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55CorrectiveExercises-horseandriderbooks

Have you found yourself trying to resolve one of the following challenges related to your horse’s posture or performance?

• Rebuilding after an injury or extended time off.

• Countering an unspecified weakness that prevents him from doing what you ask.

• Improving stiff, uncoordinated, or short-strided gaits.

• Softening a rigid or hollow topline.

• Lightening heaviness on the forehand.

• Correcting a hindquarter anomaly like locking stifles, an unstable pelvis, or a strong preference to travel one direction versus the other.

 

Or maybe you are wondering whether:

• His resistance to work is due to physical limitation or behavioral issues.

• He is physically capable to do what you’re asking.

• There is a specific source of his weakness or reason for his lack of progress.

• There is a cause for his need of frequent chiropractic adjustments or the way he often feels “not quite right.”

• There are ways you can make his gaits easier and more fun to ride.

 

Over time, horses (like people) acquire postural habits, compensate for soreness and injury, and develop poor movement patterns. This limits performance ability, causes unsoundness and health issues, and ultimately undermines the horse’s overall well-being.

Jec Aristotle Ballou has made a name for herself advocating for the horse and providing sensible instruction in his schooling, conditioning, and care. Her bestselling books and popular clinics are designed to enable any horse person to correctly apply proven principles that bring measurable progress while avoiding boredom and confusion. In her latest book 55 CORRECTIVE EXERCISES FOR HORSES, she provides a collection of mounted and unmounted exercises, demonstrating how we can actively work to improve the horse’s posture and movement, whether he is an active performance or pleasure mount, an aging or older horse that benefits from gentle exercise, or one being rehabilitated following injury, illness, or lack of conditioning.

Ballou’s positive cross–training techniques are free of shortcuts, and her guidelines for analyzing the horse’s posture and way of going help readers gain a new awareness of the equine body. Applicable for all disciplines, this is an integral collection that optimizes how the horse uses his body and helps ensure he stays sounder and healthier for more years of his life.

55 Corrective Exercises for Horses55 CORRECTIVE EXERCISES FOR HORSES is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to download a free chapter.

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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It seems like after decades in the horse industry, all of a sudden, everyone is talking about fascia. This is that thin sheath of fibrous tissue that encloses the muscles and other organs, and apparently, it is really pretty important to your horse’s posture, movement, comfort, and performance. Huh. If you’re like us, all these years of riding and horse care and various bodywork therapies, and you haven’t given fascia a thought, right? Well, now is the time to acquire a whole new awareness of your horse’s body and how you can keep it happy and healthy.

We caught up with TSB author Margret Henkels, founder of Conformation Balancing, her method of fascia fitness for horses, and author of the book and DVD IS YOUR HORSE 100%? She brought us up to speed with how easy it can be to positively affect the horse’s fascia…and shared a few of the secrets that keep her going, too!

TSB: Your book and DVD IS YOUR HORSE 100%? were published in 2017. They explain your method of bodywork targeting the horse’s fascia, which anyone can do. Why do you feel fascia fitness is important to horse and rider? How can your method of bodywork help horses with “problems”?

MH: Fascia (sometimes called myofascia), or connective tissue, is an amazing tissue. When it’s healthy, it’s full of light and free movement…when it’s stiff, it’s rigid and painful. Nearly every horse experiences strain. Stuck fascia is a huge problem for a free-moving, master athlete like a horse. These dark stuck areas ruin their free movement and create a fearful mental state. Fascia is the only tissue that also “holds” emotional trauma, due to its unique properties. When a rider “melts” a hard, stiff area on their horse with their hands, this action also releases emotional anxiety related to that limit. This is a miracle for the horse! They become very grateful to us for this relief.  Riders win and keep the trust of their horse with this work. Also, the rider understands her horse much better. Limits are now recognized as physical issues, not refusals. It’s an amazing new way to relate to horses and riding.

IsYourHorse100Percent-horseandriderbooks

TSB: You first became interested in fascia and how it can be influenced when you had your own physical compensations and adhesions addressed by a bodyworker. How is fascia work for horses similar to that for humans? How does it differ?

MH: Horses and humans both feel much better with flowing fitness. Humans entertain themselves with distractions and diversions, but horses live in constant fear and anxiety if they aren’t fit. Humans often medicate the discomfort. Horses constantly fear a predator will get them. Humans might feel limited by poor fitness, but horses feel very unsafe and judged against.

TSB: What is one lesson you hope readers will take away from your book and DVD?

MH: Fascia is astonishing in its self-intelligence, and it is easy to effect huge, progressive, balancing advances from difficult, stuck, and unhappy situations.

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Margret Henkels demonstrating how to “melt” the fascia at Equine Affaire in MA, 2017.

TSB: If you were trapped on a desert island with a horse and a book, what breed of horse would it be and which book would you choose?

MH: An Arabian horse and Frederic Pignon and Magali Delgado’s GALLOP TO FREEDOM!

TSB: If you could do one thing on horseback that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?

MH: Jump big fences on a talented jumping horse. 

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?

MH: Integrity.

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse?

MH: Integrity.

Margret Henkels and Pepper

Henkels with her dog Pepper.

TSB: What is your greatest fear?

MH: That human consciousness will continue to limit the horse’s happiness.

TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?

MH: Chocolate.

TSB: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

MH: To be younger with all the gains I made in aging.
 

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With Tanga, a BLM Mustang

TSB: What’s in your refrigerator at all times?

MH: Organic, local carrots and bee pollen.

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

MH: Being part of a transformative experience.

TSB: If you could have a conversation with one famous person, alive or dead, who would it be?

MH: Harry de Leyer, owner of Snowman.

TSB: What is your motto?

MH: Don’t give up before the miracle happens.

Margret Henkels’ BOOK and DVD are both available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

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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HorsesinTranslation-horseandriderbooks

In the fall of 2017 TSB released the book HORSE SPEAK, which took the international horse world by storm. Horse trainer and rehabilitation specialist Sharon Wilsie put to paper a practical system for “listening” and ” talking” to horses in their language instead of expecting them to comprehend ours. She called her system “Horse Speak,” and has been traveling the country demonstrating how it can be used by any individual who works with horses, whether riding instructor, colt starter, recreational rider, or avid competitor.

Horses in TranslationNow, Wilsie has written the highly anticipated follow-up to her breakout bestseller—a book that not only serves as a complement and companion to HORSE SPEAK, but also an alternative entry point to the concepts she teaches. In HORSES IN TRANSLATION, Wilsie uses true stories to relate examples of “problems” and how they were solved using Horse Speak. Her engaging narrative introduces readers to dozens of real-life scenarios from different barns, various disciplines, and riders and handlers with contrasting experiences and backgrounds. Wilsie highlights her Horse Speak process, the clues that point to the best course of action, and the steps she takes to connect with horses that have shut down, grown confused, or become sulky or aggressive for any number of reasons. The result is a book full of incredible insight and exciting possibilities.

HORSES IN TRANSLATION is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

 

SPECIAL EVENT

Are you in the Northeast and interested in learning more about Horse Speak and Sharon Wilsie’s new book? Join us Thursday, May 24, 2018, at 5:00 pm at Strafford Saddlery in Quechee, Vermont, for refreshments and a talk with Wilsie about her work and how it can change your relationship with your horse. We promise it will be a fun and inspiring evening!

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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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DIY-SPA-DAY-horseandriderbooks

Ah, Valentine’s Day! That Hallmark Holiday we all love to hate and hate to love. But we don’t have to sit around longing for some demonstration of adoration to appear in our mailbox or on our doorstep. Instead, why not treat that best of all faithful and true companions, your horse, to a DIY Spa Day.

Give His Fascia Some Love

Ear Release Photo by Patti Bose-horseandriderbooksUmm…what was that? Don’t worry, as equine bodyworker Margret Henkels explains in her book IS YOUR HORSE 100%? the fascia (or myofascia) is tissue in the body that connects all the horse’s body’s parts, including bones, muscles, and all the different body systems. As the “internet” of the body, fascia communicates with all parts instantly, while also giving the horse structure and organization. But this remarkable tissue changes under strain and accidental injury. It immediately builds many cross-hatching fibers in all directions around the area of strain, as well as faraway areas that help hide the strain for the horse. At first, these areas are warmer and larger as the fascia adds support. Eventually, they return to a more normal size and temperature, but the composition of the fascia changes. Over time, instead of flowing easily, it hardens into stiff fibers and lumps called “adhesions.” Strategic placement of your hands brings precisely the correct heat for fascia changes—that is, “melting” of adhesions and release of related emotional baggage. Henkels’ Conformation Balancing method, explained in her book and DVD, give us this easy technique to make our horses happy:

The ears are a “miracle area” for helping horses. Many have experienced trauma around the base of the ear as well as the entire ear, up to the tip. This can be caused by tight-fitting tack, or head strain. A gentle and effective technique is to hold the ear very softly. Once the horse understands you aren’t squeezing or grabbing at his ear, he relaxes and enjoys the changes. As your thumb sinks into the base of the ear, head changes occur. These releases often last many minutes and bring great relief from anxiety. One ear usually needs much more attention than the other. When you offer these often, the emotional progress for the horse is rapid.

 

Get Down…and Back

Hind End Release Photo by Deb Kalas-horseandriderbooksPositioning and movement of the hind limbs down and back can release tension in the muscles and structure of the hind end, including the hamstrings, the lower back, the gluteal muscles and the psoas. This can improve movements that require adduction and abduction of the hind limbs (think half-pass). Jim Masterson’s Masterson Method® Hind Leg Releases in THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED include this easy exercise:

Pick up the hind foot as if you are going to clean it. While supporting the fetlock with your hands, guide the hoof down and back so it rests on the toe. A couple inches farther back than the opposite planted hind foot is plenty. Keep your hand gently on the hoof, or slightly wiggling the hock, to help the horse relax. With the toe resting back, the hamstrings are fully relaxed. Gently stroke or lightly massage the area to further break up any tension.

 

The Eyes Have It

Acupressure for Horses-horseandriderbooksThere are many points around the horse’s eyes that can be accessed with acupressure. And, as Dr. Ina Gösmeier explains in her bestselling ACUPRESSURE FOR HORSES, acupressure is simple and safe for any of us to apply. All the meridians and organs meet in connection in and around the eye, so through acupressure there, disturbances in other parts of the body can be influenced and rebalanced. This technique also relaxes the horse greatly.

First, touch the Jingming acupressure point (at the corner of the eye) lightly, then slowly increase the pressure, using a clockwise, circular motion. Watch the horse’s reaction. When you see the corners of the mouth relax, the ears go sideways, the eyes begin to close, you know you are applying an optimal amount of pressure. Maintain pressure for one minute. Work you way all the way around the eye, working back to your starting point.

 

Tail Envy

WCG Grooming for Horses Photo by Jessica Dailey-horseandriderbooksGive your horse’s tail a proper wash and conditioning so he can parade his silky swisher around the barn. Professional grooms Cat Hill and Emma Ford give us their tips for primping your horse’s hind end in WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES.

Wet the tail, then use a gentle conditioning shampoo like Motions® Lavish Conditioning Shampoo to ensure the tail gets clean without becoming dry. Use a sponge to get the entire dock wet, paying special attention to the bottom of the dock where the hair gets really thick and oil can collect. Scrub the dock really well, getting your fingernails into it, to help remove the dead skin and gunk that can build up close to the roots. Run your sponge down the entire tail, then scrub the hair between your hands. Rinse the tail until the water runs clear. NEVER comb a wet tail! Use a non-silicone-based detangler such as eZall® Shine & Detangler and comb when dry.

 

Have a wonderful, relaxing, DIY Spa Day with your horse…and don’t forget his favorite treats for afterward! Here’s a recipe if you want to make your own: TSB’s Fun, Easy Valentine’s Day Horse Treats.

For more information about any of the books or experts mentioned, visit www.horseandriderbooks.com.

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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HoofCarebyKS

It’s okay to admit it…we often get by on the bare minimum of knowledge when it comes to hoof care. We all learn the basics of how to tend to the hoof—keep its environment clean, pick debris from it—at our first riding lesson, and depending on our later equestrian pursuits, we might accrue a bit more understanding…or that might just do it. After all, that’s what trimmers, farriers, and veterinarians are for, right?

The thing is, we don’t HAVE to blindly allow those who have made hoof care their life’s work make all the decisions when it comes to OUR horses. With a little extra study time, we can engage in conversations with our hoof care professionals that may actually lead to better health, comfort, and performance from our horses, while ensuring their soundness and happiness over time.

THE ESSENTIAL HOOF BOOK by Susan Kauffmann and Christina Cline (check out the excerpt in the February issue of Horse Illustrated) provides the most complete equine hoof care education you can get, all with hundreds of color photographs and simple language that is easy to understand. And you don’t have to take our word on this…just check out some of the reviews we’ve been getting from horse owners:

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So what kinds of things will you learn from Kauffmann and Cline? Well, did you know that:

  • The heels, aided by the frog, are designed to bear the brunt of the impact forces generated when the hoof makes contact with the ground.
  • A horse that gets plenty of correct, heel-first landings on varied terrain is likely to grow hoof wall at a faster rate than a horse that is standing around in a stall, and its horn is also likely to be of better quality.
  • Horses can have any number of variances that will make one foot a little different than the other, but the most commonly encountered is that one front foot will be slightly more upright than the other. This difference is often due to the fact that horses, like people, tend to have a dominant side.

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THE ESSENTIAL HOOF BOOK is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

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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24HoursKendraGale

Winter is not just coming…for those of us in many parts of North America, it is completely, frigidly, and snowily upon us. Any horse person knows that things just get a bit, well, harder when the temp dips below zero. It doesn’t matter what size the manure pile—it all freezes to the ground.

Kendra Gale has been breeding, raising, and training Miniature Horses in Alberta, Canada, for decades, so she’s no stranger to ice in the water trough. Gale is the author of THE BIG BOOK OF MINIATURE HORSES, where she shares sage advice for keeping Miniatures as best suits their equine nature, as well as competing them at the highest levels. Her book is the perfect primer for the horse lover new to Miniatures, or the first-time horse owner, period.

In this segment of TSB’s “Horseworld by the Hour” series, Gale gives us a glimpse of what it’s like to walk a long (but satisfying) day in her winter boots.

***

6:30 am It’s winter in Alberta, so while I usually get up about now, it’s not the “jump out of bed and get going” it might be on a summer day with lessons or workshops or competitions on the schedule. After all, the sun won’t be up for a couple hours yet!

First priority is, of course, to let my Chihuahua, Clara, out to pee. Depending on the amount of snow or degree of Arctic temperatures, sometimes I’m successful in convincing her, sometimes not. In the summer she spends a lot of the day at the barn with me. In the winter, she opts out of the outdoors as much as possible. To be fair, the snow is sometimes deeper than she is tall!

7:00 am Breakfast and I jump onto the computer for a bit. Check emails, Facebook, and any concerns with my online classroom (www.MiniatureHorsemanship.com). Depending on how it goes, I might get some work done, editing videos or building slideshows, or maybe some writing.

8:00 am The sun starts peeking up between now and 8:30 am this time of year, and I usually wait for it before I head out to start chores. I like being able to see my horses in the daylight. They’re Miniature Horses, and lots of them are black…on days when I have to feed in the dark, I’ve been known to literally trip over them.

Before I go outside, I fill my big pail of hay cubes and senior feed with hot water to make a breakfast of mush for my collection of geriatric Miniature Horses. Then it’s time to layer up to head out—the number of layers is directly proportional to the cold. We have a wide range of winter temperatures here, and it could be above freezing, or it could be 40 below, and those two extremes could be in pretty close proximity to each other. Layers are key!

Image, my blind, one-eyed, 28-year-old, is the first to greet me when I get to the barn, with a hungry nicker and a big “downward dog” stretch. Image, along with Robin (age 27, a retired broodmare) and Valdez (age 29, sire of many of the horses on my farm), spend their nights inside in the winter, and their days, too, in nasty weather. Miniature Horses handle the cold really well, but these old folks do better with some extra spoiling.

With warm mush in their bellies, I head outside to feed the rest of the mush to my pen of slightly-less-old geldings (Knight Rider, 26, Spook, 22, and Paco, 21) and dole out some complete feed for some hard-keepers and the two weanlings, eight-month-old Victor and Vodka.

Next, it’s to the hay stack to collect a couple bales onto my calf sled. Currently I’m feeding about a bale and a half, morning and night, except when it’s colder than -20—then I feed more to help the horses stay warm. I distribute hay to the herd, checking everyone as I go to make sure no one is cold, or sick, or losing weight. I touch each horse every day—that’s 32 miniature equines in total.

winterfeeding

The herd. Photo by Kendra Gale.

8:30 am With all the beasties enjoying their breakfast, I love to stop and stand for a moment and enjoy the peace and morning light…unless it’s storming or something.

Next on the list I feed and water my birds. I keep Partridge Chantecler chickens and some mixed-breed ducks that never fail to make me laugh. The birds all do really well in the winter. I check to make sure their heated water dishes are all working and collect any (hopefully not-yet-frozen) eggs.

9:00 am Last week it was -36 and one of my heated, automatic waterers gave up the ghost. Of course, it was the one that the most horses drink from, and with the most run-in sheds in that pasture, I couldn’t move too many horses to other waterers. We got some heated pails to plug in for the herd so they all always had access to that all-important unfrozen water, but it means that next on my to-do list is hauling water: I do about six pails from the hydrant each morning to fill everything up for them.

9:30 am Some days I might head out to teach lessons at a client’s place, or spend the morning working on computer stuff, but today it’s farrier day. I see which horses are due for a trim and bring them into the barn. My farrier comes every two to three weeks and does six Miniatures at a time, which works out to a pretty good rotation. With a little luck, I get them in with enough time to dig the packed snow out of their feet and give them each a quick groom before the farrier arrives.

11:30 am It’s a trickier day for trims—most of the herd is easy, but we’ve got the weanlings on the list today. Victor is perfect, but Vodka used up all his “Good Boy” during treatment for an eye injury earlier this year and is going through a rebellious stage. We’re patient with him and he decides he’ll be a good citizen in the end. The big challenge today is Bentley, my new Miniature Mule: He’s only lived here a few months and is nervous of strangers, especially strangers who want to pick up his feet while holding tools. It takes some time, but it ultimately goes well. The farrier and I are pleased with his progress, and he gets lots of treats for his bravery. Luckily, the other three we trim today are old pros (that’s enough excitement for us for one day). They all get cookies and go back out with their friends to finish their breakfast. At this point, it doesn’t have to be very cold for me to still feel frozen solid—it’s definitely time to get back in the house for a bit!

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Clara and Victor. Photo by Kendra Gale.

12:00 pm I grab some lunch (and probably some hot tea!) and get back on the computer for a while. Time to get to work on whatever project I’m working on. Currently, I’m organizing a clinic/conference event, preparing for a clinic I’m teaching up north in a few weeks, and building a webinar and a couple promos for my online classroom.

1:30 pm I’m wrapped up in what I’m working on and would love keep at it, but the sun is shining so I head back outside. Time to clean stalls while the old folks are out enjoying some winter sun. Stall cleaning gets more complicated the colder it gets: frozen poop balls bounce away when they fall off the fork, and at times I take the pee spots out in one big frozen chunk, kind of like clumping cat litter. I also haul more water—another six pails midday (I’ll never take my automatic waterers for granted again after this…)

2:00 pm I want to get Rocky’s tail put back up—he’s my breeding stallion (Victor and Vodka’s daddy) and one of my favorite driving horses. I love his long tail and usually keep it up in a sock to protect it. This fall I let it down during fly season, and then I never got it put up again. After the last big snowfall I was laughing at the funny trail it left in the snow, but I’m sure that was pretty hard on it. Now that the weather has improved I’m going to get it up before the next snow and cold snap is scheduled. I set up my video camera so I can make a quick tutorial of the process for my YouTube channel.

2:30 pm Since I have Rocky in, I set up some of the obstacles for the January online Horse Agility competition. Rocky’s been off for a while, so it’s a good refresher for him. I set up the obstacles inside the barn. My barn is a good-sized tent building so I’m able to squeeze in a full agility course if I’m creative. It’s nice to work in out of the wind, and I’m paranoid about my horses slipping on poor footing outside in the winter. I also never drive in the winter, unless there is no snow or ice at all. Luckily, while driving is my favorite discipline, there are lots of other fun things to do with my Miniature Horses, and agility is one of my preferred wintertime activities.

rockyfrost

Rocky with a frosty forelock. Photo by Kendra Gale.

3:00 pm  Now I’ve got the obstacles set up, and I let Johnnie in to play. He does his agility at liberty. Johnnie is coming four, and while he’s one of my tiniest in stature at not quite 31 inches, he’s the biggest personality. I don’t dare practice any obstacle too many times, or he gets bored and invents new ways to do them. We work on standing and waiting until I ask him to come toward me, practice his sidepassing, and then move on to something else. Johnnie has been trained using positive reinforcement. I also want to start him in harness, so today I have a sidepull I’m going to use on him—I’ve driven Rocky bitless some, but I’m really looking forward to starting Johnnie bitless right front the start. We practice giving to pressure on the sidepull, first using a target to help him understand. It’s a fun new game for both of us! I’ve got the video camera running again, as one of my online courses is on starting your Miniature Horse in harness, and I want to add the bitless training process to the content. The toughest part with Johnnie is always convincing him to leave when I’m done playing with him…after demonstrating all kinds of skills at liberty, I actually have to put a halter on him to lead him back out to be with his friends!

3:45 pm I’m cold again, so it’s back in for more tea (Earl Grey with milk and a dribble of maple syrup—my friend named it a “Canadian Fog”) and to download my videos onto the computer. I get started on video editing and laugh at Johnnie’s antics. The bloopers are always my favorite, and if I don’t leave them in, I save them for future amusement.

4:45 pm I haven’t quite warmed up, but it’s getting dark, so I’m back out to start the evening chores. I bring in the old folks and and feed everyone just like in the morning. It’s supposed to extra cold overnight, so I give everybody some additional hay to help them stay warm. I turn on a podcast while I work: I like to listen to Horses In The Morning or Star Trek: The Next Conversation.

5:30 pm The sunset over the mountains is my favorite. I often pause my chores to take photos if it’s particularly spectacular.

I give Robin and Image their medication (Cushings medication for both, and anti-inflammatory for Robin) and haul another six or eight pails of water (I really can’t wait til that waterer is fixed…) before I say goodnight to everyone, close up the coops for the night, and head for the house. I check that the security camera is working in the barn—if anything seems amiss, I can see the stalls from my phone. It’s especially handy during foaling season.

sunset1

Another day done. Photo by Kendra Gale.

6:00 pm It’s back to the house for the evening. A couple times a month I teach a live webinar in the evenings, but most of the time I curl up on the couch with my laptop, enjoying some TV while I keep working away on my current projects. Or I might head over to my grandparents house to watch the game on TV…Go Flames Go!

10:00 pm I let Clara out one last time and we head for bed—a Chihuahua’s favorite time of day!

Kendra Gale’s book THE BIG BOOK OF MINIATURE HORSES is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

Click below to watch the trailer:

Be sure to read the other installments in the TSB “Horseworld by the Hour” blog series:

JEANNE ABERNETHY

YVONNE BARTEAU

JONATHAN FIELD

EMMA FORD

JOCHEN SCHLEESE

HEATHER SMITH THOMAS

LYNN PALM

DANIEL STEWART

DOUG PAYNE

JANET FOY

CLINTON ANDERSON

 

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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