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CHERRY HILL'S HORSEKEEPING NEWSLETTER

February 2003

Your Horse Barn - DVD
How To Think
Like A Horse
Your Horse Barn DVD
Horsekeeping On A Small Acreage
How to Think Like A Horse by Cherry Hill
Horse For Sale by Cherry Hill
Stablekeeping

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    2006 Cherry Hill       www.horsekeeping.com

Special "Ask Cherry" Issue

This newsletter is a personal letter from me to you,
a fellow horse owner and enthusiast.
My goal is to answer some of your questions and send you interesting stories and helpful tips for your
horse care, training, and riding.

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Horse Information Newsletter from Cherry Hill Pasture Manners
     Separation Anxiety
     Aggression to Other Horses

Horse Information Newsletter from Cherry Hill Cryptorchid
     Will Hormones Help?
     Suitable for Breeding?

Horse Information Newsletter from Cherry Hill Blanket Sometimes or Not At All?

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"Ask Cherry" Special Issue
This month, I'm devoting the entire issue to answering some of your questions.

Pasture Manners: Separation Anxiety

Dear Cherry,

     Could you please give me some advice on how to correct aggressive behavior due to separation anxiety in pasture horses? Also, will this behavior be picked up by my other horses thru example?
     
My problem, specifically, is as follows: I have a big bay mare (16 hands, 1200 lbs.) 5 yrs. old. She has always been a bully with any other horse that she is pastured with (kicking to the extent of vet. trips, sutures, etc.) Recently, I purchased a 7 yr. gelding that eventually obtained dominance (after several deep gashes and numerous abrasions). Now, however, when I try to take him out of the pasture to ride, she attacks him while I am trying to lead him out because she anticipates the separation. (They are the only 2 horses in this pasture, which is about 2 acres). I have moved her to another smaller pasture, which I had to take my weanling foal out of, as I was afraid she would be hurt by the mare. Can I correct her behavior, or must I continue to keep her isolated?
     
I have already been kicked accidentally by her while attempting to take him out. She is big and very strong and I am afraid she will hurt someone, as well as the other horse. She had been by herself for about 1 year before I got this gelding, so gets extremely agitated at separation, attacking and kicking him to prevent me (or any one else) from removing him. Please send advice - my other horse is well behaved and I don't want him following her example. Also, the foal (in the next pasture) gets very agitated and starts rearing, charging around and whinnying frantically, as this scares her. Again, I don't want her learning by example. I appreciate any advice you can give.
     
Sincerely, Kim

Hi Kim,

I am glad that you are aware of how dangerous this is. In fact it is one of the most dangerous situations - handling horses in a "group" situation - even though the group is only two. The problem is that the horses are still behaving in their wild horse mode, or at least your bossy mare is, and you only have control of the gelding. It is one of those no win situations as is. You need to develop mental, verbal, and body language control over your mare so she will respect YOU when you are in the pasture.

What I would do if I were faced with this situation is this:

1. Separate the mare from both of your other horses.

2. Work with her regularly so that she really respects you on the ground, has a job, has plenty of exercise and is more tired than full of it. Do lots of in-hand exercises (see my longeing book set for in-hand exercises) that make her pay attention, give you personal space, turn on the forehand, long whoas on a long line etc. She may never be the type of horse that you can pasture with another as she will get too "buddy bound" to him or her. Some horses are like that. Whenever I see the first sign of something like that, I immediately separate those two horses and give them a new environment and routine. Herd bound or buddy sour horses are some of the hardest to deal with once the habit has become deeply ingrained.

3. After you have worked with the mare to the point where you can feel you can do anything, any time, anywhere with her in hand (including leading her along the fence where the other horses are), then if you MUST put her back with another horse, be very cautious, and you might want to make a habit of going to get the mare first, taking her up to the barn and tying her, then going to get the gelding, tying him, then taking the mare back out and turning her out on pasture.
     There just is no way you can discipline a loose horse while you are trying to lead your good gelding. But the better her ground training is, the more respect she will have for you and your space and the more she will pay attention to your body language and your voice. Also, be sure to continue working her regularly and ride her often so she doesn't use her excess energy up on you and the gelding!

4. You might want to consider having your vet check her because there is a chance that she could have a hormone imbalance that causes her to be so aggressive.

I think you already realized when you wrote that you probably have to keep her separate. It simply is not worth the risk. Do be careful.

Cherry Hill

Pasture Manners: Aggression to Other Horses

Dear Cherry,
      What should I do about my gelding attacking his turn out mates? My horse is a 19 year old gelding, quarter horse that stays in a paddock with two other horses; another gelding and a mare. He is fed twice a day, gets hay 2-3 times a day, and has 3-4 hours/day grassy pasture time. I try to ride for an hour/day with one day/week off. I keep him at a stable that has 15 other horses. Most of the other horses are in a stall. I have owned him for 4 months. He was at his previous home for 7 years and shared a paddock with another paint gelding for the last 3 of those 7 years.
      My horse seems to get along great with his new paddock mates - they have been together for 3 months. However, about once a month, in the middle of the night, he will attack one of the other two. We don't know what provokes his behavior, because no one stays on the premises overnight. He has bitten the mare on her back pretty bad and has kicked the other gelding in the chest and in the leg. The injuries were not bad enough to call an emergency vet, but they were bad enough to cause the owner of the barn to panic.
      My horse is a pleasure to ride, but he is older and can be a bully. What can I do to fix this nighttime behavior? Is it ok for horses to share a paddock during the night? Should they be separated or do you think they are just displaying typical behavior?
      Thank you for your help! Amy

Dear Amy,

It sounds like your horse is living in ideal conditions. But, from what you describe and since nobody is at the barn at night, how do you know it is not the other gelding fighting with the mare? Since they are the two that have been hurt, they could be fighting with each other - quite frankly, from the location of the wounds, it sounds like the other gelding teased the mare (biting on the back is dominant sexual behavior) one time and the next time, she didn't want to get bit or teased so she kicked the gelding in the chest.

If you are convinced it is YOUR gelding that is doing the attacking, you need to do more detective work to determine if it is feed related (after all, that is the MAIN reason horses battle) or hormone related. It might be that when the mare comes into heat, the geldings fight over her attention.

If he was my horse, I would take the mare out and see if the night time fighting stops. If the geldings still fight, then they will have to be separated. It is possible that any two of these horses may be able to live together without fighting but not all three.

Cherry Hill

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Cryptorchid: Hormones?

Dear Cherry,
     At what age would a horse with retained testicles be a cryptorchid? Do retained testicles become cancerous? I have a 30 month old horse whose testicles have not yet descended. Some tell me to treat him with hormones, others to leave him alone as they will come down later, others to operate. I would leave him alone, but I have been told that the testicles where they are can develop cancer. The vets around my area do not seem to know. Can you help?
      T
hank you Jesus

Dear Jesus,

Cryptorchidism (retained testicles) is generally considered an inherited abnormality but it has not been definitely proven to be so. Some cryptorchid sires produce no colts with the abnormality. And the condition seems to vary depending on the breed by breed, being most prevalent in Percherons and least prevalent in Thoroughbreds.

Most foals are born with both testicles descended. If one or both testes are retained, they may be retained in the inguinal canal or in the abdomen. Normal castration is a simple, on-the-farm procedure. Testicles that have descended to a point somewhere in the inguinal canal can usually be removed through the flank with the horse standing sedated. Castration of a horse with testicles in the abdomen requires abdominal surgery with the horse dorsal recumbent (on his back) under general anesthesia which is more complicated, riskier, and costlier.

Usually retained testicles will not descend after three months of age, although in some rare cases testicles may descend up until three years of age. The determination of whether a young foal or an older colt IS actually a cryptorchid should be made by a veterinarian.

A horse with retained testicles is typically not used for breeding because the stallion could pass on the congenital abnormality and besides, the retained testicle(s) usually do not produce fertile sperm due to the high heat in the abdominal cavity. Trying to manage a cryptorchid as a gelding usually doesn't work well as the horse will still have stallion behavior due to the testicular production of testosterone.

Cryptorchid testicles are more prone to developing cancerous tumors when compared to normally descended testes - another reason for castrating the cryptorchid.

Hormonal therapy is being used experimentally to encourage the suspended testicles of an inguinal cryptorchid to descend. Either Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) or Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone (GnRH) is administered for a period of weeks. This is not a proven technique nor is it know why it helps in some cases. At this point, there are more questions than answers related to hormone therapy for treatment of retained testicles. Should you consider hormone therapy for a cryptorchid? Only you, in consultation with a veterinarian can make that decision.

Cherry Hill

Cryptorchid: Suitable for Breeding?

Hi Cherry,
     Can a cryptorchid be used as a stud? I just found out today that the 7 year old paint I bought this years is a unilateral or bilateral cryptorchid. While he has been at a barn with 11 other horses, 4 geldings and 7 mares, he has been no problem but he displayed stud behavior when turned out in the arena which is why we got him tested. Our vet tends to be on the cautious side and encouraged me to sell him. We really like him and he is a beautiful animal. I only wish he could stand as a stud as people have already asked if he was a stallion wanting to have him cover their mares.
      He has never caused any concern about being aggressive but did nip me and run off in a playful manner. I sent him off to work letting him know that was not acceptable and he worked really well and behaved well. That just drove it home to me that I needed to treat him like a stallion regardless of how well behaved he is. He is well behaved now but we have not gone through a spring with him.
      The trainer said her mares have been going through their cycles and he has never once been too much to handle. I am not that experienced with stallion behavior in the spring not having owned one before. I assumed that with continuous work with his training keeping his manners under control and being on top of any changes with corrections would take care of it.
      He is extremely focused when we are working with him and loves his work. It doesn't matter what is going on around him, you can keep his focus. He does work hard to please. We really don't want to get rid of him but of course if he changes in any way toward aggressive behavior we would not think twice about selling him to someone willing to deal with it.
      My husband wishes they could operate to drop the testicles and be able to use him as a stud. I don't think that is possible but I will ask for him. The options presented to us were to go ahead and geld him with a 50/50 chance for losing the stallion behavior, or selling him as is. Of course we would also have the option of doing nothing and see how his behavior develops and changes. What are your thoughts and feelings about our situation? Look forward to hearing from you.
      Thanks a lot from me and the paint that I love. Joy

Hi Joy,

It's tough when there are things about a horse that you like but there is one big issue that stops you in your tracks. The bottom line is this. Your horse is not suitable for a breeding animal (read the first cryptorchid Q&A in this newsletter). You are right, the testes cannot be dropped into proper position surgically. Researchers are just experimenting with hormonal treatment for certain cases of cryptorchidism, so it would only be an option if you have access to a veterinarian or clinic that is using this technique and your veterinarian feels your horse would be a candidate.

Possibly your horse was a unilateral cryptorchid and the previous owner had the one descended testicle removed and hoped the horse would act like a gelding. If only the visible testicle is removed during gelding, then the cryptorchid horse may appear to be a gelding but will likely display varying degrees of stallion behavior - chasing or herding mares in the paddock, mounting mares or aggressive behavior towards other male horses.

So, I'd say, if a veterinarian's examination reveals that this horse has one or two testicles in the inguinal canal and gelding can be performed through the flank with the horse standing, this would be a pretty good solution. If the exam reveals that there are one or two testicles in the abdomen, weigh the cost and risk of abdominal surgery with your attachment to the horse. If you decide to sell the horse, be sure to let the new owners know about his condition. If you don't they could be hurt when his stallion behavior emerges.

Cherry Hill

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Removing Blankets

Dear Cherry,
     
Is it OK to blanket sometimes and leave my horse unblanketed at other times? During cold weather (i.e. below zero), is it okay to blanket my horse and then remove it once the temperatures are more tolerable (i.e. around 20 degrees or warmer)? Or am I better off to not blanket at all if I don't keep it on all the time?
     
Amy

Hi Amy,

It depends on the type of winter coat your horse has grown and what type of shelter he or she has. If your horse has a very good winter coat and you don't do a lot of grooming or bathing in the winter and your horse has shelter to get out of the wind and wet, you don't really need to blanket at all.

If your horse has a thin hair coat -
OR if you groom or bathe (which removes the protective skin coating that helps protect a horse from winter weather) -
OR if you horse has to stand out in the wind and wet, then by all means,
YES, a winter blanket is a nice addition for temps below 15 degrees.

Choose a blanket that is light in weight but warm. Heavy blankets plaster the horse's hair down flat so when you remove the blanket, there is no natural loft to provide air insulation.

If you find that the cold temps last a long time this winter and you find you are blanketing your horse for weeks rather than just days, then you might need to "wean" your horse off the blanket when the weather warms up. When days are in the 30s but the nights are in the teens, you still might want to blanket your horse at night or at least put a waterproof-windproof-breathable sheet on him as a "transition" blanket.

There is no absolute or easy answer as all horses, shelters, management and weather patterns are so different.

Cherry Hill


Dear Cherry,
     
Thanks for the info! Our weather has warmed up considerably (from -19 to the teens!). I've ordered a quilted stable blanket to have on hand just in case. New Year's Day we got snow and Saturday morning I checked him and he was outside with snow on his back and he was shivering. So I know he wasn't keeping warm. I brought him in and scraped the snow off and toweled him down. I have a heavy cotton sheet and slipped that on him to help melt the ice. Toweled him again and re-blanketed him (after I had thrown the blanket in the dryer). I left the blanket on him for a little while, about an hour, so he could build up his body temperature.
      I have a shed that is enclosed and opens to the east. When we moved in, my husband lined one-third of it with plywood and built some gates for me. We hung the gates Saturday morning and I kept him in the stall Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
     Wednesday was nice enough that I let him out. What I've been doing since is to turn him out during the day and bring him in at night. This way at least part of the day he's protected from winter winds. (He never would come into the shed except to eat and drink. But I think he's learned his lesson because I've been finding him in there when I get home from work! I think he finally made the connection that it's a little bit warmer in there for him.
     I appreciate your quick response, as I know you must be very busy.
     I'll be sure to add your website to my bookmarks. Amy

Hi again Amy,

Glad the info helped. You sound like you are doing a good job. The stable blanket you purchased will be good for cold weather IF the horse is in shelter or when he is outside IF there is no precipitation falling - but it is not designed for outdoor use when there is snow or sleet falling - stable blankets are not waterproof so if snow or ice gathers on it, the horse's body heat will melt the snow and the water will leak into the blanket through the stitching. Then you have a wet blanket and a wet horse - worse than a wet horse without a blanket. So keep an eye on the precipitation or purchase a waterproof-breathable blanket.
Cherry Hill

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That's it for this month. Don't forget, when you ride, keep your mind in the middle and a leg on each side.

Cherry Hill

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