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A to Z of answers to the many queries which bring readers to this website and to our Facebook page. If you would like to ask a question, please email to editor@horseandponyinfo.com or post on Facebook.

Warning: The opinions expressed here are from personal experience and we strongly advise you to contact your vet or your riding instructor if you are seriously worried about your horse.

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A is for Abcess...

My horse has an abcess in his foot - An abcess is extremely painful for a horse. The infection builds inside the hard wall of the hoof and usually bursts out either through the sole or at the coronary band. More info on dealing with abcesses and stone bruises in the feet.

B is for bits, bitless bridles and buying... 

Bit problems - So many riders struggle with control or are afraid of using a bit that is too strong. We asked experienced instructor and rider Lorraine Jennings to discuss this topic. More info here.

Have you tried going bitless? More horse riders are interested nowadays in riding without a bit in their horse or pony's mouth. If your pony objects to the bit or you would like to consider making the move to bitless riding, click here for info from three experienced bitless riders.

What sort of horse or pony suits a beginner? Buying your first horse or pony can be a bewildering experience. Take your time and try not to fall in love with the first one you see. Always consider safety to be the most important asset rather than looks. If a beginner, choose an older horse or pony with 'mileage' and a kind temperament. Fit the rider to the horse as nobody likes to feel 'over-horsed' and out of control. More info on buying and on a child's first pony.

C is for Crib biting, Clipping ... 

What is a crib biter? - A  crib biter is a horse which is deemed to be unsound and is similar to windsucking. Crib biters hold onto objects, such as a stable door or a manger, with their teeth and swallow air. Wind suckers arch their necks and swallow air. Both make a loud, obvious noise. These vices can stop the horse putting on weight and can also upset the digestion and cause colic. More info.

How do I clip my horse? Learning to clip your own horse is a way of saving money and making sure you get the clip you want. However, horse clippers are expensive to buy (about €500 to €700 in Ireland) so buy a second hand clippers or borrow from a friend. It is worth buying your own clippers if you have to clip several horses and ponies. More info on clipping.

D is for Dentist ...

What does an Equine Dentist do? It is recommended for all horses and ponies to be regularly examined by an equine dentist. Some with problems will need treatment every six months or more often. Sharp teeth need to be rasped and, if left untreated, can cause problems such as resistance, quidding (dropping food from the mouth), weight loss, tooth loss and refusing to go down on the bit. Older horses lose weight more easily and need a regular check up. More info about equine dentists.


E is for Eyesight ...

Does a pony need to have a light on in his or her stable at night? - No, ponies and horses do not need to have lights on at night. They can see in the dark, although not as well as in daylight, and they are not afraid of it. However, it is important to have electric light in your stables because it makes looking after ponies in stables easier in the winter as you can spend more time with them. Light is essential if your pony isn't well and you need to call the vet during the night.

Does a pony need a light when travelling in a horsebox? - It's a good idea to leave a light on in your horsebox when travelling, although not essential. Where you will find it useful is when attempting to load horses and ponies in the dark, after an evening show, for example. They will find it much easier and more welcoming to enter a horsebox with a light in it than one which is dark inside. They will also see the ramp better with less chance of stumbling.

F is for feeding...

What should I feed a child's pony? There is no easy straight forward answer to feeding ponies. Like humans, a lot depends on their size, shape and amount of exercise they get. Be careful feeding hard feed to lively ponies. More info.

Some tips for feeding stabled horses? Horses and ponies in stables will need plenty of bulk feed such as hay for roughage. The amount of feed will depend on the amount of work. More info.


H is for hacking...

How can I get my young horse to hack out on his own? Teaching a horse to hack out on his own is not always easy. Some are less brave about being on their own than others and time and patience is required. Whenever possible, it is always safer to hack out with a friend on another horse. Some tips from other riders here.

L is for Laminitis, Loading ...

How can I prevent laminitis? Laminitis caused by too much rich grass is a common but serious condition in horses and ponies. It is usually associated with small, fat ponies but can affect all breeds, particularly native such as Shetland, Connemara and Irish Draught horses. All good doers who are prone to putting on weight easily are laminitis candidates. Prevention is better than cure. In Ireland and the United Kingdom, our mild climate produces rich grass at several different times of the year so it pays to be vigilant. If the grass on your lawn is growing fast, watch out for laminitis. More info.

How can I train my horse to load? Many people find it difficult to get their horses to load into a horse trailer. It is very important to stay calm as anger doesn't help the situation and can often result in injury to either people or horse. It's better to start loading your horse or pony a few weeks before you have to go anywhere and it helps if you have or can borrow a horse trailer with a front ramp. More info.

O is for Outline...
My horse and I are good at showjumping but our dressage is a mess. When my instructor rides my horse he looks like a professional but I can't seem to keep him in an outline. Any tips? Obviously an instructor is the person to show a rider how to keep a horse in an outline but there are exercises to help. It's important to remember that a horse should never be forced into an outline as it will come naturally with correct schooling and riding. More info.

P is for Passport, Parrot Mouth ...

Do I need a passport for my pony? Yes, it is now the law in Ireland for all horses and ponies to have passports. These are issued by different associations, including the Irish Horse Board. Vaccinations are written into the passport by a vet and it is useful for keeping a record of when the horse needs his booster. Horse sports associations, such as Dressage Ireland, Eventing Ireland and Show Jumping Ireland, insist that your animal has a passport before you are registered for competing. If you have bought or acquired a horse or pony without a passport, this is what you need to do... more info.

What is Parrot Mouth in horses? Parrot mouth can't be spotted in a newborn foal but appears between one and six months of age. It is definitely something to look out for if you are buying a horse or pony as a parrot mouth can affect the way an equine eats and it is also considered a defect when you come to sell the horse. Like windsucking, cribbing, weaving and sweet itch, it affects the price. More info.


is for Resistance, Rugs... 
What is resistance? It's is a horse's way of saying 'No Thanks'. It can take many shapes, depending on the horse or pony's temperament. For instance, if a horse doesn't want to walk forward, he'll say 'No thanks' by doing one of the following: spinning around, rearing, stopping dead in his tracks and refusing to move, shying at an object or moving sideways or backwards. Some forms of resistance are more dangerous for the rider than others, such as rearing. Resistance often appears in horses and ponies which haven't been fully trained. More info.

Can you use a lightweight summer rug in the winter? Yes, I have used one on one of my horses for several winters. What I do is leave the summer waterproof rug on in the Autumn and as soon as it gets colder, I put an insulator rug underneath. The insulator rug is a stable rug which is not waterproof but is lightweight. This works very well on horses which are not clipped and which are either in light work, such as hacking, or not being ridden. It also works with a horse which only has a light trace clip as long as he or she doesn't feel the cold too much. The advantage is that it saves money as you don't have to buy an expensive heavy winter rug as the same waterproof rug can be used all year round. Insulator rugs aren't usually very expensive.

When to put on winter rugs? Like Spring time, it can be difficult in Autumn to know when to put on winter rugs. If the weather is mild, horses and ponies in work may only need lightweight waterproof summer rugs until they are clipped. Some horses and ponies, especially young ones, won't need rugs at all in winter if they are not being ridden but remember that 80% of an equine's energy goes towards keeping warm. A good quality rug is worth paying for because it saves money on feed. It is always kinder to rug up older horses. More info about rugs in Autumn.

Is it ok to put a rug on a wet horse? Yes, particularly during the colder months of the year. The best rug to put on a wet horse is one which 'wicks' away the moisture like a sweat rug. You will see the moisture on the outside of the rug after some time and the horse will be dry underneath. You can then take off this rug and replace with his/her stable or outdoor rug.


S is for Skin, Sarcoid, Stone Bruise, Sweet Itch ...

Skin problem - My grey mare has got dry skin and her coat has no shine to it, it looks dull. To see tips for a shiny coat, click below to download PDF:

See tips for horse with dry skin

What is a sarcoid? - A sarcoid is a lesion on a horse's body, usually where the skin is thin. Under the hind legs, for example, or on a gelding's sheath are common places for sarcoids to develop. They are best described as a type of skin cancer and are not always malignant. They occur on all breeds of horses all over the world. Sarcoids can react differently on different horses and can be difficult to treat so early diagnosis and prompt veterinary advice is best. Sometimes they multiply and spread but other times the sarcoid will fall off if left alone. More info. 

Our pony has scabs which ooze and weep when removed. Is this rain rash (rain scald) and would clipping help? Skin infections can be caused by horses overheating under rugs and are quite common, especially as the horse grows older. The horse may also feel uncomfortable and itchy. More info.

How to cope with a stone bruise - Stone bruises are common in horses, especially in the wet, winter months. They can affect horses left at grass or in work. A stone bruise is extremely painful as the infection builds up inside the hard wall of the hoof until it bursts out. Farriers are good at dealing with stone bruises but they are usually easy to treat yourself. More info.

Should I buy a pony with sweet itch? Sweet itch is a nuisance to look after but many owners don't realise their pony has sweet itch until the summer comes. A pony bought in the winter will not be affected by sweet itch until the midges arrive the following May. Tell tale signs of sweet itch are a rubbed mane and tail. Ponies sometimes itch so much that they draw blood and thick scabs can result. Make sure when you buy a horse or pony that you ask whether it gets sweet itch. If so, make sure you get a discount on the sale price or, if you don't feel like dealing with sweet itch rugs and anti-midge lotions, don't buy the animal. More info.

V is for Vaccinations...

When should I vaccinate my horse? Horses and ponies are vaccinated in Ireland against Equine Influenza and Tetanus. If you've no record of your horse's vaccinations or if his vaccinations are out of date, you need to restart the programme. Vaccinations are recorded in passports of horses and ponies. More info.

W is for Weaving, Windsucking, Worms ...

What is weaving? - A horse is said to be a ‘weaver' when it continuously rocks from side to side on its forelegs and sways its head. The horse will usually do this with its head over a stable door. The constant effort causes the horse to lose weight and it can also damage the legs. Weaving is usually caused by boredom or nervousness. Highly strung horses which are stabled for long hours often become weavers. Some believe that it can also be copied by young horses which see older horses weaving but there is no proof that this is true. Weaving horses are like a human with a nervous ‘tic' and it usually gets worse at feed time or when the horse feels stressed. More info.

What is a windsucker? - A  wind sucking horse is deemed to be unsound and is similar to crib biting. Crib biters hold onto objects, such as a stable door or a manger, with their teeth and swallow air. Wind suckers arch their necks and swallow air. Both make a loud, obvious noise. These vices can stop the horse putting on weight and can also upset the digestion and cause colic. More info.

How often do I need to worm my horse? Worming is vital for good health in all horses and ponies. They should be wormed regularly, usually every two months. Be sure to ask your supplier or vet for a correct parasite control programme because different parasites affect equines at different times of the year. More info.