Looking out of my window at the yellowing scorched paddocks, you might be forgiven for thinking that my little farmhouse had been magically transported to the middle of Arizona. I am just old enough (cough cough ) to remember the long hot summers we had in the 70’s. It’s funny how the drought doesn’t seem to have affected weed growth at all.
With the early warm weather has come plagues of flies. First we had swarms of crawling midges, then bloodsucking mozzies, followed by vicious hordes of hacksaw mouthed horseflies. Now the stable flies seem to be taking centre stage with a supporting cast of the aforementioned teeth with wings.
My usual brand of fly repellent seemed only to be effective for about 5 minutes, so I switched, and switched again. I tried a combination of two creams/gels along with two sprays, once again, the effect was short lived
I then dabbled in alchemy and concocted a mix of various proprietary fly sprays along with a dash of Avon’s skin so soft which is reputed to have magical fly repelling properties. Feeling slightly surprised that I hadn’t blown myself up by some unforeseen chemical reaction and after a cautionary patch test on each horse, I applied liberally to each horse with a certain expectation of success. The horseflies were first back on the scene in a little under an hour, then the mozzies followed by the others joining the blood sucking extravaganza shortly after.
Back to the drawing board. After a bit of research and asking advice on essential oils that are safe for horses, I came back from a shopping trip armed with new bottles of ammunition and a bottle of apple cider vinegar ( ACV) for good measure. ACV is also reputed to have magical fly repelling properties and forms the basis of many natural fly repellent recipes. Much to my surprise, there was a label on the bottle that declared the product to have ‘Great taste’. I have never tried ACV. Now I like apples and I like cider, and being a naturally curious person I took a big swig. In hindsight have also decided that I also quite like the lining of my digestive tract and it perhaps wasn’t the brightest thing to do, nothing tasted the same for days. I am still perfecting my home made fly repellent formulation and will share if I discover the magic combination.
July is the month that my horses are due a visit from the Equine Dental Technician. I use Robin Earnshaw and have done for a number of years. On a personal note, I have always found him fair and patient with the horses, and is more than happy to explain what he is doing to a nerd like me. Robin can cope with a lot of banter and good natured ribbing which is an essential quality for anyone visiting my yard. He will eat his own body weight in cake given half the chance though. On a professional note he is BEVA/BVDA qualified and a member of BAEDT so I am reassured that he has the qualifications and experience to treat my horses safely and professionally
Robin and his colleague Kim Kilner always take their time to reassure the horses and look at the ‘whole horse’ first. The examination started at the poll then jaw and temporal mandibular joint before they even looked in the horses’ mouths. We had a very interesting discussion about how a slight misalignment or problem in the poll, mouth or jaw can lead to problems elsewhere in the horse. My understanding of horse dentistry is fairly basic, I know that horses, being herbivores have lots of molars for grinding. The root cavities of each tooth backfill as the tooth erupts out, hopefully at the same rate that they are worn. However, the grinding surfaces of each tooth ( the tables) don’t always line up 100% which results in sharp points on the inside of the bottom molars and sharp points on the outer edges of the upper molars. These sharp points have the potential to cause untold damage within the mouth and not surprisingly behavioural or performance problems. Every time I speak to a knowledgeable horse health professional, I become more aware of what a finely tuned precision machine they are. Yes, even the retired or semi retired ones!. One slight imbalance or undetected problem can impact on the whole horse.
Mr D who is estimated to be in his late 20’s is wearing his choppers out. It was great to be able to get some unbiased advice on feeding an older horse, the impact on how he can handle forage and feed will be really important this coming winter. One great tip that I got from Robin in terms of feeding was that he will be able to handle cubes much more easily than a mix. Cubes or pellets are ready processed so his digestion will be able to extract the nutrients even if he has trouble grinding properly at the chewing stage. Come winter, I will be feeding Chill Out Maintain cubes to start with and have Chill Out Conditioning cubes as a backup plan if he has any trouble maintaining weight.
Robin always sends a reminder of when my horses are due for a visit, and follows up the visit by emailing me an electronic copy of their dental charts.
If only the flies had trouble with their choppers……