Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Wild Winter Weather – Cause for Colic?

Yep, it's winter in Texas!  It can be 70º today, then drop 40º tomorrow!  How do horses handle this shock?

Typically, healthy horses can adjust rather quickly.  And, most of the time, it's not the temperatures that effect them…it’s the barometric pressure changes.  In humans, these changes can cause headaches, dizziness, and arthritis flare ups.  In horses, they can cause colic.

We can't control Mother Nature and her winter wonders, but we can stay one step ahead of her.  Keeping a close eye on the10 to 15 day forecast, as well as monitoring the current temperature and barometric pressure readings, are important to avoiding weather-related incidents of colic. 

When you see changes coming, here are a few things you can do to help your equine buddies…

  • Add electrolytes and probiotics to their feed several days ahead of the storm
  • Set them free!  If horses are able to move about, they can stay warmer, lay down and roll to help their own GI tract adjust
  • Don't worm, vaccinate, travel, change their diet, or exercise them heavily
  • Don't dramatically change their housing; if they are accustomed to being stalled or in a pasture, just leave them be
  • Watch closely for signs of colic in the first 24 hours after barometric pressure changes; while there are no confirmed study cases of barometric pressure changes and colic, most veterinary clinics will report an increase in colic calls
At Cold River, we believe that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  That includes doing everything possible to help our equine companions withstand the roller-coaster conditions of our Texas winters.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Winter Wear for Your Horse - Not a Blanket Statement

Old Man Winter has started to show his frosty face again, even way down here in North Texas.  It’s time once again to locate your horse’s sheets, blankets and coolers.  But, before you bundle up ol’ Buddy there, let’s talk a little about when and why you should be using a winter blanket at all.

It’s important to remember that horses are cold weather beasts by nature.  They thrive in cooler temperatures, and I’m sure you’ve seen this when your horse is friskier as soon as the weather turns cooler.  Their internal thermometers also run hotter than humans so, when we’re grabbing a sweater or jacket, your horse is just happy the AC has finally been turned on!

Your horse’s coat is built for maximum insulation.  Hair follicles erect the hair, allowing more insulating air pockets to form between the skin and the end of the hairs.  The skin also produces a layer of insulating dander – that white flaky dust you will see near the skin – so don’t wash it away!  As the temperature warms, the hair coat lays down flat again and releases the trapped heat.  It’s truly an amazing process!

But blankets actually compress the hair, forcing it to lay flat and preventing it from creating those insulating pockets of air.  And, if you blanket over early or over extended periods of time, your horse will grow less of a hair coat to begin with.  So, blanketing may actually be doing your horse more harm than good.

Horses who live in Texas can easily withstand temperatures down to 10ºF without blanketing, provided they are in good condition, get plenty of the right nutrition and can get out of the wind and rain.  Rain and sleet are particularly dangerous, as the water will flatten and saturate your horse’s coat, reducing its ability to provide insulation and warmth for your horse.  But a cold wind can also penetrate your horse’s coat with the same results.

Keep in mind that, when you work your horse hard enough in cold temperatures, his sweat penetrates his coat from underneath, with the same consequences as rain.  Drape his body in a cooler made of wool or other quick-wicking fabric to draw away the moisture and trap warmth underneath at the same time.  Always walk out your horse until his respiration drops, he stops sweating, and his chest no longer feels hot to the touch.

Here at Cold River, we blanket senior horses more than others, thin horses who need to gain weight, hard keepers and the ones who, despite the dark days and cold temps, just don't grow much of a coat at all.  It’s all part of our “whole horse” approach to taking care of our equine companions!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

When Things Get Hairy: Your Horse’s Winter Coat

Is your horse starting to grow that longer, thicker winter coat?  Are your thoughts turning to blankets, clippers and other means of coat control?

Before you invest any time and money, consider first what causes your horse to do this each Fall.  It might surprise you to know the regulation of hair growth starts with photoreceptors in the eyes plus heat and cold sensors in the skin. Combine these sensors with a decrease in the number of daylight hours and the cooler ambient temperatures, and boom!  You've got hair!

So, if you really want to stop your horse from growing a winter coat, you will need to put him under “full spectrum” lighting, which most closely mimics light from the sun.  And, if you do that, you will also need to keep him warm inside, either with a heater or a blanket.

Blanketing by itself won’t stop hair growth, but it may affect the thickness.  Body clipping will only remove the hair that is already there, and then you will have to keep him blanketed to make up for the missing winter fur.

And, regardless of how you minimize or eliminate winter hair growth, you are increasing the risk that your horse will get sick.  Your horse’s coat was designed to keep him warm in the coldest of conditions.

Here at Cold River, we believe horses are healthier and happier when they can romp outside in the furry winter coats Mother Nature gave them.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Choke – Cause, Treatment & Prevention

It's rare but it happens.  Unlike choke in humans, which blocks the trachea, your horse can still breathe, because the blockage is in his esophagus.  If he is unable to swallow, you may see or feel a bulge in the neck, and he may show signs of distress. 

When it does happen, it’s important to keep your horse calm and, if you are comfortable giving IV shots, administer a sedative.  The sedative will reduce the involuntary spasms of the esophageal muscles.  Often times this, along with an increase in salivation, allows the blockage to pass without further treatment.

If that doesn’t work, get to your veterinarian as soon as possible to avoid complications like a rupture in the esophagus or aspiration pneumonia.  Your vet can use a stomach tube to slowly empty the contents of the esophagus (see photo below) and administer antibiotics and pain relievers if needed.

Here are some good tips for preventing a choking incident…
  • avoid pellet feeds
  • soften alfalfa cubes by soaking in water before feeding
  • feed hard treats, including carrots & apples, in bite-sized pieces
  • good equine dental care
  • lots of fresh clean drinking water 24/7
If you have a dainty, slow eater, these tips will probably be enough.  But if you have a horse that “bolts” his food down, you may want to slow him down.  Several large rocks added to his feed bucket is an old but effective trick.  There are also compartment feeders like the one shown below.

If your horses are like mine, feeding time is their favorite time of day.  Keep it safe for them as well with a little prevention.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth – Equine Dental Care is a Must!

Is your horse evading the bit?  Tossing his head?  Refusing to flex or turn?  Believe it or not, the teeth can have a lot to do with this!  
Annual tooth care is the general rule, but age, conformation and health can dictate more frequent exams.  Youngsters are shedding baby teeth and it's important to check on proper exfoliation.  The mouths of middle-aged horses have stabilized, but it’s important to prevent wave mouth or ramping with at least annual floating. Seniors can fracture molars, form pockets that trap food or develop uneven wear, all of which can become critical, so it’s important to stay ahead of these issues with annual or more frequent exams.  
When your Veterinarian or Equine Dentist comes to provide tooth care, be sure they use a speculum with a bright light and examine all the way back....not just pull a cheek off to the side for a quick peek.  The majority of problems happen in the back 1/3rd of the mouth, including ulcers, wave, ramps, hooks, and lacerations of the tongue and cheeks. 

And, when treatment is required, less is better when it comes to removing tooth structure.  Your horse needs to be able properly chew his food to stay healthy and happy well into his 20s.
At Cold River , we take a whole horse approach to horse care, and that includes effective dental treatments.  And you can take that “straight from the horse’s mouth!”

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Bring Back Basic Boarding

I have a friend who is an experienced rider with a finished horse, and she simply cannot find a suitable place to board her horse.  Her “wish list” isn’t that long or difficult…24/7 pasture turnout with a stall for bad weather, an arena with good footing, and a knowledgeable staff that can take care of her horse if he gets sick or injured.  It’s basic horse boarding, and it’s not as easy to find as you might think!

Finding a barn with 24/7 turnout isn’t easy, and turnout on pasture narrows the field (no pun intended!) even further.  But, often times when you do find it, you also find requirements to take riding lessons or to have your horse in training.  Not only is it expensive, it may be totally unnecessary and even seems a little presumptuous of your barn to decide what lessons and training you and your horse need!

We believe horses should be allowed to be horses, with 24/7 turnout and stalls only when bad weather threatens.  We will do everything we can to ensure your horse is happy and healthy.  And, we do offer lessons, training and exercise, but we’ll leave it up to you to decide what you want and when.  Basic boarding is alive and well here at Cold River!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Rider Error

I was talking to a friend recently and she pointed out how professional riders/trainers....even Olympians.... almost always take responsibility for problems they have during a show.  A horse refuses a jump, doesn't pick up a lead change or dodges a cow and the rider will say it was their fault for not setting them up properly.  For those who don’t ride horses, it seems strange to hear a competitor refrain from blaming the horse.

And, it really should be that way, regardless of whether we’re talking about high level competitors with their horse athletes, or the weekend trail rider.  I wish I could say that’s the case.  Too often, I hear a rider complain that their horse didn’t negotiate an obstacle willingly, didn't stop on their hindquarters or behaved badly. 

If we all took the approach with our horses the Olympic competitors do, how much more might we achieve?  Willingness is the result of your horse’s physical ability and confidence to perform the task you’re asking.  Getting the correct lead also requires physical ability and accuracy in your cues for it.  It’s rare that a horse’s behavior is psychologically-influenced bad behavior, and much more often fear or pain, or a combination of both.

Our approach here at Cold River is to ensure the horse is healthy and happy, recognizing that horses get sore, fatigued and even bored with their repetitive jobs.  Cross-training in the AquaTred underwater treadmill or EquiCizer tie-free hot walker freshen your horse’s mind while working a wide range of muscle groups and warding off fatigue and pain from carrying a rider.

So, the next time your horse performs less than perfectly, consider your role in both his care and training.  And, if you need help giving your horse the knowledge or physical ability to do better, keep us in mind.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Olympic Thoughts – Human vs Equine Athletes

We all watched in awe as so many amazing athletes competed for gold with the best of the best, from all over the world.  It takes more than just determination to be a top performer in a competitive sport.  It takes practice, fitness, nutrition and training, and this holds true for equine as well as human athletes.

For an equine athlete, the responsibility for all of these key ingredients falls on the owner.  The sports our horses compete in, from competitive trail to racing and jumping, all require that we make sure they are properly prepared.  Doing so not only gives them the best opportunity for success, both short- and long-term, it also reduces the chance they will be injured or in pain. 

Sometimes our best intentions aren’t enough, and life gets in the way of providing consistent exercise and fitness training for your horse.  That’s where Cold River can help!

Keep your horse fit with high-resistance, low-impact whole-body workouts in the AquaTred to build and strengthen muscles.  Riderless sessions in the EquiCizer also build fitness without human interference, allowing your horse to work his topline without the added weight, and in a much safer environment than traditional hot walkers. 

Trailer in and out the same day, or leave your horse with us for multiple daily sessions.  We will help you build a fitness program that works for you and your horse at Cold River Equine!

Stormy Dilemma - To Stall or Not to Stall?

Horses love being outside, so those of us who have that option are happy to let them enjoy the pasture or paddock as much as possible.  But, when the weather turns nasty, we’re faced with the choice of leaving them out to weather the storm, or bring them into the barn.

The biggest objection I hear to the “bring them in” option is, “but they’ll surely be killed or seriously hurt if a tornado blows down the barn.”  That’s true, but they can also be impaled by flying debris if that tornado hits when they’re outside. 

If there isn’t a tornado bearing down directly on your barn, here are some other reasons to consider bringing your horse inside…

  • rain can make for slick footing, and a slip can damage tendons & ligaments
  • lightning strikes aren’t that uncommon, and they will kill a horse
  • hail is very painful anywhere it hits a horse, and it can cause serious eye injuries
  • in a violent storm, horses can panic and run into or through fencing, resulting in serious and even life-threatening injuries
  • repeated drenching over several days is an opportunity for the “rain rot” fungus to infect your horse, causing hair loss and discomfort
At Cold River, we have permanent boarders as well as temporary equine residents for training and rehabilitation, and for owners traveling on vacation or business. We use a “bring them in” policy if we think any of these conditions might threaten their well-being.  Just one more reason you can trust Cold River with your horse!