Ask Horse Journal: 02/03

Safe Winter Work
When we drive our horse in the winter, I always cover his nose so he doesn’t breath in very cold air. I was told that if a horse breaths in very cold air while working he could burn his lungs or get an upper-respiratory problem. Is this true’

-Maylonna Mayku

Cold air can cause some problems, especially very cold, very dry air. One of the functions of the upper airways (nasal passages, sinuses) is to warm the air before it is delivered to the lungs. When air is very cold, it is likely to be incompletely warmed before entering the lungs. This can trigger the bronchi (breathing tubes in the lungs) to spasm. Incompletely moisturized air can also damage the mucosal lining of both the upper and lower airways, which leads to inflammation and a weakening of the immune defense mechanisms. The horse is then more susceptible to respiratory infections and, if working at speed, may be more likely to bleed from the lungs.

A covering on the nose does help warm the air but also makes it much harder for the horse to breathe, so be alert to any indications that he is working harder to breathe than he should be for the work level. A commonsense approach of avoiding extremely strenuous work when it is very cold and regular monitoring for signs of airway irritation works best. Some increased clear nasal discharge and/or froth when working is normal in cold weather and not harmful of itself but does indicate the nasal airway is being somewhat irritated.

Do not work a horse that is coughing, and stop if he coughs during work. You can also check for upper airway irritation with the tracheal pinch test. Cup your hand around the throatlatch area, just behind the jawbones. You will be able to feel the trachea (windpipe) as a firm, round structure with regularly spaced ridges or rings. Pinch down on the trachea hard. A healthy trachea is extremely difficult to compress. If inflamed, it will be easy to squeeze and squeezing it will likely make the horse cough.


Lower-Leg Dominance
I rode and jumped in just plain old jeans and after 15 minutes my legs really started to sting. I ended up with really nice raspberries on each calf. (I really paid for my foolishness. Evening showering stung.) It was interesting to note that there were two areas of abrasion on my left leg and only one on my right. My wife thinks this is a sign of right – leg dominance and that my left leg is bouncing around too much. I might have to agree. What do you think’

-Mike Rosenberger

We think your wife has a thing about leg dominance. She could be right, but there may be other reasons why you used your legs unequally. You could have had one foot placed on the inside of the stirrup and the other against the outside. Or you could have angled one foot across the stirrup and placed the other one straight. Or one of your ankles may be more rigid than the other so that it doesn’t flex down and can’t be used against the horse’s side as effectively.

Or the problem could be higher up. If you break over at the hip on one side (most of us do to some degree), the leg on your concave side is naturally pulled off the side of the horse. This problem in the hip is more likely a cause of leg dominance then one leg actually being weaker. Another aspect of the same problem is when you make a tight turn and your weight naturally slips to the outside and then you don’t center yourself back in the middle of the horse.

One way to detect many of these problems is to have someone ride behind you instead of just watching you from the side. They’ll be able to tell if you are breaking over at the hip, or slipping off to one side, or holding your feet at different positions in the stirrups.


Can’t Get Triple Crown
I’m frustrated that Triple Crown feed is so often mentioned as a great feed for this or that when we can’t get it in Oregon. I have begged several stores to carry it, but the shipping is cost prohibitive. We’re willing to pay more for a good feed that doesn’t require haphazard supplementation. What can we do’

-Name Withheld

Triple Crown availability on the West Coast has been a problem for other people, too, so we did a little digging. Michelle Mulcahy, 800-690-8110, is the Triple Crown representative for the West Coast and a key contact person. The only established dealership for TC is in California, through United Pacific Pets, although Triple Crown said they are interested in adding new dealers to service the Pacific Northwest. The representative at UPP is Chuck Gawle, 909-232-0037.

We don’t know if UPP also services stores in your area, but ask your local store to contact them as a first step, or have your store’s distributor/supplier look into carrying Triple Crown. Shipments usually go out in minimum order sizes of 200 lbs. to take advantage of price breaks on shipping, so the more people you can find interested in a product new to the area, and willing to commit to a specific-size order, the better your chances of convincing your store to carry it. Triple Crown will ship out small orders to individuals, but the shipping can end up costing as much as the product itself.


Cedar Bedding
My friend uses cedar shavings that are given to him free along with other wood shavings mixed in. They come from a mill and are dusty. His horse keeps a runny nose. I know dust plays a part, but does the cedar bedding, too’ I read somewhere that cedar has a somewhat toxic effect on horses.

-Rodney Williams

Cedar shavings aren’t directly toxic, in the sense that any horse exposed to them will have problems. However, the aromatic oils in cedar can cause direct respiratory irritation in sensitive horses and may cause skin irritation. The only way to know for sure if the cedar itself is part of the horse’s runny nose problem would be to try bedding him on shavings without it. Dust can be effectively controlled by removing the horse from the stall while fresh bedding is being applied and by misting the upper layers with a fine water spray to settle the dust. The other thing to keep in mind is that you said your friend is getting cedar shavings with other wood shavings mixed in.

We would suggest that your friend find out what other types of wood shavings might be in the mix as some, like black walnut, can cause serious problems in horses.


Flax Seed and Rice Bran
Is it safe, and is there any benefit to feeding both Horse Tech Nutra-Flax milled flaxseed and Natural Glo stabilized rice bran for weight gain/maintenance’ My horses also receive a daily vitamin/mineral supplement formulated for our area and grass hay. They also get devil’s claw, yucca, MSM and Corta-Flx. Our Oregon grass hay is low in protein, about 5%.

My 20-year-old trail horse is ridden lightly, as he has advanced DJD in his knees and hocks. He needs to gain weight, however.

The other horse is a seven-year-old all-around pleasure horse. He’s on 75% grass hay and 25% alfalfa with the vitamin/mineral supplement and 2 oz. flaxseed. No grain. The goal for him is maintenance.

I was thinking about adding a flaxseed fortified with calcium and a rice bran, which might add calories, balance the calcium ratio and give extra bloom.

I prefer not to feed grain, as both horses get a little hot on it.

-Linda Smith

The first thing you need to do is decide on a hay choice, then balance that, then make sure your add-ons are also balanced. The 75-25 grass/alfalfa hay is likely pretty well-balanced for minerals to begin with, so you should choose a mineral supplement that is also balanced, not one just for a grass hay. We suggest you start by putting both horses on that mix of hays, free choice.

Nutra-Flax (, 800/831-3309) is a good source of essential fatty acids to help with bloom, and maybe even with the arthritis. It only has calcium added in an amount to balance the naturally high phosphorus of your hay.

If you add rice bran for weight gain, choose one that is also balanced with extra calcium so that it doesn’t throw your mineral balance out of line, or you could mix the Natural Glo (, 800-680-8254), no calcium added, with beet pulp to make a calorie-boosting mash.

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