If you’ve been thinking about keeping your horse in a more natural way, here’s some advice to get you startedRead More
Is your horse's paddock in need of some TLC after a long, wet winter? Jonathan Cox of Suregrow UK explains what you can do to prepare your paddocks for summer.Read More
Tail bandages can be tricky if you haven't done them before, so we asked Liz Daniels, who has been grooming for over 20 years and works for the British Grooms Association, how to get them right.Read More
Ensure your horse's paddock is nutrient rich, bog free and has good grass cover all year round with expert advice from the team at CountrywideRead More
Considering trying a bitless bridle with your horse? Bitless bridle instructor, Pat Voisey, answers commonly asked questions.Read More
In recent years, obesity in horses has fast become a growing problem. A horse that is significantly overweight is at risk of many health issues, from laminitis to breathing and joint problems.Read More
Astound your friends at the yard with these fun facts about your horse. With advice from Russell Guire.Read More
If your horse struggles with his weight, keep him healthy all year round by following these top 10 tips.Read More
Follow our tips below to get your horse's paddock perfect for spring.Read More
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
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
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
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
Essentially no one can sell your horse without notifying you but if your horse has escaped you will need to claim ownership within four working days.
The law (legislation) is “The Control of Horses Act 2015”. This came into force on 26 May 2015 for horses in England. The act has brought together several different laws that were quite complex. There were also many loopholes in these laws that that were exploited by less than honest horse owners. The Control of Horse Act 2015 has safeguards in place to protect responsible owners and includes the following:
- Allows land owners to remove a horse left on their land to a safe place immediately
- Police and owners of the horse must be notified by the land owner within 24 hours of the horse being removed
- If no one claims ownership of the horse in four working days, the land owner can then decide what to do with the horse (this includes selling)
- If you realise your horse is missing you should contact your local police (using their non-emergency number) so you can be reunited
Insurance is a service offered to protect you against unpredictable costs. With any luck you’ll never need the cover you’ve paid for, and you could argue that putting all those premiums in the bank instead would leave you with a handy sum to fund the occasional setback. But, in the worst-case scenario, a single catastrophe could bankrupt you.
Whether you choose to insure or not, or opt for a basic or a ‘belt-and-braces’ policy, the key is to decide just how much risk you’re happy to live with and, before you get lost in piles of leaflets and internet downloads, take a minute to identify exactly what you need. Here are our top tips:
- Ask to see the terms and conditions before taking out your policy, if there’s anything you don’t understand, call them up for further explanation.
- Have your horse’s passport number and new yard details to hand as you may be asked for this information.
- Ask what the different options of your policy cover as this can differ between companies.
- When taking out vet bill cover check to see if hospitalisation fees are covered or if this is an added extra.
- Some insurers add a fee of 10% on to the policy if you choose to pay monthly so check to see if yours does this.
- Online discounts apply so if you need anything explaining before buying online call who to get your questions answered first, then go online to take the policy out.
Who to insure with?
There are lots of reputable insurance companies and here are juts a few. Be sure to ring round to find the right deal for your horse.
Petplan – www.petplanequine.co.uk
SEIB – www.seib.co.uk
KBIS – www.kbis.co.uk
NFU Mutual – www.nfumutual.co.uk
Shearwater – www.shearwater-insurance.co.uk
Horse & Rider – www.hrid.co.uk
E&L – www.eandl.co.uk
Equi cover – www.equicover.co.uk
Our horses’ backs have to carry our weight while they walk, trot, canter and jump, so keeping this key area supple and strong is vital if we’re going to get the best from them. Here our expert, Emily Graham - a McTimoney animal therapist, helps you support your horse’s spinal region.
Easy back checks
Before you even think about hopping on board it’s important to do some routine checks of your horse’s back. These include…
- Looking for any misalignments or asymmetry, e.g. where one set of muscles is built up higher than its opposite set
- Your horse’s saddle fit – check it’s fitted correctly and is comfortable, and seek the expert advice of a Society of Master Saddlers qualified saddle fitter if you suspect there might be a problem (visit www.mastersaddlers.co.uk for a list of local fitters). Pro-lite pads are excellent for adding extra padding, but again take advice on this
- Foot balance – are your horse’s feet the correct shape and healthy, and does he need any corrective shoeing?
- Routine health check – e.g. his teeth and mouth where he takes the contact because this will affect the way he works over his back
“It’s so important to do these checks before you even start his training process,” explains Emily. “If you try to train your horse before you’ve done these checks and something’s not right, you’re going to create a bigger problem.”
Assess him on the ground
Once you’ve done your initial health checks, you can begin with some ground assessments. By lungeing your horse you should be able to assess the following…
- How does he move?
- Does he track up with both hind legs?
- Does he flex his lower back?
- Can he bend in the canter?
Common problems that you might see…
- Hollowing through his back
- Head tossing
- Pulling with his shoulder (i.e. not driving himself forward and using his hind legs properly)
Once problems are identified, you can then begin to put a work programme in place with the help of a therapist. Every horse is different and will have different issues so your therapist and vet will be able to tell you the best ways to correct any problems. There are many factors to take into account, such as your horse’s age, conformation, fitness, history etc.
It’s important to know that sometimes, depending on the problem, it may take quite some time to reach your goals and you may need to take several steps back in order to move forwards. But this is crucial to make sure your horse is in good condition before starting his training.
These procedures and checks are particularly important if you’re re-training your horse for another discipline or re-training an ex-racer. When any horse has a change of discipline he will be using different muscle groups so training should be gradual.
What you can do to spot telltale signs of pain
“Grooming your horse from head to tail is the best way to spot sensitive areas. You’ll get to know your horse’s body and what’s normal for him. Take your time over the saddle area to really see how he reacts. Signs of discomfort include…
- Ears back
- Kicking out
- Twitching muscles
- Bearing teeth
- Tail swishing
- Other signs include moving away from his tack and disapproval of the girth
Ridden warnings include:
- Out of rhythm
- Head tossing
- Bucking in transitions
- Refusing to bend
If you spot any of the above signs, it’s time to call your vet.
Try this useful exercise
Carrot stretches are a fantastic way to help test the range of motion through your horse’s back and help him remain supple and strong. It’s also another way to check for signs of pain or to see if your horse is lopsided. These can be used from the ground by using a carrot as a reward for the stretch, and then progressed to when you’re on board using the release of contact as a reward for stretching. “If your horse is one sided and better on one rein than the other (as most horses are), take care to work him more on the rein he’s stiffest on, as tempting as it is not to because it doesn’t look or feel as nice,” says Emily.
More about our expert
McTimoney animal therapist Emily Graham uses McTimoney treatment combined with massage, mobilisations, stretching and laser therapy to help horses and dogs suffering from musculoskeletal discomfort. Find out more at www.emilygraham.co.uk
Finding your horse has filled legs can be worrying, but in most cases it’s a simple enough problem to resolve – read on to find out more
Filled legs is the term used to describe a condition where the length of a horse’s legs (more commonly the hind pair) appear swollen. It’s often the result of the horse standing in his stable for longer than normal and not doing enough exercise.
What causes filled legs?
The veterinary term for filled legs is oedema, and it’s basically an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the body’s tissues. Horses are prone to this ‘stocking up’ as they have relatively poor circulation in their legs. When a horse is moving, the action of his legs and his feet hitting the ground acts like a pump and sends blood and lymphatic fluid back up from his limbs. However, if he stands still things slow down, allowing fluid to leak out of the blood vessels and reducing the return of lymph.
Do you need the vet?
In most cases, although filled legs can cause a horse to be a little stiff it’s not serious and will usually resolve after exercise or the use of stable bandages. If it doesn’t resolve within XX hours, call your vet for advice.
It’s also vital that you check your horse for other symptoms of illness – if he’s suffered a cut, is showing signs of pain or lameness, appears depressed or is running a temperature it could mean he’s suffering an infection, so call your vet straight away.
Filled legs can also be a sign of other health conditions, including problems with the efficiency of a horse’s heart and conditions which result in low blood protein levels – there’ll usually be other signs of illness, so always call your vet to investigate further.
How to deal with filled legs
When a horse has developed filled legs due to inactivity, walking him out and placing stable bandages on the legs can help reduce the swelling. Magnetic boots can help some horses, as they are believed to help improve circulation.
Applying stable bandages
Stable bandages are wider than exercise bandages, and should always be used over padding, such as Gamgee or Fybagee. Before you apply stable bandages, tie your horse up and make sure his legs are clean. When applying bandages, always stay to the side of his leg, squat rather than kneel and keep your fingers off the floor so he can’t step on them. See our illustration below for an easy-to-follow-guide.
Whether your horse is a competition jet-setter or more at home in the field, it’s vital he stays well hydrated over the spring and summer months in order to function as nature intended. Here we share some simple tips to help you keep him hydrated.
STEP 1: Encourage him to drink
The average horse will drink around 10 to 12 gallons of water a day, though just like us their thirstiness levels will vary (you only have to look at the water buckets in a typical yard to see some horses will drain two big buckets overnight, while others will hardly have touched theirs).
To be on the safe side, it’s best to follow the old Pony Club mantra that ‘fresh, clean water should always be available’, and scrub out water troughs and buckets regularly. It can also be a good idea to take water with you to a show or event, as some fussy horses don’t like the taste of ‘strange’ water and will refuse to touch it out of a different tap or hose.
If you’re worried your horse isn’t a big drinker, tips to encourage him to drink include adding apple juice or sugar beet water to his bucket, or using a product such as Horse Quencher – a natural supplement that can tempt fussy horses to take a sip.
STEP 2: Replace lost minerals
If your horse is working hard he’ll lose vital minerals – called electrolytes – in his sweat and urine, and water alone can’t replace them. Salt (or sodium chloride to give it its technical name) is the most important of all the electrolytes – others include magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, chloride and potassium – and electrolyte supplements will contain a mix of some or all of these minerals in a bid to restore the horse’s natural balance.
Electrolyte supplements work in two ways: they replace lost salts and other minerals, and help prevent dehydration by encouraging the horse to drink.
It’s very important that electrolytes are given alongside sufficient levels of water. Feeding them in a concentrated form, without the water, can actually further dehydrate the horse. So whether you give them in a very sloppy feed or dissolve them in a bucket of water, it’s important your horse always has plenty to drink.
The easiest way to give vital minerals is via a salt or electrolyte lick in the field or stable so your horse has free access. You don’t need to ‘load them up’ prior to peak exercise, but if your horse is working hard and sweating up regularly, or if we ever get a decent summer and there’s a lot of hot weather, it’s beneficial to give electrolytes as a matter of course.
A horse’s normal diet doesn’t provide enough salt as it’s impossible to put sufficient levels in a bagged feed. So generally, we recommend feeding normal salt day to day, ideally in lick form. You can then ‘upgrade’ to the electro-salts (or electrolytes) at peak times after exertion. If he won’t use a lick, you can add salt to his diet at a rate of around 25-30g a day for a 500kg horse.
STEP 3: Spot the signs of dehydration
The first signs of dehydration are often reduced stamina and loss of performance, before further health problems step into the fray. “A ‘pinch test’ will reveal early signs of dehydration. Simply pinch the skin and if, when you let go, it doesn’t immediately go back to being flat, this is an indication of dehydration.
If you allow this to continue without putting it right you’re looking at side-effects like poor recovery from exercise, muscle damage and tying up (or azoturia), which is linked to low levels of salt. Long-term, repeated dehydration could result in serious problems, such as bone and tissue damage within the system, but in the short-term lethargy and poor recovery from exercise are the most common signs.