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Symptoms of Colic

November 16, 2015

An expert explains how the symptoms of colic differ from other ailments in horses.


How do the symptoms of colic differ between impaction, gas, change in feed or the pain from gastric ulcers?


Our friends at the American Association of Equine Practitioners offer some answer:

The different symptoms usually revolve around the duration (how long the signs have been present) and the severity (how bad it is) of the pain.

Typically, colic is secondary to impactions and gastric ulcers and will cause mild to moderate pain such as the horse being off feed, looking at their flank, laying down (but not rolling), kicking at their belly and/or grinding their teeth. Symptoms usually have a gradual onset over many hours or even days. Gas (or sometimes called “spastic”) colic can occur with weather changes, feed changes or even without explanation.

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Difficult to Lead

November 9, 2015

Learn your options when you have a horse who’s difficult to lead.

ask expertQuestion:

My horse is very difficult to lead. He tries to grab grass and he will not walk behind me. He is constantly pulling me. How can I change this situation?


Our friends at the American Association of Equine Practitioners provide some solutions:

I attempt to see the world from the horse’s perspective, rather than from the human perspective, which is the perspective from which most of the questions are asked. I want my horse to do this, or stop doing this, you ask. Well, OK, that is simple enough to resolve. First, however, you must do this for your horse, because the message is clear something essential is missing from your horse’s life. So with me, as the equine behavior educator, the questions are human, the answers are horse. I was raised by horses, you know. The horses (and Blackfeet Indians) taught me to see as the horse sees. And then there was vet school!

In this case of your horse insisting to graze the grass he is walking upon, it is clear that you have failed to fulfill your horse’s ancient constant behavioral and physical need to abundantly, if not all day long, graze grass before you attempt to lead him around. Horses require 24/7 access to suitable forage. If they are restricted in this regard, they will graze when and how they can, as grazing is essential to living. Grazing is their most treasured and essential physical need. If your horse is stabled, he should never be without a bite of appropriate forage, please. Your horse is attempting to convey this long-evolved, constant-need-to-forage behavioral trait to you, if only you will listen, please. Horses utilize a gesture language to communicate, and your horse’s grazing gesture conveys to me that he is not getting enough. This is not about training, this is about providing your horse with the simple proper constant forage nutrition he requires before attempting to handle or train him. Horses in natural settings graze 80 to 90 percent of the time, you know, and your horse expects no less than his wild relatives. If your horse is unable to forage any less than those wild mustangs, expect this behavior to continue when he is led over nice, green grazing grass. Your horse should never be without a bite of suitable forage, so it sounds as if he is forage-deprived before you attempt to lead him over the grass he loves. He cannot help himself but graze until you fill his daily need to forage near-constantly. If the grass is green, and he has been offered mostly hay, I tell you he knows what is good for his digestive health. Let him graze the green grass, please. Once you sate your horse’s daily need to walk and graze abundantly, you can expect him to happily and willingly lead at your beck and call. I recommend an hour or two of daily hand grazing before attempting to lead him over surfaces that are barren of forage and grass. Set yourself up to succeed with him in this fashion.

Horses that have guardians who know how to fulfill and enrich their horses’ need to graze and forage abundantly nearly all the time, have horses that happily lead when asked.

Get more information on how and why horses are born to graze.

— Sid Gustafson, DVM, Bozeman, Montana, American Association of Equine Practitioners

*AQHA and the provider of this information are not liable for the inherent risks of equine activities. We always recommend consulting a qualified veterinarian and/or an AQHA Professional Horseman.

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A Horse That Hates Baths

November 2, 2015

An experienced veterinarian offers help to a horse owner who struggles to bathe her gray horse without a fight.

ask expertQuestion:

I have an 11-year-old mare, who hates to be bathed. I have even tried warm water, being sure not to get her head wet. She paws aggressively and lifts her front legs up as high as she can get them. Any other time, she is a pleasant and sweet mare, including with the farrier and veterinarian. It’s very annoying that she is so wiggly and agitated when I bath her, especially because she is gray and loves to roll in the dirt!


Our friends at the American Association of Equine Practitioners provide some helpful solutions to this problem:

Ixnay the athbays, please.

She has hydrophobia, the non-infectious version.

Your mare has made it clear she doesn’t like water baths, which is a natural tendency. Let her roll in the dirt all she wants, as that is a natural fly-repelling tendency as well as being great for her digestion, spine and musculoskeletal system.

I suspect that you are not going to change the gray mare’s nature any time soon. You either have to make getting a bath a good deal for her (good luck) or utilize brushing and grooming and rain to clean her.

You can’t teach the old, gray mare new tricks, it seems. Someone made bathing a bad deal for her, and she can’t forget it. She is pretty certain that bathing is an unnatural thing for a horse, and she is correct. Gray skin has its idiosyncrasies, and water sensitivity is one of them in this case (make sure she sees her veterinary dermatologist each year for her annual melanoma exams).

If you want to counter condition her, you can try. When she first sees water, feed her. When the water gets closer, feed her some more. Do this for 30 days until she looks forward to eating pleasurably in the presence of running water. Feed her a bunch as the first drop of water touches her for the next 60 days, but stop the bath at that first drop of water. For the next 90 days after that, run a stream of water on her left front hoof as she eats. After she is good with the left, try the right front for a few months. You get the incremental picture. In a few years, she’ll be loving the water and you’ll have spent 6,000 hours training her to enjoy water bathing her appetite with treats. This activity has been known to incite other sets of problems, some behavioral, some medical, some disastrous. Still, after all the attempts, it is quite likely the ol’ gray mare will be what she used to be: hydrophobic. Clicker training utilizes positive reinforcement, so you could also take some courses in positive reinforcement training, develop your timing until it is as impeccable as a horse’s, and clicker train her to love baths.

I’m siding with the mare, and I recommend that you just go with brushing from here on out. Invest in several different brushes, and you’ll soon find the one that sweeps that dirt right out.

— Sid Gustafson, DVM, Bozeman, Montana, American Association of Equine Practitioners

*AQHA and the provider of this information are not liable for the inherent risks of equine activities. We always recommend consulting a qualified veterinarian and/or an AQHA Professional Horseman.

Quarter Cracks

October 26, 2015

Learn about quarter cracks in horses and how they can be treated.

ask expertHorses can experience all kinds of problems with their hooves. An expert at the American Association of Equine Practitioners explains one common problem, quarter cracks, and how you can treat it.


What is a quarter crack, how is it caused, and what are some treatment options?


A quarter crack is a full-thickness hoof wall defect located in the quarter of the hoof between the toe and heel of the horse’s foot. The quarter crack originates at the coronary band and extends at an angle toward the ground. Quarter cracks can be a common cause of foot lameness or decreased athletic performance in race and sport horses.

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Uneasy Loader

October 20, 2015

Advice for a horse owner whose horse had a bad trailer experience.

ask expertAmerica’s Horse Daily received this question from a visitor. The answer, from AQHA Professional Horsewoman and Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor Julie Goodnight, will help many horse owners get their horses safely and easily into a horse trailer.


Can you tell me your ideas of re-training a horse that reared up and flipped over two partitions in a three-horse, slant-load trailer?

— Bonnie Rae Wright


The slant-load trailer is not always the best thing for horses. While it is convenient for us humans, for many horses it is too confining, with their face pressed against the window at the same time their rear is against the wall. On the slant, they have to work to maintain balance on both turns and stop/go, so they never get a rest. Read the rest of this entry »

Sarcoids in Horses

October 6, 2015

Learn about treatment options for sarcoids, the most-common skin tumor in horses.

ask expertQuestion:

My horse has a sarcoid. How can I learn more about sarcoids and treatment options?


Our friends at the American Association of Equine Practitioners explain sarcoids in horses and ways to treat them.

A Texas veterinarian is taking a novel approach to sarcoid treatment, removing portions of the tumors, freezing the tissue in liquid nitrogen and implanting it in the same horse’s body.

“This is basically a very archaic viral vaccination attempt,” says Dr. Benjamin Espy, a private practitioner who says the technique has been successful in 12 of 15 documented cases so far. “We are trying to get the body to recognize the sarcoid as foreign and mount its own response. This is an autologous vaccine, meaning it’s made from the same animal you give it to – a very common technique in other livestock species.”

Sarcoids, the most-common skin tumor of horses, are believed to be caused by the bovine papilloma virus. They can be treated with chemotherapy drugs, such as cisplatin, or removed surgically or with lasers. However, Dr. Espy says, if any trace of a growth remains, the sarcoids will return.

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Large Horse, Small Hooves

September 21, 2015

An expert farrier explains how to handle a large horse with small hooves.

ask expertHere to weigh in on the management of large horses with small hooves is Andrew Elsbree of Greenville, New York, past president of the American Farriers Association and a certified journeyman farrier.


I have an 85-percent foundation-bred mare. She is a little less than 15 hands but is robust in her chest, neck and hips. She has very small feet. What impact might this have on her, and should I take any special considerations in training, trail riding or hoof care?

Glenda Meredith


It’s important to keep plenty of foot on the horse and to always shoe that particular horse with plenty of support. Read the rest of this entry »

Good Bugs Vs. Colic

September 14, 2015

The American Association of Equine Practitioners fields a question about the benefits of feeding live bacterial cultures to your horse.

ask expertQuestion:

Do live bacterial cultures help to decrease colic? Should I continue feeding this during the spring and summer?


Live bacterial cultures are also known as direct-fed micro-organisms or probiotics. They’re the “good bugs,” and have names like Lactobacillus, Enterococcus, Bifidobacterium and Bacillus. Aspergillus, a fungus, and Saccharomyces, a yeast, are also considered probiotics. Nutritionists define them as “live micro-organisms, which when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” Read the rest of this entry »

Horses That Kick

September 8, 2015

Expert advice to quell a kicking horse’s bad habits.

America’s Horse Daily received the following question concerning a horse that kicks her owner. AQHA Professional Horsewoman and Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor Julie Goodnight offers some advice that many riders will find useful.


I need some help with one of my mares. She is trained, but she is not ridden much. I always longe her before riding because she is powerful. When I take her out to longe her in the arena, she turns as she moves out into a circle on the longe line and kicks out to the side and has hit me three times now. Each time is a little higher. I know that this has to do with not handling her enough. She is smart and I am always careful with her (and all horses). She doesn’t do this to the stable hand that lets her out and longes her. I am pretty experienced, but this has me baffled as to how to handle this without getting too rough with her.


You have to expect that horses will kick out when they are on the longe line, working a circle on a lead line or even working at liberty in the round pen. The whole purpose of the kick is for defense when the horse is being attacked from behind, either from a predator or from a more dominant horse. When we work the horse on the circle, we are basically attacking the horse from behind, therefore you must expect that the horse will kick out. Read the rest of this entry »

Riding a Rough Trot

August 31, 2015

Try this expert advice to smooth out a bumpy ride on your horse.

ask expertAmerica’s Horse Daily received the following question concerning a rough-trotting horse. AQHA Professional Horsewoman and Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor Julie Goodnight offers some hopeful advice that many riders will find useful.


I have a 4-year-old horse with a rough trot. She has a nice headset at a walk and lope, but it comes up for the trot. Bear in mind that, while I had horses for several years growing up, I had no lessons or opportunity to learn from other horse people, so while I can stay on a horse pretty well, the more I learn about horses and riding I realize that I am really a novice and in need of lessons. My friend has been helping me some with the training of my mare, and she has used draw reins on her with some improvement. She thinks my horse just needs to learn collection. I don’t want to ignore any possible health issues or the fault being my riding. She gets seen by the vet a couple of times a year and he keeps a good check on her teeth, so if you could point me in any other directions, I would appreciate the advice so we can get to a more comfortable ride for both of us.


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Why Do Horses Yawn?

August 24, 2015

When horses yawn, it is not necessarily for the same reason we humans do. It could be a sign of discomfort.

ask expertQuestion:

What makes a horse form his mouth like he is yawning? Is he really yawning or is it something else?

The American Association of Equine Practitioners helped us with the answer. Read the rest of this entry »

Nervous Horse

August 17, 2015

Heed this solid training advice to get a troubled horse headed toward recovery.

An America’s Horse Daily reader submitted the following question regarding a very nervous, untrusting horse. AQHA Professional Horsewoman Julie Goodnight offers her expertise toward a solution.


I have a 17-year-old Quarter Horse that has obviously been abused. On the ground he is very respectful and sweet, but he has a very tender mouth and any hand movement while in the saddle causes him to bolt. After taking a serious fall last autumn, I thought to have a local trainer who is gentle-handed ride him for a week so he could become used to being ridden again. When I went to pick him up, he really wasn’t there (in his mind). He had gone somewhere safe and it took him a couple days to get back to normal. The trainer rode him, but it was very difficult for him to get the horse to walk. He was nervous and waiting for the ball to drop. I tried riding him once, but it was so scary. He was ready to blow in any direction. He is so worried he won’t please and will be punished. Is there any hope, or is he just a beautiful Quarter Horse pasture ornament?

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