Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Health Checks

February is a good month to take care of some health essentials for horses.  With the trail ride and horse show season fast approaching, it is a good time to have a Coggins test done.  The Coggins test checks a horse for the presence of Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) antibodies.  Of course, we want those tests to come back negative, and 99% of them do.  Those test results are important to anyone who will be taking their horses off the farm to locations where horses form several areas will be comingled – places like horse shows and trail rides. Those negative Coggins papers must accompany each horse wherever they go.  As mentioned, February is a great time to get the Coggins test done and get the results back before transporting horses.  The Coggins papers are good for one year, and the process must be repeated.

Some counties hold Coggins Clinics in cooperation with a veterinarian to help folks with just a few horses get the test done.  Check with your county’s NC Cooperative Extension center to see if any of these clinics are scheduled.  There will be two of these held in Granville County this year.  One is on Saturday, February 15, and the second will be on Friday afternoon, February 21.  Call the Granville County NC Cooperative Extension Center at (919) 603-1350 for details.

These clinics also offer vaccinations for the common equine diseases.  The ones most often made available in this area include eastern/western equine encephalitis + tetanus, rabies, West Nile Virus, flu + rhinovirus, and strangles. Check with your veterinarian to make sure that any additional vaccination needs are met as the core vaccines vary across the country.

While at a clinic, or when the veterinarian visits your farm, it is a good idea to get a routine health check for the horse. Most veterinarians will include this if done in conjunction with a Coggins test or when providing vaccinations.  They will also check teeth and make sure that there are no issues there.  If teeth need to be floated, that will likely be a separate appointment at the veterinarian’s clinic.

One last item – be sure to keep a check on your horse’s hooves.  We are experiencing a long period of mud, so be sure to check feet frequently.  Keep them cleaned out and make sure that no infections develop. Common things to check for are obsesses, thrush, fungus growing on the lower legs, heat in the hoof wall or sole, general lameness, or sensitivity.  If some work needs to be done on the feet, be sure to call the farrier sooner than later.  Before riding the trail or entering the ring at a horse show, be sure that the feet are good to go.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Equine First Aid Kit Supply List

As we look towards show season, rodeo season, and trail riding season it is a good idea to look through your horse first aid kit and restock any items that you may have used. If you don’t have a first aid kit then there is no time like the present to make one! Being prepared to immediately give your horse first aid in the event of an illness or injury can drastically impact the outcome of the situation. First aid kits are always a good idea to have in case of emergencies whether at home or on the road. It is a good idea to keep your supplies in a water proof ben/tote that is easy to pick up and carry. This comes in handy whether you are packing it in the truck or need to quickly grab it and go to your horse if they are injured. If some of the supplies are new to you make sure to take them out and practice using them, an emergency is not the time to learn. Also, you need to regularly go through your first aid kit to check expiration dates and quality of items to make sure they have not degraded over time. Do not store your first aid kit in direct sunlight or in the heat since that can cause ointments, gloves and bandages to degrade.

Emergency Phone Numbers
Petroleum jelly
Scissors (regular and/or dressing)
Adhesive tape
Duct tape
Leg Wraps
Extra Batteries
Antibiotic cream
Latex gloves
Large syringes
Fly repellent
Small plastic bowl (for sterile water, iodine, or clean instruments)
Cooling packs
Lint free towels
Wound dressing
Hand Sanitizer (alcohol based)
Antiseptic wash (betadine)
Antiseptic sprays
Epsom salts
Plastic feed bucket (to soak hoof or carry water/trash)
Hoof poultice
Fura-zone ointment
A twitch (in case restraint is needed)
Hoof pick and knife
Phenylbutazone (Bute)
Bottles of sterile saline
Bag of baby diapers (absorb a lot of blood/water)
Sterile bandage materials: roll cotton, gauze pads, cling wrap, nonstick pad, bandages
Sheet cotton

Normal Adult Temperature: 99 – 101.5 F
Normal Adult Heart Rate: 24 - 48 beats/minute
Normal Adult Respiratory Rate: 10 - 20 breaths/minute

Monday, January 27, 2020

Parasite Control Options for Horses

A comprehensive parasite control program involves more than deworming your horse on a regular basis. The most important feature is the ability to reduce the number of parasites and eggs in the environment. Secondly, the program should be effective with the fewest number of treatments necessary. Finally, the program should be broad spectrum to control many different types of parasites.
Preventative medication is a very important component of parasite control. The bad news is that there is no single program that works for all situations. However, there are many different programs available, these include:
Targeted Dosing: This strategy involves testing the level of parasite burdens in individual animals. Standard fecal egg counts should be performed once monthly. Also tapeworm testing via fecal testing or serology (blood testing) should be done twice yearly. All animals that are positive over a certain cut off level should be treated. A yearly treatment for "bots" should also be included during the winter. This program is only appropriate for adult horses and should be considered on a farm with a dedicated manager where good grazing management is in place.
Strategic Dosing: This strategy involves treating all pastured animals at regular intervals with an appropriate product. The interval between dosing can be determined by the egg reappearance period (ERP)of the medication, which is shorter for young animals. The ERP is the period after medicating an animal with a dewormer until there are significant numbers of parasite eggs present again in the feces. The animals are only treated during the spring/summer season when the risk for increased egg loads is highest.
Interval Dosing: This strategy is the one most commonly used. It is similar to Strategic Dosing; however, animals are treated year round at regular intervals. As the duration of parasite kill varies from product to product and even between farms, the interval between doses should be determined by the ERP or by guidelines set by your veterinarian based upon products used. This program may be appropriate for farms where there are frequent new additions to the group, at more casually managed (hobby) farms and in young animals.
Daily Deworming: This strategy involves the addition of a parasite control medication to the horse's daily ration. This program is appropriate for most adult grazing horses; however, additional periodic deworming with other products is usually necessary. Twice yearly treatment with ivermectin (Eqvalan, Phoenectrin, Zimectrin), ivermectin/praziquantel (Equell) or moxidectin (Quest) has been recommended. This program can select somewhat for resistant organisms since the parasites are continuously exposed to a low level of the drug.

Click here for more information about deworming your horse.

Source: Jeremy D. Frederick, DVM, University of Minnesota

Monday, January 13, 2020

Horse Fitness During the Winter

Although NC is not exactly known for its' harsh winters, there are some days that are just too chilly to want to ride.  It is important to maintain a good fitness program during our colder months to be sure you and your horse will be in shape when springtime rolls around!  Check out the following link for tips on how to keep both you and your horse active throughout the winter months:

Monday, January 6, 2020

Winter Horse Care Tips

The holiday season is always a busy time, and this year has been no different.  Fortunately, temperatures have been cold but not terrible in eastern NC as of yet. Even so, with the chilly temperatures and frosty mornings that come this time of year, we need to remember our horses and all animals that live outdoors.  Along with the low temperatures and decline in forage growth, comes an increase in calories needed to maintain weight, stay warm, and for some, to nurse their young.  Minimum essentials for our animals are adequate nutrition, whether forage, feed, or both, along with clean water and some type of shelter. With the chilly days we will see more of, being able to provide water instead of a block of ice is critical.  Feed and farm supply stores sell stock tank de-icers and other heated buckets that come in handy.  Making an investment in this type of equipment might save you the cost of a vet bill later, or even worse, the loss of an animal as a result of cold weather dehydration.

Providing good quality, nutritious hay is another critical aspect to winter management of horses.  This is the time of year where hay supplies can get thin, so planning ahead and purchasing enough hay to get through the winter is critical.  When temperatures get below freezing, winter pasture growth reduces tremendously, and hay is our only forage option.  Horses, along with other grazing animals, need hay to stay warm.  Hay and other forages are digested in the cecum and large intestine of the horse, and this digestion process is the primary source of regulating body temperature. Many horses can maintain their weight through the winter with just an increase in hay consumption.  Those that are harder to keep weight on or older will often need a gradual increase of grain as well. Horses should consume at least 1.5% of their body weight in hay during cold periods.  For example, a mature 1000 pound horse should consume 15-18 pounds per day of hay to meet these temperature needs in cold weather.  It’s important to pay close attention to body condition during these periods, and actually “feel” your horse.  A long hair coat or winter blanket can often cover up thin spots on a horse, so be sure to examine your horse closely and get a feel for where your horse’s ribs, backbone, etc. are and how much fat or “cover” there is over and around them.  If a horse given plenty of hay is having trouble maintaining weight, increasing fat to the concentrate diet may also be helpful.  Many “high fat” feeds are on the market just for this purpose. 

These are just a few tips to help you and your horses get through the brisk winter days that are starting and will be here for a while. For more information or advice, don’t hesitate to contact your local county extension agent or veterinarian.

Monday, December 30, 2019

New Year's Resolutions for Horse Owners

January 1st seems to be the time we reflect on what we can resolve to personally do better or change in the upcoming year. It is also a good time as horse owners to resolve to better understand our horses' nutritional needs as well.

Check out these suggestions from nutritionist Dr. Clair Thunes:  By following these tips, not only may you provide better nutritional care for your horses, you may save money too!

Monday, December 23, 2019

Winter Management Tips for Horse Owners

Now that it is officially winter, there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure that our horses are well cared for during these colder months.  Some of the items to keep on the winter management checklist include adequate water, good nutrition, and protection from disease.

Making sure there is adequate water for horses during the winter is an important factor in preventing impaction colic.  During the winter months, horses may not drink enough water for a number of reasons. One of those reason is that the water they drink freezes, so they can’t possibly get a drink when they want it.  There is a fairly simple solution to this, and that is to break the ice whenever necessary, or at least twice a day if you happen to live north of North Carolina.  We usually don’t have extended periods of weather cold enough to cause water to freeze solid for extended periods, but it can happen over several days now and then.  During those times, be sure to supply water or to break the ice in the water trough.  If the water fountain freezes up, supply water in a bucket or trough until the drinking fountain can be thawed.  Stock tank deicers can be used to keep water in the trough or stock tank warm enough to prevent freezing over.  These can save a lot of time breaking ice!  Frost-free waterers also save a lot of worry and time.  Remember, adequate water during the winter months reduces the risk of your horse developing impaction colic.

The second part of the management equation is to make sure the horses have adequate nutrition.  Eating and digesting forages helps to produce heat, which helps keep the horse warm. Horses need access to good quality grass hay that will meet nutritional needs, yet won’t supply too many calories.  Supply about 2% of the horse’s body weight of forage per day.  For a 1,000-pound horse, that means supplying 20 pounds of forage per day.  Some horses may need some additional feed, depending on age, exercise level, body condition, type of forage available, or frequency of feeding.  In those cases, supply concentrates at .5% of body weight, or about 5 pounds of grain per day.  Split that up into 2 feedings to avoid overfeeding.

The third part of this article is to make sure that horses are kept healthy.  Vaccinate horses on schedule for the common diseases found in your area.  Consult with your veterinarian to stay up to date on which diseases are prevalent, which vaccines to use, and to develop a year-round horse health schedule that includes giving vaccinations at the right times of the year.  Also, remember there are factors that can reduce a horse’s immune function, making them more susceptible to disease.   One of the main factors is to make sure there is adequate shelter during high winds and from precipitation.  Most of the time, a horse only needs a windbreak now and then, but the ability to withstand weather can be altered by the quality of the hair coat or extended rainy, icy, and windy conditions.  If conditions are bad, or the horse is shorn for showing, a nice, dry stall can make the difference between a healthy horse and treating an illness.