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. 

Horse Behavior - Catching a Horse and Spray Bottles


Recently, a good friend rescued a horse, Dodger, from a kill pen up in Pennsylvania, she lives in Maryland and had the horse shipped down to her. She planned to board the horse at a local prestigious hunter/jumper barn where she was taking lessons. This is her first horse, so as you can imagine, the process was not nearly as smooth as she expected. Upon arrival, they quarantined the horse, which had a fever, lots of scrapes and was diagnosed as having pneumonia and low pasterns. The vet who examined the horse didn't even take the blanket off or touch the horse for fear he had strangles (which was extremely likely). Anyways, $200 later and some antibiotics, the vet tells her that the horse can't stay at that facility and needs to be moved to a more appropriate place. The horse ended up at a rescue, where they had a great setup for quarantine, but it was with several horses, which of course, all had their own ailments. HIs fever was still high upon arrival, so the rescue lady, Sharon, administered banamine. (Note: if a horse is suspected of having strangles, banamine is not a suitable treatment, as it can cause strangles to travel through the body and potentially kill the horse. Bute will alleviate the fever, no other medication should be given, and a vet is only required if the horse stops eating or drinking, likely because its passages feel blocked. At this point a vet will need to drain the abscess. This is information from my experience and from my veterinarian.)

Within a couple of days, Dodger had his horseshoes removed and initial teeth floating. He has very angled teeth as if he were only chewing in one direction using the circular motion that horses use, so his teeth wore to one side. Two days later, Dodger showed severe lameness in his front foot. Again, she called the vet, who determined that his hoof was likely trimmed too short and he probably had an abscess. Another couple hundred spent. I arrived in Maryland from Texas, and wanted to meet Dodger. My friend had mentioned a few behavior issues and of course medical concerns and I was hoping to help her address them and show her a few things that might help save her some cash on vet bills in the future.


Catching a Horse

Upon arriving at the horses field, she warned me that although he has a halter on, he will not let us catch him. I pulled the old "I'm not paying attention to you, I want THAT horse over there" trick. This is where you walk out near the horse, don't look at him at all, and look in another direction, preferably toward another horse. When you sense that the horse is not feeling threatened, you might take a step closer to him, again, without looking at him. This takes time and patience. It took me about 3 minutes to catch him. Of course using grain is much easier and faster, but I think it is important that all new horse owners understand some horse psychology. You do this until the horse becomes curious. Perhaps put your hand out like you don't care what he is doing, because you are focusing on something completely different, another horse, a tree, anything but the horse. The horse will probably sniff your hand, and start looking for attention or affection. Perhaps pet him on the head, then catch him, but always let him come to you. Chasing a horse can be a daunting task

Spray Bottles

Another concern that my friend had was his cuts and scrapes. So she concocted a mix and put it in a spray bottle. She went to spray the horse and he took off. So I wanted to address the issue while I was here. It was as simple as being assertive, starting at the legs with a soft quiet spray and let the sound get louder and louder. Most people don't realize that it is the sound that concerns the horse, not the surprise of liquid landing on its body This is the complete opposite of a dog. So I sprayed his legs, moved on to his body and as soon as he showed signs of nervousness after 10 or so sprays, I stopped. I turn around and don't look at him. I wait for him to lick his lips, or blow, or chew. These are all signs that he has absorbed what you were doing, and has collected himself. He is now ready for round two. Continue doing this until he is letting you spray his entire body at a loud spray. Move towards his head once he is comfortable, but remember, no horse likes to be sprayed in the face, just like you wouldn't like that. So ALL horses will react to a face shot.

All training should happen like this, in small doses and with lots of breaks and chances for the horse to recoup. This will make him trust you and build his confidence, in addition to the learning of whatever activity it is that you are teaching him. Take your time when building a relationship and working with a horse.

Thrush Identification and Treatment

Recently I picked up a new 16'3" Appendix bred big stout gelding. I took one look at this boys feet and new he needed some treatment. He was limping on his front left hoof, when I picked it up, this is what I saw:

The smell was quite significant. It was apparent he had thrush and needed a trim. I asked my vet what to  use. Of course I didn't ask the question until I had used the age-old thrush treatment of bleach and water)- yes yes, I know, bleach kills good and bacteria in the hoof, but I was willing to take that risk, he needed some treatment fast. My vet got back to me and said that I should poor diesel fuel on it. He also said that his bigger concern (which wasn't really that big) was the length of his hoof, not the thrush. The reason I point this out is because many people think thrush, no matter how bad, is a huge issue. When in fact it is no more than a yeast infection in the foot. 

But lets start here, what is thrush? How can it be identified, and what are the various treatment options?

Thrush is a very common bacterial infection that occurs on the hoof specifically in the region of the frog . The bacterium involved is Fusobacterium necrophorum, and occurs naturally in the animal's environment — especially in wet, muddy, or unsanitary conditions, such as an unclean stall — and grows best with low oxygen 

Identifying Thrush: The most obvious sign of thrush is usually the odor that occurs when cleaning out the hooves

Some horses are more prone to thrush than others, like those with deep clefts or narrow or contracted heels.

Treatment: The bottom of the hoof should be cleaned with soap and water before applying thrush-treatment product on the frog. Some treatments include: diesel fuel, iodine solution, hoof packing of a combination of sugar and betadine, powdered aspirin, borax, or diluted bleach. For severe thrush or white line disease, I have soaked the hoof in White Lightning with a soaking boot. Trying to soak with a Ziplock bag will not work. Buckets are successful if for short periods of time, and if th ehorse is confined in a very small narrow room/stall, like a cattle chute. Packing with soaked cotton balls is a pretty good option as well, then use gorilla tape or a hoof boot to keep the packing in place.

If you are concerned about any of the treatment options, speak with the horse's veterinarian, to be sure these home remedies are effective and, more importantly, safe for use on horses.