October 18, 2017

An Ounce Of Prevention…

AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION: Why Wise People Wear Closed Shoes at the Barn

By Suzi Carragher – suzicomm@gmail.com (Shared with permission)

Look around most reputable riding stables and you’ll likely see a rule “No Open Shoes.” Many folks assume that because they aren’t the ones riding the horse, the rule doesn’t apply to them. To quote that sage Bart Simpson, “Au contraire, mon frère!”

Without a why, many folks dismiss the rule. Real horse men and women know stuff happens at barns – unexpected, nasty, gnarly stuff. We know that an ounce of prevention will keep us out of the hospital and working with our beloved horses and clients. That’s why we suit up for the task at hand. Just so we’re all on the same page here, a closed shoe is one where both the toes and heel are covered, e.g., boots, athletic shoes, a sturdy walking shoe. The shoes should encapsulate your foot in a sturdy fabric or leather and offer foot and ankle support.

Injury Prevention: The most obvious thought that pops in people’s minds when they read the “Closed shoes only” rule is a hoof-on-foot injury. If you haven’t experienced this form of pain, let me tell you from personal experience – IT HURTS… A LOT! In my case, I was escorting a horse back to his stall, when I stopped to answer a quick question. He shifted his weight and lazily put his hoof directly on my right pinkie toe. POP! It was broken. Thankfully, I was wearing my boot, because without it, the toe likely would have been taken clean off. I was lucky.

Other reasons aren’t as obvious. Stables are busy places. Errant shoeing nails, carpentry nails, staples, thumb tacks, jump cups, hoof picks, improperly disposed needles, trash that didn’t quite make it to the bin, and other items are more likely to cause an injury if discovered by a foot in an open shoe than a closed shoe.

One of the most common forms of footwear is the flip flop sandal. They are wonderful things. They are summer, the beach, and popsicles! But, they are terrible for your feet. They lack arch support, which can lead to plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation of the thick band of tissue along the bottom of your foot. Riders: Try dropping your heel and feel the pain! Flip flops are also blamed for a number of other injuries, including: stress fractures of the metatarsals, stubbed toes, and broken toes. One Washington, D.C. podiatrist says he sees at least one flip-flop related injury weekly from May through September.

Infection Prevention: Remember, barns are busy work places. Vets are in and out treating patients. Dewormings are being administered. Machines are being used. Critters other than horses visit or take up residence in the feed area or shavings. Urine, manure, blood, pus, nasty week old beverages, and other stuff make their way onto the ground. In researching this section of the article, I found enough data on zoonosis, diseases that can be passed from animals to humans, to write quite a few articles. The fact is closed shoes provide more protection against picking up an infection than open shoes. There are a number of infections that can be picked up at a barn ranging from fungal infections, like ringworm, that will ruin your summer swimming plans to rabies.

Tetanus Tetanus is a bacterial infection that occurs when Clostridium tetani bacterial enters the body though a wound and produces toxins that impair your motor neurons. It gets transmitted through wounds like puncture wounds, crush wounds, splinters, and infected cuts. The risk is increased if the area is contaminated with dirt or manure, both of which are plentiful at barns. If you contract tetanus, you can look forward to spasms and stiffness in your jaw muscles, stiff neck, difficulty swallowing, abdominal muscle stiffness and ultimately painful body spasms. You may also endure fever, sweating, elevated blood pressure, and rapid heart rate.

Tetanus can be treated, but not cured, according to the Mayo Clinic article on the subject. Treatment includes the administration of antitoxin medication, antibiotics, vaccination, sedatives to control muscle spasm, other drugs to regulate involuntary muscles, and in some cases, people with tetanus get to stay in the hospital to receive respiratory support. Still think open shoes are okay at the barn?

Campylobacter Does your barn have a mare with a foal? Or kittens? Or bunnies? Do you stand closely to pet them? Campylobacter is a common infection in baby animals that when passed to humans can cause diarrhea. It’s important to know that animals shed the germs for up to seven weeks if untreated, and all it takes to enter your system is a small nick on your foot. “But, my sandals are so cute, and I’m just here to watch the lesson,” you say.

Worms I remember my friend dewormed her new horse, and we stood amazed by what came out of that gelding. It was spectacular! Now, had we not been wearing our boots we’d have been standing in a wide assortment of intestinal parasites, including hookworms, tapeworms, and roundworms. It seems that little ones get the brunt of the worm invasion, because they’re not great at hygiene. Roundworms are intestinal parasites that infect 10,000 children annually. Untreated they can cause blindness. Hookworms attach themselves to the intestinal lining and can cause life threatening blood loss. Infections are treatable with anti-parasitic drugs, but you’re not going to like what happens until they’re cleared out. Are you reconsidering your footwear?

Leptospirosis Leptospirosis is caused by Leptospira interrogans, a spirochete. (Spirochete is such a cool word. It means spiral shaped bacteria, so now you can astound your friends at parties.) It is considered to be “the most widespread zoonosis in the world,” according to MedicineNet.com. It is spread through contact with bodily fluids, like urine, as well as contaminated soil and water. It enters the body through minor cuts. Once inside, the spirochete heads for the kidneys, liver, and central nervous system where it multiplies and wreaks havoc. Symptoms include: rash, fever, chills, headaches, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Severe cases are accompanied by kidney failure, liver failure, and meningitis. Pregnant women who become infected have a high rate of fetal mortality. Leptospirosis can be treated with antibiotics, though some cases require hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics.

If this doesn’t convince you to wear closed shoes to the barn, then consider that venomous snakes, spiders, mice, rats, staph, and other no-see-ums can also be present at horse facilities. The prevention steps for all these infections all include proper hygiene, e.g., hand washing, and avoiding the pathogen, e.g., wearing closed shoes.

Lastly, consider this message on the University of Connecticut’s Department of Animal Science webpage: Steel Toed Boots

  • If you are working at any of the livestock units, steel toed boots are a must! For individuals concerned about the risks of using steel toed boots, MythBusters Episode 42 has dispelled the myth that you can lose toes if something heavy actually lands on your reinforced boots. In any case, according to Federal Law it is still required.

**One Last Tip on Open Toed Shoes**

It’s the pet peeve of some professors in the department that students wear open toed shoes in laboratories. Closed toed shoes are actually required in all laboratories and at all livestock units even if you are “just visiting”. Let’s try to keep our professors and our toes happy! The bottomline: Your instructor cares about you and your well-being. They aren’t telling you to lose your sandals at the barn to cramp your style or be a cosmic killjoy, but to keep you and your family safe so you can continue having fun with the horses. Tip: Keep your sandals and clogs in your car, so you can change out of your boots after your time at the stable.

Sources that informed this article:

Curry On!









Curry? It’s a spice. Or a tasty, exotic dish served with rice. While that might be true, but it’s also a very important equine grooming tool. Often refered to as a Curry Comb although it is not a comb at all. Curries are often overlooked, misused or deleted altogether. Currying is a very important step in keeping your horses clean and healthy. What do you need to know about curries? Here are some tips to help you on your way to not only a cleaner horse, but a healthier one as well.

Metal or Spring Curry


From top to bottom- Curry w/ handle, Jelly curry, Rubber curry

Which curry works best? Here at CRK Stable only rubber curries are used on horses. Metal or spring curries are never used on horses. Metal curries are simply too sharp, stiff and harsh for most horses. They will cut the hair coat and may even cut the horse too. They do work well to clean saddle pads though. Use them to remove the horse hair and dried sweat that accumulates on the bottom before you wash them. Other than that, keep them far away from the horses.

            Rubber curries come in many shapes and sizes so pick one that fits your hand well and will do the job. I like the ones with a handle strap that I can put my hand through. I find it easier to hold and do a good job with this type.  Sometimes we will use a soft Jelly Curry on sensitive areas. These types of curries are soft and conform to the hand and area being groomed. They work well and aren’t too harsh on faces, lower legs, flanks and bellies. They are also very useful when bathing your horse. Make sure that any curry you choose has some teeth to it but that they are soft and give easily. This will keep the horse relaxed and not make them cranky about being groomed.    

         Why do we curry a horse? Currying is the first step in the grooming process and the most important. Even clean, short coated horses will benefit from the use of a curry, but you may need to use it more gently than on a horse with a long coat. Plus, some horses just simply love to be curried! They will lean into the curry, raise their heads and maybe even stick out their upper lip when it is used on particularly itchy spots. This gives the horse a very good feeling about being groomed and they will come to look forward to it.


Fungus infection on the hind cannon

         Currying will loosen the dirt, mud, dead hair and skin that builds up on the coat and skin. It will also give your horse a nice massage. This massaging action increases blood flow to the skin, distributes natural oils and exposes any sensitive areas. Fungus infections that cause hair loss can be reduced or eliminated by currying. It will remove the dead hair and scabs, allowing air to get to the damaged skin. Many fungus infections need an anaerobic (without air) environment to grow, so exposing the skin to the air will greatly reduce the infection if not kill it off altogether.

Loosen the hair and dirt

Loosen the hair and dirt

            How do you use a curry? A standard rubber curry should only be used on the heavily muscled parts of the horses body, never on bony or sensitive areas like the lower legs and face. Begin by placing your hand through the handle and gripping the curry gently in your hand. Start just behind the left ear on the neck. When working near the horses head, it is often a good idea to keep your free hand on the halter so you don’t get nipped.  Working in circles, groom the horse from top to bottom, front to back, making sure to stop just above the knees and hocks. Then repeat on the second side. Take extra care over the withers, hips bones, flanks and under the belly as these are sensitive areas. Vigorous currying may cause some discomfort to your horse, so pay attention to their behavior. Watch for pinned ears, dirty looks or threats in the form of lifted hooves, stomping or mini kicks. These may be signs that your are being too enthusiastic or the horse may have a sore spot. If your horse shows signs of sensitivity, go over that area again with your bare hands, checking carefully for any cuts or sores.


She looks dirtier than before we started!

            You are finished currying your horse. Congratulations on a job well done. Both you and your horse will appreciate it! Now, on to the Dandy Brush…


About The Author- Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor and Clinic Instructor. Cheryl graduated from Rawhide Vocational College and Fullerton College. She is also an AQHA Professional Horseman. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 30 years, training students from beginner up to world level competition. Currently she and her husband own and operate CRK Training Stable in Yorba Linda, CA. We welcome your comments and questions. Please feel free to share this article with your friends, but rights to publish this article are restricted. For more interesting articles from Cheryl go to www.crktrainingstable.com

 curry on



A Shot In The Dark

Every year horse owners are faced with many challenges to keeping their horses well and healthy. First in many owners mind is the cost. Therefore; some owners will not vaccinate their horses or will use vaccines purchased at the local feed store or online. I have done my own vaccinations in the past. However; I now have all my horses vaccinated by my veterinarian. I know he will have the latest information about what is going on in the area and will be able to give my horses the best chance of being protected from diseases. Plus, it gives him a chance to check each of my horses and answer any questions I may have about their care. It has improved my relationship with my vet and I know that being a good client over the years has entitled me to superior service, especially in an emergency.

Recently, I had the great pleasure of attending a meeting of our local riding club where my own vet, Dr. Treser, D.V.M was a speaker. The topic was common diseases and the routine vaccinations used to prevent them. Now I pride myself on keeping up on things, but even with my 30+ years of experience, I learned a thing or two. Here’s a synopsis of the talk.

Tetanus– Potentially fatal to horses and any horse can get it. They do not need to have contact with another horse or person to contract this disease. Any open wound can become infected with the bacteria because it is abundant in the horse’s environment. It can also be transmitted to humans, so owners have a risk as well. This disease is easily prevented by annual vaccinations.

Rabies– Rabies is now considered enough of a risk to horses that the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) considers it to be a core vaccination. This means that the AAEP recommends that every horse in the United States be vaccinated for Rabies. At U. C. Davis Vet School, rabies is more commonly presented in horses than any other animal. Rabies can also be transmitted to humans by simply being in the same area as an infected animal. Some humans have gotten rabies by breathing the same air or having a horse breathe into their face. Since the first symptoms of rabies are drooling and difficulty swallowing, owners will often check the horse’s mouth. This action may cause exposure by getting saliva in a cut or passing the airborne particles into the owner’s eyes or mouth.

Rabies in Southern California is most commonly transmitted by Mexican Brown Bats. Since bats fly at night, a horse owner would not know their horse has been bitten until symptoms appear. Then it is too late. Also, any humans who came in contact with that horse would have to undergo a rabies vaccination program to prevent them from contracting the disease. Rabies is preventable by annual vaccination.

West Nile– West Nile is a virus that affects the neurological system of horses and people. It is transmitted when a carrier animal, usually a bird such as a crow, is bitten by a mosquito and then it bites you or your horse. West Nile has been effectively controlled in California because most horses are now vaccinated twice per year.

Strangles– Strangles is a highly contagious disease caused by bacteria. It can be transmitted by direct contact from horse to horse, from the horse being placed in a stall where an infected horse has been, or from the hands, shoes, or clothing of a person who has had contact with a sick horse. The highly contagious nature of the disease can cause epidemic-like outbreaks at some stables. It is a nuisance disease that is rarely fatal in horses. Symptoms include abscesses that form under the jaw, fever, nasal discharge and loss of appetite. Strangles vaccines are intranasal, live vaccines that may cause a horse to contract a mild form of the disease. Most vets will recommend you vaccinate for strangles if there is an outbreak in your area.

Sleeping Sickness– This neurological disease takes several forms- Eastern, Western & Venezuelan. The disease is spread when a carrier animal, usually a bird such as a crow, is bitten by a mosquito and then it bites you or your horse. Vaccines exist for all forms, but it is best to contact your veterinary regarding which ones are necessary for your area. Sleeping Sickness or Encephalomyelitis is prevented with annual vaccinations.

 Rhinopneumonitis (Rhino)- This disease can take one of three forms or strains. The first one will make your horse sick with flu like symptoms, but not cause any serious problems. The second will cause abortion in pregnant mares, so they are vaccinated in the odd months of pregnancy (3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th) to prevent problems. The last strain- Equine Herpes Virus (EHV) – causes neurological problems and often death in horses. Some Rhino vaccines have been effective in real-life situations for EHV while others have no effect on the disease. Be sure to check with your vet to be sure you are getting the correct one. Rhino vaccines should be given at least every 6 months or up to 6 times per year depending on your horse’s exposure potential. A horse at a large facility where horses come and go to shows, rides, etc will have a higher exposure potential than a horse kept in a backyard that never leaves home.

   Influenza (Flu)- Influenza in horses is very similar to Flu in humans. There are various strains and most vaccines will cover the common strains. Flu is caused by a virus and will cause symptoms such as-lethagy, off feed, cough, fever and nasal discharge. Flu is not usually a big problem unless it happens the weekend of the big trail ride or show. Flu can be prevented by vaccinating at least 2 times per year or more if exposure warrants.

Potomac Horse Fever (PHF)- Because PHF is no longer a serious threat in our area, we no longer vaccinate for this disease. If your horse will be traveling to the mid-west or east coast, vaccination for PHF may be required.

There you have it, the information on common, preventable diseases and the vaccinations to prevent them. Remember your local feed store or vet catalog may sell you a vaccine, but they will not know which diseases are prevalent in your area or which strain of vaccine will work best for your individual situation. In all health matters regarding your horse, it is always best to consult your veterinarian. This article is for educational and entertainment purposes only and is not offering any medical advice.

Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor, Clinic Instructor and an AQHA Professional Horsewoman. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 30 years. Currently she and her husband own and operate CRK Training Stable in Yorba Linda, CA. We welcome your comments and questions. Please feel free to share this article with your friends, but rights to publish this article are restricted. For more interesting articles from Cheryl go to www.crktrainingstable.com