Only a week or so before Wee and Blue’s yearend 4-H show, I happened to notice this abrasion above the Paint gelding’s left front heel. I guessed that the fungal skin disease, commonly called “equine scratches” had been there for a bit, and we just hadn’t been paying close enough attention.

Given the atypical damp weather and subsequent chronically wet ground we’ve had this summer, scratches has been a bit of an epidemic in our region. Blue was the only one of our horses at home to acquire the condition, perhaps because of his white socks and legs, being that unpigmented skin seems to be more susceptible to the condition.

A milder version of it was also present above his right front heel. The condition here illustrates the origin of the moniker “scratches” as the condition often presents as thin inflamed lines across the skin, mimicking scratches or cuts.

Our neighbour and coach related she’d been seeing a lot of the same at her stable this spring and into the summer, and recommended this product – Vetericyn.

In conjunction with regular gentle cleaning and importantly, keeping the area as dry as possible, as well as several daily applications of the Vetericyn, we managed to treat Blue’s case of scratches fairly quickly.

While it was all but cleared up by the time the show weekend arrived, we continued to apply an overnight treatment at the show. Since it can be used prior to the application of other treatments, we doused with Vetericyn, let dry and then applied a salve which had been recommended by a local vet office. This seemed to work well.

Interestingly, as I asked around at neighbouring stables and of my friends, there emerged about as many methods of treating this skin disease, as there were incidents of it. Overall, the general idea of cleansing the area, keeping it dry and applying a topical solution seemed universal, and sound. It’s at the “topical solution” juncture, that the opinions varied widely. So, I’m curious, how do you treat equine scratches? Let us know in the comment section below if you’ve found a particular product or method that works best at your barn.

Abnormal Horse Temperatures

Learning to recognize subtle differences in your horse’s behavior, can lead to early detection of an illness. Confirm your suspicions by taking his temperature.

Originally published in the Western Horse Review magazine. 


What is a horse’s normal temperature and when is it time to be alarmed?

A horse’s age will cause normal temperature variations. Foals for example, have slightly higher body temperatures than mature animals – often 38.5 to 39˚C. Exercise will cause a slight elevation in body temperature, as will excitement or anything else that causes activity of the horse’s muscles. Extremely high and humid ambient temperatures and the time of day can also result in an increase. It’s possible to find your horse with a higher body temp in the evening, as compared to the morning. Plus, digestion (just after feeding) will bring about an increased temperature.


Pyrexia – The horse’s temperature is greater than 39˚C or 102˚F. Pyrexia is another word for fever. It can be the result of an inflammatory response in the body. Or a fever can result from an infection caused by the presence of bacteria. Or a horse’s body temperature can rise due to a combination of both.
Hyperpyrexia – An excessively high temperature, greater than 41˚-43˚C or 103˚-105˚F. At this reading, the horse’s body temperature is so high it could be detrimental to its bodily functions.
Subnormal – Below the normal range, a cooling down of the entire body, between 36˚-37˚C or 95.5˚-99˚F. Generally, this is a result of anemia, blood loss, hypothermia, advanced toxemia.
Moribund – Excessively low temperature, less than 36˚C or 97.5˚F. Indicates an imminent approach of death.


The following are warning signs that should alarm you to your horse’s health. If your animal is displaying any (or many) of the following, his temperature should be taken:

• The horse shows little or no interest in food

• The eyes are dull and/or the animal appears depressed

• Mucous membranes (gums) are pale

• Runny nose or a cough

• Diarrhea

• Weight loss in a short period of time

• Swelling of limbs or any other area of the body

• Profuse sweating (without exercise)

• Seeks isolation from other horses

• Monitor temperature following a deep cut or injury until reading is normal

Hoof Care – 5 Tips for Trail Riders

Published in the May 2008, edition of the Western Horse Review


Terry Thoreson of Madden, Alberta has been a professional farrier for 10 years, working in a range of different disciplines. First taught the art of hoof care by his father, this third generation farrier recognizes the history and heritage behind what he does. Here are Terry’s top five bits of advice for maintaining strong and healthy trail hooves.

Supplements – Biotin and fish oil are great supplements to improve the health and strength of your horse’s hooves. Although genetics and hoof care in the first few years of a horse’s life really determine the overall health of a horse’s hooves, these products can make a big difference and improve hoof health.

Investigate the Terrain – Before heading out on the trail, make sure you have an idea of what terrain you can expect. If you are heading to the mountains or other rough terrain, it is imperative that your horse be shod. Some people choose, for financial or other reasons, to shoe only their horse’s front hooves. However, depending on how aggressively you intend to ride the trail, it may be prudent to have all four hooves shod.

Hoof BootAlternative to Shoes – Hoof boots are great to carry with you on any ride. If you lose a shoe far from home, you can finish your ride without compromising the health and safety of your horse. For those of the barefoot trimming genre, hoof boots can be worn in place of steel shoes for additional protection, traction and cushioning on rocks and hard ground, and are a good option for a horse which cannot be shod for medical reasons.

Regular Maintenance – Regular maintenance is essential to keeping your horse’s hooves healthy and strong. To be prepared properly for the trail, trims and/or shoeing must be maintained on a regular basis. Check them after crossing rivers and creeks, as water and sand can chafe the back of your horse’s hooves and cause discomfort.

Duct tape – Yes, its just another ingenious use for that common household item. If you happen to lose a shoe on the trail, a hoof boot isn’t handy, and you neglected to invite your farrier along for the ride, you can alternatively wrap the hoof in duct tape, essentially making a temporary moccasin, and protecting it until you can have it re-shod. At six dollars a roll, it’s an inexpensive temporary solution.

Digital Evolution, German Martingales & More

You may have heard already that the May / June Western Horse Review is out! But if you're like me and you can't wait for your printed copy to arrive in the mail, did you know you can now access the digital magazine on your iPhone, iPad touch or iPad?

That's right!

The magazine is available in its entirety, page for page on iTunes. So be sure to check it out!

This month I had the pleasure of helping to put together several pieces. One of which was the article on Mounted Shooting which can be found in our RoundPen section.

Did you know there are in excess of 50 possible patterns for mounted shooting competition? Patterns can be pre-determined or may be drawn out of a hat on the day of the event. A competition typically consists of three to six patterns a day, with each pattern comprised of 10 balloons.

Within this same article, I also had the opportunity to interview “Outlaw Annie” – a World Champion Cowgirl in the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association (CMSA) and an Overall World Champion in the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS). With a tenacity for the sport and a passion for Quarter Horses, flashy wardrobes and Colt firearms, Bianco Ellett was a perfect addition to this editorial.

Photo courtesy of Annie Bianco-Ellett.

Next up on my list was a piece with Al Dunning. With 37 World or Reserve World titles to his credit and expertise in reining, working cow horse and cutting, Dunning is one of the industry’s leading professionals. In the May / June issue, the Arizona trainer tells us why his signature German Martingale is one of the first pieces of equipment he reaches for in the tack room.

Photo by Cappy Jackson.

There are safety considerations to keep in mind when using a German martingale. For instance, when the horse raises its head above the desired point, the aid adds leverage to the bit in the horse’s mouth. If used improperly, adjusted too short for the individual, or the reins are pulled too tight, the force exerted on the mouth can be jarring. Hence, proper timing and softness of the rider’s hands is imperative. Even so, the German martingale can be an extremely useful tool in the right hands. Here is a little bit more why Dunning likes it so much:

 1. Made from Hermann Oak harness leather, this training aid features a neck strap that holds the martingale that is secured through the horse’s front legs and clipped to the cinch.

2. This martingale only allows for as much lateral movement as set by the rider via a clip on the reins – the degree of head position can be altered by attaching the ends up further along the rings on the reins. Dunning’s martingale allows for three different positions of varying head sets.

3.  A split fork formation is created with the cord line that comes up from the horse’s chest, then runs through the rings of the bit and attaches to rings on the reins.

4. This martingale can be used with split reins or a single rein style.

5. “This training aid is my favorite because it has a lot of ‘take’ when needed and a lot of ‘give’ as soon as the horse performs correctly.” – Al Dunning

Pic by Jenn Webster.

This issue also features top tips from barn and supply professionals for building your ultimate stable! Considerations like hay storage, natural lighting versus artificial lights and permit acquirement are all covered in this feature.

In the piece, I had a chance to speak with Robbie McKay, the owner of a unique Rona store in Black Diamond, AB. As an avid cow horse enthusiast and an acreage owner himself, McKay is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to planning and choosing supplies to build your next barn.

“When people come to us about horse keeping, I like to ask them questions like 'Where will you put your paddocks?' 'Where will you put your hay?' and 'How much time do you plan on spending in your barn?'” McKay says.

“The answers to these questions determine a lot about how a person should proceed with building a barn. I try to give people as much information as I can, ask them lots of questions and get them thinking about how they would visualize a barn on their ranch or acreage,” he states.

Pic by Jenn Webster.

In the health section, Dr. Chris Berezowski of Moore Equine South weighs in on Stage Three Labour in the mare. In this in-depth piece, Dr. Berezowski discusses meconium passage, placental care and routine post-foaling care. He also shares a great picture of a hippomane with us, which is completely normal to find after foaling and is thought to be an accumulation of minerals and proteins.

Be sure to check out the newest issue of Western Horse Review! With our unveiling of the Top 25 Youth in today's horse industry, an honest conversion with trainer's wife Elyse Thomson, and a close up look at equine myofascial release, this is another not-to-be-missed edition!

Q & A – Colic Scare

Horse Colic

Photo by Deanna Buschert

Dr. Shawn Mattson, DVM, DVSc, BSc, is an ACVS board certified surgeon who practices at Moore and Company Veterinary Services, a full service Equine hospital in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Dr. Mattson was previously at the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph, Ontario and has been with Moore and Company Veterinary Services for three years. Here he answers our reader’s question regarding colic.

Question: My mare is five-years-old and was previously a race-trotter. Now she’s my trail horse. About five days ago, she was showing signs of colic and I was really scared. She got herself up and then I got her walking. I then syringed water in her mouth. When she seemed to be feeling better I put her away. But six days later when I pressed on her tummy by her hind legs, she turned to bite me, because it seems to hurt, on both sides. What does it mean and what should I do?

Answer: It certainly sounds like your horse suffered a mild colic episode. The horse was likely experiencing a gas or spasmodic colic and recovered on her own without the need for veterinary intervention. The majority of colics that we see are indeed medical in nature. It is important to remember, however, that you should always call your veterinarian if your horse does not improve, becomes more painful, depressed or is just not acting normally. What starts as a seemingly mild colic can quickly evolve into a situation much more serious and often the outcome with medical and/or surgical treatment is far better the sooner the horse is evaluated by a veterinarian.

Colic is a general term that refers to abdominal pain. There are many different types of colic and they do not always relate to the gastrointestinal system. A horse exhibiting colic signs can also have pain arising from many different body systems, including the urinary, reproductive, musculoskeletal, and cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Therefore, it is difficult to state the cause of your mare’s behavior without examining the horse. It would be unusual for the symptoms that your horse exhibited six days later to be associated with the initial colic, since the time frame is quite long. The signs you are describing can be caused by a variety of problems (musculoskeletal, reproductive, behavioral etc). My best recommendation is that your horse should be thoroughly evaluated by your veterinarian if she continues to exhibit these symptoms.

Transporting Mares & Foals

Published in the April 2008, edition of the Western Horse Review.


Photo by Jenn Webster

Due to the advent of shipped semen, it is not as necessary to transport mares along with their foals to stallions for breeding, as it once was. Instead of mares enduring shipping for miles, we can simply pick up the phone and have a stallion meet breeding requirements right in the backyard. Still, there are instances where it might be necessary for a mare and foal to hit the road for long hauls. Re-breds for example, often require that the mare come straight to the stallion farm to eliminate any further complications of getting her into foal for the following year. Or arriving at a new home following sale at an auction.

Hauling is stressful for adult horses, so it only makes sense that it would take a toll on foals as well. With a young horse’s immature immune system and inexperience of being confined for transportation, hauling can subject them to shipping fever, colic, dehydration, fatigue. The stress factors horses must endure during transport include noise, trailer motion, changes in air temperature, changes in eating and drinking patterns and fatigue from constantly having to balance themselves. As such there are several things you can do to help eliminate the risks.

1. Always transport a mare together with her foal, in a box stall compartment, so the duo can move freely.

2. Give the mare hay to eat. The box stall will allow her to put her head down, giving her more opportunity to expel foreign particles that may enter her nasal cavity. Horses get tired from having their heads tied high for too long. As such, lowering their heads offers the chance to balance themselves and rest up from fatigue.

3. A box stall on the road might also mean you can hang a water bucket in for the mare. But use caution! While the opportunity for free choice water is ideal for a lactating mare, it is possible for the foal to bump into the bucket or for the mare to get her mane or tail stuck in the handle clasp or hanging device. Ensure you have foal-proofed and duct-taped any place where they might get caught.

4. If you cannot give the horses free choice hay and water, stop frequently (every four hours) to feed and water them. This also allows you to look in often and see if a mishap has occurred, monitor water consumption, or discover if one horse seems to be poor-doing.

5. Monitor body temperature often. A highly recommended practice for long trips. Slight changes in temperatures can alert you of a potential illness.

6. Be sure to halter break the youngster before he/she is loaded into a trailer. The mare and foal should also be taught to load and unload, to help eliminate stress. In the event you have to unload enroute, you will be prepared without the risk factor of a free-roaming foal.

7. Ensure the trailer has good ventilation and fresh bedding.

8. Monitor attitude, appetite and the development of a cough following arrival at your destination. Recovery time from travel depends on the animal and ailments such as shipping fever and pneumonia, might not cause classical symptoms for two to three days afterwards. While other clinical signs (depression, lack of appetite, coughing or nasal discharge) may be more readily apparent.

Q & A – Deworming Demystified

Deworming Geriatric Horses

The April Issue

Photo cover credit: Natalie Jackman –

That’s right! It’s out. March came in like a lion and April is showing promise so far. I think I even observed a fat, little gopher today…

If you want a tiny sneak peek of the Western Horse Review issue about to hit your mailbox, or if you need a reason to pick it up off the shelves, read on! Here are some of the stories behind the headline stories of April.

This month features 75 pieces of Horsekeeping Advice from the Alberta Horse Owners and Breeders Conference. Which is of course, a serious event…


All kidding aside, this annual event for horse owners and breeders is a great way to get yourself up-to-date on the latest in the industry. However, if you weren’t able to attend – we’ve got you covered with our extensive coverage from each of the seminars!

Photo credit: Victoria Ann Photography


Next in the issue we have a 10 Things You Didn’t Know piece about the sport of Reining. For instance, did you know that a legend in car racing has now taken a liking to sliding plates? It’s true! Michael Schumacher, a seven-time Formula One World Champion rode Smart Spook in a celebrity event at last year’s National Reining Horse Association Futurity. Read all about it, plus 9 other morsels of reining particulars that even die-hards might be surprised to learn!


Photo courtesy of the NRHA.

The in-depth health section this month also focuses attention on a rare disease, called neonatal isoerythrolysis (N I foals). This condition can occur when the mare’s colostrum actually possesses antibodies against the foal’s blood type – NI is similar to the human Rh-Factor, whereby a pregnant Rh-negative woman’s body begins producing antibodies that begin to attack the baby’s red blood cells.

A foal in ICU. Photo courtesy of Deb Carroll of West Wind Vet Hospital.

Once the foal absorbs these antibodies, they result in lysis of the foal’s red blood cells within 24 to 36 hours after birth. This red blood cell destruction is widespread throughout the foal’s body and can lead to life-threatening anemia and/or jaundice.

Jaundice can be seen around this foal’s eye. Photo courtesy of Deb Carroll of West Wind Vet Hospital.

For an N I foal to happen, the mare must have had previous exposure to blood that contained these particular antibodies to the foal’s blood (such as through a blood transfusion or a previous foaling). Unfortunately, Arabians and Standardbreds have a higher incidence of N I foals. Read this month’s WHR to find out more about whether or not your horses are at risk.

April is the perfect time to get your horses caught up on their annual vaccines. Since there is no one-size-fits-all policy, this issue’s full legnth vaccine feature will help you understand how you can help your horse stimulate antibodies to defend against today’s diseases.



In an effort to try and explain Antigens and Antibodies for the Vaccines piece, I was feeling particularly inspired… by my children’s crayons. And while I ended up being pretty happy about the finished product – a diagram you can find on page 47 – this tired Mommy then later forgot to put those same crayons away…



…my daughter found them and used them to draw me a lovely picture on the back of our leather couch.


Speaking of little ones, if you or your youngster are looking for some great advice about maintaining soft hands on the reins, Pat Ross of Cochrane, Alberta, is one of the best. Ross is an accomplished trainer, teacher and mentor to many. Be sure to catch her full-length feature about creating softness.

“It is the rider’s responsibility to monitor the horse’s movement through feel and guide him with proper cues. Clearly, the rider’s body has much to do with this. However, the fact is that most problems in effective communication with horses stem from the rider’s hands,” says the trainer.

In this comprehensive editorial Ross explains why her pursuit of soft hands has been an educational journey, with some mistakes and an extensive injury taking place along the way. In the April issue, you can find out how she bounced back and reap her advice for obtaining softness in a simple, safe manner that all levels of riders can master.


Happy Reading!