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. ❤️
National Day of the Horse
— Read on www.nationaldayofthehorse.com/celebrate.html
Tonight I lost my best friend, Chance. The one who whinnied the moment my car pulled up, would run away and wait for me to catch him only to turn around and run away again. He made me laugh, knew all my secrets and nuzzled me when I was sad. He taught me about unconditional love and having a positive attitude despite circumstances. He nodded when I asked if he loved me and gave kisses to get treats. He’s the 17.1 hand horse who would stand behind me and fall asleep as I did my school work and would get upset if any horse got near me but would never hurt a fly. He let children hug him and dogs run into his stall and let me dress him up with flowers. He loved rolling in the snow, laying in the sunshine, and would light up the moment he saw me. I’ll miss playing in the barn on cold nights and curling up reading in his stall when he wasn’t feeling well. I’m thankful that he waited for me to get there tonight to say goodbye so I could hold his head in my lap and talk to him while he passed. There will never be a sweeter horse with a more gentle and pure soul. Thank you, Bubba, for being with me through it all- high school, college, the break ups, the losses, the good and bad days. You gave one hell of a fight for 30+ years. Lucky and I will miss you- there will never be another you❤️ #myfavoriteredhead #chancewetake #20yearstogether #thebesthorseintheworld #myheart
The cuddliest donkey, water and a good book makes for a perfect Sunday.
I walked outside to sit on my porch and enjoy the evening, when I realized that the time is fast approaching where I can not longer do so without bundling up first. I decided it was time to get ready for the winter months ahead especially for my equine friends.
I have included articles, lists, resources, etc to help you make sure you and your horse are ready for the dropping temperatures!
Preparing Your Horse for Winter
By: Dr. Lydia Gray
Hot chocolate, mittens and roaring fires keep us warm on cold winter nights. But what about horses? What can you do to help them through the bitter cold, driving wind and icy snow? Below are tips to help you and your horse not only survive but thrive during yet another frosty season.
Your number one responsibility to your horse during winter is to make sure he receives enough quality feedstuffs to maintain his weight and enough drinkable water to maintain his hydration. Forage, or hay, should make up the largest portion of his diet, 1 – 2 % of his body weight per day. Because horses burn calories to stay warm, fortified grain can be added to the diet to keep him at a body condition score of 5 on a scale of 1 (emaciated) to 9 (obese). If your horse is an easy keeper, will not be worked hard, or should not have grain for medical reasons, then a ration balancer or complete multi-vitamin/mineral supplement is a better choice than grain. Increasing the amount of hay fed is the best way to keep weight on horses during the winter, as the fermentation process generates internal heat.
Research performed at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine showed that if during cold weather horses have only warm water available, they will drink a greater volume per day than if they have only icy cold water available. But if they have a choice between warm and icy water simultaneously, they drink almost exclusively from the icy and drink less volume than if they have only warm water available. The take home message is this: you can increase your horse’s water consumption by only providing warm water. This can be accomplished either by using any number of bucket or tank heaters or by adding hot water twice daily with feeding. Another method to encourage your horse to drink more in winter (or any time of the year) is to topdress his feed with electrolytes.
It may be tempting to give your horse some “down-time” during winter, but studies have found that muscular strength, cardiovascular fitness and overall flexibility significantly decrease even if daily turnout is provided. And as horses grow older, it takes longer and becomes more difficult each spring to return them to their previous level of work. Unfortunately, exercising your horse when it’s cold and slippery or frozen can be challenging.
First, work with your farrier to determine if your horse has the best traction with no shoes, regular shoes, shoes with borium added, shoes with “snowball” pads, or some other arrangement. Do your best to lunge, ride or drive in outside areas that are not slippery. Indoor arenas can become quite dusty in winter so ask if a binding agent can be added to hold water and try to water (and drag) as frequently as the temperature will permit. Warm up and cool down with care. A good rule of thumb is to spend twice as much time at these aspects of the workout than you do when the weather is warm. And make sure your horse is cool and dry before turning him back outside or blanketing.
A frequently asked question is: does my horse need a blanket? In general, horses with an adequate hair coat, in good flesh and with access to shelter probably do not need blanketed. However, horses that have been clipped, recently transported to a cold climate, or are thin or sick may need the additional warmth and protection of outerwear.
Horses begin to grow their longer, thicker winter coats in July, shedding the shorter, thinner summer coats in October. The summer coat begins growing in January with March being prime shedding season. This cycle is based on day length—the winter coat is stimulated by decreasing daylight, the summer coat is stimulated by increasing daylight. Owners can inhibit a horse’s coat primarily through providing artificial daylight in the fall but also by clothing their horse as the temperature begins to fall. If the horse’s exercise routine in the winter causes him to sweat and the long hair hampers the drying and cooling down process, body clipping may be necessary. Blanketing is then a must.
There are a number of health conditions that seem to be made worse by the winter environment. The risk of impaction colic may be decreased by stimulating your horse to drink more water either by providing warm water as the only source or feeding electrolytes. More time spent inside barns and stalls can exacerbate respiratory conditions like “heaves” (now called recurrent airway obstruction), GI conditions like ulcers, and musculoskeletal conditions like degenerative joint disease. Control these problems with appropriate management—such as increasing ventilation in the barn and increasing turnout time—and veterinary intervention in the form of medications and supplements.
Freeze/thaw cycles and muddy or wet conditions can lead to thrush in the hooves and “scratches,” or, pastern dermatitis, on the legs. Your best protection against these diseases is keeping the horse in as clean and dry surroundings as possible, picking his feet frequently, and keeping the lower limbs trimmed of hair. Another common winter skin condition is “rain rot,” caused by the organism Dermatophilus congolensis. Regular grooming and daily observation can usually prevent this problem, but consult your veterinarian if your horse’s back and rump develop painful, crusty lumps that turn into scabs.
I had the opportunity to work with a “horse communicator” today. She was recommended to me by an equine vet who, after reading my blog, felt that I would be open to the idea, and introduced me to her via email. According to the vet, she often works with this particular equine communicator due to her ability to point out exactly where the horse’s issues are, allowing the vet to adjust/manipulate/treat the main issue.
I chatted with her at length a few days ago as she explained the process and we scheduled an appointment.
Today I gave her a call, as she explained, connecting remotely allows for the horse to be in his natural setting without the influence of an unknown person. That way the horse could be relaxed and the owner can observe, ask questions, and engage. So, that is what I did. She went onto explain that sometimes the horse needs energy work in order to open up to the process and that the horse must trust the process, her, and obviously, the owner.
I was asked to have questions ready to ask my horse, along with something I would like to tell him at the end of the session. (If you have been following this blog then you will know I had some difficulty narrowing down a couple of questions- I have a lot! 😉 ) She began connecting with Chance.
I will not be able to convey all the details of what was said, Chance’s reactions, or even mine…It is almost a blur… I wish I could.
I was asked to feel around Chance’s right forehead/eye area for a lump or bump. I did as I was asked and didn’t feel anything abnormal…but remembered he had a gash that was healing right above his right eye. She informed me that he had a “headache”. She continued to move over him and explained that his “energy” was “blocked” on his right side. This makes sense…Chance has a “swagger” at the walk- he pokes his butt to the side and has a twist on the back right leg (Chance’s swagger has gone up and down- it was worse when he had the tendon issues, resolved after stem cell injections, came back when he got EPM, went away ish, and came back with his Lyme). While she was working on his energy, I massaged Chance’s back, neck, hip, and shoulders. She went on to explain that Chance had some right shoulder pain. Thankfully, Chance allowed her to work on his jaw (he pretty much has TMJ), his head, his back, etc. The energy was “pouring out” even on the hind end which, if I recall correctly, is commonly seen on horses with head injuries.
This is where my one question came in…I wanted to know what happened to Chance when he came to my college. I didn’t give many details…I didn’t know many details but I always wondered what may have happened on Chance’s trip down to my college.
I had gone off to college in January and decided to have someone trailer Chance down (about 3 and a 1/2 hours) once I got settled and found a barn, etc. Two months later Chance was arrived at her new barn. Despite the cool March weather, he was covered in sweat and was visibly scared. I didn’t inquire too much since he was in one piece and I chalked up the sweating and fear to exactly that- fear and anxiety. However, as the months progressed, Chance began bucking and rearing while under saddle….this was really strange..When he had left home we were doing dressage and jumping and he was sound and calm. Once again, I chalked it up to being in a new place- a barn that hosted Friday night Bullbucking no less. I decided to switch to a different farm, one preferably without bulls, even though the show was awesome to go and see, and work with a trainer. Still the behaviors persisted and the episodes of lameness increased. The vet finally diagnosed Chance with arthritic changes in his back and suggested I no longer jump him. I decided that summer instead of bringing Chance home and have him endure another long trailer ride, to board him at my new vet’s farm. Chance had the summer to recuperate while under the care of an equine vet.
Anyways, after that summer, I decided to retire Chance for good. I would occasionally get home him to walk around, I still can and do today. But, that was the beginning of a chronic condition that was never given a diagnosis. Instead, Chance’s symptoms were treated as they came.
Back to my session with my very own horse whisperer..
Chance “showed” her what happened on his trip to college- a trailer wheel falling off the side of the road. His head hitting one side of the trailer and slamming the other side. The pain. The concussion. His neck and back becoming misaligned. His jaw coming out of position. His body compensating. He showed the decline of his once functioning body- starting with the hit on his head, to his jaw, and his neck. Down his neck and through his back towards his hips and down his legs. The wear and tear of his body. Chance stated that he is still angry with the person driving the trailer; he wasn’t ready to forgive. I have forgiven them. I have no doubt it was a mistake and that there was no ill intent. But, I am not the one feeling the pain that he is. I am not the one who went from a racehorse to a jumper to practicing dressage to retirement long before I should have. And like the “horse whisperer” said, she will “hold the forgiveness for him until he is ready.” I will do the same.
She spoke of his time on the racetrack. Chance was happy to hear that he was being remembered for who he once was, and will always be to me- a strong, beautiful and crazy talented 17.1 hand red-headed thoroughbred and not a “weak old man” as he put it. When asked what his name was during his time on the track, he said, “Hot Stuff”, which could be a nickname and not his actual race name.
At one point during Chance’s session he fell asleep; standing in an odd way- hind legs spread out. Suddenly, his body gave out and he caught himself from falling. This entire time his eyes were still closed! They remained closed for another minute after this. His body reacting to something, perhaps a shift in his energies, and all the while he was a a state of peace; trusting that nothing bad would happen to him.
The session lasted an hour and a half. Honestly, we could have continued because of all the “blockages” but decided to stop for the day and pick up again another day. I was told that the effects of the energy work or Reiki, would continued throughout the week and that he would be emotionally vulnerable. As the session wrapped up Chance apparently said that he was the lucky one because I found him all those years ago.
Energy Work and Reiki Resources
Head Trauma and Headaches in Horses
A while ago, one of my good girlfriends, sent me an article about perseverance; why some are able to withstand tremendous adversity while others can’t? The article referred to this concept of an individual’s strength to endure life’s obstacles, to succeed in the face of adversity, to remain positive and continue to move forward despite what is thrown ones way, as Grit. Those who are able to endure the obstacles-have it- and those who are unable to endure- don’t.
I can’t help but wonder if the concept of Grit may also apply to our four-legged friends? Because I am pretty sure that Chance has it. What makes living things able to remain positive and enthusiastic and continue to persevere despite being in tremendous pain?
I am truly humbled every time I look at Chance and I see a 25+ year old horse who has lived for years with painful flare-ups without a known cause…yet even at his absolute worse, he was still engaged in life…eating, whinnying, trying to run and play, giving kisses for treats…and now, after a year of ups and downs, triumphs and tribulations, stumbles and falls, medications and supplements, pokings and probings, needles and adjustments, samples and tests, and changes in just about every aspect of his life, he is finally in a healthy place! (He is no longer on pain medications daily. He maybe gets a dose a month or so. And does not have bouts of lameness or swelling).
What enables him to remain his calm and happy self despite all of the above? How was he not biting and kicking with every prick of a needle? How is his soul still gentle? How was he determined to walk up a small hill a year ago and now is able to run up that very same hill? He loves every second of his life. This may sound odd, but my old guy revels in every single second of his day.
He whinnies the moment I pull up into the driveway and greets me. He devours every ounce of grass he can. He often follows his friend and co-caretaker, John, to feed the chickens in the morning. He yells for his buddy, Lucky, when he can’t find him. He runs every where he is able to including back and forth from the house to the barn- racing with Lucky. He rolls around in the grass, the snow, or mud. He will lay in the green grass basking in the sunshine. He investigates everything around him. And each and every time he stumbles, or even falls, he gets right back up and tries again.
To me, that is the essence of Grit…to keep on trucking through life with a soft heart and grateful and determined soul.
Duckworth, A. Peterson, C. Matthews, M., Kelly, D. (2007) “Grit: Perseverance and Passion for Long-Term Goals”, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 92(6), 1087-1101.
“Enjoy The Little Things In Life-
For One Day You Will See They Were In Fact The Big Things.”
This weekend I had the opportunity to admire the night sky full of stars while being able to spend time with my two favorite guys. I did not have anywhere else to be, or anything else to do…I could fully enjoy the “here and now” as Yalom so eloquently coined.
I was able to experience the warm breeze and truly appreciate it. To watch my two guys slowly grazing and hear them taking deep and relaxed breathes, with the moonlight reflecting against their backs. I could smell the scent of hay and fresh grass. I felt my shoulders drop from their semi-permanent place next to my ears and my mind quieted. I was able to sit back in the grass, look at the millions of stars, and 100% appreciate my surroundings- how lucky I am to not only have a place like this to visit, but also have the two beautiful souls (Luck and Chance) in my life.
Below is the sunrise the next morning….