Monday, December 31, 2007

Fireworks and Horses

As Spotsylvania is increasingly covered by subdivisions and small “estates,” our farmland is disappearing. Many Spotsylvanians, however, remain horse owners. Throughout Virginia, horse ownership is on the rise, according to last year’s agricultural census. But as horse ownership increases, so does the likelihood that horse farms will have non-horse owning neighbors as properties in rural areas are developed.

Many horse owners face holidays typically celebrated with private fireworks displays with trepidation. Some celebrations go on every evening for several days before the holiday itself. We can prepare for the obvious holidays, like the Fourth of July. New Year’s Eve is another presumed fireworks celebration prepared for in advance. Unless the celebration starts before 7 PM rather than at or around midnight.

As our horses reacted to a neighbor’s early New Year’s Eve display, running up and down their fields, I could not shake the memory of a dear friend’s horse that impaled himself on a board as he crashed through his fence in a panic ten years ago on the Fourth of July. He died before the vet arrived.

If you just can’t celebrate without a loud aerial (and ILLEGAL) fireworks display, perhaps you could let your horse owning neighbors know your plan ahead of time, allowing them to prepare if necessary. They’ll appreciate the heads-up.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Happy New Year!

Has it been over two months since the last post? It obviously has, and for that I apologize. With the caveat that I have only kept two or three New Year's Resolutions in my life, I hereby resolve to post more frequent updates regarding the residents, the programs and plans for future development at Traveller's Rest.

We have a lot to catch up on, including:

The October Yard Sale was a nice success. The next yard and tack sale will be in the spring. (If you received any holiday gifts you've already decided to ReGift, please consider TREES as the re-giftee! Spring is vaccination time, and at almost $100 per elder, the spring sale will play an important part in providing much needed funds.)

Another troubled geezer, a 37 year old Quarter Horse named Phoenix, arrived the first week of November. More on Phoenix very soon.

Shortly thereafter, Meredith Barlow, a local Equine Dental Technician and Dr. Ray Hyde, DVM, founder of the American School of Equine Dentistry, performed a day-long dentathon. (That derserves a post of its own. Details soon.)

The second of two modular shelters is being completed today to provide cover for Phoenix and an indoor dining room for Rienzi. (Volunteer painters welcome any time the weather permits such chores!)

The holidays brought gifts from the Chronicle of the Horse Secret Santa program. Beautiful new leather halters, ceramic leg wraps to make tired legs more comfortable and a slew of other needed goodies. Several supporters did their holiday shopping through TREES' and iGive links, adding more change to our accounts.

In the last few days, another dietary experiment began. We learned that the feed we were giving our Cushings and Insulin Resistant residents may not have been the best choice. We are now switching them to Triple Crown Lite to see if that is better. We're not likely to see an immediate difference, but will post any observations.

Finally, we hope everyone had a peaceful holiday, spent with family and friends. May your New Year be happy, filled with peace, success and the love of friends, be they two-legged or four.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Free Web Seminar on Cushings Disease

Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (Equine Cushing’s Disease): Challenges of Diagnosis and Treatment

by Dr. Hal Schott, DVM Michigan State University Tuesday,

October 23, 2007
7:00 PM. EDT

From My Horse University:

"Older horses are becoming an increasingly important component of the horse industry. This presentation will describe the clinical problems associated with PPID as well as summarize current knowledge about the cause of PPID in horses.

We will also discuss recommended approaches to diagnosis, management, and treatment of affected horses as well as take a look at case examples.

Presenter Info:

Dr. Schott received his DVM degree in 1984 from The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine. He started his career with three years in private equine practice in Southern California. Dr. Schott subsequently pursued advanced training by completing a residency in equine internal medicine and a Ph.D. in equine exercise physiology at Washington State University. Since 1995, Dr. Schott has been an equine medicine clinician at Michigan State University with a strong clinical interest in urinary tract disorders, respiratory disease, and endocrinological disorders. In addition, he continues to pursue a research interest of fluid and electrolyte balance in
endurance horses. "

To Register:

Wade is one of three TREES residents diagnosed with Cushings Disease.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Swayback - Not Just Seniors and Broodmares

Traveller's Rest has been home to several horses with "swayback" or Lordosis. Earlier visitors may remember "Els B" (above) and Sheriff (below.)

Lordosis, however, is not seen only in old horses and broodmares. According to University of Kentucky's Dr. Patrick Gallagher, horses likely to develop lordosis are born with a certain skeletal structure that predisposes them to the condition, even as foals in some cases. Dr. Gallagher also found that, while dogs and humans are severely disabled by lordosis, horses are not affected in the same way.

For more, visit All About Horses.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Rienzi Shines!

Remember Rienzi, one of our "newer" residents?

This is how Rienzi looked August 9, 2007, the day he arrived:

The reason?

And now, with an appropriate feeding regimen............drum roll, please.............................

October 11, 2007:

Keep those meals coming!

If you are in the Spotsylvania VA area, you can help by attending the All Treats, No Tricks Tack & Yard Sale on Saturday, Oct 20. Residents of other areas can help by collecting Proof of Purchase seals from Reliance, Legends and Triple Crown feed bags, or by visiting our "Dear Santa" list (in the sidebar of this blog)

Rienzi thanks you for your support!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Yard & Tack Sale. All Treats, No Tricks!

All Treats, No Tricks! Yard & Tack Sale
to benefit the residents of Traveller's Rest Equine Elders Sanctuary
Saturday October 20
9AM - 3 PM
8815 Robert E Lee Drive, Spotsylvania, VA 22551

Traveller's Rest is a non-profit sanctuary for senior equine that have been victims of neglect or abandonment, or who owners experienced hardships making specialized care difficult. All proceeds will go directly toward feeding or providing veterinary, dental and farrier care to these special horses.

TREES is accepting donations of clean, gently used items for the sale through Wednesday, October 17. To arrange a drop- off time, please call 540-972-0936 or email For more information about the sanctuary, please visit

The sanctuary is also collecting Proof of Purchase Seals from Legends, Triple Crown and Reliance horse feed bags. Thanks to the Southern States SHOW program, Traveller's Rest is able to redeem the seals for 10-25 cents each. With high and feed prices rising this year, any PoP's collected will be greatly appreciated. Please mail proofs to:
Traveller's Rest Equine Elders Sanctuary
PO Box 2260
Spotsylvania, VA 22553
or bring them on October 20 when you come to browse the All Treats, No Tricks Sale!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Needs Home - MD - Tennessee Walker gelding

(This horse is being place by a private owner and is not a resident of, nor affiliated with, Traveller's Rest Equine Elders Sanctuary.)
This listing comes via Freedom Hill Horse Rescue.
"We recieved a distress call about this senior horse and we dont have room to bring the poor guy in. His owner is trying to do the best for him that she can but she cannot afford his board anymore and the place that he is being boarded is not caring for him properly. They will only feed him once a day and the owner of the property will not open the barn up to the horses. They stand out in all the weather. Animal control has been called but the owner still seems to get by. His board is paid up to the end of the month. She sent me some winter pics of him and he was emasciated...his recent pics show him in better condition but still very thin.

Rebel is a 30 year old gelding that was saved from an abusive situation. His savior has found she has toomany horses to care for and she needs to let dear Rebel go. He is a gentle guy that is kind to children. Hehas arthritis in his shoulder. Rebel needs a wonderful home to care for him in his Golden Years. If you thinkyou can give Rebel a home please contact Bunny at 443-994-8276. Located in Ellicot City MD. References will be checked.
His pics can be seen here.......
For more senior horses needing homes, click on the "needs home" tag following this post. This is a listing service only. Traveller's Rest can not guarantee the accuracy of information provided in "needs home" entries

Thinking about Holiday Shopping yet?

How can your everyday shopping benefit
the residents of Traveller's Rest Equine Elders Sanctuary?

Who hasn't uttered the words, "I wish there was something I could do to help"? Now you can. Start shopping! At, you can buy the items you've always wanted– like that DVD box set, expensive cologne, or the wall-mounted flat-panel TV you’ve had your eyes on - only without the guilt.

It’s FREE, no invisible costs or tricky obligations. Shop for everyday items at the over 650 stores at the Mall at, like Barnes & Noble, Lands' End, Best Buy, and Neiman Marcus. Up to 26% or more of each purchase is donated to Traveller's Rest.
Change online shopping for good
Information is subject to change. Visit for current details. Holdings, LLC

Needs Home - MN - Quarter Horse mare

(This horse is being place by a private owner and is not a resident of, nor affiliated with, Traveller's Rest Equine Elders Sanctuary.)

20+ year Quarter Horse mare. Sound and healthy, no special needs other than being grained twice a day (senior and sweet feet). Leads, trailers, very timid with people. We feel she's someone's old range broodmare and it will take a lot of time and patience to gain her trust. She's made many improvements here, but is still not a people loving mare. She would however make an excellent companion horse or lawn ornament. Were she a "kid safe pet" type horse I'm sure she would have found a home by now, but she's a bit of a wilder old lady. Still deserves a good home! No adoption fee but references requested. Located in central MN. (218) 746-4161,

For more senior horses needing homes, click on the "needs home" tag following this post. This is a listing service only. Traveller's Rest can not guarantee the accuracy of information provided in "needs home" entries.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Our Deepest Condolences

to White Bird Appaloosa Horse Rescue following the loss of a very special resident, an Elder mare named Heather.

Needs Home - MN - Quarter Horse Cross

(This horse is being place by a private owner and is not a resident of, nor affiliated with, Traveller's Rest Equine Elders Sanctuary.)
Honest Abe is a mid-20's Quarter Cross (TB or Standardbred) that is in immediate need of a warm rehabilitation home. Abe is a kid friendly, well broke (Amish) horse with years of service under his belt. Abe has had his teeth floated, is current on wormer and hoof care, but will need a coggins and fall shots soon. (Shots and Coggins were up to date when moved to this facility.) Abe is about a 2.5 on the Henneke scale, locate near Rochester, MN, and is looking for an immediate care placement.

Please contact Mary Jones for more information. Cell: 507-696-4792

To see more listings for senior horses in need of new homes, please click "needs home" tag following this post. This is a listing service only. Traveller's Rest cannot guarantee the accuracy of information contained in "Needs Home" entries.

He's Baa-aaack!

Regular visitors to Traveller's Rest may remember that one of our residents, 40-year-old Jeb, lost his appetite for many many weeks during the summer and was losing weight. Offering different feeds produced no results. Vet exams and blood tests revealed no obvious cause. We were at a loss as to what to do next. And then...............

Jeb began eating. He ate all that was offered to him three times a day. What changed? Nothing we can take credit for. The answer was..........

Emma! Jeb took one look at the newest arrival and decided he has a reason to hang around a while longer.

Its only been a few weeks since the two met, but its hard not to say

"...............and they lived happily ever after..........."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Save those Proofs!

Do you feed Triple Crown, Reliance,or Legends products?

If so, you can support the residents of Traveller’s Rest Equine Elders Sanctuary simply by clipping the Proofs of Purchase from every bag of feed and sending them to TREES! A Proof of Purchase seal can be found near the bottom of the back of each feed bag. Look for:

Traveller’s Rest will receive 25 cents for each PoP from Legends and Triple Crown feeds. Each Reliance PoP is worth 10 cents. Proofs add up quickly when your barn uses several bags a week. Please clip, collect, and send your PoP’s to:

Traveller’s Rest Equine Elders Sanctuary
PO Box 2260
Spotsylvania, VA 22553

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Thankful for Our Spouses

The following was written in August 1990 and quickly circulated through Fort Hood, home of the First Cavalry Division, just prior to Desert Shield/Desert Storm.

First Team

To all those wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, children and loved ones who currently have an American Soldier in harm's way:

for our Spouses

August 12, 1990
As I listen to terrifying news of trouble in the Middle East,I cant' help but reflect on how it feels to be an "Army wife"..................

To be the wife of an American soldier
is to know intense fear and loneliness and worry
and to watch the news for signs
the the security of "home" with him will be lost.

But it also means intense pride and a sense of awe
that this gentle, loving man
contains huge amounts of raw courage
and strength
and discipline -
to know that the man I turn to in the middle of the night
for comfort, security, protection
by virture of his nature and calling
will extend that protection to the whole world
when called to do so.

Because he puts action behind his beliefs;
he goes out and protects the ability
of people in all other professions
to say what they want to say
in a land where there is no penalty attached to freedom.

He has taught me to revere the American flag
to cry through the National Anthem
to really believe in America.

So as he goes to stand up for - if necessary to fight for -
and the country that he loves
I'll concentrate on loving him, supporting him,
praying for him, and believing in him

Because I am proud to be the wife of an American soldier!

Sharon Foster, wife of CPT Foster
2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division

(flag art courtesy of )

Monday, September 10, 2007

TREES at Dressage show Sept 14-16

Please stop by the Traveller's Rest Equine Elders Sanctuary table and say "Hello" this weekend at the Virginia Dressage Association, Fredericksburg & Charlottesville Chapters' shows at Rose Mount on Courthouse Road (Rt 208) in Spotsylvania.

Friday, September 14, 2007
Twin Shows Dressage Sport Horse Breed Show at Rose Mount Farm
Information/Prize List for Breed Show
Schooling Show Friday, September 14th!

Saturday, September 15, 2007
VADAF Recognized Show at Rose Mount Farm
Information/Prize List for Saturday Show
Region 1 Entry Form

Sunday, September 16, 2007
VADA Charlottesville Chapter Recognized Show at Rose Mount Farm

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Black Stallion?

Not exactly (for one thing, this young man is a gelding!) Meet one of Traveller's Rest's recent newcomers. Meet Rienzi, the horse whose welcome was a result of hard work by the Fredericksburg United Methodist Church's Vacation Bible School last month.

August 14, 2007

It is obvious that Rienzi needs to gain more than a few pounds. What is not obvious, at first glance, is his dental condition. Rienzi's "underbite," sometimes called "monkey mouth," is probably congenital. He's dealt with it his entire life. In recent years, however, it is likely that the abnormality was too much too handle on top of the uneven wear patterns so common in elder equine teeth. The way Rienzi's teeth wore literally made is impossible for him to move his jaws in a normal chewing pattern.

Since arrival, Rienzi has had a little dental work done, reducing the length of a few overly long teeth, especially those lower incisors (front teeth.) While his molars are so worn that he will never chew grass or hay normally again, he is once again able to eat comfortably. Rienzi is currently eating four meals of mush (soaked senior feed) each day. During the next week, we will add soaked grass/alfalfa cubes to his diet to see if that is a viable way to meet his roughage requirements.

In addition to his dental issues Rienzi has another, perhaps more serious, problem. Two veterinarians, on different occasions, diagnosed Rienzi with neurological deficits due to compression on the spinal cord in his neck, most likely a result of arthritic changes to his vertebrae. This condition is not correctible so we don't, at this time, know what the prognosis might be. The immediate plan of treatment is to put some weight on our little friend, try to build some muscle in his handquarters and see if that improves his balance. He will never again be a riding horse, but he will have a home here as long as he is comfortable and can be kept safe from injury.

We chose the name "Rienzi" in honor of the General Phillip Sheridan's great mount (renamed "Winchester" following his famous ride.) If there were ever an equine athletic standard to which a horse might aspire, the nineteenth century "Rienzi" set that standard. In Sheridan's words, Rienzi was "an animal of great intelligence and immense strength and endurance. He always held his head high, and by the quickness of his movements gave many persons the idea that he was exceedingly impetuous. This was not so, for I could at any time control him by a firm hand and a few words, and he was as cool and quiet under fire as one of my soldiers. I doubt if his superior as a horse for field service was ever ridden by any one."

by Thomas Buchanan Read (1822-1872)

Up from the South, at break of day,Bringing to Winchester fresh dismay,The affrighted air with a shudder bore,Like a herald in haste to the chieftain's door,The terrible grumble, and rumble, and roar,Telling the battle was on once more,And Sheridan twenty miles away.

And wider still those billows of warThundered along the horizon's bar;And louder yet into Winchester rolledThe roar of that red sea uncontrolled,Making the blood of the listener cold,As he thought of the stake in that fiery fray,With Sheridan twenty miles away.

But there is a road from Winchester town,A good, broad highway leading down:And there, through the flush of the morning light,A steed as black as the steeds of nightWas seen to pass, as with eagle flight;As if he knew the terrible need,He stretched away with his utmost speed.Hills rose and fell, but his heart was gay,With Sheridan fifteen miles away.

Still sprang from those swift hoofs, thundering south,The dust like smoke from the cannon's mouth,Or the trail of a comet, sweeping faster and faster,Foreboding to traitors the doom of disaster.The heart of the steed and the heart of the masterWere beating like prisoners assaulting their walls,Impatient to be where the battle-field calls;Every nerve of the charger was strained to full play,With Sheridan only ten miles away.

Under his spurning feet, the roadLike an arrowy Alpine river flowed,And the landscape sped away behindLike an ocean flying before the wind;And the steed, like a barque fed with furnace ire,Swept on, with his wild eye full of fire;But, lo! he is nearing his heart's desire;He is snuffing the smoke of the roaring fray,With Sheridan only five miles away.

The first that the general saw were the groupsOf stragglers, and then the retreating troops;What was to be done? what to do?--a glance told him both.Then striking his spurs with a terrible oath,He dashed down the line, 'mid a storm of huzzas,And the wave of retreat checked its course there, becauseThe sight of the master compelled it to pause.With foam and with dust the black charger was gray;By the flash of his eye, and his red nostril's play,He seemed to the whole great army to say:"I have brought you Sheridan all the wayFrom Winchester down to save the day.

"Hurrah! hurrah for Sheridan!Hurrah! hurrah for horse and man!And when their statues are placed on highUnder the dome of the Union sky,The American soldier's Temple of Fame,There, with the glorious general's name,Be it said, in letters both bold and bright:"Here is the steed that saved the dayBy carrying Sheridan into the fight,From Winchester--twenty miles away!"

What's this? Could it be..............????????

Perhaps one of the most exciting updates since the post of July 26 (and an explanation for that alien green substance in the post below) needs no caption:

(Yes, that's rain! We had a few weeks of nearly normal rainfall, but are in another dry spell now.)

The Cavalry Arrives!

After several weeks of an information drought, we have a plethora of updates to post in the next few days!

Since our last update, one of the most productive mornings in the short history of Traveller's Rest occurred on August 8th. The Cavalry arrived in Spotsylvania Courthouse once again!

We were expecting a new horse to arrive, and the Fredericksburg United Methodist Church's Vacation Bible School (fourth and fifth grade class) took over the job of preparing the accomodations.

Among other things, the kids painted paddock fences,

assembled a storage shed for grooming kits, cleanup tools and first aid supplies,

and prepared a stall for the incoming horse, complete with extra deep bedding to make the underweight newcomer more comfortable,

(all under the close scrutiny of Supervisor Sonny.)

Thank you, FUMC VBS! You accomplished, in one morning, what would normally take 2 or 3 days. You're welcome any time!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Effects of Drought on Traveller’s Rest.

Though there have been localized rain showers in the area, this particular farm has not seen any measurable rain since mid-April.

The most obvious result of no rain, easily noticeable as visitors enter the driveway, is the dead, brown pasture.

As of this week we are feeding almost as much hay per day as we normally feed in a mild winter. The problem with that is two-fold. First, we are using hay we would usually reserve for winter forage. Second, a larger annual hay requirement translates into a larger annual economic consideration. Obviously, the more bales of hay we buy, the more money it costs.

There is, however, another factor at work. Many area farmers were able to produce only a fraction of their normal crop during the early summer cutting and will not be able to harvest a second cutting at all. This smaller supply of hay will mean higher prices, if we can find adequate supply at all. The lack of tender, second cutting hay will be particularly hard on our dentally challenged Elders who cannot manage the coarse stems and stalks that make up much of a first cut bale. We do have the option of buying bagged chopped forage or forage cubes, but the bottom line remains this same. Basic care costs could be much higher than usual this winter, not only for TREES, but also for all local horse owners. Rescue facilities and sanctuaries can expect increased number of requests to take in horses this winter.

In addition to the grass and hay issue, the dry weather has other effects on TREES’ Elders. The most troublesome problem is that the ever-present dust is causing bronchial inflammation in at least two of our geldings. Jubal and Sonny both have diminished air movement through their lungs.

To combat the dust somewhat, we are dampening bedding and shed floors once or twice a day, depending on drying time. This may help some, but it does not address the fact that just walking across the fields, the horses kick up a little dust with each step. If there is no relief soon, the next step will be to administer a bronchodilator to help Sonny and Jubal breathe easier.

Under the layer of dust, the ground is almost as hard as concrete. As a result, the horses with arthritis and ringbone are experiencing more aches and pains. Stalls and sheds are being deeply bedded to give the Elders more comfortable places to stand or lie down. More pain management medication is required than usual as well.

One up side to the dry conditions is that we are seeing far less mosquitoes that usual. All in all though, we’d take the mosquitoes if they came with more grass and hay.

Please pray for rain.

Now, this is what we'd like to see!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Not Exactly an Elder

Not even an equine!

We found this little guy at the end of our driveway last night. All alone.

This wee kitten seems clean, healthy, well-socialized and energetic. It is unlikely he was on his own for very long. It also seems unlikely he wandered here on his own at 5-6 weeks of age.

This may be somewhat off-topic for a horse sanctuary blog, but dropping dogs and cats off in the country is not in the animals' best interests. If you cannot find homes for them yourselves, please be responsible and take them to a shelter or adoption agency. There, at least, they have a chance of finding new homes. Being "free in the country" offers pets more chances of confronting dangerous situations than of finding safe homes. This kitten was lucky. He was noticed and scooped up yards from a busy road where traffic often travels at 60 mph.

Please have your pets neutered. If you feel you have a saving-the-planet caliber reason to allow your pets to breed, please, please take responsibility for the offspring. There are too many options available to resort to "setting them free" in the country. Their "freedom" will likely be short-lived.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Belle of Ellwood

A few days ago, we promised to introduce another of our special residents, The Belle of Ellwood.


The Belle of Ellwood:

“Belle” is a 33-year-old Arabian mare. While we know she was once known as “AB Kareemah,” we don’t know much of her history. She has, from what we’ve been told, borne quite a few foals in her day and may have worked as a therapy horse for a short time. Scarring on one hind leg indicates Belle may have run into some bad luck some time in her mysterious past, but we don’t know what type of injury she suffered or when the accident occurred.

As Belle aged and her physical abilities declined, the little mare with the large presence became what is called a “hard keeper.” Missing teeth added to the difficulty in maintaining healthy weight and body condition:

Belle, September 2006

One other thing we know about Belle is that she lived in Orange County, Virginia for the past several years, just off of Route 20. Hence the name, Belle of Ellwood.

Ellwood is an eighteenth century plantation home, also located on Route 20 in Orange County, Virginia. Built in the 1790’s, Ellwood was once a typical, bustling Virginia farm. During its early days, the home at Ellwood hosted such guests as The Marquis de Lafayette, “Light Horse Harry” Lee, and James Monroe. In later years, unexpected guests such as Ulysses S. Grant and Ambrose Burnside occupied the property. To this day, the family cemetery at Ellwood is known as the final resting place of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s arm, amputated following the Battle of Chancellorsville, just up the road.

Following the Civil War, the farm stood vacant for a time. Though the owners resumed life there in the 1870’s, and the property changed hands only a few times since, by the 1980’s Ellwood was badly deteriorating. Since then, the National Park Service and Friends of the Wilderness Battlefield worked to stabilize the home’s structure and continue working toward further restoration.

“Restoration” is how we view Belle’s reason for arriving at Traveller’s Rest. It was been a longer road for Belle than for most of our residents. She has been slower to regain weight and slower to find her niche in the other horses’ social structure.

Recently, however, Belle turned a corner. While we believe she will always have some weakness in her hindquarters due to apparent previous injury and arthritis, she is putting on weight and regaining a healthy coat. On her road to her former grandeur, The Belle now spends her days with a trio of geldings, Wade, Val and Sonny, dividing her time equally among the three. Our hope is that she will continue to gain weight as we go into fall, better preparing her for winter. Belle’s progress has been slow, but it has been steady.

Belle, July 2007

Welcome home, Belle. We hope you find the accommodations to your liking and that you will stay quite a while.

For more on Ellwood:

Friday, July 20, 2007

New Treatment for Arthritis

One of the most common physical maladies faced by TREES' residents is, of course, arthritis. Some residents are afflicted as a result of overwork, some because of previous injuries, and some become arthritic as joints change during normal aging processes. More often than not discomfort can be managed through the use of joint supplements and attention to details in the horses' living quarters and turnout areas.

For some horses, however, there comes a time when symptoms of arthritis must be managed with medication. The most commonly used drug, for many years, has been phenylbutazone, or "bute." Bute is very effective, but also has well known side effects, such as damage to the gastrointestinal tract and kidneys.

During the past several weeks, it became apparent that our Grand Old Man, Jeb, a 40 year old Tennessee Walker gelding was becoming more uncomfortable. Joint supplements and management techniques alone were not controlling his arthritis pain. In cases like Jeb's, where the choice is to use bute and risk its side effects, or euthanize a horse because its pain cannot be managed, we have used bute.

As of July 5, 2007, however, we have another choice. The FDA, on that date, approved a COX-2 inhibitor sold under the brand name Equioxx, for the treatment of arthritis in horses.

An excerpt from an article in The Horse explains some of the difference between Equioxx and the older treatments:

Traditional NSAIDs such as phenylbutazone (Bute) and flunixin (Banamine), inhibit both COX-1 and COX-2. These drugs are known to cause ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding, and kidney damage with prolonged use or high doses. COX-2-inhibiting drugs, including firocoxib and the human drugs Vioxx (rofecoxib) and Celebrex (celecoxib), selectively inhibit production of the inflammation-causing COX-2 enzyme, leaving the COX-1 enzyme free to perform its protective functions in the gastrointestinal tract and kidneys.

"On the equine market we've got the standard old NSAIDs, Bute and Banamine," said Anthony Blikslager, DVM, PhD, associate professor of equine surgery at North Carolina State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. "They're very effective for the control of pain, so they have very good efficacy. But the trouble is, they could be safer.

"I would hope that using a COX-2 inhibitor--if they can show that it's as effective as Bute--would still be safer because even though horses have overlapping function of COX-1 and COX-2, as compared to other species, you would still be leaving one of the enzymes alone to maintain organ function," Blikslager said.

Read the entire article:
New NSAID: First COX-2 Inhibitor for Horses Approved by FDAby: Erin Ryder, News Editor July 05 2007 Article # 9937

Jeb received his first dose of Equioxx yesterday. At this point, we can say that he does appear more comfortable and ate breakfast well. He is more interested in what goes on around him, and the dull look in his eye is gone. There is no predicting what the future will bring, but its good to have another weapon in the anti-arthritis-pain arsenal.

As a sidenote.........we'd like to publicly acknowledge Drs. Carrie McColgan and David Licciardello of the Rappahannock Equine Veterinary Clinic in Locust Grove, VA. TREES' elders are examined, evaluated and treated with the same thorough care and attention to detail as high-dollar show horses. We also feel that we always have their support in trying new techniques and products to further our education in geriatric horse care, and the more we learn, the more we can pass on to other elders' owners.

And so, we begin a trial of yet another new option. We'd like to hear others' experiences with Equioxx in the comments section, once you've had time to give it a fair trial.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What Started it All

We are often asked about the motivation to open a sanctuary for elderly horses. "Why focus so much energy on horses at the end of their lives?" "Why spend so much time and money on horses who can no longer be ridden?" "What made you want to do this work?"

THIS made us want to do this work: Meet Gypsy.
More formally, Dame Gypsy Rosalee la Paramour.

Gypsy arrived at the Equine Rescue League, where I volunteered at the time, as a skinny, depressed 35 year old, having no use for the human race who had let her down in every way. There was nothing magical about our relationship at first. She wanted no attention from me and I wasn't interested in talking her in to liking me.

Slowly..........painfully slowly.........we each grew to respect the other's personality quirks and likes and dislikes. Gypsy came out of her shell, bit by bit, and allowed me into her life. From there, the magic blossomed. The big mare with the attitude problem would stand for hours, if you'd oblige, to be groomed, scratched, bathed, and otherwise beautified. She would, quite literally, fall asleep if the scratching happened to be in just the right place at just the right speed with just the right pressure. She tolerated all sorts of decorations for ERL Open Houses and seemed particularly pleased to wear anything with bells on it. For some odd reason, Gypsy also enjoyed the Armour Hotdog Song.

Taste in music aside, it was Gypsy who taught me to respect the dignity and wisdom of the Elders. If I did anything she considered vaguely stupid, she had a way of looking at me over her shoulder than said it all. "Don't do that again. I'll give you one more chance. And you know I don't give second chances often." On the other hand, on days I wasn't feeling quite up to par, she was right by my side, nuzzling, giving "neck hugs," and on her best behavior. The mare who was so emotionally damaged on arriving at ERL was herself becoming a caregiver.

Dame Gypsy eventually became the alpha mare in her field and ruled with an unquestioned authority. A small change in posture or in the carriage of her head brought immediate response from the most unruly youngsters. Watching her carry out her duties was a lesson in handling improper behavior. Remain firm, but show no anger.

The photo above was taken when Dame Gyspy was 36 years old. She subsequently lived another three glorious years, large and in charge, as Herd Matriarch, before leaving us with a huge hole in our hearts. Though we've had special relationships with other horses since then, none could fill the void left by la Paramour.

It is to her and to her successor, an Appaloosa mare called Mystic, that we dedicate Traveller's Rest.

"Turn 'em in with ours, and kick for the river," girls.

(For more info about the Equine Rescue League, without whom Traveller's Rest would not exist, visit )

Monday, July 16, 2007

More Fly Deterrent Tips

Its no secret, at this point, that our residents love their fly masks and boots in this worse than normal fly season. Short of erecting a glass bubble over the entire farm, there is no way to completely eliminate flies, but here are a few tips to lessen the problem:
  • Muck stalls at least once daily. We do ours 2-3 times a day, depending on how much time the horses have been inside.
  • In addition to picking up manure, remove all wet bedding, whether the moisture is from urine, water buckets, or rainwater. Pick up old hay not eaten within 24 hours.
  • Pick up manure in sheds or in loafing areas at least once daily.
  • Pick up all quids (wads of hay spit out by dentally challenged horses) left in stalls and sheds. They attract as many flies as manure does.
  • Remove feed buckets from stalls or sheds between feedings. If you serve "mush" or soaked feed, rinse buckets and pans well after each meal.
  • If your horse is a sloppy eater, clean food from walls when necessary.
  • Use wide, shallow feed pans when possible so your toothless wonder does not smear food up to his eyebrows. If he does manage to plaster his face with food, use a soft wet cloth to clean him up before the food dries. Clean his legs, too, if he tries to clean himself up by wiping his muzzle on his legs.

These tips take just a few extra minutes, if done every day or at each meal and greatly reduce fly-induced discomfort, as demonstrated here by The Belle of Ellwood. Stay tuned as we post more about our little 33 year old Arab mare in the next day or two.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Thank You Yard Salers!

Yesterday's Christmas in July Book and Yard Sale drew a wonderful crowd! Thank you to all who came to shop. Congrats to those who found treasures they had been seeking for some time. (We love to watch visitors faces when that happens, and to hear the stories behind what makes that treasure so special!)

Very special gratitude to all who donated tack, books and sale items of every imaginable type. Residents of Spotsylvania, Fredericksburg, Northern Virginia and surrounding areas are unquestionably some of the most generous on the East Coast. TREES received sale goodies ranging from brand new or barely used items to well loved and impeccably cared for vintage treasures. Without you, the sale would have been far less successful. Funds raised will go toward dental exams for all of our vintage horses, to include treatment where needed.

In anticipation of future sale events, TREES will happily accept yard sale items, tack, stable supplies and books at any time during the year.

Thank you again to all who participated. We look forward to seeing everyone again soon!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Summer Fashion

The horses are dressed for success during this heat wave. Fly masks andfly boots are the order of the day.

Wade (24 year old Quarter Horse) stays comfortable soaking up the sun's rays, wearing his Wimbledon Whites................

.............while Sonny (36 year old Arab) sports a less formal look, relaxing in the clubhouse.

Christmas in July Reminder

Christmas In July Book and Yard Sale.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
9AM -3 PM
8815 Robert E Lee Dr
Spotsylvania, VA 22553

We're received some wonderful donations from the community. Available for sale: saddles, pads, headstalls, bell boots, stirrup irons, saddle racks, household items of all sorts, framed artwork, water sports gear, gardening tools and supplies, Christmas and other holiday decorations, puzzles, games, plactic canvas and other craft supplies, surprises galore, and........

Boxes and boxes of books....many look like they were never opened.
Cookbooks, self-help, fiction, history, romance, vintage textbooks, craft instruction, many like new hardbacks. Also magazines: nature, Martha Stewart, cross stitch, crafts, handyman, more
Paperbacks 50 cents each, hardbacks 2.00 each, magazines 25 cents each

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Farm cares for old, infirm horses

The Fredericksburg (VA) Free Lance-Star was kind enough to do a story highlighting TREES' small effort to make a difference.

Visit to read the article, published June 26, 2007.

We'd like to thank reporter Elizabeth Krietsch and photographer Noah Rabinowitz for putting the piece together. Both seemed very interested in learning more about elder equine. (Extra brownie points to Noah for getting up early enough to be here during breakfast chores!)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Horse flies and weight loss

Most people associate senior horses' weight loss with the winter months. Many elders, however, have problems maintaining healthy weight during the summer. It was Sonny, our 36 year old Palomino gelding, who finally pointed us toward a solution.

After applying yet another "guaranteed" fly repellent to Sonny's legs last summer, we watched in amazement as flies resumed their attack before the spray was thoroughly dry. Sonny stomped and paced and rubbed his muzzle on his legs. This old man was working off precious calories before our eyes.

For reasons we do not yet understand, flies seem to be attracted to the lower legs of "frail" horses more than they are attracted to other parts of the body or to more robust animals. One possible reason is that many of these horses are dentally challenged and eat "mush" which they then wipe on their legs while trying to shoo flies on their own. No amount of wiping, washing, currying or brushing seems to remove the microscopic morsels that brings flies running.

Fly sprays are often ineffective and ointments like Swat work only sporadically, but........... boots work wonders! The first time we asked Sonny to wear boots, he stood quietly as we adjusted the velcro straps. As soon as the stall door opened, though, he launched into the air and bucked his way into the sunshine and down the length of the field (MYTH: Old horses are "bombproof". REALITY: They are not any more bombproof than horses in other age ranges.) By the end of the day he realized how much more comfortable he was and now stands at his gate after breakfast waiting for his "booties" before returning to the field. Maintaining his weight is no longer a problem.

Many of TREES' residents wear fly boots now. (Boots are removed at night.) Even horses who did not appear to be overly stressed by flies seem more content and require less feed to maintain a healthy weight. Yes, getting everybody "dressed" in the morning takes a few extra minutes, but the results are worth every second.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Always Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

Signs of Possible Dental Trouble

(Please remember that many times there will be no obvious signs of dental disease until problems are severe.)

*dropping more food than previously.
*eating more slowly than before.
*the appearance of "quids" (wads of grass or hay that the horse tries to chew, then spits out.)
*head shaking
*holding the head to one side while chewing
*whole grains in the manure
*bad odor in the mouth and nose
*swelling on the face or along jaw
*bleeding gums
*tossing the head while being ridden
*uncharacteristically fighting the bit
*weight loss or poor condition

If you notice any of these signs of developing problems, contact your veterinarian or equine dentist as soon as possible. As with human teeth, preventing the progression of trouble is much easier than correcting problems at a later time!

Left: Before dental exam
Right: Six months after dental treatment

Friday, June 15, 2007

Christmas in July Sale Date Set

Traveller's Rest will have a Book and Yard Sale July 14, 2007 from 9AM until 3PM to benefit its special residents. TREES is currently accepting clean, gently used yard sale items, tack, stable supplies and equipment, and pre-owned books of all genres to add to the sale. All proceeds from the sale will be used to feed and care for current residents and to help educate owners of senior horses on special care considerations.

If you have items to donate to the sale, please contact Traveller's Rest at or call 540-972-0936.
Sale location: 8815 Robert E Lee Drive, Spotsylvania, VA 22553

Monday, June 11, 2007

Songs for Seniors Members: Spend a penny, get a 20¢ donation! Use the link below to take advantage of's 1¢ CD promotion and get a 20¢ donation for Traveller's Rest Equine Elders Sanctuary!
Offer ends July 18, 2007!
(New to Join for free at

Tuffy Love. 43 year old horse still working!

Owners of senior horses often ask us when they should retire a horse from riding. There is no single answer to that question. As long as a horse is comfortable, in good health, and willing he can work as long as he likes.
After 30 years on the job, a 43 year old Quarter horse gelding named Tuffy is still working as a therapy horse at Edmonton's Whitemud Equine Learning Centre in Alberta, Canada. Tuffy's owners retired him a few years ago, but the old workhorse became depressed and stopped eating when he could no longer work with disabled children via the Little Bits Therapeutic Riding Association. He currently works one hour a day, four days a week and will continue to do his job as long as he remains in good health. Tuffy was named Canadian Therapeutic Horse of 2005.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Christmas in July Book and Yard Sale to benefit senior horses

Traveller's Rest will have a Book and Yard Sale in mid July to benefit its special residents. Specific date and times to be announced soon. TREES is currently accepting clean, gently used yard sale items, tack, stable supplies and equipment, and pre-owned books of all genres to add to the sale. All proceeds from the sale will be used to feed and care for current residents and to help educate owners of senior horses on special care considerations.

If you have items to donate to the sale, please contact Traveller's Rest at or call 540-972-0936. For the next several days, email is the preferred method of contact. Friday's storm disabled one telephone line and the answering machine. We should be back to normal communications by Thursday June 14.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Reminder - Equine Rescue League needs new home!

Some additional notes regarding the June 4, 2007 post.

Although the Equine Rescue League has been in Leesburg, VA for almost 17 years, they are very willing to consider farm properties in other areas of Virginia.

The current farm must be completely vacated by Sept 22, 2007, which means they need a new facility before that date to allow time to move approximately 30 horses, some portable sheds, equipment and supplies.

If you have any leads, please contact ERL at 703-771-1240 or email

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Who says you can't teach old dogs new tricks?

Or old horses?!

This looks like an ordinary photo, right? Nothing special. Two horses peacefully grazing.......

This, however, is a breakthrough moment for both of these horses! Val, the dark brown Thoroughbred on the right, has never been welcoming of other geldings in "his" field. At the same time, Wade, the sorrel Quarter Horse on the left, has been a loner since his arrival, usually staying far removed from other horses.
We have no idea what happened over the past few days, but it looks like things have changed for both boys! Hopefully, this will be a lasting friendship.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Rescue needs New Farm

Our apologies for the absence of Traveller's Rest News. We're back and will once again begin providing regular updates.

First though, an appeal on behalf of our sister organization, and mentor, the Equine Rescue League of Leesburg, VA

The Equine Rescue League needs your help.

Please contact the Equine Rescue League office at 703-771-1240 if you can help them continue to help horses like those mentioned below. We can't afford not to.

Equine Rescue League, in Leesburg, Virginia is one of the oldest equine welfare groups in this part of the country, founded in 1990. ERL's founder, Pat Rogers, prior to opening this particular facility was the Farm Manager of the American Horse Protection Association's farm in Lucketts, VA before AHPA closed the farm and became more of a lobbying group. Pat had experience at this before most of the rest of us even heard of "horse rescue." She also attended auctions with Gail Eisnetz (author of Slaughterhouse) back in the 80's so was (and is) very committed to this mission.

ERL, in its first year of operation, took in a herd of 32 neglected Morgans from a case prosecuted in a nearby county. The owner received the harshest punishment ever given for a cruelty case at that time. The community rallied at that time, providing funds, supplies, and volunteer labor. If not for that support, caring for 32 starving (and many pregnant) horses would have been next to impossible.

In later cases, one involving 19 Appaloosas arriving at one time, one involving several starved foals only a few months old, and one case that inspired all who visited........The Gold One........the community again came together and helped ERL provide intensive care. At other times, arrivals were not as dramatic, one horse here, two there, but ERL was always there, plugging away feeding, watering, treating injuries and, sadly, offering peaceful ends to those for whom help came too late.

Goldie "before"

Goldie "After"

ERL set the stage for most of Virginia's other equine rescue operations. They've allowed many of us to adapt their contracts, for example, for our own use rather than making us reinvent the wheel. They've done more than most people realize to raise awareness of equine humane issues.

Now, Their occupation of Churchland Farm, which has always been a temporary arrangement, is coming to an end. Loudoun County, one of the fastest growing in the nation, must reclaim the property for landfill expansion. ERL has until September 22, 2007 to find a new home. In an area of such rapid development, land prices have skyrocketed over the last 5 years. The current market is not one easily entered by a charitable organization whose primary mission.....caring for neglected horses.......puts every donated dollar to immediate use. Saving the amount of money needed to purchase suitable acreage has been difficult.

Its time to rally the community again.

ERL and its residents need your help. The organization is asking for your assistance in procuring a property, raising funds, and soliciting donations or grants.

Please help them continue their work in Virginia. Losing this groundbreaking organization that led the way in the area would be a tragic occurrence. With no ERL, there would have been no Flower, no Bob, no Churchill, Goldie, or countless others.

The Real Heroes

Although the Equine Rescue League depends on volunteers and private donations to help horses in need of our services and to maintain its farm shelter, the real heroes of our stories are the horses themselves.

Regardless of past mistreatments or abuses, these horses continue to trust, and even like, people. Each one seems to believe that the next stage in its life will be better than the last; that the next caregiver will treat him with kindness and respect.

It is always inspiring to see how quickly a horse can recover from total neglect once appropriate care is administered. The convalescent period is tackled with a "gusto" not seen in most human patients.

These pages are dedicated to those victims who would not resign themselves to an unpleasant fate.

How can we give up when they do not?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Back to Basics?

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the oldest horse ever recorded was born in 1760 and died in 1822. That's a life-span on 62 years! Yet, at that time, horse owners had many fewer feed options, and didn't add two, three, five or more "supplements" to each meal. Have modern owners made horse care more complicated than it needs to be (possibly to the detriment of their horse's health?) Is it time to get back to learning the fundamentals rather than looking for quick fixes in supplement canisters? How do you feel about getting "back to basics?"

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Spring Fever!

Its mid January, but the low temperature last night was near 60 degrees! Of course, we never have a camera handy when we need one, so missed an exceptional opportunity this morning. Jeb, who is turning 40 years old this spring, was cavorting around the field like a teenager. We don't have any records, but have been told that our Old Man was quite the stunning show horse in his day. Any horse that has the presence this gelding has at his age was probably a show stopper.

There is nothing like starting the morning watching an "old" horse feeling his oats, showing the spirit and carriage that must have won him more than his fair share of ribbons. Jeb is shown in a quieter moment here:

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Wintering Wisely

Under most circumstances harsh winters are more uncomfortable for horse owners than for the horses themselves. When living with seniors, though, it is prudent to practice a little more diligence in snow and ice season. We hope you find these tips useful (and that you will share with us any others you've found helpful in wintering your elders wisely!)

  • Water - water, water, water! Please remember that horses consuming large amounts of hay will need to drink more water than they do when on pasture. The moisture content of pasture grass is approximately 65-75%, while that of hay is only 8-10%.
    It is essential that the water source be kept as free of ice as possible. Not all horses will break through a layer of ice to access the water below. Yes, "wild" horses learn to do that as they grow up around other horses that know outdoor survival techniques. Your horse, however, is not a "wild" creature and may not know how to get to the water under that hard surface. There are several ways to deal with icy water:

  • One method is to break through and remove ice from the surface. If the ice is merely a thin "skin," a kitchen strainer works fine on small tanks and buckets. Thicker ice or a larger tank requires a larger removal tool. Find an old feed or water bucket and use a 3/4 inch drill bit to drill holes all over the bucket, making your own big strainer. After breaking the ice up with a hammer, simply dip the ice pieces out of the tank. CAUTION: Keep the bucket over the tank until the water drains out! (You will probably not make that mistake twice unless you enjoy working in wet clothes!) Pile the ice pieces where the horse will not have to walk over them to approach the tank. Check tanks and buckets for ice several times during the day.

  • A second option is to use tank or bucket heaters to keep the water temperature above freezing. There are several types available. Whichever type you choose, remember to keep all electrical cords out of reach of the horses. In addition, please use outlets not prop open waterproof covers on outdoor outlets, allowing water into the circuit.
    If your horses' normal water source is a natural source, such as a pond or stream, consider using a tank which is more easily maintained in frigid temperatures.

  • Tank or bucket location is another important thing to consider. Winter means less algae growth, but water tanks still must be cleaned regularly. Less algae growth means little when Toothless Wonders drop wads of hay into the water and the heater brews a strong hay tea. When relocating a tank for the winter, be sure to consider drainage in the new site. If you dump a tank for cleaning and the water freezes before it drains away or soaks into frozen ground, the horses may be hesitant to walk up to the tank.

  • Hay - Roughage is an essential ingredient in any horse's diet, playing a very important role in maintaining gastrointestinal health. During the winter, hay must be provided to replace pasture grass that has gone dormant. But, winter hay is more than just a replacement for grass. Metabolizing hay produces more body heat in the horse than does the metabolism of grains and other concentrates. When the outdoor temperatures drop lower, more hay will be consumed in most cases.

  • Dentally challenged seniors need special consideration when pasture is unavailable. Some marginally toothed horses can chew tender grass shoots but are unable to eat chewy, stemmy hay. In such cases, a commercial chopped forage may work. Wetting the forage may further aid in swallowing, but it also may create problems of its own. Wet forage will freeze into a solid block in cold temperatures, so serving sizes must be no larger than the horse can eat at one "sitting." A change in hay may make a difference in how well the horse can eat. A very leafy second or third cutting hay can sometimes be chewed when a stemmy first cutting will be wadded and spit out.

  • A final word on hay is QUALITY. Don't skimp on quality when it comes to this very important ingredient in gut health, nutrition and overall well-being. It was once thought that most winter colic episodes were caused by insufficient water intake. Researchers recently added poor quality roughage to the list of major culprits. When you feed poor quality hay to a horse that cannot chew well in the best of circumstances, and that may have a less than efficient digestive tract, you are tempting fate. Please don't take that risk.

  • Feed - Some younger horses are able to maintain good health and weight on forages (grass and hay) alone. That is not the case, however, for most senior horses, especially those with dental trouble. Most elders are fed a senior feed throughout the year. Most will also need larger amounts of feed in winter since maintaining normal body temperature requires more calories than are needed in warm weather. Some will need a larger increase, in proportion to summer rations, than others. Monitor the horse's weight closely and make adjustments accordingly. Because winter coats often hide subtle changes in body condition, feel for changes over the ribs, hips, withers and shoulders rather than depending on general appearance. When feed intake must be increased significantly for the winter, consider adding another meal to the daily routine rather than trying to feed enormous amounts less often. If the horse is not already eating his senior ration as a mash, consider soaking. Soaking is yet another way to add to overall water intake.

  • Shelter - Rainproof, windproof shelter is important for domestic horses' well-being in winter. Trees, especially trees with no leaves, just won't do the trick. Most horses can tolerate rain. Most horses can tolerate moderate wind. But a wet horse in a cold wind can lose body heat at an alarming rate. This is especially true of elders who may not be able to regulate their body temperatures as efficiently as younger horses. Free access to a three sided shed or the interior of a safe barn is ideal. Keeping the horse in a stall during bad weather is another option, but the ability to move about in a shed will help keep body temperatures up. A blanket may be useful during times of confinement when lower activity levels mean less internal heat production. (Remember, though, that prolonged confinement can contribute to respiratory problems and decreased gut motility.)

  • Footing - Icy ground can be a winter nightmare for both you and your horse. First and foremost, be extremely careful and keep yourself safe. If you take a bad spill, not only might you be seriously injured, but you will also not be able to care for the horses, and everybody will suffer.

  • No matter how careful you are, you will likely end up with ice in the area of a water tank. One way to combat this problem is to move the tank to a well drained area. If you are in a climate where the daytime temperatures routinely climb above the freezing point, empty and clean tanks early in the day. Doing so will allow water to drain away or dry somewhat before the temperature drops again that night.

  • If there is no way to avoid ice accumulation in certain areas, sprinkle the area with sand, fine gravel, old bedding or anything else that will help provide traction. One thing to avoid is cat litter. Clay cat litter will absorb a certain amount of moisture, then, especially in high traffic areas, begins to break down into a slimy clay layer that makes things worse rather than better.
  • If you must lead a horse over icy ground, give him his head, plenty of loose lead, and let him choose his own path. Remember that elders are less agile than they once were and may need a little more time to get where you are asking them to go.
  • Finally, whether walking on snow, ice or mud, maintaining balance on slippery ground is hard work. This is especially true in horses that have pre-existing unsoundnesses such as arthritis. They will want to rest more often and you may need to speak with your vet about adjustments in pain management until the footing improves.
  • Snowballs! - No, not the kind you throw at your brother. The kind that form on the bottom of horses' feet. The shape and health of a horses' feet and hooves, and the texture of the snow, are big factors in how much of a problem he will have with snow accumulation. Check you horses' feet often any time there is snow on the ground. Some horses gather so much snow in their feet that their hooves do not touch the ground at all. Under certain conditions, the weight of the horse will compress the snow into an ice ball, making a dangerous situation a very dangerous situation. Snowballs will usually pop right out of the foot with a hoof pick. To prevent snow accumulation, some horse owners coat the soles with petroleum jelly, or cooking spray. Results sound mixed. Try it and see what happens, but do NOT use anything that will make the hoof itself more slippery. (NOTE: In general, shod horses will have a greater tendency to pick up snowballs than barefoot horses.)
  • Blanketing - As with younger horses, elders vary greatly in the need for a blanket. Don't be tempted to use a blanket based solely on "old age." Many equine elders grow very generous winter coats. Keeping them clean and fluffy will ensure the coats maintain maximum insulating capabilities. Monitor for shivering. A horse can literally lose several pounds during a night of shivering. When blanketing is required, avoid the temptation to put the blanket on and leave it on until spring. Use it only when needed. If the horse is one with a heavy coat, one or two warm days can cause sweating under the blanket, and lead to additional problems.

  • Getting snowed upon - If you step outside one morning and see four inches of snow perched on your horses back, don't panic. The fact that the snow is not melting proves that the horse's coat is an efficient layer of insulation between his body heat and the layer of snow. It is a good idea, though, to brush the snow off before the temperature rises above freezing. Once the snow begins to melt, it will make the horse wet. Wet + cold = NOT a Good Thing.
  • Plan ahead -- With today's weather forecasting technology, we usually know of a winter storm well before it arrives. Keep feed, hay and bedding well stocked. Do not run out just before a storm and buy just enough to get you through the storm's predicted lifespan. First, the storm may last longer than expected. Second, maybe (key word is "maybe") you can get to the feed store the moment the snow stops falling, but can the feed distributor get there? If you depend on well water and don't have a generator, fill your water tanks to the brim in case of a power outage. Fill extra tanks and buckets if you have them. (Keep the buckets in the house to prevent freezing.)
  • Heat - Heat lamps and space heaters in the barn. DON'T.
  • Keep yourself safe -- Finally in our list of winter tips: Take care of yourself. Use caution on icy ground. Wear appropriate clothing and footwear. Don't risk hypothermia or frostbite, even if you'll "only be out there a minute or two."