Archives for category: Trail riding

In my first report, I alluded that a healthy sound horse was necessary for trail riding.
In veterinary medicine soundness refers to limb, wind, and reproduction.
I will touch on limb soundness and the problems that can be created.

I am often asked to evaluate the way of going in many horses.
Let me say first off-over 75% of traveling issues in the equine are said to be below the fetlock.
At a recent organized trail ride I was asked to evaluate two horses
owned by different people from different parts of the state.

Both horses issues were caused by poor hoof trimming and shoeing techniques creating unsoundness.

The first patient was an elderly horse that the owner reported had been
recently shod in the last 4 weeks. The highlights are as follows:

1. To my eye it looked like it was fourteen weeks since the last rest! -by the way the hoof had overgrown (forged) around the shoe.
2. The shoes on the hooves appeared to be a full two sizes smaller than what the bearing surface called for and thus failed to give proper branch and heel support-
This did result in flexor tendon stress issues and resulted in under- run heels.
3. There were profound medial-lateral imbalances on all four hooves.
4. Every nail hole on every shoe was utilized- This contributes to heel contracture by restricted normal hoof wall expansive dynamics this was confounded by the too small shoes. I, as others, feel that for 99% of the time-the rear nail holes are only to be used under special circumstances.

I know of a farrier who applies shoes with only 5 nails and they hold as well if not better than using more nails!

The second patient was having a hard time on the trail- abruptly stopping and holding up a front
leg as if waving it, stretching out and becoming drawn up in the flanks.
This middle-aged horse was in the early stages of tying-up.
Upon careful examination of this horse’s recently shod hooves it was apparent the horseshoes were nailed about 30 degrees off center( the tip of the frog is not centered with the toe of the shoe) and like the first case there were imbalances and all nail holes were used (see image below).

Also the frog was unnecessarily severely pared back. This horse experienced much pain and discomfort to the point of stalling and rearing on the trail. The digital pulses were bounding in all four limbs. Fortunately the rider voluntarily dismounted before his mount crashed or he was involuntary ejected and prematurely met terra-firma.

My opinion based on over forty years experience –

Shoeing of most horses is an evil, though necessary at times. (DISCLAIMER: Use,conformation, and regional environments temper the preceding statements).

Most of my patients do better in the long-term going barefoot with regular conservative trimmings. The frog is the heart of the hoof (pumps blood)-it needs to be respected.
Surely there are horses that for a number of reasons benefit from being shod well. However in my opinion I feel there is an even larger number of horses that can benefit from being barefoot.

Dr. Fred


Tragedy at the Memorial weekend Ride -A Thought


A grand time was had by all at the recent 900 plus horse trail ride.

And true to form I was up, with my team, till 4.:30 a.m Sunday morning,very successfully  treating horses that had succumbed to the heat and my first blog’s subject.

I had kept my eye on the weather forecast earlier in the week and had placed extra supplies on the clinic truck in preparation for the predicted extreme heat and humidity.

But sadness struck later Sunday when an evening telephone call alerted me to the death of one of   one of the ride’s-participants.

It seems he was found dead in his trailer’s living quarters there may have been a generator involved?

Let us all be safe, meet, visit, socialize, and be our neighbors brother and sister keeping everyone safe.

Generators are they really necessary on a trail-ride? ?

What ever happened to roughin it?,…. getting in touch with the simple things in LIFE. and NATURE.

Is not the reason we all meet somewhere out of telephone range to have fellowship and enjoy our horses …to leave it all???

Dr. Fred

Reducing equine medical conditions on the trail and Getting to the trail base camp safely. Part 4


I intended to focus my thoughts towards equine health as related to the trail.


However allow me to step back and quickly share some thoughts about getting horses to the trail ride in a safe manner.

At a recent ride, Relay for Life, in Oxford,NC I was watching and listening as folks convoyed in to the event on Friday evening.  Something dumbstruck me over and over as I heard many rigs pull in with THAT grinding dry/rusty metal on metal sound.

Yes folks this is Dry trailer-ball syndrome (DTBS) and Dry slider- plate syndrome for 5th wheel couplers (DSPS). SEE WARNING AT BOTTOM

Let me explain the consequences of DTBS and DSPS.

When the matting surfaces of the coupler are dry, more frictional forces are placed on the tow vehicles when one travels.  Movements especially turning, following the curves in the road, changing lanes, off road on backwoods paths and even backing tend to place extreme tourqing forces on the tow vehicle and coupler mechanisms.

The tow vehicle’s suspension and drive train-including the front end, steering and the rear axle gears take the burnt of these burdens.  The tires are the first to show problems and overtime unnecessary wear to tow vehicle and trailer components do occur.




Let me explain…

Last year about twenty riders were getting together for an informal Sunday afternoon -several hour ride when disaster struck.

One of the group was trailering her horses to the gathering site -when the loaded trailer

suddenly without warning became separated from the tow vehicle and snapped the safety chains.  The trailer proceeded to pass the tow vehicle and roll not once- not twice but three times before it came to rest.

One horse was unhurt, one suffered lacerations, and one was killed.

The coupler was still in the locked position with a lock pin.

DTBS was the cause.

The trailer coupler and tow ball had unknowing worn to the point where they were no longer a proper fit.  The ball and coupler over time had acted like a mortar and pestle grinding on each other-over time the coupler lost enough metal and became enlarged (“wallowed or wallared” –out”).

Much like an osteo-arthritic dry knee on a human due to lack of synovial fluid with loss of cartilage –resulting bone on bone grinding.

A small bump in the road causes the trailer to “jump” and the coupled coupler jumped off the ball!!!.

The biggest argument against applying lubricant to trailer balls is the mess it can cause when one is not trailering. To this I say an exam glove is an easy inexpensive way to cover a greasy trailer ball to protect cargo and clothes from stains and keep sand from sticking to the trailer ball.

All I am suggesting is that one considers the means vs. extremes and come to conclusions for themselves.
CAUTION-when using lubricants

DO NOT Lubricate the locking mechanisms of the coupler!!!

STRONGLY CONSIDER ONLY SPARRINGLY APPLY TO the trailer ball or slider-plate matting surfaces.


I drive many miles pulling horse trailers or the dental stocks and keep the tow balls sparingly greased.

Over the years I have used several different lubricants, but have found a commercial

5th wheel slider- plate lubricant by Lucas in my hands to be the best and easiest to use.


Equally of concern was the lack of trailer lights and reflective markers on many of these rigs coming in at dusk.

From experience it is very unsettling when on the roadway I find myself behind a dark structure going down the road and realize it is a trailer with NON-WORKING lights.

To be discussed at a latter time….

Please make it to the trail safely for everyone and our precious cargos.


Dr. Fred





Reducing equine medical conditions on the trail. Part  3

The North Carolina Brinkleyville Hunt Club sponsors a ride that should be on your calendar

The trails are good, the food is excellent and plenty, a water wagon

is available to deliver water to your camp, live music, dance floor.

The Club members go out of their way to make sure everyone has a good safe time.

The morning of the 2011 ride something strange happened. As folks were tacking up,

four horses at different camps collapsed within minutes of being cinched.

All were still tied to their respective trailers.

When something like this happens cool heads must prevail SAFETY-FIRST…

When there is a half ton of down and anxious horse flesh-plenty of

opportunity for human and horse injury exists.

The combination of quickly loosening the cinch-(Cutting is dangerous) and releasing

the trailer ties resulted in quick recoveries.  No horse, person, or tack was injured.

I kept my eye on these horses and examined them as the ride progressed.

Most of the horses started and completed the ride without incident.

There are many plausible theories on why this happened.

  1. Unconditioned horses
  2. Barn soured
  3. Painful backs/legs
  4. POOR fitting tack
  5. The Moon-my favorite

Be careful…

Horses can, do and will inflict harm, at times fatal, to themselves, other horses, and handlers



As a trail riding veterinarian that has a profound interest in dentistry, I feel it is important to share my thoughts with the trail riding community.

Why worry about equine dentistry in the trail horse?

All horses require comprehensive annual dental examinations, because of the way

horse teeth and skulls were designed and normally wear or rather do not wear their teeth!

For instance horses’ last rear cheek teeth are at the level of the eye and develop razor sharp edges that are difficult to properly and safely instrument and address.

But the trail horse?  Yes for a number of reasons.  It all starts in the mouth- maximal digestion requires good working order of the teeth.

Trail horses are in my mind athletes-they may ride long distances in short periods of time (endurance riding) or long distances all day (recreational riding).

These horses must be able to get every bit of nutritive value from their feeds or else they may become very lean. I have seen horses loose 100 pounds or more on one ride.

-And it all starts in the mouth!

These horses often have sharp dental edges that cause oral discomforts of the lips, cheek and tongue,  a common finding,

see fig.1 below


Fig.1 Severe rear right cheek (buccal) erosions and ulcers from overtly sharp dental surfaces.

In addition as was previously discussed the dehydrated horse-horses with soft tissue irritations-from sharp teeth tend to consume less water especially in colder temperature-contributing to colic and tying up.

I recommend all horses undergo an annual through dental examination and indicated corrective procedures. especially the trail horse.

Maximal dental comfort reducing bridle (yes bitless too) issues is of utmost

importance especially when navigating extreme trail courses.

And equally important is oral soft tissue comfort and health

related to enhanced water consumption with maximal feed utilization.

Consider a comprehensive dental evaluation for your horse.

It is amazing the abnormal and painful dental conditions that

many a horse ( fat and sassy) quietly endures.

From personal experience, I know and have seen, the almost instantaneous benefits of comprehensive dental care for many a

previously fussy/unhappy trail horse.


See ya on the trail Dr. Fred.


As a trail riding veterinarian I have encountered medical situations both on the trail

and at conclusion of the ride-back at camp.

Most notably is the minimally conditioned, dehydrated, colicky, attempting to tie-up or worse the actively tying-up horse.

These horses often ( but not always) are not in the best of physical condition like the “weekend warrior.”

Fortunately with immediate supportive care i.e; placing an intravenous catheter and rapid IV-electrolyte/fluid therapy,

vitamin and mineral replacement, combined with appropriate medicinal intervention

these patients came be successfully treated to reverse the profound electrolyte and dehydration conditions.

There are horses that have had to be euthanized usually a day or two after a ride, because they were

severely de-compensated and conditions are now irreversible as a result of not receiving veterinary care early on in their crisis.

To reduce this common occurrence related to dehydration, ensure the horse has been

adequately trained and conditioned beyond the level of riding anticipated.

This conditioning includes the excitement of being trailered,

being away from home, the excitement of close proximity to many other new horses and

getting along well with other horses, as well as hill, bridge, water obstacle and occasional traffic-just to name a few.

It goes without saying-all horses (and riders) need to be sound and of good general health.

A few days before the event, offer or better yet, add electrolytes to feed.

Offer fresh clean drinking water when practical at all times and better yet, bring water with you to camp that your horse

is accustomed to.

During the ride-allow your horse every opportunity to drink from clean free flowing

natural water.  Use personal judgment and experience with regard to communal water troughs.  Consider using electrolyte paste on the trail if clean water is readily available.

Be careful and avoid stagnated pools especially on any agricultural operations!!!

Once back at camp, loosen the girth and allow the horse to stand for several minutes with the saddle to allow for return of normal blood circulation. Offer fresh cool not cold water but not in great excess.

Brush or curry hair to enhance evaporative cooling.  A sheet maybe indicated based on weather extremes.

Limit grain and hay intake and again offer/use electrolytes or at the very least table salt.

Do a post ride inspection and evaluate your horse for any abnormalities, including limb, eye, and hoof issues.

Seek out veterinary assistance early on if something seems wrong.

Rule #1 Is Be SAFE while having fun

See ya on the trail Dr. Fred out..