Zoe's Story

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

4. Flicka's Journey - On Food and Acidosis

I read on article about laminitis published by UK Blue Cross Organization that provides health insurance for horses.  They are an equine insurance company hoping to save clients and the company costs and save horses from suffering, by preventing laminitis. One of the causes described was the high sugar - high carbohydrate diet, which many of us know is bad for horses and ponies.  What I found interesting was the explanation of how the sugar and starch interacts with the horse to cause the problems.  According to UK Blue Cross article, sugars and starches from rich food, overload the horses digestive system and are pushed undigested into the hind gut.  In the hind gut, bacteria breaks down this material and causes a high acid situation; acidosis. The acids destroy the healthy fibre processing bacteria in the hind gut and as the bacteria die, toxins are released into the gut.  These toxins eventually make their way into the blood stream and there is thought these toxins also disrupt blood flow, and when that happens in the hoof, laminitis is the result. 

“Laminitis is a very painful and debilitating disease.  Prevention is always better than cure.” UK Blue Cross.
Tomorrow Flicka will join the herd.  She is sound enough thanks to Bob Laye's specialized trim.  She will be able to take the walking and needs the proper food the native grassland pasture will provide.

Everything Amanda of ARK Nutrition has taught me nutrition wise, over the years, suddenly came to my mind; as I am witness to a worse case scenario.  The diet or even treats many horse folks choose for their animals can result in acidosis; you can tell when horses flanks are tight and overly sensitive.  This can cause inconsistencies such as nervousness and/or crankiness in the horses behaviour, tough enough to deal with when we are riding our horses; this situation eventually can worsen to more devastating health issues.  We all know food should not be considered “comfort food” by humans, this causes problems with our health because we eat too much looking for the comfort we never really achieve.  By thinking more “tasty” food (like oats) makes horses feel good, humans contribute towards one of the most painful situations for horses - a chronic tummy ache, which when left unchecked, can develop very easily into a serious lameness.

I will be diligent in ensuring Flicka gets her supplements especially the probiotics, daily as per the instructions from ARK Nutrition!  On the other hand, Flicka is resilient . . .

Today I noticed Flicka eating horse manure.  When a new foal is born, first they nurse colostrom, soon after you will see them eating horse manure.  They are seeking those healthy gut bacteria to populate their own newly born gut.  Nahani is doing the same thing, now that she is on the mend and on a proper diet, she wants those healthy bacteria back!

copyright Windy Coulee Canadian Horses - Heidi Eijgel

Thursday, 25 December 2014

3. Flicka's Journey - Hoof and Nutritional Care

Amanda cleaning the hoof and measuring temperature.
On Saturday, the stars aligned and my long term hoof care specialist, Bob Laye arrived right after Amanda Kroeker of ARK nutrition had started evaluating Flicka.  Check out her website: ARK Nutrition.  Amanda had been working with me since 2008 to manage my horses nutrition in as natural way as possible while also giving the herd as much freedom to forage and run in their river valley as possible. I watched the two specialists and just held my pony as they evaluated and shared knowledge of hoof care and nutrition . . .

The good news according to Amanda and Bob, is that Flicka had been self correcting with each “sugar rich laminitic episode”, her body was really trying to help itself despite the wrong diet, inconsistent of hoof care and lack of exercise over the last few years.  (Horses find high sugars in fresh spring grass, especially mid to late in the day during growing season, and they get it if their owner feeds them any grains such as oats and barley, hay with alfalfa in it, or gives them access to straw even for bedding.).  Amanda observed that fat was evenly deposited throughout the pony's body, with the obvious thick fatty deposit on the crest of the neck.  Founder yes, but no metabolic disorder which would manifest itself with odd fat deposits behind the shoulder and on the rump.
Nutritionist shares . . .
Hoof Care Specialist shares . . .
Although her kidneys were hard, and on the 1 - 9 condition scale where 9 is severely obese, Flicka scored 8; she was however, much to my relief, not a lost cause, (nowhere near a lost cause in fact, after I checked out some website  testimonials showing laminitis rehabilitation).
Bob recommends reading Australian researcher Chris Pollit's website.

Flicka's first 4 years were known to me.  Flicka was the special project of Catherine Thompson, a Long Rider who mentored with a talented lady in Saskatchewan learning all she could about natural hoof care and natural horsemanship. http://studiofiain.blogspot.ca/p/long-rider.html
I believe, because of 4 years of health and high quality care, the pony was able to show incredible resilience to the later years.

Flicka's front feet before the trim.
Right side (left front) done, it is so satisfying!
I am so happy to have my hoof care specialist and nutritionist finally meet!

A natural hoof care specialist can tell where the coffin bone is sitting by looking at the lateral grooves and studying the angle of the leg.  Bob had me walk Flicka so he could study her movement with the excessive hoof growth.  Shortly after, with Amanda looking over his shoulder, he got to work on the left front.  You could see the “white” lamellae stretched like “bubble gum” trying to keep the hoof wall attached.  It was separated, mild to medium severity founder; the coffin bone very close to the outer edge of the sole, and the angle so bad that Flicka was indeed walking on the tip toe of the coffin bone, her knees locked, her muscles adapted to an unnatural stance.  Another fortunate observation was noted, the feet were trying to mend, and while they had recently abscessed, they were presently cool in temperature.

Amanda uses an infrared sensor to measure the heat in each foot during an assessment.  She also reads the rings in the hoof wall like a forester reads the rings in a tree.  Horses naturally relax near her, they know she is there to make sure their hind gut is working, they are obtaining the correct micronutrients and mineral to support their workload, their health, and to correct any issues that have developed.

You can see the separated hoof filled with the white lamela stretched, about half an inch thick.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

2. Flicka's Journey - Before Pictures.

Flicka arrives at the farm and I remind myself how horses live in the moment.  She has horse companions across a rail fence for now; a slow feeder with low sugar hay (I have to shake it to get rid of the part that is alfalfa in it.)  She finds plenty of water, a salt block and shelter from the wind.

Flicka arrives at the farm November 21, 2014

She is overweight and lonely, but already has friends!
 I remove the halter that had been on her for somewhat  too long.  I cry, remembering how amazing this little horse looked in 2011, and I cry with relief knowing that she now has a chance.  I only hope the situation can be turned around; then I cried with fear that perhaps I had waited to long to offer help.  It is in the dark barnyard, as Flicka is getting used to a new place, that I make a commitment to myself and the horses I love to start a Facebook Page for Flicka.

Slow feeders are great for weight loss but . . .
This is to encourage discussion on horse care and to open some eyes and perhaps influence more people to become passionate about providing reasonable and proper care for their horses, and help others to understand that it is something that is required if you are going to own a horse.

The slow feeder is great, but what this pony needs is to be accepted in the herd, and get out into the field for the winter.  There she will move, eat lots of fibre which low sugar sun cured grasses can provide all winter.  In fact, she will probably have to paw through the snow to find this natural source of food.  She also needs the herd to keep her happy and feeling safe.  Give me a day or so and we will make this happen.

By taking care of horses in your community, you take care of our larger horse industry; link global, act local.  The next night I remove burrs from Flicka’s mane and tail.  I cannot wait to get out to see her the next morning and my husband takes photos while I deworm her.  I deworm for bots (we just had the first major frost and cold snap), and worms, including tapeworm.  I learned that the fall is indeed also the best time to deworm for tapeworms since they usually reinfect in the spring, so that would give the horse a good 6 months being tapeworm free - nice!  In the early days, we did not even know horses could get tapeworms.  I have a good friend who told a story about tapeworm caused colic, that story has probably saved some of my horses. 

Deworming for everything!

I had made an emergency call to the best hoof care specialist.  I am fortunate to know him; he is the hoof care provider for my entire herd for 3 years now, along with my Long Rider friend Catherine.  As well, I sent a quick email to my herds’ nutritionist who was also scheduled for her yearly visit the next day.  Heads up; I have a laminitic horse I need assessed and a mineral ration for. 

I make a pact to myself, this pony is going to take extra care, at extra cost, and then will go into training in the spring at even more cost.  The budget for this is not coming out of my budget for my existing herd, they will all stay on their program.  I can do this, only because my husband and I have an incredible piece of native grassland, with willow shrubs, native grasses perfect for winter grazing, hills and a spring that flows year round.  It is the best winter pasture for my herd of Canadians and for a small pony, who, once her feet are trimmed and on the mend, and once she is dewormed and given a clean bill to be able to walk and run with a herd, needs plenty of fibre, mineral and companionship and movement to bring her back into reasonable condition.  If all goes according to plan, she will have the winter to lose weight, rehabilitate her feet and get in condition so she is ready for a trainer by the end of March in 2015.

 Copyright Windy Coulee Canadian Horses - Heidi Eijgel

Sunday, 7 December 2014

1. Flicka's Journey - A Rehabilitation Story

Flicka in 2011
Flicka’s Journey

In 2011 an amazingly athletic pony passed through our farm, her owner had to sell her, but she made a hasty choice and the 13 hand brown mare went to a new home with good intentions.

The pony had been a pack horse for hundreds of miles and was raised from day one using kind and effective natural horsemanship training methods, daily work, moving to increasingly difficult tasks and challenges in increments.  She was full of willingness, potential, impeccably conditioned and athletic; a well started four year old with superior ground work and experience as a pack horse but too small to make that her full time job.  She was ready to go into serious training for riding or driving; with a few years of consistent training, she had potential to be one of those amazing ponies that took care of their children and performed as ponies should in the most athletic style.

This Facebook Page has been started to support awareness of horse care.  Horses need the companionship of other horses, horses need to move and run; through domestication horses need to work with a human in an interspecies partnership which can have phenomenal results. Horses also need hoof care, nutrition, clean water, shelter, simple but regular vet care, safe and properly fitted tack for the jobs they do and these all have a cost.   After almost three years, this pony came to a place where the owner could make the tough decision that her dream was not coming true at that time, and the pony and owner needed some help.  Flicka arrived at our farm on November 20th, 2014.  While it was late, it ended up not ‘too late’ for this pony.  She did have laminitis (separation of hoof wall from the hoof and rotated coffin bones).  She was also lonely, depressed, in pain and obese.  I stepped in and offered help, not criticism, and was taken up on the offer.

Flicka - November 2014 - day one
I hope that hundreds of people “Friend” Flicka and share the opportunity with their horse Facebook Friends and potential horse owners to ensure that there is opportunity to learn some serious lessons from Flicka’s story.  It is a worthwhile educational journey to follow.  This story is for all horse owners selling their horses and for new equestrians wanting to be owners of horses, and even for those who just “dabble” and only want to enjoy watching and having a horse in their backyard. 

The goal of telling this story is to encourage more horse owners to make decisions fair to the horse, to have a plan and to follow it or be humane enough to get help if needed. Another goal is to document the rehabilitation of a horse through photos and story; giving people hope that horses can turn around from dire condition to fit and ready to get back to work with simple, effective nutrition, hoof care, movement, natural living conditions and training.  

In the long run, with knowledge and witness to small miracles, we can build capacity of knowledgeable horse owners and may well contribute towards the rebuilding and even reshaping of our Canadian horse industry. Dedicated, knowledgeable and honest horse owners support the vibrant equestrian community of the future. 

Flicka - November 2014 - day one; the hoof care specialist
and nutritionist are booked for the next day.

As well, this story will demonstrate how people can be fair to themselves and their family by being aware of what horses need to have a basic healthy life and what actually goes into training a horse to be safe enough for you and your children.  I hope this page will inspire horse owners to keep working to prevent neglect and abuse of horses. 

Flicka - November 2014 - day one

I want to share photos, stories, costs, trials and tribulations of bringing Flicka back to her healthy self both physically and mentally.  Then I would like to share what it takes to train a horse to be a safe and consistent mount or driving horse and eventually present her to the perfect home for a sweet, athletic, smart and fit pony.

This is a multi-year project and we are at day one.  There is much to discuss already. Please remember this blog is about healing.

 Copyright Windy Coulee Canadian Horses - Heidi Eijgel