Send ANY horse, horse farm, or equine industry-related question to the Equine Science Center and our faculty and staff have the knowledge, expertise, and resources to provide individual answers based on your inquiry. Please note that while we do have faculty with veterinary expertise, if your horse appears to need medical attention or is in pain, please contact your veterinarian immediately. While we specialize in equine nutrition, care and management of the equine athlete and the older horse, equine exercise physiology, environmental stewardship and best farm management practices, and horse industry economics and policies, we can reach out to our colleagues from around the world to find the most knowledgeable person in the field to answer your question. Send your questions in our provided form below. Your response will be emailed back to you, and may be posted to our website for future reference.
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Questions & Answers
My stallion was gelded 3 weeks ago. Today, he got loose and ended up in a pasture with several mares. What is the likelihood that he still has viable sperm left? Is it possible for him to make a mare pregnant?
While it is unlikely, it would still be possible to have live sperm within the remaining ductus deferens. However, to result in a pregnancy, not only would live sperm have to be present, but these sperm would also have to be healthy and motile in order to fertilize the egg in the mare. The risk is low, but not impossible.
I am considering purchasing a 17 year old Quarter Horse mare who appears to be sound for pleasure riding. I have been leasing this mare for the past 18 months. What should I be considering before I purchase a horse of this age? What should I expect as she grows older?
There is definitely an advantage with respect to knowing the horse intimately for over a year. You already know the mare’s strengths and weakness, not to mention how you would “get along together.” So some of the uncertainty is not an issue. A pre-purchase evaluation in this case would help investigate any conditions that might not be readily apparent and get a veterinarian’s perspective on the horse’s suitability for what you want to accomplish with the horse. It is suggested that you speak directly with your veterinarian for guidance on what type and how extensive an examination you both deem appropriate before purchasing this horse. It is always difficult to predict the future, particularly when working with horses. In general, as horses age, a multitude of different issues such as arthritis, deteriorating teeth, digestibility of foods, weight gain/loss, etc. can become a problem. Over the years, horses have been living longer. You also need to consider the financial commitment when accepting this horse permanently into your family. No doubt, your veterinarian can help you with all these questions and concerns.
I plan to board my 15-year-old gelding at a new barn. How can I minimize the stress of the move for him? He has been at his current location for 3 years.
The best way to move your horse without added stress is to minimize the things that will be different for a long as you can. For example, take some hay and grain from your old barn so the change to a new feed can be made gradually over 5-7 days. Slowly take away old feed and replace with new feed. If he is used to a certain bedding, do the same with the bedding. To acclimate your horse to new pasture and turn-out areas, the best thing to do is introduce your horse to these areas gradually as well. If there is a stall, he can be kept inside for part of the day and only turned out for short periods of time at first. You can increase the length of turn-out time over a period of several days. Also, if he will have new horse buddies, it is best to find him a single buddy that he can make friends with before turning him out in a larger group. This will help that transition so that he will hopefully have a companion to keep him from being by the entire group. If he is typically a nervous horse, it is a good idea to add 7-10 grams of vitamin C for the week prior and the week after the move. This is a good antioxidant to use for the short term during stressful times. However, when removing the supplement make sure your horse is not still stressed. The horse’s liver produces vitamin C except when getting it from an external source. High doses during stress cut down on the liver’s production and that production needs a few days to start back up again when the supplement is removed.
I just purchased a broodmare and her 8-month-old colt. The colt is still nursing, and I want to wean him with the least amount of stress possible. These are the only horses I have, so I can't count on a herd for the extra help. I can separate them, but should it be just for a few hours at a time or longer?
Weaning is going to be tough on both horses, especially when there are no other horses for companionship. It would be advisable to have company for both horses in this process. Therefore, if possible, you could borrow a friend’s horse to bring to your farm or send your mare to another farm (or both). Hopefully you will be able to find a temporary buddy for each horse during this process. Once the colt is weaned, you need to keep them separated until the colt settles down and is gelded. If the colt is not gelded, he will never be able to have a mare as a buddy. If a buddy is not an option, it will be difficult to get him to settle. However, keeping a good quality forage (with a legume mix) available free choice will help keep him busy during this process. As for the mare, she needs to dry up. To help with this, remove any grain she is receiving and just feed a good quality grass hay free choice.
My horse is on several oral medications. We grind the pills up into a powder and place them in a large syringe with a little water or apple sauce. We don't have a problem getting the medicine into his mouth, but he refuses to swallow it. Most of the time the medicine drools out of his mouth. How do we get him to swallow, and how do we tell if and when he does swallow?
As I understand your question, you are unsure whether you horse is swallowing the medications that you are administering. The first suggestion that I have is that you should administer the meds when the horse does not have hay or any other feed in his mouth. This will ensure that it does not fall out of the horse’s mouth attached to a wad of hay/feed. Also, you should try to make the medication more on the paste side so that it does not “drip out” of his mouth as much (add a little less water). Many horses will hold the medications in their mouth until you walk away and then simply spit it out. You can do a couple things to accomplish the task at hand. Consider combining the medications with something more palatable like molasses, or even a little bit of syrup. You will need to check with your veterinarian to ensure that you are “allowed” to use a sugar substitute with the medications. As a last resort, you can close off the horse’s nostrils for a few seconds, which might encourage him to take a swallow. The best way to ensure that the horse has swallowed the medications is to open the horse’s mouth. They cannot hold this in their cheeks when you open their mouth. Unfortunately, if it is still in their mouth, you will most likely wear some of it! I hope these couple tricks help you.
I've read some fact sheets on EHV and I'm a little confused. If almost all horses have had EHV-1 by the time they're 2 years old, then why it is important to practice biosecurity during an outbreak of the same EHV-1 virus? I know some horses can be carriers, but are carriers only contagious if they have a flare-up?
Herpes viruses in general are very unique in that they go through an infected shedding phase as well as a latent carrier phase. Much like a cold sore on a person’s lip, the individual is contagious when the skin lesion blisters. Usually they “flare” when the individual’s immune system is depressed or compromised. While in the latent (quiet – quiescent) phase, the individual is only a carrier but not contagious. This is no difference in Equine Herpes Virus. The neurological form of Equine Herpes Virus is rather unique in that it shows up in these brief outbreaks. In the abortion strain of this virus, there are similar outbreaks. On a large breeding farm, there would be “abortion storms” where a large percentage of mares abort. The challenge with preventing these outbreaks is that you have asymptomatic carriers, and you don’t know who those are. When those individual horses become stressed (such as pregnancy), the virus becomes symptomatic again. Herpes viruses are a very ubiquitous type of virus in all species. The cold sore example in people is a prime example. Think about how many individuals are carriers. This is similar in young horses being exposed, but not necessarily being symptomatic. All carriers have the ability to “flare up,” become clinical, and spread the virus to others at any horse at any time, but are more likely to show problems when compromised.
Thumps, also known as synchronous diaphragmatic flutter, is a condition that is caused by a combination of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. The cause is usually thought to be low calcium, however other electrolytes of concern include magnesium, potassium, sodium and chloride. The low calcium and other electrolytes lowers the depolarization threshold of nerve impulses. The phrenic nerve, which controls the diaphragm, is the most sensitive to depolarization and will start to fire rapidly. Usually, the firing is in rhythm with the heart rate. Sometimes this is not the case, but typically the ‘thumping’ will occur as rapid as the heart rate.
Some research has shown that horses on excessively high calcium supplements may have an increased incidence of thumps due to their inability to mobilize the excess calcium rapidly enough to be used for exercise demands. Therefore, horses on alfalfa-based diets tend to have problems with thumps more often than horses on grass hay-based diets because alfalfa is high in calcium. Additionally, horses consuming large quantities of digestive supplements which contain high calcium can experience thumps. Horses given diuretics may get thumps due to the dehydration induced. Therefore, the best prevention to maintain the horse on a balanced diet including grass hay and grain concentrate with electrolyte supplementation only during race days or when sweating profusely during training. These electrolyte supplements should be formulated for horses (not humans, such as Gatorade) and have salt as the first ingredient. Paste electrolytes are usually the best because they can be administered like a dewormer at a specific dose and only when the horse is sweating.
What are the health risk factors associated with starting a racehorse when (or before) it reaches 2 years of age?
Most of the problems that occur in young horses that start their racing careers too early are developmental in nature. Bucked shins or hairline fractures of the cannon bones are common, however fractures of other bones are more likely as well, including carpal bones and coffin bones. Very young horses can also have joint conditions that will inhibit optimal performance like osteochondrosis, which is a malformation of the cartilage. The added wear and tear on the cartilage can cause early arthritis and a possible need for surgery. Many horses do race as 2 year olds, but this is why a good diet and good training foundation are a must.
There is no hard scientific proof that the “whorls” (hairs arranged in a circular or oblong fashion) on the neck or forehead of horses indicate anything about their personality, though there is a lot of “folklore” about it. Dr. Temple Grandin (Colorado State University) did do a study of beef cattle over 20 years ago wherein she concluded that the placement of whorls commonly found on the forehead/face did seem to be correlated with “flightiness” or reactivity. A brief, unsubstantiated study in horses suggested that a single whorl right between the eyes was very common and correlated with normal horse behavior. Whorls lower or higher, and especially double whorls (two side by side) were not as common and seemed to correlate with more flightiness in some or “quirkiness” in others. However, the study did not examine neck whorls. Very old textbooks may refer to a long whorl on the bottom of the neck as a “Wheat Whorl.” “Allah’s thumb” is a whorl on Arabian necks that supposedly indicated a superior animal. And the list goes on! Rather than looking at hair patterns, assess your horse’s behavior yourself. If you are having difficulties with a stubborn or hard-headed horse, consider consulting with an experienced horse person, preferably a licensed trainer, who can help make the decision whether or not this is the correct horse for you.
Typically the weaning age for foals is about 6 months. This will vary slightly depending on your management of the mare and foal and their nutrition. If the foal is eating hay and other feed on his own and only suckling occasionally it can probably be weaned sooner, however, some foals need to learn how to consume their own feed before they are weaned. Minimizing the stress of weaning is probably the most important factor for maintaining the foal’s health and preventing any growth slump during this time.
Horses will drink 2 quarts of water for every pound of hay they consume. This is true for all horses regardless of size. So the amount of water a miniature horse will drink each day depends on how much hay it is eating daily. Other varying factors include ambient temperature, relative humidity and activity level. Horses exercising in hot or humid weather can consume up to 3-4 times the amount they normally would in cooler weather.
Many horses that “tight rope walk,” or walk in one track, do so because of conformational abnormalities (angular deformities at their joints). Most of the time this will not be a severe enough problem to cause lameness. Putting protective bell or splint boots on these horses while riding is recommended. This is because of their increased risk of interference with the movement of their legs. In severe conditions, extremely heavy work could cause lameness due to excessive, abnormally placed stress on their joints.
Vaccinations that are more or less required in New Jersey include:
- Encephalomyelitis (EEE, WEE, VEE. This should be given every six months; but at the very least, vaccinate annually.)
- West Nile (Vaccinate every 6 months, and be sure your horse has the appropriate initial 2 booster series of shots spaced 3-4 weeks apart.)
- Tetanus (Vaccinate annually.)
- Influenza (Vaccinate at least every 6 months. If your horse does a lot of traveling, vaccinate every 3 months during show season.)
- Herpesvirus (Rhinopneumonitis. Vaccinate as influenza above.)
- Rabies (Vaccinate annually. While not required, rabies vaccines are highly recommended due to a case of equine rabies in New Jersey last year.)
Other vaccines to consider:
- Strangles (more so for young horses)
- Potomac Horse Fever (if your horse is around areas of water)
- Botulism (this is especially important if your horses eat from round bales.)
Most classes of dewormers (avermectin and pyrantel) do not kill tapeworms. If you provide a double dose of pyrantel in the spring, that will help. Pharmaceutical companies have developed a specific tapeworm product containing the drug class, praziquantel. Other products combine praziquantel with avermectin and kill almost all internal parasites. These are completely safe for horses. The current recommendation of an 8-week rotation is under some controversy. Research shows that even an 8-week rotation of products will result in resistant parasites over time; however this research is too new and not definitive enough for me to comment on at this time.
It is really hard for me to tell you without actually seeing him. However, there is a way you can measure and estimate his mature height.
Take a measuring tape, string, baling twine, etc. and put one end on the elbow and the other end on the ground. Then, keeping the one end on the elbow, take the ground end and extend it to above his withers (you might need another person to help you do this). Where the twine ends is “supposed” to be a horse’s mature height. Since horses are supposed to be equal in length from their elbows to the ground and in the width of their barrels, this method should give you at least a rough estimate.
I was at a conference recently where a talk about the current research being conducted on support and protective exercise boots was presented. This talk confirmed my suspicion that there is no boot out there that will support joints or tendons. There are some boots on the market advertising that they are a supportive boot; however, after unbiased research was performed investigating at nine boots on the market, none provide the support claimed. As a matter of fact, a few boots were very rigid and actually interfered with the horse’s natural movement causing more harm than good. For protection – in terms of inability to be penetrated by a galloping hoof, polo mallet, or jump fence – there were only 2-3 boots that performed this adequately. Several boots increased concussive force. Some of the boots may have protected the legs but consequently served as an insulator keeping in heat produced during exercise causing the leg to sweat excessively, which may be detrimental to the tendons. Overall, this research concluded that there is only one boot documented to be protective, with breathability and reduced concussion. The manufacturer can be found on-line by searching for protective boot research.
In your case, I do not believe that boots will specifically help your horse. Progressing slowly with training and looking for any initial signs of overwork (heat, pain, and swelling) with a subsequent decrease in workload is probably your best bet.
Psyllium is the active ingredient in most equine sand-clearing medications. Though it would probably be as effective as the medicine if you fed it alone, however it would be very expensive in the quantities needed for a horse. Try grinding the medicine pellets into a powder in a coffee grinder and adding a flavoring your horse might prefer (e.g. one or two peppermints ground in would not be an issue with his metabolic syndrome and might mask any odor/flavor he objects to). If you can reduce his chance of sand ingestion that would also help. Feed his hay off the ground and put mats under the feeder so he won’t pick up more sand when scavenging the hay he spills on the ground.
Currently, the United States Department of Agriculture does not classify the horse as an agricultural or livestock animal, but as a companion animal or pet. Before the great age of mechanization and industrialization, the horse was certainly classified as a work horse. In the present day, that is not the case.
However, both you and your classmates are correct in your assessments. In some states, including New Jersey, the horse is classified as livestock and an agricultural animal. In others, such as the great commonwealth of Kentucky, horses are considered companion animals. So it is a state-by-state decision.
New Jersey worked very hard to have horses classified as livestock and agricultural animals. This classification benefits the horse in many ways. It helps provide horse owners with funding from federal agencies, ensures that horses are covered by the same precautions against disease as livestock, and provides tax benefits to farm owners. Whatever the formal classification, we all love our horses and know that they mean more to us than their classification describes. I hope this answer helps you in your paper preparation. You might like to know that your classroom is not alone — this discussion continues to go on around the world!
Orphaned foals are a tremendous responsibility and usually incur a large financial and emotional undertaking.
In our Young Horse Teaching and Research Program, we work with weanlings that have had the benefit of four to five months with their mare mothers. We have reduced post-transport health problems to virtually zero by getting the foals used to us before they are weaned and giving them supplemental vitamin C (0.01 gm/kg of body weight) twice a day for 5 days after arrival. They are fed a pelleted ration formulated specifically for growth and good quality hay. These measures, other than the vitamin supplements, may not be an option with your foals.
If the foals were very young when orphaned and not able to get colostrum they will be susceptible to a wide variety of infectious diseases. Only with intensive and very expensive therapy (intravenous serum/fluids, antibiotics, etc.) will they survive, let alone thrive. Even if they do get colostrum, feeding neonates, as I’m sure you are aware, is not an easy proposition. They should get a formula designed specifically for foals at least every 2 hours during the first week (foals normally nurse 3-4 times an hour during the first week!), then at least 4 feedings a day for the next few months until they can be weaned onto a hay/pasture/grain formulated for growth. Goat’s milk can be used, and in some cases a lactating dairy goat can be kept with the foal. Train the goat to stand on a platform so the foal can more easily nurse from her. Bear in mind that the risk of disease will still be great.
You’ll also have to undertake the huge task of socialization. Orphan foals are notorious for having behavior problems. If not kept with other mature horses, they don’t learn how to behave like a horse. They will consider humans to be their herd mates and treat them accordingly: biting, kicking, pushing, etc. It takes a lot of experience and some large measure of luck to develop them into a mature horse that knows how to behave properly, both around humans and other horses. Anyone who agrees to adopt or care for orphan foals must be carefully screened to insure that they have a lot of horse experience and that they fully understand what they are getting into.
Both nitrofurazone and furzolidone fall into the category of drugs called Nitrofurans. These medications are used for their antibacterial and anti-protozoal properties. Furazolidone is mostly marketed as an aerosol powder. Nitrofurazone is primarily found in a water soluble ointment form and is used as a topical antibiotic. It is rather inexpensive and very safe to use. It can be used as a carrying agent for osmotic agents like Epsom salts in sweat wraps (Epsom salt and furacin ointment).
With respect to proud flesh and its prevention, antibacterial ointments and creams may be helpful but are not the only solution to the problem. Minimize application of ointments and creams and resort to repeated, gentle cleaning of the wound and apply fresh, clean bandages that are changed frequently. Horses are extremely good at producing proud flesh, especially along the lower limbs. This is a normal healing process. Unfortunately many horses are too good at making it, especially if the wound is irritated by harsh cleansers. In those cases, restrict the motion of the wound and simply trim off the excess proud flesh.
In order for mares to completely stop producing milk, they need to have their feed intake reduced from what it was when they were foaling. If she is not exercising, she needs to go on a pasture or a hay-only diet! That will give her enough energy to maintain her body systems without adding extra energy, which is now going to produce milk. Make sure to frequently check her udder – if it turns hot and hard, she might have mastitis. If so, call a vet to check the problem.
Horses are “seasonal” or “long day” breeders. This means they usually only go into estrus during the late spring and summer months when the days are long. Natural breeding season is late March to October. Cycle length is about 21 days in duration. Diestrus (the absence of heat) lasts an average of 14 – 16 days; estrus (heat) lasts an average of 4-8 days. Ovulation occurs 1 – 2 days before the end of estrus.
You can tell if a mare is in heat by seeing if she is receptive to a stallion, flexes her pelvis, raises her tail, urinates frequently, and “winks” the lips of her vulva. Mares in heat often will seek out a stallion (or sometimes even a gelding) and exhibit these behaviors.
Trailering horses does not have to be a stressful time. Taking the right precautions, checking safety conditions and making simple considerations can greatly reduce the stress of traveling. Many factors can affect a horse’s physiological and biological well-being such as temperature during traveling, the way a horse faces in the trailer, and even the conditions of the trailer. It is important to look at all the factors in advance before taking a trip to insure as little stress as possible.
• Temperature: When the weather temperature reaches between 75-90 degrees Fahrenheit it becomes harder for horses to maintain their homeothermy. Extremely high temperatures exceeding 90 degrees can make it difficult for horses to maintain sweating and respiratory mechanisms. Water and hay should always be available, especially on long trips. Try to travel when there is less traffic and on cooler days. During extremely cold weather, horses will have a larger calorie requirement as they utilize food energy for metabolic heat.
• Traveling time: Time should be kept at a minimum. Twenty-four to 48 hours of travel can produce long term stress. If you have to haul for long periods of time you should stop every 3-4 hours to give the horse’s legs a break from the movement and vibration.
• Maintain good air quality: Ensuring that the air is not stagnant or too drafty can reduce the probability of illness. Exhaust fumes or overheating can also occur and windows should be adjusted to maintain high air quality.
• Flooring: Whether rubber mats, wood shavings, or even sand, flooring can help keep a horse balanced and less stressed during a trip. After every trip, rubber mats or any other flooring should be cleaned and flushed out to reduce bacteria and insure the health of the horse.
• Trailer orientation: Horses are least likely to become stressed when facing backwards (and if given a choice prefer this direction), and given enough room to drop their heads a little past their shoulders. When the head is elevated for a long period of time, respiratory infections can occur. Slant load horse trailers have also been shown to decrease the amount of stress measured by stress hormones like cortisol and heart rate variability.
• Supplying water and feed: Whether or not a horse prefers to drink on trips, water should always be offered in a familiar bucket – at least every 6-8 hours if on long hauls. Dehydration is a common side effect that may lead to other problems. Hay can be offered depending on the length of the trip. Spraying it lightly with water can reduce dust which can affect a horse’s respiratory tract. However, it is not advised to feed a horse grain while traveling, since stress may build up and affect gut functions.
• Other factors: Horses will be less stressed when they are paired with horses they know. If this isn’t possible, when placing horses in a two horse bumper pull straight load, you should place the heavier horse (or a single horse) on the left side on the trailer or on the roadside.
Trailering horses should be a stress-free time. Practicing walking on and off regularly and taking short trips can help reduce stress on the animal. Also, checking the quality of the trailer is important when practicing safety measures to insure a smooth trip for you and your horse.
See the Rutgers Cooperative Extension fact sheets for more on trailering and stress.
It is suggested to go with a larger breed of goat. Usually breeds like the Alpine, Saanen, LaMancha, etc. are best. Dairy breeds are usually the largest framed. Miniatures (pygmies or Nigerian Dwarves), even though used quite often, are not recommended, simply because of their size. Horses will sometimes try to play with them like they are horses. This can be dangerous for the miniature breeds. Meat breeds like the Boer could be used and certainly would be an easier keeper than a dairy breed. While they are a little smaller than a dairy goat, their stocky build makes them a little tougher.
The most important thing when selecting a companion is personality. Nubian and Nigerian Dwarves tend to be louder and vocalize more than other breeds. Saanens and Toggenburgs are pretty laid back. Alpines are usually thought of as the “bossy” goat breed. However, quite a few have been sold as companions and maybe this personality trait helps make them great companions to the larger horse. The best companions for stall kept horses are obviously the calm goats. You don’t want the goat to spook every time you go in and out of the stall, making the horse nervous. Therefore, goats that have been bottle-raised, are friendly, and accustomed to being handled by humans are the best. Make sure the goat, cannot get into the horse’s feed bucket – they will “steal” feed from horses and easily become obese!
In terms of when to castrate, the earlier it is done, the better. Theoretically, as soon as two testicles are present, the colt can be castrated. The earlier it’s done the less traumatic it is for the colt. Once stallion-like behavior begins, it may not change with castration. Certainly, the longer the horse demonstrates stallion-like behavior before castration the less likely it is to change afterwards. Field anesthesia, when done correctly, is very safe. Therefore, general anesthesia is the best way to go.
My beloved Arab was castrated at 17 years of age. He had been used extensively as a stallion prior to castration before I purchased him. He not only survived but lived on to the ripe age of 31. That said, it took him a long time to recover both physically and mentally. He had a major environment change when he was 21(I moved him from Colorado to New Jersey) and that too took a toll on him.
Would I do it again, knowing what I know now? I think so — but just be prepared for some depression and weight loss. Also, I would wait as long as possible after castration for the trip back to the US. He will need extra attention post-castration. Give him 5 grams of vitamin C orally twice a day and 1000 IU vitamin E orally once a day for at least 10 days after he is castrated and for 5 days after he is shipped. This will help to boost his immune system against the stresses incurred from both the surgery and shipping.
I’m not aware of whether or not garlic is effective in controlling flies and other pests. A controlled study published in the March 2005 American Journal of Veterinary Research showed that 4 ounces of freeze dried garlic (roughly equivalent to the amount in some commercial garlic extracts) twice a day caused heinz body anemia and idiopathic sweating in horses. The sweating and anemia were dramatic in both garlic-treated horses. After 30 days off the garlic, the anemia had not completely resolved.
Fresh garlic is 63% water. Therefore, according to the study, you would have to feed almost a pound of fresh garlic twice a day to achieve the results shown in the study. A few fresh cloves probably won’t hurt (or do any good), but the extracts could potentially pose a risk. The “safe” garlic dose was not established.
While I do not have any personal experience in using the product, I believe that you should not use DEET on horses. Here’s why:
DEET is registered for use with the EPA as an insect and acarid (mite) repellent for many applications, including horses. Yet according to the DEET Education Program, there is no specific scientific information regarding the use of DEET on horses. However, I was able to find some information on a study on DEET performed in 1969:
(Palmer, J.S. 1969. Toxicologic effects of aerosols of N,N,-diethyl-m- toluene (DEET) applied on skin of horses. Am. J. Vet. Res., 30:1929-1932.) DEET in horses can cause “profuse sweating; irritation and exfoliation in horses have been reported following repeated applications of DEET at concentrations of 50% or greater. Repeated dermal application to horses produced hypersteatosis, an over activity of the sebaceous glands, when the solution of DEET was 15 % or higher.
The sebaceous glands are oil glands in the hair follicles that secrete normal skin oils. In the case of DEET usage, this secretion would be excessive and create an oily or greasy hair coat. In even greater amounts of product usage, skin irritation would occur. Based on this information, I do not recommend that products containing DEET be used on horses.
Horse flies are one of the most problematic flies and one of the most difficult to control. The nature of this fly makes it almost impossible to eliminate through spraying programs. A horse fly will travel up to 15 to 20 miles for a blood meal, unlike mosquitoes, which will travel only 100 feet. Ultimate fly control includes eliminating all possible breeding grounds and feeding sources. This type of fly control is almost impossible with the horse fly, as can be seen in its biology. Horse flies do not breed indoors like houseflies. Females often lay eggs in specific locations, such as on vegetation overhanging water. Species are often locally abundant near breeding habitats, and the various species have distinctive adult activity periods during the year and/or during the day. Larvae live in species-specific habitats, most of which are aquatic, semi-aquatic or terrestrial.
In terms of treating horses, the most popular product is Permethrin-10 Concentrate. Permethrin-10 is one of the few materials on the market that can safely be used as a spray or wash for horses. It is a multi-use insecticide for indoors, outdoors, on animals and animal premises. It is very popular with veterinarians for its ability to control biting flies on horses, dogs and livestock. As safe as this product is for most mammals, it is not to be used as a spray, dip or rinse for cats, and should only be applied to the animals listed on the label. There are also fly and tick control treatments that you put on the middle of the horse’s back much like the Frontline product used on dogs and cats. Always read and follow the label instructions when using insect control products.
Before suggesting you feed the 5% fescue hay, have it tested for the toxic endophyte commonly found in some fescues. Mares are sensitive to ergopeptine alkaloids at levels as low as 50-100 ppb (parts per billion). These toxic alkaloids can cause dystocia, thickened/retained placentas and more commonly, agalactia, or lack of milk production. There is a lab at Oregon State University that tests for ergovaline, the toxic component in fescue. I would have the hay tested before making the decision to feed it to mares. Information can be found on the lab’s website: http://oregonstate.edu/endophyte-lab/.
The other option is to feed the hay but discontinue feeding it in the last trimester of gestation. You also can ask your veterinarian about giving drugs like, domperidone, which can inhibit the effects of the ergovaline.
That is partially correct; although, the angle of the humerus is also a factor. This is why, when looking for a good jumper, one usually looks for a steeper humerus angle which enables horses to pull their knees up (i.e. extend their leg). However, for dressage horses which need a larger extension, one looks for a combination of scapula angle and humerus angle.
Scapula: For elite dressage and show jumping horses, look for a long shoulder; however, a sloping shoulder makes the stride longer and flatter. An upright scapula results in more knee action.
Humerus: Humerus length and angle are also important. The longer it is, the better the gaits and lateral movement will be for dressage; additionally, the horse will have more scope for jumping. Similar to scapula angle, a flatter humerus angle will result in a flatter stride. A steeper angle will result in more knee action.
A long sloping scapula and a flatter humerus angle will result in the longest stride and greatest foreleg extension.
Since you do not have an exact breeding date, you have no choice but to give yourself a range rather than an exact date for delivery. Using 340 days of gestation, you should expect the delivery date to be between April 8th and May 4th. Those dates coincide with 340 days after the May 3rd and May 29th suspected breeding dates that you provided. You must consider the first heat cycle as the possible breeding time. Unfortunately equine perinatology has not become as advanced as the human realm. In humans, physicians can take a series of measurements of fetal structures on an ultrasound and determine a pretty accurate gestational age. While equine medicine has some similarities, it is not refined enough to ensure accuracy within a 20 day period which is what you are considering. You may wish to consult a theriogenologist (reproductive specialist) in your area as they could reaffirm this statement. Foaling out a mare is hard work on horse owners and managers. It is recommended to initiate aggressive “mare watching” for at least 2 weeks before their foaling date. Even with an accurate foaling date, mares can be expected to foal 2 weeks before and after their foaling date. So unfortunately that means a lot of sleepless nights, careful observation, and a little more stress for those responsible. Being a maiden mare, you do not have the advantage of previous foalings of this mare to define her unique foaling date. In this case, would need to start being ready for a foal 2 weeks before April 8th. It is also recommended to consult your veterinarian on the appropriate perinatology care for the next few months.
Dunalinos are getting fairly common in the AQHA and APHA, especially with the increased interest in cutting and reining and the proliferation of the Hollywood lines, which have a high percentage of dunalino. While there is currently no DNA test for dun or creme genes, this fellow certainly sounds like a dunalino to me, and certainly has the pedigree to substantiate it. The only way to test at this point is to see what sort of progeny he produces when bred to non-dun and non-palomino mares.
There are many things that could cause hair loss and flaky skin. First have the horse checked carefully for lice or other ectoparasites that could be causing it to rub its tail and mane. Some other culprits include selenium toxicity, fungal infection, an allergic response to gnat bites, and pinworms, not to mention dietary issues. Allergic contact dermatitis could be the cause if some product you are using on its mane and tail is irritating its skin; sometimes something as harmless as laundry detergent on saddle pads can cause this. However, without seeing the animal, it is impossible to make a diagnosis and I recommend calling your veterinarian in case there are more symptoms you may have overlooked.
Adding fat to a horse’s diet could help if the skin condition is not due to an allergic reaction or parasites. When adding oil to feed, one needs to feed up to ¼ cup per day to make a difference. Rice bran is also good, but you need to feed about one pound per day. However, if the horse is an easy keeper and is not exercised regularly, it could begin to gain weight.
It is also possible your horse just has dry skin and could benefit from a good bath and moisturizing conditioner or oil. It wouldn’t hurt to try an antifungal and antimicrobial shampoo. Listerine is very harsh and I would not recommend using it. Baby oil can help soothe irritation and moisturize dry skin. If you choose to use home remedies and the condition does not improve or worsens, call your veterinarian.
Deworming has been the subject of much research over the past few decades. As most people are probably aware, frequent rotational deworming practices have resulted in anthelmintic resistance to several internal parasites, such as small strongyles in the adult horse. A study in the southern United States identified that small strongyles have become 97.7% resistant to fenbendazole, 53.5% resistant to oxibendazole, and 40.5% resistant to pyrantel pamoate.
Many veterinarians are diverging from rotational deworming strategies and instead are recommending a targeted deworming program that addresses each individual horse’s parasite load and parasitic resistance to anthelmintics on that specific farm. Anthelmintic resistance on a farm can be identified by performing a Fecal Egg Count Reduction Test on a few horses. Basically, a Fecal Egg Count (FEC) test is performed right before deworming (approximately two months after last deworming), and then again two weeks later. The percent reduction in eggs will identify if a horse’s parasites have developed resistance to the anthelmintic administered. This will need to be repeated for other anthelmintic classes to see which ones are still effective.
A FEC can identify if a horse is a high or low egg shedder (a measure of parasite load). Most horses fall into one of these categories and will not change throughout its lifetime. Low egg shedders do not pose a high risk of contaminating pastures; therefore they do not need to be dewormed as often as high shedders. Most veterinarians can perform FECs.
The guidelines concerning deworming practices are rapidly changing to combat the resistance problem. Specialists no longer recommend a cookie-cutter eight-week rotation for every farm. Your veterinarian can help you customize a deworming schedule that includes circumstantial details such as your climate, your horse’s egg shedding levels, and the level of resistance to certain anthelmintics on your specific farm.
If you would like to read more in-depth research on this issue, please see the following hyperlink:
An article by Kaplan and others published in 2004. Kaplan RM, Klei TK, Lyons ET, et al. 2004. Prevalence of anthelmintic resistant cyathostomes on horse farms. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 225:903–910.
Here is an answer directly from Fact Sheet 167, “Tips on Buying Your First Horse:”
“Maintenance costs of horses are extensive and vary among geographic areas whether you keep the horse at home or board it at a commercial stable. The estimated cost of feeding a horse is approximately $100 per month. Additional expenses include veterinary and farrier fees, barn maintenance, bedding, electricity, and insurance. Based on the 1996 survey done for the New Jersey Equine Advisory Board, the annual cost for the privilege of owning a horse in the Garden State exceeds $8,000. You can see why boarding a horse at a stable may be an option. Monthly boarding costs in this state run from $250 to $1,000, depending on amenities offered by the facility, for an average of $400 per month.”
Since many of the costs have risen since this Fact Sheet was first written, you may want to check current costs with your local boarding stables or with friends who keep or board horses. Assuming the costs where you live are similar to those in New Jersey, hay is running at about $5 a bale, and a pony might eat one-fourth to one-half bale per day, depending on the size of the bale and quality of hay. Shavings are about $5 a bag, and using two to three bags a week is typical. Grain is about $12 for a 50-pound bag; a lightly worked pony may be fed little or no grain. Trimming feet runs about $30 a visit, and should be done every six weeks or so. Shoeing can run $150 or more per visit. Inoculations and routine veterinarian visits can run about $150-$200 and usually are scheduled twice a year. As the Fact Sheet above suggests, there are other “hidden” costs that one should take into consideration.
If you are just starting out at Beginner Novice, your horse does not need to be as fit as if you were competing at a Preliminary Level or higher and achieving this level of fitness can happen much quicker. The only way to really condition your horse is by doing hill work at least one day per week. Walking and trotting will make up most of your conditioning for the lower levels, some slower canter is okay as well, but galloping is not necessary until you reach the Preliminary level. One also can do some faster canter or slow gallop work at the Training Level as well.
Assuming you are starting your horse out from scratch with no pre-season work, you first need to establish a foundation base. This foundation will help prevent your horse from becoming sore from the heavier workouts to follow. This base can be developed by hacking for 30-45 min at mostly a walk and trot two to three times per week. This can slowly be combined with ring flat work and longer hacks (remember walking is very important to conditioning and some hacks can even involve all walk, if there is varying terrain). Once a good base is established (which may take 6-8 weeks) you can incorporate some fitness work about two times per week. This will involve trotting up small hills and moving up to larger hills as horses become fitter. An example of a good fitness workout for Beginner/Novice level may consist of 15 minutes of walking, 15 minutes of trotting, one minute of cantering (increasing to 1.5 or 2 minutes of cantering as fitness level increases), and 15 minutes of walking. Walking and trotting can be performed over hilly terrain. Another good fitness workout when horses become more fit involves intervals, which may consist of five minutes of trotting, two minutes of cantering, and one minute of a walking break repeated 3 times.
Beginner Novice or even Novice Level horses would not need to trot more than 20 minutes in a workout or canter more than 10 minutes. Once your horse is able to master these intervals with a solid canter bout of 3-4 min you should be ready for competition. As you increase competition levels the conditioning protocol should become more rigorous and needs to involve intervals of galloping at varying speeds. Conditioning is not something that can be accomplished quickly. If it is done quickly you risk injury to your horse, which is why it would be a good idea to consult with a trainer who specializes in eventing to help you tailor your conditioning program specifically to your horse’s needs.
If the mare has never been bred or given birth in her 20 years, beginning to breed her now is not recommended. It will be much more difficult for her to get pregnant, plus the pregnancy would be at a high risk of failure with increased difficulty in giving birth. However, if the mare has been bred and successfully foaled in the past, it should not be a problem as long as she is reproductively sound. If you do decide to breed her, I recommend that she have a breeding soundness exam performed ahead of time by an equine veterinarian specializing in reproduction.
You don’t have to worry about over-breeding your mare. Actually, if the deliveries are normal and she is in good condition, it is beneficial to keep the mare in production. Some mares become difficult breeders if taken out of production and given a “rest.” Consult with your veterinarian about breeding her next spring on the foal heat (which is the first estrus immediately after birth). Sometimes mares need more than a 10-day recovery period to get their reproductive tract back to normal. If she has an easy delivery with no complications (such as uterine infection), by all means breed her back on the foal heat.
A bow-legged horse has a flexural deformity originating at the knee or carpus joint. A straight leg is divided in half by an imaginary perpendicular line drawn down from the point of shoulder to the ground. In a bow-legged horse, the knee is typically to the outside of this line. Many young horses grow out of this deformity with little to no intervention.
Bow-leggedness is not correctable once the horse is of a mature age and the bones have stopped growing. However, if the horse is under 2 years of age, surgical intervention (with your veterinarian’s recommendation) is an option. Other veterinary therapies may be a possibility. As with any other conformational problem, consult your veterinarian to discuss what treatments may be best.
What you describe sounds like bot fly eggs. The larvae of these flies are an internal parasite of horses. The fly will lay eggs directly on the horse, usually on the front legs, abdomen, flank, and shoulder. They cause mild irritation/itching that will provoke the horse to lick or bite at the affected area. The warm moisture of the saliva stimulates the eggs to rapidly hatch and release the larvae onto the horse’s tongue. The larvae then burrow into the tongue where they will develop for a bit longer before migrating into the stomach. Once in the stomach, the larvae will attach to the lining with sharp mouthpieces and continue to develop for five or more months. Finally, the larvae will release their attachment and be passed from the horse through its feces. At this point, the larvae develop into the egg laying adult.
Horses can usually handle a slight infestation with no ill effects, but when it becomes severe, the horse’s health can decline. The larvae in the horse’s stomach cause symptoms such as weight loss, irritation of stomach membranes, ulceration of the stomach, peritonitis, perforated ulcers, colic, and in even more severe cases, mechanical blockage of the stomach resulting in stomach rupture, esophageal paralysis, and squamous cell tumors.
The female fly will lay its eggs on the horse in such a way that they are very difficult to remove; hence, why you cannot brush them off. There are two popular items used for getting rid of bot eggs: bot knives and grooming blocks/stones. Both items/tools can be purchased in any horse supply store. Simply run the knife or block over the hairs with eggs until the eggs are removed. Please note, the eggs removed in this fashion are still infective; therefore, be careful to do it in an area where the horse will not be eating, such as a wash stall. Another way to remove them is by vigorously rubbing the area with a rough cloth soaked in hot water. The heat and stimulation will cause the eggs to hatch. Fortunately, the larvae will not survive for long when exposed to air.
Exercise caution when removing bot eggs; it is possible for bot larvae to infect humans in their eyes and through cuts in the skin. Be very careful to wash your hands thoroughly after removing bot eggs. It is best to wear disposable gloves when removing bot eggs by any of these techniques.
For controlling internal bot larvae, any deworming product containing ivermectin will be effective. Be sure to follow all product label instructions and plan to deworm about two or three weeks after the first killing frost in the fall, which will kill off all the adult flies. This will make re-infestation highly unlikely. There is only one generation of bots produced annually; therefore, this will stop the cycle and hopefully prevent re-occurrence the following year.
Sport or galloping boots do provide some support for horses’ legs, but they are mostly used for their protective properties. They prevent the horse from injuring its legs as a result of interference when galloping or from knocking a fence pole hard. I have never heard of them interfering when the horse is jumping. I always use them when jumping in the ring and when riding cross-country. Jumpers will often wear open front boots, but I prefer to use fully closed boots for cross-country.
There are some good “sports medicine boots” that claim to give the horse lots of support. However, I am not sure that there is research to support this. These boots do have a part that wraps around and under the fetlocks to (theoretically) provide some support. There is a German company that makes some very nice leather boots, but they are expensive. Other manufacturers produce a wide variety of leather boots as well. You can always purchase cheap boots, but they do not last long and provide little protection yet alone any support. I would definitely say “you get what you pay for” in this situation. You need to decide whether you want a Velcro closure or leather buckle; either is fine, depending on your personal taste. Your best option is to go into a tack store and look at what they have. You can also ask around at your barn or at shows to learn which ones people prefer.
Here is a guide to help you when deciding which type of boots to buy:
- Open Front Splint Boots protect the side and hind shin from brushing and over-reaching
- Galloping Boots protect against bruising from the opposite foot and from high over-reaches into the tendon area. They also help prevent shoe bruises. This boot wraps around the ankle and gives tendon support. This boot style is used for jumping or dressage.
- Ankle Boots protect against interference injuries only. This boot protects only the ankle.
- Bell Boots protect against over-reaches and coronet band injuries.
- Skid Boots are used on stock horses to protect the sensitive heel and the back of the ankle in sliding stops.
- Event, Polo, or Cross Country Boots give maximum protection against interference. The fleece and felt keep the legs warm and supple without blistering. They can also be used for shipping, galloping or turning out.
- Tendon Boots are used for sweating legs or with cotton or quilts for shipping, galloping or turning out.
- Closed Front Shin and Ankle Boots give protection to the ankle and shin all around.
“Blistering” is the practice of applying an irritating substance to a horse’s affected area in order to create an inflammatory reaction. It is used to try and make a chronic inflammation an acute one. Horse owners blister their horse’s legs in an effort to speed up the healing process and reduce the swelling after a ligament or tendon injury. Other owners use blistering in everything from ringbone to poll evil. Blistering is safe when done properly and when done by the recommendation of a veterinarian. It is typically done two to three weeks after the original inflammation has died down. At that time, healing of the ligament or tendon is dependent entirely on the amount of blood flow to the injured area.
Blistering is a controversial method of medical care for horses. Some people say that the extra irritation reduces swelling and increases the blood flow so that the injury heals more quickly. There are other points of view. For tendon/ligament injuries, some veterinarians use a semi-rigid cast on the leg that holds the tendons in place. This cast, along with stall rest, heals the injury to the ligament or tendon as well as blistering does, without causing unnecessary irritation to the skin. Veterinarians can also repair torn ligaments or tendons with surgery.
Blistering is done in one of two fashions, paint blisters or ointment blisters. Paint blisters are a more mild form of blistering that is usually a liquid form. They have to be applied daily to the affected area. Paint blisters are sometimes applied to the coronet to increase hoof growth.
Ointment blisters are a stronger type of blister and should only be used under the supervision of a veterinarian. Ointment blisters are typically made up of Spanish fly, red iodide or mercury. For the appropriate application of an ointment blister, the hair must be clipped close to the skin of the affected area. All dirt must be brushed away from the area and the area must be cleaned. The horse must then be tied so that it cannot rub, lick, or bite the blistering ointment. The blistering ointment should then be rubbed on the affected area so that the ointment gets deep within the pores. The severity of the reaction to the blistering ointment depends on the concentration of the ointment, how long and vigorously the ointment was rubbed in, and the thickness of the horse’s skin. Three days after the ointment has been applied, the affected area should be cleaned again with gentle soap and warm water. After the area has been thoroughly dried, petroleum jelly or sweet oil should be applied to the affected area to prevent the skin from drying out.
One of the biggest problems with blistering is that it is done by horsemen who have not had proper training in blistering or who blister their horses instead of calling a veterinarian. Blistering is useful when done properly, but if the horseman does not call a vet, and incorrectly diagnoses the problem, then blistering will not help the horse. It just creates unnecessary pain as well as an increased risk of lameness and infection. To the untrained horseman, a blister can appear to help a horse – but what is really helping the horse is the stall rest it receives as a result of the blistering. Since the horseman typically thinks the horse is being helped, he might hesitate to call a veterinarian in the future. Also, if the horseman does not take proper precautions to keep the horse away from the blistering ointment, the horse can get it on its nose or ingest it, both of which can cause new problems for the horse. However, with a veterinarian’s help, blistering may help to heal an injury to a ligament or tendon.
That is not something that is typically discussed but certainly a valid concern. If you think about it, the ash is “charcoal”, the carbon remnants of burned vegetation, which is fairly inert. Searching the web there are lots of sites on Activated Charcoal. I assume the concerns would be the same if excessively large amounts are ingested. Some of the side effects of using activated charcoal powder include black stools, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea or constipation. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not use activated charcoal. The use of activated charcoal powder is not recommended for the elderly, as well. If you take medications or nutritional supplements, check with your physician before using activated charcoal powder.
You can read more: What Is Activated Charcoal Powder?
Unless it trapped other contaminants that would be released after ingestion I don’t think it should be cause for alarm. We do routinely give fairly large amounts in cases of poisoning.
I am unaware of any problems, although I doubt that they have been “officially” approved by the FDA for pregnant mares and lactation. I typically avoid any unnecessary medications with pregnant mares for reasons of uncertainty. If it can be temporarily discontinued, that might be ideal however it probably does not cause any problems. However in veterinary cases such as this, it is very important to get an individual consultation from an equine veterinarian.
There are many ways to reduce the stress horses experience by being shipped. The first step in solving any problem is to deduce where in fact the problem is emanating from. A horse being shipped can be stressed for a myriad of reasons: nervousness, dehydration, depletion of certain vitamins and electrolytes… and colic itself has an infinite number of possible causes as well, making this quite the conundrum.
Some answers about stress in horses can be found in the fact sheet called “Are you ‘Stressing Out’ Your Horse?”
Travel products are all different in some way. Some do not have much information written about them; some appear to be electrolyte supplements and may cost you more than they are worth. The recommendations in the fact sheet mentioned above are a good starting point.
I am concerned that your horse might be colicking because of the change in diet when taking him from one barn to another. Do you provide a slow transition between types of hay and feed? Some horses cannot tolerate a rapid switch of both grain and/or hay so I would always recommend that you keep some of your regular feed with you at all times, especially when changing barns. Horses should have a gradual change of about 2-3 weeks from one feed to another.
Feed-related aggression can be tough. First, make sure no one hand feeds the filly treats. When feeding her, reprimand her; you don’t have to be violent, just a firm vocal “no” and and/or slap for pinning her ears, threatening to bite. Do not give her feed until she pricks her ears forward and stops the threat – timing is everything. Basically let her know that an attitude is not going to get her more feed, just the opposite…she sounds smart so it is important to be very consistent with the reprimand/reward. Another solution to prevent injuries to innocent passerby’s is to put a top grate on the door so she can not stick her head out into the aisle.
It is possible that you do not have the collar adjusted tightly enough if your mare can still crib while wearing it; however, for some horses, the collar simply does not work.
Cribbing can be a learned behavior, usually at a young age. One theory is that the act releases endorphins, which makes the horse feel good. It can also be caused by boredom, stress or large intakes of high starch/sugar feeds.
Cribbing can have negative impacts on horses and fences. It can wear down the horse’s front teeth and has been associated with ulcers and certain types of colic, but whether cribbing is a cause or effect of the abdominal malaise is uncertain. Removing the cribbing strap, especially since it is not effective in preventing the activity, will not cause colic. One should have a veterinarian check for ulcers if concerned about them. Be aware, if the top front incisors are worn down, the mare will be less effective at grazing because it will not be able to properly bite off grasses. This horse will do fine on hay and processed feeds because the grinding molars will not be affected.
It is also recommended to make some changes to the horse’s diet and routine that may help reduce the stress level that causes it to crib in the first place. Try housing the horse outside as much as possible and/or keeping it with a companion horse or other animal. One should also increase the amount of forage offered and feed smaller meals more frequently. Feeding more hay away from the fence or place of cribbing will keep the horse occupied longer and will be better for its digestive health. Reduce grain intake to the minimum necessary to maintain good body weight. If the horse is not in work and otherwise healthy, it is likely that its nutritional needs can be met with good quality forage alone.
To further deter wood chewing and cribbing, there are a few more mechanical options. Try putting a muzzle on the mare. Look for a muzzle that would allow the horse to eat and drink normally, but would prevent it from getting the fence rails in its mouth. There are also a number of products on the market that are supposed to taste unpleasant to horses. Use one of these products to coat the fence boards.
Using the term “high” is a bit of a slang term. Cribbing or wind-sucking actually produces endorphins, which give the horse a good feeling, kind of like a “runner’s high” in humans. This feeling is purely natural and produced in the body. Many people confuse wood chewing with cribbing. Wood chewing is simply chewing on stalls, fences, trees, etc. The air sucked into the throat of the horse during cribbing is what causes the “high.” Cribbing in horses can become an addiction because horses feel good after doing it, kind of like obsessive-compulsive disorders in humans. The behavior is usually initiated by boredom or a diet low in fiber. Horses will find a means of entertaining themselves and once they realize that the endorphin release makes them feel good many horses will continue the habit even after the boredom or diet is altered.
This sounds like normal dominance behavior in horses. Dominance and subordination, passive and aggressive behavior, stages of life, size and strength in the wild or in captivity are some components that establish a herd’s “pecking order”. Social interactions between horses are affected by the ranks of the individuals involved in the interaction. Without a social hierarchy, or even without socialization, a horse and herd cannot fully function successfully. A social hierarchy is an establishment of avoidance where each individual must know its place relative to others and maintain it in activities such as eating, drinking, sleeping, mating, recreation and day-to-day interaction. The instinctive nature to establish ranking through social interaction is crucial to the mental and physical well-being of the individual horse and to the herd.
Social interactions are governed by the positions of the interacting animals in the pecking order, which is already well-established when a horse is introduced into a group either by birth or placement. The ranks of the horses encountering each other in a social situation determine how either dominant or subordinate responses will be exhibited in the interaction. Aggressive and persistent horses regardless of weight, height, sex or length of residence in a herd achieve higher rank than more passive individuals. Stable relationships become evident by six months; death or removal or divided herds do not cause a change to the dominance order. No step is taken in a certain area or near a certain individual without completely being established by this “pecking order”.
Once in a group, a horse’s dominance is asserted passively or aggressively. A horse gains a dominant position over another individual by exhibiting enough superiority so that the other individual yields or withdraws. A new horse placed into a group will typically fight it out physically. Within 1-2 days, its place in the hierarchy is usually well established. This rank then becomes fixed and any attempt of the subordinate individual to not yield on its own is responded to with threatening gestures from the dominant individual, which usually results in the withdrawal of the subordinate. Aggression helps in establishing dominance, but once rank is set very little aggression is shown. When dominance is well-established, the subordinate will either tend to avoid the dominant individual or defer to him when one approaches the other.
Once a newcomer’s rank is established, it will rarely ever change. Dominance can shift, but for only brief periods of time according to special circumstances. For example, a mare with a newborn foal by her side will often become more aggressive out of her natural protective instinct, and as a result may temporarily move up the dominance hierarchy. Other situations such as extreme hunger or the presence of a certain type of desired feed can cause an abrupt surge of aggression and temporarily bump a normally subordinate individual to a dominant status.
The composition of a herd of horses can also change the pecking order. In domesticated herds, it is often observed that males do not necessarily rank above females during maintenance activities. In social groups containing geldings, sometimes a gelding will occupy the alpha position (and even assume the role of harem stallion) with mares ands stallions subordinate to him.
Generally newcomers have an uphill battle and will rank lower on the totem pole. However ranking is not always a straight line upward. Some horses can dominate others while being dominated themselves. Horses generally have a clear unidirectional dominance order, which may not be linear from end to end. In this, “a” might dominate “b;” “b” might dominate “c;” and “c” might dominate “a,” giving an overall triangular dominance order. Regardless of its direction, the social hierarchy is kept in place by subordinates and their behavior. Subordinate individuals keep the order by avoiding conflict above all things. Indeed, the frequency of aggressive encounters would be higher but for the fact that subordinate animals, once they learn and accept their position, will make a strong effort to avoid higher ranking animals altogether so that threats are unnecessary.
Grazing accounts for the majority of a horse’s time and energy and is one of the strongest ways to observe the social hierarchy. The more dominant individuals will always eat first and as much as they want. Subordinate animals that choose to argue will receive a stern reminder of their place and often eat less and last.
Space often can become a problem if it is too limited. Horses forced into small spaces for long periods of time do not have the room they need to move out of range of aggressive behavior from dominant individuals. If personal space is invaded and dominance must be established there are certain violent and non-violent behaviors involved. Non-violent actions include pushing with the head and neck bumping. Violent actions involve kicking, striking or biting.
Immature horses often exhibit snapping (tooth-clapping) when approached or challenged by adults other than their mother. This submissive gesture is especially obvious as foals approach the dominant stallion. Foals normally rank low in dominance, however, while near their mothers they share the mare’s dominance rank. Foals of dominant mothers will not be bothered by subordinate mares as long as the foal is close to its mother. If it moves then it can be threatened.
Age is most evident in the lower part of the hierarchy where the immature members tend to fill the bottom positions and older individuals fill higher positions. Age plays a role in gaining a social position but is not necessarily decisive. Size is also a factor in dominance. However in a large group age does play a key role. When they live in bands a clear social hierarchy becomes established in which the older and larger animals are usually found to be high in the dominance order.
When we attempt to introduce ourselves into a herd’s social hierarchy, or even to one individual, the bond between horse and human must be appropriately developed and maintained. Our status as the dominant member of the pair or herd must be asserted from the very beginning but in a non-violent fashion. This requires that the human supplies all necessary protection against hunger, thirst, fear, discomfort, pain and environmental stress. Only when the animal becomes defiant must a human force the horse to submit. It is important to remember that once a social hierarchy is established, with humans holding a dominant position in that system, the animals can carry on in a manner that is safe for them and us.
For more information on equine behavior see the Rutgers Cooperative Extension fact sheet “The Basics of Equine Behavior.”
What are you feeding the horse and how much? Food aggression is not uncommon, especially if feed is restricted and large amounts of sweet feed (over 3 pounds per feeding of a grain mix with added molasses) are being fed. This horse should have free access to hay or pasture so it is not very hungry at feeding time. If feeding sweet feed, try switching to a pelleted or extruded product. Grain concentrates should be reduced to the bare minimum needed to maintain weight. Increase the amount of hay the horse receives until it starts leaving some. If the horse starts to gain too much weight, reduce the amount of grain concentrate being fed but not the hay. Provide free access to water and a salt block as well.
As for the behavioral component, try to delay giving the horse its meal until it has settled down. It sounds like the horse is fed outside, so this would work best if there are no other horses around that could be injured by its antics. Be patient and persistent, but feeding the horse while it is carrying on will only reinforce the behavior.
Foals need to be reprimanded of the biting habit as soon as they do it. That is the most important thing. You cannot wait a minute or two after they have bitten to correct them. Therefore, the best method of correction is to catch them in the act of biting and pinch them on the nose. That way they will think the biting caused the pinch, not you.
Be sure the pinch is firm enough to make them think twice about biting again. This needs to be done every time they go to bite, so instruct everyone working with the foal to practice this method. And remember, it needs to be firm and immediate without hitting. Striking a foal in the face will lead to a head-shy horse.
If the aggression occurs primarily at feeding time or over a limited resource, the best things to do are to insure that each horse has all the feed and water it needs in two separate locations, and that the feeders, waterers, and gates are not in locations where the gelding can be trapped. Gates should be in the center of the fence line, not in corners and, if feeding hay outside, either use free standing hay feeders or, if in a run in shed, put the wall feeders at opposite ends of the shed. The shed should be at least 24 feet wide so that the mare can’t stand at one feeder and keep the gelding at bay by kicking. Unfortunately once an alpha, always an alpha, but the dominant animals usually only assert themselves if their ranking is perceived as being challenged.
Be sure the pinch is firm enough to make them think twice about biting again. This needs to be done every time they go to bite, so instruct everyone working with the foal to practice this method. And remember, it needs to be firm and immediate without hitting. Striking a foal in the face will lead to a head-shy horse.
At three years horses reach “puberty” and start testing their positions in the hierarchy. Before that, they are “babies” in their own minds and the minds of the rest of the herd and, as such, are very submissive. They will also play very roughly with each other, rearing, kicking, striking and biting but inflicting no more than scrapes and bruises. However, now you have a rowdy teenager. The older gelding is apparently not dominant or strong enough to protect itself from damage and the two horses should be separated if the submissive horse is getting seriously injured. Be aware, too, that the dominant gelding will attempt to extend its pushiness onto humans and any aggressive behavior (biting, pushing into people, etc.) should be discouraged quickly with strict discipline. If you don’t mind it suffering a few scrapes and bites itself, consider turning the horse out with a dominant (“alpha”) mare or gelding for a bit of an attitude adjustment, but this can be risky if the paddocks are small and there is not enough room for the horse to get away (same applies for the current situation).
Loss of pigmentation sometimes does respond to supplementation with copper and zinc, though there are several other causes that are not nutritional. If your horse is on a good commercial concentrate and has a trace mineral block I would doubt if it were a copper/zinc deficit. Loss of pigmentation also is more common in Arabians than Quarter Horses. There is a genetic disorder in some breeds, of which the Quarter Horse is one, that can cause a “spidery” loss of pigment on the body, but that is not usually restricted to the face. If the horse is on only minimal grain and locally grown hay or pasture (southern New Jersey’s sandy soils tend to be deficient in certain minerals), you could try using a trace mineral supplement. There are lots of supplements out there-read the labels and pick one that would provide 15 to 30 mg copper and 60 to 100 mg zinc per day for a few weeks to see if it helps.
The etiology of White Line Disease is truly not known. Unfortunately the literature is very confusing and filled with anecdotal information primarily. Much of this answer is opinion only and not scientifically based. Many veterinarians feel that the disease has a bacterial, fungal, mechanical, and an environmental component to it. It seems that some horses are significantly prone to the disease, especially during certain periods of their life. While some horses get a more superficial distribution of the disease on the hoof, others are deeply seated within the white line. There are a host of topical therapies out there with no strong evidence of effectiveness. Some cases appear to clear up with a topical therapy, while more severe cases require hoof wall resections. Some mild-moderate cases can respond to more frequent trimmings of the hoof. It seems likely that with the more superficial “infections,” any change in environment will help. You can change the salt concentration, the pH, or even the moisture content, and affect some cases in a positive direction. I don’t know if this is what you experienced with the lime. I have never treated the disease with lime. But again, if it made a difference, I suspect it was a relatively superficial distribution of the disease.
As for your question regarding the pH of the hoof, I don’t know that this has been completely characterized. I have not seen anything in the literature providing that information; however, it is possibly out there. In order to appropriately answer that question, you would need to take tissue samples at different depths of the hoof. The outer part of the hoof is made up of cornified tissues which are dead cells highly concentrated in keratin. If I had to guess, the pH on the surface would equal the outside environment. Also, as you move deeper within the hoof, closer to the coffin bone, the pH would probably mimic the physiological pH of the biological system of 7.4. Again, this is only speculative, and a thorough research study would be required to state one way or another.
Windpuffs, also known as windgalls, are swellings of the flexor tendon sheath on the back of the fetlock region. This is caused by inflammation of the synovial membrane (inner lining of the tendon sheath), which in turn, produces more fluid. It is very common in the hind legs of performance horses. In many cases, these are cosmetic and do not appear to have a clinical effect on the horse’s performance. In cases where clinical signs occur, injections within the tendon sheath can decrease the inflammation. It is difficult to decrease the swelling of windpuffs with topical therapies, wraps, poultices, or even oral anti-inflammatories, but their usage is warranted. You should consult your veterinarian on the clinical significance of windpuffs on your individual horse and the therapeutic options.
It all depends on what level of E you are giving. I usually recommend that horses with muscle problems be given a 5000 IU/day supplement of E. (Watch that selenium is not increased this much as well.) Studies have shown that groups of horses given vitamin E supplements of 10,000 IU/d had decreased beta-carotene levels compared to groups of horses given a lower (5000 IU/d) dose and control groups (not given a supplement). The levels of beta-carotene were not shown to be deficient (as no deficiency level has been determined), but they could eventually affect vitamin A levels.
I would try to see if your horse could go with 5000 IU/d and still maintain his soundness without muscle problems. If your horse needs 10,000 IU/d of vitamin E, I recommend making sure he consumes good quality pasture or gets a beta-carotene or vitamin A supplement.
I would also consider asking your vet to take a muscle biopsy and test for Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM). It sounds like he might have a mild case since he responded so well to the high fat and high E supplementation.
If your horse is incontinent and thus constantly dribbling, there could be a few diseases of concern. Equine Herpes Virus is one disease that can have this complication remain as a residual after the infection is cleared. However, there are other diseases to consider such as a urinary tract infection or bladder/kidney stones.
The excessive urination can be rather seasonal in some locations. Some horses will saturate their stall in the winter only. When tests are run, no reasons for the activity are found. However, some diagnostic tests can be considered for your horse.
The first recommended diagnostic is to perform a serum chemistry profile and a urinalysis. Depending on the results of these tests, a urine culture can be considered. Further evaluation of the urinary tract can be performed with a rectal examination and ultrasound of the bladder and urethra. One can also perform a cystoscopy (pass a camera up the urethra into the bladder). Be forewarned that after performing all these tests, results may still be inconclusive. However, under the circumstance described, some of these tests may be warranted. It is best to work with your veterinarian to decide which tests are most appropriate for your horse. Also be aware that some of these diagnostics can incur expense.
The best way to prevent ulcers is by changing management practices. Two key practices will help:
- Provide free choice, good quality hay. One of the major causes of ulcers is the constant supply of gastric acids naturally present in the horse’s stomach. With hay freely available, a horse can continuously have something in its stomach to help buffer the acids.
- Provide as much turnout as possible. Another major cause of ulcers in horses is stress. Increasing time outside helps decreases the horse’s stress level.
This type of allergic horse can be particularly vexing. Some people do not have good luck with Benadryl in preventing chronic allergies in horses. Some horses do well on hydroxyzine (an antihistamine) in late spring and stay on it until late fall. This does not stop the outbreaks of hives, but it does decrease the number and severity of episodes. There are also some horses that do not respond, and live on antihistamines and steroids during that time of the season. This type of immuno-therapy takes about a year to really prime the immune system to see any results, if any. These shots are not the panacea but can be worth a try to minimize other drugs. Owners can also consider determining the specific allergens responsible for the reactions and treat the horse with the desensitization allergy shots.
So to answer your question regarding the usage of steroids and complications such as laminitis, unfortunately we still do not understand the reason why steroids induce this complication. Laminitis secondary to corticosteroids appears to be unpredictable. Some horses may develop it after one treatment, while some may be treated for years and never contract laminitis. So we cannot say that there are any cumulative effects of steroids; however, the longer a horse is receiving steroids, the higher the potential for having an episode.
Other complications associated with steroids usage mirrors Cushing’s disease in horses, which is when the horse overproduces natural steroids secondary to a pituitary gland tumor. Some of the clinical signs are curly long hair coat, pot-bellied appearance, dull hair coat, and thinning of skin. When considering prolonged steroid administration, you will have to weigh the options with the consequences. Is the horse’s comfort level worth the risk? This is something you should discuss with your veterinarian in order to make a decision.
Your concern regarding this lump around the stifle region on the inside of the hind leg is warranted. However, it is difficult to prescribe a course of treatment without evaluating the mass. That is an odd location to have a lump and much of this is dependent on the clinical signs the foal is exhibiting. For instance if this is simply inflammation secondary to it “banging” itself, ice would be an appropriate treatment option. If it is a tumor of some sort, the ice would probably do nothing.
I am curious if this mass is hot, painful to the touch, and if the foal is exhibiting any lameness. Personally I am very aggressive with diagnostics and treatments in foals for several reasons. My one concern is if this swelling is liquid-filled, representing an excessive amount of joint fluid from the stifle. If so, that needs to be evaluated rapidly because of the one concern of a joint/bone infection.
If you cannot get a veterinarian to come to the farm in a reasonable time, you could reach out to the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph and schedule an appointment as soon as possible. There is also a relative large veterinary clinic in London as well as by racetrack outside of Toronto.
Stringhalt is a peripheral neurological condition that creates an abnormal gait with exaggerated flexion of one or both of the hind legs at the walk and trot. The abnormal gait can certainly create some increased stresses to muscle groups that would not normally be worked that way. Many can become rather back-sore, in my experience. Another reason for the “stiffness” could be discomfort at some other location. I would recommend having your veterinarian evaluate your horse to determine this. However, as for the surgery in question, for true Stringhalt horses, there is a procedure to remove a tendinous portion of the lateral digital extensor tendon as it runs over the hock. This is performed with mixed results.
Strangles is a highly contagious disease caused by the bacterium Streptococcus equi. Found throughout the world, strangles is considered to be an obligate parasite of equine and now known to survive mostly in moist or wet environments. Transmission of the bacteria from horse to horse usually involves direct face-to-face contact or exposure of horses to contaminated feed, water, hands, veterinary instruments, grooming tools and twitches. The disease can also be acquired from exposure to a contaminated environment as long as the organism remains viable. However, a dry environment quickly kills the bacteria.
Strangles is characterized by sudden onset of fever, loss of appetite, painful swallowing, drooling, swelling between the jaw and base of the ear, nasal discharge, cough and abscess formation. Horses usually develop fevers two to nine days before they become infectious to other horses, making isolation of horses with fevers a potential key to limiting the spread of the disease on a farm.
Although the clinical diagnosis of strangles is fairly straightforward, there are advantages to culturing for the bacteria. Such culturing permits a definitive diagnosis of the disease, and an antibiotic sensitivity test will be performed in the lab to aid in selecting the appropriate antibiotic if determined that it is needed. Antibiotic therapy is usually not included in the treatment of strangles because of the inherent risk of developing the generalized form of the disease, known as bastard strangles. Bastard strangles is a more serious, often fatal, disease, compared to the typical case of strangles, which is more of a nuisance than a long-term health threat to the horse.
Antibiotics are sometimes used if:
- The size or location of the abscess becomes life-threatening
- Vital signs become compromised
- Owner insists on antibiotic therapy
Treatment of uncomplicated strangles typically involves monitoring the vital signs, temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate, and treating symptomatically.
The best strategy for your situation, (though by no means foolproof) would be to assume that there are cases of infectious disease at all times, and implement a biosecurity plan to minimize the spread of disease. Such measures include: entry to the show requires a valid health certificate, provided within 30 days; a normal rectal temperature (< 101.0 °F) the morning of the show and upon entry, and vaccination against infectious diseases (this can be determined by the stable, but general recommendations include: tetanus, rabies, EEE, WNV, influenza, equine herpes virus, and possibly also strangles, Potomac horse fever and botulism.
At the show, perhaps have a designated, experienced, impartial person visually checking all horses upon arrival and if nasal discharge/coughing are noted, take the rectal temperature. If it is a hot day and the horses were on a trailer for more than 30 minutes or so I would not worry about a slightly elevated (101.5-102) temperature but anything over 102 °F should be sent home!
Monitor your horse’s temperature for two weeks after the show. If it is over 102 °F when the horse has not been working, call your vet immediately and institute quarantine precautions until the horse is given a clean bill of health.
Where strangles is present the following control and disinfection plans are recommended:
Strangles: control plan
- Isolate newly-introduced animals for two weeks and observe for signs of strangles or other diseases
- Immediately quarantine affected or suspect cases
- Obtain rectal temperatures of in-contact horses twice daily for two to three weeks and separate horses with temperature elevations of 1.5º F or greater
- Culture recovered horses on three occasions at four-to-seven-day intervals following abscess drainage to determine cessation of shedding. Culture specimens should be obtained from nasal swabs or washes.
- Prophylactic administration of an antibiotic such as penicillin G should be utilized only in severely affected horses and as recommended by the attending veterinarian
- Practice good fly control
- Vaccinate before an outbreak occurs
- Practice good biosecurity techniques
Disinfection of Equine Facilities
Proper disinfection of facilities is paramount in disease prevention. An appropriate disinfectant should destroy the organisms on the surfaces where they are located. The chemicals effectively used in human hospitals to disinfect linoleum, stainless steel, plastic and glass are vastly different from those used in barns and on horse equipment. Farms have a variety of porous and nonporous surfaces so the disinfectant must be effective in the presence of organic matter in which the majority of pathogens are found. Streptococcus equi, S. zooepidemicus, influenza and herpes virus are present in nasal discharges; Salmonella, E. coli, Actinobacillus and rotavirus are found in feces.
Steam is an effective disinfectant, killing both viruses and bacteria particularly when utilized with a detergent to remove organic debris. Literally hundreds of disinfectants are on the market for veterinary and medical use. Because of their effectiveness in the presence of organic matter, phenolics are recommended for use in horse facilities. Bleach and quaternary ammonium compounds are inactivated by organic matter. Iodophores and chlorhexidine are most appropriately used for hand washing. Formaldehyde, although highly germicidal, is too dangerous for routine use. It is necessary to carefully read the product label to identify the active ingredients. Phenolics can be recognized by the “-phenol” or “-phenate” at the end of the chemical name. Quaternary ammonium compounds are identified by “-ammonium chloride” in the active ingredients. Iodophores contain iodine or povidone iodine. Many different phenolic compounds are commercially available.
When the labor-intensive process of cleaning and disinfecting stalls is undertaken, the most effective germicidal compounds should be used. The most important, and the most overlooked, step in disinfecting a stall is thorough washing of surfaces with an anionic detergent using a steam cleaner to remove as much soil and organic matter as possible. Cationic and nonionic detergents interfere with the actions of phenols. Even the best disinfectants do not work effectively when poured directly on organic debris. Surfaces must be cleaned, rinsed and allowed to dry. The disinfectant should be sprayed on, allowed to dry, and repeated. Contact time with the surface is important to ensure effective germicidal activity. Rinsing off disinfectants is not advisable except when used on feed and water containers.
Besides disinfection of facilities and equipment, isolation of sick animals and use of protective clothing is an absolute necessity. Separate grooming and stall cleaning equipment should be used for sick animals. However, if this is not possible, these items require cleaning and soaking in disinfectant solution for a minimum of 10 minutes. Clothing and towels used on horses should be soaked for 10 minutes in disinfectant solution prior to laundering. Footbaths at the entry to barns and stalls need to be replenished with fresh disinfectant at least twice daily, more with heavy use. Here’s a good rule of thumb: if it isn’t edible and doesn’t move, disinfect it!
Regular hand washing is essential after working with sick animals. Povidone iodine or chlorhexidine hand washing products are best, but alternatively germicidal soap can be used. In instances where water is not available, waterless hand foams, containing >62% ethyl alcohol, are germicidal and can be purchased through human medical supply stores. These products are rubbed onto the skin and evaporate within one minute with no sticky residue.
Lactoliths are very uncommon in horses. It is prudent that your veterinarian has thoroughly evaluated the horse and is consulting others. A brief literature search on equine lactoliths revealed rather basic information stating that the stones can be found in large animals. The majority of the references were in surgically related categories. There was nothing that discussed the etiology and preventative measures that you are seeking.
It is recommended to identify the chemical composition of the lactoliths. Then consider additional diagnostics such as radiography and ultrasound. You could also consider surgical options such as theloscopy, where a camera is passed up the teat to view the stones. That being said, determining how to prevent these from occurring may be extremely difficult. It is unclear whether diet will have much of an influence on the prevention of these stones. However, there has not been any research on this area. On the more radical side, you could consider a mastectomy (removing the udder) as a permanent treatment option. This surgery can be rather aggressive as well as challenging. This is an interesting case that would benefit from referral to a veterinary school or referral surgical facility. A veterinary school might have the resources and diversity of proactive minds to formulate a plan for your mare.
If there was only one stone and it was in his stool, I wouldn’t worry. If it was fairly round and smooth, I’ll bet that if you cracked it open you’d find something like a nail or a piece of metal at its center. The horse’s intestine is a bit like an oyster – if something irritating is ingested it will cover it with layers of mineral like a pearl, creating what is called an enterolith (intestinal stone). (This is especially likely if the horse is on a high mineral feed like alfalfa.) If the “environment” in the intestine is right, sometimes even minor irritants like sand can cause multiple stones which can be a real problem. These stones usually have multiple “facets” due to rubbing together and are fairly small. A single stone will be round, and, if passed, as your horse’s was, solves the problem. Enteroliths can get so big that they cause intestinal blockage (colic) but it sounds as if your horse has “solved” the problem on his own!
Horses can get a multitude of sores and masses in their ears. Frequently they develop aural plaques however they are usually white and are minimally raised. They can also develop benign masses called sarcoids in their ears. Aural plaques and sarcoids can become raised, ulcerated, and relatively large in size. These are probably the two most common masses; however, there are others. Some have treatment options, while others have few. Consult your veterinarian for further information. In some circumstances, the veterinarian will take a biopsy in order to determine a treatment protocol.
On occasions when these spots occur, they are initially thought to be ringworm; however, it typically turns out to be allergic hives that respond to a course of steroids. The image shown is of a horse with similar lesions. This horse responded to corticosteroids, although some antihistamines would have been effective as well. It is difficult to accurately diagnosis the condition over an email; therefore, one should consult a veterinarian.
This is a condition that should be discussed with your veterinarian to perform any diagnostics and/or treatments. Having said that, it appears that what you are describing with your horse is not sleep deprivation, but rather the opposite: narcolepsy. I have seen this in several horses; it is not as uncommon as one may think. The hallmark clinical sign is the pronounced scars on the front legs (over the fetlocks and knees). Affected horses typically fall at a predictable time, for example on cross ties or in a stall. Typically horses do not fall during exercise.
As you mentioned, human safety is important in these situations. If one can determine the horse’s pattern and avoid it that is ideal. One should not have to remove a narcoleptic horse from work, riding, training, etc. As for the horse’s safety, wrap the front legs with standing bandages to minimize trauma if the horse falls in a stall; however there are also safety concerns for horses when keeping leg wraps on for prolonged periods of time.
There are few diagnostics for narcolepsy. The veterinary profession does not have extensive “sleep centers” like human medicine does. A few veterinary schools have conducted research on these types of conditions. These clinics can perform 24-hour heart monitoring and time lapsed cinematography to evaluate the horse’s condition further. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, there is no treatment for this condition. Therefore, managing the disease is about the only thing that can be done.
It is difficult to diagnose the condition without seeing the swelling and draining tracks. Sinus infections can create holes out of the skin (fistulas) to drain. Although this is rather rare in a three year old, it is not unheard of.
Given the description, ask your veterinarian to evaluate your mare. An evaluation would consist of a thorough physical examination, radiographic assessment of the masses and consideration of an endoscopy to isolate the source of the drainage. Miniature horses are notorious for having teeth-related issues which can create secondary sinusitis. In any case, it is definitely recommended to get the mare thoroughly evaluated by your veterinarian.
Scratches can be tough to beat and is painful for the horse. The main thing to do is control moisture so that healing will take place. Depending on the severity of this case, it may be best to have a veterinarian examine the horse. If the horses leg(s) are warm and/or edema (swelling) is present, the horse may have developed a more severe infection or cellulitis (bacterial infection of the skin).
I have a homemade remedy that I use for a variety of “scratches”-type problems. I mix equal parts of furacin ointment with baby diaper rash cream (zinc oxide). The bacterial action of the furacin works on the infection and the zinc oxide keeps the moisture out to promote healing. I use a generic creamy diaper rash cream which mixes easily with the furacin.
I agree with your veterinarian and have some concerns that this may be a sinus related issue. The duration and one nostril involvement is rather suspicious of such a condition. There is also the guttural pouch to consider in this scenario. Any of these anatomical locations can develop low grade infections that present with prolonged nasal discharge that don’t cause any depression, lethargy, or otherwise “sickness” in the horse. When there is sinus involvement, you worry about whether there is a mild tooth-root infection which may be the primary cause of the secondary sinus infection. So unfortunately there are a host of different locations which can be the origin for the problem.
Much like your veterinarian, I would recommend further diagnostics to isolate the problem. Radiographs and endoscopy would by my recommendations. I do understand the situation that you are trying to minimize expenditures. However, consider how much money you may be spending on repeat examinations and medications that help for a short period of time. Another option would be to go with the larger up front expense and aggressively treat it in hopes of complete resolution.
I am sorry to say, that you are not the first horse owner to experience this frustrating condition. While I know that cost plays a huge role in this scenario, you may be forced into making some additional investment into the veterinary care in order to “resolve” the condition.
From your description, it sounds like ringworm. The nice dime-sized round circles of scabs that remove the hair are the key. Depending on when the scabs are removed they may have a yellowish pussy layer under them, or they may leave the skin dry and scaly. The best treatment for this is to first clip the hair away from around the infected area (don’t need to clip the whole neck, just extend the shaved area so there’s a 1/2-inch margin of unaffected skin around each lesion). This will remove the fungus’ main food source: keratin, the protein in the hair. Then wet the shaved area with a sponge and wash with an antifungal antiseptic solution like Betadine, Novalsan, or dilute bleach solution (1 part bleach to 10 parts water). Make the spot lather up and leave for 10 min to kill the fungus, then rinse thoroughly with water. After the rinse you can apply a vinegar solution (2 tablespoons white vinegar in 1 quart of clean water) to affected areas with a sponge or spray bottle. This solution creates a slightly acidic environment, which the fungi don’t like. Dry the wet area well, especially in cold weather. After this step you can apply an antifungal dressing (Betadine ointment, or athlete’s foot product) obtained at your local pharmacy or tack shop to kill any remaining fungus on the skin. Repeat this process daily for a week then every other day until the lesions are shiny with new hair growth. It is very important to keep the lesions clean, dry, and exposed to air and sun. Do not blanket him if you can help it. The lesions need the air to heal, plus the blanket could be aiding in spreading the fungus. Also, ringworm is contagious to humans, so you need to disinfect EVERYTHING that has come in contact with the lesions, including any sponges, brushes, clippers, blankets, gloves, fingers, etc.
If this treatment does not work, there may be another problem, or the fungus has infected the area more severely and you should consult with your vet. Keep an eye on the area for healing progress and/or any new lesions developing; you may need to continue treatment if they start to reappear.
Ringbone is simply arthritis of a joint. High ringbone is arthritis of the pastern joint and low ringbone is arthritis of the coffin joint. There are a multitude of different philosophies and treatment options out there. So there is no right or wrong answer here in this situation. Much of the treatment should be based upon the occupation of the horse, ability of the horse, and expectation of the owner/trainer. Typically once the joint fuses, the horse should go sound. Until then it is a little bit of a “roller coaster” regarding lameness. In some cases, the joint never does fuse. There are medical and surgical options out there to help promote the fusion of the joint in hopes of speeding up the process. Again every horse is different and the process may be faster or slower than expected in each case. It is best to try to keep the horse in work and treat with pain relieving medications such as Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) and intra-articular injections of cortisone. Unfortunately, these are only temporary. But the hope is that while the horse keeps working, the cartilage wears down through the exercise promoting the bone to fuse. Sometimes the protocol works, other times not as well. Financial resources and the wishes of the owner often dictate how aggressive to pursue the process of fusing the joint. A surgical fusion on the east coast will cost around $5,000-6,000 and will have the horse out of work for almost a year.
Joint supplements are designed to help maintain the cartilage and slow down the arthritis process. There are decent supplements on the market that have worked in several cases. There are a multitude of different ones out there with similar results. Again, everyone has a different approach to treating this disease and each horse follows at a different speed of recovery. The key is to keep the horse comfortable while this process takes place.
Ringbone in horses is a calcification of the bone or cartilage in the pastern and coffin bones. High ringbone is calcification which occurs on the lower part of the large pastern or the upper part of the small pastern. Calcification which occurs on the lower part of the small pastern or the upper part of the coffin is known as “low ringbone.” Ringbone typically causes arthritis and new bone growth, which will sometimes fuse pastern bones and cause a decrease in flexion as well as lameness. Sidebone is a calcification of the lateral cartilage of the coffin bone inside the hoof. Here calcification turns to bone and subsides to a blemish that might not ever cause lameness.
You will be able to see or feel ringbone in horses just above the hoof in the area of the coronet band or pastern. It will feel like a hard lump or a ring of excess bone. If the problem is not causing lameness, nothing needs to be done; it is just a blemish and will not detract from the use of the animal. However, in cases where lameness occurs due to ringbone, and assuming that the horse’s feet are consistently and adequately trimmed, using a shoe that provides an easy breakover or making the toes shorter may help with the animal’s comfort.
In the short term after diagnosis, rest and anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g. Bute) will probably be prescribed. Cold hosing the area for 15 to 20 minutes twice a day is also a good way to alleviate swelling and maximize comfort. Depending on the severity, or if it has already progressed into arthritis, your vet might recommend corticosteroid injections or a regimen of joint injections to prevent chronic inflammation.
The best chances for a sound recovery are early detection and proper treatment, so it is advisable to work with an equine veterinarian to properly treat the ringbone and/or sidebone and find the option that is best suited for your horse.
Rain scald (aka “rain rot”) is a condition similar to mud fever, except it affects the back, flanks and hindquarters. It is a bacterial (Dermatophilus congolensis) infection of the hair follicle resulting in scabby lesions, hair loss, and inflamed, irritated skin. In extreme cases it can result in severe pain and loss of body condition. In its early stages, small bumps are felt when a hand is run over the infected area. These bumps enlarge into scabby and painful lesions.
Rain rot occurs most commonly in horses turned outside full-time, usually during humid and persistently wet seasons. Repeated exposure to moisture softens the skin and washes away the natural oils that protect the hair follicle, allowing bacteria access to the site of infection.
It is important to treat rain scald as soon as it is detected, as this will speed up the healing process and help prevent more severe or secondary bacterial infections that can become persistent and difficult to treat. In mild cases, simply keeping the skin dry, removing the scabs and gentle grooming should take care of the infection. Dermatophilus congolensis is an anaerobic organism (one which thrives in the absence of oxygen), so removing the scabs is important. Be thorough but gentle when removing scabs, as this process may be uncomfortable to the horse.
With more severe or persistent infections, scabs should be removed and a medicated shampoo used to thoroughly cleanse the infected area. The clean open sores should be kept dry; only large gaping sores should be treated with an antibiotic ointment to help prevent secondary infections. There are several over-the-counter medicated or iodine shampoos that work for mild to moderate infections; however, a prescription medicated shampoo and possibly a systemic antibiotic should be obtained from a veterinarian for severe or persistent infections. The afflicted areas should be washed daily until the infection is resolved. Consult an equine nutritionist or your veterinarian if your horse shows signs of losing body condition. They can help you safely and effectively adjust your horse’s diet to counter this.
There are situations where bathing the horse is not an option (such as in extremely cold weather). Anecdotal reports indicate that daily spot treatment (following the removal of scabs) with anti-microbial agents such as chlorhexadine or povidone-iodine helps remedy the infection. This process tends to be tedious and messy, however, and generally results in a longer healing time.
In any case, be sure to thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water, disinfect your grooming tools, and wash halters, saddle pads and blankets after every exposure to infected skin to prevent re-infection or transferring the bacteria to other animals. A 5 – 10 % bleach solution will do the trick. If keeping horses out of the elements is not an option, use of a fitted rain sheet or blanket can help keep the skin dry in inclement weather. Be sure that your blanket is truly waterproof before use, otherwise it may work against you by trapping moisture against your horse’s skin instead of keeping it off. As always, proper nutrition, regular grooming, and keeping pastures and facilities clean can help prevent rain scald.
Specifically for your case, I would recommend consulting with your veterinarian. He or she will probably suggest discontinuing the ointment as it may be working against you by providing a moist, anaerobic environment that the organism thrives in. Additionally, it may not have strong enough antibiotic properties to completely kill the organism. I would recommend gently picking those scabs and getting some prescription medicated shampoo from your veterinarian and using that daily for at least a week or until the infection is resolved. In my experience it works very well and in most cases clears an infection up faster than other spot treatments. If the infection is severe or persistent enough, you might want to discuss using an oral antibiotic with your vet. As for prevention, make sure you clean and disinfect anything that comes into contact with the infected skin to prevent re-infection. Keeping your horse clean and dry will allow the natural oily skin secretions to protect against infection. This is probably the best defense against rain rot.
Potassium iodide is a very strong salt and will cause severe irritation and pain, especially if applied to an open wound. Your horses would probably object to its application immediately. I have seen no studies of the safety or efficacy of olive leaf extract, in humans or horses. If you are having problems with pastern dermatitis, the only way to control it is to keep the horses’ lower legs as clean and dry as possible. Picking-up manure from heavily trampled areas of paddocks and stalls on a daily basis will dramatically reduce your problems (as well as eliminating thrush!). Regularly cleaning the pastern area (once a week or so) with a tamed iodide soapy solution, like betadine scrub or povidone iodine, can help but avoid irritating the sensitive tissues if possible. Daily applications might dry out the areas! However in veterinary cases such as this, it is very important to get an individual consultation from an equine veterinarian.
It sounds as if your mare may have a back or hip problem or perhaps a neurological deficit affecting her proprioception (ability to maintain her balance and “know” where her feet are). The signs you describe are not “classic” for wobbler’s syndrome, but she could well have a spinal lesion affecting her balance. If she drags her hind feet when asked to back up I would be more suspicious of wobbler’s syndrome. It is a good idea to ask her previous owner about any history of head/neck trauma – did she exhibit this behavior before the purchase? I strongly suggest that you have an equine veterinarian with experience in neurological problems give her a thorough physical. From what you describe, I would recommend not riding her until you find out what the problem is.
This is something which should be discussed with your veterinarian. There is a lot of debate regarding Lyme disease and blood titers. Some veterinary practices prefer to treat with intravenous tetracycline for a period of time where others prefer to treat with oral doxycycline. Whether this can be treated in the field versus in a clinic situation is dependent upon the veterinarian as well as your financial situation. Intravenous tetracycline must be administered slowly over an extended period of time (10-20 min) on a daily basis. This can become expensive when done in a field situation. In addition, the logistics of this treatment course must also be considered. Your veterinarian would be better to answer this question.
Like humans and general house pets, horses can get Lyme disease from deer ticks. The bacterium which causes Lyme disease, Borrela bungdorferi, gets transferred to the animal through a bite usually in the spring and early fall periods. One of the most obvious symptoms of Lyme disease is a bulls-eye rash that surrounds the bite area, which can appear between 3 and 30 days after the tick bite. Some other symptoms have included fever, depression or other behavioral changes such as increased irritability, swollen legs, lameness, skin lesions, and stiffness. However, later stage Lyme disease can include more serious symptoms such as arthritis and neurological as well as cardiac abnormalities. Sometimes the horses might not even develop signs of Lyme disease but still have it.
Diagnosing Lyme disease in horses is difficult because a lot of the symptoms associated with Lyme disease can also occur from other problems, or from lameness. Even if blood test results come up positive for Lyme, it may only mean that the horse has been exposed to the bacterium over the years but its symptoms are not due to Lyme at the present time.
Antibiotics such as tetracycline can be given successfully via an intravenous line. This treatment can help alleviate symptoms after the first day. However, oral and intramuscular medications can also be used. All of these treatments may need to last for a few weeks, depending on how well the animal is responding to the medication. During the first few days of treatment, monitor your horse to make sure its symptoms do not turn into true laminitis.
There are some steps you can take to help prevent Lyme disease. Use a tick repellent on your horse, and keep pasture grasses low. Regularly groom your horse during peak tick seasons, and immediately remove any ticks you find. Ticks need to attach and feed for 12-24 hours before they can transmit the bacteria.
There is no USDA approved Lyme vaccine for horses, however, there is testing on a vaccine in progress. Some people are using the canine vaccine in horses, however, it is not recommended without consulting with an equine veterinarian. Some of the canine vaccine side effects could also be problematic in horses.
You actually have the horse on a very good low protein ration right now. On the east coast, grass hay is usually less than 10% protein and less than 0.6% calcium if grown locally. Oats are about 12% protein; if lower protein is desired, you could use cracked corn (8 to 9% protein) instead. However, be aware that one “scoop” of corn will weigh almost twice as much as oats and provide more than twice the energy. Corn is actually a preferred feed choice for kidney failure, because it is a great source of calories with very little volume and extremely low calcium. Protein is only of major concern in advanced stages of kidney failure as a rule. The horse should definitely have access to a salt block and free access to water.
If your horse is maintaining weight on the current regimen, don’t change it. If it is underweight or losing condition, try switching (gradually) to the corn. If the horse’s hair coat starts to look dull and coarse, more protein may be needed. In that case, switch back to the oats or add in 4 to 8 ounces of soybean meal daily.
Acetazolamide is “a potent carbonic anhydrase inhibitor” also known as a diuretic. Common uses of this drug are to control fluid secretion, treat convulsive disorders, and increase fluid secretion from the kidneys. It is recommended for the treatment of HYPP during an attack because it quickly and efficiently lowers the potassium concentration in the blood through urination. Some handlers also find it useful to keep acetazolamide in the horse’s diet constantly. It has a history of reducing the frequency and severity of the attacks. It does not have any negative affects on the horse, and is fairly inexpensive. However, it is not necessary to keep acetazolamide in the diet unless the horse is prone to severe attacks. Acetazolamide is forbidden under AQHA and AHSA regulations, so the alternate drug hydrochlorthiazide is sometimes substituted.
HYPP attacks fall into two categories: mild and severe. Mild attacks occur when there are muscle tremors, but the horse can stay on its feet. In this instance the best treatment is to walk the horse to stimulate adrenalin production. Again, acetazolamide can be administered to help the animal lower its blood potassium levels through urination. An alternative treatment is feeding grain in an attempt to boost production of insulin through carbohydrate metabolism. In the case of a severe attack (when the animal is down), veterinarian assistance is required to help the horse regulate its blood potassium concentration. This is done by administering dextrose (a sugar) or calcium intravenously. Sometimes a shot of insulin will boost the intake of potassium into the cells. Veterinarians have used epinephrine to help during an attack because, like insulin, it promotes the absorption of potassium out of the bloodstream and into the cells. As with mild attacks, it is also common for veterinarians to give acetazolamide to the animal in an additional effort to expel potassium.
Like many genetic diseases, the severity of the affliction varies with the individual. Some horses may test positive for HYPP and never show signs of an attack. Others my have severe attacks more frequently. If a horse doesn’t show signs of HYPP, there is no need to change how you manage that horse. For a horse with symptoms, a simple control of diet and exercise can help reduce attacks. Attacks are triggered by stress, dehydration, extreme temperature, intense exercise, anesthesia, foods high in potassium, sudden dietary changes, and transport. Therefore, an established feeding schedule with feeds that are low in potassium (grains, oat hay) and little or no high potassium feeds (molasses, alfalfa, timothy hay) is effective. The horse should be fed about three small grain meals per day, and like all horses have constant access to a salt block and water. Acetazolamide could also be administered twice a day. Daily and nightly turnout is preferable in order to give the horse constant access to pasture. A constant exercise schedule is also favorable. Also, informing the veterinarian of the horse’s condition will help if the animal is ever put under anesthesia, which often triggers attacks. Most HYPP attacks are never treated, and the animals are able to recuperate on their own. However, with these few guidelines in management, a horse owner could minimize his animal’s discomfort and continue to enjoy all the pleasures that horsemanship provides.
What was wrong with the horse? It had a defective gene–the same one responsible for its beautiful musculature–giving it “Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis”. Evidence suggests these horses inherited the gene from one particular Quarter Horse stallion, Impressive, used as a stud in the 1970s and 1980s. Impressive was famed for his outstanding musculature, and since this trait was passed to his offspring, he became a popular stud. Unfortunately it is now known that the disease HYPP has passed through his genetics as well, affecting 50,000 horses, or .25% to .4% of quarter horse bloodlines. The defect is found in the DNA coding for the protein that regulates the concentrations of sodium and potassium on either side of cell membranes. Also called a sodium-potassium pump, this mechanism keeps sodium in high concentrations outside the cell, and high potassium concentrations inside the cell. When the pump opens to allow the passage of these two elements, the rush to balance the concentrations on either side of the cell causes an electric charge, which in turn allows for muscle contraction. Unfortunately in horses with HYPP, the sodium leaks into the cell at a faster rate, which alters the time it takes to build up voltage for a muscle contraction. During an attack, the blood is saturated with potassium in an effort to maintain the equilibrium.
The effects of this defect are apparent in the most common symptom of the disease: muscle trembling. Other signs are: prolapse of the third eyelid, stiff jaw, increased respiratory rate, generalized weakness or specifically weakness in the hind end (dog-sitting), complete collapse, and an abnormal whinny. These symptoms are visible only during an attack. The high potassium concentration is exclusive to an attack as well, and under normal conditions an afflicted horse would show regular blood potassium levels. Tests can be done to identify the gene, so it could be eliminated in a single generation. Horse owners, however, may not want to get rid of the gene, which adds to the muscling of the Quarter Horses, raised as much for show as for racing. Alternatively, the disease can be controlled via diet and diuretics (see “How effective is acetazolamide in the treatment of HYPP?”)
I am a little unclear about a couple of your comments. You mentioned she had elevated potassium levels but also said they were normal. It was also wise to stop feeding alfalfa. Alfalfa and sweet feed plus good quality pasture yields a high potassium feeding regimen. If the mare is indeed HYPP, that combination would definitely trigger attacks. If none of the other horses on the pastures seem to be having similar problems, I would have her tested for HYPP.
Stressful situations can certainly bring on attacks. Moving to a new location and having new pasture/stall mates could definitely be a factor. Get the mare stabilized before considering the next activity.
If other horses on the pasture are having similar problems, I would recommend that you reach out to an agricultural/extension specialist through Texas A&M University to assist with your plant-related questions. Another recommendation is that you speak with one of the doctors at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M regarding diagnostics, treatments, and preventative measures that your mare might need. It almost sounds as if she needs to be maintained on acetazolamide until she gets back to a more normal potassium level. It does seem to me that your mare needs to be examined at by a veterinarian who is comfortable with treating HYPP. I believe that most veterinarians will want to evaluate the mare in person rather than treating over the phone or via email. You may have to consider shipping the horse to a referral hospital or veterinary school. If this is not possible, perhaps A&M can recommend veterinarians in your area who may be more comfortable with treating your horse.
Sprouted barley grains can be fed as loose feed or just feeding the greens as forage. The picture to the right shows sprouted barley that is fed to horses in Europe. Research on feeding sprouted grains to horses is sparse. For additional information, click on the following titles:
Review of Hydroponic Fodder Production for Beef Cattle
- The review summarizes much of the research up to 2003
- Many trials show no advantage to feeding sprouted barley over grain barley
- The cost of growing sprouted barley hydroponically created an economic disadvantage
Feeding Value of Hydroponically Sprouted Barley for Poultry and Pigs
- Research trials that have been conducted with pigs and poultry
- There was no research available on using this technology in horses
Feeding Value of Sprouted Grains
- Reviews various sources of research (excluding horses) on feeding sprouted barley to livestock
A concern is that moist materials run a greater risk of becoming moldy. This is a common problem in hydroponic fodder systems. Ruminants such as cows are not as affected by mold as horses, which can easily become very ill or even die from eating small amounts of mold.
Even in the cattle feeding trial, sprouts were used as a supplement to pasture. It has also been found that the grains lose nutrients during the sprouting process.
Here is a research article about this. The younger the sprout, the higher the nutrient value (i.e. energy, protein, and digestibility); therefore, feeding them earlier is preferable.
Germinated barley is being fed to horses in Europe (see EDHYA Form) and can be made at home by horse owners. If you do try producing this, then the utmost care must be taken to avoid mold and toxins. There is still no research that has been conducted on this feed product for horses; this answer is just summarizing the research currently available. The Equine Science Center is unable to provide feeding recommendations without scientific evidence that it is safe and effective.
From a nutritional perspective, hydroponic fodder is concerning when you consider the amount you would need to feed and the imbalance of minerals that it provides.
If you go to Global Fodder Solutions it gives the certified nutrient analysis. The fodder is only about 13% dry matter, which means you are paying quite a lot for something that only has 13% of usable nutrients; the rest is water. To meet the usual dry matter intake of the average horse (~25 lbs per day) you would have to feed a large amount of the fodder to meet these needs if using it as the only feed source, as sometimes suggested. Plus the calcium to phosphorus ratio is reversed (0.57:1) where horses require a 2:1 ratio. It is also very low in fiber. This would make it inappropriate for growing horses and even adults on a long term basis unless balanced with another source of calcium and fiber. It could possibly be considered for a horse that does not drink well and has a chronic problem with impactions, but the horse would need a calcium supplement to help balance out the diet.
In response to your question regarding the micro-organisms involved in hoof abscesses, you make some good points of interest. There is no doubt that more research needs to be done in the field of podiatry and hoof-related diseases. The majority of microbiological studies involving the hoof typically implicate a mixed-bag of different organisms including bacteria and fungi. Few have been implicated in the pathogenesis of abscesses, however, no one organism has been identified as the sole culprit. The hoof is a tissue that is normally heavily populated with bacteria on the surface. It is probably more important to identify which and how many organisms naturally inhabit the tissues at deeper levels.
Be encouraged to continue on your academic path and if contemplating such a research study, engage the services of a microbiologist who is familiar with such microorganisms, knows appropriate ways of culturing them, and can address the complexities with accurate growth and identification of them. Many of the relevant reports lack sufficient scientific inquiry, which renders the results unreliable.
With regard to your comment of bacterial identification and an appropriate treatment regime, most veterinarians accept that bacteria in general play a primary role. With the proximity of fecal material, gram negative organisms such as E. coli are involved, however, there are gram positive bacteria that can also be implicated. Antimicrobial therapies, such as antibiotics, are based on the speculation of specific bacterial involvement. You are correct that accurate identification of the bacteria would determine which medication would be most appropriate. Antibiotic treatment of hoof abscesses is rare in veterinary practice. Clinical experience has shown that antibiotics do not help the situation and can actually slow down the healing process. Many question whether antibiotics circulating in the blood stream can actually penetrate the tissues where the abscess is located. In treating abscesses the goals should be to determine why they are occurring (especially with repeated episodes), establish drainage, and utilize osmotic agents such as poultice and Epsom salt to draw out the moisture from these pockets of pus.
The answer to your question as to if knowing which bacteria was involved in an abscess, would the treatment protocol change? Probably not. However your speculative research could provide some valuable insight into the disease process and quite possibly help the practicing veterinarian.
Respiratory issues can be caused by a variety of things, including internal parasites, bacterial infections, viruses, and allergies. One of the common causes of breathing issues in horses is called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), more commonly referred to as “heaves.” There are a variety of ways to treat COPD, ranging from internal medications to changes in the environment to an entire change of diet.
COPD occurs when a horse has an allergic reaction to particles found in hay, or other types of dust. The most common allergens are certain types of bacteria, fungi, feces, animal dander and pollen. A horse with COPD will have an overactive defense mechanism to these inhaled foreign particles, which causes more inflammation in their airways than in those of a normal horse. The increased inflammation in the airways decreases the horse’s ability to get adequate air intake and causes the wheezing sounds that are associated with COPD. Some of the external symptoms associated with heaves are nasal discharge, ongoing cough and difficulty with breathing which results in abdominal breathing.
There are a variety of treatments that can help suppress the symptoms of COPD. Some of the most widely used are corticosteroids (such as dexamethasone) that help reduce the inflammation that occurs in the airways. These medicines can be given orally, intravenously, or inhaled. Although this treatment works well, there are side effects that can be detrimental to the horse if it is kept on steroids for long periods of time. A bronchodilator can also be used to treat the symptoms; these are drugs used to relax the smooth muscles in the airway and decrease the obstruction. These are safer than steroids, but generally only work better for less severe cases of COPD. These drugs can be administered orally, intravenously, or inhaled as well.
If one does not want to treat a horse with any type of drug a change in environment and diet may be attempted. One of the most important things to change is the horse’s exposure to hay. You can start by soaking the horse’s hay at each feeding for about 30 minutes. This will decrease the amount of dust. However, this might not be enough for some COPD horses. Hay cubes can also be soaked and may provide less dust than long stem hay. An all-pelleted diet of a complete feed may be the best option for a horse with severe cases of COPD. This would eliminate the need for a long stem hay or cube; however, make sure you are feeding the correct amount daily. It is best to feed these horses in multiple smaller meals daily. Feeding should also be done at shoulder level to decrease the amount of dust from the ground that can get into the food or be inhaled into the airways. However, it is also important not to place the feed too high, so that hay or feed particles do not fall into the nasal passages and get inhaled.
It is also best to minimize the amount of time that the horse spends in a stall since this is where there are high concentrations of allergens and low ventilation. If possible, leave the horse at pasture full time. This is the healthiest option for a horse with COPD. If possible, make sure that bedding is not excessively dusty. The best types of bedding are paper and peat moss. Shavings can be wet down to prevent dust. Typically, straw and sawdust are the dustiest products and should be avoided. Is it important to only clean out the stalls when the horse is not in the barn since cleaning will cause the dust particles to circulate in the air.
These practices can all be done to help decrease the symptoms of COPD before resorting to drugs; however, in some severe cases, COPD must be managed with the use of pharmaceuticals. The decision as to whether of not your horse’s condition can be managed without the use of steroids or other pharmaceuticals should be made in consultation with your veterinarian.
Head tossing or shaking in horses can be caused by multiple things. It could be a behavioral vice (possibly caused by boredom); done out of nervousness due to lack of companionship, in response to pain or irritation to flies; or caused by an allergy. Typically, if it is caused by an allergy, you will see it occur more often starting in spring and continuing through fall but almost non-existent in winter months (especially in a freezing climate). Some affected horses have more severe head shaking at rest and others during exercise. In the latter, the problem is generally exacerbated during exercise and thus renders some horses practically useless for riding, depending on the rider’s tolerance level. However, take note if this behavior occurs only when riding or being handled; this may be more of a behavioral protest. If the horse shakes her head in the field even when fly population has decreased (in fall or very early spring), it may indicate an allergy-related cause. There really isn’t any consistent pattern in how the problem begins; in some, head shaking arises spontaneously with no apparent change of season, ownership, barn, country or discipline.
In horses with a seasonal affliction there may also be symptoms suggestive of an allergy: nose rubbing, a watery ocular and nasal discharge, low head carriage, sneezing, snorting, head pressing, and pressing the muzzle into the ground. Head shaking has also been reported to worsen in bright sunlight, on warm and humid days or when the wind blows into the horse’s face. Some affected horses will actively seek out shade. In some instances, allergens such as pollen, oilseed rape volatiles, dust, etc. can get into the horse’s nose. The horse may appear to be having a reaction to an unusually irritating stimulus in the nasal passages. Horses affected with mild clinical signs of head shaking may simply exhibit mild, periodic head movements and low-grade twitching of muscles in the face, but may be rideable. Moderately affected horses may be rideable with some difficulty under special circumstances (cooler weather, protection from bright sunlight, and on non-windy days). More severely affected horses are difficult to control, uncontrollable or unrideable.
To eliminate allergy as a possibility in your horse it would be best to contact your veterinarian. There is also the possibility that a prescription allergy medicine will cure the head tossing or at least decrease its severity.
I suspect that it is diet-related. When he was at the track they probably had him on a high fat, high energy diet. The low carb diet he is on now might not have the same fat content he was used to at the track. If you can get his dietary history from his past trainer that will help you get a sense of what he used to eat. However, since he is not racing anymore he no longer needs that level of fat.
I would recommend adding at least a small amount of a fat supplement to his diet. Without knowing his dietary history I can’t make any exact recommendations — but you can try a coat conditioner or just rice bran or corn oil. He would not need much, just 1/4 cup oil or 1 cup of rice bran. This should help his coat condition.
The cost of pharmaceutically treating and preventing ulcers is considerable! However, with some horses there is no alternative treatment. You might consider trying papaya supplementation, although there is no research supporting its efficacy against ulcers in horses. Some people feed papaya pills (the human variety) to their horses, others try the pulp, and some give a whole fruit a day.
Stress is a very common cause of ulcers. One management practice you can employ to reduce stress is to keep ulcer-prone horses outside as much as possible. This is the best way to decrease their stress. Some horses can develop ulcers as soon as 24 hours after being stalled if they are used to being kept outside.
Another cause of ulcers is excess gastric acid in the stomach. Unlike humans, horses produce gastric acid 24 hours a day, not just when eating. Feeding hay free choice will help buffer gastric acid. Alfalfa hay has been shown to have good buffering ability due to its high calcium content; however, you do not want to feed free choice alfalfa. Continue feeding “lots of alfalfa,” but make sure the rest of the hay in the diet is good quality grass hay. Try these management changes once the horse is clear of ulcers, as he might not want to consume free choice hay if he currently has ulcers.
Decreasing any other stressors affecting your horse would also help. Once you have taken steps to reduce his stress, try implementing some of these changes and see if they help with decreasing the severity or incidence of ulcers. These changes should be made after consulting with your veterinarian and discussing the risk factors in discontinuing the pharmaceutical treatment.
I don’t happen to know of any literature on horses with one eye, but I can tell you that trusting you will be the biggest help for her! The more she hears your comforting voice the better she will feel, even when she can’t see you. Get in the habit of talking to her constantly. You might even be doing this already.
I can also say that I know a few horses with one eye that seem to be doing just fine. I have seen a horse with only one eye compete in a steeplechase over timber, I believe. It seemed that having one eye wasn’t a handicap at all. I also a have a friend that has a stallion with one eye. He is still used for teasing, breeding and a little riding, and he does much better when the main handler works him and talks to him a lot. It is hard to say whether your horse will still be able to become the athlete she could have been. I recommend that you first get a strong bond between you and then continue with her training. She will tell you what she is capable of and comfortable with.
EPM (equine protozoal myeloencephalitis) is spread by the feces of opossums infected with the parasite Sarcocystis neurona. Symptoms in the horse are generally neurological. It is not contagious from horse to horse. The best way to prevent equine infection is to minimize contact with opossum waste and discourage opossums from residing near your barn. Below are some tips.
- Horse and pet feed should be in sealed containers, preferably behind closed doors. Opossums will eat pet food left out for barn cats and bird seed.
- Garbage should be kept in closed containers and fallen fruit from nearby trees should be removed.
- Use a steam-cleaning method to kill infectious particles in feed and water buckets.
- Remove roadkill from nearby roads, as it can attract opossums.
- Do not feed horses on the ground, even in rubber tubs since opossums can still contaminate them.
- Clean up all spilled or uneaten grain as this can be a feed source for opossums.
- If a stream or pond is used as a water source on the farm, this water can also be contaminated with opossum waste.
- Hay can also be a source of contamination; make sure opossums cannot access hay storage. Ask your hay provider if his/her storage is accessible to opossums.
- To keep opossums out of fields, you can install a low electric wire or mesh fencing.
- Opossums hide in dense shrubs and woodpiles, so clearing this kind of vegetation from your farm can discourage opossum activity.
Resources and further reading:
- EPM: Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention. University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine.
- Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis. Purdue University Animal Disease Diagnosis Laboratory.
- Control of Common Infectious Horse Diseases. Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities.
- Pests in Gardens and Landscapes: Opossums. University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Equine Protozoal Myelitis = EPM. If a horse is exposed to the protozoa, it can mount an antibody titer to the organism and, in some cases fight it off. The presence of a positive titer, especially if there are no clinical signs, is not proof of actual infection. That can only be definitively diagnosed by taking a sample of cerebrospinal fluid via a spinal tap (rather drastic measure which isusually reserved for cases where there are clinical signs and a diagnosis is needed to treat it.) The organism is carried by opossums and excreted in their urine/feces. If the hay dealer has opossums either in hay storage barns or fields, it could be an issue when selling the hay. Fecal/urine contamination is the main source of infection.
Endophyte-infected tall fescue and perennial ryegrass are completely different grasses. Perennial ryegrass, usually found in turf grass seed mixes, is infected by a different endophytic fungus than tall fescue; therefore, it has different effects on horses. Horses of either sex can be affected by a condition known as “perennial ryegrass staggers” if the ryegrass is infected by endophytes that will release a toxin under specific environmental conditions. The endophytes make grass much hardier, which is why they are commonly used in the turfgrass industry. This is also why a lawn seed mix should never be used to seed a pasture for horses or other grazing species. Turf grasses are not selected for their nutritional value or safety if consumed in large quantities.
According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, sheep, cattle, horses, farmed deer, and llamas are susceptible to ryegrass staggers. Symptoms include head nodding and tremors when the horse is at rest. If the horse becomes excited or frightened, the head nodding can become more severe and movement can seem jerky, stiff, and uncoordinated. In some cases, the horse may fall to the ground and flail for a few minutes before getting up again. The endophytic fungus also produces ergovaline, the alkaloid responsible for fescue toxicosis in mares.
Horses typically recover within one-to-two weeks of being removed from the infected pasture. The condition is generally not fatal unless the animal ends up in an unsafe situation as a result of the staggers (e.g. drowning).
It is important to note that endophyte-infected annual ryegrass can be fatal to horses and livestock. Symptoms of “annual ryegrass staggers” are similar to perennial ryegrass staggers, but the toxins are different and can cause death within hours to one week after ingestion.
Endophyte-infected tall fescue is generally safer for geldings and mares not used for breeding because it is infected with a different endophytic fungus than ryegrass. It can cause fever, rapid breathing, rough coat, excessive salivation, and lameness in all horses in rare cases, and reduced weight gain in young animals. Severity of symptoms depends on temperature, time of year, infection level, and the strain of fescue.
Unfortunately, your question is not an easy one to answer. E. coli is not easily transmitted across species; however it is possible. The strain of E. coli plays an instrumental role on the contagious nature of the infection, especially across species. It is recommended to discuss the specifics of the infection at this farm with the treating veterinarian. He/she may have isolated the strain and would then be able to comment on the contagious nature that has been seen with these calves and how this may affect the horses. See below for websites which have background information on E. coli infections in cattle; they also discuss the infections in horses as well as humans.
- Acid relief for O157:H7 Simple change in cattle diets could cut E. coli infection. USDA and Cornell University.
- E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella typhimurium DT104: the role of animals. University of Wisconsin Madison School of Veterinary Medicine
The concern with a mare not drying up is that her mammary glands could become infected, which is called mastitis. Mastitis can occur up to eight weeks after weaning, which is why properly drying up a mare is important. The best way to dry up a mare is by cutting back on her feed ration and leaving the udder alone. Remove any grain from the diet and provide only pasture grass or hay with free access to water and a salt block. After a few days to a week, milk production should decrease and the grain could be SLOWLY added back to the ration but only if it is necessary to maintain body condition. Do not be tempted to remove the milk; this will only stimulate milk production and delay the drying up process. The mare will be uncomfortable for a few days to a week and should completely dry up in about a month. However, it is important to continue to check the udder for unusual heat or swelling and, if concerned, take the rectal temperature periodically to make sure there is no fever until the mare completely dries off. While mastitis in horses is uncommon, it can happen. Mares’ udders will normally be warm, swollen, and somewhat tender during the first week after weaning; however, if the heat and pain persists for 2-3 weeks, an infection might be present and veterinary care will be necessary.
“Slobbering Horse Syndrome,” “slobbers,” and “excessive drooling” are all terms for a disorder that results in the spring and summer when horses eat legume forages, particularly clover, which have been infected by the fungus Rhizoctonia leguminicola. This fungus produces an alkaloid called slaframine, which is responsible for the excessive drooling and slobbering. Slaframine stimulates the salivary glands and smooth muscles.
The fungus most commonly affects clovers (red, white, and alsike) and alfalfa, and increases when these forages become drought-stressed or are exposed to prolonged wet conditions. It forms a black patch which may be visible on the leaves of the plant, hence the common name “black patch.” Pastures can vary in species composition from year to year due to environmental conditions, grazing pressure and management. White clover will increase in a pasture when conditions are favorable. If pastures are overgrazed, and the more productive cool season grasses such as timothy, brome, and orchardgrass are eliminated, white clover becomes very competitive. White clover will also increase if adequate soil fertility levels are not maintained and if warm temperatures in spring restrict the growth of cool season grasses. Change in pasture management (i.e. fertilizing, resting, and rotating pastures) can reduce the amount of white clover in a pasture. Change in environmental conditions, cool spring temperatures and drier summers with adequate rainfall will reduce the growth of the fungus on the plants. This is not a problem that occurs in all pastures every year.
Hay made from contaminated forages is also suspect, and the fungus can maintain toxicity while baled for several years. Your veterinarian or Extension agent can confirm the presence of “black patch” in your pasture or hay. Horses are most commonly affected, although cattle, sheep, goats and swine are also susceptible. Along with excessive salivation, symptoms include tearing, difficulty breathing, increased urination and feed refusal. In severe cases, diarrhea may also occur, though horses do not usually dehydrate or develop more serious health problems. It is not uncommon for some horses in a pasture to be more severely affected than others. This might be related to whether or not they prefer clover over the other forages available in the pasture or have different levels of sensitivity to the toxin. Some horses may get ulcerations and scabs on the face and areas of the legs that come in close contact with the infected clover, as an allergic reaction to the fungus in the clover.
To help eliminate salivation and skin lesions, remove horses from pastures with high clover concentrations, and begin mowing pastures until the Rhizoctonia is no longer observed on the leaves. Most cases don’t require treatment, and most animals recover within a couple of days after the fungus is removed. Severe cases that do not clear up within a day or two should be seen by your veterinarian.
Clover can be suppressed by using a variety of herbicides such as Ally1. Ally is relatively safe and has no grazing restrictions. Fertilizing pastures in spring, summer (if conditions warrant pasture growth), and in fall with 40-50 pounds of nitrogen per acre will provide the grasses with a competitive advantage over the clover. If pasture grasses do not receive nitrogen fertilizer, the competitive advantage shifts to the clover, which is able to fix nitrogen and quickly take over, especially if the pastures are overgrazed.
1Before using any pesticide, always read the label. Use pesticides only at recommended rates and time. Where trade names are used, no discrimination or endorsement is implied.
Collateral ligament injuries have become increasingly prevalent in the last few years, mostly because we have a heightened awareness of them . They vary in their presentation, severity, and treatment options. It would be inappropriate for anyone other than the diagnosing and treating veterinarian to recommend or prescribe a treatment protocol to you for your horse. Much
of this depends on the MRI or ultrasound findings as well as the clinical lameness in the horse. Many horses which are thought to have “strained” a soft tissue structure have had nothing discernable found on the ultrasound and, after a couple weeks off, returned to work without a problem. It is recommended to monitor them closely as they return. With any minor inclination of lameness, activity should again be discontinued. Cases where there is an identifiable lesion (abnormality) on the ultrasound or MRI, are treated with extended lay-up and rehabilitation periods, with progress being evaluated by repeat diagnostics.
It is recommended that you have this discussion with your veterinarian. If you are not satisfied with your veterinarian’s explanations, seek a second opinion from a licensed veterinarian that specializes in this specific type of injury. Your best bet would be to consult your local University or College of Veterinary Medicine or your state’s Association of Equine Practitioners.
With respect to IRAP® (Interleukin-1 Receptor Agonist Protein) therapy, there have
been significant improvements in lameness and soft tissue injuries with this treatment modality. This treatment is used to counteract the inflammatory protein, Interleukin-1. It is a relatively exciting new treatment option that is being used much more frequently. Additional treatment options that can be considered are stem cells and PRP or Platelet-Rich Plasma.