Category Archives: Horse Care

On Overview on Footing by Karen Herzog

The classic mistake with footing is creating an arena too deep.   Sand is normally around 2″ deep maximum in an all-purpose arena. You are risking serious suspensory injuries if you continue to ride in footing that is beyond 2 inches deep. Think of trying to run in deep, dry beach sand.  I see a lot of leg and hoof problems with footing too deep, and that is with all disciplines, EVEN WESTERN PLEASURE! Deep footing fatigue happens very fast in a work session, then the injuries happen.  I would rather ride on something a bit too firm than too boggy.  I hate to say this but i will.  The most injuries a vet clinic sees?  As a discipline, is from barrel racing (because the footing is so deep).   I would also like to go on record and say, that IF your horse is properly conditioned you can keep injuries at bay with barrel racing and any speed events that require a lot of torque, twist, point, shoot, bend and GO! 🙂  Top barrel racers do a lot of conditioning in other arena surfaces and exercise 6x a week to stay as fit as they can to avoid injuries.  AND, deep and heavy sand is the real culprit in terms of injury.  Deep and light sand isn’t as drastic in terms of injuries.  But that 2nd combo still creates injuries.

In an arena, footing is tricky. You want it to be deep enough to provide some traction, and deep and springy enough to provide a little cushioning, but you don’t ever want it to be too deep because then it becomes a threat to the horses’ tendons. Uneven footing is also dangerous, which is why a good arena will have a flat, well-compacted base and just the right amount and type of footing for the sort of riding that will be done there.

When a horse moves in sand two things happen. The heel of the horse’s hoof is narrower than the front and middle so the heel sinks and puts stress on the tendons. Since sand places a huge amount of stress on the tendons, riding in it should be done with care at first. When a horse is conditioned correctly using sand he will have tendons of steel. If you rush it, you can easily blow a tendon or tear a ligament and that requires months of healing.

Second, as the horse pushes with its hind legs, the sand absorbs much of the force and the horse compensates by pulling with its front legs. You need to be mindful of these movements when you start to condition your horse in sand.  Even sand that is 2 inches deep.

Horses that are conditioned in sand usually have well-developed forearm and shoulder muscles. Most horses have relatively small forearm muscles and these muscles are incredibly large groups that need to be brought along slowly.  I went to the barn and looked at my horses and they do NOT have well-developed muscles here.  So that is why i am being on-guard…..i don’t want injuries.  That is always my goal in riding.  I don’t care if i win a ribbon or what i look like.  People can ride circles around me and they do.  But i want to feel that my horses don’t have a chance at being injured.  THEN, and only then, do i personally enjoy my ride.

Watch the legs carefully for any sign of inflammation. When a horse moves in the sand, his fetlock joints move in ways they don’t normally move. This can cause inflammation; sandy conditions are harder on the joints than hard surfaces.

footing

Sand has lower impact resistance than hard soil, combined with a low shear resistance, which allows the toe of the hoof to penetrate deeply.

Deep, dry sand tends to give way during push off, resulting in loss of traction, making it very tiring for the horse to work on. Trainers, owners, riders, 4H program horses need to be careful to reduce the amount of exercise when working in deeper sand footing – otherwise there is a risk of overuse injuries to the soft tissues.

Anything over 2 inches is considered “deep”. Less is more when it comes to sand in an arena. You can observe mild lamenesses in a horse.  The horse is holding his body a bit different, compromising his stride and the way he is carrying himself, due to a slight lameness.  Remember, slight lameness leads to moderate lameness.  So i’m coming not from wanting a dressage depth arena but a place of wanting soundness in all horses.

Shear resistance describes the ease with which the footing is displaced by a shearing (rotational) force. When the leg is pushing against the ground to generate propulsion, the toe tends to rotate into the surface. The shear resistance of the footing should be low enough to allow the toe to dig in as the hoof pushes against it (Figure 1), which has the dual benefits of reducing tension in the distal check ligament and reducing pressure of the deep digital flexor tendon on the navicular region. The shear resistance can, however, be too low. When this is the case, the ground does not offer sufficient resistance to the hoof pushing against it. Instead, the surface gives way during push off and the muscles have to work harder to generate propulsion (think about how it feels to run on deep, dry sand on the beach). As a consequence of having to work harder, the muscles become fatigued more quickly and this predisposes the horse’s ligaments and tendons to injuries. Surfaces with a very low shear resistance, such as deep, dry sand, are very tiring for the horse and, if used in excess, may lead to ligament and tendon injuries.

Hard surfaces (concrete, blacktop) have high shear resistance, which does not allow the toe to dig in. These surfaces not only exacerbate problems associated with concussive injuries, but they also tend to increase lameness in horses with palmar heel pain or navicular syndrome. Sometimes the shear resistance of a surface can be changed by management practices. For example, the addition of water to deep, dry sand increases its shear resistance – this explains the difference between running along the beach at the edge of the water versus running in the sand dunes.

Common deep sand related injuries in the horse

Wind puffs are soft, fluid-filled swellings toward the back of the fetlock joint, resulting from inflamed deep digital flexor tendon sheaths. The swellings occur where the digital flexor tendon sheath covers the two tendons that go around the back of the fetlock. In chronic cases, the sheath lining will remain thickened, and fluid levels will vary with the horse’s exercise levels. Once a horse has a problem with wind puffs, they are almost always a chronic condition.

Tendon and ligament strains and sprains involving the superficial digital flexor tendon, deep digital flexor tendon, accessory ligaments, and the suspensory ligament need to be watched for. Injuries can range from minor inflammation with no lameness  to complete rupture of the tendon strap. Superficial flexor tendons run down the back of the foreleg, between the knee and foot. The deep digital flexor tendon runs under the superficial digital flexor tendon.

In the hind leg, they run between the hock and the foot and they cause your horse’s joints to flex when stimulated. Suspensory ligaments run behind the cannon bone over the fetlock joint to the pastern bones. They support the fetlock joint, which is your horse’s ankle.

In soft footing, your horse can also suffer pulled or strained hindquarter and forelimb/shoulder muscles. The muscles have to work extra hard because they lack traction. The foot will tend to slip at every step, adding more work to a leg already under stress.

Unfortunately, you might not notice this type of problem soon enough to prevent injury. You might remember later that your horse seemed to be sweating more or working harder than usual, but you didn’t relate that to the strained muscles or front/hind-leg weariness at the end of your ride.

How to Make Your Horse Drink

Sometimes it’s important to make your horse drink (even if he doesn’t want to) to avoid dehydration.

  1. Mix 1 teaspoon of table salt with 2 tablespoons of applesauce and squirt it on the back of your horse’s tongue, using a cleaned-out paste-deworming syringe. (Tip: Ivermectin and Moxidectin syringes are too small; use a different kind.) While your horse works the applesauce around in his mouth, remove his water bucket, clean and rinse it thoroughly, and return it to the stall filled with fresh water. If the salt’s going to work, your horse will drink within 5 minutes. No luck? Don’t repeat this until he drinks at least 1 gallon of plain water. Try the next step. Water Works…A plastic kitchen strainer makes a nifty sieve to lift out leaves, hay, and other floating debris from an otherwise clean tubfull of water. If you use the kind that has a handle, you’ll keep your hands dry and warm in winter weather.
  2. Squirt 5 cc (1 teaspoon) of light corn syrup on the roof of your horse’s mouth, using a clean dosing syringe. While your horse works his tongue over the super-sweetness, add a second bucket of fresh water to his stall, placing it in a novel location so he’ll be compelled to investigate. Give this ploy 5 minutes. No luck? Don’t repeat this step until he drinks at least 1 gallon of plain water. Move to Step 3.
  3. Remove the extra bucket, dump half the water out, and top it off with hot water. Adjust the temperature until it reads 120 F on an instant-read thermometer. Some horses will drink deeply when offered warm water, especially (but not necessarily) when the weather has turned abruptly chilly. Be sure to have a bucket of the room temperature water available also, so your horse has a choice. Still no luck? No problem, we’ve got a few more tricks up our sleeve….
  4. Leave the warm-water bucket in your horse’s stall, and add a third bucket of room-temperature water mixed with a commercial electrolyte product labeled for equine use. (Follow the mixing directions for that particular product.) Wait 20 minutes. Still no luck? Keep going….
  5. If your horse’s condition doesn’t forbid solid foods (ask your veterinarian, if you have any doubts), offer a bran mash laced with molasses, apple slices, and lots of warm water. Not interested? (Report this lack of appetite to your veterinarian, if he/she isn’t already aware of it.) You’ve got one more shot….
  6. If your horse’s condition doesn’t preclude a little exercise, halter him and take him for a brisk 15-minute walk for some fresh air, a fresh outlook, and (if his condition and the season permit), a few mouthfuls of fresh grass. The boost to his circulation should brighten his eye and his outlook, and sharpen the sensation of thirst that you’ve augmented with Steps 1 and 2. When he returns to his stall, he’ll likely investigate his smorgasbord of buckets and drink. If not, consult your veterinarian.

If your horse does drink, keep track of the volume he takes in and the time passed. Your veterinarian will tell you how much water your horse needs to take in over a 24-hour period. Renew your efforts every few hours to keep the water moving.

Adapted from Hands-On Horse Care, the complete book of equine first aid from Horse & Rider.

Vital Horse Health Statistics

Knowing your horse’s vital statistics is important to be able to determine when something is wrong.   The following information represents the “normal” statistics for a horse.

Body temperature in adults  99.50 F – 101.50 F.
Pulse rate  33 – 41 / minimum.
Respiratory rate  8 – 14 / minimum.
Heart rate  32 – 44 / minimum.
Color of mucous membrane  Pale roseate.
Age of puberty  15 – 24 months.
Length of 0 estrus cycle  21 days ± 5 days.
Length of 0 estrus  6 days ± 4 days.
Gestation period  336 days ± 5 days (average 340 days)
Breeding life  18 years ± 2 years.
Best breeding season  early spring.

 

 

Equine Thrush in Horses

Equine thrush is caused by anaerobic bacteria that, when trapped in moisture, can create a fungal infection that slowly eats away at the horse’s hoof tissue, particularly the frog area. Most of the time this will create some mild discomfort, but as long as it is addressed quickly it rarely does anything more. Left unattended for a period of time the thrush can eventually make its way into the sensitive areas of the frog, causing a bit of bleeding from the frog.

Many horse owners become a bit gun-shy with a horse’s hoof and create false diagnoses of thrush the moment they notice a peeling frog or a strong scent. Peeling frogs or soles are not abnormal, and generally occur when a horse is due for a visit by the blacksmith. In addition hooves are wonderfully (or should that be dreadfully?) capable when it comes to trapping foul smelling bacteria, manure, etc., so an unappetizing scent during hoof cleaning isn’t uncommon at all. A hoof that is afflicted with thrush will exhibit soreness, black pus-like liquid as well as a scent that can send a skunk running. If you detect these symptoms you can either attempt to treat it yourself or call a blacksmith to assist you.

Horse Splints

Splints caused by inflammation during the development of a horse’s legs.  Most people who own or breed horses are familiar with the cannon bone of the horse limb. On each side of the cannon bone is a small bone known as the splint bone. The small splint bones are thin and taper to become a small knob about two-thirds of the way down the cannon bone.


Cause of splints

A ligament, located between the cannon bone and the splint bones, is quite elastic in young horses. As the horse ages, the ligament ossifies; that is, the ligament is replaced by bone and the three bones fuse (Figure 2). During ossification, there may be inflammation and pain. Jumping, running and working a horse during this time produces further irritation.

Splints usually occur in horses 2 to 5 years old. Most often it is the forelimbs that are affected. Splints rarely occur in the hind legs. In older horses, the splint bones are fused solidly to the cannon bone.

The majority of splint problems occur on the medial side (inside) of the forelimbs. The medial splint bone usually is the one affected because it has a flat surface next to the knee. The lateral (outer) splint bone has a more slanted surface. When the weight is transmitted to these bones, the medial splint bone probably bears more weight than the lateral splint bone. Therefore, the ligament between the medial splint bone and the cannon bone is subjected to more stress than the outer ligament.


Signs of Splints

Lameness due to splints is most common in 2-year-old horses undergoing training. The lameness is most obvious while the horse is trotting or working or soon thereafter. Lameness may come and go or be present continuously for as long as a year.

If you probe up and down along the cannon bone, the horse will flinch when the portion of the ligament undergoing ossification is touched. A large swelling or a number of smaller swellings due to ossification may occur along the length of the splint bones. After the ligament has ossified, the swelling and soreness usually disappears.


Treatment

Veterinarians use many different methods to treat splint bone conditions. However, the horse should be rested and placed on soft ground for at least 30 days. Veterinarians may use medications to help reduce inflammation and help prevent excessive bone growth. It is true that splint bone disease may heal without medication and treatment.

The outlook is good for most horses except those in which the bony growth is large and interferes with the knee joint. Sometimes surgery may be helpful in these difficult conditions.


Portions of this were originally written jointly by McClure, Kirk and Garrett. Department of Veterinary Anatomy, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Missouri. Copyright 2003 University of Missouri. Published by MU Extension, University of Missouri-Columbia.

Horse Navicular Disease

Navicular disease often begins as an inflammation of the bursa between the deep digital flexor tendon and the navicular bone of the foot and is a common cause of lameness in horses.


Signs of navicular disease

While walking, the horse with navicular disease tends to place its weight on the toe to avoid placing pressure on the heel area, which contains the inflamed navicular bone and bursa. Since the horse does not place weight on the heel, it takes longer to stop the stride. While standing the horse tends to shift its weight continuously. This relieves pressure, and thus pain, on the heel areas. Since the horse tends to place its weight on the toes during movement, the gait is very rough and sometimes gives the appearance of lameness in the shoulder. The horse is often lame after work, but the lameness may disappear with rest. Because there may be comparably poor circulation in the foot, the heels and adjacent hoof may become smaller and contract.
Poor circulation associated with navicular disease can cause the affected foot to become smaller


Diagnosis

A veterinarian should be contacted when signs of lameness are noticed. Most veterinarians use hoof testers as an aid in the diagnosis of this condition. Applying pressure with hoof testers over the frog area produces pain, and the horse may flinch if the disease is present. The hind feet should be tested with hoof testers to compare the reaction with that of the forefeet.

A locally injected anesthetic that temporarily blocks the nerve supply to the affected area will relieve the pain for a short period of time. In this way the veterinarian can determine whether or not navicular disease exists. If the horse was lame before the injection, and walks normally after the injection, it may be assumed that the lameness is located in the navicular area.


Treatment

Corrective shoeing is helpful. A bar placed across the heels aids in relieving the pressure on the heels. Rasping the quarters of the hoof wall or cutting grooves in the wall aids in relieving foot contraction. Rubber frog supports (properly applied) may be a superior method of restoring frog pressure. Cutting the nerves that supply the navicular area may be effective also, but can lead to several complications and therefore should be performed only when other approaches fail.

While the outlook for horses with navicular disease is unfavorable in most cases, the various methods of treatment discussed above may prove sufficiently effective to reduce the suffering of the horse and extend its useful service.


Portions of this were originally written jointly by McClure, Kirk and Garrett. Department of Veterinary Anatomy, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Missouri. Copyright2003 University of Missouri. Published by MU Extension, University of Missouri-Columbia.

Horse Hoof Care

Foot care is one of the most neglected horse management practices. Most lameness that impairs the usefulness of a horse can be prevented by proper foot care and reasonable management. Foot care should be as routine as feeding and watering. It should include:

  • Routine cleaning
  • Periodic trimming
  • Corrections of minor imperfections
  • Treatment of foot diseases and injuries.

Most foot care practices can be done by the average horse owner. However, it is important to know when to seek the help of a professional, especially for corrective shoeing and disease treatment and control. To understand proper care of a horse’s feet, first study and understand the structure of the foot and the functions of its various parts. The major parts of a horse’s foot are the hoof wall, coronet, sole, frog and the internal structures such as the bones, cartilage, tendons and connective tissue. Internal structures will be discussed briefly in this guide.

Anatomy of the horse’s foot  –  The main functions of the wall are to:

  • Provide a weight-bearing surface
  • Protect the internal structure of foot
  • Maintain moisture in the foot.

Hoof wall The hoof wall is a horny substance made up of parallel fibers. It should be dense, straight, and free from rings and cracks. Viewed from the side, the wall at the toe should be a continuation of the slope of the pastern. Coronet The coronet, or coronary band, is the source of growth for the hoof wall. It is directly above the hoof wall and is protected by a thick layer of skin and dense hair. A healthy foot will grow about 3/8 of an inch per month. A change in the rate of growth of the hoof can be caused by a change in the amount of exercise, the ration, the onslaught of illness, and the general state of health and condition of the animal. Injury to the coronary band can result in irregular growth of the hoof wall and can develop into a permanently unsound hoof wall. Usually, the hoof wall is thicker at the toe than at the quarter and heel. The hoof wall is protected by the periople, a varnish-like coating that also holds moisture in the hoof. The hind feet may grow faster than the forefeet, and unshod feet may grow faster than shod feet. The feet of mares and geldings seem to grow faster than those of stallions. Sole The sole of the foot is a horny substance that protects the sensitive inner portions of the foot. It should be firm, slightly concave and of uniform texture. The horse has no feeling at the exterior sole surface. A flat-footed horse tends to receive more bruises and injuries to the sole. Also, horses that have experienced founder and have developed a dropped sole are more easily bruised at the sole.

Frog

The frog, located at the heel of the foot, forms a “V” into the center of the sole (Figure 2). The frog is a spongy, flexible pad and is also a weight-bearing surface. It is the intermediate organ between the plantar cushion and the source of pressure from the horse’s weight. The frog is differentiated from the sole of the foot by two lines called commissures.


Parts of the ground surface of the horse’s foot

The condition of the frog generally is a good indication of the health of the foot. Without proper flexibility, expansion and ground contact, the frog cannot perform its function in complementing the circulation of blood and the absorption of shock throughout the foot.

To be able to provide proper foot care, first gain an understanding of some of the important internal parts of the foot and their functions. Coffin bone provides the shape of the foot and the rigidity needed to bear weight. Plantar cushion expands and contracts to absorb shock and pumps blood from the foot back toward the heart.

Navicular bone serves as a fulcrum and bearing surface for the deep flexor tendon, which is responsible for extension of the foot as it progresses through a stride.

Sensitive laminae serve as a means of attachment for the hoof wall and the coffin bone and also as the main area of blood circulation within the foot.


Routine foot care

Disease organisms concentrate where animals are confined, so cleanliness is important. Horses kept in a stall or small pen should have their feet picked or cleaned daily to reduce the risk of thrush. Thrush is the condition resulting from bacterial penetration into the frog and surrounding area. The bacteria produce a foul odor and cause the frog to become soft and mushy. If allowed to go untreated, serious lameness can result and extensive treatment will be necessary.

Routine daily foot care means regular use of the hoof pick to clean the horse’s feet. A fine-bristled wire brush also is useful for cleaning the sole, frog and hoof wall. Take care not to damage the periople with too much pressure from the wire brush; the result would disturb the moisture balance of the foot.

Foot cleaning

When picking the foot, use a hoof pick and clean from the heel toward the toe, being especially careful to clean the commissures on each side of the frog and the cleft of the frog itself. Don’t attempt to open the heel excessively, as this weakens the area and interferes with proper contraction and expansion of the heel. Clean your horse’s feet daily. After riding, clean the sole and check for gravel or other foreign objects that could be lodged in the natural depressions of the foot. A nail, gravel, stick or other object can work into the foot and cause lameness of long duration. Objects have been known to exist in a horse’s foot for as long as a year before emerging at the heel or along the coronet. When a foreign particle emerges at the coronary area, a sore, called a quittor, usually develops. This problem can easily lead to serious infection.

Maintain moisture in feet

Moisture in the horse’s feet helps to maintain flexibility and prevent cracking. Most of the moisture needed in a healthy and well-protected foot can come from within. Extremely wet conditions such as a muddy lot or wet stall promote rapid drying of the feet; the natural oils and protective films of the foot are eroded from constant contact with external moisture. One way to maintain proper moisture in the foot is to regularly apply a good hoof dressing containing some animal fat such as lanolin. If the dressing is not a petroleum derivative, it can be massaged into the coronet, the frog and the sole as well as on the hoof wall. The dressing helps to keep the sole pliable and eliminate dead tissue around the frog and heel. Also, massaging the coronet stimulates growth of a healthy new hoof wall.

Trimming maintains foot balance

Trimming of feet is important, although not needed as frequently as cleaning. Trimming should be done at about four-week intervals on horses kept in stalls or paddocks, or about six-week intervals for horses used heavily or running in pastures. The main goal in trimming is to retain the proper shape and length of the foot. Most people should feel comfortable in pulling shoes and trimming feet while they wait for the farrier. The bottom of the foot should be kept level and the inside and outside walls should be maintained at equal lengths. The hoof wall should be trimmed with nippers to remove excess length (see figure 4), then a rasp should be used to smooth and level the bottom of the foot. Be sure to rasp from the heel through the toe with each stroke to prevent uneven areas in the hoof wall.


Founder brings feet problems

Fat horses tend to have problems with laminitis (founder). This is especially common among horses with some Shetland pony breeding. Grass founder in the spring produces more laminitis than any other single cause. If your horse is fat, grazes abundant grass, and is not exercised, there is great risk of laminitis. Laminitis commonly causes lameness. Horses with laminitis have extreme pain and soreness, especially in their front feet. They try to bear weight on their back legs and lighten the front end as much as possible by carrying their front feet forward and their back feet up under their bodies. Horses showing signs of laminitis should have immediate attention from a veterinarian. Therapeutic trimming and shoeing may make a horse with laminitis sound enough for light work and normal reproduction.


Give nail pricks prompt attention

Much lameness results from nail pricks. Horses should not be ridden in areas of trash and boards containing nails. Injury caused by nails can ruin a horse. As soon as a nail prick is identified, give prompt medical attention and pack it to prevent reinfection by ground-borne disease organisms.


Handling the feet

Learning and practicing safe handling of the horse’s feet are important steps in performing routine foot care. Horses should be taught early in life to yield their feet. Most horses are worked more from the left side than the right, so begin working with the left front foot. Rub down the leg toward the foot with your right hand while your left hand is on the shoulder. Push off with your left hand if you need to move away. Squeeze the tendon to get the horse to yield the foot if it won’t do so otherwise. Move the hand in front of the canon or fetlock as the foot raises. Position the foot firmly between your knees. If the horse struggles and wishes to regain its foot, let it do so. You can’t hold a front foot if the horse rears. Repeat the procedure until the horse learns to yield its feet willingly. To lift a hind foot, keep one hand near the hip and go down the leg slowly with the other. Work in close to the horse. Pull forward on the canon until the horse yields its foot. If you feel tense muscles, go more slowly. Step promptly under the raised foot with the inside leg and set the foot above your knees. Lock it in place with your elbow over the hock and your toes pointed toward each other. Hold the foot in this position so both hands are free to work. Pick up the hind feet with care. Brace with one hand against the horse’s hip while you work down the leg with the other hand. With the horse relaxed, lift the foot forward and step under it with your inside leg. With the hock under the arm pit, ankle on knees, and foot backward (upward) the horse will submit to foot care.


Portions of this were written by Wayne Loch. Department of Animal Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Missouri. Copyright 003 University of Missouri. Published by MU Extension, University of Missouri-Columbia.

 

General Horse Care Information

Facts and Resources about Horses

Horses are beautiful animals that have intrigued people for centuries. They have unique personalities and qualities that make them popular pets for many people the world over. There are dozens of breeds of horses that come from all parts of the globe. Some horses are known for their physical characteristics, while others are known for their temperaments. The following looks at many different breeds of horses and highlights some lesser known facts about horses in general.

Interesting Facts about Horses

  • The pulse rate of a horse at rest measures between 36 to 40 beats per minute.
  • There are 205 bones in a horse’s body.
  • Horses sleep about two and a half to three hours per day.
  • A horse’s age can be determined by looking at its teeth.
  • The upper jaw of a horse is wider than its lower jaw.
  • A horse may run back into a barn that is on fire in order to return to the familiarity of its stall.
  • A horse lays its ears back against its head when it is angry.
  • Though horses have a wide range of vision, they are not able to see objects in a small area directly in front of their nose.
  • Horses can sometimes live to be 30 or 40 years old, but the average lifespan of a horse is about 25 years.
  • Horses can get a bad stomach ache referred to as colic.
  • Some horses drink two or more full buckets of water a day.
  • The height of a horse is measured in ‘hands’. A ‘hand’ is equal to four inches.
  • A baby horse, called a foal, can stand up approximately one hour after birth. In the wild, a horse must stand up quickly so it will not become the victim of predators.
  • Foals are usually born at night.
  • A horse is able to sleep in a standing position.
  • There is always a leader in a herd of horses.
  • Horses communicate to one another via body language and through a high-pitched whinny .
  • A female horse is pregnant with a foal for about eleven months.
  • Many horses bloat their stomachs when a rider puts a saddle on them. Horses do this so the girth (the belt that runs beneath their belly) is not fastened too tightly. They let out their air after the rider finishes tightening the girth.
  • Horses can hear what is going on behind them by shifting their ears in a backward direction.
  • Horses grow a coat that is thick and furry for the wintertime.
  • Tame horses must have their teeth filed down on a regular basis by a veterinarian so they won’t damage their tongue or gums. This process is called floating.
  • A horse that is female is a mare.
  • A male horse is either a gelding or a stallion.
  • Horses number about 60 million worldwide.

Notable Breeds of Horses around Winter Rose

More About Horses

Feeding Your Horse

Horses are, by nature, consumers of forage. Under natural conditions, they spend several hours a day grazing. Basing rations on adequate amounts of good quality roughage will minimize digestive disturbances such as colic. We can supplement hay or pasture with the correct amount of the right concentrates to meet requirements for energy, protein, minerals and vitamins.  In balancing rations for horses, the goals are to furnish horses with a daily supply of nutrients in the correct amounts to prevent digestive upsets and to use feedstuffs that are palatable, easily obtained and economical.


Determining correct nutrient levels

Feeding horses is both an art and a science. Individual horses vary considerably in their nutrient requirements, but a table of these requirements forms a useful basis for formulating rations. All horses require nutrients to maintain body weight and to support digestive and metabolic functions. In some cases they need additional nutrients for growth, work, reproduction or lactation.

Tables of nutrient requirements for horses are expressed in two ways, Daily nutrient requirements: Nutrient concentration in the feed. This may be expressed on an as-fed basis or on a dry-matter basis. Most horses receive their daily ration in two parts: roughage (hay or pasture) and concentrates. The concentrate portion contains grain and may include a protein supplement, minerals and vitamins. It may also include bran, cane molasses, dehydrated alfalfa or other feed-stuffs. Our problem, then, is as follows: 1. To decide how much and what kind of roughage to feed. 2. To decide on the correct concentrate mixture and the amount of it we need to supply the nutrients not present in adequate amounts in the roughage.


Concentrated Feeds for horses

Historically, oats have been the first choice of feeds. Oats are medium in energy, require little or no processing and have more protein than most grains. However, they are variable in energy content. You should avoid oats with a light weight per bushel because of their low energy and high fiber content. The best oats usually come from the north central states such as Minnesota, North and South Dakota and northern Iowa. Corn is fine for feeding horses, but is highly concentrated in energy. You must take care not to overfeed it. Wheat and grain sorghum (milo) are less suitable for feeding horses. Wheat is especially dangerous because it causes colic by impacting in the gastrointestinal tract. A 50:50 ratio of corn and oats combines the safety of oats with the economy of corn. It is often recommended for horses.


Roughage for horses

Adequate amounts of roughage in the ration decrease the risk of colic and laminitis. Roughage also helps maintain the correct calcium-to-phosphorus ratio, because grain is low in calcium and because roughages — especially legumes — are high in calcium. Rations should always contain more calcium than phosphorus. Calcium:phosphorus ratios between 1.1:1 and 2:1 are within an acceptable range. Even higher calcium levels can be tolerated; but when phosphorus levels are higher than calcium, severe skeletal abnormalities may result. Adequate hay in the ration of horses kept in stalls also is beneficial because they eat it over a longer time span than grain. It aids in preventing vices such as wood chewing, which horses do when bored or when they lack roughage. A good rule of thumb is to feed at least 1 pound of hay per day for every 100 pounds body weight of the horse. A 1,000-pound horse would be fed about 10 pounds of hay per day. Mature, idle horses in good condition, fed excellent hay in increased quantities (about 2 pounds per 100 pounds of body weight) may do well without grain added to their ration. Growing or working horses, mares during late pregnancy and mares during lactation need grain and other concentrates in addition to the roughage. Alfalfa, red clover and lespedeza are examples of legume hays you can feed to horses. Brome, orchardgrass and timothy are examples of nonlegumes (grasses). Fescue hay infected with the endophyte fungus Neotyphodium coenophialum causes reproductive problems in mares if fed during late pregnancy. It is also low in energy unless it is harvested before it becomes mature. If harvested before it gets too mature, however, it usually works for mature geldings or open mares, providing they have adequate supplementation.


Feeding Recommendations for Horses

Feed only quality feeds. Feed balanced rations. Feed half the weight of the ration as quality hay. Feed higher protein and mineral rations to growing horses and lactating mares.Feed legume hay to young, growing horses, lactating mares and out-of-condition horses. Use non-legume hays for adult horses doing light work or no work.Regulate hay-to-grain ratio to control condition in adult horses. Feed salt separately, free-choice. Feed a free-choice mineral mix unless minerals are included in the concentrate mix.Keep teeth functional. Horses 5 years old and older should be checked annually by a veterinarian to see if their teeth need floating (filing). See that stabled horses get exercise. Horses will eat better, digest food better and be less likely to colic. Feed according to the individuality of horse. Some horses are hard keepers and need more feed per-unit of body weight. Feed by weight, not volume. A gallon of different grains may vary 100 percent in nutrient yield.Minimize fines in a prepared ration. If a feed is ground fine, horses will be reluctant to eat it and the chances of colic will increase. Offer plenty of good water, no colder than 45 degrees F. Free-choice water is best. Horses should be watered at least twice daily. Change feeds gradually. When changing from a low-density (low-grain), high-fiber ration to one of increased density, change gradually over a period of a week or more. Start on feed slowly. Horses on pasture should be started on dry feed gradually. Start this on pasture if practical and gradually increase the feed to the desired amount in a week to 10 days. Do not feed grain until tired or hot horses have cooled and rested, preferably one or two hours. Instead, feed hay while they rest in their blankets or are out of drafts. Feed before work. Hungry horses should finish eating at least an hour before hard work. Feed all confined horses at least twice daily. If horses are working hard and consuming a lot of grain, three times is mandatory. When feeding hay, give half the hay allowance at night, while horses have more time to eat and digest it.


Feeding Charts

Ration  (MU Tests) Description
No. 1 – Foal ration

  • Crude protein = 18 percent
  • Calcium = 0.88 percent
  • Phosphorus = 0.60 percent
Feed this grain ration free-choice with good legume hay to foals from two weeks of age to weaning or to early weaned foals from 3 to 8 months of age.
Do not continue weaned (or older) foals on this feed because it is too high in protein and calcium unless fed with non-legume hay up to a year of age at which time (or sooner) it should be replaced with MU Ration No. 2 for weanlings.
Be sure preparation of the ration does not result in dust or “fines.
No. 2 – Weaning horse ration

  • Crude protein = 16.31 percent
  • Calcium = 0.75 percent
  • Phosphorus = 0.55 percent
Feed this grain ration to weanlings. Add good legume or at least half legume hay at 1 to 11/2 pounds of grain per 100 pounds of body weight. Feed hay free-choice.
Do not stuff weanlings with 15 to 20 pounds of any grain feed.
If you “cut” this ration by feeding half oats or half corn with it, the level of calcium will be too low unless excellent alfalfa hay is fed free-choice.
Change to MU Ration No. 3 by 14 to 16 months of age for better growth and economy.
No. 3 – Yearling, 2-year-old, late pregnancy and lactating mare ration

  • Crude protein = 14.3 percent
  • Calcium = 0.61 percent
  • Phosphorus = 0.43 percent
Feed this ration at the beginning of the yearling year with good legume or at least half legume hay or good pasture. Regulate intake to control the desired degree of condition. Four to eight pounds daily should suffice.
As growing horses approach 18 months of age, non-legume hay is sufficient with adequate grain to maintain condition.
Feed mares in late pregnancy and early lactation 6 to 10 pounds of grain as needed to regulate condition and sustain good milk production. If no pasture is available, feed good mixed hay free-choice.
If mares are obese in late pregnancy, they need no grain but may be maintained on quality legume or mixed or nonlegume hay.
No. 4 – Adult horse, early pregnancy and late 2-year-old ration

  • Crude protein = 11.0 percent
  • Calcium = 0.43 percent
  • Phosphorus = 0.36 percent
This ration is designed for adult and 2-year-old idle and working horses and for mares until the last three months of pregnancy. It may be fed with either legume or non-legume, but non-legume hay will result in fewer digestive upsets with hard working horses consuming large amounts of grain.
This ration is too low in protein, calcium and phosphorus for weanlings and lactating mares and is marginal in these nutrients for mares in late pregnancy (see Rations 2 and 3)

  • Alfalfa = 0.8-1.1 digestable energy (Mcal/lb) with 48-55% digestable nutrients, 15-22% crude protein (varies per crop/time of cutting) 0.9-1.5% Calcium, and 0.2-0.35% Phosphorus.
  • Orchard = 0.8-1.1 digestable energy (Mcal/lb) with 42-50% digestable nutrients, 7-11% crude protein, 0.3-0.5% Calcium, and 0.2-0.35% Phosphorus. **Great source of fiber**
  • Timothy = 0.7-1.0 digestable energy (Mcal/lb) with 42-50% digestable nutrients, 7-11% crude protein, 0.3-0.5% Calcium, and 0.2-0.35% Phosphorus.
  • Bermuda = 0.7-1.0 digestable energy (Mcal/lb) with 42-50% digestable nutrients, 6-11% crude protein, 0.25-0.4% Calcium, and 0.2-0.35% Phos.

Portions of this were written by Wayne Loch. Department of Animal Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Missouri.

Common Sport Horse Injuries & Treatments

By Elaine Pascoe with Duncan Peters, DVM, MS

Disclaimer: always seek professional medical advice

Find out whether your horse is at risk for one of these sideliners, such as suspensory ligament and deep digital flexor tendon injuries, and what you can do about them.

How is a sporthorse like an NBA basketball star? Injuries, anything from bumps and bruises to torn tendons and damaged joints, can put him on the sidelines. While any horse can get hurt, the demands of eventing, dressage and hunter/jumper competition increase the risk of suspensory ligament injuries, deep digital flexor tendon tears, sore muscles and more.

This article explains how five common types of sporthorse injuries happen, how they are treated and how they may affect your horse ‘s career. These injuries occur across the disciplines, but some types are more common in certain sports.

  • Jumping, speed, uneven ground and fatigue put eventers and jumpers at greater risk for injuries that are sudden and severe. Your horse lands awkwardly from a jump or sets his foot down badly on rough ground, and the result is a torn tendon or ligament.
  • Dressage horses may be less prone to “bad – step” injuries, but repetitive stress is a big factor for them. They are prone to muscle soreness, microscopic tears in ligaments and joint problems, injuries that can become chronic and limit what the horse can do.

Bringing your horse back from any injury can be frustrating. The damage may be hard to diagnose, and there are no cookbook formulas for recovery because no two injuries are exactly the same. Ideally, you will keep your horse off the injured list.

Suspensory Ligament Injuries

The suspensory ligament runs down the back of the cannon bone from just below the knee (or hock), splitting into two branches that pass around the back of the ankle and end on the front of the long pastern bone below. Its job is to support the ankle joint as it sinks under weight and ­returns to normal when the weight comes off.

If your horse overloads the leg, the suspensory may give way. The injury may be mild, a few of the ligament’s tough collagen fibers tear, but repeated stress will make it worse. In a severe injury, the ligament may rupture or even fracture bone as it tears away.

Most at risk: Acute front suspensory tears are a particular danger for eventers and jumpers because speed and jumping increase the load on the forelimbs and the chances of a misstep. Hind suspensory injuries may be more common in dressage horses because these horses work more off their hind ends. Many are also heavy, which puts added strain on the ligament. Risk for all horses increases with work level and ­intensity, poor footing and lack of fitness.

Signs: Suspensory injuries can be tricky to spot. Lameness ranges from ­severe to barely noticeable, depending on how bad the damage is. If the tear is in the main body or the branches, the leg may be warm, swollen and sensitive at the site. But the top of the ligament is hidden by other structures, so you may not see those signs if the tear is high.

Local nerve blocks and a hands-on exam will help your veterinarian find the problem. An ultrasound scan may help pinpoint the exact location and reveal the extent of damage to the ligament, and ­X – rays will show if bone is involved.

Action: Your veterinarian will help you work out a treatment plan that suits your horse’s specific injury. Treatment ­usually includes these steps:

  • Cool down. Your vet may prescribe cold therapy (icing or cold-hosing several times a day) and a nonsteroidal anti-­inflammatory drug, such as phenylbutazone or Banamine (flunixin meglumine), to reduce inflammation.
  • Stall rest to give the ligament time to heal. Your vet may advise standing wraps for the injured leg and the opposing leg.
  • Hand-walking, to encourage healing. Follow your vet’s advice, starting with as little as 10 minutes a day and gradually increasing the time.
  • Gradual return to exercise. With your vet, set up a program that eases your horse back into work over several months, using ultrasound exams to monitor the ligament and adjust the program as needed.

Depending on the case, your vet may suggest other therapies like shockwave treatment; new regenerative therapies, such as stem cells and platelet-rich plasma; or surgery.

How long will all this take? Ligaments heal slowly. A mild strain may take six to eight weeks, but a tear can take eight to 12 months. High hind suspensory injuries can be especially frustrating because your horse’s anatomy makes it hard to follow healing there—and harder to know when your horse is ready to return to work. Keep in mind that he may trot sound long before the ligament is healed, and rushing his rehab is likely to cause a setback.

Outlook: Ligaments tend to heal poorly, with fibrous scar tissue that’s prone to reinjury. While many horses make full recoveries, chronic suspensory problems require careful management. This can be a limiting factor for your horse, and it’s hard to judge where the limit is. Even a sensitive rider won’t pick up on the moment when her horse feels the first twinge of pain.

DDFT Damage

The deep digital flexor tendon runs down the back of the leg and behind the heel to attach to the bottom of the coffin bone (the bone that underlies the hoof wall at the front). Its main job is to flex the leg, but it also plays a support role at the heel, where the tendon fibers fan out to pass over the navicular bone.

Injuries in the lower section of this tendon, from midpastern into the foot, are common for sporthorses. The tendon stretches taut when your horse weights his foot and at the moment of breakover, when his weight passes over the toe and the heel begins to lift. If the stress is too great, fibers may tear or pull away from the coffin bone. This section of the tendon may also become chronically inflamed and thickened from repeated stress, a condition called tendinitis.

  • Most at risk: Jumping and work at speed can overload the tendon because the DDFT stretches to the max as your horse pushes off at the gallop or after landing from a jump. Mechanics of conformation or poor shoeing may contribute—a horse who has long toes and low heels puts extra stress on the lower part of this tendon during breakover.
  • Signs: Lameness varies. Sometimes there’s heat, swelling and sensitivity at the back of the pastern or above the heel, but you may not see these signs if the injury is down in the foot.
  • Tendon injuries can be hard to pinpoint in the foot. Local nerve blocks will tell your vet that your horse is sore in his heel but not whether the problem is the tendon, the navicular bone or some other structure. Ultrasound scans will reveal tendon damage higher up but are not so helpful within the hoof capsule. Magnetic resonance imaging, available at some ­major clinics, shows these injuries well.
  • Action: Tendons are a lot like ­ligaments and heal in the same way—that is, slowly.
  • Follow the steps outlined in the suspensory section: cool down, rest, hand-walking and a gradual ­return to work, based on the program your veterinarian sets out.
  • Shoeing changes (such as rolled or rockered toes to ease breakover) may be part of the program.
  • If the problem is tendinitis, your veterinarian may suggest an injection of anti-inflammatory medications into the tendon sheath (covering).
  • Regenerative therapies, such as stem cells and platelet-rich plasma, are being used to improve healing in torn tendons and ligaments alike. These treatments theoretically help the tissues heal stronger, but they don’t shorten the layup and ­rehab time.

Outlook: DDFT injuries can sideline horses for varying amounts of time. If your horse has a very mild strain, he may be back in work in six to eight weeks. For a tear, think months—it’s not uncommon for horses to be laid up eight months or more. Doing too much, too soon, is a recipe for reinjury.

A healed tendon, like a healed ­ligament, is never quite as strong as it was before the injury. The question is always: Will it hold up? The answer ­depends on how severe your horse’s ­injury was to begin with, how well it healed and what your expectations are for his future performance.

Bone Bruise

Sporthorses can bruise bones in the foot and ankle joints, the coffin bone, the ends of the short and long pastern bones and the lower end of the cannon bone. The foot and ankle come under tremendous force, and that force is focused on the small areas where these bones meet.

Although a bone bruise is not as serious as a fracture, there is microscopic ­damage to the bone. And as with any bruise, there’s internal bleeding and ­swelling; but in this case the fluid builds up within the bone.

Most at risk: Bruising is caused by impact, landing off a jump or working on hard ground, so jumpers and eventers are most at risk.

Signs: Bone bruises are painful, so your horse will be sore. Your vet can isolate the sore zone with nerve blocks, but it may take sophisticated imaging techniques to identify the cause. X-rays won’t show the microscopic bone damage, but a bruise may show up as a “hot spot” on a nuclear bone scan. MRI is a good diagnostic technology to delineate the bruise.

Action: Your horse will need time off, perhaps three or four months, ­depending on the degree of bruising. He may benefit from an extended course of anti-inflammatory medication. An NSAID such as Equioxx (firocoxib), which ­belongs to a class of drugs called cox – 2 inhibitors, may be a good choice. These drugs tend to have fewer side effects than other NSAIDs when given for extended periods.

Outlook: Injured bones heal slowly, but they’re typically good as new once healing is done. Good shoeing (sometimes with pads) and good footing can help prevent reinjury as your horse starts back into regular work.

Cut Injury Risks

You can’t pack your horse in bubble wrap to keep him safe, but good management will reduce the risk.

  • Get him fit. A horse who’s not in shape for the work he’s asked to do is at greater risk for injury. Build up his condition slowly by doing the type of work on the type of surface he’ll face in competition.
  • Don’t overtrain. An exhausting schooling session the day before a big competition is as likely to tire your horse as it is to tune him up. The next day, his fatigue can set him up for a misstep and injury.
  • Schedule R&R. If you show your horse week after week”and train between shows”physical and mental stress build. Do fewer shows, so he can recover in between, and do fewer classes, so he’s less tired.
  • Limit longe work. Keep sessions short. Repetitive circling stresses joints and tires muscles and tendons.
  • Keep up with shoeing. Overgrown feet and loose shoes affect hoof balance and make injuries more likely.
  • Avoid bad footing. Ground that’s hard, deep, slick or uneven increases the chance of missteps.
  • Know your horse. If you do, you can avoid pushing him past his limits, and you’ll pick up on subtle changes in his attitude or way of going that could signal the start of a problem.

Inflamed Joints

Acute synovitis is inflammation that ­appears suddenly in a joint, often the ankle, coffin or hock. These joints are ­enclosed in a capsule of soft tissue; the capsule lining (synovial membrane) produces a thick fluid that lubricates the joint. Stress on the joint can trigger inflammation in the lining and the capsule, causing fluid to turn watery and build up. Over time, ­repeated joint stress can set off a destructive chain of events that lead to osteoarthritis.

Most at risk: Inflamed joints occur across the board, typically when there’s a sudden change in work level or intensity—a dressage horse is asked to move up a level too quickly, say, or a hunter does more at a show than he’s used to. Actions such as jumping, work at collected gaits, tight turns and small circles are especially hard on the joints. Unfamiliar footing is another risk factor.

Signs: Your horse will be sore or stiff, especially at the start of work. In a mild case he may just seem less fluid or less forward in his gaits. You may find heat, pain and swelling caused by the inflammation in the joint.

Your veterinarian can identify the problem with a physical exam. X-rays can rule out damage to the bones and cartilage, and synovial fluid can be collected and analyzed to rule out infection.
Action: Reducing the inflammation will ease the pain and risk of joint­ degeneration.

  • Give him some time off. Depending on the case, this may be stall rest, hand-walking or controlled turnout in a small paddock, for as little as seven to 10 days to as long as a month.

  • Cold therapy can help in the early stages when there’s heat in the joint. Your vet may prescribe a short course of anti-inflammatory medication. Topical treatments—poultices, DMSO or Surpass (diclofenac sodium)—may help reduce inflammation.

  • Joint injections can help horses with ­severe or recurrent synovitis. The injections deliver anti-inflammatory agents—usually a corticosteroid alone or in combination with hyaluronic acid, which is a natural component of cartilage and joint fluid—­directly into the joint.

IRAP therapy is a new approach in which the joint is injected with interleukin-1 receptor antagonist protein, a substance derived from the horse’s own blood. It targets a specific inflammatory pathway involved in joint degeneration.

Outlook: Most horses with acute synovitis respond well to rest and steps to reduce inflammation. It’s important to prevent repeat episodes that could lead to ­osteoarthritis, so increase your horse’s work level gradually, be sure heâ’s in shape for what you ask and space out demanding work sessions and shows to give him time to recover.

Sore Muscles

Work strengthens muscles, but overwork leads to strain”and pain. The large muscles of the back and hindquarters make up a sporthorse’s drive train, and they can be strained if they’re asked to work too hard for too long. Most muscle strains are mild, and the amount of damage is small but this is a common injury, and it can be enough to keep your horse from performing his best.

Most at risk: Dressage horses who are asked to collect and maintain a frame as they work often become sore in the back, hindquarters and gaskins. Heavy muscling and general heaviness seem to add to the problem. Hunters and jumpers may develop similar problems if they’re forced into draw reins or longed in a training rig for long periods; the horse has no chance to stretch and relax his back and neck, so the muscles get sore.

Signs: Signs of back pain can be mild and frustratingly vague. Your horse may move off stiffly when you mount and he feels your weight on his back. His hind legs may not really step up under his body, so he doesn’t really carry himself. He may resist bending, rounding and collecting. His ears and the way he carries his head tell you that he’s tense and worried. Most of these signs may improve as he warms up.

Action: Give your horse a few days off to see if the mild signs disappear. If they don’t, or if they recur when he goes back to work, ask your veterinarian to check him. Any underlying causes will have to be addressed for his back to improve:

  • The pain may stem from a poorly fitting saddle.

  • It may be below the muscles, perhaps in the sacroiliac joint—the meeting place of the pelvis and the spine. (Jumping, galloping and tight turns and circles put a lot of stress on this joint.)

  • It may originate someplace else entirely. A horse with hock problems may develop sore back muscles if those muscles work overtime in an effort to spare the hocks.

When the problem is simple muscle strain, most horses get better with rest and turnout. Your veterinarian can help determine how much rest and what type of exercise is best for your horse.

  • Some horses improve with a short course of muscle relaxants or with acupuncture or chiropractic treatments.

  • Massage also can help.

Don’t overlook the benefits of a thorough currying, which is a massage in itself.

Outlook: Good management helps most sore backs. Give your horse a chance to warm up before you ask him to do collected work. Let him stretch his back and neck muscles by riding “long and low” (on a long rein) or walking up and down hills. Vary his work—ring work one day, a hack in the field the next—and avoid repeating the same maneuvers over and over. And give him plenty of turnout time, which will help keep his back limber.

An FEI-certified veterinarian, Duncan Peters, DVM, MS, heads the Sporthorse Program at Hagyard Equine Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky.

This article originally appeared in the October 2011 issue of Practical Horseman magazine.