The Inside Scoop

I have to say, it can be a challenge for my owner to properly determine her own nutritional needs…between attempting to comply with the food pyramid, counting calories and looking for the right multivitamin, all that I know is that it’s safe to say that this morning’s donut was probably not her smartest option. When it comes to my nutritional needs,  she tends try to be a bit less lax to ensure that my body can function at peak performance. Read this today’s tips to brush up on your equine nutrition knowledge.

1. As convenient as it may be to grab the coffee can to measure out your horse’s grain, be sure to use a scale for an accurate weight measurement. The volume of grain can vary greatly depending on the weather conditions and the amount of settling that has occurred. It is imperative that you weigh your grain to guarantee that your horse is getting the correct amount.

2. Tribute® Equine Nutrition cautions horse owners to remember that their horse must have a well-rounded diet. Water, energy, protein, minerals and vitamins are all equally important, so be sure to pay attention to all aspects of your horse’s feed. Many horse owners will focus primarily on the grain and supplements that they are feeding and forget about the nutritional requirements that hay holds and the importance of having a quality water supply at all times.

3. According to Dr. Lydia Gray of SmartPak™, “Most people believe that horses aren’t supposed to eat fat because it’s not naturally present in their diet. However, many research studies have shown the benefits of fat in horses. It’s a concentrated source of calories that can be used: for weight gain, for energy in sustained performance, as a substitute for sugars and starches in the tying up or PSSM horse, to rebalance the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio that can be skewed with a grain-based diet in a stalled horse, etc. Most fats are 99% digestible, which is higher than any other category of nutrient the horse takes in, so they are a very economical source of many healthy benefits to the horse.”

4. Make sure that your horse is receiving enough forage in his diet. A horse should roughly consume one to two percent of its body weight in forage products each day. For a 1,000-pound horse, this would mean that it should eat 10 to 20 pounds of grass and/or hay products. This may be hard to determine for horses that are turned out on pasture, so be sure to keep a careful eye on your horse’s weight.

5. Be sure you know what kind of hay you are feeding, and use caution when changing over from one type of hay to another. Almost every horse owner realizes that a change in grain must be done gradually but forgets that this principle should apply to his or her horse’s forage source as well. For instance, a Bermuda grass hay may contain approximately 12% crude protein, while an alfalfa hay may contain approximately 17.5% crude protein; this is a considerable difference between the two hays.

6. While the “low carb” and “no carb” diets are becoming popular, Katie Young, Ph.D, a consulting equine nutritionist at Purina® Mills, LLC, cautions against cutting carbohydrates out of your horse’s diet completely. Horses use sugars and starches to produce glucose. Dr. Young tells us, “The glucose is then absorbed into the bloodstream and is carried to various tissues where it is used as fuel, or it is stored as glycogen in the muscle or liver where it is used later as fuel, or it is stored as fat.” In some cases, such as an insulin-resistant horse or a horse that suffers from Cushing’s syndrome, cutting out sugars and starches can be beneficial, but most horses need these simple carbohydrates as a part of their diet.

7. When putting together your horse’s grain allotment, try to stick to feeding one type of grain. Feed manufacturers design each of their products to be fed at a certain rate to meet a horse’s caloric and other nutritional requirements. But, when you start mixing a quart of this and two quarts of that, plus a scoop of this and a handful of that, no one has any idea what the horse is truly getting.

8. Know the facts about senior feed and the amount of exercise your horse gets. Someone may have told you that senior feed has higher amounts of nutrients than a normal grain, but Dr. Gray tells us that, in fact, the truth is quite the opposite. “Senior feeds are like hay and grain in a bag. That is, they are a dilute source of calories, protein, vitamin and minerals because a source of forage (usually beet pulp or alfalfa) has been blended with these nutrients at a much lower rate than, say, a sweet feed. So while it might require only four to five pounds of sweet feed to supply all of the nutritional requirements of a 1,000-pound horse in light work, it might take 15-20 pounds of a senior feed to accomplish the same thing.”

9. Consider feeding a grain or a supplement fortified with omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have shown many health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in the human diet; while the equine research benefits have not been as numerous, omega-3 supplementation shows potential for healthy results. According to equine nutritionist, Dr. Tania Cubitt, the addition of omega-3 fatty acids in equine feeds has been shown to reduce inflammatory processes, while a Colorado State University study showed an increased sperm concentration and motility in breeding stallions supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids.

10. Remember, feeding guidelines are just that—guidelines. It’s imperative to feed your horse as an individual and not rely entirely on what a grain or supplement company says you should be feeding. Dr. Ron Rompala, staff veterinarian at Blue Seal®, gave general guidelines for assessing your horse’s nutrition, “Ribs should not be seen, but should be felt, with the underline of the horse tucking-up slightly as it approaches the hind legs. There should not be any fat deposits that are visible or sticking out at the base of the tail.”

Dr. Rompala also urges anyone with questions to call his or her veterinarian for clarification. Together, with your veterinarian’s insight, you can put together a feeding program that is the best for your horse.

Not So Sweet

Sweet itch is a skin condition brought on by sensitivity to biting insects, particularly midges. Here are some ways to help soothe the itch.
1.Repel these tiny bugs by using oil and petrolum-based products to create a barrier.
2. Campho-Phenique, a human repellent and antithetic, also helps repel the bugs and soothe the itch.
3. Keep your horse inside during dusk and dawn, peak midge biting times.
4. Outfit your horse in a flysheet that covers the top of the tail, belly and neck.

War Horse

San Toy, a real “War Horse,” shown here at 28 year old, served through the whole of both4.summary war horse the Boer and First World Wars. In 1919 he became the first pensioner in The Home of Rest for Horses, the oldest horse charity in the world. The charity, located in Southeast England and now known as The Horse Trust, is still operating. www.horsetrust.org.uk

Chew On This

Your horse presses his top teeth against a solid object (you know… the stall door, the bucket, the fence…), arches his neck, and swallows air in a rocking motion. A grunting or gulping noise emerges. This is cribbing. Its true cause is unknown but genetics along with stressful circumstances appear to be the underlying problems. 

Dr. Juliet Getty, an Equine Nutritionist and Author, tells us, “Early weaning can lead to this negative behavior later in adult horses and while there’s nothing you can do to change the past, you can take measures to reduce physical discomfort and mental strains that contribute to cribbing. Cribbing collars are tormenting. They may discourage the behavior but they do not relieve the urge.”

Managing your horse’s conditions will help lessen the behavior. Here are some suggestions:

  •  Provide freedom to graze and roam. This will have a remarkable effect on stopping this habit. If this is not feasible, give him as much outdoor space as possible.
  •  Keep hay in front of your horse. This one simple change will calm your horse’s demeanor.
  • Do not isolate your horse. Non-cribbers will not “catch” the cribbing habit by seeing another horse do it.
  • Consider ulcers. Stress, forage restriction, and stalling can lead to ulcers. Cribbing is often a result. Basic nutritional management to cure ulcers includes free-choice hay, water consumption, avoiding starchy feeds (such as oats and corn) and sweet feeds, and restoring microbial populations through probiotic use.

Hit the Road

As a horse owner, it’s likely that it will be necessary to trailer your horse at one time or another. Whether it’s a short distance to nearby trails or several hours’ drive to a competition, with a bit of care and attention, you can safely get your horse to where you’re going and minimize the possibility of any mishaps or undue stress.

rfa180While it’s just common sense to ensure that your horse has been trained to load and unload safely and in a calm manner well in advance, proper planning ahead for any trip can ensure that the entire transportation process goes smoothly and is safe for both horse and handler.

“No matter the distance, trip planning is the key to successful journeys, including knowing the weather conditions, road construction, etc.,” says Penny Lawlis, Humane Standards Officer with the Animal Health and Welfare Branch of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF) in Guelph, Ontario. Lawlis also currently sits on the National Farm Animal Care Council and teaches a graduate level course in practical animal welfare assessment for the University of Guelph.

When transporting a horse, it’s important to plan out the route ahead of time, avoiding peak times in busy areas to avoid sitting in traffic. One should also be aware of any possible inclement weather. If the weather could make driving difficult, reschedule the trip for another day.

Lawlis also stresses the importance of trailering only when the horse is healthy. “One of the issues we encounter frequently is animals [including horses] that are loaded and transported when they are not fit to be transported,” she says. “Unfit horses must not be loaded unless they are being shipped on the advice of a veterinarian to a vet hospital for treatment. Compromised horses should not be transported mixed in with fit horses in the same compartment.”

Learn to assess your horse for health and fitness before trailering. Check and record your horse’s vital signs, such as temperature, respiration and pulse, as well as how much it drinks ahead of time. This provides important personal information as to what is normal for your horse and will assist in spotting any problems on the day of travel and upon arrival. If in doubt, check with your veterinarian.

Trailer Basics The type of trailer used, whether it’s a straight load, slant load or stock trailer, is primarily based on owner preference. While some horses will load more easily into a stock trailer because of its openness, make sure it offers sufficient head room for the height of your horse.

“When it comes to stock trailers, smaller horses such as Quarter Horses can safely fit, but it’s considered to be unsafe for taller breeds such as Thoroughbreds, Warmbloods, Drafts, etc., as there is insufficient head room,” says Lawlis. “Too small of a space will hinder your horse’s ability to move and balance itself and could increase the likelihood of your horse injuring itself during transit, as well as developing loading problems.”

Handling Travel Emergencies Even with the best intentions, sometimes mechanical breakdowns or even accidents can occur. Knowing how to handle an emergency situation when on the road can be the difference between being helpful and helpless. Horse owners should inspect the trailer before every trip to make sure it is safe to operate and safely hitched to the truck.

“Always check your trailer before starting out and recheck it after each stop, and always carry first aid kits for your horse, yourself, your vehicle and your trailer,” advises Michelle Staples, a Horse Safety Specialist located in the Niagara Region of Ontario. In an accident when emergency responders are called in for assistance, chances are their knowledge of horses will be limited, and they will be looking to the horse owner or handler for guidance. Staying calm and quiet allows you to think clearly in emergency situations. “Safety is the number one issue in an accident,” says Staples. “If you are hysterical or interfere with a rescue in a way that makes the rescue more difficult or less safe, you will be set aside and disregarded.”

In the case of a trailer rollover, Staples advises to check out all people and pets travelling with you so you know what to report to the 9-1-1 dispatcher. “Take note of where you are and advise them that emergency assistance is required and you may possibly require transport for your horse, and that you need a large animal veterinarian dispatched immediately,” she says. “While waiting, your first inclination is to open up the trailer and go in to help your horse, but that’s an action that can get both you and your horse killed. An open door is an invitation for it to try and escape. Instead, find the smallest opening possible to peek in. Stay calm. Most horses survive rollovers if they’re in a well-maintained, sturdy trailer.”

However, every circumstance is different and should be viewed in a separate manner. Staples recalls a trailering incident with an unexpected flat tire on the Golden Gate Bridge in California several years ago when she was traveling with a friend. “She chose to pull off at the nearest flat spot and change the tire with the horse still inside,” she says. “However, I don’t think I’d do that now.”

Instead, she says she would have pulled over to a spot where she could safely offload the horse and call for roadside assistance such as USRider, a company that handles horses and trailers on a daily basis. Once assistance arrives, they would help her offload the horse and place it in some form of a contained area, such as pipe panels set up on the side of the trailer, or a roll of construction fencing with polls to keep it rigid or even something as simple as ropes strung around trees. “The problem with leaving a horse in the trailer is that when you jack up the side to remove and replace the tire, the horse will scramble, upsetting the balance of the trailer which could create a negative outcome for horse and handler,” she adds.

When it comes to trailering, make every trip a positive experience by planning it out ahead of time to ensure that your horse arrives safe. Have a contingency plan available to address unexpected difficulties. Learning to be proactive rather than reactive goes a long way toward minimizing stressful situations for both you and our horse.

Show Us The BABIES! (and win)

The babies are coming, the babies are coming! Can you tell that I LOVE foaling season?

Only the best for my Pea Pod and Me!

Only the best for my Pea Pod and Me!

WIth so many babies already here and more on the way, I can’t help but be excited!

While having a new foal around is certainly exciting, it is imperative that those tiny bundles of joy are properly cared for and kept safe. And did you know that you can help to maintain the health of your foal’s respiratory system with Sweet PDZ Horse Stall Refresher Sweet PDZ is the inexpensive solution to eliminating one of the three main causes of respiratory distress in horses – Ammonia.  By being proactive and providing your foal (and the all important Momma!) with fresh air to breathe in its stall you are promoting an environment conducive to health. If a horse’s respiratory tract is compromised it becomes a easy access route for bacteria, viruses, mold, parasites and other foreign elements.

But don’t just take my word for it… I want to give you the chance to try it out for yourself! Thats right, I’m giving you the chance to WIN a bag of Sweet PDZ Stall Refresher! Want to know how to WIN? Simply post a photo of your foal (it doesn’t need to be from this year) to our Facebook Page to be in the running! Don’t have Facebook? Have no fear, just send it to me at SweetPea@SweetPea.biz!

I can’t wait to see the babies!
Sweet Pea

Say NO to the MOW

Mowing that grass seems like a never ending chore, its barely over before its time to do it again. It can seem like such a pity to waste those soft, fragrant, tasty piles of clippings! Why not rake them and feed them to your horses? It’s recycling at its best, no? No!

This should be the last thing you encourage your horse to eat. According to Equine Nutritionist Juliet Getty, It has to do with that extra step: raking. Leave them to dry on the pasture after mowing, and they are generally not a problem. But never gather them into piles to feed them to your horse. Partly because clippings are too easy to over-consume, and eating large amounts at one time can lead spikes in insulin levels or to excess fermentation of sugars and starches in the hind gut, potentially causing colic and laminitis. Secondly, piles of clippings can rapidly invite mold to form (especially prevalent in hot, humid environments), which can lead to colic. Finally, because there is no air inside a dense pile, botulism can develop, which turns this “treat” absolutely deadly.

Save Your Head

According to the most recent statistics available from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, 78,279 people visited the emergency room in 2007 with equestrian-related injuries. Of those injuries, concussions accounted for about five percent – a figure that more than doubles the instances in other major sports.

The Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering (JSNN) in Greensboro, NC, has developed the first diagnostic tool capable of detecting traumatic brain injury (TBI) on a molecular level. Rather than relying on observed symptoms such as: headaches, dizziness, nausea, and blurred vision, which can result in a misdiagnosis, JSNN’s “Lab-on-a-Chip” technology allows on-site field medics to determine even mild brain trauma within 5-10 minutes. Though not yet commercially available, this technology will take the guesswork and human-error factors out of TBI diagnosis. That means fewer equestrians going into the arena with undiagnosed concussions.

For more information, visit www.gatewayurp.com/JSNN.html