Review Your Horse’s “Normal” T-P-R

horse-with-headacheKnowing how your horse acts and reacts when he is feeling good will help you to faster realize when there is something “not right” with him. Every horse owner needs to know what is “normal” for their horse. Being able to report these to your veterinarian when you contact him can help evaluate whether a visit is necessary and/or how quickly your horse needs to be seen.

Get a baseline of your horse’s temperature, pulse and respiration (T-P-R) when he is healthy, relaxed and before working himYou may also want to get additional readings in both summer and winter and after riding to know what is normal for your horse in different circumstances.

What you’ll need:

  • watch that counts seconds
  • a thermometer – plastic digital one are best for ease and safety)
  • a stethoscope.
  • A notepad or record book for recording the vital sounds

Temperature:
The normal temperature for the horse is 100.0 degrees. However, a horse’s temperature can vary somewhat with the season. During the winter, your horse’s “normal” temperature may drop several degrees, but low temperatures generally are not causes for concern.  On the other hand, summer heat, as well as exercise, can often raise a horse’s temperature a few degrees.  These circumstances must also be taken into account when determining if there is cause for concern.

 It is easiest to take your horse’s temperature rectally with a clean digital thermometer. Coating the tip of the thermometer with petroleum jelly can make it easier for you to insert and more comfortable for your horse.  Always tie a string to the end of the thermometer to make sure you can retrieve it.  You can also briefly wrap your horse’s dock in a bandage to make it easier to push the tail hair away to insert the thermometer. Most thermometers will beep when the maximum temperature has been reached.

If your horse’s temperature is over 102 F, you should call your veterinarian. 

Pulse:

The pulse rate is taken by listening to the heart, located on the left side of the chest just behind the elbow. You can also take the pulse at the thick artery that runs underneath the cheekbone on either side of your horse’s face.  Place three fingers (never your thumb which has its own pulse) on the artery and press upward and inward.

Using a stephoscope can often make hearing and counting the heart beats easier.  Some people listen to the heart rate for 10 seconds and then multiply by 6, or 30 seconds and multiply by 2.  However, if you have any questions, listen to the pulse rate for the full minute.

The normal pulse rate is 40 beats per minute.

 Horses that are fit may have rates as low as 28 so knowing your horse’s condition is important.   Young horses and ponies can sometimes have a bit faster pulse rate.

Rates between 40-60 are considered “serious”, but may be explained by an elevated
temperature such as on a very hot day.  Also, if the horse is suddenly frightened or excited, his heart rate can become temporarily elevated on a very temporary.  Wait a few minutes and then recheck to see if the rate comes down when he is more relaxed. However, rates above 80 are considered “critical” and indicate a very serious problem.

However, ANY rate above 40, even 44, should be regarded with suspicion and evaluated in the overall picture of how the horse is feeling.

RESPIRATION:

Respiration is how hard your horse is breathing. Watch his sides as he breathes in and out and count the number of complete breaths.  Deep heavy breathing, or breathing with an extra abdominal effort, abnormal noise, labored breathing, or gasping are all indications of a serious problem.  

The normal rate for horses is between 8-12 breaths per minute. Again, many things can effect this that must be taken into consideration before considering whether it is abnormal.  One common factor is his temperature, excitement or a heavy workout.

OTHER VITAL SIGNS

While temperature, pulse and respiration are the three most common vital signs used to determine your horse’s health, there are other indicators that you may want to check and report to your veterinarian:

  • Mucus Membrane Color: The normal color is pink
  • Capillary Refill Time: After depressing the gums, the color should return within 1-2 seconds.
  • Gut sounds (borborygmus): A horse should have a normal gurgling sound on both sides of the abdomen back near the flanks.
  • Hydration: Pinch and elevate the horse’s skin over the shoulder, then let go. If it snaps back into place very quickly, your horse is properly hydrated

For a chart that can be posted next to your horse’s stall with instructions on how to take temperature, pulse and respiration, as well as normals and critical values, click HERE.

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DANGER – Summer Heat!

sweating horseHeat stress and heat stroke are extremely dangerous conditions for your horse.  Often seen in the summer months in sports such as eventing, jumping, combined driving or other strenuous activities, especially in areas where the humidity is high, heat problems can also occur simply when riding an unfit horse at your own barn when you push him too hard or he has to stand in a poorly ventilated trailer for too long. There is a difference in the causes of heat stress and heat stroke.  Heat stroke can occur over a relatively short period of time.  Heat stress, also known as heat exhaustion, usually results from protracted fluid and electrolyte loss during exhaustive exercise.

As the horse continues to work, heat builds up in his muscles.  When the number of your horse’s respiration is faster than his heart rate per minute, this is called an inversion. This is a sign of high internal body temperature and the respiratory tract is attempting to dump some of the heat load. To remove the heat, your horse sweats, pulling heat from the interior of his body to his skin in a process known as evaporative cooling. Around 70% of the heat of locomotion is normally dissipated from the body using this process.  Warm air temperature and high humidity prevent a horse from adequately dissipating internal heat from his body.

However, other horses are susceptible to heat problems as well.   Horses with a full winter coat are at risk since the hair keeps in the body heat during cold weather.  Heavily muscled horses, such as Warmblood breeds and Quarter Horses, are at greater risk of retaining heat in the working muscles than leaner-breed horses such as Arabians or Thoroughbreds (thus the preference for these breeds in endurance racing). This is because they have a lower ratio of body surface area for cooling relative to their body mass that’s generating the heat. An overweight horse with abundant fat layers beneath his skin cannot dissipate heat effectively. Transporting a horse in an enclosed van in hot weather can contribute to dehydration and heat stress. Additionally, a horse which was shipped to a warmer climate and has not been acclimated to exercise in hot and humid conditions is ill-prepared to deal with the added stress of the new environment no matter how fit he is. Most horses need at least three weeks in a warmer climate to allow their bodies to adapt and dissipate heat more efficiently.

Know your horse’s usual temperature, especially after exercise.  A rectal temperature over 103.5° is a sure sign the horse is overheating. Also know your horse’s respiration rate and heat rate and check them if you think your horse may be stressed.  Finally do the capillary refill test to check blood flow and the pinch test to test for dehydration.

horse getting showerAfter any exercise here are some steps to help your horse cool out. As you finish a workout, bring your horse to a walk. Hop off and spend a minute or two walking him so blood flow continues to flush metabolic waste products and heat from his muscles. In warm weather, copiously bathe his head, neck, and legs with cool water. Large blood vessels in these locations flush heat to the skin surface, and rapid evaporative cooling is achieved by continual sponging of these areas. Apply cool water and as it heats up, scrape it off of major muscle groups, such as over the loin and hindquarters. Offer a bucket of water to your horse immediately following exercise. Find a shady spot for an overheated horse, preferably with decent air circulation from a light breeze or fan. An enclosed space with stagnant air adds to heat retention. Fans are helpful for convective cooling–as the air flows across the horse’s body, it pulls heat off the skin. In severe cases, severe dehydration might need to be treated with Intravenous fluids.  This can also help to cool the internal organs and muscles. Talk to your veterinarian about checking your horse’s acid-base balance and electrolyte status and correct if necessary.

stall with grill and fansBe aware of the condition called anhidrosis. Some horses in hot, humid climates can lose the ability to sweat due to overworked sweat glands that lose their ability to sweat and cool himself. The horse’s skin will be dry and hot to the touch.  There may be sweaty areas under the mane and saddle or in the groin area, but no moisture when you touch it.  Stop exercise immediately and restrain the horse from further physical exertion. Move the horse to a cool location and start aggressive cooling techniques immediately. This condition can easily proceed to heat stroke.

 

So enjoy the summer with your horse.  Just be aware that too much sun, humidity and exertion can cause problems for your horse.

Portland LOVES Polo!

Horses on fieldWhen you think of the game of polo, you usually think of it taking place in The Hamptons or in Kentucky or in England. But Portland, Oregon is not only rapidly becoming a hub of great polo, but it is building a reputation of horsemen and women giving back to the community.

On July 22 and 23, 2017, the Oregon Polo Classic, presented by the Classic Wine Auction, brought together the excitement and sophistication of polo with an exceptional two-day food and wine experience. The well-attended event was held at the Hidden Creek Polo Club in West Linn, Oregon.

The weekend included a Family Day on Saturday as well an “over 21” Championship Day where guests enjoyed exciting Championship polo, delicious food, exceptional wines and more. Highlights included the ladies hat parade and judging and the “divot stomp” where spectators go onto the polo field and help replace the grass divots created by the ponies hooves.

This was the second year for the Oregon Polo Classic at Hidden Creek and proceeds from this event will benefit three non-profit organizations that assist over 30,000 children and families suffering from physical, mental, behavioral, socioeconomic and other challenges in the Portland area.

In 2005, Sean and Gretchen Keyes started creating their vision to build polo grounds and stables, with an elevated viewing area seating for spectators and immaculate polo fields that would draw international polo players to Portland to compete.  In 2008, Hidden Creek Polo Club was open and ready for play.

field and tents JPGHowever, Hidden Creek is more than just a polo club.  It’s a venue dedicated to raising money for Portland charities. In addition to their signature event, they also hosted Polo Noir on August 12th. This single-day experience celebrated the game of kings with live music and Willamette Valley wine, and featured three-time Grammy Award winning legend Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers.

Polo originated in Persia sometime between the 6th century B.C. and the 1st century A.D.  Over the centuries, it became popular in Asia, India, Argentina and Great Britain before making it to the United States in 1876.  Polo is now an active sport in 77 countries.

The United States Polo Association (USPA), the governing body for polo in the U.S., was established in 1890.  There is to promote the game of polo while overseeing the safety and welfare of participants and mounts.

In addition to the professional players at Hidden Creek, the Pacific Northwest has is home to a great many amateur, high school and college teams.  Think you might like to try polo?  Click HERE and enter your location for a listing of polo clubs in your area.

photo credit: Hidden Creek Polo Club

 

5 Things To Consider When Choosing Stall Bedding

horse in shavings horseandhoundUK

When it’s time to bed your horse down for the night, there are a wide variety of options to use for bedding  your horse’s stall.  Here are some things to  consider when deciding on what your horse will stand and sleep..

  1. What are you going to use it for?

The most common use of bedding for stalls is to absorb urine and make cleaning manure easier in your horse’s stalls.  In this case, shavings or wood pellets or even newspaper are your best bet.   Most will absorb the urine and some will even help with odor control.  However, be careful when you select your shavings – black walnut shavings can be dangerous to your horse.

horse stall with matsHowever, if you plan to use bedding to help protect your horse’s legs and give him a soft spot to stand, you will probably want to use shavings.  But also consider putting stall mats (like those offered by Classic Equine Equipment at www.classic-equine.com) down first.  This can help reduce the amount of shavings you use and give your horse another layer of cushioning.

  1. What’s available in your area and in your budget?

Not all products are available everywhere.  For example, I saw several advertisements in national magazines for a pelleted product called “Woody Pet.”  It sounded perfect, but it was not available in my area. If you live near a woodworker or lumber mill, you might be able to get a deal on shavings or sawdust – must make sure you ask what type they are as some can be hazardous to horses.  

  1. Where are you going to store it?

Bedding made from shavings or sawdust requires a large, covered area to keep them from flying around and/or getting wet.  If you have a large horse operation, buying bulk shavings may be economical.  But if you have a smaller farm with 4 or so horses, you may find that wood pellets that come in bags are the easiest to store and use.

  1. How long will it last?

You want a bedding that does the job of cushioning your horse and absorbing urine, but does not become so saturated that it is hard to remove or causes irritation to your horse. It’s better to clean more often than to wait until bedding becomes thoroughly saturated. Damp or wet bedding softens the horse’s hooves and provides a bacterial breeding ground. Bedding that does not absorb well also allows more ammonia to be released and can irritate your horse’s respiratory system. Dusty or moldy bedding can also be a respiratory irritant. 

It’s important to develop a good mucking routine when cleaning the stalls.  By teaching workers to only pick up manure and soiled bedding, you can make all products last longer.  In addition, consider where you put your shavings.  If you spread them all over the stall, even under the water and feed buckets, you are probably wasting your bedding.  Some horses have favorite spots where they urinate – bed more heavily there and skip areas where your horse doesn’t go.

  1. What are you going to do with it after it’s been used?manure and bedding compost pile

Once the bedding has been soiled, you will, of course, have to get rid of it.  Composting is one way, but certain beddings don’t break down as quickly as others.  Straw and wood pellets break down quite quickly in the compost pile.  Wood shavings and sawdust do not.

Photo credits: Horse & Hound, Classic Equine Equipment; Red Worm Composting

Handling Hoof Abscesse

hoof-abscess-smartpakWith the constant changes of weather – warm to cold, wet to dry – it’s a common time for horses to come up lame with a hoof abscess. A hoof abscess is a localized bacterial infection in the sensitive structures of the hoof, typically in the front feet.  Typical signs of a hoof abscess include sudden and severe lameness and pain. The horse bears little to no weight on the leg with the abscess or may walk on its toe. Most abscesses are found in the sole of the hoof, but an abscess can be found elsewhere.   Other signs include heat in the limb or hoof, an increased digital pulse, and can include a swollen leg and/or a low-grade fever. The tendons in the affected leg can become painful and swollen due to congestion of blood vessels.

Purulent fluid (commonly called “pus”) is produced as a reaction by the horse’s body to the infection. The pus accumulates between the keratinized and germinal layers of the hoof wall. Since the hoof cannot expand, the increased pressure of pus collecting within the hoof capsule causes significant pain. As the abscess progresses, the infection and pressure of purulent fluid (pus) accumulation in the hoof often cause severe pain until the infection works its way up the hoof wall and pops out at the coronary band, or the bulb of the heel or drains out the sole.

A hoof abscess can be diagnosed by examining the hoof for heat and pain, swelling in the pastern and fetlock and by the presence of a pronounced digital arterial pulse. If the horse is shod, the shoe is removed and the hoof cleaned. Hoof testers are often used to test the horses’ sensitivity to pressure in specific areas of the hoof to locate the point of origin.

A hoof abscess can be caused by a sharp object penetrating the sole of the hoof (such as a nail), damage to the corium from decreased blood flow, or by bacteria migrating in to the defects, fissures and cracks in the white line. Sole penetration by a sharp object is not a very common scenario for a hoof abscess. More often, an abscess is a result of corium or lateral cartilage area compression or most frequently due to the introduction of bacteria and moisture in to the hoof.

If the abscess is caused by bacteria in to hoof from the outside, a particle of sand or soil enters the softer white line area and becomes engrained in the sensitive lamina underneath the hoof wall, resulting in an infection inside the hoof. The infection can travel up the hoof and drain at the coronary band or stay close to the sole of the hoof. An abscess can also occur under the bars of the hoof.

The infection can also enter as a result of a nail driven too close to the white line, a hoof wall defect or hoof separation. Horses that have been shod and then go barefoot tend to have an increased chance of developing a hoof abscess until the hoof becomes stronger.

While a hoof abscess can heal on its own, this is not recommended. An abscess can be extremely painful for the horse and the healing process will take significantly longer without intervention. It is recommended that you work with your veterinarian and/or farrier to diagnose and treat an abscess.  If the horse is shod, the shoe is normally pulled. The hoof is then thoroughly cleaned and hoof testers can be used to help locate the point of entry and better determine the location of the abscess.

Often a black line is identified and the line is followed to locate the infected area. Using a hoof knife or loop knife, your veterinarian will make a very small hole in the sole of the hoof to allow for drainage and provide relief of the pressurized fluid. When the pressure built up by the trapped pus is released from the hoof capsule, often a black or brown fluid will drain from the site and the horse will experience some relief immediately.

If the point of origin and the abscess cannot be identified or the infection is too deep in the hoof, (the abscess could be deep in the heel/frog/bars region), no cutting or holes will be made. Cutting too much or going too deep can be more harmful than beneficial to treatment. If a drain hole is not able to be made or cannot sufficiently drain the abscess, then most likely the abscess will progress up to the coronary band and the pus will drain there.

hoof-abscess-polticeWhether a hole is made or not, it is important to keep the hoof as clean and protected as possible and to apply a poultice. A standard recommended protocol for treatment begins with Epsom salt added to water and soaking your horse’s hoof in a shallow pan, bucket or soaking boot for 15 minutes 2 times/day.  The soaking will “draw” the abscess, pulling the bacterial infection from the hoof.  If no hole is made, the poultice can help soften the sole. If a drain hole is made in the hoof, then it is imperative that the hole be protected and kept clean while the abscess drains and the hoof heals.

The hoof is then wrapped to help cushion and protect the hoof to ensure that dirt and manure cannot come in contact with the hole and sensitive tissues. Creating a “pad” by using a plastic baby diaper and attaching it with duct tape (both waterproof) can help keep the area clean and dry.

To help lessen the chances of your horse having a hoof abscess, maintain a regular schedule with your farrier or trim your horse on a regular basis. Often hooves with too much toe or excessive bars are more prone to hoof abscesses.

With proper treatment, hoof abscesses are no fun for you or your horse, but not dangerous.

Photo credit: SmarkPak

Will The Real Santa Please Stand Up?

Before there was Santa Claus, there were Saint Nicholas and Sinterklaas.  And, before there were reindeer, these holiday gift-givers rode horses.

sleipner-christmas-horsePrior to Christianity, people celebrated a midwinter event called Yule (the Winter Solstice). During this period, supernatural and ghostly occurrences were increased, such the Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession through the sky. The leader of the wild hunt is usually the god Odin, usually seen with a long white beard. He is also known by the Old Norse names Jólnir, meaning “yule figure” and the name Langbarðr, meaning “long-beard.”  Odin rode his gray “horse” (the eight-footed steed called Sleipnir) on nightly rides and visiting people with gifts.  Years later, Odin’s white beard became part of the new Santa Claus, his blue robe was changed to red, and his eight-footed grey horse became eight reindeer!

In the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, Santa Claus is called “Sinterklaas” and the holiday for giving gifts is December 6th. He traditionally rides the rooftops on a white horse, known by various names.  Sinterklass is an elderly, stately and serious man (unlike our jolly Santa Clause) but does have the traditional white hair and a long, full beard. Also like Santa, he wears a long red cape and a red hat, but holds a long, gold-colored ceremonial shepherd’s staff with a fancy curled top. sinterklass

To keep track of who should receive presents, Sinterklass notes writes on all the children in a book – the start of the legend of Santa’s list of who was naughty or nice. Sinterklass’ was a friend to all, especially the poor.  His solution to helping the poor was by putting money in their shoes – this later evolved with Santa Claus into giving presents.

After going into hiding for a few centuries during the Reformation when public celebrations were banned, Sinterklass returned to ride over roof tops and deliver presents through chimneys to good girls and boys – but now his horse was grey.  Either people realized that whites often turned grey as they age or riding over all those roof tops turned the horse darker, but you’ll either hear Sinterklass has a white or gray horse.  Children leave a carrot, apple and/or hay as a treat for Sinterklaas’ horse.

The first known written account of reindeer in association with the legend of Santa Claus occurred in 1821 by William Gilley.  According to Mr. Gilley, the area where Santa Clause lived was far north near the Arctic.  There a series of animals exist that have hooves and antlers and otherwise resemble reindeer.  These animals are feared and honored.  Mr. Gilley claimed that his mother, an Indian from the area, told him when he was young that these animals could fly.

So to be sure you get what you want for Christmas, make sure you write to Santa Claus AND Saint Nicholas and Sinterklaas – just to cover all the bases.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS from Classic Equine Equipment!

christmas-horse-santa

Warm Up Your Horse To Prevent Winter Injuries

stretchingfront-prachorsemanWhether you’re a competitive rider or just go out for the occasional trail ride, warming up your horse before riding can help prevent injuries later.  Pre-ride safety can start even before you get on.  If you are working in an arena, check the area for holes that need to be filled or big rocks that can cause your horse to stumble.  When grooming your horse, make sure there are no cuts or loose shoes or other indications that your horse isn’t 100%.  Finally, when tacking up, make sure that your tack doesn’t have any weak areas, such as stirrup leathers or the throatlatch that can break while you’re riding.

Once you’re on your horse, you’re probably like many riders who don’t really have a warm up plan but just amble around the arena.  Or you’re eager to get on the trail and figure you’ll warm up as you go.  But to really make sure your horse is warmed up on both sides, at all gaits and is listening to you, you should take a systematic approach to your warm-up to ensure that your horse is really ready to go.

Warm up gradually and thoroughly, making sure you stretch and supple your horse on both sides.  Check that your horse is listening to you and your aids.  Keeping him moving will help not only help warm him up, but will help keep his focus on you as you start asking more or take off down the trail. With a systematized warm-up, you’ll know when your horse is ready to go, while if you just wander around, you can never be sure.

Start with five minutes of walking and put your horse on a 20m circle.  Always work your horse’s easier side (and they all have one) first.  Make sure he is bending around your leg to make a true circle.  While you are walking, do some stretching of your own and/or check your riding position.  You can change direction through the circle (making a figure 8) to work the other side.  Make sure you do the same sequence at the walk on each side.

Move on to 10 minutes of trotting.  Always start with a posting trot to let your horse’s back warm up as well.  At first, use the whole arena and encourage your horse to trot out down the long side or across the arena.  Later, you can put him on a 20 meter circle and start asking for him to come on the bit.  You can also start adding some canter work once your horse is on the bit, relaxed and listening to you.  Once you are cantering smoothly, work on transitions – canter to trot, trot to walk, walk to canter, etc.  Change rein often to make sure you are working both sides of your horse. 

shoulder-in-prachorsemanFinally, add in some additional bending exercises like leg yields and shoulder in.  This is a great test to see if you and your horse have it all together.  By the end of this warm-up, you should be able to feel your horse moving from behind, that he is relaxed through the back and soft in both reins.

At the end of your ride, don’t forget to cool down your horse as well.  Most of this can be done riding at the walk on a long rein.  But you may also want to add some easy bending exercises like let yielding to stretch out those muscles after a hard workout.  As always, make sure your horse is no longer sweating before you finish your ride.

Like athletes or dancers who stretch both before and after a workout, warming up/cooling down your horse each time you ride is essential to his well being.

Photo credit: Practical Horseman

 

A Few of My Favorite (Winter) Things

horse-and-barn-in-snow_stablemanagementIf you own or manage a barn, over the years you’ve come up against some challenges in doing so in winter.  Me, too.  I’ve put together a list of some of the things I’ve discovered over the years that have made my job a bit easier.

Stall mats – My favorite multi-use tool.  However, in the winter, in addition to keeping your horse off a cold concrete floor, these are great to as anti-slip walkways to the barn.  They are also indispensable for helping to keep mud from forming around barn or stall door openings.  Outdoor water troughs often become churned up and muddy -when the mud freezes, it becomes a landmine for your horse to walk over.  This helps protect him from taking a bad step on frozen mud.

Water heaters – Horses need about 10 gallons of water daily. While the optimal temperature for adequate water consumption is between 45 and 650 F, most times it more of mater of just having water instead of ice!  Heated water buckets can help with that.  Classic Equine has automatic water options for both inside and outside use.  Both come with a heater option.

 For those of you without an automatic water system, there are heated water buckets that work great.  Plug them in and the heated coils in the partitioned bottom of the bucket keep water ice-free.    If your horses use a stock tank for water, a stock tank deicer is another great option to eliminate ice.  While neither may bring the temperature up to “warm,” both are excellent at keeping ice from forming. For those bigger warm water jobs, there are portable hot water heaters. 

white-horse-with-feederAutomatic Feeders – Unpredictable winter weather can sometimes make it difficult to get to the barn at exact times to feed.  And you know what your horses can do to your stall doors if the grain isn’t delivered on time!  If you aren’t able (or don’t want to) get out to the barn to grain your horse, this may be an option. The iFeed system is an automatic grain feeding system that allows you to set up one or several stalls on whatever schedule you want to deliver grain. 

wash-bay-heaterWash Bay Heaters – this went from being a luxury to a necessity when the winters started getting colder and snowier over the last few years.  Great for both clipped and unclipped horses.  If you don’t clip, the heated lights can help dry out your sweaty horse before blanketing.  If you clip, the heated lights can keep your horse warm during the time between grooming and putting on his blanket.  Also great for riders, trainers or spectators who are frozen from too long in the arena.

Auto lights – Let’s face it: even though you know every inch of your barn, there’s still something scary about going into a totally dark barn before you hit the lights.  I like the old-fashioned automatic lights that go on an off at set times and illuminate my way to the horses.  Or you can go high tech with new smart products like Amazon’s Echo.  With Echo, you plug your lights into a special socket and then you program your phone to not only tell it when to turn the lights on or off, but you can check to see if you actually remembered to turn them off.

Good winter clothes – no one knows cold like the people who live in Maine.  There are a lot of good winter apparel companies, some specifically for horse people (though most of them are geared for riding), but by far L.L.Bean has the best assortment of warm weather clothes – from undergarments to hats rain/snow boots.  And they are all guaranteed with easy return.  Wear it all winter.  Didn’t like how it performed?  LL Bean will take it back for an exchange or refund.  For any reason.   During winter months, water should be kept between 45 to 65°F to maximize consumption. 

Please note that, except for Classic Equine Equipment, we don’t promote the listed brands of equipment.  They are only the ones I have used with success.

With Christmas still more than a week away, there’s still time for you to ask Santa for one of these winter helpers. It can help you get the best present of all – more time riding!

Horse Tales: Myth and Magic

halloweenhorse1With Halloween just around the corner, we’re sharing some of the tales of magic and horses.  Horses have figured into lore and legend for literally thousands of years – starting somewhere in the 5th or 6th century B.C. with the Greeks.  The Greek Gods “owned” some of the most famous horses.  Probably the best known is Pegasus, the immortal winged white horse. Bellerophone wanted to ride him, but didn’t know how to capture him.   He dreamed of a golden bridle and when he awoke, it was beside him.  He put it on Pegasus while the horse drank from a fountain and successfully rode the winged horse into battle.  But as often happens with Gods, Bellerophon fell out of favor and Pegasus returned to Mt. Olympus alone, where he was welcomed.  He was then given the job of carrying thunderbolts and today is a constellation in the spring sky.

The Greek sun god Helios also had immortal horses and used four to pull his chariot.  Not to be outdone, Poiseidon, the god of the sea, had eight horses to pull his chariot.  Ares, the god of war, had fire-breathing steeds.  And, of course, Zeus, the king of all the gods, not only had 4 horses pulling his chariot, but these horses were actually the four winds as well.

rhiannonWhile the Greek gods used their horses as beasts of burden during their mythical undertakings, the Celts recognized the horse as more of a spiritual being itself.  Epona, the Celtic goddess of fertility, is the protector of horses, mules and donkeys.  She is also the goddess of horse breeding.  She is most often pictured riding a white horse. Her horses also were used to guide souls of the deceased and provide safe passage to the afterlife.

Horses, especially white horses, figure in many other religions as well.  In Hindu, a white horse is believed to be the last incarnation of Vishnu. As a Native American symbol, the Horse combines the grounded power of the earth with the whispers of wisdom found in the spirit winds.  In most religions, the horse symbolizes power, grace, beauty, nobility, strength and freedom.

Horses also have their place in magic and superstitions.  Perfect to share on Halloween, here are some:

  • The tail of a horse was plaited with ribbons to keep it safe from witches.
  • In most of Europe protective horseshoes are placed in a downward facing position, but in some parts of Ireland and Britain people believe that the shoes must be turned upward or “the luck will run out.” A horseshoe found along the side of a road was particularly powerful, and was known to provide protection against disease.
  • The “Nail Test” is supposed to predict what sex foal a mare is carrying. You take a hair from the mare’s tail, and tie a nail to it. Then you hold it above the mare’s hips… and if it doesn’t swing, she’s not pregnant. If it swings in a circle, she’s carrying a filly; if it swings straight, a colt.
  • Horses standing with their backs to a hedge mean it’s going to rain.
  • If you break a mirror the misfortune can be averted if you lead a horse through the house. Same applies if you spill salt in the kitchen.
  • Gray horses and horses with four white feet are considered unlucky in racing.
  • A horse’s tail, if placed in water, will turn into a snake.
  • Copper pennies in a tank will prevent moody behavior in mares.
  • It was once thought that whooping-cough could be cured by going to the stables and inhaling the breath of a horse.
  • The deeper a horse dips his nostrils while drinking, the better sire he will be.
  • It was thought that warts could be cured by circling them in horse hair.
  • Horses disturbed and restless in the morning and with their manes and tails tangled and twisted are supposed, according to old English legend, to have been ridden in the night by the pixies.pixie-and-horse

 

Have a fun and safe Halloween!

The Pre-Purchase Exam

AHC Time To RideYour eyes meet across the barn aisle.  Your heart beats a little faster. “There’s the one I’ve been looking for, “ you think.  And, suddenly, you’re in love. But before you ride off happily together into the sunset, consider a pre-purchase exam.

One of the best investments you can make BEFORE buying a horse is to have a pre-purchase exam done by a veterinarian* of your choice. While it’s tempting to forgo the cost of another vet visit, it is in your best interest to have the checkup done by a vet that you know and trust.  It is insurance for you, the buyer, that you are protected and are getting exactly the horse you were promised.

Talk with your vet before the exam about how you plan to use your new horse.  A pre-purchase exam for a broodmare may be a bit different than one for a Grand Prix show jumper.  At the exam, the vet will want the horse to be presented right out of the stall, if possible.  Ideally, the horse will not have been recently shod.  A horse that is warmed up before the vet comes may have lameness issues that won’t be seen.  Lameness issues can also be attributed to the new shoes.

temple-vet-clinic-prepurchase-examThe vet will go over the basics of the horse – check the temperature, respiration and pulse, look at the eyes, teeth, ears, nose and many, many more places, including those specific to mares, stallions and geldings.  .The vet will also do a flexion test for soundness on all four limbs and will check hoofs with hoof testers.  She will want to see the horse move at liberty, best done by free lunging the horse, in both directions.  Afterwards, the vet may want to reexamine the horse’s vital signs or flexion.  If there are any questions, the vet may ask the owner’s permission to draw blood or take x-rays.  While some buyers routinely have x-rays done, it may not be necessary and can help keep the pre-purchase exam costs down.  Again, communicating with your vet about how you plan to use the horse is essential.

It is best if you can be present during the pre-purchase exam.   The vet will give you her findings as she goes and you can ask questions or request further investigation.  You will also be provided with a written report.  .Remember that no horse is perfect.  Any limitations noted, whether large of small, are to help the buyer find the horse most suitable for the job intended.  Remember, too, that the vet is looking at the horse as he is right now.  She can’t see into the future and cannot foretell how a particular horse will perform in years to come.  Vets don’t give horses a “pass/fail” determination, but will provide you with all the information, good and bad, about the horse’s physical condition so you can make an informed decision

The videos below offer an overview on the pre-purchase exam.

PrePurchase exam (part 1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhBI1gx1sVw

Pre-purchase exam (part 2) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuHJTndLdew

*while we know there are many fabulous male veterinarians out there, for purposes of this article we are referring to veterinarians as “she.”

Photo credit:

American Horse Clinic

Templeton Vet Clinic