The Gaited Morgan From the Beginning by Jackie Farmer, a founding member of our organization.

There are trails that lead back through time—through the pages of Morgan Horse history and that of the other modern breeds—to the Old World, centuries ago in Europe. In those days, saddle horses were amblers, horses that did not trot, but traveled instead with an easy four beat gait, intermediate between the walk and the canter. Today’s trails still echo with the four beat rhythms of the amblers, also known as single?footers, travelers, and gaited horses. The modern day travelers are many and varied; the Tennessee Walking Horse, the Missouri Fox Trotter, the Kentucky Mountain Horse, Rocky Mountain Saddle Horse, The Mountain Pleasure Horse, Walkaloosa, The Peruvian Paso, The Paso Fino, American Saddlebred, The Icelandic, the Florida Cracker Horse, and the Gaited Morgan Horse. Many Appaloosas as well as quarter horses also carry the gait gene for the single?foot. There are several lesser known gaited breeds. Gaited Morgans can be chestnut, gray, buckskin, black, cream, pearl, silver dapple, bay, palomino and very soon we will see a rare dunn.

These horses all share a common trait; they perform a variation of the singlefoot, the rack, the running walk, the foxtrot, or the stepping pace. The rack is a faster version of the evenly timed running walk, while the foxtrot and the stepping pace are unevenly timed. Many gaited Morgan owners use descriptive terms such as ambling and broken pace to describe what their horses are doing. Some refer to the rack or running walk as the old fashioned single?foot. Gaited Morgans do one or more of these intermediate gaits in place of, or in addition to, the trot.

Example of natural gait in young gaited morgan foals

In order to understand WHY there are GAITED MORGANS, we need to look back at the development of the Morgan Breed, none of which is today quite what it started out to be. We all are aware that the Morgan breed began with Justin Morgan, the horse referred to by the name of his owner, and so recorded in the registry (but known as Figure 1789?1821)a rather short, drafty?but?stylish pulling, driving and saddlehorse. Some lines of the modern Morgans have developed into stretchy, fine harness and park horses, which often more closely resemble today’s American Saddlebreds than they resemble Justin Morgan. Other families are known for concentration of classic Morgan characteristics and consequently are on the lower end of the height spectrum, with more tractable personalities, heavier bone and more substance, more like the first Morgan, Justin himself. There are many TWH and Mountain Horses that look like Morgans. These similarities are understandable because all of the horses mentioned above share, to some extent, common ancestors. All of the four main families of Morgans carry the pace gene and the gene for strong gait, a modifier which allows some strong trotters and pacers to hold their gaits when other horses are galloping.

Early Morgans were used principally in harness, as draft animals and as roadsters. In heavy draft work, trotters pull more efficiently than pacers and amblers. As roads improved, there was less and less demand for the ambling saddle horse and more demand for speed at the trot. For a time, in the early days of the register, Morgan pacers were acceptable, if they were competitive in harness. Dan Patch, the great Standardbred Pacer, was introduced into the Morgan gene pool under Rule Two, with offspring breeding on at the L. U. Sheep Ranch.

The government program began in the days of Dan Patch, shortly after the turn of the century, as the Standardbred assumed control of harness racing, automobiles took command of the roadways, and suddenly it seemed there was no place for the Moran to go, other than the Cavalry. Morgan horses had played illustrious roles in the War Between the States, with General Stonewall Jackson’s Morgan pacer, Little Sorrel as a prime example. He must have been an extraordinary animal, since most of the Confederate Cavalry were mounted on American Saddlers (Saddlebreds). The little horse, also known as Fancy , was the General’s favorite battle mount until the day he fell mortally wounded from Fancy’s back, a victim of “friendly fire”. While the horse was described as a pacer by Henry Kyd Douglas in “I Rode With Stonewall”, I assume that he was a stepping pacer (four beat) since many people today call these horses pacers. A true hard pacer would not have been a very comfortable mount, nor very handy in a battle situation. Little Sorrel died at the age of thirty three and is mounted on display at the Virginia Military Institute.

The goal of the early Government program and, later, under Earl Kranz, was to preserve and improve the breed. Mr. Kranz felt that this could best be accomplished by the introduction of Thoroughbred and Saddlebred lines. The Lippitt family actually came into being because of one man’s opposition to this idea. Robert Lippit Knight selected a limited number of what he felt were the best representatives of the Old Morgan line and with his breeding program began a separate and distinct family of Morgans. The U. S. Government operated Cavalry remount stations in the west, where Morgan horses were bred for its use. These breeding programs were in existence until the late forties, modified and operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and located on Indian Reservations such as Pine Ridge, South Dakota. All these Morgan groups harbored the pace/strong gait genes to a greater of lesser degree.

The focus of raising Morgans turned to producing show horses in the first half of the twentieth century. Since the single?foot was deemed inappropriate for the show ring, and because five gaited Morgans could not successfully compete, in most cases, with the larger faster, five gaited American Saddlebred, the emphasis was placed on three gaits, the most important of which was the Big Trot. An attempt was made to eliminate the pace or gait gene – a virtually impossible task, since the genetic blueprint for gait is as much as part of the first generations of Morgans as many of the desired characteristics that are

bred for today. In many of the western states, the breeding goal was to produce working ranch horses, and I believe that since a single?footer is a lot easier to ride for forty or fifty miles, and since the gait does not interfere with the horse’s ability to cut or rope cattle (or to be a reining horse, for that matter), there was not such an effort to cull out the smooth gaited single?footers.

The early Government program used General Gates, the foundation sire, on such mares as Ellen #0642, and the American Saddle bred, Harrison Bell ASHR#3712, “reclaiming” the Morgan blood of Harrison Chief by Indian Chief, which had been foundation blood to the American Saddlebred. Both of these mares occasionally produced offspring of mixed gait. These colts and fillies were culled, but not so their siblings, nor the dams themselves, which bred on, passing along the recessive pace gene. Eleanor Gates (General Gates x Ellen), the first filly born at the farm at Weybridge, likely carried the genes for gait. General Gates himself, goes back to Copperbottom, who won races in all gaits.

Many early Morgans were able to pace and singlefoot. Today, many, many Morgans carry the pace gene. Eldon Eadie states that “every foal that paces during its early days and then straightens out to trot, as it should is manifesting the pace gene, which is always recessive to the trot gene. This should hardly be a surprise; Justin Morgan and his sons were bred to many a pacing mare. Sherman’s dam was believed by many historians to be a Narragansett Pace (article by Mabel Owen, TMH, 1974). Woodbury had many pacing descendants (Vol.1, American Morgan Horse Register). The dam of Black Hawk was also believed to be a Narragansett Pacer (article by Wallace Smith, TMH, and July 1968). Lady de Jarnette, probably the most famous Morgan show horse of all time, and often called the most perfectly gaited, paced and single?footed, by eye witness accounts, in addition to her other show gaits, seven in all. She has had a profound effect on the Morgan breed, mingling with the blood of Daniel Lambert through Jubilee Lambert to produce her only offspring, Jubilee De Jarnette, and his great grandson, Jubilee King, with thirteen crosses to Black Hawk.

Jubilee King is to be found in the pedigrees of most of the Western bred Gaited Morgans. Some believe that he is a source of gait, while others vehemently oppose the possibility, theorizing instead, that he was bred to many gaited mares of Flyhawk descent, and of government breeding. The Flyhawk?Sentola (full sister of Jubilee King) combination is seen in the pedigrees of many Western Gaited Morgans. No one knows for sure. What we do know is that the sources of gait are widespread throughout the Morgan population. The names of Flyhawk, The Brown Falcon, Mentor, and Stellar are strongly associated with gaited offspring. There are many, many more in the government, Working Western, Brunk and even in the Lippits. Archie O, Ann Royal and Sea Gull were documented as five gaited Morgans.

Many Morgan fans do not know that the Gaited Morgan exists, but they are becoming more and more prevalent and popular. The genetic blueprint that made these horses gaited was designed to provide a musculoskeletal system that could travel many miles comfortably, without the jarring effects of the trot on the horse itself, not to mention its’ rider. These horses are smooth travelers, born and bred, and the assets of the gaited Morgan are growing in recognition and popularity. A genetic test called Synchro Gait Test has become available through the American Morgan Horse Association and other equine testing facilities. This test can help determine the horse’s genetic potential for gait. Trail riders and those who show (gaited Morgans may compete in AMHA Morgan shows at the gait starting in 2019), recognize that they are beautiful, with chiseled heads, big soft eyes, and tiny ears, tractable and smooth to ride, the perfect horse, the original American horse, with that extra ability to gait.

To learn more about Gaited Morgans visit our website. You will find them for sale, you will find one hundred or more gaited morgan videos, member adventure stories, updates on rides, and informational posts from gait to breeding and more. You can also sign up for our e-newsletter. Visit our website at and join us on our facebook group
We are a National Service Organization for AMHA, since 1996, operating as a non-profit with a Board of Directors and Officers. We publish a periodic printed magazine available for a small fee.

Please do give me a call 417-286-4720, or any of the officers and advisors listed on our website.

Happy Trails,
Vali Suddarth, President, Gaited Morgan Horse Organization

Gaits Made Simple.

Gaits Made Simple
Understanding a horse’s gait may not be as simple as you think. Our author discusses various gaits horse’s employ, how to understand them and how to train your horse to use his natural gait on cue.
BRENDA IMUSAUG 31, 2006 From Horse and Rider

“I know my horse has a smooth saddle gait,” a gal told me at one of my clinics. “When we’re headed for home or he’s rushing to catch up with other horses, it suddenly feels like I’m gliding along on ball bearings. But I don’t know how to achieve that gait the rest of the time. When I try to push him for more speed, he gets very choppy and hard to ride, especially going downhill.”

Have you ever had this problem with your gaited horse? To produce his smoothest saddle gait on cue, you first need to understandhowhe gaits.

Every smooth saddle gait falls somewhere on a spectrum between the perfectly diagonal two-beat trot, and the perfectly lateral two-beat pace. Here, I’ll go over six intermediate saddle gaits: the diagonal gaits (trot and fox trot), the lateral gaits (pace and stepping pace), and the square gaits (walk and running walk). But first, I’ll explain your gaited horse’s unique, inborn talent to work each leg independently from every other leg to produce a smooth ride.

A Unique Talent
Most gaited saddle horses possess a unique quality I termquadridexterity.Just as people are eithermonodextrous(left- or right-handed) orambidextrous(proficient with either hand), horses are either ambidextrous or what I callquadridextrous.

Most people write predominantly with their right hand or left hand. Most of us can do some elementary writing or drawing with our nondominant hand. But if we try to do so with any speed or precision, we soon discover that we’re hardwired to be either right- or left-handed. With practice, ambidextrous people can become equally adept with both hands.

Horses, having four legs, arediagonallyorlaterally ambidextrous.A diagonally ambidextrous horse moves his twodiagonal(opposite side) legs together in perfect, two-beat synchrony: left hind/right fore; right hind/left fore. This constitutes a trot; trotting horses might be likened to right-handed people.

A pacing horse is laterally ambidextrous. He moves his two lateral (same side) legs together in perfect, two-beat synchrony: right fore/right hind; left fore/left hind. Pacing horses might be likened to less common left-handed people.

In either case, there’s generally a moment of suspension when the set of diagonal or lateral legs lifts from the ground before the other set comes down. The concussion or jarring you feel during the trot or pace is the result of the horse’s weight dropping back down to earth at the beginning of each new stride.

On the other hand, a naturally smooth-gaited horse uses each leg independently of every other leg. That’s what I call quadridextrous. And just as ambidextrous people can improve their ability to use each hand independently, quadridextrous horses, too, need to be brought along carefully to properly develop their natural ability to its full potential. This in mind, here’s a look at gait mechanics.

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The Diagonal Gaits
At the diagonal end of the gait spectrum are thetrotand thefox trot.

The trot.The trot is a perfectly timed, two beat gait whereby two sets of diagonal legs (right hind/left front; left hind/right front) pick up and set down in perfect, two-beat rhythm, with a moment of suspension and resultant concussion between strides.

The fox trot.The fox trot is similar to the trot in that each set of diagonal legs move somewhat in unison, but the forefoot lands a microsecond before the diagonally opposed hind foot, breaking the two-beat rhythm. This action eliminates suspension/concussion, and creates an uneven, four-beat gait: 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4. (This rhythm closely mimics the sound of the phrase: “Hunk o’ meat and peck o’ potatoes.”) A naturally fox trotting horse generally has a long, low, reaching stride in front, and a higher, lifting stride behind. He looks as though he’s “walking in front and trotting behind.”

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The Lateral Gaits
At the opposite, lateral end of the gait spectrum are thepaceand thestepping pace.

The pace.Thepaceis a perfectly timed two beat gait whereby the right hind/right fore and left hind/left fore pick up and set down in perfect, two beat rhythm. There’s a moment of suspension/ concussion with each stride. The pace horse also tends to throw his rider from side to side as he swings his body to accommodate the paces’ extreme lateral action.

The stepping pace.Thestepping paceis nearly identical to the pace, except that the hind foot lands a split instant before the same-side forefoot. This eliminates suspension/concussion, and turns it into an imperfectly timed four-beat gait: 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4.

The stepping pace is smooth to ride, but presents inherent problems for both horse and rider. First, when a stepping pace is speeded up, it tends to turn into a rough two-beat pace. More important, this gait can create a hollow, strung-out body frame. Too much of the horse’s body weight is carried on the forehand, then suspended for too long over his hyperextended rear leg. This is why strongly oriented lateral horses tend toward hollow backs, saddling problems, and potentially serious hock and stifle issues. Therefore, encourage your horse to develop a more evenly timed gait; that is, to fox trot, if that’s what he’s built and wired to do. Fortunately, teaching a laterally oriented horse to square up isn’t all that difficult; I’ll discuss training in future issues.

Gaited Morgan wins AMHA Awards

Martha Duchnowski and her gaited Morgan Blythewood Barre Vermont  aka “PeeWee” is this years AMHA open competition trail winner as well as the winner of the General category (where the gaited classes go). congratulation Martha…ride on!


On February 4th, 2014, I received an email from The American Morgan Horse Associating asking me if I could come to the Morgan Horse Convention on February 22nd, 2014 because my morgan “Blythewood Barre Vermont” won 2013 high point trail and high point in the “General Category”.

OMG!  Did I read that correctly?   High Point Trail and High Point General?  My heart just soared!  For you see, I’ve had my share of “challenges” with this 8 year old beautiful, well bred horse.

I bought Barre in 2006 from Blythewood Morgans for my son Jimmy.   Jimmy’s morgan was getting up in the years and we were thinking about a younger morgan for Jimmy to show in his 4H shows.   I got Barre cheap because his gait was kind of pacey.   Having done my fair share of rescuing miniature horses, many of the babies were pacey too but grew out of it.

But Barre didn’t outgrow the strange gait.  He remained kind of pacey and my son Jimmy lost interest in him because he didn’t like the gait.  When we backed him and he went into that strange gait, I fell in love with it.  I have Lupus and bruise very easily which makes posting impossible if I don’t want big round bruises on the inside of my knees.  So Barre became my horse and I was riding again.

In the beginning, Barre couldn’t hold either the pace nor a trot, so I contacted a well-know international carriage driver of morgans and her suggestion was to get a vet out that specialized in acupuncture and chiropractic procedures.  I did that and was quite alarmed when the vet told me that my sweet beautiful spirited morgan had severe neurological problems.  After a month of acupuncture, I got my first bill from her and just about died from sticker shock.  So I stopped all treatments.

About this time, I learned that there is such a thing as “gaited” morgans.   When my regular vet came out to tend to another horse of mine, I had her look at Barre.   I put him through his gaits in-hand and she laughed at me and told me that Barre was doing a flat walk and a running walk and that there wasn’t a darn thing wrong with him and “don’t people pay good money for naturally gaited horses”?

I started out training Barre slowly.  Although I am an accomplished carriage driver, I had to learn to ride again and Barre had to learn to carry me.  Initial training took a few years during which my dressage training came back to me which I slowly applied to Barre.  I mostly did trail rides a with him and it wasn’t long before he was responding and yielding to my leg pressure.   I eventually taught myself how to neck rein so I could ride western.

When Barre turned seven, I decided that he needed to get off the farm and to start showing.  In the beginning he was very naughty.   He would whinny the whole time to his buddies tied to the horse trailer as well as refuse to be quiet in the line-up.    It took nearly all of 2012 for him to get used to showing and late in the year, we won our first championship in Country Pleasure.   He was also beginning to do well in trail classes as nothing really bothers him and he trusts me so much.

The show season in 2013 also started out poorly with the naughty behavior, but it soon stopped and before long we were winning most of the Country Pleasure and Trail classes.   We also did well in the all-breed western pleasure walk-trot or walk-gait classes.   We tried a few Judged Pleasure rides with trail obstacles and had a great deal of fun.  In addition to winning the American Morgan Horse’s open competitions trail and general divisions (where the gaited classes go) we won 3rd place in the equitation division. I knew we had improved somewhat from last year, but i never dreamed we would actually win!

Barre is so much fun to ride. He is very light and responsive in the mouth and smooth to ride. It is obvious he really enjoys all the attention and stimulation that riding gives.  His gaiting keeps improving as I read and re-read all the gaited articles that the Gaited Morgan Horse Organization posts to their website.   Combined this new-found knowledge with a solid dressage background from my youth, I hope we keep on improving in 2014.





Gaited Morgan goes the Distance 100 miles

Steinauer woman, horse complete California endurance ride considered one of world’s toughest

  • CHRISTINA LYONS Beatrice Daily Sun Aug 21, 2018

Sarah Rinne and her horse Silver Valley Tate climb Cougar Rock — a notorious stretch of granite that is part of the annual Tevis Cup 100-mile endurance ride in California. Rinne and Tate finished early July 29 after 23 hours and 47 minutes on the trail.

Lori McIntosh of Gore/Baylor Photography 2018

BEATRICE — Sarah Rinne had wanted to ride in the Tevis Cup since she was 9 or 10 years old.

“And 30 years later, it finally happened,” said Rinne, who is from the Pawnee County village of Steinauer. 

Held every year since 1955 on the Western States Trail in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of northern California, the Tevis Cup is touted as one of the toughest endurance rides in the world.

Riding Silver Valley Tate, Rinne was among 64 competitors who covered all 100 miles in less than 24 hours.

But only just: Rinne and Tate crossed the finish line 23 hours and 47 minutes after they started July 28, finishing 58th. Less than half of the field completed the race.

“We were the last of 152 horses out of Robi Park (the starting line) at 5:15 a.m.,” she said. “We averaged 5 to 6 miles per hour throughout the 100 miles.”

Rinne said the toughest part of the ride was the canyons.

“It was not at all what I expected,” she said. “It was about 125 degrees in the canyons and because of the fires, very poor air quality. You can’t realize the full effect until you’re on switchback No. 35 and knowing there are about 37 to go.”

And, of course, part of the race takes place overnight.

“Between 12 and 1 a.m. I was thinking, ‘I could fall asleep on my horse,'” Rinne said. “There were glow sticks on his shoulders, but I couldn’t really see much. We did 32 miles and eight hours in the dark.”

She forded the American River by moonlight, took in sweeping views of high country dotted with wildflowers during the day and crested Cougar Rock — a steep, slick stretch of almost entirely granite and a setting for many dynamic photographs.

“Perhaps the best part was riding and finishing with my mentor and friend, Jonni Jewel,” Rinne said. “I loved watching my horse do his job throughout the entire 100 miles. He is amazing and I completely trusted him.”

Tate is a Morgan horse owned by Dwight and Mary Hanson of Ithaca. He’s 16.1 hands tall and 9 years old.

The majority of the horses competing in the Tevis Cup are Arabians. Rinne said Tate was the only Morgan and only one of two gaited horses entered.

“When Dwight and Mary asked me if I’d like to ride Tate at the Pony Express Competitive Trail Ride at Rock Creek Station (near Fairbury) in August of 2015, I reluctantly said yes, mainly because I was to a point of not wanting to ride horses I didn’t know,” Rinne said. “But when I rode him, we just clicked and I just thought to myself with more development, Tate had Tevis potential.”

Preparing for mountain riding when you live in a flat region is a challenge. However, the two did interval and hill training to prepare for the mountainous terrain.

Rinne planned to compete in the Tevis Cup in 2017. However, Tate had lameness issues. By then, they had both been training for two years.

The ride has two mandatory one-hour rest stops and various vet checks along the trail. Crews are positioned at the stops to help care for the teams.

Shari Parys of Gretna served as a crew member for Rinne and Jewel.

“It was amazing,” Parys said. “It couldn’t have been a more special Tevis, with Sarah riding the horse owned by my other good friends, Dwight and Mary, and having such a good mentor Jonni, and her experienced crew chair, Sara, to help with the success. Seeing them cross the finish line was beyond words.”

Rinne, a mother of four, operates Rinne Hay Service and raises cattle with her husband, Seth.

“I am just so blessed to have been able to do this,” she said. “I would like to do it again. I’m always up for an adventure or challenge.”

Sarah Rinne and her horse Silver Valley Tate climb Cougar Rock — a notorious stretch of granite that is part of the annual Tevis Cup 100-mile endurance ride in California. Rinne and Tate finished early July 29 after 23 hours and 47 minutes on the trail.


She forded the American River by moonlight, took in sweeping views of high country dotted with wildflowers during the day and crested Cougar Rock — a steep, slick stretch of almost entirely granite and a setting for many dynamic photographs.

“Perhaps the best part was riding and finishing with my mentor and friend, Jonni Jewel,” Rinne said. “I loved watching my horse do his job throughout the entire 100 miles. He is amazing and I completely trusted him.”

Tate is a Morgan horse owned by Dwight and Mary Hanson of Ithaca. He’s 16.1 hands tall and 9 years old.

The majority of the horses competing in the Tevis Cup are Arabians. Rinne said Tate was the only Morgan and only one of two gaited horses entered.

“When Dwight and Mary asked me if I’d like to ride Tate at the Pony Express Competitive Trail Ride at Rock Creek Station (near Fairbury) in August of 2015, I reluctantly said yes, mainly because I was to a point of not wanting to ride horses I didn’t know,” Rinne said. “But when I rode him, we just clicked and I just thought to myself with more development, Tate had Tevis potential.”

Preparing for mountain riding when you live in a flat region is a challenge. However, the two did interval and hill training to prepare for the mountainous terrain.

Rinne planned to compete in the Tevis Cup in 2017. However, Tate had lameness issues. By then, they had both been training for two years.

The ride has two mandatory one-hour rest stops and various vet checks along the trail. Crews are positioned at the stops to help care for the teams.

Shari Parys of Gretna served as a crew member for Rinne and Jewel.

“It was amazing,” Parys said. “It couldn’t have been a more special Tevis, with Sarah riding the horse owned by my other good friends, Dwight and Mary, and having such a good mentor Jonni, and her experienced crew chair, Sara, to help with the success. Seeing them cross the finish line was beyond words.”

Rinne, a mother of four, operates Rinne Hay Service and raises cattle with her husband, Seth.

“I am just so blessed to have been able to do this,” she said. “I would like to do it again. I’m always up for an adventure or challenge.”


The Walk Tells All

By Keystone Equine

THE WALK TELLS ALL.We, as modern people, get bored and impatient. We are in a hurry, running late, paying for good riding time or we have only an hour… We make excuses. Worse, relatively few disciplines really celebrate the walk, or put enough emphasis on the quality of this most important of paces. Why is it so key to the quality of a horse or the thoroughness of his training? Because the walk tells all.Dressage scoring gives the free walk a coefficient of 2, which means that the mark of this movement is doubled when calculating the final score. The walk is the basis of all training. It is hugely important as it is all-too-easy to make rushed walks, or pacey walks that do not have a marching footfall of 1-2-3-4—there will be an emphasis on the second and fourth beats, for instance—as well as horses that are not clearly overstepping the front foot prints with the hinds. Horses that cannot swing through the hips and reach down at the free walk are showing holes in their training, where the stretching and building of their bodies have been skimped on, often where the rider’s hands have played too large a part. What can we REALLY do to help? Fixing a walk is not hard, per se. To do so requires constancy and mindfulness, however and that’s what makes it such a challenge. If you’re still skeptical, know that a horse who improves his walk will greatly improve in his trot and canter, too!When I am picking a horse to buy in the first place, I am looking for the horse who swings along at a walk, really overstepping with the hinds, whether loose in turn out or being led in hand. Such a horse is blessed to begin with and my job is then in keeping his walk beautiful, despite all my other meddling! The horse who minces along or gets pacey is a different story. I am going to have to be very mindful in my riding of this horse, allowing him to walk in a slower cadence while stretching to the bit, then when his strides grow regular, teaching him to swing with my legs alternating in rhythm as he strengthens, stretches and understands.When do horses naturally walk best? When they are tired after a day in the saddle and we set them to walking home. This is when we can get them to settle in to the task, to learn to love a free walk with loose reins swinging from side to side. In fact, those swinging reins are a huge sign that the horse is using his entire body to get the very best walk he can. After a few miles of this, he will be rhythmic, swingy, driving from behind, never jiggy or rushing. This, alone, is a good reason to get competition horses out on the trails. Western rail horses who are jogged too much will often show a deadened walk, as well.It interests me to note that certain riders are always mounted on horses who really walk well. They require this of every horse they ride. More to the point, they ride their horses in such a way that the swinging, free walk is possible. Too many of us whose horses struggle with walk do not allow our horses to ‘use themselves’ due to constraints in how rigidly we sit and how we use our legs and reins.Back in the arena, or riding out in the fields, let’s bring our horses soft and round for a few steps until they lighten, then work at lengthening for a few steps, then bring them round again, then REALLY walk out as much as they can on a loose rein… always changing, always challenging, always investigating the walk’s differing degrees. Our horses learn that there are many types of walk, that all are beautiful and enjoyable and that walking well is never a waste of time… When it comes to the quality of our horses and to the wellness of our horsemanship, remember this: the walk tells all.

Coaching Gait by Mel Frandsen

Michael Jordan and Karl Malone were not born, nor did they arrive at age 22, as the best basketball players I the world. They were born with potential to be, but needed work and lots of coaching. People have the ability to reason as to how to improve their abilities. Horses don’t have that ability, so we must be their coaches. The gait of any genetically gaited horse can really be enhanced with “coaching”.

I use the word “coaching” rather than “training” to differentiate “coaching” as with enhancing, from “training” as with inducing. An animal without genetics for gait cannot be trained to gait, unless various mechanical and manipulative means (some of which are very ugly) are employed. Obviously an animal with a trained or man made gait does not belong in a gaited horse breeding program. I should say that my experience with gaited horses is pretty much limited to the Morgan breed so my thoughts apply to the Morgan.

Some gaited breeds have been “fixing” gait in their breed for many, many generations. Ie., the Paso Fino and Peruvian Paso, Walking Horse, Fox Trotters, etc., to the extent their gait is very much predictable and quite consistent. The gait we find in our Morgans can vary quite a bit. It can vary from straight 4 beat, to stepping pace, to foxtrot and a dozen variations in between. Each little variation has it’s own rhythm, it’s own speed range, and it’s own comfort.

I think the Morgan Single Footing Horse will remain pretty much as it is now found, that is with many gaits within each genetically gaited horse. I am currently “breaking” as we call it here, six two year olds who are all sired by the same gaited stallion, they are all out of gaited mares who are half sisters, but really because of line breeding, they are generally closer than 3/4 identical blood. These six animals are each a little different in their gaiting tendencies. Each one will gait at halter and when running loose. I should add here that many well-gaited horses may not show gait at halter or in the pasture, or even under saddle until they’ve been ridden for some time, maybe up to a year, and have had the gait “coached” into them. It is probable that if they eventually gait, that they have a naturally fast walk that was apparent before the gait showed up. You will not get a well-gaited horse that doesn’t have a good fast walk.

The gait in a horse should be looked at as you would any other horse discipline. A western pleasure horse for instance, takes a great deal of work and training to perfect it’s way of going. It needs to learn how to canter slowly and evenly, although it always knew how to canter. It needs to learn to jog slowly and evenly, although it always knew how to trot, and so on. Likewise, a gaited horse needs to learn (and be coached) as to what gait-rhythm, and speeds you want from it. There are some things you can do to enhance the gait to give both the horse and rider a sense of accomplishment. If the youngster doesn’t show gait at the start, we can still go about the training routine of reining, bitting, walking, trotting, cantering, stopping, turning, backing, and getting used to people, things, trails, roads, etc., etc. We need to really concentrate on teaching it to walk, and walk faster and faster without breaking into a trot. When we really get the walk fixed, we need to keep pushing for speed to develop gait.

When pushing for walking speed or gait, we need the horse’s head up a little and slightly into the bit, as opposed to a low, relaxed head set with a sloppy loose reign. We need to work on keeping the hands and fingers “in touch” with the mouth through the feel of the reins. Each time the horse lifts up a front foot we should be able to feel it through the reins. As the front foot begins to lift, the head will begin to lift up; this is the instant we should pick up the head with the reins.

As the head lifts up it helps the front leg to propel forward; if we can help the horse lift up his head, it will help lengthen his stride. As the horse begins to lower it’s foot then lighten the rein to allow it’s foot to hit the ground as it’s head is nodding down. The head is nodding up and down with each step…As the one front foot touches the ground, the other front foot will begin to lift off, and the head will begin to lift up, or begin the nodding cycle again. Nodding helps the horse to take longer strides. Gait lovers like to see nod.

Now at the same time this is going on with our hands, we can be synchronizing the rocking motion of our seat with the stepping rhythm of the horse’s legs and feet, and the swinging of his body. This helps keep the horse in a 4 beat rhythm. While this is going on we need to be pushing the horse slightly into the bit with our legs. Now we are really controlling, or influencing the rhythm, stride and speed of the walk. We are increasing the length of stride by assisting the nod, we are in rhythm with our seat, and we are pushing the horse slightly into the bit at the same time. We are transmitting our 4 beat feeling to the horse. I’m going to call this coordination and feeling between horse and rider “syncopation”. If you have ever been “in sync” with your horse, you’ve experienced a great feeling, and you know what I mean. You will enjoy it, your horse will enjoy it, and you’ll both become one syncopated movement. A horse can get pretty sloppy and revert backwards if we let it, if we are just a passenger along for the ride.

Some horses, no matter how much of this coaching we do, will never gait. If we don’t get gait-we don’t get gait– but let’s never give up trying to improve the walk if nothing else. All of the things we’ve been doing to get the gait to show up will be used in coaching and improving the gait. There are probably 2 things we want to do to enhance the gait (1) develop and maintain an even 4 beat gait and (2) get as much speed as possible. The most absolutely even four beat gait is the easiest and most desirable ride. It is the gait we should breed for, and it is the gait we should coach for. As we said earlier, there are a whole multitude of little variations within the gait, many are indefinable, but can be felt and heard and recognized by the rider. Eldon Eadie has described 9 types of gait evolving from the genes of pace, trot, and speed. All gaited horses will have a combination of some of these genes. A strong speed or modifying gene is necessary to develop a good strong or fast gait. For our purposes, strong gait means a speedy gait and gait means 4 beat.

People often confuse pace with gait. Be careful breeding pacey to pacey, unless the speed genes are so strong as to overcome the pace. If your horse drifts toward pace, check it back to the most comfortable ride and hold it there. Don’t let the horse drift into a loose sloppy reined pace. A pacey horse will drift toward pace more on hard ground (concrete being the worst). Rough ground is best for squaring up and trotting is good. Going uphill is good. DON’T LET THE HORSE DEVELOP PACE OR DRIFT INTO IT. You may have trouble backing and cantering a pacey horse. You can’t change the genes, but you can really affect the way of going to make a better ride with a more square gait.

If your horse tends to drift towards trot when you push him for speed, you need to check him back to a good square 4 beat. Then proceed with the hands, seat, leg rhythm, to max his speed at the four beat. The same procedure we’ve talked about applies here; i.e., hands in touch with the mouth to assist the nod, use body and seat to accentuate the 4 beat rhythm, and crowd the horse slightly into the bit, again…no loose sloppy rein. Don’t allow the horse to jog or trot. A trotty horse usually will keep to an even 4 beat gait quite well on solid to hard ground, and will do well going down hill, but again you are there to coach him into an even 4 beat gait with as much speed as you can push him to.

A thought or two on cantering the gaited horse: Naturally we want our hors to be as versatile as possible. If we are doing ranch work, the horse needs to be able to canter at either lead, and needs to have a good flat walk to allow quick lateral movement. The horse can’t move sharply to the right at a canter or gallop unless it is on the right (hand) lead. If he is on the left lead when you turn right, he must be able to change to the right lead (flying change) as he turns. Same situation in reverse for a left turn. When at a walk, running walk, or single foot, the horse must be checked to a flat walk and take a short step to make a sharp turn to the right or left. When you are training your horse to rein and turn, do it from a flat unextended walk, or you’ll need a big arena to make the turn. Do most of your training without speed as far as reining is concerned. Many of the gaited horses will require more work for cantering than the non-gaited horses. I think a lot of gaited horses go through life without ever cantering from both leads. If you have a strong gaited horse, he will gait at a good speed right up to the canter. Just before he breaks into the canter, you will feel him leading with a right or left lead while still in gait. Horses, like humans, are either right or left handed or sided. Most humans are right handed and most horses that I’m acquainted with are left-sided. So as your strong gaited horse begins to break into a canter, he will be preparing to go into a left lead canter (if he is left handed), or vise versa. You need to work the horse both directions of the arena and develop both a right and left lead, i.e., clockwise help you coach him into a right lead and counter clockwise helps with the left lead.

I think I’m going to kill this whole thing with too much detail. Let me just reiterate once more what we can do to help with the gait.

1. Pick up the horse’s head with a light rein. Enhance the horse’s nod with slight uplift of the horse’s mouth as he strides forward with each front foot, release the pressure on the mouth as he places each foot on the ground and pick it up when the next foot is picked up. Your fingers will be flexing up and down with each front footstep
2. At the same time keep the horse slightly into the bit with your legs.
3. Your body rhythm (seat) should be in synch with your horse’s stride, in fact maybe just slightly ahead of his stride, to encourage him to speed up. Likewise, the nod assisting with your hands and fingers should also be slightly ahead of the horse’s stride to encourage more speed. If you and your horse are really syncopated, you are enjoying it and so is he.

Now you’re ready to sing the old cowboy song “Ragtime Cowboy Joe.” Part of the lyrics go like this. “He always sings raggedy music to his cattle as he swings back and forward in his saddle; on a horse, a pretty good horse, syncopated, gaited, and with such a fundameter to the roar of his repeater how they run.” sound like Ragtime Cowboy Joe had a gaited horse he was in synch with doesn’t it? I wonder if it was a Morgan. Speaking of music and song, here’s a thought…a canter is in 3 quarter time, the trot and pace are in 2 quarter time, and the walk, running walk, and single foot are in 4 quarter time and you…are the conductor!

Happy trails in 4/4 time!!


Gait related to conformation

Really significant information even with the Synchro Gait testing we have today. Brenda Imus.

Hoof Care Myths

8 Hoof Care Myths

By Amber Heintzberger -March 7, 2006406442

Hoof Care

Like a bike with a flat tire or a tennis racket with a broken string, a horse with poor hooves has limited usefulness. But how to keep a horse’s hooves in their best condition is an often discussed and sometimes hotly debated topic. There are theories regarding horses’ feet that constantly keep horseowners contemplating the fact and fiction of hoof care.

Often misinformation is accepted as truth simply because it has been around a long time. In this article we address a few of the most common misconceptions about hoof care, and ask top experts to explain the truth behind the myths.

Myth: White hooves are softer and have more problems than black feet.

The color of the hoof is influenced by the color of the skin above it, so if a horse has white markings directly above the hoof, the hoof itself may carry the same pigmentation. Many people believe that hooves with black walls are stronger than hooves with white walls.

Master Farrier John Burt owns and operates the JDC School of Basic Farrier Science near Texarkana, Ark. He is a member of and tester for the Brotherhood of Working Farriers Association (BWFA) and a 2001 inductee to the BWFA Hall of Fame.
John says, “There is no quality difference on the same horse, no scientific data to sustain any difference. The white and the black hoof are both designed the same structurally; the texture and quality of the hoof is the same.”

One of the foremost experts in his field, Doug Butler, Ph.D., of LaPorte, Colo., is the author of The Principles of Horseshoeing, one of the most widely used texts on horseshoeing in the world. He also has 30 years of teaching experience and acts as a consultant and lecturer on horseshoeing. In 1976 while doing research at Cornell University, he conducted a study on white versus black hooves by taking squares of hoof material and crushing them in a compressor.

“There was no difference between black and white,” he agrees. “The main difference was in moisture content: The softer hooves fell apart easier.” He notes that genetics also play a role in hoof strength. “Some Paint Horses have extremely brittle white hooves and others don’t. Appaloosas seem to have extremely strong feet, no matter what color; genetic propensity seems to be more important than the color of the hoof.”

Myth: All horses need hoof supplements added to their feed.

The reason we add supplements is because there is something missing from the horse’s feed. Whether your horse needs a nutritional supplement depends on what you are feeding him; if his diet is nutritionally balanced, supplementation is probably not necessary. And just like people, some horses can thrive on a basic diet, while others struggle to maintain good condition with every expensive feed and supplement known to man.

Some “complete feeds” already include nutrients such as biotin, which is important to all connective tissue, and methionine, an amino acid essential for strong hooves. There are endless numbers of products on the market that claim they will help your horse’s hoof quality; often the best way of finding a supplement that helps an individual is by trying them out and finding one that works.

Doug Butler comments, “There are a few very good supplements on the market, and then there are a lot that are not well researched. I have counted more than 25 products on the market, but the problem is that every animal responds differently.”

Talk to your veterinarian about determining what supplements your horse might need. Having your hay and pasture analyzed will help you make an educated decision. However, hoof supplements won’t be a miracle cure for horses in poor condition.

According to John Burt bad feet are often caused by nutrition problems and obesity. “On obese horses the hoof often stops growing because it’s so stressed from carrying so much weight, especially the front feet. I’ve done two horses this year where the wall just was not growing. I got one to drop 250 pounds, and the feet improved.”

Other factors that can contribute to poor hoof quality include genetics or undesirable living conditions, such as wet, mucky ground.

Myth: Horses get thrush from standing on wet ground.

Thrush is an infection of the frog and sole of horses. Wet conditions alone will not result in thrush, since bacteria and fungi must be present, but dirty conditions such as stalls not mucked out regularly are certainly a cause of this nasty condition.
Affected feet will have a very offensive odor and will produce a black discharge around the frog. Lameness will result if the condition is allowed to progress far enough to affect the sensitive structure of the foot.

Proper cleaning and trimming of the feet along with proper stable sanitation will help decrease the chance of infection. If you notice that your horse’s feet smell bad and/or have a discharge, cleaning and disinfecting them with a copper sulfate product or iodine solution can treat the problem. A regular trimming schedule with your farrier also helps prevent and control thrush.

Myth: Hot fitting the shoe hurts the horse.

Hot shoeing, including hot fitting, refers to the act of forging/fabricating a shoe, and allows the farrier to custom make and fit the shoe to the horse. Hot fitting involves applying a hot shoe to the horse’s hoof, burning the hoof where the shoe is applied and seating the shoe to the hoof.

“Those in favor of hot shoeing say that a well-placed hot set shoe seals the hoof tubules and allows the farrier to see where there is a high or low spot in the foot,” explains Bill Reed, a farrier from Columbus, N.C., who shoes horses in the Carolinas and Florida. “Some will argue that burning the foot injures the foot or dries it out, but this is false because there are no nerve endings there. Does it hurt when you trim your fingernails?”

Myth: Oil products help seal in moisture.

There are as many products at the tack and feed stores to keep horses’ hooves in good condition as there are anti-aging creams on the beauty aisle at the local pharmacy. One thing to note is that some products are oil-based and claim to add moisture to the hoof, while others are called sealants and claim to lock moisture in—or out—of the hoof.

Sean Reichle,product manager for Farnam Horse Division, explains, “Oil based conditioners, when used correctly, nourish and moisturize the hoof, which may become dried out because of environment or management conditions. Just like different people’s fingernails require different treatments to keep them in top condition, it is important to assess a horse’s hooves periodically.”

Bill Reed is not a big fan of oily hoof dressings, but offers advice on how he thinks they should be used. “Dressing should be applied to the coronary band only,” he says. “Then it can be absorbed and moisturize the new hoof growth. But I only apply sealant to the rest of the wall. If you slather dressing all over the hoof, it softens the foot and then in a climate such as Florida, for instance, where the soil is sandy and hot, the feet dry out. If the hoof is constantly wet and then dry it constricts and contracts, and the shoes loosen quicker.”

Sean Reichle advises, “In some situations, the use of an oil-based conditioner around the coronary band and sole of the hoof, and a sealant on the hoof wall and nail holes, may be an appropriate hoof care program.”

Sean recommends different products for different scenarios. “A horse that spends most of his time out in the field and is only groomed occasionally might benefit from a formula that includes pine tar because it may require less frequent application in harsh conditions and is a bit messy,” he explains. “For a horse that is kept primarily in the barn and groomed frequently, a product with a lighter formula that is applied more often would be a better choice.”

Eight common horse hoof myths

Whether you use hoof dressing or not, attentive hoof care is a paramount concern. “The best advice is, if the horse is being used then you should clean the feet every day,” John Burt says.

According to Doug Butler, the best “hoof conditioner” is the water that the horse drinks and stays hydrated with.

Regardless of the hoof care product you use, follow the manufacturers instructions for application.

Myth: A piece of gravel can work its way up from the bottom of the hoof through the coronary band.

A “gravel” is a condition where an abscess, instead of coming out through the bottom of the foot, works its way upward beneath the hoof wall and breaks out at the soft tissue of the coronary band, where the infection drains out. It is not, however, literally a piece of gravel working its way up the hoof.

“I find that ‘gravel’ is a regional term for describing an abscess,” Bill Reed says. “The farther north you go, they say that a horse ‘graveled’ rather than ‘abscessed.’ ”

According to John Burt, “Gravitational force and the way that the foot is constructed make it questionable that an actual piece of gravel can travel up there. Look at the structure of the foot and figure out the gravitational force: It pushes down. When an abscess is created, the pressure is pushing it up the foot.”

He reasons, “If you did find a piece of gravel in an abscess, it was driven in from the bottom, and then the abscess itself pushed it up through the coronary band.”

Myth: Factory shoes have four nails holes on each side, so each hole should be utilized.

Shoes can be nailed on with as many nails as necessary to secure the shoe to the hoof. Sometimes two per side are sufficient on a smaller foot or a nail pattern that takes advantage of the stronger points of the hoof wall, bypassing the weaker section. Clips can also be used to hold a shoe on.

“The nail holes in keg shoes are there as options, not to be filled up,” Bill Reed says. “Some shoes have eight or 10 holes—aluminum shoes have 12. I did one horse last year that someone else had shod with 11 nails in one shoe. That was incredible! I think three nails were clinched together. That’s just overkill.”

Hooves constantly grow and change, and sometimes parts of the hoof are healthier than others. Nails must be driven into solid healthy wall, or they will not provide a secure hold. On improperly cared for hooves, the hoof wall may be in such poor condition that a farrier can’t nail a shoe on or may only be able to place a couple of nails on each side. The hoof grows very slowly, about a 1/4 inch per month, requiring from six to nine months to grow out completely. Because the hoof grows so slowly, it is preferable to prevent damage, rather than to try and repair damage once it has occurred.

Myth: Barefoot horses need farrier attention less often than shod horses.

Some experts suggest pulling a horse’s shoes for half of the year to let the hooves “recover” from shoeing, including letting the nail holes grow out. If the conditions are right, the farrier will have a better hoof to work with when the horse starts wearing shoes again.

“This is a good idea if you’re not riding the horse and the footing is good,” Doug Butler says. “Out here in Colorado our pasture has a lot of crushed granite so that wouldn’t really work because the horse’s feet would wear down too much.”

For horses doing a lot of work, removing the shoes may be impractical. When wear exceeds growth, then shoes are necessary for a sound horse. Also, corrective horseshoes can be helpful for horses with specific soundness problems. Shoes can also provide extra traction in slippery conditions, especially when they are drilled and tapped so that studs can be used.

If you do remove the horse’s shoes, don’t just turn him out for six months and forget about him. R.T. Goodrich, who has a four-shoer practice in Petaluma, Calif., explains, “Horses in a corral or pasture need regular hoof care at six- to eight-week intervals, shod or not. Uneven wear affects the horse’s entire body, not just the feet.”

Consider your horse’s lifestyle and take into consideration the above factors. Then consult your farrier to decide what is best for your horse. 

Amber Heintzberger is an active rider who enjoys eventing.

Amber HeintzbergerLifelong horsewoman Amber Heintzberger is a freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared internationally. Her latest book is Modern Eventing with Phillip Dutton, and she is co-author of the 2008 American Horse Publications book of the year, Beyond the Track.

This article originally appeared in the April 2006 issue of Horse Illustrated. Click here to subscribe.


No Hoof, No Horse: Treating the Abscess

No Hoof, No Horse: Treating the Abscess

hoof abscess

You walk out to your barn in the morning and you see your horse three-legged or toe-touching lame and unwilling to walk. You start to panic, hoping it’s not something serious. However, you know he was fine last night and had been in his stall, so what could it be?

Most likely, it’s a hoof abscess. Hoof abscesses are caused by trauma such as stepping on a nail, a piece of wood, or any sharp object that could penetrate the sole, white line (the junction between the hoof wall and the sole), or the frog, and let bacteria inside the hoof capsule. Sometimes a penetrating object such as a nail can result in infection of the deeper structures of the foot and require more extensive medical or surgical treatment. Always have your veterinarian assess the problem.

If your horse continually stands in very dry conditions, it also makes it easier for the sole to be penetrated by bacteria from cracks caused by the dryness; or if he continually stands in wet conditions, the soft soles that result are more easily penetrated by rocks or sticks. The bacteria then settles in and begins multiplying, which thus creates an abscess of puss in the lamina. Since there is not much free space inside the hoof, as the abscess grows (which they do very quickly), it becomes very painful for the horse and the pressure needs to be released. The abscess tries to find the path of least resistance to get out—usually it will come out at either the top on the coronary band or through the entry hole in the sole of the hoof. If the abscess has not presented itself out yet, there are ways to allow it to drain.

The main signs of an abscess include: the horse being a four out of five on the lameness scale (lame at the walk), increased digital pulse on affected hoof, hoof feels warm to the touch, and sensitive to hoof testers—more so in the area where the abscess resides within.

To determine whether your horse in fact has an abscess, first, check the affected leg for signs of injury—laceration, heat, swelling, etc. Second, feel the hoof—does it feel warmer than usual, and does the horse have an increased digital pulse? Check the hoof for any puncture wounds or dark holes on the sole. If your veterinarian is on site, they may want to take radiographs of the hoof to rule out a fracture and to see if there are gas pockets. They may also do a nerve block to ensure the lameness is coming from the hoof.

After confirming the issue is an abscess and cleaning out the hoof thoroughly, your veterinarian or farrier may use a paring knife to trim the sole and frog down to get a clearer view of where the hole might be draining. Once they have located the area, they will use the knife to open the abscess and drain it. You will notice a thick white/yellow/green puss.

Once the abscess has been drained, prepare a bandage for your horse to put onto the hoof using an antiseptic dressing such as iodine or betadine as well as a poultice pad and apply where the hole is open. Many people will use a diaper for this and wrap it in duct tape, while others will use a hoof boot. You may use what you have available as long as it is waterproof and can be secured.

Change the bandage every 24 hours or if it becomes loose. The abscess should be drained within 3 days but can take 7-10 days to fully heal. You should notice the horse feeling much more comfortable a few hours after the abscess has been draining. Keep him in a dry, small area such as a clean stall or a medical paddock. Phenylbutazone or another NSAID may be used to reduce pain and inflammation to keep your horse comfortable. Also, you should consider asking your veterinarian for a tetanus vaccination incase the horse stepped on a nail or metal object.

Hoof abscesses are fairly common and luckily are easy to treat—but be sure to always contact your veterinarian at any sign of an injury to ensure that it’s not something more serious.

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Saddle rack causes horse lameness – you’ve got to be kidding.


Dr. Keith performing applied kinesiology on a horse

Thanks Iowa clients for a wonderful challenging case load with my last May trip to Iowa.  I was very busy and unable to see all the people who desired appointments.  Therefore I have decided to make two trips to Iowa in June.  I will visit Equine Referral Clinic on June 11th and 12th and again on the 25th and 26th with a trip to the Ames area on the 27th and Pre-Des Moines areas on the 24th.

After reading the title:  Saddle rack causes horse lameness, you immediately think the horse was being a horse and ran into or got caught in the saddle rack.  No, nothing that straight forward occured and I apologize up front, I did not take photos.  I am bad about taking photos or video.  I just want to help the horse and solve the problem and don’t think about taking photos.  This particular case was a challenge to find the root cause of the problem and a majority of people would not think of looking at equipment in the tack room as the cause of the lameness.

To set this scenario up, I was examining this 11 year old, all-round performance gelding for a left hind leg lameness.  It was a 0.5-1/5 grade lameness occasionally seen under-saddle, and was more commonly felt as an arrhythmic gait.  He would drag his left hind foot on the cranial phase of the stride.  The owner had received the typical suggestion from her routine veterinarian and trainer, “Oh the hocks need injecting”.  This typical answer did not set well with the owner and decided to have me evaluate the horse.

Upon exam of the nicely muscled gelding with good confirmation; I discovered some pelvic issues, mild pain in the left SI (sacroiliac) joint, discomfort in lumbar area, a right cluneal nerve entrapment, and some tenderness on the cluneal nerve entrapped side just behind the shoulder blade.  Hocks and stifles palpated normal and showed no response to a pain challenge.   Two months prior I had examined the horse and at that time treated it for the lumbar issue and cluneal nerve entrapment.  However, the lumbar issue and cluneal nerve entrapment had returned causing a slightly abnormal situation as on most cases this combination of findings, is usually resolved by the chiropractic adjustment and they do not readily come back.  To explain, the cluneal nerve entrapment is an entrapped nerve by a spasmodic lumbar muscle generally on one side of the back.  The entrapped nerve produces ‘P Substance’ which is irritating to the muscle.  It is not an uncommon finding in horses and even people who are experiencing back pain.  Other findings in the lumbar region of the horse included intraosseous faults or IOF’s in the lumbar vertebrae.  The IOF’s are distortions or compaction of the bone.  These repeat findings along with pain in the left SI and the pelvic issues suggested an external cause to the hind leg issue.

While discussing these finding with the owner, the owner made a comment that the saddle pad was wearing out and probably needed replaced.  I looked at the pad which had a design of breathable neoprene construction against the horse.  The neoprene was starting to tear from excessive stress on the center-line over the withers while the rest of the pad looked to be in good shape.

In regards to external issues as causes of Chiropractic problems, four major ones occur.  All four are influence by us and not the horse.  The four include proper and balanced hoof care, environment be it stalled or pasture, saddle fit, and riders ability.  Hoof care was good and the owner had not changed farriers for quite sometime.  The horse was in a stall with daily turnout usually with significant time.  The primary saddle was a five year old western saddle that had been purchased new and used on him for the time.  The rider was an accomplished young adult that had been riding for quite a few years.  Of those options, which one would you look at first?  Yep, you are right the saddle.

I checked the saddle before putting it on the horse.  The gullet width was good but the skirting under the pommel was of different angles going out from the gullet with the right side having a flatter angle.  Also in looking down the gullet from pommel to cantel, the horn was not in the center of the gullet and pointed to the right.  Essentially, the saddle was misshapen.  Although the saddle seemed of good construction and not that old, it needed to be worked on or replaced.  But why did the saddle change, for if it had always been liked that we would have seen the problem in one of the earlier treatments.  Had the rider changed?  Was the owner now riding heavy on the right and needed chiropractic care?  I just happened to put the saddle away in the tack room where the owner showed me where it went.  As I put the saddle on the rack and let go of the horn, it seemed to fall forward.  I thought maybe I did not get the saddle on the rack completely.  Since, the rack was a little below my waist I squatted down to look at the saddle and the rack.  In doing so, I realized the skirting support part of the commercially made saddle rack only came about 2/3rd of the way forward toward the pommel on the saddle.  Consequently the area under the pommel, concho, and off side billet was not supported.  This especially occurred if a second effort was not used to ensure the saddle was against the back wall, even than lack of support would let it lean down and to the right.  The horse owner had been at this stable for about 10 months.  Over that period of time, with the humidity, dampness of the saddle due to sweat, pull of gravity, and lack of full support of the saddle rack; the saddle leather remodeled to a misshapen appearance.  In fact, getting down to eye level with the saddle on the rack, the top front point of the skirt under the pommel was about 1/2 inch lower then the top of the left skirt.  This resulted in uneven and undo pressure on the horse’s back especially the right side.

Lesson learned – check your saddle rack to make sure the saddle is properly supported.  It is yet to be determined if a saddle master can repair the saddle or if a new saddle needs to be purchased.  But for sure, just injecting the hocks would have been a waste of time and money with more on that in the future.


About Dr. Keith Wagner

Since 1989, Dr. Wagner has been dedicated to the health of your horse, from the weekend pleasure horse to elite Olympic level performance horses. Dr. Wagner excels at improving the health of his equine patients by using Chiropractic, Acupuncture, Applied Kinesiology, and Traditional Western Veterinary Medicine.

Friends of Sound Horses Sound Advocate Magazine

Red Bag Delivery

Red Bag Delivery

By Horse Illustrated -December 15, 200635993

Q: Can you explain what a red bag delivery is? I have a mare that is due to foal this month, and I’ve been told to watch for this complication.A: “Red bag delivery” is a layperson’s term for premature separation of the placenta prior to or during a mare’s foaling. Fortunately, it is an infrequent occurrence in healthy foaling mares. However, when it does occur, prompt action is required to prevent a stillborn or weak foal.

The foaling attendant must know that the equine placenta is made up of two major parts: the red bag or chorioallantois, and the white bag or amnion. The red bag attaches to the uterine wall and allows the exchange of nutrients and waste back and forth to the fetus through the umbilical cord. The white bag surrounds the fetus and has many functions, including lubrication and protection. During a normal foaling, the red bag breaks just prior to the foal entering the birth canal. Thus, the first portion of the placenta you see in a normal foaling is the amnion, or white bag, followed promptly by the fetus it contains.

In a normal delivery, the red bag is generally passed by the mare within three hours after foaling. When the red bag appears before the white bag, it means that a portion of the placenta has detached from the uterine wall prematurely, reducing or eliminating the exchange of nutrients to the fetus still inside the mare. In this situation, the red bag appears as a red “velvety” bag hanging from the vulva. When the foaling attendant confirms the presence of the red bag instead of the white bag, he/she should carefully open this bag with surgical scissors—inside will be the white bag enclosing the fetus. Check for two legs and the nose; tear open the white bag and deliver the fetus promptly as it may be short on oxygen due to the early placental separation. The foal should be watched carefully for signs of hypoxia (oxygen deprivation) or infection.

Why do red bag deliveries occur? The normal chorioallantois is relatively thin and breaks easily during birthing. However some placentas are thickened from infection or inflammation, a condition called “placentitis,” and can result in red bag deliveries. Exposure of late pregnant mares to fescue grass can also result in a thickened placenta at foaling. High-risk mares that have had abortion, stillborns or weak foals previously can be evaluated by ultrasound in late pregnancy for placentitis or a thickened placenta. Also keep in mind that even a well-handled red bag delivery may result in a compromised foal.

Andy Schmidt, DVM, MS, Diplomat ACT, is based in Oconomowoc, Wis., at the Wisconsin Equine Clinic & Hospital.

Friends of Sound Horses$g69y2/Mar-Apr-Final-Issue.pdf

Special Report: 13 Facts About Fescue Toxicosis

Round broodmares grazing on lush pastures might make an idyllic picture, but danger could lurk in the grass. Download this special report to learn more about fescue toxicosis, its cause, prevention, and available treatment.

Posted by Michelle N. Anderson, Digital Managing Editor | Jan 18, 2019 | Breeding and ReproductionDiseases and ConditionsFarm and BarnFree ReportMare Care and ProblemsMare NutritionMediaNutritionNutrition BasicsPasture & Forage ManagementPasturesWelfare and IndustryFavorite

SHARE:    Download Now

Round broodmares grazing on lush pastures might make an idyllic picture, but danger could lurk in the grass. Fescue toxicosis can cause gestational complications and potentially kill both mares and their unborn foals; however, tall fescue itself isn’t behind the disease. Rather, a specific chemical produced by a fungus that can live within the tall fescue plant is the culprit. The fungus benefits the plant but is devastating for pregnant mares that graze on pastures or eat hay or bedding containing infected tall fescue. In this special report, you’ll learn more about this disease, its cause, prevention, and available treatment.

Don’t forget to watch the two-part presentation, “Fescue Toxicosis Research in Horses and Cattle,” which is part of our Vet on Demand Lecture series organized in partnership with the University of Kentucky’s Gluck Equine Research Center.




Michelle N. Anderson, Digital Managing Editor

Michelle Anderson serves as The Horse’s digital managing editor. In her role, she produces content for our web site and hosts our live events, including Ask the Vet Live. A lifelong horse owner, Anderson competes in dressage and enjoys trail riding. She’s a Washington State University graduate (Go Cougs!) and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in business administration and extensive coursework in animal sciences. She has worked in equine publishing since 1998. She currently lives with her husband on a small horse property in Central Oregon.

Tips to Predicting a Foals Arrival

Familiarity with the foaling process and your mare is crucial to predicting birth, but you also can employ sensors, alarms, and video monitoring systems. 

The act of foaling by a mare i

Posted by Les Sellnow | Feb 1, 2008 | ArticleFoaling & Foaling ProblemsMare CareReproductive SystemFavorite


Familiarity with the foaling process and your mare is crucial to predicting birth, but you also can employ sensors, alarms, and video monitoring systems. 

The act of foaling by a mare is nothing short of explosive. Contractions are fast and powerful. Within minutes, if all goes well, a confused-appearing little horse is lying on the floor of a stall and an exhausted mare is resting quietly. If things go awry during this explosive process, handlers and veterinarians normally have only minutes in which to resolve the problem.

As a result, there have been many efforts through the years to predict just when foaling will occur so that attendants can be ready and waiting.

Research has provided tools and approaches to help accurately determine the time of foaling. Some of them work well, but none is foolproof. Mares don’t read manuals and sets of instructions with specific directions. For them, foaling is an individual act. They don’t all have the same length of gestation. They don’t all give off the same signals when foaling is about to commence, and there are differences in the length of time involved in the act itself.

How to Predict

There is no one predictor that can tell attendants exactly when a mare will go into labor, says Pat McCue, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACT, associate professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences at Colorado State University’s (CSU) veterinary school. The best approach, he says, is to combine observation of physical signs with some of the technology that is available.

To totally understand what is being observed, one must first be aware of the three stages of parturition. We start with the basic fact that the average duration of gestation in the mare ranges from 335 to 342 days. That being said, there have been instances where foaling has occurred prior to 335 days and well past 342 days. The range can actually be from as few as 305 days to as many 400-plus. Here is a basic explanation of what occurs during the process itself:

Stage 1 can involve some vague and nonspecific signs. Most mares will be restless during this stage. They are apt to walk around the stall and some snatch a mouthful of hay, while others might not eat at all. A mare might lie down, roll, get up, stomp her back feet, and even kick at her abdomen. Some of the signs displayed are akin to those demonstrated when a horse is suffering from colic.

One of the reasons for the discomfort is the foal is being positioned for delivery. In layman’s terms, it involves rotating from a position where it is lying on its back to where it is on its stomach with the front feet pointed toward the birth canal.

While the foal is changing position, the mare’s cervix is dilating to provide access into the birth canal. Just before the mare goes into serious labor, she normally will sweat around the shoulders, flanks, and chest.

Stage 1 ends with the rupture of the chorioallantoic membrane (breaking of the water bag, or the outer layer of the placenta). The fluid that gushes forth serves to lubricate the birth canal, which facilitates passage of the fetus.

That all being said, we must return to the individuality of mares. Some mares might exhibit Stage 1 signs for a day or two–or even several days–prior to foaling. This is where good recordkeeping can be valuable. Mares tend to repeat a foaling routine year in and year out. Thus, if one knows how the mare acted during foaling last year, odds are it will be repeated this year. If she is delivering her first foal, it is highly important that all of the signs and data be recorded for future review.

Stage 2 is the actual birth stage, and it often lasts only 20 to 30 minutes from beginning to end. This is the explosive stage. In normal situations, the fetal placenta will separate from the uterus during the birthing process. The fetus will continue to receive oxygen from the mare’s blood via the umbilical cord. This is where a birthing problem can occur. As the foal is squeezed through the birth canal, the umbilical cord is compressed and the oxygen supply can be compromised. There is always the danger of suffocation if the foal is not born quickly.

The foaling attendant will be watching for a normal presentation. This means that the front feet emerge first, one about three to four inches in advance of the other. This expedites passage through the birth canal. The foal’s nose will be at about knee level. Hopefully, the amnion, a transparent placental membrane immediately surrounding the foal, will have ruptured. If it has not and still covers the foal’s head, it should be torn to enable the foal to breathe. The foal’s back feet often remain inside the mare for some minutes after the rest of the body has been expelled. Normally, the mare will lie quietly resting, as will the foal.

Stage 3 involves expelling of the placenta and its associated membranes, also called the afterbirth. This is an important time, as far as the mare’s health is concerned. A retained placenta can be very toxic. If it is not expelled within two to three hours after birth, veterinary help should be sought.

Applying What You Learned

By becoming familiar with the three stages of foaling, the attendant becomes more aware of what should happen as the mare is preparing to give birth.

McCue emphasized that it is important to observe the entire range of physical changes in a mare’s body as she nears parturition. Udder development should be monitored or clues about her parturition timetable: there will be changes in the teat ends as they fill with milk, there will be “wax” or dried colostrum on the teats, and there are changes in the vulva as it becomes more relaxed.

“I tell my students, ‘Don’t hang your hat on any one thing,’?” McCue says, “but normally, one strong indicator that foaling is close is waxing.”

For about 90% of foaling mares, he says, waxing is followed within 24 to 48 hours by foaling.

Again, a problem with this method of prediction arises because of the fact that mares are individuals, and what is normal for one might not be normal for another. The problem is with the 10% that don’t conform to the normal pattern of waxing.

There will be a percentage who don’t wax at all, McCue says, and there also will be a percentage in which waxing is not followed by foaling within 24 to 48 hours. However, the fact that 90% will foal within 24 to 48 hours after waxing provides a standard for the majority.

Other Foaling Indicators

Here are some other general timetables for physical signs that appear as a mare approaches her due date. Distention of the udder might start up to six weeks ahead of foaling, but it normally begins more like two to four weeks ahead, and teats normally start to fill a week to 10 days prior to foaling. Relaxation of the vulva often is observed 48 hours prior to foaling. A slackening of the area around the base of the tail often begins one to three weeks before foaling.

The technological advances in predicting foaling have ranged all the way from determining electrolyte changes in the mare’s milk to alarm systems that sound a warning when a mare goes into labor.

McCue says that CSU foaling attendants make use of test strips and alarms. The test strips are the outcome of a scientific discovery that approximately 24 to 48 hours before foaling, calcium concentration in the mare’s milk increases. Some of the researchers found that these changes normally occurred in the evening. As a mare’s assumed foaling time nears at CSU, McCue says, her milk is tested each evening.

He says while testing the milk is important, it also accomplishes something else. The foaling attendant is forced to handle the mare up close and personal rather than just observe her from a distance and, thus, is better able to note telltale signs such as udder development and condition of the vulva.

The companies that manufacture test strips to measure calcium in the milk recommend testing begin 10 days to two weeks prior to the expected foaling date. They also advise the test be administered one to two times daily. When the calcium concentration reaches 200 parts per million, reports one of the companies (FoalWatch), birth is imminent. When the mare’s calcium concentration reaches 300 to 500 parts per million, they add, birth is usually very near.

Testing the milk involves getting a small sample of milk from the mare and using special kits that the companies provide to measure the calcium levels.

In the test strip approach, color changes in the strip indicate increases in calcium levels.

Once one has predicted foaling within the 24- to 48-hour framework, it is possible to make use of other technology to let attendants know when labor begins. One of the methods utilized at CSU, says McCue, is Foalert. The system relies on a transmitter and a separate receiver. The transmitter is stitched to the edge of the mare’s vulva. A tiny magnet is stitched to the other side and is attached to the transmitter. When the mare goes into labor and the vulva lips separate, the magnet is pulled from the transmitter, which activates the receiver, and a remote alarm sounds to alert attendants.

There are various degrees of sophistication with the system, including a telephone hookup and long-range capability.

The system has been most useful during the daytime hours at CSU, according to McCue. “At night we have dedicated foal-watchers, but during the day, many of these people are doing other tasks and the alarm system can alert us.”

Research has demonstrated that the vast majority of mares foal at night. Behaviorists seem to think this is a throwback to mares’ natural desire to conceal themselves from predators during a vulnerable time.

Other alarm devices are on the market as well. They are designed for activation when the mare lies down and remains lying down, such as would occur during foaling. The devices can either be attached to the mare’s halter, or they are worn like a surcingle around the girth.

There also are video monitoring systems that allow you to watch the mare in her stall from the warmth and comfort of your home. Today there are video cameras that can send signals remotely, so no hard-wiring is necessary.

Video surveillance also allows you to avoid “bothering” the mare by your arrival and turning on lights to check her every hour or so. Some mares seem to “put off” foaling until they are alone, and most foaling attendants and breeders can tell you stories of foals they missed, despite monitoring the mare closely.

One company, AVtech Solutions, offers a monitoring system that allows you to access your wireless camera’s video over the Internet.

Cameras can send signals in black and white or color. These types of systems have become more commonplace and less expensive in recent years. Some systems also allow you to record events for an archive that can be kept with your files.

Take-Home Message

Technological developments can be helpful in predicting foaling, but only if they are utilized in conjunction with ongoing observation. You need to keep records on your mares to understand their normal pre-foaling attitudes and behaviors, learn early signals that labor is impending, and be available to help if needed. If you are not an experienced foaling attendant, make sure you have a veterinarian or equine midwife who can arrive quickly in case of problems.



Les Sellnow

Les Sellnow

Les Sellnow is a free-lance writer based near Riverton, Wyo. Hespecializes in articles on equine research, and operates a ranchwhere he raises horses and livestock. He has authored several fiction and non-fiction books, including Understanding Equine Lameness and


By: Natalija Aleksandrova
Holistic Horse & Hoof Care

In order for a mammal to survive, internal body temperature is kept within a very narrow range. If the temperature exceeds these limits either above or below, the chemical reactions on the cellular level function improperly. Or they stop functioning at all. Fluctuations outside of the normal temperature range result in health problems or death of the animal. Mature horses maintain their internal body temperature at a range around 38?. Foals, rapidly growing youngsters, pregnant and lactating mares have a higher norm of their internal body temperature (Hines, 2004). Most horse owners are aware of the damage and crisis inherent with fever states. Few horse owners realize how well adapted horses are to deal with cold when certain aspects of their lifestyle are in place for them.

Over thousands of years, the wild horse has spread over the entire world. Whatever place in the world they live, the horse was exposed to constantly changing temperature — through a day/night rhythm or a seasonal rhythm. Yet even today wild and semi-wild horses, as well as domestic ones, provided with species appropriate living conditions, survive perfectly any conditions Nature exposes them to. Whether it is the north of Europe, or Australian deserts, the horse is exposed to all of Nature’s changing elements — wind, sun, rain, snow, fluctuating temperature, etc. Never in nature seeking such excessive enclosed shelters as man-made stables and barns nor caves, never in nature seeking ways of covering themselves with fabric. The horse has naturally evolved ways of thriving.

Heat in the horse’s body is continuously generated as a by-product of metabolism, and a healthy animal has significant internal sources of heat from the metabolic processes (Bicego at al., 2007). To control internal heat loss during the cold time of year, the horse is provided by Nature with complicated and extremely efficient anatomical, physiological and behavioral thermoregulatory mechanisms. In order that the mechanisms are used in the most efficient way, or at all, the horse requires conditions equaling species appropriate lifestyle environments.

On a genetic level, the domestic horse is the same as its wild counterpart: it has the same abilities and needs to survive. Basically, they do not need anything more from the human than only to provide keeping conditions that this species is supposed to have by dictate of Nature: freedom of movement 24 hours a day, free access to appropriate food 24 hours a day, herd life, proper hoof care, shelter which it can enter and leave freely. Under human care that respects the horse’s natural needs, and provides it doesn’t make this animal a subject for anthropomorphism through stabling, changing eating habits, blanketing, clipping, shoeing, etc., the domestic horse is able to properly use its amazing natural thermoregulatory abilities exactly the same way as the wild horse.

Let’s take a deeper look into how the thermoregulatory mechanisms work in the horse, and how it can be interfered with and damaged through unnatural care and keeping practices.


Coat in an Arabian breed horse on a very cold winter day (around –27?C/–17?F, Central Europe.The piloerection mechanism in use — the hair is raised to increase coat insulation.


Cooling down after playing. Icelandic breed horse, Central Europe.
Photo © K. Jarczewski

First what is important to remember, is that due to some thermoregulatory factors such as the skin and coat being very good insulators, which prevent heat loss, and the muscles producing heat through their movements, it is far easier for horses to warm up in cold weather than to cool down in hot weather, or to cool down after intensive exercising. Cooling down is more difficult for the horse. Horses are adapted to handle cold.The horse’s skin is responsible both for protecting the interior of the body from outside temperature changes. As well as for not allowing heat loss in cold weather. Also it needs to be mentioned that the skin is responsible for dissipation of internal heat generated by muscle action to prevent the body from over-heating. The skins’ thermoregulatory mechanisms consist of four major factors, skin, coat, arteries and sweat glands, three of which are responsible for keeping the horse warm in a cold weather:1. The skin itself works as an insulating layer through its relative thickness.2. The coat.The coat insulation depends on the depth and thickness of the hair layer, the wind speed and the temperature and humidity gradients within the coat (Ousey et al., 1992).The coat, in horses, changes twice a year through the mechanism called photoperiodism, adapting to different seasonal base temperatures. Sensors in the horse’s skin react to the daytime light length changes. The horse is ready to grow their winter coat right after the summer solstice, when days start getting shorter. The horse is ready to change their winter coat to a summer one right after the winter solstice, when days start getting longer.In addition to photoperiod, environmental temperature also affects hair growth. Colder climates produce thicker and longer coats in horses than warmer climates do, when comparing horses who have the same body score and are fed the same amount of food.Also coat growth is affected by some other factors, for example, feeding and horse breed which will be explained later in this text.Additionally to growing its coat, the horse can increase the insulation of the coat through the mechanism called piloerection — raising, lowering or turning in different directions the hair in the coat via hair erector muscles. This way the horse increases or decreases the thickness of the insulation layer and efficiently varies the amount of airflow to the skin surface. Piloerection increases coat depth 10% to 30% in mature horses (Young & Coote, 1973). The hair erector muscles must be exercised regularly in order to work properly, as with any other muscle in the body.Hairs of the coat are covered with a greasy substance, which helps the horse not to get wet to the skin on rainy or snowy days. The coat has a water-repelling effect through the hair grease — water runs down the outer hair while the deeper coat remains dry. The longer the coat, the less chance water has to get to the skin. Through regular coat brushing the greasy substance gets removed, and the water-repelling effect gets impaired.Not advisable either is to clean off the layer of dirt that rolling in mud ensures a horse. The mud has protective effects to the body.Needless to say that the popular practice of clipping the hair of a horse’s coat eliminates, completely, the thermoregulatory factor of the coat.3. Arteries in the skin.Arteries through muscle actions, called vasoconstriction or vasodilation, can be narrowed or enlarged, regulating blood flow to the skin. Constricting prevents internal heat loss by reducing the amount of warm blood brought to the cooler body surface. Dilation allows for a larger amount of hot blood from over-heated interiors to reach the body surface and to be cooled. The cooled blood lowers internal body temperature when it’s returned back to the interior of the body.4. Sweat glands.The horse uses sweat glands to cool down at a time when external or internal temperatures are too hot. When the outside temperature is too high for the air to cool the blood through the skin, the sweat glands secrete fluid. Evaporation of this fluid cools the skin surface and the blood in the surface arteries. In this way, bringing the cooled blood to the internal body, the temperature internally can be lowered even when it is hot outside. The horse stops secreting sweat as soon as the internal body temperature has reached it’s norm. Then it must dry quickly, since otherwise cooling would continue and bring body temperature below normal limits. A sweaty horse turns its coat hairs in various directions in order to avoid under-cooling and given freedom usually seeks a windy spot to effectively fast and safely dry itself. Mentioning the sweat glands mechanism is important because sweat glands are also brought into function through muscle action.

While those are the skins’ four major factors of thermoregulation mechanisms let’s now look into other thermoregulatory mechanisms available to the horse.


Frost on the coat — heat escaped the body.


Water running down the long winter hair, the undercoat staying dry.

The amount of fat in the body is also an important factor of thermoregulation. Since, in addition to being the body’s energy reserve, fat is three times more insulating than other tissues due to its low thermal conductivity and poor blood supply (Guyton, 1991; Davenport, 1992). Thus it is important for a horse to have a good layer of fat before winter. Wild horses and naturally kept domestic horses maintain the natural rhythm of weight change throughout the year with their weight growing up to 20% by the Autumn. Usually we can see that domestic horses with a thicker fat layer in their bodies grow a comparatively shorter winter coat than horses with less fat gain at Autumn, comparing the same breed and the same body score animals. Also fat gets distributed more evenly over the body surface in cold conditions instead of being concentrated in some particular areas as in hot conditions.

Kept in the same conditions, smaller horse breeds have a longer/thicker coat compared to larger breeds. Also we see a typically thicker coat in foals. This is connected to a great effect of allometry, the systematic change in body proportions with increasing body size, on heat balance within animal species. Changes within species occur as animals grow and develop but exist also between breeds of species (Reiss, 1991; Langlois, 1994). Generally, large body size is an advantage with respect to thermoregulation in the cold. Since, the ratio of heat-dissipating surface area to heat-producing/retaining body mass decreases with increasing body size (Phillips & Heath, 1995; Bligh, 1998). Therefore, large size horses have less relative surface area available for heat exchange, and thus importantly lose less heat in the cold than small size horses do. Small horses lose more body heat than large horses do. In addition to large body size, a spherical body shape reduces the surface area to body mass ratio (Langlois, 1994). To compensate for the bigger surface/mass ratio northern-type horses generally have evolved heavier rounder bodies with shorter limbs and extremities which are well protected by thick hair, mane and fetlock, therefore being more able to retain more body heat and cope with cold.

Increasing feed intake increases heat production in the horse’s body. This is connected to the fact that the process of digesting long fibers produces heat as a by-product. It is important that every domestic horse has unrestricted access to hay 24 hours a day. In cold weather having a chance of increasing heat production through continuously consuming and digesting long fiber. Especially when some of the other thermoregulatory mechanisms aren’t yet adjusted in suddenly changing weather conditions such as a rapid drop of temperature.

Such extra demand for feed is called climatic energy demand (MacCormak & Bruce, 1991). Horses have been observed to need about 0.2 to 2.5% more energy for maintenance per 1 degree Celsius drop in outside temperature below their lower critical temperature (Young Coote, 1973; McBride et al., 1985; Cymbaluk et al., 1989a; Cymbaluk, 1990). (Lower critical temperature is individual for every horse/group of horses at different times of year and depends on many other thermoregulatory and environmental factors.)

Importantly, smaller-sized horses have greater lower critical temperature values meaning their heat loss is relatively greater than for larger horses. Thus small-sized horses actually need proportionally more additional feed. To explain further, the greater that the lower critical temperature value is — the more heat loss the animal experiences. Small-sized horse breeds lose more heat than big-sized horse breeds in the same temperature conditions. The lower that the lower critical temperature value is, the greater the heat retention is that the animal experiences. Bigger-sized horse breeds stay warmer in cold weather.

Feral horses have been reported to reduce locomotor activity in winter compared to summer (Duncan, 1980; Berger et al., 1999; Arnold et al., 2006). Reduced activity in winter was an annual pattern related to decreased outside temperature and hence to a reduction in internal heat production and energy expenditure (Arnold et al., 2006). This adaptation mechanism of reducing activity helps wild horses to cope with the energetic challenge of winter. We can observe similar reduction of activity in winter in domestic horses kept naturally. Though the domestic horses aren’t challenged with a necessity to search for food in winter to the same extent as their wild counterparts. This slowing down in their activity obviously has the same purpose as in the wild horses — the reduction of energy expenditure in the cold. Thus, it is a normal seasonal rhythm in the horse to be less exercised in winter due to this cold adaptational thermoregulation mechanism, therefore it is not advisable to forcefully exercise horses in winter.

Along with general reduction of activity in the cold, we have observed in horses, short sessions of restlessness and locomotor activity (movement) during sudden acute cold periods and adverse weather. Short term beneficial movement that is a useful bridge until other factors of their thermoregulatory system adjust to the new temperature conditions.

Sometimes we can observe horses standing or lying down very close to each other, this way they reduce heat loss via radiation. By such positional closeness to each other they reduce the body surface area exposed to the external environment (Bligh, 1998). At the same time animals, who for some reason, don’t produce enough individual internal heat can use, as an extra source of beneficial heat, a paddock mate’s body-heat radiation via positional closeness.

Also by changing body posture and orientation, horses can increase absorbed solar radiation to use as another additional source of heat. Often we can observe that horses prefer to sunbath under the direct sun instead of eating on short sunny winter days, and as soon as the sun sets they are back to eating.

Snow which we can sometimes see lying along horses backs during winter also plays the helpful role of providing an extra protective layer against internal heat loss.

On windy, rainy days, we can see horses standing with their tails to the wind and their heads low. This way they effectively keep their necks, heads, ears and eyes, underbelly and sheaths out of water and wind. Their tails serve to protect their rear ends — the shorter hairs on the dock fan out deflecting both snow and wind. Also on such days, horses can be seen standing in the lee shelter of walls, or using natural windbreaks such as trees or hills to protect themselves from the wind.

When allowed free choice, it’s been observed that horses utilize enclosed spaces, such as shelters or forests, mostly to hide from summer heat and flies.

Under extreme circumstances, heat in the horse body can be generated by shivering. During shivering, heat is rapidly produced by breaking down ATP in the muscles (Langlois, 1994). Shivering is usually an acute response to sudden cold exposure, or sometimes it occurs during extended periods of exposure to cold in rainy weather. In healthy animals, shivering is replaced by normal internal heat production as they adapt to new weather conditions.

A different problem occurs with enclosed spaces when placing a hot sweaty horse into a stable. Due to a lack of air circulating in there, cooling already takes longer and a horse sweats for longer. The air surrounding the horse becomes saturated and drying also takes longer than normal, because the humid air cannot absorb any more moisture. As a result, the horse remains undercooled, again setting the stage for internal disorder: colic, diseases and infections by negatively affecting metabolism’s safe temperature margins.

Blanketing moreover can set the thermoregulation in a horse to a complete mess. The animal tries to warm up parts of the body left exposed to the cold such as head, neck, belly and legs, in the process they become over-heated in those parts covered by the blanket. A horse cannot increase heat in selected area’s of the body. The whole body cools or the whole body heats up. Sweating under a blanket is more of a problem metabolically to the horse than people realise.

Kept in stables or/and blanketed, horses lack stimuli (temperature fluctuations) triggering the activity of thermoregulatory mechanisms. They don’t need to exercise hair erector muscles, nor to dilate or constrict arteries, nor to activate the sweat glands, nor to prepare or deplete healthy fat reserves. All muscles atrophy without exercising for a period of time. If an animal in this state is suddenly exposed to the cold, they will not be able to activate necessary thermoregulatory mechanisms. As a result the internal body temperature could drop too low, that would lead to disruptions in metabolic processes. This can affect, for example, the production and migration rate of white blood cells and antibodies, with partial disabling of them. The result is a stressed animal with a disease or infection hosting internal environment. The germ is nothing, the terrain is all (Louis Pasteur). Consequentially germs or viruses in the body get a perfect opportunity to over breed.

Besides the fact that the natural thermoregulatory mechanisms can only be fully utilized when a horse is kept in their species-appropriate living conditions, there is an anxiety and stress factor that horses inevitably experience when cut off from their basic needs and kept in ways unnatural for this species (stabling, separating from equine companions, forced exercising, lack of continuous fiber uptake, etc.). This stress also makes them less capable of coping with cold.

To review all resources and references for this article click this link to it’s original source and scroll down:

Now… one last thing Natalija did not mention. If your horse has been clipped thus eliminating his ability to use his natural built-in devices and grow his winter coat, or if your horse has been blanketed since Fall so his natural devices have not developed, his winter coat has not grown, either start slowly and with good judgement or wait until next year, depending upon where you are and what your climate is. Then next year no clipping, no blankets, and let him develop his winter devices naturally.

Beware of the Grass?

Endophyte-free tall fescue: Should I be concerned about endophytes in forage grasses?

What are endophytes and what impact could they have on my livestock?

The term “endophyte” usually comes to a farmer’s attention in connection with tall fescue. This forage grass is extremely important in the southern United States and endophytes have a lot to do with it. An endophyte is a fungus that lives within the plant between cells. It is not a true parasite, but has a symbiotic relationship with the host plant. The endophyte receives water, nutrients and a structure in which to grow. It provides alkaloids to the plant which help protect it from drought, heat and plant-eating animals, including insects. The fungus develops along with the plant and concentrates in seeds. This assures the next generation of grass plants will also be “endophyte-infected.”

When consumed by cattle and other livestock, the toxic alkaloid contained in endophyte-infected tall fescue can cause foot and leg problems, reduced weight gain or weight loss, reduced milk production, digestive problems and reproductive problems, including abortion. The toxin is concentrated if the tall fescue is grazed or harvested under high soil nitrogen or drought conditions. If harvested tall fescue is fed out at a level of less than 50 percent of total dry matter in the ration, the toxin is not likely to cause a noticeable problem.

Different grass species are infected by specific endophytes. The tall fescue endophyte produces two main alkaloids, loline and ergovaline. The loline is not known to cause harmful effects in livestock. However, the ergovaline contains the same toxin as the ergot fungus which infects cereal grains and grasses. Ergot was the cause of occasional widespread human poisoning in medieval times when infected grains were harvested and consumed.

Although not common in Michigan, another endophyte-related health problem is called “ryegrass staggers.” Perennial ryegrass can contain endophytes that produce a toxin called lotitrem B, usually under droughty conditions or in a high soil nitrogen situation. If lotitrem B levels are high and animals consume enough of the infected perennial ryegrass, a nervous disorder can result.

Drought and pest resistance provided by endophytes in tall fescue and other forage grasses are important for yield and stand persistence in the southern United States. However, research has shown that persistence of these same grasses in more northern areas, including Michigan, is not influenced by the presence or absence of endophytes. Endophyte-free tall fescue seed varieties are recommended by Michigan State University Extension and should be used in Michigan for tall fescue seedings. Palatability has been an issue with tall fescue forage compared with other cool season species commonly grown in Michigan. Improved endophyte-free tall fescue varieties with softer leaves are now available, providing Michigan farmers with the opportunity to try high-yielding tall fescue in their forage programs. Results of tall fescue variety trials in Michiganare available online.

An informative publication, “Forage Fescues in the Northern USA,” from the University of Wisconsin provides more information on endophytes and their impact on forage and livestock production in fescue species.

For more Michigan forage information, visit the MSU Forage Connection website.

Morgan National Endurance

Morgan Horse Logo
AMHA is thrilled to announce an opportunity that has been two years in the making – the first ever, AMHA Distance Championship (50-mile ride) which will take place in Henryville, Indiana on Friday, October 26, 2018.
AMHA has partnered with the Arabian Horse Association to offer this first ever American Morgan Horse Association 50-mile National Championship for horses registered with AMHA. This breed specific championship runs concurrently with the 50-mile OPEN (all breeds) ride. Your entry fee of $155 covers both the 50-mile AMHA ride entry AND the concurrent 50-mile OPEN ride.  
Not quite ready for a 50-mile ride? The overall event being held Thursday October 25 through Sunday October 28 offers a variety of options for Distance Riders of all levels.
Other options Morgan enthusiasts may find appealing include:
• 100-mile OPEN (all breeds welcome) Ride, Saturday
• 25-mile Limited Distance Challenge, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (made up of three, individual, 25-mile a day rides)
• Combined Trail Ride, Sunday
Qualifications for the AMHA 50-mile ride include:
• Horse must be registered with the AMHA
• Rider must be an active competing member of AMHA
• Horse must have a minimum of 100 Lifetime miles completed
• Horse must have completed in a minimum of 2 different 50-mile rides sanctioned by AMHA, AHA, or AERC (must be able to verify)
• Horse must be at least 5 years old on the day of the ride
• Entries must follow all rules and pay all fees as outlined in the event flyer and registration form
Please spread the word so we can have a great “MORGAN” turnout at this inaugural event! You can find more information about the ride on the AMHA website (including the event flyer, entry blank, etc.),
We can’t wait to see you and your Morgan there! Plan on attending? E-mail AMHA Executive Director Carrie Mortensen at [email protected] and let her know she’ll see you there. 
Being a NEW program for AMHA, we of course, welcome membership comments and thoughts. Good luck!
Photo © Spectrum Photography
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Club Scrapbook 2012

front page scrapbook

Club Scrapbook from 2012 and before


Gaited Show rules effective 12/2018

MO190 Tracking #028-17 Draft #1 Approved Intent MO190 Morgan Gaited- General [CHAPTER SUBCHAPTER: MO-17 MORGAN-GAITED] MO190 Morgan Gaited – General The Gaited Morgan is presented Under Saddle. This is a horse suitable for trail riding and should possess athleticism with a relaxed attitude and way of going. The Gaited Morgan should be eye appealing and confident, showing the impression of being a sure, safe and pleasurable ride. MO191 Gaits The Gaited Morgan performs three gaits: Trail Walk, Show Gait and Pleasure Gait. 1. TRAIL WALK. The Trail Walk has equal weight in the judging of a class. The ability to transition from the highest performance level in the class to a completely relaxed walk is an important indication of the correct mentality and temperament. The Trail Walk is an authentic four beat walk, suitable for use on the trails. The walk must be calm, relaxed, and ridden with clearly observable slack in the reins. Reins at all times must droop with the lowest point noticeably lower than the point of attachment to the bit. The head and neck should be lower then the position that is maintained at Show and Pleasure Gaits. Horses unable to move from any gait into a relaxed, natural walk, horses that must be restrained by the reins from accelerating, or a horse who appears to “jig” performing the Trail Walk, must be severely penalized by the judge. 2. SHOW GAIT. The show gait is a collected, four beat gait performed at moderate speed, with stride and action appropriate for the class. The Show Gait must be collected and smooth with no exaggeration in form or execution. The sequence of the footfalls is rhythmic and cadenced. 3. PLEASURE GAIT. This gait is a four beat gait with the greatest speed and action in any section. There must be a distinct difference in the speed demonstrated at the Show Gait and Pleasure Gait, although speed must not come at the expense of form and correct footfalls. Horses that do not exhibit a distinct difference in speed between the Show Gait and the Pleasure Gait must be penalized. The ability of the horse to demonstrate forward movement, with speed and action appropriate for this section, while maintaining correct form, is of primary importance at gait. 4. SADDLE GAIT. Horses performing the Show or Pleasure Gait may perform any “Saddle Gait”. The “Saddle Gait” may be either a lateral or diagonal gait. The Pace, Trot and Jog/Canter are not allowed. If both Show and Pleasure Gaits are to be demonstrated in a class, the horse must maintain the same Saddle Gait footfall sequence throughout the test. The only change will be in the tempo/speed as required by the call throughout the test. 5. BACKUP. In all performance classes, backing at least three steps in a straight line is called for in the line-up. The horse must not throw his head above the bit, gape at the mouth or show other signs of resistance. Failure to follow a straight track will be penalized. MO192 General Judging Requirements for Under Saddle Gaited Classes 1. Credit shall be given to an entry that exemplifies the look of the proper section. 2. A horse that does not demonstrate correct form for the class will be penalized by the judge. 3. Scoring: Proper cadence and balance, presence and apparent ability to give a good pleasurabke ride 60%; type and confirmation 40%. 4. Championship: The same specifications as the above paragraph except the percentages are 50%-50% instead of 60%-40%. MO193 Gaited Morgan Country Trail Pleasure Class 1. Appointments: See MO122.1.2 2. Shoeing: See MO103.5 3.The Gaited Country Trail Pleasure entry must exemplify the attributes of a pleasure riding horse suitable for all members of the family. The Trail Pleasure horse must have gaits that are effortless and extremely smooth, with no animation. The head and neck of the Gaited Country Trail Pleasure entry must be relaxed and show little to no elevation, and the horse in gait should be ridden with a minimum of bit contact and should remain relaxed at all times. There is to be no sign of animation, nervousness, or the need for restraint. The Gaited Country Trail Pleasure classes are shown in two gaits: Show Gait and Trail Walk. Speed is not desired in this section. Animation, more than moderate speed, nervousness, or an elevated head and/or neck carriage shall be penalized. Manners are paramount in this section. A horse that does not demonstrate correct style shall be penalized by the judge and shall not be placed above a horse that has the correct way of going as long as they are performing in proper gait, regardless of other criteria. MO194 Class Specifications Gaited Morgan Country Trail Pleasure Class 1. Shown: Horses enter at the Trail Walk, followed by the Show Gait, Trail Walk; Reverse, Show Gait, Trail Walk in that order. A halt may be executed from either gait; the horse must halt promptly and stand quietly on a light rein. A dismount and remount may be called. A reinback of at least 3 steps is required in the line-up. 2. Judged: On manners, quietness, performance including steadiness, responsiveness, traveling on a light rein, and willingness to stand quietly and back readily. MO195 Gaited Morgan Trail Pleasure Class 1. Appointments: See MO122.1.2 2. Shoeing: See MO103.5 3. A Gaited Trail Pleasure Horse must demonstrate a suitable way of going while performing the Trail Walk, Show Gait and Pleasure Gait. The gaits should not show animation or excessive speed and must be effortless and smooth with forward movement. The head and neck should be in a relaxed manner appropriate to the conformation of the horse yet must be stylish and to a lesser degree of collection. A slight movement of the head is permissible. The horse should be well mannered. A judge may request the horse to stand quietly on the rail on a light rein from any gait. The judge may additionally ask the rider to dismount and remount while the horse stands quietly. Proposed Change This will open up a new section in the Morgan Division. These horses perform the following gaits- the Trail Walk, Show Gait and Pleasure Gait. By offering this new section, it provides further opportunity to present to a wide demographic audience another way of showing the Morgan horse which further promotes the Morgan breed. Thursday, March 01, 2018 10:19 AM Page 2 of 4 4. To be penalized: The horse should not be presented in a collected, up headed and animated frame. There is no maximum or minimum degree of animation, but smoothness and frame tie over animation and speed. 5. A horse that does not demonstrate the correct way of going shall not be placed above any horse that has the correct way of going regardless of other criteria. MO196 Class Specifications Gaited Morgan Trail Pleasure Class. 1. Shown: Horses to enter the ring at a Trail Walk, followed by Slow Gait, Pleasure Gait, Trail Walk, Reverse, Show Gait, Pleasure Gait, Trail Walk in that order. The horse is shown in a collected frame with the head carried proudly in the bridle evidenced by self-carriage. A rein back of at least 3 steps is required in the line-up 2. Judged: On manners, performance including steadiness with cadence and balance, quietness, responsiveness, traveling on a light rein, and willingness to stand quietly and back readily. During performance, the horse must exhibit consistency of cadence and balance in the gaits. MO197 Gaited Morgan Classic Pleasure Class 1. Appointments: See MO127.1.2 2. Shoeing: See MO103.4 3. The Gaited Classic Pleasure horse executes the Trail Walk, Show Gait and Pleasure Gait in a collected, up headed and stylish manner with moderate stride. The horse should show in a collected frame while maintaining self-carriage and lightness in the bridle. Frame and carriage with more animation and speed is desirable. However, neither speed nor animation will count over smoothness and correct form and footfalls. 4. To be penalized: Loss of balance or elasticity, lack of energy and incorrect way of going. MO198 Gaited Morgan Classic Pleasure Specifications 1. Shown: Horses to enter the ring at a Trail Walk followed by a Show Gait, Pleasure Gait, Trail Walk, Reverse, Show Gait, Pleasure Gait and Trail Walk in that order. In the line-up, a rein back of at least 3 steps is required. 2. Judged: On performance demonstrating cadence and balance, quietness, manners, responsiveness, traveling on a light reins, and willingness to stand quietly and back readily. MO199 Gaited Morgan Western Pleasure 1. Refer to SUBCHAPTER MO-7 Morgan Western Pleasure Section. Exception: The Western Pleasure Gaited Morgan must stand quietly, back willingly and provide a ride of exceptional smoothness. The headset of the horse must be relaxed and steady. 2. Extreme knee action and any tendency to be up in the bridle will be penalized. Horses failing to stand quietly and/or to back readily must be severely penalized. MO200 Gaited Morgan Western Pleasure Specifications 1. Shown: Horses to enter the ring at a Trail Walk, followed by a Show Gait, Pleasure Gait, Trail Walk, Reverse, Show Gait, Pleasure Gait, Trail Walk in that order. In the line-up, a rein back of at least 3 steps is required. 2. Judged: On manners, performance at all gaits (smoothness), attitude, and conformation

My Magic Horse Journey


My Magic Horse Journey

Traveling with my black mare around the Country

Barn Sour Buddy Sour

How Can I Solve His Separation Anxiety?

A top equine researcher weighs in on the subject of how to overcome your horse’s separation anxiety.


NOV 16, 2016


Question: Recently, my 15-year-old gelding has become very attached to another gelding on the farm. He’s not behaving dangerously (yet) when taken away from his buddy, but he neighs and seems generally very anxious when alone. I’m worried he’s stressed and that his anxiety will escalate with time. How do I help him overcome his attachment?

Answer from Camie Helesi, PhD: This behavior is natural, though challenging, to deal with. In the wild, horses benefit from having strong bonds with one another. Although this can make life more difficult for horse owners, I still strongly recommend providing horses plenty of turnout in the company of others, rather than denying them this natural social connection.

If your horse struggles with separation anxiety, keep separation periods short at first so he can get used to the idea gradually.

© Arnd Bronkhorst

Domesticated horses seem to develop the worst separation anxiety when they live together in pairs for long periods of time. Typically, the horse who is left behind in the barn or pasture gets more upset than the one you take away. Keeping horses in groups of at least three is often much more manageable, as you can take one out without leaving one alone.


Regardless, your horse’s behavior likely will improve over time. Horses have a remarkable ability to get used to scary or challenging situations like these. For example, they will initially react in fear to hot-air balloons flying overhead. But if it continues to happen with any frequency, they’ll react a little less each time until they’re completely accustomed to the balloons. The same thing happens in the wild: Horses become habituated to things that are seemingly dangerous at first so long as those things recur frequently with no negative results.Frequency is the key. If you remove your horse from his buddy once a month, his behavior might not improve significantly. But if you do it three times a week, you may be surprised how quickly he improves.

It always helps to break big challenges into tiny steps. For example, it would be too much to ask a horse to cross a stream for the first time on his first trail ride without any companions. You’d be more successful introducing stream crossings in the company of an experienced horse before attempting them on your own.

If your horse gets anxious alone in the barn or in the ring at home, put his buddy in an adjacent stall or paddock where he can see him. Then gradually move the buddy farther away over subsequent sessions. Try to stay calm and ignore any anxious behavior either horse exhibits. Raising your emotional level by yelling, for example, will just upset him further.

When he is the one left behind in the stall or paddock, give him some hay to distract him. (Be sure to check that your fencing is sturdy and safe before leaving him alone in a pasture.) Keep the separation periods short at first so he can get used to the idea gradually. With enough repetition, he will improve.

You may find it easiest to trailer him alone. Horses tend to bond quickly with one another when trailered in pairs. If you then tie one of those horses to the trailer and take the other away, the former will be understandably distraught. If you must trailer with another horse, but have the option to stable on the showgrounds, consider asking the show manager to place the two horses far apart, in separate barns if possible. When you arrive, unload one horse at his barn and then drive the other to his. Ideally, they’ll never know that they’re on the same grounds. This can be more difficult logistically—especially if you and the other horse’s owner are sharing a tack stall—but your horse will adapt quickly and whinny much less.

On the other hand, if he gets nervous being alone in the show ring—and even the most experienced horses can have trouble transitioning from group classes to showing alone, for example, in a dressage ring—it’s OK to position a calm babysitter ringside. Have a friend stand with the babysitter as close to the ring as the rules allow and be sure your horse knows he’s there before you enter the ring. Over time, with plenty of repetition and patience, his confidence will grow and your friend can gradually position the babysitter farther and farther away.

Equine-program instructor Dr. Camie Heleski taught at Michigan State University for 25 years before accepting her current role as a senior lecturer at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. Her research focuses primarily on equine welfare and behavior. She is also the president of the International Society for Equitation Science, which encourages “ethical equitation” by promoting scientific research designed to study the most humane ways to train and care for horses. (For more information on this organization and to read its position statements on various issues, go to A lifelong rider, Dr. Heleski has shown Arabians, hunt seat, Western and saddle seat and now enjoys practicing lower-level dressage. 

This article was originally published in the September 2017 issue of Practical Horseman


Conformation as it relates to gait…Imus

Part 1

By Brenda Imus

Big Creek 2005 Janet Hunter

janet hunter 2005 bigcreek

Jared Young Harley fun

Gaited Morgan fun…watch video!

Horse Digestive System


16 Fascinating Facts About Horse Digestion

 This probably comes as no surprise, but the horse is a unique animal.

This is especially true when it comes to how they digest food. Classified as non-ruminant herbivores, horses’ digestive systems are a cross between a monogastric animal (like a dog or human) and a ruminant (like a cow or goat).

The problem is that many people feed their horse like they would a dog or themselves—with two or three meals given throughout the day. This can work, but it often leads to problems. If more people understood more how the horse’s digestive system functioned, they might be more inclined to feed their horse like a horse.

So with that in mind, here are 16 fascinating facts that will help you better understand horse digestion. And since digestion begins in the mouth, we’ll begin there and work our way down and out!

Fact #1: Horses can only chew on one side of their mouth at a time.

They do this not with an up-and-down motion, as we do, but an outside-to-inside motion on a slant, which is determined by the slant of the matching surfaces of the upper and lower cheek teeth.

Fact #2: The horse can produce up to ten gallons of saliva per day if allowed to eat plenty of forage.

As the horse chews, the salivary glands produce saliva to help moisten the food and ease its passage into the esophagus and stomach. Saliva also neutralizes stomach acids, therefore reducing the risk of gastric ulcers.

Image courtesy of the author.

Fact #3: The horse’s esophagus only works in one direction.

The esophagus empties into the stomach. Food can go down, but cannot come back up. So it’s true—horses cannot vomit.

Fact #4: The horse’s stomach can only hold about two gallons.

It is quite small in size when compared to other parts of the digestive system.

Fact #5: Food only remains in the horse’s stomach for around 15 minutes.

From there, it moves into the small intestine.

Fact #6: When the stomach is empty, acid can attack the squamous cells in the stomach lining.

This often results in ulcers and is why small frequent meals, access to a slow feed hay net, free-choice hay, or access to pasture are very important.

Fact #7: The majority of the digestion occurs in the horse’s small intestine.

The same holds true for the absorption of sugars, starches, proteins, and fats.

Fact #8: Horses do not have a gall bladder. 

Instead, a segment of small intestine called the duodenum aids in the digestion of fats.

Fact #9: Food can only enter and exit the cecum (also known as the ‘blind gut’) from the top. 

If a horse doesn’t have adequate water intake, this can be a common site for impaction colic.

Fact #10: The cecum and other parts of the large intestine contain active populations of bacteria and other microbes.

These bacteria and microbes help break food down in a process called fermentation.

Fact #11: The bacterial and microbe populations become specific in fermenting the type of food the horse normally eats. 

When a new food is introduced suddenly, the bacteria/microbes are unable to ferment it effectively, which may result in colic. This is why all feed changes should be made very gradually.

Fact #12: Lignin, a type of dietary fiber abundant in overly mature hay, cannot be broken down by fermentation.

Therefore, it is passed in the feces.

Image courtesy of the author.

Fact #13: Gut sounds (borborigmus) are a sign that food is moving through the digestive tract. 

An absence of gut sounds can mean there is a blockage.

Fact #14:  A horse requires a minimum of 1% of his body weight daily of long-stemmed roughage (grass, hay, or hay replacers) for normal digestive tract activity. 

This would amount to ten pounds of roughage for a 1000 pound horse.

Fact #15: On average, the entire digestive process for the horse takes anywhere from 36-72 hours.

That’s from mouth to manure.

Fact #16: If it were to be stretched from end to end, the horse’s digestive tract would measure about 100 feet in length!

Most of this is intestines.

About the Author

Casie Bazay is a freelance and young adult writer, as well as an owner/barefoot trimmer and certified equine acupressure practitioner. She hosts the blog, The Naturally Healthy Horse, where she regularly shares information on barefoot, equine nutrition, and holistic horse health. Once an avid barrel racer, Casie now enjoys just giving back to the horses who have given her so much. Follow Casie at



Impaction Colic: What You Need to Know


Colic is a catchall term used by horsemen to describe equine gastrointestinal distress, but there are several different causes. Impaction colic is one of the most common types, and fortunately it is also quite treatable when caught early. Understanding the contributing factors, symptoms and treatment options can help better prepare equine caretakers who encounter this condition.

An impaction occurs when a large amount of firm, dry fecal material has built up within the intestine; this bolus is then unable to change size as it passes through the varying widths of the digestive system. Impactions occur most often in the large colon.

“There are several locations in the large colon where the diameter changes from big to small,” explains Treasa Bryant, DVM, an intern at Myhre Equine Clinic in Rochester, NH.

Colic is largely a disease of domestication, and there are several factors which predispose any horse to colic, including lack of exercise, being stalled instead of living at pasture, and being fed a few, larger meals during the day rather than free grazing. But for an impaction, there are two additional contributing factors: horses that are not drinking enough water, which is especially common during cold temperatures, and consuming poor quality forage which is more difficult for the horse to break down.

The equine digestive system is extremely long—almost 100 feet—and is compressed into what is, relatively speaking, a rather small amount of space. This means that as food passes through its entire length—mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, cecum, large colon, transverse colon, small colon—it must make its way through numerous twists and turns.

Equine GI tract. (via Three Oaks Equine)

Bryant describes the large colon of the horse as being shaped like two horse shoes stacked on top of each other, connected by their left heel. “The large colon starts on the right side of the horse at the lower abdomen, then extends all the way forward to the sternum, and then the first horse shoe ends on the left side below the flank. This is the pelvic flexure.”

The pelvic flexure is one of the most common locations for an impaction to occur, because at this point the large colon does a 180 degree turn; a large bolus of dry fecal matter can easily get stuck. Fortunately, it is a location which veterinarians can usually feel on rectal exam, making diagnosis easy.

The rest of the large colon is essentially laying on top of itself. From the pelvic flexure, it extends from the upper left flank to the diaphragm in the front of the horse, then attaches at the top right portion of the right flank. It is here where the large colon connects to the transverse colon, which is the second most common location for an impaction. It is much more difficult for the vet to diagnose an impaction here because it is located farther forward within the abdomen and is not possible to palpate.

Symptoms of an impaction colic usually come on slowly and can be mild and intermittent, meaning that it can be easy to miss them altogether. “An owner goes out to feed, and their horse is not too interested in food,” says Bryant. “The horse is given a dose of Banamine, the symptoms go away.”

But every time the gut tries to compress the impaction to get it to move, the lining is stretched and the horse experiences pain. So the process becomes cyclical—periods of discomfort followed by periods of relief. And worse that that—if the horse has been made to feel better through the use of medication and has still been offered feed, then the size and pressure of the impaction will only build. “It is like a clogged drain,” Bryant explains.

As the cycle continues the horse’s pain level will increase, and other colic symptoms, including flank-biting and kicking, are likely to occur. In extreme cases the horse may appear bloated. “We won’t get that until the whole colon is affected,” Bryant notes.

Treating an impaction colic effectively must address three critical areas:

  1. Hydrating the gut.
  2. Providing lubrication.
  3. Treating the horse’s pain.

The first two steps will help to resolve the impaction itself. “We provide fluids via nasogastric tube directly to the gut,” says Bryant. “We are trying to rehydrate that big, firm food bolus.” Electrolytes are often added as well to help pull additional water into the gut.

Mineral oil, also administered via nasogastric tube, will coat the food bolus, making it easier for the horse to pass. “Some oil will also get into the bolus and help break it apart,” Bryant adds.

Banamine is the preferred medication for a mild to moderate impaction, administered at an appropriate dosage once every twelve hours. It is important to address the horse’s pain because pain causes the gut to stand still. But some horses’ pain does not respond to this protocol. This is referred to as “breakthrough pain” and indicates that a horse most likely should be referred to a veterinary hospital or clinic.


The next step up for pain control is butorphanol, Bryant adds, a morphine type drug, administered intravenously. The additional advantage to hospitalization at this point is that a horse in extreme pain is unlikely to be willing to drink; IV fluids can be administered to improve overall hydration levels. In extreme cases, pain relieving drugs can be mixed at a continuous rate into the IV fluids.

One of the ironies of an impaction is that the horse’s pain level is likely to increase before it gets better—but this is actually a positive sign.

“When a sponge absorbs water it gets bigger,” explains Bryant. “The bolus will cause more pressure on the gut as it starts to break up. The level and duration of the pain depends on the size of the impaction.”

To confirm that an impaction has fully resolved the veterinarian may perform another colic exam. If the impaction was severe, this process may be done several times. The passing of fresh manure is a positive sign, as is evidence of mineral oil. It is only safe to start feeding the horse again once the veterinarian is confident that the impaction has been cleared. Bryant suggests starting with mashes to keep water intake high, as well as adding corn or vegetable oil.

“When re-feeding a colic we start with a low bulk food, like equine senior, which is a complete feed, and forage extender soaked into a mash,” says Bryant. “This will get short fiber into the horse and gets the gut working again without overloading it.”

If the horse remains comfortable after 24 hours small handfuls of hay can be introduced. Small, frequent meals are the key—4-6 meals per day, with 1 to 2 cups total mash feed per meal, as long as the horse is continuing to pass manure.

“Over the next three to five days, you can increase the amount and decrease the frequency,” says Bryant. “It varies a little from horse to horse, but the most important thing is that the horse is still passing manure.”


Despite a horse owner’s best efforts, colic can occur in nearly any horse and potentially be life threatening. The horse’s best chance at survival comes with prompt recognition of the symptoms and following veterinary advice, even for a colic that might seem minor.


*All content is for informational purposes only. Contact your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns about the health of your animals. 

About the Author

Christina Keim is a self diagnosed equine addict who has been around or on top of horses for a nearly uninterrupted span of over thirty years, when she was first given riding lessons “just for the summer.” She has enjoyed and experienced many disciplines including hunters, equitation, jumpers, dressage, eventing, Pony Club and most recently competitive trail riding. Christina is based at her Cold Moon Farm in Rochester, NH, and holds an M.Ed. from the University of New Hampshire.


Working over poles to even out the gait


I use ground poles to help break up a pacey horse’s lateral gait.  Pacey means the two legs on one side swing forward together or nearly together.  Many gaited horses tend to the pacey or lateral type of gaits.  This is often caused by tense horses, but even relaxed horses can be pacey.  Once we get a horse to relax, the next thing I do is use poles to change a lateral gait to more of an even 4 beat gait.

So what do I use for a pole?  I used to use PVC pipes, but those ended up being too light and too small.  I now try to use wooden fence posts if possible.  The bigger around the better.   But, if all you have is smaller poles, just use those!  Maybe you can find a big log or something you can use.

How many poles do I use?  I almost always start with 1 or 2 and rarely do I go more than two.  Only a couple times do I use 4 poles.  Usually, if I have to use 4 poles, I only use them for a few days and only with a horse that is extremely pacey and low headed.  I would recommend that you start with 1 pole and begin the pole work once you have gotten the other prerequisites down (I discuss this in my first dvd).  See how your horse does with 1 pole.  If there is no change, try 2 poles or a higher pole, such as a log, fence post, or cavaletti.

How far apart do I space them if I use more than 1 pole?  It depends on the horse.  In many ways, this isn’t a science.  The goal is to get the horse to change the pattern of his footfalls.  For many horses, this just means getting them to have to move their feet differently to avoid stepping on the poles.  For taller horses, use poles that are farther apart.  I used to space poles out only 3-4 feet apart, but now I recommend starting with poles 8-10 feet apart.  

How long are my sessions of pole work?  It depends on the horse’s progress, but most are less than 30 minutes of actual pole work and many are less than 20 minutes.  Some end up being only 5 minutes long if the horse makes progress after struggling for a while.  You know your horse and you don’t want him to get frustrated.  This is very easy to do, even for me.  Take time to break up the pole work with relaxation training, backing up, standing still, and whatever other things your horse knows how to do.

You can put them in different parts of your work space.  You can try placing them on different inclines, taking your horse uphill over them, then downhill over them, to see what helps your horse the best.

If you find a spot or direction that seems to help your horse gait better, then go over that spot as much as you can early on.  Later on, we want to ask in lots of different place, but initially, we want to make it as easy for the horse as we can.

Remember that you need to have the prerequisites done before you work on the poles.  Your horse MUST be able to give you vertical flexion (bringing the nose toward the chest) with light pressure and MUST be able to drop his head and relax.


When you first start training your horse with the ground poles, make sure walk over them the first few times, or more if he is afraid of them.  As you progress through your training, continue taking time to walk over them rather than gait over them every time.  You do not have to gait every time your horse goes over the poles.  You would rather wait until he is relaxed and ready, then ask him to go forward.

Using poles is not the magic button that will make your horse gait, but it is my favorite tool to use with pacey horses to break up the pace and get a smooth gait.  Some horses will become smoother in a day and some will take 3-4 weeks to really start gaiting.  Every horse is different and it is your job to figure out what helps your horse the most.

These instructions are to be used in conjunction with my gaited training DVDS.


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Best thing to do to get your horse to gait

This is it!!!  Ivy has what we have learned to be a way to smooth out a pacey and even trotty horse.  She’s trying to annoy us here with that music in the beginning but hey…enjoy the photos and be sure to watch the video…great information.  Thanks Ivy!!     

(Jim and I have used this similar method for head down )

horse back gaited riding logo "Ivy's glide gait"

Fun facts about Morgans


Cowgirl Magazine

Cowgirl Magazine


5 Fun Facts About The Morgan Horse


    5 Fun Facts About The Morgan HorseThe Morgan horse is one of the most awe-inspiring horse breeds in the world…

  • The Morgan Horse Cowgirl Magazine

    The Morgan horse is one of the most awe-inspiring horse breeds in the world, due to their wit, durability and power.

    I have always been fascinated by Morgans, because while they are well loved and popular, they often have been blocked from the limelight by breeds such as the American Quarter Horse, and thus, have an air of mystery that still surrounds them.

    Regardless of if you have a connection to Morgans are not, you’ll enjoy this blog of fun and informative facts about this fascinating breed of horse.

    The Morgan Horse Cowgirl Magazine

    1) The Morgan horse has been highly influential in the development of other horses:

    Morgan horses are responsible for the development of popular breeds, such as the Quarter Horse and Tennessee Walking Horse.

    The Morgan Horse Cowgirl Magazine

    2) Morgan horses can be gaited:

    While uncommon, there are some Morgans that are gaited; this trait is found within all families of the Morgan breed and is not connected to a specific bloodline.

    The Morgan Horse Cowgirl Magazine

    3) This breed is known to be extraordinarily talented:

    These horses can do it all! The owners of Morgan horses use them for a variety of purposes, including dressage, show jumping, endurance riding, driving, and racing.

    The Morgan Horse Cowgirl Magazine

    4) Morgans have an above average lifespan:

    There are many Morgans who enjoy a lifespan, if properly taken care of and no uncontrollable issues occur, of 30 plus years.

    The Morgan Horse Cowgirl Magazine

    5) The Morgan horse has been a favorite in battles, such as the Civil War:

    Morgans, as stated above, are highly versatile, versatile enough to be a favorite in the Civil War due to their superior strength and smarts.

    If you’d like to learn more about Morgans, please visit the website of the American Morgan Horse Association,

    Why Doesnt My horse Gait?

    Why Doesn’t My Horse Gait!?

    This is the most common question I get. 

    “If my horse is bred to gait, why does he pace/trot!?”

    I like to think of a sports analogy.  There are those few people out there who excel at sports.  They do well at whatever sport they try.  Then there are most people, who are like me.  They aren’t very good at any sport without lots of practice, and I mean attentive practice.  Without that good practice with advice and help along the way, I would never get better.

    Gaited horses are the same way.  A very few never need the training, but the rest need someone to train their mind and body into a good gait. 

    There are several specific reasons horses don’t gait well:

    1. Breeding – many of the gaited breeds have now been bred more toward a show ring type of gait and this is usually not smooth and very often towards the pace.
    2. Conformation – some horses are just not built to gait as easily as others.  This doe not mean your horse will never gait, but that it will just take more work. 
    3. Saddle fit – this is not the first thing I look at, but it probably is attributing to the problem if you have been working on the gait and it isn’t coming.
    4. Training – Your horse has never been trained/taught that the gait is the movement that you want.  This is the most common reason.

    These are reasons why your horse doesn’t gait well, not excuses to get another horse.  All the gaited horses that have the conformation to gait can gait.   How much training they need depends on each horse.  Some horses get it very quickly and make the trainer look really good!  Some horses need a lot of muscle re-conditioning.  Many gaited horses have been allowed to stay bumpy and this trains their muscles to stay in that bumpy gait. 

    Gaited horses need to be encouraged into a smooth, correct gait and then they need their gaiting muscles built up over time.   The more you let your horse be bumpy, the more they will build the wrong muscle. 

    So now you know that what your horse most likely lacks is training, but along with that I want to encourage you to keep a positive attitude.  As you begin working with your gaited horse, you will most likely get discouraged and your horse will get discouraged too.  Praise your horse when he makes progress, even if that progress is very small.

     Focus on the good things that you have done and are doing and remember to enjoy the journey.




    Pace to Gait training

    Member news request

    Member News Submission Request

    This is a request for news about you and yours.  I will publish it in the upcoming printed newsletter to be mailed before Christmas.  I need some news!!  Please answer some or all of the questions (just pick 3) or add news you wish to share.  Feel free to put your news in narrative form.  Story and article submissions are welcome.  I need this just ASAP so don’t procrastinate…Just do it!  Thank you.  Participation is key to a fun club and enabling us all to help each other.  Oh!  Don’t forget your photos!  [email protected]

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    Gaited Horses in Civil War


    The Original Mane 'n Tail - Animal Care - Gaited Horses used in the Civil War

    Gaited Horses used in the Civil War

    Gaited Horses used in the Civil War

    First of all, what is a ‘Gaited Horse’, you ask?  I asked the same question.  Gaited horses are horse breeds that have selective breeding for natural gaited tendencies, that is, the ability to perform one of the smooth-to-ride, intermediate speed, four-beat horse gaits, collectively referred to as ambling gaits.  Such breeds include the American Saddlebred, Tennessee Walking Horse, and the Standardbred, to name only a few.

    These gaited horses were popular as the trusted steeds for many Civil War generals that lead their men into combat on horseback!  Did you know that?

    General Ulysses S. Grant had two gaited equines during the Civil War, a pony named “Jeff Davis” was taken from Joe Davis (the brother of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy) at the siege of Vicksburg.  General Grant had suffered from back trouble and his pony Jeff became a favorite due to his easy and steady gait.   When Jeff needed a little r & r, a gift, Cincinnatti, a Kentucky Saddler type, took his place on the battlefield with a mounted General Grant.

    US Grant with Cincinnatti

    General Phillip Sheridan, rode a Morgan Black Hawk type horse named Rienzi, then renamed Winchester, serving him and the army with great distinction. Next to General Lee’s Traveler, Winchester is probably the most well-known horse of the Civil War.  A stately horse, he was 17 hands of pure power on hooves…and ‘flew’ over the battlefields to deliver the General to join his troops on many occasions.   The sight of General Sheridan atop Winchester, inspired poetry, sculptor and other artists during the Civil War and well after.

    General Sheridan’s horse, Rienzi, later called Winchester.

    General William T. Sherman’s horse Lexington, a Kentucky Saddler type became a bit more famous than Sherman’s other horse Sam, because more was recorded about him.  Both were described to have extraordinary ‘action’ and for that reason, termed to be gaited by the era’s application of the term.  Sam was the horse General Sherman rode during the historic and heroic march from Vicksburg to Washington, DC…through the South (Atlanta, Savanah, Columbia, and Richmond).

    General Sherman on Lexington

    General Stonewall Jackson’s favorite mount during most of the war, until his death at Chancelorsville, was Little Sorrel (later called Fancy).  This pony was a ‘gift’ he took from a captured Union supply train.  Little Sorrel was short in stature, but the steady, reliable gait won the general over and became his trusted companion.  Upon the pony’s death, he was sent to a taxidermist and then to the Solider’s Home in Richmond, VA, to be remembered forever for his diligent service.

    General Stonewall Jackson’s Horse, Little Sorrel

    General Robert E. Lee was mostly depicted on horseback for many of his portraits on his almost as famous gaited partner, Traveler! Traveler is considered to be the all time, quintessential officer’s horse of America. He was typical of the American/ Kentucky Saddlers of Virginia and Kentucky. Lee was loyal to Traveler as Traveler was loyal to Lee.  The bond broken not even in death.  Traveler escorted General Lee’s casket during his funeral parade, and then died a short time after.  The two were inseparable in life, and rarely seen apart.  It seems as if they were two souls joined together, comrades in arms.

    General Lee with Traveler

    Think about it.  These famous generals of one of the most monumental wars in our history depended on these gaited horses with their very lives.  It was an era of great industrial change, yet, these men fought on the fields and lead their troops into battle on the backs of these majestic, dependable creatures.  Trust between man and horse, a historic bond that was forged long ago, and continued onto the not so distance past…will forever be nurtured into present day.

    Sources: Website, American Morgan Horse Breeders; American Saddlebred Breeders; The American Heritage New History of the Civil War, James M, Mc Pherson, Viking 1996; Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, University of Illinois Press, 2002; The Photographic History of the Civil War, Portland House, 1997; Gaited Magazine, A History of Gaited horses in the Civil War, Sue Sherman, 2006.

    AMHA News

    News from the Gaited Morgan Horse Organization

    October 26th, 2017

    Eleven Gaited Morgan riders recently took an impromptu ride up the mountain in American Fork, Utah. Well known for the little pod of gaited Morgan breeders that exist there, American Fork is a shining diamond in the state of Utah, as the mountain ranges there are a stone’s throw away from any neighborhood there. A perfect weather day and great company of some fine horsemen made this day on a Utah Mountain a great gathering of gaited Morgans. Thanks go out to members Gary Gray, Jared Young, and Brent Skidmore for providing gaited Morgans to ride and getting us up and back.

    New officers for the Gaited Morgan Horse Organization are Vali Suddarth, president; Jennifer Conditto, vice president; Lorrie Gray, secretary; and Ryan Hunter, treasurer. 

    You can find the club online at

    Hoof Flares


    Getting a Feel for Hoof Flares

    Photo by Susan Kauffmann


    “The equine hoof is a complex marvel of natural engineering,” say Susan Kauffmann and Christina Cline in The Essential Hoof Book. “Developing an eye for symmetry and balance is definitely helpful in identifying hoof problems.”

    There are many faces of imbalance and asymmetry in the horse’s hoof. Flares are just one example that every owner, rider, trainer, and caretaker should understand and know how to manage. Here’s how Kauffmann and Cline explain them in their book.



    Flares are a type of hoof-capsule distortion where the wall horn is being stretched outward and pulled away from the coffin bone. The wall of a healthy hoof should follow the same angle all the way from the coronet to the ground. Flares are present when part of the wall deviates or “dishes” outward from that angle. They can be observed by looking at the walls from the front (in the case of medial or lateral flares) or side (in the case of toe flares), and by viewing the foot from the bottom.

    Photos: Susan Kauffmann (top), Christina Kusznir (bottom)

    Flares can show up in the toe or along the sides of the hoof, and they can develop for many reasons, sometimes in combination. These include:


    • Mechanical, meaning that some form of imbalance or other issue is creating excessive physical pressure on part or all of the wall and forcing it outward. The pressure could be a result of conformation, poor trimming or shoeing, too much time between trims (overgrowth), pain, muscular imbalance, or injury.

    Photo by Susan Kauffmann

    • Laminitis, which leads to damaged laminae and separation of the hoof wall, which is then easily pulled away into flared shapes.

    • Nutritional, meaning that something in the horse’s diet—often too much sugar or starch—is weakening the connection of the walls, leaving them vulnerable to flaring.


    • Metabolic, meaning the horse has a metabolic condition such as insulin resistance or Cushing’s disease that can prime the horse for physiological responses that may weaken the walls.

    • Infection, usually secondary to walls that are already compromised due to weakened laminae.

    Correcting flares can take time and often involves a multi-pronged approach. It is important to understand that once any part of the hoof wall has separated, it cannot reattach itself. Therefore, a flared hoof can only improve by growing down a new wall that is well connected to the coffin bone by healthy, tight laminae. In order for this to happen, the things that were causing the flare to occur in the first place have to be dealt with, and any leverage from contact with the ground that might keep the flare going needs to be addressed. When pressure from contact with the ground (or the shoe) is not relieved in the affected area, it will only continue to pull the wall outward and further weaken the connection of the laminae.

    Photo by Christina Cline

    Fortunately, beveling the flared wall from below is often enough to relieve that pressure. Beveling the wall actually changes the direction of the force experienced by the wall when it pushes against the ground, so instead of pressure levering the wall away, ground contact works to keep the wall tight. If you are concerned that beveling the wall will take away the support of the wall in that area, remember that any part of the wall that is flared is not well attached and is therefore not generally providing good support anyway.


    That said, removing the flare should not make the horse uncomfortable. In most cases, a flare pulls painfully on the wall, and removing it provides relief. But there are instances where removing the flare can actually make a horse sore, and no matter what you try, it seems that the flare is the only thing keeping the horse comfortable. This may be especially true in horses with thin soles or damaged coffin bones. Thus, if you try correcting the flare and the horse gets sore, you may need to leave it be.


    In addition to, or sometimes instead of beveling, your hoof-care provider might rasp the surface of a flared wall to make it more in line with the healthy sections of wall, the thought being that this will reduce levering forces and encourage the wall to grow down straighter, with better attachment. Other professionals disagree with this approach, believing that thinning the wall further weakens it, and is more likely to lengthen the time it takes to grow out the flare. Ultimately, both may be right or wrong, depending on what a particular hoof requires.

    Whatever trimming methods are used to provide mechanical relief to a flare, if that is all you are doing, you may very well be missing important pieces of the puzzle. For instance, it is quite common for metabolic or nutritional factors to be at play in the weakening of the laminar connection, and if they are a factor in your horse’s flaring, those issues will need to be addressed or the flaring problem is likely to continue. Hoof imbalances must also be corrected, if at all possible, or you will continue to “chase” the flare it is causing in the hoof. There are also going to be cases where the conformational defects or injuries that are causing imbalance are pronounced enough that it is impossible to get rid of the flares entirely.

    Lastly, you should be aware that there are plenty of instances where flaring is not really anything to worry about, especially with minor flares in the quarters, as we see in the hind feet of many horses. While such flares do indicate imbalance, the fact is that plenty of horses have minor imbalances that never actually cause a problem. If the foot is otherwise healthy and the horse is consistently sound, a minor flare is something to keep an eye on, but nothing to fret over. If, however, a horse never had any flare before but starts developing some, that indicates a change—most often in trim, diet, or an imbalance due to pain or injury somewhere in the body—and that is worth investigating.



    This excerpt from “The Essential Hoof Book” by Susan Kauffmann and Christina Cline is reprinted with permission from Trafalgar Square Books.

    A Helmet Saved My Life


    A Helmet Saved My Life

    A true story


    So, six months ago this was me.

    (Warning, the next photo might be a bit unsettling. No blood, just very broken bones. Also, cursing ahead.)

    THANK GOODNESS I was wearing a helmet. I very well might not be here today if I hadn’t!

    The Accident happened while I was riding at home on a horse I never thought would hurt me—she was too kind and had never unseated me. Did you know you can keep your seat even while in the air and with a horse on top of you? Yup. #helmetsavedmylife

    In that moment, lying there on the ground, I thought that I might not make it. That this was it.


    Then I started breathing again (I did have a very minor collapsed lung) and realized I was alive. I “yelled” (so I thought, it was more like a croak) to my boyfriend that “I can’t move…call an ambulance” and then immediately asked for my horse—all that mattered from there was that she was okay.

    And then my next thought was “F***! I can’t work! And I’m broke! F***! And I just agreed to lease a barn! F***!”

    Sorry for the language… Like I said, I’m just happy to be alive.

    I ended up being air lifted by helicopter to St Mary’s Medical Center, a level one trauma center. I later joked that it was good thing that I wasn’t at Delray since that’s apparently where they take you when you’re going to die.

    The paramedics gave me all the morphine they could before moving me, but it was still agonizing being lifted for the stretcher. I was lucid for the flight. I could recite the address, my mom’s number, how to get my boots off, exactly what was injured, what happened—everything. But I was super freaked out about the helicopter ride. I’m afraid of heights. I kept trying to ask the medics if they would hold my hand but they couldn’t hear me, so they thought I was in pain. Oh yeah, and they were kinda hot (maybe it was the drugs).


    So there’s me, strapped down to a backboard in my undies (they cut my shirt and bra cut off) begging one of these hot dudes to hold my hand. Not awkward or anything. After that I got super loopy and started yelling creative obscenities.

    The following day I had surgery on my arm. The physician’s assistant (PA) told me it would be three months before I could ride again. At the time, that seem outrageous. I said, “Absolutely not, I have to ride sooner than that.” I think I scared him because he was like “Well, we’ll see what the doctor says when you come back…”

    Four days later I was released from the hospital and basically wheelchair bound. I wasn’t a shy person before this experience. But after being naked in a helicopter with hot medics and having to use a bedpan, I’m pretty sure I had no dignity left.

    The PA was right, it was at least three months before I was able to ride again. The accident happened on April 20th. I didn’t get back on until July 12th and didn’t really start riding again until around July 20th. Thankfully, once I was in the saddle again things started coming back quickly and I was able to show in early August.

    In September, only five months after my narrow escape from the Grim Reaper, I showed three horses in four championship classes at Regionals, qualifying two for the US Finals. Six months later, I’m preparing an Intermediate 2 horse for his Grand Prix debut and a Grand Prix horse for his third US Finals!

    It’s amazing how much has changed in six months…

    It’s even more amazing how much can change in one moment, one ride.

    That’s one of the things I can’t get over. How earlier that day I was on the phone (on horseback) making plans for the following month. How I was on my last horse at that barn and I was about to head out to a lesson at another barn. How I didn’t ride that particular horse with my phone in my back pocket because I had put it on the charger and, had it been there, how it surely would have led to even worse injuries. How my boyfriend almost left before that ride but I talked him into staying because I wanted him to see how well my young mare was going.


    It all changed in an instant—so cliche, but so true.

    It’s a universal truth that if you’re going to ride horses, you’re going to fall off horses. You just never know when a young horse, or any horse really, is going to overreact or when their antics might cause them to lose their balance and fall. It’s the reason I always ride in a helmet.

    But the accident really drove it home for me.

    It’s unsettling to still see so many people (mostly professionals) not wearing helmets, and having the gall to post pictures and video on social media without helmets.

    Yes, to each their own. Yes, your safety, your call. Yes, this is my opinion.

    But take this into consideration—if you are a professional, there is likely more than one rider out there who looks up to you.

    They want to be like you. Ride fancy horses like you. Look pretty on a horse like you. Get good scores like you. So they wear the same breeches, or ride in the same saddle. If you’re sponsored by a company, they buy that product. You subtly influence the actions and decisions of others because you, a professional, are a public figure in our industry.

    So when professionals post videos to YouTube where they’re riding without a helmet, it’s inevitable that someone is going to watch and think “Oh, so-and-so doesn’t wear a helmet, so it must be ok, I don’t need to wear mine.” Or “Oh, so-and-so doesn’t wear a helmet and they look so cool while they ride, I want to look like them so I won’t wear mine.”

    Guess what? That person was subtly influenced by you to make a decision that puts them at risk for serious injury—even death. Not cool.

    Helmets are like cigarettes and seat belts. Sure, you’re taking your life in your hands and risking your own safety. You might think you’re not hurting anyone else, so it’s no one’s business but yours. But that’s not the case. You indirectly hurt others.


    Take it from a trainer who is grateful to be alive. Stop the madness. Wear a f***ing helmet. #StrapOneOn

    Stand still horse!

    Getting on a horse that won’t stand

    When my naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse Makana was four years old, I took her to her first gaited dressage clinic with Bucky Sparks. I was so excited to be there and soak in all I could in beginning our gaited dressage journey.

    I love Bucky’s teaching philosophy, because he blends traditional dressage with practical elements of natural horsemanship.

    Most of the time Makana stands perfectly still for me to get on, but not when she is nervous or tense. When my lesson time came I literally had a panic attack before the auditors, because every time I put my foot in the iron, Makana would walk off. I was so frightened.

    Thanks to Bucky, he showed me a profoundly helpful tip that worked that day and has helped me every time Makana doesn’t want to stand for me to get on.

    How to get on the horse that doesn’t want to stand:

    1. Teach the horse to flex their nose to the side by drawing one rein  to the saddle. Reward the horse by releasing as soon as the horse gives. Relaxation is what is the goal, not making the horse flex. Signs of relaxation include a lowering of the head and neck and when the horse licks its lips and chews.

    If the horse has tension in the poll, neck or shoulder, address these areas individually to release the tension before expecting a soft and relaxed flex to the side.

    2. Once the horse understands how to flex to the side and is soft and relaxed in doing so, then flex and release the horse a few times until the horse chews and lowers its head and neck.

    3. Then flex the horse to the saddle and keep the horse flexed while repositioning the mounting block and get on. Then release the flex as a reward and encourage the horse to remain standing.

    While I was at the clinic my horse kept walking off while in a flexed position. Bucky said, “You can’t make a horse stand.” Don’t punish the horse. Just remain calm to encourage relaxation, keep the horse flexed and gently follow the horse around. He said, “Pretty soon the horse will discover it is a lot easier to stand while being flexed than to walk around being flexed.” Bucky was right. It didn’t take long and as soon as my horse stopped, I repositioned the mounting block, got on, and released the flex. Then we moved on to the gaited dressage lesson.

    This tip worked for me at the clinic and continues to work for me each time my horse doesn’t stand when I try to get on.





    Gait Analysis by Ivy

    Accurate Video of Gaits

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