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Performance/Competition Horses

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.

How to Choose the Right Horse for Your Riding Style

By Horses, Performance/Competition Horses No Comments

How to choose the right horse for your riding styleWhether you’ve been 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 size, breeding, temperament and training can all contribute to how they function during the ins and outs of your preferred riding style.

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. In English style, riders use a slight, flat saddle that offers 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 style, on the other hand, provides a substantial, deep surface that spreads over the horse, and a neck rein nudges the horse along the right route.

Both types of riding styles have rich histories that influenced these layouts. English riding started in Europe but wasn’t restricted to Britain, and it had ties to the military, creating the proper form we now know. Western riding and tack stemmed from cattle-related purposes in America, and the ranching background still shines through today.

However, English and Western riding subgroups branch out into a wide variety of applications that require unique horse breeds. For instance, intelligent breeds that rapidly pick up instruction are ideal for Western riding, which demands tremendous perception.

Let’s dive into these styles and the go-to horses for them.

Types of Western 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 a group of competitive exercises. They all show athleticism, diligence and a connection between horse and rider. Most of these eight riding types are easiest for cow-herding horses, and with the wider saddle and neck reins, they require bright and agile breeds.

1. Western Pleasure

This competition category displays horses that are agreeable to ride through 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 easygoing 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 durable lower forelimbs are worthy Western pleasure candidates, especially if they’re trained from youth. Due to their smooth gait and calm demeanor, they’re frequently selected for Western pleasure.

Tennessee Walking Horses are also graceful participants and their comfortable gait fairs well in Western pleasure competitions.

For Western Pleasure riders, they execute a steady gait for the judges with a variety of precise beats and corresponding paces2. 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. Paints have broad chests and strong centers of gravity that keeps 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 cows, abiding by certain techniques. 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, practicing its own preventative instincts.

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

Working cow horses often include Morgan Horses and Quarter Horses. Morgan Horses are versatile, but their speed and compact body help them counter the motion of cows in cutting. The balance and attentiveness of Quarter Horses establish them as an assertive horse for this competition.

4. Trail Riding

With arranged trail barriers on a natural course, the handler and horse travel and strategically navigate. Trail riding can involve gates, changes in terrain and logs, 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. 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, too.

The best horses for trail riding can tolerate long stretches of riding and nimbly accomplish obstacles5. Team Penning

As a group competition, team penning requires three handlers to guide three 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 the announced number, which makes it complex.

Because this combines cutting, penning and teamwork, this style requires a resourceful horse, and the same breeds 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, once again, are smart and expressive, which develops a forceful influence over the cows.

6. Barrel Racing

To barrel race, a horse and handler swing around three barrels in a triangle 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. When a Quarter Horse has an even build, they can distribute their full power short-distance racing.

7. Endurance

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

Physically demanding performances over great distances can tire out horses. However, many horses are equipped to persevere through these intense races. If a horse is high-spirited, it has the vigor to overcome tough terrain and hours of riding.

The horse type with the longest-lasting vitality is the Arabian. Arabians are dominant in endurance racing because of their history of survival and fortified structure. Their pronounced hips, laidback shoulders and muscled haunches let them release spurts of energy along the route.

8. Gymkhana

This is a collection of speed games that normally apply to youth. 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 you decide on needs to support you. They should also be able to climb to brisk speeds and be aware of the rider’s guidance.

To accommodate younger riders, you should choose a horse that’s experienced but good-natured. Ponies can serve as adequate mounts for children, but appaloosas are also an acceptable choice for Gymkhana. Their independence and trustworthiness set them up for the hubbub of the events.

Types of English Riding Styles and Suitable Horse Breeds

Unlike Western style, English riding styles are more structured and add further pomp to events. Jumping techniques and high 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 styles.

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 trainable — 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.

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.

Multi-talented horses are useful for eventing, and it’s even more profitable if 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 steps 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 can learn competitiveness. 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 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.

Arabian can bring style to English pleasure, 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 seating 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 neutral tone that simulates the outdoors.

Horses that notice the subtle fences and function smoothly in careful gait tests are preferable. 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 content. Between serious 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®.

At Pro Earth Animal Health, we are concerned about your animal’s health. 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.

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!

Sources:

www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/ceh/local_resources/pdfs/pubs-Oct2012-sec.pdf

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