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Journey Back to Health by Diane Ludeking

Journey Back to Health by Diane Ludeking

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Published by Diane Ludeking
Journey Back to Health
By Diane Ludeking 07/04/10

This story begins seventeen years ago on a horse breeding and training farm in Dane County. I was sixteen and worked at this farm to save for college and gain experience in the industry, but didn’t know he existed because he lived in a 12’ x 12’ box stall in the brood mare barn across the way. I didn’t go in this barn because my focus was on assisting the trainer with the thirty horses in the main barn. The trainer approached me one day wonderin
Journey Back to Health
By Diane Ludeking 07/04/10

This story begins seventeen years ago on a horse breeding and training farm in Dane County. I was sixteen and worked at this farm to save for college and gain experience in the industry, but didn’t know he existed because he lived in a 12’ x 12’ box stall in the brood mare barn across the way. I didn’t go in this barn because my focus was on assisting the trainer with the thirty horses in the main barn. The trainer approached me one day wonderin

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Published by: Diane Ludeking on Dec 13, 2010
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 Journey Back to Health
By Diane Ludeking07/04/10
 This story begins seventeen years ago on a horse breeding andtraining farm in Dane County. I was sixteen and worked at this farm tosave for college and gain experience in the industry, but didn’t knowhe existed because he lived in a 12’ x 12’ box stall in the brood marebarn across the way. I didn’t go in this barn because my focus was onassisting the trainer with the thirty horses in the main barn. Thetrainer approached me one day wondering if I wanted a year and half old colt from the other barn. The only hitch was that I had to pay forhaving him gelded and registered if I wished to have his purebredArabian papers.I brought him home within the week. I couldn’t get him out of the tiny two-horse bumper pull trailer that transported him safely to hisnew home. I couldn’t even remember how I got him in there. He hadno training and was quite petrified of people in general. I had a lot tolearn from this amazing animal that seemed to be gifted into my life.I went off to college a few years later and left him with myparents on their 24-acre farm where he had all the amenitiesnecessary to keep a horse. Two lush green pastures that he and hispasture-mates where rotated between and all the hay he could eat allwinter long. Even an occasional treat of sweet feed was offered tocomplete his requirements of calories. After college, I moved him to aboarding facility with similar accommodations. He earned the petname “Handsome” because he was. Not just because he was my boyand I was partial, but because he was a roly-poly, shiny pony with themost inquisitive, brilliant eyes. He glowed in the summer sun with hisample belly and dapples from a healthy diet of lush green grass. Or soI thought.At the age of sixteen and as many years on this “ideal” horsediet, the life was inexplicably drained from Handsome until all he hadleft was the desire not to die. He experienced what I can only describeas stress-induced seizures during one of his routine hoof trimmings. Iwas mortified as I watched his convulsing 900-pound frame shortcircuit and come crashing to the ground. Twice. His once adequateframe became emaciated and worst of all, the spark in his eyes hadvanished like an ice cube abandoned on a hot summer sidewalk. Hewas dying and no one knew why. I began a desperate and frustratinghunt for answers as to what was causing my beautiful equinecompanion to disappear before my eyes. I had him tested forCushings, a metabolic disorder that results in all the symptoms he wasexpressing. It came back negative. There was another test forCushings the veterinarian could perform but it was known to induce
 
founder, something he was already struggling with so I declined.I was reading everything I could get my hands on in order to findsome answers that would help save Handsome’s life. I came across abook with concepts that became paramount to his recovery. Itoutlined a lifestyle that emulated a more natural diet for this foraginganimal. The lush green, Midwestern pastures that I thought were soideal for my easy keeper turned out to be quite poisonous indeed. Ineeded to find a place to board him that would not put him out topasture all summer long and that would test their hay for sugar levels.I found a few facilities that had dry lots, but nobody tested their hay.And the dry lots were less than ideal since they were so small anddidn’t encourage movement, a necessity for a foraging animal. Iquickly learned that what was common practice in the horse world,was more suitable to the grazing ruminant animal, not the singlestomached equine. And although horses are built for consuminggrasses due to their enlarged caecum, they are not built for what isreadily available to them in the fertile Midwest. My Handsome haddeveloped a metabolic disorder that sounded a lot like adult-onsetdiabetes.Eating lush green grass all day is likened to a human eatingcookies and ice cream all day. Eventually the body breaks downbecause it is not able to continue on in this manner. Perhaps if Handsome was a super-athlete like Secretariat, he could havemetabolized that diet properly. Being rather sedentary the years I wasin college and less active than I had hoped in the years after,Handsome’s roly-poly, shiny pony status turned out to be theprecursors for a disorder I had never heard of before.I finally found a boarding facility that embraced the concept of atrack system and tested their hay for sugar and protein levels suitablefor a horse. The track system is like a dry lot in the sense that there isno grass, but that is where the similarities end. The tracks at this farmwere approximately 25 feet wide and anywhere from an eighth of amile to a full mile in length. “Horse hay” was spread throughout thetrack to encourage movement and simulate a forager’s lifestyle.I moved his fragile being to one of these track systems and overthe course of a year enlisted the help of several alternative therapies(Reiki, acupuncture, equine massage and certified barefoot trimming)and a veterinarian that prescribed a Cushings medication because hehad all the classic symptoms. After a year of a more natural horselifestyle, I feel confident in saying he is fully recovered. He still takesthe medication for Cushings, maintains a diet that gives him vibrantlife and has a certain mischief about him again. But most important of all, this story has no real ending as his life carries on in a more naturalway and the spark of life has returned to his beautiful, expressive eyes.

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