Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Horse Health 1 - Colic

One of my favorite sayings is:  There are a lot of right ways to do things.

This seems to be especially true when it comes to caring for horses. There seems to be as many opinions for how to care for horses as there are "horse people". What we do with our horses and how we care for them may seem crazy and not work for our neighbors. What our neighbors do to care for their horses may not work for us. However, bottom line? If both herds are happy, healthy and willing to do their jobs, then we are both right! Even if what we are doing is totally different.

Sometimes the bottom line for us is money. A little bit spent up front can save a lot down the road. One dramatic vet bill could be disastrous and even mean having to make a life or death decision for one of these incredible creatures. A decision as Executive Director and an owner, I dread.

For instance, colic is the number 1 killer of horses, surgery costs around $10,000 and has a 50/50 chance of survival. So we do extra seemingly "crazy" things to try to make sure our horses do not colic.

1. Since our soil is predominately sand, we have to think about sand colic. For our messy eaters, we have mats underneath and around their feed troughs so that when they try to find all the food they lost while looking around with a mouth full, they don't eat sand as well as feed.

2. To keep their digestive systems free of parasites, we worm all of them every 2 months year round with alternating wormers. That part is not unusual. What may be different is that we worm them at the end of the day on Saturday and then give them Probios on Sunday morning. The thinking behind this is that in order for the wormer to work, it must strip their systems of parasites and bacteria...good and bad...which can cause irritation. The Probios puts good bacteria back into their gut and soothes it. Plus since we are closed on Sundays and Mondays, they don't have to work again until Tuesday. To make sure that the process is working and the worms have not become immune, we have fecal tests done at least once a year as well.

3. Bearing in mind that for a horse's digestive tract to work properly, it must stay lubricated, i.e...water. We know which horses drink a lot, which horses drink a little less, and constantly take note if one is not drinking their normal amount. Again, that part is not unusual. The difference? All our water buckets are bright yellow. Rule of thumb here is that if the water is not clear and clean all the way to the bottom, it gets dumped and cleaned out...even if it just got cleaned yesterday. I don't want to drink dirty water, do you? Also we know that periodically, the water around here will become more alkaline than usual and a couple of the horses don't like the taste and will not drink. Our solution? Peppermint. Those little red and white candies you can get individually wrapped at the dollar store? Yes, those. Take one of those, unwrap it, drop it into the water bucket and swirl it around a little. Then Poof! The water tastes fine. In the wintertime, we will even add a little warm water to the buckets to make sure they are drinking enough.

4. Colic can also be caused by stress from seemingly little things like fresh spring grass popping, or a thunderstorm or a personnel change within the herd. There is a 72 hour window when those type of stressers occur that a horse can colic. So when that happens, everybody's feed gets watered down. Not like soup, more like pudding. That way we know that it goes down smoothly with enough lubricant.

These are all little things, different things, that cost a little money up front. But they make a huge difference in the health and welfare of our horses as well as our budget.


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