Improving Horse Behavior at Feeding Time
Researchers recently reported* that, in certain situations, domesticated horses compete rather aggressively for environmental resources, with food being one of the most valuable resources. Horses solve such disputes in unpredictable ways—such as kicking, pinning ears, rushing, and biting. For most horsemen, this is not news. But those agonistic interactions sometimes result in stress, lower growth, and even lower survival and each of these, if severe enough, may constitute a welfare issue for horses.
“According to the study, the cohesion and social stability of a group of horses is threatened when there is limited space for feeding, thereby forcing some horses to enter another horse’s ‘flight zone,’ which is the space around a horse that should not be invaded,” explained Peter Huntington, B.V.Sc., M.A.C.V.Sc., director of nutrition at Kentucky Equine Research (Australasia). ..Read More...
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...Read More...
Feeding a New Horse
Coupled with the excitement of a new horse comes the concern of caring for it properly. One management element that sometimes causes apprehension involves proper nutrition. What’s the best way to make the nutritional transfer from one home to the next without upsetting a delicate gastrointestinal system?
As with all dietary changes, the switchover requires forethought. Keep these tips in mind...Read More...
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...Read More...
Soybean Hulls, Super Fibers, and Horse Feeds
Forage-based diets are the best way to maintain a healthy digestive tract in the horse. The fiber in forages is a major source of energy for horses, and they can thrive on forage alone. Some horses, such as those in heavy work, require additional energy in the form of concentrates.
“In keeping with the spirit of offering a horse as many calories as possible in the form of fiber, there are highly digestible alternatives to conventional hay that have proven very useful for incorporation into commercial feeds. Examples include beet pulp and soybean hulls,” noted Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., Kentucky Equine Research nutritionist. ..Read More...
Color of Horse Hay: What Does It Mean?
Methods of curing and storing hay greatly influence its appropriateness for horses.
The key to properly cured hay lies predominantly in moisture content. For best results, hay should not be baled until there is less than 20% moisture. Hay baled too wet might mold, heat, and pose a fire risk. Conversely, hay baled too dry might lose its nutritional value through broken or fallen leaves. Rain is the bane of a hay harvester’s existence, and it can cause extensive nutrient losses, especially to vitamins A and E, protein, and certain carbohydrates...Read More...
Feeding Horses: Effects of Meals on the Equine Gastrointestinal Tract
Let’s not mince words: horses and ponies are healthiest and happiest when they’re allowed the freedom to consume forage whenever they choose. The gastrointestinal tract is laid out to accommodate near-constant processing of fibrous feedstuffs. Horses run into problems, however, when they are fed meals—one, two, or three large feedings a day with nothing in between. Meal feeding can be problematic for key compartments of the gastrointestinal tract, principally the stomach and hindgut.
Stomach. With a volume of approximately 2-4 gallons (7.5-15 liters), the stomach of a 1,100-lb (500-kg) horse is not as capacious as one might think, especially considering the physical size of the horse or the total capacity of the gastrointestinal tract, which is about 37-50 gallons (140-174 liters). “Because of the horse’s natural grazing behavior, there is little need for the stomach to be voluminous, as ingesta passes fairly quickly from the stomach,” said Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...Read More...
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...Read More...
Timothy Hay for Horses
Horse owners time and again consider timothy the gold standard in grasses for horses, primarily when it is cured and harvested as hay. As a pasture grass, timothy produces abundant leaves, particularly in midsummer, so it is useful when other plant species lose growth momentum. Timothy does not tolerate close grazing well, however, and growth might slow in late summer and autumn.
First identified in North America in the early to mid-1700s, timothy occurred naturally in England and likely elsewhere well before then, and the plant was often referred to as cat’s tail or meadow cat’s tail. Timothy now grows on most continents. Various cultivars have been recognized by botanists, and if a specific cultivar is moved too far from its comfort zone, in terms of temperature and growing conditions, plants may not realize their full production potential...Read More...
Sugars and Fructans in Horse Forages
Fructans are specially adapted sugars found in certain cool-season forages grazed by horses. Simple sugars are produced in the leaves as the result of photosynthesis to supply energy to the plant. In order to store some of the sugars not being used immediately, some grasses will complex the sugars into a long chains called fructans. Fructans derive their unique properties from chemical bonds that cannot be broken by normal enzymatic mechanisms in the stomach and small intestine.
When sugars and fructans reach the hindgut, they are fermented by bacteria that produce lactic acid. Excessive amounts of lactic acid are not absorbed efficiently from the hindgut or used by the body for energy. The accumulation of lactic acid alters the microbial population in the hindgut and is one cause of colic and laminitis in some pasture-kept horses. Luckily, most horses can graze pastures without succumbing to laminitis because their digestive tracts have adapted to the diurnal and seasonal change in sugar and fructan content gradually...Read More...
Stabilized Rice Bran May Offer Additional Health Benefits for Horses
Stabilized rice bran is a natural source of high-quality fat that most horses find palatable. Owners frequently feed stabilized rice bran to horses to add or maintain weight, to offer energy in a way that avoids grains, and to improve coat condition, to name only a few.
“Rice bran is known to be high in natural sources of vitamin E and other antioxidants, as well as some proteins, fiber, vitamins, and minerals,” shared Clarissa Brown-Douglas, Ph.D., equine nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (Australia)...Read More...
Overfeeding Broodmares: Two Reasons to Just Say No
Plane of nutrition and body condition are important considerations before breeding. Mares that are either too fat or too thin have decreased conception, pregnancy, and foaling rates, but there is more to it than just percentages.
“We have long touted that the ideal body condition score, or BCS, of mares at time of breeding is 5 or 6 on the Henneke nine-point body condition scale, where 1 is emaciated, 9 is obese, and 5 represents moderate body condition,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., an equine nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...Read More...
Best Horse Feed: Plain Oats or Fortified Feed?
Imagine a fellow horse owner sends you this Facebook message: “Why do you feed oats instead of sweet feed?”
You ponder the question a moment, reeling off reasons in your mind: the horses love oats, a 50-lb sack of oats is less expensive than a bag of sweet feed, and horsemen have been feeding oats for a long time with no issues whatsoever. Right?..Read More...
Omega-3 and -6 Fatty Acids for Horses: Is There an Ideal Ratio?
The “omega movement” has been gaining momentum for over a decade, and knowledge regarding health benefits of omega fatty acids for horses has grown in leaps and bounds. Omega-3 fatty acids are now included in a vast array of equine nutritional supplements, including those designed for coat, joint, and hoof health. Omega fatty acids are used for:
Improving reproductive success;
Helping horses with allergy and immune conditions;
Exercise recovery, tying-up, and other muscle problems;
Respiratory diseases such as heaves; and
Omega fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), meaning simply they have more than one double bond between adjacent carbon atoms (instead of only a single bond like in “saturated” fats such as butter). Corn, safflower, and sunflower oils are rich in linoleic acid, which is a PUFA. That said, flaxseed (linseed) and chia both contain alpha-linolenic acid, which is also a PUFA...Read More...
Alfalfa for Horses: Know When to Pass on This Forage
When grown, cured, and baled with care, alfalfa (lucerne) hay proves appropriate for many classes of horses. Because of its high energy content and nutrient density, alfalfa is fed extensively around the world. Management situations arise, however, that preclude the use of alfalfa for certain horses.
Circumvent alfalfa hay in these circumstances:..Read More...
Four Fall Feeding Facts for Horses
As summer transitions into autumn, new horse-keeping challenges arise. Be on the lookout for these four potential problems.
1. Deteriorating pasture quality warrants a diet overhaul...Read More...
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...Read More...
Digestibility of Horse Feeds: What Does It Mean?
Although the concept of digestion might be obvious to most horse owners, the idea of digestibility may be more elusive. Further, why horse owners need to know about the digestibility could also be somewhat unclear.
According to Kentucky Equine Research (KER) nutritionist, Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., “Digestibility is a term used to describe the amount of nutrients that are actually absorbed by a horse and are therefore available for growth, reproduction, and performance in addition to body maintenance.”..Read More...
Diet Recommendations for Horses Prior to Surgery
Humans undergoing surgical or medical procedures are often given strict instructions regarding fasting beforehand. Similarly, many equine surgeons provide horse owners with specific guidelines for withholding feed prior to surgery. According to a recent review on feeding horses prior to surgery, however, there is a delicate balance between too much and not enough of a good fast.
“Fasting is frequently recommended for elective laparoscopic procedures such as ovarietcomy, biospy, castration, removal of bladder stones, and even some colic cases,” said Peter Huntington, B.V.Sc., M.A.C.V.Sc., director of nutrition at Kentucky Equine Research (Australia)...Read More...
First-Cutting Hay for Horses: Buy or Bypass?
Some horse owners snub first-cutting hay for horses, regardless of whether it is grass or legume. Why, you ask? Reasons abound.
Weeds. Weeds can infiltrate any stand of hay if fields are not managed properly. A weedy, unkempt hayfield will be just as likely to produce weedy hay in the beginning of the season as in the end unless weed control is implemented between cuttings...Read More...
Feeding Horses Mineral Oil
Veterinarians often use mineral oil as partial treatment for impaction colic. Given through a nasogastric tube as a large bolus, mineral oil helps the horse pass the impacted mass. Mineral oil is not absorbed in the digestive tract of the horse, so it reaches the hindgut intact and can act on the impaction site.
Horse owners will occasionally add mineral oil to a horse’s diet in an effort to prevent or manage mild colic episodes. Because mineral oil is inert and therefore indigestible, it offers no nutritional value...Read More...
Pasturing Horses with Cattle
Across the globe, horses and cattle can be found grazing peacefully together. Though it is a common practice, is it best for your horse’s health?
“Not to worry!” said Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...Read More...
Leg Interference Problems in Horses
It’s a hard-knock life. With four legs, four hooves, and the possibility of four shoes, a horse’s limbs may bump, twist, knock, and thump one another at even the slowest gaits. Best-case farriery and protective boots keep injuries to a minimum, but a working vocabulary of the interference problems demonstrated by horses will serve horse owners well.
Brushing: grazing one hoof against the inside of the adjacent limb, usually on the pastern or fetlock joint.
Cannon interference: similar to brushing but the hoof grazes the limb higher, on the cannon bone; might contribute to formation of splints if severe enough.
Crossfiring: a particular affliction of pacers, a hind hoof strikes the opposite foreleg.
Forging: hitting the shoe or sole of a front hoof with the toe of the hind hoof on the same side; sometimes called “clicking.”
Grabbing: stepping on the coronary band of the adjacent forelimb or hind limb.
Overreaching: knocking any part of the foreleg with a hind toe on the same side.
Running down: when the back of the fetlock hits the ground; usually problematic in fast work.
Scalping: smacking the coronary band of a hind hoof with the toe of a forefoot as it breaks over.
Speedy-cutting: knocking the inside of the hind leg high above the fetlock joint.
Do you own a horse that smacks itself while moving, potentially causing injury and downtime? Consult with a veterinarian and farrier to come up with the best way to protect your horse, as even the most benign interference can cause lameness...Read More...
Fescue Toxicity in Mares: Beyond Pasture
Most mare owners know the dangers of fescue toxicity—prolonged gestation, scant milk production, difficult birth. Because of these risks, owners scour pastures to be sure tall fescue hasn’t gained a foothold. But endophyte-infected fescue can find its way onto the farm—and into the mouths of mares—in other ways.
When properly fertilized, tall fescue is well known for its hay yield, especially when grown in a grass-legume mixture. For best results, hay is harvested when the first seed heads begin to appear. So long as it is mowed, raked, and baled under proper conditions, fescue hay is palatable and appropriate for certain horses, especially mature, idle horses not in a breeding herd...Read More...
New Thoughts on Cresty Necks in Horses
Well-informed horsemen eye cresty necks with suspicion, for an overabundance of neck fat has become a recognized harbinger of metabolic problems, including a risk factor for laminitis. New research* throws doubt on this entrenched belief, suggesting the fat that accumulates along the crest is distinctly different from fat stored in other parts of the body.
Researchers at the University of Bristol assessed nearly 100 grazing horses at the end of winter and at the end of summer, assigning each a cresty neck score (CNS) of 0 (no sign of a crest) to 5 (a crest so large it flops to one side, also known as a “fallen crest”)...Read More...
Monitor, Protect Against Potomac Horse Fever
The sound and sight of diarrhea spraying against the walls of a stall brings chills and dread to almost every horse owner. At this time of year, during the hot summer months, a common cause of diarrhea is Potomac horse fever (PHF).
PHF is caused by Neorickettsia risticii. Horses become infected with the bacterium when they accidentally ingest infected flukes (Cercariae), snails parasitized by infected flukes, or even infected aquatic insects such as mayflies and dragonflies, among others. Classic signs of PHF often include a very high fever (104-105° F; 40-41° C); colic, anorexia, depression, or lethargy; and moderate to severe diarrhea...Read More...
Keep an Eye on Horse-Feeding Costs
Properly nourishing a horse requires a commitment of resources. Feed-related costs account for at least one-third of annual expenses associated with horse ownership. Top-notch nutrition doesn’t need to be a drain on the pocketbook, however. Careful planning can keep your feed budget in the black and your horse in tip-top shape.
An accurate inventory of any horse’s ration, as well as general feeding practices, might reveal ways to pare down costs...Read More...
Hoof Growth in Foals
Do the hooves of foals grow faster than those of mature horses?
Close inspection of a foal’s hooves reveals an interesting characteristic, a well-defined circumferential ridge of horn. Present at birth, the ridge appears at the coronary band and shifts toward the ground as the hooves mature, providing a reliable indicator of hoof growth rate. ..Read More...
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...Read More...
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...Read More...