Ask Horse Journal: 08/04

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Knee Rolls Or Not'
Should I choose a saddle with knee rolls' I ride dressage, and there’s some debate about this in my barn. My instructor says I can go either way but that I really shouldn’t “use” the knee rolls when I ride. I can’t decide.

We find it sort of funny that the knee rolls on dressage saddles are often more prominent than the padded flaps on jumping and event saddles, where support is more critical. We then wonder if dressage riders are looking to the saddle to make up for position problems that are best addressed on the longe line.

We think knee rolls on a dressage saddle are just a matter of preference, not essential. They can help put the rider’s leg into a precise position. But choose the saddle and the knee-roll option both carefully, because the knee rolls can become more of a hindrance than a help. If you have a relatively long leg, especially a long thigh, you also need a long flap and possible an angled flap. Otherwise, your knee is forced to the front of the flap. Then your leg will either go on top of the knee roll, which is uncomfortable at best, or the knee roll will force your seat back on the cantle.

Often a dressage rider creates a combination of a saddle with a deep seat, narrow twist, prominent knee rolls and thigh blocks, plus leather full-seat breeches, maybe with Sadl-Tite added for good measure. This certainly puts the rider into one place in the saddle. However, it may not be the place that the rider really wants to be. If you need to use your leg or seat aids with precision, you could be “stuck.”

Before making the decision about buying a saddle with knee rolls, borrow as many saddles in your barn as you can with a variety of seat depths, wide/narrow twists, flap length and angle, and knee rolls/thigh blocks. You might also be able to test ride a used saddle from the tack shop in the design you want rather than being committed to a new saddle that couldn’t be returned if it has any marks on the billets or flaps.

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Mare Problems
I bought a 17-year-old mare last summer. The previous owners had said she had a hormonal imbalance and had been given a vitamin B??supplement from the vet. She was not in the best shape when I received her, about a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10. I turned her out for several months then began a careful, slow conditioning program.

As she got in better health, she began to get small white dots or specks on her in different places. They’ve appeared as quickly as overnight over the last nine months. She now has about five. No signs of irritation, soreness??or insect bites. What could be??causing the hair-color change' Also she never got a heavy winter coat this year, she stayed almost as slick as a blanketed horse.

When I first started riding, she??could drop and tuck her head in an extreme manner. At first I thought it was a nervous habit, as she would do this on a free rein at all gaits. Usually she would relax in a minute or so but now she is obviously having some type of muscle or nervous system problem. It’s not releasing and she shakes her head as if her neck is pinching.

Prior to it getting to this point I have had her evaluated and worked on by a man who does energy balancing, acupuncture and adjustments. She showed??minor??problems but nothing really major and no real difference at the treatment.

She also has a cyst in her uterus and had an infection in her teats last fall. It seems one teat always stays larger. I have her on red raspberry leaves and chamomile steeped in apple-cider vinegar, and Horse Shine Omega Antioxidant flaxseed and Conquer. I have had her on Pro Pell, and her overall nervousness actually lessened on the blood builder. I also usually keep her on the original B supplement, but I can’t see any difference on or off it.

The white dots on her coat might be a sign of inadequate copper intake. This may be because she isn’t getting enough copper or the copper she is getting isn’t absorbed well because of high levels of a competing mineral like iron, zinc or manganese. Since most commercial grains are mineral balanced, you’d need to have your pasture and hay analyzed to determine if mineral levels are the problem. As for her short coat, check with her previous owner to see if this is a new development or normal for her.

Your head carriage problem needs professional evaluation. If she doesn’t do this when free in the field, or when longed without a bridle and side reins, it’s likely either a training issue, dental problem or reaction to either saddle fit or rider’s weight (back pain). If she only does this when a bit is in her mouth, both with and without a rider, have your dentist go over her and consider a bit seat (see February 2004). Get the opinion of a good trainer and if he or she doesn’t think it’s a training or saddle-fit issue, get your veterinarian to check out her back.

Supplements containing B vitamins vary in the total amounts and relative proportions of the different Bs. If you feel she responded better to the Pro-Pell, stick with what worked. Many horses also calm down when supplemented with magnesium. Your hay and pasture mineral analysis will show if her diet is low in magnesium.

Uterine cysts can be found in up to 55% of older mares and don’t necessarily mean she has a hormonal problem. The enlarged teat should be checked by ultrasound to make sure the infection has been eliminated. It may be that there is simply some scarring from the previous infection that accounts for the size. If both teats are larger than normal and infection isn’t the cause, this may indicate a hormonal imbalance such as too much prolactin.

Chamomile is used for its mild sedative properties, although dosage and effectiveness haven’t been studied in horses. The raspberry is traditionally used in women to treat morning sickness or encourage uterine tone/strength, although how it might do this — or even if it is truly effective — is unknown even in people.

If your mare’s teat enlargement is not due to continued infection or scarring, you might want to discuss with your vet trying Vitex agnus-castus (Chastetree berry) instead. This has been well studied and found to reduce prolactin levels.

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Where Does HA Come From'
Could you tell me where hyaluronic acid comes from' I am talking with a company who said I can use less of their product than others because it’s made of a higher molecular weight in a laboratory.

The company tells me there are three ways to make HA:??1) Extracting the HA from the bovine vitreous humor (fluid of the eye); 2) Producing it in a lab from bacterial fermentation (how this company??does it); and 3) Extracing it from the Rooster cockscomb (flap on the back of the neck). He is telling me that, yes,??a lot if it??is from chicken parts and he can go to the local chicken coop in Kansas and pick up a five-gallon bucket of it for about $20.

This product??seems to work as well as other liquids I have tried. What’s the difference between all these things, and how am I supposed to know if one source is better'

Hyaluronic acid was discovered in 1935 and methods for efficient extraction/purification were perfected working with the vitreous humor of bovine eyes as the source.?? Obviously, there aren’t enough eyes readily available to make this practice a commercial source.?? Umbilical cord is also high in HA, although again not a really practical source.

Much of the hyaluronic acid in use, including HA injected directly into the body, is purified from chicken combs.?? The information that the high molecular weight HA is produced by bacterial fermentation is correct.?? Some injectable HA products are also based on HA produced by bacteria. It’s also true that studies show high molecular weight HA performs better, but all of these studies have involved the injection of HA directly into joints.

To be absorbed through skin or the surface of the eye, HA has to be low molecular weight, not high.?? We simply don’t know if high molecular weight HA can be absorbed well by the gut or not, or even if HA is absorbed intact.?? HA is complex molecular but composed of repeating units of only two substances: sodium glucoronate and the amino sugar N-acetylglucosamine.??Both of these are also used both in oral and compounded injectable joint treatments.??

If HA is enzymatically broken down by the intestinal tract into these components before it is absorbed, the molecular weight of the HA may make no difference or the low molecular weight HA may have an advantage orally because you would have more molecules that can be worked on from both ends by the enzymes.??Unfortunately, we could find no scientific information that answers your question.

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Stock-Up Time: Basic Barn Supplies

Baking Soda Uses

??? Clean water troughs and buckets.
??? Clean bits.
??? As a cabinet deodorizer.
??? As a stall deodorizer.
??? In your horse laundry, to control smells.
??? For added traction over ice and snow.

Petroleum Jelly Uses

??? Prevent scratches by rubbing on the pastern backs before turnout or riding.
??? Prevent “spur spots” by applying over the sensitive area on the horse’s side that tends to lose hair from rubbing by chaps, boots, spurs.
??? For horses that get “chapped lips,” rub onto the bars of the mouth before beginning to ride.
??? Use over small cuts and scrapes to deter insects and increase healing.
??? Over areas of hair loss from halters, girths, etc. for protection.