Wednesday, September 28, 2011

True Story!

So true. Hahahahaha!

Still no...

Still no foal. This damn mare has kept me waiting for 6 weeks. All the sources that said bagging up of the udder occurred 2-4 weeks before foaling and that maidens didn't usually bag up at all till after foaling HAVE NOT MET THIS MARE. Ready to pull my hair out. Running on fumes since I barely slept at all in the barn last night. So ready for this foal to come.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Horse | Carbohydrates 101 for Horses

Super useful info. A must read.


The Horse | Carbohydrates 101 for Horses

Carbohydrates 101 for Horses
by: Shannon Pratt-Phillips, MSc, PhD
March 01 2011, Article # 18816
These sugars, starches, and fibers are important energy sources for the horse and crucial to equine digestive health.
From glucose to frustose to lactose--not to mention a laundry list of other "oses"--carbohydrates can be incredibly confusing. But this group of sugar-based compounds, also called saccharides, comprises important energy sources for the horse. Therefore, understanding them and utilizing them in your horse's diet are crucial. They also are a major component of forages, a staple of the horse's diet, and are required for digestive health.
The simplest carbohydrates are monosaccharides (made up of one unit and also called simple sugars), such as glucose, fructose, xylose, and galactose. Another type of carbohydrate is a disaccharide (two sugars bonded together), which includes lactose (found commonly in milk, made from a unit of glucose and galactose) and sucrose (table sugar, made from glucose and fructose). Then there are oligosaccharides (three to 200 units each) and polysaccharides, or "complex carbohydrates" (each made up of multiple units, typically 200-2,000, which include compounds such as starch and cellulose). Cellulose is considered a type of dietary fiber, along with hemicellulose, lignin, pectins, and fructans.
How Carbs Work
After a horse consumes the carbohydrates found in forages and grains, the actions of enzymes found primarily in the small intestine break disaccharides and starch into monosaccharides that are then absorbed into the bloodstream, where they are converted for energy or energy storage (more on this in a moment). Dietary fibers, on the other hand, such as cellulose, hemicellulose, and pectins, are not digested by enzymes, but instead undergo fermentation.
Within the cecum and large colon are large populations of microbial organisms that have the ability to break down these complex fibrous carbohydrates into volatile fatty acids that are then absorbed and used as energy sources (calories). However, not all fibers can be fermented effectively, thereby decreasing their overall digestibility; for example, cellulose is typically only 40% digestible, hemicellulose 50% digestible, and lignin is not at all digestible. In contrast, pectins and fructans are believed to be highly fermentable and have higher overall digestibility.
The horse appears to be limited in his ability to digest starch, especially in large amounts. When horses consume too much starch (such as with a high-grain diet or a wayward horse getting into the feed bin), enzymes in the small intestine cannot properly digest it. Undigested starch will, therefore, reach the large intestine and the microbes within it. These microbes might not be accustomed to dealing with large amounts of starch, which could cause a disruption to the microbial ecosystem. This can result in the overproduction of other acids such as lactic acid and/or gas, potentially resulting in colic. Alternatively, it could result in the death of some microbes, causing them to release toxins that can be absorbed by the horse, potentially causing laminitis.
Any glucose produced by the enzyme breakdown in the small intestine is absorbed there and enters the bloodstream, causing an increase in blood glucose concentrations. This increase stimulates the release of the hormone insulin, which functions to move glucose from the blood into the body tissues, thereby bringing blood glucose concentrations back to baseline. Once in the tissues, glucose can be metabolized to produce energy, or it can be converted to fat or glycogen (a polysaccharide of glucose units found in the body) for energy storage. The volatile fatty acids, once absorbed from the cecum and large colon, can also be either metabolized to energy or converted to fat.
Carbohydrates are, therefore, considered important energy sources for the horse. Cereal grains (e.g., corn, oats, or barley) are full of highly digestible carbohydrates such as simple sugars and starch. Forages will have some simple sugars and starches, but they are higher in fiber and therefore provide less digestible energy per unit weight. For example, cereal grains have more than 3 Mcal of energy per kilogram (ranging from 3.2-3.8 Mcal/kg), while hay can range between 1.8-2.4 Mcal/kg, depending on the plant type.
While cereal grains provide more energy than high-fiber feeds, these fibrous feeds--especially forages--are extremely important to the horse's overall health, and the horse should consume them regularly and in higher amounts than the cereal grains. The microbes within the horse's large intestine are highly sensitive to changes and need a constant substrate (fiber) for fermentation. Therefore, gut health (and colic prevention) is dependent on a regular supply of forage.
As outlined above, high starch and sugar diets result in an increase in blood glucose concentrations, followed by an increase in insulin concentrations. It is believed that such fluctuations can reduce the effectiveness of insulin, resulting in insulin resistance--essentially, the horse's body becomes resistant to insulin, glucose can't reach the body's cells from the bloodstream, and while the body can compensate for a short period by increasing insulin levels, the end result is abnormally high circulating levels of glucose in the bloodstream. Owners of insulin-resistant horses should limit their animals' starch and sugar intake. Furthermore, some horses appear to be more sensitive behaviorally to glucose fluctuations and might appear extra spirited after consuming a high starch and sugar feed (similar to a child after eating a chocolate bar).
For these reasons, when considering carbohydrates we must consider not only the total energy we are providing to our horses, but also the sources of these calories. The number of calories a horse requires depends largely on his body weight (a 1,500-pound horse requires more calories per day than a 700-pound pony) and activity level (a racehorse or polo pony requires more energy to perform work than a pasture ornament). While a nutritionist can calculate the approximate number of calories your horse needs, a good gauge to determine if your horse is meeting his caloric requirements is to watch for any fluctuations in his body weight. For a given level of activity, is the horse gaining or losing weight? If his weight stays approximately even, you are probably meeting his caloric requirements.
The other side of the coin is the source of these calories. As stated above, it is probably more beneficial for a horse to have the majority of his calories coming from sources such as dietary fiber found in forages. In fact, for a horse with low-energy requirements (e.g., a horse at "maintenance"), caloric needs can be met easily by providing good-quality forage in sufficient amounts. A horse with higher caloric needs, however, might not be able to meet them through hay or pasture alone (these feeds are bulky and the horse might not be physically able to eat as much), and will need more concentrated sources of energy added to his diet (such as from cereal grains).
Understanding the Terminology
Different feed types contain different types of carbohydrates; these have implications for the horse's nutrition and health, in part because of their ability to cause gastric upset. Therefore, it is important to analyze your feed to determine the carbohydrate fractions within it. The following are key carbohydrate fraction terms you might encounter on a feed tag or analysis:
  • Acid detergent fiber (ADF) A measure of the least digestible carbohydrates in the feed, primarily cellulose and lignin.
  • Neutral detergent fiber (NDF) A measure of fiber consisting of hemicellulose, cellulose, and lignin.
  • Crude fiber (CF) A crude measurement of fiber.
  • Nonfiber carbohydrates (NFC) A measure of starch, simple sugars, and fructans.
  • Nonstructural carbohydrates (NSC) A measure of the easily digestible carbohydrates, including simple sugars and fructans. Horses sensitive to glucose should be fed a low-NSC diet.
  • Water-soluble carbohydrates (WSC) A measure of water-soluble sugars, including simple sugars and fructans.
  • Ethanol-soluble carbohydrates (ESC) A measure of ethanol-soluble sugars, including mostly monosaccharides and disaccharides.
Your Horse's Diet
Owners of horses sensitive to starch and sugar should aim to reduce these components in the diet. The ideal values of these fractions for sensitive horses have not been established, but, according to Lori Warren, PhD, PAS, associate professor in the University of Florida's Department of Animal Sciences, "Concentrates between 12-13% NSC or lower could be categorized as low-starch and may be suitable for these horses, though they likely don't need concentrates to begin with."
Amy Gill, PhD, a private equine nutritionist based in Lexington, Ky., recommends that for sensitive horses, hay total starch and sugar should be below 10% and the total diet below 15%. According to Gill, if a hay analysis is unavailable and the horse is symptomatic, owners can soak the hay (for 30-45 minutes) to help reduce any soluble sugars that might be present.
In contrast, "not all horses need to be on a low-starch diet," says Warren, "and in fact, some horses (e.g., those competing in high-speed or multiple-day activities) may actually need starch as an energy source or for glycogen replenishment." Again, knowing the starch and sugar content of your feeds will help you develop a diet suitable for your horse.
Information about the fiber components in forages is also useful, as this might help owners choose hay types that are better suited to particular horses. Warren suggests that overweight easy keepers might do well on hay that has ADF above 40%, while weanlings and broodmares do better on hay with ADF less than 34%. Commercial feed tags report the CF values, but Warren suggests looking at the actual ingredients to determine fiber quality.
"The fiber will be highly digestible based on the presence of certain fiber sources (e.g., beet pulp, soybean hulls), or hard to digest because of others (e.g., peanut hulls, oat hulls)," says Warren.
Gill also uses the CF on a feed tag to get an indication of the soluble carbohydrates in the feed, as a feed higher in CF tends to be lower in starches and sugars.
While there is a trend to see more commercial feeds moving toward low starch and sugar, these are not truly "low carb," nor would you want them to be! Fiber is also an important part of your horse's diet, and it should not be disregarded.
COMMON CARBOHYDRATES AND THEIR DIETARY SOURCES
Carbohydrate Type
Description
Sources
Simple sugar
Includes monosaccharides (glucose, fructose, xylose, and galactose) and disaccharides (two-unit carbohydrates, including dextrose and lactose).
Found in varying amounts in most plant-based feeds. Sucrose is table sugar. Lactose is found in milk.
Fructan
A type of fructo-oligosaccharide; a short chain of fructose molecules.
Cool-season grasses.
Starch
Polysaccharide; a long chain of glucose joined by alpha bonds.
Found primarily in cereal grains, but also in varying amounts in forages.
Cellulose
Polysaccharide; a long chain of glucose joined by beta bonds. Indigestible by mammalian enzymes.
Found in most plant-based feed sources, but in higher amounts in forages.
Hemicellulose
Polysaccharide similar to cellulose, but in addition to glucose units it also contains other monosaccharides such as xylose and galactose. Indigestible by mammalian enzymes.
Found in most plant-based feed sources, but in higher amounts in forages.
Lignin
A complex compound that gives strength to plant cells; indigestible.
Found in most plant-based feed sources, but is higher in mature plants (particularly mature hay).
Pectin
A heteropolysaccharide, containing mostly galactose and xylose.
Found primarily in fruits and beet pulp.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Wedding Stuff

Getting excited about my bachelorette party! Since it's an out of town trip, it's going to be small (thank goodness, less tipsy girls to keep track of, the task of which can be likened to herding cats...) I'm leaving tonight in t-minus one hour and forty minutes. We'll do wine and munchies tonight (cheesecake bites!) then farmer's market in the morning in ATL. Mani/pedis at 10 am, lunch plus free wine tasting at 12 pm, then some shopping at H&M followed by going back to my MOH's to recharge and change. Dinner at Holy Taco followed by dancing at Cosmo Lava in ATL (or wiggling in my case, but a bum knee isn't really going to stop me).

While I've been killing time waiting for my fiance to get home from class (he has the civic, so we're swapping cars at 5:30 so I can go), I've been compiling fun songs for our wedding playlist. Not on this list is the processional (Cannon D), exit music (Ave Maria), first dance (At Last, Etta James), Father/Daughter dance (What a Wonderful World), Attendant Intro Songs (undecided), Bouquet Toss Song (All the Single Ladies) and Garter Toss Song (Another One Bites the Dust), plus we're doing a final dance to our song (Crazy by Aerosmith).


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Despite being bored...

Ok, however, despite being bored in earlier post, I must still crow about how excited I am about my new horsey shirt! Yay for more horsey shirts :)

 Pretty in pink! Epic :)

Bored

Really getting tired of being injured. First the broken ribs, now the quad tear at my knee. I can't even go out and work a pony for fear of making the tear worse and keeping me grounded longer. The doc says it'll take a solid 4 weeks to heal, and that I can get back on the horse for light work in a couple weeks, but I am tired of this bullshit. And I sure as hell want to STOP injuring myself...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Recipe time!



Winter is coming, so what better time to cook? Post your favorites and tag your friends, and then tell them to post one and tag you back to share the wealth. 

A cool weather favorite in my household: Pumpkin and Sausage Soup

I found this recipe online and tweaked it because we LOVE spicy. I know some people hear pumpkin and say "What?" but I PROMISE this recipe is amazing!!! The original is here and is not very spicy, and if you can't do hot at all, you can do it with non spicy smoked sausage (ahem, Debbie Gray!): http://allrecipes.com/recipe/pumpkin-and-sausage-soup/detail.aspx but if you like spicy like we like spicy, then continue reading below. Oh yeah, and for a vegetarian twist, you can use veggie broth and substitute the meat with something else. It won't be the same, but I think it'll still work. Be prepared to SHARE because even with the reduced amounts I posted below, this recipe makes a LOT of soup.

Ingredients
  • 1 pound HOT andouille sausage, sliced and diced how you like it
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 pounds pumpkin puree
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Cayenne pepper to taste (I think we used at least a tablespoon or two, the volume of this soup is crazy even with cutting the chicken stock amount back to 4 cups instead of 7)
Directions
  1. Brown sausage in skillet with 2 tablespoons butter.
  2. Add onion and cook until soft/translucent. Add thyme and pumpkin and cook approximately 5 minutes.
  3. Add broth and brown sugar and stir well. Cover and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes, or until pumpkin is tender/good and squishy.
  4. Stir in cream and remaining 2 tablespoons butter (probably best if you soften or melt the butter first). Heat but do not boil too furiously. This is the point where you stir furiously and really work that cream in. Serve with some good bread and don't forget to pour yourself a glass of your favorite alcohol. Make it a big one ;)

Quote of the Day :)

You see a mouse-trap. I see free cheese and a challenge.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pony Wars

 Well played, pony. You win this round, but next time I shall prevail.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Funk Day

Kind of in a funk this morning that is based on remnants of last night. I'm still really hurt over my mom's disinterest in my wedding. I'm also really concerned that maybe I hurt my knee worse than I thought I did. I still haven't been able to saddle up and actually ride for almost a week now. I'm worried that I've torn something that is slowly separating further, which is about how it feels. Every once in awhile, I feel a little fibrous snap or pop surrounding my knee cap, almost like how it feels when you pull a scab off skin that's not ready to release it, so it stretches, twinges, and inevitably releases and hurts, except this is internal.

I feel like I'm just winding myself up tighter and tighter, but I hesitate to call busy friends and try to get them to play boo-hoo sounding board or shrink when they definitely have more important things going on in their lives other than my problems. At the root of it all, I feel lonesome. I second guess myself and wonder if I should even bother some of my friends and acquaintances... I mean, I don't want to invite myself over and cramp someone's style. I feel like such a common theme in my life, be it with family, best friends, casual friends, anybody, is that I invest so much of myself and put so much effort into maintaining the relationship that they don't have to. It makes me feel like a pest and like my relationships are unbalanced, and it makes me sad.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

*sigh*

I was going to post an angry little vent about Birmingham and how a lot of the people I've met in this area aren't very nice to each other, but I kind of got derailed by reading someone else's painful thread. It kind of makes me realize that sometimes my little irritations are so insignificant compared to life's bigger problems, but it's hard to be objective and come to that conclusion sometimes.

I think I get so wound up about things sometimes because I feel so isolated. I am lonely out here. Forgive me if I start to sound like a little boo-hoo pity party, because I'm not trying to throw one for myself, but sometimes I think I overreact to situations I encounter because I feel like I'm not having enough human interaction to let off some of the tension I feel.

For now, I'm living half of the dream and am really enjoying living out on my own little farm. We are leasing 40 acres on a blissfully quiet little ridge, and since I work from home, I can spend as much time with my ponies as I want because my schedule is pretty flexible (generally). There are a lot of upsides to being where we're at. But there are some downsides, too. No one really wants to visit... I'm not far from town, only about 10-15 minutes from prime time shopping and civilization, but it LOOKS like the boonies. Because I work from home, I don't have coworkers to socialize with, and I don't go on lunch dates with girlfriends anymore. It's a double edged sword, and sometimes I worry that I need to get out more to prevent my social skills from devolving... Nobody wants to see me revert to cavewoman-esque reclusiveness.

Sometimes I feel like I'm pestering the people I do actually keep in contact with. On one hand, Facebook is a neat little medium for keeping in touch with friends, from sharing little things you find funny, for venting little tidbits here and there. On the other hand, I can see how some people might feel inundated with all my postings because dear God, I'm prolific when I'm bored. I'm not doing it just to get attention. I do it because I'm ADHD and my mind runs a mile a minute. As I've aged a little, instead of bouncing off the walls, all the extra energy comes out as yapping, so to speak. I talk a lot. I will yap someone's ear off because I think quick and have a lot to say. I write a lot, too. What starts as a quick note turns into a friggin' book (like this one). But it keeps me from pinging off the walls like a pinball like back during my childhood days. It doesn't win me friends, though, and people don't understand that there's just a lot going on in my head. It's just... I'm not stupid. I think quick. I think a LOT. And it all comes tumbling out of my mouth like verbal diarrhea because I'm so bored and lonely and eager to interact with SOMEBODY and it ends up just turning people off.

I'm not trying to say oh woe is me, poor me, because in reality I'm really kind of blessed. Sure, I injure myself periodically because something will catch me unawares (hence, broken ribs for the last two months) or because I do something really stupid (i.e., banging myself up a couple days ago and grounding myself again). But overall, I'm pretty blessed. Despite the fact that he's not super interested in horses, I have an AWESOME fiance who somehow has figured out a lot of my quirks and loves me anyways. I have a job, and though it's boring, it pays the bills and funds my horsey habit. Overall I'm mostly healthy (hell, at least I'm not dying, you know?) I have awesome pets -- two badass doggies and two bitch kitties (they're pretty cute!), a lizard and a rat who are equally awesome, and 3 sane, sweet, occasionally turdly equines that make life interesting. I have a roof over my head that doesn't leak, running water and electricity, a barn for my ponies, and my car is paid off and insurance is active on it. Truthfully, I really don't have a whole lot to complain about as far as my quality of life. But the little things, the little things add up and count.

Again with the writing a book thing. It's late, I'm lonesome, I can't sleep, and my mind keeps going over and over what some stranger posted on my FB. I posted a status update a couple nights ago after my dad picked a fight with me on the phone. My dad means well, and he's generally a pretty good dad who I generally get along with, but he likes to stick his nose in the middle of things if my brother and I have a spat over something. He forgets that we're in our 20s (good grief, nearly 30) and can generally be considered adults, and he feels the need to try to mediate and sort of still "rule the roost" even though his chickies have long since moved out. It was a very difficult conversation that left me in tears, and it wasn't a conversation I wanted to have. Apparently my brother said something to him, and my dad felt the need to "try to give me advice" even though I didn't ask for it and didn't want to talk about it. Again, my dad means well, but he's pushy. I come by my feistiness rather honestly/genetically. So anyway, I posted a status update that said I was emotionally exhausted, not looking forward to [lunch with the parents] tomorrow, and that I hoped everyone else was having a good weekend and to drink a martini for me. A near stranger made a comment "I'm beginning to think maybe you're a drama queen?" and it set me off. I deleted it and unfriended her (she was on my buddy list because she coordinates clinics for a clinician I like that comes out once a month) because of how surprised I was that a stranger would put something like that on my status update for all my peers to see. I'm a bit of a softie... and words hurt. I take more things to heart than people realize, and maybe it's because I think too much. I dunno, at any rate, I felt like the mangy cur that got kicked again after something else had already knocked it down. Maybe that's too strong of a visual, I'm certainly not some puppy that someone stomped on, but damn it, it really burned for someone to post something that I thought was a little insensitive on a such a loaded status.

I think all the boredom and isolation is getting to me. I thought I would love working from home, only seeing who I want when I want, but instead I don't get to see anybody except for my fiance and my friend who boards her ponies with me. I like her a lot, but I can't just cling to her and infiltrate all the other things she has going on in her life because it's not her job to keep me entertained. I spend a lot of time on Facebook, Youtube, surfing, just so I'm not just staring at the television or trying to carry on nutty little conversation with the furry critters. Ivan can only work for so long before turning his attention span off, and Classy Lady is [STILL] extremely pregnant and out of work for awhile. I find myself even missing my college days when I waited tables to pay the bills. I was a lot more tactful and a lot less angsty back then.

So my apologies if I post sometimes and it sounds like I'm super wound up and negative. I get a lot more up in arms and cranky when something sets me off or when I feel like someone has figuratively crapped in my wheaties these days. I'm trying really hard to just find new outlets for my frustration with my current situation. I read a lot of horsey articles, reblog them so I don't forget the ones I like best (like saddle fitting articles and whatnot), I shop a lot for my ponies online, I do little crafty things for our upcoming wedding. I can't imagine why I haven't driven my fiance nuts by now with all my little spurts of frustration and busy-ness. Is that the right way to phrase that? A state of being constantly busy, to the point of obnoxiousness. Busy-esque? No, not that either.

And I'm not looking for anybody to feel sorry for me really, just looking for understanding I guess of the fact that sometimes I'm just battling other frustrations when I have my moments that I seem really tweaked. I just feel like I've got a lot going on under the surface that lend some blood pressure to other more minor, trivial things, so I end up getting more amped up than I should. I've got social frustrations going on that really don't look like they're going to resolve for awhile. I don't like going to bars and don't really meet people that way anyway. I graduated college so I won't meet any new people through school. My best friends live in different states, and they have their own lives. I'm not likely to meet new people through show season because it's almost over and I'm still semi-grounded because of stupid stuff. My body just can't keep up with my plans! Maybe I should take up knitting...

Sorry for the book, hope this whole thing wasn't a super boring read.

Horse Massage: Releasing Tension in the Horse at the TMJ and Jaw: The Ma...


Awesome video reference! My gelding, Ivan, has TMJ problems, and this is a great visual reference to teach you or remind you what to do to help alleviate problems your horse may be having in the jaw. Ivan will get tense and sometimes show resistance through the jaw, and bookmarking this video reference will help me to help him!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Reeehhhhmoooohhhnnnnssss!!!!!

When life throws lemons at you, put on your best Asian accent and scream "Faaaaaaackkkk yuuuuuuu Reeeehhhhmooooohhhnnnsssss!!!!"

Haha, cheers, from your resident half-Japanese girl :)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Madeon - Pop Culture (Dance Video)


BADASS!

Milk Testing 101

Borrowed this from a rather useful thread on COTH Forums: http://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/showthread.php?t=140453



Milk Testing 101:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Step #1: Get milk. Not so easy. You must convince mare, once she has sufficient udder, to 'let down.' Think foreplay. Massage, a little baby oil can help, warm wet washcloth... then some poking, like a little baybe nose would do. Next, strip out a bit of milk. First squirt or two goes nowhere, it's not accurate. You need only about 2 good squirts, or way too many itty bitty squirts. Collection container can be a nifty little plastic cup like 
a Nyquil cup, or, (my favorite) a shot glass. Shot glass cleans easier, and somehow, seems more appropriate.

Step #2: Observe. First milk will be like water. You don't even have to waste a strip on this. next will look like Pee. Clear but yellow in color. This is often preceded by a very thick, sticky, clear stuff. Dunno what that is. Won't test, don't bother wasting a strip unless you are *reeeeealy* anxious. I know you're tempted since this is the first sign of 'change' and is sticky... o.k., go ahead, try it. I'm right. 

Next will change to lemonade. That's when you start testing. Next will be lemonadey, but with tiny, tiny flecks of white. closer still... Final change will be to cloudy/grey/bluish. If you're brave, taste a drop or two. Early milk will be salty. When she gets close, it will be sweet, or to me, 'rich' like the taste of cream (which I don't think has so much a taste as a 'texture' or aftertaste.) 
Stickyness is worth noting too. Early, early stuff--the clear, thick goo is sticky, but later, when the milk dries on your fingers, if it's sticky and flakes like sugar water drying--you're closer.

Step #3: Testing Equipment and procedures. You may buy the "Mare Foal Predictor Kit" (Jeffers is cheapest I've found, 1-800-Jeffers) which makes you feel like Beakman (luved that show!) and is pretty user friendly, or the Chemetircs "Titrets" (just the name makes me laugh! punch... ) which are also supposedly user friendly. (Haven't ever braved them, so this post only applies to 'strip' tests.) OR, you can build your own kit for about $20 LESS than either of the above by buying Water Hardness test strips. Best brand I've found is "AquaChek" which tests calcium only. A local pool shop was able to order these and have them in 2 days for me. 

EVEN BETTER are Hot Tub strips. Four-or-five-way strips which test calcium, pH and some other stuff that mares really don't care about. I use "Baqua Spa" and "Soft Soak". Both are made for Bromine-Free, Chlorine Free Spas & Hot Tubs. Readily available, cheaper than the Aqua check (which is weird, since they have 4 in 1 tests) AND have the added entertainment value of pH testing. Brand isn't important, what you're looking for is a test that measure Calcium as CaCO3 in Parts Per Million (ppm) from 100-500 at least. As I said, a pH test is bonus fun.

-You also need some type of small (5cc) test tube or larger than 3cc syringe with cap, a 3cc Syringe, a 1cc syringe (insulin syringes are perfect) and, the magic potion: DISTILLED WATER. This is the secret "testing solution" in the commercial kits. The key is it has no inherent minerals, so the test is accurate.

-Ratio for testing is 6 to 1, or 3 to 1/2. For me, all I can ever get early on is 1/2 cc of milk, so I use 3cc of distilled h20 to 1/2 cc of milk. Mix 'em together, WELL in mini-test tube or syringe.

-Dip strip for one second. Do NOT shake off if it's the spa test strips. DO if it's the others. (i.e. follow the directions for the particular strip) 

Step #4 Time, observe and bang head against wall... The calcium only strips show changes in 15 seconds. pH at 30. The mare strips are supposed to be checked at 1 minute, but if you see earlier changes, that's good, and part of how you figure how close you are.

Step #5 Interpreting results: 
Calcium: Less than 100 ppm, you can go 2 days before rechecking unless you notice other, significant changes. Above 100ppm, but less than 200 ppm, check daily, in the evening. Once you hit 200 ppm, you've GOT MILK. 90% of mares will foal within 24-48 hours. Over 500 ppm, camp out in the stall, here we goooooo.... 

On the mare strips, 1-3 squares in a minute, 2 days before next check. A FAST three though, recheck daily. 4, something like 80% chance in 24, 5, within 12 hours. a FAST 4 or 5 and buckle in, we're off... 

pH: Found out by accident when I couldn't get my regular calcium strips how useful this is. You CAN test pH, and it's actually a very reliable and easy indicator! pH will be well over 7 up until you've got Colostrum (over 8.4, the "high" test on the spa strips) When you get colostrum, pH will drop to below 7. The information I found is when it gets below 7, you're within a few hours. This second measure is INVALUABLE test could be helpful for a mare who has a high calcium count for a couple of days. The pH will not drop until just before foaling. She WILL GO within 6-24 hours. 

**adding** the pH is a DRAMATIC change. All the strips I've used have been 'fuschia'' color at the high end, and yellow at the low. When the milk has changed, it stays VERY yellow. BUTTER yellow. Below 6.8, off the charts low. I know it's exciting when it is peachy, and that means things *are* changing... but you still could have a day or two to go--for me it means testing at least every 8-10 hrs. once I see it start to drop. 

Finally, it's really, really obvious in the test tube with the water what you've got. After doing this a few dozen times, I've noticed the milk that is real MILK, i.e., close, stays in suspension. With just half-a cc in the tube, the entire sample looks cloudy, like you put water in a not-rinsed-milk-glass. It STAYS this way. Earlier samples settle and need to be reshook. In the end, all the evidence leading up to dipping the strip tells me my answer, I just like the empirical evidence to justify booking out of work.

Obviously you have to take in these results with an eye towards other signs like dialation/elongation of the vulva (we really can't 'see' dilation, but some folks refur to the vulva changes as such,) softening of the tail head etc. And the standard disclaimer about maidens apply: they break all the rules, so don't RELY on any signs at all.

Thursday, September 1, 2011