Ask Horse Journal: 06/99

Is There A Pill For Seasonal Allergies’
My 12-year-old Thoroughbred sneezes constantly when we’re hacking every year at this time in Kentucky, when it is allergy season. I originally thought that the small gnats or butterflies were what was bothering his nose, but he started again as we went on our first hack with the flowers out and weather warm. When the flowers were not in bloom, the sneezing did not appear.

Is there a product available that I can event on to help with the sneezing problem’ It becomes dangerous when the sneeze appears two strides before a cross-country jump and he throws the head so violently that we miss a step.

We scoped him last year, and this guy has had tie-back surgery. We also have a constant discharge from his nose that the vet monitors and we’ve tested. He’s turned out all the time except to eat and groom. Whatever suggestions you can give me for allergy sufferers or a way to desensitize his nose would be appreciated.

-Alston Kerr

Controlling allergies without medications can be really tough. You can try a nutritional approach, but it may take a few weeks to see results. Supplementing with an anti-oxidant product, such as Antioxidant Concentrate from Vita-Key (800/539-8482) or United Vet Equine’s Antiox (800/328-6652), is often helpful in cutting the inflammation and irritation the allergy causes and therefore secondarily decreasing symptoms. Uckele Animal Health’s Bio-Quench (800/248-0330) has also been very helpful for horses with respiratory tract allergies. Applying Vicks to the nostrils may help, as can use of aromatic oil products (Respun, also from Uckele Animal Health).

If the allergen is really plant/flower-related, it may help to stable the horse at least part of the day, using wood chips/shavings for bedding to avoid the horse becoming sensitized to even more irritants that may be present in straw.

Desensitization shots work well for some horses; the major problem being to accurately identify the offending substances. Unfortunately, Kentucky air also may contain a fairly high amount of irritating chemical substances (Kentucky is the second highest state in the nation for level of aluminum dust, a respiratory irritant), which would not be affected by desensitization shots.

Your vet may also be able to develop a modified medication program where you withdraw the drugs in time to “test clean” for competitions. This is not ideal but will help control symptoms at least part of the time and break the self-perpetuating cycle of irritation/inflammation that often makes the problem worse.


Riding Pregnant Mares
I am a fairly large person (not tall, but approximately 200 pounds) with a fairly small horse. I am a good, balanced rider and up until now haven’t had many worries about my size versus that of my horse. She is in foal, and I’ve always thought that keeping a mare fit during pregnancy was in her best interests to promote an easier time during delivery. What sort of weight ratio do you think is acceptable, without causing undue stress’ Should I forgo riding for longeing, or is this an unnecessary precaution’

This foal is important to me, and I want to do everything properly without taking any risks. When I ride now I ride fairly aggressively, asking for extensions and collections, and occasionally do a road/pleasure ride. I have always found Horse Journal informative and to the point, and I would like to hear your input.

-K. Barker

Weight/size ratios, pregnant or not, are pretty much common sense. There are many fairly “short” but broad-backed and stocky horses that can handle a heavier rider easier than a very tall but thin type. There is no particular physical reason not to ride/work the pregnant mare until the very late stages of pregnancy (last four to six weeks), when stress should be kept to a minimum. She may become uncomfortable with being ridden before then, however.

The weight of the foal puts a considerable strain on the spine and back muscles. Signs of back pain (sensitivity when groomed, sinking when you mount, grunting or groaning, stiffness when working) could be a sign to stop riding.

The pregnant uterus also exerts considerable pressure on the diaphragm, which can make it difficult to breathe deeply. Be alert for breathing patterns during work that are heavier than they should be for her level of conditioning. Less specific things like sluggishness, resistance, lack of energy etc. are signs that the pregnancy is slowing her down.

You may not have to stop riding all together when she begins to give you these signals. Just back off the more strenuous work in favor of work on a longer rein and more hacking. She will get just as much benefit.


Bumps Into Poles
I have a problem that I have never encountered, and I am hoping for a little help. I have an eight-year-old Arabian gelding. He has been jumped, and he loves it, but he rushes his jumps. I have started taking him over cavaletti, but he will not lift his feet up to go over them. Even just walking over one single pole, he kicks and bumps it. I have walked him over the pole in hand to watch him, and he seems as if he wants to hit it with his foot before walking over it. I don’t know how to show him that I want him to go over it. How can I make him pick his feet up’

-Jamie Reinhart
Clio, MI

First, we’d have a vet check your horse’s eyesight and soundness. You don’t mention how he’s shod, but if he’s in aluminum shoes, you may want to switch to a heavier steel shoe to encourage him to lift his feet off the ground. You may also consider putting weighted bell boots on his feet.

The fact that he knocks poles with his feet is not as serious a training issue as rushing the jumps. You need to put time into retraining. There could be a connection between his unwillingness to lift his feet and his anxiety about jumping.

You are on the right track with cavaletti for both problems. Longe your horse in a 20-meter circle over a pole in both directions at the walk, trot and canter. Give your horse plenty of time to figure out this exercise, then put another pole on the opposite side of your longeing circle.

When he is comfortable over two poles and looks confident about where he is putting his feet, add two other poles between the original two so you have four evenly spaced poles around the longeing circle.

This exercise is helpful under tack as well. Start with one pole at the walk, trot and canter, and add the other three one by one. It may take several sessions for this exercise to go smoothly at the canter. Don’t add any more poles until what you are working on is easy for him.

When he is relaxed at the canter, put standards on either side of one pole. If he starts to rush the pole, repeat until he relaxes. Then set up a cross-rail, as small as possible, and repeat at the trot and canter. If he does not rush, gradually raise the cross-rail as you repeat the exercise on the circle. If he rushes, lower the jump onto the ground if necessary and repeat until he relaxes.

If your horse stays calm about jumping but still is careless about his feet, it will be up to you to decide what the boundaries of safety are. Some careless horses sharpen up fast when they are schooled cross-country over a few solid obstacles. Others trip over them before they learn to get their feet out of the way.


Is Clover OK’
I have a 20-year-old half-Arabian buckskin gelding and a yearling POA mare. I live on a farm, and we grow our hay for our cows. I am confused on the “right” kind of hay to feed to my horses. Right now, the hay I feed is mostly alfalfa/grass mix. We have some hay that has some clover in it, but I have been told not to feed hay with clover in it to my horses. What kind of hay is good for horses’ If clover is bad, is there any kind of clover that is OK to use’

-Cindy DykstraInternet

A mixed alfalfa/grass hay is just fine for horses. Many people with a strong cow background, however, don’t realize that the same things that make a good hay for the cows make a good hay for the horses. The major difference is that horses can’t tolerate hay that was put up with a lot of moisture. They are more sensitive to molds and fungal toxins than the cows are.

A lot of horses do have trouble with the high protein in straight alfalfa, but the main reason for not using it is that the calcium and phosphorus ratio is too far off. Horses need the same type hay you would feed to your cows right before freshening. Don’t feed them that old, late-cutting, heifer/dry-cow, stemmy hay though???not enough nutrition in it.

Clover hay (red clover) can have a mold-related toxin that potentially causes blood-clotting problems. However, the main reason for not using clover for horses is that it is almost always baled with a high moisture content and is likely to mold. If the hay with some clover is clean, sweet, not dusty and flakes apart easily you can safely feed it.


Suspensory Desmitis
My seven-year-old Peruvian Paso’s hind legs are like noodles. It’s like he doesn’t even know he has hind legs, and they go every which way when he is standing or casually ridden. When he is worked or just running in the arena, he has a perfect gait and never stumbles.

Several vets and shoers looked at him, and all said they didn’t know what the problem was and that he would grow out of it. He hasn’t. Finally, a vet stated he thought the problem was suspensory “digititis.” He said it is a progressive problem and the more the horse is ridden, the faster it will progress until the pain is too severe to ride him. The vet suggested egg-bar shoes on the rear with wedges to bring the hind legs up. We did that, and brought the hind legs up, but other than that, they are the same. There is little information on gaited horses and their problems. Is this, in fact, a problem’ What is suspensory “digititis”’

-June Hurte
Gardnerville, NV

You will be relieved to know that you not alone! Many horses bred for specific gaits???Walking Horses, Paso Finos, Standardbreds???have an awkward and disjointed way of moving at the walk and slow trot that can look anything from somewhat odd to downright abnormal. Since you say the horse never stumbles, has a perfect gait and does not appear to have any difficulty when seriously ridden, that is probably the case here.

Many horses do seem to mature out of the awkward stage, but not necessarily. Some will appear strange or actually neurologically abnormal at all gaits except those for which they are specifically bred. However, if the condition worsens or begins to affect his way of going at gaits where he was previously normal, you should get a complete neurological exam from an expert.

The suspensory condition you are referring to is desmitis, which means inflammation of a ligament. Gaited horses of all varieties are more prone to strain and sprain of ligaments, tendons and possibly joints. Symptoms include swelling and heat in the involved area as well as pain when you palpate/squeeze the ligament.

Shoeing, such as you described, ease some of the pull on the suspensory but will not necessarily make any acute inflammation less painful and therefore would not change the horse’s way of going immediately. The fact the horse performs perfectly when you are seriously schooling him tends to go against this problem, but horses with a great deal of heart and desire to perform can often ignore mild-to-moderate pain.

If suspensory desmitis is a serious concern here, you should have an ultrasound examination done to determine the extent of injury. This will allow more precise advice concerning treatment, exercise and shoeing.

Many large equine clinics and veterinary school hospitals can do ultrasound examinations. If you cannot locate one near you, call the closest veterinary clinic and ask for a referral in your area.


End Wash-Stall Drain Clogs
When accumulated dirt, hair and hay block the drain in the wash stall, the annoyance of a flooded wash stall can turn into the major expense of getting the pipes cleared. But a trip to the hardware store and a few moments with tin snips can solve the problem. A liner for the drain can be made with wire mesh that is cut and bent to fit under the drain cover. Debris that escapes past the cover will be trapped by the mesh, which can be lifted out. The clogged material can be dumped in the muck basket and the mesh replaced in just a few seconds.


Ice Packs In A Hurry
If we had to pick one emergency supply to never run out of it would be ice. Your freezer should always contain a generous amount. For quick application to sprains, strains, hot joints etc. you can also substitute a bag of frozen vegetables (peas or corn work best). These mold well to anywhere on the leg and will stay cold about 15 minutes. While your veggies are thawing, bring out the ice cube trays and reduce large cubes to smaller pieces???about the size of a malted milk ball works best. Pack these tightly into the appropriate-size self-sealing plastic food bag. Snack size works great for application to the coronary band and/or heels for rapid cooling of sore feet; sandwich size for joints; food-storage size for cannon bones/tendons. These also mold extremely well to the leg and will provide cooling for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on weather and temperature of the leg.


FDA Targets Thyrol-L For Recall
The mainstay of treatment for horses with thyroid problems, Thyrol-L, has been put on notice by the FDA to come up with proof of safety, potency and effectiveness by Aug. 14, 2000, or be faced with a recall. Thyrol-L, as well as human oral L-thyroxine products, has been marketed for 35 years but were never required to submit the usual New Drug Application data; the belief being they were not a “new drug.” Since that time, the FDA has determined there is significant contamination of these products with the inactive D-thyroxine form of the hormone (which recent scientific studies show is the degraded form), resulting in variations in potency of up to 30%.

The FDA has also found that these products are extremely sensitive to temperature, light and humidity, often losing potency before their expiration date. Since July 1991, at least 10 recalls involving over 100 million tablets of the human drug (which is identical) have been necessary.

Despite the fact the wide variations in potency can pose significant health threats to both people and horses using this drug, the FDA did not immediately withdraw the drug for the simple fact that oral thyroxine is one of the most common human prescriptions. If your horse is on thyroid replacement, we advise you talk to your veterinarian about switching to a whole thyroid extract product and make sure regular thyroid hormone monitoring is done for any horse receiving an L-thyroxine product.


Feeding The Lactating Mare
Peak lactation increases your mare’s energy requirements by 40% over those of late pregnancy. However, your heavily milking broodmare does not have to be as bony as a cow. Keeping enough meat (really fat) over her ribs can be as simple as adding oils/fats to her diet, but this is not the way to go. Providing empty calories does nothing to meet the increased vitamin, mineral and protein needs. We suggest you feed the highest-quality mixed or grass hay you can find (or unlimited high-quality pasture), as much as she wants, along with a commercial grain mix that is formulated for lactating mares, weanlings and yearlings. If your favorite feed has both a weanling and a broodmare selection, check labels closely. Odds are they may be identical in formulation (although prices might not be).


Lost-Whip Protection
Show secretaries could run a concession with all the whips that get left behind. Once a whip gets set down somewhere it’s almost impossible to identify since duplicates abound. If you want your whip to find its way back to you, take a hint from golfers who usually label their golf clubs with a sticker that includes their name and even their address or phone number. Unobtrusive black labels can be ordered from golf-equipment catalogs. A cheaper alternative could be the return-address labels used for mailing envelopes, but keep the information short, so the label’s not too wide for your whip. If you just want your whip to stand out from the others around your boarding barn, wrap a thin strip of tape in a distinctive color at the base of the handle.


Chart Correction
In our May 1999 chart on page 4, Sure Flex is listed as containing 35,200 mg of chondroitin sulfates. Sure Flex actually contains mixed GAGs, the parent family of chondroitins but which also contains other types of GAGs.

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