Jul 18, 2012

Fixing Horses.com

It took a long time to bring Bryan around. Longer than any other horse I had had till that time. But bring him around we did.

As with any horse that comes in to the program, we looked at everything. Diet, feet, tack, teeth. In SoCal boarding situations we don’t always have a lot of hay options. The barn I boarded at fed bermuda hay and/or alfalfa. You could special order timothy but it was pretty expensive. They did feed hay three times a day so he had food in front of him 24/7. I like grass hays but think it’s important for horses to have a variety of grasses so I supplement their regular hay ration with straight grass hay pellets, like oat or bermuda or timothy or orchard hay pellets, depending on price, availability, and the horse’s weight and work load. He was thinnish so the first thing we did was put him on lots of timothy pellets and Purina Ultium. I love to study NRC info and product details of various feeds. I have gone back and forth between the various senior feeds and Purina Ultium. Now I am able to access a local CA made pelleted feed that I am really happy with (King feed 11% pelleted enriched feed) but at the time I was using Ultium. I think Ultium is great and have always been happy with it. It is expensive though, and it is molasses based, which now I like to avoid, though its not as high sugar as some.

I also put him on Ranitidine. Ranitidine is an antacid and until Omeprazole became available it was all vets had really to treat equine gastric ulcers. I purchase it in bulk at Costco or Walmart; generic, it is way cheap. The drawback is that it doesn’t heal ulcers, and it needs to be fed at least twice and preferably three times a day. But it is therapeutic, and soothing, and any new horse I got at the time went right on it.

I also put him on Source. Its such a funny supplement, has been around for years, is so untrendy and inexpensive, and yet over and over I have seen it make a difference in hoof growth, hair and skin improvement, mane and tail growth, and just overall bloom and well being. It is one of my go to supplement and has been since I first tried it on Tucker, he of sparse mane, sparser tail, and very little hoof. My shoer noticed within one 8 week shoeing cycle ( yes, those were my bad old days of standard issue ignorance of feet) and in three months Tuckers mane and tail were growing like mad.

Bryan had been living at boarding barns for years. Our mild climate means no real frosts that can kill parasite cysts. Some parasite cysts can live in the soil for years and years and years. So any horse that seems a little iffy gets ivermectin and then put on daily strongid. I may also do a powerpak. It all depends on how they look and respond, and where they have been living. I knew Lisa had been good about her parasite control, but I didn’t trust Bryan’s past boarding environments. So he got a dose of ivermectin and another one a week later, and then I put him on Strongid C. He was also weirdly fungusy and I know there is an association between rain rot and sweet itch types of things and parasite loads so I am a little aggressive about my deworming protocol.

I have a wonderful equine dentist, Ron Ross, who does a very thorough and skilled hand float, no tranq. Ron comes from New York state twice a year so B got on that schedule.. He did have a funny very shallow mouth and some big hooks in the back and his teeth were somewhat overly smoothed from being power floated. I don't like power floating. Aside from the obvious noise and vibration, the tools are not refined, do not often go well in to the very back of the mouth, create a lot of heat, the horse must be deeply tranqued, the head is held up in that weird sling thing which *can't* be good for their poll and neck, and after a few years of power floating their teeth look like chiclets and they are all quidding their hay. Ron is an angel and horses love him, so this went well with no issue and I was confident that he could eat well and had no giant hooks or big holes in his cheeks. 

He was about 17 hh though small framed. He was quite a refined TB type, unlike Wonder, another OTTB I had who could easily pass for a WB. B was clearly a TB, fine boned and streamlined. That said, unbelievably, he wore an 0 shoe. This was the same size shoe as one of my medium ponies. He wasn’t *that* refined. So my shoer and I took those tiny shoes right off and started him a better foot program. A nice wide web shoe with lots of heel and plenty of room for expansion was in order. And it worked, too; we had him in a 3 within the year.

These approaches are still what I do with any new horse. Now I am a committed barefooter, and I don’t use any molasses based feeds, and there are omeprazole products that I can get by scrip from my vet that don’t bankrupt me, but I still start with feet, diet/nutrition, tummy and digestive health, and parasites. You have to rebuild, repair, and restore all of the systems of your horse if you want deep and long lasting results. And we do, so we did.


  1. Dini has a natural barefoot farrier who does a mustang roll and he wears boots to go out on the road. I have him tested by the vet in the spring for worms....none. I used to have my field hunter on Source and I myself use it every day, but for Dini he gets so much of what he needs between his Ultima32 and Grand Hoof, it would probably be overkill, even though it is only micronutrients.

    1. Its a funny product and I have nothing but empirical evidence. I too take it myself. I just find that when I dont feed it, I need more feed, their feet arent as hard and dont as fast, their tails are thinner. Now I just use it, all the time, for everyone, no matter how long I have had them or how they look when they come in!

  2. Holy crap, a size zero shoe on a 17 hand TB?! Jesus.
    I shouldn't be shocked, since I follow racing like a madwoman and I know that quite a few of the farriers [but not all] keep the hooves in...uh...interesting shapes.
    So glad you were able to get his feet grow out and strengthen! :)

    1. Yes, it was crazy. Small, and TIGHT, and way out in front of his hoof. And so unnecessary, since he had a nice hard hoof and had no problem keeping shoes. He was actually the first horse I ever took barefoot and he did so well I went barefoot with the whole crew. But thats another story >;->

    2. Hi Abby, I love your writing, but find it hard to open the page with those horrendous photos at the top of it. I understand why you are reproducing them, but one is always aware of the violence when on the page. Keep up the good work, Barbara

    3. I know, Im sorry. Youre not the first person to feel thus. But I feel they need to be there. So many people love Totilas, and marvel at him, and want their horses to be like him. The same people look at the photo below, of the horse in torture, with horror. I really think they dont see that the photo above and the photo below are really the same. If it gets even a couple riders to rethink what they are admiring, its worth it. But youre right, its hard to see them. Thank you for your kind words and praise.

  3. I know Ron Ross, I've used him and I respect him. But I have to say that I've seen as many problems with hand floating as I have with power floating.

    It's true that more damage can be done more easily with power tools, but I believe that horses' teeth can be better cared for with power tools than with hand floats in the hands of a skilled dentist (which I'm very lucky to have).

    Not all power floats are large. My own dentist uses a series of small, round, angled floats which can reach the furthest molars easily and apply one tiny edge of a float with a precision that I have yet to see by anyone hand floating.

    In my experience, it's very hard for most dentists to properly hand float the rear molars because of the size of the instruments and the amount of physical force needed to use them, so the furthest edges of the rear molars of horses who are hand floated often remain sharp.

    If you've been seeing horses whose mouths have been ruined by dentists using power floats, you've simply been watching horses that have been subject to poor practitioners. The tools are not the problem, the users of the tools are the problem. From that point of view, a power float is just like a curb bit or a set of draw reins -- razors in a monkey's paw.

    There are just as many incompetent dentists using hand floats as there are incompetent dentists using power floats. Which is worse -- the chiclets or the mouth ulcers from sharp points in the rear molars and ramps that don't let the jaw move? They're all unfortunate, all harm the horse, and all evidence of bad dentistry.

    For great reading on horse's teeth and mouth problems, I highly recommend the book by Dr. Kai Kreling called "Horses' Teeth and Their Problems" published by Cadmos.

  4. Thank you Katie for you comments. Of course, you are right, and bad care is bad care. But I confess, I have yet to see a good mouth after a power float or two. I have had bad hand floats and have seen terrible hand floats. These have included both vets and lay people. But the AAEP conferences are full of booths advocating power floats as a 'fast and easy way to add income to your practice!' The power floats became popular here in SoCal in the late 1990s and by 2000 were all the rage. Well, the mouths I have seen, and I seen many, are not in good shape now. I do regularly see the vets, tables laid out with tools like they are about to start building kitchen cabinets, and the horses are hanging on the support thing for an hour, deeply drugged. I hate it. And after a few years, the horses just have no tooth left. So you are right, and I agree. But I would always rather try the hand float first, and ask if I could put my hand in there, with the speculum, and feel the very backs (I have a long arm with a very small wrist so can fit!) We can just ask horse owners to please educate themselves on what is really happening in your horse's mouths, and try very hard to find either a vet with a kind and minimally invasive touch, or a hand floater who gets to the back. And yes, that is an excellent book recommendation! Thank you!

  5. Of all the equine professionals, I think it's the hardest to find a good dentist.

    I agree that it's important for people to ask questions -- how do you avoid heat build up on the teeth, what kind of tools do you use, how long does it take, will my horse's head be held in a sling (mine aren't), is there some place I can watch you work before you come to my barn?

    If you're hand floating, ask to feel around in your horse's mouth the next time its wide open with a speculum (you can ask your vet who has one!). Some dentists who hand float will be honest with you and tell you that after three visits, spaced 6 to 9 months apart, they can take down those hooks that are keeping your horse from bending properly...

    I agree wholeheartedly that if you don't know what kind of job will be done on your horse's mouth, you're far safer with a hand float, because it's just too much hard work to do much damage (or often a decent job).

    Here's one thing I learned from the book I recommended: horses' teeth wear down far faster when at pasture than when stabled, so when you're estimating a horse's age, if you know the environment he's lived in, you can "adjust" the age estimate accordingly. Isn't that neat?

    1. Good points and thank you! And I agree! Re: the dentist-I have Ron do the boys every six months. I think that is a better approach over time. He is good about educating and when he has a nice client here he lets them feel up in the back, lets them feel the edges and the wave and explains the grinding process and the left to right chewing action. There is a vet here who has really studied the mouth and jaw and when Ron retires I will have her do my work. Its just distressing though to get a new horse, only 13 or 14, and have them have their teeth already down to the nubs. Oy! I feel about teeth the way I feel about feet...educate! educate!