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

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….

copper1
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