Backing a Young Horse


Hi!! I have a Friesian that is really a sweetie. He is 1year 4 months and already 16 hh. He is going to be really big when he is older and i don't know if I should let him be backed by a profesional or not since he has such a temper. Does a horse need to be backed or can he just be ridden if he is old enough? (and safe enough! :) )


Fresians can be big, strong boys as youngsters and the challenge of getting them started can seem a bit daunting.
I don't like to get onto any horse's back until I am happy that they are strong enough to handle it. Neither do I like to work young horses on the lunge too much. Fresians, like Warmbloods, take time to mature and become physically ready to carry a rider, however there are a multitude of groundwork exercises that you can do with your horse to prepare him for his adult working life that will not tax his body beyond what it can handle. At such a young age, mental training takes priority, and if that is done well, the physical training becomes much easier.
I start all my horses on the lead - they need to be able to lead properly, including walking, trots, halt and rein back. They need to understand the concept of working shoulder to shoulder (theirs to mine) which is also the foundation of lunging that will come later in their training. I also like to teach them to move away from pressure. Teaching a youngster to stand quietly, be handled and accept what a human is doing is something that is often overlooked but vital! Getting them used to bright colours, dogs, people, traffic and so on is something that can be done from the ground too. Practise getting in and out of a horsebox if you have access to one (you don't have to go anywhere, just get him used to the idea of getting in and out).
I would also investigate Parelli horsemanship - this involves a number of 'games', each of which targets a specific training principle. (Go to You could try clicker training or natural horsemanship which also has a number of skills to master without actually sitting on his back.
Now is the time that you should be working on obedience, partnership and trust - all of that means that his physical size should in no way be a problem when it finally comes time to start him under saddle, as the trust and respect will be there already!
Personally, I do not like to even get on a horse's back until he is at least 4 years old, although some people will back a horse at 3. He has 20 years of ridden work ahead of him (at least) so waiting for his body to be ready is a small price to pay if it means he is going to be pain free, sound and a pleasure to ride in years to come. Fresians tend to have long backs, especially the big boys, and I have often seen Fresians that were ridden hard too early - once they hit 12 or 15, their backs become hollow, or they have become unsound.
Whether or not you should have your horse backed by a professional is a personal choice, but a very important one. The rest of your horse's riding future is quite literally in your hands, so if you are going to do it yourself, I would be very sure that you know exactly what you are doing, what your plans are for him and how you aim to achieve your riding goals once he is backed. I would still enlist the help of a qualified person, like an instructor, because there is always the chance that things could start badly, and if you are not prepared for the problems that arise, it could spoil him or you could get hurt. If you decide to send him to a professional, do your homework carefully - visit the trainer, watch them work with horses, chat to as many people as you can and make sure that you are sending him to somebody that knows what they are doing.

Feeding My Horse


I am a complete novice and I am wondering if my Big Baby is getting enough food in the winter. he gets 2 scoops of concentrate in the evening and 1 scoop in the morning. he has grass available in the paddock and gets erograttis or whatever mixed with teff when he comes into the stable. his weight remains constant. I supplement him with probiotics which I bring to the stable evey afternoon. I also give him Omega 3 & 6. Is this enough for him in the winter. I am concerned.


The best way to judge whether your horse is getting the right sort of feed is really to just look at him! Does his coat shine and is it a healthy looking coat? Does he have lots of energy and sparkle? Is his weight constant and non-fluctuating? Are you feeding the best quality roughage and other food that you can?
The answers to these questions will tell you plenty about how your feeding regime is affecting your horse. During winter, the quality of roughage can get a little poorer, but if your horse maintains his weight, he is fine. If he does lose a little weight, you can supplement with extra calories - firstly, and most importantly, feed more roughage. You can also feed a small slice of lucerne in the evenings or supplement with extra oil or sugar beet. Those types of things will increase the caloires in his daily ration without resorting to increasing his concetrate feed. Remember to make any changes very slowly over time, to give his digestive system time to adapt! In winter, horses will also burn extra calories staying warm if they are exposed to the elements - especially of they are wet. Horses can handle cold rather well, but wet, windy cold is something that will drop condition and probably have him unhappy too. Make sure there are no cold draughts blowing throught the stable at night, use a warm rug at night and turn him out with a day sheet when the weather gets chilly and windy. This will help keep him warm and he will burn less calories. If the weather is 25 out and the sun is shining, please, don't keep the rug on! He will overheat and sweat and lose condition anyway!
I hope this helps you - it sounds like your horse should be fine! He sounds like he is getting everything he should. Make sure he has access to a salt lick, and if you want, provide him with a vitamin and mineral lick too. That way he has access to it if his body tells him he needs it.

Hore Eating His Droppings


Hi, I recently noticed my horse eating his droppings in his stall, this is the fist time I've seen him do it so I dont know how often it occurs, is he lacking something in his diet? He is fed three meals a day (Vuma Red 12%), goes out to graze in the mornings and always has a constant supply of hay in his stall, is his diet lacking something, is he just bored? he is exercised 4-6 times a week.


Coprophagia is the consumption of feaces, from the Greek copros (feces) and phagein (eat). Many animal species practice coprophagia; other species do not normally consume feces but may do so under unusual conditions.
There are a number of theories and ideas surrounding this behaviour, depending on the situation.
Firstly, a starved animal will eat its own faeces because there is simply nothing else to eat. The problem with this is that it can become a habit - in other words, once the horse is removed from his environment into better care, he may still keep eating his faeces because it has become so ingrained into his behaviour. Obviously your horse is not starving, which leads us to the next possibility.
Young animals of many species will eat the feaces of their mothers in an attempt to provide their digestive systems with the microflora that they require for digestion. Young elephants and hippos commonly do this. What your horse may be trying to tell you is that he has a lack of microflora and is seeking to replace them. I would suggest that you consider supplementing with a probiotic for a few weeks to see if this improves the situation.
Apes have been known to eat horse feaces because of its higher salt content. This may be another reason why your horse is eating his droppings. All working horses should have access to a salt lick. Horse sweat is high in sodium and a horse cannot store salt in his system to be used later. He needs a daily intake of sodium to maintain an healthy balance in his system. If your horse does not already have a salt lick in his stable, I would definitley add one. Electrolytes are not needed unless your horse is sweating profusely and in danger of dehydration, and an excess of it may cause harm to your horse - free access to a lick means your horse can regulate his own intake.
A lack of fibre in the diet is another reason that has been speculated as to why a horse would eat its droppings. Your horse seems to be taking in a good amount of fibre. In the case of low fibre issues, I believe a horse is much more likely to start chewing wood or eating his bedding as a result of not getting enough fibre in his diet. Make sure that he is getting enough good quality hay and if you are worried about fibre, you can supplement with extra sources of fibre (Please not bran! It is not a good source of fibre at all!) This is unlikely to be the cause of your horse's problem.
Another reason why horses are said to eat their droppings is because of a mineral or vitamin imbalance. Horses will eat all sorts of things if they have an imbalance - a common imbalance manifests itself as the eating of sand. This can cause a serious colic in horses. I had a horse at my yard that, when she arrived, would eat large mouthfuls of sand. We had very successful treatment by a homoepath, who put her on a course of tablets, including silica, which is a form of sand of course! She recovered completely in a matter of weeks. I would advise you to make sure that in addition to a salt lick, your horse also has access to a mineral and vitamin lick, or that you supplement with a good broad spectrum multi vitamin. Consulting a homeopath might be something you could consider.
Boredom has been blamed for horses eating their own droppings. If you feel your horse is spending too much time in his stable you could turn him out a bit longer, alternatively, find things to keep him busy with, such as food toys. I would rule out the other causes first, as I have yet to see a bored horse eating his poo! Bored horses get up to other mischief!
Once you have ruled out all of these possible contributing factors, you may sadly find that your horse is still eating his droppings and that it has become a learned behaviour! In that case I would urge you to make sure that his droppings are removed from the stable as often as possible and that you keep the pastures free of droppings of other horses that he may eat - this is a risk factor for picking up worms.
Let us know how it goes! Once you start supplementing, allow a good two weeks or more for the behaviour to stop - it will not happen overnight.

Buying a Saddle


Hi guys! Im looking to buy a dressage saddle and im not sure on what make or type to buy..does any1 have any recommendations? Im not necessarily worried about the price, but more on the comfort and functionality of the saddle in helping with my riding.


When it comes to saddles, there is so much one can say, however, I am going to try and steer you in a good direction and let the experts take over from there!
There are two types of fit to consider when deciding on a saddle – firstly, it should fit your horse correctly and secondly but also important, it should fit you!
No horse will ever work properly in an ill-fitting saddle. All saddles are not made equally and in fact, sometimes the cheaper saddle will fit a horse much better than the very expensive ones. It all depends on the shape of your horse and how he moves. Also to be taken into account is the numnah you decide to use (less is definitely more!) as well as the placement of the saddle on your horse’s back. These all have an influence on the way the saddle fits your horse. To fit a saddle to a horse is a specialized business, and since you are aiming to do the best thing for you and your horse, I would suggest that you have a speciallised saddle fitter come out and assist you in choosing a saddle. Not only do they have excellent knowledge on the fit of the saddle, they also usually have an excellent amount of resources and even test saddles that can be tried and fitted.
Also important, is the saddle fitter will have you sit in the new saddle on your horse and will make sure that it fits you well. Most saddles have different widths, different depths of seat and will have different influences on your seat. Have your instructor with when you ride in the test saddle so that he or she can see what happens to your seat.
Be careful that you are not too deceived by thick, 'position setting rolls' on a dressage saddle – it will surely put you in a position, however, you should be able to maintain a correct position without it. Thick rolls also tend to fix the leg in a way that CAN make subtle aids and seat aids tricky. There is no saddle on the market, sadly, that will make anyone a better rider! There are saddles out there that will badly influence position and those are the ones that you should avoid – however only by sitting on one on your horse will you know! People are built differently – a saddle that pushes your lower leg forward and pushes your seat back into the cantle might not do the same for somebody built differently on a different horse!
My advice thus, is to get in touch with a good saddle fitter – if you are in Gauteng, try Western Shoppe or Rider’s. They have mobile tack shops that will come out to your premises with a wide range of new saddles and saddle fitters if you ask. IN KZN, try The Stable Cat (031 765 2511) and in the Cape Area try Horse and Hound(021 852 3850) and ask if they can recommend a good fitter.

Feeding Older Stallion


Friends will soon be sending their 24 year old stallion to my stables for retirement. I haven’t seen him for a while but was told that he has lost quite a bit of weight in the last year or so when he was stabled at someone else. I was told that he was dewormed regularly and fed good quality hay and concentrate, his teeth was also checked recently. I will also have him checked over by the vet as soon as he arrives but I would appreciate some advice on what to feed him and how much and which supplement to use to help him gain weight and to keep him in general good health. I got advice to use the following products to help clear up the diarrhea and to help him on his way to recovery: Brewer’s Yeast and Fenu’shine. Are these products good or are there better recommended ones? Also what is the recommended amount of lusern to feed to a horse? I currently use the chopped lusern and all my horses are fat, maybe to fat, but I’m scared to just give this old stallion the same amount not being sure if it is good for him in his current state. Could any one please advice me on this matter.


I agree with Paul here. Teeth and Deworming are vital and are often brushed aside. Deworming on its own is not always enough if the management of the yard is not up to scratch. New horses often get introduced to the crowd without first being properly dewormed and kept apart so that any droppings can be removed until the dewormer has done its job. Also, often horses receive the same dewormer every time. That will not control the population well either. Different active ingredients should be used at different times of the year to ensure that the correct population is being targeted. Dropings should be picked up regularly in paddocks to prevent the ingestion of eggs. Once he gets to your yard, have the vet check his teeth and give him a dewormer drench.
Introduce him to your chosen feed regime very slowly, and he should be fine. Probiotics are definitely more effective than yeasts, as they supplement the actual microflora that he needs in his gut. I would start him off on a high dose, gradually decreasing it to a maintenace level as he picks up weight.
One of the big problems with older stallions is that they tend to be kept on their own on one corner of the yard and pace up and down in their paddocks all day, especially if they can see other horses and mares in particular and it gets worse when a mare might be in season. Make sure that he has some kind of companion and do not isolate him as it will make the pacing really bad and he will burn a huge amount of calories every day which will cause him to lose weight. Get creative and hang treats in his paddock, make sure he has access to good quality roughage while outside and see that he has enough mental stimulation.
Another problem with older horses is that their teeth are sometimes so worn that they cannot chew food properly and much of it can pass through the digestive tract undigested. They often have a low level of microbes in the gut, which means that nutrients are not as readily absorbed. Lucerne can be hard to chew and digest, as can other high fibre products. Fibre in the diet, however is very important and should not be decreased! To help with this problem, feed a slightly softer hay, like teff, which is easier digested and chewed. Good quality Eragrostis should also be great.
Older horses cannot take in the high volume of hard feed that may be required to keep them in good condition. To assist with this, supplement him with oils - you can feed up to 2 cups of vegetable oil per day if you introduce it very slowly and monitor him carefully to make sure he is coping with the amounts. It is the perfect way of increasing the caloric value of his feed without actually increasing the amount of feed he has to chew! The probiotic will also help tremendously to improve his digestion of roughage. Feeds can also be softened with water so help with chewing.
There are concentrate feeds specially formulated for older horses that are easier to chew and digest, and you may consider feeding one of those until he picks up enough weight. If he responds well to that type of feed, keep him on it if possible. Rather feed many smaller meals than one or two bigger ones.
Because he is underweight, he may also struggle to stay warm in winter. Make sure that he has protection from the elements, and if it is very cold, you might even want to turn him out with a light rug during the day until he picks up weight. If it is raining, keep him out of the wet if you can - either with a rug or by keeping him inside with lots of teff to chew on. Horses in general don't mind getting wet, but because he is underweight he will struggle with the elements and will burn up the extra calories you are giving him to pick up weight.
Remember that your aim is for him to pick up weight slowly - picking up weight too quickly can be bad for him too. I would aim for him to return to a good weight over 4 to 5 months. If you follow these giudelines, he should pick up weight slowly and steadily, and what you are also looking for is an improvement in his health and condition - in other words a shine to his coat, more spark in his eyes and his hooves should improve in quality too.
Good luck, and do let us know if there is anything else you need help with!

Feeding Game Lick


Is it bad for horses to lick gameblocks in the field containing the following: Proteien 160g/kg Moisture 160g/kg Ca 10-20g/kg PhosPhorous 10g/kg Mg 6g/kg Sulphur 1.8g/kg Vit A 9000IE/IU/kg Copper 30mg/kg Kobalt 3.75mg/kg Zinc 150mg/kg Manganese 150mg/kg Iodine 1.875mg/kg Selenium 1.0mg/kg


According to my research, a game-block should not be harmful to your horse. Licks made for cattle are bad for horses, as they contain high amounts of urea, which cattle can utilize to make protein in their digestive tracts. Horses do not have quite the same ability, so the high levels could be toxic.
A typical equine lick will contain something like this:
Salt (NaCl) Min 62.0% Molasses 3.0% Phosphorus (P) Min. 4.8% Calcium (Ca) Min. 10.5% Cobalt (Co) Min. 400mg/kg Zinc (Zn)Molasses Min. 180mg/kg Iodine (I) Min. 167mg/kg Manganese (Mn) Min. 100mg/kg Potassium (k) Min. 900mg/kg Magnesium (Mg) Min. 200mg/kg Iron (Fe+++) Min 975mg/kg Fluorine (F) Max. 0.8% Sulphur (S) Min. 1100mg/kg
You will see that the amounts are not too different from those you sent me. THe Ca:Ph ratio in the game block is a little different, however if they are not ingesting huge amounts it should not be a problem.
Just keep an eye on how much they are ingesting - I had a horse once that loved the taste of his molasses salt and vitamin blocks and would eat the enitre thing in one sitting! A powder supplement and salt added to his daily feeds worked better for him!
If you can feed a lick made for horses, that would be best, however if they have access to the game licks it should not cause any problems.

Tense in Dressage Test


My horse works really well on the flat at home, he is such a little superstar but the minute I enter a dressage arena (he is fine in the warm up) he gets very tense and really starts acting up - spooking, bolting, refusing to work on the bit, won't go round in a circle etc etc. Its not that he can't do it, he just isn't listening. Have you any tips to make this better? We have now done 4 tests and they are all as bad as each other, time doesn't seem to be the answer! He works in a better outline in a jumping arena than in a dressage one.


I know this is probably not the answer you were hoping to hear, but 4 tests or even shows is not really a lot if your horse is tense and fearful in a Dressage arena. It is going to take a few months and many shows to make him understand what you would like from him and get him to relax. Your own reaction to his nerves will also play a huge role in dictating how quickly he is going to learn to relax and enjoy his test.
What I would suggest is that you take him to as many training shows as possible in order to make him understand what you expect of him. At a training show, the judge will be a little more forgiving and really, there will be no pressure on your to perform and get a place.
Once at the show, be very sure that you are clam, relaxed and allow yourself plenty of time to warm up properly and even have a little extra minute or two before you have to enter the arena.
Your warm up should conclude with your horse active and listening to your aids. The idea is to warm up the muscles, stretch and supple the horse and get him between your hand and leg, ready to take his test.
If possible, try to walk your horse around the very outside of the arena and riding areas, giving him time to look at the judge's box, the flowers and the other objects that are so scary to him! Of course you should not go into the riding area, but even viewing these objects from a distance will help him see that there is nothing to be afraid of. Once you have done this, you can proceed to the gate and wait to go in - you should plan to be at the gate just as the previous competitor is performing the last movement on the test. A good helper can wait at the gate for you and make sure that you are there right on time. Waiting around too long will make your horse impatient and will confirm his suspicion that the whole process is exhausting and unpleasant! Once you go in, walk him out confidently and strongly to the judge's box to announce yourself - he will probably be looking at everything and this is fine. Do not react with sharp kicks or punish him for looking - you will make the fear even worse.
As you enter the arena at A, he may look at the judge's box, wobble a bit on teh centre line and do a horrid halt! That is ok. How YOU react to all of this will help change his mind or confirm his mistrust! A common problem I notice with riders in a Dessage show is that the warm up and preparation work is great - they are relaxed, riding in the usual way they would ride at home and so on, but as soon as they enter the arena, they seem to start rushing. The test becomes a mad rush from one movement to the next and the rider almost tries too hard - using more leg, using more rein or tensing to the point where nothing is happening and the horse is just running along through the test. The rider often does not notice this and even thought they don't FEEL too nervous or worried, their bodies are telling a different story. As you ride your test, you should not ride any differently from how you ride at home or in the warm up. Slow your test down and take deep breaths. This will help relax you and your horse. I often imagine I am at home in my own arena while I ride a test - it helps relax me and I ignore the people, the judges and everything around me. I simply focus on the feel of my horse and the movement I am busy with. If your horse does feel tense and rushed or spooky, just stay perfectly still, take a breath and do not react other than to drive him on a little. If you tense up, shout or get cross, things will get worse. Pretend nothing is happening and keep riding the movement! (Easier said than done!)
What you are looking for is a slow improvement and a sign that your horse is starting to learn that it is ok to be in a Dressage arena at a show. What is vital is that you stay clam and focused and let him relax.
I would give him at least 10 shows to see if he will relax! Remember the long way round is often the best way! Good luck and let us know how he is doing!

Horse Won't Move, Then Bucks!


I have a young friend who's x-endurance gelding Island refuses to move forward when asked . If you use a crop not that I advicate using whips he just buck's and bucks and I am afraid my young friend is loosing interest in riding this horse Please can you advise any methods we can use to get him to move forward without a fight . I am not sure of the history but I do know that this horse was in poor condition when he got him.


The problem you describe is not that uncommon in horses and can be very frustrating to solve. A horse uses his body to communicate - either with other horses or with people. As a prey animal, he has two reactions when faced with what he percieves to be a problem that could cause injury or loss of life - fight or flight! If he is not able to flee, which is always option one, horse will either use defensive body posturing or he will attack if he thinks he can win. Bucking is a defense mechanism that the horse will use to protect himself. (As opposed to something like biting or striking out with the front feet, which is an attack.) This horse might have had a raw deal in the past and has learned that humans are not completely to be trusted. In his opinion he is being put into a vulnerable situation and is trying to tell you so, as well as show his objection to what is bothering him. Most horses will put in a buck somewhere along the line, often when in high spirits or feeling good, but in this case it is being used in a different way.
The biggest problem with a buck when used as a defense mechanism is that often it starts out because of a legitimate problem - like pain, ill fitting tack or a poor rider. Unfortunately, the horse can quickly realise that it is a great way of frightening a rider into ending a work session or into going where the horse wants to go or intimidating the rider, and can become a nasty habit that is tricky to break.
By refusing to move, this horse is telling you that he is not comfortable with what you are asking, and when tapped with the whip, which he sees as an attack by you, he defends himself with a buck.
Your most important thing to do at this stage is to go right back to basics with some type of lock on exercise to make him understand you are to be trusted and establish yourself as a clear leader that he should take cues from. He needs to be checked for a physical problem and that includes having the tack and his back and teeth checked by a qualified person. (Use a specialist saddle fitter, an equine dentist and a Vet please - these are qualified people!) Once pain has been ruled out as a contributing factor, I would then implement a VERY good lunging program where you will teach him how to move forward on command and re-establish the aids.
Trust exercises such as little obstacle courses, stroking him all over with strange objects like bags, feather dusters and whatever else you can come up with, will also help build trust. Rub him slowly all over with your crop. It will desensitise him to the crop and make him understand that a light tap with the crop means "go forward" not - "I am going to beat you now"! The lunging should reinforce this. Never lose your temper with him and never ask him to do something that will break trust. (For instance, if you ask him to walk up a very slippery bank and he refuses but you insist until he goes up but he slips and falls down, he will be much less likely to trust you the second time around!)
Also I would suggest a few lessons with a qualified instructor. This will rule out problems such as poor riding, too strong bits and other issues that may be contributing. Often when a horse refuses to move forward and the rider insists, the horse will suddenly move forward a step and the rider gets left behind. That may lead to a pull in the mouth or a left behind rider and makes the problem even worse the next time around because the horse now knows that he is justified in not wanting to move as pain and discomfort will follow!
This is going to take patience and lots of work to fix, but I believe if you take a rational approach and get some help, you should be able to help him.

Horse Recoving From Colic Surgery


Hi, my horse is recovering from a major colic operation (had ceacum colic), my vet recommended that he is off-work for 3 months (we are in week 6 now). He is staying in a small paddock and is taken for a brisk walk for 20 minutes 2x a day. What type of inhand work/exercises can I do with him to prevent him from becoming bored? He is not a very active/playful horse, (me neither!!!), but I have noted that he is becoming quite irritated when we go for our daily walks. (I am aware of the fact that I will have to start all over with his training program once the 3month rest period is over, but I will ask questions about that as we get closer to the time). So, I am really in need for a few exercises that we can do to keep things interesting....


Hey Bells. Hope your horse is feeling ok and that he will be alright! What I would do with him now is focus on loads of groundwork exercises with him. They will reinforce your trust and your bond, yet are not taxing physically. Have a look at some of the less demanding TTeam exercises, as well Parelli horsemanship as a fun way of doing great thngs with him. Build obstacle courses for him, polework mazes and all manner of little 'tests' and then lead him over it all. Steretches are also a great way of keeping him supple and keen without taxing him too much.
Build toys for him to nibble on in his stable - like sawing a big branch (with no leaves on, and make sure it it not a toxic tree for him!) and then stick treats like apples, carrots, bread and such all over the big branches. Prop up in a corner of his stable and that will keep him busy for ages. We used to use Mulberry tree branches.
Now is a great time to just have fun with him and build on your relationship! Enjoy it and let us know if you need more ideas!
By the way - just remember not to do anything with him that might stretch and tear open his stiches - he is after all still recovering!

Feeding Horse With Ulcers


What to feed a thoroughbred with ulcer problems. Recently bought a horse that has a history of ulcers. He was in minimum work and now that we have bought him his work will increase. He sleeps out, blanketed. Needs to pick up condition. At present he is getting. 2kg 10% Blenheim cubes, 2kg Chaff.


Having a dad who is a specialist gastroenterologist, we grew up listening to conversation around the dinner table perhaps a little different other kids of my age. We listened to talk of bile ducts, liver disease and ulcers as we tucked into dinner. While I studied Vet Nursing at Onderstepoort, I was always keen to include my dad in 'gastro-stuff' and can still remember the great interest and perhaps a little amusement he showed when we scoped a horse for ulcers and he was there to watch and ask questions!
Human and horse ulcers differ a little in that the bacterium Helicobacter pylori is now thought to be important in the pathogenesis of 90% of duodenal ulcers and about 70% of gastric ulcers in man, however the causes of ulcers in horses are more related to diet, stress, bile reflux and the use of certain medications.
An ulcer is the break or erosion of the lining of the stomach, oesophagus or small intestine and can vary in depth and thus severity. Most of the clinical signs of ulcers go unnoticed in horses and include : poor athletic performance, weight loss, lower appetite, behavior problems, slight diarrhea and colic. In foals, signs are teeth gnawing, salivation and a study has linked stomach ulcers in foals and crib biting. (Although it was unclear from the study whether the crib biting was causing the ulcers or the ulcers causing the crib biting!
Diet has a major role to play in the prevention and management of ulcers in the working horse and once the owner has an understanding of the factors involved, he or she should be able to formulate an eating plan that will be of benefit to the horse and possibly even reduce the need for treatment by drugs. Drugs are effective at reducing acid production, and diet has a buffering role once acid is produced.
One of the biggest contributing factors to ulcers in horses as it relates to feeding, is that the horse is not allowed to eat small amounts of food throughout the day. The horse evolved as a 'trickle feeder' and should naturally spend a large portion of his day grazing. By replacing natural food sources with high concentrate feeds and leaving the horse to spend a bigger portion of his day without some form of roughage to chew on, the buffering effect of saliva and food in the stomach is lost and the acids in the stomach erode the wall. A feed plan based on a high concentrate and low roughage ratio also means that the pH in the stomach drops and causes damage not only to the lining of the digestive tract, but can also cause a drop in the numbers of bacterial flora in the intestines which in turn can cause a host of problems.
Certain types of roughage have been shown to increase the stomach pH more than others and Lucerne is an example of this. It is suspected that the cause of this is due to the higher protein and calcium levels in Lucerne, however studies are ongoing to try and find out why it works so well.
Stress in the horse, be it due to travel, hard training or competition, has been linked to ulcers due to the increased release of corticosteroids and subsequent decrease in blood flow to the stomach lining. This interferes with the natural protective mechanisms and results in more damage from stomach acids. Exercise reduces the amount of blood flow to the digestive tract and thus can reduce the protective function of the stomach lining. The pressure in the abdomen during exercise can also force stomach acid higher up in the stomach, casing the ulceration.
Medications such as Bute can cause ulcers as well, and before using any medication for an extended period, the owner should make sure that the Vet is consulted about possible side-effects such as ulcers.
There are a number of treatment options available to the owner and these should be discussed with the vet. Because of the prolonged use of the drugs, treatment can become very expensive, and often after treatment, the horse will develop ulcers again because the management practices causing the ulcers have not been changed.

As a rough indication, the following should be used as guidelines:

- Always feed at least 70% of the total diet as roughage and try to limit concentrate feeds if ulcers are confirmed.

- Spread meals over the entire day : four small meals are ideal, as opposed to two bigger meals
- Introduce fats as a means of cutting back on concentrates and yet maintaining the caloric value of the feed.

- Increase the amounts of Lucerne being fed by either offering it as a hay, or by adding it as a chaff or pellet to the feed, however do not substitute the entire daily roughage intake with Lucerne as that will cause an entirely new set of problems! An American Veterinarian has suggested that the horse be fed 0.5kg of Lucerne after every grain meal as a buffer and has had good results from that. I would add Lucerne chaff to the grain feed, as a way of encouraging chewing plus the benefits of the Lucerne itself.

- Allow the horse to graze as much as possible or alternatively, offer a source of roughage ad-lib.

- Pelleted and finely ground up feeds tend to move faster through the stomach, so as mentioned above, adding Lucerne chaff or feeding a 'rougher' concentrate will slow the process down a little (and will ensure the horse spends a little more time chewing)

- A probiotic supplement should be fed daily to maintain the health of the gastric flora.

- Sugar beet is also a good option to increase roughage in the feed yet maintain caloric value, thereby allowing one to decrease the amount of carbohydrates being fed but still maintaining bodyweight.

- Be aware of possible stresses in your horses management routine and try to minimise them (these could include being separated from a friend or being lonely, travelling, shows, changes in daily routine and even a change of groom!)

Should I Buy a Youngster?

Question :

I am currently looking at buying a 7 months old Fresian Colt. He is just to cute for words. But I have read some of the other Backing Training questions and answers and are now not so sure anymore! Is it better to buy your horse young, or is it better to buy a horse that has already been backed?


How fantastic! You are so lucky to be starting off on an incredible journey with your new horse and I really wish you the very best of luck! Backing a youngster can be very challenging, and the more one reads up on the subject, the more confusing it can all get and the more scary it can be! There is no right or wrong way of getting a horse - whether it is a youngster that needs to be backed, or an older horse that has already been backed but still needs schooling or even a horse that has been under saddle for a while. What is important is that you recognise your strengths and weaknesses. That is the ONLY place people ever go wrong! We often keep going and keep going until things fall to pieces badly and somehow we still won't accept that we need help! In the end, it is unfortunately the poor horse that suffers.
Get a youngster by all means, but know exactly how you want to proceed with his training and what you want to achieve. I would call in the help of a professional without question - there is no shame in that! You can still take ownership of the entire training process, but with an experienced eye over your shoulder making sure that you are heading in the right direction. You need to sit down and write down exactly what you are planning to do with your horse in the next few years and what your goals are for him as an adult. (A five year plan, if you will.) Ask your expert to help you with this. Then decide what it is you need to do to achieve those goals. Also, if you don't agree with your chosen trainers methods or goals, get a second opinion. Don't just accept everything at face value.
Educate yourself - read up, ask questions and go watch as many people working with young horses as you can. Know when to step back and leave it to the experts!
When it comes to the actual backing, get help - it is not a difficult process, however if things do go wrong it is often very difficult to repair and sometimes one just does not have the experience to know exactly what to do in the moment.
Fresians are superb horses to work with and they are wonderful to train, however their keeness to learn means that they pick up nasty habits as eagerly as they do the good ones!

Others Riding Your Horse


I would just like an educated opinion on letting one other person ride your horse, is it a good idea?
I'm a novice rider witha wonderfull thoroughbred who has recently moved stables from where he was regulary being ridden and jumping as I'd kept him in the school now he gets lunged everyday and I ride him at least 3x a week however he has started showing extremely mild irritation and alot of laziness when I ask him even to trot I constantly have to use my legs and inevetibly I end up more tired than him, as is rather a big boy I'm thinking it could be boredom as I don't jump him but do mostly turning,agility,& balance flatwork, so therefore I've asked somebody to jump him for me, she's a young schoolgirl but I've watched her jump him, and she looks gentle I'm just concerned about confusing him with aids PS. he was a school master & is 11 yrs old if it makes a difference, thanks


The best way to judge whether somebody is good for you horse is to put them on his back and see how he goes. It sounds to me like this rider is competent, she rides him well and jumps him which is something he enjoys. While I do agree that there are horses out there that are one-man horses, it can be good for your horse to have somebody else ride him and do some fun things with him that you might not get around to doing with him. If you are both competant riders, your aids should not be very different at all, and you will not confuse him. You may even find that he improves in some areas, which will be of benfit to you and your horse. I would never let too many people ride my horse, however one or two extra poeple riding him well can be of benefit to him. Try to involve your instructor - they will easily see if he is ok with another rider and may even be willing to give the other rider instruction. Good luck and enjoy your horse!

Bees Attacking Horses


My horse has been attacked by a swarm of bees 3 times over the past 5 weeks. At first I thought the bees were reacting to his fly spray, so I stopped spraying him. This made no difference as they assaulted him again. There are 6 horses in 6 parrallell paddocks , all with different fly sprays on, and no matter where I place him they still attack him. He ends up with anything from 10 - 20 bee stings! After the first attack he developed a mild colic, from the stress i believe. He reacts much like a human with swellings at the site of the stings but does not seem to find them irritating as he shows no signs of wanting to scratch. My question is can these repeated doses of bee venom not eventually build up to an allergic reaction? And any suggestions on how to bee proof him? We have our stables situated in blue gum forest areas where bee hives are numerous, so we cant control that part of the environment.


Bees can be a great problem around horses and there have been documented accounts of horses being killed when attacked by a swarm of bees. At the moment bees seem to be a big problem and I believe that the Metro has lost two horses just recently due to bee stings. The best way to control bees is in fact to locate the hive and have it professionally removed. There are a number of pest control companies that will offer this service and any responsible yard owner would make use of this service to prevent dangerous injury or even death to horses and riders alike. Because you are in an area where bees are feeding it does complicate matters, however finding the nest is imperative.

Pheremones contained in horse sweat are known triggers of an attack, and your horse must have a more noticeable pheromone or be more naturally inquisitive which is why he is being stung more. If he is dark in colour it may also play a role. Bees tend to stay away from light colours so as a VERY LAST option you might consider rugging him with a light weight white cotton sheet in the day. It probably won’t protect him from a huge swarm but it may repel the odd bee. You can also spray the sheet with a large amount of insect repellent to try and keep bees away. (being careful that it is not a citrus smelling repelant) Normal fly sprays probably won’t act as a repellent, especially if the bees are numerous or in a swarm. Some people burn damp pine needles in drums continuously to discourage bees and miges from the area (ie – something with a strong smoke), which may be worth trying, however I have not found any documentation substantiating this claim. I am sure it is not healthy for your horse to be standing in a smoky area breathing it in all day long!

As a general rule, the following tips are handy for animals and humans when it comes to bees (great source of information – go to :

· Wear light-colored clothing. Bees tend to attack dark things (dark hair, dark clothing).· Avoid wearing floral or citrus perfumes, lotions or aftershaves. Bees are sensitive to odors, both pleasant and unpleasant. If riding, avoid using fly control products on your horse with a "lemony" or citrus odor. Such odors are known to provoke or attract honey bees.
· Check your house and yard at least once a month to see if there are any signs of bees taking up residence. If you do find a swarm or colony, keep people and pets away. Find a pest control company or local beekeeper to remove it.
· Fill all cracks and crevices in walls with steel wool and caulk to help prevent bees from building a colony in your house or yard. Fill holes in the ground, and remove piles of refuse; bees can nest in an old cans or an overturned flower pot or hollow fence posts.
· Be alert for bees that are acting strangely. Bees often will display some preliminary defensive behavior before going into a full-fledged attack.
· When you are outdoors, in a rural area, a park or wilderness reserve, be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye out for bees the way you would watch out for snakes and other natural dangers.
· Don’t panic at the sight of a few bees foraging in the flowers. Bees are generally very docile as they go about their normal activities.
· Don’t keep animals near bee hives; they will have nowhere to go if attacked.
· Do not swat at bees; swatting causes the release of an alarm signal and stimulates other bees to attack.
· Don’t provoke bees by spraying the hive with a garden hose.
· DO NOT JUMP IN WATER!! Bees will wait for you to come up for air.

I also made contact with a company called Miracle Medical who sell a product that is proving to be great as a protective measure for both humans and animals. The BeeAlert Bee Control System is unfortunately not a deterrant, however can be used when attacked by bees as a life saving device! It sells for R150 per can and may be worth investing in. I obtained the following information about the product:

“The BeeAlert Bee Control System (patent pending) distributes a non-toxic, environmentally safe spray formula that kills attacking bees and wasps on contact. The BeeAlert life saving defense system was developed in cooperation with EMS first responders, ranchers, tractor operators, and others whose work or recreation put them at risk of stinging insect attacks. The BeeAlert Bee Control System is the best answer for swarming attacks by stinging insects.
The formula attacks the breathing systems of the insects effectively drowning them on contact. Firefighter’s foam and other chemicals used in the past are dangerous to both victims and the environment. The BeeAlert formula is safe. The BeeAlert Bee Control System is available in three highly effective spray devices. A Portable Unit, a Tractor Mounted System and an Aerosol Spray. All three applications are specifically designed to repel dangerous insects, allowing victims the opportunity for defense against attacks. Because BeeAlert is an emergency use product only the finest materials are used in its manufacture.
The Tractor Mount Unit is a sturdy 15-gallon plastic tank mounted behind the operator's seat on a dozer or farm tractor. In the event of an attack the driver hits a panic button and is immediately soaked with the nontoxic BeeAlert formula delivered from spray nozzles mounted on the tank. The spray also creates a protective halo that the insects are unable to penetrate allowing the potential victim to safely remain seated and drive out of the hot zone.
The EMS Mobil Unit is the tractor tank mounted on wheels with an ergonomic handle. When responding to a 911 Emergency Bee Attack call, EMS personnel unplug the unit from a trickle charger and place it in their rescue vehicle. At the scene, the Mobil unit is activated and the BeeAlert formula is sprayed from a powerful wand knocking the dangerous insects from the victim and creating the safety halo that protects rescuer and patient until they reach the safety of the vehicle.
The Aerosol Spray is an 18 oz. Portable can of the BeeAlert formula. The spray is delivered through a specially designed nozzle that emits a powerful stream and creates the protective halo. Perfect for use by hikers, horse riders, survey crews or anyone who works or plays in a potential stinging insect hot zone. Because BeeAlert is an emergency use product only the finest materials are used in its manufacture."
+27 (0) 11 485 4408
+27 (0) 11 485 2817

Regarding your question about the allergic reaction of your horse, the reaction you describe is a normal one to bee stings. The site will swell, be painful and the horse may even become delirious with pain, should he be attacked by numerous bees and suffer many stings which can make treating them difficult. The colic reaction is a typical pain response to the stings. Horses stung around the head may swell up to the extent that they are unable to breathe or eat/drink properly. This situation should be treated as an emergency and a Vet should be called at once. What can also be recommended is to ask the Vet to supply you with one dose of emergency antihistamine / corticosteroids so that should the horse be severely stung, you can inject the dose at once while you wait for the vet. It may save an animal’s life! I also have always kept an emergency dose of Kortico Tabs from my vet to use as treatment should a horse be bitten or stung and have a severe reaction. Spiders and Wasps can also be a big problem around stables, and I have had a client with a horse that had severe reactions to wasp stings. We always had a emergency treatment in stock for him in case he needed it quickly as his face would swell to the extent that his eyes were shut and his face and his tongue would swell in his mouth until he could barely breathe or eat. To leave him for an hour until the vet arrives would almost certainly kill him.

Human bee-keepers report that they tend to allow themselves to be stung every week, which improves their bodies’ reactions to bee stings, so it seems that the more one gets stung, the less reaction is expected. They become less reactive if they regularly get stung. Horses will show different responses to bites and stings, and they may become more or less allergic depending on the body’s response to the toxin.

Some natural options to try are:
Arnica 30x – Use for any type of trauma, bruising, strains, sprains or muscle over-exertion. Helps relieve inflammation, ease of stiffness in a horse that’s been worked hard. Good to use before and after surgery, and foaling.Dose for trauma and muscular strain: 1 dose once an hour for 4 doses. Then 1 dose 3 or 4 times a day until improvement is seen.
Ledum 6x – For puncture wounds, insect bites and reactions to vaccinations or anaphylactic reactions. Hypericum and Ledum should be given together for any injury likely to lead to Tetanus.Dose: 4 doses, 2 hours apart

I hope this information has been useful and that you are able to find a way of protecting your horse!

Lucern Cubes and Feeding


Hi there, I have a question regarding Lucerne Cubes. I have started to add a 1kg scoop of Lucerne chaff with 1kg scoop of Lucerne Cubes to my horses morning and night feed as our grazing is low and roughage is expensive.
My question is this, and it seems like other people have no idea what I mean, how much normal (bale Lucerne) is equal to say 1kg of the cubes? I don't know much about the cubes but the Lucerne chaff is very dusty and don't want to feed to much of it because my horses waste it. I like lots of roughage in my horses diet, I feel that is most natural. How much would you recommend to feed of both products?
My horses get the Equifeeds conditioner meal, mixed with the chaff and cubes and 50g of full fat soya. Also grass bales morning and night. All are in good condition.


To work out how much Lucerne is packed into one cube vs how much is found in a normal bale of Lucerne is very difficult indeed, and perhaps the supplier would be able to tell you. I would think that there is more Lucerne as such jam packed into a cube, and as you say, by feeding the loose bale , there is more wastage than if you were feeding the pellet. What would be interesting to me would be to compare the fibre content of the two feeds, unfortunately, that would only be possible by sending samples to a laboratory for testing. Does the Lucerne cube bag have an information label – it should by law?

Supplementing with Lucerne can work well in winter when grazing is poor and even the quality of roughage available is less than in summer. I would not reduce the amount of other roughage your horse is getting in the day, simply because one is feeding Lucerne cubes. In other words, I would not use the Lucerne cubes as a substitute for his normal roughage. Horses evolved to keep eating small amounts of food all day long. By allowing them access to roughage all day long, you are keeping them in a more natural state and they will be less susceptible to health problems as well as behavior problems related to boredom and hunger. In fact, did you know that a horse does not have a gall bladder like we do? Bile is secreted into his digestive system continuously, and cannot be stored for release when he eats a meal? That means he needs to keep nibbling all day long (or at least a good portion of the day) to keep his digestive tract healthy. If grazing outside is very poor or not available at all, I would suggest purchasing a large round bale of Eragrostis or a similar hay, and keeping it in the area where your horse is turned out during the day. (ideal if your horse is in a large paddock – if you can keep it under some kind of shelter, so much better!) Your horse is then free to eat as much roughage as his body needs and will keep him busy for quite a long time! If he is in a small paddock, he will need to be given hay while out. Keeping horses is expensive, but if you try to manage them well, you can cut costs and reduce wastage. For instance, use a teff manger outside in the paddock (even a drum sawn in half with a rubber hose top so the horse does not cut himself on the edge, will do well) instead of throwing it on the ground, and that will help it keep longer. By cleaning out the roughage your horses did not finish overnight and putting it out for him to finish in the day instead of just throwing it out with the stable bedding you can save on roughage as well. Use teff nets (or make them) with smaller holes. Not only will it keep your horse busy for longer, it will reduce the mouthfuls of teff coming out of the nett and less should fall to the floor. I like to build deep hay mangers in the stables on floor level. The horse eats more naturally with his head down, with less bits falling into his eyes and face like with a manger or a teff nett too high. There is no fear that he will get tangled in his net and there is not much wastage because the horse eats over the manger and most bits just fall back in. They are very easy to clean out and unless your horse decides to poo in his manger, it is very clean as well, meaning you can re-use any uneaten hay. Getting hay into the manger is much quicker than a net – you simply throw a slice of hay in!

Work out how much your full fat soya is costing you. You should get the same results by feeding vegetable oil. (Although these days even oil is getting really expensive!) Instead of the Lucerne and Full fat Soya, you could also substitute with sugar beet. Sugar beet is a super feed and sits in between a forage and a cereal. It is slightly lower in protein than Lucerne but still high in energy with loads of roughage. Do some sums to see what would be cheaper for you. If you have a neighbor with horses, try to buy your roughage together, as you could negotiate discount if you buy more at once as a bulk order – the same with your hard feed. If you buy together with your neighbor, you could get some bulk discount.

Your horses are in good condition, so I think what you are doing is working for you. Try to think about ways that you could save money or prevent wastage instead of substituting one type of roughage for less of another.

Fresian In Hand Showing


I have bought a 7 month old friesian colt and have entered him in the pta show.. the problem is i have no idea how in hand showing works! he can trot next to me reasonably well, walk and after a few seconds of tugging he does halt... has anyone got any tips on how to refine his training and advice on techniques that i can use because right now its the classic "follow the carrot" technique thats proving to be most effective but i guess the judges wont like that very much.. bottom line- what should i be training him and how?


Congratulations on getting what I am sure is going to be a horse that will bring you plenty of pleasure and hours of fun. Having worked with many Fresians before, I have developed a bit of a soft spot for them. They are easily trained, hungry to please and they still have plenty of spunk! I have always been amazed at the types of things those horses could be taught and how easily they form strong bonds with their owners.

My worst moment with a Friesian at a showing show was when my recently backed young Friesian boy decided at his very first show that all this clean and shiny nonsense was for the birds and decided to roll in the middle of the in-hand class! I could only stand there miserably and wish the ground would swallow us whole! Fortunately, the grass was soft and green and the judges were busy with the other horses so he got up, I dusted him off and we went on to come second in that class and reserve champion for the show. What I am trying to say is that even if your worst nightmare is realized in the middle of a class, you still never know how things will go and after that you can laugh about it and never forget it! Don’t let your nerves get the better of you and enjoy it no matter what!

The way that Friesians are shown in hand in Society Fresian Classes is basically as follows:


Neat Khaki Long pants that cover the ankle(you could wear a long khaki skirt of you wanted to – might be in the way when you run though!) with a White collar shirt and Khaki Cap. What is preferred is the official Society shirt and tie with their emblem on. You may not wear any clothes that advertise a stud, for example, and the Handler and his/her Assistant (should there be one) must be dressed the same. The emphasis must be on neatness and presenting a professional image.

Your number must be pinned neatly to your back and must be A5 sized.

Your Horse:

The focus is on a healthy, good looking individual that is a proud ambassador of the breed. Feet must be neatly trimmed, hair under the chin/jaw and excess hair under the stomach may be trimmed neatly. I have also noted that some Friesians have had their ears neatly trimmed of excess hair however the rulebook does not say anything about it being allowed or not.
The horse may be shown in a halter if he is under 12 months, and for horses over 12 months, a bridle is used. The halter may be black, brown or white. White presents best.
Basic show turnout does apply here – things like polishing hooves, face makeup and things like that to improve the appearance of your colt.


Horses are judged from the moment they enter the arena. Normally, horses enter in an anti-clockwise direction at a trot and line up facing the pavilion or where the judge is standing. Normally, judges are very good at tlling you what they expect so that everyone knows what to do. What usually happens is that one by one, the competitors walk towards the judge, halt and present their horse. You will then be asked to walk away from the judge, trot in an anti-clockwise direction past the spectators and return to the line. Sometimes, a triangle is set up to help competitors, and the horse will walk and trot along the triangle. The judge will tell you what he prefers. Each horse may have a maximum of 2 handlers in the arena, although you might not need an extra handler if your colt is well schooled. If you would like to use a crop of sorts, a neat crop of approximately 1m should do.

I hope that helps you a bit. In terms of schooling, your young horse should be performing walk, trot and halt on your command. His shoulder should be in line with your shoulder and he should be able to quietly stand in the que with other horses (often the most difficult part of the class!) as the judging may take some time. Try to position yourself near the front of the que when lining up so that your horse is judged sooner as he may get difficult if he has to wait a long time and that may spoil your individual judging later on.

If you are going to be doing normal SANEF showing in –hand classes, things are a little different, so do let me know!

Also, you might want to get in touch with the friendly folks at the Society, who can direct you in terms of clothing, halters and more tips.
Call them on 051-4302456 or

Mane and Tail Care


Hi, what can I do to stimulate hair growth? When I first got my horse, his main was long and soft. I've been struggling ever since to get it back that way. secondly, how do I keep it soft?


This is something that can drive horse owners mad! The horse with scraggly, horrible mane and tail that just will not plait for shows and looks horrid. There are a number of factors that need to be looked at with manes and tails which I will attempt to explain.

Firstly, manes and tails are a matter of genetics. No matter how well you treat it, what you feed your horse or how much you wish for it, if his genetics say thin mane and tail, there is not too much you can do about it! Thinner skinned breeds such as the Thoroughbred, Arabian and even some Appaloosa’s tend to have thinner manes and tails than some other breeds. No amount of potions or concoctions will suddenly make him sprout hair where there is genetically none! What you can do is to ensure that his hair growth is as healthy as possible and that it lives up to his genetic potential.

Next, the secret to healthy hair growth is not so much what goes on the outside, but importantly what goes into your horse that can make all the difference! One of the tell-tale signs of good nutrition and a healthy animal is a shiny, well looking coat and hooves. The make-up of hair and hoof is practically the same, so if the horse’s hooves are of a poor quality, chances are his mane and tail won’t be looking too great either.
Supplementing with oils (especially the Omega 3 oils) have been proven to have a wonderful effect on the quality of the skin and coat. I would add at least a cup of oil to his meals every day. In fact, supplementing with oils often results in a much finer and healthier looking winter coat after one or two seasons! A fuzzy, dull winter coat is often a sign of a dry coat. All of my horses that have been supplemented with oils for over a season have much better looking winter coats the second year around. The second vital ingredient to a healthy hair growth is biotin. Originally called Vitamin H, (from Haut, the German word for skin) biotin is a B vitamin so essential that it is manufactured in the gut naturally. Even though an extreme deficiency could result in death, those cases are very rare. A deficiency will generally appear in the form of a dull, lackluster coat, and/or cracked, brittle hooves. An important fact to remember is that if you are feeding high oil diets, or supplementing with oils, often incorrectly stored fats will go rancid. Rancid fats will inhibit the uptake of biotin in the system. Biotin will also improve the quality of hoof growth and thus is a major ingredient in all hoof supplements. With a horse suffering from a poor coat and hair growth, I often supplement with a hoof supplement containing Biotin, zinc and methionine –all proven to improve the quality of growth of the hoof, and by extension, the hair. Cider vinegar has been shown to improve hair growth and is a close second to biotin in terms of supplementing. Garlic and Echinacea have been used in the past to prevent itching, assist the body during changes of season and are great for immune function as well as a host of other benefits to the horse. Garlic will help repel some nuisance insects too, which will decrease scratching.
Once you are happy that your horse is getting the best nutrition and feeding you can give him to promote a good quality coat and hair growth, you need to look at reasons for him causing damage to his mane and tail. The most common reason is scratching. A horse will often scratch his mane or tail because of parasites – ticks, mites or internal parasites such as worms will cause the skin to itch and the horse will scratch. Go hunt out in the paddock and see if you can spot stray hairs on trees, fences or mangers and that may be a sign that your horse is scratching his precious tail or mane away! A skin fungus will also itch, causing the horse to scratch, especially horses that are often wet. Sweating during exercise or hot weather will cause the horse to itch, and often after a hard workout I will hose a horse down to prevent this. No need to wash with soap, just hose all the sweat off. I have always tried to have a hot water geyser at my yards so that warm water is available for this. Deworming is a vital and often overlooked part of good horse-keeping, and often incorrectly done. In fact, worm resistance is becoming more and more a problem in Africa, mostly because if incorrect deworming practices.
If horses are outside together in paddocks, make sure that the other horses are not grooming your horses mane and tail away. It is normal for horses to groom each other, but often this can lead to some hair loss, although usually not too significant, unless your horse did not have too much hair to begin with! Tail chewing is also a common reason for hair loss, especially amongst youngsters who will chew their mother’s or each other’s tails! Daily wear and tear can also cause damage to a horse’s tail – long tails get stepped on sometimes or caught in the shoes while exercising. Horses kept in bushy paddocks often get their tails caught in bushes and trees as they play and run about. It is common in showing yards in the US that horse’s tails are braided and placed into special tail bags, to prevent breakage. I was amazed at how well that worked. (Some horse owners incorrectly say that it is the weight of the mane and tail braids and bags that cause the hair to grow out faster – this is not true – it is the fact that the hairs are not damaged by the external environment to as great an extent that causes the improvement often seen.) Finally, incorrect brushing of manes and tails often cause great damage. Some people say that tails and manes should not be brushed at all, and that only the fingers should be used, however I have found that using the correct brushes/combs and the correct techniques prevents hair from being pulled out as is so common when combing recklessly. I prefer a wide toothed human brush or comb and always start at the bottom and gently work my way up the tail in sections. A very successful showing personality in the UK says that she brushes her horse’s tails and manes regularly and has no damage as a result, once again, it is the technique that is important.
Lastly, to ensure a healthy mane and tail, some washing will be required. Dirt, grease and sweat gather on the skin and will cause itching, so it is important to keep the skin clean. Too much washing, on the other hand will strip the skin of vital oils and cause it to dry out, again, causing it to itch. It is advisable to wash the mane and tail only about every 2-3 weeks, or as required. Inspect the base of the tail and if there is a lot of dirt and grit, it may be time for a wash. If you notice the horse scratching the base of the tail or mane it may also be time for a wash. When washing, it is important to get the skin clean, not so much the actual hair, so make sure you wash right on the base of the mane and tail well. Next, it is important to provide some external moisture to the hair, which is often dried out due to exposure to the elements and can make the hair brittle. A good rule of thumb is to remember that conditioner or hot oil treatments work best, but also gather dust and dirt, so use a conditioning treatment on the loose hair only, keeping it away from the skin and base of the mane and tail. Human products can work very well, especially those made for babies, as they have a mild formulation and better pH than normal human products. Refrain from using mane and tail shine and detanglers that contain silicon, which has been proven to dry hair out, and only bring them out when needed, like for shows. When all else fails, and your horse is still scratching no matter what, a Betadine wash can work wonders to stop the itching. Word to the wise – the iodine may cause your grey to go a bit brown! Hibiscrub also works as well and will not cause as much discolouration! Remember to leave it in for at least 5 minutes so that it can do its job before rinsing it off! I worked at a top class Arabian showing yard in the US, and they believed strongly in using Listerine (yes, the mouthwash) sprayed on to the skin to stop itching and tail rubbing. It works in a similar way as the other Antiseptics I have mentioned I suspect… and the horse’s behinds smelled lovely and minty too! J Might be worth a try if all else fails!(there are better products though, I believe, like Hibiscrub!)
I hope this information has been of use – it is a matter of trial and error and going out to determine exactly what the problem is. If your horse is really losing hair badly and it is sudden, it may be wise to call in the VET to check for any obvious health issues surrounding hair loss.

Size of Stable


I have noticed a distinct slope in my horse''s stable floor, from at least 1-1.5 meters from the stable door. So if he were to stand looking out of his stable he would be in a distinct downward angle -on his forehand as it were, as he stands looking out. Is this good bad or indifferent for him to be standing with all his weight on the forehand? It is an earth sand floor whereby the level could be corrected-would you advise that this is the right thing to do? I have placed a rubber mat over this section i.e. the first third of the floor area. Also what is the ideal sqm area for a stable ? Ours are approx 3 x 3 . Horse are all approx 15.3 to 16.2 some TB some Warmblood x.


Interesting question. Firstly, as per the size of the stable. The British Horse Society recommends the following:

Standard Stable (16hh and under) : 3.7m x 3.1m
Larger Stable (over 16hh) : 3.7m x 3.7m to 4.2m x 3.7m
Pony Stable (under 15hh) : 3.1m x 3.1m
Small Pony Stable (under 12hh) : 2.4m x 2.4m
Foaling Box : 4.6m x 4.6m

Canadian authorities seem to like a slightly bigger stable, bearing in mind that their horses spend a lot of time indoors. (4m x 4m recommended for horses) The more time the horse will spend inside the stable, the more critical the right size becomes. Taking into consideration also that a bigger floor has a bigger bedding requirement, an average size of 3.5m x 3.5m should be ok for most horses. Another important consideration in stable size is the height of the stable as that influences the ventilation of the stable. Of course, the highest roof in the world will have no benefit if there is no allowance for ventilation, so that would influence the stable ‘correctness’ too, as it were. If your horse is out most of the day and is a typical 16hh TB with a light build, he should be ok in a 3m x 3m stable with good ventilation and lots to see, however a 3.5m x 3.5m stable will probably be more to his liking. If he can comfortably lie down and get up that will be ok. For a 16hh to 17hh big Warmblood, this will be too small. The ideal and most creative way of increasing the size of a horse’s stable without too much construction work is to simply build a row of paddocks on the outside wall of the stable and knock out the window into a decent size doorway and the horse is then free to wander in and out of his stable as he pleases. Proper fencing is required, so you don’t have neighbors fighting over the fence, but I have found this to be a perfect way of keeping horses that spend a lot of time in their stables, horses that have breathing problems like COPD and horses that tend to get bored and disruptive in their stables.

The characteristics of a good floor are the following:

- Should be easy on the horse’s legs, offering a slight ‘give’ to reduce strain
- Should be dry and non-odour retentive
- Should provide traction and be non-slip
- Should be durable, resist damage from the horse (esp if he paws the ground) and stay level
- Should be easy to clean and disinfect
- Should be affordable to the owner
- Should be low maintenance

A topsoil floor may at first seem like a natural, most saught after floor, however it does have a few problems. It is inexpensive, non slip, easy on the horse’s legs and joints and mostly absorbent, however the biggest problem with these floors are that they need to be leveled and replaced often. They also tend to retain odours and dampness and are almost impossible to disinfect and clean properly. The normal slope of a stable floor should not exceed 2-5 degrees. Bearing in mind that your horse in it all the time but will move himself around to stay comfortable.) I would pull up the mat, fill in the floor and (IMPORTANT)compact it again with a whacker that you can rent from most construction equipment rental companies, to provide a more suitable area for your horse to stand on.

Mixing Own Feed


I would like to begin mixing my own feed. I have Friesian horses - 4 mares and a colt. I have been advised to mix crushed mielies, sunflower seeds, oil (linseed or canola), 10% meal e.g. Equifeeds, oats, garlic, carrots and soya bean meal to make up a good feed for the breed; however I have no idea of the proportions of each to mix in order to make up a balanced feed. Also, once mixed, how many kilograms do I feed daily? Do I need to add an extra vitamin / mineral mix into their food as well e.g. Codlevine? Please advise. Many thanks.


It is very brave of you to want to mix your own feed and I can tell that you absolutely have your horse’s best interests at heart here, so well done to you!

Feeding horses is a costly business and of course everyone wants to try and save money as far as possible but at the same time not compromise on their horse’s good health and well-being. Mixing one’s own feed, however, is not a cheaper or easier option for the average horse owner I believe. In situations of farms and studs that have large numbers of horses to feed, facilities to mix feed and that are often far from any feed store, mixing their own rations becomes a viable option. These farms always have their feeds professionally balanced and tested and still mix different types of feeds for the different horses they are catering for – ie broodmares, stallions, foals etc. (or they should be!)

By taking a balanced, scientifically formulated ration, like the 10% Equifeeds, and then adding extra mielies, oats, seeds and other grains, causes the ration to become unbalanced. The only way to check the actual levels of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and other ratios of the feed is to actually have it sent to a laboratory to have it tested. That is the ONLY way to know that you are in fact feeding a balanced ration, if you are making up your own ration.

Because you have a youngster to feed, your correct formulation becomes even more important, as young horses have very specific requirements that have to be taken into consideration.

The most important checks we generally use when deciding on a ration are as follows: digestible energy requirements; (ie does the ration provide enough calories or energy to keep the horse alive and provide for the extra work he may be doing.) minimum crude protein measurements; (ie does the ration provide enough protein that the body needs in order to grow and function properly) Calcium:Phospherous ratios; (very important as it affects bone growth and maintainance as well as a host of other body functions) and trace Mineral and Vitamin levels. (too much of any vitamin or mineral can be toxic, too little can cause health problems too.)

Having kept Fresians for many years I can tell you that they are very good doers generally, and require less hard fed than many other breeds to stay fit and healthy. That means that your feeding regime can be simplified greatly and they will still be getting all the nutrients they require.

If I were you, I would stick to a balanced formulation of hard feed – a 10% or 12% general mix will be fine for your adult horses, and your youngster should be getting a mix formulated for his age (for example, try Spurwing’s 14% Supagrowth, Equifeeds’ Roberton 15 % Feed or Vuma’s Vigour 15%) . Pick a feed that is readily available to you, check for high quality and also make sure that the company has professionals available to you that you can approach for advise on their feeds. Add a cup of sunflower oil (or any other vegetable oil, like corn oil or canola oil) to their feed daily as a way of keeping their coats shiny and healthy, especially now in winter when the air is so dry. Garlic is great so keep adding that to their ration as well. Carrots and apples will keep the feed interesting and give a little ‘juiciness’! Provide them with good quality hay (roughage) and that should be enough to keep them in great condition. I have never had a Fresian that needed extra Lucerne to keep in good condition. If you are worried about the condition of the roughage, especially in winter, you can add a vitamin supplement like Super Codlivine or a small slice of lucern to their hay ration at night. I like to feed a probiotic to my horses, as it improves their ability to digest roughage in the gut, absorb nutrients and has a host of other benefits. I have also found that since feeding a probiotic, my horses needed slightly less hard feed to maintain their optimal weights.

I hope that helps you – very often we are so afraid that we are not doing enough that we tend to overdo things and really, it is not necessary! Feed companies have taken the time, effort and costs to make sure that their food is balanced and contains everything your horse needs. In my book it is worth paying extra for and much less effort than trying to source ingredients, test rations and run the risk of harming my horse.

Dressage Saddle


Hi guys! Im looking to buy a dressage saddle and im not sure on what make or type to buy..does any1 have any recommendations? Im not necessarily worried about the price, but more on the comfort and functionality of the saddle in helping with my riding.


When it comes to saddles, there is so much one can say, however, I am going to try and steer you in a good direction and let the expertas take over from there!

There are two types of fit to consider when deciding on a saddle – firstly, it should fit your horse correctly and secondly but also important, it should fit you!

No horse will ever work properly in an ill-fitting saddle. All saddles are not made equally and in fact, sometimes the cheaper saddle will fit a horse much better than the very expensive ones. It all depends on the shape of your horse and how he moves. Also to be taken into account is the numnuh you decide to use (less is more!) as well as the placement of the saddle on your horse’s back. These all have an influence on the way the saddle fits your horse. To fit a saddle to a horse is a specialized business, and since you are aiming to do the best thing for you and your horse, I would suggest that you have a speciallised saddle fitter come out and assist you in choosing a saddle. Not only do they have excellent knowledge on the fit of the saddle, they also usually have an excellent amount of resources and even test saddles that can be tried and fitted.

Also important, is the saddle fitter will have you sit in the new saddle on your horse and will make sure that it fits you well. Most saddles have different widths, different depths of seat and will have different influences on your seat. Have your instructor with when you ride in the test saddle so that he or she can see what happens to your seat.

Be careful that you are not too deceived by thick, position setting rolls on a dressage saddle – it will surely put you in a position, however, you should be able to maintain a correct position without it. Thick rolls also tend to fix the leg in a way that CAN make subtle aids and seat aids tricky. There is no saddle on the market, sadly, that will make anyone a better rider! There are saddles out there that will badly influence position and those are the ones that you should avoid – however only by sitting on one on your horse will you know! People are built differently – a saddle that pushes your lower leg forward and pushes your seat back into the cantle might not do the same for somebody built differently on a different horse!

My advice thus, is to get in touch with a good saddle fitter – if you are in Gauteng, try Western Shoppe or Rider’s. They have mobile tack shops that will come out to your premises with saddle fitters if you ask. IN KZN, try The Stable Cat (031 765 2511) and in the Cape Area try Horse and Hound(021 852 3850) and ask if they can recommend a good fitter.

Deep Litter System


Can anyone shed some light on the use of the Deep Litter System (we use wood shavings) for stables? What are the pros and cons of this system?


A deep litter bedding system is one where droppings are removed throughout the day, but the rest of the bed is left undisturbed, with fresh bedding being added on top. Some people remove the wet shavings too, but strictly speaking it is left. Using this system, the bed needs to be completely dug out at least once a month or every second month, when the bedding should be removed, the floor swept, scrubbed or disinfected and left to dry, before putting in a new bed. It is a good idea to once a week remove the excessive wet patches leaving the rest of the bed undisturbed. If you do this then the monthly removal of the bed is slightly easier. With good management this type of mucking out can work very well, although monthly removal of bedding is heavy work. Traditionally, this type of bed was thrown with straw, although recently shavings have become more popular.

Important things to know about this type of bedding is that firstly, droppings MUST be removed as quickly as possible so that they do not become trodden into the shavings. Also important is that you start off with enough bedding – most people make the mistake of not putting enough bedding to start with, so that by the end of a month the horse is sleeping on concrete! I would fill it to a depth of 40cm at least, more if possible. A deep litter system works well with a natural floor, as the floor can be ‘dug down’ a little, allowing for a deep bed to be thrown in. These types of beds are labour saving and can be economical, bearing in mind though that enough bed must be put in initially. Because the beds are not opened every day, spores and dust released into the air are a bit less than with conventional beds. The biggest problems with deep litter systems is that because the wet shavings are not removed daily, ammonia builds up in the bed. That leads to respiratory problems, and can be very damaging to the hooves. I would try to remove some of the wet shavings if possible at least once a week, or make sure that enough bedding is added on top. Also, proper ventilation is essential with these types of beds. They can become very unhygienic if not managed well. Also, if the horse tends to be very restless or spends a lot of time in the stable, it tends to tram up the bed, making a mess and tramping manure into the bedding. Another problem is that by adding bedding , the whole thing becomes very deep, or high – (if you are using it on a conventional cement floor) especially if it is not taken out every month or so. The shavings tend to compact and digging out the bed can be hard work.
Another common problem if this type of bedding is used with wooden stables, is that the compacted bedding starts to heat and will rot the wood. This must be prevented by applying a good sealant and preserver to the bottom part of the stall in contact with the bedding, before adding the bedding.

How Many Plaits


Is there anyone who knows the showing rules concerning plaiting of horses for shows. We are doing priamry school shows. How many plaites must a horse have for Performance riding? Some people say only 12, and others say any amount, as long as it is an uneven number. Can someone help us?


Great question! There are no set rules about plaiting, however there are a few ‘tricks’ that you can use to make sure that your horse looks his best as well as a number of traditions that everyone sticks to! (Those annoying ‘unwritten’ rules of showing!)

What you are aiming for is a ‘combined effect’ – in other words, your tack, turnout and preparation should all be focused in the entire picture you are presenting at the show. That is very important, because simply by paying attention to all the detail, you will present much better at the show, and with showing – God really is in the details!

Traditionally, plaits are done on the right side of the horse and there should be an uneven number of plaits, so that with the forelock plait you get an even number of plaits. (9 or 11 plaits along the neck are the ideal, but every horse is different)What you will need to decide is how you are going to do those plaits. For example, if your horse is a little lacking in topline, you might want to raise the plaits slightly, which creates the illusion of a little more height on the front end. You would also do that if your horse is a little croup high. (common in young horses that are still growing!) The type of mane your horse has will also dictate the kind of plaits you might have to end up with. It is important to start off with a good base – in other words, a clean mane, evenly pulled to a length of about 15 cm (depending on the size of your horse!) and remember not to use any conditioner or mane spray before you start plaiting – it will make the hair very slippery! Ideally, I wash the mane at least a day or two in advance (and keep the horse out of mud and dirt!) which makes it even easier to plait on the day. If you want to cut a small bridle path, do so, and if your horse has a very long neck, a slightly longer bridle path will create the illusion of a shorter neck. (slightly! Not cm’s please!)

Plaits that are sewn in are generally tidier than those plaited with elastics, so I would recommend that you sew them in.

You can simply do a plain plait down the forelock (as opposed to a French plait) and sew it up – especially if your horse is a bit fidgety. If it is done neatly on a good forelock, it will present as well.

Tails should be trimmed to below the hocks – remember to lift your horse’s tail before you trim so that the line is level and the tail looks good! I would use a clipper to trim the tail, as it gives a neater finish than a pair of scissors. Tails also need to be plaited and sewn up.

Performance classes are not as strict as tack and turnout classes, for example, however by presenting really well, you immediately draw the judge’s eye and show them how proud you are of your horse!

Don’t forget your other things like trimming excess hair on the legs and face, trimming the ears and ensuring your tack is SPOTLESS and shiny and shows off your horse’s best features.

Good luck and enjoy your show! The judges are really nice and if there is time, they are always happy to give advice at the end of the class. Also, study the riders who do well and see what they are doing differently to you to try and improve.
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