Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What about kidney infections in horses?

I wrote yesterday that horses can get UTIs. Sadly, horses are also prone to kidney infection - often because a urinary tract or bladder infection wasn't treated. Another common cause is kidney or bladder stones - fortunately, horses don't get those as often as species that eat meat.

Kidney infections are generally treated with high dosages of antibiotics, but occasionally kidney removal is required - a risky operation in an animal that size.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Can horses get urinary tract infections?

Sadly, yes. They can also get bladder infections (cystitis). However, it's not as common in horses because of their size. The symptoms are pretty standard - increased frequency of urination with less fluid being produced each time, and sometimes cloudy or bloody urine. And while horses don't get them as often, they can be much more serious in horses being much more likely to progress to cystitis or, worse, kidney infection. As in other species, mares are more likely to get them than stallions or geldings. Also, horses with urinary tract infections often have signs of infection elsewhere, especially on the skin.

It's treated with antibiotics or antifungals (horses can, yes, get "yeast" (candida) infection).

Monday, September 28, 2015

What is "mouthing" a horse?

Mouthing means getting a horse accustomed to having a bit in its mouth.

These days, traditional mouthing has gone out of fashion - but I admit I'm still a proponent of it. Traditional mouthing means putting a bit and bridle on the horse in a stall and leaving it loose with the bridle on, with no reins attached. The horse is left at first for only a couple of minutes, with the time eventually built up to an hour (at most). Often the bit used is a special "mouthing bit" which has rollers or metal keys on it, which encourage the horse to play with it. Molasses or unsweetened apple sauce may be put on the bit.

Mouthing is also used for the process of lunging a horse with loose, elastic side reins to start accustoming it to pressure on the mouth.

Friday, September 25, 2015

What is a "Rocky Mountain Canary?"


The term comes from the amount of noise donkeys or burros tend to make, and the fact that they often make noise that alerts their handler to unwanted company.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What is a horse's poll?

The poll is the top of the head between the ears. Because of the way a horse's skull is designed, the poll can be prone to injury (in fact, a strong enough blow to the poll can kill a horse).

The word is also sometimes used to refer to the joint between the neck and the head, for example saying a horse is "Tight through the poll" means that the animal appears to have some stiffness at the top of the neck or right where the neck and head join.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

What is a transition?

A transition is when a horse changes from one gait to another, for example from walk to trot. In training, time is spent on ensuring that a horse's transitions are immediate when cued and smooth.

Going to a faster gait is an "upward" transition, and to a slower one or stopping a "downward" transition.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What is a passenger?

In driving, obviously, anyone sitting in the cart.

In the riding world, "passenger" is a mild insult. A passenger is somebody who isn't paying attention to what their horse is doing, letting the horse do whatever they want. Not keeping proper control over the animal.

"Stop being a passenger." Or when a non horse person insists some nose to tail trail ride on a quiet horse that has the route memorized means they can ride...

Monday, September 21, 2015

What is overfacing?

Overfacing a horse means asking them to do something beyond their capability - usually with regards to jumping.

It's most often voiced as a criticism of people who push young jumping horses too fast - asking them to jump higher than they're ready for, mentally or physically.

Image source: Craig Maccubbin via Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, September 18, 2015

What is a figure 8?

A figure 8 is exactly what it sounds like...riding two circles that meet in the middle to describe an "8" on the ground of the arena.

It's a common training exercise used to improve the suppleness of the horse and the steering competence of the rider. Figure 8s are often performed in the show ring.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

What is a serpentine?

A serpentine is a training exercise used to increase a horse's suppleness and responsiveness.

The horse and rider start at one end of the arena and maneuver down it in a series of loops, touching either wall. Three or five loops are normal, with the horse ending up facing the opposite direction to the start point. It can be performed at any gait. It is also sometimes used to help novice riders improve their ability to steer the horse.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What is the rail?

In racing, the rail is the fence that runs along the inside of the track.

In other disciplines, the rail is the outside fence of an arena. (The term is even used in indoor arenas which have a solid wall). By extension, the "rail" also refers to the route around the very outside of the arena - riding "on the rail" or going "to the rail." (The term "track" is also sometimes used, especially in a lesson context).

The riders in this arena are cantering "on the rail."


...can get themselves in the darnedest situations. No, nobody has any idea how she got in the well.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

What is a four in hand?

A four in hand is four horses being driven in two pairs. It's also sometimes called a four up. (At agricultural shows you might see six ups, eight ups, or even more).

This Thomas Eakins painting shows a four in hand pulling a carriage on a nice day (hence why everyone's sitting on the roof).

Monday, September 14, 2015

What is forging?

Forging is when the front of the hind foot hits the bottom of the front foot, usually at the trot. It's considered a fault (and can sometimes result in injury to the horse). It's most commonly seen in young horses that are going through an awkward phase - and they often grow out of it. In some cases, it's a permanent conformation fault, most often because the horse has a short back and long legs. Out of shape horses sometimes also forge because their muscles are stiff.

The obvious symptom is a clicking sound, especially if the horse is shod.

Friday, September 11, 2015

What is the diagonal/are diagonals?

When a horse trots, it moves two pairs of limbs diagonally. So, the left front moves with the right hind, then the right front with the left hind.

These pairs are sometimes called diagonals. When rising or posting to the trot, the horse is more balanced if the rider sits down as the inside front leg goes forward and rises as it goes backward. This is called being "on the correct diagonal" and riders are often told to "watch" or "check your diagonal." (When on the trail, riders posting to the trot change diagonal regularly so as not to put extra stress on one pair of legs over the other).

Thursday, September 10, 2015

What is paddling?

A horse that "paddles" swings the feet outward when it moves, most often the front feet. It's considered a fault and is caused by a slight angulation of the knee or fetlock. Paddling often results in a lack of performance (the horse is using more energy than an animal that moves straight). It can sometimes be corrected by proper shoeing.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Why do horse owners still use small bales?

These days, most hay is bailed in large bales - usually round, but sometimes square. Sometimes you'll see horses in a field gathered around one.

Most horse owners, however, still use the small rectangular bales. Why?

It's simple. The large bales require agricultural machinery to move. That bale in the middle of a field was probably delivered there. If you have a small to medium sized herd, it's still more effective to use the small bales, which can be lifted and moved by one (fit) person and fit in a wheelbarrow. Most horse owners can't afford to have a forklift around just to move hay.

Small bales also break up easier and if one of them's rotten, you lose a lot less hay.

Image source David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

What is a flake?

No, we don't mean a person (or horse) who can't be relied on. You'll often hear the word "flake" around a barn, usually associated with a number.

Small bales of hay split into ten pieces. Each piece is a "flake" and horse people often use this as a simple measure for the amount of hay an individual horse is being fed.

Image source David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, September 7, 2015

What are saddle strings?

On a western saddle, saddle strings are strips of leather secured to the saddle by leather disks (rosettes) and dangle free.

They're also called latigos.

They're used to secure things to the saddle, such as your rain jacket or a bedroll, but may also be purely decorative.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Why are there donkeys here?

When hiking in Switzerland we noticed some very funny looking cows in the pasture:

Yup. Those are standard sized donkeys right in amongst the cows. Are they work animals? Possibly, but a more likely explanation is that they're stock guardians.

Three species are generally used as stock guardians - a more aggressive animal put in with the livestock to deal with predators and other threats (there aren't officially wolves in that part of Switzerland. Officially). Traditionally, dogs were most often used - the Great Pyrenees and Bernese Mountain breeds were both created for this purpose. Dogs have the downside of needing to be fed, however. Modern farmers are more likely to use either donkeys or alpacas, which enjoy the same grass as the animals they're protecting.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

What is a McClellan saddle?

George B. McClellan designed a lightweight military saddle in 1859. It became standard issue in the US Army and was exported to several other countries. Now a McClellan saddle is almost synonymous with a "military" saddle - the design is still used by ceremonial units in the US Army. It's similar to saddles used in Mexico.

McClellan saddles are still available for civilian use and are sometimes used by endurance riders.

Image source: SimonATL via Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

What is a concha?

Concha or concho is a Spanish word which means "shell." To a cowboy, a "concha" is a metal disk or a leather rosette attached to a saddle for purely decorative purposes or to secure saddle strings (which I'll talk about separately).

Silver conchos are most often seen on show saddles.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What is a neck strap?

A neck strap is any strap secured around a horse's neck. These are often used to support a martingale but are sometimes seen on their own. (In the latter case it's not uncommon for the "neck strap" to actually be a spare stirrup leather).

Neck straps on their own are used to give an extra grab handle for novice riders, usually in English. They're especially important when first learning to jump and also if the horse has a hogged or roached mane. (Yes, we do grab onto manes. It's not a problem as long as you grab a thick chunk of it).