Hot Weather Riding Tips

Hot weather riding requires some planning to prevent dehydration andheat related illness.

The most important preparations begin well before you tack up.

• Your horse needs to be acclimated to the heat. Horses living where it is warm most of the year can tolerate heat better than horses who live in regions with seasonal extremes.

• Your horse needs to be physically fit. The heart, blood vessels and lungs of a fit horse are better equipped to handle larger heat loads. Is your horse overweight? Find out here.

If your horse has been idle all winter, she’ll need a little spring tune-up before she hits the trail.

A general health checkup followed by a conditioning regimen will help her handle the added stress of hot weather riding. Consider a veterinary appointment to check her hooves, joints, tendons and ligaments.

The first few weeks of spring conditioning should be fairly light, gradually increasing over time. Start slowly and gently, with a gradual increase in the speed (intensity) and duration (distance) of exercise.

Take a few practice rides of a short duration. Watch her hear and respiratory rates and encourage her to drink out of unfamiliar streams and water sources.

If you’re confident that your horse is ready for hot weather riding, follow these guidelines:

Learn the signs, symptoms and treatment for dehydration and heat-related illness. Know your horse’s baseline heart rate and respiratory rates.

Water your horse thoroughly before starting out. Encourage your horse to drink more water with these tips.
Stop at hilltops. Your horse will exert the most when climbing hills. Let her rest at the top, under shade if possible. At longer rest stops, remove your saddle and pad to increase the amount of exposed surface area.

Take water breaks. After riding for more than an hour, encourage your horse to drink. Offer water that’s not much cooler than the air. If available, add a prepackaged horse electrolyte supplements to your packed water to make a “sports drink” for your horse.

Cool her down by soaking a small towel or sponge in water and placing it over her poll. Then sponge her neck and lower legs.

Encourage your horse to drink along the trail.
Know your horseback riding route. Do not set out on an unfamiliar route in very hot weather.
Choose a shady route if possible. Consider an early morning ride when the temperatures are cooler.

Horse Vices: Your Horse’s Bad Habits!

Horse vices develop when your horse is bored or stressed. Horses naturally graze for 12 to 16 hours a day. Often, domestic horses don’t have the opportunity to graze, walk and play as often as necessary to relieve boredom and burn off excess energy. They can develop negative habits to compensate.

Horse cribbing occurs when the horse bites onto a fixed surface (a stall door edge, grain bucket, fence rail), arches his neck and sucks in air, making a grunting noise. Endorphins are released and your horse feels better. If this sounds uncomfortably like certain bad habits that you have, it’s because it is. Stress and boredom are the culprits here. Cribbing becomes addictive; even when removed from the unpleasant situation the horse may still crib. Cribbing can lead to weight loss, poor performance, gastric colic, and excessive tooth wear.

Cribbing can also be learned from other horses. Sometimes a foal will imitate the mare if she is a cribber. Cribbing collars can be helpful here.

Weaving occurs when the horse stands by the stall door and rhythmically shifts its weight back and forth on its front legs while swinging its head. This is also caused by boredom or excess energy, and can lead to weight loss, poor performance and weakened tendons.

Stall kicking, stall walking, pawing, or digging, and biting over the stall door are also vices that are caused by boredom from being kept in a stall. To control these behaviors, try adding another mealtime, puttinghorse toys in the stall or providing added turnout time.

Some horses chew wood, eat bedding and dirt or mutilate themselves. These can be signs of boredom or lack of exercise but may be the result of equine nutritional deficiencies. Try adding more roughage to the diet, and free choice salt or minerals. This may decrease these habits. Speak to your vet or an equine nutritionist for more information.

Your horse’s behavior is a complex blend of evolution, environment and opportunity. Understanding these relationships will help you become a responsible, knowledgeable horsekeeper.

Horse Tapeworm

The horse tapeworm inhabits the gastrointestinal tract of horses and may be a significant cause of colic.

Horses get tapeworms from forage mites that have ingested tapeworm eggs. Forage mites live in pastures, lawns and vegetation and feed on horse manure. As the horse digests the forage, tapeworms emerge from the infected mites and attach themselves to the intestinal lining of the horse. Once the tapeworms mature, they shed their eggs into the manure of the horse. The cycle begins again when mites in the pasture consume the eggs.

• Tapeworms can infect horses of nearly any age but horses between three and five years and older than 15 years harbor the greatest number of tapeworms.

• Tapeworms can’t be directly transmitted from horse to horse.

• Forage mites favor temperate climates.

• Tapeworms are most common in late fall because higher humidity helps the tapeworm eggs move from the grass to the grass mite to your horse.

Adult tapeworms attach to an area of the intestine where the end of the small intestine connects to the cecum. This causes inflammation and damage to the intestine. Inflammation can cause bowel obstructions or bowel abnormalities that can result in life threatening horse colic.

There is no reliable test for tapeworms so regular deworming is recommended as a part of your horse care routine. Commonly used dewormers are not effective against equine tapeworms. Ivermectin (Zimectrin, EqValan), moxidectin (Quest), and fenbendazole (Panacur) do not kill tapeworms.

Praziquantel (found in Zimectrin Gold) has been shown to be effective against equine tapeworms. Your veterinarian will have more information regarding the use of praziquantel to control equine tapeworms.

Parasites can build resistance to dewormers so don’t overuse them. A sensible parasite management program will increase horse health and help keep dangerous equine parasites under control.

Horse Herd Hierarchy

Horse herd hierarchy is a little like your worst grade school memories, complete with bullies, nervous biters and incurable teasers. There’s kicking. Biting. Picking on the new kid.

When introducing a new horse to your herd, follow a few simple steps to be sure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

Before the new guy arrives, take a few precautions to ready the herd, stable and pasture. A little preparation goes a long way towards a smooth introduction.

When your new horse arrives, walk him around a safe fence line. Watch his interactions with the other horses. If it’s possible, turn the new horse out into an adjacent paddock for a few days. Allow them to hang around the fence line, checking each other out.

Move a middle-ranking, nonaggressive horse in with the newcomer so that the two can bond before the mass introduction.

Once they’re showing some friendly curiosity, it is probably safe to open the gate and let them mingle in a large enclosure (between one and two acres per horse). Be sure the horse enclosure is safe.

If you have one particularly dominant or aggressive horse, you may want to remove her and let the newcomer bond with the others. Allow them to achieve some level of stability before reintroducing the dominant horse. This sometimes minimizes the dominant horse’s inclination to pick on the new guy.

Despite your best preparations, there is bound to be some “issues” between these diverse personalities. Don’t leave them unattended. If there is plenty of room to run and your paddock is safety checked, everything should be fine.

Some other tips:

Make introductions during the day. The new horse will be more secure and safe if he can see clearly.
Don’t turn the horses out together for the first time if it’s rainy or slippery in the paddock. Super hot weather isn’t great, either.

Avoid food fights by waiting at least 20 minutes after feeding all the horses to release the new horse. Grazing or resting horses are more relaxed.

As much as possible, keep to your herd’s feeding routine.

Keep an eye on everyone for the first couple of weeks. Check for lameness, bites, bruises and lethargy.
Once a stable horse herd hierarchy is established, your horses should settle into their pecking order places.

Often, the drama and conflict within a horse herd is harder for people to witness than it is for horses so please don’t overreact if your horses are “being mean to each other”. Herd hierarchy not always easy to watch, but it’s worked for horses for thousands of years!

Horse Behavior: What’s Up With THAT?

Horse behavior has evolved over time to allow the species to survive and thrive as highly social herd animals. Your horse may live in the lap of luxury, but his wild roots have not been forgotten. Some of his behaviors are just a throwback to this ancestral heritage and understanding them can help you become a more effective rider and trainer. Many horse behaviors are simple variations on a theme: survival.

Run! Run Away!

Horses are prey animals and depend on flight as its primary means of survival. As humans, we need to understand their natural flightiness in order to fully understand horses.

Augh! It’s A Tennis Ball!

Prey animals are highly suspicious of the unknown. And it doesn’t take much to arouse that suspicion. You may not notice what is causing alarm and mistake your horse’s behavior for ‘spookiness’. Horses can and should be desensitized from frightening stimuli so they do not spend their whole lives running away from funny colored rocks, stray plastic grocery bags and the cushion that blew off your lounge chair.

Forgive But Don’t Forget.

Horses remember unpleasant experiences. This is why it is critical to make the horse’s first training experience a positive one.

Ignore, Explore Or Flee.

Horses look at things in two ways: not scary and scary. If something is not scary, they may ignore or explore it. If it’s scary…see ya. When presenting anything new, your horse needs to be shown that it’s a ‘not scary’ thing.

Herd Mentality.

The horse is a herd animal where a dominance hierarchy is always established. Dominance is exerted by controlling the movement of their peers. If you cause your horse to move when he doesn’t want to or inhibit movement when he wants to flee, you will establish dominance. This is accomplished with a round pen or longe line.

Social Butterfly.

As a highly social animal, the horse communicates its emotions and intents to its herd mates through both vocalization and body language. Learn to read your horse’s body language to be an effective trainer.

That Looks Like Trouble.

A horse’s vision is its primary danger detector, but they have poor depth perception when using only one eye. Perception is greatly improved when using both eyes. Their ability to detect movement, however, is acute and during windy days, they may be a bit ‘flightier’ as normally stationary objects are now moving (danger! danger!)

In the wild, these survival traits serve horses well. In a fenced paddock, horse behavior needs to be understood and managed. Working with your horse’s natural instincts will make your relationship stronger and more enjoyable for both of you.

Hoof Balance: The Key To Soundness

Barefoot or shod, poor hoof balance is one of the most common causes of lameness in a horse’s foot. There are many factors affecting balance including conformational faults, injury, disease, nutrition, environment and poor shoeing/trimming.

This is a complex topic. In a nutshell, it is the practice of trimming a hoof in three dimensions: height, width, and depth. Achieving the proper relationship between the three allows the horse to move better and more naturally.
This puts less strain on bones, tendons and ligaments.

There is no formula or measurement for “perfect balance”. Evaluation is an acquired skill that demands practice and careful observation of the horse, both standing still and in motion. Each horse’s requirements will be different, and it is up to the farrier or trimmer to assess your horse for optimum balance.

To find a farrier or trimmer with the skills necessary to care for your horse’s feet, ask the following questions:

Do you have local references?

What is your level of education, certification or training?

What do you think constitutes a balanced hoof?

How do you achieve a balanced hoof?

Your horse will need to be trimmed at intervals of about 5-8 weeks, depending upon how fast your horse grows hoof. Growth can be affected by season and other factors so this schedule may vary over the course of the year.

Proper balance is important in minimizing development of foot lameness. The majority of foot and leg diseases are caused or aggravated by unbalanced feet. Feet that are kept balanced are seldom lame!