Horse Articles

  • 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.

  • 80% of People are Now Shopping Online. Will they Find Your Horse Business?

    Written By Randi Thompson

    Social media and SEO (search engine optimization) are more important to local horse business owners than ever

    With the recent Google search changes, social media is now the best way to get your horse business on the first page of the local search engine results. Studies show that most people do not go past that first page, so it is important that your business is listed there.

    Local Marketing with a Focus on Social Media and SEO. How people will find you

    When you enter the world of social media, you will become a part of a social network. You communicate and interact with each other through the posts that you share with each other. The more likes, shares and comments your posts and website that is connected to them gets, the higher your business will show up in the newsfeeds of anyone who interacts on it, and even more importantly, the search results.

    Some of the benefits for marketing and promoting your local horse business on social media include:

    • You can attract and target horse people in your local area.

    • Social media marketing is low cost.

    • You will become an authority in your local area and in your field.

    • You create relationships with the people who become a part of your network. Those you are interacting with begin to know, like and trust you. They can become your customers.

    • You can talk directly with potential customers or create a stronger relationship with your current ones.

    Are you ready to get started?

    Begin by choosing a social media network that features local business pages. You can start a local business page on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php If you are on Google + (of course, since it is Google, you will get the best search results there) start with a Google local business page here: http://www.google.com/+/business/

    When you go to the business start-up page you will be asked to pick a classification. Choose “local business or place” This classification will help your business rank higher in your local area. The name you choose as the title of the business page is very important. It needs to be one that people will search for. Since they probably do not know the name of your business, you can add more words to the title. For example, Sundance Stables. Conyers, Ga. Or, Sundance Stables- Horse training, boarding.

    Next, you will be asked to upload a photo for the “cover photo”. This is the image that will appear across the top of your business page. Creative business owners use their cover photos to promote their sales or share photos that focus on their business and the customers who make it special.

    You will also need a smaller “profile image”. It is the profile image that will show up on any of posts you share. Many business owners use their logo as their profile image so that people can recognize their business.

    The “About “section” is designed so that your business name and website (if you have one) can be found in the search engine results. It is very important and often over looked by business owners who do not realize its value. With Facebook and Google+ local business pages you can also add your location, phone number, website and other information that people will be looking for in a local business.

    Once your business page is set up, make sure to add its icon, a clickable image, to your website. By doing this, your website will have more value as your activity on social media will be noticed by Google and your website will be listed higher in the search results.

    How to Find the Local People Who Are Interested In What Your Business Has to Offer

    Social media is all about connecting to people with similar interests. Your goal will want to find where they are on other social media pages, groups or communities. To find them go to the search bar on the top of the page and type in the words that people in the horse world are using. This is called “targeting”. For example, you can start with the word, horses, and see who turns up. To narrow your search down even more you can type in AQHA, dressage, horse training or whatever words are related to what you are doing in the horse business. To find out who is in your area, type in those words and add your city and state. You can also go to your competitor’s pages to see who is there and target the people who are there that you would like to get to know better. All you need to do is click on their profile image and you will be magically transported to their business page or personal profile where you can start having conversations with them on the posts they have shared. This makes them feel valued and they will often click on your profile image to see who you are and what you are doing. If they like what you are doing, they will become a part of your social network.

    How to Get People Talking About Your Business

    There is a reason it is called social media. It’s all about being social. You will be using the posts you share and the comments you add to other people’s posts to create conversations with other people. Especially those who are interested in your field or what you have to offer.

    • To start, you will need to reach out to your prospective clients, or the people with lots of connections related to what you are offering in your business, by going to their posts and business pages.

    • Add interesting comments to the posts that they are sharing. Your goal is to get them to respond to you.

    • Post from your business page when you are on other business pages so that those who are there begin to recognize your business from your profile image

    • The more people you can get to like, share or comment on your posts, the higher your business page, and as a result, your webpage, will appear in the search results. To do this, share interesting posts, photos, or videos to attract their attention.

    When do You Promote Your Business?

    Every time you post from your business page you are promoting your business. It is important to keep most of your posts, or comments, conversational, entertaining, or educational. At least 90% of your posts should be posts that people want to interact on or respond to. You can also use your posts to promote your business directly. The trick is in making that post more than just another ad that no one will look at. To do this you can ask questions or experiment with what people will respond to. Less than 10% of what you share on social media should be focused on direct advertising. You can also target local horse people directly with Facebook and Google Ads.

    Can Anyone Find You’re Business When They Do a Search?

    Your prospective customers are now searching online for what they want locally. Will they be able to find your horse business?

    Randi Thompson is internationally recognized in social media for her award winning “Horse and Rider Awareness" and “How to Market Your Horse Business”. She is a keynote speaker at national events, author, and expert legal consultant for the horse industry.

       

    How to Market Your Horse Business

    Horse and Rider Awareness

  • Colic Prevention Part 2

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    This month we will finish our discussion of common causes of colic in the equine, and what you might do to prevent them. Previously we discussed the importance of having a thorough emergency plan in place in order to make a potential colic less stressful for you. We followed that with a discussion of the most common management practices which will help minimize your horse’s risk of colic. These included quality and consistency of the diet, proper hydration and parasite control to name a few. This month we will focus on some of the less common reasons horses may colic. Although less common, they are no less important for the owner to be aware of these possibilities.

    The sex of your horse may increase its likelihood of colic. Remember that colic just refers to general abdominal pain. Some mares experience discomfort relative to their estrous cycle. If your mare routinely shows mild colic at three week intervals, her ovaries may be the culprit. Normally cycling mares will ovulate every 21 to 23 days and this event can be associated with discomfort. Having a reproductive exam can also rule out if she has an ovarian dysfunction exacerbating her discomfort. If you choose to breed your mare, you must also be aware of the possibilities of colic associated with pregnancy. During gestation, the mare may experience colicky symptoms due to movement of the fetus. That does not mean that colic signs during gestation should be discounted. Follow your normal procedures of a thorough exam and consult with your veterinarian. Finally, mares are often crampy after foaling, as the uterus continues to contract in order to expel the placenta. Additionally there is a greater potential for twisted bowels post foaling due to the extra “room” in the abdominal tract. Typically these mares will experience very severe pain. As I have personally had to suffer the loss of a mare with a new foal at her side, realize that these are very real possibilities. Monitoring mares closely in the post foaling period may allow you to catch symptoms early and perhaps save her life. All in all, realize that there are risks one has to assume when choosing to breed horses.

    The lifestyle of your horse may also cause it to colic. Some horses experience far more stress due to competition or travel than other horses. Some horses dislike horse shows or competitions so intensely that they work themselves into spasmodic colic. If this is true, you really need to closely examine why your horse is experiencing stress. Are you asking too much of them? Do you warm-up or ask the horse to perform at a different level than at which you train? Is the change in environment or the close proximity of other horses too much? Try to acclimate the horse gradually to stressful scenarios. Be reasonable in your expectations of your horse. Consider how nervous or anxious you may be at shows. Isn’t it likely that your horse may also experience anxiety (albeit for perhaps different reasons)? Ultimately, it may be possible that that type of career may not be a great fit for your horse. Consider a less stressful type of competition or even re-homing the horse where it may be more comfortable. After all, competitions and events serve as recreation for most horse owners. Is it really fun if your partner is miserable?

    When traveling to events, also consider how long the horse is in the trailer. Hauling in a horse trailer for long periods of time is actually fairly tiring for the horse. Ideally you should let the horse rest every 5-6 hours. Coupling that with a change in a horse’s normal feeding schedule and reduced access to water, can set the horse up for colic. At rest stops, consider offering your horse flavored water to ensure he maintains his water intake. Begin to accustom him to the flavoring at home to ensure he actually likes it. This is especially critical in hot weather, when the temperature in the trailer can exceed the external temperature. Horses may lose a substantial amount of water through sweating that they may not have the opportunity to replenish. Horses may also be more likely to develop respiratory issues while confined in a trailer as well. While we often try to help the horse by keeping hay in front of them, open windows or sides can force dust and particulate matter into the horse’s airways. This can cause the horse to develop pleuritis, which is inflammation of the lungs. While it is a respiratory issue, the horse may still show colic-like symptoms. All in all, plan your travel with your horse’s comfort and health in mind.

    What breed your horse is may also pre-dispose him to certain gastrointestinal disorders. Arabians and Arabian crosses are more likely to develop enteroliths than other breeds of horses. Enteroliths are essentially an accumulation of mineral within the intestine which forms a rock-like object. This can range in size from very small to the size of a softball or larger. While the reason is not yet known, this risk increases when these horses are fed alfalfa. This is especially true in the California and in other parts of the Southwest. However, this does not mean that a Quarter Horse in Iowa can’t develop an enterolith, they are just less likely to do so. High alfalfa diets are thought to cause enteroliths due to the high level of magnesium and protein combining to form crystals which make up the enteroliths. Diets higher in wheat bran have high levels of phosphorous which also contribute to enterolith formation. It is also possible that feeding highly digestible, lower fiber feeds like alfalfa may reduce gastric motility, allowing crystals to form more easily. Other lifestyle factors which lower gastric motility, such as lack of exercise or low frequency of feeding, increase the risk factor of enteroliths. Even the type of bedding chosen to be used can affect a horse’s risk of developing enteroliths. Horses on straw bedding, which allows an opportunity to nibble on high fiber feedstuffs, experience less enteroliths. While many believe that adding vinegar to the horse’s diet to lower colon pH may prevent enterolith formation, this has not been proven. Ideally, lower the amount of alfalfa in the horse’s diet, feed frequently and allow ample exercise are the best management choices.

    While we can never completely ensure that our horses will never colic, following practical management strategies can lower these risks. Informed horse owners are those whose horses usually experience less health issues. Hopefully if you follow these tips from our last series you can have a colic free 2014! Until next month, enjoy some winter riding!

  • 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!

  • Equine Vaccine Tips and Strategies

    Written By: Dr. Tom Schell

    If you own a horse, one of the most important things you can do to maintain health is vaccinations, but it can also be a costly endeavor.  Everyone seems to have a strategy or recommendation, but the question is 'what is right for your horse?'.  Well, that depends on many factors including location, exposure to other horses as well as general risk factors.  Another thing to consider is that vaccines are not without harm and over administration of vaccines can prove to be harmful in some circumstances.  Let's explore the options and recommendations.

    When viewing vaccines and establishing a protocol, we must remember that each horse is an individual and that no one perfect protocol exists.  It is also not generally necessary to implement the same protocol in every horse just because they are in the same barn.

    Here are the main points we should consider when establishing a vaccine protocol:

    • Risk factors associated with the particular horse (including housing, exposure to other horses, environment, age and geographic location)
    • Impact of the particular disease we are targeting including mortality/morbidity rate and risk of spread to other animals and species (including humans)
    • Possible negative side effects of vaccine
    • Cost implications to the owner
    Some basic considerations that we always need to remember include:
    • No vaccine is 100% effective in preventing disease
    • Vaccines are designed or intended to reduce morbidity or clinical signs of disease
    • No vaccines is 100% safe and risk free
    • Vaccines are not generally protective until 10 days or greater post administration
    • Most vaccines require an initial booster series to build an antibody titer and establish protection
    • Many vaccines come combined with many antigens

    So, now let's start with the basics in terms of equine vaccines.  In most cases, we generally have the core or basic vaccines, as defined by the AAEP.
    1. Tetanus  (annual vaccine)
    2. Rabies     (annual vaccine)
    3. Eastern/ Western encephalomyelitis (annual vaccine in spring)
    4. West Nile  (annual vaccine in spring)
    After the core vaccines, we then have what is called 'risk based' vaccines which include:  (Based on AAEP Guidelines)
    1. Influenza  (annual to biannual vaccine)
    2. Rhinopneumonitis (EHV)  (not necessary, annual or biannual dependent on situation and in pregnant mares)
    3. Potomac Horse Fever  (not necessary, annual, biannual or more frequent dependent on situation)
    4. Strangles  (not necessary, annual or biannual dependent on situation)
    5. Rotavirus  (pregnant mares at 8,9,10 months gestation)
    6. Botulism  (annual and one month prior to foaling)
    7. Anthrax  (annual vaccine)
    8. Equine Viral Arteritis  (check with state guidelines)

    In most cases, the core vaccines are vital and given to every horse.  The big question comes as to what other risk factors are involved, which determines if other vaccines are necessary.  Such risk factors include exposure to other horses such as boarding facilities, traveling and competition, but also include issues concerned with breeding operations.  We always have to remember that not every horse responds appropriately to the vaccines, meaning that some develop protective titers while others do not.  In larger facilities, it is generally easy enough to keep most if not all of the horses on the same protocol due to ease of record keeping, but also by doing this we can hopefully minimize disease prevalence and thereby protecting those other horses that may not be responding to the vaccines appropriately.  We also have to take into consideration age of the animal at the time of vaccine as older horses tend to be less predisposed to various illnesses such as EHV, which according to the AAEP is less frequently seen in those horses over the age of 5, unless we have other known risk factors included such as a breeding operation or frequent movement of animals.

    How are vaccines administered and how often?

    In most instances, vaccines are administered by intra-muscular injection, usually in the neck region, pectorals or the thigh muscle.  Some vaccines, such as Strangles, Influenza and some EHV vaccines may be administered intra-nasally. In adult horses that are unvaccinated, it is generally recommended that they receive at least a 2 injection series, spaced apart by 4-6 weeks.  In foals, vaccines are generally started around 3 months of age and given as a series of 3 injections spaced 4 weeks apart.  Pregnant mares are generally advised to receive a full 'core' vaccine series about one month prior to foaling in order to help build passive transfer for the foal.  Other vaccines such as EHV are given at specific intervals during the second and third trimester.  Most of the core vaccines, once initiated, are administered on an annual basis.

    What are the side effects to the vaccines?

    No vaccines are completely safe nor void of any risk!  That being said, most vaccines are administered without any problems but the most common side effect seen is general malaise, body aches and a slight fever 24-48 hours after administration.  Dependent on where they were given, we will often see sore necks and even swollen injection sites.  In most of these cases, the signs resolve within a couple of days with no harm to the horse.  It is generally not advised to compete or even work the horse for a couple days post vaccine due to side effects noted.  Some vaccines are more prone to developing side effects than others and in my experience, the Tetanus and Rabies vaccine are the most common.  Vaccines that are administered by the intra-nasal route commonly produce a mild sneeze or even slight clear drainage for a couple days post administration.  In more severe cases, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication may be administered to help alleviate the clinical signs.
    More serious or adverse reactions have been noted included anaphylactic reactions (some life threatening), localized infection, scar tissue deposition generalized hypersensitivities.

    Why do some horses respond differently to the vaccines?

    We have to determine what is a favorable response to a vaccine?  Ideally, it would be one void of any side effect and one that establishes a protective antibody titer.  In most instances, the horses do respond well to the vaccines and without any side effects, but determining the proper antibody titer is difficult to do in most cases.  In the ideal world, we would perform antibody titers to determine who is and who is not responding well to the vaccines, which might help us to focus on more in need horses, but this is costly.

    Given, in my experience, that 9 out of 10 horses respond with no noted side effects, the question comes as to why that 10th horse reacted negatively.  Did they have a reaction to the vaccine?  What was that reaction?  A fever, general malaise or worse?  I really begin to question things when I have vaccinated a particular horse routinely year after year, using the same vaccine brand, and yet, this horse reacts negatively.  We can speculate, but really we don't have any pinpoint answers.
    In the world of small animal veterinary medicine, we almost always perform a basic physical exam prior to the administration of vaccines.  The purpose of the physical is to pinpoint any health problems and determine if there is any fever present, which may also indicate a health concern.  In the world of equine veterinary medicine, the individual physical exam is performed but not that often, especially on larger farms due to time constraints and cost.  Often, the vaccines are administered one horse at a time while working the way down a barn isle way.  The horses are often given a quick once over looking for the obvious, but sometimes details are missed.

    We have to remember that the purpose of a vaccine is to stimulate an immune response to a specific antigen.  If a horse is sick or not feeling well, then not only would it be possible that their immune system may not respond appropriately, but we may also actually do harm to that animal. It is generally not a good idea to vaccinate a sick animal for these reasons.  We are often better to wait, let them recover and then vaccinate when it is more appropriate.

    Other reasons that a horse may not respond appropriately include concurrent diseases that may be impacting the immune response which may include things like insulin resistance and Cushing's disease.  Age also plays a role in the immune response and many older horses fail to respond appropriately for this very reason due to a failing or debilitated immune system for various reasons.

    Now, one area of interest to me is those horses that tend to develop signs of laminitis within 2-3 days post vaccination.  We all see it as a veterinarian, but the reasoning as to why it happens has yet to be determined.  Personally, I tend to feel that these horses are more predisposed to metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and even Cushing's disease, but have yet to be diagnosed.  In reality, most of these 'laminitic reactors' are the easy keepers of the group, more likely to be overweight and often have a history of laminitis.  So, what causes them to be pushed over the edge?  Again, in my opinion, it is linked to an ongoing inflammatory cascade that is occurring within that particular animal.  The vaccine can be seen as fuel added to a glowing ember, soon igniting it into a flame.  I often view those horses as ticking time bombs of inflammation, waiting for the right situation to get flared up.  Vaccines are the perfect medium to achieve this.

    General Recommendations:

    As a veterinarian and horse owner, I do believe in administering the core vaccines to every horse.  Does that mean that every horse in my practice gets those core vaccines?  The answer is 'NO'. Does that mean that I see more clinical sickness in those horses that have NOT been vaccinated?  The answer here is "NO" again.  I believe in vaccinating for those illnesses that have a high mortality rate, which includes tetanus, rabies and encephalitis.  Dependent on the situation and geographic location, these core diseases can be readily prevalent, very costly and difficult to treat and yet so easy to prevent. I also believe in risk based vaccines in the right situations, but not in all situations.

    As any horse owner can testify, there are many cases of equine infectious diseases ranging from Influenza to Rhinopneumonitis in horses that have been vaccinated properly.  Here again, we have to raise the question as to why this occurs?  First, as stated, no vaccine is 100% effective in preventing disease.  The goal with any vaccine should be to reduce clinical morbidity.  Second, we have to take into consideration the amount of stress that some of these horses are under at the time of vaccination as well as during competition.  Stress in the competitive horse has been discussed in another article, but sometimes their stress levels can impact the immune function, making them more prone to various diseases.  Sometimes, I think it is better to keep these particular horses healthy with immune supportive herbs as well as adaptogens to help counter the stress, than it is to overwhelm them with vaccines.

    If we have a horse that is turned out on pasture 24/7, they are often less prone to infectious disease development than those that are stalled constantly or in training/competition.  Again...we have to take into consideration the impact of stress.  I feel it is more important to address these horses through nutrition and herbal supplementation, keeping the immune system strong, trying to offset the impact of their current conditions.

    I believe that we really need to evaluate each horse as an individual, taking into consideration all of the factors mentioned above.  The AAEP recommends this approach to us, as veterinarians, but all too often we fail to follow these guidelines due to time constraints and other factors.  If I have a horse on a farm that never leaves and is never exposed to other horses, I am going to vaccinate them differently than one that is competing at different locations once monthly.  The risk factors are different and taking into consideration that no vaccine is completely without harm, we want to minimize risk.

    I also think we need to evaluate those horses that react negatively to vaccines more thoroughly.  If a horse has an allergic reaction to a vaccine, we need to question why.  Was it the brand of vaccine?  Was it the location where it was injected?  Was the horse sick at the time?  We need to figure out why and not just treat and move on to the next year.  We also need to investigate those horses that develop signs of lethargy or even laminitis, by looking a little deeper for underlying health concerns.  At the very least, we need to stagger vaccines by 2-3 weeks, instead of potentially overloading these particular horses with 4-5 antigens at one time.  Not only does this reduce the antigen load and immune challenge to the horse, but it may also allow us to pinpoint which vaccine is causing the reaction.

    In the end, vaccines are a vital part of maintaining equine health.  This being said, they are not without harm and consideration needs to be given to make sure they are administered appropriately, at the right time and at the right intervals, taking into consideration the many risk factors involved.  Be an astute horse owner!  Take into consideration the many variables when deciding what your horse should be vaccinated against!

    Dr. Tom Schell has over 18 years of equine medicine and surgery, as well as being head of research and development for Nouvelle Research, Inc.  Dr. Schell may be reached by email at tschelldvm@nouvelleresearch.com
    Nouvelle Research, Inc. is the developer and manufacturer of the Cur-OST line of equine anti-inflammatory products, the only equine supplement using Curcumin as the primary ingredient to reduce inflammation, enhance health and performance for over 7 years.  Our goal at Nouvelle Research, Inc. is to enhance the health of our equine companions naturally and effectively, while also providing a source of information for the horse owner.  These and other articles may be seen on our website at: http://nouvelleresearch.com/index.php/articles
    For more information about Nouvelle Research, Inc, please visit:  www.nouvelleresearch.com or call 1-800-476-4702

  • Baby, It's Cold Outside

    Written By: Walt Friedrich

    It’s a beautiful time of year, Autumn, with trees decked out in full color, warm days, chilly nights, and our horses enjoying it as much as we do. We’re also keeping an eye on the calendar, because before long we’ve got winter on our hands, when all that brisk comfort has changed to cold and wind. We’re getting ready for it; laying in firewood, making sure windows and doors seal properly, shutting off outside water supply, shaking out winter clothing, “winterizing” the stable…and, of course, preparing our horses for the cold season.

    For those of us in northern climes, it means the annual struggle with the question of whether or not to blanket. It’s odd, isn’t it, that we allow our horses to be just horses most of the time, but come cold weather, we feel the need to step in and overrule Mother Nature by blanketing them to make sure they can stay warm. Can’t blame us – we know the extent of discomfort that an icy cold wind brings in mid-January, and we bundle up for it bigtime, so let’s do the same for our beloved steeds. Right? Well, maybe -- but let me take a moment to tell you a true story about Wally. It is pertinent.

    Wally is not one to accept other people’s opinions without question. It has to make sense to Wally before he buys it, and he’s always researching one thing or another. And so he’s lived the skeptic’s life for some decades, making mostly good, well-thought-out decisions. Wally is also a horse-lover, and he keeps a few on his property. He calls them his “extended family”. Wally has always been strongly concerned over their welfare. Very early on in developing his horsekeeping methods, he agonized over whether or not to blanket, just as you and I have done. Blanketing seemed so logical because he knew well how the cold feels, and he wore a coat, so why shouldn’t his herd get the same protection? Yet highly respected horsepeople made strong arguments in favor of NOT blanketing – surely there must be something to it.

    So one winter, Wally crossed his fingers and kept the horse blankets stowed away. Their coats had come in long and thick, and if it got “bad” enough, he could still break them out. Things went well; he noticed those thick coats seemed even thicker on particularly cold days, and when he investigated, he found that all those long hairs were actually standing on end, sticking straight up! And his fingers actually felt warm when he ran them through that bristling coat. Things looked promising, so he stuck at it.

    And then one morning he woke to an outside temperature of -10 degrees F, quite cold for a northeast Pennsylvania winter morning. Wally headed to the stable, wondering if he had a herd of “horsickles” out there, waiting for some hay.

    Well, he didn’t. His herd appeared to be enjoying the “delightful” weather, and that did it for Wally – he was convinced that his gang did quite well au naturel. And then the icing on the cake: the following morning it was almost -20 F – almost unheard of in these parts – and his horses were still totally unfazed. And so the heavy blankets remain folded and stored away, haven’t been used in years, and the horses continue to enjoy the cold winters as only horses can – bareback and outside 24/7.

    What Wally discovered is the truth that it’s usually not the cold that’s their winter nemesis, it’s not even being wet – they love walking about looking like a snowman horse, and snow seems to actually help keep them warm. No, the problem is lack of shelter from the wind. Not all of us can prevent their being exposed to wind, but if we can’t, we must provide at least some respite. Anything will do – a stand of evergreens is ideal if there’s no stable or run-in shed available. We can even create a windbreak shelter by making a wall out of hay bales,  three or four bales high – they’ll have their shelter and eat it, too!

    But let’s be fair about this subject: horses are individuals, even as you and I, and some may not take winter weather as well as most others.

    Blanketing may be called for if your horse is shivering, or even just visibly uncomfortable in cold weather; older horses as well as ill horses and very young horses may appreciate a blanket despite their bodies’ natural coping abilities; if your horse is clipped, he has no protective coat, and can use all the help he can get; horses that don’t grow a sufficient winter coat are obvious candidates. Consider your options carefully, and remember that although you may need to override it, the best solution is usually the natural one.

    If you believe blanketing is truly justified and not simply the result of “humanizing” your horse, do your homework. Blanketing is not a “one size fits all” situation, and there are many specific considerations you need to evaluate. There are countless websites on the Internet, providing information to help you decide, well worth your time and your horses’ comfort for you to study.

    Beyond blanketing, there are other considerations to consider as winter approaches. For example, in winter horses do not need a cozy stall bedded with shavings –  it’s a lot of work and it won’t help; likewise, there’s no need to heat the barn – presumably inside the barn is already dry and reasonably windproof; they do not need extra grain – if you must increase their food intake, increase forage; and limiting movement is unwise – adequate movement is always best for horses no matter the conditions.

    But what they do need is plenty of free choice grass hay, and adequate water (more on this in a moment). Be sure there is unlimited, free choice, loose, unrefined salt – preferably sea salt. And a horse that has trouble keeping weight on will need additional nutritional support, but not grain.

    The other major cold-weather threat is colic. Colic refers specifically to nothing more than a pain in the belly. But the devil is in the actual cause of the pain: gas bloating sometimes hurts, but it usually makes a noisy departure leaving no tracks except for a trailing scent. An impaction, on the other hand, doesn’t go away without some help, like walking the horse for half an hour to stimulate fecal movement within the intestinal tract (terminated by, we hope, the deposit of a brown pile behind the horse). Sometimes an impaction needs still more help, commonly a vet will perform a procedure known as “tubing”, that will help clear the blockage. The most serious form of colic is hard clogging within the intestine that requires immediate surgery to correct. No matter the cause, if prompt action is not taken at the first indication of pain, the situation can develop into a serious condition.

    Probably the primary cause of a winter colic attack has to do with water. As we head into the season, the horse’s digestive system continues to need a large volume of water, but his water intake drops along with the temperature, and the colder the water, the less he’ll drink. But he’s still got to digest his food and keep it moving down his intestinal tract, so lack of sufficient water can become a serious problem –potential intestinal upset and a colic attack. Complicating matters, with little or no water-rich grass to graze, only dry stubble, the need for water multiplies even further.

    It seems as though the deck is stacked against him, and it is, but you can help prevent a colic attack  just by ensuring that his digestive system is functional and efficient. Here are the simple rules of prevention: first, use in-tank heaters to keep his water at a constant 50 degrees F; keep a reliable supply of hay (and grain, if you’re feeding it) to keep his diet constant; make no sudden changes in his diet; maintain his deworming schedule; use a prebiotic product to keep his intestinal gut garden healthy and thriving, providing consistently efficient digestion; feeding a simple mash every day is a great idea – just soaking hay cubes, or maybe beet pulp in water, adding an ounce of salt, can give him a couple extra gallons a day of water;

    Finally, a few ideas and tips to make cold weather a little easier, especially on the senior citizens:

    Spend a little quality time with him as often as you can. You are important to him -- he knows you and he relies on you.

    Get him a little regular exercise; longe or ride him for 30 minutes or so every week – it’s not much, but it will help keep his digestive system healthy, and in cold weather he’ll especially enjoy the activity.

    Be patient with him; older horses especially may stress out in cold weather. New horses joining the herd, trailer rides, illness, vaccinations and deworming are all potential stressors. Avoid those that aren’t really needed.

    Keep drinking water at a comfortable temperature.

    Supplementing protein, calcium and phosphorus will help older horses through the cold season, as will a cup of oil per day for those hard keepers. Canola, flaxseed or rice bran oil would be good choices.

    Don’t forget that daily ration of salt. Free choice loose salt is probably best, but a white salt block that’s always available is effective and easy to do.

    Keep the farrier coming on schedule – their hooves keep growing regardless of the temperature.

  • Equine Colic: Are You Prepared?

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    Most horse owners at one time or another have experienced that dreaded sight of finding their horse rolling or kicking at their belly in their pasture or stall.  After all, almost 1 million horses colic in the United States each year, or about 11 in every 100 horses. It really is not a matter of if, but when a horse in your care will colic.  But now is not the time to panic, but to act logically and calmly.  The keys?  Be prepared, and have a plan.  This month we will discuss what symptoms you may see, what to do, and how to create a firm plan of action.  Next month we will discuss several important strategies you may implement to decrease the likelihood of your ever needing this plan.

    First of all, horses can colic for a variety of reasons. As colic just means a generic abdominal pain, any discomfort in the organs associated with the gastrointestinal tract can be described as colic.  Even other organs, such as the ovaries or uterus in mares, can causepain and thus may show symptoms of colic. So what may lead you to suspect your horse may be colicking?

    My first and strongest recommendation is to know your horse. Every horse has individual quirks of behavior, appearance etc.  The key to successful outcomes in colic, or in many cases of disease or injury, is catching a change quickly.  Any change in a horse’s normal behavior or appearance should immediately trigger a thorough investigation of the horse by the owner or manager.  So what might the horse be doing differently? Colic symptoms can range from the subtle to the severe and downright alarming.  Typically the severity of the colic will mirror the severity of the symptoms, but that is not always true.  Individual horses have a greater or lesser degree of pain tolerance. It is important to know if your horse is the stoic individual that works through an injury, or the type that becomes hysterical if they stubbed their hoof on a ground pole!  Subtle signs include horses which are off feed or water, but may not yet be completely refusing to eat or drink.  A change in behavior, being more depressed, less active or having a duller appearance may be signs of colic. Horses which are restless, or perhaps laying down more than normal, or laying in an unusual position may be colicking.  Pay close attention to foals, as foals can quickly develop abdominal discomfort related to disease, diarrhea ulcers etc.  A foal lying on its back is certain to be experiencing some sort of abdominal pain.  As pain becomes more severe horses may continually look at their belly or flank, kick at their abdomen, repeatedly get up or lay down.  They may begin to roll or thrash violently and can even injure themselves.  In severe pain, horses may break out into a sweat or grind their teeth together.

    Depending on the severity of the colic, your next step is to step in and gather some information.  Obviously, if your horse is in uncontrollable pain, call the veterinarian immediately.  Otherwise, if you can safely evaluate your horse, perform a physical exam on your horse.  That will help your veterinarian know how soon they may need to arrive.  Record your horse’s heart rate, respiration rate and temperature.  It is important that you practice these techniques before you need them!  A horse’s heart rate can be detected in a number of locations, near their eye, under their jaw, on their pastern etc.  Make sure that you have a working thermometer. Now is not the time to discover a dead battery in your thermometer.  Listen to your horse’s abdomen to hear if there is the normal gurgle of healthy gut movement.  An absence of sound indicated gut motility may have ceased.  If you horse is stalled, check his manure. Is there as much as there should be?  What consistency is it? Is it drier or harder than it should be?  How much feed has the horse eaten since his last feeding?  Is his water consumption normal?  Finally, check your horse’s gum color and capillary refill time.  Pale white or blueish gums may mean the horse is severely dehydrated, or may be going into shock.    This information may be critical in making decisions that may save your horse’s life.

    Now that you have some basic information, call your veterinarian.  It is important to have the veterinarian’s phone number readily available. Think about all cases of emergencies.  What if your cell phone has no reception or has a dead battery? Does your veterinarian make emergency farm calls? Will they be able to get here quickly enough to help you?  Discuss these issues with your veterinarian before colic strikes. They may offer some helpful advice on other colleagues they may trust when they may not be able to make the call.  Therefore you may want to post several numbers of veterinarians near your horse.
    You also need to do some hard thinking about the financial reality of colic cases. Some colics can only be resolved surgically.  Are you prepared for this?  Can you financially afford colic surgery?  Realize that is possible for colic surgeries to cost nearly $10,000.  Looking into an insurance plan for your horse can help cover major medical costs.  Do your research and see which plan may be best for you and your horses.  You may also need to at least consider that the outcome of surgery may not be positive.  Discussing these scenarios with family and your veterinarian before your horseever colics is critical.    It will make this emergency scenario much easier on you and allow you to make decisions more quickly.

    If you have made the decision that surgery is a viable option for you, add more details to your plan.  Do you have ready access to a truck and trailer? If you do not own your own, you need to have numbers of individuals absolutely willing to help, and located nearby, close at hand. The last thing you want at this point in time, is knowing your horse needs to get to a clinic, but you can’t find transportation.  Finally, know where the nearest veterinary hospital with surgical capabilities is located.  How long will it take to get the horse there?  This may affect your decision on when to load your horse on the trailer. Should you wait for your veterinarian to arrive at the farm, or should the horse immediately go to the clinic. Know where the clinic is located.  Now is not the time to be looking for directions or get lost in the middle of the night.  Practice!  The more that you have mentally and physically prepared yourself for these emergencies, the better the outcome for both you and your horse!
     

  • Strategies to Modulate Insulin Concentrations

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    Much recent research in the horse industry has centered on fluctuations in insulin concentrations under a variety of conditions and the effects on the health of the horse.  Many horse owners are aware that traditional feeding practices which rely on a larger proportion of concentrate feeding may result in prolonged insulin secretion by the pancreas.  In young horses, it is thought that prolonged elevations in insulin may lead to cartilage abnormalities, promoting epiphysitis and osteochondrosis.  High starch diets are linked to behavioral issues such as more excitable or reactive horses;  and certain typing up disorders such as polysaccharide storage myopathy and recurrent exertional rhabdomylosis. Finally, high concentrate diets can certainly contribute to the development of insulin resistance and laminitis. As a result of this information, many  current horse feeds are now designed to minimize insulin fluctuations in the horse.  These feeds are typically low in traditional cereal grains such as corn and oats, may be higher in fat and fiber, or may be processed differently.   All of these techniques are designed to either minimize or slow the absorption of glucose out of the small intestine, and thus lower the need of the pancreas to secrete insulin to regulate blood glucose.  But what if switching feeds or eliminating concentrate is simply is not enough?  Are there other options available to the horse owner which can potentially help regulate insulin and glucose in their horses?
    One of the concerns for owners of insulin resistant horses is the frequent bouts of laminitis which occur if the horse is allowed access to pasture high in fructans.   Owners of these horses need to monitor their horses grazing carefully.  In order to avoid plants with high fructan content owners are advised against allowing access to pasture during the afternoon (when photosynthesis is at its peak rate), the spring, late fall or when grasses are stressed.  Further, warm season grasses offer a lower fructan concentration than cool season species of grasses and make better grazing choices for insulin resistant horses.

    But why are fructans such a concern?

    One of the theories addressing the laminitis inducing effect of high fructan content in plants is that fructans when consumed by the horse ,create changes in the bacterial population of the hindgut.  They undergo rapid fermentation, can alter pH of the gut and may result in bacterial endotoxin release.  However, this explanation does little to explain why insulin resistant horses in particular are so sensitive to fructans.  It may be that fructans trigger an increase in insulin itself that creates alterations to the vasculature of the hoof and the accompanying painful syndrome.   Insulin, while typically thought of as having a primary role in glucose disposal, has tremendous effects on the vasculature.  Insulin can act as both a vasodilator, or a vasoconstrictor.   Insulin resistance has been repeatedly been shown to cause cardiovascular dysfunction in many other species.  However, this role has not been fully explored in the equine.

    In attempt to explore this issue, researchers conducted a trial examining changes in insulin and glucose in horses allowed access to pasture during two different eight hour periods.  Horses were allowed to graze between 7 am and 3 pm or between 12:30 pm and 10:30 pm.   In this experiment, nonstructural carbohydrate content of the grass varied from 13.5% to 19.1% from 8 am to 10 pm.  The study did find a detectable, though not large, increase in insulin, in the horses fed during the afternoon grazing period when NSC values were there highest.   While the number of horses used in the study was small, and the grazing period did overlap, this study does indicate that the concentration of insulin in the horse may be sensitive to fructan content of grasses. The horses used in this study were also not insulin resistant horses.   Insulin resistant horses  may have differed in their insulinemic response to the feeding schedules.  However, this study may offer information as to why bouts of laminitis are triggered in the insulin resistant horse exposed to the wrong type of grasses.

    While we know that insulin resistant horses need to be stringently maintained on low soluble carbohydrate diets, other horses may benefit by paying attention to how we feed them.    While simply avoiding feeding grain may be an easy solution to avoiding insulin and glucose fluctuations, some horses  may require a diet higher in concentrates to meet their energy needs.  A common sense approach is to divide the horse’s meals into several smaller meals.  This is certainly an effective strategy in lowering glucose and insulin response.  However, one approach rather than running out to the barn multiple times per day to split up your horse’s meals, is to use a feeding system designed to slow down the horse’s consumption rate.  Researchers interested in this technique attempted to slow feed intake by adding grids to feed buckets, small hard balls or soaking the feed completely in water.   Using physical obstructions to feeding did prove to be successful  in increasing total feeding time, while adding water did little to alter consumption rate.  The best technique to lower insulin response was to add bocci balls to the bucket so that the horses had to move the balls around to gain access to the feed.  This idea has been elaborated to produce commercial feeding balls, which trickle out small amounts of concentrate as the horse rolls it about.  This also provides the added benefit of increasing the mental stimulation of the horse simultaneously!

    An interesting new theory is that perhaps the stress we expose our horses to may contribute to elevated insulin levels.  Chronic stress does increase cortisol concentrations which may have inhibitory effects on insulin, thus creating a greater need for insulin secretion, or in essence an insulin resistant horse.  In humans, stress and high cortisol can result in insulin resistance and a shift in the deposition of fat in the body. Perhaps stress in horses may also be contributing to insulin resistance and why we see regional adiposity in these animals.  In an initial foray into stress evaluation in horses, researchers examined whether different feeding schedules resulted in an elevation in cortisol.  However, in this study feeding schedules were not a sufficient stressor to elicit any dramatic increase in cortisol.   It is interesting that equine researchers are starting to look in new directions to solve the puzzle of insulin resistance in the horse.  While at this time, the effect of stress on cortisol and thus insulin in the horse is just a theory, maybe it wouldn’t hurt us to avoid stressing our horses unnecessarily!

    Much about insulin resistance and developing best practices still remains unknown.

    For example, in a study in which pregnant mares were fed high concentrate diets and gained rapidly in body condition in the last trimester of pregnancy, foals from the grain fed mares were actually more sensitive to insulin and had lower resting blood glucose. This does indicate that fetal programming, or the in utero environment can have long lasting effects on the offspring, but not what management protocols may be best are unknown.  While we have learned much about insulin resistance in horses, so much remains unknown. We often have to look at studies in other species and try to extrapolate this information to our management practices.  So over all, the willingness to try new methods and incorporate new information may be our best option.  Continue to monitor grazing tightly in insulin resistant horses, get creative when feeding grain, and don’t stress your horse!

  • Equine Liability Laws

    Written by Randi Thompson

    What you need to know. The Exceptions That Will Affect You in the Equine Liability Statutes

    Do you think that the Equine Liability Statutes protects you from any lawsuit simply by putting up the signage and getting a release form signed?  If you do, you are wrong! There are horse people who believe that they are protected completely from any form of liability because their state has these statues. However, when they end up in a legal situation they are unprepared for what will happen.  They did not know that there are exceptions! 

    The Equine Liability Statutes are different for each state.  Each state requires specific signage to be posted and specific language to be included in any contracts and liability releases.  

    What are the Equine Liability Statutes for your state?

    First, you need to look closely at the Equine Liability Statutes for your state?  Click on this link, and then click on your state to see what yours looks like.  http://www.animallaw.info/articles/armpequineliability.htm   There are 4 states do not have an Equine Liability Statutes, CA, MD, NV, & NY.  If you are in one of these states you should contact and attorney as soon as possible for advice.

    Warning Signs and Liability Release Forms Required for Your State

    Begin by checking to see if your state’s Equine Liability Statute requires posted warning signage.  Next look carefully at what is required in the “liability release form” for your state. This is an example of one from Missouri.

    “Every equine activity sponsor shall post and maintain signs which contain the warning notice specified in this subsection. Such signs shall be placed in a clearly visible location on or near stables, corrals or arenas where the equine professional conducts equine activities if such stables, corrals or arenas are owned, managed or controlled by the equine professional. The warning notice specified in this subsection shall appear on the sign in black letters on a white background with each letter to be a minimum of one inch in height. Every written contract entered into by an equine professional and equine activity sponsor for the providing of professional services, instruction or the rental of equipment or tack or an equine to a participant, whether or not the contract involves equine activities on or off the location or site of the equine professional's or equine activity sponsor's business, shall contain in clearly readable print the warning notice specified in this subsection. The signs and contracts described in this subsection shall contain the following warning notice: WARNING Under Missouri law, an equine professional is not liable for an injury to or the death of a participant in equine activities resulting from the inherent risks of equine activities pursuant to the Revised Statutes of Missouri.  (L. 1994 S.B. 457)”

    What is NOT Covered. Exceptions and Provisions that You Need to Know

    Make sure you read and understand the full text of the statute including the “what is not covered” or in other words, the exceptions to liability, that are included in your states Equine Liability Statutes.   For example, this section is from the NC  Equine Liability Statutes in the Summary area:  “However, there are exceptions to this rule:  a person, corporation, or partnership will be held liable for injuries of an equine activity participant if he or she displays a willful and wanton or intentional disregard for the safety of the participant and if he or she fails to make reasonable and prudent efforts in ensuring the safety of the participant” This is why it is advisable to contact an Equine Attorney in your area who can make sure you have taken the right precautions and preparations in order,   including the records that you need to keep.

    At first glance, it probably looks pretty easy to understand. You may think you really are protected against any claims.  Until you look a little closer.  Following are the “provisions” or the “exceptions to protection” from the Equine Liability Statutes of Missouri.  I have also added a few what if’s to each section so that you can begin to understand what they might really mean to you.  This is how that section begins:  “The provisions of subsection 2 of this section shall not prevent or limit the liability of an equine activity sponsor, an equine professional or any other person if the equine activity sponsor, equine professional or person;”  
     

    Looking Closer.  What Do the Exceptions Mean To You?

    Now we are going to take a closer look at how the ‘exceptions” to the Equine Liability Statutes might not protect you. Basically, these not inherent risks to being around horses.   For example , look at: ”(1) Provided the equipment or tack and knew or should have known that the equipment or tack was faulty and such equipment or tack was faulty to the extent that it did cause the injury; or”    

    Do you have paperwork that proves that you are checking your tack on a regular basis to make sure it is safe and in good condition? Where are your records?  What are the dates? Can you show that you have repaired equipment (bills) or replaced equipment as needed?   How would you explain if a stirrup leather broke?  Or if the girth leather split causing the saddle to fall off?

    (2) Provided the equine and failed to make reasonable and prudent efforts to determine the ability of the participant to engage safely in the equine activity and determine the ability of the participant to safely manage the particular equine based on the participant's age, obvious physical condition or the participant's representations of his ability;” 

      Are you sure that putting that new rider on a green horse is really safe?  How can you prove that they are?  What tests are you requiring of the rider to make sure that they are prepared before you put them on any horse?  Do you have charts or records that show the process you are using to determine which horses can be ridden by which level of riders?  Are you keeping incident reports when something happens with a horse or a rider gets injured or comes off a horse?  Did they fall off, get bucked off?  What happened and when? 

    3) Owns, leases, rents or otherwise is in lawful possession and control of the land or facilities upon which the participant sustained injuries because of a dangerous latent condition which was known to the equine activity sponsor, equine professional or person and for which warning signs have not been conspicuously posted;”

     Is your riding ring free from obstructions that do not belong there when riders are using it?  Is there a tractor sitting in the corner?  Is the footing rough or full of holes?  When you take other riders out for a cooling off walk on the trail around the barn, what happens if the horse they are on trips in a hole that has been there for some time that you have not taken the time to fill?


     4) Commits an act or omission that constitutes willful or wanton disregard for the safety of the participant and that act or omission caused the injury;

     What if you take a person around a  horse, who had very little to no experience with horses, and they get kicked, bit or stepped on?  Who is responsible?  When people come to your barn, what are you doing to keep them away from horses that could be dangerous to them?  Can a 6 year old read a warning sign that says a horse bites?

     5) Intentionally injures the participant;

    Intentional is such a broad term.  How would the law look at an incident where you do not tell one of your students, who gets injured, that the horse you have put them on has flipped over, or has bucked riders off before? 

    6) Fails to use that degree of care that an ordinarily careful and prudent person would use under the same or similar circumstances

    You ask a friend to help you bring in horses with you. They do not have a lot of experience.  Somehow, they lose control of the horse and are trampled resulting in injuries.  Or, you are teaching a student and do not check the girth.  The saddle slides around the horse resulting in the rider getting dragged, and hurt.  Who is responsible?

    Now That You Know More About The Equine Liability Statutes…

    They do not protect horse people from lawsuits unless they have taken the time to make sure that they have followed all the requirements and have the records to show how they are doing this.  Do yourself a favor, contact an equine attorney in your area today and find out if you are doing all that you can do to protect you from a possible lawsuit

    DISCLAIMER

    This article provides general coverage of its subject area. It is provided free, with the understanding that the author, publisher and/or publication does not intend this article to be viewed as rendering legal advice or service. If legal advice is sought or required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author shall not be responsible for any damages resulting from any error, inaccuracy or omission contained in this article.

    Randi Thompson is internationally recognized in social media for her award winning “Horse and Rider Awareness" and “How to Market Your Horse Business”.  She is a keynote speaker at national events, author, and expert legal consultant for the horse industry. 

     

    http://www.facebook.com/howtomarketyourhorsebusiness

    http://www.howtomarketyourhorsebusiness

  • Pasture Grasses and Grazing

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    This month we will review research concerning pastures and foraging behaviors in horses. Most horsemen would agree that horses grazing at pasture represent the most natural way to feed a horse.  Certainly it represents the most economical and the least labor intensive method of feeding.  However, many owners have questions related to what or how much a horse’s is consuming when its primary source of feed is pasture grass.

    This ambiguity of how much grass a horse may consume makes selecting additional concentrates or supplements more of a challenge.  In addition, many horses clearly volunteer to consume pasture grass well over their nutritional needs making regulation of body condition score very difficult.   The range of dry matter intake of horses on pasture has been reported to be as wide as 1.5 to 3.1% of their body weight in a 24 hour period. Usually young horses and lactating mares will be on the upper range of intake which would make sense due to their nutritional demands.   Mature horses are reported to typically consume 2-2.5% of their body weight in dry matter.  However, it does appear that many of our equine friends have failed to adhere to book values when given the opportunity.  A recent study looking at weight gain in pastured ponies found that on average the ponies consumed 3.8% of their body weight in dry matter, with ranges of 2.9 to 4.9%.  Others have also reported horses consuming as much as 5% of their body weight in dry matter! It is rather easy to see why horses can quite easily gain weight on pasture.

    But what about horses which are only turned out for part of the day in an attempt to control feed intake? Is this an effective technique or do they simply manage to eat faster in their allotted grazing time?  In a study which attempted to determine how much a horse can consume in an 8 hour period, horses were individually assigned to small paddocks, allowed to graze for four hours, then switched to a new paddock for an additional 4 hours. The small paddocks were then harvested to determine how much the horses consumed in the given time period. In this experiment horses were able to consume 1.3% of their body weight within an 8 hour period.  In addition, their consumption rate was twice as high in the initial four hours the horses were allowed access to grazing. Therefore the horses were able to consume almost 1% of their body weight in just four hours!  Thus even limited grazing can easily result in weight gain.  From this data the authors concluded that for these particular grazing horses, only 9 hours of grazing was necessary to meet their energy needs.


    While we know that good quality pasture can easily meet a horse’s maintenance requirements, does it provide additional benefits to the horse?  In a study designed to look at the effectiveness of pasture turnout in maintaining fitness, horses which has been ridden 1-2 hours per week, 5 days per week for 12 weeks were then stalled, continued to be ridden or were turned out in a large pasture.  After a 14 week period, all horses participated in a standard exercise test.  This proved that the horses allowed free access to wander through a relatively large pasture maintained their fitness compared even to the horses ridden 5 days per week.  Thus pasture turnout seems to be a reasonable solution during down time when the horse is not ridden for maintaining fitness. The pastured horses in this study traveled on average 10 km a day compared to 5 km per day in the horses which were ridden.  This study again lends support to the value of pasture turnout.

    So what if we want the fitness benefit of pasture turnout without the obesity inducing over consumption?   Often the traditional answer has been to employ a grazing muzzle. In a study looking at intake rates in ponies wearing muzzles compared to their non-muzzled counterparts, muzzling resulted in an 83% decrease in overall intake. However, in just three hours, the non-muzzled ponies were able to consume 0.8% of their body weight in dry matter.  This is quite similar to the observations in the previous studies.  In addition, the same team of researchers found that the ponies “grew wise” to their limited access to grass and learned to increase their consumption rates during their restricted period.  Therefore limited time on pasture may not be as effective for foxy ponies once they learn what you are up to!  So what is our take home message?  Allowing horse’s time to graze is very beneficial, not only for their mental health, but also for their physical health.  However, in order to control intake and thus body condition score in our enthusiastic eaters, we made need to employ additional measures such as limited turnout or grazing muzzles.

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