Monday, March 18, 2019

Mud Management

            With this wet year we have had, and are still having, there are some things you can do to decrease the amount of mud accumulation in your horse paddocks as well as some things you need to keep an eye out for in your horse that can occur because of these muddy conditions. Maintaining horses in a persistently muddy environment will cause physical and mental fatigue, weight loss, hoof problems, dermatitis, and trauma of the muscles and/or bones.  
Gutter Tech Enterprise
If you have a barn or shelter in your paddock, management of roof rainwater is key to decreasing muddy conditions. Think about installing gutters and downspouts to collect and redirect roof runoff away from your horse’s paddock. To determine how much roof runoff you will have use this formula; Inches of rainfall X sg. ft. of roof cover X 0.62 = rainwater roof runoff in gallons/year. Also take the time to notice where the water runs and settle after a rain and plan where you need to put a slight slope to the ground or even put in some ditches to take runoff away from your barn. A 1-2% slop is all it should take to allow water to run off and not puddle. You might even have to bring in some sand or gravel to create high spots for your horse to stand on. Rubber mats can be used to preserve the surface area inside shelters and around outdoor feed bunks and water troughs.
Another easy management step to reduce muddy conditions is to remove manure, old hay, or soiled bedding. Reducing the volume of material in the paddock or run-in shed will decrease the amount of muddy material your horse will have to walk through. This will also provide a healthier environment for your horse to rest in, especially on those cold, wet days.

Constantly trekking through the mud is exhausting for your horse and will cause them to burn more calories than usual. Make sure to take that into consideration when balancing your horse’s diet. You might need to feed them a little extra hay and supplements during this time. Mud can also cause problems like thrush, hoof abscesses, hoof cracks, pastern dermatitis and even pulled tendons, ligaments or fractured bones. Thrush is a bacterial and fungal infection in the soft tissue of the foot causing degeneration of the frog. Thrush typically puts off a foul odor, and is dark green or black in color, and is located on or around the frog. Cleaning your horse’s feet regularly, as well as, keeping a clean paddock can help prevent thrush. Hoof abscesses and cracks are more prevalent in muddy conditions because the hoof absorbs water and become soft which can lead to easier penetration of the hoof. Subsequently, when the feet dry out quickly on a sunny day, the hoof wall or sole could crack making an avenue for bacteria to get in and cause an abscess. Pastern dermatitis is also something to look out for, it is when to bacteria and fungus penetrate the skin due to inflammation caused by persistent wet, muddy conditions. Make sure to clean your horse’s legs regularly, not allowing mud to clump up or harden on their legs. Lastly, strained tendons and ligaments, pulled muscles and even fractures can occur due to muddy conditions. These are all directly associated with poor traction. Keep an eye out for mild or moderate signs of lameness, heat, pain or swelling of the joints or legs. Some management practices that you can do to prevent this is to make sure that all horses confined together get along with one another, this can prevent awkward and sudden movements with poor footing.
In summary, do the best you can to divert water from heavy traffic areas and try not let horses stand in mud for an extended amount of time. Understandably, you can only control those variables for so long. You can however, monitor your horses closely during the muddy season.  Watch for signs of weight loss and lameness, and always make sure they have access to fresh water, feed and shelter. Contact your county extension agent if you have any further questions.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Feeding your Senior Horse

As healthcare improves for both animals and people, more and more of us are having to care for senior horses. It's a good thing--we get to keep our reliable animals around longer and longer--but with age, comes challenges. One such challenge is feeding your senior horse. especially if they are missing teeth.

When our horses begin to lose teeth, they can't chew and digest as well they used to; this means they may not be receiving all the nutrients they need. Our horses only have one set of permanent teeth, like humans, and they may lose them for a number of reasons (periodontal disease being the main one). Horses also wear their teeth down with chewing and sometimes they simply run out of tooth surface.

So when we have horses that lose teeth, or maybe their teeth are just too smooth for any effective chewing. we have to figure out a way to make sure they get the food and nutrients they need. Pasture will be extremely difficult for aging teeth, the incisors themselves may not be able to grasp the plants and nip them off. Horses without molars have difficulty grinding feed, making hard grains and long stem hay particularly difficulty for them to eat. Aging horses should have access to pasture and forages, to encourage natural behavior, but you must be aware of other ways to build a ration for these animals.

Alternative fibers may be helpful in these cases--hay cubes, beet pulp and others can provide forage and fiber without the possible long-stems in traditional hay. Pelleted feeds will allow your senior horse to get more out of it, as opposed to full oats or corn. Body weight, health and coat condition are improved with these types of pelleted or extruded feeds.

For more information about feeding your toothless horse, check out this article:

Monday, March 4, 2019

What to Expect When Your Mare is Expecting

We are probably not too far from a lot of foals hitting the ground.  Here is a good article about some things to consider when you have a pregnant mare.  As always, have a good working relationship with your veterinarian.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Why Install an Equine Dry Lot?

Managing horses on small acreage can be challenging.  One of the challenges often faced is the need for grazing but being limited on space.  Dry lots can serve many purposes but the main purpose is to have somewhere to confine horses when pastures need time to rest and regrow.  It is important to consider grading and footing when thinking about putting in a dry lot.  Without the proper grade and footing layers, the dry lot will not stand the test of time.   

What is an equine dry lot?

      A small sacrifice area (usually free of vegetation) where shelter, feed, and water are located to house horses when they need to come off pastures. 
      Other Purposes:
      Exercise/Turnout from Stall
      Injury Recovery
      Managing Metabolic Issues

Before dry lot footing was added.

After dry lot footing was added.

Dry Lot Overview

      Location: Near Barn/Shelter
     Think central location to all pastures (for shelter, water, feed)
      Size: min. 400 sq. feet (20 ft. x 20 ft.) for one horse
      Cost for 20 ft. x 20 ft. Dry Lot:
     Low End ~$1,000* (6 in. of screenings/rock dust)
     High End ~$2,300* (geotextile fabric, 6 in. drainage stone, 6 in. screenings/rock dust)
*Prices are estimates and will vary depending on your area.

Dry Lots = Better Pastures and Healthier Horses

      Manage horses on high density farms (boarding/training facilities)
      Utilize rotational grazing
      Manage turnout time
      Prevent trampling when soil is too wet
      Recovering from injury and need limited (safe) space
      No mud!!  Mud causes injury (it’s slippery), thrush, parasites, abscesses, and more
      Properly managed pastures can reduce hay cost by ~$60-$100/month!

For more information about equine dry lots and construction tips, please contact your local Extension Agent for advice.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Wet Weather Can Lead to Hoof Issues

It seems like since Hurricane Florence hit in September we have not had a break from wet weather. Thrush is commonly associated with wet conditions and poor management. It can be seen in horses who are allowed to stand in paddocks, run-in sheds, or stalls that have excessive manure and moisture. It can also occur in horses who do not get their feet cleaned out regularly. However, thrush can be seen in horses who are never allowed to stand in manure. 

Thrush usually occurs within the frog (the wedge-shaped soft structure of the hoof) and the sulci (the grooves next to and in the middle of the frog). It is caused when excessive dirt and debris get trapped around the frog creating a perfect environment for anaerobic bacteria and fungi. Thrush is characterized by having a strong pungent odor along with a thick black or grey discharge/decaying tissue being present when picking out your horse's feet. The frog will be softer and sometimes tender to touch. If thrush is left untreated it can get into the sensitive tissues in the foot causing lameness similar to that caused by an abscess. 

Thrush can be prevented by picking out your horse's feet on a regular basis. It will also help to keep manure picked up and the area dry where your horse may stand for an extended period of time, such as a stall or run-in shed. 

The bacteria and fungi that cause thrush are not hard to kill so an antiseptic, such as betadine, can be used. Another option is to use a copper sulfate solution. Follow label instructions for the length of time to treat the infected frog. 

Thrush is a disease that is common when conditions are wet, but with proper management can be prevented. You can always contact your veterinarian and/or farrier if you have questions about diagnosing and treating this disease. 


Friday, February 1, 2019

NC Equine Passport Program Discontinuation

The NC Equine Event Passport Program (through the NCDA&CS) will be discontinued as of Dec 31, 2019. It will be replaced by the Extended Equine Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (EECVI) Program. This is essentially a 6 month health certificate that is recognized by 35 states and is an ideal program for those who have horses traveling/competing frequently. To find out more information, please check out the FAQ tabs on the website at  

Monday, January 28, 2019

Horse Farm Property Shopping

Are you looking to purchase horse farm property?  There are many items that you need to think about before you even start looking for it.  Please see the link below to get you started.  NC Cooperative Extension is happy to come out and help you plan your property for horses if you need us too.  When you first purchase your property, its a good idea to soil sample your pastures right away, so that you know how much lime and fertilizer you need to put out.  It takes lime several months to a year to break down enough for your soils to be able to use it, so you want to plan ahead as much as you can.  Most Extension offices have soil kits in our offices, and many will mail the samples for you.