Thursday, February 28, 2013

First Aid Kit 101

Here's what's in my med kit:

  1. Fura-zone and Corona Ointment
  2. Thrush buster and a hoof pick
  3. Cotton roll and vet wrap
  4. Standing wraps and pillows/quilts/no bows
  5. Sharp scissors and bandage scissors
  6. Duct tape, and possibly diapers for wrapping feet
  7. Linament (s) and poultice
  8. Iodine scrub
  9. Epsom salts
  10. Blu Koat / Red Koat / Spray Bandage
  11. Thermometer and Vaseline
  12. Occasionals: wonder dust, SWAT, 
  13. Medicated shampoo

Dizzying, isn't it?  Let's go down the list one by one:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Internets are your friend... kind of.

This post has been brewing in my head all day, and this may not be the place for it, but come hell or high water, I want to discuss this.

There are two things that drive me (and hopefully the rest of horse-rider-dom) CRAZY.


1) "Well this post I found on the internet said..."

New horse owners head to the internets, a lot. That's probably how you've found this blog, and I welcome you. There are several things you need to learn, and while most people figure it out, I'm trying to save you some trouble.

The internet is not always right. I'm not always right. Chronicle of the Horse is not always right, nor is Horse Grooming Supplies or Yahoo Answers or even the Smartpak blog. Your barn "BFF" isn't always right, either. Take everything you read with a grain of salt. I try to lay this out on my blog with every post, and I'll lay it out here again. You probably know more about me than you'll ever know about some stranger off the internet, because I try to give you my history and the circumstances of my experience - but how do you know that this "expert" you're listening to online is an expert, and not a snotty 14-year-old with a God complex?

Not to say the internet isn't useful - I like going in search of opinions, with the constant affirmation to myself that these are opinions and nothing else. I don't go looking for training advice (there are real life trainers for that!) but I do like to look at what people are thinking and saying and get a "feel". I also try to be a poster or reviewer who gives the circumstances of my opinions. Try to not be this person, who is, say, reviewing a blanket:

Blanket arrived 2day tried on horse too big tore over night very unhappy :(
0/5 would not buy again this product is a piece of crap

Try to be this:
Blanket arrived today, on schedule. Appeared to be very nice quality, but the 78" was too big in the shoulder for my OTTB who has narrow shoulders and is under weight. Because I needed the blanket badly, I left it on knowing it didn't fit well and it got ripped. Quality and workmanship were on par for price, but as stated, does seem to run large. I wish I would have had time to exchange for a smaller size, as I liked the blanket, but was unable.

See? Context! Blanket did not rip because it was bad, but because I made a bad judgement and left it on - now you know, as a reader, to think about sizing down for that shark fin of a TB you're buying blankets for.

2) I'm a horse person, you're a horse person, friend EVERYONE, EVER, WHO HAS BEEN A HORSE PERSON.

This is a big personal pet peeve. I don't stalk the rosters and friend people out of my divisions, or do more than "Like" local trainers' professional pages, barns and organizations I like to hear news about on Facebook. Like in any professional relationship, just because I've rubbed elbows with, or been next to someone at a show, doesn't mean that I can automatically friend you. Many of the "horsey" people on facebook I am friends with is a product of my show photography - I took pictures for my own enjoyment and posted them on a few local places (the farm's FB, a local eventing org) allowing people to tag themselves and use the photos as they wished.

I know it's easy to feel an automatic camaraderie with horse people in the area, but think about how they view you: lets say you "friend" a local, relatively big name trainer. You then do what every person does - go digging around their profile because you're interested in them. That's fine. But then you find yourself liking a photo and commenting on it... and its from 2006. Whoops. That makes you a creeper.

That is going to appear on their news feed, and they're going to be like "... huh?". That thought is going to stay with them when you contact them for a lesson, and change their view of you. Or if you bad mouth your barn, get publicly mad at your trainer and leave in a huff, all documented on facebook, what is your next barn owner or trainer going to think?


The internet is a wide, and exciting frontier, and this is not to tell you "no" - but instead "woah".

So the next time you're stalking a friend's trainer, or really ticked off that your trainer got distracted and left you doing two point for 10 minutes, take a breath and think before you post to facebook. Maybe your trainer will think it's funny that you post "Blahtrainer made me do two-point forever today! I'm going to be so sore!" and comment that it's good for you. But they may see it another way, too.

Go with caution, my friends.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Post Winter Considerations

In the Great North West, a lot of riders are hindered in their winter plans because of the weather - even if they have an indoor! Winter takes a lot out of us, and by this time, most of us are so ready to ride in the spring rains just to escape the indoor arena. This time of winter is one of the hardest - as horses shed out while temperatures still fluctuate, we are there trying to pick up the pieces of our training schedules.

First and foremost, remember that wet + somewhat cold is probably just as "cold" feeling as -10, so keep those waterproof, breathable blankets in use, and monitor your horse's ears for his temperature - plus feeling under his blanket gives you an excuse to warm up your cold fingers. As the snow melts, a lot of horses are happy to roll and stand in the rain and generally enjoy spring life, but keep in mind that mud can sometimes cover ice if you're riding outside, and that wet, muddy blankets don't do their job as well as you'd think.

Oh, did you want to ride during your barn time? Sorry not sorry.

Also let's take a minute and look at your horse since, like me, you've probably not looked too hard between pulling a blanket off and throwing a saddle on. Some horses turn into double-wides come winter time, while others look pretty round but under that fluffy coat you start to notice a few ribs or a general loss of body fat. If you haven't been riding much, your horse has probably lost a bit of muscle as well. Just like you, your horse is feeling the effects of winter.

If the horse is fat, consider spending a few weeks of solid, planned riding time working on fitness. 
If the horse is skinny, now is the time to start building him or her back up, combined with careful exercise to help re-build muscle. 
If the horse just hasn't been ridden consistently all winter,  join your friends with the porky ponies and start thinking fitness!

If over the winter you've become a weekend only rider, or are working for shorter periods of time, fever days a week (hey, we all do it!) it's time to asses your horse's condition.

I usually start with lunge work, as Foxie, when she comes inside after a long day outside, likes to work out her kinks and play in celebration of being able to move without slipping. Keep lunge sessions short, 15-20 minutes for the first week or two, especially if your horse is wild and galloping or bucking. After a week or two of these sessions, your horse will "tell" you that he has worked off his energy and start walking and trotting on the line without the theatrics of fresh horse. 

At this point, I would introduce your side reins, or long lining after a stretching warm up of 10-15 minutes and do short sessions that gain length as your horse begins to rebuild his topline and muscle flexibility. If the horse is pretty fit to begin with and doesn't work himself up into a steamy sweaty mess, start with gentle flat rides and then slowly increase the work until you're doing a "normal" flat ride of around 30-45 minutes tops.
I usually start and end with 10 minutes of walk, focusing on stretching and working in the contact, which is difficult for Fox at the slower pace. I try to throw some activities into my flat work to keep things from getting boring:

- Figure 8's, at the trot, or at the canter with simple changes of lead which can be done with a halt in the center, backing up and then taking the new lead, walking through the center, or just a break of a few trot steps. Don't ride too many, especially if you progress to clean flying changes, as you can easily get "into" doing it just perfect and not realize you've been riding transitions for 25 minutes.
- Shoulders in
- Haunches in
- Side pass, leg yeilds
- Turn on the forehand and turn on the haunches (done at the halt)
- Counter flexion or counter canter.
- If you aren't a dressage rider (or if you are) find some simple tests - either true dressage or eventing dressage and ride them
- Collection and lengthenings (I really like this at the canter - lengthen down the long walls and develop a nicely reactive horse by riding a square corner to collect and set the horse on his haunches before lengthening again - just want you need for that combo on XC or show jumping!) 
- Trot and canter poles - set trot poles 4-4.5 feet apart and canters 9-12 feet apart. 
- Mix up pole work by setting poles on the compass rose points of a circle (N, S, E, W) or in the center of a figure-8 to work on changes. 

See, the indoor isn't so boring, after all. I also like to work on ground manners and lunge manners because... well... practice makes perfect. And everyone loves taking my horse out because she is polite and respects your space - plus she's totally ok with gates, doors and the gator, so she's not spooking on the ice and nearly falling on you.

And we work hard to keep her the most popular horse in the barn. 

Once we do thaw out, make sure to ride outside only if the arena isn't a wet gross bog of possible tendon and ligament injuries - and watch for lingering ice on roadways and under the mud!

Have fun making your rides more interesting!
-Ashley & Foxie

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Baby Basic Saddle Fititng

**Warning: I am not a saddle fitter. Heck, I'm not even an expert, and what I know is simply from my own experience and from the saddle fitting instruction of my trainers.

With that out of the way, lets look at some photos from my last saddle purchase: I did several risky things, but it all turned out well. I was shocked.

I bought a dressage saddle off eBay. It was a Courbette, a "Baron Von Trenk" and was an 18" "medium" tree. I didn't have numbers, I had never seen or ridden in a Courbette dressage saddle and my current Courbette, the Magic, was  a flex tree.

First things first - examine the saddle out of the box: is the stitching sound? Are the billets firm and don't show cracking, other damage or unevenness? When you look at the underside, are the panels even, and the tree straight? Feel the panels - are there any spots that feel firmer or softer than others?

The panel on my Magic is foam, and thus is very firm. The panel on this saddle is wool, and thus it's softer and squishy.

This is how it arrived. Hopefully you are noticing that it's high in front, or low in back - or just looks "funny". That says that either the panel (the padding along each side of the spine) isn't shaped right, the tree is too small, or a combination of the two. In Foxie's case, the tree was a touch on the narrow side, but as the flex tree was generous and padded, I decided to keep it and work with what I had, hoping the panel wool would tramp down. 

This is a shot of the panel on Foxie's shoulder. I liked how the saddle sat without interfering with her shoulder, and all panels (the front of the saddle at the shoulder and the two on either side of the spine) were flush without pinching or gapping. When the back panels don't contact with the entirety of the back, it's called bridging - it forms a bridge over an area of the back, exposing parts of the back muscle to lots of weight while others don't get touched. Not a good thing - and I dealt with the problem for years with my wintec - and can be detected by sliding fingers up underneath the saddle flaps and feeling around.

This photo also shows off the basically non-existent knee roll - a rarity these days. I ride in different stirrup lengths based on what I have under me - a big mover caused me to hike them up several holes, while with Foxie I prefer to ride long and wrap my leg around the barrel and simply turn my spur up to accommodate the rider/horse size discrepancy. I have really, really long legs. Ok, not that long, but I have problems with big knee rolls in dressage saddles, as I generally haven't liked my position, the way I tend to grip with the knee when I have a roll there to grip, and the pain it causes me after. So this saddle is awesome for me - and luckily it was a close enough fix for the Wonderhorse to be workable

Another great shot: this is a shot down the spine. you should be able to see daylight down the spine. I like this saddle a lot because it has a cut back pommel to help accommodate big withers (not a problem with Foxie, but a nice feature!) and a very wide channel, or space between the panels, which offers a nice space for the horse to lift his back into and engage. 

Whoohoo! Good signs so far. 

So how do I fix a saddle that fits like this, Ashley?

Well here's your answer: 

This is my magical thinline pad. These photos are without the small shims I added later, but already you can see a big difference. With the shims, the saddle is in much better balance - by lifting the back of the saddle, I even out the pressure, and when I girthed the saddle up I was pleased to realize it sat down further due to the spring tree, and then further again with my weight, coming to rest as almost dead even across the seat. The top picture is closest - all saddles have a balance point where the rider's balance falls. 

I've added the line and rotated the photo slightly to show the saddle in true balance. Fitting the saddle both to you and your horse is important. Foxie is a MW tree, but as she got more and more fit the saddle actually fit better while her jumping saddle needed a little extra help. I've found ways to make do with what I have - padding up isn't the best, but many of us can't afford custom saddles for our weirdly shaped horses!

This that are not ok:
Saddle sitting on the withers
Saddle sitting on the spine
Balance problems over 1/2 inch in either direction
Saddle that "perches" on the back and is forcibly pulled down onto the back by the girth

Always, Always, ALWAYS investigate soreness. Look at your saddle pads - is the sweat on them evenly dispersed? Are there dry or especially wet spots? 

Ashley & Foxie

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Dress For Success: First Shows

Now, for a new horse owner, getting to know your new partner is paramount. But that doesn't mean showing isn't on your mind!

There are two basic types of shows - schooling and "real" shows. I've competed at both. Schooling shows include thinks like local "barn shows", some county fairs and anything called a "schooling day". Schooling shows are more informal and are great practice runs for the big thing - you still get to compete for a ribbon, but the stakes are lower (as are the prices).
Rakin' in the Ribbons at the barn's schooling show. Aside from the crooked helmet and messy hair, this is a ok show type outfit for informal schooling shows (polo is under a fleece jacket, as it's October). 

Real, or, depending on your discipline, rated shows, are full dress, full on competitions. I'm an Eventer, which means I compete at Horse Trials. Horse Trials come in one, two, or three day formats, as well as 3D's which involve more events in reference to "old school" long format Eventing. There are also Combined Trials, which are more of a schooling event, but are usually full dress. Also of note is that Eventers pick COLORS, which I am a big fan of. There are many classic combinations, and some people just run in whatever they are feeling that day, but I enjoy having colors - it makes me feel part of a team, and I have a lot of pride for the Red and Green.

For schooling type shows:
I wear light colored breeches, a belt, and a polo shirt. I also wear tall boots, but half chaps and short boots that are polished up and look nice are usually acceptable as well. I also wear gloves and tie my hair back neatly. On cold days I usually layer a long sleeve shirt under a polo and try to wear a nice looking coat or sweater if it's very cold. Always wear something you can safety pin or tie a number over, or attach it to your saddle pad.

Just like before any show, you should clean your tack and generally try to match your tack and looks sharp. I usually compete in a white saddle pad, or something that works well with my polo color of choice. I also try to choose a color that looks good on my chosen horse (thus, I won't show my trainer's chestnut in a magenta saddle pad - ish!) Check with the show secretary or judge (or just err on the side of caution) as to if you are allowed leg wraps/boots or martingales in the class. And always, always, always wear a helmet.
Foxie and I at a jumper-type schooling show. I would have used a white pad for "hunters" but did both that day... and I like that pad.

For Event shows I wear three different "outfits":

Dressage: White breeches, tall boots and spurs, belt, white competition shirt (mine is a Romfh cool max show shirt) with stock tie and pin, dressage jacket (or regular coat, preferably a dark color), black gloves (until my hands are steady enough for white!) and my Charles Owen JR8 and bun cover.
For dressage, neat and tidy are the name of the game. If the arena is dusty or it's very hot, I tend to give my parents my coat and a damp rag so I can wipe down for dust and keep my coat clean right at the very end. Spurs and whips are optional, and like bits for event dressage, must be checked. This is a good thing to practice at home, and don't try something new at the show grounds.

Foxie wears her white saddle pad with black and silver accents (I'm VERY into matching), a black bridle with a snaffle bit and flash noseband (optional, but I need it for Fox) her dressage saddle and nothing else - no boots or martingales. Breast collars are allowed but only use them if you need them. While it's not written, I would braid for Eventing dressage unless your horse wears a Mohawk. Don't forget your bridle number!
Happy me, Crabby fox. 

Cross Country: XC is where you get to let loose. I wear any breeches I want (usually my loud tan one with the black seat or black) with a belt, gloves, polo shirt (shirts MUST have a collar and sleeves), my medical arm band (Don't even try to warm up without it!), Eventing vest, helmet (I have a skull cap, but any will do - maybe not your nice velvet show helmet though!) and carry a crop and spurs - because going out unprepared sucks. I also wear a pinney over my armor with my number on it.

Foxie wears her jumping or XC bridle - which is usually a LOT more brakes than her snaffle, as she is very forward on XC, breast collar, saddle, event pad (green with red trim!), galloping or xc boots taped for safety, bell boots, and usually some form of our number in case we were to be separated. Never use leg wraps on XC - as you go through water and over jumps, you need something that protects, doesn't hold water or heat, won't come loose (thus the tape!) and is snug enough not to slide down or interfere. There's no stopping, dismounting, or asking for help out there.

Show Jumping:
Show jumping is the closest I get to normal jumper attire - the only difference being that I wear a stock tie, not a show shirt with collar, but that's a personal choice. 
Me: Light colored breeches, tall boots, weapons of war as needed, belt, second show shirt (the first is still grubby and I fell asleep last night before washing it...), stock tie and pin, coat, helmet and gloves. 
Horse: White saddle pad (I like colored trim, but you can go classic), saddle, girth, bridle, breast collar or martingale as needed and boots. Some riders go bootless, as their horses are more tired, or with open fronts to keep them careful, but Foxie doesn't usually run into any problems, so I usually just used whatever I had left after XC.

I've also been to shows where coats were waived, and I know there are shows that run SJ before XC on the same day. When that happens, look at the other competitors. I ended up showing in the shirt I wear under my jacket, as it has a collar and cap sleeves, but you'll also see polo shirts or, for those going right on to XC, entire XC "outfits" with or without the body armor. 

Foxie and I on a waived coat round - 114 degree heat index!

Prepping for shows feels nit-picky  but I use it as an excuse to check all my tack as I clean it (and catch any weak spots or before un-seen rips or tears, and I feel more confident going into the ring well dressed and feeling as if I've done good preparation. 

A lot of times, your trainer will help you prep for your shows, and guide you on what to do. A lot of times, I prep the week before and do a light school the day before, either at home, or at the show grounds of an event. At events, that means I get to ride around (but not IN) the dressage rings, getting used to the scary flowers and swinging chain fences, get a feeling for the footing, and work to get my horse used to the showing grounds. We hack around, look at biffies, food vendors, roads, etc. At home, if I'm trailering in (or even better, showing at home) I prep for what I am doing - either a very light jump school or dressage type work.

More on fitness schedules later - and boy, do I have a LOT to say about them... 

New Horse Ownership: What do you need??

So sometime in my future I get to go pick up a new horse and bring her home, and it's got me thinking - what do you need?

Well, first of all, you need a boarding facility or farm. If you've got your own place, that's great. Most people bringing home a new horse will be boarding (at least where I come from) and there are a few things to consider: Is your horse used to being pasture boarded or used to a stall? Is he or she used to a dry lot or a pasture? Does where you plan to board have a trustworthy staff? Good fences and a clean facility? Healthy looking horses, and regularly scheduled farrier and vet visits? Do they feed good quality feed, or allow you to choose what you feed?  Is there a trainer there you can work with? There's a million questions to ask - and I would definitely tour several facilities when choosing a new one, even if you can't afford them, so you know what's out there and develop an eye for the good and bad.

Halter: For most horses I like a break away style halter- either with a full leather crown or a leather "fuse" under the buckle of the halter, both of which snap should the horse sit back and get caught up or trapped while wearing his halter. No matter how solid of a citizen a horse is, horses are flight animals, and when they get scared, it's better for them (and their necks!) to be able to get out of the tussle.

If you fall in love with a halter that isn't break away, get out a knife/scissors/seam ripper and tear out the piece of nylon holding the halter buckle on and replace it with a piece of leather like below, which is pretty cheap to buy. It attaches with a chicago screw, which makes it removable/replaceable. I like to use a little something to help the chicago screw stay fastened, as I had one fall out once and found my halter-less horse had "left" it, unbroken, in a mud puddle.

I also like brass fittings as they last and don't stretch, and a cheek clip, as shown, as it becomes an easy way to get a halter on and off (just be careful if your horse is ear shy - unbuckling might be easier there). I'm not as big of a fan of grommets or metal tips, but they do add to durability when they hold up. Preferably, I like heat punched holes in the nylon crowned halter, as grommets some times bend or fall out, leaving ragged holes. Full leather halters are break away in all directions - I'm just too cheap to leave them on a fence or gate in the rain/snow/sleet/heat.

For lead ropes, I like poly material for it's durability ( I make sure the end is good and sealed with a lighter, which melts the material) and rope for the feel on my hands. I like long leads (10 feet) for greener horses, as I like having a tail to use if I need it (for whacking/spinning purposes) and the length gives you some pull when you have a nervous or bolting horse who needs room - but not to escape like a dork. I like the regular trigger snaps (shown actually on the halter above.) but each to their own. I like that I can get them off quickly and don't need to struggle when I'm holding an impatient horse.

Other things you need:

Feed:  Your horse was probably fed something before you purchased him - find that out, and buy a bag or two. Even if you are planning to feed him or her another type of grain, switching a horse over from feed to feed is a slow process that requires mixing. I usually leave them on whatever it is until they've settled in, and then make up bags slowly transitioning from one feed to the next over a week or two. I start with the amount of old feed I was giving and start giving less (1/4 scoop less, then a 1/2 scoop less) while increasing the new feed in the same amount. Bagging it with labels lets me know it's done right and makes it easy for the staff. I would also purchase a container for your feed if need be - I have a metal trash can that I keep on bricks to help keep moisture from seeping in. 

A Grooming kit: curry (I have several kinds - soft and hard and a shedding blade type), hard/stiff brush, soft brush, face brush (extra soft soft brush), hoof pick (I like the one with the brush), scissors (you always need them when you can't find them) and a towel ( I use mine for everything from snotty noses to cleaning off my own hands. I also have a brush for the mane and tail, mane pulling combs and clippers for bridle paths, body type clipping and for keeping legs/muzzles neat and tidy.
Tip: If you have a grooming kit from lessons or a previous horse, use a effervescent brush cleaner or a bleach/warm water mixture to sanitize them and clean out old hair and mud. I do this regardless yearly or so to maintain my brushes - or after a bout of rain rot.

Lunge Line: Having a line is always a good thing- for training and ground work, hand grazing or for burning off extra energy, the lunge line is a wonderful investment. I like a flat like versus the big round ones, as I prefer the least weight put on the horse's head or mouth. I run the line up through the inside bit ring and over the head to clip on the other side when lunging with a bridle, or on a gentle horse not prone to leaping/playing on the line, I will run the clip through the bit and back to the girth buckle under the flap. I also use my lunge lines to long line, but please have a trainer teach you how to do that! On a halter I usually clip to the bottom/leading ring to prevent it turning on the horse's face.
Another alternative is a natural horsemanship type line, which is the middle ground between a lunge line and a lead rope - usually 15 feet long, they're made out of nice material but tend to be expensive.

Medical Kit: Consult my next post - I'll do a good one with pics for you guys!

Properly fitting tack:  This is a BIG one. I don't care if you buy cheap or expensive tack as long as it FITS and is SAFE. Horses are delicate creatures and saddles especially can really cause a lot of problems if they don't fit right. I'll post a video some time (warmer weather is coming!) but I'd consult a trainer, saddle fitter or VERY knowledgeable (and truly knowledgeable) person when making any saddle decisions. I have found that collecting tack, saddle pads and bits isn't usually a problem, as I love to shop :)

Clothes: Yep, I'm saying it. When you purchase your horse is the deciding factor here. I know a lady who found a horse in the fall, and thus she needed to find a blanket, and quick, for the upcoming winter. If you're buying in the summer, ask the owner if the horse wears a fly mask or sheet. I use fly masks, but discovered Foxie doesn't like "clothes" and thus don't make her wear a fly sheet. Measure blankets from the center of the chest around the widest part of your horse to the tip of the haunch (it sticks out the furthest) and make sure to cross the leg straps and belly straps (belly straps are usually sewn on a diagonal to show this, but some aren't meant to be crossed). Fly masks make your horse's life a little easier in fly season, as does fly spray and sheets, especially if they react to the bites and get swollen spots from them. I also recommend keeping an eye on your favorite tack shops and online stores to find good deals on blankets during the clearance season and save a few dollars in the process!

Oh, and don't forget to enjoy your new horse!!

Beyond the Grain II: Supplements

The world of supplements is a super confusing place. While many trainers tend to throw you towards the four winds (or just the opposite, tell you EXACTLY so help them god what to buy) I feel that supplements, when used with restraint can be beneficial and help you to help your horse.

Supplements come for a lot of different things;

Joint Supplements: used preventatively in young horses or hard working horses, or to make horses with stiffness or arthritic changes more comfortable

Anti-inflammatories are a sub-group of joint supplements - they work to make the horse more comfortable but don't do anything to improve the condition of the joint.

Hoof Supplements: These supplements help your horse grow better hoof, helping him be more comfortable bare foot, hold on to his shoes better or just improve his general hoof health. It's true what they say about "No hoof, no horse!"

Calming Supplements: I've never used one of these, but they contain ingredients that help your equine athlete focus, stay calm in new and scary situations and help them get over the boogie man in the corner of the indoor arena.

Digestive Supplements: Like yogurt for your pony, Digestive supplements contain pre and pro biotics to help your horse get the most out of his feed and help avoid problems like ulcers.

Coat Supplements: Coat supplements help your horse grow a beautiful, shiny, soft coat. There are also "color enhancing" supplements, like ones that can help keep your black horse black - and not that lovely brown/yellow/orange color he fades to...

Other types of supplements include supplements for moody/crabby mares, fly resistance, electrolytes, tendon and muscle supplements and vitamin supplements that can fill in the holes of a hay-fed horse's diet.

Smartpak is my supplement supplier:
They have fantastic service, a fantastic selection of supplements, a fantastic shipping deal called "Barn Buddies" and fantastic deals that go with that.

And no, I'm not getting paid to say this. I am that annoying customer who uses/abuses all of smartpak's services. So Foxie's smartpaks get shipped, along with, say, a tube of wormer and a pair of gloves for me, and they ship free, either to the barn to to my house. Plus, I get a reminder email before they ship so I can last minute throw on a saddle pad or something else - and get 10$ worth of personalization for FREE, and when I buy the smartpak brand (which I do, because they make great stuff) I get 10% off because they're awesome like that. They even personalize fly masks, which I plan to do next summer to help keep things straight.

Did I mention that your supplements come in Smart paks? That's the best part. Because I board, I have to trust others to feed my babygirl every day. And no matter how wonderful the barn staff is, no one has the same idea of a "scoop" - one girl's almost full scoop is another person's heaping. Plus, Foxie does best on a "1.25" scoop of her MSM, and that isn't something that's easy for the barn staff to do. And I hate doing "baggies" and having to spend a ton of time and money putting them together.

Smartpaks come in sealed containers or "wells" and all you do is peel off the top part and pour.

Easy as that.

No need to make annoying barn signs to tell the staff you change your supplements. Just change them in the paks, and they get delivered and there is no question as to the administration. Easy peasy.

My experience with supplements is as follows (and it is a weird one): Foxie got put on Smart Maintenance (a low level joint supp) after her DDF injury to help her heal. She was on it for a while, and then I switched her to Smart Tendon, as she kept over producing joint fluid. The smart tendon really didn't seem to do much for her... and being cheap (I was paying a LOT for board at the time) I moved her to MSM granules... and suddenly her swelling, which always looked like an old bow, was down. I kept discovering "leftovers" in the bottom of her feed pan, and so we switched to pellets. Then I bumped her up to the 1.25 dose (at the time, I didn't know she was 1200 lbs!) and magic again - the swelling went completely away. MSM seems to work really well for Foxie, and since she doesn't have any apparent arthritis issues, we're planning to keep her on it for the future.

Intermittently she also gets a coat supplement-  I use SmartShine or SmartOmega3 to give her a little boost over the winter, or to help her shed out from a clip. Now that she's no longer a show horse, I used the Omega3 supplement to not only help balance her out (omega 3's help with the inflammatory response, which in Fox tends to be reactive) but it also has pre and pro biotics, which I felt was a good choice after a summer of being on bute before we switched her to the safer pain med.

Fox is a very, very low maintenance horse - we've done Adequan IM only to help her comfort levels after the suspensory injury (and boy, did it help!) and as of now, the Previcox pill is a better choice, as it helps her with discomfort and is more affordable than the Adequan.

For most horses, I think you just need to have a careful eye - try supplements before injections, but consider that maybe, if you're feeding an very expensive supplement, that injections alone may be more effective for the horse and the use of your $$$. A lot of times, good feeding and proper nutrition can make up in the hoof and coat quality that you find lacking, but if you have checked with a feed specialist, knowledgeable trainer or friend  etc, and can't find any holes, a supplement may be what you need.