Ask Horse Journal: 07/04

Nutraceutical Worries
My two horses are on joint nutraceuticals for arthritis. I’ve been told that it’s a good idea to stop supplements every month for a week in order to give the horse’s body a break from them. Is this true’ Also, can horses get exposed to mad-cow disease through chondroitin sulfate or any other supplements’

There’s no benefit to giving a break in supplementation, except possibly to save some money. Horses could theoretically be exposed to mad-cow disease if the chondroitin supplement was made from bovine tissues. Bone meal/marrow and “animal protein products” are other possible exposure routes but don’t appear often in a feed or supplement intended for horses. Hoof supplements containing gelatin are another potential source. However, the level of risk is unknown.


Fatty-Tumor Colic
What causes fatty tumors to develop and strangle the intestine’ Are there any preventatives’ It’s become a common cause of colic in my area.

Lipomas are benign, slow-growing, fat tumors that hang from stalks in the abdomen. The long stalks can sometimes become wrapped around a loop of bowel and strangle it. Lipomas are usually found in older horses, probably because they grow slowly and take a good while to reach a size where they can be a problem. Colics from lipomas occur in both sexes and all breeds, but geldings and ponies/minis are at higher risk for colic from lipomas, according to two research studies we found. No reason for this was proposed, but in some other species obesity is a risk factor, so it would be wise to avoid letting your horses get overweight.


Teeth Bumps
My four-year-old horse has two large knots on his face just below his eyes, toward the middle of his face. I’m told they’re teeth erupting, but I’m afraid the bumps will become permanent. Is this true’

Horses do commonly develop temporary bumps in the lower jaw at this age when the permanent molars are erupting, but it would be unusual to see anything related to the upper molars. If you haven’t already done so, have your veterinarian examine the horse to determine if these swellings are located directly over the upper cheek teeth and are definitely related to tooth eruption. If there’s any doubt, a skull X-ray will tell for sure. You should also ask your veterinarians to check for retained caps (baby teeth) that may be impeding the eruption of the permanent teeth.


Roots Against Bit
My 10-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred gelding roots down against the bit at times. This pulls me out of the saddle and onto his withers. Do you have a suggestion for a bit that would discourage him from doing this’

A bit that might discourage a horse from rooting or lugging would have to be severe, and it still might not stop the behavior. We don’t recommend going to a more severe bit to solve training issues, since that can create an entire set of new problems. A mild alternative that may help is a loos-ring snaffle, as opposed to a fixed-ring snaffle.

There’s also another piece of equipment that may help solve the problem. Place a grab/mounting strap between the D-rings on your saddle. You’ll want one that has some arch to it and isn’t taut across the pommel area but that isn’t so long it flops.

If you don’t want to buy a grab strap, you can use several lengths of baling twine twisted together, but wear gloves because the twine could cut into your hand.

In the moments when you anticipate a lug, hook your thumb(s) into the grab strap. He’ll pop off the bit, thus reprimanding himself, which can be more effective than having the correction come from the rider. This will also prevent you from being pulled forward out of position. After he pops off the bit, also give him a forward leg aid, making sure you don’t touch his mouth as a conflicting aid. This will also help get him off his forehand and result in him becoming lighter in your hands.


Pregnant Mare Buddies
I’m going to buy a pregnant mare, and I want to turn her out with my three geldings and one other mare. Is this a problem’ Can I turn out the mare and foal, once it’s born, out with the other horses’ Is there any problem with keeping a mare on a farm that has a stallion’

Some rough fighting can ensue whenever you introduce a new horse to a group, so you’ll need to be particularly careful with the pregnant mare. The best method is to pen her close to the other horses for a week or so, until they get to know her. You may find one of the other horses is particularly interested in her and appears to want to become friends. If this is the case, you can pen her with her new buddy for a few days before putting the two of them back with the larger group.

The mare and foal can also be put out with the larger group, but you should wait until the foal is at least seven days old so that it is well bonded to the mother and can identify her in the group.

We suggest you also repeat the same procedure of penning the mare and foal close to the group during this time so that they can become accustomed to the new addition, again, for a week or so. The other horses are going to be curious about the baby, which can cause problems.

Mares are instinctively the most protective in the first few days. It’s also easy for foals to be injured if fighting results. The foal will be curious about the new friends, too, and the other horses may not take too kindly to being sniffed or if the foal attempts to nurse them.

Many mares show stronger estrus/heat behavior if there is a stallion on the farm. A few mares may also be harder to keep focused on humans and their work in general.


Also With This Article
”Handy Barn Helpers”
”Watch Those Bean Treats”

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