The Test of Time

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In the evolution of the horse, the past decade doesn’t even cover the blink of an eyelid, but in the evolution of horse care and related products it’s practically a millennium.

Before Horse Journal published its first issue in February 1994, we hadn’t heard of West Nile virus and we rarely thought about Lyme disease or EPM, much less ulcers — in our horses at least.

We covered our legs with breeches or full chaps instead of half chaps and often didn’t cover our heads at all. We turned horses out in canvas instead of nylon, if they wore anything, and that was just in the winter. The idea of pasturewear in summer seemed crazy. It’s taken 10 years just to learn how to spell “nutraceutical.”

Our fences and jumps used to be made out of wood instead of PVC. We didn’t need a college degree in nutritional science to feed our horses, since we rarely thought beyond oats, sweet feed and hay. We sold horses by word of mouth instead of online. Saddle pads were made of cotton or wool and saddles of leather, and Miller’s had been around forever.

Miller’s is now gone and email’s here to stay. (Miller’s never did have a good website — maybe that was the problem.) Little has changed in the way we train our horses, although we do talk about it a lot more. Horses are still a way of life for us, never just a hobby as civilians seem to think, but the way we care for our horses continues to change as land gets scarce and new ideas more plentiful.

Even though there seems to be an endless variation on the themes of stable blankets and fly sprays, we’ve found that many products have stood the test of time, or at least the test of a decade, just as Horse Journal has. There are products that were around before 1994 that still reign as favorites despite continued challengers, and there are some wonderful new tools that we’ve kept using ever since we first tried them in a field trial.

We’re not including a comprehensive list. We’ve examined thousands of products since 1994. There were many we liked during a field trial that later didn’t survive the normal and extraordinary upheavals of a decade, including moving, buying or selling horses, and even barn fires and hurricanes. But there are still products we reach for every day that we want to share with you.

The Classics
Before we mount up each day, we find we reach for a Grooma curry, Wahl clippers and Ultrashield fly spray. Ultrashield has remained a consistently top performer throughout the decade and against a huge number of challengers.

Much of our leather tack is made by Courbette, which we’ve found to be beautifully manufactured at midrange prices. Our web longe line is the World’s Finest, from Top Tack. WoofWear bells and boots are usually on our horse’s legs. We zip up our Tredsteps half chaps over paddock boots (instead of tall boots) for schooling and hope we can remember where we left our SSG gloves. We pick up a Fleck whip and step into Sprenger stirrups.

After our ride, we reach for Corona shampoo. If the horse’s soles are sore, we grab Venice turpentine or Hawthorne Sole Pack. If our horse is a cribber, we strap on a Weaver Miracle Collar. We then throw on a Schneider’s Saddlery, Wilsun (now KR’s Custom) or Saratoga Horseworks blanket.

Our horse still prefers Mrs. Pasture’s treats, and if he goes back out in the pasture, he’ll be wearing a Crusader Fly mask and a BMB safety halter, if he needs one.

We’ll clean our leather tack with a good old glycerine bar, Lexol and Leather Therapy. We’ll clean the stall with a Wonder Fork, and bed our horses over a Humane Industries or Summit ProtectorLok stall mat.

If the horse has special therapy needs, we’ll rely on an Ice Horse machine or Dura-Kold cooling wraps for cold therapy. We apply Sore No-More liniment for muscle soreness, and use EZ Boots to replace shoes when necessary. Our grooming boxes are always stocked with Desitin, Animal Legends’ Tea Tree ADE, Corona ointment and generic aloe.

At feeding time, we’ll include Grand Flex or CortaFlx joint nutraceuticals, if needed. We’ll use oral HA paste for a boost. And we may add Ration Plus for digestion, especially with older horses, and Cocosoya oil for fat or as a taste tempter for finicky eaters.

We’ll minimize grain intake, especially for horses with insulin resistance, and we supplement vitamin E, selenium, and magnesium. We’ll give our nervous horses additional thiamine and magnesium to fill any dietary gaps that may be causing the problem and work on discipline.

Bottom Line
While we’ve got hindsight and foresight, we don’t have a crystal ball. In the ’80s, we took care of our horses pretty much the same way that we did in the ’70s, but the ’90s exploded in new directions.

We can’t begin to guess some of the trends and products Horse Journal will be reporting and using in our test barns in 2014, but we do expect the next decade to be like the last one in that the flood of ideas in care, training, and products will continue to appear unabated. We’ll be along for the ride.

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Trends Become Commonplace
Many of the products we’ve investigated have been a result of new trends in horse management. While we wish we’d never heard of West Nile, Lyme disease, EPM and ulcers, at least we now have ways of preventing or treating them. We also better understand arthritis, laminitis, Cushing’s, metabolic syndrome and headshaking. We even have comprehensive measures to deal with them.

With worries about over vaccinating mounting among pediatric physicians as well as veterinarians, we’ve learned to change our vaccine schedules from “give everything just to be safe” to “give just what you need to fight likely diseases.”

Alternative approaches, including acupuncture, chiropractic, lasers and magnetic therapy, have become so widely accepted that much of it is practically mainstream. Herbal/natural remedies skyrocketed, then scaled back a bit as safety concerns mounted in a few areas. We found devil’s claw can be just as effective as bute and with fewer side effects long-term. We’ve always known ice can fight inflammation, but now we have better ways of applying it.

Ivermectin’s reign as the bigwig dewormer was challenged by moxidectin but not surpassed, at least not yet, while concerns about dewormer resistance are on the rise. We also saw the patent for ivermectin expire, and many more companies are producing daily dewormer products, helping our wallets.

Nutrition has gone from a few simple feeds to a wide variety of supplements. We’ve learned that no one supplement can truly “do it all” for every horse. We’re feeding our horses fat, and we understand the importance of antioxidants and joint nutraceuticals. In fact, supplements have become so elaborate that their packaging has become its own sub-industry, with companies like SmartPak.

The computer has become a dominant element in horse management, although the Internet has gone from an excellent information resource for research to one that also requires a healthy bit of skepticism.

Fly wars have gone beyond sprays and masks to sheets, mosquito killers and gels. Trad itional bedding and hay supplies are more limited, so we’ve found alternatives. The array of horse clothing is mind-boggling, and waterproof/breathable has become standard. So has fleece.

Saddle design continues exploration into adjustable panels and trees — and no trees at all — plus synthetic materials. We also found more synthetics acceptable in strap goods. We’ve put zippers into our boots and hinges in our stirrups.

And, thankfully, safety equipment is now a given in most barns, rather than an afterthought. We added protective vests to a vast new array of ASTM/SEI protective helmets, and we now have a variety of safety-stirrup choices.