5 Tips For Addressing Weight Loss In The Horse

Nothing is more worrisome than watching your horse day after day slowly lose weight and not knowing the reason why. Despite making sure they have plenty of access to good quality feed and mineral/vitamin supplements they continue to lose weight. Here are 5 tips that may get you started on the right track to addressing unexpected weight loss in the horse.

Veterinary Evaluation

First and foremost, ALWAYS have your horse evaluated by your veterinarian if they are encountering any kind of health challenge! I cannot stress that enough. There are so many things that may be affecting your horse’s ability to absorb nutrients, from parasites to cancer. Your veterinarian can rule things out for you and make a proper diagnosis if there is a serious medical condition that’s contributing to a weight loss issue in your horse. I’ve seen too many times people take a wait and see attitude to the detriment of the horse.

Intestinal Parasites

A very common reason for horses to lose weight is due to a heavy parasite load. As parasites develop resistance to many of the commercial dewormers available on the market, you may find that your deworming protocols are no longer effective. Your veterinary clinic can do a fecal egg count for you and let you know what kinds of intestinal parasites (if any) your horse may be harboring. From this information, you can then make more targeted decisions as to what deworming protocols might be most effective for your situation.

There are also alternative protocols that are becoming more and more popular among horse caretakers. Many of these are safe to use in conjunction with traditional dewormers and may help increase the effectiveness of your deworming program.

Some of these include:

    • Food-grade diatomaceous earth – it is thought that the diatomaceous earth works similarly as it moves through the animal’s digestive tract as it does when applied externally to insects. The microscopic silica-based diatom fossils that make up the fine powder penetrate the exoskeleton of the insects, causing them to dehydrate and die.
    • Essential oils – Animals in the wild will hunt out and eat certain types of plants not normally in their everyday diet to help clear their bodies of parasites. Certain medicinal-grade essential oils are thought to help rid the body of internal parasites based on the historical use of these plants by both ancient cultures and wild animals. Whether these help by boosting the host’s natural immune system or acting directly against the parasite is unclear. Oils that may help most are – Tarragon, Ocotea, Di-Gize and Longevity.

 

    • Immune System Supplementation – an organism that has a compromised immune system is going to be more susceptible to all types of infection, including that of internal and external parasites. Adding supplements that are high in antioxidants may help your horse’s ability to deal with these attacks naturally. Immune support is very important for maintaining the geriatric horse.

Equine Dentistry

I’ve been surprised at the number of people that I’ve encountered over the years that are unaware that horses need routine dentistry. There are many factors that play into the function of the horse’s jaw and how the horse’s teeth erupt and wear continually. The way a horse moves, position it eats, what it eats, etc. all contribute to whether a horse will develop dental imbalance. If the teeth are out of balance and the horse cannot effectively masticate his food, they are less likely to be able to absorb the necessary nutrients from that food. Older horses may have worn out the life of their teeth or have missing teeth, also contributing to problems with properly processing their food. Having your horse checked by a reputable equine dentist at least once or twice per year may save your horse some grief down the road.

Adding Calories

Your horse’s weight loss may just be a simple matter of math… they are burning more calories than they are taking in. Upping your horse’s hay and/or feed may be necessary, particularly for horses in heavy training or working horses. However, adding a high-quality high-calorie fat source may be all that is necessary to turn the corner. Traditionally people have added corn oil to their horses feed as a top dress. However, since corn oil is not fully digestible, you have to give large quantities for it to be effective and many horses don’t find that much oil on their feed palatable. The most popular oils that are highly digestible, palatable and provide added benefits to skin and hair coat are – flax seed, soybean, and wheat germ oils.

Alternative Forages

When dealing with geriatric horses, the ability to chew becomes increasingly problematic, not to mention the aging digestive tract becomes less efficient and able to pull the necessary nutrients from what they can chew. Adding some more easily chewed and digestible forages may help. You will want to make sure and consult with your veterinarian before changing your horse’s diet though. Certain conditions, like liver and kidney dysfunction, require special dietary consideration.

Choosing a Winning Barrel Racing Futurity Prospect

When selecting a barrel racing futurity prospect, the first thing I consider is the horse’s pedigree. Are the bloodlines in the prospect’s pedigree statistically proven to win in futurity competitions? The sire with the most winning futurity horses is Dash Ta Fame. There are horses sired by Dash Ta Fame that have not won and there are horses not sired by him that have won, but statistically his offspring perform better, and I prefer to stack the odds in my favor. Most people are misinformed to think that an average mare can produce an outstanding foal if bred to an outstanding stallion. I disagree. The truly phenomenal horses, come from outstanding mares, therefore, I heavily weigh the dam’s side of the pedigree. I consider whether she was a great performer herself, or if any of her previous foals have performed well. Both sides of the pedigree should be able to stand on the own merit, and should not be used to compensate each other.

Next, I study the prospect’s conformation, how its body is built. There are specific attributes that better equip barrel horses to perform their jobs. I look for a big, round, dark, “soft,” kind-looking eye. An eye with this appearance signifies intelligence. I want a nice slope to the shoulder, a steep shoulder indicates a short stride without much reach. That being said, the angle of the shoulder and the hip should match, indicating the horse will be able to collect effectively in training. Moving down from the hip to the hocks, I prefer a lower hock set to a higher one. This allows a horse to get underneath itself for the turn, and should be powerful pushing off with its hind end. Moving further down to the pasterns, I look for a well-balanced pastern. Too long and the horse will be more prone to injuries, too short and the horse’s stride will be hampered. The overall legs should not be too finely boned, as this will lend the horse towards more injuries. I also study the back and underline. I prefer a short back and long underline. This indicates speed and agility. I do not consider height too much when selecting a prospect. There is not a perfect size for winning. I have seen pro horses winning that are anywhere between 14- 17 hands. I prefer mine to be between 15.0-15.3, but that is a personal preference. Short horses can be just as fast as the tall horses if they have the conformation to do so. That is what is important. Barrel racing, especially futurities, asks a lot of the horses’ bodies. Selecting a prospect that is naturally better equipped to perform the task will only give you an advantage in the arena, as well as aid in preventing injuries.

There are advantages and disadvantages to selecting your prospect from the race track. The disadvantages could be endless if you do not buy from a reputable trainer. The horse could already have soundness issues. It could be mentally pushed too hard, therefore will be unable to adapt to barrel training. They could be infusing the horse with illegal substances. These instances, unfortunately, do happen at race tracks, but can be avoided if you know where you should be purchasing. If you buy from a reputable trainer, the advantages include that the horse has already been taught to run. Some people see babies out in the pasture with their moms frolicking around and assume horses naturally know how to run. This is not the case. Horses have no idea how to run at the speed needed for competition and must be trained to do so. When they come from the track, you do not have to include that in your barrel training. Another advantage is that they have already been exposed to the newness of hauling and travelling to new places. Track horses are well seasoned, whereas horses that have not been to the track must slowly adjust to the experiences of hauling.

Here’s What You Need To Know About Equine Feed Balancers

In this article I would like to share with you some useful information about equine feed balancers. The fact is that nowadays there are hundreds if not thousands of different types of equine supplements and supplement formulations.

Do a simple search on Google, Amazon or eBay for horse supplements and in a split second you will get thousands of results: garlic supplements, digestive aids, equine joint supplements, calmers and etc. Out of all of these different types of equine supplements that you can buy today there are only a couple that are proven and tested by time and equine feed balancers is something that you should seriously look into if you want your horse to look and feel great.

Before we’ll dive into specifics about why you should be using equine feed balancers let me point out one important fact. You see, there are dozens of equine companies nowadays bombarding us with ads of their latest products and they all say the same thing – that their product is the best. The truth is that there are only a couple of really good equine supplements that can actually help your horse and equine feed balancers is one of them.

So how can equine feed balancers help your horse?

First of all they will improve your horse’s digestive system. You see quite a lot of horses nowadays have very inefficient digestive systems and their nutrient uptake is relatively bad and this is the primary reason why so many horse’s nowadays suffer from nutrient deficiency.

As a result of nutrient deficiency quite a lot of horses tend to lose topline and condition, they struggle to maintain weight and in general they do not look and feel very well. The easiest way to help your horse out is to improve the efficiency of your horse’s digestive system which will lead to an increased nutrient uptake. This is where equine feed balancers come into play. Feed balancers contain pre and pro biotic which increase the amount of friendly bacteria in the horse’s gut. These friendly bacteria allow the horse to breakdown nutrients faster which leads to an improved efficiency of the digestive system.

In addition to this such supplements also help to ensure healthy, scurf free skin and a glossy gleaming coat.

Some balancers formulations might even contain glucosamine. Glucosamine is an active ingredient that quite often is found in equine joint supplements, but some more premium balancers contain this active ingredient, simply because it is proven to strengthen and support horse’s joints.

In short, feed balancers are just like multi-vitamin supplement for humans: not everyone needs them, not everyone takes them, but they are designed to provide all of the essential nutrients to make your horse look and feel great.

Plant Based Horse Minerals

When I was advised to give my horse Nathy a mineral supplement to improve his health and well being, I decided I wanted to take a natural approach. Of all the minerals I found for horses most were of a metallic nature, which was going against the way I want to approach supplementing Nathy.

The word Metallic is enough to turn me off feeding these minerals to my horse, I wanted something more natural. I came across a brand of horse minerals that are plant based and all natural. With 74 plus plant ingredients to keep horse healthy and happy, below are just are few.

Premium Horse Mineral Ingredients.

  • Sea Plants
  • Kelp
  • Age Old Healing Plants and Herbs
  • Colloidal Minerals
  • Biotin
  • Moringa Powder
  • MSM Plant Sulphur
  • Clay Dolomite
  • Clay Calcium Bentonite
  • Diatomite

Natural plant minerals are better for a horses digestive system and also absorb easier than non plant derived minerals. Eating natural, healthy products can improve human well being, so should the same not apply to our animals.Humans usually don’t go well on high starch, or high sugar, which lead to diseases like diabetes. Diabetes can raise the risk of heart attack or stroke by 50%. If we can improve a horse diet with healthy feed and natural supplements, it has to be better than feeding them unhealthy feed filled with sugar and starch.

If humans can get a disease like diabetes, it is crazy to think that a horse would be immuned to this. Horses shouldn’t have too much sugar, it can lead to laminitis and even insulin resistance, much like a person with type 2 diabetes. It’s important for us to give our horses a well balanced diet, so they stay gut healthy and avoid diseases such as insulin resistance and laminitis.

Minerals play an important part in a horses overall health and in my opinion, natural minerals are a better choice to help a horses digestive system and overall well being. Horses can’t tell us how they feel or what is causing them pain and discomfort but they can show us by either physical, emotional or by their overall behaviour. Most bad behaviour by a horse is caused by pain, or if they are uncomfortable, if we don’t listen to them these behaviours will only get worse and could cause harm to the horse owner.

How to Prepare for a Horse Show

With spring in the air and competition season beginning it’s time to get serious about the upcoming show season. Preparation is key, for both you and your horse. So work out what you’re doing and when and work out a schedule to build up to it.

Getting your horse show ready

  • Once you know what shows you’re entering, practise for that event. Try lengthening and shortening stride so you can get the right distance between jumps, and always practise on fences slightly higher than those in the show. This way your horse should be calm and composed on the day. And similarly for dressage – you need to be confident that your horse can comfortably perform everything asked of them, so it’s a good idea to show them at one level lower than the level they perform at home.
  • During the winter months, like humans, horses can lose some fitness. Work on building it up again to get them back to their peak for show season.
  • Get grooming and trimming to make sure your horse looks his best.

Preparing for a show

Think about everything you’ll need for the show, for both you and your horse and make a list. If you’re staying overnight or longer you’ll need bedding, hay and grain for your horse as well as tack, grooming equipment, buckets, first aid equipment, paperwork etc.

With all the focus on getting your horse ready, it can be easy to forget that you need to get yourself ready too. Good quality, well-fitting show clothes will not only be comfortable, but also create a really good impression. If last years are looking a bit tired, consider investing in some new show attire. Mark Todd have a new Italian Collection, which is both stylish and designed with the practicalities of riding in mind, with breathable fabrics and machine washable jackets. It’s a good idea to take a spare set of show clothing if you can, just in case there are any issues (like mud all over your white jodhpurs!) on the day.

Of course the best way to keep your horse looking good for show season is to care for them well all year round. So keep up with medical checks and groom them daily, paying attention to their tail and mane to avoid knots and tangles. Bathe them the night before the show and braid them too, so they’re looking their best on the day.

Keeping Your Horse Happy In the Heat

I don’t know about you but so far Spring in Los Angeles has been pretty hot. It’s been reaching almost 90 degrees (Fahrenheit) in some parts of the city. The heat not only affects us but it affects our horses (and all our other animals).

Here are some simple ways to keep your horse happy and healthy during a heat wave.

  1. Water – Always make sure you have plenty of water available for your horse at all times. Keep an eye out for bugs and mosquitoes. Not unlike us horses are less likely to want to drink if there are a bunch of bugs in the water. It is also safer for them to drink clean water.
  2. Shade – Have a large enough area of shade for your horse to relax in when it starts to get too hot. No one likes to bake in the sun all day.
  3. Electrolytes – Horses lose electrolytes while they sweat. Replenish salt loss during excessive sweating with a suitable electrolyte supplement. They have them available at most places where you get your horse feed.
  4. Ventilation – When possible, leave barn doors and windows open and install misting fans near each stall if you can. Keep a hose near by for a quick splash.
  5. Baths – Bathe your horse! He/She will love you for it. Nothing feels better then having a nice cold bath on a hot day.
  6. Coat Care – Keep your horse’s mane and tail trimmed. Apply a zinc oxide sunscreen to pink noses to help prevent sunburn. There are shampoos available with UV protection added to help protect your horse’s coat. Horses can get sunburn too. It’s not just for us.

These tips will help keep your and your horse happy during the spring heat wave. Not only will they be happy but they will be healthy. Many of times we can’t tell when our animals are suffering, especially during the hotter times of the year. If we keep up with all the items listed below then you are more then likely to have a happy and healthy horse. Horses can suffer from heat stroke just like any human can. Only we can speak up for ourselves. For more information on how to keep your horse happy you can always look to Google. Information is limitless on the internet and it never hurts to do your research when it comes to those you love.

Handling Your Horse’s Hooves Safely

Starting out

Just because a horse refuses to lift its feet for you it does not always mean that it is being disobedient. For a horse to lift its feet, it must be taught how. The best time to train your horse is when it is still a foal, but if you are handling an adult horse do not assume that it knows how to lift its feet, as this training may have been missed. As cleaning hooves is an essential part of horse care, you need to teach your horse how to willingly lift its feet when asked.

Make It Rewarding!

Positive reinforcement, as well as consistent practise, is the most effective method in teaching any new behaviours or developing existing ones. Learning the right timingis essential if you want to teach your horse to pick up their feet easily when asked.

Initially, make sure to give the reward after a few seconds of picking up their feet for the horse to understand the process. After the horse is responding easily, you can make it longer between positive reinforcement actions.

You can choose any sound you want to prompt the foot being picked up as long as that sound does not startle the horse. However, it is best to just pick one sound and then stick with it. For example, you can choose to say “pick it up”, you can snap your fingers, whistle or cluck your tongue. Choose a sound that you can easily create and remember. Make the sound immediately before touching to pick up the foot. The sound draws your horse’s attention as well as allows it to associate the sound to whatever it is doing.

The rewards or positive reinforcement can be anything that your horse likes or enjoys. You can provide food such as horse cookies, carrot chunks, mints, bits of grain, or wisp of hay, though these may cause your horse to fidget if you don’t have the treats with you at some time in the future. You can also scratch its withers, a definite winner with most horses,or pat its neck and praise them.

Safety without Stress

You need to consider your safety and your horse’s happiness when caring for your horse’s feet. Below are some steps so you can care for your horse’s feet effectively, safely as well as stress free for both you and your horse.

1. No surprises – Make sure your horse is aware of your presence. Walk towards your horse in its line of sight and talk to your horse while approaching. Do not position yourself behind your horse since you put yourself at risk of being kicked. Position yourself beside your horse’s shoulder about two feet out. While talking, pet your horse’s neck and slide your hand down from its shoulder to its leg. This allows you to check the tendon area for any issues.

2. Just above your horse’s ankle, with your thumb close to your hand, grasp your horse’s leg at the back and tell it to “pick it up” or use the signal you decided on above. The horse will immediately comply if it’s used to lifting its feet upon your command.

3. If it doesn’t; you can lean into the shoulder with your hip to take the weight off the foot, while squeezing in your thumb and forefinger and asking it to lift its foot until it complies. Always state what you want and reward it when it complies. In time, your horse will lift its foot up himself when you tell it.

4. Move a bit closer and be careful not to move your feet under your horse’s feet. Move your hand gently down to grasp the foot and then flex the ankle slowly. This will allow you to view the sole as well as have complete control over your horse’s leg.

5. As you’re holding the foot of your horse with your one hand, use your other hand to use the hoof pick. A cheap hoof pick is normally just as effective as an expensive one. Make sure the hoof pick is fairly blunt as this reduces the risk of wounding your horse.

6. Insert the point of the pick inside the heel bulb next to the frog and run it down from one side of the frog to the other, from heel to toe in order to remove the caked debris. Gently clean the cleft in the frog’s centre, where a horse with a chronic thrush may be tender and sore. Pull off any loose pieces of frog skin that will come off by hand, but make sure not to tear anything that’s not already loose.

7. Lastly, arc the hoof pick around the shoe’s interior rim to remove anything that is clinging. Put your horse’s foot down and transfer the hoof pick in your pocket or somewhere easily accessible.

8. Next would be to work on your horse’s hind legs. Let your horse know that you are approaching its hind leg by patting its shoulder and running your hand along its side. Talk to your horse while moving and stay close while you position yourself beside its hindquarter.

9. Just like what you did in the earlier steps, lean into your horse as you bend down while keeping your feet out from under its feet. Using your elbow and forearm is not only for establishing contact, they allow you to easily push away if ever you sense your horse preparing to kick.

10. Lifting the hind foot is where you need to have the most control as this is where you are at the highest risk of being kicked. To be out of harm’s way, you need to position yourself in a way that your shoulders are roughly parallel to the horse’s hip bone with your head out of the line of fire. Move your hand down until you are slightly above the top of the ankle. Tell your horse to “pick it up” or use your chosen signal while giving a slight squeeze. If your horse does not respond right away, reinforce your message by pulling the ankle forward and up toward the front of the horse.

11. If your horse threatens to lift their leg before you ask, or appears to be threatening to kick you, hold the tail in one hand while you are reaching down to lift the leg. You can gently pull on the tail to over balance them and get them to think twice about lifting feet when not asked to.

How to Get and Keep Your Horse in Top Shape and Ready for Anything

The first thing you need to understand is that your horse is just like any other athlete. And just like an athlete, you cannot expect it to perform like an Olympian right off the bat if it has been parked in a stall for months on end, or if it has been lazily grazing in the fields. In our culture, horses have been romanticized in books and movies as creatures of unlimited power and capability. It is often just assumed that they are born with and always maintain the ability to carry a rider for miles upon miles at a full run. But the truth is that a horse must be carefully and methodically trained to perform at top levels, it is not something they are just born being able to do.

Just like you could not expect yourself to be able to run a marathon tomorrow if you had spent the last six months on the sofa with a bag of chips. So, before you start making high demands of your steed, you need to do for your horse what any good trainer would do for his athlete. You need to condition it.

Your horse’s age and the amount of work it has previously done, if any, will determine where you need to start as well as what you want him in shape for. Remember, you can injure a horse by taking him out of the stall or pasture and immediately start riding him if he has had little or no riding time in weeks or months. A horse that gets ridden once or twice a week needs a gradual training program that starts out with a half hour ride every other day-this ride does not need to be hard, simply walking for one or two miles a day is a good way to start out when conditioning any horse that has not been ridden very much previously. You want to do this walking for a couple miles about every other day for at least two weeks, then you can work up to a trot for a minute or so in between long periods of walking during your ride. This is similar to what athletes call “interval training.” The horse needs restricted to these slow paces; if he is not accustomed to being ridden often, you will injure him by trying to make him move at a pace that he is not capable of moving at. For two weeks you will want to do these walk/trot intervals as you ride, just to get him used to a riding schedule again. Then, you may build up to a canter; but again, no long canter periods, you must canter for just a few seconds and then have several walk/trot intervals, then take another canter. After about six weeks of this cumulative work, when the horse is used to being ridden for a good solid hour or more, you may begin more strenuous work, such as riding uphill and downhill at the trot and then gradually to the canter-riding downhill at the trot will improve your horse’s and your own balance-and the toughest part of the training program begins.

Once your horse is in great shape and is conditioned for more strenuous work, you can begin to train your horse for whatever specific task you want. I.e. jumping, dressage, barrel racing, cross country, etc.

All of these sports demand that your horse be in top shape before beginning to train for them. Thinking that you can just skip the conditioning and move right into the specific training is very dangerous and counterproductive. The idea that your horse will just get conditioned as it goes is a recipe for serious and even permanent injury to your horse. Do not risk your horse’s health or your safety in an attempt to speed up the process.

Once conditioned, you will want to find a good source of instruction in your particular discipline. While you are looking, here are a few things that you can do you get started.

If you are jumping you want to start out trotting over poles on the ground, then trotting over small jumps spaced a couple feet apart (a good rule of thumb is usually about four feet apart, but you may need to adjust it depending on your horse’s stride), and finally going over small jumps building up to whatever height jump you and your horse are ready for. You must always start out conditioning slowly or you can injure the horse to the point where it cannot be ridden anymore. Conditioning the barrel racer would involve setting up three barrels and trotting in the pattern around them, gradually building up to faster speeds. As you can see, any particular sport that you may want your horse conditioned for can be achieved pretty easily once the foundation for strength-building has been laid. Start out slowly when conditioning any horse. If you are not sure how to go about it, it is always better to ask an experienced horse person than to take unnecessary chances. You will find that most experienced horsemen are more than happy to help and offer advice.