Monday, January 31, 2011

Close Call and Maisie Pictures

Our barn is effectively a co-op.  All of the boarders have to do some volunteer work - ordering and unloading hay, feed and bedding, pasture maintenance, dragging the arena, driving the manure spreader, selecting and supervising contractors, maintaining books and records, etc.  We all clean our own stalls and paddocks and owners turn out their own horses on Saturday and Sunday.  We do have a wonderful lady who comes 6 days a week to bring in and feed the horses in the afternoon, and Jill and I split the morning feeding and turnout duties.  On Saturday afternoons, we take turns bringing in and feeding the horses. There are currently 8 horses and 6 owners.  With the rotation, each owner brings in and feeds about once every 6 weeks or so.

We've had some trouble with this in the past - if you don't do the p.m. feeding duty frequently, it's possible to forget something or make a mistake.  But there are mistakes and then there are mistakes.  One time several years ago, a boarder who is not longer at the barn make the mistake of feeding Dawn insufficiently soaked beet pulp.  I know there are those who say this is OK, but Dawn choked.  Veterinary emergency - she recovered just fine but had to be tubed to dislodge the blockage.

This past Saturday, the p.m. feeder made a serious mistake.  Now, tell me, do these two horses look alike to you?

Maybe a little, but not a lot - they're both chestnuts/sorrels, with one white anklet on the same hind foot.  But their face markings are completely different - Pie's star is differently shaped and he has the stripe and snip, and although they're about the same size, they carry themselves differently.  Fritz also wears front shoes, which is noticeable when you're leading him down the barn aisle.

Anyway, on Saturday, the p.m. feeder, who has had a horse at the barn for years but spends little time there - she doesn't ride or work her horse any more - put Fritz into Pie's paddock and Pie into Fritz's stall.  She's known Fritz for years too, although she's only met Pie recently. Her mistake wouldn't have been so bad, except that then she fed them the wrong dinners.  Pie gets only 1/2 pound of our vitamin/mineral balancer pellets plus a little cocosoya oil.  Fritz gets that but he also gets a pound of Ultimate Finish to help him maintain his weight.

Pie was delighted to get the extra food and polished his dish.  When I got to the barn about an hour later, I saw a chestnut horse running frantically in Pie's paddock.  Poor Fritz was soaking wet with sweat and was very upset.  Fritz has had episodes of colic in the past, often brought on by stress. I brought him in and switched him with Pie.  Fritz got a towel-down. I checked Pie's feet - all four were very hot - his feet are normally quite cool.  Not good.  I put him in his paddock. Then he ate his hay for a bit and lay down.  Really not good.  He wasn't agitated but was clearly not himself.  He had good gut sounds on the right side, but not as good on the left, and he didn't want me touching his left side.  He got up after a bit and continued eating his hay - better, but his feet were still hot.  He was walking just fine, which was good, but sometimes foot soreness takes up to 36 to 48 hours to develop after the carb overload.

I called the vet, and talked to the on-call vet who happened to be our regular vet.  She said that a single pound of Ultimate Finish wouldn't cause a problem in most horses - it's a relatively low-carb feed - but some horses are more sensitive to feed changes and excess carbohydrates.  She said it was good that Pie was outside standing in the snow, and had me give him 2 grams of bute.  He did leave several normal piles of manure while I was with him. We decided not to tube him with mineral oil as he was back up and eating and his colicy symptoms seemed to be going away.  He did leave several normal piles of manure while I was with him.  The risk continued to be the metabolic effects of the sugar overload, and the vet felt that anti-inflammatories were the way to go.

The good news is that Sunday morning at feeding time Fritz was fine and Pie's feet were back to normal - nice and cool.  He'd eaten well and his manure was plentiful and normal.  He got bute again Sunday and this morning to make sure the inflammation - a mild case of laminitis (here's a good reference on laminitis and is also a very good resource) - is completely gone.  I'm to call the vet to come if the heat in his feet returns - she thinks he's over it and I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  There's been some slight warmth in either the front feet or the backs from time to time over the past two days, but nothing that compares to how hot his feet felt on Saturday, but the vet says that's likely not an issue if he's moving around normally and the digital pulses aren't strong.  He's shown no signs of discomfort in walking or moving around at any point, which is good news.  As of this evening, all four feet were nice and cool.

The other good news is that Pie is perfect for taking medicine by mouth, even after repeated times of being dosed with nasty-tasting bute.  He stands there on a loose lead and just lets me stick the tube in his mouth.  I was even able to take some of the excess off the syringe that didn't make it into his mouth and put it on my finger and stick my finger in the corner of his mouth to put it in.  (I should have checked this before it was a necessary situation in case some training was required, and was lucky.)  Good Pie!

When we go on grass this spring, I'll have to keep a special eye on him to be sure the introduction is very gradual and that he's not getting more than he can handle, as he may be extra sensitive to carbs.  This mishap is also a good reminder of how important it is to make feed changes gradually.

We all make mistakes from time to time, but a feeding error of this type can lead to permanent damage to the horse.  I'm not feeling very friendly right now to the person who did this.  I've made my share of mistakes with horses, even serious mistakes, so I expect I'll forgive her in time.  I'm sincerely hoping she is no longer doing the Saturday rotation by the time Drifter arrives - he looks even more like Fritz - he has a smaller star and no other face markings, but he's more robustly built and has no white on his legs.  The good news is that Pie seems to be doing OK and I hope that continues.  He's supposed to have a few days off from riding to reduce the concussion to his feet, but we're getting a big snow storm shortly to be followed by that wonderful sub-arctic combination of high winds and cold so there'll be no riding for a bit anyway.

But that was much too close a call for my liking.

* * * * * *
And here are some pictures of sweet, pretty Maisie enjoying her retirement down at Paradigm Farms in Tennessee - thanks, Melissa!

Maisie herself has had two episodes of laminitis, which were much worse than Pie's - she could barely walk and ended up with event lines on her feet but fortunately had no rotation - both episodes were in the spring and we believe related to grass/carb sensitivity.  This spring will be her first spring in Tennessee, and we're expecting her to do better down there as their grasses are mostly warm-season rather than cool-season grasses.


  1. I'm glad it worked out well. We had a horse colic once and it was scary, but she got over it. That's one advantage to having our horses here with us. We do everything so we know what's being done or not. When we're gone we have a good friend who's an experienced horsewoman who takes care of dogs and horses for a living. She follows our instructions very well.


  2. That is so scary (and why I insist on doing my own care even though there are very nice barns in my price range). I'm glad Pie seems to be ok, but that really is too close for comfort. And,no, they don't look ANYTHING alike. :(

  3. I am so glad to hear that Pie is going to be ok. That is very scary. People in co-op or boarding situations always need to be very careful in feeding, and making sure the right horse is getting the right food.
    When we go to horse shows and if I am unsure of which horse gets what meds, I go look at the med list just to be sure. I am 100% responsible for the horses and I would never want to give meds to the wrong horse.
    Hopefully the person who made the mistake will be more careful in the future!

  4. Holy crap. Thank goodness you got there when you did!

  5. I understand your anger - you wouldn't be human if you didn't feel it. I'm sorry, but the helper simply wasn't fully tuned in, and that's never good. It's easy to see without seeing, especially with long intervals in between. I'm so glad Pie has come through this well so far. What a good boy for those meds. He just keeps revealing more good things about himself, doesn't he? I feel bad for poor Fritz,too, who was clearly worried in turnout.

    The word verification is "solic" - sort of colic but luckily not?!

  6. Thank goodness it all turned out okay. It's a horrible feeling when our horses are off. I've never had a case of laminitis or founder, but I've certainly had my share of colic. When I boarded, a feeder left Red's gate open during the night. We found him in the a.m. having helped himself to the grain. Very scary, but nothing happened from it.

  7. Oh my, I would have been MAD! Like you said, there are some mistakes that can't be avoided, and then there are others that are nearly inexcusable...

    How the heck do you mix those two up? We have several sorrels at my barn, and two of them have similar strips down there faces, so new people do sometimes get them mixed up. The part that makes me cringe, though, is the fact that one is a mare and the other is a gelding! Ugh...people...

    Feeding mistakes are some of the scariest in my book, because so many things can go wrong if your not careful. I know what all 26 horse get feed-wise, but I always make sure to watch what I'm doing and check for any changes...It's called being responsible!!!

    Really, I'm just glad Pie's okay, but feeding mistakes are scary for sure!!!

  8. I'm very glad Pie is ok after that mistake. That is scary and it would turn me into a worry wart whenever anyone else was in charge of feeding. Maisie looks great.

  9. Glad he will be OK, I am surprised she didn't notice Fritz' obvious concern , she must have really dashed through chores.Even with my own stock, I do all my feeding , then have a quick walkabout to make sure everyone is doin Ok

  10. So glad it didn't develop into anything more serious. It's lucky you went over for a "bedtime check." With only 8 horses, you'd think it wouldn't be too hard to keep them straight. (I am amazed at how Melissa keeps all of her retirees apart in her head.) But as you say, we all make mistakes--hopefully she'll be more careful in the future.

  11. Glad to hear Pie seems to be doing better. Quite scary.

  12. Glad to hear he is going to be ok. Even though we board we feed Dee's grain/supplements ourselves. There are definitely people at our barn that I'd never trust to do the job. One lady would always go around giving extra scoops because "they enjoy it" if the grain wasn't locked up.

  13. OH MY! I would be mad too, glad things are working out but things could have been bad. I am so glad that my two are here and I do all their care. I think I would be a nervous wreck all the time worrying about something happening when I wasn't there.
    Can you have pictures of each horse put on a paper (laminated) with their feeding instructions hanging on their stall doors? I don't know how you could mix those two up...they do not look alike!
    Hope Pie doesn't get sore feet.

  14. Wow, that was close. That would be one of the rare times when I'd be thankful for the snow!

    It was a terrible mistake on her part but at least something good came out of it- now you know that he's sensitive to that kind of thing. (Though I wouldn't trust her to do the feedings again.)

    I hope you guys make out okay with the storm coming.

  15. As scary as my weekend skiing on the mountain was (and it felt extremely scary to me) , it absolutely cannot compare to the fright of having a horse in distress. You must have been terrified. PoorFritz and Pie! It is a horror story. Thank goodness it didn't have an equally scary ending.

  16. Not good, but the outcome seems to be OK. Hard to see how the two horses were confused, but I guess she just wasn't tuned in that day. It certainly doesn't inspire confidence in her skills. *sigh*

    Glad Pie is OK and I hope Fritz is over the trauma too. That's a pretty big mess up in their routine.

  17. I doubt that I could ever board in a situation like that. I am very unforgiving of such things when it comes to my horses.

    Glad things didn't turn out any worse.

  18. First of all, I am very happy that Pie is getting back to normal. It could have been quite a disaster. Many lessons can be learned by everyone who reads this post. Very good reminders.

    Maisie looks spectacular!

  19. Oh, that is a scary story. What makes it worse is that you had two situations to deal with at once - Pie's possible colic/light founder and Fritz dripping wet and possible colic from stress.
    People need to take their time and pay attention when working with animals. I don't feed grain right now which is why I even considered having a farm helper. Before when we fed grain, my mom or I did all the feedings just to be sure. Even now, I am the only one who does any turnouts/handling. I love my farm helper, but she couldn't possibly be as focused as I am because they are my horses. Good luck in the future. I believe in forgiving - she didn't intentionally hurt the horses. I just don't know how you can not worry from now on.

    Maisie looks so wonderful!

  20. Kate; Scary stuff for sure !

    EvenSong; It's easy to keep them apart when we feed, groom and interact with them each and every day.

    The key to doing things well and minimizing errors on this (and any other farm, no matter the size) is creating familiarity. For this reason, we employ no "fly by night" help. When a new helper starts here, they shadow us for WEEKS before they get to do anything on their own and then we shadow THEM for WEEKS to ensure they are doing it properly. I'm not kidding about the time frame....we weed out a lot of help because they get sick of following us (or us following them) around for so long.

    Everybody on this farm feeds every horse several times a week so that we all remain familiar with each horse, their feedstuffs and their typical feeding behaviour.

  21. That would be so hard for me... I'm such a control freak anyway, and then if someone made a mistake... it would only further fuel my fire. But again, props to you. Isn't it a lucky thing that you came when you did?! Poor Pie. Here's to a continued speedy recovery for him.

  22. Yowza - glad it sounds like everything is working out ok for Fritz and Pie. An experienced horse person should have NO trouble telling those two apart!!

  23. Kate, since I'm trying to not be the cranky old blogger that I sometimes feel like, I'm playing along in the award that was sent my way, and counted you as one of my newly discovered bloggers.

  24. Kate, I'm glad both horses are better, but a scary situation to be sure. It's good for the horses that you came by and could address what was going on. And Maisie sure does look good!

  25. Wow! Really crazy.... and scary. I would have completely freaked. This is exactly the kind of thing that I worry incessantly about whenever there are other people helping take care of our horses when we're gone. You are really lucky it's as mild a case as it sounds... hope he's feeling all better soon and without any damage!

  26. How very scary! Enough goes wrong with horses, even with the best of care. We sure don't need big mistakes.

  27. That's why I don't care for co-op even though I just got out of one. Since there were two of us, it was really easy to keep track, but when you add more and more people, things get complicated.

    In your situation, it sounds like someone wasn't paying attention. Thank goodness Pie was ok and the amount of grain Fritz got wasn't more than a pound!

  28. I'm so glad Pie is ok.

    And Maisie looks great!


  29. Gosh that must of been scary! I would have been very annoyed at the person.
    Poor horses, I'm glad they're okay now though. It's a good thing you went to see your horses when you did :)

  30. Good thing you were on top of that so soon. I'm sure glad things turned out as well as they did. I wonder how she mixed them up and if there is any way to make sure mix ups like that never happen again. Whew.

  31. What a terribly scary situation that could have been avoided by a smidgen of care. I've taken care of other's horses and dogs and I'm anal about it - check; double check; triple check. You were so quick to act. That probably was critical to a positive outcome. Glad everything seems to be OK.
    I hope that everyone at the barn learned a lesson.

  32. Very scary. I had no idea an extra pound of supplement could trigger laminitis :(

    wv: wring - what the pm feeder has put you through

  33. poor pie, i'm glad he's feeling better. i cringe when i remember all the botched feedings baasha received over the years of boarding. nothing like being there yourself to have control over it - right now i boil water twice a day to deice the buckets, and it is so good to know he's not going without in this weather.

    i was curious about the lady getting the chestnuts mixed up. i wonder if she's like me - i have such a hard time remembering people's faces! but horses have always been easy. in fact, i often know people only by their horses when i run into them on the trail. i think my brain is wired funny - the horse crazy way.


  34. Very scary! When I used to agist at a communal agistment centre I was always very careful about who I got to look after my horses. I would leave long notes on what to do and what to do if something happened but you really can't be too careful.

    Even when my friend who is very experienced with horses comes to look after Sam and Poppy I still worry and leave lots of lists.

  35. Glad to hear that things have not been as bad as they might have - this is one reason why my husband does our night-time feed and the morning feed on weekends - it keeps him in the loop about what the horses are getting (and also keeps the horses in the loop of being used to someone other than me feeding them).

  36. I can't believe a mistake like that could have been made, they are obviously two very different horses. I'll bet you were spitting bullets. Anyway, I'm glad Pie is none the worse for it and Fritz too.

    Maisie looks terrific!

  37. Wow, yes, very scary situation to be in and fortunately you got there when you could catch symptoms early on. And as mentioned at least now you know that he might be sensitive to sugars during the spring grass. Hopefully he won't be a muzzle remover like mine was!

  38. I'm guessing the person who mixed up the horses feels horrible...and I hope you do forgive her in time.

    Horses really do require intensive care(especially in the winter) and winter is a season when we humans are especially stressed ourselves due to the holidays and/or the rotten weather. Not a good combination!

    This may well wind up to have been a fortunate event, since you know now you'll have to watch Pie like a hawk on pasture. I think we especially tend to let down our guard with horses like Pie who are so well-behaved in general.

    Any way you could mark the sorrels somehow to help a newbie tell them apart for the first month or so?

    Good luck! -Lisa

  39. OOU! while it was fun to have new food to gobble for Pie, that is so scarey KATE!I am so sorry that occured and extremely happy BOTH horses are reovered well.

    While mistakes do happen...having the responsibility of taking care of others animals- I for one -would be totally vigilant! You did mention she rarely comes out..that would be my reason for an alert!
    I would be a bit mad and would talk to that gal after I cooled!
    Of course forgiveness, but also I'd probably make sure to know the feed detail too...just in case!
    That re-trust comes harder.

  40. Oh my goodness! I'm so glad that Pie is OK, and I can totally understand your anger/frsturation. I had my 3-yo QH colt colic on me 3 times before we put him down. Not something I 'd want anyone to go through.

    Hopefully Pie will continue to get better.


  41. ooff..I would have been initially pissed off at that mistake mainly for putting those two innocent boys at risk. That's tough. Mistakes do happen and maybe it felt worse too b/c it's from a boarder who isn't there a lot. Poor ponies but I'm glad that they are seeming to be a ok. Interesting about Pie's reaction as QH are thought of as so hardy and easy keepers. Well, a good thing of this mistake, is now you are a bit more noticed of a possible issue with Pie and his tolerance of carbs/sugars/proteins, etc.
    yes, they do look similar but again..very different for one to cares to look an make sure no accident would happen. My friend braids a ribbon in her Bay's mane to distinguish him from others for reasons like that.

  42. Good grief!!! That is terrifying! One of the reasons I'm glad I don't have to board. I'm so glad both horses are okay. I do hope they told the woman what she did and will make sure it doesn't happen again. I can't blame you for being upset and I think if she'd been more observant that it wouldn't have happened. How do you mistake a horse with a star with a horse that has a star/strip?? Anyway I'm glad they are okay.


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