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Articles

All (23)
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Competition (6)
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Health (9)
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Nutrition (8)

Overweight Horses: How Much Hay Is Too Little?


To some horse owners, maintaining easy keepers on an appropriate diet requires incredible restraint. While owners may wish to turn their horses out in bountiful pastures, they know it’s best to limit intake and use the drylot or grazing muzzle instead. Likewise, caretakers who want to dish out just a few pounds of sweet feed refrain from doing so and offer a balancer pellet in lieu. When it comes to hay, these same horse owners know too much is not helpful, but how much is too little?

With a limited menu available for overweight horses, maximizing hay intake is important, said Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., a nutrition advisor with Kentucky Equine Research (KER). “Hay intake should be about 2% of body weight, if horses are receiving no other feed or forage.”..
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Metabolic Syndrome in Horses: Use of Sweeteners Studied


Despite best efforts by owners to follow strict diet recommendations for horses with metabolic syndrome, some feeds and medications contain sweeteners, including certain medications used to counteract equine metabolic syndrome (EMS).

Horses with EMS are insensitive to the effects of insulin, typically overweight, and may suffer chronic bouts of potentially life-threatening laminitis...
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Research on Algae for Horses with Ulcers


Treatment options and management strategies to help horses fight or prevent stomach ulcers exist, yet the ideal solution to ridding horses of these uncomfortable, niggling nuisances remains elusive. Could a high-algae supplement finally be the reprieve horse owners are looking for?

“Current options for handling ulcers, widely referred to as equine gastric ulcer syndrome or EGUS, include pharmaceutical drug administration, such as FDA-approved omeprazole products, nutritional supplements, and management changes,” remarked Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a Kentucky Equine Research (KER) nutritionist...
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Five Tips for Avoiding Pasture-Associated Laminitis in Horses


Scores of horses will gorge themselves on that long-awaited lush, green pasture of springtime. As many of us already know, overgrazing grasses and legumes that are high in water-soluble carbohydrates puts horses at risk for laminitis—a painful, life-threatening condition of the hooves.

“Many horse owners are already aware that pasture-associated laminitis is particularly concerning for overweight horses and ponies, easy keepers, those with insulin resistance or equine metabolic syndrome, and horses and ponies with a history of chronic laminitis. It is important for owners to appreciate, however, that pasture turnout can trigger a bout of laminitis even in lean, nonobese horses with no history of laminitis,” says Peter Huntington, B.V.Sc., M.A.C.V.Sc., director of nutrition at KER Australia. ..
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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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Potassium Imbalance: Hyperkalemia in Horses


Potassium is an electrolyte necessary for proper muscle function. Along with other electrolytes such as sodium and calcium, potassium plays an important role in normal muscle contraction and relaxation. However, when potassium concentration in the bloodstream gets too high, a condition known as hyperkalemia, it can be life-threatening.

In healthy horses, the kidneys filter out excess potassium from circulation, which is then excreted through the urine. When the kidneys fail to clear potassium, or when too much potassium moves from inside to outside of cells, hyperkalemia can result. Abnormally high concentration of potassium in the blood causes muscles to contract more than they should, resulting in cramping and irregular heartbeat. At a greater risk of hyperkalemia are horses with a history of hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP), compromised kidney function, or massive cellular destruction, such as after trauma, burns, or a severe episode of tying-up...
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Improving Intestinal Motility in Horses


Measuring 100 feet or more in the average mature horse, the equine gastrointestinal tract serves many functions, all neatly compartmentalized:
The mouth chops and grind feed and forage into manageable pieces; The esophagus transports ingesta from the mouth to the stomach; The stomach further breaks down ingesta into minute particles that pass into the small intestine; Some types of nutrients in the feed, such as nonstructural or water-soluble carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals, are digested and absorbed in the small intestine; The remainder of the feed, primarily structural carbohydrates or fiber, pass into the cecum and large intestine, where they are fermented to form volatile fatty acids, a primary source of energy for the horse.
Any alteration in the proper functioning of this system can quickly become life-threatening. A large variety of disorders can decrease the ability of the gastrointestinal muscles to contract appropriately, delaying the movement of ingesta. Decreased motility, or hypomotility, can occur in cases of equine grass sickness, gastroduodenal ulceration, colic (e.g., obstruction, impaction, excessive wall distention, strangulating obstruction), inflammation of various regions of the gastrointestinal tract such as peritonitis, duodenitis, proximal jejunitis, and colitis...
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Laminitis in Pregnant Broodmares


Even the mildest cases of laminitis cause panic among horse owners, leaving them wondering  what comes next. Will the uncomfortable shifting escalate to the dreaded sawhorse stance in an attempt to get the weight off painful feet? Will the sawhorse pose progress to recumbency within a few days? Will the coffin bone shift or sink through the sole of the foot?

If you think that is the worst-case scenario, consider a heavily pregnant mare suffering from the same bout of laminitis. Suddenly the ante increases dramatically because two lives are now at stake and the clock is ticking. She needs help fast!..
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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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Six Steps to Feeding a Pregnant Mare


Choosing to breed a mare involves a multitude of decisions, some that require protracted thought (“What stallion should I choose?”) and others that can be made almost instantly (“Who will foal out the mare? Me, of course!”). Providing adequate nutrition for the mare as she transitions from one trimester to the next need not be difficult. Use the following six guidelines to stay on track, helping to ensure the delivery of a healthy, nutritionally robust foal.

1. Familiarize yourself with body condition scoring. If you’re not proficient at body scoring yet, having a pregnant mare in your care is an opportune time to start. As pregnancy advances, the mare will inevitably gain weight, mostly in her abdomen. Key points of fat deposition, however, should remain similar throughout the duration of her gestation. A pregnant mare should be kept in moderate to moderately fleshy body condition throughout pregnancy...
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Exploring Esomeprazole for Equine Gastric Ulcers


Gastric ulcers all too frequently cause poor performance and decreased appetite, loss of condition, poor coats, and even colic in horses and foals. FDA-approved omeprazole products, but not their compounded counterparts, effectively heal ulcers. Esomeprazole, a compound much like omeprazole, may be a more effective option.

Both omeprazole and esomeprazole belong to the same class of compounds, called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). These drugs block the production of gastric acid, effectively decreasing the acidity of the stomach, which allows ulcers to heal. Currently, omeprazole remains the only FDA-approved PPI for horses...
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Factors Affecting Nutrient Delivery in the Horse


The feedstuffs you offer your horse pass through a long, windy route from mouth to rectum. Along the way, several factors can affect the ability of a horse to absorb nutrients from the diet, not all of which are disease-related.

Processing grains. The phrase “processed food” oftentimes produces a knee-jerk, negative reaction among humans. For horses, though, processing can be advantageous. Many grains and seeds benefit from being processed by increasing the nutritional value for the horse. For example, whole corn can be very difficult to digest. “Enzymes in the digestive system have trouble penetrating the hard, outer shell of a whole corn kernel to access the nutrients inside,” said Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., a nutrition advisor with Kentucky Equine Research (KER). Corn is therefore routinely processed—usually through steam-flaking, cracking, or rolling—to be of greater nutritional value. The same holds true for barley and whole flax seeds...
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Forage Shortages and Weed Toxicity in Horses


Though they generally seek out nutritious, palatable plants, horses are inquisitive and will sample an array of vegetation if available, some of which is less than wholesome.

"Many wild and decorative plants contain toxins. As forage resources run low, whether it’s pasture or hay supply, horses are more tempted to nibble on plants that otherwise wouldn’t be enticing,” warned Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...
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Pasture and Endocrine-Related Laminitis in Horses


When a horse owner hears the word “laminitis,” it invariably conjures up feelings of dread and fear. Within the equine hoof, soft, finger-like structures called laminae are part of the essential support system that holds the hoof and coffin bone in place. When the laminae become damaged and inflamed, a condition known as laminitis, they become weak, leaving the coffin bone prone to rotation. Laminitis can be extremely painful and debilitating and is potentially fatal. Unfortunately, there is no effective cure or guaranteed prevention method.

A horse’s lifetime risk of developing laminitis is estimated to be about 15%. A survey conducted by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) several years ago identified laminitis as a top priority for research. As a result, a Laminitis Research Working Group was developed. The most common causes of laminitis, pasture and endocrinopathy-associated lameness (PEAL), were studied first. The study identified laminitis cases, which were retrospectively traced to determine risk factors for the development of disease. Control groups included healthy animals and lameness controls (horses with front-end lameness that was not due to laminitis)...
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Measuring Tendon Healing in Horses


Soft-tissue musculoskeletal injuries, such as bowed tendons, usually dictate months of stall rest and turnout in small pastures. Horses with tendon injuries all too frequently suffer reinjury if they resume athletic activity too soon, forcing owners to start the recovery process over. Human athletes also suffer tendon injuries, but unlike equine veterinarians, physicians have several techniques to assess tendon healing and help decide when to return to competition. One such technique is referred to as sonoelastography.

Tendons heal by laying down scar tissue rather than replacing highly specialized tendon fibers. Scar tissue produced during the initial healing phase is soft and elastic but becomes increasingly firmer as it remodels in an attempt to replicate normal tissue. The healing process typically takes about nine months...
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Polyphenols in Horse Diets


Horses generally consume bland diets, especially if offered only hay and pasture. Tasty treats spice up the menu. Instead of reaching for peppermints, though, consider brightly colored fruits, vegetables, and even berries so horses reap the rewards of a class of compounds called polyphenols.

“Polyphenols are natural plant products that not only give plants their vibrant color but also exert an array of biological activities when consumed by animals,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...
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Outlook: Cinnamon for Equine Health?


A recent flurry of research activity pertaining to the medical effects of cinnamon suggests the tasty spice could have benefits for horses.

“Cinnamon supplementation provides yet another example of a traditional herbal medicine making a comeback to benefit modern medical patients,” said Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...
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New Laminitis Research in Horses


Certain anti-inflammatory drugs, such as dexamethasone and prednisolone, have long been blamed for causing laminitis in horses—a painful, life-threatening condition. Recently, however, a group of researchers from the United Kingdom comprehensively reviewed the literature, conducted their own trial, and concluded that prednisolone has been getting a bad rap for years.

Glucocorticoids, potent anti-inflammatory medications, benefit many horses with a wide range of medical conditions, such as certain joint, respiratory, skin, and ocular diseases, just to name a few. One of the most commonly used glucocorticoids, prednisolone, can be administered orally with ease, is economical, and frequently used for chronic medical conditions. Owners and veterinarians using prednisolone over long periods have always been nervous and on guard for signs of impending laminitis—uncomfortable shifting of weight from foot to foot, a reluctance to move, lying down more frequently, and the characteristic sawhorse stance...
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Ideal Salt Levels for Horses Examined


Equine nutritionists recommend offering supplemental salt (sodium chloride, NaCl) to all horses because typical forages and feeds contain low levels. According to nutritionists, the “salt theory” holds especially true for exercising horses that lose valuable electrolytes in sweat. A recent review of the literature, however, questions traditional views on salt supplementation, suggesting that just a dab will do.

The reviewers indicate that even horses supplemented with inadequate or no supplemental salt maintained good performance and undisturbed health. They hypothesized that horses naturally adapt to low salt levels by decreasing excretion from their kidneys and hindgut...
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Feeding Horses Almonds: Surprising Facts


Health and fitness aficionados encourage daily consumption of almonds, and some even refer to the treat as the world’s healthiest food. Could almonds be the next “superfood” for your horse?

Almonds aren’t actually nuts, they’re drupes, a type of fruit that grows on trees, like peaches and plums. The outer surface of an almond is the hull, equivalent to the fleshy, juicy part of the peach. As an almond ripens, the hull dries and is subsequently removed during processing to harvest the seed for human consumption...
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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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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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Snow Is No Substitute for Water for Horses


Mature horses in moderate climates generally drink about 6 or 7 gallons (25 liters) of water daily. Various factors affect water consumption, including activity level, composition of diet, and ambient temperatures.

Horses fed a diet composed predominantly of hay, such as in the winter, drink more water than horses with access to pasture, presumably because there is significantly more moisture in fresh forage...
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