Sunday, June 17, 2012

California- Pregnancy and Icelandic Horses!

I had some contractions today, only false ones that stopped when I took a break from whatever I was doing. Good thing, since I´m only 35 weeks pregnant and still have some time left. They made me slow things down a little bit. I spent most of the day reading “The Tao of Equus” (Linda Kohanov), almost finished it. Very interesting book! Lots of new insights and she´s also a master of putting words on those special moments with your horse that most of us horse people knows exist but we can´t explain them. If you know what I mean!

I´m also working on writing a “Birth plan”, I´m supposed to take it with me to my doctor’s appointment on Tuesday. I know what I want but so far I haven´t been able to get any straight answers on my questions. Maybe it´s because it´s hard to understand when I try to explain things in English? I don´t know. My hope is that when I have it all written down I will get some straight answers. My fear is that this hospital have “rules” like constant fetal monitoring and preferring to have the moms attached to their beds and that´s why I haven´t got any real answers. I want to be as active as possible during labor, walk around and have as little interference as could be. Still it´s nice to have the option of pain relief if things takes a lot of time, like last time.. I hope that my appointment on Tuesday will straighten things out.

I found a good way to cope with the summer heat. I do all outdoor activities before noon or after 8.30pm. I stay in the shade if I can. I drink a lot of water and homemade ice tea.

I simply brew this tea and put it in the fridge, very refreshing and it doesn´t need to be sweetened.

If I´m at home I even bade with my clothes on in the creek to stay cooler. It works! Today it has been 106 degreese Fahrenheit most of the day, (41 degreese Celsius.) Summer! California is very different compared to Sweden. I found a way that works for me. Then I think of all the horses I see in work, or just driving by different facilities – many horses live in extremely warm/hot weather without any kind of shade. For about seven months I have been looking for an Icelandic Horse suitable for endurance riding. I have looked at a lot of horses.

Icelandic horses come from a very different climate than here. They have lived on an isolated island since the Vikings brought them there in 874. It´s illegal to import horses to Iceland and have been for a thousand years. Icelandic Horses are one of the world’s purest breed of horse. The long period of isolation have made them the special kind of horse that they are. They are extremely smooth to ride and goes in any kind of terrain for as long as you want them to. With the proper care they have a very long life, it´s not unusual that they are good riding horses well up in their thirties.

However there is another side of the coin. Taking these rare horses from their natural environment to another country with a completely different environment is a huge responsibility and requires more than just basic knowledge of horses in general. There are a lot of excellent horse people out there that will do everything in their power for their horses. Unfortunately while looking at a lot of horses all over California I´ve only seen a few Icelandic Horses that could be considered healthy, in good condition and well cared for. When I mean healthy I´m talking about the whole picture:

·       Well cared for when it comes to grooming, especially in the spring and autumn when they change from winter to summer coat and from summer to winter coat they need extra care.

·       They often need to be clipped. Sweating all the time is not good.

·       They need minerals suitable for Icelandic horses. Those minerals often contain alges from Iceland.

·       They are easy feeders and cannot be let to indulge in rich grain or too much sugary treats..

·       Alfa Alfa hay is not good for them. It affects their normally strong hooves and give them digestive problems. They should eat a low protein but high quality hay.

·       Like all horses they need shelter from the heat and clean water.

·       Icelandic horses mature later and are usually not started until the age of four or five, depending on the horse. (In California some people start them under saddle as two year olds!!) It´s common to let the young horses live in a herd on big areas before they start their training. They learn from the older members of the herd and they play with the younger members. They become easier to train and well-muscled.

We need to provide them with the right minerals, a stress free environment and the best possible care to avoid summer eczema. If they develop summer eczema (or sweet itch, another name for the same thing) they need proper care! It happens even on the best of facilities (even when the owners done everything in their power) and cannot be neglected. It affects the whole immune system of the horse. Neglecting the proper care is extremely cruel to the horse. Owning a horse with summer eczema is a huge responsibility and requires a lot of time and effort from the owner. Some people say that only imported horses gets summer eczema, that is not true according to research and my own experiences.

There are 50 types of Culicoides biting midges (tiny insects) that is known to be a cause of summer eczema. Research points in different directions, but many horse owners agree that this fly is an enemy to the Icelandic Horse. The fly doesn´t exist on Iceland. Many people choose to use a special blanket on the imported horses for the first three years in their new country, to make the transition easier. The “Boett” blanket is one of the best on the market right now.

A protein rich diet and lots of sun shine (!) is also known factors of triggering summer eczema. Some reports points out lack of physical movement and digestive problems as possible causes for eczema.

I firmly believe that the whole picture with proper nutrition, minerals, shelter from sun, exercise, stress free environment and care is the best preventive care you can give your horse. If your horse develop eczema there are a lot of things you can do to make things easier for the horse, like medicated baths, fly spray, blankets, medicinal creams for the eczema (regular olive oil on the wounds often works very well. If the horse isn´t in direct sunlight..) . All these things require a lot of time, work and dedication from the owner and willingness to educate oneself about the condition. It´s a responsibility and not for every stressed out horse owner. The condition is a life sentence. Between 5-25% of the Icelandic Horses outside Iceland gets it. In very hot, sunny places like Australia between 32-60% gets it. I couldn´t find any new exact numbers for California but my guess is that it´s somewhere between 25-45 % for imported horses and less than 20 % for horses born in the US. If someone knows of any new research of Icelandic Horses and Summer Eczema in the US I would love to see it.

I´ve been doing a lot of thinking about if I really want to market Icelandic Horses as Endurance Horses in California, which was my original plan. They are incredible endurance horses. However I don´t think I want to do that anymore. I still want to have one or two myself and I want to ride the Tevis Cup on one (if I found the right one) but I think I´ll let it stay with that. They are amazing horses but if you´re taking them out of their natural habitat you have to know what you´re getting yourself into. In this climate is it a lot to considerate. Higher altitudes are often better for them and many horses that do have eczema doesn´t have any symptoms at all over 2400 ft. elevation. So on some places in California they are very suitable!

I´m starting to understand why Arabs are so popular as endurance horses here. Seeing Philip and Wrangle´s progress makes me think that it would be a whole lot easier to get an Arab for The Tevis. But I really LOVE Icelandic Horses (and challenges!)…I still hope that I will find the right one J

Did I mention that I miss riding tremendously? I´m hoping that it´s less than two months before I´m back in the saddle.

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I´d love to hear what you think about todays post. Did you relate to the topic?