swimming, ice cubes, and air conditioning), outdoor activities such as barn chores and riding often leave us reaching for a Gatorade. But what about our horses? Do they need the equine equivalent of a sports drink full of electrolytes too?

First off, let’s discuss what electrolytes are exactly and a little bit about how they function in the body. Electrolytes are minerals that help to regulate many bodily processes. The main ones include Sodium (Na), Chloride (Cl), Potassium (K), Magnesium (Mg), and Calcium (Ca).

In solid form, electrolytes bond into salts (such as sodium chloride) but when dissolved in water, they break down into individual ions, which carry a positive or negative charge. These charges allow them to conduct electricity and assist in electrochemical processes such as regulating heartbeat and muscle contraction.

But wait, electrolytes do more! They also aid in moving fluids in and out of cells and help the body to absorb nutrients. Without electrolytes, the water your horse drinks cannot be properly retained or utilized by the body.

In short, electrolytes are super important.

Like us, horses lose electrolytes through sweat, urine, and feces. Most of these minerals are replaced when your horse consumes grass, hay, and/or feed, with the exception being sodium and chloride, which should always be supplemented with either a salt block or loose salt.

So let’s get back to the question at hand: do horses need added electrolytes in the summer?

The answer depends on how much they’re sweating. If your horse sweats for a prolonged period of time, either because of high temperatures and/or humidity, intense exercise, or all of the above, electrolyte losses can be high and therefore will need to be supplemented.

This goes for endurance horses and those competing in three-day eventing or possibly long-distance trail riding. Electrolyte supplementation is also a good idea if a horse is being shipped long distance in hot weather and for those with Cushing’s disease who may sweat more just standing in the pasture.

How to feed electrolytes

Electrolytes can generally be supplemented in feed, added to water, or in paste or gel form. After a period of prolonged sweating, it’s recommended that electrolytes be provided for several days to make up for losses. You can even give electrolytes to your horse before a big event if you know he’s likely to be sweating a great deal. Continue to give electrolytes during the event as well.

When looking for an electrolyte supplement, make sure that sodium chloride is first on the list of ingredients, followed by potassium chloride. Many electrolytes are sugar-based and while horses may prefer them, they aren’t as effective.

With that said, it’s not a good idea to over-supplement with electrolytes, especially if your horse isn’t sweating much as they may irritate the digestive tract or even throw your horse’s mineral balance out of whack.

Many horses won’t need electrolytes at all in summer, but if your horse does, remember to supplement wisely! 

What’s In Your Tack Trunk?

Equine First Aid Kit
All horse owners should have an equine first aid kit & know how to use all of the supplies. At least twice yearly, examine & replenish outdated supplies. Store your first aid kit in your home or temperature controlled space. Leaving it in a trailer or uninsulated tack room will quickly degrade the supplies. Talk to your veterinarian about customizing your first-aid kit for your horse’s particular needs.

FUNDAMENTALS
Thermometer, Mercury or Digital
Stethoscope (good quality)
Headlight (good quality)
Proper Fitting Halter & Lead Rope
Latex Gloves (12)
Watch or Timepiece with Second Hand
BASIC EQUIPMENT
Bandage Scissors
Suture Scissors
Tweezers or Forceps (smooth jaws)
Non-Sterile Gauze – 4″x4″ Squares (1 package)
Conform® or Kling® Gauze 4″ (2 rolls)
Elastic Adhesive Bandage (Elasticon®) 3″ (2 rolls)
Cohesive Bandage (Vetrap®) 4″ (2 rolls)
Non-Adhesive Wound Dressing (Telfa® pads) 3″x4″ (2) & 3″x8″ (2)
Povidone Iodine (Betadine®) Solution (4 oz)
Antiseptic Scrub, Chlorhexidine or Povidone Iodine (Betadine®) Scrub (4 oz)
Sugardine
Small Plastic Containers for Mixing or Storage (2)
Wound Lavage or Cleaning Bottle, Saline (250 ml)
Tongue Depressors (6)
Alcohol Wipes (10)
Spray Bottle for Water (1)
Paper Towels (1 roll)
Multi-Purpose Tool, Leatherman® or Equivalent
Cotton Lead Rope (3/4″ – 1″ in diameter)
Electrolytes (paste or powder)
Fly Repellent Ointment (1)
Heavy Plastic Bags (2 – gallon & 2 – pint size)

SECONDARY EQUIPMENT
Cotton, Rolled Sheets, Leg Cottons (2)
Standing Wrap & Quilt or Shipping Boots
Easy Boot or Equivalent in Appropriate Size
Baby Diapers (2) (size 4 to 6 depending on hoof size)
Triple Antibiotic Ointment (1 tube)
Extra Halter & Lead Rope
Lariat
Syringe 35 cc (1)
Syringe 12cc (3)
Syringe 3 cc (3)
Syringe 3cc with 20gauge needle (3)
Syringe – 60 cc cath tip (2)
Needles – 18gauge – x 1.5″ (4)
Needles – 20 gauge – x1.5″ (4)
Eye Wash, Saline (1 bottle)
Opthalmic Ointment or Drops (1 bottle or tube)
Magnesium Sulfate, Epsom Salts (1 package)
Duct Tape (1 roll)
Clippers with #40 Blade (good quality)
Shoe Puller
Crease Nail Puller
Hoof Pick
Hoof Knife
Hoof File, Rasp
Clinch Cutters
Farrier’s Driving Hammer
Collapsible Water Bucket
Ice Wraps
Twitch
Bute Banamine Bordered

Talk to your veterinarian about dispensing a few medicines that you may use in an emergency. In most, if not all states, a veterinarian cannot legally dispense prescription items without a valid Veterinary Client Patient Relationship (VCPR). 

• Flunixin Meglumine (Banamine®) (injectable or paste)
• Phenylbutazone, Bute Paste (1)
• Trimethoprim-Sulfa Tablets SMZ-TMP in small container (75#)

Work Horse Won’t Move Forward?!

I decided to get on Tilly and see how she was under saddle.  

The saddle fit nicely and I chose a bit-less bridle. Tilly was calm throughout tacking her up and getting on her back. One hiccup….she would not respond to my leg or move forward at all. My friend decided to lead her and Tilly walked easily forward. I decided to end with that for the day. A few days later I got on her back again. Same thing happened- she would just stand there. Small spurs, leg, a crop (which I hit gently against my leg)…none of them worked. I was frustrated despite it not being my sweet girl’s fault so I ended our ride. I knew nothing could be accomplished with me being frustrated. I decided to do some research on work horses and posted on some Facebook forums about my situation. I received some awesome advice!

The advice I received is below.

“If she was used in harness you will probably have to use driving commands as you teach her.Walk on, or get up to go forward. Gee to turn right, Ha to turn left. May have to tap her hind quarter with the crop.”

“Get someone to lead her after you give her forward cues”
“She may never have been ridden, on driven. I would find a good trainer who works with starting horses, even though she’s not young. It will take months but if she’s started correctly she’ll be lovely and at her age will help to keep her sound once she begins to WTC, as driving horses only walk.”
Probably a driving horse. Try “Step up” or “walk on” look up the Amish terms. Gee, Haw, Gee around, Haw around, etc…See if that helps. If she was a driving or plow horse it also helps to hold your hands wider at first.”
“Patients little at a time he or she needs to know you love them first ground work is good he may be sore see if he’s stiff arthritis meds or joint supplements he may only know driving commands such a gee or has or come and get good luck”.
“Sounds like she hasn’t been ridden but is a good girl! She may need a bit in her mouth to understand what you are asking since she was driven. If she understands words, perhaps say them for what you want. Looks like others know those words better than me! I know my horse that logged has a nice “whoa”. Just can’t say “good boy” – sure, sounds like whoa! I saddled and sat on a driving horse, Belgian (no history known) with a leader for walk only. I felt that he was sore – even though there was no outward sign – perhaps the way he held himself. Not saying this is the case for you – just a thought. I like the other advice here as well!”
“I rescued my 18 year old boy in November 🙂 Same history as your mare. As workhorses, they were not trained to ride, and they don’t know the commands or how to respond to leg pressure or the bit (other than pulling). So you need to start with groundwork and then at the very beginning, because basically they are green. I do not use a crop on my boy. Never will.”
“I would never give her spur or crop. You don’t want to punish her for not understanding your cues.”
“My Belgian was not broke either but she did walk out just fine unlike your mare. Get a driving bit…that’s what she’ll be familiar with. Check all voice commands to see if she knows any of them. If not I’d teach her voice commands lunging her and then get back on once she’s responding well.”
“Because they came from Amish, a friend told me to learn the commands in that specific language (version of German). Worth a try. BUT, I will say, I have tried to avoid anything that would remind my boy of his previous owner.”
“Haw & Gee. These are commands used to ask what direction to turn by the horse by voice command. It works well when they’re in harness working. Gee means go right, haw means go left. The Amish use “step up” to take a step or two forward and “ walk on” to walk. “Whoa” to stop. Try these commands while mounted. Slowly add in the ques you want to use in addition to the verbal ques your mare already knows.”
“She might have never been used alone, which could mean she’s looking for a cue from someone else, (it would explain why someone needs to lead her) amish usually use a oring bit, she might do better with blinders at first, and she’s probably voice activated. She won’t have any clue about leg cues. Start ground driving her, she still might be a little confused being single but she figure it out. good luck.”
” when you are on her wanting her to go sometimes turning her to one side or the other where she has to step to move is a good way to start her momentum.”

When It’s Time

When It’s Time
— Read on horsenetwork.com/2020/06/when-its-time/

Living Her Best Life

In the evening I take Ottille for a walk and set her free. Her carefree happiness is palpable and her beauty takes my breathe away every time. I still can not fathom how anyone would work this sweet girl until she reached 17 only to send her to a slaughter auction. Welcome to the rest of your life, sweet girl! Like I promised the first day we met, you can trust me to take care of you the rest of your days. ❤️