Nutrition - Equine

  •  A brown horse hangs its head out a stall window while snow falls.

    October 31, 2017

    As we get into the heart of fall, it’s time to start preparing for the upcoming winter. Hi-Pro Feeds took a few minutes to ask Dr. Morrow about how caring for horses changes during those colder months.

    Dr. Morrow, how does caring …

  • Two hands hold feed next to a Hi-Pro bag.

    October 2, 2017

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

    Colic in horses can be defined as exhibiting signs of distress caused by abdominal pain. It is one of the most frequent causes of emergency treatment annually and is …

  • A cowboy loops his lasso while a herd of cattle look on.

    July 27, 2017

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

    On a weight basis, the horse’s body consists of approximately 60 to 65% water, 30 to 35% of protein, fat, and stored energy sources, and 4% in minerals.  While minerals only …

  • A blonde woman feeds a brown and black horse from a bucket.

    June 22, 2017

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

    Molds are single-celled fungi that are found everywhere in nature.  They grow on plants among other substrates in nature and play a role in the natural process of plant decay. …

  • A group of colts on a green field look over a fence toward camera.

    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 …

  • Hunter Meinzer hand feeds a horse

    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 …

  • Dr. Chris Morrow examines a brown horse.

    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 …

  • A horse walks across a lot with a purple blanket on.

    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 …

  • Black and white photo of horse with his mane braided at a rodeo

    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 …

  • Brown horse grazes green grass with a sunset backdrop.

    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 …

  • A bowl of soybeans sits next to a bottle of vegetable oil on its side.

    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 …

  • Two horses eating oats.

    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 …

  • A mare grazes green grass while her colt looks ahead.

    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.  …

  • A horse pokes it's head out of a trailer window.

    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 …

  • Two horses graze on green grass with a sunset in the background.

    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 …

  • A brown horse eats Alfalfa hay from a trough.

    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 …

  • A brown quarter horse with black halter stands in profile.

    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

  • Surgery for Equine Cushing's Disease: A Possibility?

    treatment for horses with Cushing's disease

    Horses diagnosed with pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID), or Cushing’s disease, respond well to the medication pergolide. In fact, pergolide remains the only FDA-approved medication for PPID. Unfortunately, pergolide can be costly for some owners and time-consuming to administer, especially for pastured horses.

    In lieu of oral pergolide, a pair of veterinary surgeons from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatchewan, Canada, recently explored whether surgery could help affected horses.

    “Surgical ablation of the benign growth in the pars intermedia portion of the pituitary gland helps both people and dogs with Cushing’s disease. In horses, however, brain surgery has only been described in a small number of cases,” reported Laura Petroski, B.V.M.S., a veterinarian from Kentucky Equine Research (KER). “Surgical access to the pituitary gland is fraught with challenges.”

    Undertaking the daunting task of reaching the pituitary gland, the researchers explored four different approaches in both live and deceased horses. Three of the four failed to allow the surgeons access to the pars intermedia portion of the pituitary gland, whereas a fourth procedure appeared feasible. That approach was achieved by passing a catheter through the deep facial vein until it reached a sinus housing the pituitary gland.

    “The surgeons believed the minimally invasive approach was repeatable, atraumatic, and relatively inexpensive, thereby allowing access to growths in the pars intermedia,” said Petroski.

    More work clearly must be performed prior to the widespread use of this technique, but certainly offers owners hope for viable alternatives to daily pergolide. In the meantime, consider dietary supplements in addition to pergolide for maximal health and welfare in horses with PPID.

    “In addition to Bio•Bloom PS (Bio-Bloom in Australia) for skin, coat, and hoof support, look to omega-3 fatty acids. Products such as EO•3 exert anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce the inflammation associated with aging and Cushing’s disease. In addition, EO•3 can also help improve insulin sensitivity—a common condition in horses with PPID,” explained Petroski.

    *Carmalt, J.L., and B.A. Scansen. Development of two surgical approaches to the pituitary gland in the horse. Veterinary Quarterly. In press.

    Category Headline Image: 
    alternative treatment for equine Cushing's disease
    Article Type: 
    Pull Quote: 
    In the meantime, consider dietary supplements in addition to pergolide for maximal health and welfare in horses with PPID.
    Overview: 
    Pergolide remains the only FDA-approved medication for horses with pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction, or Cushing’s disease. It can, however, be costly for some owners and time-consuming to administer. In lieu of oral pergolide, a pair of veterinary surgeons recently explored whether surgery could help affected horses.
  • Scoring Tendon Injuries in Horses

    superficial digital flexor tendon in horses

    Horses diagnosed with a damaged superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) often face a long road to recovery. While complete healing of the tendon may take as long as 18 months, re-injury rates are high, with about 56% of horses suffering a recurrence. As a result, tendinopathy of the SDFT remains an important and common equine welfare issue as well as loss of function, early retirement from competition, and wastage.

    “Diagnosing SDFT injuries most often involves an ultrasound examination. Unlike MRI and other techniques, ultrasonography is inexpensive, readily available, and practical,” explained Laura Petroski, B.V.M.S., a veterinarian for Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

    While ultrasonography is considered the diagnostic modality of choice for SDFT injuries, some limitations exist. Those include:

    • Limited field of view depending on the angle of the probe relative to the tendon;
    • Image quality depends on the experience and opinion of the operator and the quality of the equipment; and
    • The physical and physiological status of the tendon.

    Despite being considered the tool of choice, no record of repeatability or reliability of ultrasonographic scoring systems for SDFT injuries is available. Because of this, a team of researchers recruited 16 horses and five equine veterinarians to test their newly developed ultrasonographic scoring system.

    Seven horses had core lesions of the SDFT, another seven had diffuse lesions, and the remaining two served as healthy, uninjured controls. Each horse was examined by each veterinarian on two separate occasions using the novel ultrasonographic scoring system. The system measured the following:

    • Type (core or diffuse) and extent of injury;
    • Location;
    • Echogenicity (how “white” or “dark” the ultrasound image is in a particular region of the tendon);
    • Cross-sectional area of the lesion;
    • Pattern of the tendon fibers; and
    • Maximal injury zone.

    According to the researchers, the scoring system was both reliable and repeatable, offering veterinarians and owners of injured horses an effective method of assessing tendon healing to better predict when to return to work.

    “In addition to rest, supportive care, and regenerative therapies, nutritional supplements containing key ingredients to support the repair of tendon tissue are indicated. KER offers several products containing ingredients to support a healthy musculoskeletal system, including chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine, and hyaluronic acid,” explained Petroski.

    She added, “Omega-3 fatty acids also exert anti-inflammatory effects, helping injured tissues.”

    Look for KER’s KER•FlexSynovate HA, and EO•3 in the United States. In Australia, look for Glucos-A-Flex and Synovate HA.

    *Alzola Domingo, R., C.M. Riggs, D.S. Gardner, et al. 2017. Ultrasonographic scoring system for superficial digital flexor tendon injuries in horses: Intra- and inter-rater variability. Veterinary Record. 181(24):655.

    Category Headline Image: 
    equine tendon injuries
    Article Type: 
    Overview: 
    Despite being considered the tool of choice, no record of repeatability or reliability of ultrasonographic scoring systems for superficial digital flexor tendon injuries is available. Because of this, a team of researchers recruited 16 horses and five equine veterinarians to test their newly developed ultrasonographic scoring system.
  • Supplements, Tiludronate, and Bone Health in Horses

    equine bone health

    Although joints receive the lion’s share of attention when it comes to keeping performance horses sound, bone health remains an important factor in athletic longevity.

    “The skeleton is at its most robust when old bone is resorbed and new bone laid down in a timely manner. Conditions in which an imbalance in degradation and synthesis occur contribute to pain, lameness, and potentially puts the horse at risk of fracture,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER). “Two examples are bone bruising and navicular disease.”

    In addition to appropriate training regimens, diet plays an important role in healthy bone formation. Calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and other minerals and vitamins contribute to skeletal strength. In certain horses, nutritional supplements containing these ingredients could make the difference between sound and lame.

    “KER designed DuraPlex to support the maintenance of bone mineral density and bone area in performance and growing horses. This product provides the appropriate proteins, vitamins, and minerals necessary for strong bone development, and prevents demineralization of bone during stall rest or when limited turnout is available,” Crandell said.

    Bisphosphonate drugs, such as tiludronate, can be also be used in certain horses to maintain bone health, as they decrease bone resorption. “The only FDA-approved use of tiludronate in horses is the control of navicular syndrome, usually in conjunction with corrective shoeing,” Crandell explained.

    Veterinarians often use certain medications “off label,” meaning they have found therapeutic value in drugs for problems beyond the conditions they were intended to treat. With this in mind, veterinarians also use tiludronate for bone spavin and other bone-related conditions.

    According to a recent study, timing of tiludronate administration is important to avoid positive drug tests. The researchers indicated that the pharmacokinetics (how the drug is distributed and metabolized in the body) vary between healthy sedentary horses and athletic horses involved in competition. Additional work in this field to establish ideal drug detection limits and establish withdrawal guidelines are therefore warranted.

    “As described by the manufacturer, several important adverse effects can occur following tiludronate administration. Be certain to review these details carefully prior to using the medication, and consider alternatives, such as the nutritional supplement DuraPlex, especially for those horses involved in athletic pursuits,” advised Crandell.

    Another beneficial supplement for bone health is Triacton, scientifically proven to improve bone density and support digestive health in horses. With specific regard to its skeletal benefits, Triacton  contains a  highly digestible source of calcium and an array of other bone-building nutrients.

    In Australia, look for Bone Food Plus and Triacton.

    *Popot, M.A., M. Jacobs, P. Garcia, et al. Pharmacokinetics of tiludronate in horses: A field population study. Equine Veterinary Journal. In press.

    Category Headline Image: 
    bone health in horses
    Article Type: 
    Pull Quote: 
    In addition to appropriate training regimens, diet plays an important role in healthy bone formation.
    Overview: 
    In addition to appropriate training regimens, diet plays an important role in healthy bone formation. Calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and other minerals and vitamins contribute to skeletal strength. In certain horses, nutritional supplements containing these ingredients could make the difference between sound and lame.
  • Equine Cushing's Disease: Back to Basics

    equine cushing's disease

    Equine Cushing’s disease remains a diagnostic challenge for veterinarians and a management puzzle for many horse owners. Although commonly referred to as equine Cushing’s disease, the more correct term, pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID), better describes the condition.

    “The pituitary gland drives the production of hormones in the body to maintain homeostasis, or a state of balance in the body. PPID results from the abnormal, but benign, growth of a specific region of the pituitary gland called the pars intermedia,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER). “Growth of the pars intermedia occurs secondary to the degeneration of the hypothalamus, another region of the brain. The hypothalamus links the endocrine and nervous systems, playing key roles in controlling thirst, hunger, sleep, and mood.”

    As the pars intermedia grows, it produces excessive amounts of various hormones, most importantly adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH). While ACTH performs many important tasks, among the most renowned is its ability to affect cortisol levels. Cortisol, frequently referred to as the stress hormone, controls several body functions, including maintenance of blood sugar levels when a horse is fasting, generation of energy during exercise, activation of the “fight or flight” response, and important roles in detoxification, antioxidation, and infection-fighting pathways.

    Excessive levels of cortisol, however, wreak havoc on essentially every body system. Consistently elevated cortisol causes muscle-wasting, increases susceptibility to infection, and contributes to insulin resistance and laminitis, to name only a few.

    Recognizing PPID

    All horses are at risk for PPID. Current estimates suggest that between 20 and 33% of all horses develop PPID by the age of 20. This makes PPID the most common endocrine condition of horses.

    In days gone by, veterinarians and owners relied heavily on the classic signs of PPID to make a diagnosis. Those included excessive hair growth or lack of seasonal shedding, recurrent laminitis, muscle-wasting and pendulous abdomen, recurrent infections (e.g., sole abscess, skin infections), abnormal sweating patterns; excessive thirst and urination, and behavioral changes, primarily dullness or depression. Most of these clinical signs result from excess cortisol levels circulating in the body.

    With an improved understanding of PPID, owners and veterinarians now recognize early signs of PPID such as:

    • Lethargy, decreased athleticism, or poor performance;
    • Decreased muscling along the back;
    • Delayed shedding or excessive hair growth;
    • Regional deposition of abnormal fat pockets; and
    • Laminitis.

    “An earlier diagnosis allows horse owners to begin appropriate management strategies to control the progression of the disease,” Crandell advised.

    In cases of suspected PPID, the best test to perform is a TRH test. This test involves obtaining a blood sample, administering thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), and collecting a second blood sample exactly 10 minutes later. If ACTH levels in the blood samples increase excessively in response to TRH, the test is considered positive for PPID. Alternatively, advanced cases of PPID can still be diagnosed by identifying elevated ACTH levels in circulation.

    Management Recommendations

    A review of nutritional strategies for horses with PPID can be found in Nutritional Management of Metabolic Diseases. In addition to diet changes, horses can be treated with pergolide, the only FDA-approved medication for PPID.

    “Together with medication, dietary changes, and exercise, horses respond well to nutritional supplements designed to support the coat and hoof,” advised Crandell.

    Category Headline Image: 
    pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction in horses
    Article Type: 
    Overview: 
    Equine Cushing’s disease remains a diagnostic challenge for veterinarians and a management puzzle for many horse owners. Although commonly referred to as equine Cushing’s disease, the more correct term, pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction, better describes the condition.
  • Medications Impact Autologous Treatment Options in Horses

    equine regenerative therapies

    Veterinarians use regenerative therapies to manage certain musculoskeletal conditions in horses. These therapies, which include stem cells, autologous cultured serum (ACS), and platelet-rich plasma (PRP), employ the injured horse’s own cells to treat the condition. Collected samples can be stored for future use. What if your horse was either on medication or had an underlying condition at the time of sample collection? How does that affect future use of the sample?

    Consider the following scenario:

    Your horse has osteoarthritis (OA), a common yet painful and progressive degeneration of the lining of articular cartilage found at the end of long bones. Your veterinarian recommends a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as phenylbutazone (bute) or even an injectable product such as firocoxib. That same vet also recommends ACS. This involves collecting a sample of the horse’s blood and incubating it with specially designed beads to stimulate the production of anti-inflammatory molecules such as interleukin-1 receptor agonist proteins (IRAP). Those IRAP-rich samples can then be directly injected back into your horse’s affected joints, and some can also be saved for future use. Down the road, your horse is a little sore before competition and you know an NSAID cannot be administered, but ACS can. So your vet dives into her freezer to unearth the ACS. What if the sample contains a trace of the NSAID that your horse was on when the sample was collected? Will it result in a positive drug test?

    “Various governing bodies, such as the United States Equestrian Foundation (USEF), the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI), and the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), have strict rules and penalties regarding allowable levels and withdrawal times; therefore, this is a valid and important question,” emphasized Laura Petroski, B.V.M.S., veterinarian for Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

    While both NSAIDs and ACS remain important tools in the management of OA, along with nutritional supplements, using ACS “spiked” with an NSAID could result in serious repercussions. One research group* conducted a study and experimentally created the above-described scenario. They treated horses with firocoxib, prepared ACS following treatment with that NSAID, and later injected the ACS into the horses’ joints. Blood samples were subsequently collected and analyzed like any blood sample would be for equine competitions.

    “The researchers found the amount of firocoxib in the ACS sample did not appear to be large enough to result in detectable systemic concentrations of the medication,” shared Petroski.

    Nonetheless, the researchers noted, “Although we have determined that intra-articular administration of ACS derived from horses following two oral doses of firocoxib at a 24-h interval does not affect plasma concentrations of firocoxib, we cannot extrapolate this evidence to horses with maximal plasma concentrations of firocoxib that occur with longer term use (≥10 days) or to other medications. Further evaluation of different medications is required and should be pursued. The information gained from this study is vital for protecting the horse and the associated equestrian team from therapeutic drug administration resulting in an inadvertent positive test.”

    While considering various options for joint health and managing OA, don’t forget that experts also recommend supplements containing glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, omega-3 fatty acids.

    “Always choose quality joint supplements, such as KER•Flex, Synovate HA, and EO•3 to support joint health,” Petroski advised.

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

    *Ortved, K.F., M.B. Goodale, C. Ober, et al. 2017. Plasma firocoxib concentrations after intra-articular injection of autologous conditioned serum prepared from firocoxib positive horses. Veterinary Journal. 230:20-23.

    Category Headline Image: 
    autologous treatment in horses
    Article Type: 
    Overview: 
    Veterinarians use regenerative therapies to manage certain musculoskeletal conditions in horses where they collect samples that can be stored for future use. What if your horse was either on medication or had an underlying condition at the time of sample collection? How does that affect future use of the sample?
  • Eye Medications for Painful Horse: Which One?

    eye problems in horses

    Even when cared for meticulously, horses are susceptible to eye injuries. In fact, corneal ulcers constitute the most common ophthalmic emergencies for equine veterinarians. These are often treated with antibiotic and antifungal medication, a cycloplegic agent to dilate the pupil, and an antiprotease to limit additional breakdown of the cornea. In addition, a local anesthetic block can make affected horses more comfortable. Not all local anesthetics work equally well or long, so which local anesthetic should your vet choose?

    “The cornea, also referred to as the ‘window’ of the eye, is the thin, outermost layer of cells on the surface of the eye. Despite its of lack of bulk, the cornea is highly innervated, making injuries to the cornea painful,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

    To correctly treat corneal disease, appropriate diagnostic tests must be performed, and these may cause additional discomfort. Several pain medications are used to make horses more comfortable during treatment. Bupivacaine, mepivacaine, and lidocaine are local anesthetics that can be injected into specific areas of the eye to temporarily numb the nerves of the cornea.

    To determine which product most effectively blocks the nerves and lasts the longest, one research group* recruited eight healthy horses to test the three products. No trauma to the corneas was involved during this study. Instead, the researchers used a device that gently applies pressure to the surface of the eye until a blink response occurred. That test, referred to as corneal touch threshold or CTT, was used after blocking the eyes with one of the three local anesthetics or saline.

    Researchers found:

    • Bupivacaine and lidocaine resulted in a similarly decreased CTT, meaning the horses presumably felt less pressure on their corneas, of 105 minutes and 104 minutes, respectively;
    • Mepivacaine resulted in a markedly longer decreased CTT of 139 minutes;
    • Saline resulted in a decreased CTT of only 7.5 minutes; and
    • No evidence of corneal toxicity was noted with any treatment.

    All three products appeared to effectively and safely reduce corneal sensitivity and should be used during diagnostic and surgical procedures involving the cornea.

    “Studies also show that in addition to standard medical approaches to corneal issues, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation also helps minimize pain associated with the cornea,” relayed Crandell.

    *Jinks, M.R., R.L. Fontenot, R.W. Wills, et al. The effects of subconjunctival bupivacaine, lidocaine, and mepivacaine on corneal sensitivity in healthy horses. Veterinary Ophthalmology. In press.

    Category Headline Image: 
    equine eye medication
    Article Type: 
    Overview: 
    Not all local anesthetics work equally well or long, so which local anesthetic should your vet choose? To determine which product most effectively blocks the nerves and lasts the longest, one research group recruited eight healthy horses to test the three products.
  • Shivers in Horses: Newest Facts and Findings

    shivers in horses

    Cold weather may be affecting many horses and owners in the Northern Hemisphere, but ambient temperature has absolutely no impact on whether or not a horse has shivers, despite its bone-chilling name. While widely recognized in certain breeds of horses over the past several centuries, until recently little was known about the cause of this neuromuscular disease or, more importantly, what to do about it.

    “The equine community knows more about shivers than it did even 10 years ago, thanks in large part to research efforts, and can finally begin to make progress in terms of treatment,” shared Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist who has dealt with her fair share of shivers cases during her career with Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

    By definition, shivers is a chronic, slowly progressive neuromuscular condition characterized by quivering of the hind limbs and tail during backward movement. Most horses show no signs of shivers at the walk or trot. Affected horses often show hyperflexion or hyperextension of one or both hind limbs when asked to back, though. With hyperflexion, the horse raises one hind limb up and away from the body in a spastic, trembling motion for several seconds or longer. With hyperextension, the horse places the hind feet further back than normal when moving backwards. The stifle and hock joints become hyperextended, held rigid and spastic. Trembling of the muscles of the hindquarter may also occur, especially in advanced cases.

    Shivers appears to be caused by a defect in a region of the brain called the cerebellum that controls muscular activity. Based on the most up-to-date details, the cerebellum of horses with shivers lacks an “off switch,” causing certain muscles to be active at all times.

    Here’s what else you need to know about shivers:

    • Diagnosing shivers can be relatively easy based on distinct telltale signs described above. In the early stages of disease, however, the signs can be subtle and intermittent, making diagnosis difficult until the disease is well established. Collaborate with a veterinarian to achieve a definitive diagnosis.
    • Most horses do not begin showing signs of shivers before the age of five years, though some show signs as younger horses.
    • Geldings are more likely to be diagnosed with shivers than mares.
    • Tall horses, especially those over 16.2 hands, are also more susceptible than shorter horses; ponies and Miniature Horses are, if ever, rarely affected.
    • Researchers suspect a genetic component, considering shivers most commonly occurs in draft horses, Warmbloods, and occasionally light breeds, such as Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds.
    • Shivers can be similar to other musculoskeletal and neuromuscular disorders, especially during the early stages of the disease. A veterinary examination should rule out stringhalt, upward fixation of the patella, equine motor neuron disease, and even equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM). Do not confuse shivers with polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM), and appreciate that certain horses can actually suffer from both conditions concurrently.
    • There is no cure or definitive treatment for shivers. While some horses can continue to compete or perform athletically, others require retirement or even humane euthanasia.

    Vitamin E plays an important role in neuromuscular conditions. Experts recommend having shivers horses have adequate levels of vitamin E. If not, supplementing with products such as Nano•E is recommended,” suggested Crandell. “A single 5,000 IU dose of natural-source, water-soluble vitamin E, like Nano•E, doubles serum vitamin E levels within 12 hours of supplementation.”

    Do you have additional questions on shivers and vitamin E? Ask a KER nutrition advisor today.

    Category Headline Image: 
    equine neuromuscular diseases
    Article Type: 
    Overview: 
    While widely recognized in certain breeds of horses over the past several centuries, until recently little was known about the cause of this neuromuscular disease or, more importantly, what to do about it.
  • Benefits of Late-Season Hay for Horses

    Hay bales stacked in barn

    If horse owners do not produce their own hay, they are often at the mercy of local hay farmers or merchants. The hay man typically has a variety of hays available, including hays baled late in the season, which may not have ideal color or leaf-to-stem ratio.  Although these hays might not be as physically attractive and green as the hay harvested earlier in the summer, there are many benefits to late-cut hays.

    Did you know these facts about late-cut hays?

    • Late-cut hays have less water-soluble carbohydrates (i.e., glucose, sucrose, fructose, and fructans) and are therefore often better for obese, insulin sensitive/resistant horses, and those diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.
    • They have more structural carbohydrates that are fermented in the large intestine to provide energy in the form of volatile fatty acids (e.g., lactate, acetate).
    • Late-cut hays can provide enough energy for most horses at maintenance to thrive, though a well-balanced vitamin and mineral supplement, such as Micro-Max (Gold Pellet in Australia), will round out the diet.
    • They typically contain fewer weeds than early-cut hay.

    Regardless of what hay type is ultimately selected, follow the basic rules for selecting good-quality hay. For example, never feed moldy or dusty hay to horses, particularly those with respiratory issues and do not feed hay with blister beetles or a preponderance of other bugs. Be aware that not all hays and horses marry well—high-energy hay, such as most alfalfa, might be great for young, growing horses but not elderly, barren mares.

    Additionally, all hays and even cuts of hay from the same field vary depending on the weather conditions in which they were grown and harvested. This means that every type and cut can vary markedly in nutritional content. This is where hay analysis can come in handy to provide a consistent and healthy hay-based diet to your horses year-round.

    Hay analysis may also benefit obese and insulin sensitive/resistant horses. If the hay is high in water-soluble carbohydrates, hay soaking can remove those excess carbohydrates.

    In short, choose your hay wisely, preferably with the assistance of an equine nutritionist or veterinarian. Do you have a question about what hay might be the best for your horse? Contact a Kentucky Equine Research nutruition consultant today!

    Category Headline Image: 
    Horse in autumn
    Article Type: 
    Overview: 
    The hay man has a variety of hays available, including the yellow or brown, less leafy fall hays. Although they might not be as physically attractive and green as the hay harvested earlier in the summer, there are many benefits to late-cut hays.
  • Safe Drinking Water for Horses

    drinking from a pond

    Would you drink from your horse’s water source? If not, your horse may not want to either.

    Natural water sources, such as ponds and lakes, can provide horses with suitable water. They can also, however, collect harmful chemicals from runoff. Agricultural chemicals and other environmental contaminants can cause blue-green algae to bloom in the water. These organisms produce cyanotoxins, which are extremely dangerous for horses. Not all algae produce harmful chemicals, but blooms are indicators of unhealthy or stagnant water.

    If the pond or stream in your horse’s pasture is free from chemicals and closely monitored for contamination, the water is more than likely potable. Nonetheless, purity is not guaranteed.

    To avoid potential problems with natural water sources, it is best to provide additional water in a bucket or trough. Horses are selective consumers; most will instinctively drink from the safest water source.

    Man-made water sources are not free of issues; they require consistent maintenance. If the water in a trough appears green or murky, it needs to be dumped and replaced. When changing the water, it may be necessary to remove algae by more vigorous means than rinsing alone. Stiff brushes and apple cider vinegar are two safe tools for removing algae and discouraging regrowth.

    Because horses are choosy drinkers, it is wise to give them choices. Not all natural water sources are problematic, and not all artificially provided water is safe. Keeping a careful watch over the water your horses are drinking will allow you to detect contamination issues before they cause illness, dehydration, or colic.

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    drinking from water trough
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    To avoid potential problems with natural water sources, it is best to provide additional water in a bucket or trough.
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    Natural water sources, such as ponds and lakes, can provide horses with suitable water. They can also, however, collect harmful chemicals from runoff.
  • Month-By-Month Tips for Maximizing Horse Health

    horse health

    For many of us, ripping the plastic from a new calendar arouses feelings of fresh hope and opportunity. Maybe you didn’t make traditional New Year’s resolutions, but shaking things up, trying new routines, and giving old habits the heave-ho might invigorate the daily grind. Consider some of these suggestions, combined with classic reminders, to help you on this year’s journey for optimal horse health and happiness.

    January: Take the plunge and evaluate all components of your horse’s diet to ensure no nutrient excesses or deficiencies exist. This also provides the perfect opportunity to critically assess the horse’s current weight and to assign an appropriate body condition score (BCS). Regardless of whether your horse is an elite athlete, weekend warrior, broodmare, or pasture pet, being underweight or overweight poses multiple health problems.

    “To fully appreciate and evaluate a horse’s nutritional needs, consult with an equine nutritionist,” recommended Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., of Kentucky Equine Research (KER). “Remember that vitamin E levels in dry forages at this time of the year are low. Many horses, especially breeding animals, may benefit from supplementation with Nano•E.”

    February: Oh, baby, it’s cold outside! Make sure horses have access to shelter. Wet horses seek shelter even in mild temperatures more often than dry horses, and clipping and blanketing, beneficial in some cases, can potentially interfere in their natural ability to adapt to winter conditions.

    When stabled during inclement weather, don’t forget to consider your horse’s respiratory health, protecting the “breathing zone” from dust, molds, and other small respiratory particles. If extended stabling can’t be avoided, consider the anti-inflammatory supplement EO•3, a palatable oil top-dressed on feed to provide a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Studies show the omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA support respiratory health.

    March: Ah, the big countdown to spring! Don’t forget that horses ingesting red clover contaminated with the fungus Rhizoctonia leguminicola causes hypersalivation in horses (this usually occurs in the summer and early fall). As long as horses have access to fresh water, the condition doesn’t tend to be a problem. But this is spring, so what’s the concern? Baled forage with affected red clover can cause slobbers. Don’t forget that many other weeds and decorative plants can be problematic, and even toxic, if ingested.

    “Consult with a local extension specialist to help identify problematic plants in your region,” Crandell advised.

    April and May: April showers bring May flowers and pastures chock-full of nonstructural carbohydrates. As excited as your horse may be to gorge on this lush offering, avoid the spring fling, especially when managing easy keepers and those with chronic laminitis, insulin resistance, or metabolic syndrome. Use pasture rotation, grazing muzzles, or even drylots to avoid feeding frenzies, founder, and even colic. “EquiShure helps stabilize the pH in the hindgut when horses ingest high levels of fructans and nonstructural carbohydrates, protecting them from hindgut acidosis,” said Crandell.

    June: Adequately acclimating horses to compete at specific athletic levels requires consideration of multiple body systems, especially the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal apparatuses. Allow enough time to prepare your horse for the show season, taking breaks when necessary, and try new trainings strategies if your horse becomes bored with routine. Help exercising muscles repair using supplements such as the antioxidant blend in Preserve PS. Australian horse owners should look for Preserve.

    July and August: In certain geographical areas, keeping cool in the summer is as important as keeping warm in the winter, especially in athletic horses, to avoid heat stroke. Salt, either loose salt or a block, and other electrolyte supplements such as Restore SR (Restore in Australia) to replenish electrolytes lost in sweat.

    Don’t forget that athletic horses tend to be prone to gastric ulceration. “Support gastrointestinal health with RiteTrac to quickly neutralize excessive gastric acid, protect the stomach lining, and restore the normal gastric environment,” suggested Crandell. In Australia, look for products that help with gastric comfort.

    September: The wear and tear of competition can catch up on even the fittest, most successful athlete. If your horse feels the strain of training and competition, consider one or more joint supplements, including glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate (available in KER•Flex), hyaluronic acid (Synovate HA), and omega-3 fatty acids (EO•3). In Australia, look for these products.

    “As always, consider every component of your horse’s ration, including all nutritional supplements, when making any diet adjustments. Not all supplements and feeds work well together,” Crandell warned.

    October: Breathe after a busy year and reassess your successes. Take a moment and identify where changes and improvements need to be made. Consider your horse’s body condition that you tracked all year to ensure it remained steadily in the 5-6 range on the nine-point Henneke scale. Did time get away from you, resulting in lapses in routine preventive care, including vaccines, farriery, and dentistry? If so, now is the perfect time to play catch-up.

    November and December: Time to get those broodmares ready! Ensuring optimal health, including body condition score and hoof health, and appropriate use of lights (in the Northern Hemisphere) to advance the breeding season all need to be considered this time of the year. Don’t forget about the array of benefits broodmares achieve from omega-3 fatty acid supplements such as EO•3. Fish oil also supports the foal health. Finally, don’t forget about Nano•E when considering the overall and reproductive health of breeding stock.

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    equine wellness
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    Overview: 
    Consider some of these suggestions, combined with classic reminders, to help you on this year’s journey for optimal horse health and happiness.