May "Ask Horse Journal" Letters

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I think it would be fun to breed my mare, who is 13. SHe's never had a foal that I know of, and sHe's always been a sweet horse. I figured this way I could begin to raise her replacement for when she gets old. Should I breed her' I've never raised a foal before.

Performance Editor John Strassburger responds:

Breeding your mare, or any mare, is a decision that should not be made lightly. it's expensive ? and often difficult ? to inseminate mares and to bring foals to term and deliver them. And then you have to take care of the foal for another three or four years while he grows up. You?re looking at potentially a great deal of expense, over the course of four or five years ? before you can begin riding.

So, you need to seriously evaluate yourself first. Can you afford to keep both the mare and a youngster throughout that time period' How and where are you going to wean the foal' Can you afford the cost if it all goes wrong' Do you have the expertise and ability to start the horse under saddle and the finances to hire a trainer if you cannot'

Now, take a hard look at your mare and answer this honestly: Does your mare really deserve to reproduce' Many do not. Does she have good conformation and soundness to go with her temperament'

If you?ve answered yes to these questions and can afford the financial commitment of breeding, the rewards of later riding the horse you brought into the world are terrific. But it's likely less expensive and easier to just buy a new horse.

Which Vaccines'

My friend vaccinates for everything she can, even botulism. I give my horses rabies and a EEE/WEE/tetanus combo. Is that OK' Do I have to repeat any during the year'

Veterinary Editor Eleanor Kellon VMD responds:

You?re giving ?core vaccines,? vaccines against diseases that pose a high risk of death to all horses. Beyond that, vaccinating or not should be based on the horse's risk of being exposed. For details on how to determine risk, visit: http://www.aaep.org/risk_based.html

For timing, when using the killed virus vaccines for EEE/WEE/VEE or the West Nile vaccine other than Recombitek, it's sometimes recommended to vaccinate twice yearly if you're living in an area where the disease is active, as these vaccines provide only a short-lived protection.

Is It An Extended Trot'

I've been working on trot lengthenings, but my instructor tells me that it's really just a faster trot. Her explanation just didn't click. How do I know it's a lengthening'

Associate Editor Margaret Freeman responds:

In a lengthening, the horse's stride gets longer. it's not a faster tempo. The change in outline (aka frame) will come if you can increase the power coming from your horse's hind legs and produce more suppleness through his entire top line. If your horse does a true lengthening, you'll have a greater sense of power even though his tempo won?t speed up. you'll feel more air time in the horse's stride and wind in your face.

The best place to practice this is on a large circle, because you can more easily prepare the transitions there than in a corner or on a straight line. You can also decide just how many (or how few) steps of lengthening you want to do, whereas on a diagonal your horse might fade from the lengthening before you have a chance to ask for the downward transition.

The key is the preparation before you ask for the lengthening. If you know how to do shoulder-fore on the circle, start and end your lengthening that way, because it will automatically get your horse reaching under more from behind. You want to rev his engine, so to speak, briefly before asking for a few strides of lengthening, perhaps aided by a light tap with a dressage whip behind your inside leg so He's clear that you're asking for more power, not just more speed.

Most people post a lengthening because it allows the horse's stride to open up. However, don't start posting until the horse lengthens his outline. Otherwise, he'll go on the forehand and will leave his hocks out behind his haunches, then speed up rather than becoming longer and more powerful. Post because your horse lengthens, not to make the horse lengthen.

Pain RelieF or Therapy'

How do I decide if my horse needs an anti-inflammatory herbal, like devil?s claw, and/or a joint product' He's kind of stiff, and often works out of it. Devil?s claw works, but my friend said I should be using a joint product instead. Should I switch and just try a joint product'

Veterinary Editor Eleanor Kellon VMD responds:

The choice between an anti-inflammatory herbal and joint nutraceutical (glucosamine, chondroitin, hyaluronic acid, ASU) depends in part on the stage of the arthritis. Advanced arthritis with extensive bone changes will not respond as well to nutraceuticals as earlier stages of arthritis. Think of the anti-inflammatories as blocking symptoms, and nutraceuticals as slowing the progression of disease. This makes the nutraceuticals the better choice in most horses. They can also be used in combination if necessary.