Ask Horse Journal: 05/05

Chafing Problems
I have a student who has been riding with me for over a year. She finally admitted that, when I insist she doesn’t ride behind the vertical at the sitting trot, that she finds blood in her panties. But when she rides behind the vertical — and therefore picks up her front off the saddle–she’s fine. I don’t know if the problem is her riding or her saddle. What do you think’

It may not be either. Often, when a rider spends a little longer than usual in the saddle she may become chafed. It’s possible you ask for more sitting trot than she usually does on her own time, and you’re certainly asking her to use a position she avoids when on her own. She also may be anticipating discomfort and stiffens in anticipation, making the possibility of chafing even worse.

Experienced riders who anticipate a longer ride or longer show than usual will take preventative measures. The easiest is simply to apply petroleum jelly on the area most likely to rub, placed there before the lesson, or show, or trail ride begins. Or the rider can take a page from bike riders and endurance riders and use one of many available commercial products that are available at drug stores, tack shops and sports shops. Some even combine an anti-bacterial agent with the anti-friction agent. Bodyglide is a particularly well-known product for this purpose.

If the anti-friction product doesn’t solve the problem, then you should certainly look at the saddle, especially if the cantle is lower than the pommel, therefore forcing the rider into a “chair seat.” Another thought to consider may be whether the twist is too wide — women generally do better with a narrow twist, better suiting the angle of their pelvis, than a wide twist. If it’s not the saddle, then look to exercises on the longe line to evaluate position. She should be sitting up on the points of her pelvis and not behind them.

In addition, consider her breeches, including materials and construction of seams in the seat area. Full-seat leather, while keeping the seat steady, can chafe more than other materials, especially when combined with a deep-seat saddle and maybe a saddle-stick product, forcing the rider into a position that she can’t easily adjust.

Finally, we recommend she discuss this problem with her gynecologist as well, just to be sure she doesn’t have any physical problems that need attention.


Magnesium Supplementation
In an article in the 2004 Buying Guide entitled “Head Off Trouble with Ex-Stress,” you refer to magnesium supplementation of 5 to 10 g/day, which can be obtained from feed grade magnesium oxide. Magnesium oxide at our local feed mill states, “Minimum magnesium content is 56%.” I’m wondering how much to feed to obtain 5 to 10g mg/day. About 15 grams if it’s only 56% Mg’

To calculate this, divide the target dose by 0.56.?? So, for a 5-gram dose it’s 5??0.56 = 8.9 grams, and for 10 grams you need to feed 17.8 grams.?? Magnesium oxide comes in various degrees of fine vs. coarse particles.??The best thing to do is to weigh a level tablespoon full on a gram scale, then figure out how much you need from that.


Soft Hooves
As you know, we’ve had torrential, unending rains here in California and my mare’s feet have become very soft.?? The shoer was out today and told me he wasn’t sure she’d be able to hold the shoes.?? Happily we’re in for some mega sunshine over the next 10 days, but is there anything I can do to help toughen them in the meantime.?? I’m familiar with pine-tar turpentine, but my shoer was worried about using even that, concerned that any moisture of any kind would only contribute to the problem.

You’re in a difficult spot. Be sure your mare’s diet includes adequate levels of biotin and flaxseed, but that’s a long-term aid. In the interim, talk with your farrier about being sure he fills the nail holes with a sealer. Tuff Stuff from Mustad (, 860-242-3650) may be a help with situations like this, but be certain you don’t put it on the coronet/coronary band area. We also suggest you apply Venice turpentine (many different brands available) to the soles. Use the Tuff Stuff once a week, and the Venice turpentine daily. Discuss these recommendations with your own farrier, first, of course, since he knows your mare’s feet best. You may also want to consider using glue-on shoes or EasyBoots to help get through. And, of course, if you can avoid turnout in the muddy areas, do so, even if it means you do hand walking.


I am being innundated with conflicting info on how to treat my Cushing’s horse.?? Her ACTH test was 58.7, and she has some clinical signs like some fat along the neck and her coat is somewhat thicker and shedding less, but tolook at her you would never think Cushing’s.?? One opinion was to start her on pergolide right away. Another was to start with dietary changes instead.?? What are the positives/negatives on pergolide’?? Does it delay symptoms or just treat them as they occur’??

The positive on pergolide is that it actually works at the level of the pituitary tumor, decreasing the abnormally high output of hormones, hopefully at least slowing its growth.?? When a horse truly has Cushing’s, diet alone won’t control the resultant insulin resistance that comes from high output of ACTH and other hormones.?? The downsides are cost, side effects (“depression” and loss of appetite are most common) and that dosage often has to be increased over time.?? Side effects can be minimized by starting with a very low dose, splitting the daily dose into two or more doses and increasing it slowly over time.

In early cases, which it sounds like your horse may be, many vets and owners have found over the years that they only need to treat with pergolide in the fall and winter.?? The new finding last year that even normal horses can have dramatic elevations of ACTH at that time probably explains why early Cushing’s horses are worse then.

Regardless of whether or not you choose to use pergolide at this time, the advice to start dietary changes is sound. Diet alone won’t control insulin resistance in a Cushing’s horse, but pergolide alone may not either.??When the insulin resistance is mild, starting pergolide without making diet changes may control it, but these horses often don’t remain controlled by pergolide alone and end up having worsening insulin resistance and laminitis as a result.


Spirulina’s Not Tasty
I was excited to read about the positive effects of spirulina for allergies (December 2004), as I have a horse that suffers from allergic reaction to culicoides.??I ordered the spirulina immediately and added 20 grams to his feed.?? He took one sniff and then dumped his feed.

I can’t blame him. The stuff smells disgusting.?? Any hints on how to get him to eat the spirulina in his feed’

Fortunately, we’ve found more horses readily accept the Spirulina than don’t, but those that don’t can be pretty adamant about it.?? In some cases it’s the fine powder that bothers them more than taste or smell.?? Try adding a little oil — CocoSoya (, 800-248-0330) is excellent because of its strong pleasant aroma — to the feed before mixing in the spiru lina.?? This will make it stick to the feed better.??

If that doesn’t work, you’ll have to syringe it in for a while.?? Start by giving the entire dose using a dose syringe immediately before feeding.?? This will put the taste of the spirulina in his mouth before he eats.?? Mix into water or apple sauce but aim for a thick consistency.?? After a few days of this, start adding a small portion of the dose directly to his feed, making sure to feed immediately after you syringe it in.??

By gradually but steadily putting more in the feed and less by syringe, most horses can be successfully moved over to adding it to the feed only.??You can also try putting small amounts on his hay and leave small amounts in the feed tub between meals, especially overnight to help “desensitize” him to it.?? It’s worth the extra effort.

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