May 18, 2008

When the Hurtin's Over

We have had a good winter as far as snow pack and water is concerned. The ground has been saturated for a few months and has given new growth to both the grass and the alfalfa in our fields. Springtime growth can be the death knell for horses if they are turned loose to graze a steady diet of rich, lush vegetation after spending the winter on dried hay. Nutrients, proteins and nitrogen all run together in the greenery causing a potential threat of founder in horses if they are not introduced to it gradually.

So – What is founder and what’s the big deal? Founder, also called laminitis occurs when a horse’s hoof basically overheats and comes apart. The hoof wall becomes detached and the main internal bone of the hoof, the coffin bone rotates downward causing extreme pain effectively ending the useful life of the affected horse. Founder is caused by a variety of things, but in this case, it can be caused by the high levels of nutrients in springtime plants – such as nitrogen. These excess chemicals descend into the hoof and become trapped in part owing to the limited circulatory action in the hoof. They put out heat causing the internal tissue to swell at the same time being trapped within the rigid structure of the hoof wall. Something has to give – the supporting laminae come apart and the coffin bone drops. Founder occurs and the useful life of the horse is essentially over. At this point the most humane thing to do is to put him down and end the extreme pain and suffering.

It is important that a horse owner be vigilant against this problem in the spring and then later in the fall with new growth grass. Still the same, the animals want the fresh greenery and will go to great lengths to get at it - including jumping fences as was the cse in this poem. I have resorted to the use of a double electric fence that puts out a whopping 16 volts of shock to keep my horses in the paddock where I manage their feed during the spring.

This poem is about Dan (seen in the photo) – a quarter horse I used to own and his attempt to break out and gorge himself on the new growth. I was not using an electric fence at the time – now many years ago. If I had been, this episode may never have happened. By the way, Dan is also the subject of my poem "Battle of Britchin'"

When the Hurtin’s Over
by Paul Kern

When the hurtin’s over and the pain’s all done,
Your limp is gone and you’ve got back your run.
When the healin’ gives you back your lope,
Your eyes will flash with a spark of hope.

You’ll forget that rusty old t-post,
And about the jump that hurt the most,
You missed the jump; it went through your hide.
The hole it made went deep inside.

Somehow you did it for your own sake,
You pulled off of that metal stake,
And managed to finally cross that fence.
What happened to your good horse sense?

Spring grass on the other side,
Was way too temptin’ for your pride,
Dried hay today? Don’t care if it’s clean.
I’ll take what’s there - it’s fresh and green.

So up you rose into the air,
The fence below became your snare.
We found you outside the gate,
Head down and hurt but not too late.

You spent lonesome days inside a stall,
No chance to lay, no chance to fall,
Just stand there straight and let it heal,
A horse feels pain – it’s just as real.

You lost your standin’ in the herd,
Once you got out, once you were cured,
You had to give up your place,
To that palomino with the bally face.

But the hurtin’s over and the pain’s all done,
Your limp is gone and you’ve got back your run.
The healin’ gave you back your lope,
Your eyes flash again with a spark of hope

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