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Articles

All (20)
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Competition (2)
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Equinews (6)
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Health (5)
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Nutrition (7)

Are Genetically Modified Feeds Safe for Horses?


The safety of genetically modified (GM) foods for human consumption is a contentious and controversial subject. Much of the information fueling this debate is based on little or no scientifically sound evidence. This has spilled over into the horse industry with many feed manufacturers capitalizing on this angst by offering “GM-free” horse feeds. What are genetically modified feed ingredients, and are they really safe to feed to horses?

Genetically Modified Traits..
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Heat Stress and Horses


Owners of competitive horses carefully monitor their horses before, during, and following exercise in hot, humid environments to either avoid or quickly manage heat stress. To help, many competition venues have veterinarians on staff to identify horses struggling with the heat and provide various forms of cooling options—a cache of ice, misting stations, low-temperature tents. Nonetheless, athletic horses are all too frequently excused from competition for not performing well in the heat. To help horse owners, trainers, and veterinarians better understand heat stroke, which is more accurately referred to as “equine heat exertional illness,” Australian researchers published a comprehensive review* on the topic, including detailed recommendations for rapid and effective cooling.

“To begin, the researchers explained that the muscles of an exercising horse generate an impressive amount of heat, capable of increasing a horse’s core body temperature by as much as 1.8° F each minute,” shared Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., an equine nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research...
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Protein in Horse Diets: Aim for "Required" Levels


Horses need protein to grow and maintain health, but excess nitrogen from too much dietary protein may affect the environment adversely. Because of this, environmental advocates suggest feeding only “required” levels of protein to domesticated animals, including horses. Will deviating from tried-and-true approaches to feeding horses, particularly growing foals, negatively impact their behavior and health?

Excess nitrogen contributes to eutrophication, the process by which a body of water becomes enriched in dissolved nutrients, including nitrogen, that stimulate the growth of plants and algae...
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Is Activated Charcoal Safe for Colicky, Toxic Horses?


The well-being of a horse relies in part on a robust gastrointestinal system. Keeping the tract functioning, especially in times of stress, often requires a veterinarian’s skill and an arsenal of medication and time-honored treatments.

Activated charcoal is a porous, carbon-based material that is predominantly used in medicine as a detoxifying agent, to absorb toxins or poisons. “In horses, activated charcoal is most commonly used for endotoxemia, colic, flatulence, and ingested toxins such as those encountered in acorn toxicosis,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., an equine nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...
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Causes of Death in Older Horses Examined


According to a group of researchers from Purdue University, maximizing equine health, especially among aged equines, requires knowledge of what ultimately causes their demise. Currently, “old age” is frequently reported as a cause of death. In reality, simply being old does not result in loss of life.

“The number of ‘old’ horses is increasing due to improved veterinary care and the willingness of owners to manage horses into their 20s, 30s, and even 40s,” noted Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a Kentucky Equine Research nutritionist. “Rather than simply watching horses age ungracefully, more and more veterinarians and owners are taking the bull by the horns, embracing strategies to maximize health and longevity.”..
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Horse-Feeding Problems: Managing Easy and Hard Keepers Together


Managing a mixed bag of horses frequently puts horse owners in a conundrum, especially when it comes to feeding. With limited land and the desire to maintain horses in a social setting, how do you keep an easy keeper from gaining excess weight while bolstering condition of a hard keeper? Consider these tips to ensure all members of the herd are optimally managed...
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Weaning and Beyond: Impact of Embryo Transfer on Foals


Removing an embryo from a pony and transferring it to a larger mare, or vice versa, results in altered fetal growth and glucose metabolism. More specifically, one study showed that pony foals from draft mares were larger at birth and at weaning, whereas American Saddlebred foals from pony mares were smaller at birth until weaning. In addition, both groups of foals had altered blood sugar values that were perceived as adaptive responses to their plane of nutrition.

In a subsequent study*, those same researchers assessed weight and glucose metabolism on “enhanced” pregnancy (i.e., pony and Saddlebred foals transferred to draft mares) and “restricted” pregnancies (i.e., Saddlebred foals transferred to pony mares) after weaning. Key findings included:..
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Calming Horses: Recent Tryptophan Research


What options do horse owners have to calm their mounts? In a recent study*, Australian researchers attempted to show that tryptophan is a safe and effective calming agent in horses. Tryptophan thwarted the researchers, however, showing no calming effect.

“Tryptophan has long been the amino acid accused of causing sleepiness after a turkey supper or helping you fall asleep following a mug of warm milk,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a Kentucky Equine Research nutritionist. She added, “Behavioral reactivity in horses is a safety risk for horses, their handlers, and bystanders, which makes safe and effective calming agents important to many owners.”..
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Equine Metabolic Syndrome and the Intestinal Microbiome


Horses and humans have a lot in common, including a propensity for developing metabolic syndrome. Recent research in humans suggests that alterations in the intestinal microbiome—the community of microorganisms that exist in the large intestine—could contribute to endocrine upheaval. In horses, equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) is characterized by insulin resistance, regional adiposity, and laminitis.

“Investigation into the mechanisms and factors contributing to EMS is becoming increasingly important considering its negative health consequences in these horses, in particular, the increased risk of laminitis,” wrote a group of Canadian researchers in a recent study*...
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Anhidrosis in Horses May Have Genetic Component


Many genetic problems have been identified in horses in last few decades. One of the greatest examples is HYPP, hyperkalemic periodic paralysis, traced back to a single Quarter Horse sire, Impressive. Back in 1992, researchers developed a DNA test capable of identifying horses carrying the gene for HYPP and have attempted to eliminate the disorder through responsible breeding. Now researchers are investigating  to see if a similar approach could be utilized to reduce or eliminate other diseases of horses, such as metabolic syndrome, OCD (osteochondrosis dissecans), heaves, or even anhidrosis.

Experts at the Brooks Equine Genetics Lab at the University of Florida are currently looking for a genetic link in horses affected by anhidrosis...
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Grazing Muzzles on Pastured Horses Help Control Weight Gain


Equine experts widely advocate pasture access for maximizing the health of horses with heaves, osteoarthritis, or simply to match their “evolutionary upbringing,” so to speak. Although beneficial in many ways, putting horses on 24-hour turnout, which occurs in many parts of the world, is a double-edged sword, according to one research group*.

“Such management may be perceived as being ideal, enabling the animal to graze freely, exercise, and engage in social behavior on the one hand, and requires relatively little labor input from the owner, on the other. However, for animals in receipt of minimal structured exercise, constant access to pasture can lead to weight gain and obesity. Indeed, at certain times of year, such improved pastures contain herbage with an energy value that is equal to or exceeds that of a high-energy compound feed.”..
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Garlic Supplementation for Gastric Ulcers in Horses


Herbal supplements designed to boost your horse’s health abound,, often containing ingredients such as ginger, garlic, yucca, devil’s claw, and more. Recently, Egyptian researchers reported* that garlic—an herb with a long and illustrious history in non-Western medicine—has gastroprotective effects and could potentially be used to help manage horses with gastric ulcers.

“Gastric ulcers in horses are common, affecting a substantial proportion of weanlings and athletic horses, including those treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a Kentucky Equine Research (KER) nutritionist...
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Feeding Overweight Horses: Drylot Management


Full-out access to good-quality pasture sets the stage for obesity in many horse and ponies, especially easy keepers, and can spell serious trouble for those predisposed to laminitis. A drylot is one management tool that helps keep weight in check. Like all enclosures designed for horses, drylots should, first and foremost, provide a safe environment for horses, but also foster a healthier diet.

Weed control. By its definition, drylots have little or no nutritious vegetation, but weeds tend to sprout and spread in these barren zones, sometimes with alarming zeal. When horses are hungry, they will munch on plants that are otherwise unappetizing to them, and some weeds could be troublesome for horses. To keep a drylot weed-free, consider consultation with a pasture specialist. Larger feed stores might have an expert on hand, and this individual will likely be well versed on local weeds and how best to eradicate them. A university or extension service may offer similar services, sometimes free of charge...
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Colic in Horses: Preventing Enteroliths


Horses have over 100 feet of tissue making up the equine gastrointestinal tract—much of it coiled rather precariously in the abdomen—explaining why colic in horses is so common. From impactions and displacements to torsions and foreign material, nutrition plays an important role in both preventing and managing painful abdomens.

Sand accumulation causes colic in many areas of the world as most owners are all too aware, but did you know stones can also form in the large intestine?..
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Not All Obese Horses Have Insulin Resistance


Insulin resistance affects many overweight horses and ponies, potentially resulting in life-threatening bouts of laminitis. Certain breeds seem to be more prone to the condition than others, including easy keepers such as Andalusians. But, according to a Spanish research team, simply being overweight does not necessarily mean horses are resistant to the effects of insulin, the key hormone involved in controlling blood sugar levels.

Based on their research involving 164 Andalusians presented at the latest British Equine Veterinary Congress*, Martin Gimenez and coworkers reported the following:..
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Understanding Fructan's Role in Horse Laminitis


Most horse owners likely already know that consumption of lush pastures puts some horses at risk of developing pasture-associated laminitis (PAL), a potentially life-threatening condition. Is it merely the ingestion of high concentration of water-soluble carbohydrates, like simple sugars? Does a horse’s reduced sensitivity to insulin also impact PAL? Is it a combination of these factors or even something completely different? Without an improved understanding of the underlying events leading up to PAL, controlling this condition remains challenging.

One theory is that a specific type of water-soluble carbohydrate, called fructan, can lead to PAL. Fructans are chains of fructose sugar molecules; they are configured much like starch, which is made glucose molecules linked together. Unlike starch, ingested fructans are minimally digested in the small intestine before entering the large intestine. Once in the hindgut, fructans are fermented by bacteria, primarily Streptococcus spp., to produce lactic acid. While the horse may eventually use lactic acid for energy, this is much different than the fermentation of fiber, which produces short-chain fatty acids that provide energy for the horse without affecting the pH...
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Preventing Respiratory Infections in Young Horses: Supplements


Anyone spending time in the breeding sector of the equine industry quickly appreciates the importance of colostrum for neonates. Foals deprived of their dam’s first milk, or a suitable alternative, quickly develop life-threatening infections and all too frequently succumb to illness.

Supplementation with the antioxidant vitamin E will help support the immune system and guard against oxidative damage. Kentucky Equine Research (KER) offers two vitamin E products, Nano•E and Preserve PS (Preserve in Australia), that support immune function in young horses...
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Gastrointestinal Motility Key to Horse Digestive Health


A finely honed nervous system helps direct gastrointestinal function in horses. Referred to as the “brain of the gut,” the enteric nervous system monitors the goings-on of the entire tract, from beginning to end. One feature of the enteric nervous system is its ability to precisely coordinate the passage of ingesta from one digestive organ to the next. As horse owners, we can do little to alter or outsmart this innate wiring, but management approaches are available that maximize gastrointestinal motility.

Gastrointestinal motility refers to the passage of ingesta through the digestive tract by normal nervous and muscular functions. How to maximize gastrointestinal motility in horses rests largely with understanding how horses should be fed...
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Grass Sickness in Horses: Degree of Weight Loss and Survival


Horses suffering from equine grass sickness (EGS) present with colic, constipation, and swift, severe weight loss. The underlying cause is damage to the nervous system, especially nerves supplying the gastrointestinal tract. Most rapid-onset, severe cases are fatal, frequently resulting in loss of life within two or three days, but some horses manage to bounce back after a bout of EGS.

There are currently no objective criteria available to help predict survival of horses with EGS, reported a group of veterinarians from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and the Roslin Institute in the United Kingdom.*..
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Vitamin K Absorption in Horses


Vitamin K not only plays an important role in blood-clotting but also in a number of other physiological processes such as bone metabolism, immune function, programmed cell death, energy production, and the development of spermatozoa. In fact, 14 different proteins dependent on vitamin K to function properly have been identified so far. Considering there are three different forms of vitamin K, where do horses get the most vitamin K?

During a recent Australasian Equine Science Symposium, vitamin K absorption was a well-reviewed topic. Two separate studies were presented, each highlighting basic information about this fat-soluble vitamin.*,**..
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