Thursday, May 12, 2011

the senior horse, 3: a complete senior diet and summer kairos

Back in the late fall I decided to transition Salina off her complete senior diet and onto the same diet the geldings are on, the primary reason being that she is eating a lot of hay and I wondered if the unbalanced portion of her diet (the hay and forage) was in effect throwing off her trace mineral ratios.

Over the winter she got the geldings' diet, except she got an extra meal mid-day. She mostly maintained her weight but by the time the grass came out this spring, and a good month into it, she hadn't regained her weight. Not an alarming loss by any means, but enough so that I have decided to put her back onto the complete senior diet (developed by Dr. Eleanor Kellon).

I am in the process of adding the additional ingredients back in, slowly so as to allow her digestive system to adjust. We'll be up to the full amounts in another few weeks' time, and I'll start her back on the customized vit/mineral mix I get from HorseTech that goes with this diet. I'll still add her joint supplements and lysine individually, and her ALCAR.

She's picked up some weight already, and seems to have more energy. The reasoning behind the complete diet is that it alone provides all the vitamins and minerals she needs, balanced to the correct ratios, and served wet so she has the best chance of absorbing the good stuff. The geldings are also on a balanced, wet diet, but their meals are balanced to the hay they eat. With Salina, we have shifted to the assumption that she is no longer able to chew the hay well enough, or digest it well enough, to get all she needs.

After this experiment over the winter, I think I've established it pretty well - she does best on the complete diet.

I keep wondering when I should look at Keil Bay's diet in terms of absorption issues, etc. Although he would dearly love to shift to what Salina is eating, I'm not seeing signs that he needs it yet, and it may well be he doesn't need it for a long time, if at all.

Keil Bay's transition to senior diet might be that he gets a mid-day meal of ODTB cubes, which he will love just as much.

On another note, we've shifted into summer schedule here, which means horses come in around 10 a.m. and get feed tubs, then get groomed and set up for the day hanging out in the barn with their fans. Salina adores being groomed after a night out in the pasture, and she usually positions herself for it and waits. I brush, check for ticks and insects bites, use calendula tincture and water as needed, wash her eyes (the empty socket collects dust and she loves having it gently cleaned), and end with a light spray of the herbal fly mix we use. It's a special and quiet time that all of us enjoy. It's a drowsy time, and often one or more of the equines will lie down as I work.

For Salina, who is retired from riding, this time is even more special. It's very clear she enjoys the attention and the actual grooming, and I go slowly so it lasts about as long as a ride would. With all the horses and her donkeys in the barn, relaxing, it's a time she can let go and relax herself. No need to keep alert to everything going on - we're all right there, and with the fans going, the outside world just disappears.

It's a good time for her and a good time for me - so other-worldly that yesterday when Fed-Ex drove in and honked the horn for five minutes we didn't even hear it! We were in our own time, which is a place I think the senior horses are especially good at taking us.


Grey Horse Matters said...

The senior diet plan seems like the best way to go for Salina. She sounds like such a special horse and it does sound as if she loves the time spent getting groomed and fussed over. The senior horses have so much to share with us and the peace and relaxation are just a small part of all they have to offer if we would only take the time to listen. This may sound silly but even though I have never met Salina I feel like I know her and just hearing about her morning rituals makes me smile.

billie said...

Arlene, you are a sister in spirit so of course you know her! We had our time this a.m. and she walked out to the barnyard afterward as if she were all dressed up and had someplace to go! :)

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

Lovely post billie. What a peaceful picture you painted - sharing quiet time with the equines... :)

billie said...

Thank you, C. We had a lovely massage time today, at 11, and Salina got so relaxed she looked like she was going to fall down for a moment!

I also had the neighborhood horsewomen over for a barnyard brunch and some talk about equine muscles and also some exciting news - it turns out we have a fairly complex trail system (private) right in our back yard, practically. In addition to creating a perimeter community trail, there is the possibility of miles of trail to ride.

Who knew? We're working on figuring it all out.

And... if anyone is interested in a horse property down the lane, contact me privately (billie AT billiehinton DOT com). There is a brand new listing as of today.

ponymaid said...

billie, a trail system?! Will R&R be exploring that with you? I'm sure if you pack a lunch they'll be game for a full day's outing. I am very interested in the property down the lane - I need to work on my funding.

billie said...

Sheaffer, it appears that it goes for many miles. We will be checking it out more soon.

The property is now officially listed on the market - get your loan approved unless you have a secret stash of cash! I will gladly put a big sign saying 'Sold To Sheaffer' up for you!

Victoria Cummings said...

I have a feeling that you're going to get a good new neighbor - that place sounds wonderful. The senior diet that you mention sounds like something I need to investigate. Silk is doing better, but I'd like to feel that she's getting everything she needs to stay healthy. I'm going to check it out. Thanks!

billie said...

Victoria, the only condition on the senior diet is that it won't work for a horse with insulin resistance issues. We are back on it fully as of this week for Salina, and although it involves having four ingredients on hand and a customized supplement, it is worth it. She loves eating her meals and it's clear she is getting all the nutritional needs met when you see her coat and energy level.