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.
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.
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
It’s that time of year when you humans like to work on some goals for the upcoming year. I listed mine out to show you how easy it can be: 1. Improve human response time to food demands, 2. Get better at using the computer so I can order my own cat treats, 3. Continue to find new and improved sleeping locations. Now see how easy that was? Look at what’s going on that you feel needs to change or improve and write down a goal to address it. OK, here we go.
Eat better. Beth looks at equine diets all the time and her mantra: simplify, simplify, simplify. Most of you humans like to make life sooo complicated. Go with quality hay, then add quality concentrate, then add supplements only if your horse needs them for a specific problem. This plan makes life easier and so much less expensive. Don’t believe me? Check your inbox later this week for Beth’s amazing breakdown on how much cheap feed costs!
Exercise more for the fat horses (like this cat). I struggle with this one, mostly because I hate to exercise. As a black cat living in Florida, it gets hot and I whine a lot and I end up spending the day laying around in the air conditioning. And that’s how I ended up with diabetes. The average horse needs to slow jog for about 15 minutes 3 times weekly to prevent founder and other serious fat horse problems. Commit to that time with your horse and you will stop so many problems in their tracks.
Exercise more for those show horses. Injuries happen at exhaustion. When your horse gets tired, muscles don’t respond like they should, legs end up going weird directions, and BAM! an injury occurs. Do your horse a favor and put in the time needed to have them truly fit for what you want to do. A good general guideline is to be able to do twice as much as you need to do in the show ring. Be sure you aren’t just drilling on “horse show moves.” Cross training is important! Riding horses on different types of terrain and footing helps them learn how to handle anything you crazy humans throw at them. Jumping your dressage horse, or trail riding your western pleasure horse helps keep the brain engaged and builds up different muscles than their normal, everyday work.
Learn something new. This is mostly for you humans. There is always a ton of research out there about the equine athlete. Oddly, there’s not much on the feline athlete. Look for a new exercise for you and/or your horse, read the latest science research on horses, get a lesson or sign up for a clinic. Step outside your comfort zone. You will be a better human for it.
One last New Year’s Resolution: Get your horse a Wellness Plan. With one simple call, e-mail, even text you can cross Better Health and Save Money off the list. You won’t have to remember when your Coggins is due, wonder if you have all the right vaccines, and you have freed up time and energy to eat better, exercise more, and learn something new.
I know exactly what our clients want for Christmas this year. Look no further! From my many adventures this year, I have come to know our customers very well, and I have the perfect gift ideas for you, their husbands, their children, or their friends to give!
#1: A pony. This one should be obvious. No matter how old a horse-crazy boy or girl gets, and no matter how many horses he or she already owns, this is always the first thing on their Christmas list. That being said, I understand if a pony is outside of your Christmas gift budget this year. Which brings me to…
#2: A 2017 Wellness Plan. If you can’t buy them another horse, why not at least cover all of their horse’s healthcare needs for the entire year?! Not to mention, with each Wellness Plan comes NO emergency fees for the year. It’s like 2 gifts in one! I promise it will be their favorite gift this Christmas.
#3: A Springhill Equine gift certificate. Did you know that this month you can buy a $50 gift certificate for just $40? That’s like $10 cash in your pocket instantly! Cats don’t have pockets, but if we did I would imagine it would be nice for them to be full of money.
#4: A series of FES treatments for their horse. Every horse can benefit from a few FES treatments to improve their performance at the race or in the ring. Wouldn’t you like a deep tissue massage for Christmas? FES is even better than that- it uses electrical impulses to stimulate deep muscle groups in the back and neck. I’ve seen it work! The horses always walk away feeling loose and lovely afterwards.
Santa, in exchange for my invaluable assistance with your Christmas shopping this year, I do expect a stocking loaded with catnip, and a toy mouse under the tree.