Does that “hay belly” really mean your horse is fat?

Ever been told that your horse has a hay belly and needs to lose weight? Well, relax! He’s not fat, he just has gas! In fact, gas production is normal and healthy. It indicates that your horse is getting enough hay for hindgut microbial fermentation to occur. Continue reading

Want to reduce dog bites? Don’t focus on the breed

Across the country, some communities have attempted to reduce the incidence of pitbull-200w
dog bites by enacting breed-specific legislation that bans the ownership of certain types of dogs. Most recently, residents of Aurora, Colo., voted in November to uphold their nine-year ban on pit bull type dogs in the city. Continue reading

Packing on the Pounds

The directions on most feed bags offer guidelines in terms of the number of pounds (or kg) you should feed.  If you use a scoop to measure your horse’s feed, how many pounds are you actually feeding?  Are you assuming that a 2-quart scoop, for example, offers 2 pounds (0.9 kg) of feed?  This can be a dangerous assumption. Continue reading

Who’s the BOSS?

Black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS) are a popular addition to the horse’s diet. They are highly nutritious, offering protein, vitamins, and minerals and are especially high in magnesium (100 mg per ounce). BOSS are high in fat, as well, but the type of fat is mainly in the form of omega 6s, with very little omega 3 content. Since omega 6s are inflammatory, balancing with a source of omega 3s is important to consider, especially for the horse who is experiencing inflammation due to injury, aging, or obesity. Continue reading

Mexican Meat No More

The European Commission dealt a game-changing blow to the North American horse slaughter industry with its decision to impose a moratorium on the import of horsemeat from Mexico following a series of audits by the Food and Veterinary Office. The audits echo the food safety and animal welfare concerns long voiced and probed by The Humane Society of the United States. The most recent audit published on Dec. 4 is a damning indictment of the horse slaughter industry and the Mexican authorities’ failure to rectify previously identified problems.  Continue reading

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

Caring for your horse in the winter can be a challenge, but there are steps you can take to help keep him healthy and comfortable. Nutrition, shelter and basic health are important year around, but during the cold winter months, are critical.


Water is the most important nutrient in a horse’s diet. Many colic cases occur due to dehydration. Fresh, clean water accessible 24 hours a day is mandatory.

Heated water buckets, stock tank deicers or heated automatic waterers help ensure water remains unfrozen. These units must be cleaned and monitored daily.

Water and electricity do not mix! Follow installation instructions. Install ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFI/GFCI) outlets.

Have a back-up water source in case exposed water lines freeze.

Do not expect a horse to eat snow or break through the ice and remain healthy. Intake will not be adequate and the temperature of the body’s core will be lowered.

The average adult horse at rest requires about 10 gallons of water per day. Many horses will not drink cold water. The preferred temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 C). Research has shown that if a horse has a bucket of warm water and one that is cold, it will drink the cold water first. But more warm water will be consumed if only warm is available.

Horses are grazers. Access to plenty of good, clean, nutritional forage (hay) is mandatory. The digestion of fiber in the hindgut generates heat and helps keep the horse warm.

In a perfect world horses would have grass hay available free choice at all times. But at least a minimum of 1.5% – 2.0% of the body weight should be fed each day; this amount will vary with individual horses and hay quality.

A balanced commercial feed that complements the forage and meets the horse’s nutritional requirements should be offered.

            The barn manager needs to evaluate each individual horse:

  • Is the horse lacking protein? Signs are poor muscle tone over the back, shoulders, and loin area. Poor hoof quality and hair coat are also symptoms of protein deficiency. Chose a commercial mix that provides good quality protein.
  • Is the horse receiving enough calories? All horses should have some fat covering the rib area. Close your eyes and run your hand over his ribs – how much pressure must you apply in order to feel ribs? If you can feel ribs without applying any pressure he needs calories – add a balanced commercial mix designed for the age, health and activity level of the horse. Follow the feeding directions. If you can’t feel ribs and want to decrease calories make sure you don’t short him on protein, vitamins and minerals.
  • Is the horse a pregnant mare, a stallion ready to enter breeding season, a young horse starting training, a senior having a weight problem, or a horse with health problems? The hay usually will not provide all the nutrition needed for these individuals.

Vitamin, mineral and energy requirements must be considered for each horse.

A common misconception is increasing or adding corn to the diet, thinking it will keep the horse warm. Corn will increase digestible energy in the diet, but will not generate internal heat. Offer more hay instead!


Most healthy horses will be fine if they are provided a windbreak and dry, clean place to stand and lie down. Horses with special concerns such as seniors, foals or compromised health will need individual care. Observe the horse: Is he shivering? Is he standing by himself with a depressed attitude and no interest in his surroundings? This horse needs immediate attention.

Do not expect a horse to stand ankle deep in mud and remain healthy.

Horses kept in air-tight stalls can develop respiratory problems. Make sure the stalls are well-ventilated and ammonia from urine does not build-up. Avoid drafts.

Blanketed horses need to be checked daily. Make sure the blankets are dry, clean and fit properly. Be sure the horse is not sweating.


Deworming – it is important to prepare horses for the stress of winter by maintaining a good deworming program. A horse supporting a large worm count will have trouble remaining healthy during the winter months.

Hoof care – it is easy to ignore the care of the hooves during the cold and often muddy winter season — “no hoof, no horse.” Horses need regular farrier work and the hooves kept clean. A horse standing in a wet dirty stall is prone to thrush and other hoof problems.

Vaccinations – a good vaccination program is important. If a horse becomes sick with a disease that could have been prevented through vaccination the recovery time can be longer during the stress of the winter months; not to mention the added work for the caretaker, who is also struggling with the routine chores.

Exercise – horses need routine exercise to maintain good digestive movement, good mental attitude and muscle tone. If the horse becomes sweaty and hot be sure to cool him out properly.

 Do not neglect your horse during inclement weather. Yes, it is dark, cold and windy, but your horse depends on you.

Blanketing Made Easy!

Blanket shopping can be exciting and fun, but it can also be a daunting task for horse owners. With so many different styles, weights, and technical terms, it can be tough to know where to begin. To make horse care a little easier this winter, SmartPak is pleased to introduce their new SmartPak Blanketing App!

Thanks to the SmartPak Blanketing app, there is finally an answer to the question on every horse owner’s mind during the winter: “Should I put on the medium or the heavy blanket tonight?!” Just tell SmartPak about your horses and the app provides customized recommendations tailored to each horse and the local weather at your barn.

“There are a lot of factors to consider when figuring out how much you want to bundle up your horse, from precipitation and wind chill to body condition and age, ” said Donnie Steele, SmartPak’s Chief Marketing Officer. “The SmartPak Blanketing app takes all those factors, and more, into consideration and provides you with a quick and easy blanketing recommendation for your horse.”

The app provides blanketing suggestions based on the weather and temperature predictions for the next 7 days – all customized to the horse’s specific location and profile information. The app also offers a central location that allows riders to manage individual horses and their blanketing needs. “The SmartPak blanket app allows you to create mini profiles for each of your horses,” said Steele. “By providing information such as coat length, weight, turnout schedule, and barn temperature, the app can make a smarter recommendation customized to your horse’s needs.”

With so many types and styles of blankets on the market, it can be overwhelming to know which blanket to purchase. The apps glossary of blanket types is a great resource for information on the difference between turnouts, sheets, and blankets. The app also includes a features glossary to help horse owners pick out the perfect style option for their horse.

Once the right type of blanket is determined, it is also important to make sure the blanket fits the horse properly. The right fit helps to provide the ultimate warmth and functionality. Not sure how to fit a blanket? Fear not, as the app provides fit tips and even details on how to measure.



According to Dr. Juliet Getty, Equine Nutritionist, the bacteria that live in the hind gut need consistency. That’s why new feeds need to be introduced very slowly, taking a few weeks to completely switch over.

A bran mash, or any feed for that matter, is unfamiliar to the hindgut microbial population and exposing them to it suddenly can trigger a dangerous colic attack. But there’s more to be concerned about, when it comes to feeding bran mashes.  Continue reading

Be thankful for pets but celebrate wisely

Thanksgiving is a holiday for feasts, family and friends. But put the family pet into the middle of that mix, and you may just be asking for trouble. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) offers the following tips to pet owners to keep this American holiday safe for four-legged guests: Continue reading

Bad to the Bowl…

Sweet Pea here, reporting in for my canine friends! I know, normally I like to cover my horse related topics, but puppies are important too! So follow along, learn a bit, and then sign up to WIN!

Have you ever considered your dog’s bowl? Chances are if you are like my owner, you grabbed the first cute one off the shelf at Target someday and never looked back. However, it is important to note that a bowl is really not just a bowl. Different dog bowls offer different features, and some are better than others. Here’s the lowdown on the main types of dog bowls available. Continue reading