Sunday, 30 December 2012

Science Sunday; Parasites

What do parasites do?
Parasites suppress the immune system of the host in order to help them survive. They want to carry out their own life cycle and if they cause immunosupression to the host they are less likely to be killed. However, it is a trade off between the host dieing and the parasite being dieing. Parasitism is when an organism lives off another organism, it will be draining its resources.

Types of parasites
There are a number of different types of parasites. Helminths are worms that live in the host. They are often large and need to be well adapted to evade the host’s immune response to prevent them from being killed. They may also adopt host proteins as its own surface protein so it is not recognised as foreign by the immune system. Many have a long life cycle so it is in their interest to keep the host alive for a long time.  Helminths are a big problem in livestock and they are often put on worming programs. There are many different types such as strongyles that live in the intestines. 

Protozoa are small and will often live inside cells. An example of this type of parasite in the horse is Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM). 

Arthropods live on the outside of the animal such as ticks and fleas. They feed off the host through their skin. The well adapted ones have an anaesthetic in their saliva so the host will not feel them drinking their blood and will not scratch them off.

Strongyles vulgaris can be seen in the horse becomes infected by ingesting the larvae. They go through the small intestine and large intestine walls and get into the arteries 7 days after they have been infected. They then carry on developing for the next 3-4 months. Mature worms lay eggs which pass to faeces and pasture.

TreatmentsIvermectin is in the macrolytic class of wormers and is approved for the control of stomach bots, threadworms, pinworms, adult cyathostomes, adult and some larvae small strongyles and adult hairworms. It interferes with the brain in the parasite. There are a number of other types of treatments which can be used. There are problems with resistance developing to these wormers so they should not be over-used as this can increase resistance developing. 
There are also a number of other methods to control parasites which I will go into in another Science Sunday post. 

Love Laura

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Science Sunday; My Dissertation, Wormer Effects

After finishing the taught section to my masters course in June I completed a dissertation over the summer which was handed in at the end of November. My dissertation was looking into the effects wormers may have on the bacteria that live in the hindgut of the horse. These microbes are important as they carry out some of the digestion of the food the horses eat, helping the horse to get more nutrients. You can read more about this in my digestive system post. My first dissertation which I carried out in my final year of my undergraduate degree was also looking at changes in the hindgut bacteria of horses but this was looking at the effects of probiotics, click here to read about it. This has given me quite a good understanding of this area of the horse.

What I did
At the start of the study faecal egg counts were carried out for a number of horses, the results of this led to the two groups that were in my study. If the horses had a high enough burden of worms to be treated they were in the "treated" group and if they were not treated they were in the "control" group.

I then took poo samples on three separate occasions and analysed the DNA of the microbes present in these in the lab. This showed me which species of bacteria were present under the different conditions and how they may have changed.

What I found
I found there was a difference in the bacteria living in the hindgut of the horse between the two groups of horses. However, that difference seemed to be there from the beginning of the study which suggested to me that the presence of worms in the digestive tract of the horse may have causes these differences. I concluded that more research is still needed as my sample size was only small (it contained 12 horses) but the results were interesting and a good starting point for further research.

Love Laura

Monday, 17 December 2012

Guest Post; Where's Your Tack Tonight?

Today I have a guest post from Easy2Insure, an independent insurance broker with access to a variety of horsebox policies providing insurance for all types of horseboxes including motorised horseboxes and trailers.  Visit us their website to find out more about their horsebox insurance that's right for you, your horse and your budget.

Whether you’re at a show or at home, there’s always a chance that thieves could strike without warning. With rural crime on the rise, even being out in the countryside is no guarantee that your tack room and everything in it is safe. So do you know where your tack is tonight? Let’s look at tack security at home and away.

Why is tack a target?

In the modern age anything that isn’t nailed down (and even some things that are!) is a potential target for thieves. Because tack is high value and easily transportable (you can quite literally carry it away), it is becoming a favourite target for thieves. Tack is also reasonably generic, and it can be very difficult to prove ownership of a standard saddle, for example, unless it has some particular distinguishing marks. So it’s easy to sell on without ‘too many questions’ being asked…

There are two types of thieves – opportunist thieves who will see an unattended item and simply grab it, and more organised gangs who may plan the robbery beforehand. Opportunistic thieves are more likely to strike at shows and events, while the more organised (and often more dangerous) gangs target remote locations such as livery stables, yards and farms.

Home security

This is probably the easiest to scenario to deal with, as there is much more you can do to protect your tack and possessions at home than when you’re at a show.
Locks – It may seem obvious, but even if your nearest neighbour is five miles away, fit a lock to your tack-room door. Make sure those locks are strong enough to withstand a sustained and determined attack by a thief.
Alarms – Silent alarms are probably the most effective, as they will activate a secondary alarm in your property, allowing you to contact the Police while the thieves are still in situ, thus giving them a better chance of catching the thieves ‘in the act’.
Cameras – Security systems that include motion-sensitive cameras are now very reasonably priced and make a worthwhile investment, particularly if your tack is expensive, custom-made or professional standard.
Insurance – Even large items such as horse boxes can be at risk, so make sure you have horse box insurance. This will also often cover any tack that is stored in the box, and give you some peace of mind that you won’t be facing a big bill if things go missing!
Geese! – One of the best alarm systems you can have is couple of geese living in the yard (the geese at a yard we used to ride in would attack anyone who wasn’t wearing riding boots!).

At a show

Security at a show is much more complicated, as there will be times when your tack is left unattended, even for a brief moment while you dash to the tea hut! This is where opportunist thieves strike, so make life difficult for them.

Lock it up – If you’re lucky enough to have a horse box with a lockable tack storage area, then make sure you use it! Again, as with home locks, choose padlocks that are going to give thieves a problem (circular padlocks are much harder to open using bolt cutters than traditional style padlocks).
Mark your tack – this won’t prevent it from being stolen, but if you use security markers to mark your tack then it may ensure that it gets back to you if the Police recover it later. Make sure you have a photographic record of all tack, especially saddles.
Don’t leave tack in plain sight – In the same way that you wouldn’t leave your handbag on the passenger seat of your car, try not to leave high-ticket items in plain sight. Remove the temptation and you lessen the chances of being a victim of theft.
Insurance on the go – Check with your specialist insurance broker to see if your horse box insurance covers your tack whilst at a show. Again, it won’t stop your tack being stolen, but it will make it financially much easier to replace!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Science Sunday; Sarcoids

Sarcoids are the most common form of skin tumour in the horse. They are often seen on the head, and they may be a problem if near the eye. They are also seen on the lower body, limbs and sites of previous injury. Trooper has a small sarcoid in between his front legs and has had it for a few years without having any problems from it.

Types of sarcoids
There are six types that occur. 
  • Occult has hair loss and they are often on the neck. 
  • Verrucous are wart like, cytokines transform the epidermis. 
  • A fibroblastic legion is the most ugly, they are red and weep. They are often seen on the pastern or the upper eyelid. 
  • The nodular form is where there is intact skin over them, the skin will move over them, this means they are easily removed with surgery. They are often seen around the eye or the inguinal region. 
  • They can be a mixed form.
  • They can also be a malignant form, this is not common.

The treatment options currently available for sarcoids in the equine are limited. Surgical excision can be done. However, this may cuase recurrence and may enhance the growth. Some nodules may be OK to be removed in this way. Cyrosurgery may be done, this is when the tissue is frozen, mixed results have been seen using this method. This may cause scarring however and should not be done near the eye. Immunotherapy can be used such as using a vaccine, this would need to be given in a series of injections.This triggers an immune response and will help to heal it. However some horses are allergic to this. Radiotherapy can be used, this is more modern. Gold, radium and iridium are used and inserted into the legion. Topical chemotherapy may be used. There is a risk to the handler when using this as it is unstable. The smaller the sarcoid the easier to treat so it has to be done early.  This method has been used for around 200 years. 

The cause of sarcoids is not known. However, it is currently thought to be a bovine papilloma virus (BPV) related virus. It is also suspected that there is a genetic predisposition but then there has to be a trigger. Younger horses, ages 2- 6 show the highest prevalence. Most studies have not found a breed or sex linked predisposition. Though it has been linked with castration wounds in geldings. Mohammed et al (1994) found an increased prevalence in arabs and quarter horses compared to thoroughbreds. It is thought it could be carried by flies as it is more common around wound areas. This may explain the geographical variations that are seen with sarcoids.

Love Laura

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Keeping Older Horses Supple

A lot of people have been asking me recently how I keep Trooper supple and prevent him from getting stiff. For those of you that don't know, Trooper is 23 years old and had a tendon injury just over a year ago. He no longer jumps but I school him and he still goes nicely and can do lateral work and is not too on the fore-hand. The only thing he does do is trip up a bit.

People have been asking me if he is on any extra supplements to help prevent him from getting stiff but he only has Happy Hoof and sometimes Winergy Ventilate in his feeds. They were asking about glucosamine and chondroitins. Our dog is on glucosamine tablets and they are meant to be quite a cheap option for horses. Cortaflex is the one of these feeds that I have heard the most from, this contains both glucosamine and chondroitin. These are meant to increase the synthesis of joint cartilage so in theory help with things such as arthritis. However, in horses more research is still needed, especially into the dosage of these products.  Codlivine is another product given, some people do not like feeding this as it is an animal product. It is hard to tell what effects these have though in each individual horse and it may be more beneficial to give them a try if you are wondering and see how your specific horse reacts to them. I would be interested to hear if any of you have tried any of these products and how you have found them! Maybe in the future we will try out some of these products and report back!

I think the main thing that is keeping Trooper supple is the amount we exercise him. We try to ride him at least 3 times a week and he is turned out every day for at least 6 hours even through the winter. When he had his tendon injury we still turned him out as we thought keeping him on box rest may lead to him stiffening up. When I ride him I warm him up for a good 5-10 minutes and then he goes really nicely. I think he does get a bit more stiff when he has not been ridden as often.

Also I have now found a way to add more photos into my blog after the Picasa storage ran out. For those of you wondering I have uploaded the photo to Flickr. I then went onto the "share" setting and got the HTML code for the photo. I then went onto the HTML button whilst writing a blog post and copy and pasted it into there! There might be other ways to do it but this is the way I have found! At least I can keep uploading photos for free! The photo below is a bit of a random one to go with this post but it wouldn't upload the other day so I thought I would try it here!


Love Laura

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Science Sunday; Why Are Foals Susceptible To Diseases?

New born foals are particularly susceptible to disease as they rely on colostrum from the mare to give them antibodies. Colostrum is the first bit of milk they get from their mother and is important as it contains antibodies developed by the mare that are a response to the immediate environment. The mare therefore has to be in the environment that the foal will be born into 2-3 weeks before so that the antibodies made will be specific to the correct environment. These antibodies allow the foal to fight infection before its immune system becomes efficient. The new born foal is able to absorb these antibodies through the intestinal wall and into the blood stream. The ability to absorb these antibodies only lasts for the about 12 -24 hours. During this period the foal needs to have 1- 2 litres of colostrums. These antibodies protect the foal for the first 2-4 months of life. After this, the foals own immune system becomes more efficient making its own antibodies. If the mare leaks colostrum, it will be lost so there will not be enough for the foal.

A number of conditions in the foal are a consequence of them not receiving enough colostrum, leading to a failure of them receiving this early immunity. This could be due to the foal being born premature or the mare running colostrum before parturition. There could be a reduced quality of colostrums that contains low antibody levels. The foals access to colostrum could also be reduced, such as the foal being separated from the mare of the foal being too weak to feed in the early hours after birth. The foals immunity levels and the quality of the colostrums can be checked in a number of ways to see if there are any problems.

These problems could be prevented by giving the foal colostrum supplementation, this is useful within the first 24 hours of birth. There are a number of types of antibodies and if it is given after this time the IgM antibody will still be absorbed but the IgG may not be. It may be possible to create a colostrum bank by milking the colostrum from a number of different mares after the foal ahs had enough, this can be stored in the freezer and mixed together and can be given to sick foals when they need it.

A plasma transfusion may be given if there are severe problems, this is when 3-4 litres of blood is taken from a donor mare or gelding. The plasma is separated from the blood. This can then be transfused into a foal and will raise their IgG antibody levels.

Love Laura

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Little Update

I'll start off this post with a quick story about Trooper from earlier this week. As he is out in the field during the day, he is always at the gate waiting for us when we go to the farm around 2:30/3:00 pm. Earlier in the week around 1 pm one of the grooms at the farm saw the gate to the field was wide open. She went up and she couldn't see Trooper anywhere! When she went onto the farm she could see Joe's bucket had been moved into the yard. Trooper usually heads straight for this bucket when he escapes. Joe's stable had been messed up and some of his hay-net had been eaten but Trooper had gone. She then looked over to the small shelter area where the haylage is kept and could see the back of Trooper's bum. He had gone right inside and had been eating from the huge, round haylage bale for a while as the mud had dried on his legs from when he left the field so had a nice feast. I think he will be heading straight there next time he escapes! We're not sure how he got the gate unlocked. He does barge the gate but it has a chain hooked round it. Either someone left this open or he barged it and it came off!

And just a little update to say I am currently trying to sort out a technical issue with uploading photos so I may not be posting as often as I like to include photos. I have reached the memory limit on my Picasa storage and have to may to increase the storage amount so I thought while I may have to may anyway I might be able to host my blog on my own website so I am just looking into the pros and cons of this at the moment. It might also help with the problems I have been having with people commenting.

Love Laura

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Science Sunday; Respiratory Disease

In the past I have talked about recurrent airway obstruction, this post is going to focus on other respiratory diseases.

There are a number of defence mechanisms in nose, airways and lungs (respiratory tract) in order to try and prevent diseases taking hold of this system. There are mechanisms that filter the air and throw the air around in the air in order to trap bacteria or viruses that may be entering through the nose. There are also other mechanisms such as the cough reflex and there are tiny hairs in the tract called cilia that waft mucus up the the airways away from the lungs carrying any foreign particles with it. If bacteria does reach the lungs there are also cells there called macrophages that eat them up to stop them causing problems.

Viral infections
Viruses can be spread by direct and indirect contact. After horses have been infected by a virus they may also be infected by bacteria as it will take the opportunity to attack while the immune system is low. A virus can damage cilia (the hairs that waft mucus up the airways) and this leads to mucus staying in the airways and not being removed

Horses are often diagnosed by the clinical signs and the history. Sometimes swabs may be taken within 48-72 hours. After 72 hours the virus may be isolated in the blood so blood tests can be taken. I will now talk about a few viral diseases.

  • Equine influenza can be spread by direct contact. It is incubated in the horse for 1-3 days before symptoms may be seen. The virus will be shred for 10 days. Vaccines are difficult as there are many different strains and it can mutate, there are however vaccines that cab be given that cover a number of different strains. It is under global surveillance. The clinical signs are a high temp, depression, anorexia, nasal discharge, dry cough, and enlarged lymph nodes. Horses are rested for at least 4 weeks to allow the airways to regenerate. They are kept in a dust-free environment. 
  • Equine herpes virus has 2 strains. Equine herpes virus 1 (EHV1) can cause abortion and neurological disease and is contagious. EHV4 is a respiratory disease and is occasionally contagious. It is spread by direct contact and horses show problems in 3-6 days. Horses will have a high temp, depression, serious nasal discharge and a mild cough. Again they are treated with rest but vaccinations don't work for this virus as yet. Horses should be isolated for 21 days and kept unstressed.

Bacterial infections

  • Strangles is also called streptococcus equi, it can survive in water for 1-2 months. It can be diagnosed with nasal swabs but repeat sampling may be necessary as they need 3 negatives before they get the all clear. It causes fever, anorexia, nasal discharge, enlarged lymph nodes and other complications. It mainly affects horses aged 1-5 years and has an incubation period of 7-12 days. Carrier horses may not show symptoms but may pass it on to other horses. Antibiotics cab be given but may not work well. After coming into contact with the disease they are immune for up to 4 years.
  • Rhodococcal infection in foals causes pneumonia. It is usually chronic, they get a high temp, cough, nasal discharge, increased heart rate and breathing rate, enlarged joints, diarrhoea and nervous system problems. This happens due to the immature immune system in foals. They may be diagnosed by clinical history, blood tests and ultrasounds. Vaccinations may be given.

Other respiratory diseases
  • Parasites can cause infections in the lungs. This is uncommon but may happen in the late summer or autumn. Dictyocaulus arnfield is an example of this and may be carried by donkeys.
  • Allergies may also be a problem. Recurrent Airways Obstruction (RAO) is an example of this, I have previously written a post on this which is linked at the top of this one. 

Love Laura

Friday, 30 November 2012

A Very Foggy Day!

This afternoon while we were trying to catch Trooper there was really thick fog! Here is a video of us trying to find him in the field, a little stampede and Trooper generally messing around!

I am also having some issues with my blog at the moment as it says I have reached my Picasa storage limit for my photos on Blogger. Has this happened to anyone else and does anyone know how I can sort this out? The other problem I have had is that people have been telling me were unable to comment on my blog so if it doesn't work you can contact me on Twitter or Facebook, thanks!

Love Laura

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Christmas Stocking Fillers 2012

Following on from my last Christmas gift post, here is another one with lots of stocking fillers! First is this really cute keyring from Horze which is only 95p!

 Next are these Likit Treat Bars, they are £1 each and there is a choice of flavours for your horse to enjoy!

I also found these hand warmers in the shape of a horse's head, they are £3.99 from Equestrian Clearance and are reusable. Click here to go to the website!

Next is a 3D saddle keyring from Equestrian Clearance for £5.99.

Here is a mobile phone holder which is great for when you don't have a pocket and are out riding on your own. It is also £5.99 from Equestrian Clearance.

I also really like these fluffy socks from Joules, they can be bought here and cost £6.75.

Here is a DIY jewellery kit to make a bracelet out of horse hair which would be great for young girls. It is £7.50 and can be bought from Robinsons.

Love Laura

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Science Sunday; Psychology When Lacking Confidence

Psychology plays a major role in all sports but I think it is very important in horse riding. Not only do you need to have the confidence to do it but this is transferred into your horse and they will be more likely to try a jump if they can sense the rider is confident. Psychology is full of different theories that can be applied to people in different situations.

Self efficacy Self-efficacy is the perception of a persons’ ability to perform a task successfully it is a situation specific form of self-confidence. A psychologist called Albert Bandura brought together the concepts of confidence and expectations to give a clear idea of self-efficacy.  It focuses on the ability to overcome obstacles to give a successful performance. It is the theoretical basis for most performance based research in self-confidence in sports. Self-efficacy alone cannot make a person a successful athlete. They must also want to succeed and have the ability to succeed.  Athletes who believe in themselves tend to persevere especially under hard conditions.  Self-efficacy can be related to goal setting, therefore the athlete is more likely to set more challenging goals if he has a higher self-efficacy. It has also been found that in athletes, if they have a higher level of self-confidence they are more likely to succeed. 

Therefore when looking at a nervous rider they may not perform as well under pressure such as at a competition. They may be able to ride to a good standard when at home in their normal surroundings but find it harder when they get to a competition. It may affect their willingness to practise as they may be worried they will ride badly. It can cause a loss of motivation and the development of a negative attitude.

Improving low confidence Problems such as this may be improved by goal setting. Psychologists may set a personalised plan for the rider with various goals and strategies. There may also be an evaluation procedure to assess progress towards goals. This can help to enhance confidence and performance.

Imagery is another technique used to build self confidence. This is where people imaging themselves accomplishing tasks they have not been able to accomplish or have had difficulty doing. A rider may visualise themselves successfully jumping a 3 ft course or successfully performing accurate movements in the dressage arena.

Acting confidently is another technique used as well as thinking confidently. This involves thinking that we will achieve the goals. Our thoughts should be motivational rather than judgemental. By thinking confidently it should also make event more enjoyable.

Physical conditioning and training is also important. If you and your horse are in good shape and have carried out lots of training then it will also lead to feeling more confident. It is said that no mental training can overcome the physical skill needed. This is particularly important in athletic sports but can also be applied to horse riding as you and your horse need to be trained to take part in an event.

Preparation is important, it will give more of an idea of what is expected of the rider. A pre-competition plan may be established to take some of the strain out of the situation.

Vicarious exercises are when the person lacking confidence watches others carry out the task they are struggling with. This may allow them to gain a greater understanding of what to do and new techniques.

Verbal persuasion is when a coach or other members of a team encourage the athlete who lacks confidence. This may come from friends and family.

There are many different techniques used by a wide range of athletes in order to improve their confidence during sport. These can be adapted to be used by horse riders to improve their competition.

Love Laura

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Christmas Gifts; Equestrian Jewellery

Here are some equestrian jewellery pieces that would make great Christmas presents! I have put the cheapest ones first moving through to the more expensive ones!

First is a set of two types of stud earrings from Asos, this is currently half price down from £7 to £3.50.

Next are some horseshoe stud earrings from Asos from the brand Orelia, they are rose gold in colour and are £10.

 Next is a horseshoe necklace from Hot Diamonds, it is £40 and is sterling silver with real diamonds.
Here is another necklace, this one has a long chain and a rocking horse pendant, it is by Ted Baker at Asos, it is £49.00 and is rose gold in colour. 
This necklace is an unusual one and is an origami horse. It is black silver and is from Boticca and is £86.50.

Love Laura

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Science Sunday; The Stay Apparatus

Last year at university I didn't choose to take the anatomy module as I find anatomy quite hard to memorise. Those that did take the module had to write an essay on "the stay apparatus" and I thought it might be an interesting topic to talk about this Sunday.

The stay apparatus is why the horse can rest whilst standing. This is present in both the front and hind legs and is due to a number of muscles and ligaments that lock the leg into position and hold it there. This mechanism is slightly different in the fore and hind limbs but the basic idea behind it is the same for both.

The tendons and ligaments
The horses' leg below the knee or hock is supported by three elastic ligaments at the back. The suspensory ligament supports the fetlock and pastern joints. The superficial flexor tendon supports the fetlock and pastern joints. And the deep flexor tendon supports the fetlock, pastern and coffin joints.The superficial and deep flexor tendon are both supported by check ligaments. All three of these tendons work in a series, with the body weight pressing down through the joint, the fetlock joint moves down. The suspensory ligament tightens first, then the superficial flexor then the deep flexor and these hold the leg in place.

The front legs
In the front legs, above the knee, there are a number of muscles involved in enabling the horse to stand whilst resting. The serratus ventralis muscle is the major one attaching the limb to the body, it supports the body when relaxed. The weight of the body pressing down through the leg closes the shoulder joint. There are also some mechanisms involving muscles to stop the shoulder joint over flexing. The knee is able to weight bear without extra effort in its normal position. This is due to the vertical line going through the radius and large metacarpal bones. The knee is prevented from buckling forwards due to an inelastic tendon inserted onto the large metacarpal bone.

The hindlegs
In the hind legs there is a similar mechanism to stop the hock becoming too flexed. The greater the weight going through the limbs there is a greater tendency to flex the hip and the tighter it will lock. Little or no muscles are needed to maintain this posture. There is also a mechanism in which the pelvis locks on one side in order to allow the hind leg on the other side to rest. It is said that horses still need to rest their legs despite the stay apparatus as the amount of energy used is reduced but muscular effort is still required.

The stay apparatus in foals
When looking at newborn foals the stay apparatus has been looked at. Foals are born at a more advanced stage of development than human babies, it is also thought that they have an advantage over human babies when standing as they have four legs and not two. However, it is also thought that the foal may have the ability to have automatic limb control whereas the human baby needs to learn this. If the muscles in the legs failed to maintain a state of contraction then the foals collapse to the floor. It suggests that a moderate level of contraction needs to be maintained at rest in order to stay standing. The stay apparatus becomes better as the foal grows and develops.

The stay apparatus is not controlled by muscular control alone, and it is not entirely automatic. Balance is also involved and this includes the central nervous system. Reflexes are also involved.

Once the legs have locked into place, only limited muscle use is required. In order for them to unlock, the femoris muscle contracts to lift the patella up off the ridge it is resting on.

A lot of this information is from the book Horse Structure and Movement by Symthe and Goody. This is a really good book if you want to learn more about the anatomy of the horse and how it effects their movement.

Love Laura

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Science Sunday; How Horses Keep Warm

Hopefully I am going to start writing a regular equine science type post every Sunday. Today I am going to talk about how horses keep warm during the winter months. I have already written a post on this, (click here) but this one is going to go into more detail into their actual mechanisms of keeping warm. Over the summer I wrote a post on how horses keep cool, click here to read it!

Ways of keeping warm
A horse's body temperature is 37-38 degrees Celsius and their body will react in a way to maintain this temperature in the body and keep levels constant. The body temperature is important for the normal running of the body systems and changes may lead to problems. The most active organs produce the most heat, this includes the muscles, the liver and the digestive system. Receptors called thermoreceptors monitor the temperature of the horse, if they detect that the temperature is falling they will send messages to other areas of the body in order to do something to warm up the horse.

  • If a horse is cold then the hairs in their coat may stand on end, this is called piloerection. When the hairs stand up it traps a layer of air in the coat which helps as an extra layer of insulation. These hairs lye flat if the horse then gets too hot to let the heat quickly escape. The use of a rug on the horse will flatten down the hairs and prevent this from happening. 
  • Vasoconstriction may also happen, this is when the blood vessels constrict and reduce the amount of blood going to the surface of the horse's body. Due to this, less heat will be lost from the blood into the surrounding cold air.
  • The shape of a horse also helps to keep them warm. They have a large surface area to volume ratio meaning that for the amount of heat that is kept in the inside, less will be lost through the surface of their skin. Their legs also have a very low blood supply (which is why injuries here take longer to heal). This means that not much heat is lost from the blood flowing through these areas. 
  • Counter-current heat exchange also happens. This is when the blood that is on it's way back to the heart and lungs after being near the horse's skin is warmed before it gets there. This is due to it passing near by to the blood in arteries and the heat is transferred from one to the other.
  • Circulation shunts also happen in the feet of the horse to prevent them from becoming too cold. This is why your horse's feet don't freeze! This isn't well understood but it is thought that blood is moved to these areas to warm them up. 
  • The horses metabolism may also increase which would result in more heat being produced. 
  • Horses may also shiver if they get cold, this extra movement of muscles will help to produce heat and warm them up.
  • Horses also develop a thicker coat in the winter, this adds to the amount of insulation they have compared to the summer. 

Love Laura

Sunday, 4 November 2012

New Kittens

We have some new kittens on the farm at the moment. They were playing in the viewing area of the indoor arena while I was watching my Mum ride so I got a few photos of them. The black and white one is called Jess and I am not sure what the black one is called. They are both very friendly though and chasing leaves and wrappers around in practice for catching the mice!

Love Laura

Friday, 2 November 2012

Do I Have To Be Ridden?

Yesterday we went to ride Trooper in the afternoon and he was very tired... I'll let the pictures do the talking!

There was a Halloween party on the farm the night before so maybe he didn't get much sleep! Below is a photo of his saddle pad which we have had for years but it is nice so I thought I would include it.

Unfortunately he didn't manage to get out of being ridden, this is him heading down to the indoor arena. He woke up a bit once we got inside!

Love Laura

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Sport Psychology For Horse Riders

I saw this video earlier and found it interesting so thought I would link to it on here! It is about the use of sport psychology in dressage and how it has helped one rider in her performances. I found it quite interesting and might look into this more in future posts as I enjoy psychology.

Sorry I haven't been posting very much but I have been busy looking for jobs. Also we have not had very nice weather to take photos recently, the other day it was OK and I remembered to take my camera to the farm but it had no battery in it! Trooper is doing well and has been well behaved whilst being schooled. He has been coughing every now and again so I am going to order him some more Winergy Ventilate as that helped a lot last time.

Love Laura

Monday, 22 October 2012

Top 10 Tips On Keeping Your Horse Safe On Bonfire Night

With bonfire night approaching I thought I would do some research and collect "my top 10 tips" on keeping your horses safe on bonfire night. Fireworks can be very frightening for horses and may lead to injuries. Here  are my top 10 tips in no particular order.

  1. Keep your horse in it's normal routine. If it is normally stabled over night then keep it in and if it is normally in the field then it may stay out as long as it is not close to a firework display area.
  2. If stabled, check the stable for any potential items that may cause injury if the horse becomes spooked such as nails. If your horse is staying in the paddock then do the same, check the fencing is not broken etc.
  3. Make sure there is someone experienced with the horses if you know fireworks are to be set off. Your presence may have a calming effect on the horse. 
  4. Find out when local displays are being held so you can be prepared. If you do have worries about firework displays it may be worth speaking to the organisers as the RSPCA have said that some firework displays have been altered where there has been risks of causing distress to animals.
  5. If your horse is very spooky it may be better to talk to your vet about sedation.
  6. Playing music or having the radio on may help to mask the sudden noise from fireworks.
  7. Try to remain calm yourself as if you are stressed the horse can sense this.
  8. If possible don't ride while the fireworks are being set off.
  9. If there is a bonfire being held near the yard then check the emergency fire procedures in place on your yard.
  10. In the morning check the fields for any fireworks or Chinese lanterns that may have landed.

Love Laura

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Product Review; K*TY Jodhpurs

I recently bought two pairs of jodhpurs from the Equestrian Clearance website (click here to see the jodhpurs on the website). The jodhpurs are made by the brand K*TY or KTY (I am not sure how you write it!). I decided to buy jodhpurs from this brand as this is the same brand that made my steel toe cap jodhpur boots and they have been really good. When I bought the jodhpurs they were £12 each, they have now gone up to £17.99 but are still cheaper than their original price of £25.99.

I ordered a navy and a brown pair, they both look really nice and have the KTY symbol on the back at the top. The colour did rub off slightly before and during the first wash but the actual colour of the jodhpurs has not faded and they still look in good condition. The material does have a very slight shine to it so if you don't like this then you may not like them. I ordered my normal dress size and they fit perfectly which is also good. They also have a zip pocked on the front on one side. The jodhpurs are well made and comfy and I think they are really good value if you are after a cheap pair to wear around the farm!

Love Laura

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Facebook GIVE-AWAY; Joules Notebook!

Just a quick post to let you know I am giving away another of the Joules notebooks on Facebook! All you have to do is "like" The Horse Talker's Facebook page and comment on the photo of the notebook saying which of the Joules products you like, for example their polo shirts!

Love Laura

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Autumn's Here

Here are some photos I took of Troops in the field today, excuse his muddiness!

He is staying in his stable over night now and he has 2 haynets filled with haylage over night. The blue one is double wrapped and the red one is only half full. We gave him this amount of haylage last winter and it worked quite well with keeping his weight down.

Also, sorry to finish this post on a photo of Trooper's bum, but his tail is looking amazing at the moment! I have been saying for months I need to write a post on Prize by Equisoothe as we have been using it all summer and his tail looks amazing! As he has sweet itch it has never looked this good at the end of summer despite trying lots of different things and equisoothe has really helped!

Also I have handed in my dissertation draft now so hopefully I will be able to write posts a bit more regularly!

Love Laura

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Clicker Training Session 3

The weather has turned so bad here that we had a months rainfall in 24 hours, we thought it would be a good idea to keep Trooper in at night now. He was getting really tired before and I rode him this morning and he had so much energy! I think he just needed a good rest! He still isn't wearing a rug in the field and we aren't going to clip him this year again. It was raining really hard yesterday so he got soaked but this morning he was really clean and shiny when I brushed him, I think the rain had washed a lot of the dust away.

I did another quick session of clicker training this morning. I went back to doing what we did in the first session (using a small container and staying in his stable). As he was quite lively this morning I thought it would be a good time to have a go. He was doing "touch" and "lift" with the container quite well. Sometimes when I said "touch" he was about to bite the container and then I clicked which made him stop. Because of this he was getting a bit confused distinguishing the two commands so I waited a second or two to make sure he wasn't going to lift the container in his mouth before I clicked. He was getting better at this towards the end. I think after another session he will have got the hang of this and I will have to start thinking of something else he can move on to do!

Love Laura

Monday, 24 September 2012

Giveaway Winner

Thanks for you your entries for the Joules Notebook give-away. Using a random number generator, the winner is...

Christina Marie

I have emailed you for your details!

To those that didn't win, I will be giving away another notebook soon on Facebook so look out for that!

Love Laura

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Pony Panorama

My boyfriend came to the farm today and took some panorama shots on his phone. I thought it would be good to show you all where everything is on the yard so I have put stars next to some places. If you click on these photos then they can be enlarged.

Red star; Trooper's stable
Blue star; Joe's stable
Green star; hay
Yellow star; Bobby's stable
Purple star; muck heap
Orange star; Indoor arena

The photo above was one we thought we would try out with two of me! Trooper moved during the photos being taken though making him look a bit of a funny shape and I look cross-eyed!

Love Laura

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Clicker Training Sessions 1 & 2

After having a go at clicker training during an equine behaviour module at university (click here for the post), I thought it would be a good thing to do with Trooper as he is quite playful. I have finally got round to having a go with him.

In the first session I did with him we were in his stable. I cut up an apple into small pieces and just got a few bits out of the locker at a time. I used a little rectangle tub and started by getting him to "touch" with his nose. I clicked the clicker the moment he touched the tub and then followed this with a treat. Despite never having heard the clicker before he seemed to pick up the idea quite quickly and was touching it on command. Trooper likes to pick up things in his mouth so I then decided to get him to "lift" the tub. He was doing this quite well and after about 5 or 10 minutes was distinguishing between "touch" and "lift".

About a week after the first session I lunged Trooper for 15 minutes in the indoor arena and decided to do some clicker training after. Again I used small bits of apple as the treat. I had my Mum there to help me this time so she had the treats and the clicker and I held Trooper and the tub (I used a different, larger one this time). He touched the tub 2 or 3 times and then just stood there and didn't want to do it! There were a number of factors that may have caused this. He had just been lunged so he might have been tired, with clicker training they have to use their own brain and have to be willing to take part. There was also another horse in the arena that may have been distracting him. He had his bridle on because he had been lunged so was finding it difficult to eat the treats. I was told at university that a lot of factors come together for them to learn the commands, if you then change the environment this is changing some of the cues they know to perform the command and they may go back to the beginning again. Here I changed the environment and the tub used so that may have also had a part to play.

I also wrote a post on learning and training that you may be interested in reading if you like behaviour!

Trooper is still out in the field over night and in the stable during the day. The weather has gone much cooler now so I think he will be coming in at night soon (more mucking out for us!). At the moment he is not waiting at the gate in the morning and even when it has been raining he doesn't seem bothered. He is usually the first one barging the gate when he doesn't want to be in the field so I think he will be OK staying out for another week or two.

Sorry I have no photos or videos today, I forgot to take my camera! I am also back in Wales so I wont be able to take any photos this week. When I get back I want to do an update on his weight and on his tail (which has grown really well this year).

Love Laura

Friday, 14 September 2012

World's Tallest Horse

Just a quick post today showing you this video of the world's tallest horse!

Don't forget to check out my Joules giveaway!

Love Laura

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Welsh Cobs

As I am sure you all know, Trooper is a Welsh Cob so I thought I would write a post about the breed. Welsh Cobs can be used for a variety of activities and are known for their hardiness and gentle nature. They have been described as "the best ride and drive in the world". They also have the character of a pony (this is definitely true with Trooper).

There are a number of different sections for Welsh Ponies and Cobs, these relate to their size. Trooper is a section D Welsh Cob which is the largest section. Horses in the section D category have to be over 13.2 hh and Trooper is 15 hh. Section D's still have a pony-like head. Their movement is powerful and extravagant.

The section A pony is smaller than 12.2 hh. The section B and C both have a maximum height of 13.2 hh with the section C being heavier and more cob like.

There is some evidence that a Welsh-type pony existed before 1600 BC. It is thought that they evolved from the prehistoric Celtic pony. They are a hardy breed due to the climate they have lived in. The Welsh Cob existed in the Middle Ages . They were also used for farm work before heavy breeds of horses were introduced. On recovering from the Horses Act 1540, many of the welsh type horses were crossed with Arabs and Thoroughbreds. They were first exported to the United States as early as the 1800s.

The stallion Dyoll Starlight (seen below) is thought to be the founding stallion of the modern breed and was from Welsh and Arab breeding. 

This image does not belong to me.

A town I have driven through many times, Aberaeron in Wales, has a life-size statue of a Welsh Cob. They have a festival of Welsh Cobs and Ponies which I would love to go to one day! I also want to go to the Royal Welsh Show as I have watched the Welsh Cobs competing there on TV and they looked gorgeous!

This image is from the BBC website.

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