The Happy Horse headquarters is based out of Old Mill Farm located in the historic and industrial city of Cartersville, Georgia. Old Mill is a beautiful, southern style farm with a rich history of training Thoroughbreds dating back to the early 1950s. Peak racing operations of the farm were under the direction of the well known racehorse trainer, Horatio A. Luro, who was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. While no longer performing thoroughbred racing operations, our farm hosts an abundance of OTTB enthusiast who are either actively competing in the Retired Race Horse Project or have happily adopted an off-the-track thoroughbred for their personal horses. The combination of enthusiasts has resulted in a farm full of athletic young thoroughbreds.With our herd of retired racehorses comes a number of challenges. Surprisingly, behavior isn’t one of them!
The majority of thoroughbreds who are bred for racing will start their racing career as soon as they are born. Yearlings are handled everyday before going to public auction and are trained to be groomed, bathed, and led. Once purchased at auction, yearlings will go onto the race yards where they learn to accept the bridle, surcingle, saddle and girth, and eventually the weight of a rider. At only 18-months old, a Thoroughbred may be completely backed and ready to begin their training. The race yards offer 5-star accommodations for their rising stars while the regimented 6-days-a-week training program aims to maximize the potential of the thoroughbreds in a very short period of time. By the time the horses are 3-years old, racing careers are often determined by track records and ability to compete, with many being retired from the industry after not making ‘the cut’. That’s when our farm comes in, because we are thrilled when they are not ‘too fast’!
In short, these guys are good. I mean really good. They don’t spook, buck, rear, bite, or do any of the fun stuff that might bubble up in a young horse. In the midst of a wet and windy Georgia winter day, I can throw my tack on anyone of our 3-year old TBs and go for a fearless hack around the 180-acre farm. So what challenges am I referring to? Other than keeping shoes on 15+ TBs at a time, we groom these guys daily and despite our best efforts, dread that overwhelming, creeping feeling as we run our hands over their coats and feel those tiny patches of scabs clustered on their backs and rumps. It usually starts small with a few patches here and there, but when we have a fresh-off-the-track thoroughbred, we know we’re in for a full blown bout of rain rot. I’m talking about the type of rain rot that takes no hostages and gets worse before it gets better while taking with it every hair on our poor horse’s rump, leaving behind a sore and unsightly victim. This is partially to blame on the thoroughbreds’ weakened immune system as the let down from racing is cold turkey with little regard for continued nutrition, hoof care, or routine worming; causing a lot of moving stress on their young bodies. The other contributing factor is that the average thoroughbred tends to have thinner, more sensitive skin when compared to other breeds which predispose them for a number of skin conditions.
Our challenging winters here in Georgia combine high levels of moisture with fluctuating temperatures to create the perfect environment for fungal and bacterial skin infections among our sensitive skinned thoroughbreds. Furthermore, we’ve found that treating the various forms of rain rot (also known as Dermatophilosis) is only half the battle, since harsh medicated products can wreck havoc your horse’s skin and coat resulting in damaged tissue, hair loss, and discoloration of hair regrowth. That’s why we have worked to create a start to finish line of products that are strong enough to fight the toughest skin ailment while providing essential nourishment to regenerate skin and tissue for a healthy, glowing coat. One of our favorite, most effective products that we keep on hand is our 100% Cold Pressed Neem Oil. Once we find a couple of bumps on a horse, you can usually hear one of us saying “Where’s the neem oil?!”. So what is neem oil and why do we swear by it at our barn?
Neem oil is a type of vegetable oil extracted from the fruits and seeds of the neem tree (also known as Azadirachta Indica, or “Divine Tree”), a fast-growing evergreen tree that is native to the Indian subcontinent. With a large variety of different uses, neem oil is an extremely versatile substance that carries beneficial medicinal properties and is commonly used to treat fungal and bacterial skin infections, heal minor wounds, and repel insects. All natural 100% cold-pressed neem oil contains high levels of Vitamin E and essential amino acids that penetrate deep into the epidermis where the antibacterial agents are able to kill the bacterium at the source. The anti-inflammatory properties of the oil reduce pain and swelling while the restorative Vitamin E and amino acids work to reverse damage and promote tissue and hair regeneration. While the oil packs a powerful odor that is offensive to some (commonly compared to sulfur and peanut oil) our barn chooses to use neem oil over medicated shampoos because we’ve found it be just as effective with better, healthier results.
We have truly found neem oil to be a miracle worker on our thoroughbreds because it is effective, easy to use, and yields a healthy skin and coat quicker than most harsh medicated products. To use, we’ll either dilute the Neem Oil with warm water in our clog-proof Pro Sprayer to liberally spray the affected area or we’ll mix a few drops of neem oil with a mild shampoo to saturate and soak the scabs. For trouble spots along the pastern or cannon bone that frequently come into contact with wet grass and moisture, you can apply non-diluted neem oil directly onto the legs by rubbing it into the scabs. This works great for treating the area but also as a preventative for future outbreaks. In summary, I don’t require all the products that I use on my horses to be 100% organic-vegan-friendly-unicorn-tears, however, neem oil is truly one of natures hidden gems as it’s a highly effective and affordable solution that works on horses, dogs, and people too! Love it or not, I invite you to try neem oil for yourself and share your experience by connecting with us on Facebook @HappyHorse22.