Questions & Answers
have been taking notes on questions and issues that I’ve heard
from you and around the horse community for awhile and created
a new section on my website called “Questions of the Month”.
I am not going to use any names but will rephrase the questions
and provide the answers to be helpful to everyone.
Here are samples of a few of the questions but there are many
more waiting to be added to my website, so check back often.
Q: How far up to the knee should any exercise wrap or boot
A: The answer is a wrap or boot should not come up any
further than one inch below the knee groove or where the knee
cap narrows down into the cannon bone. Flex or bend the horse’s
knee with the wrap on and there should be no interference with
any of the tendons and ligaments at the back of the knee or
with the knee joint itself. I see many people wrapping polos
up to the knee which will eventually damage the flexing tendons.
Q: I do not own a horse and am in a lesson program situation
with different horses each week. What can I do to make the horse
always feel happy and enjoy its time while working together
School horses are the saints on this planet. They put up with
so much. Because school horses have different people riding
them everyday, they can easily become confused and frustrated.
Each rider sends messages differently and the horse that you
are on that particular week may not understand what you are
asking or how you are asking for it. Also mares can be touchy
and extra sensitive during their menses cycle. Spring is breeding
season for horses and mares are heavily in heat every 21 days.
A mare may not want you to kick or even touch her during the
few days when she is cycling. Many programs don’t take this
My advice on trying to make an unfamiliar horse happy is to
check everything out before you get on. Make sure the saddle
is sitting correctly on the horse’s back, the saddle pad has
plenty of air underneath it to allow for ventilation and movement
through the spine, check the fit of the bridle and make sure
it is not fastened too tightly or too loosely, check the hooves
and make sure they are free of mud, dirt, grass, rocks, sticks
and debris, talk to your horse even though you don’t know them
well and stroke the neck firmly but softly. In between riding
sessions give your horse plenty of good massages in front of
the saddle on their withers and when you are done take the time
to towel off the horse’s back with a little massage.
Q: What can I do to help calm my horse down while I apply
salve to his sore wounds from surgery?
The right approach is to always take it slow and make it a rewarding
and pleasant experience. Listen to him and work with him as
he goes through some discomfort. Before fooling with the wound
at all practice some acupressure and give him a drop of calming
essential oils under his nostrils. Take your hand to the top
of his neck behind one ear and follow it down just below the
mane line until you feel an indentation or a hole about the
size of a nickel in the muscles. It will be located around 4-5
inches behind the ear as you follow the top of his neck. Press
one or two fingers into that hole with firm pressure for about
a minute and see what happens. If it is sensitive it just means
that his system is a little hyper right now working on healing
the wound. Stay with it and talk to him while you are applying
the pressure. After a few seconds he should show signs of relaxation
and release. Rolling his eyes, yawning, licking, chewing, lowering
his head, shaking his head, etc. Once you have this kind of
response then go do something like take the bandage off and
come back and do the acupressure again. When you get the release
response go and clean the wound and come back to the neck again.
The last step will be to medicate the wound and re-bandage.
You may give him another little massage around his withers and
a treat in his feed tub when you put him back in his stall or
turn him out.
When you are performing the acupressure you are releasing endorphins,
chemicals into the nervous system to help relax him through
this stressful event. It may take a little more time but in
the future the horse will always think of you as a friendly,
helpful caregiver instead of the lady that causes a lot of pain.
It may make the difference in how well he will allow you to
work with him in training as well.
Q: What are some general rules about feeding horses?
A: The ideal for feeding horses is to feed little and
often. This rule, however, does not usually fit in with everyone’s
schedules. Barn managers are faced with many problems when it
comes to daily feeding in regard to money, time, labor and convenience.
If none of those things mattered horses would be self-regulating
their feed and ask that they be fed little amounts every 2-3
hours during the daylight hours and a couple of times at night
or just to graze at will. Horses would ask that they always
be fed low to the ground with plenty of good fresh hay, grass,
a mineral salt block and water. We have added in the grain because
we work and use horses and this gives horses the fuel they need
to be active and in work and training with us. Grain is also
given to provide extra warmth in the winter during extreme weather
I am going to address pleasure and performance horse feeding
programs, other horses who are breeding or in retirement or
laid off due to injury will have a different approach.
Most horse management set ups whether it be large or small feed
grain twice per day and hay three times per day, unless there
is lush pasture and little hay is needed. The first feeding
should consist of grain and hay first thing in the morning;
the mid day feeding, hay only; and the third feeding in the
evening around 5 p.m. grain and hay again. Some barn owners
will throw a flake of hay to the horses before they go to bed
at 9 or 10 p.m. which is a real bonus. If the horse is also
on pasture during the Spring, Summer and Fall months you will
not have to feed the hay in the middle of the day. The third
feeding of hay is only necessary during the winter months or
if there is no grass available such as horses that live or are
turned out in dry lots.
How much to feed your horse is purely an individual consideration.
Some horses (like some people) have slower metabolisms and are
called “easy keepers”. Others (like some people) metabolize
food quickly and are called “hard doers.” You have to find out
what kind of metabolizer your horse is and adjust it according
to the time of year, his age and his level of activity. For
instance, if your horse is in regular work and becomes injured
and is laid up for awhile back off of his feed by at least half.
When he goes back into work gradually increase it over a few
weeks time. Be aware of the amount of protein in grains, unless
you are racing your horse, generally you do not need to feed
anything with more than 14% protein in the ingredients. Feed
the smallest amount possible to maintain your horse’s weight
and energy levels.
Make sure the hay you are feeding is of the highest quality
you can afford and has no mold or sticks or debris in the bales.
Horse’s get most of their nutritional needs from pasture and
hay. A good grass hay such as Timothy hay and orchard grass
is the most desired. Many people in the western part of the
U.S. feed alfalfa hay which is extremely rich and packed full
of minerals such as calcium. The amount of alfalfa you feed
must be carefully regulated as many horses become very high
and hyper from eating it and can colic due to sensitivity in
the digestive system.
Some horse people I have visited recently have switched to the
large round bales of hay for their horses. Talk to your veterinarian
first before you make this decision. I have an adverse reaction
to using the large round bales because of my training in Agriculture
school. We were taught that the big round bales were suitable
for cattle and ruminates only due to the conditions inside the
bale for mold and rot over time. I would stick to clean, dry,
properly stored rectangular bales for horses. Horses die everyday
from colic, why take any chances?
A Clarification on Feeding
As you can
see, I could probably write a book on some of these questions
but I hope to provide everyone with helpful information in the
new section of my website. Our horses deserve the best we can
give them for what they give us in joy and partnership every
I have also had some questions I felt I need to address to all
of you about joint injections. I've noticed that some horse
people and most non-horse people are either offended or uneducated
about the use of joint injections. Most veterinarians will inject
Hyaluronic Acid or a mixture of HA to lubricate the joint and
give the horse comfort in movement, especially in activities
where pushing off from behind as in Dressage or jumping or reining
work are demanded. I think people who have been around performance
horses for many years understand that it is ethical and safe
to use injections in the joints if the horse is showing signs
of pain. I would also clarify this by saying it is only fair
to give an older athlete the support they need to be happy,
comfortable and stay active in performance or useful as a pleasure
If your horse is young, let’s say under 10 and is having hock
or fetlock or back issues I would have them radiographed and
checked over by a veterinarian to find out what the cause of
the problem is before any decision on injections is made. If
his conformation is the cause of the problems, then you have
a serious maintenance issue ahead of you for the rest of the
horse’s active life if he can even stay sound. If it is simply
inflammation due to jumping or hard work you can change the
amount of work, the type of work, change his job and give the
horse joint support through an IM injection or in his feed.
Some people (including some vets), I believe, carry the injections
too far and begin injecting any joint that is sore such as sore
lower backs. The hock and fetlock, even knee injections I can
understand and feel okay about on a limited basis, but when
you start messing with giving back injections near and around
the spinal cord for pain there are serious repercussions. Swelling
can happen as a result of the injections in and around the sacrum
and pelvic region pressing on sensitive nerves and muscle groups,
soft tissue scarring can accumulate in these areas, all leading
to chronic sore back situations.
First you must look at what is causing the back to be so sore.
Usually it is a poor saddle fit, a misalignment of the spine
and pelvic region, training methods, or dare I say, tight riders,
that are straining the back too much. All of these causes can
be taken care of through time and change, something a lot of
horse people aren’t happy about. Check the saddle fit at all
times, horse’s backs change with the seasons, with age and with
work. Have a chiropractor check the horse’s back for any misalignment
from head to tail, revisit your training methods and begin to
evaluate your (if you are the rider) physical and mental contribution
to the problem and do something about it. Give the horse some
time off, use massage and liniment rubs before you even consider
injecting the back, and I hope you never will consider injecting
When you are buying a horse I feel comfortable about the seller
telling me the horse has had his or her hocks injected if they
are an older performance horse. I am almost glad in some cases
because I know the horse has been well maintained through work
and the joints are healthy to continue for many years ahead.
I always have radiographs taken in any case but I would not
turn a horse down because of hock injections. If you take something
occasionally for your joints so that you can continue an active
lifestyle you will understand. It is when injections are given
too often, too young or abused that you should raise the red
flag of precaution.
All Have Bad Days
days with horses are like bad days for any of us. If you have
a bad day with your dog or cat would you consider getting rid
of him or her? If you have a bad with your best friend is the
first thing that crosses your mind to dump them? If you have
a bad day with your goldfish is the first thing you do flush
it? Anyway, you get the idea.
Horses, like any living being, have good and bad days. This
is hard to remember sometimes when we are in training situations.
We are always looking for progress, for improvement for a glimmer
of brilliance, for a breakthrough moment of success whenever
we are working with our horses to achieve goals. I know I feel
that way most of the time and I have to rethink my partnerships
with horses because I know this outlook is not realistic or
If you have a day when you cannot come to an agreement with
your horse, your horse is misbehaving for no apparent reason,
your horse has no focus for his work that day his mind is somewhere
else and you just cannot connect, your horse is anxious or worried,
your horse is too dull and checked out, your horse knows the
basics and yet can’t seem to get anything today; regroup, turn
your horse out for a couple of days, pamper yourself, read a
great book, pick up a few magazines with ideas for Spring, go
to a flower nursery and enjoy the beauty of everything that
is blooming, go for a long hike and get tired, get on the internet
and look at all the new Spring colors and fashions for you and
your horse, change it up in someway!
The next time you ride your horse do something different than
before. Put down some poles and practice going in and out of
them, over them, around them, make a puzzle out of it all, take
your horse for a walk, talk to your instructor about doing something
different that day and at the end of your session or the next
day try your problem areas again.
your horse persists in the same problem over and over you will
have to look into the situation seriously and make changes in
equipment or check the horse out for soreness or misunderstanding
in cues and aids. You can always go back to the round pen and
If you are typically an English rider and have some troubles
or are bored, contact a natural horsemanship trainer and do
some different mental work with your horse. Of if you are a
typical western rider, take a couple of lessons with a jumper
trainer and have some fun over various poles low to the ground
(while always wearing a helmet).
Horses have bad days just like we all do but it does not mean
it is the end of the world, it does not mean the horse is bad
or expendable, it does not mean give up, it does not mean it
can’t be better the next day. We all are creatures of nature
and subject to its constant changes. Horses are even more in
touch and on a deeper level with natural instincts than we are.
Allow and accept where you and your horse are at the moment
and know that you can always enjoy each other on the most basic
I will be sending out a Pre-Launch announcement
soon about my new line of Women & Horses™ Essential Oils
for Horse and Rider. The oils are being formulated and tested
as I write this newsletter. I will also be including my line
of books, videos, ball and band and in the near future a series
of beautiful art note cards for you and your friends to review
and purchase in advance of the public release.