Archive for Hello Weekend
Let’s face it, we all love the sun and many parts of the country, this summer was exceptional! Horses, in the paddock and fields, enjoy their time as they lie soaking up the rays. Those rays, while we all enjoy it, can be very damaging to our skin and our horse’s coat. But, there are many things that we can do to minimize the sun’s impact.
Parched coats are vulnerable to getting burned. Most sun-bleaching is perpetuated by agents that dry the coat which maximizes damage. The most common causes are salt, mud and petroleum products.
Salt from sweat and dirt from mud draw out natural moisture and oils from the horse’s coat. Epsom salt soaks can pull out an abscess or clean a deep wound. Poultice is a mud pack we use to pull heat and swelling out of legs. Left on the coat, salt and dirt deplete moisture. Salt (sodium chloride) is also a very common additive in horse shampoos.
While the skin’s natural oils protect the horse from elements and irritation, synthetic ones can burn and suffocate the hair. Hair not only gets bleached, but also brittle. Many products marketed to repel bugs, create a shine, and detangle are petroleum-based. Instead of using those products, use ones that promote the coat’s resilience and the hair’s strength.
The best strategy is to enhance your horse’s own defences. His coat’s natural oils protect hair and skin. The very best thing you can do to improve your horse’s coat is to curry it vigorously every day. This not only rids it of damaging salt and dirt, but also brings oils to the surface and exfoliates to release them.
Be discerning when buying products. Some products make claims that are not realized. Shampoos that strip natural oils not only take away the shine, but stripping the oils actually leads horses to get dirtier. Spray on shine can never simulate a deep-layered glisten, nor rich colour. Over time, some detanglers can make hair very brittle. Look for detanglers and conditioners that contain ingredients to help strengthen the hair.
Shampoos should specify: pH balanced for horses, otherwise, they will be difficult to rinse and likely leave a film that attracts drying sun and dirt.
Soft brushing and towelling facial skin makes it shine. If needed, human sunscreen can prevent pink muzzles from burning.
Presented by: Larissa Cox, M.Sc. Equine Science
From the time horses were domesticated and stalled, unknowingly, we created a problem. The equine digestive system continuously produces and secretes stomach acid. This isn’t an issue when horses graze most of the day, but when their stomach is empty, that acid can eat away at the stomach lining causing painful gastric ulcers and digestive imbalances.
In the wild, horses travel up to 25 miles a day eating little bites here and there, grazing 18 – 20 hours each day. Their digestive system is classified as trickle feeders, eating only enough to be satisfied and never to be full. It is very important to remember the underlying biology of the horse when determining how and when to feed and in what quantities.
The horse is a hind gut fermenting grazer. The digestive process starts when he pulls and chews grass which in turn stimulates the flow of saliva, lubricating this grass before passing into the digestive tract. As the horse chews, their alkaline saliva helps to buffer the acidity in their stomach. The pH of the stomach is quite acidic and realize that this acid is produced whether or not the horse is eating. As long as the horse’s stomach contents are buffered by saliva and fiber, the digestive tract remains healthy. When we as owners try to compensate for the lack of hay by feeding more concentrate, we unintentionally overload their delicate digestive system, leading to excessive fermentation and gas in the hindgut. This can lead to colic or diarrhea, or in extreme situations, gastric rupture, which can cause death.
Think about when you come home after a hard day’s at work, not eating all day. You come home famished. You eat everything in site, completely overeating, eating anything you can get your hands on. Because your brain hasn’t caught up with your stomach, you are still hungry when you go to bed. When you throw your horse a flake of hay, he will eat it until it’s gone, then still be hungry. He will devour his grain and finish his evening hay before you shut the barn door. If he eats too fast, he won’t feel content and full, which will lead to overeating. And, because he is not chewing properly, he thinks he is still hungry which will cause him to become nervous, edgy and disobedient.
The concept of slow feeding is a continuous feeding method that allows your horse to constantly forage, stimulating his digestive system and his mind. Under this condition, your horse’s body will work in better balance as nature intended. Slow feeders decrease the rate of consumption, replicating natural grazing. The digestive process is slowed down and the nutrients in hay can be absorbed much more efficiently.
Horses need to eat frequent meals as the stomach is very small and empties within an hour. Any slow feeding method would provide constant foraging thereby reducing stress and allowing the horse’s system to remain balanced. This in turn would reduce episodes of colic and loose stools.
As an added benefit, slow feeding can eliminate many vices such as weaving, cribbing and feed anxiety. Other benefits can include reduction of colic risk, reduction of boredom, elimination of forage waste, reduction in labour costs, ends multiple feedings.
There are many types of slow feeders from “toys” that drop grain pellets to hay nets, box feeders and automatic hay dispensers. Each having their advantages and their disadvantages. In the upcoming issues, some popular slow feeders will be discussed.
Josie, a 20 year old mare grazes on the lush fields in Versailles, Kentucky. Despite her age, she is still spry and acts like a three-year old kicking up her heels and racing around the paddock. She’s not royally bred. She’s not a high value broodmare or a retired show horse. In fact, there’s not much remarkable about her, except one thing…she only has three feet.
Josie has been a long time fixture at Dr. Ric Redden’s International Equine Podiatry Center where she has lived with a prosthetic for over 18 years.
Most people don’t realize that a horse can survive on three legs with a prosthetic limb. Disposition of the horse is the primary consideration for a prosthetic limb. Is the horse willing to use the help of a sling to relax and sleep, or will they fight it? Does the horse lie down and get up wearing a full leg cast? Does the horse take challenges in a calm manner? Is the opposite limb sound? Can the owner accept the responsibilities for care and that the horse will never be ridden again but will lead a full life?
Today’s prosthetic limbs have come a long way from the beginning when they were stiff and non moving. Over the years, technology for horses has improved with the help of those who specialize in human orthotics and prosthetics. Once the horse’s leg has healed, it’s ready for the new limb. The prosthesis can be made of carbon and have moving parts to help better simulate normal leg motion for the horse giving the ability to gallop while being turned out. Today a well-fitting and useful prosthesis can easily be achieved.
From the time of equine domestication, dogs have long enjoyed a connection with stable. Today it is a rare horse barn that doesn’t have a least one resident “barn dog”. It seems that over the years certain breeds have come to be particularly associated with horses. Hunting and herding dogs have a long tradition of being coupled with horses in a working relationship, as well as vermin catching terrier types.
A few breeds stand out when we think horses and dogs. It’s not so much breed that matters, as the temperament. Most barns get a certain amount of visitor traffic, so the barn dog should be non-aggressive, especially around children. But traditionally the barn dog is a useful canine, earning his keep in such capacities as herding, hunting or controlling mice populations.
Australian Shepherds have long held up their end of the job as herders on farms and ranches in the western United States. Contrary to their name, the breed was actually developed in the American West.
They are bred for their working ability rather than type. Crossed with other herding breeds the Aussie is known for his intelligence, endurance, energy and strong herding instinct.
The Corgi is a favorite of horse folk, especially the Queen of England. He’s a short, long dog that is just as at home herding cattle or sitting on your lap in front of the TV. Welsh legend has it that the Corgi was a gift from the fairies. Small in statue, but big of heart the Corgi was a cattle dog, ratter and family pet to the ancient Welshmen. A stiff penalty was given to anyone who would dare to steal a family’s Corgi because they were so important to the farmer.
Jack Russell Terrier is a little dog with a BIG personality.
The Jack Russell has been around for about one hundred years, developed from a strain of fox hounds by a preacher in England named John (Jack) Russell. These dogs also have been bred over the years for work rather than type. They resemble the early foxhound, and come in a range of sizes and hair types. Most are spotted with brown or brown and black, with at least 50% of their coat being white.
Dalmatians have been associated with coaching since ancient times. Since that time they have been guarding the coach and horses while the owners ran their errands. A dog with the stamina to keep up with horses, we remember them best for their affiliation with the fire station. Their job was to run ahead of the horse-drawn engine to warn pedestrians and other vehicles that they were coming through. This was before sirens. Owners of driving horses still enjoy the tradition of having a Dalmatian in their barn or on top of the carriage.
Great Pyrenees aka Pyrenean Mountain Dogs are a large, fuzzy, white and powerful dogs which historically have been used in Western Europe to guard herds of sheep and goats. Miniature Horse owners have discovered these dogs to be ideal to protect their horses from stray dogs and coyotes. The dogs are very territorial, but gentle with their families and animal charges. On the down side, they tend to bark a lot and will roam if not kept contained within fenced boundaries. They require a lot of exercise and patience in their training.
Horses and dogs can be great friends, especially when you have only one horse. Being a herd animal, a single horse will enjoy the company of a dog while his human herd mates are gone. While making a wonderful companion a dog can help you catch your horse, catch mice as well or better than a cat and act as a security guard. All things considered, they work for very low wages.
Do you have a barn dog? If so, send us your story.
Presented By: Larissa Cox, MSc. Applied Equine Science
This post was originally published back in January 2011, but I have had a number of questions regarding the overweight horse and carbohydrates in equine nutrition. As a result, I am reposting. If possible, print out the Equine Condition Scoring Chart and keep it handy at your barn for easy reference. As horses are out in pasture during this time of year, we may want to review what we feed our horses so that we don’t have potential future problems.
In recent years, nutrition focus has seemed to have shifted to weight management and exercise for both people and horses. I know that since I have been in the United Kingdom and not riding my horses back home, both Bruq and Phantom have gained weight due to a lack of a regular exercise routine. As a concern to me, there are some breeds of horses, such as the Arabian and Morgan, that are prone to such diseases as Insulin Resistance (IR) and Cushing’s, while other breeds can be put at risk to many diseases resulting from being over weight.
My previous posting provided you with an Equine Condition Scoring Chart where you are able to score your horse from 1-9, one being deathly thin and 9 being obese. Once you have determined your horse`s condition score, you can take the necessary steps to correct these conditions, or keep him at the optimum level.
The term “low carbohydrate” diet in humans has become so very popular with the Atkins and South Beach diets focusing our attention on low carbs, and as a result many horse owners are also concerned about carbohydrates in their equine nutrition program. Happily, there has been recent research addressing the area of carbohydrates in equine nutrition and many feed companies are posting these values on their labels. However, it is very important to keep in mind that when we look for low carbohydrate diets for our horse families, we also need to look at the sugar and starch levels as well in the feeds. These feedstuffs include forages (hay and pasture) as well as the ingredients that make up the concentrated feeds that we offer our horses. These concentrated feeds include oats, corn, barley, beet pulp, soybean meal and the list goes on.
Nonstructural carbohydrates (NSC) are the sugars and starches found inside the plant cell of horse feeds. This is in contrast to the structural carbohydrates that compose the cell wall of the plants that our horses eat. The two main cell wall components are cellulose and hemicellulose, we know it as fibre. This plant fibre is disgested thanks to the work of bacteria and protozoa living in the horse’s large intestine. The horse receives his energy supply by taking up or absorbing nutriants or organic acids in his large intestine. The bacteria in the hindgut (large intestine) produce organic acids from the fermentation of sugars that are released when the fiber is broken down by enzymes secreted by the bacteria and protozoa.
The sugars found in forages include glucose, fructose, sucrose and fructans. Starch is the major carbohydrate stored in the legumes of alfalfa, and warm season grasses such as bermuda grass and grains. Fructans are the water-soluable sugars that are stored as the major carbohydrate in cool season grasses such as orchardgrass, fescue and timothy.
Research has shown that excessive intake of fructans from pasture grasses and grains can cause colic and laminitis (Hoffman et al, 2001). The greatest danger of laminitis and founder for horses is the consumption of cool season grass pasture and hay which may contain high levels of sugar, especially large amounts of fructans. Legumes or warm-season grasses contain little to no fructans. For more information on the NSC value and fructans in grasses go to www.safergrass.org. It is recommended that controlling the dietary NSC value to below 20% of the total diet is appropriate for problem horses afflicted with Cushing’s Disease, insulin resistance and equine diabetes (Longland & Byrd,2006) .
The table below outlines the sugar, starch and NSC values for feeds typically fed to horses. It is interesting to note that the lowest NSC values are for soybean hulls, beet pulp, alfalfa and the highest NSC values are corn, oats and barley (COB) a food which is frequently fed to horses. So, it would be safe to say that grain based horse feeds will contain a higher NSC value than feeds based on beet pulp, soybean hulls and alfalfa meal. For more information about NSC content of forages, please visit www.equi-analytical.com.
Average Sugar, Starch and Non-Structural Carbohydrate (NSC) Values of Selected Feedstuffs*.
*Values are from Equi-Analytical Laboratories, Ithaca, NY, reported on dry matter basis.
If you have a problem horse and want to implement a low NSC value feeding program, it would first be necessary to estimate the NSC content of your pasture or hay. However, having said that, sampling for the NSC content of your hay would not be practical if you do not have a supply that would last you several months. If pasture is available for your problem horse, it may be necessary to remove him or reduce his grazing. One surprising finding on current research concerning NSC levels of various hays was that alfalfa hay and alfalfa pellets had lower values than grass hay, so alfalfa hay may become the first choice for problematic horses (Geor, 2007).
Understanding nutrition and NSC values is difficult at best. We can only strive to look to research to help us make proper, informed decisions regarding the safe nutrition of our horses. One thing that I do know is that there is a great deal of research and people knowledgeable in the field of equine nutrition that can be accessed to help us with our equine nutrition program.
On occasion, we make a change in our horse’s hay only to notice that this new feeding program is causing the horse to lose weight. This is where hay testing comes in to actually calculate the nutritional requirement for your horse.
A horse owner had a horse that was diagnosed with ulcers and was recommended feeding alfalfa hay by her vet. She purchased a nice quality of second cut alfalfa and the testing results showed this hay to be exceptional quality containing 1Mcal (1000 calories) per pound. Previously she fed her horse 4 flakes of timothy per day and 4 pounds of grain per day. Since this was such good quality alfalfa, she decided to keep the same quantity of feed. Unfortunately, the horse started to lose weight. Based on the horse’s work schedule and body condition score, it was determined that he needed 21.5 Mcal per day (21,500 calories per day)
Let’s calculate: Her horse weighed in at 1,000 pounds and let’s go with feeding 2% of body weight per day in forage, or 20 pounds. The old timothy hay tested at 800 calories per pound and she balanced the diet with 4 pounds of grain at 1430 calories per day, or 1.43 Mcal.
Forage = 16Mcal (16,000 calories)
Grain = 5.7 Mcal (5,700 calories)
Total = 21.7 Mcal. (21,700 calories)
In the old diet, each flake weighed in at an average of 5 pounds each, which is how she determined the 4 flakes per day. 1 Flakes timothy hay 5lb x 4 flakes per day = 20 pounds per day x 800 calories = 16Mcal (16,000 calories per day)
When the new alfalfa was weighed, it weighed in at an average of 3 pounds per day. 1 Flake alfalfa 3lb x 4 flakes per day = 12 pounds per day x 1000 calories = 12Mcal (12,000 calories).
With that simple change in hay she unknowingly reduced her horse’s caloric intake by 4,000 calories per day. With this new information, she added more flakes of hay to the daily ration, increasing the weight and keeping him on track.
It is important to weigh the flake of hay to determine how much to feed your horse per day and then you can adjust the hay feeding program with knowledge, rather than guessing.
As horse owners, we often move our horses from one boarding facility to another often not thinking of how our horses will react to changes in diet. This often never is even discussed.
Sometimes, it is very difficult to maintain consistency in routine, but try and make the hay transistion as gradual as possible by keeping 2 weeks’ worth of hay. Since hay makes up the majority of your horse’s diet, a sudden change in the hay can be problematic. As horse owners, it is important to keep in mind that any sudden changes in diet including fresh pasture, can disrupt the gut and can result in colic, diarrhea, discomfort or laminitis. As mentioned in previous posts, the energy and nutrient content in hay can vary dramatically.
As a rule of thumb, it takes approximately 3 weeks for the horse to adapt to dietary changes, thus making slow, gradual transitions over a 2 – 3 week period is important to prevent any GI upset. When it isn’t possible to make a full 2 week transition, then allow for as much of a gradual change as possible, even if it is over 2 – 3 days. Providing pre- and probiotics can also help support gut microbes through dietary changes especially if they are rapid.
Hay is the common part of your horse’s diet, so judging the hay quality on visual inspection is very important if lab analysis is not available. Here are some simple things to look for.
Most people check for colour and smell. Hay should be bright green and smell slightly sweet. Acrid or musty smells generally indicate the presence of mold.
Another sign of good hay is the leaf:stem ratio. The more leaves, the better as most of the nutrition is stored in the leaves. Hay that has too many hard woody stems may be difficult to digest. Even if it is cheaper, most horses will pick through the hay and leave the stems behind and that will cost you more in the long run. High quality hay is fine stemmed, pliable and full of leaves.
Type of hay is another factor. Grass hays, such as timothy or orchard grass generally provide basic nutrition. The higher the concentration le legumes, alfalfa or clover, the higher the energy content. High wuality alfalfa is generally better than high quality grass hay, but good quality grass hay can be better than average quality alfalfa hay.
Always ask if the hay has been tested. If not, have the hay tested. This may not be practical for every load, but if your hay source is consistent from load to load, this may be a good option to get a general idea of the nutrient value of the hay.
With so many forage choices out there, how does one choose the best option?
Firstly, forage selection should be based on your horse needs as there is no one forage that is best suited for all classes of horses. As an example, providing a nutrient dense forage like alfalfa to an “easy keeper” will create obesity issues, however that same hay would be the perfect option for a performance horse with elevated nutrient requirements.
The nutritive quality of forages, whether it be hay or pasture, is based on two factors: Plant maturity and species.
Regardless of plant species, the stages of maturity does affect forage quality!
- Young forages are very nutrient dense and contain fewer fibrous carbohydrates.
- As the plant matures, the proportion of fiber in the plant increases (to provide structural support as the plant gets larger). Because of this, the digestibility of the forage is reduce.
- Mature forages also have lower energy and protein levels than their immature counterparts.
Most horses do well on mid-maturity forages. Horses that need higher nutrient requirenets would benefit from receiving young, less mature forages, while the more mature forages are best suited for the “easy keeper.”
So what about the plant species?
Legumes vs. Grasses: Legumes, such as alfalfa and clover, generally produce a higher quality forage than grasses. Often, they have a higher energy, protein and mineral content when compared to grasses at a similar stage of maturity and are more digestible and more palatable. Legumes are an excellent source of nutrients for your horse, however, as a word of caution, your horse’s nutrient requirement can easily be exceed when fed immature legumes and can result in obesity or other digestive issues. Legume-grass mixes or mid to late maturity legumes provide adequate nutrients without exceeding your horse’s requirements.
Cool Season vs Warm Season Grasses: Cool season grasses, such as bromegrass, bluegrass and orchargrass, typically have a higher nutritive value when compared to warm season grasses such as bermudagrass and bluestems. Comparing these grasses at the same stage of maturity, the cool season grasses have a higher proten level and lower fiber content while the warm season grasses have a higher fiber content. Late maturity warm season grasses are less digestible and may be less palatable than cool season.
Also, the cool season grasses store the majority of their carbohydrates as fructans, while the warm season grasses store their carbs as starch. This is especially important if your horse is laminitis prone as rapid consumption of forages containing high levels of fructans, may trigger an event. So, if you are struggling with laminitis issues, equine metabolic syndrome or PSSM, carbohydrate content of forage is a very important consideration!
The horse’s digestive system has been designed to efficiently utilize forages. As a horse owner, it is your goal to match the nutrient levels in the forage to the nutrient requirements of your horse. When making this decision, consider maturity and plant species as well.
You have been informed to evacuate from your premises. You have planned for such disasters, and you’re ready. But, before the horses are moved, there are still a few things that need to be accomplished.
Prior to the evacuation get your Zip-lock bag with all copies of your horses registration papers, insurance papers and the photographs you have taken, copies of the identification papers, fill out an index card with your name, address, horses name and description and your vet’s name and phone number. Also add any feeding instructions or special needs. Wrap this around the horse’s halter with duct tape. Do not put original papers in the bag, write “copy” across the papers. Remember that during an emergency not everyone is honest.
Put luggage or similar type of tags with the same information and braid it into the horse’s mane and tail.
If your horse is not permanently identified with a microchip or brand now may be the time to use animal clippers and clip your phone number onto your horse’s neck. Spray paint or permanent march each of the hooves. If your horse is being trailered by someone other than you to the evacuation site, an ID number may be drawn onto the horse with an Auction/Livestock crayon.
Your trailer has already been packed for such an emergency, but don’t forget the portable first aid kit. Do not wait until the last minute to remove your animals and transport them to the evacuation site.
Write down and keep in a safe place, the address of where your horse has been evacuated.
If you are unable or unwilling to remove your horse, make sure all the preparations to keep them on your property are in place. Make sure that someone knows you are on the propertgy and have your horsese with you. If you are staying with your horse, take two plywood boards and spray paint onto one side of the board “HAVE HORSES, NEED HELP“, on the other side of the board, spray paint “HAVE HORSES, OK FOR NOW“. Keep these in the barn or near the house and use them to keep rescue and emergency personnel informed should a communication line be severed.
Your emergency disaster kit should include: Copies of everything in the Zip Lock ID bag; First Aid kit; Personal Emergency Kit; Feed and Supply Kit; Written Plan of Action.
Presented by: Larissa Cox