More and more horse owners are turning to alternative therapies to enhance the health and well-being of their equine companions. Many believe - as Jenny Morgan does - that horses kept in a healthy, all-natural environment have fewer health problems. Thus, this essential reference for horse owners begins with preventive care. Natural Healing for Horses teaches how to know a horse thoroughly, from forelock to fetlock; understand a horse's moods and immediately recognize the slightest change in appearance or behavior; build a stabling system that has proper space, drainage, and safety; select the ideal pasture location; and develop affordable and natural routines for exercising, feeding, watering, and grooming horses kept in a stable or at pasture.
The second section of this book addresses specific health issues and suggested therapies, including herbal and homeopathic treatments, chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, and aromatherapy, as well as standard veterinary treatments.
Whatever the need, Morgan provides all the information necessary to choose the right natural treatment to improve a horse's general well-being or solve particular health problems.
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Jenny Morgan is a respected authority on natural health care and herbal medicine for animals and is the author of Herbs for Horses and Showing Native Ponies. She lives in the United Kingdom, where she has kept and shown Welsh ponies for more than twenty years.
Jan Agar Bergeron, DVM, served for many years on the faculty of Duke University Medical School. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association and maintains the AltVetMed Web site with Dr. Susan Wynn.
Chapter 3 - Exercise and Fitness
In their natural state horses naturally move around for most of the day and possibly some of the night. Confined in a stable for at least part of the day, a horse needs additional exercise if he is to avoid becoming stiff and overweight, and losing muscle tone. Indeed, it can be dangerous for a horse to stand in a stable for several days in a row, unless it is absolutely necessary because of illness or injury.
Even a sick horse can benefit from being led out in hand for as much as the vet allows. Standing motionless or almost motionless for hours on end slows down the circulation, which can lead to a build up of toxins. When a horse stands for any length of time (as in a human being confined to bed) muscle tone is lost, and this in turn weakens the whole body. When the horse starts to work again, he will be more susceptible to injury. He will also be vulnerable to cold when he first goes out if the weather is bad. Digestive problems can occur. A healthy but inactive horse may well put on weight.
Fitness for the job
The level of fitness your horse needs is very much dependent on the job he is required to do. For example, a child's pony does not require the same reserves of speed and stamina as a racehorse. There is also the temperament and type to consider. A hardy pony, used mainly for gentle leisure riding, who keeps himself fairly active in the field does not require a specific program of fitness training for him to be able to complete his work satisfactorily. However, if he is going off for a week's trekking or trail-riding and will be ridden there for several hours every day, he will require more work in the weeks preceding in order to prepare him to cope adequately with the workload.
A horse that is to compete in an eventing competition, for example, in three months' time, requires a much more rigorous and well-planned program to ensure that he will be able to cope on the day. This should include a mixture of different types of work, including later in his training, galloping and jumping. His feeding regime needs to change to accommodate the additional work, and he may also be clipped, further increasing his food requirements.
So how do you assess your horse's fitness to do any particular job? If you are a top-class eventer or show jumper, you will already know. However, these people make up a very small part of the horse-owning population and the rest of us need more guidance. It is to be hoped that you will have purchased your horse with his eventual job in mind. If you want to go eventing, especially if you are aiming for any degree of success in competition, you will not buy a heavy horse or a pony. You will buy a Thoroughbred or a warmblood, such as a Hanoverian, who will have the potential heart and lung capacity to be trained up to peak fitness for his job. If you only want to go riding once a week, then the degree of fitness achieved by just being in the field on the other days will
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