We've got embarrassing news from Petra, to whom I have transported Gelshah and Madeshir about a month ago. The first sign that there is something wrong with Madeshir came to us already in late June/beginning of July, when she was with her mother and father here, in Boska Wola. She was quite a big foal at foaling (probably the biggest among all our this year foals) - but she was born a month later than her brothers and subsequently, she used to grow at a much slower pace.
When she was a little more than a month old, I was quite scared about her fore legs and neck development.
However, we have dewormed all the herd and moved to the Great Pasture, where they have plenty of fresh grass and herbs and trees with green leaves. Within few weeks our youngest improved much.
Since her mother was also a small foal (not to reminding that she was hardly rescued at birth...), I wasn't alarmed with her size and big belly as long, as I've got the message from Petra:
The only thing I have to solve is that she is quite thin and underdeveloped - I thought maybe she has worms, but I dewormed them yesterday morning and no adult worms came out, so this wouldn´t be the reason of her condition. I measured her (height 116, chest 118, cannon 15,5) and she is on measurements of two months old foal. For comparison I measured our other babies, of course the older ones are much taller, but even the youngest one, Shergir, who is younger than Madeshir is much taller (129-133-16,5).
In fact, there were worms - they started to come out a little later. I may only confirm, that we have abnormally large infestation by bots this year. I have described this problem in my previous post.
However, according to Petra's vet, infestation isn't enough to explain Madeshir's case:
Madeshir has started to grow, but her scewballs are still with water. Yesterday we had here vet expert for foals and Madeshir, after the large invasion of worms and not enough sufficient or suitable food (I don´t know what she gets at your place, but it seems it was not suitable food for foals), has inflammation of guts and due to that is not able to use the nutrious stuff from the food. This is also the reason why she has so big belly (too much water in intestines). Vet recommended us to return for few months to foal´s milk together with some aminoacid concentrate, to rehabilitate digestive tract - he thinks this is the only chance to grow from her at least on an average developed horse.
Well, I feel ashamed and nearly devastated by such statement.
Madeshir her last afternoon here, in Boska Wola
In fact, I have only marginal influence on what our horses prefer to eat! For sure, they NEVER are hungry. That's impossible, as they are either all the time on the pasture - or (which will be the case when we will get a snow cover here...) have as much hay, as they only want.
I agree that our pasture isn't rich. Quite to the contrary - it's poor. We have poor quality soil (according to the Polish classification it's Vth or VIth "class" of soil, with only scratches of IVth "class") and our soil wasn't cultivated for about 30 years. Moreover, the whole region has excessive level of iron and manganese within soil - which inhibits absorption of others elements (particularly Copper which is why our horses have red highlights in theirs manes).
I try to improve the situation using mineral fertilizers - to the extend I can afford financially. And this year I couldn't buy the proper fertilizer which was simply unavailable at a time, I needed it. I have used simple lime instead of "a lime with micro-elements" I wanted to.
I explain this in so a detailed manner because our horse live from our soil. Literally. They eat what they can find at the pasture. Of course, I supplement their diet. Principally with the salt (I always try to find such a salt, which has the biggest number of additional elements!). Then, with a very small portions of oat (I used to treat oat as the "discipline mean", not as a food: I gave horses about a glass - half a glass for foals - of an oat twice a day in order to bring them to the water, check their health and make them slaver which improve their ability to graze - during the daytime when they usually have no appetite in the summer...). And a variety of different plants we have grown up in our garden:
- green, large grass or whole green cereals in the Spring,
- alpha - alpha,
- flax whole corn,
- green whole maize,
- green parts of Jerusalem artichokes.
These plants we have used to give to our horse in their "lunch-time" at about noon.
Herewith you may see Gelshah and his sons eating Jerusalem artichokes (mares and Madeshir preferred to eat hay at this time - starting from the mid-October there is always a pack of hay under the roof of our horses shelter, so they could have the choice):
The movie presenting our herd eating carrots for the lunch, I have shown to you two posts ago.
The pasture is so big in comparison with the number of horses (this year we have had maximally 7 horses wandering at about 10 hectares big pasture...) that THERE ALWAYS IS SOMETHING TO EAT. I never scared about horses "eating bad things" as they always have choice. Even, if they eat bird cherry or oak bark - which I may notice seeing the sings on respective trees - there NEVER was any problem. They simply eat only small portions of these (apparently harmful) plants. Think they know better!
As we are left now with our three mares only (and we have had really bad weather these days...), after deworming the herd, we have moved them back to our "First Pasture", which is directly connected to the Winter Paddock. To their great pleasure I think, as the grass has grown fine here during four months break...
Margire, Madeshir's mother is our youngest mare and has the weakest position within the herd. This could be a problem, if I was keeping the herd together and feeding them together. However, as you could see at the movie, our system works quite efficiently - and the food I give to our horses is of marginal importance to their overall energy balance.
You may see that normally, Margire would stay apart when her older friends use the shelter and would have access to the hay when they allow her to. Madeshir wasn't that shy!
Moreover it looked like Madeshir own position within the herd was higher then her mother! She was quite confident and has better access to the hay, salt or water than her mother when the herd was staying under the shelter (during bad weather).
To sum up: what can I do to improve the situation next year? We expect three foals again. For sure, I will deworm the herd one additional time. But I have no idea how to prevent such cases as Madeshir - within the limits of our horse keeping system (which I still perceive as generally healthy and efficient!).
Besides - how it was possible, that Madeshir was affected while her elder brothers - not at all..? Shouldn't we examine the genetic causes as well..? The environment was equal for all foals (except the differences I have explained above: that Madeshir was the youngest and that her mother has had the weakest position within the herd). Two foals are strong and healthy. Only one is underdeveloped.