Ask Horse Journal: 10/03

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Club-Footed Foal
We have a two-month-old Standardbred filly that is clubby. We want to help her because we have a recommendation to put her down if she doesn’t show improvement in 30 days.

We’ve put her and her dam out with another mare and colt about her age that is active, hoping that increased excercise might help. We’re wondering whether she should be weaned early so that we could control her diet carefully to avoid a rich diet and slow her growth.

When she walks she seems short-strided, and we’re wondering if she’s in pain. When she stands on sandy ground her toes definitely point straight down, but when she’s on the harder ground she seems to stand pretty much OK. Any suggestion would be appreciated. We don’t care if she never races if she could just have a life without pain.

-Marge Olivier
Florida

We can’t easily see her feet in the photo you’ve sent, but she’s beautiful, and her pastern axis looks fine. If the foal’s pastern/foot axis is broken, it may simply be a matter of rapid hoof growth and insufficient wear that careful trims at frequent intervals for a while (every seven to 14 days) could easily correct.

Foals grow rapidly in the first three months and it’s not unusual for them to look clubby, or contracted, over at the knee, etc. temporarily. Constant movement on firm ground, preferably in a large area with some gentle roll to it, and minimal stall confinement are important.

We wouldn’t wean her yet. A foal this age shouldn’t have direct access to grain. The foal will pick at hay and grass in increasing amounts, and explore any dropped grain as well, but recent research points to feeding too much grain too early as a major risk factor for a variety of developmental disorders.

This foal is old enough to begin routine farrier touch-ups, usually no more than a light rasp to make sure the foot is level and heel/toe lengths correct. The whole process only takes a few minutes. Call the nearest large breeding farm to see who works on their babies. You want someone experienced with foals.

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MSM Dosages
We are in a quandary as to how much MSM we should feed, as manufacturer-recommended dosages vary. Also, is it OK to double the amount of MSM and feed once a day'

-Jim and Sue Geiger
Pennsylvania

The best current guidelines we have for MSM use are those from a 2001 study done by Dr. Ronald Riegel. Actively training and racing Standardbreds were used. It was found that the best initial response was obtained feeding 20 grams/day and that level was suggested for six weeks, followed by a drop in dosage to 10 grams/day. It’s OK to give the full dose once a day instead of split into two feedings.

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Bunny Hop
My mare walks and trots normally, but she does a bunny-hopping gait, where she runs with both hind legs together, rather than like a normal horse. Why would a horse “bunny hop”'

-Rosie Roegner
Texas

Some horses bunny hop when they accelerate quickly, e.g. barrel racers and horses really ripping around on turnout. If she does this all the time, though, it’s abnormal. In rare instances, a horse with a severe stifle problem will do this, but most times it’s related to either a primary neurological problem like EPM or a back injury with spinal nerve impingement. A detailed exam by a knowledgeable veterinarian should be able to pin it down for you.

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Track or Polo Wraps
I was given a set of track wraps. I have a set of polo wraps, and I don’t see what the difference is between track and polo wraps. Polo wraps aren’t as stretchy, but are they used for the same purpose'

-Sarah Dabney Threadgill
Mississippi

It sounds like by “track” wraps you mean what’s commonly called a stable wrap. Either type can be used for standing bandages or support during work, but well-made polo wraps are usually thicker and less elastic. This is because they’re either used alone or with only a thin layer of sheet cotton underneath. The extra thickness is for added protection and the lower elasticity helps guard against too much pressure being put on the tendons and superficial nerves in the lower leg.

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Chickens And Coughs
Can the presence of chickens around horses cause a chronic cough' Do they cause other problems'

-Glenn Becker
Internet

It would be unusual, but not impossible, to cause a cough. In people, allergies can develop to bird dander, parasites and droppings. Aerosolized dust from areas the birds frequent is a lung irritant. Birds may also carry infectious organisms that could be a problem for the horse, including salmonella, influenza, West Nile and toxoplasma. On the other hand, many horses are kept around chickens with no problems. Some even have chickens as stall buddies. An absolute ban on chickens may not be warranted, but it’s wise not allow chickens access to areas where the horses feed.

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Matua Grass Hay
Do you know anything about matua grass hay, which is apparently from New Zealand but grown in the USA for markets in Japan. It’s marketed in my town, too, and I wondered if it’s worth feeding.

-Kathryn LeVergne
Idaho

Matua (aka praire grass, brome grass) is similar to other grass hays in its digestibility. Studies have shown it will adequately support growth of yearlings on pasture. It grows well in the same soils that support alfalfa or other legumes. Matua is fairly cold resistant, making it popular. This also means higher levels of sugars in the pastures and hays, which makes it more palatable than some other grass hays and risky for horses with insulin-resistance problems. The need for mineral supplementation will vary with the region where it’s grown.

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Cleaning Velcro-Type Fabrics
Hook-and-loop fasteners, such as the one known as Velcro, is a fabulous closure, found on bell boots, galloping boots, fly masks, breeches, and countless other items.?? But cleaning it can be a chore, and that lint and debris compromises its sticking power.?? If you own a grooming and thinning comb (sometimes referred to as a thinning knife) you’ve got a cleaning tool for the fastener.

Place the tool on the material and comb away with short pulls.?? The lint and debris will move with the comb and come off at the other end.?? Note: Your bended knee is an excellent resting place for a bell boot, but be careful not to move the blade onto your knee.??It will pull the fabric of your clothing, or scrape your skin if unprotected.