Trotters, Arabians, Donkeys and Other People - Page 34 - The Horse Forum
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post #331 of 2297 Old 03-20-2018, 10:21 AM Thread Starter
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Oh, a lurker!

Welcome to the daylight!

And if you're ever travelling the globe, you do know we're an environmental open house and like having visitors? (And we're a troll-free zone! )

That house construction idea is actually from your shores, you know. Translates well into the Australian contexts!

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post #332 of 2297 Old 03-20-2018, 11:03 AM
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@SueC , so excited to have you back to share your adventures. Talking about family- particularly when family has affected us in ways that are painful- is very difficult for me as well. I work in an organization where "telling your story" and "bringing your whole self to work" is the expectation, and I find it difficult as I'd really prefer not to engage with many of the stories of how I grew up. I didn't have any difficult trauma, but rather have always felt like I don't quite belong with the people I come from, and have subsequently created a very happy life of my own design with my husband.

All that to say- I think what you chose to share, and with whom, is extraordinarily personal and that you can't beat yourself up for choosing a "sanitized" version if that's simply the easiest path. For me, I like coming here to share about my horse adventures, and tend to focus mostly on that. Other people are comfortable sharing differently. And I think that's what makes this feel like a "real" community, rather than just an online bulletin board, to me. I will be honest though, I don't engage much in social media and so I sometimes do pause and wonder about sharing so much about my horse life on any internet site. But since I don't have a huge real life horse network, I find this virtual network really valuable and love keeping up with the journals and the trail riding thread, where you really do get to know people...It seems like in the past year, more people are meeting up and riding together in person, and that's really neat.

Welcome back and post away...on your terms
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post #333 of 2297 Old 03-20-2018, 11:18 AM Thread Starter
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Hello @egrogan , ha - bringing your whole self to work only works if you don't have any sociopaths at your workplace. Good luck!

Wasn't beating myself up, btw - just didn't like the huge gap between what I said, and what I didn't say that was on my mind when I was writing way back when, on growing up. So I've addressed that. It's by people coming out with that stuff that others can be encouraged not to hide in shame over things they were not responsible for. This doesn't suit the people who have hurt you, but it's not our business to censor the true story of our own lives just to protect their public images and feelings. If we want to tell our truth, we should. And if we think it's nobody's business, that's fine too.

Glad the journalling is so positive for you!
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post #334 of 2297 Old 03-20-2018, 07:28 PM Thread Starter
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So here were our four horses sunning themselves in their favourite resting spot under the big redgum tree, back in October 2015 (our southern hemisphere spring). This is a typical morning ritual for them in the cooler seasons of the year. We are 30km in from the coast, and our nights do get chilly. This is an amusing photo - look at Sunsmart (chocolate coloured and looking remarkably like a dead whale washed up on the beach)... he's framed by his dam on the left, her full brother to his right, and our Methuselah, Romeo, standing on the right.



Horses Sunning Themselves - Red Moon Sanctuary, Redmond Western Australia by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr


Let's see if I can remember how to insert photos...
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Last edited by SueC; 03-20-2018 at 07:36 PM. Reason: Invisible photos eaten in cyberspace
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post #335 of 2297 Old 03-20-2018, 07:41 PM Thread Starter
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Speaking of dead whales - donkeys can impersonate them pretty convincingly too. This was in January 2016.


Romeo and Don Quixote – Red Moon Sanctuary, Redmond, Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr


And here goes:


Romeo and Sleeping Donkey – Red Moon Sanctuary, Redmond, Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr
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post #336 of 2297 Old 03-20-2018, 07:55 PM Thread Starter
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February 2016, favourite paddock snaps:


Horse Quartet near Four-Year-Old Windbreak – Red Moon Sanctuary, Redmond, Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr


Peas in a Pod – Red Moon Sanctuary, Redmond, Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr

The above is such an excellent shot of Sunsmart and his dam - you can see the likeness, but also how much the sire came through in this horse. For anyone wondering about the branches, it's mid-summer and that means tree lucerne supplementation.
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post #337 of 2297 Old 03-20-2018, 08:38 PM Thread Starter
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And now we're going waaaaay back, two decades back. This is a newborn Sunsmart with his mother. It's really extraordinary when you think about it, how that little parcel of legs grew into the big lummox you can see in the post above...


French Revolution 14/11/1989 - 2/11/2017
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr



French Revolution 14/11/1989 - 2/11/2017
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr

And yep, that's me way back when too.

Sunsmart was named thus because from the time he was little, he would always rest in the shade. In Australia, there was a slip-slop-slap anti-skin cancer campaign called "Be Sunsmart" at the time, and this fella certainly was.

For those of you who read Douglas Adams' "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" - nicknames for this horse are "Smartie" when I need a short name, and "Smartibartfast" for special occasions.

Next post will regrettably be about pituitary tumours in horses. But, it's a beautiful morning, and if I go now I can just squeeze in a ride before chores!

Wishing an excellent day to all.
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post #338 of 2297 Old 03-21-2018, 10:40 AM Thread Starter
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So, cancer and horses. Death and horses. I'm going to back up a little.

I grew up, in the second half of my childhood, at a racing stables where horses were stabled and yarded - in little sand runs with no green pick and a maximum of one yard buddy. This is a fairly typical situation for racehorses in this country. And when these horses died prematurely, the main cause of death was colic or twisted bowel. In-work horses were protected by their activity levels and only had mild colic attacks at worst. But once retired, these horses were dropping like flies in their teens and twenties, from colic - and there were at least six fatal colics, in an establishment that typically housed around 15 horses. Watching horses die from colic is a horrible thing - it's always a desperate and violent battle. And it's a battle I got very sick of, since colic and twisted bowel are largely lifestyle induced and therefore largely preventable.

When I was 23, I came across an interesting saying: If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.

I am a biologist by training and fascinated by animals and nature. When my husband and I came to set up Red Moon Sanctuary seven years ago, we set it up so that all our animals - beef cattle, donkeys and horses - could free range in a social group of their own species across several large, interesting paddocks, with nooks and crannies, little hills to stand on, shelter belts and shade trees, and a farm dam, across 12.5 hectares in total, as well as additional access and service tracks to explore, and views of neighbouring properties, animals and activities. The different species all run together, just as happens in natural ecosystems - think of the African savannah - and this has many benefits for the animals as well as the land.

Our horses now spend around 16 hours a day getting incidental exercise grazing - they get all their roughage from free ranging, and cover a respectable distance doing so, since they move from one side of the property to the other many times a day in the process. They also spend around 2 hours a day playing and exploring, which gives them moderate to intense exercise - there are plenty of interesting things to do and look at. The donkeys and the younger cattle, for instance, love running up and down the dam wall, and looking at the world from the great height it offers. The donkeys run in circles around the trees chasing each other, braying and kicking up their heels. The horses have running contests and play their own little games - one of them likes to pick up sticks and balance them in his mouth while sporting an "aren't I clever?" facial expression. (That's Sunsmart. He also wants to play the "stick game" with me when we come back from a ride in the state forest, on the last section between two gates where I just walk beside him. I offer him a stick and he carries it self-importantly, and then turns to me, and I'm supposed to grab it, and then he pulls on it. Hours of fun. You should see his face when he does it.) The balance of the time - around another 6 hours - is spent resting under trees.

This means that in terms of time budgets, our horses are now living very similarly to wild horses - similar amounts of time spent on similar activities. Wild horses routinely cover 30-60 km a day, and while our horses aren't quite doing that, they are getting a heck of a lot of exercise when left to their own devices. In the stabled and yarded situations all of them came from, they spent less than 6 hours a day eating, while standing in the one spot, about 6 hours a day resting and snoozing, and the balance of the time mostly standing around bored - except for the solitary stallions, who spent large parts of their days walking or jogging up and down their fence lines like automatons, creating deep trenches in the soil that eventually unearthed the star pickets that housed the electrics that kept the animals apart.

In the seven years we have had horses here, we haven't had a single colic, not even a mild one, even though around half the horses had experienced colics before. That's six horses we had here long term all up, plus two shorter-term visitors. I don't keep more than four horses at a time, since I want to look after them well, and also because horses are quite hard on the land (mostly when they're tearing around having fun, which they absolutely must be allowed to do) and overstocking would quickly lead to extensive soil structure degradation. Occasionally a horse dies - most of ours are over 20 - and another one comes in. And within weeks, you can see the difference in their physical shape and their mental outlook.

But all horses die eventually, of course, and the two we've lost here so far have been to cancer. My Arabian mare was put down at age 32 when a pedunculated lipoma started creating unacceptable problems for her. Sunsmart's dam ended up with a pituitary tumour and was put down just shy of turning 28.

Cancer is quite common in horses over 20, and most of it is benign, so they can live with it for long periods. My Arabian mare had grape-sized melanomas on the underside of her tail since age 18, but they didn't form a significant irritation and she didn't die from those. Sunsmart developed a cluster of lipomas around his umbilicus two years ago. They grew quite alarmingly at one point and then mostly sheared off when he rolled one day (the skin over the umbilicus is weak). The few that remained stopped the wound from healing, and were taken off. The wound healed nicely, no problems since.

But sometimes, a cancer is fatal. Pituitary tumours are also quite common in horses over 20, and while these cancers themselves are benign, and usually quite tiny, they unfortunately destroy parts of the pituitary gland - the master regulator of the body, in endocrine terms. The pituitary controls all the other endocrine glands - adrenals, thyroid, ovaries, testes - and itself regulates many body functions directly. Pituitary tumours vary in terms of the speed and extent to which they affect a horse. In mild cases you can treat them with medicines to extend their lives for maybe a year or two, but the tumour itself can't be removed. Our mare's was a rapid and severe case.

The first thing we noticed is that in the winter of 2017, she grew a denser and longer winter coat than usual, and began eating her hard feed as if starving, although her body condition was good. A few months after that, I noticed one day that her hooves had very suddenly changed angles and really collapsed forward - I couldn't believe it, she had always had fabulous feet (no long toe/low heel genetics or lifestyle factors) and she was trimmed every 5-6 weeks. It had only been four weeks since the last completely normal trim. She looked like a horse with laminitis but moved completely normally (walk, trot, canter all fine), and didn't have the genetics for laminitis either (unlike my Arabian mare), nor the typical body shape and metabolic issues. I couldn't understand how a horse with collapsed-forward toes could move as if nothing was wrong. In retrospect, it's pretty clear that the pain-killing effects of excess cortisol secretion and perhaps extra endorphins (from the pituitary disruption) kept the pain down artificially past the point where it should have showed up.

When the weather heated up, she was suddenly hit with symptoms that affected her quality of life - she sweated profusely and looked miserable on any sunny day over around 23 degrees C (normal thermoregulation was disrupted), and then the lameness normally associated with laminitis began. She stopped moving around with her herd, and huddled in the yards. She had instant supportive therapy and lots of TLC while we waited to see if she was irrecoverably ill. We kept one horse in with her at all times for company. After a week she was a bit better, calmed down, and ate everything we brought her. We were cautiously hopeful. On cool days she was almost normal and even ventured out into the big paddocks again a bit. But then she began to drink massive amounts of water - in excess of 90L overnight and more in the daytime - and develop polyuria. We had to replace electrolytes, and now it was really starting to look like she had no chance of getting better. Too many body functions were too affected, and too quickly. Three weeks after she stopped being able to live a normal life, we made the decision that it was kinder to put her down. The veterinarian agreed with our assessment, and we said goodbye.

It was sad, it always is. Having said that, it wasn't nearly as traumatic as dying of colic. She had a good life except those last three weeks, and even in those three weeks she had good days, and she had a long life, nearly 28 years, and her last day was a good one, and she happened to be on her morning nap under a tree after a nice breakfast when she was put down, totally oblivious of anything.

She was a sweet-natured mare, and I really miss her. I knew her from birth, and even though she came to us as a retiree, and I didn't have the long working relationship with her that I had with my Arabian mare, I really got fond of her.

This is how I will remember her; it's a very typical snapshot of her interactions with me in the three years we had her here.


French Revolution 14/11/1989 - 2/11/2017
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr
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post #339 of 2297 Old 03-21-2018, 12:09 PM Thread Starter
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PS: No, the sky isn't purple in Australia. This was a malfunction of a dying camera but we kept the photos anyway. They're kind of surreal, so we made no attempts to colour correct them...
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post #340 of 2297 Old 03-21-2018, 01:53 PM Thread Starter
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The next day I felt like total crap, which is on par for the course. I needed to cheer myself up. So I sat down to write a totally feel-good animal story for Grass Roots magazine. And who better to write about than these critters?


Donkey Perspectives - Red Moon Sanctuary, Redmond Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr

I'm a regular contributor to GR, but it surprised me that this one jumped the queue to the extent that they snuck it in the very next issue. Perhaps other people needed cheering up as well. Maybe it will cheer up someone on HF too, so I will share the manuscript. Australian readers, of course, can still pop into their local newsagency - and GR do international subscriptions as well.

GR folk often refer to their subscriptions as "prescriptions", since it affords a breath of sanity in a mad world, and a real sense of community. It's full of lovely stories on tree changing, small farming, organic growing, heritage breeds, livestock management, DIY, crafts, recycling, alternative energy and technology, owner building etc; and contains excellent recipes and readers' letters. There are very few advertisements compared to standard magazines, and you definitely won't see advertisements for sports cars, liposuction, dishwashers, six-burner stoves, cosmetics, condos, yachts, Rolex watches, unnecessary gadgets, and other mainstream consumer material. However, you will be able to contemplate whether you need solar panels, a compost toilet, a grain mill, a chicken tractor, essential oils, cheese starter cultures, parasite diagnostic services, heirloom seeds, or a few dozen books from the review section.

So here it is.


Cute Donkey Antics IV – Red Moon Sanctuary, Redmond, Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr



A TALE OF THREE DONKEYS

by Sue Coulstock, Redmond, WA

In 2012 we looked around our pastures and saw beef cattle, two retired horses, a working horse, plus the odd bit of welcome wildlife like kangaroos and emus. We thought, “Whom else could we give a home here?” Then we read about the plight of many neglected donkeys, so we wrote to the Donkey Society and offered to adopt a handful of old or ill donkeys when need next arose.

I have acquired lots of equine expertise, training my own horses from scratch for riding and driving since age 11. A huge bow here to the late great Australian horseman Tom Roberts whose four little books on horses and riding taught me so much more than anyone else. An even bigger bow to the horses, who have taught me far more than I ever taught them! I love classical dressage for its emphasis on communicating with your horse and working as a partnership, rather than “making the horse do things.” I also love getting out on bush trails with my horse Sunsmart. I’ve studied anatomy, physiology, nutrition etc etc. I trim our horses’ feet myself except in high dry summer, when the hooves are rock hard and I get an annual masterclass from a top local farrier. So we felt we would make a good home for a couple of donkeys with health and/or age issues, since there is a great deal of overlap in the management of horses and donkeys.

A few months later an email came: There were some donkeys in need of a good home. They weren’t old and neglected, but they were a group of three with special needs. Their lovely owner Dorothy was experiencing health issues that made it difficult for her to keep her donkeys. She wanted a good forever home for them, where they could stay together. These donkeys were only in their teens, and donkeys can live well past 40. One of the jennies was blind, and relied on her two herd mates to be her “guide donkeys”. They sent a photo and we said yes – how could you resist these guys?


The Three Stooges? – Red Moon Sanctuary, Redmond, Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr


THE DONKEYS ARRIVE

On July 12, 2012 the “Donkey Bus” from the Donkey Society made a delivery. We filmed this happy occasion and you can see the video on redmoonsanctuary.com.au. It also shows the amusing reactions of our horses, who had never seen donkeys before.

On the bus were a donkey gelding Brett duly christened “Don Quixote” and two jennies. Don Quixote is a classical donkey you’d expect to see in a Christmas parade: Dark with a white underside and muzzle, and big enough to carry a small person. Mary Lou is a chocolate-coloured Irish Longhair, who at times resembles an enormous walking shagpile carpet. She can literally develop dreadlocks. If she doesn’t shed out at the start of summer, we have been known to clip her short for the hot weather – the climate isn’t very Irish around here. Sparkle is the smallest donkey, and the most touchy-feely one. She just loves cuddles, scratches and having her piebald coat brushed. If I’m brushing a horse and she hears it, she comes over and queues up to be next in line. This little donkey lost most of her eyesight early in life (cause unknown), but seems to be able to tell light from dark and see general outlines. One of the Donkey Society ladies joked that Sparkle just needs glasses! You can see that her retina is partially detached. We tell people she is legally blind, and therefore cannot drive a car.

Sparkle copes surprisingly well with the loss of vision. Her hearing is exquisite. She appears to have an extraordinary ability to make landscape maps in her head. She quickly memorised where all the fences are, and just needs help finding the gateways. She looks a bit unfocused when approaching other animals, as she cannot read their gestures. We have noticed that all our donkeys and horses cut her a lot of slack, and tolerate incursions from her that they wouldn’t accept from the others. They understand that she is a little different, and make allowances for her inability to read cues. We were very careful with how we socialised her into the larger equine herd when she first arrived, so the others would have a chance to figure her out and she wouldn’t get hurt in the interim.


DELIGHTFUL DONKEYS AND THEIR NOISES

Ah donkeys. They look like a cross between the horse, the teddy bear and the Easter bunny; utterly endearing. My husband, who says I’m the softie around this property, oohs and aahs over them every time he sees them, and they ooh and aah right back. They make the most ridiculous noises. When Don Quixote is warming up to bray, he sort of starts his engine with a few splutters before settling into ululating foghorn mode, ending in a crescendo of falsetto and following up, as per classical donkey tradition, with a few deep nose-blowing snorts. It’s an incredible production! Mary Lou’s bray sounds like a rusty water pump. She also has an impressive repertoire of long drawn-out honks which always peak in an insistent vibrato, employed especially when there are carrots around. And Sparkle – well, when she first brayed on our place after a long silent settling-in period, the whole herd of cows came running from the other end of the property because they couldn’t believe what they were hearing! She appears to employ large echo chambers for her particular vocalisations.

Donkey braying carries for kilometres on a still night, and is used in the wild to keep in touch with other donkeys. Occasionally Sparkle gets lost at night when in the large bushy paddock and we hear her bray to her herd mates, who then quietly go and collect her.

If you’ve not heard donkey noises before, we recommend you look up “Trumpet and Donkey (Original)” on YouTube. It shows what happens if you play a brass instrument near a donkey paddock.


DONKEY HEALTH ISSUES

The biggest health issue for donkeys in the lusher parts of Australia is obesity. Donkeys originated in poor country with sparse, coarse grazing, and can get into awful trouble on lush green beef pastures. It’s like taking a wholefoods devotee off their healthy food and stuffing them full of Mars bars. Ideally you would graze donkeys in a relatively poor paddock with rough grasses and supplement them with minerals and if needed, extra roughage in the form of good-quality cereal straw, coarse meadow hay, Acacia saligna branches, and similar non-tender tree fodders.

If you’re on beef grazing country like us, you have to carefully manage all equines to ensure they don’t become overweight on the pasture in spring. With horses we usually do this by restricting the pasture area they have access to, restricting the amount of time spent on pasture each day if necessary, and supplementing with coarse meadow hay. My working horse needs a lot of trail riding as well during the spring flush as he puts on weight very easily.

With donkeys you need to do the same, but more of it. We frequently have to employ grazing muzzles to restrict the two overweight donkeys’ food intake. These are “nosebags” with a hole in the hard plastic bottom through which a small amount of pasture can be accessed at a time. You can find them in most horse equipment stores. Equines are trickle grazers. Grazing muzzles allow them to have continuous access to small amounts of food and roam far and wide, which is much better than giving them full access to excessive food for some of the time and then locking them up in a boring yard until they can come out to eat again. The drawbacks of grazing muzzles include that equines can’t scratch their itchy spots with their teeth when wearing these, and that they can get too hot in them in summer. Also, the ability to select coarser forage may be adversely affected, so it’s good to have a multi-prong approach to obesity prevention.

Obesity in equines frequently leads to very dangerous metabolic problems and laminitis – a painful, crippling inflammation of the feet. It can lead to permanent hoof deformities, inability to move freely or work, and even to the bones in the hooves coming through the sole, which is horrific and usually fatal.

Overgrown hooves are another common health problem in domesticated donkeys. Donkeys evolved in rocky areas where their hoof growth was matched by the wear and tear of the terrain. In soft paddocks, with little exercise, hooves overgrow and then quickly deform, often causing permanent damage. We trim our donkeys every six weeks. This also helps prevent hoof rot, together with Stockholm tar applied to the underside of the hooves after trimming – extra important in winter and prolonged wet weather. I will write about equine hoof care in detail next time.



Up Close and Personal - Redmond Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr


PS: They did change the title to "A Donkey Tale" - which is fine by me. The original title had a bit of a joking reference to Dickens' "Tale of Two Cities"...

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