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Articles

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Competition (11)
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Equinews (3)
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Health (11)
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Nutrition (11)

Botflies and Horses


In the horse world, botflies are the buzzing, dive-bombing equivalent of bumblebees. But botflies have one-upped bumblebees in one procreative way: they lay eggs. On horses!

Female botflies buzz about their unsuspecting victims, idling in midair long enough to lay eggs. Just where those eggs are laid depends chiefly on the type of botfly. Three species parasitize horse: the common bot (Gasterophilus intestinalis) lays eggs on the horse’s legs, abdomen, flank, and shoulders; the nose bot (Gasterophilus nasalis) drops eggs around the muzzle; and the throat bot (Gasterophilus haemorrhoidalis) deposits its eggs on the underside of the neck and lower jaw. Common bots are most bothersome to horses...
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Feed Management for Horses with Gastrointestinal Problems


While many horses get along well on pasture, hay, and grain, other groups of equines have special dietary needs because of specific health conditions. Horses with intestinal problems, kidney disease, or liver conditions fall into this group. Horses that have had portions of the small or large intestine removed also may require dietary adjustments.

Gastrointestinal disorders can be categorized into those affecting the small intestine (protein-losing enteropathies/malabsorption syndromes; “short-bowel syndrome” following surgical resection of intestine; and those involving the large intestine (colitis or diarrhea; colonic or cecal impaction; colon resection). With small intestinal diseases, the primary goal is to optimize large bowel digestive function. This can be achieved by feeding highly digestible fiber sources such as leafy alfalfa, beet pulp, or soybean hulls, with a reduction in grain feeding. Offering small grain meals of no more than two pounds (one kilogram) at a time may minimize the risk of passage of undigested starch into the hindgut...
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Managing Horses on Declining Pasture


As the growing season winds down in autumn, horse owners in many climates must provide horses with an appropriate alternative forage to fulfil fiber requirements. In most cases, this involves the use of hay, though other products such as haylage or hay cubes are appropriate and sometimes fed.

The question that looms large for most owners is when to offer alternative forage. The pasture reveals a couple of important clues, namely growth rate and plant health...
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Researchers Study New Approach for Deworming Horses


Common internal parasites, like roundworms and strongyles, are becoming resistant to a number of the deworming products currently available for horses, according to Martin Nielson, D.V.M., Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center.  Resistance to Equine Dewormers

“Several studies have proven that there is decreased efficacy of all three major drug classes of dewormers, also called anthelmintics, to common internal parasites like roundworms and small strongyles,” shares Nielsen...
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Nutrition of Mares in Late Pregnancy


Offering topnotch nutrition remains part and parcel to broodmare management, no matter the stage of pregnancy. As pregnancy advances to the last three or four months, though, mare owners should re-evaluate feeding strategies to support the upswing in energy and other nutrients necessary for rapid growth of the fetus.

“Broodmares are no different than other horses in that good-quality forage provides the underpinning for any sound diet. Consider good-quality pasture or hay ground zero and build on it,” said Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., a nutrition advisor for Kentucky Equine Research (KER). Reject dusty or moldy hay, as well as any forage that contains an abundance of impurities such as insect swarms, unidentifiable weeds, twigs, or thorns...
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Microminerals in Equine Diets: Iodine


Iodine is an essential nutrient for reproduction and normal physiological function in the horse. Thyroxine (T4) contains iodine and this hormone, along with triiodothyronine (T3), has powerful effects on the horse’s overall health. These substances influence nearly every process in the body, from heat regulation and feed utilization to proper bone growth and maturation. The role in reproductive health is also important, and in mares that do not ovulate on a regular cycle, supplementation with iodine has produced a positive response.

Nearly 75% of the iodine in an animal’s body is in the thyroid gland. Iodine deficiency may result in goiter as the thyroid becomes enlarged in an attempt to produce adequate levels of thyroxine. In the horse, goiters often occur in the foal at birth. Foal goiter may result from a deficiency in iodine in the mare’s ration during pregnancy or it may be caused by a goitrogenic substance. Symptoms of iodine deficiency may be a stillborn foal or a very weak foal that cannot stand and nurse. The foal may also have a rough haircoat, contracted tendons, angular limb deformities, or other abnormal bone development...
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Black Walnut Shavings and Horses


Horsemen may use sundry materials to bed horse stalls—peat moss, shredded newspapers, straw, old but clean hay, and any number of wood-milling byproducts, including shavings and sawdust. Whatever the bedding choice, safety remains a priority, so any material that contains potentially harmful bits—including glass or fiberglass shards from mills, or toxic weeds in straw or hay—should be rejected wholesale. One danger occasionally hides inconspicuously among the fluffy, bouncy curls of wood shavings: black walnut remnants.

Horses that come into contact with black walnut byproducts usually fall victim to laminitis. Repeat: usually, not may or could; the likelihood of laminitis is profound. Horses are extremely sensitive to black walnut shavings or sawdust, and though researchers aren’t sure of the exact mechanism that links cause and effect, there’s no question a connection exists...
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Tongue: Oft-Neglected Organ of the Horse's Mouth


It’s true: a horse’s teeth get all the glory. They nip, they grind. Horse teeth also may be beset with problems: too sharp, too plentiful, too wavy, too few. Teeth are blessed with special names as well: incisors, molars, wolf, deciduous, permanent.  Always the teeth! The tongue of the horse has proven much less attention-seeking than its neighbors and rarely puts in a subpar performance.

The horse’s tongue lies neatly on the floor of the mouth between the bodies of the jaw. Muscles anchor the tongue to various structures situated in the back of the mouth, including the hyoid bone, soft palate, and pharynx. A membranous sheet rises from the floor of the mouth and affixes to the bottom of the tongue. The tip and top of the tongue are free of attachments, which makes the organ telescopic and incredibly flexible...
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Physitis in Young Horses: Diet Change Often Necessary


Considered a scourge among horse breeders everywhere, physitis is bound to pop up in any horse-breeding population sooner or later, regardless of how conscientious a breeder might be. Loosely defined, physitis is an inflammation of cartilaginous growth plates that cap the ends of long bones in growing horses.

Physitis generally develops between the ages of three and six months at three primary points: distal radius (above the knee), distal cannon (above the fetlock), and distal tibia (above the hock). Apart from lameness, the primary indication of physitis is the telltale joint inflammation caused by enlargement of the growth plate. The joint will likely be firm to the touch and slightly warm...
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Glanders: Infectious Threat to Horses


Though not a threat in some major horse-producing countries, including the United States, worldwide cases of the equine infectious disease known as glanders are on the rise.

Caused by the bacterium Burkholderia mallei (formerly Pseudomonas mallei), glanders is one of the oldest diseases of the horse and at one time was pervasive in multiple continents, including Europe, Asia, and Africa. Eradication methods and heightened veterinary surveillance nearly eliminated the disease in well-developed regions. The disease, sometimes referred to as farcy, still occurs in parts of Africa, Asia, Russia, and South America. The bacterium is commonly found in soil and water...
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Tyzzer's Disease Threatens Young Foals


Many horse owners have never heard of Tyzzer’s disease, though the illness was first described almost 100 years ago. This malady is a killer of newborn and young foals, striking most frequently in those less than six weeks of age. Affected foals are usually found comatose or dead only hours after appearing completely healthy.

Tyzzer’s disease is caused by a clostridial microbe that affects the liver and lower intestinal tract. Early indications of illness can include diarrhea and recumbency, but because these signs are not uncommon in very young foals, managers may not realize that a serious problem is present...
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Treating Sesamoid Injuries in Horses


At the rear side of the pastern on each equine limb are two small sesamoid bones that provide anchor points for the two branches of the suspensory ligament. As elements of the pastern joint, the sesamoids are under stress each time the horse takes a step.

Like other parts of the horse’s skeleton, these bones respond to weight-bearing and become stronger as the horse exercises, but this is a gradual process that takes time. Moving ahead too fast with a young horse’s training program can lead to fractures in the sesamoid bones if conditioning lags behind the demands of strenuous exercise. Conformation faults and shoeing problems can also be contributing factors if a horse develops a problem with a sesamoid bone. Likewise, lameness in the opposite leg can make a horse put more weight on the sound leg, increasing stress on bones and tendons...
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Resistance to Equine Dewormers


Despite aggressive research efforts* over the past decade, some horse owners continue to stick to tried-and-true ways of deworming their charges with chemical anthelmintics (dewormers). Be it a rotational program or a “when-I-remember” approach using a favorite product, such strategies are no longer appropriate or economical, according to equine parasitologist Martin Nielsen, D.V.M, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center.

“We only have a limited number of deworming products to use in horses, and widespread parasite resistance to these has been demonstrated in several scientific studies,” explains Nielsen...
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Navicular Disease in Horses: What Is It?


Disease of the navicular bone, also called the distal sesamoid bone, and its associated soft tissues are often at the root of chronic forelimb lameness. Though young horses might be affected, navicular disease typically crops up in mature riding horses.

Conformation may play a role in the development of the disease. Stock-type horses with small, boxy hooves that appear proportionately small to body size seem to be affected frequently, as do Warmbloods that have tall, narrow hooves. Those with low, collapsed heels, such as certain Thoroughbreds, might also be diagnosed if chronic lameness becomes an issue. Horses with front hooves that are significantly different in shape are predisposed as well...
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Is Your Horse's Natural Water Source Safe?


Water is one of the six essential nutrients required by horses for health and well-being. Horses consume approximately 5-15 gallons (20-60 liters) of water each day. Should horse owners rely upon pasture and natural sources of water found on the property to properly hydrate horses?

“In a nutshell, the answer is maybe,” advises Peter Huntington, B.V.Sc., M.A.C.V.Sc., director of nutrition at Kentucky Equine Research (Australia).   ..
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Botulism in Horses: How Infection Happens


Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria that produces the toxin responsible for botulism in horses, is no shrinking violet among microorganisms. The bacteria thrives in oxygen-free environments, including soil and water, and is an ever-present danger for horses.  

While horses may become infected with botulism through an untended wound, ingestion of infected agricultural products, especially low-quality or poorly manufactured forages, is the primary route of transmission in horses...
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Drylots for Managing Fat Horses and Ponies


As the name implies, drylots contain little fresh forage for horses to consume. Because of this defining characteristic, these barren plots have become valuable in the war against obesity in horses.

Drylots come in all sizes but are generally perceived to be larger than an average stall and spacious enough to allow some freedom to move. Some drylots comprise several acres...
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Sodium, Potassium, and Chloride in Exercising Horse Diets


Most forages for horses are high in potassium and have a sufficient amount of chloride. Therefore, when provided with forage at the recommended rate of at least 1-2% of body weight, maintenance potassium requirements can be met by most idle equines. Sodium content of grass and alfalfa (lucerne) is usually low, so there is greater risk of a deficiency of sodium than of chloride or potassium based on dietary intake.

The apparent digestibilities of sodium, potassium, and chloride are approximately 90, 80, and 90%, respectively, indicating the efficient utilization of these macrominerals by the horse. Higher intakes of sodium and chloride also increase calcium and phosphorus absorption and retention...
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Evaluating Hay Feeders for Horses


Hay, one of the most common forages fed to horses, can be offered on the ground, in a net, or in some type of feeder. When it is fed from the ground, hay is often scattered and trampled by horses, reducing the percentage that is consumed. Nets and feeders are designed to keep hay available, dry, and contained so it can be eaten rather than wasted.

Various feeder types and designs have been developed for use with horses. A recent study, conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota and supported by a grant from AQHA, was designed to compare hay waste among several square?bale feeders used for outdoor feeding of adult horses. Feeder designs included a hay rack, a slat feeder, and a basket feeder. A control situation (hay fed on the ground) was also evaluated...
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Giardiasis in Horses: An Underreported Threat?


When horse owners think of internal parasites, visions of wiggly roundworms, squirmy strongyles, and itchy, pesky pinworms often swarm before our eyes. Rarely do we consider giardia, small, flagellated protozoal organisms that infect the small intestine of mammals, including horses. Recent research in several countries, however, suggests that infection with giardia, known as giardiasis, is more common than we think, putting young foals and their human handlers at risk.

“Infected mammals, both wild and domestic, shed giardia cysts in their feces. Those cysts are hardy and immediately infective, which means that if another mammal is grazing, for example, and ingests those cysts, it can become infected,” says Peter Huntington, B.V.Sc., M.A.C.V.Sc., director of nutrition at Kentucky Equine Research (Australia).   ..
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Cellulitis in Horses


Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of subcutaneous connective tissues. In horses, cellulitis causes pain, inflammation, and often lameness.

The condition is often initiated when a wound—even a minute one—creates an opening for bacteria to enter the body. Scar formation and other healing processes may constrict the flow of blood and lymphatic fluid to that region. Horses with poor lymphatic circulation or blood flow and horses with insulin resistance seem to be at the greatest risk. In essence, compromised immunity is the likeliest predisposing factor...
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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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Safe Drinking Water for Horses


Would you drink from your horse’s water source? If not, your horse may not want to either.

Natural water sources, such as ponds and lakes, can provide horses with suitable water. They can also, however, collect harmful chemicals from runoff. Agricultural chemicals and other environmental contaminants can cause blue-green algae to bloom in the water. These organisms produce cyanotoxins, which are extremely dangerous for horses. Not all algae produce harmful chemicals, but blooms are indicators of unhealthy or stagnant water...
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Genetic Patterns Influence Horse Gait Quality


A horse’s gaits are influenced by whether the animal inherited one, two, or no mutated copies of DMRT3, the so-called “gait-keeper” gene. Horses without the mutation generally show the regular gaits of walk, trot, and canter. Heterozygous horses have received the normal gene from one parent and the mutation from the other parent; these horses can still produce the regular gaits but may also show a form of additional “smooth” gaits. Homozygous horses have received mutated genes from both parents. These “gaited” horses can usually walk and canter, and may be able to trot, but are likely to pace, rack, tolt, or show another “smooth” gait in addition to, or instead of, the common two-beat trot.

A recent study conducted in Sweden looked at gait characteristics related to DMRT3 as well as the mutation’s prevalence in various breeds and regions of the world. When the genetic pattern was analyzed for almost 4,400 horses of 141 breeds, the mutated form was identified in some horses belonging to nearly half the breeds. Horses carrying the mutation were found in Europe, Asia, North and South America, and Africa, indicating that breeders have valued the trait and selected for smooth-moving horses over a long period of time...
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Five Common Horse Pasture Pitfalls


Most horse owners, regardless of geographical location, are constrained by quadrant quandaries and are perpetually pondering posts, pickets, and planks for sanctioning steads. Large or small, all horse farms should optimize both forage growth and grazing management.

“Regardless of acreage, it is possible for any farm to sustain horses on pasture, but landowners must avoid common management pitfalls,” says Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., equine nutritionist at Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...
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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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Watch Horse Pastures for Tree Leaves and Branches

Many horses will taste-test tree leaves from time to time, and in most instances, this snack isn’t dangerous. However, leaves from some trees contain toxins that can make horses seriously ill. Depending on the type of tree, fresh, wilted, or dry leaves can be risky if horses eat even small quantities.  
Toxins from red maple leaves cause destruction of red blood cells, limiting the blood’s ability to transport oxygen throughout the horse’s body. Oak leaves trigger kidney damage as well as gastrointestinal problems like colic and bloody diarrhea. Leaves from cherry, peach, almond, plum, and apricot trees contain cyanide compounds, and walnut tree leaves and other parts affect the horse’s heart and respiratory rates and often lead to severe laminitis...
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Photosensitization in Horses

Photosensitization is the incapacity of the body to react to sunlight normally and typically manifests as swelling and inflammation of the skin.

WHAT: More than just a sunburn or contact dermatitis, photosensitization is a reaction between the sunrays and the skin of horses that contains a specific chemical or compound. Classic examples of  “photoproducts” that result in primary photosensitization are ingestion of plants such as St. John's wort, buckwheat, smartweed, clover, and perennial ryegrass, as well as medications including phenothiazine, thiazides, sulfonamides (trimethoprim sulfa), and tetracycline...
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Older Horses: Monitor Teeth, Weight, and Diet


Old horses may begin to lose weight because their teeth are no longer in good enough condition to completely chew hay and grain. To help these horses, some simple dietary changes will allow for better nutrition and maintenance of body condition.  

In horses, the teeth continue to erupt for years as the chewing surfaces experience wear. Eventually, most of the enamel on the center of a tooth is worn completely away. Instead of a flat or ridged chewing surface, the tooth develops a concave shape that is not effective in crushing or chewing forage or grain. This dental condition usually starts to occur as horses reach their mid to late 20s.  ..
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Representative Sampling of Horse Hay for Analysis


In an attempt to find a low-carbohydrate hay to feed their overweight horses, many owners consider having their hay analyzed by a commercial laboratory. To do so, they may stuff a few handfuls of hay into a plastic bag, send the sample off to a lab, and get some results back. However, obtaining a true representative sample of a batch of hay is the first and most critical step of the analysis process. Unfortunately, it is often the most overlooked.

A laboratory can only analyze what it receives, and it will analyze a good sample in the same way as a poor sample. In the latter case, the horse owner will wind up with a good analysis of a bad sample. Thus, it is the responsibility of the horse owner to obtain a representative sample...
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Do Blanketed Horses Get Enough Vitamin D?


Horses derive vitamin D through the feedstuffs they ingest, but horses can also synthesize vitamin D when their skin is exposed to sunlight.

Under natural conditions, grazing horses are exposed to many hours of sunlight every day, theoretically producing enough vitamin D to meet their needs. However, some horses live indoors throughout the year, receiving very little sunlight, and others may be turned out only at night or when they are wearing rugs or blankets that leave little skin exposed to light...
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Keeping Your Horse Healthy During Show Season


Spring, summer, and fall are busy times for owners who enjoy showing their horses. In some areas, it’s possible to find a suitable show or event several times each month. These competitions can range from “fun” or schooling events all the way up to recognized shows where professional riders compete for points that determine year-end award winners. One thing is common to all these activities: lots of horses in a fairly small area. And where there are many horses, there’s sometimes at least one equine that isn’t 100% healthy. In the close-contact atmosphere of show barns and arenas, owners need to take measures to protect their horses from communicable diseases. Some helpful tips include:..
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Take Measures to Limit Mud and Dust on Horse Farms

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Headshaking in Horses: New Therapy Gives Temporary Relief


Chronic headshaking in horses appears distressing to the horse and frustrating to the rider. Horses that display violent headshaking can’t be ridden or driven and in some cases are dangerous to handle. Various causes and treatments have been suggested, but no therapy has proved effective in all affected horses.

Irritation and oversensitivity of the trigeminal nerves are thought to be responsible for some cases of headshaking. These nerves run down both sides of the horse’s face just below the skin...
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Botulism: Keep Your Horses Safe

Botulism can kill your horse in 24 hours. That’s the bad news. The good news is that you can take simple steps to lower the risk of botulism for your horses, and even if a horse is affected, early treatment is often successful.
Clostridium botulinum bacteria are widespread in soil, bird droppings, and decaying animal carcasses. Spores can remain inactive for long periods of time, but with the proper conditions of moisture and minimal oxygen levels, they can activate to a dangerous state. Horses that eat from large round hay bales may ingest these bacteria if moisture in the center of the bale has provided the right environment for proliferation. Keeping hay off the ground, feeding only dry hay, discarding any damp or moldy hay, and avoiding the use of round bales are ways to decrease the risk for horses...
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Horses Need Protection from Sunburn


As the hours of sunlight increase in spring and summer, pastured horses are exposed to long periods of sunshine. While it isn’t a problem for most equines, strong sun could be a mixed blessing for horses with light-colored coats, as increased exposure to ultraviolet light can cause painful sunburn on spots with minimal hair cover. Muzzles, eyelids, and legs are most likely to burn, as are areas of pink skin under white patches and markings.

There are a number of ways to protect horses from sunburn. Using a lightweight turnout sheet, leg covers, and a fly mask with an extension that covers the muzzle are simple steps. Providing a shady spot in the pasture, such as trees, a run-in shed, or a roofed shelter without walls, will give horses a place to get out of the sun’s heat and light. Keeping horses stabled during the hours of most intense sunlight will also help to avoid problems. Various sunscreen creams are available; owners should choose a type designed for horses...
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