Sunday, May 29, 2011

Horse Healthcare - Colic Symptoms

I'm not real fond of getting calls at night saying "I think somethings wrong with my horse". It's not the call or the time of night, it's just hard to talk to people over a phone and translate what they are seeing. With some Vet bills for a night or weekend colic call being several hundreds of dollars, several people I know call me or my wife to help.

Colic is always bad news because the symptoms are sometimes misread or misleading and the threat to the horse is high. I have always wanted to film a colic case, but usually have my hands full doing something else and too worried about the horse to remember about a camera. Plus it always seems like horse colic always starts on a Friday night through Sunday night, don't it?

"The horse don't seem right" is often the first indicator of colic. Sometimes the horse's action just seem different. Sometimes it may be listlessness that gets our attention. Other signs include: horse not interested in feed; standing stretched out like when a horse urinates; ears focused backward; biting marks on the side; laying down, standing up and laying down again; in bad cases with alot of pain the horse will throw themselves down on the ground and this of course can result in a twisted gut which without immediate surgery is almost always fatal.

Before they lay down or throw themselves down Horses will usually walk around in a circle with their head they would when they are trying to find a place to roll. I have a horse who seems to get gas colic more often than other horses, so one day I was lucky enough to have a video camera nearby and had someone shoot film on the horse's action to better explain some colic symptoms.

Other symptoms include tail wringing which indicates aggravation; lack of gut sounds on the horse's barrel when you place your ear to the gut; and, overly sweating can also indicate the horse is in distress.

Treatment for colic may include calling the vet and relaying what you are seeing - the more accurately you can provide descriptions on what the horse is doing, the better decisions the Vet can make; getting a halter on the horse and walking it around but don't over walk it as you can dehydrate it more and take needed blood flow away from the gut. This also keeps the horses from trying to throw itself down and in bad cases the horse will balk under halter and try to go down, so you have to create a little energy to keep the horse upright. If they stop and want to stand quiet during periods of reduced pain then I'll encourage this.

Banamine which is a muscle relaxer, usually given as 1cc per 100 lbs of body weight, can help. Best to get it into the horse via a vein (IV) as opposed to into the muscle (IM). If your Vet tells you to give your horse a shot of Banamine, note the time and amount to relay to your Vet.

Offering the horse a chance to drink occasionally is a good idea. And if the Vet comes out, normal protocol after an exam is to put a tube through the nose to the gut and pump mineral oil and water into the stomach. The exam usually includes palpitating the last few feet of the horses digestive tract with a gloved arm to check for impaction or a twisted gut. Some Vets will also suggest an IV line into the horse to keep it hydrated and giving the horse a mineral oil/water enema.

The weather's getting hotter now. Here in West Texas it hit 99 degrees yesterday. Make sure to monitor your horse's water intake and always provide clean water and plenty of it to drink. Keep a barrier between your horse's feed and the ground especially if the ground is sandy. Keep your horses wormed on schedule. All this can reduce the chances of colic, but know what to look for because time is very important in the treatment. Safe Journey.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cowboy Humor - Gun Powder and Longevity

A tough old cowboy from South Texas counseled his grandson that if he wanted to live a long life, the secret was to sprinkle a pinch of gun powder on his oatmeal every morning.

The grandson did this religiously to the age of 103 when he died. He left behind 14 children, 30 grandchildren, 45 great-grandchildren, 25 great-great-grandchildren, and,..............

.......a 15-foot hole where the crematorium used to be. Sorta brings a tear to your eye, don't it?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Reader Question on Saddle Fit

Received this question: Is there a way to fit a saddle that has full quarter bars to a horse that needs a medium bar without buying a new saddle?

I think we can all agree that it is impossible for one saddle to fit all horses. This is because the difference in the widths of the saddle-tree bars, their angle, length and flare. I also think we all have saddled horses with saddles and bars too narrow for the best fit....that's probably because most of us have saddles older than our horses.

Quarter horse bars are going to narrower in width and have a steeper angle than say semi-quarter horse bars (medium bars) and full quarter horse bars. Horses today seem to have shorter withers, bigger shoulders and flatter backs, hence the move away from older quarter horse bars fitting higher withered horses, to semi and full quarter horse bars.

You really should have a saddle that fits your horse, but money wise, this is unrealistic for most people. You can do a little bit to fit the horse through using the appropriate saddle pad and/or blanket, but you can't make up a really poor fit this way. Imagine piling up a bunch of folded blankets on a chair then sitting on it,....doesn't feel balanced at all, does it?

I use an Impact Gel felt saddle pad and a blanket on top between the pad and the blanket. I think my saddle pad is half inch thick, certainly no thicker than three-quarters of an inch. I don't like the real thick one inch saddle pads, not do I use anything but felt. A few months ago, I went to a much thinner, all wool blanket which helps reduce the space between the saddle and the horses back. Previous to this I was using a blanket folded in half which produced more bulk and weight.

Saddle pads have came along way in the last twenty years. It's common to find a pad with a cut out to protect the withers and a tented center than protects contact from the horse's backbone. I always tent the pad and blanket at the withers when I saddle so when I cinch up it's reduces any discomfort at the withers.
The pictures show the saddle, pad and withers relationship before and after tenting. I think it also allows a better saddle bar to horse withers and shoulder fit.

You can try to fit a better fit for your saddle using different pads and blanket combinations. Look to ensure the flare of the forward saddle bars fit the shoulders below the withers and fit the back at the same time. Look for two inches (or two fingers) of clearance in the gullet from the top of the horse's withers.

Maybe a neoprene pad may not slip as much, although I would hate to use a rubber pad as I think it reduces the ability to breath and gets hot faster than a felt, wool or fleece pad and I am describing the pad that makes contact with the horse's back. I find it kinda odd that a lot of pads are described by the material the saddle sits on as opposed to what makes contact with the horse.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Horse Health Warning - Equine HerpesVirus (EHV-1) Alert

Equine Herpesvirus (EHV-1) is in the news recently with an outbreak at a Utah Cutting Horse Competition. This outbreak caused in closures or postponements of other competitions. EHV-1 is highly contagious and can result in severe respiratory problems; abortion in mares; neurological disorders such as incontinence, ataxia or uncoordination, and fever. Even paralysis usually of the hind limbs.

EHV-1 spreads in the form of horse to horse contact. It is thought that it can spread from aerosol form, sneezing, but not over long distances, so quarantine of suspected cases or separation between horses of 100 yards should be sufficient protection. However, the virus can reportedly survive on inert objects like shedding blades, brushes and the like, so care should be taken not to use the same tools on affected and non-effected horses.

There is no vaccine for EHV-1, although there is a prototype being tested in the Infections and Infestations class of medicines and vaccines which includes anti-fungals, anti-virals, and anti-parasitics.

In 2006, there was an outbreak in Florida of EHV-1 which was thought to have originated from horses imported from Europe.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rattlesnake Season is Here Again! Vaccine Now Available

I have been meaning to do a post about Rattlesnakes since last month, as Rattlesnakes were starting to come out of their winter dens around early April here in West Texas. As the weather gets warmer and then hot, Rattlesnakes become nocturnal, moving around mostly during the night hunting for prey. They will still lay out in the early morning and late afternoon Sun soaking up the heat.

I was out in the desert riding my horse Junior this past weekend during the middle of day and spotted a snake about 40 yards from us. I jogged Junior up to it hoping to find a Rattlesnake to train Junior that these snake are trouble. I was disappointed to find a Coachwhip, who are non-poisonous.....and Good Lord are those Coachwhips fast. Once the snake knew we where there, he was off to the races.

Best scenarios for trail riding are that you can see where your horses feet are going fall. In all the desert riding I have done, in open terrain, brushy vegetation and mountainous areas, I have only surprised no more than a dozen Rattlesnakes. Unless you almost step on them, or mess with them, chances of getting bitten are slight. However, I carry a two small lengths of rubber hose (like car fuel hose) about 4 inches long each, to place in their nose to keep the airway open, just in case one of my horse's gets bitten on the nose which is a common place to get bite as horses are curious and often lead with their nose to the ground to investigate a snake. Coating the outside of the hose with vaseline or Bag Balm then sealing it in a bag is what I do.

In the June 2011 edition of Western Horseman magazine, page 33, there is an article about Red Rock Biologics of Woodland, California who is making a Equine Rattlesnake Vaccine, called Crotalus Atrox Toxiod Rattlesnake Vaccine for Horses. It may be a good idea to talk to your Vet to see if they are going to carry it, or if you can get a script for it and vaccinate yourself if allowable in your state. May be a good idea if you live way out from Vet response and in heavy Rattlesnake country.

Apparently, like Rabies vaccine, this vaccine is supposed to develop "memory cells" to respond once they encounter the toxin again. The initial doses is a series of three shots given once a month for three months. So creating antibodies in your horses may just be in your best interest considering the cost of supportive Vet care if a horse is bit.

Safe Journey and watch for Rattlesnakes!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Cindi's Appaloosa - Pushy and Feed Aggressive

Cindy wrote: “Hello, I would like to know your opinion about my 3 year old Appaloosa. He has been ridden for a year now, doing very well, but we are just now starting to ride him more aggressively, starting to take him to small shows this summer, so I wanted to increase his feed so he don’t lose weight, he is on the smaller side. I have noticed that since I have been feeding twice a day now, he is more aggressive then before? I know its because of the grain, he is food aggressive anyway, gets real pushy.. I heard about the weight builder? Would you recommend something like this? Thanks Cindy”

Hey Cindy,

Thanks for writing. Here’s some food for thought: Your Appaloosa (a gelding I assume) is a three year old. That’s relatively young. He may be just figuring out he’s a horse and that he’s bigger than most everything else. Plus he’s an Appaloosa. Most of the Appaloosa’s I’ve seen have been more aggressive than say a Tennessee Walker or Quarter Horse. Having said that it is true that most horse problems are people caused problems.

Sometimes there is a nothing better than a bunch of wet saddle blankets for a horse,… meaning a lot of work and keep him busy…..but not too busy as he is still a three year old. Feeding twice a day as opposed to once should not increase his feed aggressiveness. Maybe you are just seeing the aggressiveness twice a day rather than once. He needs to learn not to pushy when being fed....more on that.

Assuming your Appaloosa does not teeth problems or is wormy,...depending upon the type of feed and grain he gets, the grain could be increasing his energy. In the past I have seen alot of Thoroughbreds and Arabians whose bad behavior was, in part, influenced by heavy doses of grain, sweet feed, etc. If your horse gets sufficient forage (pasture or hay) he would not necessarily need grain. High protein and high carb content feeds can help him to be a little hyper.

On underweight horses, usually rescue horses, I have used Calf Manna and/or Pelleted feeds with Corn Oil to build weight on underweight horses,...adding this to their diet very gradually. However, it is generally safer just to increase the hay gradually. Can't emphasize this enough - anytime I change or add feeds I do so ever so gradual to accustomed their system to the new or higher levels of feed.

I would get your horse Vet or another opinion on his weight. I have never used weight builder, and I can’t remember if anyone I know has ever used it.

What is more concerning to me is him being pushy and feed aggressive. If he is stalled six days a week, then on day seven he'll have a lot of pent up energy - back to wet saddle blankets. In fact, I still lunge most of my horses before I take them out of the range,...not just to get their kinks out and release some of that energy, but to see if they have any problems,..lameness, whatever. But if does help to release some energy, but know that no amount of lunging will take the buck of a horse.

Correcting his manners under halter is where I'd start. I like to use voice commands with physical cues, so if I'm with a loose horse in a pen I can get them to back or move over with my voice. Again, this starts under halter. Some people may neglect ground training cause it's not as fun as riding and going fast. But I think this is where you and the horse learn the most and again it's where everything starts.

Don't let him crowd your space - he has to respect your space. Don't let him crowd you when you feed. You should be able to back up him to give you room to feed.

Start with short times to make him wait, then increase. He'll learn that shortly after your throw feed, he'll be fed. I explain a little more in the video below. Good luck Cindi, and safe journey.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Cowboy Humor - The Cowboy and the Bus

Visiting New York City (reluctantly of course) a Texas Cowboy was waiting at a bus stop hoping he was about to get on the right bus, when a very attractive lady in a tight skirt arrived at the bus stop. When the bus pulled up, the Cowboy, being from Texas and having decent manners, said to the lady “Ma’am, please,….” And indicated that she should board the bus before him.

As the lady tried to step up and into the bus she became aware that her skirt was too tight to allow her leg to come up to the height of the first step of the bus. Slightly embarrassed and with a quick smile to the bus driver, she reached behind her to unzip her skirt a little, thinking that this would give her enough slack to raise her leg.

Again, she tried to make the step only to discover she still couldn't. So, a little more embarrassed, she once again reached behind her to unzip her skirt a little more. For the second time, she attempted the step, and, once again, much to her chagrin, she could not raise her leg. With a little smile to the driver, she again reached behind to unzip a little more and again was unable to make the step.

About this time, the Texas Cowboy, who was still standing behind her, picked her up easily by the waist and placed her gently on the step of the bus. The woman (she is no lady),…well, she went ballistic and turned to the would-be good Samaritan and screamed "How dare you touch my body! I don't even know who you are!"

The Texas Cowboy, just looked at her, smiled and drawled, "Well, ma'am, normally I would agree with you, but after you unzipped my fly three times, I kinda figured we was friends."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"Buck" - Documentary on Buck Brannaman

Cindy Meehl has completed her documentary on Buck Brannaman the model for the horse trainer in the excellent 1998 film, "The Horse Whisperer" starring Robert Redford.

This film will be out for public view on or about 17 June 2011 and has already won awards such as the Documentary Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival this year.

Buck is well know by horse people in the United States and interestingly enough was also a boy wonder trick roper growing up. It was Buck's father's abusive upbringing that helped form his philosophy that has enabled him to work wonders with horses. I think Buck would be the first one to tell you that most horse problems are people problems

Buck's autobiography, "The Faraway Horses", is one of the best books I have read. It contains Buck growing up with an abusive father; his early roping demonstrations and yet many people associate Buck Brannaman with roping, probably due to his book "Ranch Roping", as opposed to horse training for which he is so well known within the horse community.

With so many exceptional horse trainers, some call them "clinicians", in the U.S. today, including Martin Black, Craig Cameron, Chris Cox, Julie Goodnight, John Lyons, Ken McNabb, Bryan Neubert, Pat Parelli, Monty Roberts and many others, Buck Brannaman is at the top of this list. I hope to some day attend one of his clinics.

I am not going to put any of Buck's quote's or stories on this post. People really need to read his books,..he wrote another book entitled: "Believe", about how horses made differences in people's lives. His training DVD's, available on his web site, are something you'll watch again and again. Go to:

Again, the film opens on June 17. See the trailer of "Buck" below:

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society Adpot-A-Thon

Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society (BEHS) is an organization that helps starving and abused horses across Texas. BEHS is having an Adopt-A-Thon on May 14th, 2011 at the Bar Cross Cowboy Church in Alvarado, Texas . They hope to have 20 - 30 horses on hand to meet prospective adopters.

Pre-approved adopters can come meet many available BEHS horses, adopt and take the horse home that day. Anyone who adopts the day of the event will receive 25% off their adoption fee. Prospective adopters who are not already approved can apply to adopt the day of the adopt-a-thon. If they adopt within 30 days, they’ll receive 25% off their adoption fee.

A silent auction is also be conducted. BEHS is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and donations of used tack, other horse related items and, of course, money is tax deductible.

BEHS can be contacted at (888) 542-5163 or through their web site,

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Cut Tongues

I was out feeding my geldings just before false dawn broke a couple of mornings ago when I heard the unmistakable sound of horses running. I thought a couple of our mares must have gotten loose, but that thought only lasted a second or two as a I turned and saw a couple of horses running up and down my north fence line.

Horses are herd animals and these loose horses smelled and called to my horses who called back, so these two loose horses were seeking safety. One of the horses, a Grey dapple colored horse was wearing a bit and bridle with roping reins looped over his neck and obvious sweat marks from a saddle blanket. The other horse, a Sorrel, didn’t have a halter or bridle,…..or signs of being ridden recently.

While I have gathered many loose horses over the last couple of years, having one with a bit and bridle and another one with nothing was odd. Naked horses, that is without any saddles or tack, are the norm as fences fail and gates are sometimes left open. While I disagree with the practice, I have often seen horses stalled, put up or turned out wearing a halter,....however, I cannot fathom anyone putting up a horse still with a bit in it’s mouth. First thing I thought then was that the owners must have never seen a cut tongue before.

Cut tongues can easily occur when a bitted horse, even with a snaffle bit, is tied using the reins. Another all too common situation is a loose horse stepping on their reins. I have even seen riders being too heavy handed resulting in cut tongues, especially in speed events where fast turns and faster stops are needed.

But there is absolutely no reason to put a horse up with a bit still in his mouth with reins attached. I know some people who use a training bridle and a rubber snaffle bit on colts to get them used to carry a bit in their mouth, but they do so without reins. And they don't leave them in situations where they can catch the O or D ring of the snaffle on things.

I think severly cut tongues will normally preclude using a bit on that horse again. Cut tongues cannot be sewed up. The horse has to heal naturally. The owner can soak hay to make eating easier and less painful, as well as used anti-septic to clean the mouth out a couple times a day after feeding. The tongue will actually heal pretty fast but will never be the same tongue as before the injury. The picture above is a cut tongue from sevral years ago that healed up nicely, however a groove is still visable.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Remedies for a Horse that Pulls Back

I received this reader question from Amanda via e-mail....."Hi - Would appreciate suggestions for 12 yr old gelding that will not tie. It is not a fear issue and he does not paw or dig. He might stay tied 10 minutes, or an hour, but when he decides he wants to leave, he just leans back and breaks the tie and walks away. He will walk right up to me and allow himself to be caught. Previous owner tried using a Blocker Tie Ring and worked on the problem for 2 months, then sold him to me. Other than this he is a *great* horse and does not have any other issues. Thanks."

Amanda, your 12 year old Gelding knows he can pull back and break the halter or tie at will. He has to learn that he can't break it to stop this problem. I don't know if you are using a rope halter, but a good rope halter and lead line is harder to break than a conventional lead line with a snap. Additionally, the rope halter, due to it's smaller diameter strap over his poll adds more pressure there on the poll when the horse pulls back. If he pulls back, he'll get pressure in his poll - when he stops pulling back he'll learn to get a release.

In the old days we'd take a horse and tie them up tight to a snubbing post with his head higher than normal so he can't round the back, set his read end and get more leverage,..... and keep him there for hours. I don't condone this as there are better ways for a horse to learn to stand tied, and fairer ways at that.

In the video,....I know I ramble on,.... but I show the ring devices with the same principle as a Blocker tie ring so a horse can't pull back and break anything. However, you can't tie a horse and walk away with this rigging as he will pull the lead rope out of the ring,....or he will pull enough lead line through then get his front legs tangled up in the lead rope slack.

So we are back to a rope halter which I think you should try. I use nothing but Double Diamond as they are quality halters. I make my own lead lines and generally use 12 to 15 foot lengths as I use them for short lunge sessions or to sack the horse out of ropes around his feet....just a more usable length for me.

Hope this helps and safe journey.