Remember our stray dog Flossie, the elderly lab mix who lived with us for a few days? Well I met up with Flossie again one day last week. She was walking down the middle of the road, right on the center line, with a line of cars behind her and heading in the direction of our farm. She wasn’t too far from home at that point so I loaded her in my car and took her home. Thank goodness the other traffic on the road was creeping along at 1 mph behind her.
This morning Jason drove to the bottom of the driveway as he was heading out, and lo and behold but who is at the bottom of the driveway, right at the edge of the road? You guessed right, it was Flossie. So Jason loaded her up and drove her the mile and a half home again. I think Flossie is getting a little bit senile. She is well cared for and likes her family. However there is no fenced in area for her and clearly she is starting to forget where she lives. Or maybe she just liked living with us better, but I really don’t think so. I really don’t want to find Flossie flattened in the road one day.
Someone asked in the comments about the health issues of the horses here. Did some of them have IR or Cushing’s, did they get supplements, etc. We do have a couple of residents with Cushings. We have actually been able to successfully manage them without administering pergolide, even if they were previously on pergolide. If the day comes that they need pergolide (or anything else) then they will get it. We have a couple of residents who have previously foundered as well. Believe it or not we’ve had no issues with founder here, even in the previously foundered, with all of the grass. I know the next question will be “why” but I don’t know that I have an answer.
I think there are several factors. The pastures are large so the horses naturally get a lot of movement in each day. We really stay on top of their feet and keep their hooves in the best shape we can. Hoof form can certainly be a big contributor to founder. The stress level on the horses is very low here. There are not horses coming and going from their groups regularly, and there is no lesson or training program here. The most content place for a horse is with their herd. Just as in people, lower stress levels lead to a healthier horse that is better able to maintain itself.
There are some residents that do get daily medications, for example a couple of the residents are on daily Thyro-L. Although most of the horses were on joint supplements prior to retirement most of them are weaned off of them here. We do have some residents that receive a daily joint supplement and a couple of residents have regular Adequan injections. There is nothing better for joint health than being out of a stall. Constant movement keeps the joint fluid flowing better than any supplement ever will. Thus most of the horses no longer need their joint supplements once they are out of the typical show barn routine.
Of course with horses there are always various lumps and bumps. I have to admit that sometimes I truly think it is a miracle that horses did not become extinct a long time ago, they really are born looking for ways to kill themselves! Occasionally someone has, for example, an oozy eye. Of course we have the vet out, the eye is dilated and stained, and we are given various topicals to put in the eye. It is amazing how strong a horse’s eyelid can be when you are trying to pry it up to apply eye ointment!
The majority of the (thankfully rare) injuries that occur here are usually related to the wood fence. One of my vets made the comment once that he sees as many injuries related to wood fencing as he does with barb wire. If a horse happens to stomp at a fly and catch the fence, or roll right next to the fence, or whatever, wood splinters and cracks. It doesn’t matter how new the wood is, it just happens. We’ve had more than one horse roll right next to a fence, including one of my horses! This baffles me. They have acres and acres of pasture in which to roll, but they have to roll six inches from the fence. I feel like saying to those horses “here’s your sign.”
The most typical change I see in aging horses is that at some point many of them go from really easy keepers to harder keepers. This is a normal part of aging, and the point it which it occurs is different with every horse. As they age their teeth aren’t as good and their bodies are not working as efficiently any more. For example, Harmony is 29 years old this year. About a year ago we had to really increase the amount of feed we were giving her to maintain her same body condition and we added a pre-biotic to her feed as well. On the other hand Clay is 30 years old this year and he has yet to show a need for any feed changes. We soak every horse’s feed to some extent, and the truly elderly horses get their feed soaked almost to a mush. Yes it is a pain to soak that much feed every day but we feed a really low NSC feed and so it is a fairly dry feed. I’d rather deal with soaking feed every single day than deal with one choke if I can avoid it. That being said soaking feed is not a guaranteed way to avoid a choke but it is a very big help.
All in all we are very low key here. Our goal is to give the horses what they need while not wasting their owner’s money giving them things they don’t need. I see relaxed, healthy and happy horses all around me every day. We may not get everything 100% perfect but I think we do a pretty good job. Hope that came close to answering the question Lytha!
Traveller grazing in front of the pear trees. Every year that one pear tree changes color and loses its leaves almost a full two months before the other trees.
B-Rad and Asterik were on the move! All of this constant movement while grazing and playing is great for their joints.
Sebastian decided to follow them
Lightening, Teddy and Lucky; I like their three distinct coat colors against the green grass in this picture
B-Rad and Winston
Trillion in the front and Asterik behind him
Ogie; he is a wonderful elderly statesman and even though he tries to convince you he is a grumpy old man he is really so loveable.