On my blog I hope to inform and maybe entertain as I explain daily happenings at our yard. From the transition of a horses hooves from laminitic to barefoot soundness, the birth of a foal, tales from competitions, quirks and stories about our horses, tips on horse care and husbandry. Any and everything to do with equine podology, natural horse training, foundation Appaloosa, bitless riding and all that makes our world go round.
An equestrian sport based on controlled long-distance races. Any breed can compete, but the Arabian generally dominates the top levels because of the breed's stamina and natural endurance abilities. A family sport that requires Honesty, Trust, Sportsmanship, Integrity, Tolerance and Care. With the motto "To finish is to win", it is the horse fit to continue that is honoured in this discipline.
Welfare of the horse is paramount in this sport, and all horses entered must pass a pre-ride examination at the ride site by a licensed veterinarian before they are allowed to start the ride. Horses must also pass additional mandatory vet examinations at specific check-points during the ride, and a final exam within 1 hour after the ride. Any horse showing lameness or failure to meet specified metabolic parameters is immediately eliminated.
The responsibility lies with the rider/trainer to know how to pace their horse, how to read the circuit and calculate in such factors as sun or wind and the effect this could have on the performance of their horse. Participation in Endurance requires not just a knowledgeable, respectful relationship of rider and their mount, but also a support crew who provide water for both horse and rider to cool them down at various check points along the course. A professional crew will also advise a rider to slow down, or pace themselves differently according to the condition of the horse or the terrain. They will have informed themselves of all the elements (circuit, weather conditions) pre-ride to be sure their rider team perform to the best of their abilities and within their strengths.
Endurance is about resistance and the ability to negotiate technical courses whilst maintaining the horse in optimum condition. If Endurance where easy it would be called football!
Everything prepared after months of stress (well, everyone always hopes so!). A clearly marked start and finish line and a clearly marked route. Three points of abundant water on the circuit. Fifteen 150 litre water containers all full and a hose on stand-by to re-fill in a space of some 5000m2. A freezer full of ice bags. A warm up area for the horses and a corral area. Ample and well signed parking (40.000m2!). A hot dog stand, an ice-cream van and a bar to keep energy up until the lunch time free feast of chicken and chips arrived. A 20 x 50m Vet Gate with river sand provided the perfect surface to assure easy trot-outs for the horses and plenty of space to pass the controls. And prizes. Plenty of fantastic prizes thanks to Finca Cortesin (Casares) SetziSaddles.com, Albert-Temin.com, Soto-Cheval (Sotogrande), Pienso ACC and La Gloria tienda animal.
And then the electric went out! As Francisco of Espíritu del Viento was showing the judges the circuit, Tracey was receiving horses arriving on the Friday in the dark! Luckily the endurance circuit is like one big family and with help that was soon resolved.
Saturday morning dawned warm. Perhaps to warm for some as, a number of horses were eliminated for metabolic reasons, and we hope these riders have now learnt about pacing their horse and factoring in the weather and the tecnicalities of a circuit. But even the eliminated went home with prizes. They need to be rewarded for their efforts and given encouragement to continue. For Espíritu del Viento it is all about supporting and expanding the sport of endurance riding. It is about reminding people that the motto of the sport is "To finish is to win".
Well plenty, of the 44 binominos entered, did finish and the stunning prizes of saddles, cash, biothane tack, vitamins, electrolytes, endurance feed and much more were accompanied by the most stunning rossettes. The Best Condition horses in every category received the most fantastic neck sashes and, again, fabulous prizes, including beautiful embroidered felt rugs from Germany.
The organising committee want to thank all that participated, the parking marshalls, the circuit marshalls, the judges and veterinarys, the local police, and the minister of sport for Casares who spent the entire day watching and enjoy the atmosphere. The ambulance service was happily not required and the crew enjoyed themselves immensley, along with the farrier who did make "some" money on the day!
The small White Village of Casares saw it´s biggest event ever with the III Equine Endurance Espiritu del Viento. 44 horses and some 150 people assisted at a spectacular day. The sun shone, maybe a little too much (!) and, despite the electric going off over 6/7 times on the Friday night, as horses were arriving, every body had the best time. Every participant went home with a prize. Those that classified with their relevant rosettes and trophies as well, those that were eliminated with sacks of Endurance horse feed (thanks to Pienso ACC) to encourage them to continue working with their horse and go on to another endurance competition. Fantastic prizes of Setzi Saddles went to the winner of the national 1* and the Best Condition in the International 1*. Albert Termin really did us proud with a Pioneer saddle for the Best Condition in the national 0*, and three full sets of biothane tack for other places and categories. He also gave a great fleece that was just my size - so hey, I´ll happily promote his great equestrian business if they have sleeves long enough for my arms! Soto-Chevall gave us the most beautiful embroidered felt horse rugs, from Germany, as Best Condition prizes for other categories, and La Gloria pet shop provided many small prices. So many prizes in fact that everyone went home with something. Finca Cortesin and Soto-Cheval made it possible to assure a great team of judges and vets from the Andalucian Equestrian Federation. We are most grateful to all our sponsors and the support of the Town Hall of Casares. The cameras from Manilva TV also came along to film the day. We filled the two local hotels - Hermitage and Casares.
Lots of large containers full of water for the horses. Huge Vet Gate so no one had to push or jostle to enter. Decent parking which unfortunately many people ignored (blocking the lane and the warm up area for the horses) Chicken n Chips for lunch, Bags of ice for horse cool-downs, Ice-cream van for human cool-downs and a Jacket potato/Hot dog stand to make sure no one went hungry all day. Healthy police presence, happy ambulance crew, local award winning cheeses and some amazing solar goods for sale all completed the day. Along with enough toilet paper all day - there´s nothing worse - I hope we thought of everything.
The wonderful thing was the amount of people that congratulated us on a professional event. Months of preparation, last weeks of major stress, last minutes of melt down and it all came together.
Until next year.... Maybe!!
Scenario 1; The horse has been stabled it´s entire life. It is fed pop rocks and peas* 4 times a day, and comes out of it´s stall one hour every day to work in an arena. It is the correct weight, because although it stands in it´s stall 23 hours a day doing nothing, it is stressed to the heavens.
“Made our of plastic, looks like a spastic”
Scenario 2; The horse has been stabled it´s entire life. It is fed pop tarts and cardboard** twice a day and comes out of it´s stall for 2/3 hours, 4 times a week, to go for a trek. It is overweight because not only does it stand in it´s stall 21/22 hours a day doing nothing, it is laid back because it has no energy.
“Made out of rubber, looks like a scrubber”
Scenario 1 and scenario 2 horses are now put in a paddock. A space where you can swing more than one cat! They are feed only on grass hay, available 24 hours a day, and minerals.
“My little pony, My little pony, Isn't the world a lovely place”
S1 is going to loose weight because it has no idea how to behave or what to do. It has been removed from it´s safety bubble and can move freely for the first time in it´s life. It really doesn´t know where to begin! It will take this horse anywhere between 3 and 6 months to settle, to be accustomed to it´s surroundings and having food available ad-lib. It will reach a point within 2 to 3 months where it doesn´t loose any more weight, but will take a further 2 to 3 months before it relaxes enough to stop stressing in order to start gaining weight again.
“My Little Pony, My Little Pony, Everywhere you go a smiling face”
S2 is going to loose weight because it will use up all the fat deposits from it´s pop tart and cardboard diet, revealing the little muscle it truly had. But having been fed a ´lazy´ diet and been permitted the pleasure of the great outdoors on it´s treks previously, it will adapt much quicker to it´s new lifestyle. It will probably gorge itself silly for the first 2 to 4 weeks before settling down, realising the food is always there and self-regulating it´s requirements (just as S1 will). It will continue to loose weight for 2 or 3 months though, due to the fat loss and the new 24 hour a day movement, before it starts to put on new weight - muscular weight.
“Running and skipping; merrily tripping, Watching the morning unfold”
*Pop rocks and Peas - High NSC processed feed and alfalfa**Pop tarts and Cardboard - High NSC whole grain feed and straw
“My Little Pony, My Little Pony, What does the future hold?”
ALL TIMES ARE APPROX. EACH HORSE IS AN INDIVIDUAL AND WILL RESPOND DISTINCTLY. THESE SCENARIOS ARE NOT NECESSARILY REAL OR SPECIFIC TO ANY PARTICULAR HORSE. BUT HOPEFULLY MAKE IT CLEAR WHY HORSES LOOSE WEIGHT, WHEN FIRST ALLOWED TO LIVE LIKE A HORSE, DESPITE FEED BEING AVAILABLE AD-LIB 24/7
Hotel Hermitage, Casares, is nearly fully booked, as is the Hotel Casares. All our stables are booked, but there is availability at another yard only 4km away.
51 fantastic prizes, not including 61 t-shirts, and dozens of fabulous trophies are all waiting to be taken home by the deserving participants!
Our sponsors have done us very very proud.
Hotel, Golf, Spa, Finca Cortesin
The town hall of Casares must be thanked for again giving us their support.
Don´t forget Saturday May 11th. It will all be happening at Espiritu del Viento
It´s all going on here, in more ways than one.
After umming and aahhing since last summer I decided to put Heart in with two mares this spring. The economic climate is bad, but these horses are not ´ten-a-penny´ like so many other breeds around here. In fact there are less than 2000 registered Foundation Appaloosa´s in the world. So since the end of March, Heart has been a very happy Easter Bunny!.
We are also expecting the birth of his second off-spring in the UK. PP, you´re late girl. What´s going on? We want to see that baby now!
As I mentioned before, we also have a new boy. He is S.E x Spanish Arabian and not just stunning to look at, but a fabulous chilaxed character.
The cottages are ready for rental, and we have our first bookings which is fantastic.
The really good news, well for me and all my hours of research, phone calls, emails etc. Is that we are currently trailing a fabulous new feed (new in Spain). It´s only been a week, but all the paper info reads perfectly, the horse´s we are trailing love it, now just to wait for results - and a price!!!
My "mini" (very mini) linseed grinding factory is working a treat. Sunflower seeds are next on the agenda - great Omega 6 and high in DE. Have a source, now looking out for a bigger machine to crush them.
Have also started to make my own chaff - so none of that molasses laden stuff. Just pure mountain hay chaff I can then soak in oil if required or use simply to make a hard feed last longer. I will also add some alfalfa chaff for those that need extra calcium, like youngsters, or last trimester mares. Or in Misty´s case, slow her down so she doesn´t finish her dinner and then go and eat everyone else's!
The new boy was castrated on Thursday. Yesterday he wasn´t eating, though temp was fine, poop was fine, heart rate accelerated but that´s to be expected when you´ve had your jewels cut off! I had to give him an anti-flam orally as he wasn´t eating, so I couldn´t disguise it in his food, and when we looked on him again at midnight he was laid down clearly feeling very very sorry for himself. But as he is a new boy, we don´t know his character, so to be on the safe side we called the vet out first thing.
OH decides we need to leave the light on, as he started to eat some hay when the light was turned on. Puurlease!
This morning I walked past the chickens, as I have to every day, and was met by a barrage of abuse because I had nothing green in my hands to give them. This is our morning routine, but I was in a rush to get to see the new boy as the vet had arrived (super early, fab vet!) and hadn´t pulled up anything for them on the way.
We find new boy just kind of ´hunched´, but when we hand feed him he eats!
Vet gave him the all clear. Said he just hurts and the swelling was normal. Though much bigger than I´ve ever experienced unless the wound was infected! We took him out to his little paddock (obviously he can´t go out with anyone yet, and isn´t accustomed to living out at all - so little by little)
Upon seeing the others (a 3 meter distance between fences) he appeared to happily eat his breakfast.
Only we could have such fastidious animals. But, hey, you´ve got to love ´em!!
Today after riding Anni I walked straight in to the shower as usual. Anni followed, I tied her to the ring, started to walk around and she did a horrendous pull back, broke the bridle clips, and came flying out. Why? Because this is autistic Anni and we painted the shower out the other day. The second she was out she just started to mooch off back to her paddock, no panic, nothing. In fact I took her pulse and it was at 53bpm (and we´d just come back off a training ride to) I took off the remains of her bridle and put on her halter, back to the shower - no way. We spent 3 hours just stood there. Maybe she doesn´t like the colour! Her pulse dropped to 35, just shows how much this is all in her head, but there was no way she was walking in. Just shows we must never take anything for granted. I "forgot" about Anni´s autism. All her quirks are just part of our everyday routine. Should so not have taken for granted that changing something would upset her.
I joke about the colour. We have also painted all the posts and rails of the arena. But they have been white before, so Anni is accustomed to them. We have never painted the shower before - which does look lovely but is a very silly whim as it will be filthy in no time! (concrete doesn´t show the dirt so much as white ;o) )
The first of our prizes for the III Equestrian Endurance on May11th, very kindly donated by Albert Temin (a whole world of equestrian products available on-line) arrived today. A stunning red & blue Pioneer saddle and a box full of Biothane breast-plates and bridles - those extremely useful ones complete with the clip on rubber reins.
Albert will source anything for you or your horse, if he doesn´t already stock it. A fabulous, knowledgeable man - but just don´t get him talking unless you´ve a few hours to spare ;o) (Albert, te quiero!!!)
On Monday a stunning polar fleece rug arrives from Germany. All embroidered up in preparation for a Best Condition prize. Along with, always useful, brushing boots/protectors and a lump sum to help with the cash prizes we are very grateful to Soto-Cheval for these prizes. Based in Pueblo Nuevo/Guadiaro, this shop is stuffed to the brim with bling and booty for your horse or you.
Our local 5* luxury hotel, spa and golf centre, Finca Cortesin, have shown their support for local events by sponsoring us for this fabulous competition.
As you may or may not know, I am an avid poop watcher! Having horses come and go as I rehabilitate their hooves, and diet being so very important for a healthy hoof, I see all manner of poop due to the horses being on so many different diets. Yes, you too should check your horses poop. It tells you so much!
But I digress. This is really an update on feeding Linseed. I have been carefully watching my horses poop this past few days, since I started feeding them uncooked linseed, and sure enough, there´s a fly in my soup - it´s coming out the same as it went in. So ground is the way to go. Having surmised that, yesterday I purchased a second-hand commercial coffee grinder - perfect for the job, and more than pays itself back given how expensive ground linseed is as opposed to whole seeds here in Spain.
It´s the time of year when, for many horses, they are bought in after a winter´s rest, they are put back into work, have their feed upped or changed, get vaccinated and dosed up with anti-parasite potions. Then they crash and burn and their owner steps back in wonder, not understanding what could be the problem. Break it down. Back to work - too much to soon maybe? Feed change - reason for intestinal problems. Vaccinations - feeding a virus! Anti-parasite - again intestinal changes AND it is a seasonal change, change of seasons. All these things can affect your horse to a greater or lesser degree. Chuck them all at him at once, he´s bound to be unhappy at the very best!
Since forever when we have wanted a little more digestible energy in our horses feed or to up the essential omega 3 oils in their diet, or simply thinking of an added healthy shine to their coat, we have added linseed (or flax) seed to our horses feed. But not before we have soaked it and slow cooked it for hours until it becomes a tapioca type goo. As big a mess as this created we did it in the belief that if not, we would be poisoning our horses.
Well now we are informed we can chuck away that giant slow-cooker or metal bucket. Flaxseed, or linseed, gained its reputation as a toxic substance when fed uncooked to horses because the seeds contain a small amount of cyanogenetic glycosides and enzymes that allow the glycosides to release cyanide. This poison is released when flaxseed plants are damaged by frost, drought, or processing. The two components of cyanide that are found in flax are stored in different parts of the seed, never touching each other, and therefore never able to create cyanide.
Any contact with water (including boiling or soaking) brings the two components together, creating cyanide. So the "prevention" to make the seeds "safe" actually is more dangerous than feeding them unboiled or un-soaked. Soaked is actually one of the most dangerous ways to feed flax, as the cyanide is created and left standing in the water and flax. Boiling changes the cyanide to a gas form, thus removing it from the flax. However, it also destroys all the fatty acids, effectively removing the entire reason for feeding the flax in the first place.
Another consideration is that when you remove the lid from the pot, you are going to be the one ingesting all the cyanide.
Thankfully, the amount of cyanide created when boiling flax is very small...in fact, we take in more cyanide in our daily lives through our food, water, and the air we breathe than is found in a cup of boiled flax. Cyanide is also very quickly removed from the body and is not stored in the body tissues. So if you don't die immediately from cyanide poisoning, you're going to live! (extract from "understanding horse nutrition")
The bottom line is, having finally given up on trolling a bucket of soaked seeds up to the house to boil them every day in my biggest best spaghetti pot then trolling this back down to the barn to feed to the horses, two days ago I purchased a witches cauldron type thing and an electric hot plate so I could prepare the goo in the barn. Now I learn RAW IS FINE. The moral being; whenever I spend money to make life a little easier I discover I´ve wasted it! GGggggrrrrr. Why oh why did I not follow my gut instinct and do a little more homework beforehand? Don´t answer that please.
Hoof pathologies like founder, laminits, in-balances and quarter cracks, that have been resolved by our Whole Horse Protocol and Equine Podology
Appaloosa horses are my life, computers are just a means to bring your attention to them. Apart from sending emails I know nothing about I.T. yet with just a little help I have built this web site!
Thoughts on words and what we are trying to tell ourselves with them.
The string that you tie to is supposed to be the weak point but even so a training halter is for training and a head collar with the wider straps is for tying, using a leather headcollar for handling work is not going to change anything as I will very likely break before it does. The NH peeps change the names of things to hide the true nature of their methods and no other reason. It is just marketing speak to make nasty things sound palatable after all if Pat Parelli instead said lets play the so aversive that the horse will do anything to get away game no amount of game or play terminology would encourage people to join in or if Join up was renamed Flood and conquer or intelligent horsemanship was called cunning, scheming, based on predation and fear horsemanship or classical horsemanship rebranded as Out of date, unnecessarily repetitive and boring if you look at how horses actually learn things with lots of pretentious equipment that we keep using because it makes us feel clever horsemanship.......see we can all use words to put a different slant on things honest and fair or otherwise.Author Olivia Polly Smeath
Again, out riding in the rain - not a lot of choice with the weather at the moment! - my youngest step son was agreeing that, once out in it and suitably attired, it is not so bad to ride in inclement weather. We chatted how we would look for a little shelter under the trees if it came down very heavily, at which point he asked me "what about Hailstones, would you ride in those?". Not knowingly!! But an opportune thought as we passed a ruined house with a lean-to porch down one side, just slightly taller than a horse, forming a short tunnel. I lead my horse into the ´tunnel´, paused a little, then walked out the other end, then told my step son to do the same. Whilst there was not the scary sound of hailstones beating down on the tin and plastic roof. Hesitant, I explained how he needed to look at the facts. The tunnel was wide enough and tall enough that, lowering himself onto the horses neck, they could enter and leave without any problems. He only needed to know he could do it and the horse would happily "accompany" him. He is a nervous rider and was on Anni (for those that know about our autistic Anni). As is the case in so many scenarios, it is not the horse that causes the problem/mistake/failed jump/wrong move etc, it is the rider. As calm and collect as they think they portray themselves, the real truth, on the inside, the horse can read instinctively - and that is what they react to. All things relevant, if you know, and I mean with certainty, that you can complete a task on your horse, you will. If you maintain calm and clear directions, your horse will trust you and take you everywhere you want to go.
My darling old mare, Chiclanera, will go through fire for me (I think literally if I asked), Although she has spent the past 13 years of her life with me she hasn´t forgotten the 11 previous of abuse and mal-nutrition, yet trusts me with her very soul. This is a huge responsibility. One no horse owner takes lightly. But she will go through fire for me because I have always asked her respectfully and calmly and shown her I am ´safe´. My SS needed to show Anni that he was ´safe´. She then very happily, calmly, walked through the tunnel with him.
We don´t want any one slaying with their vorpal sword, but maybe left to gyre and gimble in the wabe awhile!
The barefoot debate goes on daily on many public forums. I think I´ve made myself clear that I don´t believe one size fits all, therefore one trim method can not resolve every horses problems. Also that not everyone can provide the optimum ideal situation for their horse, so the best with what they have is made.
But recently, a particular school has had it´s disciples (maybe unknowingly to the head honcho) rather zealously, to say the least, dictating to people that if you don´t have a particular type of track system for your horse then your horse might as well be dead! Extreme? In need of time to reflect on what they are saying under a Tumtum tree? I think so.
This is scare mongering in my book. There are enough cynics regarding barefoot and enough zealots against it, without people within the profession themselves becoming so dictatorial. Publishing their articles on their systems is fantastic. The more information out there the better. But let people absorb and pick up the pieces they can. Allow them to work with what they have or can attain. Don´t beat them for thinking outside of your box, or we will all end up in the Borogrove with the Slithy Toves.
Yesterday, in the pouring rain, we trekked across country to the village of Secadero. Unsurprisingly, due to the rain, the square was empty, so we tied our horses up under the small shelter a thin thatched roof provides in one area of the square, whilst we went for a couple of tapas in a bar to stoke our boilers before the homeward journey.
Luckily we had managed to finish a couple of plates full between us when in walked the local police telling us we had to move on because someone had telephoned to complain about the horses being in the square.
How sad this person had nothing better to do on a wet morning, than look out of their window and stop others from enjoying their lives. We, nor our horses, did any harm. Quite what offence we could have caused is beyond me.
But what is more sad is the police didn´t tell this sad person to turn their sad face back to their sad TV screen and stop looking out of the window! I am sure the police have far more important things to do.
Sugar beet, or beet pulp as it is called when packaged for feeding to horses is a great fibre source. But unfortunately a huge sugar source! Sugar/starch, especially of the non-structural kind, is not easily digested by horses and one of the key ingredients to cause unhealthy hooves. Though for some of you this may be the least of your concerns when I tell you how it is prepared. To break down the extremely dense fibrous matter and remove the sugar for use in other products, leaving the stripped beet, or pulp, for animal feed, the plant goes through several washing and disinfection processes.
Formalin, a 40 percent solution of formaldehyde, was sometimes added to the diffuser water as a disinfectant but is not used at the present time. Sulfur dioxide, chlorine, ammonium bisulfite, or commercial FDA-approved biocides are used as disinfectants.
Regular beet pulp is still around 47% sugar, whilst Molglo, a supposedly low-sugar pulp is still extremely high at 40% sugar!
Where´s Quentin when you need him?
Despite the rain, howling wind and cold we are getting very excited about our event in May. Our III Equine Endurance is being sponsored by Finca Cortesin, a 5* hotel and home of the Volvo Masters Golf Championship, also located in Casares. We are extremely grateful for their support and that of another local hotel, Hermitage. Setzi Saddles (an italian company with very innovative new saddle designs for all disciplines), La Gloria, more than just a pet supply shop in La Linea (they have everything and more besides, and if they haven´t they will get it for you), Pienso ACC who supply us with quality micronised horse feeds, Freeloader solar products, Duquesa, are all supporting our event. But as a non-profit equestrian sport club, mounting an International professional event we still need more sponsors!
This is a great opportunity for marketing. Our radio campaign has now started. Provincial newspapers, national radio and TV stations and costal Digital TV will all be involved in marketing the event.
No matter how small your support is most appreciated.
Goitrogens are substances that suppress the function of the thyroid gland by interfering with iodine uptake, which can, as a result, cause an enlargement of the thyroid. Guess what? Soy and all it´s by-products contain it - even partial cooking does not inactivate it.
So Seaweed I say! Lots of iodine to balance the soy.
Stress has the most staggering cumulative negative effect on the health of the horse. This turns into inflammation, which must be neutralized by the body.
Understand that the body reacts to stress like an emergency operator. The pituitary gland receives the emergency call by recognising the newly added stressor. It dispatches an ‘ambulance’ (hormones) to race to the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands then respond by releasing cortisol to diffuse the inflammation much in the way emergency staff triage a patient on the way to the hospital.
When the horse is bombarded daily with stressors (listed below), the pituitary gland becomes stressed out and feels like it cannot take a break. Eventually, it decides to stay at full alert at all times causing the adrenal glands to continue overproducing cortisol, which is the body’s way to fight inflammation.
Equine stress is commonly associated with:
Trailering. Training/showing. Sedation (dentals, castrations, surgery). Injury. Changes in environment.
The following less commonly recognized stressors for the horse are just as damaging:
High sugar/carbohydrate feeds. Changes in diet. Vaccinations. Daily dewormers. Synthetic medications (ACTH, Regu-Mate®, steroids)stall confinement (which can also lead to ulcers).
This all adds up to causes of Cushings Disease. We can´t give our horses a chill pill, but we can do something about each and every one of the above to either reduce, limit or remove completely, the stress factors.
So many prepared horse feeds today are padded out with fillers. The biggest reason for this isn´t just cost, but how it appeals to the owners eye. Most manufacturers readily admit they prepare a feed that the purchaser (a human) likes the look and smell of, more so than producing a feed that is actually healthy for the horse.
So what exactly are you feeding your horse?
Wheatfeed or Oatfeed - this is the bi-product of flour production. Basically the sweepings off the floor.
Modified wheat straw - Well, the same hydrogen peroxide that is used to clean your toilet is used to modify wheat straw!
A little number I just love is Milk Powder. What on earth that is doing in horse feed I really don´t know? It contains about 50% lactose (milk sugar), which is not digested by horses over 4 years of age.
Low sugar molasses - a slight contradiction in terms there, though some have produced the genuine article others use products like Molglo which is 40% sugar as opposed to the regular at 47%. Neither should be in your feed room.
Chaff - my particular pet gripe as it´s usually soaked in molasses and chaff is the all-time, old-school filler. The old boys, and me (!), only ever used it to pad out a short feed so the horse ate slower. Either that or rocks!!
Make sure you check, more than it says on the label. So much is still omitted.
"Today I am staying in bed, actually I have been here for several days (as long as I can remember I think?) I dont know bed days, they seem to drift into eternal daaays. I can look out of the window and see if a neighbour passes by, so not all doom and gloom :-) I also have my meals brought to me three times a day and of course I have water so things are not so bad. Today I hope to go out to stretch my legs - ride out for 30 mins or so, hope I dont end up walking around in circles :-( Oh dear its raining again - no I wont go out today, I will have to look out of my window - instead... :-( Its not all doom and gloom though, hanging my head out also helps with another little problem, as I have to defacate in my bed (I do it in the corner) - so not all doom and gloom, between me and you, I dont like the smell really. Oh you want to know my name? MH calls me " I love you Merrylegs"
From Black Beauty.
Making the transition, or a permanent new, healthy alternative for your equine companion is easier with hoof boots.
...if you don´t care. It is care that makes a good horse.
If a horse does not enjoy his work, you will not enjoy your horse. Be sure to listen to his every word, for he does speak. It is only those that take the time who can hear him .
Patience is the first tool you need. If you have this tool you have no need for any other. So many rush to ride their horse without learning how to simply ´be´ with him by his side. The more time you spend by his side, the more you will enjoy the ride.
"A horse will cross any bridge you build, providing the first bridge you build is between you and him" - author unknown.
It´s been blowing a hooley here for about a week now. Don´t all dash out and suffocate your horses with rugs. If they have an apt winter coat it works perfectly well for them, even in these strong winds. A horse is capable of angling the hairs on it´s body in 17 different positions depending on the heat it wants to keep in, or let out.
If you have an oldie, or a sickie, then measures may need to be taken to keep their body temperature at its most comfortable. FORAGE is where a horse gets it´s energy, and the ability to keep itself warm. If you aren´t already feeding them ad-lib 24 hours a day, now is the time to do so! If you really can´t, then put their forage ration out for them at night. Increasing the ration if necessary. Keeping busy munching through the coldest hours also keeps them warm.
Should food still not be enough, go for one adequate rug. Layering up two or three just add´s weight, that your horse will burn energy (food) in keeping supported.
True Appaloosa Mares producing 100% Foundation Pedigree Designated Foals
Foundation Appaloosa Foals full of colour and character.
Again, one of my made up names for the horse of a client. His owner came to me after a year of slowly watching her lovely horse get more and more lame, despite voicing all her concerns to his previous hoof carer.
In-balances, long toes, quarter cracks, white-line separation and finally some coffin bone rotating where the final result. Just 3 and 1/2 months after I started to trim and rebalance Alfie´s hooves, having used Equine Fusion Ultra Jogging Shoes and the Equine Fusion Dampening pads to assist the process, along with a couple of natural supplements added to his otherwise very good diet, I am so happy to say Alfie is not just ´dancing´ again, according to his trainer he is better than ever!
Our water troughs are more work than our paddocks (well, slight exaggeration). With the sunshine we enjoy here they turn green within 24 hours of being scrubbed clean. In the summer we have to clean them almost daily and in the winter we try to get away with it every couple of weeks because, frankly, I have more important things to do than scrub 7 bathtubs on a daily basis. Now it´s not ideal, but the water is on a cistern system, so constantly changing as the horses drink, and therefore though looking green, it isn´t dirty. But I have been looking for some way to keep them cleaner for less work!
Today, as I saw a client peer into a water trough I cringed, just knowing what they must be thinking, and actually put my brain in gear and put out a call for ideas on Facebook. A great group I subscribe to came instantly to my rescue (thank you girls) with the idea of fish.
Fish will not only eat the algae (and one reported of a fair-ground fish having been ´chucked´ in her yard trough 4 years ago and it´s still going strong) but they also eat those little red worms.
So guess where I´m going tomorrow? :O)
Walk around in one tennis shoe and one stiletto, just for a day, and see how much it affects the rest of your body. Notice the difference in your hips? How much does your back hurt? Never mind the foot that is squished in to the stiletto, it may go so far as to cause your a headache!! Now, you can quickly remove these shoes at the end of the day, have a soak in a warm bath and most likely all will be well again. But imagine doing this for weeks, if not months on end, and taking the weight of another person on your back whilst you hobble along on this uneven base!
Now ask yourself how you can expect to rebalance the hooves and have months, if not years, of damage corrected. The whole body of the horse will need to be realigned, not just obvious bones/joints, but tendons that will have contracted, diagonal balance that will have changed, a new ´habit´ way of working to accommodate these imbalances will have to be ´undone´. All this takes time. All this needs assessing and working with the whole horse.
"Hay belly" refers to distention of the abdomen. When viewed from the front, the horse looks pregnant. However, it is not caused by hay per se. A horse can eat very large amounts of hay and still look trim.
It's caused by poor fermentation. The distention is from excessive fluid and gas. The usual cause of this is poor quality hay with excessive amounts of cellulose and lignin. These hays are overly mature and border on straw. Stems are thick and woody and/or large amount of stem compared to leaf. Hays should be pliable, with high ratio of leaf to stem.
Another cause is disruption of the microorganisms in the bowel. This often accompanies poor quality hay because there is not enough fermentable material to support goodpopulations of organisms. A change to a better hay usually solves the problem. If not, direct fed microbials (probiotics) can help.
Dr. Eleanor Kellon, VMDThe Brewers Yeast available on our PRODUCTS page is human grade quality. The perfect natural probiotic for your horse.
Another little known fact about hay that many would not suspect to be true is that it is an excellent source of B vitamins. In fact, levels are typically equal to or considerably higher than found in grains.Vitamin A slowly declines over time but up to an age of 1 year from cutting, green hays have abundant vitamin A. They are also a major source for vitamin D. Only vitamins C and E are lost in large amounts with curing of grasses.
Hay is also a major source of minerals for the horse. Even if feeding the full recommended amount of a fortified grain, or using a protein/mineral balancer feed, the horse is still only getting 50% or less of their minimum daily mineral requirements. Hay contains all of the nutritionally important minerals, although supplementation is normally required.
Finally, hay is much more than just a high fiber filler. In fact, most of the fiber is fermented in the large intestine to produce volatile fatty acids which nourish both the horse and the intestinal lining cells. Calories in hay also come from simple sugars, starch, complex plant sugars and other types of carbohydrates not digestible in the small intestine but easily fermented to fatty acids in the horses large bowel.
In short, hay is an important food, not just something to keep the horse busy. After all, the horse evolved eating nothing but plant material and to this day feral horses do well with no concentrates/grains.
Dr. Eleanor Kellon, VMD
Most people when asked what they feed their horses will give you the brand name of a bagged feed and the percent protein it contains. They may or may not know what type of hay they feed. Some even believe hay is nothing more than a fibrous filler.
Certainly very few people consider that hay is an important protein source. If a pregnant mare is being fed a moderate quality hay with 0.8 Mcal/lb calories and 8% protein, will she be getting less protein than a mare who gets her calories from both hay and 5 pounds/day of a 14% mare and foal feed? You may think the mare supplemented with the high protein feed would get more protein, but that's not correct.
The reason is calories. If this mare needs 24 Mcal (megacalories) per day, she would require 30 pounds of hay. At 8%, that's 2.4 pounds of protein. The mare and foal feed has 14% and 5 pounds of it would yield 0.7 lbs of protein. However, the calories are likely 3 times higher so she's getting 12 Mcal from that 5 pounds, leaving only 12 more to come from the hay. At 0.8 Mcal/lb, that's 15 pounds of hay which provides 1.2 pounds of protein for a total of 1.9 compared to the 2.4 she would get on a hay only diet. Even if you allow for the protein in the grain to be 20% more digestible, the total still won't be as high on a hay only diet.
Dr. Eleanor Kellon, VMD
Actually a very, but very, windy day! I´ve been working with a lovely dressage horse (I call him Alfie - you know me and names!) for the past 4 months to correct a few hoof problems. He had some quarter cracking and a little WLD, but the biggest problem was the rotation to his left fore and slightly less to the right fore, a lot of imbalance, along with very long toes on all four feet. He had been slowly ´going off´, getting more and more lame, over a period of nearly a year. He had gone from being a very happy to perform, grand prix level horse, to a sad plodder. The owner had just made the decision to pull his shoes after every type of remedial shoeing had made no improvement, when I first met him and subsequently started looking at the whole horse, a couple of dietary changes, the addition of some minerals to his feed, and the relevant remedial trimming he required.
I am so happy to report his oomph is back! His owner was able to participate in a 3-day clinic over this weekend with a very happy, forward, dancing horse. The International Instructor conducting the clinic, who met him the first time a year earlier just before the troubles began, commented on how his paces had actually improved since she last saw him.
I am so happy for him and his owner. As she has done absolutely all the right things to assist in his recovery. Equine Fusion Jogging shoes have again played their part. Due to paper thin soles he could not have done the in-hand walking that was necessary without EF´s and their special pads. Alfie is a very happy chappy, so is his owner. I´m over the moon to have assisted bringing yet another horse to barefoot health.
Researchers A. Jansson and E. Lindberg of the Department of Animal Nutrition and Management at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala have researched the benefits of a forage-only diet for horses in training.
""Most athletic horses are fed a high-starch diet despite the risk of health problems. Replacing starch concentrate with high-energy forage would alleviate these health problems, but could result in a shift in major substrates for muscle energy supply from glucose to short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) due to more hindgut fermentation of fibre. Dietary fat inclusion has previously been shown to promote aerobic energy supply during exercise, but the contribution of SCFA to exercise metabolism has received little attention.
Research: This study compared metabolic response with exercise and lactate threshold (VLa4) in horses fed a forage-only diet (F) and a more traditional high-starch, low-energy forage diet (forage-concentrate diet - FC).
The hypothesis was that diet F would increase plasma acetate concentration and increase VLa4 compared with diet FC. Six Standardbred geldings in race training were used in a 29-day change-over experiment. Plasma acetate, non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA), lactate, glucose and insulin concentrations and venous pH were measured in samples collected before, during and after a treadmill exercise test (ET, day 25) and muscle glycogen concentrations before and after ET. Plasma acetate concentration was higher before and after exercise in horses on diet F compared with diet FC, and there was a tendency (P = 0.09) for increased VLa4 on diet F. Venous pH and plasma glucose concentrations during exercise were higher in horses on diet F than diet FC, as was plasma NEFA on the day after ET. Plasma insulin and muscle glycogen concentrations were lower for diet F, but glycogen utilisation was similar for the two diets.
Results: The results show that a high-energy, forage-only diet alters the metabolic response to exercise and, with the exception of lowered glycogen stores, appears to have positive rather than negative effects on performance traits.""Source - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22717208
What have us barefoot professionals been saying for a long time now?
Happy New Year to you all. Made any resolutions? Me no. I´ve been very honest with myself and having never been someone to make a promise and not keep it, I´m not about to do the same to myself. Yep, I need to loose weight. I´ll get there! I need to clean my house more often - apufffff, forget that LOL. But something I am going to make the effort on for 2013, is pass more time with my pensioners. I´ve got two oldies, very happy in their paddock, currently sporting seriously thick winter woollies and stuffing their faces all day, but rather neglected by me with regard to time. Just simply being with them. The best kind of therapy for any human and the attention appreciated by them. After all, I can´t ´love on them´ when they´re gone!
Changes that are happening daily are to hooves and body form of those here for remedial work, or now in training. Mumu Mama is coming along leaps and bounds now, and our latest client, now that he is settled in, is progressing steadily with his hoof health. Look out for his case study in due course.
May 11th will be all a buzz here. We have our third Endurance competition at the yard, which this year includes the Absolute Championship of young riders and the National Championship of Spanish Arabian horses in Endurance. This means we will have a total of 7 events on this day. We are looking for sponsors for this, the toughest of equine disciplines, and no matter how small your offering it will be greatly appreciated. As usual we will do our utmost to have national TV cameras here on the day, and there will be plenty of pre-comp advertising on radio stations and local TV stations, along with posters and dozens of web sites.
For in the days of perfect nature, man lived together with birds and beasts, and there was no distinction of their kind. Who could know of the distinctions between gentlemen and common people? Being all equally without knowledge, their virtue could not go astray. Being all equally without desires, they were in a state of natural integrity.
In this state of natural integrity, the people did not lose their (original) nature. And then when Sages appeared, crawling for charity and limping with duty, doubt and confusion entered men's minds. They said they must make merry by means of music and enforce distinctions by means of ceremony, and the empire became divided against itself. Were the uncarved wood not cut up, who could make sacrificial vessels? Were white jade left uncut, who could make the regalia of courts?
Were Tao and virtue not destroyed, what use would there be for charity and duty? Were men's natural instincts not lost, what need would there be for music and ceremonies? Were the five colors not confused, who would need decorations? Were the five notes not confused, who would adopt the six pitch-pipes?
Destruction of the natural integrity of things for the production of articles of various kinds -- this is the fault of the artisan. Destruction of Tao and virtue in order to introduce charity and duty -- this is the error of the Sages.
Horses live on dry land, eat grass and drink water. When pleased, they rub their necks together. When angry, they turn round and kick up their heels at each other. Thus far only do their natural instincts carry them. But bridled and bitted, with a moon-shaped metal plate on their foreheads, they learn to cast vicious looks, to turn their heads to bite, to nudge at the yoke, to cheat the bit out of their mouths or steal the bridle off their heads. Thus their minds and gestures become like those of thieves. This is the fault of Polo."
Text from 4thC BC Chinese philosopher, Zhuangzi (translation by Lin Yutang):"Horses have hooves to carry them over frost and snow, and hair to protect them from wind and cold. They eat grass and drink water, and fling up their tails and gallop. Such is the real nature of horses. Ceremonial halls and big dwellings are of no use to them.
One day Polo (famous horse-trainer), appeared, saying, "I am good at managing horses." So he burned their hair and clipped them, and pared their hooves and branded them. He put halters around their necks and shackles around their legs and numbered them according to their stables. The result was that two or three in every ten died. Then he kept them hungry and thirsty, trotting them and galloping them, and taught them to run in formations, with the misery of the tasselled bridle in front and the fear of the knotted whip behind, until more than half of them died.
The potter says, "I am good at managing clay. If I want it round, I use compasses; if rectangular, a square." The carpenter says, "I am good at managing wood. If I want it curved, I use an arc; if straight, a line." But on what grounds can we think that the nature of clay and wood desires this application of compasses and square, and arc and line? Nevertheless, every age extols Polo for his skill in training horses, and potters and carpenters for their skill with clay and wood.
Those who manage (govern) the affairs of the empire make the same mistake. I think one who knows how to govern the empire should not do so. For the people have certain natural instincts -- to weave and clothe themselves, to till the fields and feed themselves. This is their common character, in which all share. Such instincts may be called "Heaven born."
So in the days of perfect nature, men were quiet in their movements and serene in their looks. At that time, there were no paths over mountains, no boats or bridges over waters. All things were produced each in its natural district. Birds and beasts multiplied; trees and shrubs thrived. Thus it was that birds and beasts could be led by the hand, and one could climb up and peep into the magpie's nest.
Kidding. Well, kind of. I did get fat, but I also received some nice gifts!
There are more holidays to go - New Year, Three Kings - but there are still horses to tend to. The weather is being crazier than usual. Frosty cold at night, toasty bikini weather in the day, so no surprise that a couple of our horses have runny noses.
There are still people making gift purchases. Those that celebrate Kings. I received a call regarding one of my Appaloosa fillies. When the gentleman began to ask if I had something smaller because he wanted it as a present for his granddaughter, I promptly found myself telling him to buy a playstation!
Later that day the gentleman contacted me again. He wanted to tell me how I clearly had him all wrong and that in 40 years of owning animals he had never raised his hand to a horse if they had not deserved it! << click... burrrrr........ >> Now, I never mentioned abuse, so his conscience was clearly playing out there. I did say that my horses were not frivolities to then be ´chucked´ on to the next person in 4 or 5 months time when said child is now bored with them because they have got bigger, because they can´t ride them - or they have tried to ride them to young with disastrous results etc or whatever!
Where is the education? So I got fat this Christmas, but I´m only harming myself and I promise, myself, that I will get my butt in gear in the New Year to loose those party pounds. But you buy an animal this Christmas and you must commit for the rest of it´s life. And that can be a long and expensive life. The purchase is the easy part!!
Same old, same old, and so many people just don´t learn - just don´t care I suppose :(
II Endurance Espiritu Arrieros / I Endurance Ronda on December 22, 2012 was a day for celebrations. Not only because we all survived the Apocolypse (!), Also because it was a great day. 35 horses enjoyed a beautiful landscape before a great meal (thanks to SuperSol) and plenty of prizes.
The Town Hall of Ronda, and Bernado, Councillor for Sports, not only gave their support but also, thanks to Asprodisis, each rider classified received a unique and original trophy. They are made in a craft shop by people with intellectual disabilities.
Grumet Foods of Ronda, donated two huge baskets for Best Condition horse in both categories, who also received special trophies made by Asprodisis. Each a unique piece of art. We, Espiritu Arrieros and Club Corre Caminos (our collaborators in Ronda) gifted all participants a T-shirts with a copy of the original art, and also a couple of jamon serranos as prizes.
Ceder Serrania de Ronda, Quesos Crestellina, Bodega's Aguilares Talavaltería Pinteños, Pienso ACC, Pienso Biona (Ronda), supported the event with fantastic products. Rugue Structures, Voltasur, Venta El Polvorilla, Venta Pelistre also sponsored the event. There were fabulous prizes for almost all participants.
A Basket of goodies by Verde Verde (green products) was given to the rider best dress for the season, and of course Father Christmas received the award. With all the heat of the day Alonso (Santa Claus) made the trip with his horsedeer (!) And certainly deserved the recognition.
Fighting for the future of Raid in Andalusia Espiritu Arrieros is dedicated to bringing the sport to a new town every year. Quite sure Club Corre Caminos will celebrate the II Endurance Ronda next year, leaving Espirut Arrieros to find a new place to present this beautiful sport.
The Rondeños have reason to be proud. Local Police, Civil Protection, Association of Friends of Horses and the Serrania de Ronda (bartender and food preparation) even to the gentleman in the fairgrounds with his broom and bucket, who spent all day clearing up behind the horses, showing the great hospitality that can be expected in this historic town.
Not all horses, just like humans, think and see things in the same way. This is Anni´s story. Different challenges.
Two horses from Team Spirit competed yesterday. We had high hopes that lessons and been learnt and hard work would pay off and that they would both classify well. Unfortunately one did, the other didn´t.
Anni, ridden by my stepson, should have easily completed the 41 kilometres for what would have been his first Promotion Endurance (her 4th). But Anni (she´s the autistic one) does play her own game and if the rider doesn´t get her full attention from the get go you know all is pretty much lost. She apparently tanked her way all along the first phase of 20,5 km, crossing the finish line, just on the minimum permitted time, at a canter and of course dripping in sweat. This is what NOT to do! Needless to say she was on Anni planet and her pulse did not come down to the required rate within the permitted time.
This is a confidence issue, between rider and horse. Clearly more work required!
On the other hand, our ´little boy´ (EV Simoom Bean), who we´ve now had for a year and was a complete un-muscled, wonky, physical and mental mess when he arrived, completed both phases in reasonable time, good to go. We are very proud of the improvements he is making. His first comp in May (which was purely to give him a feel for the whole scene) was only 20 km´s and he was well and truly eliminated as he reared like a rodeo horse and screamed and screamed and was generally one frazzled boy. You may ask why did we compete with him if he was not ready? The comp was at home, terrain he now knew, surrounded by horses he knew and he was capable, physically, of completing the course at a gentle pace. We did not have an inkling that his head was still in such a far away place at that time. Just 6 weeks later he was ridden by a 10 year-old every day for a week at our TTT Clinic and he was a complete gentleman.
Both horses arrived home in very good health, happy to return to their herd. Stepson will be having another lesson today to build his confidence up.
Salt stimulates thirst and the resulting increased water consumption facilitates the excretion of excess potassium. The supplying of sodium and chloride (salt) goes a long way towards correcting crucial electrolyte imbalances and restoring normal nerve and muscle function.When horses chew on rails, wood or trees, eat dirt or manure, or lick your hands they are exhibiting a craving for salt.
Signs of an excess potassium/lack of sodium imbalance include: Loss of appetite, weight loss, no top-line. Dry, staring hair-coat. Pinning their ears when asked to go. Having absolutely 'no go’. Excessive yawning. Sweating with little exertion. Sweating in odd places (on top of the neck or rump). ‘Stiff’, short movement (often precedes laminitis). Not able to canter properly, bunny-hopping, swapping leads behind. Showing inflammation of muscles in Thermograph pictures (polymyositis). Saddle-fitting problems (because of above). Getting the shakes. Being prone to laminitis & head-flicking. Reproductive problems. Retarded growth and bone development. Standing base wide. Wobbly especially in the hind-quarters. Difficulty backing up. Difficulty walking downhill. Apathy. Head-ache. Abdominal bloating. Allergies (salt is an excellent anti-histamine). Staggering.
Besides having a natural salt block available in their paddocks we add salt to the feed of all our horses, up to 2 tablespoons depending on their weight. This inevitably gives rise to the question; Wont all that salt harden their arteries?
It is not salt that hardens arteries but actually a build up of calcium plaque which occurs because of giving calcium without magnesium. Horses are large animals and have a relatively large requirement for salt especially when green pasture or lucerne (alfalfa) make up a high proportion of their daily forage intake, working hard, or it is hot. Our horses don´t eat alfalfa, and never had the luxury of green pastures, but they do work hard and live in a hot climate.
When increasing salt intake it is vital to ensure access to plenty of clean water. Clean troughs regularly.
So what about those salt blocks? Well, when the diet is high in potassium the body doesn’t always register the need for a higher salt intake and horses have smooth tongues and are not inclined to lick nearly enough to cover requirements. Best to add the basic requirement to the daily feed and have a salt lick available if they want more.
We´ve been at it again. Keeping secrets from you guys!
Having spent the past few months testing yet another fantastic shoe from Equine Fusion we are very pleased to announce the new EQUINE FUSION PERFORMANCE will be available on the market very soon. Want to know more? Watch this space
(touch wood) I fortunately have very little experience of colic. My now 35 year-old suffered a colic after a strangulated testicle and subsequent surgery to save his life. That was 10 years ago.
There are many reasons a horse can colic, not least of which is dramatic changes in the weather. A few horses belonging to friends have coliced recently, so thought it maybe time for a reminder on this life-threatening ailment.
Change of food - Old, mouldy or damp grain or forage - large quantities of grain based feed in one sitting - not having eaten for a long period (anything over 4 hours technically is a long period for a horse) - stomach ulcers, parasites - accumulation of sand/dirt in the stomach - dry feed and not enough water to drink - drinking a large amount of cold water.
Know your horse! For most of us we know our horse well enough to note any change in his feeding habits or general demeanour. If he suddenly goes off his feed, or spikes a temperature, these are often the first signs of colic. If he appears sleepy or dull, sweating, pawing - all early signs of colic. Can´t defecate or there´s a lack of faeces - stretches as though urinating without doing so - restlessness, getting up and down, more signs. If it reaches the stage where you find your horse laid down and kicking at their stomach very immediate action needs taking. Call your vet.
Whilst waiting his/her arrival, take note of all the symptoms to inform them. Get your horse to it´s feet if you can and start walking him. Don´t give him any food or water until the vet says so. Don´t ´drag´ the horse around, let it rest if it wants to. Walking the horse for hours on end does not help, and if it requires surgery it is less likely to have a favourable outcome if it is already exhausted from walking whilst in so much pain. If 15/20 minutes of walking have not helped - hours will definitely not. Don´t give any drug that contain Atropine. Though it may relieve pain quickly, it also slows or stops intestinal action, and sometimes the intestines may not recover.
Leave all full diagnose, pain relief and treatment etc to your vet.
When blanketing our horses during cold winter months, we have the best intention of keeping him warm and protected from the elements. But the design and fit of many blankets can potentially harm your horse and – in extreme cases – cause major structural problems. A first sign that the edge of your blanket is cutting into the crest and the nuchal ligament of the horse, is the so called ‘blanket-dip’, an indentation right in front of the withers.
Horse's crest indented by ill fitting winter blanket
A first sign that something is not quite right, is usually a slight indentation right in front of the withers, often coupled with hairloss, coldness to touch (lack of circulation) and possibly stiffness and soreness in the horse. It’s hard to put two and two together. We blanket our horse to keep him warm and protected from the elements and often don’t think that such a relatively light piece of equipment such as a blanket can do damage to our horse.
But indeed, most blankets – even though available in many different sizes – are still not customized enough to fit every horse. The blanket pulls down on the front edge and causes the so called ‘blanket-dip’.
What this means to the horse’s anatomy:
The blanket edge presses on the fatty tissue of the crest and the underlying nuchal ligament. The nuchal ligament starts at the poll and attaches at the withers, making it an elementary component of equine biomechanics. This ligament – together with the supraspinous ligament – serves as the ‘string’ in the ‘suspension bridge’ of the horse’s back.
Dr. Gerd Heuschmann: “When the horse stretches his neck forward, the nuchal ligament is put in traction, pulling on thewithers’ spinous processes, causing them to rise. This effect extends all along the horse’s back – the traction is transmitted to the tendon-like supraspinous ligament, which, as a direct continuation of the nuchal ligament, connects all of the back’sspinous processes.” And: “..it’s mainly the nuchal ligament that helps the horse lift his back by stretching it forward.”
Impeding or even damaging this important ligament can lead to anything from minor discomfort and restriction to major loss of soundness, requiring lengthy rehabilitation. Stiffness, choppy strides, disjointed movement can be first pointers that something is causing damage or restriction to this ligament.
If you are blanketing your horse, investigate carefully whether the blanket is restricting the nuchal ligament. If you find a dip, coldness to touch or loss of hair, you will want to make changes. Having a knowledgeable tailor make custom changes to your blanket or buying a blanket that has a different design.... and then they go off with the sales pitch...
Extracted from a magazine article Feb 2010