horse health



eye-cr

This past year we did S.T.E.M. week as one of our Hooked on Horsessm themes for summer camp. For Science day, we focused on genetics. Why genetics if we are not a breeding facility?

As a horse owner, and especially since we only use one breed at our facility, I felt it is important that our riders understand that the horse they may choose when they are ready to purchase their first horse, needs to be vetted beyond the typical vet check. They need to look at their horse’s genetics and what may possibly be lurking.

As the ability to isolate genes and track diseases improves so is the possibility of being able to determine the future health of a horse. Since we only have Haflinger horses on our facility, I will discuss their potential diseases. Bear in mind that these and others are present in many other horse breeds.

Equine Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (EPSM, PSSM, EPSSM)

EPSM is a metabolic disorder. Horses are unable to keep their muscles working properly on what we consider “normal” horse diets. The symptoms include tying up, or weakness in the hind limbs. Some owners feel their horse is lazy because part way through the ride or lesson the horse slows down and has a hard time moving. This is because the horse cannot store, and therefore get muscle energy from carbohydrates.

This disorder is across all breeds of horses. Research shows that about two-thirds of draft type horses and one-third of light horse breeds are susceptible to EPSM. Often the best built, best temperament, best performing horses are diagnosed with it. This is a hereditary disorder that we may be inadvertently breeding into our stock.

It is treatable with proper diet. The horse is fed fat in the form of oil instead of the carbohydrates froun in grain. Any pelleted food is high in fat and does not contain carbohydrates. If not treated, this disorder may result in death.

In 2007 we were stunned when a horse that we felt was healthy succumbed to this disease within 48 hours. Once it was identified as her cause of death, we had the rest of our herd of 10 horses tested for the disorder. At that time the only way to test was by performing a muscle biopsy. The results showed that four of our horses also had this disease. There is now a DNA test that can be done using the hair root from the horse’s tail to determine if the horse has this disorder.

Squamous cell carcinoma

This form of eye cancer is the second most common type of tumor in horses and the most frequent eye tumor. The tumor typically develops in non-pigmented areas of the skin and the eye. It is frequently found in Appaloosas and color-dilute breeds such as Belgians and Haflingers.

Early symptoms are a reddening, roughening or ulcerating area. Treatment involves surgically removing the tumor through one of many means. Chemotherapy may also be an option. If left untreated the tumor can spread behind the eye, into the sinuses, and ultimately the brain.

Once treated, the horse needs to wear an ultra-protective fly mask during the peak sunlight hours since exposure to the sun’s ultra-violet rays can trigger this disease.

In 2014 a tumor appeared in one of our horse’s eye. We had it removed and, because we did not use the horse for our program, we sold him with full disclosure. This spring we discovered a smaller tumor in the eye of two of our horses. We had the tumor removed and treated both horses with chemo for one month. We keep fly masks on both horses during the day. To date, both are doing well.

The interesting aspect was that these horses were all full brother/sisters. All three of them developed squamous cell carcinoma in the right eye. Coincidence or hereditary?

The University of California, Davis has recently developed a DNA test to determine if a horse is susceptible to squamous cell carcinoma. We will definitely be taking advantage of this test and, should any other horses show susceptibility, they will also be sporting fly masks all year round.

Seeing that both of these diseases, along with many others, are hereditary, we can’t help but urge breeders to have their horses tested, then, decide whether breeding the horse is the right thing to do.

EPSM only requires ONE of the parents to have the disorder to pass it on to an offspring. With squamous cell carcinoma, breeding horses even if one is heterozygote (R/N), risks producing horses that can be affected with this disease.

For us, we already test any horse that we acquire for EPSM. The test for squamous cell carcinoma will now be added to the vet check list.

Linda Watson-Call is the owner and head riding instructor at Pretty Pony Pastures. Visit the website for details on all the lessons and activities at this facility.

supplycabinet

There are no two ways about it – horses can be very expensive. If you look through a horses catalog at all the “products” designed for horses, the dollars add up.

Some items need to be horse specific – like wormer. Do you buy the name brand or the generic?

Feed MUST be horse specific – feed for cows, goats, or other animals can be detrimental for a horse. But what about other items?

Here are some of the general items we keep on hand in our supply cabinet:

  • Baby oil – use it for sheath cleaning and general grooming.
  • Vaseline – makes a great hoof polish. Keeps the hooves from drying out. Can be used as a barrier from bugs for superficial cuts or scrapes.
  • Baby shampoo – gentle, mild, works great on the mane and tail as well as the coat.
  • Mouthwash – yes, mouthwash can be used as a liniment, dandruff, and put a little in the water trough to keep bacteria at bay during the summer months.
  • Cotton balls – to clean around eyes, muzzle, anywhere you want “soft” cleaning.
  • Instant ice packs – for the bumps that require a cold compress. Keep it on with a baby diaper and duct tape.
  • Fiber powder with psyllium – to prevent sand colic. Our horses love the orange flavor!
  • Toothpaste – great for cleaning bits – and don’t forget the toothbrush to get into the grooves and crevices of your tack.
  • Murphy’s oil soap – cleans leather.
  • Spray bottles – dollar store variety
  • Bleach to disinfect everything – especially the grooming brushes and bucket. You do wash those at least twice a year, right?
  • Regular “human” brushes – with our Haflingers the traditional horse combs don’t make it. Human brushes and of course a spray to get rid of the tangles!
  • Baby diapers – both the disposable and the cloth. They are absorbent, can be used to wrap a leg or hoof injury and keep salve-type medication from getting dirty.
  • Duct tape – don’t forget the duct tape to keep the wraps on!

As you can see, most of the supplies that are used for horses can be purchased at the grocery or local drug store.

How do you save money on horse supplies?

 

Linda Watson is the owner and head riding instructor at Pretty Pony Pastures. Visit the website for details on all the lessons and activities at this facility.

Horses eating hay

Keep your horse well fed during the winter.

It’s almost here again and we look into the barn and wonder if we have enough hay to last our animals.

How do you figure out how much hay you need? Do you track how many bales you used from year to year? What if you increase or decrease your herd? Did you switch your hay supplier? Are the bales heavier or (gasp!) lighter than the previous years?

Depending on the age and activity level of your horse, he will consume between 1.5% and 2.5% of his weight in hay/grain.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s say our horse weighs 1,000 pounds and is lightly worked, even in the winter. So, that horse would eat about 2% of his weight or 20 pounds of hay/grain every day. If your hay bales average 40 pounds, you would feed this horse a ½ bale of hay a day. We are making the assumption that the horse is not getting any grain. The amount of hay would, of course, be decreased based on the amount of grain fed daily.

Now the question is, is your horse on hay all year or do you pasture you horse during the warmer months. This is critical in figuring out how much hay you will need.

If you feed hay all year, and you feed a half bale a day, you would need 183 bales of hay per horse. However, this does not take into account cold winters nor other factors like wind chill or the winter coat your horse may or may not have.

Using 400 as a base temperature, we would add about one pound of hay for every 10 degrees below this base temperature. So at 300, you may want to add one or two pounds of hay, depending on the winter coat. But, if it’s raining, you may need to add three to six pounds of hay and if the wind is at 10 to 15 miles per hour, you might want to think about adding 10 to 14 pounds of hay!

So now, how do you figure out how much hay you really need?

Since we have determined that a 1,000 pound horse would need 183 bales of hay if the horse was not on pasture, we now need to calculate how many days of cold our region has. Again, to make the math simple, let’s say we could have 100 days of temps at or below 300. Of those days, 30 would be at or below 00.

Coat 70 days at 300 – 00 30 days below 00 Total pounds
Heavy 70 x 3 pounds = 210 pounds 30 x 8 pounds = 240 pounds 450 pounds = 11.25 bales
Light 70 x 6 pounds = 420 pounds 30 x 14 pounds = 420 pounds 840 pounds = 21 bales

If your horses are stalled and out of the elements, you may be able to give them less hay, but, always do a check of your horse’s weight during the harsh winter months. Winter coat can be deceiving, so feel for your horse’s ribs as well as a visual inspection to see how he is wintering.

Linda Watson is the owner and head riding instructor at Pretty Pony Pastures. Visit the website for details on all the lessons and activities at this facility.