Sunday, September 7, 2008

Have you Goosed your Geezer Today?

As the hours of daylight decrease and colder weather approaches, our horses are beginning to replace their sleek summer coats with thick winter woolies. Many elder horses tend to grow thicker winter coats than they did in younger days. This is especially true of horses with Cushings Disease or PPID.

Thick coats can hide changes in physical condition. It is not uncommon for elders with marginal dental challenges to lose weight over the winter when tender pasture grass is replaced by chewy hay. Subtle changes in weight may not be immediately obvious under winter wear.

Begin now to note how your horse's body feels when you groom, scratch or hug him. Take note of the flesh, not only over the ribs, but also along the topline, over the hip bones and rump and across the shoulders. As the winter coat develops, feel under the hair for any changes in weight. Running your hand over the surface of a thick coat may not give an accurate assessment of condition.

Oracle ("Ori") shows how a Cushings coat can hide weight loss. Visually, there is no indication that Ori is underweight.

Under that coat*, however:

(*Please note, Ori was not clipped just for this demonstration. Hers was an abnormally long "cushings coat" causing her to sweat profusely, even in February. It was matted, unhealthy and putting her at risk for skin infection.)
So, goose your geezer, feel your fogey, scratch your senior. Get under that winter coat and monitor weight by feel rather than by sight. If needed, increase feed a little, use a blanket on cold nights to conserve calories, or find a more appropriate winter substitute for pasture. Its easier to prevent weight loss in winter than to put weight back on in winter. Goose early, goose often. Don't risk an unpleasant surprise when spring shedding begins.

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