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Nutrition

Watch Horse Pastures for Tree Leaves and Branches

Many horses will taste-test tree leaves from time to time, and in most instances, this snack isn’t dangerous. However, leaves from some trees contain toxins that can make horses seriously ill. Depending on the type of tree, fresh, wilted, or dry leaves can be risky if horses eat even small quantities.  
Toxins from red maple leaves cause destruction of red blood cells, limiting the blood’s ability to transport oxygen throughout the horse’s body. Oak leaves trigger kidney damage as well as gastrointestinal problems like colic and bloody diarrhea. Leaves from cherry, peach, almond, plum, and apricot trees contain cyanide compounds, and walnut tree leaves and other parts affect the horse’s heart and respiratory rates and often lead to severe laminitis...
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Photosensitization in Horses

Photosensitization is the incapacity of the body to react to sunlight normally and typically manifests as swelling and inflammation of the skin.

WHAT: More than just a sunburn or contact dermatitis, photosensitization is a reaction between the sunrays and the skin of horses that contains a specific chemical or compound. Classic examples of  “photoproducts” that result in primary photosensitization are ingestion of plants such as St. John's wort, buckwheat, smartweed, clover, and perennial ryegrass, as well as medications including phenothiazine, thiazides, sulfonamides (trimethoprim sulfa), and tetracycline...
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Older Horses: Monitor Teeth, Weight, and Diet


Old horses may begin to lose weight because their teeth are no longer in good enough condition to completely chew hay and grain. To help these horses, some simple dietary changes will allow for better nutrition and maintenance of body condition.  

In horses, the teeth continue to erupt for years as the chewing surfaces experience wear. Eventually, most of the enamel on the center of a tooth is worn completely away. Instead of a flat or ridged chewing surface, the tooth develops a concave shape that is not effective in crushing or chewing forage or grain. This dental condition usually starts to occur as horses reach their mid to late 20s.  ..
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Pasture and Hay for Skinny Horses


Horse owners generally reach for high-calorie feeds, vegetable oils, and supplements when faced with adding weight to underweight horses. These products, without question, have their place in any weight-gain program, but the quality of pasture and hay should also be a primary consideration.

Pasture. A well-maintained, lush pasture can be a nutritional paradise for an underweight horse, offering plenty of energy and other nutrients to fuel weight gain and boost well-being...
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Representative Sampling of Horse Hay for Analysis


In an attempt to find a low-carbohydrate hay to feed their overweight horses, many owners consider having their hay analyzed by a commercial laboratory. To do so, they may stuff a few handfuls of hay into a plastic bag, send the sample off to a lab, and get some results back. However, obtaining a true representative sample of a batch of hay is the first and most critical step of the analysis process. Unfortunately, it is often the most overlooked.

A laboratory can only analyze what it receives, and it will analyze a good sample in the same way as a poor sample. In the latter case, the horse owner will wind up with a good analysis of a bad sample. Thus, it is the responsibility of the horse owner to obtain a representative sample...
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Feeding Horses with HYPP


Clinical symptoms of hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP), a metabolic disease characterized by muscle twitching and trembling, coincide with excessive potassium concentrations in the blood. Limiting potassium intake is, therefore, one of the most effective management steps for keeping HYPP-positive horses free of clinical symptoms.

How do horse owners revise a diet to keep potassium levels low and horses safe?..
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Vitamin C for Horses


Horses can’t pour themselves a glass of orange juice in the morning to get a jump on daily vitamin C requirements, so just how do they consume sufficient amounts of the vitamin for optimal health?

Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, plays several roles in the horse’s body, including involvement in hormone synthesis, bone calcification, and antioxidant functions. Unlike humans, horses can synthesize vitamin C from glucose within the body. For this reason, deficiency is very unusual, but when horses experience excessive stress their bodies may not produce enough...
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Turnout Tips: When's Best to Graze?


Proper turnout offers innumerable benefits. Turned-out horses are typically more fit due to increased exercise; show less anxiety with fewer stereotypies; have healthier, more robust respiratory systems; maintain strong musculoskeletal systems; and potentially have fewer gastric ulcers due to a longer, more sustained feeding pattern.

Nonetheless, not all horses can be managed 24/7 on pasture, and there are some that should not be allowed to graze willy-nilly for fear of laminitis. If your horse has signs of insulin resistance (IR) or has been diagnosed with either IR or equine metabolic syndrome then timing of turnout needs to be optimized to maximize health and minimize ingestion of fructans...
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Hay and Haylage: What's the Best Forage for Horses?


Horse diets should be based on forage, and owners in some parts of the world have a choice between providing hay or haylage. The decision to feed a particular forage is often based on availability or cost, and some horse owners prefer to feed haylage because they believe this product is a better source of digestible energy and protein. However, without analyzing each batch of forage, it is impossible to know exactly what the nutrient profile is.

In a study conducted in the U.K., horse owners were asked to submit samples of the forage they were feeding. Researchers chose 24 samples of hay and 11 samples of haylage for analysis to determine nutrient composition. On average, hay and haylage samples were similar in levels of digestible energy and fiber. Haylage was lower in dry matter but higher for crude protein and fat. In comparisons among all samples, there was wide variation for most of the nutrient levels, indicating that broad statements about the “best” type of forage for all horses cannot be accepted as valid...
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Do Blanketed Horses Get Enough Vitamin D?


Horses derive vitamin D through the feedstuffs they ingest, but horses can also synthesize vitamin D when their skin is exposed to sunlight.

Under natural conditions, grazing horses are exposed to many hours of sunlight every day, theoretically producing enough vitamin D to meet their needs. However, some horses live indoors throughout the year, receiving very little sunlight, and others may be turned out only at night or when they are wearing rugs or blankets that leave little skin exposed to light...
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How Should Horses Be Fed After Colic Surgery?


Colic is one of the most frequent equine ailments, affecting an average of 4 out of every 100 horses each year. Many horses recover from mild colic cases without treatment, but surgical treatment is indicated in about three of every 200 cases. If a horse shows signs of colic, a veterinarian should be called to do an examination because what seems like a mild case can quickly turn into a severe episode that may require surgery at an equine clinic.

There are various causes of severe colic, with impaction and strangulation being two of the more common factors. If surgery is performed, the recovering horse is usually hospitalized for several days. Stall-kept horses recovering from colic surgery may not need as much energy as healthy pastured horses at maintenance because they are not expending the energy normally used for digestion, estimated at 15 to 20% of daily energy use. However, this may be partially balanced by the demand for energy used in recovery and rebuilding tissue after surgery...
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Feeding Horses with Liver and Kidney Problems


For horses that have been diagnosed with liver or kidney disease, modifications to the feeding program may be beneficial. Any horse with a diseased liver or kidneys should be evaluated by a veterinarian, as dietary changes will be only part of the treatment and overall management of these equines.

In horses with severe liver dysfunction, low blood glucose levels may develop. Therefore, the diet should contain highly digestible starches to decrease reliance on liver function...
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Keeping Your Horse Healthy During Show Season


Spring, summer, and fall are busy times for owners who enjoy showing their horses. In some areas, it’s possible to find a suitable show or event several times each month. These competitions can range from “fun” or schooling events all the way up to recognized shows where professional riders compete for points that determine year-end award winners. One thing is common to all these activities: lots of horses in a fairly small area. And where there are many horses, there’s sometimes at least one equine that isn’t 100% healthy. In the close-contact atmosphere of show barns and arenas, owners need to take measures to protect their horses from communicable diseases. Some helpful tips include:..
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Take Measures to Limit Mud and Dust on Horse Farms

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Headshaking in Horses: New Therapy Gives Temporary Relief


Chronic headshaking in horses appears distressing to the horse and frustrating to the rider. Horses that display violent headshaking can’t be ridden or driven and in some cases are dangerous to handle. Various causes and treatments have been suggested, but no therapy has proved effective in all affected horses.

Irritation and oversensitivity of the trigeminal nerves are thought to be responsible for some cases of headshaking. These nerves run down both sides of the horse’s face just below the skin...
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Botulism: Keep Your Horses Safe

Botulism can kill your horse in 24 hours. That’s the bad news. The good news is that you can take simple steps to lower the risk of botulism for your horses, and even if a horse is affected, early treatment is often successful.
Clostridium botulinum bacteria are widespread in soil, bird droppings, and decaying animal carcasses. Spores can remain inactive for long periods of time, but with the proper conditions of moisture and minimal oxygen levels, they can activate to a dangerous state. Horses that eat from large round hay bales may ingest these bacteria if moisture in the center of the bale has provided the right environment for proliferation. Keeping hay off the ground, feeding only dry hay, discarding any damp or moldy hay, and avoiding the use of round bales are ways to decrease the risk for horses...
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Horses Need Protection from Sunburn


As the hours of sunlight increase in spring and summer, pastured horses are exposed to long periods of sunshine. While it isn’t a problem for most equines, strong sun could be a mixed blessing for horses with light-colored coats, as increased exposure to ultraviolet light can cause painful sunburn on spots with minimal hair cover. Muzzles, eyelids, and legs are most likely to burn, as are areas of pink skin under white patches and markings.

There are a number of ways to protect horses from sunburn. Using a lightweight turnout sheet, leg covers, and a fly mask with an extension that covers the muzzle are simple steps. Providing a shady spot in the pasture, such as trees, a run-in shed, or a roofed shelter without walls, will give horses a place to get out of the sun’s heat and light. Keeping horses stabled during the hours of most intense sunlight will also help to avoid problems. Various sunscreen creams are available; owners should choose a type designed for horses...
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Free-Choice Salt for Lactating Broodmares and Growing Horses


The microminerals sodium, chloride, and potassium are important in the development and function of many body systems. Though some foals begin to eat small amounts of solid feed within the first one to two weeks of life, many do not drink any water, relying completely on the mare’s milk as the only source of fluids. Thus, the lactating mare can sustain substantial losses of both fluid and electrolytes.

Foals can consume upwards of 25% of their body weight in fluid each day, so a foal weighing between 80 and 100 kg (175 and 220 lb) could rely on its dam for as much as 20 to 25 liters (45 to 55 lb) of milk each day. Assuming sodium and potassium concentrations in milk of around 0.17 and 0.51 g/liter, respectively, the demands of the foal could result in the requirement for an additional 3 to 4 g of sodium and 10 to 12 g of potassium for the lactating mare...
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Foal Pneumonia: Effects on Future Racing Performance


One of the most common illnesses in foals under the age of six months is pneumonia caused by Rhodococcus equi, a pathogen found in soil. Foals are usually exposed to the infection by inhalation of dust particles contaminated with the bacteria.

The disease may not be identified in its earliest stages when the foal shows few signs. Handlers may notice a slight increase in respiratory rate when newly infected foals are excited or stressed. A mild fever is one of the first signs, and this is followed by increasingly labored breathing, loss of appetite, lethargy, and coughing. Nasal discharge may or may not be seen. Ultrasound can show lung abscesses as the pneumonia develops. In some foals, the infection also causes abdominal abscesses, joint swelling, and inflammation of eye tissues. In rare cases, abscesses also develop in the kidneys, liver, sinuses, guttural pouches, or brain. Diagnosis is by bacteriologic culture...
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Maintaining Joint Health in Horses


Performance horses put a lot of strain on their legs as they run, jump, spin, pull carriages, or perform sliding stops from a full gallop. Even the most placid trail-riding horses are asked to carry a saddle and rider for several hours. Though they may never go faster than a slow jog, this extra weight produces wear and tear on joint structures over the years.  

To keep your horse’s joints in the best condition for a long riding career, follow these tips to preserve health and prevent discomfort or lameness...
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Gray Horse Melanoma Vaccine Tested


A vaccine designed to target equine melanomas has shown promise in a German study of 27 gray horses, some of which had more than one melanoma. Vaccination with a DNA-based serum induced an immunological response in some other affected species and also in healthy horses, suggesting that the same response might be effective in treating these common skin tumors.

The horses were given a series of intramuscular vaccinations on days 1, 22, and 78. One selected melanoma on each horse was also treated with an injection into the body of the tumor. After 120 days, the tumors showed a significant reduction in volume...
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Protect Horses Against Mosquito-Borne Diseases


Several equine neurologic diseases are spread by mosquitoes. These include West Nile virus, eastern equine encephalomyelitis, and western equine encephalomyelitis in North America, and Ross River virus, Kunjin virus, and Murray Valley encephalitis virus in Australia.

Horse owners can follow these management steps to reduce the risk for these diseases...
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Identifying A Dummy Foal: Know the Signs


If you’ve ever seen a severely affected dummy foal, it may be hard to believe that diagnosis is sometimes difficult. The truth is, the signs exhibited by a dummy foal can be so mild even the most seasoned breeder might initially miss them. According to Peter Huntington, B.V.Sc., M.A.C.V.Sc., director of nutrition at Kentucky Equine Research in Australia, not all foals are born dummies and there are few “classic” cases.

“Dummy foal actually refers to a condition called neonatal maladjustment syndrome, which is a catch-all term to describe foals that have behavioral and neurological abnormalities not attributable to infectious, toxic, congenital, metabolic, or developmental disorders,” explains Huntington...
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Colic in Postpartum Mares


Dehydration, overconsumption of dietary carbohydrates, and abrupt changes in feed or hay type are known to increase the risk of colic in horses. For broodmares, another high-risk time for colic is the period of several hours or days directly following delivery of a foal. Postpartum colic cases have been attributed to the decompression and movement of the mare’s internal organs or an inflammatory response to the stress of foaling, but an absolute cause has not been identified.

Research results published in Equine Veterinary Journal have indicated that some postpartum mares experience a significant shift in the makeup of the bacterial colony in the hindgut. In the study, fecal samples from 221 broodmares were collected two weeks before each mare’s due date and then on days 4, 14, and 28 after foaling. Types and levels of bacteria were recorded and changes were noted for mares that did or did not experience colic after delivering their foals...
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