Ask Horse Journal: 05/09

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Bee Pollen

Should I feed my finicky horse bee pollen to help him eat more'

Horse Journal Response: A 2005 study from the University of Michigan Department of Animal Science fed bee pollen (equivalent of 2.28 oz. of bee pollen/day) to horses in an attempt to demonstrate improved athletic performance.

The study failed to show that, but it did find that geldings on bee pollen ate more than geldings not getting bee pollen. However, the bee pollen-supplemented horses weren’t digesting their hay as efficiently as horses that didn’t get bee pollen. That supplement costs $2.50/day to feed and claims to have an appetite-increasing effect. But it may be that those horses ate more to compensate for not as efficiently fermenting their hay.

Bedding Brands

Your November 2008 article on pelletized bedding piqued my interest. I tried the bedding over mats in my stalls and loved the ease of picking and reduced waste. However, the air becomes dusty and irritates my own airway. I hate to think of my horses breathing it after moving around or just while recumbent with their noses in it. Since dust problems weren’t mentioned in the article, I wonder if my problem is brand-specific.

Horse Journal Response: In our trial, we didn’t compare different brands of pelletized bedding, of which there are at least a dozen, because none is available uniformly across the country. Our trial used Mallard Creek, and we haven’t had a dust problem. Readers from other areas of the country have written to us, echoing our findings but using their own brands of pellets and not mentioning dust. Find out what other brands are in your area and compare them to the product you’re using now, in terms of dust, absorption and odor control, price and availability. All these factors can vary by brand and manufacturer, but we believe the research will be worth the effort.

Corn Oil Rumor

I was feeding corn oil but stopped when a feed representative mentioned that it can go rancid in the body and cause health problems. Is this accurate'

Horse Journal Response: No, that’s not accurate. Large amounts can cause a pro-inflammatory fatty-acid profile, but it won’t go rancid in the horse’s body. The closest thing to rancidity in the body is steatitis, inflammation of the fat that’s caused by high intakes of unsaturated fat without sufficient vitamin E and selenium. Steatitis is rare in horses, however.

Colorful Improvement

I wanted to tell you I enjoyed seeing color photos in the April Horse Journal. I know that all those color separations probably add significantly to the production cost, but the Journal looks so much cheerier, and the visual detail in the photos is really improved. I look forward to getting my HJ each month and saved/filed every issue for four years — and have used those ”old” issues for reference or research more than once. Congrats on producing the best (and most valuable) horse publication on the market.

Dr. Jean Lewis,
N. Miami Beach, FL

Great New Look

I wanted to compliment you on the great new look of Horse Journal. The editorial was right on the ”money.” I’m going to look at a new ”necessity” this weekend. As you say, we must have our special friends, and they don’t get thrown away just because they can no longer bounce us around the ring.

Elizabeth McIvor,
Malibu, CA

Learned Helplessness

Thank you for John Strassburger’s March article on the problem of learned helplessness in horse training. Learning to train horses in a way that creates a happy, willing equine partner has been my lifelong quest. I heard of learned helplessness through Linda Tellington-Jones, first in context with dominance-based training and, more recently, with ”rollkur.” A number of years ago a wise person said to me, ”Some people love horses, some people love the use of horses.” I cannot think of a better way to describe the difference between those who train in this manner and those who find a more humane way.

The drive to create a show horse by whatever training method produces the approval of ”judges,” brightly colored ribbons, shining trophies, and a parade of clients seeking the same has been perverse in showing disciplines probably since the beginning of horse shows. But the horses are not the only ones being trained here — people are too. And what they are learning is that these training methods are acceptable because what they produce is what the judges reward! The onus is on the show associations who condone such training methods by rewarding their results.

As you state, one cannot allow horses to do whatever they want. This creates another potential for abuse when the horse must be retrained to behave in an acceptable manner. There are many training methods that produce horses who are happy, willing partners. But it is up to people to be guided by either their love of the horse or their love of the use of the horse in their choice of training method.

Jan Snodgrass,
Marshall, VA

Editor’s Note:Look for our June follow-up article on learned helplessness, which includes information on how to retrain horses you have who have been dominated by this training method.