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.

Inside Outside

It’s that time of year again, when one day we’re sweating it out in the sun in our ever-expanding hair coats, and the next we’re hunkered down in the shelter avoiding an icy blast of wind and snow. Such is life lived outdoors. But we wouldn’t have it any other way. Even Nevada, who gets cold a little easier than he used to, prefers to be outside.

At 28 years old, Nevada gets a jacket when the weather is unseasonable

The weather has to be downright vicious before any of us vote for being put in the barn. It’s dry in there, and a little warmer than outdoors, but we’re each limited to a 10’x10′ square. I can’t move Rosa or Gidget off the hay net they’re working on if I decide I want it, I can’t roll if I get a little itchy, or go for a trot if I need to stretch my legs. Horses and confinement just don’t go together.

Rosa hanging out in the sun after the September storm

Lucky for us, T’s not inclined to stall us for most weather. We have a great three-sided shelter that’s deep enough to get out of the swirling snow, and she hangs hay nets inside when a storm is coming. It’s a great place to hide out from the weather. We’ve already had two shelter-net-worthy storms this fall and we weathered them both in comfort in our run-in shed.

Ready for the weather. That slope on the front part of the roof really helps keep the snow out

We chuckle when T gets asked by a city-dwelling friend if she puts us all inside at night. Like that would happen. We’d hate it and she’d have an extra couple of hours of chores every day. On top of that, Nevada does this thing called “stocking up” when he’s kept confined and the old boy would have cankles on a daily basis!

Cold front rolling in but we’re not worried

The other thing about being indoors that’s a real drag … no grazing. Even in the worst of the storm a week ago, we headed out to the field for a little pasture time, knowing we had a cozy shed to return to if we got wet or cold. And grazing a snowy pasture is a little like enjoying an upside-down grass sundae. The human style of sundae has ice cream with the flavour on top, the equine style has the tasty stuff on the bottom with the frozen delight on top. We push some of the snow out of the way with a lip (or a hoof if it’s deep) and, voila, grass sundae. Our pasture is almost half a mile from our waterer and when there’s a little bit of moisture in every bite, a guy hardly ever has to make the trip.

Enjoying a grass sundae

This Fur-iday, the sun is shining and things are warming up. It feels great standing here soaking up some rays. I’m all for a long, warm, snow-free autumn season. Most humans are summer lovers but, for horses, the autumn that comes after a hard freeze is awesome. A warm day is like bug-free summer and it doesn’t get better than that.

A perfect day for furry horses