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Horse care and training tips

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Having worked with many students and horses, some at their own home, I saw the need to post some general horse care, especially for the Pacific Northwest. Some are things we put into practice daily with our five horses.



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"I feed her once a day, about 2-3 flakes." It was 11 am, time for the lesson and the horse had not been fed yet and her small pasture had long ago seen lush grass. Do you think she was interested in training or concentrating on her empty stomach?


Horses are grazing animals, they need to be fed a minimum of two times a day, three small meals is even better. With an empty stomach the gastric juices increase which can lead to ulcers and/or colic.



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How much hay do I feed my horse?


The amount depends upon your horses size, amount of exercise, living conditions (in a stall or outside), the nutritional level of the hay and the time of year if they live outside. If you can clearly see your horses ribs, hip bones, depression in neck and over eyes, they need more feed. If you can't and they look obese, its time to cut back. Good local grass hay is usually adequate. You might need to supplement with oats or beet pulp in the winter, but giving more hay is better for your horse than giving more grain. If you feed high protein grain you may find your horse too hot to handle. The West coast is low in the mineral selenium, a supplement of selenium and salt should be added to your horses feed. Many local feed stores have a supplement specific to the Northwest.



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Living in the rainy Pacific Northwest, a waterproof sheet is the best way to avoid rain rot.



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What is rain rot?


Its an organism which a horse has in its skin and when rain rot occurs it looks like a scabby mess on a horse back, or other parts of the body. If your horse gets rain rot, get some spray like Muck-itch skin saver http://www.muckitch.com.



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Shoes vs. barefoot


This is a hot topic and I do not condone those who choose to shoe their horses. Our horses are not shod and are trimmed using the barefoot methods. Why? It works! You can learn to do it yourself (I did). It's the healthiest thing you can do for your horses feet and not only does it effect their feet, it also effects their skeletal system, muscles and way of traveling. The farrier trim and the barefoot trim are not the same thing. For more information about the barefoot trim visit the Pete Ramey web page on the links page.



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Horses living out in pasture year round? Here?


Yes, its doable, our three horses are prime examples of happy healthy horses living outside but they had trees for protection from the wind and rain. One of them is an OTTB (off tack-thoroughbred) who is a really hard keeper. All the horses have waterproof sheets, some have a blanket under the sheet, good drainage so they are not standing in mud, and lots of hay. Now I would suggest building some sort of shelter to protect any animal from the wind and the rain. We have build a run in shelter to help protect them from the elements and they still have access to paddocks. They are also supplemented with beet pulp, oats, selenium and salt when needed. For more information on pasture management visit the link to Horses For Clean water on the links page.



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I've got all this green grass, is it ok to turn my horse out?


Yes and no. The best time for a horse to graze is in the morning hours. As the day progresses the sugar levels increase (photosynthesis) and the more your horse eats, the more risk he is of developing laminitus or foundering on you. A few hours of grazing in the am is ok for most horses, and if your horse starts looking plump, reduce the grazing time. Don't just turn your horse out onto a lush spring pasture. Slowly introduce them starting with about 45 minutes a day and gradually increasing.



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My horse has so much energy and I have a hard time controlling him.


What are you feeding him and how much time does he spend in his stall? If you are feeding alfalfa and/or a high protein grain that is part of the problem. Alfalfa is high in protein and gives some horse lots of unwanted energy. Its really considered a feed to supplement cattle's protein needs. Switch to a grass hay or an orchard grass with only 10% alfalfa. If you are feeding grain, are you sure your horse needs it? Or do you just like feeding him grain? First ask yourself how much exercise your horse is getting, honestly. And then determine if he really needs that additional supplement to his hay. A slim horse is healthier than a fat horse and probably easier to handle. We love our horses, but don't love them with too much feed. Check out the following links for more information about alfalfa.

Information about alfalfa from a vet

Information about feeding alfalfa from and Equine Nutritionist

Information on feeding alfalfa from another trainer

Article from Equus about alfalfa