Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Best Hoof Forward

Life at Watermark Farm has been sailing along at a fast pace. Four children tumbling headlong toward the glorious end of the school year has made for one busy June so far. Yesterday was the long-awaited First Official Day of Summer Vacation.

As if to usher in summer and its horsey delights, the start of vacation began with our regular appointment with Mare The Farrier. The girls and I dragged out our assortment of ancient, one-eyed, permanently lame equines and Mare got to work.

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I'm lucky to have Mare as both a friend and a talented shoer. She has a heart of gold and the patience of a saint. We sit quietly while Mare tells us about her recent Journeyman Farrier test (where she had to hand-forge shoes from bar stock for a horse she'd never met before, all within 2 hours, and all done to exacting specifications).

She talks to the children about hoof health, listening to their questions and concerns as if she were speaking to an adult. The girls feel empowered by Mare; they are unafraid to ask silly questions,and are inspired by seeing this pretty, petite woman trim hooves, pound steel, and hunker down under 1000 pound horses.

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This was Argus' second trim with Mare; it was his fourth trim since his liberation in December 2007. His fourth trim ever. I am amazed at his progress and how cooperative he is for Mare now.

"He's like a baby," she remarked while trimming him. Mare moves deliberately and speaks gently to Argus, quietly asking him to hold each foot up for her. Argus is very much like a 2-year-old, gangly and unsure of his body. He tries hard to please, works to comply, and occasionally has no idea what you're asking of him.

With the trimming, we take it slow, because all this is still very new to Argus. Argus stands by the pasture gate, where he feels most comfortable. Half Pint is positioned in an adjoining paddock, offering support (you can almost hear him saying "That's it! Put your foot up on that stand and keep it there!). Mare lets me hand-feed Argus when she's got his foot up. It seems to work. I keep Argus plied with a bucket of treats and he gets rewarded for his amazing efforts. We can do this because Argus is exceptionally kind when it comes to people, and although he is eating, he is very much aware of Mare's presence under him. He truly is an incredible horse.

I wish I could get more weight on him. He looks thinner this week than he has in the past, and it worries me. It's time for a progress evaluation with Dr. Miller.

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Life at the farm has its funny moments. I've finally taken photos of our silly rooster, Bronze. This young rooster spend his nights sleeping on the back of whatever horse is stabled in the barn. Usually, it's Ginger the Shetland Pony. Yesterday, it was Half Pint, who's on paddock rest due to a bad fall in the pasture a few days ago.

Yesterday, Bronze had no intention of getting up for the day. He spent most of the morning happily perched on Half Pint's back, crowing occasionally, riding from the barn out into the paddock, and back again:

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barbara said...

Bronze is a kick! And what a calm and admirable fellow is Half Pint, to let Bronze catch some z-z-z-z's. I hope the doc has a good solution so Argus can keep his weight on. Perhaps his body is adjusting to the warmer spring weather? His first free springtime into summer, thanks to you and the farm!

spotteddrafter said...

Well poo...I can't see the pics! :( I hope you can get some weight back on Argus, though.

Susan said...

Argus does look a bit thinner in your pictures. I have a hard time keeping weight on my TBs during the summer. They tend to lose in the hotter weather. He is so sweet with your farrier, what a gentleman.

Bronze is a hoot! You have a great collection of animals going there.

writteninink said...

I have been reading your blog since the beginning and have never posted on here i have just been enjoying your wonderful writing and reading Argus's story i think you are doing a wonderful wonderful thing with him and i am sure he is very grateful ... although im sure you have thought of it but just in case have you considered a power pack ... since he obviously didn't receive regular worming until he came to you maybe he just needs a boost .. it has worked on a few of ours who come in from somewhere else and just don't really seem to come back 100%

Argus' Foster Mom said...

Thanks for your comments and suggestions. In regards to the Power Pack, we took a slightly less aggressive approach, which was to de-worm Argus every 3 weeks. When a horse has a suspected heavy parasite load (we actually did not think Argus did as he had no contact with other horses or their manure), it can be risky to use the Power Pack, since a large number of dead parasites all at once can cause colic/impaction. My vet has me worm neglect cases with frequent, single doses of wormer, which cuts down on the parasite population more gradually.

My sense with Argus is that his intestines are probably severely damaged from years of inappropriate feed (bread and lettuce), stress (ulcers galore), confinement, and, of course, parasites. Getting him to gain weight is a bit frustrating.

I am guessing that we've rounded the bend into summer, and the pasture grass is less nutritious. Argus receives supplemental feed, but I can see I need to increase it.

Fortunately (or not!), I have lots of experience feeding skinny TBs! It's the easy keeper drafts that confound me!

Thank you for your suggestions, and keep them coming! There is always more to learn.

cdncowgirl said...

Cheers for Argus!! He's come so far. I read back through his blog sometimes and it still brings tears to my eyes.

Carolyn said...

I find that rice bran and rice bran oil does a fantastic job to help with weight without making them crazy.
What a great job you have done. A few of my friends and I in New England keep up with your blog regularly.

Anonymous said...

Hi Katie, I really enjoyed the pics with Rooster and horse. How wonderful, all your animals get along! I have a 28 yr old horse, who can lose 100+ lbs in a matter of day or 2 due to stress. Yes sounds stupid, trust me, owned horses for 35+ yrs, only 1 I've ever met! LOL anyways, I found that using the Blue Seal Vintage Gold really does the trick. It's extruded and high fat. Its gentle on thier digestive tracts and they love it! I can only assume you can get Blue Seal products in Calif.
I mix it with the Vintage Senior. And within a week, I see a weight increase! Pouring corn oil on their feed, also helps. Any info on the other horses? You'd really make my day to hear they too are safe and sound.
Patti C. Connecticut

SOSHorses said...

Can you send me a list of what Argus is eating. I have some ideas that might help put weight on him but I don't want to just start listing until I know what he is already getting.

I have an older horse that has been hard to keep weight on and now a young rescue that has just been starved.

So we might be able to put our heads together and come up with a solution

fuglyappy said...

Ulcers possibly? Aloe Juice and Papaya Juice work wonders- much cheaper than gastroguard, works just as well.
For the person who mentioned rice bran- it's great, but easy to overdose on corn oil, rice bran oil. Rice bran can make some horses hot. ALso had a horse come in for training that was being fed SIX to eight pounds of it daily, with some crappy feed.. she ended up with peritonitis and colitis as her ulcers were that bad.

barbara said...

Say...I was looking at the blog again, these essays and pictures are about good things. My questio nis, who is that tiny four-legged being next to Half Pint? I can just see some skinny little legs. A new addition to your farm?

Miss A said...

Argus looks so calm and peaceful. You all are wonderful.

Argus' foster mom said...

Regarding the other horses from Argus' prison, here is an update:

"Bobby," the second horse confined in the mare motel with Argus, is 20 year old TB gelding, very sweet. He is in foster care and is ready for a new home. He is blind in one eye from an untreated injury. You can see Bobby at www.sonomachangeprogram.org

The four Trakehner/Arabian cross horses are still left at their original location. Dr. Miller and Animal Control are monitoring them closely (as am I). They are out on two acres of pasture and seem to be happy and in good condition. They have not been confined for years like Argus. Strangely, the owner kept them out in pasture, where they have lived a much better life. All four are former show horses. One is Argus' half sister. They are beautiful, well bred sporthorses! The owner is facing trial on several felony and misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty. Her trial is coming up. The hope is that she will be found guilty and barred from owning horses again, and the the last four can be removed and taken to safety. For now, they are not suffering and have feed and access to water.
It's the irony of the story --- Argus and Bobby were penned in the mare motel, where they could see each other but not touch, and the other four horses were kept on a nice pasture. A relative of the crazy owner told me that the owner had some idea that because Bobby and Argus are TBs, they should not be in pasture. The owner is a very angry, mean and vindictive woman. Her imprisonment of Argus was very much personal --- she preferred to see him suffer rather than sell him or put him down.

>>>>My questio nis, who is that tiny four-legged being next to Half Pint? I can just see some skinny little legs. A new addition to your farm?<<<<

That's "Andy," our 6-year-old Nubian goat. Andy was orphaned as a tiny baby (his mother was killed by a mountain lion), and a cattle rancher brought him to us to bottle feed. He fit in the palm of my hand. He is over 170 lbs now. Andy has CAE, which is a joint/lung disease common with goats, so he has arthritis and coughs alot. He's a sweet boy and he and Half Pint are never far apart. Andy has lived mostly with horses (our other goat passed away three years ago). Recently, I tried to put him with my neighbor's goat her, and Andy jumped the fence and ran home to his horses. An animal communicator told us that he did not consider himself a goat, but a horse. So he lives with the horses, and is quite happy.

Anonymous said...

Katie, thanks for the update of the "others". I've been sending Reiki to all of you and those horses. Hoping it helps in any way possible. There are so many stories around this country of neglected/abused horses. Its sad. Especially when there is those of us, who actually spoil our steeds! I may be wrong, but I truely believe that whatever state you live in, if you come by hard times and can no longer take care of your horse(s) the horse community just needs the word and they'll be there to help. It is a shame that more people don't push their egos to the side and take care of their animals. I know here in Connecticut, it takes 1 email to ask for help and the whole state comes to the rescue.
Thank you Katie
Patti C. Connecticut

Peggy Archer said...

He might be thinner than he was, but compared to what he did look like, the transformation is amazing!!

Bronze is hilarious! I laughed and laughed at the photos and your description!

amarygma said...

I had a friend transform her ay-rab from skin n bones to a good weight with the help of rice. Would keep a rice cooker at the barn and that mare LOVED her warm treat.

Anonymous said...


Trurl said...

A good option for weight gain is beet pulp--I've used it with great success, since it's actually a better source of digestible fiber than hay or grass. It doesn't make a horse hotter, and carries no greater risk of colic or other problems than grass. If you get the shreds, they only have to soaked for about 10-15 minutes before they're ready to use. You could add a little bit to his feed at first to make sure he tolerates it, and then increase the amount gradually. You can actually give them quite a lot of it--I think up to about 10 quarts a day measured dry--with no problem.

Some feeds already contain beet pulp, and it's easy to find out which ones those might be in your area.

You're doing such a wonderful thing with Argus! I think your feeling is probably right, that his intestines may have suffered permanent damage. He may have some long-term metabolic imbalances, too. Poor guy! But the thing is, he doesn't know it, and compared to how he was before, I'm sure he's unbelievably happy. He doesn't know he's too thin. He just knows you give him everything he needs, and he loves you.


Funder said...

Eeee! I just saw Argus in my thehorse.com newsletter. Is he officially "adoptable" now?

Argus looks lovely these days. I hope you can get some more weight on him - looks like you've had lots of good suggestions.

kerrie said...

Oh my goodness! Argus is featured on theHorse.com! This boy keeps getting more and more famous! I hope he will remember his friends and well wishers from early on!

Keep up the great work, Katie! Looks like you've got tons of good suggestions on his weight issues.

Anonymous said...

OMG! I too saw Argus as a adoptable horse on thehorse.com!
I would be so sad to have to see him leave his "heaven". He truely is happy at your place. How can you let him go? I know he probably by law, is not your's, and you have seen alot come and go from your place, but come on. That would break the hearts of this entire country who is enjoying this blog. I am hoping no one comes forward. I am sorry, but I would be soooooo sad.
Patti C. Connecticut

Anonymous said...

to Patti--if you are doing Reiki for Argus, perhaps you know something we don't? But I would think that your and my best wishes and positive thoughts would be for the best life for this wonderful being that is possible. My selfish- self says that it is best the way it is and that We will suffer when he moves on, but He will enjoy further nurturing and freedom. At least that is what I believe! He has been rescued for a reason-----and maybe we don't know what that is yet? Only anon,as I cannot do the google-at least, not the last time I tried!

Original L said...

I read the other day about how horses often have ulcers in the colon as well, which is a much harder area to treat. The article said feeding oat bran for at least 30 days, with no antibiotics or wormers given in that time, would usually soothe and cure colonic ulcers. I am sorry I don't know where it is right now.

Anonymous said...

I hope you don't mind, but I drew Argus. -- The URL is too long, I'll break it up with spaces.


spotteddrafter said...

Not to be pushy, but it's been several weeks since our last update. Please? :)

Oh, and in regards to beet pulp. Where I used to board, we had an OTTB that was the hardest keeper I'd ever met. I mean, hardest keeper. He could lose weight sleeping. They started adding shredded beet pulp to his feed (in addition to grain, ration balancer, oil, etc) and that's the thing that finally helped him keep the weight on! You do not have to soak it for 10-15 minutes before hand. In fact, "Hemmie" ate his dry until he coughed from the dryness of it, and then we just added enough water to make it the consistency of a mash. He scarfed it down always. Just a thought...

Denise- LessIsMore17 said...

LOL, love Bronze and Half Pint! :-)
My horse befriended a goose once, but I don't think it ever sat on him :-)

sunbake said...

I've so enjoyed reading the story of Argus' triumph over a life of neglect and abuse. You are a gifted writer and I hope to see some new entries about Argus, Half-Pint, Bronze, Ridge, and all the other members of Watermark Farm soon.