Friday, February 24, 2012

The little things

The more time I spend working with horses the more I realize how important it is to notice small changes in your horse. If you can be very observant and pay close attention to their behavior and stance you will be better able to understand what is going on with your horse. This blog entry is going to be about some of the challenges I have faced with Dinah's health so far. At the end I will include pictures of all of the things I have talked about. One of the most important things to think about when getting a horse is diet, what kind of hay, grain, water and how much are they going to get. The person needs to consider breed, size, activity level, and nutrition history to help pick the correct feed for the animal. I didn't know much about Dinah's feed before I picked her up, but I did know that she is small, mustangs are generally easy keepers (don't need a lot of feed), and her activity level was going to be low, at least at first. I made a mistake in that I did not discuss with the barn manager what they were going to be feeding her, so when she first arrived she was getting straight alfalfa. Horses are very sensitive to extreme diet changes as well as extreme jumps in the levels of nutrients they are receiving. If they suddenly get a diet that is very high in nutrient content it can cause a problem called laminitis, where the lamina that connect the bone in their hoof to their hoof capsule can get irritated and inflamed. I think that Dinah potentially had a mild laminitis in her hind feet because when we trimmed her she had some bruising in her back feet. Also the first few days she was at mvr she kept breaking her water buckets an creating a mud puddle to stand in. This is what I mean about noticing small changes. Some owners might just think the horse is being bad and breaking the bucket, but she was being smart because her feet hurt and she knew she needed to stand in mud to cool her feet and help decrease the inflammation. I also think the 7 hour trailer ride contributed to the laminitis. One of the other things that has been going on with Dinah is diarrhea. She has had varying levels of diarrhea since I got her. This is probably due to the diet changes and also stress. I started feeding her probiotics, kind of like yoghurt for horses, it is to help supplement the beneficial bacteria in the gut that keep the horse healthy. So I was feeding her that and it seemed to be helping, but then I became concerned about giving her extra nutrients, so I took her off the probios. I also switched her from alfalfa to a wheat/ oat hay so is fed about ten pounds of that hay twice a day and that's it. She still has diarrhea, so I have been talking with my vet from pony club who has been kind enough to answer my questions via Facebook, and I am going to try worming her and also start her on a product called psylium. Psylium is a feed through product that helps clean a horses intestine out of sand of any other debris that could be irritating their bowels. Since horses eat off the ground, sometimes they also eat sand or dirt which then stays in their belly and can cause digestive problems. If these things don't work, I may try to switch her to a different hay, but a different forage hay(lower in nutrient) not alfalfa (too high in nutrient content). Her right eye has also been consistently weepy, which is probably a result of the diet and environment change. It is another way the body can push out toxins,
So if a horse has very weepy eyes, there may be something wrong with the diet or something the horse is allergic to. Dinah is also not standing straight with her back legs. Her fetlock joint (round ball above hoof) is not straightening all the way ( see picture). I did some research and I think it may be a inflammation of the joint, again as a result of diet. My vet said not to worry about it too much, just to try to get her diet balanced and it should resolve itself. She said it is probably a result of all the changes in her life and I shouldn't worry about it too much, but it's hard not to worry! One of the thoroughbred babies that I worked with at cal poly had this same problem, since horses are so big and grow so fast sometimes their bones grow faster than their bodies, and it takes a while for the outside to catch up with the inside. When her body all of a sudden got a high nutrient diet, her bones said oh time to grow! So I just need to be patient and not work her too hard physically, but mentally she can still work hard so I will be doing a lot of ground work with her at the walk, putting in all the controls so I can get on next week! Yesterday I put reins on her bridle and started teaching her how to give to the pressure of the bit, this is how she will learn to turn. She learns so fast and is so smart, it is amazing. She is coming along quite well, and I have learned so much already, which was my main goal for doing this. :) I also included some pictures of her front feet so you can look at the wear pattern. It is important to look at how a horse is wearing their feet, because this can give you a heads up for potential lameness. Her right front is wearing much more evenly than her left, can you tell which is which?


  1. Interesting post Torie! Although I will confess that I can't even tell what body part you are showing in the first and last pic!

  2. This is GREAT information Torie. When you are done, perhaps this blog will become a book that will be helpful for other people adopting mustangs, or maybe even anyone starting a young horse. Thank you for your posts!