Follow these top tips for Horse Biosecurity Management at shows to keep your horse healthy and safe
How up to speed are you with Horse Biosecurity management at competition venues? The Show season is cranking up and many of you will be heading out with your equine athletes. You may even be staying over for one or more nights. But how are you going to keep your horse free from potential disease when you get there?
It’s something we so often take for granted. Therefore, being aware of how easily viruses are transmitted and taking a few precautions before, during and after travel, can make all the difference.
I remember taking two of my horses to a National Breed Show where they were stabled for two nights. Within a week of returning home, both my horses came down with a severe respiratory cough and snot nose virus. They were off work for weeks but had been perfectly healthy prior to this. After that, I always made it a priority to disinfect the show stables they were in. And this was before I even got them off the truck.
Before you leave
Ensure your horse’s vaccinations are up to date. If not, get them done in plenty of time before the season begins – strangles and tetanus are the standard. However, if your horse is a seasoned campaigner that spends a lot of time away/interstate, consider influenza and rhinopneumonitis.
Keep sick horses at home. Watch for signs of fever, nasal discharge and diarrhea before you leave.
Horse Biosecurity Management At the Show
Wash your hands frequently! Just as you would during cold and flu season. Consider carrying handy disinfectant gel or wipes to use not only for your hands but also on surfaces you often touch.
Limit exposure. Don’t allow horses to have nose-to-nose contact. Limit the general public’s contact with your horses and your contact with other horses. If possible, request stables with solid walls high enough so horses can’t touch noses over the top. Preferably without any gaps or cracks in the walls. If open-sided stables are unavoidable, consider requesting a stable on an end or outside wall. Consider covering open walls with carefully-secured tarps.
Keep Your Distance! Horse shows are known to be great social occasions. Unfortunately, even the most innocent and friendly interactions can present a danger to your horse’s health. Avoid strangers and keep your horse a safe distance away from others. Avoid grazing in common areas.
Horse Biosecurity Management In and Around the Stables
Clean and disinfect stables at show facilities. You’ll be keen to unload horses and equipment as soon as possible after a long journey. But how do you know the health status of the horse that last used the stable you’ve been assigned? Disease’s unseen pathogens aren’t only waiting to find a new host in your horse. They’re also happy to hitch a ride home and infect stablemates. Worryingly, disease pathogens in saliva and respiratory secretions can remain on dirt floors, walls and doors for extended time periods. Spray-on commercial disinfectants are readily available and the best choice. Diluted bleach is an inexpensive disinfectant but works best on a surface that’s been thoroughly cleaned.
Mind those sharp edges! Thoroughly inspect the stable area for loose nails, debris and any other dangers to your horse’s physical safety.
No Sharing! Don’t share feed and water buckets, hay bags, grooming tools, tacks, or mucking out equipment. Disinfect these items frequently and after arriving home from an event. Use only your own feed and water buckets. Label them with each horse’s name and don’t use them for any other horse to avoid cross-contamination.
Use special caution with water sources. Don’t fill buckets or allow a horse to drink from a communal water tank. Always use your own hose. If a shared hose can’t be avoided, don’t submerge the end or nozzle in your horse’s bucket. Alarmingly, one of the easiest conduits for strangles to move from stable to stable is through a shared water hose.
Horse Biosecurity Management When you get home
Keep up your Biosecurity management at home. Upon returning home wash your hands, shower, and change clothing and shoes before working with horses kept at home. Any horse in a public environment can pick up a pathogen and incubate an illness for several days. This can happen whilst not showing any outward symptoms. Ideally, every horse who goes to a show should be segregated from others for at least a week… After a competition, monitor horses for any developing signs of illness. This can be a cough, nasal discharge, lethargy, decreased appetite or elevated temperature. Finally, be sure to wash all the clothes and equipment before coming into contact with other horses.
Look after your horse’s immune system. Ensuring your horse has a healthy and strong immune system can go towards protecting him and can certainly help with his recovery if he does succumb to an infection. Fibregenix feed balancers focus on optimising your horse’s gut health, where 70% of the horse’s immune system is. Additionally, a Fibregenix balancer is chock full of antioxidants which are also key to a healthy immune system.
In summary, the healthier the horse, the stronger will be his resistance to infection. Horse Biosecurity management at shows is a valid and worthwhile practice to follow. There’s nothing more soul-destroying than having your competition horse out for the season because a few simple protocols weren’t undertaken.
Similar to the human knee, a horse’s stifle joints are like hinges—some of the largest in a horse’s skeletal system. Locking stifle problems can occur when a stifle joint becomes ‘locked’ due to overstraining or genetic joint problems. When the patella (kneecap) is unable to ‘unlock’, it means the patella is fixed in an upwards position. Be warned, a horse can panic when this happens, so it’s vital you stay calm and confident.
Locking Stifle is most common in ponies, foals and horses that are unfit, although the precise cause is still unknown. However, what we do know is that there are several contributing factors. These include :
- poor conformation
- lack of muscle strength in the hindquarters,
- hereditary conditions
Signs of a Locking Stifle
Locking stifle can vary in its severity. If your horse has a mild case, he may simply trip or stumble every now and again. More severe cases can result in him being unable to flex a hindleg and having to drag the offending limb. Don’t mistake a locked stifle for stringhalt. This neurological disease causes exaggerated and uncontrollable movement, sometimes making your horse jerk its hind leg up high while stepping.
Your vet can help you determine if any of the following signs indicate your horse has a locking stifle:
- dragging hind feet (maybe showing wear on the toe)
- reluctance to pick up feet
- resistance to moving on a circle
- kicking out for no apparent reason
- resistance to cantering or cross canters
- swinging hind-leg to the outside while moving
- frequent stumbling or even falling
Prevention & Treatment Options for Locking Stifle
There are several treatment options. Whilst surgery is currently the only cure, there are options to help reduce the risk of an episode.
- Generally helping to improve muscle tone, particularly in the quadriceps, will help to support the surrounding joints.
- Trail Riding – increasing the distance and speed very slowly and over several weeks, will help a horse achieve its fitness level in a safe way.
- Exercise over cavalletti’s (raised trotting poles) is a great way to help improve muscle strength and suppleness.
- Lungeing your horse or hill work eg riding it on a slight incline so that it drives with its hindquarters also makes for safe training when done in small, slightly increased intervals.
- Feeding a high-quality joint supplement should also help. This will aid good joint health, as well as promoting the health of the soft tissues surrounding the joints.
Remember: Always discuss your strategy thoroughly with your vet before beginning any training regime.
A Liquid Solution providing Additional Help for Locking Stifle…
Fibregenix Joint & Bone RLF contains key ingredients to help nourish and protect joints. These include Glucosamine, Hyaluronic Acid, organic MSM and Rosa canina (rosehip). An additional benefit is the cutting-edge bone supplement of Calcium chelate and Vitamin D3.
The specific Ingredients in Joint & Bone RLF that assist with managing locking stifle:
- Organic MSM helps to provide the building blocks for protein, which are vital for tendon and ligament strength.
- Rosehip can aid the reduction of swelling within a joint. This may occur as a result of a locking stifle due to the joint being put under excess pressure.
Locking stifle is a problem that with the right approach can be managed and mitigated. It’s important you start slowly, avoid overworking your horse, and thoroughly discuss your strategy with a vet before beginning any new training regime.
Always consult with your vet if you have any concerns about the way your horse is moving.
Cushings Disease in horses
Cushings disease in horses (pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction) is a common disease associated with the ageing horse, but it’s been reported in horses as young as 7. In a healthy horse, hormones exist in balance and play an important role in maintaining and controlling bodily functions. The hypothalamus and pituitary gland which sit at the base of the brain, are the command centre to produce hormones such as ACTH and Cortisol. In Cushing’s disease, the nerves in the hypothalamus progressively degenerate and produce insufficient quantities of a nerve transmitter called dopamine. Dopamine controls the secretion of ACTH and cortisol by the pars intermedia which is in the pituitary gland. Cushing’s disease in a horse or pony has an imbalance of these hormones. which results in the symptoms of PPID.
- The best known, and probably the easiest to spot, is a long or curly coat that fails to shed fully
- A pot-bellied appearance usually as a result of muscle loss over the topline
- Abnormal fat distribution (above eyes, crest and above tail head)
- Excessive sweating
- Increased water intake so often thirsty and, as a result, urinates more frequently
- Prone to laminitis or becomes at risk before the above symptoms present themselves
If your horse or pony has one or more of these symptoms, contact your vet for a diagnosis. They’ll conduct one or more tests to detect ACTH and/or cortisol levels in the blood. PPID can be controlled with medication. Most vets prescribe Pergolide, which stimulates dopamine receptors in the brain and replaces the activity of the damaged nerve supply to the pituitary gland. This results in a reduction of hormone production to normal levels. The dose range is wide and the improvement in clinical signs and ACTH levels is often used to determine the best dose rate for each horse. As the disease is degenerative, it’ll become progressively become worse over time, but many horses or ponies on medication can lead very normal lives.
DIET MANAGEMENT FOR CUSHINGS DISEASE IN HORSES
- Horses with Cushing’s disease can become either overweight or underweight. In the case of overweight Cushing’s horses resulting from insulin resistance, there’ll be regional fat deposits along the shoulders and tailhead, a cresty neck, etc.
- Reducing the circulating insulin levels is key to managing the diet and the condition.
- Research has shown that the macro-mineral magnesium can help reduce fat deposits, especially on the crest and base of the tail.
- The overriding factor when managing diets for Cushings disease in horses is the increased risk of laminitis due to the hormone imbalances. More so if the horse or pony has previously had laminitis.
- For those being managed with Pergolide, consider whether you want to promote weight gain/maintain condition, or encourage weight loss/avoid weight gain.
- Pergolide can affect appetite, especially at higher doses. Horses can go off their food or eat something for a while before going off it. TIP: Rather than constantly changing the overall diet, try adding extras to tempt them eg cinnamon, fenugreek, mint, or even grated apples or carrots. (Go easy on the apples and carrots due to sugar content) It might also be wise to give medication separately from the main feed.
PROMOTING WEIGHT GAIN/MAINTAINING CONDITION
- To help control sugar intake, forage (hay/haylage) should have an NSC content of below 10%. NSC is the total of starch plus water-soluble carbohydrate). You need to get a hay analysis to have this confirmed. TIP: As a rule, later cut, coarser hay is generally lower in WSC. (water soluble carbohydrate)
- Soaking hay for an hour or two before feeding helps to reduce the WSC content. Any longer and you run the risk of nutrients being lost and reducing palatability. Be careful soaking in warm weather to avoid fermentation or bacterial growth.
- Providing the above precautions are taken, forage can be fed ad-lib to provide fibre, calories and support gut health.
- Later cut forages tend to be less nutritious; soaked beet pulp can be fed as an additional source of highly digestible fibre and provides some quality protein and other nutrients.
- You need to carefully manage turnout, especially in springtime to control fructan (sugar) intake. Turning out very late at night when grass fructan levels are lowest, and bringing in by mid-morning, is safest. In winter, avoid turning out onto pastures during cold, bright conditions, eg frosty mornings, when the fructan levels increase.
- Whilst calories promote/maintain condition, avoid standard hard feeds. Although they provide calories, they’re usually based on cereals supplying starch, the intake of which MUST be kept to a minimum.
- Fibregenix Platinum Pro balancer will provide quality protein, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients without the high starch or calories.. You can then add “Safe” calories alongside it such as beet pulp or oil.
PROMOTING WEIGHT LOSS
Avoid feeds that are high in sugar and starch. If your Cushing’s horse is overweight, avoid restricting his diet entirely. Remove concentrates, but never restrict hay as hunger will stress him and cause other potential issues such as colic or ulcers.
- Forage intake should be restricted to the equivalent of 1.5% of the horse’s body weight per day.
- Should contain less than 10% NSC and less than 10% WSC. Soaking can help reduce this.
- Weigh all forage before soaking. Use small-holed nets to make a small amount last longer and keep the horse chewing.
- In addition to the above guidelines regarding turnout, access to grass may need restricting by use of strip grazing, muzzling etc.
- Soaked beet pulp may be fed as a low-calorie alternative or additional fibre sources if overall fibre/calorie intake is controlled.
- Provide a balanced diet with Fibregenix Lami Low-Cal diet feed balancer supplement. This low-calorie balancer supplement has a total starch/sugar (NSC) feed value of just 8.8% and will supply those nutrients likely to be lacking in forage, but without unwanted calories. Lami Low-Cal also contains specific digestive aids to aid fibre digestibility, overall gut health and improving the insulin response.
- You can feed white chaff with the balancer supplement to encourage chewing, as can small amounts of soaked beet pulp.
As every horse or pony is an individual, if you have any queries about feeding your PPID equine you can contact us: anita 0408 920707, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Buying off track thoroughbreds
Here’s a quick guide to the process of buying off track thoroughbreds.
Be realistic about your ability and experience
- Do you have enough time, money, patience and experience to deal with the demands of a former racehorse? For instance, did you know most racehorses come off the track needing costly treatment for ulcers?
- An ex-racehorse isn’t a novice ride and shouldn’t be seen as a cheap way for children to move onto horses.
- Thoroughbreds are a sensitive breed For example, a cut that probably wouldn’t bother your stock horse may blow up on a thoroughbred, making them more expensive to own.
Understanding the former lifestyle of off track thoroughbreds
- They may not be used to conventional riding techniques. A racehorse will be unfamiliar with long stirrups and a heavier saddle and is unlikely to understand seat and leg aids until they are retrained.
- Jockeys are often given a leg up while the horse is walking. So an off track thoroughbred is unlikely to stand still for you while you mount from a block.
- Ex racehorses aren’t used to being exercised alone. They’ll associate riding out in company with their former life on the gallops.
- All-day turnout will be a new experience that should be introduced gradually.
- It’ll be used to being in a busy yard and might be overwhelmed by your individual attention.
Patience is the key
Most importantly, you must be willing to give your off track thoroughbred plenty of time to adjust to its new lifestyle. Not every horse will readily adapt to new disciplines and most will always retain a racehorse mentality to some extent.
Where to look for an off the track thoroughbred
- Directly from its owner or trainer. You can buy one at the sales, or from a retrainer either by buying it or loaning it.
- Look up the horse’s record. Do your research and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Look for gaps in the record that might indicate time off with an injury and how many times it raced. However, don’t count out a horse with a lengthy racing career. If it managed to stay sound for a long time, the chances are that it will continue to do so.
- Request to see it ridden and ride it yourself. Is it the type of horse you want? Will its conformation stand up to what you would like it to do? How does it behave in the stable and when being tacked up? Ask to ride it. It may not know much about flatwork, but is it willing to do what you ask. Does it move reasonably well?
- Find out about the horse’s temperament and personality. Ask about injuries and why it has retired from racing.
- Should you decide to buy it, make sure you get it vetted as you would with any horse.
- Don’t expect the horse to be given away, if it is, then you have to ask yourself why. If it’s likely to have a chance at succeeding in any kind of career, it’s worth a price, like any horse.
Overweight Horses – Common Feeding Mistakes
When it comes to feeding overweight horses, there are many common feeding mistakes that could be a contributing factor. You think you’ve got your horse’s diet sussed. The problem is he’s still carrying too much weight for his own good. Where are you going wrong? Check our definitive guide of common errors to see where you might be slipping up.
1. You’re feeding too much for his workload
Calorie-counting in overweight horses is the same as it is with humans. If they take in more calories than they burn off, they’ll put on weight. A 500-kilo horse in hard work will burn nearly twice as many calories as his mate who weighs the same but in light work. ie 34,500 calories as opposed to 20,000. So make sure your horse is receiving the right amount of feed for his weight and workload.
2. You’re feeding incorrectly for his breed
Native breeds have evolved to be good-doers, making the most of poor quality grazing. They generally require feeds of a lower-calorie level as they maintain their weight easily. However, they still need lots of fibre to maintain digestive and behavioral health rather than being starved to keep weight down. While native types don’t tend to require concentrate feeds to provide calories, they do need is a balanced diet. A quality feed balancer eg Fibregenix, with a small amount of fibre, is all they need plus grazing and hay.
3. You’re feeding incorrectly for his age
Feeding young horses correctly is important to ensure they grow at an appropriate rate. It’s also highly important to ensure that the diet is completely balanced at all times. The majority of growth and development problems occur when there’s too much energy/calories going into the diet. Especially in combination with insufficient levels of vitamins, minerals and quality protein. Ideally, you’d want to keep youngsters in relatively light condition (4-4.5 out of 9 on the body scoring scale). This reduces the amount of pressure and strain on growing joints and limbs.
Veterans, however, may need more calories to maintain condition as their ability to chew may be impaired by dental issues. The digestive system of the older horse also tends to be less efficient at processing feed. However, not all aged horses need a ‘veteran’ mix. Instead, monitor the condition and speak to a nutritionist if advice is needed on what best to feed your older horse.
4. You’re feeding too much for the time of year
In spring and summer, the grass is richer. In winter, it’s poorer and sparser. In winter, your horse can use up to 80% of his feed energy to keep warm. So if he doesn’t get enough feed his weight may drop accordingly. Most horse owners prefer their horses to maintain a steady weight throughout the year. This doesn’t always follow the horse’s natural metabolic pattern of losing weight in winter and gaining in spring. If a horse comes out of winter already in good condition, he’s likely to stack on more weight when grazing becomes plentiful. Condition score your horse regularly so you know whether he needs more or less feed. Remember, tis is because the level required will fluctuate with the seasons.
5. You don’t know what he weighs
Horses in light/medium work need to consume 2% of their body weight in mainly forage (70-100% of their food intake) a day. So if you don’t know how much he weighs, how do you know if he’s getting that, too much, or too little? Invest in a good weigh tape or take advantage of the weighbridge services that some feed companies or vets offer.
6. You’re not weighing his feed
If you have a good doer that’s prone to piling on the pounds, don’t just to throw some feed into a bucket and hope for the best. You need to be strict with him — and yourself — and weigh his feed. A 500-kilo horse needs 20,000 calories a day in order to maintain his weight. There are approximately 7-8 MJ (or 2,000 calories) in a kilo of good quality hay. So if you’re stuffing his haynet with 10 kilos of hay each night, he’s already receiving all the calories he needs just for maintenance. And that’s before you include any grass or hard feed! You may be concerned he’s scoffing his hay ration too quickly and having nothing for the rest of the night. If this is the case, invest in a trickle net to encourage him to eat more slowly.
7. You’re feeding too much hard feed
We should all know by now that many diseases are linked to high starch diets. These include laminitis, colic, gastric ulcers, Developmental Orthopaedic Disease (DOD), Equine Rhabdomyolysis Syndrome (ERS) and Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM) . Does he really need all that hard feed? The majority don’t. We’ve been telling you this for quite a while now!
8. You’re buying the wrong hard feed
Work out how many calories your horse needs for his weight, breed, age, and level of work. Then check the calorie intake he’ll receive from his hard feed and consider honestly whether or not he really needs it. If he has enough energy for work, then it should be obvious that he doesn’t.
9. Your grass is too good
Grass can contain a lot of sugar and calories, particularly in Spring and Autumn. Or indeed any time after drought-breaking rains. So, when feeding overweight horses, restrict grazing in the danger periods. Alternatively, yard with hay. A Fibregenix balancer such as Prime Original OR Lami Low-Cal alongside hay provide his daily nutrient quota for health without the guess work..
10. You’re buying the wrong hay
When feeding overweight horses, you need to choose the most suitable forage possible. A late cut, coarser hay will typically be less nutritious than an early cut forage. Good doers don’t need cereal or legume hays – look for simple grassy hay instead. If you can’t find a more suitable forage, soaking the hay for several hours an help to leach out sugars.
11. You’re trying to starve him into being skinny
Horses can’t do ‘crash diets’ any more than humans can. They’ve evolved to trickle feed. This means they need an almost constant supply of forage for their digestive system to work correctly. If you withhold food from them, they may develop ulcers, and may also gorge quickly on food when presented with it. All dietary changes should happen gradually and over a significant period of time to be effective especially in overweight horses.
12. He’s a good doer
Feeding overweight horses can be a nightmare. Some just seem to get fat on thin air. If your horse is putting on weight despite taking all the precautions above, then speak to us. He may need to have a special feeding program devised for him. Being a good doer can also be problematic for competition horses. Feeding them for their level of activity can provide too many calories and cause them to gain weight. One solution is to feed less hard feed and provide a good balancer such as one from the Fibregenix range.
Reviewed and updated Feb 2020
Building healthy hooves
Building healthy hooves is something that doesn’t happen in a couple of weeks or even a couple of months. Yet it seems to me that some horses have a bigger shoe habit than Imelda Marcos. When you’re paying upwards of $140 every four to six weeks, it can be so frustrating if your horse has chipped, cracked or thin feet that don’t hold on to a shoe for any length of time.
Scientific studies in different countries have shown an incidence of poor hoof quality in 30-40% of the horses studied. However, nutrition is just one part of the equation in building healthy hooves. Farriery, genetics, conformation, management, and environmental conditions all play their part too.
Hoof Growth and Structure
Hoof growth is relatively slow, at around 0.2mm a day, meaning that the horn takes 9-12 months to grow from the coronary band to the weight-bearing surface. Any adverse changes, therefore, take a while to correct. You only have to look closely at a hoof to see that it’s actually highly complex in structure. Hoof wall thickness and strength are created by layers of linked cells. The strength of the hoof depends on the ability of these layers to hold together.
Building healthy hooves must, therefore, concentrate on the hoof cells and the lipid “glue” that holds the wall together.
Dietary Nutrients for Building Healthy Hooves
First and foremost, building healthy hooves requires a balanced diet – one containing appropriate amounts of all nutrients, from energy and protein down to the smallest micronutrient.
The B-vitamin biotin was the first micronutrient identified as a benefit for the production of hoof horn. However subsequent research reveals that biotin alone will improve only 6% of cases with deficient horn quality. Subsequent research identifies that a diet balanced in macronutrients and containing more than 60 specific micronutrients is essential to optimise the horn growth rate and quality in horses.
High-grain, low-forage diets may not support hoof growth. Not only may B-vitamin production be low, but low calcium availability can also result in weakness – calcium is reported as having a direct effect on the attachment of layers of hoof horn.
It’s easy to understand why grass-fed horses may have nutritional hoof problems, as the grass is often very poor in essential nutrients.
Changing conditions such as wet and dry weather and uneven ground certainly have an impact on the physical qualities of hoof horn. Ie it tends to dry out and crack in hot, dry conditions and becomes waterlogged and weak during the wet periods. Unless your horse has been receiving the correct lipids in its diet which can be incorporated into the hoof matrix, it’s likely to suffer from cracked hooves, collapsed heels, horn infections and frequent shoe loss.
Nutrients for Hoof Health you never thought about…
Nucleotides – these molecules make up the structural units of DNA and RNA. They promote rapid cell proliferation aiding the growth of the hoof wall. Another benefit of adding nucleotides to the diet is their role in maintaining a healthy immune system. This means that any bacterial infections present, particularly common in the hoof, can be fought effectively.
Omega 3 essential fatty acid – Omega 3 is particularly important in the role of hoof care with its healing and natural anti-inflammatory properties. A horse normally gets Omega 3 from forage. However, if the pasture is scarce or unavailable, a deficiency can and will exacerbate hoof wall problems. Therefore, preventing deficiencies in this nutrient is paramount.
Tips to keep your horse’s hooves healthy
- Practice good equine husbandry on a daily basis when caring for your horse’s feet
- Ensure your horse receives regular expert care from a competent qualified farrier
- If your horse has poor feet, take into account the nutrient supply from forage and hard feed. Look for gaps, most likely in vitamin, mineral and trace elements
- Feed a supplement known to supply the essential micronutrients for building healthy hooves which you can combine with forage only or an alfalfa-based low cereal diet.
- Feed a Fibregenix balancer which contains calcium, nucleotides, Omega 3 and a potent and comprehensive hoof improvement supplement of biotin, methionine, lysine, and organic chelated zinc and copper. These amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are very important when building healthy hooves.