The real cost of self care boarding

I’ve been in self care boarding for over 8 years or there about. Only when we lived in Missouri for a year were the horses on my own property – in all other situations I had to drive out (30 minutes, usually 50, one way) to get there.

I can deal with the cost of buying my own food and hay. I can deal with pooping scoop. I can deal with dumping and scrubbing out water tanks. What wears me down though is the day in and day out responsibility with no break. It starts to kill my enjoyment of my horses; I become a caretaker with little time for friendship.

It’s not that I don’t love the horses but when you are doing something day in and day out the “special” is soon removed. You see the same burnout in Stay at Home Moms who end up doing all the cleaning and cooking with little time to be the “fun” activity mom for their kids.

I tried getting someone this year to help out but I ended up firing her within three weeks due to no-shows. I’ve been advertising on Craiglists and at feed and farm supply stores, again with no luck. The problem is I have to find someone in the area because if they have to drive more then 20 minutes one way themselves the cost of it to me becomes too high due to gas mileage.

For example, I talked to someone that does barn sitting and she was going to be $35 and thought she might have to increase that price because of the drive. 😦

Yesterday, I had the bright idea of looking for a dog sitter that might live in the area. I found someone who lives 12 minutes away and who grew up on a farm (had cattle and dad had horses). YAY!

She came out to visit with me today and I am tentatively getting excited and thinking this might work out. She’s an adult who wants a business looking after animals, lives close by and felt the routine was very easy.


The routine is now easy because of the changes I made on the fenceline back in April-May of this year which allows me to separate all three horses. Since the horses now know the routine, everyone easily goes to where they are suppose to be fed as long as you feed them in the CORRECT order 😉

When you look at the diagram, Dante eats at point A and is fed first; Dancer eats at point B and is fed second; open the gate and let Dulce through and she eats at point C (just close the gates so horse’s can’t mingle).

I meet with her next Thursday for her to review the process again and then she starts doing my Fridays. If things work out, I hope she can do twice a week starting this fall.

For those interested in the cost we agreed on was $20 for a weekday, $25 for weekends, and $30 for national holiday. This price is reasonable because she can get there in 15 minutes or less, and my feeding system takes less then 25 minutes (the only real delay is you have to wait until Dulce finishes so she can be moved back into the dry lot with Dancer).

The other feeder was also in charge of some grooming and care for the horses but I learned my lesson. I will keep those duties to myself and if I do hire someone to help groom, bathe, etc… I will have them work alongside me, not on their own.


This is part of the huge shift in our life. We both know that we will be selling our house in 18-24 months and downsizing.

Our plans at this point is to buy land in Arkansas, near Eureka Springs, where we can build a one bedroom barn house so we can stable the horses. Meanwhile, spouse will also have a 1 or 2 bedroom, near downtown, condo which we will travel back and forth from as his work will let him telecommute. The tentative plan is that I would be in ES 3 weeks out of 4 and spouse will be with me 10-14 days then back to Tulsa for a week, and then back to me etc.. while both of our kids are away at college.

These are big dreams but it means we need time these next two years to take vacations, look at land, be available to do research out of state, work on this house so it’s ready to sell, etc… which means we need more TIME to get crap done. And me feeding horses every day, and having to be here on the weekends, doesn’t allow for that.

I REALLY hope this one works out!

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Pergolide dosage for Cushings

Tomorrow both ponies go to full dosage on their Cushing’s medication, Prascend. I did a “loading” dose at half the prescription to hopefully avoid the Pergolide Veil (a kind of zoning out that horses on this medication can experience; see side effects here). Both ponies are interested in food and their environment; so far so good.

Dulce’s alertness level has increased each day since she had her dental. She seems totally comfortable with her mouth now and has one more day of her antibiotic. While the haircut looks horrible and she is still way too thin, she seems to be slowly gaining weight back now that I’m feeding her equine senior.

Dancer ended up being tender on her back feet; I’m thinking this was due to loss of frog because of thrush (we had some unexpected, long days of rain). She also seems to be better today and is alert and interested in things.


The mysterious stench at the barn has vanished.

There was a horrid smell as you walked out to the pasture gate. It was intense – and more of a sewage like stench then a something dead smell. This smell though has been consistent for at least a month or two.

At the time I put it down to our next door neighbor whose owner was not cleaning up her horse’s poop. The horse came to the barn with some sort of really horrible skin condition and underfed. When she pooped, it was more like cow patty stench.

However, the person renting the house portion of the barn has left (YAYYAYAYAYAY!) and two days later the smell was gone too. So I don’t know if he had left trash in the barn….? Seems to me to be too much of a coincidence but the barn owner has re-rented the property and says he doesn’t know of any smell when he cleaned the house (or was he lying? Because he looked away when saying that to me and didn’t pursue asking me about it).

Another possibility was that Dulce’s mouth was causing the smell but that isn’t where she is kept and I’ve been close to her and didn’t smell it. The vet also didn’t mention a smell when she worked on Dulce’s mouth (and I was nearby so I would have smelt it if it was rot in her mouth you would think?). But she has been on antibiotics so if it was her, then after four days whatever was causing it, cleared up.

Whatever it is – it has mysteriously vanished from the ether.

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Dealing with realities

I’m starting to have that overwhelmed, hopeless feeling again. Last week I ended up being sick and after a trip to the urgent care discovered I had walking pneumonia. That put me down and out for about 8 days and I know that after coming back from respiratory issues it is easy to feel depressed so I’m trying to remember that.

After Dulce’s dental and getting some of her body hair trimmed off, it really showed how she has become a rack of bones due to the Cushings. I’ve known for some time she was losing too much weight because Dancer is dominant. After the fencework got done, I’ve been separating her to feed and giving her more but it just hasn’t been enough so I’ve put her on a Senior Feed and Weight gain supplement.

She’s on her Cushing Pergolide loading dose, a 7 day course of antibiotics and a couple of days of bute. Today, her eyes had gone back to being gunked up and I’ve put her back on her eye ointment.

I suspect due to the eyes, the mouth, and the fact she occasionally foams when she eats or slobbers, she has some real deep health issues that are going to shorten her life significantly. Right now, that hopelessness feeling is because I want to help her and don’t know what more I can do, or even if there is a way to help her (because I suspect incestuous genetics has caused some malformations that cannot be corrected).

So I’m on a “wait-and-see” – hoping the dental makes her a lot more comfortable and that the Pergolide gives her a better chance of gaining weight.

Next, I don’t know that I really have Dante’s PSSM under control. He never or very rarely shows any desire to move other then an ambling walk. There is no play in him. So I’m wondering what, if anything, I can do here?

There’s some equipment I want to buy for him to help on his rehab but that has to wait because of $$. The heat is starting to grow oppressive and my ability to deal with being outdoors in over 95 degree weather is lessening.

ARGH. Horses. ARGH.

Posted in Cushings disease, Dulce, PSSM | 2 Comments

Dulce’s Dental


Dulce got her dental today and the damage to my pocket book wasn’t too bad – under $200. She had a lot of hooks and two teeth just fell out and one is still wobbly but she should have a much better bite right now.

Got a tetanus shot, some Banamine, and a course of antibiotic. I’m to keep an eye on her and see if she gets diarrhea because of her health and Cushings this could happen. It looks like she may have more health issues (the vet commented on how pale her gums were) but we will just manage the best we can for her.

Dulce is a companion pet and she will live out her life with me whatever life she has and that is far more then the home she had from the people who inbred her to be the hot mess she is. The poor little thing continues to be shy but at least I can sit by her when she eats now and with the new stable-fence set up, I can separate her to feed so she doesn’t get harassed by Dancer too much.

Meanwhile, the vet looked at Dancer’s mouth (scheduled her a dental next month) and while she is a good 10 years + on Dulce, due to her superior genetics still has most of her teeth and has far better health (despite off the chart Cushing readings) then the younger geriatric pony.

So I have my own personal dental hell next month with two crowns over back molars and Dancer will get her July dental. Starting in August, I will start through all the home pets (3 cats, 2 dogs) with dentals and health exams. When I was working for vets, I got these at big discounts but that was 2 years ago so I need to get them back in and on a schedule.

Both kids will get updated routine dentals in August before returning to college. Next year the youngest will go into Invisalign.

Again, caring for the animals and our own health can now be done because our financial improvements (better job for husband, raises and bonuses, removing debt from our monthly budget and watching our spending) as well as buying a better medical and dental plan for ourselves. None of this would have been possible financially for us 3 years ago.

Life is improving and I am especially glad that I can provide the care that my horse and ponies really need. How much can be done for Dulce is rather doubtful, but a good home with routine medical care can be done at the very least.

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Both ponies tested positive for Cushings disease

The test results for the ponies came back and both are positive for Cushing disease. At a baseline of 110, Dulce was 182 and Dancer was 462!! That wasn’t a surprise on Dulce but for Dancer, I guess that explains that the hoof issues we’ve been having for the last five years.

Knowing this, I realize that once again we’ve been playing Russian Roulette where a little too much grass, a little too much sugar, a little too much weight and the situation could spiral into an extremely dangerous, even a life threatening situation.

I picked up their Pergolide medication (Prascend tablets) with their full dose at .25 m or 1/4 a tablet. I started it today at half dosage (1/8 of a full tablet) for about two weeks as a loading dose to try to avoid the Pergolide Veil that Dr. Kellon and her Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistant webgroup have experienced.

In 6 months, I’m going to have the ponies re-tested again to make sure that this level of medication is controlling their disease.


On a personal note, Cushing Disease and I are old enemies. Cushing Disease is what killed my horse Pepper (or rather the side effects of laminitis which most likely ended in heart attack after 3 months of unrelenting stress).

Emotionally, this all took me by surprise but I shouldn’t have been surprised. Dancer is over 30 and now I know Dulce is over 20.  I know Dulce lost a lot of topline last year and had a long hair coat which eventually shed near the end of summer.

Dancer has been battling hoof issues now for about 5 years; her winter coat was slow to shed and she does have a longer then normal hair coat but I chalked it up to age. All tipoffs pointing to Cushing Disease.

Like I discussed though with husband, many differences exist from the time that Pepper was diagnosed and I was helpless to today:

1.) I can now buy a low sugar feed. 10 years ago finding a low sugar horse feed in my area was impossible. Because Insulin Resistance is now being more widely recognized these feeds now have a market.

2.) Being in self board, I have my area set up for dry lotting the ponies. Something I didn’t have at any of my other setups.

3.) Balancing hay was impossible when I was boarding because hay suppliers were constantly changing. Now I buy my hay from the landowner where my horses are which means the hay is consistently the same in its composition. This allows for more accurate testing and thus better hay balancing.

4.) Supplements – finding them 10 years ago was far harder then today. Now that Cushing Disease and Insulin Resistance are in the public eye, where before many of these supplements were obscure, difficult, expensive and non-palatable to the horse, now I can find them in a form that a horse will easily eat.

5.) Pergolide is now FDA approved. This means it is easier to obtain and is consistent in its formulation. Hunting it down years before could be a nightmare.

6.) Money, money, money. My money situation is so much better then it was before. I can afford to buy the supplements that before I couldn’t. Flax seed, Magnesium, Vitamin E, Copper and Zinc, and meds, are all expensive and have to be bought, month in and month out.

7.) I have a great farrier now! My husband can maintain my horse’s hooves and keep them in shape.

Posted in Cushings disease, Dulce, Pandora, vet visit | Leave a comment

Dulce and Dancer get a vet visit

Today, the vet came by to draw blood on both ponies to conduct a test for Insulin Resistance and Cushings.


Dancer came to me in January of 2005 and was the first of the horses I bought for my lesson string. She’s been with me ever since, and once I stopped teaching was retired from riding (which she never truly enjoyed anyway).

The vet couldn’t believe that she was at least 30 and more likely 35+. However, age is catching up with her and she had a series of founder attacks over the last 4-5 years when we couldn’t keep her off grass. We’ve finally got her feet looking okay and she is now sound but must be managed (dry lot, grass restriction, even feed restricted).

I fully expect the test to come back positive for IR and she might also be Cushings now due to her age.


Dulce is concerning me a lot right now. For the second year in a row she came out of winter with a huge hair coat she didn’t shed and loss of topline (both classic Cushings symptoms). She was the main reason I jumped on the chance for this free testing being offered. By free, I mean the test was free but the other chemical she had to give for the test did cost me.

Dulce was rescued from an abusive, animal hoarder who had inbred all the horses; I bought her as a companion for Dancer from the person who rescued her. So I’m not surprised that I got confirmation today that her estimated age of 12-14 is way off – she is most likely 20+.

Her eye has been weeping so I have some ointment for that. Also, her mouth is a mess (this doesn’t surprise me because one of her inbred deformities was a strange overbite), so I have scheduled her in 2 weeks for a full dental.

She is also extremely shy. So I had haltered her two weeks ago and left the halter on as it would have been impossible to catch her at a moments notice. In the mornings I’ve been sitting with her and then slowly reaching over to clip on the lead rope and then brushing her while she ate.

I’m rather ready not to have any more vet bills for a while but this is something that should have been done years ago. Now that our financial situation has improved, I can start caring for all my animals the way that I’ve always wanted too – regular vet care, supplements and medication they need, and keeping the horses in a barn situation that suits their physical and mental health.

Posted in Dulce, Pandora, vet visit | 4 Comments

Massage for Dante

Massage for him today. Something I had noticed and that was confirmed for me was he holds his releases and you need to back off when he starts to fidget and then he will release – he also will release more, if after a fidget, you allow him to walk (see Peggy Cummings Connected Riding to learn more about “walking to process”).

Pain in the Nuchal Ligament which I had noticed myself. Was surprised that he gave a big release on his rib cage (will be adding Linda Tellington-Jones TTouch Lick of the Camel), and some pain on the right side of his spine (about 2 inches out) above his tail bone. Gave some really nice releases on his right stifle and at the deep point of the shoulder.



Posted in chiropractor & massage, Dante | Leave a comment