Tennessee, 8 year old TWH ridden in Western headgear, various bits and Western Saddle in ring, pasture by beginner to intermediate level rider.
Question: I have just purchased my first horse and of course, I have  many questions:

1. He is a gelding, right at 15 hands, but the weight of about 730 pounds concerns me. He otherwise seems very healthy with a good appetite. He has been wormed twice. I have been riding him every day for the past 3 weeks, and sometimes twice a day. Should I be concerned?

2. He had only been ridden about once a month for the last year, and not properly. We tried a double twisted snaffle bit that tore up his mouth, now we are using a sweet copper snaffle and that seems okay. What is a good bit for him - he has a good gait, but  sometimes seems a little pacey.

3. My husband says that he almost never put rear shoes on his horses and I have heard that from others. I will be trail riding him mostly. Do I really need those rear shoes?

Thank you,
Katie Dunn

From Panelist Steve

1. Well, he does sound like he is a little skinny but it is impossible to be
sure without looking at him. Most people overestimate the weight of their
horses and this is especially true for Walkers because most are very narrow
for their height. The easiest way to see if your horse is fit is to look at
his sides. If you see rib outlines, even vaguely, then he needs some
groceries. If this doesn't work, use Strongid C in his feed every day and a
probiotic. I've never seen this combo fail to put weight on a horse.

If you can't see the ribs but can feel them readily, then the horse is OK
but on the light side. Nothing really wrong with that. I think weight is
optimal is when I can feel ribs but have to work at it a little. If you
can't feel ribs at all then the horse is too fat.

2. I have excellent results with Wonder Bits. Depending on where the horse
holds his head when he walks, I may use a pelham instead (Wonder bits tend
to raise the head which can make a pacey horse worse. Pelhams encourage a
more natural albeit lower head set).

>From time to time try a snaffle (actually all you have to do is attach a
second set of reins to the big rings on the Wonder bit and you have two bits
in one, and both at the same time. Use the snaffle when the horse is going
well and keep the gag action for emergency stopping.

We don't use bits at all any more except when we go out in mixed company,
especially with strange horses. We need the communication a bit gives. But
otherwise, a bitless bridle or neck ring are the way to go, IMHO. The horse
is happier, gaits better, goes longer and you can REALLY impress people. Get
to that point slowly, using a bit as an emergency brake and a bitless bridle
or a neck ring for most communication. Eventually, you will feel confident
enough to ride with just the neck ring. (the first ride on a horse with just
a neck ring is always very exciting).

3. I haven't used back shoes on any of my horses in 12 years and see no need
for them until the horse proves sensitive back there. They never do.


Steve Chasko

From Panelist Carol

 Dear Katie,

I think that as long as you are feeding your horse at least 10 pounds of grain a day, and if his back isn't getting sore, it's ok to go ahead and ride him.  gradually increase grain if you aren't feeding that much now. 

If he likes the copper snaffle, that sounds fine to me.  I'm not a big fan of twisted wire bits, although the horse will tell you what kind he likes.

Leave the rear shoes off for now, but if his feet wear too much, or if you are planning long rides on rough territory, you will need to shoe him behind.

Carol Camp Tosh

From Panelist Darla

Fifteen hands and 750lbs would concern me if he looks like he is really 
underweight.  Are his ribs showing and his back and hip bones,  Have you had 
a vet check him out for teeth problems?  I would have a health check on him 
by a good vet.  If you are riding him a lot make sure he is getting pleanty 
to eat to keep his weight on.  I like to feed Purina Equine Sr to my horses 
and i double the amount when I work them hard.

The shoes are not needed if your horse has good strong feet and there are not 
a lot of rocks for him to break off his hoofs on.  Best wishes and happy 


From Panelist Stella

1) That does sound like underweight for a horse his height, especially if he's to carry an adult human,tack etc too.....stepping his feed and hay up should help; remember, he will be burning up much more energy being ridden regularly now, when he wasnt before, so do start stepping him up....with some horses that seem to be hard keepers, its a good idea 
to give them a probiotic after worming - this is microflora, as the wormer often kill off many of these beneficial bacteria that help break down foods for the horse to digest properly. The body makes its own, but some horses do better than others, and certainly
frequent worming makes it more likely to be needed than not.

2)Paceyness can be the result of a number of things-natural(conformation), changes of terrain, the rider, saddle fit, farriery, lack of optimum condition, lack of much training past greenbroke to teach the horse to use himself properly...lateral exercises(circles, serpentines, reverses, etc help). If its your first horse, do seek some additional lessons in riding, and even have a professional check your horse to give you a more accurate diagnosis on where the problem is stemming from, so you can go from there on the right track to correct it.

3)It really depends on your horse, and your horse's gaits. Being you said he's pacey, sometimes just front shoes can help that(often makes the horse a bit more diagonal). Others, it may interfere with gaits, especially if trotty in the first place....but sometimes the converse! Its an individual matter...you can try and see, always add the back shoes later, if
necessary. (for either gait, or how he wears his feet)



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