Friday, September 04, 2015

What Works - and What Doesn't

I frequently enjoy reading David Ramey, DVM's interesting articles on his website and the variety of 
 comments they evoke at his Facebook page. While I identify with Dr. Ramey's common sense approach and his feelings about the many costly yet ineffective treatments and interventions marketed to horse owners, I often can't agree with his blanket approach of throwing out any intervention which isn't totally based on published scientific study.
Equine research is expensive - ask any horse owner how quickly we can go through a huge portion of our income - and unless there is opportunity for a substantial financial return there is little incentive to run original research studies or seek FDA approval.
Unfortunately, this has led to many purveyors of products targeted to horse owners making unsubstantiated claims of effectiveness based on myth, inappropriate use of studies in other species with little or no bearing on equine health and inflation of prices on anything labeled for "equine".
Midas turns his daughter into gold
I once saw a claim by a mineral supplement manufacturer that the sodium (salt) in the supplement would be changed in the gut to potassium.  In alchemy, this is known as transmutation - and has also been known as the "Midas touch".  I would be very hesitant to purchase a supplement from a source which doesn't understand basic chemistry or digestion.
Another (well known and "trusted") manufacturer lists all the intrinsic elements of the base ingredient (flax) in their supplement. This grossly inflates the length of the "analysis" listing, even though these individual substances appear in insignificant amounts.  This makes it easier to justify their high cost and may falsely lead someone to believe they're actually providing all their horse needs. (I use HorseTech for all my custom supplement needs - they list "flax" as simply "flax", not a compendium of 18 or more substances that are intrinsic to flax and not added by them.)
Cross-species extrapolation can be a valuable research tool but needs to be validated in the target species, not just assumed that what is good for one is good for another.  Look at Xylitol - an artificial sweetener which can help reduce cavities in humans but can be a life-threatening toxin to dogs.
One way to validate is by extensive field trial, which has been successful in helping to establish the protocols used by the ECIR Group with Insulin Resistant and Cushing's horses.
Horse owners can objectively validate the usefulness and success of a supplement, feed, medical treatment or alternative intervention by tracking clinical signs, along with taking quality photographs and videos.  Some time ago I developed a simple Clinical Signs Tracker which you can use to observe and track changes in your horse.
You should be specific in defining what you're trying to fix (which requires a proper and specific diagnosis), tin understanding how the intervention (supplement, medicine, treatment, etc.) is supposed to address the issue and how quickly the intervention is expected to resolve or improve the issue. For example, an intervention for ulcers (medical treatment, stress management, changing feeding management) should take your horse from a "3" to an "7" or "8"on the Attitude scale fairly quickly - often within a week, while adjusting the diet for improved hoof quality can take upwards of three months to see significant results and a full hoof growth cycle or more to completely resolve hoof problems.
This won't work if you're looking for a magic bullet but can be very useful in determing if the medication or laser treatment or expensive supplement actually made a difference or just lined someone's pocket. Depending on the intervention, you might track and photograph only on a weekly basis, while for something like wound healing, daily photos - at least initially - might be helpful.
The best reward? Someone asking "When did you get a new horse?" and having the documentation and photos to show your hard work paid off.

With best regards,

in warm, wet, cloudy Vail AZ


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Feeding Practices, Equine Dental Health - and Whiskers?

In the past twenty years I have only had one horse I've raised require dental floating. I have had rescues and "rehome" horses needing work but, when my vet or dental professional has checked my horses it's always been "They're fine, we'll check again next visit".
I was reminded of this seeing the recent article from Kentucky Equine Research (KER) - Feeding Practices May Impact Horse Dental Health which explains how many modern diets and horse keeping practices can affect our horses' teeth.
I'm fortunate in Arizona to not have the lush green pasture often prized by many horse owners. As some owners with "easy keeper" horses discover, this beautiful pasture can be far from ideal for their horses' health and they find themselves ripping out grass to make "Paddock Paradise" tracks and dry lots.
My Arizona "Pasture"
My horses get to "graze" on mesquite, chaparral, prickly pear cactus and other desert bounty in addition to their main diet of ground-fed Bermuda hay with Timothy pellets added for variety.  When it's windy I place their hay in nets at a fairly low level and with extreme weather, they eat directly from floor mats in the barn. They've gotten quite good at ferreting out the stray clump of grass that shows up during rainy season and don't seem to have problems with the annual mesquite bean crop - likely because they ease into them as they ripen with daily access so don't gorge like a horse with limited turnout might.

Along with good dental health, I haven't had sand issues from ground feeding, either.  I attribute this to always having hay available so their gut is never empty, feeding a substantial amount of (molasses-free) beet pulp daily with their supplements which supplies some pectin and mucilage, and never clipping muzzle hair.  I don't advocate direct ground feeding for show horses which may be clipped as they are lacking vibrissae - the essential, extremely sensitive whiskers which allow the horse to feel tiny differences - such as separating a flake of food from a grain of sand.  Because of the importance of the facial vibrissae to the horse, including for protection from eye trauma, trimming equine facial whiskers has been outlawed in Germany. See the fascinating discussion of sensory perception in the horse at the link below.

Warm regards,
Patti in Sunny, Warm Vail AZ


KER article: Feeding Practices May Impact Horse Dental Health

Vibrissae - general in mammals:

Vibrissae - importance to perception in the horse

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Styrofoam Pads - First Aid for Laminitis!

I was reminded today when looking online for some dental impression material for hoof packing that these styrofoam pads - along with a roll of duct tape - belong in every barn! (And on every veterinarian's, farrier's and other hoof professional's truck.) You may never need to use them but the styrofoam pads can be a lifesaver for a horse with acute laminitis while you get the diet and other factors in line.
You need at least three sets that fit your horses to start - on heavier horses they will compress quickly so you may need to stack three pads in two to three days or less. If you have small, average and large horses, you should keep three sets in each size on hand.
The newer instruction video is easy to follow. If the horse has a lot of extra toe length and you're not adept at trimming you may need your farrier/trimmer to trim and bevel the toe for you. But you can apply the foam while waiting for the trim or before shoes are pulled.
Initially, get the hoof as clean as you can but if the horse is really sore that may be difficult - you can spend more time on "super cleaning" with a vinegar rinse in a squirt bottle between the first and second pad application (and some medicated powder can help with "hoof funk").
I can hear now "OMG, $33 for 3 sets times 3 or 4 sizes? I can't afford that!" Believe me - when you see your horse suffering from the pain of laminitis, you'd be willing to pay hundreds to relieve that pain (and the emergency vet bill will be at least that). So a few dollars spent on "insurance" now ("something providing protection against a possible eventuality we hope never happens") will be well worth it if you ever do need it.

With best regards,
Patti in Vail AZ - where Fall has fallen
(and only 42 days until Winter Solstice)

PS - Dental Impression Material can be the long term support solution to help you rehab your horse in boots. Check with your local farrier supply or see the links below.

About EDSS Styrofoam Pads
EDSS Styrofoam Pad Instructional Videl
EDSS Sole Support [Dental] Impression Material

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Riding Instructor

While I'm still recovering (much more slowly than I'd like)  from my broken/sprained wrist which has kept me away from my keyboard for much longer than I expected, I'd like to go off topic and introduce you to The Riding Instructor

In her most recent blog post Don’t Trust Your Beginner Riders with a Beginner Instructor, Barbara Fox writes about one of her favorite subjects - the importance of mastering the basics.

Good riding requires a knowledge of good basics. Good basics come from good instruction. It requires attention to detail and a desire to improve. Good riding requires patience and endurance and goal setting. Competition and fancy horses are not a requirement for developing an excellent set of basic skills. Competition should always be a test of our progress and should never be our end goal. If it becomes our end goal and winning become our only desire, then we resort to short cuts, gimmicks and tricks and we lose much of the real value of a life with horses. In the end we are riding only for a prize and not for the love of the sport.
The Riding Instructor  is one of the few blogs I unhesitantly suggest everyone subscribe to. Especially in the West, a lot of new riders seem to skip the basics and go right to "kick = forward and pull = stop" without a lot of understanding about what might motivate a horse. Whether you ride at a NFR Finals or Grand Prix level, or if you, your kids or your grandchildren are new to the world of horses, you will definitely learn something new each time you read one of Barbara's posts.

With best regards,
Patti in cloudy Vail AZ
where the first rain of summer is trying to happen.

The Riding Instructor
Don’t Trust Your Beginner Riders with a Beginner Instructor
Horsemen’s Ground School – What’s Not To Love?