Monday, December 12, 2011

Winter Feeding Arrangements

During the warm months, when there is plenty of grass, horses are able to determine their own feeding space.  Some may graze close together, others may want a larger personal bubble to feel comfortable and secure.

Now that lower temperatures have arrived and the grass is dormant in most of the US, feeding arrangements may need to be adjusted to ensure each horse receives his full portions of feed and hay.

Separate everyone at meal times to allow slower eaters to finish and to make sure less confident horses are not pushed away from their feed.

At other times of the day, make sure every horse has relaxed access to hay.  if you feed round bales, this may mean unrolling the bale to allow more timid horses space to forage.

 And, as always, feel under those winter coats and blankets to monitor body condition and adjust feed as needed.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

“I’d Rather Not”

Earlier this month, Traveller’s Rest Equine Elders Sanctuary was invited to present a talk on Equine Elder care at the Equine Extravaganza in Doswell, VA. The talk lasted about forty minutes and the floor was opened to questions. The room became silent. Either I had told the listeners everything they needed to know about keeping weight on senior horses, or I had baffled them into a state of confused speechlessness.

Finally, in the last row of chairs, a hand rose. What a relief. Unfortunately, the question did not concern the topic of geriatric horse health.

“Do you take donated horses?”

I repeated the question into the microphone. “Do we take donated horses?”

I thought: “I can answer this question two ways.” First, I can explain why we don’t consider TREES residents to be donations. Or, probably more to the point of this specific instance, I can explain how we decide which horses we accept into the sanctuary. I chose to start with the latter.

The decision process is really quite straightforward. First, and perhaps most importantly, the sanctuary must have the room and resources to take in a new horse without jeopardizing the care of the current herd. Since the farm continually operates at maximum capacity, we often have a waiting list of sorts. There are always more Elders in need than there are places for them to go for care. Because we can’t take them all, we have a basic triage system. Horses who will immediately suffer hunger, untreated illness or injuries, or other life-threatening issues if left where they are at the time, are given first priority. Underlying circumstances may include outright neglect, abandonment, or owners’ physical or financial hardships.

The bottom line is that, when we accept a horse surrendered directly to TREES by his owner, it is because the owner is no longer able to provide even basic care, usually through no fault of his own.

Following this explanation, the lady in the back row began to explain that she had recently rescued a horse at New Holland (a large auction barn in Pennsylvania) but that the horse turned out to be several years older than she believed at the time of purchase.

I repeated the basics of our acceptance policy – horses not receiving even basic care, i.e. food, basic veterinary care, etc – and followed up with “Are you able to provide basic care?”

“I’d rather not.”

Silence. Her “I’d rather not” hung in the room like a noose.

Thousands of people who desperately want to be able to provide basic care to their horses, literally, cannot. You can see it on local bulletin boards, classified sites and on internet forums. They’ve been laid off. They’ve taken lower paying or part time jobs to put food on the table but don’t have much left over for hay. Some are working two or three part time jobs, which almost makes ends meet, but doesn’t leave time for the actual labor involved in horse care. Other people are losing farms, losing homes, moving into smaller, more affordable accommodations that don’t include space for horses (and if they can’t afford a mortgage payment, they certainly can’t afford to pay boarding facilities to care for their horses.) Even so, I am regularly amazed at what some people are willing to sacrifice to buy a bag of feed or a bale of hay.

Now, at the Equine Extravaganza, I stood looking at a woman who apparently could afford to care for her “rescued” horse, but didn’t want to. I took a deep breath and, for the third time, explained that those horses whose owners cannot provide basic care take priority and that there are always – always – more waiting in the wings. It will be a long, long time before TREES will be able take in a horse whose owner is able to provide feed and vet care but would “rather not.”

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Efficiency, Safety, & Growing Pains

TREES is growing! With all growth comes a few growing pains, learning what fits and what might need to be taken in or let out. As we try to implement new programs and our schedule becomes busier, it’s time to see how we can make daily chores more efficient, in terms of time, manpower and funds, allowing more resources to be devoted to new activities. We still want everyone’s time at TREES to be a low-stress, enjoyable experience, but we also want to get as much done as efficiently as possible as we reach for higher goals.

In that vein, here are a few reminders or changes to bear in mind. Some are meant to make more efficient use of our time, some are aimed at conserving resources and some are safety reminders (in no particular order.)

• When we have a lot of stalls and sheds to clean, or when we are shorthanded, don’t get caught up picking at every little crumb in one stall or shed. Better to have all the stalls and sheds clean rather than have one or two immaculately sanitized and the rest untouched.

• Place muck buckets, forks, carts, or other objects where they won’t restrict access to gates, doorways, alleys, or stalls.

• If you need to get a fork or cart from another barn, please put it/them back when you finish so the next volunteer doesn’t have to search the whole farm for what he needs.

• When cleaning stalls, think of a cat’s litter box. Not everything will be sitting right on top, readily visible. You will need to sift a little to find both manure and urine. Then, just as you would in the cat’s box, remove manure and wet bedding, but leave as much clean dry “litter” as possible. Don’t throw out a whole forkful of shavings to get rid of one road apple.

• We need to get back to picking up the fields and paddocks more often than once a week. Leaving it all for the Sunday crew is not fair to them, not an efficient use of everyone’s time, and seriously outside our parasite control protocol.

• Don’t dump full water tanks that may only have a few shreds of beet pulp or one quid floating on top. Dip out the floaters and as long as the water is clear, leave the rest until the horses drink more and reduce what will be lost if dumping is needed. The large tanks hold 100 gallons and we don’t want to pour that much drinkable water out on the ground.

• If horses are frisky, whether due to new arrivals, changes in weather, or a bug hiccupping in the next field, leave them alone or put the one you want to work with in a stall. DON’T bring more people into the setting to occupy the other horses while you work around one in that situation. Adding more bodies to the space only increases the risk that one of those bodies may be stepped on.

• Don’t rake dusty sheds or paddocks. Neither you nor the horses should be standing in a cloud of barn dust. Especially anyone, horse or human, with respiratory difficulties, like Ambrose and Jubal. IF you feel the area must be raked for some reason, please please thoroughly dampen it first.

•Let us know before you come to the farm if its not a previously scheduled work day.  Always.

• If you are scheduled to volunteer and wake up that morning with sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy head, fever, so you can’t rest type symptoms, just give us a call and let us know you’ll be staying home that day. (In other words, don’t risk spreading the love to the other volunteers.)

• Ask for help when you need help. Protect your back and other body parts rather than trying to prove your super human abilities. You can’t help heal the horses if you hurt yourself.

• Finally – let us hear your ideas for increasing efficiency, safety and widening the road to program development!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June 1-14, 2011: Buy natural products, support TREES' geezers!

Ferrell Hollow Farm (FHF) is a dedicated retirement farm in TN for senior horses over the age of 20, most of who arrive with special needs. In keeping with our passion to help as many senior horses across the country as possible, we have selected a non-profit sanctuary also dedicated to caring for senior horses to help!

Traveller’s Rest Equine Elders Sanctuary (TREES) is a non-profit rescue located in VA. They are not your typical non-profit horse rescue organization though. Many of the residents come to the sanctuary from backgrounds of neglect or abandonment, but TREES does not dwell on the past. Instead, they celebrate the personalities that emerge as their elders return to "just being horses" in a low stress environment. “Honor the Wisdom”!

For a limited time, Ferrell Hollow Farm will donate a portion of its proceeds from sales on their website’s store page to TREES! Any web order placed from June 1st thru June 14th qualifies! Please visit

Ferrell Hollow Farm’s Natural Horse Care line was developed out of a need for non-chemical products that actually worked. All formulas are developed and tested by Cindy Daigre on the senior horses at our retirement farm. Only pure grade essential oils and pesticide free herbs are used. FHF also has a natural body care product line for PEOPLE! As with all of our products, only cruelty-free ingredients are used (no animals are harmed)!

TREES has created a wish list of FHF items they would love to have. You can help them double up on the benefits of this program by not only receiving a monetary donation at the end of this fundraising period from your purchases, but consider ordering something just for them to use on their elder residents!

TREES' Wish List of Ferrell Hollow Farm Natural Products:
*Herbal Skin Gel
*Fly Spray
*Fly Balm
*Colloidal Silver Wound Spray
*Colloidal Silver Wound Gel
*Mosquito Spray

Please use this link to begin shopping!


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ciao Bello, Parker.

In the summer of 2010, TREES agreed to assume custody of a young paint horse in need of immediate veterinary care.  Infection had caused swelling in most of Parker's face.  Over the course of many months, Parker's foster mom and several vets, in consultation with a surgeon at NCSU, cleaned up infected tissue, removed fragments of diseased bone and tried to deal with an opening that led from Parker's mouth into his sinus. 

Under their care, Parker seemed to improve somewhat, had a good appetite, played with herdmates and appeared to be happy, but the cavity in his face would not heal and the infection always seemed to lurk, waiting for an opportunity to make itself known again.

Following months of xrays, biopsies and cultures, it was decided to take Parker to NCSU, where a surgeon would attempt to give Parker a normal life.  Sadly, his prognosis was that surgery would be "heroic" and gave the little paint only a 20% chance of a good quality of life.

And so, with a mouthful of sweet spring grass, with his foster mom close by, Parker left his earth in the gentlest manner possible.  While we won't have specific results for several weeks, it was thought the tissues involved looked cancerous. Even if that proves to not be the case, the surgeon confirmed, during necropsy, that there was nothing else to be done.  If there is an "up side" to this case, it is that Parker was able to be an organ donor, allowing other horses corneal transplants.

Our hearts go out to Meredith who cared for Parker for almost a year and stayed with him as he left for greener pastures.  No one could have done a better job.  We know he is missed already.

Ciao Bello, Parker.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Our Residents' Names

If you've been watching the rebroadcast of Ken Burns' Civil War on PBS this week, you may be figuring out where we get many of our horses' names.  Here are a few hints regarding some past and current residents.

_________ Hampton
_________'s Heights
_________ Early
_________ Bedford _________ (one officer - 2 different TREES horses)
_________ Stuart
Pierre Gustave Toutant ________
_________hugh Lee
William Tecumseh _________
________ Chamberlain
________ was General Sheridan's horse at Winchester
________ Long was said to be General Lee's "other" favorite mount
Some Confederates wore uniforms of _________ color

Saturday, February 5, 2011

52 Thoroughbreds - Fact or Drama?

Over the past week or two, a message about 52 horses in Ohio needing homes "went viral" in the horse world. These horses were said to need homes within in few days or they would "go to slaughter."

Ummm. Not so much.

Here is a snippet from a post written by someone who actually took time to talk to the family:

{The horses' owner} was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure about 6 months ago and at that time, they began to find homes for all the horses, knowing he would not be here much longer. They have all been placed, but it was not a hurried or concerning situation, by any means. They all went to homes that were picked by the family.

At no time, were they EVER in danger of going to a slaughter house.
Now, this is not the first time something like this has happened. On the contrary, its a regular occurrence. I have no idea why people feel the need to add threats and emotional blackmail to the mix when they hear news of a group of horses needing new homes. Isn't the current number of horses needing places to go enough of a problem without adding melodrama to the issue?

Frankly, this type of reaction makes those working in "horse rescue" look like a bunch of fruitbats and impacts our credibility as a whole.

The habit of screaming "slaughter, slaughter!!" every time a horse is advertised as needing placement is a reason TREES does not publicize or forward this type of post unless we have personally talked to the owners .

Please -- when you get an email like this, or see a post on a forum, RESEARCH it, before you pass it on to 5000 of your closest friends. I feel fairly confident in saying the owner would rather get one call from you than a hundred calls from said closest friends. If you can't take the time to call, don't take the time to pass it on.