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Joint Diseases in Horses

February 1, 2016

Incurable Joint Diseases: Know the research, and know your options.


My 19-year-old gelding was recently diagnosed with moderate osteoarthritis in his right hind and, upon ultrasound, with mild degenerative suspensory ligament desmitis in both hinds. The No. 1 treatment recommendation is for articular injections. Will these injections resolve the DSLD in any way? Sadly enough, he was also diagnosed with atrial fibrillation six years ago. I can’t help but wonder, are the two diagnoses related? Read the rest of this entry »

No Quick Fixes

January 25, 2016

AQHA member and horse trainer Patrick Hooks steers readers away from training gimmicks and toward a time-honored training system.


Lots of people get caught up on training aids and gimmicks, and some of them seem too good to be true. Are they?


I would be naive to think that riders and trainers will not use a variety of training aids. My first thought would be to divert the reader to my favorite slogan and tag line: “There’s one bit that works on all horses: a bit of knowledge.”

This mindset opens up more than just doors of opportunity; it has the ability to intensify a lifestyle. Just for fun, while you’re sitting at the computer, look up the term “Jaquima to freno.” Read the rest of this entry »

Pre-Purchase Exam Advice

January 18, 2016

Find out why a pre-purchase exam is an important step in choosing a new horse.

ask expertQuestion:

I’m shopping for a new horse. Is a pre-purchase exam important?

We turned to our friends at the American Association of Equine Practitioners for an answer.


Owning a horse can be a big investment in time, money and emotion. Unfortunately, horses seldom come with a money-back guarantee. That’s why it is so important to investigate the horse’s overall health and condition through a pre-purchase exam conducted by an equine veterinarian.

Whether you want a horse as a family pet, a pleasure mount, a breeding animal or a high performance athlete, you stand the best chance of getting one that meets your needs by investing in a Read the rest of this entry »

Older-Horse Health: Lying Down

January 11, 2016

Should you be worried when your older horse lies down a lot?


I have a 22-year-old gelding that is always the picture of health. Lately, he’s been lying down a lot. There does not appear to be any lameness or signs of colic when he gets up. Could this be age related? He has been eating, defecating and urinating well with lots of gut sounds.


This sounds like an age-related event to me. Oftentimes, older horses will have arthritic joints. While they may get around just fine, they spend more time than they did as a youngster lying down. From the information offered in this question, it certainly doesn’t sound like colic, and obviously the horse is well taken care of by loving owners. Read the rest of this entry »

Healthy at Shows

January 4, 2016

Whether you travel to shows, trail rides or races, it’s important to keep your horse healthy on the road.

ask expertThe American Association of Equine Practitioners offers simple tips for keeping your horse healthy away from home and guarded against diseases.


When I travel to shows with my horse, he is usually stabled for a few days on the show premises. How much should I worry about the stalls being infected with a communicable disease? What can I do to prevent him from getting sick?


The key points to remember to keep your horse healthy while at horse shows are the same points you would perform at home:
Read the rest of this entry »

Racehorse Checkup

December 14, 2015

A glimpse at the relationship between racehorses and their vets.


Does a healthy racehorse receive regular checkups from a vet, or is the vet called only when a medical situation arises?


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

As a general rule, regular checkups of racehorses are determined based upon need and trainer request. These checkups can be soundness evaluations; physical exams including regularly scheduled blood work; infectious disease problems; or as simple as evaluating the overall health of a horse. Some trainers request that their horses be examined on a daily basis. Read the rest of this entry »

Equine Ulcers

December 7, 2015

Answers for a concerned horse owner whose gelding suffers from ulcers.

ask expertQuestion:

I have a 7-year-old gelding that lost an extreme amount of weight last summer due to an ulcer. He never showed the typical signs of colic, but went off of feed and would lunge forward occasionally when pressure was applied to his stomach area. He underwent treatment for the ulcers, and his appetite improved. But I wonder, what are the chances of the ulcers causing colic, and what are the odds that the ulcers will return? I am still trying to get more weight on him and am worried that he may develop colic if the ulcers return.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bucking at the Canter

December 1, 2015

Heed this advice offered to a reader whose horse bucks at the canter.


I have an 11-year-old palomino Quarter Horse whom I have owned for a year and a half. While we are cantering, my horse bucks. I have had his saddle fit checked, and I have had a chiropractor work on him, yet he still bucks several times in the canter. I’m not sure how to break what seems to be becoming a bad habit.

When I first bought him, he was not bucking, but he seems to have developed this bad habit over the past six months. While I have a pretty good seat, I am concerned that I will get hurt if this behavior continues or, worse yet, someone else may get hurt.

I would appreciate any suggestions you can make. I don’t think he’s in pain as I have had the vet check him. Help!

— Marla Schneider


Any time I help with a problem, whether I’m present or not, I think about four separate categories: mental, physical, emotional and mechanical. Each category is self explanatory, except for mechanical. That’s what I think of as the rider’s duty of horsemanship, including being aware of the horse’s foot fall and movements. In this case, here’s how I went through the checklist: Read the rest of this entry »

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 answers:

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »