Monthly Archives: May 2015

  • Alternate feed options

    Written By: Betsy Gilkerson Wieland, University of Minnesota

    A drought can leave many horse owners looking for quality hay, and considering alternative feedstuffs for their horses. A large portion of a horse's diet should be forage of some sort, and horses eat roughly 2% of their body weight in dry matter each day. Below is a list of common forage alternatives: Continue reading

  • Ticks and horses: what diseases affect my horse?

    Written By: Julie Wilson, DVM, University of Minnesota

    Ticks can transmit a number of disease-causing organisms to horses. Two of the most common diseases which horse owners in Minnesota should be aware of are anaplasmosis and Lyme disease. Continue reading

  • Founder

    Written By: Darrell Zehrer, DVM

    Founder, also known as laminitis, is an inflammation of the laminae or tissues that connects the hoof wall to the coffin bone. Because the laminae are between a rock and a hard place (hoof wall and coffin bone) they have nowhere to expand to accommodate the swelling. This causes pressure on the blood vessels in the laminae, and if it persists, will cause the laminae to die.

    The laminae in the front of the hoof, which carry most of the weight, will stretch and tear allowing the front part of the coffin bone to pull away from the hoof wall. This is called "rotation". In severe cases, all laminae die allowing the coffin bone to drop through the bottom of the hoof. This is called vertical displacement or sinking.

    Most vets say a horse has "foundered" when either rotation or sinking has occurred. Accurate diagnosis of laminitis is done by a veterinarian exam, and x-rays are helpful in determining the degree and severity of laminitis. Prompt treatment is critical and is aimed at controlling pain and inflammation. Limiting inflammation to the laminae is important as well as stabilizing the foot and coffin bone.

    Recovery of laminitis depends on the amount of damage done to the laminae. Severe cases may require corrective trimming and shoeing and/or surgery. Management of a foundered horse is best accomplished through cooperation of the horse owner, vet and farrier. Prevention is dependent on identifying and correcting an underlying cause, as laminitis can be triggered by diverse events including grain overload, retained placenta, colic, or insulin resistance.

    Permission granted for reprint of article from University of MN Extension. To read more articles from U of M Extension please visit their A to Z library >>>

  • Bone Scans

    Written By: Florien Jenner, DVM, University of Minnesota

    A bone scan uses radioactive tracers to detect areas of bone injury. Evidence of abnormalities shows up either as darker "hot spots" with greater tracer uptake or as lighter, "cold spots" with little or no tracer uptake. Hot spots represent increased bone metabolism while cold spots indicate decreased bone metabolism.

    The radioactivity generated in the body by the tracers is less than that of a chest x-ray and generally disappears within one to three days. The radionuclide used in horses is the same as tracers used for people, therefore they have been extensively tested for safety. Bone scan is used in subtle lameness, for horses who are lame in more than one leg or in horses whose lameness is located in the upper leg and could not be localized using nerve and joint blocks to help pinpoint areas of bone injury.

    While x-rays can detect changes in bone, bone scans can detect changes in bone smaller than one billionth of a milligram, and can therefore show problems before they are visible by x-ray. Also, because the tracers are given intravenously, it is consequently distributed throughout the entire body and it is much easier and cost effective to perform a bone scan of a full body than to take x-rays of all body parts in horses who have multiple limb lameness or very subtle problems.

    Permission granted for reprint of article from University of MN Extension. To read more articles from U of M Extension please visit their A to Z library >>>

  • Shelly Temple and students have success at Southern Pines Combined Driving Event

    Shelly Temple, Windsor, SC, returned to the Southern Pines Combined Driving Event at Carolina Horse Park after time away from driving while concentrating on ridden dressage with her Morgan gelding LR Ami B-Line (“Cooper”). However, this past weekend she was back in the carriage competed “Danny” for the second time this spring. “I have had a great time competing Judy Portmann’s lovely Morgan, Danny,” remarks Shelly; “he is a willing horse with great movement; my goal was to make the CDE a positive, successful event for Danny so that we can continue to build a solid foundation.”
    Shelly and Danny won the first phase of the CDE, dressage, with a score of 38.18, the third best score of the entire show (note: unlike ridden dressage, the lower the driven dressage score, the better). Shelly and her husband/navigator, Fran Doto, guided Danny to a smooth, safe marathon. By Sunday afternoon, Team Catalyst had earned a third place ribbon overall. Regarding the event, Shelly exclaimed, “It's a wonderful show with excellent facility, organizers, officials and volunteers, and we even had perfect weather! Thanks to all involved. Special thanks to top course designer Richard Nicoll for a course with lots of options for all levels, it drove great!”
    In addition, one of Shelly’s students also enjoyed particular success. Doris Leacy and her mare, Katydid Baroness, were crowned the American Driving Society North American Single Pony Intermediate Champion 2015 at Southern Pines. In addition to thanking year husband, Alan, for his dedication and sacrifice to compete, Doris was also complimentary of Shelly for “always looking out for Nessie and me” and “…for taking such great care of Nessie when we have to head back home {Arizona].”
    Shelly is sponsored by various companies on whose products she relies upon and trusts to maintain the health and safety of her clients’ as well as her own horses. Shelly is proud to represent Kentucky Equine Research, Omega Fields, Purina, Kombat Boots, ThinLine, Back on Track, and Charles Owen.
    Catalyst Driving Center is an equestrian driving facility in Windsor, South Carolina specializing in the training of all levels of drivers and horses. Please feel free to contact Shelly to learn more about her, the products she trusts, her horses, and what Catalyst Driving can offer the driving enthusiast.

  • Spring pasture, fructans, and founder

    Written By: Larry Lawrence, PhD, Kentucky Equine Research, and Stephanie Valberg, DVM, University of Minnesota

    All horses are subject to digestive upsets associated with spring pasture. The content of highly fermentable carbohydrates in pasture can be overwhelming to the un-adapted digestive system of horses. Ponies, because of a gene that allows them to survive on limited amounts of medium quality forages, and overweight horses, because of insulin resistance and associated high levels of circulating pro-inflammatory agents, are particularly susceptible to pastures with high fructan contents (commonly found in spring).

    Fructans are specially adapted sugars that are found in cool season forages (most grass pasture species in MN are cool season). Fructans derive their unique properties from the bonds that cannot be digested by the normal enzymatic mechanism for digesting soluble sugars (simple sugars like sucrose) in the stomach and small intestine. Fructans get to the hindgut and are fermented by bacteria into lactic acid and volatile fatty acids (VFA). VFA are normal products of the digestion of digestible cellulose and other cell wall constituents of forages, making them easily digestible by horses. However, lactic acid is not used efficiently by other bacteria or efficiently absorbed form the hind gut. The resulting accumulation of lactic acid into the hindgut is one of the most direct causes of colic, founder, and laminitis in horses on pasture. Many horses can graze pastures without succumbing to laminitis if they have time to adapt their digestive tract and develop a hindgut buffer that reduces lactic acid accumulation.

    Fructans are produced through photosynthesis that occurs in the leaves of plants during day light. The sunnier the day, the more photosynthesis, and therefore, the more fructans. During the night (dark), plants use the fructans for plant growth and energy storage. Many cool season grasses store fructans in the lowered 2" of the stem just above the soil line. However, temperatures at night are critical. If the temperature is not above 40F at night, the plant will not grow and the fructans remain in the leaves in high concentrations.

    So, when is the best time to graze in order to avoid fructans? The answered, as usual with complicated issues, is it depends. There are daily cycles of high and low fructans levels. When you have warm days and cool nights (below 40F) don't graze sensitive horses, and limit grazing of all horses. If the weather is sunny during the day and warm at night, then horses should be grazed early in the morning when fructan levels are lowest.

    There are also plant maturity cycles of fructans. The first growth of grass in spring, has very low levels of fructans. While fructans may be low in early pasture growth, indigestible cellulose and lignin is also low. High cellulose and lignin decrease intake. Because of this relationship, horses tend to eat more, and even though the fructan levels are low, total intake of fructans may still be high due to the volume of forage consumed. Managing pastures so that horses do not overgraze (fructans are stored in the lower 2") will help reduce fructan intake. However, horses are selective grazers and may choose to eat high fructan portions of the plant. The condition of the entire pasture must be monitored daily, as horses tend to select the highest fructan plants in a pasture to graze.

    Finally, stressed pasture plants can cause fructan levels to increase. For example drought or frost can increase fructan levels by 30 %. As a general rule, horses that have high energy requirements can handle fructans as long as overall energy balance is taken into consideration.

    The classes of horses that can handle high fructans, if they are adapted to them slowly, include; growing horses (just don't overfeed grain when fructans are high), lactating mares, hard working horses, thin horses (that are not compromised by disease or parasites) and breeds that are known to be hard keepers like Thoroughbreds. The general rule for horses that should avoid fructans (i.e. avoid grazing) are easy keepers, ponies, and any overweight horse.

    The fructan question is very confusing, when in doubt consult you veterinarian, use grazing muzzles to reduce pasture intake, and keep sensitive horses off pasture completely. Sensitive horses usually include horses that have previously foundered. Founder, also known as laminitis, is an inflammation or swelling of the laminae or tissues that connect the hoof wall to the coffin bone. Prevention of founder is dependent on identifying and correcting an underlying cause, as laminitis can be triggered by many diverse events. Prompt treatment of laminitis is important. Treatments are aimed at controlling pain and inflammation, encouraging circulation to the laminae, and stabilization of the foot and coffin bone. Recovery from laminitis depends largely on the amount of damage done to the laminae and the general health of the horse. Treatments vary from corrective trimming and shoeing to surgery. Managing a horse's weight, controlling access to pasture, and close cooperation between horse owners, veterinarians, and farriers are important ways to avoid and manage founder.

    Permission granted for reprint of article from University of MN Extension. To read more articles from U of M Extension please visit their A to Z library >>>

  • Is my horse too fat?

    Written By: Marcia Hathaway, PhD, University of Minnesota

    While "beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder", determining whether a horse is fat does not have to be so vague. The answer lies in the body condition score. A body condition scoring system was developed by researchers at Texas A & M based on the location and amount of fat stores underneath the horse's skin. The scoring system uses a number scale from 1 - 9. A body condition score of 1 is 'poor' and the horse is emaciated, whereas a body condition score of 9 is given to a horse that is extremely fat. A body score of 5 is 'moderate'.

    One characteristic of a score of 5 are ribs that cannot be seen, but can be easily felt. Visually examining your horse and then running your hands over the horse's side to feel its ribs can give you a good indication of your horse's body condition score. A score of 4, (moderately thin), allows a faint outline of the ribs to be seen, whereas a score of 6, (moderate to fleshy) is characterized by ribs that cannot be seen and fat over the ribs that feels spongy. Although a score from 4 - 6 is appropriate for most horses, the ideal score for each horse will vary, depending on differences in energy expenditure, frame size, physiological condition, diet history and the owner's personal preference.

    Visually and physically examining your horse is the best way to establish its body condition score. Assessing your horse's body condition score on a routine basis allows for dietary adjustments to be made. How much you need to feed your horse will vary over time and is strongly influenced by changes in exercise, environmental conditions and quality of feedstuffs.

    Trying to maintain your horse's ideal body weight is a constant challenge. Without frequent assessment a horse can lose or gain a significant amount of weight before it may be obvious to someone who sees the horse frequently. Altering your horse's body condition score takes considerable time and effort. Any increase or decrease must be accomplished gradually over time in order to be done safely.

    Permission granted for reprint of article from University of MN Extension. To read more articles from U of M Extension please visit their A to Z library >>>


    Written By: Walt Friedrich

    Most of us want to be buddies with our horse. We’d so very much like for him to like us as much as we like him. We’ve taken him into our hearts in the way we automatically do with many beings, human, canine, feline -- unequivocally and with total sincerity, expecting there will eventually be a corresponding response.

    We can rough-house with our dog, cuddle with our cat, even sing with our canary, all with little fear of conflict, but with our horse there are some natural cautions we automatically follow; we are always aware that he weighs in at about 1,000 pounds, he’s capable of crushing our foot merely by standing on it, biting off a finger with one snap of his jaw, even killing us with one well-placed kick. Because he’s a horse, he thinks and reacts like a horse, and that’s so easy to forget when we anthropomorphize him -- though awareness of his power always lurks in the back of our mind.

    But he is not a human; he is incapable of thinking and behaving like a human – and his behaving like a horse and not a human is the most significant source of potential conflict and frustration, even danger that we face. You don’t want those 1,000 pounds to be upset, frightened or angry, because they can fire off in an instant and if you’re in his way, you don’t stand much of a chance to escape. The point of this writing is to alert you to specific horse behaviors that, if misinterpreted, can result in your serious injury or worse.

    Fortunately, there is but a small handful of key specific areas of difference between him and us which, when we understand them completely, can make all the difference in the world for our safety. Let’s call them Pillars of Understanding – and let’s examine Pillar One: the Social Hierarchy.

    A horse is a strongly pre-programmed fella, raised with a herd mentality, taught as a baby by his mother as well as every other horse in his herd the ways and means of his very existence; he learns who’s the alpha, and he learns where every other herd member including himself sits in that hierarchy – he also observes how the hierarchical rankings may change from time to time, and he observes how to handle intra-herd situations as they arise. He sees the rankings change, often as a result of violence of some sort – anything from a tooth-and-hoof slugfest between those at the top of the ladder to determine the herd alpha, to – and this is of great importance to you and me -- as little as a nip or kick or a nudge between lower members as they might jockey for in-herd position, and he sees benefits to being higher on the ladder. His ability to understand all that – his cognition -- is built-in from birth, then programmed by that natural school of hard knocks, his herd.

    Now contrast that with your dog, whom nature has endowed with an entirely different learning experience. As a canine he knows from the start that his pack has just one alpha, the “top dog”. Bring him into your personal “pack” – your family – and you become his alpha. When he wags his tail at you and looks into your eyes with his own soft and warm orbs, then nuzzles you, he’s signaling subordination and affection, and you love it, of course.

    That’s the relationship many of us want with our horse as well. But when your new horse nuzzles and nickers at you and you get those same soft and warm feelings and you reflect them back to him, you may be setting the stage for conflict, which can get dangerous.

    The hard thing to accept is that your horse’s nuzzle and nicker that look so soft, warm and friendly may not be quite what they appear as you interpret them. It could be an offer of friendship, but he is invading your space – a no-no in horsedom – it may also be an alert to show you that he doesn’t consider you to be his alpha! You won’t see him act that way toward another horse unless he’s making a minor power grab in the hierarchy. You may view him as your huge, friendly, loving equine doggie, but he sees you as a fellow herd member, either subservient to him or dominant over him – and you need to learn his body language to help you to understand which it is. Those nuzzles and nickers that spell “love” to you are the same as he uses when manipulating another horse in his herd to gain position, and in the herd, they can be followed by a nip or two or even a kick. The real danger here is that you don’t necessarily know how he means his initial “cuteness” with you. If he’s fresh from the herd, it’s time for you to back off and get your guard on; uninvited space invasions are danger signs.

    How to handle it in a moment; first, understand that while he’s not human, he is intelligent, and he can learn to modify his behavior if it gains him something. Give him a reward for that cuteness, like a treat or a scritchie below his ear, and in future he’ll use it for that purpose, and you may be safe from it’s going any further. But your scritchie is a space invasion, too, so for your safety, learn to look for and recognize the body language signals during the cuddly moments – his eyes, nostrils and ears will tell you volumes about what’s really brewing in his head, and if you’re leery about what you see, back off.

    If he sees you as subordinate, he’ll treat you accordingly, which can be dangerous to you. That could include a nip or even a kick immediately following your kiss of affection. More clues might be his head pushing you and rubbing on you, he may walk into you or even over you as you lead him, and come grooming or saddling time you may see aggression behavior like pinned ears, swishing tail, even a threat to kick. His two major motivations in life are cooperation and aggression, and all this is relatively low-level aggression with you as the “aggressee”. It’s important to your safety that you read his signals correctly.

    How to handle this form of aggression? Treat him as he treats you – because he completely understands it. Now, I’m not an advocate of corporal punishment except when the infraction is clearly intentional and as clearly understood by him as by you. And no matter what, you’ve got to be cool through it – don’t act through anger. A horse is always just a horse, behaving like a horse naturally behaves, and if you allow your temper to control the situation, he can become a horse that’s frightened of you. Then, at minimum, you’ve lost the trust and love connection you wanted in the first place, but at maximum you may start a physical exchange you don’t have a chance of winning. You do want a horse that loves and respects you just as you do him, but you don’t want him believing he’s your superior, thus you must not allow his aggression toward you.

    But do let your punishment fit his crime – a space invasion gets an immediate slap on the invading body part, for example – but you’ve got to do it within two or three seconds or he’s lost the connection. For bigger stuff, like a deliberate jamming you into a wall, add a huge, scary shout to your very firm smack. Use a riding crop if one’s handy, but just one good, hard smack is often all it takes. And at that level, don’t worry or even feel guilty, it’s just the same language horses use dealing with each other – only gentler.

    As in almost everything horse-related, timing and body language are paramount. If he pins his ears when you approach with the feed bucket, don’t feed him. Feeding him now just rewards that bad behavior. Put the bucket out of his reach where he can still see it, and wait until he’s wearing his friendly face, then feed him. It’s just another tiny form of crime and punishment -- he’ll get the message.

    If I can leave you with just one unforgettable thought, it would be to remain both alert and calm at all times. Alert to avoid sudden surprises, and calm because you don’t want to hurt your horse, you just want to teach him some manners when dealing with you – and other humans by extension. Anger is just a big multiplier – too bad there’s no on-off switch except our own mental control.

    It is so easy and natural for us, as humans, to misinterpret our horse’s body language by reading it as though he were another human. Learn the key differences, then be sure to read them correctly, and your lives together will be much safer – and happier.

    This has been Part 1 in a series of writings intended to explain the fundamental differences – those that can get you into trouble -- between your world and your horse’s. Please watch for future explorations of these differences.

8 Item(s)