Ask the Vet: Conditioning for the Riding Season

Question: How can you get a mane to grow quickly? Our new horse has lost a 6-inch strip of mane all the way down to the skin. He has a blanket on 24/7 so we don’t think it’s other horses and we don’t see rubbing. The skin does not look crusty. How can we get the mane to grow out before show season? He is on equishine, sunflower seeds, Omegas 3 & 6, and we are putting MTG on it twice a week.

Answer: Diet is the best way to encourage hair growth. Adequate protein is required but excessive protein or other supplements will not speed up the process. Fats in the diet such as the supplements you are using will make the hair shine but do not effect growth. There are no topical products that make hair grow faster. Something must be rubbing the mane out- the blanket?  Could he be poking his head through the fence?

Question: I would love it if you would talk a bit on how to condition an older horse (18-years-old). My arab has been lightly ridden once per week over the winter. How would you recommend that I increase his work so that he’s fit enough for a clinic or two this summer as well as light trail rides?

Answer: I think that older horses can be conditioned as well as younger horses. They just take more time. A complete physical exam is a good place to start to be sure there are no underlying problems. I would start by riding your horse twice a week for a few weeks then progress to riding four times a week if he is responding well. It usually takes two rides a week to maintain condition and four rides per week to increase condition. There are three ways to increase the difficulty of the rides: increase the time, speed and challenge with terrain and footing. You should only change one parameter at a time after you have increased the frequency of your rides.

Question: What are 4 common preventative health care procedures that all horses should have?

Answer: A yearly physical examination is certainly encouraged. That said, it is a great opportunity for core vaccinations, fecal examination to discuss the appropriate deworming schedule and an oral examination for appropriate dental care.

Question: I have a 6-year-old Hanoverian gelding that is 15.3H but stocky. Right from the beginning of his training, he has had a very hard time accepting the bit, even before any pressure was applied to it. He never got over the desire to spit out the bit and still can hardly wait to get it out of his mouth. I have always tried handle his mouth carefully when he is bitted. I have tried several different sized bits (width and thicknesses) and materials. I have been advised that he has a bad habit and that a drop noseband or flash will help him get out of the habit of opening his mouth and worrying the bit (he doesn’t grind). I am concerned that his actions could be the result of some physical issue inside his mouth like an unusually narrow bar area. Is the anything I can do to distinguish whether his reaction is physical or training related?

Answer: I would try a hackmore or bitless bridle to see if he resented the training and head position or if he did have an issue with the bit itself in his mouth.