Sunday, January 22, 2017

high / low recovery?

You might remember that an interesting takeaway from Charlie's first chiro session was that his shoulders are majorly uneven. I hypothesized that there's a link between Charlie's uneven shoulders and his habitually uneven grazing stance, which may also be linked to his one heel growing more underrun than the other.

the original nibblenet. size fucking giant
Barn mgmt suggested that his habitual weaving may also be contributing. Which.... well... I knew he weaved but I guess I wasn't aware that the habit remained so persistent. And agree that it's highly unlikely to be helping the situation at all. Ugh.

basically fits half a bale
So I'm trying a new approach. That's basically my attempt at killing three birds with one stone bag. The birds being:

1.   Charlie's high / low hoof syndrome exacerbated by poor grazing stance
2.   Charlie's weaving habit
3.   Charlie's current status of being too damn skinny, potentially exacerbated by the barn's haying schedule maybe not matching his needs

12" wide.  appropriate for size fucking giant horse
Related to Bird #3, Charlie can also be a bit of a menace to barn staff when he's in his stall. Honestly? I think dude might just be hayngry (see what I did there?). I mean, he's kinda a tool about certain things anyway... But my thought process is to throw more food at it and see if the problems go away (spoiler: this is not a good human life philosophy tho!!).

So barn staff has been directed to keep this bag full at all times - with the idea being that it might actually fit enough hay to last Charlie a full day. They can just fill it up once and leave him alone - thus minimizing time spent in close proximity to his teeth, while also ensuring that homeboy always has hay in front of him.

get it, big guy!!!
Bird #2 is also related to the volume of hay Charlie needs in his diet, methinks. If we can keep more hay in front of him, while capitalizing on the slower-feed nature of the net (tho I got the largest size hole net they offer bc slowing him down isn't the primary objective), hopefully he'll spend more time eating and less time weaving, giving his poor tootsies a break.

ahhhh, nice even front end stance!
Which leads us back to Bird #1: Charlie's high / low hooves. My hope when purchasing this net was that it would reduce or remove Charlie's tendency to stand unevenly up front (picture here if you are having trouble visualizing) by raising his hay up off the ground. So far, the net seems like a success in that regard!

Obviously he'll still stand weirdly while grazing in turnout... but there doesn't seem to be much I can do about that for now. So at least when he's in his stall, his muscles will get respite from that stance. And we'll continue to address the issue through all the other things, like hoof care, body work, and riding exercises.

So we'll see what happens. Who ever thought a hay net could be used to address so many potential issues lol! Only time will tell if it actually works I guess.

33 comments:

  1. how difficult is that to fill? I've been thinking of swapping out Carmen's hay rack with a slow feed net so that she doesn't gobble her hay in 20 minutes and spend the rest of the night grumpy.

    It looks like a good solution for Charlie- esp for the weaving.

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    1. It's way easier than a net to fill - the opening is wide enough to slide a couple flakes of hay right on in. Plus the material is slightly stiff and holds its shape. I'm definitely hoping it works out for helping Charlie - tho at least I already know he loves it!

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  2. I love big feeder nets and keeping massive amounts of hay in front of horses! Tragically my guys are slightly too destructive for most nets, lol. Hopefully this hay net helps you kill 3 birds with one stone!

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    1. Ugh yea... Idk yet how destructive Charlie will be. This is supposed to be a primo hay bag so hopefully it's pretty tough !

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  3. Hopefully the hay net keeps him in hay all the time and he stops being hayngry!

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    1. Ha nobody likes a hayngry horse!!!

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  4. Love to see a follow up on this in a month. Sounds like a great solution to a multi-faceted problem.

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    1. Yea I'm really hoping it proves to be a simple and elegant solution to those myriad issues. We will see!!

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  5. Lily has high-low syndrome too and it's something that has been discussed with a few farriers now. She does the same: she always has her right front forward and her left front back when grazing. There is a strong theory that supports it being a preference that is developed by the horse as a foal while nursing (if they decide they always prefer one side due to personal preference, or it can be shaped by other factors such as issues with one teat producing more milk than the other, or the mother standing at one side of the foaling stall while eating and thus the foal only has access to one side), that later becomes ingrained. (I thought this was fascinating! Hadn't thought about it before!) Lily's hooves become slightly more even in the wintertime, when she eats from hay-filled mangers in the field and thus stands more evenly, but her bones are already formed: there's not much more I can do at this point, other than make sure I cross-train with dressage to make sure her musculature stays even. If I only trail ride, she develops a slight bit of muscle wasting over the front of her left shoulder blade.

    I hope the hay helps with the weaving! And with his weight. If you find that he is still thin and/or weaving after a couple of weeks on the slow feeder, I'd consider a round of ulcer treatment. (If you haven't already; I have had a hard time keeping up on blogs lately! I apologize.) So many TBs off the track come with this problem and neurotic behaviors like weaving, wood chewing (Lily does this one when stalled) and cribbing are all considered signs. The weight loss + his reluctance to move forward when working are also red flags. (Trotting and cantering make gastric acid slosh around more. It's one of the reasons why endurance horses are at high risk for ulcers as well, because they trot for such extended periods of time.) In the past I've gotten away with adding UGard (SmartGut is also a good one but is more expensive) to her grain and feeding alfalfa before rides (it acts as a buffer for stomach acid) without having to treat, if I catch problems early. Otherwise, we bring out the omeprazole.

    You may be on the ball with this already too. :) But just wanted to share what worked for my TB when she's had similar problems, in case it is helpful for you in the future! I love the idea of keeping hay in front of him as much as possible! :)

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    1. Interesting about them developing the habit from infancy. Definitely makes sense! My trainer also pointed out that it can be common in ottbs bc they are often tight in their backs and reluctant to truly stretch. Re: ulcer treatment, yup I wrote about Charlie's treatment and subsequent supplement plan. Tho honestly he is not particularly symptomatic. All of the red flags you mention hold equally true as indicators that the horse maybe isn't getting enough forage. And there is zero point in spending $$$ to keep treating a horse that's just gonna stand around in a stall not getting enough hay. So. Hay has become my priority - hopefully it fills the gaps!!

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    2. From an animal behavior perspective, stereotypic behaviors (generally defined as abnormal repetitive behaviors with no apparent function; weaving, pacing, cribbing, head flipping, lip flapping, etc.) are typically formed in environments where there is a lack of appropriate social or environmental stimulation -- ESPECIALLY when the individual is young (ding ding ding: 2 year olds at race tracks). Once these behaviors have formed it is nearly impossible to completely eliminate them. Obviously providing environmentally appropriate feeding patterns and social interaction help, and have immeasurable benefits other than just eliminating unwanted behaviors. Obviously there can be collinear with ulcers, but I'm not sure that there is evidence for a cause-effect relationship there (although I will say that we strongly suspect that changes in stereotypic behavior can be indicative of changes in affective states).

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    3. Yea I think collinear is the right word for it, bc the vice and the ulcers often happen in the same horses. And maybe for similar reasons relating to situation and external forces and whatever.

      And re: eliminating the behavior, as you wrote - the science is in fairly strong agreement that it's pretty tough to do. If Charlie wants to weave himself a lullaby before nap time.... There's not an awful lot I can do about that. But if he's picked his stall clean of every last scrap of hay and is weaving with increasing intensity as he hears the sound of the hay wagon.... It's a fairly safe bet he's weaving bc he's hungry. So. More keeping more hay in front of him all the time should reduce or eliminate the behavior under those specific circumstances. Hopefully. Lol

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  6. I will be interested to see what the results are. My guy is supposed to have hay 24/7 but my barn won't put hay in a haynet, so I do it when I'm there at night.

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    1. Ugh that's frustrating that they won't use a net. As a barn worker I often understood that mindset bc they can be annoying ... But I still did it bc that was my job.

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  7. Great idea and I hope it solves all his issues while in the stall. I'm also super jealous and miss Northern hay. So much better quality than the fescue or coastal we have down here. Ick. Charlie sure landed himself a great home though. You are really thinking through everything and problem solving before little things become major.

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    1. Ha thanks! I really am trying!! I just want so badly for him to be successful in the job I'm offering him.

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  8. Charlie looks so spiffy in his BOT!!!!

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    1. Lol thanks!! Also I should probably point out that I adopted your awesome terminology of "hayngry" for this post lol. It's the perfect word !! ;)

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  9. That sounds like a pretty decent plan to me! Hope it works out for Charlie... and I give my personal two thumbs up to the "Moar Hay First" option for horses that could stand to gain some weight. Keep us posted!

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    1. thanks - i'm optimistic! i mean, sure there are other supplements or fat additives and oils and whatnot that we could try... but i'm honestly just thinking the hay alone will make a big difference.

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  10. My BO is huge about keeping hay in front of the horses for as long as possible. Every horse uses a huge slow feed hay net in the winter since they're in from 6pm to 9am-ish (the net type, not your bag type). In the summer just a handful of horses get nets (anyone who, ahem, tramples their hay instead of eating it, aka Penn, or gluttons who manage to finish 2-3 flakes of hay in an hour or so).

    A side note about slow OTTBs- I've found more often than not, as soon as they get the track out of their systems, they are lazy AF while their body copes with the changes, and then they're just stiff as they figure out how to take bigger steps in any gait that is not the canter. I couldn't get Mikey to gallop for the first 2-4 years I owned him... mostly I think because he didn't get enough quality food (barn wouldn't give him more than 2-3 flakes of hay, ever).

    I haven't ever experienced high-low syndrome or anything, but you know I've worked on breaking stall habits with no luck whatsoever. Interestingly, BO and her daughter watched Penn stall walk the other day- he gets a weird glazed over face, puts his head down, and blindly walks circle after circle. It's always worse when he's anticipating something- food, turnout, me to come get him after he eats his alfalfa. I wouldn't assume Charlie's weaving is because he's hayngry (lol), but more in anticipation of something he likes. But I still agree with you, he probably is hungry at this stage in his life. (Mikey would eat ANYTHING after he came off the track- every scrap of hay, no matter the quality. After he started getting good food, he started refusing to eat poor quality hay!)

    Sorry for the novel, this comment got away from me!

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    1. ha no it's all super interesting to me - and agreed that keeping the hay in front of them is ideal. agreed with your point about the 'slow ottbs' too haha. many of the ones i've known fresh off the track can kinda get stuck. if they're not actively racing somewhere, they're kinda just not going anywhere at all haha, and this is totally true for charlie. he needs to relearn what going forward means in this new context. slowly but surely!

      also agreed that some stall habits are not going to be something i can influence as much as i would like. and charlie is gonna keep weaving probably for his whole life. BUT. in this particular situation, based on my actual observations, i'm still pretty confident in my assessment that charlie weaves more when he doesn't have hay. hopefully after a couple weeks with this new hay net situation, i'll be able to learn from barn mgmt whether they've seen a difference in how often he's weaving (since they apparently see more of it than i do)

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  11. I'm so jealous that your barn is so accommodating! My hay situation is the #1 driver in wanting to move to a house I can bring the horses home to. Foxie, in particular, was SUCH a hard keeper until I moved her to a barn with nearly 24/7 hay (it helps that she charms the workers into feeding her extra) and suddenly she didn't need huge amounts of high fat feed anymore. The reverse happened when we moved last spring :( fingers crossed this nifty hay bag helps Charlie be a happier, more even boy!

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    1. ugh i hear ya - hay is just so critical for the horse's overall condition. i'm definitely glad the barn mgmt has been accommodating in this... but i'm also not sure i gave them an option lol. this hay bag makes it stupidly easy, it's easy to load and holds enough that they dont' need to do it often. there really wouldn't be any excuses if they said no (at least, in my mind)

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  12. I am not an expert with this stuff by any means. But.

    I had a mare that always grazed with her feet apart and definitely had the high/low foot thing. We're reasonably sure it was related to her having a short neck for her frame--she couldn't really reach the ground effectively unless she spread her front legs apart. She really wasn't a weaver and she didn't require crazy weight supplements.

    FWIW, she's 20 something now, still sound, and carries flags at highschool football games.

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    1. ha omg if charlie's neck gets any longer i'm sending him back lol. seriously tho, i don't think the grazing stance is related to his weaving, nor to his weight. i view them all as separate issues that could maybe be improved upon by a similar approach.

      the grazing stance doesnt help his feet (saying nothing about causation here bc it almost doesn't matter which happened first), and weaving probably doesn't help his feet either. reducing the time he spends in that grazing stance and reducing the time he spends weaving will both hopefully improve (or at least keep things from getting worse with) his feet.

      re: the weight side of things, that's separate entirely from his feet too - he's just plain skinny. so i'm throwing more hay at him. coincidentally, using the same net that i hope will cut down on him standing in that grazing stance, and maybe reduce the time he spends weaving too.

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  13. Love the idea. Keeping food in front of them 24/7 is always a good idea with angry horses/ all horses. All of our stalls have slow feed nets. After her ulcer, I bought a giant (western full bale) size hay net for Nilla. I just put an entire bale in it and it has super tiny holes (I think .75") and she goes through that slowly throughout the month while she still gets her regular daily feedings.

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  14. I'm really curious to see how this works out! I've not had a lot of personal experience with weavers except for those that just weave for dinner but this seems like a great approach all the same. It's so strange how some of them get way more upset over food than others (even when they've definitely never been neglected) though isn't it? Horses are so fascinating.

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  15. Oh the weaving. Bacon has her hay net, and her feed trough. And sometimes even an extra little feed bin in another spot. All filled all the time, but she just is interested in other things. She will even weave in pastures. Her feet are funky because of this, but then add in the bipartite navicular foot and it gets even funner. Fortunately, Charlie seems more sensible and more interested in food. I think you have a good plan on your hands!

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    1. Yea I mean. There's a certain amount of weaving that Charlie will do no matter what. It's unlikely that I'll get him to totally quit. Rather, I'm not sure his barn's haying schedule is meeting his needs, which could exacerbate his weaving issues. Hopefully this change in how his hay feedings are managed will reduce at least some portion of his weaving related to hunger / stress / boredom linked to not having hay available. For the rest of it... Well. He's probably still gonna weave to a certain extent. We shall see tho!!

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