Keeping your horse healthy is a full-time job. Here, a panel of five equine health professionals explain the most important things you can do to keep your horse at his bestRead More
Protecting your horse's skin from the sun is important, not only to keep flies away, but also to stop dry skin, coat bleaching and sunburn.Read More
Spring clean your horse with a simple four-step grooming routine.
1 Give a mini massage
Start with your rubber curry comb and use circular motions on your horse’s coat. This effectively gives your horse a mini massage, helping to tone up his muscles and increase blood flow – and he’ll love it! As you use the rubber curry comb to massage all over his body, you’ll start to remove the dead and loose hair, which is the first step towards a nice shine.
2 Get to work on grease
After the mini massage, grab your ‘flicky’ brush. These are slightly softer than the average dandy brush and are great for getting the grease out of your horse’s coat. Brush in the direction of the hair growth, all over his body, and flick your wrist out at the end of each stroke to flick dirt away from his coat.
3 Brush away dirt and hair
Next, using a body brush, gently brush your horse’s coat in the direction of growth over his entire body. Always be careful not to brush too hard around any sensitive areas, such as his eyes. A body brush is great for removing all the dirt and loose hair from the top of your horse’s coat, and creates the perfect starting point for hot clothing.
4 Try hot clothing
Hot clothing helps to lift any of the dirt or grime that brushing alone has missed. For this use an old towel soaked in water that’s as hot as you can touch with your own hand. For added shine when the coat dries, try adding a dash of baby oil to your bucket of hot water. Rub the towel all over your horse’s body to lift any lingering grease or dirt and leave the coat spotless.
PLUS! Get hooves sparkling
Before you ride, scrub your horse’s hooves clean with an old fashioned dandy brush and use a clear varnish that hardens to keep them shiny. Try Absorbine SuperShine Hoof Polish & Sealer. As the varnish hardens it will stop dirt or arena surface sticking to the hooves – practical and pretty before you ride, scrub your horse’s hooves clean with an old fashioned dandy brush and use a clear varnish that hardens to keep.
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Discover what to look for when choosing an equine back care practitioner and how to care for your horse's back with advice from the McTimoney Animal Association.
We all know how important it is to ensure our horses receive the best care. From saddle fitting to teeth rasping, veterinary care to feeding requirements, worming to shoeing, the list goes on and on! So what should you consider when choosing an equine back treatment?
Well, firstly does your horse need back treatment at all? Ideally, the answer would be no. However, there are many horses working with low grade discomfort that their owners are unaware of. Like us feeling a bit stiff getting out of bed in the morning, our horses can feel mild discomfort at times which improves with appropriate movement and work.
So how do you know if your horse needs a back treatment? You might have noticed symptoms of back pain such as dipping the back when groomed or touched, saddled or girthed. Or symptoms might be work-related such as reluctance to go forwards, difficulty striking off into canter, stiffness when asked to flex the head and neck to one side, or a general loss in performance. Bucking, rearing and napping are obvious symptoms of pain and in these cases, ruling out back pain is very important. Sometimes your horse may not have these symptoms but you may notice a slight change in personality and behaviour which could indicate discomfort.
Choosing a back practitioner
So how to choose your ideal back person? Whatever your preference of therapist, always use a qualified, insured and registered practitioner with a professional animal specific association such as the McTimoney Animal Association to ensure that your animal is treated by someone qualified specifically to treat animals. The practitioner should seek veterinary permission prior to treating your animal, so if they don't, that should ring alarm bells. If you don't see an improvement after a couple of treatments, discuss this with your therapist and your vet as there may be an underlying cause to your horse's discomfort.
McTimoney for horses
The McTimoney approach is a highly effective and holistic treatment using chiropractic techniques to stimulate the change necessary in your horse's spine and locomotory system and remove discomfort. There is an optimal range of movement between each vertebra in the spine. When joint movement is reduced or one-sided, this produces palpable changes in the spinal column as the body tries to counter the effects of the underperforming joint. McTimoney Animal Practitioners identify these areas and use gentle chiropractic techniques to realign the structure and bring the body back into balance.
This is the only treatment which seeks to rebalance the skeletal frame of your horse to achieve symmetry and equal functioning of the left and right sides. Many horses are one sided and schooling exercises are targeted towards improving flexibility but if your horse's skeletal frame is not straight it is impossible for him to move equally on both sides.
The McTimoney approach aims to help resolve performance issues which cannot be resolved through veterinary intervention. Injuries or trauma can produce compensatory movement and postural problems, resulting in changes in spinal flexibility. Long-standing compensations from poorly fitting tack or incorrect foot balance are also common reasons for discomfort and symptoms of poor performance.
Reduced flexibility is evidenced by stiffness in movement or difficulty in performing movements which were previously easy to do. You might notice increased weight in one rein, striking off on the wrong canter lead or stopping in front of fences. Some horses will buck, others will simply not go forwards and feel stuffy to ride. Any change in your horse’s behaviour should be investigated, by your vet and your McTimoney Animal Practitioner.
Treatment takes around an hour and your McTimoney Animal Practitioner will take a full history of your horse and where appropriate will ask to see your horse move. They may also ask you to ride or lunge your horse. The practitioner will then palpate your horse, explain their findings and how the treatment will work so you are aware of what they will be doing and this is also an opportunity to discuss what has caused the issues. The treatment uses quick, gentle adjustments on the key locations your practitioner has identified as requiring treatment, and then aftercare advice will be given.
All members of the McTimoney Animal Association are qualified after training with the premier institution of its kind, the McTimoney College in Abingdon, having studied up to three years at postgraduate level attaining an MSc or Post Graduate Diploma in Animal Manipulation.
McTimoney Animal Practitioners are registered with the McTimoney Animal Association.
For more information on your local practitioner go to www.mctimoney-animal.org.uk.
Keen show jumper and dressage rider, Chloe Dean has owned 12-year-old warmblood, Toffee since he was three. The pair originally competed in showjumping and are now enjoying great success in affiliated dressage. Toffee has regular McTimoney treatments with experienced practitioner, Jenna Churchill.
Chloe said. “I book Jenna for routine check-ups and then if I feel Toffee is not right, or we have an important show, extra visits are booked. After one particular routine treatment with Jenna he went on to win two novice dressage tests on the same day.”
Chloe continued: “I generally have a dressage lesson every week with Toffee, do one other schooling session, go for a hack twice a week and then compete at the weekend. Jenna comes every three months to ensure Toffee is in top condition for competitions.”
Jenna from Worcestershire said: “I have super clients, both animal and human. The job is incredibly rewarding and after each treatment I receive positive feedback from the animals’ owner which proves how unique and effective the McTimoney treatment is.”
Jenna also treats another horse for Chloe, Inka, a three-year-old Warmblood mare. Chloe said: “I bought Inka in June 2015 as a two-year-old and I am hoping to begin riding her this year. She will then have regular visits from Jenna alongside Toffee. It gives me piece of mind know they are comfortable and in the best condition to enjoy their work.”
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Related to horses they may be, but donkeys have very different needs when it comes to their care. Here to give you advice on donkey care is behaviourist Ben Hart who regularly works with donkeys at The Donkey Sanctuary.
What makes donkeys different?
Looks aside, it’s their personality that really sets donkeys apart from their horse and pony relatives. Wrongly mislabelled with a stubborn attitude, they have a reputation for being hard working yet wilful. “A donkey’s ‘fight’ mechanism is more easily engaged than a horse’s,” says Ben Hart. “In the wild they live in a different environment and smaller herds than wild horses do, so when danger approaches it’s not always possible to run away. Instead they’ll stand their ground and defend themselves, and this feisty attitude is still instilled in donkeys, even after years of domestication.” Tough they may be, but donkeys must have the right care in order to flourish and live a long and healthy life.
The best way to feed a fit and healthy donkey is with ad lib access to barley straw to avoid the risks of hyperlipaemia which can be fatal in donkeys. Weight gain is their biggest enemy, and as they tend to have a slower metabolism than horses, a low starch, high fibre diet is essential in order to help them remain a healthy weight and guard against the dangers of laminitis, which is something they’re prone to.
“The donkeys I work with at The Donkey Sanctuary our young, fit and healthy and have a diet largely based on high fibre barley or straw, with small amounts of hay, haylage or grass,” says Ben. “If needed we top this up with a balancer, which gives them all the vitamins and minerals they need.”
When looking for a balancer or high fibre hard feed, go for one that’s donkey-friendly. Top Spec Donkey Forage Balancer has been designed in conjunction with the Donkey Sanctuary to promote general health, while being low in calories. Saracan Horse Feed’s Donkey Diet is low in energy and protein, but high in fibre, and Mollichaff Donkey is a complete fibre feed formulated especially for donkeys which is low in sugar and starch.
As with feeding a horse, common sense should always dictate, and any changes to your donkey’s diet should be made slowly and gradually over a period of four to six weeks.
What not to feed your donkey:
- Feed supplements, unless recommended by your vet
- Cereal-based feeds as these may be too high in sugar
- Treats with a high sugar content. Instead go for limited chopped apples or carrots
It’s advisable to ask your vet to provide you with an effective worming programme for your donkey to help prevent the build-up of worms in their system. As with horses there are different types of wormers that tackle different worms, and each should be used at the correct time of year.
Donkeys can tolerate a large lungworm infestation without showing any signs, whereas horses will suffer a severe cough if they contract this parasite. “Many people are led to believe horses and ponies can’t live together because donkeys carry worms, but with an effective worming programme both can be put in the same paddock without any concerns,” says Ben.
“Regular faecal egg counts (FEC) are taken at The Donkey Sanctuary to determine if a donkey needs worming. If done with the correct care and management, this is a great way to protect your donkey as well as preventing a resistance to wormers as you’re not using them unnecessarily. FEC can be arranged through your vet or you can obtain a kit online. A sample of dung is sent off to a laboratory for testing and can see tell you if worming is required by checking how many worms are in your donkeys internal system. These should be done four times a year to make sure a worm burden doesn’t go undetected.”
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