Ask Horse Journal: 09/01

Long Estrus Cycles
My two-year-old filly came into estrus recently. The problem is we also have her full brother on the premises, a three-year-old stallion. The filly began winking and squirting urine for a month and continues to do so. Every time she gets around any horses, she winks and squirts. She used to be easy to handle, but now she’s skittish. Is this normal’ The vet said all he can do is an ultrasound to determine if she’s in heat, but I’m sure she is. Is it normal for her to stay in heat so long, and what should I do to alleviate the symptoms’

-Donna Byrd
North Carolina

It is not uncommon for young fillies to show unusually frequent and strong periods of estrus behavior. Their hormonal levels often fluctuate widely and unpredictably but usually settles down with age. We discussed remedies for dealing with estrus symptoms in April 2001.

For many fillies, all that is required is gentle but insistent refocusing when you work with her, a reminder that she must pay attention to you when being handled. If you think you need professional help with this, by all means get it before resorting to any chemical interventions such as hormone therapy. If the behavior does seem to truly be abnormal, the ultrasound exam and a check of her hormone levels would be in order to determine if any specific drug therapy is indicated and if so, which one. She may also be “anxious”/confused by these changes in her body. A combination of a predictable barn schedule, regular focused work and perhaps a mild herbal calming blend might be in order.


Cushing’s and Glucosamine
You wrote that one horse in your Cushing’s field test (December 2000) was on glucosamine and that it affected her blood sugar levels and then the results of your study. If a horse has Cushing’s and arthritis, thus needing a joint supplement, what would you recommend’

-M. Provost

The horse received an excessive dose of glucosamine (30 to 60 grams per day rather than the usual upper limit of 10 grams per day). It has yet to be shown that glucosamine has any significant effect on glucose or insulin levels at usual therapeutic doses. However, since the potential is there, we recommend that anyone who uses glucosamine in a horse with known glucose intolerance should recheck blood sugar and/or insulin after four to six weeks on the supplement.


Leg or No Leg
I’ve heard some trainers say not to put my leg on my horse, communicating more through the reins. I was trained to ride so that you communicated mostly with your legs and seat, and I note a lot of riders do indeed seem to get the horse to bend around their leg, whether it’s making a tight turn on a jumper course or in the dressage arena. Am I somehow behind the times or missing something’

-J. Lee

It’s not an either/or matter. You use both leg and hands. More communication should happen through your legs, seat and weight because they activate the hind legs, connect with the horse’s back, and affect his balance. The hands should receive the energy created by the rider’s legs, allow the horse to soften its jaw, and can direct the horse’s nose to initiate a turn. The hands also confirm the direction of bend in the neck that’s established by the rider’s leg through the horse’s rib cage.

A horse that is more highly trained can be ridden with a light connection or with loose reins, as in English/Western pleasure, and respond to just to leg/seat aids. But training with a direct connection and a snaffle bit must occur before a horse can reliably perform with loose reins. There are some skilled trainers who can establish this connection using mostly hands, but the hand will likely not remain the only means of communication after the horse consistently softens his jaw and starts performing at a more advanced level.

When training or actually performing with a direct connection (as in jumping or dressage), the hands should be as level and quiet as possible. There should be a steady connection that follows the motion of the neck no matter what the gait or how high or low the horse carries his head. There should be equal pressure on both bars of the mouth. If the hands jerk the mouth or “chatter” away, which can happen when the rider’s seat is unsteady, then the horse can’t “hear” the leg and seat aids.

Humans naturally operate mind-to-hands rather than mind-to-seat, and thus riders often over-react with their hands when they lose their balance or when they want to make a sudden correction. This causes the horse both pain and confusion, and any tendency for a rider to react this way should be corrected through better instruction.


Magnesium For Cresty Stallions
I have a four-year-old Quarter Horse stallion competing in halter classes. I read your magnesium for laminitis article (January 2001), and I wondered if magnesium would help his cresty neck’ He isn’t foundered, but he’s really cresty.

-S. Darts

First, determine if his crest is actually abnormal. Halter horses tend to be on the fleshy side as far as general body condition to begin with. Coupled with the fact that he is reaching full physical and sexual maturity at this age, it isn’t surprising that he has a prominent crest. If the crest is a prominent muscular arch, it’s normal. If it is a rock-hard lump of fat, sitting above the muscular arch and just under/up to the mane, it’s abnormal. If a dietary analysis shows his magnesium intake is low, by all means supplement it. However, magnesium is not a cure-all for obesity and crestiness no more than it is guaranteed to prevent founder. Be sure you are not overfeeding him and that he is getting sufficient exercise.


Cryotherapy For Knees
I found the July article on cryotherapy (freeze firing) interesting to say the least. I’ve taken my horse to many vets and even a well-known equine hospital and until now heard not a word about the technology. It seems funny that this technology is so secretive. I would like the opportunity to have my horse seen by a specialist in this field. Could you please forward names of hospitals and veterinarians I could contact about this technique’ Your article has lifted my hopes that perhaps there is a chance that my horse can be helped with his arthritic bout in the left front knee.

-Ronald T. Deitz
New York

Although cryotherapy has been around for a long time, not all veterinarians are trained in its use and the inconvenience for the vet of either storing liquid nitrogen or having to go get it when they need it will sometimes make a practice decide against cryotherapy.

You are most likely to find a vet using this therapy if you check at a veterinary school clinic or with vets working on racehorses.?? Use of cryotherapy for arthritis, however, is still experimental.??We had good results, but whether or not the technique would apply to your horse depends on the location, nature and extent of the problem.?? For example, it won’t help with cartilage lesions.?? Have you tried oral joint nutraceuticals or injectable therapy like Legend yet’?? We would recommend you explore these options first as they can help with a wider range of arthritic problems.


Protein For Cats
You’re right about the importance of barn cats for mouse patrol (March 2001), and I’d like to be sure they’re getting more protein, as you suggest, to help build their immune systems. I’ve found an inexpensive tuna canned cat food with 16% crude protein. The company’s dry food has 31% protein. Is that enough for the high-protein needs of my barn cats’

-Sheree Valenza

It is if it’s animal protein. Check the labels to determine how much vegetable protein (e.g. soy) is in there. Canned foods are mostly animal-protein sources, but they may not be properly vitamin supplemented so you need to switch often between meat, fish and egg and maybe use a cat chewable vitamin product.


Vinegar Dissolves “Crusts”
Full-strength vinegar applied to crusted lesions like rain rot, scratches or other thick-crusted infections under a bandage overnight will soften the crusts dramatically so they can be removed. Apply a generous amount to both the skin and the wrap to be sure it isn’t wicked away by the wrap.

A vinegar and water 50% solution also helps reduce swellings. Diluted further, it makes a good all-purpose rub for use under standing bandages. It maintains healthy skin pH, so it won’t dry out the skin. It’s an economical solution to the usual rubbing alcohol or witch hazel.


Dark-Barn Fix
With fall near, days are getting shorter and barns are getting darker earlier. A battery-operated touch lamp may be just the solution for darker areas where existing light just isn’t enough and for power outages. It offers a good light source and can be held up with Velcro strips, if you don’t want to put in a nail, making it a better solution than a hand-held flashlight.