Thursday, July 31, 2008

RECIPE: Rain Rot Treatment/Shampoo

Since there are only 2 ingredients and one of them is soap, I felt strange calling this a "recipe" but didn't know how else to label it so you could find it! :D

Oh and here's a little history for ya: There was a period of time when I had to ask and keep asking someone else how to make it and then I kept forgetting it before I could get home to make it! For some strange reason I had a real brain block on the measurements. I knew it was a 2-to-1 ratio, (in other words, twice as much of one ingredient as the other) but I just could not remember which ingredient you used twice the amount of! Yeah, this simple little recipe really made me feel like Ms. Bright Bulb! ;D

So...since I had such a hard time remembering it and could never find where I had written it down, I decided to include it in my recipes for others like me who may suffer from momentary lapses in memory or brain blockages! (There are others out there like me, right?) ;D

Okee-dokee...well,'s how you make it:

6 ounces of liquid Ivory dish soap
3 ounces of Iodine - (10% Povidone-Iodine Solution. Available at most equine supply stores)

I mix this up in the bottle that the Ivory dish soap comes in.

To use:
  1. Thoroughly wet down your horse
  2. Using a bath mit or "scrubby" plastic curry, lather the mixture (full strength) onto your horse, starting at the back of the ears, working it through the mane and working your way down and across their body to really work it into their tail, being sure not to forget their feet and under their belly. You do not want it getting into their eyes, so don't wash the horses' head or face with it.
  3. Once the horse is completely covered, allow the mixture to sit on the horses' skin for about 5 minutes
  4. Rinse well (and I would advise to rinse very well)
Your horse will be squeaky clean and super shiny! Bathe your horse with this mixture once a week for as long as it takes. I would recommend about 6 weeks but it could take up to 12 weeks.

Other helpful tips:
  1. On light colored horses, do a "stain test" first, either on their belly or a small area on a fetlock or some small or hidden area. I know this is safe on chestnuts, bays, browns or blacks but it is possible that the iodine may temporarily stain the hair of ligher colored horses. If you really want to get rid of the rain rot and you don't mind your palomino being a weird shade of rusty "iodine-a-mino", then skip the stain test and get to shampooing!
  2. Either before you bathe your horse or while you're bathing, wash or soak anything that normally comes in contact with your horses' skin such as saddle pads, blankets or sheets, ALL of your brushes, combs, curry combs, etc in soapy bleach water and this part is very important: Use only the newly cleaned equipment on the horse after you've bathed them in the iodine solution. This may sound like a pain, (and it can be) but once you get yourself "in the groove" and find little ways to save time, it's really not bad and it's so worth it to get rid of the rain rot! Before you head out the door to bathe your horse, you can just throw your blankets in the washing machine and toss all of your grooming supplies in a bucket of soapy bleach water and let them soak or wash while you're bathing. When you're finished bathing your horse, you have the hose out already, so just rinse out your grooming supplies and lay them out to dry.
  3. You must ALWAYS sterilize all of your grooming equipment around the same time as you bath your horse so that you don't reinfect your clean (sanitized) horse with the rain rot bacteria that is living in your brushes and blankets.
  4. Don't bathe your horse in this mixture any more often than once a week. Using it more frequently than that could really dry out your horses' skin and cause irriation.
  5. Don't buy those tiny, little bottles of iodine from the drug store or supermarket. It will cost you a small fortune to buy enough bottles and that kind isn't really strong enough anyway. I buy the 10% Povidone-Iodine Solution, made by Horse Health Products, (which is a division of Farnam). A vet or equine supply store should have it and the large 32 ounce bottle only costs about $10 bucks.

As long as you keep up the cleaning and grooming of your horse and he or she is not constantly in contact with other horses' who have rain rot, using this mixture and these methods should get rid of it!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

RECIPE: Fly Trap Attractant

I love it when I can find recipes to make a natural product that is cheaper than commercially bought products. However, there are few things in this world that I despise more than annoying, disease-carrying flies and I have never made or found a better fly trap than the Rescue Fly Traps. If you hang them outside your barn in the sun, these traps actually work the way they claim and I absolutely love 'em! Depending on how bad your fly population is, in the first week of hanging it, it will trap hundreds, if not thousands of dead flies! Also, if you decide to buy them, go for the disposable plastic bag type. For some reason, the plastic bag type works far, FAR better than their new, reusable, hard plastic jar. For me personally, I'd rather just fork out the $3.99 for a good product that works really well and is clean and easy to dispose of. (Once that fly trap is full of dead flies, I don't want to touch it, much less have to empty it!)

Ok, if I've sold you on one of my favorite horse products in the world :D here is a picture of what it looks like and a direct link where you can purchase it:

Now, if you would rather make your own fly traps, here is a recipe for the attractant:

3 cups of water
1/3 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of white vinegar

Mix all ingredients together until the sugar is completely dissolved.

You can use several things to make the actual trap. A coffee can with a plastic lid, a heavy duty zip lock plastic bag or a glass jar. Just poke some holes in either the lid or the bag that are large enough for the flies to fit in, put in the attractant and place or hang the trap where flies are a problem. The flies crawl in and most drown in the attractant or can't find their way out.

Put the trap outside where it will be in the sun and make sure you place the trap out of the reach of the horses, especially if you're using the glass jar.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

RECIPE: Bring 'em Running Bran Mash

Here is a great recipe for a nutritious bran mash that your horse is sure to love.

2 Quarts of wheat or rice bran (8 cups)
1 cup of Quaker oats (or any rolled oats)
3/4 cup of applesauce
1-1/2 cup of hot water

Mix all ingredients together until the bran and oats are well moistened.

  1. You can add a couple of tablespoons of honey or molasses for a little added sweetness;
  2. For a crunchy surprise, try adding about a cup full of chopped apples or carrots, raisins, pears (or any of your horses' favorite fruit or veggie OR toss a tad bit of several different things in there! Get creative! Your horse will love it!);
  3. For extra nutritional benefits, you can add a couple of tablespoons of oil
  4. You can also add a little beet pulp (make sure it soaks for a few minutes in the mash before giving it to your horse)

This probably goes without saying but I have to say it anyway.... :D When making hot bran mash, always make sure it's cooled a little before giving it to your horse so it doesn't burn his or her mouth. :D

And just like we humans with our comfort food, remember that too much is not a good thing. Because of the high phosporus content (that can throw off a horses' calcium levels) you shouldn't feed a bran mash any more often than once a week.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Apple Cider Vinegar For Your Horses' Health

I began researching and getting into natural products in the early 90's. I found out back then that apple cider vinegar has a countless number of great uses for home and health.

I recently found an awesome website on apple cider vinegar, in particular this page that is loaded with uses for your horses' health! You can use apple cider vinegar for everything from a cooling linament, a nutritional supplement, a hoof care product, a cure for some skin conditions, a natural fly spray and more!

This page is definitely worth checking out! You will be amazed at what all you can do with apple cider vinegar and SAFELY! with no dangerous chemicals!

Treat Recipe: Hor-Sa-Mores

I've had a request for recipes (thanks Amelia!), so I'll be searching through all of my old papers and books and post some recipes for treats and mash as well as natural products and remedies.

Your horse will definitely ask for "sa-more" of these delicious and healthy treats! You may even want to eat some yourself. Go ahead! Have one! They're yummy and safe for you to eat, too! :D

2 cups Quaker Oats (or any rolled oats)
3/4 cup of unsweetened apple juice (if you don't have apple juice, substitute applesauce!)
2 medium apples, diced
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup of raw, shelled sunflower seeds (Sidenote: NEVER substitute peanuts. Horses can't digest them.)
2 Tablespoons of honey or molasses
1 cup of wheat bran (can use rice bran)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.

Using a tablespoon, drop balls of "dough" onto an ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely before giving to your horse and place the rest in an airtight container for storage. (I keep them in the fridge)

HANDY TIP: You can also wrap this dough in plastic wrap (like Saran Wrap), roll it on the counter until it's in a roll like refrigerated cookie dough and partially freeze it. It will be so easy to cut into "cookies"!

Treat Recipe: "Nicker"doodles

Here's an easy recipe for yummy horse cookies. It doesn't take much time and you probably have all of the necessary ingredients in your kitchen!

3 cups of Quaker Oats (the original, long-cooking kind is the best, but you can use the instant or 1 minute kind if that's all you have)
1 large carrot, shredded (can substitute 1 large apple, diced)
1/2 cup of applesauce
1/4 cup of honey
1/4 cup of oil

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium bowl, blend together the applesauce, honey and oil and set it aside.

In a large bowl, mix the oats and shredded carrot (or apple) together. Fold in the applesauce, honey and oil mixture and continue stirring until it is all blended well together.

Roll into small cookies or balls, about 1 inch in diameter. (If too sticky, add a few more oats. If too dry to stick together, add just a little more oil.)

Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 325 degrees for 10 - 12 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool completely before giving to your horse. Place remaining cooled cookies in a ziplock plastic bag for storage.

I know we all want to spoil our babies but remember that too much sugar is really bad for a horse. A couple of these treats a day is plenty and they'll love it! :D

HANDY TIP: If this is too sticky and messy to roll it with your hands, try this: Put the dough in a large sheet of plastic wrap (like Saran Wrap), roll it up tightly. Using both hands, press lightly and roll it on your counter top, into a roll (like refrigerated cookie dough) and then partially freeze it! It will cut off so easily!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

How do you stop a horse from bolting their feed?

"Bolting" of feed means the horse is eating their grain much too fast. Bolting increases the chance that the feed won't be properly chewed and digested, (which can mean the horse won't be getting all of the nutrients from their feed) and it's unnerving and frustrating because of the danger that it may cause choking or colic.

There are many different reasons why a horse may bolt their feed. The most common reason is competition with barn or pasture mates (or a horse that has had to compete for their feed in the past). Help your horse relax by making sure they don't have to fight to eat and that they're not stealing one anothers' food. Separate horses at feeding time and make sure each one has their own feeding dish.

If you've done that and they're still eating too fast, there are several other things you can do to make them slow down and enjoy their feed a little longer:
  1. Place a few smooth stones in their feed dish so they have to nudge around the stones to get the grain (Make sure the stones don't have any sharp or pointed edges that the horse will poke themselves with and that the stones are large enough so the horse doesn't pick them up in their mouth. Remember that you want eating to be a pleasurable experience for the horse and the object is just to slow the horse down by making them nudge around the stones to get to the grain, not to make them put the stones in their mouth). If done correctly, this is a very safe and effective technique.
  2. In a solid feed rack, (not a slatted one) scatter the grain on top of their hay ration;
  3. Put their grain in a deep feeding dish and then cover with chaff or hayledge (a finely chopped hay product) or some hay cubes.
Using any one of these techniques is a minor change in your feeding routine and your horse will be healthier (and safer) because of it!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

At what age should a horse first be ridden?

How young is "too young to ride" is often a heated debate among horse people. My opinion is just one of many but I hope that you'll take the time to research some things (don't just take my word for it) before you form your own opinion of when you should begin riding a horse.

Many people are under the impression that it's okay to begin riding a horse at 2 years old. When I'm talking to people with this belief, the next sentence that follows (without fail) is: "they run racehorses at 2 years old". And I might as well go ahead and say it: This must be one of my #1 pet peeves when it comes to horses.

What many people don't realize is that yes, racehorses are ridden at 2 (often at 1 yr old) BUT racehorses are usually retired by 6 or 7 years of age. Many are retired before that. The most sickening part is that many are permanently lamed and many have to be euthanized (put to sleep) by the age of 2, 3 or 4. I wonder how many yearlings are injured while in training and euthanized before they ever make it to the racetrack that we will never hear of?

If a horse survives the training for racing, and lives long enough to be retired, almost every one has arthritis and joint problems from being ridden so hard at such a young age and are no longer rideable after racing. To me, it's a sad, sad thing to see a horses life ruined at such a young age as 6 or 7, just to "entertain" and make money for people.

Before you begin riding a horse, please consider that a horses skeletal system is not matured until they are around 4 years old, (some breeds take even longer to mature). Their bones are simply not fully formed, not strong enough and not designed to carry a persons weight at 2 years old. Riding a horse too early causes all kinds of joint problems.   Update 8/31/2016:  Please read this article:   TIMING AND RATE OF SKELETAL MATURATION IN HORSES, With Comments on Starting Young Horses and the State of the Industry

If you want to do what's best for your horse and help to lengthen their lives, it's best to begin "light riding" (such as in the ring or on easy trail rides) when the horse is around 3 years old, and no "hard" riding (such as galloping with a rider) until 4 years old or more. I know some people who do absolutely no hard riding until the horse is 5 or 6 years old.

There is lots of ground training that needs to be done and many ways you can spend time with and enjoy your young horse while waiting on them to get old enough to ride. And it's worth the wait. Think of the long run: If you are patient and allow your horses' bones the time to grow and mature, you can have a strong, healthy riding partner that can happily carry you well up into their twenties. 

UPDATED NOTE 8/31/2016:   

I know this is a subject that generates a lot of passion from horse owners and trainers.  
I BESEECH YOU to read this informative article by Deb Bennett, Ph. D.

TIMING AND RATE OF SKELETAL MATURATION IN HORSES, With Comments on Starting Young Horses and the State of the Industry

How old is a foal before it can walk?

A foal will begin to try to stand within just a few minutes of being born. They will be very wobbly and uncoordinated but should be able to stand on their own in about 1 hour. (If they are not standing on their own within about 2 hours, you should consult with your vet.)

By 3 hours old, they should be standing on their own and nursing from mama. :D

Incredible, huh?

How often does a mare go into heat?

Mares are notorious for having inconsistant heat cycles, especially young fillies and mares over the age of 15.

A mare is normally IN heat about a week and OUT of heat for about 2 weeks (14-16 days)

Typically, a mare is in heat (also called "in season") for 4 to 8 days at a time, depending on the time of year and whether or not a stallion is present. "Teasing" by a stallions' presence can bring a mare into heat within a couple of weeks.

In the late winter or early spring, a mare may be in heat the full 8 days while in mid-summer through winter only about 4 days, so how many times per year she is in heat can vary greatly.

What age should you wean a foal?

It is best to wait until a foal is at least 6 months of age before weaning. Weaning a foal anytime before that can result in many problems, not just nutritional but psychological as well.

Of course, all mares and foals differ. Most foals will begin to lose interest on their own but if a foal continues to want to nurse, (and the mare allows it), it is completely understandable for a foal to nurse up to 8 months old.

In the wild, mustang mares will often allow their foal to nurse up to 1 year old, or about 2 weeks before she gives birth to her next foal.

In domesticated horses, where people have some control, it's best to not allow a foal to nurse over the age of 8 months due to concerns about the mares health and well being.

How can you tell when a mare will give birth?

The mares udder will begin to get bigger about 3 weeks before she gives birth. It will begin to swell at night and get smaller during the day.

Usually, the udder will stay full and large on the day before she gives birth. Colostrum may drip from the teats. The colostrum will dry and form what looks like wax over her teats, which is where the term 'waxing' comes from. Waxing normally means that the mare will deliver her foal within 24 hours but its not uncommon for waxing to occur 2 to 3 days before the mare gives birth.

When the little drops of wax fall off of the teats, milk will usually drip out and that normally means the foal will be born within 8 to 12 hours.

Notice I often use the words 'normally' and 'usually'? Well, that's because pregnant mares are much like pregnant women. When it comes to pregnancy, there is nothing written in stone! All horses are different, so your little foal can choose to make his or her dramatic appearance earlier or later. (Maybe they like the attention and like to keep us on our toes!)

I know horses have been giving birth for centures without our help but since we can have some measure of control in our domesticated horses, keep a close eye on your pregnant mare when it's close to her delivery time and have the vets' phone number handy or on speed dial. Most deliveries go perfectly fine but why not be safe instead of sorry and use the assistance (if it's needed) to ensure a healthy mom and baby?

How long is a horse pregnant?

The period of gestation is the time starting when a baby is conceived in the womb until it is born.

A horses' gestation period is roughly 11 months (or 340 days). Of course, a pregnant mare is never that predictable :D so a range of 320 to 370 days is considered fairly normal.

What does it mean to float a horses' teeth?

In domesticated horses, it is very common for their teeth to wear unevenly and develop sharp points and sharp edges that can cut into their jaws or tongue. As you can imagine, this can make it very difficult and painful for a horse to eat. Also, when they can't chew properly, their food is not digested properly and a horse can very quickly loose weight and look in poor or sick condition, no matter how much food they're getting.

Floating a horses teeth is a term that means the vet or equine dentist takes a long handled rasp and files off any sharp points and edges on the horses teeth.

Eeek! Sounds painful, huh? I thought so, too. (The first time I saw a horses' teeth floated, I cried! Yes, I am a sap :D But every vet and equine dentist I've talked to and everything I've read says that this procedure is not painful to the horse because the sensitive nerves are located so deep within the tooth. (And horses' teeth are very long, some teeth are up to 4 inches!)

Although I may never be 100% totally convinced it's not painful, it probably is true. Whether it's true or not, I do believe a good equine dentist can make it comfortable (or at least tolerable) for the horse and let's face the facts: nobody (especially us humans) likes the dentist but it's something that we just have to do.

Like people, a horse should have regular dental checkups and if your horse looses some weight and you don't know why and/or drops a lot of grain from their mouth while eating, it is a pretty good sign that they need their teeth checked. I believe word of mouth is the best advertising so ask around with other horse people you know and find a good equine dentist or vet to take care of your horses' teeth.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

How many teeth does a horse have?

Foals begin to grow teeth within their first week.

By one year old, they have a complete set of 24 temporary or baby teeth (called deciduous teeth)

By age 5, the adult horse has a complete set of permanent teeth:
Female horses have 40 permanent teeth
Male horses have 42 permanent teeth (the male has 2 canine teeth that the female does not have)

Friday, July 11, 2008

What does it mean when a horse won't eat?

Horses bodies are designed to be almost continual grazers. If given the opportunity, they will naturally graze about 22 hours out of every 24 hour period, so it's perfectly normal if you see your horse dozing for 30 minutes to an hour, a couple of times per day and not eating. However, if the horse doesn't graze on grass or hay for more than a couple of hours, it's an indication to take notice and check your horse out.

If you offer your horse a favorite treat or offer them some grain and they refuse to eat it, it is a SURE SIGN that something is wrong. It's what is referred to as "going off their feed" and a vet should be called. If you tell the vet on the phone that your horse is "off their feed", most vets will get out there quite soon because they realize the importance of it.

Unfortunately, there are so many different things it could be that this question cannot be answered here. It's one of those situations with horses that a veterinarian must diagnose.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What is laminitis?

Many books & websites make laminitis and founder very confusing. I'll do my best to relay what I know as simple as possible because I know the frustration of trying to find accurate information. Out of all the texts I've read on laminitis, I don't think I've found two vet manuals that say the same thing! Every one contradicts the other ones. I can only pass on what I've seen work and what I believe works.

The greatest information I have learned has come from books on natural hoof care and being around a few foundered horses myself. Laminitis is a complicated issue and I'm not going to try to make it sound like I have all the answers. I don't. I know some basics about what causes it, what the signs are, how to treat it and how to try to prevent it. (If more information is gathered, I will modify this post, so check back occassionally).

In very simple terms, laminitis is inflammation of the laminae. Laminae are thin layers of tissue within the hoof wall. These thin layers of laminae contain a lot of vessels and tiny capillaries that carry blood into the hoof. Different layers of laminae have different purposes but one of the main functions is that these layers are what attach the hoof to the bone. When this laminae gets inflamed, just the weight of the horse on the hooves or walking can damage or tear the laminae, which can cause all kinds of horrible things. I'm not trying to scare you, I'm just stating fact.

If a horse founders, they can suffer all kinds of pain and damage to the hoof from very mild to very severe. In mild cases, the horse may have hoof related problems that seem to be a total mystery. They may be able to be ridden but never fully sound. In acute or severe cases, the hoof can grow into grotesque deformities, the hoof wall can pull away from and separate from the coffin bone, the hoof can rotate and the coffin bone can puncture through the bottom of the hoof, the hoof can separate from the coronary band and in severe cases, the hoof can actually come off. (!) In between "mild" and "severe" are all levels of damage, none of which are good. Of course you want your horse to be sound and healthy so please take founder and laminitis seriously.

Laminitis can be brought on by many things but the most common cause is eating too many carbohydrates, (basically meaning too much sugar), which can come from:
  1. Too much sugar in whatever you're feeding,
  2. Too much of the too-sweet-feed eaten all at one time (gorging), or
  3. There being too much sugar in the grass they're eating.
Okay, brace yourself because I'm probably going to insult you. (Someone who works for a feed manufacturer will probably have their very own Melanie voodoo doll that they regularly throw against the wall or run over with their car but Hey! this is important enough that I feel like I have to say it anyway) Are you ready? Here goes: Please don't give your horses sweet feed! Ok. Go ahead. Get mad. I did when I first found out that sweet feed was bad for horses. I had always fed sweet feed. I loved the way it looked when I opened a new bag. I loved the way it felt when I ran my hands through it. I loved the way it smelled. I liked giving it to horses because everything about it looked and smelled delicious! and the horse was going to love it and love me for giving it to them. The horses did love it! Well of course they did! It was loaded with molasses! Now, come back down to earth with me. Just because they love it doesn't mean it's good for them. Think about this: If given a choice, how many kids would choose a bowl of unsweetened oatmeal over a bowl of Cocoa Puffs? Or a bowl of crumbled up cookies and milk? Right! None! It's the same thing with horses. Their natural diet does not include sugar, but just like humans, they develop a "sweet tooth" and a taste for sugar. You can't blame them for that...we do it to ourselves and we do it to them.

Once you have time to think it over, please consider switching your horses from sweet feed to a more natural feed that contains no added sugar. I first read about this in Pete Ramey's book, "Making Natural Hoof Care Work For You." Then I saw (with my own eyes), over 25 horses switched from eating sweet feed every day (for years) to eating plain, whole oats. At first, the horses weren't sure about it but trust a very short time, they were very happily and quickly munching on those oats just as readily as they did the sweet feed and raising their heads with ears perked, begging for more! What's much more important however, is that in a matter of a few months, I saw physical improvements, (in coat, skin, body composition and hooves), in every single horse!

While on the subject of too much sugar, it's important to know that a horse doesn't need to steal his barn buddies food or break into your grain storage area in order to overeat carbohydrates, although that certainly happens quite often. A horse can founder on too much alfalfa hay and can (easily) founder from grazing in a pasture of any lush green grass, especially clover and/or alfalfa and especially in the springtime. In fact, the majority of founder cases occur in the spring. New grass in the spring contains a lot more sugar than it does during the rest of the year and when the grass is wet and covered with frost in the mornings, the danger of founder is much higher.

In the wild, horses move about 20 miles a day and graze continually on what is usually sparse, dry grasses. This is what is normal and healthiest for them. So, if you have lush green pastures, what do you do?
  1. Limit the time your horse can graze on green pastures to a few hours a day. (Don't confine them to a stall! A dirt (or mostly dirt) paddock or corral with some quality grass hay is much better. A horse must move in order to have healthy feet. More on that will be covered in a future post)
  2. If you absolutely cannot limit their grazing time in green pastures, consider buying a grazing muzzle, one that will breakaway if they get it caught in a hoof, fence post or tree branch, etc.
  3. In the spring, don't turn your horses out to the pastures until mid or late morning, after the sun has burned off the frost.
Regardless of what the "experts" disagree on, most agree on this one bottom line: sugar is poisonous to a horses' system. The closer you can get your horses diet and environment back to the natural model, the sounder, healither and happier your horse will be.

Now, this doesn't mean that you absolutely cannot give your horse any sweet treats. You can. Give treats in moderation and use common sense. Give carrots instead of sugar cubes. Try some fresh fruit instead of peppermints. Experiment. Think about it. Just like you and I know that we should eat more fruit and not chocolate bars every single day, it's the same with our horses. Just like we try to give our kids healthy food, let's control what our horses eat and do what's best for them. I think you will be extremely pleased with the positive change in your horse and you will be reducing their risk of founder and laminitis tremendously!

Other causes of founder/laminitis include running a horse on paved or gravel roads, (called road founder), an extremely hot horse being allowed to drink a lot of cold water, various types of infections that go untreated and mares that don't expel all of the placenta when giving birth, which results in toxins going into the bloodstream.

Since the majority of founder cases are a result of what the horse eats, you may ask, how does something that goes into a horses' stomach affect their feet? Good question! Most of what I've studied pretty much agree on the overload of carbohydrates, creating an imbalance of the good and bad bacteria in the stomach and intestines, which creates an overload of lactic acid and toxins and then those toxins go into the bloodstream, where they create all sorts of havoc. I've seen texts that state that there is too much blood pumped into the laminae and some say that too little blood is pumped into the laminae. I tend to believe the latter.

Here's one thing for sure: one of the first signs that a horse is foundering will be increased blood flow into the hoof itself. You can tell if this is happening by wrapping or pressing your fingers into the digital artery that goes down the back of the fetlock. In a resting horse (one that has not been recently exercised), you should not be able to feel a pulse in that artery. If you feel a thumping pulse at the back of the fetlock, what you are feeling is a lot of blood pounding into the hoof. I believe that the blood is flowing so hard and fast that it fills the arteries but bypasses the tiny capillaries that feed blood into the laminae, which are then starved of blood and oxygen. Since the hooves are flooded with blood, they get hot and eventually very painful. This is inflammation.

Other signs of founder include:
  1. A sure sign is the typical "founder stance". Founder/laminitis normally occurs in the front feet but can affect the hind feet as well. In an effort to get the pressure off of the front feet, the horse will stand in an awkward position that looks something like they're squatting or stretching. The front feet are normally further out in front of the horse than usual. They lean back and sometimes the toes of the front feet may be slightly off the ground. They're basically trying to put their weight on the back feet because the front feet are so very painful
  2. The horse continually shifts their weight from one foot to another or lifts one foot after another, trying to escape the pain.
  3. In more severe cases, the horse may breathe heavily, have a rapid pulse, sweat, and/or have a fever and chills and may even lie down, however,
  4. I've seen horses founder that had no symptoms other than a barely detectable founder stance and they walk very slowly and gingerly, as if tiptoeing. I've seen them founder and still perform their duties almost as if they are just used to always dealing with some measure of pain and they work through it. If they do this, it will surely get worse and not better if their diet and environment doesn't change and they don't get medical attention.
If you think your horse is foundering,
  1. Get it out of the grass pasture,
  2. Allow no grain feed,
  3. Have plenty of fresh water available
  4. Call the vet immediately!
If caught soon enough, the vet can do several things that can help lower the chance of acute founder and hoof damage. The vet may administer a laxative to get the grain to rapidly pass through and/or administer some medications.

Once the initial attack is over:
  1. Put the horse in a dirt paddock or corral with a friend (not a stall because movement is crucial to healing)
  2. Provide plenty of fresh water
  3. Allow only grass hay
  4. Call your farrier
From this point on, what you can do is change the horses' diet and environment. What your farrier can do are natural trimming methods that can completely and totally rehabilitate your horse, which should include light (natural) trims every 2 or 3 weeks. I cannot stress enough how firmly I believe in natural hoof care. Read the book "Founder" by Jaime Jackson, or "Making Natural Hoof Care Work For You" by Pete Ramey. It will totally transform the way you care for your horse and you will never look at or treat hooves the same way again.

Visit some natural hoof care websites such as or the website of the American Association of Natural Hoof Care Practitioners (AANHCP) at
and find yourself a good farrier who is trained in natural hoof care practices. I believe with all of my heart that your horses' health and well being relies on it.

What is founder?

I know it can be confusing but basically, founder means the same thing as laminitis. You'll hear different terms like road founder and grass founder, all of which can cause founder but they all result in laminitis.

Makes you wanna say: "Well then, why don't they just say laminitis?" I guess it's because the word founder has been around since the 1300's and was a general term used to describe when a horse was sick or the hooves were affected, (which people still do), while the term laminitis has only been around since the mid 1800's when laminitis was first discovered.

Some definitions of the word founder are: to sink or to wreck or to fail utterly.

A ship that has sunk or wrecked is said to have foundered and a horse that suffers from an attack of laminitis is said to have foundered. That's a pretty good analogy since the hooves are a horses' foundation and if that foundation is damaged, the horse is, indeed, sunk or wrecked.

The good news is that more information is being discovered about laminitis every year. As the condition is more understood, so discovered are ways to prevent it. It's also now known that founder or laminitis doesn't necessarily mean permanent lameness. In fact, the opposite is true: more and more laminitic horses are being rehabilitated and healed every year through Natural Hoof Care. (See links to the left to the websites of Jaime Jackson and Pete Ramey)

In my next article, we'll talk more about laminitis: it's causes, treatment and what you can do to help prevent it.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Exactly what is Coggins?

Coggins is actually just the name of a test that is performed on horses. The name comes from the veterinarian who invented the test in the 1970's, Dr. Leroy Coggins.

The test screens the blood of a horse to determine if the horse has the virus that causes Equine Infectious Anemia or EIA. EIA is also known as Swamp Fever because it is common in hot, muggy environments.

There is no cure for EIA. It is contagious and can be fatal. The death rate is estimated to be 30% to 50% of horses who are infected with the virus. (That means about 50% to 70% survive the disease). If the horse survives, they will continue to be a carrier of the disease for the rest of their lives and therefore a danger and a threat to any other horses that they come in contact with. This is why many states require mandatory Coggins tests before a horse can be brought across state lines and why so many horse professionals, breeders, etc. require a negative Coggins test before a horse is bought, sold, moved into a new barn, allowed to enter a horse show or other event, auction, etc. Laws vary from state to state on when a horse has been exposed. Some states say a horse has been exposed to an infected horse if within 200 yards and some say within 3 miles! That should be a good indicator of how contagious the disease may be and how fearful horse owners and professionals are of the disease being spread.

There are three stages of the disease: acute, chronic and carrier (or "inapparent", meaning the horse shows no signs of the disease).

In the acute and chronic stages of EIA, the symptoms are:

  1. High fever (105 - 108 degrees)
  2. Weakness and lethargy
  3. Refuses food
  4. Weight loss
  5. Irregular heartbeat
  6. Swelling in the chest, stomach or legs.

EIA is transmitted by biting insects such as horseflies and deerflies but can also be transmitted by using contaminated needles or veterinary and dental equipment. That should not be much of a concern since veterinarians and equine dentists are aware of this danger and I'm sure all (or at least most) are sure to sterilize their equipment after each horse is treated. (However, if you have any doubts, never be afraid to ask your vet or equine dentist).

Because of the danger and infectious nature of EIA, it is highly recommended that any horse that tests positive for EIA be immediatly put down (euthanized). Always ask the vet for an immediate recheck if you get a postive result from the Coggins test. (This is common and expected). The only other option is lifetime quarantine which wouldn't be much of a life for a horse since they are herd animals and not a guarantee that the horse wouldn't infect other horses. After all, flies will continue to feed on the EIA postive horse and will travel to other areas.

The things you can do to help prevent the spread of EIA is:

  1. Always ask for a recent Coggins test (no more than 30 days old) on any horse you buy or adopt.
  2. If they don't have a recent Coggins test, keep them quarantined until you can get one! (Do not take them around any other horses or other equines (donkeys, mules, etc.) until you can get them tested)
  3. Get a Coggins test on all of your horses annually.
  4. Limit the chance that your horse will be exposed to the disease - Don't take your horse to any event unless you know for certain that event requires a negative Coggins test for all entrants.
  5. Separate and quarantine any sick horse that shows the possible signs of EIA and call the vet.
  6. Never share needles between horses. Always safely dispose of needles after each use.
  7. Do what you can to keep the fly population down: keep the horses area as clean and free of manure as is reasonably possible; use fly repellents, sprays, fly traps, etc.
  8. Follow state laws regarding Coggins testing. For information on state laws, you can call the U.S. Department of Agriculture at 1-800-545-8732 or check out this website for a list of all states: (you will be able to click on your state):

There is no vaccine that will prevent EIA. The good news is that because of strict laws regarding Coggins tests and the efforts of conscientious horse owners, EIA is rare in the United States.

Friday, July 4, 2008

How good is a horses' vision?

Horses have both incredible vision and limited vision:

Because horses have always been "the hunted" and not "the hunter", the prey and not a predator, their wide set eyes positioned on each side of their head are designed for a very wide range of vision that can tune in to the slightest flutter of movement across long distances. This is a necessary ability in order to avoid predators such as wolves, coyotes or cougars. No one is certain how far away a horse can see but it has been estimated at approximately a quarter of a mile!

Around their body, the horses field of vision is almost 360 degrees. Their two blind spots are directly in front of them (about 10 degrees) and directly behind them (about 10 degrees).

Those soft, curious eyes are twice as big as ours and what's even more amazing is that their eyes are larger than the eyes of both whales and elephants! They have one of the largest eyes in the animal kingdom. A layer in the eye called the tapetum lucidum greatly intensifies light and reflects that light back on to their retina, which make horses well equipped to see in the dark, much like a nocturnal animal. (It's also why a horses' eyes get that eerie green glow if you shine a flashlight towards them in the dark). To appreciate their night vision, consider this: when the electricity goes out, you and I may slowly grope and feel our way through the blackness of our house that we're very familiar with (and still do a flying squirrel maneuver over the coffee table!), while a horse can run a winding trail at night, weaving its way through trees with little to no difficulty.

This ability to see long and wide also causes some limitations. They don't see objects up close very well, especially right under their muzzle. That's why you'll see a horse often bump their nose and get startled at something (because they didn't know it was there!) or nip, nudge and feel around for your hand when you offer them a treat because they can't see it.

The wide set eyes also mean that the horse doesn't see details up close or have the depth perception that you and I are accustomed to. Things they see appear to be flat. To get a good idea of what this is like, cover one of your eyes with a hand and then try walking or running. It will give you a whole new appreciation for the horses various athletic abilities!

While facing forward, a horses vision is best from about 6 feet away and beyond. In jumping events the rider is putting a lot of faith in the horse and vice versa: the horse is really putting a lot of faith into their rider because the closer a horse gets, they can't actually see the jump! If they see it at all, it is not clear. They are basically jumping blind. How much more we should respect these magnificent animals for their willingness to do something so dangerous and uncertain, just to please us.

Why do some geldings act like stallions?

When a gelding continues to act like a stallion (or stud), such as sniffing or mounting mares, squealing, kicking and fighting, they're referred to as "proud cut".

It is a popular belief that both testicles were not removed when the horse was gelded. This is certainly possible but not common. A vet would be able to verify this for you. A male horse that still has one testicle left is often referred to as a "jig".

If the horse still has one testicle left, that one testicle will continue to produce testosterone, which would certainly explain his behavior.

There is another possible explanation. The adrenal glands produce a small amount of testosterone as well, so it's also possible that the horse has overactive (called hyperactive) adrenal glands. A vet should be able to advise you on what you should do.

Sometimes this behavior is simply because the colt was gelded after puberty. When a colt is gelded after 1- 1/2 to 2 years old, (especially if they were allowed to breed during that time), they often continue to act like a stallion. In short, they "didn't get the memo" that they are no longer a "stud". :D

What age should you geld (or cut) a stud colt?

It is possible to geld a stud colt shortly after birth but that is not popular nor recommended.

Normally, colts are gelded between 6 months and 2 years of age.

Some colts will begin showing stallion traits at an early age and begin harassing mares or generally making a nuisance of themselves by 6 to 8 months of age. Other colts may not show any signs of wanting to mate until 2 years old.

It's basically a personal choice that depends on your philosophy regarding horse care and training, what you want out of your horse or what you plan to do with them, the individual horses physical and emotional condition, the laws of your state regarding stallions or rules of your boarding facility (if they're boarded), etc.

Whenever you geld your colt, be sure to ask your vet about a tetanus vaccine or booster.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

RECIPE: Homemade Fly Spray


By far, my favorite commercial fly spray is the Eqyss' natural Marigold. It works quite well, smells fantastic! and it's all natural - safe for your horse - and you! (I spray it on my hat and on my bare legs and biting flies and gnats buzz off!) However, at around $20 bucks a bottle, (that I can go through in a week or so), unless I hit the million dollar lotto or Oprah decides to share the wealth with me, I just cannot justify spending that much cash on pesky varmints like flies and gnats. There must be a better way!

I'm all in favor of homemade fly sprays. They can work just as efficiently (or close) but the best part is they can be much safer than most commercial fly sprays (if you use common sense) and as a big added bonus: they can save you a lot of money!

There are dozens of recipes for homemade fly spray on the internet. Some are good, some not so good and some are just downright toxic and dangerous. I've seen and heard of unbelievable things people put on their horses. NEVER use things like Raid Insect Killer on your horse or harsh detergents like Pine Sol. These are just not safe. While they may not hurt your horse immediately, many are poison to their bodies and will have negative effects on your horses health. Some can cause cancer or other diseases and can affect internal organs, which can shorten the lifespan of your horse. Many affect the neurological system - in simpler terms, they can damage your horses brain and/or thought processes. They are just not worth the risk.
When making homemade fly spray, if the recipe calls for citronella oil, you MUST BUY 100% PURE citronella oil. Check health food stores or online. DO NOT use the citronella oil you find at department stores or home improvement stores that goes into bug lanterns, tiki torches and other products for outdoor pest control! It's petroleum based and it's a fuel meant for burning. Not only is it flammable and will absorb the heat from the sun, which will burn your horses skin, it is toxic to the body.

Please read labels on the ingredients you're going to use when making homemade recipes. If the label on any product has warnings about being poisonous to humans and animals, then please - don't put it in your fly spray or on your horses' skin! Whatever goes on the skin goes directly into the bloodstream. Skin is the biggest organ of the body and the skin absorbs whatever is on it. (This is why nicotine patches and birth control patches work) Toxic chemicals may not kill them or make them sick immediately but that doesn't mean its not hurting them, (or you when you breathe it in or get it on your skin)

Here is a basic recipe for a safe, homemade fly spray that I'm currently using (and you can use it on yourself, too!) I've played around with the measurements on this one and what I've listed below WORKS!! I been using this recipe for a couple of months and I just recently noticed another exciting benefit: I haven't seen one single bot egg on my horses' body this summer! Not one! I think that's amazing!

In a clean, empty spray bottle, (mine is 28oz.) mix together:

  1. 4 ounces of Avons' Skin So Soft Original Bath Oil

  2. 1 cup of vinegar (either white or apple cider vinegar will work)

  3. 30 -40 drops of 100% pure citronella essential oil

  4. Fill the bottle the rest of the way up with water

Shake well each time before applying it to your horse and since the oil will quickly separate, it's best to shake periodically while using it, to keep it well mixed.
I spray this on the horses twice a day - morning and evening and it works!

If it's not strong enough, slightly increase the Skin So Soft and add 10 more drops of citronella.

Flies, gnats and ticks hate the smell of the Skin So Soft. We know they hate citronella and apparently, the vinegar is not their favorite smell either (Vinegar also kills germs and bacteria and can help prevent and treat many bacterial skin conditions such as rain rot)

This fly spray is better and safer than the store bought varieties that have all of the "danger" and "poisonous" warnings and cheaper, too!

If you'd like to see a larger assortment of recipes to choose from, check out this website:
Please feel free to email me your horse questions and I'll do my best to answer them or at least point you to someone or someplace that can. (Scroll down to the "About Me" section and click on "View my complete profile" to send me an email) I look forward to hearing from you! ~Melanie