Category Archives: education


This is the second in a series of educational posts to help horse owners get to know their horses. This post will explain why you should know your horse’s body weight and what you can measure in order to calculate it.

You should have a fairly accurate weight of your horse for several reasons such as: dosing medications, supplements and dewormers. Also, to monitor weight gains or losses for health reasons or to help adjust the amount of feed they are receiving.

This most accurate way to get the correct weight of your horse is to use a calibrated weight scale and since most of us do not have a scale, we depend on other methods. The method most often used is a height and weight tape. The tape measures the heart girth (around the horse’s body at the withers) however, the tape does not take body length into consideration and we know that a tall horse can be short backed and a short horse can have a long body. There are also different tapes specifically for ponies, horses, and drafts.

There is a simple formula shown below (I used Ace as my model) which is a little more complicated (than just measuring around his body) but results are found to be a more accurate estimate of your horse’s body weight.

First, measure your horse’s heart girth in inches. This is from the base of the withers (a few inches behind the front legs) around the body and up the other side to meet the tape at the top of the withers as shown. Ace measures 75 inches.

Second, measure your horse’s body length in inches. Measure the distance between the point of the shoulder and the point of the hip. Ace’s body length is 55 inches.

Third, calculate the weight:

  • Multiply the heart girth by the heart girth     75 x 75 = 5625
  • Multiply the result by the body length            5625 x 55 = 309375
  • Divide the result by 300 then add 50               309375/300= 1031 + 50 = 1081

Ace’s estimated body weight is 1081 pounds.

This article was written by Susan Boyd and edited by Zachary Franklin, DVM


This will be a series of educational posts you can use to get to know your horse a little better. I am not talking about your horse’s mind or personality, I mean you should know things like his weight, what the normal gastrointestinal tract sounds like, what the normal range is for temperature, heart rate and respiration. This information will help you to recognize when there may be a problem. The first thing your doctor does when you visit is to take your weight and vital signs. Your results are compared to a “normal” range (looking for anything that might be above or below what is considered normal or healthy). A record is created, this becomes a historical record of what is normal for you and comparisons are made each time you visit so your doctor can watch for trends and changes that might indicate a potential health issue or concern. I believe that a horse owner can avoid some serious health issues and recognize a problem early by being proactie by keeping records and checking vital signs, comparing them to the prior normal’s for their horse. These posts will cover the list of items below and will explain how to check them, and we will give you the values which are considered the normal range (note that there will be some variation in the normal vaues depending on age, breed, condition, etc.)

Here are some of the things you want to know about hour horse

  • Body Weight
  • Body Condition
  • Respiratory Rate
  • Heart Rate
  • Temperature
  • Color and feel of the gums plus the capillary refill time
  • Digital Pulse on all 4 feet and hoof temperature
  • Gut Sounds

Knowing how to obtain this information from your horse can also be a great help to you when consulting with your veterinarian if you think there may be a health problem. Providing this information during your call to set up an appointment may help him/her determine if the situation is an emergency or not.

These posts will cover one item at a time so watch for the post next week.

Written by Susan Boyd, edited by Zachary Franklin, DVM

The Barefoot Horse – A Lifestyle Part 3


As mentioned in posts 1 and 2, “The Barefoot Horse” is not just a description of a horse without shoes, nor is it just a description of the hoof condition of a horse. Rather, it is a description of a lifestyle of a horse. The lifestyle of a barefoot horse includes:

  • A free choice, forage based diet which is low in sugar, low in starch, and balanced to have the correct amount and ratios of vitamins and minerals for type of hay being fed.
  • Living conditions and environment which allow for and encourage movement over several different types of terrain including grass, gravel, and rock.
  • Daily exercise that includes waling, trotting and galloping. Horses in open range situations will travel 15 miles or more a day.
  • A proper barefoot trim every 4 to 6 weeks. Some horses can go longer if the environment promotes some self trimming.

This is the third in a series of articles that will define ideal conditions listed above that are important for the development and maintenance of a healthy barefoot horse and give you some reasonable and practical options. Continue reading

The Barefoot Horse – a Lifestyle part 2

DIGITAL CAMERAThe Barefoot Horse – a Lifestyle

Written by Susan Boyd and edited by Zachary Franklin, DVM

This is the second post in a series of four about the lifestyle of the barefoot horse. “The barefoot horse” is not merely a description of a horse without shoes nor is it a description of the hoof condition of a horse. Rather, it is the description of a lifestyle of a horse that includes:
A free choice, forage based diet which is low in sugar, low in starch, and balanced to contain the proper amounts and ratios of vitamins and minerals for type of forage being fed.
Living conditions and an environment which allow for and encourage movement over several different types of terrain including grass, gravel, and rock.
Daily exercise that includes walking, trotting and galloping. Horses living on the open range will travel 15 or more miles a day.
A proper barefoot trim every 4 to 6 weeks. Some horses can go longer if the environment promotes some self-trimming Continue reading

Pete Ramey – equine hoof care and nutrition

 Pete Ramey discusses equine hoof care and nutrition

Equine hoof care and nutrition were important subjects in the hoof rehabilitation workshop conducted by Pete Ramey  at Woodrose Ranch and Equestrian Center last Saturday. He started the workshop with an hour plus discussion on equine hoof care and nutrition – emphasis on nutrition. There are many things that go into building, maintaining, or rehabilitating a horses foot. The primary ingredient is nutrition. Without good nutrition, the rest of it does not matter. You cannot trim your way back to a healthy foot he told us. Continue reading

Pete Ramey Hoof Rehabilitation Workshop

Pete RameyPete Ramey Hoof Rehabilitation Workshop January 23, 2016

This was the first Hoof Rehabilitation Workshop in South Florida presented by Pete Ramey. It was cold for South Florida and windy but 15 participants consisting of farriers, hoof trimmers, horse owners and a veterinarian gathered at Woodrose Ranch and Equestrian Center to watch, listen, and learn. Continue reading

Horse’s Instincts – Bring them back

Wild_Horses_MAIN-cr-BrianT.Mur                     Bring Back The Horse’s Instincts – an article                                                by Dr Juliet Getty

I am a huge fan of trying to feed and care for my horses the way they were designed to live – as free and as natural as possible. The following article by Dr. Juliet Getty, an independent equine nutritionist, addresses the horse’s instincts and why they are important. With her permission I share her article with you. I preface it with a couple of comments. Here in South Florida we cannot get analyzed hay in order to balance their diets. As an alternative option, I feed Timothy Hay and supplement with California Trace, a mineral supplement, plus vitamin E, salt, and flax to provide what is lacking in the hay. I use a slow feeder to make sure my horses have access to forage 24/7. I use NAG Bags but there are many good ones on the market such as Porta-grazers which also provide a slow feeder that soaks hay (for insulin resistant or Cushings horses that need a low NSC , non-structural carbohydrates – think sugar and starch hay.

Here is the article. Additional articles and information can be found on Dr. Getty’s web site.


Dr Juliet Getty

I respect and honor the way horses are made – they are different – unique, really. In a suitable, native environment, they are quite capable of taking care of themselves. They are free to eat and roam and, well, be horses. Domestication involves removing them from their natural setting, but that doesn’t change who they are. Horses have physiological and mental needs and those needs are being ignored.
I have very deep convictions on allowing a horse’s instincts to take hold. Many horses have lost their ability to express them, but they can resurface. Last month, I wrote about the stress of forage restriction. Some have said that what I am describing appears to be a road to increased obesity and an increased risk of laminitis. But they are grossly mistaken.

When we see images of wild horses running free, we all experience the hush, the chill, and the awe of their power and majesty. That is Nature at her best – allowing these incredible animals to live as they are intended. Why is it that we don’t see our own domesticated horses in the same way? Why is it that we think we can confine them to a small area for hours at a time, give them a few “square meals” each day and expect them to be right, physically and mentally? Are they not the same horses that long ago lived a different life?

It’s been said that our horses have become different – that horses living in the wild don’t suffer from the ravages of insulin resistance, the main cause of laminitis. Yes, it’s true — we don’t see laminitis when horses are free to feed themselves. But we do see insulin resistance, and that’s a blessing. Insulin resistance is the body’s way of avoiding starvation. During a harsh winter, when the food supply is sparse, horses will hold on to body fat to help them survive. They do this by having an elevated blood insulin level. When insulin is high, the cells cannot release fat. This is a survival mechanism.

We duplicate this when we restrict forage. The horse responds the same way – he is in survival mode! And he holds on to body fat.

Anything that causes insulin to rise will keep a horse fat. Hundreds of studies with humans confirm the connection between elevated insulin and obesity. Stress causes obesity in humans. Why?Because cortisol (the stress hormone) causes insulin to rise. At the cellular level, the same is true for horses. We have equine studies to show how insulin rises during stress. So why isn’t this being extrapolated to obesity in horses?

We have forced our horses to abandon their instincts.

They no longer get the inner signal that tells them to stop eating. To help you appreciate this, I’d like you to think about your childhood. When you were a toddler, you ate what you needed, and when you were no longer hungry, you stopped eating. Yes, you were coddled to finish your green beans, or no dessert! So you ate more to get that reward. But your instincts (yes, you had them back then) were to eat only what your body required. As you grew, you discovered that eating has more rewards than just getting dessert; eating is comforting, it cures stress, boredom, or disappointment, and is just plain fun! You likely don’t eat only when you’re hungry; you eat whenever you gather with friends or celebrate a special occasion. And guess what? Now that you’re grown, those instincts to eat only what your body needs have long faded.

Horses are a different story. They do not succumb to the pressures of society to influence their appetites. But when they are forced to eat on our schedules, they quickly become out of touch with that innate ability to eat slowly, a little at a time, and stop when satisfied. Instead, they eat quickly, ravenously, with barely a breath in between each bite, because they do not know when their next meal will be available. When it gets close to feeding time they pace, bob their heads, paw the ground, and make strange noises. This is not normal; it is a result of what we have done to our horses. We, well-meaning horse owners and caregivers, are putting our horses into survival mode!

Horses are unlike humans in one very significant way.

Their digestive tract is not the same as ours. The biology that drives the horse’s digestion is indisputable: The horse’s stomach produces acid continuously, necessitating the action of chewing to release acid-neutralizing saliva. The digestive tract is made of muscles and needs to be exercised to prevent colic by having a steady flow of forage running through it. The cecum (the hindgut where forage is digested by billions of microbes) has both its entrance and exit at the top, thereby requiring it to be full so material can exit, lest it become impacted.

I appeal to you to look at this logically.

You should not put your horse in a dry lot or a stall with no hay. You should test your hay, make sure it is suitable for the horse (low in sugar, starch, and calories) and put it in lots of slow feeders, placed everywhere you can – encouraging your horse to move! Exercise, even a small amount will make a difference. A larger amount will make a bigger difference.

When a horse loses weight the right way, his metabolic rate stays sound and he will be able to graze on pasture again. Perhaps you will have to limit it a bit, but maybe not. Some supplements may be helpful. I have seen hundreds of cases over the years where horses have returned to a normal life – healthy, full of vigor, with no grass restrictions.

Let your horse tell you how much he needs to eat.

Show him that he can start trusting his instincts—that’s the strong message you want him to understand. And you do that by being invariably trustworthy about feeding. Start by giving him more hay (that you’ve tested for suitability) than he could possibly eat – enough to last all day and enough so there is some left over in the morning. That means he needs to always have forage available. If he runs out, he will never get the message and will continue to overeat and continue to be fat.

Let me repeat that… If he runs out, even for 10 minutes, he will never get the message and will continue to overeat and continue to be fat. And worse, the hormonal response to this stress can induce a laminitis attack or relapse. I’ve seen this more times than I can count.

It may take a few weeks (though most of the time it is far shorter than that) for the magic moment to occur – when he walks away from the hay, knowing that it will still be there when he wants it. And then, watch his instincts start to return… just like yours were when you were a small child… where he will eat only what his body needs to be healthy. (You’ll notice a beautiful change in his behavior, too.)


I have many, many clients who have put their trust in me and done this for their horses with success. It is not easy to do at first – I understand that. But when done properly, it works – the overweight horse loses weight. The horse with chronic laminitis doesn’t suffer any more. The horse with Cushing’s disease can live a longer, healthier life. Equine metabolic syndrome becomes a thing of the past. And the owners… ah, the owners… can throw away all that worry and experience the sheer joy that horse ownership can bring.

I know that I am a trailblazer.

This seems like something new. Actually, if you think about it, it is so old, that it is new! But that’s how change happens. We used to feed oats to horses – gallons of oats every day. We now know that a large amount of starch is detrimental. I am encouraged by this change, not only because of its own value, but because it tells me that there is every likelihood that feeding forage free choice will also come to be accepted as mainstream.

I am doing everything I possibly can to help horse owners and professionals understand this basic, foundational concept. I have 7 years of post-graduate study in the field of animal nutrition. I work completely independently of feed, supplement, and pharmaceutical companies. My approach is based on observation and years of excellent results. There is no better science than that.