Windpuffs and horses A windpuff is a soft and squishy blemish found on a horse’s lower leg. Generally speaking, windpuffs are just a blemish. Occasionally, a windpuff will cause pain and lameness. You will typically find them around the back of the fetlock joint. This is the point of your horse’s anatomy that the digital flexor tendons wrap under the fetlock on their way to the hoof. The tendons themselves are covered with a tendon sheath. Between the tendon and the tendon sheath is a layer of fluid. If the tendon sheath is damaged, the amount of fluid may increase. This creates a swelling, or windpuff. The amount of fluid in the windpuff will vary, generally going up and down with your horse’s movement patterns. Most windpuffs are chronic, and never truly go away. There’s another scenario where the windpuff is caught in the annular ligament, which goes around the fetlock. This ligament is flat and thin, and causes a pinching. In this case, your horse will be uncomfortable. This may be treated with injections. Your horse might also develop adhesions between the tendon and the tendon sheath. In cases like this, arthroscopy surgery inside the sheath can cut the adhesions, or in some cases, ligaments that are interfering. As a horse owner, look for new things on your horse. Look for swelling, feel for heat. Notice differences in your horse’s legs, and investigate lamenesses right away. Windpuffs are generally old and cold. They usually develop over time and don’t interfere with your horse’s comfort and movement. You might also have a case in which the windpuff which is usually cold and small, has quickly become large. This is another reason to investigate. Daily attention to your horse’s legs is critical! You can catch lots of things early, and keep your horse safe and sound.
How to Take Ice Horse to Shows, Clinics, and Events! It’s fine and dandy to use Ice Horse at the home barn, but what about when you travel? How can you easily bring your packs along AND keep them icy cold? There are a few options - and it’s best to start out with frozen packs so they stay cold at the show. Bring a small freezer with you. These guys are easy to move, small enough to tuck away in your show tack room, and convenient. The small fridge and freezer combo might not get cold enough for your packs, and you might not have enough space for all of them. Best to use just the freezer. This small freezer is easy to carry and has enough room for popsicles, too. Use a cooler. This is a great way to stash your ice packs in something that will keep them cool for a day. This is ideal if they are frozen for at least 4 hours before you head out. Keep the cooler sealed and you will be good. If you use a cooler, you might want to add some solid ice packs to keep things cold. The gel style packs won’t last. You also have the option of using dry ice to keep things cold. Sometimes it’s a challenge to find dry ice, some supermarkets don’t carry it anymore. You also have some safety concerns with dry ice. Don’t touch it! Be sure to wrap it in newspaper, and you must vent the cooler. As dry ice turns to a gaseous state, it will need to go somewhere. If your cooler is sealed, well, things might pop. Even the smallest of coolers has plenty of room for many First Ice packs. Be sure to refreeze the packs before the next day’s use. It’s best to take them out of the black wraps. You will also want the circular valve to be open to the air. This allows air to help with the magic inside the ice pack. This will also keep your ice packs fluffy and fresh longer. Now your horse is set to have his relaxing and therapeutic ice treatments where ever you go!
The Pre Purchase Exam - Things You May Want To Ask About Buying a horse is always exciting, and it’s made a little easier when you have your Veterinarian do a Pre Purchase Exam, also known as the PPE. It can give you a lot of information - but there are two things to keep in mind here. One, it’s only a picture of that horse on the day the exam is done. No future predictions can be made! Two, there is no pass or fail. It’s more along the lines of the horse being suitable for what you would like to do. The PPE is a thorough exam! Your Veterinarian will check vitals, look at the eyes, teeth, and overall body conformation. Then, your Veterinarian will do some flexions and maybe watch the horse go on a lunge line or under saddle. Definitely in both directions, and definitely in a straight line and on a circle. You might decide that you want to do some imaging, like x-rays or ultrasound. This allows your Veterinarian to check on the current health of the horse’s joints and bones in the case of x-rays, soft tissues in the case of ultrasound. These aren’t required, but they help with understanding the overall condition of the horse as well as possibly finding any problems that are not causing lameness right now. Those problems might cause lameness in the future, they might not. You should also ask about a complete medical history, diet and supplements fed, current training program, show records, and anything else the Veterinarian and you might find useful. Some people like to also do blood work to check for sedatives and diseases, and some people like to have a Farrier consult on the horse. Knowing about the horse’s therapeutic treatments also helps, so you can be on the same page as the chiropractor, saddle fitter, massage therapist, etc. A post exercise routine is also handy to know so that you can continue icing, liniments, supplements, turn outs, etc. Enjoy the horse shopping process and work closely with your Veterinarian. Keep your riding goals in mind to be sure your new horse can help take you there!
Arthritis in Horses Arthritis in horses, also known as degenerative joint disease, is a chronic condition of the horse’s joint or joints. Arthritis is caused by one of two scenarios - the cartilage wears down on the joint surfaces, or there’s an infection in the joint capsule. For the wear and tear variety of arthritis, a horse’s joints will start to have bone scraping bone as the cartilage is worn away. Inflammation and pain is the result. For the septic version of arthritis, an injury or wound has created an infection in the joint capsule. The “wear and tear” type of arthritis in horses often leads to stiffness. As a horse owner and rider, your horse’s gait might be shortened, his back might not swing so well, and he might feel choppy under saddle. Usually a horse will warm up out of this stiffness as your ride progresses. More severe cases of arthritis lead to lameness. You might also be able to feel heat in an arthritic joint, or even be able to see swelling. Of course your Veterinarian should be involved with any condition that you might notice in your horse. Sometimes x-rays are done to get a more exact picture of what’s going on in your horse’s body. There are lots of options of how you can support the horse with arthritis, ranging from diet changes to supplements to joint injections. You can also make sure your horse is not overweight or obese, and keep up with an exercise regime. The horse that doesn’t exercise will find his arthritis getting worse! If he’s sore, he’s apt to use the joint less. This puts additional stress on the other legs and joints, as well as allow calcium deposits to invade the joint, possibly causing fusion and definitely causing lack of mobility. Exercise is key! You can also spend a lot of time warming your horse up. Many arthritic horses do well with a lot of walking, and mane like a little warming pack on their joints before a workout. After exercise, ice therapy can help reduce inflammation and take away any discomfort. It’s easy, and will definitely make your horse feel better.
The Hock Joint of the Horse! The hock joints of your horse are located on the hind legs just above the cannon bones. They are equivalent to the human ankle. The hock functions to carry weight, push off the earth, and allow your horse to run, jump, turn, and play. The hock joints are such an important joint to all equine athletes, regardless of discipline. The entire hock area is actually made up of bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and fluid. There are four joints in the hock, four extensor tendons, four collateral ligaments on each side of the hock, and two flexor tendons that run through the hock. The joints are as follows from top to bottom: TCJ - Tarsocrural joint PIT - Proximal Intertarsal Joint DIT - DIgital intertarsal joint TMT - Tarsometatarsal joint The lower joints can actually fuse over time. They can also be fused with surgery. This is sometimes helpful for the horse with chronic hock soreness, arthritis, or other issues that cause discomfort and poor performance. Many horses experience soreness and changes in the hock joint over time. This is a function of “wear and tear”, injuries, conformation, overall health, fitness level, proper foot care, and even diet. Supporting your horse’s hocks help your athlete stay sound, comfortable, and willing to work. You will be able to notice a few things about your horse’s hocks that give you an idea of how they are feeling. Keep track of: Size and shape. They should by symmetrical. Heat and swelling. Any obvious heat and swelling can indicate a new injury. You will likely not be able to discern the heat and swelling that goes along with arthritis and similar “wear and tear” issues. Any hair loss. This might indicate that he’s brewing a hock sore. How does your horse walk? Are his steps symmetrical and landing at the same point under his belly? How does he act under saddle? Sluggishness, unwillingness to work, and refusing jumps might tell you something is wrong somewhere. The same goes for bucking and other naughty behaviors. How readily does your horse pick up his hind legs to have his hooves picked? You will often see resistance if a horse’s joints are sore. Is your horse’s back sore? This is a common sign that it’s actually his hocks that are sore. But don’t rule out saddle fit! Joints and soft tissues will become heated and develop inflammation as your horse works. This is the “wear and tear” that over time can contribute to joint soreness. The soft tissues that work hard are also subject to soreness, just as your muscles are sore after a work out. Taking care of our horses means attending to this, and as owners and care takers we have lots of options to support your horse’s hocks and surrounding tissues. Ice therapy in the form of Ice Horse Hock Wraps give proven cold to reduce inflammation and pain. Even if your horse shows no signs of discomfort, icing after riding will help him feel better and recover faster. Always work with your Veterinarian to come up with a plan for your horse’s hock health to keep him a happy athlete for many years.
How to reduce the risk of spring time laminitis! Caring for horses in the spring comes with one big challenge - the lush pastures. While horses love them, spring time pastures are often associated with laminitis. As the days lengthen, the sun tells grasses and plants to rev up photosynthesis. This increases the starches, sugars, and fructans of grasses. The cool nights of spring also increase the starches, sugars, and fructans. These ingredients make spring grass delicious, and laminitis inducing. There’s a wide array of scientific research that links large amounts of sugar intake to laminitis risk. As the sugars enter the large colon, they are feasted up by your horse’s microbial population, which changes the pH of the large colon. The change in pH causes the intestinal wall to permeate and leak digestive toxins, which migrate to the hoof. There is also loads of scientific evidence that links increased insulin levels to laminitis, as the insulin interferes with the soft tissue in the hoof, making it more likely to develop into laminitis. So what can you do? Have your Vet give your horse a complete physical, including bloodwork. There are specific tests available to monitor insulin levels as well as the other factors that make up the different types of metabolic conditions. Knowing if your horse has a metabolic issue can help you create a diet that is safe. Monitor the weight of your horse. Use a tape - your eyes are deceiving! Horses that gain weight put more stress on their legs and hooves, and have an increased chance of metabolic issues. Keep exercising your horse! This is crucial for his health, and can help you keep your horse healthy. And it’s fun! Monitor your horse’s digital pulse daily. It takes seconds to do, and can alert you to a problem in the hoof long before lameness sets in. You can learn how to do this with the handy video, below! Talk to your Vet about a magnesium supplement, which might help with insulin levels. Of course your horse’s entire diet needs to be evaluated, as you don’t want to add too much. Use dry lots or sacrifice areas instead of turning out into grass. If you must turn out on grass, use muzzles. There are dozens of styles, each with varying degrees of eating freedom. Make sure your horse can drink with one on. Be smart about turn out to the grass - avoid high sugar times, like after a cool evening or in the heat of the afternoon. Make your turn out gradual. Your Vet can help you decide how many minutes a day to increase the turn out. There have been studies done with horses on a predictable turn out schedule, many of them know how long they will be out and therefore vacuum up as much grass as possible. Observe your horse and add a muzzle if he’s one of the vacuum types. Call your Vet at the first sign of any trouble! This includes an increased digital pulse, heat in the hooves, difficulty turning, unwillingness to walk (especially on hard ground) and any other signs your horse is not his usual self. If you do end up with a case of laminitis, you can use the Laminitis Kit to keep your horse's hooves cold - reducing inflammation and providing some pain relief. Learn more about the laminitis kit here!
An introduction into sore muscles! We are well versed in all sorts of injuries and diseases that horses may have, yet not much attention is paid to the muscles of a horse. Just like humans, horses can have issues and situations that involve muscles, it’s up to you and your Veterinarian to figure things out. Muscle issues in horses arise from four scenarios: Secondary to an illness or sickness, such as neurological or metabolic disorders. For example, Cushing’s disease is a metabolic disorder that can reduce weight and muscle mass. Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM) is a microbe infection that affects the nervous system and muscles. Tying up. This is commonly a metabolic condition that creates pain, excessive sweating, and the inability to move all at the same time. Conditions such as polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM) create tying up. Additionally, there are cases in which a horse is dehydrated and has lost electrolytes which leads to tying up. This is common for the unfit horse that is asked to work beyond his means. Exercise and stress related exertions. Over work, repetitive motions, and smaller muscles strains that happen repeatedly all take their toll on your horse’s muscles. This can also be secondary to skeletal issues, such as the horse with the sore hind joints that compensates with a stiff and strained back. You could also put poor saddle fit into this category. Trauma. Just as bones and ligaments can be injured, muscles can as well. A deep laceration, a night spent cast in the stall, a fall, a kick from a herd mate can all damage the muscle. So how do you know? Look for signs of soreness when you groom your horse. Flinching, tail wringing, pinning ears as you press and tack up is one sign. You might also find a reluctance to move forward to perform certain gaits. You might find a decrease in range of motion, lameness, tender skin, swelling, a dent in your horse or overall discomfort somewhere in his body. Of course there are many other signs, and all of these things could also be something else. Get the Vet on board and start doing some investigating. Use your fingers and hands to check for muscle flinching as you groom! What can you do? Once you and your Vet narrow things down, the care plan might include rest, medications, a diet change, and even some therapeutic treatments like massage and cold or hot therapy. You might need to change saddles, create a new exercise routine, or give your horse some supplements. The most important part is noticing something is off in the first place.
Dr. James Orsini, a leading laminitis expert at the New Bolton Center, shares with Ice Horse a little bit about his career and a lot about laminitis. Listen below as Dr. Orsini discusses the role an owner plays, what to do if you suspect laminitis, the different types of laminitis, and the chances of laminitis becoming recurrent or chronic. Lots of great information!
Laminitis Risk, Identifying Laminitis, and Finding the Cause How does the horse owner know a horse is developing laminitis? It’s critical to also understand the risk factors involved here, and laminitis has quite a few. Metabolic issues such as Cushing’s Disease or Insulin Resistance play a role. So does your horse’s job - does he have repetitive motion on a hard surface? What about your horse’s medical history - has he had laminitis in the past? There are other risk factors as well, including your horse’s weight, breed, gender. Overweight horses are more at risk, as are geldings and ponies. There’s also the cases of the horse developing laminitis from a fever or secondary to some disease, even secondary to colic. Then you need to keep your eyes peeled for the signs of laminitis - including lameness, an increased digital pulse, reluctance to walk or turn, the parked out stance, and even what appears to be mild colic. Once your Veterinarian is involved, which should happen right away, then you can go about finding the underlying cause of laminitis in order to prevent further episodes and stop laminitis from being chronic. The Ice Horse team interviewed leading laminitis expert Dr. James Orsini from the New Bolton Center in Pennsylvania, this is what he shared with us!
What to do if you suspect laminitis! Not all hoof injuries and conditions are laminitis, but many possibilities look the same, and might feel the same, to your horse. Any time a horse has soreness, lameness, heat in the hooves, or you suspect a hoof issue, please consult your Veterinarian for a treatment plan. We had the amazing opportunity to chat with Dr. James Orsini, of the New Bolton Center, about laminitis. Dr. Orsini and Julie from Ice Horse at New Bolton Center Often, in the case of laminitis, you might find the following signs: Reluctance to walk Strong digital pulse at the fetlock Heat in the hoof Reluctance to turn A parked out stance to take pressure from the front hooves Lameness It could be laminitis, but it could also be something else! Either way, your horse is hurting. There are a few easy steps to take to relieve the pain and work towards a diagnosis. Ice your horse’s hooves. Call your Veterinarian. Give anti-inflammatory medications if your Veterinarian directs you to. Both ice and anti-inflammatory medications are great pain relievers and will help your horse be more comfortable until the Vet can arrive. In some cases, your Veterinarian may suggest holding off on medications until a full exam can be done. Every case will be different, but having the proper supplies on hand is the first step to keeping your horse healthy. Listen below to renowned laminitis expert Dr. James Orsini discusses these steps!
The Four Main Categories of Laminitis in the Horse Laminitis isn’t the same for all horses, and a lot of that has to do with the reason that laminitis has occurred. What we do know is that there are lots of reasons for laminitis to affect a horse, and those reasons can be boiled down to four categories. An inflammatory disease process. Systemic illnesses create a sudden laminitis as the horse’s body goes into a state of systemic inflammation. This can happen after a colic, a case of pneumonia, a retained placenta, and the like. Metabolic disorders. The horse with PPID (Cushing’s Disease), Insulin Resistance, and other metabolic conditions is at a higher risk of laminitis than other horses. Age is not a factor here, but commonly diet and exercise are. A severe lameness, infection, or fracture in one limb can cause supporting limb laminitis. A horse will favor the injured leg, transferring weight and stress to the healthy limb which ultimately leads to laminitis in the healthy leg. Repetitive trauma, such as road founder, is also a cause of laminitis. In cases like this, a single incident can be the culprit, or it can develop over time from the repetition of work. Hard surfaces are often involved. Ice Horse is fortunate to be able to have Dr. James Orsini from the New Bolton Center, a leading laminitis expert, on our panel of distinguished professional experts. The video below offers his explanation of the types of laminitis in horses. Enjoy!
Meet Casey Allen! The barrel racer! Who turns and burns! And also has a wildly successful partnership with her lovely horse Switch. The life of a barrel racer is one that largely happens on the road - which means countless miles in the rig and lots of traveling stress for horses. Casey has a routine, a plan, and enough experience to weather any stresses with a smile. This interview was our way to taking a sneak peek into the life of a well traveled barrel racer, and her trusty steed Switch. And did we mention she’s still in college? And also an expert at silly jokes? Tell us about yourself, and your horse. How did you get into barrel racing? I am 19 years old and from a little town called Vandergrift, Pennsylvania. I am in my second year working towards a degree in marketing at the University of Tennessee at Martin and rodeo for the intercollegiate team there. I call Tennessee my home for nine months out of the year. My main horse is a 12 year old bay roan gelding named RJ A Sandhill Streak, that we call Switch. Switch is a son of A Streak of Fling out of a cutting mare. We ended up with Switch about 5 years ago, and he got his name because we traded for him in a parking lot, so we made a switch! I actually refused to ride him when we first got Switch. He was my moms horse at first, and we nearly sold him, but eventually things turned around and the rest is history! How did you make the change from local races to national (and international races?) When I was younger, I had a few really great horses that I rode at local races, so my mom decided to take me on the road at some local rodeos, and then we gradually worked out way up to the farther and bigger rodeos. What's your day like at the barn - at home. How does it differ at a rodeo? At home, I have a million things going on in my mind, work, school, or other horses, but when I rodeo I am completely focused on my horse. I will spoil him nonstop around the clock at rodeos because I know the wear and tear on him is excessive on the road, whereas at home he actually gets to relax in his pasture and a break from my onslaught of liniments, Ice Horse treatments, electrolytes, and whatever else I throw his way. How do you help Switch stay comfortable in the trailer, at new places, on the road? I am really fortunate that Switch loves to travel as much as I do, and he settles in very well no matter what part of the world we are in. I always try to set up his portable electric fence so he can sleep as much as he needs. We always keep hay in front of all of the horses and also try to stop every few hours and let them rest their legs and have a drink. How do you balance college life and the rodeo circuit? I have a color coded planner, and I drink a lot of coffee! I put school first, then college rodeos, and work in other rodeos around everything, but I am definitely lucky to have a supportive coach and group of teammates that help keep me on track. Also, in all honesty, I don't sleep much! What things (besides ice, of course) do you use to help Switch stay at top form? I keep Switch on a variety of supplements, and keep good hay in front of him around the clock. I try to stay tuned into Switch's needs as best I can, so if he needs chiropractic, a massage, or just a reminder of how handsome he is, I try to keep up with that and help him feel his best. We also do a lot of long trotting to stay in shape, and I rarely work him on a barrel pattern at home. I also breakaway rope and I will often use Switch to rope the dummy. He really likes to be around the roping pen and I think that switching things up (see what I did there?) is key for his mind to stay solid. Ice Horse has been a vital part of my success in the rodeo world. Whether it's swollen legs after all night trailering between rodeos, pre-race Deep Heat, recovery after a slip on infamous rodeo ground, or using a cold pack on my knee after I knock a barrel and have to drive 400 miles to a morning slack, I trust Switch, myself, and my other horses to Ice Horse products. Granted, this is coming from the girl who keeps pepper spray with her at every rodeo. I don't trust just anybody with my team's health. Where do you and Switch want to go? I think most days, Switch just wants to go to my grain room and have a party there, so luckily I keep us on track. Right now Switch and I are working on our second IFR qualification. We will also be trying to make it to the College National Finals this year. After we cross those off of our list I would like to go to the WPRA rodeos out west and make a run at the NFR when I am out of school. I have some promising young horses that I think will take some of the pressure off of Switch and help us get there. Switch has given me more than I could ever ask and is the kind of horse that deserves to have his name called in the Thomas and Mack Arena in Las Vegas, and I want to make that happen for him. What are your equestrian goals? Any other disciplines you want to try? My brother's girlfriend is a very talented dressage rider, and tried to give me some lessons to help my foundation as a rider, but I failed terribly. I'm very open to trying any other disciplines that could make me a better horsewoman and stronger barrel racer. Except for jumping, I think that I would break every bone in my body doing that. Words of wisdom for someone who wants to go Pro? Always keep an extra diesel can, filled, in your truck, pack healthy snacks, and maybe go through some Navy SEALS sleep deprivation training to get yourself prepared. Other than that, I'd say the most important thing I would say to somebody wanting to rodeo full time is that you have to believe in yourself and your horse. I know that sounds like a cheap Hallmark card, but it's a tough road and you have to be mentally tough to keep it together and find success out there. You also have to learn to put your horse first in every instance. We can't do it without them, and a lot of people get caught up in the social side of rodeos, or they get exhausted and want to take care of themselves, and forget their four legged friend when they get on the trail.