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Icelandic Horse Connection

Stress and the Icelandic Horse

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The gait of tolt (rack) is a very stressful gait. Tolt (rack) is one-foot / two-foot support which means that the horse is carrying all of his weight and the weight of the rider on one foot with his back muscles tightened. Good trainers recommend not staying in this gait for long periods. It is also helpful to vary the gait, alternating frequently to use different muscle groups and to relieve the back of the contraction required to hollow the back for tolt (rack). Running walk, stepping pace, foxtrot, trot, and canter are good alternatives, and transitions between the gaits are helpful. It is believe that this will help reduce the incidence of spavin.

All horses are stressed to some extent when kept alone, or in small corrals. Relieve stress by providing a pasture mate, large paddocks, and as much turn-out as possible.

Keep your horse's diet stable and provide grass hay rather than alfalfa hay. Limit turn-out on fresh, green grass due to founder potential.

Become informed about saddles and saddle fit--please don't use a saddle to "get gait". Naturally gaited horses don't need special saddles, weighted shoes, severe bits, heavy contact, nosebands, etc. This only causes more stress to the horse which can make his life shorter.

Shoeing: shoes should be used only for protection, traction and therapy. They should not be used to enhance gait and they can potentially cause lameness problems if used for that reason. If you have a gaited horse, his gait should be enhanced by good, logical, proven gaited horse methods. Long-term use of shoes can also cause contracted heels which will be painful to the horse.

Research vaccinations and make informed decisions about giving multiple injections at the same time. It can be stressful for a horse's system.

A few other things to consider:
  • Possibility of spavin
  • Possibility of ulcers from importation, or general nervous temperament
  • Possibility of stress from compromised immune system if given too many vaccinations / worming at once.
  • Possiblity of high CK and AST levels due to overwork of the muscles.
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