A variety of “old horsemen’s tales” once advised withholding water from horses under particular circumstances. For example, many people still adhere to the notion that offering cold water to a hot, sweating horse will cause colic.
However, researchers now know that offering a cool drink to a hot horse does no harm, and it will help him recover from exertion more quickly. In fact, ensuring that horses have access to a ready supply of fresh, clean water is one of the best ways to reduce the risks of impaction colic, especially in those kept primarily on dried forage.
Make sure that every horse has access to the water you supply. Low-ranking herd members may be bullied away from troughs, and arthritic horses may be unwilling to climb down steep streambeds. Providing more than one source of water can help remedy situations like these.
Feeding is one of the most emotionally gratifying things we do for our horses. Who doesn’t enjoy hearing expectant whinnies give way to the sound of contented munching? And yet our very human need to nurture them sometimes conflicts with their very equine need to simply roam and graze. Finding the balance between the horse’s natural way of eating and the demands of domesticated life will help ensure that he will remain healthy for years to come.
Cool as a cucumber … but what if you are a horse? Summer heat and humidity can be a dangerous combination for active horses. “Heat and humidity affect the horse, and with intense exercising, the excess heat has difficulty dissipating,” notes Dr. Glennon Mays, clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Heat is a normal by-product of working muscles and increases during periods of increased exercise,” explains Mays. “Normally a horse cools itself by sweating which causes heat loss and thus its body cools as sweat evaporates from the skin’s surface.”
When humidity is high, less moisture can evaporate from the skin surface. Therefore the surface blood vessels will enlarge to help rid the horse’s body of excess heat. “Overheating, or hyperthermia in the horse is due to a disturbance in the heat regulating mechanism of the horse’s body,” says Mays. “In addition to summer heat and humidity, poor stable ventilation, prolonged exposure to sun, extreme exercise, transportation/trailering stress, as well as excess weight and poor conditioning may contribute to overheating.”
“If your horse does become overheated, move the horse to a shady area or to a cool, well-ventilated barn. Then spray with cool water and place ice packs on the horse’s head and large blood vessels on the neck and the inside of its legs,” states Mays. “Be careful to not spray the horse’s face or get water in its ears; just sponge these areas gently.”
Horses naturally tend to “cool out” while walking rather than standing still, notes Mays. Therefore, application of ice packs can be challenging. Allow the horse to have several swallows of cool, clean, fresh water every few minutes. There is a possibility of colic if your horse drinks large quantities of water in a short period of time.“To help your horse beat the heat, provide plenty of fresh, cool water,” notes Mays. “Keep water bucket or trough clean to promote drinking. Average size work horses can consume over 25 gallons of water per day when the temperature is above 70 degrees.”
Limit strenuous riding to late evening or early morning when the temperature is lower. Use less tack in the hot summer by minimizing saddle pads and leg boots. Also clip your horse’s coat and keep its mane and tail trimmed.
Heat stroke can happen to horses whether they are working hard, standing in stifling stables, or traveling in unventilated trailers, notes Mays. Call a veterinarian and take immediate action if your horse has elevated respiration or pulse (in an inactive horse), body temperature above 103 degrees, or irregular heart beat.
“Do the skin pinch test to check your horse’s hydration,” says Mays. Test for dehydration by pinching the skin along the horse’s neck. The skin should snap back quickly. If the pinched area collapses slowly the horse is dehydrated.
Hot weather does require that you give your horse special care. But, you and your horse can lessen summer’s hot days when you practice these cool tips to beat the heat.
This article is from: PET TALK
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web @ http://tamunews.tamu.edu.
In our continuing series regarding horse feeding pitfalls, we now turn to the need for salt in the equine diet.
Sodium and chloride–the components of table salt–are electrolytes essential to many bodily functions. Both are lost in sweat and must be replaced from the diet. These are also the only essential nutrients that are not naturally present in grasses and grains.
Horses have a natural appetite for salt and consume what they need if given the opportunity. Placing a salt block in your herd’s pasture is the easiest way of providing access to this vital nutrient, but to ensure that all horses get the salt they need, you may decide to put out multiple blocks or even place a small block in each horse’s stall.
If you choose the latter option, be warned, says Crandell: “Some horses kept in stalls a lot will get bored and start overeating salt, and this will make them drink a lot more and then pee a lot more.” For these horses, she suggests offering just a daily portion–one or two ounces of loose salt, or more if it’s hot or the horse has been sweating heavily. “If the diet is balanced, plain white table salt is fine,” she adds. “It doesn’t have to be mineralized.”
If you do offer loose salt, it’s best to keep it in a bucket rather than pouring it over feed. A horse’s need for salt may fluctuate daily. If you give too little, you can create imbalances; too much, and the feed may become unpalatable.
Horse feeds are formulated to provide the exact amount of calories and nutrition those animals need, and giving the wrong feed to the wrong horse can result in imbalances that can be harmful. “The biggest consequence is that adult rations don’t have the mineral levels young horses need,” says Sarah Ralston, VMD, PhD, Dipl. ACVN, associate professor at Rutgers University. “The result can be abnormal growth and developmental orthopedic disease.”
Also, once you’ve determined the amount of concentrates your horse needs for extra calories, be sure to choose a feed that provides the optimum nutrition in that serving size. “The most common mistake I see is feeding below rate,” says Crandell–that is, feeding a horse less than the recommended serving size. “When formulating feed, you can’t make it work for every horse,” she explains. “You can’t balance the vitamins and minerals for a horse getting one pound of feed without poisoning the horse getting 10 pounds.” Conversely, if the recommended serving size is five pounds, the horse who is getting only one pound is getting only a fifth of the added vitamins and minerals.
“If the minimum serving is too much, it’s not the right feed for your horse,” Crandell says.
If you uncertain what the best feed is for your horse, consult this Nutritional Solutions Guide by Purina. You may also find this Feeding Calculator helpful as you determine daily rations.
Usually, the consequences of less-than-optimal feeding regimens are relatively minor, costing us extra money perhaps but doing no real harm. But the worst feeding mistakes can have serious consequences: Some deficiencies or excesses pose an actual health threat; others may subtly rob a horse of vitality. Nutrition and calorie intake is an important factor in equine health. If you are feeding by volume rather than weight you may be over or under feeding.
If you hold a coffee can filled with corn in one hand and one containing oats in the other hand, you will notice a significant difference in weight–corn is heavier, and it’s also higher in calories than other feeds. Of course, we’re all used to scooping out a uniform portion of feed at mealtime, but when it comes to calculating nutrition, it is the weight that matters, not the volume–something to keep in mind whenever you change feeds.
Even pelleted and sweet feeds can vary in density and volume. “Two different manufacturers can make feeds that seem similar on the tag in fat, fiber and protein but the density could be very different,” Crandell says. “I have weighed a number of different feeds in a large coffee can and found that some were close to one pound different in weight but equal in volume.”
So, when you’re planning to change or adjust your feeds, be sure to read the bag for the nutritional content per pound, and then use a kitchen scale to determine how much a pound really is.
Ideally, the average horse’s ration is primarily hay and pasture grass, with modest amounts of concentrates, such as grain, pelleted or sweet feed. But frequently, little emphasis is placed on the quality of forage offered, says Kathleen Crandell, PhD, an equine nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research in Lexington. “Too many people think that hay is just busywork for the horse and do not realize that it is a major calorie source that can vary greatly with quality. If you’ve tried everything to get a horse’s weight up but are still feeding stemmy, old timothy hay, switching to a leafy grass hay that’s not overly mature is a very safe way to get more calories.”
Besides providing more nutrients, better-quality hay is also more economical. For one thing, poor-quality hay contains less digestible fiber so horses have to eat much more to derive the same amount of nutritional value, yet because it is less palatable, horses tend to leave more of it uneaten. In contrast, good-quality hay rarely goes to waste: Horses are likely to devour every last leaf and stem.
Hay made from different grass species varies somewhat in appearance, but in general the good stuff has several distinguishing characteristics:
Leafiness: The leaves contain about 90 percent of a plant’s protein, so ideally, you want bales with fewer stems and large seed heads.
Color: The hue of good hay can vary but is generally some shade of light to medium green for grass hays and darker green for alfalfa. Some yellowing is natural if the hay was sun-bleached, but too much yellow likely indicates that the grass was overmature when cut and contains less digestible fiber.
Aroma:Good hay smells fresh and slightly sweet. Pungent, acrid or musty odors are signs of mold or other quality deficits.
Texture: If you squeeze a handful, good hay feels soft and pliable while poorer hays have coarser stems that will stab your skin.
Weight:Good-quality bales are lightweight and springy; if you drop one on its end it ought to bounce.
Purity:Good hays contain few weeds and no foreign material, such as sticks, wire or dead insects or animals.
The first few weeks of a foal’s life can be the highest risk period in the life of a horse. There are several gastrointestinal disorders that can quickly drain the health of your foal and cause failure to thrive. Here’s a look at some of the more common GI issues to be aware of in foals.
This is a bacterial infection that can affect foals from several days to three months of age. It is caused by a type of bacteria that produces toxins that damage the intestine.
Rapid onset with decreased nursing and depression.
Colic, diarrhea and possibly abdominal distension.
Your vet will look for clostridial bacteria and do further testing to confirm.
Many foals require hospitalization with intravenous fluids and antibiotics. In some cases medication and monitoring at home is possible.
With early treatment to avoid dehydration and toxemia most foals should recover.
The primary cause of viral diarrhea in foals is rotavirus. It is extremely contagious. It is caused by a viral organism shed in the feces, which can persist in the environment for up to nine months.
Malodorous diarrhea, which is profuse and often projectile in nature
Depression, lack of appetite, dehydration and fever
Your vet will identify the virus by testing fecal samples
Supportive with intravenous fluids to prevent or treat dehydration.
Most foals will recover with early treatment if not in a prolonged state of electrolyte imbalance or dehydration.
Disinfect stalls before foaling and quarantine new arrivals before introduction into the herd. Vaccinate broodmare during the eighth, ninth and tenth months of gestation.
The key to avoiding life threatening GI issues is early intervention. When a foal displays a lack of appetite, diarrhea, depression or lethargy you should seek prompt veterinary consultation. Because of the vulnerable stage of life in early foals waiting until tomorrow could be serious, even fatal.
Purina has updated the line of Horseman’s Edge horse feeds and reintroduced them as Purina Impact horse feed. These are the same line of products available in new packaging. With more than 85 years of research behind them, Purina Impact horse feeds offer the following benefits:
Formulated by Ph.D. Equine Nutritionists for Optimal Nutrition
High-Quality Protein for Muscle Maintenance
Added Fat for Sustainable Energy & Healthy Hair Coat
Vitamin & Mineral Fortification for Bone Structure and Immune System Support
Quality Ingredients that are Highly Digestible and Naturally Palatable
Nutritionally Balanced so No Nutritional Supplements Are Needed