Friday, January 29, 2010

Goodby Howard Zinn and Thank You . . .

... for including the people's voice in the story of History.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Getting Better Every Day

Horsenaltiy is starting to emerge. Once Autumn must have been a princess horse. She loves the better things that life has to offer, stinky ole regular grass hay is NOT in that category. Peppermints, carrots, and alfalfa are. Scratches are much appreciated. I hate leaving any horse in a box but the rain continues. She is a sweet, sweet mare.
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Monday, January 18, 2010

Nom Nom Nom Nom Nom

Autumn is an eating machine. Her spirits are good, eyes again bright. The desparate, searching behavior with her muzzle has disappeared. Our vet visited tonight. Lots of good news. She has moved away from "the edge" and I can keep feeding her the regime I had started. She was wormed. Back in June she was SUPPOSED TO GET HER TEETH DONE!!!! She really needs it but Dr. Carlyle wants to wait for a couple of weeks until she has more weight. He did not give any vaccinations for the same reason.

Last night Red Horse went with me to get Autumn from the stall - his stall actually. His eyes literally bugged out when he saw ANOTHER horse in it. He hates his stall - throws his body against the wall whenever I leave him there. No matter, how DARE I share his territory with another horse!

Mosley AKA Elko also had his vet visit. The dude is a TANK. I suspect insulin resistance will be his main issue because in the middle of winter he still has a huge fatty crest in his neck. If I am long in his life he will have a crash course in ground manners. Kept pushing into the vet and doing some inventive head shakes to try to keep the Doc out of his mouth.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Concentrated Feed and the Starved Horse

I just learned that feeding concentrates for the first 14 days of rehab can be potentially very harmful to the horse recovering from starvation. Thought I'd post the article as a good reference.

from The Complete Rider

Nutrition for Rehabilitating the Starved Horse

Dr. Carolyn Stull and her team of equine welfare experts provide new guidelines for refeeding starved horses

"Kung K'ai" (Emaciated Horse), by Yuan Dyn

It is difficult to comprehend the long-term neglect and surrounding situation that produce such a devastated, depressed creature as a starved horse. The bones are so prominent that the skeleton appears to belong to a larger horse, the head is disproportionately large compared with the body, and the tail is always low and motionless. But the low hanging head tells it all. The ears barely move to any sounds in the environment, no extra energy is spent interacting with herd mates. The eyes are dull, without expression, without expectations.

Researchers from the UC Davis Center for Equine Health conducted a survey to assess the prevalence of starved horses in California and found the results quite disturbing. Among the responders to the survey were animal control and humane society organizations in 36 counties, with an estimated equine population of 1,041,560. Of this number, 2,177 horses were found to be severely malnourished. The most common reason for these cases was owner ignorance, followed by economic hardship.

A research team comprised of Dr. Carolyn Stull (UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Extension), Dr. Anne Rodiek (California State University, Fresno), Dr. Christine Witham (private clinician), Dr. Pamela Hullinger (California Department of Food and Agriculture), and Kelly Weaver (UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Extension) has been studying the problem. Funded in part by Purina Mills, Inc., the study provides a standard body condition scoring system to assess the weight status of a horse and compares different diets for refeeding the malnourished horse. In both humans and horses, abrupt refeeding can cause dysfunction of the body's metabolic systems, which can lead to failure of the heart and lungs and ultimately to death. The goal of this research is to provide new information and guidelines for recognizing and treating malnourished horses.

This horse has a body condition score of three. The ribs can be observed easily, even with the horse's winter coat, the tail head is prominent and can be felt easily, and the hip bones are rounded and protruding. (above and below right). Note the dip in the withers in front toward the neck and behind toward the back, exhibiting little or no fat deposit around this area.
At left, the hip shows an inverted V shape with the spine at the apex, representing a lack of fat deposition

What Happens During Starvation

During the starvation process, the horse initially uses any fat and carbohydrate stores in his body to supply energy for metabolism. This is the normal process for any healthy horse: fat and carbohydrates are used for energy, exercise, brain function, circulation, etc., and are then replaced with nutrients from food. The cycle is constant and never-ending, even during sleep. In a starved animal, once this source of fat and carbohydrate is gone, energy is derived from the breakdown of protein. While protein is a component of every tissue, there are no inert stores of it in the body such as there are for fat and carbohydrates. Consequently, the starved body uses protein not only from muscles, but also from vital tissues such as the heart and even gastrointestinal tissues-tissue that is necessary for life. The starved body cannot select which tissue protein will be metabolized for energy. As time goes by, the horse's survival is in a precarious situation. When a horse loses more than 50% of its body weight, the prognosis for survival is extremely poor.

The Refeeding Problem

Refeeding starved animals, including humans, is not an easy process. In humans suffering from starvation caused by illnesses such as anorexia, cancer, or gastrointestinal obstruction, patients can develop "refeeding" syndrome when they are given concentrated calories, and this in turn can lead to heart, respiratory, and kidney failure usually 3 to 5 days after the initial meal. This same syndrome has been reported in the literature for horses. Thus, our research team wanted to develop a refeeding program for horses that would minimize these effects and enable the horse to return back to normal body weight. Our goals were to test feeds that were commonly available and used in horse rations, so the refeeding program could be implemented easily in any area of the country.

Experimental Diets for Refeeding

We selected three types of feed that were very different in nutrient composition: alfalfa hay, oat hay, and a commercially available complete feed consisting of grain, molasses, fat, and alfalfa. Alfalfa is known to be high in protein (20%) but low in carbohydrate starch (3%). Oat hay is high in fiber but low in protein (7%). The complete feed represented a feed high in carbohydrate concentration, with 19% starch. The three types of feed were given to 22 starved horses that were brought to the UC Davis research site as representative of horses rescued by equine organizations. Horses were fed one of the three diets over a 10-day rehabilitation period. The researchers focused on this time period as critical to successfully transitioning the gut from a starved state to a fed state. Even though the diets were different in composition, they were fed in amounts that were equivalent on a caloric basis, so that horses assigned the oat hay diet, for example, received the largest volume of feed, while the horses on the complete feed received the smallest amount but the same number of calories at each meal.

This horse has a body condition score of five (above). She appears very smooth, with no skeletal prominence. Her neck and withers blend smoothly into her shoulders. Ribs do not show, and the loin and hip are nicely rounded.
Right, this horse has a score of nine. Note the obvious crease from his spine sunk between fat deposits on either side.

Which Diet Worked Best?

Our results with the complete feed were very consistent with human studies conducted 20 years earlier using concentrated calories. As the horse ate the high-carbohydrate diet, insulin was released in response to the high level of starch. The job of the hormone insulin is to store the carbohydrate in cells for future energy use, but it also simultaneously draws the electrolytes phosphorous and magnesium from circulation into the cell. Since the starved horse has no stores of electrolytes, this depletion may lead to kidney, heart, and respiratory failure. These effects do not occur with the initial meal but usually several days to a week later due to the repetition of insulin release following a high-carbohydrate meal and the cumulative depletion of electrolytes. The oat hay diet was very bulky and caused diarrhea in several horses. Several essential nutrients such as phosphorous and magnesium were low in the oat hay compared with the other diets; thus, this diet did not support a successful rehabilitation. The alfalfa had the best results due to its high composition of quality protein, but also the major electrolytes, phosphorus and magnesium. Since alfalfa hay is very low in carbohydrate content, there were minimal effects due to insulin response.

In a subsequent feeding study, we compared an alfalfa hay diet to a diet of combination alfalfa hay and corn oil. Equine diets usually do not contain much fat, but in recent years the use of corn oil to increase the energy density of a meal has been widely used in nutrition programs for older horses and in horses undergoing intensive training programs. The two diets were fed again on an equal-calorie basis. Although the corn oil had no harmful effects, substituting calories from corn oil for alfalfa decreased the total nutrient content of phosphorous and magnesium in the diet. Thus, the response to the diet combining corn oil and alfalfa showed a decreasing blood phosphorous level over the 10-day period, which was not advantageous to the rehabilitation. Again, the alfalfa diet was the most effective at delivering the necessary nutrients in the correct amounts to the starved horse.

Our research showed that starved horses had very different responses to several diets. We found that the best approach for initial refeeding of the starved horse consists of frequent small amounts of high-quality alfalfa. This amount should be increased slowly at each meal and the number of feedings decreased gradually over 10 days. After 10 days to 2 weeks, horses can be fed as much as they will eat. The horse will show signs of increased energy after about two weeks. Ears, eyes and head movement will be the first noticeable movements. Some weight gain can be achieved in one month, but three to five months usually are needed to rehabilitate back to a normal body weight. Veterinary care and nutritional advice should be sought as complications can arise.

Refeeding the Starved Horse

AAEP Guidelines for Equine Rescue and Retirement Facilities (feeding the starved horse starts on p. 11)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Her Name is Autumn

When I made an appointment for a vet exam, the clinic checked their patient data base for a quarter horse named Moose. They found one who was nine years old and was listed with a 23 years old mare. Bingo. Someone named her Autumn. Welcome Autumn. I will be her caretaker until she is healed and we can find the right home for her.

Moose has been Autumn's leader and protector for the 10 months I have known them. He is very devoted to her and is troubled that she has been taken from his side to eat and heal. A very solid boy, he appears wormy but has not suffered the weight loss of his sweetie. My friend will be his caretaker. Moose, who I am calling Mosely, waited by the gate for hours and hours, calling to Autumn. What will happen to their relationship?

Tomorrow I will trim his hoofs. They have some nasty forward flares that look very uncomfortable. I worked on Autumn's front hoofs today. Cary (with Mosley in pictures) is going to help me tomorrow, so I should be able to get all their hoofs trimmed in much more comfy.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Bay Mare and Moose are Safe!!!!

Tonight we have a good ending to a not-so-nice story. Tonight Bay Mare got to come in to eat, be groomed, and evaluated for immediate needs. She walked through the dark, left the pasture where she has lived for months, and stepped with complete calmness and trust into the warmth of the Redwood Barn. Diving into a pile of grass hay, she sighed and literally melted into our touch. This is a sweet, sweet mare. Here is the rest of the story.

On Wednesday our barn manager left me a message to call him. I did not get the message until Thursday night and Friday was so crazed that it was evening before we talked. Meanwhile I had been feeding Bay Mare in the pasture after everyone was gone. When the b. manager and I talked he said he had already sold the 2 horses - to my friend Jennifer who is in Prineville, Oregon going to saddle making school!!!! Jennifer did not even know that Bay Mare was starving - she just knew that their owner was in arrears and that the b. manager was going to take the two horses "over the hill" to auction which these days doesn't offer much hope for a horse. She bought them for the price of horse meat. We talked tonight and I have her complete agreement to start the rehab process. This is turning into a community project.

Bay Mare and Moose when they first entered the GP in May, 2009

Tomorrow I will take in a fecal sample and schedule a vet appointment. I am so relieved. This is the first time all week I will go to sleep without worry. All of your comments and encouragement meant so much to me when I felt I was in a nasty double bind needing to stay in a positive relationship with the barn manager while not taking any visible action to help horses I didn't have "official" access to. Thus the "midnight" feed runs. From the late night feedings, she already seems to have more energy.

Bay Mare trusted me and my friend Sherri without hesitation tonight. I could rage for a considerable amount of time about the people who did this. Instead, I will marvel at horses' capacity and willingness to trust after they have been grievously neglected.

Bay Mare in May, 2009


A Tree, a Red Horse, and the Sky.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wordless (almost) Wednesday: My Friend

Bay Mare and I have become friends. Efforts are being made. I will update when I can.
THANK YOU for your incredible support following my last post.

It becomes so hard to understand how people can let this happen, yet it does. Thousands of horses in our country are in dire straights. For heart lifting inspiration, visit Thoroughbred Friends and meet Joe Shelton, a man who finds hope in the face of despairing circumstances. Please visit today and read about Party, then go hug your sweet horses.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sad: Two More Horses That No One Wants

Tonight I'm thinking of the many wonderful people I've met over the last few years who open their hearts to horses. Many of you have been involved intensely with rescue work and have courageously found answers that saved horses who would have been lost without your aid. My "saving" energy has gone into my sweet grannie horse Lyra. She just had her teeth done and I learned that her age is more "around" 25 than 20. I would save more, if I could. Right in the very place I find such joy, the general pasture at Freshwater, are two who need someone to help. Quickly, I suspect.

He is a big boned, nine year old, quarter type gelding. A blood bay. I just found out his name is Moose. His mare is a petite 23 year old thoroughbred who was sleek and lovely when she entered the GP months ago. Moose is fiercely protective of her, runs off any horse that looks at his girl. Even Red. No one has come to care for Moose and his sweetie through the long cold months. They have dropped their weight. The mare is in trouble. I wrote about her earlier in the week.

Tonight Bay Mare kept laying down. She had a hard time getting up. Moose stayed close by. Loyalty - horses have it in their bones. I came close to Bay Mare and she nickered to me. Soft, scared eyes. She knows. I had written my barn manager a note about her eariler in the week. Tonight I called him. He called their owner and then told me that he or she is coming to check on them tomorrow, but they are in arrears and probably won't want the horses. Not want their horses? What kind of people take such vivid personalities with such clear and shining spirits and leave them to fend for themselves for MONTHS and then decide they don't want them? Not want Moose and his bay mare? If the owners of Moose and Bay Mare don't pay their bill, then they will get sold or taken over the mountains to auction. These days only the meat folk buy horses like this at auctions.

I want to save Moose and Bay Mare. I told my barn manager to tell me before anyone started talking about hauling horses to auction. I have a two horse herd. That is what I can do well. And I cannot let Moose and Bay Mare fall by the way side. I've walked beside them in the herd for months. Don't know what the answer will be. Tonight they will be in my prayers.


Yesterday there was an earthquake. It was 6.5, yet felt more intense.
It could have been much worse. I am fine and my house is not damaged.

I've spent the day cleaning up things shaken off the shelves. I was taking a nap when it started. Great metaphor. As I grabbed my jeans I kept thinking - dang, why didn't I finish that earthquake kit? What did I grab besides my pants? A knife, flashlight, and a leash for the dogs.

Was I frightened? Heck yes. But my greatest fear came from not knowing if this was the "big one" that visits the Humboldt Coast every few hundred years. I've been in several earthquakes and this felt the most intense, though it was not the biggest on the Richter scale.

In less than an hour I was walking the fence line of the general pasture, wanting to be sure it was intact. Grateful. Shaken. Comforted by the calm of the horses and the beauty of the sunset. Thinking what I need to do to prepare.

PS Sheeesh, only on Facebook! There is a "I survived the Eureka 2010 Earthquake" Group. Of course I joined. There are lots of pictures that show the outcome - not tragic fortunately, but definitely sobering.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Peaceful End to a Slow & Easy Vacation . . .

. . . I know I'm pretty darn lucky working in schools and getting to live by a school schedule. So winter break is coming to an end, tomorrow back to work. I like knowing that regardless of how busy or intense my job might be, I have a herd of friends who move through their day within a pattern that resonates with ancient rhythms. And no matter where I am a part of my heart, touched by these horses, moves with them through the sun, shadow, and connection of their

Whenever Red sees me, his head pops up and he makes a bee line for me. He is so cute! I just love this horse.

Bay Horse and Ricki like to visit when I walk in the general pasture (GP).

Fino and Sooten are two old freinds. Sooten is crippled from long ago intentional injuries from a malicious person. He moves around the pasture taking tiny steps. Fino keeps him company and stands by him when the other horses become too rough.

I've never seen anyone come to visit Steamer. He is slowly (months) developing a relationship with me. Here he is letting me know that Lena is a bit too close in his personal space.

Red loves it when I enter his world. He hangs with me, sometimes not letting the other horses near. Here he is standing with his head next to Lyra's flank, he waited like this while I talked to her and hugged her. He might not have been too happy about it, but he didn't budge to interfere. I believe that he realizes that she is part of our little herd of two. My sweeties, Red and Lyra.

But he did not hesitate to let Rickie know he was TIRED of having all the other horses wanting to be with me.

Bay mare is not doing too well. She is a TB who is younger than Lyra, but no one ever comes to care for her. One reason I like to walk in the general pasture is I get to see how all the horses are doing. Sometimes I worry that no one else does. Her condition has really deteriorated over the last few weeks. Yesterday I talked with a couple of other boarders about her. We will be talking with the manager. We intend to see that she gets some help.

Rickie is one of the sweetest horses in the GP herd. Another wonderful boy who never gets a visit from his human. He has "pocket pony" written all over him.

And it takes very little to make him smile.

Red wondered if Stella's new squeekie ball might be a new kind of crunchie.

The day was one of those rare winter days with incredibly clear, warm sunlight. Many horses got cozy and took long winter sunbaths.

Shaheen has lived here for 24 years. That is just about how old his mom is. She is a barefoot trimmer who has had this sweet little arab since she was born!