Ask Horse Journal: July Letter

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Psyllium For Diarrhea: It effectively treats the symptom

I have two older horses that often have chronic bouts with diarrhea or loose manure. I would like to give them two ounces of psyllium per day to help them, but I read that prolonged feeding of psyllium isn?t likely to be effective. If this is the case, should I feed until the manure is normal and wait until there is another bout of diarrhea'

Contributing Veterinary Editor Deb Eldredge DVM responds:

There is concern that feeding pysllium constantly will change the bacteria in the horse's intestinal tracts. Your horses will adjust and adapt to the increased fiber of the pysllium over time. Eventually, the added fiber might not help. When your horse has a bout of diarrhea, feed the psyllium for five days at time, which should be enough to restore the manure to normal.

In your case, psyllium isn?t curing anything. it's treating a symptom. The situation of sand colic is different, as the psyllium actually works on the cause of the problem.

Consider what's causing the diarrhea. Diarrhea can have many causes, and you may need your veterinarian?s help to determine it. If you can identify the cause and treat that, the diarrhea may be cured, although it may not be practical or possible. In that case, your occasional use of psyllium may give your horses the relief they need.

Movement At The Letter

I'm going to a dressage schooling show to see if I'd like doing more of it. I understand the tests (I'm looking at Training Level). Can you answer one question' When the test says to do something at a specific letter, such as a circle or a transition, what part of the horse do they mean' The head, the middle, any part'

Associate Editor Margaret Freeman responds: Basically, a transition or the start of a figure such as a circle should happen as the rider?s body passes the letter. The only exception is a flying change at the end of a diagonal line, which ideally should occur on the last stride of the diagonal before the horse turns onto the long side (but at Training Level, you're a ways off from being concerned about that).

At Training Level, however, the judge is more concerned about the balance and smoothness of a transition rather than whether it happens directly in front of a letter, so a smooth transition that's a stride early or late shouldn't be a concern.

Is Double-Longeing The Answer'

A trainer in our area is teaching everyone in her barn to ?double-longe? their horses. You?d think it was the answer to every training problem ever seen. What is it, and how important is it in our training' We're all riding ?trained? horses.

Performance Editor John Strassburger responds:

Double-longeing is also called long-lining, and it means longeing your horse with two longe lines, both usually running through D-rings on a training surcingle. One longe line either comes over the horse's back or around his hindquarters. It can be done on a circle, as with regular longeing, or as if you're driving the horse, but without a cart.

Longeing is a tremendously misunderstood and misused training method (see January 2011). that's because too few people do it correctly and, thus, don't see how demanding it can be for the horse. And, too often, it's used as a lazy man?s form of exercise, as it's easy for the handler.

Well, double-longeing is physically demanding on you because you can't stand in the center of the circle; you have to move with the horse, about five to 10 meters away from him, on your own circle as you follow him around. You must be fit and able to jog or run.

Plus, holding the two longe lines and the whip, and using them like reins, but without seat and leg aids, requires a lot of practice. it's easy to just hang on the horse's mouth or make him overbent.

Certainly double-longeing can be useful to teach young horses to obey the rein aids and to develop strength and suppleness in any horse. But with the variety of longeing devices available, I see no reason for anyone but experienced trainers to double-longe a horse. Devices like the excellent ones I reviewed in June 2011 will help develop your horse's willingness to accept the bridle and your aids in a round frame, while being far easier and safer for everyone.

Almonds, Anyone'

I read about a rider who was feeding an oganic/natural diet with beet pulp and alfalfa cubes. SHe's ?substituting almonds for certain commercial supplements,? and that blew my mind. Why' How many'

Contributing Veterinary Editor Eleanor Kellon VMD responds:

THere's no particular reason to feed almonds, and they certainly won?t substitute for any supplements. All nuts are roughly 30/30/30 protein/fat/carbs with variable levels of minerals.

There are a lot of fad diets out there based on half truths. Some do more harm than good. The diet you describe here is too heavy in calcium. A better approach is to build a diet that correctly meets the specific horse's needs.