Ask Horse Journal: 10/01

Cold Weather And A Dirty, Dry Horse
What can you do to help with dry/dirty skin’ My horse is in the barn at night during the winter and let out during the day. Under his winter coat, it looks like his skin is covered with flour. The skin appears OK, but the root hair is white. I don’t have a heated barn to be able to give him a warm bath when the weather is cold. I thought I would try giving him vegetable oil in his oats, but he won’t eat it. Do I just have to wait till the weather warms up’

-Michelle Olson

The condition you describe is fairly common. The white buildup is a mixture of fine dust/dirt and dead skin cells. These materials are in the coat all year round, but they build up most in the winter as grooming all the way to skin level is more difficult, since the winter undercoat is more dense. Skin secretions also slow down in cold weather.

Nutrition plays a role, too. Lower vitamin A levels (especially grass hays) and omega-3 essential fatty acid levels in hays compared to fresh grass may be involved, as well as B vitamins (especially biotin) and fatty-acid deficiencies if the horse’s concentrate is highly processed.

One of the easiest ways to a better-appearing coat and skin health is exercise. Even 20 minutes per day of brisk exercise will increase circulation to the skin, produce a little sweating and oil secretion.

A vigorous currying and deep body brushing with a stiff brush both before and after exercise will vastly improve the skin and coat in just a few days. If the horse isn’t being worked, just a vigorous, deep grooming will also quickly get results.

A bath could actually strip the low levels of oils in a winter coat too much or get only the superficial layers clean, not to mention being quite a shock to the horse in cold weather.

Equine vacuums, or using a Shop Vac with a Dr. Smith’s Horse Vac attachment ($19.95, 506/444-8883 or, does an excellent job of loosening and removing the deep dirt and debris.

If the coat also seems dull, clipped areas don’t regrow hair well, hoof growth has slowed and/or scaling seems excessive, some supplementation may be in order.

A good multivitamin/mineral supplement coupled with flaxseed oil or whole ground flaxseed should put things back on the right track in short order. You might also select a combination mineral supplement/flaxseed-based product such as Glanzen 3 from HorseTech ( or 800/831-3309).


Devil’s Claw And Kidneys
I put my 20-year-old Thoroughbred gelding on devil’s claw. He had slowed a bit and was moving more stiffly behind. I gave him the recommended dosage and almost immediately he started to run around like a youngster and much more freely. However, after two weeks, I noted his urine output had doubled. After four weeks, I noted all four legs were stocking up. Have you heard of side effects of devil’s claw that affect the kidneys’ I took him off the product.

-Debbie Bush

Devil’s claw is one of the most widely studied herbal remedies, including in clinical trials and research laboratories. We found no reports of devil’s claw affecting the urinary system. However, that’s not to say your horse couldn’t have an unusual allergy. It’s just that this reaction hasn’t been reported. We agree with your decision to take him off devil’s claw, but we would also look for other causes, such as toxic plants near his pasture or other medications.


Cyrotherapy For Navicular
How current is the research in the article on cryotherapy (July 2001)’ I never heard of this treatment and was excited as I have a navicular horse. The treatment sounded great. So, I called Texas A&M to talk to one of the veterinarians, who said it had been around for 20 years. He said they had given up on it for navicular as the nerves grew back too quickly. Is there new research on this’

-Janet Ascott

The information you received is partially correct.?? The nerves that carry the sensation of sharp, acute pain may only be temporarily knocked out by the freezing, if at all.?? The technique is therefore most appropriate for horses with a chronic, low-level pain and navicular changes that are not advancing and a level of lameness that has pretty much stabilized.??Any horse must be evaluated as an individual to determine how much benefit you can expect to get and, of course, any horse is likely to have a combination of both acute and chronic pain, or primarily chronic pain that worsens acutely with heavy use.


Human Shampoo For Horses
Is there a reason not to use human shampoos on horses’ I buy Suave when it goes on sale at 79?? a bottle for my horse and myself. It works great, and you can’t beat the price.

-Diane Macina

You can use human shampoos on horses, but we’d limit it to the gentlest/baby shampoos for more than occasional use. Human shampoos, like dish detergents, can be either too harsh or not deep-cleaning enough for horses.

Economically, we don’t think you’re getting that much of an advantage either. We’re guessing you’re purchasing 15-ounce bottles of Suave, which comes out at about 5?? an ounce for a diluted shampoo. Corona shampoo from Summit Industries (800/241-6996), our favorite shampoo (March 2001), comes in a 101.28-ounce bottle, which retails for 15?? an ounce for a concentrate. You need only a little per bath, and it has a good long-lasting lather and conditions well, leaving a high shine.

If you balk at that price, we found KBC (800/928-7777) also sells a good shampoo concentrate in a gallon size at 6?? an ounce. It was the least-expensive shampoo in our field test, lathering and rinsing well, although we felt Corona left more of a shine on our horses.


Older Horses And Gums
Gingivitis, receding gums, tooth loosening and halitosis often plague older horses. In severe cases, antibiotics may be necessary. However, many horses respond to nutritional therapy for these problems. Coenzyme Q-10 is a potent anti-oxidant/anti-inflammatory supplement with documented benefit on gum diease. Try this at 150 to 300 mg/day, with another potent anti-oxidant, Grape Seed Extract, at 500 to 1,000 mg/day.

The best Co-Q to use is a gelcap with the Co-Q in oil. You’ll have to get this at a human health-food store. The powder will work, too, but the oil is best aborbed. Grape-seed extract is available through Uckele Health and Nutrition ( or 800/366-8986) or Med-Vet Pharmaceuticals ( or 800/328-6652).


Ice For Pain
As you know, the AHSA prohibits the use of devil’s claw in competitions. If you’re using devil’s claw for arthritic leg joints, try this technique as an after-exercise aid for mild chronic aches: Wrap an ice pack on the leg and leave it in place for 20 to 30 minutes. Follow this by a standing wrap with the cotton soaked in Sore No-More, witch hazel or alcohol and kept in the freezer until right before applying it.


Joint Supplements And OCD
It’s a common question: Can glucosamine and/or chondroitin sulfate prevent OCD (osteochondrosis dessicans)’ The answer is no — they won’t prevent OCD, but they can help it later on.

OCD is caused by a defect in the deepest layers of cartilage, where it turns to bone. Factors linked to OCD include heredity and overfeeding energy (carbohydrates), with a resulting rapid growth rate and/or obesity. Additional factors include:

• Trauma, such as with overexubertant playing in foals that are stall-confined part of the day or heavy early training of two-year-olds.

• Nutritional inadequacies, including failure to mai ntain proper ratios of major minerals and deficiencies in vitamins C, D and A, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper and possibly zinc.

Overfeeding protein does not cause OCD. However, high-protein feeds tend to also be high in carbohydrates and calories, resulting in too-rapid growth and/or fat babies. When calories are controlled and only the protein percentages are manipulated, there is no change in the incidence of OCD.

While joint nutraceuticals won’t change the cause nor act as a preventative, they may help later in the course of the disease, when the weakened support of the joint cartilage collapses and cracks or flaps appear in the upper cartilage layer. Once healing has occurred inside the cyst area, the damaged cartilage needs to be repaired. While glucosamine or chondroitin won’t improve or enhance the filling in of the defect in underlying bone, they may help control the inflammatory reaction in the joint, thus accounting for the improvement noted in some cases of OCD when these supplements were used.

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