Ask Horse Journal: 01/01

Problems With Fleece
n reference to your Products of the Year and fleece blankets, I have not found fleece to “move with the horse,” as you said in your review. Fleece has become popular as a liner for winter and stable blankets, and as the lining in light blankets. However, I still have to add a cotton or nylon sheet to keep the blanket from sticking. What am I doing wrong’

-Trish Conk

The fleece fabric itself is very flexible, more so than the materials used to bind it. The more nylon binding and straps your blanket has, the less it is able to move with the horse, unless that binding has some elastic. A Velcro closure works better than buckles for this reason but has its own problems with attracting debris.

The other problem, of course, is static. Some horses and some horse coats seem to have more electricity than others. Thus the fabric “sticks” to the horse and, even worse, the horse gets an electrical jolt when you take it off. This can be more of a problem with longer winter coats than it is with shorter clipped coats. You may not know until you use the fleece on your particular horse whether you’ll also need an additional cotton liner to counteract the static.

Fleece naturally repels water, which makes it a fine choice for outdoor wear on both horses and humans. This is why you sometimes see fleece labels calling for washing the garment in dry detergent instead of liquid (which usually includes a fabric-softening agent) and to avoid the use of fabric softeners in the dryer. Fabric softeners will reduce the ability of the fleece to repel water, but at the same time they reduce static electricity since they help the fabric retain moisture.

Therefore, you have a tradeoff — use fabric softeners when you wash your fleece and it won’t stick as much to your horse or you. It also won’t attract as much barn debris. However, you’ll also be reducing the ability of the fleece to keep rain off, which isn’t important if the fleece is mainly used indoors. You can also spray the fleece with Static Guard or a similar product.

Finally, when you go to remove the blanket, you can reduce the electrical jolt by doing it one-handed — that is if you are tall enough and your horse is short enough.


College Programs
I am researching college-level equine programs for my daughter who is interested in becoming a professional trainer eventually. How do the schools rank’

-Robbie Brokken

Going into college with a clearer understanding of the horse industry and her own goals will allow your daughter to get more out of her education. We recommend the book 50 Careers With Horses by Bonnie Kreitler (available in tack shops, catalogs and through Equimax, below, $26.95) for anyone considering a career in the horse industry. It highlights careers like professional training and gives thought-provoking advice about your initial interest to landing a job.

We also suggest she talk with professionals to get information on specific qualifications for the area she wants to enter. For example, a professional trainer might work for a farm, or she might run her own business. Both require “people” skills in addition to horse skills, but the latter also requires strong business skills.

Unfortunately, ranking equine programs on objective criteria (riding class size, number of credits in equine classes, faculty-to-student ratio, horse-to-student ratio, number of arenas, etc.) does not always answer the subjective questions: What am I going to be learning in mounted classes’ What training theories, and what training experience, will I gain’ How can I use the theoretical equine classes to prepare for work in the industry’ What supporting skills (public relations, safety and first aid, finance and budgeting, law and contracts, etc.) will I gain’ What is the learning atmosphere’ And, finally, what are the horses like and how are they kept’

Industry experience during the college years is vital — both to put the college lessons into outside practice and for resume-building. This can be done in internships or by taking summer jobs. Placement help from the college’s instructors is valuable, but hard work on the part of the student is necessary. The horse industry — and college — are still places where you must pay your dues and work hard over a period of years to improve and to prove yourself before you get to your dream job.

About 45 U.S. colleges offer two-year and 20 offer four-year equine degrees. Each has its own character. Their advertising is one way to identify programs, but you can miss some good ones if you rely on advertising. A complete listing, like the Horse Specialist’s Guide to Educational Opportunities ($19.95, 800/759-9494 or is a good place to start.

Use the guide to identify programs based on your interests: riding style, specialization (training, teaching, management, business), degree, and location. Highlight programs that look like they fit your needs and contact them. One of the informative articles in the guide, “Steps to Selecting Your Ideal Program,” suggests questions to ask and reminds you to talk with graduates and employers. Then, when you’ve narrowed the field by this method, we highly recommend visiting the programs while they are in session to check out the atmosphere in classes, meet the faculty and see the campus stables.


The Bran Debate
In “Things to Consider As The Seasons Change” (October 2000), you say that a wet mash’s 50:50 mix of wheat bran and beet pulp help older horses. I have read several articles stating use of bran is not recommended.

An article I read states, “Used indiscriminately, wheat bran can cause severe metabolic disorders, resulting in orthopedic, conditioning and digestive problems.” It says the calcium-phosphorus ratio is a problem for daily use and may result in big head disease. The article also says it can make critical minerals unavailable to the horse, creating nutritional deficiencies.

Finally, it says that if you do make the necessary dietary adjustments to feed it and keep everything balanced, you must introduce it into the daily diet gradually and not just feed it periodically. It’s considered a feed change bad enough to cause diarrhea and that will kill good bacteria in the gut. If you give your horse a wheat bran mash, you should supplement it with probiotics. What are your thoughts’

-Rose Thompson

The major problem with wheat bran is the high amount of phosphorus related to calcium. This is what leads to “big head” when wheat bran (or rice bran) is fed in large amounts for prolonged periods. However, we recommended a 50:50 mix of wheat bran and beet pulp. This mixture has a nearly balanced calcium:phosphorus ratio.

It’s also important to keep the mineral imbalance in bran in perspective. Almost everything we feed our horses has mineral imbalances. Alfalfa has so much excessive calcium that it would take 7.5 pounds of high phosphorus bran to balance out the extra calcium in every 10 pounds of alfalfa. We feel there are far, far more horses with “metabolic, conditioning and orthopedic” problems linked to feeding alfalfa hay than with any detrimental effects from small bran feedings.

Some equine nutritionists theorize that wheat bran might make some minerals less available for absorption. However, the research into bran and mineral absorption that shows decreased availability of some minerals has been done in people, birds and rats, but not horses. Many studies show it is the soluble fiber portion of the bran, rather than the phytate levels, that may be responsible for this effect.

Since horses are efficient at digesting soluble fiber, while the other species cannot, it is questionable whether this even holds true for horses. Even if it did, the bran would have to constitute a relatively large proportion of the diet (10 to 20%) for the effect to be seen.

If an 1,100-pound horse was fed two pounds of a 50:50 mix of bran and beet pulp on a daily basis (which would be a large mash in terms of volume), he would still need at least an additional 17 pounds or so of grass hay to meet his daily calorie needs and the bran would amount to less than 6% of the total ration.

Digestive upset with potential derangement of bacterial populations can and does occur with any abrupt diet change. It occurs every time you switch grains, every time you switch hays, when you put a horse on pasture that is not accustomed to pasture, when grasses are coming in rapidly in the spring, with every different batch of feed if you don’t use a fixed formula feed mix, even with large feedings of carrots. Any diet change should be introduced gradually and is best accomplished when using a probiotic product, such as Ration Plus (800/278-4667).

Singling out bran for this comment/criticism is unwarranted. In fact, you are more likely to get diarrhea with an abrupt change in hay than with a small bran feeding since hay constitutes such a large percentage of the diet. It seems to us that bran often receives “bad press” that is largely unsubstantiated by veterinary fact.


Glucosamine Find’
I have looked for products with high levels of glucosamine. I remember your November 1997 article that said the recommended dosages on most joint nutraceutical products weren’t high enough to have an effect.

I found a product that claims to be straight glucosamine with 28,000 mg per ounce. This seems like a substantial increase from the levels of other products, which claim between 1,000 to 6,000 mg per ounce. This product also sells at a comparable, if not cheaper, price. If it is what it says, every horse owner who uses glucosamine should know about it. If not, it should be exposed as a fraud. I would like to know if this product is really what it claims. Where can I have it analyzed’

-G. Briner

There are several straight/pure glucosamine products out there. An ounce of straight glucosamine is 28.4 grams or 28,400 mg so this company’s claims are in the ballpark if this is straight glucosamine. It really won’t help to have it analyzed. There aren’t any test methods that have been officially recognized as accurate yet.

Your best bet is to ask the company to send a copy of the Product Data Sheet for their raw material and/or an analysis from the supplier of the raw material plus an analysis of their finished product. Also, as you probably know from our May 1999 and November 1997 articles, you may get good results with glucosamine only, but you may get even better results when other key joint nutrients are supplied, too, which is one of the reasons we like Grand Flex for a powder glucosamine supplement.


“Down-In” Exercise for Longer Leg
I’ve been riding for 30 years, mostly trail riding and mostly with short stirrups in a hunt-seat saddle. I’ve got a trail-riding buddy who’s talked me into taking dressage lessons. The instructor tells me I need a longer leg and I need to be longed without stirrups. I’ve tried that several times and it doesn’t make any difference. Do you know of any exercises that will help me develop a longer leg’

-Sally Francis

Old habits die hard in both horses and humans. Longeing without stirrups is the surest and most time-honored way to develop a long leg and independent seat, and a couple of sessions won’t be enough to overcome decades of riding in a curled-up position. You can drop your stirrups and still not drop your leg.

In your longe sessions, work with one leg at a time. Hold onto the pommel, mane or grab strap. Lift the leg off the saddle and rotate it toward the horse’s nose from the hip joint. Then let it lay down on the flap. Repeat with the other leg. This allows the hip joint to open and your leg to reach down.

Another exercise you can use on the trail that will help develop a longer leg is to get up into two-point while you trot over uneven ground. Make sure you unlock your knee so your ankle slides down with each stride.

A great exercise that will help promote a flexible ankle and longer leg is the “Down-In” exercise. Remember that “Up-Down” mantra intoned by instructors when teaching beginners how to post’ This is just the opposite. While posting, as you rise in the stirrups, think “Down “ while allowing your heel to stretch down and your knee to slide down the flap. As you sit, think “In” and allow your ankle to relax and come in toward the horse’s body. This would be the same point in the posting stride that you would use a leg aid. You can practice this first at the walk and say the words out loud, because they won’t make sense in the beginning (you’re saying “down” for your leg and ankle when your body is going up).

See “To Post or Not to Post” in the March 1998 issue for more thoughts on a longer leg. You may also benefit from flexible stirrups (see January and December 1998 issues).


Supplements For Winter
When we take our six-year-old Arabian off grain, alfalfa and treats, he can be ridden on the trails without bucking and shying. With winter approaching we do not want him to go without any supplements. He gets good-quality hay (timothy, a small amount of orchard grass and alfalfa).

He is pastured with three other horses, has free-choice hay, mineral block, and fresh water. He is an easy keeper and has quite a hay belly. I only have time to ride two or three times a week. Any suggestions’

-Jerry and Ellen Izor

You probably won’t need any supplements in terms of calories if he is an easy keeper. An average 1,000-pound horse would need 18 to 20 pounds of timothy to hold his weight at maintenance/light work. However, as a little added insurance against extreme cold and vitamin deficiencies in hay, you might want to consider feeding him about 0.5 lb/day of Enreco’s Horseshine stabilized flaxseed meal (see June 2000). It works well with your hay (boosting phosphorus, provides natural anti-oxidants, uses calories from natural fat vs. processed fat supplements, and is high in essential fatty acids for coat and immune-system health).

You may also want to feed a vitamin E and selenium supplement to provide 1 to 2 mg/day of selenium (be very careful not to overdose selenium). You may be able to reduce that hay bellied appearance if you use Ration Plus (800/728-4667), our favorite probiotic product.


Nursing Care For Seasonal Colds
Horses with “colds” or pneumonia feel lousy, just like we do. Vapor rub, like Vicks, can help relieve symptoms. Apply it liberally several times a day to the nostrils (not in the nostrils), throat and windpipe. The vapors help thin mucus, making it easier to move. They also relax the throat and encourage deep breathing. Applied to the chest, Vicks soothes breathing muscles. It can even make inflamed throats feel better.

If your horse won’t eat, ask your vet about aspirin or phenylbutazone. The pain-relieving, inflammation-busting actions may ease throat pain enough that the horse is more willing to eat and drink.

Keep the stall deeply bedded and clean. Air should move through the barn without drafts on the horse. Keep a blanket of a weight appropriate for the weather on the horse, even if he normally does not wear one. Periods of fever will make it difficult for your horse to regulate his body temperature normally.

Take the horse’s temperature and give him fresh water twice daily. Consider easy-to-swallow treats like grated carrots or applesauce. This is also a good time for a mash. You may also want to soften his hay by dunking it quickly in water and then shaking out the exces s before feeding.


Quick Wound Disinfection
Ever find a wound starting to look obviously infected when you don’t have any antibiotic or disinfectant wound-care products handy’ Wash the wound gently with with warm water and the gentlest soap available (any hand soap if that’s the only choice), rinse well to remove all soap residue and exudate. Soak a gauze pad or lint-free piece of clean cotton in a 1:10 dilution of water and household bleach. Secure in place, if possible. Otherwise, hold over the wound for 10 minutes. The diluted bleach will not irritate and breaks down quickly to salt water and chlorine. The chlorine evaporates. Repeat two to three times daily.


Deciphering “Snot”
Not every runny nose means the horse has a lung infection. In fact, most don’t. But, some clues may show one cause is more likely than another:

1. Discharge is thin and watery or has a slight white froth. Early viral infections can do this, but if it persists suspect an irritation/allergy. Horses with stable cough or that cough a few times when they first start work commonly have this type of discharge. Prime offenders include dusty/musty straw, barns closed up too tight, indoor areas with dust problems, seasonal allergies.

2. Discharge out one side of the nose only. Most likely cause is an infection either in the gutteral pouch on that side or a problem in the nasal cavity. Also consider a tooth abscess if discharge is foul-smelling. Lymphoid hyperplasia (equine equivalent of tonsillitis) can on occasion give a one-sided discharge.

3. Discharge with a bad odor.The problem is usually infection in the nasal passages, an infected tooth or a foreign body (piece of straw, grain) in the nasal cavity. Bacterial lung infections can do this, too, but the horse would probably be obviously sick as well.

4. Very thick discharge, white to yellow.This is probably a severe viral or viral-with-bacterial infection.

5. Thick discharge with tinges of, or obvious, blood.Get your vet involved with this one right away. Bleeding means that tissue somewhere has been severely eroded.


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