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Webinar Series – Western Saddle Fitting

Big Dee’s Webinar Series
Jeff Duncan from Cactus Saddlery, spoke during Big Dee’s Anniversary Event about the proper fit of a western saddle for both horse and rider. With years of experience  Jeff spoke briefly about the key factors in western saddle fitting.

Know your Basics

Knowing the parts of the saddle will help you be able to pin point exactly what sizes you need to fit your horse. Understanding the horse tack lingo will also make buying a saddle and asking questions easier.

Different Manufacturers
The meanings from manufacturer to manufacturer change, so you cannot assume the sizing is the same amongst companies even if they use the same words. At one time, the general assumption was that Full Bars meant a 6 3/4 inch gullet, but now since horses are a bit more stocky, the average Full Bar is 7 3/4 inch gullet. There are also differences in the type of tree used in the saddle. Rawhide wrapped around a wooden tree keeps the wood from rotting and are normally found on Full Quarter Horse Bars. Ralide trees are made from plastic.

How to Fit a Saddle for the Rider
Some people tend to pick a saddle based on looks, but there is more than the visual appeal that should be considered. In order to really determine how well a saddle fits, you should always sit in the saddle. When you get on, put your feet in the stirrup and sit in the “pocket” of the saddle. It should hold you in place, neither being too deep nor too tight. Two fingers should fit between the swells of the saddle and your leg. If you can fit your whole hand, the saddle is too big and you could flop around instead of being secure. If you can’t even squeeze a finger, the saddle is too tight, and will be very uncomfortable. It’s always better to be just a hair big than too tight. Children can go a little bit bigger in seat size, but it is recommended to fit them to a proper saddle.

How to Fit a Saddle for the Horse
When you find a saddle that fits you, you must now make sure it is a good fit for your horse. Place something lightweight on the back of your horse, like a spare bed sheet, then set the saddle down in place. You should be able to fit two fingers between the wither and gullet height of the saddle. More room is fine, but less could lead to rubbing and severe discomfort for the horse. Also take into account the age and fitness of your horse. Always fit for the heaviest (most mass from muscling) your horse can be. If your horse loses tone over the winter, supplement the size difference with a thicker pad. As the horse gets back into peak performance, reduce the thickness of the pad to accommodate the horse’s muscles. For an older horse, a thicker pad can be kinder to help reduce impact on its back. For younger horses, know that they may grow out of a saddle that fits them currently.

Webinar Series – Equine Colic


Big Dee’s Webinar Series
Dr. Melissa Milligan from Equine Specialty Hospital in Burton, OH,  spoke during Big Dee’s Anniversary Event about equine colic. Dr. Milligan is board-certified in equine surgery and has advanced training in several equine related areas. She graduated from Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2002 and went on to complete an equine surgical and lameness internship at Equine Medical Associates in Edmond, Oklahoma. In 2004 she started her equine surgery residency at Kansas State University and obtained her Master’s degree.  In 2007 Dr. Milligan joined the staff at Equine Specialty Hospital and eventually went on to purchase the hospital in 2014.

The Basics
Colic is a word often spoken by horse enthusiasts, and not in a positive way – but how many people really know what it is and what causes it? To colic simply means abdominal pain in horses – it can be caused by gastric ulcers, bladder stones, twisted bowls and more. Colic in a horse can be deadly, but it is treatable, manageable and preventable. Very few horses that colic need surgery, but every colic should be treated as an emergency because some that seem harmless can worsen quickly.

Colic Myths
Rolling – Rolling does not make the abdominal pain worse or cause it, the horse is just trying to find a comfortable way to lay. The reason your vet says not to let them roll is to prevent trauma to the head and legs during a colic episode, keeping them moving protects them from hurting themselves.

Older horses can’t fully recover – Older horses have the same ability to recover from the surgery as young horses, extra precautions are taken for helping the horse get up after surgery. Once a horse heals from the surgery, they can go back to doing their normal job (after conditioning to get back into shape), regardless of the horse’s age.

Horses that have had colic surgery are prone to colic in the future – Not all horses are prone to colicing, it depends entirely on what caused the initial colic that required surgery.

Passing manure means you’re in the clear – While it is a great thing that a horse passes manure, it doesn’t always mean they’re safe from trouble. It depends on where the problem is located.

Banamine masks the problem – Banamine will not mask the problem, it is important that a horse get pain relief/anti inflammatory drugs. But do note if and when you gave the horse Banamine so you can tell your vet.

Signs of Colic
Horses generally give signs of: rolling, self-trauma, sweating, stretching to urinate, kicking/looking at abdomen, laying down and not eating.

What you can do
– Check the horse’s heart rate (average is 28-48 beats per minute)
– Check the horse’s respiratory rate (average is 12-24 breaths per minute)
– Check the horse’s temperature (average is 98.5-101 F)
– Listen for gastrointestinal sounds; tinkling, water running, gurgling. You should be able to hear something, if you can’t hear any sounds, contact your vet immediately.
– Know your vet’s number and location to closest surgery referral. Make sure you have the means to haul a horse if needed.
– Before your vet arrives, keep your horse moving and do not allow it to eat or drink.

What determines if surgery is necessary?
Medically treated – If a horse can recover from a colic episode without surgery they are given water to re-hydrate, anti-inflammatory medication to help with pain management, laxatives in select cases, antibiotics in select cases and anti-ulcer medications.

Surgical Colic – Surgery depends on the level and consistency of pain, examination abnormalities and progressive deterioration over time

Post-Colic Surgery
If your horse needs colic surgery, the recovery process will be long. You do not need to change the bedding in the horse’s stall and generally no changes in diet. The horse will be on stall confinement with hand walking, then progress to small paddock turnout and soon, unrestricted turnout.

Causes of Colic
Gastric Ulcers – Gastric Ulcers are the number one cause of colic in horses. It does not require surgery and is mild to moderate in pain. GastroGard is the only effective FDA approved treatment for gastric ulcers by preventing acid production. You can prevent ulcers with Ulcergard. An easy prevention for this type of colic is to keep more food in the stomach (free choice roughage and minimize sweet feed).

Anterior Enteritis –  Anterior Enteritis is caused by bacteria and creates inflammation of the small intestine. The horse may have a fever, ranging from mild to moderate in pain.

Large Colon or Gas Colic – Gas colic can be mildly painful, the horse could be bloated and just needs to pass gas.

Large Colon Impaction – A Large Colon Impaction is mildly painful and responds to banamine. Horses with an impaction tend to have decreased manure; the piles are too small and dry. This is often seen in winter when horses don’t want to drink a lot of water.

Colon Torsion – Colon torsions are moderately to severely painful for the horse, most common in mares up to six months post foaling.

Enteroliths – Enteroliths are common in southern states with lots of sand, but not uncommon in Ohio. They can be clinically silent since you cannot check through a rectal exam nor an ultrasound. It is the only colic surgery where a vet can physically show the cause of pain.

What can’t be fixed?
Veterinarians can only treat about 75% of abdomen. They cannot do anything with the stomach or first couple feet of intestine – sometimes they don’t know the full issue until horse in surgery. The issues below are untreatable:
– ruptured stomach or intestinal tract
– strangulating obstruction that has involved too much intestine to remove and still allow digestion
– involved intestine is located in a place that is surgically inaccessible

You can avoid some of the colic types above by: deworming routinely, avoiding sand (feed off ground or on mats), keeping a consistent feeding program, constant access to hay/roughage and water and regular dental care. Horses that crib are at a higher risk of colicing, so it is highly recommended to find a way to prevent them from cribbing. Preventing and treating ulcers is also an effective way to help prevent some forms of colic.  As much as horse owners would like to prevent the chance of colic entirely, sometimes it is out of our control. Knowing what the signs are, how to aid the horse until a vet arrives and ultimately knowing how to help the horse recover is the best knowledge to have.


Webinar Series – Using Pyramid Training





Big Dee’s Webinar Series
Sarah Martin, an accomplished Dressage trainer, spoke during Big Dee’s Anniversary Event about Using Pyramid Training for Dressage and general foundation riding. Sarah has several Professional Accomplishments including; USDF Bronze, Silver and Gold Medalist, USDF Certified Second and Fourth Instructor Trainer, USDF “L” Program Graduate with Distinction and has been a Trainer for USDF Horse of the Year horses and riders from Training Level through Prix St Georges.

Starting Out
The training scale, according to Sarah, is a foundation to establish concepts with your horse in the beginning and to continuously re-establish them as you progress to more difficult movements. Ultimately, the work is about balance – your horse’s balance, your balance, and coordinating the two in harmony. Much like natural horsemanship – the rider’s seat is the center balance point. Like horses, a rider has a strong side, and a weaker side. Horses mimic the stiffness as well as the suppleness from the rider, so in order to be in true balance, the rider must work on his/her faults as well as strengthen their body.

Training Level
Initially a few training concepts will be what early stages consist of.
• Rhythm is the repetition of the footfall, tempo and purity of the gait.
• Suppleness refers to the relaxation of muscles and the horse’s ability to both mentally and physically cooperate with what is being asked.
• Connection is the ability of the hind leg to come underneath horse’s body, step under the body through the back, and come over the shoulder and neck and into the connection of the bit.

First Level
As training continues, the demands of the horse’s movement increase.
• Impulsion is an important idea to understand to progress further in Dressage. It refers to the horse’s ability to compress it’s body and then lengthen out – think of it like a coiled spring.
• Straightness in Dressage refers to the horse’s ability to center it’s shoulders between the hind legs; leg yields are a great way to develop a supple hind end.

Second Level and beyond
Once someone has a solid foundation, they can continue forward, but always keep the basic building blocks in mind and refer back to them when needed.
• Collection and Elevation will be the hardest factor, obtaining a lift and increased range of motion in the horse and a balanced and perfected form from the rider.

How to apply the knowledge
A positive state of mind will get the rider much farther along than a negative one. Also keep in mind that “unwillingness” might not be a refusal to do what is asked, maybe the horse cannot bend or flex the way you are asking. Horses, like people, have limits to their physical strength. Instead of constant repetition of the same exercises and getting frustrated, try smaller, more meaningful exercises and know when to stop to allow your horse to both comprehend what you are asking and relax from the physical work. As a horse is worked, the muscles become bigger and more dense. If a horse is tight or tense, think about how you can alleviate the issue whether it be a massage or stretchy exercises on the weak part.

Disclaimer: This seminar was given at Big Dee’s Anniversary Event. All content provided by Sarah Martin on Big Dee’s blog is for informational purposes only. Big Dee’s will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.


Webinar Series – Horse Vaccinations

Big Dee’s Webinar Series
Dr. Corey Paradine from Cleveland Equine Clinic in Ravenna, OH, spoke during Big Dee’s Anniversary Event about Horse Vaccinations and what they help prevent. Dr. Paradine is from southern Michigan where she grew up around horses and pursued her education, earning a degree in Animal Science from Michigan State University. She continued to Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and graduated in 2008.

Where do I start?
Horse vaccines are designed to help prevent and lessen the severity of symptoms in known horse diseases. The types of diseases you vaccinate for varies on your location and what your horse may or may not be exposed to. Ultimately, we never know exactly what your horse can come in contact with, so it’s better to err on the side of caution. Most vaccines are given yearly, and often offered in bundles. Most people vaccinate in the Spring before all the mosquitoes come out in full force.


What is common in the Northeast Ohio area?

Eastern Equine Encephalitis
EEE is a fatal neurological disease in horses that is contracted by mosquitoes and has a rapid progression. It effects the brain and nervous system causing the horse to lose coordination, lose the ability to stand and be unable to have normal bodily functions. The vaccine is effective in helping to prevent.

Western Equine Encephalitis
WEE is very similar to EEE, being a neurological disease spread by mosquitoes with rapid progression and painful symptoms. It is a separate strain of virus and therefore classified on its own.

West Nile
West Nile is similar to the above diseases as it is transmitted by mosquitoes and effects the neurological system. It has a wider range in symptoms; from mild to incredibly severe. Since all three diseases are similar, it is sometimes hard to differentiate between them.  The West Nile virus vaccine is effective in helping to prevent the disease.

Tetanus is caused by the bacteria clostridium. Although it is commonly picked up from wounds, it is always in the environment. The symptoms include horrible muscle spasms, hypersensitivity to light and sound and is incredibly painful. If contracted, most horses are euthanized for humane reasons due to the extreme pain and costs to treat. The vaccine is very effective at any time of year.

The Flu and Rhino are two separate diseases, but have some things in common. Both are respiratory viruses and are very contagious. They also are easier to recover from. The main varying symptom is that Rhino can cause abortion in pregnant mares. Since the virus is so contagious, if several pregnant mares are turned out together and one contracts Rhino, the risk is severe in all the horses, and can lead to “abortion storms”. Pregnant mares are encouraged to be boosted every two months with the Rhino vaccine.

Rabies is a neurological disease that is fatal. The only way to test for Rabies is to send the brain of the animal into a lab to confirm, making it difficult to diagnose. Rabies is contracted by the contact of bodily fluids, often seen in bite wounds from infected animals. The vaccine is effective in resisting rabies.

Potomac Horse Fever is a bacterial infection from ingesting mayflies. Though recovery is very possible, the side effect of extreme diarrhea in horses leads to a secondary factor – founder. It is a very costly disease to treat. The vaccine is effective and helps to lessen the symptoms if contracted.


Not all horses are the same
It is encouraged to keep up with routine vaccinations to protect your horse from diseases that can be both painful, and fatal. Dr. Paradine recommends a booster in the Flu/Rhino vaccines for show horses who are exposed to more than horses that spend most of the time in the pasture or trail riding. It is also wise to booster horses travelling to and from new locations (out of state, etc). Keep in mind the age and condition of your horse,  if a horse’s immune system is suppressed, the vaccine won’t be as effective. As always, keep a record for your horse, including vaccines, dewormers and general health care.


Disclaimer: This seminar was given at Big Dee’s Anniversary Event. All content provided by Dr. Paradine on Big Dee’s blog is for informational purposes only. Big Dee’s will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

Webinar Series – Equine Deworming

Big Dee’s Webinar Series

Dr. Ken Keckler from Buckeye Veterinary Services in Burton, OH, spoke during Big Dee’s Anniversary Event about the importance of equine deworming and keeping a healthy routine for your horses. Dr. Keckler is a graduate from The Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture in 1987 and a DVM in 1991. Whether you have been caring for horses for years, or are just starting in the world of equine ownership; Dr. Keckler’s guide into the simple steps you can take for the well-being of your horse are invaluable.

Where do I start?
Dr. Keckler recommends regular fecal exams to determine how much your horse sheds parasite eggs. Horses range from heavy, to moderate and light shedders. Some horses have greater immunities to the parasites and may not need to be dewormed as often.

What types of parasites should I be deworming for?
• Bots
• Ascarids (roundworms/bloodworms)
• Tapeworms (a common problem with yearling horses)
• Stronglyes
• Pinworms (very common and can be identified by horses scratching their butts)

How often should I deworm?
If fecal tests come back clean, generally every three months with the appropriate dewormer is accepted. Over-deworming can build a resistance in the parasite to dewormers and may be harder to get rid of them. Dr. Keckler recommends a rotation of dewormers:
• Spring – Use a Fenbendazole, like Panacure
• Summer – Use an Ivermectin/Praziquantel, like Equimax
• Fall – Use a Pyrantel, like Strongid
• Winter – Use an Ivermectin/Praziquantel, like Equimax
If problems persist with parasites, using a Moxidectin, like Quest, will kill most parasites due to them having a low resistance to it.

What else can I do?
As often as possible, clean manure from pastures, paddocks and everywhere your horse has access to. Be sure to use the appropriate dewormer for your horse and keep an eye on any changing or concerning symptoms. Keep in mind the age, condition and well-being of your horse; older horses may have resistance to some parasites, but their immune systems can be weaker and require regular deworming. Foals and pregnant mares also have a different routine than the average horse.

Disclaimer: This seminar was given at Big Dee’s Anniversary Event. All content provided by Dr. Keckler on Big Dee’s blog is for informational purposes only. Big Dee’s will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.