Friday, April 30, 2010

The Old Gray Mare, She Ain't What She Used to Be - She's Much Better: Caring for the Geriatric Horse

By: Darlene M. Cox

Along with today's increase in recreational horse ownership also comes an increase in the number of geriatric-aged horses who now easily live well into their 30's. This increase in aged equine longevity can be attributed to the better knowledge of horse health management that responsible horse owners have obtained and applied through their many years of horse ownership. Good health care and nutrition keeps many of our equine senior citizens happy and productive through much of their elderly lives.

The importance of good health care and appropriate nutrition for geriatric horses is greatly evident based upon the natural time-factored breakdown of a horse's system as they reach geriatric age (15+ years). Older horses are more greatly susceptible to problems from parasitic infestations, infectious diseases (Cushings), colic, enteroliths (stones in the intestinal track), choke, laminitis, founder, tooth problems (extensive wear, breakage, abscesses, or tooth loss), weight gain/loss, decreased digestive ability, cardiovascular illness, arthritis, and stress. Routine bi-annual veterinarian examinations are prudent for geriatric horses and should encompass a complete blood work-up, body scoring, fecal parasite count, dental exam, evaluation of the gastrointestinal track, lungs, eyes, feet, legs, joints, inspection of the body for melanoma tumors or other suspicious growths.

Good nutrition is of utmost importance when caring for the geriatric horse, as many of the above-listed problems can be tied directly to nutrition. As in the geriatric populations of many species, the horse has a problem with digestion and requires an easily digestible food that is also highly nutritious and meets the needs of his aging body. Senior horses require feeds that are softer and easier to chew, yet are higher in protein and easily digestible carbohydrates low in starch. Probiotic supplementation will aid in preventive measures to ward off the development of health problems. Laxatives can aid in keeping the intestinal track moving; however, it is important that the laxative used not upset the intestinal water concentration in the hind gut. You don't want to induce diarrhea, which will lead to intestinal complications and weight loss.

A geriatric horse's health can deteriorate rapidly; therefore, it is a good measure to be diligently attentive to her daily appearance and behavior, making notes of any little changes you might see (listlessness, not eating/drinking, posturing, etc.) This may assist your vet in determining a problem if a call must be made for a farm visit. One of the biggest problems with geriatric horse health involves their teeth. Always be attentive to your older horse's mouth, especially if you notice her not eating or if she has really bad breath, which will be indicative of an abscess infection.

Exercise is a very important factor in keeping your geriatric horse in good health. Keeping her on a regular and routine exercise plan will naturally aid her ability to stave off any arbitrary health conditions attributable to inactivity.

Being ever vigilant and knowledgeable about the care your senior horse requires will prevent life threatening illness and keep her in your barn and heart for years to come.

Happy trails!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Assurance of Insurance: Should you Carry Insurance on your Horse?

By Darlene M. Cox

Recreational riding and horse ownership has seen exponential growth over the past few years. Young and old alike enjoy horseback riding and are always looking forward to the next opportunity to throw a leg over the saddle and enjoy the special connection that exists between rider and horse.

Your horse, although a cohort and compatriot to countless hours of enjoyment, is a major monetary investment, regardless of his purchase price. Any seasoned horse person will tell you that the price for which you purchase your horse is just the tip of the iceberg when it is compared to upkeep and preventive care costs. Just as we protect other major investments that we have in our lives (vehicles, homes, businesses) with insurance polices, we can also protect the investment of our beloved equine friends.

There are several insurance policies available to horse owners, but the two most important are: Major medical/surgical and mortality (death).

The health and well-being of your horse is tantamount to your riding pleasure. Responsible horse ownership dictates that we conscientiously take the best possible care of our trusted equine partner. Those of us who own horses understand how expensive such care can be. Even preventive care (annual vaccinations, timely de-worming programs, teeth floating, shoeing, etc.) can be costly; however, when unexpected major health concerns arise, some will find themselves facing the difficult decision of spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars towards medical treatment for their horse. Major medical/surgical insurance, which covers veterinary costs for accident, injury, illness or disease, will eliminate the heart-wrenching decision an owner makes when evaluating a major monetary loss (medical bills) to his horse's life (euthanasia). Before the availability of major medical/surgical policies, the necessity of colic surgery (with costs exceeding $4,000) all but clenched the horse owner's decision to euthanize their horse or face a major financial burden. The cost of insurance is minimal when compared to the expense of a major surgery or illness.

Many have had the emotion- laden heartbreak of losing a horse to death. Our losses are huge, both emotionally and financially. Gone from us is that special four-legged friend with whom we spent countless hours, and we grieve in our hearts for that loss. The financial impact of our loss is great as well when you factor in the purchase price of your horse, the care and upkeep, training, etc. that you invested into him. Investing in mortality insurance policy will protect you against the financial loss is your horse dies and will provide you with a way to recoup the money you had invested in your horse. Receipt of the benefits from a mortality policy may well be the financial resources you would need to find a suitable replacement for the horse you just loss.

We do not hesitate to protect ourselves from major financial loss related to the life and health of a loved one; therefore, we carry medical and life insurance on ourselves, spouse, or children. Protecting our financial investments that happen to be grazing in the field makes prudent sense as responsible horse owners. There are many insurance companies that carry horse-related insurances and can provide cost-free quotes. Investigate for yourself and determine if adding insurance coverage on your horse may be an option for you. It would be good to know your financial investment was well protected at trails end.

Happy trails!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hairy Tack

I have to admit, when I first saw this very original tack by Reinsman in their spring catalog, I thought it was pretty weird. Tack with...fur? But after flipping the pages dozen of times, it's grown on me. After all, it is pretty original. The whole coordinating package put on a horse would look pretty bad...bad in a good way, that is.

And, no, it's not fur. The brindle hair-on cowhide decked tack includes headstalls, breastcollars, and nosebands.

Here's one of the X Series Ropers, the 4455, shown 5/8 tooled with full brindle hair on cowhide seat.

The X Series saddles are fully customizable, from the amount of tooling to one of six seat colors. We love putting them together for our customers and seeing how each saddle comes out with a unique look.
What do you think of the bridle-y tack? Yea or nay?

Friday, April 2, 2010

We Touch Our Products

We have over 500 saddles in stock, and we don't hesitate to let it be known. Why, you might wonder, is this important? Well, not only do we enjoy having a brick-and-mortar store where we get to help local customers, but we owe it to our customers to know our products.

Many companies online are only dropshippers. This means that someone put up a retail website and is simply acting as the middleman between you and the manufacturer. These companies do not have an actual store, and they do not have any products. Most likely it is a person with a computer and an extra phone. When you place an order, they have the manufactuer ship it to you.

We do use drop shipping with our manufactuers if a customer orders something that we do not have in stock. However, our inventory is always being rebuilt, and we see, touch, and handle our products. Our saddle experts are not a joke; we know the saddles! I was recently browsing the subject of dropshipping and found a very interesting article proclaming how easy it is to become an online saddle dropshipper. These are actual quotes from this article:

"We have the saddles dropshipped so we never actually touch the product."

"We are not horse people at all. We have each ridden on a horse once or twice. You will need to do a couple of hours of research to find out a little bit about horses before you can start taking phone calls."

Is this the type of company you want to buy your saddle from? Our saddle experts are not only handling the products all the time, they're answering complicated saddle fit questions daily. Fitting all shapes and sizes of horses for people all across the globe is a constant learning process (not something you can glean from "a couple hours of research"), and our experts are always expanding their knowledge. Saddle dropshippers? Give us a break.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Choosing a Boarding Facility

By: Darlene M. Cox

While the perfect horse ownership scenario would have your horse happily ensconced in his pasture or barn right outside your backdoor, many horse owners do not own a farm or other sufficient land and find it necessary to locate a boarding facility to house their horse. But how do you go about selecting a boarding facility and how do you know if it is the right one? Before any consideration or selection of facilities is made, you must remember this one key statement: There are no perfect boarding facilities-- period. If it was perfect, it would be on your own land. Keeping this very important statement in mind will help you when it comes time to choose the facility that's right for you.

It is important to make personal visits to several boarding facilities to evaluate them for safety and suitability. Pastures need to have safe fencing and be clutter free. Go into the stalls and check out the water buckets; are they clean with fresh water? Evaluate the stall flooring and the type of bedding that is used. Is it suitable for what you like used for your horse? Are there any exposed electrical wires hanging down in the stalls? Any exposed nails? Talk not only to the barn managers, but also to any boarder who may be there to get their opinion of the facility. If the barn manager bristles about your talking with another boarder, consider that a bad sign and mark that facility off of your list. Ask questions, ask questions, and ask questions. Will the facility be responsible for providing grain and hay? Inspect the quality of the grain and hay. Will they do the feedings, or will you be responsible for feeding? How many times a day will your horse be fed? Will they feed your supplements or feed additives? Who will have access to your horse? How many people are on staff? What is the experience level of the boarding staff? Does the management share your vision of acceptable/accountable horse care? What is the contact procedure for any emergency that may arise? Will they call your vet or use the vet that comes to the barn? In the event of injury, will they provide the daily care for your horse? Will your horse be stall boarded or pasture boarded? Will your horse be turned out? Does the barn arrange for vet and farrier visits? Is there room for you to park your horse trailer (if applicable)? Does the facility have individual tack storage areas? Are the pastures safe and clutter-free? How many horses will be turned out on pasture together? Are the horses segregated based on gender (i.e., mares, geldings, stallions)?

What are the rules of the barn? Some boarding facilities may be lax on their rules and others may be over- bearing; you need to choose which will better suit your tastes in being told what to do and when to do it.

What kind of facility is it? Does it offer lessons? Does it have indoor and outdoor arenas? Does it have other amenities that you like, or dislike? What type of boarder keeps their horse there? If you are strictly a trail rider and the facility houses mostly show horses, you may not find the atmosphere conducive to garnering friendships with anyone there or you may feel there is no connectivity between you and others.

How will your horse fit into a boarding facility? Is he one that is used to being turned out with several other horses or is he used to being alone or with only one other horse?

If a signed boarding contract is required, read over the contract carefully and then re-read it. All of the rules of the facility should be listed in the contract. Everything that management expects from you, the boarder, should be spelled out in the contract. If no boarding contract is required, it may be best to go elsewhere. Get references from the barn manager. Phone the references to get their candid opinions of the boarding facility, its operation, and its management. Inquiries can also be made from local vets and feed stores of area boarding facilities.

If the above questions can be answered to your satisfaction, then finding the boarding facility right for you and your horse just got easier. If the questions cannot be satisfactorily answered, you need to continue your search or find a good realtor who can sell you a prime piece of farmland where you can put your horse right outside your backdoor.

Happy trails!