What The Farm?!

If you read my blog posts last summer and fall, you’ll know about Rosa’s unfortunate condition, her sensitivity to green grass and the laminitis (inflamed feet) that result. Being “allergic” to your favourite food has got to be the crappiest of crappy deals going, but maybe some of you know about this if you’ve, for example, got a wheat sensitivity and just love cinnamon buns. Rosa’s not allergic to grass, per se, but she is sensitive to the sugars it contains, kind of like a diabetic.

You’ll also know from last year’s posts that Rosa spent three months in a dry pen, separated from the rest of the herd while her system settled and her feet stopped hurting. It was a long haul for her and all we could offer was our condolences across the fence.

Rosa in last summer’s private, dry pen.

This year, Rosa’s starting the season off in a smaller space, a paddock area with a long L-shaped track off the west side, to keep her moving without the excess grass. The goal: keep her weight down and her feet happy. Great idea, right? I thought so too until I found out who was going to be her track-mate. Me! I admit to not being the most svelte horse on the planet, but the fat pen!? (Sorry, Rosa. I know you don’t like it called that.)

Our new digs with track running off to the west.

I’ve been here at Almosta Ranch since 2004, seventeen years, and in those years I have always shared accommodations with Nevada, and he has always been my leader and mentor. I thought I wanted to be boss and have sometimes challenged Nevada’s authority, but I take it all back. I don’t want to be the leader! There’s too much pressure and responsibility!

Constant companions.

Our second night of separation, a storm was rolling in, and I wanted to be where I always am in bad weather, tucked into the south shelter right next to Nevada. But I couldn’t get there. I ran the quarter mile to the end of our track only to find the track didn’t loop around the pasture like it did last year but dead ended. I ran even faster on the way back, calling as I went. And do you know what my humans did? They stood and watched and might have even laughed a little. Why it was funny to watch me not get what I wanted and express myself accordingly is beyond my comprehension. (In their defense, they also gave me a treat, which did help to settle my rattled pony nerves.)

Where I want to be in bad weather.

It’s been four days and I’ve settled into the new digs somewhat, although I’m still enormously put out that Gidget gets yard-grazing privileges alongside Nevada. I’ve been here longer than her and am higher up in the herd. That should be me out there! But there I go getting all entitled and indignant again.

Yard grazing privileges two years ago.

On the plus side, Rosa and I are good buddies and grazing companions, and Nevada will be just across the fence. And .. I hear there’s to be an unending supply of hay served in nets to supplement the meagre grass rations. And … I’m pretty sure soft-hearted T will have me out for a little graze whenever we spend some saddle time. And … there’s my svelteness, which should be at an all-time high this summer.

I will adapt.

I will put on my big-boy halter.

Seven Secret Herbs and Spices

It’s been a very long haul for Rosa since July with recurring and persistent bouts of laminitis. For those who aren’t familiar with the disease, laminitis (also called founder) is inflammation of the laminae of the foot – the soft tissue structures that attach the coffin or pedal bone of the foot to the hoof wall. This inflammation can be caused by a number of things but, in Rosa’s case, it’s all about the sugars in her feed. And she does love her some sugar … aka green grass.

In this case, the grass was greener on the other side of the fence.

T’s known about her metabolic issues for years, and the amount of grass Rosa gets is managed as a result and she’s kept on a supplement that helps her process carbohydrates. But, this year, the usual methods just didn’t work, and Rosa had to be pulled from the pasture and dry-penned in July. It’s a sad thing for all of us when one of the herd is separated. Luckily, she’s an easygoing gal, and didn’t raise much of a fuss after the first day or so. She had hay and soft bedding and very sore feet so I think she saw the benefit of her confined situation.

Rosa’s summer dry pen.

Normally, a week in a dry pen would have her sorted out, but that just didn’t happen this year. She stayed in her pen, getting out only for walking on a lead all through August and into September. By late September, after some frost and the assistance of the rest of us in clearing out anything edible, they expanded Rosa’s world to a larger paddock to get her moving around more. There was just the smallest amount of barely-green grass in her new space but even that had her tender-footed again.

First day in the big pen. Feeling good.

By mid-October she was looking much better, and then her condition deteriorated suddenly. She became reluctant to put weight on her front feet and developed some heat in even her hind feet. The only culprit T could come up with was the hay being fed in small piles around her pen to encourage her to move. So, that was it, everything stripped away but hay fed in slow feeder nets with 1” holes, minerals, salt, and water. No loose hay, no supplements (because they need to be fed in some kind of grain), and the time out with the herd we were hoping for by mid-October, cancelled.

Rosa’s new “buffet”.

In early November, things had improved from the very lame horse she’d been a few weeks earlier, but still there was heat in her hooves. Horse hooves are generally quite cool to the touch, almost like they’re not attached to something living, but Rosa’s were melting snow. That was when T decided it was time to do some more research, find out what might accomplish more than the herbal blends she’d tried that were supposed to assist with her metabolism and inflammation.

Regular trimming is part of her rehabilitation program.

Thanks to a few knowledgeable vets and practitioners on the internet, a program was put together. I call it Rosa’s “seven secret herbs and spices”, the SSHS program. Other than the apple cider vinegar, everything came from T’s favourite source for all things equine healing, Herbs for Horses. I won’t bore you with the list of vitamins and minerals, but I will tell you that Rosa didn’t like it much at first. She’s had to acquire a taste, helped along by the apple cider vinegar and flax oil which taste pretty good and mask a lot of the other things.

One of the earlier herbal concoctions in her ultra-low-sugar feed from Hoffmans.

After three weeks on her SSHS program, Rosa was turned out with us for a morning. Although most of it is dead and brown, we still have a lot of grass out in the pasture, and T wasn’t sure how she’d respond. Two days later Rosa was turned out again for the morning, and again the two days following. On Monday, December 7, she was turned out in the morning and this time she stayed out. She’d officially rejoined the herd. It was a joyous day!

First morning of turnout.

She’s still not completely out of the woods. The inflammation has caused some physical changes in her feet that have left her unsound, at least for the time being. If she stands too long, she gets sore. If she walks on hard ground, she’s sore. But Nollind trims her feet every few weeks, according to what’s recommended for a horse in her condition, and T keeps up the SSHS program. I do my part by chasing her away from food that I want… or, that she probably shouldn’t have was what I meant to say. The hope is that she’ll be back to her old self by spring, with a little help from all of us.

Good to have our girl back.

So, as we wrap up this year of more injuries and illness than we’ve ever dealt with before, all is well in the herd. Even the weather has been outdoor horse friendly.

Out where she belongs.

Until the new year, this is Storm, Fur-iday Files correspondent, signing off, from the field.