Ask Horse Journal: 07/00

Horse Drops Behind Bit
I have an Arabian stallion ridden Western who has had trouble with his teeth in the past (now correct), and he has been severely restricted through the bit in his training (by a previous trainer). When I get on him now, he tucks his head way behind the vertical (despite no contact at all on the bit), unless he is being led by someone else with a pressure head collar, at which point he lowers his head nicely. Would you consider a hackamore for this stallion’

If so, I have never used one, but I do have one. What should I look out for in fit, use and type’ Mine is a leather-covered noseband, with 6” or 7” shanks and a leather and a metal curb. Where should the curb hit his chin’ Any advice you can give me would be most helpful, as there are few Western trainers in England.

-Madeleine P. Brownell

Your questions are excellent ones, and your horse’s problem would be similarly challenging for an English rider. It’s actually one of training, and we’ll give you some suggestions on how to proceed.

We’re sure you’re aware that bits with shanks for the reins (curb bits) encourage the horse to tuck his nose. So do “mechanical” hackamores like the one you describe. The leverage of the bit against the lower jaw — or noseband against the nose — and the curb strap against the chin groove encourage the horse’s reaction. The longer the shank, the stronger the leverage — and 6” or 7” shanks are about as long as you can get.

A horse who carries his head behind the bit (evading pressure by tucking the nose toward the chest) like yours can quickly get out of control. He’s learned to get away from pressure in his mouth this way. He’ll likely evade any rein pressure even if you also use a weight cue (shift your upper body weight slightly to the rear). We strongly advise against using your hackamore on your horse.

However, you’re absolutely correct in thinking that a hackamore might be useful in light of your horse’s history. Try a side-pull hackamore (English riders call their equivalent a jumping hackamore) instead. Look for one with a soft, thick, rope noseband because that is milder than a thin, stiff one. (See our article on side-pull hackamores in September 1999.) Side-pull hackamores act purely on the nose, without leverage, and can be used to retrain your horse in addition to schooling exercises.

Regardless of the bit you decide to use, you should be able to at least momentarily raise the head of any horse that ducks behind the bit through this method: Keep your upper arm by your side and lever your lower arm up from the elbow, with your hand going up the horse’s neck and not back toward your chest. You can do this with just your inside hand or with both hands used at the same time.


Rotating Supplements
My friend alternates supplements, saying it’s no big deal as long as you feed some type of supplement. He currently rotates two hoof supplements to save a little money, I think. What do you think of alternating’

-J. Martin
Pasadena, CA

Some horses don’t even need supplements. It is important to choose a supplement that complements your hay and grain and is compatible with the basic diet and other supplements you may be feeding. If you were only feeding straight, plain biotin, for example, alternating may not make any difference. But most manufacturers include other ingredients in their biotin supplements.

When you randomly choose and/or mix products with multiple ingredients at different levels you defeat the purpose of matching your supplement to the diet in the first place. If your supplement does the job you want, stick with it. If it doesn’t, take the time to choose a different supplement for your horse.


MSM And Allergies
I take MSM and was interested in your sidebar on MSM in the March 2000 issue. You mention the word allergy, and I’m not sure I understand the context. For example, you say, “MSM . . . can specifically modulate immune reactions concerned with inflammation and allergy.”

My horse suffers from summer allergies that we treat with prednisone from June through October or November. His previous owner suggested he was allergic to grass pollen. I think it might be more like insect bites as he is turned out in a dirt paddock when not in his stall. His symptoms include little nubby bumps on his legs (more on the front legs then the back legs) and hive-type bumps on his neck and chest. Left untreated, he will bite his chest and rub the hair off his neck scratching and scratching against anything he can. He crosses his front legs back and forth rubbing them against each other. I never asked the vet to do allergy testing, but the prednisone along with meticulous grooming and liberal use of fly spray help but don’t cure the problem. Would use of MSM help this kind of allergy’

-Barbara Ross
Alexandria, VA

MSM might help but probably won’t get rid of the problem. Sounds like you’re right — insects are the likely candidate here. There are other drug alternatives (like antihistamines) and some topicals that would help with itching, but we’d have his skin tested to define his allergies then get him on a series of desensitizing allergy shots. It’s the most effective treatment by far and kindest to the horse’s system in the long run. We feel using corticosteroids, like prednisone, for several months straight should be a last resort.


Change Of Attitude
As usual with horse problems, there are a thousand dynamics going on at one time with my nine-year-old mare. I moved her 2,500 miles from upstate New York to southeast Arizona this past fall. Her environment completely changed, as did her feed. She was in a grass cropped paddock with a run-in shed and out all day in New York. Now she is in a 8’ by 20’ paddock all day and turned out on dirt in a reasonably sized paddock all night.

Her feed was changed from timothy to alfala. She is fat but has always been fat. She drinks well, eats slowly, and has always been easy to manage. Boarding people love having her on their place. Now, her whole being has changed. She had colic once (never before). She bucks when I ride her and wants to go, go, go. She pushes when lead. It is almost like she has lost her mind.

I think she is reacting to alfalfa — only one flake in morning and one evening. She also gets bran and Dr. Benson’s. Our next plan is to mix alfalfa with Bermuda hay and see the effect. What would you suggest’

-Mary Anne Somerville
Sierra Vista, AZ

As you said, many things could be going on here. Many horses get “hyper” in a new environment, but the novelty should have worn off (it rarely lasts more than a few days). She may be missing old companions. Mares get attached more intensely than geldings. If you think this is part of the problem, the solution is turn out with another horse, even getting her a female goat.

The decreased ability to move around freely and graze is almost certainly having an effect on her. Nothing calms a horse more effectively than turnout and munching all day. She probably goes through her limited hay intake in record time and has nothing else to keep her occupied. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about her new surroundings. Switching to a late-cutting grass hay would allow you to feed her more and may help. Also, long relaxed cross-country work may calm her down.

Finally, you may be right that the dietary change is affecting her. Many horses get “hotter” on alfalfa, but it’s not likely to be related to the “richness” of the hay — either its slightly higher calories or the protein content — as many people think. A major mineral imbalance is probably the cause, such as too much calcium, especially in rel ation to magnesium. Magnesium deficiency/imbalance may also contribute to obesity in horses that are insulin resistant.

A rapid change to alfalfa may also have caused enough gastro-intestinal upset to be at the root of her colic episode and could be resulting in a B vitamin insufficiency. Both magnesium deficiency/imbalance and B vitamin insufficiency will result in agitation in many horses.


EIA In Oklahoma
In our April 2000 article on EIA, the chart was incorrect for Oklahoma laws. Oklahoma requires negative Coggins for all horses entered in equine events prior to competition. They also require Coggins in horses offered for sale.


Delaney Clause Erratum
In the June article on Rabon, we need to clarify the statement about the Delaney Clause and its effect on tetrachlorvinphos. The Delaney Clause of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act prohibits the establishment of any tolerance levels (i.e. upper limit that maybe found in a food) when the chemical involved has been shown to cause cancer in humans or experimental animals. As a result of a 1992 ruling by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the EPA was ordered to follow a strict, legal interpretation of the Delaney clause, i.e. no level of a potential cancer-causing chemical would be permitted in any foods, regardless of the estimated degree of risk.

The EPA then began action to revoke over 367 previously established tolerance levels (accepted levels) for 38 pesticides, including the use of tetrachlorvinphos in beef, dairy cattle and horse feeds. When the Food Quality Protection Act was enacted in 1996, it replaced the Delaney Clause in some types of foods with the result that the proposed revocation for uses of tetrachlorvinphos was withdrawn and the chemical was added to the list of those to be reviewed under the FQPA. Final decision under the FQPA is still pending. However, on July 21, 1999, EPA issued final revocations for several uses of tetrachlorvinphos. These were based on voluntary withdrawls of use petitions by the manufacturer, not forced by the EPA.


End Time-Consuming Pill Smashing
How do you crush your horse’s medications’ Mortar and pestle’ The good ol’ hammer’ Tired of chasing all those hard lumps around’ The solution is an electric coffee grinder. These are small devices, standing about eight inches high and selling for under $20 (we especially like the one from Mr. Coffee).

The super sharp blades and high speed motor will pulverize a few grams of phenylbutazone or 10+ trimethoprim sulfa pills — any pill or capsules — in just a few seconds, turning them into a fine powder that mixes beautifully through the feed or will suspend easily in liquid, without clogging the tip, for administration using a dose syringe. Use it once and you’ll never want to be without one.

The only problem is shorting out the switch if dust gets inside the connection. They all have a small tongue on the lid that fits inside a slot on the body of the machine. Depressing the tab/switch on the lid makes the connection. Always check to be sure no powder is in this area.


Easy Drug Information
If you have a question or just want general information about a prescription drug or a dewormer, go to The Center for Veterinary Medicine site has the Freedom of Information Act information for all approved drugs and dewormers. Select “Search” on their menu and enter: “FOI, drug brand name, drug generic name.” Additional information such as the manufacturer’s name and “injectable,” “oral,” etc. may help narrow your search. This is not a discriminatory search engine and turns up some odd-ball results, but all entries come with a summary so you can wade through them easily.


When Your Supplement Doesn’t Work
People usually think a particular supplement is the best thing ever marketed or it’s worthless. This isn’t necessarily a case of one person being right and the other wrong. It may be a situation where the basic rules of choosing and using a supplement haven’t been followed correctly.

Rule one for any supplement to help is that the horse has to need it. Let’s say your horse is sluggish. A friend tells you she tried a new “blood builder” and after two weeks her horse had lots more energy and a beautiful coat, too. You try it and get no effect.

Another friend suggests a different blood-builder, and Sluggo turns into Dynamo in a few days. You conclude that, sure enough, your horse needed a blood-builder, but the first product is lousy. Not necessarily.

First, the only way to know if your horse needs a blood builder is to do a blood test. If you find anemia, fine. But more often than not the horse was never anemic, only deficient in one or more of the ingredients in the blood builder. Correcting that is what helped your horse. Your friend’s horse may have really been anemic or another part of her feeding program deficient in something your program wasn’t. The ingredients in Supplement A really made a difference to her horse, but Supplement B had what your horse needed.

It’s possible that both are good products, when used in horses that need them. Feeding the wrong supplement to horses that don’t need it is like giving antibiotics to treat a fracture. You may even create more problems.

If your supplement choice “doesn’t work,” don’t be too quick to blame the product. Go back to square one, be sure the diagnosis is correct, and get professional help in unraveling the problem and making the best choice for the individual horse.

Also With This Article
Click here to view ”Case History.”


Reactions Under Leg Wraps
If you have wrapped your horse’s legs because of simple stocking up or an injury with swelling, only to see the leg actually getting bigger over the next few days, consider a reaction to the wrap. The skin overlying areas of injury and inflammation can be extremely sensitive, especially if you clipped it. Some horses react badly to alcohol, rubs, liniments or even the fabric of the bandage. It isn’t necessarily a chestnut or a horse with white legs that can have this reaction; bays and grays do it, too. If the leg keeps getting irritated, a cellulitis can develop, even without any obvious break in the skin.

To treat, use cold-water hosing or an ice-water bath, as often and as long as you can for the next day or two. Wash the skin thoroughly with a human hypoallergenic soap (like Neutrogena or pure castile) to remove all traces of topical medication. When dry, rub the skin lightly with either a generic 1% cortisone cream, aloe, tea-tree oil liquid or cream/ointment. If possible, do not put the bandage back on; just allow exposure to air. If the leg needs to be wrapped, launder the cotton and outside flannel or polo-type wrap in a gentle detergent, like Ivory Snow, before use. Put it through an extra rinse cycle and dry in the air and sun rather than in a dryer. If swelling does not improve in a day or two, or if the leg feels hot, ask your vet to evaluate the need for antibiotics. Tribrissen 400 paste, or any trimethoprim/sulfa pill or injectable, is a good choice.

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