Post-Care for Choking/Choked Horse

Well, I guess you can’t avoid the scary parts of horse ownership, with the good, comes the bad and the very scary. I will get right to the point, because chances are, if you are reading this, you are in the same boat. My arab choked on beet pulp as he gulped his food. Luckily, we were right there and able to treat him quickly.
Treatment: This is what was prescribed by my Veterinarian who was unable to be there, but consulted via text messaging. First we administered Banamine intravenously. That did not stop the choking, so we gave him a dose of Dormosedan Gel. We waited 30 minutes, and voila, he was sedated and feeling better. So then we had to come up with a post-care plan. Luckily he did not have to be tubed or scoped, which would have had to happen if the sedation didn’t help. Sedation assists the horse in releasing the contracted muscles and dropping their head, often times the blockage will work its way out or clear up with the saliva being produced.
Anyways, post care. I was instructed to only feed him his pelleted food in oatmeal form, absolutely no hay, and take his temperature daily to be sure that pneumonia didn’t strike from something getting in his lungs while choking.Once he was cleared with a healthy temperature, he would receive 2 grams of Buteryol (bute) each day. 
So here we are on day three. I wanted to share his regime in case there are other people out there like me that feel better about having step-by-step instructions.
Day 1: He received 1 scoop of pellets in sloppy soup form about 6 hours after the choking incident.
Day 2: 3 scoops of slop spread out over 3 feedings (1 scoop each feeding) one 30 minute grazing session on lush grass.
Day 3: 3.5 scoops of pellets spread out over 4 servings throughout the day, (increasing his feed since he is not getting hay) and grazed two times for 30 minutes each on lush grass.
Day 4: 4 scoops of pellets spread out over 4 servings throughout the day (this was the last increase) and grazed 3 times for 30 minutes each on lush grass
Day 5: 4 scoops of pellets spread out, but increase his 3 separate grazing times to 45 minutes each.
Day 6: Start to integrate hay slowly back into the diet and try to get him back to his healthy weight. The first two days thinned him out more than I would like to see. 
I hope this helps anybody going through something similar, all feedback and comments are welcome!

Asking for a Flying Lead Change

First, lets define a lead: When the horse is loping in the right lead, the footfall pattern is left hind (beat one), right hind and left fore almost simultaneously (beat two), right fore (beat three). The right legs will be reaching the farthest forward and the horse is loping in the right lead.

To ask for a lead change, it is important to understand that the horse might pick up two leads, one with their front legs and one with their hind, if you ask incorrectly. This is called "Crossfire". If you ask the by moving their hip, they should always pick up the full and correct lead. So in order to ask for the correct lead, you need to get the horse to bend his body. So for example, to ask for the right lead, you:

- tilt the horses head to the inside (right)
-keep your inside leg on the cinch to have them lift that front shoulder
-apply pressure with outside leg behind the cinch to ask them to move that hip to the inside.

To ask for the lead change from right to left:

- you are currently applying inside inside (right) leg pressure at the shoulder
- tilt head to the left
- apply left leg pressure at the girth to ask to bend
- apply outside (right) leg pressure behind the cinch to ask them to shift their hip

When first asking for lead changes, bring the horse down to a nice controlled trot and ask for the change from there, then you can move up to flying lead changes.

Training a horse for lead changes is different:
Start with asking for a half pass as seen below

Half-pass to lope on correct lead:

Walk your horse in a large circle on the right rein.
Make sure your right leg is not in contact with your horse.
With your weight to the left (it helps to really exaggerate this at first), apply right rein pressure in a “give-and-take” in the direction of your left shoulder – a rein of opposition.
I find I need quite a short rein to do this so my hand doesn't get too high.
Apply left leg pressure and steady direct left rein pressure until your horse steps to the inside of the circle with forward sideways steps.
Your right rein will be holding your horse on the circle and your left leg will be moving his hind quarters into the circle.
Ask for only a step or two at the beginning, using your voice or bumping softly with your inside leg for forward motion. Release all aids and repeat, then repeat to the left.

Half-pass to the inside several times, releasing after your horse performs the maneuver and walking a few steps. When you want to lope from a half-pass, keep your weight on the outside seat bone, release the rein pressure and “kiss”. Repeat a few times until your horse understands. Reverse and half-pass to lope in the other direction. Don’t expect too much too soon if your horse is learning. I accept any attempt to lope, then do it again.

A training method For the beginner horse and flying lead changes:

Right to left lead change: I counter canter a large half circle to the left (right lead on left circle) on one end of the arena as in the previous exercise. I do that exercise once or twice, each time loping back to the small “comfortable” circle. When I decide to try a lead change, I position him for a counter canter as before as I leave the small circle in a straight line (in the right lead) as before to the far corner. If he is not resisting my aids asking him to stay in a counter canter (head and neck down and moving off my inside leg), I change my weight to the outside (right), taking my inside (left) leg off at the same time and keeping his head in the direction of the new circle (left). I do not change anything about his head because it is already correct for the new lead. He is now in a half-pass position (to the left) at a lope, an exercise he has already learned. At that point, I encourage forward motion with my body and I “cluck” for the change. Often, my horse changes leads and hardly knows why he did. If that happens, I sit down and allow him to walk, rewarding him with a pat and a “good boy”.

The Vaquero Way and Bridlehorses

I recently picked up an Arabian and after having my dentist chiropractor horse whisperer Loren Hardie come inspect him, I decided to see what he knew. I realized that this horse had a lot of buttons, and I had no idea how to go about riding him. I took Loren's recommendation and got on him bareback with a halter and lead rope to.

When I purchased this horse, I was told that he is very responsive and was trained by hispanics down by the Texas/Mexico border. The can mean many things, so I still wasn't sure what I had.

Now, I have ridden this horse several times under saddle (Western and English) and tried three different bits on him. He hates bits. I have to give him treats to accept the bit. This horse was good, responsive, but not nearly as responsive as he was with nothing on.

He side passed, spun around both ways for me, and could perform a dead stop, not a sliding stop. A dead stop. So I asked around and learned that I have a bridle horse on my hands. How cool is that! So now I must learn.

The goal of the Vaquero was to get a horse that worked one-handed (since they needed to rope) with the lightest of cues. The spade bit that is traditionally associated with the Vaqueros was intended not to be harsh (despite their appearance) but, rather, to communicate very subtle cues from the rider to the horse. A working bridle horse will look very similar to a Dressage horse in that it operates in a very collected manner. The difference is that a bridle horse does this with very little rein input. The cues to collect are mainly seat and legs with only a miniscule input from the reins. (the finished horse can actually be
ridden bridleless and show his refinement

The traditional Vaquero training procedure was to start a young horse (about 3 years) in the snaffle bit and start teaching it to work off a direct rein. Then, still in a snaffle, they start using more neck reining.

After the horse is going good in the snaffle (a year or more) they will switch to the bosal. This moves the cues from the cheeks to below the jaw and starts to prepare the horse for the feel of the spade bit. You also continue the change from direct rein to neck reining since you can direct rein in a bosal without mouth pressure. The hackamore is usually 3/8″ to 7/8″ in diameter.

The vast majority of horse owners use leverage bits. The leverage bits are simple to understand; pull until they stop, and if that doesn’t work, pull harder. The spade is what is known as a “signal” bit. The long tapering port, complete with spoon, cricket and copper covered braces is configured in such a way as to encourage and allow the horse to “pick up” the bit in his mouth and “carry it.”

According to Traci Davis: "The end result of a true bridle horse is called “straight up in the bridle”. This means to have a horse educated enough that he can be ridden and work in a spade bit..Although the path may change from person to person the most common sequence is snaffle bit, hackamore, two rein and then straight up.

Next they go to the two-rein where the bosal and spade bit are used simultaneously. You start out with the horse just carrying the spade and the bosal providing the cues and end up with the spade providing the cues. Finally, the spade is used by itself. Despite the apparent size of the spade it DOES NOT jab the horse in the roof of the mouth. The side of the spoon (the end of the port) presses against the roof of the mouth over a fairly large area. The other areas of pressure are the bars and the chin- just like any curb bit. The other parts of the bit like the roller (called a cricket) in the port are intended to give the horse something to play with their tongue and help keep the mouth wet. You can hear them buzzing as they play with them even when standing still. The braces (curved wires going from the hinge at the cheekpiece to the spoon are intended to help keep the horse from ever getting its tongue over the bit. It doesn’t have a pressure function.

There is weekend cowboys and cowgirls that ride with their hands and not their bodies, some if you took the reins out of their hands they would fall off. The Vaquero style of riding is body and leg ques. So many are happy with just riding and not becoming refined this is a choice each of us make of wanting to stay where you are in your horsemanship or go further and learn more about you and your horse and truly become one."

A Visit from the Tooth Fairy- Tips on Horse care

I recently wrote about an equine dentist that came to see my horses. She is a wealth of knowledge and is so willing to share. Some interesting tips that she shared with me:

-She uses a chamomile blend to soothe the horses rather than sedate them. She left me a jar so I could also work with the horses and calm them if needed. She has used this in emergencies situations with equine, and it works just as well as a minor sedative. I could not believe that my horses let her hand float their teeth with an herbal sedative.

- If you look at your horses forehead, and see that one side is a bit bigger, swollenn, more built up than the other, you know your horse is uneven and needs his teeth looked at. It is similar to our jaw bones, if you chew on one side for a long time you will have uneven muscle tone. The same goes for uses, but it the muscles its right under the forelock, if you look carefully, you will see a difference. Not only does this affect their chewing, but their entire body. My horse was chewing with his left side, I noticed months ago that he leaned to the left, held his head to the left when we were going in a straight line and never bent to the right. Hopefully getting his teeth done, will help bring him back into balance! The tooth fairy promised that in 60 days he will gain weight and be more balanced. He is 12 and never had his teeth done.

- Alkaline water. She uses alkaline water to hydrate them. She pours a gallon over the back of a colicking horse, and puts it in frisbees for the horses to absorb through their hooves. I am aware of the benefits of alkaline water in people, but never considered it in horses.

-All natural apple cider vinegar. She also puts this in frisbees for the horses to stand in. It helps release toxins from their legs and feet.

- for deworming, she uses Diatomaceous earth. She dusts the horses with it and also mixes it with beet pulp for horses to ingest. She warned that it is like chards of glass string, so it needs to be added to a liquid when ingested, and dusted only on their back area, not their face where the skin is sensitive. For canines, she combines wormwood oil and walnut oil with a sprinkle of diatomaceous earth.

- Her take on alfalfa. She believes that alfalfa is a hay for cattle with four stomachs and should not be used on equine. It often causes intestinal stones which can kill a horse.
"Under certain conditions, the elements magnesium, ammonium, & phosphate crystallize in the hindgut to form intestinal stones. More common shapes are spherical & tetrahedral.
Dietary factors that contribute to the formation of intestinal stones include: high levels of protein (nitrogen) intake, high levels of magnesium intake, more alkaline pH in the hindgut, and the presence of a nidus (matrix for the stone to form).

West Coast horses have been more likely to develop intestinal stones compared to other regions in the United States. 
Alfalfa hay grown in the southwestern U.S. contributes a dietary excess of magnesium, nitrogen & 
calcium to the diet; phosphorus content in alfalfa is modest; the excess calcium acts as a buffer thus contributes to higher pH levels in the hindgut.
Alfalfa is a major contributor of the elements that form intestinal stones. Nevertheless most horses fed alfalfa do not have problems with intestinal stones"

Loren Hardie, the tooth fairy, recommended, to put weight on your horse, be sure they have good dental health. Then offer them two large scoops of beet pulp, soaked, with a cup of rice bran. She also said that you can add your pelleted feed as well, but remember that is not a natural food for your horse. Once your horse is in a healthy condition with good teeth, the weight gain will follow.

- The best exercises to help your horse with regards to chiropractics:
-  Belly lifts: Goose the horses belly so it causes them to lift their back. Five times on each side.
-  Backing the horse will help build those hind quarter muscles. The horse learns to use its front end and disengage its hindquarters, so lots of backing when on the ground, and then work on backing when mounted. She added that when she had a major accident, she walked backwards to help her build her strength back up and regain balance, etc.  You want to be sure that when you back your horse, he is using his hind end and picking up his feet rather than sluggishly dragging his front feet. Backing has many benefits, it is great for training, gaining control, trust and muscle.
- Getting them to pop their hind end. Standing directly behind the horse take two pens, one in each hand and run it from where the back of the saddle hits down each side of the spine until you are on either side of the tail. Do it quickly and with minimal pressure. This will cause the horse to pop its own back.
- Tail Lift: After a long ride the horses hind end will be stiff, gently lift his tail straight up in the air and move it side to side, this will help him relax his hind end.
- Clavicle Massage: Massaged right down his clavicle muscle to relieve tension and make him feel good. When he licks his lips and sighs, you know you are doing it right and he is happy and relaxed.

How teeth affect the entire horse

Today I had the opportunity to meet with a renowned equine dentist who does so much more. She imparted an overwhelming amount of knowledge on me, and I want to share what I learned.
She arrived and immediately assessed my rescue gelding. She explained that he was a little thin and had a behavior issue (we were fully aware of this- in fact we have tried a Panacea power pack, over feeding, chiropractics, and cold laser therapy to address these issues, in addition to a visit from the vet).

She took a look in his mouth and explained that his canines were covered in a tartar ball. This can lead to severe decay and even tooth loss. She went on to explain how the horse chews and digests in a very different way than what I had considered. She explained that a horse eats a piece of hay, and it gets cut up six times based on how the horse articulates its jaw as it chews in a circular motion (causing hooks). They basically finely chop the hay, the more they chew it. Also, the horse uses a different grinding stroke when eating oats. The chewing pattern changes with each type of food. The food is mixed with saliva which contains two ingredients, that help to launch the digestive process. The first is bicarbonate, which buffers and protects against amino acids in the stomach. It also contains small amounts of the enzyme amylase, which assists with carbohydrate digestion. Once the food is ground up into smaller particles by the molars, it is swallowed and travels down the esophagus which is 50 to 60 inches in length, to the stomach.

Equine gastrointestinal tract diagramThe horses stomach is very small compared to the size of the animal and makes up only about 10% of the digestive system. It can vary in size from about 8 to 16 quarts, and functions best when it is about 3/4 full. Food passes through the stomach relatively quickly, about 15 minutes, where it is mixed with pepsin, an enzyme used to digest protein and hydrochloric acid to help break down particles. Very little fermentation should happen in the stomach, as this will cause gas, and result in color. One the food passes through the sacks caucus, tunic region and pyloric, it moves to the small intestine, at this point, fermentation has ceased and protein digestion increases. It is in the small intestine where serious digestive processes take place. The intestine secretes enzymes in addition to the enzymes secreted by the pancreas to break down proteins into amino acids. Some of this is absorbed into the bloodstream and the rest moves to the large intestine which has 5 basic parts. The key part being the cecum (see-kum) which is about four feet long and one foot in diameter. The cecum can hold 8-10 gallons of food and water, and this this is where undigested food from the small intestine, such as hay and grass, is broken down and fermented. The food enters and exits the cecum on the same manner, think of a fermentation vat. If the horses id dehydrated, impaction can occur at the lower end of the cecum, causing colic. Food remains in the cecum for up to 7 hours allowing the bacteria and microbes to do their jobs, resulting in vitamins and fatty acids which are absorbed into the cecum.

"The microbial populations within the cecum become specific for digestion of the type of food that the horse normally ingests. It's very important to change a horse's diet gradually in order to give the microbes an opportunity to adjust, which could take several weeks."

The remnants from the cecum travel to the large colon, where microbial digestion continues, and a lots of the nutrients, mostly b-vitamins, minerals and phosphorus, are absorbed. This is where a twisted gut occurs as well. The late colon has a right and left ventral colons and a dorsal colon. The ventral colons consist of a series of pouches, which can become twisted and fill with gas during the fermentation process. Next the food moves to the small colon, at this point all, nearly all of the nutrients have been digested, and the remnants will be stripped of moisture which is absorbed back into the body. During that process, fecal balls are formed which are passed through the rectum and out of the anus. So there you have it, start to finish, and why teeth affect the entire digestive systemm of a horse.

Training Technique Videos 1,2, and 3

Training Techniques 1

Training Techniques 2

Training Techniques 3


1. A mature horse that is broke and willing is required. A green colt will not work for the class. The student must have complete control over the horse, leasing a horse will not work for the class. You must be the only one riding the horse and you must be able to use our methods of training on the horse. If you lease a horse most people will not let you do any training on the horse and this is a training class not just a riding class.

2. The student must be able to ride a horse at a walk, trot and lope with a secure seat. If you cannot lope a circle without holding on, and feel in control of the horse this is not a class for you. This is a training class not just a class where you pleasure ride a horse.

3. The horse must be able to walk, trot and lope. A horse that will not walk, trot or lope cannot be used in the class.

4.The horse must be conditioned and physically in good shape. You cannot take a horse that has not been ridden, and is on a full feed of hay with a big hay belly and ask it to do the exercises. You must ride the horse ahead of time and have him in an athletic condition.

5. The rider must be in good physical and mental condition with no upcoming medical surgeries or problems that will keep them from riding. Your schedule must be arranged so you can ride at least 5 days a week. If you have something that is going to keep you from being able to ride on a regular basis you need to put off taking the class until you have the time.

6. For the Techniques of Training 2,3 and 4 you must use the same horse you used in the previous class. If a situation arises where you have to change horses the new horse must be at the same level of training as the original horse and you must have the approval of the instructors to change horses. This may sound strict, but we have found out that when most people change horses the new horse is so far behind in the exercises that the student is not able to pass the class.

7. The student cannot use a riding instructor to help train the horse, the student must do all of the training on their own.

Checklist for techniques 1:

Conduct Soundness exam
Saddle horse on a loose lead rope
Back the horse from the ground
Get the horse to move the hip around (practice with bridle instead of lead rope- bend the head a bit to get them to plant the front leg. Start with 1 step, work on it all week until you get 1 full circle)
Move the horses shoulder around (start with 1 step, work on it all week until you get 1 full circle)
Ask the horse to drop his head
Lunge the horse on a lead rope both ways
Bend the head around to each side (make a supple horse)
The the horses head around to its side with a bungee so they get used to pressure release
Put the bridle on the horse and attach bungees to D-rings, so the horse learns how to break at the poll (technically the 3rd vertebrae)
Mount the horse and ask them to bend head around (lateral flexion) while keeping the poll flexed at 180 degrees (vertical flexion/perpendicular to the ground)
Walk and trot small circles keeping the horse flexed laterally and vertically
- Keep your body (hips and shoulders turned in
- lift inside hand up towards saddle horn to get them to bend the rib,
- Use inside leg to push the rib to the outside,
- step to the outside, but don't lean,
- keep elbows bent and thumbs up.
- Bend the elbow and lift the hand up - this will open the horses shoulder. Don't drop your inside hand- instead.
Collect the horse:
Sit the trot, don't post. You need to use your legs and seat
Actively ride with hands, legs and seat
Push the horse into the bit with your seat and legs, this is not just about pulling their head back to you.
Ensure the horse is flexing at the poll - if the horse isn't responding, try a jr. Cowhorse bit.
Work on collection and keeping the horse in frame at the same time

Checklist for Techniques 2:

1. Bit-up the horse (use reins through the D-ring on the saddle) or some type of elastic reins
2. Leave the horse bitted-up and make him walk, trot and lope around the pen,
3. Get him to go around the pen by putting life in your body and then to stop by taking the life out of your body.
4. Get on and trot him around a round pen or small pen (IT MUST BE A SMALL PEN). Put life in your body to make him go and then take the life out of your body and sit down to stop him. If done correctly, with enough patience, he will stop on his own with no hands. You may have to trot him around until he gets tired and is looking for a place to stop.
5. Put draw reins on and get on and walk and trot him around in several small circles with him collected and broken at the poll (be sure and ask slowly at first and give and take). If he does not seem to want to give to the draw reins you can do like I said in the riding assignment, you can just walk along side of the horse and ask him to tuck his nose from the ground.
6. Put a set of rings or martingale on and walk and trot some circles, collected and broken at the poll.
7. Walk and trot several circles and stop several times using the 1-2-3 method.
8. Fence him straight across the pen and stop at the fence several times at a walk and a trot.
9. Stop and back up several times. Keep your hands low. Use a corner, if you need to.

Checklist for Techniques 3

1. Start off with the 5 ground exercises to get your horses mind. (do them with the bridle on)

a. move the hip- at least 2 full circles each way
b. move the shoulder- at least 2 full circles each way
c. back- at least 20 feet
d. put the head down
e. lunge on the end of the rein, both ways

2. Walk and trot several medium circles in frame and collected. Be sure your horse is collected and in-frame.

3. Do a forward lateral flexion around the round pen or just a small pen. Keep the body going straight and bend the head neck only. Go each way several times.

4. Walk and trot several large circles in a forward lateral extension and decrease the size of the circle until it is about 6 or 7 feet in diameter. The outside front leg should be crossing over in front of the inside front leg.

5. Walk a forward lateral extension around a barrel, 3 or 4 times each direction.

6. Fence your horse at a trot, stop him at least three times each way. When you stop, back up and pivot and then go to the next fence. Be sure and use the 1-2-3 method of stopping each time.

7. Trot several round circles each way. Be sure the horse flows around the circles.

The Perfect Feed Combination

Did you know that Alfalfa is an all encompassing food? If a horse had only alfalfa and water, it would be just fine. However, there are drawbacks. If you fed only alfalfa, a horse would eat himself until he weighted 1,500 pounds and was severely obese. You might hear skeptics say that alfalfa causes stones and you should not feed it, but, the people who say that typically are not getting their hay from New Mexico, Colorado, Texas area where alfalfa is very nutrient rich. If you go to New Mexico, many horses only get alfalfa because that is what grows there. A friend of mine who runs the horseback division of Customs and Border Patrol area in New Mexico only feeds her horses, and the Border Patrol horses alfalfa. The horses have never had issues with stones. East and West coast people expect crappy alfalfa, where as the mid-west has great alfalfa options. 

Did you know that Equine Senior was a revolutionary advance in horse feed because it too can be the only thing that a horse eats, and the horse can live to have a long healthy, fruitful life? A horse can live solely off of Equine Senior and water and live to be 35. I asked about switching my horses to Senior since they need to gain weight, but my vet explained that many horses don't like the taste of it, and you can find a lower priced mid-range feed that will do the same thing. According to my vet, adding one cup of canola oil to each feeding will help them put on the weight I am hoping to add, and I might not have to go all the way up to 1% of their desired body weight. Speaking of this, everything I read on the internet talks about feeding a percentage of your horses body weight. My vet clarified that it is a percentage of the horses DESIRED or IDEAL body weight, not their actual weight.

The reason I am writing about feed is because I recently had a horse colic from a dorsal torsion (twisted gut), and anybody that has dealt with a colic knows that the first thing an owner does after a scare like that is reassess their feeding regime. During my research, I found a great online feed calculator, but I decided that I needed my vets input on my specific situation of my three rescues.

Case Studies: 

  1. Gypsy - an 8 year old QH mare, she is 14.1, used for Rodeo Drill Team twice a week and long trail rides between 6 and 15 miles about once or twice a month. Moderate workload. She weighs about 950 pounds. She needs to lose a few pounds
  2. Titan - a 12 year Appendix gelding, he is 16.3, and is in training, used for trail rides mostly at a walk and trot pace, training to be a rodeo drill horse. Light to moderate workload. Recently colicked, dorsal torsion, was very dehydrated, weighs about 1,050 pounds, should weight closer to 1,200 to 1,300 pounds
  3. Sampson "Our First Affair"- a 9 year old OTTB gelding, used for light trail riding and jumping. Endurance prospect. Light workload, weighs about 900 pounds, but should weight 1,200 to 1,250. 
With these horses, there are several options, it truly depends on what is financially feasible in your area, but here are some options:  
Currently they all have access to unlimited coastal hay on a round bale. So some options would be:
- put 2 and 3 on unlimited alfalfa/coastal and water
- feed 2 and 3 five pounds of pelleted feed 2 times a day, add a cup of canola oil to each feeding, add alfalfa twice a day. 
- Combine lots of alfalfa, and less pellets with unlimited coastal to find a happy medium. 
- horse 1 should only get 2% of her ideal weight in coastal (~18 pounds), with just a handful of grain to keep her mentally happy and not too jealous of the others. She also will get alfalfa on rodeo days as a treat for the trailer ride.