Monday, December 19, 2011

How to Clean a Stall

A clean stall starts off with lime dust covered with 4-5 bags of pelleted bedding. The lime helps reduce odors and the bedding should provide soft footing and be absorbent for both urine and manure. As a result, bedding should be spread in areas that it is needed the most: the center of the stall, locations where the horse is most likely to urinate and any areas that they tend to pile their manure.

Each stall may be different as horses tend to have different habits. Bedding should not be placed in the following locations as it is wasteful and unnecessary: at the entrance of the stall, under the water bucket, under the hay, and under the feed bucket. This pelleted bedding should last a month. Certain stalls may need one bag added throughout the month, others will not. 

Different horses have different habits in stalls. Know your horses, know their habits! Here are some examples of horse "housekeeping" habits:
  • Differences between the sexes
    • Mares tend to urinate in the rear of their stall or in one corner
    • Geldings tend to urinate more near to the center of their stalls
    • Stallions tend to defecate in large piles, called stallion mounds and urinate more centrally or on their manure piles to mark their territory
  • Pooping Patterns
    • Rear Wall Poopers: these horses will only poop along the rear wall of their stall
    • Corner Poopers: these horses tend to choose a corner of their stall to poop in, and often urinate in the opposite corner
    • Doorway Poopers: these horses seem to have it backwards and poop in the doorway to their stalls
    • Bucket Poopers: with deadly aim, these horses almost always seem to poop in their water buckets or feed buckets, wherever they may lie
    • Everywhere: the worst are the horses that just don't seem to care where they poop
  • Stall behavior that affects stall clean-outs
    • Rototillers: These horses are pacers, they tend to walk in a circular pattern. The result of their movement tends to cover the manure and spread it to the edges of the stall. It is important to sift underneath the bedding in all corners of the stall to find the buried poop and the hidden urine areas.
    • Lazy Horses: some horses lay down on their manure packing it into the stall making it more compact and harder to clean
    • Hold-it-in Urinating: many horses, especially in the winter, hold in their urine until they get to their stall. As a result their urine spot becomes large and needs even more bedding for absorbing the urine. If this urine spot isn't cleaned to the bottom regularly the urinated bedding will begin to mound.
    • Breeding Season: mares especially urinate more during breeding season
    • Slobs: some horses will keep it clean if it starts clean, but if it's already messy they turn into true slobs - similar to humans in our bedrooms!
Daily Cleaning of Stalls:
  • Start at the doorway and sift through the bedding using the basket pitchfork, collecting all manure and dirtied hay.
  • Where bedding is wet, just toss the bedding without sifting
  • Any potential area where the horse has urinated, take the metal pitchfork and dig into the bedding to loosen it and remove any compressed or wet bedding - this may be the entire rear area of the stall
  • Scrape all bedding away from the walls of the stall, the doorway or any feeding areas and mound it in the center
Full Cleaning of Stalls: 
  • You'll notice as the month goes on that the bedding is appearing "used" and it is losing its absorbent qualities and the amount of bedding is reducing. Coach it through the last week of use with very thorough daily cleanings but do not add any bedding because the stall will need a full clean out shortly. Some horses may need a full clean out monthly, others may be very tidy and need a full clean out less often.
  • Use the metal pitch fork first to dig into the stall removing as much bedding as possible. You will notice that the bedding may be removed in layers - cleaning a stall may seem like an archaeological dig. Remove all layers until you reach the base of the stall. 
  • Scrape the remaining bedding off of the ground using the large muck shovels. At this point there should be no bedding, dirty or clean, left on the surface of the stall. All manure should be removed.
  • Spread lime on the entire base of the stall, especially where horses tend to urinate or defecate. 
  • Replace bedding with 4-5 bags of new bedding, centered in the stall.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Book Concept: How To Horse

Truly thinking about compiling a book about horse how-to's. Here's the outline of my chapter concepts. What's missing?

"Painted Bar Stables: How to Horse"

Breeds, breed standards


Annual vaccines and tests
Limping - how to tell
Rain Rot
Tying Up

Curry Comb
Shedding Brush
Hard Brush
Soft Brush
Face Brush
Mane and Tail Brush
Picking Hooves

How to halter a horse
Lead a horse
How to tie a horse

Saddle parts
Bridle parts
Types of bits and hackamores
How to put on the saddle
Saddle Fit
How to put on the bridle
How to adjust stirrups
How to put on Bell Boots
How to put on Sport medicine boots
How to put on polo wraps

Clean a stall 
dump manure
Types of bedding
Hang buckets and give water
Give horse feed 
How to open hay bales 
Working in order - don't miss a stall
- Metal pitch fork
- Plastic basket pitch fork "sifter"
- Wheel barrow
- Spigot and Hose
- Feed Buckets
- Water Buckets
- c hooks
- Hay Hooks

Protein, Fat, Fiber, carbohydrates
Feed types
Hay types
Supplements and Salt licks

What do you really want?
Red Flags
Questions to ask


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Memberships at Painted Bar Stables

The membership program is designed as a lease option here at Painted Bar Stables. 

Because of the need for our horses, we are unable to do half leases on our horses as we can not guarantee that a specific horse will always be available. However, as we rotate our horses through our lesson and trail programs, there are horses left in the barn that are free for use. The membership program came out of this situation.

Instead of leasing a specific horse, the membership program is a way to lease a selection of horses from our stables. This gives our members the opportunity to experience a number of different horses for different uses and occasions, as well as increased flexibility when it comes to access to our horses. 

There are different levels of memberships available depending on the skill of the rider and the number of rides desired a week: 
  • Arena-Only - $100
    Arena-Only memberships are an entry level membership level designed for those who can ride independently in the arena but may not be ready to ride on trail without the supervision of Painted Bar Stables staff. 
    With this membership, a member is granted 1 ride per week.
  • Standard Trail Riding - $100
    Standard memberships are for riders who are able to ride independently in the arena or on trail without the supervision of a Painted Bar Stables staff. Some riders may be required to ride with other riders; others may be granted the right to ride alone on trail.
    With this membership, a member is granted 1 ride per week.
  • Triple Trail Ride - $250
    Triple memberships are the same as the Standard Trail Riding membership but more riding privileges are granted.
    With this membership, a member is granted 3 rides per week.
  • Full Access Memberships - $300
    The Full Access Membership guarantees the member unlimited access to the stables and its horses. Members are allowed to ride as often as horses are available for riding.

  • Minor Surcharge - $50
    Youth and adults have different liabilities and needs for supervision and education. As a result, we require that all members under the age of 18 pay a surcharge of $50 on top of their membership rate. 
    Certain discounts may be available to youth who would like to apprentice or help guide trail rides.

Members are allowed to use their weekly rides on the Sunday Community Trail Ride that is hosted by Painted Bar Stables staff weekly. They may also use their membership to join guided trail rides for trail ride clients, understanding that the priority and safety of the non-regular riders will be prioritized and there may be limited independence offered on these rides.

Memberships are a pre-paid riding opportunity. All memberships are paid by the 1st of the month and last throughout the entirety month. Only the first month can be pro-rated. 

It is the responsibility of the member to use their privileges that they are entitled. No discounts, refunds, rebates or pro-rates will be offered to those members who do not fully use their membership privileges. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sierra and Little Joe take a trip to Cornell

So today's agenda had nothing to do with the betterment of our horse's training and everything to do with the improved understanding of our horses. Little Joe and Sierra have both had their various issues so today was the day to take them to Dr. Fortier at the Cornell University Equine Hospital.
Little Joe and Sierras All The Gold awaiting tests at Cornell Equine Hospital

Little Joe and his Fibrotic Myopathy
About two months ago, I noticed a change in Little Joe's gait and a hard buildup in his left hindquarters. In an instant I knew what it was ossifying myosis or a fibrotic myopathy. I had seen this before in one of my previous horses, Bubba, and Joe had all of the classic diagnostic symptoms:

  • His walk was very slow, however his trot and canter were unaffected.
  • His gait at the walk was changed. His left hind was no longer reaching forward as far and had an accentuated outward swing. As the landed it first had an upward lift with a heavy plop down.
  • The tight ball in his hind quarters followed the groove of his semitendinousus muscle and felt like a rock inside his body.
Little Joe receiving his ultrasound
Today at Cornell, Dr. Fortier instantly agreed with me, however reassured me that he was displaying very minor conditions. The ultrasound proved that there was in fact a mineral build up in the muscle that extended roughly 15cm down along his semitendinousus and was roughly 4cm thick and 2.5cm wide. Luckily the build up was centralized in his muscle and did not cross into his semimembranosus.
This is a view of Little Joe's semitendinosis. You can see the white line (which was measured to be 4.46cm). That is the mineral deposit in the center of his muscle. The shadow below indicates that this not the muscle fascia and is instead the hardened area as the shadow is created because the ultrasound cannot pass through the mineral deposits.
How did this most likely happen: fibrotic myosis is especially common in Quarter Horses and other stock breeds such as Paints. It is unknown if it is because of their muscle structure or the work that they typically do, however. Often this occurs after a injury such as a kick to the hindquarters. Considering Little Joe has very active pasture manners and is turned out with an even more active companion (Fire) they probably got in a tiff and Little Joe received a swift kick to his butt that did not heal properly and began building up mineral deposits.

What does this mean: Fibrotic myopathy is rarely progressive and this is a mild presentation causing only mechanical lameness that is not affecting Little Joe's athetic ability. The muscle will continue to exist as is does. It will not improve and it will not degrade. Little Joe will always have a shortened stride but he does not feel any pain. He can be ridden to whatever his capability may be and will continue to enjoy it. His walk will continue to feel a little uneven but he is not unsound or lame - just stiff. His trot will remain even and his canter, he will slightly favor his right lead. I was encouraged to ride him.
The only option for fibrotic myosis is surgery to remove the mineralized buildup in the muscle. There's no guarantee that it will improve his ability, and there's also a chance it could cause more issues. Because he is so minimally impacted by the issue, there is no reason for surgery.

Sierras and the Fractured Navicular
When I bought Sierras All The Gold, I purchased my dream horse. He was a 6½ year old stallion who was peaceful, intelligent, beautiful, nice conformation, and moreover, a pleasure to ride. His trot was the epitome of a Western Jog. He rode in mixed company and was always a gentleman.

About 1½ months after I bought him, I noticed something was off. He had a limp that would come and go. I was too busy to ride often so it didn't really affect our riding schedule, but it bothered me on many levels. The first vet I brought in thought it might be a result of the thrush that I had been battling since I had purchased him. The next vet thought it might be navicular syndrome, a degenerative tendon disease. The third vet xrayed him and we found a clean fracture in his left navicular bone dividing the bone in two on the far left side of the bone (the outer wing).

In many ways I was relieved: I am very glad that it is not navicular syndrome. Since Sierra is a stud, a disease such as this would have ruined his career. Though navicular disease is not a genetically inherited disease, predisposition for it can be inherited (such as cancer or eyesight issues in humans). I could stand never riding him, but never breeding him would have been an added blow. Unfortunately, at the time, I was short on money and short on ideas. I brought him to the Cornell farrier, at the time Mike Wildenstein, and we did a series of glue-on shoes but I felt that it didn't make enough improvement so I backed off and just continued with usual farrier care.

This summer Branden Van Loon was kind enough to bring those old radiographs to Dr. Fortier at Cornell for a peek. Based on those radiographs, she felt it would be possible to do a partial neurectomy (not full!) and reduce his pain and even make it possible to use him for regular light riding. I was encouraged! I spent all summer saving money to try to help him out and get him on the road to the most productive life possible.

After nerve blocks today it was indicated that blocking the nerves via neurectomy would eliminate his pain. However, we learned today is that his navicular bone has degraded significantly since those initial x-rays. Perhaps is was that the initial x-rays were films taken on my dirt floor barn without sedating Sierra compared to the minimally sedated digital x-rays in Cornell's immaculate facility that made us see all of the actual problems. Or perhaps his bone had really and truly just degraded. Either way, at this point the gap between the bone segments had increased and the larger portion of the bone had worn away significantly along the fracture line and there was weakening to the internal bone structure.
Sierras All The Gold receiving his nerve block shots peacefully
What does this mean: Sierra is now not able to safely receive a neurectomy. The degradation of the bone has created a roughness along the bottom. This is the surface that the digital flexor tendon crosses as it connects to the hoof. As long as Sierra is aware of pain, he will know when there is too much friction between the bone and the tendon. If we did the neurectomy he would not feel this pain and there is a chance that that friction could sever the tendon. A severed digital flexor tendon is an end of life injury. Additionally, because the structure of the bone is compromised we could no longer do a partial neurectomy and have it eliminate his pain.

What can we do: Before the doctors could even get to it, I had Steve Krauss, the current Cornell Farrier, summoned to Sierra's side. The doctors and Steve decided that through bute and corrective shoeing we could make improvements to Sierra's life that could even make him capable of rare riding experiences.
Steve also noted that Sierra's hoof was not currently proportioned correctly. The distance between his heel to frog tip was shorter than the distance from frog tip to toe (this is backwards of what it is supposed to be). So he shortened up Sierra's toe and filed the toe at a 45-degree angle to increase roll-over. He also installed a pair of inverse aluminum shoes with heel supports with a silicone putty pad on the heel and frog for additional support.

Here we go! Let's see if it helps!

While Joe had good news and Sierra is still going to give me many hard decisions, all I can say is both of the boys showed off our stable amazingly. Their peaceful and calm demeanor was heavily respected and rewarded. Joe was used as a student walk-through demo. One of the Farrier students even gave me an offer on Sierra. It was lovely to have such well-behaved boys who took each test with grace.

At the end of the day, they both jumped right up on the trailer, excited to go home again.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Dozer is Lazy

Horse: Dozer
Tack: Dozer's Western Saddle, Curb Bit, Waterford Spurs
Purpose: Trying to get Dozer to move

Dozer is definitely lazy. My trail riders have been having a really hard time getting him moving of late. I myself avoid leading rides with him because it just takes too much work. So, I thought today I would get on him and see if we can make movement a part of his life.

First off, Dozer is almost solely used on trail, not the arena. On trail Dozer turns on a dime and steers without issue. Well, in the arena that just wasn't the case and I can't say I blame him. Because he's never worked in the arena he has absolutely no bend. This is coupled with the fact that he doesn't flex at the poll, making it very hard for him to grasp the concept of "circles." He's got all of the straight-away concepts, turning on the haunches and the forehand (kinda), but anything requiring a flex or bend was out. Homework.

Second, I definitely will never completely understand gaited movement. I'm not sure I like it much either.

Right off, I noticed a big difference in Dozer with the spurs. He quickly got into his running walk (which isn't really running. We maybe hit 6mph). However, whenever I asked him to accelerate he pushed into a trot or a pseudo-canter. After about 6 times around the arena it was almost as though I didn't have spurs anymore. His lazy hit with full force.

Now, I know cantering isn't the best for gaited horse training, but I did want to get him MOVING, in whatever way possible. I was excited to get him going in any way, shape or form. That said, anything over his 6mph running walk was a miserable experience - he shook the clothes right off me - and it just took too much work.

After a great text conversation with Keith Reynolds, who continues to be my gaited expert, we think that the first issue to address is his lack of flex at the poll. Gaited horses truly need to collect, flex and get their bodies engaged to work and Dozer just isn't doing that. He suggested I get a bit with a longer shank to encourage poll pressure - my only fear is that stopping is definitely not an issue and that a longer shank might mean more of it. Either way, I think Keith and I need to have a trail date with Dozer in the near future.

Tally Whoa: A Revisit

Horse: Tally
Tack: My Western Saddle, a Tie Down (decently tight by my standards) and a combo gag/hackamore
Purpose: Transitions Downward

So, last time Tally felt mostly out of control so today when my second ride was a no-show it seemed like the perfect opportunity to revisit her schooling. We had already gone on a 45 minute trail ride so we were pretty well warmed up and ready to go.

I first wanted to experiment with switching her from her usual gag/hack combo to just a hack. Last winter we found that she steers and collects better in a bit but stopped better in a hack. Well, she now steers and collects in a hack but definitely not the stop we need. Back to her usual bridle set up!

In the start I felt like she was overly sensitive in the leg. We worked a bit to desensitize that and I think we made a lot of headway. She still sometimes fishtailed as a mis-response to leg cuing but we did a lot better. We did a lot of warm up with differentiating between leg yields, bends and forward cues.

Tracking left I felt like we got a decently balanced trot and a very very balanced canter. While her transitions between speeds tracking right felt better, the balance definitely did not feel as good. Her trot going to the right was bouncier and less guided. Her canter was always on the proper lead but just didn't have the nice free-flowing rhythm that we got on our left lead. 

We spent a lot of time circling. Three circles down and three circles back on every loop around the arena (SE corner, E side, NE corner, NW corner, W side, SW corner, etc...). I'm always impressed at how easy it is to circle Tally and steer her. As mentioned before, it was much easier to get her to balance, and therefore turn without leaning or shouldering out, to the left. Tracking right we had a lot of fishtailing and overflexing of the neck. 

The entire experience reminded me of one thing important for my own self-growth: the importance of the outside rein. I'd catch myself not reinforcing her turn with the outside and merely relying on a lifted inside rein and, wow! when I engaged that outside rein things would change quick. Her fishtailed butt would flip back in place and her head would pop back in front of her body. But she'd still keep turning, following my gaze. It was nice to get a lesson from Tally instead of me always teaching her!

Because today was downward transition today my overarching goal was to get her to exaggerate her slow-down. Every time we stopped we would go backwards. Trot to  to walk to whoa then backwards. Trot to whoa then backwards. Canter to trot to walk to whoa then backwards. Canter to walk to whoa then backwards. We never really got a fabulous canter to whoa but it was worth trying. By the end Tally was pretty sick of the backwards concept, but her halts were much better.

As our downward transitions improved so did our upward transitions. Because Tally is actually a decently vocal horse, I really wanted to mingle vocal cues into her upward transitions. For instance "can-TER" with a inside reinforcement on the "can" and a outside cue directly on the "TER." Her walk to trot still sometime starts with a hop, but she was truly settling into it. We had a couple really phenomenal walk to canter transitions and a lot of nice trot to canter transitions.

At the end I had Colin take a video. Tally was pretty tired by this point and we had a couple "moments" and there is still a lot of room for improvement but I think there's some good parts as well.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mister's First Ride

Horse: Mister
Tack: Scotch's Western Saddle, Fleece Lined Hackamore
Purpose: First time carrying a rider.

Mister was ready. And after his breakout last week it was obvious he needed a job.

Mister is now two years old and some change and 15hh. He has been lunged with decent regularity (not as often as I would have liked but often enough to know speed cues). He has been lunged with a circingle and saddle as well. All he needed was a rider.

After a short walk-only lunging I hopped on using the mounting block. I think it's best he gets used to the mounting block from the start and he did decently. His first reaction to a rider was "backwards!" It was obvious he didn't quite have his balance but he quickly figured it out. Once he decided to go forward on his own I knew we were in the clear.

Just like every horse, he already knows where the gate is. That was his first destination. It took a bit of gentle prodding to get him away from the gate. Steering was definitely an issue but he was trying hard. After we unglued ourselves from the southeast end of the arena his next destination was the horses on the paddock fence to the north. A much smaller discussion ensued there and we were on our way.

We did a couple dozen loops of the arena, keeping it slow and not really working on much except a general sense of direction and balance. We did test the breaks and they were there. He would have preferred playing follow the leader with Crystal and Dutchess who were also in the arena being ridden but he was willing enough not to.

Overall, I have to say it was a success. It was decently an easy ride and he will be a pleasure to work with moving forward.

Tally-Ho and the upper Gaits

Horse: Tally
Tack: My personal Western Saddle, English Bridle with Loose Ring Snaffle, Draw Reins connected at the side
Purpose: Slow is Smooth and Smooth is Fast

Today was the first time I was able to get some good quality time with Tally since she had her feet trimmed and shoes reset. My goal was to encourage a slower and smoother way of moving at the trot, and then to touch on her trot to canter transitions that are definitely lacking.

I used draw reins connected at the side to try to add an element of stability to her movement. I used them loosely and only as a secondary rein. My hope was to reconnect her neck and head to her body. She tends to overflex her neck onto turns or as avoidance and I wanted to try to get her back in line. While she was very responsive to the draw reins I definitely want to ride her without them as she leans into them as a crutch. They are providing her the support she needs to straighten out but I don't feel like they are teaching her the lesson I had hoped.

While Tally will never be a really smooth ride, particularly at the trot, I found her gaits much improved from a week ago when she had her shoes reset. Her feet had definitely been too long and was affecting her way of movement.

We worked for an extended amount of time on her trot. My main goal for her trot is to slow it down. The energy that she puts into it is being translated into upward movement instead of propulsion so I wanted to take some of that energy out of the equation and replace it with focus.

As different as she is from Beau, I find her struggling with many of the same issues at the trot as Beau had when I first bought him: high head-carriage with a hollowed back that is often substituted for a fake collection with just a deeply arched neck frame, lack of speed diversity within the gait, and a very bouncy forward movement.

By the end of our trotting work she was moving at a very nice slow and focused speed. She was much smoother and was actually engaging her entire body into the movement. While she was bending decently, she had a little bit of an issue fishtailing around corners when I asked for more bend with my inside leg and less shoulder with my outside. She was still overflexing around turns with her neck but it was easily corrected with leg.

I also noticed that she always throws me on the left post.

She still has a hard time truly differentiating leg cues in terms of direction and speed but as always it's there, just gotta keep going with it.

We practiced canter transitions. While a couple of them worked out nicely some were, as usual, a mess. I'm just going to keep on working on the concept of slow and steady. She speeds up her trot thinking I'm asking for more speed when really I just want the gait change.

Once I did get her into a canter we really worked to slow it down. It seems to be the trend of the day. She is QUICK, but fast at the expense of form and control. If I have her in a nice slow canter she steers nicely and stops, well average at best. When she gets going so fast it all is lost.

Next lesson is going to be called "Tally Whoa," for sure!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mud Management

So the mud management webinar suggested cutting my paddocks into small 1 acre single and double turnout paddocks with gravel footing to use as sacrificial areas...... not sure if I actually like this idea. It means that many of the paddocks around the barn would be dirt year round and that horses who cannot go out in the big field because they don't get along would never have any grass.

Notes from the webinar:

Green Horse Keeping: Mud Management
Equestrian Professional
April 19, 2010
Speaker: Alayne Blickle -

Issues associated with living in mud:
  • Scratches
  • Mud Fever
  • Rain rot
  • Thrush
  • Increased insect problems (mosquitos, filth flies, midges)
  • Hypothermia
  • Weight Loss & General Unthriftiness
  • Sand colic:
    • Ingestion of dirt, sand and soil particles
Issues for owner convenience and efficiency
  • Difficult to do chores
  • No fun to catch horses or clean for a ride
  • Looks bad!
Environmental impact:
  • Mud, erosion and run-off of sediments deteriorates nutrition of the soil and can cause problems for aquatic life
What is mud?
  • Fine organic material + soil + water = mud
Fine organic material is key because it holds 200x its weight in moisture.

Mud Buster Options:

  1. Establish a sacrifice area
    An area is sacrificed and understood that grass will never grow in that area. It should be on a high, well-drained area with vegetation as an absorption buffer area below it because as this area becomes hardened there will be a lot of run-off.
    This is where horses are kept on the winter when pastures are dormant and soil is soft. Prevents over-grazing. 
  2. Pick up Manure regularlyA horse produces about 50# of manure on a regular day. Manure is the basis of most mud because it provides that organic absorptive material.
  3. Use footings for paddocksSacrifice areas need footing: gravel, sand (can be dusty, do not feed on sand, in sloped areas, sand can migrate; but, horses love rolling in it), hog fuel (large chipped wood product – be sure it’s non-toxic). 
  4. Use footings in other high traffic areasHigh traffic areas: watering areas, in front of gates, walk ways.Options: Stall and trailer mats, used conveyor belting
  5. Install gutters and downspoutsCapture clean rain water and keep it clean and out of the mud.Roof rain runoff can be routed directly to a water trough for watering horses. 
  6. Use trees as mud managersTry to always use native trees and shrubs.Evergreens are great because they do not go dormant in the winter and continually use water. Rows of trees and shrubs can intercept run-off.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Reflections on Progress

The mothers last night, particularly Cathy, came up to me glowing and said "Erika! This is a real barn now! It's a real business!"

Meredith and Zoe were two of my first students here at Painted Bar Stables. They have been around almost 2½ years now and they remember when it was just me teaching a couple lessons after work with my horses.

At the point when I bought the stables in early 2008, the barn was a mess because the previous owner was unable to keep up with the repairs and also apparantly unable to keep the liqour bottles out of the barn. At the point the girls started riding here there were only 5 stalls I had cleaned out the rubbish, repaired the doors so that they could close and lock, and made them safe for horses to live in. It took me so long just to get those stalls ready.

At that point the fences were in complete disrepair except for a couple just near the house. I was amazed that horses even stayed in the back field. I was still collecting tack beyond my personal saddles and it was insufficient. I'd probably also say that my teaching was rudimentary at best at that point, simply because I didn't have time to keep up with my research and own knowledge.

Moreover, I had no help. It was just me and I was also working a full-time job in Ithaca.

The past couple of months (not to mention the couple years before that) there has been such amazing progress! Yesterday, Cathy walked into the new tack room for the first time and  her jaw hit the floor. Every saddle was clean, organized, repaired and maintained on it's own rack. Every horse had not only an adult western saddle assigned to it, but also was assigned to kid saddles and English tack as well.  She saw all of the volunteers working like clockwork and she was impressed. She saw that I could actually focus on the kids in the lessons and know that no horses were waiting for me because Lisa was running such a tight ship for the evening shift. And she saw how clean and put together are farm is, how organized we are, how we have everything worked out. 

I could not have done this without everyone. Our farm has reached an amazing level of success and acheivement because of each person that contributes. And what is amazing is that we can still go even further!

So thank you to our volunteers and motivators, past and present:
Tia Bernagozzi
Sabrina Bruso
Sylvia Cadwell
Deb Chapman
The Champion Family
Lyn Gerry
Andrea Jacobs, who has for some reason put up with me and my endless neediness since I first met her 3 years ago
Victoria Katz
Dakota Landon
Kerrigan Long
Sonny Pagliaro
Ryanne Phillips
Jenn Schmid
Christian Thompson
Dani Van Orden
Linda Van Orden 
Missy Van Orden
Lee Welles, who motivates me more than she realizes
even Amber Schorpp, who taught me many many lessons

And of course our latest additions:
Lilian Balasanian
Alaina Christine
Ashley Tieppo
Rachel Cronin
Dorothy Sherrill
Jen Schrage
Lily Oxley

I especially want to thank:  
My parents, Dean and Barb Eckstrom, for simply putting up with me and giving me such amazing opportunities and pep-talks.
Lisa Birch for her enthusiasm, hyper-organization practices and her amazing ability to motivate our volunteers.

Oh... and Colin for making sure I wake up every day, don't have a mental break down, and ensuring that I might actually eat lunch on a clean plate and have a couple pairs clean socks, even if I took them out of his drawer.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Poisonous Plants Webinar Notes

My notes from tonight's webinar on Toxic Plants. Please be aware I have not edited them and that some plants were spelled phonetically. 

Poisonous Plants
Hosted by
March 30, 2011
Anthony P. Knight, BVSc, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, is a professor of large animal medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University. He received his veterinary degree from the University of Nairobi, Kenya, in 1968. After completing a master’s degree at Colorado State University, he joined the faculty in 1974. His current professional interests include livestock heath, foreign animal diseases, emergency management, and plant toxicology. He has written two books on poisonous plants of animals in North America, and maintains a poisonous plants website for use by anyone wanting poisonous plant information.
Karyn Bischoff, DVM, MS, Dipl. ABVT, is a veterinary toxicologist at the New York State Animal Health Diagnostic Center and an assistant professor at Cornell University. She graduated with her bachelor's degree in Animal Science from the University of Wisconsin (Platteville campus), and she obtained her DVM from the University of Illinois. She earned her master’s degree at Oklahoma State University while completing a residency in toxicology, and she went on to complete a pathology residency at the University of Florida before ending up in the lovely rolling hills of upstate New York.

Can a horse tell a toxic plant from a non toxic plant?
They do naturally avoid toxic plants. Bitter tastes tend to avoid them if they have something else to eat. Some plants are very palatable and even addictive. Some plants are also more toxic under certain conditions than others.

What would increase a horse’s risk of eating a toxic plant?
Seasons can make a plant more toxic. Climate conditions can be more toxic. And some plants are more tasty after sprayed with herbicides because they produce more sugars.

Are poisonous plans still poisonous if they are cut and baled in hay?
Yes. They may not be as toxic as they are when they are green but remain toxic when dry. A good example is milkweed.

Are there any general symptoms of harmful plant ingestion?
There are not. Plants do all types of different things: sudden death (you plants); chronic disease (ragwort); colic (gimsun weed, walnut); kidney failure (oaks), etc…

What should be a horse owner’s first response when plant ingestion is suspected?
Take them off of the suspected source (hay, pasture, etc…). Symptomatic therapy is the best.

Are there any medications you should keep on hand?

Banamine if they are showing colic to relieve those symptoms. Laxative to remove them from the GI system.
Activated Charcoal (not BBQ coal) can be very healthy as an absorbent – if you can get a horse to eat it!

What is the most common toxic plant?

West Coast – Hounds Tongue. Causes irreversible liver disease. Loco Weed. Milk Weed.
East Coast – Rag Wort causes liver disease. Red Maple Poisoning.
Florida – Crotolaria

Environmental conditions and their affect on plant toxins:

Drought changes the compounds of the plans. Also affects the plants if they are in the shade versus the sun. Rainfall also makes plants grow more vigorously.
A stressed plant generally has more potential for poisoning than a healthy plant.

Is there a horse by horse basis for toxicity that could cause some horses to react and not others?

Sometimes plants need to be ingested in HIGH quantities to have an effect. “It’s the dose that makes the poison.”
Some of these plants don’t produce clinical signs for months.

What is a good resource online for identifying poisonous plants with good photos?
Cornell’s poisonous plants website
USDA Plant Database
Wikipedia – if you know what you are looking for

Is there a website where you can send in photos of suspicious plants?
Dr. Anthony Knight is very willing to identify the plant for you:
Local plant stores can also identify plants so you can research further.
Plant biologists and taxonomists at universities.

Poisonous Plants:

Japanese and English Yew plant  --- Sudden Death
Water Hemlock  --  The root is the most poisonous. 4-6 oz. kills a horse.

Can weeds cause hives and edema?

Yes there are possibilities. Poison Ivy doesn’t affect horses.
Recent evidence to show that tall fescue (especially of the Mediterranean type) that is infected with the fungal entophyte will cause swelling of tissues.

Can poisonous plants cause laminits?

Yes. Some are associated.
Black Walnut Shavings. 20% of the bedding or more can cause it. Ingestion of bark and twigs can also do this.
Sarsaparilla variation.
Usually signs would be within a day.

Can dandelions cause issues?

False dandelion causing string halt causing them to lift their feet very high. It is most common in Virginia.
This is actually a very old disease and not all string halt is plant related.
False Dandelion = Cat’s Ear = Flat Weed

Can plants cause irritated gums with blisters?

Butter cup can be quite irritating to the mouth when eaten regularly.
Could be that the hay has weeds with sharp horns in it.
Could be a chemical on the grass.
Could also be a viral disease.

What plants cause liver failure?

Ragwort. Cineceo. Rattle Box. Amsinkia (fiddle neck). Cow’s tongue.
Finding the source of the plant is very difficult because it is a chronic disease, not a sudden disease. Sometimes you can only identify in certain seasons which makes it more difficult.

What plants can cause choke?

Plants with a hard pit in them. Apples and pears. Persimmons (can also cause GI obstructions further down).
Treatment for minor cases can actually be CocaCola!

Are acorns safe for horses?

The oak tree is not usually good for horses, including live oak. It can cause Colic, Kidney Failure, etc.
But a handful of acorns is not going to hurt the horse.

Are cherry trees safe?

Cherry trees have the potential to contain cyanide compounds. Cattle, Sheep and Goats are much more susceptible than horses. A horse isn’t going to be able to convert the glycosides to cyanide as quickly.
That said in a frost or stress conditions for the tree, and the horse eats large quantities, it could cause cyanide poisoning or sudden death.

Is there any danger from pine needles and pine bark?
Pine trees are toxic to pregnant cows. Pine needles and pine bark have no nutrition  but there are not the same reactions in horses as in cattle.

Are maple trees toxic?

The most toxic one is the Red Maple. The poisonings vary by location, but usually in late summer or autumn when the leaves are wilted or drying up.
Damage is caused to the red blood cells causing them to become anemic.

Trees to avoid:

Black Walnut
Red Maple and its hybrids
Black Locust
Golden Chain tree
Horse Chestnut, Buckeye
Choke Cherry and other cherry trees
Kentucky Coffee Tree
Russian Olive
Chinese Tallow Tree
China Berry

Toxic Shrubs to Avoid:

Yellow Oleander
Rhododentron (azalea)
Japanese Peiris
Black Laurel
Burning Bush
Angels Trumpet
Day or night blooming Jasmine
Scotch Broom

Are nightshades poisonous to horses?

The contain glycol-alkaloids that can block motility in the intestine and can cause colic. If they eat enough it could actually stop the heart and lungs.
Potato and Tomato vines are issues, as are green potatoes. These are also nightshades.

Is wild carrot the same thing as queen anne’s lace and is it poisonous?
It is the same and there is no reported toxicity.

Horse Nettle?

They can increase the neurotoxicity of ivermectin.
Horse nettle is different than stinging nettle and is not poisonous.

Indian Paintbrush?
Not poisonous. It is an indicator of high selenium content in soils so the surrounding grasses could cause chronic selenium poisoning with long term exposure.

Butter Cups?
They cause irritation in the oral cavity and are bitter. They are usually the last plant standing in pastures!


The only one that is toxic is Russian napweed that causes chewing disease and can damage the brain and inhibit their ability to bite off and chew food.
Other napweeds are not poisonous.

More of a problem for ruminants but horses are fine with them.

Tends to like wet areas and is not a good food – indigestible. It has been associated with blindness and colic.

Skunk Cabbage?
Not very palatable and can cause damage to the mucosa of the oral cavity.

No problem!

Toxic and can develop a neurotoxicity. But there are no reports in North America.

Contains high caffeine content.

Non-toxic but could be injurious.

Non-toxic. Can make your horse smell nice though.

Fruits and Vegetables to not give as treats?
Potatoes. Green potatoes. Green tomatoes. Avocados.

How can you safely get rid of noxious plants when horses are on pasture?

Mowing can greatly impact the pasture. Let horses eat half and leave half. If there is viable grass the grass will crowd out the weeds.
Herbicides can increase the toxicity and how attractive plants are as food for horses.