Riding on the Road: Safety First

I live on a large farm with a lot of land, but even so, I like to trail ride out on the road. Some people have never had this cool experience before, and many find it strange, but it is actually a lot of fun! Where I live, there are many, many, miles of country back roads, and the amount of cars coming by are not bountiful, we are lucky to get six in one hour. These are the best kind of roads to ride on, you definitely do not want to be on a public road with cars whizzing by every few seconds… safety FIRST!!!

If you take your horse to shows, he is probably used to noise, vehicles, and a variety of sights, but he may not necessarily be used to the idea of a car passing in close proximity to him on a road, or zooming by; most people slow down when they see a horse and rider out on the road, but not all do, and these are the ignorant people that you have to watch out for. Some people think it is cute or funny to honk their horn as they pass you and your horse on the road; as riders, we know that there is no humor in this situation; it is extremely dangerous. A startled horse has a tendency to run or act up, and you must be prepared to cope with the situation.

As I train my young horses, I ride them on the road to desensitize them, but only after I know that they are far enough along that they will listen to me if something happens to scare them. I train them to ride out on the road, as I know that they will be ridden on the road in the future. But, if you have an older already trained horse, and you want to make him comfortable on the road, lead him out there for a couple hours a day and let him graze along the road. As cars pass, see how he reacts. Even if he is eating, how he reacts to cars while on the roadside grazing will give you almost a perfect example of how he will react when being ridden. I also advise that he not startle and spook easily, as some people who do not know better WILL honk their car horns as they go by and alarm your horse. Do some spook training with him on noises BEFORE riding or leading him on the road.

Gear for road-riding will be slightly different than for regular riding. For you, it would be wise to wear a body protector, a reflective vest, and a helmet, along with your regular riding gear (jeans or breeches, boots, maybe chaps or half-chaps, a riding friendly shirt, and gloves). A spill while riding on the asphalt is definitely going to cause more damage than an accident in the field or arena, and you don’t want any injuries that CAN be prevented. For your horse, you may wrap his legs or put tendon/brushing boots on him, outfit him in bell boots, or use knee protection, all to keep him safe should he slip or fall.

After he is used to cars, take him out for a short hack and see how he does. Always watch AND listen for oncoming cars. Coming around a turn, a car will most likely not see you. I advise staying on the outside shoulder of the road when encompassing a long turn that you cannot see around, going against the flow of traffic. If you horse does well riding on the road quietly, does, you can go for a longer ride each time, until you are riding to a friend’s house if you want to!

As you go though, please remember to keep an eye and ear open for cars so that YOU are aware of approaching traffic even if your horse is not. In most cases, the horse will hear the traffic even before you do, and flick his ears and listen as it comes. If he happens to spook because of a loud engine or horn, sit calmly, and relax yourself as much as possible to let him know that it was just a noise; most times, the horse may jump forward a few steps, but once he realizes that you are unafraid, he will settle to just flicking his ears around, and then becoming placid as his usual self once again.

Starting Out With a New Hanoverian Sport Horse

The Hanoverian horse has been a consistently popular breed of sport horse for a long time, and for good reason. Hanoverian horses are incredibly lithe, agile and sportive. Hanoverians are renowned for their good temperaments, which makes them easy to train to a great extent. These horses are also highly intelligent and generally form very harmonious relationships with their riders. Hanoverian sport horses are famed worldwide for their awe-inspiring grace and beauty – they possess an infallible combination of muscular limbs, a robust body and an enduringly strong back. Any horse lover, or potential investor in a sport horse would truly be wise to choose a Hanoverian sport horse.

Hanoverian sport horses can be seen at all levels of competitive games, from local horse shows to the Olympic games. In fact, statistics show that the Hanoverian breed is the most successful of all warm blood horse breeds – not surprising when their athleticism and excellent temperament are acknowledged.

Question: I have invested in a fantastic Hanoverian Sport Horse. What is my next step?

First of all, congratulations on your successful investment in a Hanoverian, anyone who has the pleasure of owning one of these horses is guaranteed many years of satisfaction and enjoyment from seeing their horse continually succeed. However, their success does not come automatically. The most important first step to take, once you have purchased your horse, is to organize its training.

High quality training with an experienced trainer is imperative to guarantee your horse’s success in competitive games. It is recommended to conduct ample research on the type of training you wish your horse to receive. Training based on classical teaching principles has proven widely popular. In many cases, the classical teaching principles are applied during training, while the trainer simultaneously forms a specific program based on the unique needs of the horse undergoing training, taking their personality traits and physical strengths into close consideration.

When researching and deciding on the right horse trainer for your Hanoverian horse’s needs, inquire as to the success levels in competitive games of horses that have been previously undergone training with them. This will give you a fair idea of how well the trainer works with horses and caters to their individual needs. It is also very important to introduce your horse to the trainer, and even allow them to take the horse for a ride to gauge how they collaborate with one another. Additionally, it is just as important for you, the horse owner to mesh well with the chosen trainer.

Hanoverian horses are highly intelligent and if they sense any weakness, their training may not be as successful as it could be. In the long run, it is extremely important that your Hanoverian, you and your trainer all connect well to ensure your horse’s maximum success.

What You Need to Know About Riding Your Horse Bareback

This seems to be a much debated topic. There is an even divide in response; some people say yes, and some people say no. They think that it hurts the horse, or that it is not natural because the rider’s weight is not distributed as evenly as it is in a saddle. I say, it depends; on the horse and on the rider. Is your horse bony-backed? Are you an especially thin person? If so, you should not ride your horse bareback; horses have extremely sensitive skin and can feel things very harshly. You would dig into his back muscles and cause his back to be tender so that you could not ride him for several days. Riding bones on bones does not mix. A large rider on a narrow or bony horse is also not a good idea; it will put too much pressure on one area of the horse’s back; thus causing the same problem: a sore horse. Fattening the horse up will probably not work, some horses, like some people, are just built very slender and there is nothing to do about it.

Another factor is your seat. How do you sit on the horse? Is your weight always in one area, or are you bouncing around? Do you move with the horse, or clamp your legs against his sides in an effort to stay on and stay still? If you sit stiffly on the horse, with your weight all in one area, it can be very uncomfortable for your horse and he will not ride well. His gaits will be stiff and make your ride difficult. Do not clamp your legs on the horse either, he may take this as a response to move faster and while you try to stop him, he will get confused thinking that he is being told to go faster. This all factors into whether you should ride bareback or not. I was raised riding bareback first, most people are taught in the saddle first, and so while I find it easy, comfortable, and relaxing to ride bareback, you may not.

Develop an independent seat. Feel as comfortable riding bareback as you do with a saddle, and always, no matter what, start out at the walk until you feel secure and then you may move up to faster gaits. Do not ride at faster gaits until you are certain that you are able to; if you fall off, you may lose your confidence all together. If you decide to trot, start out at a slow trot, and if you feel good about it, and comfortable doing it, go faster. The most important thing to remember while riding bareback is: move with the horse. If you had to carry something heavy around on your back, would you rather it stay stiff and hard on your back, or move pliably with you as if it were part of you? Of course you would want it to move with you, so do the same with your horse. Make his load easier by not being a burden.

Building a Fence for a Horse Riding Arena

For our new horse riding arena we chose to build a full perimeter fence. This will be consisting of wood posts and boards that would match our out buildings and horse sheds. We used 8 inch posts, and 2 x 6 boards 16 feet long. Our posts were spaced 8 feet apart, this enabled us to fasten each 2 x 6 board to three posts. This was to reduce the chance of the 2 x 6 boards warping and twisting, as well as making the fence stronger. The position of all the posts, including gateways were staked out prior to constructing the arena fence. Our arena will be 200 x 100 feet, with a 12 foot gate at each end. We began by tying a string to a corner stake and pulling it 200 feet to the next corner stake on the long side of the arena. After pulling the string tight to ensure that it was a perfectly straight-line, we tied it tightly to the second stake. A stake for each post was then placed along the string line at 8 foot intervals to complete the first side of our perimeter fence.

To layout the second side of our riding arena fence we measured 100 feet from the corner stake and put a stake in the ground for the next corner. To make sure that the corners are perfect 90° angles. We could have used a construction calculator to do the math. Instead we made our own 90 degree angle with, a known math solution, the old tried and tested method of the 3, 4, 5 right-triangle solution. A triangle that has three sides where one is 3 feet long, another is 4 feet and the third leg is 5 feet long creates a right triangle. The intersection of the 3 foot and 4 foot leg create a perfect 90 degree angle. Any multiples of these dimensions also work; 6, 8, 10 or 12, 16, and 20 are also combinations that yield a perfect 90 degree angle. To make our corner, we used a measurement of 100 feet to the next corner, 75 feet back down our staked fence line, and 125 feet for our diagonal measurement. Where the 100 foot measurement, and the 125 foot measurement intersected we placed our next corner stake. After pulling a string to make sure of a straight-line, we placed 11 stakes at 8 foot intervals along the string. This made a total distance of 88 feet. The remaining 12 feet is where our gate went. We chose to use a 12 foot gate at each end of our arena for two reasons. First this is a good-sized opening for getting machinery into the arena to maintain the riding surface. And secondly, 12 feet gave us an even measurement for our 8 foot post spacing on the 100 foot side of the arena.

To layout and stake the third side of our arena perimeter fence, we measured 200 feet and placed the last corner stake, taking care to have perfect 90° angles on our corners using the 3, 4, 5 right-triangle solution. After pulling a straight string line we placed our post stakes every 8 feet completing the layout of the third side. We laid out the last side of the arena with 11 stakes spaced 8 feet apart for the posts and another 12 foot opening for a gate.

After all of the perimeter post positions had been staked, we used a post hole digger on a machine to drill the holes in the ground for our posts. Our posts were 8 feet long, and our holes were drilled 2 feet deep, so that we would have 6 feet of post sticking out of the ground when finished. We used a string line and level to make sure all of our posts were straight and uniform before tamping and watering the ground around them for compaction.

When all of the perimeter posts had been tamped into place, we then began fastening our 2 x 6 boards to the posts for the railings. We chose to use two railings one at 30 inches to the top, and another at 60 inches to the top of railing. Before fastening the railings to the posts, we pulled a string line tightly down the row of posts at 30 inches high and made a mark on each post were the top of the bottom railing will be, we also made another mark at 60 inches for the top of the top rail. Next we used clamps to clamp our 2 x 6 railing to the posts taking care to line up with our mark, we had made previously. The railings will be attached to the posts using 5/16 by 3 inch long lag bolts with a large flat washer. To do this, we first drilled two holes slightly smaller than 5/16 through the railing and into the post. We chose to use two bolts to fasten our railings to each post, therefore the two bolt holes were drilled in the railings 1 1/2 inches from the edge of the 2 x 6. We did not want our bolt heads to protrude out of the railing, so we drilled the two holes in the railing slightly larger than the washer 1/2″ deep to countersink the washer and head of the lag bolt. After inserting the bolts into the holes and tightening them up, the clamps were then removed and the process was repeated for the next railing.

After attaching all of the railings to the posts, we then hung the two 12 foot gates on each end of our riding arena. We purchased two steel gate kits that came with hinges and a latch on them ready for installation. To hang the gates was a simple matter of drilling two holes through the gateposts at the correct height. The final step to completing our riding arena was to paint all of the wood railings and posts with a good outdoor protective paint that would preserve and protect the wood, as well as matching the color on our existing horse sheds.

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.

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.

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.

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.