Wednesday, April 13, 2011

the senior horse, 2: shedding out, and the first tick

I'm actually not sure this is a senior horse issue, but ever since Salina (now 28 years old) came to live with us at 23 her spring shedding has been unique compared to that of the other horses and the pony.

Salina is black, and most of the year she is a "true" black color. But as the winter begins to wind down,  her coat along the back and belly takes on a brown color. If I didn't balance our hay carefully and feed minerals specific to what each horse needs, I'd think her copper and zinc weren't in the appropriate ratio to iron.

I suppose it's possible that at this point of the year she's getting a little sunbleached, but otoh, if that is true, why isn't it on the other parts of her body that also get the same amount of sunlight?

It all seems to be part of a somewhat unique pattern of shedding that happens for Salina. Whether it's a senior horse issue or not might be made more clear as Keil Bay ages and I can compare the two.

In any case, Salina's coat color shifts in the late winter, she begins to shed, generally almost a full month before the geldings do, and as she sheds, the new coat grows in shiny and black, with gorgeous dapples.

Before we get to gorgeous though, we live through a very scurfy stage - during which it seems like she is shedding not only fur but dry skin. The more you groom her, the more you see it - almost a dandruff, but finer, and she ends up looking gray.

When she first came to us, this scurf ended up looking a little like rain rot. Once I got her onto the balanced diet, which includes freshly ground flax and vitamin E gelcaps, that part resolved. Now it's just the fine shedding of dead skin.

The only thing that "cures" this is her first spring bath. We don't bathe horses in the winter, and don't have an indoor wash area, so the first bath comes usually on the first day when both daytime and nighttime temps are warm enough that I know the horses won't get a chill.

Salina's first bath came this past Friday, when I walked her out to our bathing area beneath the big oak tree and started a slow, gentle, soapy scrub-down with a soft rubber curry I have. She always loves this first bath, and stands untied, with only a lead rope laying over her neck so she knows I want her to stay with me.

As you can imagine, this bath takes care of the scurfiness, but it also helps get lots of loose hair out, and it takes a good amount of time to scrub every inch of her body (except her face, which she prefers I do with a cloth) and then rinse and rinse until there's no soap left.

Usually at some point in the process she needs a break to go check on her donkeys, so I let her take a walk, nibble some grass or hay, and then I bring her back to finish up.

After this first bath, I keep her groomed from day to day and marvel that she is suddenly transformed - back to the black mare she is most of the year.

It just so happened that on the day of her first bath this year we also found the first tick. She was happy to have it removed. A little calendula tincture and water helps the tick bite stop itching and heal quickly. Banixx also works but is more expensive to use.

Yesterday I looked out the window and saw a gleaming black mare walk across the barnyard. It's nice to see her shining again!


Anonymous said...

We've got ticks too - so far none on horses but several on people - yuck! Interesting shedding out pattern - Dawn does something interesting - she has full-body dapples and the shedding process makes them stand out in relief - very odd.

billie said...

Kate, I bet that dapples in relief effect is very interesting to see! Keil Bay gets a much darker bay color over the winter, so when he sheds out his redness returns, along with dapples. Cody and the pony are much more true to color throughout their year.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

I removed a tick from Val just a little while ago - with my nifty tick removal thingy - always gets the head.

Val has overt and covert dapples... depending on what angle you are looking at him from lol. ;)

Grey Horse Matters said...

I would have loved to see a picture of the gleaming Salina after her bath. She must have looked stunning.

I can't wait to give our guys a bath. They couldn't be dirtier. And Dusty's tail and mane are practically yellow. I never knew Dusty even had dapples until after I had her for a few months and they appeared. I'm guessing with the proper nutrition and supplements I suddenly had a dappled palomino. I have no idea if that's a rarity or not but I've never seen a palomino with dapples before, color me surprised. Then again all of our horses have dapples once they have a bath, they do look good in the sun.

ponymaid said...

billie, I'm rather alarmed at the very prospect of a water bath but Salina obviously loves the whole process. Do R&R bathe? And ticks...hopefully they don't care for long months of ice and snow...

billie said...

C, I am hoping that after this winter we had, the tick population is diminished. April is usually the worst month, but we'll see...

billie said...

Arlene, Dusty has probably the most beautiful dapples I've ever seen on a horse. I haven't seen that many palominos, but her coat is gorgeous and I think evidence of a terrific diet.

billie said...

Sheaffer, R&R leave the premises when baths are going on. They have never had one here! Every now and then I think it would be fun to try, but otoh they seem to have a perfectly fine method of staying clean that counterintuitively involves rolling in dust circles!

Even when they manage to get slimed with wet mushy food from standing outside Salina's stall door while she's eating (she comes over to hang her head and check on them, and drips it on their backs!) they also manage to get it clean by the next time I go out to the barn.

As with the pony, I suspect grooming fairies come and assist, but I have yet to catch them in the act.

Máire said...

I love that bath routine you describe for Salina. It sounds very gentle and rhythmical. I know all about that scurfy stage.

billie said...

Maire, she is ready for a second one this week! As is Keil Bay, who is not scurfy but just looks like he needs one. Tomorrow's high is 87 so I think it's safe to say I will be out there with shampoo, sponges, and curry scrubbing and rinsing for several hours!

Michelle said...

The ticks have been out in force here! I actually have had TWO tick bites in the past 2 months - only the second time in my life I've ever been bitten... Argh. I'm going to try the calendula. Great idea! Billie, I've missed you and your holistic resources and gentle aura! Sooo good to be back online.

billie said...

Michelle, so good to see you here again.

I also have Salina on a combo recommended by Dr. Eleanor Kellon for itchy horses that seem especially vulnerable to the insect bites.

Salina is already on 5g of chondroitin a day for her arthritis, so I didn't have to add that in. Added to the chondroitin is 2 oz. of spirulina a day.

Dr. Kellon also recommends deworming these very itchy horses monthly with ivermectin during the itchy season of the year.

Have my itchy Corgi Kyra on a canine dose of the same (not the deworming though).

So far so good.

Take care with those tick bites!