Author: Belinda

Saddle Fit – why it is important for your horse

Why is my horse’s saddle fit so important?

After years of working on horses and helping them with their pain issues, so many times it comes down to incorrect saddle fit when a horse has issues. I offer a free saddle check (as I have studied this along with my bodywork course) with your Equine Touch Consult, as this can help me (& you) see if that is the issue that may be affecting your horse’s performance & causing pain. Then I can either recommend to you that you need a different gullet size, or your saddle is just not right for your horse, or if you need a saddle fitter to adjust your saddle for you or re-flock.

Does your horse misbehave or move around when you saddle up? Your horse will tell you if he does not like a saddle – listen to him/her.

How about his behavior when you first get on? I mean the first 8-10 circles, not after he/she has ‘warmed up’ – as after 20min riding the nerves that the saddle may be pressing on may go numb & then the behavior improves. 

If the nerves at the end of a muscle cannot fire – as they are numb, the horse cannot contract the muscles – then the horse compensates with other muscles & the important muscles atrophy (for example loss of top line). For a capillary to close it only needs 4.66kp of pressure in both skin and muscle. Localized pressure from a saddle and rider usually is higher than 29.8kpa, so you can see how this can cause damage.

Horses are not always 100% symmetrical, why are saddles even/same on both sides? Saddle will slip to the hollow side. Shim used on the hollow side can help keep the saddle straight & balanced.

White patches or white hair in saddle area? This is a sure sign the saddle is causing damage to your horse’s back, this is long term damage & needs a few sessions or regular Equine Touch sessions to help (soft tissue bodywork is needed in this circumstance – not chiro). Saddle fit is needed asap.

Hollow back or U neck? The horse needs to be able to lift his back and engage the thoracic sling, this is achieved with the rider’s correct position and riding ‘light’ in the seat (no matter what size you are). Find a great riding instructor to help you with this.

Front end High heal, low heal syndrome is quite common & this in turn affects your horse’s body. Horse will graze with weaker side leg forward and the weaker side will build more muscles at the shoulder /scapular – as muscle grows bigger when it is stretched. Favorite side will have less muscle (yep opposite to what you think happens).

What side does your horse’s mane fall on? The bigger (weaker) shoulder will then push mane to the opposite side of the neck, so the fall of the mane is on the stronger side.  Seven out of ten horses have a mane to the right, two fall to the left and one splits even on both sides.

Can I just ‘train’ my horse to go straight? No, you cannot just train a horse straight, as bones and muscles develop like that – unbalanced/asymmetrical, especially young horses or horses started before they are 4 years with poor fitting saddles or unbalanced riders or low heal/ high heal syndrome.

Some important things you can check on your saddle are.

Saddle Channel width must be at least a closed fist wide to prevent nerve damage and loss of top line. A narrow channel will pull down on the spinal processes and in turn cause damage to the back and may lead to ‘kissing spine’ issues.

Angle of the tree is just as important as the angel of the gullet over the scapula The scapula moves around 4-6 inchers when the horse moves & you cannot put the saddle that far back, so you must have a saddle with room at the front for the shoulder to move under.  Tight saddles can damage the cartilage on the top of the scapular – this is not repairable. Horse that may refuse to go forward or jack up – may have a saddle that is too tight.

Contact Belinda if you would like to book an Equine Touch session with a free saddle check.

Why feed your dog a Natural Raw Diet?

Dogs are omnivores and are designed to eat a balanced raw meat diet with vegetables and fruit. Feeding dogs one food group like all meat or all vegetables creates imbalances and can contribute to illnesses. A safe diet is a balance of different raw meats (beef, chicken, lamb etc), raw bones, fish, suitable vegetables, grains etc (what you would find in the gut of a bird or animal they would eat in the wild) & can be fed along with a Suitable Canine Health Supplement.

Canine Health Products

For a natural diet, it’s recommended to avoid all processed commercial dog feeds, as its like eating junk food everyday – its not good for humans or dogs. Protein requirement of feed is 22% for growth and reproduction and 18% for adult dogs.
A dogs feed requirement is affected by age, neutering status, physiologic status (growth, gestation, lactation, etc), physical activity, environmental temperature, and any underlying abnormalities. Not one amount of feed suits all, amount of feed is adjusted depending on the dog’s size and body condition. For example, an active border collie needs more feed than a lazy Labrador.
Please contact Belinda for a balanced Natural Raw Diet plan for your canine or click here for payment and form.

Is your horse in Pain? How to check your horse.

Checking your horse for pain issues is a complicated process that does require an experienced qualified person or vet to make a full assessment. There are things you, the horse owner can do & observe too to check for pain issues. The first sign can be observing your horse in the pasture and when your horse is moving around when being worked on the ground and when being ridden.
Things to look for are.
Are they holding or bracing any part of their body?
Are they limping or look uncomfortable?
Do they have any behavioural issues?
Is there body symmetrical (stand in front of your horse and check the way they hold their head) – does it hang to one side?
Do they cock their tail to the side when being ridden or tail swishing?
Do they rest one leg more than another?
Do their hooves wear unevenly? Or toes drag?

Not sure if you need a bodywork session? Here are a few basic tips you can use to help assess your horse to see if they need a soft tissue bodywork session, please note not all horses will show pain with these checks – its best to employ and practitioner to double check for you. Keep your eye on your horse’s face, ear’s and nose & body posture for any signs of discomfort.
1. Stand your horse on a level surface. Tie your horse up or have someone hold your horse for you.
2. Slowly run your hands over the horse and feel for hot or cold areas or any areas that may have a reaction.
3. Pick up each leg and feel for any tightness or restrictions.
4. Press your thumb or finger firmly into the areas with the arrows (see photo)
5. Run your fingernail or tip of a pen lid (you need something pointy) in the head to tail (caudal direction) or top to bottom, along the yellow lines.
6. Run your finger firmly along the green lines in a caudal direction.
What reactions do you get? Did you horse twitch or move? Did your horse throw his head or try to kick or bite? Did you feel any tight or cold areas? Did you see any nerves twitch?
Please seek professional help if you are unsure how to check your horse. Definity book a soft tissues bodywork session with your local practitioner.
Please feel free to ask Belinda during an Equine Touch session how to check your horse’s pain or how to help prevent pain issues. Free Saddle check and basic check with your Equine Touch session.

Feeding the ‘Good Doer’

For all the horse owners that have ponies or miniatures that you struggle to keep the weight off then this information is for you. With over 22 + years’ experience in owning and breeding show quality miniature ponies & horses and Welsh cobs I have learnt so much about weight management. Along with my Equine Nutrition qualifications, pasture management and focus on natural diets I would love to share my knowledge, so you do not need to spend years battling with weight control with your ponies.

Firstly, you need to look at what you are feeding now and work out where the calories are coming from and reduce where possible. Let’s take a closer look & check out the alternatives.

  1. Pasture – this will vary depending where you live and what type of grasses your horse is grazing on. Cool season C3 grasses (like rye grass & clover) are higher in feed quality and unfortunately sugar (fructan). Warm season and tropical grasses C4 are usually lower in sugar, but can contain oxalates.

What to feed good doers? Preferred grass & hay for good doers included Rouges grass, teff hay, lucerne hay (in moderation as its fattening), timothy hay, diget grass or some native grasses. Straw is also a option for roughage, headed ryegrass straw, barley or oaten straw (no grain) are also options so your horse has something to chew on.

When to graze? Early morning is best, 2 hours before sunrise and 2/3 hours after sunrise. Why you ask? The sun causes the carbohydrates/sugar in the grass to rise as the plants photosynthesize during the day and are the highest late afternoon and evening. Then the plant uses these sugars up overnight for growth. If you are restricting your horses grass intake, then confining at night with low sugar hay to eat is the best.

  1. Hay – Is your hay low NSC? Safe hays for horses include Roges Grass, diget grass, teff hay and lucerne hay. Please note Lucerne hay is also fattening & high in protein and some horses can scour or get colic if they do not tolerate lucerne – limit the amounts for good doers. The high protein can also cause nitrate accumulations.

The quantity of hay is also important, the horse needs to consume around 1.5% to 2% (average 1.7%) of their bodyweight daily of dry feed (this includes pasture, hard feeds and hay). This is around 1.7kg per 100kg of bodyweight) For example a 500kg horse would need around 8.5kg of feed per day (dry weight).  If your horse is on pasture, this intake will vary depending on the pasture quality, poor may only contrite as little as 2kg per day or good/excellent pasture can be around 11kg per day. If your horse is on little grass or no grass, then offering the hay in slow feeder nets can help spread the intake over the day/night.

  1. Hard feeds – What is in the feeds you are giving? Are you feeding high calorie feeds or grains? If you have a fat or well rounded horse or pony then you should not be feeding pellets, processed feeds, grains or molasses base feeds – yes even the ones that have the laminitis ‘tick’ on the bag. When this came out the level of NCS to qualify was 40% NSC & we now know that you need to keep the NSC under 12% if possible, & under 10% for laminitis prone horses and ponies. Check the label very carefully, if it contains fillers or ‘mill run’ or molasses / sugar or any grain then look at removing that from your ‘good doers’ diet.

What to feed? A basic diet that contains plenty of fiber (pasture, hay, chaff, quality soy, copra), correct level of protein and balanced vitamins and minerals like Belinda’s Custom Loose Lick or Belinda’s Amazing Minerals Plus. Remember to look at feeding the 1.5% of bodyweight of dry matter per day.

  1. Oils? These add fat to the diet and not needed in most cased for fat horses. Exception being horses on no grass may need omegas.

In conclusion taking a close look at amounts and other feeds that might be contributing to your horses expanding weight. Never starve the weight off your horse, this can have dire consequences like hyperlipemia, ulcers, colic and other health issues. Exercise and movement are also important to keep the body functioning and help shift weight.

Please remember when you horse is on a ‘restricted’ diet you are offering Belinda’s Loose Lick ad-lib as your horse still needs quality vitamins and minerals to help balance a bland or basic diet. A balanced diet helps your horses body function correctly and contributes to a shiny coat and healthy hooves along with a healthy immune system to fight of any ailments.

Belinda Atkinson – Qualified Animal Nutritionist


Feeding senior horses a natural balanced diet

When looking at your senior horses diet there is a few things to check & rule out first.
– Dental care
– Worm burden
– Pain issues (bodywork)
– Environment (companion or availability of feed/pastures, low stress)
– Health (Cushing’s disease or arthritis are common in horses over 18 years old & can affect younger horses as well – seek veterinary advice on diagnosing these conditions).
– Regular feeding 2 (to 4) x a day depending on situation. Ad-lib hay or grass 24/7. Guide is 2% of your horses body weight per day (10kg for a 500kg horse).
If you have addressed and checked all of the above, then you can look at adjusting the diet to fit your horses age, situation and horse’s health. The poor gut function along with teeth issues can contribute to poor condition and the need to feed larger quantities of feed to an aged horse.
We have several older horses here, Beau (in photo – has no front teeth left, molars ok) is 39 years old this year (2020), we also have a 23 year old retired broodmare (that’s is insulin resistant, has arthritis and mild Cushing’s symptoms), 22 year old stallion (healthy), and a few miniature ponies in their late teens.

Senior horse feeding

Winter coat and condition on Beau 39 year old pony

This is what I feed to my old horses & it varies during the year depending on the availability of pasture and pasture quality. I will give you a couple of options that I adjust during the year.
Winter feeding for older horses
Quality pasture over 5cm in high available 24/7 if your horse can not eat / chew hay. Or ad-lib soft type hay like mixed pasture hay. If your older horse needs weight management then use a large hole slow feeder hay net.
Winter hard feed – fed twice a day
Copra & maxisoy (soaked to a mash with warm water)
Chaff selected on your horses requirements (my old horse has oaten chaff & option for Cushing’s low sugar chaff like rye Straw chaff or wheaten chaff
Whole lupins (soaked till soft)
Canola meal (to add fat)
Belinda’s Amazing Minerals Plus dose in feed & also Belinda’s Loose Lick ad-lib.  Note; BAM+ will help with nutrient absorption, gut health and the availability of the vitamins and minerals in the supplement – great for older or growing horses.
That’s it, balanced and keeps weight on during winter – KIS (keep it simple) is my feeding belief. This diet will also apply in Summer when we have no green grass & may add lucerne chaff as well. Please note some old horses or Cushing’s horses get scours or cannot tolerate lucerne (some will get colic) so be careful.
For Spring and times of adequate grass – only feed once a day if your horses weight is good
Copra (soaked)
Chaff – oaten
Belinda’s Amazing Minerals Plus in feed & Belinda’s Loose Lick ad-lib
This is what works for my horses in my situation and amounts are adjusted depending on body condition.

Photos of our 22 year old stallions top line and shiny winter coat & 23 year old broodmare that’s IR (suspected Cushing’s)

For customised diet advice, book a nutrition consult today. Full natural affordable diet plan tailored to your needs just $110 – you may just save $100’s off your feed costs & have a healthy horse (less vet bills).