When is it time?

Well, this is a post I didn’t exactly plan to write today. But, I have some thoughts I need to work out on paper and maybe I’ll start here vs a series of separate emails.

The question is always when is it time? How do you know when it’s time? When do you say enough is enough? I’m not doing this anymore! He’s had enough. He’s ready? It’s an easy decision in theory. I always say when there are more bad days then good days, it’s time. 

But in practice? In practice it’s harder.

Batt was an easy decision. There wasn’t a decision. He was slipping away before us and in so much pain and had ruptured and there was no saving him. The best we could do was to end the suffering. 

Hayley was harder. She was 14. But, she was wasting away. It didn’t matter what you fed her, all the nutrients just came right out. The decision just felt right despite a group of people around me encouraging me to try more and more treatments that never worked for her mystery condition. It hurt like hell, but it wasn’t hard. Harder, but not hard. 

But, now I’m facing a real dilemma. I honestly don’t know what to do. 

I told myself that this would be Subi’s last winter. He isn’t exactly a fan. But what I didn’t expect was that this winter/non-winter (rain/mud/muck) would be so hard on him. Eating has been a challenge. It might be his teeth (dentist is scheduled, but not until February — I’ve asked if they can come out sooner), but it might be that he’s just not interested. I mean, he isn’t interested in cubes either. 

The last few months he’s become very… quiet. He has moments where he runs around and acts crazy or even senile, but the rest of the time he’s quiet. Or even dull. I don’t want dull. I don’t like dull. Dull scares me. 

Last night, I was convinced he was colicking. He was that off and quiet. No temperature, but very listless. He worked out of whatever it was. But mostly he just stands outside and stares out in the distance. 

But, that wasn’t what scared me the most. What scared me was, when I actually did convince him to walk up to me (I had his left over cubes), he just seemed half there. Subi has always been full of personality and opinion. This horse was just.. there.

Which brings me to the point of this collection of words. When is it time? When is it time when there is nothing outwardly wrong but, at the same time, the horse you know just isn’t there? 

Do I try and get him until some nicer weather? See if he perks up and let him have a couple of nice months?

Same goodbye now?

See the outcomes of teeth and try a combination of the 2?

Chatting with the vet isn’t out the question and that will likely happen, but I’d like to see if the dentist gets back to me first. I don’t want to run unnecessary tests or toss meds at him. But, for the horse who was always terrible to medicate (we both almost died last year when he needed 3 meds 2x/day for 10 days or even his steroids for swelling this summer), he’s decent right now…which is another sign that he… not all there anymore.

StableFeed Equibiome Test 

Back in November, I ordered an Equibiome Test Kit from StableFeed (the test kit isn’t on their site, but you can email them if you are interested). Nay Nay was having yet another hindgut/colitis flare and quite frankly I didn’t want him to head into winter not eating. Just a year ago we ended up in January with him basically a shell of a horse, picking through chopped hay and maybe eating the carrots and peppermints out of his grain. I did NOT want to go through that again. Thankfully, he never got that bad and never stopped eating. But, he had a few uncomfortable weeks where I had PTSD and decided to try and find the root of the problem. (I also vastly changed his feeding routine since last January and he has stuff he’ll ALWAYS eat, even during a flare and he’s been back on Succeed since last March which has helped immensely).

Anyway, at Fair Hill this fall, I chatted with the StableFeed folks about the Equibione Test and had it in my back pocket for when I was ready. Ready just came sooner than I was expecting.

The test isn’t cheap. It’s $300+.

Nor is it fast.

But, I was hoping for answers.

I received the test kit in early November. Basically, you collect a small sample of manure and put it in the collection tube with the solution, package it EXACTLY HOW SPECIFIED, and ship it off to a lab in Wales. Yes, Wales. This requires correctly filling out a customs form which appears to be a problem for many folks. But, I chose to go to, not my local rural-ish post office(s), but rather a busier post office in the college town where I work. The postal worker checked my form, asked a few questions (what are you sending? horse poop. OK, this looks fine for agricultural samples.), and sent my poop sample on its way. I signed up for my tracking text notifications and literally checked each update until “arrived” appeared. Customs thankfully was not an issue. But, supposedly Royal Mail rejects a lot of samples when the form isn’t properly filled out (StableFeed tells you exactly what to write and I did have the postal worker confirm everything).

And then I waited. They said 12+ weeks, but I received my report at the end of December. A nice 32 page report that killed my brain the first 3 times I read it.

There are 3 potential outcomes:

  1. Stable microbiome — this is the best outcome — everything is good. , with a well constructed and defined core community.
  2. Imbalanced microbiome– the right bacterial exist, but all the levels are wrong which leads to lots of issues
  3. Imbalanced and missing microbiome — some of the right bacteria exist at the wrong levels while others are missing

Nay Nay had an imbalanced microbiome. I mean, I knew he wasn’t stable so the question was, was he imbalanced or imbalanced and missing?

Part of the test included a consultation with StableFeed to…explain the report. LOL. So, I ended up having an hour phone call to discuss the entire report and next steps. While I won’t go over the entire report (this could be a 10 week series), I will share some interesting findings.

From the report:

…imbalance may be reflective of disease elsewhere in the body such as allergies, food sensitivities, headshaking etc. Horses with this type of microbiome are sensitive to changes in management and diet…

That pretty much describes Nay… lol.

One area of high concern was biofilm bacteria:

“Most bacteria reside in a fixed area as part of a biofilm community, for protection and an improved chance of survival, though biofilm formation is implicated in many chronic disease states. Biofilm bacteria commonly reside in the gut wall and aggravate/cause  ‘leaky gut’. Colonising gut bacteria tend to rob the host of nutrients, reduced levels of good gut bacteria linked to a strong immune response and produce toxins linked to inflammation.”

This likely plays a direct role in my of Nay’s gut inflammation issues so it was very interesting to read. This area also directly corresponds to EGUS.

Another area of interest was the section on skin allergies. According to the report, Nay is at high risk of skin allergies. My first thought was, he has no skin allergies. Then, I started thinking about bugs and flies and the reason he wears fly sheets all summer (hives) and then the fact that he is basically allergic to all chemical fly sprays (skin sloughs off). So yeah, this fits.

We delved into this a little more. Nay and chemicals.

So, I have mentioned before that Nay is the most ridiculously picky eater ever. Especially when it comes to hay. Right now he IS loving my local cut of orchard in round bale form. Square bale is decent, but the rounds are better. But, alfalfa is his drug of choice. He loves western alfalfa and will murder you for it. I was getting it from a local dealer but he stopped getting it in. He had some lovely PA alfalfa that even my hay guy said looked nicer than my western. Nay… doesn’t like it. In fact, I can’t consistently get him to eat any PA/east coast alfalfa. There is nothing wrong with it. Subi and Jimmy attack it. Nay picks at it, but eh. I finally got him western from a local tack store and he’s back to inhaling his alfalfa. My hay guy has said it multiple times (Nay refuses a lot of hay, rarely ever his and never the western), a lot of hay this way is sprayed. And Mr. Chemical Sensitive doesn’t like/won’t eat/is sensitive to chemicals. This report pretty much says that.

So, next steps (I could talk more about the report but… I’ve typed enough):

We add in different probiotics for different lengths of time. Ultimately he’ll end up on a maintenance probiotic.

For now? He’s on month one of 2 of biome food 5. It sounds strange, but I see a difference. He has the stinkiest poop and it’s already less smelly and harder (he always has softer manure). He gets this tiny 1/2 teaspoon type scoop, but…? Or it’s doing nothing, but manure consistency has changed.

He has a 5-6 month protocol and at some point after that, I’m sure we’ll retest. At the recommendation of the report, we also added some oats into his diet. He’s big on food right now so he’s quite happy with that.