Monday, December 12, 2022

Ben's Best Day Ever (and some mullings on diet, supplements, and balance pads)

Ben and I went to the Chi Institute on Friday for him to be a demo acupuncture horse again. It was pretty foggy and dark that morning when I arrived at the barn. Ben and his older friend had started cantering around while I was letting the other horses in. And unlike his 25 year old friend, he cannot be trusted to navigate the two gates and barn without banging into things when he is feeling VERY frisky in the morning. So he got haltered and I led him in with a bit of trepidation. But he was a good boy and just BOUNCED next to me, not on me. He loaded well and we arrived shortly before the lab started. This was the second in person session of this set of students in the course, so people were a bit less WOW a horse and more focused on the upcoming points exam. 

Taking in the scene, being so handsome and alert

The TA for Ben's group works in Virginia and works on a lot of thoroughbreds at the track. For some reason it had not occurred to me that on the track TBs would get acupuncture, but of course they do! Anyways, the TA adored Ben and he adored her. He introduced himself to everyone by grabbing the empty trash can from the center of the group for putting needles in later and flinging it back and forth while they were chatting about things that weren't him. Then he proceeded to pick up a stick from the arena ground and fling that around for a bit. Clown. Once he had everyone's attention on him, he was a bit more focused and did some yawning and licking and chewing as they identified points. 

Pleased to be the center of attention and being so tolerant of being poked everywhere

During the break we went out to the sunshine so I could warm up and Ben could graze. I chatted with another owner who said he was "obviously a quality thoroughbred" and asked me if I knew of any for sale like him. JT has gotten a similar comment while warming us up and responded "I wish I knew!"

The shiniest, most handsome

He was a bit out of patience after the break. It is a long 4 hours of standing around and being a patient pony, so I couldn't blame him. He quickly tuned back in though and enjoyed his treatment. The students had decided to have the TA do the treatment so that they could keep reviewing. The TA was really quick with her needles and did a lot of B12 injections rather than electroacupuncture. The idea is that the B12 stays at the point and acts as a bit of an irritant and pressure spot so that the stimulation lasts longer without having to necessarily stand there with the needle in. She did it with 22 gauge needles and he really didn't seem to mind it much. 

This time around he was a "Balanced Wood" for his constitution. The way she described it, wood constitution is more solid, brave, trustworthy. Kind of all the things we've been working on with him, I wonder if we've brought out his inner wood. My friend who is currently taking the course discussed it with me later and we decided he might truly be an earth. I realized when the TA was describing a point by the ear and noting that if the ear was pricked forward or pinned the point shifted that I have NEVER seen him pin his ears. EVER. He does not have an angry, mad, or mean bone in his body. And I guess the wood constitution does have some desire to push back against authority and sometimes respond when a fight is picked. Which Ben DOES NOT. Anyways, just kind of interesting things to think about with him. He definitely has a sense of humor. 

You can barely see the 22g needles down his back here 

He scanned positive to a few of the stomach points and she asked what gut support he was on. Which he's not. And he's in full work and doing lots of travelling, so probably should be. She recommended the probiotic Equitic as a starter. As I sit here and am digging deeper though, he has recently been switched to Nutrena ProForce Fuel which contains a probiotic and prebiotic. So does he really need a separate probiotic? But the grain does not contain the specific strain (Lactobacillus reuteri) that is present in the Equiotic... Oye. The probiotic doesn't break the bank, but is roughly $2/day. 

She also prescribed him Tendon/Ligament and Body Sore because I said the Chi Performance hadn't done much. Actually what I said was I had no idea if it did anything. Because he spent November with JT on her grain and hay and schedule, and hee started receiving the Chi Performance partway through that month. Then we moved back to the GY's and he's been on the Nutrena ProForce Fuel since returning there. There's also better grass- Bahia and winter rye, supplemented with Timothy or orchard hay. At JTs it is Tifton round bales instead of grass and then t&a in the stalls. And the rice bran I was getting shipped from Chewy was back ordered so he got switched to Purina Amplify two weeks ago. THEN I got a free sample of Organic Gut Solutions, a product made in Ocala that had some suspicious claims of detoxifying the gut. But the ingredients did not look to be harmful, and they claimed it decreased anxiety, so what the hey. 

Anyways, said all that to say, no idea if the Chi Performance supplement did or did not make a difference because literally ALL the variables have changed since I started him on it. 

As shown in the above grazing picture, he looks fabulous right now. He still needs to add some trapezius muscle back in that atrophied with our poorly fitting saddle. But other than that, he has a great butt and is super shiny and slick and feeling really good. 

He has been slipping more in the hind end though over the past... unknown time frame, I want to say two months. I've been more diligent about stretching his stifles post-rides now that we're back at the GY's. And I've been breaking out the balance pads more. Mostly because he finds them really challenging in the hind end, making me think they're really good for him lol. And if he is slipping somewhere back there, then strengthening the stabilizing muscles should help, yes? 

Don't mind the sweaty saddle mark... I can't use the pads before I ride because I paint his feet with Farrier's Fix OR copper tox and I can't get that on them. And then he gets hosed post-ride. And I don't want to get them muddy and wet. So sweaty post-ride, pre-hose it is. 

The right hind is the hardest to get him on. He really wants to put that foot on solid ground. It takes a lot of repositioning and then clicking for finally putting weight on it to get him to stand on that one. 

We're only doing a minute on them right now, but I'm hoping to build up to more. It is a really good use of the clicker training because I am far from his head, but trying to let him know he is doing it right and a treat is coming. He's so solid on the not mugging me for treats while I am actively clicker training. He was still definitely mugging me for my snack and trying to ask the students for treats yesterday, but y'know, he is who he is. 

I am hoping that in a month I'll be able to look back and say that his slipping behind is doing much better... so I'm trying to mentally log # of instances per ride to write down on my calendar post-ride. But at the same time trying not to obsess about it. 

Anyways, do ya'll have any input on supplements, grain choices, and probiotics? Do you take a less is more approach or do you feel supplements can be truly beneficial and feed multiple supplements? 


  1. I guess I'd fall into the "less is more" category, I've tried many supplements over the years but nothing really stood out enough to keep using it. I do feed a basic hoof supplement to my two with 4 white feet but that's it.

    1. It's so hard to figure out if things are working, variables are never constant. I fed my other TB a hoof supplement too, but he also had continual improvements in shoeing so it was pretty hard to tell if the supplement was making any changes.

  2. ooh charlie would be so freakin jealous if he could read lol..... this post sounds like his version of heaven!

    anyway, he eats the nutrena pro force fuel too, has been on it since 2016, actually, and i love him on it -- plus alfalfa pellets for that little extra boost (1/2lb with each meal, soaked). charlie's been off any other sort of supplement for a couple years now, tho i always liked platinum performance for general wellness and condition.

    1. Good to know on the proforce fuel! We had a bit of a time finding a high enough fat feed that tractor supply had in stock. I'll probably let Ben's amplify run out now that he's on it.