Why do horses react to the wind?

Why does a normally quiet horse spook in the Wind?

This often happens in the Spring and Autumn when it is particularly windy. So it is important that the rider stays safe and that your horse trusts you.

Let’s try and look at this from the horse’s point of view.

He will hear a noise; wind has a high-frequency which is called white-noise and this to him may sound like hissing.  Horses know that snakes can be life threatening.  It is instinctive that they will avoid snakes and to them this noise causes alarm.  So at the sound of a high wind your horse is often very anxious and the additional noises that wind causes such as banging and rattling only makes things worse.

In their head the wind can mask other noises that a horse would need to hear, which could be the sound of a predator. Everything is heightened when your horse realises that he can’t listen for these noises which evolution has prepared him for, and he feels that he cannot protect himself.

To add to this there is movement all around – branches blowing in the wind, debris blowing around etc.  Your horse views this as everything around him is running away and he feels that he may be attacked.

With all this going on, your horse will sense danger and become very anxious.

So what can we do about this?

Some say not to ride in the wind, others say ride and take no notice of the horse’s behaviour, but most of all you need to reassure and calm your horse.

I think it is up to the individual as to whether they ride or not as no one knows your horse like you do.  But the most important thing is to be safe.

Feeding Your Hoses and Ponies During Winter

Feeding your horses during the winter can be a challenge. During these months there will be no nutrition left in the grass so horses that live out full time will need to have ad lib hay. They may also need hard feed to maintain their condition.

Some owners think that it is a good idea to feed horses up with nuts and mix during the winter, but this is not always the case as a horse that goes into the winter with a little extra weight will come back in spring with a more slender look so once the new grass comes through, they will not become overweight. Feeding your horse with chaff and a good vitamin and mineral supplement will give them all they need while allowing any extra weight to drop.

Horses who are stabled, but still work throughout the winter will need complementary hard feed, to maintain condition and to give them the energy to carry on competing.

Older horses can find winter hard and lose condition quickly. They would require a high-fibre cube soaked into a mash.

If you are at all concerned about what you should be feeding your horse in the winter months, speak to your vet or an equine nutritionist who will be happy to help.

Choosing a Livery Yard

For a horse owner, it can be very difficult when choosing a yard that is suitable for you, especially if you are a first time owner.

The first thing that you need to decide is what type of livery yard you are looking for. Do you require Full Livery Yard, which means that the livery yard owner does everything for you and you go and ride when you wish? Part Livery Yard, which means the livery yard owner shares the care of the horse with you, normally a package is provided that both you and the livery yard owner agree on, or do you require DIY Livery yard which means that you do everything yourself, you are just renting a stable and grazing.

Once you have decided what you are looking for, you then should think about the facilities that you will require. Many offer a secure tack room, and somewhere to store your feed, but you may want to have an Arena where you can school your horse, you may wish to have off road hacking. One of the most important requirements will be sufficient grazing. Some livery yards offer herd grazing where horses are grazed together, but this does at some point result in horses being kicked etc so you may wish to choose a livery yard that offers individual grazing. You may require your horse to be able to graze all year round, but some livery yards will only offer grazing in the winter months, if this is the case you need to make sure that you have adequate stabling.

Once you have found a livery yard that you like, it is very important to ask the cost of your livery yard. Many will offer a price per month, but you need to ask what it includes, as livery yards will charge for extras, for example does this include the parking of your horsebox, does it include the use of a horse walker.

Finally before making a decision you will need to look at the security of the livery yard. Does the owner live on site? Are all the gates and fences in good condition, and are they pad locked at night. Is there CCTV. Check the security on the tack room, as some insurance companies will required proper locks on the door and also depending on how much tack is in there they will require an alarm.

Strangles – The word we all dread

Strangles is one of the most common equine diseases in horses in the UK. It is a highly contagious infection of the upper respiratory tract caused by the bacteria. All horses and ponies at any age can be affected, but in the younger horse they seem to develop more severe signs.

Signs of strangles

Signs of strangles vary between mild to severe and are not always typical.

A horse suffering from strangles will have a temperature, depression with a loss of appetite and thick, yellow mucus coming from both nostrils. Hot, painful abscesses may develop on the sides of the head and throat, which may burst and discharge pus. The horse may find it hard to eat or extend their head due to the discomfort in the throat, this is why the disease is called Strangles.

Some healthier horses may only show short term temperature and have only a clear discharge from their nose, and maybe a brief loss of appetite. But if you are in doubt call the vet and isolate the horse.

There are various lab tests available to confirm if a horse is suffering from the disease, which are important, since some animals (usually up to 10%) will be carriers and not show any signs of illness.

By keeping your eyes open and spotting the signs you can stop the spread of this disease.

Strangles complications

Although strangles is rarely fatal, there may be complications in up to 20% of cases. The abscesses in the throat can cause difficulties with eating and breathing if they put pressure on the airway. Rare complications include bastard [metastatic] strangles, where abscesses form elsewhere in the body, and the immune system disorder purpura haemorrhagic.

How is strangles spread?

The bacteria is transferred from horse to horse from shared use of things such as water buckets, also they can transmit if someone touches an infected horse and then pets another. An infected horse can contaminate ground where grazing and the infection can be passed on that.

To reduce the spread, it is important to isolate any horse with the condition and then ask your vet for advice.

Update on Pippa Kearns our Sponsored Dressage Rider

Pippa and Rosy her horse have represented GB at Keysoe CDIPJY in April and produced 2 solid tests on the first two days and came 8th overall in the Freestyle to music with 68%. This was the first time she had ridden to music. So a very well done to Pippa!

Addington Premier League was the last competition before sitting her GCSE’s, a great test and 67% put her 8th in the placings.

Following her GCSEs, Pippa competed at Wellington, Hickstead and Hartpury Premier Leagues. Both Wellington and Hickstead saw Pippa and Rosy in the placings on both days in both tests and Rosy wearing her fabulous new saddle cloth from ‘First Equestrian Insurance Solutions’.

At the end of July Pippa was back on the road, this time wearing the George Cross and representing Byrds Eastern Region at the Home International. 2 days and 4 great scores in the Mediums and FEI followed and Pippa’s team finished 4th out of 28 teams. Pippa said that the atmosphere was incredible with both opening and closing ceremonies on the first and last days.

Pippa qualified for the Medium Championships at Sheepgate U25’s Dressage Championship and has also been selected to ride on the Byrds Eastern Medium Team. A full week of competitions start on 22nd August in Lincolnshire; Pippa and Rosy are riding in 6 classes including the Medium Championship, Team Competition and Freestyle. Pippa will also be celebrating her 16th Birthday at Sheepgate.

What a wonderful season Pippa is having and we wish her luck for her forthcoming competitions.

Lameness

This can be described as a change in the gait a horse adopts when moving and trying to minimise his discomfort.

It can be hard to notice lameness, but in some cases it comes on suddenly and very noticeably, or it can come on very slowly over a period of time which makes it difficult to identify. A change in the horse’s behaviour can also be a sign of lameness.

The signs of lameness can be very varied. Sometimes the horse can have increased movement of the head when working to demonstrate his discomfort.

The other signs to watch out for are:-

  • He may move noticeably better on one rein than another and in addition divert his head towards the outside of the circle when lunged.
  • A loss of impulsion is often the first sign of a hind limb lameness developing as is a tendency to avoid the correct canter lead.
  • The rider may feel a different way of going on one trotting diagonal as opposed to the other, indicating the horse is unlevel.
  • Difficulty holding a straight line on approach to a fence.
  • Knocking down show jumps that would normally have been cleared with ease and often choosing to include an extra stride on approaching the fence so that he takes off too close to the jump.
  • Always landing on one particular canter lead.
  • Shoes wearing unevenly.
  • Dragging of one or both toes of the hind limbs.
  • Sore back and resistance on being mounted known as cold back, often thought to be a back problem but frequently the back pain is due to compensatory changes as a result of a limb-originated lameness.

If you are unsure about lameness call the vet.

Importance of having a correctly fitting saddle

Importance of having a correctly fitting saddle.

The saddle is the all-important link between the horse and rider. It must both fit perfectly and be appropriate for the activities which it is intended.

An ill-fitting saddle can firstly make your horse very uncomfortable. This can lead to your horse’s behaviour changing as he tries to tell you he is in pain, and may cause the horse to start bucking which is of course a danger or biting the girth when you put the saddle on. Secondly, it can lead to back problems.

There are a few basics which need to be looked at to make sure you are both comfortable.

Is there a gap along the spine or backbone of your horse? Check the channel of the saddle. This means the saddle should not be touching this area.
Check the saddle with the rider mounted. If the gap compresses you need to add some padding.
Remember your horse changes shape. It can put weight on or off and lose muscle tone.
Check your saddle for any lumps and bumps which can appear over time and cause discomfort.
You must keep checking your saddle.
Make sure your horses back is fit.
Use your common sense.
Your saddle should be professionally checked at least once per year.

Acorn Poisoning

Did you know that acorns are poisonous to horses?

Acorns and other parts of oak trees such as the stems, oak blossoms and leaves are toxic to horses if they are eaten in large quantities.

If your horse has enough foliage normally they will not eat acorns, but for some once they get the taste for them they will seek them out.

The oak is toxic due to a product called tannins which can cause colic, kidney failure and sometimes death.

Symptoms of this condition are colic, blood in the urine or faeces, sometimes diarrhoea and your horse going off its food. You may see pieces of the acorn kernel in the horse faeces.

Treatment is very limited for this, and it is not very pleasant; it involves intravenous fluids and laxatives until the acorns have passed.

If the damage has already been done to the horse’s kidneys or there is gut damage, it is not always possible to save the horse.

The best way to avoid these problems is to move your horse out of any field with an oak tree during the autumn time, as it is impossible to pick the acorns up as they fall.

If you think that your horse has eaten any, keep a close eye on them and if in doubt call the vet.

Pippa Kearns Dressage Rider Sponsored by First Equestrian Insurance

Now that Pippa has finished her GCSE’s she will be involved in lots of competitions over the summer.

This weekend she will be at Hartpury Festival of Dressage where Team GB are set for Olympic dress rehearsal. She has also been selected for the Home Internationals which are in Sheepsgate in August.

We wish her well and we will keep you updated with how she gets on. The future looks very rosy for her !!!

New Place to ride

I’ve been riding since I was five years old and without giving away my age, that’s a long time! I’ve had several breaks from it over the years due to children and work commitments but I always end up back in the saddle.

This time following a break of a couple of years after selling my last horse I found myself in the position of looking for a riding school, after deciding that my riding skills needed to be improved and updated!

So what do you look for when trying to find a new place to ride?

So first things first, what are you looking for in a riding school? Do you want to improve your general riding skills like me, or focus on one specific discipline such as jumping, dressage or cross country?

If so, you need to check that they have the correct facilities to meet your needs; there’s no point wanting to become a whizz at cross country if the riding school doesn’t have a cross country course!

Secondly are all the instructors qualified? They should be at least BHAI (BHS Assistant Instructor) which means they have passed lots of exams that test their knowledge, riding skills and teaching skills. Riding lessons are expensive so make sure you are getting a great instructor for your money!

Use a BHS approved riding school. This means that they have to maintain high standards of equine welfare, tuition and customer service.

They should also be registered and approved by the local council who will issue them with a riding school license. This is a legal requirement and they should have their licence on display or be able to produce this if asked.

The Riding Establishments Act 1964 makes it a legal requirement for a Riding School to hold a licence and Public Liability Insurance. In fact, Riding Schools along with Nuclear Power Plants are the only busineses required by law to hold Public Liability Insurance!

Always make sure they hold adequate insurance.

Make sure you are happy with the way the Riding School is run, do the leaders wear riding hats when leading clients and working with the ponies? Do they teach clients not to walk behind the horses and be aware that riding is a high risk sport? Are the horses/ponies happy and well looked after?

Finally does it look like people are having fun and enjoying their lessons? Visit, stay and watch some lessons so you can judge the level of tuition, watch how they interact with the children and ponies and most important of all – is everyone having fun?

Gayle Manooch