Let's Think Carefully About What Our Horses' Behaviour, Age and Wellness are Telling Us About Their Emotional & Physical Needs...
Prowler is my Appaloosa Thoroughbred X in the picture above. He was 28 at the time this photo was taken. At that time he'd had his teeth 3 point balanced by a highly skilled equine dentist and I knew his teeth were good. In this photo he was and eating from a 1" Handy Hay Net and was relaxed and comfortable. I knew he was getting enough and he and Ruby the Mule had 2 bale bags and 2 medium bags filled at all times. Food was not an issue.
Prowler is now about to be 31. While he is relatively very healthy for his age, good feet and strong consitution have served him well, he's started to have some teeth issues. A few weeks ago he was balling up food and dropping it. I did make an appointment with a holistic vet who comes to the area sometimes but that fell through. She did recommend that I double the dose of the anti-inflammatory that he's been on for the past year. Thankfully he stopped dropping chewed hay shortly thereafter. I also added an extra mash during the day (making 3 total) of soaked organic alfalfa pellets to relieve his jaw of some chewing, and started to feed more loose hay placed all around the large property so that he didn't have to eat from the slow feeder bags unless he wanted to.
I'm not yet sure what's going on as I don't have immediate access to his dentist Grant MacKinnon, and am very hesitant to let just anyone in his mouth as teeth can be brittle at this age and things can easily be made worse. There's no infection or anything URGENT for me to tend to but his TMJ has been tight and I spend about 3 sessions a week doing Masterson's Method, t-touch and energy work depending on what he is receptive to.
I'm a strong believer and user of hay bags but haven't used the 1" for a long time because the hay here wasn't suitable (too short often or too fine) so I went to 1.5" bags. Given Prow's jaw discomfort he has lots of options here depending on how he feels. Loose hay plus many slow feeder hay bags. One is even about 2.5" (less desirable hay in it though). We need to pay attention and adjust accordingly!
One of my holistic vet's Dr. Laura Taylor, DVM of Alberta said, when I asked her about whether she thought slow feeder hay bags could cause jaw problems, "the horse chews about 40,000 times a day. This means if there is any dissfunction, they are able to work it out and release it themselves by simply chewing."
BUT that's only if the horses teeth
“Ms. Gilbert has turned out the most ambitious and purely imagined work of her twenty-year career: a deeply researched and vividly rendered historical novel about a 19th century female botanist.”
I just finished listening to the audio book version of Elizabeth Gilbert's newest novel "The Signature of all Things," in which one of the main characters is pondering and studying natural selection. It made me think about Prowler and his current challenges in this new herd. Yesterday I noticed a chunk of hide missing from the back of his hock. I'm guessing that this is the result of one of her recent attacks. Goldie has skinned him of his dignity and I admit I find it challenging to witness my very sweet horse being battered.
I know that these are pretty natural herd dynamics, and I also know that when I'm around I can, and do, ask for much distance and respect from her and respect when I'm walking around them (please yield my path). Elizabeth Gilbert's book made me realize that Prowler's struggles, if not life threatening, will keep him strong and healthy by challenging him to adapt and navigate the tenacious and violent tendencies of this young mare.
In my own life, which has been full of upheaval and way too much moving of house and home, I can also see where these struggles have continued to crack me open - to grow, soften, and mature me. This feels like an important realization as I have tended towards feeling victimized by circumstances at times. This new way of thinking about life reveals divine intelligence and grace.
Thank you horses, and thank you Elizabeth Gilbert for your exquisitely rendered stories.
Until next time...
may YOUR horse be your GURU.
I'm Jai Sequoia. I live in the spectacular mountains of the West Kootenays in beautiful British Columbia. Read more