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What Exactly is Cushing’s Disease in Horses?

Disclaimer: I AM NOT A VETERINARIAN.  I am just a Cushing’s horse owner doing research and writing a blog with the information I’ve read. Do not take any information in this blog post as veterinary advice. The content in this post is not intended to diagnose or treat any animal. Please consult with a trusted vet about your horse’s health. Your vet is the only one who can diagnose your horse with Cushing’s Disease.

What causes Cushing’s?

Equine Cushing’s disease is also known as Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID). Horses with PPID have an overproduction of hormones by the pars intermedia, an anatomic region of the pituitary gland. In normal horses, the cells in this portion have very little activity because they are inhibited by dopamine. As the horse ages, the level of dopamine decreases. This means the pars intermedia is no longer inhibited, and the cells there start secreting high levels of hormones. 

Unregulated, these hormones cause excess production of glucocorticoids, which are involved in carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism as well as are anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive. 

 One of the hormones that overproduce in Cushing’s horses is important for stimulating the skin cells to be the proper color, but in excess, it can cause darkened skin and cause the hair to grow at inappropriate times. Another hormone stimulates the production of cortisol, which is important for proper metabolism, resisting stress, and fighting off minor illnesses. Too much cortisol results in a decreased immune response that leaves the horse prone to pneumonia and sinus, tooth, and hoof infections. 

Excess hormones also cause muscle weakness, new fat tissue on the neck, head, rump, and abdomen, and increased fat pads – the combination of which can lead to saggy abdominal muscles and a pot-belly appearance. Increased thirst, resulting in increased urine output, is another common side effect. Laminitis is also common as well. 

Cushing’s primarily is found in horses over the age of 10, though the average age of diagnosis is 19. A study at an equine retirement center found that 14% of the horses there had PPID. Ponies are more likely to be affected than horses, but mares and geldings are equally susceptible. The Morgan horse breed also seems to more commonly get Cushing’s. Some studies theorize that as many as half the population of horses aged 14 and older have Cushing’s.

Cushing's most tell-tale sign is a long and shaggy winter coat that doesn't shed normally
A long, shaggy winter coat is the most recognizable sign of Cushings in horses.

 

What are the signs and symptoms of Cushing’s?

Signs of Cushing’s include increased coat length (which was the first sign that my horse, Glory, had), failure to shed out the winter coat in summer, weight loss, increased drinking and urination, lethargy, increased sweating, and laminitis. Horses with PPID are also more susceptible to infections such as sinusitis, skin infections, and parasites. All Cushing’s horses do not show all of these symptoms. Glory, for example, barely drinks or urinates, to the point where we’ve started feeding electrolytes to encourage her to drink more!

How is Cushing’s treated?

Cushing’s has no cure, but medication and management can relieve the clinical signs and side effects. The most commonly prescribed drug approach is a low-dose Pergolide treatment. Pergolide is given daily for the remainder of the PPID-affected animal’s life and is a dopamine replacement agent that is also used to treat Parkinson’s in humans. Studies of Pergolide show improvement in most areas for the majority of treated horses, but the long term efficacy is unknown.

Another drug recommended for PPID horses is cyproheptadine, which seems to be less effective than Pergolide. Cyproheptadine is an antihistamine used to inhibit the serotonin hormone that stimulates the pituitary gland. It is often used to supplement Pergolide. Studies show that only 25% of horses show a reduction of clinical signs, though cyproheptadine is more likely to show improvement in horses with laminitis than Pergolide.

A third drug is also being used to treat PPID but is currently only being used in Europe and Canada. Trilostane inhibits the release of cortisol from the adrenal gland, working further down the line after the hormones have already been released. This drug has been used in dogs with Cushing’s effectively and found to be fairly effective in horses. A study following horses on Trilostane for one to two years found that 81% of treated horses showed improvement in laminitis, and all horses had reductions in excess thirst, excess urination, and lethargy.

In addition to drug therapies, management changes also are important to keep the PPID horse healthy. Owners should maintain a regular vaccination and deworming program because of the reduced immune response. Sugar and starch can increase the risk of laminitis, so avoiding sugary treats is a must. Pasture grazing should be limited, especially early in the growing season when the pastures have high sugar content, and on fall mornings after an overnight freeze. We use a muzzle from Greenguard and it has greatly improved Glory’s happiness because now she can be out on the grass!

Cushing's can be partially managed with grazing muzzle. Glory is wearing a Greenguard Grazing Muzzle in this photo
A grazing muzzle can limit your horses ingestion of grass. Glory is modeling a Greenguard Grazing Muzzle in this photo.

 

Whether the PPID horse can or cannot have alfalfa hay is disputed. At one time it was thought that Cushing’s horses should absolutely not have alfalfa. I had a discussion with my own veterinarian about whether we could feed the horses alfalfa for the extra protein, and she said that it would be fine because it wasn’t that much higher in sugar than what we were feeding. You should, of course, discuss all dietary concerns with your own vet for your horse’s specific situation! 

Some veterinarians also recommend chromium supplements to improve insulin effectiveness. Vitamin E, C, and zinc can also supplement immune function. These supplements have not been proven to be effective in helping PPID, but they are probably not harmful. 

If left untreated, Cushing’s horses experience chronic bouts of disease, a decline in health and comfort, and reduced quality of life. Correctly managed horses can improve and generally can live a happy, healthy life and continue with many of their normal activities. 

When should I talk to my veterinarian?

The best thing is to catch the signs of Cushing’s early so treatment can start. Make sure to monitor your horse for signs of lethargy, increased drinking, a saggy midsection and sunken back, and changes to skin and coat. Many vets say that by the time most horses develop the long, shaggy coat that is most commonly associated with Cushing’s, the disease is fairly advanced. So look for the other signs and get your vet to check your horse as soon as you suspect a problem. 

Have you ever had a horse with Cushing’s? Tell me about them and what kind of treatment they had in the comments!

Want to help me take care of my senior mare? Visit the shop to see what items I have for sale!

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Buying Art: Originals or Prints?

When purchasing a new piece of art for a room in your home, there are certain things you must consider. First, of course, is the size of the piece of art that you want for the space. Do you have a huge wall that needs to be filled by one piece, or would you rather have several smaller pieces and make a collage wall? What subjects or color schemes do you want? Once you answer these questions, you then have to decide whether you want originals or prints. There are pros and cons to both options! Let’s explore them below.

Originals

Pro #1: You get the piece that the artist actually worked on.

When you buy an original, you get the one-and-only original. With originals, you can see the brushstrokes (or pen strokes, or pencil marks) of the artist. Some mediums, like acrylic or oils, can have a dimension to them and will show the hand of the artist in how they apply the medium to the canvas or paper. When you buy an original, you are not just buying a pretty picture, you are buying the distinct way that the artist uses their chosen medium. 

Pro #2: Originals make a room special.

Original art pieces can take a room and make it into something more. When you buy an original and put it somewhere special, you elevate that space and make it even better. Originals can be an incredible statement in a living room or office, or even your personal room for your art collection. If you have a very special spot to hang art, you may want to consider investing in an original.

A print next to an original. Which is which?

Pro #3: The colors and textures are exactly the way the artist intended them to be.

Modern technology and printers have made it much easier to recreate art as prints. Prints can now be done on specialty papers, metal, canvas, or glass. But even though the technology is much better now than it was in decades past, sometimes there are differences between the original and the print. Colors may be slightly off, and a print can’t capture the texture of an original painting. 

Con #1: Originals can be very expensive.

Original art is an investment, especially for large pieces. Originals can run from the hundreds to the hundreds-of-millions of dollars, depending on the size, medium, and how well established the artist is. 

Con #2: Original art can be difficult to frame or ship, depending on the size.

Depending on the size and media that the art is done on, originals can be difficult to frame or ship, depending on the size. Obviously it’s going to be difficult (and expensive!) to ship a 6-foot-by-8-foot canvas painting across the country, and equally as expensive and difficult to get a frame built for it. 

Texture on the Appaloosa original drawing

Ready to purchase some of my original art? I have many available in my Etsy Shop!

Art Prints

Pro #1: Prints are much cheaper than originals.

Well, for the most part. I’ve seen some printing methods that can make a print almost as much as an original! But most art prints that are not done with high-cost printing methods are much more economical than buying originals. This makes prints a better option if the space you are decorating is less “special” and would benefit from having lower-priced art. For instance, when buying art for a child’s room it may be better to go the cheaper route than to spend the money for originals because children can change interests often.

Pro #2: Easier to frame and ship than originals.

If your chosen artist chooses to print on standard photo sizes, it can be much easier to find a frame and also to ship the print than it would be to ship a large original. I try to keep my prints and my originals to standard photo sizes when possible to make matting and framing easier (all my originals and prints can have frames purchased at any store because I stick to common sizes!). This also makes shipping easier as well, without needing special packaging and also keeping it economical for my customers.

Pro #3: Prints aren’t the only one available.

If you find a painting that you love, but the artist has already sold it to someone else (or they don’t sell their originals), then you can’t purchase the painting. But when the artist offers prints, you still have a chance at owning that image. Unless the artist does limited edition prints and they’re sold out, but we’re being positive here.

The print looks almost as good as the original, but misses some of the texture.

Con #1: Prints sometimes have noticeable differences from the original.

As stated above, the technology used for creating art reproductions has really improved in modern times, to the point that some prints look almost identical to the original. But sometimes there are noticeable differences between the print and the original. This may or may not be a dealbreaker for you though, but some art collectors can tell!

Con #2: Prints may not last as long as original art.

Prints can be more prone to color fading and other damage, depending on the printing method, media, and how they are stored. But originals can hold their color and quality for much longer if they are displayed and handled correctly. 

Ready to purchase some art prints? You can buy prints of my art through my online shop or from my Etsy store!

 

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Motivation Monday – August 3, 2020

Photo of a chestnut colored horse being ridden in a sand arena, with the words Motivation Monday in the lower right corner

Happy new week, everyone! I hope that August has been great so far for all of you. My August started off by vending at a small outdoor event at a local vintage market here in the area. It was a decent weekend, though very hot and we had to pack up a bit early on Saturday because of storms that were blowing in. I made back the money I spent on the booth space, plus a little more, so all-in-all it was a success. 

This week I have a combination of different types of quotes. I hope you enjoy them and that they start your week off on a positive note!

 

Which of these quotes is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

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Dealing With a Mystery Ailment with One Of Our Horses

I’ve been quiet on the blog this week because Raven, my best friend’s horse, has been sick with a mystery ailment. It’s been very stressful and frustrating to deal with, made even more frustrating by the fact that we still don’t know what happened.

We first really noticed something was wrong on Sunday when we were brushing the horses and getting ready to work them. Raven’s lower front leg had some swelling on it and she seemed very dull. She had a fever. We attributed the swelling to stomping on flies and the dullness to it  being so god-awful hot. Raven didn’t get worked on Sunday, just hosed down for the feven. We hitched Glory to the cart instead and let Raven out into the field to eat while we rode around.

Later on, we started realizing that Raven’s “dullness” had been present for a few days. She hadn’t wanted to leave the barn after dinner or breakfast, despite normally rushing out of her stall. At the time we’d also thought this was because of the heat and flies.

By Sunday night, Raven’s back legs were swollen and she had an even higher fever. We made arrangements for the vet to come the next day. Monday was the hottest day we’ve had in PA so far this year, with a high of 97. We had the horses in their stalls all day with fans on them, but Raven’s temperature was still over 104F. The vet came and did an exam, took blood, and then gave her a dose of antibiotics. They were pretty sure we were looking at a tick-borne illness.

We’ve continued with antibiotics and rest for the past five days. The blood test didn’t reveal a tick-borne illness so we still aren’t sure what illness Raven had. She has been responding to the antibiotics and an Iron supplement and is almost back to her normal self at this point. But dealing with this mystery illness in the middle of a heat wave has not been good for productivity. Hopefully by next week I’ll be back on track. Raven has been improving every day. We’ve been monitoring both horses because if Glory starts exhibiting the same symptoms we need to have the vet back out immediately. 

So yeah, that’s only some of the crazy stuff that’s been going on this week. Hope you guys don’t mind the more personal blog post this time. And I hope you all are safe and healthy out there!

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Motivation Monday – July 20, 2020

Photo of a chestnut colored horse being ridden in a sand arena, with the words Motivation Monday in the lower right corner

I wanted to try doing a new series on the blog where I post my favorite quotes each Monday. Today’s post is all about horses, but I hope to put quotes about art, business, and more in the future! I hope you enjoy the following five quotes about horses and horseback riding. I love these sayings!

Photo of a woman standing with a horse, looking at each other. The photo is in silhouette. Text on the photo reads "A stubborn horse walks behind you, an impatient horse walks in front of you, a noble companion walks beside you."

Which of these quotes did you like best? What are some of your favorite quotes? Share them with me in the comments below!

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Five Mistakes Artists Make When Starting Their Career

I have made a lot of mistakes when starting my art career. I’d say that I’m still in the process of really starting my art career! Or, at least, getting it to where I want it to be. Because I’ve been trying to really start my career, I’ve been doing a lot of research about how to do it and have found out there are some mistakes that are pretty common to make when starting an art business! So I wanted to share a list of five common mistakes that artists make when starting their career that I’ve made too. 

Mistake #1: Selling Themselves Short

One of the biggest mistakes that artists make in their career is selling themselves short. I still see artists (especially in the anime and comics community, but it happens elsewhere too) who are selling their art for literal pennies. Some of these artists are hobbyists who aren’t looking to make a living and I think they still shouldn’t be selling their work for so low, but many of these artists are trying to make creativity their career and are making the equivalent of $2 an hour in some cases because they’re selling themselves short! Your skills and your time have worth, and you must take this into account when doing your pricing. MessyEverAfter has a great post about how to price your art, complete with ranges for everyone from the art dabbler to the seasoned artist.

Mistake #2: Not Tracking Finances

I get it, looking at the numbers isn’t fun for most artists. I’m the stereotypical type of artist who hates numbers. I’m still completely intimidated by looking at the money side of things. But the truth is that you MUST look at the money aspect when trying to start a business. And the earlier you start the easier it will be to keep up with. If you’re trying to make a living from your art, you need to know where your expenses are and how much profit you’re actually making so that you know if what you’re doing is working or not! You can find Studio Expense and Income spreadsheet templates online, or if you want something a bit more detailed, I use Wave Accounting to track my income from various sources and my expenses. It’s pretty easy to use and I can see where my money is going and where it’s coming from. I like Wave because I can set up my bank account with it and it will automatically import my transactions, so some of the bookkeeping is done automatically for me, and I just go in and add cash sales, PayPal sales, and double-check the bookkeeping monthly to make sure everything is accurate.

Mistake #3: Not Taking Deposits for Commissions

One of the biggest mistakes that new career artists make is not taking a deposit on commissions. I’ve seen so many artists get burned on doing custom work! If you are going to take commissions, you MUST get a deposit before starting work. I know that seems uncomfortable for some artists! They think about what would happen if they can’t complete the work or if the commission turns out poorly. Deposits are crucial though, for several reasons. First, they weed out the customers who aren’t serious about commissioning you and may otherwise waste your time. Some customers are excited by the thought of commissioning an artist, but they never follow through on the money exchange. Requiring a deposit also ensures that you don’t waste your time and materials on a piece that you’re not going to get reimbursed for. Remember, your time is valuable! If a customer is serious about getting a commission from you, they should be willing to give a deposit.  It pays you for the time you’re going to spend on their art. I require a 50% deposit that is not refundable before I even put pencil to paper and begin a sketch. This ensures that my materials are paid for in case the customer vanishes on me once the piece is done. 

Take a look at my commissions page for an idea of my prices and policies!

Mistake #4: Trying to Sell “What’s Popular”

Another big mistake artists make when starting their career is trying to figure out what’s popular. They then draw that in an attempt to cash in on that subject. I see this in both the “fine art” community and the anime and comics community. In the community of pop-culture convention artists that I’m part of, posts abound that ask “what shows are popular right now?” One of my favorite art YouTubers, Rafi Was Here Studios, talks often about how he was told to paint “beach scenes” when he began because he’s based in Florida and beach scenes are popular there. Now, I’m not saying to never, ever draw or paint what’s popular. However, you should create things that you are passionate about instead! If I create art of snakes because snakes are popular, but I’m not passionate about snakes, then it’s probably going to show in the art and in my interactions with customers about the piece. Your passion for the subject will come across in the finished piece! 

I actually made this mistake back when I was still heavily in the anime art community. I drew a lot of “chibi” characters, some from shows that were popular at the time but that I hadn’t seen. Fans of those shows at my convention tables trying to talk excitedly about the characters and show to me. But I had to admit, sheepishly, that I’d never watched the show and had no idea who the characters were. It was pretty embarrassing and not something I’ll be doing again!

Mistake #5: Using cheap materials

The final mistake that I see a lot of new artists making is cheaping out on their materials. I am absolutely not saying that you must go buy the most expensive materials to be a successful artist! I’m also not saying that expensive materials will make your art better. However, if you’re trying to get collectors to pay a premium price for your art, but you’re purchasing your materials from the Dollar Store, the art isn’t going to hold up. Try to buy the best materials you can if you’re doing traditional media (paint, colored pencil, pastel, etc). Try to get the best hardware and software you can afford if doing digital art. Not only will your art pieces last longer because of light-fastness and acid-free materials, but you’ll save time too! When I first started my horse drawings, I used a mid-range set of beginner colored pencils from the art store. They weren’t spectacular, but they weren’t the cheapest pencils ever. Then I was lucky enough to get a set of Prismacolor Colored Pencils and the amount of time I’ve saved is crazy! Because they have more pigment and better coverage than the cheaper pencils, I can create my pieces faster. So get the best materials that you can to start out with, then upgrade as your income grows. You’ll thank yourself later, and your collectors will appreciate the better materials too!

Which of these artist mistakes have you made? Or have you made some that aren’t on this list? Let me know in the comments below!

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Four Surprising Ways that Horses Changed My Life

Horses are incredible creatures who inspire wonder in those who see them. Horses have the literal ability to change lives, through therapeutic riding programs, outreach to convicts, and to inner-city children. And horses have changed my life in many, many ways over the past seven years.

There is something calming about being near horses. They teach us not only how to listen, but also how to speak. They teach patience, strength, perseverance, and so much more. I can definitively say that horses have completely changed my life. It’s why I’m so passionate about them and try to give back to them by telling their stories and their history. 

I wanted to share with you today a list of 4 surprising ways that horses have changed my life.

Horses changed my life by teaching me how to break big goals into small ones.

I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and knew from a young age that I wanted to be successful as a business owner. Over the years that I’ve been really trying to be able to pay my bills with my art I’ve sometimes lost sight of the little things. Instead of being happy with the sales I did make, I’d get sad and disappointed over not making more sales. Instead of researching to find better ways of marketing myself, I’d lament that I wasn’t becoming an overnight success. And, worst of all, I compared all my perceived shortcomings to those who were living the type of life that I wanted. 

Working with horses has taught me to look at the smaller steps that lead to bigger goals. Before you can canter, you must learn how to trot. And before you can trot, you must learn to walk. The larger goals need to be broken down into smaller steps. Those smaller steps aren’t any less important than where you want to ultimately end up! They are simply the way to get to the destination.

Horses changed my life by teaching me how to be more confident.

Being able to get a thousand-pound prey animal to agree to work with you requires quite a bit of confidence. When I first starting working around horses, I was intimidated. I didn’t know how to communicate with this animal and not get pushed around. I wasn’t confident enough to take charge and be the “herd leader” at first. My horse took advantage of me often back then! 

After a while though, I found the confidence to take charge. I learned that if I believed in myself and was more assertive, I could get the results I wanted. And being confident and asking for what I want didn’t necessarily mean being cruel or “bossy”, but rather just being the leader and letting my team know what is expected of them. 

Horses changed my life by teaching me mindfulness.

Horses take what we give them and reflect it back at us. If you are angry, your horse is going to pick up on that. If you’re afraid, horses will pick up on it and become spooky and afraid themselves. Being around horses, especially doing groundwork and riding, has taught me that I need to be mindful of what I’m feeling .

There is no room for anger or sadness in the saddle. When I go to the barn to spend time with my equine therapist, the rest of the world melts away. Because I know that I must have the right mindset when around my horse, it’s the best way I know to clear my mind. Solutions often come to me at the barn or in the saddle because I am not focusing on the problem. When I detach from the emotion, I can come up with a plan of action.

Horses changed my life by giving me deep, meaningful friendships.

I’ve never been a social butterfly. I’m an introvert who spent most of her childhood inside, reading books, drawing, and playing video games with her older brothers. I have always had very few friends growing up. My social circle usually consists of one or two close friends who I can confide in and who I consider my “best” friends.

But horses have brought so many friends into my life! I now have a group of four other women who are amazing and I’d consider close friends, plus countless other people who aren’t as close but who I’d still consider friends. All of these people were brought into my life because of horses, and for someone who grew up only having a couple of friends at a time, I now know what it’s like to have a group of people to turn to when I need advice or just someone to talk to.

I could literally go on about this forever but I’m going to cut it off there because I know that most people won’t read a blog post that’s too long! What things have horses taught you or brought into your life? Let me know in the comments!

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Birthstone Horses T-shirts Back in Stock on Amazon!

My merch on Amazon was down for a while because of the pandemic going on, which is why I haven’t spoken about it for a few months. The shirtmaker had reduced staff so a lot of the available designs were down for a few months until production could get back to normal. I’ve been doing periodic looks to see when my designs were back up to the public, and this morning they had reappeared! 

At the moment, I only have 10 design slots available on Amazon, which is why all of the Birthstone Horses designs aren’t available. If I make more sales on Amazon, I will unlock more design slots and be able to offer more shirts, so if you see a design that you know a friend will like, please share it with them! You can support an independent artist AND get Prime benefits.

I have the “February” shirt from Amazon and the quality is AMAZING. The print is big, crisp, and colorful and has held up to multiple trips through the wash. The shirt itself is a soft but thick high-quality fabric that feels amazing and isn’t transparent at all. I have a very thorough review of these shirts here on the blog if you’re interested in reading more about them.

Purchase a shirt on Amazon now!