Why Horses Can’t Vomit: The Equine Throw Up Truth

Can Horses Vomit
Can Horses Vomit

You’ve always admired horses, but have you pondered why they can’t vomit? It’s not trivial—it’s fascinating equine physiology.

In this article, you’ll delve into the unique anatomy and evolutionary adaptations that prevent horses from throwing up. We’ll explore their one-way digestive tract, the role of contractions and sphincters, and the potential complications.

Get ready to unravel the mystery of why horses can’t vomit—a revelation for horse lovers and anyone intrigued by animal biology.

Key Takeaways

  • Horses Can’t Vomit. Horses have anatomical mechanisms that prevent vomiting, including waves in the esophagus, a strong cardiac sphincter, and a steep angle at which the food pipe enters the stomach.
  • The inability to vomit increases the risk and severity of a distended stomach in horses, which can lead to stomach rupture or popping.
  • Choking episodes in horses, where food gets stuck in the food pipe, require veterinary attention to remove the obstruction and are different from vomiting.
  • Understanding why horses cannot vomit is important for horse owners to recognize and address potential digestive issues, prevent complications, and ensure the horse’s well-being.

The Physiology of Horses

Understanding the physiology of horses, particularly their digestive system, is crucial to grasp why they can’t vomit. With a unique one-way digestive tract, esophageal design, and strong cardiac sphincter, horses are anatomically incapable of throwing up.

This design not only affects their feeding habits but also has significant implications for their overall health and well-being.

Horse Digestive System

To fully grasp why horses can’t vomit, you’ll need to delve into the unique physiology of their digestive system.

Unlike humans, a horse’s digestive system is a one-way street. Their stomach is small, and the food moves rapidly into the intestines. The esophagus enters the stomach at an acute angle creating a one-way valve, preventing food from being pushed back up.

The equine stomach also has a strong lining and muscular walls that contract, grinding down food and pushing it toward the intestines. The incapacity to vomit protects the horse from choking, especially while eating and running simultaneously.

While this digestive design can lead to issues like colic, it’s essential to the horse’s survival strategy. Understanding this can help you better care for these majestic creatures.

The Inability to Vomit

You might wonder why horses can’t vomit, and the answer lies in their unique anatomy.

The esophagus, stomach structure, and cardiac sphincter all play crucial roles in this phenomenon.

Let’s explore these factors and shed light on the equine inability to vomit.

White Horse Eating

The Role of the Esophagus

Grasping the role of the horse’s esophagus is important in comprehending why they can’t vomit. The esophagus and stomach of a horse function in harmony, pushing food in one direction, thanks to physiological adaptations. The esophagus, with its muscular contractions, propels food towards the stomach.

The cardiac sphincter, a robust valve at the junction of the esophagus and stomach, only allows one-way passage of food.

The angle between the esophagus and the stomach in horses is sharp, promoting a one-way flow and preventing regurgitation.

The horse’s stomach is designed to withstand high pressure, making it less likely to force contents back up the esophagus.

Thus, horses can’t vomit, a design nature put in place to ensure they could graze continuously without discomfort.

The Stomach Structure

Digging deeper into the structure of a horse’s stomach, you’ll understand why it physically can’t vomit. The stomach structure of a horse is such that it has a one-way digestive tract. This means that once food enters, it can only move forward, not backward. The cardiac sphincter, a strong, one-way valve, seals off the stomach from the esophagus. This prevents the backflow of food, thus making vomiting impossible for horses.

Here’s a snapshot of the horse’s digestive system:

Digestive PartFunction
StomachDigests food, sealed by the sphincter
Cardiac SphincterOne-way system ensures food only moves forward
Digestive TractA one-way system ensures food only moves forward

Understanding this can help in better serving and caring for these magnificent creatures.

The Cardiac Sphincter Function

From the layout of their stomach structure, it’s clear that the cardiac sphincter plays a vital role in a horse’s inability to vomit. This one-way valve permits food into the stomach, but not back up the esophagus. It’s so strong in horses that it doesn’t relax to allow for regurgitation, hence why horses can’t throw up.

The cardiac sphincter function is especially pivotal in ensuring the one-way flow of food. Its strength prevents the concern of a horse vomiting. Its inflexibility also means that in extreme cases where a horse’s stomach is overfilled, rather than vomiting, the stomach can rupture.

Dangers of Vomiting for Horses

While it’s true that horses can’t vomit, if they could, it would present serious health risks.

Imagine a scenario where choking hazards arise from partially digested food particles being expelled at high speed.

Additionally, vomiting could disrupt the absorption of essential nutrients, which are vital for a horse’s health and well-being.

Horse Eating Hay

Possible Choking Hazards

Understanding the potential choking hazards associated with a horse’s inability to vomit is important in your role as a horse owner. Since horses can’t reverse the flow of ingested material from their stomachs to their mouths, they’re vulnerable to choking if they swallow something that becomes lodged in their esophagus.

Here are three key points to remember:

  • Horses’ inability to vomit means they can’t expel obstructions from their mouths, leading to a choke.
  • Ingested objects that are too large or difficult to swallow can become stuck in the horse’s esophagus.
  • Regular monitoring of your horse’s eating habits can help prevent choke.

Stay vigilant and consult a vet if your horse shows signs of distress while eating. Your proactive care can prevent serious complications.

Impact on Nutrient Absorption

As a horse owner, you need to know that the inability of horses to vomit could potentially affect their ability to absorb nutrients effectively.

Horses can’t vomit because of their unique gastrointestinal structure. This means that everything they eat must pass through their entire digestive tract, from the mouth to the intestine. This process can take up to 48 hours.

If a horse consumes something harmful, unlike other animals that can vomit it out, the harmful substance stays inside, disrupting nutrient absorption. This poses a risk to the horse’s overall health.

Monitor your horse’s feed carefully. Any changes in eating behavior or signs of discomfort should be addressed immediately to ensure optimal nutrient absorption and health.

Differences in Animal Vomiting Capabilities

You might be wondering how different animals compare when it comes to the capability of vomiting.

It’s interesting to note that while some animals, like dogs and cats, can easily throw up, others, like horses, have a physiological structure that prevents this occurrence.

Let’s explore these fascinating differences, shedding light on the variety of digestive systems in the animal kingdom.

Horse Veterinarian

Comparing Horses to Other Animals

Compared to other animals, horses’ inability to vomit might seem odd, but it’s a unique adaptation that serves their specific needs. As a mammal species that’s evolved in the wild, horses have developed a one-way digestive system that prevents regurgitation.

Here’s how they compare to other animals:

  • Unlike many mammals, horses can’t reverse the flow of food due to a strong cardiac sphincter, which acts as a one-way valve in their esophagus.
  • Animals like dogs and cats can vomit to expel harmful substances, but horses have evolved to have a high tolerance for different types of food.
  • While ruminants like cows regurgitate food for further chewing, horses have a highly efficient digestive system that extracts nutrients effectively, negating the need for regurgitation.

Understanding such differences is crucial to effectively serve and care for these majestic creatures.

Wild Animals

Diving into the world of wild animals, let’s explore how their vomiting capabilities differ greatly from those of our horses. Unlike horses, many wild animals have the ability to vomit as a survival mechanism.

Predators, for instance, can vomit to rid their bodies of indigestible items, like bones or fur. This ability can also help them escape danger by lightening their load to flee faster.

Conversely, your horse can’t vomit due to its unique digestive system design. This design serves to efficiently process a steady intake of grass, not occasional large meals like a predator.

It’s fascinating how nature equips different species with varied capabilities for survival, isn’t it? Remember, understanding these differences can better equip you to serve the animals in your care.

Pets and Domesticated Animals

Moving on from wild animals, let’s talk about the digestive capabilities of our pets and other domesticated animals, which can be starkly different from those of horses.

Dogs and cats, unlike horses, can vomit to expel harmful substances from their bodies. This ability provides them with a protective mechanism against ingesting harmful foods.

Birds, similar to horses, can’t vomit, but they can regurgitate food to feed their young.

Small mammals like rabbits and rodents also can’t vomit, which makes them susceptible to gastrointestinal issues if they consume the wrong foods.

The capabilities of pets and domesticated animals to vomit vary widely, underscoring the importance of understanding each animal’s unique needs for their health and well-being.


Why can’t horses vomit?

A: It is a fact that horses can’t vomit due to a physical impossibility. Unlike humans and other animals, horses have a strong band of muscle at the base of their esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter, which is normally tighter and prevents the backward flow of food and gas. This tightness of the sphincter is what makes it impossible for horses to vomit.

What happens if a horse tries to vomit?

A: When a horse tries to vomit, it can cause severe complications. The built-in mechanism of the lower esophageal sphincter and the throat prevents the backflow of food or gas, so when a horse attempts to vomit, the pressure that builds up in their stomach can lead to a potentially life-threatening condition known as gastric rupture.

Are there any benefits to horses not being able to vomit?

A: While the inability to vomit may seem like a disadvantage, it does have some benefits for horses. The strong band of muscle at the base of their esophagus and their tightly closed lower esophageal sphincter help prevent the backflow of gastric acids. This can reduce the risk of acid reflux and related issues in horses, keeping their digestive system healthier overall.

Can attempting to make a horse vomit be dangerous?

A: Yes, attempting to make a horse vomit can be dangerous and is strongly discouraged. The horse’s throat is not designed to expel stomach contents, and any forceful intervention to induce vomiting can cause severe harm to the horse’s throat or esophagus. If you suspect your horse has ingested something toxic, it is best to immediately contact a veterinarian for appropriate advice and treatment.

What Should Horses Not Eat? – Toxic Plants and Human Foods

What Should Horses Not Eat
Horse Eating Flowers

I know the feeling of wanting to “spoil” your horse with the occasional tasty treat, but you might feed your horse something that could make him seriously ill or even die. Food that is safe for humans to eat doesn’t mean it’s safe for horses to eat. We break down what horses should not eat.

What should horses not eat includes chocolate, caffeine, meat, tomatoes, rhubarb, stone fruits, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, persimmons, dairy, bread, bran mashes, lawn clippings, acorns, compost, garlic, onions, dog food, and cat food. There are also many flowers that are toxic to horses listed below.

Those are most of the foods out there that are bad for a horse’s health. 

Don’t get me wrong, your horse isn’t going to die from eating most of these foods occasionally but these are foods that you should keep away from your horse because they are unhealthy for horses, especially over the long term. 

Garlic, for example, is found in some feeds, but the quantities are well measured because too much garlic is very bad for a horse’s health.

Large Quantities of Fruit

Feeding your horse an apple or banana occasionally isn’t going to cause any serious health issues. The problem occurs when the horse gets too much fruit during a single occasion like when they find an apple tree or get a bucket of overripe fruit thrown into their feed.

Too much fruit can cause colic and might lead to founder.

Cattle Feed

Drugs like Rumencin are commonly added to cattle feed, this can be deadly for a horse. I would advise buying feed from mills that specialize in making only horse feeds to avoid any of these drugs getting caught up in the feed.

Human Foods That Your Horse Should Not Eat

Toxic Human Food:

What I mean by “toxic” is that these foods are bad for your horses health, if your horse eats a large amount of some of these foods it could die very quickly. It’s also important to note that regular consumption of these human foods even in small doses may result in death due to health complications further down the line.

Remember that a horse naturally eats mostly grass and there is a huge difference between grass and the following human foods.


Coffee, tea, and cola contain the stimulant caffeine which can cause an irregular heart rhythm. Caffeine increases the heart rate and can cause dehydration.

It’s a good idea to keep your horse away from these drinks as they simply don’t need them! What I mean is that horses get all of their required water from grass, so there isn’t an actual need for anything else.


Horses are sensitive to the chemical, Theobromine, in chocolate. Large amounts of cocoa can kill a horse. Chocolate can cause colic, metabolic derangements, seizures, and internal bleeding in horses.


Horses should not eat meat. They are herbivores. Their digestive systems are not designed to process meat and we don’t know what the long-term side effects could be. 

I know of people who feed their horse meat on occasion and it did not harm them as far as anyone knows. The problem is that meat is VERY different from grass and other healthy forage which horses naturally eat. The long-term health defects of letting a horse eat meat are unknown.

Garlic and Onions

These are part of the Allium family. Garlic, onions, scallions, leeks, shallots, and chives, contain the chemical N-propyl disulfide which can destroy red blood cells and result in anemia.

As I mentioned before, garlic is used as a horse supplement but the key is using it in very small doses.

The same goes for onions, scallions, leeks, shallots, and chives. What might be okay in small doses isn’t worth it when there are so many other plants out there which horses can eat instead.

Onions Tomatoes Garlic


The tomato is a member of the toxic Solanaceae plant family. The leafy green portions contain atropine, which can cause colic by slowing gut function. 

Hyoscyamine is the most abundant alkaloid found in tomatoes. Ingesting it will decrease saliva production and intestinal motility, which can lead to constipation or diarrhea depending on how your horses body processes these chemicals!

Well-known members of this plant family include chili peppers as well any other tomato-related veggies like eggplant and therefore should also be avoided.


Rhubarb leaves can damage the digestive and urinary systems which can then lead to kidney failure. This is caused by calcium oxalates which are found in the leaves.

Fruit Seeds and Pits (Stone Fruits)

Pitted fruits like cherries, peaches nectarines, and apricots are ok to feed your horse as long as you remove the pit from each piece. 

Fruit pits are major choking hazards for horses. Seeing your horse choke on something is very stressful and can turn into something very bad. 

Apples and other fruits have pits or seeds which contain cyanide compounds, which can be toxic in large quantities. You should remove the core of an apple before feeding it to your horse but if you forget don’t get overly upset about it as one apple can be broken down by a healthy horse and not cause damage.


Avocado is a fruit that horses have been known to eat. However, the toxin in avocados can cause colic, irregular heartbeat, and respiratory distress among other signs of illness when ingested by your horse. You should not feed your horse this type of plant and make sure there’s no access for grazing near avocado plants where horses graze or spend time.

Cabbage, Broccoli & Cauliflower

Cabbage Broccoli Cauliflower

Once again, in small amounts, these foods won’t kill your horse but if they eat just a bit too much they will most likely build up a lot of gas in their digestive systems causing severe pain and possible long-term damage. 

There is also a choking hazard because of the leaves and stems which can cause an obstruction in your horses throat.

These three vegetables all belong to a family called Brassica oleracea, otherwise known as cruciferous vegetables! This means they contain chemicals like fructans and goitrogens (plant substances capable of interfering with thyroid gland function). What this does is causes gas and bloating, or can also lead to weight loss.

If your horse is having problems with its digestion these vegetables should be avoided until they are feeling better!


Horses won’t normally care much for the taste of potatoes, they might eat the stems and leaves of the potato plant which is actually the most toxic part of the plant. 

If your horse eats green or rotten potatoes, toxicosis can occur. This affects the autonomic nervous system which can lead to death. 

Potatoes, like other large whole fruits or vegetables, can become lodged in your horse’s throat and choke them to death. It’s just not worth the risk!


The persimmon is a fruit that horses have been known to eat, but the toxin in them can cause colic.

Do not feed your horse any seeds or fibers from this fruit as it will become stuck inside of their gastrointestinal tract which can lead to severe pain and even death.

Dairy Products

Horses should NOT be fed dairy products because they are lactose intolerant that can cause a number of symptoms to include: digestive upset, diarrhea, and even colic.

They should not be given any sour milk or cream as these are the most common dairy products that horses eat when owners offer them without knowing their harmful effects.

Dairy Products Bread

Bread Products

Bread and other baked products can cause blockages in the horse’s digestive system which can lead to colic.

The reason for this is that they are not able to digest the baked product and the carbohydrates in it. Bread dough can even swell up inside of your horse’s stomach, leading to fatal blockages which will cause them severe pain until death takes over.

No matter how much horses might like bread products owners should never give their horses these types of food.

Bran Mashes

Bran contains a high level of phosphorus and very little calcium, which is bad for a horse. Your horse needs twice as much calcium as phosphorus. 

Too much bran can cause a mineral imbalance and cause diarrhea.

Plants That Your Horse Should Not Eat

Highly Toxic Plants:

In this instance, my definition of “Highly Toxic” plants are plants that can cause death in a short amount of time. These are plants that can cause death even if they are eaten in small quantities. 

Be on the lookout for these plants and make sure your horse doesn’t consume any of them.



Box privet is the most dangerous for your horse. Keep your pasture clean and clear of this plant.

This is a shrub that can cause muscle weakness, ataxia (general term for lack of coordination), depression, labored breathing due to paralysis of the respiratory muscles, and death when eaten in large quantities by your horse.



Rhododendron is not something a horse will typically eat unless their pasture doesn’t contain other quality grasses to forage on.

The toxins found in the rhododendron genus can cause death without medical attention. They are known as cardenolides or cardiac glycosides which obstruct the natural rhythm of the heart and result in heart arrhythmias that can lead to the death of your horse.

The highest concentrations of these compounds are found within fruit, flowers, or immature leaves. This toxicity remains even after the plant has dried out.



Ragwort has a bitter taste while it’s growing and horses will rarely eat it BUT once it’s dried out a bit the bitterness decreases and horses may eat it when the rest of the grass is lacking. 

Ragwort will affect a horse’s liver, pancreas, and gastrointestinal tract if eaten. 

Symptoms to watch for include:

  • Loss of Appetite & Digestive Issues (such as diarrhea or colic)
  • Increased Risk for Laminitis (founder)
  • Kidney Failure
  • Anemia

If you suspect that your horse has eaten ragwort call a veterinarian immediately to get the right treatment and care for them.


Horses normally won’t eat Foxglove because it’s a flowering plant and therefore bitter tasting. However, if your horse is starving they will eat anything.

Foxglove contains cardiac glycosides that can cause death to horses within 24 hours of ingestion. Symptoms include:

Colic with excessive salivation, abdominal pain, and respiratory distress may lead to cardiovascular collapse

Treatment for Foxglove poisoning includes the use of Digoxin immune FAB (ovine) serum as an antidote along with other supportive care such as the administration of activated charcoal via stomach tube & IV fluids until symptoms subside. 

If you suspect your horse has ingested foxglove call a veterinarian immediately! The treatment required could be life-saving but only available from a vet or specialized clinic at this time.



Yew is common in most pastures. The leaves and berries are just as poisonous as the plant itself. Just 500g of this can cause your horse to go into a coma-like sleep state and die. Yew contains the toxin Taxine which causes death in most cases.

Symptoms of Yew poisoning include:

Drooling, loss of appetite followed by vomiting and diarrhea within 12 hours post-ingestion leading to neurologic signs including depression, head pressing, ataxia (lack of coordination), recumbency with respiratory failure & coma before death occurs. 

There is not an effective treatment for Yew toxicity so prevention is key! Provide your horse with access to other quality grasses while making sure that none of these make it into their grazing area or pasture where they could be eaten.

Less Toxic Plants: 

When referring to these plants as “less toxic” what I mean is that your horse might not die from eating a small amount of them. Even though these are not as toxic as the previous plants mentioned, you should try your best to make sure your horse does not consume these plants as they are not healthy for the horse and can cause death if consumed in large volumes. 

Deadly Nightshade

Deadly Nightshade

This plant is common in the Eastern and Central US.  The leaves, flowers, and unripe fruit can cause the death of your horse if ingested.

Symptoms include:

Dilated pupils & tremors before seizuring or colicking (abdominal pain) occurs

Treatment for Deadly Nightshade toxicity includes the use of activated charcoal via stomach tube along with IV fluids to flush out toxins from the body until symptoms subside. If caught early enough horses survive after supportive care but only a veterinarian will be able to provide appropriate treatment.



Buttercups are often found as a weed in pastures as well as along the side of roads as they grow very quickly. The whole plant is poisonous to horses. They won’t normally eat it due to the bitter taste but if they are hungry enough or there is very little else in the pasture they may eat it.

Symptoms of buttercup poisoning include:

  • Swelling of face
  • Drooling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Colic
  • Blistering of the lips
  • Mouth lesions
  • Convulsions
  • Twitching of the skin
  • Paralysis

Dangerous toxicity levels are not common seeing horses don’t like the taste of Buttercups and therefore won’t consume enough to cause extreme toxicity.

Once the plant is removed from your horses environment symptoms should start to get better. Should your horse have high levels of toxicity the treatment will vary depending on symptoms which may include medications, therapy or both.



Acorns are loved by many horses but can cause colic, a build-up of gas in the gut) Acorns drop in the Autumn and you should collect them off the ground or maybe even prohibit grazing around those trees until they have all dropped and been collected after Autumn has passed.

The tannins found in acorns are poisonous to horses, causing gastroenteritis and kidney failure.

Acorn poisoning is a serious and often fatal disease. The only treatment that vets can offer to move things through the gut is charcoal feeds, Epsom salts, or liquid paraffin. Fluids and electrolytes are also given to help the horse with possible dehydration.

Sycamore, Maple and Other Acers

Helicopter seeds

Helicopter seeds in Autumn and saplings in Spring contain hypoglycin-A that causes atypical myopathy in horses. Symptoms include:

  • Muscular stiffness
  • Reluctance to walk
  • Muscle tremors
  • Sweating
  • High heart rate
  • Dark urine

Your horse may appear weak and may have difficulty standing, breathing difficulties, but may still want to eat. If this happens, call your vet immediately. 

Lawn Clippings & Compost 

Lawn Clippings

Sticks, twigs, and all sorts of foreign objects can get into lawn clippings. Besides the foreign objects in lawn clippings, green grass in this compact form is way too much for your horse to consume in one go. 

Another reason why lawn clippings are a bad idea for horses is there can be so many hazardous plants in the lawn. The plants that I have mentioned above are quite common in most gardens. These toxic plants can cause serious health implications.

Because fresh-cut lawn grass is so wet, it can easily become moldy before your horse eats it, this can cause problems for the lungs. 

Normally lawn grass gets treated with all sorts of chemicals to keep the bugs off or help it grow in whichever way. These chemicals can be poisonous to your horse even if the lawn was treated long ago.

Dog and Cat Food

Dog and Cat Food

Like most human foods, dog and cat food won’t cause death to your horse in a short amount of time. The problem with dog and cat food is that it contains meat products that have no health benefits for horses. 

A horse can also easily eat too much of this type of food which can cause colic. This food swells up when the horse drinks water and can cause some serious digestive problems. 

What Can Horses Eat For Treats?

Ok, so even most of the fruit and vegetables listed at the top of this article can be fed to your horse as a treat but only a bite or two. For example, one cabbage leaf won’t have any negative health defects for your horse. Rather stick to the below treats though instead of the above. 

You must always make sure to treat your horse with small pieces of fruit or veg, excluding the seeds or pits. If the pieces of treats are too big, your horse can choke. 

Having said this, the safer treats you can feed your horse still within moderation (only a bite or two) are the following: 

  • Banana
  • Squash 
  • Carrot 
  • Celery 
  • Mango 
  • Pear 
  • Grape
  • Lettuce 
  • Orange 
  • Plum 
  • Pumpkin
  • Watermelon

Don’t treat your horse every day or even every time you see them unless you only see them maybe once a week. Even if it’s once a week, make sure the horse doesn’t expect the treat from you every time they see you. 

Treating your horse too much can also cause them to get cheeky and maybe even start biting. Feeding your horse too many treats will also cause an imbalanced diet. 

Wrapping It Up

What are some things horses should not eat? What are the consequences of eating these things? What is a safe alternative for treats that can be fed to horses without negative health implications? What effect do too many treats have on your horse’s behavior, diet, and overall well-being? I hope this article has helped you understand what types of food your horse should avoid as well as how to provide them with good quality alternatives in moderation. We all want our pets to live long, happy lives so it’s important we feed them responsibly!

Can Horses Live on Grass Alone? Healthy Eating Guide for Horses

Can Horses Live On Grass Alone
Can Horses Live on Grass Alone

Surely if there are wild horses out there living off pastures of grass, domestic horses can live on grass alone as well?

So can horses live on grass alone? In short, yes, all horses can live on grass alone. Healthy grass for grazing needs to be rich in nutrients to keep a horse healthy. Optimal levels of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) need to be present in the grass. Some areas don’t have enough protein available.

If you’re planning to feed your horse off grass/pasture alone, we HIGHLY recommend you read further down to know if the pasture is suitable for sustaining a healthy horse.

If you’re going out riding, jumping, and doing other fun equestrian activities, you should be feeding your horse more than just pasture grass.

These extra activities require a lot more energy than simply walking around all day grazing the open pastures and so you will need to assist your horse in receiving extra energy with concentrates listed further in this article.

How to Know if Your Grass/Pasture is Big and Healthy Enough for Your Horse to Live off

Check Size:

Generally, if you have a pasture between 2 and 4 acres large it will suffice for 1 horse grazing daily. If it’s less than 2 acres, you will have to maintain the pasture through extra watering, fertilizing, etc. (You can measure your pasture size with Google Earth, just follow the link to measure your pasture size.

Soil Test:

All the forage including the grass is feeding off the soil underneath it. Soil can be very different from one farm to the next and we advise having your soil tested by a local analytical laboratory.

They will test the nutrient levels of your soil and also give you a pH figure which are the two most important aspects of “healthy soil” After they provide the results they should also give you recommendations on which types of fertilizers to use or how much Agricultural lime you should apply if your soil is too acidic.

Check The pH level:

Similar to checking the pH of a pool. The optimal pH number is 7, anything higher than 7 is considered basic, and a pH lower than 7 is considered acidic. For your horse to live off this grass alone it needs to be around 6 to 7 pH. If the soil is too acidic like 5 or below, it will stunt or even stop the growth of healthy grass.

Acidic soils don’t contain enough nutrients. Agricultural lime also called “aglime” is basic in nature. You will need to add the appropriate amount of lime to the soil to balance off the pH to around 7. You will get these figures from your soil testing facility.

4. Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K)

These are the three main nutrients, which at the right level, make for healthy grass for grazing. Your grass needs just the right amount of each one of these nutrients to be able to grow and reproduce.

Here we provide a more detailed description of each of these three main nutrients and the optimal target of nine different nutrients in your pasture.

4.1 Nitrogen (N)

If there is sufficient Nitrogen (N) in your grass it will be dark green, full and bushy. If the grass is pale/light green or maybe even yellow and growing slowly, then it’s usually due to a lack of Nitrogen (N)

Adding too much Nitrogen (N) to your grass in one dose can be bad. It’s best to apply the total recommended amount over two or three applications. Ask your supplier for detailed instructions for the application of their product and how to spread it out.

4.2 Phosphorus (P)

Phosphorus (P) needs to be at the right level to assist with great root development. If the grass and other forage don’t have well-rooted systems, they will not get enough nutrients from the soil.

4.3 Potassium (K)

Potassium (K) is related to the hardiness of the grass and other forage. If your grass lacks potassium, it might not survive the winter conditions. It also might die off due to a lack of disease resistance. Slow growth is another sign of potassium deficiency.

What Are the Optimum Nutrient Targets For Pastures?

Common Plants in Grass That Are Toxic to Your Horse (With Pictures)

There are also toxic weeds and plants within some pastures. Here are the most common toxic weeds and plants found in pastures amongst the grass:



Ragwort has a bitter taste while it’s growing and horses will rarely eat it BUT once it’s dried out a bit, the bitterness decreases, and horses may eat it when the rest of the grass is lacking.

Ragwort contains toxins that will result in liver failure or even death. Consumption of only a few pounds over the horse’s lifetime can result in death.

Use herbicides or manual control in order to uproot, remove, and burn. Spray there when they are at the rosette stage, don’t wait for the stem to appear. Mowing and cutting ragwort will make it grow back more quickly.



Horses normally won’t eat Foxglove, but if it’s dried up in grass, it can be eaten without hesitation. Just 100g of this stuff dried up in hay could prove fatal.

Symptoms of foxglove poisoning include contracted pupils, convulsions, breathing difficulties, and death after only a few hours.

Deadly Nightshade

Deadly Nightshade

Contrary to the name, Deadly Nightshade is not normally deadly but may cause unconsciousness, dilation of the pupils, and convulsions. Also known as Atropa belladonna, commonly known as Belladonna.



Buttercups or Ranunculus are poisonous to horses if they are eaten fresh and in large amounts. Unlike the before-mentioned weeds, buttercups are harmless after drying in the hay.



Acorns are loved by many horses but can cause colic, a build-up of gas in the gut) Acorns drop in the Autumn and you should collect them off the ground or maybe even prohibit grazing around those trees until they have all dropped and been collected after Autumn has passed.



Yew is common in most pastures. The leaves and berries are just as poisonous as the plant itself, so make sure that none of these make it to your grazing area.
Just 500g of this can cause your horse to go into a coma-like sleep state and die.



Box privet is the most dangerous for your horse. Keep your pasture clean and clear of this.



Consumption of a small amount of Rhododendron can cause death by failure of the respiratory system.

Sycamore, maple, and other acers

Maple Seeds

Helicopter seeds in Autumn and saplings in Spring contain hypoglycin-A which causes atypical myopathy in horses. Symptoms include muscular stiffness, reluctance to walk, muscle tremors, sweating, depression, high heart rate, and dark urine (reddish in color). Your horse may appear weak and may have difficulty standing, and breathing difficulties, but may still want to eat. If this happens, call your vet immediately.

Basic Guidelines for Feeding Your Horse

Roughage usually grass should be the bulk of the horses’ diet

For most non-competitive horses, roughage from the pasture or hay will be sufficient. Even if you do supplement your horses’ diet with concentrate, it should not be anywhere near the volume of grass feed. A horse should eat around 1 to 2% of its own body weight in roughage every day.

Horses normally walk around the pasture slowly nibbling away on the grass while slowly digesting it. Horses that spend a lot of their time in the stable should have access to hay for most of the day to replicate natural grazing.

This roughage constantly moving through their systems will be best for their natural digestive systems.

Grain and Other Concentrates Should be Fed in Small Amounts

If you need to feed your horse extra concentrates like grain, make sure to spread out the total dose over 2 or 3 meals during the day. This will ensure the proper absorption of the grain. It’s much better for the digestive system because it’s a more natural way to consume food.

  • The amount of food your horse needs depends on the size of your horse and on how much energy your horse needs to exert on an average day.
  • If your horse does get to graze on pasture, how healthy is that pasture? If your pasture is lacking in the ways mentioned earlier in this article, you will need to supplement the diet with additional hay.
  • The health of the pasture is very dependent on the season you are in. In winter you may need to supplement more, and in summer you might not need to supplement the diet at all.
  • With all supplements and concentrates, always start off with small measurements and increase if required.
  • As your horse ages and does different things, you should adjust the diet of the horse accordingly. It doesn’t remain the same throughout its whole life.

Any Change in the Amount or Type of Feed Must be Changed Gradually

A sudden increase or decrease in the amount or type of food you feed your horse can have very bad implications like colic or founder.

If you increase or decrease the amount of food or change the type of food, you can change 20 to 25% of the food with the new amount or type every day. Over six to seven days you will have a 100% food change in size or type.

Measure Your Concentrates Accurately and Regularly

A mature horse generally consumes 2-2.5% of its body weight in feed each day (on a dry matter, DM, basis). eg, a 1,000-pound (454-kg) horse-fed hay plus grain concentrate (feeds that are about 90% DM) should consume about 20-25 pounds (9.1-11.3 kg) of feed daily.

For gastrointestinal health, horses need to eat about 1% of their body weight in hay or pasture grasses and legumes daily (10 pounds, or 4.5 kg, of DM intake for a 1,000-pound, or 454-kg, horse).

Depending on the type of feed you are using, it can have massive weight differences. Weigh your feed with a kitchen or postal scale if you don’t have a feed scale yet. Make sure it’s the right amount for your horses.

Follow a Regular Feeding Schedule

Horses thrive on routine. They have internal clocks that are very accurate. A drastic change in feeding times or intervals can trigger a colic episode in some cases. It’s better not to take the chance and change schedules slowly if necessary.

Don’t Feed Your Horse Shortly Before or After Exercise

It’s best to have at least one hour pass before riding your horse and even two to three hours if you’ll be running and jumping

After a strenuous workout, make sure your horse has cooled down and slowed breathing before feeding, around 30 to 60 minutes afterward.

Hoof Rings And Ridges What Do They Mean

Hoof Rings Featured
Hoof Rings

Like the rings on a tree tell us a great deal about the health and age of a tree, hoof rings and ridges can offer an accurate glimpse into the life of your horse over a period of time and include such factors as diet and stress.

What are hoof rings

While hoof rings and hoof ridges might lead a person to believe they are one and the same, the fact is they are definitely different features of the hoof.

Hoof rings are external lines in the hoof that indicate fluctuations in the growth of the hoof wall over time. These growth rings can appear as tightly woven rings around the hoof, or one wide pattern.

These rings often are tightly spaced around the toe area and grow wider at the heel as the growth continues over time.

These rings can be found in healthy hooves and can occur due to changes in diet during the seasons. They can also shed light on changes in training habits and stabling conditions. Taking these factors into consideration, know that more often than not, hoof rings are a normal part of a healthy hoof.

What are hoof ridges

s stated in the last section hoof ridges are different than rings in that while plainly visible like rings, they are defined by bumps and ledges on the wall of the hoof.

Hoof ridges are easily recognizable, however, one notable distinction is the formation of distinct bumps or ledges along the wall. Horses that have suffered from chronic laminitis may have recurrent issues with hoof wall growth which can cause these ridges to come to a point near the toe.

Diets high in sugar can make the hoof grow too fast. This can cause the hoof to grow out and cause stress to the hoof by only allowing the wall to be utilized to hold the horsesweight. This is not how the healthy hoof is designed and this stress can cause rippling.

Prolonged trauma to the hoof can also cause hoof ridges. Long trail riding on hard ground that beat up the hoof. Excessive jumping and trotting can also place stress on the hoof. Once these ridges have surfaced it’s too late to do anything about them.

Preventing Hoof Ridges

Changing environmental factors can go a long way in preventing ridges and damage to the hoof. Diet and physical trauma can be managed to protect the animals’ feet. Change is indeed necessary as a weak hoof leaves the horse susceptible to laminitis.

Working with a farrier is beneficial in designing a hoof trimming protocol that can eliminate issues that are currently a problem, and remove chances of the hoof being injured at a later date.

Similar to a farrier, working closely with a veterinarian in developing a game plan of medications in advanced cases, or simply adjusting diet and supplementation will protect the horse from further and future hoof damage. A good diet where rations are calculated individually over time mixed with proper supplements like Biotin will foster better hoof growth and strength.

Create a simple plan

Adding the removal of environmental stressors is the first step in protecting your horses’ hooves from damage. Adding proper foot care and creating a dietary plan for hoof health will allow your horses’ feet to be the strong base on which build on a healthy life.

Moon Blindness in Horses What You Need To Know

Moon Blindness Featured
Moon Blindness

Moon blindness, with its aggressive progressive nature, is a danger to almost 25% of horses in the US. To the many horse shows, I have been to, and for the many horses I have shod, I have encountered several sad cases of this blinding condition. Even more saddening is when an owner fails to notice the symptoms of the disease. What follows next is often a quick deterioration of the animal’s eye health, immense pain, and loss of vision. Worst of all, at an advanced stage, moon blindness can no longer be reversed. The damage is permanent. 


What is Moon Blindness?

Vets and veterinary ophthalmologists refer to it as Equine Recurrent Uveitis (ERU). The name implies the repetitious nature of the condition that is a deep inflammation inside a horse’s eye. This inflammation is associated with pain and can lead to glaucoma, cataracts, and other forms of eye damage.

The term moon blindness refers to the buffing and fading stages of the condition. Previously, episodes of the disease were related to the phases of the moon, thus the name moon blindness

ERU is characterized by repeated episodes of eye inflammation interrupted by varying periods of clinical inactivity. The condition is one of the most mysterious horse health problems; quite little is known about it regarding cause, treatment, and prevention. There is no cure for it, but strategic clinical management can help to preserve your animal’s eyesight.

Currently, ERU remains the most common cause of blindness in horses. The inflammation often targets the uveal tract of the eye—the latter is the tissue membrane that shields the eye’s inner and sensitive tissues and chambers from the outer layer. The uveal also keeps pathogens carried in the blood from entering the eye’s inner layers that include the retina.

The blood-ocular barrier likewise stops large molecules or blood cells from entering the eye. It keeps away drugs as well and helps to maintain the fluid within the eye clear.

Inflammation or trauma to this protective tissue causes these substances to enter the eye. The result is the formation of antibodies that also attack the eye’s protein layers. An accumulation of antibodies in the eye further heightens the inflammation.

Causes of ERU

Causes of moon blindness are still unknown, but many scientific postulations try to explain its origin and development. These include:

Autoimmune reactions

One of the major suggested causes of equine moon blindness is the inflammatory processes of the structures that make up the uveal tract (iris, choroidal, and ciliary body). Being an immune-mediated disease implies that the horse’s immune system attacks its eye tissues after mistaking them for the disease-causing organisms.

The resultant inflammation and pain may fade away for a few weeks or months, leaving the horse with no apparent symptoms. However, the horse’s cells may continue fighting and attacking the tissue of the eye between episodes of inflammation. That may result in tearing, squinting, and other painful symptoms.


Some researchers believe that moon blindness is an infection resulting from the activity of Leptospira interrogans. The latter is a species of bacteria comprising of over 200 pathogenic serovars. The pathogens trigger the intraocular immune responses that lead to ERU. It’s not the bacterial infection that causes the uveitis, but rather the immune response to the initial infection. Horses contract leptospirosis through contaminated feed or water.

Viral infections

Equine viral infections, including influenza virus and adenovirus, are also classified as causes of moon blindness. However, there is still much uncertainty around these causative agents. 

Researchers suppose that due to hypersensitive reactions to viral activities in the eye’s blood-ocular barrier, the horse eventually fails to develop immune tolerance to his eye, thus triggering autoimmune responses.

Allergic reactions

Clinical evidence suggests that inoculations of specific retinal proteins, one known as the S-antigen, can induce the development of allergic uveitis in various animals, including horses.


Parasites cause ERU in the same way as bacteria and viruses –they create the breakage of the blood-ocular barrier, thereby resulting in an autoimmune response. 

In the past, the major parasite linked to ERU was Onchocerca in its tiny larva form, but that’s no longer the case thanks to ivermectin therapy. However, if ever there are strains of ivermectin–resistant Onchocerca parasites, they could certainly lead to ERU.


The Appaloosa breeds have a high higher risk of ERU compared to other races. This predilection points to a genetic basis for moon blindness. If your Appaloosa develops ERU in one eye, chances are the other eye will catch the infection too.

Remember, though, that equine recurrent uveitis is not contagious, meaning that it cannot spread from one horse to another. It affects all horses, regardless of age or sex. The underlying cause for ERU will likely remain controversial and debated for decades to come.

Other suggested causes of moon blindness include:

  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Tooth and hoof abscesses
  • Physical trauma to the eye

Symptoms of Equine Recurrent Uveitis

The first episode of moon blindness may occur in young horses between four and eight years old. However, not every horse develops a recurrent case of the condition. Vets typically confirm that it’s ERU after two or three episodes of the disease. 

I have seen cases of Equine Recurrent Uveitis on both eyes. Generally, if there is no immediate treatment and care for one eye, the other eye may get a similar inflammation later. It makes sense; the same bacterial, viral, or traumatic conditions that cause ERU can still affect the other eye if not identified and rectified.

Signs of ERU include:

Dilation of Vessels

The protective uveal tract contains many blood vessels. Inflammation would, therefore, lead to the dilation of the vessels and visible redness. Ocular fluid may also start to leak, denoting the disruption of the blood-ocular barrier. The presence of blood might also be observed, especially in cases of traumatic uveitis.

In most ERU cases I have seen, the affected eye is teary and swollen. It often seems as if the animal bumped himself onto an obstacle or got hay into his eyes. The horse then quickly recovers, the owners forget about it. But it starts again after a few months.

Each episode brings a progressive worsening of the uveal inflammatory process, increasing the risks for impaired vision.


The ocular inflammation in ERU is painful for the animal, and that explains the squinting. The sore, red, and swollen eye membranes would be sensitive even to drought and light. When both eyes are affected, the pupils are smaller than those of healthy horses when examined under the same light conditions.

Cloudiness of eye

Cloudiness of the eye, also known as corneal opacity in an ERU- affected eye, maybe due to corneal ulceration, stromal edema, or neovascularization. Corneal edema (swelling) results from the break in the structural integrity of the corneal epithelium. It pinpoints to the trauma and autoimmune reactions the eye has suffered. 

Neovascularization, on the other hand, is the sign of the formation of new blood vessels in the eye area in response to the loss of blood supply in the retina. The new blood vessels are fragile and bleed easily, leading to scar tissues, hence the cloudiness. In severe cases, this could lead to blinding hemorrhages.

Corneal Ulcers

Some horse eyes develop corneal ulcers and other complications that may compel the removal of the eye. The corneal ulcer typically occurs as redness in the eye, pain, discharge, and reduced vision. If the ERU leads to corneal ulcers, it’s an indication that its underlying causes could bacterial infection, fungi, or a parasite that causes severe eye irritation.

Treatment for Moon Blindness

There is no cure for moon blindness, but treatment and care help to reduce uveal inflammation, preserve pupil size and motility, provide pain relief, and prevent the risk of blindness.

After the initial acute episode, which may last several days, a dormant phase follows. The animal does not present clinical signs of ocular inflammation. But vets agree that even during this phase, the uveal inflammatory process continues. Early diagnosis, through a thorough ophthalmic examination, combined with aggressive and disciplined therapy, can significantly reduce the chances of total or partial loss of vision.

The progressive nature of ERU underscores the need for performing periodic examinations during the disease, should you be suspicious of the symptoms you have seen. For confirmed cases of ERU, regular inspections are needed as well to assess treatment efficiency and identify changes in preliminary examinations. 

A careful examination of the eyeball is often necessary for both eyes. Remember that inspection may not be easy in animals that have developed an involuntary tight closure of the eyelids. At the slightest touch, such horses become intolerant to manipulation due to intense ERU-related eye discomfort.

Your vet or vet ophthalmologist may use a parenteral sedative or perform an anesthetic blockage of the eyelid’s atrial nerve to help carry out an accurate examination. Other abnormalities on the external eye are often just identified through inspection with an external light source.

For successful treatment of horse moon blindness, consistency is needed from the owner and the vet. A hastened clinical evaluation, with the resulting therapeutic inadequacy, lack of treatment turnout, or even early discontinuation of treatment, often results in higher chances of failures.


Corticosteroids can be administered by topical, ocular injections or a combination of the two according to the severity of the condition. The medications lead to inflammation suppression as well as pain relief. But the consistency and route of administration play a significant role in the level of relief obtained from this therapy. Ophthalmic ointments are preferred to eye drops because they have longer contact time with the eye.

Beware, however, that corticosteroids may have unwanted side effects given their immune-suppressing abilities. The medications might leave the horse prone to fungal infections in the eye or even bacterial infections elsewhere, including laminitis in the hooves.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs are often widely used in horse clinics and can be helpful for the treatment of uveitis. NSAIDs have a remarkable anti prostaglandin activity (they stop inflammation by constraining the formation of prostaglandins, a group of tissues and lipids that control blood flow and blood clotting at an injury site) and thus minimize potential risks.

Injection or oral administration of NSAIDs may be required to control inflammation. They not only reduce the inflammation of the uveal tract but also reduce the chances of ERU relapses. The three common anti-prostaglandin drugs used in the treatment of ERU include:

  • Phenylbutazone – administered orally or intravenously (IV) and used for mild ERU infections.
  • Flunixin meglumine – administered orally or IV and used for moderate to severe ERU cases for it has anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, analgesic, and antipyretic effects.
  • Acetylsalicylic acid – I have seen this used with success (at least on condition management level) on recurrent uveitis after treating acute episodes with other drugs.

The biggest challenge for topical steroidal inflammatory drugs is that most have antibiotics in their formulations. In cases of moon blindness unaccompanied by a corneal ulcer, the use of antibiotics may excite uncontrollable fungal growth. Given that they alter the healthy flora of the eye, most vets favor corticosteroids over them.


Immunosuppressive drugs such as cyclophosphamide can be used to control severe ERU. Cyclophosphamide is the same drug used to prevent organ rejection in patients after a heart or kidney transplant surgery. Cyclophosphamide implants deliver better results than topical administration; the drug has a low ability to penetrate the eye.

Surgical procedures

Your veterinarian may recommend surgical treatment alternatives for your horse’s moon blindness condition. There is inconclusive research on surgical therapies for ERU. Procedures can only be done by experienced ophthalmologists with immense knowledge of the disease and equipped with the latest high-tech tools.

Recovery and Prognosis

Some animals often need long-term non-steroidal anti-inflammatory therapy to maintain eye function and comfort. The chances of vision preservation depend on the frequency and severity of recurrent episodes and the success of the treatment. 

If your animal’s cause of ERU was not a perforating kind of trauma, or if it doesn’t have any associated corneal ulcers, there is a good chance for preservation of vision after treatment. Several recurrent episodes and risk of blindness are prognostic for ineffective treatment. 

It’s imperative to begin early treatment once you suspect a case of moon blindness. The severity of the condition always advances with each progressive episode. In my experience through years, I can confirm that early diagnosis and treatment for ERU leads to a favorable prognosis.

There are currently many unanswered questions regarding the nature, control, and treatment of ERU. Little is still known. There is ongoing research on new treatment modalities, but confer with your vet (never start treatment for ERU without a vet’s diagnosis), they may advise you on new treatment methods to try.

Currently, early detection of eye changes, together with aggressive and persistent treatment for the symptoms, is the main way to combat the disease. Sadly, (as my farrier duties involve closely working with vets), I have seen many horses referred for examination and treatment at a later stage of the condition, rendering all future therapies highly inefficient. Sometimes when it’s too late, it’s just too late.

Prevention of Moon Blindness

There is little that horse owners can do to prevent Equine Recurrent Uveitis, given its complex and mostly obscure causes. You just don’t know what will cause the condition or what environment will trigger it. Be that as it may, adhering to proper nutrition, and providing a clean environment can certainly help to keep your horse healthy, for ERU is just like any other disease.

Provide good nutrition

Your horse needs a balanced diet comprised of vitamins, proteins, fat, and starch to remain healthy. These nutrients can be found in live grass, hay, or grain feeds. Nonetheless, minerals such as calcium, sulfur, and magnesium are always in trace amounts and may need supplementation. Vets agree that the MSM organic sulfur supplement is an excellent ally in the prevention and management of moon blindness.

Keep environment clean

As mentioned at the start, the suggested causes of ERU include bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viral infections or exposure. You can wipe out these causative agents by maintaining a clean environment in the horse’s sleeping quarters and giving the animal regular sponge baths.

Remove dangerous obstacles to the eye

Sharp objects in the horse’s stall can cause eye trauma that leads to ERU. Clear your animal’s environment of such obstacles, including nails, hooks, and hanging pieces of wood. Remove anything else that can poke or scratch the eyes in the animal’s grazing areas as well.

Call vet at the onset of any eye infections

Early diagnosis and treatment can help to suppress recurrent episodes of ERU. Therefore, soon as you see symptoms of moon blindness, call your vet. They will determine whether it’s a case of ERU or not and implement a therapy that prevents further deterioration of your horse’s eye health.

The bottom line

Moon blindness often needs urgent and immediate medical attention. The condition has several mostly unknown causes. Equine Recurrent Uveitis is also severe and hard to control. Treatment and management are costly, and the disease has a high chance of causing blindness.

Successful treatment and management of ERU require early diagnosis and persistent aggressive therapy after that. Prevention of ERU could be by proper nutrition and supplementation, maintaining a clean environment, and removing dangerous obstacles that could injure the horse’s eye from his environment.

Stringhalt in Horses What You Need To Know

Stringhalt In Horses

I have noticed a severe over flexion on my horse’s hind limb when he’s walking or trotting. It’s more evident when turning on the affected leg, backing up slowly, or when I suddenly frighten him.

Stringhalt in horses is the spasmodic contraction of the hind legs’ lateral extensor tendons. Although the condition is painless, it shows the horse is unsound. If it persists, the animal may be unable to walk properly.


What is Stringhalt in Horses

Stringhalt causes the horse to over flex when walking, to the point of hitting its abdomen with its hind leg. In such a case, the animal suspends its leg more than it does in a normal movement. It also drops the limb back quickly, thus slapping the ground hard and flat.

Therefore, stringhalt is a non-painful neuropathic condition, which is shown by this abnormal hind limb gait. You will notice this when your horse is walking forward or backward

Initially, I thought the horse was suffering from shivers, EPM, stifle, or locking patella. You may also be wondering what the difference between shivers and stringhalt in horses is. Read on for more insight.


Shivers mimic stringhalt since they both involve the sudden upward flexion of the hind leg when backing and moving off. However, shivers involve muscular quivering of the horse and tail elevation when making that abnormal movement, but it doesn’t hit the ground hard.

History Of Stringhalt

Stringhalt in horses and hooved animals is an age-less disease that was reported back in the Renaissance period. It is an excessive contraction of the digital extensor muscles, especially when these muscles lack enough opposition.

Clinical Signs

You’re likely to notice your horse kicking its abdomen with its hind leg and quickly slapping the ground hard. It is particularly evident when the horse is backing up or turning. It might also involve the two hind legs, and in extreme cases, the condition may include the forelegs.

Possible Causes Of Stringhalt

Stringhalt in horses is a neurological issue. It’s caused by the damage of the nerves, thus triggering the abnormal activity of spindles. These sensory receptors are responsible for detecting any changes in the length of the muscle.

In this situation, certain muscles contract differently, either early or late, when the horse is moving. It’s a sign that the horse is suffering from a neurological disease caused by toxicity. The abnormal gait may become severe, thus warranting euthanasia, especially when it becomes severely incapacitated.

Types of Stringhalt

There are two common categories of stringhalt in horses:

Australian Springhalt

The disease is caused by the ingestion of toxic plants like common dandelion, cheeseweed, and little mallow, although flatweed remains the main contributor of stringhalt. Generally, these weeds are not extremely toxic; however, their toxic levels may increase due to certain environmental conditions.

Flatweed In Pasture

For instance, you’re likely to notice this behavior during cold weather, and the symptoms are expected to decrease with hot weather. This type affects both hind legs and, in extreme cases, the front legs.

The animal may recover with time after it stops ingesting these toxic plants. For instance, there were two stringhalt outbreaks in Brazil, and Jose Allan Soares de Araujo, a researcher from the veterinary hospital, conducted research during that period. He fed a young horse with flatweed during this time.

As a result, the horse developed stringhalt signs after three weeks and showed some improvement when the plant was removed from its feeds. This seems to confirm that the suspect weed was the cause of the disease.

Therefore, you need to monitor what your horse is feeding on when you notice this condition, as well as provide a high-quality diet to support its recovery. You may also need to give them laxatives to flush the system or get the weed of the animal’s gastrointestinal system to prevent absorption.

Classic Stringhalt

Classic stringhalt is not associated with plant toxicity, but back or neck injury. Still, its origin is a mystery. Thus, the origin of this condition could be the injury on its neck, back, or leg. Most likely, stringhalt clinical symptoms may improve once these injuries heal. 

The animal suddenly jerks its limb upward towards it and drops it to the ground. The action can be mild or violent in classic stringhalt, as the injury deteriorate or when it experiences significant pain in its rear foot that originate from the stifle or hock.

In other situations, there may be no injury, thus making it difficult to determine the cause of the disease. As a consequence, the vet may consider other possibilities such as osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), which is a cartilage disorder at the joints. They may also think of Arthrosis or degenerative joint disease as the cause of the disease. Therefore, continuous training or intensive work may worsen the situation.

Therefore, under this condition, your horse may never recover since the disease keeps on deteriorating with time. It may begin with one rear leg and then progress to the second one, and forelegs.

Some of its treatment is botox, anticonvulsant drugs, muscle relaxants, and surgery. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that your horse will recover completely. Thus, it’s not advisable to ride it or perform any ground maneuvers.

However, if the horse is frequently used in the field, it needs a thorough neuromuscular examination first, for its extremely risky to ride a horse suffering from stringhalt.


An equine veterinarian that specializes in neuromuscular dysfunction is an ideal person to evaluate stringhalt symptoms. However, Australian stringhalt doesn’t require thorough diagnostic procedures like classic stringhalt. It just needs monitoring of the feeds to eliminate the ingestion of toxic weeds.

Horse Eating In Pasture

Orthopedic Exam

An extensive orthopedic examination entails ultrasound and X rays of the affected leg to investigate any major issue in the lateral digital extensor muscle, hock, and tendon. The vet may detect abnormalities in the nervous system reflexes that increase the tone in digital extensor muscles whenever the horse is moving.

One of the clinical signs that may be displayed during the examination is hypertonia, which is increased tension, rigidity, and muscles” spasticity. Hypermetria is another outcome, which is the ataxic muscle disorder, demonstrated by overreaching. Therefore, neurological problems are complex, and can only be discovered after a thorough examination.

For that reason, you may need to pursue advanced treatment from a specialist. They will perform additional diagnostic tests to rule out other diseases of the muscles like infectious diseases such as equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM) or polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM)

Diagnostic Workup

A horse with stringhalt symptoms may require hospitalization to provide it with close examination for a number of days. Additional clinical examinations include electromyography (EMGs), diagnostic imaging, and orthopedic workup that offer more accurate diagnoses.

With EMG, the vet is able to have a clear reading of what is happening on the muscles, thus eliminating doubts during the treatment of the disease.


Stringhalt caused by the ingestion of toxic weeds can be eliminated when the horse is removed from the pasture. You may give the animal magnesium salts and vitamin B complex to help improve its peripheral neuropathies.

The average recovery of such animals is six to nine months or less; however, those that have severe signs of stringhalt in both legs or forelegs may take longer. In that case, additional treatment should be provided.

Muscle Relaxants

The vet will recommend medication that works directly on the central nervous system. The drugs are helpful to horses that have persistent stringhalt problem. Botulinum toxin or Botox is used to alleviate stringhalt clinical signs.


Sedatives can be used to reduce anxiety and provide relief during a severe phase of stringhalt. For that reason, the vet may recommend anticonvulsants and other drugs in acute stages. Sadly these drugs are sedatives, and therefore, they give the animal suffering from stringhalt, only temporary relief.


Phenytoin (PHT) or Dilantin is an anti-seizure medication used to manage Australian stringhalt. It is used intravenously or by mouth to prevent focal seizures and tonic-clonic seizures. You may notice a significant improvement in the movement of a horse initially suffering from Australian stringhalt. The anti-epileptic medication is mixed with feeds at the rate of 15 mg/kg every 12 hours for the next two weeks. 

The objective is to reduce clinical signs of stringhalt, for it hyperpolarizes the horse’s nerve membrane, thus enhancing the potential threshold. Therefore, it dampens the firing of the nerves. Seeking long-term treatment for stringhalt in horses can be risky and expensive. It also contributes to positive doping tests, especially for racehorses.


A surgical procedure known as lateral digital extensor tenectomy may be done to remove a section of the tendon, or myomectomy running along the hock and the lateral digital extensor muscle. However, its success rate is not guaranteed, and the horse may never recover.

Nonetheless, in most cases, the procedure is able to alleviate clinical signs associated with stringhalt, and your horse may begin to move.

Common Questions About Stringhalt

Can Stringhalt be cured?

Australian stringhalt is caused by the consumption of toxic weeds in the pasture. Thus, your horse can recover some months after you withdraw the weeds from the pasture. On the other hand, classic stringhalt may be cured or not, particularly in severe cases.

However, you can retrain your horse to get around the condition with the use of Botox. The drug is able to temporarily help the animal to get out of its loop until it’s able to manage the neurological issues.

Your horse can have a good quality of life, although it may not return to its previous performance. It may also experience a relapse, while a horse that had severe clinical signs may recover fully and return to its normal life and activities.

Scientists are actively conducting research on this neurological disease to discover new causes and treatments. They are seeking to understand the origin of stringhalt in horses by conducting post-mortem examinations.

For that reason, they are investigating botulinum toxin (Botox) that is recommended above for calming the clinical signs of stringhalt, for it is used in humans to smoothen facial wrinkles. Researchers have recorded a positive outcome, and are advocating its use in higher doses to reduce stringhalt symptoms.

Is Stringhalt Genetic?

There are no genetic links with stringhalt since all breeds are susceptible. The condition is most evident in horses aged 4-5 years, thus inspiring many to think that it’s caused by genetic predisposition. However, even if there are certain correlations, the condition has several causative factors, hence making it hard to link it to genetics explicitly.

The cause of classic stringhalt is still unclear, although it is thought that the disease could be triggered by traumatic damage of sensory nerves of the muscle on the hind limbs.

Can You Ride a Horse with Stringhalt?

A hopping gait shows that the degree of equine reflex hypertonia in your horse is severe. Some horses may still work without impairment, but it’s technically unsound. Although stringhalt is not a response to pain and your horse may not be uncomfortable, it’s still not wise to ride on it or engage in aspects like dressage.

Summing It All Up

Stringhalt in horses is basically an outward sign that the animal is suffering from a neurological disease. Although the Australian stringhalt type is caused by the ingestion of toxic weeds such as flatweeds, the origin of the classic type is still unknown.

A horse with this condition yanks its legs up and halts them whenever it is turning, backing up or walking. Thus, stringhalt is an uncontrollable exaggerated movement. The symptoms may disappear after a few days when you remove the animal from the poor pasture. More so, you may provide the horse with a high-quality diet to speed up the recovery process.

However, if the persist, additional treatment may be necessary, and this may include the use of phenytoin or worse still surgery. Nevertheless, most of the treatment procedures are risky and costly as well as they don’t guarantee that the horse will remove and resume its previous performances.

Horse Splints – How To Detect And Treat Your Horse

Horse With Leg Splints

Horse splints are a confusing topic for most horse owners, as I have found in my 35 years of equine hoof care. Quite often, many dismiss it as a benign problem. In reality, horse splints need urgent and aggressive treatment, or they might affect other structures and leave your animal with a permanent blemish. This condition also causes immense pain to your horse plus a significant decline in their performance.


What are horse splints?

You will likely notice a bony swelling in the lower leg of your animal. The condition is likely to occur in a young or unfit horse that you put through tough training or hard labor. When you run your hand down his legs, you may feel a large hard lamp between the knee and the fetlock joint. These are the tell-tale signs of a splint.

A horse splint is a tearing or strain on the ligaments that glue the splint bones to the cannon bones. The splint bones are two slender bones that surround the cannon bone.

As a result of the tear, the animal’s immune system reacts by cementing the area with calcium mineralization. The protrusion is usually soft, hot, and painful in the first few days after the splint. After mineralization hardens, the horse splint manifests as a hard swollen lump.

If the intensity of the trauma that causes splints exceeds a certain threshold, fractures might occur on the splint bones — a splint bone fracture (not the same as a splint’) is a different thing. Splint fractures are hard to identify, and often lead to severe health consequences.

Just like splints, splint bone fractures are limited to horses under five years old. Their splint bones and cannon bones have not fused properly, causing the susceptibility to ligament tear and bone fracture. Both splints and splint bone fractures can cause lameness and other complications.

Types of Splints

True splint

A true splint comes out as a bony lump behind the knee. True splints are as a result of a torn interosseous ligament. The latter refers to a group of ligaments that attach the cannon bone to the splint bones. In the case of a true splint, there will be visible external swelling.

Blind splint

Blind splints similarly form out of torn ligaments. However, the hardened swelling, in this case, happens between the splint & cannon bones and the ligaments. There is little external swelling to see or feel. Your horse will feel the pain all right, but it might take you longer to realize it, and diagnosis is also lengthy, often requiring ultrasound or CT scans.


Periostitis is a soft tissue covering all bones. When the trauma happens around the cannon bone, the periostitis, in this case, shoulders most of the stress and becomes inflamed of falls off. The animal’s body, in reaction, sends more bone material to the area to fill the space. Periostitis splints are hot and painful with constant lameness.

Knee splint

Unlike the other splints, this one happens directly behind the knee, and the damage affects the lower joint of the knee. Knee splints can lead to osteoarthritis.

Causes of Splints

As hinted earlier, the interosseous ligament is still very elastic and tender’ in your young horse. When he approaches maturity, the ligament is replaced by bone materials, and all the three bones eventually fuse. But before that, you don’t want to extol him physically. Splints mostly affect the front legs of a horse when there is excess stress on the bones. Causes of splints that you should watch out for include:

Heavy training at a young age

I usually flinch with fear when I see an owner training a 3-year-old horse for more than an hour. Even for 5-year-old horses, anything exceeding 40 minutes could cause severe stress on their joints. For all young horses, take it slow. Allow their bones to become dense and robust, or the animals will suffer recurrent cases of splints.

Direct Trauma

Your horse’s splint nightmares can also be as a result of interference injuries. The latter refers to injuries that occur when one limb contacts another during the animal’s strides. You will often hear repetitive popping sounds when interference happens.

Another type of direct trauma that can cause splints is kicks from another horse. In both of these cases, the splints are more likely to form in the lower leg. Intense trauma could lead to splint fractures.

Working on Hard ground

Concussive forces as a result of galloping on hard ground can cause horse splints. Working your horse on the hard ground sends more concussive forces to the interosseous ligament, causing tearing.

In the cases I have seen, splints due to concussion often affect the inside of the front legs slightly below the knees.

Improper hoof balance

Hoof imbalance is a culprit for many horse problems, including splints. Your horse’s hooves should strike the ground as a unit. In cases of hoof imbalance, the outside toe lands before the heel, causing excessive stress on the medial splint. You would need to work with an experienced farrier and vet to correct the imbalance.

Spot the Sign of Splints

There is often pain with swelling around the splint. Sometimes the hard lumps are externally visible, but not in all cases. Here is what to look for:

The injured area is hot, painful, and inflamed with a small bony swelling

If your horse pops a splint, you will likely notice some swelling around the area. The inflammation is painful, and in the early days before mineralization hardens, its tender and hot. As the days progress, the sore is replaced by a firm and nonpainful lump.

Mild Lameness

Mild lameness is common in “Blind splints.” There is no visible swelling or bony changes related to the exterior of the affected region, and because of the delayed chances of intervention, the condition could significantly impact mobility in the animal.

If suspected, Radiographs are needed to confirm

Whenever you suspect signs of splints, a vet would need to carry out a comprehensive diagnosis to confirm. Radiograph tests can help to identify cases of splints. The scans can pinpoint the exact location of the horse splints, the size of the bone growth, and whether there is an associated bone fracture.

Treatment For Horse Splints

The objective of treating a splint is to decrease inflammation and prevent the calcification deposition from impinging on the nearby tissues. Treatment measures range from rest to the use of topical anti-inflammatory drugs. In severe cases, corticosteroid injections and surgery may be ideal. Reduced Work Loads or rest entirely

Reduced Work Loads or rest entirely

I would be cautious about riding through’ the splint. If you notice the signs, it would be best to let your horse rest for as long as it takes before resuming training. Ensure to layer his pen with soft materials to minimize stress on the already injured limb. This remediation is what vets call conservative management, and it should last until the horse feels no more pain in the region.

Topical cold therapy to reduce swelling

Cold treatment can be effective for recent injuries, often not more than a week after the splints occurrence. Cold hosing works even better if applied 24 to 48 hours after the sprains. Cooling the horse’s tissue temperature to below 50 degrees Fahrenheit significantly reduces pain, swelling, and cuts back the inflammatory response.

Pressure Bandages

Lower limb bandages can similarly help to tone down the inflammation and severity of the splint. Bandaging can protect the area from further stress and injuries. You can either use topical dressings and medicated pads for the job or simply wrap the area with a cotton sheet.

Sweat Wraps

This bandaging uses a sweating’ preparation applied to the affected leg. A sweat bandage generates heat, which is vital in dilating blood vessels and increasing blood flow to the area. The result is reduced inflammation. Beware though that this therapy is not ideal for the early days when the splint is hot and sore. Ensure to check with your vet first before applying one.

Anti-inflammatory Drugs

Your vet may recommend administering anti-inflammatory drugs for 5 to 7 days. The use of non-steroidal ­anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including Bute and Banamine, reduces soreness and provides pain relief for the animal.

Please note that as effective as NSAIDS may be against pain and inflammation, they can have potentially severe side effects when used without a vet’s direction. I have seen cases of gastric ulcers and kidney damages with these.


If you have been around horses for long, you probably know about DMSO. Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO) is a pungent syrupy liquid used for treating several equine health problems from neurological injuries to orthopedic inflammation.

Applying topical DMSO on the cannon bone region may help to reduce the inflammation. The active ingredients in DMSO attract and bind to water molecules, meaning it can help to reduce swelling. Your vet may recommend liquid DMSO injections in the case of Blind Splints, where the swelling is to the inside.


Surpass topical cream can help control pain and inflammation associated with splints. Your vet will carry out a thorough physical examination and history review before recommending the use of Surpass. The cream is contraindicated in animals with hypersensitivity to diclofenac.


At times, joint injections might be the right treatment approach for your horse’s splint, depending on your bet’s assessment. Perilesional therapy is especially critical for cases with a risk of articular cartilage degradation. The injections can decrease inflammation and reduce splint-related lameness.

Splints not responding to treatments

A majority of horses have a favorable prognosis for horse splints. In rare cases, the condition may not respond to treatment, remaining inflamed and sore. Your vet may recommend corticosteroid injections and surgeries.

Injections to splint area of corticosteroids

Anti-inflammatory corticosteroids can help to reverse swelling and stop the pain associated with the splint. These drugs are useful but note they increase the risk of laminitis for your beloved animal.

Possibly surgery to shave down the callus

In splints with more substantial bone growth, the condition can often interfere with the animal’s knee joint. In that case, surgery can help to resolve the issue. However, very few splint surgeries are often successful. In most cases, the surgery only stimulates further bone growth, and the splint size is increased.

Preventative Measures

Most splint incidences are accidental, resulting from the horse’s movement or natural conformation, and as such, can be hard to prevent. However, you can reduce the risk of horse splints by taking measures such as:

Slow down the intensity of work and training for younger horses

Have a regular farrier schedule for trimming and shoeing the animal. Ensure that the shoeing job achieves a balanced hoof level. Remove debris from the hooves before and after a ride and avoid working or training the animal on hard terrains.

Use protective splint boots

Splint boots can protect the delicate structures of a horse’s leg from the hooves to the splints. The boots support tendons and ligaments such that under extreme performance, the concussive forces to this region are tuned down.

Don’t allow the horse to become overweight

Excessive weight means more pressure on the animal’s limbs. The undue stress on the bones and ligaments would make him susceptible to splints.

Adopt a proper diet for with balanced Calcium to Phosphorus ratios

Proper bone health requires a balanced diet and an adequate supply of calcium and phosphorous. Calcium competes with phosphorous for absorption in the gut. Too much or too little of either of these minerals can increase the risk of splints.

Long term prognosis

Most horses heal from splints in 3 to 4 weeks. You can start the animal on a gentle to moderate exercise regimen from the 6th week. The inflammation and pain will be gone. However, cases of blind splints may take longer to heal, sometimes taking up to 6 months before the horse can regain full performance. The calcification will be a permanent blemish, although, over time, it may be absorbed to some degree.

The last word on splints

Horse splints are not just a cosmetic blemish. These injuries caused by trauma to the splint bones can cause crippling pain to the animal. If not checked and treated, the resultant inflammation and calcification can interfere with the surrounding tissues and lead to lameness. Taking it slow with training and maintaining proper foot care and diet are some of the ways to prevent the condition.

11 Crucial Tips to Keep your Horse Hooves Healthy

Horse Galloping In Sand

Think of the horse hooves as the foundation of a home. Your horse, with all its kilos, stands on it, and all its functions depend on that support and balance. Healthy horse hooves need to be strong and healthy for the wellness of the animal. If the hooves get damaged, the injuries could spread to the legs and other areas of the animal’s body. So how do you keep your horse’s hooves healthy, functional, and fabulous?

My first filly was a thoroughbred with their typical delicate hooves. For their athleticism, speed, and grace, one can think of such animals as super-ponies, forgetting the critical weakness that is their hooves. Some will scorn at the idea of regular farrier visits, but a severe bacterial infection of the hooves nearly left me without a horse, and I knew then that I had to pay close attention to the animal. 

Occasional trimming and picking don’t cut it. Turns out TB hooves absorb lots of moisture and lose all of it in dry conditions, leaving them weak and susceptible to chipping and infections. Other factors come into play, too, from diet to exercise, shoeing, and the environment. 

A compressive hoof care plan would entail:

1. Understanding the hoof anatomy

Knowing the functions and structure of the horse foot can help to better take care of it and detect conditions early on. Horse hooves have complex formations from the outside to the inside. 

Detailed Description Of Horse Foot Anatomy

The outer hoof wall: The hardy outer wall comprises of keratinized epithelial cells. Although it doesn’t have blood vessels and nerves, the hoof wall is a continually growing hoof section. It supports the weight of the horse and protects the inner parts within. Cracks and chipping on this part can leave the internal organs susceptible to damage. 

Coronary band: Atop the hoof wall is the coronary band that acts as the nutritional source for the hoof wall. It packs an ample blood supply, and injury to this part can damage the footwall. 

Close to the coronary band is the periople that similarly safeguards the hoof wall. It comprises of new tissues that grow and harden into the hoof wall.

The inner hoof wall: A sensitive layer lies inside the hoof wall. It holds several leaf-like laminae, which attach to the coffin bone that defines the shape of the foot. These structures bear a significant portion of the horse’s weight. 

The sole and frog: Under the hoof is the sole, which hardly touches the ground because of its concave shape. Although it consists of keratin, the sole is a little more sensitive than the hoof wall. 

There is also the frog, appearing as a V-shaped structure near the heels. Its primary function is to absorb shock and aid in blood circulation in the hoof.

The inner framework of horse hooves consists of:

  • The coffin bone: This is the bottom bone near the frog and is housed in the hoof wall. The prominent bone provides shape and structure to the hoof wall and has the tissues that feed the laminae.
  • The digital cushion: This lies below the coffin bone and near the back of the hoof. It comprises of cartilaginous material that helps to absorb shock in the foot. If damaged, the digital cushion might never regenerate.
  • Navicular bone: This is a small bone behind the coffin bone, and it helps to stabilize the latter, especially when the horse is standing on uneven ground. Assisting with the movement and support of the navicular bone are two tendons; the deep digital flexor and extensor tendons.

2. Schedule farrier visits as often as your horse’s needs

Just like human nails, horses’ hooves grow fast too, outpacing the rate at which they are worn out in the animal’s natural movements. A good trimming helps to keep the hoof capsule in proper balance for equal weight distribution. Even with shoeing, your horse needs regular trimming. 

Consider a trimming cycle span of not more than eight months. 

Horse Being Trimmed By Farrier

Toe overgrowth and imbalanced hooves often snowball into injuries for the horse. The stress on one side leads to cracks and chips and can cause separations that put further strain on the joints and tendons. This could then develop into muscle sprains. 

Remember that your horse’s specific needs might vary greatly depending on the physical activity of the horse and the weather. For instance, hooves grow faster in warmer weather than during the winter. 

But trimming is not the only reason for farrier visits. These specialists can also help to check for abnormal conditions that might have escaped your observation. Farriers excel at identifying early onsets of thrush or potentially damaging chips and cracks, under-run heels, bruises, and white line diseases.

3. Maintain high hygiene

You should clean your horse’s hooves regularly, notably after a ride, or a work session. A condition such as a thrush arises and thrives in unsanitary conditions. This kind of bacterial infection is rampant in hooves in wet conditions and targets the frog and heel bulbs.

Thrush creates voids in the hoof wall and spreads to the frog. You will notice a foul odor emanating from the hoof, or it will assume a chalky greyish appearance. In severe cases, a black gooey material oozes from the foot.

Regular trimming at the farriers can help to cut the infected area away and expose the thrush to oxygen, where the bacteria cannot survive. Nonetheless, you can do your bit at home to prevent the condition by maintaining a clean environment.

Check your horse feet: This should be a regular at-home hoof care routine. Check to ensure that the hooves are not packed with mud or rocks that can worsen conditions such as thrush or widen cracks. This routine will help to reveal other abnormalities, and you can then take immediate corrective action.

Pick out the horse’s feet: It’s a basic hygiene routine that I found compelling, especially for the TB hooves with their susceptibility for chipping. Removing stones and sticks lodged in the feet can help to reduce the risk of bigger cracks and chipping. Scrape off soil and small particles from the hoof sole using a brush for a satisfyingly clean hoof.

  • Remove debris from his feet before each ride so as not to add weight to the crack-inducing items lodged in the hooves.
  • After pasturing, remove the pebbles and sticks that might have gotten in there during the horse’s movements outside.
  • Check and remove further objects before stabling at night.
  • The next morning, remove manure from the feet before turnout and lookout for symptoms of thrush.

4. Establish normalcy through regular inspections

Apart from thrush, horse hooves are prone to other conditions such as abscess, punctures, and cracks. A routine inspection at home can help to identify and prevent these problems. You will also be able to seek the vet’s help before a condition worsens.

Check for abscess: Abscess is an infection that targets the soft tissue of the hoof and can lead to lameness in severe cases. The condition results from bruises and puncture wounds. On the other hand, radical wet-dry cycles can also cause abscess when the white line expands and contracts to let in bacteria and then trap them in there.

Signs to watch out for abscess include lameness on the affected limb. Sometimes the condition causes swelling in the lower leg. Other symptoms may be too subtle and will require the expert judgment of an experienced farrier. By using hoof testers, the experts will pinpoint exactly where the infection is. 

Prevention measures you can take against abscess include removing debris such as nails, sharp stones, and broken glass from the horse’s paddock and fields. 

Check for bruises: Bruising on horse hooves mostly happens on the outer wall, the sole and the frog. Bruises are caused by a heavy impact on stones and hard ground. If you work or ride your pony on had terrain, your animal is at a high risk of bruises.

Bruises are also a common occurrence in thoroughbreds. As was the case with my first filly, wet and dry conditions really impacted the hooves, making them weaker and prone to bruising. It was always worse in the summer when the animal had to continually stomp its feet to shake off flies.

Symptoms of bruising include lameness on the affected foot. Your farrier might help to identify other low lying symptoms and implement protective measures such as shoeing or shoeing with a pad. 

You can prevent bruising and achieve healthy hooves by avoiding riding on rocky terrains. One other solution I found incredibly helpful for the soft TB hooves was the use of hoof hardener products. Find a product that can simultaneously help to keep out moisture and harden the bottom of the foot. 

Check for Cracks: Horizontal cracks are a sign of damage caused by heavy impact and abscess. Horizontal cracks are no cause for alarm, but vertical cracks will need a farrier’s inspection. Vertical cracks result from imbalanced hoof angles and excessive hoof flare. 

With deep cracks, bacteria can enter the wall and access the sensitive tissues of the hoof. The clefts can also cause hoof separation. Both severe bacterial infection and hoof separation can lead to lameness. You can prevent the condition by adopting proper nutrition and a regular trimming schedule for your horse. 

5. Guard against excessive moisture and ice

Wet feet are bad for the horse. If you bathe your horse frequently, chances are their hooves are prone to cracks. When in wet, hooves swell and soften, but when the wetness dries away, the trotters dry and contract. This wet-dry cycle leaves the hooves weaker and prone to wear.

Moisture is also a hoof health risk for:

  • Horses that walk through the morning dew
  • Horses that are kept on damp beddings
  • Horses that stand in the mud for long

You can reduce the moisture in your horse’s feet by limiting exposure to wetness. Instead of soaking during baths, resort to sponge baths. Also, ensure that the washing area has no mud or puddles to minimize the risk of the horse standing on moisture for too long. 

You don’t have to soak the hooves in the summer as a cooling measure. The hoof is designed to adapt suitably to both wet and dry conditions. It is the temperature fluctuation that is bad for them.

For horses that stay out in damp and muddy weather, ensure that they stand on a dry place, possibly in a shed layered with a properly drained gravel pad. 

Other ways to take care of the moisture problem hooves include:

  • Reducing summer turnout time by a few hours, so the horse doesn’t spend too much time in the dewy night time.
  • Using a non-drying hoof dressing to prevent moisture absorption
  • Reducing the number of times you bathe your horse
  • Adopting a regular shoeing schedule in the summer
  • Avoiding turnout in wet and muddy conditions
  • Applying hoof coating to help with moisture retention in the summer
  • If cracks have already appeared from the wet-dry cycle changes, use a hoof sealant to keep off external moisture and preserve internal moisture

Hoof care in the winter

In the winter, avoid riding the horse on frozen terrains. The impact of hooves on frozen ground can lead to concussions that cause hoof cracks. Additionally, with the reduced traction on ice, horses can slip and suffer severe injuries or even fall into ice and get submerged.

Horses Winter Pasture

If you must turn out your shod horse in the winter, spreading sand or cat litter on the path can help with traction. Lead them to safe areas away from frozen water or streams.

Horse hoof winter care tips:

  • Avoid ice balls and slippery paths
  • Clean off snow and dirt from the horse’s feet
  • Remove sharp items (before winter) that might get buried in snow
  • Check fences and remove wires that might be buried in snow
  • Provide quality bedding for the long stretches of stabling in the winter
  • Proper stall footing is also important
  • Clean stall often to ensure dry footing
  • Consider padding if riding on frozen roads
  • You can use old carpets as walkways for traction

6. Adjust Nutrition

A horse’s healthy hooves depend on how he is feeding and what he is feeding on. Hooves, just like human hair or skin, require nutrients for strength and optimal growth and repair. Have the pony on a consistent and timely feeding program. Live grass and mineral supplementation often yield excellent results on their feet.

When your horse’s overall health is declining due to top nutrient deficiency, you will notice signs such as cracking and chipping in the hooves. These signs may be subtle, but not for cases of severe calorie and nutrient deficit. 

Malnutrition is a health risk in horses, but obesity can also lead to diseases such as laminitis. The condition is an inflammation of the laminae, which are the soft leaf-like structures that attach the coffin bone to the hoof wall. 

Infection and damage to laminae cause unbearable pain and can lead to substantial injury to the coffin bone. Laminitis limits the mobility of your horse and can even be fatal in severe cases. Although it has other causes, over-feeding the horse on grain is the main culprit for laminitis.

For building super healthy hooves, your horse needs a balanced diet and a steady stream of nutrients. Horses mostly require green pasture that packs the right amount of proteins, vitamins, and minerals.

Minerals: You can speak to your vet before supplementation, but the required minerals include biotin, calcium, niacin, zinc, and phosphorous. 

Proteins: Since 90 % of the footwall consists of protein in dry matter, this nutrient is very essential to have in a horse’s diet. It contains the amino acids cysteine, cysteine, and methionine, which help in hoof growth. Protein deficiency can lead to a reduction in hoof growth, or splitting and cracking. 

Fats: Too much fat can lead to obesity and laminitis. But the right amount of fat is critical for healthy horse hooves. Fat helps in moisture retention in hooves and limits the external absorption of water. In the process, bacteria and fungi are also stopped from entering the horse’s hoof horn. 

Compared to live grass, hay contains fewer amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Thus, for a horse that thrives on hay and grain, supplementation for fatty acids is critical.

Vitamins: Consider doing a soil analysis of your farm to ascertain whether it packs the right amount of vitamins and minerals. Biotin is the most critical vitamin for hoof growth. It weaves cells and keeps them together. You can put your horse on biotin supplements if you have low-grade grass on your farm.

7. Give your horse a regular workout

Exercise is critical to equine health. Horses are built for power and motion, so let them work it out. When they move around more, blood circulates faster to their extremities, including the living parts of the hooves. The circulation enables nourishment of the hoof capsule, helping it to grow stronger and healthier. 

A little stress also helps to harden the hooves. I have seen plenty of show horses that are confined to a stall most of the time; they generally have weaker feet compared to the ones that run around every now and then. But, remember that the exercises have to be done on good terrain, or they would lead to cracks and chips.

8. Shoeing is necessary for healthier horse hooves

The horseshoe protects the hoof wall. Shoes are especially ideal for horses that race or jump on harsh terrain, helping to shield from hoof concussions and the infections that might result from that. Mud is another factor that calls for protection with horseshoes. Just like rocks and sticks, mud weakens the hooves when it dries in there.

Farrier Putting Shoes On Horse

Other reasons to shoe your horse include:

  • As a treatment measure against infections or for posture correction
  • For traction on slippery terrain
  • Stopping of ammonia infections from urine-soaked hay

9. Watch out for the dangers of shoeing

It’s good to point out that there might be negative consequences to excessive shoeing. If none of the above-stated shoeing reasons affect your horse, then you can leave them barefoot to avoid the risk of injuries from horseshoe nails and stepping on clips. Your farrier should help you decide.

Caring for shod horses:

  • Watch out for half pulled or shifted shoes; they have bent or moved to one side, posing a danger to the sensitive hoof structures
  • You can also place a rubber padding between the hoof and the shoe for a comfortable cushioning

Shoeing tips for the winter

  • In the winter, get your farrier to design appropriate shoes for the icy conditions
  • Decide to go with shoes only if you will be doing a lot of riding in the cold months
  • Be wary of the risk of bruises from frozen mud
  • Use anti-snowball pads

10. Master how to remove the horses’ shoes

In an emergency situation, such as when risen clinches or shifted shoes cause enormous pain to your animal pain, you might not have time to wait for a farrier. It’s imperative then that you learn the process of removing a horseshoe to save the animal from pain and hoof damage.

  1. Here is what to do in horseshoe emergencies:
  2. Crawl under your horse and position yourself such that the foot is supported on your knees
  3. Remove the clenches by knocking them off with a hammer
  4. Pull out the nails using pliers or a nail puller
  5. Once you get all the nails out, the shoe will fall off

11. Protect hooves during transportation

Horses are prone to injuries in the lower limbs during transportation. Some of the injuries directly affect the hoof structure or the entire animal body. Protecting hooves in transportation can help to prevent falling, trapping, overturned trailers, and the resulting damages to hooves.

Horses Being Trailered

Before transportation, it would help to fit the horse with travel boots or put padding between the hooves and the shoes. These precautions aid to protect the coronary band from overreach injuries. Horses tend to step on themselves when struggling to maintain balance, and that can damage the growing coronary band.

Let’s finish this off…

For healthy horse hooves, your caring plan needs to consider the bigger picture, given the diverse factors that can impact hoof health. It takes the pooled effort, including yours, your farrier and the vet’s to get it right.

What Is Horse Cribbing And How To Stop It

Horse Chewing On A Fencepost In Pasture

In my years living and working around horses, I became well-acquainted with the tell-tale signs of cribbing: teeth marks on fence posts, chronic dental problems, and life-threatening colic. If you’ve ever seen a horse do it once, you’ll recognize the behavior right away from the arch of the neck to the specific grunting noise that follows. And if you’ve ever had to deal with the after-effects of serious injury or property damage, the sight is quite unwelcome.

Cribbing is nothing new, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still a big problem for both horse and rider. As a behavioral issue, cribbing often arises from boredom but can escalate into something more severe. The best method of curing cribbing is prevention, but there are some solutions available to horse owners who have to tackle this issue head-on.

What is Horse Cribbing?

Also called “wind sucking” or “crib biting,” cribbing is a form of stereotypic behavior that horses sometimes engage in. On the surface, it looks like wood chewing as the horse bites down on stable doors, fence posts or other wooden objects. However, the behavior is a bit different from simply chewing. What makes cribbing unique is the way the horse flexes his neck muscles after gripping the wooden object. This causes the animal to suck in a big gulp of air. You might hear a distinctive grunting sound when this happens.

Some horses will simply chew on the wooden surfaces in their stable or paddock without sucking air. Others may engage in wind sucking without the biting or chewing aspect.

Regardless of the exact form it takes, cribbing is a stereotypic behavior. This means that it’s repetitive and compulsive. Like a tiger pacing in the zoo or an elephant repeatedly swinging its trunk, cribbing is a repetitive behavior that only occurs in captivity. The underlying reasons for the behavior may include stress, boredom or loneliness.

Why Does a Horse Crib?

A horse may start cribbing for a number of reasons, including boredom, anxiety, confinement, stress, pain and gastrointestinal issues. What all of these risk factors have in common is that they cause distress. In response to this stress, a horse might engage in stereotypic cribbing behavior as a form of self-soothing or as a coping mechanism.

From the horse’s perspective, cribbing feels good. It produces a measurable physical effect in the body by slowing the animal’s heart rate, lowering cortisol levels and releasing endorphins. Cribbing an also boost saliva production, which may help to ease some kinds of stomach pain.

Because cribbing produces so many pleasure signals in the horse’s brain, the behavior can become addictive. This is why it can be extremely difficult to curb the behavior once it’s started. Just like a person who develops an addiction will modify their behavior and experience pleasure differently in order to seek that “high,” a horse who cribs may experience psychological and physiological changes that make the habit nearly impossible to break.

Myths and Misconceptions

Because cribbing is a common problem in horses and has been reported since the beginning of horse husbandry, many myths and wives’ tales surround it.

One common myth is that cribbing is a learned behavior. If you have one horse that cribs, the story goes, you will soon have a whole herd of them. This does not appear to be true. It’s very common to have several horses living together with only one of them engaging in cribbing behavior.

What Is Horse Cribbing

Instead, horses usually develop cribbing behavior due to a combination of environmental triggers and a genetic disposition. It has been shown that certain breeds, including thoroughbreds and warmbloods, are much more prone to cribbing than quarter horses and Arabians, although the exact reasons for this are still being studied.

Another common belief that turns out to be true, at least in some cases, is that cribbing can be caused by feeding too much grain. Horses whose diets contain mostly hay and pasture are much less likely to develop cribbing tendencies than those who frequently receive grain or sweet feed. If a freshly weaned young horse is immediately started on grain, the likelihood of cribbing goes up even higher.

What Health Risks Are Associated With Cribbing?

If cribbing feels good to the horse and has some physiological benefits, why should you stop it? That’s a question that often comes on the heels of “what is horse cribbing” from people who haven’t experienced it, and it bears consideration. On the surface, the behavior doesn’t seem like it should be especially damaging. Unfortunately, it can lead to severe problems.

The first and most obvious issue you might encounter as a horse owner is damage to property. Bite marks on any solid object within a horse’s reach aren’t much fun and can quickly add up to costly repairs. But it’s not just your barn that can sustain longterm, irreparable damage from cribbing.

Like most addictions, cribbing is self-destructive. It can cause physical injury to the horse who indulges in it. One major issue is air in the stomach, which can lead to potentially deadly colic. Bear in mind that horses can neither belch nor vomit, so trapped gas in the stomach can lead to rupture. Even if it doesn’t get that far, swallowing air can lead to discomfort, which in turn might encourage the horse to engage in more cribbing, thus making the issue even worse.

Another common problem with cribbing is tooth damage. Because the horse will frequently grab or clamp down with the incisors, these teeth can wear down more quickly than the rest of the teeth. This can cause uneven dentition and mouth pain as well as difficulty with grazing. Left unchecked, these teeth issues can result in malnutrition.

Horse Showing Teeth

In some cases, a horse may become so addicted to the cribbing behavior that he stops eating or engaging in other healthy activities. The cribbing obsession becomes all-consuming, even causing behavioral issues and distractions while riding.

How to Stop Your Horse From Cribbing

Cribbing cannot be cured entirely, but there are steps you can take to reduce the behavior and limit the damage it might cause. Different methods of deterrant will work for different horses, so you may need to experiment to find the right solution for your needs.

Behavioral Modification

If a horse is cribbing primarily from boredom, giving the animal more stimulation can help to curb the behavior or keep it from becoming entrenched:

  • Provide plenty of opportunities to roam freely. Horses on open pasture, especially those who have a buddy or two, are much less likely to develop cribbing behavior.
  • Frequent exercise can help to keep the horse stimulated and prevent boredom. If you can’t ride him frequently, work with him on the ground or in an indoor arena. A busy horse is a happy horse!
  • Invest time in training. Horses are smart, and putting their brains to work can keep them from getting themselves in trouble. Ground manners, trick training, and even complicated dressage moves are all great for keeping a horse’s mind and body occupied.
  • Offer toys for mental stimulation. If your horse must spend time alone in a stall or paddock, give him something to do that will occupy his mind and body. Commercially available balls and puzzles are available in many feed and supply stores. You can even make your own treat-dispensing toys with an old milk jug or other recycled materials.
Two Horses Playing

These behavioral modifications are most effective as preventative tools rather than a treatment for a horse who already has an established cribbing habit. Also please note that these behavioral modifications won’t help if the horse’s underlying reason for cribbing is due to pain or stress as opposed to boredom or loneliness. You’ll also want to rule out physical maladies and treat any ailments right away before the horse starts to develop his own coping mechanisms.

Environment Modification

If you can’t prevent cribbing before it starts, the next best thing is to make it inconvenient or physically difficult for the horse to engage in that behavior:

  • Cribbing collars and muzzles physically restrict the horse’s movement, preventing him from engaging in the flexing necessary to gulp air. This is a good temporary solution, but most cribbers will resume their behavior as soon as the collar is removed.
  • A slow feeder to deliver hay can be a useful way to distract the horse and keep him occupied so he won’t engage in cribbing. Feeding hay through a net or mesh feeder forces him to take his time eating, which might be a more appealing option than cribbing if the habit is not yet fully ingrained.
  • Metal chew guards, foul-tasting deterrent sprays and even electric fencing can all ward a horse off of chewing on particular parts of the stable. Bear in mind that a horse can still suck wind on his own without chewing wood, so a determined cribber may find a way around these tactics. This can at least curb some of the material damage to your barn.

Surgical Correction

One extreme solution to cribbing is a surgery called Forssell’s procedure. In this surgery, some of the horse’s neck muscles or nerves are cut, making the cribbing flex impossible. This effectively acts as a permanent cribbing collar.

The technique is effective, but it comes with the same risks as any major surgery, and it does nothing to treat the underlying issue. A horse may move on to engage in other damaging or stereotypic behaviors as a way to cope with environmental stress.

Holistic Treatments

Some horse owners may find that certain holistic treatments are effective in curbing unwanted behaviors such as cribbing.

Herbal supplements to calm the horse or to ease stomach pain and ulcers can be effective in some cases. Antacids can help to prevent cribbing if digestive upset is at the root of the behavior.

Other holistic or supplementary treatments such as acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, and even reiki can be employed, although their effectiveness has not been widely studied.

In Conclusion

Cribbing is a complicated behavioral issue with many underlying causes. Because this behavior is difficult or impossible to fully eradicate once it’s been established, your top priority as a horse owner should be prevention. If you do struggle with a cribber, know that behavioral and environmental modification can help to minimize the damage and protect your horse’s health. You may never fully stamp out the behavior, but you can help ensure that it stays as a personality quirk rather than a damaging addiction.

Keep Your Horse’s Legs Safe With Boots, Wraps, Bandages

Bell Boots

The athlete needs help whether human or animal. The physical strain that is put on our horses limbs by powerful muscular bodies will necessitate the need for protective gear. Leg injuries take up a lot of our time and a lot of down time. We must do what we can to insure against these injuries.

Most leg problems happen in young horses that we push too hard. Their bodies are still developing and the legs cannot take movements they are expected to perform. Most every discipline has a 2 year old class and we expect our young horse to perform like a mature animal when their minds and bodies and still babies and not near done growing.

This is when many splint injuries happen. Horses are trying to learn movements that when free and in motion are natural but when asked to do them under saddle must be taught all over again. Let’s look at some different leg protection:

Shipping Boots And Bandages

Boots or bandages are put on to prevent injuries when in transit to protect legs from getting banged with other feet while trying to keep their balance while moving. Leg protection is needed if a horse is scared while loading or just being obstinate.  

As you may all know horses don’t always need a reason. These wraps go from hock to hoof. Shipping boots provide more protection than wraps. Make sure the legs are clean of any debris as that can cause irritation under the wrap or boot. Watch that they are not on to tight to cause swelling.

Bell Boots

Bell boots fit around and underneath the fetlock and be Velcroed in place.  Some do have buckles and some will stretch enough to slip over the hoof. These will cover the bulb of the heel to prevent a painful injury .  They will also protect the coronet.

Proper Leg Protection With Boots And Wraps (Video)

Tendon Boots

These boots have elastic straps across the front and hook closers.  They have padding that protects the ligaments and tendons on sides and back of the legs but have an open front for jumpers so the horses can tell if they hit a pole when jumping.   Also the open front helps with air flow. You do have to make sure dirt and debris don’t get in and irritate under the boot.

Skid Boots

Skid boots go on the hind feet.  They protect the lower legs, fetlock and pasterns from getting hit with the other hoof.  Skid boots are used by reining and cutting horses and well as horses used in ranch work. Any time a horse has to learn new moves in any discipline this kind of protection is great.

Sports Medicine Boot

Sport medicine boots are used during exercise to protect the muscles and tendons as well as the fetlock and pastern.  Sometimes there are only used on the front legs and using them on all four seems to balance the horse better by supporting all four.  The medicine boot helps to protect against tendon strains and sprains, suspensory injuries and splints.

Splint Boots

Splint boots are used to prevent injuries during exercise when horses are learning new disciplines or tearing around in turnouts where the could strike one hoof into the other leg. Placing the splint boot or any wrap or boot on properly is important to maximize the protection.

Applying Leg Wraps (Video)

Polo Wraps

Polo wraps can add color, can be different length and are stretchy.  Polo wraps can protect against scrapes bumps and bruises and other irritation from dirt etc. These can be called track wraps but because of the type of material they consist of they will pick up sticks, burrs etc.  Therefore, they should not be used on trail rides. It is important to keep wraps clean and do not leave on in a stall or turnout as they can unravel.

Standing Wraps

Standing wraps should be used with padding and polo wraps.  They can be used in stalls for keeping swelling down or stocking up after a workout.  They are also used for keeping and treating injuries, cut and with some surgeries. If using a liniment make sure to check regularly so too much heat doesn’t build up.  Standing wraps can also be used for shipping if shipping boots are available.

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