Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Waiting for the Baby

It's foaling time!  We're right in the heart of the season.  Everyone loves to see those bouncing colts and fillies clumsily running about as their mommas patiently graze in the pasture.  But doesn't it seem like FOREVER before that little bundle of joy decides to join the world?  

If you're one of those do-it-yourself types, being prepared for foaling can be a bit stressful.  Here are some helpful hints:

  • When in doubt....CALL THE VET!  If you're not comfortable with handling minor complications, it's best to haul the mare to a foaling facility before she shows too many signs.  Let her settle in before foaling. 
  • If you're feeling somewhat confident, here's a few things to have handy:
1)      straw bedding to reduce dust for the foal
2)      iodine to treat the navel 
3)      vet wrap for the mare's tail to keep it clean
4)      enemas for the foal to help him/her pass the meconium (first stool)
5)      Banamine IV for the mare AFTER she passes the placenta, to help with pain

  • Be a wallflower!  We all like to jump in and help....but the truth of the matter is, if you just stand back, nature will take its course.  Don't pull on the foal as the mare has contractions.  Don't break the placenta.  Don't cut the umbilical cord.  Don't help the foal stand for the first time.  All this happens naturally and interference is only best if you see a possible problem.   
Cheers to your next darling foal!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

When it Comes to Spring Green Grasses…Less is More!

Aahhh, spring!  Goodbye to cold and hello to flowers blooming, trees coming back to life and green, thick, lush grass in our pastures.  It's so satisfying to watch our horses merrily munching away.  But lurking in those waving fields of green are some serious threats to your horse’s health. 

Sugars, Starches and Fructans, OH MY!  These non-structural carbohydrates can create significant health problems in certain horses.  Coming off low-quality winter pastures or a diet of hay, the lush green spring grass can shock a horse's system and result in any one of the following conditions:

When horses graze, their digestive enzymes break down the grass into glucose, which is readily absorbed by the body.  But, if blood glucose levels become too high, the laminae in the hooves can soften and detach.  This allows the Coffin bone to sink and results in laminitis, a painful condition that, if not caught early, can cause permanent damage.

Insulin Resistance 
When cells become less sensitive to the action of insulin, which controls sugar levels in the body, cells can store too much glucose.  A diet high in non-structural carbohydrates, as is found in new spring grass, can contribute to this condition.  Abnormal fat deposits (e.g. above the eyes), excessive drinking and urinating, and laminitis are all symptoms of insulin resistance.

Nasopharyngeal Cicatrix Syndrome (NCS)
Often referred to as simply “Cicatrix”, this condition involves the pharynx, which becomes inflamed and irritated.  Over time, the inflammation can lead to scarring that narrows and constricts the airway to a degree that sometimes requires a permanent tracheostomy to allow the horse to breathe.  While fresh spring grass isn’t the direct cause, the fungus, mold and pollen hiding within it can cause the irritation that leads to the condition.

Grass Glands
Have you ever brought you horse in from the field and found large, firm and usually painless swellings in the area where the throatlatch would rest?  It’s enough to freak out the unprepared owner!  These lumps, which may even be accompanied by fluid under the skin, are often mistaken for a symptom of the Strangles virus.  

But, fear not!  They are simply swellings of the parotid salivary glands and they will retreat on their own, causing no discomfort to your horse.   

There are ways you can help your horse avoid these complications of grazing in new spring forage. 

  1. Graze at night.  Photosynthesis triggers the sugar in grass, so the peak accumulation of sugar is between 3-8pm.  The lowest amount of sugar is between 9pm and 8am, so grazing during these hours will be safest.  
  2. Limit grazing time.  If you don't want to keep these kinds of hours (yawn!), then limit grazing to 1 hour a day for 3-4 days, then increasing in 30 minute increments with each cycle.  Max time out for a horse with issues would be 4-6 hours.
  3. Reduce his intake.  Muzzles can cut forage intake in half, while still allowing your horse to hang out with his friends and enjoy the new grass.
  4. Exercise.  Daily exercise will work off the sugars your horse has ingested, off-setting the potential harmful effects.
But, if your horse has no health issues and green grass doesn't seem to bother him, then grazing 24 hours a day has actually been shown to REDUCE insulin peaks due to decreased consumption of grass.  Horses allowed to graze constantly will actually stop when they feel full, while those kept in a dry lot and let out to graze tend to gorge uncontrollably.

Of course, here in Texas, that lush spring green grass won’t last forever!  Enjoy it while you…and your horse…can!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Equine Herpes Virus – Worth Worrying About?

Just the mention of EHV-1, the Equine Herpes Virus, is enough to strike fear in the heart of any horse owner.  But what IS it, really? And how do we keep our horses safe?

The fact is that many horses are infected with the virus as a foal, others in adult life.  Like herpes infections in humans, the virus often goes dormant but can resurface when the horse is stressed by training, transport, competition, herd dynamics, or other health conditions.  The EHV-1 strain can affect your horse in 3 different ways:
1) respiratory
2) foal abortion
3) neurologic, specifically herpes myeloencephalopathy (EHM)

The incubation period is 1-10 days, with shedding of the virus through nasal secretions typically taking place for another 10 days after the host is infected.  Some cases have been reported to shed the virus for as long as 28 days.  

Direct horse-to-horse contact facilitates exposure, and it’s possible for airborne particles expelled by coughing or sneezing to transfer to horses some distance away, although no one knows exactly how far.  But the virus can also be transmitted on physical objects, including our own hands, clothing and shoes, as well as grooming equipment, tack, buckets, rakes, hoses and water tanks, just to name a few. The virus can survive for 7 days on these objects under normal circumstances, and as long as 28 days under perfect conditions. 

Can you protect your horse with a vaccine?  Yes and no.  The vaccine won't STOP your horse from contracting the virus, but it may lessen the amount of virus shedding in secretions.  This may reduce the likelihood of infecting other horses, in turn preventing foal abortions, while also reducing the respiratory symptoms in the infected horse.

But NO vaccine can protect your horse from the neurologic form of the disease.  In addition, it has been suggested that frequent vaccination with killed virus vaccine may actually INCREASE the risk of EHV-1.  So now we vaccinate or not to vaccinate.  

That decision is, ultimately, up to you.  Regardless, here are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of infection:

1)      Stay informed of an outbreak in your area.  All outbreaks for any equine-related disease in the U.S. are reported on this web site:  
2)      If there is an outbreak in an area you’re planning to trailer to, your best defense is to just stay home.  
3)      If you've already paid your entry fees and are determined to go, heavily disinfect your stall, put tarps on shared walls of stalls, avoid 'hanging out' on your horse in the warm up pen, and don't let your horse sniff noses with anyone.  Avoid touching other horses, wash your hands frequently and thoroughly disinfect all of your tools and equipment frequently.

And, finally, do everything possible to lessen the possibility of stressing your horse and to strengthen his immune system.  Give him good nutrition, avoid changing feeds abruptly, keep him hydrated, give him plenty of rest, and condition him properly before taking him to the event.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Forage Cubes - Just Add Water

Recently, we've had several horses arrive for rehab that are fed alfalfa cubes as their sole diet.  There’s a lot of controversy over the "perfect way to feed" our horses - and we certainly aren’t claiming to know what “perfect” is!  After all, each horse has his own special and unique needs. 

But, if you are going to feed alfalfa cubes, we HIGHLY recommend they be soaked in water before feeding for three main reasons: 1) choke, 2) tooth wear, and 3) dehydration.

Choke is a common enemy to all horses that bolt down their grain.  But alfalfa and Timothy cubes are the perfect size to cause an obstruction.  So, it’s critical these cubes break up quickly and easily for your horse. 

Quickly and easily is not how anyone who’s tried it would describe breaking these cubes up!  They’re hard as bricks!  Think about how hard (and long) your horse will have to chew to break them up in small enough pieces to safely swallow!  Now think of all the wear and tear on your horse’s teeth - teeth that were designed to bite off tender grass shoots, not chew threw the equivalent of plaster chunks.

And these cubes aren’t just difficult to chew – they are very dry.  Look at the pictures and you’ll see that close to 3/4 of a whole bucket of water was added to the cubes. 

After just 4 hours they crumble nicely in your hand.  But, if you don't ADD water to the cubes, the cubes will TAKE IT from the stomach and intestines for digestion.  This increases the risk of colic and dehydration.

In a nutshell, if you're going to feed cubed alfalfa, Timothy or any other forage, please remember to soak first!  Whenever possible, start with smaller sized cubes - alfalfa comes in both regular cattle size as well as minis.  This ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

April Showers Bring May...

Flowers Rain Rot!

Yes, that “fungus among us” can happen faster than you think!  In the early stages, you may be able to feel the scabs under his coat as small bumps, or see small matted tufts of hair.  Underneath the scabs, which can be easily scraped off, the skin is often pink and raw, and then becomes gray and dry as it heals. 

If your horse doesn't have a shelter from the rain or, like 90% of his equine kinfolk, he refuses to use that $1500 shelter you built him for that very reason, he's prone to developing a skin fungus.  But just being exposed to rain alone isn't the cause.  Being immunocompromised, poor health, poor coat condition (for lack of grooming) and stress can all be contributors.  

Here are a few tips to help stop it from happening:
1) keep your horse dry
2) allow several hours of sunshine each day
3) if wet, get them dry as soon as possible 
4) minimal bathing in cool weather as it takes so long to dry
5) use an antifungal shampoo if you do bathe him

If your horse already has a fungus, here are a few ways to treat it:
1) antifungal shampoo and over the counter sprays
2) rotate a spray of 50/50 iodine and water, another with 50/50 Listerine and water
3) sunshine full time
4) body clip the area to help treat it and keep it medicated
5) if the fungus is real bad, ask your Veterinarian for a prescription of Griseofulvin, an oral paste 

We wish you and your horse a fungus-free spring!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Surviving the Spring Shedding

Who needs a groundhog to tell us how many weeks of winter are left?  Just look at the barn aisle floor after giving ol’ Misty a good currying!

Yes, our horses tell us spring is coming when the layers of winter hair start falling off!  It's a nose-tickling, barn-cluttering, comb-clogging process to rid our faithful friends of their shaggy warm coats.  Check out these helpful hints for making it go as quickly as possible…

  • Body clip – It’s a slow process, but it sure makes short order of even the longest coat!  It’s a 4-6 hour job but, once complete, you’re done for the season!  However, Mother Nature always throws us a few last frigid days or nights, so be sure to blanket your horse if the temperatures fall into the mid 40's or below.
  • Curry – Whether it’s wire or rubber, it's still a workout every day.  The benefits for your horse are that it’s more natural process, and he’s less likely to get sick with lingering cold snaps.  The benefit for you is that you’ll build up some arm muscles!
  • Slick block – This square block of fiberglass literally pulls out the dead hair without clogging like a curry comb.  It’s quicker than combs and leaves a shine to their coat.  
  • Shedding blade – While this is a little less work than a curry or slick block, you do have to be careful not to break your horse’s skin with the sharp teeth. 

No matter what technique you use, there is still the hair to deal with, and it gets in and on everything, it seems!  I swear I’ve coughed up hairballs after a good spring grooming!  But, it’s small price to pay for the sunny, warm days of riding that are just ahead of us.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Being a Fit Rider FOR Your Horse

Many times our horses seem off, a tick lame, or you 'just can't put your finger on it' but he not himself.  It may be hard to believe, but some of what your horse is feeling could actually be caused by YOU, his rider!  

When you step into the saddle, you change the way your horse moves.  Your balance, the pressure you exert on his body and his mouth through the bit, the way your body reacts when he accelerates or stops – all of these require his body to react and adjust as well.

How can we minimize the affect on our horse?
  1. Ride with your core.  All of our instructors have made this point more than once, I’m sure.  But, it’s true and very important.  It’s your core that helps you to stay balanced, secure and vertical in the saddle, allowing your horse to move freely underneath you with little interference.     
  2. Strengthen your weak side.  It's been documented in studies that our dominant side (right or left handed) will reflect a strong shoulder but weak opposing hip.  This imbalance can result in lower back fatigue and strains for you, but it can also affect your horse.  Your dominant hand can be exerting close to 40% more pressure on his mouth, making him travel uneven, which can make him sore as well.  
  3. Square up your spine.  You have to ride centered on your horse.  Listing to one side, riding with a heavy leg on the right or left, or having a crooked neck can all effect his way of travel.  
  4. Improve your cardiovascular health.  Riding balanced and centered also requires you to be relaxed, so you need to be able to recover quickly from  physical exertion or psychological stress. 
  5. Keep your body fit.  Staying balanced in the saddle while maximizing your ability to execute planned movements, as well as to react to any surprises, requires a good muscle to fat ratio and loose, limber limbs.  Eat a balanced diet and stretch often.
You and your horse are a team.  You’re both athletes.  And you both need to be fit, healthy and relaxed to have the best chance of achieving your goals.  So before you swing your leg over the saddle, stretch out those muscles, tighten up that core and exhale all your inhibitions!  Let's ride!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Warm or Cold – Winter Water Choices

Breaking ice in water troughs is a LOT of work!  Step one....sledgehammer.  Step two....double layer of Playtex Gloves to fish out the floating boat-sized chunks.  Step three....blow hot air on your hands to thaw out!  It's miserable work!  

Many of us use tank heaters to keep our horses water ice free and avoid all that work.  Ever wonder how our horses feel about it?   

Several studies have been conducted regarding ice-laden water versus heated water in the winter months.  If given a choice between warm or cold water, the majority of horses will go for the cold water.  Perhaps the choice is instinctual, but no-one has explained why.  However, if horses have warm water as their only choice, they will consume 40% more than if they had cold water as their only choice.  And, regardless of the temperature, horses will drink most of their water within a few hours of eating their grain or hay.  

At the end of the day, water temperature is really the owner’s choice!  Which sounds like less work?  Running extension cords to all your water tanks, or swinging a sledge hammer?  Either way, the average 1,200 pound horse will drink 7 to 10 gallons of water a day, year round, and he honestly doesn't care if it's warm or cold!