Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Polo wraps!!!

Last night I got a call from another boarder about her horse while I was at work. She said he had a few cuts on his leg and wanted some advice. I told her to alternate walking him and cold hosing it. I went out after work around 9:20 pm and the cuts were deeper than I thought, but both were on the ventral (front) side of his cannon bone, which makes for easy wrapping and healing. One was halfway down, one was just above the fetlock joint. While the cuts were a little deep, they were not that bad. There was localized swelling and heat. Of course, I didn't have any quilted wraps or bandages- you never do when you need them. So, I brought out some saran wrap and put furazone on the cuts, wrapped in saran wrap, and did a layer of vet wrap over that. The bummer about vet wrap is that it has a lot of give right off the roll, but if you put it on too tight, it can constrict blood flow causing all sorts of damage like bandage bows (bowed tendons) and even more swelling. This morning I went to Atwood's in search of quilted wraps, standing wraps, and DMSO. Quilted wraps are reusable and are wide enough to cover the leg from top to bottom and can be wrapped around 2-3 times. Standing wraps are very stretchy and are about 6" wide and 6' long. They get wrapped over the quilted wraps. My tactic for dealing with minor injuries is to put Furazone on the cut, DMSO around the cut-but not in it- to eliminate swelling, wrap in saran wrap for cleanliness and sweating, wrap with quilted wrap, and then secure with standing wrap. Today I had to improvise because Atwood's only had disposable cotton rolls and polo wraps. So, that is what I used. As I had three polo wraps sitting around after wrapping up Chief, I decided to wrap Boomer and see what he thought. I wrapped both of his front legs, and longed him in his paddock. He didn't even seem to notice them! He was doing so well that we started working on canter transitions. We even did a few walk-canter-walk transitions, which weren't pretty, but a huge step in his training!

Charley was being a running-jumping-chasing brat while I was longing so I called him in to the middle of the circle and made him lay down and STAYDAMNIT!!! He was such a good boy and at one point I noticed him looking down really intently. There was a freaking caterpillar on his paw. I stopped Boomer, took out my phone and snapped a picture! Boomer just stood there and stared, Charley just layed there and looked at Boomer. I was so proud of my boys!

After I got home my package from http://www.valleyvet.com/ came inthe mail! They have really great deals on bulk items. I got a years worth of dewormers for $32 and a years worth of hoof supplement for $52. Had I bought these items one month at a time I would have spent three times as much for the dewormer and six times as much for hoof supplement!!! I also got a new helmet because my old one was about 10 years old, probably no longer ASTM certified as safe, and it had started growing mold spots on the padding. Plus it was solid and covered in black velvet. Not exactly good for riding outside in the sun! Here is my new Troxel Sierra helmet. I also ordered iodine ointment becuase liquid iodine is too hard to apply. Overall, very exciting purchases! Now, I am saving for a trailer. This trailer, actually. This trailer is a slant load for two horses. It has an escape door onthe left side and a small tack room on the right side. The slant load makes it easier for the horse to balance. It has wooden floors, which help keep it cooler in the summer. It has a lot of really great features for being such a basic trailer. So, I am hoping to be able to do that within 5-6 months. Any donations would be welcome! I have about $1800 right now and need to get about $2200 more... I guess I should stop entertaining the thought of quitting my job-with-bad-hours. OH!!! So, John is out of town this week and next week and will be home for less than 36 hours between. Would work give me Saturday off? NO! The following Saturday is our anniversary, a day off perhaps? NO! *sigh*
It seems so simple, love and money. Why am I having such a hard time deciding to stay with this job? Well, I love the job, it is great for my resume and gives me tons of hands on experience for my masters program. They need me here and are way understaffed. The money can facilitate my habit- horsing. John always says that he wants to buy me horsie things and support that habit, but I would rather him save his money and spend it on something for himself. He never does anything for himself! Plus, I have expenses- truck, horse, future trailer and other things I happen to want along the way. Now for the reasons I want to quit- I moved up here to be with John and I hardly see him, I work on nights and weekends- prime riding time. Mostly, that is it I guess. I want more time with John and Boomer, but I don't want to be an added financial burden. I bring in about $600 a month and I would hate to cost John $7000 a year in horse expenses. Nope, I really feel a responsibility to keep the job. But, I am so unhappy when I have to leave as soon as John gets home and come home to dinner and bed. I miss him. See why this is hard??? Any suggestions? The only idea I have had so far is to follow the lead with subbing for Bartlesville Public Schools.
I think that is quite enough of my yapping for now!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Monday musings...

Today was an all around interesting day. I hate to even write about it, but I think I need to get it out there. I like turtles. John must love me enough to put up with me stopping on the highway to save them as often as needed. Lately we have been taking them to Sallie's and letting them loose. Lots of trees, grass, and water. Today as I pulled up I noticed a little box turtle on the side of the gravel road. I thought to myself, "should I move him? no... he is safe out here!" About 30 seconds later a Fed Ex truck comes roaring down the drive from the house. I heard the sickening pop before I could even run back towards the gate. I could see that the shell was shattered and there was red between the cracks. I couldn't go any closer. I felt like I had let the little guy down. After I cleaned out Boomer's paddock I went to take the muck bucket to the compost pile and I noticed the worst thing, the turtle was totally smashed, his shell was cracked and I could see broken bones inside of it. But he was still alive. He was gaping his mouth open and moving his head. I felt sick. I picked him up with my shovel and moved him into the shade on a grassy spot. I said a little prayer for him and cursed myself for not moving him. How could I have known. What a cruel world.

Needless to say, I wasn't in the mood to work much. So I walked out to Boomer and started rubbing his neck. Then I started massaging him. At first he wasn't sure what I was doing, but I really got in and started working him pretty good. After a while he really relaxed into it. He would grab the gate with his teeth on a particularly knotty spot on his neck. back behind his elbows he would pin his ears but I soon realized it was discomfort, not anger. I worked on those spots until he began to relax. If I moved too far back he would step back and put my hands where he wanted them. Once I was rubbing with my left hand and my right hand was resting on his chest and he began bumping his head and lipping at my idle hand, I thought it was strange but began rubbing him there and he immediately relaxed. I scratched his belly and he crossed his right leg over his left and twisted his neck around and puckered his lips. It was charming! I couldn't believe how easily he could communicate with me through body language. It was really like he was talking to me! I tried pulling his legs forward to see if I could stretch his shoulders, at first he was worried and tried to pull back, but he soon relaxed into that as well and even helped by bowing down. Did I mention that he was loose this whole time. He stayed by me and only moved to situate my hand better on him. Once when I was getting deep in the front of his right shoulder he did a tight circle around me, never getting far enough away to lose contact. It was really incredible.

When I got home I saw that I had gotten 101 Schooling Exercies for Horse and Rider in the mail. I have wanted this book for a while and it looks really good so far. If nothing else, it will give me a few structured exercises to do when we ride on the weekends! Although, John is out of town again and my riding will probably be sparce for the next two weeks. Then the following two weeks is Arabian Horse Nationals in Tulsa and the two weeks after that John is out of town again. So, I bet I will be riding maybe once a week for the next six weeks and after that is holiday season and wintertime. Boo for working the worst schedule ever! Boo for wintertime and no indoor arena! Boo for John being out of town!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

No, I'm not dead... just busy!

School and work have been eating my time this week. Sorry for the lack of posting!
Bob must have been right...Last night John and I went to work with Boomer and he seemed a little off on his left side. There was no heat or sensitivity, but his left hoof wall seems to be flaring a little. I am not so sure of how good our farrier is yet. Anyway, I rasped his hoof wall down a little today and made the two sides level and he was totally fine. So, that was good! I just did a short longe today and then tacked him up and had John longe for a few minutes while I put on my helmet and chaps. I got on and we rode around the property some. We also rode up the highway for about a half mile! Boomer was amazing. There was trash along the way and he didn't spook at all. Not at shiny silver chip bags, not at plastic sacks, not a cardboard, not even when he stepped on a styrafoam cup! (note to Oklahoma Highway patrol- CLEAN UP OUR HIGHWAYS!!!) He was really great! John walked alongside of us.
We have a few issues we need to work on. First, Boomer shows signs of anxiety when standing still unless John is near him. We have been working on this by having his stand still for a second and as soon as he does, John comes and pets him, then walks away. As long as he stands still, he gets pets.
Next, we have been working on this security dependence while walking. If I give him a loose rein, Boomer will drift right next to John. Today on the highway I worked on this by setting him on a straight path, and giving him his head. As soon as he started drifting, I would straighten him out. I also had John vary his speed and walk farther away from us.
The most important issue we need to work on- and I am open to advice on this one, is connecting his mouth to his legs. He doesn't turn well. I generally turn a well trained horse by sitting my inside seat bone down, lengthening my inside leg, rolling my outside leg back behind the girth, holding my outside hand firm and squeezing with my inside hand. I do these things with Boomer in exception of the hands. For him I am adding my outside hand crossing his neck. This will help him be familiar and able to neck rein in the future as well as direct reining. His issue right now, is that he turns his head in response to my cues, but his neck is tight and his mouth gapes. He then continues to walk straight and wobbles and weaves before he decides to turn. He doesn't seem to be making the connection. It can take up to 10 strides before he will turn and it is usually haphazard. I don't know what to do other than continue working with him until he figures it out by doing lots of turns and serpentines, squares, and spirals.
His stops are pretty good, but need work. His trot is also improving and he no longer pins his ears.
Overall, huge improvements! I can't believe that three months ago I was working on teaching him to longe and bathe and cross tarps and now my main concerns are about improving responsivness to cues while riding!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Miles of trials and trials of miles

I am using John's computer so I will be able to post pictures finally! Yesterday after work I longed and rode Boomer and he did really well. He didn't pin his ears at the trot and was very calm about the whole deal. I walked and trotted while on the longe with John and after he unhooked us I just walked Boomer around the enclosed acre. He was great about it an only spooked once at a tire rut in the mud.

Today I longed him pretty hard. Just after we started, the owners of the property pulled up in a golf cart and started putting up an electric fence. Boomer spooked and turned to run away. It took me less than one circle around the longe before I had him stopped and going back the other way. After about 5 laps he was unconcerned about the whole situation! We worked on canter transitions and he did really well. He is really getting the idea! I was really proud of him, especially because we had an audience of 5!!! I got on him and had John longe us for a few minutes and it went really well. I stopped him and leaned down to unhook ourselves from the longeline. I wasn't sure how he would react, but he was totally fine! I was so proud! We walked and trotted a little more and Boomer spooked pretty badly once at the trot, scooting right and then left. I stayed centered and kept my seat. After that, he was fine. We took a little trail ride up to the house and he was good until the hounds started barking, he jumped a bit but was totally under my control! Walking back down the road I decided to walk towards the highway a bit to get him used to the noises and sights. John was with us this whole time and was busy taking pictures! When we got to the end of the drive Boomer stayed calm and didn't even flinch at the traffic! We proceeded to walk down the side of the highway and he stayed calm as could be even as I freaked about going through a spiderweb! I was so proud of him!

We untacked and walked to the hose to rinse off and he didn't even put up a fight at that either!

Overall, a totally great day! Of course, I had to be at work at 1pm and it was 12:40 when we left... All good things must come to an end, I guess!!!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Boomer's day off...

Also know as- Heather's day of work!

Last Friday I felt something funny happen in my lower back. Suddenly, there was a divot above my right hip area of my low back. I went and bought a truck about it. So, today, since buying a truck didn't help, I went to a specialist. A hip, not truck, specialist. He x-rayed me and told me I had beautiful hips, structurally, of course. The divot is at an insertion point for muscles and ligaments. I have a torn muscle. So, luckily, I don't need anything popped into place or anything crazy. Just moderate, low impact exercise. Like bicycling and swimming. I didn't ask about riding my barely green broke horse, but I assume that counts as low impact exercise as well!

As I drove in to town from Tulsa ( I used to never go to Tulsa, I buy a gas guzzling truck and now I go 3 times a week?!?!) Sallie called to remind me that I agreed to help her move hay in 30 minutes. I headed to the barn to wait for her and her hired muscles. Muscles showed up about an hour late and was actually the city boy son of a friend of Sallie. He was actually more in the way than a help. Sallie and I essentially loaded up about 6 truck loads (15 bales each) of hay and moved them across the property and unloaded them. It took about three hours and I was so tired and hungry after we were done. Not to mention frustrated with Muscles/City Boy and his tagalongs! So, I fed Boomer and gave him a nice scratch on the neck and called it a day.

Tomorrow, I plan on going out in the morning for a longe session and then again in the afternoon with John for a riding session. Also, I want to get out to an antique store in Dewey and barter for a table I saw there a few weeks ago. I think it will still be there. It was in the back room of three and had chairs stacked on it against a wall.

For now, I wait for John to get home! He had to go to Norman today for work. He was a Schlumberger representative for OU's career fair. Afterwards he met up with Scott and went for a short run. I am really glad he got to do that, but I can't wait for him to get home!!!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Horse Lady has to have a truck!

Up until now John and I have been hauling hay in our cars. One bale in my trunk, one in his, and one in his backseat- I guess he doesn't care about his car being itchy and smelling like sweet sweet timothy grass! Lately we have run into the problem of our feed store being out of hay. This is a real bummer because we need those three bales every week. Sometimes it is one bale at a time. The most frustrating time is when I can only pick up one bale of hay and they tell me that there are only three left. I want all three. I want my horse to have free choice hay all of the time, but sometimes, it gets a little scant for a day or two. There is another feed store in town, their hay is cheaper, but less dense and lower quality.

So, I got a truck! I have wanted a truck since ,well, since I first learned that you pull a trailer behind one! When I worked for Steve last year he had an F350 Dually Diesel for me to drive. I had to teach myself to drive a standard so that I could feed the horses. How's that for learning out of necessity?! That thing was a beast! No tail gate, of course... Which, after hauling 30 bales of hay across Norman made me think of the perfect bumper sticker! If my bed is loaded, so is my gun! BACK OFF! Surprisingly, people would be right behind me at stop lights. I mean, it doesn't take a genious to figure out that (hay stacked 4 bales high) + (no tailgate) = hay on your car!

Point being, I got a truck! 2006 Ford F150, 4x4, 5.4litre V8, towing package (class IV hitch and transmission cooler), 30,000 miles, bed liner, tinted windows. Blue with gray cloth interior. An interesting feature on the newer Fords is that the shocks are outside of the axels so that the turns are much smoother. This thing corners better than Rhonda the Honda! It accelerate like the wind and highway driving is a breeze! It is very comfortable and so quiet in the cab! On the drive home, John and I discovered that it has a bumpin' system as well!

One of the features I was looking for was a backseat for Charley. I wanted the half doors so that he could get in and out easily. A cool thing about this truck is that the back windows roll down! When we got home after 11pm last night we brought Charley outside to see his sweet new ride and he jumped right in and sniffed around. I don't think he quite realized that he gets to keep it! It is a little strange that my animals are the number one concern in my truck shopping. Safety for the horse and comfort for the dog. The fact that I am now an official Horse Lady is a mere bonus for me!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Checking up on old goals!

I was reading back through the blog and it really made me realize how much progress we have made. Also, I found a list of goals from about 5 weeks ago.
  1. fear of water (check)
  2. fear of tarp (check)
  3. pick up back feet (in progress)
  4. bridle easily (almost)
  5. ride (check)
  6. work on responsiveness to cues
  7. work or turns and going straight
  8. fear of trailer
Now, 5 weeks later, we have accomplished all of those things except for the trailer. That really puts things into perspective.

Wednesday was rainy and I was at work all day so John came out and fed and groomed Boomer. I can't believe how quickly John has picked all of this up! He started riding in May and he can now go out on his own and groom, longe, and feed! Not to mention what a help he is with mending fences and killing spiders! I really wish we had a big old QH for him to ride. Something dead broke would be good, but I have a feeling we would need to trade it in pretty quickly! I know, I know... never buy a horse for someone to 'grow in to'.

Thursday I skipped class because I wasn't feeling well and was a little overwhelmed with school readings, work meetings, and the rain interrupting my training schedule! I can not believe how much it rains in northern Oklahoma! Seriously, we have 4 days of rain, two weeks for it to dry up and then it rains again! WITHOUT FAIL!!! Don't get me wrong, I love the rain. I just hate the mud! I wouldn't even mind Boomer being muddy if we had somewhere dry to ride. John and I went out together and took a few bales of hay. Boomer goes through about three bales a week lately and our usual feed store hasn't been able to bring any in because of the rain. So we went to a new place. The hay was $1.50 cheaper but was significantly lighter also. I guess it all balances out in the end. I dewormed Boomer also. The first time we did it, he was fine. This time he was a pill! I was by myself at the moment and being stubborn as I am, I wouldn't give up until it was done. I tired getting him to lower his head, rubbing the tube by his mouth, calming him down. Oh, did I mention we are in a metal shed and it is pouring rain? Anyway, want to know what worked? Grabbing an ear and shoving it in. Like a charm.

Today, there is no rain yet. I need to get a double ended snap to fix the gate. Again. I will try to longe him if it isn't too slick. Maybe if the sun comes out I will try to ride him after John gets off work.

Oh, I am in the process of trading in my Honda Civic for a truck. I want an F150 4x4, 5.4 V8, towing package, extended cab, less than 50,000 miles. For under $15,000. I have found a few but they aren't local. Maybe I will get something done on that soon. Maybe not. I hope so, it would be nice to be able to haul a useful amount of hay. Using two cars to get three bales of hay is stupid.

More pictures later, not surprisingly- the computer isn't working with the printer OR camera again!!!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Perfect day!!!

The weather today was perfect. Low 70's, sunny, a slight breeze. Just cool enough to wear a long sleeved shirt; a sweatshirt would have been too much. Perfect. I groomed Boomer, nipped off part of his frog which was peeling. The hoof structure is ever changing and growing. The frog is a triangular area of spongy tissue which extends from the heel bulbs to about half way along the bottom of the hoof. It is a shock absorbing cushion. It sloughs off a few times a year if it is not being naturally worn down by rocky surfaces or dry conditions. It peels off over the course of a week and it is not painful to trim off the excess. I also applied a copper based liquid which helps to dry out any bacterial growth from around the depths of the frog between the frog and bars. The farrier is coming on Saturday so I would like Boomer's feet to be in the best condition possible so that he can trim to best suit Boomer.

I longed Boomer out in the open area with the other horses out and wandering around. Partially, I was too lazy to round them up and partially I wanted to work Boomer with distractions. He was perfect. I don't know what else to say about it! At one point when he was trotting Grunt walked up in front of him and he just slowed to a walk and looked at me as if he were suggesting that maybe turning around would be a good idea. I decided to ask him to walk on and he passed Grunt. I flicked the whip at Grunt and Penelope and Boomer went on like nothing happened! I even asked him to canter in both directions. This was the first time we have cantered in an open space since I have been working on his transitions in the round pen. He was perfect. He knew what I was asking for and he responded. At first his circles were a bit lopsided and egg shaped. He was having to make a sharp turn at one end to make it around and was dropping to the trot. After a few laps of keeping on him by pulling the longe line to my hip and holding it tight while snaking the whip after him and kissing encouragement he started to even out the circles on his own and was staying balanced and in the canter without encouragement! At one point, he dropped to the trot and was already cantering again by the time I was halfway through the word canter. Which, ironically, means I was saying 'cant' while he was showing me that- in fact- he could! Like I said, it was a perfect day.

It gets better. When we were finishing up I asked him to halt and he stood statue still for a full minute! This is somethign I want to work on as it will help with mounting, dismounting, and having good manners while I ride. After I unclipped him I let him graze for a few minutes while I wrapped up the longe line and he just grazed, never taking a step away from me even though he was 'free'.

And better. I walked him towards the paddock to drop off our stuff and I decided we should practice walking over to the tree where the farrier worked with him last time. Well, we were walking and all of a sudden we were at the faucet. He hadn't balked. So, we stepped closer. I rinsed the light sweat from his chest and arm pits and we wandered around a bit, grazing and reveling in the days good fortune!

As we were walking towards the paddock he balked and I decided to try something new since I was alone, without a belly rope or any other device. I pulled the lead rope taught behind my hip for leverage and used my free hand to start hacking away karate style on the rope. It vibrated his nose and he looked a little annoyed, but generally relaxed. Then he stepped forward, I released, he sighed with relief, and walked on. My eyes just about popped out of my head. He didn't set back to pull, he didn't toss his head, and he wasn't stubborn! I didn't have to use force. I just annoyed him enough that he would rather have followed than have his face jiggled!

I tied him to the Blocker ring and went to put away my grooming tools and get his food. I am still wary of leaving him tied while I am out of sight. He hasn't tested the tie ring yet and I would hate for him to freak out while I am in the shed and on the other side of the gate! We are taking baby steps on this one, which may be more for my peace of mind than anything else! So, I was gone for about 2 minutes to put stuff away and get his food. He was in the same spot when I came back. I put his food in the bucket and walked him to it slowly. He kept his ears forward and his head down. I let him go and he calmly walked over to eat.

A perfect day.

Monday, September 8, 2008

No more pinned ears!

Well, at least he wasn't in pain! Even though it has been rainy, I was really craving a ride. Having a job and school really makes me want to get out there and relax! Not that ole Sabumi would ever let me relax...
We started by tacking up and bridling has taken a step back, we ended up with the bridle over the leather halter. I really just don't like the way it looks to have a halter and bridle on at the same time. There is nothing wrong with it, but I just am not a fan. Anyhow, we longed for a few minutes at the walk and trot to warm up and then I got on and had John longe us. John asked him to trot and he picked it up immediately and had his ears forward. It wasn't until I asked him to trot that he pinned his ears. So, having decided that it wasn't a pain issue, I just kept my leg on him so that he couldn't slow down. As soon as he would flick his ears forward I would ask him to walk as a reward for the positive attitude. After we had John unhook us from the line he was pretty good, no acting up or head tossing. So, after a few laps of trot and good behavior we took a field trip! We left the paddock/arena area and had to walk through a big and muddy puddle while crossing the gate! Boomer was totally fine about it! He doesn't stand still very well unless Johon is by his head. We need to work on that! After John secured that gate we went towards the other gate which leads to the gravel road. Boomer spooked and trotted forward and I asked him to walk and he stopped short and snorted at a puddle about 15 feet in front of us. So, I had John stand still and we circled him at a walk until Boomer relaxed. We then went up the gravel road and walked a circle in the grassy field. He was pretty excited, but not out of control. He balked and didn't want to leave though, the grass was too delicious looking! We walked back and I jumped off and untacked him! I even left him tied to his Blocker tie ring while I put his tack away and got his food! He didn't act at all upset about being tied!
You know, I have been waiting to leave a review on the Blocker web site until something happend and I could tell them how great/terrible their product was. But, nothing has happened. Boomer can move around while tied and he comes in contact with the end of the rope all of the time, but he has never pulled back! I don't know how to explain it except that he doesn't feel as confined because there is a lot more movement with the ring and eye bolt.
All in all, it was a really great day! Something about riding him down that gravel road really made me feel like I was riding him. I can ride my very own horse which I have broken and trained myself. Of course, he only walks and can sort of trot, but who said baby steps don't feel good?!! Heck, it has only been two months!

Water and Electrolyte balance

Water and Electrolyte Balance in the Exercising Horse
The following paper was presented to the Horse Industry Breeders Conference: Sponsered by the Horse Section of Alberta Agriculture.
Last Revised/Reviewed May 8, 1996

Laurie Lawrence, Ph.D. Department of Animal Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY

Exercise generates a great deal of heat that must either be dissipated from the body or stored. The dissipation of heat is very important, because if a large amount of heat is stored, body temperature will rise to dangerous levels. In the horse, the processes that contribute to the dissipation of heat during exercise include radiation, convection, conduction and evaporation. Of these, evaporation may be the most important; particularly when horses are exercised in warm conditions. To facilitate evaporative cooling, horses sweat. Sweating is certainly desirable as a means to maintain body temperature, but high sweating rates result in high rates of water and electrolyte loss. The following discussion will address the effects of water and electrolyte losses on exercising horses as well as some strategies for helping horses maintain fluid and electrolyte balance during competition.

Fluid Losses

In a practical setting, it is difficult to accurately measure the total amount of sweat that a horse loses during an exercise bout. However an estimate of sweat losses can be obtained by weighing horses before exercise and after exercise.

We have recently been involved in weighing horses before and after workouts, races or other events to estimate sweat losses. At this time we have not weighed enough horses in different environmental conditions to have solid estimates of sweat losses in all situations but some examples of weight losses that we have observed in field conditions are shown below.

Range of weight losses when horses were weighed before and after various events**

Type of Horse

Range of Weight Loss
Standardbred Harness Horses
(before and after a 1 mile race)
12 to 33
Field Hunters
(before and after 3 hours of fox hunting)
24 to 100
Thoroughbred Horses in Race Training
(before and after galloping or breezing)
10 to 16
Endurance horses
(from the night before a race to the end of 54 miles)
22 to 88

** These values may not apply to all horses performing these types of events

Almost without exception, the owners, trainers or riders/drivers of the horses are amazed at the weight differences of their horses before and after work. Although there are often fecal losses during exercise, weight loss during most types of exercise is generally thought to be about 90% water, so clearly water losses during some activities are quite large.

Where does the water in sweat come from? The horse's body is about 65% water. Most of the water is contained in cells (intracellular water) but some is outside of individual cells (extracellular water). Blood plasma, which constitutes a large portion of the horse's blood volume, is an important component of the extracellular water pool. When horses (or humans) sweat, some of the water in sweat is obtained from the plasma volume. Consequently, if sweat losses are large, the plasma volume may decrease. A reduction in plasma volume (and thus total blood volume) may affect the ability of the horse to maintain adequate blood flow to muscles during work. Progressive dehydration may also result in a reduction in sweating rate and thus an increase in body temperature.

Electrolyte Losses

Horse sweat contains many things besides water. Horse sweat contains calcium, magnesium, some trace minerals and protein. However, most notably, equine sweat is relatively high in sodium, chloride and potassium. When horses lose large volumes of sweat, they lose considerable quantities of these electrolytes. Although we have not measured the amount of electrolytes actually lost during various events, it is possible to roughly estimate electrolyte losses if the approximate sodium, potassium and chloride content of sweat is known. Many researchers have measured the amount of the various electrolytes in sweat. Chloride is present in the highest concentration, but sodium and potassium concentrations are also reasonably high. The following table provides estimates of the sodium, chloride, and potassium losses that might be experienced by horses in various activities, given the weight losses listed earlier.

Range of Estimated Electrolyte Losses of Horses Performing Different Activities**

Type of Horse

(during a race)
16-46 6-17 31-88
Field Hunters
(3 h foxhunt)
33-148 12-51 63-284
(during a work)
16~23 6-8 31-44
Endurance Horse
(54 mile ride)
33-132 12-48 63-252

** These values are estimated from weight loss during exercise and approximate composition of equine sweat. Many factors could cause the actual values for a particular horse to be higher or lower.

It is apparent that heavily sweating horses experience large electrolyte losses as well as large fluid losses. Electrolytes have many functions including maintenance of acid-base balance in the body fluids and nerve and muscle function. Large losses of electrolytes can result in several neuromuscular and systemic disturbances including muscle cramping, tieing up, synchronous diaphragmatic flutter (thumps) and systemic alkalosis. Horses with large electrolyte losses may also have reduced sweating rates and therefore a reduced ability to manage body temperature. Electrolyte concentrations in the blood may play a role in the horse's thirst response or desire to drink. Ironically, when horses sweat a lot and lose a considerable amount of sodium, their thirst response may be depressed and the horse will not drink adequate fluids to maintain a desirable state of hydration.

Maintaining Fluid Balance During Work

When humans work for long periods in hot environments, frequent fluid ingestion is recommended as a means of preventing dehydration. For example, an intake of 200 to 300 ml every 2 to 3 km has been suggested for humans running in the heat. A similar suggestion might be applied to horses except for the all too common "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink" scenario. Some horses will willingly drink during endurance rides or other long term activities; but many horses do not exhibit a strong thirst response. There are a number of reasons that horses may not drink during an event, such as excitement or fatigue, or because the water is not palatable to the horse. A poor thirst response may also be attributed to the loss of sodium that accompanies water loss in sweating horses. In humans, the sodium content of sweat is quite low, so sweating results in a proportionally greater water loss than sodium loss. The loss of water without a proportional loss in sodium results in an increased concentration of sodium the plasma. Importantly, the increased concentration of sodium in plasma may be a signal for the thirst response in humans. In horses, sweat is quite high in electrolytes and as a result sodium is lost in a proportional amount to water. Therefore, in the heavily sweating horse, plasma sodium concentrations may not increase and the "signal" for drinking is not produced.

To increase the likelihood that a horse will drink during an event, the horse should be allowed to drink during training bouts. Adapting the horse to flavored water for several days before an event and then flavoring the water available at an event may encourage the horse to drink water that is otherwise unpalatable. Allowing the horse access to forage may also increase water consumption. Some horses may drink more if a bucket is held for them; other horses may be stimulated to drink if they see another horse drinking.

We have been researching another way to assist horses in maintaining fluid balance during exercise. In particular, we have been interested in how the pre-event feeding practices can affect the ability of horses to deal with fluid and electrolyte losses during exercise. We hypothesized that diets that maximize water intake and retention would be best for horses that are going to compete in events where fluid and electrolyte losses may impair performance. Nutritionists have long observed that water intake is correlated with dry feed intake; that is, the more dry feed a horse eats, the more water it consumes. The table below shows the water intake of horses (from one meal to the next) eating two different diets -that contained about the same number of calories, but different amounts of total feed.

Effect of amount of feed intake on water intake in horses

Total kg feed
(evening meal)
Water intake (L)
diet C
(2.1 kg hay + 2.5 kg grain)
4.6 11.0
diet R
(6.1 kg hay + 1 kg grain)
7.1 16.4

From; Danielsen et al, 1995

Meeting Electrolyte Needs

Electrolyte availability can become a problem when the rate of loss exceeds the rate of replacement. If a horse is not involved in regular strenuous exercise and has access to good hay or pasture and a salt block, it will probably receive adequate amounts of the major electrolytes: sodium, chloride and potassium. When horses engage in regular exercise, it is generally believed that they will increase their salt intake to compensate for their increased losses. However, during an endurance ride or when a horse is worked very hard several days in a row, intake of electrolytes from a salt block and the regular diet may not be able to match the losses in sweat. Thus, in these situations, a horse may benefit from electrolyte supplementation.

When considering the use of an electrolyte supplement, it should be remembered that horses do not "store" sodium, potassium or chloride from one day to the next. Therefore, a high level of daily electrolyte supplementation is necessary only when horses sustain high sweat losses every day. For horses that are not sweating very heavily every day, adding high levels of electrolytes daily will probably only increase water intake, urine losses and the owner's sweat losses when cleaning the stall!

While high rates of electrolyte supplementation are probably not necessary on a daily basis, relatively high levels of electrolyte administration may be appropriate during an event. It may be advisable to provide the electrolytes as a paste or in feed, rather than in the water to eliminate any possible negative effects on water intake. Electrolyte administration will be most effective if the horse is actively drinking, and should be given only under the supervision of a veterinarian if the horse is already very dehydrated or experiencing metabolic problems. While administration of electrolytes without water can create problems, administration of water without electrolytes may also be detrimental to dehydrated horses. The veterinarian will be most qualified to determine what combination of fluid and electrolyte is most beneficial for a very dehydrated or exhausted horse.

Many electrolyte products are commercially available and recipes for home made mixes can be found in textbooks or magazine articles. The most appropriate way to chose a product is to compare the electrolyte content of the supplement to the electrolyte content of sweat. If economy is a concern, the supplement should be evaluated on the basis of $/units of actual electrolytes, not $/unit of supplement, since some supplements may contain "filler" ingredients. Some "electrolyte" supplements actually contain very low levels of electrolytes, or are designed. for horses that have electrolyte disturbances from disease, rather than exercise.

There are lots of opinions about appropriate administration schedules and dose rates. As noted above, electrolytes should not be given to a horse that is already dehydrated, except under the supervision of a veterinarian. However, small amounts of electrolytes can be safely given to most horses before they reach a critical depletion point. The ideal situation would be to make enough electrolytes available to simultaneously match losses, but this would be hard to do in real events. Reasonable strategies for horses that are competing in situations that will result in large sweat losses include the following:

Give small doses of electrolytes at rest periods, before ,the horse gets dehydrated. A reasonable dose might contain around 3-7 g sodium, 6-15 g chloride, 1-3 g potassium, .4-.8 g calcium and .1-.3 g magnesium. Another way that riders judge the appropriate dose amount is to estimate losses and then administer an amount of electrolyte supplement during the event that replaces 1/3 to 1/2 of the total losses.

Make sure water is available and encourage the horse to drink. If possible, keep track of about how much water the horse is consuming.

Like water, electrolytes can be retained in and then absorbed from the large intestine, so adding some electrolytes to the diet just prior to the event may be helpful.

Once the event is over, monitor the horse carefully. Although it is not always convenient, it may be best to wait several hours after finishing a long ride or event before transporting the horse home. Transportation can be a dehydrating experience on its own, and transporting an already dehydrated horse may increase the potential for more serious problems such as colic.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Pinning ears

I hope to post a video of this behavior soon. Yesterday I decided to ride Boomer a little without longing him first. He has taken to pinning his ears when I tighten his girth, so I go slowly and tighten and loosen it until he stands quietly. He also pins his ears when I mount. I generally have John hold the off side stirrup to keep the saddle centered and not pulling on his withers. Once I didn't have him held the stirrup and it caused him to pin his ears. Now, even with John's help, he pins his ears when I mount. Yesterday he was doing very well when we started. We walked around both ways but when I asked for a trot he pinned his ears. He continued this behavior no matter how I asked him- just voice, body posture, legs or a combination. I tried circling around John like we were longing and John asked him to trot, he did trot at first but then pinned his ears and would stop suddenly, tossing and snaking his head towards me to the left. Concerned that he was in pain, I took things down to a walk and we just cruised around. He was happy, comfortable, willing, and enjoyed himself. We walked all around the paddock and then went throught the gate (great!) and walked around the rest of the acre! He walked briskly, had pricked ears, and breathed heavily- not in the scared snorty way, but in that fun loving way. He was great over all. I got off and left him tacked up and longed him at a walk and trot to see if he was having pain. He tossed his head the first time I asked for the trot, but got over it quickly and was perfect! After I untacked him I palpated him back and spine, withers, neck, and rump. He showed no signs of pain or sensitivity. I tried my saddle on him before without a pad and it looks like it fits him perfectly. I do not think he is in pain. I think it may be a few things. He may have been upset because I threw off his routine by not longing first, he may be cold backed and need to be longed first, or he was testing me. Of course, it poured all last night and today so riding probably isn't a great idea today since we are trying to figure out a problem. Maybe tomorrow I will try longing him to get him warmed up first and then try trotting again.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Labor Day was awesome! After having John gone for a week I got to have him for a three day weekend! Take that Schlumberger! So, of course we went out to the barn to ride and clean. The camera died about 2 minutes into my ride, of course. So there is still no proof that my equitation isn't crappy! Overall Boomer was very good! He did test a little with trotting. He broke into the walk and wouldn't trot and was pinning his ears so I had John snap the longe whip. That worked! He started trotting around so fast I had to post to keep up! I used to be able to sit the trot on NSH saddle seat horses in patterns and whatnot. More recently it seems that I enjoy posting for that springy high legged stuff! Boomer was really good though. I really started to notice a difference with his steering. He seems to go where I point him most of the time! The only exception is corners. I now understand how dressage riders can talk for DAYS about corners. Boomer either takes to so deep that he has to dive out of it to avoid the fence or he takes it so shallow we end up 15 feet off of the next rail. I think that the next time we ride we will go for a walk up the gravel road and see how that goes.

Tuesday was a different day... I was filling up the water trough and I saw Grunt lunge at Boomer over his gate. I shouted at him and he backed off a little. Next thing I know, Grunt lunged again and I heard the soun dof hooves on metal and a squeal... And the gate flew open. Luckily Boomer went trotting away from all of this but I still had a broken gate to deal with. I ended up rigging it wil baling wire until John could come out and fix it. Which he did while I was at work. He put some stuff from AutoZone on the bolt and screwed it back into the shed. It was some sort of thermoset bonding agent. I'm just crossing my fingers I don't go out there and find the gate open. Boomer isn't exactly easy on fences.

Boomer's set up is a little hard to describe. He is in an area a little bigger than an acre. It is divided in half. The top half is barbed wire and has the round pen and a tree. It also holds the tack sheds. The bottom half of the acre is divided into four paddocks. Boomer is in one of the paddocks. Grunt and Penelope are in the top half plus a paddock. I would love for Boomer to have more space for grazing and playing but the top half is barbed wire and his paddock is pole and horse panel. So, I just can't let myself put him in that situation. If the barn ever finishes the fence and replaces the barbed wire, I would absolutly turn him out with his friends!
The barbed wire is why I am concerned about his escape. If his gate came open and I wasn't there he wouldn't be in danger of any roads or being loose. He would just be in another area that is secured with barbed wire. About a month ago Penelope got a leg in the wire and was bleeding pretty badly. Her owner could'nt get her to stand for treatment and put on as much Furazone as she could, but it did heal up on its on. Now there is a scar, but she has never shown signs of lameness.