Saturday, March 28, 2009

Foaling Time Is A Sunset Away

As spring approaches, so comes foaling season. The reward for waiting 340 excruciating days is the safe, smooth delivery of a happy, healthy foal. When something goes wrong it can be devastating, and seemingly small problems can quickly become life threatening to both the mare and foal. Careful preparation and planning can go a long way to ensuring the safest possible foaling event, and can prevent potentially fatal complications.

Know Your Foaling Date

This seems simple, but unlike most other species, the gestation for a foal can vary quite a bit. The average gestation of a mare is 340 days, or roughly 11 months and 11 days. Unfortunately, in practice, healthy, normal gestation can be as little as 320 days, and as much as 370 days (longer than a year!). Foals born earlier than 320 days are considered premature and require special care, and often hospitalization. Foals born less than 300 days are extremely premature, and have almost no chance for survival.

Foaling, or parturition, is an explosive and rapid event, and in perfect situations requires no human involvement. However, when complications occur, immediate human intervention is necessary to avoid potentially fatal complications. In most cases, foaling should be an event closely monitored, with attendants ready to step in and offer assistance to the mare at the first sign of trouble.

Unfortunately, most horses foal at night, necessitating at least one, and usually quite a few all-night vigils to catch the blessed event. Knowing your foaling date will help you to plan your stable sleep-overs.

While it is hard to predict when in the due-date range your mare may foal, careful attention to detail may help to narrow the time down. Mares tend to foal around the same time of gestation yearly, so if you have a mare that has tended to foal at a certain amount of days in the past, chances are that she will follow that trend again. Maiden mares are the exception to this rule, and often maiden mares will follow a completely different schedule from their first foaling than any during any subsequent pregnancies.

Have a Foaling Kit Ready

A well-stocked foaling kit should be prepared at least a month before your mares due date. This kit includes items that you will use during foaling (disinfectants, etc) to items that you hope not to use, but stock anyway “just in case”. Make sure to keep your kit in a clean, waterproof box near your mare’s stall, readily accessible when the time is right.

The basic foaling kit should include:

* A flashlight with extra batteries
* Scissors
* Sterile string (such as umbilical tape) to tie off umbilical cord, and tie up placenta as it is being expelled from the mare
* Iodine (for the umbilical cord)
* Mild soap and a bucket (for washing the mares vulva and teats)
* Vetwrap and bandaging material (for tieing up the mares tail)
* Extra towels and gloves
* Enemas (for the foal after birth)

Other items that should be readily available for foaling include a halter and lead rope, twitch, a watch, paper and pen, surgical lube and a charged phone with good connectivity.

Plan Your Exit Strategy

The best preparation you can make for foaling is to be intimately familiar with the process, so that you are quickly able to determine when parturition isn’t proceeding normally, and can summon help. As foaling nears, talk to your veterinarian about possible scenarios, and make sure he or she will be available and on call for you if problems do occur during foaling. If necessary, talk to other vets in the area in advance of the foaling date, and ensure sure you have a support network in place when the time arrives.

If you have a truck and trailer, have them hooked up and fill the gas tank. If an emergency trip to the hospital becomes a necessity, having the trailer ready to go can save valuable minutes. If you do not own a trailer, talk to friends and try to come up with a plan so that if the worst scenario occurs, you are prepared. In some situations, it may be necessary to talk to commercial hauling companies to ensure that your mare and foal will have an emergency ride to the equine hospital if it becomes a necessity.

The old adage about getting things ready so you won’t need them never applied so well as it does to foaling. We hope and pray for the best case scenario, and a trouble-free foaling, but planning for the worst can to provide the best possible outcome if it actually happens. Your careful preparations can make the difference between life and death of both the mare and foal during parturition.

Interested in horses? Stop by our award winning horse forum at EquestrianHorseForum and lets talk some more about foaling and horse related topics.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Trailer Maintanence - Get it Done, Get There Safe!

Traveling with your horse can be a wonderful experience, whether you’re like Me and you putt to your friend’s house for a short trail ride every couple weeks or you trailer throughout the country for clinics and shows like Karen who tries to attend several every month.

A frequent traveler, was in the process of trailering her horse to a clinic when a tire on her trailer went flat. She missed her clinic ride and showed up late.

“Didn’t I tell you your tire was low last month at the clinic?” her friend chided. Karen recalled then, but she had been traveling.

Karen and her horse are very lucky that a flat tire and missing a clinic was the least of their worries. Lack of trailer maintenance can be deadly to your horse as evidenced by a accidents you read about, like on Long Island when a trailer became detached from its tow vehicle, crossed into oncoming traffic and was hit by an SUV. One of the two horses was killed. Rescue teams were visibly upset by the sight as well as their inability to help the injured and dead horses. Members of the horse community wonder about the cause, was at improperly fit hitch? Where were the safety chains?

Experts agree that there are several key problems in trailer maintenance that can lead to a tragic result including improper hitching, lack of safety chains or rotten floor boards, which can cause a horse to fall through the trailer while being towed.

USRider, a roadside assistance and towing provider, is currently gathering data on horse trailer accidents to devise recommendations for preventing accidents. By August, 2006, more than 200 accidents had been evaluated, and the company was seeking input from horse owners, rescue workers, towing operators, veterinarians, and others.

Tomas Gimenez, professor of Animal and Veterinary Sciences at Clemson University, is assisting in the data analysis and noted that “the data showed that the main causes of trailer wrecks are lack of proper maintenance, operator error and equipment mismatch.”

The Rutgers Cooperative Extension prepared a horse trailering and maintenance fact sheet published by the National Ag Safety Database and includes recommendations on routine item maintenance checks on tire pressure and condition, including spares; jacks and reflectors; floorboards; screws or nails that work loose to protrude inside the trailer; lights; hitch welds; safety chain welds and snaps; hitch ball greasing; wheel chocks. Additionally, a yearly maintenance check is in order for the cracks in the frame, loose connections in wires, rusted metal, greasing of all hinges, weak hinges, wheel bearings, spring shackles, brakes, emergency break-away cable and control box.

Based on USRider’s survey data to date, operator error, especially driving too fast, caused the majority of the accidents. The group recommends driving under the speed limit and maintaining double the distance from the car in front than is recommended for passenger cars. The survey group also noted that maintenance checks are imperative on both the tow vehicle and the trailer. Additionally, with rotten floor boards, horses can fall through the trailer. The group also recommends driving with headlights on to increase visibility to other drivers and applying reflective tape to the back of the trailer in case of electrical failure. The group also noted that improper hitching was a common cause of accidents. USRider recommends ensuring that the hitch is properly installed, is the right type, rating and size for the coupler. Trailers can become detached from the towing vehicle, so securely fastened safety chains and breakaway switch are in order.

In case of emergency, have the following items stored in your trailer: equine first aid kit; spare tire, jack and iron (for both trailer and tow vehicle); emergency triangles; chocks; flashlight; electrical and duct tape; knife; water, hose, buckets and sponge; spare halters and leads; spare bulbs and fuses (for trailer and tow vehicle); fire extinguisher; jumper cables; took kit; spare belts and hoses; tow chain; air compressor; and emergency directions for rescue works who might need to attend horses if tow operator is incapacitated.

Traveling with your horse can be fun, but it can also be dangerous, if not tragic, if you do not conduct yearly and routine maintenance on your tow vehicles. Keep your vehicles in proper working order to protect your most valuable cargo.

We all know about these items but seems more often we will "get to it later" and later may be our last tow? Please do not overlook your inspections and maintanence. Keep yourself safe and those who are with and around you.

Peace unto you and yours,

Ron <-- Coming real soon! New membership plan! Cheap!Don't sign up yet! Just wanted to let you know about it. 12 sites for the price of one! Yep just one!EquestrianHorseForum

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Looking At The Boarded Horse - Options

Whether you are a college student or just “horse poor” (or both), there comes a time when your horse budget isn’t always what you would like it to be. There are a lot of things you would like to buy for your horse or need for your horse, but right now you can barely afford to feed both of you. Don’t worry because there are many options that you can explore.

First, you might need to consider your current boarding situation. Depending on what part of the country you live in the cost of boarding is going to vary. Can you really afford full care boarding right now or are you going to have to start doing some of the work? Find out if your current boarding facility is willing to work with you. Will they allow you to do partial-care board at a reduced rate or pasture board? Will they let you help them in some of their daily duties and reduce your rent for your hard work? Is it time to move your horse? Look for smaller facilities that meet your needs, often they will have reduced rates than other barns. Would you be willing to feed somebody else’s horses for board? These options need to be researched and explored. I have been successful in running ads in the Thrifty Nickel newspaper stating, “Will feed or ride for boarding.” I currently board for free because I take care of a couple’s farm while they go out of town. It works well for both of us and I have been at this facility for two years now and have become great friends with the couple. Also, do you have friends or family that have land or other horses? Would they let you keep your horse there if you help them out? Most importantly, always get an agreement in writing. This helps in the fact that both parties know the terms of the agreement and if anything is to happen you have your agreement in writing.

Secondly, let’s look at your horse’s diet. You need to consider what type of work your horse is doing and what his energy requirements are. An adult horse only requires 8% crude protein diet and this can be provided from a 100% hay diet for maintenance on a horse that is lightly worked. A younger horse is going to require a 10-12% crude protein diet depending on whether or not he is in training and being rapidly grown or not. If you feed a balanced sweet feed with a good grass or alfalfa hay then you will be able to meet their energy requirements. If he seems to lose weight, gradually increase his feed a little more until he stops losing weight. He certainly does not require a fat added or high protein diet, unless he is doing intense work like roping, cutting or jumping. Most feed stores carry a basic sweet feed that is 10-14% crude protein for $5 to $6 a bag.

If you live in the West Texas or New Mexico area, you know that we are in a drought and hay prices have soared. Not to mention the cost of gas isn’t helping much either. You can hardly find a round bale of Coastal grass hay for less than $75 out here. I suggest finding a hay wholesaler where you can load the hay yourself out of the field or a barn for less than what you would pay at the feed store. If you have the space, stock up on as much as you can for a few months. This will be expensive initially but it is better than buying it a few bales at a time.

Shop around for farriers and see what they are charging for a hoof trim. If you are on a very tight budget, then you probably should have your horses shoes pulled. He will like being barefoot and you can still ride. Unless your horse has lameness problems and requires special shoes, it will be cheaper for you to pull his shoes and have him trimmed regularly.

Obviously there are going to be a few expenses that are just necessary. These include your regular vaccinations, deworming every six months and those unexpected expenses from injuries, illness, etc. Talk to your vet about doing your own vaccinations, this will save you an office charge and a trip with your horse to the vet. Most vaccinations are simple to give and your vet can instruct you on how to do them yourself. Keep your horse on a good deworming schedule; this will save you money in the long run.

If you can’t afford these basic maintenance expenses, then you should probably look into selling your horse or leasing him out. I have successfully kept my horse for about $150/month at boarding facilities through my tight college years. It can be done on a tight budget and you will not believe how many people will be willing to help you. You just might have to do things a little unconventionally, but that’s okay because it will all work out in the long run.

If you are a horse lover like we are please visit our Award winning EquestrianHorseForum and if you have horses for sale our 12 site classified network is almost finished! How exciting make sure to bookmark it at horsechitchat

Have a great ride and make sure you stop by and say hello. We will leave the barn door open for you!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What type of Specialized Shoeing Does Your Horse Need?

All horse shoes are not created equal! In fact, the type of shoes your horse wears, as well as how he is shod, will depend upon the discipline he participates in. Shoeing your horse according to discipline gives your horse the best opportunity for success. In this article, we'll look at the shoeing needs of the long-distance riding horse, show jumping horse, driving horse, and race horse. As always, consult with your veterinarian and vet regarding your horse's particular shoeing needs.

Long-distance riding

Long-distance riding, which focuses on the horse's physical fitness, is one of the horse world's fastest growing divisions. Rides can be different lengths, but some rides go 100 miles in a day, and some even extend over several days! To say that long-distance riding is gruelling and challenging is an understatement indeed!

The distance riding horse must go long distances on varied terrain, and the concussion to his feet is prolonged and intense. To this end, safety and comfort should always be the first consideration when shoeing a horse who goes the distance. This will cut down on early fatigue. Your farrier can ensure that your horse's shoes fit correctly according to his conformation, and are comfortable and balanced. Some people use full sole pads under the shoes. The advantage of these is that they protect against bruising and other injuries from rocks, stones, etc. The disadvantage is that pads will cause the sole to soften over time.

There are a few types of shoes in particular that are attractive to owners of distance horses. A popular choice is wide-webbed aluminum shoes. These disperse the concussive effect, are light, and wear well. Some even come with steel inserts in the toes to prolong wear.


What is the job of a driving horse? To pull weight, of course! Whether you are using your horse on your farm, or whether he is followed by a fancy show carriage, it all boils down to the same thing. Your horse is pulling a load!

Since driving horses usually work at relatively slow speeds, interference isn't usually an issue. To that end a plain stamped shoe without any fullering or groove through the metal allows for the most wear. Since the driving horse usually sees the most wear on the toes of the hind shoe, this is usually thickened. The hind shoe is also fitted with a toe clip for more wear.


In order to do his job right, the racehorse must have the right conformation for racing. To this end it's always a good idea to find a farrier who has lots of experience monitoring and trimming the feet of racehorses. Obviously, the shoeing should be designed so that the horse can perform at his highest speed. Light, correctly fitting shoes are sensible. Since the horse isn't carrying too much extra weight on his feet he won't tire as easily as he would wearing heavier shoes. A horse who tires will most likely have some interference, which can cause injury, especially in a horse moving at such high speeds. Front shoes are generally fitted according to the shape of the foot, while three-quarter rear shoes ensure that brushing is prevented.

In addition, how a horse is shod will have a lot to do on the surface he is racing on. In wet conditions, for example, the hind shoes might be removed to prevent the horse from over-reaching. Again, the importance of having a farrier who knows a bit about racing can't be stated enough!

Show Jumping

The goal of the show horse is to jump as high and as fast as possible. Horses place a lot of stress on their feet, joints, and tendons on both the take-off and landing. Your farrier should trim your horse's feet to make up for any conformation issues, and a shoe should be applied that provides maximum cover on the ground surface. Shoes with short toes and good support at the heels are extremely important to the show jumping horse.

So make sure you talk with your farrier and make sure that you address your horses specific needs and listen when he/she gives you some advice on what you can do to help your horses feet.

Take care and happy trails, we would like to see you at our award winning horse forum. Make sure to bookmark it as soon as you arrive, we will leave the barn door open.