Blog


'Health Team' in discussions to save yearling

posted 22 Jul 2012, 16:31 by Selina Serbin   [ updated 29 Jul 2012, 14:25 ]

Owners of Young horses aquire them in many different ways - some may have put their mare in foal, some may have searched long and hard for a family tree progression that matches what they are searching for, then visit the stud to meet that years foals with a view to buy. Some may have come across a newly advertised 3 or 4 year old, and be ready for the project......some, like this little fellow here, may need a 'Full-on;last chance' at recovery.



Nicknamed Bubba, this 15 month old thoroughbred has the cheeky glint in his eye that every horse his age has - the odd little nip, the over rough groom when he recipricates your brushing of him.....the sponge-like brain taking in every yard duty as it happens, and the need to put EVERYTHING in his mouth. There is one major difference with this little guy; he is still yet to live the normal baby life!

Bubba has a deformity in both front legs, which in turn is devoloping a severe mobility issue with his hinds. In both of his knees he has growth plates being pinched one side and also proven is a collapsed tendon in his right fore. Of course with such disabilities, there are commonly other ailments which are secondry to these - which are still yet to be discussed with the vets.

Bubba has been entrusted to a team of proffessionals to be given the best possible chance of survival and have a normal life with some form of job to do in the future - whether that be a happy hacker for someone, or to maybe be companion for other re-habilitation patients.

Equine Vet Goncalo at the Royal Veterinary College, Potters Bar is overseeing Bubba's case, and during last consultation took extensive x-rays from various angles of the fore legs. Examining the images Goncalo decided that the best plan of action would be for the RVC vets, surgeons, and head of diagnostics to hold a meeting to discuss Bubba's case - and if there is anything that can be done to help him.

Also part of the team working with Bubba is Farrier Tim Rushton, who was present while Goncalo was taking x-rays. Disscussions and past experiences they'd both had was aired between them, and a foot trimming plan was put in place......As Bubba was already a little sedated for his images to be taken, his feet were trimmed straight away.

From this alone - a remarkable improvement was made:


So......at this present time, the RVC specialists are in talks to discuss a way forward with regard to treatment of Bubba's deformities. In the mean time this gorgeous little guy is being kept comfortable on anti-inflamartories and pain killers. He is also in reciept of an enormous amount of TLC, and is surrounded by a team of health care proffessionals who can provide him with the best treatments and therapies availible.

Selina @ Queens Ponies

How CHIPS Horse Patrol Is Evolving

posted 22 Jul 2012, 14:46 by Selina Serbin   [ updated 22 Jul 2012, 14:47 ]


Hertfordshire Community Horse Patrol - Keeping your local area safe and free from arson.

Last month we were able to inform you of a new scheme which has been formed to combat the ongoing issue with arson attacks, fly tipping, and safety considerations in the St Albans area.

Hertfordshire Community horse patrol works in partnership with Herts Fire and Rescue Service and St Albans Council
to be the eyes and ears in rural areas that are not accessable by coventional means. Our aim is to have all areas within the St Albans council boarders to be covered by a patrol, and we requested competent riders, owning reliable, bombproof horses, to consider applying to become Horse Patrol Volunteers.

CHIPS recieved an amazing amount of interest and have since gained another patrol based in Barley Mow Stables, and talks are in progress to base another in Wheathampstead - all gained from last issue's article!


Hertfordshire's Chief Fire Officer Tweeted my page on his own twitter account. It was spotted, and read, by the London Fire Service.

Queens Ponies Training Academy have been invited to provide two representitive patrol officers to take part in the Tunnel 2 Towers run 21st October 2012, as Herts Fire and Rescue are the only county in England using horses for patrols.

The 5km charity run will start from Southwark Park, Bermondsey, through the Rotherhithe Tunnel and Wapping and Finishing with a Street Party in Billingsgate Market within the shadows of the Canary Wharf Towers in London’s Docklands.

(More information on the Tunnel 2 Towers run can be found at www.tunnel2towersrun.co.uk)

In the last month alone 158 hours of patrol has been covered by CHIPS officers. Riders and their horses are provided with uniform for when out on patrol, which allows them access to footpaths not normally availiable to riders, bridlepaths and roadways to report flytipping, broken fencing or any saftey issue that needs addressing. A direct hotline for reporting such findings has been set up, and St Albans Council ensure attendance within 24 hours, reducing the number of arson cases.


I will keep you up to date with the progression of CHIPS, and we'll continue to spread the news of all the hard work our Patrol Riders put in - who knows.....maybe there will be interest from other Hertfordshire councils also funding the idea for their area?

 We are always looking for more volunteers to patrol the St Albans area, should you require any further information please don't hesitate to contact:



 

Backing is never straight forward......

posted 22 Jul 2012, 13:34 by Selina Serbin

Starting a horse under saddle correctly is the most important part of their education; mistakes made here often stay with the horse for life, so it is imperative to get it right.

Queens Ponies do a huge amount of work with young horses and ponies - foals, yearlings, the 'terrible twos', through to bringing your baby on to be backed. There are many different methods that people follow when backing young horses, from the very effective to the not so effective!  As with everything I do when working with the horse... my methods are always adaptable to different individual personalities and needs.


Having a horse backed by me can be done one of two ways. I am more than happy for you to keep your horse at home during the process, or the youngster can come to me for the duration.  Either way, I actively encourage owner participation every step of the way, so you can continue to develop an understanding and partnership with your horse.

As always, starting off meeting a client and doing an assessment to gauge what training stage the horse has reached, if any, is crucial. I need to understand whether we have any health implications to consider, find out if teeth have been checked, including whether wolf teeth may be an issue, know if there are any behavioural concerns, and more. Undertaking a comprehensive assessment leads me to make the decision as to where I start the youngster off in his education with me.

Take Tyler, for example: 4 years old, very accident-prone, and many old, and recent, injuries for me to consider within his training, in order for me to strengthen and stabilise theses areas to cope with the process. Many of the basics had been put in place by Annabelle over his young years. Voice commands were fully understood, he'd been accustomed to a bridle, roller, saddle, and lunging had been introduced. To top it all off...Annabelle had done a fantastic job of this, and no correction or back tracking to clear any confusion was needed. It was now a case of bringing him over, and starting his career. Tyler came to me due to Annabelle’s work commitments, although I encouraged her to visit as much as she wanted to enable Tyler to settle in quickly, which he did.


Short sessions are key. Teaching the horse about body language also comes into play, as you can take them onto straight lines, larger circles, and so on, just by changing your position. Young horses are wobbly; having a circle to work on at this stage helps them start to find their natural balance.


It was at this stage in Tyler’s training that unfortunately it became clear that he was still not sound from previous injuries, and I asked to continue the process alongside Annabelle’s vet. The RVC vet and myself worked closely together, with a couple of visits from our Osteopath, and together we progressed Tyler through building up his strength and balance... and more importantly started this new, important phase in his life with him loving his work!

Then the exciting bit... it was time to get on!  Responses to this vary hugely from horse to horse.  It is very important that this stage is done with care, and by very experienced people. I, as a rider, must be athletic, sit lightly on the horse, be able to read a horse’s reactions very well, and have great stickability!  I always make sure I have someone to help with legging up, who is fairly strong, and is able to move quietly around the horse without startling them.  This, arguably, is the most important person - for mine and the horse’s safety too, and they need to be someone we both trust.  I always do this work in the arena, although I've even backed in a field, whereas some people still back horses in stables.  Quite frankly, the thought of a possible panicking horse and three people in such an enclosed space terrifies me! 


Of course, once you have managed to sit on, that is the start of a whole new stage in the horse’s life!

Tyler unfortunately became more lame which we had to progress to further veterinary investigation. I take pride in making sure I am always there for my clients - and support included going with Annabelle and Tyler to the vet college hospital whilst Tyler was undergoing a neurological exam and x-rays. Liaising with vet, osteopath, and owner helped devise a rehabilitation program, alongside his backing program, to help get Tyler back on track in a strong healthy way. He continues to make progress.

So - some backing plans can be made with the best intentions to provide you with the horse you would like, to do the job you require... but occasionally along the way we have little hiccups, which are out of our control. This is never the 'be all and end all' - I'll always find a solution for you to get everyone back on track. It may be challenging but that’s youngsters for you!

Tyler's Mum::

"Selina has been a fantastic support for both Tyler and myself. It is never easy trusting another person to take care of your ‘child’, however I knew that I was not able to take Tyler through the next stage of his education myself. Right from the initial assessment stage, I knew that Selina was the perfect person to back Tyler… and he was clearly besotted as well! It wasn’t easy, and we certainly had our ups and downs. As most horsey people have experienced at some stage, at times it felt like we would take one step forward and then two steps back. However, Selina was so dedicated, supportive and knowledgeable through it all, and Tyler loved his time with her! Thanks to Selina, Tyler has had a fantastic start to the ridden stage of his life, and he continues to enjoy his work now."

What happens during an initial assessment?

posted 19 Jun 2012, 11:35 by Selina Serbin

So now you know Who Queens Ponies are; You guys are probably now wondering how things work and how I can help you. I thought I'd give you a brief explanation of how I can work with you and your horse in developing a physically, mentally and emotionally balanced training partnership.

       When an owner initially makes contact  requesting a visit , discussing your current situation gives me a rough idea of how healthy your relationship is with your horse. I can  identify approximately what stage in his life history is affecting progress right now and which area  needs addressing first for his welfare. Most importantly I need to discover wether trust in humans, however minute, may possibly pay a part in the horse's decision to display this behavior.

                                             Take Rebel for example. A 5 year old welsh section D:


When Initial contact was made, Julie's main concern was that Rebel was just as frustrated about their communication breakdown, as Julie was. The training plan was starting to go astray, and he was also starting to show signs of anger at their situation which was becoming dangerous behavior for handlers, as well as himself. On first visit, I introduced myself to Rebel, took a brief history of their time together, as well as knowledge of previous experiences. I then asked for Rebel to be walked up and down the yard for me, and then trotted. This allowed me to see two things: the horses movement; stiffness, tightness, strange gait, or obvious pain; and how the horse and owner behave together. I then checked every aspect of my concerns from the walk/trot up by feeling through the areas, assessing muscle, stance and reactions to touch. Rebel was then bridled and saddled by me, so I got the chance to check all tack fitting, especially the saddle, watch reactions to being tacked up - and decipher from him being uncomfortable and naughtiness.

     I then wanted to see Rebel on the lunge in the arena, to see his behavior and movement in a training environment. Requesting the horse works for me in an assessment situation varies from client to client, so is not always necessary.

By this point I was able to ascertain where Rebels biggest concerns lay, where he was in pain, which aspects of his behavior were changeable in him, and where to start with our plans forward from this point.

On the day of assessment, Rebel showed me a very confused young horse, who felt pressurised to perform, but the lack of understanding, fitness and strength just produced frustration and worry. He also displayed pain and this was one of the first things which needed addressing. For his discomfort an osteopath was required to treat him, but every client's situation is different, and I'm able to recommend a practitioner from many different fields.

I organized for the Osteopath to visit, and left Julie with some very basic handling exercises to be doing in my absence until he had been treated.

  So, Queens assessment over......you'd think?! Nope - then I need to go away and devise a rough training schedule for how I believe the next few weeks should be covered. Again, all horses are individuals. In Rebels case a majority of his frustration stemmed from confidence, and confusion - and rather than spend time picking through which aspects were which, his behavior needed addressing in both his handling as well as ridden. In this case we would re- start the backing process. His groundwork, boundaries, manners, and trust all needed to be re-established.

Now the pain and pressure, has been removed, and ground rules set; Rebel enjoys Julies company so much more - their trust in each other building, & confidence growing, I can now set them tasks Julie would never dreamt of attempting with him before.

  "Through working with Selina I've realised that Rebels training is not just about all the technical stuff ie: his lunging and schooling - but it's about his mind-set, happiness and his attitude towards humans. That was a massive change for me! I had always been putting pressure on myself to 'work, work, work' him , and not actually to 'enjoy' my time with Rebel. I know now that having that two way connection between Rebel and I, has helped him become a much happier, less angry horse - everything else just seemed to fall in to place.....sometimes without me even realising! My understanding of Rebels confusion changed my behavior towards him, and as I became more confident with tasks Selina was setting us I was able to take leadership, teach him how to react correctly, and prevent him making any incorrect decisions. I trust him so much more now!"

If you wish for more from your relationship with your horse, have reached a 'block' in your training, or if your horse is showing unwanted behavior........feel free to contact me for a chat about how I can help you both get back on track.

 

Selina BHSAI  BSc(hons)

www.queensponies.co.uk

07852 236 236

Hertfordshire Community Horse Patrol

posted 19 Jun 2012, 03:26 by Selina Serbin   [ updated 19 Jun 2012, 11:48 ]

Hertfordshire Community Horse Patrol - Keeping your local area safe and free from arson.

Working in partnership with Herts Fire and Rescue Service and St Albans Council

The Community Horse Patrol idea was formed to combat ongoing issues with arson attacks in the St Albans District.

This scheme involves competent riders, with reliable, bomb-proof horses, volunteering to ride out as and when they normally would, and becoming the eyes and ears in rural areas that are not accessable by conventional means.

Riders and their horses are provided with uniform for when out on patrol, which allows them access to footpaths not normally availiable to riders, bridlepaths and roadways to report flytipping, broken fencing or any saftey issue that needs addressing.

A direct hotline for reporting such findings has been set up, and St Albans Council ensure attendance within 24 hours, reducing the number of arson cases.

So far Community Horse Patrol has 'gone live' in 4 yards in the local area, and we are looking for more volunteers to cover Chiswell Green, and Wheathampstead areas.

Requirements for Patrol Volunteer Officers in uniform are:

  • Over 18 years old
  • must be a competent rider
  • must have access to a well mannered horse
  • you must follow a code of conduct
  • Footpaths are to be used for gaining access only - riders must strictly adhere to  'WALK ONLY on footpatpaths' rule
  • Log book records of patrols must be kept up to date
  • politeness and respect should be shown at all times

You will be privided with a uniform, business cards, log books and a large scale map of your patrol area. We also offer training in first aid and incident management


Why Saddle Fit Matters

posted 22 Dec 2011, 16:14 by Selina Serbin   [ updated 26 Dec 2011, 23:09 ]


......its effects on the back, movement & behaviour

when considering the types of ponies and horses Queens see on a daily basis - i found there is no stereo-type for me to base this blog on. My clients are all so very individual, from competition horses, to happy hackers, to companions. All of whom at some point during their equine careers have needed a little assisstance in translating their 'opinion' to their human counterpart.

While bad saddle fit often causes a variety of 'opinionated' behaviour, and physical problems in horses, it isn't the only factor to look at when a horse demonstrates back pain or exhibits resistance behaviors; sometimes significant detective work is required on the part of the owner, working alongside their trainer, vet, osteopath, farrier, and dentist to determine what is bothering that horse.

Sure it would be so much easier if horses could talk to us. But since they can't, we need to listen to their body language and explore our options to find the right equation for the right saddle fit.

A good saddle fit is the same as a comfy, well fitting pair of shoes for us. Our shoes have to fit the length of our foot, be the right width at toe and heal, have the right arch support and be a comfortable shape for our toes. Even wether you wear heals or trainers makes a massive difference to your performance. You need to invest in the right shoe for the job, for example a runner, waitress, builder or horse rider - you're really not going to get away with wearing flip flops are you? - its the same with saddles.

When we go to try on shoes however, immediatley we are able to feel what is comfortable and what isn't. Every size 5 for instance will be pretty close to every other size 5 - this is not the case with saddles. There is a huge variety - which again causes small saddle fit issues. They're all categorised narrow through to extra wide fit, but vary greatly between each maker. Differences which are difficult for an in-experienced eye to see. When we try saddles, the horse feels it - but sometimes the owners are unable to interpret what the horse feels - and all too often poor performance is simply pain or discomfort, frequently caused through badly fitting saddles. Sometimes un-productive months can be lost trying to train a horse which is limited through back pain.

Equine welfare is not just about saving the starving equines, it is also about preventing pain and discomfort. So many horses are treated unfairly and roughly for behaviour problems which in truth are just reactions to pain. We all need to understand that a large proportion of disobedient behaviour actually stems from such preventable sources.

The Horses back

The horses back is central to the function of his musculo-skeletal system and his ability to carry a rider. When considering a horses gait, balance and movement, the connection between the head, neck back and hindquarters; sometimes reffered to as 'the circle of muscles'; work together. When working correctly the horse sld move in a manner that feels and looks forward and upward, with light footfall, compared to heavy pounding footsteps.

When a horse is in pain, his back muscles contract, his back drops and becomes hollow. In this way of moving - unatural strain is put upon the stifle, hock tendon, suspensory ligaments and the foot, causing lameness and soreness. The circle of muscles do not develop correctly if the horse has been in-effectively ridden in an ill fiting saddle for any length of time.

Different saddle fit problems affect the horse's back in different ways based on the area where they apply damaging focused pressure. Some of these problems can be caused by a poorly fitting saddle, some by a poorly placed saddle, some by an unbalanced rider, some by poor conformation of the horse--and some are caused by a combination of these factors. Additionally, a significant change in your horse's body condition can create saddle fit problems where none existed before.

                Here are some of the more common saddle fit problems and the areas of the back they affect.          

         
   




Saddle pads can be used to help solve the problem of an improper saddle fit, but they are capable of doing more harm than good. For example, placing a thick pad on a round-backed horse--under a saddle with a narrow gullet--is a lot like putting on a thick, heavy sock when a boot already fits too tightly.

We also have to admit, I'm afraid, that some problems accuse an alleged ill-fitting saddle, when actually it rests instead with the conformation and/or posture of the rider. As a trainer i watch rider and horse combinations - not just the horse. I constantly assess my clients on the floor aswell as in their ridden work, as for example, if i have a rider in front of me who walks with shoulder and hip on one side of their body higher than the other side - then there is a stron probability of them riding off balance too. This in turn also causes saddle pressure and back pain for our horses. As much as our saddle makers and remedial saddlers strive to fit the saddle to the rider as much as to the type of horse on which it will be used - a saddle will not correct your own posture, or riding ability. This comes only with hard work and dedication.

I have no intention of delving into the science of fitting a saddle - that is the Saddle Fitters Job! though what follows is some helpful reminders of how we should be placing our saddle om our horse before we ride:


  • Firstly, place the saddle slightly forward of the horse's wither, and then slide the saddle back as far as it will comfortably go till it rests in the lowest point of the horses back.
  • The points of the saddle tree should now be located in the natural depression that is found directly behind the horse's shoulder and must not rest on, or impede any part of the shoulder. This is for the horse's comfort and to allow you to adopt an effective riding position. A common mistake is to place the saddle too far forward over the horse's withers. This will have the effect of placing the points of the saddle-tree over the horse's shoulder (or part of), causing pressure which will then impede the horse's movement and may cause injury.
  • The channel of the saddle gullet must be wide enough to ensure that it does not to press against the horse's spine, as this is another extremely sensitive area. The panel of the saddle should be designed so that it enables the rider's weight to be distributed evenly over the full extent of the horse's bearing surfaces on muscles either side of the vertebrae giving the spinal column sufficient clearance.
  • When girthing up a common mistake is to want to bring the girth round directly behind the elbow, when actually this is not a suitable area for 'girthing up' as again the saddle then needs to be brought forward, and will infinge on shoulder movement.

Queens have spent years working alongside equine proffessionals from different spheres of the industry, striving to find a team of practitioners and specialists we feel confident in taking advice from, and can work closely with. We have a small network of experts who we can rely on to help us forward with any obsticles we come accross.

Should you have any concerns regarding your horses movement, behaviour or saddle fit - please don't hesitate to contact us, we're here to help.

Are we REALLY fit to ride?

posted 10 Dec 2011, 15:17 by Selina Serbin   [ updated 14 Dec 2011, 12:12 ]

How many of us actually take into consideration how 'well' we REALLY are, before we saddle up and ride? how fit we are? how straight and evenly we sit/walk/stand......even how balanced our meals are?

Not many of us eh? now - how many of you regularly consider these things, and lots more, for your horse? .......

We expect the best from our horses on a daily basis - so we feed them the best feeds, buy them new shoes every 6 weeks, have their saddlery checked every year, have a regular vet check to keep vaccinations up to date, have the dentist out to check teeth every 8 - 12 months, they are never allowed to feel the cold - adversley should they get very hot and sweaty, we cool them off!  when we train our horses we allow them time to warm up their muscles - then cool down just as slowly after their session - how many of us consider the same things for ourselves? To be an athletic team with our horses, consideration needs to be put into both sides of the partnership.
  • The importance of rider fitness, and general wellbeing creates a better rider and so a better team if both you and your horse are fit to ride.
  • Horse Riding is a physical activity and you being fit to ride is just as important as your horse's fitness.
  • Toning your adominals for dressage, or strengthening leg and ankle joints for cross country and show jumping is essential. Even us 'pleasure riders' need a well balanced strong seat to enable us to enjoy our horses under every circumstance.

Riders spend lots of time and money exercising, training and caring for their horses every day - The horse will almost certainly be in tip top condition; but to be the best combination possible, both you, the rider, and your horse need to be in peak physical condition.

A fit, well rider is physically stronger, has more stamina, is well-balanced in the saddle, and has the flexibility and suppleness necessary to move with the horse as one unit, in balance, giving direct, clear and consistent riding aids.

As with any physical sport, a rider needs the correct type of fitness, and being fit to ride means having supple and flexible joints and developing the correct type of musculature. This in turn, helps you ride more safely; helps you (and your horse) avoid injuries and pain, makes you a more effective rider, increases your mental confidence and enhances your enjoyment of the riding experience.

A balanced rider needs to be flexible on both sides, to be supple and strong, to be soft in the hands and firm in the shoulders, to roll through the hips and be steady in the legs. Being properly fit to ride requires attention to your whole body, not just a strong right arm.

Horses will find it much easier to carry a rider who is physically fit, rather than someone who is wobbly and unstable whilst riding. In fact, if you’re out of shape, you could harm the horse quite a bit.

As a horse rider, you should be well balanced. This is something that can easily be affected through no fault of your own. Just by sitting at a desk throughout the day, you could end up with bad posture and an imbalanced riding position as a result. In addition, you could favour one side more than the other. This is perfectly normal, but can lead to an uneven distribution of weight in the stirrups. 

For this reason, it is vital for any horse rider to be seen by an osteopath specialising in sports injuries. This will help you to get your body into good alignment.

Once you have achieved this, one of the best exercises for riders to maintain it is Pilates. This strengthens core muscles and will improve your stability and balance. Other exercises for horse riders include:

Yoga, which is great for flexibility
The Alexander technique
Brisk walking
Swimming
Cycling
Skipping
Hula-hooping

 NOTE :
Yes; mucking out, filling haynets, poo picking and walking back and forth to the field will help with your general fitness. But yard chores can sometimes fix muscle groups in rigid positions and can over-develop your forearms or biceps on just one side. Making you over-use the rein or lean more on that side.

So - i'm not saying you need to go out and replace your riding boots every 6 weeks, but there are many similarities between pampering an equine athlete, and a human one. Here we have only brushed across the top of how we can improve our own well-being to match that of our horse.

This is also something that we at Queens can discuss with you during your training sessions - to help you and your equine partner become one!



Why is fibre so important?

posted 14 Nov 2011, 15:27 by Selina Serbin   [ updated 11 Dec 2011, 13:47 ]

Why is fiber so important in the equine diet?

Consumption of grass, hay, and other forage fulfills both physical and psychological needs. Horses have a strong desire to chew, and also to have the full-gut feeling that comes from eating a lot of fiber. Deprived of adequate forage, horses tend to chew on trees, fences, stalls, and anything else that is available. A steady supply of forage helps to maintain the optimum types and numbers of microorganisms in the hindgut. These bacteria and other organisms transform fiber into energy the horse can use for growth or performance. The proper balance of beneficial bacteria prevents an overgrowth of harmful organisms that may upset digestion. As well as aiding the passage of food through the digestive tract, adequate fiber provides bulk and weight in the intestines. This helps to keep them from twisting and looping around each other, possibly leading to tissue damage and colic.

Is there a particular need for forage during cold weather?

A near-constant supply of forage is an important factor in keeping horses warm in the winter. The vast fermentation vat of the horse's hindgut steadily produces heat that can't be supplied by an all-grain diet.

My local hay dealer doesn't have hay for sale this year. Is it ok to buy hay from other suppliers?

Obviously, not all hay is the same, but with some precautions, you should be able to use hay from other suppliers. When considering quality of hay - you could perform a nutrient analysis from one bale - before making a full purchase, and examine the hay before accepting delivery. Good hay will smell fresh and clean without a moldy odor. Check the center of a few bales; hay that appears dry and yellow on the outside of the bales may still be green and fresh inside.

Hay still appears hard to find in some areas - and so price appears to be ever increasing. Because of a scarcity of hay in many regions, can you just skip feeding hay this winter and make up the deficit by doubling your horse's feed ration? The answer is an emphatic NO.

Consider availability, cost, and practicality when choosing ways to provide adequate fiber.

Hay, or some other source of fiber, is absolutely necessary to the health and function of the horse's digestive tract. Overconsumption of cereal is characteristically followed by colic, gastric ulcers, or laminitis, so this is not an option to consider. Aim for an average of 1.5% of the horse's weight in hay or equivalent forage each day (approximately 15 pounds of hay for a 1000-pound horse, or 7 kg for a 450-kg horse), adjusting up or down depending on the horse's age, use, and metabolism.

I still don't have enough fresh hay to supply my horse all winter. What can I do?

If at all possible, some hay should continue to be fed. Owners can use alternative fiber sources to round out the diet if the amount of traditional hay must be reduced. Ideas for stretching your hay supply include:

Feeding chopped hay, available at some feed stores in (23-kg) bags. Palatability is an asset; though expense and storage may be problems.

Adding some hay fibre cubes to the horse's diet, soaking the cubes if necessary before feeding. Alfalfa, timothy, and mixed cubes may be available, some feed companies produce a hay cube fortified with vitamins and minerals. Many horses can get along well on mixed cubes, and selection should match the horse's needs. Because there is less waste with cubes than with loose hay, you often do not need to feed an equivalent weight. Don't put all the cubes out at one feeding, as the horse will probably gobble them up quickly and then have nothing to eat for hours.

Adding beet pulp to the ration. This “super-fiber” can make up a maximum of 20% to 30% of the diet, is easily digested, and can be bought un-molassed aswell as molassed. Beet must be soaked before feeding, so use of this fiber takes a little more time and management than some other choices. Beet pulp is low in phosphorus and some other minerals and vitamins.

Feeding a “complete” or “fiber-included” feed that incorporates both the forage and grain portions of the diet. Be sure that the feed actually includes forage; some companies use the “complete” designation to indicate a fortified grain mix, not a product that offers forage. This type of feed should be offered in several small feedings throughout the day rather than as one large meal.

Using clean older hay. Even if last year's hay doesn't have optimum levels of some vitamins, it gives the horse something to chew on. Older hay that is clean but very dry can be moistened before feeding to make it more palatable, and the nutritional shortfall can be made up by adding a vitamin-mineral supplement.

Feeding straw, either baled or chopped. Clean, non-moldy straw is palatable to many horses and contains nearly as many calories as some grass hays, although it is lower in protein and phosphorus.

Allowing horses more access to pasture. If non-grazed fields are available, horses will continue to eat grass all winter even though it is not actively growing. In fields that have been grazed all summer and winter, horses may be forced to eat brushy or toxic plants as the only choice. Before counting on this source of forage, owners should walk the fields to make sure there is something to eat.

What else is involved in feeding alternative forage sources?

Provide plenty of ice-free drinking water at all times through the winter. Horses may drink more water if it is slightly warm. Monitor your horse's weight every few weeks through the winter, and modify the diet as necessary.

Watch your horse carefully as you change his diet. Variations in appetite, water consumption, mood, performance, and manure consistency can help owners detect problems with a new feed. Don't hesitate to check with a vet if your horse shows signs of colic, laminitis, or any other condition that could be related to changes in feed. As with any dietary modification, make changes gradually over a period of seven to ten days.

No single answer is right for every horse in every situation. Owners will need to consider availability, cost, and practicality when choosing ways to provide adequate fiber. Check with your feed supplier if you have questions about the available choices for meeting your horse's forage requirement.

The day the osteopath came!

posted 18 Oct 2011, 13:17 by Selina Serbin   [ updated 18 Jun 2013, 15:43 ]

So..... the day of Christophe Becquereau's visit to our yard had finally arrived (a week after booking feels like forever when you're looking forward to the visit so much)!
 
After exchanges of pleasantries, Christophe was well and truly geared up for work and was eagerly awaiting meeting his first patient.
 
Along came Dillon, as I led him towards Christophe's group on the yard, I introduced Dills and explained that he was still quite nervous of people but was gradually learning to trust, so much so that our Farrier had now managed to hot shoe Dillon with a full set of shoes (this would never have been possible when Dillon first arrived with us).  I filled the team in with as much of Dillons history that I was aware of and my thoughts and suspicions regarding his movements.  I got the impression from Christophe that I just needed to leave them to get acquainted and within a few minutes Dillon had fallen in love with him.  The whole treatment was amazing.  Dillon allowed Christophe to move around him as though he had known him for years, usually Dillon suffers from severe "Stranger Danger"!
 
When he had finished, Christophe took the time to explain every aspect of his treatment of Dills and the possible reasons for his problems.
 
I plagued Christophe with questions after every one of his sentences but my questioning didn't put him off, he just continued to painstakingly answer me, explaining the mechanics of all Dillons movements.
 
And so........ a happy, relaxed "Lord Dillon" walked confidently back to his field with the instructions for "two days off of his training schedule" ringing in his ears!
 
One by one, we introduced Christophe to our horses, explaining as much as we know of their stories.  After their treatments they were rugged and put back into their fields to "chill out" for the afternoon in the bright, Autumn sunshine.
 
Another of Christophes patients was Echo who had been with us for just two weeks.  She came to us with a history of bucking, rearing, bronking, throwing riders etc.  From the very first time of my seeing her, I knew it was pain related.  Echo is the sweetest, kindest mare you could ever come across on the ground and I couldn't understand how this mare could be so very different with a rider on board, she just didn't have that sort of personality.  "Queens" had not sat on her yet but had carried out several tests to establish exactly where her pain was so when Christophe treated Echo, he found several places she was "out".
 
Thirty minutes later, I watched a pain free, straight moving mare with a relaxed tail, walk away from me.
 
The instructions ringing in Echo's ears were somewhat different to those of Dillons, "she could have a rider on board tomorrow"!  YAY!!!! the long awaited day of riding Echo had arrived.
 
So......... I now eagerly await Christophes next visit in a couple of months time with ME also on the treatment list.

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