Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Partisan Politics

Partisanship is alive and well up here in Alaska, and no, I don't mean the debacle of federal corruption trials we have been subjected to over the past few months....

Nope, I am talking about the politics of horses. I can't think of a more fractured, splintered group of people, really I can't. Factions and cliques, and loose associations and performance groups, religious gatherings, sport afficianados....if you can think of a sector or an aspect, you can rest assured that someone else (maybe a lot of someones) will consider their position, actions, words or ________(fill in the blank) as outright heresy or lies or accusations or, well, whatever they get in a snit about.

It's so stupidly small minded I am sometimes amused at the furor created by some of these fomenters. There does seem to be a lot of talking going on "behind scenes" and every such group has at least one member who is reviled and detested, feared or adulated or imitated. But nothing, of course, is ever said in public-it all has to be done on the quiet...because while we may be isolated in distance from each other, the rumor channels are light speed!

Let's take that oh-so-touchy topic: Farriers. Well we all need them (or most of us do) and nearly all of them have very full books and most are not taking new clients for any reason. Those that are popular and very busy have been elevated to near godhood status by their clients, regardless of the competency of the work performed over time. And no one ever EVER risks losing their farrier, no matter how lousy the trim or shoeing, how many times they have been stood up for a no show, how many times they don't get a call back, or how much they get charged for remedying issues their shoddy work started in the first place.

Most owners think of farriers as having very special knowledge that isn't attainable, let alone understandable unless you "go to school" to learn. Little do they know that the majority of accredited courses are mostly centered on steel working, not proper business ettiquette or even hoof function/form and abnormalities. Many farriers do continue with their ongoing education, but in general they are relatively hidebound and unwilling to change their "protocols".

Most are terrible gossips, especially about other farriers. And owners too. If you want something known, you just mention to one of them, and sure enough, it spreads faster than a virus in a school yard. Meanwhile, they are happily rasping away what remains of the hoof wall, working so fast the owner has no clue what has been done, or why. The busier they get, the worse their "service" to their clients-and their clients' horses too of course. Of course some of this has to be laid at the feet of owners who have no idea just how often a horse should be trimmed, and what to look for-but I won't go into detail on that. Too complex and too controversial even for here ;)

But I will say that a lot of horses are not well trimmed or shod here. People are so firmly into their farriers' camps that even *I* am cautious about what I say, and to whom, about the choices I have made for my own horses' soundness. And how bad is that? If people knew that they could learn these things (as I have) then the mastery and mystery of farrier care would be shown to be what it truly is...and it ain't rocket science!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Into the unknown.....

Today begins a new chapter in the life of one old horse, I hope it turns out to be a good one.

Our local AC auctioned off two horses last evening....one was young, fat, and pushy-$100. The other was old (Mid 20s) and had several unattended issues-$25.

I actually went to see these horses in person, and while the younger gelding was cute, he was obviously way more than my arthritis laden body could ever hope to handle. I have a pretty big soft spot for the senior horse, so I spent the majority of my time there going over the old mare.

A small mare with a small frame, I guessed she was mostly (or all?) Morgan type. A black with two socks and greying around the muzzle and eyes, she was probably quite a looker in her younger days. She sported a rough and dull coat, and sunbleached, butched mane and forelock. She had the tell tale protrusions on each side of the jaw, just where the molars would meet. Since she didn't want that area touched, it's a safe bet that she needs her teeth floated to relieve pain. And too, there were a few quids of hay laying about. She also had a swelling under the jaw on one side-right where the glands are. Perhaps a remnant of the bastard strangles she endured earlier in the summer-who knows. She was a condition score 4+.

In addition, she had largish patches of white hairs on both sides. It was quite obvious that these were the result of injuries-likely from poorly fitting tack over the years. From how far down the sides they went, I think she has probably worn a pack saddle too. These injuries included an open wound on the point of her prominent wither-about the size of a quarter. Ahead of that wound was swelling down both sides of the shoulder and slightly into the neck. It was obvious nothing was being done to close the wound.

To top it off, she had a deeply swayed back, fairly extreme. I am pretty sure it wasn't due to pathology, but rather to heavy use as she aged. Just ahead of the loin was some sort of soft swelling, just alongside the spine itself-more trauma from hard use.

And yet, her legs were clean as could be, although she obviously needed more trims to correct the angles of her hooves, which showed a slight "slipper". She looked ready to retire, not carry anyone, and I said as much to the shelter officer.

AC has had the mare in custody since about the first of May.

Think about that, if you would............

In almost five months of their "care" they had not treated the open wound on the wither.
They had not given vaccinations.
They had not floated the teeth.
They had not addressed the swelling under the jaw.
They had wormed her (perhaps twice)
Their records on her care and treatment were not available.

It was posted on a local group that there had been a news report about the auction, which included the statement that they had "put 200 pounds" on the mare since she had been in care.

What utter hogwash!

What BS, what a stupid, ignorant statement to make, by people who SHOULD KNOW BETTER! After all, some of their officers have even been Outside to special courses on horse abuse!

This whole thing really ticks me off-that they would make such statements and BE PROUD of it too! I know FOR A FACT that the mare would be DEAD if she weighed 200 pounds less than she did the day before the auction. Idiots. People toss around impossible, improbable figures like this and all it does is illustrate just how much they have to learn :(

I have challenged other people to go to a grocery store, and load up 100 pounds of roasts into a cart. Just take a look at the MASS that is, you can try it yourself. If it doesn't seem right, add another 100 pounds (if you can fit it in there) to see for yourself just what it really masses. Keep in mind we are talking about a small frame, small mare-perhaps 14.1 or 2 with a severe sway back-there is no way she would live with that much loss.

I'll have to touch upon other aspects of this later on, but the challenge remains-go load up 200 pounds of roast into a pile, or a cart, and take a good long look at it.

Do you really think a 14.1 horse could stand to loose that much, and *still* be a condition score 4+??


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The discarded..........

Today, a rant and a ramble both.

We have rather more than our share of geriatric horses here in Alaska. There are a number of reasons for this, but it pretty much boils down to no auction or processing facility, and no retirement options for senior horses. It costs a very pretty penny to haul them Outside, *if* one can afford and locate a retirement arrangement in the Lower 48 somewhere. After all, going rate for hauling is over $1500, just to the PNW one way.

If the horses survive the weather and dubious ownership here, they can look forward to being passed around from person to person until they succumb to the elements or ignorance and/or apathy of the last owner. Very few horse owners up here provide their horses' final rest, although some might make the extra effort and haul the horse to a local dog musher. Aged horses seem to pass through a variety of "4-H" homes, until such time as they can no longer perform as expected, or their health deteriorates, or becomes compromised. Of course, by this point, they are inexpensive compared to their younger counterparts, but still overpriced considering their special needs.

Usually this means the horse has some sort of lameness issue, or poor dental condition, or a disease process left untreated, etc. Arthritis and bad teeth and overgrown hooves are very common, right up there with crappy cheap feed and not enough of it.

Throw in the cold, the dark, high energy and feed costs and who gets the short end of the stick? The horse, of course. That luxury purchased for the teenager or family turns into a liability that means real physical effort when it's -25 out. So naturally it's time to get rid of that horse, too much work, too much $$, too much of everything. And on the bulletin boards and into ads they go, hopefully placed into competent care at the least. Or they turn a blind eye to basic needs until such time as the horse is in critical condition or actually down.

The very lucky might get a welcome at the only rescue we have, Alaska Equine Rescue. And that only if the owner will actually pick up the phone to call for help. But AER is very limited in resources, being 100% funded by our small horse community. They limp along on a fraction of what is needed, depending on the generosity of volunteers/donors and are forced to turn away horses every winter. Some winters, it's quite a few. Maybe the horse will get lucky, and someone will make a pity purchase. Or contact the local AC about their condition-Occam's razor for horses up here, whether that turns out advantageous or not. Or perhaps the owner will simply not monitor their horse, and they will find a corpse come daylight.

More likely, however, is a marginal grasp on life, sometimes for months and months. How these horses survive such "care" is beyond me, but many do. I can think of nothing more cruel than to see a geriatric horse who is a bag of bones, standing in unimaginable conditions with no shelter or blanket, rotted stemmy hay (if they are fortunate) they cannot eat, with no water and no attention. Or worse yet, have the bad luck to be owned by a "know it all" who swears the horse is a condition score two because "it's OLD, over 20 you know!" which we all know is utter nonsense. Commonly found with plumper, younger companions, the aged are a dirty secret and I swear there must be some sort of backwoods trade in them, the rate they move from place to place.

Even though I have not been very active in the horse community for a number of years, I still get told about situations I can do nothing about. Like the two year old stud colt, never seen a farrier who has a large gash that hasn't been treated. Or the bags of bones tucked over there in the back of that subdivision, right behind the 300K house. Or the old timer wasting away because "it's the kids horse, they are supposed to feed it" 99% of the time, it's from someone who does not want to "get involved" themselves, naturally. Oh heaven forbid they actually DO something constructive on their own! No, let's leave it to someone else to deal with, thereby absolving ourselves of any responsibility or guilt, right? (Pardon the sarcasm :)) People tell me, I presume, because they know I am passionate about humane care and will act where others won't. Which of course gives them an easy out, and makes me feared and reviled within the community. Well screw them, I say.

If you will NOT feed wholesome and appropriate food,
if you will NOT provide water or shelter,
if you will NOT provide vet care,
if you will NOT provide farrier care,
if you will NOT provide the minimum for a healthy horse,
then GET OUT of horses, period!

Placing a stupidly high price tag on the mid 20s senior with other issues is not going to help you quickly get rid of your financial liability. Thinking you can get your feed costs back is as smart as thinking you can get the gas money back out of a used car, you idiot. If hay is over $600 a ton in the feed store, and quality sacked feeds the same, how is it that your done nothing, grade, arthritic, lame, and toothless wonder is worth $1000 or $1500? Anyone who has $1500 to spend, is looking for younger horses without the issues, stupid. But no of course your marvelous aged horse has to be worth more than some ill conceived notion of what "slaughter price" is (which no one knows up here anyway, but is oft quoted by the ignorant) and so you will stubbornly hold out for the almighty dollar, while your "investment" withers away right in front of you. Any attempt to use logic will fall on deaf ears, until eventually you realize that you "just can't afford" the horse and call someone in desperation to fix your ignorant mess. IF it can be fixed, after you have ridden the crap out of the horse for umpteen years, fed the cheapest, crappiest cow hay you could find, and the horse suffers permanent damage from parasites you were too cheap to remedy. You will probably bundle in the shoddy tack you purchased on eBay, and maybe the few remaining bales of moldy hay buried under the tarp out back into the deal-just anything to get rid of "it".

Bah! Which brings me round to the idiocy of local horse prices, yet again......

I have noticed that a couple folks are wising up to the real market, by lowering their prices. Not enough to get them sold, but enough that a buyer might actually take a look. People are figuring out that registry doesn't mean much (especially if the pedigree is marginal at best) but still, I see weaners and yearlings advertised for prices that would buy a fully finished adult with show points to boot in other locations. If the ads don't change from month to month, then you need to re-evaluate your own estimation of price and worth, don'tcha think? And where did this lower floor on green horses come from anyhow? These are advertised anywhere between $1500 and $2800, mostly between three and eight. These are the exact same horses that in the Lower 48 might bring $200 at a sale, yet somehow they are magically worth ten times as much here? This boggles the mind, really....and it isn't unusual to see seniors advertised for nearly the same amount. Another puzzler, since generally the aged require rather more care and $$ than a younger horse in the same price range...but let's just dump our problem on someone else who doesn't know any more than we do, yes?

I would like to take these people and treat their own family members as they do their aged horses. Let's just put Granny out back without shelter, water, or a winter coat. Let's not let her have dentures (because after all, horses don't) and let's feed her when we remember to. No reason to bother with water, there is snow and ice on the ground after all. Let's ignore Granny until daylight when we realize we really must make a trip to the feedstore, only to discover that Granny's feed has gone up 25%. Let's then panic and decide to dump Granny since after all, the other toys in the household bring more fun year round. Since we haven't bothered to take good care of Granny, she now has infirmities which limit her use, but that's okay in the end, we'll get $1000 or more and just buy a younger version we can ignore the next winter......

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Sunday Rambles

I give humble thanks to another blog: fuglyhorseoftheday for a refresher course in equine conformation. This past week I went to see three horses for sale. I was originally interested in just one, but my newly tuned critical eyes allowed me to see beyond the colors to the structure beneath. Thank you FHOFTD!

The one I thought I was interested in was a young mare. She turned out to be too tall anyhow, but I was able to pick apart her conformation, and I left there mentally scratching my head over how the horse was put together....

First, a plain head. Not quite coarse, but no refinement either. Rather like a short TB head with slightly smaller than normal eyes, not well set. This lead to a very thick throatlatch, which connected to a short, upside down neck. This came to an upright shoulder, with a lousy angle on the lower portion too. Great withers that swept back to a long, weak loin, which dropped off into a short steep croup-which of course was higher than the front. When I mentally drew a line from stifle to point of elbow, she was high in the rear that way too.

The mare was very narrow in the front, and was slightly knock kneed as well. Pasterns were of normal length but upright. Post legged in the hinds, with rear cannons fully two inches longer than those in the front.

Looking at her from the side, I saw a mix of parts that was not harmonious. I tried to imagine what proper muscling would do to improve those faults...but honestly, strengthening the topline, was about all someone could do. I don't think it is possible for that horse to truly engage, at least not easily. She would maybe be okay for tooling around on the trails, but certainly isn't breeding quality and I don't think she would stay sound for arena maneuvers. She's built to travel strung out and head high-and sure enough, that is how she is muscled.

She's "registerable", but is a PMU product that arrived here about four years ago as foal. Did I mention that she had a filly at her side? It seems this youngster was born windswept. From a quick glance the filly seemed to have okay legs (keeping in mind I do not know that much about foals) but on further inspection, she was way off kilter with turned out knee joints. Mentally drawing a vertical line down those front legs revealed offsets. And was back at the knee also, and cow hocked like her dam. She too, had a upright shoulder but at least she had a decent neck, although a long back.

I was offered a good deal (for here) on all three, but honestly I could not get around conformational faults that would lead to soundness issues down the road. The owner thought she was pushy and aggressive, but what I really saw was an alpha mare posturing at the hay trough. I had no difficulty taking her away from it, backing her up, picking up her feet.....she needs hoof care from someone who knows what they are doing, and treatment for thrush too.

So I will pass, and wonder what idiot is going to ruin that horse by improper riding. At this time of the year, the foal has no value whatever, and needs to be out with other babies to mature. The remaining horse was a two year old, supposedly Arab gelding. Ah, nope, not a purebred. More like a stock horse cross of some type. He was actually the better of the three by far, with good bone, no major glaring faults except for being cowhocked-I hope someone works with him as he's less then 14 hands and would make someone a great pony project.