Monday, October 22, 2018

Make a Winter Plan for Your Horse

It is late October and the horse shows, trail rides, and other equine activities are drawing to a close.  Well, not really totally shut down, but there are fewer opportunities to go ride somewhere, plus the weather is a lot less likely to cooperate with riding plans.  It’s not really in the best interest of your horse to just turn out into the pasture for the winter and let all the lessons learned from training and riding just fade away over the winter.  Nor is it good to allow your horse to get too much condition from incorrect rationing and not enough exercise.  Making a plan now to keep your horse in good shape during the winter months will pay dividends when the trail riding and horse show season starts again next year, which is March in this area of North Carolina.  Here are a few things to pay attention to:

Nutrition – don’t let your horse need to work off “extra” pounds next spring! A horse owner needs to make sure that the horse is getting the needed energy, protein, minerals, and vitamins needed for the level of activity the horse will be at during the winter.  Feeding extra energy to a horse that is not exercising much leads to those unwanted pounds, so get a forage test on the hay to be fed, and supplement only the energy and protein needed to meet the needs of the horse – and no more!  See your NC Cooperative Extension Livestock Agent for assistance with forage testing.  Ensure that minerals and vitamins are available during the winter months through the ration or through access to free choice mineral supplements.

Activity – Rather than just turning out for the winter months, consider setting an activity level and routine during those months when the weather may not be conducive to riding a lot.  Exercise doesn’t always mean getting into the saddle and riding.  Working the horse in a round pen on a lunge line can reach a level of activity that will keep the hose’s muscle tone good and will help the horse reach mid-season form more quickly next spring.  When the weather is good for riding, work on some things with the horse that were not up to par last season, either in the show ring or on the trail.  This can include working on loading and unloading the trailer, waiting for the rider commands, or getting used to a certain obstacle so that will not be a problem at the next show or trail ride. Set up a calendar for the different activities planned and stick to it.  Your horse will appreciate both the attention and the company!

Grooming – A little attention paid to grooming during the off months will help the horse stay clean, will help build the bond between horse and rider, and will help identify any physical or health problems that me not be that noticeable from a distance.  Early detection of these problems can help get an infection cleared up before it becomes a major inflammation.  Checking feet will get foot problems identified and fixed, and checking teeth can make sure that any dental needs are identified and addressed before wasting feed and losing body condition of the horse.  Frequent brushing gets rid of dirt and loose hair, making the coat more efficient in handling adverse weather conditions.  Untangling and removing foreign objects from the horse’s mane frequently will save a lot of time and aggravation when preparing for the first horse show next spring.

Having a plan for working with horses during the off-season makes a lot of sense over just feeding and letting them run loose in the pasture for a few months.  Monitoring activity levels, knowing what is being fed, and keeping up with grooming chores, farrier needs, and general health items will yield dividends for both the horse and the horse owner.

For more information on horse care, nutrition, or health matters, contact your NC Cooperative Extension Livestock Agent, or the Cooperative Extension Center in your state.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Managing Horse Manure

Did you know that one 1,000 lb. horse can produce about 10 tons of manure each year?  With that much manure being produced by each horse it is important to have a manure management plan.  Manure is an excellent nutrient resource for soils and considered valuable to farmers and garden owners.  Each pound of fresh manure contains about 0.2 lbs. of nitrogen, 0.03 pounds of phosphorous, 0.06 pounds of potassium.  If stored and handled properly, horse manure can easily be used as fertilizer on pastures, gardens, lawns, etc.


A comprehensive horse manure management plan includes the following:

·         Estimated yearly animal manure production
·         Estimated yearly nutrient production
·         Plans for collecting, handling, and storing
·         Emergency action plan that deals with accidental manure spills or other environmental emergencies
·         If you plan to apply manure to land, please also include the following:
o   Estimated yearly crop nutrient use potential
o   Rotating crops
o   Available land for application throughout the year

Manure storage is a critical piece of a manure management plan.  The type of storage facility will vary depending on the number of horses, manure end use, and available equipment.    Barns with less than 15 horses or that often pasture horses may want to consider small, temporary bins or wire continuous bins.  Barns with 15 or more horses will want to consider a larger, more permanent facility that you can access with larger equipment.  Prior to construction, contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) or USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office to assist you with designing and building a storage site or facility.

Wooden bins for holding manure.
PC: UMN Extension

Monday, October 8, 2018

You Want Me To Give What To Who?

That’s right. . .how many of you horse owners have heard the phrase. . .”Well, they’re going to need ____medication___times a day”?  We cringe when we hear that phrase because some of our hooved babies do NOT take medicine willingly.  Here are a few tips that will hopefully help you win the fight over giving meds.

·      Ask if the medication comes in a powdered form.  Powdered forms can often be mixed with your animal’s daily rations and eaten without them even knowing it.

·      IF a powdered version is NOT available, then capsules can normally be opened and sprinkled on the daily rations with no problems; however, certain medications MUST be taken whole, so be sure to ask your veterinarian if you can open and sprinkle.

·      The tablet form of medications can be crushed (using a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder) and sprinkled over daily rations.  Again, be sure to ask your veterinarian if this method would be appropriate.

·      Feed the medicated horse alone to see if they “nose through” the medicine or not.  This will also keep other, less picky horses from eating medication that they don’t need.

·      Always check the bucket just to make sure the “patient” ate what they were supposed to and didn’t leave any of the medicine behind.

·      If your horse won’t eat their meds with feed, try hiding it in their “favorite treat”.  If this doesn’t work, and you’re able, grind down the medication and add it to an oral syringe of applesauce or some thinned out molasses.  This should make it more appealing to your horse.  Sometimes horses will tolerate the oral syringe better if the end of it is dipped or covered in molasses or peanut butter. 

If you have already tried all of these tips and still need help, please don’t hesitate to contact your local Cooperative Extension Office for more ideas.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Getting Your Mare Pregnant

There are two different ways you can get your mare pregnant, one being live cover (natural breeding by the stallion) and the other being artificial insemination. There are pros and cons to both practices.

Live cover is the natural way to breed your mare. Through natural breeding there is more sperm deposited into the mare so a higher pregnancy rate can be seen over chilled or frozen semen. There is simply less room for human error when you allow nature to take it's course. There are risks though for this higher pregnancy rate so you much weigh your options carefully. Live cover is more dangerous for the stallion, mare and handlers. It can be traumatic for the mare as the stallion can get mouthy as well as the weight of the stallion on the mare. Getting the 2 horses together can be hard to schedule and having them get along can be another story. The stallion will breed the mare multiple times in a day and allowing access to each other all day is difficult but can be done if managed properly. Lastly, some stallions don’t perform well under live cover (they will ejaculate when dismounting, some need guidance while some refuse manipulation, and the mare can move away from the stallion)

Artificial Insemination is the use of chilled semen that has recently been collected from a stallion or the use of frozen semen. Through the use of artificial insemination you can can obtain different bloodlines from all over the world and you don't have to take your mare to the stallion of your choice. Artificial insemination also allows you to extend the breeding season and decrease the chance of injury to your mare.There is also freedom in not having to schedule live cover breeding sessions, this allows for stallions and mares to stay active in their sport. The downfall to artificial insemination is that it has a lower pregnancy rate compared to natural service. The main reasons AI has a lower success rate is that there are many ways you can mishandle chilled or frozen semen which will decrease semen quality not to mention, frozen sperm is constantly under duress. With shipping the semen there is a chance of bringing in diseases from different parts of the world so it is important to make sure the stallion is clear of any diseases. Lastly, artificial insemination does require intensive management of the mare so that you know when she is ovulating (AI needs to be at the end of her cycle when she is about to ovulate).   

Whether you are going to use AI or live cover there has been some research done to help you be successful. It is important to understand how the collection of the semen directly impacts the pregnancy rate. Research by Elizabeth S. Metcalf, has been done showing that stallions that are collected every day as compared to every other day show higher pregnancy rates on mares both in live cover scenarios as well as chilled semen. This is due to the fact that fertility is mainly determined by the mare and the timing of her ovulation. When a stallion is collected every day and semen is readily available, so the stallion’s collection schedule is based on the mare’s readiness rather than to accommodate the schedule of the stallion farm. Another factor that increases pregnancy rate whether you are using live cover or artificial insemination is the number of insemination per cycle .

If you don't know which method is best for you contact your vet or local extension agent and they can help you work through the pros and cons and hopefully help you decide what is best for your particular operation. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Hurricane Aftermath: Mosquito Control

Large populations of mosquitoes can emerge days to weeks after heavy rains and flooding.  Most are "nuisance" mosquitoes, but some can cary viruses such as West Nile and Equine Encephalitis (EEE). To protect yourself from these vector-borne diseases:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants while outdoors.
  • Use mosquito repellent that contains DEET (30-50% concentration) or picardin (7-15% concentration).
  • If possible, use fly sheets and insect repellents on horse(s) to prevent biting.
  • Talk to your veterinarian to keep your horse(s) up-to-date on their EEE and West Nile vaccinations.
For more information about insect repellents, check out this link from NC State University: Insect Repellents

Hurricane Relief Supplies Needed

Now that the rivers have finally crested in the southeastern counties of North Carolina, relief efforts can expand safely and reach more people who are in dire need.  Farmers in the affected counties are in need of a lot of resources, including feed, hay, fencing materials, livestock panels, veterinary supplies and many other items that are needed on farms to work with livestock and, of course, with horses. 

Many people have already sent needed agricultural items to the affected areas, and there are agricultural distribution points set up in at least two locations so far, with that number likely to increase as flood waters recede.  There is a real shortage of hay packaged in small square bales.  These bales are good to use in boats and trucks when horses or livestock are found needing something to eat.  While large round bales are great and more readily available, they are more difficult to use in these early situations in flooded areas.  Anyone who has small square bales to donate, or has fencing materials, livestock panels or veterinary supplies to donate should call the NCDA&CS Agriculture Weather Emergency Hotline at 1-866-645-9403 to receive instructions on where items can be sent to meet the most need.  The folks at the NCDS&CS are working with the Ag Emergency Operations at NC State to meet agricultural needs, including the needs of horse owners.

Horse owners should also be aware that there are groups active in the flooded counties offering to provide assistance that have other goals in mind.  There are cases where a group has offered assistance, the horse owner has accepted the help, and their horses are not seen again.  I’d call that rustling, which I believe is still a felony.  Horse owners, and all livestock farmers, need to be aware and check the credentials for anyone working in the recovery effort.  Certainly, there is plenty to do in cleaning up pastures and structures after a major storm like this.  Horse owners should not have to worry about the legitimacy of a group offering help, but unfortunately there are plenty of folks looking to take advantage of people in difficult situations.

Again, to get guidance on where to take small bales of hay, fencing materials, veterinary supplies, or other agriculture flood relief items, call the NCDA&CS Agriculture Weather Emergency Hotline at 1-866-645-9403.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Nutrition for Older Horses

Horses have relatively long life spans, as compared to other livestock and companion animals. Proper nutrition, maintenance, and veterinary care allow horses to have longer and more productive lives, but as horses age, their needs change and additional care may be required to keep them healthy. There is no set age for when a horse is deemed old because horses, like people, age at different rates.

When caring for an older horse, it is important to understand how the horse’s body changes as it ages and how these changes impact the horse’s health requirements. One important area to consider when caring for an older horse is nutrition.

Nutritional needs of aging horses can vary greatly between individuals. As horses age, meeting their nutritional requirements becomes more difficult. One reason for this is poor dentition. The natural circular chewing motion characteristic of horses leads to sharp points developing on the outside of the horse’s upper molars and the inside of the horse’s lower molars. Filing the horse’s teeth one to two times per year will improve his chewing ability and digestion. Some older horses may not have teeth due to them wearing away over time. This leaves horses with little ability to chew and digest foods they would normally eat. This problem can be addressed by changing the type of food the horse eats. Some feed companies make senior horse feeds that have a softer texture than ordinary horse feeds. Concentrates fed in pellet form can be wet down and softened to make it easier for the horse to chew. Forage in the form of hay cubes or pellets can also be wet down and softened.

As horses age, they may become less able to glean nutrients from food due to reduced nutrient absorption, lowered ability to digest fiber, and reduced gastrointestinal motility, which is caused by intestinal damage from parasites. Lifelong parasite control is an important part of maintaining a horse’s health.

Older horses that are having difficulty maintaining their body condition should be given highly digestible, high-energy feeds. Beet pulp is often used for this purpose because it is a highly digestible fiber source.

Digestibility can be improved by selecting commercial feeds containing grains that have been processed by crimping, cracking, rolling, or steam flaking. This breaks the grain’s seed coat, making it easier to digest. It is important to feed good quality grain and forage that is free of mold and dust, as moldy and dusty feeds can cause gastrointestinal tract problems and are not easily digestible.
Some older horses may hold their weight more easily and become too heavy as a result of less exercise. These horses may accumulate fat at an unhealthy rate, which could be harmful to their health. This makes it important to monitor the horse to ensure he is meeting his nutritional requirements without gaining excess weight.

For more information on this topic, see this bulletin from the University of Georgia Extension - Caring for the Older Horse: Common Problems and Solutions.

By Amber Long, Bladen County Summer Intern