Archive for December, 2011
By: Larissa Cox
Burr….it’s getting cold outside. The changing seasons can cause so much stress to the horse owner as many are confused to what blanket weight they should put on their horses. Do I leave that rain sheet on, or does my boy/girl need a heavier weight blanket? I know of many owners that change their horse’s blankets throughout the day, but is that truly necessary.
Remember that poorly fitting blankets can severely chafe or cut a horse’s skin. If winter blankets aren’t made of breathable fabrics, the horse can sweat underneath and become uncomfortably wet.
If you often deal with wet weather, as we do in the Pacific Northwest, it might be handy to have two waterproof blankets. If one blanket becomes saturated, you’ll have an extra for your horse while the other dries out. Remember, wearing a wet blanket is as bad as wearing no blanket at all.
You can, of course, clip the horse. This is essential if you plan to show through the winter or even if you plan to board at an indoor facility and keep riding. Once you clip, though, you have made a commitment to also blanket.
Happy winter riding – Larissa
Here is a quick guide that you can use to determine what weight of blanket you should put on your horse.
Guide for Maintaining Current Coat Condition
|Warmth of Blanket||Short Coat/Clipped||Medium/Full Coat|
|Extra Heavyweight||Subzero – 15o F||—|
|Heavyweight||15 o F – 30 o F||Subzero – 15 oF|
|Midweight||30 o F – 50 o F||15 o F – 30 o F|
|Sheet||50 o F +||30 o F +|
Guide for Improving Current Coat Condition (This promotes shedding)
|Warmth of Blanket||Short Coat/Clipped||Medium/Full Coat|
|Extra Heavyweight||Subzero – 20o F||Subzero – 15 o F|
|Heavyweight||20 o F – 40 o F||15 o F – 30o F|
|Midweight||40 o F – 60 o F||30 o F – 40 o F|
|Sheet||60 o F +||45 o F +|
By: Larissa Cox
With temperatures dropping into the teens throughout most of the country, now is the time to be aware of some common issues that many horse owners overlook during the winter. From routine health care to mouth care, are just some of the issues that should be addressed during the harsh days of winter.
Routine Health Care
There is a common misconception that during the cold winter months, de-worming is now required. Winter, actually, is an excellent time to de-worm and develop your de-worming rotation schedule. Winter conditions may prevent the hatching of some eggs, but there are still some internal parasite eggs that can survive cold temperatures. For this reason, horses need to be de-wormed throughout winter.
Also, it is very important to maintain a regular vaccination and health care schedule with your veterinarian.
No Hoof, No Horse..
Often, hoof care is overlooked during the winter as horses are ridden less frequently. Your horse’s hooves should be inspected daily and picked clean, especially during rainy periods when mud and manure can become packed within the hoof. There is a common practice with some owners to remove their horse’s shoes during the winter months, however regular farrier services is still required every 6 – 8 weeks to keep your horse’s hooves in good condition. I typically schedule my farrier every 4 weeks during the warmer months and every 5 – 6 weeks during the winter months as the hoof tends to not grow as quickly. If your horse requires shoeing during the winter months, you need to be even more vigilant to remove all snow and ice compacted within the foot. Speak to your farrier to see what options he may have to help prevent the snowball effect within your horse’s feet.
Some nutritionists recommend a hoof supplement during the winter consisting of biotin, amino acids, zinc and copper. However, a good supplement program should be kept throughout the year, to help keep the integrity of your horse’s hooves.
Many horse owners use a hoof conditioner during the winter months. As winter approaches, I switch to Effol Winter Hoof Gel for my horses. The heavier oil in the gel allows for penetration as the hoof becomes harder during the inter months. However, I have found that horse owners are very passionate about the hoof conditioners they use, and the key with any hoof conditioner is to keep the coronary band moisturized. This will ensure healthy hoof growth from the beginning.
Bits… Often Ignored
How many of you have held your horse’s icy bit in your hands wishing it would warm up? Many riders often neglect the temperature of the bit. Yearly riding is very important, but using a cold, frozen bit can cause discomfort for your horse. Consider using a bit warmer to safely bring the bit temperature to a comfortable level for your horse.
There are several bit warmers on the market today from easy-to-use electric bit warmers to the small reuseable hand warmers. A quick search on the internet will help you find out which one would be suited for your use.
Water…Is your horse drinking?
No matter what the season, horses require anywhere from 8 to 12 gallons of water a day. Many equine veterinary practitioners note that there is a significant rise in colic (impaction)during the winter months, with the culprit being inadequate consumption of water due to cold water. Owners should be aware of the lower moisture content in their horse’s winter feed. While grass is more than 70 percent water, hay contains less than 10 percent moisture. By providing an adequate supply of clean warm water at a temperature of 45 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit your horse should stay well hydrated. There are several options available today aiding you in keeping the water temperature at a level that will encourage your horse to drink. Speak to your veterinarian or search the internet to find out which option would suit your needs.
Caring for horses over the winter months can be a difficult task with cold weather, frozen water, and strong winds. However, the better horses are maintained during the winter, the better condition they will be in once the weather warms and it is time to actively start riding again.
By Larissa Cox
The winter months should not mean that your horse lies dormant through the colder days. This is a time to have fun with your horse without all those biting flies, scorching sun and the unbearable summer heat. So, put on those warm socks and gloves and go for a ride!
Consider how your current weather conditions may affect your horse and you should adapt your winter rides accordingly. If it is sunny and the air is still, your horse will warm up faster and could work up a sweat much faster and will require a longer cool down period. If it is a cold and cloudy day, you may need to warm up longer and may be able to have a longer more intense workout with much less sweat resulting in a shorter cool down period.
Warming up those cold muscles prior to exercise if very important for getting the circulation going and loosening up still muscles and joints for both you and your horse. It is very important to include warm-ups as part of your riding program as this is critical for the prevention of injury throughout the year. Warming up between 10 – 20 minutes is generally adequate, but you must consider the weather condition and your horse. A horse that stands in a stall all day/night may require a longer warm up period to get them moving comfortably than one that is turned out during the winter months as he is already moving around a little and may not need as long a warm up period before getting down to business!
I generally start my warm up program with about 5 minutes of stretching at the walk followed by stretches and large circles at the trot for the next 5 – 10 or so minutes. I then slowly collect my gelding, Rio, and ask for smaller circles, lateral movements, counter flexion, halts, walk and trot transitions. Cantering larger circles going into smaller 10 meter circles generally signifies the end of my warm up period. At the canter I perform counter flexion and lots and lots of transitions between gaits and changing of speed within the canter.
Even during the winter months, I gear my riding towards keeping my horse in condition and use this time to refine his skills. For example, during the winter months I try and ride at least three days per week. The other days I mix with hacking out and lunge work . According to Kaneps, DVM, co-editor of Equine Sport Medicine & Surgery, cardiovascular fitness, regardless of the discipline you ride, requires at least 15 – 25 minutes of active exercise, five days a week in order to maintain baseline fitness. “Although the basics of cardiovascular fitness are no different from one discipline to another, discipline-specific exercises are very important. A dressage horse, for example, will need to do a lot more lateral work, leg yields, etc., than a trail horse.”
If you have the opportunity to ride on hills, I would highly recommend this form of riding. Walking hills really gets the horses to use their hind legs which seem to loose condition first. Walking hills also allows your horse to work both sides evenly without causing excess sweating as when cantering hills.
Don’t forget to ease up on your training and indulge in some hacking if you are able. The change of scenery and breaks from obvious training is healthy for both you and your horse. Hacks break up the boredom of ring work, keeps your horses mind fresh and can help with conditioning. Periods of trot during the hack can help with cardiovascular conditioning, so start out with 10-minute intervals of two or three times working up to a 20 minute period. Caution, do not ride on frozen surfaces nor ride on snow-covered ground that could hide holes or other hazards!
After your winter workout, your horse needs a proper cool down period prior to returning to his stall or turn-out. The best way of cooling down your horse is by quiet walking either under saddle or in hand. Plan on spending at least 15 – 25 minutes for the cool down process. If your horse is clipped, he will dry faster than one with his natural winter coat, so judge accordingly. A clipped horse will also become chilled, so you may want to consider covering his hindquarters with a sweat sheet or quarter sheet. The key of this cool out is to give your horse time to stop breathing hard from exercise. If he is flared at the nostrils, blowing hard or his veins are popped out, his heart is still working quite hard and he still requires a longer cool out period.
Your horse’s skin should be dry before you end the cool down. A wet horse should not be put back into his blanket as the trapped moisture will give him a chill during the cold weather. For those horses that are still damp, you will need to continue walking them out, or put a fleece cool down blanket on him until he is quite dry, then switch over to his regular blanket. I use a polar fleece type of sheet on Rio which allows the moisture to wick through.
If you find the lengthy cool downs are really inconvenient, shorten the intensity or length of the sweat causing exercises. Winter riding can be fun and shouldn’t be a time of hibernation for both you and your horse!
Happy Winter Riding – Larissa
In most parts of the country, the colder weather is upon us and this weather makes horse grooming a challenge. Mud and manure stains are always an issue, but even more so during the cold, winter weather months. Here are a couple of tips that may help with the winter blues of grooming.
- Common white vinegar is great for removing stubborn manure and urine spots. Rub the vinegar directly onto a clean towel and rub into the stain. Rub, rub, rub the stain out. If the stain is exceptionally stubborn, you may have to repeat the process a few times. This also works well on mane and tail stains.You can also wash your horse’s tail in cold water, provided you wash below the tailbone. Use a sponge for the top part of his tail. Because there are no flies to contend with during the winter, you can also braid or bag your horse’s tail to help keep it clean.
- Baby wipes can be used on more than babies! These are great to remove stains away around sensitive areas such as eyes, ears, nose and dock. Keep a box in your tack box during the winter.
- When grooming your horse, pay particular attention to the areas around his ears, under his jaw and at the back of his fetlocks. This area is prone to being irritated by the dirt and sweat residue that can lead to winter sores.
- Dry shampoo is great to use during the winter months. I spray directly onto the coat and rub it in with a clean towel against the grain of the hair.
- For a deeper cleaning on dirty horses, steam away stains with hot towels. If you are fortunate to have hot water at your barn, fill a bucket. If only cold water is available, use a portable heating element or kettle to heat the water. Curry your horse’s coat prior to using the hot towels. When your water is hot, dip towels into the bucket and wring out excess water leaving the towels damp and not dripping with water. Rub the stains quickly, rotating the towel often. Cover your horse with a cooler to prevent him from getting a chill, but your horse should not be wet, only slightly damp.
- For less than $200, you can purchase a horse vacuum with a variety of attachments. You will need to desensitize your horse to its sound and feel, but once you do, vacuuming is a beneficial addition to brushing and currying a thick winter coat.
Keeping your horse clean during the winter months is challenging, but it’s worth the extra effort. Your horse may still be as wooly as a mammoth, but he will be clean and ready for a day’s ride.
Happy grooming – Larissa
By: Traci Gagne
I was blessed with a gift of a horse at age 25, it was a dream come true and a lot of work ahead of me. All I knew about horses was that they can be fun and dangerous, the rest I had to learn.
My first horse was not a good fit for me, neither was my 2nd, but the 3rd, well, he was amazing! His name is Omega. He is now a 9 year old paint gelding that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I have had the pleasure of bonding with him for about the last five years.
I have had him boarded at 2 different facilities, and I am friends with both owners which was a nice advantage. I had the privilege of using tack and learning about horses right at my finger tips.
In our first summer, we went out riding a few times and besides me being green and not knowing but the basics of riding, Omega did well. I even let my friend take Omega on trail rides when I couldn’t go so he would keep his manners under saddle. However, after about a year he would start tossing his head a little when riding. My friend told me to tug a little on his mane and tell him to stop and he would. Ok, simple enough, right? It seemed to work, and he was fine with it.
About 2 years later, we moved back to my hometown, and so I brought Omega with me and took him to my other friend’s house. I no longer had tack to ride, so we didn’t. As time passed, I realized it had been a year and he needed to be ridden. I no longer had access to an extra saddle that I could use, so my friend offered to tack him up for me and I could ride him around the pasture. How nice, I thought, until he started tossing his head, popping up in the front and would go any which way but forward. So now what? Teeth! I had his teeth done, they were in need of a good float and a little work. So all should be well, right?
Nope! Same thing, he just did not want to ride. So I talked it over with my friend and we decided that since he sat for so long without being ridden, I would send him out for a tune-up. While he was getting back into riding, I bought a saddle, bridle, bit etc. The trainer (self proclaimed) used her bridle. I didn’t find out until later that she also rode him with a tie-down, and thought maybe that was it. But, he wasn’t popping and tossing like he used to. Perfect…let’s ride!
All three of us were somewhat friends now (me, my boarding friend and the trainer) and would go ride whenever we could. And I would say it was 50/50, that Omega would act up (toss and pop). I was frustrated. This shouldn’t be happening. And why is he being so herd bound? Constantly wanting to stay put. I spent all that money to ride again. What’s going on? So I thought and though and thought. Light bulb! Let’s try a different bit! His dentist recommended a dog bone bit, mouth and something smaller might help. Ok, I can handle that, the search began for the dog bone bit.
When I told my friend about my decision, she acted as if it was a good idea. Then I got this text message out of now where from the trainer I had used about me wanting to change his bit. Now I haven’t talked to her in month.’s so how did she know? Well the texts said “a different bit wasn’t going to change anything, and I don’t know what I’m doing because I’m green. And all I was gonna do is ruin my horse and waste money.” That’s right, RUIN my horse! This caused friction between my friend and myself. I did not appreciate her talking about me and my horse in that manner, but I let it go.
I finally found the bit I was looking for at the horse fair. I couldn’t wait to try it. But every time it was mentioned I was told, “It’s not the bit, it’s me” and “the one he has is just fine.” But I just had a feeling that something wasn’t right. By now I felt that I wasn’t qualified to may ANY decisions for Omega, because I was going to ruin him and I didn’t know anything.
Well, I got the same response from Omega with that bit. I wanted to scream, cry and sell him all at the same time. Maybe my friend and the trainer were right. What did I know? Well, I knew something wasn’t right, and over the years I had learned a lot from hands-on and reading and didn’t have the heart to give up on him. Then I saw this article on Twitter from Tack ‘n Talk about “The right size bit.” So I read it. WOW! Measure the mouth? Why? No one ever mentioned they measure a horse’s mouth! You buy the standard for their age/size/breed….right? Absolutely NOT! And then there was hope again.
So my next step was to measure his mouth. But, with all the comments and lack of support, I wasn’t about to measure his mouth or do anything bit related when anyone else was around. I just didn’t want to deal with the comments.
The day I went out to the barn and measured Omega’s mouth I just about fell over. His bit was too small! I just couldn’t believe it. So once again, I was on a search for a different, but bigger bit. he was tolerating at times a 5 inch bit, but he really needed a 5 1/2 inch bit. So when I did find the right size, I purchased one bit and the tack shop owner let me borrow another one for a trial to make sure I didn’t waste any more money.
I was so excited to take Omega for a test drive in his new bit. When I had the opportunity to tack him up and try it out, I was shocked. It took him a minute to take the bit, but he did. And he didn’t mess around with it in his mouth like he did the others. And he wasn’t making funny faces with his mouth wide open. It fit! And I could see how his body language changed. My “green” gut instinct paid off! I got on my horse and he didn’t toss his head, he waited for a cue. And I was so happy for the both of us! I never did mention any of this to my friend and I haven’t heard a peep from the trainer. How could that have been overlooked if you are a trainer?
Now that I have the knowledge of how to properly fit my horse for a bit, and I want to share it with others.
This winter Omega and I will be at a new facility, one with an indoor arena and other tools we can benefit from. I’m so excited to ride again, the way we should. I always told Omega…”Someday you and I will do great things.” I believe that and that someday is coming soon!