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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Help Wanted

I'm asking you guys for advice... It's about Cessa. I'm trying to decide if its That Time. I don't know if I'm being selfish or not but now that we finally have our own place I'd just really like one last winter with the old girl. One final chance to give her 150% care now that we're home. I just don't want to try to get through the winter if it's not what's fair to her.
Here's the situation. For the last few years I've supplemented her diet in the winter. It seems she has a hard time eating hay** so I would give her beet pulp mixed with senior feed, crushed/rolled oats and some oil. She had a hard time keeping on weight but I think that if I had been able to give her that extra feed every day she would have done better. However that just wasn't possible because of my boarding situation. Instead she got that extra feed anywhere from 3-6 times a week (I know it is better for horses to get fed on a regular basis, I was doing my best in the situation)
Once spring came around and she was able to graze on nice, soft grass she always seemed to thrive, I was even able to stop giving her that extra feed.
**I've had her teeth checked on a regular basis and the last horse dentist to take a look at her told me there's not really much he could do for her. A certain place that had worked on her teeth with a power float had pretty much screwed up what was left of her teeth. And yes this pissed me off royally.**
When we first moved Cessa was doing pretty good on pasture. The last little while she has dropped a lot of weight. A. Lot.
We have good quality pasture. In fact I often have the geldings in pens and just Cessa & George in the pasture, otherwise the boys get too fat.
I'm planning to have a fecal count done to check and make sure she doesn't have a heavy parasite load and then deworm accordingly. I've also been referred to a good horse vet (by our small animal vet who happens to own horses herself) and will get her teeth checked just to make sure that there are no sharp edges bothering her (even if there's not much else that can be done for them)
I've started giving her that "winter ration" once a day, and now I've just upped it to twice a day. Its 2 cups of beet pulp, measure dry then soaked; I add to that 4 cups of senior feed, a hoof supplement, a cup of rolled/crushed oats, a cup of sweet feed (just because she likes it) and 2 cups of oil. She seems to be starting to put on some weight, but not enough to get through winter. I have no problem giving her that ration 3 times a day but in my thinking if I need to do that to keep weight on her NOW what will I do once winter comes? If she has trouble eating hay again this winter what can I do for her?
One suggestion was to feed her soaked hay cubes but lets be realistic... she's an old gal that takes her time eating and this is "Tundra Country" as Mrs Mom puts it. Those soaked hay cubes would freeze before she could eat them.
When I had her stalled overnight to get out of the super cold rain the other day I gave her the smallest, softest, fluffiest scraps of hay that I could get and she ate those right up. The actual hay that was in the stall? Not so much. But that isn't really a workable solution, I can't exactly sift through the hay to get small fluffy bits all winter, even if I could there wouldn't be enough.
However I remembered an article I had read a few years ago, not sure what magazine it was in. Probably Horse & Rider or Equus. It was about feeding chopped hay to horses that can't chew very well. The people in the article chopped (or shredded??) the hay themselves with some kind of garden implement or power tool. That's what has me stumped. I can't remember what the heck that thing was called! All I remember clearly is that you can get electric or gas powered models and they advised getting the electric so that you don't risk gas fumes contaminating the hay. Any clues what the "thing" may be???
If you guys have any tips/ideas/advice I would really appreciate it. I'm not sure yet whether I'll try to keep her this winter or if I'll just have to be a big girl and say my goodbyes now. I'd sure like to give her a chance, and not just for my own selfish reasons but because Cessa still has a spark in her eye and a spring in her step... she even trotted her nice floaty trot to the barn the other day when I was bringing her in out of the cold.


  1. This is a biggy!....Sorry to read all this, but it is a question every horse owner has to ask.
    My immediate reaction was to ask how old is she?.....But as you say she has a sparkle in her eye, and a spring in her step.
    Here is my answer. If she was out in the wild, she would probably be long gone. But she is very well looked after by you. So, I would give her the chance.
    Over here, I stable on a nearby farm. The owner cuts hay, but also chops hay short. about 1-2inches long. I have one horse who prefers this, so she hets it through the winter. She does realy well on it. But the rest get what we call Haylage, its a partially fermented hay. Its soft, has a lot more nutritional value than hay, therefore the horse eats less.
    I dont know what you would call it over there, but its very popular here. About the machine to chop hay? I`m sorry dont know that one.

    But do give the old girl a chance, its always worth it, and its not selfish, when they look you in the eye!

  2. Oh boy - tought situation. Sorry to hear that she is losing weight this early in the fall season...

    I was going to suggest hay cubes as well - but you're probbly right that they would freeze up before she could finish. Although, if you soaked them in the house ahead of time with boiling water, most of the water might be absorbed by the time you took it out to the barn...

    I have no idea what tool you could use to chop the hay...hopefully this new vet can give you a good unbiased opinion on what to do. Either way, Cessa has had wonderful care from you over the years and I know you'll do the right thing for both of you.

  3. Hmmm..... well, I've had good luck keeping oldsters on a pretty much beet pulp and SR mush diet, but as you have pointed out, your weather conditions are rough. Only thing I can think of is a heated bucket. Got electricity in the barn? Maybe a heated bucket would help keep her mush from freezing? (Only thing is you'd have to go out and unplug the bucket when she was done, I'd think.)

    If you can get a heated bucket, I'd up her beet pulp a cup or two per feeding, feed her three times a day, and go from there.

    I do have a pal who had one of those choppers- let me try to get in touch with her and find out some information on it. They used to use it to chop hay for bedding. Dairy farmers here used to use they to chop newspapers for bedding, which is where she found out about it. She works nights though, so it might take me a bit to catch her.

    Meantime, smooch your grand old gal from me, rub some long ears, and love on the crew all around!

  4. I'll ask Janice to read this, she has a very old gelding that she has been supplementing for years. I think her program is similar to yours. You might want to check out the haylage that Cheyenne suggested, I know that I had heard of it in Alberta. Or maybe the local feedmill will be able to chop for you.

  5. Hey Lisa, I sure know where you are at. I have a 34 yr old gelding that I have had for 31 yrs.I am nearing that same I keeping him going for me or for him.Tex is sort of holding his weight not well but he is ok, his problem is with his legs, one in particular, I know he is in pain but he still functions pretty well. I have been giving him some special care over the last few years. He was getting beet pulp and seniors but he has decided he does not want it.He is getting rolled oats now twice a day and hay. I spend extra time shaking out my hay to get the fines, he is able to eat that without really having to chew it, he also gets some pasture but we are quickly losing that.Here's what I can tell you, this is how it was put to me. Write a list of 6 things your mare loves to do.If you have to cross off 4 or 5 of those things because she can't do them anymore it is time. I think that statement really puts it into prospective and that's how I will make my choice. My old guy can still do most of the 6 so I am not ready.

  6. This is always a hard situation and I to deal with it with my 23 year old hard keeper. I would say if she is still happy, joyful and other than the weight seems happy give it a try for a while. I feed my horse senior feed about 10 cups senior feed twice a day and I am sure that will increase as colder weather comes on. You can feed up to 18lbs a day depending on size of your horse and such. Of course not all at once and not to quicly. great website for senior feed and brand I use

    I also feed a powder supplement called cool calories 100(dry fat supplement) in AM about 4oz and oil with evening feed. Probiotics can help. It has worked well with my horse. I also blanket my horse in the winter with a nice heavy blanket after I let he grow in some winter coat of her own and of course keeping them in when conditions are extremely poor. I pray all goes well and that you will know when the time is and that you will have peace with that decision. I feel like truly when the time is right it will feel right. Not that it won't be hard and you won't be sad and such but you will just know it is that time and you won't have doubt. You know your cessa and you will know what is best for her:)

  7. Tough call, I feel for you. Our winters are not kind to the old ones . The Beet pulp/oil/cubes all soake is tought unless you can feed her severa times a day. to keep it form freezing.What about blanketing to keep her from using extra energy keeping warm?

  8. Lurker here, coming out of the corner :o)

    I vaguely remember the article you are talking about. If memory serves me right those folks were either using hedge clippers or weed wackers. I think I remember b/c I had this funny mental picture of someone trying to jam hedge clippers in a bucket stuffed with hay and having it spray all over the place.

    Maybe I am wrong though, I know exactly what you are talking about!

    Another thing you could try, some feed companies sell bagged hay. It's super fine and some even have a little molasses and stuff like that mixed in. I remember taking home samples from a horse expo I attended. Unfortunately the brand name escapes me but I do know I could get them from the Southern States Cooperative here in Maryland. Maybe it was Legends???

    I'll dig around for ya.

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  11. Kinda sorta found it!

    Here is a version of "bale in a bag" chopped hay:

    Triple Crown is the company I was originally thinking of and got samples from:

    Good luck with your girl!

  12. Sounds like you are trying everything.

    One suggestion would be to only feed the senior feed. These are disigned to be fed as a complete feed, I would probably also do some beet pulp for the fiber forage.
    I say this because the more stuff you add to the senior the more you are diluteing it, like mixing water into milk, so she doesnt get the right amount of fat and calories.

    I finally put our 25 1/2 year old on purina sr, and she is doing great, in the summer she gets only 4 cups am and pm, but in the winter I have to increase it to 8 cups, and go through a lot more grain, she still eats some hay though.

    Good luck, I have two old ones, but only one that needs special feeding so far.

    I learned this by working in a feed store for 8 years and talking to reps and doing seminars for customers. I tried to do my own thing too, and still came back to what the reps said.

  13. We have a hay chopper here on the farm, but its prolly a little bigger than the ones you were thinking of. We put round bales in the top and they come out the bottom all chopped up, maybe theres a farmer around you that has one?
    Thats all the help I can give, we have no oldies around here, so never even think about it. Good luck with her and it sounds like she wants to be around a while yet.

  14. Aww geez, that's a bummer you finally have your own place and are thinking you may not get the extra time with Cessa.

    Sounds like you have gotten good advice so far.

    Cessa sounds healthy enough, other than she has a hard time keeping weight on. I would keep on with the beet pulp, senior feed and rolled oats. Two cups of oil sounds like a lot...What kind are you using? Vegetable oil is difficult for horses to digest. Corn oil is better, but still hard to digest. Flax and soybean oils have more nutrients in them and are easier for horses to digest. Of course there are lots of products out there now that help add calories and fat safely too.

    Probiotics almost always help the digestion on hard keepers and older horses often lack the necessary bacteria and gut flora necessary to keep them flourishing.

    If Cessa can and will at least eat some hay as roughage, I would just keep upping her pure grains intake until she is getting enough to keep her going. My mom kept her old barrel horse going for several more years by building him up to free choice oats. I tell people that and they immediately assume founder, but if a horse is allowed to build up to free choice, they will not founder.

  15. Hmm...

    First off, you're not feeding much beet pulp. Up it if you want her to be gaining wait now. (Sorry I'm a bit short. My brain is whirling away for you). I am giving Casey beet pulp, at the rate of one small bucket (soaked) per day. He's thin from the drama of Molly's coming and sorting out herd dynamic. Of course, he can be a high stress boy. :(

    Also, if a heated bucket isn't an option, they make these tray things for chickens that you put their waterer on. Perhaps something like that would work?

    Next, I'd go check out Mugwhump's blog. I just saw it last night, because I'm behind, but she talks about what that big, gorgeous old man over on the right is eating at the rescue. He gets an incredible amount of mush. Colorado gets cold too, so it can't be too impractical to feed like that.

    Really, up your beet pulp now. Help her get that weight on.

    As for when it's time, she'll tell you and you'll know. I agree with Janice. Make that list then listen with an open heart.

  16. I know of a product out here called Equine Power 2000.... I have NO IDEA how it would be for seniors but maybe worth researching.

  17. The 30yo+ horse at our barn who has almost no teeth left thrives on a diet of 2x day 6 2-cup measures beet pulp shreds (so 24 cups a day) soaked in lots of hot water with 6 pounds Purina Senior feed (so 12 pounds a day). That sounds like a lot but he eats every bit - he can only gum hay now and had an episode of choke so no more hay for him. We also use a balancer pellet with minerals and vitamins and he gets that 2x day (1/2 pound) soaked in with the rest.

    Check with your vet, but if that's all the horse can eat you can gradually increase it until the horse won't finish any more.

    Good luck!

  18. I have a tendency to be realistically feral so here it goes...

    AS long as she lets you know she wants to be around, then by all means this winter give her the feed it takes, the care, the blanketing etc... but please be prepared for the worst.

    If for some reason she goes down, or gets colic, be prepared with items at hand to make her comfortable - notify your vet of your plan to take care of her this winter at home so he can supply you with what you need in these instances to make her comfortable (banamine for colic etc.) Also, have an area prepared for her in case she does go over the rainbow bridge; ground will be frozen so having an area already dug/prepared will help. You can use a load of sand to cover until the spring thaw.

    I would also add to keep her a little closer to the barn; she will have to be brought in if the weather turns wet snowy cold, or if she starts to get ill you can stall her easily...

    keeping our fingers crossed that she can enjoy another spring!

  19. I will be honest and say that I have not yet had to make that decision for a horse, but i have made it many times for smaller animals. From that experience, I think they let you know when it's time. It doesn't sound like it's Cessa's time yet.

  20. Sounds like you got a lot of great ideas here. I hope that you find something that works.