The only way to accurately assess your horse’s condition is to fat score, sometimes called condition scoring. Here we look at how to rate his weight and condition.Read More
What cover do you really need to know when buying horse insurance? Here we break down the key things to consider.Read More
With the balmy, summer evenings long behind us, we review some key health issues to help keep your horse at his best this winter.Read More
As your horse heads into his twilight years, his joints might not be as supple and his internal system as effective. Here are three of the most common health concerns to think about and keep an eye on as he gets older.Read More
Discover some simple ways to look after your horse's health - from his temperature and legs to his teeth and skin, we've got it covered here!
A healthy horse is generally a happy horse, but as he can’t speak to tell us how he feels, we have to know how to spot the signs that he’s feeling under the weather through changes in his behaviour, mood and from a visual look at him.
How do I know if my horse is healthy?
Whether you’re standing next to your horse in his stable or with him in his field, there are a few easy checks and signs to look out for, to make sure he’s happy inside and out. So next time when you’re with your horse, have a quick look for these obvious tell-tale signs to check that he’s happy and in condition.
Inspect his eyes and nostrils
Looking at your horse's eyes, check that they’re bright, not cloudy and free of any discharge. Similarly, his nose should be clean and have little or only clear discharge.
Glare at his gums
Peeling back your horse’s gums, they should be a salmon pink colour, any signs that his gums have a yellowish tinge, could suggest issues with his liver.
Listen to your horse's tummy
Listening to your horse gut is something, we often don’t think about, unless there’s a concern about colic. But if you listen to both sides of your horse’s abdomen, you should hear gurgling, fluid-like and the occasional grumble which are all signs of a healthy tummy.
Condition score your horse
You will probably know seasonally when your horse puts on a few pounds or not, but any radical changes in his body condition score, should be recorded and kept a close eye on. Running your hand over his body, you should just feel his ribs, with a good even coverage, over his quarters and no excess fat on his crest.
Watch your horse as he eats, if he drops his food which is referred to as quidding, or dunks it in his water bucket, this could sound warning bells, that there might be a problem with his teeth. If he has sharp edges these can usually be felt through his cheek, but for a thorough diagnosis of the health of your horse’s teeth ask a vet or equine dental technician to examine them. In reality he should have his teeth checked every six to twelve months.
Your horse’s coat and skin can tell you a lot about he’s feeling. A shiny, glossy coat with no signs of irritation and rubbing, usually shows that he’s healthy and free from any skin conditions. But his skin also can help tell you if he’s lacking in fluids. If you firmly pinch your horse’s skin on his neck and then releasing it, if it leaves an indented mark for a few seconds, this could suggest he needs to increase his water intake.
Check your horse's legs
Glancing down at your horse's legs, feel all over his legs, checking to make sure they’re free-from bumps, lumps and blemishes. If you spot any signs of heat, swelling or wounds, you’ll need to treat them immediately or if he is seriously injured, seek advice from your vet straight away..
Check his TPR
Here are the temperature, pulse and respiration readings you want to see, to confirm your horse is fighting fit.
The normal temperature for a horse at rest, not having exerted himself during exercise is 37.5 and 38.5 degrees Celsius.
An average horse should display a pulse reading of 32 beats per minute.
Your horse at rest if healthy will take 12 – 15 breaths a minute.
Click to read more about how to take your horse's TPR.
How can I keep my horse healthy?
Health is all about looking after the inside and outside of your horse. There’s no point in bandaging him up and keeping him in a comfy fully bedded stable if he’s not feed the right nutrients, offered a chance to stretch his legs and in a simulating environment with other horses. Here are three areas which will improve your horse’s well-being.
Devise a feeding plan for your horse that matches his fitness levels, condition which meets the demands of the work being asked of him. He should have a balanced diet with all the right nutrients to keep him happy within himself. If confused by all the nutrients and feeds on offer in your local feed store, then speak to a nutritionist.
Your horse like us, need to move around, as otherwise they feel they live a life of captivity and control. This doesn’t mean he needs a full-on fitness regime, it could be simple daily turn-out, lunging or some ridden work. This will not only keep his mind active, but his joints supple.
Trapped in a stable with no company or in a bare paddock, doesn’t say stimulating environment to your horse. To keep him happy in his mind, make sure he has access to see other horses and plenty of ab-lib forage, whether that’s grass, hay or haylage as this will keep him occupied for longer. Adding a few stable toys to his home or turning him out in a paddock with lots to see, will see him happier and ultimately healthier.
When to call the vet
Seeing your horse clearly not himself, can be quite stressful and upsetting, but acting quick and seeking advice could reassure you as well as allowing your horse a quicker recovery should he not be well. Obviously any signs that indicate lameness, colic, pain or serious swellings then pick up the phone and call the vet immediately.
Do you have a veteran horse?
Learn how to keep your veteran horse healthy - click here.
Keep you veteran horse in good health all year round with this advice designed to help you ensure he stays full of life for longer.
The longer you own your horse, the more they become part of the family especially as we do our best to look after them and give them the best future possible. But as your horse ages and reaches his twenties or even thirties, you need to give him that extra TLC to keep him happy and healthy.
Feeding your veteran horse fibre
As your horse ages his digestive tract become less efficient and his teeth become shorter, smoother or are lost altogether. This means he’ll find it harder to chew hay so to keep his fibre intake up, by offering fibre in an easy to chew form such as short chop feeds or chaff. To also make sure he has all the essential nutrients to keep him in optimum health, provide him with balanced veteran cubes that can be soaked to help with his digestion. To read more about forage http://bit.ly/2ghtB5S
Condition concerns in the older horse
It’s important to watch how his body changes as he ages. Of course his shape will alter as his muscle mass reduces with less exercise, but what you have to be aware of is his weight. To help you see if theres any subtle changes to his shape keep a regularly record of his weight by using a measuring tape and if concerned contact your vet.
Worming your veteran horse
Veteran horses have a reduced resistance to worm infections, so keeping on top of your horse’s worm burden is important. This involves worming for encysted larvae in December or January, and covering or testing for tapeworm in spring and autumn. For the rest of the year use regular worm egg counts and only worm when an active burden is present. This will ensure your horse is worm-free, without overdosing on anthelmintics drugs, when they’re not required.
Just like his teeth, your horse’s immune system starts to weaken as he ages, making it less efficient at fighting off infections. To try to minimise the risk of serious infection it’s important to keep an older horse’s vaccinations up to date, even if he’s not going to be travelling anywhere. Also don’t forget about tetanus as this is in the environment such as soil, meaning infection can occur, even through minor cuts and abrasions when he’s turned out in the field.
Horses as they age can become more prone to dental problems. Loose teeth can shift, causing ulceration in the mouth and may eventually fall out, leaving a gap behind. Diastema (gaps in between the teeth) can become packed with feed and cause painful gum disease. It’s therefore really important that teeth are checked and routine dental care is undertaken regularly to pick these problems up early.
Think about your horse's feet
Even if your horse isn’t still in work it’s important to keep an eye on his hooves and to maintain regular foot trimming to keep his feet in good condition and avoid putting extra strain on joints and tendons which are less elastic when your horse is older. A well cared for foot is also less likely to crack, which reduces the risk of foot abscesses and lameness problems.
Keep your horse's joints supple
To prevent his joints becoming stiff and creaky, exercise is key. It doesn't have to be ridden work, as simple in-hand walking or daily turnout will help. Exercise will also keep his mind active and give him a purpose. To boost his mobility try adding a joint supplement to his daily feed.
Give him an MOT
To confirm he's fit and well or to spot any issues, ask your vet to give your horse a regular check-up. In some cases, this may include a blood sample to screen for underlying conditions that might not obvious until later.
Learn more about veteran health issues - click here
Got a handy tip for keeping veteran horse's healthy?
Let us know and your comment could appear in Your Horse magazine, not to mention, help another horse owner!
For many riders, back twinges are part and parcel of life with horses. But could your actions now end up playing havoc with your back in the future, and what can you do to avoid problems? Read on for some simple tips to help you avoid back pain when riding, handling and working with horses.Read More
Horses are herd animals and the more natural a lifestyle their owners can provide them with, the happier they’ll be. Ideally all horses should have the opportunity to roam freely, graze, shelter, drink fresh water and enjoy social contact with other equines, but in reality there are times when box rest with periods of isolation becomes a necessity.Read More
Here's a simple ground work exercise to work the muscles in your horse's hindquarters - it's also a great way to help maintain his fitness and mobility.Read More
Keep your horse happy and safe as the fireworks get into full swing with these 10 top tips.Read More
Help your horse to feel confident on his own and make separation anxiety a thing of the past with expert advice from Rosie Jones.Read More
Cracked hooves = nightmare! So, to help you manage them effectively we’ve got some handy tips and advice.Read More
Your horse’s eyes aren’t just there to help him find food, but he relies on his sight to keep him and the others in the herd safe and to help move around his environment.Read More
Hoof care is one of the most overlooked areas of horse health, so experienced farrier Reubin Underwood explains how to help you keep your horse’s hooves in top condition.Read More
If you prefer a full tail, when it comes to show-time a top-notch tail plait will set you above the competition – read on for our easy-to-follow guide
On the morning of your event, to get started on your perfect tail plait first brush out your horse’s clean tail – you might find it easier to plait if you washed it a couple of days ago.
Smooth down any straggly hairs with a damp sponge or a small amount of styling product – your hairspray or gel will both work well. Then follow our step-by-step guide for the perfect plait.
1. Gather small matching sections of hair from either side of the top of his dock, as high up as you can
2. Cross one over the other in the centre of his dock, then take another section of hair from underneath on one side and pass it into the middle
3. Starting from the opposite side, alternate taking small pieces of hair from each side and merge into the existing sections of hair as you plait
4. Continue adding in hair until you’ve plaited to about three-quarters of the way down the dock
5. Stop adding hair and plait to the end of the tail. Sew up the end of the plait, double it up and sew into place. Hairspray down any loose hairs, or trim them off. Protect your plait during travelling with a tail bandage and you’re good to go!
The most important thing you can do for your horse’s hooves is have him shod on a regular basis. It’s also important that you know what’s normal for him so keep an eye on his hooves, pick them out daily and if you think something’s not quite right, contact your farrier.
Signs your horse needs a visit from the farrier include;
· The clenches have risen away from the hoof wall
· The hoof has visibly overgrown the shoe at the front or sides
· The shoe's become worn and thin
· The shoe is twisted or has become loose
In addition to every day general care, here are some tips to help you keep your horse’s hooves in good condition:
1. A good, balanced diet will aid horn growth.
2. Supplements can help give your horse the vitamins and minerals he needs. This can be especially important if your horse has limited turnout and may be lacking the natural, hoof-friendly vitamins found in grass.
3. Ensure you regularly check and wash your horse’s frogs with salt water to help prevent infection, and make the effort to apply hoof dressing a couple
of times a week. This will help to keep the hoof wall in good condition and protect it from the elements.
4. One of the most important things is to maintain a good relationship with your farrier, as they will be able to help you the most if you’re worried about your horse’s hoof health.
Spot the signs of a well-shod foot
Do you know what this should look like? Here are some pointers;
1. When your horse is stood square and on level ground, look at his front feet. Both hooves should look as though they’re the same length, and the coronary bands should be parallel to the floor. Then look at the back feet for the same signs.
2. Pick up each foot and examine the shoe. It should be smooth with no kinks or bumps, and nicely rounded towards the front. Pointed shoes are never a good sign and will impact on your horse’s break-over movement.
3. Look at your horse’s heels on his fore feet. Every horse is different, but as a general rule if his heels are upright, his shoes will need to stick out less at the back as his heels won’t need as much support as a horse with an under-run heel. However, heel support on the back feet tends to be different, as this is where the horse gets his speed and power from. To help with this, your farrier may leave more shoe sticking out the back of the foot to better support the heel, in turn helping him with his movement.
Help him stay sound
You’ll often hear farriers refer to a balanced hoof, and this is critical in order to maintain soundness. In a nutshell, it refers to the way your horse’s hoof strikes the floor (all his hooves must do this with equal impact). If your horse’s footfall is uneven, for example if one heel strikes before the other heels, it will cause uneven stress within the foot and lower limbs. This, in turn, will affect your horse’s gait and limit his mobility.
The signs of a balanced hoof
The pastern and the front of the hoof should run at the same angle to one another. If you look at the hoof side-on there should be a straight line from the fetlock joint down to the bottom of the hoof. The foot should also land on the ground evenly, not one side before the other.
Break-over is the moment your horse’s hoof starts to leave the ground in walk, with his heel rising first before his toe.
If his hooves are unbalanced, he’ll struggle with this movement and may become unsound. This is usually the result of your horse’s toes becoming too long, or the shoe no longer fitting properly. This is why it’s important your horse has regular visits from your farrier to keep his hooves well balanced. Your farrier will shape your horse’s hoof in a way that aids its break-over, usually by rounding or squaring it off.
It's vital that your horse's heel is suppoerted correctly by his shoe. If his shoe doesn't extend to the back of his heel, there's no support for the bones, tendons and ligaments in the back of his leg and, again, this puts stress on other parts of the limb, limiting his movement.
In addition to being overweight, there are other possible triggers of laminitis. We list what you should look out for...
- A dietary ‘insult’ that has changed the fermentation in your horse’s hind gut (eg a very large meal of starch)
- Badly shod feet, uneven weight bearing, or repetitive trotting on hard ground. These all affect blood flow to the foot over time. Traumatic causes could be thought of as being similar to persistently hitting your thumb with a hammer, and the resultant blood blister and inflammation; mechanical causes could be thought of as similar to getting pins and needles because
of ill-fitting shoes
- Starch overload, post-colic surgery and liver problems which all cause inflammation in the body. This may result in endotoxaemia, which affects blood flow rapidly, often within 12 to 48 hours – the onset of laminitis is then dramatic and sudden
- Physiological stress caused by being cold or in pain. Latest research suggests laminitis is strongly connected with hormones. If a horse or pony is under stress, his cortisol levels go up, and this rise, over a long period, can cause insulin resistance. This, together with him being ‘comfortably cuddly’ will make him more susceptible to laminitis
Not sure about horse passports? Here a re a few handy hints:
- A horse may not be transported without his passport – this includes travelling to shows or even a few miles for a hack. Movement ‘on foot’ is fine. Anyone without a passport has three hours to produce it!
- Owners of horses without passports face a fine
- It’s a legal requirement to return your passport to the Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO) when your horse dies. They may return it, overstamped, for a fee
- A passport is not proof of ownership – if you’re buying a horse, make sure you verify ownership yourself and get a receipt
- All horses requiring a passport after 1 July 2009 need to have a microchip implanted by a qualified vet. This applies to foals and to adult horses who need a new passport
- If you buy a horse you have only 30 days to register yourself as the new owner, or face prosecution
- Livery or other yard owners will need to make arrangements with horse owners for passports to be available within the three-hour time limit in the event of an inspection
- Your horse's passport also states whether your animal can be used for food at the end of its life. You can declare that your animal isn’t intended for human consumption by filling in the appropriate section of the passport. This can’t be changed later.
For more information visit www.gov.uk/horse-passport/overview
Show horse producer, rider and trainer Jo Bates shows us how to plait a mane using the good old-fashioned sewing technique.
1 Wet the mane Start by wetting the mane and combing it through. I like to use Quic Braid from Exhibitor Labs, a non-sticky spray that gives extra grip and helps to stop the plaits coming out once secured. Using a dab of gel is also useful for keeping the plaits in place and any stray hairs at bay.
2 Work in sections Separate the mane into sections depending on the number of plaits you’ll need and start plaiting – be sure to pull the plaits as tight as you need to and keep a firm hold.
3 Securely does it With your needle and thread, push the needle through the middle of the plait at the end and wind the thread around. Repeat this process.
4 Tidy the ends To secure the plait, fold the end under and sew around it once more, pulling it tight.
5 Start sewing Fold the end of your plait under and up to the base of the mane, bringing the needle and thread up through the base. Then snake the needle down through the middle of the plait a few times until you reach the end.
6 Size matters Fold the plait under, in half, once more bringing the needle and thread up through the base. Tie the plait off on top of the plait to create a plait with a large base (plait 1) or bring the thread around the plait and secure to create a plait with a small base (plait 2).
You can use as many plaits as you like on your horse but traditionally, an ideal number is about 10 to 12. If he’s short in the neck then a greater number of smaller plaits will help to accentuate his neck.
Sewn plaits are neater and stronger than elastic band plaits and have more shape. However, rubber plaiting bands can be used as an acceptable quick and easy alternative and are often used in hunting.
Plaiting will not damage the hair, but be careful when you remove them.
The strategy of simply worming your horse when faecal worm egg counts reach a certain level may be used with some horses to reduce the use of wormers. However, faecal worm egg count tests do have their limitations. As the name of these tests clearly states, they can only detect the presence of eggs in the horse’s droppings, and are limited to detecting a few roundworm species: small redworm, large redworm and large roundworm.
So even if you get a low egg count reading, your horse may be harbouring a high and potentially fatal number of larvae, which don’t produce eggs. With this approach, you’ll at the very least need to worm your horse in the late autumn/winter against encysted small redworm larvae, and in the spring and autumn against tapeworm.
So the answer isn’t a straightforward decision between worming and faecal worm egg count tests. To ensure the health of your horse, it’s advisable to use the faecal worm egg count tests as an integral part of your worm control programme.
What happens to your sample at the lab?
When using the Faecal Worm Egg Counts (FWEC) approach requires you, the horse owner, to supply a poo sample from your horse. When your horse's sample arrives at the lab, this is what happens:
STEP 1: First 3g of faecal sample is weighed out and then diluted, with 42ml of saturated salt solution.
STEP 2: Using a pestle and mortar (that’s right people a pestle and mortar!) the sample is ground up with the solution. Emma tells me the solution acts a ‘floatation medium’ - translation: something for the eggs to float to the top of!
STEP 3: Next the solution is sieved using…a tea strainer. This removes all the debris leaving just the liquid and eggs (if there are any).
STEP 4: With a pipette the solution is put into a McMasters Chamber, a small device broken up into counting chambers. These chambers are used as a guide to work out how out the egg count.
STEP 2: Finally the solution can be looked at under a microscope. If eggs can be seen in the chambers they’re counted then multiplied by 50 to get the total egg count. For example if there are eight eggs in the two chambers that gives you a worm count of 400eggs per gram which indicates that the horse needs worming.