Feeding off of our last post on nutrition (pun intended), we thought we would talk briefly about the amount that horses are fed. When talking to clients about nutrition, we often ask "How much are you feeding your horse?" Usually the answer is something along the lines of "A half a scoop twice a day." But what exactly is a scoop and is it an appropriate amount to be feeding?
Scoops come in a variety of sizes, and we use the term pretty loosely. It can be applied to anything from a 1/2 cup measuring cup, to a #10 coffee can, or even a shovel! That can make it difficult to communicate to your vet exactly how much you're feeding. Knowing the volume of your scoop can be helpful, however different feeds have different densities. One scoop of sweet feed does not necessarily equal one scoop of pellets.
When feed companies make recommendations on how much of their grain to feed your horse, it is based on weight. So the ideal way to measure the feed is by weighing it out keeping those recommendations in mind, and splitting it into an appropriate amount per feeding. Scoops such as the one pictured to the right already have a scale built into it. This allows you to see how much one scoop of the feed weighs. While these are handy, they're not necessary. You can also just put your typical ration into a plastic bag and then weigh it on a regular scale. Keep in mind, you don't have to weigh the grain every single time you feed - just compare weight to volume once, and know how many pounds of each type of feed your scoop holds.
Not only will knowing the weight allow you to more accurately feed your horse (especially if you aren't the only one doing the feeding!), you will also be sure that he or she is getting the appropriate nutrition. Nutrients (like protein, vitamins and minerals) are balanced in feeds based on the amount that you are supposed to be feeding (ie, their feeding recommendations for the size of horse and work level.) For example, if you have an average 1000 lb horse in light work, and the label on the bag of grain recommends 1/2 lb per 100 lbs of body weight, that means they should receive 5 lbs of grain per day. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that 1 quart of this feed weighs 1 lb. If your scoop is a 1 quart scoop and you're feeding twice a day (2 pounds), then your horse isn't getting all the nutrition he or she needs. In this instance, you may be better off with a different type of grain - one that packs more vitamins and minerals in a smaller volume with less calories (assuming your horse is in good body condition).
So the next time you're asked "How much do you feed?" - be ready! It doesn't take much time, but a few minutes spent measuring out your feed can be very helpful to you, your veterinarian, and your horse!
Nutrition is an extremely important aspect of equine health. We have many discussions with clients regarding this topic and decided we should write down our thoughts to share with everyone else. (If you are one of our clients reading this, you've probably heard it before! We did do a newsletter
on it last year.) This can be a confusing subject, so we'll try to simplify things to make bit of sense out of all of the options that are available. So let's get started. Bon appetit!
HAY! What are you feeding your horse?
Roughage is an extremely important part of the equine diet. Horses evolved as herbivores and are therefore excellent at extracting nutrients from forage. Horses will eat approximately 2% of their body weight per day, and at least 1% of that should be roughage. That's a minimum of 10 pounds of hay for a 1,000 pound horse. But what kind of hay should be fed?
Hays are broken into two classes - legumes and grasses. (Hey, that rhymes!) Legume hay tends to be higher in protein content, energy, calcium and vitamin A. These are great choices for growing horses, lactating mares, or athletes. Basically any horse that needs a bit of an extra boost. Alfalfa and clover are good examples of legumes. It is important to remember that not all horses need the richness of legumes. Excess nutrients can cause problems in some horses (ie physitis in young, growing horses). However, feeding a lower quality grass hay with some legume mix can give the benefits of legumes without all of the extra energy.
Grasses on the other hand are lower in protein and energy. They offer roughage without the excess calories. Grass forages, such as Timothy, Orchard or Oat hays, are a good choice for many mature horses. Keep in mind that these are sometimes not enough alone and a fortified grain or supplement may be needed.
Try to Concentrate!
Whenever a horse needs a few extra nutrients in their diet, we tend to feed a concentrate. Concentrates can be fed as "whole grain", such as corn or oats, or as a "processed grain", such as pellets or sweet feed. It's important to remember that horses don't need much concentrate. Each feeding should not exceed 0.5% of their body weight (5 lbs/1000 lb horse). Break the total amount into at least 2 feedings to prevent disruption of gut flora.
More often than not, we are feeding processed grains. These are composed of ground sources of carbohydrates mixed with vitamins, minerals, fats and simple sugars. They are often designed and balanced for a particular type of horse.
Pellets are the most common processed feed. They run about 10-16% protein and supplement a good grass hay very well. Sweet feed is similar to pellets, but has a higher sugar/starch content and usually has more sugar (ie molasses) added for palatability.
Complete and Senior feeds are designed to be fed as a "complete diet" without necessary addition of roughage. Certain conditions, such as loss of teeth, make eating hay difficult for some horses. However, as long as you can safely feed roughage, we suggest you do! These feed types are higher in fiber than regular pellets or sweet feed and are generally a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals without excess carbohydrates.
Ration balancers are vitamin and mineral supplements that are meant to be fed in small amounts (about 1 pound per day) to horses on an all grass or hay diet. They are high in protein and fortified with other nutrients to give these horses the little boost they need in order to maintain a well-balanced diet.
All of these concentrates are designed with the entire diet in mind. That means that the feed companies have added many of the supplements that we consider necessary - such as selenium, calcium or other vitamins/ minerals. So what's the deal with supplements? Wellll.....
Supplementing the right way
We often hear about all of these great supplements on the market and that they all have a
different effect on your horse. Did you know that most of the supplements that your horse needs are often already in their feed? When feed companies design their rations, they take into account the soil deficiencies and general quality of hays in an area. They then add an appropriate amount of vitamins and minerals to the diet to offer a fully balanced feed.
Click to enlarge
So what about all the other supplements that are out there? It's fine to add a little bit here and there to your horse's diet, but be cautious that you don't over-supplement. Many products have the same or similar ingredients, and when
you begin combining supplements (along with their feed), then you can easily get into a situation where certain nutrients reach a toxic level.
The best thing you can do is READ THE LABEL! (You can click on the image for a larger label to read.) Compare your horse's feed to the supplements that you are providing. If you start seeing the same ingredients more than once, you may be over-supplementing.
Many horses get all the nutrition they need from good quality hay and/or pasture, a general mineral & vitamin supplement, and a salt block. If you think your horse needs more, consult with your veterinarian to go over all of their dietary needs. (Your horse's needs, not your vet's!)
Nutrition is extremely important to the overall health of your horse, whether they are an Olympic champion or a backyard companion. Each horse needs to be treated as an individual, and there are many feeds out there to help us develop appropriate diets. If you have any questions, we are always happy to discuss any and all dietary needs or changes you might be considering for your horse.
If you still haven't gotten enough of equine nutrition, Rutgers University has a great website dedicated to the subject. Click here
to view their nutrition publications.
As the show season starts to come into view, there's a lot to prepare for. Training your horse, getting your registration in , finding time to sleep. In the middle of all of these preparations, it's important to consider the safety of you, your horse and any travelling companions you may have. Here are some things to keep in mind as you hit the road again this spring.
Trailering a horse can be a difficult task. It can be even more difficult when you don't have the right equipment! Before you pull out of your driveway, make sure that you have taken a close look at your trailer, hitch and wiring. Do you have the right size ball on your truck? Can you hitching mechanism handle the load which you are about to haul? All tires on the towing vehicle and trailer should be checked to be sure the air pressure is appropriate. If you have a dually, check the inside tires and always remember the spare! Also, make sure the flooring of the trailer is in good condition. Pull up any mats and look under them - floorboards can rot through and you may not even know. The bearings should be checked and greased annually, as well. For a full checklist of important things to bring with you on your trip, click here.
Heavier horse on left
To be safe while traveling, there are several things that you can do. First off, a first aid kit should always be available. This can be useful for injuries for you or your horse. Your load should be positioned with the heavier portion in the front of the trailer, as well as heavier on the driver's side (to account for the curve of the road). Double the driving distance between you and the car in front of you and drive as if there is a cup of water on your dashboard (or a hot cup of coffee in your hand!) Braking before a turn (instead of during a turn) can make it go much smoother.
Plan ahead in case there is a problem. It's a good idea to determine your route, and if you are going a long distance, map out some veterinarians along your way. Keep their phone numbers handy in case of emergency. (Remember, you can't dial 911 and ask for a veterinarian.) Other phone numbers you should keep readily available are those of your emergency contact person as well as friends that may be able to help with the horses. Make sure that these numbers are stored in your phone as ICE (In Case of Emergency) so emergency personnel know who to contact. Since phones can easily become separated from you in an accident, another option is RoadID
, a velcro band that allows for up to 6 lines of personalized text. It was designed for bikers, but can be useful in any situation that you may not be able to communicate effectively.
Also keep in mind, if your vehicle becomes disabled for any reason, and you need a tow, wreckers will not haul you with a trailer attached, and are not allowed to even touch the trailer in some states. Plan accordingly - have a few numbers of friends in the area who would be willing and able to "pick-up" your trailer and continue on to a safe place for your horses.
If you are in an accident, there are a few important things to keep in mind. It's a good idea to check on your horses if the trailer is upright, but don't unload your horses. Tied or loose alongside a road or highway is not a safe place for them, or other drivers. If the trailer has gone onto its side or flipped, do not enter the trailer. You will only be putting yourself in harm's way. Once a vet arrives, they will work with other emergency officials to best assess the situation and extricate the horses. One of the best resources in the area is the MSPCA's Equine Emergency Response team
- with a sled and equine ambulance, they are able to work with the local emergency personnel and/or veterinarian to help remove horses from dangerous situations.
It can be a dangerous road out there, but with a few precautions and some time spent planning, you can avoid many serious crises. If you would like to read more about safe trailering, check out these tips as well
. Other equine emergency information can be found at our friends over at The Horse
Sometimes it seems that the horse's gastrointestinal tract is just looking for a way to cause problems for everyone. If it's not impaction colic, it's gastric ulcers. If it's not colic, it's choke. Most people know what "choke" is in horses, but it can be a little confusing. Afterall, when people are choking, they can't breathe, right? So why don't horses who are "choking" need the Heimlich?
This year's annual conference of the American Association of Equine Practitioners was held in not-so-sunny Anaheim, CA. (Unfortunately it rained the whole time we were there!). Both Drs. Leighton and Kornatowski were able to travel this year and not only were we able to glean some new information, we got involved and we picked up some new equipment as well! (For a description on what goes on at these meetings, please see last year's post on the AAEP Convention Wrap-up
There is a lot that can go wrong inside a horse's abdomen. When something does go wrong, and we start seeing symptoms, we refer to it as "colic". If you've worked around horses for long enough, you've seen the signs - inappetance, pawing at the ground, lifting the upper lip, rolling... it can be pretty scary. Colic just means "abdminal pain", however most often we use it to refer to a problem with the gastrointestinal tract. The horse's intestinal tract, like ours, is made up of the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. In this blog post, we are going to discuss a specific disorder that affects the small intestine - "anterior enteritis". This is a complex disorder, which can be confusing - we'll try our best to keep things as simple and clear as possible, and try to make sense of this dangerous disease.
While writing October's newsletter, we decided that we needed to split the information up a little. Since the newsletter is speaking more about the acute injury and management of those wounds, we thought it would be best to write a quick note about dealing with more chronic wounds. The newsletter will be out on Monday - if you're not subscribed, click here
!One of the primary goals of wound management is to not allow it to become chronic. For whatever reason (sometimes a decreased immune system - older horses, Cushing's disease, or chronic steroid use), this isn't always possible. When wounds do become chronic, we have to keep a few things in mind and may need to treat them a bit differently than acute wounds.
Our final installment is finally here! (I know, it's a sad day for us, too). This post is going to focus on those things in the pasture that don't usually cause major problems, but can prove to be annoying or concerning until the cause can be found. For the most part, no action is really required for any of these plants other than removing the horse from the source (or removing the source from the horse, of course!)
Buttercups: These bright yellow colored flowers are most commonly found in the spring. They come in several varieties including tall, creeping, meadow and celery leafed. There are usually five leaves, but there can be six and they have a shiny luster which attracts pollen spreading insects.
The toxic principle of buttercups is called "ranunculin" as the weed is part of the Ranunculus genus. When eaten fresh, the toxin has an irritating effect on mucus membranes. Blisters are often seen along with oral ulcerations and possibly drooling. The acrid taste usually makes them unpalatable, however animals residing in overgrazed fields may eat them out of desperation. Continued ingestion may cause further GI damage and lead to colic or diarrhea, however animals quickly learn to leave buttercups alone and it rarely progresses beyond oral irritation. Once dried, the toxin becomes neutralized, so don't worry if you see it in your hay.
In our last post, we talked about ornamental plants that could pose a problem to your horse. This time around, we're going to discuss some weeds that you might find in your pasture that can cause serious issues if ingested. So let's jump right into it!
Yellow Star Thistle: This brightly colored invasive species is more common in the west, but it does show up in areas along the east coast. While the flower does not seem very palatable, if grasses are sparse, horses may ingest this plant. It may also accidentally be ingested during general grazing.
After chronic ingestion (meaning they have to eat a lot of it over a period of time), signs may begin to appear. The toxins in yellow star thistle affect a specific area of the brain which affects the horse's ability to take in food. They are able to use their incisors to pull food into their mouth, but they cannot move it back to their molars. They will show difficulty when trying to drink and may progress to further neurologic signs, such as depression, ataxia and circling. No specific treatment is available other than supportive care. Affected horses do not recover, however they may be able to learn how to deal with their difficulty.
Summer's here, everything's green and in bloom - what a great time to be outside with your horses! As you survey the landscaping around your barn, or the new weeds that have cropped up in the pasture this year, do you know which plants could be harmful to your equine friends? We get a lot of questions about poisonous plants, so we thought we'd outline some of the most common and the most dangerous plants here on our blog. Since there are so many to choose from, we're going to break this up into three sections:
1. Common poisonous ornamental plants
2. Very harmful pasture weeds
3. Less dangerous pasture weeds