Equine Founder And Laminitis

What is it?

Laminitis, or equine founder, is a painful and potentially devastating foot condition. Founder is an emergency; call your vet immediately if you suspect founder.

What are the symptoms?

Early symptoms of equine founder are often subtle. The horse may be slightly stiff, particularly the forelegs. Laminitis causes severe heat in the feet, a strong digital pulse and a “rocking-horse” posture, as the horse leans back on his heels to relieve pain.

He will be reluctant to walk. He may lie down and not want to get up. If forced to stand however, he will will lean back on his heels and shift weight from one affected foot to the other. Founder most often occurs in the front hooves, but can occur in all four.

Where does it come from?

The most common cause of equine founder in grazing horses is unrestricted access to lush pasture, especially after being kept inside for the winter. In most parts of the country, the risk for pasture-associated laminitis, or “grass founder,” is highest in the spring and early summer, when plant growth is greatest and levels of fructan are highest. Fructan is a starch-like compound that cannot be digested in the foregut by enzymes. It therefore enters the cecum where it is rapidly fermented, causing changes in the microbial climate of the intestines. These changes lead to the release of bacterial toxins into the bloodstream. It is thought that these toxins disrupt normal blood flow to the hoof, causing laminitis.

The fructan content of grasses varies according to the type of grass, stress on the plants, fertilization and hydration of the plants, climate, and even time of day. If a horse has foundered in a specific pasture setting, fructan content should be considered, and horses removed from that location.

Although far less common, grass founder can occur any time rainfall, sunlight, and daytime temperatures are sufficient to stimulate rapid plant growth.

Other possible causes of equine founder include:

• Unbalanced hooves due to poor hoof trimmingpractices
• Potomoc horse fever
• Colitis caused by Salmonella sp. bacteria
• Stress resulting from constant movement, shipping, showing, loss of sleep or equine dehydration
• Accidents or mechanical trauma
• Black-walnut shavings used as bedding
• Carbohydrate overload due to excess grain consumption
• Insulin resistance and/or obesity
• Nitrogen compound overload due to consumption of artificially fertilized pasture
• Over-consumption of nitrate accumulating pasture weeds like clover
• Too much time spent on hard ground
• A bout of severe colic
• Equine cushings disease
• Drug reactions, especially corticosteroids (anecdotal)
• Exposure to agro-chemicals

How is it diagnosed?

Contact your vet immediately if your horse shows signs of lameness. The sooner grass founder is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome. The most important diagnostic sign to watch for is a change in the nature of the digital pulse. Become familiar with the normal feel of your horse’s digital pulse! Heat in the hoof is also a typical sign, but not as reliable as digital pulse.

How is it treated?

Move the horse to a paddock with very little or no feed (but avoid over stressed pastures which may be high in fructan), remove grain from the diet and feed only hay and water.

Phenylbutazone (Bute) is often prescribed, but this may encourage the horse to move more than it should, causing further damage. Pain control must be carefully administered while the horse is restrained in a well bedded stall to prevent excessive activity.

Do not force a horse to walk if it is clearly in pain and reluctant to move.
Horses with laminitis need specific amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals to re-grow damaged hoof tissues. They should not be starved as therapy. Remove all grains and starchy feeds immediately. Then make changes in feeds slowly. Minimize stress to the hindgut by feeding highly digestible fibers, vegetable oils as needed, and balanced protein, vitamins and minerals.

How is it prevented?

Preventing equine founder is simple: limit the horse’s access to lush pasture, particularly during the high-risk hours between late morning and late afternoon.
During periods of lush growth, keep the horse in a dry lot and feed good quality grass hay.
Use a grazing muzzle.
Soak hay to remove excess sugars. Feed horses 1/2 before turnout and limit time on pasture.

Equine First Aid

OK. There’s blood. Maybe a lot of blood. But the first rule of equine first aid is “stay calm.” That accomplished, it’s time to treat your horse’s wound.

How you proceed will depend on circumstances, but the following equine first aid guidelines will help.
Catch and calm your horse to prevent further injury. If possible, move the horse to a stall. Do this only if it won’t further injure the horse. Before you try to evaluate or treat a wound, get some help. Your job will be easier and safer if you have assistance.

Distract your horse with a little hay or grain. This can take his mind off the pain.
Get your equine first aid kit. That’s the well-marked, easily accessible, fully stocked kit you keep handy at all times. If you don’t have a well stocked first aid kit, consider buying a ready made first aid kit.
Evaluate the location, depth, and severity of the wound. If you have the slightest feeling that it’s an emergency, call the vet.

Call your vet if:

There appears to be excessive bleeding.
The entire skin thickness has been penetrated.
The wound occurs near or over a joint.
Any structures underlying the skin are visible.
A puncture has occurred.
A severe wound has occurred in the lower leg at or below knee or hock level.
The wound is severely contaminated.

Whenever a horse is bleeding profusely, get control of the horse and get control of the bleeding. Don’t put yourself at risk. Apply a pressure bandage as soon as possible; don’t try to clean the wound. Don’t try to remove debris or foreign objects. Stop the bleeding by covering the wound with a sterile, absorbent pad and applying firm, steady, even pressure to the wound.

Remember that a horse can lose a lot of blood before it becomes life-threatening.
The two most common wound cleansing products are an iodine-based substance (such as Betadine) or a chlorhexidine-based substance (such as Nolvasan). These scrubs generally are applied with clean tap water and clean cotton or gauze sponges.

Sterile saline also is available in large bottles and is suitable for wound cleansing.
Do not use witch hazel, full strength alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide can cause a great deal of tissue damage and delay healing.

Do not medicate or tranquilize the horse unless specifically directed by your veterinarian. If the horse has suffered severe blood loss or shock, the administration of certain drugs can be life-threatening.
If the eye is injured, do not attempt to treat. Wait for your veterinarian.

If your horse steps on a nail or other sharp object and it remains embedded in the hoof, first clean the hoof. Do not remove the object without consulting your veterinarian. Apply antiseptic and wrap to prevent contamination.

All horses being treated for lacerations or puncture wounds will require an equine tetanus booster.
Once your horse has begun healing, keep the wound clean and dry. As the wound is healing, consider applying Preparation H (yup, the hemorrhoid stuff). It contains many essential fatty acids that improve the health of damaged tissue. It also contains an ingredient that soothes and relieves the itching that might be caused by healing, helping the horse leave the area alone.

Equine Cushings

Equine Cushings: What is it?

Equine Cushings syndrome is caused by a small, benign tumor on the pituitary gland. This gland, located inside the brain, governs the entire endocrine system so a number of conditions are associated with this disease. The pituitary gland is responsible for the production and regulation of hormones. While the tumor itself is benign, the cells within the tumor produce excess hormones, creating an imbalance in the horse’s body. The cause of the tumor itself is not known.

What are the symptoms?

• Abnormal hair growth and shedding. Your horse may develop a coat of heavy, coarse hair that doesn’t shed in summer.
• Increased water consumption.
• Development of a swayback stance and a pot belly.
• Dull eyes and drab coat.
• Increased appetite without weight gain.
• Chronic equine laminitis.
• Loss of muscle over the topline.
• Compromised immune system resulting in respiratory disease, skin infections, abscesses of the foot and periodontal disease.

Where does it come from?

The cause of the tumor is unknown. Horses usually develop Cushings later in life (about 20 years), although it is sometimes diagnosed in horses as young as seven.

How is it diagnosed?

The first diagnosis is often made visually. After identifying the visual symptoms, clinical testing can confirm the diagnosis. The dexamethasone suppression test (DST) requires that the horse gives a small sample of blood then be administered cortisone. A follow-up blood sample is taken the next day. The blood samples are then compared to determine the horse’s response to excess cortisone.

How is it treated?

There are several drug therapies available for treating equine Cushings. Speak with your veterinarian about which might be best for your horse. Pergoglide and cyproheptadine are commonly prescribed. Another drug, trilostane is showing promise.

While the jury is still out of the efficacy of herbal treatments for equine Cushing’s syndrome, there is indication that chaste berry (Vitex agnus castus) may be effective for early stage cases of Cushing’s syndrome.
How is it prevented?Diet is gaining significance in the management of Cushings disease. Antioxidants, such as vitamins E and C, could play a role in helping to support Cushing’s horses.

Horses with Cushing’s disease do well on a low-sugar, low-starch diet. Horse hay can be tested for sugar content. Additionally, soaking your hay can reduce water soluble carbohydrates. Speak to your vet or an equine nutritionist for the best feeding program for your horse.

Other management tips include:

• Avoiding stressing the horse.
• Provide adequate water for your horse.
• Feed on a regular schedule.
• Maintain a grooming program to keep skin in good shape.
• Keep an eye on the feet; proper hoof balance is important.
• Provide regular equine dental care deworming and vaccination schedules.

Equine cushings is an easily recognized and treatable disease. When caught early, treatment is very successful, allowing affected horses to live almost normal lives. For those horses in advanced stages of the disease, treatment still offers improved quality of life and longevity.

EPM Or Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis

What is it?

Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis or EPM is a neurological disease that affects a horse spinal cord and nervous system.

What are the symptoms?

The disease often tends to affect one side or part of the horse more than another. Signs include changes in the horse’s gait or movement. Later symptoms include lameness, weakness, leaning, facial paralysis and seizures.

Where does it come from?

EPM is caused by a protozoal parasite named Sarcocystis neurona that is carried by opossums and possibly birds. The organism is passed in the opossum’s feces.Horses usually contract the disease while grazing or eating contaminated feed or drinking water. Once inside the horse, the protozoan migrates to the spinal cord, causing inflammation and nerve damage. The results can be crippling.

How is it diagnosed?

If your veterinarian suspects EPM, she will order blood and cerebrospinal fluid analysis. A spinal tap will be necessary. The blood test indicates exposure to the parasite but does not predict whether or not the horse will develop the disease. Treatment, however, should begin immediately.

How is it treated?

Early diagnosis and treatment will reduce the damaging effects. If treated quickly and aggressively, 60 to 70 percent of Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis cases show significant or complete reversal of symptoms.

How is it prevented?

EPM is not spread from horse to horse. There are currently no vaccines to immunize animals against protozoal diseases. Good horsekeeping practices that prevent food and water contamination are required.

• Keep rodents, birds and opossums out of your barn.
• Keep grain and feed securely covered.
• Prevent water contamination by keeping supply clean and fresh.
• Feed heat-treated cereal grains and extruded feeds since these processes kill the infective sporocysts.
• Use feeders and clean up any dropped grain immediately to discourage birds and other scavengers.

Cool Horses On A Hot Ride

It’s important to cool horses on a hot trail rides. Your horse has a great ability to cool himself, but even the fittest horse can dehydrate and suffer a heat-related illness if you’re not alert to the signs.

Before The Ride

1. Be sure your horse is fit. A well conditioned horse is less likely to overheat on a long ride. Prepare your horse with regular exercise for up to four weeks prior to hot summer trail riding.
2. Teach your horse to drink along the trail. At home, offer water from a variety of different containers. Whenever possible, allow him to drink out of streams and ponds.
3. Know your horse’s baseline heart rate and respiratory rates.

During The Ride

1. Once on the trail, stop at hilltops. Your horse will work the hardest when climbing hills. Let him rest at the top, under shade if possible, and take advantage of any breeze to cool down.
2. Take frequent water breaks. After riding for more than an hour, encourage your horse to drink. Be aware of the signs and symptoms of dehydration.
3. Cool him down by sponging water along the underside of his neck and down his lower legs.
4. Check his heart rate after long climbs. After a ten minute rest, his heart rate should decrease at least 25%. Allow his heart rate to return to 60 to 70 bpm before starting out again.
5. Monitor your horse’s respiratory rate along the trail. Normal rates (in breaths-per-minute) are 4 to 6 at rest; 20 to 30 at an easy pace; as high as 60 after exertion.

Important: If your horse’s respiratory rate exceeds his heart rate, continue to rest. If this condition doesn’t resolve within ten minutes, return to base and contact your veterinarian. This could be a dangerous condition.
With planning and common sense, hot weather trail riding can be safe and fun. Head out with the proper supplies and knowledge to keep cool horses and cool riders!

Tractor Safety Tips

Learn the basics of tractor safety so you can spend your free time on your horse, not in the emergency room.

Buying a tractor to help with your horse barn chores is a good idea. Using it unsafely is a bad idea. A very, very bad idea.

Like a car, a tractor is a large, heavy, motorized vehicle. And while you probably won’t get your tractor up to traffic ticket speed, you can still get seriously hurt (or worse) in a tractor accident.

Falls and runovers are a leading cause of serious agricultural injuries. Keep the following hazards in mind when operating your tractor.

Most new tractors have safety start systems that do not allow the tractor to start in gear without depressing the clutch. NEVER bypass these systems. When jump starting a tractor, always connect the cables to the battery and not the starter. Jumping through the starter disengages the safety start system. The tractor can lunge forward or backward, causing a runover.

No passengers. Sudden stops, bumps and low hanging branches can throw a passenger off. There is a reason there is
only one seat on a tractor!

Slow down on rough or unfamiliar ground. If you’re entering an unfamiliar field, turn off the tractor and walk the land. Mark any objects that may be hidden by tall grass or brush. A roll of fluorescent landscaping tape works great for this.

Do not try to mount or dismount a moving tractor.
Keep decks uncluttered, clean and dry. Wear non-slip shoes.
Always shut off the engine and apply the parking brake before dismounting.
Always start the tractor from the operator’s seat. Keep surrounding areas clear of people and pets.
Maintain your equipment in top working order.

Install a ROPS (Roll Over Protective Structure) and wear your seat belt. If your tractor doesn’t have ROPS, do NOT wear a seat belt.

Never ride on implements, especially the tongue.

Your tractor is an essential piece of farm equipment. Always keep tractor safety in mind when you are starting, riding or maintaining your tractor. Unsafe or improper use results in many serious agricultural accidents every year. Ride safely!

Reduce Feed Costs

It’s possible to reduce feed costs and still meet your horse’s nutritional requirements. Learn a few equine feed management practices and your horse will be well fed and healthy…and you’ll have a few bucks left in your pocket.

Good quality forage should be the basis of your feeding program. Your horse evolved as a grazing animal, and her digestive system is designed for forage. All horses should get at least 1 percent of their body weight in hay or pasture each day.

Forage will reduce feed costs in several ways:

Daily horse care savings: Pasture is less expensive than grain. Most mature horses can meet their maintenance requirements on good quality forage alone, without additional grain.

Equine veterinary costs: Roughage adds bulk to the diet and slows the rapid fermentation of grains in the gut which may decrease the risk of colic and laminitis.

Horse facility maintenance: Horses with enough forage are less likely to chew fences and stalls.

Other ways to save on horse feed include:

Bulk Up: When buying hay, buy in bulk if possible. Compare the cost of hay per ton versus the cost per bale. Be sure you’re able to store the hay correctly to preserve the quality and reduce waste. This is a great way to reduce feed costs if you have the right facilities.

The Good Stuff: Buy hay by weight and be sure it’s the best quality horse hay available. Good quality hay usually is green, has a soft texture, and is free of dust, mold, and weeds. Test horse hay before purchasing to ensure its nutritive value. Better hay may cost a little more, but you’ll reduce feed costs by feeding less.

The Fine Print: Read the guaranteed analysis on your feed label and know what you’re getting. Sometimes a feed will exceed the nutritional requirements of your horse and you’ll be wasting money on nutrients your horse doesn’t need.
The label should list the percentages of crude protein and crude fat and the maximum percent crude fiber. The more crude fiber a feed contains, the less carbohydrates it will provide. Feeds with a high crude fat content are usually more expensive. But fats provide more energy than carbohydrates, so you may reduce feed costs by feeding less and getting the same value.

Balanced vs. Complete: Feed that is labeled “Balanced” contains all the nutrients need for its stated purpose (lactation, growth, etc.). It assumes you will be adding hay/pasture and water. Feeds that are labeled “Complete” are formulated to be the only nutrient source except for water. Be aware that “complete” feeds contain fiber but your horse should still get 1 percent of her body weight in roughage each day to keep her digestive tract functioning.

Supplemental Savings: Save money on supplements. If your feed is balanced or complete and your horse is healthy, she probably doesn’t need extra nutrients. Your horse will just excrete excess nutrients. And some vitamins and minerals can be harmful in large amounts.

Feed The Horse, Not The Worms: Deworm regularly, usually on 8 week intervals. Parasitic infections can rob your horse of vital nutrients, requiring more food to combat the loss. Talk to your vet about the best program for your horse.

Chew On This: Keep your horse’s teeth in good shape. A regular schedule of equine dental care helps your horse chew properly and efficiently and reduces dropped and wasted feed. The cost of a visit from an equine dentist is offset in feed savings.

Individual Preferences: If you feed horses in groups, try to use individual feeders. Ideally, provide an extra feeder in case the more timid horses get pushed away. Scatter the feeders in the pasture to prevent bullying.

Feed To Maintain: If the more dominant horses are getting too much and the timid horses are getting too little, your feed dollars aren’t being used efficiently. It’s less expensive (and healthier) to maintain a horse’s body weight rather than feeding to increase or reduce weight.

Weigh Your Feed: Measure horse feeds by weight, not volume. This reduces waste and increases consistency. Different grains have different weights and nutritive value by volume. When changing feeds, always do so gradually to reduce digestive problems.

One Last Tip: Feed frequently and at regular time intervals. Large grain meals can easily overwhelm your horse’s digestive tract. If your horse needs more than 8 pounds of grain in any one meal, split it into two feedings.

It’s easy to think that “more is better” when it comes to feeding and caring for your horse, but that’s not always the case. A sensible, balanced approach to nutrition and horse care is an efficient, effective way to improve your horse’s health.

Proper Horse Blanket Fit

Horse blanket fit is a little like buying jeans. Buy from one manufacturer and you’re a size 8. Walk across the mall, try on a different maker and you’re a 12. Frustrating!

Just like fashion designers, horse blanket manufacturers have their own patterns, cuts and fits. And just like their owners, horses can gain and lose weight periodically. Yes, your horse may need “fat blankets” just like some of us need fat jeans.

Poor fit will provide poor performance. Follow these steps to be sure your horse’s blanket fits correctly.

1. You should be able to slip your hand easily between the blanket and her withers. Pressure here can cause discomfort and even injury.
2. Slide your hand up into her shoulder area. Too snug a fit here will rub her hair off and cause friction injuries.
3. Check the cut of the neck. Can she graze easily? Put a tasty treat on the floor and check front buckle pressure.
4. The tail flap should lift easily when your horse passes manure.
5. The blanket should stay in place without excessive tightening of the surcingle. If you need to do a lot of adjusting, the cut may not be right for your horses body shape.

Some simple alterations may solve some minor fit problems, but there’s no substitute for an excellent fit. Measure your horse properly before purchasing and be sure there’s a return policy. Drape a bed sheet over your horse and try the blanket on so that it will be clean and hair-free is you need to return it.

How To Take A Horse Temperature Safely

Learn how to take a horse temperature. If you establish a normal average for your horse, you’ll be better prepared for an emergency. Monitor her temperature for a week to get a good average.

What you’ll need: A glass veterinary thermometer with a long string and clip tied to the end. For this procedure, the horse should be tied or held by an assistant.

1. Shake down a glass veterinary thermometer below 95° F.
2. Lightly lubricate the tip with a dab of KY® or petroleum jelly. Tip: too much lubricant can distort reading!
3. Stand to the side of your horse, facing her tail. Lift your horse’s tail and gently insert the thermometer into his anus at a slightly upward angle, to a depth of 2”. Attach the clip to her tail hairs.
4. With the heel of your hand resting against her buttock for stability, hold the thermometer in place. Release her tail if she shifts his weight, clamps or swishes her tail. Your horse may tolerate the thermometer better if her tail is free.
5. It takes about 2 minutes for a glass thermometer to register. Gently remove the thermometer and take your reading.
6. Clean the thermometer with rubbing alcohol and return it to its case.

For an adult horse at rest, a normal temperature range is between 99.5 degrees F and 101° F . If her temperature is higher than 104° F, call your veterinarian.

CAUTION: DO NOT leave a rectal thermometer unattended, even if yours has a safety string and clip. If your horse should rub his hindquarters, he might break off the thermometer, injuring his rectum. It takes 2 minutes or less for the temperature to register. Stay with your horse, and hold the end of the thermometer constantly.

How To Take A Horse Heart Rate

Check horse heart rate to evaluate your horse’s physical condition. An increase in heart rate can be associated with pain, dehydration, fever and other problems. A normal resting heart rate for an adult horse is about 30 to 40 heartbeats per minute.

A heart rate of 50 or higher in an adult horse at rest may mean the horse is in physical distress. The average pulse rates for young horses are as follows: Foals (70-120 bpm), Yearlings (45-60 bpm), 2yr. olds (40-50 bpm).

Things You’ll Need:

Watch With Second Hand or Stop Watch

1. Stand on your horse’s left side, facing his left elbow.
2. Insert the earpieces into your ears.
3. Place the bell of the stethoscope behind the point of his elbow and press it gently into his armpit.
4. Listen for your horse’s heartbeat.
5. His heart beat should have both a lub and a dub component. Count the two together as one beat.
6. Using a watch with a second hand, a stop watch or digital timer, count the number of beats in a 15-second period.
7. Multiply by 4 for beats-per-minute.

The horse’s pulse rate will increase if he is excited or nervous, in pain, during/after exercise, or has a disease. The higher the heart rate, the more severe the condition.