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Articles

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Competition (6)
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Equinews (2)
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Health (11)
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Nutrition (11)

Ditch the Itch: Saving Your Horse's Skin


Few horses are immune to the occasional itch, but some horses are prone to severe itching and subsequent scratching.

Major causes of itch include gnats, flies, and biting midges, also known as Culicoides. Some horses are allergic to bites and have an extreme reaction. Unfortunately, it is not possible to completely get rid of flying pests. Therefore, avoidance techniques and environmental management are important...
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High-Quality Milk Essential for Foals


Lactating mares provide the sole source of nutrition for newborn foals. As foals mature, they  begin to sample forage and even grain concentrates, and rely less on the dam’s milk. Providing nutrition to foals requires significant nutrient consumption. How do mares do it?

Lactating mares produce approximately 2-4% of their body weight in milk each day. That means that a 1,200-lb (545-kg) mare will produce 24-48 lb (11-22 kg) of milk per day, equivalent to 3-6 gallons (11-22 liters). Her nutrient requirements are notably influenced by the amount of milk produced. While an average horse requires about 10 gallons of water per day, it is easy to see why a lactating mare requires 50-70% more water to support milk production...
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Potassium Imbalance: Hyperkalemia in Horses


Potassium is an electrolyte necessary for proper muscle function. Along with other electrolytes such as sodium and calcium, potassium plays an important role in normal muscle contraction and relaxation. However, when potassium concentration in the bloodstream gets too high, a condition known as hyperkalemia, it can be life-threatening.

In healthy horses, the kidneys filter out excess potassium from circulation, which is then excreted through the urine. When the kidneys fail to clear potassium, or when too much potassium moves from inside to outside of cells, hyperkalemia can result. Abnormally high concentration of potassium in the blood causes muscles to contract more than they should, resulting in cramping and irregular heartbeat. At a greater risk of hyperkalemia are horses with a history of hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP), compromised kidney function, or massive cellular destruction, such as after trauma, burns, or a severe episode of tying-up...
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Improving Intestinal Motility in Horses


Measuring 100 feet or more in the average mature horse, the equine gastrointestinal tract serves many functions, all neatly compartmentalized:
The mouth chops and grind feed and forage into manageable pieces; The esophagus transports ingesta from the mouth to the stomach; The stomach further breaks down ingesta into minute particles that pass into the small intestine; Some types of nutrients in the feed, such as nonstructural or water-soluble carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals, are digested and absorbed in the small intestine; The remainder of the feed, primarily structural carbohydrates or fiber, pass into the cecum and large intestine, where they are fermented to form volatile fatty acids, a primary source of energy for the horse.
Any alteration in the proper functioning of this system can quickly become life-threatening. A large variety of disorders can decrease the ability of the gastrointestinal muscles to contract appropriately, delaying the movement of ingesta. Decreased motility, or hypomotility, can occur in cases of equine grass sickness, gastroduodenal ulceration, colic (e.g., obstruction, impaction, excessive wall distention, strangulating obstruction), inflammation of various regions of the gastrointestinal tract such as peritonitis, duodenitis, proximal jejunitis, and colitis...
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Laminitis in Pregnant Broodmares


Even the mildest cases of laminitis cause panic among horse owners, leaving them wondering  what comes next. Will the uncomfortable shifting escalate to the dreaded sawhorse stance in an attempt to get the weight off painful feet? Will the sawhorse pose progress to recumbency within a few days? Will the coffin bone shift or sink through the sole of the foot?

If you think that is the worst-case scenario, consider a heavily pregnant mare suffering from the same bout of laminitis. Suddenly the ante increases dramatically because two lives are now at stake and the clock is ticking. She needs help fast!..
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Horse Weight Loss Requires Diet Changes, Exercise


Mirroring the epidemic in humans, the number of horses suffering from obesity continues to increase at an alarming rate, primarily due to excess nutrition and lack of exercise. One way to lose weight, regardless of species, involves restricting caloric intake. According to a recent study*, however, dietary restriction alone isn’t a cure-all.

“Excess body weight and inactivity both contribute to inflammation in the adipose tissue—setting up the horse for a dangerous, body-wide pro-inflammatory state and insulin resistance (IR). Both of these are major predictors of metabolic dysfunction, including equine metabolic syndrome, which is associated with laminitis,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., an equine nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...
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Six Steps to Feeding a Pregnant Mare


Choosing to breed a mare involves a multitude of decisions, some that require protracted thought (“What stallion should I choose?”) and others that can be made almost instantly (“Who will foal out the mare? Me, of course!”). Providing adequate nutrition for the mare as she transitions from one trimester to the next need not be difficult. Use the following six guidelines to stay on track, helping to ensure the delivery of a healthy, nutritionally robust foal.

1. Familiarize yourself with body condition scoring. If you’re not proficient at body scoring yet, having a pregnant mare in your care is an opportune time to start. As pregnancy advances, the mare will inevitably gain weight, mostly in her abdomen. Key points of fat deposition, however, should remain similar throughout the duration of her gestation. A pregnant mare should be kept in moderate to moderately fleshy body condition throughout pregnancy...
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Exploring Esomeprazole for Equine Gastric Ulcers


Gastric ulcers all too frequently cause poor performance and decreased appetite, loss of condition, poor coats, and even colic in horses and foals. FDA-approved omeprazole products, but not their compounded counterparts, effectively heal ulcers. Esomeprazole, a compound much like omeprazole, may be a more effective option.

Both omeprazole and esomeprazole belong to the same class of compounds, called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). These drugs block the production of gastric acid, effectively decreasing the acidity of the stomach, which allows ulcers to heal. Currently, omeprazole remains the only FDA-approved PPI for horses...
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Factors Affecting Nutrient Delivery in the Horse


The feedstuffs you offer your horse pass through a long, windy route from mouth to rectum. Along the way, several factors can affect the ability of a horse to absorb nutrients from the diet, not all of which are disease-related.

Processing grains. The phrase “processed food” oftentimes produces a knee-jerk, negative reaction among humans. For horses, though, processing can be advantageous. Many grains and seeds benefit from being processed by increasing the nutritional value for the horse. For example, whole corn can be very difficult to digest. “Enzymes in the digestive system have trouble penetrating the hard, outer shell of a whole corn kernel to access the nutrients inside,” said Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., a nutrition advisor with Kentucky Equine Research (KER). Corn is therefore routinely processed—usually through steam-flaking, cracking, or rolling—to be of greater nutritional value. The same holds true for barley and whole flax seeds...
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Forage Shortages and Weed Toxicity in Horses


Though they generally seek out nutritious, palatable plants, horses are inquisitive and will sample an array of vegetation if available, some of which is less than wholesome.

"Many wild and decorative plants contain toxins. As forage resources run low, whether it’s pasture or hay supply, horses are more tempted to nibble on plants that otherwise wouldn’t be enticing,” warned Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...
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Pasture and Endocrine-Related Laminitis in Horses


When a horse owner hears the word “laminitis,” it invariably conjures up feelings of dread and fear. Within the equine hoof, soft, finger-like structures called laminae are part of the essential support system that holds the hoof and coffin bone in place. When the laminae become damaged and inflamed, a condition known as laminitis, they become weak, leaving the coffin bone prone to rotation. Laminitis can be extremely painful and debilitating and is potentially fatal. Unfortunately, there is no effective cure or guaranteed prevention method.

A horse’s lifetime risk of developing laminitis is estimated to be about 15%. A survey conducted by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) several years ago identified laminitis as a top priority for research. As a result, a Laminitis Research Working Group was developed. The most common causes of laminitis, pasture and endocrinopathy-associated lameness (PEAL), were studied first. The study identified laminitis cases, which were retrospectively traced to determine risk factors for the development of disease. Control groups included healthy animals and lameness controls (horses with front-end lameness that was not due to laminitis)...
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Measuring Tendon Healing in Horses


Soft-tissue musculoskeletal injuries, such as bowed tendons, usually dictate months of stall rest and turnout in small pastures. Horses with tendon injuries all too frequently suffer reinjury if they resume athletic activity too soon, forcing owners to start the recovery process over. Human athletes also suffer tendon injuries, but unlike equine veterinarians, physicians have several techniques to assess tendon healing and help decide when to return to competition. One such technique is referred to as sonoelastography.

Tendons heal by laying down scar tissue rather than replacing highly specialized tendon fibers. Scar tissue produced during the initial healing phase is soft and elastic but becomes increasingly firmer as it remodels in an attempt to replicate normal tissue. The healing process typically takes about nine months...
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Polyphenols in Horse Diets


Horses generally consume bland diets, especially if offered only hay and pasture. Tasty treats spice up the menu. Instead of reaching for peppermints, though, consider brightly colored fruits, vegetables, and even berries so horses reap the rewards of a class of compounds called polyphenols.

“Polyphenols are natural plant products that not only give plants their vibrant color but also exert an array of biological activities when consumed by animals,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...
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Outlook: Cinnamon for Equine Health?


A recent flurry of research activity pertaining to the medical effects of cinnamon suggests the tasty spice could have benefits for horses.

“Cinnamon supplementation provides yet another example of a traditional herbal medicine making a comeback to benefit modern medical patients,” said Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...
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New Laminitis Research in Horses


Certain anti-inflammatory drugs, such as dexamethasone and prednisolone, have long been blamed for causing laminitis in horses—a painful, life-threatening condition. Recently, however, a group of researchers from the United Kingdom comprehensively reviewed the literature, conducted their own trial, and concluded that prednisolone has been getting a bad rap for years.

Glucocorticoids, potent anti-inflammatory medications, benefit many horses with a wide range of medical conditions, such as certain joint, respiratory, skin, and ocular diseases, just to name a few. One of the most commonly used glucocorticoids, prednisolone, can be administered orally with ease, is economical, and frequently used for chronic medical conditions. Owners and veterinarians using prednisolone over long periods have always been nervous and on guard for signs of impending laminitis—uncomfortable shifting of weight from foot to foot, a reluctance to move, lying down more frequently, and the characteristic sawhorse stance...
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Supplements for Facilitating Weight Loss in Horses


Obesity remains one of the most important health and welfare issues facing horses living in developed nations. Extra weight on any horse or pony has important repercussions, including decreased athleticism, insulin resistance, and laminitis. Yes, increased exercise combined with dietary restriction plays an important role in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, but what else can we do to help?

“A variety of minerals, other nutrients, and nutraceuticals have some science supporting their use in weight management strategies,” shared Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research (KER), located in Versailles, Kentucky...
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Ideal Salt Levels for Horses Examined


Equine nutritionists recommend offering supplemental salt (sodium chloride, NaCl) to all horses because typical forages and feeds contain low levels. According to nutritionists, the “salt theory” holds especially true for exercising horses that lose valuable electrolytes in sweat. A recent review of the literature, however, questions traditional views on salt supplementation, suggesting that just a dab will do.

The reviewers indicate that even horses supplemented with inadequate or no supplemental salt maintained good performance and undisturbed health. They hypothesized that horses naturally adapt to low salt levels by decreasing excretion from their kidneys and hindgut...
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Feeding Horses Almonds: Surprising Facts


Health and fitness aficionados encourage daily consumption of almonds, and some even refer to the treat as the world’s healthiest food. Could almonds be the next “superfood” for your horse?

Almonds aren’t actually nuts, they’re drupes, a type of fruit that grows on trees, like peaches and plums. The outer surface of an almond is the hull, equivalent to the fleshy, juicy part of the peach. As an almond ripens, the hull dries and is subsequently removed during processing to harvest the seed for human consumption...
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Weaning Foals: Nutritional Strategies


In many parts of the world, foaling season has arrived; yet in other regions, weaning has commenced. As we know, weaning can be stressful, frequently resulting in temporary periods of decreased weight gain, diarrhea, and potentially suppressed immunity. The likelihood of developmental orthopedic disorders, such as osteochondritis dissecans, increases if weanlings aren’t fed properly during this transition period.

According to the National Research Council (NRC), foals gain an average of 0.8 kg/day. To meet the dietary needs of rapidly growing young horses, owners often offer diets composed of both forage and concentrate. Other owners, however, try to achieve adequate daily weight gains by offering only forage...
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Signs of Cushing's Disease in Older Horses


Pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID), known conversationally as Cushing’s syndrome, occurs primarily in older horses—those in their mid to late teens and early 20s—but the disease has been documented in horses as young as 10 years old. Approximately one in seven horses will be diagnosed with PPID, so a working knowledge of signs indicative of the disease is useful, especially if you’re handling an aging population of horses.

Signs of PPID include:..
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Delivery Pending: A Checklist for Mare Owners


Your broodmare is about to be busy! Is she ready for foaling, nursing, and rebreeding? If you’re unsure, consider this eight-point checklist.

1. Be sure tall fescue was not offered during the mare’s third trimester of pregnancy. If there’s any chance she consumed this forage, which might have been contaminated with a fungus, watch for dystocia (difficult birth), red bag (premature placental separation), and expect delayed parturition. Call your veterinarian to discuss possible measures to counteract the effects of the fungus...
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Feeding Mares in Late Gestation: Four Tactics for Success


Pregnant mares require special nutritional attention to ensure the maintenance of their own health and body condition along with the proper growth of the developing fetus. In the first four months of gestation, not much dietary change is needed. However, as pregnancy advances, increases in energy, nutrients, and water are all necessary.

Key points in feeding late-pregnant mares include:..
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Managing Body Condition of Horses in Herds


Do you have easy keepers, hard keepers, ponies, and one or two heavy horses in the same herd? Although one might think that they all live in harmony, grazing enough—and only enough—to maintain their body weight, some horses maintained in a herd setting, regardless of how natural it seems, need human help for optimal nutritional management.

“Grazing acreage, type of forage, life stage, existing medical conditions, metabolic rate (easy or hard keepers), and position in the pecking order are all factors that require consideration. Even though it seems like we should be able to turn out our horses to reap the rewards associated with being managed on pasture, many horses do need help for maximal health,” says Clarissa Brown-Douglas, Ph.D., equine nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (Australia)...
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Snow Is No Substitute for Water for Horses


Mature horses in moderate climates generally drink about 6 or 7 gallons (25 liters) of water daily. Various factors affect water consumption, including activity level, composition of diet, and ambient temperatures.

Horses fed a diet composed predominantly of hay, such as in the winter, drink more water than horses with access to pasture, presumably because there is significantly more moisture in fresh forage...
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Vitamin E in Horse Hay


Horses depend on their diets for vitamin A and E.  Because horses cannot synthesize these vitamins “in-house,” they must consume them from forages or concentrates. For horses that have access to plentiful amounts of fresh green forage, additional vitamin supplementation is often unnecessary. Shortly after harvesting, however, the amount of vitamins A and E decreases significantly in hay and hay products.

“When feeding a hay-only diet, the vitamin status of the horse should be considered and addressed accordingly with appropriate nutritional supplementation,” said Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., a nutrition advisor for Kentucky Equine Research (KER). “Over time, horses offered hay-only diets may become deficient in vitamin E, which impacts antioxidant protection, immune function, and neuromuscular health.”..
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Best Horse Feed: Plain Oats or Fortified Feed?


Imagine a fellow horse owner sends you this Facebook message: “Why do you feed oats instead of sweet feed?”

You ponder the question a moment, reeling off reasons in your mind: the horses love oats, a 50-lb sack of oats is less expensive than a bag of sweet feed, and horsemen have been feeding oats for a long time with no issues whatsoever. Right?..
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Use of Recovery Supplements in Horses


High-intensity exercise invigorates the mind and body, leaving many of us feeling refreshed, revitalized, and occasionally a bit sore for a day or two. Horses likely experience the same aches and soreness following exercise. Although most equine athletes will quickly recover after exercise, many owners elect to expedite the process through nutrition and nutritional supplements.

Historically, the focus on recovery nutrition has been on providing adequate macronutrients—fats, carbohydrates, and protein. Now, an array of nutritional supplements purportedly help recuperation. Such supplements typically include amino acids (particularly lysine and dimethylglycine), electrolytes, selenium, and vitamin E. Research also shows* that dietary supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids can also help horses recover after exercise...
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Keeping Horses Warm in Cold Weather


It’s really cold outside, and you bundle up in about six layers of clothes and add a hat, scarf, and mittens before you step outside to call your horses in from the pasture. You’re worried that they will be too cold to move. Instead, all of the horses, including your oldest equines, frisk up to the gate, looking completely comfortable. Sure, they have thick winter coats, and there’s no wind today. The air temperature is still well below freezing. Are they really warm enough?

Actually, most horses don’t mind cold weather if they are healthy, dry, well-fed, and have access to shelter from the wind. These are crucial “ifs,” however.  ..
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Measuring Arthritic Inflammation in Equine Joints


Joint disease, including osteoarthritis, remains a leading cause of lameness and decreased quality of life among horses. Methods currently used to assess the overall health of a joint include physical and lameness exams and radiology. So far, there are no specific tests that can be performed on synovial fluid to facilitate a diagnosis of joint inflammation and disease.

According to a group of researchers from Spain*, haptoglobin may be just the metric horse owners and veterinarians need to track inflammation. Haptoglobin is a type of “acute phase protein” that increases in response to inflammation (e.g., following infection or injury). Haptoglobin is similar to serum amyloid A, which is widely used to diagnose a variety of inflammatory conditions in horses, such as pneumonia, but haptoglobin levels rise slower and remain elevated longer than serum amyloid A. This means that haptoglobin could be an excellent adjunct to serum amyloid A for diagnosing and monitoring inflammation over time...
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Four Ways to Prevent Choke in Horses


Obstruction of the esophagus by food or other materials is referred to in the equine world as choke. Horses with choke are fairly easy to recognize. The most telling sign is feed material and liquid leaking from the nostrils, and horses may also grind their teeth and salivate excessively. In some cases, an obvious swelling appears on the neck along the esophageal pathway.

“If the esophagus is damaged sufficiently and ulcerates during an episode of choke, then scar tissue can form, causing the internal diameter of the esophagus to decrease. This, in turn, makes horses more susceptible to future episodes of choke,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., an equine nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research...
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