Colic: Signs and What to do

Colic: Signs and Actions
As the weather shifts here in Michigan, the number of colic cases is on the rise. The cold weather usually causes horses to drink less water, which can lead to more cases of compaction (a cause of colic). It is super important to do everything possible to encourage our horses to drink. Beyond electrolytes and heated water, we feed alfalfa hay cubes, bran, electrolytes, and other supplements soaked in hot water. 

So, besides prevention, what can be done for colic?

First and foremost, if you see your horse displaying signs and symptoms of colic, call your vet. Colic cases can become more severe in the blink of an eye and crucial decisions with the help of your veterinarian will be invaluable in that situation.

Colic symptoms include: 
  • persistent rolling
  • kicking/ biting at the stomach
  • insistent pawing
  • stretching
  • heavy breathing
  • sweating
The next thing that is recommended when colic is suspected is to keep the horse walking.

Colic is a disruption in the digestive system. Horses cannot burp or vomit so if there is something upsetting the stomach, the only thing the horse's body can do is to push it through the rest of the digestive system. In addition, the horse's digestive tract is about 100 feet long. Colic can be the result of compaction or blockage within the tract.  The horse is built so that the movement of their legs and supporting body structures, in turn, move the digestive system as well. 

One of the oldest methods to assist the horse's digestive system through a bout of colic is not as well known today. Peppermint is an herb that has long been know for its ability to settle the digestive system. Getting ahorse to eat while in the throughs of colic is very unlikely and not suggested (water should always be available). Luckily, we now have access to pure, high purity, essential oils that can be applied and aid the horse, even in the throughs of colic.

It is important to have a good understanding of how to use essential oils safely with horses and to be absolutely sure you have pure, undiluted oils before applying them to your horse. I only use and recommend Young Living essential oils because of their Seed to Seal promise (learn more at seedtoseal.com). It is common for grocery store oils and other bulk brands to be diluted with toxic chemicals that can do more harm than good when applied to the horse.

If your horse is colicing and you have called the vet and taken your horse's vitals, apply either Peppermint or Digize essential oil to your horse's stomach (near where the umbilical cord would have been). I would recommend putting a few drops of the oil of your choice into the palm of your hand along with some coconut, almond, or olive oil to avoid any skin irritation for your horse. You could also apply a couple drops to your fingertip and then rub that on your horse's gums.

Now, while you are waiting for your vet to arrive, your horse has the support it's body needs to heal and rectify the situation. Is this a cure-all for colic? Absolutely not. However, it offers added support to the horse that is much needed in the desperate situation that colic causes a horse.


Need more information about safely using essential oils with horses? 
If you liked what you read here, I would love for you to join us in the Happy Horse, Happy Life Facebook Group!




What Supplements to Feed

What Supplements to Feed

This is one of the most frequent questions I get asked. 


For years, it was such a tricky answer- I mean, it totally depends on your horse and why you think your horse even needs supplements.


Not every horse needs supplements- that is potentially good news for your wallet, right?!


The best possible situation is that your horse can get everything they need nutritionally from their food… but how do you know if the food you are feeding is the best option for your horse?


It is important to realize that horse supplements (just like human supplements) are often not bioavailable for the horse's body to absorb and use easily like the same nutrients that are absorbed through foods.


Knowing what supplements to feed is still tricky and very individualized. I honestly think that this is one of the most complex topics in the horse world, but it is just a part of the puzzle.


Nutrition affects more than just body weight and coat shine. It affects behavior, pain levels, the horse's ability to heal, and even how horses interact with each other.


So... HOW THE HECK DO YOU KNOW WHAT TO FEED YOUR HORSE?


First, get as much knowledge as you can whenever you have the opportunity.

Second, Muscle Test.


This is the explanation I received in an email from Discover Healing:

Muscle testing is a noninvasive tool that can help us identify imbalances in the body. The science behind it is similar to a lie detector test or a polygraph. In a polygraph, a person is hooked up to sensitive electrodes and asked specific questions. The person's answers generate a certain electrical response in the body, which is read and graphed by the machine to show whether the answers are true or false. This is done on a very delicate, minute scale. The muscles of the body are also affected by this electrical state. Muscle testing is designed to use those effects to show this same kind of response, just on a larger and more pronounced scale. The principle is that any muscle becomes weakened in a state of incongruence or falsehood (like a lie on a lie detector test) making resistance difficult. Conversely, muscles remain strong and able to resist when in a state of congruence or truth. What's nice is that muscle testing allows us to access important information about health. We just have to know what questions to ask, apply the resistance to a muscle, and then gauge the response to get our answers!"


I use muscle testing constantly in my daily life to determine my needs, my family's needs, and my dog's needs. I also use muscle testing as an emotion code practitioner and an equine massage therapist to determine what may be most helpful to my clients.


If you are ready to learn to use muscle testing to get your horse the supplements they need, I encourage you to join us in the Happy Horse, Happy Life facebook group where we are doing a mini-course on using muscle testing to assess your horse's feed plan.

Can a Poorly Fitting Saddle Cause Lameness?

Can a Poorly Fitting Saddle Cause Lameness?
In short: YES!

The longer answer is that it may take a while for the lameness to arise, but the damage is being done every time the horse is worked with the saddle- and it's worse when the rider is in the saddle.

What happens when a saddle doesn't fit?

The symptoms of a poorly fitting saddle can vary depending on the manner in which the saddle fits poorly.

One of the most common side effects of a poorly fitting saddle is saddle slipping. If the saddle slips forward, backward, or to either side- it doesn't fit.



Another common symptom of an ill-fitting saddle is a poor topline. A saddle that is too narrow will restrict the blood flow to the muscles under the saddle and that will affect the entire top line. There will be over-developed shoulder and butt (semimembranosus/ semitendinosus) muscles and the muscles just behind the withers (thoracic trapezius) and the loin/croup will be atrophied.

Aside from the way the horse looks and the saddle moves, how will this affect the rider?

Having an ill-fitting saddle will cause your horse to be unable to use their body correctly. This will lead to pain- it could be relatively instantaneous pain or developed over time depending on the saddle fit issues.

The horse with an ill-fitting saddle will struggle to pick up leads, will not be able to lift his back, be incapable of lifting the front legs to jump without knocking poles, and in general- struggle with back soreness and lameness,

If the saddle fit problem is coupled with saddle placement issues, the rider will struggle to find balance and bounce harshly on the horses back.

All and all, if the saddle doesn't fit right and isn't in the right place, you will struggle to have good rides with a pain-free horse that is capable of doing even the simplest movements that you ask of them.

Are you concerned your saddle is the problem, but not sure how to find a properly fitting saddle? I have a FREE mini-course in my Facebook Group- Happy Horse, Happy Life- Check it out 🙂

Helmet fit

Helmet fit


I get the feeling that this is not a popular opinion: Helmets should be worn, every time, every ride, and on every horse.

It has nothing to do with how well behaved your horse is or how skilled of a rider you are. I have had horses save my life... and those same horses get into a bad situation that was completely unforeseeable and no fault of their own that has lead to my helmet saving me.

The thing is, if you don't have a proper helmet, specifically for horseback riding that fits well, you might be better off without it (so... that would mean skipping the ride 😞).

If you are new to helmets or new to horses (or both!), this is for you 😉

When shopping for a helmet, make sure your helmet is ASTM and SEI certified. This is how we know that your helmet has been tested for equestrian use. Plus, ASTM/SEI certified helmets are required to compete when helmets are required.

The fit of the helmet is critical... and where most people go wrong. First, if you are buying online, you are going to need to measure your head to get an idea of what size you will need. Also, be prepared to try the helmet on when it arrives and return it if it doesn't pass the shake test (shown in the video above).

When measuring your head, use a flexible measuring tape. Wrap it around your forehead about one inch above your eyebrows. Make sure the tape stays flat and even around your head as best you can. Your measurement in YOu will want to get the measurement in centimeters (that's the hat size 😉). Check out the individual manufacturer’s websites for a size chart.

When you try on a helmet, wear your hair the way you will when you are riding. Helmets are not made to accommodate a ponytail or messy bun. For the helmet to best serve you, you should avoid any hair ties or pins underneath it.

Some helmet styles will have a built in fitting system- something that will dial in the size to ensure that your helmet is snug. I suggest expanding this system to its largest setting and making sure that the chin strap is let out as well. Once you have the helmet on your head, tighten both the chin strap and the fitting system. If the helmet you're trying has extra padding instead of a fitting system, start without the extra pads and add as needed.

The brim of the helmet should be about an inch above your eyebrows and you should feel even pressure around your head. The chin strap should not be loose at all. It should be comfortable, but not drooping down either. Your helmet should be snug enough to remain on your head through the shake test (see the video above). If you find that you are getting a headache, your helmet is too small- adjust the fitting system/ pads, try a size up, or even a different model.

Remember- helmets aren't just for inexperienced riders (Olympians wear them!)- they are there for the unpredictable moments when your horse doesn't necessarily mean harm, but accidents happen.

Want more tips from me and other experienced horse people? Check out the free group Happy Horse, Happy Life.

Essential Oils for Horses: Why and Purity

Essential Oils for Horses:  Why and Purity
We use essential oils in all areas of our life to reduce the number of toxic chemicals we come into contact with and to stay above the wellness line. We use oils to clean, cook, garden, and to keep pests at bay. We also use oils for personal care, and to support the body systems of our family and our pets. Essential oils aid us to prevent many unpleasant health issues. Oils can be used on people and animals with similar results in both, with few exceptions. All oils mentioned here are good for your horse but double-check before using on other animals.  

Essential oils are: 
  • Non-toxic to the horse.
    • Just like the human body, toxicity is a huge problem for our animals. 
  • Easy to use.
    • Essential oils for horses can be used exactly in the same manner as with humans. Horses can inhale the oil directly from the bottle or from your hand. They can be placed directly on the body or placed in their feed. 

  • Extremely beneficial for training and rehabbing horses.

    •  I mostly train young or green horses, or re-train problem horses that have people problems! The emotional component of this training is the most difficult portion and it is what makes me good at my job. The oils  are another tool for the toolbox. I can cut through training issues faster than I ever could before and I can see horses releasing emotional baggage before my eyes. Sometimes it is miraculous! 

  • Good for riders too!

    • Riders are continually dealing with fears, insecurities, and nerves.  These emotions and others affect our horse on a daily basis. The oils can help release many of these emotions, produce a synergistic effect between horse and rider, and ultimately improve our riding! In addition, a healthy rider/ caretaker can take much better care and be more of a participant in the horse/ human relationship.

Purity 
In the United States, there is no rating system for essential oils. The closest we get is an FDA requirement that states in order to label a bottle of essential oil "pure" or "therapeutic grade," the contents of that bottle must contain at least 5% essential oil! I don't know about you, but I prefer my essential oils to contain 100% essential oil- not some unidentified substance that could be hazardous to myself or my animals.
Before you purchase, check to see if the company grows its own plants, owns its own fields, and controls the  entire process from Seed to Seal- from the farm to the sealed bottle.  Pesticides, pollution, previously farmed land- all of it can affect the quality of an oil. 

How do I use Essential Oils for Horses? 
This is true for both people and horses: there are 3 main ways to get oils into your system:  topically- rub it on the skin;  digest and cook with it; or diffuse and inhale, which can be the most effective method because it doesn’t have to pass through the digestive system.  
How do I know which oils to use for Equine Aromatherapy? 
Using the oils is a bit of a learning curve for sure, but the best thing you can do is research oils for a particular use or choose oils that you would use for yourself.  

Want more information about using more natural methods for you and your horse? I have a great Online Course that covers exactly that! Check it out Here.
 
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