Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Boarding facility licensing?

I've been pondering this for a while now, since the meeting with the AC Board earlier this month. It's clear to me that the MSBACR would really like to see licensing for horse boarding facilities and operations. I am really on the fence on this issue, but probably not for the reasons one might think at first read.

First thing to know is this: Anyone can "hang out a shingle" for anything horse related. Training, farriery care, trail rides, guides/outfitters, boarding, you name it. In theory, if you are going to be a business, you should have a business license too. In the MSB, that means two licenses-one from the state, and one from the Borough. In practice, folks advertise but some do not bother with licensing. The customer/client has no idea there is no business license. I think most of us just presume that if you are advertising/promoting your talent/operation, then of course you are licensed, and insured to boot! And that somehow, you know what you are doing too.

When it comes to horse boarding, facilties run the gamut from "luxury accomodations" to "rough board" with most places falling in between-like my own-practical, not fancy. The larger operations will have the licensing and insurance-and that is partly why the fees are high. Rough board (pasture with water only, shelter optional) in someone's unused back plot is a different issue and most would not bother with a formal business for temporary, extra summer income.

Given what has happened with Wingnut, and others that I have had direct experience with over the years, *some sort* of oversight would not be a bad thing. It would be nice if there was a minimum standard of care to meet....but on the other hand, I surely do not want more governmental interference. I would be very concerned that formal licensing (or permitting) could lead to Premesis IDs, which encumber the land and lead down the NAIS path-not a good place to go. It would open the door to inspections and who knows what as far as fines and fees. And yet, I can think of a way that this could be just takes co-operation between the goverment (MSBACR) and the public it supposedly serves. Naturally I don't see this happening because surely the simple idea I have is too blasted easy and entirely too sensible to be workable-never mind all the babble about public-private partnerships.

So what I had in mind was this: A person who wants to gain "approval" (is that the right term?) would provide copies of biz licensing to MSBACR. They would receive a small packet that includes an open book test. The test would cover such basics as minimum standards of care, basic emergency knowledge (P&Rs, signs of colic, etc), vaccines and deworming, and the like. It should be fairly simple thing to come up with 40 or 50 questions which would at least force the applicant to learn something about horse care if they don't already know. There would be a section on their responsibilities as boarding operation-feed, water, shelter, fencing. Once the test is completed, they return it to MSBACR. MSBACR hands a copy over to a group composed of AC board members, AER board members, and other volunteers.

That group assesses the knowledge base of the applicant, and then inspects the facility for safety. If the facility meets the established minimum standard, then they get a pass. A pass earns the operator a place on the list of "approved" facilties. This list is made available in local publications, at the MSBACR offices, and other places as needed to inform the public. The approval is good for at least two years, with future reviews by the oversight group. MSBACR personnel would have to do nothing but provide imput on the testing, maintain a file cabinet, and provide a copy of the list to anyone who asks. A win win all around, I think.

In this way, MSBACR gets first hand knowledge of existing facilties. The public can be asssured that the operator/owner has a certain level of knowledge. If an owner/operator chooses not to participate, the only consequence is that they are not on the "approved" list, period.

I would never want such a program to become mandatory as that infringes pretty heavily on our personal rights.

So, input, anyone? Good idea? Bad idea? Am I crazy?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Technical difficulties

Prevented me from getting photos taken over the weekend. Yesterday was the only partially sunny day, and I got the horse groomed and all-but discovered my batteries were no good.

Since the charger to the camera has been lost for ages, I rely on batteries. Since I also have a son with plenty of battery powered toys, I thought for sure I could find a couple that had enough life left to snap a few.

Alas, it was not to be. On my shopping list today: Largest pack of batteries I can find. And I am hiding some away somewhere my son can't find with the cleaning supplies ;)

Hang tight, they are coming, I promise!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Quick gardening update :)

Well despite an entire day of rain on Saturday, we made good progress with the gardening.

The new raspberry planter is prepped and waiting for the new arrivals. We put aged horse manure and a bit of moldy hay on the bottom, then top loaded with soil. I am not sure how many are coming, but I think the area can handle at least 12 to 14 big canes with ease.

The garage wall planters are in-sweet peas along the back, bush beans in front of those. Also have onion sets and a half dozen red cabbages in there. Today I will stuff leftover flowers here and there around the edges, just for color.

We put logs around the pile of topsoil we had delivered earlier in the week, then carefully knocked down the top to the logs. It is still nothing but a big mound-and that is where the potatoes are going (which are cut and drying right now) The veggie plot got covered with black plastic mulch, and I got most of that planted yesterday. We also rigged up a thoroughly hick "mini hoop house" for the two really nice pumpkin plants-it's situated over one edge of the plot and now there is a dome of clear sheeting over them. Since they haven't been hardened off to sun, this should give them some protection for a while. The sweet corn I potted up earlier has really perked up in the greenhouse, and yesterday all the veggies got fed. First fertilizing since they sprouted and way behind schedule. I may need to pot up a couple of the tomatoes later on today.

Still to plant: Broccoli, cauliflower, beets, carrots.

Of course I am still nervously watching the temperature this morning! It's been bouncing between 33 and 35+ for two hours, lol It should not be this cold at the end of May!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Been way too busy!

I confess, I am a snoop :)

I take some pleasure (admittedly not in a good way) in knowing what's going on. I check the police and trooper reports nearly every day, just a habit I got into a few winters ago when I was bored here at work. So yesterday it occured to me I hadn't checked the trooper blog in a few days. I scrolled through the DUI, possession, accident, and fishing related reports....and stumbled across this gem:

Location: WasillaCase number: 08-39118Type:

Assault IV, Criminal Trespass I

Text: On 05/21/08, at approximately 2329 hours, AST arrested Leticia Belardi, age 41 of Wasilla, for (DV) Assault IV, and Criminal TrespassI, after AST responded to a residence off of Fairview Loop in Wasilla on a disturbance. Belardi was transported to the Matsu Pretrial Facilitywhere she was remanded into their custody pending her arraignment. Author: RPH0 Received Thursday, May 22, 2008 4:22 AM and posted Thursday, May 22, 2008 10:42 AM

I find this highly ironic, really I do. Just earlier this week I got a phone call from the AC officer that responded to Wingnut's condition. Thankfully, he had the foresight and judgement to impound her and thus she made her way back to my place through a Twilight Zone worthy series of coincidences. The call was to inform me that Leta Belardi had chosen to "fight" the animal cruelty/lack of humane care charges pending against her for Wingnut.

Up here, if you are cited for these, you can either contest them or not. If you don't contest, it's an automatic fine imposed by the courts-and limited by statute to $300 for the first offense. Ms Belardi has a number of such fines for various things-I think the fines total somewhere in the neighborhood of a couple thousand bucks already-before these additional fines ever get levied.

The case is scheduled to be heard on June 12th and I do plan on being there. It's doubtful I will be asked to testify to anything, but I can at least state with assurance that the only thing wrong with this horse was a lack of food! Ms Belardi has been adamant that the reason the horse was "skinny" was due to dental condition. Um, not!

Look for new photos to support this, probably Sunday when it is sunny. She shines, she gleams, and she is full of herself with plenty of energy ;) I will make sure to put up the April 1st photo and the most recent on the same thread so that you can see them side by side for yourself.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mid May happenings

I confess, I am a bad's been a little busy around the home front and I have not made time for entries ;)

Speaking of the home front-the gardening season is slowly picking up pace. I have about half of my containers planted, and today the hanging baskets get put up along the garage wall. My wonderful hub moved the greenhouse frame by himself the other day-it is now located on the new cleared area and out of the winds. The big chore for that will be moving the 300+ concrete pavers that I had down as a floor in there, haha I am still working on potting up the tomatoes (I have too many as usual) and the peppers. I have three flats of vegetables to pick up, and my own to start hardening off as well. Our small rototiller is too puny to work the garden properly, so it looks like a rental is in order. A good neighbor has a whole bunch of sweet corn ready for me to pot up as soon as we get a covering on the greenhouse cold frame. I can hardly wait to just sit in my greenhouse with that wonderful green growing things smell!

In other news, the recovery mare continues to improve. In fact, she has improved so much, she needs to start being worked! Her personality has changed just a little bit, she's a bit more defensive than previously. I am not finding this especially hard to deal with, except that working with the one hind leg is a bit of a problem. I am not sure what happened with her and that leg, but it's real obvious she carries a lot of baggage with it now. As soon as I can get it arranged, I have someone who is going to help me work her through this in the arena. She's a pretty smart girl, so I am fairly confident this won't take but a few sessions to get the point across. At any rate, I would put her solidly at a CS 4.5 or better. There is still a bit of muscle to replace, and just a small amount of rib showing on the upper portion of the ribcage. The really bad coat continues to drop and she is sleek sleek sleek and very shiny underneath. I forgot to take a picture this weekend, sorry!

Speaking of the arena, we put back in the extra panels and my hub has been busy dragging the area flat. It is still just slightly soft along one edge, something to keep in mind when asking for turns into the rail. The plan is to add some sand up there this summer, as soon as I can swing the funds. We'll use the four wheeler and a drag to spread it.

In other news, last night I spoke at a work session of the AC Board. It was interesting, but it seems I did not quite understand the focus of the meeting. Whoops! So some of the issues I had hoped to address I omitted for the time being. I was invited to participate in other informal meetings over the coming months, and I was happy to oblige. There is a lot that can be done there, I think. But rather than going into specifics on what I spoke about here, I will leave that for it's own entry later on :)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Wow! What a difference!

Wow! What a difference here!! Today the recovery horse is firmly a CS 4+. You can see if you look closely that she is still hanging onto some of the crummy survival/winter coat. As of this morning, we got the huge knots worked out of her mane and forelock. And quite a lot of a healthy, shiny coat is starting to show now that she is getting some grooming.
She has gotten another hoof trim, too. I am sure some of you are thinking-hmm, thats an awful lot of hip joint showing there. And you'd be absolutely correct-she has a very wide, protruding hip and even when plump, they were still sticking out. That's just her conformation and no amount of feed is going to correct that completely. However, she does have quite a bit of muscle to it's time to start some free lunging. As soon as it dries out, of course!

I've made a slight diet adjustment, and that is to start including a few small flakes daily of very high quality brome hay. I have reduced the alfalfa to once per day in the evenings, and have just started the gradual change over from senior to more appropriate maintenance rations. In about two weeks or so, I will be dropping the twice daily soaked beet pulp, I think.

I am really happy how this horse looks-just compare to the original photo taken on April first!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Pepper and Chubs and lardbutt himself...

It dawned on me that I haven't mentioned any of them in quite some time. I've been a little distracted with the recovery horse, but there have been developments over the past month or so.

First, I am, thrilled, that Pepper has a new home! Could not have chosen a better person, actually. This kindhearted, wonderful lady has opened her heart to what was once a scraggly, starving, scurfy little App gelding ;) I have to say he really turned out to be very cute, once he was healthy. Make sure you take a good look around at Bluegrass Equestrian Center the next time you manage to visit-look for the smallish mostly roaned out buckskin Appaloosa with the beautiful deep gold eyes-that's him.

Second, I have stepped up to the proverbial plate and decided the most humane thing I can do for old Chubs, is to give him a last summer on pasture and then put him down this coming fall. It's a painful one, but I know in my heart it is the right thing to do for him. Here it is the first of May, and he is carrying nearly all his winter coat still. His sheath is enlarged as well, and both of those are fairly solid indicators of Cushings. Yes, I could spend the money on the test for it, but why? The truth is, he can barely hobble around when it gets cold. The vet already aged him at somewhere between 25 and 35. He obviously has some severe arthritis going on, in addition to how his physique has modeled over time to cope with the two blown knees. The best thing I can think for him to experience, is a glorious Alaskan summer on real pasture, with other horses for companionship.....with a painless end along about September or so. Is he still personable? Yes. Is he still getting around somewhat? Yes. Is he in pain? Probably. Can I turn back the clock? No. When he develops full blown Cushing's, he will shortly start spiraling into frequent laminitis episodes, which can only be managed by anti-inflammatories and rather complicated interventions and treatments. It will only stave off the inevitable true founder, which is excruciatingly painful. I cannot in good conscience subject any horse to that fate. So, I will take the responsibility and spare him that. It's hard, and my spouse is going to be upset-but above all, we must be humane, not just human.

Lardbutt. Well, lardbutt himself is, plump. Fluffy? Tub 'o jello? Paddock potato? He's been put into a much smaller area than he is accustomed to since about December. This has not helped his attitude one bit, alas. Since he is now at the front of the barn instead of the rear, he gets to greet all visitors. This means, everyone thinks its okay to hand out treats, handfuls of more hay, whatever. He's come to expect special attention and boy howdy does he let you know when he wants more! What he needs, really, is exercise. Which will commence as soon as it dries up around the barn! My my, won't he be surprised at having to, you know, work? I fully expect a rip snorting display of testosterone and a throughly pissy overweight and out of shape leopard Appaloosa, lol

So whats going on with your horses this spring? Anything?

It ain't rocket science!

From the emails and comments left here about the recovery mare, it's pretty obvious that a lot of visitors think that what I have done so far is pretty amazing. While I enjoy the compliments (who wouldn't? lol) one of the reasons for putting this up on the web is so that other people can learn from it.

It ain't rocket science. Really, it's not. It's common sense mixed with a good bit of horse sense.

It does, however, take some understanding of the horses' digestive tract and what gets digested where. It takes a basic understanding of balancing nutrients-not too much protien or sugars or phosphorous or calcium or vit/min. Its understanding what you are feeding and how they work together as a whole (or not) and most importantly, feed management. And patience.

When I read or hear of folks bragging that they picked up a horse who was 3, 4, or 500 pounds underweight, I just mentally roll my eyeballs at these claims. Just 200 pounds off a medium sized horse is one approaching the threshhold of too far gone to recover. Add in underlying medical conditions and it can really be touch and go, even with the best of interventions.

This particular horse is recovering so well simply because she was young-and had not been starved enough to seriously damage her liver or kidney function. Another week and it likely would have been a different outcome altogether-if she made it that far. Once liver function becomes an issue, it's very questionable whether the horse can be saved without an extensive stay in a vet clinic. This mare was lucky!

Statistically, a horse who is a condition score 1 on the Henneke Condition Scoring scale, has a very slim chance of surviving. By that point, their liver and kidneys have serious damage that usually cannot be reversed. Many times, they are on the verge of laying down to die, is not actually down with only autonomous functions present. (At a criminal horse abuse seminar I took years ago, I was told that only about one in ten horses survive a CS1, although that percentage is rising due to continuing dietary research) Once in a while, a horse that is a 2, will also just matter what heroics are attempted. Often, this happens a week or ten days into recovery when they suddenly crash.

Then I hear about folks who emphatically state that recovery takes six months or a year.

Sigh. Not hardly likely!

First, rule out major underlying physical issues. This requires a vet, who is experienced with horses, and who knows a little something about recovery. Not all do, but I am happy to say that the vets here are great with this. Second, design a recovery diet and increase slowly over ten days. Your first instinct is going to be shove hay and grain at them-which is absolutely the wrong approach in most cases. Third, feed more often than is the norm. With some, this might be carefully weighed portions every three or four hours, around the clock. As the horse gains strength and digestive function, you increase the quantity fed to a point where you are feeding for optimum healthy weight, plus at least 15 to 20%. If you increase the amount fed too quickly or it is not balanced, you run the very real risk of colic, laminitis, etc.

When in doubt, and without prompt veterinary attention, it is probably safe to feed a few pounds of good alfalfa hay four times a day and supplying the horse with clean, low protien hay 24/7.

It is very important to pony up the bucks for a veterinarian right away. Get a blood panel done asap!

Weigh everything! Unless you have years weighing hay under your belt, you need a scale to be accurate. Vitals should be checked at every feeding, without fail. High and low gut sounds, CR (capillary refill), gum color checked, hydration, temperature if indicated, pulse and respiration, digital pulse checked. Alfalfa not only provides good nutrition, the calcium it contains can buffer the ulcerative conditions present in most starvation cases. Probiotics are your best friend. Start immediately with that. If you can find a prebiotic to feed the probiotic, even better! (This is not available here in the Valley to my knowledge) If you can't find either, plain yogurt can be substituted, up to four cups a day. Caloric requirements are huge, but need to be supplied in the most beneficial, efficient way. High sugar concentrates are generally not a great idea, but the recovery should include some form of fat supplementation. This can be the ration itself (Amplify, numerous others) vegetable oil, flax seed and/or BOSS, for example. If the horse has a dental condition which precludes hay, then using alfalfa cubes is better than pellets. The longer strands in the cubes is necessary for healthy gut function as horses are grazing animals. And yes, this means soaking them for every meal.

And for heaven's sakes, get help. Ask around to your horsey friends and find someone to mentor you through the recovery. Up here, Alaska Equine Rescue is always ready to help, just call the 800 number. Take the vet's recommendations and stick to them-but be ready to call if you need a consultation too. Do not worm the horse without veterinary attention. Deworming using the wrong product at the wrong time can cause a massive die off-and kill the horse. Leave the feet alone until the horse is stronger unless there is an impelling reason, then start with frequent trims to rectify problems.

Again, remember that as a horse loses from the outside to the inside, they gain from inside to outside. It can take two weeks to see appreciable gain, but don't give up and go hog wild on the feeding. The horse is a pretty complicated critter on the inside and it takes some time for those organs to regain proper function. But have patience-if you are lucky, and have a great vet and the right diet supplied, full recovery is possible!