Let’s Go Horse Show!

Let’s Go Horse Show!

Tuesdays with Tony

I hear this thing called ‘competition season’ is approaching. As a cat, I compete with no one. I am perfection, and I know it. However, I understand things are different in your world. You humans have a thing called horse shows, where you compete for who has the prettiest browband, most silver on their saddle, or most expensive outfit. No wait, that’s not true. You compete for who has the best horse! Oftentimes the most important competition, however, is the one between your current self and your past self. Can you make today’s performance better than your last one? Yep, that was a deeply profound statement from a cat. I am a keen observer of the human psyche, even if it looks like I’m sound asleep most of the time. To prepare you humans for the upcoming competition season, I have prepared Tony’s guide to getting the best performance ever.

Goals

Go find a mirror. They’re everywhere. You can even point your phone at yourself and hit the record button if needed. Now, look deep into your eyes and honestly determine your goals for the next year to 18 months. But how do I know if it’s an appropriate goal, Tony? Good question. Goals ask us to stretch ourselves out of our comfort zone. Improve upon what we’ve got now, but not go to the impossible. For example, if you and Spot are currently working on how to trot a 20 meter circle, then making the Olympic Dressage Team in the next 12-18 months is probably unrealistic. However, scoring a 65% on a training level test at a recognized show is an excellent goal. Goals must be something you can achieve, or they will annihilate your willingness to try.

I got skills!

I’ve got a goal, I’m good to go. One year from now I will have achieved my goal because I said I have a goal. Yeah, that’s not how that works. Look at your goal. For simplicity (you humans are a simple species), I’m going to stick with the dressage thing. Your goal is to score a 65%. Make a list of the skills needed to achieve a 65% at training level. What are you great at? What do you really, really need to work at? If you can nail a halt from the walk, trot, or canter, don’t spend a whole lot of time on that. If your 20 meter circle looks like something a 2-year-old drew with their eyes closed, you should spend lots and lots of time working on geometry! Making a list of what you rock, what you are OK at, and what you really, really need to work on will help you see how best to achieve your goal.

Get Help

I mean this in every sense of the word. If you are reading this, chances are you’re a crazy horse person. This means you should probably get some counseling. If you are still reading this, you have now identified some skills you need to improve. Get help to improve them. Go to a clinic, find a trainer, seek out a friend who’s riding skills you admire. Chances are good you aren’t the only one who has trouble with that skill. In our dressage example, riding round circles is really hard. Talk to your trainer (or friend) about where your difficulties lie. Tell a clinician you seem to prefer abstract circles to the round variety, and ask if they have any help for this issue. Keep your eye on that goal. Don’t get distracted and work on your already amazing halts over and over and over again. Work on the things that are holding you back. Practice what you’re bad at.

Keep the Pressure On

When I tell you this next step, I want you to remember this blog is free. That’s right, I give you all this amazing cat wisdom for free. This may be the most important step: Find someone who will hold you accountable. It can be a horse friend, a trainer, a Facebook friend, (probably not your spouse) anyone that will listen to your progress from the previous 10-14 days, your outline for the next 10-14 days, and not cut you any slack on excuses for not achieving. This person will help you ride when it’s dark, cold, and/or raining outside. This person will push you to do more that you ever thought you could. And the best part? You can do the same for them!

No excuses, humans! The weather is great for riding. We have access to amazing talent in Florida for the winter in pretty much every discipline you can do with a horse! The only thing holding you back is you.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. Don’t want to worry about keeping your horse healthy while you two are achieving these amazing things? Sign up for a Wellness Plan now! Save money, have a happy horse, enjoy more time. Click here before our limited slots are gone.

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Poisonous Plants

Poisonous Plants

Tuesdays with Tony

Poisonous Plants

Plants are delicious. Who doesn’t love to chow down on a plant the humans have carefully placed for decorative purposes? I know I do. I have learned, however, that not all plants are safe for eating. This rule applies to cats, dogs, and horses.  This week I’m going to educate you humans on the top 5 poisonous plants in the horse world.

Quick dog and cat tip before I begin: Easter lilies are deadly to cats in very, very small amounts, and Coonti palms work the same way for dogs.

Red Maple

While beautiful, Red Maple trees are very, very bad for horses. Eating as little as 2 pounds of Red Maple leaves will cause toxicity in horses. Like many plants, wilted leaves contain the most toxin. The toxin, gallic acid, causes the body to attack and kill the red blood cells. This makes the blood unable to carry oxygen. Horses are affected within about 24 hours of eating. They become extremely depressed, and may even have blue mucous membranes. They will also urinate red or dark brown urine. There aren’t great treatment options for this toxin. The Docs give them lots, and lots, and I mean lots, of IV fluids. If they make it 36 hours, it’s very likely they will recover.

Since poisonous plants pretty much all look alike to me, I have included a pictures of these various plants.

Creeping Indigo

This is one horrible poisonous plant, and ‘Creeping’ is the key word. It creeps along very close to the ground, making it really hard to find. Creeping Indigo also spreads by long, hard-to-pull roots and seeds making it difficult to fully kill in one round. This plant makes you go to full-on war.  Horses need to eat around 10 pounds of creeping indigo daily for about 14 days to develop signs. That seems like a lot, but some horses develop a taste for this weed and seek it out! The toxins are 3-nitropropionic acid (3-NPA) and indospicine. These toxins attack the nervous system in many weird ways. That means the symptoms of Creeping Indigo toxicity are difficult at best to figure out. They can vary from runny, squinting eyes, sleepiness, nystagmus (this is the fancy term for eyes wiggling back and forth), gait abnormalities, and mild colic-type signs. Yep, a wide variety. To add to the joy that is Creeping Indigo, there are no lab tests to identify the toxin, and no real way to know if it’s the cause of the problem. Special tests on tissue taken after an animal has passed away can identify the toxin.

Here’s a picture of Creeping Indigo to help you identify it, with chapstick container for size reference. It will die if you spray it with Grazon, or other similar products, but you MUST pull up the dead plants since the seeds are still viable! The ways to hate Creeping Indigo are many.

Crotalaria

Crotalaria is commonly known as rattlepods or rattlebox, due to the sound of the seeds rattling in their pods. This one suckers you in with pretty flowers, then BAM! Your liver gets annihilated. This plant really starts growing in late summer. It like damp places, such as the area around the water buckets or troughs in your pasture.

It has big broad leaves with a spike of small yellow flowers, and commonly grows to 4′ in height. Luckily, crotalaria tastes very bitter, so unless animals are starving, they usually won’t eat it. Interestingly, some less-toxic strains of this plant are consumed by humans in various places around the world. It just proves my point that some people will eat anything.

This one will happily die with pretty much any plant killer, but it does like to come back every Fall.   

Oleander

This plant often gets planted as a decorative hedge. Horses think decorative hedges have been placed for snacking purposes. One mouthful of this hedge is enough to cause problems! In humans, a very small amount is enough to kill. The toxins in oleander are powerful cardiac poisons like digitoxigenin, and oleandrin. They target the heart muscle and cause it to die. Horses that eat oleander can show signs from poor performance to extreme lethargy depending on how much they ate. All I have to say about this one is don’t plant it in first place. If you do have oleander, be very, very careful removing it. All it takes is some sap in a small skin wound to cause problems with human hearts! 

Nightshade

Last of the horrible Top 5 poisonous plants is nightshade. This fun little guy loves to grow along fence lines. Long ago, crazy humans used the plant to dilate their eyes since they thought it looked good. The main toxin in nightshade is atropine. My Docs use it as a drug in its purified form. If your horse eats nightshade they will experience fun things like diarrhea, nervousness, irregular heartbeat, and extreme sensitivity to light. Luckily this guy also doesn’t taste very good. Keeping plenty of hay in front of your horses is a great way to keep them from checking out nightshade to see if it’s tasty. Most of the time this one can be treated with time. The easiest way to get rid of it is to check your fence lines regularly and simply pull them up. 

Poisonous plants are no joking matter. The best way to know what you’ve got? Call your County Extension Service and have them come walk your property. County Extension Agents are full of all kinds of useful knowledge about plants and grass. Best of all, they are part of your tax dollars at work!

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Fencing

Fencing

Tuesdays with Tony

The docs have seen a lot of fencing-related injuries recently, so I have been tasked with educating you humans about the best way to keep your horses safely where you want them. Cats, as a rule, don’t exactly have boundaries, so I’m not sure I’m the best one to school you on this topic. However, I do know which type of horse fencing causes the most injuries that I see here in the clinic, and I overhear a lot of chit-chat regarding the do’s and dont’s of containing your equine companions. Here are the top 3 factors I would consider when choosing fencing for an accident-prone horse (which, as we know, is all of them).

 

horse fencingSafety

   We all know that horses are constantly looking for new and creative ways to injure themselves, and often they use their immediate enclosure as a means to achieve this end. But, with a little foresight, you can interfere with their self-destructive plan. My two favorite vets agree that barbed wire is not acceptable fence material for horses. Horses do not equal cows; their skin is not as thick, and their fight-or-flight instinct is much stronger. If a horse finds himself tangled in wire, he will immediately struggle and pull until he frees himself, even if that means leaving most of the skin from his legs behind. A cow, on the other hand, would probably just sit there and chew his cud until someone came out to feed the next morning.

 

That being said, plain wire is the number one source of fencing-related injuries I see here at the clinic. While it may seem harmless, it is difficult for horses to see (especially when running, in the dark, away from one of those invisible monsters). Wire fencing also tends to coil when broken (or when sitting in a pile prior to installation). Horses find these coils of wire particularly enticing as holes in which to place their limbs. “Goat wire” fencing is fine, but keep in mind that small rectangles are preferable over hoof-sized squares. Tip: Horses don’t like electricity! An electric wire around the top of your fencing will make almost any fence a safer fence.

Height

   The height of your fencing should be determined by the animals you are attempting to contain. For example, if you have a Warmblood stallion who has a career as a jumper, you probably want at least 5’ electric fence on all sides. However, if you are planning on confining curious foals or adventurous minis, you may opt for wooden planks that start just a few inches off the ground. In addition to the size of your equid, you must also consider his temperament. Is your horse one to stick his leg or head through a gate made from a round pen panel, or is he smarter than that? I know I am, but we have previously established that cats are the superior species.

Practicality

You are probably thinking, “that’s all fine and good, oh wise Tony The Magnificent, but I can’t afford miles of immaculate fencing like you see lining the roads of Lexington.” That’s OK! Good, safe fencing doesn’t have to be super-expensive, and it doesn’t have to be pretty. Instead of a 4-board wooden fence, consider wooden posts with goat wire between. If you want your fencing to hold up longer, try installing a strip of electric tape along the top to deter your horses from stretching over the top to graze, pick leaves from the trees, or scratch their necks. If you choose electric fencing, consider the solar powered version (with electric back-up) to save on your electric bill each month.

 
 I know you are all going to go right home and fix your fencing now. But just in case you have one of those horses who finds ways to hurt himself despite your best efforts at accident prevention, remember that Springhill Equine is available 24/7 for your emergencies! Any day, any time, including weekends and holidays, you will reach a real live vet on-call through our emergency hotline: (352) 474-5007. Not that you will need it now, all thanks to me!
     -Tony

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Do you REALLY want to buy a horse?

Do you REALLY want to buy a horse?

Tuesdays with Tony

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas horse shopping season. Three words: DON’T DO IT! Read on for wise words of wisdom from this cat before you buy a horse at Christmas time.

Know the cost

Just like there are no free lunches, there are definitely no free horses. The purchase price is a very, very small part of the cost of horse ownership. Horses require a place to live. Board for a horse can range from $250 to, well let’s be honest, the sky is really the limit here, but let’s pick $800 as our high number. The low number likely doesn’t include grain or hay, so add another $50-$80 per week for grain and hay. This is like your monthly horse mortgage payment. It gives them a place to live, but not much more. Plan on adding on the farrier every 4-6 weeks, and routine veterinary care (our Wellness Plans make this part easy). If you’re as smart as a cat you’ll also add on either an insurance payment or a payment to an emergency fund. Should I mention tack? Fly masks? Sheets and blankets? Water buckets? Go wander around the Tack Shack and make a shopping list, and get an idea of what you’re looking at there.

Put in the time

Horses require a lot of money and a lot of time. If you want to get good at horses, plan on spending a minimum of 15-20 hours per week doing horse stuff. I can hear it now, “It would be heaven to spend 20 hours every week riding!” Listen to the cat: I didn’t say riding. I said doing horse stuff.  They require brushing, cleaning up after, handling on the ground, and all kinds of not-riding type of time.  In fact, the more time you spend with them not riding, the better your riding time will be. Speaking of riding time, plan to spend some money on lessons.  Based on my observations of humans, you guys don’t come equipped with horse sense. You’re going to need to learn that from a trainer, and lessons cost money.

We’ll sell him and make money

There are definitely people who make lots of money in the horse world. Here’s how that works:

  1. They started with a large fortune and now have a small one, thanks to horses.
  2. They have the knowledge to buy young, untrained horses and put their time and training into them to make them worth more.
  3. They have a leprechaun and a four leaf clover hidden somewhere giving them unprecedented luck. For every one that makes money, there are a hundred that lose money.

But I really want a horse

If you have read this and still really want a horse, keep reading. Some human once said, “The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a human.” It’s true. I watch it happen at Springhill Equine every day. They calm you crazy humans. They teach you patience, and confidence, and empathy, and all kinds of wonderful things. So here’s a few steps you can take to be sure you really, really want a horse:

  • Take lessons. If you can commit to once-weekly lessons, and are still hungry for more after six months, you might be ready for a horse.
  • Volunteer somewhere taking care of horses. In our area we have HOPE, The Retirement Home for Horses, and HPAF who will happily let you come groom horses and get a feel for being around them.
  • Lease a horse. This is a short term commitment to horse ownership. You get to have a horse for a while to try it out.

Do you really want to buy a horse?Before you buy

If after all this you are ready to buy a horse, don’t skip my final, most important piece of advice: Never, never, never, ever buy a horse without a pre-purchase exam from one of my veterinarians. My Docs will go over your potential horse with a fine tooth comb to be sure there are no health complications you may not have noticed. These can range from eye sight issues, to heart problems, to subtle lamenesses. Pre-purchase exams can save you a lot of headaches!

Every horse-crazy kid has wanted a pony for Christmas. I’m not saying don’t buy a horse. Okay, I am, but if you are going to get a pony, at least be smart about it! That’s the wisdom of Tony for this week. Now go enjoy a long Thanksgiving weekend with your horses!

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Lameness: Video Diagnosing and Rehab

Lameness: Video Diagnosing and Rehab

Tuesdays with Tony

This ‘riding of horses’ thing amazes me. First, that they let you humans do it. Second, how much devotion you humans have to it. I wish my minions had that level of devotion to scratching my chin just right all day long. That would make me a happy cat. Where am I going with this ‘level of devotion’ thing? I helped analyze videos this week. You may have an idea about what this means. I thought popcorn and soda, but in reality it’s the analysis of every footfall, every wiggle, every head movement, and even what the human is doing while a horse is doing what it does. In the end, the rider had very concrete exercises to deal with the issues this horse was having.

Lameness

It started with a “left shift when jumping” problem. The rider came to my Docs because her horse was shifting hard to the left. She wanted to eliminate a pain or physical problem. Always a wise idea. Unlike cats, most of the time horses want to do what you humans are asking. If they aren’t doing it, eliminating a painful cause is a good idea! A very thorough lameness exam ensued. Despite flexions, circles, backing, head up, head down, over the hill, and going through the wood, no lameness could be created. Now, there are lots of lamenesses that can’t be recreated on the ground, so the Docs had the rider get on and ride. You won’t believe what they noticed under saddle!  Ah, I crack myself up. I was on Facebook reading clickbait articles until the wee hours of the morning with Teanie last night.

Anyway, under saddle the Docs saw this horse pushed his right hind to the inside. They called it “tripoding.” I’m pretty sure they made that term up, but you get the idea. Next they had the horse jump over small jumps coming towards them, going away from them, and finally from the side. They recorded all of these angles on video. Then they spent a whole lot of time watching these videos over, and over, and over. I finally went to sleep. A cat can only watch a horse repeatedly take off and land over the same exact jump so many times. The result was a list of things this horse was doing that caused him to shift left. For instance, he always pushed off with his left leg, and he would do just about anything to make that happen. At the same time he pushed off with his left leg, he dove right with his shoulders, and his right stifle bowed out.

FES Tuesdays with TonyRehab

Now we have something to work on! What does that work look like? Incredibly detailed and somewhat tedious. Work a cat would not be good at. For this horse, it started with an FES session. That’s Functional Electrical Stimulation. This therapy is like pilates for horses. It stretches muscles and gets things moving. This guy was very tight in his neck and hip area! He’ll get a session a week for 5 to 6 weeks to help the rehab work go farther, faster. That rehab work is going to be in hand and under saddle work to help him strengthen the stifle so it can stay strong on that right side, and work to help him “lock in” to a straight line. Right now he rides like a wet noodle!

Not getting the performance you want? Talk to my Docs. They’ll have you clocking 1D times, jumping higher, or collecting better in no time! Until next week….

Tony

P.S. I have a special request: As my adoring fans, I need you to subscribe to my blog. It’s getting harder and harder to get it to you through Facebook, and if you subscribe, it will come right to your email. Just look over on the right side of the screen, or if you are on your phone, scroll down to the bottom. As a reward, I will take a selfie with you at my next seminar!

 

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Winter Colic

Winter Colic

Tuesdays with Tony

First off, before I talk about colic and cold weather, I’d like to thank everyone who shared their BBQ with me at my Open House on Saturday. I had a great time, and I appreciate all the scratches and compliments! Apparently my minions had a good time with you too, but I mostly stayed in the food area, so I don’t know what they had going on at their stations. Anyway, on to my topic for this week:

Winter Colics

Not sure if anyone else has noticed, but it’s been a wee bit nippy outside the past few weeks. I know I have been puffed up like a black ball of fluff during my morning rounds outside the clinic! Your horses may be fluffed up too, or you may have dug their winter blankets out of the attic. One thing you can be certain of is that with cold snaps come winter colic events! So, what can you do to prevent your horse from falling victim?

Water

We don’t always know what causes horses to colic, but we know that dehydration often plays a role. Ever notice how it’s tougher to get in your recommended 8 glasses of water a day when it’s cold out? Well, horses are the same way. Temperatures drop, and so does their water intake. Providing easy access to clean water at all times is the single most important thing you can do to prevent colic. Luckily I have an automatic waterer at the clinic that my minions refill daily to keep myself and Teanie well-hydrated.

Food with water

One easy way to get more fluids into your horse during colder weather is to soak their grain in water. You can also add other soaked things to their diet, like soaked beet pulp, soaked alfalfa cubes, or soaked hay pellets. If they don’t mind the soupy texture, you can feed this year-round, but it is especially encouraged during the winter months. Personally, I prefer wet food over dry, but Teanie likes the crunch of the dry more than canned. We try to make it as complicated as possible for the humans who provide our food.

Salt (so they drink more water)

You know how every time you eat Chinese take-out, you seem unable to quench your thirst the next day? That’s because of the high sodium content of the food. Along these lines, if you add a tablespoon of salt (yes, plain old salt like you have sitting on your table) to your horse’s feed, it can really encourage water intake during a cold snap. Horses tend to like some salty seasoning to their meals, and typically won’t turn down their grain due to the added salt. You can also use an over-the-counter electrolyte powder if you are feeling fancy. Speaking of fancy, I hear a can of Fancy Feast calling my name. If you want to know more about winter colic, there are some pretty awesome vets and technicians here at the clinic who would be happy to answer your questions.

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Until next time: Stay warm!

-Tony

Colic horse

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Open House

Open House

Tuesdays with Tony

Open House

If you are looking for a fun family activity to attend this weekend, look no further! My biggest “See Tony” event of the year (a.k.a. Open House) is this Saturday, November 4th, from 10 – 2! This year’s theme is Boosting Your Horsepower. Just as your car needs regular maintenance, high-quality fuel, insurance coverage, and repair after an accident, so does your horse. My vets and technicians will be covering these topics and more at their stations, complete with live horse demonstrations! As if my handsome face isn’t enough to drag you cats out of your warm seat in front of the fireplace, here are 3 more reasons you don’t want to miss Open House this year:

#1. Exciting booths to explore

I am expecting more vendors than ever before, from local feed & supply stores to boarding barns, small businesses to a popular clothing line! Bring your friends- even if they don’t own a horse there will be something fun for everyone. Did I mention there will be FREE FOOD from Backyard BBQ, and a bake sale by our local 4-H club? I can’t wait to taste the scraps!

#2. Awesome door prizes

Get here early because the grab bags are filled with some seriously nice loot. I’m talking shirts, hats, cups, grooming supplies, great coupons, and tons of useful information! These bags are first-come, fist-served: the first person gets the bag with the most stuff, and so on down the line until I run out. The last person just gets the pleasure of my company…which is pretty good incentive in itself.

#3. Chance to win a wellness plan

Last but certainly not least, everybody who attends Open House will be entered into a drawing for a complete annual wellness plan for your horse, a $405 value! Here’s what you have to do: show up on Saturday between 10am and 2pm, visit and get your card stamped at each station, and turn your card in to one of my minions at the end. Keep in mind my wellness plans cover all of your horse’s veterinary care for the year, including vaccines, coggins, dentals with sedation, physical exams, fecal egg counts, and NO emergency fees! This will be the one and ONLY opportunity to win a 2018 wellness plan, so you really don’t want to miss it.

I guess there’s nothing left to say except see ya Saturday!

-Tony

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

Dr. Lacher’s Trip To Purina

Dr. Lacher’s Trip To Purina

Tuesdays with Tony

I eat Purina cat food. Dr. Lacher told me she was going to the Purina research facility, so naturally I felt I should get some food out of the deal. Turns out Purina horse and Purina cat aren’t the same thing, so I didn’t get anything out of this deal. However, Dr. Lacher said she learned a ton, so read on to hear about her trip to St. Louis. Here’s what she said about it:

The first thing I’m going to say about this trip is that Purina was all about the science. While they flew us to St. Louis, put us up in an amazing hotel (check out the St. Louis Grand Central Station Hotel), and fed us very well, the information presented wasn’t about Purina. Instead, it was about the science behind fueling and caring for horses. They also talked about how they use that science to make better feeds, and how they make sure the research they do gets published so horses everywhere can benefit.

Horse vet FloridaWe started off the evening by meeting these guys: Rascal and McGee. I have been around the Anheuser Busch Clydesdales before but I find their size awe-inspiring every time. I also find their tolerance for the crazy stuff they are asked to do pretty impressive. Rascal and McGee spent two hours standing in a hotel lobby (on a red carpet with padding underneath) being incredibly bored while 250-300 veterinarians and technicians oohh’d and aaahh’d over them, took selfies, marveled at their feathers, their extreme level of clean, and how they did their hair, and never once lost their cool. I can’t get Vespa to calmly stand on crossties in the barn at home reliably!

The next day I learned how hard it is to treat ulcers in horses. Don’t get me wrong, I know we have the chronic offenders. Those horses we treat for ulcers again and again and again. Now, thanks to an incredibly scrappy Australian, I understand why it’s so difficult to get some of these horses managed! Gastrogard is difficult to give correctly, and some horses produce lots of acid no matter how much Gastrogard you give them, and some horses get ulcers in the glandular part of the stomach and they need a whole different plan.

To get your money’s worth from Gastrogard (and it’s a lot of money):

  1. Keep your horse in a stall overnight
  2. Give no food after 10pm (although they can have a flake of hay at 10pm)
  3. Give Gastrogard in the morning BEFORE feeding
  4. Wait at least 1 ½ hours to feed
  5. Repeat for three weeks.

In the afternoon we all piled into buses and drove about an hour away to the Purina Research Farm. This is about 1200 acres of beautiful rolling fields dotted with cows, chickens, goats, sheep, horses, and even a research pond! Here Purina begins the process of making their feed better. They take an idea, turn it into a feed (or add it to an already available feed), and put it to the test on actual animals in real world situations! They can tell if horses are eating big bites or little bites of grain, how fast they are eating, do they eat hay and then grain, or grain and then hay, and even do they like this better than that down to 0.01 pounds. At this point I was thinking being a research horse for Purina is a pretty cushy job. Then we went to the treadmill barn.

The treadmill horses tell Purina if their feed improves performance in an actual test of performance. These studies are over a prolonged period, sometimes as long as 8-12 months. During that time the horse’s fitness is tested by a myriad of machines. They look at heart rate, return-to-resting heart rate, what they breathe out vs. what they breathe in, and if it’s a marker of how a horse’s metabolism is working, they measure it. This takes the guesswork out of knowing if a tweak to a diet makes a real difference. Science tells them yes or no. Here’s the cool thing: if the answer is no, no matter how badly they want it to be yes, Purina doesn’t make the change.

The final stop on the Purina Farm tour was what they call the Microbiome Barn. Everyone agrees the microscopic critters on and in a body (horse or human) are important in ways we never dreamed. However, no one is really sure what bacteria, fungus, and protozoa are involved, how to influence these critters, if we even can influence them, and do good or bad (or nothing) things happen when we do try to influence them. Purina has a group of horses dedicated to this research. They are in the very early phases, but it’s pretty exciting stuff!!

Sunday was another day of science!! I am often frustrated by the horse who seems to have weird GI stuff going on: diarrhea for months or years, weight loss in the senior horse, and the repeat offender colic horse. We talked about diagnosing and treating these horses. Then we talked about how different components of the diet can impact these horses. Sure, there were suggestions on which Purina diets had these ingredients, but the overriding message was about ingredients, not diets in particular. Needless to say, I learned a lot this weekend!!

There you have it. I’m glad Dr. Lacher learned a lot and enjoyed herself, but next time I want food! That’s reasonable, right?

Until next week,

Tony

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Super Seniors

Super Seniors

Tuesdays with Tony

Dr. Lacher recently saw two of our Super Seniors for a Wellness visit. One of these, Sierra, was 31 and the other, Crud, was 34 years old! Holy Old Horses! I asked her what’s an owner got to do to get a horse to that age??? Read on for the answer to the equine fountain of youth.

Let them be horses

Both of these seniors have had lots of time to be horses. Crud worked hard as a ranch horse until his early 20’s. Sierra worked a little less, but both have always had lots of turnout. Horses were made to have time outside. It becomes even more important as they get older. As they get older and creakier, a lot of time spent doing low-level exercise will keep the parts moving and the blood flowing. Outside time also lets them browse for different forages, harass birds and other woodland creatures, interact with herd mates, and generally just be a horse.

old horse careSpeaking of arthritis

It doesn’t matter if you are a horse, a cat, or a human. As we age, those injuries we had over a lifetime will gradually develop into arthritis. Keeping arthritis away takes a combination of fitness work and rehabbing of injuries. Horses who spend a lot of time outside spend a lot of time walking, and all that walking helps them stay fit. During their athletic careers, work with great people who can help you design a fitness program for your horse goals. Asking your “once a week, hour-long walking trail ride” horse to go work cows for 8 hours isn’t going to turn out well. There will definitely be an injury happening.

Post-injury, you need good rehab work (that should be read as “do what your veterinarian says) to get your horse back to normal. Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t have told Teannie she was funny looking, and then she wouldn’t have broken my leg, but this blog isn’t about my injuries, it’s about horses. After any injury, your horse will change their way of going. Very conscientious work needs to go into re-strengthening the injured side, and returning things to the way they were. Rehab work has really good studies to prove it keeps career-ending injuries away longer than any other treatment. That includes your fancy stem cells! These guys are no longer elite athletes, but living outside 24/7 keeps them moving, and that movement keeps them healthy!

Doing the basics well

Know what else these seniors have had throughout their lives? Good, routine veterinary care. Sierra has been a patient at Springhill Equine since 1995, and Crud since 2006. That’s a long history of regular vaccinations, dental care, and parasite control. Those regular check-ups have helped us identify little problems early on, and keep them from becoming big problems. Those regular dental check-ups allow the docs to keep the teeth aligned so they can get nutrition out of grass and hay for as long as possible. Regular dental check-ups also let them find problem teeth early. At their age, they are going to have problem teeth. You don’t get to be 97 in human years with all your teeth intact! The sooner we address those problem teeth, the less likely they are to get infected and cause pain.

Getting old ain’t for sissies

It’s true! But with regular check-ups, and a lot of love, it can be fun! Until next week, may your food bowl be full, and your litter box clean.

Tony

P.S. Want to make regular check-ups easy? Sign up for my exclusive Wellness Program. Click here to pick which plan works best for you, and sign up today!

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Horse Behavior

Horse Behavior

Tuesdays with Tony

 In case you missed my fabulous See Tony event last week, I will generously give you a recap. Dr. Wickens did a wonderful job summarizing all things Behavior for you horse-crazy humans. Also, I learned that horses like banana flavor 😳.

Biology: Horses are prey animals

Horses have a keen fight-or-flight instinct. That’s because they had to escape predators in order to survive, and only the ones that got away lived to reproduce! Everything from the position of horses eyes on their face to their tendency to fling their head in the air when anything comes toward them is all intended to enhance this fight-or-flight thing. Horse eyes are pretty weird if you ask me. Their pupils are the wrong shape and go the wrong direction. My pupils are vertically oriented, while horses pupils sit horizontal. Supposedly this allows them to scan the horizon while eating. I can see where that would be useful. Sometimes Teannie tries for the sneak attack while I’m eating and it would be nice to be able to see her! Speaking of which, those horizontal, bug eyes on the side of their head mean they can see nearly all the way around their body. Dr. Wickens also talked about the myth that horses can’t see color. Turns out they can see color, but it’s more like a red-green colorblind person sees color. I can attest to the extreme usefulness of ears that move. I don’t know how you humans survive without swiveling ears. Both horses and cats can move their ears to hear waaay better than humans. That’s why you think we freak out about nothing. It’s not nothing, you just can’t see or hear it! Dr. Wickens also talked about the importance of smell and touch to horses understanding of their environment. I will say cats and horses share the desire to get more information about something with all their senses. Dr. Wickens said horses will often change their body position to try to see better what they can hear, touch what they can see and hear, and taste what they touch. When that information conflicts or they don’t understand it they can go to flight status VERY quickly!!!

Science: Horses have brains

Anyone who has tried to teach a horse something will realize that they are thinkers. Like us, they learn by positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, or negative punishment. Positive reinforcement is like giving a treat when your horse touches a jolly ball. Negative reinforcement is like taking your leg pressure off when your horse moves forward (the most common type of training used in horses). True positive punishment would be like hitting your horse with a crop continuously until he stops bucking. Negative punishment would be like taking away his dinner when he pins his ears at other horses. Each of these has a place in the training of horses (and I use them regularly to train humans). Dr. Wickens said reinforcement-based training is generally the most effective. Punishment-based training can easily be done incorrectly! She talked about the example of the bucking horse. Seems you humans often experience a scenario like this: your horse bucks, you give him a whack with a crop to let him know that was wrong, except you do this after the buck has happened, another buck occurs, and another whack happens afterwards. You end up punishing the wrong behavior! I learned I need to be very careful to reward or punish at the correct moment to teach the humans around here more effectively.

Training: Horses are smart

To help all of us see the proper way to do all this positive/negative stuff we moved on to my favorite part of Dr. Wickens’ presentation: she clicker-trained Dr. Lacher’s horse to touch a jolly ball! It was incredible how quickly Gigi learned to associate the click with a treat. Of course, it helps when you have an extremely food-motivated horse like Gigi! You can use clicker training, and target training (like with the jolly ball) to teach your horse to do (or not do) just about anything. Dr. Wickens showed us versions of these training principles that got horses to accept clippers, needles, and stop bad behaviors. Want to see more of the amazing Dr. Wickens? Watch the Facebook Live of this fantastic seminar!!
Until next week,
~Tony

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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