Ask Horse Journal: 11/99

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Adjusting Your Horse’s Feeding Schedule To Yours
just moved to Raleigh, N.C., from northern California. While in California, my Thoroughbred gelding was fed hay twice a day. Then, after I worked him each day, I gave him two pounds grain. Now that I have moved to such a hot and humid climate, I am worried that he is too hot to eat right after a difficult work.

I work him about an hour a day in the early morning or late evening. This is the only time he can get supplements because I am boarding at a co-op barn where I am not sure he gets his supplements on a regular basis. I have taken over all of his supplement feeding to be sure he gets them as needed. Would it be better to feed him before he works or after' I’m unable to get to the barn twice daily.

-Mia Ambrose
Raleigh, NC

It’s fine to feed your horse after he works, especially this small amount, as long as he is cooled out. You can monitor this yourself by taking his pulse at 15-minute intervals. Once it’s down to 40 or so and his body temperature is also down, go ahead and feed. Feeding such small amounts before work is OK too, although some horses get a little uncomfortable/sluggish if worked after feeding. It’s best to wait 30 to 60 minutes to work after feeding.

If you think you can rely on him being fed grain when you’re not there, it would be OK to mix the supplements in with his grain and leave it in a covered bucket so that all they have to do is dump it in for him. You could also split the grain and supplements to half before and half after he works (you’re not likely to get into any trouble feeding only one pound of grain). Another option is to mix the supplements (pulverize any pellets) in water or vegetable oil and give by dose syringe. An even easier solution is to use plastic bags (see below).

Also With This Article
Click here to view ”Bag Those Supplements In Daily Amounts.”

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Western Pleasure Head Carriage
I have a seven-year-old palomino Quarter Horse. For many years, he has been winning Western pleasure classes. This year he has been arching his neck and putting his head behind the vertical even with no rein pressure. How can I get his head at level or below and his nose out a little, the way he used to be' He won’t go as slow as he used to, even if worked a long time. He has had the same rider, feed and bit for the last five years. He has shown English and Western and is still winning, but I don’t like his head set and need to get it back to where it was.

-Sue Simonson
Pueblo West, CO

It’s great that you noticed all three symptoms. The head behind the vertical without rein pressure and the arched neck (by this I assume you mean he’s flexing behind, not at, the poll) show discomfort or unwillingness to move into the bridle. The fact that he’s moving faster shows that he’s not happy engaging his haunches.

First, ask your vet to do a thorough dental and lameness exam. Hooks on his front molars, for example, could be just uncomfortable enough to get him backed off of the bit, while a sore back or soreness in the hind legs could prevent him from coming up under himself behind and moving more slowly. Then, put him in a mild snaffle (milder than whatever he is going in English). If possible, go outside the arena where you can take advantage of rolling terrain and gently turning paths (follow one, or make your own). Try to get him to relax and stretch out longitudinally; ask him to take longer steps with his hind legs and stretch down toward your snaffle bit on long (not loose) reins. If he responds, you can collect him back up again for short periods of time, making sure that he truly moves forward from your legs and accepts the bit as a collecting aid.

If this doesn’t work, you’ll have to go to where he wants to carry his nose incorrectly behind the vertical with your light contact and ride him forward with your legs (in longer strides, not faster ones) and only release (reward) him as he is stretching down into the bit (never when he comes behind it). Good exercises to encourage him to work harder behind and move into your hands are up transitions within gaits (jog to long trot, lope to canter) and large smooth circles.

If you’re trotting, posting will lighten his back and help him reach under better (even though you don’t do that in the show ring). The lateral flexion you achieve on the circles (his body curved on the arc of the circle) encourages his outside hind leg to push harder and his inside hind leg to come up further under his body. Change directions when he’s going well one way to work both sides. The lateral work will encourage him to soften his neck and reach for the bit.

When you’ve got him comfortable going in a long frame, with his nose forward, neck stretched down, and taking long slow strides from behind, gradually shortening and then lengthening him will allow you to find the speed and frame in which you want him to travel. Just don’t overdo that; return to a long frame (with longer, more energetic strides) periodically to check that he is still willing to move forward into your hands and lengthen his frame. You may be able to go back to your show bits, or you may need to stay with the mild snaffle for English and use a milder Western curb with shorter shanks to avoid the overflexion.

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Tempo Ranges For Metronome
I either read somewhere or heard in a clinic about using an electronic metronome for training your horse for the different gaits, particularly medium, working and collected trot. By using a metronome, you could “test” yourself as to whether you were really getting the medium trot, etc. Since I primarily train alone, I thought this would be a great tool. However, I can’t remember the ranges given for the different gaits. Have you ever heard of this, and what are the tempo ranges I should strive for'

-Judy Ross
Saranac, NY

The ranges you want are: 110 or slower for walk; 140 to 160 for trot; 92 to 100 for canter, depending on your own horse’s tempo. The smaller the stride, the quicker the tempo; the larger the stride, the slower the tempo. As your horse gets more advanced in his training and more able to sustain collection and thus more expressive in his gaits, the slower his tempo will become. Over a period of months and years, if his tempo is getting quicker rather than slower, you’ll know something isn’t quite right.

When you do a medium trot or any type of trot lengthening, the tempo should not get much faster. If it is, the strides are just getting quick and small, not long. The tempo should stay the same or get slower, because the horse is covering more ground with each stride. A truly fine extended trot feels like slow-motion except that you can feel the powerful push from the horse’s hindquarters and increased wind in your face.

There are small electronic metronomes that can be attached to your saddle or saddle pad or worn on your wrist, but we have a more enjoyable idea that will take more work at first. You don’t want to ride all the time to a steady tock-tock-tock. It would drive you and your horse bonkers after awhile. Instead, use a metronome to determine your horse’s tempo at all three gaits, when warmed up and relaxed, then find and record music to match all three gaits. While you ride, play the music on a boom box or on a musical device that can be worn on the horse (see August, 1997), but use speakers rather than earphones so the horse can hear the music, too. If his tempo gets ahead of the music, then you know your strides are getting smaller and quicker instead of larger and more expressive.

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Chicken Droppings
Is there anything in chicken droppings that could cause poisoning/severe intestinal problems in a horse' My friend’s horse was recentl y very ill. The vets at Washington State University saved her, but she has laminitis in all four feet. The mare regularly ate hay that chickens roosted/nested/laid eggs in. Since another horse died from salmonella poisoning caused by eating hay with pigeon droppings on it, I want to find out more about the subject.

-Carol Voogd
Spokane, WA

There is a good chance the chickens were the source of this horse’s problem. You are also correct that salmonella is why it is considered dangerous to eat raw eggs like in homemade egg nog or unbaked cookie and cake batter. Salmonella is a serious infection. What happened to your friend’s horse is fairly typical. Salmonella can also kill. Once a farm is contaminated, it may be very difficult to eliminate the organism.

You cannot isolate your horse completely from other animals and their droppings. However, you can take steps to reduce the chances of gross contamination, such as not feeding horses on the ground, cleaning up spilled grain quickly, keeping all feeding and watering containers meticulously clean, keeping small animals out of stalls, storing grain in tightly sealed containers and being alert to contamination of hay or infestation of hay by rodents, who love to build nests in the bales.

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Eye Injury
I’ve owned my 14-year-old gelding for four years. I recently noticed a white ring appearing around his eye. The vet said to watch for excessive tearing (signaling the eyeball shrinking) and excessive squinting (signaling pain) and that the next step is to remove the eye and have the lid sewed shut. My vet said he is about 85% blind, and this is caused by past head trauma or a fly egg.

Since my horse is dewormed regularly, the vet did not feel that the fly egg is the cause. He said it would not spread to the other eye. I would like to know more about this ailment.

-Melissa Strausser
Greenville, PA

Your horse’s diagnosis is phthisis bulbi. What this boils down to is simply a scarred and, to some degree, shrunken eye. Like anywhere else in the body, if there is a serious injury?''either a penetrating injury or a forceful blow or invasion by a parasite?''the tissues become damaged and hemorrhage occurs. It may also occur with severe generalized inflammation, like periodic ophthalmia (“moonblindness”) or if the blood supply to the eye becomes cut off or clotted for any reason. After this, the body goes about the business of repairing what it can and in the process creating a lot of scarring. Since even tiny changes in the structure of the eye can impact vision, severely impaired sight always results. The good news in your case is that most of the scarring and reaction within the eye usually occurs in the first three months, although some progression may continue for a few years. There is a better chance the horse will remain at his present level of vision, and the eye at its current size and appearance, than it will get worse. There is really no treatment.

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Serious Encephalitis Warning
Since late August, officials in New York City have been dealing with a human encephalitis outbreak transmitted by mosquitos. The virus can cause encephalitis and death in horses as well. Current encephalitis vaccines (for Eastern and Western encephalitis) will not be protective.

Horse owners in the Northeast are urged to be alert to signs of neurological disease. Symptoms appear five to 15 days after infection by a mosquito bite. Initially, there may only be fever, depression and decreased appetite. Headache is reported by people but obviously difficult to detect in horses. Symptoms may then progress to neck/poll stiffness, reluctance to turn, head pressing, disorientation, prostration and death. It’s possible that it may spread to adjoining states, if not this fall, perhaps next mosquito season.

Human cases at this time are centered in the New York City area. The virus has also been isolated from dead birds and is being investigated as a possible cause of the death of crows in Connecticut.

The offending virus was at first believed to be St. Louis encephalitis virus?''a virus that can infect horses but often without causing clinical signs. The most recent information reveals the cause is actually a strain called West Nile virus that has never before been isolated in this country. The source of virus for the New York outbreak remains a mystery, although some attention is being focused on the Bronx Zoo.

Be alert for bird deaths. NY State Health Commissioner Dr. Antonia Novello said hundreds of dead birds have been found in the New York City and surrounding counties. Spraying for mosquitos continues in New York and has started in New Jersey, which has sent dozens of dead crows out for testing. Mosquitos and a dead bird from Greenwich, Conn., have tested positive for the virus and has spraying started there, too. It’s wise to report odd bird deaths to your local department of health so that carcasses can tested.

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Beware Fall Pastures And Grass Founder
Grass founder is classically associated with rapidly growing, lush spring pastures but can occur in the fall as well. Cooler temperatures and improved rainfall often lead to a second phase of rapid growth in pastures in the fall. Particularly dangerous are pastures that have sustained a previous period of stunted growth secondary to low rainfall in late summer, such as in many areas this year. Sugars in these stressed grasses become concentrated and may be more likely to cause grass founder when they start to regrow.

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Correction
In the October ’99 article on restraint, the price of the Stableizer was incorrect. It retails for $49.95.