Monthly Archives: November 2012

  • Keys to Preventing Laminitis

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    In previous articles we have discussed some of the key strategies in preventing laminitis in the equine.  Many of these have centered on grazing strategies which limit the horse’s access to pastures high in fructan content.  Remember that fructans are carbohydrates which are enzymatically unable to be digested in the small intestine of the horse.  These fructans pass into the hindgut of the horse where they are fermented by the microbial population, specifically gram positive bacteria. The production of certain organic acids and amines enhance the permeability of the gut wall allowing these and other endotoxins to enter the bloodstream of the horse and ultimately effect  the circulation to the digit.  However, it is not practical to simply right off all horses’ ability to graze.  Rather, we should try and identify those individuals which may have a susceptibility to fructan content in the grass.  With this month’s article, we will try to identify which individuals may be at risk, and other strategies that may be employed to reduce your horse’s risk.

    While the outward appearance of your horse may give you an indication to whether they are susceptible to laminitis (See Carbohydrates III: Metabolic Syndrome), there may be more to it than just which horses are overweight.  There certainly appears to be a genetic link to laminitis, with pony breeds leading the list of susceptible horses.  Their comparatively thrifty genotype may make their utilization of carbohydrates and insulin sensitivity differ from breeds which typically do not possess these characteristics. For example, thoroughbreds, which typically have the reputation for being “harder keepers” do not experience the same rate of laminitis.  However, the lifestyle and management of thoroughbreds may differ significantly enough to partially explain the decreased incidence of laminitis.  Even within ponies, there does appear to be a decided link to genetics.  In a study examining the pedigrees of an inbred herd of ponies, 37% of these ponies had experienced laminitic episodes.  Of those, half had at least one parent which had also experienced laminitis.  Even in controlled research trials which attempt to examine the effects of various carbohydrate loads on horses, wide variability exists between individuals. This leads to the supposition that individual variation, thus genetics, is at play.  Thus, if you aware of your horse’s pedigree and know of relatives which have experienced laminitis, you might want to manage your own horse more carefully.  Perhaps some day the genes which make a horse more susceptible to laminitis will be identified, and we can use genetic tests in developing management protocols.

    As mentioned previously, development of obesity and insulin resistance certainly predisposes the horse to laminitis.  One theory behind the development of laminitis in the insulin resistant horse is the glucose deprivation model.  When a horse becomes insulin resistant, more and more insulin release is needed to elicit a normal tissue response.  In essence, the tissues become “desensitized” to insulin.  One of the key roles of insulin in the body is to allow cellular uptake of glucose.  Due to the polarity of glucose, it cannot freely enter the cell without the presence of specialized protein transporters. Glut 4 is a protein transporter which is located internally in the cell until insulin binds to the cell membrane.  Binding of insulin to the receptor causes a cascade of intracellular reactions to occur and initiates the translocation of Glut-4 to the cell membrane.  The insulin insensitivity may result in Glut 4 no longer moving to the cellular membrane, and the inability of glucose to enter into the lamellar tissue of the foot, thereby starving it of glucose.  A recent study looked at the presence of different glucose transporters  found in skeletal muscle, the coronary band and lamellar tissue.  Glut-4 is the insulin dependent transporter found primarily within muscle, while Glut 1 is found in other tissues which have non-insulin dependent uptake of glucose, such as the brain.  While Glut 4 was heavily expressed in skeletal muscle, only Glut 1 was found within hoof tissues of both normal and insulin resistant ponies.    Therefore, glucose uptake in the hoof is thought to be insulin independent  and glucose deprivation within the hoof is unlikely to be the cause behind laminitis.  However, in a subsequent study, laminitis was induced in normal healthy ponies using a hyperinsulinemia-euglycemia clamp technique.   In this model, insulin is infused into the ponies at a constant rate, while glucose is infused at a sufficient rate to maintain euglycemia, or normal blood glucose levels.   Therefore, it is not an absence of glucose which causes laminitis, but perhaps the sustained levels of insulin or other hormones which causes this disorder.  This would certainly support the observation of the increased laminitis risk to the insulin resistant horse which suffers from hyperinsulinemia.

    If owners wish to try and avoid the development of insulin resistance, the diet the horse receives may be critical.  Diets which avoid high amounts of sugars and starches, and have a low glycemic response, result in less insulin release.  For horses which still need a significant amount of calories, diets which are fat and fiber based and properly formulated, rather than those which provide a higher glucose or insulinemic response, may prevent the development of insulin resistance.   Certainly just monitoring body condition in the horse may be the easiest way to avoid insulin resistance.  Although if you ask any horse owner if that is easy you may get a different response!  In addition, horses which receive regular exercise seem to be fairly protective against laminitis.  However, it is difficult to know whether the exercise regimen aids in increasing insulin sensitivity, or is simply protective against obesity.

    Many horse owners wonder if there is a magic pill or supplement that they can provide their horse in order to prevent laminitis.   One approach is to reduce the gram positive, lactate producing bacteria which prefer to ferment sugars and fructans.  Antibiotics are commonly used in the livestock industry in order to promote growth by shifting the microbial population within the gut. Some antibiotics select against gram positive bacteria, thus have been studied in the horse as a way to prevent laminitis.  While this may work, the use of anti-biotics in livestock for growth promotion has been banned in the Europe Union over concerns of anti-biotic resistance.  Similarly many in the United States have followed suit, searching for other ways to influence growth and increase immune status.  The use of probiotics and prebiotics may influence the gut microflora in favor of less potentially problem causing bacteria.  Ironically enough, short chain fructo-oligosaccharides have been demonstrated to improve insulin sensitivity, if not glucose levels, in obese horses.   However, none of these methods have been proven to prevent laminitis.  I would caution individuals to monitor diet, grazing patterns, and body condition first, before relying on supplements to prevent laminitis.

  • How to Sell through Your posts on Social Media

    Written By Randi Thompson, Founder of the Award-Winning “How to Market Your Horse Business” website

    Welcome to the fourth and final article in my series, “Marketing Your Horse Business through Social Media.” Here’s a quick recap of Parts 1-3:  In Part 1 we explored how having a presence on social media can benefit your offline, “real world” horse business. Part 2 focused on developing a content strategy that becomes the foundation for all your online marketing. And in part 3, I covered my magic “Rule of Three” and introduced how to use your comments to create relationships and attract those who are looking for what you have to offer. Now in Part 4, we’ll go even deeper into how to use your posts to promote what you have to offer as you continue to build your network.

    How to Market Your Horse Business with the Posts You Share

    Marketing on Social Media is all about how we use our posts to “talk” to other people. Each post you share is an investment in your business and future success. By connecting with other people in your field, you will become a part of a network that will continue to expose you to more people who are looking for what you have to offer.

    How to get Other People Talking

    One of the best ways to get people to exchange comments, and to start “talking” with you is to respond to one of their posts first. Take your time and choose the posts of people you want to know better, or posts that a lot of people are already talking on.  Join in that conversation and see if you can get people to respond to what you have to say. Imagine you are talking with a group of friends, how would you keep the conversation going? One way to get people talking is by asking questions.  You can use open questions to everyone, or ask direct questions to whoever you want.  Once the people in a community begin to respond to your posts, you will know that you have established yourself as a valued and welcome member. You will feel like you are a part of that community. That is when you can start letting people know what you have to offer with a “sales post.”
    If you are not a part of the community you are sharing your “sales post” in, no one wants to hear from you and your posts will be ignored.  In fact, you will be seen as a spammer and your post may be deleted and you banned.

    Here are two important rules to understand about a “sales post”

    1) Never try to sell through your posts or comments. Comments are for building relationships and interacting. Your “sales posts” should direct people to your website or sales page.

    2) The Golden 90/10 Rule of Sales Posts. 90% of all the content (what you share) in your posts should be information that people might need, find valuable or enjoy. Only about 10% of your posts should promote what you offer.

    Crafting Your “Sales Posts”

    There are basically two ways to sell, or share what you have to offer, through your posts.  One way is by responding to another person’s comments on a post.  For example, you might be reading a post about an issue that someone is having.  It just happens that you have the perfect solution with your product or service.  Rather than trying to sell that person through a comment reply, you should contact them off the page first. If you can’t do that, then gently suggest that you might have a solution that could help them and ask them to contact you.

    The second way to sell what you have to offer is by starting a new post,  your “sales post” Here’s a technique that you can use that works very well.  It does not sound or look like a sales pitch.

    *Start with a good photo that will catch people’s attention.
    *Introduce yourself with a friendly greeting: something as simple as “Hi, Everyone” or “nice to see you” will work.
    * Share a few benefits people will receive through your product or service. This should be only a few sentences so it’s not spammy! You can also ask questions that lead back to your product or service as being the solution.  This is the area you will be using to get people to “talking” to you on your post.
    * Invite people to find out more by clicking on your link below the comment.
    * Add your first name and tag your link with your website URL so people will begin to associate your name with your business. If your comments are interesting enough, they will go to your business page to see what you’re all about.

    What about the Follow-Through?

    Sometimes people are so focused on sharing their “sales posts” in as many places as they can that they forget to notice if anyone is responding to the posts they have left. This makes them look very unprofessional. You need to be very aware (and thankful) when someone takes the time to “talk” to you on any of your posts.  Those comments are worth their weight in gold. Make sure you always respond to any comments that people make on your posts.  Also, make sure that you “Like” any comments that other people add to the posts you’ve shared.

    Social Media: It’s Easy, Fun and It Works!

    Following the recommendations I’ve made in this “Marketing through Social Media” series can help you enter the Social Media world for the first time or improve on what you’ve already tried. You’ll find that your interactions and the relationships you build will help expand your business and open doors to new markets.

    With a little practice, you will begin to enjoy social media and all the benefits it will bring to you and your business. Be patient with your process and join us at: https://www.facebook.com/howtomarketyourhorsebusiness

  • The Moose That Wouldn't Move

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    Remember when Jeanne met Sam in Wisconsin near the orange moose (http://www.omegafields.com/blog/meant-to-be/)?

    In September, my cattle dog Bandit was traveling with me. On our way to visit family, we made a pit stop near the orange moose. I took Bandit out for a potty break, and then realized that he had not seen the moose before. I’d expected him to be distracted by the geese swimming in the pond by the parking lot, but he paid them no mind. As we approached the orange behemoth, Bandit stiffened, then crouched and emitted a low growl and a series of small “woofs”. His eyesight is not his best sense, and he had not caught the scent of this giant orange statue that demanded his attention. He just knew that it was a very large hoofed animal that must need to be herded.
    Intrepid, fearless, and always ready to work as any good cattle dog is, Bandit kept his attention focused on the moose, even as the geese swam back and forth in front of him. Both fascinated and amused by his reaction, I wondered what would happen as we approached. Bandit stiffened and froze, in awe of this gigantic being. He was tentative, yet determined to do something, but he wasn’t sure what to do because the moose didn’t respond to him at all. I stepped ahead of him and touched one of the huge cloven hooves. Then Bandit followed me over and sniffed it.

    I could tell the instant he realized the moose wasn’t real by the change in his posture.  Immediately, his entire body relaxed, and he gave me a sheepish “Oh, you got me!” look, wagging his tail low and submissively. Still, he wouldn’t turn his back on the moose. He continued to explore it from different angles, looking up at it with awe.

    Bandit is an Australian Cattle Dog. He is intrepid and always ready to work, whether it’s 100 degrees, raining torrentially, or below zero outside. No challenge is too big for him. He comes from a long line of tough dogs with a solid work ethic, and holds both sheep and cattle herding titles. He injured his neck in 2009 and I haven’t had him back herding on a regular schedule since, so he’s not getting enough of the type of work his ancestors were bred for. His herding instinct has not diminished though. He needs to stay busy physically and mentally and is always ready to herd the jolly balls around the yard.
    On the way back from visiting family, I decided to stop by the orange moose again. This time Bandit remembered and approached it easily. I took pictures of him being dwarfed by the moose. A good herding dog wouldn’t get in front of such a large beast, (except maybe to turn it around) but Bandit stood in front of it because he knew it wasn’t real. You can see in the photos though that Bandit kept one ear cocked back toward it. He always kept one ear on the moose.

    Ironically, after we visited the moose for the second time and got back in the truck, I noticed a man walking a spaniel in the same area. The spaniel raced past the moose, oblivious to it, and lunged toward the geese swimming in the pond. The spaniel showed that he came from a long line of bird dogs, just as Bandit had shown that he came from a long line of herding dogs. Their different reactions due to their breeding was so obvious, I had to laugh.
    I still laugh when I look at the photos of Bandit with the orange moose. Knowing that he tried to move it in spite of its size makes me proud of him and his cow dog chutzpah. To be able to approach daily life as fearlessly as this bold and brilliant dog would be a gift. No challenge is too big for him to tackle. I admire him and learn from him every day.

    What would you learn from your dog(s), if you were paying more attention? What were they bred for that they would like to do?
    Bandit is a hard driving dog who regularly challenges his body. He turned nine years old in November. I give him Omega Nuggets and Omega Canine Shine to make sure he’s getting the best nutritional support to keep going.

  • Laminitis In The Equine

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    Earlier we posted an article on the typical causes of laminitis and some feeding strategies that may help in preventing laminitis (Feeding Horses for the Prevention and Management of Laminitis).  We also discussed how we might approach feeding a horse which has already experienced  laminitis.  This month we will begin to delve deeper into the causative factors of laminitis and how to prevent its development.

    Remember that laminitis is actually a systemic disease, with just the symptoms being visualized within the hoof.  Some insult to the horse’s system creates an alteration in circulation, ultimately leading to tissue damage of the sensitive laminae.   This period of time, referred to as the development phase or prodromal phase, includes the actual insult prior to the development of symptoms.    It is thought to be due to some change within the vasculature, that leads to ischemia, or lack of blood flow to the digit.  Whether it is a lack of nutrients or oxygen due to the decreased blood flow, tissue damage or death results.  This initial insult is then followed by the acute phase of laminitis.

    In the acute phase, blood flow returns to the foot, typically at an increased rate, as this is the body’s normal response to tissue injury.  Even this reperfusion response can cause tissue damage.  This is when the owner now recognizes the development of symptoms. The horse will appear very stiff and reluctant to move, and may even lie down.  A particular stance may be assumed by the horse as he appears to rock back on the hindquarters and place the forefeet forwards in order to limit weight bearing.  Due to the pain and anxiety the horse is experiencing, his heart rate and respiration rate may both be elevated.  Finally, the owner may even be able to detect an increase in temperature of the hoof wall and a bounding or throbbing digital pulse. 

    If permanent changes to the architecture of the foot occur, whether in PIII displacement, permanent changes to the normal lamellar architecture of hyperkeritization of the hoof wall, the horse has entered into the chronic phase. These horses are typically more susceptible to recurrent episodes of laminitis.  Diet restrictions and specialized hoof care are typically required to allow the horse to lead a comfortable life (Feeding Horses for the Prevention and Management of Laminitis).

    Obviously laminitis can be a devastating disease for the owner, and most would strive to prevent the disease, rather than address a symptomatic horse.  If we look more closely at the causative factors in these alterations to circulation of the horse’s digit, we may be able to do a better job at identifying horses at risk.

    We will begin with a review of pasture associated laminitis, which has been addressed in previous articles (Feeding Horses for the Prevention and Management of Laminitis and Carbohydrates III: Metabolic Syndrome).  Remember that pastures grow more rapidly at certain times of the year, and may store their energy as different types of polysaccharides depending on the species of the plant.  Frequently fructans are noted as the culprit in causing laminitis. Fructans are found in greater quantities in cool season grasses, as well as during periods where photosynthesis is favored over plant growth. As fructans contain beta bonds, which are not digested enzymatically by the equine small intestine, they pass through the tract and arrive at the large intestine where they then undergo bacterial fermentation.   Other types of carbohydrates may act similarly, including sugars and starches which escape the small intestine undigested (the classic carbohydrate overload model of the horse in the grain bin), as well as other types of carbohydrates that may be rapidly fermented (pectins, resistant starches etc). (For more information on carbohydrates, please revisit Carbohydrates: Definitions and Relationship to Equine Diseases.)


    In this first model of carbohydrate/rapidly fermentable fiber overload, too much of this rapidly fermentable material reaches the hindgut of the horse. These feedstuffs favor the proliferation of a particular bacterial population.  These bacteria produce more lactate as their excretory waste.  Excess lactate production lowers the pH of the hindgut which allows the mucosal cell wall to become permeable. In addition, too low of a pH stresses the bacteria causing them to either die or release endotoxins. Furthermore, altering the bacteria’s environment also changes their metabolism, releasing vasoactive amines into the hindgut.  As the gut wall becomes more permeable, these toxins and amines are able to cross the mucosal wall and enter the bloodstream of the horse, where they then can exert their effects at the level of the hoof.


    Horses which need to be restricted from pasture typically include ponies, as they are highly susceptible to laminitis.  In addition, any horse that has a history of laminitis, or has been diagnosed with PPID (pituitary pars intermedia disfunction)(Carbohydrates III: Metabolic Syndrome) should be grazed with care.  Horses with elevated insulin levels, or insulin resistant horses, also have a greater sensitivity to pasture associated laminitis, due to the influence of insulin on the vasculature of the horse.  Hyperinslulinemia increases the production of endothelin-1, and down regulates the production of nitric oxide.  A decrease in nitric oxide production has been linked to an elevation of homocysteine.  Incidentally, elevations in blood homocysteine are also linked to heart disease in humans. There has even been a suggestion, although with no scientific data to support this theory, that excessive supplementation of sulfur amino acids to horses with insulin resistance is unwarranted.  Typically sulfur amino acids (ie methionine) are included in hoof supplements, and homocysteine originates from methionine metabolism.   To further confuse the issue, it does appear that individuals are more susceptible to this disease, even if they are the same age, sex, breed and are managed the same as non-effected individuals.

    Obviously preventative measures aimed at reducing carbohydrate related laminitis issues center on diet management.  Certainly it is not practical or even advisable to state that all horses must be kept away from pastures.  However, knowledge of which horses are susceptible to pasture associated laminitis is key.  Once these individuals are identified, they should be placed on a principally harvested forage diet.  The forage chosen should have very little rapidly fermentable material.  However, horse’s which do not have these susceptibilities can continue to be managed with relative ease.

    Next month we will continue to discuss laminitis at a more detailed tissue level, and address further strategies to limit your horse’s chances of acquiring this disease.

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