Why is he losing weight?!

It’s never a good feeling for you as an owner to look at your horse and think, How did he get to be that skinny?  If you’ve got a hard keeper, a lot of time and money is spent on making sure he keeps a healthy weight.  But what if your horse has never been a hard keeper and suddenly begins to lose weight?  That can be a frustrating, even scary feeling.  Take a step back and consider some of these possibilities and options for helping you four-legged friend pack on the pounds:

  • If he gets grain, is he getting enough? Make sure that you check the bag of the grain that your horse is getting.  Any reputable brand of horse grain will have a feeding chart on the back for how much to feed based on weight and activity level.  If you are trying to put on weight, feed the high end of the recommended amount.
  • Is his hay or pasture high-quality?  Is the hay that your horse is eating high quality?  You can have your hay tested to make sure that the nutrients he needs are present.  Sometimes even hay that looks like it is high quality is lacking in nutrition and some hay that doesn’t look so great to us will give your horse everything he needs.  For more information on testing forage quality, try the National Forage Testing Association.  Also, if your horse is in a pasture all day or most of the day, just because he’s happily eating lovely emerald green grass doesn’t necessarily mean that he is getting all the nutrients he should.  If  you are concerned about his overall vitamin and mineral intake, try a basic nutrition supplement like Accel, Red Cell, Grand Vite, or Missing Link.
  • Have you tried a weight supplement?  It could be that you just got lucky enough to have a particularly hard keeper.  If  he is getting the highest recommended dose of grain and his hay/pasture is high-quality and he’s still not as fat as you’d like, try adding a weight supplement.  Certain breeds tend to be harder keepers than others.  Thoroughbreds and American Saddlebreds are two examples of breeds in which hard keepers are not uncommon.  Also, sometimes as horses age, they can become harder keepers so think about how old your horse is when you are trying to assess the reason for his weight loss.  If you are looking for a decent weight supplement, try Weight Builder, Fat-Cat, or SmartGain 4.  If you don’t want to supplement with a manufactured product, try adding Beet Pulp to your horse’s diet.  It is high-fiber and helps digestion and is often helpful in putting weight on.
  • When was the last time his teeth were floated?  Horses do not chew the same way that we do.  Humans have a chomping, up & down motion when we chew.  Horses grind their jaw more side to side to pulverize their food.  This is fine except that their lower teeth are narrow than their upper teeth and therefore, when they grind, they do not wear down their teeth evenly.  Sharp points can form on the teeth and making eating more difficult and even painful.  How do you know if your horse might need his teeth floated? Watch him eat.  Does he drop a lot of food out of his mouth as he is eating?  This could mean that his teeth are not even and he can’t chew properly.  Also, is he not eating as much?  If it is painful or difficult to eat, he might not have as much desire to try.  Ultimately, talk to your vet and get a professional opinion about the quality of your horse’s teeth.  If this is the cause of his weight loss, you will see improvement in his weight within a month or two after floating the teeth.
  • When was the last time you dewormed him?  If, in addition to be a bit on the thin side, your horse is also rubbing his tail and/or looks a little dull-coated, he could need to be dewormed.  My experience with the fecal testing that is currently all the rage was not a positive one, as the results came back telling me that GQ only really needed to be given his dewormer twice a year.  After several months, his coat was dull, he’d lost weight and was rubbing his tail like crazy.  Deworming him led to a huge improvement in his coat, as well as stopping the rubbing and helping his weight.  I have since put him back on his old worming schedule of 6 times a year, rotating Zimecterin and Zimecterin Gold and he is shiny and healthier.
  • Talk to your vet!  There is a reason veterinarians go through so much schooling: to deal with the hard stuff! Ask your vet for ideas about why your four-legged friend might not be as rotund as you’d like.  If you’ve tried some of these basic things, there is always more a vet can recommend or work through with you!

SmartDark & Handsome

I have to just take a minute to sing praise for SmartPak’s supplement SmartDark & Handsome.

SmartDark & Handsome

I happened across a little flier for SmartDark & Handsome late last summer that came in one of GQ’s SmartPak shipments.  Not three days prior to that, I had been complaining about how sun-bleached his coat, mane and tail were looking.    Since this supplement was not too expensive (and to be honest, I loved the name! =D) I figured I would give it a try for a month or two and see if there was any improvement.  It was incredible! Within 3 weeks, my dark bay gelding was already getting some of the sleek, dark sheen back in his coat and within 2 or 2 1/2 months, his mane and tail were looking less red and blond and getting back to a darker shade, if not quite all the way black.  He gobbled it up — not that he’s a super picky eater — and looks great!

If you are looking for a product to bring some shine and dark color back to your sun-bleached horse, give this one a try!  This is the description from SmartPak:

SmartDark & Handsome helps bring out a deep, dark shine in black, bay and brown coats. This unique formula provides a rich blend of Omega 3 fatty acids from Fish Oil, Flax Seed and Chia Seed combined with Paprika and Nutmeg. SmartDark & Handsome is not just for the boys – it’s great for mares, too. (We just couldn’t resist the name!)

Note for Competitive Riders: This product contains Paprika, which may contain trace amounts of Capsaicin.  

Have a horse of a different color? We recommend SmartShine Ultra.

Here is a link to SmartDark & Handsome!

Winter Weather Beauty Treatment

If you are anything like me, you dread the winter months because of what they do to your horse.  No baths, longer hair, snowy, muddy and messy.  Sometimes just a small beauty treatment can make your winter fuzzball look less like a neglected backyard pet and more like a presentable, well-loved, four-legged friend.

GQ, my handsome guy, doesn’t have the luxury of a stall.  He lives outside all year round and because we get some cold, unpredictable winters, I don’t have the luxury of keeping him clipped and show-ready like I desperately wish I could.  I often find myself telling him, “You look like a hooligan!” and then it gets followed up with a mini winter beauty treatment.  Here are some of the things I do to keep my horse looking presentable during the winter:

Clip those whiskers!  Use your clippers with a light touch to skim off extra long nose whiskers.   Since the hair on his muzzle is a little longer, you don’t want to apply as much pressure as normal or you’ll come away with uneven, goofy looking patches on his nose.   Keeping the clippers moving downwards in the direction of the hair will also reduce your chance of making patches.  Also trim off the long scraggly pieces of his beard under his chin and jaw.  This takes a little more finesse to make look even, but your horse will look so much more put together without 3 inches of hair hanging off his chin and also makes it easier to tighten your nose band for a ride.

Keep a bridle path!  During the winter months when GQ’s coat is long, I use scissors to trim his bridle path.  If your horse does not stand quietly, I do not recommend trying this technique!  I ask him to put his head down, (which is a convenient trick I will address in my next post!) and trim his bridle path until it is even with the coat on either side.  I trim off any obnoxiously long pieces of fuzz and taper it so that there is not a giant divot on his poll where I’ve taken the bridle path down to the skin and left his winter coat long around it.  If you don’t trust your horse to stand nicely for you to use scissors, use your clippers with light pressure and don’t clip all the way to the skin to avoid that divot!

Make that mane even! Since GQ is outside all the time, I don’t want to shorten his mane as much as I would during the show season/warmer months.  However, I still want it to look even and well-maintained.  A long scraggly mane is one of the biggest turn-offs on a horse in my opinion.  Make sure you comb out your horses mane at least once a week and keep it pulled/trimmed to an even level, even if you want to keep it a little longer for some extra warmth. [Make sure to give your horse a good scratch at the crest!  Almost every horse I’ve met gets super itchy there–especially in winter! =D ]

Tidy up the ears! I don’t want to completely expose GQ’s ears to the harsh winter weather, but I do want them to look nice and neat.  To tidy up the ears, I pinch the edges together, which forces the extra long hairs to stick out and I clip those hairs.  It is amazing how such a small action can make your horse look infinitely more presentable.

Whip out the Show Sheen! Actually, any product that says it “conditions” will do.  I actually use Cowboy Magic Super BodyShine because I like the smell a little better than Show Sheen and its a bit cheaper, but they share the same principle: Add shine to your horse’s coat, repel dust and condition the coat.  If your horse wears a blanket, this is especially kind for him because he’ll get pretty static-y and dry under those covers.  Use a spray like one of these to help relieve the static shocks your grooming tools will cause and pull dust out of deep layers of that winter coat.

Cowboy Magic Super Bodyshine

Absorbine Show Sheen

Santa Fe Coat Conditioner

Clean those hooves!  With horse feet, you’re kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place because lack of moisture in the hot summer months creates problems, but excess moisture in snow and mud can also damage your horse’s feet.  At least once a week, use a stiff brush to get debris off of the hooves and clean them as well as you can.  A lanolin-rich product like Corona can replace some of the nutrients that the excess moisture saps out.  You don’t want to use a sealer though when your horse has been standing in water or mud because you can inadvertently do more harm than good by trapping excess moisture into the hoof.

Corona Ointment (My FAVORITE!!!)

Try some of these tips to keep your horse from looking like a hooligan as you wait out the cold and your horse will look presentable and loved all season long!

Corona Ointment

If someone were to say to me “What is one product you could not live without in your grooming kit?” I would not even hesitate before replying, “Corona Ointment!”  If you aren’t familiar with this product, I’m going to introduce it to you, because it is one of those products that can be used safely for  a wide variety of ailments in your horse.

Corona Ointment is a multi-purpose ointment which is effective in healing minor cuts and scratches, locking in moisture, easing sunburn and chapping, etc.

It is a lanolin-based product.  Lanolin is great for hair, skin and hooves and is gentle on wounds, which makes it an effective, pain-free option for cuts and scrapes.  Although Corona does actually make a hoof ointment which is very high in lanolin-content to lock moisture in hooves, the regular multi-purpose ointment is also a great product to massage into dry or brittle hooves.

GQ, my horse, has typical Thoroughbred feet.  If you aren’t familiar with TB feet, here is the short explanation: They are HORRID.  TB’s tend to have thin hoof walls which makes holding shoes an adventure and predisposes them to a variety of foot issues.  GQ has to go barefoot in the summer because with the flies he will stomp his shoes off within a day.  When he has bare feet, however, they get very dry and short.  At least once a week, 2 or 3 times if possible, I clean his feet off with a stiff brush and moderately damp towel then I massage Corona into the hoof wall, onto the heels and around the coronet band to lock in moisture and keep his feet from drying and cracking.  I am convinced that the Corona Ointment is the only reason I have not had some major lameness issues from cracks that could have occurred due to his hooves drying out.

My other personal accolade for Corona Ointment comes from last summer.  GQ is quite low on the totem pole in any herd situation.  He was bullied by some other horses and ended up need some stitches over his eye and some TLC for a number of scrapes and cuts.  I used corona on the assortment of cuts he had and he healed very quickly and doesn’t have one single scar from the ordeal.

Now, the only con to Corona is that, being an ointment, it will run a little in hot weather and it will attract dirt and debris to it so it needs to be reapplied more often than some other products.  That being said, it is worth the extra effort for the outcome you will see!

So go out and stock up on Corona and you will be prepared for wide variety of issues your horse may face!


What are all of those joint supplements?

Many joint supplements are full of big words and strange sounding ingredients.  Here are the 4 most common and important substances to understand when choosing a joint supplement for your horse.

MSM [methylsulfonylmethane] This natural sulfur helps support healthy connective tissues, like tendons, ligaments and muscles and so is thought to be helpful in controlling or preventing arthritis, muscle pain, ect. It can be used by itself or in conjunction with glucosamine and/or chondroitin.  Some studies have concluded that MSM may help energy levels as well.  My old, but still sound horse is on pure MSM to help keep the creaks to a minimum and it also seems to put a little extra pep in his step at the jumps! He gets VitaFlex MSM, but there are many other MSM products also available.

Glucosamine is a naturally occurring substance in healthy cartilage (the tough connective tissue that cushions joints) and is also found in the synovial fluid between joints.  If there is a lack of glucosamine in the body, the cartilage can get weaker than it should be and can cause arthritic pain in the joints.

Chondroitin helps to keep cartilage healthy by absorbing fluid (particularly water) into the connective tissue. It can also block enzymes that break down cartilage, and it provides the building blocks for the body to produce new cartilage. It is often fed in conjunction with glucosamine.

Hyaluranic Acid (HA) is a natually occurring substance in the synovial fluid, which provides cushion for the joints and other tissues.  Although it is available as a powder, it is most effective when given in liquid form.  It may be used alone or given in conjunction with glucosamine and/or chondroitin.

If you have an older horse who is still in work, it might not be a bad idea to offer a basic joint supplement just to keep your four-legged friend’s body happy.  A basic MSM can do the job for something like this and is usually cheap.  If you have concerns or questions, talk to your vet and see if they recommend a certain supplement for your horse.  They will be able to tell you what kind of supplement is going to be the most useful and effective.

If you want to put your horse on supplements, try using SmartPaks.  They make it fool-proof by pre-measuring everything you want to give your horse so that all you have to do is peel the top off and add it to your horse’s feed. I use SmartPaks and love it because they will automatically send you the next month’s worth of supplements so you never have to worry about missing out on a few days when you run out of (and forget about) your supplement.