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Tuesday Tips: Avoiding the ‘C-Word’

Ah, it’s almost spring–the season of mud, and unfortunately, sometimes colic.

Colic can strike at any time of the year and can impact horses in even the best of barns. Springtime, when horses are foaling and dealing with diet/weather changes, can sometimes feel like it brings more cases than other times of year, so this may be a good time to review guidelines for staving off this awful illness.

The following is reprinted from the American Association of Equine Practitioners, and is available herebran mash


Colic is a problem with many potential causes and contributing factors, some of which are beyond our control. However, management plays a key role in most cases of colic, so colic prevention centers on management. Although not every case of colic is avoidable, the following guidelines can maximize your horse’s health and reduce the risk of colic:

  • Establish a set daily routine—including feeding, exercise and turnout schedules—and stick to it (even on weekends).
  • Feed a high-quality diet comprised primarily of high-quality roughage (pasture, hay, hay cubes, haylage). Except for young foals, all horses should be fed at least one percent of their body weight (or one pound per 100 pound body weight) of good quality roughage per day. It is important to feed good quality hay and avoid abrupt changes to new varieties or batches of hay. This can be accomplished by slowly incorporating new varieties or batches of hay when required. Avoid moldy or poor quality hay.
  • Limit the amount of grain-based feeds (grain in any form, sweet feed, pellets in which the main ingredients are grains). Feed these only as a supplement, and not more than 50 percent of the diet.
  • Divide the daily concentrate ration into two or more smaller feedings, rather than one large one, to avoid overloading the horse’s digestive tract. Hay is best fed free-choice.
  • Set up a regular parasite control program with the help of your veterinarian. Use fecal examination to determine its effectiveness.
  • Provide exercise and/or turnout every day.
  • Make any changes to diet, housing and activity level gradually.
  • Provide fresh, clean water at all times.
  • Avoid giving your horse medications unless they are prescribed by your veterinarian.
  • Check hay, bedding, pasture and environment for potentially toxic substances, such as blister beetles, noxious weeds and other ingestible foreign matter.
  • Avoid putting feed on the ground, especially in sandy soils.
  • Reduce stress; horses experiencing changes in environment or workloads are at high risk for intestinal dysfunction.
  • Pay special attention to animals when transporting them or changing their surroundings, such as at shows.
  • Observe foaling mares pre- and post-foaling for any signs of colic.
  • Pay particular attention to horses that have had previous bouts of colic, as they may be at greater risk for repeated episodes.
  • Maintain accurate records of management, feeding practices and health.

Tuesday Tips: What about a chiropractor?

This time of year, lots of horses are experiencing a little stiffness right out of the stall (so are we, for that matter). With this on again, off again whether pattern, our horses are losing a bit of condition. That’s why we expect a little grumbling and a few short steps at the start of a warm up, but usually those resolve within a few minutes.

From time to time though, a horse might take a few extra short steps or develop a grumpy attitude about coming onto the bit…or even pin his ears during saddling. Not too long ago, one of our horses went from a sometimes-reluctant dressage practitioner to downright furious–refusing to move forward, backing up, and behaving erratically…but not actually lame.

When you see a change like this, your first call should be to the veterinarian. If, together, you are able to rule out lameness, a visit from an equine chiropractor may be in order. A chiropractor will go over your horse, testing the flexibility and freedom of movement in various parts of the horse’s body. If they find something amiss, they can use short, high force movements to push a vertebrae or joint into the proper alignment. Just like human chiropractics, these motions usually bring relief, and sometimes horses will heave a sigh after a particularly badly-needed adjustment. In our experience, it can sometimes prove just the ticket back to a comfortable, happy horse.

There is some debate in the veterinary (and for that matter, the human medical) world about the validity of chiropractic adjustment–what its limits are, and how it should be used. There are some lay practitioners, and some are also veterinarians; in fact in some states, non-veterinarians cannot legally perform medical treatment on an animal. Work with your vet to determine what’s best for your horse, and check out the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association.

Here’s a mini Tuesday tip: you can always count on flexibility from our beta biothane tack–come cold, rain, or layers of mud. Check out our shop online.


5 clean snowYup, it’s wintertime again. The season of frozen poo, frozen arenas, and blanket changes.

In case you can’t tell, we’re not huge fans.

We do try to keep working through the winter though when there’s nothing polar going on outside, which is why we found this article from The Horse magazine so interesting. Experts discuss the best strategies for properly cooling a horse out and making sure they’re ready for their blankets before going back into the field (tip: their coats should be totally dry first).

Colder weather can tighten muscles and aggravate arthritis, so we were interested in their suggestions about warming horses up and cooling out slowly in colder months. Take a look for yourself.

Tornado Shelters…for Horses?

tornadoIf you live in an area prone to severe storms and tornadoes, you’ve probably faced the dilemma of whether to turn horses out or leave them in during extreme weather. We’ve never felt too great about either option ourselves, so we were interested to receive a snippet of an article from Show Horse Today on building storm shelters for horses via American Horse Publications. There are some great tips on building a shelter if you want to go that route yourself. Enjoy!

Give Me Shelter From The Storm
Building Safe Rooms for Horses

By Gabrielle Sasse, Show Horse Today


(May 29, 2014)-There is nothing worse than the devastation caused when Mother Nature becomes violent. Trying to protect your horses from natural disaster can be next to impossible at times. The debate between “turn them loose” or “lock them in the barn” is one that rages nearly every storm season. But we have found a third option, thanks to Mary Ellen Hickman.


Oklahoma resident and owner of Whispering Winds Ranch, Mary Ellen grew up in Ohio and moved to Oklahoma in 2006. “In Ohio, we wouldn’t really get any warning about tornadoes coming,” Mary Ellen begins. “Here, they have great ways to predict when the storms are coming, so we get accurate warnings. Even if you turned your horses out, you could get a tornado that was three miles wide and your horses may not be able to get away from the path of the storm.” Unable to avoid tornadoes in her Oklahoma home, she decided to build a safe room for her horses.


We first featured Mary Ellen’s story in late April on and got an enormous number of questions in response. We hope to give you answers and help others to build their own safe rooms.


“What really inspired me to create a safe room for my horses was the tornado that went through Moore,” she elaborates. On May 20, 2013 an EF5 rated tornado tore through Moore, Oklahoma and the surrounding areas, killing 24 people and injuring 377. “The tornado crossed over I35 into Moore on exit 116, and I live on exit 114. As the crow flies, the tornado was a mile from our farm and I watched it go by. It was scariest thing I have ever witnessed. We only had minimal damage to our farm, but we would have to drive through Moore on our way to Oklahoma City and that was the first time I really understood what post-traumatic stress was about. You would just cry driving through there. Even the smell in the air was just horrible. Pictures don’t do it justice.”


Mary Ellen considers herself incredibly fortunate that they did not experience the level of loss that many others did, both to property and animals. “I told myself I can’t live here and not provide a place of safety for my horses,” she says.


She approached contractor Terry Scrivner, who owns Terry Scrivner Construction and has over 25 years of building experience. “This isn’t the first safe room that I’ve built, but it’s the first one I’ve built specifically for horses,” Terry explains. “I thought it was a really neat idea. Mary Ellen was very knowledgeable about what she wanted, and did the overall design for the room. I built it to FEMA specs, which you can find on their website.”


Mary Ellen wanted her safe room to be able to withstand an EF5 tornado, the strongest tornado rating. “I started doing some research, and designed it to look like a horse trailer. You can’t build a safe room any wider than 12 feet, but you can go longer. Mine is about 35 feet, and is built strong, like a bridge,” she explains.


“The cost came down to $300 per linear foot for an eight foot tall structure with eight inch thick walls, and 4’x7’ storm door with three deadbolts. From there, you can make it as elaborate as you want. I designed mine like a trailer with individual stalls because our horses don’t always know one another. You can go the cheaper route and design it more like a stock trailer, or just set up tie rings.”


To continue reading, please visit our June/July 2014 Issue of Show Horse Today Magazine here and turn to page 78.

Spring Into Spring!

Milder temperatures are here (at least for the moment, it seems) and the grass is beginning to turn green again…spring must finally be here! Along with the warmer weather and moisture unfortunately, comes the awakening of bugs.

In addition to pulling out your curry comb and putting away your winter sheets, the first hints of warm weather should get you thinking about your vaccination program. Horses of different ages and jobs have different requirements when it comes to vaccines.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners has a great page to help you navigate the various types of vaccines to decide what your horse needs.

Your local veterinarian is also an excellent reference. While some vaccines are standard across the country, it’s important to know if your particular region has a higher risk for other types of easily-transmissible diseases. Some vets in our area recommend a vaccine for Potomac Horse Fever; even though it’s not generally an issue in central Kentucky, some farms in the area see a case now and again, so adding that shot to the spring boosters could be worthwhile.

Similarly to humans, horses build up immunity differently over time, so the vaccine schedule will be different for younger animals as compared to adults. Breeding animals might also have different requirements.

Your horse’s job will dictate some of your veterinarian’s recommendations. If you compete or go to clinics or trial rides frequently, your horse will need a higher level of protection.

Does your horse catch enough zzzzs?

sleepy horseYou’ve had those days where you’re sitting at your desk, or in a meeting and realize that your late night out has caught up with you. Suddenly, just passing out onto the desk or conference table seems like a great idea. 

Turns out, horses can have the same problem.

We’re big fans of Equus magazine, which is a great resource for horse owners and riders of all disciplines. Recently, the Equus team caught up with a horse who had been suddenly dropping to the ground in the middle of lessons or time in the stall. Vets were called, tests were run, and the conclusion was that the horse wasn’t sick…he was just sleep-deprived. 

How can you be sure your horse is getting enough z’s? The keys lie in identifying mental, social, and physical stress.

Check out the full article for more info!

Fits like a glove

If you’re like us, you hate having to buy something without being able to try it on and just like humans, horses don’t always conform to standard sizes, which makes tack buying a challenge. 

Cori western bridleLots of customers have emailed us, inquiring how to best take measurements of their hard-to-fit horse to decide what size tack to order. We’ve found that everyone measures a little differently though, and even an inch or two goes a long way in changing the parameters we use to custom make your order. 

Often, we can determine how best to make your tack based on your horse’s estimated height, weight, and breed, which you can enter in your order notes at check-out. If you’re still concerned about a perfect fit, you can use our new trial program! Put down a deposit, and we’ll send you one of our stock items in a standard size. Try it on your horse to decide what size he needs, then send it back with our return shipping label. What could be easier?

Learn more about our demo program here.

That’s not snow…

You may have noticed some fine white stuff the last time you changed your horse’s blankets. Nope, that’s not snow…it’s dandruff. And it’s probably in the mane, the tail, and if you’re very unlucky, all over your horse’s body, as well.

We’re seeing it this winter on horses who normally aren’t afflicted, perhaps because of the colder/drier conditions so far this year. This itchy skin condition can also be caused by insects, parasites, or a dietary deficiency, so identifying the cause can be the key to a cure.

If you horse is dealing with an insect or a parasite, or if the dandruff is accompanied by a skin disease like rainrot or scratches, an anti-fungal spray is your best bet to getting that healthy shine back. images

The diet can also be the cause–if your horse isn’t getting enough fatty acids, it’s hard for him to produce enough oil to keep his skin moisturized on his own. A few pumps of rice bran oil or the addition of flax seeds to the diet can help with this; plant oils can also help your horse hold weight during the cold.

No matter what the cause, a good, thorough grooming is the key to getting rid of those flakes. The curry comb is your friend here, and be sure to rub the coat out afterward with a soft brush or rag. Spray-on moisturizers or coat conditioners can be good in the cold weather–they may not bring back a healthy glow by themselves, but they can help prevent it from becoming worse. Once it’s warm enough (or if you’re lucky enough to have heat lamps in your barn) a bath with an antifungal shampoo or chlorhexidine solution can help address dandruff. We’re big fans of chlorhexidine, since it works well on several different skin issues and won’t sting on cuts or scrapes.

Your turn: What are your favorite wintertime grooming routines?

Dig out your chef’s hat!

During this delightful cold snap we’re experiencing, we can’t help but feel a little sorry for our horses standing around in the single-digit temperatures and snow. Although we know they don’t get cold as easily as we do, it does seem a little unfair that we’re curled up with chicken soup while they’re chomping on some frozen hay.

bran mashWe can’t give horses chicken soup of course, but one thing we’ve found they love is a good bran mash. Most tack shops sell a dry bran mash which needs to be mixed per the package instructions with hot water, and occasionally a dose of salt/electrolyte. Mashes should cling together after the water is added but not be soupy.

Although veterinarians warn that bran mashes shouldn’t be fed in place of a well-balanced diet or in too great a quantity to horses who aren’t used to it, they are great occasional treats for a horse who enjoys them.

The most fun part of mixing up a good, hot mash is flavoring it. Many people add apples and carrots, but we’ve come up with a few more creative flavoring sources, as well:

  • Applesauce: keeps better and mixes in well texture-wise with a mash as compared to a chopped apple.
  • Carrot or apple juice: for flavor that packs a punch
  • Apple cider: liquid or dried forms both work well in our experience
  • Beer: beer by itself is a favorite of many horses, most famously Zenyatta, but it works well in a mash too. Guinness or other dark beers with a strong flavor seem to appeal to most. Apple-flavored beers like Reds provides the best of both worlds. Straight beer is the old wives’ remedy for anhydrosis. We can’t say for sure if it works, but the horses sure enjoy it.
  • Molasses: Can be quite sticky, so a dried form sometimes works best (and it won’t freeze)
  • Peppermint: Either the candies or the essential oil (from a health food store)
  • Coffee (in small amounts): A coffee pots have long been the sources for hot liquid to make bran mashes
  • Ginger snaps: These have a long shelf life and bring some extra flavoring to the mash
  • Licorice: Either the candy or the essential oil
  • Orange-flavored Metamucil: It provides extra fiber and the flavor is appealing to some horses

Recent studies have suggested that horses also enjoy less traditional flavors. Among them–banana, cherry, and fenugreek (a spice you can find at the supermarket).

Your turn: What flavors do you like to add to your horse’s mash?

More winter weather management tips!

Thanks to the University of Kentucky for this awesome press release about winter horse care. Learn more at their website


Bitter cold temperatures have been a theme this winter, and are now here again. Experts at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment offer tips for managing horses during extremely cold weather.

While the ideal time for cold weather preparation is in the fall, there are management tips recommended by experts to help keep your horses healthy now. According to Bob Coleman, extension horse specialist withinUK’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences, horse owners should also think about preparing for acute versus chronic cold. Acute cold is found in the cold snaps that last for a short period of time. Chronic cold is the cold that takes hold and stays with a region for a much longer duration. Sometimes an acute situation can prove to be more dangerous to animals, he said, because they aren’t as used to the cold and owners might not be as well prepared as those in locations where intense cold is more typical and long-lasting.

Regardless of the type of cold present, horse owners should make sure animals have adequate shelter, water, dry bedding and feed, he said.

According to Coleman, digestion is one way horses help generate heat when it is cold. The average horse, with a lower activity level, should eat between 1.5 and 2 percent of its body weight in feed per day to maintain weight.

Feed requirements go up as temperatures drop, and horses use more calories to keep warm. Mature horses can, when adapted, handle a temperature of 5 degrees F, which is called the lower critical temperature, he said. When the temperature falls below this, the horse needs to increase heat production or reduce heat loss to maintain core body temperature. One way to do this is for the horse to eat more. A drop in temperature to minus 5 degrees will require an additional 15 percent more forage to provide the needed calories, meaning the horse needs to eat 2-3 more pounds of hay each day.

“As a horse owner, making sure there is some extra hay available will help your horses get through the short-term cold snaps. Long or more chronic exposure to cold will need some other management changes to meet the horse’s calorie needs,” Coleman said. “On the short-term, add more forage. But if forage supplies are limited, adding a concentrate feed to the diet may be needed.”

For mature horses at maintenance, good quality legume-grass mixed hay should be adequate, while young growing horses or broodmares in late gestation require a concentrate in their diets to meet the increased calorie needs. If an owner is adding concentrate for the first time, those additions should be made gradually to prevent digestive upsets.

Coleman said it’s also critically important that horses to have access to clean, unfrozen water to ensure that they eat adequate amounts of feed. Intake of water each day helps to reduce the risk of colic due to impaction. While this can be one of the most difficult and time-consuming aspects of winter horse management, its importance can’t be over-emphasized.

In addition, horses will need shelter to provide protection from the wind and any precipitation that may fall.

For horse owners who choose to use blankets, Coleman urged them to make sure those blankets are both wind and waterproof. A wet blanket equals a wet horse, and that wetness disrupts the coat’s ability to insulate the animal and can quickly lead to cold stress.

All horse owners should take extra time observing horses during cold snaps to make sure they are handling the temperatures well. This means checking on horses daily. Ones who are feeling the effects of the cold will need extra attention.

Coleman strongly recommended keeping horses out of pastures or paddocks with ponds or other open water sources. There are cases each winter of horses falling through ice and into a pond.