How to Take a Photo of Your Horse’s Topline

If you’ve ever tried to photograph your horse, you know it can be challenging at times! It takes a lot of patience, time and a little luck. But capturing photos of your horse, especially ‘before and after’ ones, can be very rewarding. It’s exciting to see the progress made from a new feeding regimen, new product or new routine. So to make the task a little easier, we’ve compiled some go-to tips:

• Be safe! Plan plenty of time, patience and have a trusted helper.
•  Use the same plain colored backdrop for each photo (a plain colored door of a barn, garage door, etc).
• Be sure your lighting is bright and consistent every time.
• Be sure you are standing at the same distance every time.
• Be sure that the horse is groomed, and standing square with their poll at the same height for both before and after pictures.
• Try to minimize distractions, crop out the handler, like in the ‘after’ photo below.
• Take a posterior photo to show muscle improvement
• Square the horse up.
• Stand on a stool to be sure you get the right angle.
• Be safe, stand a safe distance behind the horse.
• Keep your backdrop and lighting consistent.

To learn more, visit ToplineBalance.com.

Assessing Your Horse’s Topline

A horse’s topline — the muscles that support the spine, from neck to hindquarters — plays an important role in how a horse performs, looks and feels. But identifying and assessing this area does take a few steps, so we’ve provided some easy guidance! Click below to visit ToplineBalance.com and do an online assessment, with customized feeding recommendations specific to your horse’s needs!

 

 

Biosecurity Tips for Show Season

As we enter into horse show season and County Fairs, it is critical to practice biosecurity measures, including:

  1. Work with your veterinarian to ensure horses are current with recommended vaccines.
  2. Keep sick horses at home. Watch for signs of fever, nasal discharge and diarrhea.
  3. Wash your hands frequently!  Bring water, soap, hand sanitizer, and paper towels with you.
  4. Clean and disinfect stalls, especially built-in feeders, at show facilities. Spray-on commercial disinfectants are readily available. Diluted bleach (8 ounces bleach to 1 gallon of water) is an inexpensive disinfectant; it works best on a surface that has been thoroughly cleaned.
  5. Do not share feed and water buckets, hay bags, grooming tools, tack, or manure forks.
  6. Limit exposure. Do not allow horses to have nose to nose contact. Limit the general public’s contact with your horses.
  7. Upon returning home from a show, wash your hands, shower, and change clothing and shoes before working with horses kept at home.
  8. Isolate returning horses from resident horses for 14 days. Monitor horses daily for signs of fever, nasal discharge, and diarrhea.

Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

This article is reprinted with permission from Krishona Martinson, PhD, University of Minnesota. This and other horse nutrition articles can be found at http://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/horse/nutrition/.

Photo credit: Krishona Martinson, PhD, University of Minnesota

Ask the Expert: Parasites and Pasture Management

Question: My two horses tested high in their fecal egg counts; I dewormed them regularly. We had a mild winter and they were still foraging on the pasture. I am wondering if I am managing their manure badly? We drag the manure piles in the pasture, but are we spreading out the parasite eggs and making it worse?

Answer:                                    Good pasture management can help reduce parasites, especially stronglyes. Strongyle larvae develop within the manure pile, migrate onto pasture forages during wet weather and wait to be ingested by horses. Rotational grazing, avoiding overgrazing and ideal stocking rate can help to reduce strongyles. We recommend initiating grazing when pasture grasses are between 6 to 8” tall and rotating horses to a new pasture (or a drylot) when most of the forage has been grazed down to 3 to 4” tall. A pasture where most of the forage is below 3” tall is considered over‐grazed. This is especially important when managing strongyles as larvae tend to inhabit the lower part of forage plants. Allowing your horses to graze a pasture during the winter months (when forage re‐growth is not possible) may have resulted in over‐grazing and ingestion of parasite eggs. We recommend a stocking rate of 2 acres of pasture per adult horse. If the pasture is well managed, this should result in not needing to supplement hay during the grazing season. Parasite populations tend to be greater if the pasture stocking rates are higher (less than 2 acres per horse), especially in over‐grazed pastures. Since you have two horses, ideally you would have at least 4 acres of pasture.

Dragging is a recommend pasture management activity. Dragging is necessary to disperse manure piles since horses will rarely graze near these areas. However, to help reduce the parasite load, dragging should be reserved for hot and dry periods of the summer. A few weeks of high temperatures and limited rainfall after dragging will help kill strongyle larvae. During this time, it’s important to remove the horses from the pasture. During wet periods, horse owners should remove the manure from the pasture weekly, if possible. This may not be practical in all situations, but may be necessary in high‐risk scenarios.

We suggest you continue to work with your veterinarian and use your fecal egg count results to strategically deworm your horses. Implementing a rotational grazing program, avoiding overgrazing, dragging manure piles during hot and dry periods and confining your horses to the drylot during the winter months should also help reduce the parasite load in your pasture and horses.

This article is reprinted with permission from Krishona Martinson, PhD, University of Minnesota. This and other horse nutrition articles can be found at http://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/horse/nutrition/.

Why Topline is Not Just Important in Show Horses

Having a healthy topline is important for all horses whether they are pleasure horses, show horses or pets. If you go to the gym you will see everyone from the extreme athlete to people recovering from injuries to stay-at-home-moms and elderly people working toward a healthy and strong core for overall health. Horses are similar in that they need a strong core in order for the rest of their bodies to work to properly.

It’s been said that a healthy topline is the key to overall horse health and 7 out of 10 American Association of Equine Practitioners agree. The rest of your horse’s body can’t work to its maximum potential if his core isn’t strong. Even if you have an idle horse that’s recovering from injury or has had the winter off he will come back into work more safely and quickly if you keep up with a balanced diet that’s supportive of his topline health while he’s taking a break.

No matter what job your horse has, he will be feeling and/or performing his best if his overall health is the best it can be. That all starts with a diet that is supportive of his topline. Your lesson horses and trail horses may work just as hard as the elite show jumpers and you as their care taker want them feeling and looking their best no matter what their job is. Even the retired horse will age more gracefully and without compromising stature if their topline is maintained through diet.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein which provide for the building of muscle supporting the topline. Feeding a feed that is specifically formulated to support these muscles in the correct ratios for your horse is the best way to support his overall health. Nutrena has solutions for all types of horses; the senior, the athlete, the easy keeper, and the maintenance horse with our SafeChoice and ProForce lines as well as with our Empower Balance diet balancer. Talk with an equine specialist today to help determine the best feeding program for your horse to help support a strong and healthy topline.

To learn more, visit ToplineBalance.com.

3 Tips for Better Horse Photos

Article by: Shelley Paulson, Equestrian Photographer

We all love our horses and want to remember them forever, so we take lots and lots of photos of them! But the truth is, horses are not easy to photograph! Their long faces and bodies are prone to distortion, they don’t stand very still, and getting their ears up can be a challenge.

Here are 3 simple tips to help you make better photos of your horse. I’ll be sharing example photos I’ve taken of my own horse, Fritzie, a 10 year old solid paint bred mare.

Tip One: Find the Light

Light is everything in photography. In fact, even the word photography means “drawing with light”. Without enough light, your photos will be grainy. Horses don’t stand very still, so we need ample light so the camera can capture their movement.

I recommend photographing horses outdoors whenever possible. Put the sun behind you and the horse in front of you to capture colorful, sharp photos of your beautiful animal. Wait for “golden hour” just before sunset, and you will get a golden glow to the light.

Tip Two: Find a Flattering Angle

Photographer Chase Jarvis coined the phrase, “The best camera is the one you have with you.” He was, of course, referring to our cell phones.

But the big challenge in photographing horses with a cell phone cameras is that the built in cell phone lens is considered “wide angle.” Wide angle lenses make near things large and far things small. This means that when you photograph a horse straight on, he will have a large head and small body, especially if you are close.

The easiest way to solve this problem, is to turn your horse sideways, the wide angle distortion is minimized and your horse can look like a horse and not a bobble-head-giraffe.

If you are using a DSLR, or camera with a built in zoom lens, you simply need to step back and zoom in to solve the distortion problem. I generally recommend photographing horses at 100mm or more to keep their bodies in proportion.

Tip Three: Get the Ears Up

Let’s face it, horses look better with their ears forward – it’s like the equivalent of a smile in humans. But you can exhaust yourself dancing around with treats and buckets of grain, trying to get your horse to put their ears up. I have a simple technique that works for virtually every horse – playing the sound of horse whinnies!

An equine photographer has even created a clever cell phone App called “All Ears Selfie” that plays various horse sounds (dog sounds too!) while also allowing you to be in camera mode! But be ready, some horses get excited when they hear the whinny of a stranger! http://www.allearsapp.com

Now that you have some fresh ideas how to take better photos of your horse, get out there and do it! We can never take too many photos of the ones we love!

Shelley Paulson is a Minnesota-Based Equestrian photographer, specializing in creating meaningful images that capture the emotional bond between people and their horses. http://www.shelleypaulson.com

Ask the Expert: When to Start Grazing

Question:  I’ve heard conflicting recommendations on when to start grazing my horses.   Is April 1st too early to start grazing?
 
Answer:  Spring grazing should be introduced slowly and delayed until grasses reach 6 to 8″ to optimize both the health of the horse and pasture.  Calendar date is not important as weather conditions and grass growth can very greatly from year to year.

When pastures reach 6 to 8″, begin grazing for 15 minutes, increasing the grazing time each day by 15 minutes until 4 to 5 hours of consecutive grazing is reached. After that, unrestricted or continuous grazing can resume.

We also recommend feeding horses their normal hay diet before turning them out to pasture during the first several grazing events of the year.  This strategy should help avoid rapid intake of pasture grasses.

Even though hay and pasture are both forms of forages, there are significant differences. A gradual change from one feedstuff to another provides enough time for the microbial populations to adjust, reducing the chance of colic and laminitis.

This article is reprinted with permission from Krishona Martinson, PhD, University of Minnesota. This and other horse nutrition articles can be found at http://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/horse/nutrition/.

Heat Stress in Horses

Riding your horse can be a thing of beauty as a graceful gallop around the track can show off the muscular majesty of a horse. Even the most athletic horse however, can suffer from heat stress. It’s especially common in hot weather, and can be extremely dangerous health issue to your horse.

If your horse is showing signs of heat stress, this should be treated immediately using some of the cooling techniques providing in the guide below. If not treated properly and the symptoms continue or worsen, it can lead to damage in the heart, central nervous system, respiratory system, kidneys and liver.

The guide below presents information on the things that can cause heat stress, along with signs to look for, suggestions on treatment, and steps to prevent potential heat stress from occurring in the future.

Heat Stress Guide created by: The Best Ever Pads

Exercise and Its Role in Your Horse’s Topline

A common misperception about topline is that it can be improved through exercise alone. Lack of exercise – or the wrong type of exercise is often blamed for a poor topline. While exercise alters existing muscles, building new muscles is a different story. The nutritional building blocks of muscle (essential amino acids) must be present in sufficient quantities and balanced with adequate calories to rebuild or augment muscle tissue. In fact, if a horse is worked hard but his diet lacks sufficient amino acids, existing muscle mass can shrink. This can be a slippery slope in some situations, and as muscle atrophy sets in, the belief is that the horse needs to work even harder when in fact the fuel is not present (in the form of nutrition) to help support and repair tissue that is broken down with exercise. Just like human athletes, athletic equine partners need more essential amino acids than maintenance horses to maximize the effects of training and allow the horse to look and feel its best.

Certain exercises are thought to improve topline include hill work, backing exercises, and those that encourage the horse to collect and arc the body. These exercises can help condition muscles, but only if the diet is supporting the muscles through proper nutrition.

To learn more, visit ToplineBalance.com.