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Tuesday tips: How do you tell if your horse is fit?

This time of year has us looking at our horses, wondering–do they have enough fat? Too much? Are they keeping their fitness from earlier in the year?

We posted earlier this year about an assessment system that can help you decide whether your horse needs to gain or lose weight. If you’ve got a fairly fit horse and are seeing some minor changes, it may be a loss of fitness if you haven’t been able to work out in rough weather.

Your veterinarian can recommend some good tips on bringing a horse back to work after some time off, and could also help you decide what you’re dealing with in terms of equine fitness. For background, we were fascinated by a recent article from the fabulous folks at Horse Nation, which teaches us how to measure a horse’s resting heart rate and what changes to expect post-exercise.

Love that rollercoaster weather…

We don’t know about you, but here in central Kentucky, we’re hoping the weatherman is kidding us about this next week’s predictions. From balmy temperatures and rain on Saturday to cooler winds in the early part of the week to single digit lows projected for later in the week, we have no idea what season it’s supposed to be.

Several years in this rollercoaster winter weather has taught us with a few tricks for surviving the months between December and February. 5 clean snow

  • When the ground is too frozen to ride, keep your horse’s mind active with trick training. One of the most popular methods for cueing horses to do this is using a clicker; you teach the horse to associate the click with getting a treat, then use the clicker to reward correct reactions to cues.There are some great books out there on the subject.
  • Even if the arena has become a slushy mess, you might be able to safely go for a walk. Walking can do more to keep you and your horse in condition than it may seem, especially if you work your horse in a frame related to the type of riding you do–dressage, Western, whatever.
  • Sometimes it’s tempting to venture out of the ring for a hack across the field. With the freezing, thawing, and raining, it’s hard to know whether there’s too much slip and slide out there for a ride. Try watching your horse’s movements when he’s on his own in the pasture. Does he feel comfortable jogging across the field to accept a cookie? Are he and his herdmates bucking or running upon turnout (if that’s their usual routine)? If he’s being atypically careful with himself, that could be a cue that adding your weight into the equation could be more challenging than usual.
  • Windy winter days make even our calmest horses much more feisty than usual. No matter what type of riding you do, it’s a good time to teach yourself and your horse to lunge or ground drive as an alternative or prelude to your ride. Both exercises can help either blow off steam or draw a horse’s focus away from the whistling winds and on to your cues.
  • Take advantage of the warm days when you can get them! We use above-freezing days to scrub out buckets and tubs, sweep, and clean/condition tack and halters. Of course, if you’ve got beta biothane equipment, that can save you some serious time–just toss it in a bucket of soapy water, rinse and go!

    Beta can save you some time when things get cold, too. Leather and even nylon get stiff when temperatures plunge, and the last thing you want to deal with in single digits is fiddling with a stubborn halter strap. Beta biothane doesn’t harden, even during the polar vortex winter we had last year.

    Learn more about this super-durable material here.

Now it’s your turn–how do you deal with roller coaster weather?


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.

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.

The weather outside is frightful…

…and while the fire inside might be delightful, sadly you probably can’t bring your horse indoors to enjoy it. The subzero temperatures here at our office are a little more than we’re used to, which got us researching about the best way to handle horses in really, really, really cold weather.

The most important thing to help horses deal with the temperature is to give them a shelter from the wind and keep them from getting wet. Generally, they deal with cold much better than we do thanks to their versatile haircoats, but the hairs can’t puff up if they’re damp. If your horse is clipped, make sure he has enough layers on. Use particular caution with very young and very old horses, as they have a harder time with climate changes.

5 clean snowWith extreme temperature changes can sometimes come an increased risk of colic. Veterinarians say that maintaining water intake is the best way to combat this, but that can be challenging when the wind chill is in the negatives. When your horse is indoors, consider using buckets with built-in heaters in the base (not the coil heaters that you place inside buckets to warm water for bathing) and be sure it has an automatic shut-off to reduce the risk of fire. Outside, be sure you have a tank deicer and are checking the water regularly to break up surface ice. As weird as it sounds, we’ve had great luck  keeping water from freezing solid by putting a tire in outside tanks–they collect heat when the sun’s out, and ice doesn’t adhere well to rubber surfaces. It won’t stop ice from crusting on the top, but will keep things thawed out underneath.

We also found this great tutorial on how to insulate a water bucket to help stop the big freeze, if your Tractor Supply stores have run out of heated buckets. Check it out here.

It’s tempting to feed more grain to help offset any winter weight loss or chills. It’s really better to up the hay rations–hay digestion produces much more internal heat than grain digestion, and the gut microbes can process it a lot better. Ask your vet if it’s a good time to add some electrolytes to your horse’s diet to encourage water intake and keep everything moving.

In case you’re wondering (we sure were), horses can get frostbite. This is pretty rare but can be hard to detect because of the horse’s haircoat. Consult your vet if you think you see something odd about the horse’s skin, especially the ears, and don’t rub skin that might be damaged by cold.

Lastly, don’t forget to keep yourself adequately protected from frigid temperatures–especially protect hands, feet, ears, and your nose, which are at the greatest risk of frostbite.

For more info, take a look at these great resources from The Horse.

Stay warm, friends!

The weather outside is frightful…

5 clean snowWe’re dealing with a cold snap here in our offices and came across this awesome article via Facebook.

Pro Equine Grooms, which is a site we really love, has an arsenal of tips for cooling your horse off after winter exercise whether he’s clipped or not.

Check it out.

You know what will help you feel warmer? A free two-in-one bitless bridle. Here’s how to get one.

It’s time for another tack giveaway!

Inspired by the success of New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program model Lady, (which you can read about here), December’s tack giveaway will be one of our two-in-one bitless bridles! 402 cross under

Our two-in-one design easily converts from a sidepull to a crossunder style bridle in seconds. It’s fully adjustable at the cheeks, noseband, bit ring and throatlatch for ideal fit, and comes in a range of color, style, and bling options.

Our beta biothane bitless bridle (try saying that five times fast) is low-maintenance, which is perfect for winter weather when the last thing you want to spend your time doing is freezing your fingers while cleaning tack. Beta will also stay supple no matter how cold it gets.

Best of all, the only thing you need to do to enter is to fill out our form here.

This giveaway ends on Dec. 15–in plenty of time for Christmas! Enter today.

Weekend To-Do List: The Perfect Clip

What have you got going on this weekend in the barn? Well, besides this excellent bridle sale, which you should take a look at, it might be time to do some serious fuzzscaping for your horse.

While we’ve had a few tastes of winter so far, it looks like this weekend will be a bit more mild for some parts of the country, so it’s a good time to get out to the barn and clip your horse if you haven’t already.

5 clean snow

Love the halter our model is wearing? Click to purchase.

Every year it’s a debate for riders–to clip or not to clip? One of the things you may want to consider when making the decision besides the weather in your area is how often and how strenuously you’ll be working your horse during the colder months. A damp, sweaty coat takes a long time to dry out in the cold air, and if not done properly it can lead to chills. If you plan to blanket your horse through the winter anyway, it might be worth considering whether some form of a clip would be helpful.

If your horse lives outside unblanketed and gets the winter off, he may not need a clip.

The next step is to decide what style of clip best suits your horse’s workload. There is a huge range of patterns out there and no single style is right for every horse or discipline. Some of them even get creative. Whatever you choose, it’s a good idea to draw an outline on the horse in chalk (which should brush right out); try looking at the horse from the front to ensure that the lines are reaching the same points on the body on each side.

Be sure–and, we cannot stress this enough–to start with a clean horse. Dust and dander that hides close to the skin will get caught in the clipper blades, which could damage them at worst and at best clogs them up, creating a striped effect on the horse’s skin where ridges of hair weren’t trimmed evenly. It’s really hard to get these stripes even again although they do grow out eventually.

Pro Equine Grooms (which is a fantastic resource) has some great tips for keeping the experience safe for you and your horse. First and foremost–make sure to take the time to acclimate the horse to the clippers. You’ll get a cleaner line if your horse is willing to stay still for this task. Also, try working against the grain of the hair and make your strokes as long and even as possible. And don’t forget to keep oiling that clipper blade!

If you’re using a pattern that requires you to clip part of the face, or do a lot of grooming of the cheeks in general, you may want to consider a grooming halter, which has the throatlatch removed for easier access to the face. We’ve got some great ones that are really affordable (and come in cute colors).

Happy grooming!


Wintertime Safety Tips–Trailer Safety

Studies show that the leading factor in roadside breakdowns is tires. As temperatures cool across the country, tire pressures will decrease. Given these facts, USRider reminds equestrians and others who travel with horses to perform periodic air pressure checks on both their vehicle and trailer tires.


“As the weather patterns transition to cooler temperatures, now is a very important time to check tire pressure on all vehicles,” said Bill Riss, General Manager for USRider, the national provider of roadside emergency assistance for equestrians.


“A general rule of thumb is that for every 10-degree change in temperature, tire pressure changes by 1 pound per square inch (PSI). Pressure goes up when temperatures are higher and down when temperatures are lower,” Riss


USRider recommends that motorists check the air pressure at least once a month. Additionally, since tire issues are the number one reason for disablements with a horse trailer, it is recommended that horse owners check the tire pressure on both their tow vehicle and horse trailer prior to each trip.


To determine the correct tire pressure for a car or truck, look for this information on a placard located on the interior doorjamb of the vehicle. This information can also be found in the owner’s manual. The air pressure for trailers can be found stamped on the tire sidewall. Tire pressure recommendations are listed as “Maximum Cold Air Pressure.” Unlike vehicle tires, trailer tires should be inflated to the maximum pressure indicated on the tire.


Always check tire pressure prior to traveling while the tires are cold. Tire pressure readings should also be checked while tires are not in direct sunlight, which will increase pressure readings.


“We recommend that horse owners own a high-quality air pressure gauge, know how to use it and know their pressure readings,” said Riss. In addition to preventing blowouts and reducing rolling resistance, tires that are properly inflated will last longer, handle more safely and get better gas mileage.


You might consider investing in a tire pressure monitoring system. This will help alert you to any sudden drops in air pressure, allowing you to take preventive action to avoid a blowout.


For additional safety tips, visit the Equine Travel Safety Area on the USRider website at

Thanks to US Rider for this press release!

Stretch those muscles!

As the weather starts turning colder here in Kentucky, we’re brainstorming ways to keep our horses limber and in shape even during messy winter weather when we can’t ride. One of our favorite things to do with horses of any discipline is a few “carrot stretches”–encouraging horses to stretch through their neck and back in certain positions in order to reach a treat. Obviously, this is also great for getting your horse limbered up before a ride or cooled off after a workout.

We dug up an old article from Equus recently which has some great tips on stretching your horse out. Take a look!