Tuesday, December 26, 2017

How do you solve a problem like a fat, smart horse?

It's been a long while since one of us posted here.  It's hard to keep up when you're working for a unicorn with a busy social calendar!  Anyway I thought it would be time to start posting again.  So what's to say?

Well, life's good, work's good, Chase is....FAT!  Waaaay FAT, fat to the point where I'm really stressed out and concerned.  I jokingly told the vet recently "Yeah, he's probably a 10 out of 9!"  She said I wasn't far off.  But a 10? out of 9?  How do we actually quantify a horse's weight without weighing them on a scale?  (Most people do not have access to a large scale that can be used to weigh a horse).

A commonly accepted method is the Henneke Body Condition Scoring System.  Body Condition Score (BCS) ranges from 2 (extremely thin/poor) to 9 (extremely fat).  So when I said 10, I was being funny but really it wasn't far off.  A BCS is determined by a series of somewhat objective observations by sight and feel.  Below is a good chart that summarizes the different scores.

Body Condition Scoring - From: http://www.foxvalleyequine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Body-Condition-Score-1080x675.jpg
All joking aside, Chase probably scores somewhere around 8 to 8.5 on this scale.


How'd he get this way?  The same way most of us put on a couple of pounds...overeating.  You see, Chase likes grass, he like's grass A LOT.  The pastures at our barn are very good; full of grass for Chase to vacuum up for the better part of 24 hours everyday.

The most common way to combat a horse that overeats is to use a grazing muzzle.  So I tried using one of those on him, as I've done in the past.

Chase's former standard grazing muzzle.
Now...in the past he would occasionally get the grazing muzzle off somehow, but generally kept it on.  This year though...he declared war on the things.  Here are some pix of the aftermath:

Chase really does't like wearing a Grazing muzzle.

Even when he didn't break them...or when i used a stronger muzzle, he STILL took it off.  Everyday I'd come to the barn and find it somewhere else in the field.  I had no idea how he was taking it off, because the breakaway straps were intact, and nothing would be broken.  Then one day...I watched him slip the front of the muzzle under the fence and pull upward until POP...it slid off his muzzle, leaving it hanging over his neck.  Or stuck on the fence, as I found it one day:

Taunting me....

So that was one way he'd take his muzzle off...the other way, as I learned when I finally caught him doing it was also interesting.  (Side note: i "Finally" caught him removing the muzzle because usually he'd wait till he thought I was gone to go about trying to take it off.  So I'd put him out in the field and then 5-10 mins later he'd start trying to take it off).  Anyway...video time:

So he had two main ways he'd take his muzzle off.  Slipping the head strap over his nose or pulling the nose down till he could get it over his mouth.  I thought i could just tighten the straps more...but he still tried...though it didn't work out too well for him:

Note that it's stuck IN his mouth. 

Chase: Um....a little help?
Me: No, I'm going to make you think about what you've done and also take pictures though, cuz this will be funny for a while.

So tightening the straps evidently wasn't going to stop him.  Nor was my next trick: braiding a loop of paracord into his mane and carabinering that to the strap on the muzzle.

That'll show him!!!  No way he'll take THAT off! 

Riiiiiight.  Nope...he's far too smart to be defeated by something so simple.

So I solved the pulling it down over his nose problem by getting him a special muzzle that prevented him from pulling it off the front...note the V strap running down the front of his muzzle and attaching to the lip of the grazing muzzle.  It took a while to get this muzzle though, because it was backordered and there were supplier issues...so like a full month went by with him still slipping muzzles off.  Letting him get fatter and fatter while I didn't have it.

Best Friends Muzzle - Front View

Best Friends Muzzle - Side View

So after having him slipping his grazing muzzle off every day for basically the entire summer, I eventually decided to take drastic measures.  I modified his muzzle to add a throat latch.

Throat latch from the side.

Throat Latch from above
This seemed to solve the problem.  For a few days.  Then he decided to stress test the metal buckles I used to make his custom throatlatch.  I think you can tell where this is going.

Annnnd Broken!  Left is his handiwork.  Right is what its supposed to look like.
So finally I solved this problem with a leader strap that had a proper buckle:

Leather strap throatlatch = SUCCESS
I'm happy to report that as of December he's been wearing this thing without taking it off since I made it in October!  So finally, success!  We've been working to cut his weight down since then with some success.  That has included lots of lunging and riding up hills in the fields.  It's a slow process but we're getting him back slowly!

More to come on that in future posts hopefully...soon?  I guess my goal should be to update this blog more frequently than the gap between Rick and Morty seasons.  Anything longer is somewhat shameful!

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