The Learning is Never Ending
Horses are a never ending life of schooling, aren’t they? I am both learning with my latest addition to the herd, a 25 year old paint gelding named Max’s Powerhouse, and my never ending learning Cushing’s horse Mara. Max was a mostly unused stud for 20 years of his life, shown western pleasure and after being gelding, was used as a lesson horse. He is super mellow, wants his own way (like any old man) and occasionally gives me the “crazy paint eye” when I need to put him in his place. He has an unhappy gut, very creaky, cranky joints, and soft, chippy feet. Of my seven horses, he is my only riding horse…though I have yet to have that pleasure. Between soft feet and bad saddle fit…and just plain being out of shape, I had to delay my chance to ride until I could pull this old man together a bit. We (and by that I mean he) is up to about 15 minutes of easy lunging, mostly walk/trot transitions to pull up that sagging belly, with maybe 5-6 large half circles of cantering…if he feels up to it. He is very resentful of his workout time, and pouts like a big baby, but a few carrot stretches bribe him back into a decent mood. We had a wobbly start getting into the full amount of herbs and goodies I wanted to give him (thanks to stomach issues from a lifetime of paste dewormers and cheap bagged feeds that I know was in his past) but he is hoovering up his current diet with zeal. His past caretaker (not the owner I purchased him from, who knew nothing about horses) had him headed into a much better diet, but a lifetime of bad feed was still showing its toll. So here I was with a new old horse with issues to discover and overcome…which is like a trip to a playhouse for me! Give me a horse with issues to fix and I am one happy camper!
Sometimes, however, there comes horses in my life whose issues are beyond anyone to fix…after all, there is no way to overcome death but up until that point I am going to do everything I can to make those horses better, stronger, faster! (insert flashback to Six Million Dollar Man music here) Mara has become my extremely “out of the box” horse to treat and learn about and she has become a real challenge right now. When Mara first arrived, very overweight with 4 inches of coat and a very cresty neck, coke bottle feet and obviously had been treated very badly, I set about doing all the normal things I do with every horse to start….detoxing, nutrition, and taking care of the surface issues like feet problems and cranky joints. Three farriers later I finally am seeing normal feet (the first two being too conservative in how they handled the trims, the last finally having the knowledge needed to get the job done) Mara also lost the heavy coat, and most of the cresty neck when new issues arrived.
As I deworm regularly with deworming herbs, detoxing and a healthy diet going hand in hand, I was not overly concerned with parasite loads with Mara. Though I knew that Cushings disease brought on a taxed immune system and would make a Cushings horse more susceptible to parasites, I was expecting a low parasite count at worst. However, during late winter Mara started dropping weight. I knew she was having issues with neck threadworms and when I starting giving garlic for the upcoming spring, sure enough she had some come to the surface where she rubbed off some hair. I saw this as a good sign as the itchiness shows the parasites are dying off. However, with all my efforts, she was still losing weight. Next was to have her teeth done, which were not too bad, so the answer for her weight loss was not there. I still was not thinking a heavy worm load but I orders a fecal test online….and of course life got busy. I brought Mara home thinking maybe it was barn stress, and she could again be with her buddy Grace and be out grazing and moving all day long. Grace and the Mini herd greeted her with glee and you could visibly see Mara relaxing at being back in her herd.
A couple of days later I had a fecal sample out the door to Horsemenslab.com. I’ve got to tell you, these people are FAST! Two days after dropping it in the mail, I had an answer back….high worm count! As the other sample I sent in (one of the mini mares, most likely Amber) was at zero count, I was very shocked to hear that Mara’s count came back at such a high level! I set up searching for answers…you know its all about how you “googlify”…or what terms you put in on a search. I have done endless research on Cushing’s and on parasites, but had not put in “Cushing’s parasites” or “Cushing’s threadworms”. Wow what a difference! I came up with some very interesting information on both that really helped me out! Since dosing an eldering sick horse with paste dewormers can be very taxing on the body (especially with both internal and external parasites) but wanting to do the best for Mara…I had already after reading several articles, bought both Ivermectrin and Moxedectin. Obviously with all the health issues she had, herbs were not going to be enough to clear out her body, and more importantly, the health issues were causing her to be far more susceptible than the “normal” horse (who I would likely never give paste dewormers to….and have not had to for more than 8 years). For those of you who don’t know, I have had many, many customers come to me whose horses have never had zero worm counts and get them down to extremely low or get them to zero counts. Diet and prevention plays a HUGE role in parasite control, and this has never been an issue for me…except for one other horse, also senior, also with huge health issues like Mara. I had successfully used Ivermectrin on that horse to get rid of thread worms, but I know its at a cost. If you put poisons in the body, its going to affect the entire body. Detoxing and repairing herbs are a MUST after use of all toxins…be it chemical dewormers, medications or vaccinations. So deciding to use dewormers on Mara has been made after careful consideration, and because all natural options have not been effective enough. If she were a much younger horse, and one without Cushing’s, I would hardly even consider it…as it most likely would not be necessary. But at this point, I have run out of options and its all about saving the horse.
One of the things I had to look back and consider was the use of my Worm Gone recipe…which I chose to use with her because of the potential hoof issues. Now that possible founder has been ruled out, I can safely use it as the first line of attack for the strongyles. The really great thing was, this morning I was called by Dr Byrd at Horsemenslab.com who wanted to consult with me about the high egg count in Mara’s fecals. I was able to chat with him about what I planned on doing, and what dewormers I was using and that I was about to order more fecal tests and was going to test at regular intervals. I explained Mara’s situation, and what my business was and my plan off attack. He was of course very skeptical about natural dewormers because he hadn’t seen them very functional. I explained that it wasn’t just about the dewormer but about the base diet, detoxing and removing chemicals from the environment (well at least as much as possible) He was (very typically of a western medicine trained person) skeptical of how effective my approach would be, but I think he was also interested in seeing those fecals I promised to send in regularly.
So my approach is first to deworm with Worm Gone Max and a higher level of Diatomaceous Earth in Mara’s feed. I also think I will add extra Slippery Elm to help slough off any parasites sticking to the intestinal walls, which will increase the mucous lining so as to deter other parasites from reproducing. All of the herd has already been getting a large dose of Cootie Kicker and pumpkin seeds for the past couple of weeks, as it is very heavy fly season here thus an increase of other parasites. Also the air quality is very bad, and detoxing always helps in that department. In about a week I’ll take another fecal and see if there is any improvements, and decide from there if I want to go to chemical deworming them. Mara is also getting anti histamines to help with the itching (which is something I just found out would help) as she has rubbed off quite a lot of hair lately. She is also being fly sprayed twice a day with a natural fly spray, though I may need to move to at least half chemical as they are loving her right now.
Also, as a side note…I had to stop using garlic about a month ago with Mara, as she got to the point of refusing to eat it. That is pretty normal with long term use as it can cause stomach upset on some horses. That is why its important to not start using it until fairly late into the spring, and hopefully you will be able to continue use well into fall.
My darling little horses…they give me so much challenge and opportunity to learn.
UPDATE ON MARA March 7, 2022
Spring is just around the corner, so its time to address deworming again. Before treatment with our Worm Gone and Worm Gone Max, I like to have a fecal test done on the horses to see where they are at. Amazing, with all of Max's issues, one of them is not parasites and he still tests negative across the board. Mara, because of the struggling immune system due to Cushings Disease, will always stuggle with parasites but the recent test has been her best yet! Her original test was over 2000ppm strongyles, but her latest test (even after a rough winter) is down to 585ppm Strongyles. We'll keep working on bringing those numbers down (and staying down) but I'm going to call this a win! Now to add Worm Gone Max for the next two weeks, Cootie Kicker for 2-3 weeks and extra diatomaceous earth over the next month and then a recheck on the fecals in April. She's looking far better than last year (which was really rough for her and needed a lot of adjustments to her feed bucket) but she is already starting to shed out this year with just a bit of warmer weather and sunshine...which means we have made some serious headway in her body balance. Hopefully that means we will enjoy her company for many years to come!
UPDATE ON MAX March 7, 2022
Over the last couple of years of getting to know Max, his biggest issues has been two things, a lot of arthritis, and a bad digestive system. Though he still tests negative for parasites, its still a constant watch to keep him from colicing over the winter months. He's a sporadic wind sucker, so builds up gas bubbles, and his hay has to be wet down as well as his feed soak more than the other horses as he drinks erratically as well. There were a couple of "close calls" this winter with colic (ie close to calling the vet) however a double dose of Tummy B Calm in a syringe has taken care of the colicy issues when they come up. The colder than normal temperatures certainly didn't do him any good but with the warmer weather just around the corner, he's doing just fine.He's still grumpy old man, but his attitude is certainly better than when he first joined us! He does run up to the gate every night when I go to bring him in...but then gimps off the the barn to have dinner. Maybe one day he'll learn to act his age. =D