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Articles

All (26)
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Competition (6)
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Equinews (3)
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Health (10)
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Nutrition (7)

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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The Horse’s Mouth: Understanding the Soft Palate


Unlike humans and certain other mammals, horses cannot breathe through their mouths under normal conditions. Animals with the physiological need to breathe nasally, rather than through the mouth or a combination of both, are known as obligate nasal breathers. An anatomical structure called the soft palate contributes to the horse’s inability to mouth-breathe.

Simply described, the soft palate is a musculomucosal sheet that separates the pharynx into oral and nasal compartments. In an average horse, the soft palate is about six inches (15 cm) long when measured medially and less than an inch thick (>2 cm).  The rearmost portion of the soft palate fits snugly around the base of the epiglottis, and the soft palate remains fixed in this position at all times except when swallowing...
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Dietary Restriction and Age-Related Illness in Horses


Medical advances over the past several decades allow humans, horses, and other animals to lead long, productive lives. In fact, horses now thrive well into their 30s, with many continuing to safely participate in athletic endeavors. With increased life span, however, comes an upsurge in age-related diseases, and fasting might just be the cure, according to some researchers.

Aging-related diseases in humans include neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases climbs each year, and the disorders are currently considered the biggest global burden of disease*...
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Consultation: Nutritional Help for a Horse with Diarrhea


From time to time, veterinarians contact the nutrition experts at Kentucky Equine Research (KER) for consultation on puzzling cases. As veterinarians, nutritionists, and many horse owners know all too well, horses have sensitive digestive systems, seemingly always on the brink of malfunction. The digestive tract is at the epicenter of this practitioner’s concern. Read on:..
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Club Foot Conformation in Horses


Caused by abnormal contraction of the deep digital flexor tendon, a club foot puts pressure on the coffin joint and initiates a change in a hoof’s biomechanics. Telltale signs of a club foot may include an excessively steep hoof angle, a distended coronary band, growth rings that are wider at the heels, contracted heels, and dished toes. Most horses only have one club foot, but it is possible to have multiple.

Club feet can be congenital, or they can develop later in life. Some cases of club feet resolve on their own after a few days, or they may require farriery or veterinary treatment.  ..
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Equine Osteoarthritis: Curcumin Research


Horses work hard, be it as beasts of burden or as partners in an array of athletic endeavors from trail riding to racing and eventing. With every step they take, their joints take an equal number. Over time, that wear and tear adds up, frequently cumulating in osteoarthritis. With no cure, could curcumin—a natural, polyphenolic compound derived from the popular spice turmeric—be a saving grace?

“Osteoarthritis is a degenerative and inflammatory condition of joints that results in the loss of articular cartilage that cushions the ends of long bones, permitting smooth and frictionless movement,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., Kentucky Equine Research nutritionist...
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Beware of Beetles in Alfalfa Hay for Horses


Most horse owners make a visual scan of the hay they feed their horses, always on the lookout for mold, wafting dust, unusual plants, and even unidentifiable debris. If feeding alfalfa (lucerne), horse owners should be aware of another potential danger: blister beetles.

Blister beetles produce a chemical called cantharidin, a toxin they use as a defense mechanism against predators. “Horses have an intense reaction to cantharidin, often causing harsh blistering when it comes in contact with sensitive tissues such as those of the gastrointestinal tract, including the mouth,” explained Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., a nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research (KER). “Based on observations by veterinarians, the intensity of the reaction depends on the amount of cantharidin in every mouthful—the more swallowed, the more severe the reaction.”..
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Large Intestinal Biome Established Early in a Horse's Life


The bacteria, fungi, and parasites that reside in the equine large intestine—commonly referred to as the horse’s biome or microbiota—play a vital role in health and disease. For example, sudden changes in the biome can cause colitis and laminitis. Although the importance of the biome is widely appreciated, experts suggest that our knowledge of how this complex ecosystem develops in foals remains unclear.

“This information is important because the biome in a newborn foal is thought to facilitate development of the immune system, establish the structure of the lining of the intestine, and assist in the foal’s ability to harvest energy from food,” explained Peter Huntington, B.V.Sc., M.A.C.V.Sc., director of nutrition at Kentucky Equine Research (Australia)...
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Signs of Cushing's Disease in Older Horses


Pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID), known conversationally as Cushing’s syndrome, occurs primarily in older horses—those in their mid to late teens and early 20s—but the disease has been documented in horses as young as 10 years old. Approximately one in seven horses will be diagnosed with PPID, so a working knowledge of signs indicative of the disease is useful, especially if you’re handling an aging population of horses.

Signs of PPID include:..
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Horse Digestive Supplements: Probiotic or Hindgut Buffer?


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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Vitamin D in Horse Diets: Research Review


Renowned for its roles in bone health and maintenance of phosphorus and calcium balance, vitamin D might have different physiological functions in horses than once thought, according to Danish researchers*. Because of this, current recommendations for vitamin D requirements—6.6 IU/kg body weight based on recommendations by the National Research Council**—might not be optimal for horse health.

“Much of our understanding of the role of vitamin D in horses comes from human research or information extrapolated from other species,” said Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist at Kentucky Equine Research. “This means that what we thought we knew about horse’s dietary requirements for vitamin D might not, in fact, be correct or complete.”..
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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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Bran Mashes for Horses: When, Why and How?


Are bran mashes the barnyard equivalent to oatmeal: warm, filling, and soothing? Most horses dive into bran mashes with nary a flinch of hesitation after a day’s hard work. So what makes these warmed meals so palatable?

“The basis of any bran mash, as the name suggests, is bran. Though most horsemen talk these days of rice bran, which is a first-rate energy supplement, bran mashes are traditionally made with wheat bran, the hard outer layer of the wheat grain. Keep in mind that the dry weight of the bran should be no more than a pound or two,” said Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., a nutritionist at Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...
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Regurgitation in Horses: A Rare Occurrence


As horse owners know, the twisty architecture and delicate microbial population of the equine gastrointestinal tract undermines its resiliency. One other peculiarity enfeebles the tract—a series of one-way passages that prevents horses from regurgitating feed.

Natural-born grazers, horses have gastrointestinal tracts engineered to process forage. A midsize, 1,200-lb (545-kg) adult horse can easily consume 2% of its body weight during a typical grazing day, equivalent to 24 lb (11 kg) of grass clippings...
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A Pinch of Ginger: Use of the Nutraceutical in Horses


Recipes featuring ginger land in Facebook feeds at an alarming rate this time of year—bread, cakes, cookies! No potluck or party is without gingerbread men, sometimes even an entire gingerbread house, it seems. While most horses might enjoy the occasional ginger-flavored treat, others use the herb routinely, even daily. Will ginger harm horses, either in the occasional morsel or the everyday slug?

“I’ve seen horse owners feed gingersnap cookies, and horses really seem to enjoy them,” said lifelong horse owner and Kentucky Equine Research (KER) nutritionist Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D. “Horses are fairly predictable in their response to cookies: once they’ve acquired a taste for sweet treats, they never seem to lose it. The occasional ginger-laced cookie is not a problem whatsoever.”..
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Barnyard Chemistry: pH and the Equine Digestive Tract


In-depth discussions of the equine digestive tract invariably mention pH, especially in reference to the stomach and hindgut. What is pH and how does it factor in the well-being of horses?

In simplest terms, pH is a numeric scale used to measure acidity or basicity of any solution—grapefruit juice, drinking water, bleach, digestive secretions. The scale generally runs from 0 to 14, with 0-6 indicating acidity, 7 representing neutrality, and 8-14 signifying basicity. Useful application of the pH scale reaches far beyond household items, even into the barnyard...
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The Everywhere Mint: Peppermint for Horses


Everywhere you turn, peppermint turns up: toothpaste, chocolates, teas, and curiously strong breath mints. Even your tack room is not immune, as peppermint flavoring infuses many horse treats. Can horses overdose on peppermint?

Not likely, says Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., an equine nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...
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Feeding Horses Electrolytes in Winter


Horse owners often associate electrolyte supplementation with warm weather. In actuality, provision of electrolytes depends entirely on the amount of work and sweat loss, and nothing whatsoever on season, so for certain horses supplementation is important every season.

“Horses lose electrolytes in sweat, so anytime a horse consistently works hard enough to generate even a slightly damp coat, an electrolyte should be added to the diet,” said Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., an equine nutritionist at Kentucky Equine Research (KER). “Horses that stay in sweat-producing work year-round should remain on a well-formulated electrolyte supplement every day.”..
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What to Expect When Working with an Equine Nutritionist


An equine nutritionist provides educated insight into the management of breeding and performance horses. Many breeding farms have a nutritionist on-call to solve growth-related issues in young horses and to defeat the battle of the bulge among broodmares. Likewise, most high-performance equestrians enlist an expert to fine-tune diets for horses in their care and to troubleshoot any number of feed-related problems that might crop up, from metabolic mayhem such as tying-up to everyday nuisances like inappetence and delicate hooves.

What should a horse owner expect from an equine nutritionist? Simply put: know-how and understanding...
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Gastric Ulcers in Horses: Update


Ulcers or erosions in the lining of the equine stomach are reportedly a common condition in performance animals. In racehorses, for example, ulcers are believed to occur in an estimated 50-90% of horses. Similarly, weanling foals have equally high rates of ulcers. Stress caused by changes in routine is thought to be an important contributor to the development of gastric ulcers.

“While some gastric ulcers can go undetected and seem not to bother certain horses, other horses show a variety of clinical signs, including colic, diarrhea, poor appetite, dull coat, decreased performance, and even behavior changes,” said Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., an equine nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...
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Feeding Horses for Optimal Recovery After Exercise


Feeding for recovery after exercise is vital when horses compete in multiday events, especially those that encompass an endurance phase. Such competitions include three-day eventing, combined driving, endurance, and show-jumping events.

Nutritionists have identified three key considerations when feeding for recovery: rehydration, replenishment of muscle glycogen stores, and muscle repair and recovery...
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Forage Preference: What Kind Does Your Horse Like?


Almost everyone knows the phrase “hay is for horses,” but did you ever stop to think that maybe your horse enjoys some forage more than others? Does your gelding prefer timothy hay to fescue pasture; does your aged mare plunge eye-deep into alfalfa but turns up her nose at lespedeza? Scientists have uncovered forage preferences among horses.

Previous studies on this topic revealed that horses preferred Kentucky bluegrass, timothy, and fescue. Their least favorites were meadow foxtail, meadow bromegrass, creeping foxtail, orchardgrass, and reed canarygass when planted alone...
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Bedding Choices for Easy-Keeper Horses


Following American Pharoah’s victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the three-year-old retired to stud duty. Images of the Triple Crown winner bedded deeply with fluffy golden straw in his new, plush stall lit up Facebook news feeds and websites.

Straw ranks high as a bedding choice among horsemen all over the globe, but for certain horses it is not the right selection for one simple reason: they eat it! Unabashedly, as if it were hay. And if those horses are easy keepers, they are adding unnecessary calories to their diet...
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Hoof Abscesses in Horses: A Natural Detox


If a horse suddenly develops tenderness in a hoof, it is possible an abscess has formed. Abscesses have varying stages of severity, but they have one thing in common: they are created to flush toxins from the body.

When harmful bacteria enter a hoof through a crack, fissure, or puncture, the horse’s immune system jolts into action. White blood cells rush to the site of infection, attack the invading bacteria, and flush them out of the body. When this process takes place in the hoof, tenderness and lameness can occur because the hoof wall cannot expand to accommodate the accumulating pus. The pressure the white blood cells create can become very painful if left unrelieved...
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Yeast Cultures May Benefit Horses Fed High-Fiber Diets


Studies show that dietary supplementation with yeast has multiple positive health effects in horses and foals. Supplementation with the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, for example, improves colostrum quality, enhances digestion, helps horses cope with sudden changes in diet, and could impact the growth of foals.

Previous research in this field also focused on the benefits of yeast for horses offered low-fiber and high-starch diets. More recently, an international group of researchers* reported that yeast supplementation increased feed intake and nutrient digestibility in mares fed high-fiber diets...
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Acorn Poisoning in Horses: Beware the Old Oak Tree in Autumn


Oak trees are common on properties where horses graze. Acorns are produced by oak trees in autumn, and both acorns and leaves fall at that time of year. Acorns are not, however, as innocuous as horse owners might believe.

Acorn poisoning is frequently reported in sheep and cattle, and is being diagnosed more often in horses. Tannins in acorns and leaves bind to proteins in the lining of the horse’s digestive tract and the microflora of the gut, causing damage to cells, while toxic metabolites trigger kidney and liver damage. Interestingly, proteins in the saliva of pigs bind to the tannins, thus neutralizing the toxic effect...
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