Category Archives: Nutrition

Donkeys DO suffer laminitis and founder. Getting them into the barn is no fun, either…

Don’t let anyone tell you that donkeys don’t suffer laminitis or founder. I’ve herd that falsity over and over.

Well, let me tell you, it isn’t true.  I know this because Norma, my donkey, has laminitis right now.  Very serious stuff.  Nothing to take lightly.


Yup.  Sure, donkeys are not prone to the same leg and foot problems that plague horse.  But, given incorrect foods (too many sweets), donkeys can and do succumb to laminitis and founder.

My curly haired Norma, after the rain...


I didn’t.  Well, maybe I did, indirectly, but I wasn’t there at the time.  You see, five years ago, I left Grass Valley for two years.   I could only take 5 of my horses with me so I needed to temporarily place Norma and the ponies… I knew my neighbor coveted Norma and only Norma.  But since they were a trio, she offered to take all three.  I was thrilled because this is the neighbor that already brought two horses into their 40s and presently had 9 cows in their upper teens.  I knew Sonja would take extra special care of my three.

What I didn’t consider in this fostering was that Sonja loves to feed — especially treats.  Since Sonja’s animals are very large, this ‘need to feed’ was no issue.  I mean, 9 – 2000 lbs cows can put it away, if you know what I mean.  But, my Norma, at that time,  weighed only about 400lbs and was as dainty as a teacup.

Norma became Sonja’s favorite (of course!).  She was brought into a lovely stall at dusk and received the full 4-Star treatment with special love, affection and a bucket of apples/carrots/donkey treats nightly.  Norma became a bit portly and then … suffered laminitis.

It was at that precise laminitis moment that I returned to Grass Valley.  Sonja called me in a panic to bring Norma and the ponies back to the ranch.  Norma was lame and I was flabbergasted.

A donkey, lame?  How could this be?

Sonja told me that the vet told her to quit the sweets and she would be fine…

She came back to me a bit portly. My farrier calls her, "Enorma".


Norma was willing to walk home to the ranch, very tenderly.  She wobbled like the largess donkey she had become and I was a bit frantic.  I had no idea how long this had been going on or if there had been any founder.  Immediately, I called out the vet and his Xray machine.

Luckily, no rotation.  We gave her some Bute, put her in a heavily bedded stall and waited.  Within a week, she was fine.


So, for the last three years, Norma has slimmed a bit (those last 50lbs are hard for a poor donkey to lose!) and she lives in a mostly barren pen that she and the ponies scrounge around, eating anything that dares peep its little green head.

About once a week, I let all three out to romp around the irrigated front lawns and other areas, just to exercise themselves and their little pony/donkey minds.  They love it!  And, for three years, no problems.

I didn't see the signs...


Except, there was a problem today…  I had let them out two days ago and the next morning, Norma was sore.  I actually didn’t connect the dots…  I cleaned out her hoof (felt no heat) and thought she might have been playing too rough with the boys. Since there was no heat and no swelling, I thought it was her shoulder.  It never occurred to me that the grass had gotten to her.

Yes, it had been raining this week and the grass had grown in a powerful, sugary burst.  I should have realized that it was more potent right now.  But still, they weren’t out on the grass for that long…  I missed the ‘green grass = trouble’  idea completely.

Today, she was worse.  So much worse that I knew it wasn’t her shoulder.  Either she had an abscess or laminitis.  Doh.  I felt so stoopid.


OY.  Trying to get Norma to the barn was a nightmare for her and for me.  Poor thing.  She wanted nothing to do with moving towards the barn and everything to do with eating more grass.  It went something like this:

You want me to do what??!

Me:  Norma, we need to go to the barn so I can take care of you.

N:  I’m fine.

Me:  No, you are limping and I need to help you now before it gets worse.

N:  Look.  I’m fine.  (standing upright and square)

Me:  No, you’re faking it.  C’mon.

N:  No.

Me:  Norrrrmaaaa, c’mon to the barn (in my singsongy voice)

N:  Nnnnoo (mocking me).

Me:  C’mon, I’ll give you a treat.

N:  There’s lovely gren grass all around.  Why would I go to the barn, silly human?

Me:  Puleeze.

N:  Uh.  No.

Me: I’m insulted.  I’m hurt (trying to lay the guilt trip on her) and I love you and let Mom help you.

N:  Ha! Nice try!  Nope.

Me:  (pulling like mad)  Come!  NOW!

N:  (digging in her heels)  The fact that you are puuuullling so hard AND YELLING makes me know that coming with you is a bad idea.  NO.

Have you ever tried to move a donkey that didn’t want to move?  Useless effort.


(I’m not making light of this.  I know laminitis is a solemn illness.  But, getting her to the barn was kinda funny…)

So, I had the great idea to let the ponies out and then rattle some grain so they’d follow me to the barn and she would follow them.  As I went to the barn to get the grain, Norma hobbled up, quite well, to where the ponies were eating grass and proceeded to join them.

Seeing her nibble on more green grass, I went berzerk.  NOOOOOOOOOOOO!  I went charging up the hill with my grain spilling everywhere… NOOOOOO.  All three scattered like Mom had just turned into a beast with three heads, which I had…

Both the ponies ran to the barn.  Yay!  I let them in.  Perfect!  Mission accomplished… except, not really.  Norma held fast, back out on the green grass.  She wasn’t falling for it.  (Donkeys ARE smarter than horses in many ways…)

Me:  Lookey, Norman, the boys are in the barn having treats (sometimes you have to lie to a donkey…).

N:  Fine.  I don’t care.  I have green grass.  They are stoopid to fall for your tricks.

Me:  Hmmmmm (me rubbing my forehead)   She’s right…

OK, now what do I do?  I have the ponies in the barn, which I don’t want, and Norma is outside the barn which I don’t want either.  I decided to drive Norma to the barn.  I threw some pellets to the ponies to keep them away from the gate (instead of putting them in the stall right there in front of them… you can see where this is going…).

Gently, I carefully walked behind her.  Since she knew exactly what I wanted the entire time, she sighed deeply, OH ALRIGHT,  and hobbled down to the barn.  However,  silly me, not planning this well, had not left the barn gate open and Norma took a quick veer left and ran/gymped back up the hill.

Sheesh.  I should fire myself.

Now I was really frustrated because I didn’t want her to irritate that foot (or the other one) any more by taking one more step than needed.   So, I gently drove her back to the barn and cornered her at the gateway.  Good idea.  Bad execution.  The ponies had finished the pellets and they were now both at the gate, blocking Norma’s entrance.  HEY, LET US OUT TO EAT GREEN GRASS.

Bad plan.

So, I left Norma to her own devices and muscled my way into the barn (past pony patrol) and put them both in a stall – like I should have in the first place.  When I returned to get Norma, all I could see was her donkey patootey.  Once again, I ran in front of her and drove her into the barn. OH NOW JUST COOL YOUR JETS… I KNOW WHAT YOU WANT.  SHEESH.  STOP ALREADY.

Phew.  She was in!  But, so were the ponies…

After a Keystone Cop kinda shuffle, I got the ponies out and Norma settled.

Getting a donkey to go anywhere she deosn’t want to go is an incredible feat of trickery and bribe.  Even when she loves you.


At this point, we are both already exhausted.  But, I knew Norma needed pain relief, swelling relief (although I saw no swelling and felt no heat) and stress relief.  So, I gave her some apple flavored bute and proceeded to create cushy hoof pads for her night in the barn.

My left over blue foam cushy pad with the outline of her hooves.

You see, I’m fairly familiar with laminitis woes since my mare suffered with pregnancy laminitis during her last quad-mester.  I still had all the tools.  Blue foam, vet wrap and boots.  Unfortunately, all my boots were horse-sized, not the dainty size I needed.  But, I made do.


(This is what my vet had me do whenever my mare got worse and before he could arrive.)

First, I put Norma’s bad foot on the foam and drew a line around it.  I cut it out and vet wrapped the new cushy pad on her foot so it wouldn’t slide (or so I thought).  Next, I made a cut-out of the good foot based on the bad foot (since she wouldn’t put weight on her bad hoof).  I tried to vet wrap that on but she wouldn’t keep her foot up long enough so the application was not very secure.

It was on there but not on well...

Hmmmm.  I decided to keep the good foot wrapped poorly but secured in a boot.  I had no donkey-sized boots so I used the temporary lightweight trail fix boot that I used on Tess.  It is a flat cut-out with velcro tabs that allow you to “wrap” the hoof.  I did this.  It wasn’t pretty but it worked.

I wrapped the other foot, with the pad, in the flat boot. Not pretty but it did the trick.

I gave her some grass hay and left her for a bit.

Go Away! Leave me in peace, woman!

When I came back, the pad on the bad foot had slipped.  So, I Ninja wrapped it again and it seemed better.


I am hoping that some soft bedding, bute and no green grass will help the laminitis subside.

I Ninja wrapped it and went inside to study...

In the meantime, I’ve been scrambling to learn more about feeds/supplements that might help promote and strengthen the system against laminitis, if there is such a thing.  Or, a supplement that helps the circulation or something like that.  People have given me many ideas that I’ve stored in a folder for future use.  Well, the future is here.  I’m going to order something tonight and I will keep you posted.

For now, I’m sitting on pins and needles, waiting for the morning.  I sure hope she is better.  Laminitis is NOTHING to play with.  And, once it occurs, it can always reoccur.  Even in donkeys.


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The Equine Science “Senior Blend” Challenge!

Saturday, May 29th, 2010 | Filed under Nutrition

This morning I received a very interesting phone call… it was from Equine Science.  You see, I had ordered their Senior Blend last week.  It arrived promptly.  And promptly I forgot about it in the trunk of my car.  But that isn’t the point.  The point is that they called me!  They called to ask if I had any questions on their product.  Wow!  Since I hadn’t tried it yet, I had no questions.  But, the call inspired me.  I was so impressed that they bothered to follow up with a tiny order like mine; I decided to go the full gamut and really test this.  And then write about it.

So, this is what I am going to do.  I’m going to use it diligently with my 20 year old Morgan gelding, Aladdin.  He’s the one who barely survived an acute illness (9 weeks in Intensive Care) and he still ingests 50 pills a day of various sorts (see post 2/9/10).  I bought this for him because I had been doing some research on equine herbs and thought this blend had several of what I wanted to try for him (yucca, kelp, flaxseen, ginseng, rosehips, burdock, cleavers, eyebright, gingko, hawthorne, epperming, fennel and slippery elm).

Anyway,  I’m not sure what I hope to achieve.  All I know is that he has good days and mediocre days and I thought I could help with his digestion and energy level.  (Here is a pic of Aladdin today as he does his morning shake-down of the apple tree.  But, since the apple tree is bare, he follows me around until he can shake a treat out of me.  Works like a charm.)

So, this is what I’m going to do.  I’m going to report every week on how I think this is doing for him.  Since I’m not sure what is “not right” about him, it may be tough to know what is better.  But in general terms, if this makes him brighter and healthier, I’ll let you know.

In an effort to be accurate, I took both of these lame photos of Aladdin today, the day before we start.

As you can see, he is a muddy mess.  (I don’t think the herbs will help with that.)  But here he is, basking in the morning sun.   Generally, he looks like this, or cleaner.

In conclusion, Bravo to Equine Science!  I am already impressed with their Customer Service.  And, the 4-color brochure they sent along is also very nice.  They carry many herbal blends.  I find it quite fascinating.

So, here goes the Equine Science Senior Blend Challenge.  I hope I can tout not only their Customer Service.  I hope that when we are done, their product stands up to their first impression.  And, that first impression was a good one.

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