Feed Time

Harley, Dulce, Chaco and Mojo

So, I was asked by someone who follows my blog what I fed my horses, and what I do to take care of them. Another person asked me if I intend to rescue another horse. I will ask the last question in the next blog, but first I want to thank anyone that reads my blog.

Warning: This is boring, but I hope it answers questions.

First of all, I’m not a rescue, not a non-profit, but I do rescue horses to keep here for good. It’s a personal thing. I grew up in racing, and now I choose to be on this side of racing; giving them a home when they’re done racing. I do have an llc, but that is for my trimming, which I don’t charge for, and horse massage, which I rarely charge for. I obviously am a bad business person. I just wanted to make it clear that I don’t ever claim to be a rescue and rehoming organization. My goal is to give a thoroughbred a good, loving home one horse at a time.

So, I keep my horses on a low starch and sugar diet. I don’t feed any grains at all…no oats, corn, or sweetfeed. Molasses is banned from the property. Why? Bad for gut health and hoof health. They are no longer racing, so there is no need for them to be on that anymore. They also have white salt added to their feed. They also are only fed alfalfa as a supplement. In the summer they get a handful on their feed 2x a day. In the winter, they get a pound in the morning and evening. That’s it. Again, it is really high in sugars, and it can cause gut stones. I use it as a supplement to buffer their stomach acid.

Chaco and Dulce are fed beet pulp, timothy hay pellets, and Neutrena Safe Choice for Easy Keepers feed with a scoop of flax seed. I add vitamin E oil, flax oil, California Trace (a mineral supplement that balances out their mineral intake and is great for hooves and coat), Opti-zyme, and that handful of alfalfa. They both get individual supplements added, which I will detail below.

Harley is fed Teff hay pellets and some of the Safe Choice. He is an easy keeper, so he only gets this because of the supplements that I give him. Plus, he may climb the fence panels to get to their feed buckets if I don’t give him anything. Basically, he gets hay with a handful of the Safe Choice for taste.

They all get this in mash form.

Mojo was fed four small meals a day consisting of what I feed Dulce and Chaco. He also was on OptiZyme, an MOS prebiotic, butyrate, Total Gut Health, Nutrient Buffer, Equishure hindgut buffer and gastromend. He also got vitamin E and California Trace. He loved it all and cleaned his bucket each and every single day.

Chaco gets shots once a week of Glucosamine and Petosan to treat his chronic arthritis in his stifle. He was injured while racing, so when I brought him here, we ended up getting arthroscopic surgery to remove three chips. He also gets Hyaluronic acid, a joint supplement made up of natural herbs for his arthritis, and at times he gets turmeric with boswellia. I tried ProStride on him, but he really thrashed when the needle went into the joint. It was missed, and we ended up spending $800 for a week of comfort. This is why I don’t even consider IRAP. Because of this, he is on Pentosan and Glucosamine. He also receives a prebiotic in addition to the Opti-Zyme

Dulce had gut issues as noted in earlier blogs. I’m constantly trying to stay ahead of any issues keeping him nice and stable. He is on gastromend right now, but he will go off in a few months. He does not do well at all on any kind of buffer; stomach or hindgut. The handful of alfalfa is what works for him. He also is on Total Gut Health, which really helps him, hyaluronic acid, and when he goes off the gastromend, he goes on herbs for his gut. I find that fluctuating back and forth seems to really help him. I believe his gut, when I got him, was high in bad bacteria, and that is why he had such severe issues last summer.

Harley receives a glucosamine/omega oil supplement and a pre/probiotic in the morning and Optizyme in the afternoon. The main thing Harley needs is the California Trace and Vitamin E for his hooves.

They also have 250 gallons of water available to them 24/7. I change it out every other day scrubbing the troughs to prevent green algae from taking over. In the winter, their buckets are heated, and we haul out hot water to their buckets to encourage them to drunk and hopefully prevent impaction.

I trim all of their hooves, which I learned from Pete Ramey and my friend Heather Dwire. Chaco has a hard time with trims due to his stifle. I have to ice his stifle while I trim his front hooves on the first day, and I give him Buteless afterwards as well as his shots of Pentosan and Glucosamine. The next day I ice his stifle for 20 minutes before I trim his rear hooves. This is the trim that hurts him the most, because he has to stand on his injured leg the most while I trim his left hind hoof. Afterwards, I ice him again for twenty minutes, do some bodywork, give him Buteless, and I put him on the pasture. I doubt a farrier would want to come out two days in a row to trim him or give Chaco all the breaks he needs. Being able to trim my horses helps them out; especially Chaco. Harley has a negative palmar angle on his left front hoof from how he used to be shod before. Because of his age, I will never be able to fully reverse it, but with corrective trimming, it doesn’t get worse. He grows sooooooo much hoof that I need to trim him every two weeks. Dulce came here with hoof issues but his hooves are normal for now…..knock on wood!

Chaco’s hind hooves are booted whenever he is on hard ground with Easy Cloud boots to absorb the shock and protect his stifle. When we go on trail rides, all of the horses are booted with Easy Gloves.

I’ve studied horse massage and various styles over many years, so I do most of the bodywork on my guys. Dulce suffers from a tight TMJ, so I do a lot of release work on him. Chaco’s groin area is super tight and sore from overcompensation for his stifle. Because of that, his poll gets really tight, so Chaco gets a lot of work every couple of days. Harley tends to be very stiff in the poll, and he gets some discomfort in his back every now and then. He is not too fond of massage stuff, so we do active stretches, which he loves and benefits him quite well.

Chaco, Dulce and Harley

They are all worked in whatever way is appropriate for them 3x a week, but they also work out each other in their play time. The other day Chaco and Dulce were full on racing each other while Harley egged them on.

They do have stalls that they can go into whenever they want, but I never lock them in the stalls. I want them to be able to move around at will. Much better for their gut I believe. I put hay in piles all over to encourage them to walk all over as if they are on pasture to eat. This puts a lot of miles on their hooves, and again it is really good for their gut. If Chaco has to rest his leg, or any of them gets hurt, I have a small turn out area where they can still move, have shelter, but can never break out into a run or a trot easily.

They do go on pasture bright and early in the morning, and are usually brought down around noon when the heat really begins to spike. Why? Sugars begin to rise in grass the moment the sun hits it, and as it gets hotter and hotter, the sugars go higher and higher. This is not good for the gut or the hoof. Some horses can adjust fine, but I figure why tempt fate? After six to seven hours of pasture time, they come off the pasture on their own. I rarely have to bring them down; it’s as if they know it isn’t good for them to eat that much sugar, and they head down usually when I go out to move them down.

During winter nights, I put blankets on them. I do remove them during the day unless an arctic cold front decides to come for a visit that is intolerable. During the summer, unless it is too hot, I put flysheets on them. I prefer to not put all of that pesticide on them if at all possible.

Finally, I grow my own hay. I hand pick all of the weeds all summer long, because again I don’t want to put herbicide through their gut. I know they say it doesn’t bother them, but as a former beekeeper, if you saw what I saw when herbicide is sprayed, you wouldn’t want to do it. My hives would start dying off within two weeks. My hay field was neglected by the former owner for many years, so I unfortunately have to pick A LOT of weeds.

I hope this explains what I do, answers any questions or doubts. I encourage you to ask any rescue what they do if they already aren’t posting it. I think it is a good thing to ask.

OTTB Troubles With Trimming

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things in the world was go watch our horses work on the track in the mornings. We’d leave before the sun rose, and head to the barns. The smell of warm oats and hay, horses dancing around, Spanglish words floating along the airwaves was heaven to me.

I never sat in the seats at the track. I stood on the rail waiting for my horses to come around back home. Often there would be a thick blanket of ocean fog sleeping on the track. Sometimes I could only hear the sound of their hooves running by, but usually they would emerge at the last minute for me to see them gliding over the ground with grace and speed.

Back at the barn some horse usually threw a shoe. The farrier would come in and go to work. I stood outside watching wondering how in the world they did what they did. A lot of people don’t know that racehorses are usually tranquilized before trimming AND they are trimmed from the left hand side. This means that they trim and shoe the right sided hooves from the left side of the horse. Don’t believe me? Then watch the video:

Here is a screenshot of it

Why do they do it this way? Well, they trim them in their stalls, so there isn’t much room to work. Also, if the horse is tranquilized, then the horse is difficult to maneuver if needed.

When racehorses are retired from the track, I start them off as if they were two-year-olds or younger. There are a lot of things that were never asked of them like other horses. Getting their hooves trimmed is one of those areas. They never had anyone trim them on both sides with a clear head.

A lot of people think OTTB’s are misbehaving when they act up at a trimming. They really aren’t. They’re telling you how nervous they are. If they’ve been tranquilized each time they were trimmed and shod, guess what? They never learned to stand for a farrier properly.

When I start working with an OTTB, I spend a lot of time walking around all sides of them petting them all over and running my hands down their legs on both sides. This will tell me if they are used to being handled on the right often. If the horse has, the horse is calm; if not, they aren’t. If the horse isn’t calm, I spend a lot of time running my hands down their legs until the horse feels comfortable with that.

When I first lifted Chaco’s right hoof just a few inches off the ground, he dropped to his knees. I think it shocked and freaked him out that I went to that side, and wondered why I was doing it all wrong. It scared me to death. It was the one and only time he did that. When I work with a new OTTB, I start picking up their hooves on the right, I lift them only an inch or so off the ground at first. When they’re comfortable there, I go for a bit more as long as they remain comfortable until I get to where I can comfortably work on a hoof.

When I began trimming Chaco, I discovered he was a salsa dancer. As I held either of his front hooves, his hind end danced all over the place while I worked. It made us both a nervous wreck. I thought time would resolve this; it didn’t. One time he almost fell again, and I was fed up with doing everything the “normal” way. Sometimes, you need to let go of the way things should be done and create something that works instead. Who says a horse has to be trimmed one hoof at a time anyway?

Rather than working on one hoof until completed, I worked on him clockwise. I would start on the left front picking the hooves, then go the hind, over to the right hind followed by the right fore. I then nip the lateral quarter on the left fore and work my way around. I got this idea from a local farrier I watched a couple of years ago work on a green horse. He was nervous, so instead of focusing on the one hoof, he kept going back and forth between the left front and right front.

Working this way kept Chaco calmer. Instead of dancing and getting anxious, he became curious as to what I was doing. Now he stands calmly for me while I trim. He tends to want to pull away more on the right side than the left, but that has even improved. Considering his operated leg, I still use this method with him as it relieves the stress on that leg as I trim.

If your OTTB is a struggle being trimmed or shod, get creative. Keep in mind that your horse might need to relearn how to do all of this. Ask your farrier to try working clockwise. If you have more than one horse to be trimmed or shod, ask your farrier to work on the front hooves first going back and forth between the two as he or she works on them. Your farrier can then go on and work on the other horses, and then come back to working on the hind hooves after done with the other horses giving your OTTB a mental break.

I find that instead of forcing my horses to do it a certain way and supporting what they can do, the quicker they come around to accepting being trimmed as a good thing instead of like a dental exam. Chaco told me he was scared, so I changed my ways. Now he falls asleep as I work on him. Listen to your OTTB, and you tw0 will go the distance.