Monthly Archives: January 2015

Separation anxiety- what causes it, and how can we help our horses?

Calling horseHow many horses do you know that neigh frantically, fence walking and showing signs of extreme stress when their friend is taken away from them?

Many horses suffer from ‘separation anxiety’ – either when they are left on their own, or taken away from their companions. In some cases even if other horses are present they can get very distressed if a chosen ‘friend’ is separated from them, screaming, rushing around, refusing to eat, and getting very agitated.  It is very upsetting for both horse and owner, and the increased risk of injury or stress related illness can be a problem.

As herd animals, most horses dislike being alone and develop very strong friendship bonds, becoming very upset when they are taken away from their mate. For this reason, it is common practice for Racehorses to have a companion pony or animal with them when they are travelling around, to reduce stress:  even dogs, chickens and monkeys have been used!

Common causes of equine separation distress

There are several scenarios when separation anxiety is more likely to occur, and by knowing when these are we can try to reduce the stress for our horses. A very common cause of anxiety is mare and foal separation during weaning, separation of closely bonded pairs of mares, and separation of an alpha male (often a gelding) from his group of mares (even geldings cut at a young age may show stallion-like tenancies if turned out with a group of mares and take on a role of ‘protector of the herd’).

How can we help?

A certain degree of separation anxiety is inevitable, especially with highly strung breeds, as living in a herd with specific social ties is innate behaviour for horses. However, past experiences also have major effects on whether or not your horse shows any anxious behaviour if separated from a friend.

As owners, we can help our horses by making sure that from a young age any necessary separation undertaken is as stress free as possible: try to get the horse to associate being alone with something positive, such as being fed treats or being groomed.

  • When weaning foals, do it gradually and keep the foals in groups near their dams to minimise any stress.
  • If possible when first turning a horse out on their own, chose a warm sunny day, and make sure they are in a field with plenty of grass to keep them amused!
  • If the horse behaves on their own, reunite them with their mate after 30 minutes or so, before any bad behaviour occurs, making single turnout/stabling a positive experience.
  • Try to avoid making an issue of everyday situations, ensure that they are not turned out/ brought in on their own, and try to find somewhere to keep them were it is unlikely that all horses visible on the yard would be taken away at once.

Supplements to reduce anxiety

Even when you do everything right and try your hardest to keep separation stress to a minimum, some horses have a nervous disposition and do not do well on their own. If you know your horse has anxious tenancies, feeding a calming supplement on a daily basis can have a positive effect, making the situation much less stressful for the horse. Steady-Up Advance is a very effective calmer, providing B-vitamins and two types of magnesium to help reduce stress, as well as  naturally occurring tryptophan, an amino acid which encourages serotonin release (the happy hormone!) and calming herbs to promote calm relaxed behaviour.

If you don’t often need to separate your horse from a companion, or you have never done it before, a high strength one-off calmer may be a better option. Feedmark’s MagnaFeed is a fast-acting calming syringe, containing highly available magnesium combined with antioxidants. This is best given an hour before the separation occurs, as a quick and natural way to reduce stress.

Olivia Colton MSc, Nutritional and Technical Co-ordinator

India Thomson – Winter work

Mr B BM

Mr B at Burnham Market a the end of last season

 

It’s been a little while since my last blog as it’s been fairly quiet on the competition front. All of the horses have enjoyed a holiday and having a few easier weeks. We’ve been doing plenty of roadwork for the last couple of months and that’s always character building this time of year! My brilliant groom Tilly and I have developed lots of coping strategies to plodding round the roads in the pouring rain and howling wind on half fit fresh horses, mainly trying to imagine the noise of the rain hammering down is in fact the gentle sound of waves lapping up the beach in a gorgeous hot country…..Usually the promise of our village shops amazing brownies at the end of the day does more to lift our spirits however! We’ve had some fairly exciting rides over the past few weeks as they’re all getting fit enough to feel very well but not quite fit enough to do enough work to keep them on the straight and narrow. Spider has been on particularly good form, having picked up a minor injury in the field last autumn his return to work has been fairly exciting, he’s certainly retained his sense of humour. It became clear fairly quickly that restricted exercise was best carried out on board, his kind attempts to hug and high five you were less than gratefully received from the ground! After a few weeks of neck strap moments he is looking better than ever and feeling fantastic, he is due to have his first jump this week (cue more next strap moments!) and I can’t wait to get him out again, I’ve always been very fond of him and it will be great to get him to an event again. We have two very exciting new horses in the shape of ‘Pop’ owned by Martha Craggs who is very aptly named as she really is the most incredible jumper. I have the job of doing her first few events whilst Martha concentrates on her last season on Ponies before she takes on Pop to contest juniors, she is a very exciting horse and I’m really looking forward to watching them progress together, fingers crossed they will have an exciting future together. ‘Cairo’ is a lovely young horse rising five this time who looks to have all the makings of a very smart horse, He will aim for some Burghley young event horse classes and BE100s. He has a big frame to fill and plenty of developing still to do but I think could be a really smart prospect and one I’m really looking forward to. I have a new ride in Caroline Parker’s ‘Adamstown Rebel’, he has come through my good friend Jo Williams who has a very good BE100 record with him. He is a lovely horse, quite sensitive but a real trier. I’ve been hunting him to help develop a good partnership with him where he gives an amazing feel of power and boldness. I’m keeping my fingers crossed this transfers to him trusting me at an event, he is blessed with plenty of talent but lacks confidence so we shall see. Plans are fairly fluid with him at the moment having not done an event with him before but I’d hope he’d progress and get established at Novice level fairly quickly. Mr B is getting back in the swing of things now and enjoyed his long holiday, I wanted to give him plenty of time to let down so he comes back physically and mentally fresh this season. So far he’s feeling good, though still sporting the hairy feral look, the frosty weather has put us a few canters behind schedule which is frustrating but being an ex racehorse he maintains a base level fitness better than the other horses anyway so I’m not too concerned. I always makes plans A, B, C and D with Mr B as you never quite know how he’s going to come out but I hope to build on his good form last year and aim for a 2* this season. I would love to take him back to Houghton Hall as he went so well there last year but it will come quite early in the season and everything in plan A will have to go well in order to get qualified and go there on form so we’ll take it event by event and keep our fingers and toes crossed! Dora is having a great time at home with her owner hunting and show jumping. I took her for her first days hunting and I can honestly say I’ve never sat on such an impeccably behaved lovely hunter as her, she was just a joy to have out. The whole field could canter off in front of her and she wouldn’t move a muscle until you said so, they don’t come along like that very often! I’ve had a couple of days on her since she’s gone home and it’s doing her the world of good. There is nowhere better than the hunting field to teach horses to think for themselves and give them confidence.

I’d planned to have a few quiet weeks during the off season but it hasn’t quite worked out having had 10 in work for quite a few of the ‘quiet weeks’! I did however manage to escape the winter for a few days in Italy which was lovely and have tried to make time to go and visit a few friends over the winter. Whilst staying with a friend in Lambourn last week I got talked into riding out in the morning, having borrowed some kit I ended up riding out first lot for Charlie Hills on a three year old filly named ‘Hundi’. I look forward to following her progress as everyone in the yard spoke very highly of her. It was really fun to do something different and when they said “we’re just cantering” I forgot I was sitting on a flat racehorse, they go jolly fast when they’re “just cantering”!! Now all energies and focus lead to March and Isleham where we will hopefully start the 2015 season. You spend the winter dreaming of what might be next season, now I can’t wait to crack on and make it as good as we possibly can, fingers crossed!

Mr B Snooze

Mr B having a snooze

 

Horse Of The Week – Breeze.

Breeze…

4-year-old, Breeze.

4-year-old, Breeze.

Breeze is a 4-year-old, Thoroughbred cross, who for the last 18 months has been owned by Natalie Walters.

Natalie explains “Breeze had an accident as a small foal, and has since undergone various treatments to help her body cope with the changes she goes through as she grows and begins her ridden training. Benevit Advance keeps her in tip top condition! I have to say it’s simply great! Breeze lives out all year and is barefoot, and she now has a beautiful shiny coat and very strong feet. I have been told on numerous occasions how well she looks. I wouldn’t use any other supplement to provide all round vitamins and minerals. We are both looking forward to what 2015 brings us as a team. Thank you Feedmark.”

A FREE 5kg Benevit Advance is on its way to Breeze, for being our Horse Of The Week.

Each week, the Feedmark team select a horse of the week from reviews, letters and emails sent to them. If you would like your horse to feature, then please send your horse’s details in to [email protected] or go online and write a review.

Horse Of The Week – Mighty.

Monty…

Helen exercising Monty in the school.

Helen exercising Monty in the school.

Mighty (Monty to his friends) is a 16.3hh, 23-year-old Thoroughbred cross. He has been owned for the last 4 years by Helen Williams.

Helen explains “Original Balancer worked magically on Monty. He arrived in a very poor state, but once we had started to the feed the Original Balancer his condition improved before our eyes! He has never looked so good. This supplement smells great too!”

A FREE 5.1kg Original Balancer is on its way to Monty, for being our Horse Of The Week!

Each week, the Feedmark team select a horse of the week from reviews, letters and emails sent to them. If you would like your horse to feature, then please send your horse’s details in to [email protected] or go online and write a review.

Horse Of The Week – Bobby.

Bobby…

Bobby is a 'great schoolmaster'.

Bobby is a great schoolmaster.

Bobby is a 13 year old pony, owned for the last 7 years by Elaine Smillie, and her daughter Shannan. He was Shannan’s first pony when she was 12-years-old, and he excelled in show jumping and cross country. Shannan is now too old to compete on Bobby, but there is a young chap named Matthew lined up to be his next competition rider.

Elaine explains: “Seven summers ago, Bobby lost most of his mane and all his feathers. I decided to give EquiDermis Plus a try to prevent him having another miserable summer. Now EquiDermis Plus is a part of his every day feeding routine, even through the winter months. I cannot recommend this product highly enough, Bobby would be a very unhappy pony without it. He is such a kind and gentle guy who is loved by everyone”.

A FREE 4kg Equidermis Plus is on its way to Bobby, for being our Horse Of The Week!

Each week, the Feedmark team select a horse of the week from reviews, letters and emails sent to them. If you would like your horse to feature, then please send your horse’s details in to [email protected] or go online and write a review.

 

Happy New Year from Annie Joppie (Endurance Rider)

AJ Jan 2015

Happy New Year!  Many, many thanks to Feedmark for their invaluable support throughout 2014.  Without the Gastric Comfort Dilmun has been on, I doubt he would even have qualified for WEG never mind being selected and competing at WEG.  This particular product has turned him around.  Prior to feeding this, his heart rate would rise in the vetgate after cantering around a loop and then being fed.  It became apparent that this was because of gastric ulcers and Gastric Comfort was the perfect product to combat his discomfort.  This year there has been absolutely no hint of a raised pulse after eating and his presentation times have been amazing.

Since my last blog, the ‘boys’ have continued their holiday and Wizard has had some fun outings.

A couple of weeks after Wiz arriving back here we entered a dressage competition.  This was part of my mission to give Wiz as many outings as possible as he just loves going places and seeing things; it makes him feel important.  This was local to us so I decided to go at the last minute (no practice or anything) and as it was only a short hack in endurance terms, I rode him there along the muddy tracks and through the river.  Obviously I had arranged for the husband to meet me there with my jacket and the odd sponge and brush to just clean Wiz off a bit especially as he is nearly white and every little mark shows.  We duly rocked up some 40 minutes later to see Robert already there but unfortunately without anything to clean up Wizard.  Luckily his Arab plait had stayed in so he didn’t really look too bad and I managed to rub off most of the mud with my hands.

OK now to warm up.  Into the outdoor school we went with several rather superior-looking horses marching around purposefully.  No sooner had we completed the first trot circle then we were called and had to go straight away into the indoor school to strut our stuff.  Now, the biggest question of all, would I be able to remember the test bearing in mind that I hadn’t ridden it for years and had just read through it?  I was inspired, Wizard was inspired and between the two of us we completed it from start to finish without going wrong and only a couple of tiny hesitations.  I really should have been confident as the markers in a dressage arena are so much bigger than those in an endurance competition!  I rode home the long way round to give Wiz a bit of fitness training and a chance to let off steam.  When I came back later to pick up my dressage sheet, I was pleasantly surprised with Wizard’s score of nearly 70% and a ‘winner’ rosette!

Wizard is the sort of horse that thrives on variety and absolutely loves to go out in the trailer to new places.  Lanhydrock Christmas ride was no exception.  My crew, Kiwi, has been given a lovely young Connemara and Lanhydrock was to be his first outing.  Wizard saw him going into the trailer first and literally dragged me up the ramp obviously dead scared of being left out!  It was a fabulous ride and, as always, the weather was perfect.  Lots of funky Christmas costumes and tinsel and, for Wizard, the memorable part was galloping through the wonderful parkland at Lanhydrock jumping the occasional log

Now it’s back to the basic fitness work for Fantom.  He has now been walking on the lanes for nearly a week and has got up to 30 minute sessions.  This will gradually increase for the next week or so with trot, again on the lanes, gradually being introduced.  Dilmun has another month off as his first main competition planned is in May and he has no qualms about being roughed off and out in the field whereas Fantom just gets bored.  I had planned another dressage outing with Wizard but am not quite sure that I will have time to even learn the test at the moment so we’ll see and, as we will probably step up a level, I think that this is the least I should do!

Well it’s a new year, I have a new crew (partially), a new ‘top’ horse in Fantom, a new Championship to try for and, who knows, a medal?!