Sunday, August 23, 2009

Little Things, Ulcer Update and Fritz Asks for a Massage

This morning when I was cleaning Noble's stall, I fixed a little thing that was bothering me. When it comes to safety, little things can matter. For example, when hanging a water bucket in a stall, I always try to have the part of the snap that opens facing the wall, instead of the stall, just in case a horse might catch a halter on the snap. We don't usually have halters on the horses in either turnout or in the stalls, but sometimes a horse will have one on.

Noble has a hay bag in his stall. He is a very picky, as well as a very messy, eater, and the two things don't go together well. When his hay was on the ground (we don't use mangers because they can be bad for horse respiratory health), he would throw it everywhere, and once he stepped on it he wouldn't eat it. It made a huge mess and also meant he wasn't getting to eat all his hay. So I started feeding him with a haybag - it's not a net (I worry about those drooping down as they empty) - it's a pouch with an opening on the side for the horse to eat from and a wide opening at the top to insert the hay flakes. It hangs from a strap that has a snap on one side. I've been keeping the snap turned the right way, but it occurred to me that the large hole where the horse eats might be a perfect place for a horse to get a leg caught. Now Noble isn't a pawer or a kicker, so this is unlikely. The hay bag is made out of very sturdy vinyl, as is the strap, and unless the snap broke, the rest of the bag might not if a horse got a leg in it. So, just for safely, I added a loop of baling twine between the snap and the bag to improve its break-away capacity. You never know with horses!

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Maisie has started showing some signs of ulcers again at morning feeding time. (Read this earlier post of mine for my education on ulcers.) When her stomach hurts, she kicks and body slams until she starts to eat her hay, and often is reluctant to eat her pellets. This behavior had completely, and almost immediately disappeared, when we started her on U-Gard for the ulcers. I think the ulcers may be bothering her again because the horses are getting less to eat in the pastures due to the grass being poorer quality now due to our drought, and because she's getting less hay to eat at night due to being somewhat (or more than somewhat) overweight. Also, the dose I've been using is for a 1,000 pound horse, and she's at least 1,200 pounds and maybe more.

So a couple of days ago, I started upping her evening dose, and the discomfort has gone away - she is happy and patient again at a.m. feeding time and is eager to eat her pellets. If the ulcers come back again, I may have to do more aggressive ulcer treatment, but first we'll see if what we're doing now continues to work.

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This morning at turnout time, something very interesting (at least to me!) happened with Fritz. I was leading Noble out and one of our boarders brought Fred and Fritz behind me - their owner lives a long way away, so she has another boarder take them out on Sunday mornings, which is owner stall and turnout day. Fred, Fritz and Noble did their usual wander off to eat grass, but then Fritz turned around, walked purposefully back to the gate, stuck his head over and looked at me. You know how some horses just look towards you, but they seem to be looking through or past you instead of "at" you? This has always pretty much been how Fritz has looked at me in the past - we really haven't had much of a connection. This began to change after I held him for a farrier visit and gave him a massage - here's my post about that. Now when he looks at me, he "addresses" me instead of looking through me. It was pretty clear he wanted something from me - and mind you, he was in a pasture full of nice grass and had just been turned out.

Since our last, very pleasant experience had been a massage, I thought that's what it might be. So I went into the pasture (he was loose) and gave him a massage. That was indeed it - he seemed delighted and I worked for over 10 minutes. I started with his neck - he had a big, hard, knot on the right side towards his ears. As I kneaded and massaged, he began to ask me to work on different areas. The way he did this was to move his body so that my hands were where he wanted them to be. At one point he walked away, turned around and walked back so the other side was in front of me! In addition to his neck, he especially wanted the area just in front of his withers massaged, and the area just above and behind his last rib on the left side. At one point, when I was rubbing his chest, he gave me the "horsey hug", where the horse puts its head over your shoulder and then arches its neck, pressing you firmly but gently against its neck and chest with its jaw. When he was satisfied with what I had done - some of the knots were hard enough that they couldn't be undone in a single session and were probably starting to get sore - he started to graze.

It was one of those horse experiences I'll remember for a long time.

11 comments:

  1. An ulcer! That does not sound good! Body slamming! Oh, that makes my heart ache for her! Go U-Gard!!

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  2. I'm enjoying "watching" the transformation of Fritz...

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  3. U-Guard is great stuff, but I'm grateful today to not have that as a problem — that stuff is expensive!

    I had a similar "connecting" moment with my horses last night. I was sitting on the back patio with the dogs, when I heard one of the horses blow contentedly from across the dry creek bed, hundreds of yards away. I turned toward the sound, and felt an overwhelming surge of love for them, but I said nothing. At that moment, both horses popped their heads up and looked at me, as though I had startled them. Jaz came towards me at a trot, with Poco behind. What followed was about 10 of the most amazing minutes I've ever spent with them. Say what you will.

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  4. Leah Fry - what a lovely moment, and story! Thanks!

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  5. Hi Kate,
    Summer's been a bit rough, I'll share with you sometime. Very cool with Fritz - I have to say I make it a point to pay better attention to what a particular horse may be asking and find they were asking more than I was catching on to - I, too, have experienced recently what Leah mentioned and it's a very, very cool thing.
    Speaking of knots to work out - how are your war wounds coming along?

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  6. Jon - Let us know how you're doing when you're ready. My arm is doing OK - I've still got residual bruising that I expect to take a few more weeks to go away, but no more knots and lumps. The area under my chin is still sore and hurts a lot when I do something I shouldn't, like yawn - I expect the soft tissue and even the bone are still recovering. I need to get to the dentist to have the chipped teeth seen to, but I'm waiting until the point of my chin is a little less sore. My daughter's leaving for college on Thursday, and then Dawn and I are on our own!

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  7. I love doing body work on my horses, and they are both pretty good about it. Lena is better than Bar, but he has more hurts and is more sensitive than she is. He's getting better at relaxing and letting me work, though, so that's been pretty awesome. :)

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  8. What a great experience with Fritz! He must have really appreciated the massages.

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  9. Fritz sounds like a wise horse and one I would enjoy.

    On the water buckets we use those bucket hangers that make use of the lip of the bucket to avoid using snaps. That said I don't really think it matters what you do though after a certain point, if a horse is looking for something to hurt themselves on they will accomplish this in a padded stall while wrapped in bubble wrap.

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  10. It must have been the day of special horse moments as I had one too.

    What is even better than Fritz's "asking" you for a massage is that you understood his request. Good for you. It will be interesting to hear if his behavior continues.

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  11. That's great Kate, those moments are worth everything!! Anky likes a massage, she's an independent mare and has always been a little aloof, but I've been spending much more time with her and sometimes she looks at me in that special way.

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