Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fixing an Equine Bad Hair Day

With horses being horses, the only time when you are likely to see a large section of rumpled hair on your horse will be on a show morning. Depending on how your horse lies down overnight, the hair can get bent backwards and if it stays that way, you'll be faced with a fuzzy-looking patch of hair that won't brush back to straightness. Left as is, this will detract from the sleek, shiny coat that you've worked so hard to produce for the show ring.

Thankfully, the solution is easy, though it needs to be done early enough to give the hair time to dry before your classes.

Like human hair, horse hair reverts to straightness when it's wet. The solution, therefore, is to wet the hair, brush it straight and then brush it again once it has dried (a really bad case might benefit from an additional brushing or two while it's still a bit damp).

If you've ever tried wetting the hair and haven't found any improvement, odds are that you didn't wet it thoroughly enough. The hair needs to be soaked down to the skin, coating the entire shaft, so it requires either a sponge that hasn't been wrung out, or a bath. If you have a grey horse, rumpled hair shouldn't be a problem because your morning bathing routine should easily take care of it. If your horse doesn't require a full bath, just take a clean sponge saturated with clean water and really scrub it into the area.

Once the hair is wet, brush the hair straight with a stiff brush. The stiffness will allow the bristles of the brush to reach down to the entire length of the hair. Depending on the severity of the bent hair, you might need to brush it straight again a few times while it's drying and then give it a final smoothing out once it has dried fully.

If you're in a hurry to get to your class you can spray some rubbing alcohol onto the wet spot to help speed up the drying process. If you're in no rush, the alcohol is unnecessary and is likely to do more harm than good by drying out the hair and skin.

If the bent hair is a result of the horse rubbing against the wall or a bucket, the hair can be more damaged than it would have been from the horse simply lying down on it, and it might therefore require the wetting process to be repeated to bring the hair back to its former straightness.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Review: Equine Omega Complete

The more we learn about nutrition, the more complicated it seems to become to feed our horses in the best possible way. In recent years, the importance of the correct ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 has become more recognized, and many of the foods traditionally fed to show horses contain far too much of the bad omega-6 fatty acids.

There is evidence for omega-3 fatty acids having an anti-inflammatory effect1, which is beneficial for sport horses. Omega-6s, on the other hand, have an inflammatory effect. Studies have shown that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids has a beneficial effect for arthritic horses2.

A grass-based diet provides a higher amount of omega-3 than does a grain-based diet3. For show horses who spend most of their time in stalls, and especially those who are fed a lot of grain, adding as little extra omega-6 as possible is important to maintain the best ratio of omega-3 to omega-6.

Traditional fat supplements for horses tend to be extremely high in omega-6s (corn oil is in the region of 1:58 omega-3 to omega-6, and sunflower seeds contain almost exclusively omega-6). Flax seeds and flaxseed oil are essentially the only traditional fat source for horses containing more omega-3 than omega-6.

Vegetable sources such as flax contain short-chain omega-3 fatty acids, while fish oil contains long-chain versions. The body is not very efficient at converting short-chain omega-3 fatty acids to the more desirable long-chain ones, so feeding fish oil allows the long-chain fatty acids to be given directly in the most desirable form.

For all of these reasons, I was very interested to try Equine Omega Complete when I was asked to review it. Equine Omega Complete contains mechanically-expelled soybean oil, human-grade deepwater fish oil, 3000 IU of Vitamin E per daily dose and all eight essential amino acids. I chose two different horses with different needs to see what a month's worth of Equine Omega Complete could do.

Horse A, a thoroughbred, is a fairly difficult keeper who always has a shiny coat but tends to have dry skin, and she is very particular about what she eats. Horse B, a warmblood, will generally eat anything, and suffered this spring from a dull coat.

My initial concern was whether or not the horses would even eat something containing fish oil. I was shocked when my picky eater ate an entire daily dose of Equine Omega Complete in just a small amount of grain without hesitation! The second horse enjoys his Equine Omega Complete so much that he will eat an entire daily dose out of his feed tub with no grain at all. Both horses became more vocal than usual at dinner time while they were on the supplement and clearly enjoyed eating it.

The top photo shows Horse A's weight
on day 1 of Equine Omega Complete,
while the bottom photo shows her
condition after finishing a month of
Equine Omega Complete and
after three weeks of horse shows!
The supplement is very easy to use and my supply came with a convenient measuring cup to give an accurate daily dose. I tried feeding it all at once as well as splitting it into two doses per day, and didn't find much of a difference in terms of results or feed tub leftovers between the two methods. I did find that this supplement didn't pour quite as cleanly (it is quite thick) as other oils that I've used, but the person responsible for feeding the second horse didn't find hers messy so perhaps it depends on your pouring technique. I'm told that Equine Omega Complete now comes with a pump and I suspect that makes it even easier and cleaner to administer.

As far as results go, horse A finished the month shinier than she has ever been, more than she ever was on ground flax or black oil sunflower seeds. While her skin is still on the dry side, it doesn't seem as flaky as it used to be and she has held her weight far better than she usually would through the first few shows of the year.

Horse B has finally developed the deep shine to his coat that has been elusive all year until now.

Neither horse seemed to get "hot" while on the supplement.

It would have been interesting to see whether there were any other improvements visible over a longer period, but over the short term I think that the supplement did all that it could be expected to do. You can read about all of the potential benefits at

The only real downside to the product is that it is more expensive than many of the more commonly-used (but high omega-6) oils, but from what I can tell it is similarly-priced to flaxseed oil.

If you are looking for a complete oil supplement to feed to your horse, I would certainly recommend Equine Omega Complete for consideration. While I don't like to promote any one product as a "must have", I can say that it seems to do what it's intended to do and would be a very good option.

Another great thing about Equine Omega Complete is that they give away a free bottle of product every month on their website! Head over there and enter your e-mail address for a chance to win!

Disclosure: I have received no financial compensation for writing this review aside from a sample or copy of the product to be reviewed. My reviews are always my honest opinion and experience. Readers who use reviewed products do so at their own risk.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Young Horse Boots

I have heard of some eliminations as a result of riders not being aware of the new boot rule for young horse classes, so here's everything you need to know if you plan on competing in a young horse class run under FEI rules:

FEI Article 257.2.4

For all international Young Horses Competitions (five *, six, seven and eight year old Horses): All hind leg protections must have a maximum interior length of 16 centimetres; the width of the fastener must be at least five centimeters (refer to FEI Jumping Stewards’ Manual on the FEI website for diagram).

 * NB: Competitions for five year old Horses may only be held at the FEI World Breeding Jumping Championships for Young Horses, unless special authorisation has been granted by the FEI.

The following criteria must be respected in relation to hind boots worn in international Young Horses Competitions (see also the FEI Jumping Stewards Manual on the FEI website):

The inside of the protection must be smooth. Only non-elastic Velcro-type fasteners are permitted; no hooks, buckles, clips or other methods of attaching the fasteners may be used;

The rounded rigid part of the protection must be placed around the inside of the fetlock;

No additional elements may be used in conjunction with the protection.

Here is a page from the Stewards Manual showing examples:

The gist of the rule is that hind boots mustn't have elastic, must have only wide velcro closures, and mustn't have any protrusions on the inside (smoothness refers to a lack of protrusions rather than to a specific type of material, as far as I am aware).

This rule, designed for the welfare of the horse, aims to reduce the practice of over-tightening boots to increase sensitivity and the use of boots designed to exaggerate the movement of the hind end over fences by applying pressure. 

There are not many brands of boots that currently fit these criteria. I am currently aware only of the Young Jump boots made by Veredus that are definitely allowed and will update this post with any others that I come across. There are several basic neoprene types of boots that should fall within the guidelines, but it's best to check in person before purchasing to make sure that there is no elastic on the straps.