Seniors, Horses and Human

Seniors, Horses and Human

Tuesdays with Tony

Time keeps on ticking no matter how you humans feel about it. Your horses get older, and, gasp! so do you! There are some things you should consider about older horses and some things you should definitely be thinking about for adult you. Not all of it is fun or easy to talk about, but it’s necessary, and as your great cat guide to life, I’m here for you.

Retirement (the horse kind)

Enjoying horse sport is great! You feel the wind whipping, you spend hours practicing timing, balance, and all the horse things. Your horse learns your language and you learn theirs. In my extensive cat experience this goes great as long as that horse is doing some level of horse activity. Maybe they go from running barrels every weekend to trail riding lightly, or they drop down from a more competitive version of a sport to something easier. 

What happens when none of that is possible any more? Often a lot of the care for these horses stops as well. I get it. It’s not on purpose, it just sort of happens. When the humans don’t open the door for me when I’m asking, I start asking a lot louder until they can’t ignore me. This isn’t how horses operate, though. They continue grazing and doing horse things, even though their feet haven’t been trimmed or their vaccinations haven’t been given, or their teeth haven’t been checked, until one day they can’t do it anymore. 

Retirement for these guys should mean less work, but not less care. My docs will often discuss what care may no longer be necessary now that your horse isn’t traveling or working. However, the basics like good hoof care, and routine health care are still incredibly important! In fact, these things will allow your retired horse to live a longer, healthier life AND cost you less while doing it. Regular dental care allows older horses to keep their teeth functioning, which means they can eat normal hay and grain longer, which means lower feed bills. Regular foot care means helping them move around better, and catching problems like laminitis early so they can be managed before they’re a big deal.

Speaking of retirement: Plan on retiring that horse of yours. Don’t look for the free to a good home option as a way for you to get rid of them. Provide a happy, safe place for your older horses. They worked for you for a long time. They deserve it. My Docs could tell you about numerous horses who have been given away to people who didn’t know enough about senior care. These horses ended up skinny, and in horrible circumstances. And don’t get me started on the cheap auction side of things. You’ll see this cat on a soap box real quick.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Wills, trusts, and paperwork in general

Alright, we covered the horse, now let’s talk about you humans. No one is getting out of here alive. Having a plan to take care of your animals should something really bad happen to you is pretty important. I get it. No one wants to think about, deal with, blah, blah, blah. You have to! There’s some important stuff to think about. 

First, get an attorney to help you with the paperwork. There are some do-it-yourself options available, but the advice of a lawyer who specializes in wills and trusts will help you avoid some common pitfalls. Remember, they do this all the time, and they’ve seen many of the ways it can go very, very wrong, and the ways it can go right.

Second, it may be necessary to have different plans for different critters. You know you have more than just a horse. There’s usually a dog or cat or chicken or all of the above in the mix. This likely means you have a plan for the smaller critters, and a different plan for the bigger critters. 

Third, make sure there is money to help your plan stay in place. You know horses are expensive. Also, cats like me prefer a high standard of living. I’m not one to settle for any old cat bed. I will also require a butler to open the door, then close it, then open it again. Anyway, funds. This is where a lawyer can prove their value. Setting up trusts so that your animals have a funding source will ensure they continue to live the life to which they have become accustomed thanks to your excellent care. Lawyers can also help set this up so that money goes to the animals and not the humans involved in the care. 

It’s not fun to think about one’s own demise, but the wise cat plans for it. It makes life much easier for those left behind, both animal and human.

It’s also no fun to think about growing older in general. Spend some time basking in the sun on a warm day, and think about how you would like the plan to look. Then write down an outline of a plan for you, and your horses, and all your other critters you know you have. Think about a long term plan for your current horses when they’re no longer performance horses. Where will they live? Do you have space? A little thinking time goes a long way. And if you need some guidance, ask my Docs. Their mission is to make the world a better place for horses, after all. 

Until next week,

~Tony

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! 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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More Adventures of the Horse Doctor's Husband
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 Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

Subscribe to Tuesdays with Tony

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Tuesdays with Tony – Senior Feeding Strategies

Tuesdays with Tony – Senior Feeding Strategies

Garbage in, garbage out, or so I hear from the humans. Here I sit munching on a nice grasshopper. They have a great flavor; I recommend you try them, especially roasted with a bit of salt and pepper! Great nutritional choices like this are what keep this cat in top physical condition. Senior feeding strategies for your horse will keep them running at peak performance, too.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

You sang it, didn’t you? I know I did. Then I had images of the movie Shrek play through my head. OK, back on track. You have made wise decisions for your horse’s diet (your own, not so much) and things have been going great. However, as horses get older, their diet needs change, and those changes are very different from the ones humans experience. Doing a very thorough evaluation of body condition score, muscle quality, and diet should be done at least every six months on every horse. (Need help? My minion, Beth, has tons of nutrition experience and can help you formulate a custom plan.  In fact, Wellness Plans include this!) If you notice topline shrinking, maybe the ribs are a little easier (or harder) to find, or eating is taking a long time, it may be time to adjust the diet.

Protein, Protein, Protein

You’ve been monitoring your horse’s condition, and have noticed the muscles on the topline are slowly fading away. Maybe there are fat pads cropping up by the top of the tail and behind the shoulder blades. It’s just plain harder to maintain condition. Protein is the answer. Well, part of the answer, anyway.

We have been well trained not to increase protein for older people and animals, but, as usual, horses are weird. It’s important to remember that basic diets for horses are pretty low in protein, usually around 10-12%, versus cat diets which hover around 30-32% protein. This means adding protein to equine diets is a relative thing. The easiest way to add protein is with a ration balancer. Just about every major feed company makes a ration balancer. Enrich Plus, Triple Crown 30, Equalizer, and Empower Balance are all examples of ration balancers. Adding a pound or two of one of these to every feeding is often all the older guys need.

When do I switch to Senior Feed?

Maybe never. While 15 years old is our guideline for Super Senior, it’s just that: a guideline. Dr. Lacher’s 27 year old horse is still on a “regular” feed, SafeChoice Maintenance. Full on Senior concentrates are best suited for horses with very bad teeth. These diets are designed to meet all the nutritional needs of a horse: grain, roughage, vitamins, and minerals. Most of our Seniors have pretty good teeth which means they can get loads of nutrition from hay. As long as your Super Senior is doing well on a regular diet, there’s no need to switch to senior feed.

If not Senior feed, then what?

Okay, you’re having some trouble maintaining topline, but there’s also some fat pads creeping up beside your horse’s tailhead, and you currently feed SafeChoice Maintenance and coastal hay, along with 4-5 pounds of alfalfa hay.  Oh, and your horse just turned 17 years old.  You ride 3-5 days every week and would put yourself in the moderately in-shape category. Now what?

There’s loads of options out there, but a little tweaking will go a long way here. First, let’s increase the quality and quantity of protein. Dropping back on the amount of SafeChoice Maintenance and adding Empower Balance will increase protein while decreasing calories overall.  Trying this simple change for 30 days, while monitoring body condition, may be all the adjusting that’s needed.  However, if you aren’t satisfied after 30 days, we can tweak the hay choices, or even switch concentrates all together. My point is: You’ve got options and I’ve got minions to help you with those options.

Want even more information? Want my pawtograph? Come out to the Super Senior Seminar April 19th, 2017 at 6:30pm!

See you there!

-Tony

Tuesdays with Tony – Blessed Be The Old Farts

Tuesdays with Tony – Blessed Be The Old Farts

Blessed be the old farts.  Around here there is a kind of reverence for the older horse.  I will admit to jealousy.  It’s not pretty, I know, but it’s real.  I mean, I’m a cat.  I deserve all the reverence around here.  In an effort to explore the causes for this misguided worship I talked with my minions, I mean humans, about the phenomenon.

Turns out all my humans went with something along the lines of enjoying their horses, learning from them, and feeling appreciative of all the horses gave to them during their athletic careers.  The humans said they wanted to make sure their horses had wonderful retirements since they had earned it.  I was a little confused by the “earned it” thing, since I don’t need to earn anything, but I digress.

What messes up a horse’s retirement?

Do they golf? Do they play Canasta and Bridge?  Apparently no.  They wander around a field and eat. This is a typical day for me if you substitute ‘Clinic’ for ‘field’, so not sure if I’m retired already or how that works.  Anyway, dental issues, lameness, and not feeling so hot are the biggies that interfere with retirees’ ability to wander around and eat.

The Teeth

Let’s start with dental issues.  Horses are this really weird thing called an hypsodont.  It means they have a whole lot of tooth when they are young, which they wear down to nothing over their lifetime.  The super cool thing is you humans are doing such a good job taking care of your horses that they now outlive their teeth.  Sure. that sounds scary, but with good nutrition it’s not a problem.  What it does mean is that you may notice your horse not wanting to eat.  You humans do a pretty darn good job knowing your horses.  When Tiny backs off on feed, don’t worry that we are going to think you’re crazy.  We won’t! We do the exact same thing! What we are going to do is schedule an appointment for one of our Docs to come take a look in Tiny’s mouth.  They might find some teeth that need to be adjusted a little bit or potentially extracted.

The Legs

Moving on to lameness.  This one I identify with.  I have jumped down from high places one too many times and I’m starting to develop a bit of arthritis in my right front paw.  Life catches up with us all.  All those daring feats of athleticism we displayed in our younger years show up as aches and pain in our later years.  Laminitis (same as founder) may rear its ugly head as well.  Once again the signs can be subtle, and you, the awesome human, may notice Flicka is in a different corner of the pasture than normal.  Once again, we won’t think you’re crazy when you tell us this.  We do the exact same thing! In this case our Docs are going to evaluate feet, legs, and the musculoskeletal system in general to identify a cause for the lameness.  If it’s arthritis, they will often recommend NSAIDs (horse aspirin) like bute or Equioxx, and movement, even in small amounts.  If it’s laminitis, a test for Cushings is almost always called for.  This is a test even a dog could pass!  It’s just a blood draw.  They also get on the phone with the farrier to make sure your horse’s entire team has the information they need.

When all of it goes wrong

Next there’s the “not feeling so hot”.  Again, when you call to say Mister isn’t right, but you can’t put your finger on it, we will be nodding our heads. We know that feeling!  This one is a little tougher.  Our Docs will put on their detective hats and start the investigation with you.  They won’t start with you because you are the prime suspect, they will start with you because you are the best source of information.  You know your horse.  You know if Mister ate and drank normally, and has he been sleeping normally? Rolling over? Is he in the same place in the herd hierarchy?  Next they will take your information, combine it with a good physical exam, and determine a course of action.  Usually, this involves some blood tests (remember they’re so easy a dog can pass them), along with an ultrasound of the chest and abdomen.  Only thing difficult about an ultrasound is the cold alcohol they put on your skin.  Based on these easy, peasy tests, our Docs will help you map out the best treatment options.  Lots of times these tests turn up Cushings disease.  Cushings is an endocrine disease which messes with every system there is to mess with.  Good news though: one small pink pill daily is the treatment. And if you schedule an appointment by the end of the week, our monthly special is $10 off this blood test!

Horses are like fine wine, they only grow better with age.  Totally patronizing the humans there, they told me to write that.  Anyway, let your horse live long and prosper with a little TLC.  The humans yak on a lot about Super Seniors, so this is the first in a four part Tuesdays with Tony expose.  Tune in next week for part 2

-Tony

Tuesdays with Tony – Re-Homing Your Horse

Tuesdays with Tony – Re-Homing Your Horse

Nobody ever sells their best horse. At least, not that I’ve seen during my 9 lives supervising an equine vet clinic. Typically, the docs are asked to help find homes for the 20+ year old retiree whose pasture-mate just had to be put down, the 13 year old lawn ornament that the kids grew out of, or the 3 year old un-broke colt who has barely been handled. Nobody is selling their 8 year old Grand Prix jumper….or at least they aren’t asking my advice about it!

Why are horses tough to sell?

The problem is, horses are working animals. Typically, it’s not good enough for them to just sit around and look adorable (like me).  There is still a demand (and a price) for horses that are willing, able, and experienced doing a job. The docs frequently encounter clients looking for a quiet trail horse for their husband, a dead-broke pony for their 3 year old daughter, or a young, trained, athletic horse that they can put some finishing touches on and then re-sell for a profit.

Consider other solutions

In case you didn’t know, we at Springhill always know a long list of horses in search of homes. Would you consider finding a new pasture-mate for your old retiree? Perhaps you could lease the pony that your kids grew out of to another child in need of a mount? As for the un-broke 3 year old: 30 days of training might be a wise investment in terms of getting him off the market (and off your feed tab)!

How Springhill can help

Lucky for you humans, I happen to have created an excellent networking resource for our clients who are looking to buy, sell, lease, trade, donate, rescue, or otherwise exchange horses! It’s called Springhill Equine’s Client Corner, and it’s super easy to join! Simply log into your Facebook account, search “Springhill Equine’s Client Corner” and request to join the group. Once you are approved as a member, you will have access to a secret group made up of only Springhill’s finest. What better way to start re-homing your horse? You’re welcome!

-Tony