Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Horse Trailer Maintenance and Safety

Photo taken by: Virginia State Parks

Whether you show, trail ride, or simply take your horses to the vet for their annual Coggins test, horse owners need a trailer.  As horse folks, we often talk about travel safety (stopping every 100 miles, making sure all doors are secure, no sudden stops or turns, ect) and trailering horses.  These are important topics, however, how much thought do we give to maintaining and inspecting our trailers?

Regular maintenance checks should be preformed on a horse trailer every time it is used.  Routine items include:

  • Tires - tread should be 1/4" or more, and tires should be properly inflated with no signs of dry rot.  Don't forget to check the spare tire too!
  • Make sure jacks and safety triangle are in working condition in case of breakdown.
  • Check for any loose screws, bolts or nails.
  • All lights (marker, tail, brake, directional and interior) should be in working condition and bright.
  • Hitch ball should be greased as needed.
  • Safety chains and snaps should be in place and in good working condition.
  • Replace any rotting or broken floorboards.  To increase the lifespan of your trailer floor, mats should be lifted after use and the floor swept.  Yearly applications of a weather sealer is also helpful.
Photo credit to Joanna; video on how to replace your floorboards HERE

    Yearly maintenance checks include:
    • Inspection of frame for cracks, and wires for loose connections and frayed covering.
    • Repair or replacement for rotted or rusted metal.
    • Inspection of ramp hinges and springs for weakness and cracks.
    • Wheels should be pulled and bearings checked and repacked.
    • Inspection of brakes and emergency break-away cable, pin and control box.
    Another good tip is to plan ahead.  Don't wait till the day of to inspect your trailer, do it the a day or two before when things are a little less hectic.  And always remember, keeping your trailer in working condition is an important first step in keeping your equine pals safe on any road trip.  Happy trails!

    Monday, October 9, 2017

    Wellness Exams

    Checking Vitals

    Wellness exams are essential to keeping your horse healthy and can catch small problems before they become major health concerns. Horse experts recommend that you have your horse examined annually by a trusted veterinarian and more often than once a year for older horses.

    During these wellness exams, it is always important to review the animal’s health history, making sure that you point out anything and everything that has changed since the last exam.    A good physical assessment should also take place and should include body temperature, respiration rate, heart rate, body condition score, a good look inside their mouth, listening to their GI tract, heart and lungs.  A fecal sample should be collected at this time to be evaluated for internal parasites.  Fecal egg counts indicate the parasite load inside the animal and help your veterinarian determine the best wormer rotation for your animal.  On the flip side, if the parasite load is low, the fecal sample indicates that you are already controlling parasites on your property.  Either way, this is information that owners need to know.  


     Blood work and vaccinations may also be conducted during wellness exams.  According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, horses should receive annual core vaccinations.  These core vaccinations are Eastern/Western Equine Encephalitis, Tetanus, Rabies and West Nile Virus.  Depending on your location, there may be other vaccinations that your vet will recommend to you.  Certain blood tests will give the doctor an inside look at what is going on internally and could detect irregularities so that they may be addressed quickly and efficiently.  

    Drawing Blood

    Winter is right around the corner so Fall is the perfect time to have your vet check your horse’s gait for changes or signs of lameness that can progress quickly during harsh winter weather.  Lameness exams should definitely be conducted on horses with arthritis to evaluate whether or not they will require additional treatment or care throughout the winter.

    Wellness exams are a time for owners to discuss nutrition, diet changes and exercise routines along with anything else that you might have questions about.  Before the exam, make a list of all the questions that you have for your veterinarian so that you can be sure you won’t forget to ask them while they are there.  Don’t wait!  Go ahead and schedule your Equine Wellness Exam as soon as possible because healthy horses are happy horses and happy horses make happy owners.

    Monday, October 2, 2017

    Equine Dental Video

    The change of seasons is always a good time for a check-up for our equine pals!  Don't forget to include a dental in your horses' regular health care plan. Check out this video of Dr Lisa Kivett, owner of Foundation Equine in Southern Pines, doing a complete dental in just over 2 minutes!

    Monday, September 25, 2017

    Benefits of Massage Therapy

    You probably know how beneficial massage and bodywork can be to a person, but you may not realize these treatments can also benefit your horse.  I sometimes liken it to piggy-back rides.  If you were to take a toddler and carry that toddler around on your back for half an hour, bouncing around and even just sitting still, don’t you think your back would feel it? So does your horse.
    Any athlete can tell you about the benefits of massage.  It helps loosen muscles that are tight, release adhesions or “knots” and also increases blood flow.  
    There are various types of massage and bodywork and each horse is different in their pressure comfort.  Some horses prefer a trigger point therapy, such as Equissage.   This consists of lighter pressure that brings focus onto a certain area.  Some horses prefer a deep tissue type of massage which puts more pressure on a larger area.  Some prefer lighter, gentler strokes, such as used in a myofascial release.  Each type of massage is different and can be used in conjunction with each other.
    You may have a horse that continues to hollow out and refuses to use itself.  Maybe he won’t pick up a lead or isn’t as flexible.  Perhaps he bucks under saddle. You both may have been involved in a fall or accident and now something just “isn’t quite right.” Perhaps your horse isn’t stubborn or untrainable, but he’s in pain and has no way to tell you.
    Like human massage, many ailments will not be relieved in one session.  Many of your horse’s ailments have been built up over years.  Repetition of the same motion without relief can cause the muscles to tighten and adhere.  Normally it takes two to four sessions, depending on the severity, and then at minimum, monthly maintenance should be performed creating a horse that is not only happier, but more able.  Massage therapists are able to feel what is going on with your horse’s muscles.  The horse and rider will continue to work as a team after bodywork is performed.
    Yes, some think massage is just a bunch of holistic mumbo jumbo.  But until you try it and see the benefits not only to your horse but to you as well, it is definitely something to consider.

    Genny Thompson, LMBT, CESMT
    Horse Hound Human Massage Therapy

    Posted by Eileen Coite, Sampson County Cooperative Extension

    Monday, September 18, 2017

    Converting Pastures to a Novel Endophyte Fescue

    There are thousands of acres across North Carolina and the Southeast that are producing Fescue forage.  The majority of those pastures and hay fields are Kentucky 31 Fescue.  This variety of Fescue has been around since the early 1800’s and was introduced as a forage variety back in the 1940’s. For decades K-31 has been the premier cool-season forage.  It is tough, very productive, can be good quality, and stands last a long time. 
    Over time, folks noticed that there were some animal health problems that could develop if livestock and horses grazed fescue stands or were fed fescue hay.  Cattle had rough hair coats, didn’t gain as they should, and sometimes developed “fescue foot”.  Horse owners noticed that foals had thicker membranes to fight through at birth, to name some of the problems that developed.
    The endophyte fungus was discovered in the plant, and was determined to be the cause of the animal problems that developed when feeding or grazing fescue.  After a LOT of research, endophyte-free fescue varieties were introduced.  Farmers tried these, and found that the grass just didn’t last more than three or four years.  Who would have guessed that there was a symbiotic relationship between fescue grass and endophyte fungus?  This relationship was what made K-31 Fescue such a good productive grass that stays productive for a long time without having to be reseeded.
    After more research, some “novel” endophyte fescue varieties have been introduced.  The endophyte in these varieties is known as novel since this endophyte has been found to be non-toxic to livestock and horses.  It would seem like all one has to do to get rid of the toxic, or what is called “dirty” endophyte, is to overseed with one of the new varieties.  Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.  The K-31 Fescue will still out-compete the newer varieties over time.  More drastic measures are needed to establish a novel endophyte variety of fescue.
    To establish a novel endophyte fescue, get ready to spray the field next spring after the grass starts growing with glyphosate.  Wait six weeks or so and make another glyphosate application.  Let the field sit fallow through the summer or plant a summer annual, harvest the summer annual, and make another glyphosate application if needed in early September.  Follow that application up by using a no-till seeder to plant a novel endophyte variety.  By the way – make sure that the pH is in the optimum range and there is adequate soil fertility for growth.
    A glyphosate application can also be made this fall for those who don’t want to wait until spring.  Follow the glyphosate application by planting a winter annual, followed by another glyphosate application after the winter annual harvest.  Plant a summer annual, harvest it, apply glyphosate one more time, and plan to seed the novel endophyte fescue variety next fall.
    If glyphosate is not used, then till up the field, and keep making tillage passes as needed.  Get a seedbed prepared and plant winter and summer annuals for a while – until there are no clumps of fescue growing.  This process may take two or three years.  During that time, though, the annual forages will provide some great forage for grazing and hay during the transition period.  Follow these treatments up by no-till seeding some novel endophyte fescue.
    Let the new seedlings get firmly established before putting horses on the newly seeded pasture.  Horses can be tough on seedlings, so letting a root system develop will help give the stand some longevity.  Some folks recommend allowing the new stand of novel endophyte fescue to grow for a full year before starting to use it for grazing. 
    Converting to a novel endophyte fescue is not an easy or short process.  It will be up to the horse owner to decide if the risks, economics, forage needs, and other factors will make it worthwhile to make the transition.  Contact your local NC Cooperative Extension Agent with forages responsibilities for more specific recommendations on establishing novel endophyte fescue in pastures in your area.

    Tuesday, September 12, 2017

    Rain/Mud Management

    We have been seeing rain and expecting more with the developing hurricanes and tropical storms. Rain and associated factors, like mud can cause problems in horses. 

    Rain can cause rain rot. Rain rot, also called rain scald, is a skin condition that is caused by bacteria that live in the outer lay of the skin. The bacteria multiply in damp, humid conditions. Rain rot can cause painful, crusty scabs that when removed pulls clumps of hairs away from the skin, leaving bald spots on the hips, face, back, and other areas of the horse.  

    Below are tips to avoid rain rot and the possibility of spreading rain rot:

    • Don’t share tack, equipment, or blanket between horses you suspect may have rain rot
    • Keep infected horses isolated
    • Minimize exposure to bugs and bacteria
    • After treating infected horse, wash hands thoroughly
    • Have a covered area for your horses

    • Keep coat clean especially for horses turned out more than others

    Muddy conditions can cause problems, like thrush, hoof abscesses, hoof cracks, and pastern dermatitis. Thrush is a bacterial and fungal infection of the soft tissues of the foot that results in the degeneration of the frog, left untreated it will penetrate the sensitive layers of the foot and cause lameness. Hooves will absorb water and become very soft in wet and muddy conditions. If the feet dry out quickly, the hoof may contract rapidly, resulting in hoof wall or sole cracks. Hoof infection and subsequent abscesses may occur when bacteria in the environment penetrate the cracks. The soles of horse’s feet contract and expand, as does the hoof wall, but the sole periodically exfoliates. Persistent muddy conditions and wet-dry cycles may cause some horses to lose more sole than is normal, resulting in thin, sensitive soles. Overgrown hooves are at greater risk for cracking and infection.  

    Below are tips to avoid hoof-related problems:

    • Clean horses’ legs regularly and keep the hair around the fetlocks trimmed 
    • Clean the feet often and provide regular, balanced trimming
    • Remove soiled bedding materials, manure, and leftover hay. Removal of waste material will decrease surface water contamination, reduce harmful bacteria, and provide a healthier environment for the horse to rest in.
    • Rubber mats or large wood chips maybe used to prevent muddy conditions



    Monday, August 28, 2017

    Are You Prepared for a Disaster?

    We have all seen the devastating flooding that is currently taking place in Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.  If you were in this situation, would you be prepared to save your horses?  Emergencies can come in many different forms here in North Carolina.  It could be a hurricane, an ice storm, flooding from heavy rains, a severe thunderstorm, or even a wildfire.  Are you prepared to help your horses in the event of a disaster?  Creating a personalized disaster plan before disaster strikes can be a critical part of allowing your horses to survive the disaster.  Below are some helpful tips from the UC Davis Center for Equine Health on developing an individual disaster plan.  When creating your plan, consider the following:

    1. Identify which disaster scenarios would be most likely for your place of residency and create a plan for each scenario.  Some parts of your plan may overlap, but your evacuation protocol may vary depending on the scenario.
    2. Identify your evacuation sites based on your area of residency.
    3. Consider forming a Neighborhood Disaster Committee.  If you live near other horse or livestock owners, consider having a discussion to form a "committee" to determine how you can help each other during a disaster.
    4. Work with your county extension agent to develop your plan and to make connections with potential evacuation locations.