Resources - USA - Equine

  • 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 …

  • 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.  …

  • 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 warmer weather rolls …

  • 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 …

  • 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 …

  • 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 …

Kentucky Equine Research

  • Forage Shortages and Weed Toxicity in Horses

    horse eating hay

    Though they generally seek out nutritious, palatable plants, horses are inquisitive and will sample an array of vegetation if available, some of which is less than wholesome.

    "Many wild and decorative plants contain toxins. As forage resources run low, whether it’s pasture or hay supply, horses are more tempted to nibble on plants that otherwise wouldn’t be enticing,” warned Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

    One such catastrophe recently happened at an equine operation in Australia when four horses grazed on marsh mallows* (Malva parviflora), a common weed found on at least five continents. Other names for this plant include small-flowered mallow, little or least mallow, and cheeseweed. Previous reports suggest that horses ingesting marsh mallow suffer from staggers-like symptoms.

    In the aforementioned case, four horses residing in a pasture flush with marsh mallow, but lacking other natural forage, were offered supplemental forage. After this forage was suddenly decreased to 0.5% of their body weight per day, the horses were presumably forced to graze marsh mallow. Within a week, the horses began showing signs of colic, muscle fasciculation, frequent vocalization, and abnormal sweating. All horses either died or were humanely euthanized, and necropsies revealed muscle degeneration in both the heart and skeletal muscles.

    “Horse owners can consult their local equine extension specialists for assistance identifying potentially toxic plants and to find affordable forage options. When hay shortages do occur, alternatives are available, including complete feeds, hay cubes, cut hay, chaff, and even beet pulp and soybean hulls,” shared Crandell.

    For more assistance, schedule a one-on-one consultation with a KER equine nutritionist.

    *Bauquier, J., A. Stent, J. Gibney, et al. Evidence for marsh mallow (Malva parviflora) toxicosis causing myocardial disease and myopathy in four horses. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. In press.

    Category Headline Image: 
    horse eating hay
    Article Type: 
    Overview: 
    Though they generally seek out nutritious, palatable plants, horses are inquisitive and will sample an array of vegetation if available, some of which is less than wholesome and maybe toxic.
  • Mare Care: Improve Colostrum Quality

    mare and foal

    The first meals ingested by a healthy foal consist entirely of colostrum, the nutrient- and antibody-packed fluid produced by the mare during the first hours after birth. Thicker, yellower, and stickier than milk, colostrum quality sets the tone for foal health in the coming days and months. High-quality colostrum nourishes foals and protects them from disease-causing pathogens. Colostrum of lesser quality can leave a foal ill-equipped to handle pathogenic assaults.

    How can owners ensure their mares produce top-of-the-line colostrum? Follow these three tips:

    Provide proper nutrition year-round. Like all horses, mares should receive optimal nutrition every day of the year. "Pregnancy adds a new dimension to the nutritional schematic but does not change things as much as some mare owners believe," said Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

    "Depending on the metabolic rate of the mare—some broodmares are easy keepers and some are hard doers—energy requirements likely won't rise until about the eighth or ninth month of the eleven-month pregnancy,” she said. “Until that time, mares should be fed a diet that maintains body condition at a moderate to moderately fleshy degree, with additional emphasis placed on appropriate vitamin and mineral nutrition."

    Many mares will consume forage-only diets during much of their pregnancy, as their metabolism or level of forage intake does not warrant additional calories. These diets should be augmented with vitamins and minerals, usually in the form of a ration balancer pellet or a well-formulated supplement, such as Micro-Max, as this will ensure appropriate nutrient intake, according to Whitehouse. In Australia, horse owner should look for All-Phase or Gold Pellet.

    “As mares enter the final months of pregnancy, they may require concentrated sources of energy to maintain body weight and, at that time, vitamin and mineral supplementation can be tweaked to avoid under- or oversupplementation,” Whitehouse explained. If mares are given at least the minimal amount of feed formulated specifically for broodmares, as recommended by the manufacturer, then there is no need for additional supplementation. By supplying all of the mare's nutritional needs, owners are contributing to antibody-rich colostrum, she said.

    Use targeted supplementation. Once forage and concentrate requirements are met, mares owners may look into supplementation that will specifically help broodmares and potentially colostrum quality.

    The use of omega-3 fatty acids yields benefits in some mares. In one study, a marine-derived omega-3 supplement, rich in both docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), caused an increase in DHA in the blood and milk of mares. Further, the foals of those mares had the same boost in blood levels.

    “One product rich in marine-derived omega-3 fatty acids is EO•3, a palatable liquid supplement made from a cold-water fish species,” recommended Whitehouse. “EO•3 contains 35% omega-3 fatty acids, which far exceeds common oils fed to horses, like corn or soybean.”

    Some horse owners choose to feed flaxseed for its omega-3 benefits. Flaxseed delivers omega-3 fatty acids as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which must then be converted to DHA and EPA. “The efficiency of the conversion process is not well understood in horses, so feeding direct sources of DHA and EPA may prove to be more advantageous,” Whitehouse added.

    Vitamin E supplementation might also be appropriate, especially in mares that consume primarily forage. Once forage is mowed and harvested, vitamin E levels drop, so any horse on an all-forage diet benefits from the antioxidant properties of supplemental vitamin E.

    Mares fed a grain mix containing 80 IU/kg vitamin E per day were supplemented with an additional 160 IU/kg of vitamin E. Within two weeks of foaling, the mare’s circulating levels of IgG, or antibody, were significantly increased. In addition, presuckled colostrum of vitamin E-supplemented mares also had significantly higher IgG levels than unsupplemented mares. Nursing foals had blood concentrations of IgG, IgM, and IgA, all different and important types of immunoglobulins that reflected those of the ingested colostrum.

    Developed by KER, Nano•E is a nanodispersed liquid natural-source vitamin E, making it the most bioavailable vitamin E available to horse owners.

    Remove all fescue from the diet. Though many mare owners are educated about the risks associated with feeding endophyte-infected fescue to pregnant mares, problems persist.

    Fescue is a well-liked and oft-used pasture plant because it possesses several desirable qualities, foremost of which are drought resistance and grazing tolerance. Many horses graze fescue without any problem, but endophyte-infected fescue causes serious issues in pregnant mares, such as protracted gestation times, premature separation of the placenta (known commonly as a "red bag" delivery), and lack of milk production. Many foals born to mares pastured on endophyte-infected fescue have reduced immunity due to a lack of good-quality colostrum.

    Mares should be removed from fescue pasture and hay 60-90 days before the predicted foaling date. If this is not possible, mare owners should alert their veterinarians that fescue toxicosis is a possibility. Veterinarians can use certain drugs to help with certain symptoms associated with fescue toxicosis.

    Category Headline Image: 
    mare and foal
    Article Type: 
    Overview: 
    High-quality colostrum nourishes foals and protects them from disease-causing pathogens. Colostrum of lesser quality can leave a foal ill-equipped to handle pathogenic assaults. How can owners ensure their mares produce top-of-the-line colostrum?
  • Five Facts: Equine Herpesvirus-1

    sick horse

    Equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) causes quarantines and movement restrictions, affecting a multitude of horses. How do horses become infected with EHV-1, and how can you prevent your horse from getting sick at your next event? Check out these five fast facts to avoid “going viral.”

    1. EHV-1, like the other equine herpesviruses, is a highly contagious infectious disease spread between horses by both direct and indirect routes. A direct route of infection involves nose-to-nose contact, whereas indirect routes include transfer of the virus on buckets, tack, or clothing, for example. The equine herpesvirus can live in the environment for seven days.

    2. Most horses have been exposed to the herpesvirus. Not all horses show clinical signs, but many others suffer one of four manifestations: respiratory disease, abortion (and abortion storms in herds of broodmares), death in young foals, and neurological disease.

    3. Horses exposed to the virus but showing no clinical signs or recovering from the disease are considered latently infected. The virus lays dormant in the nerves in a horse’s head until it reemerges and begins replicating during times of stress, such as during transport and competition. These horses are referred to as “shedders” because, unbeknownst to their caretakers, they are dripping viruses from their nasal cavities, infecting the environment and potentially other horses.

    4. Several forms of the EHV-1 virus subsist, such as subtypes 1 and 2, in addition to the EHM form—equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy. While a specific genetic mutation of the EHV-1 virus causes EHM, even the normal, “wild-type” virus can cause neurological disease. Signs of EHM include incoordination, urine dribbling, and the inability to rise.

    5. No specific, targeted treatments for EHV-1 infections exist. Supportive care, such as IV fluids, anti-inflammatory drugs, and dedicated nursing, helps many horses recover. Remember, recovered horses can begin shedding the virus at any future point. Vaccination is available, and a veterinarian should be consulted about the best preventive care for your horse.

    “Nutrition plays a vital role in maintaining a strong immune system in the face of viral infection. A well-balanced diet supplies key nutrients that support the body’s fight against invaders. For additional support, supplementation with marine-source omega-3 fatty acids, such as EO•3, can give a boost to the immune system,” added Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., an equine nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

    Avoid stress and implement appropriate biosecurity protocols if a new horse enters the herd or when a horse becomes sick. Tailor a biosecurity protocol suitable to your specific operation with the help of your veterinarian. Remember that other diseases or medical conditions can also “look” like EHM, such as wobbler syndrome, rabies, or EPM. Always contact a veterinarian when your horse is behaving abnormally or suffering from neurological signs.

    Category Headline Image: 
    sick horse
    Article Type: 
    Overview: 
    How do horses become infected with equine herpesvirus-1, and how can you prevent your horse from getting sick at your next event? Check out these five fast facts to avoid “going viral.”
  • Fighting Allergies in Horses: Therapeutic Proteins

    horse allergies

    Horses suffer allergies from a variety of environmental agents, such as dust, molds, and pollens; insect bites (Culicoides or biting midges); topical products such as shampoos and insect repellents; medications such as procaine penicillin; and some types of feeds or nutritional supplements.

    Signs of allergic reactions can vary markedly from hives, itchiness and wheezing to a full-blown, life-threatening allergic reaction. All of these signs occur as a result of the immune system overreacting to a harmless stimulus.

    Treatments vary depending on the underlying cause, severity, and owner preference. The most popular option is to avoid the trigger, which in most cases is easier said than done. In some instances, this involves allergy shots, a type of immunotherapy designed to decrease the body’s sensitivity to a particular allergen.

    “Another option is to use natural anti-inflammatory products such as a marine-derived fish oil supplements. Kentucky Equine Research (KER) offers EO•3, a palatable oil that contains the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA and is top-dressed onto the feed,” advised Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for KER.

    To deter biting midges, horsemen typically rely on topical insect repellents, fine mesh placed strategically around certain stalls, and fans. A group of researchers from Iceland* recently tested a more novel method of reducing allergic sensitivity.

    The researchers identified a protein in the saliva of the biting midge that causes an allergic reaction in horses and then used barley plants to produce that protein. They hypothesized this unique form of barley—referred to as a “therapeutic protein”—may provide an alternative treatment option for insect bite hypersensitivity in horses. Preliminary results are promising, and additional studies are underway.

    *Jonsdottir, S., V. Svansson, S.B. Stefansdottir, et al. Oral administration of transgenic barley expressing a Culicoides allergen induces specific antibody response. Equine Veterinary Journal. In press.

    Category Headline Image: 
    horse itching
    Article Type: 
    Overview: 
    Allergy treatments for horses vary depending on the underlying cause, severity, and owner preference. A group of researchers recently tested a more novel method of reducing allergic sensitivity.
  • Antioxidants and Cooled Stallion Semen Quality

    stallion

    Cooling and shipping semen from stallions sometimes results in decreased fertility in artificial insemination programs. Several explanations have been proposed over the years to explain this decreased sperm quality, including:

    • Semen collection technique (e.g., choice of artificial vagina);
    • Chemical composition of the extenders used to dilute and preserve the semen samples;
    • The centrifugation process used during sample processing prior to cooling and shipping; and
    • The cooling technique causing “cold shock” to the spermatozoa that decreases cell viability, motility, and therefore fertilization ability.

    Another proposed hypothesis to explain poor spermatozoa performance following cooling involves the production of high levels of free radicals, such as reactive oxygen species, that damage sperm cell membranes.

    With this in mind, several research groups attempted to add antioxidants to collected semen samples to protect the spermatozoa from free radical damage. Examples of such antioxidants include resveratrol, pyruvate, melatonin, superoxide dismutase, and quercetin. Results from studies involving those antioxidants were conflicting, but some benefits were noted.

    Green tea contains a number of antioxidants, including a group of natural antioxidants called polyphenols, as well as epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). These two antioxidants were recently added* to stallion semen extender to determine their impact on semen motility, viability, and acrosome and DNA integrity. Unfortunately, no beneficial effect in equine cooled semen was identified after the addition of the either polyphenols or EGCG to the extender.

    “Another approach to improving semen quality involves dietary supplementation with antioxidants or with omega-3 fatty acids to maintain or improve the integrity of sperm cell membranes during the cooling or freezing process,” shared Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

    Some studies support dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acid products like EO•3 to improve stallion semen in artificial insemination programs. EO•3 contains marine-derived DHA and EPA, and is available in a palatable top-dress formulation.

    *Bucci, D. M. Spinaci, B.Mislei, et al. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) and green tea polyphenols do not improve stallion semen parameters during cooling at 4°C. Reproduction in Domestic Animals. In press.

    Category Headline Image: 
    Thoroughbred stallion
    Article Type: 
    Overview: 
    One proposed hypothesis explains that poor semen quality following cooling involves the production of high levels of free radicals that damage sperm cell membranes. With this in mind, several research groups attempted to add antioxidants to collected semen samples as protection from free radical damage.
  • Pasture and Endocrine-Related Laminitis in Horses

    horse hoof check

    When a horse owner hears the word “laminitis,” it invariably conjures up feelings of dread and fear. Within the equine hoof, soft, finger-like structures called laminae are part of the essential support system that holds the hoof and coffin bone in place. When the laminae become damaged and inflamed, a condition known as laminitis, they become weak, leaving the coffin bone prone to rotation. Laminitis can be extremely painful and debilitating and is potentially fatal. Unfortunately, there is no effective cure or guaranteed prevention method.

    A horse’s lifetime risk of developing laminitis is estimated to be about 15%. A survey conducted by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) several years ago identified laminitis as a top priority for research. As a result, a Laminitis Research Working Group was developed. The most common causes of laminitis, pasture and endocrinopathy-associated lameness (PEAL), were studied first. The study identified laminitis cases, which were retrospectively traced to determine risk factors for the development of disease. Control groups included healthy animals and lameness controls (horses with front-end lameness that was not due to laminitis).

    The primary result of the study found that gender, age, and frequency of exercise were not risk factors for the development of disease. Major risk factors for development of laminitis included exposure to lush pastures, high body condition score (overweight horses), the presence of endocrine disease (such as Cushing’s syndrome or equine metabolic syndrome), and horses who had received glucocorticoids within 30 days of onset of laminitis symptoms.

    The good news is that several risk factors can be controlled, including body condition, glucocorticoid administration, and management of endocrinopathic disease. (Researchers on another project recently took a closer look at the supposed link between laminitis and the glucocorticoid prednisolone. Read more from that study.) This study provided more evidence that obese horses are at an increased risk for laminitis.

    Changes in the pH of the hindgut due to alterations in the microbial populations and acid profiles cause a condition known as subclinical acidosis, which can put affected horses at a higher than normal risk for colic and laminitis. In research trials at Kentucky Equine Research (KER), EquiShure, a time-released hindgut buffer, prevented the decrease in pH associated with rapid starch and sugar fermentation after a large grain meal or fructan exposure, enabling lactate-utilizing bacteria to thrive and convert lactate into VFA. EquiShure is appropriate for all horses at risk of suffering from subclinical acidosis.

    Unfortunately, laminitis is sometimes the first sign of endocrine disease. It is important to screen and manage endocrine disease as early as possible. Weight management of horses is crucial, and horse owners should become educated about the importance of managing body weight.

    Diet tips for horses with metabolic conditions can be found in Nutritional Management of Metabolic Diseases, a 28-page booklet published by Kentucky Equine Research.

    Category Headline Image: 
    horse hoof check
    Article Type: 
    Pull Quote: 
    The good news is that several risk factors can be controlled, including body condition, glucocorticoid administration, and management of endocrinopathic disease.
    Overview: 
    A recent study identified laminitis cases, then retrospectively traced them back to determine risk factors for the development of the disease.
  • Measuring Tendon Healing in Horses

    hind legs of horses

    Soft-tissue musculoskeletal injuries, such as bowed tendons, usually dictate months of stall rest and turnout in small pastures. Horses with tendon injuries all too frequently suffer reinjury if they resume athletic activity too soon, forcing owners to start the recovery process over. Human athletes also suffer tendon injuries, but unlike equine veterinarians, physicians have several techniques to assess tendon healing and help decide when to return to competition. One such technique is referred to as sonoelastography.

    Tendons heal by laying down scar tissue rather than replacing highly specialized tendon fibers. Scar tissue produced during the initial healing phase is soft and elastic but becomes increasingly firmer as it remodels in an attempt to replicate normal tissue. The healing process typically takes about nine months.

    Ultrasonography not only helps identify the location and size of the tendon injury but is also used to assess healing. Within a few months of the injury, though, standard ultrasound imaging cannot decipher between healthy and injured tendon tissues, making it challenging to know when the tendon is healed and when the horse can resume work.

    Sonoelastography involves manually compressing the tendon with a standard ultrasound probe to measure the firmness of the tendon in various locations. The images generated during tendon compression are subsequently converted to colored images that reflect firmness. For example, red denotes soft tissues, yellow signifies tissues of intermediate firmness, and green and blue represent the firmest, least elastic tissues. These images, called elastograms, provide a picture to help guide veterinarians and owners through a horse’s recovery, avoiding premature return to work and reinjury.

    The feasibility of sonoelastography in horses was recently demonstrated in a small study* of racing Thoroughbreds with naturally occurring tendon injuries. Though elastograms could prove extremely valuable in the management of career-limiting injuries in athletic horses, more studies are needed.

    “Tendon health can also be improved through dietary supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. Typically associated with joint and cartilage health, these ingredients also support soft tissues, including tendons and ligaments,” advised Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research (KER). Try KER•Flex, which contains 10,000 mg of glucosamine and 2,000 mg of chondroitin sulfate per serving, to maximize both tendon and joint health for your horse. In Australia, look for Glucos-A-Flex for joint and soft tissue support.

    DuraPlex, a scientifically proven vitamin and mineral product, is another supplement designed for horses that require extended periods of stall rest due to tendon injury or other lameness. DuraPlex helps prevent loss of bone density due to inactivity. Australian horse owners should try Bone Food Plus.

    *Tamura, B. T. Nukada, T. Kato, et al. The use of sonoelastography to assess the recovery of stiffness after equine superficial digital flexor tendon injuries: a preliminary prospective longitudinal study of the healing process. Equine Veterinary Journal. In press.

    Category Headline Image: 
    horse hindleg
    Article Type: 
    Pull Quote: 
    Ultrasonography not only helps identify the location and size of the tendon injury but is also used to assess healing.
    Overview: 
    The feasibility of sonoelastography in horses was recently demonstrated in a small study of racing Thoroughbreds with naturally occurring tendon injuries.
  • Polyphenols in Horse Diets

    horse treat

    Horses generally consume bland diets, especially if offered only hay and pasture. Tasty treats spice up the menu. Instead of reaching for peppermints, though, consider brightly colored fruits, vegetables, and even berries so horses reap the rewards of a class of compounds called polyphenols.

    “Polyphenols are natural plant products that not only give plants their vibrant color but also exert an array of biological activities when consumed by animals,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

    The term “polyphenol” refers to a group of molecules that share similar chemical structures. In this case, all polyphenols must have two or more six-carbon rings. Examples of polyphenolic compounds include both flavonoids (flavonols, flavanones, isoflavones, and flavans) as well as non-flavonoid polyphenols, including curcumin and resveratrol. Grape seed extract provides a great source of flavonoids and other polyphenolics.

    Previous research on curcumin, obtained from the brightly colored spice turmeric, shows various medical benefits, including helping patients with osteoarthritis and supporting immunity. Other benefits of polyphenolic compounds include antibacterial, antiviral, anticancer, and antiallergic properties.

    Studies in horses suggest that polyphenols such as curcumin and resveratrol can help fight inflammation and the natural ageing process, referred to as inflammaging. As horses age, a generalized increase in inflammation occurs, contributing to the development of chronic diseases such as laminitis and osteoarthritis. Many experts, including Siard and colleagues*, suggest that adding polyphenols to the diet reduces inflammation. In turn, polyphenol supplementation could decrease the amount of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs administered to older horses, potentially reducing the risk of adverse reactions to such drugs, including diarrhea, kidney disease, and gastric ulcers. Anecdotal information from New Zealand suggests that flavonoids also help muscle recovery in endurance horses.

    “Vitamin E supplements such as Nano•E also possess antioxidative properties, protecting against a variety of free radicals produced during exercise and natural inflammatory processes,” Crandell shared.

    *Siard, M.H., K.E. McMurry, A.A. Adams. 2016. Effects of polyphenols including curcuminoids, resveratrol, quercetin, pterostilbene, and hydroxypterostilbene on lymphocyte pro-inflammatory cytokine production of senior horses in vitro. Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology. 173:50-59.

    Category Headline Image: 
    treats for horses
    Article Type: 
    Pull Quote: 
    Studies in horses suggest that polyphenols such as curcumin and resveratrol can help fight inflammation and the natural ageing process, referred to as inflammaging.
    Overview: 
    Instead of reaching for peppermints as treats, consider brightly colored fruits, vegetables, and even berries so horses reap the rewards of a class of compounds called polyphenols.
  • Equine Osteoarthritis: Is Lubricin the Cure?

    horse going over jump

    Everyone has experienced the creaking and soreness associated with exercise. Oh, the stiffness and aches! It’s likely your horse does, too. Use of anti-inflammatory drugs, such as phenylbutazone, in horses often helps but certainly does not cure osteoarthritis. In fact, there is no cure for the painful degeneration of the cartilage inside joints despite years of research on the subject.

    Recognizing the impact of joint disease in horses, a group of Swedish researchers recently took a stab at addressing the age-old problem of alleviating osteoarthritis. They discovered that lubricin, a naturally-occurring proteoglycan produced by cells within joints, plays an integral role in maintaining frictionless movement through joint lubrication and could potentially provide musculoskeletal salvation to arthritic horses.

    "True to its name, lubricin plays an important role in lubricating joints,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER), located in Versailles, Kentucky.

    “In normal synovial fluid, lubricin molecules have both protein and sugar components that function together for smooth, pain-free movement. In arthritic joints, however, alterations to the lubricin molecules occur, and aberrant molecules can actually contribute to inflammation, pain, and exacerbation of cartilage breakdown.”

    Further, studies show that lubricin injected into joints affected with osteoarthritis improves cartilage and preserves cartilage cell function.

    According to the researchers, “Because no drug-based, disease-modifying therapy exists for osteoarthritis, lubricin could be a promising pharmaceutical candidate; hence, the properties of lubricin in normal and diseased equine joints needs to be further assessed.”

    “Joint health remains one of the most pressing issues affecting longevity, considering that joint disease, such as osteoarthritis, continues to plague horses as a leading cause of decreased athleticism, chronic pain, and attrition,” reminded Crandell. “Having a new option to manage osteoarthritis or even cure this devastating condition would be invaluable.”

    Consider one or more of the following nutritional supplements for horses with osteoarthritis:

    • Synovate HA, a high-molecular weight sodium hyaluronate supplement that, like lubricin, facilitates smooth, frictionless joint movement. (Available in the U.S. and other regions.)
    • KER•Flex, a palatable, top-dressed supplement suitable for all classes of athletic horses, as well as older, arthritic horses with slow progression of arthritis. (Available in the U.S. and other regions.)
    • Glucos-A-Flex, a broad-spectrum joint supplement that provides vital nutrients for optimal function. (Available in Australia.)
    • EO•3, a marine-derived oil that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA and DHA, known to protect joints in athletic horses. (Available worldwide.)

    *Svala E, C. Jin, U. Rüetschi, et al. 2017. Characterization of lubricin in synovial fluid from horses with osteoarthritis. Equine Veterinary Journal. 49(10)116-123.

    Category Headline Image: 
    horse jumping
    Article Type: 
    Pull Quote: 
    Further, studies show that lubricin injected into joints affected with osteoarthritis improves cartilage and preserves cartilage cell function.
    Overview: 
    Recognizing the impact of joint disease in horses, a group of researchers recently took a stab at addressing the age-old problem of alleviating osteoarthritis.
  • Healthy Foal, Healthy Life

    foal health

    Horse owners know that certain horses and ponies, those so-called “easy keepers,” have an increased risk of developing insulin-glucose abnormalities that contribute to equine metabolic syndrome (EMS). Other factors influencing metabolic abnormalities, especially events occurring early in a horse’s life, remain unclear.

    “Some studies show that conditions experienced by a developing fetus affect aspects of its overall health as an adult,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a Kentucky Equine Research (KER) nutritionist.

    “For example, foal with low birth weight caused by mare undernutrition or placental insufficiency, which results in decreased blood flow to the growing foal, can result in abnormal glucose metabolism and insulin action later in life,” Crandell added.

    In other words, foals are not completely cocooned safely in their dam’s womb throughout gestation, isolated from all potentially harmful influences. Further, the environmental conditions a foal experiences early in life—particularly during the delicate period immediately following birth—may impact health later.

    These concepts were recently reinforced by a group of researchers from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. In their study*, Valenzuela and coworkers administered the hormone ACTH (adrenocorticotrophic hormone) to nine male and female pony foals for the first five days of their lives. ACTH stimulated the production of the stress hormone cortisol, thus mimicking hormone levels experienced by stressed foals in the neonatal period.

    When those foals turned one and two years of age, glucose-insulin dynamics and body weight were measured. While overexposure to stress hormones like cortisol in the neonatal period did not significantly influence glucose-insulin dynamics in those foals as yearlings or two-year-olds, the researchers noted dysregulation typically occurs after the horse matures completely, and later testing may yet show differences. The study also found that fillies were more prone to insulin sensitivity than colts as yearlings, and that body weight and insulin action were related in both sexes.

    “Sex of the animal and environmental factors during fetal and early neonatal life are likely to be important in determining postnatal metabolic and endocrine phenotype,” the researchers concluded.

    “Understanding factors that contribute to altered glucose and insulin dynamics will helps owners prevent the development of equine metabolic syndrome, which is associated with the risk of laminitis,” concluded Crandell, “Still, more research is needed.”

    In the meantime, other research studies support dietary supplementation with fish oil for horses with alterations in glucose-insulin dynamics. Products like EO•3™ influence insulin dynamics with dietary-induced insulin resistance.

    Valenzuela, O.A., J.K. Jellyman, V.L. Allen, et al. Effects of birth weight, sex and neonatal glucocorticoid overexposure on glucose-insulin dynamics in young adult horses. Journal of Developmental Origin of Health and Disease. In press.

    Category Headline Image: 
    foal grazing
    Article Type: 
    Pull Quote: 
    The environmental conditions a foal experiences early in life—particularly during the delicate period immediately following birth—may impact health later.
    Overview: 
    Horse owners know that certain horses and ponies have an increased risk of developing insulin-glucose abnormalities that contribute to equine metabolic syndrome. Other factors influencing metabolic abnormalities, especially events occurring early in a horse’s life, remain unclear.