Ever have problems loading your horse on the trailer? Tony reveals all the tricks of the trade!
So, I have a complaint. On Saturday morning my minions came to feed me as usual. But then, as they all headed off eagerly to Canterbury Showplace to set up for my Trailering Seminar, they slammed the door in my face! That’s right, they left me here at the clinic with stinky Teanie! Can you believe it? I do all the work designing and promoting the event, then they leave me behind and take all the credit. Well, in case you too got locked behind your kitty door, here is a recap of what you missed.
How NOT to load a horse
Hanging out and observing all the goings on at the clinic, I have seen many methods of loading a horse on a trailer that are fantastically ineffective. If you stand in front of your horse pulling on the leadrope, making lots of noise, rushing, and trying to force your horse into a dark scary hole, I guarantee you it is not going to work. Other poor choices I have seen include shaking a bucket of grain in the trailer while your horse stands outside terrified of the noisy echo coming from inside the hole where he was already convinced monsters were lurking. Also, using short crops on the shoulder or lip chains on the leadrope, both of which tend to drive horses backwards rather than forwards. Another good way to set yourself up for failure is to try to load a horse that does not yet know how to lead, and to move forward when you ask.
If you’re not bored, you’re doing it wrong
Now I am going to share with you and only you, my adoring fans, the great, big, awesome, mind-blowing, earth-shattering, best-kept-secret-in-the-world for loading a horse on the trailer: patience. If you put a very patient person at the horse’s head (like Nancy, who perfectly demonstrated this at my seminar), chances are very good your horse will get on the trailer. Now first, Nancy will have to make sure your horse knows to move forward when asked. Then, your horse will have to get comfortable being close to the trailer, to convince himself that the horse-eating monsters that live inside have left for the day. Finally, Nancy will ask your horse to step into the trailer, immediately rewarding any motion or even a hint of moving in the right direction. For this part, it is helpful to have your second-most-patient friend behind the horse with a longe whip to gently encourage that forward motion, and to immediately release pressure when the forward motion is achieved.
How to haul a horse trailer
Well, I guess I would know what to tell you here if they had invited me to my own event! Apparently Justin did a killer job giving demonstrations, explanations, and hands-on training to the attendees. He taught them how to do this fancy move called an L-turn for backing your trailer into a tight spot. He warned against passenger-side backing, and advised using a ground person to watch your blind spots whenever possible. The biggest take home message that was passed along to me was safety first when hauling: always think about what you are going to do before you do it. Don’t pull into that gas station without thinking about your exit strategy. Don’t pull forward into a narrow spot if you are not comfortable turning your trailer around. Don’t hesitate to get out and walk around the back of the trailer instead of just backing up until you hear a crunch!
I hope everyone other than me was able to make it to this amazing event. But if you missed it, save the date for my next seminar, Wednesday April 19th on Geriatrics! Don’t worry, I won’t let them keep me away next time.
Ah, your mare! You look wistfully back on your history with her. You and your mare have accomplished a lot. She’s made your dreams come true; she’s been there as your partner, and companion through thick and thin. You’re ready for her to carry on her legacy with a foal. You’ve poured through the magazines, you’ve researched performance records, and you’re a pedigree expert. Your perfect stallion has been found and is even 5 panel testing negative! Oh goody!
What the heck is 5 panel testing? Is it a good thing when a stallion is negative? What’s a positive mean? Never fear, your intrepid feline source of information is here.
Why do I care about 5 panel testing?
Long ago, in a land far, far away horses were bred for speed, muscle, good looks, color. You name it, humans have bred for it. Along the way some other stuff was selected for too, on accident. Beginning about 30 years ago, scientists found a way to test genes to see if some of the not so desirable stuff was present in the DNA of a horse.
In 2015, the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) took the important step of saying “Hey, we can test for a bunch of bad stuff. Let’s make sure we breed responsibly.” This means that ALL stallions that file a stallion report now have these results available to you the mare owner. Many other breeds have their own genetic diseases that are routinely tested for. Not sure about your breed of choice? Ask the registration association for that breed or check with my minions. My minions work hard to stay up-to-date on this ever changing world.
What does 5 panel testing test for?
The 5 Panel Test covers, shockingly, 5 major genetic disorders common in Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Paints: Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis (HYPP), Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy type 1 (PSSM 1), Malignant Hyperthermia (MH), Hereditary Epidermal Regional Dermal Asthenia (HERDA), and Glycogen Branching Enzyme Deficiency (GBED).
These diseases are all caused by one teeny, tiny mutation which makes them easy to test for, and they all cause really bad diseases. I put a short description about all of them at the bottom of this blog in case you want to read more about them.
Should I test my mare?
You really should. That’s the short answer. Here’s the long one. You can never have too much information when it comes to breeding. Additionally, HYPP, PSSM, and MH could cause health problems for your mare during pregnancy so knowing if she’s got them can be very helpful to your wonderful veterinarians.
You really, really should do the 5 panel testing if your stallion choice is positive for any of them. If you have found that perfect hunk of a guy for your mare, but he’s positive for one of these diseases, you really need to know if your mare is positive too. If she is, you are definitely going to have to go back to the pretty pictures and find her a different guy.
I’m pretty sure I can now pass a test on this 5 panel testing! Want more information? Call, text, or e-mail my humans. They love talking about mares, and babies, and stallions, okay, pretty much anything horse. Until next week, may your litter box be clean and your food bowl full.
HYPP stands for Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis. This disease affects the electrical impulses within the body that control muscle contraction. The defective gene results in clinical signs of muscle tremors and fasciculations. In some severe cases, horses may be unable to stand, or even unable to breathe. Horses can show symptoms with only one copy of the defective gene, but symptoms are often more severe if they have two copies of the mutation. This disease affects mostly halter horses, and can be traced back to the prolific stallion ‘Impressive’. Since Impressive lines were also used in Paint and Appaloosa halter breeding programs, HYPP is found in those breeds as well. AQHA does not allow registration of foals that test positive for two copies of the defective gene (H/H), but will allow registration of foals that are H/N: one defective and one normal gene.
PSSM stands for Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy. This disease causes changes in the way sugars are stored and used by the muscles. It causes frequent episodes of ‘tying up’ if not properly controlled by a special diet and regular low intensity exercise. There are two types of PSSM. Type 1 is caused by a genetically identified mutation, which is testable. Type 2 is suspected to be genetic, but that mutation has not yet been identified by researchers. Most Quarter Horses with PSSM have type 1. Horses will show symptoms of PSSM type 1 with one or two copies of the mutation. Like HYPP, PSSM type 1 is more common in halter QHs than in other lines. Some QHs have been shown to have mutations for both HYPP and PSSM.
HERDA stands for Hereditary Epidermal Regional Dermal Asthenia. Horses with HERDA have defective collagen, an important protein that is part of skin, cartilage, muscles, and tendons. The major clinical sign is skin that is easily injured, torn, or even sloughed off. The skin is also very slow to heal. There is no treatment for the condition, and horses that have it are often euthanized. Horses will only show symptoms if they have two copies of the mutation for HERDA. Horses with only one copy of the mutation are clinically normal. These animals are called ‘carriers’. They can pass copies of the mutation to their foals, and if one carrier is bred to another carrier, the foal might inherit the mutation from both parents and be symptomatic. HERDA is limited mostly to horses with reining and cutting horse bloodlines.
GBED stands for Glycogen Branching Enzyme Deficiency. Like PSSM, this disease also affects how sugars are stored, but in a different and more severe way. It results in abortions, stillborn foals, and foals that are alive but weak at birth and die or are euthanized soon after. Like with HERDA, horses may be carriers for GBED – if a horse has only one copy of the mutation it will be clinically normal. Paints and Appaloosas can also carry the GBED mutation.
MH stands for Malignant Hyperthermia. This disease changes the way muscle cells handle calcium, and thus the metabolism of the cell. Horses with MH will appear normal most of the time, but have specific occasions when they show symptoms. During an attack, horses will have a very high fever, profuse sweating, high and irregular heart rate, high blood pressure, and rigid muscles. Attacks are triggered by certain anesthetic agents or stress, and are sometimes fatal. MH is believed to be less common than either HYPP or PSSM, but the percentage of affected horses is not yet known. Several breeds including Quarter Horses and Paints can be affected. Horses may be positive for both PSSM and MH together, and these animals appear to suffer from more severe episodes of tying up than horses that have PSSM alone.
Nobody ever sells their best horse. At least, not that I’ve seen during my 9 lives supervising an equine vet clinic. Typically, the docs are asked to help find homes for the 20+ year old retiree whose pasture-mate just had to be put down, the 13 year old lawn ornament that the kids grew out of, or the 3 year old un-broke colt who has barely been handled. Nobody is selling their 8 year old Grand Prix jumper….or at least they aren’t asking my advice about it!
Why are horses tough to sell?
The problem is, horses are working animals. Typically, it’s not good enough for them to just sit around and look adorable (like me). There is still a demand (and a price) for horses that are willing, able, and experienced doing a job. The docs frequently encounter clients looking for a quiet trail horse for their husband, a dead-broke pony for their 3 year old daughter, or a young, trained, athletic horse that they can put some finishing touches on and then re-sell for a profit.
Consider other solutions
In case you didn’t know, we at Springhill always know a long list of horses in search of homes. Would you consider finding a new pasture-mate for your old retiree? Perhaps you could lease the pony that your kids grew out of to another child in need of a mount? As for the un-broke 3 year old: 30 days of training might be a wise investment in terms of getting him off the market (and off your feed tab)!
How Springhill can help
Lucky for you humans, I happen to have created an excellent networking resource for our clients who are looking to buy, sell, lease, trade, donate, rescue, or otherwise exchange horses! It’s called Springhill Equine’s Client Corner, and it’s super easy to join! Simply log into your Facebook account, search “Springhill Equine’s Client Corner” and request to join the group. Once you are approved as a member, you will have access to a secret group made up of only Springhill’s finest. What better way to start re-homing your horse? You’re welcome!
Last Wednesday evening was an atypical night for me. There was pizza, which is always a plus. But then about a half dozen big burly men with a bunch of tools showed up, pulling trailers with–get this–built-in furnaces! The docs called them Farriers. Turns out all you have to do is let them know there will be pizza, and they will come from far and wide. Beth brought in her horse, Princess Chubby Butt, to be the test subject. The docs learned how the farriers approach a problem foot, and the farriers learned why things are not always as they seem on X-rays. It was a great learning experience for everyone…OK, I’ll admit even I learned a thing or two.
It turns out if you ask 6 different farriers the same question, you get 6 different answers. In fact, it is widely accepted that if you ask 20 different farriers the same question, you will get 20 different answers. Luckily, we have a bunch of great farriers in our area, and although they may have different opinions about the right way to approach a problem, none of them are wrong. If your horse was experiencing a foot lameness, it used to be commonplace for your vet to blame your farrier, and for your farrier to blame your vet. But here at Springhill Equine we are trying to change that!
We see the vet, farrier, and horse owner as a team, and we try to come up with a solution by putting our heads together. Whether the problem is laminitis, club foot, navicular disease, arthritis, thrush, etc… you need a vet and farrier working together to get the foot going in the right direction. Farriers are often grateful to see what’s going on inside the foot with the aid of X-rays, and I know the docs are grateful to have somebody else in charge of hammering nails into the horse’s foot!
All in all, our first vet/farrier team building/brainstorming meeting (event name pending) was a huge success, and we hope to have more in the future. Oh, and Princess Chubby Butt is loving her fancy new shoes! If you are ever looking for a farrier, there is a long list of names in the desk that I like to sleep on, and we would be happy to find one to meet your horses’ needs.
Until next week,
With all the rainy weather we’ve been having, I had plenty of time to sit around the clinic and pick the brains of Dr. Vurgason & Dr. Lacher. I had to get the scoop, the D-L, the 4-1-1, the Inside Story, on what our doctors keep in their own tack trunks. Now obviously everybody has gloves, their helmet, a crop, and a bag of those peppermint-flavored horse treats in case you forget to bring carrots. But what I was interested in was the medical supplies, the in-case-of-emergency box, right from the mouth of a bona-fide veterinarian!
When you peruse the aisles at your favorite tack supply store, you will find shelves upon shelves of medical supplies. Incidentally, there are also shelves upon shelves of cat treats, which are welcomed here at the office any time of day. Some people choose to buy all the medicines; which is fine if you enjoy spending money. Many of our clients have cabinets, shelves, bins, and boxes stocked full of every ointment, cream, spray, and powder you can imagine. But really there are only a few that you need, or that the docs might expect you to have on hand.
First, and this one should be obvious: duct tape. For any type of hoof injury, as well as various repairs around the barn, this is a must-have. Along with duct tape, baby diapers (size 1 for an average Quarter horse hoof, larger sizes for bigger feet) are excellent for hoof-wrapping. Another tack trunk must-have is Vetrap. Boy, do I wish I invented that stuff. I’d be lounging around in a cat palace on some island right now, rather than stuck in this office watching the rain with these humans. Vetrap is just the perfect balance of stretchy and sticky. It sticks great to itself, but not to anything else. Brilliant!
As far as ointments, creams, and the like, the docs gave me a hierarchy of wound dressings in order of preference: Silver Sulfadiazine (SSD for short), is an excellent topical antibacterial cream, great for any kind of wound. It is expensive, but if you buy the big blue tub it will last you a long time. Next choice would be the yellow stuff, Nitrofurazone (a.k.a. Furacin). Furacin is another good choice as a topical antibacterial wound ointment to have on hand. Beyond that, any type of Triple Antibiotic Ointment that you can find at your local drug store will do the trick. For open wounds, the docs wouldn’t recommend the ointments without antibiotics, the “natural” healing products, or Vetericyn (it is literally bleach-water, look at the ingredients)!
Swat is an old staple that is a good fly repellent to have in your trunk. It now comes in a clear formulation, not just the tell-tale pink that you can see from across the pasture. It’s important to realize, however, that Swat does not have any antibacterial properties, even though it is advertised for use around wounds. The only other cream I found in the vets’ tack trunks was Desitin (and no, it wasn’t for Dr. V’s baby). Desitin contains Zinc Oxide, which is great for treating burns, abrasions, or other wounds that need soothing and healing, but have a low risk of becoming infected. A&D ointment or Balmex are also good for this purpose. The docs have even used that on me (against my will) when my skin gets bad.
Other than that, just make sure you have some good antibacterial scrub for wounds (either betadine or chlorhexidine-based). Dr. Vurgason’s horse is prone to thrush, so she also had Thrushbuster on her tack trunk list. Dr. Lacher has a horse with insect allergies, so she also stressed the importance of a good fly spray (make sure it is actually a fly repellent, not just a fly killer).
So, to review, the official Vets’ Tack Trunk List: Duct Tape, Diapers, Vetrap, SSD/Furacin/TAB ointment, Swat, Desitin, scrub, fly spray, and Thrushbuster. Pretty simple, right? As my father Anthony would say, “clear as mud”! And if it’s not, just call us at the office anytime you have a question about any of the thousands of over-the-counter products out there, and we will be sure to direct you to the nearest doctor for their expert opinion. After all, they know what ingredients like Dimethyl Sulfoxide and Sodium Hypochlorite actually are. Remember to pick up some cat treats while you are stocking up on your tack trunk supplies!
Until next week.
Knowledge is power. As one of the wisest creatures on earth, a cat, you can be sure I understand this. Google has a lot of knowledge and, therefore, a lot of power. Where is this headed, you ask? To Dr. Google, of course. Now I enjoy some time on the internet. I Googled best cat toy and this really great fuzzy, dead rat looking, toy showed up. It really is a great toy. When I was briefly diabetic, I Googled tips for getting my blood sugar down without insulin. I got a lot of great information. The office also got a lot of tips and tricks for how to give me shots. I appreciated that (trust me, I appreciated a good shot administration technique). Dr. Lacher even Googled diabetes in cats to get some more information. Dr. Lacher isn’t so up on her cat diabetes treatment regimes. That’s my cross to bear as the cat in the equine hospital. What we don’t do is take information from the Google and apply is all willy nilly without consulting with my actual cat doctor. And that is the power of Google.
So how do you use Dr. Google wisely? Really think about what your concern is. Let’s say your horse is suddenly sore on a leg. Googling “horse sore leg” is a sure way to get too broad a result. Add some time and severity descriptors. Try Googling “horse suddenly very lame one leg.” No matter what you Google in this manner, the first results will be forums of some sort. As a wise cat I am going to give you some free advice: Don’t go there. I will tell you later when you can go there, but until you have an answer from one of the Docs, JUST. DON’T. GO. THERE. Sometimes you humans can be dense, so hopefully, I conveyed that point well enough. At this point in a search you want facts not wild ideas from people who shouldn’t be banned from idea coming up with activities. Look for sources like The Horse Magazine, Veterinary Clinic websites, and well recognized professional sites. These sources will give you quality answers and may lead you to more questions. This is what the internet was made for: giving you humans access to information. It was actually made so that I could order that cat treat I love so much that is hard to find locally but this is also a good use.
Now you have Googled and found some information. Use that information to evaluate your horse and your circumstances. The internet is really good at putting information out there, now apply it to you. Continuing our example of a very lame horse, it is unlikely that an attack by a vampire bat is a likely cause in Gainesville, Florida. This means you can start crossing things off the list of possibilities. You can also examine your horse and decide if the leg is swollen or tender anywhere, push and poke things, and think about what you guys have been doing the past few days. Armed with this information you can give our Docs a better idea about why your horse’s problem before they arrive. I promise you, they are not upset by this use of the Google.
A consultation with our Docs has determined that they do need to see your horse to better determine why the leg is really sore. After a thorough examination, they will give you a diagnosis of the problem. NOW you may Google the problem and click on those chat forums. BUT do it with a purpose. The internet is full of tips and tricks for caring for horses with problems. Our Docs have picked up numerous time and sanity savers over their years of experience. Evaluate these ideas and see if it is something you can apply to your situation. The Google will have reports of diagnostic tests and therapies that others have tried. Again critically evaluate these tests and treatments. Ask the Docs about them. They are more than willing to discuss what you found. What they don’t want is for you to have doubts and questions about your horse’s care that go unanswered!
Remember Dr. Google sorts results by popularity not rightness quotient. If you are a wise cat, trust the team at Springhill Equine to come up with the best, right answer for your horse.
Check out this link I found, it’ll be stuck in my head until next week! This is what happens when humans don’t have enough cat supervision.