Tack n' Talk

Online Equestrian Resource

Archive for January, 2011

Does your horse turn and face you when on the lunge line?

Written By:  Larissa W. Cox, M.Sc. Applied Equine Science

Turning and facing in, or walking in towards you while on the lunge is a common problem for horses. There are several ways to help correct this problem, and in a short time, your horse should be moving forward on the circle well!

Before you start, make sure you are using the correct equipment.  Make sure to use a long lunge line, so you can adjust the size of the circle.  I like to use a 30′ cotton lunge line.

It’s also good practice to use a lunging cavesson or a bridle while lunging, and attach the lunge line to either the middle ring of the cavesson, or both sides of the bit.  I also like to use a lunging surcingle to attach side reins or something that works the horse head-to-tail, like the Equi-Ami or Pessoa Lunging System.  Finally, carry a lunging whip, that can be used as an extension of your arm, to drive the horse forward.


Pessoa Lunging System

When you start lunging, it’s important to habituate the horse to your final position on the lunging circle, which should be around the girth. If your horse has a habit of facing in towards you, always begin by walking the horse in hand, with you by his shoulder.  Slowly start letting out the lunge line, while encouraging the horse to move forward with the whip.  This is a very good way to begin, because if the horse tries to stop and turn in, you are in a position to keep walking beside the horse, mirroring desired etiquette and the direction of travel.  Keep lengthened the lunge line until you are in the centre of the circle.  Keep the whip pointing at the hip of the horse to encourage him to move forward.


The red dot is your position, purple is the lunge line, green whip pointing to hip

If the horse stops and turns towards you during the lunging session, take up the slack in the line, and start the process again, where you walk beside the horse and slowly let the line out.

It’s very important that you do not try whipping the horse around his head in an effort to get him to turn back on the circle.  This is a very sensitive area for the horse and not only can spook the horse, but also send contradictory signals, leading to a confused and upset horse that hates being lunged.

Instead, be patient and consistent in your training with this walking forward technique.  Remember to respond quickly, and not to stop and pat the horse – immediately walk forward on the circle, then slowly let the line out.

Finally, when ending the lunging session, end the way you began. Slowly start taking the slack up in the lunge line, to the point where you are walking beside the horse, then stop walking and bring your horse to a halt.  This way, you are never encouraging the horse to stop and face you at any point during the lunging session, keeping the horse moving forward along the direction of travel.

Good luck and happy lunging!


Equine Body Condition Score


There has been much discussion and many papers presented on Equine Metabolic Syndrome and how weight gain and obesity in horses should be avoided to prevent such ailments as insulin resistance, increased insulin and leptin blood levels and laminitis, but how many of us actually know the basics of equine body condition scoring?

We can look at our horse and say, “yep, he looks good”, or “oh my gosh, he’s fat!”, but can we actually put our horses in the score classification?  Below, is a handy chart that you can use to determine what body condition score your horse actually fits in.

Main areas to look at for body condition scoring

Score Description
1 POOR:Horse is extremely emaciated.  The backbone, ribs, hipbones, and tail-head project prominently.  Bone structure of the withers, shoulders, and neck easily noticeable.  No fatty tissues can be felt.
2 VERY THIN: Horse is emaciated.  Slight fat covering over vertebrae.  Backbone, ribs, tail-head, and hipbones are prominent.  Withers, shoulders, and neck structures are discernible.
3 THIN:Fat built up about halfway on vertebrae.  Slight fat layer can be felt over ribs, but ribs easily discernible.  The tail-head is evident, but individual vertebrae cannot be seen.  The hipbones cannot be seen, but withers, should, and neck are emphasized.
4 MODERATELY THIN: Negative crease along back.  Faint outline of ribs can be seen.  Fat can be felt along tail-head.  Hip bones cannot be seen.  Withers, neck, and shoulders not obviously thin.
5 MODERATE:Back is level.  Ribs can be felt, but not easily seen.  Fat around tail-head beginning to feel spongy.  Withers are rounded and shoulders and neck blend smoothly into the body.
6 MODERATELY FLESHY: May have a slight crease down the back.  Fat on the tail-head feels soft.  Fat over the ribs feels spongy.  Fat beginning to be deposited along the sides of the ithers, behind the shoulders, and along the neck.
7 FLESHY: A crease is seen down the back.  Individual ribs can be felt, but noticeably filling between ribs with fat.  Fat around tail-head is soft.  Noticeable fat deposited along the withers, behind the shoulders, and along the neck.
8 FAT:Crease down back is prominent.  Ribs difficult to feel due to fat in between.  Fat around tail-head very soft.  Area along withers filled with fat.  Area behind shoulders filled in flush with the barrel of the body.  Noticeable thickening of neck.  Fat deposited along the inner buttocks.
9 EXTREMELY FAT: Obvious crease down back.  Fat is in patches over rib area, with bulging fat over tail-head, withers, neck and behind shoulders.  Fat along inner buttocks may rub together.  Flank is filled in flush with the barrel of the body.

Body Condition Scores for Different Disciplines  according to The Henneke System of Body Scoring

The Henneke System of Body Condition Scoring also uses the above 1-9 scale to rate a horse’s overall body condition.  A horse with a body condition score of 1 is emaciated and in most cases in danger of starving to death while a horse with a body condition score of 9 is extremely obese.  According to the Henneke System, normal healthy horses have a body condition score from 4-7.

The following chart displays “normal” body condition scores for horses in a variety of working conditions:

Endurance 4-5
Eventing 4-5
Polo 4-5
Ranch 4-5
Open mare 4-6
Stallion (off season) 5-7
Standardbred racehorse 4-6
Thoroughbred racehorse 4-6
Hunter 5-7
Show Jumper 5-7
Breeding stallion 4-6
Dressage 5-7
Quarter Horse 5-7
Show hack 5-7
Pony 6-8
Pregnant mare 6-8

BREED SPOTLIGHT: The Florida Cracker

Florida Cracker horses are small saddle horses known for their stamina, intelligence, quickness, strength, and easy ride. They are spirited willing workers with a strong herding instinct and great agility over rough ground.

The ancestors of the Florida Cracker Horse were the Spanish stock brought to the New World during the 1500s. These horses became distinct from their ancestors, partially in response to unique conditions of the Florida environment, but they still maintain many of the ancestral characteristics including their size, short backs, and sloping rumps. Although not strictly considered a gaited breed, many crackers have a distinctive single-foot gait known as the “coon rack”.

In 1791, William Bartram referred to the horses used by early Florida cowboys as “The most beautiful and sprightly species of that noble creature that I have ever seen” Over the years, Cracker Horses have been known by a variety of names including Chicksaw Pony, Seminole Pony, Marsh Tackie, Prairie Pony, Florida Horse, Florida Cow Pony, Grass Gut and others.

The term “cracker” comes from the name given to Florida cattlemen because of the sound made by their “cracking” cow whips. The name was extended to their agile horses, which were perfectly suited for herding and driving Florida’s free roaming scrub and cracker cattle. These hardy horses adapted well to the harsh Florida environment, were essential to the Florida cattle industry and The Florida Cracker Horse Association lists the breed’s characteristics as follows:

“[Florida Cracker horses are] small saddle horses, standing from 13.5 hands to 15.2 at the withers and weighing 700 – 1000 pounds. The head is refined and intelligent in appearance. The profile is straight or slightly concave. The throat latch is prominent and the jaw is short and well defined. The eyes are keen with an alert expression and have reasonable width between them. The eye colors are dark, with a white sclera, gray or blue. The neck is well defined, fairly narrow, without excessive crest and is about the same length as the distance from the withers to the croup. The withers are pronounced but not prominent. Colors are any of those known to the horse; however, solid colors and grays are most common”.

The Florida Cracker Horse Association (FCHA) was formed in 1989 by cattlemen interested in protecting the breed from extinction. The FCHA Registry was created in 1991 and started with several “foundation horses” (horses of known ancestry from cracker lines of long standing). By the year 2000, the Registry included 130 foundation horses and 285 descendants.  The breed’s survival over the last fifty years resulted from the work of a few families who continued to breed Cracker Horses for their own use. It was these ranching families and individuals whose perseverance and distinct bloodlines that kept the Cracker Horses from becoming extinct. The family names include the Ayers, Harvey, Bronson, Matchett, Partin and Whaley names

At the start of 2009, there were 964 horses in the FCHA Registry, approximately 30 at Payne’s Prairie, four mares and one stallion at the Agricultural Museum, and three mares and one stallion at Withlacoochee.

Hope you enjoyed reading about The Florida Cracker – Larissa 🙂

HELLO WEEKEND: White Horse Dilemma!


By: Larissa Cox

As an owner of a predominately white horse, I am obsessed with finding a good stain remover.  It seems that the DNA that causes horses to be white, also makes those horses seek out whatever mud or manure is in the area! At least that is the case with my horse Phantom!  And, when it comes to stains manure and urine, are the most challenging to remove.

It's in Phantom's DNA to seek out the muddiest spot!

There are old time stain removing standbys that include bluing, vinegar, witch hazel, alcohol, liniments and even glycerine on soiled areas.  But, are these  safe to use on your white horse’s skin? Today there are a number of companies that have developed products specifically for the horse that is a gentler formula with skin conditioners such as aloe, vitamins and moisturizing ingredients.

When it comes to whitening, I have always listened to my grandmother, who says the gold standard is bluing. However, this comes at a cost.  While bluing does produce a white horse, it can be very drying to the skin and hair, sometimes causing skin irritation.  Most equine products that utilize bluing will also include aloe or vitamin E to put the moisture back into the coat to try and counter balance the dryness of the bluing.  Beware that you can overdo it with bluing and may end up with a bluish-purple horse, as I did!

Modern science has been wonderful in the field of whitening and has introduced stain lifting enzymes, herbal stain dissolvers, bleaches and oxygen based products, such as Wow! Whitener spray.  Read the label as some of these oxygen based cleaners use a form of peroxide, which can  be very drying to the horse’s hair as well.

For my sensitive skinned Phantom, both Lucky Braids Shampoo and Absorbine’s Special Care Ultra Gentle work very well and don’t irritate Phantom’s skin.  You can also use Lucky Braids Whitener for spot treatment on your white horse, as I have found this product to be simply amazing!

Love 'em or hate 'em...white horses are eye-catching.

Many horse owners like to use human shampoo and/or dishwasher liquids to bathe their horses and tails.  While not fatal, actual horse shampoos will improve your horse’s coat condition and provide him with healthier skin and hair.  Horse products can fit within your budget and they are formulated for a horse’s natural skin pH and to enhance their coat.


I use Lucky Braid Shampoo in a gallon jug with this handy pump!

My bottom line for a great washing product is Lucky Braids Shampoo. I found that it produced a great lather, had a great scent and I found that it solved many of Phantom’s skin problems such as mild fungus, itchy skin, stains and dry skin.  Using this shampoo also improved the condition of Phantom’s tail, reducing his tail rubbing and breakage. As well, Absorbine’s Special Care Ultra Gentle Shampoo, I found removed the dirt on my horses without stripping the natural oils.  According to Absorbine, this shampoo has been formulated to protect spot-applied fly, flea and tick control treatments from washing away, which is a good thing to remember during those hot summer days!  This shampoo is really concentrated, so a little goes a long way.  It worked really well on Phantom, who has very sensitive skin and tends to break out in hives at a drop of a hat,  but didn’t remove the stains as well as the Lucky Braids Shampoo.

The Lucky Braids Whitener, as I mentioned before, is a product white horse owners should not be without. For Phantom’s really tough stains, on his body and tail, I leave it on overnight.  Another whitening product that I use is Wow! Whitener, which, in my opinion,  comes in at a close second to the Lucky Braid Whitener.  Wow! worked well on stains and is handy to have on hand for those show emergency stains.  It’s a good smelling product which is easy to apply and is terrific for removing dirt and that summer dust that comes from sweat, dust and fly sprays and great for leg touch-ups during competition.

I also use Lucky Braid Whitener on Phantom's legs, just before entering the arena. Great for show touch-ups!

Another good whitening shampoo that I have tried,  is Xtreme Showwhite by Xtreme Design.  This shampoo had a mild whitening property that puts a healthy glow on a horse’s coat, but unfortunately, didn’t whiten enough to remove those heavy, nasty stains.  It doesn’t dry out the skin and didn’t have to sit on too long to get good results.

SuperPoo Shampoo also by absorbine  is a non-irritating, pH balanced, economical shampoo which has the greatest apple scent – good enough to eat!  It’s a great all around shampoo which has a good lather and I found good for frequent use.  By the way, this is the only shampoo that removes sticky tree sap, so I always keep it on hand.

Larissa 🙂



Tail Rubbing Solved

Taken from Top Turnout Tips by Ruthann Smith

Tail rubbing is an epidemic, while most treatments actually perpetuate the torture.  Treatment and prevention requires awareness, but not much time.  First check the basics:

  • Worm well.
  • If the animal is itchy all over, it may have digestive issues.  So, consultant with a veterinarian.  Nonetheless, solutions outlined below can offer relief.
  • Clean under tails daily with a damp cloth and soft brush.  Exfoliate and bring out natural protective oils.
  • Clean between hind legs.  Some mares need their teats wiped and brushed every day.  Clean gelding’s sheaths monthly, or at least every 6 months.  If you are inexperienced, ask or pay a professional.
  • Choose your products carefully.  Dry skin gets irritated.  Itching it hurts and perpetuates a vicious cycle.

We need to transcend irritation by solving the problem from every direction to break and stay out of the itching cycle.  The proven solution is to eradicate the irritant and inflammation while cooling, moisturizing and nourishing the skin and roots for rapid healing and re-growth.  Use a non-greasy topical solution for quick absorption.  Your shampoo should be saturated with Aloe Vera and combine generous amounts of Vitamin E with medical-grade Tea Tree Oil, nature’s finest antiseptic.

Fast Facts:

Common products can cause and exasperate irritation by stripping natural protective oils, drying out skin and clogging pores.  So, avoid these ingredients:

  • Sodium chloride – salt used for lather in most shampoos
  • Petroleum products – silicone and mineral oil are in most detanglers and fly sprays
  • Poisons – look for natural fly sprays or use predator flies.
  • Harsh antibacterial – use only medical-grade tea tree oil.  It is the best natural antiseptic, but there are 20 grades of it.  You need the highly effective bug gentle quality.
  • Detanglers can clog pores and irritate skin.  For the most gorgeous tails, shampoo with Lucky Braids.  The healing aloe also reduces tangles and volumizes.
  • Comb tail when wet.  Always hold and start at the bottom to protect roots.  Wet hair stretches, so it is more forgiving.
  • To comb wet tails, first twist the length to protect it.  Then, grip the bottom.  Comb from the bottom up to your grip.  Then move your hold up 6-8 inches.  Always start combing from the bottom.  If you hit a snag, work it from below.
  • Maintain daily: pick, comb or brush.
  • If hair is sticking together because the tail is dirty and bathing is out, use an enzymatic spray made for horses.  Properly pH balanced, it can break the bond between hair and dirt without coating or stripping hair.  Wipe off impurities with a towel and comb wet.

As a braider, the lack of any effective tail rubbing solution was painfully apparent, so I worked with a naturopathic veterinarian to develop Lucky Braids products.  Countless people have said they are the only products to solve the toughest cases.  Many animals experience complete relief with just Lucky Braids Shampoo.  Otherwise, I suggest bathing with Lucky Braids Shampoo and applying our Salve to key areas until the itching subsides.  If rubbing is a habit, it may take a few days for the animal to forget to rub.  Then, continue using Lucky Braids Shampoo to maintain healthy, resilient skin and hair.  With proper care, all horses can be comfortable in their skin.

To order Lucky Braid Products, please visit:  http://www.luckybraids.com/products.htm