Performance/Competition Horses

9 Unexpected Factors That Could Be Causing Your Horse Stress

By Horses, Performance/Competition Horses No Comments

9 Unexpected Factors That Could Be Causing Your Horse Stress

Have you ever been to a rodeo or horse show and witnessed — or experienced first-hand — a horse bolt from the arena as if they were being chased by a predator?

Short-term stress allows horses to respond to their environment, like running away from a thunderous bang, and particularly if the horse has not been properly trained and desensitized to that sort of stimuli. However, if a horse remains stressed for a long period, they may start to exhibit dramatic changes in behavior and other health problems.

A horse can feel stressed or anxious about environmental or social triggers. Stress can appear during their daily routine or in new or fast-paced situations like events. As an equestrian, it’s important to get to know your horse and their stress triggers, along with the methods you can use to reduce those stress responses.

What Does a Stressed Horse’s Body Language Look Like?

Like people, every horse responds to stress differently. What stresses one horse may not bother the next, and how each horse responds to a stressor may be different, too.

Prolonged stress can negatively impact a horse’s health, potentially causing:

  • Weight loss.
  • Gastric ulcers.
  • Colic.
  • A weakened immune system.
  • Erratic behavior.
  • Other behavioral changes.

As a horse owner, you can likely tell when your horse is a bit off. Observe your horse’s body language and look for the following tell-tale horse anxiety symptoms:

  • Weaving and stall walking: Many equestrians are familiar with the anxious tic some horses have, called stall weaving or walking. Horses who stall weave — a rhythmic swaying resulting from the shifting of weight between hooves — are usually anxiety-prone, bored or stressed. 
  • Shaking or trembling: When a horse shakes or trembles, their skin looks almost like it has ripples moving across it, and the ripple effect is often accompanied by visible twitching, too. This can occur anytime a stimulus triggers a stress response, including while riding, being led or standing.
  • Eye rolling: Eye-rolling typically happens when a horse is afraid, and it’s usually accompanied by shaking or trembling.
  • Backing into a corner: When your horse is frightened in their stall, their natural response is to get as far away from the trigger as possible, so they’ll back themselves into a corner.
  • Rearing: A stressor may trigger your horse’s fight-or-flight response, and when they feel like they need to fight, they’ll rear to defend themselves.
  • Spooking or bolting: When the horse feels like they need to run, they’ll spook and bolt, even while being ridden.

These signs can either be short-term or long-term, depending on the trigger.

Other Signs of Stress in Horses

In addition to the above, your horse might also show some of the following when they are feeling stressed: 

  • Yawning: No one knows exactly why horses yawn, but yawning may release a stress-coping endorphin that helps horses relax.
  • Tooth grinding: Horses grind their teeth for many reasons, including when they feel anxious or are in pain. If you notice your horse is grinding their teeth, and they don’t have any dental problems, then they might be feeling stressed.
  • Poor behavior: If you notice your horse practicing new behaviors like spooking easily, bucking, biting, rearing or pawing, then they may be reacting to a stressor.
  • Excessive sweating: Just as humans get sweaty palms during anxious situations, horses sweat when they’re nervous, too. As their heart rate accelerates and their breathing increases, they’ll begin to sweat and show other signs of stress, like weaving or tooth grinding.

As you notice these stress symptoms, take note. See if you can find a common denominator to your horse’s stress responses so you can treat the chronic stress appropriately.

10 Unexpected Factors That May Be Causing Your Horse Stress

Pinpointing your horse’s stressors can be a bit tricky. In many cases, a horse’s stress levels spike as the result of a dramatic change in their environment or daily routine — but that’s not always the case.

Here are some other factors that may be contributing to your horse’s chronic stress.

1. Separation From Herd Mates

Horses are herd animals. If you think about their natural instincts, horses stick together both for social interaction as well as protection against predators. Although your horse isn’t in the wild, they may still feel a natural anxious response when they’re isolated in their stall or alone in a pasture.

Your horse may feel anxious because they feel vulnerable to predators, even with no immediate danger around them.

2. Large Events

Just as you feel nervous before a performance, your horse likely feels nervous, too. At an event, there’s an assortment of stressors that may cause your horse to display anxious behaviors. Event stressors include:

  • Being surrounded by other horses.
  • Feeling separated from their herd mates.
  • Picking up on a rider’s anxiety.
  • Being in a new environment.
  • Not having access to feed or water.

The unfamiliar and hectic environment of an event causes many horses to feel anxious because they’re separated from the comfort of their daily routine.

3. Changes in Exercise or Diet 

Depending on your horse’s personality, they may feel stressed when changing their slow-paced training to a rigorous training schedule with high-intensity exercise. It’s the human-equivalent of enjoying a jog every once in a while, to jumping into a professional athlete’s training schedule. Even people who enjoy working out can find this lifestyle change exhausting.

Your horse may also feel stressed when you change their diet. If your horse is accustomed to a feeding schedule, they’re going to get hungry and expect their meal at a certain time. If it doesn’t come when they expect it or isn’t the meal they’re used to, it may increase anxiety.

4. A Poor Diet

Feeding your horse a diet that doesn’t meet their nutritional needs can make your horse feel unfulfilled and evoke stress. Horses require a well-balanced diet of:

  • Carbohydrates.
  • Fats.
  • Proteins.
  • Vitamins.
  • Minerals.

Additionally, horses need a balance between the fiber from forage, like grass and alfalfa hay, and grain to help their digestive systems operate at their best. If your horse’s diet is too high in grain content, however, it can create excess gas in their hindgut, causing discomfort — which can contribute to stress.  

5. Old Trauma

If your horse experienced something traumatic in the past, their trauma could resurface as a response to a current-event trigger, even years after the traumatic event occurred. This is especially true for rescue horses who survived a less-than-friendly background.

Diagnosing old traumas can be difficult because you don’t know the full extent of their past experiences, but you can learn your horse’s triggers over time and work on building their trust to reduce their anxious response.

6. Boredom

Some horses find boredom anxiety-inducing, especially horses on stall rest. Horses are meant to be active, so being in their stall for long periods of time can make them feel restrained and restless. 

Bored horses tend to be stall walkers and weavers, which may be your first clue that your horse is stressed. Your horse may also play with their water buckets or back into a corner to protest their boredom.

7. Housing Conditions

Your horse’s housing conditions can cause them stress, too. For instance, if you move your horse to a new boarding site or move them to a new pasture they’re not used to, the unfamiliar surroundings can be a lot for them to process. Similarly, if there are loud noises and frequent traffic where you are boarding your horse, they can feel stressed as well.  

8. Limited Pasture Time

Regular turnout is important to horses’ health and reduces their stress while in the stable. While in a pasture, horses have access to forage, water, their herd and enough space to roam and stay active. Limiting your horse’s pasture time can evoke a stress response, so try your best to avoid keeping them in their stall for hours on end.

9. A Busy Transportation Schedule

Some horses, namely performance horses, have a busy schedule traveling from one event to another. Even if your horse has been to the showgrounds before, they may feel anxious because they:

  • Feel confined in the moving trailer.
  • Are away from their herd.
  • Don’t have access to their usual hay and water.
  • Face new locations and experiences.

Some horses don’t mind traveling, while others struggle even to make it on the trailer. If you know that trailering causes your horse stress, consider making some adjustments to your transportation routine, such as making stops along a long route to walk them, to make them feel more comfortable.

10. Reproduction

Mares may experience fluctuating stress levels during the different stages of their reproductive cycle. When in estrus, a mare experiences minute changes — like frequent urination and lower activity levels — that can be uncomfortable, resulting in increased stress.

Pregnant mares may feel uncomfortable, too. You may notice a pregnant mare biting at her stomach, pacing, pawing and sweating as a result of stress and pain, particularly right before and during birth. Usually, the discomfort and stress resolve after foaling. These symptoms should always be carefully assessed, as they often share characteristics with colic.

What to Do If Your Horse Is Experiencing Stress

A certain level of stress is normal for horses. But, if you notice that your horse’s stress levels are going up and they’re constantly on edge, you might need to make some changes in their environment or daily routine.

If your horse is experiencing stress, here are some ways you can reduce their anxiety.

1. Establish a Routine

Having a sporadic daily routine can make things seem new and intimidating for your horse. With a daily routine, horses can adapt to familiar stressors — like being in their stall and riding in an arena — and feel more comfortable with their surroundings.

Try your best to keep your horse’s feeding schedule, meals, turnout time and exercise routine consistent to help reduce their stress levels.

2. Work With an Experienced Trainer

During your lesson, an experienced trainer can notice subtle changes in your body language that may be causing stress in your horse, like:

  • Tense shoulders.
  • Tight hands.
  • Too much or too little contact.
  • Misplaced heels.

As a rider, you can work on your breath, control and contact with your horse to make training more comfortable and stress-free for you both.

3. Get More Exercise

Getting enough exercise keeps your horse physically and mentally healthy. Some horses thrive on a busy schedule with plenty of exercise, especially horses who have a natural workhorse mentality and are prone to boredom. 

It’s important for a rider to listen to their horse’s body language and develop a training regimen that corresponds with their energy level. You can also encourage exercise by allowing your horse more time in their pasture. 

4. Acclimate Your Horse to Different Conditions

Gradually transition your horse to a new training schedule and daily routine, if needed. If you transition your horse too fast, their stress levels will spike and have the opposite effect. But, if you give your horse time to familiarize themselves with a new routine, they’ll eventually welcome the changes and experience less stress.

Gradual acclimation may also help for specific triggers, like fear of clippers or being loaded into a trailer. Present the trigger below the fear or panic threshold. Allow your horse to respond, likely with curious snorts and pawing. Over time, your horse will learn to trust the item or experience. 

Wild horses use acclimation to feel comfortable in their environment, which is why gradual acclimation for domestic horses is often successful. Comparatively, avoid flooding your horse with too much trigger-related stress, or else it can increase their fear.

5. Use Supplements

Pro Earth Animal Health offers an all-natural supplement — Zesterra® — that aids in the prevention of stress-induced conditions, such as gastric ulcers or colic.

Zesterra® is made of 100% natural ingredients that stimulate your horse’s appetite and water consumption. It provides a balanced environment where healthy microbes can effectively break down nutrients for better absorption. Because of its all-natural ingredients, Zesterra® is fit for all stress-prone equine, including performance horses, foals, donkeys and mules.

You can feel comfortable adding Zesterra® to your horse’s diet either daily as a preventative measure or as-needed when you know that your horse will face stressful situations, such as trailering or showing.

Visit Pro Earth Animal Health Online for More Tips on Managing Your Horse’s Stress

At Pro Earth Animal Health, our mission is in our name. We are a team of passionate horse and cattle owners who strive to deliver high-quality, all-natural supplements to boost your animal’s health and keep them healthy for a long time.

Our veterinarian-approved equine product, Zesterra®, is a special formula we use on our own horses — especially those who are prone to stress. Visit our website and browse our other helpful tips for managing your horse’s stress levels, and shop for Zesterra® online or at a store near you!

Sources linked:

  1. https://proearthanimalhealth.com/causes-and-effects-of-stress-in-horses/
  2. https://proearthani
  3. ▲9malhealth.com/top-10-tips-for-improving-your-horses-nutrition/
  4. https://proearthanimalhealth.com/travel-related-ulcers/
  5. https://proearthanimalhealth.com/trimesters-1-3/
  6. https://proearthanimalhealth.com/zesterra/frequently-asked-questions/
  7. https://proearthanimalhealth.com/what-is-a-microbiome/
  8. https://proearthanimalhealth.com/blog/
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Top 10 Tips for Improving Your Horse’s Nutrition

By Brood Mares, Foals, Horses, Performance/Competition Horses, Senior Horses 2 Comments

Nutrition is the cornerstone of any healthy, thriving horse. The best feed for your horse optimizes its natural digestive system to get the most nutrients to match its current needs. As horses mature they have changing nutritional requirements throughout their lives. What impacts a horse’s dietary requirements? The amount of work, age, weight, gender, stress level and pregnancy status all affect the caloric requirements for horses.

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Understanding the Digestive System of Horses

The digestive system of a horse includes the foregut and hindgut. The foregut contains enzymes to break down starches, proteins and fats. Both the small intestine and stomach are in this portion of the digestive tract. The hindgut is where microbes break up fiber from the roughage the animal consumes. Included in the hindgut are the remaining organs used for digestion — cecum, large and small colons and the rectum.

How Long Does It Take for a Horse to Digest Food?

These animals require 45 to 72 hours for feed to pass entirely through their digestive system. The types of horse feed and the animal’s health may affect the time it takes for digestion.

What Is a Typical Diet for an Adult Horse?

A horse’s usual diet depends on five types of nutrients, including ample amounts of water, starches from grains, fiber from hay, vitamins and minerals. The bulk of the animal’s diet comes from carbohydrates, with fats and proteins also contributing energy. Fats provide fuel, but limit them to no more than 10% of the intake. Proteins help build muscle, hair, skin and hooves.

Tips for Improving Horse Nutrition

Feeding your animal well requires a balance of nutrients, energy and water. Here are some helpful tips for feeding horses that will boost nutrition and health.

1. Provide Ample Clean, Fresh Water

Water is vital to the well-being of all creatures. ON average a horse can drink 10 gallons daily, but this amount can double in hot weather or when the animal exerts itself. Always provide plenty of clean water, even in cold weather. Keep in mind that you may need a heater to prevent water from freezing in the winter.

2. Keep Grains at a Minimum

The arrangement of the digestive system illustrates how much horses need balance in their feed. Too much grain promotes gas in the hindgut because the starches in the grains break down in the foregut. Once they pass through the hindgut, the microbes there take in the remainder of the carbohydrates and produce gas as a byproduct. Excessive levels of gas can lead to discomfort and even colic. To avoid this situation, feed your horse a balance of grains and fibrous hay to promote motility and prevent gas in the hindgut.

3. Boost Forage Intake

Fiber from grass or hay should equal between 1 and 2.5% of a horse’s weight. This high amount of fiber helps the animal’s digestive system operate at its best. For a 1,000-pound horse, this translates to approximately 20 pounds of hay daily, with added grains based on the amount of exertion the animal experiences, in addition to body condition. Animals that do not work may consume up to 25 pounds of hay each day with no supplemental grains (as always, consult with your veterinarian for advice on adjusting your horse’s intake). There is a relatively straightforward formula for how to estimate a horse’s body weight without a scale, based on heart girth and body length measurements.

4. Match Types of Feed to Exercise

Exercise will dictate the additional amount of grain or concentrated feed your horse needs. If your horse does not work, it may not require the additional calories provided by grain. For light work, up to two hours a day, your horse may benefit from an extra one to one and a half pounds of grain per hour of effort. For two to four hours of work, some experts recommend allotting up to two pounds of supplemental grain or concentrate per hour of work. Heavy working horses that do more than four hours of work may require significantly higher levels of concentrated feed or grain to help achieve the animal’s caloric needs.

5. Know What the Body Condition Score Is for Your Horse

While your horse’s weight is essential for knowing how much to feed it, the body condition score is also critical. What is the body condition score, and why is it important? This measurement looks at the amount of fat under the skin at specific locations on the animal’s body. You can learn to measure your horse’s body condition score yourself through classes that walk you through the process. The average ideal body condition score is five, but the best value for your horse will depend on its breed and what it does. Talk to your vet if you need advice about your animal’s body condition.

6. Don’t Make Abrupt Changes

Horses digest food over two to three days, which means changes in the feed may not cause problems immediately. If you must change your animal’s feed, do so slowly to avoid digestive troubles and upset.

Inside the animal’s hindgut are bacteria that help it digest the feed it usually consumes. Specific bacteria help break down certain things. Suddenly changing feed means the gut bacteria will not be able to properly digest the animal’s new diet and the microbial balance will be thrown off.

Change the feed by no more than 25% every other day to avoid digestive problems. Doing so gives your horse a week for its digestive system to acclimate to the new diet.

7. Account for Life Changes

Not all horses eat the same amount or mixture. Be ready to make changes throughout the animal’s life to mirror its changing nutritional needs. For example, there are different dietary recommendations for horses in the first years of their lives than for seniors. Pregnant and lactating mares also need specific diets to meet their needs.

Exercise also changes the amount of energy your horse needs. Make changes to allow for extra nutrition when your animal does more exercise. When it works less, it will need less feed. Adjusting feed levels to match the work levels keeps your animal at a healthy weight while giving it the energy it needs for its work.

8. Help the Horse Through Stressful Times

Every horse experiences stress at times during its life. Sudden changes in exercise, travel, too much time in the stall, pregnancy and other life events can result in stress. Horses under stress can develop ulcers or have other digestive problems. During such times, you can supplement your horse’s feed to reduce the chances of developing ulcers and help the animal use nutrition from its diet more efficiently. Such dietary amendments can help your horse wade through stressful times without severe consequences.

9. Supplement With Vitamins

When feeding hay to horses, you likely won’t know the exact nutrient makeup of the feed. Wet and older hay may have fewer vitamins than fresh hay. To keep your animal from developing vitamin deficiencies, supplement its diet by adding vitamins and minerals to its feed. Talk to your equine vet about specific vitamin supplements to use to ensure your animal gets the nutrients it needs based on its dietary requirements and the available vitamins in the area’s pastures.

10. Watch out for Mineral Ratios

Like vitamins, minerals make up a minute amount of the animal’s diet, but they provide critical roles in the functioning of the animal’s internal systems. Your horse will naturally regulate the amount of salt it takes in based on what it needs. However, you’ll need to ensure your animal gets calcium and phosphorus in the right proportions. At the very least, provide your animal with an even one-to-one ratio of calcium to phosphorus. A better balance, though, is two-to-one calcium to phosphorus to ensure your horse makes the most of these valuable minerals. Having too much calcium in the diet reduces the amount of phosphorus your horse can use.

Feed Considerations for Pregnant Mares

Pregnant mares have unique nutritional needs in addition to dietary requirements to support their growing fetus. Nutritional recommendations for mares carrying fetuses include both energy for the mother and enough to support an expected growth curve of the fetus.

1. When to Change a Pregnant Mare’s Diet

Major changes in the mare’s diet will likely not occur until the fifth month. How the diet changes depends on the time of year and the mare’s condition.

2. How Does a Pregnant Mare’s Diet Change?

The amount you feed your mare during its pregnancy will change during each trimester. While during the first two trimesters, your broodmare will need enough food to support her body weight, by the third, she will need 30% more feed than she had before carrying her fetus.

Mares will require even more feed if the third trimester falls during colder months when she does not have access to pasture and needs fuel to stay warm while the fetus rapidly reaches its peak size. A body condition score of six for broodmares before winter allows them enough body fat to stay warm through the winter and draw energy from if needed.

For specific needs based on your mare’s weight and expected weight gain at a time during its pregnancy, the National Academies offers an interactive means of calculating intake.

How Does a Horse’s Age Impact Their Nutritional Requirements?

Among the things that impact a horse’s diet is age. Young, growing weanlings and yearlings have higher and different nutrient needs than mature animals. Older animals will have dietary requirements that help support any age-related health conditions they developed.


Foals, especially, need an appropriate balance of calcium to phosphorus to ensure adequate bone and teeth development. Ratios may range from three-to-one to one-to-one. Talk to your vet about their recommendations for your young foal’s mineral needs.

Amino acids are also crucial to growing foals. These substances build protein in the body. Overall, these young animals need 14% to 16% of their diet from protein, which is more than adults. The only specific amino acid intake requirements for yearlings and weanlings is lysine. The former group needs 2.1 g/Mcal/day, while the latter group needs slightly less at 1.9 g/Mcal/day.

Pay attention to the yearling’s and weanling’s feed during the first two years. The animal will grow rapidly, reaching 86% of its adult weight by age 2. During the first year, feed yearlings an even 50-50 mixture of concentrate and hay. After age 2, switch your horse to an adult diet of hay and supplemental concentrate or grain, based on activity level.


For adult horses, allow ready access to forage and up to 25 pounds of hay daily with added grain or concentrate as a supplement. Changes in adult diets depend on whether the animal works more or is in the breeding season.


Senior horses may be hard keepers due to illnesses or difficulty chewing due to poor dental health. You will need to focus carefully on feeding them to prevent weight loss that could compromise their health.

Older horses engage in less activity, but due to changes in digestion ability, they require higher protein levels, 12% to 14%, to ensure adequate absorption. Dental health and existing health problems will affect how much your senior horse eats. Fats are also necessary to help hard keepers maintain body condition. If your horse has any conditions that require special nutritional needs, talk to your vet about a customized diet.

Offer multiple small meals throughout the day to your older horse. A rule of thumb is to limit feed to five pounds at each meal, and isolate older animals, so younger ones do not chase them off. Select easily digestible and chewed feed designed for older animals, and consider supplementing it with an aid that promotes proper pH of digestive enzymes.

Mares vs. Stallions

Mares and stallions will have different nutritional needs during the breeding season. Females will require feeding based on the needs of broodmares while carrying a fetus. Stallions will also need extra energy, but not as much as you might think.

For feeding a stallion, make sure to maintain the animal’s condition, regardless of the season. During non-breeding times, the stallion can meet his energy requirements by eating forage and hay. The animal will need more energy during the breeding season, as well as possible mineral and vitamin supplementation to ensure fertility.

In the breeding season, a stallion increases his energy requirements by 20%, but only eats 10% more feed. To ensure the animal has enough to keep up his energy requirements, supplement his feed with concentrates. Give the horse vitamins A and E, because the stallion will need 50% more of these vitamins when breeding. Consider adding selenium and manganese to the animal’s diet if he is deficient in these, which could drop fertility.

Maintaining your breeding horses during the season can ensure success and a future of foals.

Supplement Your Horse’s Feed With Zesterra®

When you want to care for your animal’s health and nutrition, supplement its diet with a product that encourages water intake, raises pH and promotes the proliferation of healthy bacteria in the hindgut. To support the nutrient requirements for your horses at all stages of life, consider supplementation with Zesterra®.

Zesterra® helps your animal through stressful times. It also promotes natural healing of conditions such as ulcers. With an all-natural blend of ingredients, this product gives your horse’s digestive system the boost it needs to extract as many nutrients from food as possible, making it an ideal supplement for older animals or those that experience stress. To get answers to any questions you have about our products, including Zesterra®, contact us online.

Related Posts

How to Choose the Right Horse for Your Riding Style

The Mare: Pregnancy Trimesters 1 – 3

The Mare: Pre-Breeding Considerations

Five Ways to Prepare Your Horse for Summer


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  • https://proearthanimalhealth.com/zesterra/hard-keepers/
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A Matter of Color – Why does Zesterra darken with age?

By Brood Mares, Foals, Horses, Performance/Competition Horses, Senior Horses No Comments

At least a few times a week we get this inquiry — why did my Zesterra® darken since I bought it? This is a perfectly valid question — after all, in most cases, when the color of food or even things like toiletries shifts, it can be a sign of spoilage.

So, does a deeper shade of amber in Zesterra® herald its imminent demise? Luckily, no.

The reason behind that color change comes down to plain chemistry. Because we don’t use preservatives, the all-natural apple flavoring starts to go through a process known as oxidation. Just like when you cut open an apple and it immediately starts to take on a brown hue, so too does the apple flavor in Zesterra®.

But how? Apples contain an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase (also known as PPO), which, when released by damage to the tissue and consequent oxygen exposure, oxidize the polyphenols.

The other part to these inquiries usually involves shelf life. Zesterra has a 5-year shelf life and is incredibly stable — most of us keep a bottle in our trucks or trailers, our tack rooms and in our houses. If it freezes overnight because you forgot it out on the porch, that shouldn’t be a problem. Nor should leaving it in the hot truck for a few days.

Obviously, as with anything, we suggest you exercise common sense. If your Zesterra smells “off” or has become particularly thick or gloppy, it may be time to retire it. These problems are usually associated with contamination so it really shouldn’t be used anyway.

While this is just a quick overview, as always, please don’t ever hesitate to contact us with questions. We pride ourselves on being able to offer you solid answers based on facts and our own personal experiences with our products.

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How to Choose the Right Horse for Your Riding Style

By Horses, Performance/Competition Horses 2 Comments

How to choose the right horse for your riding style

Whether you’ve been getting started and honing your skills in a particular riding style for years or you’ve recently taken up riding, it’s crucial to understand the best horse types for each riding discipline. A good match can transform your experience and advance you to new levels.

Not every horse performs the same. Some horses have exceptional longevity for endurance riding, while others can reach great heights for show jumping. The horse size, breeding, temperament and training can all contribute to how they function during the ins and outs of your preferred styles of riding.

If you are wondering, “What type of horse do I need?” the following guide will help you review the array of riding disciplines and inform you about the most fitting horses for common riding styles.

Table of Contents

The Primary Factors: English and Western Riding Styles

Popular riding styles like barrel racing or dressage fall under two main disciplines: Western and English. The general origins, saddle design, direction and positioning separate these forms, but they also split off into additional subsections.

The equipment and interaction between the rider and horse is a major distinction. English style saddles offer riders a slight, flat saddle that allows them tighter proximity to the horse. It also gives direct guidance from a mouth rein, so the horse responds to the redirection of its face. Western saddles, on the other hand, provide a substantial, deep surface that spreads over the horse, and a neck rein nudges the horse along the right route. Western saddles allow for a deeper seat and more security when a horse is making sudden turns and moves, as in cutting or barrel racing.

Both types of riding styles have rich histories that influenced the evolution of these saddle styles. English riding started in Europe but wasn’t restricted to Britain, and it had ties to the military, creating the form we now know. Western riding and tack stemmed from cattle-related purposes in America, and has shared traits with the Australian stock saddle and those used by the gauchos of South America.

However, English and Western riding subgroups branch out into a wide variety of applications that require unique horse breeds. While there are no hard and fast rules for which horse breed may or may not be used, different breeds offer particular traits that can make them more likely to be able to perform in certain disciplines. For instance, intelligent breeds that rapidly pick up instruction are ideal for Western riding, which demands tremendous perception. English disciplines such as steeplechasing require animals with a great deal of endurance and an ability to jump over tall obstacles.

Let’s dive into these styles and the most common types of horses used for them.

Western Horseback Riding Styles and Suitable Horse Breeds

While the Western-style did start out for day-to-day work on ranches, Western riding has evolved into various branches of competition. They all show athleticism, diligence and a connection between horse and rider. Most of these branches are easiest for horses that are typically used for ranch work, and with the wider saddle and quick neck reining cues, they require bright and agile breeds.

1. Western Pleasure

This competition category displays horses that are capable of precise, measured movements. The rider executes a steady gait for the judges with a variety of precise beats and corresponding paces. The horse remains alert with an upright head, and its easy going disposition accompanies a flowing and uninterrupted cadence.

A proper breed for Western pleasure is tall with a stable frame. With leaner shoulders and hips, it needs to hold steep angles to execute slow, deliberate motions. A level neck and an effortless stride create a successful Western pleasure horse.

Quarter Horses that are hand-picked for strong lower forelimbs are worthy Western pleasure candidates, especially if they’re trained specifically for the discipline. Due to their smooth gait and calm demeanor, Quarter horses are ideal for Western pleasure.

Tennessee Walking Horses are also graceful and their comfortable gait allows them to excel in Western pleasure competitions.

For Western Pleasure riders, they execute a steady gait for the judges with a variety of precise beats and corresponding paces

2. Reining

Comparable to English dressage, Western reining is a swift series of guided activities. The reining patterns range from circles, stops, spins, roll-backs and flying lead changes, and they demonstrate a horse’s refined agility.

The sharp transitions in reining take skillful maneuvering, so the horses have to be sensitive to cues at a moment’s notice. Horses that work with cattle typically have the dexterity to complete these exact tasks.

While reining is based primarily on athleticism rather than breed, two prominent reining horses are Paints and Appaloosas. Paint horses have broad chests and strong centers of gravity that keep them firm through the shifting stages of reining. Similarly, Appaloosas are highly coordinated and powerful, which allows them to carry out precise exercises.

3. Cutting

Cutting is a herding activity where the horse and rider block off a specific cow or cows. During cutting, the handler and horse isolate a cow and continue to separate it from the herd despite its attempts to rejoin the group. The handler also has to let the horse lead the cutting for a period of time, using its own instincts.

Steering a herd-oriented cow is challenging, so the horse must have advanced intuition to face off with the cow. Anticipation and flexibility are two natural qualities a horse should have to effectively cut.

Working cow horses often include Quarter horses and crosses. The balance and attentiveness of Quarter Horses establish them as the go-to horse breed for this competition.

4. Trail Riding

With arranged trail barriers on a natural course, the handler and horse travel and strategically navigate different obstacles. Trail riding can involve opening and closing gates, changes in terrain and logs, water obstacles and it isn’t timed like endurance racing. The way the riders complete the challenging obstacles is scored, along with the horse’s adaptability and poise.

Horses need stamina and athletic prowess to make it through the distance and stops. The best horses for trail riding can tolerate long stretches of riding and nimbly accomplish obstacles.

Arabians are proficient at traversing a course because of their muscular legs and natural endurance. Trail riding can wear on even the most resilient horses, so thorough hoof health is an important consideration. Fortunately, Arabians’ sure-footedness can conquer the hazards of trail riding. Their elegance is also beneficial in coming off as a capable trail contestant.

Missouri Fox Trotters also maintain their energy in trail riding. Their sloped shoulders and sturdy back help them carry the weight of a rider through the obstacles with ease.


The best horses for trail riding can tolerate long stretches of riding and nimbly accomplish obstacles

5. Team Penning

As a group competition, team penning requires three handlers to guide a group of three designated cattle into a pen. The pen is usually on the other side of the competition area, and the riders have to coordinate with one another to draw the cows away from the herd. The three cows have to be labeled with the announced number, which makes it complex.

Because this combines cutting, penning and teamwork, this style requires a resourceful horse, and horses suited for cutting fulfill the needs for team penning, too. Quarter Horses have diverse abilities, and their stature helps them put up a barrier for the cows. Morgan Horses are also smart and agile, which makes them a good choice for this type of cattle work.

6. Barrel Racing

To barrel race, a horse and rider run around three barrels in a triangular layout. They loop each barrel in a cloverleaf design before exiting the arena. Scoring is dependent on the overall time, but the turns and control play substantial roles, too.

Horses have to have powerful haunches to build up speed, and their balance and footing around turns need a quick reaction. Quarter horses are typically the most well-suited with their compact, strong conformation. When a Quarter Horse has an even build, they can distribute their full power in short-distance running, a vital element for making a good time in a barrel run.

7. Endurance

Endurance riding competitions stretch more than 50 miles on average, and these long distances have vet checks at marked intervals to evaluate the condition of the horse.

Physically demanding performances over great distances can tire out horses. However, there are certain horse breeds that are well-suited to persevere through these intense races. 

The horse breed that tends to have the longest-lasting endurance is the Arabian. Arabians are dominant in endurance racing because of their history of survival and fortified structure. Their pronounced hips, laid-back shoulders and muscled haunches let them release spurts of energy along the route. Their smaller hooves also allow them to pick through rough terrain with more agility than heavier breeds.

8. Gymkhana

This is a collection of speed events and games that normally apply to youth riders. Gymkhana is also referred to as mounted games, and riders participate in things like flag races, barrel racing, keg races, pole bending and keyhole races.

In fast-paced games on horseback, the type of horse chosen needs to support the goals and skill level of the rider. They should also be able to climb to brisk speeds and be aware of the rider’s guidance.

To accommodate younger riders, it’s important to choose a horse that’s experienced but good-natured. Ponies can serve as adequate mounts for children, but Appaloosas are also a popular choice for Gymkhana. Their independence and trustworthiness set them up for the varied requirements of the events.

English Riding Styles and Suitable Horse Breeds

Unlike the Western disciplines, English riding styles are more structured and add further pomp to events. Jumping techniques and precise stepping styles are two instrumental parts of English riding, but the numerous types switch up the arenas, obstacles and expectations. Here are seven types of English riding disciplines.

The types of English riding styles and suitable horse breeds1. Dressage

Dressage is a classical discipline where riders usher their horse through a rhythmic routine. The tests in the sequence can cover multiple gaits, piaffe, passage and pirouettes. Riders and horses are graded on their harmony, impulsion and composure.

As an almost choreographed dance, dressage cultivates restraint and willingness. Horses have to closely obey their rider and demonstrate finesse, and this artistic practice prioritizes visual excellence.

Hanoverians and Andalusians are beautiful breeds that conduct themselves well during dressage. Hanoverians are noble and willing — plus, their gaits are light and far-reaching when necessary. Andalusians are also sophisticated animals that create a spectacle, and their cadence has the perfect amount of lift for dressage moves.

2. Show Jumping

For show jumping, the horse and rider must leap over a succession of fences in a ring formation. As a timed task, the jumps should be consecutive, and the recovery of horse and rider in between should be immediate.

Typically, most warmblood breeds are suited to show jumping. Taller, with excellent strength, they are capable of jumping over large fences with apparent ease. Appaloosas achieve impressive jumps for show jumping. Their legs are narrow but mighty, which lets them push off for a leap. Those with long but considerable backs can create an appealing arch as they jump, too. Thoroughbreds are also magnificent jumpers, and their extensive leg length is one advantage that propels them over fences.

3. Eventing

As a three-tiered event, eventing hosts dressage, cross-country and show jumping segments. Cross country, the only part not yet addressed, involves a course of lower and higher fences, as well as obstacles. Many of these are built to emulate structures that might be encountered out and about.

Multi-talented horses are useful for eventing, and it’s important they have high stamina. The jumping exercises take high degrees of strength combined with continual smoothness, and Hanoverians boast an assortment of skills that are optimal in eventing. They’re masters of dressage movements and hurdling fences.

4. Polo

This mounted team sport is played on horseback, and the teams hit a ball with a wooden mallet into goals while staying in the saddle. Horses in the game, or “polo ponies,” carry their riders close to the ball and finagle their way around other horses.

Polo ponies tend to be Thoroughbreds because they are agile and quick. They intrinsically have the ease and endurance to complete the games, too.

5. Saddle Seat

Saddle seat competitions highlight the high-stepping abilities of horses. It’s a dramatic exhibition aimed to catch the judges’ eyes, reflecting some shared principles with dressage.

Morgan Horses and American Saddlebreds are both viable options for saddle seat riding. Morgan Horses characteristically have a proud neck and distinguished gait, which gives them the flair they need in saddle seat.

Alternatively, American Saddlebreds offer height and weight of a regal stature, as their back gently dips. Their steps are exaggerated, which clearly conveys their gait in saddle seat competitions.

6. English Pleasure

While Western pleasure has horses lope and jog, English pleasure requires more showmanship in the gait, which is why it consists of trotting and cantering. Judges look for more animated motions in English pleasure.

Arabians are a popular horse to find in the English pleasure ring, and they are capable of a high-scoring strut. Their manners are amiable, so they can easily pick up a winning attitude.

7. Hunting

Hunting or hunt seat riding features a forward saddle and riding position, and there’s separate scoring for the horse and rider during flat and jumping tests. Also, the obstacles take on a tone that simulates the outdoors.

Horses that notice the subtle fences and function smoothly in careful gait tests are preferable for this English style. Thoroughbreds are sharp, and they can produce high jumps and precise steps. Considerate preparation for natural events can lead a Thoroughbred to proficient hunting riding.

Support Your Horse’s Health With Zesterra® From Pro Earth Animal Health

After you choose a horse that matches your riding needs, it’s vital to keep them healthy and performing at their best. Between serious horse training and traveling to competitions, several stressors can plague your horse.

Zesterra® is an all-natural supplement that can improve your horse’s well being through highs and lows. It balances the pH of the stomach to get your horse back in top shape. From heavy exercise to changes in weather, every horse owner can find a use for Zesterra® to maintain and improve their horses’ health.

At Pro Earth Animal Health, we are concerned about your animal’s well-being. That’s why we provide affordable, all-natural supplements and practical resources to keep them feeling their best. Shop our selection of Zesterra® online today or contact our team to learn more.

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Keeping Your Horse Hydrated on the Road

By Brood Mares, Foals, Horses, Performance/Competition Horses No Comments

One of the biggest challenges you may face is keeping your horse hydrated while traveling. Horses can become dehydrated fairly quickly and this is doubly true during hot weather. The average horse (around 1,200 lbs) requires around 5 – 10 gallons of water a day just to survive. While it’s true that you can’t make a horse drink, you can certainly make them want to.

Here are some tips to help your horse stay hydrated on the road.

  • Feed a moisture-rich meal before loading up. This can be done by soaking their hay in water for about an hour prior to feeding, making a soupy mash or grain meal or soaking alfalfa or hay pellets. If you’re going to be on the road for a while, consider hanging a hay net filled with soaked hay to provide a little extra moisture and keep your horse hydrated. Be careful to not allow wet hay to sit too long in warm temperatures — alfalfa, especially, can start to spoil fairly quickly when wet and exposed to heat. You can continue this practice when you arrive at your stopping point to give them that extra little boost.
  • Take water from home with you. While it isn’t always feasible to take a full supply of water with you if you’re going to be gone for a long period of time, take enough for two or three days. Horses have a tendency to refuse water that is “foreign” or tastes or smells different from the water they’re used to drinking at home. This can go a long way toward ensuring that your horses are going to drink when you arrive at your destination.
  • Supplement with electrolytes. If your horse is going to be exerting itself in any way, it might be a good idea to offer him an electrolyte supplement in his water.
  • Flavor unfamiliar water. If you aren’t able to bring a large enough supply of water from home, try a water additive to help perk up the taste of the new water and encourage drinking. Many people have great success with apple juice, sweet feed “tea” (soak a couple of handfuls of sweet feed in a half-gallon of water for two hours, then add the “juice” to your horse’s water bucket) or Gatorade (they prefer the fruit punch flavor, in general). It’s a good idea to start this practice ahead of leaving so that he develops a taste for the flavored water and will gladly drink it anywhere.
  • Stop frequently to offer water. Be sure to offer water while traveling — a good rule of thumb is every 2 – 4 hours.
  • Let them off to pee. Some horses refuse to urinate in the trailer. If feasible, allow him to get off the trailer and walk around a bit and if needed, urinate. An animal that has an empty bladder is much more likely to be willing to drink.

Eliminating some of the travel stress for your horse will also help eliminate travel stress on you. If you have a horse that will willingly drink on the road, you are helping ensure that they won’t experience colic or other dehydration-related issues that can plague dehydrated horses.

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Hoof Health — More Than Meets the Eye

By Brood Mares, Foals, Horses, Performance/Competition Horses No Comments

If your horse has “good feet”, it’s easy to overlook potential issues when they start to develop. If you have struggled with any sort of hoof issue then you already know how much time and energy it can take to keep your horse’s feet in top shape. With dozens of hoof-specific supplements on the market, it can be incredibly frustrating if you don’t see results, even after following the directions and waiting the recommended amount of time. So, what gives?

What’s in a Hoof?

Horses are known as Perissodactyls. This essentially means they are single-toed animals, as opposed to other ungulate mammals, such as cattle and goats, who have two toes. Your horse’s hooves, much like your own fingernails and toenails, are made up of proteins called keratins. These proteins develop a thick, protective layer around the inner structure of the hoof. Obviously, a horse’s hooves are like singular, giant toenails. Each of their hooves has to support a great deal of weight and take an enormous amount of pressure and impact. Because of this, it’s essential that the keratin wall is as strong as possible while maintaining some flexibility to prevent splitting or fractures.

A Gut Feeling

Hoof health, just like every other part of your horse’s body, begins in his gut. His health is directly related to how well he can digest his food and assimilate the nutrients released from that feed. Regardless of whether you’re feeding an all-forage diet or mix it up with some concentrated feeds (such as sweet feed), his ability to absorb and utilize the different components of that food depends wholly on his overall gut health. By the time his body gets to his hooves, there may not be adequate amounts of nutrients available to build and maintain strong, healthy hoof tissues.

There are many reasons your horse may not be able to absorb the necessary level of nutrients. He may have active ulcers or a subclinical ulcer condition that is keeping him from being able to completely digest his feed. There could be damage to the digestive tract from a previous illness or he didn’t receive adequate colostrum as a foal. The possibility of a burgeoning parasitic load could be keeping him from receiving nourishment. Regardless of the reasons, one of the first places you may see the effects of poor absorption is in his hooves. At this point, the most important thing is to get his digestive system in top shape.

Developing a Healthy Digestive System

Before you start throwing money at numerous expensive “hoof health supplements”, there are several things you can do to help improve your horse’s gut health and thus, his hooves. Here are some things you can do to combat poor nutrient absorption.

  • Feed only high-quality forage. Forage includes things like hay or alfalfa. If your horse is on pasture, have your grass tested to make sure it is nutritionally balanced. Your veterinarian can help you determine your particular horse’s health requirements.
  • Use a dewormer as directed by your vet. Some regions of the U.S. experience much higher incidences of intestinal parasite infestation than others. If you are unsure about whether or not to have your horse on a regular deworming rotation, consider having a fecal analysis done to determine if there is an existing worm burden.
  • Don’t overfeed concentrated feeds. Your horse’s digestive system is not set up to handle large amounts of concentrated feeds such as grains. Use only what is needed to help maintain his health. If there is no need for concentrated feeds but you enjoy giving him treats, consider cutting the amount back significantly, or switch to pelleted alfalfa or horse-specific treats, given in moderation.
  • Rule out ulcers. If your horse is in poor body condition but is receiving adequate nutritional support, consider having ulcers ruled out. A horse can have subclinical ulcers, meaning that there are no outward signs but they can still be wreaking havoc within. Even if there are no ulcerative lesions, if your horse produces an excess amount of stomach acid, it can affect the gut flora and fauna balance, making digestion and absorption less effective.
  • Use a feed additive that will balance gut pH. Just as in humans, a horse’s gut is very sensitive to pH levels. If the pH is off in either direction (too acidic or too basic), it can disrupt the ability to properly digest and absorb nutrients. A feed additive that focuses on keeping an ideal pH will go a long way towards improving gut permeability and allowing nutrients to be properly absorbed into the bloodstream.
  • Make sure there is adequate, clean water available at all times. A horse’s digestion depends on access to clean, fresh water at all times. Horses require up to 10 gallons of water per day (depending on the size and activity level of the animal; some may require even more).

There is obviously more to hoof health than just good nutrition but it is the most important place to start. Other considerations should include footing, exercise and bedding conditions. If you suspect your horse has hoof issues, always consult with your veterinarian and farrier. They may be able to pinpoint the exact issues and get your horse on the right path to hoof wellness.

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Five Ways to Prepare Your Horse for Summer

By Brood Mares, Foals, Horses, Performance/Competition Horses, Senior Horses No Comments

Summer is THE season of the horse — longer days, warmer weather and a couple of long holiday weekends. What’s not to love? It’s important to remember, despite the seemingly more temperate weather, your horse will need just as much (if not more) care and attention than they receive during the winter months. Here are five tips for keeping your horse in top shape throughout the summer months.

5 Ways To Prepare Your Horse For SummerClean, plentiful water 24/7

Your horse depends on water for not only keeping their muscles and tissues properly hydrated but also to support proper gut function. A horse that isn’t receiving enough water during the summer months is just as at risk for colic as during the winter months. Be sure that your horse has access to clean water 24 hours a day. This includes times at shows, events, on the road or on the trail.

If your horse refuses water from outside sources, such as at events, be sure to bring an adequate amount of water from their regular source to ensure that they will more readily drink. If this isn’t possible, consider adding a flavor enhancing supplement that will encourage water consumption.

Keep Up-to-Date

Summer is rife with all kinds of pests and diseases making the rounds. Intestinal parasites and other pests can take their toll on your horse quickly. Make sure you keep up with vaccinations to help protect your horse against diseases such as West Nile virus. Your veterinarian can advise you on the appropriate vaccines to administer for your region and those that would be necessary for any areas you may be traveling to.

Additionally, regular worming is essential in areas where intestinal parasites linger in the soil. If you’re unsure whether or not you need to be worming your horse on a regular rotation, consider having your veterinarian run a fecal test to look for parasites and their eggs.

Muck Out Regularly and Use Fly Protection

For obvious reasons such as hoof health, it is best not to let your horses stand around in manure. Thrush and other hoof problems such as abscesses can develop due to the prolonged exposure of the hoof to feces and wet ground. During the summer this is doubly true, as the heat and moisture can increase the growth of bacteria and fungi.

During the summer it is doubly important to clean your horse’s stall or pen regularly, as flies love to multiply at an alarming rate in manure. Nonetheless, even the cleanest of horse facilities will see an increase in fly populations during the warm months. Horses can insure themselves kicking, stomping or biting at flies. They can also experience allergic reactions to the bites or rub themselves raw trying to relieve the itching and discomfort.

In addition to good cleaning and sanitation practices, using fly sprays and protective wear such as fly masks, fly boots and fly sheets can go a long way towards keeping your horses protected. Other options such as fly traps and strips can also help reduce the number of pests. Many people swear by the parasitic fly wasps. Whatever your fly prevention regimen, be sure it is keeping your horse adequately protected.

Provide Shade

It’s not uncommon to see horses standing in pens without shelter from the sun and other elements. This can be downright cruel in areas where the temperatures climb into the 80’s, 90’s and even 100’s. Horses, just like people, can suffer from heat stroke or other heat-related problems. If your horse is stabled but turned out to pasture without shelter, make sure it’s during the cooler parts of the day.

Relentless sunshine isn’t the only issue during the summer months. In many areas, hail or aggressive rain can also be a problem. If you’ve ever seen a car dented up by hail, you can only imagine how badly that could hurt a horse if it doesn’t have any way to get out of the weather. The same goes for driving downpours — the speed and velocity at which the rain is traveling can be painful and even injure a horse that is left out in it.

If your horse doesn’t have shelter, consider a lean-to. Lean-tos are an inexpensive way to provide shade and shelter from the elements.

Work Wisely

Just like people, many horses come out of winter a little out-of-shape. It’s important to not push your horse too hard right away. Work up to helping them build their stamina. Just like you wouldn’t run a marathon after a long winter spent indoors, nor should you expect your horse to be able to handle a full workload right away. If they have been on pasture and seem thin, make sure they’re receiving adequate food to regain any weight lost. Not sure if they’re not in optimal condition? Check out the Body Condition Scoring presentation here.

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How to Minimize Travel-Related Ulcers in Horses

By Brood Mares, Foals, Horses, Performance/Competition Horses, Senior Horses No Comments

If you’re planning a big getaway with your horses this coming holiday weekend, remember that traveling can be stressful for them. Even though you’re itching to get out and go, they may need a little help from you to be in top form for your weekend’s adventures. Ulcers can be present, even when you don’t know they’re there.

Understanding Ulcers

A horse’s gut is a complex system of checks and balances. They are constantly secreting gastric acid to help break down food, however, a low pH (higher acidity) can take its toll on the lining of your horse’s stomach if it remains too low for too long.

When horses become stressed or move around excessively, their stomachs contract, forcing the stomach acid up into the upper sections. You can think of it kind of like having a balloon half-full of water. When you squeeze the lower portion the liquid travels into the upper areas of the balloon, including the neck. A horse’s stomach works somewhat the same way. When you compound this with no forage or other buffers within this part of the gut, the pH continues to drop, creating an increasingly acidic environment. This acid then begins to erode the mucosal lining of the gut and can even creep up into the esophagus. The discomfort created by these ulcers can manifest in many different ways, but some of the more common signs can include diarrhea, a lack of appetite, lethargy or acting antsy or “hot”, being “cinchy” and unwilling to have something around their girths, hunching of the back, kicking at the belly with their hind legs, tail swishing, and neck stretching.  The list goes on, but these are several that are indicative of possible ulcers.

How Ulcers Affect Hauling

Horses are creatures of habit (aren’t we all?) and become distressed when taken away from familiar surroundings. Many horses learn to cope well with these changes and will outwardly appear as though they’re fine or only mildly unsettled, but inside a storm can be brewing. Hauling can bring on internal stress responses in the calmest of horses.

As mentioned above, when a horse becomes active, either through stress or activity, their stomachs “shrink”, pushing acid upward. This rapidly lowers the pH. If they’ve had ulcers developing for some time — even mild ones — this acid further erodes those areas and causes pain and irritation. Many people experience the “trailering monster” phenomenon with their horses — full-on tantrums to avoid having to get into the trailer. This may not be so much behavioral as a physiological response to the acid washing over the linings of their stomachs.

How to Help Support Your Horse

None of this is to say that you shouldn’t be hauling your horse. There are, however, some things you can do to help minimize the impact it has on their overall well-being.

  • Always feed and allow them to eat before you head out. An empty stomach is more prone to acid damage, as there’s nothing in it to mix with and buffer the acids. If possible, avoid concentrated feeds such as grains, as this can lower the pH and create a more acidic gastric environment.
  • Provide adequate hay while traveling — even shorter distances. Horses are designed to be foraging and grazing all day long; as such, having access to feed will allow them to self-regulate their gut pH.
  • Administer a specialized buffering supplement prior to loading. This will keep the pH more neutral and help avoid the irritation that can cause your horse to “act up.”
  • Always make sure your horse receives adequate water stops while on the road and if needed, a chance to get off the trailer and walk around.
  • If you have a particularly sensitive horse, consider giving them another dose of buffering supplement upon arrival (as long as it’s indicated on the label that you can do so). The same goes for when you’re getting ready to leave and head back — they don’t know they’re going home. They just know they’re having to get in the trailer again.

With just a few small changes you can make traveling more comfortable for you AND your horse!



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