Friday, January 22, 2016


We got about three or four inches of snow last night!  It's so pretty!  I'm actually kind of glad we don't get snow very often (once a year, sometimes not even that), because when we do it's so magical.  :D  I didn't get many pictures because I was cold and the mud under the snow is not frozen so my shoes were getting nasty sinking through three or four inches of snow and then four or five inches of mud under that haha.  Also the horses were being boring.  They were a little playful, but after being out in freezing rain all night they just want to eat hay.  I can't really blame them.  These pictures were taken with a cell phone so they aren't great.  Here are the pictures.

I feel so fortunate to live here!

 The only picture I managed to get of them playing.  :)

 Jackal was having a blast!!  

You can see more pictures of him in the snow on my other blog Living A Farmer's Life (click here) and also meet the newest member of the family!!  Be sure to check out the post here (click).


 The only energetic picture I got of Chrome lol.

 This is what they preferred to do. 

 Pond isn't frozen!

I hope you enjoyed the pictures!  When my head stops hurting I'll try to get more.  :D

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Update (with crappy cell phone pictures)

I just want to give an update.  I'm sorry it took so long.  Things have been hectic and busy.  Rocky and Chrome are doing great.  You can't tell that anything was ever wrong with them except they are a tad thin.  These pictures are from Wednesday.  I'll get new ones tomorrow if the rain ever stops.

 The only picture I got of Chrome.  Awkward!

We found someone else to buy hay from.  The good thing is he's much closer and it's cheaper.  The drawbacks are that the hay is stored outside (with round bales that means you have to peel off about six inches of the outside of the bale) and it isn't pure bermuda, but at this point I'll take mixed grass hay as long as it doesn't have seed heads (it doesn't).  They just need the roughage running through their guts to produce heat at this time of year.  They get all of their nutrition from their feed and minerals.

 I started them on Cool Calories to hopefully get their weight back up.  They aren't underweight, but they are thinner than I prefer going into the coldest part of winter.  This is the first time I've ever used Cool Calories so I'll let you guys know what I think of it after they've been on it a while.

Zep and the goats still haven't shown any signs of the staggers.  I'm so glad they had the sense not to eat it!  Smart boys!

 Blissed out over their mashes.

Rocky's shaved neck where the IV was.

Hopefully I'll be able to get some pictures tomorrow to give you an update on how they look now.  Like I said above these pictures are from Wednesday.

Oh and they got their hooves trimmed in the dark last night lol.  I can't wait for the days to get longer!!!!

I also want to share a comment that Mrs. Shoes left on my last post because it has a lot of great information in it!

"I'm very glad to hear that the horses will be okay & that you were able to identify the cause of their sickness - isn't it funny that Zep & the goats instinctively wouldn't eat that bad hay? I thought that goats would eat just about anything, but I guess that is a misconception. 
I really want to say Thank You! for writing about this, because prompting awareness & getting us all thinking about the quality of our pastures or hay is of real value. 
I'd heard of Ergot Poisoning before but in rye. Now I know that it can also be a problem in triticale, wheat, & barley crops; but I didn't know that brome & couch grass are also extremely susceptible to ergot infection, or that there are no effective fungicides against ergot. 

I read that Dallis grass is fairly common in the southern US (having come up from Central America), but everywhere has potential problem plants. Here we walk our pastures to monitor for & eradicate any traces of Bloodroot (which is related to the poppy & has gorgeous white flowers) & Nightshade - which are both deadly. Since some chemicals can be dangerous to the stock too, we use a sharp tool to dig out bad plants & all the roots we can find. Then we haul them up to the yard & lay them out on some concrete where I then douse them in white vinegar & leave them in the burning sun until they are withered & dry. Then we seal them up in garbage bags & take them to the dump. 
We don't take the chance of just burning anymore (because) one year we had been burning tree branches that had a fungus on them, only to find out later that burning Black Knob fungus just releases spores into the air to cause more problems. 

For anyone who might not know what plants to beware of in their area, type in Toxic Plants in 'Wherever' & it should lead to a detailed list with photos of the bad plants. 

Where I am from, Rabies SO wasn't a problem that the vets didn't even recommend vaccinating against it; but where I live now, it IS a problem & ALL the animals have to be vaccinated, including our horses & cattle. 

I wonder what steps your hay producer will be taking to ensure he doesn't sell hay that can kill his customers. i found the following control tips listed at

Delay swathing in headland areas to allow strong winds to shake out the ergots from standing grain. Harvest these swaths separately because they are likely to have the highest ergot contamination.
Use good sanitation. Cut or burn nearby grasses before they come into head. Clean seed to remove ergot bodies. If a few ergot bodies remain in the seed, plant at least 5 cm (2 in.) deep or store seed for one year to reduce the viability of ergot bodies to almost zero. Cultivate deeply after a crop has been infected with ergot to bury the sclerotia at least 2.5 cm (1 in.) below the soil line or rotate to a resistant crop. Do not sow wheat after rye.
Leave at least one year between susceptible crops, ie. rye, triticale, wheat and barley. Note that brome and couch grass are extremely susceptible to ergot.
There are no resistant varieties or effective fungicides. Test soils for copper availability. If copper levels are less than 1 ppm, it may be necessary to apply copper fertilizer to the soil to reduce this disease in wheat and barley."

Monday, January 4, 2016

Rocky is home!!

Rocky is home!  He is so much better!  It's such a relief to see it with my own eyes.

Okay I'm going to start from the beginning of today.  Last night before bed I asked my hubby to check on Chrome before he went to work, because I was so terrified of walking out there and discovering he was worse and not having hubby there for my inevitable panic.  As soon as I woke up I sent him a text asking, "How's Chrome?"  He called and told me that Chrome was fine, but that he needed a million peppermints and hugs to make sure he fully recovers.  My hubby always knows how to make me laugh.

So I was happy and relieved when I hurried outside to see Chrome.  He was standing at the gate to his pen, dozing.  He'd eaten every scrap of the whole square bale I gave him the previous day.  He gave me a huge neigh when I woke him up.  I walked over to him and was relieved to see he wasn't shaking or swaying or anything.  He still walks a little funny in his rear, but anyone else probably wouldn't even notice it.  I just notice it because I know him so well.

I fed him his Empower Balance and his extremely sloppy beet pulp mash.  I didn't realize the beet pulp pellets don't need as much water as the shreds lol.  I've never used them before.  He drank the water off the top of it and then dug in.  He had that stuff all over his face.  All the way up to where the noseband of his halter sits lol.  He thoroughly enjoyed himself.

I listened to Chrome slopping away as I guarded Zep from the goats while he ate.  The goats are bad about using their horns to keep Zep out of the bucket, so I have to keep them chased off so he can eat.  It was so hilarious though because when he was almost finished I left the pasture and the goats immediately went for him.  Zep turned around and trampled them.  He ran right over the top of them!!!!!  Maybe they learned their lesson and will leave him alone now.  Don't worry they weren't hurt.  Nobody was limping or bloody.  They kept their distance though!

Zep and the goats were in the pasture because they weren't eating the hay to begin with, but don't worry we spent all day yesterday raking and burning hay as soon as we found out what it was.  The only reason I left Chrome separated last night is because he was sick and I didn't want him having to defend his hay against the goats.

As soon as everyone was done eating I turned Chrome back out into the pasture.  He immediately galloped off.  After getting his gallop out he ran over to Zep and they started rough housing.  Once they finished rearing and striking and pounding on each other Chrome started trotting around looking all over the pasture trying to find Rocky.  It broke my heart to see him searching like that.  Then he walked over to the gate and stood there for the rest of the day... so sad.

When hubby got off work we went to pick Rocky up from the emergency clinic.  We paid our bill (about gave me a heart attack, but I was relieved it was less than I was expecting to be honest), then I walked back to see Rocky while hubby went to move the truck.  I was so scared when I walked to the stalls.  I knew he was better because that's what they said, but all I could see in my head was him standing propped up against the wall, shaking all over.  I was so relieved when I walked around the corner and saw him just standing there.  So still.  Just quietly dozing.  I have never in my life been so happy to see a horse stand still.  Rocky was ignoring all of the techs in the aisle, but as soon as I spoke his head swung around so fast to look at me.  I almost started crying again at that point.  I didn't think he would respond to my voice like that.

The first thing I said was "He isn't shaking!"  I couldn't think of anything else to say lol.  She let me in the stall and I started petting him.  Then it hit me..... the SMELL!!!!!!! I've been told that DMSO stinks, but wow you can't fully understand that until you smell it for yourself.  Ugh!  It was awful.  I could taste it!

Hubby showed up and we led him out to the loading area.  He was so happy to be leaving that I could barely keep up he was walking so fast!!  He hated the rubber mats that are in all of their aisles!  The stall didn't bother him because of the shavings.  I guess he's never seen them before.  You could almost see his relief when he got to the gravel.

When we got him to the trailer I was worried he wouldn't load.  Who could blame him after what he went through??  Horses don't like feeling off balance and he was almost falling down when we took him up there.  He hesitated at the ramp, stepped his front feet on it, sniffed it and then walked on.  He is such a good boy!!  I honestly think he was hoping we were going home and just wanted to get there.  He's a seasoned enough traveler that he knows getting back on the trailer means going home.

We drove him the hour home in the dark (hate night driving even when I'm the passenger!).  When we got home Chrome neighed before we could unload Rocky.  Rocky responded with this loooooooong drawn out neigh that I thought would go on forever.  As soon as the ramp was down Rocky exploded out of the trailer (I know that's really dangerous, but our place is fully fenced and he was so overly excited and unsteady that we didn't feel comfortable getting on the trailer, so hubby just opened it and got out of the way) and ran to the pasture gate.  Chrome and Rocky blew at each other in greeting.  We let them hang out for a second and then I shook a bucket with feed in it.  Rocky came right to me and went in the small pen to eat in peace.  Once he was done we turned him out in the pasture.  He and Chrome were glued to each other.  I hadn't realized how close they'd gotten.

We gave them some hay (that we bought from the feed store and I thoroughly inspected for seeds) and left them to eat in peace.  I know the best thing for Rocky right now is being in his home, with his friends and his normal quiet routine.

Now I don't want to freak anyone out, but I'm going to share a picture I found online of this Dallis grass seed so you can all check your hay.  I don't want to make anyone paranoid, but I also don't want anyone to go through this.  Keep in mind Dallis grass is only dangerous once it's gone to seed.  The grass itself is not dangerous.  For some reason after a drought the seeds get a fungus on them (ergot poisoning) that is toxic.  So if you're feeding a first or second cut hay you probably have nothing to worry about.  This hay was cut very late (without our knowledge... we were not sold what we were told we were getting) and was full of seeds.  Here is the picture.

The one on the left is Dallis grass.  The one on the right is Bermuda, which is what we normally feed.  When the Dallis grass seed is infected with the fungus it turns an orange red color, but once it's dried in hay it just looks like normal hay.... so there isn't a way to tell if the seeds are safe or not, so it's best to just not feed any with seeds.  I will never feed my horses hay with seeds in it again.  I wish I had known all of this before it happened, so I'm sharing all of this in hopes that it saves someone else from going through this traumatic situation.

Thank you all for the comments, thoughts and prayers.  I really appreciate all of them.  I'm so relieved my boys are safe.

Also another part of the story that I didn't tell yesterday is that when Rocky first started staggering I was terrified it was rabies.  What made the fear of rabies so bad is that six days before he started staggering, Rocky had accidentally bit my finger when I was hand feeding him (my fault for not paying attention and keeping my fingers out of the way) and broke the skin!  So I was terrified that I could be infected with rabies!!  That made this whole situation even more traumatic.  So during all of this while trying to help him I was also calling the health department trying to find out how much time I had since it had already been six days and what I was supposed to do.  I was told that I had time (apparently it's not as fast acting as I thought and it's normal for a ten day quarantine to be done on domestic animals), but that if he died I'd have to have him tested and if he came back positive I would have to have the shots.  The vet told me if it was rabies he would die, but that if he improved with treatment he didn't have it because rabies cases don't improve.  So when we loaded Rocky up to go to the vet and I checked on Chrome and saw him shaking it was almost a relief!  If two horses were infected it was more likely they ate something and less likely it was rabies, because Chrome was vaccinated against rabies (I honestly can't remember if Rocky was because he wasn't done at the same time due to his laminitis... I'll be remedying that as soon as it's safe) and what are the odds they would both be infected and showing symptoms at the same time.  It's a very strange feeling to be relieved to see Chrome was sick at the same time being terrified he also had this mysterious disease and could die.  It truly was absolutely terrifying!! In the process of all of this I've learned a lot.... about rabies, toxins, ataxia, Dallis grass, emergency vets, etc.  From now on I want to learn about all of this from books!!!!

Sorry it took so long to update.  Once again, thank you all for your support guys!

P.S.  Tomorrow I'll get pictures of the boys (even if they are crappy cell phone pictures) so you can see with your own eyes that they are alive and well (or getting there at least).  :)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

An Absolute Nightmare...

This has been the worst weekend of my life...

On Friday I noticed Rocky was swaying slightly while standing at the water trough.  I was really confused because he wasn't shivering (it wasn't cold) or anything like that.  It was just involuntary full body muscle tremors.  He was a little droopy eyed, but mostly alert and interested in us and everything going on around him.  He was drinking and eating.  My husband started walking him around to see if he was walking normally and he had liquid diarrhea.  I was getting panicked at this point.  I couldn't take his temp because I broke my only thermometer (ordering on asap), but I did the skin pinch test and it was normal.  His gums and eyes were normal.  He wasn't sweating or anything.

I started trying to get hold of vets because the diarrhea was concerning me.  By the end of the day Rocky was swaying, staggering and shaking all over (not like shivering, but like every muscle was convulsing).  I called every vet in the state that I could find for equine vets (or so I thought) and NO ONE, not even my usual vet would come out.  My usual vet had the gall to tell me my horse needed to be at a vet clinic immediately, but that she was booked until January 9th.  I was pissed (still am).  She even lists emergency services on her website....

On the advice of another vet we gave him penicillin (that vet couldn't see him either) and I cried myself to sleep.

Saturday morning we went out to check on him and he was staggering in circles and could barely stand.  My husband had to put his shoulder into Rocky's shoulder and hold him up for about a half hour.  Rocky almost fell in the pond, but my husband kept him on his feet and managed to get him to walk to the barn so he could pen him up.  The only good thing is that his poop was normal that morning (solid and green).  I forgot to mention when we looked around the pasture we saw piles of normal looking poop except it was gray.  I have never in my life seen gray poop before.  If you ever see gray poop in the pasture call the vet!!

At that point I was having a full on panic attack.  I started calling all the vets all over again and finally got an answer from a small animal vet who gave me a recommendation for an emergency equine vet almost an hour away.  I called that vet and she said she could see him, but she couldn't come to us because she was in the middle of a c-section on a dog who was in critical condition.

I was freaking out because we couldn't get to our trailer.  We lost our key to the van that was parked in front of the trailer (I will never park anything in front of it again).  We had been looking for that key all day Friday.  We never found it.  My dad finally put a rope around the tongue of the trailer and pulled it out from behind the van.  We got it hooked up and went to load Rocky.  He was staggering so bad I was terrified he would fall down on the trailer and get hurt, but we had no choice.
He actually seemed a bit steadier when we went to load him.  It took a while, but we finally got him on.  The ramp was making things worse with him staggering, but he finally made it on with a butt rope to support him.  I am so thankful he's a seasoned traveler.  He normally walks right on trailers.  He knew something was wrong with his body though.  It was so sad watching him stretch his head forward like he wanted to walk on, but he couldn't figure out how to make his legs work.

What had me completely freaked out is that right before we left I checked on Chrome and he was starting to shake!!  I was so panicked and crying constantly.  The thought of him dying just about killed me.  I had to leave him though because Rocky was critical and I knew they could make a diagnoses with him easier than with Chrome who had just started showing symptoms.  Anyway we drove Rocky the hour to the vet (it's a 24 hour emergency clinic... glad I know it exists now... I should have already known of a place, but it never crossed my mind that my vet wouldn't come to me since that is what she supposedly does... always have a back up guys!!).  He did not fall down.  I was so relieved.

When we got there the tech took his temp (normal) and took blood for a full work up.  Then we had to wait... for two hours!!  I was shivering the whole time.  I finally went inside the clinic (instead of the stall area) because the shivering was getting painful (back problems).  I heard her doing CPR on the dog and she eventually died (the pups lived).  I saw the vet leave the room crying.  She was so upset.  She had worked so hard to save that dog.  She later told me that she was so concerned about my horse that if I couldn't find a trailer before she was done with the dog she was going to come out to me.  It's nice to find a vet who actually cares.

After a few minutes she finally came out to talk to us.  She said his blood work was normal so that ruled out virus or bacterial infection (along with the normal temp and normal fecal and the fact that Chrome was showing symptoms ruled out some things).  She said that meant we were dealing with a toxin.  She told me the treatment was the same for most toxins so we went ahead and had him treated (DMSO and biosponge).

Then we talked for a while going over everything they could have possibly eaten.  I mentioned that they were taking way longer than normal to eat their hay bale, so I was suspicious and brought a sample.  She was very glad of that.  Before all of this happened I just thought it was because there was still grass coming up (it's been abnormally hot), so they weren't interested in the hay.  My gut told me something was wrong, but I ignored it and I'll forever hate myself for that.  Never ignore gut feelings!

It turns out it's from Dallis grass.... Dallis grass is normally safe, but if there's been a long drought and it's allowed to go to seed it is toxic (the seeds, not the grass)... In my entire life with horses I've never had this happen (and we have lots of droughts).  We are getting the hay tested Monday (for an official document as proof) and I will be contacting the hay people for a refund and so they can alert their other customers.  It breaks my heart to think other people could be going through this too.  There is more to the story on the hay (about the reason they cut it so late and that it apparently wasn't from the same field we'd been getting it from), but I'm not going into it right now.

There is no cure for it, but removing the hay results in a full recovery.  The treatment definitely helped though because it flushed his system and coated his intestines.  When we got home late Saturday night I checked on Chrome (and put him in a pen outside of his pasture away from the hay) and he seemed normal.  He trotted up to me, neighed and seemed fine.  We decided to just keep him penned up and wait until morning.  We originally planned to take him that night, but I knew it would be impossible to load him in complete darkness.

So Rocky spent the night and I talked to her this morning.  He is much more stable and she can no longer almost knock him over by pushing on him or pulling his tail (he was literally using the wall to hold himself up on Saturday).  She is keeping him tonight just to keep an eye out for founder since he has a history of laminitis.  He should be able to come home tomorrow.  This morning Chrome was swaying slightly and walking funny with his rear legs (this toxin affects the nervous system), but he's doing okay and his poop is normal so we did the biosponge stuff at home and kept him penned up with safe hay that we got from the vet.  The donkey and goats seem unaffected, but after spending a whole day watching them (before we knew what was going on) I noticed they wouldn't touch the hay.  That's why we took a sample with us because I was getting suspicious.

We spent all day today using the tractor to move the hay and I raked the whole barn and the part of the pasture where the hay was.  We put the partial bale in the yard (in case we need proof) where they can't get to it, but we burned all the loose stuff.  They can't get to the other sixteen bales that we have stored (that they better refund us or I'm going to lose it).

Sorry I'm telling this story all out of order.  I'm a total wreck.  I only ate once in forty eight hours, haven't been sleeping, barely drank any water, etc. so I'm just a complete mess.  Now that I know what it is I've finally been able to calm down enough to eat... although the crying is harder to control.  I was so scared it was rabies (when he was staggering before Chrome was showing symptoms) or EPM or something.  I had never in my life seen a neurological horse before and let me tell you it's the most terrifying thing I've ever seen a horse go through.

I have no idea what the bill is going to be.  She quoted me a thousand dollars for one night.... he's staying a second night so I know it will be more than that.  I have no idea where we're going to come up with the money... I'm in a panic over that still, but I can't really think about it right now.... keeping Rocky alive was more important.  The toxin isn't really fatal, but when they get as bad as Rocky they can fall down and get hurt or be unable to get back up.  I'm so glad it didn't come down to that (thanks to my amazing husband).  Now I have 16 round bales of hay in my barn that I can't feed and no other hay.  If the vet hadn't given me some hay Chrome and Zep would have gone without food Saturday night (and buffering their stomachs is so important right now).  I went today and bought beet pulp from the only place that was open, but they can't live on that alone.  Tomorrow I'll be able to get some square bales from the feed store, but I still have to find a long term source of hay... I won't be buying from those people again, even though the hay we've always gotten from them was fine and Dallis grass isn't normally toxic.  The problem is that grass is EVERYWHERE!  I called my other hay guy (I had two) and he was honest and told me he has Dallis grass in his field too, so he would hesitate to sell it to me with sick horses even thought it's probably fine.  Somebody apparently made the only spray that kills it illegal to use, so now there is no way to kill it.  However, like I said before, if it's cut before it seeds there is no danger.  Even if it's growing in our pasture it's not dangerous as long as we keep it cut.  I don't know what I'm going to do.  I'm going to be so paranoid about hay now....

My mind is reeling with all these problems I have to figure out, but the important thing is Rocky and Chrome are going to be okay.  That's all that matters to me.  We will figure out the rest somehow.  So if you ever notice gray poop, diarrhea or muscle tremors immediately remove the horse from the pasture and call the vet.  I've learned something about horses and hay that I never knew before and never wanted to learn this way.  :(

So if you guys could keep Rocky and Chrome in your thoughts and prayers I would really appreciate it.  I have no doubt Chrome will make a full recovery since his is so mild but I'm still so scared for Rocky.  I know she said he will recover, but it just seems impossible to me that a horse could recover from the condition he was in.

Sorry this post is so long and confusing.  My brain is just not functioning as well as it normally does.  I'm not even going to proof read.  I need to go to bed.  I'll keep you guys updated.