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Articles

All (25)
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Competition (3)
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Equinews (4)
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Health (8)
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Nutrition (10)

Is Your Horse Getting Enough Vitamin D?


Vitamin D plays many important roles in the physiology of the horse, such as enabling calcium absorption and maintaining bone health. Several studies also show that vitamin D supports the immune system, especially when confronted with respiratory illnesses such as inflammatory airway disease (IAD) and influenza.

One recently published study in human subjects*, however, questioned this theory, finding no association between low vitamin D levels and risk of influenza infection...
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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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Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy in Warmblood Horses


Your Warmblood horse’s gait seems a little off; he feels stiff and unwilling to go forward under saddle. An initial lameness examination does not find the cause. He’s never tied-up before, but could it be polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM)? Susannah Lewis, D.V.M., Ph.D., of Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington, Kentucky, and Stephanie Valberg, D.V.M., Ph.D., of Michigan State University presented research* regarding the clinical presentation of PSSM in Warmbloods at the 2016 American Association of Equine Practitioners Annual Convention.

Type 1 vs. Type 2 PSSM..
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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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Temperature Swings and Colic in Horses


As winter sets in and the climate changes, notable temperature swings have occurred in many areas of the country. Perhaps it’s 50? F (25? C) during the day but drops to 25? F (-4? C) at night, or sunny and mild one day but snowing the next. Horses are notorious for colicking under these conditions, but horse owners can minimize through simple management strategies.

It may seem obvious, but providing access to fresh, unfrozen water is essential for proper hydration and digestion. The more forage a horse consumes, the more water required to help move it through the gastrointestinal tract. This is especially important in winter when moisture-rich pasture grass is limited or absent...
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Exercise Impacts Equine Intestinal Microbiome


As hindgut fermenters, horses rely heavily upon the vitality of billions of microbes that make up the intestinal microbiome. Composed of bacteria, fungi, and other microscopic organisms, the microbiome serves multiple purposes in the body, including the production of energy by generating short-chain fatty acids via fermentation and eliminating disease-causing organisms from the intestinal tract.

Alterations in the intestinal microbiome can sometimes be disastrous, like in horses that develop severe diarrhea and subsequent life-threatening laminitis. Anything that stresses a horse—such as infection, dietary changes, administration of an antibiotic, and transport—can potentially impact the microbiota...
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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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Equine Fitness: How to Build Muscle


Twiggy, John Candy, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. What do these three people have in common? Infamy perhaps, but definitely not muscling! And neither do most horses and ponies. Nonetheless, maintaining appropriate muscling among individual horses is vital to overall health and athleticism.

“Athletic horses need appropriate muscle mass to support their rider’s weight, perform the task at hand, and protect their joints and support soft tissues, such as tendons and ligaments,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a Kentucky Equine Research (KER) nutritionist...
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Add Vitamin E to High-Fat Horse Diets


Equine nutritionists routinely advise horse owners to dole out more fat when hard keepers or high-performance horses have trouble maintaining or adding body condition. Fat can bump up the energy density of a ration significantly and often provides just the right top-off to achieve weight gain.

During digestion, fat is broken down into its most basic structures, fatty acids. An increase in the amount of fat fed will therefore create an upsurge in circulating levels of fatty acids. Fatty acids are prone to oxidation, the byproducts of which can be harmful to cells. As a result, nutritionists typically recommended that an antioxidant be supplemented when a diet is high in fat, especially vegetable oil...
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Complete Feeds for Horses


Advances in equine nutrition have increased the quality and quantity of products available to horse owners. This is unquestionably the case with nutritional supplements, but it is also true of bagged feeds. Nearly all horse owners are familiar with traditional textured and pelleted feeds, both of which contain concentrated sources of energy. The best of these feeds are fortified with the protein, vitamins, and minerals required for the horses they’re intended for, and these feeds are designed to be fed with a source of forage, such as pasture, hay, hay pellets, or hay cubes.

A “complete feed” is different than a traditional fortified feed. “A complete feed contains both the concentrate and forage portions of the diet in a single bag, supplying all that the horse needs for optimal nutrition with the exception of water,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER). Complete feeds are typically pelleted but may also be extruded or semi-textured...
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New Treatment Tested for Sarcoids in Horses


What better way to fight fire than with fire, especially when it comes to sarcoids? The growths, which normally appear as nodules or flat, hyperkeratotic patches, resist many types of treatment, with many growing larger and more stubborn after treatment attempts. Fire—or more accurately, electricity—was the exact approach a group of researchers took in a recently published study on the topic*.

Delivering electrical impulses directly to the tumor makes cells temporarily “leaky,” thereby allowing injectable chemotherapy drugs, such as cisplatin, to infiltrate and kill tumor cells...
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Equine Muscle Builders: Choose Carefully for Safety


The word “designer,” when used in reference to horses, draws different images for different people. Perhaps you envision the designer clothes you sport while riding your horse or the matching designer tack your horse dons. Designer feeds, even. But what about designer anabolic steroids in your nutritional supplements?

“According to one study*, so-called ‘designer steroids’ can be hiding in your horse’s supplements,” explained Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., a nutrition advisor for Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...
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Horse Water Requirements: Five Important Facts


There are six nutrients in a horse’s diet: carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water. Each of those is considered essential, yet water is king of the hill.

“A horse can live for almost a month without food, but within a mere 48 hours without water a horse can begin to show signs of colic and can quickly develop an impaction, lethargy, and life-threatening sequelae. A horse can only survive about five days without water,” shares Peter Huntington, B.V.Sc., M.A.C.V.Sc., director of nutrition at Kentucky Equine Research (Australia)...
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Joint Products for Horses: Follow Directions for Safety


Veterinarians have the privilege of using medications “off-label” in certain situations to benefit the health and longevity of their patients. Pergolide serves as a classic example of off-label drug use in horses. This drug is borrowed from human medicine for the treatment of Cushing’s disease (pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction, PPID) in horses. Off-label drug use comes with great responsibility.

The perils of off-label drug use were recently highlighted in a study by the Colorado State University Gail Homes Equine Orthopedic Research Center1. According to the researchers, using a non-FDA-approved joint product off-label not only appears to have no benefit but may also actually be harmful. The tested product contained ingredients typically included in oral joint supplements: hyaluronan, sodium chondroitin sulfate, and N-acetyl-D-glucosamine...
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