Curb the Destructive Seasonal Boredom

Curb the Destructive Seasonal Boredom

When horses are stuck in their stalls for extended periods of time, either from injury rehab or uncooperative weather – we all know how bored and destructive they can become. Sometimes towards the end of winter, we also experience “winter boredom”. I have  dealt with both of these. I rehabbed a  leg wound on a horse that spends most of his life outside. And both of my geldings started getting destructive a few weeks ago as the temperatures rose.

One gelding that is used to freedom and turnout for a large portion of the day was restricted to hand-walking twice a day. He soon became unhappy and started chewing on his stall, buckets and anything he could find (and he is not a cribber). I had to come up with some ways to keep him occupied for large periods of time for two weeks and luckily, there’s a lot of options out there!

I also needed to be ready for the winter blues from both of my horses and provide enrichment when training and riding was limited. If not completely halted during waves of frozen, flooded or muddy ground.

Slow Feed Hay Nets
Slow feed hay nets are a great addition for your barn, trailer and show routine!

Slow Feed Nets

My go-to answer was of course slow feed hay nets. This would not only slow them down and conserve hay, but also keep them  from trashing their stalls. I can also set up a second hay bag on the opposite side of the stall for longer days. This not only keeps them moving if they get bored. But also ensures endless hay for both a happy attitude and healthy gut.

Salt and Treats
Salt and stall snacks offer a fun and engaging way for horses to pass the time.

Salt and Treats

Another option I have used is attaching either a Himalayan salt rock, Redmond Rock on a Rope or a stall snack like Licky Things. I usually lean towards the salt or mineral blocks on a rope rather than treats. One of my geldings is not exactly gentle with sweet goodies. He hasn’t quite mastered the simple lick on stall treats like his off-track brother has. With a mineral or salt block he can access it at leisure. And he doesn’t feel the need to gobble it down in a day.

Jolly Balls
Jolly Balls come in many different sizes and colors!

Jolly Balls

One great remedy for pasture boredom (when all that delicious hay just doesn’t strike their fancy) is adding Jolly Balls! I have two in their pasture now, and every day they move from their previous location so I know they play with them! This helps keep them occupied on the right items to chew and toss around, rather than the trees in the pasture or blankets! Bonus, dogs love them too! If my horses stay inside I can also hang one of the smaller Jolly Balls so they can unleash their energy on that and not their nice stalls!

 

Break Winter Boredom

The bottom line is – keep your horse engaged! Sometimes things come up and we can’t keep our horses in a working routine for a little while. Keeping forage in front of them at all times to encourage a healthy mind and gut is essential. Having your horse on a digestive health supplement is also beneficial. For those of use with extra sassy horses, a few extra horse toys are crucial for keeping them happy!

It Happens Every Spring

It Happens Every Spring

I heard a colleague say today that spring was about 30 days away! My inner child immediately surfaced as I remembered this passage of time to bring all things green and blooming, AND continuing in that state of mind a thought bubble appeared of me riding my pony again for hours on end without freezing!

Oh, sorry, back to reality. Indeed spring means warm temperatures, longer days and the joy of being outside with our horses in much more conducive weather. Horse shows, racing, fox hunting, trail riding and all our horse activities will be in full swing before we know it. The older I get the faster the seasons change. I think that’s a good thing?

Spring Changes

Spring also brings the need to evaluate our horses’ health including hoof care, teeth floating, deworming and vaccinations. Hoof care and the mud that comes along with spring can be a concern. Through the winter months you may have your horse on a longer trimming schedule to allow the frog to grow cushion and protect the hoof from the uneven dry frozen ground conditions. Going into spring hooves begin to grow more quickly so be sure to get back to a regular trimming schedule with your farrier.

Thrush can rear its head this time of year and mud can be a culprit. Symptoms of this bacterial and sometimes fungal infection are black ooze at the frog and a distinct rotting odor that gives a whole new meaning to stinky feet! Wet stabling conditions or muddy low lying pastures can be breeding grounds for the bacteria that cause thrush.

Mud alone does not cause thrush but if the organism that does get packed in the hoof under mud an infection could begin.  Daily inspection is a must on the road to healthy hooves. Trimming the frog, making sure to clear out the clefts or crannies beside the frog will help relieve the condition. There are many remedies available over the counter specifically developed to treat thrush. Keeping hooves dry and clean is a key component in alleviating the infection. Try to give your horse a dry area to get out of the mud through the day.

No Hoof, No Horse

As a horsewoman I heard the saying “no hoof, no horse” many, many times. This common sense phase rings true and is proven over time. Our horses’ hooves are the foundation of restoring soundness. Abscesses, thrush, white line disease and side wall separation are all costly side effects of un-healthy hooves. A balanced diet that includes a hoof supplement and a dry mud-free turnout can go a long way to preventing spring hoof aliments. Topical hoof dressing can also be used to bolster hoof integrity.

We will soon be seeing flowers and roses, and even the Run for the Roses! Make plans now for a stress free spring for your horses’ hooves. Visit www.bigdweb.com for all your spring horse care needs!

 

This article was written by Kathy Kilbane – Big Dee’s Web Products Specialist

For the love of custom tall boots.

Friends and clients had been telling me for years about the virtues of custom riding boots.  I always just thought that a boot is a boot, right? After having a need for a particular boot that was not offered in my size off the shelf ordering custom was my last remaining option. I was concerned about a number of aspects surrounding custom boots. Beyond just the difference in price between a stock boot and custom I was also worried about if they would really fit. Now that I have received my custom boots I would like to tell my story in an effort to put some of your apprehension at ease. Continue reading For the love of custom tall boots.

Talking Winter Nutrition with Grant

Every winter brings its own challenges.  After facing freezing pipes and hydrants, fighting with barn doors that are frozen to the ground, and attempting to make repairs to machinery, fencing, etc., in sub-zero temperatures, most horse owners are ready for spring by this time of year.  Unfortunately, we still have a few months to go.  This is also the time of year when customers ask me how they can best help their horses maintain weight.

Shop Stable Blankets to keep your horse warm in the winter

While there are many ways and products to promote weight gain, my first thought is about preventing weight loss.  For starters, keep your horses warm.  Invest in a heavy weight stable or turnout blanket for your horse.  During the winter months, horses burn many more calories trying to regulate their temperature.  By blanketing your horse, you will cut down on your horse’s energy requirements.

Give your horse more hay in the winter for extra calories

Secondly, increase the amount of hay you are feeding.  Horses should receive 1.5% – 2% of their body weight in forage every day.  For a 1000 lb. horse, that would mean 15-20 lbs. of forage per day.  During the winter months this requirement can increase by as much as thirty percent!  Increasing hay is so important for horses because, not only does hay provide increased calories for the horse to use, but the microbial fermentation process (how horses digest hay) releases heat as a by-product.  Your horse receives a double benefit from hay – increased calories, and increased heat production just by eating it.

Stampede Alfalfa Cubes

For those of us who have their horses on their own property, increasing hay is relatively easy.  However, if you are boarding your horse, sometimes it can be difficult to convince barn owners to increase hay rations.  Luckily, there are several products that can be used to increase your horse’s forage intake.  Here at Big Dee’s we carry a line of forage products from Stampede, which include alfalfa cubes, timothy-alfalfa cubes, alfalfa pellets, and timothy pellets.  We also carry Kalmbach’s Forage Extender Pellets.  Another new, exciting product is Basic Equine Health’s Peak Performance Pellet, which is basically a “grain-less grain”.  It is a feed, but is completely alfalfa based, with no grain in it.  Additionally, it contains the proprietary Gut Health blend, an electrolyte, and a mixture of camelina and coconut oil, resulting in a high fat content.   All of these options are excellent ways to help your horse maintain weight this winter.

Horse supplements for gaining weight

Outside of increasing forage content, you can also increase your horse’s fat intake.  Fat is an excellent source of energy for horses, and, unlike increasing starches, does not result in a “hot” horse.   There are several different options to choose from when looking to increase fat intake.  First, do you want a liquid or a solid?  There are many oils on the market today that are high in fat to aid not only in weight gain, but also with skin and coat issues.  However, feeding oils this time of year can prove to be difficult if your barn is as cold as mine is.  Should you choose an oil as a fat source, I am available most days at Big Dee’s and will be happy to discuss the different options we have with you.  Should you determine that a solid is a better fit, you still have many options.  Products such as Cool Calories by Manna Pro and Ultimate Finish 100 by Buckeye Nutrition are both 100% fat, or as close as you can get to it.  Other options include Weight Builder, Gain Weight, and Ultimate Finish 40.  All of these products contain 40% fat, and 14% protein.  They are designed to aid in weight gain, and a healthy, glossy coat.

Buckeye Ultimate Finsh 25 Horse Feed

Another option is an extruded pellet.  The advantage of extrusion, is that the pellet is highly digestible, and the nutrients are more bio-available to your horse.  Most feed companies carry some type of extruded fat, and while there are slight differences between them, they all are around 25% or 26% fat, 14% protein, and are fortified with additional vitamins and minerals.  Feeding one of these products should result, not only in weight gain, but in a beautiful, shiny coat for your horse.  If you are looking for an excuse to try one of these products, check out Buckeye Nutrition’s Ultimate Finish 25 this month, as we well be running some fantastic specials on this product.

Please feel free to come find me at Big Dee’s to discuss any feeding or weight issues you may have with your horse.  There could also be other underlying factors in play if your horse is experiencing severe weight loss, and it is always wise to consult with your veterinarian if that is the case.

 

This article was written by Grant Ralston one of Big Dee’s Showroom Managers

Nutrition is Key to Horse Health

When I first bought my horse in March 2017 he was about 3 steps away from being featured on a Sarah McLachlan commercial. He had a dropped topline, 0 neck muscle, and about 100lbs+ skinnier than I wanted to see him be. He weight taped under 1000lbs…as a 16.2 hand Thoroughbred.  His coat was thin and patchy and ribs were starting to show. I don’t even have any before pictures of him without a blanket on because I was embarrassed for him.

So let’s investigate the cause. This one, luckily, was pretty clear- he needed some groceries and probably a good dewormer to help. Horse nutrition comes from three different sources. Number 1, feed– I’m pretty sure the grain he was on at the time was about $6 a bag of “livestock feed” and he got 1 lb. per feeding. Ouch. Number 2, turnout- barely any, and with about 8 other horses on an eaten down pasture in February. And number 3, hay- actually not that bad, but they only fed twice a day.

Let’s begin our slow process of weight gain and getting him nutritionally healthy.

It took me about 4 weeks to find him somewhere to live and arrange his transportation, so unfortunately at that point he probably dropped a little bit more. I actually have an Equine Studies degree, and honestly all of the school horses were fat and happy so it was never something went over in class on how to start to fix this particular weight problem. So I started off with what I had, I know previously he was healthy a different feed, but I wanted to add more than just grain to his diet for a little extra support. I was able to get  half container of Weight Builder by Farnam. Good place to start really, Weight Builder contains flax meal which is high in omega-3 fatty acids. I saw a difference pretty fast, he was completely in a different location by then,eating more hay and eating a 12% grain with 2 scoops of Weight Builder. Within about 2 weeks he had gained back about 30lbs.

I was coming to the end of my Weight Builder container and I began looking into other supplements. There are many options that all do separate things. I have seen many other supplements/feed choices before in horses to get them to gain weight and by many, I mean MANY. I didn’t want to overload him in calories. I wanted to build muscle and weight correctly and ease him back into work.  I didn’t want to up his grain by a lot due to risking stomach problems and colic. And I didn’t want to make him hot by adding the wrong type of calories; (sugars).

There are some great supplements out there that are going to help with weight gain. They are all really based on what you are wanting. Do you want to build muscle? Add calories? Add energy? Add protein? Help with your horse’s coat? So I went back to the drawing board. What is something he is going to eat, I mean, really eat and what is going to add safe calories? So I took a jump on a completely different supplement and tried Cocosoya Oil!  (It also comes in granules as well) Wow. He ate it. He loved it. And I was happy. Cocosoya has Omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids, soybean oil, and coconut oil, all without raising his sugars and at a budget friendly cost. Oh and fun fact, you can feed it to your dogs.  Fast forward into the summer time (about 2 months on Cocosoya) and he was a different horse. Weight taped at 1045lbs and had the shiniest coat in the barn. It’s amazing what good nutrition can do!

Proper nutrition for your horse is imperative

Weight supplements aren’t aren’t that difficult, although it feels that way while you’re overwhelmed with the many different options. But first, look at what your horse needs it for and what they are eating overall – then experiment. Maybe you just need a little more hay, or a little more grain? Then try out some weight building supplements. You never know what your horse is going to adjust to the best until you try.

 

This article was written by Laura Robertson, Big Dee’s Customer Care Representative

Salt sense and your horse

The holidays are over but I’d like to reflect on something that struck me as I sat around my family’s dinner table Christmas Day. Salt! As I looked around, my family was busily talking, laughing and salting their food. Knowing my family, I had two sets of salt shakers on the table which were in heavy use. I tried not to take this as a review of my cooking! The striking part of this is the importance of sodium in our diets and the diets of our horses. Cell and proper organ function are critically linked to the consumption of salt or sodium. It is the backbone of sustaining blood and body fluids that transport oxygen and nutrients contributing to cell, brain, nervous system and muscle processes. Salt gets a bad rap, but is important to all diets in moderation.

Horses need salt in their diet

Salt’s role in your horse’s body is like a super hero quietly going to work keeping all systems functioning and safe from the evils of deficiencies. The lack of adequate sodium could be compared to Superman’s kryptonite; cell processes and body function change and your horse will not be at its best. Our furry super heroes use their spidy-sense to instinctively know when their bodies are low on sodium and will search for it sometimes excessively licking our hands or chewing things.

Horse licking hand for salt

Large pressed salt blocks used to be the standard dotting shared pastures, but they were developed for the course tongues of cattle that may lick these blocks to get their daily allowance. Horses’ tongues are smoother and softer so salt should be offered free choice loose or crushed to augment their diet. Offer salt in a bucket under cover in a shed in the pasture or in your horses stall to help satisfy their need. Just be sure to keep it dry. Electrolyte supplementation could also be considered to avoid dehydration and increase your horses thirst response.

Sodium is central in regulating many bodily functions. During an average day of hanging out with their buddies in a paddock or in their stall, horses excrete sodium through urine and manure making toxicity uncommon. Sweating during a workout increases daily loss of electrolytes. Put in prospective, some horses weigh in at 1000 to 1500 pounds or more; their salt and water consumption need to reflect this. Check your feed label and ask the advice of your veterinarian about salt intake for your horse’s activity level. Be careful to always offer an adequate water supply. As with all things you need to strike a balance. Without this balance of salt and water consumption your horse may struggle to process sodium through their system properly.

Big Dee’s has a full line of products to help you meet your horse’s daily mineral requirements.

Shop Electrolytes

Shop Salt and Salt Holders

Shop Water Buckets

This article was written by Kathy Kilbane – Big Dee’s Web Products Specialist

Small Business Saturday – November 25th!

From the humble beginning at a local race track to our new location in Streetsboro, Ohio, Big Dee’s Tack and Vet Supplies was founded in 1976 by Dennis Osterholt. Through the guidance of “Big D” the family approach to business continues and incorporates his two daughters Brenda and Gail. It is with a sense of pride that Big Dee’s Tack and Vet Supply now employs over 60 people. Most of our employees own horses or have horses in their backgrounds. Employees that share your interests give you a customer service experience that cannot be rivaled!

Big Dee's Then and now

In the United States, this Saturday, November 25th is Small Business Saturday. Last year all across the country shoppers came out in record crowds to share their support of small businesses just like ours. Shopping small helps foster a sense of the greater national community. In the spirit of the season help local family-owned companies like Big Dee’s by supporting your friends and neighbors and the local economy! At this special time of year Big Dee’s values your support in this effort to shop small!

Wonderful Big Dee Showroom Employees

What you’ll find at Big Dee’s in Streetsboro –

Happy Holidays!

Don’t Leave It To Beaver

If you are like most horse owners’ winter represents a big change in horse care, stabling and enjoyment of our equine friends. The dreaded four letter word, snow, is on the way for those horse owners living in colder climates, however winter signals change for all horses and owners. As we begin to stable more and turn out less horses boredom levels can rise. Farm buildings, stalls and even trees may take the brunt of this when horses begin to chew wood, crib or wind suck. There are differences to these behaviors but most horse owners agree they are not ideal behaviors. These equine beavers can destroy our stables and wreck havoc on their own health in the process. It is incumbent on us to help our horses through these behaviors and to save our own sanity!

This horse is chewing on a fence rain

Let’s look at the what

Cribbing in horse terms is the physical behavior of a horse latching on to a hard surface, arching the neck and sucking in air. As we investigate this stable vice we find the behavior could be associated to stomach ulcers and may develop into colic. Another related behavior, wind sucking, is the act of sucking in air without latching on to a hard surface.  Finally wood chewers can eat us out of stable and barn in no time causing unsightly barns and paddocks not to mention costly repairs.

The emotional why

These three behaviors are thought to be caused by boredom, frustration, habit and/or nutritional deficiencies. Boredom and frustration may be relieved by the numerous stall and paddock toys available. Equine animals in the wild were foragers. Horses are rudimentary animals and as such rely on routine.  For stabled horses, feeding small amounts of hay throughout the day can help them follow a natural routine in a less than natural life.  Slow hay feeders during turnout can also help with boredom but be sure to incorporate ample grazing and regular exercise. As for the elephant or equine beaver in the room pastes, sprays and wood chewing deterrent applications are available. But take heed they may make the problem worse.  When these remedies fail, capping stall doors fence posts and interior stall partitions with metal or mesh or stringing electric fence in the cribbing or chewing area can discourage this behavior and save our horses from indigesting wood splinters.

The physical why

Nutritional deficiencies or gastric ulcers can be the root cause. Be sure to discuss the situation with your veterinarian who will examine your horse and perform blood testing to identify any minerals lacking in the diet. If mineral deficiencies are the culprit supplements can be fed. Something as simple as a salt block can often help. If gastric ulcers are suspected many remedies are available to horse owners. Simply using a grazing muzzle could be the ticket to solving the issue.

Grazing Muzzles for horses

Can you manage the habit?

Managing horses with these behaviors can be challenging but not impossible. Regular exercise, turnout or hand walking and regular grooming may help with boredom. Working with your veterinarian, stable owner, trainer, other horse people and Big Dee’s can be insightful. Horses give us such enjoyment. They can be our friends and our therapists; wouldn’t you agree that they need the same from us in return.

Himalayan Rock Salt is great for horsesCheck out our website for a full line of equine products to help curb these behaviors.

Click here for Cribbing and Habit Control Solutions

This article was written by Kathy Kilbane – Big Dee’s Web Products Specialist

The Fledgling Foxhunter’s Riding Accident

Redefining the Riding Accident

In nearly 25 years of riding and numerous unplanned dismounts; I can cite only 4 incidents in which I was actually hurt beyond just shaking it off and moving on. Up until just last year I never understood that there really can just be a riding “accident”. I had always just thought a fall was a fall, regardless of what the ultimate cause was. My two most recent experiences redefined the term “riding accident” for me. I now refer to a riding accident as one of which neither you, nor your horse has any control over the ultimate outcome. The lack of control fundamentally changed the way I feel about riding. It is not just the rather rude introduction to fear on a level that I am not particularly familiar with, but also one of enlightenment in better understanding that a riding accident really can happen at any time for any reason.

A learning experience

In both occasions two well trained and obedient horses, which had been in regular work suddenly wiped out while working at the canter.  Last year’s fall was with my then 6 year old horse. I never had falling while competing in the dressage phase on my radar. My anxiety always surrounded the possibility of a fall out on cross country. It was a great example for rule book roulette. It turns out that in USEA eventing dressage you can choose to continue if your horse falls (EV136.1.d). The fall was dramatic but it was on grass and I did not take a direct hit to my head.  I was scared more so than hurt and worried more that my horse may have suffered any injury than myself. In the next few rides I felt anxiety to canter on a 20 meter circle and was hyper aware that my horse just did not seem quite right. He underwent a full lameness evaluation with the veterinarian and we came up with a plan based on his individual needs which included corrective shoeing, a change in primary discipline and additional therapies to help him gain strength in areas where he was lacking.

A bad fall

I have never had anxiety on hunting mornings, the way that I had experienced anxiety running cross country. Just three weeks ago I suffered another fall at the canter.  I had been learning some of the ins and outs of Whipping-in for foxhunting and wanted to train my aged mare as a backup should my primary horse be unable to hunt. The hounds hit a line and we were cantering down a trail keeping an ideal position along with them. The trail was hard packed dry dirt. There was a very gentle curve but I did not notice any roots, rocks or other obstructions that would raise any sort of concern. My horse was balanced and comfortable when out of nowhere Continue reading The Fledgling Foxhunter’s Riding Accident

Simplify Supplementation All-in-one Horse Supplements

Is it time to consider an all-in-one multi-system supplement?

Do you find yourself adding scoop after scoop of specialty nutritional supplements to your horses daily feed rations? Is your feed room storage solution bursting at the seams? If you are using 3 or more supplements, perhaps it is time to consider a multi-system supplement for your horse.

All in one horse supplements
Are the number of supplements in your feed room growing? Is there a better way?

Not to be confused with multi-vitamins or ration balancers. All-in-one supplements are nutritional supplements that are formulated to cover more than one of your horses specialty needs. The greatest benefit is being able to feed a single supplement that contains all of the ingredients for joint support, gastric health, strong hooves, a shining coat and more! No matter if you keep horses for business or pleasure, any change in your supplementation routine should be met with facts and figures. Will the change be of benefit to your horse, your wallet or both? Let’s take a look at how to evaluate a change in supplements with some choices available at Big Dee’s Tack.

Can and all-in one supplement work for my horse?

My horse is in full work and eats a well balanced feed that provides optimal levels of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. He is on grass turnout a minimum of 14 hours per day. Due to his unique needs his vet recommended Continue reading Simplify Supplementation All-in-one Horse Supplements

Complete selection of equine and rider products since 1976!