Omega Fields

  • HOW TO MAKE YOUR HORSE SMARTER

    Written By Walt Friedrich

    Feral horses are smart horses. Living in a vast geography, they know where all the water holes are, where to find the best grass, where the mountain lions hang out. Very smart, indeed – but it’s all built around feral living. The feral has much, much more learning to do before he’s capable of routine, daily life with humans – yet the domestic horses we live with and enjoy, same species, identical animals – seem much smarter by comparison. But not really – it’s just that they’ve had opportunity to further develop their minds. It’s said that the human brain is capable of so much more than it typically uses. Same thing with horses. The domestics just give us a clue about what’s possible – and their thinking powers can be quite surprising.

    To illustrate: Gail was riding her horse, Rocky, on a pleasant cross-country outing one warm summer day. Off in the distance, an interesting rock formation covered with wildflowers attracted Gail, and so she had Rocky leave the trail and walk through the brush toward it. The brush got thicker and thicker as Rocky plowed on, until he found himself unable to continue, with his legs tightly tangled in brush and vines. He was struggling to proceed, unsuccessfully, when Gail stopped him and asked him to stand still. She dismounted to examine the situation, saw that it was hopeless to plod through, and so she took out the small garden shears from her riding kit and calmly snipped away the entrapping vines, then led Rocky away from that patch of brush. Rocky followed her, calmly, and when clear, she remounted, patted his neck to tell him what a good, smart boy he was, and continued her ride.

    Many horses, in that situation, might have panicked, thrown Gail, hurt themselves in the process. But Rocky understood that Gail will help him out of any difficult situation; he kept his cool and allowed her to do so. He showed far broader comprehension of unusual circumstances than would a herd-raised horse without human experience. But what made Rocky capable of controlling panic so well? Why is he so smart?

    A horse’s lifetime is one of continuous learning. The two basic learning environments are his herd and the geography in which he resides. We’ll examine both, but first, let’s have a look at what happens between his ears, that makes it all possible -- the controlling factors that set the parameters for how he perceives and copes with those social conditions.

    Learning by developing his cognition:

    How he develops mentally is strongly influenced by what he views his physical limitations to be, what are his likes and dislikes, and does he know when he needs help, for example. But -- and this is tricky – we’re talking about understanding self-awareness in an animal, a challenging subject that’s difficult to define for even humans, about whom we do know something. It must be considered as the foundation on which knowledge is based because everything we see and understand is observed from a totally personalized standpoint. It seems unlikely that the relationship we humans have with our horses, as with our dogs, could exist if animals act only out of instinct. As we shall discuss, horses shape their behavior to fit the herd’s requirements; there seems to be some evidence, perhaps only intuitive, that they would do likewise in the company of humans. And it works both ways – a positive environment elicits positive attitude, and negative elicits negative.

    Learning from the herd:

    We know that the group environment is a highly influential factor in developing cognition. How smart a horse becomes is defined by the circumstances into which he is born and in which he develops – and it is a continuing process. Every event he experiences contributes to his fund of knowledge, and thus his intelligence. It follows, as studies confirm, that youngsters develop best in a herd environment, where its members have established complex interrelationships among themselves. The youngster comes to understand hierarchy, and that he must comport himself accordingly. But herd dynamics is much more than an unwritten rulebook – it’s also a blueprint for comfortable and safe living within a broad society, and to participate, he must learn it. The importance of the social environment cannot be overstressed. If you and I were to learn only at our mother’s knee until we were adults, we would be quite ill-prepared to exist in a society of people who developed within the broad panoply of school, playmates, close friends, neighbors, society in general. Likewise, a foal, growing up in such a group environment, will be far better prepared to cope with life’s events than one who knows only his mother and perhaps a few others during his developmental years.

    Not only does the foal learn the dynamics of living with his mother, he also learns the relative position of  every member of the herd toward himself, his mother and each other. Processing this data and understanding it, then living within it, develops his social intelligence so that he can quickly and efficiently continue the process going forward. Most importantly, this mental development forms the foundation for his ability to “fit in”, without unwarranted fear or anxiety, in new and different social situations. That means joining a new herd, for example, when he changes homes; it means handling show environments, joining strange horses in group rides, training experiences, and especially events with humans – as witness Rocky’s performance when tangled in the vines.

    Learning from the environment:

    Since a horse is such a physical animal and he lives in a primarily physical world, that physical environment is a major teaching aid in his mental development. It is the violin from which the music emanates. The objective is to allow the horse as great a range of experience as possible, with the understanding that the most threatening thing for many horses is, simply, change. But constant changeless environments set the horse up to react badly when change does occur. He learns to deal with changes by experiencing changes. Developing his experiences and thus his intelligence is squarely in our bailiwick. Keep him bottled up and we can expect him to be frightened of anything unfamiliar. But keep him in a complex social group and manage his terrain to promote frequent learning, and he will develop the ability to operate intelligently within his environment no matter how dynamic.

    Jaime Jackson recognized that a plain vanilla environment is a boring place, for domestic horse as well as human. He also understood horses’ need for constant movement in order to maintain physical condition. He developed the concept of the Paddock Paradise, a whole new way for the average person with a bit of land and a drive to practice optimal husbandry, to create a stimulating world for her horses, for their health and deep contentment. The difference between Jackson's approach and the usual fenced acreage is like the difference between an animal safari park and a zoo with barred cages. Creating physical, social, even emotional environments in which animals can believe they're in their primordial setup, yields fascinating results when applied to horses.

    Here's how Pasture Paradise works: instead of housing our horses in rectangular fields where they just stand in one spot and eat, an additional "inside" fence is added to create a "track" system. The track shape and width can vary - the narrower the track the more the horses will move. The topography can be changed quickly and easily, rock piles, sandy areas and water locations added. Hay can be piled in different locations within the track every day. The electric fencing can be moved to change the pathways, also allowing grazed areas to recover before being grazed again. The more innovative and creative our management methods become the more likely it is that we can create a real harmony between the needs of the horse and the space he lives in. It’s easy to change around, and it all can be done quite cheaply and quickly using electric fencing. It’s well worth the effort when you see how much happier and healthier he becomes. Horses adapt to such an extent that they look forward to changes in the route, watching while modifications take place. Once a change is complete they move into it without any need for pressure.

    The sum of the parts:

    The foal raised within the herd, an environment of diverse and interesting activity, builds a great deal of knowledge that influences his relationships, personality,  decisions and actions into and through his own adulthood – it makes him a “smarter” horse, very much better prepared for your teaching and training when he joins you as your equine partner. And when he is your partner, allow his natural intelligence to continue to develop in an environment of diverse and interesting activity. The more he learns, the greater his capacity to learn still more, and the greater will be your own pleasure and safety. It’s one of the best investments you can make.

  • Vitamin D

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    Last month we began a discussion of what we currently know about the vitamin requirements in horses.  Unfortunately, the actual vitamin requirements for a particular horse are often hard to define.  Most vitamin requirements represent the amount needed in the horse’s diet to prevent the classic deficiency symptoms.  However, as stated previously, that may not be the same as the amount required for optimum health, well-being, or even performance.  It is certainly possible that the vitamin requirements for the horse might also alter with their stage of life, work load and management.  With this in mind, we will continue our vitamin discussion with the fat soluble vitamin D and what we currently know.

    Most individuals with some nutritional knowledge are familiar with vitamin D’s role in calcium absorption, and that it is synthesized  by the skin when exposed to sunlight.   However, the various precursors of vitamin D, and its active and inactive forms may be less familiar.  To provide some background, vitamin D is actually a steroid hormone.   Horses consume  vitamin D naturally from plants in the form of ergocalciferol, or vitamin D2.   In manufactured diets, vitamin D is typically supplemented in the form of vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol. Horses also synthesize D3  from skin exposure to ultraviolet light, through the conversion of  7-dehydrocholesterol into cholecalciferol.  Dietary  ergocalciferol and cholecalciferol are absorbed out of the small intestine and where it is converted to 25, hydroxycholcalciferol in the liver, or calcidiol.  Calcidiol is the compound that is typically used as an indicator of vitamin D status, as it closely reflects both dietary intake and skin synthesis.  However, horses do differ in the concentration of calcidiol in the blood in comparison to other animals, as it is much lower. All of the forms listed above represent inactive forms of the vitamin. One more reaction must take place in the kidney  before vitamin D is in its active form of the vitamin: 1,25- dihydroxycholecalciferol, or calcitriol. This final reaction is actually tightly regulated according to body needs.  More calcidiol will be converted to this active form, calcitriol, when needed.

    Activated vitamin D directly acts to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphorous circulating in the blood.  It can act to increase the amount of calcium in the body by increasing its rate of absorption out of the small intestine, and increasing reabsorption by the kidney.    Vitamin D promotes mineralization of the skeleton through its regulation of calcium, and deficiencies of vitamin D result in osteomalacia.   In young animals and humans, this is referred to as rickets.  While the function of calcium regulation is commonly known,  vitamin D is actually involved in the normal function of a variety of tissues.  Beyond bone health, vitamin D also has a role in in cell growth and tissue differentiation.  Vitamin D receptors have been found in all cell types in the body, emphasizing its much wider role in the physiology of the body.

    In human nutrition, vitamin D and its role in other body functions, particularly immune function, has been more fully explored than in any of our animal species.   Macrophages, large immune cells capable of engulfing pathogens, produce calcitriol locally.  Here vitamin D is used as a cytokine , or a substance released in response to the presence of an antigen, which acts as a cellular mediator and enhances the immune response.  In humans, low vitamin D status has been linked to cardiovascular disease, auto immune disorders, neoplasias, infectious disease and even psychiatric disease.  Of the autoimmune diseases linked to vitamin D deficiency, these include type I diabetes mellitus, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.  Indeed many cancers have also been linked to hypo-vitamin D status.   However, with this said, large scale studies have been inconclusive, yielding conflicting results.    Recently,  supplementation of vitamin D in controlled studies was found to be ineffective in preventing the common cold or upper respiratory infections.  However, the possibility exists that some of the diseases listed above may actually result in the destruction of vitamin D rather than being caused by its deficiency.   It is interesting that here in the US, the only legal claim which can be made in regards to vitamin D supplementation is that it can reduce the risk of osteoporosis, yet in the European Union, products can also state that vitamin D helps with normal function of the immune system, and normal inflammatory response.

    Most work in animals has really only centered on bone metabolism and calcium homeostasis, which is not surprising as the link to overall health and human nutrition is somewhat new.  Human nutritionists have now recognized that the amount of vitamin D needed to prevent rickets is inadequate to maintain other vital functions.  However, remember that random supplementation is never advised, and results in humans can never be directly extrapolated to animals in general, let alone horses specifically.   In addition, over-supplementation is never recommended.  While vitamin D toxicity is unlikely, it has occurred experimentally.  Vitamin D toxicity is marked by calcification of the soft tissues, and can be fatal.  Interestingly, it is actually used in lethal doses in baits as a rodenticide, when combined with calcium.

    So what does all of this mean for your horse?   It has been shown repeatedly that vitamin D in the blood is higher in the summer than the winter, which would certainly make sense as the sun is the principle source of vitamin D for most horses. Most management systems where the horse is regularly pastured or turned out  where it is exposed to sunlight will be sufficient to provide enough vitamin D.  However, many performance horses are stalled almost continuously, even more so in the winter.  For these horses, it is important that they do receive a feed which contains vitamin D. In the past, the vitamin D requirements of the horse have been stated to be 300 IU of vitamin D per 100 lbs.  Currently, the requirement is 6.6 IU/kg bwt for horses not exposed to sunlight, with the exception of growing horses.  Growing horses requirements are stated to be much higher, 22.2, 17.4, 15.9 and 13.7 IU/kg bwt for horses from 0-6, 7-12, 13-18 and 19-24 months respectively.  This is due to the need to form bone properly as the animal grows.  To provide a quick example, a 650 lb horse who is 15 months old would require:

    650 lbs converted to kg-  295 kg * 15.9 IU/kg bwt = 4698 IU of vitamin D per day.

    Next month will discuss the role of vitamin E and its  various effects on the health of your horse.

  • The Puppy Who Came with Godwinks

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    For Christmas, my mom gave me a book about Godwinks, amazing “coincidences” that are really winks from God. My mom said that God winked when, through an amazing set of “coincidences”, my cattle dog puppy Bandit found me in 2004. This story is told in “Bandit, My Bolt Out of the Blue, My Miracle” (http://www.omegafields.com/blog/bandit-my-bolt-out-of-the-blue-miracle/).

    When I was a kid, we couldn’t have a dog because my sister was allergic to them. We had gerbils, and when I was nine years old my parents indulged my love for animals by letting me get a pony. But I still also longed for a dog. I walked the neighborhood dogs and took care of them when their families went on vacation. Yet, I wanted a dog of my own.

    When I was twelve years old, a puppy appeared on our front porch one morning, lost and scared and hungry. My mom found the small brown and white puppy with floppy ears when she stepped outside to pick up the morning paper. We brought the puppy in, but Mom said it was only until we found his real owners, period! I headed off right away on my bike to get him some dog food from the store. The puppy, probably a border collie-spaniel mix, became my constant companion. We bonded right away and he even slept by my bed at night.

    A couple of days later, the phone rang and when my mom answered I heard her talking about the puppy. His original owners were on the phone. I got a knot in my stomach and held my breath. I could hear Mom’s side of the conversation. Some kids had won the puppy at the fair. They had been playing tennis across the street when the puppy wandered away and got lost. But the conversation didn’t simply end with exchanging information on how to return the puppy. The family already had a dog that didn’t get along with the pup and their mom said they couldn’t keep him. Amazingly enough, I was listening to a negotiation! By then, we had already learned that my sister wasn’t allergic to the puppy, and my parents decided to keep him! I already thought of him as my dog. The kids had called him “Fuzzer” and the name stuck, silly as it was.

    God must have developed an eye twitch, as the kids won Fuzzer at the fair, brought him home, decided to take him to the tennis court across the street and lost him, little Fuzz safely crossed our busy street and wandered over to our front porch, and we found him the next morning. We had him long enough to discover that my sister wasn’t allergic to him. Then when we found out who the puppy belonged to, their mom put her foot down and said they couldn’t keep him. That’s an impressive string of Godwinks!

    My first dog was delivered with a series of Godwinks, and dogs (including 8 State Hurricane Kate) have been finding me ever since. What Godwinks occurred as special animals and people came into your life? If you pay attention, you will begin to notice more Godwinks.

    Note: Canine Shine helps keep your dogs healthy during stressful winter months. In February, my dog Chase will begin a monthly gig at the local library, where children read to him. We like to support our local library and Chase loves listening to children read stories as they develop their reading abilities. Canine Shine gives Chase a soft and shiny coat that makes snuggling with him extra special for the children.

  • Get Ready For A Spring Tack Sale: Find Cash In Your Tack Box

    Find Cash In Your Tack Box:  Get Ready For A Spring Tack Sale

    Nearly every 4-H horse club and many breed and show organizations now sponsor spring tack sales or swaps.
    “For horse owners these tack sales can bring in some extra cash and they’re also an incentive to clean out tack boxes and tack rooms,” says Laurie Cerny, editor and publisher of www.good-horsekeeping.com.  “If you’re not using it, or if it doesn’t fit – whether it’s tack or show clothing, it should go.” 

    Cerny warns against keeping tack and apparel for sentimental reasons.  “These things get dated in a couple of years, so keeping a show halter from your retired showmanship horse is probably not a good idea.”  She added, “When tack and show clothing are still in style, and if these things are in good shape, you should be able to get at least 50-60 percent of what you paid for it new.  Years down the road you might be lucky to even find a buyer for it.”

    Here are some tips for selling items at an upcoming tack sale:

    • Clean tack and wash and press clothing, blankets, and other soft goods.

    • Get your items gathered and organized at least a week before the sale.

    • Mark sale tags with the size and price of the item.  Either purchase tags from an office supply store, or make your own – using small squares of paper.  These can be stapled to the clothing tag (located in the collar of a shirt or in the waist band on a pair of pants), or around the browband, cheek piece, etc. of a halter or bridle.  Self-adhesive labels should only be used on items where they have a solid surface for adhering to - like on the shank of a bit, or on the cover of a book.

    • Use rubber bands or string to tie together reins and other strap items like lead ropes and lunge lings.

    • For large ticket items (like saddles, show halters/bridles, chaps, etc.) make take-away cards for potential buyers that have the item, price, and your phone number on them.  These cards can be really helpful at large tack sales - where shoppers may want to look around first, but then forget where your table is at, etc.  It also gives them a way to contact you after the sale – should you still have the item and they still want to buy it.

    • Take at least $20 to make change with (13 singles, one five, and two dollars in quarters).

    • Use a fanny pack as a moneybox.  This way your change and the money you take in are always on you.  Have a separate location to keep checks and to put large bills and extra cash once you start to make sales.

    • Take a variety of bags.  Buyers really appreciate having something to carry their purchases in.

    • Arrive to the sale location early and be ready at least 15 minutes before the start of the sale.  There’s nothing worse than trying to set up while people are shopping your table.

    • Think height when it comes to organizing your table.  Take a couple of milk crates (or similar containers) to set on your table.  These will give you more display space, and will give buyers somewhere else to look besides your table.
     

  • Notice of Omega Fields Price Increase Effective February 1, 2013

    A Note to our Customers…

    As a courtesy to our valued customers, Omega Fields® is providing advance notice that updated pricing will be effective February 1st 1, 2013.
     
    The need for updated pricing includes: significant 2013 flaxseed price increases (11.5%) as well as significant increases in logistics including transportation, storage and handling, packaging materials (+5%) and FedEx shipping (6%). As always, we will keep our necessary price increases to a minimum and will do our best to give as much advanced notice as possible. 
     
    Omega Fields remains committed to keeping "quality" as our number one focus, with the emphasis on human-grade, non-GMO ingredients, shelf stability, nutritional value, and excellent customer service.  It is because of our uncompromising insistence for quality that we choose to source our flaxseed from North America -- not from less proven sources such as Eastern Europe or China. Our premium products will continue to offer fair pricing and exceptional value especially when compared to other options. With Omega Fields® -- you will always receive the quality you're familiar with! We welcome your comments at info@omegafields.com. Thank you.
  • Vitamin A

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    This month we will begin a series examining the function of vitamins in the health and well-being of horses.  We will also discuss natural sources of vitamins which occur in the horse’s normal feed, as well as different forms which are offered in supplements.  Finally, we will look at the latest research on vitamins in equine nutrition.  Unfortunately, there is a paucity of information regarding vitamin requirements in the equine.  While recommended  intakes have been established for vitamins A, D, E, thiamin and riboflavin, all others essentially fall into the category of educated guesses.  Often equine nutritionists must rely on published information in other species, and extrapolate that to the equine.  These suppositions may or may not be valid, but often allow the only approach available.

     

    (If we were feeding these two hays, you would most likely need to supplement your horse with vitamin A if you were feeding the discolored hay.)

    We will begin with a discussion of the fat soluble vitamins in a horse’s diet, in particular vitamin A.  The fat soluble vitamins will be absorbed out of the gut of the horse along with the lipid component of the diet.  While that may seem odd considering that horses naturally consume a very low amount of lipid in an all forage diet, remember that plant cells do contain waxes, sterols and other compounds that are soluble in ether.   Even hay will typically contain around 2-3% crude fat on a DM basis.

    While many of us know these fat soluble vitamins as their familiar names of vitamin A, D, E and K, we may not be as familiar with their scientific nomenclature.    Vitamin A falls into the sub group of trans-retinols.  Vitamin A, or retinol, serves a host of functions in the body, far beyond the traditional role of assisting in night vision.  Vitamin A is also involved in gene expression, reproduction, embryological development and immune function.  Metabolically, retinol can be converted to either retinal or irreversibly to retinoic acid.  While retinal plays a role in vision, retinoic acid is more active in epithelial cells health, anti-oxidant function  and gene expression.  As retinol cannot be stored by itself in the body, it is stored in animal tissues as retinyl palmitate, or retinol linked by an ester bond to palmitic acid.  In supplements, vitamin A typically is provided as retinyl-acetate or retinyl palmitate.  In the intestine, retinyl  palmitate is cleaved to just retinol.  In the natural equine diet, horses primarily receive vitamin A as carotenoids,  which are precursors to vitamin A synthesis in the body.   The functional carotenoids include alpha, beta and gamma carotene, as well as beta cryptoxanthin.  Of these beta carotene provides the highest vitamin A activity.   Beta carotene is cleaved into two, to form retinal.  The rate of conversion of beta carotene to vitamin A is actually dependent on vitamin A status, and will decrease if vitamin A intake is sufficient.    Thus, no direct conversion ratio is actually appropriate, as the individual animal’s vitamin status alters its conversion rate.  Additionally, as beta carotene intake increases, the rate of conversion to vitamin A may decrease, at least has been proved to do so in other species.  Beta carotene is thus considered a very safe form of supplementation, as no toxicities have been linked to beta carotene consumption.  Animals will decrease the conversion to vitamin A, thus avoiding toxicities.

    With that said, we can attempt to generalize the biological activity of the different forms of vitamin A.  For instance, .3 micrograms of all trans-retinol is equivalent to 1 IU, or international unit, of vitamin A.  In the conversion of beta carotene to vitamin A, differing values are used for equine diets.  Original estimates were 400 IU of vitamin A are created for every mg of beta carotene consumed.  However, beta-carotene may have a different conversion  rate between life stages of the equine.  In brood mares, an estimate of 555 IU for every mg of beta carotene is used, while it is presumed to be only 333 IU of vitamin A per mg of beta carotene in growing horses.  While this conversion data is actually extrapolated from studies in rats, it does appear to be reflected in horses.   Mares kept on the same pastures as yearlings had higher serum retinol concentrations than the yearlings, while the yearlings had higher serum beta carotene concentrations.  This does indicate that the mares were more efficient in converting beta carotene to retinol.

    Natural sources of vitamin A are higher in fresh, growing forages, and are associated with the bright green color in hay.  Many horse owners associate the bright color of corn with a substantial amount of vitamin A, but it actuality it contains only about 6 mg/kg of DM of beta carotene.  Concentrations of beta carotene in hay can range as much as only 30 mg/kg of DM to as much as 380 mg/kg of beta carotene.   Thus, corn, is typically much lower in beta carotene activity than hay.  Typically, the content of beta carotene is reflected in the quality of the hay.  What we typically call low quality hay, that of excessive maturity, lengthy storage, rain damaged, sun exposure etc. will be potentially deficient in vitamin A.  The type of the hay also influences vitamin A content.  Legume hays not only have higher concentrations of vitamin A, but it may be more available as well.    We can do a quick calculation using an intermediate conversion number of 400 IU of Vitamin A/mg of beta carotene and the range of beta carotene seen in hays.  Per kg, forage can vary from 1200 IU of vitamin A per kg, to as much as 152,000 IU per kg of hay.  The requirement for vitamin A for a maintenance horse is recommended to be 30 IU/kg of bwt. Thus our 500 kg horse is would need 15,000 IU per day.  Assuming he was eating 2% of his body weight in a low vitamin A forage (typically mature  ), he would be receiving only 12,000 IU per day, which would be short of his requirement. Horses which were fed a low quality forage with no grain supplementation were depleted of their vitamin A stores within two months.  Comparatively, horses which had access to pasture at the same time experienced no change in vitamin A.  Therefore, horses on fresh pasture, or more brightly colored forage would easily meet his vitamin A requirement and should need little supplementation.  A horse eating a high quality forage may actually be receiving the equivalent of 1,520,000 IU of vitamin A!  While this may seem excessive, remember, the horse will essentially decrease the rate of vitamin A synthesis from the beta carotene in the diet.

     

    (Despite its bright appearance, corn offers relatively little beta carotene compared to forages)

    Many horse owners are also interested in the synthetic vitamin A which may be found in feeds, and how that compares with the natural carotenoids.  A water soluble, synthetic beta carotene was not able to support vitamin A status to the similar extent seen in naturally occurring beta carotenoids, or in comparison to retinyl palmitate.  This may be similar to trials even in humans, where water soluble supplements were not as beneficial as fat soluble.  However, an alternative synthetic beta carotene source was able to increase blood concentrations in of beta carotene in the horse.  Thus subtle differences in chemical composition may be key.  Retinyl esters, or retinol attached  by an ester bond to either short chain or long chain fatty acids, are also used in equine diets.  Again, these represent the similar form to how retinol is found in the actual animals body.  Due to their increased stability both retinyl acetate and retinyl palmitate have been used in feeds which allow for longer storage.  If we look at these two sourced, retinyl acetate offers .344 micrograms for each  IU while .550 micrograms of retinyl palmitate is needed for 1 IU of vitamin A.

     

    (Retinyl palmitate.  The storage form of retinol in animal tissues, as well as a common supplement in animal feeds.)

    So how much vitamin A should a horse consume? The original information provided concerning vitamin A requirements was obtained as the concentration needed to prevent the classical deficiency diseases. Deficiencies of vitamin A are actually quite hard to produce, at least as the classical symptoms of vitamin A deficiency diseases are known.  These include night blindness, hair loss, and ataxia.  Certainly as has been stated before, as the content of beta carotene decreases in the diet, the animal may adapt to becoming more sensitive to absorption and assimilation into the body.  Furthermore, as vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin, it can be stored in the liver and in adipose tissue, and mobilized to support peripheral tissues when the diet is insufficient.  Growing and exercising horses are recommended to receive 45 IU /kg bwt, while pregnant and lactating mares require 60 IU/kg bwt.   However, there may be a difference between the amount of vitamins in the diet to prevent deficiency diseases, compared to what is optimal for overall health and well-being.   It has been suggested that broodmares can benefit by receiving 400-500 mg per day of beta carotene in late gestation and early lactation.  This is truly the area of future research, establishing how much should be fed to offer health benefits without exceeding either the safety margin, or simply wasting money as no additional response can be seen.  Certainly fat soluble vitamins should be considered more carefully as they are also more likely to cause toxicities, as they can be stored in association with lipid, while water soluble vitamins fed in excess are typically excreted more rapidly.  Many horse owners may reach for supplements too often, with little regard to actual dietary concentrations.  Over-supplementation of vitamin A has actually been linked to developmental disorders in young horses.  However, no direct information is available to state at which exact level vitamin A can interfere with proper bone development.

    So what is the bottom line for vitamin A?  If your horse is grazing fresh growing pastures or consuming high quality, bright green hay, it is probably more than adequate in vitamin A. However, if your hay is of lower quality, or your horse does not have access to pasture, you should consider a supplement or a grain that is fortified with vitamin A. If you are concerned with toxicities, remember that beta carotene is by far a safer choice.  Perhaps some time in the future we will have better information as to what values are optimal for growth, reproduction or performance.

  • Making a Mountain Lion Out of a Mole

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    Willis and I were in the backyard for his last potty stop, late at night. It was almost Halloween, and the moon was just about full. I heard a rustling in the leaves and saw a small rodent coming into the yard under the chain link fence on the south side. I turned and moved toward him, to steer him away from the house. Willis followed me and the rodent paused, then turned and went back out through the fence, shuffling it seemed, by the coarse rustling of leaves.

    Willis and I went back to our games so he could unwind a bit before bed time. A few minutes later, we were both paused by a loud rustling of leaves in the woods behind the yard. Was it a coyote? A dog? A deer? A mountain lion? The rustling got louder, like a whole string of deer moving through the woods, or maybe something worse—think “Blair Witch Project”! Willis cocked his head and moved toward the back fence. He “woofed” a few times, let out a low growl, and focused on the rustling leaves as the creature moved through the dark woods.

    The rustling came closer, approaching the fence again, this time on the north side. Willis and I stood frozen, waiting in suspense for the intrepid creature to emerge from the dark. Our gazes were fixed straight ahead, but then we had to lower them as we discovered that the commotion was coming from… the same little rodent. When deterred from crossing the yard inside the fence, he had detoured around the perimeter and continued marching.

    The little guy came back in under the chain link fence from the back corner. I held Willis back as he strained against his collar. The rodent was too big and heavy to be a mouse, but certainly not large enough to be a rat. He paused, sensing us but not seeing, moving his head back and forth trying to detect what stood in front of him. I realized that he was blind and must be a mole, a critter usually found underground, not rustling around on the surface. Willis and I stepped toward him again and kindly steered him back toward the fence.  He went back out underneath it on the north side, then headed north and kept on shuffling through the leaves, clearly intent on getting wherever he was going.

    I felt kind of sheepish for thinking that this blind little guy was a big scary creature in the woods. Willis had hesitated and backed up too, for a while, when we could hear the mole, but couldn’t see him. The little guy must have been plowing through some deep leaves!

    What message are we to take from this? That something that sounds big and scary (making a mountain lion out of a mole) might just be a small creature on a big mission who can be diverted by taking a few steps in his direction? What about from the mole’s perspective? That a blind determined little mole who knows where he wants to go will get there one way or another? That even when you get off track, you can keep going and get where you were meant to go? That even if your goal is not in sight, it’s out there and if you keep going, you’ll get there eventually? That a bold and determined little guy can get around two big guys; if he really wants to, he’ll find a way?

    The mole reminded me of something I told myself a few years ago and decided to write down: “Nothing silences doubt like putting one foot in front of the other, moving in the direction of your dreams. Keep taking that next step.” I’m not sure why the little mole was traveling above ground or where he was going, but I have no doubt that he got there, eventually. If you follow his example, you will get where you intend to go too. Set your intentions now, for the journeys you will take in 2013. Remember the little mole, and have a Happy New Year!

    Ironically, not long after this incident with the mole, on November 1st I sighted a cougar in our home town of Afton, MN. I have lived here for almost 23 years and had never seen one before, but there was no question as this long, low animal turned his face to look straight into my headlights. I looked up cougar sightings online and learned that cougars have been reported here along the St. Croix River.

    ~~~
    My dog Bandit had to have surgery in November after tearing one of his dewclaws several times. His veterinarian commented on how quickly and how well he healed. I attribute that to daily exercise and good nutrition, including his daily dose of Omega Fields Canine Shine. Get your pets off to a good start in 2013 by giving them the superior nutrition of Omega Fields Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets. Best wishes for a happy new year to you and your four-legged friends!

  • 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.

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