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Articles

All (23)
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Competition (6)
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Equinews (4)
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Health (8)
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Nutrition (5)

Mare Condition May Affect Foal Birth Weight


The “size of the prize” at the time of foaling remains a much-discussed topic among horse breeders. How big should a foal be? What is too big? Will foals that are small lose excess condition at time of weaning or remain small as yearlings? Are larger foals more likely to cause dystocia, potentially putting both mare and foal in harm’s way? Possibly most importantly, do horse owners or breeders have any true control over how large the foal will end up being at the time of foaling?

According to a group of British researchers, birth weight of Thoroughbreds as a whole is slowly increasing, and the underlying cause remains uncertain...
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Horse Weight Loss Requires Diet Changes, Exercise


Mirroring the epidemic in humans, the number of horses suffering from obesity continues to increase at an alarming rate, primarily due to excess nutrition and lack of exercise. One way to lose weight, regardless of species, involves restricting caloric intake. According to a recent study*, however, dietary restriction alone isn’t a cure-all.

“Excess body weight and inactivity both contribute to inflammation in the adipose tissue—setting up the horse for a dangerous, body-wide pro-inflammatory state and insulin resistance (IR). Both of these are major predictors of metabolic dysfunction, including equine metabolic syndrome, which is associated with laminitis,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., an equine nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...
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Improving Horse Hooves: Four Tips


Seasonal changes can wreak havoc on hoof health, leaving them cracked, split, or tender. Why so? Prime culprits include increased work, annoying flies that instigate stomping and concussion on hoof walls, and damp conditions that sometimes leave hooves too moist for too long.

Horse owners can implement a few management strategies to keep hooves in tip-top shape in the summertime. Here are four tips:..
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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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Alternative Energy Sources for Performance Horses


Many performance horses thrive off a combination of forage and concentrates to provide adequate energy (calories) to support their bodies’ needs. Others, however, can’t tolerate high levels of concentrates yet still require more than just hay. Where can owners and trainers turn to find extra energy without feeding concentrates? Fat is always an option, but don’t forget about high-energy fibrous feeds.

“High-energy fibrous feeds provide more energy than regular hays and reduce the potential for gastrointestinal disturbances, laminitis, and development of stereotypies that are sometimes attributable to feeding high volumes of concentrates,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a Kentucky Equine Research (KER) nutritionist...
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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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Competition Horses: Dietary Nickel Requirements and Testing


Recent studies report high levels of nickel in legal performance and recovery products for horses, potentially identifying a new performance-enhancing issue for those involved in equine sports.

“Nickel has similar chemical and biological properties as cobalt, leaving some in the industry wondering if nickel is currently being used as a substitute for cobalt,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., an equine nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research...
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Managing Equine Gastric Ulcers Through Nutrition


Scientists know that diet contributes to the formation of gastric ulcers in horses, but what can horse owners do about established ulcers? Can diet adjustments help heal painful divots in the stomach lining? According to a recent study*, medication is still necessary for most horses, but diet and nutritional supplements can also play important roles in successfully managing ulcers.

“All ages and breeds of horses are susceptible to equine gastric ulcer syndrome, or EGUS, with ulcers forming not only in the squamous portion of the stomach but also the distal esophagus, glandular portion of the stomach, and the proximal aspect of the duodenum,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a Kentucky Equine Research (KER) nutritionist...
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Condition Scoring Horses: Focus on the Ribs


The ribs of mammals, including the horse, serve one primary purpose: to protect the vital organs of the thoracic cavity, most notably the heart and lungs. Each rib is attached to a thoracic vertebrae, so horses generally have 18 pairs of ribs, corresponding to their 18 thoracic vertebrae. Occasionally, a 19th rib may be present on one or both sides of the vertebral column, but these ribs are usually partially formed or misshapen. The interval between any two ribs is called the intercostal space.

Ribs are not all the same length, width, or shape—some are short, others are long; some wide, others narrow; some have greater curvature to their shafts. Rib length increases from the first rib, which lies just behind the point of the shoulder, to the eighth or ninth, and then diminishes again. The last rib is the shortest and most slender, usually...
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Parrot Mouth in Foals: Solutions


Foals with an overbite, commonly called a parrot mouth, have upper incisors that protrude past the lower incisors. While some breeders droop their shoulders and shake their heads when faced with affected foals, floundering in their misfortune, others pick up the phone and call the equine orthodontist.

Parrot mouth, long believed to be an inherited condition, reportedly affects 2-5% of the equine population to some degree. Although common in other species, like humans, any degree of overbite is considered abnormal in horses...
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Feeding Horses Whey Protein


When searching for a source of high-quality protein for horse feeds, formulation experts invariably reach for soybean meal. Though soybean meal is ubiquitous in feeds, other protein sources, including whey protein, are suitable for consumption by horses and offer a beneficial range of amino acids.

Whey protein is a byproduct of the cheesemaking industry. Rennet, a complex of enzymes used in cheese manufacture, is added to milk to curdle the casein proteins. These curds are removed to make cheese. The liquid left after the curds are removed is whey, and the proteins that remain in that liquid are called whey proteins. The whey is carefully dried to preserve amino acids, thus becoming a concentrated source of protein...
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Calcium Deficiency Suspected in a Young Horse


The nutritionists at Kentucky Equine Research (KER) work with horse owners worldwide, offering advice on every level of feeding management. A horseman from Puerto Rico recently contacted KER regarding his two-year-old Paso Fino colt. An overview of the colt’s situation follows:

Weight: 800 lb (365 kg)..
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Preparing for an Orphan Foal


Foaling season leaves many mare owners worried about what will happen if a foal arrives to a mare with poor-quality or insufficient colostrum. As breeders know, this first meal is undoubtedly the most important for priming a foal’s immune system and providing infection-fighting antibodies. Subsequent meals occurring over the next few months are still high priority because a foal relies on milk to survive. What do you have planned if your mare cannot support her foal?

“Newborn foals nurse about seven times every hour and remain reliant on milk for the first three to four months of their lives,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a Kentucky Equine Research (KER) nutritionist...
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Cool-Season Grasses and Fructans in Horse Diets


Many species of grasses have proven suitable for grazing by horses. Cool-season grasses seem especially appropriate for pastures, and because they do best in temperatures between 65 and 80o F (18 and 270 C), these grasses grow most abundantly in spring and fall. Growth slows in the warmer summer months in some years, and this is often referred to as the “summer slump,” though reduction in growth seems dependent on other factors, such as rainfall.

Five common species of cool-season grasses used in horse operations include timothy, orchardgrass, tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass...
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Stall Vices Linked to Digestive Discomfort in Horses


Horses evolved wandering miles each day and grazing in herds. Now, many horses lead a very different life, spending most of their time in stalls, eating two large meals a day, and having little contact with other horses.

This shift from migratory foraging to stationary meal-eating can cause disturbances in health and behavior. For example, long-term solitary stall confinement can lead to boredom and separation anxiety. Large meals filled with concentrates cause problems such as hindgut acidosis and ulcers, and these issues can cause or exacerbate stall vices. The most common stall vices include:..
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Low Vitamin D Levels and Foals


When we think of newborn foal nutrition, colostrum is often the first thing that comes to mind Replete with infection-fighting antibodies and other healthy ingredients, colostrum jump-starts a foal’s immune system. In reality, the foal’s environment, management, and nutritional factors, including adequate vitamin D levels, all play an integral role in the balance between health and sickness.

“The role of vitamin D in human illness remains a controversial subject,” noted Peter Huntington, B.V.Sc., M.A.C.V.Sc., director of nutrition at Kentucky Equine Research (Australia)...
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Changes in Horse Manure Consistency


Loose manure and diarrhea in horses typically stem from one of three causes: antibiotic therapy, diet, or disease. Because of excessive water loss associated with diarrhea, affected horses can become dehydrated and have other problems, so horse owners should investigate changes in manure consistency immediately, calling in a veterinarian if necessary.

Antibiotics are a well-known trigger for loose manure because they eliminate many of the innate and beneficial microorganisms that reside in the horse’s hindgut...
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Four Dietary Tips for Healthy Horse Transport


Even the shortest trip in a horse trailer for the most seasoned equine jet-setter causes some level of stress due to isolation, confinement, noise, vibration, and altered balance. In addition, physical injuries, respiratory diseases, colic, laminitis, enterocolitis, and tying-up pose real concerns for horses and owners during transport.

“Considering the impact of diet prior to and during transport can make the difference between arriving with a healthy or sick horse,” advised Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., equine nutritionist at Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...
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Measuring Height and Weight of Foals


Waves of anticipation and excitement surround foaling season as a new crop of foals makes its way into the world.  Spindly-legged and helpless one day and robust and independent the next, foals mature quickly. How can mare owners be sure their foals are growing to specs, fulfilling the genetic promise of their sires and dams?

Tracking the growth of foals weekly from birth is the best way to ensure slow, steady growth, according to Eileen Phethean, technical consultant for Kentucky Equine Research’s growth-monitoring software Gro-Trac®. “Though Gro-Trac is used as a management tool on large breeding farms around the world, the importance of recording growth is just as applicable to breeders with just one, two, or three mares,” she said...
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Condition Scoring of Horses: The Topline


Multiple factors affect the shape of the topline of horses, principally body condition or weight, individual conformation, and age.

The prominence of the spinal column, or backbone, is a key factor in determining body condition score. Horses in low body condition, those in the 1 to 3 range, will typically have a sharp ridge along the topline, from the base of the withers to the peak of the croup. Because of the musculature of the hindquarters, the vertebrae of the croup are sometimes flesh-covered when those of the back and loin region are protuberant, though this is dependent on conformation as well. In severe cases of emaciation, however, individual vertebrae are distinguishable in every region of the spine from the posterior withers to the dock...
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