Ask Horse Journal June 2013

Why Are Poles Difficult’

Why is it so much easier to see a distance approaching a fence, as opposed to a pole on the ground’? Poles on the ground are so much more difficult.? One would think it would be the opposite.

Performance Editor John Strassburger responds: I think that if you asked this question to 10 riders, about half would agree with you and half would disagree. It depends on numerous factors, including your own self-confidence, your depth perception, the horse’s balance and stride, and the location of the jump or pole.

But I would suggest that there are two primary reasons why you find it harder to canter smoothly over poles than over jumps.

The first reason is the extremely low height of a pole on the ground. The fact that the pole is lying on the ground causes you (and your horse) to look down at it and, thus, tilt your balance forward. So your horse will probably lengthen his stride (thus changing the distance you may have anticipated) and be unable to raise his forehand to make a tiny jump over the pole. So he might trip over the pole, or he might either take an extra-long stride and reach for it or take a tiny stride just before the pole and ?bunny hop? over it.

Second, most horses don’t respect a pole as much as a jump, so you don’t feel them balance, gather or prepare themselves to jump. Therefore, the ?building? feeling you expect before a jump doesn’t happen, which may confuse your ?eye? and, thus, muddle your aids. In other words, you’re waiting to react to the horse, but He’s not reacting to the pole like he does for a jump.

Because a pole on the ground doesn’t influence most horses to the same extent as a jump, poles provide a good exercise for practicing your aids and their influence on your horse’s balance, stride, rhythm and turning. Poles require you (and your horse) to get these training elements right without straining your horse’s legs and back by leaping over jump after jump after jump.


My field is full of holes. Some friends tell me not to worry because the horses ?know? the holes are there. But I’m afraid one of them will get hurt. What can I do’

Contributing Farrier Editor Lee Foley responds: Definitely don’t ignore the situation. You can talk with a wildlife trapper, although it can be expensive. Trapping them yourself is a possibility, but find out what is legal in your area and what to do with the animals once you?ve caught them (use only a live-catch safety trap).? we’d avoid poisonous gas bombs, bait-poisoning and shooting them. These methods are too dangerous.

To decrease hole-digger pests, you must make your farm ?unappealing.? Keep the property mowed, and increase activity. Walk in your field frequently, with dogs, if you can. If you spot a hole, fill it, and place dirty kitty litter around the hole. You can also purchase coyote urine at pest-control retailers to put around the holes. All these activities help pests think tHere’s a predator in the area. it’s a lot of work, but if you’re persistent, you’ll slowly make your farm less of a pest hotel.


I have a 25-year-old Quarter Horse gelding that has been losing weight over the last couple years. His teeth are excellent, and the vet thinks He’s just old and now a hard keeper.

His diet is fairly good. He gets good quality free-choice hay. Plus, divided into two feedings, he gets: two quarts beet pulp, three lbs. Purina Senior feed, and two lbs. of Calf Manna Supplemental Performance pellets. I was feeding some corn oil, but it didn’t help. He gets some hand grazing, and he is regularly dewormed.

I can’t afford to feed higher amounts of grain, though the recommendation on the feed bag says up to 10 lbs. and the veterinarian also thinks that might be what he needs. Is there anything else I can do, low cost’ He’s beginning to look thin, and I’m concerned.

Contributing Veterinary Editor Grant Miller responds:? Thank you for writing about your special gelding.? My first horse was a Quarter Horse gelding that lived to be 30, and he was the best horse ever, so I can empathize with you.

My thoughts are synonymous with your veterinarian in that your horse may be nearing the age in which he needs to have an ?all-pelleted? diet.? This can be counter intuitive to us since, for their whole life up to this point, we feed them roughage and hay.? But, for some horses, their machinery begins to run less efficiently as they age, resulting in an impaired ability to digest raw feeds (such as hay).? On the other side of the coin, processed feeds (such as senior pellets) are sort of already chewed up for the horse, and they’re fortified with high-energy nutrients. Therefore, your horse gets more bang for your buck per swallow, plus his system doesn’t have to work as hard to break them down and digest them.

we’d also discuss thoughts with your veterinarian:

1)? Has he had bloodwork to be sure there are no internal problems’? Test for Cushing?s disease, too.

2)? Does he wear a blanket at night when it’s cold’? This can really help horses keep weight on.

3)? Have you looked into other pelleted horse feeds that might be less expensive’ Your local feed store may contract with a local mill to make a low-priced product.

4) You said you have deworming all set, however, you may want to talk to your veterinarian about the possibility of encysted small strongyles in the colon wall since they are linked to weight loss.

5)? Finally, don’t forget about gastric ulcers. they’re a possibility, even though we all tend to think ?not my horse!?


I would appreciate more input regarding the warning in Horse Journal about giving garlic as an insect repellent. It mentioned ?raw? garlic and side effects. Do the dangers include the garlic flakes or supplements containing garlic’ My horse is extremely allergic, and I have depended upon the herbal garlic flakes during the summer to help keep the bugs away.

?Nutrition Editor Juliet Getty, Ph.D. responds: Raw garlic contains the active ingredient allicin (also known as N-propyl disulfide), which has been shown to cause Heinz-body anemia in horses. Researchers at the University of Guelph confirmed this when garlic was fed at a rate of 0.2 g of free dried garlic per kg of body weight (translating into 3.5 ounces by weight to an 1100-lb. horse).? Deformed red blood cells were produced in horses fed this amount over a 10-week period. While this is far more than most horse owners would give to their horses, we don’t know the safety of lesser amounts over longer periods of time.

Garlic in most supplements is freeze-dried, or dehydrated at low levels of heat (less than 122° F). Both methods retain allicin?s activity.? Slightly higher levels of heat (e.g., above 122° F) would inactivate some or all of the allicin.

If garlic flakes are an effective insect repellent for your horse, it would be good to know how the product was produced. Contact the manufacturer to determine if heat was applied during dehydration. If it was heat-treated, its helpfulness would then be attributable to the odor that garlic creates, not the allicin, and would be safe to feed. If, however, the product was freeze-dried, or dehydrated without much heat, we would periodically check the horse for anemia.

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