Ask Horse Journal: November Letters

Was My Old Trainer A Bozo’

I have started taking lessons with a new trainer, and it seems as if almost everything she tells me to do is completely different from my previous trainer. But I feel like I’m riding so much better and my horse is going so much better. Am I just a bozo, or was my previous trainer a bozo’ I feel very confused.

Performance Editor John Strassburger responds:

Horses aren?t machines, and even though thousands of volumes have been written on training and riding them over the centuries, there is no one all-knowing owner?s manual on ?How To Operate A Horse.?

We all ride different horses, have different goals and needs. But the truth is that the quality of riding instruction varies tremendously, around our country. It differs in the education and experience of the instructors and their ability to actually teach. it’s certainly possible that your previous trainer was a bozo, or maybe they just couldn?t communicate their advice.

The test is this: If you feel more comfortable and confident with your new instructor, it’s likely because you’re getting better instruction. You?re probably now working with someone who has excellent and extensive riding and training experience, and, because of that, they’re able to capably instruct you in the art of riding. I’d advise you to trust your new instructor and to just chalk the old one up to experience.

Eating Dirt For Minerals

My pony eats dirt. SHe’s foundered in the past, so sHe’s on a dry lot. I take her out to graze a little everyday because I think she needs the grass. She has a white salt block, red salt block and a Redmond salt lick in her lot, but I’m wondering what else is missing in her diet. She pulls the grass out by the roots and then eat the dirt.

Veterinary Contributing Editor Deb Eldredge DVM responds:

Horse may eat dirt for a number of reasons. Some horses will eat dirt if they are in pain, such as with a gastric ulcer. Other horses eat dirt out of boredom or hunger. Some people feel horses eat dirt as an attempt at self-medicating, but that’s not proven. it’s also not true that they eat dirt to seek a mineral they’re missing in their diet, except for salt. I’d bet your pony may be eating the dirt partly by accident. She pulls so strongly on the grass that it comes up by the roots and she eats all of it ? grass, roots and dirt. Being on a dry lot, she may also be eating dirt partly out of boredom and as a habit now.

Sitting Trot

I’m told to lean back when I do sitting trot, but I feel like I’m leaning too far back. What is it about leaning back that supposedly makes it easier to sit the trot’

Associate Editor Margaret Freeman responds:

Leaning back doesn’t, but neither does leaning forward. You want your body to be perpendicular to the ground, with a straight line from your ears down through your shoulders, your hips and your heels. If you pitch forward in the sitting trot ? which you might do if you look down at the horse’s head or rotate your heels up ? the suggestion to lean back may be an effort to get you to sit up straight. In this case, it will feel like leaning back to you until you get better at following the horse’s motion with a supple back and waist.

When you truly lean past the vertical plane in the sitting trot, it can put you into a protected position to keep the horse’s stride from jarring your seat loose but at the cost of causing your horse’s back to stiffen. You want your pelvis and thigh to relax while keeping your upper body erect, and then both you and your horse will be more comfortable. Allowing weight to drop down your heels into a flexible ankle will further solidify your base of support.

A useful image is to keep your shoulders behind your upper arms, while your arms hang down loosely next to your sides and your elbows are bent. If your shoulders are back behind your upper arms, but your elbows are straight, tHere’s a good chance you’re leaning back too far.

Capsaicin With Devil?s Claw

Can I use devil?s claw with Capsaicin’ Capsaicin works well on my 18-year-old Thoroughbred, but he is just stiff at times. It doesn’t seem to help my navicular horse, but devil?s claw does. My new horse can’t bend his ankle, although He’s sound at the walk. If I ask him to trot, He’s lame. My vet says it’s a ?cold injury,? and the horse has been lame for four years. Can I combine capsaicin with devil?s claw’

Veterinary Contributing Editor Grant Miller DVM responds:

While expensive at times, horses can benefit from having several different ?guns in the arsenal? when fighting a problem?such as osteoarthritis. Just be sure that you don’t create new problems when trying to solve another problem.

There are no harmful drug interactions on record about using these two products together. However, before using them, there are a few things that you should know:

Devil?s claw is a plant extract that comes from a plant originating in southern Africa. For centuries it has been used empirically to treat osteoarthritic pain. it’s said to have a potent anti-inflammatory effect because of its relatively high concentration of Harpagoside, a plant compound that has been shown to stop inflammatory cascades.

As the sinister name suggests, Devil?s claw does have a negative side effect in some horses. Namely, it has been shown to both cause and aggravate gastric ulcers in horses. Horses with existing gastric ulcers or that are prone to ulcers (and statistics show that 65-80% of horses fall into these categories!) should not receive Devil?s claw on an ongoing basis. Also, horses with heart problems or Cushing?s disease should not be fed the supplement without close veterinary supervision.

Capsaicin is a chemical compound produced by chili peppers. it’s thought to be produced as a defense mechanism for the plant because it causes a burning sensation to any part of an animal that it touches. In horses with stiff ?cold? joints, it can provide some soothing heat relief and can be used safely on multiple joints in the body. It actually works by numbing nerve endings, but we won?t bore you with the details.

The other side of the coin is that capsaicin is illegal for almost all types of horse competition. To make matters even more difficult, it sticks around in the body for varying amounts of time, and so nobody can really say for sure exactly when its use should be stopped prior to competition.

Do they work in combating osteoarthritic pain’ Most horse owners report positive results when using either of these products. Just remember the risks and make sure that your horse is the right candidate for these treatments.

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