So, You Want To Buy A Horse -- What Do You Need To Know? Before you go to the great expense of buying a horse, you need to evaluate how good a rider you are, and just how much do you really know about horses and horse care. Make no mistake, you need to really be honest with yourself as this is a huge commitment. Ask yourself what size and age of horse would work best for you as well. Okay you have just fallen in love with a flashy looking equine and now what? What do you want to achieve and is THIS the horse for you? Are you going to be hunting, driving, barrel racing, trail riding or jumping? Are you going to ride at all? You can get horses just to drive. What about this horse's temperament? Quiet, feisty, pushy, amenable, or grumpy? If you aren't comfortable with horses, don't get a pushy horse, as you will find it ruling you and not the other way around. If you are planning to just trail ride, don't buy an eventing horse. If you don't have horse experience then do not buy a young horse and try to train it. Two newbies who don't know much do not make a good mixture. Wait until you have more experience or pay the price for your mistakes -- such as injuries to you and your horse because you did not know what you were doing. Take an experienced friend with you to check out horses. Better they help you assess the horse so you don't wind up over horsed (buying a horse that is way too much for you to handle). Your experienced friend can also ride the horse for you to assess if it would work for you. If the current owner is riding the horse, and they insist you don't need to try the horse -- run, don't walk as far away as you can, and keep looking. What To Watch For Buying A Horse At Auction Buying a horse at an auction is a crap shoot at best, as usually there are reasons why the horse is there in the first place -- reasons you might not want to find out if you take the horse home. Generally, unless you happen to be a horse trainer or Vet, you won't have the chance to do a pre-purchase exam. In that case, all you can do is try to pick up red flags from the horses you are considering. Yes, they can be really subtle and may also be masked thanks to drugs or even the fact the horse was rested prior to you looking at it (which would not show some forms of lameness). Start your inspection from nose to tail for any swelling or warm spots. Run your hand down all the legs (if the horse will let you and if not -- red flag) and compare appearance and the feel of the left and the right. You might find a bowed tendon or a fluid filled knee -- an indication of arthritis. Try flexing the joints if you can. If there is arthritis they won't flex too well Now take a good look at general body condition (good, fair or poor), hair coat (sleek and shiny or dull), foot quality (well trimmed or chipped and cracked), muscle development (well formed or wasted) and attitude (bright and curious, dull and depressed or scared). Many of these things will give you an idea of how well the horse has been cared for and you need to pay close attention to them. They are things that will also tell you how much training the horse has and the amount of exercise it has had. Watch the horse move -- walk, trot and canter. Does he move well or are his ears pinned and tail on a switch? Does the head bob up and down (lameness)? What about his breathing? Does he roar or whistle or wheeze? Make sure you see the horse ridden under saddle to get an idea of his attitude and whether or not he and you will get along. You need to take your riding experience into consideration for this decision. And try not to over-estimate your skills or you will get a horse not suited to your level of expertise. Take your time sizing up a potential purchase at an auction. There is no need to be in a rush. You may miss a few things, but the more horses you inspect, the better you get at it. Basic Horse Nutrition While you might think this is a simple thing to do -- feed your horse -- you'd be surprised at the number of horse owners that don't know about the basics. There is no real rule of thumb for feeding, as each horse's nutritional needs will vary depending on age, weight and level of activity. To start with, your horse naturally uses forage as a primary component of their diets. It is one of the MAJOR necessities for a properly functioning digestive system. When we speak of forage, we usually mean natural pasture and cut hay. Mature horses usually eat about 2 to 2.5 percent of their body weight in feed every day. So a 1,000 pound horse will eat roughly 20 to 25 pounds of feed per day. This means high quality feed, not low quality high fiber feed (which can interfere with proper digestion). In a perfect pasture world, your horse should eat a minimum of 1 percent of his body weight in hay/pasture forage daily. If your horse doesn't do much work, they will do nicely on strictly forage, with no grain thrown in. On the other hand, growing, breeding, or working horses must have supplements in addition to forage -- such as grain or a supplement concentrate. Think of it this way, forages should provide at least one half or more of the total weight of the feed eaten daily for optimum growth and development. Before you can feed a balanced "meal" to your horse, you have to know the nutrient content and quality of your forage. Once you know that, you can figure out the right amounts of each to meet nutrient requirements. The best source, and the least expensive one for summer feed is your pasture. And, in most cases good pasture by itself can provide all the nutritional requirements your horse needs. How do you figure out how much pasture is needed to feed a horse? Here is a rough guideline to help you: (using a weight of 1,000 -- 1,200 pounds) * Mare and foal - 1.75 to 2 acres * Yearlings - 1.5 to 2 acre * Weanlings - 0.5 to 1 acre Winter feed of course would be cut hay, and again, high quality if you can provide it. It should be cut early, be leafy and green in color and as free as possible of dust, moulds, weeds and stubble. This feed is usually rich in protein, minerals and vitamins. Yes, you can use alfalfa hay, but be careful about the higher protein content if you are feeding to young growing horses, as it may contain an excessive amount of calcium in relationship to phosphorus. Too much calcium is not good for growing horses. If you're not sure about hay quality, have it analyzed. Looking For That Perfect (Cheap) Saddle Cheap and saddle honestly do not belong together in the same sentence. Why? Because quite literally, you DO get what you pay for if you buy a cheap saddle. And it's not just that you will be uncomfortable, but it will not make your horse all that happy either, and may actually harm him. Ok you've tried cheap and figured out that isn't the way to go. You've tried expensive and, well, that worked, but holy smokes are the prices ever high. So here are some tips on how to shop for your next saddle. Saddles can be priced from several hundred dollars to more than $8,500, and specialty or antique saddles can easily range into the tens of thousands. You're not going to be spending that kind of money, but you DO want to spend enough to get something decent and something that properly fits your horse. You will want to look for value, fit, fit and fit. Yes that's right, THE most important thing about your saddle is that it fits right. Look at it this way, if you had a too tight or too big pair of underwear on you'd be downright squirmy. Why would you want to saddle you horse with something that doesn't fit? Before you go hunting, know the kind of saddle you want. Don't just have a vague idea of what might work, have in mind a picture of precisely what you want. Then hit the road and start looking -- for the right fit. The saddle must fit you. English or western, jumping or cutting, pleasure or gaming, you must be comfortable in the saddle all the time. You don't want to be thinking about your saddle when you are riding. The right fit makes your saddle seem like a natural extension of your butt. If the saddle doesn't fit your horse, no matter how great the price, it was too much to pay. If you're looking at ready-made saddles, then make sure you have the try it before you buy it option. If they won't let you try it, don't bother -- after all you don't need to ride the horse more than a few minutes to determine fit. And if you put a pad under it and handle it carefully, you won't damage it. If the saddle is custom built, the saddle maker will want measurements of your horse in order to determine the proper tree, skirt lengths, gullet, etc. This is where you will be paying out good money. Emphasis on the good, because what you get will be precisely what you need and what your horse needs. Having said that, the price must fit your budget. And just because your budget is low does not mean you can't find a saddle that has a proper fit. It just means spending the time to find it. Try this: if you are ordering a custom built saddle, tell the saddle maker the highest amount you'll pay, and then let him design to fit the budget. Saddle makers can be very creative and stay within the budget. Or try buying a used saddle that FITS, and is eye-appealing. That is often a better value than a new saddle. Into silver? Then only go with sterling because the silver-plated doodads and other imitations fade like crazy and are a waste of money. Just remember the saddle you want needs to FIT. Period! Arthritis and the Older Horse -- Remedies There are a variety of home remedies or treatments you can use for your senior horse companion if he is having a lot of pain and inflammation with his arthritis. And several of them can be done at the same time. The thing to remember is that your horse is an individual and may not take too kindly to some treatments, and be just fine with others. Treat them accordingly and go with the flow. If his joints are really swollen and painful and the Vet has suggested he be confined for a 24 hour or longer period, either use a box stall with lots of cushy hay or a small turn out pen with lots of soft grass underfoot. If your horse is herd sour and pitches a fit when out of sight of its buddy, put the buddy someplace close. The last thing you want is your sore horse to be fretting and pacing more trying to find his friend. You can try using a flexible ice pack or even a bag of frozen peas tucked in a towel on the swollen joint for 5 minutes. Remove for 15 minutes, repeat 3 times in a row. If you can wrap the joint, then try a standing bandage to help reduce swelling and inflammation. You can also try Neo-Ice Equine bandages or an ice gel that provides deep penetrating action to help reduce edema and inflammation. Since he'll just get as stiff as all get out if left standing in a stall, take him out twice a day and hand walk him. Remove his bandage first then walk for about 15 minutes to get limber. When you take him back to his stall or pen, rewrap the bandage. Every day gradually increase his exercise. You will need to do this about four times a day as he progresses and then also reduce the length of time he is to be confined to about half the original period of time. You'll be doing controlled exercises like hand-walking, ponying at a walk or slow trot or riding at a walk or slow trot. These all depend on what condition your senior is in, so use your discretion. If the swelling comes back, you need to slow down. If there is no swelling an hour after the exercise session(s) you should be able to turn your senior back out into this regular pasture and then slowly get back into an easy exercise program. If however there is swelling, you will need to call your Veterinarian to re-evaluate the situation. Snug The Girth Up Tight -- or Not? Reef really hard on the girth/cinch to tighten that saddle down right tight so it doesn't slip? Not! How about doing one thing at a time first -- like correctly positioning the saddle. Snug yes, tight no. Horses girthed too tightly get cinchy and dislike being saddled. Really, it's like wearing a girdle three sizes too small. How comfortable do you think you would be in that contraption? So if you do tighten it too much, chances are the horse will either reach around and bite you, blow or go down on their knees. So, a snug girth is the ticket, just about right in the horse's book anyhow. Just remember to position the saddle properly and you shouldn't have girth problems. The saddle should rest solidly and be level on the horse's back. Now, having said that, there are so many variations to horses backs, withers and rump and in saddles themselves, that this is sometimes a challenge. Anyhow, assuming you can level the saddle on the horse's back, it should now be on/in the rider's center of balance -- just behind the horse's natural balance point at a standstill. As the horse moves, engaging the hindquarters, his natural balance point (just behind and slightly above his elbow) moves back and under the rider as the horse rounds his back upward. Now horse, saddle and rider should be in balance. Put your saddle pad or blanket over the withers and well forward. Now place the saddle over the withers and forward. Slide the saddle and pad backward until they settle into position, behind the withers and level on the back. This might seem like the saddle position is too far back. It is not. The gullet of the saddle will be somewhat over the withers. The saddle will be level and the back of the saddle won't be pressing into the loin area. The girth will not be immediately behind the elbow, but several inches behind the elbow instead. Hmmm, that sure sounds odd if you were taught otherwise doesn't it? If the saddle is too far forward, well over the withers, and the girth is directly behind the elbow, the movement of the horse's shoulders is restricted. Stride and lateral action are adversely affected. Properly positioned, the saddle will not need to be tightly cinched, because it will stay in position naturally with only a snug cinching. Once the saddle is on board, check the pad or saddle blanket and lift it up into the gullet so that at least two fingers slide easily between the withers and the saddle. If you've properly positioned the saddle, you won't give your horse grief on his withers or loins. You can spot problems from the ground if you just stand back and observe the tacked horse. Sacking Out The best thing you can possibly do for your horse, no matter what their age, is sack them out. This is a little harder with older horses as they have already developed a set response to things that "spook" them -- however, it can be done. Sacking out simply means slowly and calmly introducing the horse to things they regard as scary -- and -- some things you wouldn't think would be scary, but are. The problem with the previous sentence is this: YOU wouldn't think would be scary. We don't think like horses for the most part, and there are times when they just go right off the rails over something they've seen hundreds of times before, didn't blink an eye at and then one day, the "object " didn't look the same and they pitched a hissy. So what do you do? You do your best to try and sack them out as well and as thoroughly as you possibly can. Is sacking out a lot of hard work? It can be, but the rewards are well worth putting in the time. The main premise behind sacking out is, once the horse realizes the object that scares them is harmless, they will overcome their fear. And again, this is a good theory and for the most part does work. There are always exceptions to the rule, particularly if you are in a really tense situation. It's always best to realize that and then you won't get a nasty surprise. Every horse should be sacked out. Period. The thing to remember when doing this is that every horse learns things at a different pace. Some may take several sessions to accept a blanket on their back, and some might wear it on their heads in no time flat. Pace your sacking out to their learning curve. You might to start your sessions by giving your horse some exercise in the round pen, just to capture his attention, or in the alternative, lounge/lunge them. This will also calm them down so you can work with them. When working with your horse make sure he has a halter and lead on, but keep him untied. Why? He needs to know that if things get too scary for him, he can leave. This reduces anxiety. If you tie a horse and introduce scary things, the only thing he learns is he can't get away, not to not be afraid of the object. And chances are when first starting your sack out routine he will get panicky. So, tying up a horse and sacking out are counterproductive. You can start your sack out with the saddle pad. Let your horse smell it first to see what it is before you start tossing it about. If most cases if they see the object first it helps them relax. With some horses, this upsets them. Gage what you need to do by the response of your horse. Smelling all done, then start swinging the saddle pad all over the place and don't worry if they side step at first. It's natural. The pad should be moved around his body without touching the body at first -- work where they can see the movement well. As they get more and more relaxed, move the pad in closer to the body until you can then rub the saddle pad all over them -- necks, legs, belly, back end, chest, and head. Even make sure you throw it on the ground so they get used to things being down there. This may take a few minutes or longer, depends on your horse. When you think he's got this lesson aced, fling the saddle pad onto his back and see what happens. He may step a bit and then stand still. If so, great job! If he takes a fit, start from the beginning. By the way, you need to work with the horse until he does quietly accept the saddle blanket on his back. Don't quit at a point when they are jumpy or they will learn being jumpy gets them out of work and away from scary objects. So aim for the success of the saddle pad on their back and your horse standing quietly. Then you can call it a day as a reward. So, you've done the sacking out with the saddle pad, and your horse is doing well. Next move on to a rope. Like the maxim that all horses should be sacked out, all horses need to be sacked out with a rope. Do not even think about getting on a horse without sacking them out with a rope all over their bodies. And all over in this case, means some places you'd likely not even think about. Such as the head, ears, rump, under the tail (yes, under the tail), around the legs, on the belly, the chest and the withers. As an extension to this lesson, you can also teach them to stand still when you have a rope tied to their feet so if they ever get caught in wire or something else, they will know to stand still. Back to the sacking out with a rope. You do this because most of what you use to ride a horse has something on it that will bump, slap, slide down or get tangled in the legs and feet (long reins, cinches, etc). They need to learn a rope will not harm them to start with, and that anything else under their belly, tangled in their feet (like a saddle that has slipped under them) -- is not a cause for a rodeo. Teach this lesson well, it may save your life and that of your horse. Use a long soft cotton lead rope if you have one -- if not -- use something else. You just want to make sure not to hit the horse. When you first start using this rope, the horse may think you are asking him to move off. Just stop them and quietly start over. Start swinging it all over the place just like you did with the saddle pad. Work away from the body for him to get used to the movement. When he is ok with that, then start to throw it on the ground, over his body, under his legs, between his legs. Go slowly when doing this as some horses just flip out when they feel a rope under their belly or around their legs. You might be at this awhile, but the patience will pay off in the long run. Once again, do not quit this lesson until the horse quietly stands while the rope is all over him. Then call it a successful day with praise and a rest. Once you have accomplished sacking your horse out with the saddle pad and rope you can then move on to the worst thing ever invented in the horse's mind -- plastic. That thing that blows across fields when he is walking along minding his own business. The thing that makes crinkly, scrunching noises that scare the bejeepers out of him. To sack your horse out with a plastic bag, hang one on the end of a buggy whip or longe/lunge whip. Let him look at it then shake it. Be prepared for him to take off. This exercise is likely going to take awhile until he settles enough to look at the bag and stand still while you shake it. Up until the time he did succeed in standing still while you shook the bag, you were working well away from his body. You were flipping the bag on the end of the stick up and down and sideways, making arcs through the air. Once he has decided he can handle standing there while you shake the bag, then bring it closer to him and let the bag lightly touch his back. Just quietly stand for a short bit until he feels comfortable with the bag on his back, then let it touch his belly, sides, legs, rump, withers, head, ears and chest. If you do this long enough, you might even find he will let you put the bag on his head. Again, you may find this will either go fast or take a long time. It will largely depend on your horse and their personality. Always remember when working with horses, work safely, carefully and calmly. Getting upset with the horse when working with them does not help either one of you, and will actually short circuit the learning process. Like children, horses like to learn in a calm, loving, encouraging environment. They did not come with manuals and if they did, they didn't read them. It's your job to train your horse to the best of your ability and make them into calm, quiet and relaxed companions. It's your job to teach them you would never harm them and will always treat them with respect. End each session on a good note, with praise and rest -- rewards for them doing a good job. Lunging/Longeing As with anything that you do with a horse, when you start lunging, start slow, smooth and easy. Think young horse, short attention span, still developing knees and short sessions. (5 to 7 minutes). This isn't to say an older horse would not benefit from lunging, but generally speaking you are starting this with a younger equine. First and foremost, the horse must know what is being asked of them and ultimately, both of you need to be on the same page while "communicating" with each other. So, we start with lunging to open the lines of communication, and create correct movement with your horse. While it may sound bizarre to say working your horse in a circle actually teaches them something besides the fact that they can run in circles -- this actually does work. Why? Because it sets up the pecking order between handler and horse by controlling the horse's space. It also acts to condition your horse no matter what their age. Pecking order communication starts with your horse reading your body language and vice versa. Over time, and with lots of patience, the horse learns to wait for your signals rather than run like a basket case around in tight little circles. Once commands are learned on the ground, it makes them easier for the horse to understand while you are mounted. .And why the circle? Why not a square or some other pattern, like a figure eight? The circle naturally encourages your horse to use his legs correctly, pick up his feet and place them properly. And, once you get to the stage where you bit your horse, it teaches them to give to the bit. Of course you will have already done your prior ground-work with the horse, to teach them to give in the poll and drop their head to pressure. You will have schooled them give to the bit sideways (to the left and right) and down, with the least amount of pressure. Again with horses, the least amount of pressure to get a response is the best (and this definitely depends on the horse) and in small learning increments. Lunge with the right equipment: splint boots with bell boots/wraps, a properly fitted halter, lightweight lunge whip and a lunge line you can work with in comfort. Boots will protect their legs from injury if they happen to have an over reach. What you don't need is for your horse to injure itself and then remember the experience as being a negative one. The lunge whip by the way, is an aid only and not your primary training tool. Try to lunge in a round pen or an enclosed area of some sort with rounded corners, and flat ground. Remember the goal is to keep control of your horse at all times, so don't try this in an area without fencing. When you start your lesson, always start with one direction and stick to it. If you choose to work on the left side, then always hold your lead in the left hand with excess line in your right (and the whip as well, if you choose to use one) and keep all body positions the same. You start to the left, pointing to the left, leading the horse's nose to the left and move your feet, swing your rope end (or lift the whip) towards the horses hip to ask for forward movement. If you horse keeps facing you then guide them forward by swinging your rope/whip toward their shoulder. Ok, success, your horse is moving in a circle to the left. Move with him, staying in the middle of the round pen with sufficient line played out. Keep the whip low, or your rope end low and walk quietly. The thing you want to teach the horse is, that if YOUR feet are moving, his feet need to be moving. Keep your body behind his withers to ensure forward movement. If you get in front of the withers, your horse will stop. If your horse does stop, calmly keep moving and touch the whip or rope end to his hind legs to keep him moving until YOU stop your feet. The major reason this approach will work, and work well, is that this is totally natural behavior for a horse. Watch a herd in the field and see what happens when one stomps its feet and then moves off. The rest follow, they don't stop to ask questions, they just go, and go at the same rate of speed set by the head horse in the pecking order. If you lunge in this manner, your horse will understand your body language almost immediately. First the body language, then add voice to the body language. Lunging in a circle, using the same body language horses use is natural to a horse, and they will easily see your intent. You will of course have spent time with your horse to get them familiar with the lunging routine, and what you are asking of them -- whether it's to go right or left, reverse, give face, give at the poll etc. Once you have the body language aced, add voice commands to match the body language. You've already laid the foundation for them to understand what you are asking with your body, by combining a command with the body language, it's easy for them to make the association between body and voice. You're doing all the pre-preparatory work so that when you do saddle your horse, he can make the transition from ground body language and voice commands to the same language in the saddle. Your body language and position are crucial when communicating with your horse. Once you are in the saddle, if your body language matches what you gave your horse on the ground, you will build confidence in your horse that you are a trustworthy leader and he will listen to you. Yes, it does happen that you get the occasional horse who figures they know better than you do. These ones you really need professional help with. But don't be discouraged, you can still lunge them and teach them the basics. But, we're a little ahead of ourselves here, so back to the round pen to learn how to teach your horse to stop. As simple as it sounds, all you have to do is stop all forms of communication. Quit walking, lower your head, and softly say "Whoa!" If you want a nice stop, quiet and relaxed, you have to give your horse the right language to do that. If they don't stop, keep on walking and try it again. They will get the idea so long as you have the patience. Bottom line is if you want a nice quiet, obedient and great horse, you have to be all those things yourself in addition to a great leader. When lunging, remember to keep your horse on the fence, not into the middle of the circle with you. If he drifts in, point the whip or swing the rope at his shoulder to move him back out. Keep doing that until he does a few nice clean rounds staying in a circle. Stop him and praise and pet him. Once that is almost automatic, then change directions and work on the other side. So if you started on the left, switch to the right and work on that side. What you will be doing on the right side is exactly what you were doing on the left side. And here's some good news, in many instances once the horse has already learned what you want on one side, they may not take as long to train on the other side. Now, having said that, also note that many horses do have a good lead/side and a bad lead/side and it seems they have trouble with "getting it" on that bad side. You will be able to tell if this is the case with your horse once you have had the chance to work with both sides. This isn't something to be discouraged about. It will just require a bit more patience on both your parts to work through it. Once you have mastered the start, walk, and stop, add in the trot and move on to the canter/lope. To trot, raise the whip a couple of feet higher. Raise your shoulders and trot. If the horse doesn't trot, cluck to him. If that does not work, crack the whip. Once in the trot (you and your horse -- bet you didn't think you'd need to be in such good shape did you?), maintain your body and whip position. The horse will keep trotting until you drop your arm/whip position and slow your trot to a walk. For the canter, raise the whip a bit higher than for the trot and kiss to the horse. And yes, you will be running as well. The nice thing about this process, aside from the fact you will be in great shape when the two of you are done, is that the horse will have learned to listen to you and respond to body and voice commands. It's always a very special feeling to see the end results of patient and loving training. Care For Your Older Equine Have an older horse companion in your pasture? Bless their hearts they have such stories they can tell. In terms of being considered a senior horse, if your equine is 20 or older he is a veteran or campaigner. This age by the way would make him about a 60-year- old human. Your horse's ageing process will vary, and will also depend on his breed, workload, conformation, medical history and the care he receives. Each horse is an individual. So how they age will be totally different. The thing you need to pay the most attention to as your horse ages, are his teeth. Horses of course are grazing animals, and their mouths are set up just right for that angled neck hanging down to graze, nip and shear grass off and grind and chew it. Over the years this constant grinding wears the tooth surfaces down, and they fall out. This makes eating difficult for your horse and also means if he can't eat properly, he will start to lose condition. And that brings with it a whole host of other problems. The best thing you can do for your older equine is to have the Vet check his teeth twice a year for any abnormal wear, waves, hooks, or sore gums. Dealing with these things quickly will keep your horse able to eat for a long longer. In anticipation, start him on mashes slowly so if he gets to the point where he needs them on a regular basis, he is already used to them. Between visits, check your horse's mouth and watch for problems with eating, like quidding, head throwing, choking or difficulty drinking. Older horses often have difficulty eating long fiber food. You can solve this problem by switching to shorter cropped hay and/or add high fiber cubes as mash or straight. If you keep on top of dental issues, you can save your horse a lot of grief, and you can save money and problems in the future. Another fairly familiar problem with an aging horse is degenerative joint disease aka arthritis. You most definitely can still work them and in fact should work them to keep them limber, active and alert. You would just need to remember to warm them up gently and thoroughly before doing any work. Many older horses, although they may be sore and stiff, still love to go out and do things. Their minds aren't dead and they are still interested in life. With an older pal you've worked, you will need to cool them down slowly by hand walking them and rubbing them dry with a towel. You might even want to give them a warm bath if you have the facilities. When you get to be that age, a little pampering is a nice thing. Treat the feet and your older horse will still give you many more miles. Work with your farrier and get regular trimming and shoeing to help reduce concussion. If you keep them on pasture, then opting to go barefoot is good for their joints Like humans, older equines do tend to put on weight if they are overfed and under worked. Keep an eye on their feed intake and keep them mobile. If your horse is getting a bit pudgy, adjust his feed. If he's not keeping his weight or is losing it, also adjust your feed to include more protein and oils -- for instance equine fish oil with Omega 3 and corn oil. Also have alfalfa mixed into his diet, but don't over feed this. And the other issue with older horses is colic. Symptoms include: lack of appetite, pawing, kicking at the abdomen, getting up and down, rolling, restlessness, flank watching and/or biting, elevated skin temperature, sweating from pain and a sawhorse stance. As you know, if you suspect colic, call your Veterinarian immediately. Any delays can be fatal. Why do older horses seem to have more difficulties with colic? It's largely due to the fact they may be having difficulty chewing and swallowing and not being able to drink properly. Too much food not washed down can lodge in the throat or cause a blockage elsewhere. Eating Manure -- Natural or Not? Well if you're a youngun eating Mom's fresh manure is normal. It's called coprohagia and it gets the foal's digestive system in working order. The manure provides "starter" bacteria baby needs for the system of fermentation and digestion that allows his intestinal tract to handle solid food. In addition, the environmental bacteria in the manure stimulates the foal's immune system, reducing the chances he'll get sick as he gets older. If it's fresh manure, there is less of a chance the foal will be infected by his dam's parasites, as the eggs need to pass through to maturation in the manure before they're infective. In any event, you will be making sure baby is wormed properly as well. This behavior usually ceases by the time the foal is five months of age. But if you see this happening in adult horses, then alarm bells should be going off in your head. If your adult horse is eating manure it has become a habit -- and a very hard one to break. If it is a habit, then it usually has to do with inappropriate feeding, boredom and/or a lack of exercise. It seems studies have been done that show if a horse is not getting enough roughage he may eat his own manure just for something to do. The same studies say it's extremely important and necessary for a horse to use his lips, picking through grasses and other kinds of forage. If there's not enough forage, he'll start using his lips, picking through and eating manure. Ewwwww! Well, yes indeed. There are other reasons for them eating manure though. If a horse has been ill, and antibiotics have been used, the drugs may have killed off the good bacteria, present in the gut of all horses that help prevent invasion by harmful bacteria or fungi. Eating manure may help the horse replenish the good bacteria. If the eating manure just doesn't do it for you then try feeding probiotics. They're a source of live naturally occurring microorganisms. Bottom line? Always make sure your horse has enough forage to keep him happy, healthy and munching. Horses are grazers and if you have them in a pen all day with nothing to eat in between morning and evening feedings, you're asking for trouble. Also make sure they have something to do and aren't standing all day doing nothing. A horse is a highly social animal and needs the company and companionship of other horses. To Bran Mash Or Not To Bran Mash Bran mashes have traditionally been touted as being good for older horses to help them keep their weight on -- the result of worn and aging teeth. Now, it seems that feeding bran mash may dangerous for your horse's hooves. The long and short of the information is, do not feed bran if your horse has any hoof problems. Oats or other grain brans contain phytate, which is high in phosphorus and will block absorption of calcium in the small intestine, producing a systemic calcium deficiency. Calcium is necessary for the strong bonding of keratinized cells to produce a strong hoof. But, what about the fact you were trying to regulate stool consistency? Try sugar beet pulp instead. If you are using bran to prevent sand colic, use psyllium. Really, to be blunt, you aren't likely going to be feeding your horse so much bran mash that his hooves will be in trouble. Bran mashes are not usually the sole food given, they are used in combination with other forage and pellets. So if you do have hoof problems, what about using Biotin -- a popular hoof growth supplement? Well, this is interesting, it seems research shows that if your horse has a normally functioning GI tract, a biotin supplement isn't needed. And feeding more than the physiological amount of biotin does not improve hoof growth and strength. Ok fine, so what it the point? Point is instead of biotin or mash, feed loose salt, vitamin C, copper and zinc. Be sure your horse has access to loose salt and not just salt blocks. On the other hand, horses fed a premixed feed often get adequate amounts of salt, so you won't need loose salt. Copper and vitamin C are catalysts for forming healthy, connective hoof tissue. Make sure copper and vitamins are provided in adequate amounts. DL-methionine, praline, glycine and glutamic acid are major building blocks for healthy connective tissues. Zinc is required for a healthy hoof. Without it, the hoof suffers parakaratosis, a defect in the maturation of keratin, leaving the hoof soft and structurally weak. Zinc and copper need to be in balance by the way. Bottom line? Don't feed supplements just for the heck of it. Figure out if you really need them in the first place by talking to your Vet. And if you do, only start with one at a time so you can see if it is actually effective. Read The Feed Bag Tag Don't really know what is in your horse feed in the bag? Join the growing crowd of horse people who are confused about what is really in their horse's feed. However, having said that, it's an easy problem to remedy with a bit of knowledge. Learn to read a feed-bag tag. Find out how much protein your horse needs and learn to balance feed protein and forage (out in the pasture) protein. Your equine needs protein for development and repair of muscle, healthy skin, hair, and hooves, for milk production, reproduction and the maintenance of healthy red blood cells and bone. This does not include weight gain or energy. Here's an idea of the minimum daily crude protein requirements: mature idle horses 8.5%, mares in the last 90 days of pregnancy 11%, mares in lactation 14%, foals 18%, weanlings 16%, yearlings 13.5%, two-year-olds 10% and performance horses 10%. The first nutrient listed on a feed-bag tag is crude protein, and you want it to be highly digestible. The best source of protein is soybean meal, because it's rich in lysine and other amino acids, meaning high digestibility. However, soybean meal is expensive, so lower quality feeds use corn gluten meal, linseed meal, brewer's grain and distiller's grain. Hmmm, this means you get what you pay for, so beware. Here's how to figure out if you horse is getting its daily protein requirement. If your horse is eating 5 pounds of 10% crude protein grain and 15 pounds of grass hay tested at 6% crude protein, do the math. Five pounds of grain times 10% equals 50; 15 pounds of hay times 6% equals 90. Add those together and you get 140 units of protein per day. Now add the total weight of the feed per day, 5 pounds and 15 pounds and you get 20 pounds per day. Divide the feed weight into the protein units (20 divided into 140) and you get 7% protein in the horse's diet. Great, but what if your horse needs 10% protein per day? If your horse needs more protein, then your option is to feed a higher protein forage or higher protein grain. The preferred option is feeding a higher crude protein forage. Do not feed more protein than your horse needs. It's a waste of money and feeding excess protein can cause health problems. Horses purge their systems of excessive protein by drinking large amounts of water, which can result in kidney problems. When in doubt about feed, consult your Veterinarian. Picking the Feet Up for the Farrier We've all heard this one before: "No foot, no horse." How true. Farrier care is one of the most important aspects of caring for your horse, and usually not all that easy unfortunately. We've all had them -- the squirmers who snatch their feet away, kickers, wigglers, stompers, lazy leaning horses that are the bane of a farrier's existence. Finding a good farrier is hard enough as it is, so you don't want him to refuse to trim or shoe your horse because your equine is being a total idiot. Farriers are always busy and they don't have the time to train your horse to pick up their feet and stand quietly. That is your job. So, train your horse to do this early and do it well. Yes, it can also be taught to older horses. Just don't ask for too much too soon from them and it will all work out. You need to understand some of the reasons a horse isn't a happy camper about picking up his feet. A horse's feet are used to run to safety. Holding his foot makes him feel vulnerable. It might be they have not even been shown properly how to lift their feet. He might have been handled badly in the past when having his feet picked up, or there may be a physical problem -- like a sore foot. Here's how you start to teach a horse to pick his feet up and stand quietly. You start with small bits at a time, about 5 to 15 minutes twice a day should work. Having said that though, each horse is an individual so pace yourself accordingly. Start in a safe place such as a round pen. Do not work with the horse tied for your safety and his. Start stroking his neck and work slowly down to the shoulder and then the leg. If he's happy, you're doing a good job. If he fidgets, just slowly remove your hand at the spot he started getting jumpy at, and start over again until he settles. Keep doing this until you touch the feet. If you can't during the first session, it doesn't matter. Just end things on a good note and try again another time. This same routine can be used with the back legs. Just remember, slow, easy and calm. Once you get to the feet, try picking one up and holding it for a mere fraction of a second and releasing it before the horse takes it away and praise and reward them. Go on to another leg and so on. When you are first working with them you don't want a long hold, you just want to be able to pick the foot up and put it down right away. This teaches the horse you will not harm him. Keep increasing the hold time over your sessions with the horse. Eventually, and who is in a rush here anyhow, you will have a horse that stands quietly for not only you, but the farrier. Trust is a major issue here, so treat your horse with respect and he will respond. Hot Weather Cool Downs for Your Horse It's over 40 degrees in the baking sun and you can't even walk outside without feeling like you've been drained of every ounce of energy you ever had. If you feel this way, imagine how your horse feels. Pretty much the same. If you are hot, so are they. Horses like weather in the 55-degree range and during the height of summer 55- degree days are fairly rare. What can you do to help cool your horse down? Always have plenty of fresh, clean, cool water on hand. It's hard for them in heat like that to go too long without a drink. It's usually a good idea not to work them too hard in high heat and humidity. It's really punishing for their systems. And if you do work them, be VERY careful about letting them drink when you are done. Only let them have small quantities and space those quantities out over a period of time. If you're working them slow and easy and they are not sweated up and heaving, give him a drink at least every half-hour. You might think this sounds funny, but think about it. Don't put your water bowl out in the full sun. Why? Because the water in it can get so hot it can scald your horses lips. Put the bowl or bucket in the shade. Another cool down tip, your horse loves cool bathes -- not ice cold -- but cool spray from a hose all over their back, legs and chest. Some are fussy about water on their heads, so avoid that area. The first thing a horse usually does after being sprayed is roll in the dirt and make themselves a nice bug screen coating on their coats. The bugs are fierce in hot weather. If you don't have a hose with a spray attachment, then sponge his head and face off with cool water. Even if you have a salt block out, it's not enough for those brutally hot days. You need to have extra salt available. All you need to do is add some table salt to his hay or feed. He will eat what he needs. Most horses sweat about enough to need 4 ounces of salt daily in hot weather. Arthritis and the Older Horse Just because your horse is older does not mean he is ready to retire and not get ridden. Even aging equines need exercise. Not to mention the fact that they get bored doing nothing if they were active in their day. Aging horses still have sharp minds and although the body may not be keeping up as well as it once did -- they appreciate being useful. Being ignored and left alone can lead to depression in a once active horse. With older usually come arthritis, and while it can slow them down, there are exercises to help him regain his condition. Take him out of retirement and give him regular exercise -- not the rodeo style kind, but gentle, tailored to his condition style exercises. The muscles around his joints will benefit by being strengthened and help protect the joints from stress. It's a known fact a conditioned horse usually has significantly thicker and healthier cartilage than an unfit equine. The major reasons to take him out of retirement and give him some pep? Regular exercise works wonders for his attitude, appetite, digestion and general well being. He's been your companion for so long, he deserves the best. Before you start your rejuvenation program, have your hose Vet checked and talk to your farrier. This will give you and idea of any limitations you may need to work with. Proper trimming and shoes are extremely important when starting the older horse on an exercise routine. Preventive shoeing and trimming helps minimize concussive shock, aids flexion and extension, and alleviates lameness/ unevenness of gait. Exercise should always start out slow and easy, a walk for 10 minutes, a slow trot, a walk, some turns and circles, some easy uphill work. When you first take him out, it will have to be for a shorter period of time to get him used to being out again. Over a period of time, based on his response, you can increase the duration of the exercises. Even if you walk and trot him by hand, he will enjoy the change of scenery. Throw in some passive stretching exercises as well. For instance, pick up the affected leg, gently bend and straighten it -- about ten times per joint. Try to do this about 3 -- 4 times a day. This assists cartilage and soft-tissue healing and decreases scar-tissue formation. Speaking of stretching, get your senior to do flexing exercises as well. Encourage them to reach as far as they can to either side. Tempt with treats and get them slowly into the longest neck stretch you can. They will be stiff at first, but with persistence they will loosen up. Check your senior's diet and make sure he's getting the right dietary supplements in the right amounts. Don't assume his feed provides everything he needs. Check this with your Veterinarian. The large-intestinal function changes as your horse gets older, and they need higher-quality protein, alternative forms of roughage and supplemental vitamin B. Commercial senior feed is good for the older horse who cannot maintain weight. Just watch the deadly mixture of not enough exercise and too much rich food or you may wind up with a portly horse. Equine Flu or Allergies? Did you realize your horse could have allergies? It makes sense if you consider the type of environment they live in. If they are not outside (and in some instances even if they are) they can have an allergic reaction to dust, molds, smoke, and other air borne allergens like burning smudges, bug spray and perfumes or medicinal odors. The name for this condition is Allergic Respiratory Disease (ARD) and it shows up with flu-like symptoms rather than sinus or nasal difficulties. The horse's lungs will get inflamed, making them far more susceptible to virus and bacterial infections. This manifests as a recurring problem your horse never quite gets over. You'll also likely see coughing, excessive eye discharge and discover they get tired easily. It seems the most common cause of ARD is several types of mould spores and weeds in hay or straw. This is a seasonal thing, so you may only see the problem popping up in the spring and the summer. Problem is, winter and fall feed come from the same source, so what happens is the horse builds up sensitivity over time and their reactions increase. You can keep them outside in fresh air to try reducing the symptoms. If however your horse needs to be stalled, store your hay in a different location and make sure the airflow in the barn is good. Soak your hay before feeding if there is a dust problem. If your at home solutions aren't helping much, call your Vet and have her take a look at the fluid and cells in the horse's lungs to figure out how severe the allergy is. There's also a new blood test that can tell the Vet precisely what the horse is allergic to. Exciting news, because that means customized treatments for each horse. Other treatments include corticosteroids (cortisone) and bronchodilators. Figuring out what the problem is in the first place is half the battle and once you have that under control, your horse is well on his way to making a good recovery. Equine Parasites Internal parasites -- out of sight, out of mind -- can kill your horse. While they may be out of sight, they are doing extensive damage internally. At a minimum, parasites can steal nutrients from your horse and cause gastrointestinal irritation. The bad news is, uncontrolled they can cause colic, intestinal ruptures and death. The three top things you must provide for your horse for his good health are clean water, high quality feed and a good de-worming program. And this will make you really stop and think. Did you realize that are more than 150 parasites that infest horses? The most common are large stronglyes (aka bloodworms), small stronglyes, ascarids, pinworms, bots, tapeworms, threadworms and lungworms. And think about this, some of these species lay up to 200,000 eggs a day. Those numbers are staggering. The thing with all these parasites is that they may all be present in your horse at the same time, just in different lifecycle stages. So yes, while your horse may look healthy and happy, you don't know what is going on inside. These silent killers can damage tissues and vital organs, major blood vessels, cause obstructions and ulcerations in the digestive tract. Pinworms can really irritate horses and cause intense anal itching. Some signs of infestation may (and may is the operative word, since you won't always see signs of problems externally) include dull, rough coat, weight loss, tail rubbing (hair loss), colic, depression, coughing/nasal discharge, loss of appetite etc. The best thing to do if you see some of these signs is talk to your Veterinarian about getting a fecal examination. Won't I see them worms in the manure? Answer is no, you won't, but the eggs will be visible to the Veterinarian under a microscope. By counting the types and number of eggs, the Vet can then tell you which de-worming program will work. This test in combination with a good worming program will keep your horses protected from the ravages of pests. You can give wormer four ways, oral paste syringe, oral liquid syringe, nasogastric tube and as a feed additive. In many cases horses will not eat something they smell in their feed, so if you can work with the other two methods, you'd accomplish worming effectively. Nasogastric tubes are best left for a Vet to administer wormer. Make sure you give the proper dose and at the proper time -- usually every 6 to 8 weeks. (foals will differ, check your wormer labels) All three methods are effective. The key is that the deworming product must be given in the proper dose (given by weight) at the proper time, and that they actually swallow the wormer. To make sure they do swallow the dose, you can do one of two things -- insert your thumbs into either side of their mouth to make them open their mouth and swallow the paste or liquid they were holding in their mouth, or put your hand under their chin and tip their head up so they must swallow. For the best worming schedule, talk to your Veterinarian. The requirements of the herd may vary if you have all ages and stages of equines from foals to old campaigners.
Horse Language Yes, horses have a language of their own, and unfortunately many of us are not as aware of it as we should be. It's a big mistake to not to know their language, as it could mean problems for us in the long run. Every swivel of the ear(s), hip movement, tail flick and facial expression means something. This is the language horses use to speak to other horses and to us -- if only we would listen. We need to know what OUR body language says to them first before we can understand them. Flapping arms while trying to get the halter on will cause concern. Running at them in a pasture rather than walking up to them calmly can make them think -- predator chasing me. We've all heard about bombproof horses -- sorry, there isn't any such thing. Something, some time will spook your horse -- any horse. In the meantime, keep your body language quiet, slow, easy and calm. If you are calm, this helps your horse remain calm. Horses speak to us with all body parts and that includes the front and back end. Both ends can cause us untold grief if we do not pay attention to what they are saying. For instance, most of us know that when a horse has both ears pinned back flat something is really wrong. Chances are they are either frightened or angry. In most cases it is anger. So watch the front and rear very carefully. Caution is best even if you think the horse may be listening to something behind them or bored. Once you really know your horse well, you will know what the ears are saying. Ears perked up and forward mean they are focusing their attention on something and are either up to some mischief or they are on high alert about something they see, hear or smell. Remind your horse you need his attention, especially if you are riding and the ears whip forward. Brushing and caring for your horse is THE major bonding experience between humans and equines. Don't ever underestimate how powerfully you are communicating to your horse about YOU when you brush him. Healthy Foods for Healthy Horses. Like any animal that you own it is very important that you are providing your horse with all of the nutrition that is necessary for good growth and good development. A horse is something that you invest a great deal of time and energy in, and it is something that is going to be very loving and loyal to you. This means that you have to be sure to provide your horse with not just adequate nutrition, but excellent nutrition. Remember that having a good horse feed is something that is important. You want to research your particular breed of horses and see what kind of diet they will do best on. Another thing to keep in mind is not only what kind of breed of horse you have, but what their lives are like. Are they racing horses, or working horses, or are they just horses that you keep as pets to ride. Do you show them, or are they simply farm horses? These are all important questions to ask, because the answers to these questions will help you figure out what the best diet is to give your horse. After you have determined what your expectations are for your horse, and what kind of lives your horses are going to be leading, you can pick out a great feed that is going to bring out the best in them, while giving them great nutrition. There are many places to buy horse food, so you have to be sure that you have a feed dealer that you can trust that will help you make great decisions about what is best to feed your horse. Then you can be sure that you have a good supply of food. Also, remember that depending on what your horse is doing in his life, the different seasons are going to act differently upon his body. It might become important that you switch his feed or change what you are giving him as far as amounts go, during the different seasons. This is also a question you are going to want to discuss with your vet, and make sure that you are doing what is right for your horse. An important part of both training your horse and bonding with your horse is what you are giving him for snacks. He will come to love the snacks that you give him, as long as they taste good and are good for him. This means that you should keep a great supply of the snacks that you know your horse loves on hand, and be sure to talk to your vet about what is appropriate for your horse as well. The Importance of Choosing a Vet for your Horse No matter what, having a horse means that you are taking on responsibility for another life. You are going to be in charge of how well your horse is living his life, what kind of stall he has, what he eats, and how much exercise he gets. You are also going to be in charge of making sure that if he gets sick, he sees a vet. In essence, you as the horse's owner, are going to be in charge of your horse and his life, and so you had better make sure that you do well when it comes to choosing a vet for your horse. You always want to be sure that your vet is someone that you can trust, and someone that your horse can trust as well. There are many things that you should look for when you are choosing a vet for your horse, here are just a few. First of all, you need to make sure that the vet you are choosing has experience with horses. There are many vets out there, and not all of them have experience with horses, so you have to be sure that the one you are going to choose is going to be able to handle your horse, and is also going to be knowledgeable about horses in general. You are going to want to go out of your way to find a vet that is knowledgeable about horses, rather than suffer through with a close vet that is not. Next, you want to be sure that your vet has overall experience. With horses, it is very important that he knows a lot about the general life and care of horses and other animals. You are going to want to pick a vet or a clinic that has been around for a long time and that has treated all kinds of animals during that time frame. You want to be sure that you are getting someone who is good at what they do, and who knows what they are doing. Lastly, you want to pick a vet that is going to make you feel comfortable and at ease. This is something that is very important because as you know, many of the vets aren't going to go out of their way to make you feel comfortable. This is something that you absolutely need, because you have to be able to feel comfortable with your vet at all times. This is very important. Alternative Medical Care for your Horse If you are looking to keep your horse happy and healthy, you might be looking into several different types of horse care. There are plenty of alternative medical care faculties besides for the normal, run of the mill vet. You might be considering several of these other therapies for your horse, for whatever reason. If you are interested in these, it is usually best to ask your vet what they feel about them, and then be sure to do some research. Usually the alternative medical care is given in cases where the horse's life is not at stake because this is a situation in which the alternative care is helping your horse to have a better life, and not necessarily trying to save its life. There are some situations in which you might want to explore alternative care if your horse has been in an accident and your vet has said the best thing to do is to put the horse down. However, the most popular alternative care is care that you wouldn't normally associate with horse care. Like humans, horses have muscles that work very hard. In recent times, a movement has begun where people have gotten trained in animal massage and acupuncture. The idea is that these things can help human muscles in a variety of ways, so it might be a good idea to try them out on animals as well. You might find that with both of these your horse is generally more happy, because they are often helping your horse with things that your horse might not even know are wrong, and things that you might not be able to tell bug your horse or cause it discomfort. With these therapies, it is important that you contact someone who has been trained in them, and someone who can do this very well, and who has done it for many other animals. This is a relatively new area, so you want to make sure that you are getting the best of the best, and that you aren't running into problems by having someone who is not professional at what they do. In other situations, ones that are more serious, a decision to explore alternative therapies is something that should be made between you and your family and your vet. There are alternative therapies that might help your animal if your vet has said there is no hope because of injury or sickness, but you always have to keep your animal's best interest at heart and make sure that they aren't going to suffer needlessly. Equine Colic and your Horse If you have had a horse, chances are that you have heard of the term equine colic before. You have probably done some research into this term, and you have found that when you are talking about equine colic, you are talking about a sign or symptom, and not really an actual diagnosis. The term colic in horses refers to any different type of abdominal pain, and this is usually the result of some other sickness in your horse. So, if your horse is exhibiting equine colic, it means that something else is wrong with him. Some of the things that might be wrong with your horse are small problems that will pass on their own, but some of them might be more serious complications that could require surgery and, if left untreated, could result in the death of your horse. If you choose to go with surgery you are going to find that it is usually very expensive. This is why colic results in death of so many horses, because sometimes you are not able to know what is wrong with your horse and you don't get it treated. You have to be sure that you recognize the symptoms so that you and your vet can make a good decision regarding whether or not to do surgery. There are several symptoms that are associated with equine colic, and it is important that you and anyone else who is working with your horses recognize these symptoms. Because of the wide variety of things that might be wrong with your horse, it is important that the colic is recognized right away and diagnosed so it can be treated. Some of the symptoms include a horse's reluctance to eat anything, which is going to indicate a problem. If your horse doesn't eat, you need to talk to a vet. Also, if the horse is looking at their side, or even turning or nipping at their sides, it might indicate that they are trying to solve their own problems. If your horse is kicking at their abdomen, or pawing their front legs or stomping their feet, this is also indicating that there is pain in your horse and he doesn't know what to do about it. If your horse looks like he is stretching abnormally while he is trying to go to the bathroom, there is also a problem. If your horse lies down and rolls and thrashes and then does not get up and shake off right away, this is indicating that there is a big problem with your horse. Also, if your horse is sweating after light exercise, curling his lip excessively, has cool extremities, lacks bowel movements, or has a higher pulse or respiratory rate, this is going to indicate that there is something wrong with your horse. See a vet immediately for treatment of colic. When Horses get the Flu: Equine Influenza When it comes right down to it, taking care of your animals isn't always going to prevent them from getting sick. Sometimes animals, no matter how well they are cared for, simply fall ill, and when this happens it is important that you figure out what is wrong and get a vet to treat them right away before it is too late. A horse is going to be susceptible to equine influenza in much the same way that any animal is going to be able to come down with the flu. The equine influenza can pass from horse to horse quite easily, and your horse can get it from other sources, such as food that is contaminated, or other things as well. So, you can't always protect your horse from equine influenza, but there are things that you can do to make sure that they recover. First of all, it is important that you are always paying close attention to your horse and how he is acting. This is the first step in making sure that he doesn't get sick, because you are going to be able to tell the minute that he isn't' feeling well. You should know your horse very well, and you should know his general patterns of behavior and the things that he does. You are going to want to be sure to watch him very closely and to make sure that he continues to do the things that come naturally to him, and that his behavior doesn't change. If he is sluggish, or if he doesn't eat or drink like he usually does, you are going to want to call attention to this. These are things that indicate your horse might be sick, so be sure that you and the other people who care for your horse are paying very close attention to your horse and everything about him. Next, you want to call your vet as soon as you notice that something is wrong with your horse. With horses, sicknesses like equine influenza come on very quickly, and your horse can get very sick very fast, so you have to be sure that you are calling your vet as soon as you think something might be wrong. It is simply the best way to make sure that your horse has every chance to get healthy. A vet is going to be able to treat equine influenza in the best way possible so call him if you suspect anything. Shots and Pills: Vaccinations for your Horse With any animal, there are things that you have to keep in mind. Every animal in our world is here for a purpose, whether it is to work for us, to be a companion for us, or to help us in another way. A horse can be all of these things and more for you, and it is important that you do all you can to make sure you have given your horse the best chance at a happy and healthy life. One of the things that you have to be sure to do for your horse is to make sure that he gets all of the proper vaccinations. It can be difficult to make sure that you are getting your horse to have all of the vaccinations that he needs to be happy and healthy, so there are some things that you can do to make sure that this happens. First of all, when your horse is a colt, you need to make sure that your vet gives you a list of vaccinations that each horse should get in his lifetime. Then, you have to be sure that you are doing all of these on time and that you are keeping track of them so you know what your horse has had, and what he has not had. A problem will arise if you have not had your horse since he was a colt. This means that you are going to have to figure out what vaccinations he has had, and make sure that he gets the ones that he needs as well. If the person you buy your horse from isn't sure what vaccinations he has had, you should talk to your vet about giving your horse a good vaccination cocktail. Most of the vaccinations aren't going to hurt your horse if he has already had them, and they are all going to prevent him from getting all kinds of sicknesses. Therefore, your vet should safely be able to give your horse the shots that he hasn't had, and make sure that he is going to be protected from all kinds of ailments. The best thing that you can do is to make sure your horse has all of the vaccinations that he is going to need to live a healthy life. The easiest way for you to do this is to talk to your vet about what your horse needs, and then follow through with it to make sure that it gets done. The Skinny on Horse Skin Diseases Horses are great animals to have around, and if you have had them for many years you have probably learned a thing or two about what it means to truly allow an animal into your heart. Horses make great companions for many reasons - you will be able to be happy with a horse for a long time, as long as you take care of your horse and are able to see it through many different points in his life. Most of the time, you are going to be doing general horse care, and this is very important because you need to be able to take care of your horse and make sure that he is happy. However, sometimes you are going to have to do extra things to make sure that your horse is living the kind of life that he is meant to live, and this might mean doing extra work as well. Taking care of your horse's skin is very important because there are a few common horse skin diseases that he might get without you even noticing. Most of these don't appear to be very harmful at first, but if you leave them untreated you might find that they are going to be worse for your horse than you could ever imagine. Most of the horse skin diseases are going to become apparent through the way that your horse's skin looks. You should be able to see them most of the time in the form of a rash or flakiness, and it is very important that you pay attention to these things right away because if you don't treat them you could end up with more problems in the long run. The best way to prevent all of the horse skin diseases from damaging your horse is to make sure that he is properly groomed and taken care of. This is something that you need to do each and every day, whether you ride him or not, and it is something that you have to get done even if you aren't going to be available. Make sure that you are getting someone to do this often if you aren't home. Most of the common horse skin diseases are caused by excessive heat or excessive moisture, and by not being properly groomed. That said, the best thing that you can do to prevent them from happening is to take care of your horse in the way that you know is the best way possible. Hot, Hot Summertime: Heat and your Horse When you own horses, you already know that there is a lot of stuff you need to be aware of, and a lot of different conditions that you have to be sure to watch for and to treat for. One of the problems with owning horses is that you can only do so much for them to get them out of the weather. With a dog or a cat, you can take them inside when it is very hot or very cold, but with a horse, you have to make decisions based on what you can do, and usually you only have a barn to take them into. That said, you always have to be aware of how the weather is affecting your animals, and along with other things, you have to be sure that you are watching for heat stress in your horse. Like other animals, horses can be affected by the extremely hot weather. You want to be sure that your horse always has plenty of shade, and plenty of water, but sometimes this isn't enough. If you are living somewhere that it is very hot, you have to be sure to take precautions so that your horse isn't affected by heat stress. There are several things that you can do to make sure that your horse handles the heat as well as he can. No matter what the temperature is, working is going to make a horse hotter because working makes them use all of their muscles and expand more energy. If your horse is working, he is going to get hotter. Therefore, on very hot days, you have to be sure that you are resting your horse. It is fine to turn him out to pasture, because chances are that he won't work any harder than he should. However, you are going to want to avoid riding him or making him do any work on very hot days. Like all other animals, horses need to have fresh and safe water that is there for them at all times. You have to be sure that you are refilling your horse's water, and that it is kept cool. Warm water isn't going to be as good for him as cool water will be. Remember that your horse depends on you to protect him from the heat. Be sure that you have done your research so that you know what the best ways are to keep your horse cool and safe when it is hot outside, and be sure that you follow through with these things so that your horse remains healthy. Baby Horsies: Caring for Fouls Whenever you have little ones that enter your life or the life of your animal, there is going to be some excitement. Caring for fouls is a very important part of raising horses, and it is something that you should know a lot about right form the get go. First of all, you have to make sure that you have tended to the mother before she gives birth. You want to be sure that you are feeding her a food that is going to help her maintain good health, and that you are giving her things that help her to gain the strength as well as the nutrients that she is going to need to be the kind of mother she should be. You are going to want to make sure that you talk to a vet if you have never taken care of a mother horse before, and you are going to be sure that you get a vet's advice if you have never had a foul before. When the time comes for the foul to be born, you want to help as much as you can, but mostly you want to stay out of the way. There are some circumstances where you are going to have to help, which is why it is important that you talk to a vet about what is normal for a horse giving birth and what is not normal, and you need to make sure that you understand how to tell what is normal and not. Then, you want to be there, but at a distance, and you need to be ready to help if the mother needs it. You should have prepared for this by talking to your vet and by having things on hand that you might need. When it comes time for the mother to give birth, if you don't 'need to help you still want to be on hand just in case. Then, you should be able to witness her and foul and watch what happens next. With fouls, as well as with other animals, if at all possible you want to leave the mother and the baby to do the things that they have to do. Animals have been doing this for a long time and it will often go best if you let them alone. If you have to help, try to be as discrete as possible, and be sure to do only the things that you absolutely know how to do. Bones and Muscles: Horse Anatomy When you have a horse, it is very important that you understand several basic parts of horse anatomy to be sure that you are caring for your horse in the best way possible. You can do this through studying on your own or you can talk to your vet to learn the very basics. First of all, you should know that laying down is very hard on your horse. Horse's bodies are not meant to lay down for long periods of time, which is why you need to know that if your horse is laying down, there is something wrong with him. If a horse lays down for any amount of time they are risking damaging their internal organs, so if you see your horse laying down, you have to be sure to call your vet immediately, because it is an emergency. Your horse's legs are the most important part of his body. Not only do they carry all of his weight, and support him while he is sleeping or while he is awake, but they are very thin and are easy to damage. If a horse gets a broken leg, there is going to be a lot of problems because he won't be able to lie down to mend it, which means that the mending process can be quite painful. What this means for you is that you have to be sure to always, always take care of your horse's legs and feet at all times. This is very important as a horse owner. Another thing that you have to be sure to take care of when it comes to your horse's anatomy is his skin and his coat. These are things that you have to focus on because they keep out a lot of problems and keep your horse happy and healthy. This means that you have to be sure to focus on these things. You should be grooming your horse each day, and especially should be grooming him after each time you ride him. You always want to be sure that you are doing the best that you can do to care for all aspects of your horse. It is also important to note that a horse has a very advanced heart and lung system that can allow them to keep running or walking for along time. This doesn't mean that your horse never needs to rest; it simply means that you can exercise your horse more than you are going to be able to exercise yourself! Keep all of these things in mind if you own a horse. Cleanliness and your Horse's Health One of the most important factors in how healthy your horse ends up being is cleanliness. You might not believe it, but it is something that is completely true. In order to have your horse live a very healthy life style, it needs to be able to maintain a life in which it is clean and in which it can have access to all of the things that help it to be happy and healthy. When you have a horse, you are going to want to work hard to make sure he is happy. This means that he needs to have fresh straw and food, as well as fresh water. You also have to be sure that you are providing your horse with plenty of room to run, and plenty of rest when he has been working. All of these things are important, but they are also impacted by one single factor - the cleanliness of the stable and your horse in general. Not having a clean area, and not having a clean life can lead to all kinds of problems within all aspects of your horse. If his food and water are not fresh and clean, he is going to have health problems. If his stall is not clean, he is in danger of developing other illnesses as well. Overall cleanliness is very important if you want your horse to be as happy and healthy as he could be. Remember, there are many factors that you have to consider when you are looking at your horse's cleanliness and his health. The food and water must be clean and fresh, but this does no good if you don't provide them in containers that are also clean. If you are giving your horse clean food and water in dirty containers, he is going to get sick. His stall also must be clean at all times, and this is something that only you can do. Even if you hire someone to clean out your stalls, you have to be sure that the person you have hired is doing the right work. It simply does no good for your horse to be living in dirty quarters. Along with this, you have to be sure that you are grooming and cleaning your horse as often as he needs to be groomed and cleaned. This is something that is more vital than you could possible imagine, because if your horse isn't clean himself, he isn't going to be very happy. Helping Mother and Baby: When your Mare has a Foul Helping a mare through pregnancy can be any extremely rewarding experience, but remember that it is also a lot of hard work. If you've decided to allow your mare to become pregnant, make sure that you can be responsible for this medical condition, as well as an extra life. Breeding horses is a great career if you have the time and effort. First and foremost, mares are pregnant longer than women. In general, a mare will carry her foul for about 11 months. During this time, care and regular checkups from a vet are crucial. You may even want to find a vet specializing in this particular field. As your mare's due date approaches, make sure to keep a watchful eye. Keep your vet's number on hand and call whenever the horse goes into labor so that the vet can arrive to help with the birth. In some cases, a vet may not be needed, but if you are inexperienced, or if the birth takes longer than a half hour, you vet should come to help with the birth. Cleanliness is important. You don't have to hose out the entire barn and use a disinfectant, but make sure that you can clean bedding in a clean stall available for your mare. Also, it is important to tie up the horse's tail so that it doesn't get in the way. Don't tie this too tightly, and leave it free was soon as the birth is over. Of course, after the birth, rinse the mare's hindquarters and remove any soiled bedding, replacing it with fresh bedding. If you see anything unusual going on with the birth, it is best to call you vet right away. Remember, a horse birth will look very different from a human birth, so before you mare goes into labor, make sure that you talk to your vet about what to expect. Afterwards, it is also important to let the mare care for the foul. Instinct will lead a mare to do the proper things for her new baby, and interfering may confuse or anger the horse. Keep your distance, and if you think something may be wrong, call the vet. You new addition to the family should be walking and drinking milk from the mare rather quickly. Remember, this is a very tender time in both horses' lives. Keeping them away from other animals for the first week or two may be a good idea. Afterwards, it is best to talk to your vet about the vaccinations and special food your foul may need to grow strong and healthy. Hormones and Drugs for Stallions Knowing what to give your stallions when it comes to hormones and drugs is very important. You are going to want to know several things before you get started dealing with your stallions and hormones or other drugs, so you should be talking to a vet or another horse expert to see what they have to say about these things before you start. Hormones and other drugs can be very useful, but also unnatural and dangerous, so consider your options carefully. First of all, it is important for you to think about what are good hormones and other drugs, and what are bad. If you are considering using hormones and drugs so that your horses are stronger or faster for racing or working, you should know that this is very dangerous to do and is going to have the potential of making your horse sick or even killing your horse. Also, if you are involved in horse racing, giving your horse drugs of any kind is usually illegal anyway. However, there are good hormones and drugs that you might consider giving your stallion for many different reasons other than simply making them faster and stronger. First, there are hormones and drugs that you can give your horses that will help them to replace something in their body that they aren't getting from what you are feeding them. If you know that your feed has some kind of deficiency, you are going to want to consider giving them hormones or drugs to replace these. Talk to your vet first, to determine what is good for your horse, and if you can, you should change your food before you give your animals drugs to replace things. These types of hormones work in the same way that many supplements for humans work. Also, you might sometimes need to give your stallion's hormones or other drugs in order to keep them healthy. This should always be at the discretion of your vet, and you have to make sure that you understand why your horse is being given these drugs. If your horse has a condition that requires you give him hormones or other drugs on a regular basis, you might want to learn how to do this yourself so that you can do it without a vet trip. Make sure that your vet shows you the proper technique, and be sure that you know exactly what you are doing before you do it. Horses and the West Nile Threat West Nile Virus is a very real danger for most mammals, including humans. If you have a horse, you could be at even more risk, since farm animals are very susceptible to this disease. In most cases, the West Nile virus is transmitted through mosquito bites, and in many cases, this disease is fatal. As your horse's caregiver, it is your responsibility to protect your horse from the West Nile virus and to treat your horse is he or she becomes infected. Remember, owning a horse is a huge responsibility. Horses are just like children--they often cannot care for themselves, so it is your job to provide your horse with everything he or she needs, including treatment when sick. First, consider vaccinating your horse to prevent West Nile virus. The vaccination for this disease was released in 2003 and can really protect horses, especially those at a high risk for contracting West Nile virus. There are some downfalls as well, however, such as the cost. By talking to your vet, you can learn how often your horse will need the shot and how much it will cost. If you have insurance for your horse, these costs may be covered. Killing the mosquitoes found in your neighborhood is also a crucial way to protect your horse from developing West Nile virus. To do this without introducing harmful chemicals into the environment, discourage mosquitoes from breeding in the first place. Remove trash and other places where standing water is a problem, and talk to your vet about natural mosquito repellents. Fans also help to deter the mosquito population, and at the very least, don't turn on lights in the bard or stables after the sun has gone down when possible. Remember to protect yourself as well. Humans can also get the West Nile virus, and so if you take care of your horse, it is crucial to recognize this danger. Wearing long clothing and using bug spray, especially in the evening, can prevent mosquitoes from biting. You can also put up screens in the doors to the barn if the problem is very bad. Mosquitoes are most active dusk to dawn, and so your horse will have less of a chance of being bitten if you stay inside during the evening and night. Although a night ride may be fun, if the mosquito population in your area is high, it is best to stay indoors. If you are unsure about how to prevent mosquito bites and your horse seems to have an abundance of them, talk to you vet. Keeping your horse safe should be a number one priority. Keeping your Horse Safe when Riding One of the best parts about owning a horse is getting to ride it. Horses that are well trained and happy are great to ride, and for the most part horses enjoy being ridden as well. You are going to want to spend lots of time working with your horse to make sure that he understands what you want and how it feels when you ride him. You are also going to want to spend a lot of time just being with your horse, because bonding is a great way to make your rides even smoother. However, while you are riding your horse, there are several things that you are going to want to do to make sure that he stays safe and healthy so that you can continue to ride him for a long time to come. One thing that you have to be sure of when you are riding your horse, is that you are never asking too much of him. You have to be sure that he is always comfortable doing what you ask him to do, and you have to be sure that you are comfortable with what he does. This is very important, because if you are not comfortable you are going to find that both you and your horse might be forced to take chances, and this is not going to be good for either of you. It can be very dangerous, and so you want to be sure that you never have a horse do something he isn't comfortable with. When you are riding your horse, you are going to want to be sure to always only use the things that are sanctioned for use with horses. Be sure that the equipment you are using is strong and isn't going to fall apart, and make sure that you are able to attach the saddle and the other pieces to him so that you know they are done correctly and aren't going to hurt him at all. The last thing that you need to do when you are riding your horse to make sure that he stays safe is to always be careful where you are going, and to always watch the terrain to make sure that you aren't doing anything that might be dangerous for your horse. You always want to be sure you aren't leading your horse somewhere that he could hurt himself. Packing on the Pounds: Healthy Horse Weight There are many things that you have to be concerned with when you are raising animals. In general, animals should always follow certain paths and should do certain things, and as an animal owner you have to be sure that you are watching for these things and taking steps to correct things that might be going wrong. You want to be sure that you are doing whatever you can to insure that your animal is being raised healthily, and being raised in a way that makes him into the best animal you can have. A horse is something that you have to pay close attention to, because there are so many things that could go wrong. If you haven't been around horses, you should get some horse books and read up on them because if you don't' know what things to watch out for, you might not be able to tell when something is wrong. A horse's weight is going to be an indication of how healthy they are. There are different breeds of horses, and different sizes as well, but whenever you have a horse at your home, you should find out what their ideal weight is, and then you should make a habit of weighing your horse about once a week or so. If your horse has any change in their weight, you might be looking at some kind of problem. If a horse drops a lot of weight in a week, it is going to mean that something is wrong, and you are going to want to seek vet attention right away. With horses, sicknesses can happen very fast, and they can get too ill to save before you even have noticed that anything is wrong. Even a small amount of weight change during a week can indicate a problem before the problem is full blown, so if you are weighing your horse on a regular basis, you'll be able to tell if there is a problem maybe even before you would be able to tell otherwise. If you are able to weight your horse regularly, you are going to have a much better chance of catching anything that goes wrong, and in this way you could actually save your horse's life. It is very important to have a horse scale that you can have in your barn so that you can check your horse's weight periodically. You should weigh him more often if you think there might be a problem. Unfriendly Friends of your Horse: Parasites When you own animals, your main responsibility is to make sure that they are healthy and that their lives are full of joy and happiness, and not sorrow and pain. One of the things that will allow you to do this with any animal is to make sure that you are providing them with a safe and comfortable place that is clean and free of germs to live their lives. With your horse, there is no exception to the rule. It is often hard for horses to get sick if they are properly taken care of, but if you find yourself or your horse with a dirty stall or a living quarters that is not up to snuff, you might find that parasites are abound, and when it comes to your horse, parasites are not good at all. When you have a horse, you know that he is naturally strong, and usually won't have any complaints for you. As long as he has a safe and warm place to live in the cold months, and shelter from the heat in the hot months, and as long as you provide him with food and water that is clean and safe, he'll be able to be your companion and work for you for years and years. Horses can be very loyal and they can be great animals to keep, as long as you do it right. However, if you aren't providing your horse with a clean living space, you are going to find that your horse might have a problem with parasites. This is something that can be very real, and can be very dangerous for your horse. You have to be sure that you aren't giving your horse any chances to get parasites, which is why it is so important to keep your horse's living quarters clean and free of debris. The most common parasites are going to happen when your horse is living in a place that is dirty or not cleaned regularly. These parasites are going to live in the feces of your horse, and if your horse steps in them, he will be able to bring them right back into his body. Also, if your horse's stall is dirty and not taken care of, this is a breeding ground for parasites, and they will have a chance to attack your horse. If your horse gets parasites, you'll need to talk to your vet about the best way to help your horse before they get really sick. White Line Disease Because of the interesting nature that horse's have, they don't get sick as often as other animals. However, because of the way that their bodies work, and the fact that they spend most, if not all of their lives standing, and aren't able to lie down for lengths of time without getting sick, the fact remains clear that their hooves are very important, and most of the common horse diseases have to do with the horses hooves. This is why your horse's shoes are very important, and why the most important part of horse care is making sure their hooves are able to withstand the normal wear and tear of life. One of the most common ailments in a horse's hooves is called white line disease. It attacks the part of the foot where the hoof actually meets the foot, and starts as a simple white line that might not look very serious. However, this white line is actually a deterioration of the hoof itself, and you are going to find that if you don't notice this in time, it will start to eat away at the hoof of your horse, and will cause him great pain. If you still don't catch it and fix the problem, your horse will go lame, and you might be forced to put him down. The actual disease is bacteria that is slowly eating away at your horse's hoofs. The only way to stop it is to apply medicine and make sure that your horse's hooves are filed down to the point where they are no longer affected. If the disease has progressed, you will find that this is even harder to do. One of the best ways to prevent this is the same way that is used to prevent the other common horse diseases, and that is to always make sure your horse is living in a safe, warm, dry and clean area, where they don't have to worry about bacteria. Of course, there are other diseases that are also common in horses, such as colic and other colds and flu that you might find your horse getting. As usual, the best way to care for your horse is to prevent your horse from getting sick in the first place, and the best way that you can do this is to make sure that they are living somewhere that is clean and comfortable, and that you are a diligent owner who takes the time to make sure there are no places bacteria can grow. Ponies Are Adorable Almost any baby is adorable. Okay, there are some that only a mother could love, but then beauty is in the eye of the beholder. How could anyone not fall in love with ponies? They have such a charm, children are attracted to them, children's books are written about them, and horse blankets are made for them. Yes, that's right. There are horse blankets made for ponies! Some ponies do live in the wild and are without the luxury of a warm blanket for the winter. It is unfortunate, for only the strong survive, whereas struggling weaklings in captivity are given a chance to become stronger. These do tend to get pampered and loved and have their warm blankets to help them through their shaky developmental stages. The National Park Service helps to protect the wild ponies. There is a small island near Virginia where the wild ponies are herded across the waters to another island once a year. This is a popular event, and the island is called Chincoteague (pronounced CHIN-ko-teeg). An hour after they are born, ponies have the ability to walk. They may stumble and struggle at first, but they learn fast. The baby is called a foal and isn't considered full-grown until age 5 or 6. Most people who have horses will try to have the mare give birth in their barn, in a stall, and a warm horse blanket is provided for them after the birth. If the mother has trouble with the birth, it is easier to monitor and provide care in a barn. Many people, who think it will be a good idea to give their child a pony, do not realize the special care a horse needs as it grows and develops. It is always good to sit down with your child and make a list of all the things any animal new to the family will need before purchasing. Horses especially will need plenty of room to graze and grow and will need their exercise and good medical care if a problem were to develop. You may want to start with a small horse, such as a mini, if you do not plan to have your child ride a horse. The mini horse comes in a child-sized package! Don't forget the accessories that come with owning the minis. There are horse blankets made just for this size horse. Miniature Horses were created from breeding small horses that were used for work in coal mines to the small Shetland Ponies. The babies were then bred to make even smaller horses. The miniature breed is not actually considered ponies just because of their size. Ponies are 14 hands high, compared to the 8 hand size of a mini. But the baby minis are called ponies until they are grown, just as other horse babies. You shouldn't need as much horse tack for these mini horses because they are not used in the same ways as what is considered normal sized horses. There are places that sell tack just for the smaller breeds. Caring for a Pony During the Winter Most horse owners have started out the same way... loving and caring for ponies. Former pony owners look back on their pony owning years and a distant far away expression comes over their faces. It is nearly impossible for a horse owner not to have a pony story, some good some not so good. For the most parts ponies are tough. They seldom seem to be struck low by the illnesses and maladies that seem to strike their larger equine counterparts. Their toughness is one of the reasons that ponies are so often a good match for children. Pony owners who live in northern climates that keep their ponies outside during the frosty winter months have to do a few things to make sure their ponies stay sound and healthy. Snow can be dangerous. Each time a pony takes a step on the the snow they start to gather snow in the bottom of their hooves. Each time the pony takes a step the snow becomes harder pack until the pony is forced to walk on rounded balls of ice. Not only is walking treacherous on the ice balls, if the pony missteps or slips they can strain or twist their legs, either on of the injuries could create a lameness that can plaque the pony for months. Smearing petroleum jelly on the bottoms of the ponies hooves every couple of days can prevent the snow from gathering on the ponies hooves. Regular dental work is as important to ponies and horses as it is to their human caretakers. If you notice that your pony is suddenly loosing a great deal of weight have your veterinarian take a look at their teeth. If your veterinarian notices any sharp edges on your ponies teeth make sure the teeth are floated. Going into the winter months it is especially important to make sure that your ponies teeth are in good shape. Make sure your pony has plenty of access to good fresh water. If you don't have water heater for your buckets plan on breaking the ice several times a day. Ponies who are kept outside must have access to shelter. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, a simple three sided lean-to facing away from the wind is enough. The most dangerous condition is if the weather is both wet and cold. Although many people tend to take the cold blustery winter months off, preferring to stay inside to riding. That doesn't mean that there is anything wrong with riding during the winter, riding through snowdrifts can be almost as good for conditioning as riding in a deep sand arena. If you choose to work your pony it is important to make sure its dry and free of sweat before you put it out in the field. A heavy dense winter coat can sometimes make this difficult. Some pony owners opt to body clip (remove all the long winter hair). Ponies that have been body clipped can not be turned loose in the elements without some form of protection. Pony owners who decide to keep a body clipped pony outside should use a warm turnout rug to protect the pony from the elements. If you are a pony owner who uses a turnout blanket make sure the blanket is well fitted and clean. Check underneath the blanket for rubbing and chaffing on a daily basis. Horses and Sunburn As humans we are aware of the danger of staying in the sun to long. We know that if we spend to much time out in the sun we run the risk of turning a nice tan in to an ugly sunburn. In addition to being unattractive and painful we are also aware that sunburns can lead to skin cancer. We use all sorts of tricks from sunscreen to light weight covers to prevent are skin from frying. Because they are big and appear to be infallible (a trait that every horse owner knows is a illusion) we often forget about the affect that the sun has on our horses. Horses, just like people, can sunburn. Sunburn is most frequently seen on horses with a light colored hair coat such as Appaloosa's, Lipizzans, Paints, Pintos, Andalusian, and grays. Horse owners who own horses with white noses and a lot of pale skin around the eyes often find themselves treating their equine partners for sunburn. A sudden change in hormones, like horses that have been bred, can cause a horse to develop sunburn. Although dark horses aren't typically irritated by sunburn the sun often bleaches the dark hair. In some cases severe sunburn is believed to lead to some liver damage. Horse owners should also be aware that some medications can also trigger sunburn in horses. Tetracycline is one medication that has been known to cause sunburn in some horses. Equine sunburn looks just like human sunburn. The skin turns an angry shade of pink or a violent red. If the skin is left untreated long enough it starts to chap and crack. Horses that are suffering from severe sunburn will start to blister. Sunburn can cause hair loss. Treating sunburned eyes is fairly simple. All an owner needs to do is purchase a fly mask for their horse. When using a fly mask it is extremely important to make sure that the fly mask is kept clean. Simply use a hose and a sprayer to rinse the dirt and eye gunk from the mask. After rinsing the fly mask hang it in the sun to dry. Some fly masks have an extension that protects the end of the nose from getting sunburned. If you do not own a fly mask that covers your horses nose all you need to do is rub your horses nose with sunscreen that you can purchase at your local drugstore. Some horse owners, especially ones who are interested in showing, try to prevent the sun from damaging their horses coat by keeping them inside during the day time hours when the sun is the most damaging. Other owners prefer to keep their horses covered with a light weight turn out blanket or fly sheet to protect their horses hair coat. One of the reasons some owners prefer a blanketed horse to one kept inside is that they feel that keeping a horse stalled and completely free of sunlight can lead to depression. Equine Dermatophilosis Dermatophilosis is a condition that horses can contract. Dermatophilosis is a condition commonly referred to as rain rot, rain scald, and streptothricosis. Dermatophilosis that appears on the horses lower leg is often called dew poisoning. Although Dermatophilosis can be seen throughout the country it is most common in the southeastern portion of the United States where the weather condition is frequently wet, warm, and humid. Dermatophilosis is most commonly seen in horses mammals such as cattle, sheep, and goats are also commonly affected. Dermatophilosis has also been diagnosed in pigs, dogs, and cats although the condition is not as common. A few rare cases of humans being affected with Dermatophilosis have also been diagnosed. The younger the horse the more likely it is to contractDermatophilosis. Horse owners that have dealt with cases of Dermatophilosis say that their horses had scabs or hive like bumps on that measured approximately one fourth of an inch across, these hives are typically easy to peel or rub off. Although these lesion were most commonly seen covering the horses haunch area it is not uncommon to see the horse's entire body affected by Dermatophilosis. Many horse owners assume that the rain rot is caused by a fungus. Dermatophilus congolensis is interesting because it shares charastics with both fungus's and bacterias. They are wrong. Dermatophilosis is in fact caused by an organism called dermatophilus congolensis. In horses the dermatophilus congolensis works by entering the follicle of the horses hair shaft. Once it is in the horses hair shaft it can be seen in the form of a large hive. When these hives are removed from the skin horse owners can easily see several (literally dozens and dozens) of hairs embedded in each large lump. Because the dermatophilus congolensis damages the hair root removing these hives does not seem to bother or pain the horse in anyway. Once the scabs/hives are removed owners can see that the skin under the hives is generally a pink color and oozing a yellow pus. Horses affected by Dermatophilosis do not seem to be in pain nor do they appear to be embarrassed by their condition. The only time the condition appears to be painful is if the area affected is a covered with a saddle. Owners who have a horse who has signs of Dermatophilosis on their spine should refrain from riding until the condition has cleared. Typically veterinarians do not recommend using any ointments to treat Dermatophilosis because the ointments simply add moisture to the affected areas of skin. One old time method for treating Dermatophilosis is swapping the affected are with used motor oil (for some reason fresh motor oil does not treat the affected area). Most owners like to bath their horses with antibacterial shampoos. Dermatophilosis is contagious. If you have a horse that has been affected try to separated it from its pasture mates. Make sure that you keep its grooming supplies separated from other horses. Do not use leg wraps, saddle blankets, splint boots, and halters on any other horses. If you have to use equipment on other horses make sure you completely disinfect all the equipment before it touches the hide of another horse. Keeping equipment such as leg wraps and blankets dry will help prevent a second outbreak of Dermatophilosis. Because the skin that has been affected with Dermatophilosis is hairless it is prone to sunburn. Rather then swap the bald patches with sunscreen which adds moisture to the skin horse owners that keep their horses outside should use a fly sheet to protect their horse from UV rays. The blanket should be washed on a regular basis to kill the dermatophilus congolensis. Equine Lordosis Equine lordosis, more commonly called swayback is a condition that looks just like it sounds. Instead of a nice straight line from the the withers to the hip a horse with a swayed back has a spine that dips towards the ground. The average horse person looks at horse plagued with a swayed back and automatically jumps to two conclusions. The fist the conclusion the person jumps to is that the horse is a senior citizen, if not completely past their useful years they are close to it. The second conclusion they jump to is that they horse's spine was damaged through years of hard riding with an improper conclusion. I know from personal experience that these misconceptions are not always true. I know this because I ride a young warm blood gelding, Spooner, who has been plagued with a swayed spine since he was a yearling. Although this gelding will be plagued with a swayback for the rest of his life it has in know way affected his working career. He has started a successful career as a show jumper and spends a great deal of his time schooling complicated dressage movements. He is athletic despite his condition and I've never come across a more willing partner. While he was an undergraduate at the University of Kentucky Dr. Patrick Gallagher noticed something interesting about horses who had equine lordosis. Humans and dogs that were diagnosed with lodosis were severely disabled while horses with the same condition where able to be worked and trained, something Spooner has proven to me time and time again. It is estimated that only approximately one percent of the worlds horse population is diagnosed with equine lordosis. Because so few horses suffer from the condition very few researchers are willing to take the time to study it, preferring to spend their time on things like founder and colic. Dr. Gallagher became interested in the condition when he noticed that his father's Saddlebreds seemed to run a higher risk of developing equine lordosis then other breeds. During his graduate studies Dr. Gallhager started to notice that there was a direct correlation between a young horses skeletal structure and the chances of them developing lordosis. Although the dip in the spine was not normally obvious when the foal was born. As the foal grew and developed the back started to sway. The inverted curve of the spine normally stabilized when the foal finished growing. At six years old Spooner's spine is just starting to stabilize (foals from Spooner's family tend to grow taller until they are about six years old and several of them don't completely broaden until they are eight). The next thing Dr. Gallagher looked at was the foals pedigree and genetic make-up. He noticed that certain family trees did have a greater chance of developing lorodisis then others but was unable to isolate the exact gene responsible. Perhaps the most important thing Dr. Gallaghers research proved was something I learned from Spooner. The back does not affect their work habits. Swaybacked broodmares have no trouble carrying a foal to term, while racehorses with lorodisis are not typically as fast as their straight backed counterparts the average performance horse appears to be unhampered by the inverted spine (Spooner has a hitch in one leg but that could be an injury instead of his back). Gallagher and I are in complete agreement that fitting a saddle to the swaybacked horse takes a little thought. I have found that if I use my simple cloth square-cut dressage blanket under a thick barrel racing blanket my saddle not only fits well but I am also able to minimize the amount I am jarred by Spooner's bouncing trot.
InfoBank Intro | Main Page | Usenet Forums | Search The RockSite/The Web