Resources - USA - Equine

  • May 4, 2017

    By Matt McMillan, PhD and Chris Morrow, DVM

    It’s the goal of every horse owner who intends to breed a mare to produce a good, strong, healthy colt.  To accomplish this goal, there are many considerations to be taken into account from …

  • April 13, 2017

    By Chris Morrow, DVM and Matt McMillan, PhD

    Tying-up in horses is a ‘catch-all’ term used by many horse men and women who are referring to a muscle cramping, soreness, or unwillingness to move in horses that is generally brought …

  • March 2, 2017

    By Dr. Chris Morrow, DVM

    As equine practitioners, we use the word choke to describe an esophageal obstruction. This condition will present itself as a horse begins to exhibit signs of distress including the expelling of feed from …

  • January 17, 2017

    By Matt McMillan, Ph.D., Equine Nutritionist, Hi-Pro Feeds

    As winter weather approaches, temperatures will begin to fall with the possibilities of rain, snow, ice, and wind. Because of these environmental changes, increased …

  • November 17, 2016

    By Matt McMillan, Ph.D., Equine Nutritionist, Hi-Pro Feeds

    Nutrient requirements of the horse can change depending upon several factors related to the type, and weight of the horse, stage of life and level of activity. When …

  • October 10, 2016

    By Matt McMillan, Ph.D., Equine Nutritionist, Hi-Pro Feeds

    The senior horse has become more prevalent in modern times due to the change in workload, and activity of horses in general compared to what was required of the horse many …

  • September 12, 2016

    By Matt McMillan, Ph.D., Equine Nutritionist, Hi-Pro Feeds

    At one time, it was generally thought by the equine scientific community that horses could not digest and utilize fat at a rate that would be sufficient to contribute to …

  • August 8, 2016

    By Matt McMillan, Ph.D., Equine Nutritionist, Hi-Pro Feeds

    Distiller’s Dried Grains with Solubles (DDGS) are the by-products produced from the manufacturing process of ethanol. These products have been readily available in …

  • July 18, 2016

    By Matt McMillan, Ph.D., Equine Nutritionist, Hi-Pro Feeds

    As breeding season for mares comes to a close, many considerations should be taken into account so that a live, healthy foal can be produced in the springtime next year.  …

  • December 22, 2016

    By Matt McMillan, Ph.D., Equine Nutritionist, Hi-Pro Feeds

    While some equine enthusiasts haul their horses throughout the year, many more begin to look towards taking their horses down the road to their favorite equine event as …

  • April 14, 2016

    By Dr. Chris Morrow, DVM

    As a student of the horse it is evident that the species was evolved on varied grass diets.  They are designed to walk around foraging ready to run away from anything that would eat them.  The health of the …

  • March 17, 2016

    By Matt McMillan, Ph. D, Equine Nutritionist, Hi-Pro Feeds

    For many years, feeding oats and alfalfa hay has been a very common diet for the working and performance horse.  However, with more and more research being conducted in the …

  • January 29, 2016

    By Matt McMillan, Ph. D, Equine Nutritionist, Hi-Pro Feeds

    As any good scientist would say, the answer to this question is “It depends…”.  So what about starch?  It seems that starch is, and has been the hot topic of discussion …

Kentucky Equine Research

  • Equine Herpesvirus Prevention: Clean Shared Water Sources

    horse drinking water

    Infection with the equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) can have devastating effects on both domestic and wild horses. While close contact between horses, including sharing of feed buckets or tack, has been touted as a common route of transmission, researchers believe water also serves as a potential means of viral spread between horses.

    The EHV-1 virus persists in the environment for approximately seven days, but recent research shows that the virus can actually survive in water for up to three weeks if afforded the right conditions. Therefore, dirty water buckets or natural water sources shared by groups of horses can foster the virus for far longer than once thought, potentially causing infection.

    This discovery was made after researchers essentially “incubated” EHV-1 in water samples with different pH levels, salinity, temperature, and turbidity (the amount of sediment in the water). A slightly alkaline (basic) pH and increased amount of sediment in the water allowed EHV-1 to persist and remain infective to horses for up to three weeks. The researchers suggested that sediment in the water physically stabilized the virus, prolonging longevity and infectivity for far longer than the suspected seven-day lifespan previously reported.

    “Signs of EHV-1 include upper respiratory tract infection, abortion and abortion storms, as well as neurological deficits, such as the inability to rise, incoordination, and urine-dribbling,” summarized Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a Kentucky Equine Research (KER) nutritionist.

    Ensuring water buckets are cleaned thoroughly after each use and not shared between individuals, as well as using appropriate biosecurity protocols both on and off the farm will help protect horses against infection.

    “Cleaning a natural water supply shared by many horses is likely an unattainable goal. Consider supplementation with marine-source omega-3 fatty acids, such as EO•3, to help boost the horse’s immune system,” Crandell suggested.

    *Dayaram, A., M. Franz, A. Schattschneider, et al. 2017. Long term stability and infectivity of herpesviruses in water. Scientific Reports. 7:46559.

    Category Headline Image: 
    horse drinking from water trough in field
    Article Type: 
    Pull Quote: 
    The researchers suggested that sediment in the water physically stabilized the virus, prolonging longevity and infectivity for far longer than the suspected seven-day lifespan previously reported.
    Overview: 
    Infection with the equine herpesvirus-1 can have devastating effects on both domestic and wild horses. While close contact between horses, including sharing of feed buckets or tack, has been touted as a common route of transmission, researchers believe water also serves as a potential means of viral spread between horses.
  • Identifying, Managing Equine Lameness

    flexion test for horse

    According to a recent study*, lameness in horses can be extremely difficult to identify, with gait asymmetries in nearly 75% of horses deemed sound by their owners.

    In that study, “gait asymmetry” referred to any change in the symmetrical movement of the horse detectable in the head and pelvis. Any alteration in limb-loading due to lameness can alter head and pelvic position.

    Using body-mounted sensors, the research team measured differences between maximum and minimum head and pelvic movements when horses were trotted in a straight line or while longeing. More specifically, vertical displacement between left and right forelimb and hindlimb stances were calculated during straight-line trot and on the longe. Those differences in head/pelvis movements were compared to previously reported symmetry thresholds.

    The key finding of the study involving 222 “sound” Warmblood riding horses involved in regular training showed that the bulk of included horses had a similar magnitude of asymmetric motion as horses examined and treated for lameness.

    Owners shouldn’t feel poorly for not recognizing lameness in their horses, as several previously published studies found poor agreement in lameness grades even among seasoned veterinarians. Nonetheless, accurate identification of lameness remains an essential technique to better treat lameness caused by pain, which poses important welfare issues.

    “Due to the high occurrence of lameness going undetected in performance horses, owners are encouraged to embrace oral joint health supplements prior to the detection of any lameness. Studies show that certain joint supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate included in KER•Flex, help protect the health and longevity of athletic horses. Hylauronic acid, found in Synovate HA, and DHA in EO•3, also aid in maintaining joint health,” advised Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

    In Australia, look for Glucos-A-Flex as well as EO•3.

    *Rhodin, M., A. Egenvall, P. Haubro Andersen, et al. 2017. Head and pelvic movement asymmetries at trot in riding horses in training and perceived as free from lameness by the owner. PLoS One. 12(4):e0176253.

    Category Headline Image: 
    lameness check for horse
    Article Type: 
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    Any alteration in limb-loading due to lameness can alter head and pelvic position.
    Overview: 
    According to a recent study, lameness in horses can be extremely difficult to identify, with gait asymmetries in nearly 75% of horses deemed sound by their owners.
  • Performance Horses Benefit From High-Energy Forages

    hay for horses

    Performance horses require more calories per day than pleasure horses or horses used for light or moderate work. These additional calories are typically delivered to horses as concentrates. Researchers from Sweden* suggest adding “high-energy” forage to diets to help meet the calorie demands of equine athletes.

    “Performance horses have a higher risk of developing gastric ulcers and stereotypies than pleasure horses, and offering concentrated feeds can, in some cases, potentially contribute to either the development or worsening of these conditions,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER). Because of these potential problems, some horse owners have looked into forage-only diets for high-performance horses.

    According to the researchers, the potential limitation of forage-only diets for horses performing rigorous exercise could be the lower levels of muscle glycogen observed compared to horses fed traditional starch-rich diets. Glycogen is the storage form of sugar that muscles need to contract during exercise.

    To test the hypothesis that performance horses can thrive on a high-energy, forage-only diet, Standardbred racehorses offered forage (high-quality haylage) ad libitum were followed for two years of training. Horses underwent either a controlled training program or one in which the high-intensity training distance was reduced by 30% with various parameters recorded.

    Key findings of the study included:

    • Horses consumed 1.7- 2.6% dry matter of body weight when given ad libitum forage;
    • No differences in body measurements (e.g., thickness of the longissimus dorsi muscle or rump fat) were noted between the two groups;
    • Body condition scores (BCS) were maintained between 4.8 and 5.1; and
    • Muscle glycogen levels were normal in both groups.

    According to the researchers, “when managed under normal conditions, no nutrition-related health disorders or stereotypic behaviors were observed” in horses offered forage-only diets. Further, they wrote, “…the training program did not affect feed intake, growth, body condition score (BCS), or muscle glycogen content. In addition, the forage-only diet did not appear to prohibit muscle glycogen storage, growth, or maintenance of body condition, and seemed to promote good nutrition-related health.

    “All horses are different, and their diets must be individualized, particularly for sport. Concentrate feeds are more than just sources of energy. They contain other vital nutrients such as protein, vitamins, and minerals that are incredibly important not just to high-performance horses but to horses of all ages and uses,” said Crandell.

    Consult a KER nutritionist to optimize your horse’s diet.

    *Ringmark, S., T. Revold, A. Jansson. 2017. Effects of training distance on feed intake, growth, body condition and muscle glycogen content in young Standardbred horses fed a forage-only diet. Animal. In press.

    Category Headline Image: 
    horse eating hay in field
    Article Type: 
    Overview: 
    Performance horses require more calories per day than pleasure horses or horses used for light or moderate work. Researchers suggest adding “high-energy” forage to diets to help meet the calorie demands of equine athletes.
  • Mare, Foal Nutrition Impacts Lifelong Health

    horse mare and foal grazing

    Problems associated with excess body condition are well known among horsemen and include insulin resistance, laminitis, osteoarthritis, and exercise intolerance. Recent research also shows that the health of offspring of overweight mares may also be compromised.

    Studies show, for example, that excess maternal nutrition during pregnancy can alter glucose and lipid (fat) metabolism in foals until 160 days of age, and another study reported a higher incidence of osteochondrosis (OC) in foals born to dams that were fed concentrates during gestation rather than forage only.

    A more recent study* on broodmare nutrition during the last trimester of gestation and subsequent foal health revealed the following:

    • Growth of foals from 6 to 24 months of age was not affected by maternal diet;
    • Maternal undernutrition appeared to affect bone growth as foals from dams fed forage only had narrower cannon bones than foals from dams fed forage and barley;
    • Seven yearlings (29% of included yearlings) were diagnosed with OC lesions, but no difference in OC based on maternal nutrition was identified; and
    • The testicles of yearlings from forage-fed dams were less mature than those from broodmares fed both forage and barley.

    “This research also found that when yearlings were overfed between 19 and 24 months of age, up to approximately 135% of NRC energy requirements, overfeeding negatively affected yearlings from mares fed barley and forage more than yearlings from broodmares fed only forage,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

    Specifically, decreased insulin sensitivity and enhanced insulin levels suggestive of insulin dysregulation were observed in yearlings from mares fed both barley and forage but not yearlings from forage-only mares.

    Consultation with an equine nutritionist can help owners design a feeding plan for broodmares and their offspring to ensure optimum health,” Crandell advised. Mares should be maintained in moderate body condition. If good-quality pasture or hay is available, many easy-keeping mares do well on balancer pellet or appropriate vitamin and mineral supplement, such as Micro-Max (available in the U.S.) or Gold Pellet (available in Australia), and free-choice salt.

    *Robles, M, C. Gautier, L. Mendoza et al. 2017. Maternal nutrition during pregnancy affects testicular and bone development, glucose metabolism and response to overnutrition in weaned horses up to two years. PLoS One. 12(1):e0169295.

    Category Headline Image: 
    horse mare and foal in field
    Article Type: 
    Overview: 
    Problems associated with excess body condition are well known among horsemen and include insulin resistance, laminitis, osteoarthritis, and exercise intolerance. Recent research also shows that the health of offspring of overweight mares may also be compromised.
  • Microbiota of the Neonatal Foal

    horse foal grazing in field

    During the first few weeks of a foal’s life, the development of a diverse and healthy microbiota occurs. The microbiota, or population of beneficial microorganisms such as bacteria and protozoa, plays a major role in the proper function of the immune system and will serve to protect the foal from harmful pathogens as it matures. The microbial population is influenced by environment and diet. Most discussion surrounding the equine microbiota involves mature horses, and a closer look at a foal’s hindgut inhabitants provides interesting insight.

    Foals are born with a sterile gut, but microbial colonization begins the first day of life. Some researchers found that meconium, the foal’s first feces after birth, is not sterile, while others report that it is. Differences may be attributed to the mare or sample collection techniques.

    Nevertheless, changes in the bacterial community measured in feces were detected sequentially between days 0-2, days 2-10 and days 10-30 (birth to one month of life), at which point the changes stabilized1. Colonization proceeds rapidly, with a mature microbial complement present by six weeks of age. Additional study is needed to determine exactly which species of bacteria are becoming established in the gut during the first month of life.

    Because of the rapid changes in the foal’s microbiota, probiotic supplementation may have a different effect on young horses, especially neonates, compared to their mature counterparts. While there are many probiotics that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers safe, the probiotic population in the young horse’s gut may be more sensitive to manipulation2.  Such manipulation could potentially lead to imbalances that cause digestive upset, such as diarrhea or colic. In addition, research to date shows that probiotics are not likely to improve growth, development, or feed utilization in young horses that are consuming a balanced diet3. Therefore probiotic use in neonates is not recommended.

    A healthy and diverse microbiota will support immune function, vitamin and energy production, and fiber digestion throughout life.

    1Faubladier, C., S. Sadet-Bourgeteau, C. Philippeau, E. Jacotot, and V. Julliand. 2014. Molecular monitoring of the bacterial community structure in foal feces pre- and post-weaning. Anaerobe. 25:61-66.

    2Schoster, A., J.S. Weese, and L. Guardabassi. 2014. Probiotic use in horses – what is the evidence for their clinical efficacy? Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. 28:1640-1652.

    3Weese, J.S. 2002. Probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. 22(8):357-360.

    Category Headline Image: 
    horse foal grazing in pasture
    Article Type: 
    Pull Quote: 
    A healthy and diverse microbiota will support immune function, vitamin and energy production, and fiber digestion throughout life.
    Overview: 
    Most discussion surrounding the equine microbiota involves mature horses, and a closer look at a foal’s hindgut inhabitants provides interesting insight.
  • Stallion Health: Dual-Hemisphere Breeding

    stallion horse

    Stallions work hard to fulfill their breeding duties each year, with some popular Thoroughbreds covering almost 200 mares in a single season. When those stallions become so-called “shuttle stallions,” does their success rate remain constant, or are they overworked?

    In this context, the term “shuttle stallion” refers to a stud that breeds in one hemisphere for a season before being shipped to the opposite hemisphere for the next breeding season (e.g., Ireland and Australia). Effectively, this strategy doubles the number of foals sired by a particular stallion and potentially increases genetic diversity within the breed in each location.  

    Although previous research suggests that dual-hemisphere (DH) breeding has no negative impact on stallion fertility, one group of veterinary researchers from Texas A&M University decided to look into the matter more comprehensively. In their latest study*, the researchers analyzed various outcome parameters such as seasonal pregnancy rates and first-cycle pregnancy rates for different groups of stallions based on whether they were single or dual-hemisphere breeders.

    The researchers concluded that DH breeding did not have a detrimental effect on fertility. Specifically, they found:

    • Fertility in the Southern Hemisphere was higher than the Northern Hemisphere; however, there were more maiden and fewer barren mares in the south;
    • Stallion fertility did not change when DH breeding was interrupted by single-hemisphere breeding; and
    • Stallion fertility was not affected by consecutive DH breeding seasons. In this study, some stallions participated in up to 10 DH breeding seasons.

    “Other ways to the optimize breeding success of any stallion include ensuring appropriate body condition without becoming especially underweight or overweight; providing a balanced diet that includes a full complement of vitamins and minerals; and maximizing joint health and semen quality,” advised Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

    KER offers nutritional consultations and recommends supplementing stallions with EO•3, a marine-derived oil rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA and EPA. Omega-3 fatty acids benefit reproductive parameters in both stallions and broodmares, and support hard-working joints.

    *Walbornn, S.R., C.C. Love, T.L. Blanchard, et al. 2017. The effect of dual-hemisphere breeding on stallion fertility. Theriogenology. 94:8-14.

    Category Headline Image: 
    stallion horse
    Article Type: 
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    The researchers concluded that dual-hemisphere breeding did not have a detrimental effect on fertility.
    Overview: 
    Stallions work hard to fulfill their breeding duties each year, with some popular Thoroughbreds covering almost 200 mares in a single season. When those stallions become so-called “shuttle stallions,” does their success rate remain constant, or are they overworked?
  • Understanding Joint Disease in Horses

    equine joint problems

    The term osteoarthritis (OA) gets thrown about often in barn aisles, racetrack backsides, and veterinary clinics.  Joint disease remains a leading cause of pain, lost training and competition days, and even attrition in various sectors of the industry. Without a cure, preventing the onset and progression of disease remain the only way to help horses fight this debilitating condition.

    The best way to prevent OA is to arm yourself with a clear understanding of the normal structure of joints and factors contributing to joint disease. This knowledge will maximize joint health and keep horses sound for years to come. These seven facts will help develop an improved understanding of the leading health problem affecting horses.

    • Articular cartilage lines the ends of bones where two or more bones meet in a joint. This includes not only the joints located in a horse’s limbs but also those in the head (e.g., temporomandibular joint) and along the entire length of the spinal column.
    • Cartilage, a highly specialized and unique tissue, allows smooth, frictionless movement and helps distribute the forces incurred during locomotion.
    • Cartilage is home to cartilage cells, or chondrocytes, that produce a special matrix comprised of collagen (mostly type II) and proteoglycans. Collagen is the primary structural protein, whereas proteoglycans—a combination or proteins and sugars—hold water, giving cartilage its shock-absorbing properties.
    • Cartilage goes under a continual cycle of turnover. This means that chondrocytes constantly break down old matrix and create new matrix. Such turnover is mandatory for pain-free movement.
    • Inflammation causes problems. Any type of trauma to the cartilage or the joint triggers inflammation. Inflammatory mediators, such as interleukins, produced by the body interfere with cartilage turnover. Specifically, inflammation causes accelerated cartilage breakdown and decreased cartilage production.
    • Once joint inflammation begins, the cartilage slowly begins to degrade day by day.
    • A bad step causing trauma or a fracture involving the joint, inflammation of soft tissues such as tendons and ligaments located close to a joint, or even just general wear and tear and normal age-related degeneration can instigate cartilage degeneration.

    A multimodal treatment approach to OA has been advocated for years in lieu of a cure. Joint supplements play an integral role in delaying progression of disease.

    “Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate not only provide cartilage precursors to help the chondrocytes build new, healthy cartilage but also exert anti-inflammatory effects. Avocado-soybean unsaponifiables (ASU) and omega-3 fatty acids such as marine-derived EO•3 both possess inherent anti-inflammatory properties,” shared Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

    Not to be left out, hyaluronic acid provides lubrication to the joint, and supplementation with an HA product such as Synovate HA (available in the U.S. and some international markets) reportedly also helps horses with OA. In Australia, look for the broad-spectrum joint supplement Glucos-A-Flex.

    Regardless of what supplements you choose to support joint health, select supplements wisely and make all dietary changes slowly. Always consult your veterinarian to confirm a diagnosis of joint disease prior to instituting any changes in management.

    Category Headline Image: 
    osteoarthritis in horses
    Article Type: 
    Overview: 
    The best way to prevent equine osteoarthritis is to arm yourself with a clear understanding of the normal structure of joints and factors contributing to joint disease.
  • Horse Health: Vaccination Woes

    equine vaccination

    Every year, hundreds of horses die from illnesses that could have been prevented through vaccination. Saddened and frustrated by the needless loss of horse lives, one group of researchers* created a survey to find out what’s stopping owners from vaccinating against preventable diseases.

    Based on the results of that survey, the key reasons owners declined recommended vaccines included:

    • Concerns regarding the safety of vaccines and the potential for vaccine reactions, including death;
    • Cost of the vaccines; and
    • Lack of perceived risk of infection, making vaccination unnecessary.

    In addition, some respondents suggested a financial arrangement between the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the vaccine and veterinarians who administer it (and thereby benefit financially).

    In the United States, rabies, tetanus, the Eastern and Western equine encephalitis viruses (EEE and WEE, respectively), and the West Nile virus (WNV) all fall under the umbrella term “core vaccines,” according to the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP). This means that almost every horse the United States should be vaccinated against these diseases, and yet they are not.

    In 2016, 377 horses were diagnosed with WNV according to the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. More horses were likely affected, but because laboratory samples were not collected and submitted, those cases were not included in the overall count.

    In Australia, a similar situation occurs with the Hendra virus which can cause serious disease and fatalities in both horses and humans. The Queensland Department for Agriculture and Fisheries and the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries clearly states that vaccination is “the single most effective way of reducing the risk of Hendra virus infection in horses. Many equestrian events and facilities require full vaccination as a condition of entry. ” Adoption of the vaccine by horse owners, however, has been slow. Researchers suggest that the majority of horses remain unvaccinated, estimating only 11-17% of horses are fully vaccinated in endemic Hendra areas.

    When survey respondents were asked what would make them reconsider vaccination, 37-49% would vaccinate if the vaccine was either free or less expensive, if they could administer the vaccine themselves, or if one of their own horses or a neighbor’s/friend’s horses became infected.

    Other means of minimizing disease involves altering management practices. For example, not turning out horses at dusk and dawn can help minimize the chances of mosquitoes transmitting EEE, WEE, or WNV to a horse. In the case of the Hendra virus, owners are advised to reduce contact between horses and flying foxes by covering food and water sources in the paddock, removing horses from pasture when bats are most active, and eliminating access by horses to fruiting and flowering trees.

    Unfortunately, even these strategies prove difficult to implement, with many horse owners reporting recommended strategies as ineffective and impractical.

    In sum, the survey results suggested that some owners believe vaccines can be unsafe and are unnecessary. In reality, reactions to vaccines occur only rarely, and the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks. Diagnosing and treating horses for diseases that could have been prevented, loss of use, and loss of life cost more than a lifetime of vaccines.

    “To maximize a horse’s response to vaccination, consider supplementing horses with omega-3 fatty acids such as EO•3 or maintaining horses on a higher quality feed that supports immune health, like KER Brand Alliance Partner products,” advised Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

    *Manyweathers, J., H. Field, N. Longnecker, et al. 2017. "Why won't they just vaccinate?" Horse owner risk perception and uptake of the Hendra virus vaccine. BMC Veterinary Research. 13(1):103.

    Category Headline Image: 
    horse vaccine
    Article Type: 
    Overview: 
    Every year, hundreds of horses die from illnesses that could have been prevented through vaccination. Saddened and frustrated by the needless loss of horse lives, one group of researchers created a survey to find out what’s stopping owners from vaccinating against preventable diseases.
  • Maximizing Equine Health, Welfare Using GPS

    grazing horses

    Other than discretely observing your herd for hours on end in the rain, sleet, snow, or blistering heat at various hours of the day or night, how can you know if your horses are truly getting all the care they need? According to a group of Japanese researchers*, affixing global positioning system (GPS) units to halters of horses and tracking their movement generates important information for managing herds of all shapes, sizes, and compositions.

    For example, the researchers used GPS units on mare-and-foal pairs to determine mare-foal, mare-mare, and foal-foal distances to better understand behaviors of broodmares. They found during the first month of age, dam–dam and foal–foal distances were significantly greater than dam–foal distances. This finding makes sense considering how frequently foals nurse during their first month of life. During the second month of age, the dam–foal distance increased, and by the sixth month of age, dam–foal distances were significantly greater than foal–foal distances.  

    Another use for GPS units includes research on standing and lying behaviors. Such information could provide valuable insight into sleeping behaviors (e.g., if some horses in a herd aren’t permitted sufficient time to lay down because they are low in the pecking order, helping diagnose sleeping disorders). Joint pain could also potentially be assessed using GPS units. Horses with joint or other musculoskeletal ailments may either lie down for prolonged periods of time or not lie down enough due to the discomfort associated with changing positions.

    “Knowing which horses are potentially suffering from musculoskeletal discomfort or pain will allow us to more rapidly diagnose the problem and institute appropriate therapy. Such horses might, for example, benefit from a joint supplement such as KER•Flex or Synovate HA,” recommended Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., an equine nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER). Horse owners in Australia can look for Glucos-A-Flex for joint support.

    Finally, data generated from such GPS devices can also help determine if some horses are being excluded from food and water sources because they are low on the pecking order.

    “If owners cannot rely on individual body condition scoring for individuals in a herd to determine adequate access to food and water, either due to time or geography, GPS units may help manage herds better,” suggested Crandell.

    In sum, GPS-derived data facilitates more detailed behavioral analyses of horses to maximize equine welfare through better management.

    “We hope that the further studies are carried out using this GPS method under various pasture conditions and under various management conditions,” concluded the researchers.

    *Sato, F., T. Tanabe, H. Murase, et al. 2017. Application of a wearable GPS unit for examining interindividual distances in a herd of Thoroughbred dams and their foals. Journal of Equine Science. 28(1):13-17.

    Category Headline Image: 
    horse halter
    Article Type: 
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    Another use for GPS units includes research on standing and lying behaviors.
    Overview: 
    According to a group of researchers, affixing global positioning system (GPS) units to halters of horses and tracking their movement generates important information for managing herds of all shapes, sizes, and compositions.
  • Genetic Identification of Early Pregnancy Loss in Mares

    pregnant horse

    With the mare’s long gestation period and ability to only have one foal per year, pregnancy loss at any stage of gestation causes both economic and emotional hardship. For years, research has focused on both getting and keeping the mare in foal. New studies in human medicine suggest that measuring specific pieces of genetic material called microRNAs (miRNAs) could help veterinarians better diagnose pregnancy-related problems.

    MicroRNAs are tiny units of RNA, genetic material that helps DNA create proteins and enzymes that make up tissues. Each tissue type produces unique miRNAs, much like fingerprints, that circulate in the bloodstream. Recent research shows that changes in the type or amount of circulating miRNAs can identify specific disease process. Examples include cancer, metabolic abnormalities, and pregnancy disorders such as placentitis and pre-term labor.

    In horses, only limited studies have been conducted so far, and miRNA analyses confirm that circulating miRNAs are involved in maternal recognition of pregnancy.

    According to one group of veterinary reproduction experts*, “circulating miRNAs have tremendous diagnostic potential for many similar pregnancy-related complications affecting horses and humans, including fetal growth restriction and placental infection. Earlier diagnosis allows for earlier intervention and a more favorable outcome.”

    While research in the field of miRNA advances, equine nutritionists recommend other ways to optimize breeding efficiency in horses. Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research (KER), recommends the following:

    • Ensuring mares have an appropriate body condition score at each phase of gestation, including time of conception and early gestation;
    • Supplementing stallions with omega-3 fatty acids, such as marine-derived EO•3 to improve semen quality;
    • Supplementing broodmares with EO•3 for improving multiple aspects of the reproductive system and boosting colostrum quality;
    • Supplementing older broodmares with an antioxidant like a natural vitamin E, such as Nano•E, for improving cellular integrity;
    • Monitoring broodmares daily for vaginal discharge that could be an early sign of placentitis; and
    • Providing routine preventive health care, including appropriate vaccinations, deworming, and farriery.

    *Loux, S.C., K.E. Scoggin, J.E. Bruemmer, et al. 2017. Evaluation of circulating miRNAs during late pregnancy in the mare. PLoS One. 12(4):e0175045.

    Category Headline Image: 
    pregnant mare
    Article Type: 
    Pull Quote: 
    Recent research shows that changes in the type or amount of circulating microRNAs can identify specific disease process.
    Overview: 
    For years, research has focused on both getting and keeping mares in foal. New studies in human medicine suggest that measuring specific pieces of genetic material called microRNAs could help veterinarians better diagnose pregnancy-related problems.