Check out my blog for information on miniature horse tack, miniature horse websites, what I am doing with my showstring, shows and pretty much anything to do with miniature horses or shetland ponies.
|Posted on February 15, 2012 at 11:00 AM|
Michelle Courtemanche, DVM www.mpequine.com
With my interest and experience in the Miniature Horse industry I am surprised at how few of them I see for dental care. Equine dentistry can be one of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of veterinary medicine. These days many veterinarians have special training in dentistry and several have devoted their practice exclusively to the subject. As an associate at McKee-Pownall Equine Services I perform a variety of services on a daily basis but dentistry has always been area of special interest to me. You never know what you are going to find when you look into a horse’s mouth…and it’s a great upper body workout!
All Minis benefit from regular dental care. The adult teeth erupt continuously over their lifetime and are ground down through the action of chewing. Due to the conformation of their jaws they form sharp enamel points on the cheek side of the upper cheek teeth and the tongue side of the lower cheek teeth. Left as is, these sharp points can cut into the cheeks and tongue causing painful sores that bother the horse when it is chewing or wearing a bridle. Sharp enamel points are a normal finding that must be maintained. A painful mouth can lead to weight loss, inefficient use of feed, infections, performance issues and poor health in general. Every horse should have a full dental exam once a year. A proper exam includes sedation and a full mouth speculum. The speculum allows the veterinarian to visualize the entire mouth, feel problem areas and use mirrors or other tools to complete a thorough exam. The sedation ensures that the horse is cooperative, relaxes their jaw for speculum placement and helps alleviate fear and nervousness. The Mini’s small size is not a reason to use physical restraint instead of sedation.
Miniature Horses present a number of challenges to the dental practitioner with their cramped working space and special set of problems. Though often overlooked, Minis usually have a greater need for good oral care than their large counterparts. Efforts by breeders to produce horses with smaller, more refined heads has led to disproportionately large teeth compared to skull size. For this reason Minis are prone to tooth overcrowding which predisposes them to problems with occlusion (teeth that don’t meet properly) and eruption (not enough space for teeth to come in normally). As a direct result of their small head/large teeth, tooth impactions, sinusitis and eruption bumps can occur. Teeth can become impacted (unable to erupt) when there isn’t enough room for them in the mouth. These teeth will occasionally erupt in an abnormal location (for example through the hard palate) requiring extraction. Large tooth roots filling the small sinuses can interfere with normal drainage and lead to a sinus infection. Minis also suffer from eruption bumps on the upper and/or lower jaws. These are generally noted in 2-3 year olds when their pretty head becomes lumpy and unattractive. It is a normal physical change that often resolves on its own but could indicate a problem if it doesn’t go away or is associated with oral pain. Early diagnosis of these problems can prevent serious and permanent damage. Also, in a breed where dwarfism genes are at play we judge our breeding animals on the correctness of their bite. Over/under bites are considered a serious flaw in the breed standard. High ridges on the cheek teeth can restrict front to back motion of the jaw and create an apparently flawed bite. Often by rasping these ridges down, the bite will correct itself. It is important to check the whole mouth frequently in youngsters and prior to making decisions on breeding stock.
Your Miniature Horses deserve a healthy, comfortable mouth. For most, this means a thorough dental exam and float once a year. For horses with problems your vet may have to see them more often. When it comes to equine dentistry it is much easier to prevent a problem than correct one. Whether your Mini is a competition horse or a backyard pet, dental care needs to be part of their annual maintenance. Diligence now can prevent a lot of discomfort, expense and heartache long term.
|Posted on February 15, 2012 at 8:40 AM|
We did it again! Stone Maples Mackenzies Joy and I have won a Horse of The Year title for the second year in a row. I got an email from the registry letting me know the exciting news!!! In 2010 we won AMHR Division A Performance Horse of The Year and in 2011 we have won AMHR Division A Driving Horse of The Year. This is the first year that AMHR has offered the driving division. We are also the first Canadians to win back to back Horse of the Year honours, I am VERY proud of my boy!! I am not sure if we will go for it a third time, "Steve" will let me know if he is up for it or not. He will be on my show string for 2012 and if he is his usual bundle of energy we may just go for the "threepeat". Who knows? I appreciate all the help I got from Bruce Abbott and Eddie Mccarthy II who spent most of the summer weekends on the road with me. Can't wait to head out on the road again!!
|Posted on October 16, 2011 at 9:00 AM|
Maintain a regular deworming program is essential to the health of your horse. Check out Mckee-Pownell Equine Services great info on deworming protocols. http://www.mpequine.com/education/health-care-faq/deworming You will need to do a deworming in November, which one will depend on your protocol.
Hooves continue to grow throughout the winter and need to be trimmed regularly, 6-8 week intervals usually work well. Although some horses with issues may need to be done more regularly. Horses standing in any kind of wet conditions will need to be regularly monitored for thrush.
Check with your veterinarian regarding fall vaccinations, especially if your horse will be going off the farm and will be exposed to other equine.
A horse's natural coat is meant to keep him warm, letting it grow in thick and natural is his best defense against cold weather. A horse that has been recently clipped and must be exposed to the cold my need the additonal warmth of a blanket. As well aged horses or ill horses may need additional blanketing. Blanketed horses exposed to the elements need a waterproof, breathable blanket as a wet blanket is the worst thing for them, likely worse than wet hair. Blanketed horses should have their blankets removed daily so you can monitor their coat and body condition.
Even a full natural coat will lose it's insulating loft if it gets wet, and wind can strip a horse' of it's heat as fast as moisture. Shelter must be available at all times;shelter that protects from rain, snow and wind.
Dentistry in equines is of vital importance from even a young age. Horse with dental issues cannot adequately use calories or nutrition. A fall consultation with your vet along with fall vaccinations and deworming will have your horse ready for the winter months.
Horses must have access to fresh, clean water year round to aid in healthy digestion. Having snow to eat does not count as access to water. Ensure that your horse has access to water at all times and it is not frozen over.
As the temperatures drop your horse's need for calories increase. Digesting food is their internal source for heat. If your horses are pastured you may consider supplemental vitamins and minerals in the winter months as the access to grass decreases.
Taking care of your horses takes a bit of extra time and thought in the winter months but they will appreciate your efforts.
|Posted on April 7, 2011 at 9:15 PM|
Less than a week until my horses are back in the showring! YAY! I am heading down to Williamston, NC to visit the Powell family and to attend an AMHR show. I will be heading to Oswego, NY first to rendevous with Bruce Abbott of Dawn's Chase Farm. We will then head on down to NC. It is a beautiful drive to take in the Spring! While I am in NY state I plan to visit Mccarthy's Lakeside Stable to have a look at some of the new babies. A great week ahead, I can't wait! My 3yr. old will be making his debut in the driving ring, that will be fun for sure. Of course my gelding, Stone Maples Mackenzies Joy will also be showing, maybe we will go for a repeat of AMHR Performance Horse of the Year!! Our coggins, vaccines, and health papers are in order. Truck and trailer are serviced, clean and ready to go. Now to finish packing, clip and bathe the horses and hit the open road!! Finally show season is here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
|Posted on March 23, 2011 at 8:03 PM|
A harness is comprised of many different parts, that are all there to do a job.
5. Crupper Strap
9. Wrap Straps
10. Shaft Stop(brass fitting on cart)
15. Breastcollar Buckles
21.Footman Loops(brass fitting on the cart)
The vehicle attaches to the back saddle(1) which is the main component of the harness. The saddle is a wide, stiff strap of leather with a “tree” inside, padded underneath that sits over the horses back. The saddle is fitted with terrets(2) on either side, which is where the lines(3) run through. In the center is the waterhook(4) which is used as an anchor for a check rein.(note the horse in diagram 3 is not wearing a checkrein) Directly behind that is where the crupper strap(5) attaches. The vehicle is steered when the horse pushes either right or left into the saddle. When pulling a two wheeled vehicle the horse is also supporting the front end of the vehicle, for the comfort of the horse the saddle needs to be wide enough to evenly distribute this weight. A larger animal/vehicle requires a wider saddle. A slightly narrower saddle is preferred in the breed ring and is also better for ventilation of the back. A good compromise needs to be met between good distribution of force, cooling of the horse and good looks. A “fine” harness would be look great for a shorter time in the breed ring, while a somewhat wider saddle for cross country driving more appropriate. When pulling a four wheel vehicle the horse is only bearing the weight of the shafts(6) and the saddle can be narrower without harm.
The saddle is held on by the girth(7). The girth should be plain leather so that it can get a bit slippery when the horse sweats to prevent chafing. The saddle needs to grip, girth needs to be slightly slippery.
When hitching to a single horse vehicle there are two types of shaft tugs used. These are the English or open tug and the French tug. This harness shows an English tug(8). English tugs are used with wrap straps(9) that are wound around the shafts of the cart. This pulls the shafts in and down. Generally taking the strap behind the shaft and back of the tug, up over the shaft, and then crossing the front of the tug, under the shaft to the front of the tug, back over the shaft and down to the buckle. The shaft stop(10) on the cart is sitting right behind the tug. Do up one side first and then the other. The girth should be snug but not tight. French tugs have billet straps that hold down the shafts and attach to a shaft girth. The French tug is pushed right close to the front of the shaft stop and is tightened and buckled into the billet on each side. A third type of tug called a “Tilbury” similar to French tugs, are used on four wheel vehicles. The level of the shafts is adjusted by moving the tug up or down on its billet attached to the saddle. Straight shafts should be level or tip slight up following the line of the breast collar(11).
The horse gets the vehicle in motion with either a neck collar or breastcollar. The breastcollar is the most common type used; it is a wide strap of leather that encircles the chest of the horse. Many breast collars have buckles at their ends where the traces attach for ease of adjustment. A breast collar creates a sawing motion, therefore it is important that it attaches freely to the singletree(12) on the cart and not be restricted in anyway. The neck strap(13) controls the height of the breast collar or the “point of draught”. The point of draught in the vertical center point of the draught force. This is important; it needs to be low enough to not interfere with the windpipe but not below the point of the shoulder where it interferes with the action of the front limbs. Many horses showing in the breed ring wear martingales, these attach to the center of the girth at the front, come up between the front legs where the lines run through them. It is important to always have rein stops on your lines when using a martingale so that your buckle doesn’t get caught inside the ring of the martingale causing an unpleasant result. A false martingale is also used outside of the show ring- it can be helpful in minimizing the side to side movement of the breast collar or forward separation that occurs when stopping. (Note the horse in diagram 3 is not wearing a martingale or rein stops).
Traces(14) are adjusted by the breastcollar buckles(15) or by choosing one of the holes on the end of them. Shaft tips(16) should be at the point of the shoulder when the horse is in draught. If you find your traces too short there are trace extenders available, never hook a horse too close.
Often in the breed ring, the breeching(17) which act as the brakes are left off of a fine harness appointment. While working on flat ground for short periods of time this isn’t harmful however if you will be driving your horse on ground that is not flat you will need to have breeching on. Generally the braking system consists of breeching and holdback straps(18). The breeching is a wide strap which connects to the cart by the holdback straps. When the vehicle pushes forward the brunt of the force is put on the two straps and thus the breeching seat. The breastcollar and traces get the vehicle moving forward; the breeching and holdback straps get it stopped. When the breeching is left off in the showring, the back saddle and the shaftstops take the brunt of the force; this is only acceptable on flat ground. The breeching should sit below the point of the buttocks, this is important as breeching sitting too high can ride up when slowing down and put a lot of force at the base of the tail. This kind of force up high may cause a horse to panic and kick or try to run. Breeching set too low will interfere with the movement of the hind legs. The breeching is adjusted by the loin strap billets which fit into either two or four buckles or uptugs on the breeching. The loinstrap(19) should sit at the highest point of the croup; there is a slot through the crupper strap(20) to hold it in place.
The holdback straps are attached to the breeching through rings at the end of the breeching seat. These holdback straps attach to the vehicle at the footman loops(21) and wrap around the shafts. The holdbacks are adjustable by how you wrap around the shafts and what hole you use on the billet. Ideally you should adjust to have a clearance of four fingers between the breeching seat and the buttocks while in draught.
The crupper strap runs from the D staple on the back of the saddle, down the center of the spine, holding the loin strap over the high point of the croup and then slits to two sections. Attached to these two sections is a smooth, tube like loop called a dock(22). The dock fits under the base of the tail and helps to hold the crupper strap in place. Many cruppers have two billets where it splits in two and you can make adjustments at the dock. Use these buckles first to adjust the loin strap(23), if more adjustment is needed then move to the adjustment available on the forward part of the crupper strap. The crupper is there to hold the harness in place but does not need to be extremely tight and will cause discomfort if it is. Always keep the dock on your harness clean as it comes in contact with an extremely sensitive area on your horse and can easily chafe them.
That’s a brief overview of harnessing. Next up I will address whips, safety and bits.
|Posted on March 22, 2011 at 8:57 PM|
The Driving Bridle
A driving bridle is made up of several parts-
2.caveson or noseband
13.sidecheck or overcheck
The crown of the bridle(7) is the piece that sits over the top of your horse’s poll and nestles behind the ears. Ears and poll are very sensitive so good fit are essential and you should always be gentle bridling your animal. It should fit closely but not tightly behind the ears allowing the browband(5) to cross the forehead comfortably. The browband(5) is held in place by rosettes(12) or conchos on either side of the bridle.
The cheekpieces(9) hold the blinkers(1) in place as well as the bit(10) in the horse’s mouth. They have buckles at the top and bottom. The top buckle sits just below the rosette(12) on the bridle and attaches to the crown billets here. This is where you will raise or lower the blinker(1). The blinker(1) should sit so that the eye of the horse is even with the middle of the blinker(1). The blinker(1) keeps the horse from seeing what is behind him, horses have wide peripheral vision. Blinkers(1) come in several shapes including square, round, hatchet or D-shaped, this used to be in accordance with specific traditions which are now rarely followed so now it is more a matter of taste. Any adjustment to blinkers(1) should be made before attempting to adjust bit height.
A noseband(2) or caveson goes around the horse’s nose approximately two fingers below the boney prominence of the cheek. If it has a strap going over the horse’s poll adjust this first then adjust the noseband(2) itself. Nosebands(2) need not be tight, you should be able to put a couple of fingers inside the band. Now you could buckle the throatlatch(11), this does not need to be snug, they will need the room when they flex their neck.
The bottom buckle holds the bit in the horse’s mouth, the bit(10) should be firmly into the mouth without causing any more than two wrinkles in the sides of the mouth. It should not hang down and leave a gap either. This is a matter of personal preference.
Next you can adjust the winker stays(3). It is easiest to unbuckle the winker stay billet(6), adjust your blinkers(1) as narrow or as wide as they need to be and then buckle the billet(6) in the appropriate position.
The bridle in my diagram has a sidecheck(13) on it, it runs from the side of the driving bit up through rings on the gag runner(8) and back in a loop to a strap that hooks to the harness at the waterhook. In most cases a sidecheck is attached the sides of the driving bit at the back behind the bridle and hooks to the waterhook when the horse is working as seen here. An overcheck is generally used with a check bit that goes into the mouth separately. Some people choose to drive with no check.
|Posted on March 21, 2011 at 8:26 PM|
A couple of diagrams I thought would be helpful. I get a lot of questions regarding harness and how to hitch to a cart. I am going to add to my blog later on how to fit harness and cart.
|Posted on March 17, 2011 at 6:50 PM|
I am filling out my first show entries for the season!! Woohoo! Finally winter is gone! I am heading down to Williamston, NC Apr. 14, 15. for their 6th annual Spring Fling. A really great show at a topnotch facility. I went down last year with my friend, Bruce Abbott and I am excited to be going again. Lots of great horses, great folks and I remember a pizza party too!! I will get to visit with my friends, David and Dr. Cheryl Powell and their daughter Heather and see all of their horses. Really looking forward to it. So...my horses all have their heads and necks clipped, sweats on and are working everyday. Appointment made for coggins and vaccinations, I can start loading all my gear back in the trailer. Ahhhhh...life is good! Next weeks plan is body clipping so I can get the new show harnesses fit on and looking good. Pull out the show carts get them polished up. It has got to be the best time of the year, even better than Christmas! I hope everyone else is enjoying this time of Spring renewal.
|Posted on March 11, 2011 at 10:07 PM|
I am so excited to see the first sign of Spring! hmmm...what could that be? well around here it is mud! Not my favorite thing but it definately is a sign that things are warming up a wee bit anyway. This weekend we go to daylight savings time in my neck of the woods so that is always something to look forward to and makes me think Spring is right around the corner. I have had my clippers out and started to do some heads and necks so bridles and neck sweats will fit on. I am only a month or so away from my first show so soon the fur will need to fly, have to see what is under there. Fat horses is what I am guessing. Thank goodness for the arena, I am able to get those fatties to work and get them looking good and feeling fit. Vaccinations are in order, dental work, coggins, health papers....let the spending begin!!!! I have purchased some new tack items for all of my horses too, can't have them not look good now can I? New harnesses, new harness bags, blankets, they all get to start out with new things for this year. I even bought myself a new pair of clippers. :DI have heard quite a few folks have bought new show horses so I am excited to see all the new horsey faces out at the shows too. Can you tell I am excited to get back out to the shows? Another great thing about Spring is all the new foals! Love to see everyone's new babies and future show horses. I know I will be excited to make my first trip of the Spring to Mccarthy's Lakeside Stables to see what new babies they have. www.freewebs.com/mccarthys Let's all think warm thoughts and home that soon the snow is gone for good and summer is on its way. Until then I will be wearing my rubber boots and sloshing my way out to the arena prepping for those early Spring shows.
|Posted on March 6, 2011 at 7:01 PM|
If you are looking for information on miniature horses there are some great websites to take a look at. www.lilbeginnings.com is a great place to start. There is a forum to join to chat with fellow miniature horse enthusiasts, many topics are covered there. There are lists of breeders by country and by state, resources for all things miniature horse and shetland pony. As well, there are classified boards for Canada, the United States and also an International one. The beginner and the seasoned professionals all gather at LB, stop by and see for yourself.
At this time of year you will often see links to live foaling cams on LB. It is very exciting to watch a miniature horse foal being born live via the web. To find a list of web cams that you can watch go to www.marestare.com There are many farms listed with live web cams, it is easy to get hooked!
Another my other favorite sites are www.shetlandmini.com the official website for the American Shetland Pony Club and the American Miniature Horse Registry. Here you will find tons of information about miniature horses and shetland ponies, what fun you can have with them, how to find one for yourself, show results, resources and more. The homepage changes often with stories about fun things members have done with their small equine as well as great show accomplishments.
All of these are great places to network with miniature horse enthusiasts! Hope to see you there!