Between working in a horse barn, doing some training, and competing in a few events on the side, I get asked several different questions that I feel are valuable to the everyone. Whether they regard training theories or methods, equine nutrition, or management it is important that no one person holds all of the answers and that various perspectives can shed some light on certain subjects offering various answers. I have compiled a common list of the top 5 questions and answers generated from valuable sources that may give you another perspective, because after all I work with horses and may not always voice the most organized answer to questions asked in the moment.
1. What good do sports boots, polo wraps, etc. do?
I have been at a loss for a stable answer to this question several times, but ran across a link that gives a very scientific, applicable answer to the horsemen. I simply had always used boots to support tendons and ligaments in the legs while working horses, similar to one of the same reasons why we wear boots that give us ankle support during riding.
But if you are new to using various sport boots or polo wraps, I advise you to seek advice before doing so. Not having the right size or not using the wraps correctly can actually cause damage to these structures that can cause you major problems. Another common reasoning advising on deciding on when to use these support devices revolves around the thought of over heating tendons in hot weather and intense work. Just goes to show that we must take into consideration various factors and always seek the best options for our horses!
2. How do I get my horse back in shape?
It is important to realize that we ask a lot from our horses when we work them, compete with them, or trail ride. My favorite example to give is to put yourself in their shoes. Would you go do a full workout without first warming up, conditioning yourself. and cooling down? I hope that your answer is no, and to get the best results and avoid injury I encourage you to do the same. Conditioning a horse can be served in several different scenarios. Whether they are recovering from an injury, have had the winter off, or simply need to shed a few pounds, take a look at these helpful tips that I have found to base your conditioning and rehab program off of.
3. Should I feed my horse treats?
Do yourself a favor and don’t. I stand very firm against treats after seeing firsthand situations in which horses have become not only nippy, but pushy and aggressive as well. Again, put yourself in their shoes. You are creating a learned behavior, they act up and you discipline them, as soon as they do something right you reward them with a treat. But in a sense you are also rewarding their negative behavior, following their change of attitude of course. Then they create a learned behavior that every time you spend time with them, at some point they will earn a treat and will simply look to you as a source of treats, neglecting to pay attention to whatever you ask as they are continuously searching you for a treat. Horses deserve respect just as you do, respect them enough to not create a negative situation for them stemming for a source of positive reward. Nothing teaches a better lesson than simple pressure and release, which can be done without treats despite contrary belief. Check out a cool article I found that lists other ways to reward your horse, that don’t involve treats!
4. My horse isn’t gaining weight on this new feed, what should I do?
Just because a feed doesn’t work for one horse, doesn’t mean it is the right option for another. After all, there is an equine feed industry at your fingertips that offers a multitude of feeds, from several various producers for a reason. Research has shown that some horses have different metabolisms than others, some have food allergies just like us, and others even have issues with insulin making them diabetic in a sense. The first step is to consult a veterinarian, horse owners often make the common costly mistake of overfeeding protein when not needed. A good vet will get you in touch with a nutritionist, which will in turn have you speak with a feed sales rep that can present you with options on the market. Another common mistake continues to be the desire to want to add several supplements to a horse’s diet. Horse feeds are very well known for having a set formula that does not change, although the price will due to resources. With this being said, adding a supplement to a diet may actually cancel out the ingredients already contained in the concentrated feed, thus rendering them useless. Meaning, contrary to belief it is actually possible to waste money trying to supplement your horse’s diet. It is simple to find this out though, simply call your feed company and have them run an analysis for you. They will be happy to do so if you provide them the feed label of the feed you are feeding as well as all supplements in which you would like to use. Finally, allow a trial period when trying a new feed before expecting to see results. The villi and nutrient absorbing bodies in the gut must change along with the change of the diet. This can take weeks folks, just be patient. I found several helpful links to common nutritional tips for horses listed below.
And as I’m writing this, I am realizing there are a plethora of horse diet tips and misconceptions out there so I encourage you to do your own research and the blog may take a trend in the near future exploring certain feeding questions…and advice…:)
5. Do farriers, chiropractors, equine dentists really make a difference and are they necessary?
Yes! I have had experience with all of the above for various horses in different situations. First off, have a good working relationship with your farrier and live by the quote, “No foot, no horse”. Routine hoof care is only just the beginning, balancing a foot, correct shoeing, and have a reliable and knowledgeable farrier will be in your best benefit. Second, I have also seen horses contain conformation problems from flipping over backwards, jumping, and even slipping and falling in the pasture. Pay close attention while grooming to know whether your horse is sore, and just as you would benefit from a good snap, crackle, and pop, so would your horse from time to time when they show signs of need! Finally, as silly as it sounds, horse’s teeth need routine annual care just as yours do. Not only will your horse chew and utilize his feed better, he will also be a happier camper during riding when a sharp point on a tooth is not rubbing the side of his mouth raw causing an abscess.
I know there are many more questions running through your head now, but my goal is to get you thinking and researching before making drastic decisions. After doing research for this brief blog post, I realized that I could so easily break down each and every subject and explain each component in its entirety in depth for individual posts. But a different project for a different day!