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Articles

All (24)
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Competition (2)
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Equinews (3)
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Health (7)
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Nutrition (12)

'Tis the Season: Choosing Hay for Horses


Selecting the best hay for your horse has much to do with his metabolism. Is your horse an easy keeper that requires few calories to stay in fighting weight? Or, is he a hard doer that demands calorie-laden meals to maintain reasonable body condition? Perhaps he is of moderate metabolism—if he's fed normal fare in standard amounts, he's good to go. What's a horse owner to do when it comes to pairing metabolism with hay selection? Use these general tips to find a suitable hay for your horse.

Easy keepers. These horses, genetically blessed to maintain weight easily, are perhaps the simplest for horse owners to nourish, especially when it comes to hay selection. While all hay intended for horses should be free of dust, mold, and weeds, owners of easy keepers should be on the lookout for fair- to good-quality grass hay...
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Electrolytes Vital for Performance Horses


More than one horse owner has asked herself this simple question, “Why don’t feed manufacturers put electrolytes in feed specifically designed for performance horses?” According to Joe Pagan, Ph.D., founder and owner of Kentucky Equine Research (KER), this is a reasonable question but one that is easily answered.

“A horse's energy requirement stays the same during consistent work,” explained Pagan, “but sweat losses change with weather, work intensity, and other factors. Horse owners need to be able to easily adjust the amount of electrolyte given based on sweat production.”..
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Assessing Dehydration in Horses


Over two-thirds of a horse’s body is comprised of water. Endurance horse owners are concerned about dehydration and electrolyte imbalances during competition and fight the long-held belief that you can’t make a horse drink. In contrast, Standardbred and Thoroughbred racehorses frequently have water withheld prior to competition. But how do we know if any of these horses are actually dehydrated?

“Dehydration is a welfare issue for all horses competing in athletic events. Typically, a clinical examination of the horse’s gums, skin-tent response, sweat production, and some blood cell count values help veterinarians determine if a horse is dehydrated,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a Kentucky Equine Research (KER) nutritionist...
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Genetic Testing in Horses: Out with the Old?


Genetic testing, like many areas of equine medicine, has grown at a remarkable pace. Consider, for example, that genetic tests for many diseases are now available and that a complete map of the equine genome occurred in 2007. Not only did these medical advances help improve the health of individual horses and the vigor of breeding programs, but progress in genetic research also paved the way for new technologies. Now, instead of testing for only one or a handful of genetic diseases, owners can screen 99 genes using a single DNA sample and contribute to the “discovery” of new genetic aberrations in horses without breaking the bank.

“The traditional 3- and 5-panel tests required for registering Arabians and Quarter Horses, respectively, have made a significant contribution to preserving the health and integrity of these breeds; however, despite being effective, those tests are somewhat antiquated and can be expensive,” noted Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a Kentucky Equine Research (KER) consultant...
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Cobalt Limits for Performance Horses: An Update


For maximal joint health, a gleaming coat, strong hooves, and overall micronutrient balance, many horses receive a spattering of supplements daily. In some cases, when more than one product is used and the total supplements in the diet are not assessed, nutrient excesses occur, with potentially disastrous results, including elimination from competition.

“This is exactly what can happen if the levels of cobalt are not carefully scrutinized,” warned Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., an equine nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...
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Using Facial Expressions to Assess Pain in Horses


Anyone who has witnessed a horse suffering from an acute episode of laminitis knows the heart-wrenching feeling of inadequacy, of being unable to help relieve the pain despite veterinary intervention. Sadly, laminitic episodes often turn into a waiting game to see if the horse will respond to therapies and begin to mend. One important way to assess the adequacy of treatment in cases of laminitis involves evaluation of pain.

Many pain-assessment tools and scales in horses, such as the Obel grading system, rely on the evaluation of movement. In cases of laminitis, this is neither feasible nor humane for many horses...
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Omeprazole Use in Horses: New Lines of Query


Horses suffering from gastric ulcers benefit from the administration of omeprazole, a drug that decreases the production of stomach acid. Although omeprazole products labeled for equine use clearly indicate an appropriate dose, researchers* recently questioned those dosing guidelines, suggesting that diet and dose might not yet be optimized.

In their most recent study, Sykes and colleagues from the University of Queensland, Australia, and University of Liverpool, UK, wrote, “In humans, the effect of cumulative dosing, which results in an increased bioavailability over time, is well documented, yet conflicting evidence exists whether such an effect is present in the horse.”..
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Feeding Older Horses


“Old age rarely comes alone,” wrote Caroline Argo, B.V.Sc., Ph.D., head of the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at the University of Surrey, in a recently published article*.

Instead, ageing comes with a roster of impairments in function. From loss of body mass to the onset and progression of organ dysfunction, including the dental, neurological, immunological, and other body systems, going gray isn’t always graceful...
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Bladder Stones in Horses


Although relatively rare, bladder stones remain an important cause of discomfort in horses, causing bloody urine, weight loss, and incontinence. Stones vary in size, and some can become large, weighing more than 14 lb (6.5 kg). According to experts, treatments aren’t a guaranteed solution. Diagnostic and treatment costs can be exorbitant, complications following surgery can’t always be avoided, and stones all too frequently recur. Treatment options have advanced, providing more options for long-term solutions.

One group of veterinary surgeons recently described a novel method of removing bladder stones*. Using a minimally invasive approach, the surgeons inserted into the urethra a laparoscope with a “retrieval pouch.” Stones were placed inside the pouch before being broken into small pieces either manually or with the assistance of a laser, shockwave, or other device. Using the pouch ensured that fragments were not left behind in the urinary bladder, serving neither as a nidus for future stone growth nor as a source of further bladder irritation...
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First-Cutting Hay for Horses: Buy or Bypass?


Some horse owners snub first-cutting hay for horses, regardless of whether it is grass or legume. Why, you ask? Reasons abound.

Weeds. Weeds can infiltrate any stand of hay if fields are not managed properly. A weedy, unkempt hayfield will be just as likely to produce weedy hay in the beginning of the season as in the end unless weed control is implemented between cuttings...
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New Thoughts on Gastric Ulcers in Horses


Equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS) describes horses with erosions or other compromises of the stomach wall. Some horses show few signs of EGUS, whereas others colic, develop diarrhea, and have poor appetites, dull coats, decreased performance, and even behavior changes. Many ulcers develop in the squamous or nonglandular part of the stomach. According to the research team behind a new study*, EGUS should no longer be used as an all-encompassing term. Instead, horses with ulcers affecting the glandular region of the stomach, where stomach acid is produced, should instead be described as having equine glandular gastric disease (EGGD).

“Not very much is known about EGGD, including risk factors, how they develop, or whether or not the same treatment and management options work for EGGD as EGUS,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., an equine nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...
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Molds: Possible Cause of Positive Equine Drug Tests


Molds get a bad rap in the equine industry and justifiably so. Inhalation of molds contribute to equine asthma syndrome, which includes inflammatory airway disease and heaves, and ingestion of molds can result in poisoning. Now, researchers believe* that some molds can also produce testosterone-like substances from plant-based steroids. The result? Potentially a positive drug test for competitive horses.

“Some molds and bacteria are capable of a process called ‘biotransformation’ that results in the production of steroids or steroid precursors from plant products,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., an equine nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...
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Equine Metabolic Syndrome: More on Horse Diets


Obesity among horses certainly has its drawbacks, including decreased exercise tolerance and the development of insulin resistance and laminitis. Researchers now know that simply being obese does not automatically mean a horse has or will develop insulin resistance. So, what exactly does determine whether or not an overweight horse will become insulin resistant?

To answer this question, one group of equine researchers recruited 33 horses (Standardbreds and Andalusians) and ponies, and offered either a cereal-rich supplemental feed (micronized corn) or a fat-rich supplemental feed on top of their regular diet. The amount of supplemental feed was increased over the study period to induce weight gain...
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Equine Metabolism and Thyroid Hormone


Horses use a variety of body processes to maintain internal body temperature as ambient temperatures plunge. Those include morphological, physiological, biochemical, metabolic, and behavioral adaptations.

For example, many animals stay warm in the winter by decreasing their metabolic rate significantly, leading to a state of hypometabolism, which is more widely referred to as hibernation or torpor...
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Heartburn in Horses: A Performance Problem?


Young, athletic horses, such as Thoroughbred yearlings and racehorses, frequently suffer a disorder of the larynx called arytenoid chondritis or inflammation of the arytenoid cartilages. Veterinarians once thought that bacterial infection due to inhaled particles was the cause of the inflammation, but a new study* suggests otherwise.

The arytenoid cartilages make up an important part of the larynx, which is located at the end of the nasal passages near the trachea. Most horsemen recognize that dysfunction of the left arytenoid cartilage is the culprit in roaring. Any condition that affects the horse’s respiratory tract negatively impacts performance, including arytenoid chondritis. Rather than focusing on an external cause of arytenoid chondritis, such as bacterial infiltration, an Australian research team put forward an alternate explanation: gastroesophageal reflux, known commonly as heartburn...
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Laminitis, Insulin Resistance, Equine Metabolic Syndrome: Fast Facts


Understanding insulin resistance, what role it plays in equine metabolic syndrome and the development of laminitis, and how these conditions impact the overall health of your horse can be confusing. To help owners and equine veterinarians alike better understand these conditions, a group of researchers reviewed the available literature, and summarized their findings...
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Feeding the Lean Lactating Mare at Weaning


Sooner or later, every horse breeder encounters a lactating mare that pours every bit of energy to milk production, regardless of her diet, leaving her ribby at the time of weaning. The period just after weaning offers a great time to recalibrate body condition and prepare her for the upcoming challenge of another pregnancy and lactation.

“Broodmare owners will sometimes change a mare’s diet at the time of weaning to help slow milk production, but no studies support the notion that dietary restriction will hasten the end of milk production,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., an equine nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research (KER). When energy reduction is done gradually, however, such as slowly decreasing concentrates a week or two prior to weaning, no ill effects are usually noted among mares in moderate or above-moderate body condition. The foal should have continued access to concentrates, even if the mare’s supply is reduced, Crandell advised...
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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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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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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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