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"Horse Girl" Archive Jan - Jun 2010

DISCLAIMER: (There had to be one: Kathleen IS a lawyer after all!) Information provided via the "Ask the Horse Girl" column is for entertainment purposes only and represents an opinion. It is not intended nor can it be relied upon for medical, nutritional, legal, or expert advice of any kind. Readers are warned they bear the burden of seeking out expert advice (i.e. not QueryHorse) for their specific questions, and by accessing the "Ask the Horse Girl" column, they hereby affirm their understanding of these conditions.

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June 30, 2010 – My horse fell down while I was riding him. He seems ok, but I'm worried that it happened and I don't know what to do.

Yikes! I would have to know a whole lot more about the situation before I could talk about it. For example:

  • Was it muddy?
  • Was it wet making the footing slippery?
  • Were you on a hill?
  • Where there other horses there at the time?
  • Was he distracted by something?
  • Does he ordinarily stumble or seem clumsy or was this a unique event?
  • Was the footing uneven where this happened?
  • Were you walking or going at a faster gait?
  • Does he have any vision problems?

As you might imagine, horses don't like to fall down. But they're not above clutziness or other pratfalls by accident. Only if a horse has a medical issue that pre-disposes them to falling down should you be worried. For example, if he's a Quarter Horse of the Impressive line and has a seizure due to HYPP, he will fall down, you should be worried, and you should not ride him again. But fortunately, that is a rare condition.

You should consult your vet if you think this is medically related and not just due to a one off misstep.

June 29, 2010 – My horse won't let anybody mount him. He starts dancing around once he realizes someone is going to climb up and then gets angry and will even rear. What should I do?

First, have your vet check your horse to assure there is no medical problem with his back or skeletal structure. If he's fine, you need to do some training. This will take patience from you, but it's worth it. Also, remember that you always have to get on smoothly, quickly, and sit down gently. With those caveats, let me tell you a method of retraining this behavior:

Gather the reins and stand at his shoulder. Tell him to stand. If he moves forward, channel that movement into a circle and push on his hip or barrel so that his hind feet actually move around his front feet in a circle. Keep this up until he gets tired of this tiring movement and stands still when you let up the pressure. When he stands, even for a moment, pat him and tell him what a good boy he is. Then go off and do something else with him for a moment (e.g. walk him in a circle, let him eat some grass, whatever.) You can even give him a treat for standing still like that if you do it immediately after he stands. Keep that up until you can get a good stand out of him while you're in mounting position.

Then, add a foot to the stirrup action, but don't get on. Just demand he stand while you stand there with your foot in the air, toe in the stirrup. Once you have a good stand with foot in stirrup, then get on smoothly. If he tries to move forward, demand the halt. If he continues to move, circle him in place until he stands. Reward him for the stand, then get off. Go do something else for a little while, then try it again.

Here's the bottom line: always reward the stand with kind words, pats, treats, and a fun activity afterwards – always meet his impatience with work.

Soon, you'll have a dedicated stander after just a few weeks of training.

June 28, 2010 – Is there any way to control the speed of my horse from the seat?

Sure. If you sit back and down using your seat, the horse will be slowed as he tries to move forward. Think of someone sitting on your shoulders who does that; you would have to readjust your weight backwards to keep from falling over. It's the same for a horse. Now, it is true that a horse is much bigger and stronger, and therefore more likely able to proceed forward anyway. But if you reinforce the seat aids with hand and leg aids, it's likely that he'll come to a stop.

June 25, 2010 – What are the danger signs of bute?

Butazolidene is a pain killer. I don't know what you mean when you say: "the danger signs of bute". I do know that bute is very harsh on a horse's stomach and can cause stomach upset. I also know that some horses are allergic to bute. I once knew of a pony to whom the barn owner gave paste bute. The result was a tongue that was ulcerated so badly that part of it had to be amputated. But other than that, bute is very helpful for some leg injuries and other pain related situations, though not good for colic (banamine is better there).

If a horse is feeling stomach issues from bute, he'll usually go off his feed. Also, some horses hate the taste of the powdered bute and won't eat feed that has bute in it.

All in all, you need to consult your vet on this if you think you're having a problem.

June 24, 2010 – My horse doesn't like the trailer and always backs out too fast when I untie him. Recently, I left the bar up and untied him first. As soon as I did, he backed out quickly and went right under the bar before I had removed it and bruised his back and whithers. I'm so frustrated about trailering her. What can I do?

As you've already discovered, this is a very dangerous situation. I think you need to send him to a horse trainer and see if the problem can be corrected. I get a little spoiled because polo horses nearly always trailer well due to the fact they travel in herds in big stock trailers that are fairly comfortable from a horse point of view. They're roomy, airy, filled with buddies, and usually fun happens when they get off, such as playing a game or getting fed. So as a result, most polo horses will rush the door trying to get in first — both on and off, not a problem. And even if they have a problem when they start out, a few weeks of watching their buddies in action convinces them that trailering is FUN and what all the "in" horses do.

Contrast that with what your horse finds in your trailer. You're likely using a two horse model which is dark and narrow with no other horse there. If a wolf came up, he' be lunch and he knows it. Why wouldn't he try to get off as soon as possible? It's the smart thing for a horse to do.

Therefore, as far as he's concerned, what you're asking him to do is to ignore his instincts and for no good reason. Until you can allay his fears (which have now been substantiated by the injury). you're going to have an uphill battle. It's a smart horse you're dealing with, too. I can tell because he didn't try to get out while tied. He knew that would be useless and figured on making his escape as soon as he possibly could, which he did. So, seek out a trainer for this because help is available.

Good luck!

June 23, 2010 – When I go to mount my horse, he jumps around and I get scared I'll fall and get walked on. My horse hasn't been ridden in three years. Could that contribute to this problem?

Ah yes. He needs reminding what riding is. Also, his back will be hurting him from your weight. Send him to a trainer for a refresher course in human riding for a few weeks. You will both be happier.

June 22, 2010 – My horse throws her head a lot. I thought that I should try a different bit but I tried a wide variety with the same outcome. I even tried a halter but she still threw her head. How do I stop this?

Check to see WHEN she throws her head. On the off chance that it started with a dental issue, go ahead and get her teeth seen by an equine dentist. Sometimes the teeth's wear pattern will cause the horse's cheeks to become abraded and sore. If a bit is used that rubs that area, the horse will throw its head in reaction.

This problem could also be related to a back issue. For that, call a vet or chiropractor to determine whether your horse throws her head in relation to a sore back problem.

Otherwise, it'll be a training issue. I have a horse that throws her head when nervous. I'm working on getting her calmed down, and when she throws it a lot, I keep her busy and working. When she stops throwing her head, I let her walk on a loose rein and tell her how wonderful she is.

It does work.

June 21, 2010 – Why does my horse lay her ears back when I go to feed her?

She's being protective of her feed and sees no reason not to tell you that just as she would tell any horse lurking in the vicinity anxious to scoop a few mouthfuls (she doesn't know you don't like to eat horse feed). Remember that the horse world is hierarchical in nature, and right now, she's telling you that she outranks you in the feed department. You could push the issue and remind her, that in fact, YOU are the boss. But for safety's sake, I urge you to enforce that rule in a context other than feed. She could strike out instinctively and then you'd be hurt for no good reason. In your shoes, I would not let her run you off (don't reinforce the situation), but don't engage her either. If in doubt how to proceed, contact a horse trainer.

June 18, 2010 – How do I get my horse to quit kicking?

Is he kicking at YOU? When? When you girth him? When you groom him? When you go into his stall? When you feed him (that's an unlovely habit!)? First, figure out the conditions under which the kick occurs.

If it's related to girthing, then you can and should be careful to girth slowly, a few holes at a time. While the horse is NOT haltered and tied, but walking forward, stop and girth a hole, then move again, stop and girth a hole and so forth. He'll be so busy and the girth will tighten so gradually that a kick is unlikely to occur under these conditions.

When you groom, well, change how you groom or how hard you groom so as to stop the cause of discomfort. Horses usually like to be groomed, so if yours doesn't, it's likely that you're causing him pain. If in doubt as to what to do, get someone with more experience to witness your grooming and help you determine the cause and the resolution so you don't hurt your horse. If he doesn't trust you, then you'll need to learn how to gain and maintain his trust.

Entering His Stall
Entering a stall is a tough one. Personally, I wouldn't own a horse that kicks when you get near enough and without provocation. Under such circumstances, finding a buyer for a kicking horse may be difficult as well, and you must be sure to give a full disclosure of the problem or you could face legal liability in future.

For any of the above, I DO NOT RECOMMEND hobbling, which you may receive as well-meaning advice from some. The horse could injure himself fighting the hobbles and you could also get injured.

Good luck!

June 17, 2010 – My horse keeps tilting his head to the side when we trot. Is this a problem? How do I fix it?

It is a problem if it interferes with what you're doing. In order, the causes could be:

  1. Teeth – Get his teeth floated by calling a vet or a horse dentist;
  2. Bad hands or wrong bit – Lighten up and try a different bit;
  3. Habit – Straighten him out using hands and direct rein; or
  4. Neurological condition or a vision defect – Call your vet.
Because of the possibilities the cause could be vision or neurological, don't wait too long to explore the cause of this problem, at least the issues requiring your vet.

June 16, 2010 – How can I calm an angry or frightened horse when they're in danger?

Most of the time, if you speak calmly and soothingly to the horse, that will calm him. If the horse is truly in danger, then calming the horse won't do much good. A horse in danger should be afraid, and so should you be. So the both of you should get away from whatever it is. Calmly. And under your direction.

June 15, 2010 – What's the hottest day that I can ride my horse?

What is this, a medical challenge? Don't brains liquefy beyond a certain point, both animal and human?

I, myself, won't ride if it's too beastly hot. It hurts me and it hurts the horse. I would say that you should do the same. If it feels hot for you, it's also hot for your horse. And don't forget that he's carrying a lot more weight, plus yours.

June 14, 2010 – How can I stop my saddle horse from propping?

Why is he propping? Propping, I take you to mean, involves a horse that stops up short with stiff front legs? Most of the time, this is a gesture of protest and also of domination, as in, "I sure as heck am not going to work much longer". Often, the horse's attitude will be conveyed by the head and ear posture and the expression on his face. Sometimes, it's fear related and you should be able to tell that also. In that case, the horse will snort, head up with eyes fixed and bugging out at the object of fear.

If the cause is the first, then get yourself to a horse trainer immediately for an attitude readjustment. Both you and he need training on how to get over this unpleasant habit.

If the cause is fear, then occupy his mind with directions aimed to take him somewhere not close to, but not running away from, the feared object. Ask him to bend, change directions, and generally pay attention to you rather than that thing, whatever it is. After a few moments. he'll realize that the thing is not attacking him and that he has to return to his job, which is carrying you around at your direction. Thus, you establish trust, and also confidence in you as the leader.

June 11, 2010 – How can I a calm an angry or frightened horse when they're in danger?

Most of the time, if you speak calmly and soothingly to the horse, that will calm him. If the horse is truly in danger, then calming the horse won't do much good. A horse that's in danger should be afraid. And so should you be, so the both of you should get away from whatever it is. Calmly. And under your direction.

June 10, 2010 – Why does my horse brush me with his head?

Likely he's both itchy and affectionate. Otherwise, he's telling you to get out of his way. Careful observation of WHEN he does this should give you the reason.

June 9, 2010 – Is it ok to ride a horse if his knees are still open?

A young horse's knee cartilage closes between two and two and one half years old. Before that time, the bone and cartilage are soft and too much strain and stress on the joints can damage them. Therefore, though I would say that gentle exercise with very light weight is fine, regular riding by an adult before then IS potentially harmful to the horse.

So, you may say, how come race horses train as yearlings? Good question. In fact, many criticize the US market for training race horses at too early an age. While some studies purport to show that the training toughens the joints etc., many young horses wash out as a result of injury related causes. So, while any particular individual may not be hurt, overall, the rate of injury seems to be high.

More than that though, early riding can injure the horse's back vertebra, which also have cartilage and can be injured from too early weight bearing. The back vertebra will not close until after the knee vertebra, and so adults with adult weights on very young horses can in fact cause injury. Overall the risk seems not to be worth it when you consider how long a horse lives.

Let your horse stay in the pasture until his knees and vertebra close properly would be my vote.

June 8, 2010 – How long will it take to notice a difference in my horse after worming?

It should be apparent within two to three weeks. Your horse will gain weight and his coat will look glossier.

June 7, 2010 – What insurance do I need for a horse business?

Whew! That's a complicated question because you didn't mention what kind of horse business you're asking about. It all depends on the business or combinations of businesses you intend to enter.

Of course, you'll need general liability insurance no matter what the business. If you board horses, then you'll also need Farm Insurance, which covers the premises of the farm, and Care, Custody and Control Insurance, which covers the horses from injuries while on your premises rather than people, which the farm insurance covers. You'll also need workman's comp insurance for your employees, even the ones that provide services via barter, such as kids doing the stalls.

If you're providing riding instruction and/or training horses, you'll also need Instructor and Trainer Coverage. If you're breeding, add on Stallion Fertility Insurance, and Mare and Foal coverage. For the horses you own, you may want to add Horse Health Insurance to cover their major medical costs due to illness or injury, and Mortality Insurance in case they die prematurely — this is important for your horses that provide income to your business and is no different than insuring your computer and office equipment. If you're transporting horses, you'll need truck and trailer insurance that also covers those who might be behind the wheel as well as the horses belonging to the third parties who ship with you.

Speaking as a fully insured individual, let me say that your best resource in all this is a trained independent equine insurance agent. He/she will likely give you discounts if you're purchasing multiple kinds of insurance through the same firm. And with so much going on, don't forget to find a good equine attorney who will protect you through preparation of proper waivers and contracts necessary for your business.

Horses are risky enough — don't compound the risk by being improperly insured, underinsured, or worst of all: uninsured.

June 4, 2010 – I'm wondering what your experience has been with horse chiropractors with regard to helping your horses with issues of back pain, shoulder or hip pain? Have you found them to be helpful, and if so, how long do you find the horse stays comfortable after an adjustment before needing another one? Thank you.

I have seen performance horses that will not keep in performance condition without regular chiropractic care, and so, it does serve some purpose and is helpful. Every horse is different, but the horse I am thinking of needed monthly adjustments to stay sound. Of course, this horse was a Grand Prix dressage horse worth over $250,000, so the chiro was worth every penny to that owner!

June 3, 2010 – Why does my horse kick out at me when I brush her?

Essentially, she's not enjoying the encounter and is telling you so. Why is that? Either you're brushing her too hard, or she learned in past encounters that this is not fun. You'll have to change her mind on this.

Whenever you brush her, use a soft brush, watch her body language, and concentrate on those spots that she likes. Most horses enjoy being brushed, so you'll have to take it slow and make it comfy for her. Don't mess with her too much to begin with.

Also, the fly season, which is almost upon us, tends to be a big convincer. Once a horse learns that grooming sessions combat fly bites and scratch those itches, they practically pick the brush up for you. Keep at it, you do need to be able to groom your horse, and if you stick with it, you should be able to make progress on this front.

June 2, 2010 – Why does my horse nod his head at me?

I don't know. Maybe he sees you get a kick out of it and likes to watch the reaction. "Clever Hans", an Orlov Trotter gelding in 1891, won renown as a horse that was touted as being able to count and do arithmetic. He actually couldn't count, but watched the faces of his owner, and when he got to the answer, he could read body language and other subtle cues — horses are very observant!

June 1, 2010 – My horse loves the trail, but hates ring work. What do I do?

Well, he likely has been soured on ring work because of boring repetition. The thing to do is not avoid ring work entirely, but just do it in the context of working on a particular thing or playing at something new. Horses are very quick to understand if what they're doing has anything in it for them or not, and walking around and around in a circle could bore the pants off of anyone. So, liven it up. Do something different when you go into the ring. Try new things. After a while, he'll realize that you're not just doing ring work to torture him.

Have you ever run barrels? Does your horse jump? Have you ever worked a reining pattern? Make it about a point and a joint project, and he'll revise his attitude. And don't do that thing every time — still go on trails. Just make it all very unpredictable, and when he cooperates in the ring, get off and pat him, groom him, and put him back into turn out with his friends. Reward positive attitude and effort, and meet poor attitude with more work.

Have you ever worked with a teenager? It's very similar.

May 28, 2010 – While riding my mare I hear a fairly consistent clicking noise coming from her rear legs. She seems fine and will quite willingly walk, trot and canter. Any reason for concern?

The clicking sound you hear is from one of two sources: either she's striking one hoof against the other as she strides, which is fairly common, or she has a joint that clicks in her hock. This is also not unusual.

If it's her stride, then you do have to exercise care if she's wearing shoes, because she could tear off the front shoe if she catches the lip of the shoe in the right location. This can seriously hurt the integrity of the hoof wall as the shoe gets torn off and the nails tear out of the hoof. The remedy for that is to keep bell boots on her front feet that are sized appropriately (too small won't protect her foot, too large will trip her).

If it's her joint, then, well, I have a joint in my hip that clicks too sometimes, and so far, no issues. It'll be a problem when it becomes a problem. Not yet, in other words; maybe never.

May 27, 2010 – How long does it take for horse manure to break down?

That depends on whether or not the clods are broken up so that air can get to it. If you use a rake on manure and break it all up and spread it all out, then when you go back in a week, it will be transmogrified into the soil. If you leave the clods intact, it can take quite a while — up to months.

May 26, 2010 – How do I stop my horse from trying to kick me when I go to mount?

I would get on at the point of the shoulder, standing well forward so that your horse would find it difficult to reach me with a kick, and head him off before he kicks by watching him. If he offers to do this, I would move his hips around in a circle until he showed me that he was ok to stand and try it again. Enough work associated with bad behavior, and he'll reconsider the whole kicking thing.

I would be careful though, because some horses are very athletic and can kick a fly off of their ears while standing there. That kind of horse I would send along to the next very experienced owner with a full list of disclaimers and descriptions of how he behaves. There is a rider for every horse, but not every horse needs me as a rider.

May 25, 2010 – Can I ever gain my horse's trust?

That entirely depends on the horse and on you. Some horses will never trust a human. Sometimes, that's related to past bad treatment, but not always. Also, it depends on how you treat your horse, whether you're consistent about it, and whether you have good judgment in how you interact with him. I would take a clinic with a recognized trainer to get his or her opinion on this aspect because you'll need help in making this call.

May 24, 2010 – What does it mean when a gelded horse jumps on a girl horse mean?

Wishful thinking is my take on it.

May 21, 2010 – Why does my horse get up when he sees me?

Because he rightly believes that you have a point in coming to see him, which typically means that he can't just lie there like he had planned.

May 20, 2010 – What does it mean when my mare turns up her top lip?

It means that she's doing something call the "flehmen response", which means that she's pressing down on scent receptors in her nose trying to get a good whiff of something. A stallion will often do this in inhaling a mare's particular hormonal scent as he tries to determine if she's ready to receive his advances or not. In your case, your mare is just exercising her smeller.

May 19, 2010 – Why does my horse drop his head and shake it while I'm riding?

Probably because he's trying to pull the reins out of your hands. If you have a habit of holding onto his mouth by pulling on the reins all the time, the pinching will result in him trying to exercise a little self-help by getting some "rein room". If you have light hands and he's still doing this, it means he could be trying to remove flies from his head. Otherwise, it means he's just not paying attention to you. It's important to observe him and figure out which it is before you act.

May 18, 2010 – What does it mean if my horse has dull eyes

That something might be wrong. Horses fairly shout their internal well being with their posture, their demeanor, and their appearance. Start observing him closely, and if he doesn't act as he normally does, call the veterinarian. Usually, a horse will go off his feed first, then he'll stop moving around, hang his head, and generally lose interest in his surroundings. These signs all shout: I'M IN DISTRESS!

It could be colic, it could be an infection, it could be a whole list of unpleasant health issues, so pay attention now and call the vet.

May 17, 2010 – At what point do I bring in my vet to evaluate my sore horse?

Now would be good.

May 14, 2010 – Why does my horse stop while I'm lunging her?

It's likely that you're inadvertently giving her the signal to stop by how you're placing your body in relation to hers. Your horse has to be in such a relation to your body that she feels you're "pushing" her around the circle. If you get ahead of her shoulder, she'll stop because she thinks that is what you're telling her to do. Work with a horse trainer that can show you the proper way to lunge a horse and you'll have much more control.

May 13, 2010 – Why is my horse manure hard and black?

I don't know. I'm sure it has to do with his nutrition — he sounds constipated to me. Lots of fiber and water, hay and water, or alfalfa and water should help. Also, call your veterinarian. Anything that disturbs a horse's gut is very dangerous for a horse. So if the condition doesn't clear up soon, your horse could be in trouble. Don't wait long to call for help when you see something unusual like this.

May 12, 2010 – How do I keep my horse under control at a gallop?

The same way you keep him under control at any other gait: practice and consistent handling. Horses do like to run enthusiastically, but most of the time, horses are not in shape for a long run. So, after the initial blow out, the horse usually comes back to hand by himself. The trick is, do you have room to run for the rush, and if not, then you'll need to bring him back to hand sooner than you would both like. It's at this point that you'll need some techniques to bring him in sooner.

One thing recommended by many is to run him in a circle. The concern here is to not keep the circle too tight, because a horse that is not in shape for this circle work can fall down because his back end is not strong enough to bring you both around the circle. This is a disconcerting feeling when the horse's back end hasn't the juice to manage the turn. If your turn is too tight for the horse to manage, he'll fall down and you could both get hurt.

Sometimes, a horse will resist the command to turn, which is performed by holding one rein way out and leading the horse around with a strong pull. Fortunately, most horses haven't learned the one devil move that is unstoppable by any rider, which is, to run straight while their head is turned completely to the side even so far as to touch his own shoulder. The horse can still see where he's going with the somewhat forward facing eye.

If you run into a horse that's learned how to do that, then your best bet is to bail, that is, exercise the flying dismount and pray for a soft landing. Good judgment of the terrain is essential to surviving this move. Please understand that this IS NOT a recommendation to jump off a galloping horse — a move almost guaranteed to cause you injuries or worse. Instead, this is a recognition that ONLY by jumping off the running horse can you save yourself from a potentially worse fate, such as the horse running off a cliff or into a wall.

Overall then, remember that a galloping horse is nothing to be afraid of, unless, of course, you've gotten onto an uncontrollable horse — then, you should be afraid. To avoid this, only ride horses you can control. If it's your horse and you don't feel you can control him/her, get both of you the necessary training so that you can. Trying to ride only slower gaits because you're not comfortable at faster gaits controlling a horse is a false sense of safety because any horse can be spooked by a surprise and turn into a terrified beast running from perceived danger. In such cases, you need to know both how to ride the gallop and how to slow the horse down safely.

May 11, 2010 – My horse has strained tendons. Should I walk him or let him lay down?

Don't let him lay down for long if he does. But also don't walk him too much because he's in pain. A horse that lays down for a long time is at serious risk for health injuries from lying down. Call your vet on this one and get recommendations for his care — don't wait too long to do so.

May 10, 2010 – My farrier says my young horse is "knee-locked" and could become lame. What does that mean? How does this happen?

I'm afraid I can't help you on this because I don't know what "knee locked" means either. You can ask your farrier, but if there's truly a risk of your horse going lame, it'd be much better to ask your veterinarian and to have him/her check your horse. If a condition can cause lameness, it sounds more like a medical condition than a shoeing issue and a vet is the expert you should really consult to ascertain whether there is a serious problem here and determine what you should do if there really is.

May 7, 2010 – Why does my horse stomp his foot?

Flies and impatience are the two biggest reasons.

May 6, 2010 – I'd like to have my horse on my own property. In fact, I'd even like to get another horse or two, but I'm having a hard time trying to figure out if I should buy a horse farm or not. Can you help?

A horse farm is a lot more than just a horse. There is the cost of running the farm (hay, bedding, feed, medications, etc.), the cost of owning the farm (taxes, various business and liability insurances), the liabilities and management of them (safety policies, signage, legal waivers and related legal counsel if necessary), the maintenance of the place (mucking, feeding, turning horses out and bringing them in each day, barn, fence, and paddock, and field cleaning maintenance, etc.)

Finally, there are many aspects related to recognizing medical conditions that you'll now be responsible for in order to keep your horse alive and in good health. The Horse Guy wrote a couple of informative articles that you should read regarding all these issues:

Can You Care For Your Own Horse?
Keep Your Horses Safe Around the Farm

For those who love the life, no other way is possible. But, since you haven't done it before, I suggest you talk to a number of horse farm owners and get the real inside scoop before you try it yourself.

May 5, 2010 – What can I give my horse to calm him down before trailering him to another barn?

As in a tranquilizer? I can in no way suggest such a process. I don't think that is a medically necessary use of tranquilizers, and indeed, could make the process more dangerous if it makes him sleepy.

Better trailer training is the key, not drugs. Hire a professional horse mover until you can put in the necessary time training.

May 4, 2010 – Hi! I'm wondering if you could answer a question for me: I have recently purchased a handsome and gentle bay appendix quarterhorse gelding. I have had the farrier to our farm and while she was trimming him for the first time, I mentioned the finding of a strange trail of four or five small white patches of hair down the front of his otherwise black front legs below the knees. The patches are not large at all and are really more like dots. The farrier informed me that these are the marks of cortisone injection sites. This is not something that I am familiar with and was wondering if you would be able to enlighten me on this subject. I have also noticed small white patches of the same size scattered across his neck. Could these also be cortisone injection sites? After purchasing him, I found out that he had had a suspensory ligament injury. Is cortisone injection the standard treatment for such injuries? Thanks for any light you can shed.

That is what it sounds like to me too. It may not be cortisone, but that is likely. Cortisone shots in the joints are used to reduce pain and swelling, and you see it used in performance horses. I'm not a fan, because though the shots work, the joints are damaged by the needle, and the horse works a ligament that is damaged, thus leading to more damage. It definitely can be overused, though I do agree that there is a veterinary purpose to them in moderation.

May 3, 2010 – Hi, I am in a very sad mood right now. I just figured out that my FULLY trained barrel horse has laminitis. I spent 2 years training her and was gonna try doing trails on her, but I'm not sure what to do. Can you please help me come up with something? My farrier told me to stay away from rocks and pavement. Is there a certain kinda shoe insert I should try?

Laminitis treatment is a hotly debated topic. I just spent time this week with Dr. Tom Tobin of the Gluck Equine Research Laboratory in Lexington, Kentucky and had a discussion on this very issue.

Treatment for laminitis begins with treating the foot with cold, either water or a cold water boot for soaking during the acute phase. Laminitis destroys the laminae which connects the inner meat of the hoof to the wall of the hoof. Tissue can be rebuilt, but it will be deformed due to the weight of the horse. The destruction of the laminae causes the coffin bone inside the hoof to rotate downward, pressing on the bottom of the sole of the foot and causing extreme pain. Inserts can help, but unless the horse is off-weighed on his affected feet during the re-growth process, the horse will never recover fully.

You can learn more about this in an article I wrote about one of my horses regarding a new device that can help. It's entitled: A Way to Treat Laminitis?

I will keep my fingers crossed that the episode affecting your horse is mild.

April 30, 2010 – My horse is 8 yrs old and I've had him since he was 7 months old. He's hot blooded and VERY light on his feet, so when I take him out to do some riding, all he wants to do is run. This last time, he took off with me and ran a mile before he stopped.

I would really appreciate it if you could at least give me some tips on how I could stop this, because I am getting to the point where I might sell him because I've run out of ideas and I cannot trust him.

Your horse does need some remedial work from you and your trainer. First, you don't say how much work you do on the ground before you get on him. Does he listen to you on the ground? If not, then he certainly won't listen to you while riding him. So, enlist aid on ground training, not so much for him, because he'll pick it up quickly enough, but for the both of you so that he gets it that YOU are in charge.

Second, look at his feeding and turn out schedule. If your boarding situation is supercharging his rocket, no amount of training on earth will penetrate the need he has to run. Lower the high-fat high-protein feed, up the hay, and turn him out more frequently while also using lunging and regular riding in a ring to up the exercise.

Third, ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • When riding, what do you do? Do you ride in company first so that he stays with the herd and gets his "ya yas" out on the trail BEFORE you start asking him to do things?
  • When you do start to ask him things, does he run away? At what point does the running away occur? Just in returning, just in going out, or any time you ask him to do something?

This is something that likely can be fixed with enough time and attention, but it's time and attention that you may not have. There is also a chance that it's related to none of these things, but instead, to the horse's knowledge that he has your number no matter what you do. He's sure that you're more afraid of him than he is of you, so he'll take shameful advantage of that for as long as he can. If so, then selling him with appropriate disclaimers is the best thing to do.

April 29, 2010 – I have a 12-year-old Arab mare whom I've owned for the past 6 months. She's superbly responsive to my riding direction leaving the barn. We essentially walk for about 2 miles and it's a very pleasant ride out in a pastoral setting. As soon as I turn for the barn, she wants to run, and although I can control her, it's a constant fight of the bit in her mouth. She's bobbing her head up and down and she works up a sweat just fighting my wishes not to run back to the barn for the entire way. When I get tired of the battle, I dismount and I walk her for a good distance with an immediate response to my command. She calms and I'm able to walk beside her with no fight. It's truly a Jekyl and Hyde personality to and from the barn. I suspect she may have been ridden by immature riders who preferred the gallop, but I would like to know how I can get her to relax going home and to walk on my command without fighting me all the way.

I just answered a similar question yesterday, though with a twist in that the horse fought the outward bound portion of the trip while yours is too excited on the return trip — yours is the more common scenario with most horses. If your horse is kept busy enough so that she doesn't return to the barn in a straight line, she will likely behave better and also learn that you're in control. Do some training with shorter trips, such as only a quarter mile or so. Ride out a quarter mile, and then turn around and go back to the barn. But, on the return trip, take a circuitous route. Walk towards the barn a few steps, and then away, and then toward, and then away to do something else, and then circle and then back, but then away, and so forth. Every time she listens to you AND happens to be moving in the direction of the barn, immediately reward her by patting her neck and telling her she's a good girl in a soothing tone. When you get back to the barn, end the lesson for the day — do this for the first four or five lessons in order for her to learn that good behavior means a shorter work period and then rest and grazing with her friends. As her attitude improves, slowly lengthen your trips and back off the reward in the sense that the reward can be just a stop and a pat.

The point is, she now anticipates your return path all too well. Don't let the anticipation build for her, keep her guessing. And insist on obedience. With consistent inconsistency, you should be able to build her tolerance for the near-barn experience.

Good luck, and if all else fails, retain a horse trainer.

April 28, 2010 – Hi! What is your cure for a buddy/barn sour horse who throws a fit while you're riding away from the barn and becomes jumpy, jiggy and very distracted till your heading back? Before I take him out, I bring him into the round pen and work him lunging in circles and turns and other work till he is listening to me. Then we go out and he is okay till we get over the hill and then he becomes what feels like a time bomb under me. I've been riding him anyway and correcting his antics as best I can. I keep going until he has settled down and then we set and rest a while and I pet his neck and talk with him. He sometimes settles for a little while, but other times he just won't.

I do notice that I can lead him anywhere and he is so calm and responsive, but once I'm on his back, it's a different story.

I hate to say this, but it sounds as though your horse has your number. If you are even the teensiest bit scared, he'll feel it and act up. He doesn't want to go out there alone, and if you're apprehensive, then he REALLY doesn't want to do it. I don't know how to tell you how not to be scared.

Continue your lunging and round pen work, and work with a trainer to help you feel more secure and more in control. Also, go on trail rides with one or more other riders. Most horses are much more comfortable in a herd than when alone. However, if he truly ever becomes explosive, do allow him to become someone else's horse with plenty of disclaimers and full disclosure about the issue.

He may suit someone else better, is my take on it.

April 27, 2010 – New Article

There have been quite a few cases in several states lately in which equine professionals were liable for damages notwithstanding state laws designed to protect them against the unpredictability of horses. As a result, I discuss that topic in a new article in the hopes of helping barn owners, trainers, and instructors to avoid such legal pitfalls. You can read it at: Equine Liability Statutes that DO NOT Protect Stables.

April 26, 2010 – Me and my horse are jumping 3ft fences, but then he stops at 2ft fences. Is it because it's too small for him ?

I'm not sure why he stops at a smaller fence than a bigger fence. Is this something recent? He may be starting to work at an injury if the stopping is recent.

Evaluate him for lameness, and see what you find. You may need the expertise of a veterinarian because you don't want to mess with anything that if missed, could result in an injury to your horse's legs and footing. Remember, no hoof (or leg), no horse.

April 23, 2010 – Why does my 6 year old gelding stumble when he walks and runs?

He may have a neurological condition that makes him stumble. Also, some drugs cause this problem as a side effect. Or, he may just not pick up his feet.

Be careful when you ride this horse, because if this is a neurological problem, you may be in danger in riding him. Please consult a veterinarian on this.

April 22, 2010 – Can I put my horses on agricultural land?

This sounds like a zoning question rather than the practical question of whether the particular parcel is fit for a horse. My experience is that most cities and towns define agriculture to include horse farms. Contact an equine attorney for more on this topic. There is good case law out there on this.

April 21, 2010 – My horse is very sweet. But recently, why has she started to occasionally buck?

She's either expressing her joy of living, or trying to dump you off. Try lunging her with saddle on for a good fifteen minutes or so before riding her — that will certainly help.

However, if this continues, you need to get a competent horse trainer involved. A bucking horse is not only no fun with a scary ride, it could result in serious injuries or death — don't mess around with this without professional help.

April 20, 2010 – My boss mare has a fit when another horse leaves the pasture.

Does she do this for all horses or just certain horses? If she does this for all horses, I don't know — I haven't seen that. What I have seen is that certain horses become very attached to one another, and if the loved one leaves, the left one pines, cries, paces, and calls.

Horses do have hearts and get attached.

April 19, 2010 – Can a horse get hoof rot from wet ground?

Absolutely! A horse can be on wet ground occasionally, but not in constant, deep mud as a living condition. This goes for urine soaked bedding, which can also cause thrush or white-line disease.

Keep your horse's footing clean and dry, it will help your horse's feet immensely. Similarly, pick your horse's hooves daily to removed soaked bedding and horse wastes that your horse has stepped in.

April 16, 2010 – My horse always runs out of the barn in the morning, but goes back into the barn when she has to go to the bathroom. Why?

She is fussy about where she does her business. And since she controls this, it's a good idea for you to go along with it. She may change this behavior in time, but whether she does or not, it's really her call.

April 15, 2010 – Hi. I have a 3 year old thoroughbred who I broke myself. We used to be able to enjoy a canter through a field or a flat out gallop with no problems, but since moving to a busy equestrian centre, we can't even trot without immense tension. And if I even think about asking for canter, she bucks madly and pins her ears back. I just want to enjoy riding her, but I can't.

This is likely related to a lack of adequate turn-out and the general care (probably lots of good grain, supercharging the rocket) she's getting, and to the fact that she's only three and her brain is not yet fully formed — she's a teenager seeking limits.

Your horse needs regular, consistent riding. It should be a mix of trail riding, ring work, and round pen work. Also, give her less grain and more hay. It will also help to lunge her before riding.

April 14, 2010 – My horse is losing hair. I can pinch an area around his ribs and rump and just pull the hair out. Is this a lack of vitamins?

Likely she's shedding — it is April.

April 13, 2010 – Why does my horse run away from me?

Let me ask: does this running occur when you're on the ground? If so, then he's indicating in the plainest way possible that he doesn't want to work right now, and he views your presence as a requirement to work.

To get him to revise his opinion on this topic, you'll have to occasionally make your presence mean good things for him. For example, on some of your visits to the barn, take him to graze rather than riding him. Take him out and groom him, only. Take him out and walk him around and look at stuff.

In his final days at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington Kentucky, then a living legend, John Henry, a gelding famous for his ill temper and general cussedness and apparently a nightmare to catch, figured out somehow that some approaches meant injections and other approaches meant a holiday out on grass walking around the grounds. He could be caught to walk around, but not for any other purpose.

If John Henry can figure it out, then your horse certainly can also.

April 12, 2010 – How can I make my horse business profitable?

It takes hard work, luck, lots of marketing, good business sense and people skills, good attention to the accounting, and a certain skill in deciding when to spend and when to hold on to your cash. It's not much different than other business, actually.

April 9, 2010 – How long will it take my horse to shed out his winter coat? He is looking pretty wooly still.

That depends on temperature, general condition of the horse, and whether you're helping mother nature along with a curry comb. A curry comb is that oval shaped, hard rubber, grooming implement that is especially useful in spring for getting rid of the unwanted, old, winter coat. If you regularly groom your horse, he's in good shape health wise, and the temperature remains mild, you can have him shed out in about three weeks.

Get brushing!

April 8, 2010 – When I clean out my horses hoofs theres a hole RIGHT next to the frog and almost looks like its underneath it. Can you help me and tell me maybe what it can be?

This sounds like an abscess. This is a very painful ailment or an infection deep in the hoof wall that finally erupts outward and causes the hole you mention. To treat an abscess, the goal is to drain the infection and keep the foot clean while the area heals.

To do this, you'll need to soak the foot in a mixture of warm water and Epsom salts. Get a tub of warm water and put the salts in the solution according to the directions on the package. Then, place your horse's hoof into the tub and soak it there for about ten minutes. When done, using a poultice pad or some other sort of clean padding, cover the bottom of the hoof and use a wrap and duct tape to keep the padding on the foot. Another method is to make a paste with iodine and Epsom salts and cover the bottom of the hoof with the paste, and then again, cover with the pad, the wrapping, and the duct tape.

Whichever method you use, keep the area clean and examine the hoof daily to see how it's healing. If your efforts don't seem to help the healing, of course, call your veterinarian.

April 7, 2010 – Why doesn't my horse want me to ride him?

Because he's not having fun. Try to make the outing fun for him. Vary your rides, don't always ride in the arena. Do fun stuff like trail riding, and blow out at a gallop once in a while. Don't always work. Sometimes, just go for a stroll. And don't always ride when you go to the barn. Take him out for a graze and an exploring party. Or a grooming session, or a bath. Visit other horses. Talk to him.

After a while, he'll look forward to your visits. Horses get bored standing around, so if you make this event even halfway interesting, he'll start perking up and run over to you when you show up, with ears pointed forward. This is always a treat for a horse owner.

April 6, 2010 – I'd like to become a horse product designer. Do you know how I can get started?

First of all, I think it depends on what you want to design. The term "horse product" is too broad to generalize. If it's supplements for example, I would say, start with established companies and work your way up. If it's decorative items, then submit samples in a portfolio to the art departments of established companies. You'll have to apprentice somewhere, and that's how you start.

April 5, 2010 – Hi! The other day, I was riding my older horse out in the pasture and our creek is flooded a little bit. When I rode him into the creek, which is too wide to jump, he stopped and started using his front legs to splash water all over me and I got soaked! Why did he do that? It was about forty-five to fifty degrees, so I don't think he was trying to cool off, but I don't know.

I have seen horses do this too, and my best guess is that they're playing. There is something about making a big splash in the world that just sets right with most creatures (and young children).

April 2, 2010 – Will it be ok to give my horse a workout on a windy day?

That depends on your comfort level and your horse's reactions. For some horses, I would say no; and for other horses, I would say yes. Remember, safety first. It's a judgment call, and you should do what you feel comfortable with.

The HorseGuy did and artiucle on this that may help. It is entitled, Horses and Wind.

April 1, 2010 – How can my horse and I avoid a dog-attack when riding?

I don't think you can. If a dog is out there and is inclined to attack you, I think you're toast. First of all, I would say not to run because the dog will then chase. Walk or trot slowly past the area where the dog is. A horse has its own means of dealing with dogs, and dogs typically will lose heart if they're kicked even once. This may be difficult to control, though, as the horse's instinct will be to run. Then, it will just be a matter of hanging on and praying.

The good news is that a horse can outrun most dogs; The bad news is, not all dogs. And you could be in serious danger while the horse is trying to accomplish this task.

March 31, 2010 – What are the liabilities of one boarder's horse kicking another's horse?

In a nutshell, here it is: when you take on the job of boarding horses, you in effect are taking the horses on what is called, "a bailment". That means that you're the one in care of the horses that are placed with you and you have to exercise due care of those horses. If the horses get injured and the issue is brought to court, then you'll have to show that you were exercising due care and not negligence before the plaintiff has to produce any proof. That is, the burden is on you first, rather than the plaintiff, which is not typically the case in a negligence suit. The reason is that if you're the one in the sole custody of the horse, then the plaintiff will not have the means or the ability to comment on your practices, because you're the one solely in control of those items.

An analogy would be if you placed your coat in the care of a coat check at a show, and when you came back, there were burns on the coat. You don't have to show how the burns got there. So, you say, how do I protect myself against this obviously unjust situation since I can't possibly stop horses from kicking each other?

You can do three things:

  1. First, exercise due care by not putting known antagonist horses together in a pasture or letting the horses have access to each other;
  2. Second, you should have a good "care, custody, and control" insurance policy which will cover claims of this nature; and
  3. Third, your board contract should make it completely plain that boarders bear the risk of any damage to their horses while at your establishment, and that they must purchase their own insurance to cover damages to their horses.

Of course, if you actually ever do get a claim against you, you should immediately contact an equine lawyer!

March 30, 2010 – What does it mean when there is a worm-like figure (which means it looks like a worm) on my horse's eye?

This is a question for your veterinarian. It might be serious, it might not be, but only a trained doctor will know for sure. I'm sorry I can't be of more help.

March 29, 2010 – Hello, I am gonna have to stick my horse in her stall for a couple of days and I need to know if I should get her a stall toy. Should I? And if I do what stall toy do you prefer??

A stall toy would not hurt. I like those sticky balls of hard grains that are suspended on a string. Horses seem to really like playing tether ball with those. At least the ones I've ever seen with them.

March 26, 2010 – Why does my horse block me when I want to leave

It could be that he wants you to stay longer. Or, it could be a shoulder move, saying, "I'm the one in charge here. I tell YOU where to go."

Regardless, this is something you need to politely, yet firmly, correct. A horse must always know that you're the one in charge. It's not only a safety thing, it also establishes why he must respect you as his leader. So, the next time he blocks you, try moving his hip over a few steps, gently, but firmly. You don't have to do anything extreme, just enough to make the point.

March 25, 2010 – I have been wanting to buy a horse. But there are a few questions I need to ask.

  1. How much area does a horse need?
  2. Would it cause the horse to get hoof-rot if the ground where the horse will be fenced in at is a soggy area (not all the time, but when it rains a lot?)
  3. What is your thought on the new electric fences they have out (like is it good enough to keep a 1 yr old in for a couple of months?)

I'm sorry, but all of these questions suggest to me that you should not, at this point, attempt to try to keep a horse yourself, whether electric fence is involved or not, and especially a yearling, on soggy ground — you'd be asking for trouble. Board the horse at a place where the barn owner knows the answers to these questions already. The problem with keeping horses is that catastrophic emergencies tend to arise instantly, and though you have asked some important questions, my answers to them might encourage you to try to keep this horse, and under conditions where I would not be around to answer the immediate need.

We have an article you should read entitled: Can You Care For Your Own Horse?

March 24, 2010 – What do you own on a horse farm?

I'm not sure how to answer this question. A horse farm, among other items, would typically include horses, and all the equipment necessary to run a farm, including a tractor, attachments, hay, grain, buckets, fences, stalls, blankets, and so forth. Though I myself do not own a farm, I have lots of friends who do, and it always seems to me that they do not lack for stuff.

March 23, 2010 – How do I properly tighten a racing horse girth?

Well this certainly is an interesting topic! Race horses do use different girths than other types of horses. Race horse girths range from the canvas inelastic to the synthetic elastic types, with leather attachments and strapping.

I take it that your question does not refer to HOW to attach the girth to the saddle, which is self explanatory upon viewing the girth and the saddle, but rather, HOW MUCH to tighten the girth? Believe it or not, this is the subject of academic study where several studies looked at the issue of how girth tension affected athletic performance. It seems to me to now be obvious that an overly tight and inelastic girth could restrict the horse's ability to expand his chest and thus would have a negative effect upon his ability to run fast and far. And, indeed, so it has now been proven. So, the conclusion seems to be that using an elastic girth at lower girth tensions is the optimum strategy.

This question naturally led to the investigation of how much pressure should be used, and how would you measure it. The answer here is that there is no uniform girth pressure that can be ascertained or applied uniformly across different race horses. Again, a study showed that while it is true that male girth strappers almost always girthed a horse more tightly than female strappers (upper body strength being the key here I think) that individual strappers were unable to consistently apply tension across a number of race horses that were girthed. The study noted that extremes of girthing were problematic with too loose a girth allowing the saddle to slip and too tight causing the horse's performance to suffer. All this is to say that the process of tightening a race horse girth is an art more than a science at this point!

Thanks for such an interesting question!

March 22, 2010 – How do I get my Arab calmed down after he gets extremely excited?

Well, Arabs are "hot blooded", which is a term that doesn't refer to the actual temperature of the blood, which is the same for all horses, but instead refers to the temperament and disposition of the typical horse of a breed. Some breeds are more reactive and more excitable than other breeds. For example, Thoroughbreds and Arabs are more excitable and spirited while draft horses are typically more phlegmatic.

However, regardless of the temperament of a horse, calming him is a matter of trust and consistent handling. If your horse trusts you, then directing his attention elsewhere and putting him to work usually does the trick. Horses typically can't focus on more than one thing a time. When convincing a horse to calm down and work, a soft voice and slow movements help.

March 19, 2010 – What does it mean when my horse turns up her upper lip?

This is known as the "Flehmen response", and many horses, particularly stallions do it. It's theorized that horses do this to get a good whiff of a smell that they like and press it against their nasal olfactory cells. They particularly like to do this around mares that are in season. Any horse can do it, though, and it sounds as though your horse is displaying her dexterity for you.

March 18, 2010 – Can I get my horse to poop in one place in her stall?

I don't think so. Some horses are stall pigs and seem to enjoy spreading the muck about. One thing that may help is if you have a bigger stall. More room to move means more ability to choose where to be, which can result in a corner for the manure.

March 17, 2010 – How can I stop my horse from fighting her bit when I ride her?

This is a complex question. Horses will "fight" bits that do not fit properly or that are used improperly, but this is not really a "fight" and is more like an attempt to get away from the pinching pain. Bits that are not wide enough for the horse's mouth, or that are set at an improper point in the mouth, or that bang into teeth, all will cause much discomfort to the horse. So, the first thing you need to do is to take a serious look at the bit you're presently using. You should consider at least trying a different bit. Look for either a smooth round Pelham, or a snaffle with large smooth round bars, and make sure that the corners don't pinch the horse's mouth, or that the curb strap is not too tight if it is a curb. Check her dental situation as well; sometimes horses have a wolf-tooth that will interfere with the bit action.

Next, look at how you ride her. Many riders use the reins to balance themselves, that is, they haul on the reins according to their own off-balance actions, and they also steer the horse like a car. Either of these two actions will result in much more pressure being placed on the horse's mouth than is needed to guide or signal the horse. Horses work best off a combination of leg aids and rein signals, and hauling a horse back and forth with just the reins will produce pain for the horse and result in some fighting back. Also, if you keep a constant pressure on the bit, again, the horse will at some point decide that this pain is not ok and will fight back. You need to ride with "light hands" that are responsive to the horse and that act independently with your seat and leg aids.

If you ride with light hands, the bit is appropriate, and she is still fighting you, then take her to a good horse trainer for evaluation. It may be that she's not the horse for you — your trainer will help you figure out whether or not that is the case.

March 16, 2010 – Why does my horse flatten his tail when groomed?

He's expressing his anxiety that the session will not go well and that there may be some pain involved for him. Do your best to reassure him that everything will go well and that the grooming is all about his comfort and pleasure. Do this by paying attention to how you brush him, as in softly, and talk soothingly to him while you do it. Vary what you do and don't go on and on with it. Eventually, and especially during fly season, he'll look forward to your grooming sessions.

March 15, 2010 – My horse always wants to go back to the barn and won't obey my commands. What can I do?

This is a common problem and stems from the fact that the horse is the boss in your relationship, not you. You do need expert help in this. "Barn sour" horses can be dangerous to you, and you need not only help in your own techniques in how you ride, but also, the horse needs retraining from an expert.

So, I would get a trainer for you, and investigate a trainer for your horse. It may be the same person, or it may not, but don't let this situation go on unattended. Safety is always first!

March 12, 2010 – Why does my horse always go too fast?

Because you let him go faster than you like. "Too fast" is a relative term; according to your horse, he's going at exactly the right speed — if he didn't think that was the right speed, he would change it. If you wish to control him, you'll have to take a leadership role in guiding him to the speed that YOU feel is appropriate.

March 11, 2010 – Can shin splints occur to a horse's rear legs?

Though I'm not a doctor, I am capable of googling shin splints in humans. From this action, I learned that shin splints are caused by muscle soreness in the shins, (I'll omit the fancy name for the shin muscle) or the muscle that lies below the knee, but above the ankle and is connected to the tibia bone. This muscle soreness is caused by flat feet, or by striking the heel too hard when running (boot camp recruits are sufferers of this ailment with all that running in combat boots.)

Horses don't have muscles in that area. What they do have in their cannon bone, which is the long bone below the knee or hock and leading to the fetlock, are ligaments and tendons that attach to a splint on either side of the cannon bone. Over time and with use, the cannon bone can be subject to stress fractures, called bucked shins. The associated ligaments can become ossified, leading to pain for the horse and sometimes called a shin splint.

As you can see from the description, neither of these events are the same thing as what happens to people. In either case, call your veterinarian.

March 10, 2010 – What does it mean when a mare has a jiggly butt after being in the pen with a stud?

What do you think it means" Since this is a family website, I'll refrain from any other comment, other than to say that it sounds like a good time was had by all.

March 9, 2010 – My senior gelding started dropping weight about a month ago. 2 weeks in I noticed and couldn't believe how quick and badly he looked. I separated him from the other horses and started feeding 2 scoops of senior feed twice a day as well as 1 scoop of alfalfa with rice germ oil and all the hay and water he wants. I'm not seeing any improvements.

There is something going on other than the feed. You need to contact your veterinarian. Depending on how old he is, sometimes a horse's intestines lose the ability to absorb nourishment. Or, it could be something else, such as a dental problem. Your vet will know and this can't wait. Call your vet immediately!.

March 8, 2010 – As a horse trainer, is it better for me to file as a business or as a farm for tax purposes?

A farm is a business. The IRS treats income from any source as taxable. Farmers with land also pay real estate taxes. And, if you incorporate your business, your business will get a separate tax number under which its taxes must be accounted for, unless the income flows through to your personal return, such as in the case of a single-member Limited Liability Company (LLC).

This is really a question for an equine attorney and an accountant — get thee expert help!

March 5, 2010 – Why does my horse always move away when I try to tack her up to go for a ride?

Well, think about it from her point of view. There she is, happy and contented in her stall or pasture with her friends nearby, munching away. And then you come along with a tight corset that you insist on strapping on as tight as you can manage, not to mention, shoving a steel bit contraption in her mouth that prevents eating, and then the two of you go out and work hard. Substitute "teenager" for horse and you'll see why only the horse's innate good nature prevents her objections from becoming a bit more forceful than merely shifting her feet around.

Try to minimize stress by making her workouts fun and the tacking process easy. And when you ride, do you just ride in a ring or paddock? If so, break it up with the occasional trail ride. That helps to break monotony and introduce newness and exploration to a ride. On trail rides, ride with others both for safety and added fun. Horses actually enjoy going out exploring in groups because they feel safer with other horses along and like moving together.

Finally, incorporate some cantering, and if you're comfortable with it, some galloping into those rides. Horses are by design, running machines, and do enjoy the occasional gallop. You don't need to run flat-out, just get to at least a mild gallop once in a while that makes you both feel alive.

If you can do these things, your horse is much more likely to enjoy your rides.

March 4, 2010 – Will chicken feces harm horses?

Chicken feces? It's filled with bacteria, so if a horse did eat it, I can't imagine that it would either taste good or be healthful for the horse. A horse likely would not eat feed contaminated with chicken feces in any event.

Why are you asking this question, anyway? Keeping chickens in a stable likely isn't all that harmful, just because the chicken poop would be scattered around outside where the chickens roam during the day. But force feeding chicken feces is another thing entirely. This is definitely not recommended (but you likely knew that anyway).

March 3, 2010 – Why does my horse respect my trainer, but not me?

Because on your first date, and your second, and third, and fourth, and so on, things went in a fashion that taught your horse that he could have things his way. On the other hand, your horse trainer likely established early on in the relationship with your horse that things would, in fact, go the horse trainer's way. There is a method to this, and you should talk more to your trainer to figure out all the little signs and strategies the trainer uses to establish the way things should be. This does not mean brutality, punishment, or pain for the horse, in fact, sometimes it's as simple as giving the horse fun options and not so fun options.

Horses learn pretty fast how to amuse themselves, and if they figure out that you mean fun, they're likely to go along with your suggestions just to see where you're going with things. You have to learn how to observe your horse, and to understand what it means when he looks bored, mad, happy, unhappy, sad, sick, annoyed, interested, non committal, and so forth. Horses are actually fairly easy to read — everything they think about is expressed with their ears, eyes, and their body language.

Do some reading, ask some questions, observe your horse, and you could be happily surprised — reading horses isn't hard. Fortunately, you can change a horse's opinion of you regarding respect. In fact, horses readjust opinion and rank in the herd all the time.

Good luck!

March 2, 2010 – My horse backs up for me to brush his rear end. Does this mean anything?

If he's backing into the brushing, it means he likes it and has an itchy back end that needs attention. If he's backing away from the brushing, it means you're brushing too hard and he's attempting to get away from you. Horses express their opinions with their feet, usually.

March 1, 2010 – I recently had a second horse owner abandon her horse at my barn. I can't afford the expenses to care for additional horses at this time. What charges can I bring against this owner?

In most states, there is a process to sell the horse for the board fees. You want to properly adhere to the process to avoid legal problems later. This usually involves a trip to court after filing some papers and giving notice to the abandoning owner — contact an equine attorney for this.

Though it may hurt to spend money on this situation, you'll be saving yourself from a "trespass to chattel" lawsuit when the owner returns in six months demanding her horse back.

February 26, 2010 – Is it true most Thoroughbreds need thin gullet saddles?

As a breed, Thoroughbreds have higher withers and narrower frames, than say, some strains of Quarter Horses or draft horses. I don't think that necessarily means a thin gullet saddle, but you're right to think about saddle fitting as a requirement for riding well. General statements aside, each horse is an individual and needs to be fitted for his/her own frame. I've met many a thoroughbred built like a tank, so you'll just have to look at your own particular specimen to see what works best for him/her!

February 25, 2010 – What documents must I use if I give a horse as a gift? Do I need to make any filings?

A bill of sale stating the item is a gift should do the trick. You don't need to do any filings unless the horse is registered with a breed registry, and then the filing will depend upon the requirements of the breed registry. You should check with whichever registries your horse is registered.

February 24, 2010 – My horse bites when I groom him. What can I do?

Tie him up so that he can't reach back very far, and then keep an eye on him. Brush him softly so that you're not giving offense or pain to him unwittingly, and then, if he goes for a nip, smack him on the shoulder and loudly say, STOP IT!

This horse needs manners, and as his owner, it has to be you that needs to teach him some. You'll have to be on guard for a while. This is obviously a bad habit and habits die hard, so be warned.

February 23, 2010 – What does it mean when a horse won't get up?

It means that he's in distress — call a veterinarian immediately!

Horses are not designed to stay on the ground for very long because their own weight crushes their skin, producing pressure sores. Then it crushes their organs which shuts down their digestion and breathing — this eventually kills them.

Act quickly!

February 22, 2010 – I have a 9yr old Appendix. I have owned him for 4 years. Ever since I've gotten him, he has not liked being brushed. When I run my hands along his sides and back, his tail will swish and his ears go slightly back, like it's uncomfortable.

I have had him massaged, thinking that his back may be out. I have had several farriers work on his feet and they all say he has great feet. I thought maybe I was using the wrong saddle and he was sore, so I had him fitted with a saddle by a professional. The problem of sensitivity is still there.

I can ride him and he seems fine. He will do anything I ask him. It bothers me that I can't really touch him though, without it causing him to be irritable. I was told to look into "Blood Worms" or worms in his muscles. Could this cause him discomfort, and if so, how can I find out if he has them?

I don't think it is blood worms. This parasite causes unexplained weight loss, diarrhea, swollen belly, poor coat, and sometimes colic. It's usually found in herds with parasite problems. Somehow, I doubt that is your situation, after all you said regarding your attention to his care and comfort. However, the only and best way to rule this out is by calling your veterinarian.

As to other possibilities of what could be bothering him, it's likely that whatever it is has nothing to do with you. If you bought him at age 5, then he already had a history with humans before you met him, and that may be what he's thinking about when you brush him. He just has to learn that what you're doing is pleasant and nonthreatening.

Try to change his mind as follows: give him a pat and a stroke every few times you meet him, lengthening those pats on some days and other days ignoring that. He won't know when you're going to try and when you're not going to try. Then, when you do, start small, build up, but again, don't use any rhythm with it so he doesn't discover any reliable pattern.

He'll soon likely learn to appreciate this attention when flies are a problem, and when shedding season is here. Or again, he may not. Sometimes a horse just doesn't like something, no matter what you do. But this is a good way to to see if he can become more comfortable with being touched.

February 19, 2010 – I volunteer at a horse rescue and am working on learning techniques (studying with Richard Shrake) to work with the horses we rescue. One item I seem to find difficult to find information on is how to stop a young horse from biting?

Second, we have a young horse that bucks when you ask him to canter. Is working on a longe line the best way to work this out of him?

Young horses are "mouthy" for the same reason teenagers are: they haven't "larn'd their manners" yet. If you've ever seen a boss mare or mother horse doing the "teach'n", it's an impressive display. All horses have to be taught manners, and there are many books and columns written on the techniques. However, because you're a volunteer at this organization, I would be cautious about suggesting YOU doing the training of manners because you could get hurt. Talk to the owners about this issue. They should have guidelines for the volunteers. Otherwise, this is a job for a horse trainer.

As to your second question, I did a post recently on this very topic. Horses buck for a variety of reasons ranging from "I have to get this mountain lion off of me" to "Watch Me Blow Off Steam!" If it's the first reason, all of the lunging in the world won't stop him. But if it is the second, it might put a dent in the boisterousness. Again, the primary consideration is safety here — don't get hurt! Let the owners take the lead on this issue.

February 18, 2010 – Just bought a 5 year old thoroughbred and she has been in a field for the last 6 months. She has rain scald on her back and its healing but she won't let me go near her back with a brush or anything to try treat it. She either tries to kick out and squeals or just stamps her back leg. How do I gain her trust and stop her doing this so I can help her back?

She acts this way because it hurts. Does she do this if you use a soft sponge? If not, try to use Selsen Blue shampoo with a very soft sponge, then use a hose at a low setting to wash off the suds.

You'll have to work with her over time, it won't happen right away. Just keep trying with the hose and the sponge, starting at her shoulder, and working your way back. Eventually she'll figure out that it doesn't hurt and even feels good. Once she decides that, she'll stand still for you.

February 17, 2010 – It snowed yesterday and last night. We had our 2 horses in their stalls. Today, we put them in the pasture and my "submissive" horse charged the dominant horse, kicked and bit at her. Now we're afraid to let them be together. Why did this happen and how do we, hopefully, reintroduce them. My horse had only been here a week, but gladly accepted the submissive role.

Horses re-negotiate roles all of the time. They continuously test each other's resolve and nerve and determination to be the leader. They also learn new things all of the time, and if your horse has only been there a week, then she might have just been biding her time, trying to decide whether to be the leader or not. I even hear of stories where horses that have been taught to "cut" cattle, learn so well that thereafter, they are always the alpha horse in the herd, just because they learned how to push livestock around. In fact, horses will attempt to test OUR nerve as the leader too, so just keep that in mind when your horse does something as if daring you to do something about it. She might very well have that thought in mind!

As to your particular question, I would not draw a conclusion about their relative herd positions until they've been together for a while. If you continuously (over several weeks time) see dangerous behavior by one to the other, that is, savage punishment, bullying, and enforcement techniques, then by all means, don't pasture them together. This is rare however, and usually a threat display is all that it takes. After all, somebody has to be the boss. Don't get involved unless you have to, and then only in order to preserve safety.

February 16, 2010 – I leased a horse about five months ago. She is lame and my veterinarian is not sure what is causing it. Can I break the lease?

Obviously, this is something about which you should contact an equine attorney about before making a final decision. The problem with breaking a contract is that it could put you at financial risk, and it could also give you a bad name in the industry. Courts don't look positively upon those who break contracts.

In addition, it doesn't sound as though you know exactly what is going on from your description. The lease's wording, assuming it's in writing, will play a major role in this matter get resolved or adjudicated. You need to call an equine attorney in your area to sort this all out. This is not as simple as just breaking your lease and thinking everything will turn out right.

February 15, 2010 – Why is giving a horse a big drink after he's gotten really hot, winded, and sweaty, a bad idea?

Horses actually have a really good cooling system. They sweat efficiently, and for large animals, can manage hot weather quite well. However, giving a horse a large drink of cold water while he's still heaving and sweating does put the animal at risk for colic or foundering, either of which is very dangerous for the horse.

This situation was captured in the Black Beauty story when the hapless "Joe" nearly kills Beauty in this manner. The best way to hydrate a horse is to cool him off by walking and let him take sips of water occasionally as he cools off. He can drink his fill once he's completely cooled down and dry.

February 10, 2010 – From time to time, we receive quite a few submittals asking about Equine Insurance and what to buy. This is a fairly complex area and I decided to write an article to provide readers with information that I hope will make the process somewhat easier. The article is entitled: Buying Horse Insurance.

February 9, 2010 – Hi! I recently purchased a very sweet and handsome AQH. He is just what I was looking for, but I found out after I had him a few weeks that he had had an upper suspensory injury a few years back which they treated with a nerve block and stall rest. I have been riding him as often as I can, but with temperatures often in the single digits and no arena, I've not been out as much as I would like to be.

I'm not familiar with suspensory injuries or treatment using nerve block and I'm wondering what the typical scenario is for such an injury and treatment. Is this something that should have been disclosed before purchase or is it nothing really to worry about? Thank you for your time.

A suspensory injury refers to an injury to the suspensory tendon in the leg. The suspensory tendon is one of the tendons that supports the fetlock joint, and if it becomes injured, it can prevent the horse from performing its usual and normal activities. This is a soft tissue injury and/or sprain and/or tear, and its seriousness ranges from severe (snap the tendon) with no possibility of healing, to one in which minor rest is all that is required to heal. A nerve block is a technique of temporarily numbing the limb from pain. The nerve will regenerate its function after a time, so it's not a final solution to leg pain for the horse.

As far as the degree of seriousness in your particular case, it depends on the seriousness of the original injury, and if he ever became lame from it afterwards, either from your use or someone else's prior use. Another consideration is that of your intended use for this horse. Base on what you shared in your inquiry, it sounds as though your horse had mild to mid-range issues which could be just fine by now. If the horse became well and sound after this original injury, I don't know that it would be serious enough that it had to be disclosed. That is just my initial reaction to your question though without resort to the fundamental right of every lawyer: asking questions in a searching fashion to get to the bottom of it all!

February 8, 2010 – I have a 17-year-old gelding and he is an awesome horse, but I would like to improve his leg reining. How would I do this and would it take a long time? He is a pretty fast learner, but I don't know if he is too old to be improved in that area.

In my previous post, I wrote about training an older horse. The same advice goes for you: consistent repetition over time will build skills. How much time depends on your skill and your horse's interest. It's always better to hire a professional in these matters, and is usually cheaper than ruination. That is one possible result of an unskilled trainer working a horse that is ostensibly being taught something, and sometimes not what the unskilled trainer has planned.

February 5, 2010 – A person we board for brought a horse to our ranch and told me that I was free to ride her. When I did, I found that she doesn't know a whole lot. We later found out that she is sixteen years old. All she knows how to do is follow another horse's rear end because she is a pack horse. Where do I start? Is it too late to train her?

No, it's not too late to train her, but the fact you ask this question means that you may not be able to train her. This isn't a knock on you. It just means the period of time that it takes to adjust her expectations will require a level of observation and judgment that you may not possess yet. If you do want to broaden her horizons, you'll have to take it very slowly, be very consistent, and build on one skill at a time. This could take weeks and even months as you introduce each new talent.

I am sure she will enjoy it, but just as we people get set in our ways, she may be confused at sudden changes and could react with fear or crankiness. Any of these states can be dangerous for you, so my best advice is to advise your boarder to hire a trainer for a month. Otherwise, don't fool with her. She is not yours, and your safety comes first.

February 4, 2010 – I own a nice mare that I free-leased to a friend. We had a verbal agreement that if she ever could not take care of the mare, she would call me and I would take the mare back. Now I find out that she intends to sell the mare next week. I am frantic, what can I do?

Unfortunately, the situation you describe is all too common in the horse world. There may, in fact, be a remedy for you, but you'll need to consult with an equine attorney. Generally speaking, the transfer of ownership of a horse requires a writing in order to prove your case, but not always. It'll depend on the exact circumstances that occurred in your situation.

For example, courts will look at the conduct of the parties in an attempt to assess the situation. But the fact is, the situation is usually colored by each party's description of the arrangement, and the fact they're in court already indicates they don't see the situation the same way. It goes without saying, I guess, that if you ever lease a horse again, it should be in writing. Call an equine attorney right away.

February 3, 2010 – Why does my horse poop within 10 minutes of being locked in her stall? She has free run to come in and out all day but during the cold nights, I lock her in. When I leave the barn to get her grain or water, she poops. After I clean it up, if I leave for another 5 minutes, she poops again. Is this a sign that she doesn't like her barn? We live in an area where there are alot of coyotes or wild dogs and I'm wondering if they're coming around the barn at night.

I also just got her back in August after a 6 year absence and I don't know if that has something to do with it.

You may not credit this, but horses can be incredibly fussy about where they poop. Not all horses, some are complete pigs and seem to enjoy mucking up the muck. Other horses will only poop in one corner and at certain times. I had a horse that would only pee in his stall. If he was out all day, he would hold it.

As for the reasons why, I dare say each horse has his individual reason. I wish we did have ESP, it would be so much fun to ask them! You have offered up some reasons, but I think you'll just have to observe her. After a six year absence, I'm sure you've got some catching up to do.

February 2, 2010 – Is it legal for a barn owner, who is a farrier, to forbid their boarders from bringing to the barn a farrier of the boarder's choice for the health of their horse's feet?

A land owner can forbid anyone he or she wishes from their property. By the same token, a boarder may refuse to patronize such a narrow minded and obviously protectionist establishment. So the boarder can just give notice and move to a new barn. In this economic recession, the boarder has the upper hand. I would talk to the barn owner, point out the economic realities of the situation, and see if you get anywhere.

February 1, 2010 – Hi, I have a 10 year old thoroughbred gelding and sometimes while I am grooming him or tacking him up, he looks at his sides while I am touching that area. Does that mean he has an upset stomach or maybe just that he is sensitive in that area?"

I think it means that he likes to watch what you're doing to him. An upset stomach or colic would be accompanied by many more signals of distress, such as sweating, pawing, lying down and rolling, a lowered head, disinterest in surroundings, dull eye, etc. In the event that any of these occur, DO NOT wait, but call your veterinarian immediately. Colic is one of the most dangerous ailments commonly faced by horses, so do not fool around with it if you should ever see its symptoms.

January 29, 2010 – Can you tell me how to install English stirrup leathers?

English Leathers Sure. On each side of the saddle is a small flap called the skirt. Under the skirt is a stirrup bar. You want to push the rounded end of the leather up under the stirrup bar until you can grab it and pull it through. You want the iron to already be on the stirrup leather when you do this.

That's really all you need to do. See the photo at left for what it's supposed to look like when you're done.

January 28, 2010 – What is causing my horse's tail to fall out?

If your horse is turned out with other horses, you may wish to see if one of the other horses is munching on it. Otherwise, there are some skin problems, such as Rain Rot and Mange that can cause hair loss. You need to call your veterinarian because these conditions are contagious and you'll need professional help to resolve them.

January 27, 2010 – Why does my horse stomp her feet when I walk toward her?

Because she's impatient to get going on your project — this is a good sign! Horses are very readable in their emotions, and this is one sign of impatience.

Have fun, you obviously have one convert to the mission!

January 26, 2010 – What is the proper way to steer a horse with your legs or feet?

Horses can learn to move away from pressure — in fact, that's what sidepassing requires. So, if you press your leg, knee, or thigh into the area near their girth, they can learn to move away from that pressure. You can also steer them that way if you reinforce this training over time. In fact, when I ride polo ponies, most of the steering is with my legs. It saves their mouth and is fun. Try it!

January 25, 2010 – My ex-race horse keeps bucking. How do I fix this?

He's obviously enjoying himself at your expense. Here's a question: Are you a secure enough rider with a good enough seat so that his attempts amuse you rather than frighten you? If you are a strong rider, and say, are in an Australian stock saddle, where the knee poleys on the front of the saddle really help you stay locked in place, then a horse that attempts to buck is really not much of an issue. You just keep their heads up so that they can't really dig in for a rodeo moment, and instead urge them forward. Bucking is a lot of work and soon they even out and fly straight.

However, if these attempts frighten you, get a trainer and have them work with the horse. You may not be able to eradicate the problem entirely; horses do this because it's fun for them. But you should be able to reduce the problem so it's no longer much more than a few crow hops very infrequently, and something not to worry about.

January 22, 2010 – What is the problem with a horse that is hard to stand up?

A horse that does not like to stand up is having leg and foot problems. This is serious because horses are not designed to be on the ground; they are too heavy and the pressure of their bodies will destroy their skin, then their circulation, and finally will cause organ failure. You need to call in a veterinarian and possibly a farrier to see what the problem is. Do not delay because his behavior means your horse is trying to tell you something is wrong.

January 21, 2010 – I just bought a big horse that's a afraid of humans. How can I settle him?

This situation has danger written all over it. Get expert help immediately. A horse that big feeling the need to defend himself from people is one of the most dangerous equine situation humans encounter in ordinary life. Work with your trainer. No doubt they'll tell you that the key is to be consistent and careful, and to slowly get your horse used to you and to different situations. But the specifics of how to do that will require an expert on the ground with you.

Good luck and be safe!

January 20, 2010 – If I want to own a horse farm and get into the horse business, how many years of college do I need?

You don't need any college for that. You do need to know how to handle horses, and also how to handle money in the sense that you need to be able to make and stick to a budget, figure out insurance needs, perform long range planning on expenses, etc. You also need to be reliable and to put the care and safety of the horses in your barn at a high priority. None of this needs a college degree!

Separate from the general items mentioned above, there's the physical aspect of your farm. Probably the hardest task is fulfilling the commitment for the horse's care. That's because it means you're assessing the health of every horse each and every day. You need to be able to notice if the horse is gaining or losing weight, or is listless or otherwise out of character with a potential illness or other problem. You also need to keep their stalls clean and assure they're turned out regularly, fed and watered adequately and regularly, and check on them several times a day to assure they're ok and getting along with their paddock mates.

So, it comes down much more to knowing horses and the characteristics of their personalities so you can identify problems early enough to resolve problems or get them any care should they need it. People would be entrusting their horses to you and you need to make sure that trust is warranted. A different equine business would have its own specific requirements and you need to be able to fulfill them.

January 19, 2010 – What does it mean when a horse turns his rump to you?

It means that he's telling you he wants you to go away by literally interposing the biggest part of his anatomy between him and you. It also puts him in a good position to kick you if he needs to.

So, this is not an innocent gesture on his part. You might want to spend some time thinking about why he doesn't want you around at that moment. Do you always work him when you see him? Try making your interactions pleasant ones for him, and you may see an attitude re-adjustment. But also be aware that it might not be related to you. Through their previous experiences, some horses have learned that humans are just not to be trusted, regardless of how nice you've been to him.

Regardless, you need to exercise caution. Talk to him as you enter the stall and watch his ears. If they flatten, don't approach — get help. You DO NOT want to get kicked, and his ears are a good barometer of his current disposition.

January 15, 2010 – My horse has suffered from tie-up. Is it ok for me to massage him only a day later?

"Tying up", as it is called, is the result of a combination of factors, including nutritional imbalance and over-exertion. It used to be called "Monday Morning Disease" among work horses that did not have their grain cut back over the weekend of relaxation, and after the work on Monday, would stiffen up.

Treatment for tying up can consist of hand walking to help a horse loosen up when just a little stiffness has occurred to administration of Bute and other drugs for more severe cases. I'm not a vet, so you need to contact one to examine your horse and prescribe the best course of action for him. Given that massage helps improve circulation, I don't think it would hurt. But again, these questions are best directed to your veterinarian and especially as he/she prescribes for your particular horse and his particular severity of the disease.

January 14, 2010 – Do you know of any horse riding games that I could teach my horse that involve jumping?

When I was a kid, we used to play tag on horseback. It frequently involved jumps. The horses would get into it too, and after a time knew about the concept of being "it" and being the one running away from "it". Of course, I was much younger then and didn't use saddles, so falling off wasn't as big a deal as it might be now. Just be careful, whatever you decide to do!

January 13, 2010 – I have 6 free range chickens and they love to stay in the barn with my horse. Can the chicken manure in my horses stall hurt my horse if he eats around it? I do clean it daily. Also, I have found a few stray red maple leaves in my hay. Can they still be harmful to my horse once baled and dried? I was told it wasn't, but just want to make sure. Thanks for your help!!

I don't know enough about chicken manure to say if it is dangerous or not. I think you should definitely ask your vet on that one.

The sites I looked at regarded red maple leaves as toxic for horses. Who told you that they weren't dangerous, the hay dealer? I've been informed instead that fresh, wilted, and dried red maple leaves are indeed very toxic for horses. Don't take a chance and feed that hay, and keep an eye on your horses for signs of problems from any they may have already eaten.

The poison causes hemolysis: the breakdown of red blood cells in the horse's body — this can be VERY dangerous. While you're asking the vet about the chicken manure, you can verify the red maple issue as well.

Good luck!

January 12, 2010 – What is crab stepping?

Sideways, as in the direction a crab goes to move.

It's awe inspiring to watch a horse that is really dedicated to moving forward fast, try to accommodate the direction to stay in one place...

January 11, 2010 – Is it important to brush my horse to get the manure off of her?

Yes, regular brushing helps keep the horse's skin and coat healthy. Manure, particularly, has bacteria and other organisms that are not good for skin, so it's important to brush it away. Also, horses really like brushing and doing so will help you spot health concerns early rather than later when the problem has grown too large to deal with quickly. So brush away, but not so aggressively that you irritate your horse's skin.

January 8, 2010 – What do I need to legally take horses out of state for showing?

All states are different as to which types of shots they require for transport into the state. Most states will require a negative Coggins' test, and a thirty day health certificate from a veterinarian. Some states, such as Rhode Island, also require a rabies vaccine. Check with your vet and tell her where you're going to show, and she'll likely know what you need to have done for the certificate. Make the appointment early, because when spring comes, vets get busy.

January 7, 2010 – How can I stop my horse's manure from smelling in the pasture?

I don't think you can. It's manure! You have to remove it to achieve olfactory harmony.

January 6, 2010 – What causes a horse to be territorial?

"Territorial" is not quite the word I would use. Horses live in a social structure that requires they sort out who is dominant over whom, for survival reasons. That is, the boss tells the other horses when it's ok to get a drink, ok to go to graze, and so forth. This chain of the dominant horse bossing the less dominant horses goes on all the time. The pecking order literally keeps horses alive — survival is a strong motivator for all living things.

So, horses will sort this out among themselves regardless of how we feel about it or what we try to do, short of separating them.

January 5, 2010 – Why does my horse always want to gallop?

Because it's fun! Also, if he's an ex-race horse, he's been taught that when he's being ridden, the gallop is the default pace. You're going to have to work with him on other paces when you ride, such as trotting. A good way to work on other paces is to do ring work and circles, followed by trail work on hills, with trotting. Only use a canter as a reward, and only for a short time.

January 4, 2010 – Can a blanket help a horse that gets lame in winter?

Unless you know why the horse becomes lame, you won't be able to find out what will help. In other words, I don't think the blanket has much to do with it. I do know that older horses get arthritis much as older people do, and these horses do seem to feel the cold a bit more by becoming stiff and reluctant to move in colder weather; but that is not something that a blanket will affect. To solve this problem, you need to have your veterinarian examine your horse.

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