*High Croup

Chronic back soreness usually is caused by some sort of a chronic problem, such as a badly fitting saddle or a postural defect. If your training and other maintenance therapy is good, and you're solving the saddle problem, but your horse is still sore after rest, a postural defect is a probable cause.

Postural defects are not usually conformational. Your horse may look as though it has low withers and a high croup, which could make your saddle bridge--displacing your weight unevenly at the front and back of the saddle. The posture of a croup-high horse can be modified quite dramatically by using the mechanisms that influence posture, such as shoeing, dentistry balance, saddle fit, and training.

How your horse places its feet to support itself has to do with shoeing. Each weight-bearing surface of the shoe or foot needs to be balanced beneath the center of the coffin joint's rotation. That usually means setting the shoes and breakover--the point where the hoof rolls forward and lifts from the ground--back from the toe and making sure the toes aren't left too long. You don't want your horse to lean over its toes then pull itself back using back muscles and hind legs.

Your horse must be able to lengthen its back muscles when standing, eating, or resting. Watch your horse while standing. Are the hind legs out behind its body? Is the head up and back hollowed while eating or just standing around in the stall or pasture? Standing "goat-on-a-rock" will shorten back muscles. Your horse can't loosen or strengthen them in training if they don't lengthen even when relaxing at home.

Your horses body receives information from its balance mechanisms-- jaw and nervous system. Find a veterinarian who understands performance dentistry. If your horse has an overbite or parrot mouth, it needs to be addressed because problems affecting the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) are connected to its ability to lengthen its back.

If the horse has an overbite, a parrot mouth, or hooks or ramps in the back of its mouth, it'll have less forward movement of jaw. If the lower jaw can't swing forward a couple of millimeters, its nervous system receives information that the head is up and the back muscles should be tight all the time. There's no way it can loosen the back muscles with this false information.

A withers-low/croup-high horse could have a chronic chiropractic imbalance that could be causing it to lean forward and collapse the shoulders and withers. This "low front" makes saddle fit difficult because the saddle slides forward and won't allow the horse to rise in a canter. Your horse won't lift it's front legs forward and rotate the shoulder blades back if your saddle runs into them.

Correct your horses postural defect before you do the final fitting of your saddle, because it may fit differently after its posture is corrected. Your horses basic frame won't change too much, but the topline can change completely. Certainly the flocking will change a great deal, and even the tree itself might need to be different if your horse's body changes.

Butazolidin certainly can help to stop pain and allow your horse to relax, but it isn't a cure for the problem. It'll allow pain relief if turned out and gets to eat grass, but it doesn't solve the balance problem that caused it. And, the Butazolidin won't help the horses back heal other than breaking the pain cycle. It may even slow the healing of damaged tissue: If it doesn't feel uncomfortable and continues to use the sore muscles inappropriately, it may damage them further.

In your training and exercises, avoid pulling the withers down more between shoulder blades. Have your horse stretch straightforward to the ground instead of using any head-between-the-legs stretches. You want the neck to stretch at the base, lengthen and still get to the ground.

Maintaining good postural management--biomechanical and neurologic balance--puts a horse like this within normal limits of use and allows it to be adaptable and flexible. Every horse's system has room for error, but if you put your horse at the limit of physical balance and then add the stress of an extra 100 pounds, a bad turn or a hole in the footing can push the horse past its limits and cause injury. But, if balanced, you can load the system and not even be close to the limit of what the horse can handle. There is probably no permanent damage unless the horse is tied up chronically or had a traumatic injury.

Once horses are comfortable, they become different animals. Their personalities change because they don't hurt anymore. Fix teeth, feet, saddle-fit, and training issues, and you often don't have anymore attitude problems. Results can be dramatic or they can take some time before a horse readjusts and comes into balance--old habits die hard sometimes due to spinal memory and expectations of both horse and rider.

*Parrot Mouth

Parrot mouth typically is a condition where a horse's upper and lower incisor teeth aren't in proper alignment (occlusion), with the upper teeth hanging out over the lower teeth. In reality, this is only part of the problem because the entire upper and lower jaws, including the incisors and 24 cheek teeth, are out of proper occlusal contact.

Parrot-mouth horses tend to develop abnormal wear patterns on their molar teeth that consist of hooks forming on the ends or front edges of the top teeth (upper dental arcade) and on the back edges of the bottom teeth (lower arcade). These abnormal wear patterns place stress on all the teeth within the dental arcade. This, in turn, can cause movement of the teeth, which can lead to such problems as the formation of spaces where food collects and causes tooth decay and gum (periodontal) disease. Teeth also can become loose and/or fall out.

This particularly impacts dressage horses when it comes to neck flexion. A horse has to be able to move its jaw forward and backward to change the position of its head. When the horse raises its head, the bottom jaw retracts backward maybe an eighth of an inch; when the horse flexes its neck and bends at the poll--as in collection--the bottom jaw has to come forward just a quarter of an inch. A horse that's developed dental hooks, however, can no longer move its bottom jaw because it's locked up. If the horse is asked to flex its neck, it can't do it, so the horse opens its mouth to unlock its jaw and make it possible to bend its neck. Riders tend to react to mouth gaping by fitting their horses with a noseband. Now if the horse doesn't bend--which is physically impossible--its jaw (temporomandibular joint) or the muscles in the back of its neck or in its back get sore, and the horse begins arching its neck in a peculiar way. Parrot-mouthed horses are the worst-case scenario of this.

Many horses develop hooks, but with regular floating you can minimize the problem. However, many horses never get their back teeth floated, because to do this they have to be sedated and full-mouth speculum inserted into their mouths to prop it open, so you can get to the hooks on the back teeth. If back hooks are left untreated, they get worse as the horse gets older. Most parrot-mouthed horses require dental care every 6 months to reduce the length of both the incisors (the upper and lower front teeth) as well as to correct any abnormal wear patterns of the cheek (back) teeth. Quite often this involves extensive dental correction to allow the horse to chew properly.

Have the horse evaluated by a veterinarian who has expertise in equine dentistry. He/she will need to sedate the horse and apply a full-mouth speculum to fully evaluate all the horse's teeth. A veterinarian can't diagnose every problem just by looking into the horse's mouth, so he may need to take a skull radiograph, or x-ray, to diagnose the horse's problem and plan treatment and correction. With proper, routine dental care most parrot-mouthed horses can provide many years of service. However, their dental problems do typically become worse with age and this often limits the length of their athletic careers.

A horse's teeth are constantly erupting, and grow approximately an eighth of an inch per year. In 2 years a hook can be 1/2-inch long; if left untreated, some hooks can grow to 1 1/2-inch long. In very young horses, if detected early, this problem can be surgically corrected. While there are no special bits designed for parrot-mouthed horses, once the horse's problems are under control, you can use any bit that works well.

*No heels on hooves & awkward stride

The best techniques for remedying horse's lack of heel will be discussed momentarly. Meanwhile, because the horses "awkward stride" might result from something other than poor trimming/shoeing, you might want to ask your veterinarian to observe your horse under saddle for signs of other problems.

Chances are that your horse has underrun heels. As the feet grew out, its hooves were allowed to "pull forward," aligning each hoof somewhat ahead of the leg, instead of under it where the hoof can best provide support; the angle between leg and hoof also is too acute. As well as interfering with the horse's way of going, this condition eventually strains tendons and can progress to more serious foot problems.

The first step in correcting underrun heels is to review your horse's shoeing schedule with your farrier. More frequent trimming and shoeing (every 5 or 6 weeks) will allow him to keep your horse's feet "backed up": trimmed so the support of the hoof stays under the leg, where it needs to be. If the heels still have some strength and integrity, more frequent regular care may be enough to correct the situation.

More severe cases involve "crushed" or "collapsed" heels that've become distorted as a result of bearing too much weight over time. In these cases, your farrier may use one of several methods aimed at relieving some of the weight burden on the affected area and giving the hoof wall a chance to regrow. To transfer some of the load from your horse's hoof walls to the bars, frog, and sole, your farrier may use such products as EquiBuild (which adheres to the sole, sealing out moisture and debris, while taking pressure off cracks and encouraging hoof-wall and sole growth); or Advance Cushion Equine Support (which provides arch support and prevents the heel from collapsing as it distributes the load over a larger surface area). Or he may use a heart-bar shoe or a frog-support pad to transfer some of the weight from wall to frog.

Along with more frequent shoeing (and therapeutic shoes if needed), your horse's environment is key to the health of its feet. Constant exposure to urine-dampened bedding can actually cause a stall-kept horse's feet to dry out. Overly dry hooves can become brittle and crack; pieces of the wall can break away. And if a crack is deep enough to involve sensitive tissues, the horse may become lame. A wet paddock can cause your horse's feet to absorb too much moisture and become more susceptible to damage from compression and concussion. A properly moisturized hoof has a smooth surface without horizontal ridges or vertical cracks; in healthy hooves, the heels aren't broken or split where they meet the ground. Keratex Hoof Hardener helps repair damaged or weakened hooves, helps prevent cracks, strengthens the heel, and improves the security of shoes. It benefits both wet and dry hooves if used without other preparations (which tend to hinder absorption

Many hoof-growth supplements are on the market, but your horse's individual nutritional needs are at least partly affected by where he lives and what's in his forage. Your state Department of Agriculture or the U.S. Department of Agriculture Extension Service (reachable through the nearest land-grant university) can help you find an equine-nutrition specialist familiar with your area.

*Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding is the gnashing of a horse's back teeth, which produces a grating noise. This is often a sign of resistance or anxiety. Horses with a tendency to grind their teeth often do so when pressured or when they become anxious about the work. Teeth grinding is mostly signs of nervousness, tenseness or resistance on the part of the horse. A break from the normal schedule can help some, but backiing off the work almost certainly will eliminate the behavior but does little to address the issues that may cause the behavior in the first place.

Teeth grinding is a resistance. It's subtle, however, in that the visible (or audible) manifestation is only the surface of the problem. It's a symptom of a much more serious problem. If teeth grinding develops from anxiety, then try to reduce the level of anxiety and make the horse more comfortable during work. A good method is to use a stretching circle to reduce tension and restore confidence. In this exercise, the horse should stretch its neck, loosen its back, and relax in the jaw, becoming more supple and freer in its gaits.

Ride the stretching circle in trocha or slow corto(adjust according to breed and style of riding) on a 20-meter circle. Begin with supple contact that's equal in both hands and forms a clear connection between your hands and the horse's mouth. You shouldn't be pulling on the reins, but should be holding them firmly enough that there's no slack. Your hands should follow the motion of your horse's head and neck.

Push your horse around the circle using your legs to maintain a regular rhythm. Ask for some bend on the circle with your inside leg at the girth. Keep just enough contact on the outside rein to keep your horse's shoulders from drifting out. Keep just enough contact on the inside rein to ask your horse to look slightly to the inside. Once the horse is describing the circle in a regular gait with bend, you're ready to ask for the stretching

Using your legs and seat to ensure that the horse remains forward and engaged, gently offer the reins to it by advancing your hands a little. Allow it to gradually take a bit more rein as reaching forward and down until traveling with head quite a bit lower in a soft, steady contact. Don't allow the reins to become loose or slack. Keep a steady feel of your horse's mouth, and continue to ask her to bend on the circle. Be careful not to allow your horse to pull the reins of your hands or to flatten its frame and fall on her forehand.

Your horse should reach down and stay round in neck, while maintaining a forward gait. If the horse merely rushes off and loses its balance, take up your reins again in a normal riding contact, and push forward into the bridle again. Then start the exercise once more. Allow your horse to make a circle or two until you can feel it relax and become more supple in its gaits. When you've achieved some relaxation and improved suppleness, again ride forward into the contact and return to whatever schooling exercise produced the anxiety or tension

It may take time to accustom your horse to a stretching-circle exercise, so take your time and for a few days just work on the stretching, especially if you've never done it in your schooling. Once your horse understands this exercise, one or two circles to reduce tension during schooling is usually enough. As your h orse progresses in its training, even a few steps of stretching in this manner can reduce anxiety or tension and help eliminate resistances, such as teeth grinding. When the anxiety passes, so will the teeth grinding and any other tension, and you can resume schooling.

This method offers more immediacy, allowing one to deal with the resistance while continuing with the schooling. In this way, you can progress through the resistance to productive training. Sometimes, of course, it seems as if there is more stretching than anything else--a few steps of shoulder-in, then a stretching circle, then back to a few more steps of shoulder-in. It's certainly a longer road, but considered a calmer and more productive road toward the upper levels, particularly with a horse that tends to be anxious and nervous.

This stretching-circle exercise also has other benefits. As the horse becomes accustomed to stretching and then coming back into a working contact, it will become increasingly supple over the topline. This improved suppleness will contribute to improved attention, capability and confidence in higher-level work. One can also use the stretching circle as a reward for a well-executed exercise. Horses seem to enjoy and relish this reward, which serves to reinforce the positive, calming influence of stretching.

*Clicking Noise when ridden & longed

The clicking noise is common, and it's not a cause for alarm. It's caused by the movement of ligaments at the joints. As the joint moves from flexion to extension and back, the ligaments--which are like super-elastic bands holding the joint together--shift position with a little click. The fetlock is the most common site, but it can be hard to track down the source of the sound. One can't always tell which leg it comes from. It may be more noticeable at other gaits such as the walk.

Lack of joint fluid isn't the cause, and the noise doesn't indicate any instability in the joint. If your horse develops joint problems, there will be other signs--lameness and/or heat, pain, and swelling. Without those signs, one can safely assume there is no problem. There isn't anything that can be done to stop the clicking, but it shouldn't be a cause for worry.

*Hernia worries

An umbilical (naval) hernia occurs when the body wall fails to close at the site of the umbilical cord, allowing abdominal contents to push out under the skin. Such hernias are usually painless, soft and small-admitting only one or two fingertips through the body wall-and generally close on their own before age two. Larger hernias, or those that show drainage, warrant veterinary attention.

Although there is some familial tendency to umbilical hernias, a small, innocent one should not stop one from breeding a filly with this problem. But as a rule, it is recommended that any physical abnormality be evaluated by an equine veterinarian before purchase

*Bladder Problems

An older maiden mares urine turns red after exercise. There are no signs of pain, & is normal in other aspects. There have been urine & bolld tests performed with nothing abnormal found, should more tests be done?

Problems of the bladder wall, such as a tumor, can discolor urine. If not done already, have the veterinarian do a rectal exam to see if the mare's bladder feels normal. If the discoloration appears to be blood, an endoscopic examination of the bladder wall may reveal a spontaneous bleeding point, also uncommon.

Most likely, however, the red color in the mare's urine is caused by the natural and harmless concentration of urochromes, the pigments that give urine its color, due to her slight dehydration following exercise. The mechanical mixing of any settled bladder sediments into the urine flow could also contribute to the discoloration you notice.

*Rain Rot(a)

"Rain rot" is a skin infection caused by the organism dermatophilus congolensis. It starts out as irregular bumps (usually on the back and rump, in some cases on the front and back of the cannon bones as well) that become scabby and raw, eventually resulting in loss of clumps of hair. A mild case may produce relatively few small bumps; in severe cases, there are large lesions.

Prolonged exposure to soaking rain, which weakens the skin's natural defenses, can predispose a horse (especially one with a heavy coat) to this problem; hence its common name. But excessive exposure to sun (which irritates and inflames skin), abrasion from causes such as too-close clipping, and overall physical or mental stress can also leave a horse vulnerable to the infection. (For reasons that aren't clear, chestnuts do seem more susceptible than other horses to a number of skin ailments, including rain rot.)

Rain rot will eventually clear up on its own, but one can hasten healing. Most over-the-counter remedies are ineffective; you need a shampoo containing benzyl peroxide (BP), available from a veterinarian, such as Pyoben™ (manufactured by Allerderm) or, for more severe cases, CytOxyl™ (from VetGenix).

Scrub the affected skin with the shampoo, working up a generous lather; then let the lather sit and soak in for 10 minutes. Rinse with clear water; then sponge with a mixture of 8 or 9 parts water to 1 part Nolvasan® Solution, which contains the disinfectant chlorhexidine. Allow the horse to "drip dry" without toweling.

Rain rot can be transmitted from horse to horse by direct contact, biting flies, and contaminated tack or grooming equipment, so guard the horse accordingly. For further protection, bring the horse inside during prolonged heavy rain, and prevent reinfection by washing saddle pads and blankets (you can add Nolvasan Solution to the rinse water) and disinfecting grooming tools (again, possibly using Nolvasan).

A horses shedding difficulty probably results from a different problem: an endocrine imbalance that causes abnormal hair growth, called hirsutism. A veterinarian can determine this with a blood test.


Rainrot is an unwelcome visitor in any barn. The painful skin infection is caused by the bacteria Dermatophilus congolensis, which normally reside in your horse's coat without consequence. However, under the right conditions-usually a period of humidity and rain-the organism multiplies and irritates the skin and hair follicles. In the early stages of infection, the horse's hair stands upright and his skin is warm and tender. As the condition progresses, the bacteria release toxins that "burn" the skin. The resulting scabbing is painful, smelly, unsightly and, in many cases, decidedly persistent.

There is no guaranteed cure for rainrot, but certain products and protocols are effective when they're used at a particular point in the infection's progression. The key is to identify which of the three stages you're dealing with and choose an appropriate remedy. Here are the signs of each phase, as well as recommendations for treatment.

MATERIALS The specific medications you choose for treating rainrot aren't nearly as important as using them at the most advantageous time. Keep the following items on hand and you'll be prepared to tackle the infection whenever you notice it: any antibacterial wash a bucket and sponge any greasy antibacterial ointment any greasy nonmedicated ointment plastic wrap antibiotics (optional; consult your veterinarian).

STAGE 1: EARLY INFECTION, NO SCABS In the first 24 hours, the horse's hair will stand up straight, particularly in a pattern that matches the route of water runoff over his back and hindquarters. The skin will be warm to the touch and very sensitive. *1. To halt the infection internally, administer injectable penicillin or an oral antibiotic. Consult with your veterinarian for the proper dose for your horse and the length of treatment. *2.To prevent scabs from forming, wash the horse's entire body with an antiseptic preparation such as Nolvasan, a chlorohexidine-based detergent, applied according to the directions on the label.

STAGE 2: ESTABLISHED INFECTION, A FEW SCABS The day after the bacteria have become established, painful scabs will begin to form around the individual hair follicles. The skin will still be warm to the touch. It's not too late for antibiotics, but you'll also need to treat the scabs. Resist the urge to pick them. It's painful for your horse and leads to scarring and white hairs when the coat grows back. 1. Wash your horse from forelock to fetlock with a disinfectant. If you use povidone iodine solution, apply it full strength after wetting your horse's skin. Rinse thoroughly. This will kill surface bacteria and stop scabs from forming. 2.When the hair is dry, apply a soothing antibacterial ointment to the scabs to loosen them and combat the infection. Ichthammol (used here) is perfect. So is iodine ointment.

STAGE 3: NO ACTIVE INFECTION, LOTS OF SCABS This phase is the most painful for your horse. You'll feel less heat coming from the skin. The bacteria no longer are multiplying and forming new scabs, but the existing plaques cling tightly to the hair. Your goal is to painlessly loosen them. 1. Apply a thick layer of a greasy ointment to the scabs. Vaseline or an aloe vera-based salve will do. 2.Cover the ointment with a sheet of plastic wrap to retain moisture that will help the scabs to loosen quickly. The plastic will stick to the ointment, especially if you trim it to the shape of the affected area. If the scabs are on the horse's lower legs, you may want to apply a standing bandage over the plastic wrap to keep it in place. 3.The next day, slide the plastic off. The ointment and most or all of the scabs will come with it. Repeat for any remaining scabs.

CAUTION Rainrot that won't resolve in a week with treatment may be a sign of underlying systemic illness. Call your veterinarian if your horse'' infection seems unusually widespread or stubborn.


A stalled horse swaying back and forth is exhibiting a common behavior problem known as weaving, most likely brought on by confinement in the unnatural habitat of a stall. The good news is that weaving typically occurs most frequently when a horse is anticipating something, such as feeding or turnout. There may be no weaveing at all at night, or at other times when no one is around. Here are a few suggestions that may help.

* Provide companionship. The more horses your horse can see, the better it'll be. Ideally, try to find a small pony or other companion that can keep your horse company and provide some social stimulation. If that's not possible, make sure your horse can see other horses when it is in the barn. * Improve turnout quality. Turn your horse out as often as possible--and not just in an empty dirt paddock where there's nothing to do. A grass field with other horses is ideal. If there is no compatible turnout buddies available, arrange for other horses to be in adjacent paddocks. * Adjust daily feeding schedule. Feed your horse at least four to five times a day, or make hay available at all times. This will help relieve boredom and reduce the anticipation associated with feeding time. Avoid feeding three times a day. This feeding frequency actually encourages weaving more than twice-daily feedings, perhaps because of the anticipation factor. * Change bedding. Some believe that horses kept on straw bedding are less likely to weave, probably because they can graze on the straw.

Your horse's weaving behavior may never be completely eliminated. Think of it as a coping strategy that helps your horse deal with stress, that probably doesn't happen much. As long as there is no excessive wearing of the hooves (you may have to shoe the front feet if barefoot), you can just let your horse weave away.

*Four-Point Trimming

The four-point trim is a hoof-care method that can be used on any horse regardless of breed, activity or hoof-health status. It's a system of trimming a horse's feet that provides an environment of self-healing, and allows the foot to grow back stronger and healthier over time. It's a controversial method because it breaks many of the traditional rules associated with trimming and shoeing. It offers dramatic results for numerous problems, including poor-quality and slow-to-grow hoof walls, thin soles, full-thickness toe cracks, low-grade clubfeet, and low-grade laminitis. The four-point trim also improves hooves that are dish-shaped, as well as those that have long toes and under-run heels. as well as being quite effective in maintaining balance.

For example, often a horse's toe is too long relative to his heel. That creates leg strain and a multitude of problems during breakover--the point where the hoof rolls forward and lifts from the ground with the heel moving first, and the toe following. A horse's hooves need a correct breakover to be comfortable and stay healthy so he can do his job.

The idea behind the four-point trim is to redistribute the horse's weight over the hooves. Although the trimming technique, shoe making and placement vary, typically the farrier begins by trimming the foot so that breakover occurs just beneath the apex of the coffin bone. This is approximately three-quarters of an inch in front of the true apex of the frog, but to find the precise location, detailed, soft-tissue x-rays are essential as a blueprint. To obtain telling views and then proceed to make the necessary changes, your farrier and veterinarian should work as a team. Your farrier also must have a good basic knowledge of hoof anatomy, so he understands the external as well as internal sensitive structures and how they relate to soundness.

As the new breakover point is achieved, the ground surface of the hoof wall (or shoe) automatically moves back as much as 2 inches on some horses, leaving a round toe and square breakover point. Next, the hoof is trimmed to utilize maximum heel length front to back (not height). The quarters are slightly lowered (only when the foot is unshod) and given a smooth, uniform radius. The calloused surface of the frog, bars, and sole is left undisturbed. When you pick up your horse's foot after a four-point trim, you'll notice that its shape (contact zone) looks roughly like a square with rounded corners. In contrast, a toe with a normal, traditional trim is round, and breakover is at the toe, well forward of the apex.

Another change from traditional shoeing involves the placement of the nails. Toe nails aren't used in the four-point trim. Nails go behind the widest point of the foot, as breakover is only three-quarters of an inch forward of this point. This position offers advantages over traditional nailing patterns because the shoe is held tightly to the entire ground surface even in the quarters.

Remember, this is a long-term process, designed to improve the health of your horse's feet. Its purpose is to create thicker walls and a heavier, more supportive heel in addition to encouraging growth of the sole so that it becomes thick and tough and begins to share in weight bearing.

Maintaining hoof mass and durability in marginal-quality feet can be very difficult using the traditional thinking and methods of shoeing. It can be quite easy to obtain immediate cosmetic goals, which will lead you to believe that if the foot once again looked normal, surely it must be normal. Some think that the horn wall, bars, and frog are considered the only weight-bearing areas of the foot. The sole was completely left out of the formula

*Front teeth

A young foal losing teeth early is certainly cause for concern. Generally horses are older than a year when they beging to loose there baby teeth. Front incisors usually come in at 2 1/2 years old; the second incisors (alongside the front ones), at 3 1/2; and the third incisors, at 4 1/2.

Trauma is the most likely cause of this kind of tooth loss. Your foal may've injured its mouth just enough to loosen the front teeth without your being aware of it.

Ask your veterinarian to examine your foals mouth. That way, he or she can find out what's going on below the gum by taking X-rays, then take steps to limit the damage.

It's too late to do anything about the tooth that's lost; but there may be hope for stabilizing the loose tooth. Your vet may be able to do this by wiring it to its neighbor. Some vets have had success with bonding material used in human dentistry.

Once the loose tooth is stabilized, its roots may strengthen and reattach naturally. Keeping the baby tooth in place as long as possible is important for two reasons. One, your foal needs all of his teeth to eat properly. And two, baby teeth help guide the growth and development of the permanent teeth.

*Heat Stress Warning symptoms

When daytime temperatures are in the 90s and approaching 100 degrees, horse owners will need to monitor their animals closely. Heat is produced as a normal by-product in the daily metabolic processes of horses.

During exercise, there is a significant increase in the amount of heat produced by working muscles. Heat production estimates can increase as much as 50 percent during periods of intense exercise as compared with heat production when the horse is at rest. In response, a horse increases its sweating rate, moves more blood to the capillaries under the skin and increases its rate of breathing in an effort to release this build-up of heat. Heat stress from exercise can result when the environmental temperature is high.

Commonly observed signs of heat stress are profuse sweating, rapid breathing rate and rapid heart rate.

Some horses have little or no ability to produce sweat. Since heat loss is mainly dependent on wind and sweating, these horses are prime candidates for heat stress. If worked intensil, the temperature rises, there is bad humidity or the inability to sweat overloads the horses ability to cool itself, heat stroke can progress quickly from heat stress.

Symptoms include skin that is dry and hot, pulse and respiratory rates much higher than normal and unusually high rectal temperatures. A vet should be called immediately should your horse experience heat stroke as it is life threatening.

Move the horse to a cool shady area with fans or wind. Spray cool water on the horses legs to help the evaporation process. If the condition is critical, place ice packs on the legs.

Usually, vets will give large amounts of fluid to the horse, and at times cold water enemas or drenches if the core temperature is extremely high. A horses normal temperature is approx 101 and a critical temperature in a life-threatening situation is around 104 degrees.

A hot horse may colic if given large amounts of water; since horses should not drink large amounts when they are hot, riders should offer small amounts of water to the horse in frequent intervals before, during and after exercise.A simple test that can be used to determine marginal water loss in a horse is the pinch test. When a section of skin on the neck or shoulder is pinched, the skin recoil will be immediate in normally hydrated horses. Dehydration will delay skin recoil. Another practical test is the "effective temperature" test, used to help determine the environmental conditions most likely to result in heat related illness in an exercising horse. This test combines ambient temperature with relative humidity.

Do not overlook cool down following exercise regardless of temperature. A horse builds up large amounts of heat during work, and it must be released through respiration and sweat. The length of cool down depends on the amount of work, the current temperature and the horse itself.

*Wolf teeth?

The routine removal of well-anchored wolf teeth from riding horses is unnecessary and may leave slivers of broken root, which can be a problem. Only horses who wear an overcheck bridle ever have contact between the bit and the wolf teeth. Technically known as persistent upper first premolars, wolf teeth are often blamed for unrelated problems. Very small, loose wolf teeth may be annoying if a jointed snaffle bit pulls the cheeks into the bars, but that is the undesirable result of a too-long snaffle or the horse leaning into the bit. If a horse is fussy about a bit, the source of trouble is the hardware or the rider's hands, not the wolf teeth.

*Tapeworm Trouble?

A good deworming rotation is effective for most intestinal parasites, while tapeworms are a more elusive foe.

These parasites may be becoming more common and more of a problem, because horses tend to be housed in more crowded conditions than in the past, which increases exposure. The fact that pasture mites, which are intermediate hosts to tapeworms, are not controlled, further increases exposure.

Tapeworms are not easy to diagnose. They shed their eggs intermittently, and only occasionally cause signs. In sufficient numbers, they can partially block the exit of the small intestine into the cecum, resulting in intermittent colic. Any horse with repeated bouts of sharp pain one to five hours after a meal be treated for tapeworms. It is an easy way to rule out a simple cause for repeated colic before more complex diagnostic procedures are employed.

The current treatment of choice for tapeworms is a pyrantel-based dewormer administered at two or three times its normal dose for roundworms--specifically, six or nine milligrams per pound of body weight. Pyrantel is very safe at this and even higher doses. Ordinary doses are not effective against tapeworms. If you live in an area where tapeworms are commonly diagnosed, or recurrent colic is frequently reported, administering pyrantel once a year at the double or triple dose might be a good community strategy for controlling this insidious parasite


Colic is the number one killer of horses. But colic is not a disease. Rather it is a combination of signs that alert us to abdominal pain in the horse. Colic can range from mild to severe, but it should never be ignored. That’s because many of the conditions that cause colic can become life-threatening in a relatively short period of time. Only by quickly and accurately recognizing colic-and seeking qualified veterinary help- can the chance for recovery be maximized.

Recognizing Colic

A major problem for as a horse owner is identifying the signs of colic. That’s because signs can vary greatly between individuals and may also depend on the severity of the pain. However, among the more common signs are:

* Turning the head toward the flank * Pawing * Kicking or biting at the abdomen * Stretching out s if to urinate without doing so * Repeatedly lying down and getting up or attempting to do so * Rolling, especially violent rolling * Sitting in a dog-like position, or lying on the back * Lack of appetite (anorexia) * Putting head down to water without drinking * Lack of bowel movements, as evidenced by the small number of manure piles * Absence of, or reduced, digestive sounds * Sweating * Rapid respiration and/or flared nostrils * Elevated pulse rate (greater than 52 beats per minute) * Depression * Lip curling * Cool extremities

Taking Immediate Action

Time is perhaps the most critical factor if colic is to be successfully treated. While a number of cases resolve without medical intervention, a significant percentage do require prompt medical care, including emergency surgery. If you suspect your horse is suffering from colic, the following action plan is suggested:

1) Remove all food and water. 2) Notify your veterinarian immediately. 3) Be prepared to provide the following specific information:

a) Pulse rate b) Respiratory rate (breathing) c) Rectal temperature d) Color of mucous membranes e) Capillary refill time (tested by pressing on gums adjacent to teeth, releasing, then counting the seconds it takes for color to return) f) Behavioral signs, such as pawing, kicking, rolling, depression, etc. g) Digestive noises, or lack of them h) Bowel movements, including color, consistency and frequency I) Any recent changes in management, feeding, or exercise j) Medical history, including deworming and any past episodes of abdominal pain k) Breeding history and pregnancy status if the patient is a mare, and recent breeding history if the patient is a stallion l) Insurance status of the horse

4) Keep the horse as calm and comfortable as possible. Allow the animal to lie down if it appears to be resting and is not as risk of injury. 5) If the horse is rolling or behaving violently, attempt to walk the horse slowly. 6) Do not administer drugs unless specifically directed to do so by your veterinarian. 7) Follow your veterinarian’s advice exactly and await his or her arrival.


Your veterinarian will establish the severity of the colic and identify its cause. His or her examination and/or treatment may include the following procedures:

* Observation of such signs as sweating, abdominal distension, rapid breathing, flared nostrils, and abnormal behavior * Obtaining an accurate history * Passage of a stomach tube to determine presence of excess gas, fluids, and ingesta * Monitoring vital signs, including temperature, pulse, respiration, color of the mucous membranes and capillary refill time * Rectal palpation for evidence of intestinal blockage, distension, or other abnormalities * Blood test for white cell count and other data * Abdominal tap in order to evaluate protein level and cell type in the peritoneal fluid * Analgesics or sedatives to relieve pain and distress * Laxatives to help reestablish normal intestinal function * Continued observation to determine response to treatment * Transport * Surgery

CLASSIFYING COLIC The exact steps your veterinarian will follow will depend on his or her findings. For example, some colic can only be resolved through surgery. Even though there are myriad causes, most colics fall into one of three groups:

I. Intestinal Dysfunction. This is the most common category and simply means that the horse’s bowel are not working properly. It incudes such things as gas distension, impaction, spasms, and paralysis.

II. Intestinal Accidents. These occur less frequently, and include displacements, torsions, and hernia, whereby sections of the intestine become trapped or pinched in body cavities. Some horses seem anatomically predisposed to such problems. Intestinal accidents almost always require emergency surgery.

III. Enteritis or Ulcerations. These are colic related to inflammation, infections and lesions within the digestive tract. They can be caused by numerous factors, including stress, disease, salmonellosis, and parasites.


While horses seem predisposed to colic due to the anatomy and function of their digestive tracts, management can play a key role in prevention. Although not every case is avoidable, the following guidelines can maximize the horse’s health and reduce the risk of colic:

*Establish a set daily routine- including feeding and exercise schedule-and stick to ti. * Feed a high quality diet comprised primarily of roughage. Avoid feeding excessive grain and energy-dense supplements. (At least half the horse’s energy requirement should be supplied through hay or forage. Abetter guiede is that twice as much energy should be supplied from a roughage source that from concentrates.) * Divide daily concentrate rations into tow or more smaller feedings rather than one large one to avoid overloading the horse’s digestive tract. HAY is best fed free-chooice. * Set up a regular parasite control program with the help of your veterinarian. Utilize fecal samples to detemine its effectiveness. * Provide exercise and/or turnout on a daily basis. * Provide fresh, clean water at all times. (The only exception is when the hrose is excessively hot. Then it should be given small sips of lukewarm water until it has recovered.) * Avoid medications unless they are prescribed by your veterinarian, especially pain-relief drugs, which can cause ulcers. * Check hay, bedding, pasture, and environment for potentially toxic xubstances, such as blister beetles, noxious weeds, and other ingestibele foreign matter. * Avoid putting feed on the ground, especially in sandy soils. * Make dietary and other management cha ges as gradually as possible. * Reduce stress. Horses experiencing changes in environment or workloads are a high risk of intestinal dysfunction. * Pay special attention to animals when transporting them or changing their surroundings, such as at shows. * Observe foaling mares pre- and postpartuum for any signs of colic. Also watch carefully any horse who have had a previous bout with colic. They may be at greated risk. * Maintain accurate records of management, feeding practices, and health.


Virtually any horse is susceptible to colic. Age, sex, and breed differences in susceptibilty seem to be relatively minor. The type of colic seen appears to relate to geographic or regional differences, probably die to environmental factors such as sandy soil or climatic stress.

Importantly, what this tells us is that, with conscientious care and managment, we have the potential to reduce and control colic, the number on killer of horses.

Reprinted with permission from the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

*Lose the shoes?

Letting a horse go barefoot is one strategy to improving hoof quality. Without structural disturbances from nails and the hazard of losing chunks of horn with shoes, hooves are left to grow stronger and sounder. However, it takes your horse between eight and 14 months to grow "new hooves" from the coronary band and it takes about two of these cycles to significantly alter the quality of the hoof horn. A "few months" isn't nearly enough time to make a difference. And, if the horse is ouchy when barefoot there will be no riding until the new hooves come in.

If one has the time and inclination, you can certainly let the horse go barefoot and see what happens. The results can be remarkable and seem to defy genetics:.

If, however, you want the horse to be comfortable and useful right now, I'd suggest some different tactics instead, including hoof boots instead of shoes; glue-on shoes; and surface treatments such as bonding agents, which strengthen and harden the hooves.


How to Clean a wound

Budget-wise bandage tip... if your horse needs frequent leg bandaging and youre using disposable materials, you might be able to save a few bucks by using pre-packaged bandages, called Army Surplus bandages or Burn Compresses. Available through veterinary supply catalogs, each kit contains a large (18 inch x 22 inch x 1/2 inch) pad and a 4-inch roll of stretch gauze--for less than the cost of a roll of cotton. They’re great for the padding portion of a standing wrap, and can generally be re-used several times

Every wound has its own special treatment requirements. If you have doubts as to how to treat a wound, consult your veterinarian. What follows are basic guidelines for removing visible dirt and debris, and invisible (bacterial or fungal) contamination. 1. Hose the wound with a standard garden hose. Or irrigate it with saline solution (recipe on the following page), using a trigger-type spray bottle or a large syringe with a blunted 18-gauge needle. Start with a gentle stream, aimed below or adjacent to the wound. Gradually move the water stream onto injured tissues, then gradually increase the intensity of the stream until it mimics the assertiveness of a Water-Pik on full power. This will help dislodge bacteria sticking to tissues. Continue until the wound appears completely clean, or until 5 minutes have gone by, whichever happens sooner. 2. If after 5 minutes of flushing, portions of the wound still appear dirty, lather it with Betadine® surgical scrub, using your clean fingertips or a brand-new infant’s toothbrush. Rinse thoroughly, using saline solution for the final rinse.Wound-cleaning tool: Large-dose syringe with a blunted 18-gauge needle.3. For wounds that still look visibly dirty after Steps 1 and 2, or when cleaning deep wounds or those in which a joint may be involved, take the following steps while you await your veterinarian’s arrival: Cover it with a thick sanitary napkin or disposable diaper soaked in double-strength saline solution. The solution will moisturize tissues and loosen debris; the salt concentration will kill some bacteria and help to draw out contamination that’s penetrated deeper layers.

If the wound involves your horse’s lower leg, anchor the saline-soaked pad with a spiral of stretch gauze and secure it, without excessive pressure, with an outer elastic layer, such as Vetrap®. Recipes: Use these recipes--which incorporate many items you'll have around the house or barn-- to help treat minor equine problems.

Saline Solution 1 tsp. table salt 1 quart water Mix in clean container until salt is completely dissolved. Double-strength saline solution 2 tsp. table salt 1 quart water Mix in clean container until salt is completely dissolved

*How To Give Oral Medication

From time to time you’ll be expected to administer oral medication, be it medication given by the vet or deworming paste. Here are guidelines for getting the job done without a fight, and with getting more down your horse than on you or the floor.

To cacclulate a proper dose, get a proper estimation of your horses weight since this is what most doseages are based on. If possible, give paste medicaiton thats flavored so it wont be so bitter. This bitteriness will stick in your horses mind, making your next dose more difficult to deliver.

Tip: For several days in a row, administer a dose of molasses or applesauce. This will condition your horse to believe that whenever a plastic nozzle is inserted between his lips, what's coming will taste good.

Horses that are distrustful of any sort of mouth manipulation may have had an unpleasant past experience and will require patience and intelligence on your part to replace fear with cooperation. Rather than try and out-muscle your horse (a competition you’re sure to lose), bridle him with his usual bit so you have easy mouth access with confirmed control. Basic technique for administering paste medication

*Step 1. Make sure your horse’s mouth is empty. If its got a wad of partially chewed feed in there, your horse will spit it-and the expensive medication-out as soon as you’ve medicated it. If its eating, put on the halter or bridle. Move him away from his food, and wait until he’s finished chewing and swallowing. While you wait, groom him, so he’ll be relaxed and will finish what's in his mouth. Some horses will stop chewing and hold a wad of feed in their mouths if they anticipate something unpleasant.

*Step 2. If your horse is cross-tied, unsnap the ties and move to an area where there’s a solid wall behind it. Stand to one side, out of striking distance. Hold the halter with one hand while you rub the side of the syringe along the side of your horses face with the other hand. Your goal is to get the horse relaxed and aware of the syringe's presence near its mouth, not to ambush it. That would work only once or twice, after which your horse would be suspicious of your every move.

*Step 3. As soon as your horse is relaxed (head lowered, slow blinking, heavy sigh emitted), slip the tip of the syringe into its mouth at the bars, where the bit would rest. Direct it back and upward toward the roof of the mouth, advancing it until your knuckles touch the chin. In a single, smooth motion, push the plunger and pull out the syringe.

*Step 4. Place one hand under your horse's chin and lift slightly, to raise its head a bit and to encourage its mouth to stay closed while the wad of medication spreads out and adheres to the mouth and tongue. With your other hand, massage the throatlatch area to stimulate swallowing.

*Step 5. To make dosing a pleasant experience, immediately follow with a dose syringe of molasses or apple sauce.

*Sweet Itch(a)

A skin disease caused by allergy to the bites of tiny Culicoides midges, sweet itch has bedeviled horses and confounded horse owners for many years. Here are a few ways to help eliminate this problem.

• Use fly sheets designed or modified to extend at least halfway down the horse’s tail, thereby covering areas that gnats especially like to attack.

• Add cider vinegar the horse’s feed.

• Apply small amounts of Avon’s Skin So Soft bath oil to the most vulnerable areas.

• Apply menthol products, such as Vick’s VapoRub or a cheaper generic version, to susceptible areas.

• Feed the horse about 2 tablespoons of garlic powder two times a day to make his sweat smell garlicky and repel the flies.

• Braid Bounce or another brand of scented dryer sheets into the horse’s mane and tail, and rub them over the horse.

*Soothing sweet itch sores

Combine the following ingredients and apply the mixture to sweet itch sores twice daily.

• 8 oz. of Gold Bond Medicated Body Lotion (Extra Strength, in green bottle), • 4 oz. Aveeno Anti-Itch Concentrated Lotion, • 4 oz. Benadryl Itch-Stopping Gel • 4 oz. Avon Skin So Soft, (increase up to 8 oz. if the gnats are bad).

Sweet Itch(b)(gnat allergy)

In already-sensitized horses it takes just a few gnat bites to cause a full-blown reaction that lasts for weeks, managing sweet itch becomes challenging with the passing seasons. Gnats travel as far as a half mile away from their swampy breeding grounds and prefer to feed on the skin around the tail head and crest. The itchy reaction can take two to three days to develop so gnats may not be present when horses are itching.

Management of sweet itch focuses on symptomatic treatment and various deterrent strategies. Corticosteroid creams or injections reduce the inflammation, a daily heaping teaspoon of aspirin powder helps some sweet-itch sufferers "miraculously,". As for repellents, sprays aren't effective against gnats. A good deterrent is baby oil, liberally applied to the root of the mane and tail. The gnats can't seem to get a grip on it to feed. Mix in some scarlet oil for more efficacy. Your horse will get kind of greasy, but you may prefer that to the itch.

*Tendon Injury

Stall confinement is difficult for any horse, because it contradicts natural grazing lifestyle. Here's some tips on managing the horses behavior.

*Stall toys- a)A food ball(delivers feed through a small hole when manipulaated into the correct position.) These can be bought or made using an empty plastic container. (This also works on the principle of operant conditioning: When your horse rolls the ball, he's rewarded with food. The reward reinforces the behavior, and he rolls the ball again. This activity is similar to grazing (where he chews, takes a few steps, then chews again), so it may replace some of his pawing and spinning behaviors.) b)A stall ball. c)A motorcycle tire hung at head level makes a great toy and scratching post. d)Pas-A-Fier(a rotating device designed to reduce a horses boredom & help with wood chewing) e)A Hay Ball-Suspended from the ceiling the device helps keep horses from wasting hay plus providing entertainment as it rotates freely. Use your imagination on making/buying your horse stall toys.

* Try clicker training. This technique teaches your horse to perform a specific activity in response to a specific pattern of clicks. Such training will stimulate him during his stall confinement.

*Try trick training. This can be a fun and fulfilling way to ease boredom for the horse and owner.

* Consider an herbal supplement. A horse may respond to a calming herbal supplement, such as one containing valerian or tryptophane. Ask a vet about specific dosages and available products.

If the horse still has a bad day, go ahead and give the acepromazine. It's safe and effective, and likely won't cause any harm when used occasionally


To help a horse relax, lower its head first, rule out any tooth, bitting, or soundness problems. Have a good equine dentist examine your mare's mouth for sharp or painful teeth. Ask your veterinarian to check for any physical discomfort, particularly in her back. And make sure her bit fits properly--not too high or low in her mouth, and not so narrow that it pinches the corners. If you're unsure of how your bit should fit, ask an experienced horseperson for help. Some horses get tense because they've been overbitted; if your mare's head is up all the time, she might benefit from a milder rubber snaffle or Happy Mouth bit (see "The Right Bit For Your Horse", December '96, PH, for details).

Next, evaluate your own riding. Are you tense? (A tense rider can make her horse tense, too.) Are your hands steady and quiet and your arms elastic? Rough, abrupt hands can give a horse reason to try to avoid contact. If you have concerns about your hands, a mild bit will help minimize the effect of any inadvertent motions as you concentrate on keeping your elbows soft, your hands light, and your reins even--but not so long that there's a loop of slack. (Longer reins can actually make your hand use rougher--because, rather than letting you keep a steady, elastic contact all the time, they cause you to grab now and then when you need to give an aid.)

Your horse's high head carriage suggests her back may be tense, too. To help her relax it, ride as much as possible in the rising trot (being sure not to thump back into the saddle as you post "down") or in two-point position. (work in two-point without stirrups will help strengthen the position you need to hold your weight off her back.) When you do sit in the saddle, keep your seat light, with a slightly closed hip angle--think of touching the saddle only with your breeches, not with your seat bones. And, to keep your own body relaxed, concentrate on taking long, deep breaths throughout your ride.

Encourage your mare to lower her head while she works: When schooling at home, always try to work her with her neck and head long and low so her back muscles stay stretched and loose. If your trainer feels you're ready to use them, try draw reins to help accomplish this--but only with a mild bit and professional guidance.

To help your mare relax, try this simple exercise that encourages her to reach for the bit: Staying on a circle, ask her to trot fifteen steps, then walk five, then trot, and so on. Ask for each transition as quietly as possible. Once she does this smoothly, try the same exercise using all three gaits: Walk five steps, trot fifteen, canter five, trot fifteen, walk, and repeat. Remember to work equally in both directions.

At horse shows, be sure to give your mare plenty of time to settle in her new environment before asking her to concentrate on competing. Schedule your time so you never hurry your warm-ups and rides. If the show offers warm-up classes, enter them--and take advantage of that time in the ring. Jump a line, trot a circle to get her soft and round, and then go back to the canter and jump the next line.

*Normal Vital Signs For A Horse

When a horse looks or acts sick, it's important for an owner to be able to know for sure. A horse owner should remember the normal figures for a horse's key vital signs of temperature, breathing rate and resting heart rate,

Knowledge important to have includes:

A horse's normal rectal body temperature is approximately 100.5 degrees F.

A temperature of 102 degrees F or higher generally indicates an infection, which needs attention. Normal breathing rate for a horse at rest is 12-15 breaths per minute. Breathing rate can be determined by watching the nostrils or flank. Rapid, shallow breathing at rest means a horse needs medical attention.

Normal resting heart rate for a horse is 35-40 beats per minute. The rate will increase when a horse is excited or exercising. A resting heart or pulse rate of 50 or higher means the horse is in physical distress. Heart rate can be determined by monitoring it at the artery that crosses under the jaw, or by feeling the heart beat by putting your hand under the horse's left elbow, Peverley advises.