Ask Horse Journal: 04/01

Chronic Inflamed Gums
I got some grass/alfalfa hay last year that had wild millet in it and was assured horses love it. Well, my horse did love it, but he got inflamed gums from the tiny seeds that stuck in his gums. He’s off the hay but still has inflamed gums. I’ve brushed them with peroxide, then changed to salt water. I used Bio Lights on his gums. They’ll begin to look better then all of a sudden, they are red again. After three months off the stuff, the gums are still red.

-Paula Page
New Mexico

It sounds like your horse either has multiple deep-seated seeds worked under the gums or the initial seed irritation set up a gum infection — or both. Has your veterinarian looked at the horse yet’ He or she may be able to detect one or more areas that are likely to have a foreign body/seed embedded. If there is evidence of obvious infection, antibiotics may be in order. If not, it may simply be a long process of waiting for the seeds to work their way out. We would suggest though that instead of brushing, you just use liberal flushing with a 50:50 peroxide-and-water solution, two to three times a day.


Dye Stain On A Saddle
I just purchased a new rust-color saddle and not knowing better used black stirrup leathers on it. The dye from the stirrup leathers has discolored the leather. Can I get the black off the panels without ruining the saddle, and how can I avoid boot polish from rubbing off on the saddle’

-M. Gray

We know of no way to remove the dye without compromising the leather. You could have the saddle dyed darker, but we’d not recommend it — and we presume you chose the rust color for a reason. Luckily, the stirrup leather area is covered by your leg so it’s not visible while you’re riding, and your leather care and wear over time will blend the colors somewhat.

The easiest way to keep boot polish off both your flaps and saddle pad is not to polish the insides of your boot calves.

You can polish the feet up to the ankles — depending on your leg and pad/flap length. The inside of your boot calves will wear to a dark brown, but that won’t hurt them, and you can use glycerine soap to preserve the boot leather in that area.


Scratches Susceptibility
Why do some horses get scratches and some don’t’ I have two horses who live in identical conditions, but the warmblood, whose fetlocks I keep trimmed short so no moisture can accumulate, has chronic scratches. The other is a draft cross with feathers that I do nothing with.

-Cindy Dussel
New York

Several factors go into whether or not a horse gets scratches. When there is a high level of mechanical skin irritation, such as stone-dust tracks or sharp grasses, keeping the fetlock hairs long may help protect the skin. Once a problem starts though, the higher heat and moisture level underneath the long hair tends to make it worse.

Horses with any type of foot problem seem prone to scratches, probably due to a constant low level of inflammation in the skin of the pastern area. Horses with skin problems, allergies and poor immune function are also likely at higher risk. Proper local care combined with maximizing skin health from the inside out with supplements that provide key vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids is a good approach.


Mixing Supplements
I’ve heard that mixing different supplements together can harm their potency and that minerals will speed oxidation of vitamins. I prepackage my supplements in plastic sandwich bags, along with a handful of brown sugar so my mare eats it all. I have a complicated mix of several supplements, and I don’t expect the help at the barn where I board to keep track of it all. I feed Farrier’s Friend, Accel and Cosequin. Am I reducing the effectiveness doing it this way’

-Charlotte Snyder

Vitamins particularly susceptible to oxidation are the Bs, plus C and E. The products you listed, although they also contain vitamins, concentrate primarily on mineral supplementation. Mixing them together might accelerate the breakdown of the vitamin components to some extent, but since the major benefits you are getting from them (except the Cosequin) are from the mineral levels you probably won’t see any difference in effectiveness.

Removing as much air as possible from the bags before sealing, then storing them in the refrigerator may help slow down oxidation of sensitive vitamins. However, if you are counting on peak vitamin levels your best bet is to use supplements that do not mix vitamins and minerals in the first place. Instead, prepackage those into separate plastic bags, stapling them together.


Skewed Tail
My seven-year-old Quarter Horse gelding’s tail was already laid down when the previous owner bought him at three. At about six, the tail began to skew to the side. The previous owner took him to a university hospital where she was informed that he had a “bad tail job” and that there was nothing to be done.

At present, my gelding can swish his tail. The tail head is hard and deviated sharply to the right. There is still flaccidity of most of the distal tailbone. He seems sound in feet and joints, but he doesn’t move so well in a left-lead lope as he does to the right. When loping to the left, he does not drive the left hind leg up as far under him. When loping to the right, he looks great.

This horse is a beautiful, sweet horse and a nice mover. Is there anything that can be done to correct the tail deviation and restore his normal lovely self-carriage’

-Charese Pelham

The changes in his tail and the way he moves are not necessarily connected. It sounds like he may indeed have a bad “tail job,” possibly with complications like infection that resulted in heavy scarring on the right side. We’re not sure why it was said no further surgery/treatment would help, although they may have feared it would only result in yet more scarring. It sounds like the best advice is indeed to leave well enough alone.

The more difficult question is how the tail relates to how he moves, if at all. The nerves that control hind leg movement come off the spinal cord long before the tail base. In fact, at the end of the sacrum there is little spinal cord nerve material left at all.

If it is affecting how he moves, it would have to be through heavy scarring tugging on the sacrum enough to actually cause a displacement/subluxation. Scarring limited to a small area at the tail base probably couldn’t do this — it would have to extend farther forward internally along the spine. There’s a slight possibility that if there is no subluxation that just the pull on the tight tail and/or wanting to bring his tail to the left when he travels to the left is enough to influence his gait, analogous to the horse trying to go to the left with his tail tied on the right side of his body.

More unlikely, but necessary to consider, is the chance the tail deviation and gait are related but have nothing to do with the surgery, that is they are a result of a protozoal or viral infection of the spinal cord. Another possibility is that his gait problem has nothing to do with his tail problem.

To try to sort through some of this, get him to stand perfectly square on all four feet and look at him from behind. Is there any loss of muscle/difference in muscle size between the right and left sides’ Are his hocks and hips at the same level’ Stand on a bucket or bench and look straight down his spine. Does it travel in a perfectly straight line from tail base to withers’ Does he carry his head higher and go with a shorter stride in front when going to the left’ Any abnormal findings/answers, together with the information you gave already, would suggest a possible sacral subluxation. Otherwise, you should have him checked for another lameness proble m(s) behind.

You may want to get an opinion from a veterinary surgeon, who would likely do a rectal exam to determine the amount of scarring. Examination by a vet skilled in diagnostic acupuncture may also help sort through this problem. He or she may recommend a qualified chiropractor to help if it’s due to spinal misalignment.


Horse Trailer Storage
I have a 1992 horse trailer with about 20,000 miles on it. It’s steel with aluminum skin. Since I won’t be using it for about six months, is it OK to just let it sit there’ I have it tuned up, including repacking bearings, before the beginning of each season. Could it get a soft spot on the tires just sitting there’

-S. Georges

You’re correct to be concerned about the tires when your trailer sits unused for that long. Keeping them at proper inflation is crucial. Raising them off the ground by putting the axle(s) on blocks is the best solution. UV rays from the sun degenerate rubber, so inexpensive sun shields made of plywood fitted up into the tire wells will help, too. (Keeping the trailer indoors is nice, but many of us don’t have that luxury.)

Any steel that’s exposed would benefit from a protective coating of regular car wax, though your aluminum skin won’t need that. You can brighten up that skin with a special aluminum “wash” available from aluminum trailer dealers before the season begins. Periodic applications of a lubricant/solvent (like WD-40) to the moving parts of the hitch will help ward off rust.

If the floor is wood, or there’s any steel structure on the inside, be sure to clean well under the rubber floor mats and leave the mats up off the floor to prolong the life of the flooring. You’re smart to do a pre-season tune-up. Be sure to include a complete check of the floor and its edges from both the inside and underneath to detect any deterioration.


Correct Corona Phone Number
The March 2001 article on shampoos contained an incorrect phone number for our favorite shampoo, Corona. The correct number for Summit Industries is 800/241-6996.


Mow An Instant Ring
If you want to set an “arena” parameter, but you don’t have access to a ring, you can create a similar effect by mowing the ring space you desire in a flat portion of your grass pasture. Your pasture grass needs to be high enough so that the mowed portion will make a clear visible difference to your horse. Even a green horse will notice the perimeter you’ve marked.


Horse Care Pointers
• Ticks In Your Horse’s Ears: If your horse shows unexplained muscular or neurological problems, check closely from ears to tail for ticks.

Ticks in a horse’s ears can cause muscular/neurological signs, says the American Veterinary Medical Association. Affected horses showed intermittent prolapse of the third eyelid and spontaneous muscular spasms and twitching, which could be induced by tapping on the muscles. Pawing and sweating was also observed. These symptoms could be misinterpreted as anything from colic to tetanus or a toxicity. Blood work shows elevated muscle enzymes. Symptoms do not abate until the ticks are removed.

The mechanism by which ticks can cause this is unknown. A similar syndrome is seen in dogs when ticks attach near the spinal cord but their symptoms are more neurological, as in weakness and/or paralysis.

• Sheath Cleaners For Crusty Skin: Common skin problems like scratches and “rain rot” often defy efforts at effective treatment because of a large buildup of scabs and crusting that is resistant at efforts to soften and remove them. Even if you do manage to get some of them off, the resultant irritation often contributes to their reforming quickly.

We recently found that off-label use of tea-tree-oil-based sheath cleaners was extremely effective in both softening and removing the crusts as well as treating the underlying infection. The three gel sheath cleaners we recently tested, Excalibur, Equi-Pro and Triple J (see September 2000), all did an excellent job in eliminating crusting (and dry skin) and scabbing with no signs of any skin irritation.

We clipped the areas of long hair, wet the skin, applied the gel with only enough gentle rubbing to bring up a light foam and left in place for five minutes before rinsing. The open areas were dry and free of build up 24 hours after the first treatment with the skin pliable and soft. Continue daily cleansing until open areas have completely healed (usually only a few days).

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