Friday, March 14, 2014

Basic Structures (Equine Muscoloskeletal system)

Muscoloskeletal system-the framework of structures that support the horse's internal organs


  • compromise the framework of the body
  • skeleton provides a support structure for organ systems and is the basis for all movement
  • bones are composed of 2 types of tissue:
  1. cancellous bone: spongy bone at the center of each bone
  2. cortical bone: compact bone that covers the cancellous bone
  • the outermost layer of bones is the periosteum


  • the connections between bones that allow for movement
  • basic joint structures consist of these layers:
  1. joint capsule: fibrous layer that encloses the joint.  Contains blood vessels and nerves that help supply nutrients
  2. synovial membrane: thin layer of tissue that filters blood.  Also produces synovial fluid
  3. synovial fluid: released by cells from the synovial membrane; help cushion the joint.  When released into the joint, provides nutrients and lubrication to the joint surface
  4. cartilage: fibrous covering over the ends of bones that make up the gliding surface of the joint.  Also has shock-absorbing properties that help distribute stress placed on joints during movement
  5. subchondrial bone: layer below cartilage that helps absorb shock as well as carries nutrients and waste to form the joint
  6. periarticular support structures: tndons and ligaments surrounding the joint to help maintain stability
  • most joints have a pair of collateral ligaments on the medial and lateral to provide support


  • provide the attachment of muscles to bone
  • basic tendon structures consist of a series of parallel fibers that gather into a bundle


  • connective tissue structures
  • attach bone to bone across joints to help control movement and provide stability
  • can be intracapsular, capsular, or extracapsular
  • consists of a series of parallel fibers that gather into a bundle


  • produce movement
  • composed of individual fibers that bundle together into larger units to create actual muscles

Basic Structures Vocab



intracapsular-within the joint capsule

capsular-attached to the joint capsule

extracapsular-completely outside of the joint capsule

Friday, February 21, 2014

Horse Vaccines and Diseases

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines help protect horses against infectious diseases by stimulating their immune system to fight against viruses and bacteria.  When horses are vaccinated, they’re given a dose of antigen (contains inactivated part of a disease making organism).  The antigen is injected into the muscle and encourages the immune system to create antibodies against it; antibodies                                are disease defenders.  
  After vaccination,the antibodies circulate the horse’s bloodstream, attacking invading organisms.  Therefore, the horse is less likely to get sick.  A newer technology that has been recently introduced is intranasal (in the nose) vaccines for respiratory diseases.  They are sprayed up the horse’s nose where they stimulate immune system functions.  They are now available for influenza and strangles and have proven to be more effective and have less side effects than intramuscular (in the muscle) vaccines.     As technology advances, vaccines become more effective.  Horse’s have complex immune systems and they involve more than just the production of antibodies for disease prevention.  Another advancement is DNA vaccines, which work by injecting parts of genetic material of the      organism that produces diseases rather than killed organisms.  The newer vaccines are more likely to give better, long lasting immunity to diseases than older vaccines.    

Do they work?

Vaccines are effective to a degree.  They will either prevent the horse from becoming sick or reduce the severity and length of the disease.  Though, vaccines won’t completely protect the horse against diseases in every situation.  

How are vaccines approved?

For a vaccine to be approved and licensed by the USDA, it must demonstrate a certain increase in the number of antibodies following administration.  Though an increase in antibodies doesn’t always effectively fight the disease.  Even with USDA approval, we don’t always know whether certain vaccines will provide complete protection against diseases.  

Tetanus Vaccine

 The tetanus vaccine protects the horse against Clostridium tetani, which invades open wounds and can cause life threatening paralysis.  Every horse should be vaccinated for tetanus annually due to the seriousness of the disease and the amount of the disease found in the environment.  If a horse suffers a wound and has not been vaccinated in the last 6 months, the vaccine should be re-administered to help protect the horse.

Easter & Western Encephalomyelitis (sleeping sickness) vaccine

This vaccine protects the horse against both eastern & western viruses.  A 3rd form of sleeping sickness exists, but is only a concern for horses living near the mexican border of the U.S.  These viruses are transmitted by bloddsucking insects and can cause a life threatening neurological disease.  All horses should be vaccinated from EEE and WEE, but only horses living 40 from the Mexican border should be vaccinated for VEE.  Horses should be vaccinated annually, but may be vaccinated twice a year if living in an area where mosquitoes are especially prevalent or the disease is common.  

Influenza (flu) vaccine

This is a vaccine that protects horses against one of the most common causes of respiratory diseases.  The influenza virus is spread through particles in the air or carried on solid objects.  Though Influenza is rarely fatal, it can affect the horse for several weeks.  Young horses should definitely be vaccinated because they are most often affected.  Show horses (which are exposed to many different horses) or horses with respiratory diseases should be vaccinated.  Intranasal vaccines are effective for 6 months & intramuscular injections are effective for 3 to 4 months.  Horses should be vaccinated quarterly for intramuscular vaccine.   

Equine Viral Rhinopneumonitis

The Rhino virus can have several different forms and cause a variety of problems (neurological diseases, respiratory diseases, abortion).  It is passed from horse to horse.  The vaccine will reduce the horse’s chance of becoming ill with the respiratory disease, but has no effect of fighting the neurological form.  Immunity lasts 2-3 months and may be given every 6 months                          with the modified live vaccine, which is more effective.   

West Nile Virus Vaccine

This virus attacks your horse’s nervous system.  It was first identified in the U.S in 1999 and rapidly spread throughout the county.  It is carried by birds and transmitted to horses & humans through mosquitoes.  Signs include stumbling, lack of coordination, weakness, paralysis, and muscle twitching.  Death in horses are reported to as high as 30%.  Due to its efficiency and few side effects, this vaccine is recommended in the U.S annually, though it may be administered biannually if the horse is in an area where the disease has been                                 identified.  

Potomac Horse Fever Vaccine

PHF is a severe diarrheal disease caused by Erlichia ristieii (bacterial organism) and is carried by ticks.  Freshwater snails can also transmit the disease.  The vaccine reduces the horse’s chances of getting sick.  Requirement depends on geographical location and exposure to other horses.  If PHF is in the area, your horse should be vaccinated annually and in high risk areas, twice a year.

Rabies Vaccine

Rabies is a 100% fatal viral disease that is transmitted through wild animal bites.  The vaccine is safe and effective.  Geographical location and the horse’s lifestyle will determine the need for the vaccine.  Given annually.  

Strangles Vaccine

Strangles is a respiratory disease caused by                                          streptococcusequi.  This disease is characterized                                                      by large abscesses that form in the horse’s lymph                                              nodes.  It is passed from horse to horse and flies                                                 may play a role in transmission.  The vaccination                                                       can result in serious side effects Purpura                                                         hemorrhagicia, an immune system reaction that                                                         may be fatal.  Many vets only recommend the                                                                      vaccine in a high risk exposure area.  The newer                                                           intranasal vaccine may have reduced side effects.

Horse Nutrition Basics

Nutrition Basics

  • Energy
  • Fiber
  • Protein
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals


    Energy is the amount of calories a horse needs to keep his body functioning.  Too much = fat & too little = thin.  An inappropriate amount is a common feeding mistake.  Your horse should have 1.5-2 pounds of hay per 100 pounds of weight.  Your horse can gain energy from the following:
    • Pasture
    • Hay
    • Grain
      • If you horse’s energy needs increase due to pregnancy or hard training, the additional requirements can be met with grain and supplements.


    Fiber is an extremely important nutrient because an adequate amount of fiber is crucial for proper function of the gastrointestinal tract.  Fiber needs are met with good quality hay or pasture (should a make up a minimum of 70% of your horse’s diet).  Feeding oats as the concentrate portion can also help because oats are high in fiber and low in energy.  Grain feeding should be kept to a minimum.  A high carbohydrate diet is unhealthy.  


    Protein is an essential part of your horse’s diet that keeps their body functioning properly.  8-10% is the a, but that may change due to pregnancy, growth, and exercise.  Its often quality NOT quantity that makes the difference.  The amino acid lysine is most important for meeting protein needs (soybean meal is a good source of lysine; also found in alfalfa).  
    Alfalfa < 18% protein

    grass/out hay 8 < 10% protein
    Cereal grains 9 < 10% protein


    B Complex Vitamins-
    Produced by digestive tract
    Vitamin C-Produced by liver
    Vitamin A-Fresh green hay; grass
    Most of your horse’s basic vitamin needs are met through hay and grain.  A good balanced vitamin supplement can never hurt.


    Most of the minerals that your horse needs are found in your horse’s hay.  You should always have a trace mineral block available for your horse (horses have an excellent ability to self-regulate their mineral intake due to their needs).  Selenium is the one mineral that may require special consideration in certain areas of the country.

Horse Behavior


Horses are herd animals and are well aware of their pecking order in herd, either as a dominant leader or a submissive follower.  The herd provides protection from danger and since horses are prey animals, their first instinct is flight; though they will fight if put in the position.  Horses act first and think later.    When we domesticated the horse, we asked him to change his nature and lifestyle.  We isolate him from other horses and feed him twice a day.  If he’s lucky, we may let him out in the pasture several times a week and often, his only exercise is with a rider on his back, an hour at a time.  Your horse’s behavior is strongly linked to his natural instincts that allow him to survive in the wild.  Once you understand these natural behaviors and instincts, its easier to see how behavioral problems arrive, and how they can be managed.  

Behavior Categories

There are 5 categories horse behaviors can be put in:

  • Frustration

  • Stereotypical
  • Dominance
  • Territorial
  • Flight

    Stereotypical Behavior

    Stereotypical behavior in horses is anything contradicting their natural/wild side.  They are usually behavior patterns that are repeated over and over without variation.  Typically occurs in response to confinement and isolation from other horses.  Once your horse begins to develop stereotypical behaviors, they are very hard to get rid of; most likely because the horse comforts himself with the behavior and learns to do it over and over again.  

    Stereotypical Behavior Solutions

    • Minimize confinement
    • Increase exercise and turn out time
    • Companionship (close to horses/or stall mate like goat or small horse)

    • Occupy him in his stall (toy, grass hay)

    Dominance Behavior

    Dominance is a dispute over a scarce resource (often food).  Horses use dominance behavior to tell who’s boss and therefore your horse uses behaviors he would use toward herd mates in the wild.  You may be encouraging this behavior if your body language conveys a message of submission.  I you’re not careful, your horse’s aggressive behavior may become more severe.  Always stay in
    a safe position around horse’s with dominance

    Dominance Behavior Solutions

    • Reward nonaggression
    • Establish yourself as the dominant one

    Territorial Behavior

    In the wild, horses have a defined home range that they live in and defend.  In domestication, stalls are horse’s territories and they may
    exhibit territorial behaviors to             
    protect it.  Territorial behaviors  
    may be related to dominance  


    Territorial Behavior Solutions

    • Establish your dominance
    • Make your horse feel safe in his territory
    • Provide feed locations separated from other horses
    Flight Behavior
    In the wild, horses depend on their flight response to protect themselves from predators.  Since horses are victims, their first response is to run, fighting is a last resort.  When this response is transferred to domesticated life, it often leads to self-protecting behavioral problems such as spooking.  When horses perceive a threat, their first response is to run from it.  The less exposure and experience a horse has, the more likely he is to exhibit flight behavior.
    Flight Behavior Solutions
    • Desensitization
    • Reward good behavior
    • Don’t punish for overreacting

    Frustration Behavior

    When horses anticipate something like food or exercise and want it right away, it may lead to frustration.  In the wild, horses don’t have to wait for anyone and they can often be impatient.

    Frustration Behavior Solutions

    • Don’t reward the behavior
    • Minimize frustration
    • Counter condition your horse
    (when your horse does a bad
    behavior, you make them do an

    undesirable exercise like circling)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Horse Vitals

 Horse Vitals

Do you know what your horse's vital signs are or your horse's average?  If your horse was to get sick right now, would you be able to tell the vet everything about your horse that he needs to know?  If so, you're on the right track and are on top of things.  If not, its not too late to help out your furry friend.  Knowing their basic vitals can save your horse's life in a bad situation, so I decided to give you some info on this very important topic.  


The average temperature for an adult horse is between 99 and 102 degrees.  If it is not normal for your horse to have a slightly higher temperature, you should call your vet if your horse's temp gets above 102 degrees.  The numbers do differ between equines, but to be in the safe side, if in doubt, call your vet anyways.  Its better to get your horse checked out and figure out that its temperature is usually 102.5 degrees than to not call your vet and have your horse get terribly sick.  

For a foal, 101 degrees is their normal temperature and anything above 102.5 degrees is a fever.  Foals can go down a lot quicker than adult horses, so do NOT hesitate to call your vet if you are unsure about your horse's health.  It is better to be prepared.  

You all know what's coming next.  If you don't already know, to take a horse's temperature you must lift up it's tail and put the thermometer into its butt.  Be careful.  Horse's don't like when you put the thermometer up into them and can get nervous and take it into themselves.  To make sure you don't lose your thermometer, try tying a string to it or getting one with an extra long end.  If the thermometer happens to go into your horse and you lose it, call your vet ASAP.  It can cause blockage and could lead to serious internal damage, even death, if you don't get it out quickly.  


The average pulse for the adult horse is anything between 28 and 40 beats per minute.  For foals, their pulse should be between 50 and 60 beats per minute, though a newborn foal may even have a pulse of 100 beats per minute.      

Your horse's pulse can be found near the front of your horse's jawbone (its easier to find in the left jawbone than the right).  Under the jawbone, there is an artery that slightly sticks out.  Using your forefinger (if you use your thumb, you might accidentally feel your own pulse), press firmly against the artery.  Using some sort of timer, time a 15 second period and multiply the number of beats you counted by 4.  This is your horse's average pulse.  You may also take his/her pulse by placing a stethoscope behind your horse's left elbow.  Count every thump thump as 1 beat.  


For an adult horse, anything from 12 to 24 breaths per minute is normal.  Foals have around 30 breaths per minute and a newborn foal can be around 60 breaths per minute.  To count your horse's number of breaths per minute, watch or feel your horse's ribcage/belly for one minute.  Make sure that you count 1 inhale and 1 exhale as 1 breath, not 2.  If you are having difficulty seeing your horse's ribcage move, watch your horse's nostrils or place your hand in front of its nostrils to feel your horse exhale.  An easier way to take your horse's respiration is to place a stethoscope on your horse's windpipe and listen to his/her breathing.  This will allow you to hear if your horse's windpipe is blocked by mucous or not.

Capillary Refill Time

Healthy horses should have moist, pink gums.  To check your horse's CRT (capillary refill time), firmly press your fingers on your horse's gums and then quickly take them away.  The time it takes for the area you were pressing on to turn from white to pink is your horse's CRT.  For horses or all ages, their CRT should be 2 seconds.  If their gums are red, blue, or white, contact your vet immediately. 

Gut Sounds

The gut sounds that come from your horse's abdomen can be give you and your vet very important information that can be used to diagnose an illness in your horse.  Gut sounds should always be present.  The absence of gut sounds is more of an indicator of a problem than excessive gut sounds, though both can be bad.  Usually, an absence of gut sounds indicates colic.  If gut sounds are not present in your horse, contact your vet and have them take a look at your horse.  To check for gut sounds, press your ear against your horse's barrel just behind his last rib.  Then, listen for gurgling noises.  Make sure you check for gut sounds on both sides of your horse.  


Healthy horses drink a minimum of 5 gallons of water per day and usually have between 10 and 12 gallons of water per day.  If your horse is dehydrated, its very important that you get him/her to drink.  If your horse won't drink its water, try flavoring it with apple juice or gatorade or try to get him/her to eat some salt using a salt block or putting a little bit in their grain.  Salt makes horses thirsty and helps encourage them to drink more water.  To test if your horse is dehydrated, you need to perform the pinch test.  To perform the pinch test, pull the skin on your horse's neck out, gently.  If the skin goes back into it's normal position when you let go in less than 1 second, your horse is fine.  If not, you should call your vet, your horse hasn't been drinking enough.         

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Types of Western Saddles

Types of Western saddles

Barrel Racing Saddle
Barrel Saddles have a deeper seat than most Western saddles to help the rider stay put during hard turns and fast runs.  The horn is taller, making it easier to hold onto during sharp turns.  If made properly, it will also help the rider to be stable and in control during their run.  Generally, barrel racers like a half rough out saddle so they can get more grip.  

Cutting Saddle
Western cutting saddles have less rise in the seat with the lowest pocket a bit further ahead.  This makes it easier for the rider to stay centered.  The swells and the horn are also high so the rider can hang onto the horn at the proper angle to push or pull on it to remain stable while cutting.  

Endurance Saddle
Western endurance saddles were originally designed for endurance competitions.  They feature sturdy construction with light weight and are generally fitted out with a number or ties and dees for securing all of the accessories necessary for long and grueling rides.  Recently, endurance saddles, in both English and Western styles, have become more popular. 

Equitation Saddle
The center of balance in an Equitation saddle is in the center of the saddle.  The stirrups are turned so the rider's foot will fall in a proper line their upper body and hips.  The tooling and silver accents are all part of the show scene and are especially extreme in Western Equitation saddles.  

Old Time Ranch Saddle
The old time ranch saddle has a higher cantle and pommel than other saddles due to being used for the long days on the range.  The rider can easily balance on their "pockets" or in a "chair seat" position.  it has many strings and attachment points to tie bedrolls and bad weather gear onto.  

Penning and All-Event Saddle
Penning and All-Event saddles provide the rider with a deep and comfortable seat to stay put in while training, roping, and penning.  The tree, horn, and rigging are built strong enough to rope with.  An All-Event saddle should be multipurpose and comfortable for women and men.  The swells are lower the the swells on a cutting saddle, but a bit higher than most roping saddles.  

Plantation Saddle
Plantation saddles are another saddle group that is gaining popularity among pleasure riders.  It combines many features of both English and Western saddles, giving the rider a deep seat with the sense of security of a Western saddle, while retaining the closer contact of an English saddle.

Western Pleasure Saddle
Since pleasure riding rarely consists of heavy work or long days, Western pleasure saddles are lighter in weight than most of the other Western saddle intended for heavy jobs.  The balance point tends to be the back of the saddle.  All of these points allow the horse and rider to enjoy riding on the trail.  

Ranch Saddle
The ranch saddle is built to give it's rider comfort during long hours of riding.  The entire saddle must be built strong and durable because a working cowboy (or cowgirl) might ride that saddle roping and working day after day, in all kinds of conditions.  Generally, ranch saddles have a deeper, well shaped seat as well as a plate rigging system.  The plate rigging delivers an even pull throughout the tree to give the horse more comfort.  Most cowboys (or cowgirls) want the saddle fork or swells to sit low on the horse with a horn that is bigger in diameter for roping.  

Reining Saddle
Reining saddles have a low horn so it doesn't interfere with the rider's hands and reins.  The seat must be shaped to allow the rider to roll their pelvis back for making big stops.  The reining saddle should also be built to allow as much feel to the horse as possible.  

Roping Saddle
The modern roping saddle has a deeper seat and the fenders hanging in a position to ensure that the rider can be up and balanced while roping.  The horn and tree of the saddle are very strong to take the sudden strong jerks of a steer on the end of the lariat.  The rigging must be one that pulls off the top of the tree bars and has great strength.  Usually, suede padded seats are used to give riders more grip.  The swells are kept reasonably low to keep the leverage of the rope on the horn to a minimum.  

Western Show Saddle
Western Show saddles generally have a lower horn so they don't interfere with the reins.  The saddle is very ornately tooled and silvered to give off a classy look.  The skirts are deeper to show off the silver and tooling more.  The seat must be very balanced to help the rider achieve proper riding stature.  

Unsoundness and Blemishes

Unsoundness and Blemishes

Poll evil: Inflamed swelling of poll between the ears

Fistulous Withers: Inflamed swelling of the withers

Saddle Sore: Inflamation caused by poor fitting tack

Thoroughpin: Puffy swelling on the upper part of the hock and in front of the large tendon

Capped Hocks: Enlargement on the point of hock, depends on stage of development

Curb: Hard swelling on the back surface of the rear cannon about 4 inches below the hock

Quarter or Sand Crack: Vertical split in the wall of the hoof

Toe Crack: A vertical crack in the toe of the hoof

Bone or Jack Spavin: Bony growth usually found on the inside lower point of the hock

Bog Spavin: meaty, soft swelling that occurs on the inner front part of the hock

Hernia: Protrusion of internal organs through the wall of the body

Shoe Boil or Capped Elbow: Soft, flabby swelling at the point of elbow

Bowed Tendons: Enlarged, stretched flexor tendons behind the cannon bones
Ringbone: Bony growth on either or both sides of the pastern

Sidebone: Hardened lateral cartilage protruding above and toward the rear quarter of the hoof head

Splint: Capsule enlargement usually found inside of the inside upper part of the front cannon

Wind Puff: Puffy swelling that occurs on either side of the tendons above the fetlock

Sweeney: A decrease in size of a single muscle or group of shoulders or hips