All Things Horse

Forty-seven Years Of Horse Experience – At Your Service!

Winter Care for Horses

“Speak to me of every day things and I am likely to ignore you. However speak to me of horses and you will have my full undivided attention”Tina Bastian

We live in Canada and I think, this time of the year, everyone becomes concerned about their horses and their neighbours horse too.  Here on the islands, there are very few horses left amongst the people. On this island, Coffin Island, there are presently ten horses, five of which are mine. Last year there were three, all of which were mine and so on for many years. Before I got Copper, there hadn’t been any horses here since I was young.

What I am saying is that people in general around here don’t know about the needs of horses and some are very agitated that I don’t have a barn. I have shelter in the form of a large greenhouse structure covered in undamaged heavy duty plastic and a smaller temporary car garage, as well as many acres of spruce, pine and fir forests, that have thick, interwoven tops and no branches on bottom. These forests groves are surrounded by very thick spruce and fir underbrush and young spruce trees trying to find light to grow. They are so thick that our cat as difficulty picking her way through them.

I also have two sets of winter blankets for each of the five horses, just in case they are needed. One blanket is thick synthetic filled multi-layer, with a fleece liner and the other is an impermeable or a water-proof garment. Granted I try to not use the blankets often because I want the horses coats to come to their full potential for warmth, but I don’t take any chances on any of the horses getting cold either.

Another thing is that I and my son take turns, feeding all the horses, sometimes every hour around the clock, when the temperature really drops or it becomes a wet, windy day with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark. These are the worst days for my horses. Often they are standing belly deep in hay while other times the horses use the greenhouse, particularly if I put the food inside. But because the warmth in the greenhouse, winter coats tend to get stunted and extremely dirty and dusty, so although I used the green house frequently three winters ago, I found that last year the horses were happier outside and I had less conflicts amongst them. The flapping, snapping plastic, in the highest gale wind, doesn’t bother them in the slightest, which surprised me greatly. I thought it would spook them badly.

Yes, I’m up out of bed and out with the horses, throughout the night. I’ve been known to fall asleep while laying on a soft, warm back at 30 degrees below zero Celsius, only to have a rude awakening, face down in a snow bank, when Copper decided to shift his weight to the other foot. I don’t do that anymore.

Instead, I keep fresh hay with them constantly and bring water, warmed from the kettle on the stove in two and a half gallon buckets to each and everyone of them separately, a half a dozen times a day, throughout the winter. I try to get at least ten gallons of water into each horse per day. My original three, Gimme A Dream, Frilly and Willow drink up to 15 gallons a day each but the newest older guys, Bonanza and Shaman drink only a couple of gallons per day.

I have salt blocks and more recently large 24 kg mineral blocks set out to encourage the intake of water. They prefer the mineral blocks but I keep the salt blocks out, just in case they want a change.

Gimme A Dream, Willow, Frilly and Bonanza all have a high body condition score, about a 7, but 28-year-old Shaman has less. He is not a thin horse, in fact he is the best conditioned horse I have here. The others are fat, FAT, fat and with bigggggg hay bellies. They are so out of condition now (I am so ashamed of myself) but as the days grow longer and the temperatures start to rise, I shall start to cut their meals from them slowly until I’m feeding them tree times a day and give them less hay per feeding until they get about forty lbs each per day except for Gimme. He will continue to get more because of his great height and normal weight. And I shall be riding them again. They are retired from riding for the winter because I keep them barefoot all year round.

January 25, 2010 Posted by | health | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

To Vaccinate or Not To Vaccinate!

I have seen soldiers panic at the first sight of battle,
and a wounded squire pulling arrows out of his
wound to fight and save his dying horse.  
Nobility is not a birth right but is defined by one’s action.
Kevin CostnerRobin Hood, Prince of Thieves, 1994

Tip # 10

Will I vaccinate this year? That is the statement of the day, isn’t it?  This is a question many of you are now asking yourselves. 

Three Equine DiseasesEquine Western, Eastern and Venezuelan Equine Encephalomyelitis, also commonly known as:  EE, EEE, WEE, VEE, Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis, Western Equine Encephalomyelitis, Venezuelan Equine Encephalomyelitis

These viruses are transmitted by the bite of the mosquito and can be passed through to humans.  Each strain is unique to an area so that EEE is seen in Eastern North America, WEE in Western areas and Venezuelan is widespread in South America.

Symptoms – include increased temperature, listlessness and loss of appetite. Initially the disease may be so mild that it isn’t noticed. As the disease progresses, the horse may show signs of irritation and nervousness, extreme listlessness, and eventually paralysis and death. Humans, donkeys, mules and horses are susceptible.

Treatment – Veterinary care in the early stages is crucial. Although there is no specific treatment available, treatment of the symptoms with drug and vitamin therapies may help a horse survive the effects of the virus.

Prevention – Vaccination is the best preventative for EEE, WEE, and VEE. Individuals with the disease should be quarantined and steps to reducing biting insects taken. If you live in an area where EE is prevalent call your veterinarian for the recommended vaccination schedule.

Here on the Islands

Gimme A Dream, Woodmere Frilifili, Willow Breeze

Gimme A Dream, Woodmere Frilifili, Willow Breeze



Spring time has arrived on the islands.  Crocuses are peeping up through the melted snow banks and muck is everywhere.  Soon the grounds will be lit up with tulips and daffodils and soon after the insects arrive in fury.  Actually I saw the first mosquito yesterday flying around.  It must be the male mosquitoes that comes out of hibernation first because they don’t bite this time of the year.  Instead, the females become the vampires of the insect world late in June or even in early July here.  They are monsters for the horses, from around 9:00pm to midnight and early mornings also, sometimes. 

So do I vaccinate? Not this year! There has been no accounts of the eastern strain virus on the islands to date. Granted it is only a matter of time, because the strain has been noticed in Eastern Canada, but because of the isolation of my three horses, I’m estimating that the risk is minimal and I just don’t have the money for needless frivolities, this year.

However, as in all years, I’ll  make a special trip to the veterinarians office to get the local gossip on local contagious diseases.  I try to keep myself informed. I’ll be listening to the gossip, to hear who lost what horse and why, then I’ll ask the vet what her thoughts are on the subject and determine if there is any contagions in the area. That is the least I can do without putting more pressure on the pocketbook.  But I won’t be worried about infected mosquitoes this year.

My Attempt at Natural Bug Control

I’m attempting to make a natural bug control system this year. I bought eight laying hens which are now free range in the wetland area of the horses pasture and paddocks. I’m hoping that they will control some of the insects that bother the horses and humans alike.  

The hens are becoming very precious to me. There is one hen who enjoys her own company so much that she doesn’t return to the hen pen at night. At five in the morning, I took grain out to the hens and there she was waiting to be fed. They others were all still locked up for the night. I picked her up and hugged her tight and stroked her soft feathers. She didn’t mind! Then I returned her to the pen and dropped the grains in their dish.

I leave a light on all night. It is not good for the hens since it keeps them awake, but I feel as though I have little choice. The pen is in the greenhouse and there are fox in the area.  My neighbours say the fox is starving but that is not true. They all throw leftovers out for the fox and crows and I’ve seen the fox with the horses. He is not starving. However, the light serves to keep him away from the greenhouse.

April 15, 2009 Posted by | health | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Worms! Yew!

One doesn’t judge a fine horse by his strength, but by his character.” – Confucius

Tip #9

As one of my young nieces would say, “Yewwww…,Gross me out!” This is not something anyone really enjoys thinking about, but…, unfortunately it is a fact.

Does your horse need de-worming medication?  Most of you who read this, know all about de-worming a horse and probably have your horses on a regular de-worming schedule. Most likely your horses need to have the medication. But not always and not all horses, strange as it may seem.

In an earlier post on potatoes, I mentioned that I never once de-wormed Copper in the seven years that I had him, nor the seven years that his previous owner, my cousin, had him. Copper is a pie-bald Pinto/Tennessee Walker and now he is over in PEI and still doesn’t get de-wormed. When I took him over to Prince Edward Island, the veterinarian looked him over, tested his stools and said he didn’t need the attention.

Now I’ve had Gimme A Dream slightly more than two years and I’ve de-wormed him four times. Each time, I swear that the medication didn’t work. 

Frilly came from the CDP (Charlottetown Driving Park) and I found out she was infested with small strongyles (small red worm) this month, almost a year after I took her from the CDP.  These worms are known to kill their host and they are well known to resist de-worm medication.  I didn’t have her tested because there was no need. I could see them in her stools. frilly

Frilly has been de-wormed several times since I owned her, each time with a different brand with a different active ingredient.  She was de-wormed a couple of times before she came to the Magdalen Islands.  Now I’m questioning where she came by them and more important, why does she still have them? 

I specifically checked for worms in the filly.  She has had bare spots appearing in her fur around her rump, which I associated with worms.  The other two horses, Gimme A Dream and Willow don’t have the same problem.  

Last March, Frilly lost fur in circles and I de-wormed all of the horses, as I did the other day. Last year, I targeted ringworm specifically and all other species generally.  To me it is obvious that I didn’t get the small redworm last spring, because of the infestation this spring. 


Now I realize that most of you are thinking that she has been re-infested from grazing. I would normally consider that seriously except all of my horses are on fresh pasture land and there are no other animals on the island. Because of this lack of animals, either domestic or wild, we don’t have the insect population that creates the larva that, when ingested, cause the worm problem. For example, I don’t have the bot problem that other places have, because the island doesn’t have the bot fly.

I’m thinking that Frilly brought the worms from the racetrack, the CDP.  Race horse owners are notorious for cheaping out, when their investments don’t pay off. I’ve heard that the CDP is a festering maggot pile, from a few horse owners who do care a great deal for their four-legged athletes. frilly-lt-rump-4

That means that the small redworm has developed a resistance to the medication I gave them last year. I’ve come to this conclusion because of the isolation the horses live in, on this island. We have very few species of insect here. Of the insects that bother the horses there are only two, the mosquito and the horse fly.

The vet says that this is normal, but it is not! They have them on her island Grindstone and also on Amherst and House Harbour islands, but not here on Coffin Island.  Also we have a small amount of wormwood growing wild in the pastures. Wormwood is known to kill parasites within warm blooded bodies.  It is unlikely that we have many of the other parasites that cause worms in the horses. We have mosquitos and horse flies (the vampires) of the insect world. There are a few house flies.

After all is said and done, it is possible and probable that my dear deceased Sammy (Sam’s Pride) was the culprit who infected Frilly. Her stools had been tested and came out positive for some worms but not enough to suspect fowl play in her death.

So what this comes down to is that,  I want them gone…, before the horses go out on the pasture this summer. They won’t re-infect themselves this time of the year, but the eggs can live in the grass and whatever insect emerges will create the larva in the grass and re-infect the horses. That just won’t do!

I have an intense dislike putting chemicals into the bodies of my four legged friends. If I can prevent the spread of these worms, I’m going to do it. But unfortunately, I still sense that I didn’t get them gone from young Frilly. I will be giving her a dose of something else, brain-storming with the vet and sending to the manufactures for something different. I don’t know what else I can do!

April 4, 2009 Posted by | health | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Equine Breathing As An Holistic Training Method – Does It Work?

I pay my psycologist with hay and potatoes…, and he stands there, the entire day, everyday, if necessary, listening to me rant and rave.  Not once have I heard him whine about how hard his day has been…, LOL! – Me!

Tip #8

Gimme A Dream is a nervous horse. All his nervous energy goes inside himself and it makes him sick. In most ways, he is a wonderful animal to be around. But when he becomes nervous, he will stand still and shake the weight right off his bones.

Gimme A Dream

Gimme A Dream

Last year was a reasonably nervous year for Dream.  Even though I owned him for quite a while, it was 2008 before he was moved to the islands. He was uptight about everything, particularly the beach. I owned Frilly by this time, but she was young and not on the islands.  So I thought I’d buy Willow, who was a rescue, to get both Dream and Frilly, when she arrived, ready for the beach.  I thought an older horse would help calm things down.

Instead of helping, little Willow put the heels to Dream, splitting an artery in his chest and sending us all into a panic.  A month later, I bought baby Sammy (Sam’s Pride) and brought both her and Frilly home at the same time.  Dream went spiraling down into a state of nervous depression and we spent our nights walking him because of signs of colic. 

Sammy was sick, but I didn’t know it.  However, Willow knew and didn’t want her around.  She passed this nervousness on to Dream, who continued to lose weight and have regular bouts of diarrhea.  When Sammy died, Dream knew it.  He could smell her death, even though I kept the horses away from the building.  He spent weeks reaching his head high into the air, sniffing and he continued to loose weight.  I would say, my Dream Boy had the equivalent of a nervous breakdown.

Summer came and the horses were put out on to the fresh pasture.  Just the change of locations made him nervous and he lost more weight.  I made arrangements to send him away, because he wasn’t settling in, even though he was wonderful to ride. 

In the end though, I kept him with the mares and myself, thinking another change wouldn’t be good for him.

I did a lot of research on the internet and found a sight which brought me to learning how to breathe properly.  The site had a link to equine breathing.  Of course I had to check it out.  There I found a lot of information on horse behaviour and much of it described my Gimme A Dream.  So I studied every word that the site had to say.  I watched every video and listened to all the audios, followed all the links.

Then I tried the techniques on Dream and you know…, this winter he finally started to gain the weight he had lost.  I started very slowly, only placing my hand over his nostril for a couple of seconds.  When he chose to stop, I stopped.  You know…, I think he gained all the weight back and then some.  He has had next to no nervous bouts.  I’m certainly pleased!

But to answer the question, does the holistic training method for equine breathing, actually work? I don’t know the answer.  There are far too many variables to work with, in our environment.  Maybe Dream is better because he is a year older.  Or, maybe it is because he has had no serious changes in his environment for four months.  I’m just thankful that he is not keeping me up at night, anymore.

Equine Breathing is an holistic training method that enables you to help your horses in their recovery from chronic ailments and behaviour problems. 

The idea behind Equine Breathing is that, for many different reasons, some horses start to breathe badly and the biochemical imbalances that arise can result in symptoms and behavioural problems. This idea has its origins in scientific studies of human respiration physiology and while equivalent scientific studies on horses have not yet been carried out trials by interested horse owners support its applicability to horses.nes_student_1n-3

Equine Breathing is a way of reminding and re-training the horse how to breathe correctly.  In horses that chronically over breathe, it is thought that carbon dioxide levels fall which can cause cell damage and eventually ill health.

Damage caused by low levels of carbon dioxide is reversible. So increasing carbon dioxide levels by re training and correcting the breathing encourages healing, and symptoms can diminish and disappear.  Equine Breathing training reduces the amount of air breathed in to a more natural and beneficial level which helps healing.

A simple way to reduce air intake is to cover one nostril at a time with your hand.  This is called the ‘one nostril’ or 1N technique.  Almost anyone can do one nostril Equine Breathing. 
    * It is easy to learn,
    * requires no equipment, 
    * horses enjoy it
    * and people find it relaxing and calming.
Equine Breathing enables horse owners to help their horses in their recovery from a wide range of chronic conditions, through their own efforts ! 
However if you have any concerns its wise to ask your vet before starting Equine Breathing so that she/he can advise if its suitable for your horse. While Equine Breathing may reduce the need for ongoing treatment do not change any treatments advised by your vet without first consulting him or her.

March 2, 2009 Posted by | health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Is The Best Hay You Can Feed Your Horse?

Tip #7

Now that is a loaded question! 


Professionally seeded winter hay is planted with timothy for the great height of the individual plant and for the length of time it keeps it’s seed heads and with red clover for the size of the plant  and it’s bulk.  Over time, it can become weeded with a mixture of grasses including rye, brome, fescue, orchard grasses and others, depending of the region.  With a mixture of timothy and clover, a hay farmer can get more bales from his field.  But is this hay the best hay for your horse?

For many years now, the quality of the hay on the Magdalen Islands has been questioned.  People who have the money swear by importing hay from the mainland or from PEI, is the best thing they can do for their horses.  Because there is a lot of spare money on the islands and only about 200 horses, the hay farmers of the islands are having difficulty selling their hay. 

When the vet visited just before my young Sammy died (See first post) her only real advice was to give Sammy the best hay I had available and I got the feeling that she disdained the Magdalen Islands bales, which in my mind was the best I had.


I receive my hay from two different sources, both from the Islands. I get large 800 lb bales from Amherst Islands, which is mostly timothy and clover, although there is the Canadian thistle in some of the bales.  Occasionally I receive a bale of orchard grass from him.

The second source is from Fatima, on Grindstone Island. This source bales his hay in 40 lbs bales.  I also believe he adds mineral salt to condition his bales while he is in the baling process, probably as a preservative. This farmer cuts only pasture hay or summer hay as some people might choose to call it.  Pasture hay could have any and all of perhaps a hundred different types of plants, some of which could possibly be toxic to a horse.  

So I did a study on the value of the plants in pasture hay vs plants in winter hay. The results were quite astounding.  Here on the islands there are 249 different species of medicinal quality plants, the greatest majority of which grow in the pastures and are plants which the horses eat during the summer. 

Timothy hay on the other hand, though nutritious enough, has no medicinal qualities and clover, which has many medicinal qualities can contribute to colic, if ingested in high enough quantities which could be considered toxic in special cases. It is wise to watch the ratio when planting and while feeding.

The islands has very few toxic plants, all of which grow elsewhere and not in the pastures, excluding occasional magic mushrooms, which don’t become toxic until long have the hay season is finished. I mention them because some farmers spread excess barn manure on their fields. The farmers of my fields do follow this practice.

Some of the grasses included in pasture hay can be…, depending on the region:

couch grass & rhizomes (Willow’s favorite) – unproven herbal soothness on the urinary tract.

dog rose – heals wounds; high in vitamin C

orchard grass – nutricious;

dandelions- promotes bowel regularity; aids in digestive ailments for liver and gallbladder

caraway – calms intestinal gases; 

fescue – nutricious;

wild pea – nutricious in small quantities; legume;

clovers – recommended for colds and congestion; remedy for athletes foot.

Common Valerian – sedative; antispasodic action; relieves migranes, insomnia, digestive problems caused by nervous tension; can irritate stomach acid;

Wild Strawberry – tonic; remedy for diarrhea and sore throats; laxative; (it must be a corrective agent since it remedies both diarrhea and is a laxative);

Lovage – relieves gas pains; diuretic;

Wood Cudweed – natural lithium aids behavioural anomallies; anti-infection; eliminates some parascites;

yarrow – all-heal plant; pain killer; sooths everything from urinary tract to head colds; anti-inflammatory agent;

Shephard’s Purse – vitamins A,C &K (coagulation of blood);diuretic for infections of urine tract; fights fever; relieves rheuatism and irritated skin surfaces;

thistles – antibiotic properties

Stinkweed – natural sulfur, vitamins B2 and C; relieves arthritis and rheumatism; eases breathing; eliminates abdominal gas; heals pulmonary congestion and relieves back pain;

willows – derivative of asprin; pain killer; (Copper woud all but kill for sweet willow, I think)


So,  what is the best hay to feed your horse? I don’t know for sure! That is like asking what food is good for humans.  If the hay has been mowed and cured properly for the particular field and region, then it is probably all good.  But I do know that there are plants in the medicinal range that sooth upset stomachs, help the liver purify the toxins, cleanse the kidneys, are known for sending cancer patients into remission, boost the immune system, increase the metabolism rate, etc. I think I’d prefer to feed my horses a good range of grasses so that they get all kinds of vitamins, minerals, proteins and all the other stuff the body needs to remain healthy.

Note: The farmer in Fatima adds salt to his hay while baling I believe. When we were speaking of the medicinal qualities he brought up the salt in his hay. I didn’t, at the time think too much of it because living on the Magdalen Islands, salt is present everywhere including the air we breathe.

Note 2: I do notice that my horses all drink twice the amount of water when I give them his hay. I don’t see this as a problem unless one of my animals develops high blood pressure or something similar. But I do consider the extra water very beneficial to diluting and draining away any and all toxins that are in their bodies.

During the winter, I have the greatest amount of trouble getting my horses to drink enough water.   The vet says to give the horses 5 gallons of water per day per horse at least.  I’ve always tried for ten gallons before I was happy.   During the summer, my horses drink approximately 15 gallons each per day.  I monitor their water closely and make certain it is of the highest quality.

Water makes the horse look fatter by filling him out in the hip or loin region of his body. More on water and it’s benefits in another post.

One last note : The hay here on the islands is guaranteed not to have chemical sprays that drifted or seeped in from the potato or veggie field next door, nor atmospheric drifting pesticides that are widely used to keep the bug population down on the mainland. We don’t use any kinds of sprays anywhere on the islands. In saying that, how many horse owners in North America can honestly say that?

February 23, 2009 Posted by | health | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments


Tip # 6

Boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew….

Cute!!! I loved this scene from the Lord of the Rings – The Twin Towers! Of course, I loved the entire show, even though the Twin Towers deviated from Tolkien’s book.

Potatoes is my favorite cure-all treatment for horses!   I mean it!  If one of my horses is displaying any kind of imbalance or limp, I feed him/her potatoes – raw, cleaned, and as straight from the ground, as is possible.  But then, I feed all my horses one or two medium-size potatoes everyday as a preventative measure.

With potatoes, I’ve relieved the stress of arthritis, laminitis, post-legs, rheumatism, colic, pulled tendons and probably a number of maladies, that I didn’t even know they had.  I never wormed Copper the whole time I had him here on the islands (14 years) and he never had his teeth floated in his life (about thirty-one years now).  Different vets agreed that it wasn’t necessary with Copper because he kept his weight throughout the year. 

The Story of Copper:

Copper came to me because he was very sick and the veterinarian had given up all hope of saving the young horse’s life. He had laminitis/sunstroke/bummed up front knee/thrush/a touch of colic/ and probably a whole bunch of other things too.  He was off his feet, neither eating or drinking and lying out flat on the ground.   It was a hot day in July, but the vet didn’t put him down because the children were crying and totally upset and quite frankly wouldn’t let him.

After the vet left, his owner and more importantly, the crying children called me because they knew I had gone to university to study to become a veterinarian (I changed my major) and asked me to help.  I didn’t know about potatoes at that time.  I threw sheets that had been soaked in water, over the horse, head and all. That was to help get him through the day.  Late in the afternoon, he rose and drank some luke warm water.  In the evening, I walked him to my home, about 1500 yards away.  He walked on three legs and it took approximately two hours to go the distance, which was up hill.  When I got him home, I tethered him under the spruce, until I roped the trees off and he had his own small, branch-covered paddock. I had already trimmed the branches high enough up, so that he would not hurt himself.  He spent three years in that paddock, coming out only after the sun was low enough and going for an evening ride.  

It took a long time to bring Copper back, but it was worth it.  In those three years, I research and I learned everything I could about using natural healing products.  In that time, I wrote a book on medicinal plants and spoke with many elderly folk on what their parents did, when they weren’t feeling well.  

In one such conversation, an elderly lady was using raw potatoes to control her arthritis.  This made me very curious, because I knew that Copper was a candidate for arthritis.  I started giving him a potato every day.  After a day, I noticed he was more sprightly, feeling good in comparison to the weeks before.  After two days, his limp was noticable better.  After a week, he had no limp or swellings around his front knees or hocks.  

This was totally strange for me. I did more research, specifically on potatoes and found that they contained a natural, mild antibiotic. I had been giving him butezone, a steroid (from the vet who still swore he wouldn’t live two more months) which causes all kinds of stomach problems.  I stopped the bute treatements completely.  But even I never thought Copper would live a long life.  Personally, I gave him five years before having to put him down.  That was sixteen years ago.

Copper lived a very active life, after he got better.  He went on to learn how to jump and easily cleared four foot barrels with a rider.  I put him into a five foot boarded fence paddock, he made one turn around and jumped out.  All the children enjoyed his company and enjoyed their evening rides.  After a few years, his owner asked me to keep him or he would send him to Entry Island, where I had no contact with him. I kept him because Copper made me feel good.

A couple years later, I send him to the Giddy Up Pony Camp for one summer, to help teach youngsters how to ride.  A couple years later I send there for good. He was getting older and I had no facilities for him.  Eventually, he was retired to a farmer who’s mother wanted a horse to look after.  Copper has been there for years now. He is over 31 years old.

Since I learned about potatoes, I use them for preventative medicine because the horses love them.  It’s like giving candy to a child…, and it is cheaper than apples and carrots treats.  

Since I started using potatoes, I’ve told many people of the successes I’ve had and suggested they try them.  Everyone has said the same thing – that there is a notice improvement in their equine friends.

The Story of Topper:

But the most astonishing story I’ve heard of,  is the treatment of a thirty-year-old palomino gelding called Topper, who had broke his stifle a couple years previously and had diarrhea for months.  The owner was in a terrible state of mind.  She wasn’t ready to lose her friend.  I met her in the social networks and she explained the problem, the veternarian was coming on Monday to put him down.  It was Friday evening.  She was really stressed and it was coming over the computer loud and clear.

I suggested that she put the horse on a macrobiotic diet of plain oatmeal (porridge) and give him potatoes. Then I asked her how old the horse was…. She never told me. But she took two cut up raw potatoes out to her friend who to her surprise, gobbled them down. 

I met her the next day, on the net and asked how Topper was.  She said he seems to be standing straighter and his stools were thicker, but she still didn’t have much hope and was devastated.  She continued with the potatoes but not the macrobiotic diet.  I asked her again, how old her horse was and again she never answered.  

Sunday evening I spoke with her again and she was estatic.  She said Topper was walking around and then trotted and even cantered after his donkey companion. The diahhrea was gone and he had no limp. It was like the last five years never existed. Again I asked her how old Topper and for the third time she didn’t answer me.  The vet came on Monday and agreed there was an incredible change in the horse. He left after giving the horse a vitimin shot.

Like all good stories, this one has to come to an end.  This past fall, the lady decided it was time to put her horse to sleep.  The veterinarian came and administered the shots and the horse fell into a peaceful sleep.  I finally found out how old the horse was, 30 years.  I was stunned!!!  But the lady had six extra months to say good bye to her equine friend. That was six months to prepare for the inevitable.  Six months she wouldn’t have had without POTATOES!

Scientifically Speaking:

In a quick internet search, I found that medicinally speaking, it has been proven, scientifically that raw potatoes are good to relieve the stress of rheumatism. 

“To carry a raw potato in the pocket was an old-fashioned remedy against rheumatism that modern research has proved to have a scientific basis. Ladies in former times had special bags or pockets made in their dresses in which to carry one or more small raw potatoes for the purpose of avoiding rheumatism if predisposed thereto. Successful experiments in the treatment of rheumatism and gout have in the last few years been made with preparations of raw potato juice. In cases of gout, rheumatism and lumbago the acute pain is much relieved by fomentations of the prepared juice followed by an application of liniment and ointment. Sprains and bruises have also been successfully treated by the Potato-juice preparations, and in cases of synovitis rapid absorption of the fluid has resulted. Although it is not claimed that the treatment in acute gout will cure the constitutional symptoms, local treatment by its means relieves the pain more quickly than other treatment.”

Not all horses like potatoes at first  

Frilly for example, wouldn’t eat potatoes for the first few months I had her home here.  However, after seeing the other horses gobbling them away from her, she decided to try them.  Now she eats her share, but she is such a Princess and delicately nibbles at them, even still.  I wanted her eating them just in case I needed her to eat potatoes in the future for its medicinal qualities.

February 12, 2009 Posted by | health | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Oh The Weather Outside Is Frightful…-

Necessity is the Mother of Invention – Plato.

Hot Water Bottles – Tip #2

Not so awful anymore since the really cold snap broke this morning. It was a sunny day and I removed all the blankets from the beasties. I think they appreciated it. A little vitamin D from the sun won’t hurt this time of the year. The record lows have taken me back almost a year, to that sad time my dear young Sammy died. I wrote about it in the first post, here on this weblog.

I guess it would be inevitable that I would think about that tragic time since Sammy died on the coldest day of 2008. It was on a cold morning, the last Friday in February, at 5am that she went down. She and the other horses were in the greenhouse and it wasn’t a bad day weather-wise. The other horses never liked Sammy and wouldn’t allow her to be a part of the herd. They accepted that the greenhouse was her area and they were visitors there but they didn’t much like her being around them. (More on this in another post later)

At 5 am, there was a holy ruckus in the greenhouse. I jumped out of bed and Cleigh jumped away from his computer and we both ran for the doors, me for the porch door and Cleigh for the living-room door. When I tried to open the door, the horses were scrambling, stampeding,  all three of them to get out of the greenhouse all at the same time through a 40 inch wide door opening. I couldn’t get out for them. In the meantime, Cleigh was having the time of his life getting the living room door open. The door was at the other end of the greenhouse and Sammy was laying down but squished up against the door that opened outwards.

The only thing possible was that she fell against the wall and door.  The other horses finally got out without tearing the wall off the greenhouse somehow and Cleigh and I were finally able to get out and inspect what had happened. Sammy was quiet but she was laying too close to the foundation and her head was turn up and in toward her body in an uncomfortable looking position, so Cleigh and I grabbed her by the halter and moved her around. Not an easy feat, I can tell you.

Sometime later in the day she went into a grand mal seizure.  I can’t say the exact time because I was upset.  After the seizure, I took her vitals and all was normal except her temperature was about two degrees too low.  I called the veterinarian and she told me I had to get the body temperature up.  She suggested I allow the horses in to help warm the air but they didn’t like Sammy and I couldn’t let them near her.  Their dislike was bad enough that I feared they would purposely trample her.

The temperature outside Sam's Pridewas dropping off fast and with it my filly’s temperature was going too. I had two small heating pads, one used microwave and the other hot water, but they just weren’t enough. We rigged two high powered workshop lamps close to Sammy that gave off a lot of heat and the greenhouse warmed up, but her temperature was still down in spite of two heavy winter horse blankets and lots of hay around her and the ground was warm.

I was at my wits end when it came to me.   Cleigh like his bottles of Coke Cola and I had about a dozen two-liter empty bottles.  I wasn’t long filling them with hot water from the tap.  I literally wrapped Sammy in hot water.  I wrapped each individual bottle with a towel and placed them around her body, under the winter blankets.

The reason why I’m writing this is that the hot water bottles worked and brought her temperature back to normal.  I guess it doesn’t matter that she died less then twenty-four hours later. The fact remains that the bottles did what I wanted them to do, and if anyone reading this finds that their horse or any living creature is cold, put a plastic bottle of hot water near them, making certain not to scald the skin.

January 18, 2009 Posted by | health | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Migraines – I think I’m Insane

Chronic migraines to be exact – Tip#1

I was 42 years and 22 days old when I got my first migraine.  I had never had even a headache before that day.  I remember thinking about Lizzy and the head aches she got before she died and I thought as I laid in bed, “My God, I must have a brain tumor…, like Lizzy!”
Lizzy (Elizabeth) and I were born the same date, less then an hour apart.  When Lizzy turned 17 years, she was having severe headaches.  She was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor and underwent surgery and treatment that must have included radiation and Chemo-therapy, because she lost her hair.  Her beautiful blond locks – gone.   That is a small price to pay for a cure…, except she wasn’t cured.  On our twenty-fourth birthday, Lizzy fell to the disease and was buried a few days later.
What do migraines have to do with horses!
Back track twenty-nine days.  On January 29th, I send my favorite and only horse, Copper, to PEI, only he never arrived.  My gentle pinto stayed in the barn of the man who was taking him, in Amherst.  After Copper left home in the horse box of a three-ton truck, a winter storm arose and the ferry, Lucy Maud Montgomery, failed to sail on time.  It had one round trip to sail, before being laid up for the winter but the weather was such that it couldn’t make a round trip and then return to the mainland for winter repairs for the next season.

So I spent the winter without a horse. No big deal or so I thought….

Fast forward to the year 2002, I finally sent Copper to PEI to the Giddy Up Pony Camp, to teach youngsters how to ride.  He was getting older and I was afraid the veterinarian bills would break me.  He was healthy but getting up there in years.  I think he was about twenty-two at the time.  The migraines got worse and I was under doctors care almost on a weekly basis.  I was taking every migraine medication available and a few that weren’t.  The migraine would last 72 hours or longer, but I was diagnosed with six different types of migraines and one would trigger the other.  So I ended up with migraines 24-7 for months…. I was a basket case and I really can understand why they call them suicide headaches.

Finally there was nothing to do but go through my past with a fine-toothed comb and see what triggered them.  What the doctor and I found was that I never seemed to have migraines when I’m around horses.

Gimme A Dream (The Real Deal)

Gimme A Dream (The Real Deal)

Some time after that I bought the horse, Gimme A Dream.  He arrived in December and since that month, whenever I feel a migraine coming on, instead of taking drugs, I go out and wrapped my arms around the big moose.  You know…, it worked!  So I bought the other horses and I don’t suffer from migraines too severely anymore.

Why am I insane?  I don’t think there is a medical or scientific theory to explain why being around horses helps me, but it does.  I still get migraines for sure….  We didn’t find the cause…, yet.  But when I get one I spend a lot more time with the horse and I feel a lot better for it.

The internet is great and the social networks have helped me to realize that I’m not the only one who uses horses to control certain maladies – arthritis, heart problems, emphysema, etc.  I heard a lot stories of other people keeping the big pets for a whole slew of reasons now.

Maybe I am insane but then again, maybe I’m not….

December 3, 2008 Posted by | health, tack | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sam’s Pride

This is my first post and it is a sad one. Last year I bought four horses. Two of them were almost twin-looking, Standardbred fillies off the race track. One, the youngest was called Sam’s Pride. This is the story of the last couple of days of her life.

Horse Seizures

I lost a 2-year-old filly, Sam’s Pride in February 2008, to seizures. I’ve had horses for 45 years and I had never heard of a horse taking seizures before.  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one.

I had asked the vet about the strange behaviors that this young filly was having and then the horse owners at the local race track, including her previous owner, if they could identify the actions. Mostly the men said “no”, gave me a weird look, like I was exaggerating and said it must be some form of colic. So I agreed with them. If nothing else I learned a lot about colic and I learned that my dear Sammy was never colicky.

We live on an island, in the middle of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.  At the end of January, the ice starts to form and fill the Gulf, stopping all ocean going traffic, leaving the islands in isolation for two months.  The ferry service resumes around the first of April.

The last week in February, at 5:00am, Sammy fell down in her favorite place, in the large greenhouse, next to the house and stayed down. We could hear the disturbance and we went running for the door. Sammy was lying on a very soft area of ground close to an electrical outlet, where I placed heat lamps and kept the temperature in the building warm.  I also kept hot water bottles around her, on the hay covered, soft ground and under the two winter horse blankets that she was covered with.  Her body temperature had dropped to a level that concerned me and at the suggestion of the veterinarian, I brought her body temperature back to normal levels.

Up until this point, I had been using the word ‘convulsion’ to describe some of her strange actions, which would explain severe colic in young horses.  When she fell, she had a ‘grand mal’ seizure, but since I had never seen this thrashing about before, I still used the word ‘convulsion’ when describing her strange actions.  But I also told people that she was thrashing about, even though it didn’t appear like she was trying to get up.   She didn’t seem to have any pain, however she seemed confused and very tired after the thrashing stopped. Thirty hours after she first went down, a group of horse men and I tried to lift her in a sling, set up with a block and tackle.  Mostly she refused to help and behaved like a kitten being moved about, in its mother mouth.  Still, it was obvious that she had strength and the ability for strong movement, in all four of her legs.

I had a second veterinarian in to see her, about an hour after we tried to sling her up and the lady couldn’t find anything to say the horse was even sick. Tests had already been done on her stools and blood. They came back normal earlier in the month. Her temperature was normal as was her heart, lungs, gums, ears, eyes and nose.  Her stools were clean and proper, her urine was fine.  She was eating, in fact like most horses, she rarely stopped eating, even while the vet examined her.  The lady couldn’t find anything wrong with her legs. There were no swellings or cuts on her body, to indicate that the herd had damaged her in any way.  I also know this was the case, since the filly stayed with me, because the herd didn’t want her around them.  She was a good weight for her age, not too heavy or too thin.

The veterinarian gave her a vitamin shot and antibiotics, explaining that they won’t hurt her, but she couldn’t find an infection.  She gave me more and explained how and when to give the shots.  The veterinarian said that if she didn’t get up on her own within forty-eight hours, then it would be best to put her down.  I had asked the veterinarian if she had ever seen anything like this before and she had said no, never in horses. To say she was perplexed would be an understatement.

My dear young filly, Sam’s Pride, “Sammy” died of natural causes twelve hours later. Having an autopsy preformed was impossible due to the lack of facilities on the islands and the costs of such a procedure.  Then, of course the worry came, that perhaps she had something contagious, something  that had been passed on to the other horses.  It was a week later, before I realized that she had been having increasingly severe seizures and eventually she went into one and never survived it. Calls to the equine hospital on Prince Edward Island, had finally determined that something had probably blocked the oxygenated blood from her lungs to her brain through the aortic arch.

I could never have saved Sammy, I know that now, even if I had been able to get sammyher to the equine hospital.  Living on an ice bound island at the end of February, made that impossible.  It was likely even with anti-convulsive medication, she would still be a risk around other animals and people.

Perhaps she had an operable tumor or a removable blood clot, that caused the seizures. I would have spent all my savings and everything else to save her, but in the end, no matter what, my Sammy had to die. My reasoning is that she could never be trusted, not to take other seizures and therefore had to be kept isolated. That would not have been fair to this young horse.

My dear little Sammy had lived a hard life, as an investment at the track and was just learning love and to show love, when she died.  She would try to mimic me when I gave her kisses on her neck and face by putting her lips to my cheek and make a sucking sound, much like sucking up water.  She also let me know when she needed a hug, something I gave her frequently. When I was near, she would come close, close enough to push me off my feet and wrap her neck and head around my neck and wait for me to wrap my arms around her neck and chest and hold her. She had just learned what love was….

I love my other horses, but the loss of Sammy broke my heart.

November 6, 2008 Posted by | health | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments