Safer Grass

This is Indy's pasture mate, Ami. She is a Quarter Horse/pony mix mare that I have had since 1992 when she was a yearling - see picture below. What a cutie!

Originally, she was DJ's pasture mate after we moved him from Dallas to here in Indiana. They were great buddies, and she grieved for him almost as much as I did when we lost him in 2002 at the age of 25.

Fortunately, she and Indy hit it off from the very beginning - 2002 - and she's doing great at the age of 14.

She's had more than her share of problems though. In the summer of '95 she developed laminitis, appearantly from grass. And that's the point of this post. We almost lost Ami, and even though she recovered, she suffered horrifying pain, and has had intermittent problems with bruised soles and abscesses ever since. We must be extremely careful in the spring, summer and fall to be sure Ami doesn't get much grass. One bite too much, and she will come up sore - again. Laminitis is nothing to fool with. It is still the number two killer of horses - after colic - and the number one crippler.

Ami is hardly the only horse that cannot tolerate unlimited grass. In fact, it seems to be the norm rather than the exception these days. It is especially common among ponies and the easy keeping breeds such as Morgans - which means I have to keep a close eye on Indy too.

But, but... aren't horses supposed to eat grass? Isn't that the food they evolved on and have been eating for millennia? Yes and no.

The natural food of the horse is grass - just not "modern" grass. The grass species that we have available these days were developed specifically to fatten beef cattle and to allow dairy cattle to produce more milk. They are very high in sugar and starch. While cattle can tolerate this forage much better than horses, there is still much doubt about how healthful it would be for them long term. Since most cattle, even dairy, have a productive lifespan of about five or six years, they can't be compared with horses which are expected to perform for thirty years or more.

The specific culprits in the grasses seem to be a class of sugars called "fructans," and the manner in which they ferment in the horse's gut. The research on all this is very new, and there is a great deal yet to be learned about why today's horses can't safely eat their natural food. Even forage specialists and equine nutritionists don't fully understand the problem. Some in fact don't even realize there is a problem.

If you own a chubby, easy keeper like Ami, or any pony, Morgan or other "easy keeper" breed, I urge you to click on the link in this title and visit Katy Watts' site safergrass.org. She is an agronomist who owns horses that founder on grass. Her research is ground breaking and offers critical information for those of us who want to best for our pudgy equine pals.

That link will also be permanently displayed in my Other Links of Interest area. Please check it out. The horse you save might be your own.


Who Says Good Help Is Hard To Find?

Maybe I'm just lucky, but there is never a shortage of good help in my barn.

Ok, Indy. Are you ready to start?

That's the way!

Oops! It's okay - we'll just start again.

Now you're gettin' it!

All right!

Let's carry it out of the stall.

Reward for a job well done!

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I guess it's a good thing I do have such wonderful help. It's been a long winter. First, I kept getting some sort of infection that ran down the sides of my finger nails. Not only did it damage the nails, it was excruciatingly painful. I was fighting this all winter.

Just as that seemed to finally be coming under control, my indoor cat, Trilby, got overly excited upon seeing one of the barn cats through the window and bit me on the forearm. Now, I've been bitten by cats, dogs, horses and even a couple of cousins and had no problem. This time I ended up in the ER.

I was running a temp of 103 and my entire arm was bright red and hugely swollen. They finally let me go - with a promise to see my own doc first thing in the morning - after IV antibiotics, gallons of blood for tests, a tetanus booster and a prescription for an oral antibiotic.

My own doc gave me a shot of yet another powerful antibiotic and wanted me to come back the next day for a second shot. Well.....

Fortunately I recovered rapidly after all this, but my arm and hand were quite sore for several days.

Now, it's April and it's cold and snowing. I'm afraid to ask what else can go wrong...


One Picture...

Well, here we are, riding in the Aussie saddle. Notice how relaxed Indy looks, head low, playing with his bit. He was not looking this way in this previous saddles, believe me.

As always with a new saddle, I've been fiddling with the stirrup length. It always seems to take me forever to decide just where I want the stirrups on each individual saddle. Most of my height must be leg, because I ride with a longer stirrup than many people who are taller than I am. Still, I've shortened them one hole since this picture was taken, so we shall see.

I haven't ridden in several days because it's been raining and chilly, with a stiff East wind. Indy loves it, but I do not. It's supposed to be nice tomorrow, so hopefully I'll get a chance to test the stirrup length. At least the stirrups are very easy to adjust.

More details - and pictures - later. Posted by Picasa


At Least I Can Type Now

Well, I can sort of type now – thank god for spell checkers! I have been having the strangest problem with the middle finger of my right hand. At first I thought I had gotten a foreign object down the side of the nail. It got sore and kept getting worse instead of better. I assumed it was going to abscess shortly, I could open it, end of problem. But, it hasn’t worked out that way…

Now I think it must be some sort of injury to the nail itself, because it seems to be growing off. In fact, it’s now right at the tip of my finger – which makes typing difficult again.

However – I have been riding the saddle! Yes! I’ve ridden in it three times, and the last time was for a good half hour. It’s extremely comfortable for me and very secure. It’s kinda heavy, at least compared to the synthetic ones, but that’s the price I paid for it having an old fashioned Aussie adjustable tree. Anyway, it weighs about the same as DJ’s trail saddle, and DJ was three inches taller than Indy. The problem isn’t the saddle weight – it’s my being out of shape!

It looks like this saddle is going to be a great success – finally! The most impressing thing is how Indy has reacted. He seems more relaxed and willing with every ride. I don’t get that feeling that he’s absolutely desperate to get this deal over with and get that thing off his back. He still doesn’t realize that he can urinate with me on his back – the saddle, yes. He’s done that, but only after I dismounted. I’ve heard about this problem with geldings before, but sooner or later he’ll have to go with me up, and with him it’ll only take once. End of problem. :o)

I’ve got him back on the full cheek bit, since he seems to like that one a bit more than the D ring. Actually, he seems to love both of the Happy Mouth bits. He’ll grab onto it before I’m even ready to slip the crown piece over his ears. Then he happily sucks and mouths and plays with the roller. Couldn’t do that in the show ring of course. Mouth must be closed and quiet – even if you have to crank it shut with a dropped or flash noseband. But, since we’re not going near any show rings, as long as he responds to my cues, he can play with his bit to his heart’s content.

All I care about is that he’s finally relaxed and content in his mouth and his body while being ridden. Now we can start having some real fun!


Not Yet....

No, I haven’t had a chance to ride the saddle yet. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised – I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a new piece of tack in my life that didn’t cause the weather to go rotten and stay that way for weeks. I think it’s some kinda unwritten law or something. It’s not that it’s wasted time or anything. Since Indy and Ami have just started shedding for real, I have more grooming than my arms can hold up to – especially since it’s been wet and they both are muddy on top of being shaggy. Maybe I don’t want to put my brand new sheepskin pad on Mr. Grunge’s back just yet anyway!

The delay has also given me a chance to get a good application of Leather Therapy Conditioner on the smooth leather parts of the saddle before they get dirty and have to be cleaned first. Mold on tack is a serious problem around here, and the Leather Therapy is the only thing I’ve found that does a lick of good preventing it. Even it works much better if you can get in onto the leather before any mold has a chance to dig in with its nasty little spores. YUK!

Last but far from least, I’m also working on the full Bates rig that I purchased – not only to get it conditioned as well, but also figuring out how the heck the thing works. Actually, it’s quite easy once you “get it.” The full instructions that came with it didn’t hurt either…

I knew I’d be glad I paid extra to upgrade the girthing system to this. It doesn’t just convert the usual English style girthing that Aussies use to Western style – it adds what they call a Bates buckle, which is a quick release between the near side tie strap and the cincha. You get the leverage of the long Western tie strap, but without having to thread it around three times every time you saddle up. You just have to move the strap a little bit to release and only a bit more to refasten the buckle. Not only much easier on my repetitive movement injured hands, but a lot less pulling and tugging on Indy too. Since snugging up the girth is his most unfavorite part of the whole process, he’ll probably benefit even more from this thing than I will – which was the main reason I bought it of course.

Maybe all this seems like going to extremes to some, but how could I possibly be comfortable if my horse is not? After all, riding is my idea, certainly not his. I figure keeping him comfortable is the least I can do.


Is It Possible? Could It Actually Be True?

As promised, my saddle arrived on Saturday afternoon at about 4:00 PM. Mike and I were already at the barn, but we were listening hard for that Fed Ex truck. Since we were already involved with our barn stuff/horse grooming, I didn’t open the box until we were back inside.

My first impression was, “WOW!” The pictures on the web site and in the catalog certainly don’t do it justice. It’s beautiful – gold stitching on the black Nubuck leather, and horseshoe dee rings. I thought you had to pay extra for those. There is gold stitching on the fenders and stirrups as well. As for the all important tree – well, it certainly looked wider than the Wintec or Abetta, and not only that, the angle of the bars was obviously much flatter than either of the others. Hope!

Yesterday was the first trial – just the saddle, with a sheet over Indy’s back to keep it pristine – just in case. I was a little concerned about Indy’s reaction since he was not standing well for the Abetta any more. The sheet of course was a big ho-hum for him, but he got a bit tense when I heaved the saddle onto his back. Mike steadied his head, but he calmed right down and went back to munching his hay while we were evaluating the fit. That told me volumes right there. Indeed, the fit did seem excellent, with the saddle nestling down around his back instead of perching on top of it. I was thrilled with my impression and even more so with Indy’s. He will have the final say after all.

Today, we tried it with the sheepskin pad that I ordered with it – again with the sheet underneath. The fit still seemed just right, and Indy was totally Mr. Cool – after giving that pad a thorough sniffing, that is. He decided the whole thing was OK though, and went back to munching.

Now, I have to figure out how to use the Bates rig so I can try girthing it up. As for riding, the weather has been awful, first day of Spring or no. It’s cold and windy. Still, spring is here, and surely we’ll have a halfway decent day before too long. Meanwhile, I can be applying the Leather Therapy Conditioner to the smooth leather parts to fight the war against mold.

I think Indy is going to be a lot happier with this saddle – and if he’s happy, I’m happy.
"From my earliest memories, I have loved horses with a longing beyond words." ~ Robert Vavra