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Archive for Hello Weekend

Are you having problems with your arena?

Presented by Larissa W. Cox, M.Sc. Applied Equine Science with permission from Springride Surfaces

Believe it or not, summer is coming and you will be riding!  However, if you look at your arena now, it’s looking a little sad.  You know you have to do something about it, but you don’t know what. 


Sand draining well but needs added spring.

So, your arena looks okay and the drainage is good but it needs that added spring.  According to Springride, UK manufacturers of Equestrian surfaces,  prepare your sand by levelling and rolling and then lay 25mm rubber and fibre composite chip on top at a rate of one tonne per 40sqm.  If you buy Springride’s premium chip, it comes in bags, so you can position them evenly on your arena, split or tip the bags and spread to an even depth.  Take care to ensure the sand is completely level, you don’t want to lay the rubber in tracks or pits.  Once laying is complete, level and roll daily until settled.


How much do you need?  Springride delivers their product in 1 tonne bags, so if you have a 20m x 20m arena, the suggested requirement is 10 tonnes (10 bags).  20m x 40m = 20 tonnes; 20m x 60m = 30 tonnes.

Deep riding sand

According to Springride, this is one of the most common problems and generally occurs as a result of over engineered drainage and/or the wrong sand.  You need to source a fine to medium, angular silica sand and lay to a depth of 100mm if topping with a rubber surface.  Springride offers a great product called Springride Shred which is a blend of specifically shaped and uniquely patterned rubber that anchors into the sand layer to create a stable surface.  This product reduces maintenance, provides great cushioning and spring with minimal kick back.  It has great drainage properties and reduces dust, retaining moisture in dry months.

Is your indoor dry and dusty?

This is a very common problem with indoor arenas even with a sprinkler system in place.  Prepare your sand by levelling and rolling.  It is very helpful to thoroughly wet the sand prior to laying a top dressing.  Springride has a innovative product called Shredtex which is a blend of rubber strips and rubber backed with textile.  This helps retain moisture and provides a soft but secure footing.  Lay this blend of rubber and textiles on a 75 – 100mm sand base and roll as often as possible in the first few weeks.  You’ll be amazed at the difference.

Springride products are available for delivery across the UK and Europe.  Sorry folks, this product is not available in North America.

The great debate: How heavy is too heavy?

Presented by Larissa W. Cox, M.Sc. Applied Equine Science

The great weight debate:  How heavy is too heavy? 


While most healthy horses can easily carry a rider and saddle, they do have their limits.  How much weight can a horse comfortably carry?  It’s a difficult question and one that science can only provide some guidance.  There isn’t a simple formula as there are just too many variables in the equation, many of them are quite subjective Read the rest of this entry »

Hello Weekend: Which Lungeing Aid Would Benefit Your Horse?

Presented by:  Larissa W. Cox, M.Sc. Applied Equine Science

Okay, it’s now cold outside and many of us really don’t feel like riding.  But did you know that lungeing is a time-saving workout that can be done during the off-season or when you can only grab a short respite between downpours.

According to  The Equine Therapy Centre at Hartpury College in Gloucester, England, this  is only true if you are lungeing your horse correctly and in an aid that is  appropriate to his level of training, his conformation and way of going.   Just because you’ve heard of a system, or a friend uses it, doesn’t mean that you should run out and buy it.  Find out what different lungeing aids can do for your horse, where to buy  them and how much they cost before making that buying decision.

The Pessoa Lungeing System

Manufacturer’s  claim: creates a fluid contact. Its sympathetic ropes and pulleys  encourage the horse to use the correct muscles and to work in the perfect  shape.
I must admit that I use it to
 limit extension of the  hind leg, lower the head and neck if placed low, or compress the neck if set  higher.

Manufacturer’s  claim: helps the horse to step under from behind, using his back and  lifting his shoulders, working into a soft, equal contact.  
Again, I own this system and I use it to limit extension of hind limb and lower head and  neck.  The EquiAmi comes with a How-To DVD and it is recommended to watch the video before use.
Bungee reins/side  reins
Bungee reins and side reins are widely available and used to:  lower head and neck and inhibit forward movement of the head.

Side  reins to: depending on placement, encourage lowering of head and neck or simply restrict movement to aid control.

Hello Weekend: The Sun-Kissed or Bleached Horse

Let’s face it, we all love the sun and many parts of the country, this summer was exceptional!   Horses, in the paddock and fields, enjoy their time as they lie soaking up the rays.  Those rays, while we all enjoy it, can be very damaging to our skin and our horse’s coat.  But, there are many things that we can do to minimize the sun’s impact.

Parched coats are vulnerable to getting burned.  Most sun-bleaching is perpetuated by agents that dry the coat which maximizes damage.  The most common causes are salt, mud and petroleum products.


Salt from sweat and dirt from mud draw out natural moisture and oils from the horse’s coat.  Epsom salt soaks can pull out an abscess or clean a deep wound.  Poultice is a mud pack we use to pull heat and swelling out of legs.  Left on the coat, salt and dirt deplete moisture.  Salt (sodium chloride) is also a very common additive in horse shampoos.

While the skin’s natural oils protect the horse from elements and irritation, synthetic ones can burn and suffocate the hair.  Hair not only gets bleached, but also brittle.  Many products marketed to repel bugs, create a shine, and detangle are petroleum-based.  Instead of using those products, use ones that promote the coat’s resilience and the hair’s strength.

The best strategy is to enhance your horse’s own defences.  His coat’s natural oils protect hair and skin.  The very best thing you can do to improve your horse’s coat is to curry it vigorously every day.  This not only rids it of damaging salt and dirt, but also brings oils to the surface and exfoliates to release them.

Be discerning when buying products.  Some products make claims that are not realized.   Shampoos that strip natural oils not only take away the shine, but stripping the oils actually leads horses to get dirtier.  Spray on shine can never simulate a deep-layered glisten, nor rich colour.  Over time, some detanglers can make hair very brittle.  Look for detanglers and conditioners that contain ingredients to help strengthen the hair.

Shampoos should specify:  pH balanced for horses, otherwise, they will be difficult to rinse and likely leave a film that attracts drying sun and dirt.

Soft brushing and towelling facial skin makes it shine.  If needed, human sunscreen can prevent pink muzzles from burning.

Hello Weekend: Slow Feeders

Presented by:  Larissa Cox, M.Sc. Equine Science

From the time horses were domesticated and stalled, unknowingly, we created a problem.  The equine digestive system continuously produces and secretes stomach acid.  This isn’t an issue when horses graze most of the day, but when their stomach is empty, that acid can eat away at the stomach lining causing painful gastric ulcers and digestive imbalances.


In the wild, horses travel up to 25 miles a day eating little bites here and there, grazing 18 – 20 hours each day.  Their digestive system is classified as trickle feeders, eating only enough to be satisfied and never to be full.  It is very important to remember the underlying biology of the horse when determining how and when to feed and in what quantities.

The horse is a hind gut fermenting grazer.  The digestive process starts when he pulls and chews grass which in turn stimulates the flow of saliva, lubricating this grass before passing into the digestive tract.  As the horse chews, their alkaline saliva helps to buffer the acidity in their stomach.  The pH of the stomach is quite acidic and realize that this acid is produced whether or not the horse is eating.  As long as the horse’s stomach contents are buffered by saliva and fiber, the digestive tract remains healthy.  When we as owners try to compensate for the lack of hay by feeding more concentrate, we unintentionally overload their delicate digestive system, leading to excessive fermentation and gas in the hindgut.  This can lead to colic or diarrhea, or in extreme situations, gastric rupture, which can cause death.

Think about when you come home after a hard day’s at work, not eating all day.  You come home famished.  You eat everything in site, completely overeating, eating anything you can get your hands on.  Because your brain hasn’t caught up with your stomach, you are still hungry when you go to bed.  When you throw your horse a flake of hay, he will eat it until it’s gone, then still be hungry.  He will devour his grain and finish his evening hay before you shut the barn door.  If he eats too fast, he won’t feel content and full, which will lead to overeating.  And, because he is not chewing properly, he thinks he is still hungry which will cause him to become nervous, edgy and disobedient.


The concept of slow feeding is a continuous feeding method that allows your horse to constantly forage, stimulating his digestive system and his mind.  Under this condition, your horse’s body will work in better balance as nature intended.  Slow feeders decrease the rate of consumption, replicating natural grazing.  The digestive process is slowed down and the nutrients in hay can be absorbed much more efficiently.

Horses need to eat frequent meals as the stomach is very small and empties within an hour.  Any slow feeding method would provide constant foraging thereby reducing stress and allowing the horse’s system to remain balanced.  This in turn would reduce episodes of colic and loose stools.

As an added benefit, slow feeding can eliminate many vices such as weaving, cribbing and feed anxiety.  Other benefits can include reduction of colic risk, reduction of boredom, elimination of forage waste, reduction in labour costs, ends multiple feedings.

There are many types of slow feeders from “toys” that drop grain pellets to hay nets, box feeders and automatic hay dispensers.  Each having their advantages and their disadvantages.  In the upcoming issues, some popular slow feeders will be discussed.

HELLO WEEKEND: Equine Prosthetic Limbs

Josie, a 20 year old mare grazes on the lush fields in Versailles, Kentucky.  Despite her age, she is still spry and acts like a three-year old kicking up her heels and racing around the paddock.  She’s not royally bred.  She’s not a high value broodmare or a retired show horse.  In fact, there’s not much remarkable about her, except one thing…she only has three feet.

Josie - The Amputee Mare

Josie has been a long time fixture at Dr. Ric Redden’s International Equine Podiatry Center where she has lived with a prosthetic for over 18 years.

Most people don’t realize that a horse can survive on three legs with a prosthetic limb.  Disposition of the horse is the primary consideration for a prosthetic limb.  Is the horse willing to use the help of a sling to relax and sleep, or will they fight it?  Does the horse lie down and get up wearing a full leg cast?  Does the horse take challenges in a calm manner?  Is the opposite limb sound?  Can the owner accept the responsibilities for care and that the horse will never be ridden again but will lead a full life?

Today’s prosthetic limbs have come a long way from the beginning when they were stiff and non moving.  Over the years, technology for horses has improved with the help of those who specialize in human orthotics and prosthetics.  Once the horse’s leg has healed, it’s ready for the new limb.  The prosthesis can be made of carbon and have moving parts to help better simulate normal leg motion for the horse giving the ability to gallop while being turned out.  Today a well-fitting and useful prosthesis can easily be achieved.

Hello Weekend: Barn Dogs

From the time of equine domestication, dogs have long enjoyed a connection with stable.  Today it is a rare horse barn that doesn’t have a least one resident “barn dog”. It seems that over the years certain breeds have come to be particularly associated with horses. Hunting and herding dogs have a long tradition of being coupled with horses in a working relationship, as well as vermin catching terrier types.

barn dogs

A few breeds stand out when we think horses and dogs. It’s not so much breed that matters, as the temperament. Most barns get a certain amount of visitor traffic, so the barn dog should be non-aggressive, especially around children. But traditionally the barn dog is a useful canine, earning his keep in such capacities as herding, hunting or controlling mice populations.

Australian Shepherds have long held up their end of the job as herders on farms and ranches in the western United States. Contrary to their name, the breed was actually developed in the American West.


They are bred for their working ability rather than type. Crossed with other herding breeds the Aussie is known for his intelligence, endurance, energy and strong herding instinct.


The Corgi is a favorite of horse folk, especially the Queen of England. He’s a short, long dog that is just as at home herding cattle or sitting on your lap in front of the TV. Welsh legend has it that the Corgi was a gift from the fairies. Small in statue, but big of heart the Corgi was a cattle dog, ratter and family pet to the ancient Welshmen. A stiff penalty was given to anyone who would dare to steal a family’s Corgi because they were so important to the farmer.

Jack Russell Terrier is a little dog with a BIG personality.


The Jack Russell has been around for about one hundred years, developed from a strain of fox hounds by a preacher in England named John (Jack) Russell. These dogs also have been bred over the years for work rather than type. They resemble the early foxhound, and come in a range of sizes and hair types. Most are spotted with brown or brown and black, with at least 50% of their coat being white.

Dalmatians have been associated with coaching since ancient times. Since that time they have been guarding the coach and horses while the owners ran their errands. A dog with the stamina to keep up with horses, we remember them best for their affiliation with the fire station. Their job was to run ahead of the horse-drawn engine to warn pedestrians and other vehicles that they were coming through. This was before sirens. Owners of driving horses still enjoy the tradition of having a Dalmatian in their barn or on top of the carriage.

Great Pyrenees aka Pyrenean Mountain Dogs are a large, fuzzy, white and powerful dogs which historically have been used in Western Europe to guard herds of sheep and goats. Miniature Horse owners have discovered these dogs to be ideal to protect their horses from stray dogs and coyotes. The dogs are very territorial, but gentle with their families and animal charges. On the down side, they tend to bark a lot and will roam if not kept contained within fenced boundaries. They require a lot of exercise and patience in their training.

Horses and dogs can be great friends, especially when you have only one horse. Being a herd animal, a single horse will enjoy the company of a dog while his human herd mates are gone. While making a wonderful companion a dog can help you catch your horse, catch mice as well or better than a cat and act as a security guard. All things considered, they work for very low wages.

Do you have a barn dog?  If so, send us your story.

Carbohydrates in Equine Nutrition


This post was originally published back in January 2011, but I have had a number of questions regarding the overweight horse and carbohydrates in equine nutrition.  As a result, I am reposting.  If possible, print out the Equine Condition Scoring Chart and keep it handy at your barn for easy reference.  As horses are out in pasture during this time of year, we may want to review what we feed our horses so that we don’t have potential future problems.

In recent years, nutrition focus has seemed to have shifted to weight management and exercise for both people and horses.  I know that since I have been in the United Kingdom  and not riding my horses back home, both Bruq and Phantom have gained weight due to a lack of a regular exercise routine.  As a concern to me, there are some breeds of horses, such as the Arabian and Morgan, that are prone to such diseases as Insulin Resistance (IR) and Cushing’s, while other breeds  can be put at risk to many diseases resulting from being over weight.

My previous posting provided you with an Equine Condition Scoring Chart where you are able to score your horse  from 1-9, one being deathly thin and 9 being obese.  Once you have determined your horse`s condition score, you can take the necessary steps  to correct these conditions, or keep him at the optimum level.

Can overweight horses benefit from a low carb diet?

The term “low carbohydrate” diet in humans has become so very popular with the Atkins and South Beach diets focusing our attention on low carbs, and as a result many horse owners are also concerned about carbohydrates in their equine nutrition program. Happily, there has been recent research addressing the area of carbohydrates in equine nutrition and many feed companies are posting these values on their labels.  However, it is very important to keep in mind that when we look for low carbohydrate diets for our horse families, we also need to look at the sugar and starch levels as well in the  feeds.  These feedstuffs include forages (hay and pasture) as well as the ingredients that make up the concentrated feeds that we offer our horses.  These concentrated feeds include oats, corn, barley, beet pulp, soybean meal and the list goes on.

Nonstructural carbohydrates (NSC) are the sugars and starches found inside the plant cell of horse feeds. This is in contrast to the structural carbohydrates that compose the cell wall of the plants that our horses eat.  The two main cell wall components are cellulose and hemicellulose,  we know it as fibre.  This plant fibre is disgested thanks to the work of bacteria and protozoa living in the horse’s large intestine.  The horse receives his energy supply by taking up or absorbing  nutriants or organic acids in his large intestine.  The bacteria in the hindgut (large intestine) produce  organic acids from the fermentation of sugars that are released when the fiber is broken down by enzymes secreted by the bacteria and protozoa.

The sugars found in forages include glucose, fructose, sucrose and fructans. Starch is the major carbohydrate stored in the legumes of alfalfa, and warm season grasses such as bermuda grass and grains.  Fructans are the water-soluable sugars that are stored as the major carbohydrate in cool season grasses such as orchardgrass, fescue and timothy.

Research has shown that excessive intake of fructans from pasture grasses and grains can cause colic and laminitis (Hoffman et al, 2001).  The greatest danger of laminitis and founder for horses is the consumption of cool season grass pasture and hay which may contain high levels of sugar, especially large amounts of fructans.  Legumes or warm-season grasses contain little to no fructans.  For more information on the NSC value and fructans in grasses go to www.safergrass.org.    It is recommended that controlling the dietary NSC value to below 20% of the total diet is appropriate for problem horses afflicted with Cushing’s Disease, insulin resistance and equine diabetes (Longland & Byrd,2006) .

The table below outlines the sugar, starch and NSC values for feeds typically fed to horses.  It is interesting to note that the lowest NSC values are for soybean hulls, beet pulp, alfalfa and the highest NSC values are corn, oats and barley (COB) a food which is frequently fed to horses. So, it would be safe to say that grain based horse feeds will contain a higher NSC value than feeds based on beet pulp, soybean hulls and alfalfa meal.  For more information about NSC content of forages, please visit www.equi-analytical.com.

Average Sugar, Starch and Non-Structural Carbohydrate (NSC) Values of Selected Feedstuffs*.

Feedstuff Sugar Starch NSC
Oat Hay 16.0% 6.3% 22.1%
Barley Hay 14.9% 5.8% 20.4%
Alfalfa Hay 8.9% 2.5% 11.3%
Bermudagrass Hay 7.5% 6.1% 13.6%
Grass Hay 11.1% 2.9% 13.8%
Alfalfa Pellets 7.2% 2.3% 9.3%
Alfalfa Cubes 8.3% 2.0% 10.2%
Grass Pasture 10.3% 3.4% 12.1%
Rice Bran 6.2% 17.7% 21.2%
Oats 4.8% 44.4% 54.1%
Corn 3.7% 70.3% 73.3%
Barley 6.0% 53.7% 61.7%
Beet Pulp 10.7% 1.4% 12.3%
Wheat Bran 8.7% 23.0% 30.8%
Soybean Hulls 4.3% 1.9% 6.3%
Wheat Middlings 10.1% 26.2% 32.0%
Soybean Meal 14.3% 2.1% 16.2%
*Values are from Equi-Analytical Laboratories, Ithaca, NY, reported on dry matter basis.

If you have a problem horse and want to implement a low NSC value feeding program, it would first be necessary to estimate the NSC content of your pasture or hay.  However, having said that, sampling for the NSC content of your hay would not be practical if you do not have a supply that would last you several months.  If pasture is available for your problem horse, it may be necessary to remove him or reduce his grazing.   One surprising finding on current research concerning NSC levels of various hays was that alfalfa hay and alfalfa pellets had lower values than grass hay, so alfalfa hay may become the first choice for problematic horses (Geor, 2007).

Understanding nutrition and NSC values is difficult at best.  We can only strive to look to research to help us make proper, informed decisions regarding the safe nutrition of our horses.  One thing that I do know is that there is a great deal of research and people knowledgeable in the field of equine nutrition that can be accessed to help us with our equine nutrition program.

HELLO WEEKEND: Flakes of hay are not created equal!

On occasion, we make a change in our horse’s hay only to notice that this new feeding program is causing the horse to lose weight.  This is where hay testing comes in to actually calculate the nutritional requirement for your horse.

horse forage

A horse owner had a horse that was diagnosed with ulcers and was recommended feeding alfalfa hay by her vet.  She purchased a nice quality of second cut alfalfa and the testing results showed this hay to be exceptional quality containing 1Mcal (1000 calories) per pound.  Previously she fed her horse 4 flakes of timothy per day and 4 pounds of grain per day.  Since this was such good quality alfalfa, she decided to keep the same quantity of feed.  Unfortunately, the horse started to lose weight.  Based on the horse’s work schedule and body condition score, it was determined that he needed 21.5 Mcal per day (21,500 calories per day)

Let’s calculate:  Her horse weighed in at 1,000 pounds and let’s go with feeding 2% of body weight per day in forage, or 20 pounds.  The old timothy hay tested at 800 calories per pound and she balanced the diet with 4 pounds of grain at 1430 calories per day, or 1.43 Mcal.

Forage = 16Mcal  (16,000 calories)
Grain = 5.7 Mcal (5,700 calories)
Total = 21.7 Mcal. (21,700 calories)

In the old diet, each flake weighed in at an average of 5 pounds each, which is how she determined the 4 flakes per day. 1 Flakes timothy hay 5lb x 4 flakes per day = 20 pounds per day x 800 calories = 16Mcal (16,000 calories per day)

When the new alfalfa was weighed, it weighed in at an average of 3 pounds per day.  1 Flake alfalfa 3lb x 4 flakes per day = 12 pounds per day x 1000 calories = 12Mcal (12,000 calories).

With that simple change in hay she unknowingly reduced her horse’s caloric intake by 4,000 calories per day.  With this new information, she added more flakes of hay to the daily ration, increasing the weight and keeping him on track.

It is important to weigh the flake of hay to determine how much to feed your horse per day and then you can adjust the hay feeding program with knowledge, rather than guessing.

HELLO WEEKEND: Changing hay

As horse owners, we often move our horses from one boarding facility to another often not thinking of how our horses will react to changes in diet.  This often never is even discussed.

horse forage

Sometimes, it is very difficult to maintain consistency in routine, but try and make the hay transistion as gradual as possible by keeping 2 weeks’ worth of hay.  Since hay makes up the majority of your horse’s diet, a sudden change in the hay can be problematic.  As horse owners, it is important to keep in mind that any sudden changes in diet including fresh pasture, can disrupt the gut and can result in colic, diarrhea, discomfort or laminitis.  As mentioned in previous posts, the energy and nutrient content in hay can vary dramatically.

As a rule of thumb, it takes approximately 3 weeks for the horse to adapt to dietary changes, thus making slow, gradual transitions over a 2 – 3 week period is important to prevent any GI upset.  When it isn’t possible to make a full 2 week transition, then allow for as much of a gradual change as possible, even if it is over 2 – 3 days.  Providing pre- and probiotics can also help support gut microbes through dietary changes especially if they are rapid.