Heat Stroke and Cooling your horse

By: Dr. Mike Guerini (www.dunmovinranch.com)

This past weekend I was at the Western States Horse Expo in Sacramento California.  On Saturday I was working with a team of excellent horsewomen (Sher, Alison, Linda, and Karen) demonstrating Western Dressage.  The temperature reached 108 F and of course we kept our demonstration short since we were focused on keeping the horse from being overheated.

As we unsaddled and worked on cooling the horses out we discussed some of the important lessons around cooling and bathing horses as well as dealing with the heat.

1) Never leave the water sitting on the skin as you are bathing or cooling your horse.  We saw a few people dousing their horses with water and then not slicking that water off.  Sure water can help cool but if it is left on the skin, it serves as an insulator and keeps that heat on the horse.  You can actually overheat a horse who is soaking in water when the temperatures outside are hot to extremely hot.  Water is a pretty good insulator and has the capacity to retain heat so get the water off and that thin layer left on the horse will evaporate and help in the cooling.

Spray your horse with cool water — beginning with his legs first — to help lower his body temperature. Scrape excess water off quickly because it soon rises to the temperature of the over-heated horse.

2) Make sure stalls are well ventilated with cross breezes (air can move in and out of the stall) or make sure your horse can move out of the stall on his/her own free will.

3) Keep your horse from standing in the direct sunlight on these extremely hot days.

4) Another reminder is that if you use cool/cold water, do not apply this directly to large muscles that have just finished a rigorous workout.  Lukewarm water is better.  A sudden burst of cold water on large muscles can shock those muscles and cause the horse either stress, pain or injury.

5) If you suspect heat stress with your horse — call your veterinarian immediately.  Always consult your veterinarian for any medical emergencies.

Some signs of Heat Stroke include

  • Temperature above 104 degrees F. (A normal temperature is 99-100.8 degrees F.)
  • Rapid heart and pulse rates that do not recover within 10 or 15 minutes after exercise.
  • Rapid breathing that does not slow down after exercise.
  • Less sweat than expected.
  • Hot skin (might progress to cold if skin circulation shuts down).
  • Signs of dehydration, including loss of skin elasticity, sunken eyes, tacky membranes and cessation of urination.

You can learn more about some of the professionals Dr. Mike worked with this past weekend by clicking on the name here — Sher Bell Boatman

Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).

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Early Detection of Equine Lameness

By Dr. Mike Guerini (www.dunmovinranch.com)

Recently I have found myself working with people who have some lame horses and this got me thinking about how we detect lameness.  Concurrently, I have been reading books by Natalie Keller Reinert and MaryAnn Myers, both of whom write horse racing fiction.  Now wait a minute you ask — how does horse racing fiction help with detecting Equine Lameness.  Well — the fiction has some great stories about life around the racetrack and these well written works relay real life details of what race track trainers do each and every day — they study the horse for any and all weaknesses. After some great conversations with LaurenMichele Mcgarry of Red Horse Equine Arts I decided to pen this article — with some homemade ideas about how we can detect lameness.

Before I begin let me please remind all of you that when you have any question about the health of your horse, you need to consult equine health care professionals.  These professionals can be either a veterinarian, farrier, chiropractor, acupuncture specialist, or other professional.

So what is my point here?  We as horse owners, riders, trainers, breeders, and enthusiasts have the opportunity for early detection of a minor injury or “catch in the horse’s get along.”  Of course we all know what “dead lame” or “three-legged lame” means — time to call the veterinarian.  But what do we do to monitor our horse each and every day — well we follow some of what they do on the racetrack — we study our horses.

1) Learn the length of your horses stride.  If you have a pretty good idea (within an inch or two) of the normal length of your horse’s stride at the walk…and that changes — you may be seeing some early signs of a problem.

2) Study the footfalls of your horse.  Know how your horse places his/her foot on the ground.  Is it straight, is there a slight twist, does the foot roll, etc?  There are many things to look for and each horse is unique — so time to study the footfalls of your horse.

3) Know the movements of the joints. Is the pastern motion fluid, are the hocks fluid, is there and hesitation in the movement of the joints?  By learning the motion of the joints of your horse, you can see when changes are happening….then you can look for issues.

4) Watch how your horse stands around.  If he/she is normally quiet and then you start to see him/her fidget (and it is not flies or insects or being in heat), he/she may be uncomfortable standing on all four hooves or one in particular. Does your horse try to stand up or down hill — maybe he/she is trying to remove pressure from a part of the body.

5) Is the rhythm of the gait changing?  Rhythm is movement of strong and weak elements.  Does your horse seem to have more weak or strong elements than normal — it may be a sign of something changing.

6) Do you feel heat or swelling?  Rub down those legs and know how they normally feel.  Any slight change in temp or size might be an indicator of something changing or a lameness issue developing.

7) Do you notice stumbling or tripping?  This might be a sign that the horse has an issue.  Many times we sum these up as a bad riding day, clumsy horse, or a lazy horse.  These might be an early sign of a problem.

8) Is there an attitude change?  Without any other causes do you notice your horse getting grumpy or unwilling?  These might be the first signs of a skeletal-muscle issue developing in your horse.

Quite a few of these we can do while on the back of a horse during our ride.  Use fence posts to mark distance being covered and when you ask for a gait, if it takes longer, your horse might not be striding correctly.  Feel the legs move beneath you and understand your horse’s normal movement — so that you can detect that “hitch” that may be an early warning sign.

My point is not to scare you or get you to be overly worried about every little movement your horse makes.  What I hope that you will think about after reading this article is how you can become more in tune with your horse and detect issues when they are minor.  When we use rest, hydrotherapy, corrective trimming, massage, acupuncture, or chiropractic along with input from our veterinarian early on to deal with these issues when they are still minor and this might just save money and frustration later on.

Please share your thoughts and I welcome you sharing this article.

Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).

Hydrotherapy and Your Equine Athlete

by Rob Keene DVM and Michael Guerini, Ph.D. (www.hydrot.com)

For many years veterinarians, trainers and other equine enthusiasts have used water as a therapy for sore limbs and muscle injuries. After a long day of work, or a vigorous exercise routine, many people take the opportunity to indulge themselves in a few moments of pleasure with a water-jet massage in their home spas or showers. Hydrotherapy spas are wonderful for people but not practical for the horse owner or trainer when you consider cost limitations and design problems. Ideally, a stream in our backyard or training facility would provide an excellent means for relaxing not only the rider but also the equine athlete.

Cold hosing is a simple form of hydrotherapy and a new injury can benefit from being cold-hosed for about 20 minutes multiple times a day or as directed by your veterinarian.

Why does hydrotherapy/cold hosing work?

Enzymes and proteins are released when cells are injured by a cut, trauma, or over-exertion and this caused the blood vessel walls in that vicinity to dilate and become more porous. Infection and inflammation fighting cells move to the area and extra fluid goes to the spot and carries oxygen and proteins for tissue repair. Tissue damage also triggers the secretion of hormones that are responsible for much of the pain the horse feels.

Pain, heat, and swelling, the three main symptoms of inflammation occur to varying degrees depending on the region, severity, and type of injury. As we all know, pain helps prevent overuse of the affected area. Heat results from the increased blood flow to the injury site and swelling (or edema) helps immobilize the area. The safest way to begin the healing process is to use the horse’s circulatory system to remove excess fluids not needed for healing. Drugs such as phenylbutazone can reduce swelling and heat but they might mask pain and delay or confuse the diagnostic picture.

The application of cold hydrotherapy triggers three basic reactions. First, it reduces cellular metabolic responses so that less oxygen is necessary since this can trigger hypoxic injury. Cold therapy also decreases the permeability of the blood vessel walls to reduce the amount of fluid accumulation and by cooling the area, it acts as a topical analgesic.

With the advent of the Equine Hydro-T, the benefits of a human hydrotherapeutic spa, along with the convenience of a backyard stream, are combined into one product. The patented Equine Hydro-T attaches to a hose at the barn and directs a pleasant, pulsating hydro-therapeutic massage to the tendons, joints, and muscles that have experienced a workout or injury.

Throughout the years in my veterinary practice, I recommended using a regular garden hose to help reduce swelling and provide a therapeutic treatment for medical problems associated with injury or strenuous workouts. When describing this therapy to clients I often used a shower massage analogy to explain how this treatment could help their athlete. While driving away I always contemplated the need for a massage unit like those found in most people’s showers or spas. I also was discouraged at the inconsistencies inherent in using a garden hose. The Equine Hydro-T answers this need by providing inexpensive, consistent, pulsating hydrotherapy using a convenient handheld instrument that is also a great tool for routine bathing.

The best part of the Equine Hydro-T is that it is also excellent for bathing your horse so it has multiple functions.

Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).  Dr. Rob Keene is a veterinarian from Montana.

Leadership in Horsemanship — Part IV Safety

Leadership in Horsemanship — Part IV Safety

By Dr. Mike Guerini (www.dunmovinranch.com)

In this four part series, I will be exploring my Leadership in Horsemanship philosophy. The four components to my leadership philosophy include: 1) Honesty, 2) Wholeness, 3) Creativity, and 4) Safety.

Although last in the discussion, safety is likely the most important component of Leadership for Horsemanship. Think back to a time, possibly in college or high school, where somebody asked you to be part of something wild and crazy and it turned out to be unsafe. If we are honest with ourselves, we need to admit that when someone puts us in an unsafe situation we begin to trust him or her less and less. In fact, we may distance ourselves from someone who is not safe.

Now let us think about safety in terms of our horsemanship and being a leader. If you never practice safety with your horse and your horse continually gets into predicaments/hurt/scared because of your lack of safety — it is very probable that your horse will not look to you for leadership.

Today while I was touching base with a fellow horsemanship coach (Kristina Mundy), she said something that is spot on accurate. Kristina said “…owners must be dedicated to the good of their horse…” and I would add that the good of the horse means the safety of the horse.

So let us ask a series of questions to evaluate how safe we are with our horses:

1) Do we check our tack each time to make sure it is ready for the ride?

2) Do we scout the trail or get info from someone who has ridden the same path?

3) Do we use proper equipment for protection of our horse (leg wraps, shoes/proper trims, etc.)

4) Do we ride with a helmet?

5) Do we pay attention and ride actively so that we see potential issues before they can hurt us?

6) Do we ride with safe people?

7) Is our hauling equipment (trailer, truck, etc) safe to operate?

8) Do we check our horse out for 1 to 2 minutes of groundwork before riding?

9) Do we wear appropriate clothing and footwear when working with horses?

Therefore, when we speak of safety there is an underlying debate out there. Some folks say — I have ridden for years and never needed to pay attention to any of those things. Others are concerned about the relationship and protection of their horses so they consider each one of the above questions. Those that consider safety first are sometimes silently laughed at by those who have “ridden a long time and never been hurt.”

Two final points about safety as part of Leadership for Horsemanship.

1) If you practice safety first, then you significantly decrease the chance of you and your horse getting hurt. If you are not hurt, then you should be mentally and physically able to help your horse. If you get hurt — who is going to help your horse? I sure would want a leader who can help me if I get into a bad spot…and I am certain your horse wants a leader who can keep him/her safe.

Now it is this second point that I know has the biggest area of disagreement but I want to make sure I say a few words here.

2) Children under the age of 18 should wear a helmet while riding. Why under the age of 18 — because after that you are an adult and can make your own choices. If we want to see the next generation of great equestrians — we need to help them be safe. There should be no need for laws…this should be common sense. (Note: my equine liability insurance requires that all students under the age of 18 wear a helmet while I am teaching)

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cite some interesting statistics relating to Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and horseback riding with respect to children. Click here for information — http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6039a1.htm

In a nutshell — CDC the above link will share with you the following information:

During 2001–2009, an estimated 2,651,581 children aged ≤19 years were treated annually for sports and recreation–related injuries. Approximately 6.5%, or 173,285 of these injuries, were TBIs. Overall, the activities associated with the greatest estimated number of TBI-related Emergency Department (ED) visits were bicycling, football, playground activities, basketball, and soccer. Activities for which TBI accounted for >10% of the injury ED visits for that activity included horseback riding (15.3%) [this is ~2900 kids per year], ice skating (11.4%), golfing (11.0%), all-terrain vehicle riding (10.6%), and tobogganing/sledding (10.2%). One more link with information worth reading is found here  — http://www.biak.us/brain-injury-and-horses.

I encourage all of you with children to have them wear helmets and I urge all of us to speak to our delegates from the different breed associations, rodeo events, 4H, FFA and other horsemanship activities to find ways to encourage children to wear helmets.

In summary — practice being safe. To be that leader that your horse wants, you need to be healthy and able to help your horse. If you become injured — who is going to take care of your horse partner?

Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician and author of multiple books and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).

Leadership in Horsemanship — Part III Creativity

Leadership in Horsemanship — Part III Creativity

By Dr. Mike Guerini (www.dunmovinranch.com)

In this four part series, I will be exploring my Leadership in Horsemanship philosophy. The four components to my leadership philosophy include: 1) Honesty, 2) Wholeness, 3) Creativity and 4) Safety.

We are half way through the four components of leadership so it is appropriate to recap.  Part I is Honesty.  In honesty we need to analyze what we can and cannot do at any given time.  Sometimes we are not ready for the challenge presented by a horse — but we can learn and get ready.  We also need to be straightforward in our dealings with the horses we are working with.  Part II described an analysis of the Whole situation — Wholeness.  In Wholeness we need to understand how our actions and those of the horse create reactions.

Part III deals with Creativity in leadership.  Every good leader will admit that he/she do not always have the answer.  A leader is someone who gather information and adapts to changes.  So you ask — how does Creativity apply to leadership with horses.

Well as leaders of horses we need to adapt our methods and approaches to work with each and every horse.  Horses are unique and as long as we use principles such as “Pressure and Release”, “Foundation training activities” and understand the “Prey vs. Predator” relationship, we should be able to find/create new ways to work with each and every horse.

While we all know that repetition and consistency help in training, we also need to make sure we are creative and keeping the horse thinking and responding to our aides and signals rather than anticipating what we want.

Here are some examples of how we can employ creativity in our horsemanship leadership:

1) Learn new methods from other people

2) Adapt/change an old method to work safely in the current situation

3) Use different exercises to help teach your horse a specific task

4) Use cross-training when teaching your horse

5) Attend a clinic being taught for a different discipline

6) Take a lesson with a new instructor

7) Ride a new horse that can teach you

Overall, Creativity in Leadership for Horsemanship focuses on the human person learning multiple ways to teach a horse something.  There may be 10 safe ways to teach a horse something new — we should be creative (not boring) and learn how to apply those ten different ways.

One of the ways I continually work to be creative is that I get to work with other trainers and I also attend (as a participant) clinics taught by others.  What I want to emphasize here is that for you to be the leader for your horse and to develop strong teamwork and success — you need to develop a relationship that is full of new experiences.  Teach your horse something new, but expose them to many different, creative and new ways that you may ask them to perform.

Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician and author of multiple books and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at http://www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).

Leadership in Horsemanship — Part II Wholeness

Leadership in Horsemanship — Part II Wholeness

By Dr. Mike Guerini (www.dunmovinranch.com)

In this four part series, I will be exploring my Leadership in Horsemanship philosophy. The four components to my leadership philosophy include: 1) Honesty, 2) Wholeness, 3) Creativity and 4) Safety.

Part II continues with some ideas around the concept of Wholeness. Webster’s Online Dictionary defines Wholeness as “An undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting.” That certainly seems to be a mouthful but as I read that definition it struck me that it defines what we are all seeking with horses. How cool!

I fixated on the words “nothing wanting” and have contemplated how this fits in with leadership and it struck me that one of the keys of Leadership in Horsemanship is being able to put together a complete package that includes, horse, and rider working as a team.

In Wholeness, we seek to understand how everything fits together. The best way I could represent this concept is in the form of a figure with many of the components that make up the complete package of horse and rider. I may be missing some components and I always encourage you to share your ideas and comment.

Click on the figure to enlarge.

One of many things worth noting in this diagram is that I shaded those items that the horse brings. Notice how the horse brings five items whereas the human brings so many more. The sum of all these items makes the complete/whole package a success.

Conclusion of Part II

As we take into account the honesty portion and now add wholeness, we see how much of the equation for leadership in horses relies on the human component. To work on our leadership, we need to constantly evaluate where we are with each of the human components and assess our horse on his/her part of this matrix.

Share your thoughts and ideas on this write up. Next up, Part III — Creativity in leadership.

Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at http://www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).

Hyrotherapy is GOOD for your Horse

This is a Guest Blog from my mentor — Dr. Robert Keene, DVM

“For many years veterinarians, trainers and other equine enthusiasts have used water as a therapy for sore limbs and muscle injuries. After a long day of work, or a vigorous exercise routine, many people take the opportunity to indulge themselves in a few moments of pleasure with a water-jet massage in their home spas or showers. Hydro-therapy spas are wonderful for people but not practical for the horse owner or trainer when you consider cost limitations and design problems. Ideally, a stream in our backyard or training facility would provide an excellent means for relaxing not only the rider but also the equine athlete.
With the advent of the Equine Hydro-T™ the benefits of a human hydro-therapeutic spa, along with the convenience of a backyard stream, are combined into one product. The patented Equine Hydro-T™ attaches to a hose at the barn and directs a pleasant, pulsating hydro-therapeutic massage to the tendons, joints and muscles that have experienced a workout or injury.
Throughout the years in my veterinary practice I recommended using a regular garden hose to help reduce swelling and provide a therapeutic treatment for medical problems associated with injury or strenuous workouts. When describing this therapy to clients I often used a shower massage analogy to explain how this treatment could help their athlete. While driving away I always contemplated the need for a massage unit like those found in most people’s showers or spas. I also was discouraged at the inconsistencies inherent in using a garden hose. The Equine Hydro-T™ answers this need by providing inexpensive, consistent, pulsating hydro-therapy using a convenient handheld instrument. With routine use of the Equine Hydro-T™ your equine athlete will stay on top, whatever the discipline.” Rob Keene, DVM
Check out the Equine Hydro-T at www.hydrot.com