Monthly Archives: January 2014

  • Equine Arthritis: Dealing with the Pain

    Written By Walt Friedrich

    Ask anyone who suffers from arthritis what it’s like, and you’ll hear just one word repeated and repeated – pain. And you won’t have to look very far to find people to ask. In some cases, you don’t even need to ask – you can tell just by watching them move; they don’t like to because it hurts.

    We’re not alone in coping with this painful monster – our horses, like humans, are quite prone to arthritis, and they hurt just as much as we do.

    We hope medical science will soon be able to control it, even cure it, both horse and human, but until then, because it’s a chronic degenerative disease, the prognosis isn’t good. Once it’s in our joints, it’s there for keeps, and if left untreated, it just gets worse. So we compensate: we medicate to mitigate the symptoms. We avoid activities that we know will hurt.

    Lucky us, humans can do that. Horses not so much. They rely upon us to see and recognize their symptoms, then do something about it to ease their pain, just as we do our own. Problem is, sometimes we don’t “get the message” when our horse hurts. But the clues are there, you can bet on it. We need to recognize what their body language is saying.

    Fortunately, most of us can spot a horse that’s in obvious pain, though we may not be able to pinpoint exactly where it’s centered. Here are some of the general symptoms that tell us that our horse is hurting:

    • An obvious limp • A listless, depressed attitude.

    • Decreased appetite.

    • Lies down more than usual

    • Doesn’t move around as much as usual, less interested in playing • Separates himself from his herdmates

    • When standing, eases the weight load on an involved leg by “pointing” a forefoot or “flexing” a hind foot to let the opposite leg take up the weight burden.

    • When ridden, seems stiff, may refuse certain movements such as collection, jumps, certain turns and the like.

    We get a break when examining specifically for arthritis: it is a disease that’s centered in the joints, which narrows down which areas we need to concentrate on. Here are some of the symptoms of arthritic pain:

    • Joint swelling • Warmth around a joint

    • Reduced ability to move the joint

    • Stiffness, especially in the morning

    • Misshapen joint

    • When picking his feet, you notice less dirt, hay, manure packed in

    When we do see the symptoms, we bring in the vet to do another evaluation, and if our suspicions are confirmed, our next thought is how do we get rid of the problem? Can’t we just take a pill?

    Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet – not yet, anyway, though science is trying hard to develop one. As a chronic degenerative condition quite possibly stemming from an autoimmune problem, and at this point is incurable, we can’t get rid of arthritis by any simple medication.

    Fortunately, we can deal with it and make our horse’s life immensely easier. There are effective lifestyle changes that can reduce pain, improve function, and arrest further joint damage. First, start a slimming down program if he’s overweight. That alone will greatly help joint pain in his legs and feet.

    Controlled movement will help relieve stiffness and reduce pain and fatigue. Gentle daily exercise is excellent therapy, particularly important because affected joints need plenty movement to prevent permanent restriction of motion. Thirty minutes per day of steady walking, if his lameness permits, is usually enough. It will help to pick up an affected leg frequently and flex or extend the joints a dozen times or so. Free-range turnout is an excellent lifestyle for all horses, but note that it does not replace actual therapy.

    Though inconclusive, some positive results have been reported from supplementation with bioflavonoids, and especially glucosamine and chondroitin sulfates. These two natural substances are readily available for purchase; they stimulate formation and repair of joint cartilage. In addition, add antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, plus a generous dosage of omega-3.

    Applying a liniment such as Absorbine is quite helpful. It creates a mild inflammation that increases blood flow and eases the pain. Bandaging is also helpful because it holds in heat, but it’s mostly effective only on the fetlock (ankle). Other joints are better served using Neoprene wraps, but be careful if you use Neoprene over liniment – some liniments are irritating under Neoprene, and it is important to avoid irritating the skin. Read the liniment label for warnings. Massage the dosed area for ten or fifteen minutes after applying liniment and before bandaging.

    Those sore joints will very much appreciate heat. Gentle heat is the magic touch for the pain of arthritis under everyday conditions. But his arthritis may flare up occasionally, and become much more painful. When it happens, ease up on his walking therapy, and use cold therapy instead of heat. You can use a garden hose (no nozzle), for example, and hose down a particularly sore knee. Temporary increases of antioxidants and glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate will bring some added relief. Please note that while bandaging will help control swelling, it also holds in heat, just the opposite of what you want during a flare-up, thus you may have to forego bandaging temporarily. Use discretion and never over-do.

    During a flare-up, increase the dosage of bioflavonoids, vitamin E and especially vitamin C, and be sure glucosamine and chondroitin sulfates are dosed to full recommended levels, to help minimize further joint damage.

    You can safely dose with Bute at flare-up time, but be careful. Only the worst cases require constant, repeated dosing, and that has some potentially serious side-effects. One is the suppression of an enzyme, resulting in the reduction of the stomach’s protection against ulcers. If the situation calls for frequent dosing of Bute, you can also supplement him with a half to a full cup of lecithin each day. Lecithin effectively protects the stomach wall from damage, is tasteless, and is relatively inexpensive. There are other products to control ulcer pain; discuss them with your vet.

    Once a flare-up has eased, phase out the cold therapy and get back to hand-walking for brief periods several times a day. Long-term, exercise is of paramount importance.

    If you shoe your horse, squaring the toes makes breakover easier and smoother, thus easier on arthritic joints, but be sure to keep the feet at their natural angle so you don’t complicate matters. Don’t use caulks, trailers or grabs on the shoe, and use shoe padding to raise the heel angles slightly.

    Finally, consider his nutrition. Ideally, his primary feed should be low-sugar roughage, such as a grass hay like timothy, selected for proper mineral balance and sugar content. As previously suggested, supplement it with Vitamins C and E because of their excellent anti-oxidant qualities, and with high omega-3 fatty acids such as Omega Fields’ product, HorseShine. Round it off with a cup of canola oil per day.

    Don’t expect a cure from these steps. There isn’t one. But you can most assuredly make life easier for him.

  • My Inner Fire

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    My Inner Fire I recently attended a yoga retreat. We were asked to visualize our inner fire, like as a flame or the sun. In my mind’s eye I saw this blazing orange cattle dog, this intrepid, very yang dog: Bandit. Yang means fast, solid, focused, hot, and is associated with fire, the sky, the sun, masculinity and daytime. Over the past ten years Bandit has taught me so much about life, and now he is showing me how to live (really live!) with cancer. He is my inner fire.

    Bandit, an Australian Cattle Dog, first appeared in my life just moments after my very old red and white cattle dog mix Rusty had passed away at the vet clinic. A very engaging puppy, Bandit had Rusty’s red ears and mask. I was sure that Rusty had somehow sent this solid little charmer, the only red cattle dog puppy for miles around, as a gift to help me cope with my grief.

    Two weeks later Bandit joined our family. Soon I learned that if I was going to be the pack leader, I’d better stay ahead of him. He is so smart, and good at everything, that he kept me busy as we learned many things together. When he was an adolescent, I quickly learned that I had better lead or get out of the way, thus he made me a better leader. We played ball and went for long walks every day, and completed several levels of obedience school. He passed the Canine Good Citizen test. We learned to herd livestock, including sheep, goats, and eventually cattle. We competed in agility and learned tricks in an acting class, which led to a commercial gig. Together we earned titles in obedience, Rally, agility, sheep herding, cattle herding, and versatility, and just last year trained toward a tracking title. Over the years, we earned several second place ribbons, but the only blue ribbon we ever brought home was for herding cattle. Bandit moved the cattle around the course without much help from me, except for penning them at the end. He was one proud dog that day, beaming with pride, doing what he was bred and born to do, and doing it well enough to place ahead of our instructor and her dog.

    Several times we had the opportunity to work with an entire herd of cows at a local farm. Watching this 55 pound dog move the herd across a field absolutely changed my view of life and what is possible. That can-do attitude and bullet-proof confidence goes a long way, especially when matched by ability. Once Bandit committed to moving the cattle, even a moment of hesitation could have been dangerous. He had the courage and confidence to run out in front of a cow about 30 times his weight who was breaking away from the herd. She rolled him with her nose, and he bounded right back up and bit her on the nose, turning her back to the herd. I’d been holding my breath, and as I inhaled again, relieved to see him get back up, I admired his chutzpah.

    Last spring and summer, Bandit and I spent many hours training for a tracking test. In August, when Chase was in cancer treatment, Bandit completed the Pet Partners therapy dog test with the highest marks. I thought he’d be able to substitute for Chase at our monthly library visits if Chase wasn’t feeling well. Then one September morning, the month before we had planned to take the tracking test, Bandit wasn’t able to start a track. Something was terribly wrong. We went straight to the vet and eventually he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a systemic cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Now Bandit is living with cancer and is expected to be on daily chemo meds for the rest of his life. The average prognosis after diagnosis is 18 months. Bandit has never been average.

     

    As we’ve gotten older, life isn’t so much about participating in activities, but just being together, out for a game of ball or a run in the fields and woods, or just hanging out together, sharing our undivided attention. Bandit continues to teach me, as he has all along. Although his body has changed as he’s lost muscle mass from the medications that manage his disease, he greets each day with enthusiasm and joy. He engages me in a game of jolly ball every chance he gets. He doesn’t like it when I get sad or upset. If I cry, he consoles me by licking my face, but if I continue to be sad, he eventually gets up and walks away. He doesn’t want to feel the sadness; he wants me to be happy.

    The roller coaster ride and financial stress of Chase’s cancer treatment followed by Bandit’s cancer diagnosis has had me focused on keeping both dogs well, and worried about my finances. We’ve been to several vet clinics many, many times over the past seven months. Along with just keeping up with daily life, I got caught up in keeping the dogs healthy, helping them deal with cancer, and doing my best for them. But then that started to get in the way. At times we had to focus on treatment, but eventually we had to get back to living. I noticed that the dogs were running and playing and enjoying every day, and I needed to get back to enjoying life along with them.

    So, again I’m trying to find a balance, to focus on being well and living in the moment, enjoying what we can do today, and not focusing so much on the illness or worrying about the future. After all, not a one of us will get out of this alive. For now, both dogs are doing well. The irony is that as well as Bandit is doing, I may not be able to afford to keep him going for as long as he wants to. The costs of the monthly medications and tests are not sustainable long-term. I want to live without regrets, and one regret would be to have to let him go before he’s ready. So as long as Bandit looks and feels well, we’re not going to the vet as often, but we’re continuing the medications, trying to focus on life.

    The dogs make me think of a conversation between Pooh and Piglet:

    “What day is it?” asked Pooh

    . “It’s today.” squeaked Piglet.

    “My favorite day.” said Pooh.

    Ironically, as we have learned to live with cancer and enjoy the time we have left, Bandit’s only littermate, his brother Baron, enjoyed his last game of ball before he passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly on January 16th. Our hearts go out to Baron’s mama Bitsey as she mourns his loss. Sometimes we get a long time to say goodbye and sometimes we don’t, which encourages us even more to seize this day.

    Remembering Baron:

     

    How do I want to spend the rest of my dog’s life with him? Playing and living in the moment, right here, right now. Because this present moment is all we really have. So today is our favorite day. Every day. Soon it will be Valentine’s Day, one day of the year when we’re all focused on love. At our house, we focus on love every day. You can too.

    Recently, when the outside temperature was well below zero, I improvised, resurrecting some of our old training and tricks and nose work to keep the dogs busy in the house. Bandit was so excited to be doing his old tricks and retrieves and nose work again. He had not forgotten a thing. That’s my boy, my inner fire! Who knows, we may even get out tracking again this spring.

    Lao Tzu said, “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” Our dogs teach us this too. Happy Today! Happy Valentine’s Day! Share the love.

    Good nutrition, including Omega Fields Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets, has helped keep my dogs healthy while living with cancer. Follow our journey at https://www.facebook.com/jenny.pavlovic

    Next time, read about Chase and the 1st anniversary celebration of the Dog Gone Reading program at our local library.

  • Blue Chicken Eggs

    Written By Lisa Steele, Fresh Eggs Daily

    There are basically three types of chickens that lay blue eggs - Ameraucanas, Araucanas and Easter Eggers (although Cream Legbars do lay blue eggs as well and are just becoming available in the US) - but only two of the three ALWAYS lay blue eggs, so you'll want to be sure of what you're ordering if you are determined to have blue eggs.

    AMERAUCANAS

    Ameraucanas are a pure breed recognized by the APA since 1984. They were most likely originally bred from South American blue egg laying breeds but were developed and standardized in the United States. They come in eight distinct colors including, Blue, Black, White and Wheaten, which all share these distinct Ameraucana traits:

    ● Peacomb

    ● Muffs and beard

    ● Red earlobes

    ● Tail

    ● Blue legs

    ● White foot bottoms

    ● Always lay blue eggs

    ARAUCANAS

    Araucanas are also a pure breed recognized by the APA since 1976. They originated in Chile most likely and come in five colors including black, white, duckwing silver and golden. Araucanas all share these distinct Araucana traits:

    ● Peacomb

    ● Ear tufts (this gene is lethal to developing chicks if inherited by both parents)

    ● Red earlobes

    ● Rumpless (no tail)

    ● Green or willow-colored legs

    ● Yellow foot bottoms

    ● Always lay blue eggs

    EASTER EGGERS

    Easter Eggers are not a recognized breed. They are mongrels - mixed breed chickens that do possess the blue egg gene but don't fully meet the breed specifications of either Araucanas or Ameraucanas. They can come in any color or combination of colors and share these traits:

    ● Any kind of comb

    ● Muffs/beard/ear tufts or none

    ● Any color earlobes

    ● Tail or tail-less

    ● Any color legs

    ● Any color foot bottoms

    ● Can lay blue but also sometimes lay green, tan, pink or even yellow So if you want to be guaranteed blue egg layers, you will want to raise some Araucanas or Ameraucanas; but Easter Eggers are fun because you never know what color egg each will lay until she starts laying, and even identical-looking hens often lay varying shades of bluish or greenish eggs.

  • 80% of People are Now Shopping Online. Will they Find Your Horse Business?

    Written By Randi Thompson

    Social media and SEO (search engine optimization) are more important to local horse business owners than ever

    With the recent Google search changes, social media is now the best way to get your horse business on the first page of the local search engine results. Studies show that most people do not go past that first page, so it is important that your business is listed there.

    Local Marketing with a Focus on Social Media and SEO. How people will find you

    When you enter the world of social media, you will become a part of a social network. You communicate and interact with each other through the posts that you share with each other. The more likes, shares and comments your posts and website that is connected to them gets, the higher your business will show up in the newsfeeds of anyone who interacts on it, and even more importantly, the search results.

    Some of the benefits for marketing and promoting your local horse business on social media include:

    • You can attract and target horse people in your local area.

    • Social media marketing is low cost.

    • You will become an authority in your local area and in your field.

    • You create relationships with the people who become a part of your network. Those you are interacting with begin to know, like and trust you. They can become your customers.

    • You can talk directly with potential customers or create a stronger relationship with your current ones.

    Are you ready to get started?

    Begin by choosing a social media network that features local business pages. You can start a local business page on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php If you are on Google + (of course, since it is Google, you will get the best search results there) start with a Google local business page here: http://www.google.com/+/business/

    When you go to the business start-up page you will be asked to pick a classification. Choose “local business or place” This classification will help your business rank higher in your local area. The name you choose as the title of the business page is very important. It needs to be one that people will search for. Since they probably do not know the name of your business, you can add more words to the title. For example, Sundance Stables. Conyers, Ga. Or, Sundance Stables- Horse training, boarding.

    Next, you will be asked to upload a photo for the “cover photo”. This is the image that will appear across the top of your business page. Creative business owners use their cover photos to promote their sales or share photos that focus on their business and the customers who make it special.

    You will also need a smaller “profile image”. It is the profile image that will show up on any of posts you share. Many business owners use their logo as their profile image so that people can recognize their business.

    The “About “section” is designed so that your business name and website (if you have one) can be found in the search engine results. It is very important and often over looked by business owners who do not realize its value. With Facebook and Google+ local business pages you can also add your location, phone number, website and other information that people will be looking for in a local business.

    Once your business page is set up, make sure to add its icon, a clickable image, to your website. By doing this, your website will have more value as your activity on social media will be noticed by Google and your website will be listed higher in the search results.

    How to Find the Local People Who Are Interested In What Your Business Has to Offer

    Social media is all about connecting to people with similar interests. Your goal will want to find where they are on other social media pages, groups or communities. To find them go to the search bar on the top of the page and type in the words that people in the horse world are using. This is called “targeting”. For example, you can start with the word, horses, and see who turns up. To narrow your search down even more you can type in AQHA, dressage, horse training or whatever words are related to what you are doing in the horse business. To find out who is in your area, type in those words and add your city and state. You can also go to your competitor’s pages to see who is there and target the people who are there that you would like to get to know better. All you need to do is click on their profile image and you will be magically transported to their business page or personal profile where you can start having conversations with them on the posts they have shared. This makes them feel valued and they will often click on your profile image to see who you are and what you are doing. If they like what you are doing, they will become a part of your social network.

    How to Get People Talking About Your Business

    There is a reason it is called social media. It’s all about being social. You will be using the posts you share and the comments you add to other people’s posts to create conversations with other people. Especially those who are interested in your field or what you have to offer.

    • To start, you will need to reach out to your prospective clients, or the people with lots of connections related to what you are offering in your business, by going to their posts and business pages.

    • Add interesting comments to the posts that they are sharing. Your goal is to get them to respond to you.

    • Post from your business page when you are on other business pages so that those who are there begin to recognize your business from your profile image

    • The more people you can get to like, share or comment on your posts, the higher your business page, and as a result, your webpage, will appear in the search results. To do this, share interesting posts, photos, or videos to attract their attention.

    When do You Promote Your Business?

    Every time you post from your business page you are promoting your business. It is important to keep most of your posts, or comments, conversational, entertaining, or educational. At least 90% of your posts should be posts that people want to interact on or respond to. You can also use your posts to promote your business directly. The trick is in making that post more than just another ad that no one will look at. To do this you can ask questions or experiment with what people will respond to. Less than 10% of what you share on social media should be focused on direct advertising. You can also target local horse people directly with Facebook and Google Ads.

    Can Anyone Find You’re Business When They Do a Search?

    Your prospective customers are now searching online for what they want locally. Will they be able to find your horse business?

    Randi Thompson is internationally recognized in social media for her award winning “Horse and Rider Awareness" and “How to Market Your Horse Business”. She is a keynote speaker at national events, author, and expert legal consultant for the horse industry.

       

    How to Market Your Horse Business

    Horse and Rider Awareness

  • Colic Prevention Part 2

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    This month we will finish our discussion of common causes of colic in the equine, and what you might do to prevent them. Previously we discussed the importance of having a thorough emergency plan in place in order to make a potential colic less stressful for you. We followed that with a discussion of the most common management practices which will help minimize your horse’s risk of colic. These included quality and consistency of the diet, proper hydration and parasite control to name a few. This month we will focus on some of the less common reasons horses may colic. Although less common, they are no less important for the owner to be aware of these possibilities.

    The sex of your horse may increase its likelihood of colic. Remember that colic just refers to general abdominal pain. Some mares experience discomfort relative to their estrous cycle. If your mare routinely shows mild colic at three week intervals, her ovaries may be the culprit. Normally cycling mares will ovulate every 21 to 23 days and this event can be associated with discomfort. Having a reproductive exam can also rule out if she has an ovarian dysfunction exacerbating her discomfort. If you choose to breed your mare, you must also be aware of the possibilities of colic associated with pregnancy. During gestation, the mare may experience colicky symptoms due to movement of the fetus. That does not mean that colic signs during gestation should be discounted. Follow your normal procedures of a thorough exam and consult with your veterinarian. Finally, mares are often crampy after foaling, as the uterus continues to contract in order to expel the placenta. Additionally there is a greater potential for twisted bowels post foaling due to the extra “room” in the abdominal tract. Typically these mares will experience very severe pain. As I have personally had to suffer the loss of a mare with a new foal at her side, realize that these are very real possibilities. Monitoring mares closely in the post foaling period may allow you to catch symptoms early and perhaps save her life. All in all, realize that there are risks one has to assume when choosing to breed horses.

    The lifestyle of your horse may also cause it to colic. Some horses experience far more stress due to competition or travel than other horses. Some horses dislike horse shows or competitions so intensely that they work themselves into spasmodic colic. If this is true, you really need to closely examine why your horse is experiencing stress. Are you asking too much of them? Do you warm-up or ask the horse to perform at a different level than at which you train? Is the change in environment or the close proximity of other horses too much? Try to acclimate the horse gradually to stressful scenarios. Be reasonable in your expectations of your horse. Consider how nervous or anxious you may be at shows. Isn’t it likely that your horse may also experience anxiety (albeit for perhaps different reasons)? Ultimately, it may be possible that that type of career may not be a great fit for your horse. Consider a less stressful type of competition or even re-homing the horse where it may be more comfortable. After all, competitions and events serve as recreation for most horse owners. Is it really fun if your partner is miserable?

    When traveling to events, also consider how long the horse is in the trailer. Hauling in a horse trailer for long periods of time is actually fairly tiring for the horse. Ideally you should let the horse rest every 5-6 hours. Coupling that with a change in a horse’s normal feeding schedule and reduced access to water, can set the horse up for colic. At rest stops, consider offering your horse flavored water to ensure he maintains his water intake. Begin to accustom him to the flavoring at home to ensure he actually likes it. This is especially critical in hot weather, when the temperature in the trailer can exceed the external temperature. Horses may lose a substantial amount of water through sweating that they may not have the opportunity to replenish. Horses may also be more likely to develop respiratory issues while confined in a trailer as well. While we often try to help the horse by keeping hay in front of them, open windows or sides can force dust and particulate matter into the horse’s airways. This can cause the horse to develop pleuritis, which is inflammation of the lungs. While it is a respiratory issue, the horse may still show colic-like symptoms. All in all, plan your travel with your horse’s comfort and health in mind.

    What breed your horse is may also pre-dispose him to certain gastrointestinal disorders. Arabians and Arabian crosses are more likely to develop enteroliths than other breeds of horses. Enteroliths are essentially an accumulation of mineral within the intestine which forms a rock-like object. This can range in size from very small to the size of a softball or larger. While the reason is not yet known, this risk increases when these horses are fed alfalfa. This is especially true in the California and in other parts of the Southwest. However, this does not mean that a Quarter Horse in Iowa can’t develop an enterolith, they are just less likely to do so. High alfalfa diets are thought to cause enteroliths due to the high level of magnesium and protein combining to form crystals which make up the enteroliths. Diets higher in wheat bran have high levels of phosphorous which also contribute to enterolith formation. It is also possible that feeding highly digestible, lower fiber feeds like alfalfa may reduce gastric motility, allowing crystals to form more easily. Other lifestyle factors which lower gastric motility, such as lack of exercise or low frequency of feeding, increase the risk factor of enteroliths. Even the type of bedding chosen to be used can affect a horse’s risk of developing enteroliths. Horses on straw bedding, which allows an opportunity to nibble on high fiber feedstuffs, experience less enteroliths. While many believe that adding vinegar to the horse’s diet to lower colon pH may prevent enterolith formation, this has not been proven. Ideally, lower the amount of alfalfa in the horse’s diet, feed frequently and allow ample exercise are the best management choices.

    While we can never completely ensure that our horses will never colic, following practical management strategies can lower these risks. Informed horse owners are those whose horses usually experience less health issues. Hopefully if you follow these tips from our last series you can have a colic free 2014! Until next month, enjoy some winter riding!

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