All posts by Kathy Kilbane

Once in a whorl

Horse Electrolytes in the Winter

In the off-season when the snow is flying and the dread of going to the barn to crack water buckets is looming, reading about a favorite topic (wait for it) HORSES, can be a favorite pastime! Once in a “while,” you come across interesting reads about little know horse factoids. Yet finding historical references explaining the extent of the horse’s involvement in civilization’s prominence are not readily found.

HUMAN-HORSE RELATIONSHIP

Centurion satatue

From the beginning of the human-horse relationship, historical evidence shows us that owning horses was a privilege reserved only for the upper crust of society. With the Romans, horses were a show of power and strength. Generals rode while the foot soldiers walked. However, without the domestication of the horse ancient civilizations might not have been, and quite possibly our world could look much different. Throughout history, the horse’s usefulness has been at the forefront of what it has become. Harnessing the power of horses probably enabled the building of the great pyramids or the Coliseum. Horses pulled great shovels to dig canals and build infrastructure. Becoming a mode of transportation was one of the most significant historical turning points. No longer would humans walk but could ride and carry their wares to market or to other tribal areas with more speed than other animals. The average 1,000-pound horse can pull a wagon of twice its weight and travel at a top speed of around 35 miles per hour.

EVOLUTION

The horse has evolved over 50 million years. Originally known as eohippus, horses were no bigger than a dog and were prey animals that walked on three toes. The chestnut of modern-day horses is said to be a remnant of the toes that became a hoof. Something else that is unclear about the horse is the existence of whorls; those cute little hair patterns that look like crop circles on the face and body. No one can explain whorls any more than they can explain cowlicks in humans.  Whorls  have been studied for centuries resulting in correlations between whorls and temperament. Gypsies believed one whorl on the center of the forehead could mean an easygoing temperament and two whorls high on the forehead meant a more complicated temperament giving way to more modern training methods. Theories about flight responses and predicting the direction a horse will go when startled were recently studied by Colorado State University. After exposure to a spoke stimulus, researchers determined if the hair pattern in a whorl on a horse’s face grows counterclockwise it most likely turned to the left and if the hair grows clockwise, it will go right. Could this also indicate if a horse is right-sided or left-sided? I find this fascinating!

UNSUNG AND UNDER REPRESENTED

The human-horse relationship roles seem a bit reversed today. Have horses become our masters? We carry their water and grain to them when history tells us they carried ours. We willingly groom, clean, care for and pamper them. Well I say they have earned it! They are the unsung and overlooked heroes of our civilization. In every aspect of our world history, from depictions in cave drawings to the pinnacle of competition, the horse has always served man well. Today the status symbol of a horse is not as shiny as it once was, but caring for a horse is truly a rewarding experience. I always know that whatever is troubling can be resolved while grooming a horse. Whether you use horses for pleasure, competition, or as a therapy animal you have to agree they are in fact magnificent creatures!

Written by: Big Dee’s Web Products specialist, Kathy Kilbane

Small Business Saturday Is November 24, 2018

,small business saturdaySmall business Saturday is celebrated in the United States this year on November 24, 2018. It began in 2010 and has grown into a way to welcome local patronage to brick and mortar shopping and create a hometown atmosphere in person or online. Shopping small means you support your community, neighborhoods and local establishments.

Big Dee's then and now

Big Dee’s Tack and Vet Supplies is one of your local hometown companies. From humble beginnings at a local race track to our storefront in Streetsboro, Ohio, Big Dee’s Tack and Vet Supplies has grown into a pillar of your community. Through the guidance of Dennis Osterholt, “Big D”, the family-owned business philosophy continues.  Most of our employees own horses or have horses in their backgrounds. Employees that share your interests in all things horse and hound, english, western or racing,  give you a customer experience second to none!

At Big Dee’s Tack and Vet Supplies, our mission is to serve you in a polite, friendly, most competent way. We offer saddle, helmet, and blanket fitting tips. Gifts for all your critters. A clothing selection sure to please and holiday specials throughout the store and online. Join special offerour customer loyalty program and receive special discounts throughout the year.

In years past shoppers set records all across the country sharing their support of small businesses just like ours. In the spirit of giving and being grateful for families and friends, shopping small means promoting our community in a national way.

So, shop small America and share your support for local family-owned companies just like Big Dee’s Tack and Vet Supplies! Support your friends and neighbors and the local economy along the way. From our family to yours we extend a happy holiday invitation to stop in for a cup of hot chocolate this season and to shop small!cup of cocoa

Written by: Big Dee’s Web Products specialist, Kathy Kilbane

 

Horsepower

horses running

No matter what horsepower you are taking care of this winter, a sports car, boat or our 4-legged friends preparation is key to keep performance high.  Heading into fall all horse owners, stable owners, horse lovers, trainers, and riders should be thinking ahead to  fall horse care before the first flakes fly or cold weather strikes.

An Ounce of Prevention

Horse activities may be slowing down but much like a boat or a seasonal vehicle, your horse needs care going into the winter months. No, you don’t need to pull the battery, shrink wrap and dry dock, or add more antifreeze but you will need to give this some thought. Beyond buying a blanket, fall health maintenance is a consideration. While cooler temperatures diminish insect-born disease, core vaccines and boosters could be needed. Mares who will be foaling bay foal standing beside grey mareduring the winter months need to be on a vaccine schedule consistent  with their due date. Likewise, foals that are weaned this fall will begin their own vaccination schedule. Check the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) website for recommended vaccine guidelines. Set up a herd health review with your veterinarian. Most veterinarians recommend at minimum vaccines, deworming and teeth floating.

Horse Care 101

Blanketing is a personal decision depending on your horse’s job. If he is a pasture pal he could get by with just a turnout rug for wet weather. Horses are generally healthy being out in the elements if they have a shelter, water, and forage. If you are on the show circuit, finishing or continuing your race meet, blanketing will be necessary to ensure a lighter hair coat for competition. Heavy exercise in cold weather can make cool-out time longer. Blanketing and clipping can help. Remember, stabled horses need year-round daily exercise and plenty of hay and water through their day to avoid health issues. hay bag tied to trailerUsing slow feed hay nets is a great idea for stabled horses and could cut down on hay cost. You may decide to pull your horse’s shoes. Just like checking your tires for the winter be prepared with an easy boot or two in the barn to handle any hoof issues that may crop up during turnout on frozen ground.

Fencekeeping

Is that a word? Nothing is more aggravating than a downed board in bay horse walking in pasturethe middle of winter during the worst snowstorm…it always happens that way am I right? Avoid this scenario by taking a walk-about to check fencing.  Pick up fencing tools and repair items, and keep a toolkit in the tack room.

It is the perfect time of year! Fly free weather is around the corner. So trail riding on bridle pathenjoy trail riding through the leaves, showing or racing.  Remember “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man”, Winston Churchill.  Take care of your horse and he will take care of you!

Written by  Big Dee’s Web Products Specialist, Kathy Kilbane

 

All That Glitters Is Not Always Gold

Fair and fall show seasons evoke so many great memories. Starting out on my little Shetland pony and graduating to breed shows and beyond grounded me in life lessons too many to count! Preparation and professionalism being top-of-list and, always do and look your best.

There are several considerations to make when sprucing up show clothing or choosing a new show outfit. Horse show associations usually have rules governing attire. For example, the hunt seat hunt coat division usually requires show coats in traditional conservative colors while the western division is more liberal. The right color can have a favorable or adverse effect on your desired outcome. Take a look at these questions to get started. Will you be showing indoor under artificial light or outside in the bright sunshine emojisunshine? What color is your horse? What color is your tack and saddle pad? Can you just dress in your favorite colors? Answers to these questions will weigh heavily on your decision as you put together the perfect show ready ensemble.

Let’s unpack this

coat color chartAlways start with silhouette and clean lines. Choose a color to compliment your horse’s coat color. For example, chestnuts look good in earth tones where a bay looks good in jewel tones. It is the same as finding the perfect dress to match your own hair and skin tone. Go to a department store and cruise the towel section. There is usually a great selection of colors. Choose a bath towel that most matches the color you are thinking of using.  Shades of blue or green will work with most coat colors. Black and dark colors are always versatile and a good choice.

Evaluate to uncomplicate

Now take the towel to the barn and drape it on your horse like a saddle pad in the cross-ties and stand back to evaluate. Enlist someone’s help to take your horse to the indoor arena and outdoor paddock and stand at a distance similar to where a judge would stand (50-100 feet away) to see what the color actually looks like. At the show, take time while not showing to watch other classes. Look for horses with coat color similar to your horse and make note of how color plays a big role in overall appearance.

western show jacket and pad
Pulling it together

After settling on your new color, be sure it looks good on you too. Use a subdued “cool” version of that color as your base and then accessorize. Add a complimentary saddle pad or blanket to accent outfit and tack to pull everything together.

In the western division, the amount of bling you add will depend on where you are showing. Sequenced and jeweled outfits will play better indoor under soft light. If showing primarily outdoor, give careful consideration to the placement of your shimmer and shine, and factor in how the sun’s reflection will affect your ride. 

Hunt boot
Boot detail

For the purist, bling is frowned upon in the hunt seat division, although some leeway is afforded for tall boot detail, helmet bling, and shirt color. From the judge’s perspective, if you are wearing a lot of bling in showmanship or under saddle your position must be spot-on. Light sparkling from your outfit or tack appointments will be a beckon for anything out of position. After all, you want to draw attention to your performance not blind the judge!

A stitch in time

Tailored show clothing will make a big difference. Hunt coats, and western show jacket, vests and blouses should be form fitted. Attire for boys and men should be conservation, pressed, and 4-H graphiccomplementary to the class. Call your local 4-H extension office to find a seamstress. They can put you in touch with sewing clubs in your county. Your outfit could be a 4-Hers projects for the year. Equitation and horsemanship clothing that moves in the breeze at a canter or lope can translate into looking out of position and could cost you a ribbon.

I know children grow, sometimes overnight! Be sure western pants are long enough to cover the boot to the heel while mounted. If your child shows in short stirrup classes and wears jodhpurs and paddock boots, don’t forget the garters or knee straps.

Budget friendly tip

injured piggy bank
Ouch!

Don’t feel like you need to break the bank. Buy a couple neutral pieces to base your show wardrobe around. Invest in a  great western hat and keep it in a hat carrier so it will hold its shape longer. Keep your boots and tack clean and polished. Nothing says lack of preparation like a misshapen western hat or dusty hunt boots! Hey, you could use the towel you bought to clean your boots!

medals Remember, it is not the outfit that shines through but the preparation and performance that gets the gold.

Written by Big Dee’s Web Product Specialist, Kathy Kilbane

On The Road Again

 

So… you are ready to go to your chosen equine event. You prepared through training, many many hours in the saddle and even survived a multitude of lessons. Your horse is in optimum shape and you see success around the corner. However, your event requires you to haul your horse. Just a few simple hauling tips will keep you and your horse in good shape.

Roadways can be brutal with all the road construction these days. Traveling at night may be a good idea to possibly limit your chances of being stuck in a traffic jam; orange construction barrelsno you cannot unload and practice your pole bending pattern around the orange barrels to pass the time. Night hauling also reduces the temperature in the trailer and the number of crazies on the road. Having hauled horses coast to coast, I can tell you stories that defy all logic when it comes to being cut off, expected to stop a loaded 6-horse trailer with living quarters and extended cab truck on a dime, or having to deal with those that hang in your blind spot with the kids pointing and waving at the horses. Am I right? Maybe I should write a book instead of a blog!

During long distance and local hauls in the summer months, heat can definitely affect the trailering experience for your horse. Be sure to use window screens and open the trailer roof vent for air circulation. Use fly spray to keep your horses comfortable and curtail stomping on the trailer. And go high tech with the trailer eyes video system to keep an eye on your precious cargo through your smartphone.

Gimme a Break

The constant motion of the trailer or being confined can stress your horse out. Increases and decreases in speed, changing lanes and stopping and starting all require your horse to balance and lock his legs. Bed your trailer with thick sawdust or shaving and consider wrapping all four legs using a leg quilt for support. Taking frequent breaks to water your horses and replenish hay will keep them occupied and their gut functioning properly. Break time also gives them a chance to unlock their legs. When you stop, open windows and doors for fresh air. A good rule of thumb is to take a 20-minute break every 4-hours and offer water.  When parking, try to find a shaded area if possible. Also, keep in mind it might be unsafe to unload.

 

Reservation, please

If your trip takes you overnight do some homework, call ahead, and make arrangements at a fairgrounds or horse hotel/campground to layover. Check websites for help. It is surprising how inexpensive this is and how your horse will benefit from the break. Carry plenty of hay, grain and, if possible, a 24-hour supply of water. For those horses being transported, start adding a flavored drink mix or powdered jello to their water buckets about a week before the trip. Add just enough to give it a fruity odor. Local water at your destination can smell and taste different to your horse. Continue to add these mixes when watering and your horse will be less likely to refuse to drink.  Avoiding dehydration is always important.  Remember to take some electrolytes just in case and keep an eye on the amount of urine and manure your horse is producing.

 Here’s your sign

Know the equine vital signs. Talk to your veterinarian. Think of it as packing the car for vacation; have a checklist so you do not forget anything. If your horse is on any daily supplement or medication be sure to continue your regimen as prescribed by your veterinarian. Put together an equine first aid kit complete with bandage material, scissors, vet wrap, calming supplements, colic prevention, and a thermometer. Try to keep your horse on a similar feeding schedule, but reduce grain intake during your trip. Inactivity may cause intestinal issues. Check the health certificate requirements for your event. Set up a veterinary farm call to discuss and booster vaccines when appropriate.

Just like the scouts…be prepared for anything horse and trailer related. Pack a spare tire and a spare halter and lead. Carry a trailer ramp for changing flats and road flares or reflective marker to identify a breakdown. Pack a fire extinguisher. Have your truck and trailer serviced and be sure your emergency braking system is in working order. Your road trip will be less stressful with a little pre-planning. Oh and don’t forget your road snacks and horse treats!

Good luck and may the best horse and rider win! champion ribbon

 

 

Written by Web Products Specialist Kathy Kilbane

Greener Pastures?

Spring Pasture | Big Dee's Tack & Vet Supplies

After a long winter, and I do mean long, probably nowhere else in the country but northeast Ohio can you have an 80-degree day followed by tornados the next day to a snowstorm all in 72 hours in April! Perhaps our neighbor to the south will see a dry Kentucky Derby this year but only Mother Nature truly knows. Then again horse people are hearty and resilient and we persevere!

Scheduling spring training, and turnout on new grass can be challenging. Have you seen the iconic photo of a horse grazing in green, green grass up to its belly, on a spring morning with the sunbeams shining through the dew and thought how great? I have seen a similar image or two but have a different dream crushing thought. Not to be an alarmist but YIKES, that horse is going to develop laminitis or colic if he is not brought in soon! Hoof inflammation after excess grazing may damage the hoof laminae, which is the sensitive portion of the hoof. Inflammation causes a painful debilitating condition called laminitis. Inside the hoof, the laminae suspend and attach the coffin bone to the hoof wall. Two-thirds of a horse’s body weight is carried up front. Put in context a 1200-pound horse will carry roughly 800-pounds of their weight on the front legs. Imagine standing and supporting that weight when your hooves are inflamed and painful.

Monitor your equine partner’s pasture time

Use a graduated turnout schedule to avoid initial extended turnout time on new lush spring grasses. Spring grass contains higher sugar content and over-doing it may cause changes in your horse’s metabolism compromising hooves to laminitis. Gradually offering spring grass intake may curtail the chances of laminitis or colic. Many factors will determine the length of turnout time such as the size of the pasture, how lush the grass, size of your horse and the herd he is turned out with. Using a grazing muzzle can be useful to allow your horse to acclimate more slowly.

Wet pastures and exercise areas create a problem for turnout and training.  Conditions of racetracks and outdoor training areas may be less than ideal for morning breezing and workouts. This creates a watchful situation as you manage spring turnout and training schedules. Take precautions to add bell boots for turnout as horses may overreach running and playing during pasture time. If you are riding outside, consider using splint and tendon boots. Muddy pastures can be a magnet for horseshoes. If your horse is shod it may be wise to keep an easy boot on hand for use when your horse comes in from pasture shoeless!

Begin legging up your horse slowly

Tendon injuries and muscle pulls can be common in the spring. If you have not ridden much this winter give your horse a chance to build endurance and leg strength slowly and avoid associated soreness.  Injury therapy has come a long way. As technology improves, so do equine injury treatment options. Traditional injury solutions might be used alongside new treatment apparatuses such as ice wraps, whirlpool therapy boots and tubs,  leg soakers, laser wraps and ceramic and magnetic therapies. If injuries occur, discuss treatment options with your veterinarian. Save your veterinarians number in your phone and post it in your barn for quick access.

These tips will get you started on a great showing, trail riding, fox hunting or racing season! Make a trip to Big Dee’s or order online to stock up on liniment and leg care items, polo wraps, leg quilts, wound care and vet wrap. It is also a good time to check your tack for serviceability and wear and tear. Give your tack a thorough cleaning before your riding season begins. Enjoy your chosen equine sport and be safe!

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