Thursday, May 20, 2010

Horse Health Care: Roach-Backed Horse Tests the Waters at his First Show

This past Sunday Fezzywig and I attended our first hunter/jumper show. Being that Fezzywig just started jumping, we attended this show just to test the waters and see how this big guy liked the show ring. The plan was that if he liked it, I would continue him in jumper training. If not, I would need a new plan.

We entered in the ... wait for it ... cross-rail division! Oh don't worry. I was prepared for the laughter as I entered the arena on my giant 16.2 roach-backed whale of a horse, going up against a bunch of kids on ponies.

The Results of Fezzywig's First Show
As you can probably already see, Fezzywig did great. He and I ended up with a first and two second-place ribbons, plus the Championship for the cross-rail division. Too hilarious, since he bucked in the flat class.

No matter. He LIKED jumping and was quite willing to trot over teensy-tiny cross-rails. He was also quite amenable for a Wood horse personality type, which tends to be very competitive in my mustang mare, Valentine. Apparently, when you put a Wood in a warmblood, it turns out to be a lot mellower!

What I Brought with Me to the Show
Although Fezzy and I did not hop over any jumps taller than 15", which was a total no-brainer for a 16.2 hand horse, he does have a history of back problems. So here's what I brought to the show, in addition to all the normal gear:
  • Eleviv: To keep Fezzywig in his normal healing parasympathetic nervous system
  • Homeopathic Arnica: In case he hurt something trotting over these teensy poles
  • Horse Goo: To keep everything from his gut to his mind functioning normally (it has mangosteen juice, blue-green algae, probiotics, enzymes)
I gave Fezzy a double dose of the Horse Goo plus 2 Eleviv capsules starting the day before the show, and also the day of the show. Being a Wood horse personality type, Fezzywig was not fearful, but he did occasionally get a little goofy on me (like spooking at the same jump over and over again). Wood horses love mischief. But, between the Eleviv and the Horse Goo I think we more or less kept his mischief under control!

See? Even the most chronically hump-backed horse CAN be healed. For more thoughts on healing, click here.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, check out my ebook for wacky horses and humans, or holler at me if you want to know how I fund my horse addiction ... and you can, too!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My Mustang's COPD or Horse Heaves: All in Her Head, Literally

Reyacita, my 5-year-old mustang mare, came to me more than a year ago with a pretty good case of horse heaves. Since I adopted her during the winter, I had to feed her hay. Unfortunately, she couldn't eat hay without heaving. She developed a heave line, breathed heavy, and had this horrible rattle in her throat or chest.

I turned her out to pasture, fed her soaked feed, and gave her an herbal supplement called Eleviv. That seemed to take care of the problem until the grass returned in the spring.

Horse Heaves - The Problem that Wouldn't Go Away
Only, the problem didn't really go away. Whenever I tacked up Reyacita or tried to do any training with her, she would start to rattle when she breathed. The rattle was so loud that people could hear it all the way across the arena. But the rattle wasn't a straight case of COPD, it was a case of nerves.

Reyacita is a Metal horse personality, and this type of horse likes, no needs, to know exactly her job description. Unless and until she knows that, she's concerned that whatever we are about to do might be a surprise. This type of horse HATES surprises. They LOVE routine and doing their job well.

So all spring and summer, Reyacita rattled until I actually got into the saddle, and we started on some familiar training exercises. As soon as we started doing something familiar, she stopped rattling. Then she would spend a few minutes with her head down coughing up this giant green loogie that looked like some sort of science experiment. After that, no rattle, no heaves, no COPD.

If I wanted to introduce a new horse training element, then I had to do it after we did some exercises with which she was already comfortable. Otherwise the rattle would kick into high gear.

Giving Reyacita 2-4 capsules of Eleviv about 30 minutes before I tacked her up helped quite a bit, but didn't totally eliminate the rattle. That rattle continued to puzzle me because it seemed to have more to do with what was going in her head (or with her nerves) than with anything physical.

Horse Heaves: Where it Starts with Reyacita
With Reyacita, the horse heaves start in her head, meaning she rattles when she feels nervous or uncertain about something. I checked in with my vet, and it turns out that, when nervous, Metal horse personality types often suck their tongues into the back of the mouth against the soft palate. This sucking action can cause a pool of saliva to gather back there, irritating the soft palate … and causing that horrible rattling sound!

The reason the Eleviv helps to lessen the rattle is because it helps Reyacita feel more secure and less nervous about her situation. But it never totally got rid of the rattle. So I got curious about how to alleviate that problem.

My vet, Dr. Madalyn Ward, suggested I reach up under Reyacita's jawbone and do a slight adjustment on the hyoid bone. The first time I did this, Reyacita was standing at the trailer, tacked up, and rattling away as usual. I adjusted her hyoid bone, and an interesting thing happened. She dropped her head, coughed a few times, and popped out this oogie-green-loogie. Then she licked and chewed for about 3 minutes, and shook herself.

The rattling had stopped! Wow!

The rattling didn't start again until I led her away from the trailer. She wasn't sure about the day's training agenda so she started rattling again. I adjust her hyoid bone again, she coughed, and stopped rattling. That first day, I had to adjust her hyoid bone about 6 times during our training session. But it got to so familiar that she would stop rattling almost as soon as I touched her hyoid bone.

The second and third days, she rattled progressively less and less. I'm excited to see what happens as I continue to practice this adjustment on her. It is obviously very soothing to her, and she feels reassured when I do it.

Horse Heaves: Confirming My Suspicions
Almost everyone who hears Reyacita rattle becomes mildly alarmed and immediately asks me whether she has a lung condition. They also want to know what I am doing to treat the condition. I tell them about the Eleviv, of course, but because she still rattles when nervous, even with the Eleviv, some people insist that I should put her on some lung herbs or even drugs for lung conditions.

The problem is that the rattling is actually in her throat … and the horse heaves start in her brain, not her lungs.

I decided to test this out by doing a horse training session that looked like this
  1. Tie to trailer, feed 4 capsules of Eleviv. Stand for 30 minutes to allow the Eleviv to take effect. (rattling)
  2. Load into trailer, drive 10 miles to a friend's arena.
  3. Unload at arena and tack up (rattling)
  4. Walk into arena and stand next to RoboSteer (no rattling)
  5. Walk around perimeter of arena (rattling)
  6. Begin doing familiar stretching and warm-up circles at walk, trot, and lope (no rattling).
  7. Finish circles and walk around arena on loose rein (rattling).
  8. Stand in the heeler's box in the roping area (no rattling).
  9. Walk out to center of arena and stand while talking to friend (rattling).
  10. Lope fast circles (no rattling).
I don't know if you can see a pattern here, but it was as clear as day to me that Reyacita's horse heaves show up whenever she is uncertain about her job. Any familiar exercise or landmark, like the RoboSteer or loping circles, makes her feel secure. When she is secure, she doesn't suck her tongue into her mouth or rattle.

On the flip side of the coin, any unfamiliar action or location is cause for insecurity, and hence rattling. For example, standing next to the RoboSteer is OK because that matches her job description of "chase the steer." Standing and chatting with my friend while standing in the center of the arena matches nothing in her job description, so she begins to rattle.

But the true test, for me, was the fact that she never rattled or ran out of air when we loped fast circles. If Reyacita truly had a lung condition like COPD or asthma, then she would have limited lung function. However, she is as happy as clam when loping circles and never short of breath. She also doesn't rattle when she lopes. Also, I have tried several lung herbal tonics on her, all to no avail. They made absolutely no difference whatsoever!

Conclusion? Reyacita's condition is ALL IN HER HEAD!

At least, it starts there. The Eleviv is her saving grace because it ensures that she can eat hay without heaving, whether I'm watching over her or not. But when it comes to horse training, I'm realizing that until Reyacita totally trusts me AND fully learns all facets of "her job" she'll probably continue rattle, on and off, for a while.

I'll continue to give her Eleviv and adjust her hyoid bone. I do repetitive tasks with her, and incorporate ever more new tasks to her job description until she feels comfortable. At the point, I'm sure her rattling will disappear forever.

Is This True of All Horses?
Could lessons learned from Reyacita be applied to all horses with heaves or COPD. No. But the lessons could be adapted. For instance, if a horse has COPD, you might try to figure why the horse has COPD. Is the cause mental, emotional, or purely physical? Once you figure out the cause, then you can develop a horse health care and horse training regimen to address the problem. But if you don't address the cause, you probably can't do more than palliate the symptoms.

Do you agree?

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, check out my ebook for wacky horses and humans, or holler at me if you want to know how I fund my horse addiction ... and you can, too!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Horse Addiction: A Picture Perfect Bright Spot!

I get teased by my friends all the time because I "collect" horses. Other people collect rare coins, stamps, or other valuable items.

Me? I collect horses.

I got teased worse than ever this past week because I had two people make offers on my two best horses: Walker and Samantha.

Walker is a gelding I bought for reining, but ended up being my heel horse for team roping. He's just now getting healthy and happy, having overcome a bunch of health issues not to mention a total phobia of ropes and lariats. Nope, not selling him 'cause I'm having too much fun learning to rope on him.

Samantha is both my best jumper and my hubby's babysitter horse. She's also come through numerous issues, including horse ulcers and a major fear of things "touching her." Hubby won't sell her.

What's that leave me with? Three horses who aren't quite "there" yet.

Three "In Progress" Horses
That leaves me with three horses who are still "works in progress," sort of. That is to say, Valentine, my big grulla mustang mare, is very well trained. She jumps (when she wants to), team pens, does ranch sorting, and is learning to rope. Only, she's a way out there competitive opinionated mare ... and she doesn't get along with very many people. She's a Wood horse personality type, and they can be difficult to ride. I've given up jumping her, but my neighbor is learning to rope on her.

That leaves Fezzywig, my warmblood roach-backed horse, and Reyacita, the buckskin mustang mare with COPD. Neither of those are ready to move into new homes because they still need lots of training and lots of horse health care.

So our horse herd still has five horses. Oh well ... as I look out my kitchen window (pictured above) I always see horses. To me, they are a "picture perfect" bright spot in otherwise chaotic times.

Sure, they eat like maniacs and cost a lot to keep around, but they sure keep my spirits high and keep me busy. I'm too busy trimming hooves, throwing hay, mixing up their food, training them, and keeping them out of trouble to get upset about all the crazy things happening in the world.

Plus, these five equines are also my walking advertisements for holistic horse care. They show the world, like no humans can, how healthy fruit juice and Eleviv, plus blue-green algae products, can create vibrant health naturally. And since I make my living in large part from marketing these products, I gotta say that the herd earns its keep!

If you want to learn how to turn your equine companion into a walking advertisement, shoot me an email and I'll tell ya. It sure goes a long way toward supporting a horse addiction!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, check out my ebook for wacky horses and humans, or holler at me if you want to know how I fund my horse addiction ... and you can, too!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Horse Health Care: Roach-Backed Horse Scores First Win

Fezzywig, my roach-backed adopted warmblood, has scored a big first win in his journey toward horse health:

He jumped his first cross rail today!

Granted, the jump was about 12 inches tall, which isn't very high considering that Fezzywig is about 16.2 hands tall. He's a big boy.

However, having suffered from a roached back for the last several years of his life (he's now coming four), he has:
  • had multiple adhesions all over his body
  • not been very coordinated
  • suffered from multiple sore spots on his body, including his spine and stifles
  • had trouble getting into the canter
  • not been aware of where his feet are
  • had poorly developed muscles over his topline
So for him to successfully jump a small jump, about 10 times in a row, is a major first win for this big boy!

Fezzywig's Horse Health Care Program
Since he came home with me, Fezzywig has been on daily doses of my special home-made "horse goo," which includes an antioxidant juice, blue-green algae, probiotics (acidophilus and bifidus), and enzymes. He gets 1-3 ounces of goo per day and the benefits are definitely noticeable.

The antioxidant mangosteen juice has been key to his horse health care program. The antioxidants help deal with the toxins released by the bodywork he gets on a regular basis.

The probiotics and enzymes help Fezzywig assimilate all the nutrients that I pour down his throat. I believe they also help to release stomach adhesions and soothe any ulcers that he may have.

The blue-green algae gives Fezzywig a dense source of nutrients that he needs to not only re-mold his body, but also to build muscle mass, especially along his topline.

Finally, these last few weeks I have bumped up Fezzywig's Eleviv, an herbal supplement that keeps horses (and humans) in the healing parasympathetic nervous system. I feel that Fezzywig has been stuck in his survival "fight or flight" sympathetic nervous system, since the accident that caused his roached back.

Because I have been pushing Fezzywig's training program a lot harder these last few weeks, I felt he might need the Eleviv to help him over the hump. I've been long trotting him up and down hills, as well as putting him through his paces in the arena. That's a lot of work for a horse who has been stuck in a roach-backed posture for several years. With the Eleviv, Fezzywig has had a great attitude, not to mention making a huge jump in his postural changes.

In any case, I am thrilled that Fezzywig has come so far in such a short time ... and I hope that his story gives hope to those who are trying to rehabilitate other roach-backed horses.

If you are working with a roach-backed horse and have questions or feedback, please feel free to comment. I'll share any information I have, and I would love to learn more from others who are dealing with this same situation.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, check out my ebook for wacky horses and humans, or holler at me if you want to know how I fund my horse addiction ... and you can, too!