Revised:  09/14/2012

Ask the Expert -- Equine  Management

 

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Can acetazolamide be used during pregnancy or lactation?
 

Can the drug acetazolamide be used on a mare while she is pregnant or lactating?

 

 

 

I am unaware of any problems, although I doubt that they have been “officially” approved by the FDA for pregnant mares and lactation. I typically avoid any unnecessary medications with pregnant mares for reasons of uncertainty. If it can be temporarily discontinued, that might be ideal however it probably does not cause any problems. However in veterinary cases such as this, it is very important to get an individual consultation from an equine veterinarian.

 

 

This answer was written by Michael N. Fugaro, VMD, Diplomate ACVS, Associate Professor of Equine Studies, Centenary College and Adjunct Professor at Rutgers University and approved by Nancy E Halpern, DVM, Director, Division of Animal Health, New Jersey State Veterinarian, New Jersey Department of Agriculture.

 

 


 

Can horses drink water that has been contaminated by ash from forest fires?
 

This year we have had a particularly bad forest fire season. Now the rains have come and the runoff is dense with black ash that has caused some closure of recreational lakes and is noticeably present in some mountain streams and most of the irrigation ditches. Some of these waters are being consumed by horses and dogs. Should these animals be allowed to drink the ash contaminated water and will there be any detrimental effect on the hay crop in areas where irrigation is the primary water source? Can you give me any information or direct me to information regarding this matter?

 

 

 

That is not something that is typically discussed but certainly a valid concern. If you think about it, the ash is "charcoal", the carbon remnants of burned vegetation, which is fairly inert. Searching the web there are lots of sites on Activated Charcoal. I assume the concerns would be the same if excessively large amounts are ingested. Some of the side effects of using activated charcoal powder include black stools, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea or constipation. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not use activated charcoal. The use of activated charcoal powder is not recommended for the elderly, as well. If you take medications or nutritional supplements, check with your physician before using activated charcoal powder.

 

You can read more: What Is Activated Charcoal Powder?
http://www.ehow.com/about_5077285_activated-charcoal-powder.html#ixzz1VrpsQDLq.

 

Unless it trapped other contaminants that would be released after ingestion I don't think it should be cause for alarm. We do routinely give fairly large amounts in cases of poisoning. 

 

This answer was written by Sarah Ralston, VMD, Ph.D., dACVN, Rutgers University, Equine Science Center.

 

 


 

What is “blistering?”
 

I have been asking many of my horse friends about using blisters as therapy for torn ligaments and they do not approve of this method. Why is that? Could you explain more about the procedure and why it is controversial?

 

 

 

“Blistering” is the practice of applying an irritating substance to a horse’s affected area in order to create an inflammatory reaction. It is used to try and make a chronic inflammation an acute one. Horse owners blister their horse’s legs in an effort to speed up the healing process and reduce the swelling after a ligament or tendon injury. Other owners use blistering in everything from ringbone to poll evil. Blistering is safe when done properly and when done by the recommendation of a veterinarian. It is typically done two to three weeks after the original inflammation has died down. At that time, healing of the ligament or tendon is dependent entirely on the amount of blood flow to the injured area.

 

Blistering is a controversial method of medical care for horses. Some people say that the extra irritation reduces swelling and increases the blood flow so that the injury heals more quickly. There are other points of view. For tendon/ligament injuries, some veterinarians use a semi-rigid cast on the leg that holds the tendons in place. This cast, along with stall rest, heals the injury to the ligament or tendon as well as blistering does, without causing unnecessary irritation to the skin. Veterinarians can also repair torn ligaments or tendons with surgery.

 

Blistering is done in one of two fashions, paint blisters or ointment blisters. Paint blisters are a more mild form of blistering that is usually a liquid form. They have to be applied daily to the affected area. Paint blisters are sometimes applied to the coronet to increase hoof growth.

 

Ointment blisters are a stronger type of blister and should only be used under the supervision of a veterinarian. Ointment blisters are typically made up of Spanish fly, red iodide or mercury. For the appropriate application of an ointment blister, the hair must be clipped close to the skin of the affected area. All dirt must be brushed away from the area and the area must be cleaned. The horse must then be tied so that it cannot rub, lick, or bite the blistering ointment. The blistering ointment should then be rubbed on the affected area so that the ointment gets deep within the pores. The severity of the reaction to the blistering ointment depends on the concentration of the ointment, how long and vigorously the ointment was rubbed in, and the thickness of the horse’s skin. Three days after the ointment has been applied, the affected area should be cleaned again with gentle soap and warm water. After the area has been thoroughly dried, petroleum jelly or sweet oil should be applied to the affected area to prevent the skin from drying out.

 

One of the biggest problems with blistering is that it is done by horsemen who have not had proper training in blistering or who blister their horses instead of calling a veterinarian. Blistering is useful when done properly, but if the horseman does not call a vet, and incorrectly diagnoses the problem, then blistering will not help the horse. It just creates unnecessary pain as well as an increased risk of lameness and infection. To the untrained horseman, a blister can appear to help a horse - but what is really helping the horse is the stall rest it receives as a result of the blistering. Since the horseman typically thinks the horse is being helped, he might hesitate to call a veterinarian in the future. Also, if the horseman does not take proper precautions to keep the horse away from the blistering ointment, the horse can get it on its nose or ingest it, both of which can cause new problems for the horse. However, with a veterinarian’s help, blistering may help to heal an injury to a ligament or tendon.

 

This answer was prepared with the help of Christine Garnier, Animal Science Research Student at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, Rutgers University.

 

 


 

Do horse boots support the leg? Do they interfere with jumping?
 

 

Do sport boots support a horse's leg structure? Would you be able to recommend a particular type? Also, do they interfere when jumping a horse?

 

 

Sport or galloping boots do provide some support for horses’ legs, but they are mostly used for their protective properties. They prevent the horse from injuring its legs as a result of interference when galloping or from knocking a fence pole hard. I have never heard of them interfering when the horse is jumping. I always use them when jumping in the ring and when riding cross-country. Jumpers will often wear open front boots, but I prefer to use fully closed boots for cross-country.

 

There are some good “sports medicine boots” that claim to give the horse lots of support. However, I am not sure that there is research to support this. These boots do have a part that wraps around and under the fetlocks to (theoretically) provide some support. There is a German company that makes some very nice leather boots, but they are expensive. Other manufacturers produce a wide variety of leather boots as well. You can always purchase cheap boots, but they do not last long and provide little protection yet alone any support. I would definitely say "you get what you pay for" in this situation. You need to decide whether you want a Velcro closure or leather buckle; either is fine, depending on your personal taste. Your best option is to go into a tack store and look at what they have. You can also ask around at your barn or at shows to learn which ones people prefer.

 

Here is a guide to help you when deciding which type of boots to buy:

  • Open Front Splint Boots protect the side and hind shin from brushing and over-reaching
  • Galloping Boots protect against bruising from the opposite foot and from high over-reaches into the tendon area. They also help prevent shoe bruises. This boot wraps around the ankle and gives tendon support. This boot style is used for jumping or dressage.
  • Ankle Boots protect against interference injuries only. This boot protects only the ankle.
  • Bell Boots protect against over-reaches and coronet band injuries.
  • Skid Boots are used on stock horses to protect the sensitive heel and the back of the ankle in sliding stops.
  • Event, Polo, or Cross Country Boots give maximum protection against interference. The fleece and felt keep the legs warm and supple without blistering. They can also be used for shipping, galloping or turning out.
  • Tendon Boots are used for sweating legs or with cotton or quilts for shipping, galloping or turning out.
  • Closed Front Shin and Ankle Boots give protection to the ankle and shin all around.

Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Equine Extension Specialist, Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

 


 

How could I remove bot eggs from my horse?
 

 

I recently moved my two horses to a new farm and have noticed that they have developed small, tiny white to yellowish specks at the end of the hair follicles on their front legs. The specks don't brush off. I don't know if this could be a fungus, mite or something else. I'm not sure what to do about it or how to remove them. Please help.

 

 

What you describe sounds like bot fly eggs. The larvae of these flies are an internal parasite of horses. The fly will lay eggs directly on the horse, usually on the front legs, abdomen, flank, and shoulder. They cause mild irritation/itching that will provoke the horse to lick or bite at the affected area. The warm moisture of the saliva stimulates the eggs to rapidly hatch and release the larvae onto the horse’s tongue. The larvae then burrow into the tongue where they will develop for a bit longer before migrating into the stomach. Once in the stomach, the larvae will attach to the lining with sharp mouthpieces and continue to develop for five or more months. Finally, the larvae will release their attachment and be passed from the horse through its feces. At this point, the larvae develop into the egg laying adult.

Horses can usually handle a slight infestation with no ill effects, but when it becomes severe, the horse’s health can decline. The larvae in the horse’s stomach cause symptoms such as weight loss, irritation of stomach membranes, ulceration of the stomach, peritonitis, perforated ulcers, colic, and in even more severe cases, mechanical blockage of the stomach resulting in stomach rupture, esophageal paralysis, and squamous cell tumors.

 

The female fly will lay its eggs on the horse in such a way that they are very difficult to remove; hence, why you cannot brush them off. There are two popular items used for getting rid of bot eggs: bot knives and grooming blocks/stones. Both items/tools can be purchased in any horse supply store. Simply run the knife or block over the hairs with eggs until the eggs are removed. Please note, the eggs removed in this fashion are still infective; therefore, be careful to do it in an area where the horse will not be eating, such as a wash stall. Another way to remove them is by vigorously rubbing the area with a rough cloth soaked in hot water. The heat and stimulation will cause the eggs to hatch. Fortunately, the larvae will not survive for long when exposed to air.

 

Exercise caution when removing bot eggs; it is possible for bot larvae to infect humans in their eyes and through cuts in the skin. Be very careful to wash your hands thoroughly after removing bot eggs. It is best to wear disposable gloves when removing bot eggs by any of these techniques.

 

For controlling internal bot larvae, any deworming product containing ivermectin will be effective. Be sure to follow all product label instructions and plan to deworm about two or three weeks after the first killing frost in the fall, which will kill off all the adult flies. This will make re-infestation highly unlikely. There is only one generation of bots produced annually; therefore, this will stop the cycle and hopefully prevent re-occurrence the following year.

 


 

Can bow-leggedness be corrected?
 

 

Can bow-leggedness, a confirmation problem in horses, be corrected?

 

 

 

A bow-legged horse has a flexural deformity originating at the knee or carpus joint. A straight leg is divided in half by an imaginary perpendicular line drawn down from the point of shoulder to the ground. In a bow-legged horse, the knee is typically to the outside of this line. Many young horses grow out of this deformity with little to no intervention.

 

Bow-leggedness is not correctable once the horse is of a mature age and the bones have stopped growing. However, if the horse is under 2 years of age, surgical intervention (with your veterinarian’s recommendation) is an option. Other veterinary therapies may be a possibility. As with any other conformational problem, consult your veterinarian to discuss what treatments may be best.

 

Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Equine Extension Specialist, Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

 


 

How often can I breed my mare?

 

My mare is 11 years old, had her first foal this year and is due to deliver another next spring. How often is it safe for her to get in foal, and should I be giving her time off from pregnancy to regroup her health? This is my first mare and I want to do what is best for her and her health.

 

 

You don’t have to worry about over-breeding your mare. Actually, if the deliveries are normal and she is in good condition, it is beneficial to keep the mare in production. Some mares become difficult breeders if taken out of production and given a “rest.” Consult with your veterinarian about breeding her next spring on the foal heat (which is the first estrus immediately after birth). Sometimes mares need more than a 10-day recovery period to get their reproductive tract back to normal. If she has an easy delivery with no complications (such as uterine infection), by all means breed her back on the foal heat.

 

 

Answer provided by Karyn Malinowski, Ph.D., Department of Animal Science, Equine Extension Specialist and Director, Equine Science Center.

 


Is a 20-year old mare too old to breed?
 

 

Is a 20-year old mare too old to breed?

 

 

 

If the mare has never been bred or given birth in her 20 years, beginning to breed her now is not recommended. It will be much more difficult for her to get pregnant, plus the pregnancy would be at a high risk of failure with increased difficulty in giving birth. However, if the mare has been bred and successfully foaled in the past, it should not be a problem as long as she is reproductively sound. If you do decide to breed her, I recommend that she have a breeding soundness exam performed ahead of time by an equine veterinarian specializing in reproduction.

 

Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Equine Extension Specialist, Rutgers Cooperative Extension and reviewed by Shari C. Silverman V.M.D., Senior Veterinarian, Division of Animal Health, New Jersey Department of Agriculture.

 


How do I condition my event horse?
 

 

How would I start to condition my event horse for its first Beginner Novice Level competition? How quickly could this be done?

 

 

 

If you are just starting out at Beginner Novice, your horse does not need to be as fit as if you were competing at a Preliminary Level or higher and achieving this level of fitness can happen much quicker. The only way to really condition your horse is by doing hill work at least one day per week. Walking and trotting will make up most of your conditioning for the lower levels, some slower canter is okay as well, but galloping is not necessary until you reach the Preliminary level. One also can do some faster canter or slow gallop work at the Training Level as well.

 

Assuming you are starting your horse out from scratch with no pre-season work, you first need to establish a foundation base. This foundation will help prevent your horse from becoming sore from the heavier workouts to follow. This base can be developed by hacking for 30-45 min at mostly a walk and trot two to three times per week. This can slowly be combined with ring flat work and longer hacks (remember walking is very important to conditioning and some hacks can even involve all walk, if there is varying terrain). Once a good base is established (which may take 6-8 weeks) you can incorporate some fitness work about two times per week. This will involve trotting up small hills and moving up to larger hills as horses become fitter. An example of a good fitness workout for Beginner/Novice level may consist of 15 minutes of walking, 15 minutes of trotting, one minute of cantering (increasing to 1.5 or 2 minutes of cantering as fitness level increases), and 15 minutes of walking. Walking and trotting can be performed over hilly terrain. Another good fitness workout when horses become more fit involves intervals, which may consist of five minutes of trotting, two minutes of cantering, and one minute of a walking break repeated 3 times.

 

Beginner Novice or even Novice Level horses would not need to trot more than 20 minutes in a workout or canter more than 10 minutes. Once your horse is able to master these intervals with a solid canter bout of 3-4 min you should be ready for competition. As you increase competition levels the conditioning protocol should become more rigorous and needs to involve intervals of galloping at varying speeds. Conditioning is not something that can be accomplished quickly. If it is done quickly you risk injury to your horse, which is why it would be a good idea to consult with a trainer who specializes in eventing to help you tailor your conditioning program specifically to your horse’s needs.

 

Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Rutgers NJAES Cooperative Extension.

 


How much does a horse cost per month?
 

I have a question concerning the monthly cost (hay, grain, bedding) of keeping a horse. The horse in question is a 14-hand pony being kept on limited grazing with very light work (no health problems). Any assistance would be appreciated.

 

 

Here is an answer directly from Fact Sheet 167, "Tips on Buying Your First Horse:"

 

“Maintenance costs of horses are extensive and vary among geographic areas whether you keep the horse at home or board it at a commercial stable. The estimated cost of feeding a horse is approximately $100 per month. Additional expenses include veterinary and farrier fees, barn maintenance, bedding, electricity, and insurance. Based on the 1996 survey done for the New Jersey Equine Advisory Board, the annual cost for the privilege of owning a horse in the Garden State exceeds $8,000. You can see why boarding a horse at a stable may be an option. Monthly boarding costs in this state run from $250 to $1,000, depending on amenities offered by the facility, for an average of $400 per month.”

 

Since many of the costs have risen since this Fact Sheet was first written, you may want to check current costs with your local boarding stables or with friends who keep or board horses. Assuming the costs where you live are similar to those in New Jersey, hay is running at about $5 a bale, and a pony might eat one-fourth to one-half bale per day, depending on the size of the bale and quality of hay. Shavings are about $5 a bag, and using two to three bags a week is typical. Grain is about $12 for a 50-pound bag; a lightly worked pony may be fed little or no grain. Trimming feet runs about $30 a visit, and should be done every six weeks or so. Shoeing can run $150 or more per visit. Inoculations and routine veterinarian visits can run about $150-$200 and usually are scheduled twice a year. As the Fact Sheet above suggests, there are other "hidden" costs that one should take into consideration.

 

Answer provided by Diana M. Orban Brown, Former Director of Communications, Equine Science Center, Rutgers University.

 


What is the current research on deworming products and procedures?
 

I have a question about deworming horses in New Jersey. I have been in upstate New York for four years and used a rotating schedule of Ivermectin and Pyrantel Pamoate every other month. I was wondering what the current research on deworming products is for New Jersey? Are there other dewormers that you would suggest for horses in New Jersey?

 

 

 

Deworming has been the subject of much research over the past few decades. As most people are probably aware, frequent rotational deworming practices have resulted in anthelmintic resistance to several internal parasites, such as small strongyles in the adult horse. A study in the southern United States identified that small strongyles have become 97.7% resistant to fenbendazole, 53.5% resistant to oxibendazole, and 40.5% resistant to pyrantel pamoate.

 

Many veterinarians are diverging from rotational deworming strategies and instead are recommending a targeted deworming program that addresses each individual horse’s parasite load and parasitic resistance to anthelmintics on that specific farm. Anthelmintic resistance on a farm can be identified by performing a Fecal Egg Count Reduction Test on a few horses. Basically, a Fecal Egg Count (FEC) test is performed right before deworming (approximately two months after last deworming), and then again two weeks later. The percent reduction in eggs will identify if a horse's parasites have developed resistance to the anthelmintic administered. This will need to be repeated for other anthelmintic classes to see which ones are still effective.

 

A FEC can identify if a horse is a high or low egg shedder (a measure of parasite load). Most horses fall into one of these categories and will not change throughout its lifetime. Low egg shedders do not pose a high risk of contaminating pastures; therefore they do not need to be dewormed as often as high shedders. Most veterinarians can perform FECs.

 

The guidelines concerning deworming practices are rapidly changing to combat the resistance problem. Specialists no longer recommend a cookie-cutter eight-week rotation for every farm. Your veterinarian can help you customize a deworming schedule that includes circumstantial details such as your climate, your horse's egg shedding levels, and the level of resistance to certain anthelmintics on your specific farm.

 

If you would like to read more in-depth research on this issue, please see the following hyperlink:

An article by Kaplan and others published in 2004. Kaplan RM, Klei TK, Lyons ET, et al. 2004. Prevalence of anthelmintic resistant cyathostomes on horse farms. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 225:903–910.

 

 


 

How do I get rid of my horse's dry skin?
 

My horse has a dry, flaky mane with areas of thinning. Its tail also has flakes, but they are waxy and quite large. There are a few areas of patchy baldness on the tail bone. The horse still has a nice looking tail so hopefully I am catching this condition early. I recently began adding Rice Bran Oil to the feed daily. MTG only seemed to make the flakes come back with a vengeance. The weather has been cold and a bath is difficult at best until things warm up. I treated the mane and tail with betadine yesterday, but not a thorough bath or scrub. What about Listerine and baby oil?  I suspect a fungus. Suggestions?

 

There are many things that could cause hair loss and flaky skin. First have the horse checked carefully for lice or other ectoparasites that could be causing it to rub its tail and mane. Some other culprits include selenium toxicity, fungal infection, an allergic response to gnat bites, and pinworms, not to mention dietary issues. Allergic contact dermatitis could be the cause if some product you are using on its mane and tail is irritating its skin; sometimes something as harmless as laundry detergent on saddle pads can cause this. However, without seeing the animal, it is impossible to make a diagnosis and I recommend calling your veterinarian in case there are more symptoms you may have overlooked.

 

Adding fat to a horse’s diet could help if the skin condition is not due to an allergic reaction or parasites. When adding oil to feed, one needs to feed up to ¼ cup per day to make a difference. Rice bran is also good, but you need to feed about one pound per day. However, if the horse is an easy keeper and is not exercised regularly, it could begin to gain weight.

 

It is also possible your horse just has dry skin and could benefit from a good bath and moisturizing conditioner or oil. It wouldn’t hurt to try an antifungal and antimicrobial shampoo. Listerine is very harsh and I would not recommend using it. Baby oil can help soothe irritation and moisturize dry skin. If you choose to use home remedies and the condition does not improve or worsens, call your veterinarian.

 

Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., and Laura Gladney, Program Associate, Rutgers NJAES Cooperative Extension.

 


 

Is there a blood test for Dunalinos?
 

I own a 3-year-old palomino paint stallion. He has a dark red dorsal stripe and darker-colored legs. I believe that he is a dunalino. His sire is registered as a palomino, but also has the dorsal stripe, darker legs and shoulder barring. His sire's dam is registered with the AQHA as a dun but she looks like a palomino with dun points. This mare's sire is a true dun and her dam is a palomino. My stallion's dam is a black out of a black and sorrel. Is there a test to see if he carries both the creme gene and the dun gene? If so, where is the best possible place to have him tested? Is the test done by hair strands or blood?

 

Dunalinos are getting fairly common in the AQHA and APHA, especially with the increased interest in cutting and reining and the proliferation of the Hollywood lines, which have a high percentage of dunalino. While there is currently no DNA test for dun or creme genes, this fellow certainly sounds like a dunalino to me, and certainly has the pedigree to substantiate it. The only way to test at this point is to see what sort of progeny he produces when bred to non-dun and non-palomino mares.

 

Answer provided by Rebecca Splan, Ph.D., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

 


 

How can I tell my mare’s foaling date without knowing when she was bred?
 

I sent my maiden mare out to be bred for about a month (May 3rd to the 30th), but since the breeder uses live cover and never actually saw the stallion breed my mare, we are not sure what day she actually conceived. I figured May 29th as the last breeding date for her estimated delivery date because it was the last night she was with the stallion. However, now I’m wondering if my mare could have gotten pregnant her first cycle even though they didn't witness a breeding? I know she is definitely pregnant (via vet confirmation). I don't want to miss the birth because I was not accurately calculating her delivery date. Should I assume she indeed bred her first cycle and took? Or go off the date I have since I witnessed the breeding and know for sure she bred that day?

 

Since you do not have an exact breeding date, you have no choice but to give yourself a range rather than an exact date for delivery. Using 340 days of gestation, you should expect the delivery date to be between April 8th and May 4th. Those dates coincide with 340 days after the May 3rd and May 29th suspected breeding dates that you provided. You must consider the first heat cycle as the possible breeding time. Unfortunately equine perinatology has not become as advanced as the human realm. In humans, physicians can take a series of measurements of fetal structures on an ultrasound and determine a pretty accurate gestational age. While equine medicine has some similarities, it is not refined enough to ensure accuracy within a 20 day period which is what you are considering. You may wish to consult a theriogenologist (reproductive specialist) in your area as they could reaffirm this statement. Foaling out a mare is hard work on horse owners and managers. It is recommended to initiate aggressive “mare watching” for at least 2 weeks before their foaling date. Even with an accurate foaling date, mares can be expected to foal 2 weeks before and after their foaling date. So unfortunately that means a lot of sleepless nights, careful observation, and a little more stress for those responsible. Being a maiden mare, you do not have the advantage of previous foalings of this mare to define her unique foaling date. In this case, would need to start being ready for a foal 2 weeks before April 8th. It is also recommended to consult your veterinarian on the appropriate perinatology care for the next few months.

 


 

What factors go into how far a horse can extend a foreleg?
 

Is it true that the maximum distance that a horse is able to extend a foreleg is determined by the angle of the scapula?

 

 

 

 

That is partially correct; although, the angle of the humerus is also a factor. This is why, when looking for a good jumper, one usually looks for a steeper humerus angle which enables horses to pull their knees up (i.e. extend their leg). However, for dressage horses which need a larger extension, one looks for a combination of scapula angle and humerus angle.

 

Scapula: For elite dressage and show jumping horses, look for a long shoulder; however, a sloping shoulder makes the stride longer and flatter. An upright scapula results in more knee action.

 

Humerus: Humerus length and angle are also important. The longer it is, the better the gaits and lateral movement will be for dressage; additionally, the horse will have more scope for jumping. Similar to scapula angle, a flatter humerus angle will result in a flatter stride. A steeper angle will result in more knee action.

 

A long sloping scapula and a flatter humerus angle will result in the longest stride and greatest foreleg extension.

 


 

How much fescue can be fed to my broodmare?
 

Can Orchard Grass/Timothy/Fescue Mix hay be fed to broodmares? There is only 5% fescue in the mix.

 

 

 

Before suggesting you feed the 5% fescue hay, have it tested for the toxic endophyte commonly found in some fescues. Mares are sensitive to ergopeptine alkaloids at levels as low as 50-100 ppb (parts per billion). These toxic alkaloids can cause dystocia, thickened/retained placentas and more commonly, agalactia, or lack of milk production. There is a lab at Oregon State University that tests for ergovaline, the toxic component in fescue. I would have the hay tested before making the decision to feed it to mares. Information can be found on the lab’s website: http://oregonstate.edu/endophyte-lab/.

 

The other option is to feed the hay but discontinue feeding it in the last trimester of gestation. You also can ask your veterinarian about giving drugs like, domperidone, which can inhibit the effects of the ergovaline.

 

Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Rutgers NJAES Cooperative Extension.

 


 

How can we eliminate horse flies?
 

How can we eliminate horse flies? We try various fly sprays twice daily to no avail. What actually attracts horseflies, and how do they breed? (in manure, like house flies)?

 

 

 

Horse flies are one of the most problematic flies and one of the most difficult to control. The nature of this fly makes it almost impossible to eliminate through spraying programs. A horse fly will travel up to 15 to 20 miles for a blood meal, unlike mosquitoes, which will travel only 100 feet. Ultimate fly control includes eliminating all possible breeding grounds and feeding sources. This type of fly control is almost impossible with the horse fly, as can be seen in its biology. Horse flies do not breed indoors like houseflies. Females often lay eggs in specific locations, such as on vegetation overhanging water. Species are often locally abundant near breeding habitats, and the various species have distinctive adult activity periods during the year and/or during the day. Larvae live in species-specific habitats, most of which are aquatic, semi-aquatic or terrestrial.

 

In terms of treating horses, the most popular product is Permethrin-10 Concentrate. Permethrin-10 is one of the few materials on the market that can safely be used as a spray or wash for horses. It is a multi-use insecticide for indoors, outdoors, on animals and animal premises. It is very popular with veterinarians for its ability to control biting flies on horses, dogs and livestock. As safe as this product is for most mammals, it is not to be used as a spray, dip or rinse for cats, and should only be applied to the animals listed on the label. There are also fly and tick control treatments that you put on the middle of the horse’s back much like the Frontline product used on dogs and cats. Always read and follow the label instructions when using insect control products.

 

Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Equine Extension Specialist, Rutgers Cooperative Extension. Mention or display of a trademark, proprietary product, or firm in text or figures does not constitute an endorsement by the Equine Science Center or Rutgers University and does not imply approval to the exclusion of other suitable products or firms.

 


 

Are fly sprays with DEET safe for horses?
 

 

I have tried many fly sprays designed for horses, and it seems that human products made with DEET work much better. Is DEET safe to use on horses?

 

 

While I do not have any personal experience in using the product, I believe that you should not use DEET on horses. Here’s why:

 

DEET is registered for use with the EPA as an insect and acarid (mite) repellent for many applications, including horses. Yet according to the DEET Education Program, there is no specific scientific information regarding the use of DEET on horses. However, I was able to find some information on a study on DEET performed in 1969:

 

(Palmer, J.S. 1969. Toxicologic effects of aerosols of N,N,-diethyl-m- toluene (DEET) applied on skin of horses. Am. J. Vet. Res., 30:1929-1932.) DEET in horses can cause "profuse sweating; irritation and exfoliation in horses have been reported following repeated applications of DEET at concentrations of 50% or greater. Repeated dermal application to horses produced hypersteatosis, an over activity of the sebaceous glands, when the solution of DEET was 15 % or higher."

 

The sebaceous glands are oil glands in the hair follicles that secrete normal skin oils. In the case of DEET usage, this secretion would be excessive and create an oily or greasy hair coat. In even greater amounts of product usage, skin irritation would occur. Based on this information, I do not recommend that products containing DEET be used on horses.

 

Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Equine Extension Specialist, Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

 


 

Do garlic products really control flies and ticks?
 

 

Do garlic products really control flies and ticks?

 

 

 

I’m not aware of whether or not garlic is effective in controlling flies and other pests. A controlled study published in the March 2005 American Journal of Veterinary Research showed that 4 ounces of freeze dried garlic (roughly equivalent to the amount in some commercial garlic extracts) twice a day caused heinz body anemia and idiopathic sweating in horses. The sweating and anemia were dramatic in both garlic-treated horses. After 30 days off the garlic, the anemia had not completely resolved.

 

Fresh garlic is 63% water. Therefore, according to the study, you would have to feed almost a pound of fresh garlic twice a day to achieve the results shown in the study. A few fresh cloves probably won't hurt (or do any good), but the extracts could potentially pose a risk. The "safe" garlic dose was not established.

 

Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Equine Extension Specialist, Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

 


 

How old is too old to geld a stallion?

 

I would like your advice about what age is considered too old to geld a stallion. I am bringing a 17 year-old stallion into the US from Spain. The contagious equine metritis (CEM) quarantine cost is going to make bringing him home cost-prohibitive. I know that if he is gelded he won't need to be CEM quarantined. Please give us some advice.

 

 

 

My beloved Arab was castrated at 17 years of age. He had been used extensively as a stallion prior to castration before I purchased him. He not only survived but lived on to the ripe age of 31. That said, it took him a long time to recover both physically and mentally. He had a major environment change when he was 21(I moved him from Colorado to New Jersey) and that too took a toll on him.

 

Would I do it again, knowing what I know now? I think so -- but just be prepared for some depression and weight loss. Also, I would wait as long as possible after castration for the trip back to the US. He will need extra attention post-castration. Give him 5 grams of vitamin C orally twice a day and 1000 IU vitamin E orally once a day for at least 10 days after he is castrated and for 5 days after he is shipped. This will help to boost his immune system against the stresses incurred from both the surgery and shipping.

 

Answer provided by Sarah Ralston, VMD, Ph.D., dACVN, Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

 


 

When and how should a colt be gelded?
 

I am interested in finding out the best age to geld a colt. Also, what is the least traumatic method, from both a physiological and psychological standpoint? I understand that the surgery can be performed with either a general or local anesthetic. What do you recommend?

 

 

In terms of when to castrate, the earlier it is done, the better. Theoretically, as soon as two testicles are present, the colt can be castrated. The earlier it's done the less traumatic it is for the colt. Once stallion-like behavior begins, it may not change with castration. Certainly, the longer the horse demonstrates stallion-like behavior before castration the less likely it is to change afterwards. Field anesthesia, when done correctly, is very safe. Therefore, general anesthesia is the best way to go.

 

Answer provided by Dan Keenan, DVM, Keenan McAlister Equine.

 


 

Which goat breed is the best companion for horses?
 

My veterinarian suggested that I get a goat as a stall companion for my young Selle Francias mare. Could you tell me which goat breeds do best with horses?

 

 

 

It is suggested to go with a larger breed of goat. Usually breeds like the Alpine, Saanen, LaMancha, etc. are best. Dairy breeds are usually the largest framed. Miniatures (pygmies or Nigerian Dwarves), even though used quite often, are not recommended, simply because of their size. Horses will sometimes try to play with them like they are horses. This can be dangerous for the miniature breeds. Meat breeds like the Boer could be used and certainly would be an easier keeper than a dairy breed. While they are a little smaller than a dairy goat, their stocky build makes them a little tougher.

 

The most important thing when selecting a companion is personality. Nubian and Nigerian Dwarves tend to be louder and vocalize more than other breeds. Saanens and Toggenburgs are pretty laid back. Alpines are usually thought of as the "bossy" goat breed. However, quite a few have been sold as companions and maybe this personality trait helps make them great companions to the larger horse. The best companions for stall kept horses are obviously the calm goats. You don't want the goat to spook every time you go in and out of the stall, making the horse nervous. Therefore, goats that have been bottle-raised, are friendly, and accustomed to being handled by humans are the best. Make sure the goat, cannot get into the horse’s feed bucket - they will “steal” feed from horses and easily become obese!

 

 

This question was answered with help from Rebecca Potosky, Rutgers University Animal Care.

.


 

What is the best way to haul a horse?
 

What is the least stressful way to haul a horse? What factors can we control in addition to the length of the haul, temperature and position in trailer to create as stress-free a trip as possible?

 

 

 

Trailering horses does not have to be a stressful time. Taking the right precautions, checking safety conditions and making simple considerations can greatly reduce the stress of traveling. Many factors can affect a horse’s physiological and biological well-being such as temperature during traveling, the way a horse faces in the trailer, and even the conditions of the trailer. It is important to look at all the factors in advance before taking a trip to insure as little stress as possible.

 

• Temperature: When the weather temperature reaches between 75-90 degrees Fahrenheit it becomes harder for horses to maintain their homeothermy. Extremely high temperatures exceeding 90 degrees can make it difficult for horses to maintain sweating and respiratory mechanisms. Water and hay should always be available, especially on long trips. Try to travel when there is less traffic and on cooler days. During extremely cold weather, horses will have a larger calorie requirement as they utilize food energy for metabolic heat.

 

• Traveling time: Time should be kept at a minimum. Twenty-four to 48 hours of travel can produce long term stress. If you have to haul for long periods of time you should stop every 3-4 hours to give the horse’s legs a break from the movement and vibration.

 

• Maintain good air quality: Ensuring that the air is not stagnant or too drafty can reduce the probability of illness. Exhaust fumes or overheating can also occur and windows should be adjusted to maintain high air quality.

 

• Flooring: Whether rubber mats, wood shavings, or even sand, flooring can help keep a horse balanced and less stressed during a trip. After every trip, rubber mats or any other flooring should be cleaned and flushed out to reduce bacteria and insure the health of the horse.

 

• Trailer orientation: Horses are least likely to become stressed when facing backwards (and if given a choice prefer this direction), and given enough room to drop their heads a little past their shoulders. When the head is elevated for a long period of time, respiratory infections can occur. Slant load horse trailers have also been shown to decrease the amount of stress measured by stress hormones like cortisol and heart rate variability.

 

• Supplying water and feed: Whether or not a horse prefers to drink on trips, water should always be offered in a familiar bucket - at least every 6-8 hours if on long hauls. Dehydration is a common side effect that may lead to other problems. Hay can be offered depending on the length of the trip. Spraying it lightly with water can reduce dust which can affect a horse’s respiratory tract. However, it is not advised to feed a horse grain while traveling, since stress may build up and affect gut functions.

 

• Other factors: Horses will be less stressed when they are paired with horses they know. If this isn’t possible, when placing horses in a two horse bumper pull straight load, you should place the heavier horse (or a single horse) on the left side on the trailer or on the roadside.

 

Trailering horses should be a stress-free time. Practicing walking on and off regularly and taking short trips can help reduce stress on the animal. Also, checking the quality of the trailer is important when practicing safety measures to insure a smooth trip for you and your horse.

 

See the Rutgers Cooperative Extension fact sheets for more on trailering and stress.

 

Answer prepared with the help of Jeselyn Pena, Animal Science research student, The School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, Rutgers University.

.


 

How can I tell if my mare is in heat?
 

 

How long are mares in season for and how many times a year do they go into season? Also, how can you tell when the mare is in season?

 

 

Horses are “seasonal” or “long day” breeders. This means they usually only go into estrus during the late spring and summer months when the days are long. Natural breeding season is late March to October. Cycle length is about 21 days in duration. Diestrus (the absence of heat) lasts an average of 14 - 16 days; estrus (heat) lasts an average of 4-8 days. Ovulation occurs 1 - 2 days before the end of estrus.

 

You can tell if a mare is in heat by seeing if she is receptive to a stallion, flexes her pelvis, raises her tail, urinates frequently, and “winks” the lips of her vulva. Mares in heat often will seek out a stallion (or sometimes even a gelding) and exhibit these behaviors.

 

Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Equine Extension Specialist, Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

 


 

How do you "dry up" a lactating mare?
 

 

I have a 12-year-old mare that had a colt that died within two days. It has been a few weeks and she is still squirting milk. Could you tell me how to get her to dry up?

 

 

In order for mares to completely stop producing milk, they need to have their feed intake reduced from what it was when they were foaling. If she is not exercising, she needs to go on a pasture or a hay-only diet! That will give her enough energy to maintain her body systems without adding extra energy, which is now going to produce milk. Make sure to frequently check her udder - if it turns hot and hard, she might have mastitis. If so, call a vet to check the problem.

 

Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Equine Extension Specialist, Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

 


 

What is the difference between nitrofurazone and furazolidone for treating injuries to horses?
 

 

What is the difference between nitrofurazone and furazolidone for treating injuries in horses? Is one better than the other, or better for some things? Do they have different possible side effects? I have read that nitrofurazone is good to use on wounds and also that it is not the best because it may promote proud flesh, for example. I would think that the time of use related to the time of the injury, as well as the length of time that they are used may be important.

 

 

Both nitrofurazone and furzolidone fall into the category of drugs called Nitrofurans. These medications are used for their antibacterial and anti-protozoal properties. Furazolidone is mostly marketed as an aerosol powder. Nitrofurazone is primarily found in a water soluble ointment form and is used as a topical antibiotic. It is rather inexpensive and very safe to use. It can be used as a carrying agent for osmotic agents like Epsom salts in sweat wraps (Epsom salt and furacin ointment).

 

With respect to proud flesh and its prevention, antibacterial ointments and creams may be helpful but are not the only solution to the problem. Minimize application of ointments and creams and resort to repeated, gentle cleaning of the wound and apply fresh, clean bandages that are changed frequently. Horses are extremely good at producing proud flesh, especially along the lower limbs. This is a normal healing process. Unfortunately many horses are too good at making it, especially if the wound is irritated by harsh cleansers. In those cases, restrict the motion of the wound and simply trim off the excess proud flesh.

 

Answer was written with the help of Michael N. Fugaro, VMD, Diplomate ACVS, Associate Professor of Equine Studies, Centenary College and Adjunct Professor at Rutgers University and approved by Nancy E Halpern, DVM, Director, Division of Animal Health, New Jersey State Veterinarian, New Jersey Department of Agriculture.

 


 

What do you suggest for raising orphan foals?
 

We recently started working with orphaned foals. I'm wondering if you have any information or anything of value you might send our way to aid in this endeavor? We are working with a local vet and would appreciate any thoughts you have.

 

 

Orphaned foals are a tremendous responsibility and usually incur a large financial and emotional undertaking.

 

In our Young Horse Teaching and Research Program, we work with weanlings that have had the benefit of four to five months with their mare mothers. We have reduced post-transport health problems to virtually zero by getting the foals used to us before they are weaned and giving them supplemental vitamin C (0.01 gm/kg of body weight) twice a day for 5 days after arrival. They are fed a pelleted ration formulated specifically for growth and good quality hay. These measures, other than the vitamin supplements, may not be an option with your foals.

 

If the foals were very young when orphaned and not able to get colostrum they will be susceptible to a wide variety of infectious diseases. Only with intensive and very expensive therapy (intravenous serum/fluids, antibiotics, etc.) will they survive, let alone thrive. Even if they do get colostrum, feeding neonates, as I'm sure you are aware, is not an easy proposition. They should get a formula designed specifically for foals at least every 2 hours during the first week (foals normally nurse 3-4 times an hour during the first week!), then at least 4 feedings a day for the next few months until they can be weaned onto a hay/pasture/grain formulated for growth. Goat’s milk can be used, and in some cases a lactating dairy goat can be kept with the foal. Train the goat to stand on a platform so the foal can more easily nurse from her. Bear in mind that the risk of disease will still be great.

 

You'll also have to undertake the huge task of socialization. Orphan foals are notorious for having behavior problems. If not kept with other mature horses, they don't learn how to behave like a horse. They will consider humans to be their herd mates and treat them accordingly: biting, kicking, pushing, etc. It takes a lot of experience and some large measure of luck to develop them into a mature horse that knows how to behave properly, both around humans and other horses. Anyone who agrees to adopt or care for orphan foals must be carefully screened to insure that they have a lot of horse experience and that they fully understand what they are getting into.

 

Answer provided by Sarah Ralston, VMD, Ph.D., dACVN, Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

 


 

Are horses regarded as pets or as livestock throughout the United States?
 

I have to write a paper on horses that are bred as domestic pets. Because I own a horse, I have always considered horses to be pets. But other students in my class didn’t feel the same way. I am wondering how horses are classified in the U.S.: work animals, domestic animals etc.?

 

 

Currently, the United States Department of Agriculture does not classify the horse as an agricultural or livestock animal, but as a companion animal or pet. Before the great age of mechanization and industrialization, the horse was certainly classified as a work horse. In the present day, that is not the case.

 

However, both you and your classmates are correct in your assessments. In some states, including New Jersey, the horse is classified as livestock and an agricultural animal. In others, such as the great commonwealth of Kentucky, horses are considered companion animals. So it is a state-by-state decision.

 

New Jersey worked very hard to have horses classified as livestock and agricultural animals. This classification benefits the horse in many ways. It helps provide horse owners with funding from federal agencies, ensures that horses are covered by the same precautions against disease as livestock, and provides tax benefits to farm owners. Whatever the formal classification, we all love our horses and know that they mean more to us than their classification describes. I hope this answer helps you in your paper preparation. You might like to know that your classroom is not alone -- this discussion continues to go on around the world!

 

Answer provided by Karyn Malinowski, Ph.D., Director, Equine Science Center.

 


 

Is there a product that can be fed to a horse to get rid of sand in the intestines?
 

I have a 17-year-old Pinto/Morgan gelding. He has equine metabolic syndrome and is doing very well now that he is on a low-sugar diet. He gets a measured feeding 2 times a day of a high-fiber, high-fat feed. He has access to good forage between feedings. However, he has sand-related diarrhea. He has an uncanny way of eating everything but the equine formulated sand-clearing medication added to the feed in his bucket. The medication is too expensive for me to keep feeding if he won’t eat it. I'd like to try something else. Do you have any suggestions of another product that might help?

 

Psyllium is the active ingredient in most equine sand-clearing medications. Though it would probably be as effective as the medicine if you fed it alone, however it would be very expensive in the quantities needed for a horse. Try grinding the medicine pellets into a powder in a coffee grinder and adding a flavoring your horse might prefer (e.g. one or two peppermints ground in would not be an issue with his metabolic syndrome and might mask any odor/flavor he objects to). If you can reduce his chance of sand ingestion that would also help. Feed his hay off the ground and put mats under the feeder so he won't pick up more sand when scavenging the hay he spills on the ground.

 

Answer provided by Sarah Ralston, VMD, Ph.D., dACVN, Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

 


 

 

Will support boots prevent a young horse from injury?
 

I was given a 2 year old horse that was injured by a high tensile fence.
The fence tore through the leg all the way down to the bone in the front, and part of the way through in the back leg. It has been a little over a year since the injury; it has healed well and I was told by my veterinarian that the horse is sound. My veterinarian told me that I am to go slowly as I break the horse and chances are it will be fine. The fetlock is still quite a bit larger, and I was told that it most likely will always be large, but other than that it has completely healed. I have begun the process of breaking the horse and plan to do some light trail riding. We trail ride on a mountain and are looking to possibly take it places, again, only to do some light trail riding, for a few hours. I have been reading about support boots. My questions are: Should I get a pair for his back legs? Would these boots help keep him from injuring it again? I am very concerned about putting any extra pressure on the leg. I really want to give him some sort of extra support.

 

I was at a conference recently where a talk about the current research being conducted on support and protective exercise boots was presented. This talk confirmed my suspicion that there is no boot out there that will support joints or tendons. There are some boots on the market advertising that they are a supportive boot; however, after unbiased research was performed investigating at nine boots on the market, none provide the support claimed. As a matter of fact, a few boots were very rigid and actually interfered with the horse’s natural movement causing more harm than good. For protection - in terms of inability to be penetrated by a galloping hoof, polo mallet, or jump fence - there were only 2-3 boots that performed this adequately. Several boots increased concussive force. Some of the boots may have protected the legs but consequently served as an insulator keeping in heat produced during exercise causing the leg to sweat excessively, which may be detrimental to the tendons. Overall, this research concluded that there is only one boot documented to be protective, with breathability and reduced concussion. The manufacturer can be found on-line by searching for protective boot research.

 

In your case, I do not believe that boots will specifically help your horse. Progressing slowly with training and looking for any initial signs of overwork (heat, pain, and swelling) with a subsequent decrease in workload is probably your best bet.

 

Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Rutgers Cooperative Extension.
 

 

 


 

How tall will my young horse get?
 

I own a 14-hand Irish Sport Horse. He’s turning 4 in December but I’m not sure how tall he’s going to get. He is wearing a full horse size bridle and head collar. He has a thin build and very long legs for his height. Do you have any idea how tall he will be?

 

 

 

It is really hard for me to tell you without actually seeing him. However, there is a way you can measure and estimate his mature height.

 

Take a measuring tape, string, baling twine, etc. and put one end on the elbow and the other end on the ground. Then, keeping the one end on the elbow, take the ground end and extend it to above his withers (you might need another person to help you do this). Where the twine ends is “supposed” to be a horse’s mature height. Since horses are supposed to be equal in length from their elbows to the ground and in the width of their barrels, this method should give you at least a rough estimate.

 

Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Equine Extension Specialist, Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

 


 

What product can eliminate tapeworms?
 

 

My vet says I do not need to worry about tapeworms if I am on a 6-week rotation of Strongid and Ivermectin. Is this true?

 

 

 

 

Most classes of dewormers (avermectin and pyrantel) do not kill tapeworms. If you provide a double dose of pyrantel in the spring, that will help. Pharmaceutical companies have developed a specific tapeworm product containing the drug class, praziquantel. Other products combine praziquantel with avermectin and kill almost all internal parasites. These are completely safe for horses. The current recommendation of an 8-week rotation is under some controversy. Research shows that even an 8-week rotation of products will result in resistant parasites over time; however this research is too new and not definitive enough for me to comment on at this time.

 

Which vaccines do you recommend for horses stabled in New Jersey?
 

 

Which vaccines do you recommend for horses stabled in New Jersey?

 

 

 

 

Vaccinations that are more or less required in New Jersey include:

 

  • Encephalomyelitis (EEE, WEE, VEE. This should be given every six months; but at the very least, vaccinate annually.)
  • West Nile (Vaccinate every 6 months, and be sure your horse has the appropriate initial 2 booster series of shots spaced 3-4 weeks apart.)
  • Tetanus (Vaccinate annually.)
  • Influenza (Vaccinate at least every 6 months. If your horse does a lot of traveling, vaccinate every 3 months during show season.)
  • Herpesvirus (Rhinopneumonitis. Vaccinate as influenza above.)
  • Rabies (Vaccinate annually. While not required, rabies vaccines are highly recommended due to a case of equine rabies in New Jersey last year.)

Other vaccines to consider:

  • Strangles (more so for young horses)
  • Potomac Horse Fever (if your horse is around areas of water)
  • Botulism (this is especially important if your horses eat from round bales.)

Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Equine Extension Specialist, Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

 


 

Why does my horse walk on one track instead of two?
 

 

My horse puts one foot in front of the other so that when he is being ridden in soft dirt he leaves only one track. Why does he walk this way?

 

 

Many horses that "tight rope walk," or walk in one track, do so because of conformational abnormalities (angular deformities at their joints). Most of the time this will not be a severe enough problem to cause lameness. Putting protective bell or splint boots on these horses while riding is recommended. This is because of their increased risk of interference with the movement of their legs. In severe conditions, extremely heavy work could cause lameness due to excessive, abnormally placed stress on their joints.

 

Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Equine Extension Specialist, Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

 


 

How long can a horse live without water?
 

 

I would like to know how long a horse can live without water.

 

 

 

Not very long. Typically horses cannot survive without water for more than 2 or 3 days. Keep in mind there is also water on and in feed that they may eat. So this time frame may vary depending on the feed they have access to.

 

Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Equine Extension Specialist, Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

 


 

How much water does a miniature horse drink daily?

 

How much water does a miniature horse drink daily?

 

 

 

Horses will drink 2 quarts of water for every pound of hay they consume. This is true for all horses regardless of size. So the amount of water a miniature horse will drink each day depends on how much hay it is eating daily. Other varying factors include ambient temperature, relative humidity and activity level. Horses exercising in hot or humid weather can consume up to 3-4 times the amount they normally would in cooler weather.

 

Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Equine Extension Specialist, Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

 


 

When should a colt be weaned?

 

What is the optimal age to wean a colt for maximum size and performance?

 

 

 

Typically the weaning age for foals is about 6 months. This will vary slightly depending on your management of the mare and foal and their nutrition. If the foal is eating hay and other feed on his own and only suckling occasionally it can probably be weaned sooner, however, some foals need to learn how to consume their own feed before they are weaned. Minimizing the stress of weaning is probably the most important factor for maintaining the foal’s health and preventing any growth slump during this time.

 

Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Equine Extension Specialist, Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

 


What do the whorls on my horse's neck mean?

 

We recently purchased a Quarter Horse and have since been told that if the horse has a circular hair pattern on its neck (ours has one on each side), it means that they are stubborn and hard-headed. I have also been told that these patterns mean different things when they are located on different parts of the neck. Is there any scientific meaning to these statements?

 

 

 

There is no hard scientific proof that the "whorls" (hairs arranged in a circular or oblong fashion) on the neck or forehead of horses indicate anything about their personality, though there is a lot of "folklore" about it. Dr. Temple Grandin (Colorado State University) did do a study of beef cattle over 20 years ago wherein she concluded that the placement of whorls commonly found on the forehead/face did seem to be correlated with "flightiness" or reactivity. A brief, unsubstantiated study in horses suggested that a single whorl right between the eyes was very common and correlated with normal horse behavior. Whorls lower or higher, and especially double whorls (two side by side) were not as common and seemed to correlate with more flightiness in some or "quirkiness" in others. However, the study did not examine neck whorls. Very old textbooks may refer to a long whorl on the bottom of the neck as a "Wheat Whorl." “Allah's thumb” is a whorl on Arabian necks that supposedly indicated a superior animal. And the list goes on! Rather than looking at hair patterns, assess your horse's behavior yourself. If you are having difficulties with a stubborn or hard-headed horse, consider consulting with an experienced horse person, preferably a licensed trainer, who can help make the decision whether or not this is the correct horse for you.

 

 


Disclaimer:

The material provided on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, prevent, or treat any illness. Any recommendations are not intended to replace the advice of your veterinarian. Any products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. Mention or display of a trademark, proprietary product, or firm in text or figures does not constitute an endorsement by the Equine Science Center or Rutgers University and does not imply approval to the exclusion of other suitable products or firms.

 

 

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