Ask Horse Journal: Yokes, Salt, Walking under Tack, NCS

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Having read John Strassburger?s June 2012 commentary ?Riding Well Is Mostly About Confidence,? I am left wondering what kind of ?yoke? he uses on his new horses for an unexpected move.

I'm a strong rider, but I'm now 63, and I'm working with a mellow-tempered Rocky Mountain Horse just turning 3. I would love to have that advantage, a stability device for me, not connected to the saddle set up (I assume). Could I please have more details'

Performance Editor John Strassburger responds: A racing yoke is basically a martingale without the straps that attach to either the noseband or the reins. it's composed of a strap (leather or nylon) that fits? around the neck and attaches with a metal ring to another strap that goes to the girth to hold it in place.

Race track exercise riders (and some jockeys) rely on yokes because their short stirrups don't give them much leg to stay in the tack. The yoke gives them something to grab on to if the horse shies, bucks or makes some other kind of unexpected move. I like it for the same reason, especially with young or uncertain horses?it gives you a bit more confidence knowing you have something to grab on to if the horse gets you get a bit loose.

I also use it when teaching green horses to jump?I grab hold of the yoke a stride or two before the jump to support myself, while allowing the young horse to figure out how to place his feet and his body. it's also nice when you land, in case He's feeling a bit too proud of himself.

You can buy racing yokes inexpensively from a number of racing suppliers, in either leather or nylon. For instance, Big Dee?s Tack & Vet Supplies (www.bigdweb.com, 800-321-2142) sells leather yokes for $35.95. that's where I got the two yokes I have?they're high-quality leather and very durable.

Or you can go to The Harness Shop (www.theharness shoponline.com, 866-469-8181) to buy a white leather yoke for $26.35. At www.jockeytack.com (305-621-4741, they sell nylon yokes in a choice of six colors for $15.95. And at www.vrtack.com (954-304-3318), you can buy leather yokes ($22.49), two-toned nylon yokes ($12.60) and one-color nylon yokes in nine colors ($9.99).

TOO MUCH SALT

I manage a boarding facility. Most of my boarders are trail riders, and I enjoy helping them take good care of their horses.

One issue I don't understand is salt intake for horses, although I know that over-consumption of salt can be very bad for humans. Several of my boarders buy gourmet salt for their horses and leave big chunks of it on the stall floor.

The horses at my farm have at least six hours of turn out into large pastures every day. They return to matted stalls that open into individual pens. We feed plenty of hay, but some horses run out of hay overnight before morning because their weight doesn't allow us to feed as much as they?d like to consume. it's these horses who seem to eat the most salt.

Is there possible health hazard here for the horses' This over-consumption seems to me to happen significantly less with the square blocks that are hung on the wall in a bracket. Should I be worried'

Contributing Veterinary Editor Deb Eldredge DVM responds: Salt toxicity is rare in horses. A horse who has been deprived of access to salt may overindulge a bit when first given salt again or a horse who is force-fed a heavily salted supplement may get too much.

In general, a horse who has access to fresh water as well as salt will self-regulate. A healthy horse with access to water and healthy kidneys will simply urinate out the excess sodium chloride.

It does sound like your horses are eating the salt out of boredom as much as anything. Horses are designed to munch on something almost 24/7. Your management systems sounds quite good, but maybe you could consider some toys for the horses. Large rubber cones, big plastic barrels and balls with handles are all toys that some (not all!) horses will play with.

You could also use a ?slow feed? hay bag or feeder for the hay. These devices have fairly small holes in them that make the horse ?work? to get the hay out. The effort keeps the horse busy and happier, which results in slower hay intake, which is healthier, too. Tie the bags safely out of reach, so the horse can't paw and get his foot caught in it.

TACK WALKING

As part of my horse's recovery from an injury, my veterinarian instructed me to ride my horse at the walk rather than hand walk.? If I'm just going to walk, why would I need to do this' it's a lot of extra time to groom and tack up, but I didn't want to tell my vet and let her think I was insulting her instructions.

Associate Editor Margaret Freeman responds: Your vet should have a specific reason for this instruction.? Ask her.? In general, however, it's usually more productive to ?tack walk? rather than hand walk, depending on a horse's specific injury.

For one thing, your horse will move with more energy and thus relieve his mind and muscles from the restrictions of being in a stall.? The vet could also want the injured tissue to remodel in line with healthy tissue rather than creating rigid scar tissue, and actively walking under saddle will help this process,? Carrying the weight of a rider, plus swinging his back in long looses strides, will work all the muscles of the horse better than just plodding on a lead rope, making it easier for him to resume normal work when the time comes and also less likely for him to injure some other area of soft tissue when he returns to conditioning exercises.? Just make sure that you keep the horse on firm level footing and make large rounded turns rather than sharp corners.

Be sure to ask your vet for a protocol when you start back into work beyond a walk.? Ask how many trot sets she will want you to do, for how long a period, and how she wants you to gradually increase the work.

NCS QUESTION

I read about NCS (nasopharyngeal cicatrix syndrome) in the March 2012 Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. I have a Quarter Horse with a slight respiratory issue that involves periodic runny nose and noisy breathing when in exercise or when her head is flexed/on the bit. I wondered if this could be the problem as opposed to the more common roarer condition. Should I have her scoped'

Contributing Veterinary Editor Grant Miller, DVM responds: Nasopharyngeal cicatrix is a rare inflammatory condition of the larynx, pharynx and trachea that can be acute (comes on quickly) but then develop into chronic inflammation that causes scarring that can restrict airflow. In a few cases, it results in respiratory distress. Although the cause is unknown, increased risk factors include: housing at pasture, increased age, and warmer seasons.? Horses with this inflammatory syndrome often display runny nose, exercise intolerance, and abnormal sounds when breathing.

Ultimately, any horse that displays a combination of the above mentioned symptoms should undergo airway endoscopy.? In this procedure, the horse remains standing but is sedated (much like when they get dental work done).? A long tube with a video camera on the end of it is inserted into the nasal passages to allow the veterinarian to examine the structures inside.? In general, the nasal passage, throat region, and trachea are examined by the vet.? In most cases, the cause of the horse's clinical signs will be something other than NCS.

Either way, you owe it to your horse to have the endoscopy procedure performed.? it's safe and easy and only takes about 45 minutes in most cases.? it's also relatively inexpensive, especially when you consider that it can give you some long-awaited answers. If your horse is having a breathing issue, you don't want to put yourself, your horse, or others at risk of an accident so please get the horse seen by a veterinarian with an endoscope.