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Posts Tagged ‘equine studies’

In caring for your horse’s feet, you not only want to see how the left and right halves of the foot are balanced, you also want to evaluate the hoof’s front-to-back balance. We call this dorsopalmar balance when we’re talking about the front feet, and dorsoplantar balance when we’re talking about the hind. You may also see the term anterior/posterior balance, which is the same for both front and hind feet. Farriers and veterinarians may refer to this in shorthand as “DP balance” or “AP balance.”

TheEssentialHoofBook-horseandriderbooks

The foot on the left has poor dorsopalmer balance (DP), with much
more mass ahead of the widest part of the foot (blue line) than behind it
(green line). The foot on the right has nearly perfect DP balance.

What you ideally want to see is a foot with approximately 2/3 of its mass in the back of the foot, behind the true apex of the frog (usually located about 1/2 inch behind the front point of the frog), and 1/3 ahead of the apex. This also equates to a foot that has about 50% of its mass both ahead and behind the axis of rotation of the coffin bone, a point which corresponds to the widest part of the foot. A foot with these general proportions accomplishes two very important things. First, the foot will have a strong base of support, with the hoof set up well under the bony column of the leg, maximizing the hoof’s ability to bear weight and dissipate impact forces. Second, good DP balance allows for a point of breakover that puts minimal strain to the joints and soft tissues.

When the front part of the foot is longer than the back part, this is called dorsopalmar or dorsoplantar imbalance. An alarming number of domestic horses have this kind of imbalance, which most frequently takes the form of long-toe/low-heel syndrome. When a foot has this conformation, breakover will be delayed, which can cause a variety of problems for the horse.

 

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Your horse needs you to care about his feet.

Hands-On Exercise

To check out your horse’s feet for front-to-back balance, find the widest point of the foot, then draw a line across it with a marker. Next, measure from that line to the very back point of the heels that touch the ground and jot that measurement down. Lastly, measure from the line forward to the point of breakover (POB), which is the most forward point where the hoof would contact the ground if standing on a flat surface. If there is any bevel in the shoe or toe, the POB is the spot where the bevel starts.

Now compare your measurements. If you find that your horse has more mass in the front part of the foot, talk to your hoof-care provider about it. If he or she is not concerned, it might be advisable to get a second opinion from another provider or your veterinarian. Repeat this exercise on all four feet. You can also use your measurements to compare the left front to the right front, and the left hind to the right hind. Note any disparities and discuss them with your hoof-care provider as well.

THE ESSENTIAL HOOF BOOK by Susan Kauffmann and Christina Cline is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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ColdWeather

It’s cold outside (don’t try to deny it!)…even Florida is in a deep freeze, relatively speaking. This means that not only do we need to bundle up, but our horses—especially those who live outside or with free-choice shelter—need added warmth, as well.

51V8Gm0RiaL._AC_US436_QL65_According to veterinarian Dr. Nancy Loving in her book ALL HORSE SYSTEMS GO (available in Kindle and epub formats), the horse’s nutritional needs increase about 5 to 10 percent for every degree below freezing. For every 10-degree-Fahrenheit drop below the critical temperature (the temperature below which a horse begins to burn calories to keep himself warm), a horse may require up to 20 percent more feed. The less flesh a horse has on his frame, the less insulation he has to fend off cold temperatures.

“Consider how it feels to go out in the cold weather wearing no more than a thin jacket,” says Dr. Loving. “Your body works harder to stay warm than it does when wearing an insulating down coat.”

Here are her three main tips for feeding during cold weather:

1 Offer roughage for warmth.

Offer good quality grass hay free-choice, which through fermentation by the microflora in the large intestine will generate heat from within, much like an internal combustion chamber. During cold, wet snaps, it is best to feed more hay to help a horse stay warm rather than to load him with extra grain. Over time, grain is helpful to put weight and fat on a horse’s frame but does little for an immediate need for warmth. An exclusive diet of hay may not be enough to support additional climatic demands. Roughage is filling, so a horse may only consume a limited amount. Estimation of how much hay a horse consumes each day must also account for wind losses and any loss from trampling of hay into the ground or spreading it around so it’s rendered unpalatable.

2 Provide ice-free water.

A major concern during wintertime is to ensure that a horse has plenty of fresh, clean, and ice-free water available at all times. A horse that stops drinking is more likely to suffer from impaction colic, or may decrease his feed consumption. If a dominant herd member won’t allow others access to the trough for extended periods, then add another water tank to ensure equal opportunity.

A horse consumes 5 to 10 gallons of water per day in cold weather, and more when exercised. A warm bran mash may increase water consumption. If necessary, use stock-tank heaters to prevent ice formation, but beware of electrocution possibilities from floating heaters. Those heaters with heating elements that are totally immersed are safest. Check to make sure a heater is not shorting out in the water and thereby discouraging drinking. (If you see a horse standing near the tank, seemingly interested in drinking but not doing so, there may be an electrical short that is shocking him when he touches the water.) Protect electrical cords by running them through PVC pipe so a horse doesn’t accidentally chew on the cord.

3 Assess body condition.

A furry winter coat can mistakenly hide a gaunt frame. Run your fingers across a horse’s thorax periodically to make sure he is holding flesh on his body. Ideally, the last two ribs should be barely felt when fingers are run lightly across the rib cage. If greater caloric intake is needed to maintain or increase body condition, supplement grass hay with alfalfa hay, beet pulp mash, and/or fat, and/or grain.

Coldweather2

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small company based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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Dare we ask whether the concept of equine hierarchy is indeed the primary means of understanding horses and the foundation upon which all training should be built?

In their new book EQUUS LOST? Francesco De Giorgio and Jose De Giorgio-Schoorl question the role of hierarchy within equine herds and suggest that our dependence upon perceived hierarchies in order to determine our interactions with horses is flawed.

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Photo courtesy of Francesco De Giorgio & Jose De Giorgio-Schoorl

“Due to the vicious circle of hierarchical focus and our anthropocentric views, there are many elements and details of equine behavior that we fail to see,” they write. “In fact, we still miss the essential part of the horse—that is, the horse as he is, a sentient and cognitive being, with his own social preferences.

“The first question horse people asks themselves when they go to see a new herd is likely to be, ‘Who is the dominant horse?’ Yet, by focusing on this aspect, we immediately create a filter and make it impossible to observe the more subtle social behaviors, all the small gestures, and less visible behaviors that nevertheless have an important cohesive function within the herd. These gestures can include: observing each other and being aware of the herd’s dynamics, looking from a distance while foraging, standing in proximity to each other, separating horses that tend to enter into conflict, smelling each other’s noses or flanks to understand certain situations better, and coming to stand close by. Further, horses softly nicker when there is tension between herd members. They are dedicated to all these interactions, which serve to demonstrate understanding and reassurance while reinforcing the role of dialogue within the group.

“We can see the impact of the dominance filter when looking at some of the methods used in groundwork, where a horse is in a round pen and a human is standing in the middle with, or without, a longe line, forcing a horse into movement by gesturing with his arms, believing he is using them as symbols of the leading mare and the pushing stallion. Not only is this not ethical because it doesn’t reflect the complex and sophisticated social herd dynamics, but it also brings people to believe that this is actually how horses create dialogue, causing a huge element for miscommunication in the horse-human relationship.

“Horses do not like conflict. They want to understand social dynamics, watch nuances, and support each other in order to have and preserve a calm environment. They do not busy themselves with ranking but with observing social relationships. In the horse-human relationship, tricks and treats cannot be used to smooth out and reduce tense behavior. They cannot make it disappear or create in its place an emotionally balanced animal. Our desire for obedience, surrender, and specific reactions makes us cover up behavior and doesn’t allow the horse to use his own social skills and inner intentions. Training methods focus on surrender, ignoring the essence of the horse and his social abilities.”

 

 

If you’re ready to consider that there might be better ways to coexist and work with horses, read EQUUS LOST? available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to order now

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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