VMC’s Top Tips for Winter Horse Care
The risk of impaction colic increases as the temperatures drop and horses drink less. The average horse (1000lb) needs to drink 10-12 gallons of water per day. In winter we feed dried feeds such as grains and hay which are much lower in water content than grass. Because of this your horse is going to need to drink more water.
Keep horses’ water between 45- and 65-degrees F, provide salt, and keep waterer clean.
Lower temperatures mean additional dietary needs in order for horses to maintain adequate body temperature. Feeding more grain is not enough to keep your horse warm. Feeding additional hay increases fermentation and keeps your horse warm. The lower the temperature goes the more hay they need.
Without shelter horses can tolerate temperatures around 0 degrees F, with adequate shelter they can withstand temperatures as low as -40. Providing shelter such as a run in will help keep your horses warm, dry and comfortable for the winter.
Horses benefit from exercise in the winter, whether that is from riding or from adequate turn out. The important thing to note if riding in the winter is to be sure to adequately cool your horse down. Avoid riding in deep snow or in icy conditions.
- Hoof care
Horse hooves do grow slower in the winter but regular trims are still necessary. Regularly picking out feet is necessary as hooves are prone to packing “ice balls” and this can make it difficult and dangerous for horses to walk
Dr. Caitlin Hutcheson, BVMS
It is believed that between 50-90% of adult horses and 25-50% of foals may have gastric ulcers. In adults ulcers are more common in athletes, particularly racehorses and show horses; while in foals those that may be sick or are orphans and are fed less frequently than when they have access to the dam are at a higher risk for developing ulcers.
Why are ulcers so common in horses?
Athletes are usually fed large meals two to three times daily and stalled at least part of the day for management purposes or because of weather/bugs/etc. This management style may lead to ulcers for several reasons; a horse’s stomach is smaller than most other species and is designed to have an almost continuous intake of forage. Constant intake of forage helps to neutralize the acid that the stomach is continuously producing. Mechanical aspects of exercise can cause enough pressure in the abdomen such that parts of the stomach can be exposed to acid for prolonged periods of time. Transportation and chronic administration of NSAIDs such as bute or banamine also contribute to gastric ulcers.
What signs might a horse show if they have gastric ulcers?
The clinical signs associated with gastric ulcers can be quite extensive and include:
Not performing well
And many others
How will we diagnose ulcers?
The only way that we can diagnose gastric ulcers definitively is by performing a gastroscopy, which involves passing an endoscope into the horse’s stomach and evaluating the stomachs lining. This procedure is not invasive and is relatively easily done.
Preventing and treating ulcers
It is unlikely that the majority of us will stop riding, hauling and competing, but there are certainly steps that we can take to prevent ulcers. Free choice hay or pasture is a great way to buffer stomach acid. Reduce the amount of grain your horse is being fed and increase the forage if possible or break grain feedings into more small meals and increase the forage at each meal. Alfalfa can help reduce the risk of ulcers for those horses that may have it. Also try to limit the use of NSAIDS. There are several products on the market that may help to prevent gastric ulcers these include Purina Outlast and SmartPak SmartGut Ultra to name a few.
There is only one FDA approved treatment for gastric ulcers and that is Gastrogard, which you can get from your veterinarian after having your horse evaluated for ulcers.
In the coming weeks we will be posting articles on our Facebook page that will further delve into equine gastric ulcer syndrome.
Caitlin Hutcheson BVMS
More in depth information is available here:
They say “you should never look a gift horse in the mouth,” but you should definitely have your vet take a look. There is a lot of valuable information that you can gain about a horse from looking at its teeth and the inside of its mouth.
Why worry about dental care for my horse?
It is important to have your veterinarian be involved in your horse’s dental care from the time they are young through their adult life. Horse’s teeth are hypsodont meaning that they continuously erupt throughout their life. Horses only get one set of teeth, and these days many horses are living well into their 30s, so quality dental care is extremely important. As the teeth erupt and the horse chews its food, over time the teeth can develop sharp points, teeth can become loose or fall out and other teeth can over grow or erupt incorrectly, potentially causing some major issues. Many malocclusions, or misalignment of teeth, can start when the horse is very young even as early as about two and a half years old when the horse’s permanent teeth begin erupting. This is why it is so important to have your veterinarian involved in the oral care of your horse. Over the lifetime of the horse these malocclusions can cause major problems. If we catch them when the horse is young, we are better able to correct or manage the problem.
What does “comprehensive oral exam” mean?
We start by performing a thorough physical exam on your horse to evaluate overall health and determine if it is safe to give the horse a light sedative. Sedation is used to help relax the horse and its strong jaw muscles and allows us to place a speculum in the mouth. Warm water is used to rinse the mouth to remove left over feed and hay so that we can better visualize the oral cavity. We look for signs of inflammation, ulcers, foreign bodies and wounds. Each tooth is examined and palpated to determine if there are any malocclusions, missing or loose/fractured teeth or periodontal disease.
After evaluating the horse’s mouth, your veterinarian will explain their findings and make a plan with you based on these findings and recommend future exams and the need for floating. In most cases a routine float will be performed, in other cases more advanced work will be necessary. It is even possible that no action at all needs to be taken. It is important to note that not all conditions can be corrected in one visit.
Why should I have my vet perform dental exams and floating and not an equine dentist?
Many equine dentists do have a degree of training; however, they are not licensed veterinarians so they are unfortunately not held to the same standard of care or of liability. If there are any concerns from the owner about what was done, the quality of the work or the outcome, there may be little recourse as there are no governing bodies for lay dentists at this time. Legally, only veterinarians can administer sedation, diagnose, create a treatment plan and oversee it. It is important for horse owners to be educated on this issue to make the best decisions on who you choose to have work with you and your horse in all aspects of their health care.
Dr. Caitlin Hutcheson, BVMS
For more detailed information please visit
Photo credit: Kirsten Jackson of Dental Vet
Photo Credit: Caitlin Hutcheson, BVMS, of Veterinary Medical Center
The last day…
Quantum came off xc yesterday dragging Doug back to the barn and still full of run. He lost a shoe (maybe on the drop off the roof?) and had a couple small scrapes on his legs. We jogged him after the shoe went back on, and he looked absolutely great. So, we all went home.
The jog up was supposed to be at 8:30, but the French seemed to have a vague concept of time, so when we go to the barn at 9:30, it was just in time to see him jog up and aside from spooking at stuff, he looked ready to go.
I went up to stadium to watch the 6-year olds go. The stadium was held in the same place dressage was, so on grass and I think the fences were at most 6 feet from the rail. We estimated 4-5000 spectators – all the seats were filled and they were 3 deep on the rail. It was quite closed in feeling compared to what we see in the states at the big events.
The course was beautifully decorated – lots of plain jumps, with tons of plants, a Liverpool, and 2 double combinations for the 6-year olds. And I was wrong – it was not just a dressage contest. We saw maybe 6 double clears, a lot of rails, a fall of horse /rider and some unpleasant rounds. These horses are still green, and the atmosphere overwhelmed some of them (and to be honest, some of the riders too). Now, I’m an amateur rider and I make plenty of bad decisions on fences, so I get it, but I really didn’t expect so much at a Championship. There was a lot of hardware in these horses’ mouths, and some of them were overbitted and a lot were just strong and running through all the aids. Lots of pulling and yanking. Kitty King’s ride was lovely – soft and forward and deserving of the win.
The crowd was great – watched every horse, groaned when rails came down, cheered when a clear round happened and although they did cheer a little more for the French riders, they were appreciative of everyone.
I did, however, hate, hate, hate the light plastic jump poles. If horses hit them, they bounced up and caught at least 2 horses between their legs, causing one to fall and another to make a heroic effort to stay on its feet. Pretty is as pretty does and safety needs to come first.
At noon, they had a parade of the winners of the 2 and 3-year old Selle Francais youngsters, who were also competing somewhere on the grounds for the free jumping and under saddle jumping national titles (at least the 3-year olds were. Not sure what the 2-year olds did). If you thought the atmosphere was a lot for a 6-year-old, just imagine the 2 and 3-year olds. The Spanish Riding School would have been proud of the airs above the ground. However, not one person got hurt and no horse got loose, surprisingly enough.
Then, much to my surprise, they totally redid the jump course for the 7-year olds. They didn’t just add a triple, or increase the height, they moved all the fences, and made a totally different course. That’s something I’ve never seen before. Again, it didn’t look too bad from my vantage point but again, very few double clears. Maybe 12? The biggest questions were in asking the horses to move up to a bigger jump (a triple bar and a square oxer off a tight turn) then come back quietly for a skinny/Liverpool and a double set short. The quality of the riding was much better, but some of the horses looked tired and some just looked like this was the end of their scope – hard as they tried, it just wasn’t going to be a clear round.
Quantum was still fresh and was still not a fan of the close quarters. He was jumping way over the fences, but a spook down the triple line caused Doug to ride him forward and he got too far in and pulled the last rail in the triple and then had the last fence down. Even with 2 rails, he moved up several spots and ended up 29th out of the original 69 starters.
I want to thank Christine Turner and Tim Holekamp for making this trip possible for Quantum, and Dave and Susan Drillock for supporting him as owners And I especially want to thank Doug Payne for buying this horse as a yearling and bringing him along to this point. No, he didn’t win, but that isn’t the point of the grant. The point is to further a horse’s education to be a 4 star horse for the future. I know Quantum experienced stuff he has never seen before in the US, and that will only make him a better horse, and hopefully a team horse.
I also want to add that being over here makes you a little more appreciative of what we have at home, like Diet Pepsi and gas that isn’t 8$/gallon. And, despite all our differences in the US right now, we are lucky, lucky, lucky. One of the things we saw this week was not only the armed police and mounted police who were very visible, but army regulars in full body armor with automatic weapons who were patrolling the crowds.
Thanks everybody for reading. Au revoir from France and go US Eventing!
Dr. Elizabeth Callahan
The true test – xc day!
Well, what can I say about the crowds… I think unbelievable might be the answer. I have never seen so many people on a xc course in the US – Ever – I’m not sure even at the event formerly known as Rolex. I think the estimates for other years were at 60,000 and I believe it. And it seemed to be a much different crowd than we normally see in the US. It was people of all ages – riding bikes, walking ALL over the course from one end to the other. Lots and lots of baby strollers, small children, families who had picnic lunches all over the course. No tailgating – these people walked. On foot. No shuttles and no complaints. There were large parking areas that were several miles away that had large shuttle buses, but once you got to the event you walked.
There were strategically placed food trucks around the course, (with wine, of course), serving pate, baguettes American (nope, not going there again) and hamburgers with goat cheese as well as French fries. Lots of loud speakers so you could hear well. Unfortunately, although there were 2 announcers, the major speaker was French (well, duh), but my limited French knowledge was certainly an impediment. It would have helped if the numbers were only 1-10. The whole two hundred and whatever was confusing, so a lot of times I wasn’t sure who was going. In an effort to go green this year, there were no paper programs- everything was on line so you had to stop and consult your phone to see what rider you had. International roaming gets pricey (and more on that later!)
Doug didn’t go until later afternoon, so we got there early to watch the 6-year olds. The course rode well for them and basically most of the standings were unchanged – time was easy to make, so unless the stadium is way, way tough, I expect the placings will be pretty similar. The youngsters handled most things well. I saw a few issues with them propping at the first landing in the first water and some scary hanging knees on the lion on the mound. The lion ended up with enough leg grease on him to enter a greased pig contest. He caused at least 2 rider falls, even with the extra grease.
We watched the 6-year olds do the big drop off the roof with really no issues- that didn’t carry over to the 7 years old though, as that and the corner after it were the most influential fences on course. As a matter of fact, the 7-year-old course had 10 riders get eliminated or retire, another 7 have refusals, 8 with time only and 1 frangible pin. It truly was not a dressage contest!
Most of the issues were with the first water, then the drop to an angled brush with a separately numbered angled fence that caused a bunch of glance offs, and the following corner – upright and narrow that caught out a number of horses, as well as causing several falls. If you blasted into the drop with poor control or fighting to get back, you were done for.
Quantum looked great and Doug felt that he was up to the course. Aside from breaking his lead shank and getting loose right before xc(!!), we were ready. (and I say that as if I had anything to do with the whole thing, which I did not!)
We decided that we would stay at the drop fence, and since there was live streaming we could watch Doug’s round and see that bogey fence in person. So, as he started out, I excitedly tuned in to live stream, just to have my wireless carrier tell me that all the GPS I have been using has eaten up all my bytes, and my video would now run at half speed. That means it doesn’t run. So, as I cursed Verizon in audible tones, I thought I would miss the whole thing. Well, not to worry, because I did anyway, as Doug rode in between a French rider and a British one. That meant they showed nothing of his round (but did show the French rider refusing twice – once in regular speed and once in slow motion). I’m still mad at Verizon though. And the other thing is that no one except Americans cheer after a good fence. They clap politely. So, my screaming “Woo hoo!!”and jumping up and down was met with some odd looks.
Quantum was nothing short of spectacular. He handled the crowds, the questions, and the tight quarters like a pro. And because of the TB in him, there was gas left in the tank and he went into the last run up to the finish on fire. He moved up 28 places by virtue of his double clear.
Someone asked me today if I would change my breeding program based on what I have seen in the last couple of days. I thought long and hard about it and decided no. There are horses that did well today that I think will struggle with longer courses. There were some good gallopers that weren’t good jumpers. I saw some really, really nice youngsters today. But mine was one of them. I think I’ll stick with what I’m doing and I know we have more of these horses in the US. We just have to develop them- they are out there!!
On to the final horse inspection and stadium tomorrow.
Dr. Elizabeth Callahan
Follow this link to see Doug’s YouTube helmet cam footage:
Day 4 (I think…)
It is hard to keep track of time when you aren’t in the “real world” but we did dressage today, so it must be Friday. Courtney Carson had Quantum looking like the star he is, with a set of braids the hunter people would have been killed to have. Quantum didn’t have quite the test we had hoped for, but he is for sure going to be a force to be reckoned with in the future. The atmosphere was quite electric and he felt it (and being half TB, when he feels it, you know it. No internalizing for this guy!).
Nowhere in the US do you have the crowds so close to the ring, all the tents literally on 3 sides of the ring and the crowd moving and climbing right next to the ring. He was tense, and his lateral work and canter work showed that. There were no major mistakes, but the connection was not always there and he was penalized for it, rightly so. I thought Doug did a masterful job keeping the lid on, and there were some very good movements. His trot work in particular had such an improvement in the cadence and lift compared to a couple months ago. When he gets strong enough to carry that, he will be fabulous. What a learning experience for him – it’s going to make the event formerly known as Rolex a walk in the park when he is there in 2 years. 😊
I watched the 6 years old this morning, and there were still large variations in the scoring, with scores 9-10% points difference between the judges. As I’ve said before, a lot of very heavy types, with a lot of straight dressage breeding. I just can’t see some of these horses going xc at upper levels. First not with their breeding, and second not with their type. In the past, the 6-year olds have had more of a dressage contest here, so I don’t expect the standings to change much for them tomorrow.
The 7-year olds are certainly more of a type that I can see galloping, as they are on a whole, more of the type I expect to see. I especially liked Birmane – just the type I expect to see going well xc. I have heard that xc is more influential with the 7-year olds, so hopefully that will be the case. There are a lot of scores packed in between 25 and 35!
The amazing xc elves have been hard at work overnight with finishing touches. The dragons at fence 1 laid an egg overnight, and some wooden horses were corralled next to the big drop. I have to admit I didn’t walk the whole course again, so tomorrow there might be even more surprises. The very influential corners at fence 21 have been softened with a black flag option that will takes some time due to the roping, but at least you have an option because they are both pretty narrow.
As far as dogs, apparently it isn’t all about Jack Russells. The French have a lot of dogs here (just like the US). I saw a bunch of whippets and French Bulldogs. (breeds I don’t usually see at events in the US) and not a single Lab. That’s weird.
The trade fair is a little quieter than ours. As usual, saddles and horse stuff, but fewer “crafty” things. Socks seem to be the “in thing” to have, judging by the number of booths. Oh, and of course, wine. Boy, is there wine. But no chocolate anywhere, which I find both sad and disturbing. As is the lack of pastries – I was expecting an epicurean delight of pastries, and no, not a single place selling them.
The wine comes both by the glass and by the case, and there is a very strange baguette you can buy that is labeled “American” which contains ham, cheese, lettuce and sliced hard boiled eggs with butter. My husband says one try of it was enough – and he is usually an omnivore, so I’m guessing the taste was exactly what it sounds like. Apparently, he hadn’t sampled enough wine.
So, after drinking more wine tonight, relying on GPS to get us home yet one more way – we haven’t taken the same way home yet, we are looking forward to a great day of xc tomorrow!
Dr. Elizabeth Callahan
We got up early and had a very French breakfast made by our host, which beat the piece of tongue I had last night (it had hair on it, so I’m not sure what part it came from, but I can assure you as a veterinarian, it was NOT tongue). Then we headed out to watch Doug school early, then watch dressage and walk xc.
The horses are all feeling a little fresh – it is pretty cool in the morning and it was reassuring to see several riders head out to school flat work with neck straps. I feel a little less like a weenie. Quantum schooled well, but may need a bit of a gallop before dressage tomorrow. He goes at 2:40 so hopefully will be a little more settled by the time we get to that.
Next up – dressage watching. The 6-year olds went in the morning and we were able to watch the top couple of riders go. The scoring was a little difficult to understand at times – it didn’t seem the judges were all looking for the same thing and seemed to be rewarding opposite sides of the spectrum. At one point, the final scores for 1 rider were off by 11% – that’s a pretty big range and it continued across the day. It varied as well – not one single judge was always high or low. I did get to see a 10 though – for a leg yield by Cooley Moonshine who is currently leading the 6-year olds. I was impressed by Michael Jung’s ride – he rode his horse in a longer frame which I thought was better for his horse, as it is not the most elastic mover and it allowed him to show relaxation instead of cramming the horse together. The youngsters did well in the environment – some were tense, but they handled it well and no major malfunctions seemed to occur.
The 7-year olds are quite impressive. Ingrid Klimke is currently leading and had a lovely, forward test that wasn’t rushed, as some of the others I saw today were. The horses again handled everything well, and most of the tension was seen in the connection to the hand with some unsteadiness evident. There are some very heavy movers though – I wonder how they will hold up over a 4* course.
I did see the Diarado, who is currently in third and although he wasn’t as relaxed as he could have been, I continue to like him. I also liked Bogosse du Levant, an Anglo- Arab who though unsteady in his connection, was a loose, elastic mover and I think his gallop will be effortless. I guess I’ll find out!
We then walked xc with Doug, Jess, Hudson, Marilyn and Richard Payne, and some of their friends here for the event. It was kinda like a class trip, with people going ahead, having to wait for others and people falling behind to take pictures of the jumps. They are truly amazing. The course is along galloping paths which are roped off pretty narrowly, so twisty and turny with some open spaces. It is really dry here, but they continue to water and aerate, so I think the footing will be fine. The first couple of fences are pretty small (like even I would jump the first 4 or so!), and then they get harder. I gave up thinking I could ride them after about fence 6. There are a lot of accuracy questions and some very skinny corners and lines late in the course when the horses are going to be tired. I’m also unsure what the course will look like with 60,000 people roped in close – I think that might be the toughest part for Quantum.
As far as the jumps, my favorites were the snails (escargots, for you French folks) and the dragons which are jump #1. They are fairly innocuous dragons, but I like them anyway. I’m not sure which is going to be the hardest combinations on course – there is a big drop off a house roof (yes, I did say a roof), 4 strides to a skinny to a 2 strides skinny, all down a pretty good slope, and a turning question which involves a skinny ditch and wall to uneven terrain and a corner, so….
So, looking forward to tomorrow and dressage. Quantum is just starting to mature into himself, so I’m hoping this is not going to be a dressage contest. Watch the live stream and cheer us on!
Dr. Elizabeth Callahan
So, we flew over to France Saturday night/Sunday morning, afternoon, evening. It seems like that day goes on for a week. Of course, you all know how much work is involved in leaving horses when you leave home, so I spent the last day shipping some horses one place and some another, writing out instructions, and taking care of all the other animals as well. Whew! And I feel really guilty that I’m missing the YEH Championships this week at Fair Hill, as I have a young TB mare in the 4-year-old class and won’t see her go. Can’t be in 2 places at one time though!
We spent 2 days in Paris, not much horse related except for the 3 degrees of equine Kevin. Bacon. We were invited to a dinner party Tuesday night where one of the guest’s daughter had spent the summer riding with Adrienne Lorio, who had come to try a 3-year-old of mine last year. Small equine world indeed! We walked all over Paris, and although it is a beautiful city, it is way crowded for this person.
We left Paris this am and drove down to Le Lion, which was about a 3-hour drive – other than some major confusion about the tolls, and no earthly idea how to figure out what we were going to owe at the end, it went well. Thank God for credit cards. The country is beautiful, rolling and lots of trees. It looks pretty dry, and I’m not too sure how the footing will be. The towns are small, the roads narrow and they look a lot like small town rural America – boarded up buildings and store fronts. The difference is that the towns here have older stone houses that are boarded up, and the cost of redoing them to today’s expectations must be staggering.
We are staying in an Air BnB about 15 minutes from Le Lion and it is a house that was built in 1650 (or so!) and has been totally redone. It is fabulous, and thanks to GPS, we can actually get back and forth with only minor discrepancies.
I didn’t get too much of a look at the course yet – a few fences were visible from the road and included a giant set of brush snails(!), a violin, and the spider.
We got here in time to watch the jog up and I’ll share my impressions with you. First, the horses were all beautifully turned out. I’m not sure I’m a fan of the braided tail look, – mostly because they look half way done to me after looking at hunter braided tails. I won’t say it affected the jogging or how they carry their tail, but I prefer the pulled look myself. The riders were neat – most of them – but not ostentatious. I only saw a few dangerous looking footwear choices and mostly the horses behaved.
It really is a who’s who of eventing – a lot of them were at the WEGs, so it will be really interesting to see them riding the youngsters. Michael Jung, Ingrid Klimke, Rosalind Canter, Piggy French, Thomas Carlisle, Sandra Auffarth, Andrew Hoy, Christopher Burton, and of course the USA’s Tiana Coudray, Liz Holliday Sharp and Doug Payne.
As for the horses first let me tell you that the horseflesh is amazing. The quality that is here is superb. However, I thought a few, generally in the 6-Year-old divisions, could use a little more weight and shine. Conformationally speaking, not all of them would be winning the conformation classes, which just goes to show you that it isn’t everything, since these guys have already done a CCI* and a CIC** with no xc jumping faults. I was surprised by the loin connection in a few – they looked weak in the loin and back, with poor hindquarters. There were some pretty low set short necks as well, which could affect front end and shoulder freedom. But who am I to judge?
Now for the breeding junkies. If you don’t care about the breeding or where your horse comes from, you might want to skip this part ‘cause it is going to be ALL about it!
I liked both the Diarado’s a lot – Rebecca Howards 6 yr old Cooley Convinced and Nicola Wilson’s 7 yr old JL Dublin. The best mover of the day might have gone to Gentleman FRH, the 6 yr old stallion by Gray Top. Is he going to have the blood for a 4*? I also liked Aoife Clarks’s Celia D’ermac Z for Ireland and Thomas Carlisle ‘s Birmaine for France. The Mighty Magic’s were different in size, but all the same type and have the same eye. I was surprised at how small Figaro de Consessions is – my MM’s have all been big horses. Not the biggest movers, but very similar. Michael Jung’s horses, with the exception of the Contendro, Choclat ‘weren’t the biggest movers either.
And my personal favorite, of course, was Quantum Leap, who certainly is in the minority with a full TB parent. Michael Jung has a TB sire on one of his, and there are a few with TB grandsires, usually on the dam’s side
Couple other observations… First, the ISH breeding is no longer the dominant breeding that we used to see. There is a lot of warm blood in most of them – in fact they now resemble the different European studbooks – seems like everything is being consolidated. You could pick out a few that were the older type ISH without a doubt, but on the whole, they weren’t much different looking from the warmblood. The Selle Francais that France has were of many different types – there did not seem to be a clear consensus – some were heavy and short, some were tall and long. I was surprised to see that dissimilar a type for a breed that is becoming more dominant in eventing breeding.
So on to dressage tomorrow, and hopefully a chance to walk the xc course and also thank my lucky stars and my stomach that I am not riding it. I’ll try to get the snails’ picture close up. Any of you at the YEH Championships in the next 2 days, cheer on those babies so that they might make it here to France in the future!
Dr. Elizabeth Callahan