COPD – Prevention & Maintenance

In following up with my recent post about COPD in Horses, I wanted to share what I have done to keep Shady’s COPD at bay.

Environment and forage are two main considerations when managing a horse with COPD.  The best situation for a horse with this issue is to live outside.  In most cases, like mine, this isn’t always possible.  If they must be stalled for part of each day, take a good look at ventilation.  In the summer, make sure the stall has some air flow – open the window, hang a fan, put up a stall guard, etc.  Keep the stall as clean as possible as ammonia from urine can trigger symptoms.  If the bedding is dusty at all, wet it down.  Keep in mind that the majority of the time a horse is in their stall their heads are down – eating, laying down, etc.  They don’t need to breathe in dust that is being kicked up from their bedding.  Also, ammonia is fairly heavy and tends to stay close to the ground.

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Note the “slatted” appearance to these stall fronts – this allows for better airflow and helps allow the ammonia to escape.  Solid stall doors and fronts prevent the heavy gas and dust from easily escaping.

I’ll never forget the cold day in March when I stepped out of my car to see Shady, standing in her paddock, coughing.  She looked miserable.  We had been soaking her hay already, but clearly more drastic action needed to be taken.  My first plan of action was to take away her hay and get her some Ventipulmon.  This is a bronchodilator that works by dilating the bronchioles, bringing inflammation down and making it easier for her to breathe.  It is an oral medication prescribed by a vet.  She took it for many days and then was slowly weaned off of it.

Secondly, I needed to get her off of the barn hay.  Upon further inspection the new batch of hay we had just gotten in had mold spores.  Mold spores cannot be killed or neutralized by soaking.  Not wanting to take any chances, I went out and got chopped hay.  The chopped hay, or dengi as it is more commonly known, is high temperature dried, a process that kills mold spores and other fungus.  It is then lightly mixed with a low sugar molasses which makes the bale dust free.  I got her a wide, shallow bucket for her dengi, that kept it from being on the ground or getting mixed in with her shavings in her stall.  I bought her several 5 gallon buckets with lids so I could make up her hay for the day, labeling each meal to make it easy for the barn staff.  Although it is rare for young horses to develop COPD, I did the same for Indy.  I wanted to make sure he was getting good quality hay and not take any chances.

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Shady and Indy share their dengi.  I got them this bucket to keep it off the ground and slightly cleaner!  I feed her as much as I can at ground level to help keep dust and allergens out of her nasal cavity and allow any secretions to drain from her lowered head.

In one report I read it was noted that dusty hay is the most common cause of COPD in horses – a link that was established over 400 years ago.  So why is this still an issue?

I think there are a lot of factors contributing to poor hay quality.  Loss of land is an obvious one.  Transportation costs are always rising, so not being able to buy local hay increases costs quite a bit.  Storage is always an issue; not just having storage space to keep a big order of hay but also making sure it is properly stored and won’t get wet or be in direct sun.  Then there is the cost of hay and board costs. Sadly, barn owners are being forced to cut costs and all too often they cut corners on nutrition.

Back to COPD – what can owners do to keep their horses breathing well?  It is hard when you board and have very little control over the hay supply.  In my case, I took the time to meet with the barn manager, show her the issue, and then meet with all the barn staff.  I showed them what moldy hay looked like as well as good quality hay.  I provided them with a bucket to make soaking as easy as possible and explained the process.  I only have them soak the hay for 15-30 minutes.  For Shady, I’m not soaking to lower NSC, just to reduce any dust.  To me, education is very important and this has been key in managing my horse’s hay.  I also keep a close eye on the hay supply and if anything looks suspicious I bring it to the staff’s attention.

Steaming the hay is another option, though not one for me at the moment.  Hay steamers are a little pricey for me currently, but would actually make the barn efforts easier, especially in the winter.  Steaming is a high temperature process that kills spores and wets the hay, making it safe and dust free.  Seeing as how this condition is something I will have to manage for the rest of Shady’s life, I imagine a hay steamer in my future.

There are numerous supplements out there for respiratory issues, and I have tried many.  I found a lot that don’t work, some that do (but aren’t easy to get your horse to eat!) and I finally found one that really impressed me.  I used Cavalor Bronchix Pure during a bad flare up and the next day I noticed a significant positive difference.  Plus, Shady likes it and eats it all out of her grain.  It supports both the upper and lower respiratory tracts and is a safe, herbal blend.  It also acts as an immune booster, another important benefit to have.  I use it on her for about 2 weeks if I hear her cough at all.  It is safe for her to stay on it, but she isn’t that bad so I only use it as needed.  I keep one on hand at all times, just in case.  It is also FEI legal so I can show her on it.

Another supplement I keep Shady on is Cavalor OilMega.  I had originally put her on this when she was pregnant with Indy.  The purpose then was actually quite similar – high amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids.  Many of our commercial diets are high in Omega 6 fatty acids.  Omega 6 actually promotes the inflammatory response in the body.  Omega 3 helps prevent inflammation.  I had put her on it originally to help with swelling caused by her Lyme disease; now I like the anti-inflammatory properties to help keep her airways unrestricted.  As a bonus there is also a good amount of Omega 9s, which are just starting to be noticed for their benefits, as well as a high amount of natural Vitamin E, which not only provides muscle support, but is an anti-oxidant as well.

Soaking her grain is another option I could do to help, however with the oil poured over it I have found that I do not need to.  Her grain was also specially chosen to help with her airway – it contains added herbs that are known to help open the airways and improving the oxygen supply.

Being at the barn everyday and keeping on top of things isn’t always a viable solution for everyone.  I realize that not everyone can do this, nor does everyone want to.  I would recommend starting by voicing your concerns to the manager/owner and perhaps that is all you need.  If your barn is unwilling to acknowledge or correct the issue, it may be time to relocate.  COPD is not reversible!

When I’m at the barn at night I like to have their doors open to help encourage airflow.  Here is Indy experiencing his first stall guard.

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Shady’s Return To The Show Ring – GMHA September 2016

I’m way behind on Shady updates, but this past weekend was too much fun to wait on!

Shady and I had our ups and downs all summer with soundness, but we’ve finally got it figured out.  We had entered several events but wound up scratching.  We did get to GMHA June and completed, but she wasn’t quite herself.  Not lame, but not herself.  I will update more on our path to soundness later.

The night before we left I finally accepted the fact that Shady was too hairy and would be hot.  Thankfully my friend was generous enough to take time out of her day to do a beautiful clip job.  Shady appreciated it eventually, though she didn’t know it.

Green Mountain Horse Association, or GMHA, in South Woodstock, VT, is our favorite place to be.  Shady is very comfortable there, and settled right in like her usual self.  She was quiet in her stall all weekend, not caring that some of her old “friends” were there.  She had said hello to Aumara and Scribbles, but with a pin of her ears and a threat of a bite, she reminded them that she still doesn’t like them.

Friday evening we went for a long, stretchy hack then did some flat work in the warm up area.  She felt good, though not as strong behind as she used to.  It was a little more obvious to me at the showgrounds for some reason.

My dressage test wasn’t until after 11 on Saturday, which gave me plenty of time to take Shady for a walk, spot bathe, and watch some friends compete.  Finally, it was time to head to the warm up for our turn.  We drew the straw for the grass ring which isn’t always a bad thing.  Shady does seem to do better on grass, though the footing has been really hard this summer due to lack of rain.  We used a small stud on the outside front of our shoes, just to help with a little grip.

We didn’t do much in warm-up as she was quiet and felt good.  Circling around the ring I put my leg on and really sent her forward, asking her for just 4 minutes of uphill, forward work.  She responded beautifully, and down centerline we went.

I was pretty happy with the test.  I was really bummed when partway into it a fly landed on her neck and started biting, hence the head tossing and resulting slap to the neck in an effort to kill said fly.

We landed in 5th with a 31.3 in a very tightly scored division.  Two points better would have put us in first.  Reflecting later on the test, just a few improved movements here or there would have earned us the blue.  It is very reassuring to know that we are still competitive, and have a chance to make some easy changes to be at the top.

That being said, one rail in stadium would drop us down to 12th place, far out of the ribbons.  I do think that stadium makes me the most nervous.  There is very little room for error!

She warmed up very well, so we again didn’t do much.  I typically only jump 4-6 jumps in warmup, I don’t see much need for anything more than that.

Stadium went really well, and I felt that I had ridden well, she responded well, and we were back out there as our beautiful partnership!  We had no rails down to keep our 5th place.

I wish my friend hadn’t stopped the video, as Shady let out a series of enthusiastic bucks at the end.  I laughed at her, as she was clearly displaying her proud-ness.  She cracks me up.

The next day was our XC run.  I unfortunately don’t have video, though I do have this lovely picture that someone took of me because they thought my saddle was beautiful:

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Trying to hold her back a little as she thought we were going way too slow!

It had rained just a little the night before, enough to make the hard ground just a little greasy on top.  The course was a little shorter than normal, at a slow speed.  The challenge for us was to get around safely, without incurring speed faults!  Having seen several horses slip out on course, I had some worries about that.  We have front shoes with stud holes, but are barefoot behind.

She was very quiet in warm up, but getting to the base of every fence well and listening to me.  Then, she saw the horse two horses in front of her go and whinnied at it as we were walking.  Suddenly, as I picked up the reins to head to the start box, I had a rearing, snorting, leaping horse under me.  It was quite comical as my 17 year old, very experienced horse, propped and pranced around, on a loose rein mind you, to the start box.  I laughed when the start box volunteer asked if I needed any help, and responded with “no thank you, this is normal.”

Not normal was our exit out of the start box, with a rear and sideways leap we sent the starters flying.  Sorry!

She was excellent on course, getting to the base of every fence, with the exception being our speed.  She truly feels that we should indeed be in a race to see who goes the fastest on course.  Thankfully we weren’t in a tie!  We did slip twice, both areas were incredibly slippery and numerous other riders had slipped at the same spot, including a few falls there.  I felt bad to really bring her back, despite her opinions, but the slips would have been much worse had she been going at her choice of speeds.

We finished on our dressage score and wound up moving up to 4th.  Shady was quite pleased with herself and cooled out well.  She complied nicely with the USEF drug tester as well, as we were chosen for what I believe is the 6th time in our career.  Drug Tester Randy (as I named him) was pretty entertained by our group of people and horses.  As usual, not a problem for Shady and I, we know the rules!

Although we didn’t get out to many shows this year, I think this will wrap it up for us.  Perhaps a few fun local events, but it is already getting cold up here in New England and winter will be upon us before we know it.  Next year, however, we’ve got big plans.

 

Indy’s First Show

The day of the show dawned cool and calm, with the threat of heat later in the day.  Indy did not seem surprised to see me at the barn at breakfast time and greeted me with his usual whinny.  Being a gray, of course, he had laid in poop so he got a quick spot bath.

I was worried that he would be upset about the change in his routine, but he was very relaxed and went along with our new plan.  He stood quietly for his bath and while I put on his standing wraps for trailering.  He perked up when he saw his friend Borky on the trailer, and proceeded to literally run up the ramp and into the trailer.  Guess all that trailer training paid off!

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All ready to go!  Indy looking excitedly at the trailer. Yes, he fits into his mom’s standing wraps.

It was a long drive out to Lakeville, CT, we actually wound up going into NY and then coming back to CT to avoid traffic.  We could see the boys through the trailer windows, playing “bitey face” the entire way out.  We stopped twice to check on them and they were perfectly fine.

Indy hopped off the trailer and proceeded to talk to every horse at the show.  Not nervous or scared whinnies, but literally sounding like he was answering each horse with a hello of his own.  He marched into his stall like it was his home stall and settled in to the task of eating the grass that his stall floor was made up of.  While Indy didn’t seem to mind the solid walls, Borky insisted on keeping an eye on his little friend.

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“What are you doing?  What’s going on over there????” – Borky

Indy had a couple hours to relax, then it was time to prep.  I had been carefully pulling and shortening his mane over the past several weeks, to make his braids look nice.  We gave ourselves plenty of time, as braiding was a new thing to him.  I needn’t have worried – Indy took a nap while Borky’s mom braided him with impressive speed.  Even his teeny little forelock braid was of no concern to Indy.

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Resting a hoof and slowly closing his eyes while getting his braids.

Borky joined us as we headed out of the stabling area and down to the arena.  They were a bit behind, so we headed into the indoor ring to wait our turn with the other yearlings.  It was fun to see all the other babies, including Indy’s half brother!  So fun to see other Riverman offspring.  I did note that Indy was only the second tallest and seemed to fit right in.

I had brought a lead with a chain just in case, and was glad I had.  I hadn’t used one on Indy but once before.  I was glad I did; with an indoor full of babies there were lots of little explosions.  Indy, excited and a little nervous, did have a few little “scoots” where he may have gotten away had I not had the additional leverage.

Finally, it was our turn in the ring.  He had relaxed quite a bit by now, until we got in the ring.  He knew immediately this was something different and I felt him tense right up, despite having all of the other horses grazing right next to the ring.  I talked to him and patted him, he did relax some but was still tight.  When standing up for the judge he would only stand for a moment, long enough to call to his friends before wanting to walk off.  The judge was very understanding and asked that I halt every few moments to show off his conformation, then allow him to walk a bit.  Getting upset with him for not standing still at this point would have only upset him more.  He will get used to it in the future and will calm down on his own.  Picking a fight with him now will only make things worse.

Next we had to perform the triangle.  For the in hand portion of the FEH and YEH, you start by walking a triangle with 15 meter length sides.  You then trot a 20 meter triangle, re-present to the judge, and you are done.

I was very proud of Indy here.  He was very tight in his back and didn’t show off his big swinging walk, or his floaty, ground covering trot, but he was well behaved.  Other babies were rearing, bucking, and leaping away from their handlers.  Turning was the hardest thing for us.  Otherwise, he was super.

And that was it.  It was a lot of prep work, long drive, and a long weekend for our 10 minutes in the ring.  That being said, I would do it all over again (and will next year!) in a heartbeat.  The positive experience that Indy got from this weekend will transcend all of our future plans.  After our ring time he grazed with the others until we had the awards ceremony, where Indy got a lovely pink ribbon.

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Posing with his ribbon like a big horse!

That night when we returned to do night check, Indy was passed out cold!  Despite the very bright lights, he was snoozing away, nose resting on the ground.  I changed his water and gave him more hay without him noticing.  It was only when I opened his Lucerne Farms Alfa-Supreme chopped hay that he stirred (he loves that stuff!)  Clearly, he was exhausted!

The next day, we did have a minor incident while going for a walk.  I had gotten too bold, and took him out with just a lead rope and headed out towards the rings.  He was a little high strung, which I attributed to him not having turnout, but when the sprinklers directly in front of us gurgled to life, that was enough.  He spun quite fast and launched into a full speed gallop towards his stall, leaving me with rope burn and an embarrassed look on my face.  With calls of “well he’s got a lovely gallop!” as I went back to stabling, I scolded myself for over facing him a little.  He ran right into his stall like a good boy, and thankfully nobody’s horse threw them off!  I patted him and took him out for a short walk around the familiar stabling area instead.  Later that day we would go for a walk with his friend, and he was very good.

I was worried about him getting upset while horses came and went all day, but didn’t have to.  I had to leave to go on a sales call for a saddle and upon my return I found a sleeping Indy who wasn’t caring that his friend had left his stall.  When we returned later after Borky’s XC, Indy was the only one in the stabling row, as others had completed their day and left.  He didn’t seem to care at all, casually munching his hay.

It was another long drive home but this time the boys were quiet.  We got back to the barn after 11pm and they were clearly glad to be home in their own stalls.

I couldn’t be more proud of Indy.  He really was an absolute champ, acting like going to a show was something we did all the time.  He was well mannered, not acting herb bound, and brave.  Despite the weird things we were doing to him, he trusted and tolerated.

Can’t wait till the next one!

Indy’s First Show – Preperation

Last weekend Indy and I both got to experience new things together.  I had entered him in the Future Event Horse competition – something I had pushed hard to have. Long story short, Area 1 (New England and New York) hasn’t had something for the young horses in a while, due to lack of entries.  I began rallying fellow eventers to have the event, recognizing how good an experience it is for the youngsters, and for the selfish reason of wanting something for Indy to do.  Well, as luck would have it, I ran into an acquaintance of mine whom I had worked with years ago when helping to organize the UNH horse trials.  It just so happened that he was organizing an event at a venue we had been looking at to host.  After much discussion, he told me if I could get 12 total entries we would be on. We spread the word, kept reminding people (nagging) and on the day of the show we had 25 entries.  The biggest class turned out to be the Indy’s (yearling) division.

Having never done this myself I too had a lot to learn.  Thankfully, Indy and I have done a lot together already.  His only “show” experience was when he was 7 weeks old and went to his breed inspection.  That seems like an eternity ago.

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Indy at his breed inspection

 

After studying the website for instructions and asking friends, we began to practice the triangle.  Indy would be expected to walk a triangle, each side being 15 meters long, and then trot a triangle with 30 meter sides.  It is important to show the judge relaxed, free flowing gaits.  The triangle is walked and trotted to the right, putting myself on the outside.  Teaching Indy to turn away from me, and not to keep floating forward, took some practice, but he picked it up quickly enough.  He did find it quite fun that we were running around “playing”.  I, on the other hand, found myself quite out of shape.  Indy, now standing at 15.2 (most of that being legs) is hard to keep up with!

Other show prep work had already been done.  Indy is at the point where I clipped his muzzle while he was on the crossties. He thinks clipping is great now; he seems to like the feel of the clipper vibrations against his muzzle and leans right into it.   (See Clipper Training with Indy)

He loads on the trailer like a pro. Every time the is a trailer hooked up at the barn I put him on it. Baths? No problem.  Wearing leg wraps (for shipping)? No problem.  He’s really been pretty well exposed to everything.

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“Duck face” selfies in the trailer….Indy is horrified that I am embarrassing him….

Other than practicing the triangle, we went for long walks, often times ponying along next to Shady.  Not only did this help expose him to new places on the trails, but it also helped to condition him a little.  Indy looks fabulous – lean with some muscle, in good weight, with a beautiful neck and the beginnings of a top line.

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Indy looking amazing!

The only thing we could not practice was the actual show atmosphere.  Thankfully, I had convinced a friend that she too should show her horse at the same competition, though she would show on Saturday and Indy Friday, meaning we would stable overnight.  It was too far of a drive (4.5 hours) to do it all in one day.  Had she not been going, I would have brought Shady.  It would not have been fair for him to go all that way himself; he would have been pretty scared and alone.  I could have never done that to him.

So, all prepped and as ready as we could be, Indy was off to his next big adventure.

Indy’s Bank – Part 2

Indy and I didn’t return to the bank for a couple of weeks.  I wanted to do more work on the footing first, and then of course some jerk had to go and break the top rail.  It’s really frustrating when you, (and my good friends!) work so hard to make something nice for everyone and then someone goes and breaks it.  Not only that, but they didn’t tell anyone and didn’t take responsibility.  Imagine my disappointment when, less than a week after building it, I walked by it and noticed it was broken.

You know, I wouldn’t have even been mad if someone came to me and told me they broke it. Things happen. Accidents happen.  It would have been nice if that person came to me and said hey, I broke this, I’m sorry.  I would have appreciated their honesty and moved on.

My friend came over and fixed it, stronger than ever.  It was finally complete and safe for Indy to try going down it.

I’ve done a lot of ground work with Indy.  We’ve gone for long walks, alone or with Shady.  We walk over logs, trough puddles, and over small obstacles.  He’s never learned to refuse anything; he simply has learned that if something is in front of us we go over it.  Simple as that.  He really doesn’t understand why he wouldn’t go.  I’ve always made sure it was a fair and simple question for him to understand.

Going down the bank was finally the first time he questioned me.  Not necessarily a bad thing; I like a horse that thinks for itself.  I will admit too that our bank isn’t exactly a rank beginners bank either.

I planned a time when we had time – not at dinner time, not when it is super buggy, or hot, and not when we would be rushed to beat sundown.

We started by going up the bank. A simple question he has already conquered.  We walked by the bank on top, getting closer and closer to the edge.  Then we walked up to the edge and looked down.

Something people often forget is that horses do not have the same depth perception as we humans do.  This is why horses are most afraid of ditches, puddles, holes, etc.  This is why we use ground lines underneath our jumps.  They simply can’t tell how deep that ditch is, or how deep that puddle is.  They can’t immediately see it and understand like we can.  They have to learn.

So I was patient.  We stood at the top, checking it out while I patted and scratched him.  Then I stepped down the bank.  I didn’t expect him to just follow.  I patted him, reassuring him that I was okay after falling off this massive cliff.  He stepped back.  I didn’t let him back away. He tried to turn to go down the side and I straightened him.  Standing and contemplating is fine; saying no is not.

I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly he decided to jump down.  I was patting him and talking to him when he started to fold him little knees to prepare to lower himself. I stepped back to give him room, loosening his lead and talking to him in an encouraging, soothing voice.  He made up his mind, tucked his little legs, and jumped.

I tell you it was the cutest darn thing you have ever seen.  He was so trusting, and so unbothered by the whole thing.  While my heart was swelling with pride he dove for the grass.

We ate grass for a few, then went back up for a second attempt to solidify that this was indeed acceptable.  With very little hesitation, he bounded on down. I may have been slightly emotional.

That was it for the bank.  We won’t visit that again for a while. There is no sense in drilling him over it, no sense in putting stress on his joints.  He has seen it, he was great, and it made our relationship that much stronger.

The Big Day – Indy Returns To Turnout

On January 28th, Indy had his OCD Surgery.  He then got to spend six and a half weeks on stall rest.  It was longer than we had initially planned, (see “Growing Pains”) but I would much rather be safe than sorry!

We had slowly been working our way up to being able to go back outside.  We hand walked every day, adding one minute each day, making our way towards 30 minutes of walking.  On nice days, I tried to slowly incorporate walking outside into our walks.  Those usually were a bit too overstimulating and resulted in lots of leaps into the air.

Finally though, the day came.  It was a beautiful day in New England, upper 50s in March, with partial sun and a light breeze.  Indy had no idea, as he had sadly accepted the life of being an inside horse.  I tried to keep his schedule routine; a short walk, a grooming, then a snack-treat, as we usually do.

I then went and got Shady, his mom.  The plan was to bring her on our short walk from the clinic back up to the boarding barn.  I had hoped that she would be a calming influence on her.  That worked for about 50 feet, then things like this happened:

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Which led to this:

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My fear was that he was going to hurt himself.  I have to say, I wasn’t really in fear for myself or Shady; Indy has been very, very good about staying out of our “bubbles” when misbehaving.  That doesn’t mean I’m not fully aware and on my toes.  Just appreciating the fact that he seems to have some respect when having an explosion.

Then we would have a nice moment like this:

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Which would last but a brief moment in time.

Finally, the round pen was in sight.  Indy is restricted to a smaller turnout for 30 days, then we will re-evaluate and x-ray before he can go back out into his larger paddock.  That’s fine by me especially since his regular paddock is a bit muddy right now!  Shady is going out with him as well, as she is good moral support.  She isn’t a big fan of playing and hopefully will keep him quieter.

When I set him free, he didn’t explode as quick as I anticipated.  He stood there for a moment, smelling the wind, almost surprised to be free.  Then it was game on!  He didn’t run as long as I thought, which was good of course.

You can see Shady is slightly annoyed with her child.  I like the part near the end where he smashes her hay pile.

Shady makes me laugh on the next two as she demonstrates her ballerina skills.  Indy, on the other hand, gives me heart failure as he shows his potential for reining and thoroughbred racing.

He finally settled down to eat some hay with Shady.  He had minor little bursts of energy, but was getting tired.  It was a big day for him!

He still had energy to investigate what I was up to as I was cleaning his paddock up some.

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Best selfie ever
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Can you just hear that little nose sniffing around?  He also seems to think I am a great chin rest.

A huge thank you to my amazing photographer friend Michelle at Michelle Burdick Photography!  She’s been wonderfully documenting this experience and I can’t wait to see the rest of today’s photos!

 

 

Yes, I know he’s cute, but no, I’d rather you didn’t.

I’ve shared a lot about Indy since his birth. Not only do I love bragging about him and sharing cute pictures, but I wanted to share my experiences to help others learn.  I like hearing people’s opinions and thoughts, as well as answering questions. I have learned a lot throughout this amazing journey!

That being said, I do have to draw the line somewhere.  Since he has been born I have had calls, emails, Facebook messages, etc from people requesting everything from coming to see Indy to asking if they could take him for a walk.

Yes, I know he’s cute. He loves attention and he loves to give kisses. He would be happy to curl up in your lap or hang out in your pocket for the day.

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Enjoying a good ear scratchin’

But guess what? He’s going to grow! Judging from what we’ve already seen, he’s going to be big. So, despite how adorable he is, I have to be a parent and teach him about personal space.  Which means, no, I don’t want a bunch of strangers handling him.

Not having my own barn means I have to board them, which is fine, because I have a great indoor, trails, things I couldn’t afford to have for my own property.  This also means I am subject to other boarders, and their friends and family.

I remember when Indy was three weeks old I was approached by someone that lived at the farm we were at.  He was not a horse person. He had to tell me a “funny story.”  His father had come to visit, and because his father had had dairy cattle, they assumed that gave them the authority and privilege to enter my horse’s paddock.  His father was also “wicked brave” and had his whole hand in Indy’s mouth!

You can imagine how furious I was.  Especially since I had been clear to the property owner that I didn’t want anyone in their stall or paddock.  I got pushback from the man when I explained to him that I didn’t want him in the paddock.  He told me that it was fine, the horses were good and his father knew large animals.  Apparently I hadn’t made myself clear.  So I firmly explained that nobody is allowed in with them regardless of what experience they thought they had.

Suddenly, I was the rude, selfish one.  He didn’t speak to me again.

Let me explain my side of things.

Putting Indy and Shady’s health and comfort aside, a major concern is liability.  If I gave anyone permission to go in their stall, paddock, or otherwise handle and interact with them, I have now taken on full liability.  Yes, they are both very well behaved. However, as we know, things can change quickly with horses.  I don’t really want to spend the rest of my life paying someone’s medical bills after I have been sued due to the unpredictable antics of a young foal.  So no, I won’t be allowing anyone other than barn staff to handle my kids.

Note in this video where he his being a baby, doing baby things like biting at Shady and kicking in my and my boyfriend’s direction.  Lucky for us we were always very much on our toes and aware of this behavior and the likelihood of a foal to be a foal.  He has since grown out of the kicking habit, and never actually connected with anyone.  I do believe that somewhere in his mind he knew it was wrong.  Still, as with any horse, you’ve got to always be aware that things could happen, and happen very, very fast.

Liability aside, let’s talk about Indy’s training. Animals thrive on consistency; it’s cruel to confuse them.  I have worked hard to teach Indy to keep his mouth, and teeth, to himself.  It’s been really, really tempting to give him treats. But I resist, as hard as that may be.  I’m not lazy with his training. I am as consistent as I can possibly be.  With that being said, why would I want him to be subjected to inconsistency? How confused would he be if one person allowed him to mouth or bite them, then the next disciplines him for it? Do I want someone else to decide to discipline him their way?  No; I don’t.

All horses are adorable when they are foals.  Does anyone find an ill mannered four year old to be their favorite? Would Indy still be cute as a full grown, pushy, mouthy horse? Nope. He’d be that jerk horse in the barn that nobody likes to deal with.

Unfortunately, when people want to come “play with” your baby animal, they most often aren’t thinking about the future.  Indy will be spending his entire life with me and I want to have a wonderful partnership with him.  I haven’t had to even raise my voice at him, thanks to the consistency since he was born.

So the next time you ask me if you can do this with him, or if your family member can do that, please understand why I’m saying no.