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Articles

All (28)
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Competition (7)
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Health (10)
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Nutrition (11)

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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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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Understanding Different Types of Horse Digestive Supplements


From stem to stern, your horse is a microbial milieu that works together to maintain gastrointestinal health. Unforeseen circumstances can rapidly upset the delicate populations of bacteria, fungi, and yeast—collectively referred to as the microbiota—that inhabit the horse’s gut, especially the large intestine and cecum.

"The intestinal microbiota has enormous impact on the health and performance of horses. Although single pathogens can cause disease, gut microbial dysbiosis, a shift in the microbiota as a whole, is increasingly being identified as a cause of a wide range of diseases," wrote researchers in a recent study of equine probiotics*...
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Keep Concentrate Meals Small for Horses


One tenet of horse feeding that bears repeating over and over relates to concentrates; simply put, keep meal size small. The reasoning rests on the understanding of stomach size and rate of feed passage through the small intestine.

Stomach size. Compared to other mammals of about the same size, horses possess a relatively small stomach. Actual holding capacity of the stomach changes with body size; a Shetland’s stomach is far smaller than a Suffolk Punch’s. An average (think 1,100-lb or 500-kg) horse’s stomach holds about 2 to 4 gallons (9 to 15 liters)...
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Oral Health of Horses: Chewing Pain


Many of us think first of the teeth when we consider our horses’ mouths—sharp points, hooks, uneven chewing surfaces, erosion, and even lost teeth. Classic signs of dental problems include dropping wads of forage, called quidding, and losing weight due to decreased feed efficiency or even discomfort when chewing. But shouldn’t we take a moment to consider other causes of decreased chewing ability and feed intake?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ), for example, is among one of the most complex joints in the horse’s body and plays an important role in the so-called “masticatory apparatus.” The joint represents the union of the lower jaw bone, or mandible, with the upper jaw bone, or maxilla. Looking at your horse, this junction of the two bones—the TMJ—is located halfway between the ear and the eye. According to a recent study on the joint*, little is known about its normal anatomy, making diagnosis of TMJ disease or dysfunction difficult. Because it is a joint, arthritis remains the predominant diagnosis for horses with TMJ pain, swelling, and decreased range of motion, leading to the compromised chewing ability...
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10 Tips for Purchasing Horse Hay


Most horsemen buy hay based on the type of horse being fed. The way it looks, smells, and feels also come into play. These are qualitative factors, and they are important. When appraising hay, keep in mind the following 10 points:..
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Stabilized Rice Bran for Energy, Antioxidant Protection, and More


Stabilized rice bran is a natural, palatable source of high-quality fat. Although horse owners seem to be most interested in stabilized rice bran for its high fat content, concentrated source of energy, and other nutrients, researchers are investigating other potential health benefits. The antioxidant component, for example, is of particular interest because antioxidants help protect cells and tissues from damage following exercise and injury.

Studies have shown that the fiber in rice bran is a ”super fiber” like beet pulp and soy hulls, and the digestibility of the neutral detergent fiber matches that of beet pulp. This means the energy from rice bran comes from fiber as well as from the fat...
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Fighting Obesity in Horses: Cold Weather as a Diet Tool


The onset of winter provides relief for horse owners that must contend with easy keepers. Strict feeding strategies, such as the daily use of grazing muzzles and restricted access to pasture, often yield to more relaxed management approaches as consumption can be more easily monitored.

One critical element of this tactic involves pasture decline. During the growing season, pasture can wreak havoc on an easy keeper’s waistline and can predispose a horse to metabolic mayhem, least of which is life-threatening laminitis in the short run and body-wide problems, such as insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, in the long run. As fall segues to winter, pasture stops growing, and little risk comes to obese horses that graze dormant grasses...
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Excess Weight and EMS Negatively Impact Horse Reproduction


Compared to other domestic animals like cows, ewes, and sows, mares have low fertility rates, largely due to higher rates of early embryonic death (EED). Although a number of factors influence mare fertility and EED—many of which have yet to be identified—excess body condition, which is commonly observed in horses with equine metabolic syndrome (EMS), contributes to the problem.

As recently reviewed by Theresa Burns, D.V.M., Ph.D., from The Ohio State University*, several issues should be considered when managing overweight broodmares with EMS. For example:..
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Microbes and Equine Gastrointestinal Health


A complex microscopic world thrives inside the gastrointestinal tracts of healthy horses. Pinpointing surefire ways to optimize and stabilize these microscopic organisms will benefit horses immensely, especially in times of stress or illness.

Probiotics are live-fed microorganisms, usually in paste or powder form, given to achieve digestive normalcy in both humans and horses. The benefits associated with probiotic administration are vast and varied. For example, probiotics:..
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Equine Cushing's Disease and Eye Health


Uncontrolled Cushing’s disease (pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction, PPID) negatively impacts the health and quality of life of horses in multiple ways. Increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol caused by a growth in the pars intermedia region of the pituitary wreaks havoc on almost every organ system. Classic signs of disease include a poor coat, recurrent laminitis, lethargy, abnormal fat deposits, and increased thirst and urination. Moreover, the effects of Cushing’s may extend to the eyes.

Steroids, including corticosteroids used to treat simple eye conditions such as conjunctivitis, are contraindicated for other ocular conditions, such as corneal ulcers and certain infections. Corticosteroids, including cortisol, inhibit wound healing. Clearly, a veterinarian would not prescribe such medications to any horse with an ocular wound, but what about the natural cortisol levels found in the tears? Could the cortisol in tears slow or completely impede healing of eye injuries?..
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