Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Feed Naturally to Prevent Winter Colic - and Don't Forget the Salt!

Prevent Seasonal Colic and Ulcers Holistically by Joyce Harman, DVM from HolisticHorse.com
Not something we want to see in our barn!
“It’s no secret that horses have a finicky digestive system. By design, they should move and graze for up to 20 hours a day. This natural behavior keeps the hindgut full, which leads to a properly functioning digestive tract. Most horse owners aren’t able to provide this optimum environment and alter the horse’s patterns to fit into their lifestyles. At times, that means stalling horses or keeping them in small paddocks, while feeding them large amounts of processed feed. Whether we realize it or not, altering the natural behavior puts stress on the horse’s body.”

Dehydration is often a primary cause of winter impaction colic. As the weather cools down, our horses may need to be encouraged to continue drinking adequate water - this is best done by adding salt daily to their feed. Most horses won’t get the one to two ounces (four to eight teaspoons) of salt they need to provide their sodiumrequirement (it's the sodium which triggers a thirst response) from a block. If your horses aren’t used to having salt added to their feed, you can start by “salting the environment” - literally sprinkling salt around their stall, on their hay, etc. the help them get used to the smell and taste.  Then gradually add up to at least one ounce per day for an average 900-1100 pound horse. If you provide free choice salt, make sure you monitor their intake.

It’s also important to monitor your horses’ water intake during the winter which can be difficult if you use automatic waterers - especially as they can be subject to freezing.

Old Camping Trick:  In my part of Arizona, we generally have only ten nights or less of hard freeze. I’ve found the easiest way to get fresh warm water to my horses on these days is to place a clean trash bag in muck buckets, fill them at the house then tie off the top of the bags.  I can then drive them to the barn in my truck or in a cart without sloshing or losing a drop. 

Warm regards from
Patti in sunny Vail AZ
 - where Fall has finally arrived

Winter Water Needs for Our Horses
Introducing New Feeds (or “salting the environment”)
Prevent Seasonal Colic and Ulcers Holistically

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Updating Vitamin E

This has been a busy and challenging summer for me and it's good to finally be back on line - though it will still be some time before I expect to be back in the saddle.

I'd like to invite you to check out some recent updates to my Vitamin E article, “Comparing the cost of providing Vitamin E for our horses” at my website. Thanks to Rob Stuart, Ph.D., President of Stuart Products, Inc. (supplier of EMCELLE TOCOPHEROL micellized alpha-tocopherol) for pointing out some changes which were needed.

If your horses' primary diet consists of cured hay during the winter, they should receive supplemental vitamin E.  Current NRC daily recommendations for vitamin E in horses are 1 -2 IU/kg body weight (250-500 IU)which is easily supplied by active pasture but is quickly lost when hay is cut and cured. This is a “minimum” level and may not be adequate for horses with neuromuscular disorders, pregnant or lactating mares and metabolically challenged horses. Vitamin E, although a fat-soluble vitamin, is not stored in the body as vitamins A and D are, so should be supplemented daily when not supplied by the diet.

Dr. Eleanor Kellon has suggested a minimum of 2 IU vitamin E per pound of body weight (or 2,000IU/day for an “average” horse)on a cured hay diet to ensure they receive adequate levels.

I hope you find the updated article interesting and helpful in selecting the most cost-effective vitamin E supplementation for your particular circumstance.

Best regards,

in sunny Vail, AZ


Vitamin E: Comparing the cost of providing Vitamin E for our horses

University of Minnesota Equine Center, Neuromuscular Diagnostic Laboratory : Selecting a Vitamin E Supplement

NRC Plus - Eleanor Kellon, VMD’s introductory equine nutrition on-line course

ECIR: Treatment of Insulin Resistance

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: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whiskers

Vibrissae - importance to perception in the horse http://www.us.elsevierhealth.com/media/us/samplechapters/9780702026348/9780702026348.pdf