Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Part 3 Delayed A Bit

Sorry guys...I have been working on part 3 of the ulcer and was hoping to have it ready to post on Monday (yesterday). Sunday I got some very bad news from home (South Dakota) and have been quite distracted.

There was a prairie fire and it burned up most of my mom's ranch. No human or livestock injuries or fatalities...which is always good. But 4,700 acres were burned, 900 bales destroyed and my mom lost the old shop that was at the back of her yard.

The fire was started by an individual who decided to burn his trash...when the winds were gusting up to 40mph. Mistakes can happen to anyone, but this is the 2nd fire this particular individual has started with his careless burning. We can only hope that criminal charges will be filed!

A good portion of the land that was burned was tribal land, but 4 property owners were affected. The fire raced across the prairie burning grass, fence posts and stacks of hay. It took firefighters from numerous counties to save our neighbor's place. Once the fire had burned around his place, it dropped into a draw between his place and my mom's and was contained. Initially, my mom's place was spared.

This is where things went horribly wrong. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe Fire Department told the volunteer fire departments that they would stay with the fire throughout the night...as is customary. My mom said 6 trucks came through her place about 10pm and she thought they were merely changing locations. For some unknown reason...the RSTFD pulled out. Totally. Without notifying anyone that there was NO ONE watching the hot spots. My mom said she laid down to get some rest, but was awakened when the wind switched directions. About that time, a neighbor who lived above mom's called to tell her he could see a growing orange glow. Mom couldn't see anything, but decided to call 911 anyway.

By the time the local fire department arrived again, the fire had burst out of the draw behind my mom's place and engulfed her old shop. It was everything the fire department could do to save the rest of her buildings...but they did. The horse barn, equipment shop and house were spared. Unfortunately...every last bale of hay my mother owned was burned. The hay and the shop were a total loss.

I know that a person should just be grateful that no lives were lost and that the rest of the buildings were saved...but I cannot help but feel more than a bit sad over the loss of some particularly sentimental items that were in that shop. My dad's canoe. My step-dad's buggy. My grandmother's wood cook stove. A hand-made swing that was a gift from good friends. There was a good deal more than that in there...but that is what comes to my immediate mind.

My mother was tearful over the loss of her hay. For so many years she struggled with the former tenants inability to get the hay put up before it was past it's prime. Last year she hired someone else to do it and finally had stacks of beautifully put up hay. All Gone! One Hundred and twelve bales. The horses will not do without though...we have sufficient hay at the other ranch to cover the need. In fact, neighbor's already pitched in and hauled a load to my mom's place, so the ponies won't miss a lick.

Dealing with the possibility of prairie fires is the norm in our country. Not usually this time of year though. Goes to show you how dry the winter has been there. Knowing this one was started by a particularly stupid individual is aggravating. Knowing my mom's place never should have burned is beyond infuriating. NO ONE leaves a fire that has that many hot spots...especially when the wind is still blowing. There is far to much fuel down in those draws for anyone with an ounce of experience to think leaving would be safe or acceptable.

My poor brother is guilt ridden because he fought fire all day with everyone, but would have stayed to keep watch if he had known no one was going to be there. He just went home to shower and grab a bite to eat and planned on coming back first thing in the morning. Our local fire chief is just sick. He also told my mom her place should never have been in danger and he planned on filing complaints against the RSTFD teams that left and the supervisors that left them unattended. He must have made good on that in short order because the muckity-mucks from the BIA were out to examine the 2nd burn area and take pictures. This isn't likely something to be taken lightly or be quietly pushed aside.

I almost loaded up and headed home, but my mom is a practical woman. The damage is done, plans were already in motion to have hay delivered and my brother and SIL are there. Nothing can be done to re-build until a full assessment is done. After that everyone will start the process of rebuilding fences and my brother and I will get the remains of the shop cleaned up. Sure don't want mom to have to look at that any longer than possible.

As devastating as it sounds...and feels...if you end up losing grass to fire, this is a far better time of year to lose it than the middle of summer. New grass will grow back this spring, probably thicker than before and mom will still be able to summer cattle on her pastures.

As timing would have it...My Hubby and I are flying to South Carolina to attend the Marine Corp graduation this week as well. I would have missed going if mom needed me, but she said she doesn't. Sooooo....I will be MIA for another few days. On a brighter note...I realized that I will only be 1 hour away from Mrs. Mom. I simply cannot be that close to one of my favorite people without meeting up. Stay tuned...cause I'm sure I'll have blogworthy fodder, not to mention the last post on ulcers coming next week.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ulcers-Part 2

Until this point, I have been speaking of ulcers as an all-inclusive term, but to really get to the root of the ulcer problem, you have to break them down into 2 groups-Gastric Ulcers, which affect the stomach and duodenal (the first part of the small intestine) and Colonic Ulcers, which affect the hind-gut (the colon).

Actual treatment of the two types of ulcers is vastly different, although it is generally accepted that for the most part, certain changes in feeding programs and living accommodations can greatly reduce and possibly eliminate both types of ulcers without any actual treatment. Of course, common sense says that if your horse is already on the kind of diet that is supposed to be the most effective to help prevent ulcers, has a relatively stress-free lifestyle and there is still a problem or you have a horse with G.I. tract problems that are causing real discomfort...You need to address them.

Gastric ulcers are the easiest to actually diagnose, if you are willing to spend the money on an endoscopy. But...(there is always a 'but' right?)...A horse must not be fed for 12 hours prior to, nor be allowed to drink 3 hours prior to an endoscopy. If there are already digestive issues going on, that is enough time for a grade 1 ulcer to show. A grade 1 ulcer is a reddened spot in the viewable lining of the stomach. The general consensus is that a grade 1 ulcer isn't really worthy of a full-blown treatment program, but definite care should be taken to make sure the horse is on an appropriate eating schedule. If there is still significant reason to believe that a horse is having specific G.I. problems, then chances are, the problem is in the hind-gut.

Colonic ulcers are more difficult to obtain a definitive diagnosis on. At this time there are only two ways to check for them and the best they can do is 'indicate the likelihood';

1) Manure pH can be tested. The correct pH for horse manure is 6.8. Any manure that has a pH level of 6.5 or lower, probably means a horse has colonic ulcers (From what I read, you can test your own manure if you have a food probe pH meter. Never heard of one myself, but you can bet I will be looking for one now).

2) A blood panel will reveal if a horse has low-grade anemia, which is also an indicator of the likelihood of colonic ulcers.

In general both types of ulcers produce similar symptoms:

*Weight Loss and/or a general decline in body condition or performance
*Resistance under saddle, frequent desires to stop and/or stretching out as if to urinate
*Irritability and/or other changes in attitude
*Lack of energy and stamina
*Behavior indicating discomfort-pawing, weaving, frequent laying down and getting up, excessive and uncomfortable looking alterations between resting one hind foot and the other. Colic would most likely be included in this definition, particularly bouts of colic that are not particularly severe, but can be repetitive.
*Wood chewing and cribbing (especially if you have owned your horse long enough to know this was not a previous habit)
*General soreness over the back

Some symptoms that are more indicative of gastric ulcers vs. colonic ulcers are:

*Sensitivity to being touched or groomed around the side(s), around the area where the stomach lies.

Some symptoms that are more indicative of colonic ulcers vs. gastric ulcers are:

*Loose or watery stools or repetitive bouts of diarrhea
*Sensitivity in the flank area
*Sore loin
*Girthiness...Long thought to be a sign of gastric ulcers, more credit is being given to the colonic ulcer because the stomach is nowhere near the girth area, but the colon does lie in that area.
*Difficulty bending, collecting and/or extending

Now here's where things get a little tricky because gastric ulcers are most often the ones that veterinarians automatically want to treat. Treatment for them is readily available and is becoming quite well understood. Unlike humans, gastric ulcers in horses are typically not caused by bacteria, so modifications to the diet (not already optimal) and some sort of treatment will generally clear them up within 30 days. Outside of feeding modifications, treatment for gastric ulcers is mainly about providing some sort of medication that neutralizes the stomach pH long enough to give the ulcer(s) time to heal.

This is kind of the run-down on how many of the current medications stack up;

Antacids only decrease the gastric pH for a couple of hours and to maintain any sort of neutralization have to be given 6-12 times a day. They also do not provide any healing qualities. I read a lot of 'homemade' remedies that included crushing Tums or other over-the-counter Antacids into feed, but it's highly unlikely they do any good because the simple act of eating is going to reduce the stomach acid anyway and the effect of the antacid does not last much longer than a couple of hours.

Ranitidine (better known in human terms as Zantac) is an H-2 receptor antagonist that suppresses gastric acid secretions. Used on an 8 hour schedule it has been shown to help treat and heal gastric ulcers.

Cimetidine, another H-2 receptor (human name correlation, Tagamet) can provide short term relief, but has not shown to actually heal ulcers.

Omeprazole is proving to be the most effective chemical treatment on the market for gastric ulcers. I am again going to quote the article out of the QHJ:

Omeprazole completely suppresses acid secretion by binding with the cell membrane H+-K+ proton pump. The effects of omeprazole can last as long as 27 hours. A dose of omeprozole can suppress gastric acid production within 30 minutes and has been noted at a dose of 4mg/kg to provide significant healing of gastric ulcers in horses receiving NSAIDs when given once daily for 28 days. In one study horses in training receiving omeprozole at a dose of 1mg/kg for 28 days, 82 percent remained free of gastric ulcers when compared to the control group where only 10 percent remained ulcer free.
(American Quarter Horse Journal-February 2012)

As you guys know, I am more of a proponent of the use of natural products than I am the use of chemical ones. My personal feeling is that most natural products work better to bring a true balance back to the system. Rather than rewrite information, I'll simply provide a link to an article written by a DMV...

Natural Ulcer Relief

I will tell you that I have used the Aloe Vera Gel on Moon and he seems to be quite stable. Since he was probably already on his way to healing due to other products and time off, I couldn't definitively say whether that is what helped or not. I did get the chance to test the Aloe Vera Gel on a horse back home and he was markedly better after just 3 days. I also ordered my mom this product to feed him along with the AVG...

UC Herbal Blend

The product was delivered the night before I left. The pellets smelled quite yummy. Mom said the horse has been licking up his feed and has made fairly dramatic improvements. Mom had thought the horse had developed arthritis due to some other issues he had going on and he didn't want to move. Now he is back out with the herd and bucking and kicking. Since he wasn't given anything except stuff for ulcers, it wasn't arthritic pain holding him back.

Well....that was the easy ulcers. LOL...I warned you guys Horsie 101 was over. ;-) Next up...the much more difficult Colonic Ulcers...oh boy!

To be continued...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

More Than I Ever Wanted To Know About Ulcers

There have been several of us in blogger land that have had to deal with the Ulcer issue these last few months and a few that have wondered if they might be, so I thought I would compile the information I have gathered into a post...or maybe 2 or 3 as it is a lot of information.

I'm pretty sure that everyone knows what an ulcer is and due to the heightened awareness of how susceptible horses are to them, most everyone knows the new Horsie 101 rule of feeding: Keeping feed more available so that horses always have a bit of something in their stomachs to absorb gastric juices.

It just so happens that the new QHJournal has an article that explains that a little more in depth;

Low stomach pH is a major cause of gastric ulceration in adult horses. Low stomach pH is a result of high gastric acid levels in the stomach. The equine stomach continuously secretes gastric acid. Gastric acid levels are lowest when the horse is consuming feed. Feed consumption also stimulates the production of saliva, which is high in biocarbonate that neutralizes the low pH of the gastric acid. Stomach pH decreases six hours after feeding. therefore horses should be on pasture or fed hay continuously or at least every six hours to keep the gastric pH in balance.
(The American Quarter Horse Journal-February 2012)

Here is a little tidbit in the same article that I found interesting, especially since I feed straight grass hay:

Horses fed a legume hay, such as alfalfa or perennial peanut hay that is high in protein and calcium, have a significantly higher gastric pH than horses fed straight grass hay. However, it only takes about three pounds of the legume hay per day to obtain the higher pH effect. The high calcium and protein in the legume hay has a protective effect on the stomach mucosa.
(The American Quarter Horse Journal-February 2012)

Barring a problem, such as acute founder, such a small amount required to reap the benefits is unlikely to even cause problems or unwanted weight gain (for those of us that have horses that lean a bit toward the heavy side). Now I really wished I had gone with my gut instinct to buy some alfalfa last year for Moon.

So that is roughage in a nutshell. Roughage, provided in a manner that benefits the equine digestive system, is the first line of defense against gastric distress and/or ulcers. However, once that digestive balance becomes severely upset, more needs to be done to bring the balance back. Horsie 101 is now over.

You can basically divide horses into 2 groups-Performers and Non-performers. Most ulcer studies are done in regards to performance horses as they are more likely to have problems than non-performers. Whether we like it or not, when a horse is in training or being competed on, you cannot just kick them out on the back 40 and pull them up when you want to ride. However, most good training facilities and/or competitors have gotten wiser about the benefits of turn-out, larger pens and do try to create a less unnatural living environment for the horses, that still allows them to be maintained at the higher standards required. There is another probable reason why horses in training have higher instances of gastric distress/ulcers that has nothing to do with stress and I will again quote the article in the QHJ:

Horses in training have greater severity and higher prevalence of gastric ulcers. Exercise can cause delayed gastric emptying and increased gastric acid secretion. This might be caused by the increased intra-abdominal pressure and resulting gastric compression during exercise. This increased pressure pushes acidic contents into the section of the stomach nearest the esophagus, which is where most ulcers occur.
(The Quarter Horse Journal-February 2012)

There is actually no proof that one discipline, i.e. Western Vs. English Vs. Racing has a higher rate of ulcers than another. Western Pleasure horses are just as likely to have ulcerations as a Barrel Racing horse. A Hunter/Jumper is just as likely to have them as a Dressage horse. Certain disciplines are definitely more aware of the propensity for their horses to be ulcer candidates and that is why we hear more from some groups than we do others.

The excerpt above also explains what happens to a horse's gut when they are hauled. The very act of standing in a trailer and balancing while going down the road tends to make a horse use his abdominal wall, which can cause the gastric acids to rise above the normal level of protection in the stomach. Before anyone thinks that they need to start treating their horse every time they load him in the trailer...remember, we are talking performance horses here...these are horses who are hauled 10-100X's more miles than the non-performance horse AND when they get to where they are going, they know they have to compete so their stress level stays continually higher. Problems arise not from the rare occasion (unless there was already an underlying issue), but from repeated exposure of unprotected parts of the stomach to gastric acids.

The same could be said for riding. Just because a non-performance horse is ridden regularly does not necessarily make them as prone to develop ulcers as a performance horse. Typically the non-performance horse has a much lower stress level when being ridden and they are seldom asked to use their abdominal muscles as much or as continuously as a performance horse is.

I kind of hate to keep using the word 'stress', because there is often a negative connotation associated with it. People automatically assume the word stress means to the point of distress-either mentally or physically. Wiki (I know...I know...not always the best reference material) has a much more elaborate explanation, more along the lines of the way I am using the word...STRESS.

Horses kept at their owner's homes or at private facilities obviously have advantages over horses that are kept at public and often busy training/boarding facilities. There is often less activity, so the horses are more relaxed overall. And while most public facilities are on rigid feeding schedules, private/home care is more likely to throw a flake of hay to a horse that is without something to nibble on or make changes that are designed to keep the horse happy, relaxed and content.

As we all know, some things are completely out of our control and when things start going wrong with a horse's digestive system, those big, burly horses can become like delicate little hot-house flowers. Not getting it figured out can lead to ugly bouts of distress, colic and even death.

To Be Continued...

Monday, February 20, 2012

One Trick Pony

Everybody was looking at something out in the pasture at mom's house. I guess Shooter couldn't quite see...

Ooohhh...Now I see...

...And NO, this is not safe for him to do and he was chased off before he decided to get all 4 feet up there. But it is funny as hell!

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Plan

As always, just when you about have things figured out, life has to throw you a little curve ball....

A while back I mentioned we had some exciting things going on around here...well...part of what was started came to fruition...the other part...fizzled.

We were starting up a couple of businesses....one is taking off. The other one never got off the ground. That was disappointing, but the hubby, ever the wheeler and dealer got the equipment sold to another company so we didn't lose any money. Whew..cause that was our retirement! Along the way, My Honey was invited to go to work for this company as well and after much hemming and hawwing between that, another job offer and just keeping on doing what he was doing...he decided to go with the company that bought our equipment. As the oil field is getting drastically slow around here and will continue to slow even more, MH will be working in the North Dakota oil field...the one that is currently booming.

Here we go again...MH and I spent the first 8 years of our relationship living apart-separate states...separate countries even...separate lives...I have no idea how our relationship even survived. Anyway, now that MH will be going on an out of town rotation again and the kid will be graduating High School...I want to be a bit more mobile...not to mention that I think the price of hay is going to be astronomical this year....The Plan is to get the number of horses around here down. But to do that I have to get caught up...

Moon just needs his conditioning for barrel racing. He is just going to be a rodeo horse from here on out, but I do plan to use him for other endeavors. I am pretty determined to get back into roping this year and want to do some ranch horse versatility things. Moon does a lot better when he has other things to focus on besides barrel racing. He stays

Shooter is going to be started under saddle and I believe his calling is the show pen...Showmanship, WP, HUS and that kind of stuff. I have no idea if he will ever make a barrel horse. Right now he just screams 'SHOW HORSE'. He stays.

Beretta is also going to be started under saddle and I am going to be gearing her training more towards Reining. I am quite astounded at how much better her hind leg is. I have no doubt her future is a lot brighter than the vet thought it would be. She stays.

Megan is starting Gunner under saddle...with my help of course. He is only going to get a couple of months of light riding, learn the basics and then he will be going back to SD to grow up for another year. So he is just a short-timer and will be going home.

Frosty is coming along really well. He is going to be my 'D' horse this year. I'll haul him to the local barrel races to get him started in competition and will probably haul him with Moon to the rodeos. To get him used to everything and to keep Moon company. He stays.

The big bay horse is going to have a ton of ground work and ponying done on him over the next couple of months. If all goes well and I don't think he is going to kill me, I will start riding him. The plan is to have Megan on a pony horse just start easing me around on him. Buuutttt....If I just can't bring myself to take the plunge and start riding the horse, I have a friend back home who said he would take him for the summer. He is a working cowboy and covers a ton of country doing day work. He is short of mature horses to ride this summer and asked if I had anything I wanted some ranch work done on....

I think covering some big country is exactly what this horse needs, but obviously I worry that things could go horribly wrong. I was only half joking when I told The Cowboy that if he ruined my horse, I was taking this adorable little palomino gelding he has in trade. (Like I need another damn horse right?) So the big bay will most likely be gone for the summer.

Along the same lines...the little sorrel horse may end up going to The Cowboy for the summer too. I have been riding this horse and know he is not going to be a problem. He just needs miles and a job. So Meg and I will be camping on him for the next couple of months and I hope my mom realizes that letting someone use him for a few months is the best thing. Either way, he will be going home.

Spooks is on the bubble. The darned old clod-hopper has just been invaluable to me this last year. Not only for what he won, but for being a good companion to Beretta. I really thought about continuing on with Spooks but he is mostly just fun. He's never going to be a top contender. Keeping him around as a companion horse for the youngsters isn't terribly expensive, so I may just do that. Lord knows he has come to love his luxurious lifestyle. ;-) Right now it's a ??, but if things get really tight economically, he will go home.

That leaves Megan's blue roan horse, Rip. Rip kind of deserves a post all his own because we have a bit of rehabbing to do on him and the next couple of months will tell if he is going to be competitive enough for Megan again or if she will need to trade him out for a different horse. Since she does not enjoy Spooks...even if he did win her a saddle...she is not interested in competing on him again. Rip is another ??, but even if he doesn't stay, Meg will have to pick another horse to replace him.

Confused yet?

The goal is to get down to 5-6 horses for the summer. Of course the big bay will eventually come back and I think I will probably bring my young filly out this fall and keep her here for awhile to make sure she is gentle and halter-broke, but my mom does such a good job growing up the youngsters that unless I absolutely HAVE to keep a baby here, like I had to with Beretta, they really are better off growing up on mom's magic grass. ;-)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Problem With Big Trailers...

The biggest problem I have with my big ass trailer seems to be the number of horses I end up moving around seems to multiply. I went home for ONE horse!


Okay...so maybe I thought I would end up bringing my filly back with me too, but I wasn't set on it.

I came back with THREE...

That makes the total head count around here...NINE!

Too many! Yep! Waaayyyyy too many!

However, there is a method to my madness and for the first time in 6 years, I do not feel like I am dealing with a triage situation. There is a game plan in play.

I'm just going to be busting a hump for the next 2 1/2 to 3 months.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Let's Try This Again

Okay...Wanna know the frustrating part about having to postpone my trip?

My mom didn't get a smidgeon of moisture in SD. :( Arrrggghhhhh!!!

After losing a week...I'm off to SD.

I have a feeling I will be coming back with more than just Shooter! ;-)

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Handy Little Item

Remember last fall when I got my hay delivered and there was some debate about being able to effectively store big squares outside?

Initially, I had the entire stack covered with just the blue tarp, which was plenty big to cover the top and sides of my hay. The problem was...even though the tarp was tied down, as snug as I could get it, with twine, the wind kept getting under the tarp and ripping out the eye-holes. After walking out one morning and finding that most of my humungous tarp had been ripped off the the bales, I decided THAT was most definitely not going to work for the entire winter. So I went to town to buy a replacement tarp and see if I couldn't find something that would hold the tarp down a whole lot snugger. I was thinking bungie cords, but I got to talking to the guy at the Co-op and he directed me to these handy dandy little items...
Hay Screws!

Since they were not exactly cheap, like $10 apiece, I just picked up a few of them to see if they would work as well as he said they did. Boy...do they ever...
When you screw them into the bale, they suck the tarp down snug and no wind gets under the tarp to pull the eye-holes out. They worked so well, that I went back and bought enough to snug the tarp down the full length of my stack on both sides. They are also waayyyy easier to undo and re-do than screwing with twine when I need to get bales out. They also make getting the tarp snug over the top of the bales easy, which helps it shed water too.

Granted, we have had an usually dry and mild winter, but we have had some moisture...enough to ruin hay if it's not protected...and under the tarps, my hay is just as green and fresh as the day it was delivered (see photo above). Considering the investment of thousands of dollars into hay, the $100 investment into the hay screws actually saved money. Not a single ruined bale. (two thumbs up)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rain...Errr...Snow Delay

Well, as would be my luck...I was all loaded and ready to head back to South Dakota to pick up my long lost baby boy, Shooter...

...Annnddddd...a little winter storm had to blow in. So that trip is post-poned for a few days...maybe more depending on how much moisture they get back home.

I really don't like going over the mountain pass (Vail Pass and The Eisenhower Tunnel) at even a hint of bad weather when I am pulling my big trailer. Not to mention it doesn't do me much good to drive over 700 miles, if it's muddy back at the ranch. Our ranch road is dirt...aka...gumbo. If the weather gets bad, I can't get into the place anyway.

I'm pretty anxious to finally get my Shooter back though. You know the funny thing about raising babies?...When they are born, you think it is going to be forever before they are old enough to ride and do something with...

And before you know it...

They are coming 4 y/o's and you wonder where the time went.

MUST get home as soon as the weather permits!