Ask Horse Journal: 03/05

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Selenium Without E
In 2002, when I took over the management of a facility, I decided for the first time (on recommendation of my vet) to have the whole barn tested for selenium. Our Michigan area is a low-selenium area. Only two of the 30 horse had acceptable levels. My vet recommended an inexpensive selenium product from our feed store.?? He said the vitamin E is the expensive part of most supplements and that while it is needed for the proper absorption of selenium, he believed the horses had plenty of vitamin E in their feed.?? Two years later some of the horses are finally at good levels, but several of the boarders insist the plain selenium is useless. What’s your opinion'

HJ Response:

Vitamin E isn’t necessary for the intestinal absorption of selenium, so your supplement is OK in that regard.?? However, vitamin E and selenium work synergistically in the body, both being involved in the maintenance of key antioxidant systems.?? Selenium also interacts with other antioxidants, like vitamin C.?? Unless a horse is on fresh grass, dietary levels of vitamin E are usually too low without supplementation.?? Hays and grains contain only about one-tenth the level of vitamin E as fresh grasses, and this declines over time.?? While some commercial feeds have added vitamin E, it isn’t enough to make up the difference.?? Even the conservative National Research Council recommends vitamin E supplementation, up to a level of 1000 IU/day for inactive horses while horses in work likely require much more.??Cold-pressed oils provide some additional vitamin E but aren’t very stable. We think your best bet is to supplement and if you want to continue to use your selenium product, just supplement the vitamin E. It doesn’t have to be an expensive supplement product.

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Crescent Noseband Fit
The crescent noseband you show in your January issue looks interesting. Can you give me more information about how to fit it properly'

HJ Response:

The crescent noseband looks harsh, because of all the metal, but it really isn’t, and it suits tense, sensitive horses. In fact, it’s legal for use in the dressage ring at USEF shows. It combines the virtues of a figure eight (the high well-padded nosepiece doesn’t restrict air flow in the nostrils) and a flash (the bottom straps keep the mouth closed over the bit). The metal pieces are especially useful for a horse that shifts its jaw side to side or one that moves its tongue a lot, perhaps getting it over the bit. It can help with some horses that run through the hand and can make a horse lighter without going to more bit.

A key to fitting the crescent is that the nosepiece shouldn’t be so long that the metal touches the bit, rubs on any bony area, or becomes too tight against the side of the face. The two metal pieces should fit equally over the bit. You can find crescents nosebands with a solid nosepiece, which looks better, or an adjustable one. If the nosepiece is solid, look for a cob size if your horse has a delicate muzzle area, and be sure you can return it if it’s too long. Otherwise, you’ll need to get it cut down. The two bottom straps should be firm but not tight. You don’t have to crank them down the way some people do with other noseband choices.

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Caladryl Lotion
In the ongoing battle against biting flies, I have one dun mare who is extremely sensitive to bites, maybe thin-skinned. The bites really show as her coat gets rubbed or if an allergic reaction shows the black skin underneath. It looks bad and really bothers her. I’ve been rubbing Caladryl Lotion on the bad spots. It seems to have helped her and also seems to act as a repellent. Are there any adverse effects of using this on all my horses'

HJ Response:

Caladryl contains calomine (zinc oxide with 5% iron oxide added to give it the pink color), which helps dry up open and oozing areas, plus the antihistamine pramoxine hydrochloride, to control itching. There should be no adverse effects except possible overdrying of the skin, unless an individual horse is sensitive to it.

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Weaving In The Field
My gelding is alone in a paddock with unlimited hay.??He doesn’t have a lot of room, but it’s big enough to canter.??He can touch noses with four other horses. Still, every day, a few hours before bring-in time, he’ll stand at the gate and weave.?? Is this normal'

HJ Response:

Yes. Some horses will weave in fields, and usually for the same reasons.?? “Anxiety” and boredom head the list.?? Of course, simply wanting to come in the barn is a reason for the weaving, and horses prone to do this may start weaving after their usual paddock time is up or nearing.

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Saddle Fit
I applaud your article about saddle fit for riders (December 2004). This topic is ignored by trainers way too much, and it’s not rocket science. Whether you ride Western or English, if your legs aren’t under you, you won’t be able to use them.?? Most riders with ill-fitted saddles find themselves constantly trying to “climb uphill.”?? This is because they are trying to get over their legs and their center of gravity. A saddle that is too big for the rider is most commonly at fault but not always. Many jump, dressage and especially Western saddles have a seat that positions the rider behind their feet.?? Finding an English saddle that positions you correctly isn’t difficult.?? However, finding a Western saddle that will allow you to sit over your legs isn’t as easy but it is possible. Poor saddle fit isn’t fair to your horse or yourself. And when the saddle fits, posting and leg aids are effortless.

HJ Response:

The December article concentrated on English riders. We have another article in the works that will target Western riders.

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The Nature vs. Nurture Debate
Horsemen have argued for years as to whether a horse’s personality is more strongly influenced by genetics or experiences, including handling and training.

In a recent French study, 702 horses were subjected to standardized tests, and their reactions compared to their breed, parentage, type of work and other environmental factors. The researchers found that the way a horse reacts to new situations and challenges was more closely related to genetic factors, while the ease with which they learn new tasks and handle separation from other horses is more tied to handling. The conclusion' There’s more to be learned.

What this does tell us is that good horsemen will continue to use patience and treat each horse as an individual. Regardless of how a horse is handled, his reactions to new situations may be genetically imprinted. Training methods for difficult situations, like trailering, that work for most horses may not work for all, and it’s not necessarily related to the method, prior abuse or anything else other than the horse’s inborn instinctive reaction.

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Feeding Facts
Horsemen frequently wonder if multiple small meals truly are better than fewer larger ones. They wonder if hay and grain should be fed at the same time or if the type of grain they’re feeding makes a significant difference.

These common feeding questions usually answered more on the basis of personal opinion than scientific facts. A French study appearing in the Journal of Animal Science sheds some light, at least from the standpoint of the digestibility of starch in the small intestine.

Undigested starch that reaches the large bowel can cause problems. The cecum and colon can adjust to some extent to starch loads, but beyond a certain point you run into problems. At their most minor, there can be some bloating and loss of organisms needed to efficient digest hay. At the worst end of the spectrum is grain overload with colic, toxemia and laminitis.

The rese archers looked at the effects of multiple small meals, feeding meals with either high-fiber or high-starch, and the type of starch (potato, beans, corn, barley, oats or wheat). They found that the major determinant of how much starch would spill over into the large bowel was the type. Starch from oats was the most digestible, followed by wheat, corn, barley, bean and potato. The size of the high-starch meal was also important. Feeding a high-fiber source at the same time as the starch tends to speed the meal along, but the meal size and type of starch were the most important determinants of how well it would be digested. Smaller, lower-starch meals seem to be better digested.