The next few days will bring freezing weather to many parts of the country, and with that comes the need for extra care and attention for horses, donkeys, ponies, mules, and any other outdoor animals.As the temperatures decrease, a horse’s feed requirements increase. Allowing horses free choice to good quality forage (hay) is the surest way to ensure that they consume enough energy, and the process of digesting forage will actually produce heat. Horses will typically consume 2 to 2.5% of their body weight in forage each day; that would be 25 pounds per day for a 1,000 pound horse. Winter pasture alone will not provide enough forage to sustain a horse and, therefore, must be supplemented with hay and/or grain.
The growing season some parts of the nation had last year produced overly stemmy or fibrous hay with a lower digestibility. As a result, making certain that horses are supplemented with grain when fed lower quality hay will help them maintain body weight and condition, a key factor in withstanding cold temperatures.
Constant access to clean, fresh water at 35 to 50°F is an absolute necessity to keeping horses healthy. This can be achieved via heated tanks or buckets, or by filling a tank, letting it freeze, cutting an access hole in the frozen surface, and then always filling the tank to below the level of the hole from that point on. This provides a self-insulating function and will typically keep the water below from freezing. Regardless of the method you choose, it’s important to check tanks frequently to ensure your horse’s water remains free of ice.
Additional ways to keep horses comfortable in cold weather include making sure they have access to shelter. A well-bedded, three-sided shed facing south or east will typically provide adequate protection from wind and snow, as can appropriate bluffs or treed areas.
When the temperatures get colder, mature horses will not typically move around much in an effort to conserve energy. Making an attempt to keep hay, shelter, and water fairly close together can limit the energy expenditure required, thus conserving body condition.
And, finally, keeping horses at a body condition score of 5 or 6 (on a 9-point scale) will help prevent surprises when horses shed their winter hair in the spring, and improve conception rates for those choosing to breed.
Carrying a smartphone or tablet is like having a spare brain in your pocket, one that helps you keep track of all the details in your busy life. At the barn, that device can also help you keep your horse healthy.
Health Data in Your Hand The latest tool for this task is Horse Health Tracker, a smartphone app released by Equine Guelph, the horse-focused education and research center at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. It’s designed to help you monitor vital health information for your horse.
The heart of the app is the Horse Health Check feature. It guides you through a 16-point health checklist that covers the horse from ears to hooves. Videos show you how to monitor heart rate and other vital signs. You can record results as often as you like, even several times a day, which makes this feature important for monitoring a sick horse.
Other features in the app help you determine and record the horse’s body condition score or estimate his body weight. A video library gives you quick access to all the instructional videos presented in the app. The app retains data from each health tool for 13 months and it will generate graphs so you can compare the results over time. Built-in email capability allows you to send the data directly to your veterinarian or others. You can also enter reminders for vet and farrier visits and other appointments. If you want, the app will sync the reminders with your smartphone’s calendar.
Horse Health Tracker is available for download at the App Store and Google Play. The basic version, which is free, allows you to track information for one or two horses. Upgrades ($4.59 to $11.99) can handle as many as 50 horses. Each horse is tracked separately, and you can add pictures taken with your device to the records. A user guide is online at equineguelph.ca.
Five-Minute Parasite Egg Counts Does your horse need deworming right now or can he wait until fall? Soon a smartphone may help answer that question, thanks to an innovative new fecal-testing system developed in collaboration with scientists at the University of Kentucky.
Current veterinary guidelines call for individualized deworming programs, using fecal testing to determine the best intervals between treatments and to gauge whether the drugs you’re using are effective. The tests look for the eggs of strongyles, ascarids and some other parasites in manure samples. You collect a sample and send it to a lab (directly or through your veterinarian), where a technician prepares a slide, views it with a microscope and manually counts each visible egg with a clicker. This work requires skill and training, and the results take some time. Generally you’ll wait a week to 10 days for the them to come back.
The new system, called Parasight, shortens that time to less than five minutes. This means that vets can use it in the field to get real-time information about parasite loads. The system includes a smartphone app, an imaging unit (a simple device that attaches to a smartphone) and a kit for prepping manure samples. Samples are first treated with chemicals that cause parasite eggs to glow under blue light. Then they are placed in the imaging unit and photographed with a smartphone.
The smartphone app counts the glowing eggs and emails the results to the veterinarian, along with recommendations for treatment. It can distinguish between different types of parasite eggs and is as accurate as traditional lab tests, the developers say. A companion follow-up kit, which gives less detailed information, is intended for horse owners to use in monitoring the effectiveness of treatment.
MEP Equine Solutions, LLC, the Lexington, Kentucky, company that developed the Parasight System, expects to have a commercial version on the market within a year. Last spring, the company was awarded a $100,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help move the process along. The people behind the company include Chief Scientific Officer and Co-founder Paul Slusarewicz, PhD, an adjunct professor at the University of Kentucky’s Gluck Equine Research Center who focuses on the commercial development of new animal-health technologies. MEP’s other co-founders are company President Eric Hauk, a businessman, and Technical Adviser Martin Nielsen, DVM, PhD, an international expert in parasitology research who is an assistant professor at the Gluck Center.—Elaine Pascoe
This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of Practical Horseman.
(In order from top left to right) SmartPak monthly supplements- A New Waterproof Blanket- Professional Horseman Boots- A bright orange halter to keep him safe during hunting season- DuraLactin an all natural anti-inflammatory and pain medication- Equine Edibles Candy Can Bran Mash- Epson Salt Poultice for sore muscles- Transfer Factor to boost your horse’s immune system during the winter months- Acupuncture- A massage- Kinesio Tape for sore muscles or stiffness- a complete first aid kit because you can never be overly prepared!
You don’t want to waste time in an equine emergency! The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) offers these tips to keep you organized and calm in your horse’s time of need.
If you own horses long enough, sooner or later you are likely to confront a medical emergency. From lacerations to colic to foaling difficulties, there are many emergencies that a horse owner may encounter. You must know how to recognize serious problems and respond promptly, taking appropriate action while awaiting the arrival of your veterinarian.
Preparation is vital when confronted with a medical emergency. No matter the situation you may face, mentally rehearse the steps you will take to avoid letting panic take control. Follow these guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to help you prepare for an equine emergency:
Keep your veterinarian’s number by each phone, including how the practitioner can be reached after hours.
Consult with your regular veterinarian regarding a back-up or referring veterinarian’s number in case you cannot reach your regular veterinarian quickly enough.
Know in advance the most direct route to an equine surgery center in case you need to transport the horse.
Post the names and phone numbers of nearby friends and neighbors who can assist you in an emergency while you wait for the veterinarian.
Prepare a first aid kit and store it in a clean, dry, readily accessible place. Make sure that family members and other barn users know where the kit is. Also keep a first aid kit in your horse trailer or towing vehicle, and a pared-down version to carry on the trail.First aid kits can be simple or elaborate. Here is a short list of essential items:
Gauze pads, in assorted sizes
Cup or container
Rectal thermometer with string and clip attached
Surgical scrub and antiseptic solution
Many accidents can be prevented by taking the time to evaluate your horse’s environment and removing potential hazards. Mentally rehearse your emergency action plan. In an emergency, time is critical. Don’t be concerned with overreacting or annoying your veterinarian. By acting quickly and promptly, you can minimize the consequences of an injury or illness.
For more information about emergency care, ask your equine veterinarian for the “Emergency Care” brochure, provided by the AAEP in partnership with Bayer Corporation, Animal Health. More information can also be obtained by visiting the AAEP’s horse health web site, www.myHorseMatters.com.
The American Association of Equine Practitioners, headquartered in Lexington, Kentucky, was founded in 1954 as a non-profit organization dedicated to the health and welfare of the horse.
Luckily, after about one week of stall rest and hand walking, along with a stronger anti-inflammatory, Chance has begun to show improvements over the last couple weeks of treatment.
Chance has almost completed his first 30 days of EPM treatment and has about a day or so left of the Protazil. He is going to continue his other medications and supplements:
1. SmartPak: senior flex and immune boost
2. Vitamin E
3. MicroLactin (amazing) to help with regrowth of his cells, inflammation, and pain.
As I’m doing research, and trying to come up with a plan of action, once again I am inundated with opinions…medication, exercise, holistic, massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, organic, shoeing, etc.
I know I need to continue therapy, or start a new therapy. But which one do I choose?
Do I go the holistic approach and work with an acupuncturist, chiropractor, massage therapist, and vitamins such as Vita Royals? Do I go organic? Or do I try Marquis? Another month of Protazil? Oraquin-10? Rebalance has been linked to a number of recent deaths in the past handful of months. If I go the organic or holistic approach do I run the risk of the disease progressing? If I go with the medication do I run the risk of yet another “treatment crisis”?
I contacted Vet4 and he suggested doing another round of the Protazil or Marquis. I decided on trying Marquis and waited for it to arrive.
The month passed by slowly….I kept hitting a brick wall over and over again…with each diagnostic test we ran.
Vet2: This was Chance’s vet for many years and where Chance lived the summer I moved home. Vet1 was used because of connivence and due to being the vet of the owner of the farm. I called Vet2, desperate, and she came out to see him. Vet2 had always been amazing with Chance- kind, calm, and seems to act on intuition in conjunction with science. She ran a CBC, tested for Cushings, Lymes, an did x-rays on the back right leg.
* Metabolic Syndrome- Cornell
ACTH endo 21.4 pg/ml
INSULIN 15.22 uIU/ml
THYROXINE T4 baseline 0.77 ug/dl
*Lyme Mitpix- Cornel
OspA Value 1253- Equivocal
OspC Value 79- Negative
OspF Value 592- Negative
Temp: 99.1, HR: 42, RR: 12, No murmur
Received Potomac Rabies and Stanozanol 4ml 7 vit B12
The X-rays of his back right showed nothing that could cause his flare-ups. While his thyroid was a bit low, it was not clinically significant. He was negative for Lymes and Cushings. Next step, aside from pain management, is to call Vet3- the holistic approach.
One day I received a call that I needed to come out and see Chance because he wasn’t doing well and, according to Vet1, he needed to be put down. I quickly canceled my appointments and got on the road. The 4 hour drive was excruciating…once we finally arrived, my heart broke.
My old guy was skin and bones. His back right leg was swollen and he wasn’t able to bare weight on it. His eyes were dull. He could barely walk, and when he did, he wouldn’t put any weight on the right hind. There were even times when he would do this “neurologic dance” (coined by the farm’s owner and C’s other mom) where he would lift up his back right leg and hop!
But when he saw me pull up, he whinnied. He was excited to see me. He ate the pureed carrots but refused the apple puree (only my mom would make this for him). He wasn’t ready to die.
I called the vet who said that Chance should be put down to see what his thoughts were.
Me: What do you think is going on with C?
Vet1: I think he is ready to be put down.
Me: Because of what?
Me: Okay, well, what is the cause of the Lymphangitis? Did you run any diagnostics?
Me: I would like to manage his pain and run a few tests before making that decision. (I reviewed the research that I had done and asked where to go from there.) Could it be EPM?
Vet1: “It’s not EPM”
Me: How about Cushings? Or Laminitis? Lymes?
Vet1: Nope. Just old age.
Me: The journals I read said that some of the symptoms…(I was cut off)
Vet1: “I don’t care what journals you read! It’s a bunch of…”
Me: One was from VA Tech actually…
Well, that was that! Vet1 did not completely lack compassion but he was more “old school” I guess one could say. He was well respected in the horse world and up until this point, he did the job I needed. But I will say I was disheartened by our conversation.
I decided to contact the other vets that I had worked with in the past, who also knew Chance, and get second, third, fourth opinions.