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?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Immune System Support: the Basics

There are a lot of products out there which claim to support the immune system - some are beneficial and some are just unsubstantiated hype - and most are expensive. So what should you do if you feel your horse needs some help to stave off winter stress or to make it less likely he'll catch what the horse down the road has?

Immune system support starts with some basics which should be included in every horse's diet.  Before considering any expensive "specialty" products, make sure your horse's diet includes:
  • Clean water at a drinkable temperature.  If you use automatic waterers, buckets or tanks should also be available.  Every winter I hear from someone who's horse went without water for a day or longer because the auto waters froze up.
  • Salt is often overlooked but is important to encourage adequate hydration.  A 1000 lb horse should receive an ounce of salt (about 4 teaspoons/day) year round.
    • Inadequate sodium (from salt) can lead to dehydration at a "cellular" level which can impede or obstruct normal cellular metabolism.
    • Plain white table salt is best.  "Designer" salts make attractive door stops but may contain high levels of undesirable minerals.
    • If your supplement contains less that the minimum requirement for iodine (most only contain 2 mg) use iodized salt which contains about 1.7 mg iodine per ounce.
  • Adequate quality forage, preferably mainly grass hay, with additional provided as needed for colder temperatures.  (See the Cold Weather Feeding Chart.)
  • If you feed mainly Bermuda hay and your horse doesn't seem to be looking/feeling his best, consider replacing some of the hay (up to half) with Timothy pellets.  The added cost can pay off in improved condition and good health. 

  • Avoid feeds with high levels of simple sugars and starch (which converts to glucose) as excessive glucose can support inflammation.  The processing of "senior" feeds does help greatly with improving digestibility but some contain excessive starch. Look for high fiber feeds as these will be more apt to promote good gut health.  Or give your senior horse a 50/50 combination of beet pulp and steamed or crimped oats plus hay and/or Timothy pellets, along with a quality supplement,  for a nutritious senior diet. 
  • Avoid feeds and supplements with "added" iron.  Excess iron can help fuel inflammation and many forages already supply excessive levels of iron.
  • Look for a supplement which provides at least the minimum daily requirement for copper, zinc, iodine and selenium. For a 1000 lb horse these are:
    • Copper 90-125 mg
    • Zinc 360 mg
    • Iodine 3.2 mg
    • Selenium 1 mg
  • Vitamin E and Omega-3 are important antioxidants which decline rapidly when hay is cut and cured.  
    • For best immune support, provide vitamin E at a rate of 1000 IU per 500 lbs of body weight (2,000 IU for a 1,000 lb horse). It doesn't matter if the vitamin E is synthetic or natural but it does need fat for absorption.  Using human gel caps which also contain oil is best, otherwise add a small amount of oil at feeding time.  For an inexpensive oil which also adds a small benefit from medium chained triglycerides, try Costco's Mediterranean Blend (canola, olive and grape seed oils).
    • The simplest and most cost effective source for Omega-3 is flax. Provide about 2 ounces/day of fresh ground flax seed (which can be pre-ground and stored in the refrigerator) or stabilized flax - HorseTech NutraFlax, Omega HorseShine or Triple Crown OmegaMAX.
  • Iodine and selenium are both important for adequate thyroid functioning.
    • If your supplement has inadequate iodine, use iodized salt or the original Source meal which has a guaranteed level of iodine. If using another kelp or seaweed product, check that the iodine level is guaranteed.
    • Most supplements include selenium at about 2 mg per serving (2 mg per day). If blood tests show low selenium levels, you may need to use a selenium yeast product such as Platinum Selenium Yeast at a higher than usual dosage to bring the level up.  I feel  using an oral selenium yeast algorithm is safer than selenium injectables. 
The above list is what should be included in any horse's diet to ensure a healthy immune system. But older horses or those who are stressed or already ill can benefit from some additional nutrients:
  • Vitamin A - around 15,000 IU/day.  Vitamin A losses in hay occur over time; if hay is over six months since cutting it should be supplemented.  Many supplements provide this or you can use human gel caps.
  • Vitamin D - horses are able to synthesize their own vitamin D and it is also stored in the liver, usually in quantities sufficient to carry most horses through the winter.  If supplementing, stay close to the minimum requirement (3,000 IU for a 1000 lb horse) as excessive D can be toxic. Again, if not provided in your supplement you can add human gel caps.
  • Glutamine - this is an amino acid which is being added more frequently to equine probiotics.  It has been shown to be protective for the mucous membrane lining of the intestines which may help support the intestinal flora production of some immune modulators. 
    • There has been more research lately showing the importance of the intestinal lining and intestinal flora in maintaining immunity.
    • Cost to provide glutamine is about $0.44 for 10 grams per day. See the links below.
  • B-vitamins - not likely deficient except in stressed horses or those with gut issues.  May be included in supplements or can try a human "multi-B" tablet.  
    • Adding yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae - Diamond V or Yea Sac) can help provide a substrate for intestinal flora, which synthesize the B vitamins, to thrive.
I'd certainly consider these basic and cost effective additions to my horse's diet before moving on to more exotic - and pricey - immune support therapies.

Warm regards,

in windy Vail AZ



                   and PureBulk

Selenium Yeast

Vitamin E and Omega-3 Information and links to sources

Purchase Diamond-V Saccharomyces cerevisiae locally at feed mills for best prices

Reasonably priced "general" supplements 
HorseTech High Point (the "alfalfa" should be used with Bermuda) (use with cool season grasses, Timothy pellets)

Source Focus Hoof