Tuesday, January 8, 2013

At Mother Nature's Mercy

Aaah, on days like today, I long for the good old days. You know, the ones where no matter what facility you boarded at, no matter how expensive or cheap, you ALWAYS had an indoor? Boarding facilities that wanted to do any sort of regular year-long business in the Great White North had to have them - without an indoor, nobody can ride when it snows! And since it snows up there from October to April, well.... everybody had them! (Or well, all the placed I boarded at had them! Even the super cheap ones!) 

Not so here in Texas. In Texas, indoor arenas do not exist, except for the few rare ones at the super chintzy horse parks in the area. There are quite a number of covered arenas, that is true... but these are relatively rare, and exclusive. (And you have to trailer to them to use them.) It simply doesn't precipitate enough here to warrant building them for the most part. 95% of the time, this obviously isn't a problem. However, on occasions, we might have TWO WHOLE DAYS OF RAIN IN A ROW, rendering everything a completely useless muddy mess. An entire day's worth of a chilly, soaking rain makes for a very grumpy and miserably cold me, and there is little to nothing that I can do with the girls on a day like today. Sure, they could come in the barn for a grooming... but as soon as I manage to get most of the slimy mud off of them, they are going to go right back out and roll in it again! I don't miss having my horses in stalls... but I do miss them being clean on days like today. I miss being able to show up at the barn in a downpour and be able to walk into the nice dry aisleways, pull my horse out of their nice dry stall, and go ride in the nice dry indoor arena. Now that they live outside, and I don't have any place to play inside (barring the barn aisle)... days like today are a wash.

If it were this time next year, I quite imagine I would man up, put my rain slicker and waterproof quarter sheet on, and take Immy for a conditioning hack down the road in the drizzle. (I did this many a time with Gogo!) Obviously, we're quite a long way away from that still! I'm feeling exceptionally grumpy about not being able to get in more rides on her... it has been a mess of a week, and it is only getting muddier and messier.

As a general recap, even though I've touched on it in the last few posts: 
After our first ride last Sunday, I wanted to give her Monday and Tuesday off, and get back on her Wednesday. That all changed when she got scared half to death in the pasture by the other people at the facility, and I had trouble catching her for two days. The new plan was to catch her and love on her Wednesday (I couldn't even touch her on Tuesday), catch her and groom/lunge in a halter on Thursday, catch her and lunge/grounddrive with bridle and surcingle Friday, and get on her Saturday and Sunday. That all went according to plan, except for the fact that she had the Big Bolt accident to deal with on Thursday - I felt that a day off was warranted after being pushed to that limit and being able to come back appropriately from it. Sunday, of course, was the frantic last-second move from the old facility to the new one, and I also felt that it would be in all of our best interested to just get out smoothly, with as little stress as possible. That ride got nixed as well.
That brings us to yesterday. While both girls settled in very well, and went straight away to their hay munching, moving to a new place is definitely stressful, and I decided to lunge her first before seeing whether or not she could tolerate trying for her second ride on only their second day at the new place. Sure glad I did that - Immy and P were obnoxious for each other while Immy was in the barn, and a lot of wiggling/screaming/pooing ensured. The quality of her poos were pretty poor yesterday, but the mare are switching back over from the barfy coastal (who am I kidding, all coastal is barfy, what was I thinking with trying to put them on that garbage?) to the tim and orchard again, so that could be it. Or she could be burnt up with ulcers from the stress at the other facility... both are probably likely. 
I took Immy out to the roundpen to let her stretch her legs. She was full of the zooms, and it was NOT helped by the fact that P went absolutely bonkers when she saw her sister trotting around - she put on a show that would make any National Finals Rodeo horse jealous. Her bucks, squeals, leaps, and high-speed laps around the pen (which is within sight of the roundpen) had Immy on edge, but she held it together and listened to all my transition requests (even if I had to ask twice, or sometimes more than that for downwards transitions! What can I say, the mare has a lot of GO versus WHOA.) 

After our lunging session was over, I decided that it was in her best interested to NOT get on for a second ride. She was just a bit too up and fresh to really consider it. We did, however, decided to go play with some of the cavalletis that were laying around in the field - she walked over all of them like a champ! She even walked over three walk poles spaced together in a row, although she admittedly had to stop and look at them first. When she decided they were not of any concern, she walked smartly over them, lifting her legs like a little ballerina. That's my girl!

Of utmost concern to me right now is her belly. With a skittery, nervous personality like she has, it is safe to say that I will always be fighting The Good Fight against ulcers with this mare. It is probably best to just always assume that she has them, and to be constantly treating or supplementing proactively. If I don't do that, it is almost guaranteed that her GI system will be fried within no time. As I mentioned earlier, her poops were not so great yesterday - but then again, they are switching over to the other kind of hay, so this could also be a contributing factor. The other worrisome thing she did was this: the girls each get 1/2 a flake of alfalfa, now being added slowly back into their diet along with the tim and orchard. A bit of alfalfa is good for tummies - all that calcium acts as a good buffer! - and Immy realized I had tossed it out as she was about halfway done with her grain. She made a beeline over to it, and I caught her and tied her up so she could finish her grain (P will eat it if she doesn't!). Well, she had none of that - not when her tasty alfalfa was waiting. She wouldn't eat another bite. I did get her finish her breakfast at dinnertime though, which was good.
However, this morning she did the same thing - I markedly left the alfalfa out of the haypile so that she wouldn't be tempted to go searching for it while she had her grain in front of her, but she still only ate about 1/2 of her grain before stopping and refusing to eat another bite. She snuffled it around for awhile, but showed no interest in finishing. Possible scenario: the girls get alfalfa and timothy hay pellets as their "grain" (to mix their supplements with), but I was lucky enough to score some alfalfa/timothy mixed pellets made by the same company. (Which is nice... fewer bags, same thing!) That was the first morning the new hay pellets had been mixed in with the rest of her food... perhaps she didn't like them. Or, she was anticipating her alfalfa and wanted nothing to do with her yucky supplements. Or, she is burnt up with ulcers. 

It is hard to say. But as I said before, I'm just going to go with the idea that I need to be very proactive and keep supplementing and treating constantly for ulcers.

What I currently do for healthy tummy management for Imogen:
1) Live outside 24/7 with a shelter and a bestie (Pangea)
2) As much good-quality grass hay as I can possibly give (they do waste a fair bit of it... might look into building another slow feeder!)
3) Small amount of supplemental alfalfa twice a day (for buffering calcium)
4) NO hard grains, just alfalfa/tim hay pellets and Healthy Glo fat supplement to mix in with other supplements and herbs
5) High quality probiotic
6) Aloe juice with every meal
7) Slippery elm bark and marshmallow root with every meal (just started a few weeks ago, possibly has not taken effect yet)
8) Chamomile and SmartCalm - we'll see if they work or not, so far nothing!

Things I could do or look into:
1) Omeprazole, ranitidine, sucralfate, or the like - various hits and misses with these, they don't always work but sometimes they can be a miracle... but the ulcers almost always come back when you stop treatment UNLESS you supplement with other things, or change your horse's living/feeding arrangements. The main function of many of these drugs (not sucralfate) is to inhibit the proton pumps that excrete acid into the stomach. The problem with this? Horses need acid to digest their food! Improperly digested starches and sugars can make their way into the hindgut, which can lead to a whole 'nother barrel of apples: acidosis, hindgut ulceration, leaky gut syndrome (which can lead ultimately to laminitis!), and more. Yes, they do work, but you can end up healing stomach ulcers and creating colonic ulcers in the process! Better to try and work synergistically with the horse to make everything work harmoniously rather than throw a drug at it, in my humble opinion. 
2) Pumpkin seeds - full of nitric oxide. I hear great things about these!
3) Dried cabbage - sounds nasty but they are high in L-glutamine, which heals the lining of the stomach.
4) Papaya juice - I used Natural Plan Stomach Soother for my old greyhound and it worked great!
5) Before EVERY workout, give alfalfa and/or a few cups of hay pellets mixed with her slippery elm, marshmallow root, aloe, and any of the aforementioned things should I add them in... while she has hay in front of her all the time, I can't guarantee that she has been munching directly before I arrive.... she might be working on an empty belly, which is no good at all!
6) Oat flour - for more Betas Glucan and hindgut health (it is what make SUCCEED so good, but without the $$$$$$!)

Readers, what do YOU do for proactively keeping your ulcer-prone horse's hindgut healthy? Share away!

The girls not enjoying the rain:

Aaah, that's better!

And yes, I did go fix Immy's sliding blanket after I took the picture! ;)


  1. If you remember, Solo developed ulcers a while back from a worm infestation. I did two weeks of UlcerGuard (full tube every day for a week, ow, then 1/4 tube every day for a week), then I switched him to ranitidine. I kept him on the ranitidine for the rest of his competitive career and I gave him UlcerGuard during horse trials. It definitely worked for him -- I had no further problems. Now that he is not competing and in light work, I just feed him the u-guard pellets just in case, they are just a soother. But that was our solution.

  2. I always carried UlcerGard around with me when I had Gogo... every time she got in the trailer, she got a dose. It might be worth it, a dose before strenuous things, for Immy too!

  3. What is awesome about my BTDT gelding: pretty much nothing stresses him and he always takes care of himself. Also, he's from Texas. Sounds about right.

    When I went through the ulcer fun with my mare, I changed her living situation to 12 hrs turnout/12 on dry lot with twice daily ugard. I think the big grassy pasture did more for her than the supplement, but something worked right. She was no where near as sensitive as Ms Immy though. Good luck!

  4. My friend supplemented her OTTB's feed regiment with dried cabbage when he exhibited signs of ulcers, and he improved so much! His coat looks fantastic, too.

  5. RE the hay wastage/slow feeders, I have built a number of different slow feeders and they all pretty much suck. What works best is the $10 small mesh hay net (the large size with the metal ring on the bottom) from Dover. You can get about 3-4 flakes in a single net, and 2 nets will last 1 horse 12 hours. There is almost NO wasted hay with these either. Yeah, they are a PITA to fill, but they really, really work, and the horses can't flip them over or bash them around or get the lid off, like they can with a hard-sided slow feeder. Another option is to put up a hockey net across the back of their shed (inside) and use that as a feeder - you could probably fill it once a day or once every other day and they would have a delicious wall-o-hay!

  6. The other thing to think about is does she have a problem in her hindgut, rather than stomach? My horse is sensitve and will do cow pats at the drop of a hat. What worked for him was KER's EquiShure. It is an antacid that is buffered and so works specifically on the hindgut to combat any acidosis. Max's was sub-clinical, and as he lives out I felt it unlikely he had ulcers. But a six week course seemed to help get the balance right again, and now he poos like a champ!
    Might be worth considering anyway, as you're doing all the holistic things.

  7. I was using Omega Alpha Gastra FX and it worked great. They have a new product Regenerex that heals ulcers - completely. It's only a two week dose but it's expensive about $250 for that. Would be worth a shot.

  8. My nervous little mare had ulcers for a while, so I put her on aloe juice in the morning with her grain and SmartGut from Smartpak in the evening. This helped a little, but she still wasn't finishing her food, so instead of two daily feedings, we split her grain into four feedings (one AM, one lunch, one PM, one night) and spaced out the aloe and supplement throughout. It REALLY helped her and now she has no symptoms of ulcers and I didn't have to drug her.

    I really recommend SmartGut because it combines a lot of the benefits of various remedies into one pellet. It isn't a quick fix, but long term it seems to really help. Several horses at my barn are on this supplement.

  9. Yoghurt, and NOT that horrible flavoured crap they sell at supermarkets and call "yoghurt". Get real yoghurt made from cows' milk and bacteria and heat, nothing else. Or home made yoghurt, takes me about 10 minutes with nothing but a yoghurt maker flask ($20), a litre of UHT milk (saves on pre-boiling), and 2tbs of premade yoghurt for a starter.

    When my mare gets an upset tummy, I give a cup daily in her feed.

    Alternatively, you could get those "probiotic yoghurt drink" things at shops; I give 2x once daily. Works a treat on me too.

  10. When Promise was on stall rest, she developed ulcers from that and the bute. I gave her 4 days worth of Gastroguard, from the vet (OUCH $$$$). And immediately put her on SmartGut from SmartPak for maintenance. She stayed on SmartGut, although I had slowly decreased her to the smallest dose possible, right up until I put her down.

  11. How much slippery elm bark and marshmallow root do you feed?

  12. I use a 1 or 2oz scooper (sometimes I use the bigger one if I am worried about her, or just use 2 scoops of the 1oz) in each grainmeal. You can also paste them with it!