Sunday, June 29, 2008

Today's "rescue"

As Mike was mucking stalls "out back" this morning, he heard a racket in the aluminum rain gutter on the back of the barn. Since he had the ladder out to hang fly strips, he climbed up for a peek. On its back, trying mightily to right itself, was

a male Eastern hercules beetle, also called a rhinoceros beetle, or unicorn beetle (apt names all!)

Mr. Beetle was released in a brush pile, we hope to be fruitful and multiply. OK, hercules beetles don't really have a job in our pest management program (adults eat plant sap and larvae eat decaying wood) but you have to admit they are interesting to have around!

Is Horse Rescue Depressing?

Several days ago, a new visitor to Traveller’s Rest commented that she was relieved to visit a rescue facility that wasn’t completely depressing. That was not the first time we heard someone express that sentiment, even though it is not always worded the same way. While we are thrilled to hear that visitors feel TREES’ horses are happy and well-cared for, it is disheartening to hear that equine shelters as a whole have reputations as unhappy places.

Why do so many people hold that opinion? Rescue facilities should be places of celebration. Celebrate that the horses in residence are safe from whatever circumstances put them at risk. Celebrate that they no longer suffer starvation, pain from untreated illness or injury, or anxiety due to isolation or excessive confinement. Celebrate that the resident horses are returning to good health and regaining confidence.

Granted, there may always be a horse or two that seems unhappy or insecure at a shelter or sanctuary. Horses that have recently arrived at a shelter have every right to be unhappy. They may be ill or injured. They may be malnourished. They may have lived for years in a small dark stall and are overwhelmed by the outside world.

That part of their lives, however, is all in the past once they reach safe haven. Don’t dwell on the past. Focus on the future. A horse’s recovery is often measured in small increments. Take note of the smallest changes. We cannot push recovering horses into more than they can handle, physically or emotionally, at the time. Progress is progress and each horse will recover at his own pace.

Don’t look at rescued horses as “poor things.” Instead, let them know how special they are and that The Good Life has arrived. Most horses are very sensitive to their caregivers’ moods. If you are anxious, the horse may be anxious. If you are relaxed, the horse is more likely to relax. A relaxed, secure horse will recover far more quickly than one that is unsure or afraid. “Listen” to the horse, note the small changes, and appreciate the trust a formerly mistreated animal may offer.

Celebrate the rescue. Celebrate the sanctuary. Celebrate the horses’ futures. And whether you are a rescuer, a rescue supporter, or a rescue volunteer, celebrate your part in those futures.

(“Geezers Rule!”)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Integrated Pest Management, Part 2


Picking up manure on a frequent basis helps control fly populations as well as internal parasites, but as a whole, flying critters are almost impossible to eradicate entirely. Poop-scooping is an obvious step in controlling fly populations. Here are a few other things TREES does:

All of our residents eat “mush,” which is simply Triple Crown Senior Formula soaked in warm water to an oatmeal-like consistency. Since many elders tend to drop feed as a result of dental challenges, the mush ends up on walls, in stall corners, smeared on stall gates and on the horses themselves. Even after it has dried, leftover mush attracts a lot of flies. To combat this problem, a whisk broom and dustpan is always nearby. Walls and gates are brushed off after meals, corners are swept, and horses’ faces and legs are cleaned when necessary. Flies are experts are finding the tiniest bits of leftovers, so all feed dishes are removed from stalls and rinsed or scrubbed after each meal, even when they appear clean.

Because flies can find bits of food the humans miss, many TREES residents wear fly masks and boots during the day. It seems that no amount of grooming or washing can remove every mush molecule once Sonny or Rienzi smear breakfast all over their lower legs. Fly masks andboots do not affect the fly population, but they do keep the horses more comfortable.
Another control measure involves good old-fashioned fly strips. Strips are hung in stalls and run-in sheds, especially near feeding stations. They do a good job, but need to be replaced often. Fly strips are useless once full.

“Fly Predators” also seem to be effective. We’ve noticed a drop in numbers since beginning to use them, but because our neighbors have both horses and cattle, we are visited by their flies. Since fly predator orders are based on the number of horses on a property, next year we will order based on both farms’ populations and place predators along the property line.

Mosquitoes and other flying pestilence

While flies are a big problem around many farms, mosquitoes warrant attention too. Several very unpleasant, sometimes fatal, equine diseases are transmitted by mosquitoes. West Nile Virus is one example. During wet years like this one (our area had the second wettest May on record this spring) it’s hard to do anything about puddles, but under normal circumstances, there are a few easy steps toward reducing mosquito populations. Most obvious is to eliminate standing water. Turn empty containers upside down so they don’t collect water. Don’t allow old tires to collect on the property. If you maintain bird baths, dump and refill them twice a week. Horses’ water tanks and troughs should be dumped and refilled twice weekly as well.

TREES also encourages resident bluebirds, barn swallows, bats, toads, and frogs. As a matter of fact ALL insect-eating critters are welcome here! According to “
Chiroptera: Life History & Ecology,” “Insect-eating bats are supremely good at what they do: a single little brown bat can catch and eat 600 mosquitoes in an hour.” Bluebirds Forever tells us that “bluebirds eat large quantities of insects, in fact 60-80% of their diet is insects.”Currently, only one bluebird house graces our fences, but plans to mount several more are underway. Bat houses will also be added this year. Toads have voluntarily taken up residence under all of the water tanks, requiring a little extra care when cleaning the tanks. Some toads can consume well over half their body weight in insects each day. Barn swallows often nest in sheds, run-ins and barns. BirdWeb says “Barn Swallows eat mostly flying insects, especially flies…..”


Traveller’s Rest has been lucky in the tick department. For the last five years, the only control measure required has been our “tick buffers.” The grass outside all fences is mowed very short. This seems to keep the ticks in the woods or in unused meadows, whether on our property or the neighbors. Walk in the woods or “tall grass,” though and all bets are off!

TREES’ pest control measures require a little extra work each day, but since most are free or cost very little, it seems worth it to provide a more comfortable, and cleaner, greener, living space for the elders.

We’d love to hear other ideas. Please tell us about your integrated pest management techniques

Friday, June 27, 2008

Integrated Pest Management

As part of our holistic approach to horse care, Traveller’s Rest is experimenting with several non-chemical means of pest management.

Internal parasites

Standard Operating procedure on many farms is to administer a chemical anthelmintic and/or boticide every six to eight weeks, year ‘round, no matter what. We’re trying some techniques that may make such frequent administration unnecessary. Most are aimed at preventing the horses from reinfesting themselves day after day.

When a new horse arrives at TREES, he or she is kept isolated from the other horses. This serves several purposes, but one is to keep a new horse with a potentially heavy parasite load from infecting pastures, paddocks or drylots occupied by other horses. The newcomer is kept separately for several months, being dewormed twice during that period. Manure is picked up in the area at least once, often twice, daily.

In established pasture groups, manure is picked up every day when possible, but is left no longer than three days. According to a report by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (Australia,) “the egg of the small strongyle may take between three to five days to hatch, depending on the temperature. When hatched the larvae develops from first instar larvae to second instar larvae and migrates from dung to pasture as encapsulated third instar larvae.” Cleaning up manure several times a week will hopefully break that cycle.

To monitor the effectiveness of this program, TREES would like to purchase the tools and supplies needed to perform on-site fecal egg counts at regular intervals. We’re researching sources and prices now. Results will allow us to administer chemical dewormers only when needed and will also tell us whether or not some horses are prone to heavier parasite loads than others.

Boticides will be administered once or twice a year, but to lessen the load, all horses are examined daily during the summer for bot eggs which are removed immediately upon discovery.

Part Two of our Pest Management notes will discuss flies, ticks, mosquitoes and other flying pestilence.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Happy Summer Solstice!

June 21. The day of the year on which "daylight" is at a maximum, and "night time" is at its shortest. According to, "People around the world have observed spiritual and religious seasonal days of celebration during the month of June. Most have been religious holy days which are linked in some way to the summer solstice. "

No matter how you view Summer Solstice, at Traveller's Rest it is a day of celebration. Especially for Betty Boop.
Betty suffers an autoimmune disorder called pemphigus foliaceous. Her immune system sees her own tissues as foreign substances and attacks her cells as if they were bacteria or viruses. The result is a number of skin lesions which, when not managed, can cover her entire body, causing itching, infection, weight loss, irritability, anxiety and other problems.

Betty's immune system is controlled by daily doses of prednisolone, a corticosteroid. Since long term steroid use is often accompanied by unpleasant side effects, we strive to keep Betty's dose as low as possible while controlling the pemphigus symptoms.

Oddly, the most problematic "trigger" that sets the disorder in high gear is exposure to sunlight. Betty must stay indoors from dawn to dusk, sunup to sundown, 365 days a year. Betty's quarters are a 12x24 stall, deeply bedded, with fans at each end and attached to a run-in shed where two of her "roomies" hang out during the day. Even with roomy accommodations and company, however, being inside and free from symptoms is no substitute for turnout.

And so, we celebrate June 21, for starting tomorrow the hours of sunlight begin to shorten and Betty's turnout time will increase, little by little, until Winter Solstice when the cycle begins again.

Happy Summer Solstice, Betty!

Another "slight pause"

"Slight pause!!!" was something my grandmother always announced, slightly annoyed, when one of her grandchildren didn't jump on his or her turn quickly enough during one of our many many many card games.
Once again, we had a "Slight Pause" in our blog. This time, the problem was a hard drive failure in a three-month old computer. Fortunately, the warranty covered replacement and we're back in business. The Geek Squad was able to salvage most of our data, but not everything, especially the most recent updates (do as I say, not as I do......Back Up your files!)
The most serious loss was our email address book and whatever emails were pending response in the last few weeks. If you emailed TREES recently and have not heard from us, please send us another note. We're doing our best to catch up with everything computer-related. We apologize for this inconvenience. Thanks for sticking with us.