Metabolic Horses

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Since Bonnie was diagnosed with Insulin Resistance I have been doing so much reading and studying. I thought I would share a few things I’ve learned.

Bonnie can not have green grass. At all. If green grass grows in the dry lot then I have to lock her into a smaller dry lot where I can control those stray bits of green that stubbornly want to grow. (Why the green grass won’t grow in the yard where I actually WANT it to grow is beyond me!) One of the reasons I went ahead and built my Track System in my dry lot is because of the amount of green grass that insisted on growing in there last year. I’m hoping that because they have been trampling and tearing up the ground on the track, the grass won’t be able to grow there. I can already see green shoots trying to come up in the middle of my track. I will be adding a lower hot wire to my inner fence system to keep Mr. Zorro from reaching under the hot wire. He doesn’t mind that the hot fence snaps and pops along the top of his mane as long as he can eat that bit of green! I am also going to roach his mane this year which will also help.

Bonnie has an averse reaction when the weather changes. If we are unseasonably warm, she seems sore. If we suddenly drop from 50 degrees to negative numbers she is nearly unable to walk. As I understand it metabolic horses often have very poor circulation in their legs and hooves. This is why when they are laminitic or foundering, they will not have heat in their feet or a bounding pulse and why icing their feet doesn’t help with the pain they feel. In fact it can make it even worse. The only time I iced Bonnie’s feet last year was when it was really hot and she was sweating and uncomfortable. Then I offered her a large tub of ice water and she stood in that tub until the ice melted, but she wasn’t lame then either. I think they cool water just felt good because she was hot! Now that the weather is changing so quickly and dramatically Bonnie is wearing wool socks. They are kids wool socks so they are nice and snug. She doesn’t mess with them so maybe she knows they help! I also apply essential oils to her feet to encourage circulation. Today I put Deep Relief and Valor on her feet. She is wearing her easyboot minis. If I have to put on a double layer of socks then she wears her Soft Ride boots.

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Bonnie is very sensitive when I have to make changes to her diet. So far I can change the supplements a bit and that doesn’t seem to make her worse, but when I’ve tried a different type of hard feed or had to make a change in hay she became laminitic. So I have to do these things slowly so she can adjust.

One HUGE thing on her side is she doesn’t mind being locked in the smaller dry lot area, even though she is in there alone. Her small dry lot is inside the track system so the other horses are right there, but she doesn’t stress about this. She also doesn’t mind wearing her muzzle when things dry up some and she can be out in the pasture for short times during the day. Mostly for exercise as she hasn’t mastered the art of eating grass through the small hole in the muzzle. She doesn’t like to eat soaked or wet hay so that’s a problem and means I have to know exactly what is in my hay and what the starches and sugars are before I can offer it to her.

When I had my other IR pony, Chloe, she had similar issues, but reacted differently to the stresses of the life an IR pony must lead… living in a dry lot, wearing a muzzle, eating soaked hay, etc. She would stress so much that she refused to eat when in the dry lot. She would go for days and just stand in the corner of the small dry lot I made for her. She made me so worried. She wouldn’t even eat her hard feed when she was depressed like this. And every time she would rebel this way she would become acutely laminitic. The vet I was working with at the time said this is the hardest type of IR pony to manage as you have to balance their mental and physical health which is impossible when they are sure they should live like a horse and be allowed out in the pasture. She ended up foundering on all 4 feet with rotation and sinkage. It was awful. Her first founder episode happened in the dry lot due to stress. So I had to let her out. She had one thing in her favor and that is that she would eat the HEIRO. I do believe it was the HEIRO that kept her alive for those last 3 months. Once she went down and couldn’t get up I had to make the decision to let her go.

This isn’t my first go at this, but I do hope and pray it’s a much more successful go!

Bonnie has been struggling so much these last few weeks. I could tell the Thyro-L wasn’t really helping anymore so I went digging for more. More information. I have been studying a better way to trim her feet and I dug into that a bit more. I tried some new things to help her with her pain. Then friend of mine shared For Love of the Horse. She was hoping they carried an herbal formula that a friend of her was having success with and it turned out they didn’t, but I had already spent the day reading their website and corresponding with one of their wonderful office people, so I decided to ask them for help. Dr. Thomas was willing to work with me to help Bonnie. So I ordered her first round of EMS/IR Solution and have started her on that. To order the EMS/IR and the Hoof Ailment formula was too expensive all at one time so I have to spread things out a bit, but I am praying this works for Bonnie. I can’t bare to see her in such pain all the time, it takes such a toll on her. She loses the light in her eyes and she just stays in one place all the time. I also think she is losing her eye sight so some days are just too overwhelming for her… and me.

At this time I am slowly weaning Bonnie off of the Thyro-L. Dr. Thomas said to go from 1 teaspoon a day to 1/2 a teaspoon for three days and then 1/4 teaspoon for four days and she should be fine without. Thank goodness as juggling the Thyro-L and the EMS/IR solution is tricky. She can’t have the solution and Thyro-L at the same time so I have to spread out her breakfast and then her first dosage of the solution.

Right now I am giving Bonnie 4 scoops (1 scoop = 1/2 Tablespoon) two times a day until she starts to have some relief. Then I can lower it to 3 scoops twice a day. When I get the Hoof Ailment she is to get 4 scoops twice a day until her feet feel better and then I can lower her to 3 scoops twice a day. At first I am mixing the formula in a bit of warm water and giving it to her with a syringe which has already proven hilarious as she managed to get it all over herself, Zorro and Sky and Zorro tried to take off with the syringe! LOL! What a group I have!

Something that happens often with horses that have foundered is they develop abscesses which can make them as lame and sore as the founder or laminitis did. I do suspect this may also be going on with Bonnie. The Hoof Ailment solution is formulated to help with abscesses as well. I believe her immune system is also effected and of course her liver is stressed. I am interested in also starting her on their Liver Support. When I had her fecal done last year there was tape worm larvae found, but I couldn’t worm her because the chemicals in the wormer could send her into a laminitic attack. So I’m hoping to get her healthy enough that I can deal with her worm load and have her teeth worked on, all without any adverse reactions.

Metabolic issues in horses are not simple. There is no quick fix and just when you think you have things figured out they will show you that in fact you know nothing. It’s a bit like living on a roller coaster. It’s a time full of frustration and heart ache. I do feel like this is Bonnie’s last chance at beating this. How long can someone expect a horse to live in pain, battling every day just to get by? When does it become about me and not about her? When is enough, enough? These are questions that wake me in the middle of the night. These are the questions that are constantly on my mind. So say a prayer or keep her in your thoughts as we try this next option! There are many great testimonials on their website… maybe we can be one of them!

Let’s talk teeth!

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Last week I shared the fact that Zorro lost a cap in his morning feed and lost both of his front teeth as well! There was quite a bit of blood as he worked to lose those front teeth. I noticed the blood for several days before the teeth finally came loose. When I shared this on Facebook people commented that they had a horse that also lost their front teeth but they thought it was because another horse injured it, people commented that they didn’t even know horses lost their front teeth and others were wondering when their horse would lose theirs.

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It’s rather hard to take pictures of baby teeth with one hand holding the lips and the other the camera without a halter! LOL! Thank goodness I played with his mouth so much as a baby… it’s paying off!

So I thought I would share a bit more about it here!

Horses, like people, grow their baby teeth or milk teeth and then lose those to their adult teeth usually between 2-5. The front teeth will often fall out between 2 and 3 years of age and they will shed caps (baby teeth that are being pushed out by their adult teeth) from 2-5 years of age. You will often see tooth bumps along the bottom jaw of the horse as these adult teeth are growing upwards. The tooth bumps can be sensitive to the touch. Typically they will go down by the age of 6. See THIS article for more information.

**Be aware that not all horses are the same and some will mature a bit slower and others will mature a bit quicker, as far as teeth go. All horses are slow to mature body wise and none will be considered mature before the age of 6 years old.

Caps can cause some trouble for horses as they don’t always pop off on their own. If you see your young horses tipping it’s head sideways when chewing it’s feed, dropping lots of its feed out of his mouth and quidding it’s hay, then it may have a cap that hasn’t come loose and is causing some pain or getting food stuck under it. A vet can assist your horse with this by reaching and popping that cap loose for him. I have had many horses that needed a little assistance in this way.

I often find Zorro’s little caps in his feed pan or on the ground where they eat their hay. Sometimes I pick them up and save them! They are pretty neat to look at…

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So if you see these laying around or notice your young horse is missing his two front teeth don’t panic! It’s just him growing up.

How to Weigh a Miniature Horse

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In a perfect world we would all have access to a scale big enough to properly weight our miniature horses. Many veterinary clinics have scales big enough for a big horse and can easily help you weigh your little horse, but when you don’t have access to a scale what do you do?

There are several formulas out there meant to help with this dilemma, but which one is the most accurate? And why would you need to know the weight of your mini?

One reason it’s a good idea to have an accurate weight for your miniature horse is that it helps you come up with a good feed plan. Some minis are easier keepers and can benefit from being fed a bit less. This, of course, is not ideal as horses are meant to browse and graze for at least 18 hours a day, but for some miniature (and big!) horses this proves their undoing. If you can get an accurate weight measurement then you will have an idea of how obese your horse is and how much you need to feed to help get things under control. The suggested amount to feed a mini is 1.5-2% of their body weight.

**IF you need to monitor how much hay your mini is getting I highly suggest using a slow feed net. As you know I like the Hay Chix nets as they have held up perfectly for me over the years and I find them very easy to fill and manage.

Another reason you want to have an idea of how much your minis weighs is for administering medicine. Banamine, Bute, wormer – all are administered by weight. Miniature horse are extremely sensitive to Bute and if too much is given it can kill a mini quite quickly. So knowing about what your mini weighs, as weight will fluctuate a little bit, will help you make an accurate guess when it comes to giving them their meds.

I have come across several formulas that help us make an educated guestimate of our miniature horse’s weight. Here are a few:

Body weight = (Girth in inches x 9.36) + (Length in inches x 5.01) – 348.53

Body weight = (Girth in inches x 11.68) + (Height in inches x 2.85) – 357.26

Body weight = (Girth in inches x 13.18) – 326.07

For the above measurements —>

  • Girth is holding the measuring tape snuggly just behind the front legs and over the top of the wither area.
  • Length is measuring from the center of the chest, down the length of the body to the middle of the tail.
  • Height is from the ground to the top of the withers.

And then this one which seems to be the most accurate:

Heartgirth x Heartgirth = y

y x length of body = Total

Total / 330 = Body Weight

I have a Facebook friend that shared her findings, measurements versus actual weight using a scale. She said the bottom formula has proven to be quite accurate only being between 5-15 pounds off of the actual scale weight. When she has used a weight tape it has been as much as 50 pounds off – saying the mini weighs more than it does, this could prove deadly when administering meds. My weight tape didn’t seem that far off from the formulas listed so I’m wondering if the brand of weight tape matters? (***this post has been edited below with more information about weight tapes. They are not all created equal!!)

I have measured all my minis and will share that here. I’ll also use a weight tape to compare. This is exciting for me because I love doing experiments!

First up is Zorro. He is going to be three years old in May and is about 39″ tall measured at the last mane hair.

His measurements are:

  • girth = 53 1/2″
  • length = 49 1/2″
  • height = 42″

First formula shown above: (53.5 x 9.36) + (49.5 x 5.01) – 348.53 = 400.225 pounds

Second formula: (53.5 x 11.68) + (42 x 2.85) – 357.26 = 387.32 pounds

Third formula: (53.5 x 13.18) – 326.07 = 379.06 pounds

Fourth formula: (53.5 x 53.5) = 2,862.25

2,862.25 x 49.5 = 141,681.375

141,681.375 / 330 = 429.3375 pounds

When I measured him with a weight tape he measured 411 pounds. Only 12 pounds different than my calculations.

My Facebook friend told me that the fourth formula is typically only 5-15 pounds different than the scale weight. But as you can see these formulas all give very different answers. One idea is to average all of them and then go with that. In this case that would mean Zorro weighs about 399 pounds. I would feel confident giving him meds based on this average. I can be pretty confident that I would not overdose him at least!

Bonnie is up next. She will be 6 years old this year. She’s my little Insulin Resistant mare and is on Thyro-L daily. She’s at the perfect weight as far as looks go right now, we’ll see how she sheds off this spring. She tends to be a bit lean. She’s 38″ tall at the last mane hair.

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Her measurements are:

  • girth = 51″
  • length = 51 1/2″
  • height = 42″

First formula shown above: (51 x 9.36) + (51.5 x 5.01) – 348.53 = 386.845 pounds

Second formula: (51 x 11.68) + (42 x 2.85) – 357.26 = 358.12 pounds

Third formula: (51 x 13.18) – 326.07 = 346.11 pounds

Fourth formula: (51 x 51) = 2,601

2,601 x 51.5 = 133,951.50

133,951.50 / 330 = 405.9 pounds

When I measured her with the weight tape she measured 411 pounds. 37 pounds heavier than my calculations indicate.

So her average is 374 pounds. She is a bigger boned mare and used to be stockier than the other two. But the Thyro-L has made it a bit harder to keep weight on her. I do think she looks very good right now though!

And last but definitely not least is Sky. Sky will be 15 years old this year and is 36 1/2″ tall at the last mane hair. She put on a lot of weight this spring and kept it on all summer and fall, even with me driving her as often as I could. She was tested for IR and Cushings and came up with a clean bill of health, other than being over weight. I finally managed to get her to eat some Chaste Berry Powder this winter, disguised by her Excel powder that tastes like Fenugreek, and she has started to slim down a bit. I’m looking forward to really driving her this summer and hoping she will continue to slim down. It’s because of her that my ponies aren’t allowed forage 24/7 anymore. I do try to keep hay in front of them 12 hours a day at least and sometimes it will last longer. But she just couldn’t handle forage all the time, even low sugar low starch forage. She did great on that diet in 2016 but not last year. This is why it’s so important to be FLEXIBLE when caring for horses. If you try to do the same for all your horses someone may end up paying the price. So be willing to adjust to fit what they need. They will tell you if you listen…

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Sky doesn’t like to open her eyes for photos anymore. I don’t know why! Maybe she’s hoping if she can’t see me I’ll disappear… LOL!

Her measurements:

  • girth = 56″
  • length = 51″
  • height = 40″

First formula shown above: (56 x 9.36) + (51 x 5.01) – 348.53 = 431.14 pounds

Second formula: (56 x 11.68) + (40 x 2.85) – 357.26 = 410.82 pounds

Third formula: (56 x 13.18) – 326.07 = 412.01 pounds

Fourth formula: (56 x 56) = 3,136

3,136 x 51 = 159,936

159,936 / 330 = 484.65 pounds

When I measured her with the weight tape I got 448 pounds. 13 pounds different than my calculations.

Sky’s average is 435 pounds. I do feel this is a bit light for her, she’s probably closer to the 450 mark. I would love to get her on a scale and will be looking for one locally to borrow. I think 400 pounds is ideal for her body type and age. She has fairly decent bone and is nice and stocky with a nice wide chest. But in her show shape days I’ll bet she was about 360 or so. Very lean.

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So just a little over view of figuring out how much your miniature horse weighs. Of course as I stated above, having access to an actual scale is the best way of checking your miniature horse’s weight. Using these formula’s in place of a scale will at least get you in the ball park of your minis weight. And it’s a way to monitor your horse’s weight as the seasons go by as well!

suremeasure*** I am editing this post with some interesting information about weight tapes. The weight tape I used when I measured my horses for this post is called a Sure-Measure tape. It’s for horses and ponies and I’ve had it for many, many years. Somehow I’ve never lost it even though I have moved many times! It seems that this tape is far more accurate than the Coburn tape that I bought at the local feed store. When I measured the ponies with that tape it was quite a bit off from the formulas above!

 

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This is the  Coburn tape and probably what most of you have. It’s what is sold at the local feed stores. However it was the most inaccurate, in my opinion, of the things I did to guestimate my horses weight. The numbers are below!

 

 

Zorro’s weight with formulas above was 399. The Sure-Measure tape said he was 411. The Coburn tape said he was 435. That’s 36 pounds difference…

Bonnie’s weight with formulas above was 374. The Sure-Measure tape said she was 411. The Coburn tape said she was 435. The Coburn tape is WAY off for her, 61 pounds off!!

Sky’s weight with formulas above was 435. The Sure-Measure tape said she was 448. The Coburn tape said she was 490. So again it was way off, 55 pounds off for her!!

A friend of mine told me that she went and googled around about weight tapes and found out that different companies use their own formulas for calculations based on the heart girth measurements so the weight tapes will be different! I wish they would put that warning on them so we know that!! These differences are so big that if you were using a weight tape to medicate your miniature horse it could be deadly. So please either find a scale or use the formulas and then average them to come up with a more accurate weight guestimate.

 

 

 

 

I want it all!

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I have this terrible problem. It can be debilitating and makes life so difficult for me. It causes me to second guess myself, lose sleep, worry over every little thing I’ve done and said all day long. It causes me so much stress. It’s exhausting!

I want everyone to like me. I want people to like me, I want my horses to like me, I want my family to like me and be proud of me.

But all day long I tell myself I’m not good enough or smart enough or skinny enough or _____________ enough. You name it I’m sure I’m not good enough at it. It’s exhausting.

All I want to do is help people. It pulls at my heart when I see or hear of someone having trouble, feeling frustrated or confused and I want to help. But there is something about me that makes people think I don’t know what I’m talking about. I don’t know what it is but I get called “stupid, ignorant, an idiot, etc, etc” and people just don’t take me seriously. I don’t expect people to do everything I say because there are so many ways to achieve any end goal, but there are things that are just plain easier if you have a mentor to help. I’ve had so many wonderful mentors in my life that made learning about horses easier. I just want to help others in this way. In fact that is why I started this blog.

I share things that work and don’t work hoping to help people save their hard earned money. I share the good, the bad and the ugly here hoping my stories and hardships will help others. No one person can have all the answers but if we work together we can figure things out and help our horses and each other.

The biggest thing may be having people actually listen. If people would listen without prejudice, without thinking about ways to make each other wrong, without thinking about what they are going to say next, problems could get figured out much faster. When people get defensive and or just shut down after asking for help it doesn’t help them or their horses.

Horse ownership is complicated. There are no short cuts. They are very delicate for such a large animal. They have different digestive systems that get out of whack very easily. And things are always fine until they aren’t! Horse ownership can be very lonely if you can’t let others in to help. If you feel you can’t work with one person I really encourage you to keep reaching out to find someone you are comfortable listening to and getting help from. Even if it’s not me 😉

I don’t try to make people wrong if they don’t listen to me. Usually I just quit reaching out and offering help. But I feel so guilty about that. Then I feel like the horses suffer. It’s so hard to let that go. Does anyone else have this problem?

Maybe someday I will learn that having people like me isn’t important at all. Maybe someday I won’t let others opinions about me matter. I certainly hope so! If there is someone out there that would like to help me and be my mentor I’m ready 🙂

I am willing to take a lot of crap if what I’m doing is in the best interest of my horses. I do march to the beat of my own drummer and am often over here doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing. I just don’t always feel good about myself while breaking my own trail. Sigh.

So, I will admit it. I want people to like me. I want people to listen to me.

And I also want to be the person who doesn’t care if people like her. Who can let it go when people don’t listen.

I want it all!

Nose Bags

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I love only having the three minis. It has really simplified my life that’s for sure! BUT there always has to be that one horse that is food crazy… around here that’s Sky. She will either eat her feed really fast OR she’ll leave her pan all together to go bother the other horses. I’m sure she is making certain their feed isn’t better than her own. However Bonnie is on Thyro-L now and I don’t want Sky eating that because it will mess with her thyroid. So I’ve had to lock Sky in her “feed pen” where she can just focus on her own feed and let everyone else do their thing.

In the last few weeks I’ve noticed that Bonnie will leave some of her feed uneaten and go push Zorro off so she can eat his, then she’ll go back to hers. Zorro will just wander off and come find me so at least he hasn’t been trying to eat Bonnie’s with her meds in it! But Bonnie certainly doesn’t need anything extra. With all the snow and drifting I can’t build another feed pen and really don’t want the hassle of that so I started looking for a better way to manage their morning feeding.

(Also I would love to be able to go away for more than just one day. Bonnie is so scared of everyone but me I don’t think I could have someone come over, put her in a pen and get her to eat her feed without a lot of drama and trouble. Especially since I do think she is nearly blind now. She can’t miss even one day of her Thyro-L so I thought there HAD to be a better way!)

I was on the Horse Track Facebook page a couple of weeks ago and an old post popped up where the gal was showing all 5-6 of her horses happily eating their hard feed out of nose bags. Then I remembered my favorite instructors, Lorri Roy and Ethan Zimmerman also feed their horses their hard feed in nose bags and how easy and drama free it was the last time I was there helping feed.

Hmmmm.

I started shopping around for miniature nose bags. They were rather pricey and I wasn’t even sure my idea would work so I didn’t want to sink $25-$30 into one nose bag and have it be an epic fail. After all I was going to need 3 of them! I kept googling around until I found Tammy Hennager at TMH Specialties on Etsy! Her nose bags were only $15! And when I contacted her she was willing and able to make me exactly what I needed size wise and in different colors so I could tell them apart! Whoot!

So Bonnie has a purple nose bag, Zorro has a blue one and Sky has a burgundy one.

nosebagsI popped a peppermint cookie into each nose bag and went out to see what they would think about them!

 

Bonnie eagerly reached out to put her face in hers. She is really good about being muzzled and it looks a lot like her muzzle so she was more than happy to put her face in there! And surprise! There was an awesome cookie.

nosebags(2)Zorro came over and tried to put his face in his right away. No big deal! Sky waited patiently and was happy to reach in and eat her cookie too. Zorro makes a big mess when he eats those peppermint cookies so he figured out how to put the bag on the ground so he could clean up all the crumbs. I think they will be a hit! I’ll know better tomorrow when I feed them their morning feed in the bags. And Sky won’t have to be locked up.

So if you think these would work for you head on over to Tammy’s and order your nose bags too!

How I use my Hay Nets

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions I get regarding feeding with hay nets:

  • Do I hang my nets to keep the horses from eating off the ground and keep the nets clean?

I do not hang my nets as I feel horses need to eat from ground level. They way they are designed, their teeth work best when their heads are down.

The horse’s body has evolved to work most efficiently when eating at ground height. When a horse puts it’s head down to eat the lower jaw drops forward and then when the horse lifts it’s head to chew the jaw slides back. This forward and backward motion helps to grind the teeth and keep them at the optimum length.

This does not occur when the horse is fed with it’s head off the ground from a hay net or rack. This is why it is important to provide food at ground level.

http://www.all-natural-horse-care.com/horse-feeding.html

Their noses drain correctly and they don’t get hay bits, dust and leaves in their eyes, ears and noses when fed at ground level. Horses are not giraffes so they are not designed to graze from tree tops, which is essentially what you are asking them to do if you hang the nets. They will tip their heads, while pulling hay from the net, at an unnatural angle which really effects their poll, TMJ, neck and shoulders.

Horses were made to eat from the ground. They are used to eating off the dirt. If you have sand then you need to put something down like a rubber mat so when they are eating from the ground they aren’t ingesting sand. But horses are used to nosing about in the dirt, browsing for the good bits. They don’t mind it at all!

I do have to tie my nets to posts because of my horse track. The exterior fence is a field fence, but the interior fence is just a single strand of hot wire. It is very easy for them to roll the nets under the hot wire and then not be able to reach it. Before when I just had the big dry lot, I allowed them to roll the hay nets all over the place. It encouraged movement as well as allowing them to eat from ground level. Don’t be afraid to let your nets get dirty!

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  • What size hole should I get?

I’m feeding miniature horses so I like the 1″ holes. That size will slow the minis down and allow them to graze at a flake of hay for several hours. I do have one net that has 1 1/4″ holes but they have that one figured out. It’s usually the first one empty when I do use it! The Hay Chix website does explain what size hole is best for your horse. Do be aware that smart horses figure nets out quickly and you may have to transition to the smaller hole net quite quickly.

I have 6 different nets. 4 of them are small bale nets, one is a micro mini net and one is a half bale net. Because I have had to limit the amount of hay everyone is getting due to Sky’s weight, I tie a knot in the bottom of the small bale nets to make them smaller so I can put just 1 or two flakes in them. I only have the one half bale net or I would just use that size. But I like the option of being able to feed an entire bale, if I have to be gone overnight for instance, so I like the small bale nets.

  • Are they easy to fill?

I find the nets very easy to fill. The only time I have trouble with them is when they are frozen. Then I can’t get them open enough to stuff the hay in. Sometimes the tie ropes are frozen into the ice around the bottom of the T-Posts as well so then I have to either wait for a sunny day or take a bucket of hot water out and pour over them so I can get them out of the ice. If they are wet I find them just as easy to fill as when they are dry. When the wind is howling I have to use the nets or my hay just blows away before the ponies can eat it!

  • Do they hold up?

Short answer. Yes. I have had a few of my nets for 5 years and they still look new! I have one that is fraying a bit at the seam, but it’s still works and is holding up. My ponies are not easy on the nets as some have assumed. They paw them aggressively, they bite them and shake them. They used to carry them around when I didn’t have them tied. Zorro likes to stand on them while he is eating. So no they are not gentle with them or easy on them.

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A couple years ago I had a Hay Pillow. Aside from hay getting stuck in the zipper, then the zipper freezing in the winter, then the zipper pull breaking, my big horse used it just fine. He wasn’t easy on nets either and would often be seen walking around with the Hay Pillow in his mouth. BUT the very first time Sky used the Hay Pillow she chewed a hole through the netting in about 15 minutes, then proceeded to shred it all over the pen. The zipper was definitely broken then! In my experience the Hay Chix nets hold up very well.

Over on the right hand side of this page there is a graphic you can click on to save 20% on your Hay Chix order! If you are in the Bozeman Montana area, Bridger Feeds sells the Hay Chix nets and you’ll save the shipping price.

Even though I can’t free feed hay right now due to Sky’s weight and allowing them to forage a bit more this winter, I still like using my nets to slow them down. I feed one flake per horse in the morning, three different nets, then 2 flakes per horse in the evening again in the hay nets. Everyone is looking very good and since I’ve started Sky on Chaste Berry Powder she has lost one more hole on the harness girth 🙂 I think her weight gain was stress related but I don’t discount that she may have had hormone issues as well!

 

Goodbye 2017!

It seems like 2017 just started and yet here we are looking at 2018. Time does fly when you’re having fun! Though to be honest I can’t really remember what all happened this year. I’ll need to share some photos to jog my memory.

The biggest thing that happened for my little family is my two boys took Drivers Ed and started their journey behind the wheel. I did most of the driving with them all spring, summer and fall and they are now ready to get their drivers license!! They go in on January 8th. Sigh. It’s amazing how fast they grow up…

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Our year kicked off with Bonnie becoming laminitic after getting some grass that she found buried in the snow.

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This morphed into an acute laminitic attack after she was vaccinated in March.

Bonnie in her styrofoam boots. - www.theessentialhorse.com

She really struggled all spring and summer. I read and researched and watched videos and aggressively trimmed her feet to keep her comfortable. I adjusted her diet and barely slept. I tried several different kinds of boots to help her be more mobile and did more reading and more research. I spent $100’s of dollars having all her feed tested, even my pastures at different times of day in with different heat indexes. I learned more and adjusted her diet some more. I talked with my vet and a well respected natural vet. I talked with feed specialists and equine nutritionists and did more reading and more research. I adjusted her diet. Every time I adjusted her diet I did it slowly and watched her like a hawk. Through all of this Bonnie stayed sweet and kind. She became a true pocket pony and enjoyed my company… good thing since I was out there at all hours of the day and night!

As I worried over Bonnie and had several sleepless nights, I also was able to get Sky going in the cart again! I followed the steps I outline in my book and started at the beginning… and in no time she was pulling a cart again!

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I found a unicorn in my pasture…

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We went hiking!

Bonnie started doing better and better! She worked up to being out in the pasture with her muzzle on for a few hours a day.

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I started using Sure Foot Pads® on all the ponies. Bonnie really loves them. Sky doesn’t love them as much but will stand on them for me. Zorro really loves them too!

On August 21st there was a TOTAL ECLIPSE! My little family drove a couple hundred miles south so we could experience the eclipse in it’s entirety. At first I didn’t want to go, but I am so glad I did! (Though the drive down took 2 hours longer than it should have and the drive home took 4 hours longer than it should have do to traffic!)

Zorro did this:

and continues to be my sweet baby boy.

I continued to purchase parts of the Comfy Fit Harness!! Now all I need is the padded breeching!

Zorro wore this:

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We dressed up for fall!

I painted and finished my sled attachment!

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And I’ve been learning more about fitting a buggy collar and hames. It’s not an easy thing to do! I am saving up to upgrade my collar to one that fits Sky better.

Then I received my suspension kit from Patty’s Pony Place!!! Whoot whoot!!

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We had a wonderful, simple Christmas full of family and good food. The ponies each got a peppermint cookie for Christmas and I hand them out carefully here and there. I love to watch them enjoy them and they smell so good afterwards!

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I have a new hobby! I am making felt flowers. I love to dress up my ponies (in case you couldn’t tell) and wanted to have several flower garlands with different colored flowers. I couldn’t afford to buy all the ones I wanted so I figured I would just start making my own!! So far I am really enjoying it. And I’ve started to offer them for sale!

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I also make bridle crowns…

2017 was a fun year, even though there were some stressful times with pony health, but I am looking forward to 2018!

I wish you all a Happy New Year full of lots of love, laughter, joy and hope!

My Tiny Horse Track in the Winter

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I thought I would do an update of my tiny track and share how it’s working this winter.

I still love it. The ponies are moving around all the time. Right now they are not using the entire track because one side of it is a big, deep snow drift. Once in a while they will try to come down that side and I cringe the whole time they are floundering through it. It wasn’t so bad when the drift was soft but now it’s hard as a rock!

I feed at the opposite side of the track from the water so they have to walk a bit to get a drink. They all look very healthy and I have to fill the trough every 4-5 days which is about how often I filled it this summer so they are drinking enough. I have loose salt and magnesium in the shed so they have access to that at all times. Because it’s so cold and windy the chickens spend most of their days in the horse shed and then go back into their coop at night. Then the ponies use the shed at night… they are usually covered with sawdust in the mornings so I know they are laying down in there. They also lounge around in front of the shed when the sun is shining.

I put wind breaks around the track so they would have something to back up to when the wind really gets to blowing. If it’s 4 degrees out and the wind comes up to about 30 mph then it quickly drops to minus 10, 15 or even 20 degrees. They have two run in shed options but always choose to stand out in it. This morning the wind was blowing so much snow around that I couldn’t see 5 feet in front of me and I found them backed up to the hay stack in the far shelter. They typically don’t like that one when the wind is blowing because the roof is made up of tarps and they flap around a bit. But today they made an exception!!

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This is how they looked after I brought them over to the grain area so they could have their supplements. Even standing under the shelter backed up to the hay they were quite frosty!

It’s amazing to me how the morning can be so windy, freezing and snowy and then the afternoon is bright blue skies and beautiful! (The wind is blowing a bit so it is FREEZING out there!)

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This was in the afternoon! From the above photos to this!

All three of the ponies will get a bee in their bonnets and take off racing around and around the track. I love it when they do this! Bonnie and Zorro play with each other, chasing and bucking and rearing up to play bite. Sky watches them a bit annoyed but will run around the track on her quite a bit. I love watching them exercise in this way!

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Here is a little video of my track! There isn’t any music, just the sound of my feet in the snow and the wind, for those of you that read this while at work 😉

 

How do I use my driving whip?

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How do I use my driving whip? And how do I hold it? I hear this question a lot! Because many of us started driving after riding we are often at a loss for how and when to properly use a driving whip. Dressage riders may be a bit more versed in the use of a whip as they are required to carry one when riding to use as an extension of their leg. In driving that is exactly what the whip is for. It’s to be used as you would use your leg when riding.

The whip is NOT to be used to make the horse go. You can use it lightly to encourage forward movement once in a while, but it’s primary use is to support the horse when turning, to help them stay straight in their bodies when traveling and to move shoulders as well as hips over.  (When using lightly for forward movement do not whip the horse with it, instead tap lightly on the side of the horse’s rump, not on the top of their rump.)

Some people drive one handed, holding the reins in either their right or left hand, leaving the other hand free to manage the whip. I was never taught to drive this way, though I sometimes do when I am juggling my camera and my reins and my whip as I was doing today. I was taught to drive two-handed and to hold my whip in my right hand with my rein. I am very careful when applying my whip, so I don’t jerk or interfere with my horse’s mouth.

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You can find more photos of how to hold the reins and the whip on page 72 of my book.

This leads me to the biggest no no… smacking the horse in the rump with both reins to encourage a horse to go forward. This is a HUGE NO NO!!! No self respecting driver would ever smack their horse in the rump with the reins to encourage forward movement. This is something mainly done in the movies and once in a while I will see it done in racing. (I recently saw a video of some people skijor racing. They were driving their own horses and wildly smacking their horses in the butts as they raced around the track. Of course this did not actually do anything to make their horses run faster, they were doing that all on their own. It was purely for show and because we has humans seem to think we have to smack, whip and kick our horses to run faster when actually they will run just fine if we sit nice and stay out their way…)

When you use a longer and longer rope (or rein) you gain leverage. I’ve never understood why people would want to work with their horses online with a short rope. All this does is cause them to step on you because they don’t have enough room and gives the horse all the leverage, allowing them to use their power against you, if they so choose. Keep this in mind when you are driving your horse. Our long driving lines give us a lot of leverage on their mouths. When you use the ends of your reins to smack your horse in the butt to get them to go forward that movement only gets bigger and bigger as it travels down the lines to the mouth. Try it. Hold the bit in your hand and have someone pretend to smack the butt of the horse. You can feel all that energy travel down the lines and SMACK the horse in the mouth. Nice. It’s simple, just don’t do that.

Your whip should be long enough to reach forward and touch the horse’s shoulder. You don’t need the entire length to be the whip stock, you can include your lash in that length. When you need your horse to move it’s shoulders over you can reach forward and lightly touch the horse on the shoulder. When you want the horse to move it’s hind end over you can lightly touch the horse on the side of the rump.

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To support turning in the cart you can lay the whip along the side of the horse’s rump. Driving horses have to use their shoulders to push the shafts over when turning sharply. This means that they have to do a sideways movement to turn the cart.

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As for forward movement, you train that when ground driving. Your horse should be responsive to “walk”, “trot”, and “canter” voice commands. These can be taught in the round pen or when doing your online work. They should also completely understand “whoa”. When I want my horse to stop moving I say “whao” when I want my horse to slow down I say “easy”. Whoa is always used to STOP. Do not mix it up with slowing down.

When I’m harnessing and hitching to the cart or when I want my horse to stand quietly in cart I will tell her to “stand”. Some horses need to be told they can stand quietly so they aren’t constantly reacting to your movements. Once I tell Sky to stand I can exit my cart, visit with the neighbors or just sit and take some photos while she stands quietly, sometimes taking a little nap if the visit takes more than 5 minutes. In this way she knows I don’t need her right now.

When turning I say “come around” when I want to turn around and go the other direction. I say “come over” when I need her to turn a little bit. She knows the difference between the two and will turn with just my voice, no need of reins, when she is calm and connected.

I hope this clears up the questions about what the whip is for! Driving horses is an art as is using the whip. Use it sparingly and you will have a very responsive driving horse!