Ask the Vet: Vitamin E & Muscle Disorders

Diseases such as PSSM, EPSM and Vitamin E deficiency are sometimes overwhelming for the horse owner to understand. Pose your questions to this month's AAEP expert, Dr. Holly Bedford regarding these muscle diseases and more.

1
Question: Years ago I had 100% success using injectable Vit E/Se for horses that tied up. Why is this not used still used? It bypasses the digestive process which seems to be a critical issue in absorption.
Answer: 
This is a great question because it brings up several important points. First, tying-up is not due to a vitamin E or selenium deficiency in adult animals. Very young animals can develop a nutritional myodegeneration that affects both skeletal muscle, seen clinically as tying-up, and myocardial muscle (heart) that is responsive to administration of vitamin E and selenium. Nutritional myodegeneration is rare in adult animals. Second, the amount of vitamin E provided per ml of selenium provided is very small, so giving larger volumes of medication to provide higher doses of vitamin E or giving repeated doses for the purpose of providing daily vitamin E risks the development of selenium toxicity. There are other injectable preparations that consist solely of vitamin E that would be more appropriate for multiple dosing or for providing higher doses of vitamin E. Third, absorption is key in determining which is the most effective product, however absorption by the muscle tissue itself is just as important as absorption at the level of the gastro-intestinal tract. There are multiple forms of vitamin E and only one form (natural form) is biologically active in animal tissues. That is why it is important to choose a product containing natural vitamin E. Not all vitamin E products contain natural source vitamin E, including injectable preparations. Currently the most well absorbed oral vitamin E products are those that contain not only natural source vitamin E, but are also water soluble or water dispersible products such as Nano-E and Elevate by KER (www.ker.com). The purpose of supplemental vitamin E in horses with PSSM is not curative, but to provide additional anti-oxidant support to reduce oxidative damage to muscle tissues. Therefore, daily administration of vitamin E may be beneficial to horses with PSSM and oral administration is a more reasonable way to provide it verses daily intramuscular injections.
2
Question: Under my vet's guidance, I have just started my 7-year-old APHA/AQHA gelding on a high fat low carb diet as he has shown signs of EPSM. Will you please describe a regular exercise program that is beneficial for a horse with EPSM?
Answer: 
The first step in managing horses with tying-up episodes is to obtain a proper diagnosis. A definitive diagnosis of polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM) is made through muscle biopsy. A genetic test is also available, but may not be the most appropriate diagnostic test in all horses. For PSSM testing, please consult with your veterinarian to determine which test is best for your horse.
Typically, a diet that is low in carbohydrates and higher in fat is recommended. A vitamin E supplement may also be beneficial. Regular exercise is recommended in horses with PSSM as it has been shown to reduce clinical signs of disease. Exercise should consist of a regular fitness program as well as daily turnout to keep the horse moving. As little as 15 minutes of exercise per day has been shown to have beneficial effects for managing horses with PSSM. As far as how much exercise is recommended will depend on whether your horse is currently having episodes of tying-up with exercise. In cases where the horse is showing signs of tying-up with exercise slow gradual increases in exercise intensity and duration is recommended. For more detailed information on dietary and exercise recommendations for horses with PSSM please visit the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine Neuromuscular Lab (http://www.cvm.umn.edu/umec/lab/PSSM/home.html#PSSM).
3
Question: I have a young mustang gelding that has had previous tying-up episodes, but none in the past year. Can you please provide suggestions/guidelines for the proper feed and supplements? I am also limiting his intake of green grass because I've heard the sugar in the grass may cause a flairup. Is there a good online source I can go to for learning more to manage this condition?
Answer: 
The first step in managing horses with tying-up episodes is to obtain a proper diagnosis. A definitive diagnosis of polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM) is made through muscle biopsy. A genetic test is also available, but may not be the most appropriate diagnostic test in all horses. 
 
Typically, a diet that is low in carbohydrates and higher in fat is recommended. A vitamin E supplement may also be beneficial. Because lush pasture grasses contain a high amount of sugar (carbohydrates), horses with PSSM consuming lush pasture may be at risk for future episodes of tying-up. Therefore, limiting access to lush pasture is recommended in horses with PSSM. 
 
For further information on PSSM and dietary recommendations please visit the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine Neuromuscular Lab (http://www.cvm.umn.edu/umec/lab/PSSM/home.html#PSSM). Please consult with your veterinarian on what type of diet is most appropriate for your horse.
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Question: I have an Icelandic gelding diagnosed via muscle biopsies with EPSM. He gets limited grass, oil, supplement and full time turn out. I have been told that he should also get 45 minutes of exercise a day. However, he is now aging significantly and has arthritic hocks that have been injected with little effect, and x-rays show some bone spurs in his feet. Regular riding is no longer an option. When I do ride him it is mostly at a walk on flat, grassy surfaces. How should we handle the exercise needs of the aging EPSM horse?
Answer: 
This is a great question and a frustrating one, for you and your veterinarian. If your horse’s activity level is limited by chronic health issues, such as lameness from arthritis, then light riding on soft surfaces at a walk may be all that he can do. If that is the case, then daily turnout to keep him moving will be especially important. It is true that regular exercise may improve clinical signs of PSSM, which is why a routine exercise program is often recommended as an important part in management of horses with PSSM. 
 
The good news is that even as few as 10 minutes of exercise per day may prove beneficial. Diet also plays a key role in management of PSSM and may be even more important for your horse since exercise options are limited. Feeding a low carbohydrate, higher fat diet is recommended for horses with PSSM. A vitamin E supplement may also be beneficial. 
 
Please consult with your veterinarian to determine what type of diet is most appropriate for your horse. For further information on PSSM please visit the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine’s Neuromuscular Lab (http://www.cvm.umn.edu/umec/lab/PSSM/home.html#PSSM).
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Question: I have a five-year-old Thoroughbred/Appaloosa gelding with PSSM. I use him for leisurely trail riding, an hour a day three or four times a week with longer rides on weekends. He also is turned out 24/7 in the summers with other horses. I have had a few occasions on a ride where his pulse and respiration are up and I don't know when a tying up episode might occur. I have seen an electrolyte product on the market that is fed on a daily basis. Would you recommend a product of this type as part of his daily management? He is an easy keeper, gets all the hay he can consume and is on Triple Crown Lite.
Answer: 
There are numerous electrolyte products on the market for horses, so I am not sure which specific product you are referring to. However, in general, maintaining electrolyte balance is an important component of the nutritional management of horses with PSSM. Horses should have access to salt or they can be fed a daily electrolyte supplement, especially when the weather is hot and humid or if the horse is sweating excessively. This can be accomplished by providing a salt block or supplementing with a commercially formulated electrolyte paste or powder. Be sure to read the label as some electrolyte products contain added sugars, such as dextrose, which could affect horses with PSSM if fed on a regular basis. Please consult with your veterinarian to see if an electrolyte supplement is appropriate for your horse. For more information on PSSM and nutritional management please visit the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine’s Neuromuscular Lab (http://www.cvm.umn.edu/umec/lab/PSSM/home.html#heal).
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Question: My horse has PSSM. He's been on high fat food since March and is building muscle but at what seems to be a very slow rate. He sometimes appears to have signs of exercise intolerence. Is it unusual to take such a long time to recover and will symptoms possibly always be present?
Answer:
Luckily, horse’s muscles heal completely, with minimal scarring, following an episode of tying up. The healing process usually takes several months and in cases where muscle mass appeared to be lost following the initial episode, most horses will appear normal within 6 months if properly managed and no further episodes have occurred. With proper dietary management (high fat, low starch) and a regular exercise program most horses show improvement in clinical signs and can lead a successful athletic life. Unfortunately, the key here is management, which means that horses with PSSM are never cured of the disease and relapses in clinical signs can occur if fitness levels decrease, diet changes or the horse becomes ill. 
 
If you believe your horse is currently being properly managed for PSSM through a proper diet and regular exercise program, then other causes of poor performance should be ruled out by your veterinarian such as an underlying lameness or a respiratory condition, such as inflammatory airway disease. Measurement of serum Vitamin E level may also be valuable as some horses deficient in Vitamin E can show signs of muscle wasting and weakness, which could manifest as poor performance. Horses with muscle disorders may benefit from supplemental Vitamin E. Natural source Vitamin E in a water soluble form, fed at 1000 IU/day has been recommended. Please consult with your veterinarian to determine if your horse could benefit from Vitamin E supplementation. For further information on PSSM please visit the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine Neuromuscular Lab (http://www.cvm.umn.edu/umec/lab/PSSM/home.html#heal).
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Question: I have been told that vitamin E, delivered in an oil base, is more beneficial than in a powder base. Can you comment on this?
Answer:
In terms of bioavailability, the most beneficial Vit E supplement in horses is one that contains only natural sources of Vit E and is in a water soluble liquid form. Water soluble Vit E supplements currently available for horses are listed below. 
 
Nano•E, Kentucky Equine Research, Versailles, KYElevate WS, Kentucky Performance Products LLC, Versailles, KYEmcelle, Stewart Products, Bedford TX
8
Question: Mater is a 6-year-old APHA/AQHA/PtHA gelding. This past summer I took him to the PtHA world show. Waiting to go into my western pleasure class, a woman nearby sprayed her horse with Raid, as a bug spray. By the time I smelt the spray Mater had clearly inhaled it. Prior to this incident, I have had no medical problems of any kind with him. After my class, I took him back to his stall where he was covered in hives. To the touch he felt like he was burning up, however he was not running a temp (normal 98). I cold hosed him for sometime with no luck in cooling his skin. We turned his fan on, offered him water and kept a close eye on him. He later came off his grain and water and would not eat or drink anything. We attempted Gatorade, beer, wet grain and hay but he would not touch anything. The same night he became colicky. I had the veterinarian examine him and he ran three separate blood tests. The only one coming back with a concern was his vitamin E level. He was put on IV fluids and treated for the hives and given a pain killer. We trailered him home, stopping to give him IV fluids. Upon getting home I took him to my veterinarian. They did a neurological exam, where he failed. They again tested his Vitamin E levels, which came back at 293. Mater was still not eating or drinking. They put him on 8000 IUs of Vitamin E and two weeks later he tested at 710. By now he started drinking and eating again but was very weak. About 3 weeks later after putting him back to light work, my vet instructed he go into hard work, such as training. My trainer has been working him diligently and after a month the veterinarian has had my trainer reduce the Vitamin E to 4000 IUs. Mater is now testing at 215. He wants to do nothing but stand in his stall and sleep. He is grumpy, tries kicking and biting people and has no work ethic at all. All of which is the opposite of him normally. Our vet is running out of ideas and I can't seem to find any answers anywhere. I was wondering if you had any ideas about what could be causing this.
Answer: 
9
Question: Is there any relationship between PSSM and equine sleep deprivation or reluctance to lie down? I have found a couple of anecdotal reports on the web but no scientific studies. I have a 17 hand 8-year-old Warmblood mare that has shown classic sleep deprivation for years, but we have ruled out pasture/herd insecurity and back pain. She's negative on the 4-hour blood test for PSSM. I'm wondering whether there's any point in further testing.
Answer: 
Excessive drowsiness secondary to recumbent sleep deprivation can occur for several reasons. Horses may be reluctant to lie down due to pain. For example, a horse may be reluctant to lie down if he experiences thoracic pain from sternal contact on the ground or abdominal pain from pressure on his abdomen when recumbent. Other causes, that are non-pain related, are insecurity in the horse’s environment (i.e. the horse does not feel comfortable lying down in the pasture or in the stall) or muscle weakness, which may make the task of lying down and/or rising difficult. In reference to your question, yes it is possible that musculoskeletal pain or a muscle disorder, such as polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM), could cause a horse to avoid lying down due to pain or weakness when attempting to lie down or when rising. 
 
Commonly reported clinical signs of PSSM in Warmbloods include firm, painful back and hindquarter muscles, poor performance and muscle atrophy. A submaximal exercise test (I believe you are referencing this in your question) is often utilized in the diagnosis of PSSM. In this test, a baseline blood sample is drawn and then the horse is trotted for 15 minutes. A second blood sample is drawn 4-6 hours post exercise. The muscle enzyme CK is measured in both samples. A greater than 3 fold increase in CK concentration is considered abnormal. However, a normal result does not rule out PSSM. Therefore, if PSSM is still suspected further testing is recommended.
 PSSM is characterized by abnormal accumulation of glycogen and polysaccharide in muscle cells. Therefore, the most definitive test is a muscle biopsy which can easily be performed by your veterinarian. A genetic test is also available and can be performed on blood or hairs, but may not be appropriate in all cases of suspected PSSM as it only identifies Type 1. Type 2 PSSM can only be diagnosed from a muscle biopsy. If you suspect your horse has PSSM or are interested in pursuing further testing, consultation with your veterinarian is recommended. For further information on PSSM and testing recommendations please visit the University of Minnesota’s Neuromuscular Lab (http://www.cvm.umn.edu/umec/lab/PSSM/home.html).
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Question: I have the opportunity to purchase a very nice horse at a favorable price due to shivers. I have read that Vitamin E can help control the problem. What are your suggestions?
Answer: 
The exact cause of Shivers is unknown, however genetic, traumatic, infectious, myopathic or neurologic factors have been suggested. At the present time, there is no cure for Shivers and few treatments have been found to be effective in controlling this disease.  Some cases have reportedly shown improvement in clinical signs following periods of rest, however once exercise resumes clinical signs often return. Dietary modification to a high-fat, low carbohydrate feed along with a regular exercise program and daily turnout may reduce the frequency of muscle spasms in some cases. Additionally, supplementation with a natural source of Vitamin E (1000 IU/day) may improve clinical signs in some horses with Shivers.

Unfortunately, the long term prognosis for athleticism, and in some cases life, for horses with Shivers is poor due to the progressive nature of the disease and lack of effective treatments. Over time, spasms may occur more frequently and worsen in severity. In severe cases, muscle wasting and weakness may also develop necessitating humane euthanasia. 

If you are considering purchasing a horse with suspected Shivers, consultation with your veterinarian is recommended. He or she will most likely recommend a thorough evaluation to confirm the diagnosis by ruling out other possible causes of any gait abnormalities that are present. 
For more information on Shivers and current ongoing research please visit the University of Minnesota’s Equine Neuromuscular Lab website (http://www.cvm.umn.edu/umec/shivers/home.html).

Ask the Vet: Wound Care (bandaging)

Join us in January as we return from the holidays to answer your questions concerning wound care in the winter and bandaging techniques with January's AAEP expert, Dr. Erin Denney-Jones.

1
Question: I have a 3-year-old Warmblood that cut himself on a stray wire when he was 9 months old. The wound was on a hind cannon bone and showed about 2 square inches of bone, though managed to miss all supportive structures and he never took a lame step. The wound healed over after about 6 months of constant pressure bandages. However, he has a very thick pad of scar tissue over the injury site that may interfere when working/jumping and when palpated still seems to be painful. Are there any treatments that would effectively reduce the scar tissue and/or continue the healing process?
Answer: 
An old wound like that would have little chance in reduction of size or removing the scar. Immediate therapies would give you an increased chance of size reduction or minimizing scars. Some of these therapies are laser, estim, and therapeutic ultrasound as well as passive flexions of the site and/or massage of the site. Other medicines that can be used are DMSO with or without steroid. 

Becasue the wound is over two years old, possibly reconstructive surgery would be best recommended, but a surgeon's opinion is warranted. There may not be enough skin to remove and reconstruct the site.
2
Question: I have an 8-year-old OTTB gelding that I've owned for over a year. As far as I know, he has never had any major injuries of any kind. He's been in training at a friend's house for the last two weeks, which she last rode him on Thursday (Jan 12) and said he worked very well. She did notice he stumbled at the trot once or twice (she was thinking it was because he was using his shoulders more), but cooled out well and looked fine afterwards. He got the day off Friday (Jan 13). On Saturday (Jan 14) when I arrived, he looked a bit off when I brought him up from the pasture. He had a smidge of swelling only on his left front, just above the fetlock/ankle area (on the backside of the leg). I should note, when I say smudge of swelling, I mean VERY little, as it would not have been visibly noticeable to most people I'd imagine. It was just by feeling the leg and the fact that he had a "head bob" when on the lunge line that I noticed a bit of swelling. We slathered the fetlock/ swollen area with MagPaste, loosely covered it with plastic wrap, then put on a pillow quilt and standing wrap and just a standing wrap with pillow quilt on the RF leg. I also gave him 2 grams of Bute and turned him back out with his buddy (a quiet 22-year-old gelding). 

I then left only to return the next day Sun. Jan. 15. My friend also left to go with a friend to a H/J awards banquet (she was gone overnight). I returned the next day and pulled my horse out of the pasture, the wraps looked good/ still intact/ had not slid down, and my horse was walking well - better than the day before (he had been wrapped for ~24 hrs). I unwrapped and hosed both front legs. The LF looked better, the fetlock swelling/heat had gone down, both front legs looked totally normal and felt cold. I put him back out on pasture bare legged until my friend got home a couple hours later. My horse had been quiet (i.e. not running around) during that time, so it was quite a surprise when we brought him back out of the pasture a couple hours later, and BOTH front legs had a large amount of swelling (pretty much all the way from the knee to just above the ankle) on the FRONT of both cannon bones (his legs looked like he had bowed a tendon, but on the front of the leg)! No heat, no pain (we both palpated his legs/ the swellings and there no reaction from him) and he didn't take a lame step on the lunge at the walk and trot. Since he wasn't lame and there was no pain/heat, we put him back out last evening (~5 pm) bare legged. This morning at 7 am, Mon., Jan.16, the swelling is greatly reduced (i.e. a non-horseperson probably wouldn't notice) but there is still a slightly noticeable "curve"/ swelling on the front of each cannon bone. He was not lame (not with palpation nor on the lunge at walk nor trot), still no heat/ pain. He trailered home just fine, got off the trailer sound and happy. 

The only thing we can think is that maybe she put the wraps on a too tight and it irritated the common digital extensor tendon? (She's a knowledablge horse person who's wrapped horses legs hundreds of times, as have I, and I had no qualms with how she had wrapped him). 

Is this CDET swelling just a one off thing? Or should I be concerned that it could be a chronic thing? Should I worry about wrapping him again? Should I have a vet ultrasound or? After 30+ years riding and working with OTTBs, I've never seen anything like this.
Answer:
I always say, when in doubt have your veterinarian check him out. Regarding the fact that this all started with a lameness, an exam by your veterinarian should be done to rule out a primary ligament or tendon injury. With that said, and your wonderful description of your bandaging procedure, (I would say you did a fantastic job with your wraps on both front limbs), the pillow wraps certainly make it very hard to damage the tendons and ligaments of the limbs when used with a standing wrap. Without looking at the horse, I would have to guess it was possibly due to the original injury, some sort of dermatitis under the wrap on both forelimbs that was aggravated by the wraps, or that the skin was more sensitive to dew, bugs, or something in the pasture after wrapping especially if your horse is not regularly wrapped while stalled then turned out without wraps.
3
Question: My horse has two open, gaping wounds on the front of his hind ankles from being hit by a truck several weeks ago. They are not healing well and since he is a show horse, I would like to care for them in a way to achieve the best possible results and minimal scarring. What is the best product/procedure to promote healing and minimize scarring?
Answer: 
This is a good topic to discuss all of the over-the-counter wound medications that are available. We veterinarians receive, almost on a weekly basis, flyers for those medications. They all advertise that they speed healing and decrease scarring. The bottom line is that it depends on where the wound is located, what vital structures were involved, if there is a foreign body in the wound or not, and what bacteria and/or fungal elements are involved.

Any wound on the front of a joint such as the ankle (fetlock) would be reason enough to have your veterinarian determine that the joint or the structures in the joint are not involved. Also, wounds over joints are in an area of motion constantly pulling on the skins edges of the wound making it difficult to heal well. I would not be able to offer a suggestion for a product for you without evaluating the wounds - again looking for the structures involved etc. Since this is a show horse and scarring is a concern, possibly a visit to your local equine hospital may be your best possibility for repair under gas anesthesia rather than injectable anesthesia in the field where time is limited. Some medicated products are available to put on the wound from your veterinarian as well that would be better than your over-the-counter ones.
4
Question: My horse wears a cribbing collar. What is the best way to prevent and/or treat an open sore that he keeps getting on his neck from the collar rubbing when he attempts to suck air?
Answer: 
This is a challenge as all those owners with cribbers knows. I suggest that while he does not have the collar on, for example while you are riding, clean the wound up and place antibiotic ointment on it. My favorite cleaning product for open wounds is a dilute chlorhexidine solution (sky blue in color when diluted in water). As for antibiotic you can use neosporin or nolvasan ointment. There are some spray liquid bandages you can use as well that are found in the feed stores. 

To prevent future sores, you may want to place a fleece wrap on the leather where the sores are consistently occuring.
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Question: How do you keep a bandage on a hock area laceration?
Answer: 
A figure eight type bandage is recommended for the hock area (it is similar to an ankle wrap on a person). Proper care of the laceration, either a nonstick pad or pad with antibiotic over the wound area is recommended with a 4-inch gauze roll to hold the pad in place. Again, the 4-inch roll gauze will need to be in a figure eight fashion possibly to hold the gauze over the wound. Always use a padded material, either roll cotton or a quilt on top of the gauze pad, and roll, under your vetrap. This will allow you to make a SNUG fit to your vetrap when wrapping it. Allow a small portion of the quilt or cotton roll to be showing under the vetrap at the top of your wrap and the bottom. Holes will need to be cut out over the point of the hock in the cotton roll or quilt so hock sores are avoided. Your vetrap's final wrap should either be the circumference above or below the hock joint itself. This allows the vetrap to stick to itself more securely when the horse moves. Finally, less movement of the horse (possibly stalled) will keep the bandage on better. The more a horse moves around the looser the bandage becomes. A stacking bandage can be placed under the hock bandage to hold it in place depending on the site and size of the laceration, but a hock bandage, if done properly, will stay in place over the hock - again snug fit is recommended. Practice does make perfect when it comes to hock bandaging.

Below, is a direct link to a video (available courtesy of AAEP Media Partner, The Horse) of these types of bandages explained above being done.

http://www.thehorse.com/Video.aspx?n=how-to-wrap-a-horses-legs&vID=550
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Question: What is the best way to care for an open sore caused by Pigeon disease?
Answer: 
If the horse has truly been diagnosed with "Pigeon Breast", contamination is a concern for the rest of the horses on your property. The wound heals by second intention usually. What that means is the body will create granulation tissue (scar tissue) to fill in the wound and allow the skin to heal over the opening. Pigeon Breast is lanced by your veterinarian and drained and cultured. The opening is lavaged with a dilute antibacterial solution by the owner or by assistants at a clinic on a daily basis. At home, you can capture the discharge in a bucket and dispose of it in your garbage as well as the shavings from the stall to prevent contamination. If your horse is pastured, do not have other horses on the same pasture. Antibiotics may or may not be used, that is the discretion of your veterinarian on the case.

Ask the Vet: Reproduction

Are you considering breeding your mare or stallion this season? Pose your equine reproduction questions for this month's AAEP expert, Dr. Semira Mancill.

1
Question: How soon after delivery can a mare be bred back to another stallion? What are the positives and negatives for not allowing suitable time for recovery from foaling?
Answer: 
Most mares foaling during the breeding season (long days), will come back into heat around day 7 after foaling. This is called their foal heat. The foal heat can be a fertile cycle to breed her, as long as there were no major complications during foaling. Pros can be getting your mare in foal earlier in the year. Some issues that may complicate a foal heat breeding would be trauma to the reproductive tract during foaling, retained placenta and complications from that, exceed fluid or debris that hasn't been pushed out. Sometimes there is added difficulty in retrieving an embryo from a bigger uterus on a foal heat breeding before it returns to its normal size once again. In my practice, I encourage a full examination of the mare's reproductive tract to look for these potential issues and that's a great time to get the foal examined again too. We breed many mares each year on foal heat and have great successes with it.
2
Question: Is there an age limit for a mare to be fertile? I have a mare that I am unfamiliar with her history. I am also uncertain that she has had a cycle in the last 4 months. She is11-years-old.
Answer: 
There is no set age limit in mares as some mares can be fertile into their 20's. Your mare is not old, by fertility standards. This time of year is tricky for horses. They go into a "quiet" time for fertility, called anestrus, in the winter, when they don't cycle at all. Then, in the spring as the days begin to get longer, they will transition into cyclicity once again. So, your mare is likely right on track as horses are "long day breeders." A simple palpation/ultrasound by your veterinarian can tell you where your mare is in her cyclicity.
3
Question: Will Equi-Max dewormer be safe for my breeding stallion? On the back we noticed a "Not recommended for breeding Stallions".... But I want to rotate my dewormers as to be thorough with my parasite program, especially with the weather warming up again. Can you tell me if this product is truly unsafe to use on a breeding stallion or a colt intended for breeding?
Answer: 
I have a box of EquiMax by Bimeda here and the label reads "Stallions and breeding, pregnant or lactation mares may be treated without adverse effects on fertility." So, you should be fine to deworm with this product in your breeding stallion. To be safe with any product, I recommend to always follow the label's directions.
4
Question: I have a 7-year-old mare that has never been bred before but has a fused bone chip in one knee. Her knee is enlarged, with no heat, but she does walk lower leg turned in. She can still lay down and get back up but does so with her bad leg out in front of her and not bent under her. We have considered breeding but I am concerned about the additional weight on her knee, overall balance, and ability to get up/down. This is a race injury that occurred at 4-years-old. Would a pregnancy pose a problem for her?
Answer: 
The extent of your mare's comfort will dictate her being able to carry a foal to term without significant problems. If she's getting around with some problems and/or has pain, they will get harder on her in late pregnancy. Now, having said that, many mares with chronic lameness get pregnant and carry their foals to term. It's difficult to determine your mare's situation without seeing her and doing a proper examination. I would recommend having your veterinarian do a physical exam on her and give you advice on her situation individually. There is always the choice of embryo transfer (as long as her registry/association allows it), so you can have the foal and keep her comfortable as well.
5
Question: Is it true you can breed (or inseminate) a small mare to a much bigger stallion? Some say it is dangerous and others say the size of the mare's uterus will limit the size of the foal to a safe delivery size. If there is a limit in difference of size what is that limit?
Answer: 
There was a very interesting study done by Dr. Ginther years back, where he put "large" mare embryos into pony mares and vice versa. There was not any appreciable amount of problems with those mares foaling on either side. They then followed the foals out to their 3-year-old years and measured bone sizes, wither height, etc. There were some small changes, but the author felt that they were insignificant in the grand scheme. There are not any "rules" per say on sizes or limits. I would say that common sense would prevail in choices of mare size (probably wouldn't put a draft embryo in a mini!) but it shouldn't be a major problem as long as they are standard sized mares. I have bred many standard Quarter horse sized mares to Friesian studs and not had issues with those foals.
6
Question: My new broodmare, I hope to breed, has very large mammary glands from past breedings. Will this be a problem for a new born foal?
Answer: 
Sounds like you have a nice broodmare on your hands! Previous pregnancies can alter the maiden mare's mammary glands over the years, causing them to stay in a somewhat enlarged state. As long as she doesn't have signs of mastitis or infection of the mammary glands, such as heat, pain, or foul discharge, she should be just fine. Happy breeding season!
7
Question: My pastures tested 5% endophyte. Is it necessary to remove my mare that is due March 23rd, from the pastures completely? And if so, when? I'm concerned the stress of confinement would affect her.
Answer: 
To be absolutely safe, mares grazing on endophyte fescue should be removed 45 to 90 days before estimated foaling. Fescue toxicosis in pregnant mares can cause a variety of problems, including prolonged gestation, "red-bag" or premature separation of the chorioallantois, agalactia or reduced milk production with possiblity of decreased amounts of colostrum (critical to the foal's immunity in those first few months after birth), thickened placenta, retained placenta, among others. If your mare has a friend out in the pasture that could be a buddy in the stall next door, this may reduce her anxiety levels.
8
Question: I recently had a stallion go through a fence and cover two mares. What are the chances of a mare settling in January in Alaska? Is there a shot that can be administered to prevent pregnancy?
Answer: 
Although most mares go through a time where they do not cycle in the winter, there is no way for you or I to know for sure if those mares were fertile or not without an examination. There is a prostaglandin injection that your veterinarian can give to the mares if they are pregnant. A simple palpation +/- ultrasound transrectally by your veterinarian can tell you whether those mares are pregnant as early as 9-10 days after the mare ovulates (goes out of heat).
9
Question: My 10-year-old mare has MILK and as far as I know is NOT pregnant...she doesn't look pregnant either. She has had two foals before I purchased her 6 years ago. Should I be concerned?
Answer: 
There are several reasons your mare could have discharge from her mammary glands, including pregnancy, mastitis (infection in the gland), or some produce fluid for unknown reasons that are not harmful to the mare. If the mare is at your place with NO intact males, including young colts around in the last year, then pregnancy is probably low on the list. Mastitis can look as simple as just an increase in size of the mammary gland with some fluid discharge all the way to highly increased in size, hot, painful and include foul discharge. Although some mares can normally have fluid discharge without disease or pregnancy, a simple check-up with your veterinarian can rule out these reasons and give you an answer to let you rest easy about your mare.

Ask the Vet: Nutrition

Do you have questions concerning your horse's current diet? Pose them to March's AAEP expert, Dr. Lydia Gray from SmartPak Equine, as she answers your questions regarding equine nutrition.

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Question: I adopted a rescue horse about 2 years ago from a local rescue organization. A buckskin gelding that is now about 9-years-old. I have had him at the current boarding facility for 1 1/2 years and we have done a couple months of training where he has progressed extremely well. I've noticed that this spring and through this past winter his coat seems to be coarse and static at times. He is being fed Purina Strategy feed, which when we switched to this late last summer I saw a DRAMATIC change in his mane and tail that became nice and soft instead of brittle. His mane and tails are still in wonderful shape. I was thinking of adding flaxseed to his grain daily to help with his hair coat. Is this a good thing to do? He is also currently on Fastrack Probiotics and has unlimited access to rough forage both in his stall and in pasture. He doesn't seem to eat a lot of hay. My veterinarian suggested trying alfalfa forage. I purchase the Triple Crown Alfalfa forage and put it in a bucket in his stall. He eats both it and the hay. I just don't understand why his coat is looking so rough and feels so coarse. Am I on the right track with adding the Omegas in a form of flax seed? We had been using Legends Omega supplement but for the price of it and after researching more and more it seems that using ground flax seed is a healthier and cheaper alternative. 

He is also given Purina Strategy mixed with oats and Fastrack Probiotics.

Thank you! I'm completely new to the owning horse world, maybe not the smartest thing to start with a rescue horse as my first horse but I fell in love with him and now that he has had more training and I am learning how to work with him. I think we are working out just great.
Answer: 
Good for you for adopting a rescue horse! It sounds like you’re on the right track with nutrition, training and other aspects of his care; you just need a few tweaks here and there. If you and your veterinarian are satisfied there are no underlying health issues that could account for his rough, coarse coat—like parasites, ulcers, etc—then absolutely try another source of flax seed for the omega 3 fatty acids it provides. Be warned though, you may find (after daily soaking or grinding) that the price of commercial, stabilized flax seed products is not so bad after all!

In addition to flax seed, there’s my new favorite plant-based source of omega 3s, chia seed (yes, that chia). The seeds from the chia plant have even more omega 3 fatty acids than the seeds of the flax plant and are a powerhouse of other nutrients. There’s also fish oil, which may be an excellent choice for your guy. Not only is it super-high in omega 3s, the fatty acids consist of pre-formed DHA and EPA, the two forms of omega 3 fatty acids that the body is not super efficient in making on its own yet have the most health benefits.

Make sure your guy is getting plenty of turnout (fresh grass is a plus) and grooming and I predict his coat will bloom in no time!
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Question: I have a 28-year-old Quarter horse pony gelding. He lacks adequate dentition for eating hay, but his weight and appetite are good. He is fed a senior feed split over 2-3 feedings per day. He also gets one feeding per day of beet pulp. I added a hay extender pellet to his senior feed, but he doesn't eat it up well. When he tries to eat hay, it just balls up. Should I add a cubed hay product which is soaked before feeding? What would the risk be of choke or obstruction? Would this improve the appearance and frequency of his bowel movements? His manure is formed, but loose. He makes only 2-3 piles per 12 hours, on average. It would be nice to feed him something when the other horses are getting their hay.
Answer: 
I feel like a broken record, but I’m going to recommend to you the same thing I did to the last two question-writers: investing in the HayGain Steamer!

See, I recently had a training session with these folks, and learned that steamed hay is not just for horses with respiratory allergies, to reduce the molds, pollens and other triggers. Because steamed hay is also soft and wet, it is also ideal for horses with poor teeth, those recovering from colic surgery, and other horses that might need roughage that is not quite so . . . rough. If you try this, however, and he stills balls up the hay, then unfortunately long-stem forage may have to be permanently taken off his menu to avoid the risk of choke from poorly chewed materials being swallowed.

To answer your specific question though, yes, soaked cubed hay is an excellent choice for horses that can no longer chew the long-stem forage that is so vital to their digestive and overall health. Have you considered soaked beet pulp? It’s a palatable and nutritious feed for all ages and types of horses, but especially those with difficulty chewing. 

At the recommended feeding level as written on the bag however, senior feed is also fine as the sole diet for these teeth-challenged guys. It’s called “complete” feed because it’s an all-in-one product, like getting hay and grain in a bag. Just make sure you’re feeding enough of it, like 15 or 20 pounds per day. Most horse owners provide senior feeds like they do traditional fortified grains—like 5 pounds per day—and that’s simply not enough of this dilute product to meet a horse’s nutritional needs when hay is not also offered.

Make any diet changes gradually, and think about adding digestive support to his regimen, especially since his stool is less firm than desired. Ingredients like the active live yeast Saccharomyces boulardii as well as probiotics and prebiotics have been shown to assist in the management of proper formed manure. Stick with it, you’ll eventually find the right recipe!
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Question: My Trakehner brood mare is due March 15. She is 11-years-old and in good body condition. I would like to know if I need to change her feed ration. She currently recieves 7 lbs of Southern States Legends Performance textured, 1 lb of Triple Crown Senior and one scoop of Daily Omega Plus and will not eat more. I just took her off the grass and she gets first cutting alfalfa hay, free choice.

I have her on the 10% fat feed because she has trouble keeping her weight up. She will not eat rice bran or other high calorie supplements, as I have tried on several occasions. Please let me know if I need to change anything.
Answer: 
As a Trakehner owner myself, I know how wonderful these horses are. You must be very excited! One thing jumps out at me from your question, and that is the fact that she receives free choice alfalfa hay. Please speak with your local veterinarian and nutritionist about this, as certain health conditions (for example enteroliths) have been linked to an all-alfalfa hay diet. While I love this legume as a forage, she might be better off with a mix of alfalfa and grass hay.

The next fact I noticed was that she gets one pound of senior or complete feed. Certainly this category of product is great for older horses that may not be able to tolerate traditional roughage anymore, but senior feeds are very, very dilute in terms of nutrients (energy, protein, vitamins and minerals). Even though you’re only giving a small amount, you may want to just cut this out of her diet completely since it’s bulky and taking up valuable intestinal tract space that should be reserved for more concentrated feeds. 

While we’re on the topic of grain, I looked up the fortified grain you’re feeding and it’s designed “for mature horses in moderate and intense performance or show activities.” Since you’re already having trouble keeping her weight up--plus the first few months of lactation are going to be an even bigger energy drain on her system--I recommend you gradually switch to a more concentrated product, one specifically for pregnant and nursing mares.

In addition, research suggests supplementing with active live yeast such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which can improve feed efficiency. That is, certain digestive support products can help horses extract more out of the feed they are already being given. Talk to your veterinarian about adding a supplement with yeast, probiotics, prebiotics, enzymes and other ingredients. Best of luck on a healthy foal!
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Question: I have a Thoroughbred mare off the track. She is 16-years-old now and having a difficult time keeping on weight. She looked her best about two years ago. She could care less about food as it takes her all day to finish her morning meal and then it's time for evening meal. She has been dewormed, current dental care and up-to-date on vaccinations. I have tried SmartPak weight gainer and mare calm for about a year and now on a different regimen. She could still stand to gain another 100 lbs.
Answer:
I’m going to give you the same advice I gave the other person with a thin, picky eater: invest in a HayGain Steamer! You’ve already tried a supplement with fenugreek in it to tempt her with a maple/vanilla aroma (the SmartGain 4). How about a weight gain supplement that’s purely fat, or a weight gain supplement that’s purely protein (amino acids)? I find that horses respond very individually to different brands within the same category (weight gain) so don’t hesitate to experiment with some other products.

Another suggestion is to play with her forage. Interestingly enough, turns out easy keepers LOSE weight with small hole hay nets while hard keepers, like yours, actually GAIN weight. There’s something about a constant source of forage trickling through their digestive system that seems to regulate or normalize horses’ weight. If you haven’t tried alfalfa hay, cubes, or pellets with her, they’re also a great way to increase appetite and add weight to horses. 

As the previous question and answer also mentioned, soaked beet pulp is another way to encourage horses to eat and to get calories into them. Beet pulp is a complex carbohydrate or fiber that is fermented by the good bugs in the hind gut or large intestine (cecum and colon) into readily available energy/calories.

Research suggests the fermentation process might be enhanced with the addition of active live yeast such as Saccharomyces cereviseae. That is, supporting her with a digestive supplement may help her get more nutrition out of the food she already consumes. Besides yeast, you’ll also find probiotics, prebiotics, enzymes and other ingredients in this particular category of supplement.

I rarely recommend adding grain or increasing the level you’re already feeding, but consider switching to a more calorie-dense product so the food she does take in has more “bang for the buck.”
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Question: My 2-year-old Thoroughbred grew a hand in one month last spring and became over in the knee, very straight in the pasterns and lame. I was told to give her Stamm vitamins and minerals only even though it would cause her to get very thin. She also wore expandable shoes with pads for 5 months. Since grass can be 20% protein and it is really green early this year, should I go back to Stamm, hay grass only? Even though she has been on grass most of the winter (out during the day and stalled at night), should I cut back on the amount of grass? If so, for how long?
Answer: 
As an article I wrote with Dr. Sarah Ralston for AAEP says “Feeding Young Horses: It’s not the Protein!” (http://www.aaep.org/health_articles_view.php?id=52) So the concern with putting your two-year-old on spring grass is not the protein content, it’s the energy content. That’s why you were told to only give her grass hay and a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement temporarily, because commercial, fortified grain would add additional energy (mostly from sugars and starches) that she doesn’t need right now. Therefore, it might not be a bad idea to restrict her from pasture, particularly during the lush spring months when it has high levels of simple carbohydrates.

Ideally, a young, growing horse should not be fed so little that she becomes excessively thin though, because that might create other problems. Especially with a tall, fast-growing breed like this, I encourage you to work closely with your veterinarian and local qualified nutritionist to develop a complete and balanced diet for her life stage yet does not worsen her existing musculoskeletal issue.
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Question: I have a very picky mare and a little hyper. She doesn't clean up anything but alfalfa/oat cubes. She ties up on too much alfalfa so am trying some timothy grass hay with the cubes. She eats some of it. Any suggestions?
Answer: 
I spend most of my time devising methods to slow down horses from eating too fast and creating diets that are not very calorie-dense so they can eat a lot of bulk but not gain weight. So your question has really made me think! Here are my ideas:

I just attended a training session with the HayGain Steamer folks and one of the groups of horses their product is perfect for is picky eaters! Turns out horses love the smell and texture of steamed hay (I know I love the smell). This particular brand comes in three sizes: full bale, half bale and travel; you may want to purchase the travel size to see if she likes the smell and taste as much as other horses do. Or, you could see if someone in your area has a unit they would let you borrow as a trial. 

It’s true that horses like their food to have a “nose” or attractive odor, so anything you can do to make her food smell better would be a benefit. A study from the UK found that fenugreek, an herb with a maple or vanilla smell, is one of the top preferred flavors for horses. I recommend you look for a supplement that contains fenugreek and sprinkle it on top of foods that she might not go for with gusto.

Now, some horses LOVE the taste and feel of soaked beet pulp and will knock you down for it—does yours? If you have not tried this product, which has a nutrient profile somewhere between hay and grain, give it a whirl. Best of luck getting your Picky Patty to finish her dinner!
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Question: I have a 6-year-old Morgan horse that is a very easy keeper. She is currently getting 1 lb of a ration balancer, 12 lbs of grass hay and 2 lbs Alfalfa cubes a day total (broken down into 3 feedings). Her hay is fed in small mesh hay nets to help it last longer, but she has started digging holes to chew on tree roots. She is on Recovery EQ and Quitt. Any suggestions on what to do or is this normal behavior?
Answer: 
I feel your pain! Here you are trying to do the right thing and your mare is not participating in the program. Couple of suggestions for you:

1. Omit the 2lbs of alfalfa cubes. Alfalfa typically provides more calories than grass so she probably doesn’t need this particular feed.

2. Feed the right amount of forage. How much does your horse weigh? If she weighs 800 pounds, then the 12 pounds of grass hay you’re feeding her per day is 1.5% of her body weight. If she weighs 900 or 1000 pounds, then she’s receiving closer to 1% of her body weight. This may simply not be enough long-stem forage and therefore chew time for her. Try gradually increasing her hay to 15lbs or more and see if her behavior quits and yet she does not gain weight.

3. Soak hay to reduce the NSC content. Since you’re already putting her hay in the small hole hay net, soaking in a clean muck basket would be really easy! Sugars and starches but not important nutrients are removed in just 30 minutes of warm water soaking or 60 minutes of cold water soaking.

4. Add a grazing muzzle. I’ve had great success with putting grazing muzzles on horses to slow down their rate of hay consumption. I know they’re designed for grass pastures, but they also work well in situations like yours where the small hole hay net doesn’t keep her from finishing her hay too early.

5. Include a supplement targeted to support metabolism. Ingredients like chromium, magnesium, taurine, biotin, cinnamon, fenugreek, and other herbs—including adaptogencs—help some horses lose their ravenous appetite.

In addition to these diet recommendations, I have two more ideas for you: provide at least 30 minutes of controlled exercise each day, not just turnout, and consider adding stall toys or another distraction to her environment. Hopefully something here will help your mare cope with the diet restrictions that are necessary to her overall health and soundness!
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Question: I have had my mare for 3 years and I cannot seem to get her to gain weight. She is incredibly thin no matter what or how much I feed her. I love my horse a lot and have never rode her because of this problem. Why would she not gain weight and keep it on?
Answer:
I can tell you’re very concerned about your mare so let’s see what we can do to help her. First of all, how old is she? There are different reasons why a young, middle-aged, or senior horse may have trouble keeping weight on. 

Have you had a veterinarian examine her? A complete physical examination—which may include bloodwork, a fecal, a dental exam and other specific tests—could rule in or rule out specific health conditions that may be responsible for her thin body condition.

Speaking of body condition, have you or someone else officially scored her? The horse industry uses the Henneke Body Condition Scoring scale as a standardized, uniform system for assessing the fat cover on horses. The scale ranges from 1 (emaciated) to 9 (obese), with 5 being moderate or ideal. It may also be a good idea to regularly weigh her with a weight tape and record these two separate measurements so you have an objective record of changes or trends.

Next, I strongly recommend you weigh everything you feed your mare now: hay, grain, etc. You may find out that you’re not supplying her with the recommended 1-2% of her body weight each day in hay, or that you haven’t been giving a full serving of grain as recommended on the bag.

Environment can have a lot to do with how well and how much horses eat. For example, if she primarily eats meals in a stall where she can’t see any other horses, she may be either too stressed to eat or burning every calorie she’s taking in worrying about being alone. On the other hand, if she’s at the bottom of the herd pecking order and having to scramble for every morsel of hay and grain, she may be using up valuable energy scrounging for her food.

Once you’ve addressed all these issues, it’s time to experiment with different forages such as alfalfa hay, cubes or pellets; calorie-adding feeds such as beet pulp and rice bran; and specific ingredients like fat and amino acids. Your mare may benefit from digestive support that improves her digestive efficiency, helping her extract the most nutrition possible from what she’s already eating. 

You certainly have your work cut out for you, I hope the “homework” I have provided yields some answers for you!
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Question: I have a laminitic, overweight 5-year-old Arabian mare. She is on a sparse paddock 24 hrs/day. She is fed 1 cup of oats with a tablespoon of omega 3, 6, 9 soy oil and a vitamin/mineral supplement twice/day. She also has access to hay for 30 minutes/twice per day. She has lost some weight but, seems to be gaining again. My question is....could I just stop feeding hay to her? I feed the oats as a vehicle for the oil and vitamin/mineral supplements. I am concerned about her emotional state if I were to keep her on a dry lot out of the paddock. I am in the process of building a track to reduce her access to forage but it is taking more time than I had hoped. It seems she is gaining weight on the little stubble in the paddock. It is early spring and warm but she isn't shedding like her dam and has gone into early estrus...this concerns me also. Maybe early estrus is normal for some mares, as I don't know but the oil I give her probably has estrogen in it. Could the oil cause an imbalance?
Answer: 
I’m going to start with your most pressing question first, “could I just stop feeding hay to her?” Absolutely not! Long-stem forage should be the basis or foundation of every horse’s diet, and you should provide a minimum of 1% (preferably 2%) of her body weight each day in high quality roughage. This means weighing your horse AND weighing your hay, two things you should probably be doing anyway, given her health issues. 

Some options for safely feeding hay to the overweight horse are:

1). Have your hay analyzed-- especially for sugar and starch content--then soak if necessary to remove these simple carbohydrates.

2). Offer the hay in a small hole hay net or other device, which slows down her rate of consumption. I would rather see her eating small amounts frequently than be restricted to only 30 minutes twice per day of hay.

A grazing track works for some horses but if your mare is gaining weight just on the stubble in her “sparse” paddock, it may not be the best solution for her. Some owners of tremendously easy keepers have gone as far as to till up grass pastures and even paddocks with a hint of green so that their horses still receive turnout but no access to live plants. A second alternative is to use a grazing muzzle when she is turned out where there’s any grass. A few pony owners have even taped over the hole in the bottom of the muzzle so that their overweight equines don’t get ANY pasture.

I like that you’re feeding a vitamin/mineral supplement but recommend you cut out all grains, including the one cup of oats. Many “multi-vitamins” come in pelleted versions that are so tasty horses eat them right out of your hand like a treat!. However, omega 3 fatty acids are a nice addition to her diet for their support of cell and tissue health. Since you’re concerned about potential unintended effects from the oil, perhaps you could switch to flax seed, chia seed or fish oil so she still benefits from these healthy fats. I hope some of these ideas help you two get on the right track!
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Question: I have a mare that has Cushing's disease. She is really sweet and she isn't too bad with Cushing's but definitely has it. I do not have her on pergolide yet, but will probably put her on it in a few years depending on her condition. I am having trouble knowing what to feed her since she is slightly overweight. She appears to have more muscle wasting than anything and therefore looks overweight. I don't know if I should feed her a high protein/low fat or a high fat/ low protein diet.
Answer: 
I’m going to take the liberty of providing medical advice as well as nutritional advice in your situation. My recommendation (with the support of your veterinarian) is to start your mare on pergolide now for her Cushing’s Disease since she’s already showing external signs of the condition, meaning it’s progressed beyond the early stages. By the time you observe hirsutism (long, curly hair), the disease is in the later stages and treatment may not be as effective. Starting her on medication sooner rather than later may slow the progression of the disease and improve her quality of life so I encourage you to rethink your decision to wait.

Now for the nutrition aspect of Cushing’s Disease. From your description, I’m guessing that your mare has developed a pot-bellied appearance that at first glance makes her look overweight but upon closer scrutiny is due to (as you suspect) muscle wasting. As horses lose muscle mass due to the constantly circulating levels of cortisol (stress hormone) that mark this disease, they appear to “sink” in their topline and in their abdomens. Therefore it is not uncommon for a Cushing’s horse to appear swaybacked and have a “hay-belly.”

The next time your veterinarian pulls blood to recheck your mare’s hormone levels associated with the Cushing’s Disease, ask if a serum chemistry can be run at the same time to see how well her kidneys, liver and other systems are working. If everything seems to be in order, then I would not hesitate to put your mare on a high protein/high fat/high fiber diet. Notice that the only category that should NOT be high is sugars and starches, or simple carbohydrates. While horses with Cushing’s Disease may have altered glucose (sugar) metabolism and even insulin resistance, they should have no difficulty digesting and absorbing protein, fat and fiber. Sources for these additional nutrients include alfalfa hay, soybeans or an amino acid supplement; powdered fats or oils with a healthy omega 3 to omega 6 ratio; and complex carbohydrates from high fiber feedstuffs like beet pulp. 

I encourage you to body condition score (and weigh) your mare before gradually adding one of these products at a time to her current diet. Then every two to four weeks rescore and reweigh her to make sure you’re on track.
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Question: I've done a lot of reading trying to figure out some issues with my horse. Is it possible for horses to be on a nice balanced diet of hay and pelleted feed and still have deficiencies? For example, my horse gets plenty of hay (as much as he is willing to eat) and the correct amount of high fat pelleted grain by weight daily yet is consistently underweight. He went from being fine about grooming to absolutely hating it over the last couple years. He dislikes being touched, having his blanket put on or removed, as well as anything other than the lightest leg pressure under saddle. He is otherwise quiet under saddle but has these freak outs on the ground where he gets nervous about something then literally starts shaking all over. I have treated him for ulcers a few times with no real results, although he has not been scoped. I've read about magnesium deficiency and wondered if that is possible or if it's just another fad. There is a local place that does hair mineral testing, but I've been told almost all their tests come back with magnesium deficiency and aluminum toxicity. Is this a sign of a missing piece in most equine diets or just a game? I've also read that since magnesium gets low in the blood last that checking those levels is pointless.
Answer: 
And herein lays the difficulty with fortified grain. As you’ve already found out, the calories are tied to the other nutrients (protein, vitamins, and minerals). You’ve weighed out the proper amount of grain to feed your horse based on his age, weight and workload, yet he’s too thin. In this case, your solutions are:

• Feed more of this particular grain, being careful not to give more than 0.5% body weight at any one meal (this may mean adding a third meal like a lunch)

• Gradually switch to a more calorie-dense fortified grain, where the recommended serving size has the same amount of protein, vitamins and minerals but more calories per pound

• Keep this grain but add another source of calories such as alfalfa cubes, beet pulp or rice brain

• Provide a weight gain supplement with calories coming from fat or fiber. Some products in this category also include amino acids like lysine, threonine and methionine to maintain a muscular topline.

And yes, it is entirely possible to provide your horse with the book-recommended levels of nutrients yet--as you’ve seen with calories and his weight--for him not to thrive at these levels. Remember, the NRC Nutrient Requirements of Horses suggests the minimum levels of calories, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals in order to prevent outright disease, not to optimize health and performance. In addition, horses are individuals and while the minimum level of a nutrient might be enough to allow one horse to say, grow healthy feet, this minimum level may not be enough for another horse. Differences in metabolism, digestive efficiency--even management and stress—can all factor in to why some horses thrive on a basic diet and others need additional support.

Your horse’s issues may or may not be nutrition-related. Either way, I encourage you to have your veterinarian out to examine him fully. Once you’ve ruled out physical causes for his change in behavior, at least you’ll feel better about gradually trying different foods and supplements to see if they make a difference. 

As far as the hair mineral analysis, I honestly don’t know what to tell you about that. The scientist in me reads the literature and is skeptical, yet I know some very knowledgeable and experienced horsemen that provide this service or that use it with positive results. So I’m going to let you do some more reading and come to your own conclusions on that one!
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Question: I have a VERY easy keeper needing to lose weight going into spring grass. I use a grazing muzzle along with limited grazing and NO grain...any other advice beside more exercise? I am concerned about founder but don't want him in a stall all day?
Answer: 
Horses that seem to gain weight on air can be extremely frustrating to manage for the horse owner, barn manager, veterinarian, farrier . . . no one is spared. It sounds like you’re headed in the right direction though, so I’ll just add a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.

Diet
The grazing muzzle is “de rigueur” for any easy keeper being turned out on pasture. However, during the spring while pasture grass is in a fast-growing phase AND your horse needs to lose weight, consider turning him out in a dry lot only and not allowing ANY access to pasture. I agree that stall confinement is not the ideal solution for a number of reasons, so try and find a compromise between pasture and stabling.
In completely removing all grain while trying to reduce their horses’ intake of calories and sugar, some owners have inadvertently created nutrient deficiencies. Provide a complete and balanced diet by introducing either a ration balancer or a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. Some horses with weight problems have improved with this simple correction to their diet!

Watch treats. An apple or ½ a bag of carrots or handful of molasses treats here and there may not seem like a big deal. However, the calories add up and the sugar may cause his glucose and insulin to spike, worsening any insulin resistance he may have. By the way, has your veterinarian examined him for Equine Metabolic Syndrome?

Exercise
Research is conflicting, but if your horse is sound, then I advise at least 30 minutes each and every day of some sort of controlled exercise. Since turnout does not equal exercise for these types of horses, it is up to you to design a workout regimen and make him stick to it. You are your horse’s personal trainer. Equine Biggest Loser, here we come!

Supplements
In addition to a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement, there are products targeted to the metabolic system of your horse. Most contain ingredients that mimic the effects of insulin or are designed to help it work better. Ask your veterinarian if one of these supplements might be appropriate for your horse. Also ask about adding Omega 3 Fatty Acids. While it may seem counter-intuitive to add fat to an already overweight horse, research presented at the AAEP convention showed that omega 3s may help protect against laminitis.

Pharmaceuticals
Finally, if your horse is truly diagnosed with insulin resistance and Equine Metabolic Syndrome, ask your veterinarian if the prescription medication Thyro-L might be helpful in accelerating weight loss (and therefore lowering his chances of developing laminitis). Since several studies have shown that this drug lowers body weight and increases insulin sensitivity in overweight horses, it may be a useful conversation to have with your vet.
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Question: I purchased a mare approximately 2 1/2 months ago. She came from a bad situation, basically a rescue. She was not starved but thinner than she should be as she was being fed sweet feed (I believe they said 4 quarts a day). Since I have had her, I had her teeth done since they were terrible, dewormed her with ivermectin, allow her as much free-choice hay as possible (I have no grass) along with her grain. I started her with a "complete feed" pellet, approx. 2 1/2 cups (measuring cup) twice a day/ (total=5 cups). Her weight did not change. I also had to wet her feed initially as she ate too fast and would choke, but I no longer do this since I gradually switched her to an extruded pellet that contained glucosamine for her joints. It seemed more rounded a feed type-plus she ate it slower. I fed her the same amount of 5 cups total daily. Now her weight has slowly come up-but in the past week, her manure is getting softer and looser, just short of actual diarrhea. I added probios to her feed for a week with no change. I don't know if it's the feed (the bag is half gone) or something else? I'd hate to switch her again. Any thoughts on this?
Answer: 
My first thought is: thank you for giving this mare a chance! My second thought is: I am not surprised that when you switched from 5 cups of a complete feed to 5 cups of a fortified grain she gained weight. That’s because “complete feed” is an all-in-one product (hay and grain in a bag), so that horses with poor teeth or areas of the country without quality forage can make sure their horses still get enough long-stem roughage in their diets. However, these products are very, very dilute when it comes to calories, protein, vitamins and minerals so you have to feed a lot of them—15, 18 even 20 pounds a day! I’m guessing here (but you need to get out your kitchen scale and actually weigh) but 5 cups of a complete feed is maybe 2 pounds? So she was getting way underfed this particular product. Five cups or two pounds of a fortified grain is closer to the recommend amount, but you still need to weigh the product and follow the instructions on the label for the proper amount to feed her given her age, weight and workload.

If you haven’t had a veterinarian look at her recently, it’s time again. A physical examination—along with bloodwork, a fecal exam or other diagnostic testing--may be able to rule out certain problems or even pinpoint the cause of the loose stool. Your veterinarian will also help you investigate all aspects of your mare’s environment and possibly figure out if something else (a switch in hay, a new turnout buddy, other stress) could be responsible for her change in manure.

Adding a probiotic to her feed was a good idea; give this one a little bit longer then if you still don’t see results, try another product. I’ve found that horses respond very differently to digestive supplements. That is, Brand A may work great in one horse but it does nothing for another horse yet that horse responds great to Brand B. I don’t know if it’s the different species of probiotics, the different amounts, the addition of prebiotics (food for the good bugs), active live yeast, enzymes or something else, but don’t give up on supporting her GI system through her recovery just yet. Best of luck bringing her through this!
14
Question: My stallion has ulcers every couple of years. What would be a good diet for him? At present he gets good quality alfalfa / grass hay with about one pound of 12% sweet feed daily at 6:30 am and 3:30 pm. All the fresh water he can drink.
Answer: 
To help you with your ulcer-prone horse, here are the recognized risk factors for gastric ulcers in horses:

• Intermittent feed deprivation—not having food in the stomach is such a reliable risk factor for ulcers that researchers withhold food on purpose to induce the condition for studies! 

• Intense exercise—there appears to be an association between the level of exercise intensity and the prevalence of ulcers

• Diet—concentrate (grain) feeding is believed to contribute to the formation and worsening of ulcers

• Stall confinement—could be due to intermittent feeding, lack of contact with other horses, stress, or other reasons

• Transportation—similar to stall confinement, could be a result of decreased food (and water), separation from other horses, or just the stress of being hauled to a new location

• Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)—this class of drugs disturbs the balance of protective vs aggressive factors in the stomach

• Stress--either mental or physical stress could increase the level of cortisol (stress hormone) in the body, which has been shown to shut down protective factors in the stomach

Now that you are familiar with the risk factors for gastric ulcers, what can you specifically do to eliminate or reduce them in your horse? Without knowing what you do with your horse (exercise, trailering, etc) or how you keep him (stall, dry lot, pasture), I will stick to recommendations concerning diet.

Since he’s only getting one pound of sweet feed at his morning and afternoon meals, is it possible just to remove this grain altogether from his feeding regimen? This small amount is not enough to provide him with much nutrition in the way of protein, vitamins and minerals, but it may be enough to aggravate his stomach tissue. Try feeding a ration balancer or multi-vitamin/mineral supplement instead to complete and balance his diet.

I like that you’re feeding some alfalfa hay, as it may result in improvement in both the number and severity of gastric ulcers. Scientists aren’t sure if it’s the high protein, high calcium, or something else about alfalfa that is responsible for this result, but let’s use this forage to our advantage! Probably the best way to reap the benefits of alfalfa is to provide a flake with his meals morning and afternoon, then keep grass hay in front of him all the time so he always has something in his stomach. There are a couple of ways to keep him slowly nibbling around the clock, one is a small hole hay net. Maybe these were introduced to the market for the overweight, easy keepers, but I’ve found them to be super helpful for horses prone to ulcers as a safe method to provide free-choice grass hay without the waste or extra calories.

Finally, ask your veterinarian if a supplement to support stomach health might be a good choice for your horse. From antacids designed to temporarily neutralize stomach acid to amino acids like glutamine to other natural agents like pectin/lecithin, seabuckthorn and aloe, there are a variety of natural ingredients to select from with solid science behind them. Give a product for a month and see if it makes a difference; if not, choose a different one. Best of luck finding a diet, management and supplement program that helps your stallion!
15
Question: I have an 8-year-old Quarter Horse/Arabian/Mustang mix that weighs about 1000 lbs. My 11 year-old daughter barrel races on him about 1-2 times per week and exercises him another 2 days in the week. We are feeding him a scoop of Healthy Edge in the morning and 1 scoop of Healthy Edge in the evening with 1/2 flake of Alfalfa in the morning and evening with his HE. He has a couple of flakes of Coastal hay at his disposal during the day, but he doesn't really eat it. We are new horse owners, we've had him a couple of years. Over the winter, when my daughter wasn't riding him as often as she usually does, he put on about 100 extra pounds. Our veterinarian recently reduced his grain to 1/2 scoop morning and night and added Platinum Performance to his diet. I'm just wondering what your thoughts are on this?
Answer: 
I think your veterinarian made a good decision in reducing the calories and sugars/starches given to this horse and replacing nutrients with a broad multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. While the particular product he recommended doesn’t account for the differences in vitamins and minerals between grass and alfalfa hay, it probably does an adequate job of filling the gaps between what the NRC Nutrient Requirements of Horses says your horse’s daily requirements are and what he’s getting from a partial serving of grain.

“About 100 extra pounds” is the equivalent of two body condition scores, so if your barrel horse was a 5 on the Henneke Body Condition Scoring scale your vet thinks he’s now a 7 (or if he was a 4, now he’s a 6). Your goal throughout this competition season and into next year’s off-season should be to keep his weight as ideal as possible for his performance and health. So when your daughter has gone to his last show in 2012, begin to gradually wean him down from a full scoop of grain (please weigh this!) and add in the multi-vitamin.

There is one thing that concerns me in your question though, and that is the amount of hay your horse is eating. One half flake of alfalfa morning and night isn’t nearly enough forage to maintain gut health. Are you sure he’s not eating more of the Bermuda Coastal hay than you think? Does he have access to pasture? A 1000lb horse should receive at a minimum 10lbs of hay per day; 20lbs would be an even better amount. I recommend you review the hay situation at your barn to make sure he’s eating somewhere within this range.
16
Question: I have a 14-year-old Warmblood/ TN Walker cross gelding with good teeth that I cannot get weight on. He moved from VA to CO in October. He then proceeded to go from a BS of 7 to a BS of 4 in 3 months. I have tried the high fat supplements but he will not eat them. He supposedly gets 25lbs of timothy hay per day from the barn where he stays, plus 3 lbs of a complete feed. I have a draft mare of the same size on the same diet and she is very similar BS wise to when she moved out here. I really need him to bulk up fat and muscle wise to get ready for this summer. Any suggestions?
Answer: 
I have to admit after seeing “warmblood/walker cross gelding” in the first sentence, I was surprised to learn that your issue is getting this particular horse to gain weight. Both of these breeds can be “easy keepers” so my first recommendation is to have your veterinarian out to examine each of your horses for medical issues that may be causing a problem. You specifically mention that his teeth are good although it wouldn’t hurt to get a second opinion. Also, how’s your parasite control program? 

While your veterinarian is at the farm, walk him or her through your current feeding regimen. Assess the quality of the hay and grain, weigh the horses’ daily servings, read bag labels, body condition score and estimate weight, examine when and where your horses are each fed, etc. Perhaps together you can identify a problem that could cause them not to be getting the quality or quantity of food you think they’re getting.

If the horses and your feeding program get a clean bill of health, then it’s time to look at ways to add calories to their diet. Let’s start with the hay. It sounds like you’re providing enough forage, since the rule of thumb is 1-2% of body weight. Next, while complete feeds generally contain high quality ingredients that are easily digestible, they are all-in-one products--hay and grain in a bag—and as such are very very dilute when it comes to calories, protein, vitamins and minerals. The full recommended serving for these types of products is in the 15 to 18-pound range, so the 3 pounds you’re providing is actually supplying very little of any of these nutrients. You may want to consider bumping them up to a true fortified grain, not a complete feed.

If adding grain isn’t something you’re keen on doing, other suggestions to add weight to horses include alfalfa (hay, cubes, pellets); beet pulp, and stabilized rice bran. Keep in mind if you do add one of these suggestions to the partial serving of complete feed, you should also consider adding a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement to fill in the gaps. 

You say you’ve tried one fat supplement but there are lots of others out there that your horse might take a liking to so I encourage you to experiment. Also think about a weight gain supplement that not only adds fat but also protein (amino acids) since you said you want to “bulk him up.” 

Finally, your horses sound like excellent candidates for digestive support to help them extract the most out of their current nutrition possible. Ingredients in this category include active live yeast like Saccharomyces cerevisiae, probiotics, prebiotics, enzymes and others.
17
Question: I have an 8-year-old Paint gelding that is boarded and is receiving one scoop of sweet feed and grass hay. He is ridden 3-5 times/week and given a moderate workout each time. We trail ride in the summer. His body condition is good. He is somewhat hot and I have been reading about using a feed which provides calories in the form of fat, or possibly just using a ration balancer for hot horses. Is this something that you would recommend? What feeds do you recommend for hot horses? Also do you feel that the calming supplements work?
Answer: 
I like your idea of replacing his sweet feed with a ration balancer (or multi-vitamin) for several reasons. First, it doesn’t sound like he’s getting a full serving of this fortified grain for his age, weight and workload. When grain is cut back to reduce calories, nutrients such as protein, vitamins and minerals are also reduced. These can be put back in the diet (without adding calories or sugar) with a ration balancer or multi-vitamin/mineral supplement.

Second, did you know that sweet feed can contain as much as 50% sugars and starches? These simple carbohydrates can cause some horses to be a little “silly.” They are quickly digested or broken down in the stomach and small intestine then absorbed into the blood stream as glucose (blood sugar), leading to a spike in insulin release. Some horses seem to do better when their energy comes either from complex carbohydrates, which are fermented by microorganisms in the cecum and colon or from fat.

As far as calming supplements, you may find you don’t need one after swapping out the sweet feed in his diet. But if you want to try this approach, keep in mind there are two broad categories of calming supplements: nutritional-based and herbal-based. Some horses respond better to the nutrients magnesium, B-vitamins and tryptophan (an amino acid) while other horses are able to normalize their nervous systems with herbs such as valerian, vervain, chamomile, hops, passion flower or others.
18
Question: In your opinion, what is the best feed combination for a race horse in racing season and during rest period? Should it be different due to the different energy demands? Is there need for supplementation?
Answer: 
Absolutely a race horse should be fed differently during race season than during the off season! Racing constitutes “very heavy work” according to the NRC Nutrient Requirements of Horses and is one of the categories where hay alone cannot meet the horse’s energy or caloric requirements. When a horse is working hard, he needs his diet to become more calorie dense because he needs more calories but is still volume-limited to that 2.5 maybe 3% body weight of feed intake per day. Hard-working horses can get to the point where they need more calories but simply can’t take in any more food so the food they eat needs to have more calories per pound.

With some horses, this can be accommodated by reducing hay and increasing fortified grain. Look for a grain that is specially developed for very active horses or horses in hard work and be sure not to feed more than 0.5% body weight in grain per meal (that’s 5 pounds for a 1000 pound horse). Studies have shown that more than this amount of sugar and starch given at one time overwhelms the stomach and small intestine, winds up in the hindgut, and can cause all sorts of problems like colic and even laminitis. 

Be forewarned, even if you are under the 0.5% per meal limit, many horses are unable to handle such high amounts of sugars and starches from traditional grains. These horses can develop behavioral issues, exertional rhabomyolysis (tying up) or other conditions. In these cases, fat has been shown to be an excellent source of calories! Nowadays there are many choices for adding fat to the diet, whether it’s a grain with a higher percentage fat, a supplement made from rice bran or other high-fat ingredient, 100% powdered fat supplements, or oils. Just keep in mind that all fats are not created equal so try not to imbalance your horse’s omega 3:omega 6 fatty acid ratio with an oil or fat that is loaded with the pro-inflammatory omega 6s (like corn oil). Good luck in the feed room and on the track!
19
Question: I recently purchased a coming two year old (based on birthday not the Thoroughbred January 1 date) Thoroughbred gelding that had 60 days training to race at 18 months before his owners decided he wasn’t fast enough. He is growing quickly and I am in no hurry to start riding him again as I feel he needs time to develop physically. Nutritionally, what should his diet consist of for optium growth and health?
Answer: 
Congratulations on your new horse! And cheers for giving him the time, space and nutrition to mature properly. According to my favorite book, the NRC Nutrient Requirements of Horses, horses 24 months of age and younger are considered “growing animals” and have additional daily nutrient requirements than adult horses in maintenance. 

Specifically, they need more energy (calories), protein (especially the limiting amino acid lysine), and certain vitamins and minerals like Vitamin D and iron. Since the amount and ratio of all these nutrients are both important—as well as knowing the body condition score and approximate weight of your growing horse—I recommend you speak with your veterinarian or a local equine nutritionist to develop the most appropriate feeding regimen for him during these formative years. 

They’ll likely recommend a combination of high quality mixed grass and alfalfa hay along with a fortified grain that is specifically designed to be fed to young horses because of the high density or concentration of nutrients it supplies. Don’t forget to topdress with salt; provide clean, fresh water; and allow plenty of turnout. Access to fresh grass is a plus!
20
Question: We have a 6-month-old foal that we got at Christmas time. Her mother died at birth and she was put on a neighbor's mare. The mare was bred when her foal and the orphaned foal were about 3.5 to 4 months old so they'd only been eating hay about a week when we got them. The orphaned foal (Halley) recently has had swollen back ankles. We were told to reduce her grain. We had been giving them hay and grain in the morning, but stopped the grain altogether. Can you tell me what we should be feeding our two foals to provide them with the best nutrition and maybe an idea of what could be going on with her ankles? They actually look much better in the last week and most of the swelling is gone. However, she sometimes will stands on her toe.
Answer: 
First, have your veterinarian out to examine Halley and determine what’s going on with her back ankles. It’s important to have an accurate diagnosis so that the appropriate treatment (which may include an adjustment to her diet) can be started as soon as possible. It would be a shame if this issue caused a lifelong soundness problem that causes her discomfort and potentially keeps her from being a fun riding horse for you to enjoy.

Feeding foals can be a delicate business, especially when you’re saddled with her history of being an orphaned foal. Show your veterinarian what and how much you’re feeding, and ask if there’s an equine nutritionist you can be put in touch with to help review her diet and make nutrition suggestions. I also recommend you read the AAEP article: Feeding Young Horses: It’s not the Protein! (http://www.aaep.org/health_articles_view.php?id=115) I wrote this with Dr. Sarah Ralston a few years ago and it does a pretty good job of laying out the issues and setting feeding guidelines for youngsters.
21
Question: We own a 5-year-old Thoroughbred and he is not picky about what he eats. His weight is good and he is in good condition. We feed him regular old grain and hay. We also have him on Platinum Performance. I have read many articles about grain, and it’s not good for horses. What should I look for when picking out what is good grain? (I need a simple way to check what to look for in grain). Is it better to cut back on the grain and feed more hay? Is there something better to feed him other than the grain?
Answer: 
I love your phrase “regular old grain and hay” like there’s fancy stuff out there your horse is missing out on! Consider yourself lucky that you have a horse in good weight. That means you don’t have to go to great lengths to add or subtract calories in his diet. Now you can just focus on providing high quality hay, the most important part of his diet, and completing and balancing things with fortified grain, if necessary, or a ration balancer or multi-vitamin/mineral supplement.

AAEP has a wonderful brochure called “Hay Quality and Horse Nutrition: Evaluating your horse’s nutritional needs” (http://www.aaep.org/health_articles_view.php?id=109). There’s also an article on their website called “10 Tips for Choosing the Best Hay for Your Horse” (http://www.aaep.org/health_articles_view.php?id=195). I encourage you to check out both these resources to make sure his forage is top-notch. 

The second part of your homework is to weigh your horse’s current serving of grain. If it’s less than what’s recommended on the bag for his age, weight and workload, then you should (gradually) switch to a ration balancer or multi-vitamin. In an attempt to cut down on his calories to keep him at his current weight, you’ve also inadvertently cut down on his vitamins and minerals. Better to feed the recommended amount of the appropriate product than a portion of the wrong product. Other than the sugars and starches in most grains that most horses don’t need or do well on, to me the biggest problem feeding fortified grain is that hardly anyone does it right, not that there’s some mysterious quality issue. Know what you’re feeding and why (and how much) and your horse will thank you!
22
Question: I have a 7-year-old Haflinger mare that is ridden pleasure. I'm concerned that she is receiving adequate nutrition requirements without over feeding. Currently she's on a hay based diet with a gastric supplement and a joint supplement fed daily. She receives soaked alfalfa cubes daily in order to add supplements to her diet. She has a history of colic including surgery and a bout of colitis, which landed her in the hospital for 10 days. Her feed includes Triple Crown Light fed daily (approximately 1-2 lbs / day).
Answer: 
Sorry to hear about your mare’s mishaps—colic, surgery and colitis. Fortunately, her diet, based on hay supplemented with the correct amount of a pelleted concentrate and supported with a handful of alfalfa cubes sounds very appropriate. With the stress your mare has been under, a gastric (stomach) supplement is not a bad idea, although given her history of hindgut or large intestine issues, you may want to consider a digestive supplement to provide ingredients targeted for the tissues, environment and special needs of the cecum and colon.

Ingredients to look for include:
• probiotics (direct fed microorganisms or bacteria such as Lactobacillus, Enterococcus and Bifidobacterium)
• prebiotics (soluble fibers like MOS, FOS, arabinogalactan, inulin and even psyllium)
• digestive enzymes (amylase, lipase, protease)
• active live yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae and boulardii)
• amino acids (glutamine, glycine, threonine)
• herbs (turmeric, ginger, licorice)
• hindgut buffers

Many of these have research supporting their use in maintaining a normal, healthy hindgut so I encourage you to check them out. Sounds like you’re on the right track though—keep up the good work!
23
Question: I have a mare that is due to foal in approximately a month (4/24/2012) and she has turned up extremely thin since she is 17.2hh and weighs 628kgs. At this late stage of pregnancy, she would be a condition score of two! She has had adlib haylage all winter but has obviously lost condition. I have dewormed her and had her teeth checked, she has also had bloodwork done, which came back clear of any major problems. I would like your advice on the safe way to feed her so she puts on condition without putting her or the foal at risk. Currently she is getting 4kgs of Stud Nuts (dodson and horrel) and 2kgs of sugar beet with oil spread over 4 feeds throughout the day.
Answer:
From some of the information in your question, I gather you’re not from around these parts (the US). But, horses are horses, and even though you may have access to different feedstuffs in your neck of the world, hopefully I can provide you with some helpful advice.

That’s great that you’ve already had your veterinarian out to examine her for health issues, check her teeth, deworm, etc. That’s step one. Step two is evaluating her current diet for gaps or places where you can step in and make improvements. Let’s start with her weight. For us Americans, 628kg is about 1380lbs and you say she’s a body condition score of 2. Most veterinarians will tell you a mare about to foal should be a 5 or even a 6 on the Henneke scale, and since each number corresponds to something like 50lbs, she needs to gain 150 to 200lbs. She’s not going to do that in one month. However, maybe we can think of something that can stop the weight loss associated with this pregnancy and help her prepare for the even heavier demands on her system that lactation (nursing) will demand.

For those unfamiliar with haylage, also known as high dry matter grass silage, it is chopped forage that is then ensiled or fermented. One concern with feeding horses silage has always been contamination, especially with botulism, but modern techniques have reduced that risk making haylage a palatable, nutritious source of feed for horses. In fact, given how tasty and nutrient-dense haylage is, I’m surprised your mare isn’t holding weight on. But, that’s horses.

I had never heard of “Stud Nuts” before, and was pleasantly surprised when I Googled it and found it to be “a high energy, high protein nut for pregnant and lactating mare, foals, yearling and stallions. Minerals and vitamins are included to a high specification and live yeast is added for its beneficial effects on digestion, diet utilization and coat and body condition.” My next recommendation was going to be to try adding active live yeast—like the Saccharomyces cerevisiae found in Yea-Sacc—to her diet for its positive effects on nutrient digestibility and weight gain. In one study, pregnant mares fed 20g live yeast 4 weeks prior to foaling had improved digestibility of dietary energy, protein and fiber resulting in greater milk production and improved foal growth. Since your grain already contains yeast, perhaps reaching for a digestive supplement with probiotics and prebiotics is a reasonable next option.

The beet pulp is a good choice, with the 2kg you’re giving equivalent to about 4.4lbs. Oil or fat is also a good solution for increasing calories in the diet—could you give her more? And I like that you’re spreading her meals out into four feedings throughout the day because that fetus is taking up a lot of room in her abdomen making her unable to eat large quantities at one time. 

Without changing her diet too much at this late stage, maybe she would do better with the addition of pasture grass, a mix of grass and alfalfa hays, or hay cubes or pellets. She may just be one of those mares that needs more variety in her roughage so I encourage you to gradually explore these other feedstuffs. I admit I’m a bit stumped as to why you’re doing everything right but your mare is so thin, all I can say is keep food in front of her all the time (that she’s interested in eating) and try to increase the caloric density of the different foods in her diet.
24
Question: I am in Pennsylvania and have a 6-year-old, 16.2 h., athletic, Percheron x Paint/TB mare (Kit) that is an extremely easy keeper. I have had Kit for a little over a year but due to my current time constraints and the fact that she is boarded 25 miles away, I have trouble getting there consistently and thus, she is receiving very little organized exercise. She is turned out 23 hrs/day in rotated lush grassy (seasonal) pastures w/ access to the barn and plenty of water at all times. The boarding stable feeds a sweet feed of which she gets about 1 cup and a few (light) flakes of homegrown grass hay 2x/day. She has lost a little bit of weight this winter since grazing is nonexistent, but she still maintains a body score of 6.5 or 7. I was thinking of replacing her minimal sweet feed ration with a fortified ration balancer to ensure she gets her proper nutrients but I understand mares can be hormonally sensitive to soy products, and most RBs derive their protein from soy. She also gets a moderately severe case of midline dermatitis during fly season and becomes extremely itchy on her belly, mane and tail. I used a type of bug spray last year and it improved her condition until July/August when it just didn't seem to work anymore even though her environment is kept consistently clean. I'm concerned for both Kit's nutrition and immune function. Can you shed some light and/or make a recommendation on what I should feed her and how I can better control her fly hypersensitivity? Kit and I both thank you!
Answer: 
It sounds like you’ve put a lot of thought into your mare’s health and nutrition and I commend you for that! I also commend you for finding a place that keeps her turned out 23 hours per day. That’s so healthy and natural for horses! Unfortunately, at a body condition score of 6.5 to 7 after losing weight this winter she may need to wear a new piece of “jewelry” before getting turned out on pasture this spring: a grazing muzzle. Trust me, this does not make you a horrible owner and she will not hate you—my own horse wears a grazing muzzle from April to November. It allows him to be turned out with his herd all day long while not gaining weight or risking laminitis.

Since she is a little above the ideal of “5” on the BCS chart, I agree with your decision to replace the unnecessary, token amount of sweet feed in her diet with a ration balancer. I am not familiar with mares being sensitive to soy but if this is a concern of yours, either try and find a ration balancer that does not contain soy as an ingredient or go with a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement instead. It is fairly easy to find a “multi-vitamin” that completes and balances a predominantly grass or alfalfa diet and that is in a tasty pellet form so she’ll still eat it readily.

As to your final question, midline dermatitis, some studies have shown that horses supplemented with Omega 3 fatty acids have a reduced response to allergic skin disorders. Significant amounts of Omega 3s are found in flax seed, chia seed and fish oil, and there are several quality products on the market that provide stabilized sources of these ingredients. The level of Omega 3 fatty acids required to support cells and tissues is much smaller than the level required to provide additional calories (e.g. what a hard keeper or senior horse needs) so adding these healthy fats should have no impact on her overall weight. I hope you find one that works!
25
Question: I have two horses that are very easy keepers, even through the winter. I actually feed one cup twice a day with good quality hay. Is there anything else that I need to give them? I trail ride once or twice a week.
Answer: 
Thanks for your question. I find myself asking: you feed one cup of what? If you’re giving your two easy keepers one cup of a ration balancer, you may be spot on with their diets. Ration balancers are concentrated products that contain protein, vitamins and minerals designed to complete and balance either a predominantly grass or grass hay diet or a predominantly alfalfa hay diet. 

For horses in light work like yours, the low end of the recommended feeding level—one pound per day--may be sufficient. However, make sure you’re actually feeding one pound by weighing it on a kitchen scale or fish scale, then marking your daily scoop for one pound of this particular product. Since the best way to feed horses is by weight, not by volume, weighing it out the first time you feed a ration balancer (or fortified grain or complete feed) ensures you’re feeding the proper amount. 

Also, if your hay is of high quality, your horses may not actually need the protein from a ration balancer so a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement fed at the rate of 1-2 ounces may be just the ticket. Since many of these now come in tasty pellet form, you won’t need to add any sweet feed or oats to mix them in so that your horses eat them. A multi-vitamin would also be a good choice if it turns out you’re only feeding 1 cup of a fortified grain or complete feed. These types of products complete and balance the diet only if fed at the levels recommended on the bag, which range from 3-6 pounds for a fortified grain to 15-18 pounds for a complete feed. Only feeding 1 cup of a product like this hardly supplies your horses with any vitamins and minerals so you would want to bridge the gap with a multi-vitamin. Happy trails!
26
Question: What would you recommend grain/hay and or probiotics for a 15-year-old mare that has tied up before, ulcered and just had colic surgery as her intestines were impacted with corn cob bedding? Her manure is still cow patty form and we are planning to bring her home the week of March 3rd.
Answer: 
As someone whose own horse had (successful!) colic surgery, I’m sorry to hear that your mare had to undergo this. It’s very stressful for both the horse and the owner. While I commend you for seeking outside nutritional advice, it’s really important in situations like this to follow the discharging hospital’s instructions as far as diet, turnout, incision care and other management. They have the best working knowledge of your mare’s health status and should be able to design a feeding, exercise and care regimen to promote recovery.

Introducing food to a horse after colic surgery can be a delicate process, more so in your case because your mare has some other conditions (ulcers and tying up) that probably do better with specialized nutrition. In general though, the goals are to restore your horse’s normal intestinal function and promote tissue healing while not triggering an ulcer, an episode of tying up or further digestive problems. 

It’s important to get the intestine moving but since food was withheld because of colic and surgery, this has to be done slowly and with high-quality, easily digestible foods. Many surgeons recommend short bouts (10-15 minutes) of hand grazing fresh grass several times a day. This provides your horse with forage of high water content. Small, frequent hay meals are also suggested, and the hay can even be soaked or at least wetted to add water to the bowels and soften this all-important roughage. Other types of forage to consider adding gradually to the diet include hay cubes, hay pellets and hay stretcher. Beet pulp is an excellent source of nutrition—falling somewhere between hays and grains—with fiber that is fermented by the good bugs of your horse’s hindgut, but if your horse isn’t used to it then now may not be the time to introduce a new food. Even if your horse is used to getting some grain in his diet, you may want to wait before starting back up with it. Forage is your horse’s friend right now!

Several supplement ingredients come to mind that may support normal healing of the GI tract, replenish the good bugs, and assist in digestion of starches and fiber, but talk to the veterinary surgeon before adding anything. Specifically, ask if amino acids like glutamine to help repair intestinal cells, probiotics (beneficial bacteria), prebiotics (food for the beneficial bacteria), active live yeast like Saccharomyces cerevisiae, enzymes like amylase, and other ingredients might be useful in your mare’s recovery. Best of luck bringing her back to health!

Ask the Vet: Podiatry (Shoe fitting, balance)

Join us during the month of April as we get our horses ready for the trails and show. Pose your questions to this month's AAEP expert, Dr. Shannon Moreaux as he answers your questions concerning equine podiatry, specifically related to shoe fitting and balance.

1
Question: I have an older Thoroughbred with very thin soles, some changes in the navicular bone and both coffin joint and hock arthritis. In spite of all of this, he is basically sound (other than on a tight circle), energetic and not ready to retire. He has always worn shoes with pads in the summer. I'd like to try some of that stuff that comes in a tube and goes under the pad. Is there a particular type you would recommend?
Answer:
I personally use Vettec products for the purpose that you describe. I and your farrier agree that the horse needs pads to remain serviceable and there are a couple of options from this company: Equi-Pak/Soft and Sil-Pak. Vettec describes Equi-Pak/Soft as a “extra soft instant pad material for use under pads” and Sil-Pak as a “fast setting silicone packing material for use under pads”. You may also discuss with your farrier the potential to use a poor-in pad product instead of using a plastic or leather pad. Vettec makes three such products, a soft, a firm and a medicated (infused with copper sulfate to reduce the potential of thrush). In my experience, horses with navicular pain tend to respond favorably when poor in pad material is used in conjunction with appropriate trimming/shoeing. However, some horses with thin soles are more sensitive to the increased pressure of the poor-in. I should also mention that Vettec makes a product named Sol-Guard, which they describe as “sole protection and support for the unshod foot”. I have not used this particular product. 

Your horse may or may not need shoes and pads depending on the quality and character of the hoof and sole, the rate of hoof wear, and the environment the horse is living and working in. Some horse’s sole quality and thickness improve when they are maintained without shoes and pads and their work is limited to a quality arena footing for a period of time. Also insure that you are meeting your horse’s nutrient needs, especially quality proteins. Your horse may also benefit form supplemental biotin as well. Please see the previous question on this list about nutrients and hoof quality.

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with, I am not a spokesperson for, nor do I receive compensation from Vettec. I find value for their products in my practice.
2
Question: I own a 15-year-old Thoroughbred that is off the track. I have been told many times that my horse has thin soles specifically on his front feet. He had the opportunity to use the new vibration plates that are available at rehabilitation centers. His soles improved. My first question is, can horses with inherently thin soles grow a thicker sole with the right nutrition and program? Also, have you seen studies on the vibration plates? The idea behind the vibration plates is obviously to increase circulation to the feet and ultimatley the entire body. I am considering buying one and would like your opinion.
Answer:
Vibration therapy was originally proposed as a means to maintain bone density and muscle tone for astronauts in space. Recently, whole-body vibration has been evaluated as a possible therapeutic intervention for increasing bone density in people at risk for osteoporosis. Hypothetically, vibration signals are transmitted and amplified into bone tissue, directly activating growth of bone cells. Animal studies demonstrated that vibration increases bone density. Vibration therapy is also touted to improve muscle strength and power by increasing neuromuscular activation. Human studies on healthy volunteers examined adaptive muscle strength and performance after vibration therapy and found that the effects were similar to those achieved with short-term resistance exercise. Several studies show that whole-body vibration therapy improves muscle and bone circulation, increasing the supply of nutrients needed to build bones and muscles. Other studies in rodents and humans showed no effect on bone mass. 

From the limited studies that I have reviewed it appears that there are health benefits associated with vibration therapy.
Like other important body tissues, hoof quality can be compromised by inadequate nutrition. Some nutrients have been studied more than others in relation to hoof growth and quality. I am not aware of any studies that have directly evaluated the quality and thickness of the sole related to nutrition. Hoof growth and quality are dependent on many nutritional factors: protein (or more specifically, amino acids) minerals, vitamins and energy requirements. When horse’s energy requirements are not met with diet they will “borrow” nutrients from tissues. Horses are sensitive to protein quality. High quality proteins have a high proportion of essential amino acids. The amino acids methionine, cysteine, phenylalanine, threonine and proline are likely the most important in hoof growth and quality. Excess amino acids may also be problematic and result in poor hoof growth and quality. The essential amino acid methionine is thought to cause depletion of iron, copper and zinc if fed in excess. Although lysine is not listed here it is considered a rate limiting amino acid which means that it must be available in sufficient quantity for metabolism of other amino acids. Minerals such as calcium and zinc are important for hoof growth and development. Excess selenium in the diet may negatively affect hoof growth and quality. The trace minerals, zinc, manganese, and copper reportedly have a positive effect on hoof growth in young animals, but their influence on hoof quality has not been proven. The essential fatty acids alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) and linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) are required for the synthesis of an intercellular substance connecting the horn cells in hooves. Biotin supplementation can improve hoof quality in some horses. Supplementing biotin may benefit horses with thin, brittle hoof walls, and/or thin, tender soles. Inadequate levels of Vitamin A may decrease hoof quality.

The take away message here is that hoof quality is dependent, amongst other things, on a balanced diet that meets the requirements for individual horses. I recommend that you seek out a qualified, local equine nutritionist to evaluate your nutrition program and the requirements for your horses’ age, breed, condition and activity.
3
Question: I am wondering if there is a special way a horse with a cyst on the flexor surface should be balanced or shod to take away some pressure from the cyst.
Answer: 
The deep digital flexor tendon exerts a compressive force on the navicular bone. During certain phases of the stride the compressive forces on the navicular bone increase due to the angle of the coffin joint and increased tension in the deep digital flexor tendon. The angle of the coffin joint plays an important role in in the amount of pressure applied to the navicular bone. In both normal horses and horses with navicular bone disease, pressure on the navicular bone increases during the late stance phase of stride just before the heels leave the ground at the beginning of breakover. In horses with navicular disease, there is a much higher loading rate on the bone during early stance phase (the time in stride when the fetlock starts to rise after reaching maximal extension during the load phase). It has been common practice to shorten “navicular horses” toes in an effort to speed up breakover with the expectation to reduce navicular bone concussive forces. The length of the toe, length of the heel and the angle of the hoof have an effect on the angle of the coffin joint, which does affect navicular bone compressive forces but now toe length and hoof angle affect pressure on the navicular bone is complicated and sometimes the research is contradictory. Toe length and hoof angle do not affect the duration of stance phase of stride but breakover duration is significantly prolonged in barefooted horses with longer toes. Breakover is not significantly different when rocker-toe, rolled toe or square toe shoes are compared to plain steel shoes. 
Some research has reported heel wedges, in the form of wedge pads or wedged shoes, will reduce tension in the deep digital flexor tendon and subsequently reduce compressive forces on the navicular bone. Research with eggbar shoes indicate that force on the navicular bone is unchanged in sound horses but one study reported a significant unloading effect in some horses with navicular disease (type and cause of the navicular disease was not reported). Toe position relative to navicular bone compressive forces has also been evaluated. Some studies indicate that moving the toe back, either by applying a four point trim or fitting the shoe behind the natural toe, make breakover start earlier and shorten the caudal phase of the stride but result in little or no decrease in navicular bone compressive forces. There has been some anecdotal evidence that “navicular horses” are more comfortable with a reduction in traction qualities of shoes. It is thought by some that shoes with less traction allow the foot to slide more on impact resulting in less “jarring” experienced by the foot.

My recommendation is to work closely with your farrier to find a unique trimming or shoeing that makes your particular horse more comfortable and functional. Use the information presented above as a guideline.
4
Question: I have an 18-year-old Belgian draft that has developed thrush in his right hind foot. It is so wet here in Washington State for six months out of the year. I am having difficulty clearing up the thrush. I have been using tea tree oil, an antifungal cream, and Desitin ointment. Any other suggestions? Also, he has vertical dark lines on all four hooves. I was told these are fungal, also. I have been putting a paste of antifungal cream and Desitin ointment on all his hooves.
Answer: 
The term thrush is commonly used to describe a pododermatitis of the frog, sole and white line caused by a bacterial infection. Degeneration of the frog tissue is generally accompanied by a foul-smelling green or black exudate. The anaerobic bacterium Fusobacterium necroforum is most commonly incriminated as the primary cause of thrush. The organism is part of the normal flora of horses and in the soil of most horse environments. This bacterium is an opportunistic pathogen, which means that it has little ability to cause damage unless there is underlying damage to the tissues (frog, sole and white line). 

The commonly reported underlying causes of thrush are wet environmental conditions and poor stable hygiene, however, thrush is also seen in dry environments and in well cared for horse environments. Also, not all horses in wet, unhygienic environments develop thrush. This indicates that other predisposing factors exist. Proposed factors include poor nutrition, poor circulation and hoof imbalance.
A horse with thrush may develop lameness from topical sensitivity or from deep invasion of the central sulcus of the frog. Central sulcus thrush is often associated with the previously listed predisposing factors and sheared heels. Sheered heels are a result of hoof imbalance and angular limb deformities as well as other abnormalities.

Recommendation:
All of the predisposing factors should be managed as best as possible and the damaged frog, sole and white line should be debrided (removed). Provide a clean dry environment and ample turnout for exercise. Bedding such as straw, wood shavings or recycled paper can be provided to decrease moisture and contamination.

There are many thrush treatment products available and some contain caustic ingredients. Caustic agents such as tincture of iodine and cooper sulfate will eliminate the infection but will cause discomfort whenever sensitive tissues are exposed. Povidone iodine and chlorhexidine are both good antiseptic treatments for thrush. Another less common treatment is chlorine dioxide, which is not the same as chlorine bleach. Chlorine dioxide is an unstable gas and must be mixed prior to treatment. If the central sulcus is infected, a thin gauze may be saturated with the selected treatment and gently packed into the crevice. The affected hooves should be cleaned and retreated daily until the infection is under control. 

Also ensure that the horse is receiving adequate nutrients (especially minerals and fatty acids) in the diet and the horse hooves are well trimmed and balanced.
5
Question: What are the ideal shoes for a barrel horse?
Answer: 
Selection of shoes for any horse should be based on conformation, hoof health, environment, style of locomotion (travel and action), intended use and expected working surface. Shoes, for performance purposes, are generally applied to horse’s feet when: 1) attrition (wear) is faster than growth, 2) a gait fault can be manipulated, or 3) when more (or less) traction is desired. It is important to remember that application of shoes may alter a horse hoof growth pattern, add weight to the distal limb and alter a horses hoof, limb and locomotion biomechanics. The choice of a shoe for any horse should be customized and made in concert with the owner, farrier and veterinarian using the information listed above. When considering shoes specifically for a barrel horse, consider the individual horses way of “working” the barrel. Some barrel horse hold the ground well and work from the hindquarters while others depend more on their front end and run around the barrel.
6
Question: We are having some problems with our 7-month-old filly that seems to be lame in the back leg fetlocks. She had a bit of septic arthritis at 2 weeks because we didn't know to put iodine on the umbilical cord. We gave her 2 weeks of antibiotics and she healed nicely. I don’t know if the stiffness in the back fetlocks is connected to that since I have seen things on the internet that says it can cause lameness later.
Answer: 
If the foal had septic arthritis as a neonate, it is possible that the lameness in the fetlocks is a sequela (side effect). Damaged articular cartilage never completely recovers but instead is replaced by fibrocartilage (scar tissue), which does not function the same as articular cartilage. Chronic low-grade inflammation may persist in joints containing fibrocartilage. I recommend scheduling a veterinary appointment as soon as possible in order to isolate the lameness and determine a definitive diagnosis. There are many modern treatment options for equine osteoarthritis.
7
Question: As a veterinary practitioner, could you explain the science behind nailing a steel shoe to a living, flexible part of a horse's anatomy? I know "support" and "healing" and "protection" are often cited as reasons why steel shoes are used on the hoof, but I have yet to see or hear of the science that justifies the use of same.
Answer: 
There is really not a specific question to answer. There are many studies that evaluate the biomechanical effects of various types of equine hoof prosthetics, including various types of steel and non-steel horseshoes attached to the hoof in various ways, including nails.
8
Question: My horse is barefoot and I've noticed that over the last few months his collateral groves aren't the same depth on either side of the frog on the same foot (fronts only). There is more bar growth on the side with the deeper collateral groove. My trimmer doesn't seem concerned, but I am worried the feet are out of balance. Are uneven collateral grooves a sign of imbalance?
Answer: 
First let me commend you for being observant and recognizing the asymmetry in your horses’ feet. Yes, uneven collateral grooves (sulci) may be a sign of imbalance. Particularly you indicated that the bars were longer on the side of the deepest sulcus which indicates to me that there is a static and geometric and/or dynamic medial-lateral imbalance in the limb or foot. In respect to horse’s limbs, static and geometric balance is generally interdependent. Static balance simply means balance at rest and is an indication of the alignment of the bones in horse’s legs and the symmetry of the hoof capsule around the distal phalanx (coffin bone). Ideally, a plumb line dropped from the point of the shoulder should bisect all the bones and joints of the limb and the hoof capsule when viewed from the front of the horse. Geometric balance is an indication of symmetry between two sides or halves of an object. For instance, in a horse with ideal limb conformation, each side of the previously mentioned plumb line should be equal and measurements of the same points along each side of the limb (medial and lateral) should also be equal. For example, if the plumb line bisects the cannon bone, the pastern and the hoof equally then the distance between the coronet band and the fetlock joint should be the same on both the medial and lateral side. Static and geometric balance may be evaluated with your horse standing on a flat level surface and applying a plumb line and ruler to various parts. Dynamic medial-lateral balance refers to how the horses hoof lands and loads during locomotion. To evaluate your horse’s dynamic balance, choose a hard level surface such as a concrete or asphalt barn isle or driveway to work on. Have someone walk and trot the horse away from you and towards you in a straight line. As the horse moves focus on the feet as they land. Horses with ideal limb anatomy and balanced hoof capsules generally land with medial-lateral symmetry, which is to say that both the medial and lateral heel will make contact simultaneously. Improper dynamic balance may lead to torsion or a twisting force inside the hoof capsule and uneven loading of joints. A video recording of the horse in motion may prove helpful for evaluating dynamic balance and radiographic examination may provide a more specific means for evaluating static and geometric balance. 

It is important to note that there are various means of evaluating balance and “hoof balance” does not have a singular, inherent meaning. Also, asymmetry and imbalance are a very common finding in many productive and sound horses. Often it is necessary to find the proverbial “happy medium” between nature, balance and function. 

My advice: Let your farrier know that you are curious and possibly concerned with your horses hoof balance. Your farrier likely understands the aforementioned information on balance and would be happy to assess your horse with you. If there are no significant findings and your horse is sound and performing up to expectations, continue to monitor and make adjustments as necessary. Adjustments may be as simple as changing the trimming frequency, changing the trim technique (removing more hoof wall on one side than the other) or therapeutic shoes may be required.

Ask the Vet: What to expect when your vet arrives and preparations that should be make beforehand.

Join us during the month of May to pose your questions to this month's AAEP expert, Dr. Christine Tuma as she answers your questions concerning what to expect when your veterinarian arrives and preperations you should take beforehand.

1
Question: I am having my veterinarian out next week to do vaccinations on all of my horses. One of my horses is very needle shy and this is the first time I have vaccinated him since I purchased him last year. What should I expect? Is there something I should do for him before she arrives to help calm him?
Answer:
Another tricky question, as every individual has the potential to act very differently in such situations. Ground manners are key: he should be respectful of human space and not impinge on it, even in fright. He should be comfortable with and stand quietly for examination and palpation all over his body. With needle-shy horses in particular, I ask that the owner take several minutes each day in the time leading up to the appointment to desensitize the horse to intramuscular injections by pinching his neck in several locations, and rewarding calm, quiet behavior. The neck pinch is often utilized by vets just prior to an IM injection to distract the patient just prior to needle penetration. Similarly, the neck pinch has also been said to simulate an insect bite, which is not typically an event that causes great fear or distress. When the vet gets there, if there are still deficits in his ground manners and fear and anxiety are an issue, he or she may employ additional restraint measures such as a lip chain or a nose twitch, both of which release endorphins, which naturally calm and soothe the animal. Additional restraint measures may also include a shoulder or ear twitch which both act as distraction techniques. All else failing, sedation may be necessary to make the situation safe and positive for everyone involved. You may want to contact your vet and make sure there aren't any additional recommendations that they would prefer you employ. Lastly, if needle-shyness becomes a chronic problem or a dangerous situation, I have heard others have had positive results with long-term clicker training. Good luck and be safe!
2
Question: My mare became tangled in some old barbwire that I was unaware of in her field. She had a large gash on the inside of her upper back leg, which required stitches. Before the vet arrived, we cleaned it with cool water from the hose and sprayed a wound spray and fly spray around the area. The flies are terrible already in the south. My question is should we have waited to use the wound spray and is fly spray safe for open wounds even though we tried to just spray around it?
Answer: 
The only wound dressing/insect repellent that I have had good luck with is SWAT ointment, which is labelled as being safe for application to open wounds. If you're still nervous about using a product on an open wound: try slathering vaseline or petroleum jelly in the wound. It has no insect repellent properties, however, being a thick, sticky product, it will naturally deter insects from landing in/on the wound as well as protect the wound from further contamination from dirt/debris until the vet arrives to assess the situation.
3
Question: I have a 6-year-old QH gelding, on the overweight side, that recently fell victim to founder. We caught it early and he is 100% now and we have even been able to shed many pounds off of him the last few weeks. It turns out, he also had some thyroid issues on top of the founder, which may have helped lead to this episode. My question is should I have soaked his feet prior to the vet's arrival that following morning? I called the veterinarian the night he became sore and had a hard time moving, but the vet did not arrive until early the following morning. Should I have done anything for him that night?
Answer: 
Yes. I like to cold hose the feet involved 1-2x/day for 20-30 minutes to reduce the inflammation occurring to the lamallae. Following cold hosing, I recommend applying frog support bandages to aid in supporting P3 until the veterinarian arrives to assess the situation and direct farrier efforts. To apply frog support bandages in a cost-effective fashion from supplies you can get from your local farm supply, depending on the # of feet involved, you will need the following: 

1 roll brown roll gauze
1 vetwrap

Apply the gauze roll (do not unroll) lengthwise to the bottom of the frog and secure in place with Vetwrap, weather proof (if needed) with duct tape along the bottom of the foot. Follow up by leaving the horse on stall rest and bedding VERY deeply until the vet gets there. I do not recommend giving any medication unless under the supervision/discretion of the attending veterinarian. 

However, omega fatty acids have anti-inflammatory actions, and although not very useful in acute situations, can be used as a daily top dressing to address chronic inflammatory conditions. 

If you need to stall overnight to wait for the vet the next day and you're concerned what to feed: I recommend feeding soaked hay, so as to reduce the overall sugar content and also to try not to further exacerbate metabolic causes of founder.
4
Question: My husband’s horse began colicking violently over the weekend to which we immediately contacted our veterinarian. Unfortuantley, he was unable to rush over since he was already at another call and said he would be there as soon as he could. I have heard that you should walk the horse, but he was rolling around so hard that it was unsafe. We stood there and watched, while trying our best to be patient for the vet. What else could we have done? Our vet did not arrive for another two hours.
Answer: 
This is a tough question. First and foremost is YOUR safety, followed closely by the safety of your horse. If you are able to keep the animal up and walking, you should try. If the animal is severely painful and violently thrashing, risking your safety and his, ......stay clear and don't get hurt. 

Hopefully the animal will already have a halter on. If stall-bound: remove extraneous items from the stall such as a water bucket, feed tubs, jolly-balls, mineral blocks, etc...and apply extra bedding to help reduce injuries. If you have an opportunity to throw some quick standing bandages on his legs, that would be helpful in protecting them from secondary injury from thrashing. If you had a little time on your hands before things got bad, I would maybe try to move him to a slightly larger (but still well enclosed and secure) location like an indoor arena where he may have a little more room to thrash about, again, in an attempt to reduce secondary injuries to your horse and potential harm to yourself.

That's really all you can do. I do not recommend administering any medications prior to examination by your veterinarian. And its probably a good idea to keep other veterinarian's phone numbers available for emergencies that your regular vet can't get to in a timely fashion.

Ask the Vet: Equine Dental Care

Is your horse chomping at the bit, but not in a good way? Dropping feed while eating or head tossing while riding? These are just a few signs that your horse may need to be seen regarding his dental health. Pose your questions to our AAEP expert, Dr. Shannon Lee, during the month of June regarding equine dental care.

1
Question: I have an older horse that is at least 22-years-old or older. He is currently on a senior feed plus beet pulp and hay. I feed him away from the other horses but he still looks bony. He had his teeth done a couple of years ago and does not seem to be having trouble eating. Is there anything else I should do?
Answer: 
Firstly, let me congratulate you on taking steps to care for your horse. As you point out, the horse is older and not in the condition you would like to see him. There are several potential causes of weight loss, especially in the older horse. Just like in people, as horses age, their metabolism changes and their ability to maintain weight and muscle changes (i.e people in their 80's don't look like they did in their 40's, etc). If it has been a couple of years since your horse's last dental exam, it is in fact definitely time for a dental check up. A horse of his age would benefit from twice yearly checkups and at the same time, your equine dental veterinarian can examine your horse and look at the other potential causes of weight loss.
2
Question: We are currently trialing a young horse at the track in which the trainer and rider are having great difficulty bridling the horse and getting him comfortable when ridden. The horse is receiving exams from a horse dentist every 6 months. I notice when he last trialed, there was some blood around the corner of his mouth. His teeth are being taken care of by the dentist, so what could this be?
Answer: 
It is quite common to see horses bleed from the mouth at the end of a thoroughbred horse race. The most common cause of this is severe trauma in the mouth. Usually, it is the result of the bit forcing the cheeks against the sharp enamel points of the horse's teeth. Combined with the action of the jockey's hands, this creates a sawing action that can cause deep lacerations to the cheeks. Your horse is also showing behavioral signs associated with discomfort and is reluctant to have a bit and bridle fitted. 
 
I think it would be very wise to have an equine dental veteriniarian perform a detailed oral exam on your horse as the most likely cause of your problems may turn out to be insufficient/inadequate dental care. A detailed exam will also help to rule out other possible causes such as ingestion of a foreign object or the growth of a tumor, etc.
3
Question: I've had horses for many years and they've had treatment and oral work without sedation many times before. I hear a lot of noise these days that sedation is necessary, but my horse dentist says it's not necessary. Who's right? And if I did decide my animals would be better off sedated during certain treatment, why can't my horse dentist do this for me? Why do I need a vet?
Answer: 
That's a very good question and I'm glad you asked. While you obviously feel that your horses have received good care in the past, it is difficult to imagine that a thorough oral examination has ever been carried out in your horses. I understand that this might be difficult for you to comprehend so let's start with a bit of background.

When you visit your human dentist for a "simple" checkup, can you list the procedures that are performed to carry out this checkup?

- Your asked a series of questions by a university educated professional about your dental care, dental health and any medications, history of pain, etc. 

- Your mouth is thoroughly cleaned before examination to ensure all the mouth can be properly examined

- Equipment, such as a dental chair, suction, mirrors, probes, retractors and a very large very bright light are essential to allow the medical professional to examine your mouth

- Diagnostic tools like X-rays are used to determine more about the health of your mouth and help the health professional make decisions about your dental care

- Referral to dental specialists is available (e.g. orthodontists, periodontists, maxillo facial surgeons, etc.)

- You are offered pain relief, including the use of nerve blocks, sedation and in some cases, general anesthesia. All of which, must be carried by law by trained medical professionals with appropriate training, skill, licensing and insurance. This is done to protect you and ensure your safety when undergoing these procedures.

- Medical records are made during each visit and these allow your dental history to be transferred between health professionals at your request.

Now when we look at the same scenario for your horse's dental care, doesn't your horse deserve the same rights and standards of care?

To properly examine, let's say an 1100 pound horse, it's important that your
dental veterinarian can examine each part of the mouth and that both you and the vet are satisfied that this has occurred, and that your horse is receiving the treatment required to maintain a healthy mouth. Think about it this way, what can you see in a horse's mouth if there's not a bright light in there? Not much.

Have a look at the photos I have included here as part of my answer to your question. Now even if we use a bright light source and that mouth has been thoroughly rinsed, how carefully and completely could your dental veterinarian or horse dentist examine each part of the mouth if the horses head is not completely still?

Another point to consider, just as human dentistry is very complex and a dentist will spend 4-5 years at a university/college before graduation. Dental care of horses is equally as complex and that is why veterinarians complete two degrees (minimum 7 years of college) before treating your horse. Sedation needs to be overseen and administered by a licensed veterinarian and this is to protect the horses and horse owners. Veterinarians have the licensing, insurance training and skills necessary not just to administer these medications, but to understand how they work and interact, and to choose medications appropriate to each case. They also have the training to determine dose rates, monitor the patients health and vital signs and to provide emergency care should anything go wrong. 

Another consideration is dental pain, if you have experienced dental pain in any form then you will understand that it is one of the most uncomfortable and unpleasant types of pain. Many people are afraid of visiting human dentists and this fear is almost always related to dental pain. Again, when we make a choice for our animals, why would you want to inflict pain or cause stress if it is not necessary?
4
Question: My dad's 24-month-old colt seems to have broke off one of his top front teeth and it has a pink worm looking thing poking out of it. The colt doesn't like us trying to grab it with tweezers. What should we do? It happened a few weeks ago.
Answer: 
Hmmm, you have a bit of a problem there as your horse has fractured his tooth and exposed the "pulp" or nerve inside. It really needed veterinarian attention as soon as you noticed it so your equine dental vet could have performed a filling to protect the live remaining nerve. Your horse should be on pain relief and have some antibiotic coverage since feed and bacteria can enter the canal in the fractured tooth and eventually the nerve will die. Often the tooth will develop a painful tooth root abscess. When this happens, you have two options: 1. Extraction of the tooth or 2. Root canal therapy

Sometimes the fractured tooth walls off the remaining nerve by forming a protective layer between the outside of the tooth and the remaining nerve. This is called a dentinal bridge and is also the goal of performing the protective filling known as a pulp capping procedure.

The good news is that because of the young age of your horse, chances are the fractured tooth is a deciduous (or baby) tooth and so the fracture and any subsequent infection is very unlikely to affect the adult tooth.
5
Question: I recently discovered my 14-month-old colt (a reining prospect) has a slight overbite. Can this be corrected or should I have him castrated and also forget reining? How can I tell if the overbite is hereditary or developmental? How can I find a veterinarian that specializes in equine dentistry? I live only 50 miles from Lexington, KY.
Answer: 
Thank you for your question. Firstly, let me say, don't panic. I'm sure it is very likely that your horse can continue as a colt and also persue a future in reining. There is alot of confusion amongst horse owners about overbites, overjets, parrot mouths, etc. When there is a distinct mismatch between the top and bottom jaw, depending on which jaw extends forward, the most we classify them as either "Parrot mouthed" (Top jaw extends further than the bottom jaw) or "Sow mouthed" (Bottom jaw extends further than the top jaw). The anatomical terms for this are Brachygnathia and Prognathia respectively. It is also important to understand that the position of a horse's bottom jaw relative to its top jaw varies according to the position of the horse's head. When the horse's head is held high (as at the gallop)  the bottom jaw will slide back relative to the top jaw, and when the horses head is lowered (as when grazing) the bottom jaw will slide forward relative to the top jaw. This is why when examining a horse to determine any degree of overjet (the amount the top teeth are forward of the bottom teeth when viewed side on) the horse's head must be lowered in a vertical frame. Otherwise, the bottom jaw will slide back falsely accentuating the degree of overjet. 
 
The other aspect to this condition is called overbite, which is the amount of vertical overlap of the top teeth over the lower teeth. Also, as the mismatch is usually also reflected in the cheek teeth of the horse, overgrowths (hooks) will tend to develop on the upper 1st cheek teeth and the last lower cheek teeth.Careful management and reduction of these overgrowths is a very iportant part of health care for any "parrot" mouthed horse. 
 
To answer another part of your question, yes the development of this condition is genetic, however; that does not mean that if your colt has the condition and goes on to breed that his offspring would necessarily also be "parrot mouthed". The first step is for you to contact an equine dental vet and schedule an examination. As luck would have it, one of the most experienced equine dental vets in the world, and author of the text book "Equine Dentistry" who also happens to be an expert in examining and treating foals with overbite/overjet is based in Shelbyville, KY. You can find Dr. Jack Easley's contact details here http://easleyequinedentistry.com/. 
 
So remember, good luck and stay calm. Hopefully, you and your horse have many more happy years together.
6
Question: My vet came out and examined my horse and told me he has "gum disease". Do horses get gum disease? Is this something I should worry about?
Answer: 
That's a great question and it's similiar to another that has recently been asked. I encourage you to browse the previouslly submitted questions as it may be worth having a look at the answer to that question. Simply put, YES, horses do get gum disease or perio (meaning around) dontal (meaning tooth) disease. It's actually the most common disease affecting horses with around 70 percent of horses being affected so its something all horse owners really need to be aware of. Like all diseases, the earlier the problem is identified and treatment begins the better the end result for both the owner and the horse. Short answer to your question is yes, it is something you should take seriously. Whatever stage the disease is identified, your equine dental veterinarian will be able to help both you and your horse. However, scheduling regular examinations from an early age is still the best way to keep your horse's mouth healthy. Periodontal disease can occur anywhere on the horse's mouth including right at the back of the mouth. Therefore, it is very important that each dental examination is very thorough and that your vet sedates your horse, uses a very bright light and a mirror to examine each part of the teeth and gums carefully for any sign of a problem. Did you know that Bot Flies can cause periodontal disease in your horse's mouth?  Here is a direct link to a video regarding bot flies and their correlation to periodontal disease in the horse: http://equinedentalvets.com/tv/bot-fly
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Question: I have a 10-year-old Warmblood gelding that was recently diagnosed with periodontal disease affecting three teeth in his mouth. I had my veterinarian visit for a routine health checkup, which they also do dentistry and I asked him to do his yearly dental check. I usually get a dentist each year. After sedating and looking in my horse's mouth, he told me that there were sore gums with rotten food trapped between teeth. I was a bit shocked and also not sure what has caused this.I am a bit confused about what this condition is and how it should be treated. My vet has discussed different options with me but I really want your advice and help with what is going on in my horse's mouth. I was told all was well in his mouth each time the dentist came!
Answer: 
Periodontal disease
 
Introduction
 
If you own horses then you should be familiar with the term periodontal disease, and yet chances are you haven’t heard of it. This disease is the most common disease affecting horses, with around 70% of horses suffering from its effects. So what is this important disease, what are its effects and how is it diagnosed and treated? 
 
Firstly, let’s explain the word periodontal. 'Perio' means around and 'dontal' means tooth so periodontal disease is disease of the structures that support teeth; these include the gum, the bone and the periodontal ligaments. It is a disease which can affect horses of all ages, and the author has observed life threatening periodontal disease in horses as young as 18 months of age. 
 
The Periodontal Ligament 
 
The periodontal ligament plays a very important role in the horse’s mouth as it is responsible for stabilizing the tooth against the forces it experiences during chewing. It also has the ability to detach and reattach, allowing the continuous eruption that occurs in horses teeth. It works together with the tooth itself, the gum and the bone surrounding the tooth (the alveolus) to achieve this.  
 
How does periodontal disease occur? Periodontal disease is the greatest challenge for both human dentists and veterinarians in the field of oral health. There is still a lot of research going on in this area but current treatments do exist and have good success when initiated early enough. This disease begins when bacteria in the mouth proliferate around the teeth and gums. There are several factors that lead to this bacterial overgrowth, two of the more common being the trapping of food between or around the teeth and the formation of plaque. In both cases the body’s natural defences are overwhelmed by massive numbers of bacteria, which attack the gingiva or gums leading to inflammation. This is the first step in periodontal disease, it is called gingivitis. As the gum becomes inflamed it will swell and bleed, which allows the bacteria to enter the horse’s blood stream and travel around the body, so periodontal disease can affect all areas of the body not just the horse's teeth. There are links between periodontal disease and heart disease, as well as links to reproductive problems such as abortion and low birth weight. The bacteria involved in periodontal disease produce enzymes, and these enzymes feed on the structures around them (The bone, the gum and the ligament) progressively destroying them and creating room for more food to trap around the teeth. 
 
Untreated periodontal disease is a self perpetuating cycle and will simply get worse until the horse is in a great deal of pain and has teeth that move when they chew. This can cause a range of secondary symptoms or problems, such as displaced teeth that damage the tongue or cheeks, loss of muscle due to changed chewing patterns, bad breath, quidding (balling feed up in the horses cheek), a build up of calculus (a mixture of  food, saliva and bacteria), weight loss, etc. Because of the differences in the type of teeth that horse’s have (hypsodont teeth) developmental issues, missing teeth, changes in diet and eating patterns can lead to overgrowths on the chewing surface of teeth, these can be a key factor in the development of periodontal disease by further altering the way a horse chews and the pressure placed on teeth, in some cases driving teeth apart and creating diastema ( gaps between teeth). There are also breed predispositions to periodontal disease and conditions contributing to periodontal disease, broadly speaking many of the Pony breeds and Arabs and Quarterhorse’s develop severe periodontal disease from a young age.  
 
How is it identified? In order to accurately diagnose and assess periodontal disease a number of steps are required. A thorough history is useful and observing the patient eat certain feed types a can also be helpful, symptoms such as yawning, abnormal jaw movement or washing the mouth out while eating maybe observed. Any evidence of halitosis (Bad breath) would immediately identify some form of periodontal disease. The next step is an external examination of the horses head and the administration of pain relief and sedation. Changes in the muscles of mastication (those used for chewing) may be detected; most commonly an asymmetry of the temporal muscles, this type of change indicates a chronic (long term) problem. Once the horse is sedated and the head (including the eyes, sinuses, nostrils, lips and front teeth) have been examined a speculum (Gag) is applied. In order to identify periodontal disease, the mouth must be thoroughly rinsed and a bright light, a mirror and probes used to examine around teeth. Sometimes radiographs (x-rays) will be necessary to determine the direction of treatment (i.e. how much bone is left and should the tooth be treated or extracted). Teeth are checked for mobility, which indicates a loss of periodontal support, and examined for evidence of calculus and cavities (caries). This can only be done effectively with the horse standing very calm and still. Once a diagnosis has been made and prognosis (likelihood of successful treatment) determined, treatment can begin. 
 
How is periodontal disease treated? A really important point to understand is that structures that are destroyed by periodontal disease will not repair with treatment, so early diagnosis and treatment is extremely important (once it’s gone its gone). The principles of treatment are simple, control the bacteria, thus stopping the production of enzymes and further destruction of support for the teeth, and prevent the build up of food around teeth. Depending on where in the mouth the problem occurs, the method of treatment will vary. Once a diagnosis has been made, your veterinarian will discuss treatment options. If the problem involves the incisors or canine teeth (teeth that can be examined and managed at home between dental consultations) then provided no extractions are necessary, your vet is likely to recommend removing the trapped feed regularly, applying a product to kill the bacteria (such as hexarinse) and keeping regular dental appointments, to assess treatment, scale calculus, etc. Only products designed specifically for treatment of this condition should be used. If the problem involves cheek teeth then it is unlikely to be possible to manage this condition at home and the horse will require treatment from your equine dental vet. 
 
There are two main conditions that occur inside horse mouths, periodontal pockets (holes in the gum next to or around teeth) and diastema (spaces between teeth). Both conditions allow food to trap and periodontal disease to occur. Diastemas are usually treated by carefully widening the space between the teeth to allow the food to pass through. Periodontal pockets are often more difficult to treat and the process is based on cleaning the pockets and getting them to bleed to stimulate the formation of new tissue to fill in the pocket. Treatment of diastema and periodontal pockets is done around some very sensitive structures such as a large artery and the nerves of the teeth, for this reason it can only be performed in sedated horses, by veterinarians. 
 
As mentioned above, overgrowths (or malocclusions) are an important contributor to the development of periodontal disease. These need to be identified and addressed as part of any treatment as there are many types of malocclusion it is beyond the scope of this article to cover them in more detail. 
 
Equine Odontoclastic Tooth Resorption and Hypercementosis 
 
There is a particular form of periodontal disease about which little is known and for which there is currently no cure, this disease Equine odontoclastic tooth resorption and hypercementosis or EOTRH occurs in Australia and requires careful management. Although there is currently no known cure, the symptoms and the horse’s pain can be managed effectively thus allowing these horses a better quality of life. EOTRH basically involves a progressive irreversible destruction of teeth and there support along with the production of extra cementum (part of the tooth) as the body attempts to counter the effects of the disease. Horses suffering this condition are usually in their mid to late teens when first diagnosed and experience pain and tooth mobility as well as the development of tooth root abcesses. X-rays often show dramatic differences from a “normal” mouth. 
 
Little is known about the cause of the disease but the author feels it is related to the horse’s own immune system attacking its teeth for some reason. 
 
Take Home Message 
 
Periodontal disease is something ALL horse owners need to be aware of. Early diagnosis and effective treatment are critical and if these occur then the outcome should be healthy horses free from dental pain that will benefit as they age from retaining their teeth.
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Question: My horses get yearly dental floats, their teeth/gums are in great health and woof teeth have been removed; yet they dribble their pelleted feed and sweet feed mixture everywhere. Can horses just be "sloppy" eaters?
Answer: 
Yes some horses are very messy eaters, that's one of the reasons many people use to use "nose bags" to give messy or wasteful eaters a better chance to consume their feed. It certainly sounds like you have investigated other possibilities however, some of the questions I would ask are, how old are your horses? what breed or breeds are they? how many times a day are they fed and how (i.e what type of feeder, what conditions, stabled/pasture, etc.) Are your horses very feed orientated or do they spend time looking around whilst eating? Have you noticed any other behavior such as yawning, stretching the neck or holding the jaw to oneside? Have you tried different types of "hard feed" and does this make any difference? Is the feed in wet balls or is it scattered in small random pellets?My apologies for all of the additional questions, but it is a difficult issue in which more information would be helpful.
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Question: I am a fairly new customer of yours. Infrequently, my horse (sometimes when eating) will stretch his head forward and open his mouth as if to yawn, but doesn't yawn. He juts his lower jaw to the left and holds it there for a couple of seconds, with his mouth open, then relaxes. Do you think that this is a symptom of some sort of dental problem? He has a chronic sacro-illiac issue, which generates headaches for him as the tension travels through his body. And he is having frequent therapy sessions for it and is progressively getting better. However, this behaviour I described is fairly new (approx 6-8 weeks) so I am investigating all angles.
Answer: 
There are many things that can cause this type of behaviour, most commonly it is associated with pain or discomfort. Occassionaly, it is linked to learned behaviors.
Interesting that your horse has only been showing signs of this for 6-8 weeks, which indicates something has changed recently to make him uncomfortable. I have attached an image, which will hopefully be available for you to view, it shows a horse in the middle of what I suspect you are describing. Please have a look at the image and let me know if this is similiar to your horse. 

The two most common causes of this are:

1- feed becoming trapped between cheek teeth in gaps we call diastema.

2- pain or discomfort due to changes or degeneration in the region of the joint between the top jaw and the bottom jaw.

You have mentioned that your horse exhibits the behaviour both when eating and at other times, and I think that in cases like this one making note of when you see the behaviour, wether it appears to be associated with anything else and wether there are any changes such as an increase in frequency can often help to pinpoint the cause.

A detailed oral exam is always a good idea and the types of problems that can be identified include diastema ( gaps between cheek teeth where feed accumulates) painful or mobile teeth, trauma from feed such as hay containing awls or grass seeds. It is also possible to simulate chewing and some of these horses will demonstrate a loud "clunk" when there jaw is moved in one direction. This is generally associated with ligaments surrounding the condylar process of the mandible (bottom jaw). Have you noticed any loud noises "clunks" when your horse is chewing? Generally, this problem affects only one side so it will only be noticeable when the horse is chewing using the affected side.

Another simple test to perform at home is to feed the horse some whole carrots and see if they have any difficulty chewing them or make faces associated with discomfort. If on examination your horse has a diastema and it is the cause of the pain, treatment should alleviate this symptom. Treatment usually involves removing small parts of each tooth either side of the space where the feed is becoming trapped (with care not to damage either tooth). This allows the feed to cycle through and breaks the cycle of bacterial growth, decay and enzymatic destruction of tissue that would otherwise lead to pain, mobility of teeth and premature tooth loss. 

Cases like this one can be very simple or very complex to workup and diagnose.

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Question: My gelding has twice yearly dental check-ups with an veterinarian specializing in dentistry. He is quiet with his bit while being worked, but when in cross-ties or just standing with a halter on, he frequently stretches his jaw, flexes it, etc. and he is reactive when lightly massaged in the jaw area. Is he having jaw pain or tension and what do you reccommend to give him relief? This has been a long-time observation.
Answer: 
Thanks for asking this question as these types of symptoms are actually quite common in horses and can be confusing for horse owners and veterinarians alike. There is another question on here about a horse with some similiar symptoms, so it may be worth having a look at the answer to that question and the images. Although it is unlikely that your horse suffers from diastema due to your regular dental examinations, it would be on my list of differential diagnosis for a case like this. A diastema is a gap or space between teeth where feed accumulates causing pain or discomfort. Any cause of pain in the region of your horse's jaw can cause this type of behavior. Therefore, any tooth that is sensitive, painful or mobile could cause this reaction. Detecting this can be very difficult and sometimes frustrating and there may be no outward sign of a problem even after a detailed oral exam. Sometimes we turn to radiographs or, if it is available, MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (Computed tomography) to try to locate the problem. However MRI and CT are expensive and not widely available. As mentioned in the answer to another question problems like this can also be associated with pain due to degeneration in the joint between the top and bottom jaw, however this seems less likely in your case as you have said that your horse reacts to palpation of his mandible. Has he had any therapeutic trial of pain relief NSAIDS (Fluxin "Banamine" or Phenylbutazone) and if so was there any reduction in symptoms? Again are there any lumps or swellings on his bottom jaw and can his reaction to touch be isolated to a specific part of the jaw? Does it matter which side of the jaw you touch? Is there any difference in the frequency of symptoms at different times of the year? As you can see from the many questions I have asked in regards to your question cases like this one can be difficult to diagnose and often pose many questions .

I hope that has been of some assistance. Thank you again for your question.
11
Question: My vet checked my horse and found a broken wolf tooth. He wanted to extract it. Is that normal? What is the benefit to my horse and will it make any difference when I ride him?
Answer: 
Some of the information has been covered by a question that was asked previously so I would suggest it is worth reading the answer to that question. 

Check back in a day or two and we will post some photos for your viewing.

Firstly, some background. Wolf teeth are often small vestigial teeth (vestigial refers to the fact that they are no longer used by the horse and are essentially an evolutionary throwback). They come in many shapes and sizes and are often confused with canine teeth (larger teeth that appear further forward in the mouth). Wolf teeth usually appear directly in front of the 1st cheek tooth however, they can appear beside this tooth or upto an inch in front of it. They can erupt normally (vertically) or horizontally (called a blind wolf tooth because it is usually covered in gum). Wolf teeth, like all teeth, contain nerves and as they serve no purpose and sit in a position where they can have frequent contact with the bit; it is common to remove them. It is ideal to remove them when the horse is young (6-12mths of age) as this is because they are not yet ankylosed (fused to the bone of the jaw). It is far easier to remove them without them breaking. 

Extraction of these teeth should always be done under sedation, with pain relief and the use of nerve blocks, otherwise the horse will experience a great deal of pain and may suffer long term problems (see another question posted here on the AAEP As the Vet - June Forum).

To answer your question, your veterinarian's reccomendation that the tooth be removed would be my reccomendation also. To answer the second part of your question, will you see any difference when you ride the horse, that will depend on a number of factors. First some more questions for you. 

1- Does your horse currently show any signs of discomfort when ridden such as head tossing, lugging, grabbing the bit, difficulty with transitions, resisitance on one lead, etc, etc?

2- Do you ride the horse in a bit and bridle?

3- What level of education does your horse have?

4- How old is your horse?

Regardless of whether your horse improves after removal of the tooth, the tooth should be extracted.

If your horse does show any of the above signs of discomfort when ridden, have you also had your tack examined to ensure it fits your horse correctly? Does your horse receive regular dental examinations from your equine dental veterinarian?
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Question: As I was bridling my 5-year-old warmblood yesterday, I noticed his right lower canine felt sharper than usual. I swapped sides to look and he's broken it somehow.

He doesn't seem bothered at all by it as he is still eating and it doesn't see to be painful. However, I'm panicking about exposed nerve endings. Does that tooth need to come out or is this manageable?
Answer: 
Firstly, let me congratulate you on being very observant and on making the effort to seek advice. Just some quick background for others reading this, the canine tooth (or bridle tooth) is found more commonly in males and erupts when the horse is around 4-6 years of age. It is often a source of confusion for horse owners because another tooth in the mouth is called the wolf tooth, so understandbly people often mix them up. The purpose of the tooth is to be a weapon used during fighting, and so in modern horses it has little function. Injury to this tooth is quite common, partially because of where it sits in the mouth midway along the bars of the mouth between the front teeth and the cheek teeth. This tooth is different to the other teeth in a horses mouth and has a different anatomical classification whereas, the other teeth in the mouth are called hypsodont as they continue to erupt over the horses life. The canine tooth is called brachydont because once it erupts, it does not undergo further change.

The most common way the tooth is injured (fractured) is what is called a pull back injury. As you know, horses are curious and often playful by nature and they will use their mouths to touch and explore their environment. If while doing this they are suddenly startled or frightened and they "pull back" without letting go. This often results in damage to their front teeth or their canines. Onto your horses fractured tooth, in the ideal world it would be possible to examine the horse, or at least see some pictures,however; without that this advice will be general.

As you correctly point out there is a nerve running through the middle of the tooth and damage to the tooth that exposes that nerve or its blood supply can allow bacteria to enter the tooth and setup infection at the tooth root. Another common problem when these fractures occur is that the fractured tooth may now be sharp and cause trauma to the horses lip or tongue. Not all fractures cause exposure of the pulp or nerve so your horse may be ok. However, if the nerve has been exposed, depending on the advice of your veterinarian, your horse is likely to need to follow depending on how recent the fracture is. If it is a recent fracture, (i.e within the last week or so) your horse should begin antibiotic and antiinflammatory therapy and should also have a type of filling placed over the remaining nerve to protect it. The filling, called a pulp cap, is designed to prevent entry of more bacteria and to stimulate a layer of sterile tissue to be layed down over the remaining nerve tissue. If succesful, then in 3-months time, a radiograph should show that layer (called a dentinal bridge) with no further problems. If the fracture occured earlier than this or if the pulp capping procedure is not succesful, it is possible that the nerve and blood supply will die and that the tooth will become painful and infected. Should this happen, there maybe very little obvious change on the outside of the tooth so it is very important to consult with your equine dental veterinarian. There will be two options at this point: extraction of the tooth or root canal therapy.

So most importantly DON'T panic, send in any pictures that you have, call you AAEP member equine dental veterinarian and have them examine your horse.

I hope that helps and if you need further assistance, please contact me again.

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Question: I have a 4-year-old gelding pony and I noticed he has black discoloration in the center (chewing surface) of the upper and lower incisor teeth. Does the black area on the tooth indicate the teeth are not healthy?
Answer: 
This is really a very good question. Some of what I am about to discuss has been mentioned in my answer to an earlier question about aging horses, so you may wish to read some of the previosuly submitted questions and corresponding answers. 

The incisors (or front teeth) of a horse have two areas on the chewing surface (or occlsual surface) that tend to be dark in color (either black or dark brown) in a young horse like yours. The area closest to the lips is a wide smile shaped dark stain. This is darkly colored dentine that is sitting over the nerve of the tooth (sometimes called the pulp or pulp horn). Behind this area, there is a deep well or "cup" in each tooth, and this is called the infundibulum. These structures are normal parts of the tooth and they will change as the horse ages. However, if the horse has trauma (an injury) or perhaps someone cuts or shortens the incisor teeth as part of a dental procedure, then it is possible to damage the sensitive nerve tissue (the pulp). When this happens, the pulp horns will turn black over time. As the tooth is worn away, it will be possible to pass a fine probe into this part of the tooth. Feed can then pack into the pulp horn allowing bacteria to reach the tooth root and overtime an abcess may form causing the horse pain.The dark areas you are seeing are most likely the "cups" or infundibulum, and the next step in answering your question would be to see a clear picture of the chewing surface of your horse's incisors.

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Question: My mare that I was using for dressage and jumping was very "heady" while being ridden. I had an equine dentist recommended to me, but not a veterinarian. He floated her teeth, which really started to make her play up and carry on, but he said she would also need a wolf tooth removed. With me holding the twitch and her, and with no real explanation as to what he was doing, he seemed to "bang" it out. I was horrified! She struck out and reared, and only by luck, no one was injured. She was really hard to bridle and deworm for many months after this event even though she and I had good trust together.

My question is how do veterinarians do it differently?
Answer: Click To View
Firstly, let me say that sounds like a horrible experience for everyone, especially the horse. I hope your mare has recovered and that neither of you ever have to go through anything like that again. This type of story is one I have heard many times and it saddens me that horses still suffer like this, as you are no doubt aware an enormous number of people are scared of going to the dentist, and mostly this is because they have experienced pain and would rather live with diseased mouths than experience that pain again. 

Today, equine dental veterinarians offer a humane alternative, that is simple, cost effective and ensures horses are free from pain. You mentioned that when the Equine Dentist (not an equine dental veterinarian) floated the teeth, the mare played up and carried on, and I belive I understand what you mean. Let's think about it for a minute. Was the mare provided with pain relief, did she have anything to reduce stress or relieve her anxiety? Was a detailed examination able to be carried out or was she moving about making a detailed exam difficult or impossible? Equine dental veterinarians provide horses with pain relief, we give them safe medications to reduce stress and anxiety and once the horse is calm and relaxed we use bright lights, mirrors, cameras and probes to thoroughly examine the mouth. To use an analogy, can you imagine trying to cut someone's hair while they rapidly shake their head? Doesn't sound very safe does it? And I don't think the client would be very happy with the haircut. Trying to perform a dental exam on an 1100 pound horse without appropriate steps such as pain relief and relaxants is very similar, not to mention dangerous. 


On the subject of the extraction of teeth, it's pretty simple and it comes back to why so many people are afraid of the dentist. PAIN! All mammals, including horses, have nerves in there teeth and gums so whenever it is necessary to remove a tooth, we need to prevent pain. 

You also mentioned that the horse was very heady when ridden and that you used her for dressage and jumping, both disiplines that have a fair amount of movement and the potential for bit contact. It is likely that the bit was making contact with the wolf tooth as this tooth has a sensitive nerve inside and as the tooth is not used to chew, it was reasonable to remove it. An equine dental veterinarian has undergone many years of training and is licensed to perform nerve blocks and provide pain relief (just like a human dentist). Wolf teeth should only be extracted once nerve blocks have been performed and the horse cannot feel any pain. It is also important to carefully breakdown the ligaments that keep the tooth anchored to the bone of the jaw, otherwise you may simply snap the tooth off. When this happens, it is possible to leave the sensitive nerve endings exposed. Horses having extractions with pain relief, sedation and nerve blocks on board should be calm and free from pain and will usually attempt to eat straight after the procedure with none of the behavioural problems you described such as the difficulty deworming or bridling.

As you say, it was very lucky no one was injured and I hope I have answered your question as to how equine dental veterinarians offer a humane alternative.
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Question: I bought a mare a while ago but am not sure how old she is. Her corner teeth show the Galvaynes groove down to the bottom of her tooth and the grinding part is totally white, no dental star (not sure what that means). She also has a sway back, but the veterinarian said she could have been born with it or carried several foals. My vet thinks she is 16-years-old, but what do you think?
Answer: 
These types of issues around aging of horses are very common, so thank you for asking this question as I'm sure there will be many other horse owners out there with similiar questions. Aging of horses is not an exact science, although the AAEP publishes a very good pocket guide to aging, which has great photos of the incisor (front) teeth of horses of different ages, so if you (or your vet) haven't seen it, you may want to consult it. The most useful tool in trying to help age your horse would be some good photos of your horse's incisor teeth including pictures of the occlusal (chewing) surface. When aging a horse from their teeth, it is very important to understand that as a horse gets older, dental aging becomes less and less accurate. This is because there are so many factors that affect the wear of an individual horse's teeth such as diet, breed, dental care, etc. The things I always do first when aging a horse are:

1 - Ask the owner how old they think the horse is.
2 - Check for any freeze brands, fire brands, lip tattoos or microchips.

If these don't exist, we look at several different areas of the teeth and use the information from each part to estimate an age range. You mentioned the Galvaynes groove. For anyone unfamiliar with the Galvaynes groove, it appears in some horse's corner incisor. (It is the groove that you feel not anykind of staining you might see on the tooth.) Funny enough, the groove is named after Sydney Galvayne who was an Australian (like me). It appears at the top of the visible tooth (near the gumline) at around 10-12 years of age. The rule of thumb is that by around 15 years of age it runs from the gumline to halfway down the tooth, by about 20 years of age, it has reached the bottom of the tooth. By 25 years of age, it begins halfway down the tooth and runs to the bottom, by 30 years it has been worn away. As I said not all horses get it, and it should never be used as the only tool to determine a horses age. But, from what you have said about your horse, that piece of information suggests the mare could be around late teens to early twenties.

You mentioned the dental star (or lack of it). Firstly, to explain when you look at the chewing surface of a horses incisor teeth there are several areas we identify. To begin with there is a thin wide mark (Dark in color) at the front and a deep well behind it. The dark smile shaped area is the dentine overlying the pulp horn (or nerve) and the well behind is called the infundibulum (sometimes called a "Cup"). As the horse ages and wears down the tooth the infundibulum wears out and the pulphorn moves more towards to middle of the tooth. This is now what is called a "Dental Star" it is the layers of dentine that protect the pulp. You mentioned your horses did not have them but chances are it does. The dentine in these stars gets its dark color from pigments in the feed. If the horse's diet does not contain much pigment, the stars don't appear dark and are often hard to see.

Some of the other things to look closely at to help you determine more accurately the age of your mare include the shape of the incisor teeth. When you look at the chewing surface the teeth will generally be one of four simple shapes:

1 oval 
2 circular
3 round
4 triangular

This is because at each age we are seeing a cross section of the tooth and as the horses gets older the tooth becomes narrower, so generally the young horse has wide oval shaped teeth and we progress through the shapes until the horse has narrow triangular shaped incisors.

Another tip is to stand beside the mare and examine the angle of her upper and lower incisors. Generally, a young horse's teeth will appear very vertical ( Straight up and down) where as and older horses teeth will be angled steeply towards the front of the mouth.

To sum it all up, it's a great question and as you can see, dental aging is complex and not exact (more like a practised and highly educated guess). it sounds like your mare may be in her late teens to early twenties but I reccomend you check some of the things I have mentioned above and also consult the AAEP Guide to aging. Thank you for your question and if you have them, send in some pictures.

Check back in a day or two and we will post some photos for your viewing.
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Question: I have used my veterinarian in conjunction with a "Certified Dental Practitioner" to take care of my horse's teeth for years. The experience has been great for me, and I am extremely happy.My question is, Why do some vets attack the practice of using non-DVMs that have been trained specifically to precisely balance a horse's mouth? Are there talks within the AAEP to embrace these practitioners and their vast experience to better serve the horse? From what I understand, there are very few veterinary schools that teach the advanced techniques these teams are using, and if so, they are offered as elective courses.I know this may be a tender topic, but believe that it needs to be addressed in a logical and respectful manner.
Answer: 
Firstly, I think we need to clear up some points in your question. All veterinarian schools provide veterinarians with a strong background in veterinary science since that is why they graduate with a Doctor of veterinary medicine DVM. As a vet who has taught equine dentistry for a decade and as a part of the largest network of equine vets in the world (The AAEP) I'm very comfortable stating that there are a great many veterinarians able to provide equine dentistry at a very high level. The concern that comes with non-veterinarians attempting these procedures is that there have been many cases of horses being hurt or maimed because of these activities. Horses teeth are sensitive structures with nerves and blood vessels inside them, and so it is critical to do no harm to these structures.When choosing a dental practitioner, it is very important to understand the potential for this harm to occur and to thoroughly scrutinise anyone whom you may choose. Ensure they are licensed, regulated and insured. This is to protect you in the event that any damage does occur, and means that they must be under the control of a regulatory body like your state veterinary board. This is to ensure that if they are performing procedures that are causing harm, steps can be taken to prevent them from continuing to do so. The AAEP holds regular meetings and workshops on equine dentistry. In fact, the last Focus meeting (a lecture series on a specific topic) was held in Albuquerque, NM in 2011 on Equine Dentistry and was attended by hundreds of DVM's from the US and abroad. Put simply, always ensure what you choose provides for the welfare needs of your horse and make sure no harm cames to them as a result of any treatment.Again your question is a good one and very hard to answer in a short simple fashion.

Ask the Vet: Wound Care During the Insect Season

Insects can be a nuisance in the summer and an even bigger problem to your horse. Join us in July as we answer your questions concerning wound care during the insect season to July's AAEP expert, Dr. Amy Poulin-Braim.

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Question: I have a gray horse that has red, sometimes bloody, sores on his mid-line, cheeks and behind his ears. Is this from mosquitoes? My barn manager has been putting desitin on the areas, but it doesn't seem to be getting much better. What is the best product to use? I have been suggested an anti-fungal/anti-bacterial shampoo and spray for the area. I feel that desitin will not allow the area to breath, but she has a point in that it will help keep new irritations away from the area.
Answer: 
During the summer months, it's not uncommon for small pinpoint red sores to pop up in these areas. Typically, the most common locations are insides of the ears and the underside of the belly. These sores are actually small bites from gnats, flies or other insects and the sores are weeping serum/blood that accumulates after the bite. Since your horse is grey, it would be easy to see these areas. Treatment would include daily/every other day gentle cleansing with an anti-bacterial shampoo (one that contains chlorhexidine as the active ingrediant would work the best). After the area dries off, placement of triple antibiotic (like neosporin) or SSD (Silver Sulfa Diazine) ointment over the affected area will help heal the wound. These products are easier to work with and clean off as compared to Desitin, which works better for moist rashes. Treatment should be coupled with the preventative stratagies outlined below to both help the sores that are currently there now and prevent new ones from appearing.     
 
 
Preventative strategies include:   * Fly spraying your horse daily before turnout, especially the underside of the abdomen and using the fly spray wipes to gently apply to the inner ear. * Placement of SWAT or other type of fly repellent ointment around (not covering) the affected areas (this can be placed around the base of the ear and not in the ear).
* You can also place a fly bonnet to the head of the horse, which covers the ears and/or a fly sheet with a belly guard.
* Turning your horse out overnight and keeping him inside during the day also helps with reducing exposure during the time of day when insects are at their highest.
* Barn/Stall/Pasture management: Routine daily cleaning of stalls and picking up manure in pasture. Having the manure pile away from the barn/turnout. Use of fly predators or other nonchemical products used to attract insects. Elimination of standing water.    
 
 
I would encourage you to consult with your veterinarian who will be able to provide you with additional customized suggestions and are tailored for your situation. I would also recommend if the sores you are referring to are pesistent open wounds and are large in size, speak with your veterinarian. As always, keeping up to date on routine vaccinations is imperative and your veterinarian will be able to provide you the best information for what is required in your area. Best of luck!
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Question: I'm not sure if this falls within the month's topic but I am having a hard time fighting the ticks off of my horse. He has sores, scabs and hair loss in both his mane and tail from the ticks. I have bathed him in betadine shampoo to help and also keep him in fly boots, mask and fly wipe, but they still find their way up to his tailhead and mane. Is there anything else I can be doing to help prevent these ticks from creating more sores and crusts on my horse? Should I be concerned with his sores from the tick bites?
Answer: 
You are not alone! Due to the warm winter we had, ticks & other pests have emerged much earlier than normal! Once ticks find their way to your horse, they tend to migrate towards the forelock, mane & tail bone regions, leaving behind exactly what you describe, an irritated, itchy weaping sore with risidual crust.   Some fly repellents do have ingredients that will repel ticks, but tend to need daily application (even if they say lasts 7-14 days), immediately prior to turnout. The product should be applied directly to the forelock (spray repellent onto your hand & rub into the base of the forelock), mane (apply along the topline & underside where the mane falls over onto the neck) & tail (apply directly to the roots of the tail hair at the level of the tail bone & the skin surface on the underside of the bone) - even then, this is not completely preventative. Other ideas to consider are: Pasture maintenance; regular mowing of the pasture & removal of low laying brush, especially where the pasture meets neighboring woods. Daily examination of your horse when you bring in from pasture/daily grooming with physical removal of any ticks found. Removal of stagnant water or regions that can cause increased humidity.   Ticks can transmit several different infectious diseases (ehrlichiosis, lyme disease, piroplasmosis), can cause fever of unknown origin and aside from the skin irritations you are now seeing, if the infestation is severe enough can also cause anemia (reduced red blood cell count). Therefore, daily attention to removal of ticks from your horse in combination to pasture mangement as well as consulting with your veterinarian who can provide more tailered information to suite your needs are the best defense you have!

Ask the Vet: Saddle Fitting

Do you have that perfect saddle that fits you but just won't fit your horse? Join us during the month of August to pose your questions concerning saddle fitting to AAEP Dr. Lyn Simmelink

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Question: I own a mutton withered quarter horse and have trouble with saddle slipping. Any advice as to a certain pad or saddle that would help? I ride mostly hunt seat, but wouldn't mind riding in a western saddle if that would work better.
Answer: 
If you love the fit of the saddle otherwise, you could consider a foregirth or a crupper. There is a thin non-slip rubbery pad that is designed to stop saddle slippage also. That has worked well for some of my clients.
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Question: I have two AP English saddles, 17" and 18"; however, the 18" has been in the shop for repair for a while now. I noticed that one of my Thoroughbred's drops his head close to the ground repeatedly during trotting when using the 17" saddle that I hadn't noticed when I used the other saddle. Is this a fitting issue or have I let him create a bad habit?
Answer: 
I do not think that this is a saddle issue because the 17 and 18 inch relates to the size of the seat for the rider and does not effect the horse. This might be an issue if you sit very differently in the two saddles. The other consideration is that horses drop their heads to the ground to stretch their backs and that can be a good thing occasionally.
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Question: I have a 4-year-old, 19hh, 2500-pound Percheron that I am starting under saddle. As you can imagine, finding a saddle that fits has been very difficult, and he's still growing. Do you think that a treeless saddle would be my best choice?
Answer: 
I have not had good experience with treeless saddles and Dr. Hilary Clayton has done biomechanical analysis on saddles and has found that a well-fitting tree does help protect the horse's spine. There are two brands of saddles that I know of that can fit the extra wide horses. One is Duett and the other is Thorowgood.
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Question: I have a mule in which I have tried numerous saddles, but nothing seems to fit quite right. They either slide up on her withers or I feel like I cut her in half with the cinch to keep them from sliding off the side. I have tried many "mule" saddles as well as flexible trees, flexible panels and air pads. Any other suggestions?
Answer: 
Perhaps a crupper would help. I have seen ponies where that is the only solution. The combination of low withers and well sprung ribs makes this a challenge.
5
Question: I have recently bought a Tennessee Walker and I have heard people say you should ride in a gaited saddle while others says it doesn't matter. What is your opinion?
Answer: 
I think that it depends on your intended use of the horse. If you intend for the horse to use his gaits to the fullest extent possible then a gaited saddle would be best. If your intent is pleasure riding, then a saddle that fits both you and the horse is the most important thing.
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Question: I have a horse that takes a wide tree in an English saddle. What size tree would I need if I purchase a Western saddle?
Answer: 
Every  manufacturer of saddles has their own idea of size. It would be best to take a withers tracing or ask the saddle maker what information they want to size the saddle.
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Question: I have a pony that has white hair coming up where her saddle sits. I try heaps of different saddle blankets but what can I do?
Answer: 
Using blankets to change a saddle fit is often not the best solution. It is similar to us changing our socks to make shoes fit. We usually need to find shoes that fit for us and a saddle that fits for the horse.
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Question: Some saddles seem like they fit everywhere, except that they create pressure points in my horses' withers around where a concho would be. Should a saddle be tighter in that one spot, or should it be a uniform tightness all down the shoulder? I have returned many saddles because of this area of pressure, but I have found nothing to document my thinking that it shouldn't be there. I like to be able to slide my fingers between the horse and the saddle all down the side. Thanks for the help.
Answer: 
You are correct that the saddle has to have contact somewhere but the best fit distributes the contact over the largest surface area possible in an even manner. The top of the shoulder blade needs to slide under the front of the saddle just as you described sliding your hand.
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Question: I'm very frustrated trying to fit my old Paso Fino with a saddle. Sport, English, saddle seat, endurance, Western and knock-off treeless all fit badly in different ways. Gel pad, air pad, foam pads (in different shapes), fleece pads, and everything also do not help. I give up. My new plan is to sell them all and buy a good treeless saddle for him and my Icelandic, which are very different horses. Any comments?
Answer: 
My personal experience with treeless saddles has not been successful. I know that Hilary Clayton did a study on saddle fit and concluded that a well fitted tree in a saddle does keep the pressure off of the spine and that is important. I do know that there are many riders who love their treeless saddles. If the horses are very different shapes, they may not be able to share the same saddle. You did not mention dressage saddles.

 

Ask the Vet: The Pre-Purchase Examination

Are you considering purchasing your first horse or growing your existing herd? Don't forget the pre-purchase examination! Pose these questions for our month's AAEP expert, Dr. Kerry Beckman.

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Question: Does a capped hock have a lasting effect on a horse's physical performance that may be used for racing?
Answer: 
A capped hock is a distension of a bursa (fluid-filled sac) at the point of the hock. This is usually the result of an injury to the area, or the horse repeatedly kicking the stall wall. 
 
An uncomplicated capped hock is considered to be only a cosmetic problem for the horse, and will not affect athletic performance. However, if there are underlying complications, such as infection or damage to nearby bony or soft tissue structures, there may be a detrimental effect on performance. 
 
When purchasing a horse with a capped hock, I recommend having the area evaluated by radiography and ultrasonography to ensure there are no other lesions present.
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Question: I am looking at a horse to purchase. He is HYPP N/H. What special considerations should I look at as he has never had an episode and is now 6-years-old? What are the chances that he will? I am looking at this horse for a 10 year old rider.
Answer:
Possible results of HYPP testing are N/N ("double positive"), N/H ("heterozygous"), and N/N ("normal").  N/H horses are also referred to as HYPP "carriers," because they carry the disease in their genes, but they don't always exhibit symptoms. Usually, a horse will shows signs of HYPP during the first few years of life, especially when training is intense. However, there are documented cases of horses showing signs of their first HYPP attack late in life. There is no way to predict if a N/H horse will show signs of HYPP during its lifetime.  
 
I recommend that all American Quarter horses be managed as if they have a tendency toward having HYPP attacks. Dietary management is extremely important in the management of affected horses. Dietary adjustments include (1) avoiding high potassium feeds such as alfalfa hay, brome hay, canola oil, soybean meal or oil, and sugar molasses and beet molasses, and replacing them with timothy or Bermuda grass hay, grains such as oats, corn, wheat and barley, and beet pulp; (2) feeding several times a day; and (3) exercising regularly and/or being allowed frequent access to a large paddock. If an attack has been documented, treatment of the horse with acetazolamide (under veterinary supervision) can also be helpful.  
 
You are wise to investigate the potential health problems of a horse before you purchase it. You may also consider screening the horse for other genetic diseases. The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) is now offering a five-panel genetic disease screening test through the University of California, Davis (UC Davis), Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, according to a statement on the organization's website.
 
The test will screen for five potentially fatal genetic diseases often found in Quarter Horses:

Glycogen branching enzyme deficiency (GBED);
Heredity equine regional dermal asthenia (HERDA);
Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP);
Malignant hyperthermia (MH); and
Polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM).

The five-panel test will cost $85 for AQHA members and $125 for nonmembers, the statement indicated. Interested parties are asked to call the AQHA at 806/376-4811 to secure their test.
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Question: I am buying a horse and a lameness exam seems a waste of money. What is really important to know and tests be taken when considering adopting a horse? (adoption as a family member). I am about to buy an 8-year-old that moves very well. What are the hidden considerations?
Answer: 
A thorough pre-purchase exam is an important part of buying a horse. For most equine practitioners, the lameness portion of the exam is only a small part. The horse should be examined from nose to tail, including the eyes, heart, lungs, oral cavity, skin, and musculoskeletal system. This "vetting" is crucial to help you decide if the horse will be a suitable match. There are numerous diseases that can be detected during the exam, as well as lameness issues that would limit the horse's performance. Also, the health of the horse should be evaluated to ensure that you are not bringing a contagious disease into your current herd. The monetary cost of the pre-purchase exam is minimal compared to the potential veterinary costs of treating the horse once you own it. Even a free horse can incur substantial veterinary bills over its lifetime, and it would be wise to approach the acquistion of a new horse with the most information possible.