Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cheap Horse Activities in a Cruddy Economy: Focusing on Cure for My Hothouse Flower Horse

I've recently been writing about how to have fun with your horse in a cruddy economy because, well, we all need to have fun, whether or not the checkbook looks healthy. In two previous posts, I wrote about how I was determined to become the one-jump wonder (a project that's bound to be cheap but very interesting) and I'm rediscovering the fun of riding in the desert. I have one more project in mind to keep this zen cowgirl occupied in the coming fall, winter, and spring: focusing on cure for my hothouse flower, a gelding named Walker (see picture).

When it comes to horse health care, the idea of focusing on cure may not sound cheap; palliating or suppressing symptoms with bandaids sounds cheaper. In reality, it's not. Over the years of buying, starting, training, and selling horses, I've discovered that really focusing on curing a horse's health problems, permanently, is ultimately cheaper than just fixing the symptoms. Walker is a perfect example. Take a gander at his case study and see if you agree with me by the end.

Walker -- The Hothouse Flower
For the most part, I ride mustangs. I've adopted five of them over the years and still have three of them: Valentine, Samantha, and Reyacita. These three mares are as tough as nails and as versatile as the quintessential little black dress.

And then I have Walker, the only gelding of the bunch, a quarter horse who is a total hothouse flower. Walker is my sensitive child of a horse, originally bought to be a reiner. He may still become a reining horse one day, but for now Walker has a lot of health issues to overcome.

Walker's Case History
Walker, now four years old, remained unbroke and a stud until late in his three-year-old year. That year, his previous owners ran him into a trailer and dropped him off at the reining trainer's barn. There, the trainer proceeded to rope him, geld him, and saddle break him. He was put through 90 days of intense reining training, in which he showed great promise as a big stopper and an big turner. And then I bought him.

A few months after I brought him home, I pulled his shoes and proceeded to put him on a natural whole food supplement program that included blue-green algae, a specific antioxidant juice, enzymes, probiotics, and wheat sprouts. Walker proceeded to detoxify his system faster than proved good for his health. He lost weight, developed an abscess in his right front hoof, developed an abscess in his jaw, suffered from colic, and generally looked pitiful. He also developed "crunchy" shoulders, proceeded to grow an inch, and develop a high hind end and jammed withers.

My vet suggested I take him off all supplements for a few weeks to allow his body to catch up with his healing crisis. Following her advice, I then gave him the Panacur Power Pack series, and am now starting him on an herbal rebalancing product called Eleviv. The goal of the Eleviv is to help Walker's system restore itself to healthy balance without going into a healing crisis. He is now back on the same whole food supplements, but in reduced quantity. He also gets body work to release his withers and spine every couple of days.

The Long Road to Cure
It's probably going to be a long road to cure for Walker, since his health obviously suffered from his experiences of being grabbed, gelded, and trained. While I could easily palliate or suppress his symptoms by giving him Bute, Banamine, and a host of other wonder drugs, I prefer to see Walker move into total foundational health, even if that takes another six months to a year.

Walker: Not an Unusual Case
Walker isn't by any means an unusual case, especially when a horse is brought from a conventionally-managed environment to a holistically-managed one. That he survived being roped, gelded, shod in sliders, vaccinated, dewormed, and trained intensively for 90 days shows that he has heart. Now he just needs health.

I am not at all surprised that Walker is going through such a healing crisis. The whole food nutrition and herbal supplements are supporting Walker's own immune system, which is responding by detoxifying the effects of his mental, emotional, and physical stress. With horses like Walker, as long as we continue to support the immune system, he should eventually turn the corner and become solidly healthy. Stay tuned for more on Walker's case in the near future.

Is Cure Really Cheaper than Fixing Symptoms?
So now that you've read Walker's case, what do you think? Is cure really cheaper? It is. Dr. Madalyn Ward, my veterinarian, has actually calculated the cost of managing a horse either conventionally or holistically, and it turns out the holistic management, which really focuses on cure, ends up costing slightly less in dollars. The bonus is that you end up with a much healthier horse you can ride and enjoy more of the time. Read this fascinating comparison on the Holistic Horsekeeping website.

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