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Mental Training for the Rider

Posted by Tami on January 19, 2010 at 7:05 PM Comments comments (0)

by Charles Wilhelm

www.charleswilhelm.com

Posted: Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The first thing when talking about mental training for the rider is that I believe we all need to understand we must be very positive thinking in our abilities. We must believe absolutely in what we are able to do. And that means recognizing what are abilities actually are no matter the level. At the same time, we have to bring into account negativity. Why negativity? Because while we want to be extremely positive about our own abilities, we also have to be realistic about where the horse is in its own training. Once we are truly aware of both the positives and the negatives in our relationship, we then also need to not become overly attached to those ideas and allow them to interfere with our intentions, meaning the exercises we have planned.

Intent and Focus

Clear intentions in training are vital. We need to identify what we intend our goals to be. And that includes where to start, how to get there, and where to end. We absolutely have to prepare our mental state to stay focused on these goals rather than to react to the environment around us. You may be working with your horse and have another horse get totally out of control, or hear another rider shouting at someone but you have to stay utterly focused on the horse you are working with. Find your center and stay on track with your own work. Don't allow yourself to get distracted and you will find your horse is much less likely to get distracted as well. If you are focused, your horse will be focused it really is that straightforward.

Many people don't recognize what intentions really mean in terms of horsemanship and yet that really is the magic in training. The dictionary definition of the word intention is: "A course of action that one intends to follow. An aim that guides action; an objective." So when we are clear in our minds as to what our intentions are, our goals about how to achieve those intentions become clear as well. The mental process actually provides physical form. And as the horse reads body language the positioning of your body makes the magical communication happen with the horse. For example, when out trail riding, if your intention is to turn right and go through a gate, you need to already see yourself doing it in your mind's eye before you begin actually doing it. The process may have some difficulty in the horse not understanding or getting confused, but if you stay focused on going through the gate as you imagine it, it greatly helps the horse as they need purpose. One of the things that we have talked about before, is that with any exercise we do, we have to be able to picture our doing it every step. So imagine riding up to the gate, step, pivot, go through the gate, step, pivot to close the gate, move out away from the gate. If we cannot picture it, we will not be successful. If you can only see yourself going through the gate, then that's all you should do. Only do what you can actually perceive. Adjust your goals to meet your own ability to imagine.

Focus on Good Behavior

Another important aspect of your own mental training is not to get involved in the negative behavior of the horse. For example, if I have a rude, belligerent horse I do not get caught up in his negative behavior. I remain focused on the goals of the training only. If we are working in the round pen and he is bolting or charging, I am focused only on getting the response I want, which is for the horse to be relaxed, to have rhythm, balance, cadence, and that he wants to be with me. I am not worrying about the other behaviors just focused on what I need to do to achieve my goals. And frankly, that's often just a question of time, which is irrelevant to a horse. They operate on their own time. But again the mental image is key. You have to imagine the behavior and response you intend to get from the horse. It's the same with real estate. You can go out and look at a house as it is, or see it as it's meant to be. Do you get caught up on a brown lawn and peeling paint, or can you imagine the house after you have worked on it and see how it could look/should look? It's vital to learn to use our imagination to succeed and that's available to everyone we just don't seem to use it often with our horses.

Take the Chance, Accept the Risk

One of the reasons probably is that we get so fixated on fear and intimidation. But the reality is, those are very normal feelings when being around horses! But as a professional or even just a serious horse-lover, you have to be willing to take that extra step, whether it's to go into a show arena or out on the trail. You have to simply get on the horse one day, and to allow the practice of handling horses to take on its own life. But at some point, you have to be willing to take that chance, to accept the risk. And to do that - you have to be able to imagine yourself doing it with crystal clarity.

This is an especially common problem with many of the riders who return to horses as adults. They often feel like they want to give up, or get overwhelmed quickly. And that's no surprise. It seemed so easy to ride when we were young, and falling off was never a big deal. Now that we are older and don't bounce so good there is even more danger in handling and riding horses. So when you have those times of feeling overwhelmed or giving up, all it really means is that you need to back up in your relationship with the horse, and return to the basics until you are more comfortable. Can that mean you may be doing just groundwork for six months? Maybe. So what? I have a client who was extremely fearful. She returned to riding in her late 40's and got hurt trail riding shortly afterwards. But rather than giving up, she spent a year working her horse from the ground, and then finally riding in the round pen, then the arena, and then at about the end of that year, went back out on the trail. She has been she riding everywhere on the trail ever since! She did not give up. She instead reset her goals to be in line with what she could imagine herself doing. And slowly as her confidence built, she was able to imagine herself being more and more ambitious in her goals. Finally she broke through the fear barrier altogether and is now living her dream with her horse.

Your Mental State

It's easy to lose confidence when we push ourselves beyond what we can imagine ourselves doing. So have confidence in what your abilities truly are, define your intentions based on those abilities, imagine yourself accomplishing your intentions, and then stay completely focused on working with those goals every time you are with your horse.

Your mental state and preparation for your horse's training really is the most important thing that will determine your success, or failures. What you can imagine yourself doing, you can achieve! So don't be afraid to dream big when it comes to your relationship with your horse. Believe in yourself, be patient, persistent and those dreams will come true.

_________________________________

About Charles Wilhelm

Known as the creator of Ultimate Foundation Training, Charles combines the best of traditional, classical and natural horsemanship into a methodology that is applicable to any riding discipline. His extensive background includes: Dressage, Working Cow Horse, Reining, Western Pleasure and Trail. He is known for communicating and motivating people as well as his astounding natural abilities with a horse. He believes "It's Never, Ever the Horse's Fault" and his training methods reflect that belief. Charles specializes in re-schooling horses with often-severe issues.

Charles has a weekly television show, writes monthly columns, has two books and numerous training DVDs. He performs clinics and demonstrations at venues throughout the country. He offers extensive hands-on learning programs for every level of horsemanship that reflect his motto "Success Through Knowledge".

Ashley

Posted by Tami on January 17, 2010 at 11:43 AM Comments comments (0)

Kelly and I picked up Ashley from the Rescue yesturday. She trailered real nice and loaded like a dream. She's a cute Quarter Pony that is around ten yrs old. Check out her page for the story and keep on checking back here for updates!

 

2/8/2010

Well Ash has been here 3 weeks now. We have been working on trust and the relationship. I am pleased on how she has done a 180! When you go to the gate she comes "trotting" to greet you. Always ready to do what you want.

 

A week after she arrived I had the local Farrier out, Henry Detwieler, to trim her hooves. He thought she might be gaited (and she is!) and maybe part Mustang! She stood good for him. Her hooves had not been trimmed in months! She had some seperation of the hoof wall but once trimmed it just about disapeared.

 

After two weeks being here,I decided to worm her. I did have to place the halter on her. But she took the wormer well and with out a "fight". Working with her daily has helped gain the trust she must have lost. She is a smart mare and has become very loving. She is now starting to lower her head and turn it towards me to be haltered and unhaltered.

 

Sunday 2/7/10 I rode her. I took my time with saddling. Rode her around in the pasture she is being kept than decided to head out. Using a Parelli Soft Rope Hackamore and the saddle Kelly brought over, we headed out. Went down to the west end of the hay field and than to the pond. She has been hearing the cows at the neighbors and decided to let her check it out.

 

She did great and she is Gaited! What a gait she has. Not sure of what to call it but think its a single footed gait. I'm trying to learn what it is called and will let you know as soon as I find out.

 

2/21/10

Kelly came out and we went for a ride. We took our time saddling Ash and let the 2 of them have some time to get to know each other. I saddled up Cappy and we went for about a hours ride. My dog, Festus went along. He is real good around the horses and has gone with me on rides for the last couple of yrs.

 

3/20/10

Ashley went home today. Fred went with me. We headed out around 9:30 to hook the trainer up and load Ashley. The hook up went awesome. Fred and I both went to get Ash. I know she knew something was up. Not to often we both go out together. Should have thought about that! After a few mintues she came up to us and placed the halter on her and lead her to the trailer. Let her say bye to our horses and loaded her up. Got to Kellys place and everyone was excited to see her! Her and Kincaid got along great right off the bat.

 

What is Natural Horse*Man*Ship

Posted by Tami on January 1, 2010 at 10:27 PM Comments comments (0)

What is Natural Horsemanship?

 

Natural Horsemanship is a philosophy of working with horses based on the horse’s natural instincts and methods of communication, with the understanding that horses do not learn through fear or pain, but rather from pressure and the release of pressure.

It is a common misconception that Natural Horsemanship equals “wimpy” horsemanship, where the ‘relationship’ is prized above all else. This is not the case. Natural horsemanship trainers must use firm but fair force when necessary to ensure the safety of the rider or handler, as well as the horse. We simply do not use fear or pain to motivate the animal, nor do we attempt to force the animal into submission.

 

Basic ideas

 

There are countless “schools” or theories of natural horsemanship but the following ideas are common to most of them:

 

•Horses are social herd animals, evolved for social interaction and the ability to escape predators. The horse has a highly developed communication system practiced primarily through body language. It is possible for humans to learn to use body language to communicate with the horse. Horses use ear position, head position, speed of movement, threatening gestures, showing of teeth and swinging of hips, and many other gestures to communicate. They are quick to escalate a behavior if early warnings are not heeded. Similarly, in natural horsemanship, the handler or trainer uses body language along with other forms of gentle pressure with increasing escalation to get the horse to respond. Horses are quick to form a relationship of respect with humans who treat them in this fashion; “firm but fair” is a motto.

 

•Most natural horsemanship practitioners agree that teaching through pain and fear do not result in the type of relationship that benefits both horse and handler. The object is for the horse to be calm and feel safe throughout the training process. A horse that feels calm and safe with his handler is quick to bond with that person, and the results can be remarkable.

 

•The human must be knowledgeable of the horse’s natural instincts and communication system, and use this knowledge in his work with the horse.

 

•Like many other forms of horse training, operant conditioning through pressure and release are core concepts. The basic technique is to apply a pressure of some kind to the horse as a “cue” for an action and then release the pressure as soon as the horse responds, either by doing what was asked for, or by doing something that could be understood as a step towards the requested action, a “try”. Timing is everything, as the horse learns not from the pressure itself, but rather from the release of that pressure. These techniques are based on the principle of reinforcement, rather than physical force, which most Natural Horsemanship practitioners avoid using whenever possible.

 

•Most Natural Horsemanship approaches emphasize the use of groundwork to establish boundaries and set up communication with the horse. This can include leading exercises, long reining and liberty work.

 

•As with all successful animal training methods, there is an emphasis on timing, feel and consistency from the handler.

 

Natural horsemanship has become very popular in the past two decades and there are many books, videos, tapes, and websites available to interested equestrians. This philosophy has capitalized on the use of behavioral reinforcement to replace inhumane practices used in some methods of training, the ultimate goal of which is a calmer, happier and more willing partner in the horse.

 

Natural Horsemanship avoids fear- and pain-based training methods. While natural and gentle methods of training have been around for millennia, dating to the advocacy of gentle methods by Xenophon in Ancient Greece, there have also been any number of techniques over the years that attempted to train a horse by breaking the horse’s spirit, often forcing it to fight back and then be dominated or defeated. Natural Horsemanship advocates point out that by removing fear an individual gains trust from the horse. By not scaring and hurting the horse, the horse learns to work with people in a partnership verses as an adversary.

 

Some well-known trainers considered to be practitioners of natural horsemanship in the late twentieth century include: Tom and Bill Dorrance, Ray Hunt, John Lyons, Buck Brannaman, Monty Roberts, and Pat Parelli.

 

 

History

 

Many of the techniques used by Natural Horsemanship practitioners have ancient roots. The idea of working sympathetically with the horse’s nature goes back at least to Xenophon and his treatise On Horsemanship, which has influenced humane practitioners of horse training in many disciplines, including both natural horsemanship and dressage.

 

However, gentle training methods have always had to compete with harsher methods, which often appear to obtain faster, but less predictable results. In particular, the cowboy tradition of the American west, where the economics of needing to break large numbers of semi-feral horses to saddle in a short period of time led to the development of a number of harsh training methods that the Natural Horsemanship movement specifically has set out to replace. However, most of the original Natural Horsemanship practitioners acknowledge their own roots are in the gentler methods of some cowboy traditions, particularly those most closely associated with the “California” or vaquero horseman.

 

The modern Natural Horsemanship movement developed primarily in the Pacific Northwest and the Rocky Mountain states, where the “Buckaroo” or vaquero cowboy tradition was the strongest. Early modern practitioners were brothers, Tom and Bill Dorrance, who had background in the Great Basin “Buckaroo” tradition. They had a particularly strong influence on Ray Hunt and Hunt’s disciple, Buck Brannaman. Many later practitioners claim influence from the Dorrance brothers, including Pat Parelli and others.

 

Other trainers who developed from slightly different influences include John Lyons, who espouses a simple, easy to understand system for communicating effectively with horses; Monty Roberts, who claims to trace his work back to that of John Solomon Rarey, with additions from his own observations of horses. Several other practitioners claim inspiration from concepts used by Native American horse trainers

Electrolyte Essentials

Posted by Tami on January 1, 2010 at 3:42 PM Comments comments (0)

Electrolyte Essentials

 

Find out how to replenish these vital minerals in your horse's body.

By Sarah Christie

 

Ever wonder why sweat tastes salty? It's because sweat contains dissolved body salts and minerals known as electrolytes. These invisible but important ingredients conduct the body's electrical impulses and regulate vital internal functions such as heartbeat, smooth muscle contraction (needed for gut motility) and hydration.

 

Electrolytes consist of sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium and magnesium, which are generally available in adequate quantities from a balanced diet. Under normal conditions, a horse or a person can replenish lost electrolytes by simply eating and drinking.

 

But during prolonged activity, especially in hot weather, electrolyte loss can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness, cramping, dehydration, diarrhea and metabolic failure. That's why it is important for both horse and rider to stay hydrated and nourished during extended summertime exercise. Riders can carry a sports drink and energy bars to keep their electrolytes up to par. Horses can also benefit from commercial electrolyte supplements if they are going to be ridden for more than a few hours at a time under hot or strenuous conditions. Get your vet's advice on using supplemental electrolytes made just for horses.

 

Prepackaged electrolyte pastes can be administered with a syringe at the back of the tongue, just like a dewormer. Some competitors prefer to prepare their own mix and stir it into a grain mixture, or a syringe full of applesauce or tapioca pudding. Generally, the electrolytes should be administered before activity begins, with subsequent doses given after each water break. The salty taste actually stimulates some horses to drink more, which further protects against dehydration.

 

Administering electrolytes post workout will help the body's functions return to normal, aid digestion and reduce muscle fatigue. This is particularly important in events that require multi-day exercise, such as an endurance ride or cross-country event. In these situations, your horse will not be able to recover lost electrolytes fast enough through regular food and drink. Always make sure that plenty of fresh water and hay is available after administering the electrolytes at the end of the day.

Balancing Your Horse's Diet to Achieve an Ideal Weight

Posted by Tami on January 1, 2010 at 3:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Balancing Your Horse's Diet to Achieve an Ideal Weight

 

Too fat? Too thin? Expert nutrition advice on balancing your horse’s diet to achieve an ideal weight.

By Sarah Christie

 

Like people, some horses seem to stay fat off the smell of an empty feed sack, while others can consume enough calories to, well, choke a horse without gaining a pound. Few equine management challenges are more distressing than a "hard keeper" that remains bony regardless of how much he eats. Conversely, horses that are prone to obesity carry significant health risks. Finding the right diet for "special needs" horses doesn’t have to be frustrating and expensive. With the variety of specialty feeds and supplements available, and a basic understanding of the equine digestive system, you should be able to design a feeding program tailor-made to achieve an ideal weight.

Find the Cause

 

James Kerr, DVM, has a thriving equine practice in Santa Rosa, Calif., where he specializes in performance horses. In addition to his practice, Dr. Kerr is also active with the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) both as a competitor and a ride veterinarian. He says he sees more horses that are overweight than underweight.

 

“People love them so much they kill them with kindness,” Dr. Kerr says. "They want to provide for their every need, which translates into lots of rich food and not enough exercise."

 

At the same time, he also acknowledges that most underweight horses get that way because of poor management, not a finicky metabolism. So before declaring a moratorium on alfalfa hay or breaking out the beet pulp, it helps to understand why your horse has weight issues. Genetics definitely play a role in regulating equine body mass and metabolic rates, but the environment, exercise and overall health also contribute significantly to whether your horse is ribby or rotund.

 

Hidden Reasons for Hard Keepers

 

In the case of the underweight horse, "It’s essential to eliminate any hidden health concerns that may be contributing to your horse’s condition," Dr. Kerr says. Illness, parasites, dental problems, gastric ulcers and stress can all contribute to weight loss. Veterinary exams can help rule out diseases that lead to weight loss. Sticking to a regular deworming program will help safeguard against internal parasites. And scheduling an annual dental exam will ensure that your horse is actually eating all the food you serve up, instead of dribbling it out onto the ground or passing it through undigested.

 

Weather Considerations and Feed

 

Additional feed is essential for maintaining body weight in cold weather, especially if rain and wind are involved. For each 10 degrees F below 32 F, two pounds of additional hay above what is normally fed is needed to maintain body weight. Add wind and rain, and requirements increase by as much as 15 additional pounds. Along with extra hay, you can bump up the calories with fat supplements, such as a top dressing of 1/2 to 2 cups of corn oil daily.

 

The best plan is to provide a warm, dry shelter, and a waterproof blanket when needed, to protect your horse from the elements, in addition to a moderate increase in calories.

 

Stress can also contribute to weight loss. If your horse is a chronic stall walker, weaver or fence runner, he is burning calories needlessly, all day long. Simple management changes, such as daily turnout or the addition of a stall buddy, can alleviate these behaviors. Rigorous training schedules also cause residual stress after the workout is over, and can lead to gastric ulcers that put horses off their feed. Don’t forget horses need vacations too. If your horse is getting mentally “cooked” from intensive training, consider giving him a month or two off to relax and regroup. If he acts hungry but doesn’t clean up his feed, or exhibits frequent, mild colic symptoms, you may want to ask your veterinarian to perform a gastric endoscopy to determine whether a stomach ulcer is present.

 

Risks of Being Overweight

 

Conversely, obesity carries significant, potentially life threatening consequences. "Laminitis is the number one danger for overweight horses," Dr. Kerr says. "A cresty neck, bubble butt and fat deposits over the withers and shoulders are warning signals that you are teetering on the brink of founder." Kidney and liver disease, as well as glucose intolerance are also risk factors for overweight equines.

If the weight gain is sudden, not related to any changes in feed or exercise, and does not respond to reduced rations, consult your veterinarian. This could be a symptom of a metabolic condition. Proper diet (low starch/low sugar), exercise, and in some cases, medication, can help manage the problem. Also, keep in mind that a potbelly doesn’t necessarily mean weight gain; instead, it could be a sign of some other healthcondition, such as parasite infestation or equine Cushing’s disease.

 

Basic Feed Needs For All

 

The principles of achieving and maintaining optimum weight in horses are the same as they are in humans: balancing calories in, calories used and calories stored. Finding the right combination of roughage, protein, fat and carbohydrates takes some experimenting. Calorie-rich feeds that are mostly comprised of carbohydrates and sugar—sweet feeds—can lead to problems such as founder, colic or kidney strain. Too few calories can rob a horse of essential nutrients and cost you a winning performance. Part science and part intuition, a successful feeding program balances calorie input with energy output.

 

One feed requirement all horses have in common is the need for high-quality forage. "Horses are grazers by instinct," says Sue Garlinghouse, DVM, MS, of Upland, Calif. Dr. Garlinghouse specializes in equine nutrition and has published several research articles on equine physiology. "In a natural setting, horses will graze up to 22 hours per day. So I like to keep something in front of them to munch on all day long, or else they will start to eat the fence posts, the barn and the trees." The key to preventing obesity in the face of an all-day buffet is selecting the best quality hay and the appropriate type.

Horses thrive on hay with a crude protein level of 10 to 12 percent. "Dairy quality" alfalfa can contain as much as 24 percent protein, whereas grass hays and some grain hays can be as low as 6 to 8 percent protein. Combining high- and low-protein hays and adjusting the ratios in response to weight fluctuation is one of the simplest ways to maintain optimum weight.

 

With a gut evolved for almost non-stop grazing, horses should consume between 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent of their body weight daily in forage. For an average, 1,000 pound adult horse, this means between 15 to 25 pounds of hay per day. Feeding less than this per day can upset the digestive process, lead to nutrition imbalance and increase the chance of colic.

 

Packing on Pounds Safely

 

As caloric needs increase with exercise or other physiological demands, the grain bin might seem the logical place to turn to. With 30 to 50 percent more digestible energy per pound than hay, any grain or grain-based feed product provides more calories and energy per mouthful than hay or pasture grass. Corn packs the most energy per pound, followed by barley, then oats. These grains are frequently combined in a mixture with molasses to reduce dust and make them more palatable, which also adds calories in the form of sugar (simple carbohydrates).

 

So why not simply bump up the grain ration until the weight begins to pile on? According to Dr. Garlinghouse, large amounts of grain can cause side effects ranging from disruptive to deadly.

 

"Many horses get overly rambunctious on grain," Dr. Garlinghouse says. "If you want them to be able to focus during training and not be jumping out of their skins, large amounts of grain are a problem." More importantly, Dr. Garlinghouse says that studies show the risk of colic increases as grain rations rise. Laminitis, or founder, is also a threat with excessive grain. Additionally, some horses don’t seem to process carbohydrates efficiently, leading to a propensity for metabolic problems that can lead to such conditions as chronic "tying up." Dr. Garlinghouse never recommends feeding more than 3 pounds of grain per feeding, or more than a total of 8 pounds per day. Instead, she says supplements and specialty feeds are a safer way to get more calories into the diet without the health risks associated with feeding a lot of grain.

 

Feeding for Weight Gain

 

Hay

Alfalfa hay is often recommended for weight gain. Alfalfa cut at the beginning or end of the growing season is appropriate for horses because of its protein levels. Even when weight gain is the goal, avoid feeding alfalfa hay cut at the height of the growing season because of its high protein levels. (Dr. Kerr suggests not exceeding a 14 percent protein level.)

 

Complete Feeds

 

"Complete feeds" refer to any highly digestible processed feed product made from a combination of chopped forage, grain, vitamins and minerals. Underweight horses can often benefit from the addition of a complete feed to the diet.

 

A good complete feed will be high in fiber and include trace minerals, fats and vitamins. Although billed as nutritionally "complete," Dr. Garlinghouse recommends including at least a low-protein grass hay to give horses something to munch on, thus reducing the risk of colic by keeping the gut active.

 

Senior feeds are a specialized type of complete feed formulated for older horses. They are typically heat extruded milled grain products, some with higher forage contents than others. They are designed to be more digestible and easier to chew. Because older equines often have trouble holding their weight, particularly in cold winter weather, senior feeds usually have a higher percentage of fats, with a combination of grains, forage, rice bran or stabilized oils.

 

Fabulous Fats

 

If after adjusting feed amounts, formulations and exercise your horse still doesn’t achieve the desired weight gain, it may be time to consider a weight-gain supplement. The quickest route to increased weight gain without risky side effects is by adding fat in the form of a top dressing.

 

"Horses utilize fat much more efficiently than human beings do," Dr. Kerr says. "It is a good source of energy as well as an additive for weight gain." Fat has a number of benefits for the working equine. Not only is it 85 percent digestible, it’s free from carbohydrates, which means it doesn’t contribute to a risk of colic or founder. It produces 30 percent less heat than protein in the metabolic process, and it is an easy way to increase calories without increasing feed volume. Not to mention the glossy coat it produces!

 

Commercial weight-gain supplements often contain stabilized rice bran or flaxseed products as major ingredients. Both are excellent sources of high-quality fat calories. Stabilized rice bran alone can be fed as a top dressing, but it is extremely high in phosphorus, which creates the possibility of a calcium/phosphorous imbalance unless the diet is carefully modified. Flaxseed meal can also be fed alone. Freshness is the key, and it can be ground at home from whole flaxseeds using an electric coffee grinder. Flaxseed must be ground for horses to benefit; otherwise it passes right through the digestive system.

 

The most economic way to increase fat calories in the diet is by adding common vegetable oil. One cup of corn or safflower oil contains 240 grams of fat, the equivalent of 1.2 pounds of corn or 1.5 pounds of sweet feed. Thus it can be substituted as part of the daily grain ration. But standard cooking oil does not contain the beneficial fatty acids found in flaxseed oil, and it is important to store properly to avoid rancidity.

 

Digestive Enzymes

 

The overall health of a horse’s digestive tract will affect his ability to gain and maintain weight. When digestive enzymes and bacteria don’t function properly, it can interfere with nutrient absorption and utilization. Supplements and complete feeds provide more fats, carbohydrates and vitamins, but "probiotics" and "prebiotics" may help the digestive tract make optimum use of those nutrients.

 

Probiotics contain yeast fermentation (Lactobacillus) products that may help repopulate the hind gut with good bacteria. These beneficial bacteria aid digestion, helping horses get more nutrition out of what they are eating. While a healthy horse probably has enough gut flora, probiotics can be useful after a bout of diarrhea, rapid feed changes, debilitating disease, gastric ulcers, or following a course of oral antibiotics.

 

Prebiotics are the newest advancement in equine nutrition. Unlike probiotics, prebiotics don’t contain actual bacteria, but instead contain ingredients that enhance the entire gut’s ability to support bacterial function. They are formulated to increase digestion and absorption by feeding and improving the environment of the good bacteria that reside there.

 

Tips for Shedding the Pounds

 

For weight reduction, Dr. Kerr recommends removing all alfalfa and grain from the diet and feeding strictly grass hay, along with gradually increasing daily exercise, until body weight returns to normal. An overweight horse should be consuming mostly low-protein feed. Dr. Kerr’s best advice for the overweight equine is simple: cut back on the calories and increase the exercise. It’s important not to deprive even an obese horse of the minimum required daily amounts of roughage because it can lead to colic (daily forage rations should weigh no less than 1.5 to 2.5 percent of a horse’s body weight).

 

As for a sensible exercise program for your horse, start by slowly increasing the frequency and duration of your rides. If you are a weekend rider, throw in a couple of mid-week sessions. If you ride for half an hour every day, up your saddle time to an hour or so. If riding isn’t an option, consider longeing at a medium trot until your horse breaks a light sweat, or at least putting him on a hot walker for an hour or so a day. In the wild, horses can typically cover 20 miles per day in search of fresh grass and water. While most riders can’t commit to that much time in the saddle, this serves as a good reference point for what a healthy horse can accommodate under natural conditions.

 

Long Term Weight Maintenance

 

Whether your horse is underweight, overweight or just right, it’s important to evaluate his condition through advancing age, environmental changes and performance demands. Addressing unwanted fluctuations before they become potential health risks is the most important aspect of equine weight management.

 

A balanced approach to a feed regimen that mirrors nature as closely as possible, while incorporating more advanced formulas and targeted nutritional supplements when necessary, will keep your horse not only looking and feeling his best, but also performing up to his optimum potential.

 

Sarah Christie is a freelance writer and endurance competitor based in California.

Finding your lost horse

Posted by Tami on January 1, 2010 at 3:32 PM Comments comments (0)

Finding Your Lost Horse

 

It's important to recover your wandering horse as soon as possible. He could be a danger to himself or others.

 

By Marcia King

 

Not every missing horse falls afoul of crime. Some horses decide to leave on their own. Even so, it's important to recover your wandering horse as soon as possible. He could be a danger to himself or others.

 

To round up a wandering horse, Robin Lohnes, executive director of the American Horse Protection Association, advises launching a search party on foot or in a vehicle.

 

"Make sure you take a halter, lead rope and a pail of grain to entice him," she says. "Bring a flashlight if you go at night.

 

"Horses usually seek out other horses, so alert your neighbors and ask if he's in their pasture. If you're along an interstate or main road, alert the state police and animal control.

 

"Check wooded areas where he might not be in plain view," she adds. "Make sure he hasn't fallen through the ice in a pond. Horses are really curious and they think they can fit in areas where they really can't, especially youngsters, so they might wander into a machine shed and get accidentally caught behind a tractor." Usually horses that get out on their own don't go far, so concentrate your first efforts in areas close to home.

 

Having identification tags for your horse at all times will help to speed up the recovery should it wander astray. Small, circular pet ID tags with your name, address and phone number can either be braided or banded into your horse's mane.

Horse Theft Prevention Tips

Posted by Tami on January 1, 2010 at 3:31 PM Comments comments (0)

Horse Theft Prevention Tips

 

The nightmare of a stolen horse can be a terrifying experience. Keep your horse from falling victim by following these theft prevention tips.

 

• Don't assume it won't or can't happen to you.

 

 

• Notice changes or differences around your barn or boarding facility, such as tire tracks, human footprints, fences that have been disturbed, gates latched differently and so on. This may be the work of a thief checking out the area.

 

• Know your horse's habits. Is your horse suddenly hanging out in a far corner of the pasture that he never used to visit? A thief might be baiting your horse, putting out sweet feed until your horse goes to that spot at predetermined times. The thief can then conveniently meet your horse at the fence, cut an opening and take him.

 

• Post signs. Law enforcement professionals say one of the best theft deterrents is to post signs that prove your horses are permanently identified. Also, signs that say a security system or agency protects your property. At a horse show or gathering, put up small signs on your trailer and in your barn area.

 

• Lock your truck and install a lock on your trailer's hitch. Savvy thieves can hitch your truck to your trailer, load your horses, and drive off with truck, trailer, tack and horses in one neat package.

 

• Be careful when posting your horses on online classified advertisement websites. You can inadvertently advertise to thieves where your horse is located, what he looks like, how much he is worth and so on.

 

• Set up a neighborhood watch in your area. Don't be afraid to step in and question unfamiliar people who drive through. If they ask you why, let them know and write down their license plate numbers. This may scare off the less professional thieves.

 

• Sign up for NetPosse and help distribute stolen horse information.

 

For More Information:

Stolen Horse International

(704) 484-2165

[email protected]

www.netposse.com

A Good Scratch

Posted by Tami on January 1, 2010 at 3:28 PM Comments comments (0)

A Good Scratch

 

A 10-minute scratching session with no strings attached will win your horse’s heart.

I think we can all agree that a good scratch is worth its weight in gold. Notice if your horse tightens his tail and muscles against your touch – can you get him to relax and let you move the dock from side to side? A 10-minute scratching session with no strings attached will win your horse’s heart! Write about the results in your log.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Posted by Tami on January 1, 2010 at 3:24 PM Comments comments (0)

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

 

Gain your horse's affection by respecting his space.

 

How would you feel if a friend were to walk into your house at any hour of the day or night, without knocking, and went straight into your bedroom to start moving furniture around? My guess is you’d be a little upset. Yet, we do this to our horses’ space all the time when we simply walk into the stall and get to work!

 

Instead, next time you approach the stall, notice when your horse notices you – and stop. Wait for at least seven seconds. Notice his reaction – my bet is that he’ll be a little bit curious, but he might just turn away. Ouch! What does that tell you about your relationship? Continue to approach the stall, but wait at the gate for your horse to approach you – this might take the whole 10 minutes or longer, depending on your relationship. Let him touch his nose to your hand first, rather than reaching out to give him a pat, and count to 30, 40 or even 60. Then step inside, slowly give your horse a friendly touch all over and leave. Do this for seven days in a row and note the reaction. Your horse is probably going to greet you at the gate, confident that you’re not just there to put him to work!


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