horse health

Turning a Blind Eye, Blindness in Horses, and the Choices Owners Make

Winter has really had a terrible affect on my husbands Farrier business over the last few weeks. With temperatures dropping below zero for several days in a row we just could not make our usual January rounds to the farms as every creature big or small was hiding out looking for some where warm. This is the slowest January in the 9 years, But we did make it out to see one of our oldest costumers last weekend. The Peoscek farm is home to 6 wonderful horses and two dogs and a fuzzy cat.

Austrian Shepherd named Savannah and Christopher in barn

Austrian Shepherd named Savannah and Christopher in barn

As a farm hand I met my friend Mark Peosek around 15 years ago. We have spent lots of time together over the years. It was back then, while I worked at the Hill Crest Farm, that Mark stopped in looking for a well-bred Gelding that would make a fine trail horse. He found a nice little guy about 2 that we all called “Tee Sign” at the barn. He was small for his age but he was loving and quite. Born a sorrel with a big bold blaze and white socks was a handsome young horse.  Mark had other horses and  was looking for something easy to train and ride. He got everything that he wanted from “Tee” and more. After taking Tee home things settled into a nice orderly routine. Tee was broke to ride and healthy and happy he lived in a herd with other horses mostly mares that tormented him. But he was happy, well feed and the favorite mount of my friend… ” He’s bomb proof” Mark would add to any conversation about his horses.

After the next 12 years passed  Mark started to notice a change in Tee’s behavior that could not really be explained. Instead of staying with the “girls” like  he usually did in the pasture he would be alone grazing and nickering all afternoon. This continued until poor old Tee would lose his voice from the constant calling to his friends. He would not return to the barn at a fast gallop at feeding time in the evenings. It was summer time so Mark thought maybe he just did not want to come in from the green pasture.Their was plenty of hay in the field and water to drink so he was able to stay outside if the horse wanted to. The questions began a few months letter as Mark noticed that Tee was thinner when he did come down to the barn and was now spending most of his time in the upper portion of the pasture still crying for his friends when they moved away. Soon Mark had to walk the long hill to find Tee and call him to come in as the summer ended and fall began.

This is when Mark  finally realized that their was a real problem. Mark checked Tee’s eye sight by moving his hand around Tee’s eye looking for some reaction, a wink, a flinch or just a tightly closed eye. Nothing happened, Tee’s reaction was as if noting was moving near his eye. He didn’t have any idea that some one was standing to his  side moving a hand within inches of his face. Things progressed from their and Mark new that Tee was losing his sight. He called his Veterinarian and found out that Tee at about age 14 was going blind  from Moon Blindness. That Tee’s case had gone on so long that it was not really treatable. Moon blindness was going to change their relationship forever.

Moon Blindness in 14 year old Quarter horse owned by Mark Peoscek

Moon Blindness in 14-year-old Quarter horse owned by Mark Peoscek

Moon Blindness as described at this link is a general name for many problems with equine eye but most are progressive and about 20% will blind both eyes. In Tee’s case both eyes went blind in a few months of each other. By the end of last fall Tee was totally blind and Mark was facing the hard questions about what to do next.

Mark asked everyone who knew anything about horses  what they though about Tees situation. He asked his Vet, he ask Tom and I, he asked friends and family. What do you do with a blind horse? There is never an easy answer to these questions. Caring for any blind animals is  time-consuming but there is a way to keep them healthy, happy and safe. The answer that Mark got from most of us in the horse industry was a resounding, Yes! Tee could be well cared for and live a happy life with a few adjustments and the commitment of his owner.

Blind horse care is possible and  just as enjoyable if the horse is given some time to adjust to the new world that they live in. This link shares a short guide to a few often asked questions faced by the newly blinded horse owner and those who care for these animals. Blind Horse care changed a few things for my friend and his horse. Tee spends a few more hours in the barn in the winter because of ice, Mark  also watches how the mares treat him more closely and he added a bell to the halter of a mares to aide Tee’s ability to keep track of the herd. All of these things are important changes but, as you can see from this photo of Tom trimming  his feet and Christopher taking time to grooming him, things have not really changed for Tee. He is still well fed, has farrier work done and is groomed regularly.

Blind horse getting groomed by Christopher

Blind horse getting groomed by Christopher

As long as Tee’s health stays good I think we can all agree that this horse has a bright future with people love and take great care of him and there is no reason to think of putting him down. He even still enjoys a little ride time with his friends when they come to visit.

Mark Peoscek with Tee gving Christopher to ride of the day

Mark Peoscek with Tee giving Christopher to ride of the day

I am so thankful that my friend Mark took the time to let this new adjustment settle in before making up his mind about what to do with a blind horse. He did not fall prey to the myths listed below.

  1. Blind horses can not have a great quality of live .
  2. Blind horses are more dangerous
  3. Blind horses are sickly
  4. Blind horses can’t be pastured
  5. Blind horses are useless.

Mark and Tee have gained a deeper more understanding relationship over the course of the last two years and Tom and I are happily a  part of this new part of their lives.

Categories: animal health, blacksmith work, equine health, Farrier work., horse health, Horses | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Summer and the Importance of Regular Hoof Care.

horse hoof in need of repair and trimming

horse hoof in need of repair and trimming

I understand that we all get very busy with summer but please let me remind everyone that we should have regular hoof care for our 4 legged friends. Sadly this summer some of our friends have forgotten or be lax about keeping their horses trimmed or shod and this is the result. Lighting is a 5-year-old Painted Quarter horse that is more of a pet then an actual ridding horse. Lighting is out on a large pasture and received no foot care or contact this summer. I just happened to call his owner and say “It has been about 6 months since we were out your way how is Lighting’s hooves doing”?  Well the owner responded “well he could use a trim”. We made the appointment and headed out the next evening.  

As you can see from the photo of his hooves they are over grown by inches, split and chipped. In this case the owner was lucky the horse was not lame and limping. All four feet were in this type of condition and this horse was not suffering from the condition if “Founder” this is simple neglect.

Tom has removed the excess length of hoof and shapes what is left

Tom has removed the excess length of hoof and shapes what is left

 As you can see from this photo the extra length is removed and the hoof is being shaped. This foot will still have a large chip in the toe that will have to grow back out to make the foot look normal, also their maybe an issue with the bottom of this foot, it appears a crack forming on the bottom left, between the hoof wall and soul. After Tom finished the trim  Tom warned the Customer of the soul issue. These cracks often lead to abscess forming inside the hoof wall as sand and small stones get worked into the crack.

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  This is what Lightings’ feet looked like after a normal trim. Hoof care is normally done every 7 to 8 weeks or every other month.  In our state ( West Virginia) it is illegal to keep a equine animal with feet in poor repair. My husband has been on many animal cruelty calls from local sheriff’s departments where it was just a case of poor hoof care that caused a complaint. Having a good farrier is part of equine management and the cost for farrier care is part of the over all cost of owning any animal. The average horse needs  trimmed more often in the summer and spring as they eat more fresh grass. The extra nutrition in the fresh grass encourages hoof growth and longer feet.

We did encourage Lighting’s owner to call us sooner and more often but seeing that the owner is 79 years old the whole future for Lighting is up in the air. I think that he loves his horse but is also getting to a place where he is not able successfully take care of him and over the next two years he will be in a new home.

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In most cases it is possible to find a farrier through other horse owners, feed stores, and veterinarians who all see and deal with horses on a regular basis. Their goal is to keep you friend and companion healthy and happy so please remember to make your appointments regularly before you equines feet looking healthy.

Categories: blacksmith work, equine health, Farrier work., hoof care, horse health | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Horse Farm Labor is Our Second Job, Finding the help you Need.

     Tom and I  travel to so many farms during the year that we hear some of the same complaints at every stop. Frist there are not enough well-trained Farriers and second that finding farm workers, caretakers and horse handlers is almost impossible. Thiers reasons for both of these problems and some of it has to do with economics. Frist, Low pay for the hard work  sends many into town and second, farmers are not  good at  letting people know that they need or want help. 

Tom leading horse to pasture

Tom leading horse to pasture

Tom putting shoes on Oat

Tom putting shoes on Oat

 If you have a problem on a horse farm the best two things you can do is let your farm community know what kind of  help you are looking for. Farm stores have bulletin boards, clubs have news letters, and friends have kids these are all great ways to get the word out the you need a helping hand around the farm.  Pay well and often, everyone loves payday and even the kid who cleans out the barn needs paid before he leaves for the day.  

 Over the years of showing, raising and training horse I have worked for several farms in my area. Yes, I shoveled horse poop for a living. Not glamorous work but it beat the rat race any day. I received fair pay, always about double what minimum wage was at the time.  Farm work is hard, dirty and at times stressful. To modern kids Micky D’s is a lot easier and pays better than most farm jobs. Keep this in mind when you are looking to put up hay in 90 degree weather with a 5 am in starting time and that kid at Micky D’s is making 9 dollars and hour.If you want them you will have to pay them.

      This also is true for your Farrier, if you own a horse part of owning that animal is occasional foot care. Most farriers charge a standard rate for trims/ shoe/or resets. Pay your bill promptly and you will have a good relationship with him, wait to long or try to haggle the price and you will be looking for a new one very quickly. If you are not able to afford to pay everyone cash remember that some people are open to barter for services. I have  mucked stalls for riding lessons and Tom has trimmed horses  for hay. Just be clear about what you need and what you have to offer. We have always been happen when we worked out a deal.

 I also do sitting for several horse farms. We all need a vacation now and then. Sometimes families  just go to the fair and other times families need to head out for an emergency, it is this short periods of time that I help out on the farm.

Squaw and dancer

Squaw and dancer

I find that there is a real need for farm families to leave  a few head of horses, a couple of dogs and cat alone for a few days. The horses really need people who understand them if you are going watch them and the time to care for them is pretty labor intensive. I find the best way to find some one who can help, is asking your other horse friends, farriers and farm stores. I get asked all the time because my husbands farrier business. We both are willing  and able to help with animal care. The rate that we get  to come to your farm and care for your horses is not  much less then you would pay to a stable them while you are away. So with each additional horse we charge an additional fee. I find this the fairest way to charge for my time and gas. This way I can keep my rate the same from farm to farm. This makes everyone pay the same and no one gets up set over changes in pricing. The biggest difference is that the horses are at home in their own stalls with their feed and water and no hauling needed. It’s to the advantage of my clients that they do not have to stress the animal while they are away. 

  No matter what type of labor you need for  your farm, remember to just get the word out that you need a farrier, a farm sitter, a person to help string fence. They are their and if you pay them fairly they will be willing to come back and work for you over and over. It is worth building these kinds of relationships because over time you never know who it will be to help out. I never thought that Tom being a farrier would over flow to farm sitting and that I would be working with some many wonderful families and their animals.

Farm that I sit for while the owners are out of town and one of their walking horses

Farm that I sit for while the owners are out-of-town and one of their walking horses

 I hope that my friends Ron and Marylyn have had a great trip and that they feel confident that their horses were in good care while they were away. It is always fun to spend time on their farm and we love doing it.

Categories: Farm work, Farming, Farrier work., Friendship, horse health, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Springtime and the Danger for Your Pony

WELSH PONY

 Welsh Pony

   Everyone looks forward to spring time and animals like horses and cows rejoice in being able to get out and eat the fresh green grass. With cows we all look forward to spending less on hay and grain but in the case of your pony, ( Donkey, Miniature Horse) danger comes with each acre of fresh grass. The problem is “Founder” and how unmanaged diet of fresh green grass can end up looking like this. As you can see in the following photo this pony is actually in the process of having the excess( Horn) hoof removed. Tom has removed the toe of the front foot and reshaped it to look normal. The hind hooves show the typical slipper and curled growth of  Founder.

Founder in a welsh pony

Founder in a Welsh pony

   “Founder or Laminitis, has been a problem associated with Equine mismanagement for Centuries.” [Founder]… “is commonly caused by over feeding, feeding large amounts of rich feed to inactive horses.” Diets high in carbohydrates including spring grass and treats like marshmallows, white bread, apples, all are too rich for the equine diet. ” Many horses fed this way only need a small amount of stress to cause an attack, over working for the condition of the horse, a case of colic or a fever.” states Don Baskin author of the Western Horseman’s book “Well-Shod”.

The onset of Founder is easy to spot as the pony becomes sick and is listless and lazy not wanting to stand and seems in pain as it walks. At times the animal may appear  very ill from other conditions like colic or a fever and will have heat in the hoof. Most animals will go off feed and will remain sick for several days. By the time many owners react it is too late for the ponies feet. The hoof is already damaged and bones inside the hoof begins the process of rotation. Because of the bone rotation the hoof will grow deformed and the process continues.The condition never ceases and the foot grows uncontrollably and in a matter of months looks like Midnights’ feet above. Sadly the animal that is not managed carefully can have more attacks and cause more damage to the hoof making management of the hoof  impossible and may lead to having the animal put down.

  This story gets even sadder as we will see in the following photos as Midnights’ barn mate and best friend is a Jenny donkey who is also foundered. At the time of our visit Jenny was experiencing Colic again from the lack of diet restriction. She was unwilling to stand and was weak in all four limbs at our arrival. Her feet were on average 3 to four inches to long and curved and twisted. While waiting for additional help to arrive Tom began to trim some of the toe off her feet without much reaction.

Tom trimming to sick foot of a Jenny Donkey

Tom trimming to sick foot of a Jenny Donkey

Tom, the owner Bob and jeff looking over sick jennys feed

Tom, the owner Bob and jeff looking over sick jenny donkey

After The owner arrived at the barn Tom decides that Jenny’s situation is more serious than her barn mates. The plan is to cut Jenny’s feet with the help of power tools. He will use a grinder and saw to remove the 3 extra hard inches of hoof. As a team we begin to hold her legs and head as Tom begins the long process of removing the extra horn that has not worn off the hoof.  The frist step is to notch the hoof with a grinder so that the saw does not bounce loose and cut either the animal, the handlers or the Farrier.  At this point there are two of us holding her head and body and one holding her leg as Tom cuts. The animal fights slightly and we all try our best to keep everyone safe from the flying hooves. 

Grinding a notch in hoof

Grinding a notch in hoof

Like our finger nails, horse hooves have no nerve endings in the nail portion, and like humans the flesh that attach to the nail or hoof wall is very sensitive and full of soft tissues.  With a Founder issue, the soft tissues are so damaged that they die and the hoof wall grows so fast that there is nothing but dead tissue in the bottom portion of the hoof. No blood, no pain, no feeling, nothing but rotting tissue and nail. This is what Tom aims to remove without hitting anything that is alive and growing in a semi normal fashion.

In the picture above the hoof would normally trimmed to where you see the spilt start at the top of the hoof but the foot is so deformed that  he must leave several inches of extra hoof on the donkey so that the bone that has rotated is still safely inside the hoof wall and has some padding to protect it from the ground. The foot is trimmed, angled, dressed to make it look as normal as possible and give good support to the Donkeys legs.  This trim will last about 5 weeks and the hoof will grow at twice the rate of a normal hoof. If Jenny is left to eat as much green grass as she wants and  the owner continues giving treats like marsh mellows, white bread, doughnuts, apples, she may actually Colic or Founder to the point of losing her life.Marshmellow

    It is wise for the pony  owner to mow down spring hay,dry lot or stall keep their animals for the first few months of spring to prevent these painful situations. Tom also advises NO TREATS… just like you and I, Ponies do not need marshmallows, sugar cubes, or anything full of sugar. If you want to “treat” your donkey or pony spend time with a brush and groom them. They want the attention and love the feeling of being clean and you will  save them from years of pain. Also watch your small equine for signs that  green grass is a problem and remove them from the source if possible. A day in a stall with limited turn out is cheaper than the cost of a Farrier visit to care for your Pony.

Categories: blacksmith work, Farrier work., Founder in Horses, hoof care, horse health | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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