Sam is a professional coach who has spent over 35 years, coaching, training, grooming and generally working with horses. She has ridden and groomed internationally and works with grass routes riders and horses through to international horses and riders. She has started the 'Hot off the Hoof' Blog to help owners, riders, and grooms with their four-legged friends.
It’s that time of year where the weather changes at the drop of a hat and you are not sure what if any rugs you need to put on your horse or pony!
It is also the time of year where you need to keep an eye on your horse’s skin as they will be changing their coat and the grease will be more obvious. If you find your horse is starting to sweat up a lot and you are having to wait it may be time to consider clipping them. The later in September the better it is as you do not have to clip so much.
There are various different types of clip you can use. This depends on what type of work you are considering and how much you will be able to work your horses or ponies during the winter months.
You also need to start to think about the different types of rugs you may like to use and when you can use them. Most horses might be out during the day and in a stable at night. Also, we have horses that are out 24/7 and need rugs to help with the colder evenings and nights.
When deciding what you are thinking of doing, remember that your horse or pony is used to living outside nnd their sking is thicker than ours. Therefore, they are most of the time used to the weather and what is happening in their environment. Horses or ponies that are finding it colder, their coat will stand up on end and you will be able to tell if they are colder. Some horses may shiver, others lose weight.
Keeping an eye on their weight by using either a weight tape or weighbridge or just looking and being aware of their size. You may find their girth goes up a whole or you may see their shape changes. If your horse has been living off grass there is sometimes necessary to add some hay or a small feed.
Each horse is an individual and it is a good idea to consider the Rules of Feeding this will help you work out what you may need to feed your horse.
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Well, we are at the end of January now and the evenings are starting to get longer. We have been lucky and the weather here in the United Kingdom has been fairly kind. We are expecting some snow, but hopefully, it will not be here for long.
When you are thinking of going out and about with your horse, you really need to make sure that he or she has been working and has some fitness otherwise you can cause some problems like a damaged tendon or sprained ligament, or simply a gall or pulled muscle. We need to think about their bodies and how they work can like us they need to slowly work towards the job you would like them to do.
But, before we get going on how to get your horse fit, you need to think of the things that need checking and sorted so that your horse can get going and work to his or her fullest. If your horse has been off work for over a month and out in the field, you need to give them a thorough check over.
It might be a good idea to bring him in for a little while and get him used to being away from the herd, or if you know a horse is difficult by himself bring two horses in together and it will make the work easier. You can slowly separate them over a period of time and get them used to coming into a stable alone if your routine demands it.
Once you bring the horse in you can check him over for any lumps and bumps. Also, check the condition of his shoes and if possible, get the farrier out and sort out a set of shoes that would be an idea for the work he is going to start to do. Some horses have their hind shoes taken off when they are resting, and some have the whole set off. So, a visit from the farrier is a must once you start on road work.
WITS is an acronym for worming, inoculations, teeth, and shoeing. These are all areas that need checking along with a good physio or chiropractor.
Worming, it is a good idea to make sure that you have wormed your horse before you start to get him fit. If he has been out 24/7, he might be changing his routine and food, so worming before you start is a good idea. It is a good idea now to get a worm check on your horse’s dung and this will help you identify the worm burden, so you are able to understand what is happening in his gut and what type of wormer you may need to use. Checking with your vet can be a good idea if you do not know what to use as there are a lot of different types of worms and you may need to use certain types of wormer at certain times of the year.
There are several different types of worming checks that can be brought at the local saddlers or you can get them from your vet.
Inoculations. It is a good idea to get your annual flu and tetanus injections done before your horse is in full work, then it will not interfere with their work. You need to get your inoculations done within the year of the last injection otherwise you have to start again.
This would mean having the first inoculation, followed by another (the second primary inoculation) 4 – 6 weeks apart and then another (the first booster) at six months. Then you have the (annual booster) at 356 days. Apart from being an extra expense, it is a good idea to give horses a day off after they injections as it is better for them not to sweat for 24 hrs after they have had their inoculation.
These inoculations are also required for most equestrian centers and race courses, and you will not be allowed on site without your horse’s passport and proof of the inoculations.
Teeth. Getting their teeth looked at is a good idea as they have been out and about eating grass for a couple of months. This will also allow you to have an even pain free contact to work with. You should get your horse’s teeth looking at between 9 and 12 months. It is a good idea to talk to your dentist when they come and check to see what they recommend for your horse. Dentists should be on the British Veterinary Dental Association (BVDA) list so that you know they know what they have been through the correct training and apprenticeship.
Shoes. Like I had mentioned above, it is a good idea to get the horse’s shoes done, Farriers take part in an extensive apprenticeship for five years, and can be found at http://www.farrier-reg.gov.uk/find-a-farrier. There is a great saying ‘No foot, no horse’, farriers are a great help in keeping your horse on the road and someone can help you when something isn’t quite right with your horse.
All the above things need checking along with your tack. A horse can change shape when they are out of work and you will need to keep an eye on the areas that the saddle and bridle sit so that you do not get any rubs. A saddler usually likes to check your horse’s saddles at least every six months.
As we have said above it is also a good idea to have a chiropractor or physio, all chiropractors and physios need to be registered with their relevant governing bodies and you need to get your vets permission to have your horses looked at.
Once you have done all of the above you can get going and start to get your horse on the road. I have written a 12-week fitness plan for an all-around horse that can be adapted for either your hunter, eventer, dressage or show jumping horse.
When thinking about what you are going to do with your horse it is a good idea to sit down and work out the different disciplines you are interested in and what you would like to do. It is good to keep your horse’s work varied as they will keep fresh in their minds and enjoy their work. For example, allowing dressage horse to ride out and also have a little jump. Grid work is good for balance and improving the power in muscles. It does depend on each horse as everyone is different. Finding a good routine for you and your horse will keep you both happy.
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It is difficult to keep motivated at this time of year. The weather is damp and cold and the nights are drawn out. Mud is the horse owners best friend and everything you touch seems to have mud on it. Below we have 5 points to help you get through the darker damp days.
We take comfort in the fact that it is only 17 days to the shortest day and then the evenings will be getting lighter. For some reason, this year horses have grown their coats thicker and clipping has been a lot more necessary. We are thinking about Christmas just around the corner and then the new season will pull us along and allow us to get going.
Quite a few competition horses will be having a rest, the hunters will be out and about and other horses and ponies will be ticking along and keeping their hoof in work. Dressage and jumping horses will still be out and about, with hopefully several qualifying for different regional finals and second rounds. The thoroughbred mares starting to get ready for their foals not long after the beginning of January next year.
Things used to calm down around Christmas time, but now several of the equestrian sports have a small break and keep going. With a wider group of owners and riders, there are longer seasons and not all horses get such a long break. It depends on the sport but some like the event horses manage a break at this time of year.
If all depends on the owners and riders and the different sports they are involved with. So whilst some are having a slower time at the moment, other horses and ponies are getting ready for the Christmas holidays and children home from school.
If you are thinking of getting your event horse fit for the beginning of the event season you might be looking at starting this side of Christmas if your horse needs to be fit for earlier events and the weather could hinder you. If you are just ticking along it is a time of year where you can try and keep your horse or pony going with four or five riding sessions a week.
Some of these could be a lunging session and if possible a ride out at the weekend or a day in the week you are around in the daylight. If you have to stay in the school, working over poles on the ground, flat work, grid work, and jumping can be different ideas through the week
Whichever you decide to do keeping it different allows the horse not to get stale and he or she will be happier. Spending some time working the horse or pony from the ground also helps and allows you to get a better bond with your horse.
Remember to Be seen be safe when you are out and about, it is amazing how the weather can change. Also, do not be hard on yourself. Here are some points to remember:
Give yourself time to get yourself ready in the damper, wet and muddy weather.
If possible change around your schooling and riding, so that your horse doesn’t get bored and remains happy and enjoying his or her work.
If riding out make sure you have some fluorescent and reflective kit on.
If at all possible give you horse chance to dry out and check legs for lumps and bumps in the daylight.
Enjoy yourself! we are only 17 days to the nights getting lighter.
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It’s the time of year where we are out and about in different weather conditions. Even in nice weather with the sun out you need to be seen. Only last week yet again a horse and rider locally where hit which was witnessed and thankfully followed up on with the police and the British Horse Society.
There are lots of different florescent and reflective items in the shops and on line. You can get florescent exercise rugs, some of which are thin for warmer days and you can also get thicker exercise rugs for the colder days.
In the picture above we have used a runners armband. These are produced for cyclists and runners, but with the Velcro are very easy to attach to a horses tail.
Also, a florescent and reflective tabard are brilliant for riders. Even if you are just popping out after a schooling session, you are not seen on the road. Just the other week I was driving on a country road and under some trees a mother and son on their ponies could not been seen as they had on florescent or reflective clothing on and it was the middle of the day.
Here is a video we produced to show the differences in a school with florescent and reflective clothing on so you can see the difference.
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Once you have spoken with the vet and you are familiar with what is required to look after your horse or pony. Here are some helpful tips:
Your horse will need frequent visits to check that there is no deterioration in its condition but visits should be made with a minimum of disturbance. You need to quietly check without disturbing your horse.
Regular checks should be made and write down the horses Temperature, pulse, and respiration. Also, it is a good idea to keep a record of condition; for example, how much the horse is eating, if there is more or less swelling whether the horse is lying down more or less, etc.
Remove droppings regularly and keep the bed level, with good high banks. Short straw, or shaving, allow for ease of movement. Shaving can stick to woods, however, and should be avoided for this type of ailment. Full muck out may not be possible if the horse has limited movement. Use the deep litter system in this case, or look at the options that can help you. Possible shavings under the bed and straw on top or, keeping the bed clean is essential.
The stable needs to be well ventilated but free from draughts.
You need to keep your horse warm but no weighed down with heavy clothing. Use leg bandages to keep extremities arm. Light quilted rugs are good to use.
Do not groom vigorously if the horse is weak, Pick out the feet twice daily. Sponge eyes, nose and under the dock each day. Lightly brush over, being careful not to let the horse get cold.
If bandages are worn, remove bandages daily and hand massage the legs to improve the circulation.
Monitor, the horses’ water intake and keep the supply very fresh.
Give light, tempting but laxative feeds. Remove any uneaten food immediately. Stale food and water will discourage the horse and possibly delay recovery.
Follow veterinary instructions carefully.
If the horse has an eye injury, keep the stable darkened and avoid bright lights.
Unless the vet advises otherwise, give an ad lib supply of hay.
Keeping your horse or pony as comfortable as possible and following the advice and treatment that your vet has supplied is paramount.
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It is a very good idea to have an idea of your horse’s temperature, pulse, and respiration at rest so you can use them when your horse or pony is unwell.
The three basic measurements of temperature, pulse, and respiration are usually taken in the horse’s box. This will give you a basic point to work from and allow you to know when the horse or pony is unwell especially if you take them four times of the year at in the different seasons.
When working with the horse to take a measurement, you need him to be resting, so it is better to do this on a quiet time on the yard when the horse’s flight or fight instincts do not come into play.
Most fit horses will be used to having these readings taken but some privately owned horses might not be used to these reading being taken and you need to be careful when you take these readings.
The horse’s respiration rate can be taken from outside the horse’s stable. First, you need to make sure your horse is happy and relaxed in his stable and happy with you standing just outside of the door.
Let the horse become aware of you outside of the stable. Let him settle and eat any hay he might have in the stable. Watch is abdomen; preferably with him standing tail towards you. Watch the abdomen wall move and look for a small pause, and watch the wall move again.
Now count the number of times of ‘in, pause, out’ in 60 seconds. You can do periods of 15 seconds and then work out how many this would be times 4.
Resting normal is about 10 – 15 respirations per minute.
With taking the heart rate, enter the stable and put a head collar on your horse. Talk softly to your horse and stroke his neck so that he becomes happy with you in the stable.
There are three places you can take a horse pulse, one on the facial artery which runs under the horse’s jaw. You want to use your fingers not your thumb as a pulse runs in your thumb.
You can also move to inside your horse’s elbow where the auxiliary artery can be found. Here you can also use your finger to find the artery. The other area you can also find the two branches of the coccygeal artery on either side of the horse dock under the tail. If you are going to use this area have someone at the head of the horse and quietly move your finders under the dock so that the horse doesn’t kick you.
Resting heart rate is between 25 – 40 beats per minute.
To take a horse’s temperature you will need a helper, a thermometer and some Vaseline. Then you are not using the thermometer make sure that it is kept in a safe place and kept clean.
Make sure if you have a mercury thermometer that you shake it down to below 37C (98F). It is better to do this outside the stable in case if drops.
You need to lubricate the end of the thermometer and a small way up the stem with Vaseline. Get the helper to hold the horse against a wall and if necessary the helper can lift the front leg up if needed.
Standing on the same side as the leg that might have to be held up, make your way to the horse quarters and lift the horsetail gently to the side. Talk quietly to the horse and insert the bulb end of the thermometer. Make sure you keep hold of the thermometer as it can get sucked into the horse’s anus.
The thermometer needs to be in the horse for approximately half a minute. Withdraw the thermometer and let the helper put the leg down if it has been held up. Move away from the horse and read the thermometer. If the reading has not gone up, redo the procedure.
Make sure that you write down the readings as you finish the procedure and clean off the thermometer once you have finished.
Temperature is typically 37.8 – 38.3C (100-101F)
To get the horses normal readings it is a good idea to take the readings night and morning for several days. This way you can have the readings to work against. It is also an idea to do this both in the summer and the winter. Then when you are concerned about your horse you will know their normal readings
We can get a little worried about what is the best approach to treat a minor wound. You are allowed to treat many minor wounds yourself, without veterinary assistance, provided that you have a first-aid kit, including some of the following:
hose and cold water supply
scissors and cotton wool
aloe vera spray
veterinary and stable bandages.
Bruising is accompanied by heat and swelling. This can be effectively reduced by cold hosing, especially if the bruising is on the leg. To make sure you do not frighten the horse, start with a trickle of water and gradually move the trickle from the foot up the horse’s leg to the damaged area. The water pressure can then be gradually increased. If there is an open wound with the bruising, hosing will help to remove the mud, etc., and clean the wound. Hose above an open wound, to allow the water to trickle over it. Do not hose directly on to an open wound as this can not help the dirt get out.
Bleeding may be stopped by applying direct, firm pressure to the wound with a clean pad. Once bleeding has ceased, any hair overlapping the wound should be carefully trimmed away. This will help you to see the extent of the wound. If you have excessive bleeding you will need to call the vet and get their help with your horse’s wound.
Warm, salty water works as a safe and mild antiseptic with which you can clean the wound. You can prepare it by using 1 teaspoon of salt to half a litre / 1 pint of boiled, then cooled water.
You can dip the cotton wool into the salty water and clean the wound, working from the middle outwards. Making sure you use a new piece of cotton wool so that you can keep any grit or other pieces of dirt out of the wound and not returning a dirty piece of cotton wool to the clean salt water, nor to the wound.
Gently dry the wound and then apply the intrasite gel. This procedure can be followed for all minor wound, whether they be a saddle sore, scratch, kick etc. Hosing can only really be used on the lower part of the body as high up would involve soaking a large part of the horse, which would certainly be inappropriate in cold weather.
If you need to cover the wound you can use a piece of Melolin and cover with gamgee and bandage with a stable bandage. The Melolin will stop the intrasite gel from sticking to the Gamgee. Always remember if bandaging a leg you need to also bandage the opposite one to help with support of having possibly a lame horse or a horse using the other leg to support its self.
If your wound is within the mouth, clean by irrigation with salt water, and do not use a bit if it is likely to interfere until the wound has healed. If the horse has a split in the corner of its lip, clean with salt water and then apply Vaseline.
Any rubs can be helped with hot and cold fomentations. You can have a cloth that you save for this use and immerse the cloth in warm salty water, ring out and hold over the area until the heat goes out. Then just repeat the process for 20 mins, followed by 20 mins of cold. This will help take away any stinging and improve any swelling.
These are just a couple of different methods you can use, we will be covering some more over the next couple of blog posts, so stay in touch by leaving your email on our site or go to our page Sam Goss Coaching on FaceBook and like our page or use the button to live your email for more news.
We all have different outcomes when riding our horses and although we have the ‘Rules of Feeding which we have covered in a different blog post 10 Golden rules of feeding. its’ a good idea to look at the different adjustments you need to consider when asking your horse or pony to do different types of work.
When you adjust your horse or ponies work you need to adjust what you are feeding them. The total daily weight will remain the same, but as work is gradually increased, so some of the bulk feed (the grass and hay) should be gradually reduced and the concentrates slowly increased.
The concentrates (corn, nuts, and mixes) will depend on the temperament and the needs of the individual horse. The concentrates are generally needed to supply the extra nutrients needed to build up muscle, to replace worn cells and to supply extra energy.
The idea is that the harder the horse works the greater the percentage of concentrates and in the same way, the work is decreased and the amount of bulk feed should be increased and the concentrates reduced.
The following levels of work can be used as a guide for assessing the needs of your horses or pony.
This is when your horse is able to remain healthy and maintain all bodily functions, such as eating, breathing, keeping warm, growing as summer or winter coat, or repairing any injuries. Any horses or ponies put out on grass for a break from routine work will be living at the maintenance level.
Maintenance plus up to one horse’s hacking daily, mostly walking and trotting. Very little cantering.
Maintenance plus an average of one-and-a-half hours hacking daily, with active work which might include cantering, jumping, any schooling, riding club and pony club rallies and competing at shows.
Maintenance pus final fitness programme for participating in:
Riding club camps, Pony club camps, Polo, Hunting, Regular Mounted games, Team chasing, One-Day horse trials, long distance training and tentpegging.
Very Hard Work.
Maintenance plus preparations for Point-to-Points, Three-Day eventing, and long distance competitions
You can use the formula which is weight x 2.5 divided by 100 will give you the total amount of food, hay, and grass that is needed for your horse or pony. You can also use a weighbridge which will give you the correct weight of your horse. You can also buy a Weigh Tape which can help you determine your horse’s weight. These can be a pound or two out.
What you need to remember is that all horses and ponies are individuals and each has a different temperament. If you have enjoyed reading this please feel free to go to our Facebook Page Sam Goss Coaching to keep up with what we are doing.
It’s always a decision that you have to make as some time in your horse ownership. Here are some guidelines that will help you decide when you need to call the vet in and help your horse.
If your horse’s wound is bleeding a lot, is more than skin deep, or is spurting blood (indicating a cut artery). Also, is your cut is near a joint you would be sensible to call the vet as well.
If your horse shows any signs of colic. This can be either a horse rolling, sweating, kicking its belly or some are quiet and generally off colour.
Your horse’s temperature is more than one degree ‘F’ higher or lower than normal. Most horses are about 100.5 F it may be slightly higher for foals and might be lower for older horses. It is a good idea to take your horse’s temperature at different times of the year so that you know what is normal for your horse or pony.
If your horse is lame. When you are trotting up your horse you need look and see which leg is on the ground when the horse’s head is up for the front legs. The hip is higher when a back leg goes down the horse’s neck will go down to balance. Also look for any heat, pain or swelling in the leg you think has a problem.
If your horse is coughing repeatedly and not clearing its nostrils after coughing.
If your horse is not responding in its usual way and generally seems off colour. This is why it is to get to know your horse and understand their usual responses.
If your horse is suffering for any of the above conditions it should not be worked. This may seem obvious but there have been cases where, for example, a horse has shown symptoms of mild colic which then appeared to cease. The horse has been ridden soon after and had another colic attack with the ride on board, or a slightly lame horse has been ridden, the lameness appears to wear off but after work, the horse has been much lamer than before. So wait for veterinary advice.
If you have a wound that may need to be stitched do not apply anything other than cold water as creams, powder and sprays will interfere with the healing process and may make the wound unstitchable.
When you vet arrives you need to give the following information:
How long the horse has had the complaint
Recordings of Temperature, Pulse, and Respiration. (TPR).
Which different symptoms have been displayed and what action has been taken
How the injury occurred
If the horse has staled or passed any droppings recently and were they normal.
Whether the horse has any know disease/problems/allergies or allergic reactions to medications.
If you have any concerns you need to talk to either a stable manager on a yard that you are at or go straight to your vet and discuss the problem with them. The more you know that is normal for your horse or pony the more you will know when to call your vet.
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When you look after horses, it is always the little differences that make you look and think about how your charges are feeling. When I was working on a yard I would always see where they would stand normally in the morning before anyone else came on the yard.
Noticing any differences in behavior will help you when your horse is under the weather. There are also several signs that can help you decide what might be troubling your horse.
A horse that was not alert, head low and ears unresponsive. If this is out of the normal, as some horses can have a sleep during the day.
Not eating and drinking their normal amounts.
Anyone, or all of these, is prominent: ribs/hips/croup/backbone, or if the top of the neck is sunken, then the horse is underweight.
The mucous membranes may be yellow (indicating jaundice and ruption of the liver), pale (indicating anemia, probably due to infection) or blue (indicating lack of oxygen, due to poor circulation.
If the skin appears taut. When the skin recoil test is made, the pinched skin stands proud, being slow to recoil. The horse is dehydrated.
The coat can be due and staring, a possible cause of worms.
Any abnormal area of heat and swelling can be signs of a blow, infection, or possible strain or pulled tendon.
Droppings may be loose, very hard and/or irregular, which can show problems with digestion.
The horse’s urine red/brown or black. Possible signs of azoturia.
Temperature, pulse, and respiration (TPR) may be raised lowered: temperature more than 1F or 0.5C above or below normal. Pulse raised or lowered. Respiration shallow and rapid.
Showing signs of unlevel steps.
Discharge from the nostrils or eyes.
Eyes not fully open and/or third eyelid showing.Blood slow to return to capillaries after refill test.
Showing signs of discomfort. For example, pacing around the box, looking around at, or kicking at belly; frequently getting up and lying down; pawing the ground; trying to stale and failing; patchy sweat; ‘tucked up’
Each horse will have the own distinct habits and behavior pattern, make sure you know your horse well. In this way, you will notice the slightest abnormality that may indicate ill health. You need to act immediately if you notice something is amiss. Report to the yard manager or call the vet. Quick responses may limit the spread of disease, reduce the need for lengthy treatment and keep the horse’s suffering to a minimum.
The best idea is to incorporate regular inspections into your daily routine. While working around the horses, you must constantly observe them. First thing in the morning, however, the horses will have been unobserved for many hours, therefore this first inspection is vital.
Therefore checking water supplies, rugs and signs of health, making sure the horses are safe, happy and healthy. The same applies before and after a lunch break and especially last thing at night when you much make every effort to ensure the horse are securely and safely rugged and staled with a plentiful water supply. Do the same for your field-kept horses. In this way, many accidents and illnesses can be avoided.
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