Ask Horse Journal: 09/00

Hocks And Magnets
I have Quarter Horses we use constantly. We rodeo year round. One 17-year-old is used nearly every week in competition. I have invested in several different magnetic pieces, including a blanket and bell boots. This horse has had his hocks injected due to age and use. Is it wise to use magnets on the joints that have been injected’ Will it bring too much blood or heat to these joints’ Will it cause him to have to be injected more often or will it help his injections last longer’ He is on Legend every four to six weeks and daily glucosamine sulfate.

-T. Chapman
Whites Creek, TX

How well the magnetic therapy works (or anything else you are doing for that matter) depends on exactly what is going on in his hocks. Do you have X-rays’ Was a sample of joint fluid examined at the time his hocks were injected’ Age and use alone do not necessarily mean the horse’s hocks are bothering him or need intensive and potentially risky therapy like joint injections. If his hocks carry heat and swelling, that is an indication of active inflammation — either arthritis or soft-tissue strain (ligaments between the hock bones, the joint capsule, etc.).

It’s important to try to determine exactly what’s going on to make sure the treatments you try are targeting your type of problem. If the horse doesn’t show a lot of heat or swelling but is stiff, especially when starting out in a work session, the horse may have more advanced arthritis with bone spurring.

If your horse is more in the hot, swollen joint category, you should probably avoid magnets until that is under control. Magnets also should not be used if the joints were injected with a steroid as the two treatments work against each other.

For quieter joints and old arthritis with bone spur formation, magnets can be effective. However, even joints that seem quiet on the outside may have a component of inflammation going that will flare up when you use magnets. Start slowly (two hours the first day, increasing gradually to overnight, etc.) and if you get excessive swelling back off, use intensive local anti-inflammatory treatment (icing) for a few days, and then try again.

Although you are obviously trying to do everything you can for your horse, your treatments may be more effective if they were a little better organized. Start by determining just how much the hocks are bothering the horse (lameness exam, flexion tests, etc.). From there, X-rays are the next step to try to define the level of the problem. Glucosamine is a good choice for any stage or type of joint problem. For a horse working this hard, you may need to be feeding 10 grams (10,000 mg) a day to get best effect. Be sure the horse is getting a good level of trace minerals from his supplements and keep his vitamin E, selenium and vitamin C (E – 2000 mg/day, selenium – 2 mg/day, C – 5 grams/day are commonly used) intake up. If you don’t have a lot of bone spur formation and the glucosamine alone is not quite getting the job done, try adding a chondroitin. After the horse is stabilized on this program, if you still need more help, you can consider magnets or joint injections.

With a lot of bone spurring, magnets would be the choice. Otherwise, either periodic joint injections with hyaluronic acid or regular use of Legend are good choices. However, you should use one or the other, as recommended by the manufacturer. Legend once every four to six weeks probably isn’t doing too much for you (except for the week or so right after the injection).

If you get your horse on a good daily supplement and joint nutraceutical program, you will need far less-frequent joint injections. Horses that were being injected every four to six weeks can often stretch out to every six months, even longer. Other comfort measures like routinely icing the hocks for 30 minutes after any hard work, regular use of a good liniment, and things like magnets or neoprene hock sweats for horses with bone changes can also make a difference.


Covering White Hairs
I have a beautiful 17-hand dark bay warmblood gelding. Goliath has sensitive skin and gets reactions easily. About two months ago, a former farrier of mine put a chain over his nose in an effort to keep him under control while he was being shod.

I told the farrier that Goliath doesn’t do well chained. I suggested that maybe he was becoming impatient, and we should take a break to calm him down, but the farrier insisted that a chain would be better. Of course, the total opposite happened, and when the chain went over his nose, Goliath went crazy. Before I had a chance to safely remove the chain, it had ripped into his skin and formed a nasty cut.

A few days later, the hair around his cut had fallen out. All of the bridge of his nose to near his eyes was bald. I put aloe vera and Bag Balm on it, hoping it wouldn’t get infected and wouldn’t grow in white. About a week later, hair was starting to grow back white. I was devastated.

I chose a product that’s supposed to help horse hair grow in faster and in its natural color. It hasn’t had the results I’d hoped for. His facial hair is still growing in white. Are there any horse dyes that are safe on horses’

-B. Vizzi

While we realize your question pertains to Goliath’s skin and hair, we can’t help but comment on the situation that caused it.

It wasn’t up to the farrier to make your horse stand, and we agree with your obvious decision to not use him again. Training your horse to stand for the farrier is up to you. The method of restraint, when necessary, is also your decision. If the farrier (or a veterinarian) finds a horse too unruly to continue to work on, he or she should refuse to continue to do the horse until the horse is better trained (no one should be expected to risk getting hurt under any circumstance).

You also may be correct that Goliath needed a break. Very large and heavy horses, very small ponies and geriatric animals often need a break during farrier work because their legs get moved into uncomfortable positions. If this is the case, your farrier should plan for it in his schedule and may charge an additional small fee for the time.

Still, some horses simply lack training or discipline, and it’s difficult for us to know which problem you were encountering. It may be a combination. Do some experimenting yourself, holding up his foot in “farrier position” for extended periods of time to see how he reacts. Try to take an unbiased look at him to determine if he’s becoming spoiled without you realizing it (we all have a tendency to do that). This injury was bad enough, and we wouldn’t want to see Goliath, you or anyone else hurt again.

Goliath’s sensitive, thin skin may be an individual variation or could be related in part to some vitamin and/or trace-mineral deficiencies. Because warmbloods are usually such easy keepers for their size, it is often difficult to meet their vitamin and mineral needs with the usual feeds without getting them too fat. A biotin supplement with a moderate trace-mineral profile might be in order if you are not already feeding a vitamin-mineral supplement.

As for your immediate problem, we assume there is no broken skin. We don’t know of any topical products that can guarantee what color hair will grow back. White hairs following trauma to an area are common. These will sometimes be replaced by hair of normal color over time, but there is no guarantee and no way to predict this.

We think human hair dyes are too harsh, probably even for horses with normal skin. You have to be doubly careful because of the eyes and sensitive nasal membranes. Our advice is to not worry about the white, unless you feel it is disfiguring or truly affects your show-ring performance.

Some horsemen cover over the white hair with cream shoe polish, but you must be absolutely sure Goliath isn’t sensitive to it by using a tiny amount in a patch test first. Put some under the noseband as well and keep the noseband snug but not tight to prevent rubbing off the color.

There are also a number of color-enhancing shampoos and cover-ups that may give Goliath the “make-up” you want him to have. These are popular with gaited-horse exhibitors, so you may have luck finding them at a tack store or catalog that carries these products.


Some people get confused when their vet orders something to be given as a number of milliters (ml)and the bottle reads cubic centimeters (cc). In fact, they are the same thing. One milliter is defined as the amount of liquid that occupies a volume of 1 cubic centimeter.


No Chocolate For Competition Horses
Theobromine is a therapeutic drug forbidden in competing horses. It is a diuretic that also relaxes smooth muscle (including muscles in the bronchi), stimulates the heart and is a vasodilator. Although theobromine is not commonly prescribed for horses, positives for this drug continue to appear. Chocolate, cocoa, cocoa beans and cocoa husks (used as garden mulch) all contain enough theobromine to result in a positive test.