Ask Horse Journal: 07/03

Help For Sunburn
y two horses are sensitive to sunlight and burn easily. What can I use’ A human sunscreen or a product formulated for horses’ My Spotted Saddle Horse is black and white with pink skin under the white hair. The other horse is a palomino.

-Dana Tautz

Any sunscreen product for people — or better yet, specifically for children — can be used on most horses. A few horses do develop reactions/sensitivities to the sunscreens, however, so if you find your horse actually looks more red and irritated after using it, stop. An SPF of 30 or greater should be used. Frequent applications will likely be needed for the lower legs/pasterns and the muzzle, as it will rub off on grass.

A messier but longer-lasting and highly effective alternative is zinc-oxide ointment. This is the white cream lifeguards smear across their noses. It’s also available in colors now, which makes it easy to see when the horse needs another application. Fly masks with muzzle extensions, like the Cashel Crusader ( 800-333-2202), can also help.


Sun Bleaching
I was excited to see the April 2003 article on sun bleaching, as I struggle to keep my dark bay’s coat from bleaching. I’ve checked the nutrition labels on our feed and they seem to be fine with your guidelines for zinc, manganese, and copper. Actually, the article didn’t quite match the problem I’m having.

My gelding doesn’t show signs of sun bleaching. The only spots on his coat that show bleaching are under tack and on those spots of the body that sweat during work. During warm weather, I thoroughly rinse his coat after work. His coat doesn’t look damaged, just lighter in color exactly where the saddle pad and bridle sit.

I’ve started using a brand of shampoo and conditioner designed to prevent sun bleaching, hoping that it will offer extra protection to the hair against any type of bleaching agent. I’m assuming the bleaching is caused by his sweat. Have you encountered this problem before and, hopefully, found a solution’

-Rita Selheim
North Carolina

Your horse may have an allergy/sensitivity to the material in your saddle pad or something used on the tack or a preservative/dye in the tack. The sweating per se is not likely to be causing the problems, but the heat generated under the equipment causes the pores to open and the sweat may be reacting with, or leaching out, whatever the offending substance is. It will take a few months for the hair to be replaced with hair of normal color. We suggest you use only pure glycerine soap to clean your tack and gentle detergents, like Ivory Snow, to wash your saddle pad. If that doesn’t help, try synthetic tack for a while, cleaned only with water, to see if that solves the problem.


I am looking at adopting a 12-year-old horse that is believed to be a cryptorchid. A blood test to verify this is underway, however, based on the mannerisms of this horse when he’s around other horses and an examination by the veterinarian, he is most likely a cryptorchid.

His ground manners are good, although he’ll talk to other horses. However, if he is turned out he tries to mount both the mares and geldings, or if he is turned out in near other horses, he cow-kicks and bites his sides in frustration.

I’m looking into the cost of surgery, but I would also like to consider non-traditional treatments. I’ve heard that Monk’s Pepper is an anti-aphrodisiac and wondered how effective it would be in calming his behavior. Can it be used long-term without any adverse affects’ Are there other treatments I should consider’

-L. Bulgher

The blood tests are definitely first, before considering surgery. Some horses that are gelded late in life can retain all the stallion-like characteristics you mention. Monk’s Pepper (Chasteberry, Vitex) may indeed help with this behavior if he is a cryptorchid, as would progesterone injections, oral Regumate, or you could try the progesterone implants.


I have an ulcer-prone six-year-old mare. She just completed a round of U-Gard, which helped her get over what my vet diagnosed as a mild case. I believe she might be predisposed due to exercise “stress.” I can easily feed her a “small” quantity of whole oats prior to exercise, which is suggested as a possible help for this.

When in full work, she gets 20+ lbs. of grass hay and 6 lbs. of LMF (a West Coast brand) Development 16% complete feed, in two feedings daily. I believe that my management of her care is good. I’m just starting her back to work and will go back to full work slowly, of course. Do you have suggestions’ By the way, I found the U-Gard with help from Horse Journal, and it did the trick — along with my own diagnosing skills, which were helped by Horse Journal in an article about gut-pain symptoms.

-Name Withheld

A study in the July 2000 American Journal of Veterinary Research reported lower-number and less-severe ulcers in horses fed an alfalfa and grain diet than with grass hay only, presumably as a result of a better buffering capacity of that diet, possibly the high calcium from the alfalfa. However, another study done in ponies found no ulcers in ponies allowed constant access to hay and fed hay only, while ponies on a pellet feed (grain and fiber sources) did develop ulcers. What this means is that the “ideal” feeding composition to prevent ulcers isn’t clear. That said, most veterinarians agree that horses that go for hours without access to anything to eat are at increased risk. There are also several factors that have nothing to do with diet, including stall confinement and starting an exercise program.

You could experiment with different feeding types, timings and amounts to see if it makes a difference, but if the training program seems to be the trigger they may not have any effect. Your best approach may end up being to make sure the horse is on a predictable routine that minimizes stress, gets as much turnout time as possible and consider long-term use of U-Gard Step 3 ( 800-838-7524), which contains no aluminum and is safe for long-term use, at least during the initial stages of training.


Double Dosing Dewormers
In April 2003, the recommended deworming schedule says if you use fenbendazole with ivermectin, then give your horse “a one-time five-day, double-dose of fenbendazole.” In translating this, I assume this means for five consecutive days, give your horse twice as much as his weight requires, and do this once a day for the five days. I normally deworm with ivermectin but use Safeguard (fenbendazole) in March and October. I give the correct weight amount for two consecutive days.

-Libby Parham

The regular dose of Safeguard for two days that you’re using isn’t going to eliminate early-stage small strongyle larvae missed by the ivermectin, which is the reason for using the five-day, double-dose Safeguard, which means giving your horse a double dose for five consecutive days.

If you’re trying to eliminate tapeworms, which the plain ivermectin doesn’t get, you need to use Strongid paste (pyrantel). Give the Strongid paste at a double dose on a single day, rather than regular dose for two days. You can also choose to use the Ivermectin Gold when it’s available, which will also target tapeworms with a single dose (see sidebar).


High Iron And Manganese
The March 2002 issue said, “You want to avoid supplements containing high levels of iron or manganese.” I may be??buying a farm, however, the well water tests indicate a high l evel of iron and manganese.?? Can you please explain the concerns regarding these minerals and horses’??

-Sharon T. Hardie

High iron intake contributes to increased inflammatory tendencies and can be toxic to the liver. The major problem with both the high iron and high manganese is that hays in many areas also tend to be much higher in these two minerals, and low in copper and zinc. The high iron increases the requirements for copper and zinc, while the high manganese can simultaneously result in lower levels of absorption of the copper and zinc.

Healthy unstressed adult horses that are not in hard work can usually tolerate fairly significant mineral imbalances and shortages without obvious symptoms. However, signs you’re running into trouble include a horse with a bleached coat or mane, swelling and heat with minor injuries, tendon/joint problems, allergies or poor infection resistance.

We wouldn’t let the water mineral levels influence your decision to buy the farm, of course. A proper water filtering system can take care of it or you can supplement the horses specifically with those minerals that are in short supply from the water, hay and pasture.

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