Omega Fields

  • Water Losses in Horses

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    This month we will discuss the most important nutrient in your horse’s diet, but maybe the most overlooked. Because providing our horse with water may seem obvious, many believe water requirements may not warrant discussion. But how much do you really know about how much your horse should be drinking per day?

    The amount of water a horse needs to consume per day is directly related to how much water the horse loses per day. Horses lose water through four ways: their manure, urine, sweat, respiration, and if a broodmare, lactation. All of these variables must be taken into account when determining how much water our horses should be drinking. When we increase these losses due to variations in diet, work or environment, we must allow the horse greater access to water. Sometime that may mean we need to be creative in encouraging the horse to consume more water.

    One of the greatest water losses to a horse is often overlooked, horse manure. While we tend to think of it as a rather solid form that we must continually scoop, pick up or shovel, horse manure is mainly water. This is especially true if the horse is eating primarily roughages. On an all forage diet, horse manure contains as much as 72-85% moisture. In fact, the water lost through their manure may represent almost 60% of a horse’s daily water intake. If we switch the horse to a grain based diet, the manure actually becomes much drier. Now, that does not mean that this may be a great strategy to minimize water losses. Overly dry feces can lead to impactions and colic, which is certainly to be avoided! When a horse consumes forage, it must be digested through fermentation which requires a fairly liquid environment in the hindgut and therefore normal gut health. In part, this is why it is recommended to always provide at least 1% of a horse’s body weight in forage per day. Consumption of forage therefore encourages water intake.

    Variations in diet beyond just forage versus grain, can influence water losses in horses. The total amount of feed the horse eats will alter its water requirements. As consumption of feed increases, the horse must consume more water in order to allow normal digestive processes to occur. While we mentioned already that forage does increase water losses and thus water intake, the type of forage the horse consumes alters its water needs. Obviously fresh pasture grass contains a much higher moisture content compared to dry feed which is typically only 10-15% moisture. Growing grass may contain as much as 80% moisture. When taking into account the total amount of grass a horse can consume, simple grazing may approach a horse’s basic water requirements. Don’t be surprised then if your horse visits the water trough less frequently while he is grazing compared to when you feed hay.

    Urine obviously contributes to water losses in horses, but remember that the volume of urine may reflect the water balance in the horse. Urine actually represents the most variable water loss in the horse, as other losses are more directly tied to diet, metabolic demands and environment. Some horses simply consume more water than others, and as a result will excrete more dilute urine in order to rid the body of excess water. Alternatively, if we fail to adequately meet our horse’s water needs, the kidneys will act to limit water losses and concentrate the urine. Additionally, if the feed contains components that need to be excreted by the kidney, water losses will increase. For example, when horses are fed protein beyond their requirements, the extra amino acids are broken down into components that can be used for fuel. This process involves the removal of the nitrogen found in amino acids. The kidney incorporates the excess nitrogen into urea, which is then excreted through the urine. Excess electrolytes, in particular sodium and potassium, must also be excreted by the diet. If you have a horse that likes to consume his salt at a greater rate, you may notice that his stall may be wetter than horses which do not perform such a practice. If you own an enthusiastic salt eater, you may want to limit his intake to strictly his salt requirements.

    Sweat represents a tremendous variable in water losses for the horse, dependent on temperature and exercise. Remember that horses are most similar to humans in that we both dissipate heat through sweating, compared to other species that may rely primarily on respiratory cooling or panting. As horses must breathe through their nostrils, panting is simply not an option for them. Increasing the environmental temperature can increase evaporative losses between 45 to almost 400% of the horse’s normal water losses. The addition of exercise on top of environmental losses can quickly lead a horse to dehydration and heat stress if water losses are not replenished. For example, cross country horses have been reported to lose as much as 50-75 lbs of water during a competition due to the sustained duration of activity. Respiratory water losses are also directly tied to temperature and work load as these have the greatest influence on respiration rate. Horses increase respiration rate, either to aid in cooling, or due to the increased demand for oxygen delivery to the muscle tissue. However, relative to sweating, respiratory losses are relatively minimal.

    The good news is that horses, through training or adaptation to their environment, do become more efficient at heat dissipation and begin to minimize their water losses. However, full acclimation to increased environmental temperatures may take up to 3 weeks. While it would be nice if weather patterns would gradually increase over time allowing our horses to adapt, we all know that this is simply not reality. Therefore, when the temperature gage rises dramatically, or even sporadically, we must acknowledge that our horses may not easily be able to dissipate heat. This will require more caution on our part when working our horses during this abrupt changes in temperature.

    Lactating mares also have a significant loss of water through the milk. The amount of milk produced can be very variable between mares, with an average of 2 to 3% of their body weight per day. This will increase their water requirements somewhere between 50 and 75% over their normal requirements. If we also remember that lactating mares have a very high energy demand on their bodies, their feed intake increases as well. Remember that as feed intake increases, the horse must increase their water consumption to maintain digesta flow, and to counter the losses of water through the manure.

    So what does all of this mean relative to what we need to offer our horses? My basic recommendation is to always allow the horse access to water beyond what they are willing to drink. In general a horse will consume around 10 gallons of water per day. This is easily accomplished by offering two full buckets twice a day. However, if you find that the bucket is empty when it is time to refill it, consider hanging an additional bucket. Your horse will thank you!

    Next month we will delve more deeply into the current research on strategies to maximize your horses water intake. We all are familiar with the adage that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. However, sometimes we really need them to drink! We will also discuss some feeding strategies that may help your horse stay hydrated through the various activities he may encounter such as traveling, endurance exercise, or exercise during hot temperatures. Remember, there is more to know about water than just filling a bucket!

  • Omega Fields Presents Keys to Preventing Laminitis Article by Dr. Kris Hiney

    Newton, Wisconsin – Omega Fields’ Equine Nutrition Advisor, Kristina Hiney, Ph.D., has introduced a new article about key strategies in preventing laminitis in the equine. The article has been published in one of our Health E Letter issues, Omega Fields’ monthly, digital newsletter, and is also posted on their website, www.OmegaFields.com.

    In the article, Dr. Hiney draws on her extensive personal knowledge, experience with equine nutrition and physiology, and scientific studies to try to identify which individuals may be at risk, and other strategies that may be employed to reduce your horse’s risk.

    Dr. Hiney states, “While the outward appearance of your horse may give you an indication to whether they are susceptible to laminitis, there may be more to it than just which horses are overweight. There certainly appears to be a genetic link to laminitis.”

    If owners wish to try and avoid the development of insulin resistance, the diet the horse receives may be critical. There is evidence that diets which avoid high amounts of sugars and starches, and have a low glycemic response, resulting 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 protected against laminitis. However, it is difficult to know whether the exercise regimen aids in increasing insulin sensitivity, or is simply protective against obesity.

    To read the complete laminitis article by Dr. Hiney that discusses the genetic role, obesity and insulin resistance, diet and lifestyle management, please visit our horse articles section on our website. <http://www.omegafields.com/blog/cat/articles-equine-articles/post/keys-to-preventing-laminitis/>

    Dr. Hiney has been working with Omega Fields since 2008 to expand our connection with our customers, giving them the nutrition and health information from scientific perspective they would like to know. Each month, Kris presents a feature article concerning horse health in Dr. Kris's Korner, her column in the Health-E-Letter. Click here to sign up for your free Health-E-Letter subscription delivered to your email address!

    About Omega Fields
    Omega Fields® is recognized as a minority-owned business. Its mission is to offer the finest quality, most nutritious products at fair prices, and to provide outstanding customer service. Omega Fields wants its customers to have exceptional experiences with their products, staff, websites and retailers.

    Omega Fields is the first manufacturer in the animal health industry to use human-grade, non-GMO stabilized ground flaxseed, rich in fiber and antioxidants, and containing the optimum ratio of the full spectrum of Omega 3, 6, and 9 Fatty Acids for equine, goat, canine, poultry and human nutrition. The innovative use of flaxseed milled with a unique stabilization technology ensures long shelf life and superior quality for Omega Fields’ products.

    For further information, contact Allison Kuhl, Omega Fields Director of Business Development at 920-550-4061, ext. 119; email Allison@omegafields.com; or visit www.OmegaFields.com or www.FLAX.com

     

  • Omega Fields is proud to announce it will be a GOLD level benefactor for the ECIR No Laminitis Conference

    Newton, Wisconsin – Omega Fields, Inc. is proud to announce our continued support of the No Laminitis! Conference for 2013.  Presented by the ECIR Group, Inc., with Keynote Speaker Dr. Eleanor Kellon. To be held September 27 - 29, 2013 in Jacksonville, Oregon
    Dr. Kellon has used and recommends Omega Horseshine® for all IR and Cushing horses.

    Omega Fields’ goal is to promote and support optimal equine health through knowledge, instruction and practice.  Once considered a death sentence, Laminitis is often the first sign that leads to a diagnosis of Equine Cushing’s disease or Insulin Resistance.  This conference will provide new and emerging information to help recognize how laminitis can be prevented and treated with background, new and emerging information on equine insulin resistance and pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (Cushing’s Disease) and including drug, nutritional management and hoof physiology and function.  Full conference information can be found at; www.nolaminitis.org/program.

    “On behalf of the hardworking conference organizers and non-profit officers and directors, we offer a special thanks to all of you for your support. Omega Fields in an important product used by many of our members.  In addition to the information and new research being discussed at this conference, it is also a major fundraiser for 2013.  Funds raised here will allow us to continue to expand our outreach to owners, vets, farriers, trimmers and others struggling to help the horses in their care.” Says Nancy Collins, ECIR Group, Inc. – Treasurer/Director.

    About Omega Fields
    Omega Fields® is recognized as a minority-owned business. Its mission is to offer the finest quality, most nutritious products at fair prices, and to provide outstanding customer service. Omega Fields wants its customers to have exceptional experiences with their products, staff, websites and retailers.

    Omega Fields is the first manufacturer in the animal health industry to use human-grade, non-GMO stabilized ground flaxseed, rich in fiber and antioxidants, and containing the optimum ratio of the full spectrum of Omega 3, 6, and 9 Fatty Acids for equine, goat, canine, poultry and human nutrition. The innovative use of flaxseed milled with a unique stabilization technology ensures long shelf life and superior quality for Omega Fields’ products.

    For further information, contact Allison Kuhl, Omega Fields Director of Business Development at 920-550-4061, ext. 119; email Allison@omegafields.com; or visit www.OmegaFields.com or www.FLAX.com
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  • Omega Fields sponsors Illinois Quarter Horse Association Charity Trail Ride

    Newton, Wisconsin – Omega Fields, Inc. is proud to announce our support for the second year of the ILQHA Charity hosted by the ILQHA Recreational Riding Program.  To be held September 26- 29, 2013 in the Shawnee National Forest, at the New Hope Hill Campground.  Click here for more details; http://ilqha.com/recreational_riding.html

    “The Illinois Quarter Horse Association Recreational Riding Program has been hosting the trail ride for 7 years in a row now. This trail ride is not only for the enjoyment of the riders, but it also works to inform people and keep trails open and available for use by all horse lovers throughout the state of Illinois. Each year the committee also partners up with a local charity and gives at least 50% of the ride's proceeds to the charity. This year's charity is the Massac County Youth fair, which covers 13 counties in Southern Illinois.  Businesses like Omega Fields help us to raise money for these charities by donating items that can be auctioned off, raffled off, or bid on through silent auction. Without generous businesses like Omega Fields, our organization would not be able to support the local charities that we have for the past 7 years. The committee truly appreciates the donation of products from Omega Fields; they are great products, and the committee members often get into bidding wars over them!” stated Haley and Heidi A. Coop, 2013 ILQHA Trail Ride Directors.

    Omega Fields’ president, Sean Moriarty, stated “we are very glad to be a small part of the successful fund raising efforts of the ILQHA and are proud to be associated with such a great group doing even greater things to promote better horsemanship and the equine lifestyle”.

    About Omega Fields
    Omega Fields® is recognized as a minority-owned business. Its mission is to offer the finest quality, most nutritious products at fair prices, and to provide outstanding customer service. Omega Fields wants its customers to have exceptional experiences with their products, staff, websites and retailers.

    Omega Fields is the first manufacturer in the animal health industry to use human-grade, non-GMO stabilized ground flaxseed, rich in fiber and antioxidants, and containing the optimum ratio of the full spectrum of Omega 3, 6, and 9 Fatty Acids for equine, goat, canine, poultry and human nutrition. The innovative use of flaxseed milled with a unique stabilization technology ensures long shelf life and superior quality for Omega Fields’ products.

    For further information, contact Allison Kuhl, Omega Fields Director of Business Development at 920-550-4061, ext. 119; email Allison@omegafields.com; or visit www.OmegaFields.com or www.FLAX.com

     

  • Omega Fields is Proud to annouce our Continued Relationship with Beverly Gray as Official Spokesperson

    Newton, Wisconsin – Omega Fields, Inc. is proud to announce our continued relationship with the amazing Beverly Gray and her champion horse “Jolly Sickle”.  (www.bevgrayusa.com).  Omega Fields’ goal has always been to extend our tag line “Nutrition for a Healthy Life” into a person’s entire experience by promoting a connected message of nutrition and healthy living for them and the animals they love.  We feel strongly that Bev’s reputation, methods and character are a great fit with ours and we are thrilled to have her as our Spokesperson. ” says Moriarty, President of Omega Fields.  

    Beverly and “Jolly Sickle” had another fantastic “Gold Medal” year winning National Mountain Region Champion and National 100 Mile Champion!  According to Beverly, “It was another pinnacle endurance riding year that included 750 miles, 14 races with 9 firsts and 11 Best Condition awards throughout 3 regions. I’ve never had a horse partner in the National Standings for Best Condition in my entire 18,500+ miles of competition.  I didn’t see the possibility of a National BC until this past fall.  The drama of 3 consecutive high vet scores and 3 consecutive Best Condition awards at the Moab Canyonlands Ride was the climax of our campaign.  Jolly Sickle and I have shared so much together – a once in a lifetime sunrise, the noon sun streaking through a thick forest heavy with fog, or alone with the sound of the musical tempo of hooves over the crimson Moab slickrock.  Riding Jolly Sickle is poetry in motion! I am grateful and humbled to be his partner and friend.” Beverly also stated “I believe Omega Fields nutritional program for my champion Arabian and I were major factors in our success! Thank you Omega Fields.”

    About Omega Fields
    Omega Fields® is recognized as a minority-owned business. Its mission is to offer the finest quality, most nutritious products at fair prices, and to provide outstanding customer service. Omega Fields wants its customers to have exceptional experiences with their products, staff, websites and retailers.

    Omega Fields is the first manufacturer in the animal health industry to use human-grade, non-GMO stabilized ground flaxseed, rich in fiber and antioxidants, and containing the optimum ratio of the full spectrum of Omega 3, 6, and 9 Fatty Acids for equine, goat, canine, poultry and human nutrition. The innovative use of flaxseed milled with a unique stabilization technology ensures long shelf life and superior quality for Omega Fields’ products.

    For further information, contact Allison Kuhl, Omega Fields Director of Business Development at 920-550-4061, ext. 119; email Allison@omegafields.com; or visit www.OmegaFields.com or www.FLAX.com

     

  • Omega Fields debuts new RFDtv commercial on the Parelli Natural Horsesmanship Program!

    Newton, Wisconsin – Omega Fields, Inc. has aired its new 30 second commercial on the RFDtv channel during the Parelli Natural Horsemanship program as one of Parelli’s official sponsors.  According to Moriarty-Omega Fields President, “the spot features Pat and Linda’s personal experience with our Omega Horseshine® and Omega Nibblers® products and their personal endorsement.  Linda Parelli said that this was the first supplement she really felt excited about.  We couldn’t be more pleased with our relationship and their enthusiastic support after seeing the significant difference our products have made in their horses.”  You can view the 30 second spot as well as an extended 90 second version on our YouTube channel; www.youtube.com/user/OmegaFieldsInc.

    Omega Fields has been an Official Sponsor of Parelli Natural Horsemanship, www.parelli.com,  since December of 2012.  You can see us on their RFDtv program, as part of their national tour events as well as being featured in their Savvy Times magazine.  Check us out at; www.omegafields.com, and learn more about the reason for Pat and Linda Parelli’s enthusiasm for Omega Fields’ products.

    About Omega Fields
    Omega Fields® is recognized as a minority-owned business. Its mission is to offer the finest quality, most nutritious products at fair prices, and to provide outstanding customer service. Omega Fields wants its customers to have exceptional experiences with their products, staff, websites and retailers.

    Omega Fields is the first manufacturer in the animal health industry to use human-grade, non-GMO stabilized ground flaxseed, rich in fiber and antioxidants, and containing the optimum ratio of the full spectrum of Omega 3, 6, and 9 Fatty Acids for equine, goat, canine, poultry and human nutrition. The innovative use of flaxseed milled with a unique stabilization technology ensures long shelf life and superior quality for Omega Fields’ products.

    Contact: Allison Kuhl _ Director of Business Development, Omega Fields, Inc. • (920) 550-4061 ext. 119 • Allison.kuhl@omegafields.com, www.omegafields.com

  • Omega Fields is Proud to announce our Newest Spokespeople – Lee & Hallie Hanssen!

    Newton, Wisconsin – Omega Fields, Inc. is proud to announce our new relationship with the champion barrel racers and professional trainers, Lee & Hallie Hanssen (www.melvinranch.com and www.hanssensranch.com).  Omega Fields’ goal has always been to extend our tag line “Nutrition for a Healthy Life” into a person’s entire experience by promoting a connected message of nutrition and healthy living for them and the animals they love.  We feel strongly that Lee & Hallie’s reputation, methods and character are a great fit with ours and we are thrilled to have them as our Spokespeople. ” says Moriarty, President of Omega Fields.  

    As active members of the Barrel Futurities of America and the W.P.R.A (Hallie), some notable accomplishments for Hallie include; BFA Derby World Champion, WPRA Reserve 2x World Champion, Fizzbomb Futurity Champion, 5-States Futurity Champion and Multiple Ft. Smith Futurity Finalist. And for Lee; multiple slot race top 10 placing, Top 10 Old Fort Days Futurity and 3rd at BBR Futurity Finals.  “We are very excited to have Lee & Hallie as spokespeople and feel that they truly represent the ideals we have as a company. The combination of their experience and knowledge as well as outstanding character make them a great example of what we stand for as a company” according to Moriarty – President of Omega Fields.  

    As stated by Lee & Hallie “Hallie and I have loved horses since we can remember.  What started out as a simple hobby has turned into a career and an enduring passion.  Competing at the professional level is very demanding on our horses.  That is why we trust Omega Fields to help our horses look and feel their best.  Over the years we have fed many great products, and Omega Fields flax based supplements continue to help our horses perform at the top of their game.  When you look good, you feel good and our horses look awesome with help of these outstanding products.  We are grateful to be a part of their team.”

    Check out our latest Omega Grande product video and spokesperson, Hallie Hanssen on our YouTube channel - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qtmVXCrVvg.

    About Omega Fields
    Omega Fields® is recognized as a minority-owned business. Its mission is to offer the finest quality, most nutritious products at fair prices, and to provide outstanding customer service. Omega Fields wants its customers to have exceptional experiences with their products, staff, websites and retailers.

    Omega Fields is the first manufacturer in the animal health industry to use human-grade, non-GMO stabilized ground flaxseed, rich in fiber and antioxidants, and containing the optimum ratio of the full spectrum of Omega 3, 6, and 9 Fatty Acids for equine, goat, canine, poultry and human nutrition. The innovative use of flaxseed milled with a unique stabilization technology ensures long shelf life and superior quality for Omega Fields’ products.

    Contact: Allison Kuhl _ Director of Business Development, Omega Fields, Inc. • (920) 550-4061 ext. 119 • Allison.kuhl@omegafields.com, www.omegafields.com
    ________________________________________

     

  • Does the Season Affect Your Feeding Management?

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    Does the season affect your feeding management? Winter is the season of short days, long cold nights and reduced riding time for us and our horses. Often what we feed our horses in the winter shifts as their energy requirements change, as well as the feedstuffs we might be using. That shift in seasons may mean we need to look at our feed sources and our supplement regimen more closely.

    To begin our discussion, remember that a horse’s energy requirements do change with the seasons. Cold weather creates additional caloric demands on the horse’s body in order to regulate its body temperature. When temperatures drop below a certain point, referred to as an animal’s lower critical temperature, it must expend more energy in order to maintain its own body temperature. For horses which are acclimated to cold temperatures (meaning we have allowed them to grow a hair coat and they have been housed outdoors), this lower critical temperature is usually around 5° Fahrenheit. When temperatures drop below this point, we really should be feeding our horses more. In general, for every two degrees drop in temperature, the horse needs 2.5% more calories to maintain its’ body temperature. Therefore, if it gets down to about 10 below, your horse will need 20-25% more feed! These numbers do not consider wind chill factors, which can drive up heat loss substantially. Bottom line, in light of this year’s extreme cold, if your horse is living outside this winter, you may find yourself going through your hay supply much faster than you had anticipated.

    How you choose to supply that energy to your horse may be important as well. There are several strategies which may be employed to augment your horse’s calorie deficiency. One easy way to meet energy requirements, along with adding to the heat produced by the process of fermentation in the hindgut, is to simply feed more hay. Consumption of hay has a higher heat increment (or heat associated with digestion) than other feeds, therefore it helps to keep your horse warm at the same time. In addition, more calories can be provided by choosing a higher energy concentrate, such as one with higher concentrations of fat. There are many commercial feeds available with added fat, or choosing rice bran or a flax source may be an option. If choosing a fat-added feed, it will provide more calories to the horse without having to increase as greatly the volume of feed that you are using. Many horse owner’s also like to add warm mashes to their horses diet in the winter. This provides more energy to the horse as bran or pellet mashes are higher in caloric density than forage. The additional benefit is that you can increase your horse’s water consumption, which may have decreased in the winter if they do not have access to heated water. Finally, it just may make you feel good to feed your horse a nice warm mash on those cold days and nights.

    Obviously the manner in which we feed our horses also changes with the season. Ideally, horses are allowed opportunities to graze pasture grass in the temperate part of the year. However, with the fall and winter, horses in northern climates much be switched to an all harvested forage diet. While many of the nutrient components in harvested forage may be completely adequate for your horse, realize that the composition of plants does change with advancing maturity. In order to be tall enough to produce hay, grasses and legumes must reach a more mature state than a horse would typically select left to its own devices. In addition, some nutrients, such as vitamin A, do diminish over time. In particular, omega three fatty acids are found in smaller quantities in hay than in fresh growing grass. As we have changed how we manage all of our production animals and switched to more grain based diets, they now consume much more n-6 fatty acids versus n-3 fatty acids than when they were more pastorally raised. In fact, knowledge of the higher content of n-3 fatty acids in grass is in part what has led to the rising consumer popularity of grass fed beef. Grazed cattle consume much more n-3 fatty acids compared to traditionally raised feed lot cattle which have diets much higher in n-6 fatty acids. The diet the animal is on directly influences the n-6 to n-3 fatty acid ratio in their body tissues. Diets higher in n-3 fatty acids have been shown to be anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and cardio protective. While we may not think about horses in quite the same way, or feed them a concentrate based diet like feed lot cattle, the same process of incorporation of more n-3 fatty acids into their tissues occurs when horses graze or are supplemented with n-3 fatty acids. Ideally, our horses also should be consuming more grass and n-3 fatty acids, and less n-6 fatty acids which are found so abundantly in concentrates. However, even switching to a harvested forage based diet can alter the n-6 to n-3 ratio compared to a fresh grazing. Hay making can result in a loss of fatty acids of more than 50%, especially of linolenic acid, with a comparative increase in n-6 fatty acids. In a study using ewes, grass fed ewes had more milk and tissue n-3 fatty acids than ewes fed a hay diet. But obviously we cannot always feed grass to our horses. Therefore, in order to mimic the natural diet of the horse, and provide them the positive benefits of n-3 fatty acids, we can supplement them in other ways. Flax is a rich source of linolenic acid which horses readily consume. Therefore, in the winter, why not try a flax supplement and at least return your horse’s diet to summer, even if the wind is still howling!

  • Equine Arthritis: Dealing with the Pain

    Written By Walt Friedrich

    Ask anyone who suffers from arthritis what it’s like, and you’ll hear just one word repeated and repeated – pain. And you won’t have to look very far to find people to ask. In some cases, you don’t even need to ask – you can tell just by watching them move; they don’t like to because it hurts.

    We’re not alone in coping with this painful monster – our horses, like humans, are quite prone to arthritis, and they hurt just as much as we do.

    We hope medical science will soon be able to control it, even cure it, both horse and human, but until then, because it’s a chronic degenerative disease, the prognosis isn’t good. Once it’s in our joints, it’s there for keeps, and if left untreated, it just gets worse. So we compensate: we medicate to mitigate the symptoms. We avoid activities that we know will hurt.

    Lucky us, humans can do that. Horses not so much. They rely upon us to see and recognize their symptoms, then do something about it to ease their pain, just as we do our own. Problem is, sometimes we don’t “get the message” when our horse hurts. But the clues are there, you can bet on it. We need to recognize what their body language is saying.

    Fortunately, most of us can spot a horse that’s in obvious pain, though we may not be able to pinpoint exactly where it’s centered. Here are some of the general symptoms that tell us that our horse is hurting:

    • An obvious limp • A listless, depressed attitude.

    • Decreased appetite.

    • Lies down more than usual

    • Doesn’t move around as much as usual, less interested in playing • Separates himself from his herdmates

    • When standing, eases the weight load on an involved leg by “pointing” a forefoot or “flexing” a hind foot to let the opposite leg take up the weight burden.

    • When ridden, seems stiff, may refuse certain movements such as collection, jumps, certain turns and the like.

    We get a break when examining specifically for arthritis: it is a disease that’s centered in the joints, which narrows down which areas we need to concentrate on. Here are some of the symptoms of arthritic pain:

    • Joint swelling • Warmth around a joint

    • Reduced ability to move the joint

    • Stiffness, especially in the morning

    • Misshapen joint

    • When picking his feet, you notice less dirt, hay, manure packed in

    When we do see the symptoms, we bring in the vet to do another evaluation, and if our suspicions are confirmed, our next thought is how do we get rid of the problem? Can’t we just take a pill?

    Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet – not yet, anyway, though science is trying hard to develop one. As a chronic degenerative condition quite possibly stemming from an autoimmune problem, and at this point is incurable, we can’t get rid of arthritis by any simple medication.

    Fortunately, we can deal with it and make our horse’s life immensely easier. There are effective lifestyle changes that can reduce pain, improve function, and arrest further joint damage. First, start a slimming down program if he’s overweight. That alone will greatly help joint pain in his legs and feet.

    Controlled movement will help relieve stiffness and reduce pain and fatigue. Gentle daily exercise is excellent therapy, particularly important because affected joints need plenty movement to prevent permanent restriction of motion. Thirty minutes per day of steady walking, if his lameness permits, is usually enough. It will help to pick up an affected leg frequently and flex or extend the joints a dozen times or so. Free-range turnout is an excellent lifestyle for all horses, but note that it does not replace actual therapy.

    Though inconclusive, some positive results have been reported from supplementation with bioflavonoids, and especially glucosamine and chondroitin sulfates. These two natural substances are readily available for purchase; they stimulate formation and repair of joint cartilage. In addition, add antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, plus a generous dosage of omega-3.

    Applying a liniment such as Absorbine is quite helpful. It creates a mild inflammation that increases blood flow and eases the pain. Bandaging is also helpful because it holds in heat, but it’s mostly effective only on the fetlock (ankle). Other joints are better served using Neoprene wraps, but be careful if you use Neoprene over liniment – some liniments are irritating under Neoprene, and it is important to avoid irritating the skin. Read the liniment label for warnings. Massage the dosed area for ten or fifteen minutes after applying liniment and before bandaging.

    Those sore joints will very much appreciate heat. Gentle heat is the magic touch for the pain of arthritis under everyday conditions. But his arthritis may flare up occasionally, and become much more painful. When it happens, ease up on his walking therapy, and use cold therapy instead of heat. You can use a garden hose (no nozzle), for example, and hose down a particularly sore knee. Temporary increases of antioxidants and glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate will bring some added relief. Please note that while bandaging will help control swelling, it also holds in heat, just the opposite of what you want during a flare-up, thus you may have to forego bandaging temporarily. Use discretion and never over-do.

    During a flare-up, increase the dosage of bioflavonoids, vitamin E and especially vitamin C, and be sure glucosamine and chondroitin sulfates are dosed to full recommended levels, to help minimize further joint damage.

    You can safely dose with Bute at flare-up time, but be careful. Only the worst cases require constant, repeated dosing, and that has some potentially serious side-effects. One is the suppression of an enzyme, resulting in the reduction of the stomach’s protection against ulcers. If the situation calls for frequent dosing of Bute, you can also supplement him with a half to a full cup of lecithin each day. Lecithin effectively protects the stomach wall from damage, is tasteless, and is relatively inexpensive. There are other products to control ulcer pain; discuss them with your vet.

    Once a flare-up has eased, phase out the cold therapy and get back to hand-walking for brief periods several times a day. Long-term, exercise is of paramount importance.

    If you shoe your horse, squaring the toes makes breakover easier and smoother, thus easier on arthritic joints, but be sure to keep the feet at their natural angle so you don’t complicate matters. Don’t use caulks, trailers or grabs on the shoe, and use shoe padding to raise the heel angles slightly.

    Finally, consider his nutrition. Ideally, his primary feed should be low-sugar roughage, such as a grass hay like timothy, selected for proper mineral balance and sugar content. As previously suggested, supplement it with Vitamins C and E because of their excellent anti-oxidant qualities, and with high omega-3 fatty acids such as Omega Fields’ product, HorseShine. Round it off with a cup of canola oil per day.

    Don’t expect a cure from these steps. There isn’t one. But you can most assuredly make life easier for him.

  • My Inner Fire

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    My Inner Fire I recently attended a yoga retreat. We were asked to visualize our inner fire, like as a flame or the sun. In my mind’s eye I saw this blazing orange cattle dog, this intrepid, very yang dog: Bandit. Yang means fast, solid, focused, hot, and is associated with fire, the sky, the sun, masculinity and daytime. Over the past ten years Bandit has taught me so much about life, and now he is showing me how to live (really live!) with cancer. He is my inner fire.

    Bandit, an Australian Cattle Dog, first appeared in my life just moments after my very old red and white cattle dog mix Rusty had passed away at the vet clinic. A very engaging puppy, Bandit had Rusty’s red ears and mask. I was sure that Rusty had somehow sent this solid little charmer, the only red cattle dog puppy for miles around, as a gift to help me cope with my grief.

    Two weeks later Bandit joined our family. Soon I learned that if I was going to be the pack leader, I’d better stay ahead of him. He is so smart, and good at everything, that he kept me busy as we learned many things together. When he was an adolescent, I quickly learned that I had better lead or get out of the way, thus he made me a better leader. We played ball and went for long walks every day, and completed several levels of obedience school. He passed the Canine Good Citizen test. We learned to herd livestock, including sheep, goats, and eventually cattle. We competed in agility and learned tricks in an acting class, which led to a commercial gig. Together we earned titles in obedience, Rally, agility, sheep herding, cattle herding, and versatility, and just last year trained toward a tracking title. Over the years, we earned several second place ribbons, but the only blue ribbon we ever brought home was for herding cattle. Bandit moved the cattle around the course without much help from me, except for penning them at the end. He was one proud dog that day, beaming with pride, doing what he was bred and born to do, and doing it well enough to place ahead of our instructor and her dog.

    Several times we had the opportunity to work with an entire herd of cows at a local farm. Watching this 55 pound dog move the herd across a field absolutely changed my view of life and what is possible. That can-do attitude and bullet-proof confidence goes a long way, especially when matched by ability. Once Bandit committed to moving the cattle, even a moment of hesitation could have been dangerous. He had the courage and confidence to run out in front of a cow about 30 times his weight who was breaking away from the herd. She rolled him with her nose, and he bounded right back up and bit her on the nose, turning her back to the herd. I’d been holding my breath, and as I inhaled again, relieved to see him get back up, I admired his chutzpah.

    Last spring and summer, Bandit and I spent many hours training for a tracking test. In August, when Chase was in cancer treatment, Bandit completed the Pet Partners therapy dog test with the highest marks. I thought he’d be able to substitute for Chase at our monthly library visits if Chase wasn’t feeling well. Then one September morning, the month before we had planned to take the tracking test, Bandit wasn’t able to start a track. Something was terribly wrong. We went straight to the vet and eventually he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a systemic cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Now Bandit is living with cancer and is expected to be on daily chemo meds for the rest of his life. The average prognosis after diagnosis is 18 months. Bandit has never been average.

     

    As we’ve gotten older, life isn’t so much about participating in activities, but just being together, out for a game of ball or a run in the fields and woods, or just hanging out together, sharing our undivided attention. Bandit continues to teach me, as he has all along. Although his body has changed as he’s lost muscle mass from the medications that manage his disease, he greets each day with enthusiasm and joy. He engages me in a game of jolly ball every chance he gets. He doesn’t like it when I get sad or upset. If I cry, he consoles me by licking my face, but if I continue to be sad, he eventually gets up and walks away. He doesn’t want to feel the sadness; he wants me to be happy.

    The roller coaster ride and financial stress of Chase’s cancer treatment followed by Bandit’s cancer diagnosis has had me focused on keeping both dogs well, and worried about my finances. We’ve been to several vet clinics many, many times over the past seven months. Along with just keeping up with daily life, I got caught up in keeping the dogs healthy, helping them deal with cancer, and doing my best for them. But then that started to get in the way. At times we had to focus on treatment, but eventually we had to get back to living. I noticed that the dogs were running and playing and enjoying every day, and I needed to get back to enjoying life along with them.

    So, again I’m trying to find a balance, to focus on being well and living in the moment, enjoying what we can do today, and not focusing so much on the illness or worrying about the future. After all, not a one of us will get out of this alive. For now, both dogs are doing well. The irony is that as well as Bandit is doing, I may not be able to afford to keep him going for as long as he wants to. The costs of the monthly medications and tests are not sustainable long-term. I want to live without regrets, and one regret would be to have to let him go before he’s ready. So as long as Bandit looks and feels well, we’re not going to the vet as often, but we’re continuing the medications, trying to focus on life.

    The dogs make me think of a conversation between Pooh and Piglet:

    “What day is it?” asked Pooh

    . “It’s today.” squeaked Piglet.

    “My favorite day.” said Pooh.

    Ironically, as we have learned to live with cancer and enjoy the time we have left, Bandit’s only littermate, his brother Baron, enjoyed his last game of ball before he passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly on January 16th. Our hearts go out to Baron’s mama Bitsey as she mourns his loss. Sometimes we get a long time to say goodbye and sometimes we don’t, which encourages us even more to seize this day.

    Remembering Baron:

     

    How do I want to spend the rest of my dog’s life with him? Playing and living in the moment, right here, right now. Because this present moment is all we really have. So today is our favorite day. Every day. Soon it will be Valentine’s Day, one day of the year when we’re all focused on love. At our house, we focus on love every day. You can too.

    Recently, when the outside temperature was well below zero, I improvised, resurrecting some of our old training and tricks and nose work to keep the dogs busy in the house. Bandit was so excited to be doing his old tricks and retrieves and nose work again. He had not forgotten a thing. That’s my boy, my inner fire! Who knows, we may even get out tracking again this spring.

    Lao Tzu said, “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” Our dogs teach us this too. Happy Today! Happy Valentine’s Day! Share the love.

    Good nutrition, including Omega Fields Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets, has helped keep my dogs healthy while living with cancer. Follow our journey at https://www.facebook.com/jenny.pavlovic

    Next time, read about Chase and the 1st anniversary celebration of the Dog Gone Reading program at our local library.

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