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Dear Cherry,

I love your website. Thanks for all the help you provide to us horse owners. My horses are already beginning to shed here and I have question: What do I need to know about curry combs?

Thanks, Helga

Horse Handling and Grooming by Cherry HillDear Helga,

Some are not to be used on horses at all. Others are great for bodies but not for heads…but wait….I cover all of this in my book Horse Handling and Grooming and in the video clip below which should answer your question perfectly.

Horse Curry Choices
©  2010 Cherry Hill   © Copyright Information


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Fly Gear For Horses


A well-fitting fly mask can protect the sensitive areas of a horse’s head from flies or gnats without the use of chemical sprays or creams. Sometimes applying a mask often makes a nervous horse noticeably calmer, perhaps partly because it stops flies and partly because of reduced visual stimuli.

A fly mask can also be used to protect a horse’s eyes from wind-blown objects when trailering a horse in an open trailer or during turnout and from dust and contact when treating an eye for an injury. A mask that blocks more light can give relief to a horse with light-sensitive eyes.

A mask fastener such as Velcro® that will release under strain is preferable over an unyielding snap or buckle for use during turnout or for use on unsupervised horses. If a horse should catch the mask on something and the fastener doesn’t release, it’s likely that either the mask will be damaged or the horse will be injured, or both.

For best results make sure the mask fits properly—horses’ heads vary greatly in size and shape and so do fly masks. A free-form mask made of soft, supple mesh will fit a wide range of head shapes, but the draping material usually lays against the eyes or lashes, which could cause the eyes to weep and lead to irritation and head rubbing. Masks made of stiffer material usually have eye darts formed to hold the material away from the eyes. Darts should center over the horse’s eyes and be peaked to prevent contact with any part of the eye.

© 2010  Cherry Hill   © Copyright Information

A fly mask should seal around the horse’s face so flies aren’t able to crawl under the mask. Long, fluffy fleece on the edges allows a good seal without having to adjust the mask uncomfortably tight, but it is a debris magnet and it can cause a horse to sweat—both of which can cause a horse to rub his face on the nearest object. Smooth edging like elastic, vinyl, or polar fleece (synthetic fleece with a very short nap) may not seal as well as long fleece, but it will be less likely to attract debris or cause rubbing.

A mask should protect as much of the furrow under the jaw as possible—this is one place gnats will dig in. But a mask can only encircle the nose so far down without interfering with jaw movement. For additional muzzle protection, choose a mask that has a muzzle guard.

Muzzle Guard

A muzzle guard is either integral to a fly mask or it attaches to a mask, halter or bridle. It protects a horse from those nasty no-see-ums or nose bots that can drive him insane and make him dangerous to handle. A muzzle guard is especially good for a horse that is hypersensitive to flies around his nose.

A muzzle guard should protect the nostrils without interfering with breathing or with the action of the bit. The more opaque the fabric of a muzzle guard, the better it will protect sensitive skin from sunburn.

Neck cover

A neck cover wraps around a horse’s neck and fastens with snaps or Velcro®. Some neck covers are an integral part of the fly sheet while others detach or can be rolled back and fastened out of the way, much like the hood of a jacket. A neck cover protects that sensitive area where the neck and chest join, a spot where crusty scabs often form from feeding flies.

Hood

A hood combines a fly mask with a neck cover. It overlaps and attaches to a flysheet with Velcro® or snaps. It provides more complete coverage than a separate mask and neck cover because it eliminates the space between them.

Applying Fly Gear

Before applying any type of fly gear, make sure the horse is clean and free of loose, shedding hair. Otherwise the horse will be more likely to rub. Also clean all traces of bedding, seeds, or burrs from the fly gear itself, especially from long fleece lining and from Velcro®. This will reduce irritation that causes rubbing and will allow the Velcro® to hold better.

Wearing a fly mask for the first time is no big deal for most horses. But a horse that’s not used to the sound of Velcro® being pulled apart can be frightened by it—sack your horse out to the sound before applying fly gear that uses it.

To prevent injury to the horse and damage to his fly clothing, make sure the horse gets used to wearing an item before leaving him unattended. Any horse that’s wearing fly gear should be checked at least once a day for fit and for signs of irritation and rubbing, and to remove irritating debris.

Breakaway halter

Some fly gear such as a muzzle guard or browband attaches to a halter. It’s not uncommon for a horse turned out wearing a standard halter to suffer injury or even death when he gets the halter caught on a post, a branch, or even his own horseshoe. If your horse needs to wear a halter during turnout, use only a break-away (safety) halter. A safety halter usually has either has a “weak link” or “fuse” of light leather or other material that’s designed to break under stress, or it has a Velcro® fastener that will come undone if the halter gets caught and the horse pulls.

Ear Bonnet

Insects entering your horse’s ears can not only cause annoying and dangerous head shaking but can also cause serious skin infections. An ear bonnet covers the horse’s ears and can be a part of a fly mask or a separate piece held in place by the bridle or halter.

The ear holes in a bonnet should be spaced the same as the horse’s ears and should be large enough so as not to rub or put pressure on the base of the ears. There should be ample room inside a bonnet so that the ears don’t deform and the material should be flexible enough to allow a full range of free ear movement.

Leg wraps and bands

Leg wraps are usually made of the same poly/vinyl fabric as flysheets, and wrap around a horse’s canons to keep flies off. Some models extend down over coronary band and cover the back of the pastern where flies like to bite. Leg bands containing fly repellents are only a few inches wide and are applied around the canons. You can apply fly spray to any leg wraps to increase fly protection.

Don’t apply leg wraps or bands too tightly—you should be able to easily slip a finger behind them. Most models have fleece or vinyl trim to keep flies from getting underneath. As with other fly gear, short fleece or vinyl trim is a better choice if a horse is likely to be exposed to weed seeds or burrs.

Tail bag

A horse’s own best weapon against flies is a long, full, healthy tail. But some horses, for whatever reason, don’t have a full tail and show horses often have their tails braided or wrapped to protect them from damage. A tail bag with a tassel on the end can protect a tail and give it added reach.

Collar

Fly repellent collars containing natural (such as citronella or cedar oil) or artificial insect repellents (such as permethrin) can be used to keep flies and mosquitoes away from a horse’s neck. Some collars are applied snug while others should be loose—follow manufacturer’s instructions.

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Where is the summer going ??!! I can’t believe August is nearly half gone.

But no matter what month of the year, we horsekeepers are busy ! Here are a few things pertinent to August here on Long Tail Ranch.

These are excerpts from my book Cherry Hill’s Horsekeeping Almanac.

©  2010 Cherry Hill © Copyright Information

Cherry Hill's Horsekeeping Almanac

Dental Work

Fall is a good time to have routine dental work completed: floating teeth, removing wolf teeth if necessary, and removing retained caps. Because a horse’s upper jaw is wider than the lower jaw and horses chew from side to side, as their molars wear, they form sharp points on the outside of the upper molars and the inside of the lower molars. To keep these sharp points from cutting your horse’s tongue or cheeks as he eats, they should be filed (floated) regularly with a special file called a float that attaches to a long handle.

At the same time, your vet can remove caps and/or wolf teeth. Caps are temporary premolars (baby teeth) and molars that have not completely dislodged even though the permanent ones have erupted. In between dental visits, monitor your horse to determine if he needs more frequent visits.

Here are some sign of necessary dental work:

    • Bad odor from mouth
    • Quids (wads of food around feeding area)
    • Feed falling from mouth during eating
    • Weight loss
    • Sharp points

Remove a Loose Shoe

Use the following procedure to remove a shoe that has become bent, dangerously loose, or has rotated on your horse’s hoof. Necessary tools include : clinch cutter, hammer, pull-offs, and crease nail puller.

  1. Using the chisel end of the clinch cutter, open the clinches by tapping the spine of the clinch cutter with the hammer. A clinch is the end of the nail folded over; this needs to be opened so that the nails can slide straight through the hoof wall when pulled without taking large hunks of hoof with them.If the shoe has a crease on the bottom, you may be able to use the crease nail puller to extract each nail individually allowing the shoe to come off.Nails with protruding heads can be pulled out using the pull-offs. If you can’t pull the nails out individually, then you will have to remove the shoe with the pull-offs.
  2. After the clinches have been opened, grab a shoe heel and pry toward the tip of the frog.
  3. Do the same with the other shoe heel.
  4. When both heels are loose, grab one side of the shoe at the toe and pry toward the tip of the frog. Repeat around the shoe until it is removed.Never pry toward the outside of the hoof or you risk ripping big chunks out of the hoof wall. As the nail heads protrude from the loosening of the shoe, you can pull them out individually with the pull-offs.
  5. Pull any nails that may remain in the hoof.
  6. Protect the bare hoof. Keep the horse confined in soft bedding.

Blister Beetles

Four to six grams of blister beetles (whole or part, fresh or dried) can kill and 1100 pound horse. That’s because they contain cantharidin, a toxic and caustic poison. There is no antidote. Research has shown it is the striped blister beetle that is the source of cantharidin.

Typically, blister beetles will appear after the first cut (mid June or later) and disappear by October, so usually first cut and last (late 4th) cut hay is safer than 2nd or 3rd cut. Blister beetles tend to cluster in large groups often in the area of 1-2 bales but hay growers know that if left alone after cutting, most blister beetles evacuate the field. You need to know your alfalfa hay grower; ask him what he did to eliminate blister beetles in the field.

Buy only first cut or October hay. Inspect alfalfa hay before you buy and again before you feed.

Protect Riparian Areas

Riparian refers to the vegetation and soils alongside streams, creeks, rivers, and ponds. These are precious areas that can easily be damaged by horses.

Manure, urine, overgrazing, destruction of trees, and the creation of muddy banks all can lead to less vegetation, warmer water temperatures, more algae, less fish, and decreased wildlife habitat. Monitor and limit horses’ access to natural water sources so that a natural buffer zone of grasses, brush and trees is preserved around the edges of ponds and creeks. This buffer zone is essential for filtering nutrients from excess runoff before it enters the water.

Choke Cherries

Choke cherries are ripe during August. Although horses don’t eat the berries, the leaves are poisonous to horses and the berries attract bears.

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My horse gets fungus every single summer and I never know how to get rid of it.  There are all the medicated and chemical sprays but I really don’t feel comfortable putting those on my horse.  Do you know of anything natural that would not harm my horse at all that would get rid of the fungus?  I would love to be able to make it myself…store bought products are expensive!! Kaitlin

Hi Kaitlin,

Fungus is a general term. It would be best for your veterinarian to diagnose which skin condition your horse has. Once you know the specific fungus, it would be possible that by typing the name of the fungus and  “home remedy” into google, you might find some specific advice for it.

I use apple cider vinegar rinses on my horses coats to keep the pH balanced after shampooing. Witch hazel is a possible remedy for some skin conditions. Whether either of these would be appropriate for your horse’s skin condition, I have no idea.

The best way to prevent skin ailments is to keep the horse, tack, grooming tools and any horse clothing scrupulously clean.

Minimize bathing which removes the skin’s natural defenses. I give my horses two baths a year. The rest of the time I groom or vacuum.

Whenever a horse gets wet from bathing, rain, or exercise, make sure the hair coat and skin dry dry completely.

Never put a blanket or sheet on a damp horse. (The exception to this, of course, is when you drape a cooler over a horse temporarily while he is drying.)

Here are some excerpts that might be helpful from my book Cherry Hill’s Horsekeeping Almanac.

Excerpt from Cherry Hill's Horsekeeping Almanac

Excerpt from Cherry Hill's Horsekeeping Almanac

Cherry Hill's Horsekeeping Almanac

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Hello Cherry,

We live at 10,000 ft. above sea level in Fairplay (Park County). Winter and
freezing temperatures frequently last into May, so it is not the place for
your more typical deworming schedule. What would you suggest?

Thank You! Maryann

Hi Maryann,

Any magazine or internet article by me or anyone else that suggests a
deworming program is meant to be a general starting point. As you have
noted, your program (at 10,000 feet) might need to be different than mine
(at 7000 feet) and definitely different than someone in Iowa, Florida or New
Mexico. And it is not only the elevation and weather, but your layout and management practices and the number of horses on your horse property and those properties nearby that will factor into what deworming product to use when.

It would be best if you ask your veterinarian who is most familiar with the
specific conditions in your area. He or she will prescribe products and a rotation
schedule based on professional veterinary training and observation (as they
go on their rounds) of the effectiveness of various deworming programs on
neighboring farms and ranches. I’d be very interested to hear what your
veterinarian recommends.

Thanks for writing.

Cherry Hill

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Hi, I have 2 horses living in my garden (we have a very large garden) and they are my joy! I try to take the best care possible and watch their nutrition, hygiene, vet’s visits, etc but the one thing that I haven’t been able to control is the bats biting them on the neck, please help!

There are over 1000 species of bats in the world. I’m not sure where you live, but most bats live on insects, so would be a great addition to your garden’s pest control program. However there are also vampire bats and their main food source is blood. Based on your email, it sounds like your horses might be visited at night by vampire bats. I have no personal experience with vampire bats but have seen documentaries showing vampire bats feeding nightly on the fetlocks of equines. Once there is a wound, it is easy for the bat to return and feed at the same site. Because bats are potential carriers of rabies and because the recurring wounds from the bites can be a source for other disease and infection, if this is the type of situation you have, you can implement some management changes (below) or you can look into bat control which might include sonic/electronic bat repellers.

Management:
Be sure all horses are current on their rabies vaccinations.

Since vampire bats only hunt when it is fully dark, you could house your horses indoors at night.

It is said that bats don’t actually bite (and a horse’s skin is quite thick in most places, especially on the neck where you say the bats bite). So the bats would need to find an area where there is an existing wound or where the skin is very thin and the blood is close to the surface in order to find an entry point. Therefore, if you cover any existing wounds that would help prevent entry there.

You could purchases heavy textilene fly sheets and hoods for your horses to wear at night.

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Hi Cherry,

I believe that I saw a recipe for a body wash in one of your books, but now I’m not certain of the recipe and don’t remember which book it was in.  I do remember that it included liniment, baby oil, Calgon water softener, alcohol, and water, but I don’t remember the proportions.  I mixed up a gallon of it last summer and my horse seemed to really like it.  The amazing thing was that she didn’t roll in the dirt like she does when she is sweaty or rinsed with the hose.  Was this your recipe and could you send it to me?
Judy

Dear Judy:

Yes, the body wash you are referring to is on page 171 of Becoming an Effective Rider but my concoction doesn’t contain alcohol.  I like to use a brace to clean areas of a wet, sweaty horse after working instead of just letting the sweat dry and then grooming him.  And its better than hosing the horse every day.

Using water to hose down your horse every day is not a good long-term management practice.  It results in more problems than benefits.  Cold water can actually stiffen your horse’s muscles.  Also, the daily wet/dry situation can be extremely damaging to the structure of the hooves.  Horses’ hooves are healthiest when they are kept at a relatively constant dry moisture level.  Also, fungus and skin problems can occur when horses are frequently wet and aren’t allowed to thoroughly dry.

My solution (pun intended!) to cleaning a sweaty horse without hosing him down is to use a body wipe in specific areas such as the head, saddle area, the underside of the neck, and between the hind legs.  Body braces are available commercially, or you can make your own by filling a gallon plastic milk container with water, adding 2 tablespoons of Calgon water softener, 2 tablespoons of baby oil, and one ounce of your favorite liniment.  You can spray it on or sponge it on. Give a shake before you apply either way.

This mixture lifts dirt and sweat off the horse’s hair, conditions it, and stimulates the skin. If your horse is very sensitive, you may need to decrease or eliminate the liniment from the formula.  For any horse, do not use liniment near the eyes, nostrils, or on the anus.

Note: Calgon water softener is not the same as Calgonite automatic dishwasher detergent.  Don’t let the names confuse you when you are shopping.

Cherry Hill

Becoming an Effective Rider by Cherry Hill

Becoming an Effective Rider by Cherry Hill

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Dear Cherry,

I’m confused by all of the deworming rotation plans out there. Can you help me find the right one? Thank you, Betty


Dear Betty,

You and your veterinarian need to determine what is most appropriate for your horse’s parasite control program. The next step is knowing what to use and when.

Well that answer will depend on your climate and what types of parasites you are targeting. The rotation programs that you have probably seen assume that you need to deworm for all parasites and that deworming has successfully rid your horse of those parasites. However, you might find, through fecal testing, that your horses don’t ever have certain parasites OR that even though you deworm regularly for strongyles, for example, your horses still have a strongyle problem.

With that in mind, realize that the rotation programs you will find in your vet catalogs or on line might likely be highlighting certain products, whether you need them or not. In fact, if you search “deworming rotation” at http://www.google.com most of the results on the first page are recommendations from vet catalogs. They list products by brand name rather than by ingredient and give little information as to why you should use a particular product when. But even among experts, there are various opinions of what you should use and when. The best rotation plan is one that takes into account your climate, the density of the horse population on your farm, and fecal test results.

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Our grass is maturing and our horses are getting used to grazing at least an hour a day. Our goal is to be able to turn the horses out overnight for an 8 hour graze. When a horse spends any time on pasture whether for grazing or turnout, there are certain things we as managers should pay attention to so that our horses are safe and healthy.

Horse Management – Pasture Life

Part of the dream of having a horse is the visual satisfaction of seeing a horse peacefully grazing on a well-maintained pasture at your home. Pasturing a horse might be the most natural way to keep a horse, but unfortunately, it is out of reach for many and can be far from ideal from a horse’s viewpoint. For the best chance for success, start with a good pasture.

A good pasture has a stand of plants suitable for horses. The best kind of horse pasture is a well-drained grass mix with few weeds and NO poisonous weeds, trees or shrubs. If there is a good grass stand established, you have decent rainfall or access to irrigation, and you mow, harrow and reseed as necessary, you should be able to keep one horse on 2 acres of pasture during the growing season. However, arid ranchland with minimal browse plants can require 20 acres or more to support a single horse. To get a better idea of the specific stocking rate for your property, contact your county extension agent.

A pasture needs to be enclosed with safe fencing and gates. Pasture fences and gates should be at least 5 feet tall and well maintained to maximize the horses’ safety and minimize the liability of loose horses on public or private property. Using electric fencing in conjunction with conventional fencing decreases the wear and tear on fences and adds to security as long as the electric fence is checked daily to be sure it is working.

There should be no old dumps or farm equipment in a pasture; horses can easily get hurt on items hidden by tall grass.

There should be easy and safe access to free choice, good quality water. Natural sources should be running, not stagnant. Know the source of the water your horse drinks. If it contains agricultural runoff, it could be high in nitrates. A trough or automatic waterer should be kept clean and situated to minimize mud and to prevent a horse from being crowded into a corner or against a fence.

Pastures should be well drained with no bogs or stagnant water and preferably the soil should not be not sandy.

The pasture should provide shelter – either natural (trees, rocks or terrain) or man-made (shed or windbreak) to ward off sun, wind, cold precipitation, and insects.

There should be free choice salt and mineral blocks at all times.

Pros and cons of pasture life. See the book Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage.

Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage by Cherry Hill

Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage by Cherry Hill

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Horse Management

Pea Gravel for Pens

©  2010 Cherry Hill © Copyright Information

We’ve just had a weekend with over 3 inches of rain (and it is still coming down). For us, that is about 1/5 of our annual rainfall, so that’s a bunch. We are thankful for the great pasture growth that will bring !

When we get so much rain at once, there are puddles all over the place but NOT in our horse’s pens which are located on well drained decomposed granite soil and covered with 3/8 minus round pea gravel. We’ve used pea gravel (pictured above) in our pens for years with great success. That reminded me of a letter I once got from a reader, so I thought this would be a good time to share that letter and my response.

Hi Cherry,

Your Horse Barn DVD by Cherry Hill and Richard KlimeshAfter much research and watching your wonderful DVD on designing a horse barn, I decided to put down 4 inches of 3/8 minus round washed pea gravel in my mare’s paddock area.

It has been excellent footing, however last week my mare went quite lame and the farrier found a tiny piece of the gravel embedded very deep next to her frog towards the heel. My farrier told me afterwards that he thinks the footing is “very dangerous” and it should not be used without several inches of sand on top. My farrier is very good and has been trusted by everyone in the area for 40 years. I keep my mare’s feet picked clean, but this little rock was so deep we couldn’t reach it without digging into the cleft.

I just cannot imagine you recommending anything that was in any way dangerous for horsekeeping so my question is this: In our new facility we are putting in sacrifice paddocks and I had been planning on surfacing them in the same gravel however now I have doubts.

Was this a freak accident? Is pea gravel the best footing or would you recommend something else?


Thank you very much for your time,
Tami

Hi Tami,

Pea gravel varies greatly according to locale, I can’t see yours, but 3/8-round pea gravel generally poses no danger for a turnout pen or we wouldn’t recommend it.

This is indeed a freak accident as you suggest as in all the years we have used it, recommended it, we have never heard of such an incident.

Horsekeeping On A Small Acreage by Cherry HillHowever there are many instances of horses (whether they live on pasture, in a sawdust bedded stall or in a pen) getting gravel imbedded in the clefts, white line and other areas of the hoof when the hooves are too soft or when the hoof has a problem like thrush, deep clefts, white line disease etc. My husband, Richard Klimesh, has been a farrier for many years and has much experience with hooves and together we feel hooves that are kept clean and dry are the healthiest and that pea gravel is the best all-weather pen surface for drainage and hoof health.

Sand can be a real danger when used in living areas where horses are fed because of the almost certain ingestion of the sand and the high probability of sand colic. The only time we recommend sand is when a horse has been or is laminitic and the veterinarian suggests it for the horse’s comfort.

Each locale and level of management requires different choices of fences, of footing, bedding and so on. So whether you choose to cover over the pea gravel with sand (which is something I would never do) or use pea gravel or another footing in your sacrifice pen will depend on sub-surface drainage, your style of management, your local weather, the health of your horse’s hooves, and other factors which I could not know.

Horse Hoof Care by Cherry Hill and Richard Klimesh

Horse Hoof Care by Cherry Hill and Richard Klimesh

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