From Endurance to Dressage
It's a reoccurring theme here, but it is HOT! Yesterday, I wore black tights and a technical t-shirt to work so that I wouldn't have to change clothes in the back of my truck once I got to the ranch. Instead, I kicked off my Chuck's, pulled on a pair of socks, and slipped into my barn boots. I hoped that by making the transition from work wear to barn wear quicker, I might not get so hot. HAHAHA.
I gave Izzy a cold shower and saddled him up. We spent 27 minutes hacking around the property. We have lots of trees, so it wouldn't have been too bad if Izzy hadn't acted like he'd never been out of his paddock before. He literally spooked, half bolted, and braced for 27 minutes certain that death was behind every tree. We were both red-faced and sweaty by the time I quit.
Once we finished, I gave Izzy another cold shower and left him out on the lawn which was completely shaded. I putzed around doing all of my barn chores, and then grabbed my thermometer to take Izzy's temperature. We're doing a USDF show this Sunday that is requiring several days of temperature readings.
I store my thermometer in the feed room. When I pulled it out of its drawer, I knew it was already too hot to use for taking someone's temperature. It read 104 degrees. Proof is in the photo above. I quickly poured some of the cold water from Yeti thermos into a cup and set the thermometer inside for a few minutes while I fed Speedy his lunch.
I was able to bring down the temperature of the thermometer itself, but when I took Izzy's temperature it was definitely on the high side of normal. In case you're trying to take your horse's temperature in the summer, or even in the winter for that matter, a horse's normal body temperature should run somewhere between 99 and 101. Izzy's was just a bit over at 101.8. Based on all of his other parameters, heart rate, capillary refill, respiration, attitude, and so on, I know he isn't sick. He was just hot.
When I take Izzy's temperature today, I'll make sure it's before we do anything. Exercise alone can raise the body's temperature a bit, or a lot depending on what you do. Combining work with a hot day is a guarantee to produce an elevated body temperature. When I checked my phone while I was taking Izzy's temperature, it showed 105, so it had only gotten hotter after our quick ride. Without an ice bath, a fan, and deep shade, there would be no way to get a "normal" body temperature after even a hack.
Today is predicted to be about the same as yesterday. I didn't feel very good by the time I headed home. Working for an hour doing chores and riding was just too much in that heat. While I worked and sweated, Izzy got two cold showers and a shade break. Imagine what his temperature might have been without the showers and shade.
No repeat of that today. Maybe we'll just do the cold shower and shade part.
It's not often that I buy a "goop" and like it well enough to buy it again. Zephyr's Garden Skin Rescue Emollient Salve has proven to be so effective at treating rubs, scrapes, and itchy spots that I bought a new a few weeks ago.
Izzy's skin suffers every summer. He gets so itchy that he rubs vigorously enough that he creates tears in his skin. I have tried the pharmaceutical route, prednisolone, but that did not cut the itchiness. I also feed milled flaxseed and rice bran to add fats and oils to his diet. I can't say conclusively that they help, but they certainly aren't hurting him. I also roached his mane which did stop him from itching that area.
I know that hosing him off every day does help. If he gets sweaty and the sweat isn't rinsed off, I know for sure that makes him itchy. I don't know whether his itchiness is from sweat or bugs, so I've tried a shotgun approach: diet, topicals, and fly barriers/sprays.
Zephyr's is a salve that feels like lip balm. Its ingredients include pure olive oil infused with a variety of leaves such as Comfrey Leaf and Calendula Flower. It also contains beeswax, Lavender Essential Oil, and Tea Tree Essential Oil. These are all ingredients that I would use on my own skin, and I have used this on myself. It has a pleasant, clean smell, and the texture is creamy without being overly oily.
The first jar I purchased, which is now empty, lasted for several years. I use it on Izzy's face, his body, and even under his tail where he rubs himself raw. The salve doesn't prevent the rubs from occurring, but it does help to soothe the raw skin which allows it to heal.
Fortunately, we are on the back side of summer which means our mornings will eventually cool off as will our hot afternoons. Fall better get here soon, or Izzy won't have any skin left.
Either that, or I'll need to buy another jar of Zephyr's!
Last week I was reading back through some old posts and shook my head at the number of times I've readjusted what my boys eat. I have tried so many different products in an effort to heal hooves, shine coats, soothe tummies, and keep emotions on a more even keel. By now you'd think I'd have figured out that most of that stuff doesn't work all that well.
For the record, here's what my boys are getting this year.
At this point, I've whittled the supplements down to the most basic of items. Since Izzy eats primarily grass hay, he really does need the extra calories found in the beet pulp and rice bran. I've tried several "cooler" feeds, but all of them sent his energy through the roof. Rice bran (fat) and beet pulp (forage) are the only feeds besides the grass hay that he can tolerate. My vet agrees that the vitamin/mineral mix and milled flaxseed are probably doing more than just making expensive poop. He feels that the flax probably helps with Izzy's summertime itch, and being on grass hay alone means he's probably not getting enough minerals and vitamins.
As far as the GastroElm, I know that it works when Izzy needs it. I am still trying to determine just how frequently he does need it. For the past three weeks I've given it to him on Saturday after my lesson. So far, that isn't making things worse, but I don't know that he needs it weekly. I need to give it a few more weeks to see if the occasional sloppy poop piles disappear or continue.
Eating really shouldn't be this complicated.
While I am watching my spending - and by watching I mean watching my money stay in the bank, there are still things that must be purchased. With summer just about here, I gritted my teeth and stocked up on a few things.
Fly spray is like buying underwear. You have to have it, and you can't buy the crappy, cheap kind because they either fall apart, in the case of undies, or it just doesn't work; that would be the fly spray. I would rather spend sixty-five bucks on just about anything else though, like these. For where I live, Pyranha works better than just about anything else. On top of that, I have to be careful to avoid products that cause hives. Speedy is very thinned skin, so while I use hardly any fly spray on him, I have to be sure it doesn't cause an allergic reaction. Both of my boys tolerate Pyranha with no adverse reactions. -$$$
The second thing I had to buy was a new bottle of Canter Mane & Tail. My friend Valerie turned me on to this stuff last year. While I still use and love Knotty Horse, it's expensive. The Canter product smells heavenly and works even better than it smells. I find that it really does last for several days. Maybe not the two weeks it says it does, but it is longer lasting than most other conditioner/detanglers that I've tried. Even though it's cheaper than Knotty horse, it's not as cheap as Mane n' Tail, which I use when I need a daily detangler. For this purchase, I bought only the Canter, although I do like to use all three products, depending on the day. -$$
The last thing I threw in was a new hay net. Izzy's has several huge holes which I've stitched back together with baling twine. And no, I am not making that up. For $8.95. I figured I could splurge on a new hay net. Izzy is not the most relaxed horse on the planet, so I have found that keeping a filled hay net where I tack up keeps him busy and relaxed which makes grooming and saddling a much easier affair. However, it means that my hay net takes a beating. This one was pretty cheap, and it has the smaller holes that I find safer to use than the old style nets with hoof sized holes, perfect for getting a hoof through. -$
I know Izzy appreciates the fly spray more than I like new breeches, so that should bring me some happiness. (It doesn't.)
On Friday, I wrote about our Cool Calorie fail. It was disappointing, but the product wasn't to blame. It simply offered Izzy way too much energy for what his body needs. Izzy doesn't need more energy; he needs more mass on his body, more fat, more muscle, but how I get that without adding "energy" is a bit of a conundrum.
The way I understand equine nutrition is this: if your horse is too thin, he needs more food. While Izzy isn't "thin," he also doesn't have anything extra which means he needs at least a bit more food. There are three "types" of food for horses: fiber (hays and other forages), starches (grains like corn, oats, and barley), and fats (oils, rice bran, seeds).
Izzy gets all of the fiber he can eat in the form of a high quality grass hay. The stuff the ranch owner feeds has very little stems, if any, and an abundance of visible green grass blades. There is no part of it that he doesn't like. While starches offer a lot of energy in a small package, most of them are, for Izzy anyway, akin to rocket fuel. I avoid them at all cost, with one exception. Izzy gets several pounds of beet pulp each day. While beet pulp is not technically a starch, its energy level falls just below the starches and just above the forages.
The last type of food stuff, fats, is the one with which I am having the most trouble. Izzy already gets a pound and a half of rice bran daily, but it's not quite enough. If I increase his rice bran, he eats less hay which means his net caloric intake doesn't really increase. What I am looking for is a way to add fat that doesn't cause him to a) explode with uncontainable energy and b) eat less hay.
I was hoping that the Cool Calories would do that, but alas, it did not. To check that Thursday's ride wasn't just due to "one of those days," I did not give Izzy the Cool Calories in his Thursday lunch bucket. On Friday morning, I hopped up on him and found a PERFECT gentleman. In fact, I had to give him a pretty hard kick to get him to even trot. From the moment I got on, he was pliable, malleable, and soft as butter. He was that way on Wednesday, too, as well as over the weekend. Thursday, the morning after the full dose of Cool Calories, was the only day where he was anything but pleasant. While this is a teeny tiny data set from which to draw a conclusion, I am going to anyway. A single scoop of Cool Calories was about the same as giving the Big Brown Horse crack.
The equine community is a great resource though. When I shared Friday's post on my Facebook page, Michelle C. left me a very helpful comment. She's been feeding Nutra-Flax, a milled flaxseed product, to a variety of horses for four or five years and suggested it as a fat source. What finally persuaded me to try the product, besides Michelle's endorsement, was that Nutra-Flax is SUPER stable and comes with a two-year stability/shelf-life guarantee - not that I would let it sit around that long, of course.
I also know that Izzy tolerates flaxseed oil very well, and we all know that it's rich in protein, dietary fiber, and Omega-3 fatty acids. Unlike flaxseed oil, this stuff is easy to feed, and since it's already milled, I can just scoop and top dress his beet pulp and rice bran with no grinding. Cost-wise, it's also really cheap at $0.39 for a two-ounce serving.
Even though I am not 100% sure Izzy will tolerate it, I went ahead and ordered a twenty-five pound pail because I'm going to put Speedy on it as well. I used the flaxseed oil for him during the colder months, and it did help him hold his weight over the winter. A twenty-five pound pail should contain two hundred, two-ounce servings. I'll stick with two ounces for now.
Let's hope the milled flaxseed adds calories but not energy because if not, Speedy's going to be eating flaxseed for six straight months whether he likes it or not!
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: