Practicing What We "Preach"

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Our articles address the problems real people have with their horses. We want to help you identify what’s wrong with your horse and give you solutions that can work in your barn, whether management, nutritional, veterinary or training, so you can weave them together.

A year ago, my husband and I purchased a horse at a price we knew had to be too good to be true. We realized her coat was bleached and dry, her hooves were so-so, and she was seriously fat, but she behaved well under saddle, moved nicely and was the type of horse I’d been searching for. She had a kind eye and a lot of potential. We bought her without thinking about why she was such a deal.

Within a month, we knew. Although we had asked all the “right” questions, Sally turned out to be incredibly nervous and spoiled to the point of being dangerous when she didn’t get her way.

I calmly worked on discipline in daily handling while addressing overall management changes that might help her. She was turned out in a grassy pasture in the day. Her large stall had thick bedding and proper hay for her weight problem. We made dietary adjustments gradually, one at a time, to see how they affected her, although we immediately dropped her daily feed-through fly-control supplement and daily dewormer, as we saw no reason to continue them at our farm.

We left her on her previous selenium/vitamin E product and whole oats. We live in a low-selenium area and the brand was a good one. We added a high-protein/mineral supplement to fill the nutritional gaps left by the oats and hay, a flaxseed-biotin supplement for her coat and hooves, and a magnesium supplement, as we suspected the nervousness was at least partially due to a dietary deficiency.

The sellers had insisted she had to be on a specific electrolyte every day or else she would tie up. They doubted she would drink plain water (she does). They’d been told to use that particular electrolyte by a trainer but didn’t know why. I felt it was high in sugar.

Since it was unlikely I’d ever work Sally hard enough to need added electrolytes — and she certainly didn’t need any sugar rushes — we stopped the electrolytes. However, we noted she didn’t like to lick salt blocks, so we added iodized table salt to her grain.

A year later, Sally is a glossy-coated mare, willing and happy. So, before you give up on a horse, look beyond what’s right in front of your eyes. Approach all advice with healthy skepticism and don’t be afraid to make changes (but do your research). Consider all aspects of a horse’s life when sorting through problems. With Horse Journal at your side, your own common sense and a touch of determination, you may get exactly what you want.

-Cynthia Foley