Tack n' Talk

Online Equestrian Resource

Archive for Horse Health


Water and hot horse

The summer is finally here and in some areas that means hot temperatures and high humidity! That combination can really take a toll on both horse and rider.  What to do?

Many horse owners knows about the importance of electrolytes. But do you know that many electrolyte mixes  have too little Magnesium and Calcium and too much sugar? Magnesium and Calcium mimic the electrolytes your horse loses in sweat.  However, working horses that sweat significantly do need to have some sugar to refuel working muscles.

Be sure to check the label before giving electrolytes to your horse.  Here’s a link to a good article on electrolytes and your performance horse.  http://www.ker.com/library/advances/123.pdf 

Happy Summer!





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 »

No Hoof, No Horse: Internal Structure

In our last article, we discussed the exterior structures of the hoof.  Today we will be discussing the internal structures of the hoof.  There are two and a half bones inside the hoof:   the Pedal bone, the Navicular bone and the bottom half of the Short Pastern bone.   

Internal Hoof Structure

Internal Hoof Structure

Read the rest of this entry »

No Hoof, No Horse: External Structure

The horse’s hoof is a miracle of engineering.  The off structures which operate in balance with each other to form the hoof capsule is capable of withstanding huge forces while protecting to the sensitive structures beneath.  In this article, Tack and Talk will help you understand more about the hoof, an incredible structure.

The outer structures of the hoof, consist of: 


The external structures of the hoof

The external structures of the hoof

Sole:  This is the area inside the white line, not including the barns and frog.  The primary function of the sole is to protect the sensitive structures beneath the sole.  However, it also provides support, sharing some of the weight of the horse with the hoof wall. 

White Line:  It is commonly referred as the white line, but this can be misleading not only because it’s yellowish, but also because it is next to the white inner wall of the hoof.  A more accurate description of the white line was commonly used in the 1800s described as the Golden Line.  The purpose of this Golden Line, is to join the sole to the inner wall of the hoof, and to seal off the border of the pedal bone protecting it from bacterial infiltration.  Aiding with traction by creating a shallow crease at the bottom of the hoof which then fills with dirt.    

Inner Wall:  This is usually white, unlike the outer wall which doesn’t contain any pigment.  This is far more pliable than the outer wall due to a higher ration of inter-tubular horn which binds the tubules together.  The primary purpose of the outer wall is to store and release energy during the different phases of the stride to help propel the horse.  Also, it provides protection from the structures within, regulating moisture ingress and egress.  A healthy outer wall will be slightly thicker at the toe and will have no growth rings or cracks. 

Bar:  This is an extension of the hoof wall which runs along the side of the frog, ending about half way along the frog.  The purpose is to control the movement of the back of the hoof, adding strength to the heel area and protecting it from distortion.  The bar should have a high ratio of pliable inner wall to ensure it can move correctly as the heel moves. 

Angle of the Bar:  Also, known as the heel.  Designed to receive the initial impact of the horse’s stride, a healthy angle of the bar consists mainly of pliable inner wall, so that it can dissipate excess shock.  The Angle of the bar plays a very important role in supporting the weight of the horse and it is very important that it remains correctly balanced. 

Collateral Groove:  Is the groove that runs along either side of the frog.  

Frog:  One of the most important, but often neglected structures of the horse’s hoof.  It needs to be wide and substantial and made up of a thick, leathery material.  An unhealthy frog is open to infection when left untreated can lead to lameness.  The frog works in conjunction with the coronary band, the bars and the sole to provide resistance to distortion of the hoof capsule during the stride.  Pressure placed upon the frog directly influences the health of the digital cushion above it.  The frog allows independent movement at the heels as the horse lands on uneven ground.  Also, it plays a part in protecting the sensitive structure beneath, providing traction and assisting in circulation and shock absorption.      

Coronary Band:  A very tough structure which sits on top of the hoof wall.  It has two very important functions.  One, it produces the tubules of the outer wall and second it is very strong and acts as a band of support to add strength to the internal hoof structures as the hoof distorts during the stride. 

Periople:  A protective covering for newly formed hoof wall just below the coronary band.  In the early stages, this material is very soft which helps to prevent the coronary band being bruised by shock being transferred upwards through the hoof wall during the weight-bearing phase of the stride.

Keeping your Horse Healthy During Winter

Winter, in many respects, can be challenging but keeping your horse healthy during the cold winter months can be a daunting task if you are not prepared. 

The cold weather introduces a number of problems for your horse.  Not only do they find it difficult to stay warm, but there is also the increased risk of health problems such as colic. 

Below, are some general tips for keeping your horse health during the winter months. 


  1.  Fresh Water:  The extreme cold weather can cause your horse’s water to turn into a large ice cube.  You need to be diligent to make sure that he has plenty of fresh drinking water available. By not drinking enough water, impaction colic can set in.  Buy heaters that fit in the water troughs and other water sources, or heated water buckets.  It’s worth the investment.
  2. Get your horse moving:  Your horses need regular exercise, even during the coldest days.  If you can’t ride, make sure you at least turn them out in a large paddock for some exercise.
  3. Don’t overheat your horse:  You may think you are doing your protecting your horse by layering him up with blankets.  By adding extra blankets, on top of his winter coat, you could cause overheating, which in turn can lead to dehydration.  If you are blanketing your horse over winter and layering, make sure to remove some layers during the warmer times.  Also, check your horse, at least weekly for signs of skin issues.  It is very important, that when we try on keeping our horses warm, we do not overdo it as it can have negative effects on their health and can do them more harm than good.
  4. Keep your stable well ventilated:  By keeping the doors closed with little ventilation, may keep your horse warm, but it can create a few problems.  Keeping your barn well ventilated will ensure that your horse will have a constant supply of fresh air.
  5. Groom:  Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you should slack off when it comes to grooming.  It is especially important that grooming is maintained during the winter.  Also it will give you a chance to check for signs of illness.

The Dos and Don’ts of Winter Riding


There are many issues that can influence your ride in the winter – weather, light, snow, to name a few.  However, the majority of horse-owners will  want to get out as much as they can, if not only to remind themselves of the fun that justifies sticking through a cold, grueling winter!  

winter riding

You don’t have to clean every inch of your horse every time you ride.  It is essential, however, that he’s mud free where his tack will sit.  

Get your horse clipped appropriately for his workload.  It will make grooming and cooling out so much easier. 

Invest in a blanket that goes up his neck.  Not only will it keep him warm, but will keep him clean as well! 

Although there is much debate on braiding a tail, consider a braid as it will prevent a muddy mess! 

Consider using a quarter sheet to keep your horse warm when riding which will prevent unnecessary injuries cause by tight, cold muscles. 

Increase your horse’s warm-up and cool-down times. 

Warm up your horse’s bit before putting it in his mouth! 

Take a hoofpick with you if it’s snowy and also some Vaseline. 

Don’t push your horse beyond his fitness level.  Only work up to his capable level to prevent injuries. 

Take care of yourself or you could come down with an illness leaving you unable to do anything with the horses.  Layer up! 

Wear a hat as we lose heat through our head so wearing a hat is essential during cold weather. 

Put on a pair of plastic gloves under your warm gloves to help keep your hands dry.  Plus, have spares everywhere you go! 

Take a thermos of hot drinks or have a kettle at the barn so that a hot drink is never too far away.  Stock your tack room with instant noodles, cup-a-soup for that warm-up.

What is the Critical Temperature Of A Horse?

In a previous post, Critical Temperature was mentioned but what exactly is Critical Temperature and how is it managed? 

Horses, like all mammals, have a thermoneutral zone (TNZ) which is defined as the temperature range in which the horse does not have to change metabolic heat production to maintain a constant core body temperature, which is normally between 37.2 – 38.2°C (Reece, 1991).  The bottom end of this range is called the Lower Critical Temperature, or LCT, in which the horse must increase metabolic heat to maintain normal body temperature and the upper end of this zone is called the Upper Critical Temperature or UCT, where the horse must work to lower body temperature. 

Wind speed, precipitation, and humidity are just some factors that effect TNZ.  Thankfully, changes in temperatures do not typically happen immediately which allows horse acclimation to decreasing temperatures in about 10-14 days.  Full acclimatization takes around 21 days.  

Lower critical temperatures can vary drastically from one region to another and by the individual horse as well.   According to McConagy, 1994, horses have coped well in a wide range of ambient climates from 135°F in northern Australia to -40°F in western Canada and have been able to maintain their internal body temperature.  To maintain an almost constant body core temperature there has to be a thermal balance.  The simplest form is expressed as “heat production = heat loss +/- heat storage” (Bianca, 1968).  As mentioned above, the rate of heat loss is governed by factors such as wind speed, difference in temperature and vapour pressure (Morgan et al, 1997).  

The horse is a large animal, relatively small body surface in relation to body mass and it has a wide thermoneutral zone (Morgan, 2007).  As an example, McBride et al (1985) measured a thermoneutral zone for mature Quarter horse geldings of between 5°F and 50°F.  In stating this, there are many parameters that affect LCT and estimating LCT is a multi-factorial challenge where the horses physiological state, metabolic rate, feed intensity, feed quality, age, size, ration surface area to body mass, housing, activity, acclimatization, season, and various climatic factors come into play.  However, as a VERY GENERAL GUIDELINE, in the humid temperate areas of North America, horses reach their LCT around 20°F and their UCT between 60-70°F. 

The most important management steps to decrease cold stress in horses are to provide an area where horses can escape from wind chill, keep horses dry, and increase dietary energy to provide more calories that the horse can use to stay warm.