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!