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Long Distance Horse Ownership
 By Winniefield Park   •   16th Mar 2019   •   503 views   •   0 comments


Iíve moved my horse to my daughterís home, three hours away, in advance of our moving to the same area soon. And although I trust my daughter to look after her, I canít say Iím enjoying long distance horse ownership. Not only am I able to ride only when I visit, but Iíve gone from seeing her every day to once a month or so - even less now that the weather is making driving difficult. And, seeing her every day meant I could keep an eye on her condition, because now, as a senior horse, there are definitely some changes occurring that worry me. My daughter keeps me updated, and I get photos of poop, hooves, rips in her blanket, or anything else that needs attention. But of course, itís just not the same as being there.

My horse always been an easy keeper, but over the last year Iíve noticed that sheís a little leaner than usual. Every winter, with less work to do and full access to a round bale, sheís usually on the plump side. But, the last two winters, that hasnít been the case. Sheís not at all underweight. In fact when the vet saw her late last fall, and I expressed my concern, he felt that she was in perfect condition. But, I know what is normal for her. So, sheís been put on a senior feed, beet pulp, and a few other extras to keep her warm and healthy. And it seems to be working.

Another concern is occasional loose poop. She certainly doesnít have diarrhea, but her manure isnít as well formed as it might be. After consulting with the vet, weíve put her on probiotics and alfalfa hay cubes after ruling out parasites and bacterial infections. Her teeth were checked and floated and thankfully, she has a very healthy mouth. The occasions of loose poops didnít start until hay from a different supplier was put out, and our first thought is that it was too drastic a change for her. The color of the manure from all the horses change on the new hay.

So this might be the reason. Or maybe itís not.

Because when we first met, my horse was essentially in starvation mode - not much more than rough coat over bones. Who knows what strains this put on her body, including her digestive system, and how well her body really healed over the long term.

So certainly, the change in hay might be the only reason her manure changed. But, From what I have learned from the vet, and by doing lots of reading is that diarrhea and loose poop in senior horses isnít unusual. As a horse ages, itís colon doesnít work quite as efficiently as it once did. In the summer, when the horse is grazing, its digestive system can handle soft grass. But in the winter, an older horse may have trouble digesting hay. Before it is properly broken down, it moves too quickly through for the water it drinks to be absorbed. So everything is carried through its system and expelled as slightly loose, or sometimes even a wet slurry of manure.

Sheís been on the probiotic for about three weeks now. Thatís long enough to reestablish any damaged gut flora. We havenít ruled out a course of antibiotics just in case she has a type of harmful gut bacteria. She just started eating alfalfa cubes and already gets a bit of beet pulp. Alfalfa is high in calcium which helps as a Ďbufferí in the hind gut, and the vet feels that may help solidify things. There is pectin too, in alfalfa, which can help firm up poop. But from what I have read about alfalfa, it can have the opposite effect too.

One of the first things I thought of, but something my daughter had reservations about is bentonite clay. There is a product out there that can be administered as a paste or powder, used to treat diarrhea, but is largely clay that can be purchased at a lot of pharmacy and health food stores. This type of clay has many dietary and external uses for animals and humans. So itís a handy thing to have around. Sand in the gut can cause runny poop too. Psyllium powder can help with that. When you add it up, there is quite a long list of things you can troubleshoot to try to solve this problem, Because you can also add stress, ulcers, food sensitivities, season changes and internal problems that canít be tested for.

Iím pretty confident that we will find the root of the problem and the solution. But, I have to keep in mind that there are some older horses with chronic diarrhea that isnít cleared up no matter what you try.
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