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Hoofbeats - The Blog 

Welcome to our blog page, HOOFBEATS, where we talk about the countryside with a main emphasis on training and caring for horses and ponies. If you would like to contribute ideas and information about your own experiences, we would be delighted to hear them. Please email to editor@horseandponyinfo.com or post to our Facebook Page, Horse and Pony Info. If you're into Twitter, you can contact us @horse_ponyinfo.

IMPORTANT - The opinions expressed here are from personal experience and we strongly advise you to contact your veterinary surgeon or your riding instructor if you are seriously worried about your horse. Prompt action is important.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Horse or pony with a cold back

A horse or pony with a cold back can often be a scarey ride. Some are more difficult to deal with than others. I take a cold backed horse to mean one who tenses up the muscles of his back when you first get on and who will then try to buck. One of the worst problems with a cold backed horse is that it can make the rider nervous and this, in turn, can make the horse more tense.

I rode a 17.3 hh horse with a tendency towards a cold back. He bucked me off on several occasions and always within the first few minutes of getting on him. I was thrown so high in the air, I felt I needed a parachute coming down! I had to work hard to keep calm myself before getting on, especially if he was well fed for showing or just back in work. Sometimes I even whistled tunes and hummed to myself to try to fool myself and him that I wasn't feeling nervous at the thought of being bucked off. Once you have owned a cold backed horse, it can be difficult to get up on other horses without worrying.

Some suggestions
1. If the horse hadn't been ridden for a few days, I would always lunge him. I found loose lungeing worked well as it got rid of excess energy and tension more quickly.
2. Plenty of padding under the saddle is also a good idea. I used a gel pad with a numnah and some riders use two numnahs.
3. Do up the girth gradually. Don't make it too tight to start with.
4. Taking the horse for a walk before you mount is also useful as it helps to relax him and loosen out his muscles.
5. Another obvious thing is not too overfeed a horse with a cold back, especially if he isn't competing or working hard.
6. Mount facing the horse towards a gate or corner of the arena so that there is nowhere in front for him to leap forward and gather speed.
7. Use a mounting block to avoid your weight dragging on the saddle and sit lightly onto the saddle.
8. Try to avoid mounting on your own - ask someone to hold the horse for you as you get up. (This is often not possible, I know).

Strong nerves needed!
A friend with a cold backed horse became so nervous after a nasty fall when he bucked her off and injured her back that she gave the horse to a relative. The interesting thing was that the horse behaved himself for this man who wasn't a bit afraid of being bucked off. If you have a cold backed horse which is getting the better of you and your nerves, I strongly advise you to seek help because it can be very dangerous.

1:28 pm gmt 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Redworms in horses and ponies a cautionary tale but not for the squeamish!

We all know that the first thing we should do when a new horse or pony arrives on our premises is worm him immediately before letting him out in a field with other horses. While not many people have room for isolation areas, it’s a good idea to keep the new arrival in a stable or a small outdoor area for a couple of days to see if any worms come out in his droppings after dosing. 

Redworm is dangerous
The most dangerous of all internal parasites is the Strongylid or redworm as it sucks blood (hence its appearance and name) and damages internal organs. I once wormed my horses for redworms with an ivermectin paste and it took 27 hours before a small number of redworms were expelled in their droppings. I didn’t stay in the stable with a stop watch but checked the droppings regularly and the first worms appeared after that length of time. Nobody wants redworms in their paddocks which is why it is better they come out in the stable where they can be disposed of safely.

Redworm infestation
I remember many years ago a new pony mare arrived belonging to a local girl. The mare had come from a premises near Dublin which had many horses and ponies grazing together. I wormed her as a matter of course and was leading her along the lane when the wormer took effect. Suddenly a stream of diarrhoea hit the ground and, when I glanced at it I saw, to my horror, a mass of writhing redworms. There were so many, the ground literally looked like it was moving. I was advised to give the mare a five day course of a suitable wormer and keep her away from other horses until she was clear. I also wormed all the other horses on the premises at the same time as a precaution.

This incident taught me a lesson about how important it is to take care in the beginning and not put a new horse or pony straight into the fields with other horses. That wasn’t all, however. The same pony mare also hatched out lice when the warmer weather arrived. Lice thrive on worm infested horses or can be picked up from cattle or from grassland. A horse with lice will be itchy and have a poor, dull coat. I treated the lice with a chemical pour-on which is now only available through a vet. Lice should be killed immediately before they spread to other horses and a follow up treatment ten days later is advisable to get rid of any more that might have hatched from eggs. Lice can be recognised as tiny, white flecks on manes and tails.

For more details about redworms and parasites in horses, click here.

4:46 pm gmt 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Why horses and ponies at grass are more lively in Spring and Summer

Are ponies out on grass more lively than stabled one? This is an interesting question we received at HorseandPonyInfo recently. What do you think?

The first answer which might pop into our heads is that stabled ponies have more pent up energy from being locked up so they are more lively. A pony out in a field all day is more likely to be using up its energy. Maybe.

What I feel really matters is what sort of feed and how much of it the ponies are getting. And what season of the year it is. A pony kept in a stable all winter and fed high protein hard feed and hay is bound to be more lively than a similar pony kept in a field through the winter which is only being fed hay as there is usually little protein in the grass during the winter.

However, in Spring and Summer, and especially in Britain and Ireland, there is strong grass growth which means it is full of protein. Any pony fed on lush, green grass will not only become overweight quickly, be at risk from laminitis but he or she will also become a lot more lively.

We often get asked how much feed to give a pony and this is not easy to answer because ponies and horses, like humans, all differ in size, shape and temperament. Feeding a horse or pony correctly needs practice as some will put on weight and become more lively than others.

For example, I look after a 24 year old 12 hh pony who always loses weight in the winter. He lives out with a good rug and, because there is little grass, he is fed hay twice a day and a hard feed in a bucket containing nuts (13% protein), an alfalfa chop and a small amount of oats. He is ridden by children under the age of 10 and is always well behaved. In the summer, his food is cut down as the grass grows because he is prone to laminitis. He gains more condition from grass than hard feed.

I have another pony, also about 12 hh, who is 7 years old. This pony is kept in a stable at night and out during the day in winter and summer. He is fed a smaller amount of hay twice a day than the first pony and a very small amount of low protein coarse mix with a low protein chop. During the day, he is on a bare field. This pony put on a lot of weight over the winter and is extremely lively. He needs lungeing sometimes before children ride him as he can be quite a handful.

Both ponies are the same height but one is much younger than the other. One is very quiet and one is very lively so they obviously have different temperaments. They also differ in that one loses weight in the winter and the other has no problem keeping on condition - although this could be because of their age difference. I have had both ponies teeth checked regularly so this is not an issue.

As you can see, there is no easy answer to feeding ponies - how much hard feed or how much hay to give them. They definitely should not have too much grass in Spring and Summer when there is strong growth because of the possibility of laminitis. Only practice will tell you how much to feed them. The best way is probably to start off slowly with small amounts of feed (including hay) and see how it affects the pony. If he puts on weight quickly, cut back the feed. If he gets too lively, cut back the feed. A good guideline is whether or not you can feel his ribs when you run your hand along them. If you can see the ribs, he is too thin but if you can't see the ribs but can just about feel them, then he is the correct weight. If you can't feel the ribs at all, he is overweight.

By the way, this way of checking the correct weight also applies to horses, especially good doers like native types, such as Irish Draughts and cobs.

2:02 pm gmt 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Test your horsey know-how with our May Quiz and win a mouse mat

Results of April competition
Congratulations to Karen from Ireland who has won first prize of five greetings cards of her choice. To see her winning entry, click here. We also print a list of runners-up with some entertaining greetings for the black labrador taking it easy in a deck chair.
Thank you to everyone who sent in an entry.

Take part in our Big May Quiz Competition
Here's an opportunity to prove how much you know about horses and ponies. Answer 20 multiple choice questions and you might win a mouse mat of your choice. Choose a mouse mat from our designs or send us your photo for your own design. Entries close on 31st May. Click here to have a go.

6:19 pm gmt 

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Horses racing on a frozen lake in Switzerland
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Watch out for laminitis in small ponies and Native Breeds. Keeping weight under control is vital.


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