Preparing your broodmare for breeding and pregnancy requires careful planning to ensure she is in optimal condition to carry and deliver a healthy foal. A Breeding Soundness Exam (BSE) provides a health assessment of mares being considered for breeding. Some mares may require advanced reproductive testing to ensure they can conceive and carry a healthy foal to term. Before breeding, your broodmare should have a healthy body condition score (BCS) of between 5 and 6 on the 9-point Henneke scale. Ensure your horse is up to date on deworming and vaccinations, and have your veterinarian perform a comprehensive exam to identify metabolic conditions. Work with a nutritionist to formulate a feeding plan to support your broodmare and the developing foal. After the fifth month of gestation, nutrient requirements for energy and protein increase, and by the seventh month, mineral needs also increase.
A variety of supplemental oils including camelina, flax, soy, corn, fish, and canola are commonly used in equine diets. Although every oil provides the same amount of energy, each one has a different fatty acid profile which can influence the horse's health. Dense in calories, canola oil is a source of fat that can be used to replace grain in the horse’s diet. It provides cool energy for performance horses and supports weight gain in hard keepers. Canola oil is primarily comprised of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids and contains more than twice the amount of omega-6 fatty acids compared to omega-3 fatty acids.
Rice bran oil (RBO) is an increasingly popular fat supplement fed to horses for weight management, cool energy, and coat quality. The oil is derived from the germ and bran of brown rice grains and contains essential fatty acids and antioxidants. Rice bran oil is palatable and provides a dense source of calories for horses. RBO is primarily composed of monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids. It contains 42.6% oleic acid (an omega-9 monounsaturated fatty acid) and 28% linoleic acid (an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid).
Coconut oil is a popular fat supplement for horses used to promote weight gain, skin health and a shiny coat. It is also used as a cool energy source for exercising horses to add calories to the diet without relying on sugars and starches. Coconut oil is derived from the kernel of mature coconuts that are harvested from the coconut palm tree. The two main types of oil obtained from coconuts are copra oil and virgin coconut oil. High-fat equine feeds are typically made with vegetable fats derived from canola, rice bran, soybean, and flax, but a growing number of products are now using coconut oil as an ingredient.
Also known as linseed, flaxseed is produced from the flax plant and can be used to provide fat, protein, and fibre in the equine diet. Flax products are cost-effective, calorie-dense and commonly fed to horses for weight gain or to support the energy requirements of high-performance exercise. Flax seeds and flax oil are also sources of the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). This essential fatty acid can be used to balance omega-6 intake and helps maintain skin and coat quality. While consuming omega-3s is generally associated with health benefits, not all omega-3 fatty acids have the same effects on the horse's body. Flax oil does not contain DHA or EPA, the two fatty acids associated with healthy inflammatory regulation and improved joint health.
An increasingly popular equine forage, teff grass is grown in warm geographic regions and is commonly cultivated in the Southern USA. Native to Africa, teff is a warm-season grass that is high in fibre and low in sugars and starch. The digestible energy content of teff hay varies from high to low, depending on growing conditions and crop management strategies. Because teff does not store fructans, a form of non-structural carbohydrate (NSC), it typically contains less energy than cool-season grasses. Due to the variable NSC content, obtaining a forage analysis is recommended before feeding teff hay to horses. Low-NSC teff provides a safe forage option for metabolic horses.
Proper vitamin and mineral nutrition is critical to maintaining your horse's health and well-being. But how do you ensure that your horse gets everything they need to balance their diet? Horses on a forage-only diet universally have deficiencies in key minerals, including sodium, copper, and zinc. Even if you provide your horse with a salt or mineral lick, the chances are that their diets will under-supply nutrients required for optimal health. This is why a vitamin and mineral balancer is necessary for almost all horses. Feeding a concentrated mineral supplement can benefit your horse through improved coat condition, stronger hooves, improved stamina, mood regulation, and better performance.
Whether you are a horse owner, handler or the manager of an equine facility, biosecurity plays an important role in keeping horses under your care safe and healthy. Horses can be affected by many different transmissible diseases, including equine infectious anemia, strangles, and equine influenza. Any time a horse comes into contact with new animals, people or environments, they may be exposed to novel pathogens. Biosecurity measures involve actions and protocols to protect livestock health by reducing disease transmission. Examples of biosecurity guidelines include controlling access at equine facilities, designating quarantine areas for newly arriving or ill horses, practicing good hygiene, and using pest control.
Hay dunking describes an abnormal equine feeding behaviour in which horses dunk their hay in water before chewing and swallowing it. This can be a messy habit and many horse owners want to know why it happens and how to stop it. While there is little research into why horses dunk their hay, several theories attempt to explain the behaviour. Anecdotal reports suggest some horses dunk their hay before eating it simply because they prefer it when it is dampened or because it helps them chew. It is also thought that underlying health issues can promote the behaviour, including gastrointestinal discomfort, allergies to dust, and dental issues.
Has your horse started eating or licking the soil? The ingestion of soil in animals is referred to as geophagia. The reason some horses eat dirt is not fully understood. But the behavior is thought to serve a nutritional purpose by providing minerals and other nutrients that might be lacking in the diet. Geophagia may also be linked to boredom or stress. Horses may nibble on the soil to pass the time, relieve anxiety, or alleviate stomach pain. Geophagia can be harmful because the soil may contain parasites and other pathogens that cause illness. Excessive ingestion of dirt can also damage the intestines and lead to impaction colic.
Ranitidine (Zantac) is a medication used to reduce stomach acidity temporarily. It is commonly used in humans and animals to treat peptic ulcers and heartburn. In horses, this drug is used to alleviate gastric ulcers. Ranitidine is an H2 blocker that works by reducing the amount of acid produced in the stomach, helping to heal ulcers. Ranitidine is not as effective as other ulcer treatments such as omeprazole, but your veterinarian may recommend it as part of a multi-drug regimen to prevent and treat ulcers.
Have you noticed changes in your horse's appetite and eating behavior? Perhaps your horse has gone off their feed or is no longer interested in eating as much forage as usual. Or maybe your horse's appetite has increased, and they are going through their hay faster. Your horse's appetite can change frequently and for a variety of reasons. While short-term fluctuations are nothing to be alarmed about, longer-lasting changes can impact body condition and overall health. Equine feeding behavior is complex and affected by many different factors. Your horse's appetite is affected by temperature changes in the environment, activity level, gut function, reproductive status, feed composition, dental health, psychological well-being and more.
Nutritional myodegeneration (NMD), more commonly known as white muscle disease, is a disorder that affects various animals, including horses. In equids, the condition primarily occurs in newborn foals, although adult horses can also develop it. The condition results in degeneration in the skeletal and cardiac muscle most often due to inadequate levels of selenium in the body. It also occurs less commonly in horses that are deficient in vitamin E. Selenium and vitamin E are important antioxidant nutrients for horses. Antioxidants are molecules that neutralize free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can damage cells. Common signs of white muscle disease include weakness, poor coordination, and difficulty standing, eating, and nursing. Due to a loss of muscle function, respiration can be impaired, and respiratory failure may occur in foals.
Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) is an infectious disease that affects horses and other equids, such as donkeys and mules. The disease is caused by an RNA virus transmitted by blood-sucking insects. Many affected horses show no clinical signs and are asymptomatic carriers of the disease. However, stress or illness can cause signs to become apparent. Horses that test positive for the virus must be isolated from other horses to prevent the spread of the disease. Horses infected with the EIA virus carry it for life and remain contagious.
Is your horse showing signs of girthiness? Also known as girth aversion or cinch sensitivity, horses that are girthy express signs of discomfort when they are being saddled. A girthy horse may respond to having a girth tightened by expressing various behaviors ranging from tossing their head, biting, swishing the tail, stomping their hooves, and moving away from their handler. Such behaviours can be problematic for horse owners, handlers, and grooms to manage. These behaviors could also be a sign of an underlying health problem, such as gastric ulcers.
Developmental orthopedic diseases (DODs) refer to a range of non-infectious conditions that affect the musculoskeletal system of growing horses. These conditions arise from an interruption in the normal development of cartilage, bone, or soft tissue (joint capsule, tendon, or ligament). Genetics, growth rate, nutrition, and exercise conditions can influence the onset of DODs in growing foals. While some developmental issues are apparent at birth, others occur later as the horse grows. Conditions such as osteochondrosis and physitis can affect any breed of horses and are a common cause of pain and lameness.
Unexplained weight loss in your horse is a cause for concern for any horse owner but is often straightforward to diagnose and address. If your horse is losing body condition, it could indicate an undiagnosed health problem or it may be time to consider changes to your horse's feeding and management. Older horses and horses affected by chronic disease are more prone to weight loss than healthy horses. Weight loss may also indicate a gut health issue, dental problem or concern with your horse's social grouping. Horses also lose weight when exposed to extreme weather or when fed a diet that does not provide sufficient dietary energy to match their needs.
Foal heat diarrhea is a condition involving transient diarrhea in young foals, lasting for a few days up to two weeks. Foals with heat diarrhea do not have any systemic illness. While it is not known exactly what causes foal heat diarrhea, researchers believe this condition may occur because the flora of the foal's gastrointestinal tract is developing.
Equine Coronavirus (ECoV) is a highly contagious illness transmitted between horses that can cause fever, anorexia, diarrhea, and colic. Most horses recover from equine coronavirus with supportive care. In serious cases, affected horses may require specific treatments such as electrolytes, fluid administration, and anti-inflammatory and antibiotic medications. Death from the illness is uncommon and believed to be secondary to complications associated with gastrointestinal barrier disruption. There is no vaccine for equine coronavirus. Proper biosecurity practices at your barn can significantly reduce the risk of horses contracting the illness. Strategies to prevent the transmission of coronavirus in horses include quarantining sick horses, practicing good hygiene in equine facilities, and monitoring horses for signs of illness.
Thumps in horses is a condition that produces irregular contractions of the diaphragm, resulting in a thumping noise similar to a human hiccup. Scientifically referred to as Synchronous Diaphragmatic Flutter (SDF), thumps causes the diaphragm to spasm in the same rhythm as the heartbeat.