Articles

  • Things I’ve Always Wanted to Know about Horses’ Hooves but Didn’t Know How to Ask

    Written By Walt Friedrich

    If that fits you, then you’re in good company. Everyone with a horse or two has either been there or is there with you, right now – or soon will be. And it’s a conundrum. A hoof looks so simple; except for color, they all look very much alike. It’s so easy to take them for granted. But there are some questions:
    How come some people have the guy come over every month or so and change the shoes? And how about hooves that don’t have shoes on, what’s up with that? Sometimes, instead of a shoe guy visiting regularly, there’s a guy with nippers and a rasp that comes around and delivers four pedicures on every horse. Both the shoe guy and the rasp guy look like they’re doing really intense work, hard work, and those hooves look really great when they’re done – but is all that attention really necessary? It isn’t cheap, either, getting those hooves worked on. Wild horses don’t get either guy to come around, and they survive all right. Shouldn’t a backyard horse need even less attention than a wild one – who, ironically, gets no attention at all? And even with all the guys’ visits, some hooves always seem to be in trouble, feet hurting for one reason or another. Why is that?
    Now, that’s a lot to think about. Maybe I can shed a little light in the darkness surrounding this puzzling subject. We will at least get a little more familiar with hooves, I hope. Let’s start with a quick look at what makes up a hoof:
    Meet Mr. Hoof
    The hard covering you see wrapped around the hoof is called the hoof “wall”. It has two jobs: its outer layer – the part you see -- is armor plating, so to speak, protecting the foot from outside trauma. It also has an inner layer, whose job is to provide shock absorption, stability, and some weight support for the horse.
    Referring to the bottom view sketch, you see some interesting items. The flat area in the front half of the foot and extending into the sides is the “sole”, and much like the sole of your shoe, it provides protection and support.
    The arrowhead-shaped area is known as the “frog”. It’s soft but firm, and provides some weight support, but it is also a shock absorber as well as a stimulator for certain tissues internal to the back of the foot, known as the digital cushion and lateral cartilages.
    You also see the “heels”, flanking the back end of the frog. Note that they make a sharp “turn” as they head back toward the toe, forming what are called the “bars”, before disappearing into the bottom of the foot. That sharp turn in the wall, one of nature’s strongest constructs, forms the primary weight support for the horse. Take a sheet of paper from a small notebook, stand it on its edge, then press down on the upper edge. It bends immediately, has no supporting strength. Now fold that sheet of paper in half, stand it on its end and repeat the process; that weak sheet of paper now gives surprising resistance to your pressure. The hoof’s heels work the same way, but can support enormous pressure – more than the weight of the entire horse. And if you were to watch the heels closely from behind when the horse is walking across a rocky area, you’d see the two heels of each hoof moving up and down on the uneven rocks with each step, independent of each other; this keeps the hoof “even” as the horse walks. You could consider the horse’s hoof as the world’s first fully independent suspension system, rather like that in your automobile, with the frog acting as a shock absorber and the heels as the springs.
     
    Referring to the side view sketch, the triangular-shaped bone you see is called the “coffin bone”. It is actually an inverted cone, and is attached across its front surface to the inside of the wall by a Velcro-like substance forming what is called “the laminae”, or “laminar connection”.
    The two bones above the coffin bone are known simply as P1 and P2 (the coffin bone is also referred to as P3). Together, these form what is called the pastern, terminating at the upper end into what is known as the fetlock joint.
    Tucked neatly into the back of the joint between P3 and P2 is a small, rod-shaped bone, whose end view you see in the sketch; it is known as the “navicular bone”.
    And finally, the side view sketch shows a wad of fibrous tissue called the “digital cushion”. Note that it sits just above the frog: when the hoof is healthy, it is stimulated by the frog with every step the horse takes. A large and healthy digital cushion is vital for good foot health throughout the horse’s life.
    A bit of interesting trivia: the hoof on a foreleg of a horse is the equine equivalent of the end of your middle finger. In fact, the horse’s entire foreleg matches up with your arm, bone for bone, except he has but one “finger” -- the fetlock joint to the hoof -- while you have five. Evolutionary deviation.
    The hoof at work
     
    Compare a hoof to your own foot. The hoof is actually a very small appendage, considering the bulk and weight of the horse that it supports. But the horse is a prey animal, it relies upon its sharp senses and speed to get out of harm’s way, thus its legs are comparatively skinny, allowing the horse the broadest field of view while it’s head is down and grazing. And when he runs, given a couple hundred feet head start, he can outrun any other animal on the planet. Being small, those hooves are also relatively lightweight and don’t drag him down when in flight.
    Since the species lives on almost every kind of surface imaginable, the feet need to be hard, strong, and virtually bullet-proof – and they are.
    Their feet need to wear well, too – considering that western-American ferals move an average of 20 miles per day, they need all that toughness, and they grow constantly and consistently to compensate for all that wear. Why don’t feral horses require trimming? It’s because the rate of hoof wear just about equals the rate of hoof growth. How convenient! When there’s more growth than there is wear, Mother Nature steps in and trims the horse by chipping away where the wall meets the ground. The result isn’t pretty, but it surely is functional, and it all grows back.
    Ferals may get their 20-miles-per-day, but certainly, domestics do not -- yet their hooves grow. Enter the trim guy. Horses living the barefoot life generally need attention every four to six weeks, because without sufficient movement every day, growth is greater than wear. The trimmer’s job is basically to remove the excess growth and restore the hoof to its ready-to-use condition.
    Some horses are shod – but shod hooves also continue to grow. That means the shoeing farrier needs to remove the worn shoe, trim the excess growth from the hoof, then replace the worn shoe with a new one.
    Shod or not, allowing a hoof to overgrow results in much more than just the loss of a nice appearance. Good foot health is likewise sacrificed – a subject to be covered in detail at another time. One common condition is the development of hoof chipping and splits. These are usually superficial conditions, correctible by proper trimming. With proper care, under normal circumstances both conditions will grow out. Remember, the wall has two layers. The outer layer is by far the most affected by chips and cracks, the inner layer not so much. That’s a good thing – it maintains the integrity of the hoof’s ability to protect, while any damage grows out with the growth of new wall.
    What makes horses limp?
     
    Quite a laundry list, here. Lameness can originate anywhere in the horse’s locomotive system, but most commonly in the feet themselves. We’ll talk about several of the causes.
    Laminitis, one of the more common conditions, is also one of the more frightening – as well it should be. Laminitis is one of the most painful of hoof conditions, and the pain is long-lasting, even when properly treated. The Velcro-like structure that holds the wall to the coffin bone, mentioned earlier, is the laminar connection, which, like Velcro, consists of two layers that cling together tightly. But the laminae are living tissue, complete with millions of tiny blood vessels that carry nutrients to the cells that make them up. When blood flow to those cells is interrupted, the cells die, and when it happens to enough of them, the integrity of the connection between coffin bone and hoof wall is broken. That results in the very painful condition known as laminitis, with an additional danger – that of complete failure* of the laminar connection, allowing the wall to rotate away from the coffin bone, and forcing the hoof’s sole, already bearing much of the horse’s weight, to take up the added support load normally provided by the laminar connection.
    Laminitis and founder are two conditions that require immediate attention by a professional. Both are treatable if caught in time, but the horse’s pain needs independent and immediate attention. Common practice is to dose the horse with an NSAID such as Bute or firocoxib, and to apply a special trim to take pressure off of the damaged laminar connection.
    Abscesses can develop almost anywhere in the horse, but are most common in the hooves. An abscess is comparable to a “boil” in you and me – very painful to touch. Abscesses usually develop in hooves following a laminitis attack or founder. The dead laminar cells need to be disposed of by the body’s lymphatic system, but the infection is often so massive that the body can’t “keep up” with it well enough, and so it forms a pocket of infection. That pocket of pus and blood will eventually find a way out of the horse through a combination of normal waste collection process, and “popping” – that is, forcing its way out of the hoof, usually at the top of the wall (coronary band) or in the heel bulbs or through the sole. It is not unusual for a series of abscesses to develop after laminitis hits, as the dead laminae are cleared out. Abscesses can be dangerous if left untouched or handled improperly, and so a vet should be brought in early on to deal with them.
    Bruising is caused by outside trauma. A hoof kicking forward onto a hard, sharp object may cause no visible damage, but may cause internal damage you can’t see. You’ll know it by the limp, which usually disappears after a day or two. You’ll eventually see the evidence -- some old dried blood in the bottom edge of the wall when it’s trimmed. More common is bruising on the sole, caused by the horse coming down hard on a sharp stone, for example. Soles are tough, but not nearly so tough as the wall, and so you will sometimes see evidence of that trauma when you pick up the hoof. Such a condition may require some treatment to prevent infection.
    Navicular is a sort-of catch-all term that describes pain in the back of the foot. It’s named after that little bone, mentioned near the end of the Meet Mr. Hoof section, above. The name, “navicular”, gets the distinction of representing a variety of back-of-hoof problems because several are connected with the navicular bone itself. However, true navicular bone problems also involve some soft tissue, such as the deep digital flexor tendon and the sheath protecting it. Pain originating at the navicular bone is referred to as Navicular Syndrome – it happens when the sheath wears through and the tendon rubs directly on the navicular bone –that rubbing happens with every step the horse takes. Fortunately, it is a curable condition.
    Underdeveloped tissues, the digital cushion and lateral cartilagesin the back of the hoof need to be included here, because although their pain is comparatively unspectacular, it is real, and it’s probably the most common source of chronic pain for domestic horses. That’s because a domestic’s digital cushion and lateral cartilages are rarely fully developed to properly support an active, full-grown horse, leaving the hoof weak and accident/injury prone. The key to a horse’s foot health is movement, movement, movement, starting at foalhood, to deliver stimulation to those soft tissues. Movement is great preventive medicine, and development of those soft tissues requires it constantly. Domestics rarely get sufficient movement for proper soft tissue development. So, ride that horse! Often!
    Thrush and White Line disease
     
    These are actually microbial infections, but they are so common that they deserve special mention here. Thrush is actually a condition caused by a successful invasion by a number of microorganisms, especially Candida albicans; essentially, it is a yeast infection. It commonly strikes the frog, and if unchecked eventually destroys that appendage. A healthy frog is well-formed, smooth, soft but firm, and makes initial ground contact when the horse walks. An infected frog can appear to be coming apart before your eyes; it is often soft and “mushy”, receding into the back of the foot, and when probed with a hoof pick, comes apart easily. It can exude a black, smelly substance. Left unchecked, thrush can infect so deeply into the foot that it can cause serious lameness and health risk. There are a great many products on the market aimed at combating the thrush condition, many of which are effective on some horses, but not on others. The most successful treatments include soaking in Oxine (chlorine dioxide), and spraying with colloidal silver.
    White Line Disease is the term often assigned to a festering sore at the edge of the sole. However, true White Line Disease is a more serious condition that exists within the hoof itself. It is caused by an anaerobic fungus that grows within the laminar connection, where there is moisture, warmth and no air. The result of such an infection is the death of laminar cells, leaving hollow spaces between the layers, allowing new fungal growth to develop. Unfortunately, the degeneration that takes place within the hoof wall is usually not visible until substantial damage has been done, making this infection a silent threat to the well being of the animal.
     
    Seems like the hooves are the gathering-place for all sorts of painful events. It figures, though, since the horse’s feet are constantly at risk just by being used. Of all the common hoof problems, probably laminitis and abscessing are the most worrisome because while the horse feels the pain, you see evidence of it by the way he moves. At least you get the message of the pain early on, and can take steps to help him immediately.
    Why do we shoe hooves? How about barefoot?
     
    The nailed iron horseshoe seems to have first appeared in Europe about 5th century A.D. It was quickly learned that in the conditions of the time, animals exposed to domestic work that caused breakage or heavy hoof wear needed protection beyond their natural capabilities. Thus, born of necessity, the nailed-on horseshoe evolved from the early efforts at protection.
    As a result, it became commonplace to shoe domestic horses, a tradition carried on through modern times. However, today the horse is primarily kept as a pleasure animal, used for everything from competitive events, through demonstrations of equine grace and prowess at shows, pleasure riding, and yes, still even farming in some communities.
    Advocates of shoeing horses point out that domestic’s hooves continue to require shoeing much of the time lest they suffer damage. There is, however, a large and growing movement toward reversion to the barefoot condition. Its advocates believe that virtually any healthy horse can perform a horsey task barefoot just as well as and usually better than its shod counterpart. They cite the natural condition as being much better for the horse, and present convincing arguments and examples to support their position.
    Perhaps the jury is still out. Meantime, shod or barefoot, compassion for the horse demands that we provide him with the best possible hoof care.

  • The Fall Molt

    Written By Don Schrider

    Early fall is the time our chickens change their feathers. As winter approaches, this provides birds with a brand new set to give them the best possible protection from cold, wind, and precipitation (snow, rain, and ice). It is a great advantage for our birds to change their natural “clothing” each year just when they need the most protection.
    This annual change of feathers is called a “molt”, and the fact that it coincides with the reduced daylight of fall and winter is no accident. In poultry, light stimulates the pituitary gland, causing hormone production. This in turn causes tissues to elongate and soften, including the ovaries, and results in egg production. As day length shortens, hormone production slows and egg production ceases.
    We also have feather moisture at play. When feathers are first growing, the body is able to supply the feather follicles with nutrients – the follicles are soft , moist, and sensitive. As the feathers complete their growth, nutrients are directed toward other bodily activities – such as egg production. During egg production, much of the nutrition consumed is directed into the eggs. After months at peak production, little to no nutrition is available to the feathers, so they begin to dry out. This drying out is enhanced as the body seeks to find enough calcium to form eggs. The result is not only dry feathers, but brittle feathers that begin to wear and even break. As day length lessens, molt begins and the birds have new feathers just in time for cold weather.
    In order to grow a good set of feathers, and for those feathers to last as long as possible, our poultry need good nutrition. This starts with a balanced diet having a good level of protein and vitamins. A good supplement can help ensure that adequate levels of oils and nutrients are available when poultry need them the most. Omega Ultra Egg™ offers a host of benefits as a supplement for molting poultry. The natural oils help produce wider, stronger, more weather resistant feathers. It also helps extend the useful life of feathers, these same oils making the feathers less brittle. The calcium and vitamins Omega Ultra Egg™ contains help provide increased levels of those needed nutrients.
    So why are oils important? Natural oils help repel water – keeping the body of a chicken warm and dry on damp days. Oils also help maintain flexibility and prevent the feathers from losing moisture as their structures endure use over prolonged periods. Essentially, the internal moisture content of feathers ensures that the feather barbules, the small, hook-like structures that web together to form feathers, are flexible from the inside so that they do not break open. When feather moisture is lost, either from the surface becoming brittle or from the internal feather structure becoming brittle and breaking, the feathers begin to wear more quickly and lose their insulating and protective properties. Brilliant feather sheen is the result of good oils in the diet and of good feather moisture levels.
    Calcium and protein also both play a role in feather makeup and quality. Protein is the main building block the body uses to grow and to produce feathers. Some producers find higher quality feathers produced from low protein feeds – causing slower feather growth and thus longer periods for the hens being out of production. My own experience, and that of those I have mentored, has been that better feather quality, and less time out of production, come when feeding higher protein feed (usually 18-22% protein feeds). Feathers contain calcium carbonate, and thus calcium is needed to grow and maintain good feathers. When hens are laying and there is too little or just enough calcium in their diets, feathers become brittle and hens may even peck at each other’s feathers a bit to gain this much needed nutrient. After all, there are no eggs if there is no shell; and we all know egg shells are made of calcium.
    Extra nutrition is needed anytime birds undergo stress. Molt and peak production are just two examples of stress. Bad weather or harassment by dogs or small children are two others. The best plan is to have this supplemental nutrition incorporated as a regular part of the poultry diet. In this way, there is no deficiency to overcome or to aggravate a weakened condition.
    I use Omega Ultra Egg™ as a supplement all year round. Not only do my birds have healthy feathers, it ensures that my birds have supplemental nutrition from which to pull during times of stress. The fact that the oils in Omega Ultra Egg naturally have the correct balance between Omega 3 and Omega 9 fatty acids, and that the eggs the hens are healthier for me is just icing on the cake.
    So as you care for your birds during their time of molt, be sure that they receive everything they need to produce strong, healthy feathers that will last them through the winter until molting season next year. You will have happier hens and more eggs for your efforts.
    Text copyright © Don Schrider, 2012. All rights reserved.
    Don Schrider is a nationally recognized poultry breeder and expert. He has written for publications such as Backyard Poultry, Countryside and Small Stock Journal, Mother Earth News, Poultry Press, and the newsletter and poultry resources of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. He is the author of the revised edition of Storey’s Guide to Raising Turkeys, which is due for publication this fall and will be available at bookstores by January, 2013.

  • Meant to Be

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    Lately I’ve been bombarded with stories of dogs in need, dogs who* need to be rescued before they run out of time. Finding safe places for all of them to go can be a challenge. Here’s one story with a happy ending, a story of how a woman and a dog who were meant to be together were united by a series of circumstances. Sometimes these things work out for the best.
    Maximus was tall, dark and handsome — charming with a calm demeanor. But his life hadn’t been easy. He’d had at least three different homes across half of the country and at least two names. He’d roamed the streets and had been picked up. He wasn’t young any more, was settled down, but not quite a senior yet either. He needed a safe place to land, a forever home. He was a gentle spirit, a kind soul, who deserved better than life had offered so far.
    Jeanne was lonely, missing her 100 pound shepherd mix who had died after developing debilitating joint problems. After her husband had passed on a few years ago, the dog had been her true companion. He’d been big, solid, and true, a dog she could lean on and count on.
    Something happened to bring Maximus to Jeanne, and I’m still not quite sure what made the pieces come together. Perhaps divine intervention and a guardian angel were at work.
    Over Memorial weekend, I was in Wisconsin visiting family. My friend Vickie from high school was in town visiting her mom, and they invited me over. I took my dog Chase along. He had recently completed his training to become a Delta Pet Partner, and he loves people. Vickie’s mom Jeanne fell in love with Chase and told me how much she missed her old dog. Chase loved her too and sat by her for much of the evening, enjoying being petted and eying her ready stash of dog treats. Jeanne told me how much she wanted to find another large dog who would be a good companion, but she needed a dog who wasn’t high energy. She used to walk her old dog around the block, take him to the dog park, and hire the neighbor boys to take him for longer walks. In spite of our concern about Jeanne handling a large dog, she was confident that she could still do it. She wanted to keep Chase, but of course, I couldn’t let him go! Instead, I promised to look for a dog for Jeanne.
    Back in Minnesota, a local rescue that I had helped support was closing and they needed to find safe places for the dogs in their care. I had met some of the dogs and had seen others posted on the website. With Jeanne in mind, I looked at the website again, but didn’t find a dog that seemed to be a good match. Most were young, high energy dogs who would need more activity than Jeanne could provide and might just pull her off her feet. I commented to my friends who had volunteered at the rescue and they both said, “What about Maximus, the shepherd mix?” Then I learned his story.
    They told me how big and gentle Maximus is, and how concerned they were that he might not find a good home before the rescue had to close. There didn’t seem to be a single reason why Maximus had not found a good forever home. It always seemed to be a problem with his person not being able to keep him, but nothing that was his fault. Probably being large doesn’t help a dog sometimes.
    I inquired at the rescue, met Maximus, asked a lot of questions, and sent his information and pictures to Jeanne. She was very interested and wanted to know when she could meet him. So in mid-June we arranged to meet halfway, in a small town in west-central Wisconsin, under a statue of an orange moose. A friend who had helped care for Maximus at the rescue volunteered to ride along with me. She wanted to see Max land his new home that day! Max fit in the back seat of my truck, but I didn’t have a crate large enough to hold him. I didn’t know how he would ride in the car, so it was nice to have someone else ride along.
    Max settled in just fine and after driving through western Wisconsin, we arrived under the orange moose. Just after we pulled in, Jeanne drove up in her bright yellow car, like clockwork. We let Maximus take a potty break and stretch his legs. He walked over to Jeanne’s car and hopped right into the back seat like he’d been with Jeanne for his entire life. It was love at first sight for both. Jeanne had decided to adopt Max and was anxious to get going on the road back home, to get him settled into his new life. She had already told the whole neighborhood about Max, and people were awaiting their arrival!
    That morning when I had picked Maximus up from the rescue, I had told him where we were going and what we would be doing that day. I had told him all about Jeanne and how excited she was to meet him. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when he jumped into her car like he’d been doing it for his entire life. He’d apparently understood what I’d told him and was just as excited to get on with the next chapter of their lives as Jeanne was. The rescue had already approved Jeanne to adopt and she had obviously already fallen in love with Max… so off they went!
    Jeanne reported in July that Maximus is now called “Sam”. He didn’t respond to “Maximus”, but responded enthusiastically when she called him “Sam”, so Sam it is! Their veterinarian decided that Sam is part German shepherd and part Great Dane. Now that I think about it, I do see Marmaduke in him! The road for Jeanne and Sam hasn’t been without its bumps. Sam wants to chase bunnies, and there are many wild bunnies in their neighborhood this summer. True to our concerns, Jeanne has fallen a couple of times. But she’s a committed dog mom, and is working to make their life together go smoothly. She consulted with a trainer to learn how to handle Sam better on walks, and hired the neighbor boys to take him for long walks every day. They love him too. Jeanne assured me that Sam has found his forever home. I visited in August to see that they’re doing well together. I wish that a wonderful person like Jeanne would appear for every dog.
    Now Jeanne and Sam seem to belong together, but how did this come to be? I happened to see Jeanne in May when I got together with her daughter. I didn’t find Sam on the rescue website and hadn’t known about him until two different people had both said, “What about Maximus”? Something led me to mention Jeanne to these people, and something led them to mention Sam to me.
    And here’s the rest of the story… When I was in high school, my family moved out to the country. I loved living in the country and being with my animals. But sometimes living far away meant that I missed extracurricular activities at school. My friend Vickie lived close to our high school. She was an only child and her family was very social. They hosted me overnight many times, allowing me to attend high school activities that I would have missed. Her family was much more social and politically active than mine. They had interesting parties, exposing me to new and different people and viewpoints, even introducing me to activists, which I have now also become! They opened up a whole new world for me.
    When I think about that time in my life, I realize now how generous Jeanne was to invite me into their home. As a teenager, I probably took too much for granted. I never really thanked her properly for her generosity and for all the doors she opened for me. I can’t think of a better way to thank her than by bringing Sam into her life. What better gift is there than a noble dog? Although I feel as though Sam was sent, and I was just one of the vehicles that brought him to Jeanne, I like to think that, after all these years, her kindness has been repaid. And we have reconnected, not surprisingly over a dog!
    …………………………………………………………………………………………….
    I sent a pouch of Omega Canine Shine® and some Omega Nuggets™ home with Jeanne and Sam, for good nutrition to help Sam get off to a great start in his new home.
     
    *Note: I often use “who” when referring to a dog. Although the spell checker doesn’t like this and it may not be grammatically correct, I know that dogs are sentient beings and I do it anyway.

  • Equine Parasite Management

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    Last month we introduced you to the major internal parasites which can plague your horse. This month we will discuss management strategies that you can use to decrease the parasite load on your horse, in part through an understanding of their life cycle. We can actually use the horse’s environment to help decrease our reliance on de-wormers and do our part to aid in the battle of anthelmintic resistance.
    If you remember the life cycle of our most insidious parasite, the small strongyles, you know that the tiny infective larvae hatch from eggs outside of the horse. They then use the dew or moisture present on the grass to be able to wriggle around in the blades of grass and await your horse to come along and ingest them. Since they need this moisture as part of their life cycle and to be mobile, horses housed in stalls and dry lots are far less likely to be able to pick up infective larvae. It is pasture grazing, therefore, which is the key to the strongyles’ survival. Worm larvae will tend to be located in the thicker grass areas of the pasture and down in the thatch layer, where moisture remains longer.  The highest potential for infection will occur if your horse crops the grass close to the ground.
    If you observe horses natural feeding patterns, horses tend to graze pastures into areas of roughs and lawns. The lawns, characterized by short grasses,  are the areas which are cropped closely to the ground and the roughs, which have longer grass, are the areas where horses choose to defecate and avoid grazing. Obviously the larger the area in which horses are kept, the less likely they are to graze near infective piles of horse manure. This will decrease their chances of picking up larvae. As stocking density of the pasture increases, or vegetative growth decreases, such as in times of draught, the horses will be forced to eat nearer these thick areas of grass just teeming with swarms of larvae. If the grass becomes too short, supplemental hay should be provided to avoid forcing the horse to graze in the roughs. Additionally, the pasture can be mowed to keep the roughs from spreading further into the pasture.
    Many people employ dragging the pasture to break up manure piles and spread them through the pasture to prevent the formation of roughs. However, if you use this strategy, you must understand that you are effectively dispersing the eggs and larvae far more thoroughly than they could ever do themselves. Even on their own, larvae can spread 4 to 12 inches from their original pile, and even further if aided by heavy rainfall. Therefore, if you drag the pasture, keep the horses off the pasture for at least two weeks. Preferably the dragging should be done in the hottest part of the year in order to expose the larvae to heat and dehydration. Cool temperatures allow the larvae to survive longer, so it is not advised to drag during the spring and fall.  If you must drag in cooler weather prevent the horses from grazing for an even longer period of time. As strongyles larvae are especially hardy and can survive winter quite easily, this is really not a good strategy for trying to kill the larvae.  Finally, if you are going to spread manure on pastures as a means of disposal, never spread fresh manure. Make sure it has been thoroughly composted before applying it to your pasture.
    In an ideal world, pasture rotation allows the best management strategy to reduce strongyles infestation  in your horses. Horses grazing in fresh new pasture will avoid grazing near manure piles, and have a lower chance of re-infesting themselves. Letting pastures lie dormant will also allow any eggs or larvae present to die before horses are introduced. If space and equipment allows, putting pastures into hay production will allow parasites to die as well. Finally, if you own multiple species of animals, grazing pastures alternatively between cattle, goats and sheep will reduce your parasite burden, as the worms are host specific. Obviously all of these strategies do require a significant amount of acreage and fencing to be effective and may not work for everyone.
    Remember, for strongyles elimination, heat is your friend. Only drag pastures during the hottest part of the year, and do not allow horses back onto the pasture for at least two weeks. Use separate pastures for winter pasture and summer pasture. Remember, winter does not kill the parasites. In cooler climates, parasites will not die after emerging from their dormant state until about June, May in hotter climates. If you do have a clean pasture, before you turn horses onto it, chemical deworming can prevent parasite infestation. Horses that are dewormed should be held on dry lots for several days before turning them out. This will allow all the eggs that the mature female has deposited to pass through your horse’s digestive tract. When your horses enter their new pasture, they won’t be bringing any “friends” with them!
    What about the other parasites in your horses life other than strongyles? There are certainly management strategies which will help control their populations as well. For ascarid control, remember that these worms are primarily a problem for young horses. If possible and space allows, rotate which pastures house young horses with adult horses. However, even this may not be completely effective as ascarids can remain alive in the environment for several years. Essentially, if foals and young horses have been housed in a pasture, it is fairly likely that ascarids are present. Unfortunately, as ascarids don’t involve the same strategy for survival as strongyles, they can also infest the young horse in stalls and dry lots. This is typically why young horses are dewormed more frequently than older horses.
    Stomach bot larvae and adult fly control are unfortunately only going to be controlled through the use of anthelmentics. The adult form can fly for miles so even if you have a great deworming program, if your neighbors do not, their flies will simply fly over to your property to lay eggs on your horse.
    Tapeworms are relative newcomers when discussing parasites in horses. While not new to the horse, they are new to us, so not as much is known about them. They are believed to have a similar susceptibility to climate as the small strongyles, but may be hardier. More horses in northern climates have been exposed to tapeworms, which would indicate that these parasites are relatively cold resistant, but may have a susceptibility to heat. Therefore, follow similar management protocols as you do for small strongyles control.
    From looking at the parasites life cycle and their means of infesting horses, it is clear that horses are often dewormed more frequently than is really necessary. As anthelmintic resistance becomes a growing issue in horses, we need to understand the ways in which we can manage horses to reduce their parasite burden. Next month we will tackle the issue of anthelmintic resistance and discuss which deworming strategies might be the most correct option for your horse.

  • Marketing Your Horse Business through Social Media, Part 3, How Comments Create Relationships

    Written By Randi Thompson, Founder of the Award-Winning Facebook “How to Market Your Horse Business”
    In the first article of my “Marketing through Social Media” series, I explained how offline businesses can benefit by having a presence on social media networks. In Part 2, I focused on developing a content strategy as the foundation for all of your social media marketing activities. Now, in Part 3, we’ll look at how your posts can be used to expand your social media presence and influence. 

    Social media is perfect for those in the horse business as it is all about creating relationships with customers andnetworking with other people. The secret to your success is in how you participate in any social media community, including yours. To do this, the posts that you share should be like a conversation that you are having with a friend. Your goal is to find ways to get people to “talk” with you on your posts, or on theirs.  Why is this? Your responses will turn up on their newsfeeds which makes you visible to potential customers who are looking for what you have to offer. This is called “viral marketing”. The more people that respond to a post, the further out it goes on the newsfeeds. 

    When you first begin “posting” on a social network, those who are already there will be watching how you interact on other people’s comments and what you share. They need to like, trust and know you before they start responding to what you are sharing. 80% of what your posts should be interesting or fun. Only 20% of your posts should be about what you have to sell. 

    How can you do this? Begin by following “The Rule of 3” that I share with business owners on Facebook who want to discover the secrets to marketing on social media. If you practice this rule every day you’ll start seeing results very quickly.
    Begin by “friending” or “liking” 3 new people from your personal profile every day. Start with people you know or want to know better. Don’t be shy! You’re creating relationships that can make a big difference in your business. Try to include a few people that you believe are famous, or those you see as competitors in your industry. You will learn a lot from watching what they do. If you are a local business you should invite people in your local area or from business groups you would like to connect with. Take your time. Look at their profiles and choose the people you have a good feeling about. This is important, especially for those who are new to social media. Later, when you have enough friends, you won’t need to keep adding them as people will be asking for your friendship!
    “Like” 3 Facebook Business Pages every day. Choose business pages that are in your field, that way you will begin to become a part of their network. Be selective and choose business pages that are active and interesting, where people are sharing ideas and asking questions. Ask yourself if you want to be associated with that business page. (If you change your mind you can always “unlike” it later)   As a fan (when you “like” a business page) you will see their comments in the newsfeeds and watch what they are sharing and how they interact with other pages and people. If you would like to get to know them better, all you need to do is start responding to their comments. You will be surprised how important some of these connections will become as you continue networking and building relationships with each other.
    “Like” 3 comments every day that other people have made. Likes are easy, so feel free to do more!  All a “like” takes is a click of your finger!  Each time you “like” a post it goes on the newsfeeds of anyone else who makes a comment on it or “likes” that post. You can “like” posts from your newsfeeds, people’s profiles, or from their business pages. The more you like other people’s posts, the more they will notice you and begin to respond to what you are sharing. You will become visible to them. Make sure to “like” any comments or posts that people share on your business page or profile. That makes them feel like you care and encourages them to share more!
    Make 3 comments on other people’s posts or their business page/group every day. Take your time and choose a post where you can add a meaningful response or question that shows you are interested in discussing the topic. As a result, the owner of that business page/group will notice you and want to know more about you. So will the other people who are active on that business page/group. On Facebook, you can post from your business page.  That way, people who are reading that post will see your business page. If your comments are interesting enough, these people will go to your business page to see what you’re all about.
    DO Make Comments That Create Conversations… DON’T Be a Spammer!
    Unfortunately many people who are new to social media try to use their comments only to sell what they have to offer. They are really “spamming”. They will even do this in their own business pages or groups! This is because they do not know the right way to promote and market their business on social media. They are not being social. They are easy to see as their comments are not conversations and other people do not interact on them. When we see a spammer post on the newsfeeds, we cringe and probably won’t bother to read them.   A spammer is also known as a “spray and prayer.” They post as many comments as they can everywhere, on every business page or group that they can find, hoping that someone will buy from them.
    .
    Business Page and group owners do not like “spammers”. Those posts will probably be deleted and the person who posted the spam will often be blocked, banned or even reported to Facebook. The facts are, if you don’t bother to become part of the social media community that you are posting on, by interacting with others, NO ONE will be interested in what you have to say.Now that you know the secret to your success is in getting people to interact with you, this will not happen to you!

    In Part 4 of my Marketing through Social Media series, we’ll focus on the secrets to creating posts that work for promoting your own business or service. In the meantime, start using “The Rule of 3!” It will really make a difference in what’s happening to your business on social media. Try it and you’ll be amazed!

  • Jumping Dogs and Flying Crickets!

    Written by Leigh Pyron

    As an in-home pet sitter there have been many times when I’ve watched multiple dogs at one household. A few years ago, I had a client call to ask me if I was available to pet sit their five-year-old Spaniel mix, Ginger and their Leopard Gecko, Harvey. I told them I was available the first two nights, but after that I was booked at another client’s home to pet sit their two animated, vivacious eight-month-old Standard Poodles named Jupiter and Pluto. Since the two Poodles got along with other dogs, and the owner didn’t mind if I had other dogs over, I offered to take Ginger with me to their home. The client was thrilled, but wanted to make sure I would still be able to take care of Harvey. Now I thought to myself…how hard could it be to take care of a Gecko…sure, I said, no problem.
    So, the instructions on how to take care of Harvey were to change his water and feed him 3 to 5 crickets daily. That all sounded pretty easy to me until they mentioned that I would have to go to the pet store a couple of times to pick up more crickets. Now normally that would be a simple request, but as it was summer time, the busiest time of the year for me, I needed to figure out how to fit cricket-purchasing into my crazy schedule. Especially since the only pet store that carried them was a bit out of the way from where I would be pet sitting.
    Well, my cricket adventure began the first night I started watching Ginger and Harvey. The owners were running behind schedule the day of their departure and didn’t have time to purchase more crickets before they left. So, it looked like my dinner would have to wait, as I ran off to the pet store before closing time with the Kricket-Keeper cage in hand to purchase those priceless crickets. After I got the crickets, I remembered that I was to pick up some food for them as well. I found a container of these funny little orange cubes called Fluker’s Orange Cube Complete Cricket Diet… perfect! The container said they were, “…made from kelp, spirulina, brewer’s yeast and more to gutload crickets.” Ok, now my question is, has anybody ever inquired what exactly the “more” ingredient is in the orange cubes? I now realized I was definitely taking my job a bit too seriously. I was actually concerned about the health of the crickets that I would be feeding to the Gecko…are the crickets a pet too? I guess I should have charged for them too!
    The next morning, after I let Ginger out and fed her, I headed off to the garage, where I left the crickets, to get Harvey’s breakfast. As I approached the Kricket-Keeper cage and looked inside, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Almost every cricket was belly-up at the bottom of the cage. Yikes! I panicked, how could that possibly be, I just bought them yesterday! With a crazy day ahead of me, how was I going to fit in buying more crickets? Luckily, I managed to catch three of the ten or so crickets left alive out of the cage and put them into Harvey’s lair for breakfast. I then got ready myself, loaded Ginger in the car, along with the dead crickets, and started out for the day. Somehow I would have to squeeze in a trip to the pet store once again.
    I finished around 6:00 p.m. that day and decided to make one last stop for the crickets before I headed back to Ginger’s house. When I arrived at the pet store I found a clerk and told him what had happened with my newly-purchased crickets. I asked him if this time he could pick out a few crickets that had a bit more vitality and longevity. The clerk was more than happy to exchange them, the only problem was they were out of crickets and wouldn’t receive any more until tomorrow afternoon. This can’t be happening! How difficult can it be to take care of a simple little desert reptile from Pakistan. I couldn’t believe I would have to return again!
    The next day I had to pack up Ginger and myself to move to Jupiter and Pluto’s house. So, at the end of the day, all packed and ready to go, I fed Harvey the last of the living crickets and headed off to the pet store one more time to purchase those irreplaceable insects. Thank goodness they had received a shipment that afternoon. Now all I had to do was transport Ginger and the crickets safely to Jupiter and Pluto’s house.
    When I arrived at Jupiter and Pluto’s, I left Ginger in the car for a moment and picked up my precious container of crickets and headed for the front door. Normally, when the owners leave they always put Jupiter and Pluto in the back yard, so I knew I could enter the house quietly and put the crickets up and away before I let them in. As I approached the front door I could hear the dogs barking in the background, although it seemed a little louder than usual this time. I didn’t think much of it as I put the key in the lock, turned the knob and opened the door and…Kaboom! Two out of control, crazy, jumping Poodles hit me like a freight train when I opened the door. The only thing that came out of my mouth was “NOOOoooooooo!” as the Kricket-Keeper cage went flying into the air out of my reach over the top of Jupiter and Pluto’s head. Crash! The container hit the floor, the lid popped off and thirty crickets scrambled across the entryway floor heading desperately for a place to hide from the scary, hairy, four-legged creatures that hunted them. Out of shear desperation I yelled, “Leave-it! Leave-it!”
    Needless to say, it took me hours and hours throughout the night to collect the thirty or more crickets that scurried and bustled about all over the floor of the house. By the time I went to bed, as I tried to nod off to sleep, all I could hear was the disharmonious, incongruous sound of chirping coming from the last few crickets I couldn’t find. I felt like I was camping in the wilderness, it was not unlike the annoyance that one experiences with a persistent mosquito that buzzes by your ear just at the moment you’re about to drop off to sleep. How could these tiny little creatures cause such chaos?
    Why do dogs jump on people? 
    It’s not uncommon for puppies and dogs to jump up on people when they greet them.   When a dog greets another dog they immediately sniff each other’s faces. And, in the wild, the young wolf cubs will submissively sniff, lick and nibble on their mother’s face in order to stimulate the activity of regurgitating food up for them. So, since humans are much taller than dogs, the easiest, quickest way for them to get to our face is to jump! Dogs of all ages and sizes will jump up on humans for a variety of reasons, such as ritual greeting, playfulness, excitement or arousal and trying to dominate.
     
    Teaching dogs not to “Jump-Up” on People
    There are many ways to address a dog jumping-up on humans. Here are a few great ideas to try out:
    Ignore the Dog
    When you arrive home and open the door to a jumping dog, try walking right past him, totally ignoring him. Don’t look at him, or talk to him, or touch him. Walk right past him as if he wasn’t there and busy yourself with other things until the dog is calm. Once the dog is calm, you can now greet him. But, if he starts to jump again when you bend over to greet him, quickly stand up, walk away and ignore him again. Repeat this exercise until he can remain calm while petting him.
     
    Put “Jumping-Up” on Cue
    You can teach your dog to “jump-up” on command. First, take a high value treat, such as cheese, cooked chicken or any other type of food that your dog really loves. Call your dog and ask him to “sit” in front of you. Once he is sitting, take a treat and hold it up high just above his head. When he looks up at the treat say, “Jump!”  When he jumps for the treat say, “Yes!” and give him the treat.  After the jump ask him to sit again.
    Another way to get your dog to jump-up is to take two treats and hold one in each hand.  Place the treats between your thumb and first finger of each hand so your dog can see them.  Show the dog the treats and then hold your hands at chest level with palms facing out and say, “jump!”  Most dogs will jump-up and hit your palms with their paws.  When he does say, “Yes!” and give him the treats.  Be sure to ask for a “sit” before and after this exercise as well.
    Use a Distraction
    Have a small bowl of treats somewhere near the front door so when you arrive home or if you have guests coming over, you can toss a “find-it” treat. Simply pick up a treat, show the dog the treat, toss it away from the front entryway and say “find-it!” When the dog goes to find the treat, let yourself or your guest enter the house. When he comes back to the front door again toss him another treat before he gets there. When he goes to find the second treat, walk away and ignore him until he is in a calm state of mind.
    Dragging a Leash
    When you’re home with your dog and expecting company, you can attach a leash to his collar or a harness and let him drag it on the floor. When someone arrives at the front door you can step on the leash just enough to prevent him from jumping. Once your guest enters have them walk quickly past the dog ignoring him. Release the dog by taking your foot off the leash and walk away, also ignoring him until he is in a calm state of mind.
    Use a “Sit” or “Down” Stay
    If your dog already knows “sit” or “down” try asking him to do so at the front door before you open it. Before you open the door, put him in a “sit” or “down” position and ask him to “stay.” Give him a few treats to start off with as a reward. When you go to open the door, continue to ask him to “stay.” If he starts to get up when you open the door, quickly close the door and put him back in a “sit” or “down” again. Continue to repeat this exercise until he stays in position when you open the door.   Once your guest has entered, praise him, release him and walk away.
    Using an X-pen or Baby Gate
    Put your dog in a small room and close off the entrance with an exercise pen or baby-gate so he can’t get out. Leave your dog for a brief moment and then return, walking back to greet him. If he jumps up when you arrive at the gate, immediately turn and walk away from him. Walk about four or five feet away, pause and then return, walking back to greet him again. If he jumps up again when you get there, turn around and leave again. Repeat this until he stops jumping when you arrive at the gate. Praise him and release him from the room when he succeeds.
    Remember to remain calm and patient when practicing these exercises. If the human gets frustrated or angry during the process, it only creates more excitement and arousal in the dog, which causes them to jump even more. It usually only takes a few minutes for the dog to realize that what he is doing isn’t working. The first step to success is simply to get the dog to stop practicing the behavior.   From there, it’s just a matter of being consistent with the new rules you have established with him.

     

  • Remembering Frankie as We Keep on Rolling

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    … Learn about Walk ‘N Roll Dog Day, bringing positive awareness for all dogs in wheelchairs, and the Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog Memorial Wheelchair Fund …
    Frankie (short for Francesca), a Dachshund, injured her back and was diagnosed with intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). Her back legs were paralyzed and her people, Barbara Techel and her husband John of Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, first thought they would have to put Frankie down. But Frankie’s amazing spirit and will to ‘keep on rolling’ led Barbara to learn about wheelchairs for dogs. Frankie was fitted with her own chair and Barbara learned how to take care of her in her new condition. Barbara learned a lot from Frankie as she discovered that Frankie could still have a wonderful quality of life and had much to teach us.
    I learned of Barbara and Frankie a few years ago when their first book, Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog (http://joyfulpaws.com/books/), won the Dog Writers Association of America Merial Human-Animal Bond award. I became pen pal friends with Barbara and watched as Frankie became a therapy dog and Barbara and Frankie reached out to the elderly and to school children. They spread Frankie’s positive messages far and wide, as this differently-abled little dog shared her tremendous spirit and kept on rolling.
    Frankie dramatically changed Barbara’s life, gave Barbara a voice and a message that had to be shared, and turned Barbara into an author. In many ways, Barbara’s story with Frankie paralleled my story with 8 State Hurricane Kate. Barbara and I went on the Passions and Possibilities radio show together (listen to our podcast at http://tinyurl.com/passions-and-possibilities) and both contributed our stories to the book Dogs and the Women Who Love Them: Extraordinary True Stories of Loyalty, Healing and Inspiration by Allen and Linda Anderson (http://www.dogsandthewomenwholovethem.com/).
    Frankie not only changed Barbara’s life, she also changed the lives of many others. Fortunately, Barbara was receptive to Frankie’s messages and was talented and determined enough to share them with the world. When she didn’t know how to take the next step, she took it anyway and learned as she went. Barbara and Frankie grew together.
    In June I received a message announcing that Frankie was retiring from public appearances. She was almost 13 years old and tired much more easily from visiting. I knew that Frankie’s retirement was a good decision. What I didn’t know is that Frankie would not be with us much longer. The following week she was diagnosed with chronic heart failure, and she passed on. I’m grateful to Barbara for knowing when Frankie’s little body was too painful for her to keep going, and for letting her go in peace.
    In honor of all dogs who have changed our lives for the better, and in gratitude for all that she gave us, I’m remembering Frankie as she would have turned 13 years old on August 20th. I think the best way to remember and honor her is to share with you the message Barbara wrote at her passing. Here it is:
    Saying Goodbye to Our Sweet Once In a Lifetime Dog, Frankie 

    One week after Frankie’s retirement and our last presentation together, my sweet Frankie was laid to rest today.

    As you know, she was diagnosed with Chronic Heart Failure last Friday. While we had hoped she would live comfortably with the medication to manage the symptoms, she was greatly struggling since Sunday. We tried with another medication, and though she had some comfort for one day, she began struggling again. For a heart that gave so much to so many, it was time for her little heart to rest. It was painful to see her struggle for every breath. As Tuesday went by I could see signs that Frankie was ready to move on. Just as she had been to the very end, I sensed her biggest worry was that I would be okay—once I found the courage to let her know I would be okay, we came to a peace and understanding that she will now guide me from the other side.
    My life feels incredibly empty right now. My every day was all about her from expressing her bladder many times a day, to napping with her, riding my bike with her, walking her in her doggie stroller, to all the work we did together at schools and libraries and our therapy dog work together. I’m not quite sure how I will move through the next few days, but I have faith I will. I already feel Frankie guiding me from the other side as she gave me the strength to come to my computer and do what I do best—write about what I love most—my life with her.
    I’ve said it before and I will say it again—there is simply no doubt in my heart that God chose me to be Frankie’s mama—and John, her papa. As I think about our journey, especially the past five years, I see me as a woman who finally stepped into the truth of who she is and found the courage to share that with those around her. Frankie gave me that. When Frankie first started using her wheelchair, I was so afraid of being judged (as I had struggled with that most of my life)that people would think I was mean or cruel for putting Frankie in a wheelchair. I will always remember the day it struck me as I looked at Frankie, happy as could be, living life to the fullest in her wheelchair- It was as if she said, “Hey Mama, you can stand tall, too. Don’t worry, it’s okay.” What a gift that little girl gave me.
    So now I take those lessons of such grace, love and integrity that were wrapped up all in the heart of one little 13 lb. dog with wheels, and I learn to move forward. Our last work together while she was here on earth was the writing of my new book, Through Frankie’s Eyes: One Woman’s Journey to Her Authentic Self and the Dog on Wheels Who Led the Way. She sat lovingly beside me in her little bed, now and then looking up at me, and cheering me on with her soft black eyes when I felt stuck. I’m uncertain as to when I will publish it—may stick with my original Feb. 2012 date— but will also remain open to being guided.
    My life will never be the same with Frankie gone… but my life will also never be the same for her having been in it. She gave me, as well as left me, with some amazing gifts… not only me, but her papa and her family and friends and her thousands of fans.
    As a legacy to Frankie I am working on a special day that will be in memory of her and to help continue to bring positive awareness to all dogs in wheelchairs. It will be called, Walk ‘N Roll Dog Day. If I had not seen it with my own eyes, I would have never believed a dog in a wheelchair could live a quality life. Through this special day, I am setting up a fund to help raise money for families whose pets need a wheelchair, but the family can’t afford one (learn more at http://joyfulpaws.com/2012/06/frankie-the-walk-n-roll-dog-memorial-wheelchair-fund/).
    John and I were so very fortunate to spend the last day and a half with Frankie telling her how much she means to us and how thankful we are for having her in our lives. Though difficult at times, it was such a gift to take our time in saying goodbye.
    We were also very blessed that Frankie’s vet, Dr. Bohn, agreed to come to our home so Frankie could be put to rest in the place she so loved, which was my writing cottage. I held her in my arms, telling her over and over how much I loved her and thanking her for all she did for me… and so many people around the world.
    After Frankie left with Dr. Bohn I sat in my writing cottage staring out the window. A few moments later a swirl of warm wind moved through the trees, through the open window and circled my heart and I felt Frankie’s soul lift to the sky, though her spirit is still very strong with me… and I suspect it will be for some time to come. I smiled and said, “Thank you, sweet Frankie. Thank you.”
    Frankie will live on in our hearts always, and I know many others too, and that brings me and John joy, comfort and peace.
    Our animals shepherd us through certain areas of our lives. When we are ready to turn the corner and make it on our own… they let us go. ~Author unknownIn the loving spirit of Frankie and all the animals that teach us what matters in life-
    Barbara Techel

    Learn more about Frankie and Barbara’s books and find support and resources for dogs with Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) and other differently abled animals at www.joyfulpaws.com.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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    Be informed and prepared before the next disaster strikes! Special Deal: 40% off author signed copies of the Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book: Hard cover-journal-style limited edition, tabbed sections, photo sleeves + pocket for records. Look inside at http://tinyurl.com/NWMD-inside. See book trailer video at http://tinyurl.com/NWMDbook. On sale for $15 each (regularly $25) + postage, while supplies last! 50% off orders of 10 books or more! Email with subject line "BOOK ORDER" to njennyr @ visi.com (remove spaces).

  • Parasites: Who are you really feeding?

    Written by Dr. Kris Hiney

    This month we will discuss other aspects of horse management that directly affect the nutritional status of your horse. While most horse owners are familiar with deworming their horses regularly, current recommendations from many equine practitioners are to be much more strategic with our deworming. There is a growing concern that parasite populations are developing resistance to almost all types of anthelmentics (drugs used to eliminate internal parasites). As no new anthelmentics will soon be offered to the public, this could represent a real risk to the health of our horses. In order to understand these issues, we will begin with a review of the major parasite classes in horses.
    While there are many types of worms which infest horses, we will address the major classes that represent the most health risk to your horse; ascarids, strongyles, tapeworms, bots and pinworms. Ascarids, or Parascaris equorum, are a type of round worm which grow to a substantial size of 8-15 inches within the intestine. They are yellowish in color and may be occasionally seen in the feces. Despite their robust size, much of the damage created by these parasites involves their life cycle and migratory journey through the horse. Adult females pass eggs into the horse’s feces, where they spend 1-2 weeks in the environment before they are capable of infecting a new host. Horses ingest the infective eggs by grazing or eating in contaminated areas. Once inside, the larvae burrow through the intestinal lining and enter the bloodstream, where they travel to the liver. They then travel to the heart and then the lungs. Ultimately they enter the alveoli of the lungs where the horse coughs them into the oral cavity and then are swallowed back down into the stomach and intestines. The entire life cycle of the ascarid takes about three months and the journey these parasites take can cause significant damage and scarring of the tissues. A heavy parasite load of adult worms can even lead to blockage of intestines.   Young horses are the most susceptible group of horses to acquire ascarids, as well as weak, or malnourished horses. Coughing and nasal discharge in young horses may actually be a sign of ascarid infection. Older horses eventually develop an immunity to these parasites, so ascarids are primarily an issue with horses under two years of age.
    Strongyles exist as both large and small strongyles, with many sub-species. The three main species of the large strongyles are Strongylus vulgaris, Strongylus edentus, and Strongylus equinus. Small strongyles actually have about 50 different species. Strongyles are also the most damaging of the parasites that horses will encounter. Similar to the ascarid, the females lay eggs which are shed in the feces. Unlike ascarids, they hatch into infective larvae that the horse ingests. The larvae molts three times before it is ready to infect the horse. The larvae actually crawl up the blades of grass in the dew. The larvae can crawl up or down multiple times waiting for a host, or even burrow into the ground when the weather isn’t favorable. Unfortunately for the horse owner, these parasites are extremely hardy and can persist through the winter.
    The characteristics of the large and small strogyles life cycle make them particularly damaging. Large stronglye’s life cycle involves two stages where they migrate through the arterioles and arteries which supply blood to the intestine. Unfortunately, wherever these larvae burrow through the intestinal wall to migrate, all of them will return to one single location, the cranial mesenteric artery. Here they congregate and can cause immense damage. They can cause hemorrhaging, blood clots, or even rupture. The blood clots themselves can break free and travel further down through the blood supply to where they block blood flow and create a thromboembolic colic and even death. Oddly, enough lameness can also result from blood clots traveling to the legs as well.
    Small strongyles have an additional strategy to help them survive. As they pass through the horse’s intestinal wall, the horse’s immune system is also trying to wage war against the larvae. However, the larvae are too big and travel too fast to be eliminated. The final migration of the larvae and complete maturation is actually held in check by the presence of adult strongyles in the lumen of the intestine. Essentially the adults provide feedback to the larvae that there is no room at the inn. When the larvae get that message and slow their migration, they become encysted within the intestinal wall by the immune cells. Here they can lie in wait for several years to take their turn at being the adult worms in the intestine. The horrifying reality is that when the adults die of either natural causes or by our purge deworming of the horse, the encysted larvae “wake up” and emerge to replace the newly vacated intestine. Within 6-8 weeks they will have matured and begin laying their own eggs to begin the cycle anew. Again, it is the pattern of traveling through the tissue that can cause a great deal of damage to the horse.
    Relative to those bad boys, the rest of the worms which typically invade horses are mild in nature. The other major parasite classes which trouble horse owners are pinworms, stomach bots and tapeworms. Pinworms have a very simple life style compared to ascarids and strongyles. Adult females have a rather interesting feature, however. Not content to just shed her eggs into the feces, she actually deposits the eggs on the horse’s anus. This causes irritation to the horse who then scratches on anything available in the environment, effectively dispersing them. The horse then incidentally ingests the eggs, which hatch in the intestine where the larvae mature. Thankfully, these worms do little damage to the horse because their life cycle does not involve migrating through sensitive tissues. However, they can cause great irritation to the horse and robust itching of the tail head.
    Tapeworms in horses can also cause reduced nutrition and potential blockages due to the preferred location in the horse’s gastrointestinal tract. The main species of tapeworm which inhabits the horse fixes at the ileocecal junction, or where the terminus of the small intestine joins into the cecum. A heavy parasite load can result in blockages, thickening of the ileocecal valve or even intusussecption, when the intestine rolls over itself due to regular peristaltic action. The tapeworm also has a separate host for part of its life cycle. While the adult parasite resides in the horse, the eggs of the tapeworm are actually ingested by a type of mite, which the horse then later ingests while grazing. There does not appear to be any age related immunity to tapeworms, as they are found in all ages of horses.
    Finally, stomach bots are frequently seen in horses as well. The stomach bot, or Gasterophilus, also has subspecies, which include the horse bot fly, the throat latch bot, and the nose bot fly. The adult fly form can actually fly for several miles in search of a suitable subject on which to lay its eggs. The female hovers near the horse and deposits single eggs on one hair at a time. The eggs actually hatch into larvae within 7-10 days of being deposited. They then wait to emerge until the horse licks or scratches at the eggs. The larvae then enter the mouth and bury themselves in the gums, tongue or lining of the mouth where they hang out for a month. As they mature to later stages of larvae, they move into the stomach where they attach to the non-glandular or upper part of the stomach. The larvae live in the horse’s stomach for 9-12 months, before they and pass out into the feces. This typically occurs in late winter to early spring. There the larvae pupate and remain in the feces for several months. The flies then emerge in late summer or early fall, find mates and renew their life cycle. The damage the bots cause to the horse can occur in the mouth where they cause great irritation and even form pus pockets or cause the teeth to loosen. Large numbers of larvae in the stomach can cause blockages and erosion of the stomach lining. They, like all internal parasites, can result in reduced nutrition being delivered to the horse. An important heads up to horsemen:  when handling horses with bot fly eggs on their hair, use caution. While rare, the larvae are capable of burrowing into human skin, and if one rubs their eye after handling bot eggs, they larvae can actually invade the eye. I’m quite sure the last thing anyone wants is a bot larvae living in your eye!
    Next month we will use what we know about these parasites to develop management strategies to reduce their ability to infect our horses. After that, we will discuss strategic methods in using anthelmentics in order to reduce our reliance on medications and reduce the spread of resistance in parasites which invade our horses.

  • Decoding Hay Assays

    Written By Walt Friedrich

    Carbohydrates -- such simple things, yet they can seem so complicated. Since our horse is a hayburner, his hay is the first place we look when we want to know what kinds of carbs and how much of each he’s getting. So we have a hay sample assayed – a simple, inexpensive procedure – to get a picture of what the hay contains.
    But then, when we look at the numbers on the assay report, we find it’s a real struggle to dope out what they all mean. It may not even mention the word, “carbohydrate”. For example, the carbohydrate portion of a typical hay assay report looks something like this:
                                                                       Dry Matter              As Sampled              Basis                                                                          Basis
    % Acid Detergent Fiber                        33.7                          37.1
    % Neutral Detergent Fiber                  54.6                          60.1
    % Lignin                                                  4.7                             5.2
    % NFC                                                    15.1                           16.7
    % WSC                                                     5.9                            6.5
    % ESC                                                      4.2                            4.7
    % Starch                                                    .7                               .8
    Ouch!
    We assume the answers are there, but it’s pretty complex. We have a challenge on our hands.
    Let’s try to simplify things a little here, to at least get you started.
    The types of carbohydrates, and where they are digested
    While there is much information on an assay report, we’ll be discussing only carbohydrates, leaving the rest of it for another time. Lest we confuse you, in general, when we speak of carbohydrates as regards our horses’ diets, we’re actually talking about various forms of sugar, and we’ll occasionally be interchanging the terms here.Understanding the assay report is not rocket science. For our purposes, here's how simple it actually is: carbohydrates can be divided into those which are easy-to-digest and those not-so-easy-to-digest. The assay tells us how much of each type the sample contains. We’ll get to why it’s important in a moment.

    Easily digested carbohydrates (simple sugars) are assimilated in our horse’s small intestine -- early in the digestive system. Harder-to-digest carbs (more complex sugars) need to reach his large intestine, where he gets some digestive help from the billions of permanent-resident microbes living there, symbiotically. They get paid for their efforts by partaking of the feed itself.
    Got it? To understand it, all we need to concern ourselves with are simple and complex sugars, and where in the digestive tract they are assimilated. The assay report tells us about the former, and nutritionists have told us the latter.
    Sugars are vital, but sometimes can be dangerous
    Consider a healthy horse with a properly functioning digestive system: as long as he gets regular exercise we don’t have to worry much about his diet, provided it’s appropriate and he’s healthy. As with you and me, an appropriate diet and enough exercise leads to good health.
    But we know that we need to be picky about hay if our horse is laminitic or prone to it, or is insulin-resistant, either condition potentially leading to founder. And, of course, if our horse is healthy to begin with, we want a well-balanced hay, one which won’t contribute to the onset of such problems. Sugar is at the heart of these conditions, and the assay tells us what we need to know to prevent them.
    What are the carbs on the assay, and which are most important?
    It contains a lot of numbers, but we are interested only in those that report carbohydrate content, and fortunately for us, most labs group all carbohydrate-related readings together on the report. There are only a handful; here they are, again:
    Acid Detergent Fiber (ADF)
    Neutral Detergent Fiber (NDF)
    Lignin
    Non-Fiber Carbohydrates (NFC)
    Ethanol-soluble carbs (ESC)
    Water-soluble carbs (WSC)
    Starch
    And better yet, for our purposes we can reduce it to just three: WSC, ESC and starch! So let’s concentrate on them.
    Reading the assay: can we put it into plain English?
    WSC (their dissolving in water has nothing to do with how they’re used in the body) reports both simple sugars and a more complex form of sugar called fructan. The reading tells us the total amount of those sugars as a percentage of the entire sample.
    ESC (again, how they dissolve has nothing to do with how they’re used in the body) measures only carbs that dissolve in ethanol. Those are also simple sugars, along with just a trace  of fructan.
    Starch reading shows just simple sugars.
    That’s it, and you can see that all three are measures of simple sugars, while just one also contains a complex sugar.
    The significance of the numbers
    The sum of these three numbers – WSC, ESC and Starch -- gives us total sugar percentage in the hay sample, which is a figure of merit to guide us in determining if we want the hay in the first place. A total greater than 12% generally indicates too much sugar for sedentary horses, and for an IR horse, the preferred number is 10% maximum.
    If the number for WSC is low, it means that there is relatively little fructan to reach the large intestine –good news for laminitic horses. (Why? Coming up.)
    And if the numbers for ESC and starch are low, it means that simple sugars are low and will not evoke a strong glycemic response. That’s very good for IR horses (also coming up). In addition, since ESC and starch are also very low in fructan to begin with, there will be very little getting into the hind gut, very good for laminitic horses. Conclusion: low ESC and starch percentages are good news for both IR and laminitic horses.
    Thus, in a nutshell, always look for hay with low WSC, especially if your horse is laminitic. If your horse is IR, look for hay with low numbers for all three – WSC, ESC and starch – and keep the total sugars below 12%.
    The dangers of ignoring the numbers
    But what if we don’t? What’s the downside? Let’s look at what happens. First, the large intestine and its friendly inhabitants are designed to handle fibrous matter, including complex sugars. They don’t handle simple sugars well at all – simple sugars are toxic to those microbes, and overloads of simple sugars – as well as complex sugars -- can result in massive die-offs of their population. One result of that carnage can be a colic attack. Another will be assimilation of those dead microbes into the blood stream. They are toxic to the horse, and seem to make a beeline for the laminae. Once there, they block those millions of microscopic blood vessels that feed the laminar cells, resulting in another massive cell die-off, this time in the hooves. That is laminitis.
    A word of caution – excessive fructan can wreak as much havoc in the gut microbe population as an excess of simple sugars, and since the only measurement that includes fructan is WSC, it’s important that we not feed a hay with a high WSC reading – either or both simple sugars and fructan can be too high for the horse, with dangerous consequences.
    Many of us unknowingly exacerbate the potential problem by something so simple as feeding our horse grain first, then follow it up with a batch of hay. If there must be grain in the horse’s feed, it needs to be digested and assimilated in the small intestine. Grain is high in simple sugars, and we’ve already seen what it can do in the large intestine. If enough grain goes in first, followed up by a load of hay, it gets pushed back, largely undigested, into the large intestine. Hay in the gut? Fine, that’s where we want it. Grain in the gut? Potentially serious colic or laminitis problems. Best to feed the hay first, grain last.
    Pretty scary stuff, this. But we can mitigate the danger: while colic, insulin resistance and laminitis are dangers developing in part from an excess of sugars in the hay, with an assay report at your elbow, you can tell up front how safe your hay is for your horse.
    What are the other carbohydrate-related entries on the assay?
    For completeness’s sake, let’s define the other carb-related entries on the assay and whether or not they impact the amount of digestible carbohydrate in the sample:
    Acid Detergent Fiber: a measure of the least digestible carbs. If you want to feed low-sugar hay, a relatively high ADF reading will be helpful.
    Neutral Detergent Fiber: also a measure of un- or least-digestible carbs in the sample. Again, the higher the NDF percentage, the lower the percentage of digestible sugars.
    Lignin: an indigestible component in plant cell walls that gives the plant rigidity and strength.
    NFC: a rough mathematical estimate of non-fiber carbohydrate energy sources.
    These contribute virtually no sugars to the diet, and in this context can be ignored.
    Prevention of carbohydrate-related problems
    Beyond attempting to clarify how to use the assay report, our focus, here, has been the impact of WSC, ESC and starch on IR and laminitic horses. But truth be told, it’s far, far better for your horse (and you) to PREVENT laminitis and IR in the first place. We can most assuredly use the assay report to help with that.
    Since most domestic horses are not in heavy work and thus can’t work off sugar-provided energy very efficiently, we had best pay close attention to their diets in general. Many of us routinely feed grain to our horses, often because “it’s the way it’s always been done”. A strong argument can be made that many pasture-ornament horses, including those that get ridden lightly and only occasionally, can do quite well and quite safely on a forage-only diet – little or no grain at all -- as long as the minerals are balanced. Since grains in general are rich in sugars, feeding it every day along with high-sugar hay can easily cause the problems we’ve just described. A much better choice would be to choose your grain carefully, if you must feed it, then feed low-sugar hay plus selected supplements to ensure he gets good mineral balance. Take the time and trouble to get an assay of the hay you’re about to buy, and study WSC, ESC and Starch – use those numbers to gauge whether or not you really want that particular hay. Anyone who’s been there can tell you that they’d much rather have done a little homework first than suffer the agony – with their horses – of dealing with IR or laminitis later.
    This report discussed only the matter of sugars in hay, and how to get useful information from the assay report. But you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t interested in feeding your horse properly, and so at this point, let me urge you to take it a step further and discuss your horse’s feed requirements with your vet or with an equine nutritionist. Everyone’s situation is unique, and some professional input makes it more likely that you’ll end up with the best diet for your horse. By all means, do ask every question that occurs to you – you’ll become your own “expert”, and your horse will be the lucky beneficiary.
    How to buy good hay
    An assay report is just a small sample test of a large batch of bales. We assume reasonable uniformity in the makeup of all the hay in that batch – could be a great many bales. But one assay report alone is useless if your hay comes from different sources each time you buy – you’d need an assay from each source. Ideally, you’ll find a hay source that you can buy as needed throughout the year, and the assay will be pertinent for all. You should talk to your “hay guy”, if he’s actually the “grower”, about the uniformity of his fields, and before you buy, ask permission to take a sample to submit for assay. Tell him you’ll give him a copy of the report – he may appreciate that very much, especially if it’s particularly good hay.

  • Of Power Outages and Baby Chicks

    Written By Don Schrider

    This summer of 2012 has turned hot and we on the east coast have been hit hard with storms that have taken the power out for many days at a time. The chickens are surviving this handsomely, needing no electricity as long as they have food, shelter, and water.
    As I try to sleep, windows open, a faint breeze stirring the hot, humid air, I reflect on just how well my chickens are taking the heat. My pens are airy, letting the air move and whisking away body heat. The roosts have plenty of airspace all around them. My chickens live in a wooded part of the yard; they love the shade the trees provide. My hanging feeders are under roof, protecting them from the rains, and holding enough food for a few days. I use plenty of water containers, providing a three or more day supply – which proved very advantageous once the power went out and the well pump had no electricity with which to operate.
    Each morning I am awakened by a chorus of crowing – each rooster being sure he is the first to sing in the new day. The chickens begin their day scratching around in search of some breakfast. The majority of the day is spent satisfying both their hunger and their curiosity – exploring, scratching, running to see what another chicken has found. The hens quietly withdraw to the privacy of their nest, and then publicly announce, with a loud BAH-KA, that they have laid an egg. During the middle of the day, even in this heat, some of the chickens take the time to sunbathe. They lay on their sides, with one leg and one wing stretched out, basking in the warm golden sunlight. As I arrive to collect eggs and feed treats, they follow me around and hungrily peck up the corn and leftovers I provide for them. As dusk arrives they begin to take their individual places upon the roosts, settling in for the night.
    Even without electricity my chickens are safe. I use a solar charger to power their electronet fence. I have a solar light in their yard to discourage predators. And my partner, Roxy, my chicken guard dog, patrols the property day and night driving away such dangerous creatures as deer, neighbors, hawks, and sneaky nighttime visitors like raccoons and possums.
    For the chickens, nothing has changed. The loss of power goes unnoticed. Life is as enjoyable today as it was yesterday. This is due to the fact that electricity is not a large part of their experience and care, and to the fact that both pens and food and water systems are designed to be safe, comfortable, and to provide days of nutrition without the need for power.
    Now is a good time for you to take a look at your pens and the care you are giving your chickens this summer. Do they have shade? And is the shaded area large enough for all the birds? Is it open enough to allow breezes to blow through. Do you have multiple waterers set out so that every chicken get a drink without being driven away by a bossy hen or rooster? Are the waterers large enough to provide several days of water if needed? Are the roosts roomy? Do you have plenty of feed stored in airtight containers? Is your fence strong and in good repair?
    Are you feeding a diet with extra vitamins and a good level of nutrition? Remember, chickens eat less in the heat, so be sure you are using a good quality feed and supplement with Omega Ultra Egg – its vitamins and nutrition helping to ensure both good eggs and healthy chickens during the summer heat.
    This summer is also a time for miracles. Each year I like to let a hen or two sit and hatch out a clutch of eggs. This year I had a Light Brown Leghorn sit on a small clutch of her own eggs – four to be exact. Twenty-one days later, she brought off a clutch of three healthy chicks. One of the interesting things about this, is that momma retained most of the redness of her comb during her broody stage. This can be credited to the extra nutrition she received from supplementing her laying mash with Omega Ultra Egg.
    Momma hen is fiercely protective of her clutch and an all around attentive mother. She clucks to her chicks, drawing them to tasty food morsels. She warms them, letting them nuzzle under her breast feathers. Sometimes a bold chick decides to leap up on momma’s back to get a better view of the world. And woe betide the foolish human that picks one of her chicks up – momma is there in an instant, attacking with wings, beak, and feet, then retreating, spinning, and returning to attack again. A broody hen seems to have the courage of an army; even roosters avoid a hen when she is protecting her young.
    If you decide to brood your own chicks, there are a few tips to keep in mind. Once a hen begins to go broody, she will spend most of the day on the nest. She will cluck and raise her feathers as she walks or if you disturb her nesting. You will notice she is missing many feathers on her breast, allowing the warmth of her body to warm the eggs, and later the chicks. She will begin to spend nights on the nesting box once she is fully committed.
    Other hens will want to join her on the nest to lay their eggs. This will cause many eggs to be broken. It will also mean that the eggs she is sitting on will be at unequal stages of growth. For best results, move the hen to a secluded nesting site at night. Take care to disturb her as little as possible. Make sure the new site is secure, can contain day-old chicks, and preferably a little dark and private. Provide momma with good food and water, even though she will consume little of each. And after twenty-one days she will turn a batch of fertile eggs into a brood of healthy chicks.
    Hens differ in their mothering ability. Some young hens will not sit the full three weeks it takes to hatch a clutch. Some hens make poor mothers – caring little for their chicks, even killing some or all of them. A fair number of hens can tell their chicks from those of other hens and may do harm to strange chicks. I have even had a hen that knew the chicks she hatched were the wrong color (were another breed) and refused them. Most hens are good to excellent mothers. A few are great mothers and will raise any chick offered to them. For the few that are bad mothers, often you can remove the chicks and raise them in a brooder.
    I like to keep the hen alone with her chicks for the first few days. Often I will decide to integrate them with the flock after a week or so. I do this by placing them in a wire pen, within the yard of the flock – so that the other hens and rooster can get used to seeing them. After about two weeks, I will let momma and brood run out in the yard with the other hens while I am around to watch – a few little squabbles may happen as momma decides another hen has gotten too close to the babies. But if everything goes well, on the second day I will let the brood join the flock.
    As the chicks grow and feather out, they will first join mom on the roost. Later, momma will decide that they no longer need her protection and they are abandoned to care for themselves as members of the flock.
    With some good planning and proper nutrition, like that found in Omega Ultra Egg, your chickens can survive summer and power outages and can even raise a brood on chicks.
    Happy chicken keeping.
    Don Schrider
    Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

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