While I was gone getting hay this afternoon, there was a storm at the farm. Evidently quite a bit of rain fell.
As I unloaded the hay the horses came over to the fence to check out what I was doing. Chance was slathered with mud. I got my phone to take a photo, and just as I did, he went down to get another coat!
With the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont coverage, there were repeated assurances that the horses are treated like royalty. This statement is almost always accompanied by footage of a horse getting a bath – like that is such a wonderful treat. The photos of Chance show quite a different image. Given the choice, most horses choose dirt. Some choose slime!
I’m always telling people that if they treat their horses as though they are truly intelligent (they are!) and give them some freedom to demonstrate that, they’ll be surprised. I’m also always telling people they need to see how my horses behave to really understand what I’m talking about.
I don’t carry my cell phone outside with the horses. I’m afraid it will get broken. But today I was just watching the horses eat their grain, resting from weed whacking, and it actually occurred to me to go get my phone.
A little background on the photos. At 5:45 or so, I let 8 horses loose in the big field. The other 3 are put in another field of about 2 acres – the ones I don’t yet trust loose. The horses all graze while I pick up manure, eat breakfast, and weed whack or whatever. Around 9 they come over to the yard for their grain – the ones who get grain, Beauty, Tina, Chance, and Zola. When I see them I go out and make up their food. They each get 2 quarts of sweet feed with a teaspoon of copper. I mix the food in the back of my trailer which has become my feed room, and the horses wait more or less patiently. I then put out the buckets and they eat.
Below are the photos I took this morning. Grain time. There is no fighting at grain time. Everyone eats right next to someone. And there is sharing of grain. This is 4 Thoroughbreds, of which 3 are mares, and Chance of course is a gelding. Bettina is the horse sharing with Zola. She is 24. Chance looks like a blimp in the photo below, but if you click to enlarge the next one, his ribs are actually visible.
Evidence that if you have expectations of good behavior you get good behavior. Treat your horses with true respect and know they are intelligent and they will demonstrate their intelligence and cooperation. Remember – these horses are totally free – there is no fence preventing them from leaving the farm.
CAUTION: Do not try this at home! This is not where to start a new relationship with your horse. Start small.
Here is a link that raises an interesting theory.
Basically the article reveals that i.v. injection of dilute hydrochloric acid has been used to cure many types of infections that would otherwise have remained chronic or resulted in death. It appears that our bodies are meant to have hydrochloric acid in them and when we don’t have enough it negatively impacts our immune system.
Interestingly,, additional searching online revealed that (in humans) stress initially increases the amount of hydrochloric acid production (hence stress can cause ulcers), but long-term stress actually reduces HCL production, weakening the immune system.
I was shocked – but fascinated. I do happen to be a firm believer that the body is designed for health and that diet/nutrition – the things we put into our body – are critical to health. Further research on the internet (we are so lucky to have the internet!!) revealed that this theory has other supporters. Another good article is here: http://keelynet.com/biology/hcl.htm
For those who don’t like to read I will say that one result of the injection of HCL, was a significant increase in the number of white blood cells in a very short time. What was even more interesting – to me – was that injection of distilled water had the same effect.
The idea of injecting Hydrochloric acid is scary so I did some more research – on how to increase hydrochloric acid in the body. It was very interesting to find that apple cider vinegar is an excellent way. Could this be one of the reasons that vinegar is so good for us?
Unlike us, horses continually produce hydrochloric acid in their stomachs. However metabolic alkalosis can develop when horse are overexerted, through loss of water and electrolytes in sweating (or by diuretics??). Or – and this is my opinion – due to inadequate minerals in diet. Electrolytes ARE minerals. Also, things that buffer the hydrochloric acid (alfalfa, ulcer remedies, etc.) may affect the immune system negatively by decreasing the hydrochloric acid in the body. Please note: acid buffering substances are only needed due to the unnatural lifestyle of horses.
In short, since the body is such a complex mass of thousands of reactions, processes, etc. and science is far from understanding the human body, let alone that of the equine, it seems best to provide the horse with as natural a lifestyle as possible in order to allow those processes of which we know nothing to take place as nature intended.
At last it seems to have stopped raining! We had a couple weeks where it was in the 90′s – too hot for the horses after weeks and weeks of cold rain – and now the weather is bearable.
I lunged Zola without tack on Monday and with tack on Tuesday. She was very good, and has remembered everything so far. Yesterday we had some pretty severe thunderstorms so training was off, but today is a gorgeous day and I plan on working with Zola again this evening, after work.
I also lunged Chance, just to get him into the mindset that he will be working. I have to say that Chance is a different horse this year. It’s pretty amazing. I got him in November of 2009, and he had the entire winter off with the herd. In the spring (2010) he had rain rot. Not a lot of it, just on his butt, and shoulders really. It cleared up, then came back, then cleared up and came back, and only finally was truly gone in early August. I took that to mean that his system had been compromised by his lifestyle and the inevitable drugs that racehorses are routinely given. When the rain rot was finally gone, I felt he was probably a new horse, in good physical condition. By winter, having had him for over a year, I really thought there was little change to expect.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. This past winter there was no rain rot. Not only was there no rain rot, there was actual dappling – a first. It wasn’t a lot, but it was definitely there on his butt. What an eye opener! It had taken well over a year for Chance to truly get his system back in working order. The difference is apparent not just in his coat. His whole attitude is different. First, he is much more affectionate and actually seems to ask for kisses on the face – one of the very few horses I’ve had who seems to like them. He seeks out my attention every day – which is cool. However the really significant changes are noticeable in his relationships with the other horses. He is now very self-confident. That is new. He still loves Zola the most, but he has extended his attention to all the girls in the herd, except for Bettina, who is loyal to Huey. I even caught him attempting to mount Zola – she was not sure she liked it and moved away – and Whiskey, who seemed more impatient that he didn’t do it fast enough and correctly, than upset that he tried to do it. Aside from ‘the girls’ he is now in the thick of the herd, in fact, one evening when I was scratching Huey, Chance approached and groomed Huey, while Huey returned the favor.
It appears that Chance is finally feeling like a horse – a healthy horse. It’s my theory that perhaps racehorses are ‘stuck’ in an immature stage. Taken from their mothers and prepped for sale, they are then taken to the track for some (inadequate) training, still unsure of their place in the world, or what is expected of them. They are caught in a kind of limbo, unable to be horses and mature, and unable to really connect with people. Allowed the opportunity to live in a herd, eat and act like a horse, and see people as more than just task masters, Chance seems to have not only grown physically healthier, but mentally and emotionally healthier. It will be very interesting to see how this carries over to the track and racing.
On another note – I feel that this ‘limbo’ of development could well be responsible for many TB’s difficulty adapting to a new life when they leave the track. While many do acclimate fairly easily, others don’t do so well – hence the TB’s reputation for being difficult, high-strung, etc. Clearly they need more time than I even I thought.
Chance is fine. He has been completely sound since my last post.
I have to say that he was a different horse the day after the race. It seems so unlikely, but he actually appeared in better shape after racing than he did before he raced. For example, he normally has mild windpuffs both front and hind. For 2 days after his race they were gone. I expected them to perhaps be a little more puffy. I didn’t expect his legs to be so tight after running. And cool, cooler than normal which is slightly warm. His whole demeanor was different. You’d have to be with him every day probably to see it, but he felt good! He wasn’t tired, he wasn’t achy. It was very surprising to me and I have to wonder why. My first thought was that it was the Polytrack. And that may be part of it – but trainers do complain it’s hard on the horses – so I don’t know. But still, even if the Polytrack is better, racing is hard and doesn’t normally improve the legs, visually. It does, of course condition them and increase bone density.
So it has to be considered if running barefoot is responsible. It’s accepted by barefoot trimmers that the more exercise the better. Could it be that the force exerted on the foot at maximum load causes such an increase in “hoof mechanism” that circulation is greatly increased? Can it be that even for that brief period of time (1 minute and 40 odd seconds) circulation is so optimal that blood gets to places that barely get blood? Would be some interesting research.
Whatever the answer to that question, it is pretty apparent to me that there is a huge benefit to running barefoot when a horse comes out of a race better than he went in. And some of the effects have lasted. I’ve commented before, I think, on how Chance drags along behind me at the end of the lead rope. Well, not anymore! He now walks along easily and at whatever speed I go. His windpuffs have returned, but windpuffs never go away – or so it’s believed. I’ve never seen any go away permanently, though they will “disappear” for a while when the legs are bandaged or during work. Again – situations in which circulation is increased.
Anyway, Chance’s response to the race opens new areas of thought. And certainly it appears that there are positive results to racing horses barefoot.
I haven’t posted in a while, since I have done nothing with Chance since my last post. Since we won’t resume racing until December I’ve decided to let him have some time off. He was very worried that he was going to be left at the track. After the race, while I was cooling him out, he indicated he needed to pee, so I put him in his stall. He peed right away and I took him out. A few minutes later – we had already walked for a half hour – I wanted to put him in for a few minutes to do something. I led him into the stall and turned him around and he made it very clear he wanted out. He wouldn’t let me close the screen. He was very afraid I was going to leave him at the track. I think he had actually been worrying about it all day. So now he knows he gets to come home and be a horse. I’m letting him savor that.
I’ve also been working on a consulting project (designing a database and application) so that has kept me busy. Now that it’s just about wrapped up it’s time to start riding Chance again, and also time to start working with Zola.
And so the experiment continues.
I have always maintained that horses don’t have to be dancing on their toes and high as kites in order to train, work, or race well.
Chance is the perfect example. I lead him with just a normal lead rope, although for the track I have a leather lead with no chain, and he drags his butt along 6 feet behind me like he’s going to slaughter. He stands still and waits for me when I drop the rope and say “whoa”. He normally looks like he has no energy and even grazing could be becoming work .
He walked like his normal self through the parking lot, through the barn, and through the tunnel. But the instant his feet hit that track he became a racehorse. As anyone who knows horses is well aware – horses have an instant on switch. The most placid old gelding can go from half-asleep to bolting away at top speed and snorting fire if something spooks him. No warm up necessary.
Given the choice, surely relaxed is better for the horse’s entire system. It can’t be good for a horse to be on edge and keyed up all the time.
Chance’s behavior today also makes it pretty clear he understands the difference between his everyday life and his job. After his workout he was back to his normal laid back, and lazy-looking self.
Well we’ve had our first physical setback. We definitely went too fast on ground that’s hard as concrete.
Chance came up footsore after our last ride. He also seemed muscle sore in his hindquarters, and he somehow scraped his left hind leg on the outside, midway between the hock and the fetlock, the next day and it was swollen.
The muscle soreness cleared up quickly, but I did put him on MSM. As I’ve mentioned, Pat Coleby recommends 1 teaspoon of sulfur daily. I hadn’t been doing that because the water here is “sulfur water” I was told. Ignorance is bliss. I read an article from TheHorse.com the other day regarding a study done with Standardbreds and MSM. The study indicated that increased MSM (which is an organic form of sulfur) made a big difference in muscle soreness, and performance. So then I wondered which would be better, MSM or “regular sulfur”. In the course of that search I discovered that water that contains sulfur does not smell. Sulfur does not smell. (And in fact, the sulfur that I purchased does not have any smell or taste). What gives water that rotten-egg smell that we associate with sulfur is hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide is a poisonous gas, and more importantly is NOT sulfur. Luckily it dissipates when the water is exposed to air, so the horses are not at risk.
So, I have decided to use MSM at the higher dosage stated in the study. My research also revealed that MSM works better when used in conjunction with vitamin C, which I already have, so I am including that as well. Both MSM and vitamin C are water soluble – so excess is excreted.
Being in research mode and stumbling over some information (from Dr. Ann Nyland, whose book was recommended to me) which said sulfur blocks selenium, I decided to check on that. Well, as it turns out, the only reference to that was in regard to goats, who of course are ruminants, and very different from horses. There are so many horses on MSM that if it created a selenium deficiency it’s likely that a connection would have been made by now. However, in checking that out, I discovered that selenium is lost during maximum effort (click here to read more) , and is necessary to avoid muscle soreness and cramping. So, I’m going to pick up some Mega-Sel, which is Selenium and Vitamin E.
I have stopped the Hilton’s Herbs, as I don’t believe treatment should be given for prolonged periods of time, unless a condition is incurable, and his rain rot has been totally gone for weeks. As of yesterday he has been on MSM at 2 tablespoons per day, vitamin C at 1 teaspoon per day, copper at 1 teaspoon per day, cod liver oil at 1 teaspoon per day, raw organic vinegar at 1 teaspoon per day, and flaxseed oil at 2 tablespoons per day. Divided over 3 meals. That may sound like a lot when listed separately, but is nowhere near the number of ingredients in the average vitamin/mineral supplement. In addition he still has access to free-choice loose white salt, loose mineral salt, and kelp. When I get the Mega-Sel, he will be on that as well – at the recommended dosage.
The end result of all this is that Chance is back to normal. His feet no longer appear to be sore, and we will (hopefully) head to the training center tomorrow. If we don’t get any significant rain and the ground remains hard, I may trailer over to the center every other day to gallop him myself. I would still use an exercise rider (Jose) – or perhaps Shelley Moran, the jockey – for works.
Having experienced the frustration of losing 3 days of training – which I have to admit seemed like a week! – it occurred to me that I’m sure little things like this happen at the track all the time. And I bet the vast majority of horses are not given time off to feel better, but are given some Bute, or other drug, and continued in training. In fact, I know that’s true. In fact, horse’s joints are “tapped” (excess fluid is taken out) and injected so they can stay in training. And that is a major thing – inflamed and aggravated joints. And even I, who am against drugs, had it flit across my mind that Bute IS legal. So how easy is it to turn to drugs? Very easy. Very, very easy.
Ditto shoes. I have an email friend in Australia who races horses and is pro-barefoot, but she does shoe at times, so her horses do not get foot sore. And again, for a split second, it crossed my mind. MY mind!!! I was amazed at myself. But it just shows I am human. When something is interfering with our plan we try to find ways to continue on. It gives me good insight into why people are not willing to give up shoeing. No one wants to lose so much as 3 days.
Rode Money Talkin last night. At 7:30 it was still hot and humid. I remembered to check his respiratory rate, and used the timer on my GPS. Before saddling, due to the humidity, his breathing rate was already at 25. That is not normal for him – it was only due to the weather. If he had been sweaty I wouldn’t have ridden him.
Because of the weather we did a combo of walk, trot, gallop for 1.5 miles. The GPS is really handy. Chance trots (and it’s a comfortable trot, not especially fast for him) at over 9 mph. Our gallop was slightly over 17 mph. I want to make it clear that I do not ask him to go, I ask him to go slow. He would prefer to go faster. My legs are not quite elastic enough yet to handle sharp turns at speed – or any sudden moves for that matter – so I don’t want to go faster than I can safely handle. He’s very smooth and seems to have a long stride. I wish I had a longer straight stretch as I would like to go faster myself. I really had forgotten how much I love to go fast. I completely forget I’m 59 as we go along – I feel just like I did when I was young.
After work, Chance’s breathing rate was up to 60 per minute, but by 10 minutes it was back to the 25 we started at. I have to say I am impressed by the fact that he doesn’t get any lather or even clear sweat between his legs, just slightly damp, and really has very few sweaty spots, just a little on the neck, and the flanks. So he is fairly fit.
I’m also happy to see muscle building up on his inner thighs, his shoulders, chest, and back. His ribs are still slightly visible – which I want at this point – but it’s cool to see his back building up. I credit this to his using it, as he gallops with his head low – I would say at wither level – though I am too busy looking ahead and cajoling him to keep a slow pace to be exact.
My trust in him continues to grow and I now feel confident when I ride him that he won’t try to run off just because he feels good. The “turns” have worked perfectly and made things much easier.
As long as this weather continues, I am only going to work him every other day. I want to build him up, not wear him down. This is where being out 24/7 really helps. Walking is exercise and he gets quite a bit of it, and I do hear them running at night sometimes as well.
The weather also has me concerned about his potassium levels. I can sometimes see the white, salty, evidence of sweat on his coat, and even more so on Zola’s. So I have ordered some 50/50 potassium chloride/sodium chloride to offer free choice. (They already have plain loose salt, and loose mineral salt available free choice, along with the kelp).
I need to get Coggins tests and health certificates for both Money Talkin and Zola, so that I can haul to the Thoroughbred Center. Zola isn’t working yet, but it’s my plan to get her used to hauling out, seeing new things, and getting exposed to the hustle and bustle of the track.
I don’t post every time I exercise so anyone interested in the details can find them on the website by clicking here or using the Training Record link under the calendar, to the left.
This worries me a little, although it could be a good thing.
A few days ago I noticed that there was some pink skin showing in the grey, crusty, scabby looking portion of the sarcoid. Thinking maybe he scraped it on something (he is a walking scrape!) I put some Blu-Kote on it.
Today I noticed there are other pink spots. They look like normal skin. I hope that’s what they are.
I have had him on flax seed oil for a while, which is supposed to be very good for getting rid of tumors. Could it be working? Could it be the copper is finally starting to overcome a deficiency? Could it be the kelp and dolomite? Or a combination of all of it?
Hopefully this is a good thing. It’s overcast today, I’ll take photos next time it’s sunny.
The Hiltons Herbs came yesterday and I started Chance on them today.
The purpose is to build his immune system.
He ate them without a problem, in his normal breakfast meal.