Ask Jorse Journal: 11/01

Stiff Back And Ewe Neck
I have an eight-year-old Quarter Horse-cross mare, and I mostly trail ride. ??My daughter also does games with her. ??Although her stride isn’t large, I feel it could be longer and that her back is stiff. ??Her neck also tends to be upside-down, or ewe-neck. ??I was wondering if this could be causing her back to be stiff and if there were exercises or equipment that could help her. Should I use side reins’

-Susan Ace

We wouldn’t suggest side reins, except maybe to longe, and then you should stick to “sliding” side reins that allow the mare’s topline to swing. Look first at the type and fit of your bit and whether it could be causing her pain so that she raises her head to avoid the pressure. ??If you use some sort of standing martingale or tie-down, especially for the games, she could be bracing against it to help her balance in fast turns.

To build up your mare’s topline, school in the most basic snaffle she will accept and without any martingale. ??If she tosses her head and you need a martingale for safety, then experiment using a running martingale instead so that she can’t set against it. You should find yourself a local dressage instructor who can teach you and your mare to leg yield. ??When a horse collapses through its rib cage in yielding away from the rider’s inside leg, it will automatically soften down across the withers. ??This exercise can be done in an infinite number of ways on straight and bending lines, especially on a circle, and at all three gaits. ??It can even be done on the trail and is great for bending around trees.

Another trained response that could benefit your horse is the “long-and-low” or “stretchy-chewy” dressage exercise, where you teach your horse to follow the release of your hand and stretch down her neck. ??A dressage instructor will be able to see if you are trying to force your horse’s head down by lowering your hand, which usually has the opposite response since that creates a lever effect and the head goes up instead of down. ??You should keep your elbow bent and always have a straight line from the elbow to the bit.

You might also check to see how your mare spends her time in her stall. ??If she has a high window or Dutch door or a high hay rack, she could be spending many hours of the day with her nose in the air and the base of her neck bulging out. ??Anything you can do in her stall to encourage her to stretch her neck down, including putting her feed tub and hay on the floor, can help.

All this is a lot of talk about the neck with no mention of the back. However, if the neck is inverted, the back muscles are forced to tighten. The chances are good that if you can rearrange the muscle development in her neck then the muscles along her entire topline will also become both stronger and more relaxed. ??The leg-yield exercise, in particular, also develops the stomach muscles. Horses are like humans in that regard — if they have strong abs and can “suck in their gut,” they have healthier backs.

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Garlic And Poisoning
Horse & Rider published a blurb on the dangers of feeding garlic, saying it is toxic to horses, causes severe anemia and we should all stop immediately feeding it to our horses. I was wondering if you have any response’

In your now-defunct sister publication, The Whole Horse Journal, garlic was recommended for horse’s coats, flies, and cleansing of the blood. I’ve also heard that from my holistic vet and read it in many other articles.

I contacted two vet schools to see about the toxic dangers. Neither thought it was a problem but said any herb in excess would cause toxicity in horses. What is your opinion on the dangers of feeding garlic’

-Judy Seling

While we agree that garlic and onion have the potential to cause Heinz body formation, which are tiny, bubble-like projections that form on the surface of damaged cells, and hemolytic anemia. However, we found no studies that confirm five grams could be toxic, as stated in the article you refer to.??

From what we have been able to determine, onion may have a higher toxicity than garlic in some species yet it took eight to 15 kg./day?? (17.6 to 33 lbs.) to poison six- to 12-month-old calves — and ruminants are more susceptible than horses.??

According to Marielle Gomez-Kaifer, toxicologist at University of Miami, dogs and horses have equivalent sensitivities to onion and garlic.?? In attempting to find exactly what the toxic dose might be, we found an article that stated giving the equivalent of five grams of garlic/kg of body weight to dogs was toxic, which would work out to over five pounds of garlic for an average horse.??

Our technical editor, Dr. Eleanor Kellon, has used up to 30 grams/day of powdered garlic for 30 to 60 days in actively racing horses with no changes in the red cell counts or morphology.?? It also appears from the literature that the type or preparation (raw whole, raw juice, cooked juice, powder, aged extract, oil) has a significant impact on the pharmacology and toxicity, with fresh garlic, extracts and oils having the highest potential for problems. Aged garlic extract was the lowest.

We contacted Dr. Karen Hayes, who wrote the piece in Horse & Rider.?? She told us of a field experiment where giving one pound of onion tops per day for three days to a healthy horse, then two pounds on day four resulted in a drop in hematocrit from an initial 30% to 23% on day eight.?? On days nine and 10, the horse was given four pounds of onion tops, which caused a dramatic drop in hematocrit to 13%.?? Dr. Hayes said she has seen horses with hemolytic anemia that resulted from their grazing on wild onion in the spring,??before other grasses had come in well.

The bottom line is that garlic does have a potential to be toxic, and it is always good advice to remember that the words like natural, organic, herbal, and botanical are no guarantee of safety.????Still, we know of no evidence that the doses of garlic commonly used for supplementing horses can be toxic.??Anyone concerned, however, can easily check for garlic toxicity by requesting a red blood cell count and a blood smear to check for Heinz bodies.


DMSO Warning
An American Journal of Sports Medicine article described a study on tendon strength in rats given topical daily applications of DMSO.??Scientists measured the force needed to separate the tendon and found less force was needed with prolonged DMSO use. The authors recommended vigorous muscular exercise be avoided when using DMSO.


Slim Pasture Pickings Can Spell Trouble
Better to feed hay too soon than too late when it comes to supplementing fall and winter pastures. Horses lacking palatable grasses may experiment with potentially toxic forages. Two trees are particularly troublesome and fallen branches or leaves should always be removed from horse pastures.

Red maple leaves become poisonous after they die. They contain a toxin that blocks the blood’s ability to hold oxygen, which changes the color of blood to brown and produces red-to-brown urine after the damaged cells burst.??Horses chewing on bark may also be poisoned.??Many horses die before the diagnosis is made.?? The traditional treatment of methylene blue intravenously doesn’t work well in horses.??One report suggests successful treatment using high doses of intravenous vitamin C.

Oak trees’ bark and acorns are high in tannic acid, which is a strong gastrointestinal irritant and can cause kidney failure. The earliest sign is usually gastrointestinal distress, often with bloody diarrhea, followed by the renal impairment.?? There’s no specific treatment.??All you can do is remove the source, give supportive fluids and wait it out.


Cushing’s Mare Has No Teeth
My 26-year-old mare has Cus hing’s and no teeth. She was on a complete feed pellet when she was diagnosed about a year ago. About two months ago, she went off her feed completely. She would only eat things she couldn’t have (oats, sweet feed, 14% pellets). I tried other grains just to be sure she could still eat and swallow. I mixed in apple sauce, apple cider, beet pulp, bran (she loves it), carrots, apples, and ground her pellets/chunks,timothy/alfalfa cubes, adding water, corn oil, and so on.

A nutritionist designed a diet mainly of beep pulp, which isn’t perfect but is really all the mare will eat. She gets four to five pounds of wet beep pulp pellets. She’s also on a selenium/vitamin E supplement, as I understand horses with Cushing’s need added selenium to fight off infections.

We give her vitex to help control her Cushing’s, which is working, and McIntoshes Supplement, which is an all-around supplement. I mix in a handful of 14% performance horse pellets, so I know she’ll eat everything. In addition, she gets a mix of pellets (alfalfa, complete-feed pellets and performance-horse pellets). Some days she will eat the mix, and other days she just looks at me.

I gave her a salt block to make sure she is drinking, and all the fresh grassy hay she wants, even though it balls up in her mouth. The mare is turned out daily for about 12 hours with other horses and makes the motions to graze. If you have any other suggestions I would be more than grateful to try them.

-Glenna Benson

Feeding a toothless horse, let alone one with Cushing’s, is a real challenge. The beet pulp and hay cubes are a step in the right direction, but you should stop feeding the complete feed pellets and the performance horse pellets, since feeding her any grain at all will only aggravate the insulin-resistance problem with Cushing’s and put her at risk for laminitis.

An ulcer may be at least partially responsible for her poor appetite. It wouldn’t hurt to treat her with either U-Gard (800/838-7524), using first the new paste, then the daily powder, or Vita-Royal’s Nutrient Buffer (810/653-5478).

Ontario-Dehy (, 877/289-3349) also makes a mix of alfalfa and oat hay cube, which is quite palatable. If you feed this at a rate of 6.5 pounds per day with five pounds of wheat bran (a great taste tempter for most horses, especially if fed warm) your minerals are all in excellent balance except for copper. The McIntosh supplement will get your total copper intake where it needs to be without aggravating existing imbalances. It’s fine to continue offering her grass hay, but if she eats all of the hay cube/bran mix she probably won’t be hungry for it anyway.

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