Monday, 25 March 2013

Horse care on a shoestring (and duct tape) budget

I'm updating you from inside the bunker, i.e. my living room with the wood stove blazing, in a full set of long johns plus thermal trousers, with a heat pad stuffed down my top. I'm also clutching a cup of hot tea, but that's simply a psychological salve.

The weather is not only bad, it's unrelenting. Day after day of rain, followed by another week of easterly wind that burns exposed fingers and faces. It's cold enough to freeze the pheasants' water system and break the plastic joins, requiring constant repair, but not cold enough to freeze the mud solid. There's no sun to offer any warmth, and every chore feels like an epic quest.

Wet ground has meant wet feet, with all the associated problems for our livestock. A couple of the sheep have footrot, which is responding to treatment. Then Kitty - Mike's horse - pulled up lame on a ride.

I called the vet who diagnosed an abscess in her sole. He says he's seeing a lot of this: the wet ground makes the hoof soft and allows a sharp stone to cut its way in and lodge in the hole. Stand foot with hole in mud for a few days and hey, presto, infection.

As Kitty lives outdoors, keeping her foot clean and dry is one of those "epic quest" chores I mentioned earlier. She needs her foot soaked and poulticed to draw out the infection, then bandaged to keep it clean and dry. This needs to be done daily until the infection is cleared.

Instead of an expensive, proprietary poultice boot, Kitty got the "Backyard Special" boot that all horse owners will be familiar with: a dry poultice, wrapped with clingfilm, covered with Vetrap, and taped over with half a roll of duct tape.

Look at those conditions underfoot, and that's on the hardcore track. 

Did I mention the mud won't freeze?

The duct tape boot wasn't tough enough for ankle-deep mud, so I used an old trick with the inner tube from our ATV and fashioned Kitty a horse-sized wellie boot -

With an average sized horse, the tube just slides over and ties up at the bottom. As Kitty has feet the size of manhole covers, she got the split-front model with baling twine laces. It's working great, and with all that feathering as protection, the twine doesn't rub her skin.

Still, she looks as fed up as the rest of us. I hope she's on the road to a speedy recovery so we can get back out on the trail.

However, I draw the line at fashioning 104 sheep-sized boots.


OlmanFeelyus said...

You have my sympathies on the weather. Winter just won't seem to die here in Montreal either, but we have gotten a lot of sunshine. After reading your post, I will now stop complaining and appreciating what I have!

Anonymous said...

I've seen some folks have good luck using disposable diapers duct taped around the hoof. But given the mud you describe it's probably better to use the inner tube boot. Hope she heals fast and the weather brightens. We had a good spring snow in Colorado this past weekend, but given our usual drought conditions, I'm not complaining. Then again, I no longer have equine feet to worry about.

janice bendixen said...

I agree. Mr. Winter has the sub-arctic firmly in his grasp. It's currently -2F and we had 12" of snow on Monday. Pleh. But I'll stop complaining as at least we don't have mud. Yet. Beautiful sunshine now that skies have cleared and a marvelous full moon. Congratulations on the Podgelets. And Jen, you're a good horse mom. If Kitty had English words I'm sure she'd say "Thank you."

BilboWaggins said...

Inner tube sounds like an excellent solution. I once spent (nearly) an entire ski season with duct tape over various holes in my ski trousers. Never underestimate the usefulness of a large roll of good quality gaffer tape!

Jennifer Montero said...

OF - Commiserating makes it better, so feel free to join in!

Jennifer Montero said...

kvdbooks - I saw the diaper trick on a website and wondered if it would work, certainly seems practical. Almost as practical as "no longer having equine feet to worry about"!

Jennifer Montero said...

JB - You win. It's 2C here, practically balmy compared to where you are. Though I had to stop digging over my veg garden when the snow started settling on my work.

Jennifer Montero said...

BW - Our tool kits always include duct tape, thick and thin baler twine, and plastic feed bags. It's amazing how often you can limp something through with a combo of those items. I will mentally add ski trousers to that list now.

Seester said...

I believe a solution was created back in the early 80s:


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