Tag Archives: horse

  • What? Is It Time For My Horses's Shots Again, Already?

    Written By Walt Friedrich

    Well, maybe, but let me pose a few questions first:

    Other than for Tetanus, when was the last time you had a vaccination?

    Do you consider your immune system to be reasonably strong?

    When you’re in the midst of a crowd, do you ever feel unsafe because there may be people nearby who have a contagious disease?

    Now, ask yourself the same questions with respect to your horse.

    Interesting, isn’t it? If you’re like most folks, you haven’t been vaccinated since you were a child (except maybe for Tetanus, if you cut yourself in the barn recently). And yet, you’re not worried about being near sick people in a crowd. If you give it some thought, would you come to the conclusion that you’re still protected from those illnesses because of all those childhood injections you endured, and your immune system is strong? It’s a logical explanation – we know contagious diseases can spread easily (evidenced, for example, by shocking conditions in some third-world countries), yet you – and most everyone you know – are spared. Well, feel good about it. You should. In large part, it’s because of those childhood injections – even though they took place many years ago!

    S0 now consider the contrast between your situation and your horse’s: if you’re like most horsepeople, your horse is younger than you are – and yet your horse may have received “shots” regularly, perhaps every year, while you received them only ONCE, long ago. His kind has been around at least as long as ours, and, like us, he’s survived pretty well – and, also like you and me, without benefit of all those injections during most of those millennia, thanks to our good, strong immune systems! See the dichotomy?

    The typical domestic horse is the subject of repeat inoculations every year or two, and always against the same threats! How strange. As history has amply demonstrated, his immune system is quite adequate, and for all but the current miniscule percentage of his species’ total history he received no injected protection, but now he’s apparently considered to have such a weak immune system that it needs frequent reinforcement inoculation.

    The pharmaceutical companies that formulate the injectibles tell you, virtually in unison, that it is simply not safe to take your horse to a horse show and risk exposing him to other horses, or that there is imminent danger that a bug may bite your horse and infect him with some horrible virus, and therefore your horse should be vaccinated again...never mind that he was just boostered last year. Yet you, without a booster, are at the same horse show, even though you are just as much at risk as is your horse. Why are you not pressured to receive the same injectable precaution?

    Which leads to the obvious question: could it be that yearly vaccinations for our horses are unnecessary? Over the years your horse has very likely been vaccinated for the same diseases repeatedly, and to some of them he has developed immunity. Yet powerful stuff is pumped into his system with every booster shot -- could the practice of over-vaccinating our horses actually be causing him harm?

    No-one is claiming that horses should never be vaccinated, but rather that over-vaccination is a problem. Make note, however, that some changes have actually been made in some parts of the world: there is often a longer time interval between tetanus vaccinations than there is with most vaccines, for example. Perhaps we should be traveling farther down this path.

    Let us pause for a moment and consider that much that you have just read might be called the contrarian viewpoint. It’s logical, we need to give it that, but it’s also pretty strong. But now let’s have a look at the other side of the story.

    A newborn foal is very well-armed as he enters life, provided he receives his mother’s colostrum as he suckles. His natural protection is quite limited, but the colostrum contains his mother’s full repertoire of antibodies. A great way to start life, better even than your and my childhood vaccinations.

    When he’s six months old, or thereabouts, his inherited immunity has declined somewhat, but he has also begun to develop his own immune system inventory of protection, adding to what’s still there from his mother. He should now bolster his colostrum-provided protection  by getting his first array of shots -- the equine version of our childhood inoculations.

    So far so good, he’s ready to face the world. But it’s the adult world, now, and he faces adult horse situations. Since the purpose of vaccinating is to stimulate the immune system to create protective antibodies, his new arsenal will protect him from future attacks. But some of these menacing microbes are great at evasion – they mutate, with the result that the stock of antibodies in the bloodstream and cell walls may not work on an attack by a mutation, and he can suddenly be in trouble. Further, the lifetimes of different antibodies are not all equal, some quite short, in fact. Consider the common cold in you and me – one cold is never enough, it seems, because we continue to “catch” them throughout our own lives. Either the antibodies we’ve built up are short-lived, or maybe what we “catch” is a mutation that’s changed enough that our antibodies may not recognize it. The same considerations apply to our horse. Pharmaceutical companies that develop the injectibles need to be constantly alert for new strains, and must develop new vaccines to counter them. It is a long-term, continuous effort, a sort-of early-warning system, to track tomorrow’s potential invaders.

    Of course the vaccine manufacturers are in business for profit, and if their products do not do the job, then veterinarians will not use them and horse owners will not buy them.  If a vaccine does not do its job well, it will not last long on the market.  On the other hand, manufacturers must act conservatively and make realistic evaluations of their products. They would be out on a legal limb if they claim more than a product can deliver.  Thus, it seems safe to assume that the effects of a vaccine will last longer than the suggested time between booster shots. Updates are needed by the immune system so that its protective inventory is always up-to-date and prepared; it gets updated every time the horse is in contact with an infecting agent as well as every time he gets booster shots. A pretty good protection scheme, that – but the manufacturer must make sure his updated vaccine is available and delivered before it’s obsoleted by further mutation. Immunology is a pretty complicated science, wouldn’t you say?

    So we can see why manufacturers “push” repeated shots – often, today’s formula is updated from that of an earlier version, and while he certainly is in business for profit, the manufacturer is also in business to keep our horses healthy – and so are our veterinarians. It’s obvious that veterinarians in general are very honest in not providing any products to horse owners that do not bring good value for their cost. Most believe in an item completely or they will not provide it to a client or patient. Certainly, there are exceptions to that observation, but in general, our veterinarians take pains to provide an extra level of service to us and to our horses, and in so doing, many will join the manufacturers in “pushing” regular boosters.  

    Well, there you have it. A dichotomy. On one hand it seems to appear that we’re over-vaccinating, at significant cost to ourselves and possible harm to our beloved horses. But on the other hand, pharmaceutical manufacturers and veterinarians need to be sure that they are providing more than just adequate care, and doing so in a timely fashion.

    It is a dilemma. We can second-guess them all day long, but who among us would risk arbitrarily tweaking the rules of the game, so to speak, when the stakes are so high? The take-home is that it is probably wise to provide booster shots to our healthy horses in order to keep them that way, but do the difficult research to determine how often your horse gets vaccinated and against what dangers. They should not be a cookie-cutter answers, like “annually” and “for everything”, but rather customized for your own horse’s circumstances. Remember, we are the ultimate decision-makers. If we think that giving yearly shots is too often, it’s easy to schedule them only every two years – or every three – or however frequently we deem is enough. Considering all the unknowns, one action seems to make good sense – discuss your specific situation in detail with your vet. There is a large fund of knowledge in every vet – we should all partake of it, and our horses are the beneficiaries.

  • Equine Body Language

    Written By Walt Friedrich

    Y’know, you can’t hide anything from a horse. He knows what’s going on in your mind. Sure, you know what he’s thinking, too, sometimes, but he seems to be so much better at it than you and I, doesn’t he?

    Our horse has gotten so good at “mind reading” because it’s his natural “language” among other horses -- and it naturally spills over into his communications with us. He doesn’t have to figure out what a “hard eye” is when he sees ours (and, of course, he doesn’t read our minds), he knows it very well because he’s seen it on other horses all his life. And that’s half of the communication transaction – that which we transmit. The other half is what he receives, or better put, how he perceives what he sees, and therein lies communication by body language! Of course it’s his natural language – raised in his natural environment among other horses in his herd, it’s the only language there is. He learns to read and comprehend the most subtle of signals, and he puts that learning to good use when we’re introduced into his life.

    There was probably a time ‘way back, before our ancestors perfected the art of language, when we, too, communicated mostly with body language. But our world then, as theirs still is now, would have been quite small, and our need for communication quite basic. Not much has changed with horses over the millenia, however, and it’s safe to assume that horses everywhere communicate in the same manner. Interestingly, those of us who spend time with horses have intuitively picked up on their language without realizing it.

    He “speaks” to us with his body language, and he expects us to “get it”. When we don’t he will sometimes add emphasis – flared nostrils, maybe, or a head nudge, or even a kick if just flattening his ears isn’t enough. And how quickly we learn from that sort of emphasis! It’s the same emphasis he uses when he’s communicating with another horse, and so it’s quite natural and not a big deal. Unfortunately, when that sort of emphasis happens many of us tend to blame the horse for an indiscretion instead of immediately realizing that he’s just “being a horse” and does not actually bear us any ill will. Usually, however, we can and do connect with his initial ear-flattened message – and so we learn, sometimes the hard way, a little more of his language.

    But there is so much more to a horse’s language than flattened ears. It should be pointed out here that ear-pinning is just one of many examples of equine aggression behavior. We tend to think of aggression as meaning physical attack, but a physical attack and ear-pinning are both examples of aggression body language. We might define equine aggression body language as any physical attempt at control, whether it’s by flattened ear or sudden kick or anything in between, and much of it has counterparts in our own body language. That means that to a degree he and we already do speak the same language. You may become displeased with your horse for some reason, and you glare at him to “make” him behave as you want him to. Your “hard eyes” (your body language) mean the same to him as hard eyes from another horse, and he reacts accordingly. You sometimes use many facial muscles to emphasize your displeasure (clenched teeth, a big frown, hunched shoulders), he sees them all and interprets them accurately. And he does the same thing, actually; if he wants to emphasize his flattened ears, he may flare or purse his nostrils, raise his head up high to make himself appear more formidable, and even stamp his forefeet with great force; he’ll swish his tail, may turn his butt and stand with weight off of one hind leg so he can deliver a ritual kick – all signs to another horse that a big fight may be moments away if he doesn’t back off, and he uses it with us as well.

    A much more common body language example of aggression is that of one horse moving another. We may notice it when it’s obvious – when accompanied by a nip on the rump, for example – but usually it’s so subtle that we rarely notice the body language that actually moves the “movee”. However, she reads it immediately, as do all other horses in the immediate area. The control of spacing between individuals in a herd is an important use of aggression body language, and it has many shadings. For example, at one extreme, when food is scarce each horse needs more space in order to find enough forage, and “back off” signs are the tools used to gain and retain it. At the other extreme, aggression is used continuously, in normal, non-stressed conditions – for example, the “intimate zone” between horses, up close and tight, is entered only by family and close friends, while others are warned off.

    These are common examples of the body language of aggression -- one of our horse’s two basic communication devices. Of course, herd members don’t spend their time in overtly aggressive behavior, and even when they use it, it is rarely violent. Although aggression body language is fundamental in a horse’s lifestyle, fortunately dominant horses – bullies -- are relatively rare. It’s probably why herd members usually get along together so well.

    His second basic communication device is cooperation. Cooperation is the most important characteristic of herd behavior – without it there would be no herd – and body language is the tool that makes it work. Cooperation between herd members implies mutual trust. Without trust a horse will see every new thing as a threat from which he must escape. Consider a grazing herd; each member knows the whereabouts and actions of every other member present, and through trust and body language, he knows that all is safe and content.

    The body language of cooperation is often the antithesis of the body language of aggression; eyes are soft and ears are up, the head is down, grazing, amid a group of herdmates. Horses will lay on the ground for a brief nap in the presence of others; a “sentinel” horse will remain standing and watchful. These are body language messages of trust and acceptance. Two friends will groom each other, obviously in each other’s intimate zone. The foal will work its mouth in the presence of older, mature horses, an action sometimes called “snapping”, which is far from a threat, but rather a message that says, “I’m young, small and weak, and I mean you no harm. Be nice to me.”

    We tend to think of body language as a system of clearly understood signals, and it is, but there is so much more to it than many of us realize. Because of the subtle nature of many body language signals, they occur without our being consciously aware of them. Yet we do pick up many of these tiny clues without realizing it – and so does your horse. You catch his eye moving to look at you while he’s facing off to the side, and you know that he’s paying attention; that’s body language. He sees and interprets a twitch of your eyebrow. Many a trick circus horse has been trained to “count” by tapping a forefoot just by reacting to eyebrow twitches.

    While both horses and people communicate with their own species using body language, it might be assumed that there is a vast gulf between these two disciplines, but this is not the case. We think of ourselves as primarily verbal communicators, but there is surprising research that indicates that we communicate face-to-face verbally only one-third of the time – fully two-thirds of our intercommunication is via body language! Because of the similarities in body language used by horses and ourselves, how interesting it would be if, with some concentrated effort, we were able to bridge that gap somewhat and develop much greater mutual cooperation, understanding and empathy.

  • 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.

  • Strategies to Reduce your Horse's Chance of Colic

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    Last month I encouraged all horse owner’s to develop a preparedness plan in the event their horse colics.  This month we will discuss strategies that will hopefully minimize the chance that you will need that plan.  We will discuss feeding strategies as well as other important management techniques that will help keep your horse happy and healthy.

    Feeding your horse properly is one of the easiest ways to help prevent episodes of colic.  Remember  the digestive anatomy of the horse, with its small stomach and large hindgut for digesting forage does not often fit well with  modern management practices.   The horse is designed to forage continuously throughout the day, typically for almost 18 hours.  This provides a continuous input of material to the hindgut without overwhelming the stomach.

    1.Maximize intake of good quality forage.

    To mimic nature, ideally a horse should consume 2% of its body weight in high quality forage per day.  This allows the best match to the horse’s normal feeding strategies.  Remember high quality forage does not necessarily mean rich or high energy forages which can lead to obesity.   Simply put, high quality hays do not contain molds, potentially toxic weeds or insects, or are not excessively coarse and stemmy.  Of course, toxins and molds can easily cause digestive upsets or result in feed refusals.

    2.Avoid very coarse hay or staw as feed.

    Excessively coarse hay may be harder for the horse to masticate and may lead to impactions.

    3.Prolong feeding/chewing  time.

    If your horse needs to consume less than 2% of its body weight due to the need to maintain proper body condition, using a slow feeding hay net will help prolong the horse’s feeding time.  As we increase the amount of time the horse spends chewing, more saliva will enter the stomach and buffer the acid that is continually secreted.  As horses only salivate with oral stimulation, this increase in chew time is extremely important.  This helps to maintain a healthy stomach and avoid ulcer formation.

    4.Split up concentrate meals to smaller portions.

    If the horse needs substantial amounts of concentrates in order to maintain body condition or support athletic performance, be sure to spread feedings into smaller amounts.  High volumes of concentrate may overwhelm the horse’s ability to digest it properly in the small intestine.  When concentrates escape to the hindgut they are fermented by a type of bacteria which produces organic acids and lowers the pH of the horse’s gut.  By lowering the volume fed at one time, this will avoid fluctuations in pH of the horse’s tract and promote a healthier population of microflora.

    5.Slowly introduce new feeds.

    If new types of feeds are to be introduced to the horse’s diet, be sure to do so gradually to allow time for bacteria to adjust.   Due to the ability of bacteria to either proliferate or reduce in population with changes in substrate offered to them, a change in the horse’s diet can wreak havoc in bacterial populations. Often this is what results in the overproduction of gas, a frequent cause of colic.

    6. Maintain a consistent feeding schedule.

    If your horse does not have free choice access to hay or pasture, be sure to maintain a consistent feeding schedule.  Horses are certainly creatures of habit that do best with consistent schedules.  This will avoid periods of time with the horses’ stomach in an unnatural empty state, or overeating due to excitement of feeding.
    7.Avoid feeding horses off the ground.

    Ingestion of sand can lead to the development of impactions or colitis from irritation of the gut wall.  Routine feeding of psyllium can aid in sand removal from the hind gut.  Feeding off the ground will also limit the exposure to parasites which are a frequent cause of colic through either blockages or disruption of blood flow.

    8. Practice strategic deworming and parasite management.

    Regular parasite control is therefore key to colic prevention.  Remember from previous articles that this does not mean indiscriminate deworming of horses without knowledge of their true parasite load.  In fact, an increase in colic in young horses due to ascarid impactions may be in part due to the anthelmentic resistance occurring in these worms.   Rather, remember to follow strategic deworming practices in consultation with your veterinarian.   Follow good pasture management practices and avoid overgrazing. This will help to limit your horse’s exposure to parasites.

    9. Allow adequate water intake.

    As winter approaches, it is especially important to remember that proper water intake is vital to maintaining normal flow of digesta through the horse’s tract.  Normally horse’s drink about 8-12 gallons of water per day.  We often think about increasing a horse’s water intake when it is hot or the horse is heavily working, but fail to think about water intake in the winter.  Horse’s actually don’t like cold water, and will greatly reduce their water intake if not offered warmer water.  Providing a heated bucket or tank will encourage your horse to drink water at the same rate throughout winter.  Be sure that it isn’t sending off any stray shocks however!  That will easily lead to dehydration as the horse is too frightened to drink!  You can also increase a horse’s water intake by offering a mashed feed.  Don’t forget however not to rapidly alter his diet!

    10. Provide regular dental care.

    While all of these tips primarily refer to the feeding management of the horse, other factors can influence his risk of colic.  Providing regular teeth maintenance will allow your horse to chew his feed properly.  As mentioned previously, coarse hay or poorly chewed hay can create impactions in the horse’s tract.

    11. Exercise the horse on a consistent schedule.

    Regular exercise for stalled horses is equally key.  Horses naturally travel several miles per day while foraging. We have created a rather artificial, sedentary life style for most of our horses. It is up to us to help provide a form of regular exercise and stick to a schedule.  While this may be difficult owners, it truly is best for the horse.   In fact, some companies are working towards creating automatic feeders which force a horse to travel through its paddock to obtain its feed. Such systems also have the added benefit of prolonging feeding time as well.

    Next month we will discuss additional management strategies that will reduce your horse’s risk of colic which are linked to your horse’s lifestyle, breed or even sex!

  • B Vitamins

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    This month we will conclude our discussion of vitamins with the B vitamins. There are many vitamins that are traditionally referred to as the B vitamins, including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxal phosphate, panthothenic acid and cobalamin.  You may even associate them with their “numbers” so to speak: B1, B2 etc. These are all water soluble vitamins which can be synthesized by the microbial population of the hindgut of the horse.  In many circumstances this microbial synthesis of vitamins is adequate to support normal physiological functions in the horse.  However, under some conditions, supplementation of these vitamins becomes necessary. Unfortunately relatively little is actually known about the true requirements of the horse for many of these vitamins.  We will primarily focus on the vitamins which have the most information available; thiamin, niacin, riboflavin and biotin.


    We will begin our discussion of the significant B vitamins with thiamin, one of the most commonly supplemented B vitamins.  Thiamin is a vitamin which is required in many reactions which support energy metabolism, or the production of ATP.  Deficiencies of thiamin in the horse can result in muscle fasciculation, ataxia and most frequently in appetence.   However, true thiamin deficiencies in horses are very infrequent.  Nevertheless,   it is often supplemented when horses go off feed to restore their appetite.  There is some evidence that the exercising horse may require more thiamin, which is presumably related to their higher rate of metabolism.  Dietary sources of thiamin are typically found in the concentrate portion of a horse’s diet.  Cereal grains, their by-products, and  brewer’s yeast are especially high in thiamin.   Overall, maintenance horses are currently recommend to consume 3 mg thiamin/kg of DM consumed while exercising horses should consume 5 mg of thiamin/kg of DM.  If we use a standard 500 kg horse as an example, and assume it is consuming 2% of its body weight in dry matter (or 10 kg of feed), this horse should consume between 30-50 mg of thiamin per day.

    Riboflavin, historically referred to a B2, is another vitamin which is required in energy producing pathways, especially in the electron transport chain.  Riboflavin also functions in lipid metabolism and as an anti-oxidant.  Riboflavin, like thiamin, is synthesized in the hindgut of the horse through microbial fermentation.  Interestingly, no documented cases of riboflavin deficiencies have been reported in the equine.  Legumes are relatively high in riboflavin, so horses consuming alfalfas or clovers should have little difficulty in meeting their riboflavin requirements.   Even horses consuming grass sources of forages easily meet their riboflavin requirement.  The current recommendation of horses is to consume 2 mg of riboflavin per kg of DM, but even grasses contain 7-10 mg of riboflavin/kg of DM. Therefore there appears to be little reason to supplement horses with riboflavin.

    Niacin, traditionally referred to as B3, participates heavily in oxidation/reduction reactions in the body which are vital to energy metabolism. Niacin can not only be produced in the hindgut, but it can further be synthesized by the horse through the conversion of tryptophan to niacin within the liver.  Like riboflavin, niacin deficiency has also not been described in the horse.  Currently, there is not even a recommended dietary intake for horses for niacin.

    Biotin is a water soluble vitamin which is a co-factor in many carboxylation reactions (addition of carbon to a compound).  These are important reactions in gluconeogenesis (the synthesis of glucose by the body) and fatty acid synthesis.  Of traditional horse feeds, alfalfa supplies the highest concentration.   Once again, the microbial microflora are also quite capable of synthesizing biotin. While no distinct deficiencies of biotin have been reported, low quality hooves are often associated with low biotin.  Supplementation of biotin in the range of 15-20 mg day has been reported to improve hoof wall integrity, structure and strength.  However, when supplementing biotin, horse owners must realize that significant effects do take quite some time to be realized.  The shortest time period of supplementation which achieved positive effects on hoof growth and hardness was 5 months, with some studies reporting a need to supplement for over a year.

    Finally, there are certainly many other vitamins that may be of interest to the horse owner, such as folate, lipoic acid, cobalamin etc.  We do know that synthesis of cobalamin, or B12 does require the mineral cobalt to be incorporated.  However, horses appear to be quite capable of doing so and do not appear to need any supplementation.  In fact, horses can graze cobalt deficient pastures with no ill effect where ruminants would die from deficiency diseases.  Currently there is a paucity of information available to guide the horse owner in best practices concerning many of these other vitamins. Perhaps someday we will know more about these important vitamins and can make better recommendations for dietary values to enhance the health status of the horse.  Until then, just be thankful your horse has its gut bugs, he couldn’t do it without them!

  • Ouch, My Stomach Hurts

    Written By Walt Friedrich

    Horses are grazers. We all know that. They would spend 24 hours out of every day, doing just that if they could. It’s quite natural, and the wild ones actually do that because their lifestyles allow it. Domestics – not so much.

    Oh, they would if they could, but only the lucky ones get to spend much time on pasture. A large percentage of domestics are routinely stalled overnight as well as part of the day, effectively removing them from graze for more than half of their lives!

    And that’s unfortunate for a number of reasons. Here’s a big one: ulcers.

    See, their Creator had a beautiful plan in mind when She designed them. Let them nibble all the time, always have something in their stomachs, always ready for anything climate and weather throws their way. Because of that constant eating-machine design, She caused digestive stomach acid to be secreted constantly, always available to deal with food. And because the horse was constantly grazing, She made saliva quite potent and copious, helping to mediate all that stomach acid. She even coated the bottom half of the stomach with a mucous lining to protect it from that acid.

    It’s a brilliant design; constant stomach acid available to handle constant intake of grass, and plenty saliva to help control that powerful acid. It’s so slick that as long as the horse lives as She intended – wild – there was little need for anything more.

    Ah, but then came domestication, and everything changed – that is, for those we put to work for us. Those endless miles of wild-growing grass are no longer available to them. Instead of grazing 24/7, they get to eat hay, not steadily, but rather in one or two large “feedings” per day, along with a pound or two of grain – and maybe some pasture grass grazing in between, if they’re lucky.

    So, what does that altered eating cycle do to their stomachs? Well, since it’s empty much of the time but the acid keeps coming, they get to feeling like you and I do, when we get an acid stomach – but they have to live with it, on  a regular basis. They don’t have Prilosec or even Tums to help with that burning. But it doesn’t stop there – that acid that’s continuously pumped into the stomach whose upper half has no protective “armor plating”, freely attacks that surface, eventually eating holes into it, creating a nasty situation that results in – gasp – ulcers! And not just in the stomach – that stomach acid passes down into the digestive tract, where it can cause even more ulcers to form.

    It’s been said that there are just two kinds of domestic horses – those with ulcers and those who haven’t developed them yet. And these sweet, magnificent beasts can’t even tell us, in a way that most of us understand, that it hurts. They do give us the signals, but few of us seem to recognize them for what they are, and the horse just goes through life with stomach pain.

    Here are some of the signals:
    Poor performance
    Attitude changes
    Poor coat
    Poor body condition
    Tucked-up appearance
    Poor appetite
    Colic

    And more: a normally calm horse might…
    Kick inside the trailer
    Pin ears when being mounted for riding
    Flinch, bite or kick when girth tightened
    Act up in general

    Thus far, we’ve described the most common cause of ulcer development – constantly allowing our horse’s stomach to cycle between empty and full. Now let’s examine another cause, one that is actually a complication of cause number one and is particularly frustrating – excessive administration of NSAIDS, especially Bute.

    Bute is the most effective and most common high potency analgesic we give to our horses. It’s almost as common in treating horses as aspirin is to you and me. And it certainly is effective – but the horse pays a price, and sometimes a very heavy one, because Bute is a double-barreled remedy. Its chemical composition causes it to suppress two important enzymes. Enzyme One is responsible for the secretion of the stomach coating that protects its lower half from the destructive effect of its own stomach acid. Enzyme Two is responsible for allowing pain to be felt anywhere in the body.

    To explain, let’s consider a hypothetical: our horse is laminitic. We want to eliminate the pain, and so we dose him with Bute. Bute suppresses Enzyme Two, reducing or eliminating the pain – a good thing. But Bute also suppresses Enzyme One, preventing the protective stomach layer from forming – a bad thing. Now our horse is more comfortable with his pain reduced, but he’s vulnerable to the development of stomach ulcers because the stomach wall is unprotected. An occasional one mg dose of Bute is unlikely to result in an ulcer. But one mg twice a day for an extended period – common practice for treatment of laminitis and founder, for example – greatly increases the potential for those dreaded ulcers to develop, and we’ve got us a Hobson’s Choice.

    However, there is help. A large number of pharmaceuticals are available to counteract the effects of an ulcer, even to prevent its development in the first place. These include GastroGard, UlcerGard, Ranitidine, Sucralfate, Ulc-Rid, Succeed, Nutrient Buffer, among others. These preparations are effective to varying degrees, and the one thing they have in common is that they are expensive.

    Fortunately, a lower-cost, highly effective, non-pharmaceutical option is also available: lecithin. Lecithin replaces that stomach-protecting layer, lost when Bute suppresses Enzyme One. Lecithin is chemically very similar to that layer, which means that by replacing what Bute destroys, it counters Bute’s negative effect. Studies have confirmed that not only does lecithin reduce stomach injury, in some cases it even eliminates existing ulceration. What’s particularly impressive, it provides this protection without modifying the effectiveness of Bute as a pain killer. And adding icing to the cake, lecithin is readily available and comparatively inexpensive!

    We’re getting a little complicated, so let’s take a moment and recap the major points:

    Stomach acid: for ourselves, we think of it only when it’s backing up into our esophagus and causing heartburn. But it is absolutely vital. It initiates digestion of ingested food. For the horse, it is also his defense against all those microbes that accompany every bite of grass. But it can burn holes in his unprotected stomach.

    Protective stomach coating: a secreted substance known as a phospholipid. It protects the stomach wall from its own digestive acid.

    Bute (et al): an analgesic, especially important to horses, with a side-effect that results in the loss of the stomach-protective coating, leaving the horse vulnerable to developing ulcers.

    Commercially available ulcer medication, mostly pharmaceutical: treats and sometimes cures and prevents ulcers; expensive.

    Lecithin: a naturally occurring substance abundantly found in animal and plant cell membranes. As with pharmaceutical products, lecithin can prevent development of ulcers, even eliminate them. Relatively inexpensive.

    Just what is lecithin and where do we get it? Lecithin is also a phospholipid, very similar to the natural stomach protective coating, capable of supporting or replacing it. Soy beans are the primary source for commercially prepared lecithin. It is extracted from soybean oil during processing, and undergoes further processing to make it easily edible and palatable.

    Lecithin granules are available on-line. Search around, you’ll find it as low as about $5 per pound. If you dose your horse with one cup per day, he’ll be getting about five ounces of lecithin granules; thus one pound will last about three days, costing about $1.65 per day. The compounded anti-ulcer medications mentioned earlier range between $5 and $50 per day.

    Domestication has resulted in a fundamental change in the horse’s natural eating habits to the extent that he is much more subject to the development of gastric and intestinal ulcers. But we can counter that very negative result in two major ways. Where feasible, we can structure his daily routine to ensure he’ll have something in his stomach almost constantly. Where we can’t make that change, we can provide him regularly with effective medications to help his system fight off the development of an ulcer, and do so at  reasonable cost. Either way, we’ll be making a happier, healthier horse – and that’s a nice benefit to us, as well.

  • 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.

  • 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

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