Special Holiday Issue - Giving to Horses, Friends, Self
New Mexico Nov/Dec 2015 Holiday Gift Giving New Mexico Style Try These Cold-Weather Tune Ups
How to Get A
PLUS: Riding at White Sands National Monument Trail Riding During Hunting Season Winsor and Galisteo Basin Trail Updates Keeping Your Horse at a Good Weight
10 White Sands Trail Ride
Warmer weather, great footing
12 Holiday Giving Idea Give to horses in need
15 Galisteo Basin
New trails, nice snow riding
17 Cold Weather Tune Ups
Step-by-step ways to increase your horse’s skills
19 Winter Workouts and Tips For the comfort of your horse
20 Try “Sensory Exposure”
Reduce the spook using Balloon Fiesta methods
24 10 Winter Gifts for Your Horse
Great stocking stuffers for your equestrian friend
26 Tried & True Tack & Tips From Horse Around readers
30 Too Fat, Too Thin, Just Right
How to know if your horse needs more or fewer calories during the winter season
: S U PL 6,8 NM Horse News 28 Events Calendar November - February
Submissions from all around NM are welcome! See our website for submission standards: www.horsearoundnm.com or email to email@example.com
29 Your Clinic Story
Rudy Lara’s Confidence Clinic
Trainers, Clubs and Associations
Horse Around New Mexico©2015 All rights reserved. Horse Around New Mexico is a publication of Horse Around USA™. Horsearoundnm.com™ and horsearoundusa.com™ are also copyrighted, trademarked, and the sole property of Karen Lehmann,. All rights reserved. Individual content copyright belongs to the author or artist. All the opinions expressed herein are the sole opinions of the writer and do not necessarily reflect bias or belief on the part of the editor, publisher, distributors, printer, advertisers or other contributors.
In September, I was riding with HANM Associate Editor Peggy Conger to Beatty’s Cabin in the Pecos Wilderness when we crossed paths with some mule packers from Oklahoma. I was in the lead, so I smiled and said, “Isn’t it great up here?” One of the packers quickly turned the conversation south: “It used to be great up here. We’ve ridden here for over 35 years, and Western Horsemen magazine ruined it when they published an article about Jack’s Creek Campground.” He went on to imply that all the newcomers (after them) had ruined the place. Peggy heard the tone and hid out with her horse in some bushes. (She’s from upstate New York.) In an instant my mind flashed to Jack’s Creek Campground, where my new-found friends, Delford, Randy, Michele, Stan, Tracie, Scott, and Clay were camped. They had come from Georgia, Kansas, Arizona, and Texas to ride the New Mexico high county. The day before, I had ridden 25 miles with Randy and Michele. They had warmly welcomed me, a stranger, on their ride. Michele insisted on photographing me standing in front of the caves next to Cave Creek. Randy sawed branches to save our horses from being poked, and Michele offered me lunch. Earlier that morning, I witnessed Delford quietly helping Stan onto his horse, then leading him slowly around the campground. This was Stan’s first ride since having cancer-related surgery. The day before, when Stan made a supply run to town, he asked me if I needed anything, and I asked for a bottle of cheap red wine. He bought me two, and would not accept a dime in payment. According to the mule packer, these people, Peggy and I, are all newcomers and contributing to the decline at Jack’s Creek Campground and the Pecos Wilderness. But I beg to differ. Horse people come to New Mexico from all corners of the US. We are drawn here by the spectacular beauty, colorful history, diversity and warmth of the state’s people. We want to ride our horses here because we recognize it as unique place on the planet, a place of healing. Jack’s Creek campers called it, “Heaven on Earth.” “God’s country.” “Paradise.” When I write about trails in this magazine, I sometimes wonder if I want to share them with “newcomers,” if there is a chance they could be “ruined.” But if newcomers are like the people I meet up at Jack’s Creek Campground, I say, Welcome! Let’s share a bottle of cheap red wine! Then I say, Thank you, because you are an asset -- you remind us how special New Mexico is, and why we are so fortunate to call this state our home. On the way back from the cabin, Peggy and I reflected briefly on our encounter with the mule packer, but did not dwell on it. Instead, Peggy paused on the final, expansive mesa overlooking the Pecos River, and said, “It’s so beautiful. I love it here.”
Lance, , Cecilia lo Consue
Editor CECILIA KAYANO Associate Editor PEGGY CONGER Publisher HORSE AROUND USA Cover Image LATANA BERNIER Contributing Writers STACIE G. BOSWELL & Photographers LATANA BERNIER MATT COULOMBE DENISE GOODSPEED VON GRUBER SUE MURPHY SUSIE SPICER AL SCHRYVERS KELLY STOOCHNOFF MIKE TAFOYA NICHOLE TUCKER ANNETTE WOOD Staff Writers & VIKKI CHAVEZ Photographers PEGGY CONGER KAREN LEHMANN OZANA STURGEON Graphic Design/Layout MARIE ANTHONY Advertising & Sales ADS@HORSEAROUNDNM.COM 360-239-9337 $24/YR MAIL REQUEST TO:
www.horsearoundnm.com Well-written, informative, inspirational articles are welcome! Please include photos if possible: firstname.lastname@example.org The next issue will appear at New Mexico outlets on February 1, 2016. The deadline for submissions is December 20, 2015. For information about advertising and 2016 ad discounts , call Cecilia Kayano, HANM Editor, 360-239-9337, or visit www.horsearoundnm.com
ON THE COVER Members of Cloud Riders at the White Sands National Monument. See story, page 10. PHOTO BY: Latana Bernier
Stall Barn | Riding Arena | Equine Facility | Pasture Shelter | Hay Storage
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HORSE NEWS AROUND NEW MEXICO
Horses / Mules Now Allowed More Often at Valles Caldera October 1, 2015, the National Parks Service formally assumed management of the Valles Caldera from the VC Trust. While many details remain to be worked out, a few things have already been decided as it relates to equestrian access. Past equestrian use was restricted to Banco Bonito trails - on weekends only - from mid-May through August. Here are the changes known at this time. •
All trails in the Preserve have been re-defined as “multi-use” and are open to all users all days that the Preserve is open.
A 7-day pass is $20 per vehicle; free admittance to vehicles with a holder of a Senior National Park Pass. 24 back-country permits will be issued per day, with 12 permits reserveable in advance.
Horse trailers can park at the horse barn in the Grande (previously known as the bull barn) without a backcountry permit.
The future of Banco Bonito is uncertain. There is considerable logging taking place in that area to reduce fire risk. This has been taking place since the Las Conchas fire and logging has escalated in the past several months.
The backcountry is now closed for winter due to snow and road conditions and will reopen next year.
Winter hours are 9AM - 5PM.
At this time, the VCNP plans to be open throughout the winter.
There is discussion taking place about offering an hourly horse rental to a concessionaire which would operate out of the Horse Barn. This would be compatible with personal horse use at the VCNP and enhance visitor experiences. For more information: 1-866-382-5537.
Three Men, One Horse and Three Mules Ride 800 Miles on Historic Trail
Three members of Back Country Horseman of America rode 800 miles for three months from Los Angeles to Santa Fe and passed through Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu on September 13 during the “Old Spanish Trail Trek.” They arrived in Santa Fe on September 15 to conclude the ride. Read details by visiting their Facebook page: Backcountry-Horsemen-Old-Spanish-Trail Trek. Photo by Al Schryvers.
Two Groups Create Win-Win for the Winsor Trail Two community organizations banded together to accomplish a task benefiting hikers, dog-walkers, bikers, and horsemen. The goal was to build a new bridge on the Winsor Trail (linking the town of Tesuque and Ski Santa Fe); an effort led by Brent Bonwell from Santa Fe Fat Tire Society, a mountain biking group. The challenge was to find a way to get all the building materials up to the bridge site. Most of Winsor Trail is single track and narrow, so Fat Tire called upon The Santa Fe County Horse Coalition, an advocacy group formed to preserve equestrian culture and promote the development of equestrian activities. The teamwork paid off for the Winsor Trail in the Sangre De Cristo Mountains. On September 19th, SFCHC provided pack animal support to move building materials up the mountain thanks to packing expert Mike Anaya, former Santa Fe County Commissioner, and his brother, Mark. Mike and Mark brought their pack mules assisted by Julia Jarvis and Kevan Saunders on horseback; both are officers of the Santa Fe County Horse Coalition. Everyone wins when a joint effort is employed. The bridge improves Winsor Trail for all users.
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HORSE NEWS AROUND NEW MEXICO
Trail Riders Be Aware of New Mexico’s Hunting Seasons
Cabin Gets Face Lift, Thanks to Back Country Horsemen Pecos Chapter Volunteers
Over Labor Day the Back Country Horsemen - Pecos Chapter was at it again. This time 15 dedicated members and 22 equines spent Labor Day weekend doing restoration projects at Beatty’s Cabin in the Pecos Wilderness area. They packed in supplies and materials to do several projects and keep themselves and their stock well fed in the process. Beatty’s Cabin is an historical cabin that has been located on Beatty’s Flats area since the early 1900’s. While the first cabin is no longer standing, this cabin, rebuilt in the 60’s, has been an important stopping place for trail crews, Forest Service employees and other groups doing projects in the back country. One of the major projects of the weekend was coating the cabin with linseed oil to help keep the logs protected from the elements. This process started with brushing and cleaning the cabin. Then the oil was sprayed and brushed on and minor repairs made to areas damaged by animal and insects. Working on the plumbing in the cabin was another giant project as it had started leaking and causing serious indoor flooding. The water is supplied from a spring-fed well, which also had to be dug out and serviced as it had become clogged with silt over the years. That was a messy but critical venture. The crew also did some foundation work to improve drainage around the buildings. The BCH also found time to get out on the trails, clearing deadfall and removing trash on Larkspur Trail, thus ensuring that the trail from Beatty’s Cabin to Hamilton Mesa would be clear for hunters and trail users for the remainder of the fall. While it was lots of work, it was also lots of fun. We were able to spend four days in the Pecos Wilderness and experience the great out doors with our animals, friends and family. by Nichole Tucker
If you are trail riding during November and December, you may encounter deer, elk, turkey, quail, and pheasant hunters. Exact hunting periods vary from unit to unit. Check with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to find out the exact dates of hunts in the area you are planning to ride. Wear bright colors like orange and put a brightly-colored halter on your horse, or tape strips of neon orange duct tape on the halter and front and back of the saddle. Ride in the middle of the day, avoiding the most popular times to hunt: daybreak until about 10 AM, and 4 PM to dark. Hunting is a New Mexico tradition. It is estimated that more than 28,000 deer hunters and 32,000 elk hunters will be in the field through December this year. Photo of Eric Tafoya and father Phillip Tafoya. Photo by Mike Tafoya.
New Equestrian-Funded MultiUse Trail Built at Galisteo Basin
Thanks to an effort spearheaded by Santa Fe County Horse Coalition starting October 2014, more than $7000 has been raised to build multi-use trails in the Galisteo Basin Preserve. All monies are personal donations. On October 17, 2015, the newly-completed trail had a ribbon cutting ceremony, followed by a fund-raising trail ride and lunch. The yet unnamed trail completes an 8-mile long loop going over the ridge from Cowboy Shack to the western side of the Preserve, then south connecting to Annie’s Amble near Cottonwood Trailhead, returning on Andorra Wagon Trail to Cowboy Shack. The trail ride raised more than $3000 for future trail building. The Santa Fe County Horse Coalition has submitted a grant to AQHA on behalf of equestrians to increase trail building funds for additional trails at Galisteo Basin. If you enjoy the Galisteo Basin trails, consider making a donation to build and maintain more trails that would be open to equestrians. Please send checks payable to Commonweal Conservancy to Julia Jarvis, 12 Emanuel, Santa Fe, NM 87508. Donations are tax-deductible. To submit your news story, email email@example.com
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What’s Happening At
4 Winds Equestrian Center This Winter we have something just for you and your horse!
Lease ʻN Learn Program
Always wanted a horse but worried about the cost and commitment or getting in over your head? Do you have a horse crazy kid that needs an introduction to horses that doesn’t cost you thousands? Are you wanting to get back into horses but not sure you want to own one? Are you here in New Mexico temporarily and need a horse fix?
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November 7-8 Manuel Trigoʼs presents Working Equitation Clinic - Phase One plus Private lesson on Nov 6th November 21 Centergy 3 - Body Awareness for better riding with Plilates presented by Kelly Pickens November 14 & 15 Holiday of Fun Winter Fiesta Horse Show Series. Second of 5 Winter Fun Shows December 5 & 6 Lynn Clifford - presents ʻBalancing for You and Your Horseʼ Clinic December 12 & 13 Holiday of Fun Winter Fiesta Horse Show Series. Third of 5 Winter Fun Shows. December 20 4 Winds Equestrian Centerʼs Christmas Party - Everyone is Invited!
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White Sands National Monument Escape Cold Weather by Riding the Dunes Near Alamagordo Article by Annette Wood, Cloud Riders of New Mexico Photos by Latana Bernier the tree and the otherworldly surroundings, we rode around a bit more, and snapped many photos. You can see more photos at Cloud Riders of New Mexico FaceBook page, December 2013.
I love riding in all kinds of weather but winter time in New Mexico has to be my favorite riding season. I look forward to riding in the soft pastern-deep snow of Fort Stanton or Cloudcroft all winter long. However when the winter winds are blowing a little too stiffly, I head for the warmth! I can drive west just a couple of hours to one of my favorite spots, the beautiful Tularosa Basin, one of the world’s great natural wonders the glistening acreage of White Sands National Monument. Great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed miles and miles of desert, creating the world’s largest gypsum dune field -- 275 square miles of desert. White Sands National Monument preserves a major portion of this unique dune field, along with the plants and animals that live here. There’s a convenient designated equestrian parking area and bathrooms nearby. It is about five miles from the check in gate. It does cost to get in and they take only cash. Go to this website for specifics. http://www.nps.gov/whsa/index. htm One of my most memorable rides at White Sands National Monument was in December of 2013. Six members of our riding group, Cloud Riders, came from all over New Mexico met at the White Sands Monument for a birthday/Christmas ride. We were all very excited, as our plan was to ride through the magnificent gypsum formations to the lone tree (the only tree we know of at the dunes.) The formations are where the gypsum sand originates from. We were all so excited because this destination was a first for most of us. We tacked up, put on our Santa hats, and away we went!
Trail riding in the gypsum sand is different than riding in beach sand. Although the sand looks like the horses would sink right up to their knees, the gypsum sand is quite dense and easy for the horses to gain footing. This makes bombing around in the dunes just that much more fun! Even though it was December, it was a full-sun, shirt-sleeve kind of day. The sand supplied even more warmth because we could feel the heat radiating down from the sun and back up again, reflected by the warm sand. We had a slight cool breeze which just made the day even more perfect! We came upon our destination of the lone tree suddenly as it was hidden by the tall dunes. Until you get right up on it, you don’t even know it is there! Wow, what a site! It is breathtaking! The trails through the gypsum formations are maze-like and dwarf us. Then the lone tree appears, and it is huge and simply magnificent! After pausing to marvel at
The sun started to descend and we knew it was time to head back. The wind picked up causing the top layer of gypsum to swirl around us. We were thankful for the jackets we brought as it cooled down pretty quickly. It was great to get back to our trailers, have our picnic lunch and plan our next outing. We had a wonderful time, amidst seemingly endless sand dunes. We talked about how we would return soon, to continue our dune wandering, searching for the non-existent ocean! TIP: Lone tree is about an hour and a half east of the parking area. I suggest your first ride at White Sands follow riding suggestions in the guide. White Sands can be a little tricky because it all looks the same and there are no designated trails. For more information visit their website, or call (575) 479-6124. Annette Wood is the founder and organizer of Cloud Riders. Follow their adventures on Facebook.
Photo © tonystromberg.com
Love your life. Love your ride. Inner Equestrian Coaching Couples Counseling for You and Your Horse nagging nerves: overcoming anxiety and Fear Goals for the ride of Your Life
Private & Small Group Lessons | Clinics | Workshops
In working with Lynn Clifford I have had some of the most magical moments in my forty years of spending time with horses. Lynn is a wonderful coach for riding, ground work and personal transformation and healing. —JL
Mounted: Classical Dressage, Holistic Horsemanship, Trail/Safety In Hand: Ground manners, Spanish Walk, Piaffe/Passage Round Pen & Liberty: Draw and Drive, relationship Building
Special Topics Balancing You & Your Horse Demystifying Lateral Work Communicating effectively with Your Horse: The Seat & aids
Learn more: lynnclifford.com | 505.231.5353 Photo © tonystromberg.com
Holiday Giving Idea, From Your Heart, To Horses in Need
So we talked to horse rescue organizations around the state to see what they’d love to find under the tree -- or in the barn -- come Christmas morning. There are small gifts and large ones (for deep-pocket Santas) and they are one surefire way to say “I love you” to a horse who really needs it. Or, give a Christmas card to a friend saying: Merry Christmas. You provided a hungry senior horse at My Favorite Shelter with food for one month. While some of the bigger needs may seem expensive, keep in mind they might be perfect for your organization, civic club, church or business to rally round: Imagine raising money to build or buy a run-in shelter or kicking off a capital acquisition effort for a much-needed tractor. There’s plenty of need and lots of possibilities!! The Horse Shelter Volunteers and adopters are at the top of the Horse Shelter’s Christmas list. This Cerrillos, NM, shelter is usually providing for 70 to 80 horses, and has an active adoption program, with 30 horses re-homed before September this year. On THS’s Christmas list: 100-gallon size Rubbermaid troughs, 75 or 100-foot heavy duty rubber hoses, slow feeders and run-in shelters, says Susan Hemmerle program manager of The Horse Shelter. If you’d like to donate cash, a $500 gift will provide training for one horse for a month. Which leads to THS’s “most in need of a miracle” wish: A covered riding arena, which would allow for training in inclement weather, helping the shelter get more horses ready for adoption.
by Peggy Conger New Mexico horse people are a tender-hearted lot when it comes to your favorite animals. You support horse rescues throughout the state and many of you have adopted rescued horses. You are the overflow crowd at events like The Horse Shelter’s Gimme Shelter trainer competition, marveling at what skilled trainers can do with horses who were once on the discard heap. That’s what makes us so sure, as the holidays roll around, that many of you would love to play Santa to a needy horse -- or a needy herd. Some of you might even want to give a gift on behalf of a friend or family member -- perfect for someone who loves horses, but either prefers not getting material items, or is tough to buy for.
Equine Spirit Sanctuary If you want to make the equines at Equine Spirit Sanctuary near Taos happy, think food and health. ESS would love to have gift certificates from Chamisa Feed, Taos Tack or Blue Sky Feed, all located in Taos. They’d also be happy to get gift certificates for Thal Equine, the Lone Butte veterinary hospital that handles health crises for ESS. One thing ESS doesn’t need under the tree is horse cookies, director Ruth Bourgeois says. “We don’t feed the horses a lot of cookies.” No, not even at Christmas! So maybe substitute a cash donation for the treats; the money can be used year-round for veterinary supplies the rescue really needs.
Four Corners Equine Rescue Four Corners, home to nearly 50 horses, has a good long Christmas list, and promises all of its resident rescues have been nice, not naughty, this year. Equine Senior, stall bedding and rubber buckets would all be very welcome under the tree. Anticipating a wet winter ahead, rescue president Debbie Coburn says she could use some soaking boots; her herd tends to get foot abscesses in wet weather. The upcoming winter weather leads to another need: A storm earlier this year damaged four run-in shelters, and one had to be demolished. Four Corners hates to have horses braving the elements without adequate shelter. Cash donations or a new 20-foot shelter would be an awesome gift from Santa, Debbie says.
reindeer thing if you want, Santa, but those reindeer are harder to catch than your quarter horse turned out on 500 acres of summer grass! Also keep in mind, one of the most valuable gifts for these volunteer organizations is you. Lend your talents and skills, or fall in love with an adoptable or sponsorable horse. The rescues’ web pages have all the details on how you can help their horses, donkeys and mules. Here are the most direct ways to reach them:
Gift certificates from Tractor Supply or Big R in Farmington, or Aztec Feed & Supply in Aztec would also be welcome gifts for the rescue.
The Horse Shelter Cerrillos, NM Visits by appointment 505-471-6179 Santa Fe office (also by appointment): 1600 Lena St. C.10, Santa Fe, NM 87505 firstname.lastname@example.org See horses available for adoption at thehorseshelter.org
Walkin N Circles Ranch WNCR needs feed buckets, metal water troughs and unopened bags of senior feed, says executive director Ruth Andrews, who would also welcome gift certificates from feed stores.
Equine Spirit Sanctuary 283 Cuchilla Rd. Ranchos De Taos, NM 87557 575-758-1212 info@ equinespiritsanctuary.org.
Also on the wish list for the 67 equines in residence at the Stanley-area rescue: good quality alfalfa hay. On the deep pockets list is a hay barn to store that alfalfa in and a new Kuboda tractor.
ESS’s program includes the Horses Helping Kids therapeutic riding program. Learn more at equinespiritsanctuary.org
Dharmahorse Dharmahorse provides forever-homes for 10 horses in Dona Ana County and provides horse care education and community outreach. President and founder Katharine Chrisley says her mostly aged herd is asking Santa for polo wraps, cotton lead ropes, lots and lots of buckets. Also Easyboot trail boots in sizes 3, 4 or 5. Katharine says her bunch often have hoof issues and the large size trail boots are very helpful to both treat and ease pain in tender feet. And if Santa is really really generous, the shelter could use a small tractor, “even an old one,” Katharine says. How To Make It Happen Yes, you can do the whole sled and
Four Corners Equine Rescue 22 CR 3334 Aztec, NM 87410 505-334-7220
calendar. Order one at: wncr.org Dharmahorse PO Box 445 Organ, NM, 88052 575-541-0137 email@example.com Dharmahorse offers natural horsemanship training and riding lessons. More information at: dharmahorse.info/Lessons. html Horse Around NM staff writer Peggy Conger is a writer, editor, blogger and trail rider. She rides a mustang she adopted five years ago. She can be reached at p_conger@ yahoo.com. Photo of Evalyn Bemis with her 7-yearold adopted Thoroughbred, Booker T, who showed Evalyn she was his human when he walked right into her trailer at The Horse Shelter horse rescue. The pair can be spotted jumping logs on Rowe Mesa and cantering on the hillsides along Hopewell Lake. Photo by Cecilia Kayano.
Meet Flicka she’’s one of the horses at WNCR!
Buy a repurFall in love with an posed feed bag adoptable horse, burro or to Support mule at Four Corners. Walkin N Circles ourcornersequinerescue. Horse Ranch and org/thehorses/ Rescue! Help Walkin N Circles Ranch save bags and P.O. Box 626 horses! Edgewood, NM 87015 505-286-0779
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Snow Makes the Footing Better for This Winter Ride Article and Photos by Sue Murphy
A great winter ride is Galisteo Basin Preserve located off I-285 between Eldorado and Lamy, New Mexico. It is known for pristine and spectacular scenery in the colorful arroyos as well as the hilltop views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the northeast, the Ortiz Mountains southwest, and to the south, Texas. There are about 13 miles of equestrianapproved trails in addition to many arroyos for horseback riding. In summertime, the deep sand in the arroyos makes them less than perfect for riding, but with a cold winter crust, the arroyos can be enjoyable and provide protection from winter winds. The arroyos are colorful – painted in rust, tan, charcoal, and terra cotta; everchanging with water erosion. The Annie’s Amble ½ mile trail provides magnificent views and a twisty trail for a gentle, interesting ride. In the winter, it is wiser to stage at Cowboy Shack as that road can support heavy vehicles, while the road leading to Cottonwood parking has not as yet been fortified for heavy vehicles. Arriving after a Christmas Eve snowfall, we were able to make first tracks in snow on Christmas morning. We arrive to find that we have the 13,000 acres of Galisteo Basin Preserves to ourselves. There is something unexplainable about the silence in snow; a peacefulness that makes my spirit soar, and I feel one with the earth. With the cold temperatures, it is important to remember to layer up top to bottom – this is where chinks or chaps come in handy, and Tapadero stirrups are a plus. When the sun comes out you can pull off some layers, but this is far better than being chilled from the cold. We ride in snow with easy boots on the front or barefoot. Shoes can cause balling in the hoof, so be watchful if you keep your horses shod in winter as you may
have to stop occasionally to dig out the snow balls. In the end, a snow ride is a great opportunity in New Mexico. This state provides twelve months a year of riding opportunities - so get out and experience all the magnificent landscapes New Mexico has to offer. TO GET THERE: From Eldorado, go south
on 285 to Astral Valley Road and turn west. Turn right on Rubedo Road and follow signs to Cowboy Shack Trailhead.
To submit your trail story, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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Cold Weather Tune Ups
Once you’ve got a great response to the squeezing aid, just run your hand down the inside of the leg Spend a little time now to create and snap your fingers when a safer, more skilled horse you touch the chestnut - no squeeze. Lighten your aid progressively until just a touch on the leg and a snap of the fingers results in your say, “Stand.” Move off a few feet and wait a horse lifting their hoof into your waiting few seconds. If your horse does not move palm. This aid can come in very handy toward you, step up close again and give when the farrier or vet comes to visit, or if a reward rub. If your horse does move, your horse gets a foot into a hole; or steps simply reposition and repeat the “stand” on your toe by accident. sequence. HEEDING (NOT LEADING) If your horse’s head drifts lower than their Instead of leading your horse around this shoulder, say, “Head up!” and reposition. winter, why not teach “heeding”? That’s It may be helpful to remove your gaze just an old-fashioned word for “paying from your horse’s body when you are attention,” and the basic idea is to teach asking them to remain still - just look your horse to pay attention to you on the slightly away or toward the ground - this ground, with or without tack. is a release of pressure. Experiment until you find what works best for you and your Concept: when your shoulders are horse. Slowly increase the distance and facing the same direction as your horse’s time spent “away.” Replace the lunge line shoulders, it means “go.” When you are or long lead with a shorter lead rope. facing your horse with your shoulders perpendicular to theirs, it means “stop.” To Ultimately you want to be able to remove teach this, place yourself at your horse’s the rope and have your horse stand in one shoulder, facing front (your shoulders and place for minutes at a time, even when your horse’s shoulders are facing the same you are out of sight completely -- with, direction.) Encourage your horse to walk without a halter, bridle or saddle, on grass, forward - try to time your own first step so in the snow, on the trail, in the arena, at that it matches your horse’s. After two or a show, and in the trailer. I’ve used the three forward steps, turn so that you are ground tying skill to prevent my horses facing your horse - they will almost always from backing out of the trailer until it was stop when you do this . When they do, safe; to keep them quiet on the trail while I reward with a rub on the shoulder or chest. removed a fallen branch; even with barbed wire wrapped around a foot. With the basics established, you and your horse should be moving forward, along LIFT FOOT the same path and with matching steps, For a front foot, stand at your horse’s when your shoulders are aligned frontshoulder, facing back. Run your near hand ways. When you are facing your horse’s down the leg until you feel the chestnut. shoulder/body, the horse should stop.
by Karen Lehmann
We’ve heard that there are horsemen and women in New Mexico who actually ride their horses between January and March. They’re not afraid of a little wind (like, 50 mph) and snow (like, 3 feet). They enjoy cold weather! Then there are the rest of us: we like riding when it’s nice out. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still spend productive, fun time with our horses! Here are some limited-space, limitedtime ideas for skills to teach your horse during inclement weather. Initial Training: 30 minutes Basic Skill Mastery: 30 hours Applications: Unlimited GROUND TIE This skill is easy to teach, especially when you have no agenda but that of hanging out at the barn on a wintery day. You can use a long lead rope or lunge line to start. Stand in front of your horse, touch the horse lightly on the nose or forehead, and
When you feel the chestnut, give it a little squeeze. Squeeze gently but firmly, and your horse will soon shift their weight off that leg, or even lift the leg. As soon as their weight shifts, snap your fingers (using your other hand!) and release the squeeze. Reward with a rub. Repeat until your horse lifts the leg as soon as you squeeze the chestnut and snap your fingers.
Now you can move out into a larger area, using the wall of the barn or arena fence to keep you in line at first. Experiment with different gaits and movements; try this work at liberty, too. The beauty of heeding (not leading) is that it will soon work at a distance and at all speeds, and is easily translated into mounted work. A tip of the riding helmet to the International Equestrian College, Meredith Manor (meredithmanor.edu) for the concept, vocabulary and lessons in heeding! BACK UP To teach backing, stand at your horse’s shoulder, facing your horse but off to the side. Check to see which of the horse’s front feet is a little further forward - this is the foot to move first. Shift the horse’s head just slightly toward the other foot - the one that’s a bit further back, to begin the movement. Use your forefinger or knuckle (or the butt of your whip) on the front of the shoulder above the more forward foot, to ask your horse to move backwards. Experiment with the pressure - steady, rhythmic pressure works for some, while a light, steady touch is better for others. Some horses need you to push really hard for a few times before they get the message. No jabbing, slapping, whipping or snapping the lead rope allowed; do not raise your voice. The actual training of this movement comes from the release, not from the pressure, so as soon as your horse shows any backward inclination at all, you must release the pressure and reward with a rub. If you wish to combine a verbal command with this training, that’s fine. It’s always good to teach from both sides, so switch your position occasionally from the traditional left side of the horse, to the right. The goal is to make your “asking” as light as possible; soon you’ll find that your horse will back up at the lightest touch, a quiet verbal command - even a glance. If you would like to translate the backing aid to the bridle or bit, you might begin that work by combining your finger-on-chest aid with a light backwards/ upwards pressure on the halter. Once you and your horse are communicating in a clear, light manner, the real-world application of the skill begins. Take it easy at first - backing up is difficult for a horse, both physically and mentally! There are all sorts of opportunities to practice. If you bring your horse into the barn for daily grooming, ask them to back through the barn door when entering and exiting. Always ask your horse to back a couple of steps when you are entering their stall, pen or paddock. When leading, ask your horse to turn by moving backward slightly, then moving away from you, instead of always “following” you into a turn. (This move can later translate to a turn on the haunches in a dressage test, or evolve into a reining spin or rollback.) Set two 6 or 8’ poles parallel to one another and ask your horse to back through them; then add two more poles to create an “L’, and back through that. This is a common competitive trail obstacle. These are just a few of the skills you can work on during nasty weather. Come summertime you’ll be glad you did! Karen Lehmann writes from the room upstairs, at home in the small NM mountain town of Sandia Park. She’s distracted by her husband, charmed by her daughter and utterly enthralled by her three horses. When she’s not working on something for Horse Around, or over at the barn, you’ll find her at email@example.com.
Winter workouts can be fun for both you and your horse. “Off season” is a great time to invest in more basic conditioning work and less in specifics. For any riding discipline, working in an indoor arena provides you a safe place to move your riding forward. Most horses also enjoy a good hack outside or a trail ride every now and then, and LSD (long, slow, distance) work can improve your horse’s overall strength and fitness.
Winter Workouts & Tips
CLIPPING Every season has its challenges, but winter can prove particularly exciting! Horses can be fresher once the weather turns cooler and even more energetic if they’ve been clipped to deal with working in the cold. Why clip your horse if the weather is cold? A variety of clip styles from full clips to a small trace clip keeps your horse from overheating under that winter coat while working. Horses not cooled down and dried properly after a winter workout can suffer from a variety of health issues. If you’re going to work them during the winter be sure to leave enough time to cool and dry them properly, clip them, and perhaps skip those extra cold days. COVERING WITH A QUARTER SHEET Depending on your clip and outdoor weather, consider riding with a quarter sheet (a small wool or polar fleece blanket that covers the horse’s hind quarters from just behind the saddle to the dock) to help keep those larger muscles warm. Tip: make sure you accustom your horse to moving with the quarter sheet before you go for a ride with it the first time. RIDING ON SNOW AND ICE If your horse is shod, and you live in an area that receives snow and wish to continue riding outside, consult with your farrier about winter riding options. Snow popper pads can keep you going through the season without those pesky snow balls building up underneath. Ice shoes or tips can give you better traction on icy surfaces.
Colder weather brings specific considerations for your horse’s comfort and well-being
by Kelly Stoochnoff TRAINING IN INTERVALS Make sure your horse’s muscles are thoroughly warmed up before introducing anything new or challenging. Interval training during the winter is a great way to keep your horse fit. Interval training involves alternating between high and low intensity exercises interspersed with periods of recovery. Keep your horse moving during the “recovery” or rest phase to avoid excess chill. WORKING FROM THE GROUND Ground work, such as lunging and ground driving, can also be a great way to keep your horse in shape during the winter months (and you can keep your feet in a pair of warmer boots!). Be considerate of your horse: if you ride with a bit, keep it next you your body for 10 minutes or so before you ride in order to warm it up or invest in a “bit warmer.”
SETTING GOALS Set goals even in winter. If you have to miss a couple of days due to bad weather, it’s not the end of the world. You can always read a training book, watch an instructional video, or give your equipment a good cleaning before getting “back in the saddle.” Just remember - the amount of time you take off will be the same amount of time you have to put in to be where you were when you stopped. Now go play in the snow! Kelly Stoochnoff is the Director of Equestrian Programs at The Club at Las Campanas in Santa Fe, NM. She is a nationally certified equestrian coach with an extensive background in dressage, hunters, jumpers, and equitation. Kelly also holds certification in a number of equine rehabilitation therapies and is available for clinics and consulting.
How to Get a Balloon-Fiesta-Worthy Mount The Myth of De-Spooking Meets the Logic of Sensory Exposure Training
This year’s Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta was held in October, and was another success for the horseback patrol of the event: The New Mexico Mounted Search and Rescue. Each Balloon Fiesta about one dozen mounted patrols ride their steeds through endless crowds -- parents pushing strollers, children riding on shoulders, and, of course massive balloons being inflated with screeching torches. This year, like others, one of the most common questions the mounted patrols were asked was, “How much time does it take to de-spook your horse?” The short answer was, “A lot!”
or the physical senses; transmitted or perceived by the senses. - Exposure--the condition of being subject to some effect or influence. Three Steps to Sensory Exposure Training It’s unrealistic to think we can create a “bomb proof ” horse. I would fully expect a horse to react to an outside source of stimulation. The real goal is, when the horse reacts, is he/she still manageable? If not, how do we get there, to having a horse spook in a manageable ways? Here are three steps: 1. Identify what triggers the reaction you’re trying to manage. 2. Do your best to recreate the situation/ environment. 3. Commit the time and energy needed to move past it. Key Elements to Calm I’ve encountered many people who say “My horse hates bicycles” or “My horse is scared of flags” so therefore they won’t go anywhere where they might encounter them. By taking this approach, one will never be able to move their horse past that fear and will severely limit the places they can go.
Article and photos by Matt Coulombe Although most riders will not be riding their horses through Balloon Fiesta-like situations, there is a much to be learned from Mounted Search and Rescue to “despook” that can be applied to all equestrian disciplines. De-Spooking De-Bunked Let’s start off with the terminology “de spooking.” Is there really such a thing as de spooking? Do all horses come with a certain amount of spook, and once we remove it, things will be fine? Many of us wish it was that cut-and-dry, but it is not – it is an ongoing, often times endless process. Instead of calling it de-spooking, I like to refer to it as sensory exposure: - Sensory--of or relating to sensation
Some key elements to include in your process should include the following: • Start with a Safe Environment: Make sure the horse is already comfortable in the location you’re introducing the stimulation. Trying to expose an already uncomfortable horse to something new is pointless. • Maintain Distance: I believe the first step of exposure is distance. Most of our horses have been passively exposed to many of the things that scare them, i.e.; sirens, dogs, bicycles, hot air balloons, gun shots, etc. just at a greater distance. Remember “closer” may need to occur over a multitude of sessions. • Allow Time: Give your horse a chance to investigate and accept the item, find his comfort zone, and then
gradually move closer. Be happy with baby steps and keep in mind “time” could mean hours, days, or even years! • Provide a Security Blanket: Never underestimate the value of a seasoned horse. If at all possible, when exposing the horse to stimulation having a good solid been-there-done-that kind of horse by their side is invaluable. While the horse being trained may startle, if his buddy stays calm, the less experienced one typically figures out everything must be OK. • Manage Your Reaction: What happens to the horse, and you, after the reaction or spook is critical to overcoming it. A rider who can remain quiet and calm under duress will most likely achieve more success than a higher energy/ nervous rider. Be aware of your own fears and try and make sure you’re not transferring your own nervous energy to your horse. Keep a good balanced seat, stay off the reins, and allow the horse to move, but do try and bring him right back to the desired distance
as soon as possible after his negative reaction. • Repeat, Repeat, Repeat: Like many horse training techniques, repetition is critical. Non-horse people are probably baffled by the amount of plastic bags that are tied to fences and various objects around horse pens, yet we all know that the “surprise” of a blowing bag can certainly trigger a reaction, even when they’ve had one tied to their fence for weeks! • Match Horse Personality and Expectations: When it comes to the horse, identify what you’re working with, and be honest with your assessment. Is the horse prone to spooking because he’s a high energy, nervous, sensitive type of horse? If so, what are your expectations? What activity are you wanting to participate in? Are you just wanting to be able to enjoy a nice trail ride without incident or are you wanting to ride in parades and other places where the environment is less controlled? Does your horse’s personality match what you want to use the horse for? •
Be Committed: Don’t get discouraged or give up to easily, remember to start small and move forward
from there. It’s not uncommon to have a horse give a big reaction to something they’ve actually overcome before. As a member of New Mexico Mounted Search & Rescue, I’ve been able to witness many horses go through an extensive process of sensory exposure. Some have achieved more success than others, including some of my own horses. Time and time again the horses who achieve the highest levels of desensitization are horses that are used on a regular basis, in a very diverse set of circumstances, and a multitude of environments.
Like a lot of things in life, sometimes in order to avoid the “big wreck” we must have already survived many smaller ones! Good luck, have patience, and have fun! Matt Coulombe lives in the East Mountains of NM with his wife and five children. Matt has owned horses for over 20years, is the President of New Mexico Mounted Search & Rescue, and has been an active participant in their mounted evaluations and training development. He has ridden his horses in a wide variety of places from the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, numerous movie sets, and much of the vast forests and wilderness of New Mexico.
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10 Winter Gifts for Your Horse By Vikki Chavez
Winter brings frozen whiskers, less attention, and ice filled buckets. Cold weather, dark afternoons, and holiday commitments can reduce horse keeping skills to a boots-over-pajama dash to throw hay. Here are some gift items to keep your horse comfortable this holiday season: 1. TURNOUT BLANKET
A good fitting, waterproof midweight turnout blanket can keep your horse dry and comfortable on cold winter nights. Blanketing hard keepers and senior horses can ensure that your hay and supplements keep weight on. 220 is a good overall fill
weight choice for our climate. For those who do 24/7 turnout and leave blankets on all day, the temp tamer styles offer a wicking layer for daytime sun and plenty of warmth at night.
2. NECK RUG Detachable neck covers turn a midweight blanket into heavyweight warmth in a safe, quick and easy step. Bitter cold, high winds, or heavy snow are good times to add a fast layer of protection without the hassle or expense of a heavier winter blanket. It is easy to remove in the morning or throw on in an unexpected storm. 3. HEATED WATER BUCKET
Horses do not always drink as much as they should in the winter and tanks can freeze quickly. A 16 gallon auto turn off heated bucket is easy to clean and easy on the electric bill. 16 gallons provides plenty of tepid water for one horse to drink until the trough melts in the morning sun. Floating and plug in style heaters are good options for big stock tanks.
4. HOLIDAY MASH MIX
Add ½ cup of packaged holiday mash mix as a special treat with warm water to your horse’s regular grain, pellets, hay cubes or rice bran. Mix in your horse’s usual supplements and extra sodium to encourage drinking. One bag will last a long time, and is good to keep on hand to add to powdered medications that otherwise end up lingering at the bottom of the feed bucket.
5. SLOW FEED HAY BAG
Horses stay warmer and happier with 24/7 access to hay. A slow feed hay bag provides an affordable and safe way to keep hay in front of your horse for longer periods of time. It is a good idea to offer some loose hay as well at first, so your horse does not get frustrated with 1.5” holes on an empty stomach.
6. TOYS For horses that like to stay
busy, give the gift of fun! Jolly Mega Balls, hanging balls with snack inserts, large ball on a rope dog toys, tug toys and traffic cones are some good options to occupy
wool or thermal cooler. Throw it on, fill your slow feed hay net, and go inside to warm up. Your horse will be ready to brush, blanket and put away in no time. Some styles can double as a warm liner under a turnout sheet, a good hauling cover, or a light stable blanket. Add embroidery for a uniquely personal gift!
your horse while you enjoy your holiday festivities.
7. EQUI-BITS No thick, cold paste dewormer for your wonderful equine during the holidays! Equi-bits (fenbendazole) pelleted dewormer is an alfalfa based feed through one step top dressing that mixes readily with a handful of grain or supplemental feed. Even youngsters and picky horses will like the taste. 8. BOSAL or BITLESS BRIDLE
Enjoy a winter ride without the cold metal.
A rawhide bosal set or maintenance free Beta bit less bridle are 2 fun options to give your horse a break from the bit.
9. BAREBACK PAD Throw on a bareback pad to fit in a quick ride. They are lightweight, secure and comfortable, with a grab strap for you, and no sizing challenges for your horse(s). Horse Dream, Best Friend, Toklat, and Riders Choice are a few of my favorites; thereâ€™s a perfect and affordable option for Santa to put under your tree this year. 10. THERMAL COOLER Let
your horse beat the chills with a fleece,
Riders’ Favorites Tried & True On-The-Trail Tack & Tips
Jack’s Creek Campground, located near the Pecos Wilderness, is always a place to meet some great horse people, and go for long rides with spectacular and varied scenery. On a Labor Day weekend, Horse Around New Mexico staff were there, and got some great tips on useful gear: Mac Ryder recommends soft rope, hand-made hobbles made by Delford Daniels. The circular center piece gives a convenient place to clip them on to saddles with a carribiner. Mac bought front hobbles, plus a pair of side hobbles. “You can get them on so quickly! No buckling or messing around near the feet of the horse. Plus, they look good clipped onto your saddle.” Stan Sullivan has a reliable gaited trail horse. He still uses a night latch, a leather strap attached to the pommel. They are called night latches because cowboys used them as handles to hold on to when they
fell asleep in the saddle during all-night rides. Stan uses it to suck himself into the saddle during bucking episodes, or other horse reactions. “They work better than grabbing onto the horn.” He said his horse bucked once, and only once, and he stayed on because he grabbed the night latch. Randy and Michele Fletcher always pack their Pocket Chainsaw, by Liberty Mountain, a saw in a can. The flexible blade is like a bike chain and fits in a snuff-sized can. Pack it along with the two handles on rope. On a ride in the Pecos, the couple came across a downed tree with a few dangerous, pointed branches sticking out. Randy pulled out and assembled his saw and had the branches removed in a few minutes. HANM staff writer Peggy Conger was visiting Beatty’s cabin to see what the Pecos Chapter of Back Country Horsemen members were doing up there. About a dozen members and many mules and horses were occupying the grounds, refinishing the exterior of the cabins, digging drainage ditches and fixing the cabins’ foundations. One member took out his scarf and revealed a map of the Pecos Wilderness. Peggy could not help showing her amazement at the good idea. The member graciously gave Peggy the scarf, promising he had not yet blown his nose on it.
Scott Daves most useful trail item is a spare animal to ride. Scott always brings his horse and mule when he camps and rides at Jack’s Creek. “You don’t want to drive this distance (from Texas) and have an animal go lame and you can’t ride. Plus, each one feels different when you ride it, and you’re riding in a different saddle so you don’t get as sore.” TO CONTRIBUTE YOUR TACK & TIPS: Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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Look for the next issue of Horse Around New Mexico at your local feed/tack store or veterinatian office. The next issue will be on the shelves February 1, 2016. To submit an event listing, email email@example.com
YOUR CLINIC STORY Clinics Can Make Us Emotional: Here’s the Upside to Hanging in There By Denise Goodspeed Von Gruber, as told to Peggy Conger, photos by Linda March
Clinics can sometimes be very frustrating. Denise Goodspeed Von Gruber discovered that sticking with it has an upside when she attended master horseman Rudy Lara’s Confidence Clinic Series at 4 Winds Equestrian Center in August. Here’s her story: I immediately realized Saturday morning that I was in over my head in terms of experience. As the Saturday class progressed, we got out of groundwork and we were in the indoor arena. My little Arab is not that comfortable in the indoor arena but she did very well. She really hung with the class, and was in there for three and a half or four hours doing a lot of riding. Both of us were being challenged and really pushed to keep up with everyone else. I was kind of out of my learning threshold by the end of the day Saturday and I was exhausted. But I was very proud at how Cheyenne had done. She had held together and done very, very well and that was an accomplishment, I felt, for both of us. That night, Denise had to take her husband to the emergency room in Albuquerque. They didn’t get back home until 1:30 in the morning. Denise was tempted to bag the rest of the clinic, but as it turned out, Sunday was going to be worth it.
When Sunday morning rolled around and the second day of the clinic got started, I couldn’t even get out of bed. I didn’t even think it was a smart idea to saddle up for another day of riding and I didn’t think I had it in me. But I did it anyway. I had spent the money for the clinic and I felt I needed to put my big girl pony panties on and make it happen. I was an hour and a half late [but] I saddled Cheyenne up and participated for about an hour. Then Rudy began to work individually with every rider. When it got to my turn, he asked what I wanted to focus on and I told him I needed to learn how to sit the trot. [He had asked us to do that earlier] and I wasn’t comfortable because I didn’t know how. So he said, “Okay, jump off your horse.” He took the headstall off of her and called for a halter and a lead rope. I couldn’t imagine what he was doing. He circled Cheyenne for a little bit, then stopped her and had me get on her with no headstall, no reins, just the saddle. He sent her out in a circle with me at a walk and then told me ask her to trot. He had me just hold on to the withers. He began to call out commands to me, “Okay, right hand to your waist. Now left hand to your waist. Now both hands on the withers.” It kind of became a game of “Simon Says” while my horse was at a trot.
I was concentrating on what he was telling me to do with my arms and my hands and, before I knew it , he had me at a trot with both of my hands in the air with a balance in the saddle that I didn’t think I was ever going to have! In a short period of time, Rudy showed me I was capable of balancing without being in my horse’s mouth and without looking to the reins for balance and that I really could do this, I really could sit a trot! If I began to lose my balance, he told me to sit down, just sit and let your horse throw you back into the rhythm of the trot. It was an epiphany for me. I got out of that clinic that afternoon smiling from ear to ear. I had so much fun up there while Rudy was working with me, and I was so very grateful that I had decided to go back into that class as exhausted as I was and have him take me through that process. Rudy met me where I was and helped me greatly with my confidence level. To submit your clinic story, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Too Fat, Too Thin, or JUST RIGHT? This fall, I have evaluated several horses for weight loss. These recent cases bring to light some common themes of weight loss in middle-aged and geriatric horses. The goal of this article is to prepare you for what a veterinary evaluation entails, and give you some tips and information to prepare your thin horse for winter.
Weight Monitoring One thing that happens – especially in situations where one or two horses are kept by the owner as a pet – is that a horse can gain or lose significant weight without being thought of as abnormal. For trainers, veterinarians, and farriers (who look at dozens of horses daily), the appropriate weight for a horse is more apparent. For owners that look at only one or two horses daily, the weight change a horse experiences can be so gradual and subtle that it is nearly unnoticeable. A person may be aware that one horse is thinner than the other horse(s) in their herd, but changes in the thin horse’s weight are less obvious. Quantifying that weight objectively is critical for management decisions and for monitoring to ensure that no further losses occur through the cold season.
By Stacie G. Boswell, DVM, DACVS
Body Condition Score Body condition scoring of horses is a technique designed by Dr. D.R. Henneke at Texas A&M University in 1983. Horses are scored on a scale of one to nine, with scores 4 and 5 being considered ideal for fit horses (Figure 1). Horses that are scored 3 and below are considered thinner than ideal. A horse with a body condition score of 1 is in a danger zone of metabolic problems developing as the horse’s food supply increases. We use this scale to accurately communicate about horses in medical records and to monitor weight loss or weight gain over time. The winter hair coat may mask how thin a horse, so it is important during winter to touch the horse and feel how much coverage there is over the ribs, neck, and rump. I recommend objectively scoring the horse each month, and recording this on a
notecard. Noting a trend is important. More details regarding the body condition score can be found at http://www.aaep.org/ info/horse-health?publication=864 Weight Tape Since horses obviously don’t fit on our household scales, it seems impossible to determine just how much they weigh. The weight tape is a tool that every horse owner should have and use regularly. It is placed around the horse, just at the withers and behind the elbow (right in line where the girth or cinch goes). The markings on the tape are in pounds, and give an estimation of what the horse’s weight is based on the circumference (Figure 2). Again, noting the trend of weight loss and weight gain is what is important, as small, gradual changes may be unapparent. I recommend recording the horse’s weight with the weight tape weekly. Medical care There are many reasons that a horse will lose weight. The bottom line is that they are burning more calories than they are ingesting. This can be because of poor digestion, disease or illness, or parasites. A basic medical evaluation for weight loss should include a full physical examination, evaluation of dentition, a bloodwork panel, a fecal evaluation, and palpation of abdominal organs per rectum. Additional information from more specific tests may also be necessary to achieve a diagnosis. Dental Disease All horses should have their teeth evaluated annually. If dental abnormalities are the sole cause of weight loss, a single float will not be a miracle solution. Typically, dental abnormalities develop gradually over time and these can be maintained or corrected more effectively if annual sedated dental evaluation is performed and a routine float is done. A float is basically grinding off the sharp edges of a horse’s teeth to restore normal and healthy dental occlusion. If a horse’s teeth do not grind food properly, detrimental effects can occur throughout the digestive tract. If the horse doesn’t grind food to small enough particles, the esophagus can become blocked (choke), impactions in the large colon are more likely, and proper absorption of nutrients is impossible.
1. Bloodwork Bloodwork may include a serum chemistry panel, a complete blood count (CBC), and potentially other, more specific tests. A screening serum chemistry panel for horses can detect problems with kidneys, liver, muscles, and electrolytes. Generally 10-20 biomarkers (proteins, enzymes, or electrolytes). Red flags on this panel will be interpreted by your veterinarian relative to other clinical signs the horse is showing. The CBC evaluates the types of cells in the blood. Red blood cells carry oxygen using a protein molecule called hemoglobin. The CBC screens for anemia by evaluating size of red blood cells (which carry oxygen), the number of red blood cells, and the hemoglobin content within the red blood cells. White blood cells are part of the immune system, and help fight infections. The CBC quantitates all five major cell types. Anemia, decreases in immune status, and increases in certain cell types are red flags that help determine the cause of weight loss. Cushing’s Test A Cushing’s test is usually the most relevant to weight loss. Cushing’s disease in horses is a result of a benign pituitary tumor. While this tumor doesn’t spread, it does have systemic effects. It causes an
increase in cortisol, the stress hormone. In horses this results in an increased hair coat, loss of muscle mass or wasting over the topline, a decrease in immunity, and slows the healing process of wounds. This disease also significantly increases the horse’s susceptibility to laminitis (founder). There are several different blood tests that will reveal Cushing’s. It is treatable with pergolide, which is available as the FDAapproved product, Prascend. Fecal Egg Count Although in New Mexico, our arid climate typically results in very few parasites for most horses. The intestinal parasite life cycle often involves parasite eggs being ingested in grass, so this limits exposure
in our state. However, parasite eggs may also be ingested in feces, so horses living in paddocks with suboptimal manure control can also be at risk. McMaster’s Fecal Parasite Test A McMaster’s fecal parasite test quantifies the number of parasite eggs per gram of feces (EPG). Typically, adult horses with less than 200 EPG are not dewormed, but horses that are shedding more are. This strategy is used to prevent parasite resistance to the drugs used for deworming (anthelmintics). A McMaster’s quantification of EPG in a think horse can also provide clues to why a horse has lost weight and provide a way to monitor effectiveness of deworming. Scientific data shows that chronic parasite infestation is detrimental to digestive ability. Controlling and documenting parasitism is important for longevity, even when horses appear young and robust. Palpation per Rectum Although we can only evaluate the caudal (back) third of the abdomen, this is a straightforward diagnostic that should be performed in any case of unexplained weight loss. This examination technique is often employed in cases of colic, but can occasionally identify tumors or other intestinal abnormalities causing weight loss. Ancillary Diagnostics In cases of weight loss other diagnostics may be employed to help find abnormalities. These include evaluation of abdominal fluid, abdominal ultrasound, and rectal biopsy Abdominocentesis (belly tap) is sampling of the fluid that surrounds the abdominal organs. Total protein, cellular quantification and typing, and cellular appearance are evaluated. Changes in these parameters are red flags that help veterinarians determine more elusive causes of weight loss. Ultrasound of the abdomen can “see” into the abdomen using sound waves. The ultrasound helps determine relative fluid content of organs. It cannot penetrate through gas, so some portions beneath gas pockets in the colon will not be visible. It also can only penetrate to a
depth of about 10 inches. The deeper the penetration, the more loss of detail occurs. This diagnostic tool, like abdominal palpation per rectum, may reveal tumors or abdominal abscesses that are relevant to weight loss. A rectal biopsy is a relatively non-invasive tool to take a sample of tissue from the inner surface of the rectum. Changes in this tissue as observed under a microscope may indicate inflammatory disease or other reasons for weight loss. Finally, if the thin horse has trouble ambulating or is painful while moving, this can affect his or her ability to consume enough forage if he or she is dependent on pasture for their calorie needs. A painful horse should be evaluated and a painmanagement plan should be made. Feed and Feed Supplements The basis of every horse’s diets should be long-stem roughage (hay, grass, or alfalfa) whenever possible. The thin horse that has experienced calorie deprivation (starvation) should be started on grass and alfalfa in small amounts, with a gradual increase. All food changes should occur gradually over weeks to months. After 2-4 weeks, concentrated feeds (sweet feed or pellets) can be added to the diet For a horse already receiving hay and concentrated feeds, the roughage must account for a minimum of 50% of the horse’s dry matter intake. Dry matter intake (DMI) is a measure of feeds with the water eliminated from them. The weight of hay will be similar to its DMI, but spring grass will be very different due to the high water content. For horses unable to consume longstem roughage due to dental disease, a complete feed (such as Purina or Triple Crown Equine Senior feeds) has roughage incorporated in the formulation. These feeds typically use beet pulp as the roughage. How to Feed a Thin Horse It is critical now in the late fall that horses that are thin due to age-related changes in digestion or due to illness are fed to increase their body condition prior to winter. As stated above, roughage is the basis for weight maintenance and important to proper maintenance
of the horses gastrointestinal organs. Additionally, fermentation of longstemmed roughage is one of the main ways the horse’s body maintains its temperature. In addition to good-quality hay, thin horses should be receiving a concentrated feed. Depending on their dental health and other factors, this may include sweet feed, an equine senior feed, or a pelleted diet. All of these choices have pros and cons, so each horse and situation is different. For example, a horse with Cushing’s disease (caused by a pituitary adenoma) should not have feed with a high molasses or sugar content. One of the most critical factors is that that horse must have an area where he or she can spend at least 4-6 hours eating away from the herd. If the thin horse is a slower eater, or is lower in the herd rank, they may be able to ingest and chew enough to maintain themselves or gain weight, but they may not eat as rapidly as they once did. Even older horses that rank high in the herd may have a difficult time defending their food and eating at the same time. Many weight-building or weight-gain supplements are available on the market. Perhaps the simplest and most costeffective of these is corn or vegetable oil. Starting with one tablespoon and topdressing the grain or pellets and working up to 2 cups per day can really help horses maintain their body condition through the winter. Horses that are unable to chew properly really benefit from this extra source of calories that is easily digestible, and doesn’t require chewing. There is evidence that horses with a compromised digestive tract benefit from a vitamin supplement. Vitamin C is important for immunity (10 grams per day) and B vitamins are the vitamins that have been documented. Other Winter Requirements Horses are a cold-adapted species, and many well-conditioned horses do not need blanketing with adequate shelter. However, a horse that has a decreased fat cover (body condition score of 3 or less) will need blanketing to maintain body heat and prevent further weight loss due to the increased energy demands of cold weather.
Shelter from precipitation and wind is critical for every horse, but especially for thin horses.
Clothes that live up to
Summary Weight monitoring is important for all horses, and is a critical part of a weight-maintenance program for the thin horse. Veterinary evaluation and care is necessary, and regular dental care and maintenance is important. Roughage is the basis for a horse’s diet, and supplemental calories through concentrated feeds or fat supplementation helps the thin horse maintain or gain weight. Vitamins supplementation may enhance the horse’s immune system and health status.
By Stacie G Boswell, DVM, DACVS. Dr. Boswell is an equine veterinarian at Western Trails Veterinary Hospital in Edgewood, New Mexico. .
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