Friday, April 29, 2016

What is a swan neck?

A swan neck is a neck that curves correctly at the top, then dips at the bottom. It often appears to have an excessive arch. A horse with a swan neck finds it easier to lean on the bit or evade it by ducking behind it, so it's not desirable. It often happens when breeding for a more arched neck.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

What is a ewe neck?

A ewe neck, sometimes called an "upside down" neck is a neck that dips in front of the withers, causing a high head carriage and hollow back. An upside down neck can either be a conformation fault or caused by poor riding and training leading to incorrect muscle development - or some combination of the two.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What are fox ears?

Fox ears on a horse are ears which point slightly inward at the top rather than being straight. They have no effect on a horse's hearing or usability, but some people like them.

Monday, April 25, 2016

What is post legged?

A post legged horse has hocks that are too straight - there should be a good angle to the hock joint. (This is also true of dogs). Straight hocks tend to put strain on the stifle, causing problems at the top of the leg.

(As a note: I currently am in the middle of moving and have no good internet access. I may miss a day or two this week).

Friday, April 22, 2016

What are calf knees?

In horses, a calf knee is a knee like a calf's - which is considered a flaw. The knee is behind a straight line drawn from the shoulder blade to the hoof, which causes weakness in the knee and can result in chipped bones.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

What are knee straps?

Knee straps are generally worn by small children in the American hunter ring to prevent their jodphurs from wrinkling or "riding up," which can cause chafing. (Tall boots often have a strap at the top that serves the same purpose).

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What is splay-footed?

Splay-footed is the opposite of pigeon-toed - the hooves point outwards. It's also corrected with early shoeing or trimming. It can cause the horse to knock its hooves together, which can create injury.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

What is pigeon-toed?

A pigeon-toed horse is one that has one or both front hooves turned inwards. It can be fixed with corrective trimming and shoeing when the horse is very young. If not corrected, it can cause excessive strain and wear on the outside of the hoof and on the joints.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Can horses eat eggs?

Oddly enough, given they're herbivores, eggs are a traditional horse feed, most often given in the racing industry. Some commercial protein supplements also contain egg whites.

There are no reported ill effects from feeding horses eggs (some people say you should cook them first, but the tradition is to feed them raw - I wouldn't recommend that with commercial eggs, though, salmonella and all). They're most often fed to young horses that need extra protein, but are also supposed to be very good for the horse's coat. It's now become a somewhat controversial practice, but is still quite common in some places. If you're writing about racehorses in a time period other than very recently, an egg a day would be normal and it would be very strange not to do it.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Can horses eat peas?

Depends. Some kinds of peas are fine, and some are toxic to horses. Indian peas, sweet peas, ever-lasing peas, wild winter peas and cow peas are all toxic (as are many kinds of beans - any bean that needs to be cooked for a long time to be palatable for humans is, well, no more palatable to horses unless cooked for a long time).

However, other peas such as green peas, split peas or field peas are not just okay for horses, but are actually considered a good feed for youngstock in Europe (they aren't fed as much in the US). They have a good amount of protein to support the rapid growth of yearlings.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Can horses get nose bleeds?

Yes and no.

Horses don't get spontaneous nosebleeds the way humans can. Bleeding from both nostrils can be a sign of bleeding in the lungs, which happens in some animals after exercise.

But horses can definitely get nosebleeds, where blood (sometimes a lot of it) comes from one nostril. The most common cause is a knock on the head causing damage to blood vessels inside the nose. If a horse has to have a stomach tube, it's not uncommon to damage the nose and cause a nose bleed. These are one off events with an obvious cause and the horse will recover quickly.

If a horse has a nose bleed and is coughing, they may have a foreign body in their nose or windpipe.

Repeated nose bleeds are most often caused by a fungal infection in the guttural pouch - which requires surgery. More rarely, they can be caused by sinusitis (yes, horses can get it), a bleeding lump inside the nose (like a giant blood blister) or, rarest of all, cancer in the respiratory tract.

But most of the time, if a horse has a nose bleed, he probably knocked his head on something like the fence or a tree.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Can horses eat acorns?

No! Acorns are quite poisonous to horses and can cause colic, edema and kidney damage. Fortunately, the occasional ingestion of a single acorn, such as one that fell off an oak tree, doesn't cause problems, but some horses will develop a taste for them and poison themselves. This is why you sometimes see oak trees fenced off in pastures (cows are even more sensitive to acorn poisoning). Fallen oak branches should always be removed from pasture as soon as possible.

Treatment is activated charcoal and IV fluid therapy.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Can horses die instantly from hitting their head?

Don't watch the video if you're squeamish. The horse in stall 10 apparently panics in the gate, rears up and goes down.

The way a horse's poll is structured and the way a bone in the top of the head is a little "free" to move rather than being fixed means that if a horse hits the top of their head at a certain angle they can die - even from a mild injury. (Horses have died from being smacked on the head). It's just a weak point in what's normally a very, very solid protective structure.

Monday, April 11, 2016

What is a cowboy shower?

A cowboy shower is a shower set up in the horse part of the trailer. It may or may not involve any heat (brrr). They're usually put in the wall between the front stall and the living area, or in the front of trailers that don't have a living area.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Can horses eat onions?

Feeding onions to horses is a bad idea (It's even worse to feed them to ruminants). Onions cause anemia in horses, even at relatively low doses for their body size. (In fact, humans shouldn't eat too many onions either).

Thursday, April 7, 2016

What is "marbling" a mare?

Marbling is a recent (last fifteen years) development in controlling heat in mares. They literally put a glass ball in the mare's womb right after ovulation. The mare's system mistakes the ball for an early pregnancy and the animal stops ovulating.

It's not a permanent solution - often the marble is eventually passed by the mare and it only lasts for that year - once the mare goes through winter anestrus she'll start cycling again, and generally it's only reliable for 60 to 90 days - although that can be the length of the show season in some disciplines/ And it can cause uterine infection. However, it's useful if you have a competition mare who's hard to handle when in heat, and once the marble is removed they immediately return to normal cycling and fertility. It only seems to work in about 40% of mares.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Do stallions fight over mares?

Horses are harem breeders, meaning that only the dominant males get to keep a "harem" of females and breed. So, yes, stallions do sometimes challenge each other to get to be the dominant/breeding stallion (the rest of the males live in bachelor bands). However, not all wild horse fights are over females - sometimes they can be over water rights, a particularly good patch of grazing, etc. And both mares and stallions in bachelor bands will have dominance disputes.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Can horses eat cabbage?

...or other cruciferous vegetables?

It's not advisable. Broccoli, brussels sprouts, etc can cause gas - which is much worse for a horse than it is for a human. You can end up with a quite sick and miserable horse that way.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Why do cowboys call inexperienced riders "greenhorns"?

"Green" is a general term for anyone (human or animal) that's inexperienced, but why is an inexperienced hand a greenhorn?


If you aren't very good at riding and are in a western saddle, the temptation is to grab the horn. A real cowhand would never do that - they don't need to. So it shows you up as a novice (except in those serious "oh shit" moments when you just hope nobody's actually watching).

Friday, April 1, 2016

When is a horse lathered?

Horses, like humans, sweat. A "lathered" horse is one on which the sweat has started to foam on the coat - which means it's not evaporating and not doing its job of cooling the animal. In other words, if a horse is "lathered" it should probably be rested.

Lather is most often seen under tack or harness.