Horseman's Report

Horse running

Vitamins and Minerals: Small, but Mighty!

Vitamins and minerals make up a small part of your horse’s diet, but they are essential to his overall health. These organic compounds support normal metabolism, maintain muscle function and help with many other essential functions that a healthy horse needs. Vitamins and minerals also need to be present in the correct amounts, and in some cases, in balance with other vitamins or minerals. Too much of any vitamin can be detrimental to your horse’s health.

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Horse eating hay

Equine Emergency: Choke!

The word “choke” normally makes us think of an emergency situation where a person has food stuck in the airway, unable to get oxygen into the lungs. Luckily, the Heimlich maneuver often does the trick, expelling the offending object with a burst of forced breath. However, choke in horses is a completely different matter. For horses, it’s an obstruction of the esophagus, which means that the airway stays open and the horse is generally not in immediate danger. Still, it’s not a situation to ignore!

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A woman and her horse

“Click” with your Horse: The Basics on Clicker Training

Many of you have probably heard the term ‘clicker training,’ but do you know what it is? Equine clicker training is a relatively new method of training that is becoming popular with horse owners. This method of training is based on using positive reinforcement (food rewards in conjunction with a precisely timed audible “click”) to teach the horse correct behavior.

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A girl with her horse

“Treating” Your Horse Right: Sweet Treat Recipes & Tips

Most horse owners love to feed their horses treats. After all, it’s a great way to reward your horse and tell him that he’s appreciated. Feeding your horse treats not only rewards good behavior, but can also help in teaching your horse new things.

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Woman riding a horse

To Buy or Not to Buy… What to Look For When Buying a Horse

Purchasing a horse is exciting, but can also be slightly scary for some horse owners. It’s a big commitment of your time, energy and money in hopes that you will be rewarded with the pleasure of finding your perfect equine partner.

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Horse Runing

A Guide to Equine Insurance Policies

Horses are very valuable animals, and despite their size and power, are very fragile and can easily injure themselves. Oftentimes the decision on how to address the horse’s injury comes down to what the horse owner can afford. By purchasing an insurance policy for your horse, it can help cover the costs of various options of treatment. But with so many different types of insurance, what do you get?

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Horse grazing

The Facts of Fecal Egg Count Exams

Horse owners are constantly looking for economical ways to provide high-quality care for their horses. The fecal egg count exam (FEC) is a great, inexpensive way to learn about the overall health of your horse and the effectiveness of your deworming program.

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Horse barn

On The Fence: Tips for Choosing Horse Fencing

One of the most important elements of setting up a barn or horse facility is choosing the type of fencing for your property. Not only will you want to fence the perimeter of your property, but also individual pastures or turnouts. Determining the type of fencing that is appropriate for your situation can be cumbersome and challenging, but don’t fret! With a little assessment of your needs and fencing education, you can build the right set-up for your horses. Before investing in fencing, there are some things you should consider.

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Ticks Bite – How to Protect Your Horse Against Ticks

Few things are hated more among animal owners than ticks. These arachnids – ticks are not insects, but relatives of spiders and scorpions – are difficult to control and can cause major health problems for your equine companions.

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Horse sleeping

Under the Sun – Protecting Your Horse from Sun Damage and Sunburn

In the late spring and early fall, you will often find horses in their pastures lying flat on their sides while soaking up the sunrays. The sun feels good and is important for Vitamin D production, which helps ensure proper functioning of the bones, joints and muscles; however, getting too much sun can create some problems for your horse as well.

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Grooming – A Mini Health Check-Up

With hectic work and family schedules, it’s often difficult to spend quality time with your horse on a daily basis. Weekday riding usually entails a quick grooming and tack-up in order to spend as much time in the saddle as possible; however, that doesn’t give you much time to evaluate his overall wellbeing. Since time with your horse may be limited, you should make the most of it. One way is to use your grooming sessions to perform mini health check-ups.

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Welsh stallion

The Mane Attraction – Tips for Achieving a Beautiful Mane & Tail

Every horse’s mane and tail are unique and serve some very important functions. Manes can help keep your horse’s neck warm in cold weather and provide some fly protection. The tail is used for insect control, swatting away flies and other pests, and can convey emotion as well. Think of an Arabian floating across a field, tail raised high enjoying his gallop, or how an angry horse swishes his tail to tell others to back off. While appearance isn’t a real “function,” you want your horse to look great and having a beautiful mane and tail is part of his overall look.

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Bay Stallion

More than Meets the Eye – Understanding Equine Vision

Vision is very important to your horse. Having developed as open range prey animals that are active during both day and night, horses have traditionally used their vision as a means of staying alive. Detecting predators and staying one step ahead helps keep horses safe and sound, and is the reason why sudden movement from a dog in a nearby bush can send your horse running for the hills.

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Horse's eye'

Taking a Closer Look – Caring for Your Horse’s Eyes

As the popular proverb states, “the eyes are the window of the soul.” Not only are a horse’s eyes an indicator as to what he’s thinking or feeling, they’re also one of his most functionally important attributes. Eye examinations should be a part of your regular care routine when you groom or tack your horse up to ride. Most of the time, simply checking the eyes for any signs of irregularities is all that you need to do.

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Horse teeth

Signs That Your Horse May Need a Dental Check-Up

Having healthy teeth is one of the most important aspects of your horse’s overall health. Without regular maintenance, your horse could have difficulty eating and potential mouth soreness. Do these sound familiar? Your “chow hound” gelding who never misses a crumb is dropping grain and not cleaning up his hay, or your lovely pleasure mare suddenly resists having her bridle put on and tosses her head while being worked. Both of these situations could be stemming from a tooth problem and a dental exam should be scheduled.

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Horse Bit

A "Bit" About Bits

By definition, a bit is a piece of metal or synthetic material that fits in a horse’s mouth and aids in the communication between the horse and rider. It’s part of the bridle and allows the rider to connect with the horse via the reins. Bits normally lay comfortably in the interdental space between the incisors and premolars, commonly called the “bars” of the mouth, unless there are dental issues that need addressing.

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Horses in Snow

Blanketing – Don’t Let Your Horses Be Left Out In the Cold

To blanket or not to blanket? That is the question facing many horse lovers as cold winter weather approaches. There is, of course, no simple answer.

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Horse Saddle

A Spotless Reputation: Tack Cleaning Tips

For some people, cleaning tack is a relaxing activity, while for others, it is a necessary chore. Whatever your feelings, it is important to clean your tack regularly and check for wear-and-tear while you clean.

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Grazing Horses

Anatomy of Your Horse's Skin

The saying that beauty is skin deep is only partially true when it comes to your horse. Your horse’s skin is a very important part of his anatomy and health, and understanding the makeup of his skin is the first step to keeping it healthy and maintaining his beauty!

The skin is the horse’s largest organ and is made up of two layers: the epidermis and the dermis. It is important to remember that your horse’s skin is his first barrier to help regulate body temperature, maintain skin hydration and potential health concerns.

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Late Summer Concerns: Bots and Pasture Conundrums

As the seasons change and it turns to fall, horse owners will face a couple of new concerns with their horse care management: bot flies and pasture maintenance.

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Trail Ride

Prepping for and Handling Trail Emergencies

Everyone hopes to avoid emergencies while out enjoying trail rides, but the reality is that when you are involved with horses, you need to be prepared for anything and everything to go wrong.

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Veterinary scan

The Cecum: Key to Your Horse’s Digestive Health

Despite the fact that the cecum is one of the most important parts of a horse’s digestive system, most horse owners ignore (or don’t fully understand the functions of) it until their horse shows signs of upset.

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Horse training

Benefits of Cross-Training Your Horse

Top human athletes often work on a rigorous cross-training schedule. They devote themselves to their own specific sport, but also branch out to improve muscle strength, endurance, coordination and overall soundness. Horses can benefit in the same ways.

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Horse leg tendon examination

Methods for Rehabilitation

A lame horse is enough to chill any horseman’s heart. Luckily nowadays, horses and their owners have plenty of new options to help in the healing process. These options range from veterinary assistance–required treatments to new therapies that you can do mostly at home with some veterinary guidance.

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Horses with fly masks

Fighting Flies

Every spring, horse owners gear up for a major battle: fighting flies. This is a battle best fought on two fronts—first, minimizing the number of flies to begin with, and second, keeping your horse comfortable.

The two most common flies around horse barns are house flies and stable flies. House flies are nuisance flies that don’t bite, but they can spread disease and irritate your horse. Stable flies bite at the legs and flank, which really stresses horses out and causes them to stomp.

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Horse being led into trailer

Trailer Loading Tips

While some horses march happily into trailers, many do not. Horses naturally live in wide-open spaces; they like light and plenty of room around them. As prey animals, getting into a trailer goes against a horse’s natural instincts. Still, you can get most horses to load quietly with time and patience.

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Horse hooves

The Barefoot vs. Shod Debate

If you want to stir up an interesting conversation among horsemen, bring up the barefoot versus shod question. Be forewarned—the discussion may get heated!

Proponents of the barefoot side range from those who believe that many, if not most, horses will do just fine going barefoot to “all natural” equine advocates who disapprove of barns, blankets and grain feeding. On the shod side, farriers may line up with many sport horse fans to declare that most horses can be improved by shoeing However, the reality is somewhere in between.

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Horse hooves

Understanding Equine Joint Structure and Function

When the term “soundness” is used for horses, it almost always means orthopedic soundness. Respiratory soundness is important too, but most people think of legs and joints first. Without healthy joints, many horses are sidelined for pasture retirement or euthanized.

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Horse eating hay

Assessing Hay Quality

In lieu of a serious injury or illness, feed makes up the majority of the annual cost of maintaining a horse. Forage, such as hay or pasture, makes up the bulk of the diet for most horses, and in some, the entire diet. Hay is the predominant forage offered to horses in certain geographic locations; however, it must be fed at least part of the year, if not year round, in most areas of the U.S. A 1,100 lb. horse performing little or no work and fed only hay, will consume about four (4) tons of hay per year. If hay costs $250/ton, that equates to about $1,000/year. Considering the importance of forage, and hay in particular, it is very important to understand about hay quality and what can and can’t impact this quality.

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Horse hooves

Hoof Care, Inside and Out

Every horse owner has heard the expression, “No hoof, no horse.” While horses must live with the hooves that they’re born with, there are certain things horse owners can do to help keep their horse’s hooves healthy, and prolong his life and riding career.

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Team Roping

What Is Oxidative Stress?

Regardless of the type of event, all equine athletes require nutrients for stamina and performance. The oxidation (or breakdown) of nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates and fat, provides the energy a horse needs for normal muscle function. During exercise, there is a dramatic increase in this oxidation that results in the formation of free radicals or reactive oxygen species (ROS). These free radicals or ROS can lead to fatigue, damage DNA and contribute to degenerative changes throughout the body.

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Driving horses working hard

How to Recognize an Overheated Horse

Overheating can be a serious problem for horses. While most common in the summertime, horses are susceptible to overheating all year long. Horses that are overweight or out of condition are most prone to overheating. Weather conditions may also contribute to this problem, as hot, humid weather is tougher on horses than cool or cold weather with crisp air. A breeze, either natural or artificially supplied by a fan, can help keep a horse cool.

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Horse Jumping

The Scoop on Joint Care

Horses are bred and raised for athletic endeavors. Successful athletes require good genetics, conformation, proper nutrition, training and conditioning. As with human athletes, intense exercise causes sore muscles. Proper conditioning will delay the onset of sore muscles and shorten recovery time, but does not eliminate the issue.

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Liniment application

Liniments or Poultices … What’s the Difference?

Your horse finishes work and you want to provide some additional relief to his legs. What do you use? Two weapons in every horseman’s arsenal should be liniments and poultices. These are time-tested remedies for helping performance horses recover from a hard workout.

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Horse surrounded by flies

Focus on filth flies: House flies around the horse barn

Now that warmer weather is upon us, flies are making their presence known, bothering both horses and their owners. There are several thousands of fly species in the U.S., but only a relatively few create problems for horses and people. These can be broken into two groups: Biting flies — those that feed on blood of a living host — and filth flies. Filth flies are flies that breed in manure, carrion, or other rotting organic matter (garbage, wet feed, animal bedding or rotting vegetation). One basic rule applies with filth flies: If you feed ‘em, you got ‘em! And, if you have a horse, you are feeding flies.

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Feeding the Growing Horse

Proper nutrition of the foal and growing horse plays a vital role in the health and performance throughout their life. The importance of good prenatal nutrition in the mare was previously discussed in the Feeding and Management of the Broodmare article. Milk production by a well-fed mare will meet the nutrient requirements for the first 6 to 8 weeks of the foal’s life. During this time, the foal usually begins to nibble on some solid feed such as grain or hay/pasture. After about 8 weeks, the mare’s milk production cannot keep up with the increasing nutrient needs of the growing foal and a grain mixture (creep feed) should be added to the feeding regimen.

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Feeding and Management of the Broodmare

January 1st is considered the universal birth date for many horse breeds (i.e., Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses), and breeders strive to have foals as close to that date as possible. In order to have mares foal close to that universal date, they must be bred in February or early March. Since mares are considered “long day breeders,” meaning the estrous cycle is controlled by the length of day, getting them to cycle when days are short can be a challenge.

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Horse stable interior

Something’s in the Air: Winter Barn Ventilation

For horse owners in many parts of the country, winter and cold weather means “buttoning up the barn.” As barn construction has changed over the years to more closely mimic residential construction, they have become more air-tight and tend to hold stale air inside. This results in a multitude of issues unless proper ventilation was planned and incorporated into the construction.

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Equine Winter Nutrition

As cold weather approaches, horse owners need to prepare for the dietary changes often associated with feeding horses in the winter. Horses have a thermal neutral zone with upper and lower critical limits; anything outside of these values can cause thermal stress. For a mature horse in good health that has had the chance to acclimate to the climate, the lower critical limit is 10°F and the upper critical limit is 90°F. A horse will have little difficulty maintaining body temperature within this range. Youngsters, seniors and horses with health issues have different lower critical temperatures (LCT). For example, the LCT for a yearling acclimated to cold weather is about 30°F.

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Winter Effects on Equine Skin & Hooves

As the seasons change from summer to winter, many horse owners start to transition from daily riding to riding more as the weather suits. Horses that were groomed daily for riding may now only be groomed weekly, and often times, the duration of those grooming sessions will get shortened due to the cold and/or wet weather. Daily picking of a horse’s hooves may also shift to a weekly schedule, and horses that were kept in a barn may spend more time outside during the winter months. While these changes are not detrimental, horse owners will need to be more vigilant in observing changes that would have been noticed in those daily grooming sessions during the riding season.

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Heat, Hydration & Electrolytes

It's summertime, which is usually the time of year when most horse owners begin riding and working their horses more. However, this is also the hottest time of the year, and riders need to be aware of the danger that heat poses to their horses and the increased need to keep them hydrated.

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Senior Horse Care

As horses age, their needs change; they have more health issues and may have physical changes that impact their health. Changes in nutrition, vision, mobility, immunity and hormonal activity are commonly encountered. It is important to understand that not all older horses have problems, nor do they require special changes to the management, but some do.

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The Importance of Fly Control for Healthy Horses

If you have horses, you have flies! Flies and other biting insects are constant pests that irritate both horses and riders, especially in the summer months when weather conditions create the perfect breeding ground for flies.

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How to Get the Most Out of Your Equine Grooming Products

Regular grooming is as important to your horse's health as a balanced diet and regular exercise, which is why it's essential that you pick the right grooming products. Not all equine grooming products are created equal; some can irritate the skin or leave coats dry and brittle. Keep your horse healthy and get the most out of your horse grooming products by using these tips.

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Don't Forget Your Tack When Spring Cleaning

Using the right leather cleaner and conditioner can go a long way in protecting and prolonging the life of your tack. As spring comes into full swing, be sure to review these leather cleaning tips when preparing to get back in the saddle again.

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In Case of a Horse Emergency: Expert Advice from Dr. Richard Godbee

Experiencing a medical emergency with your horse can be a frightening experience. Equine expert Dr. Richard Godbee offers advice to help you be more prepared, so you can respond quickly in the event of an equine emergency.

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Is Your Horse Too Fat or Too Skinny?

Horse owners understand the need to have a fairly accurate idea as to the weight of their horse(s). This is important in determining how much to feed, how much dewormer to give and a myriad of other reasons. While knowing the weight of the horse is important, it is just as important to know the Body Condition Score (BCS). Figure 1 shows how weight, even when combined with height, can be misleading when describing a body.

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Featured Trail Ride — Marin County, CA

Let's head west to Marin County, California. There are about 200,000 acres of public land in Marin, including Point Reyes National Seashore, California State Parks, Marin County Open Space, Marin Municipal Water District and more, featuring numerous microclimates and expansive vistas that compete with the most spectacular views in the world.

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