Chronic Sinus Infections/Flushing

Does your horse have a chronic snotty nose? Horses with chronic sinus infections often have mucous or a foul odor coming from one or both nostrils.  It may be everyday or only once or twice a week.

There are a few other conditions that should be ruled out before treating your horse for a sinus infection.  Your veterinarian can use an endoscope (scope) to look in the upper respiratory tract and make sure any mucous is not coming from the lungs (respiratory infection or inflammatory airway disease- IAD), or the guttural pouches (which can also be flushed).  


Once other sources are ruled out, the sinuses should be considered. Some times mucous can be seen coming from the sinus on endoscopic exam. Other causes of discharge from the sinus may be tooth root infections and masses present in the sinus, both of which may be diagnosed/ruled out by skull radiographs. Skull x-rays will also allow us to assess how much fluid is present in the sinus. Horses with sinus infections often don't act sick because the sinus is a bony cavity in the skull, and infections can fester for months before the rest of the body realizes it is sick.


A chronic nasal discharge is easy to ignore, but should be evaluated by your veterinarian and treated as soon as possible.


A new method of treating sinus infections allows us to flush the sinuses with sterile fluids and antibiotics without major skull surgery.


In the standing sedated horse the area is scrubbed and clipped and a large needle is used to create an access hole into the frontal and maxillary sinuses and fluid can be introduced at high pressure to remove debris and infection. The fluid and debris will drain from the nose. This can be repeated for 3-4 days as needed using the same hole. This can be done on farm and heals quickly with no stitches needed.

These images are of a 5 year old TB with chronic foul smelling nasal discharge, which did not resolve with systemic antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, or changes in environment. She became systemically ill and was treated with sinus flushing for 3 days as well as systemic antibiotics. The nasal discharge did not return and she resumed her athletic career.




Broodmare Nutrition: Preparing for Fall and Winter

Broodmare Nutrition: Preparing for Fall and Winter

Laurie Lawrence, PhD, a professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences at the University of Kentucky, provided this information.

All broodmares should have their body condition assessed regularly, as mares in good body condition have a reservoir of stored fat that can be used during cold winter weather. Good body condition helps barren and maiden mares establish normal cycles sooner in the breeding season and results in higher conception rates. Similarly, mares in good body condition at foaling are easier to rebreed than thin mares.

Owners can usually assess a horse's body condition by evaluating the amount of fat deposited on the ribs, along the neck and spine, and behind the shoulder. The typical scoring system uses a 1 to 9 scale, where a horse with a score of 1 is emaciated and 9 is obese. A horse with a condition score of 5 is considered to have "moderate" body condition. Mares that enter the breeding season with a condition score below 5 have reduced reproductive efficiency. Therefore, the target body condition score for broodmares is at least 5. While there is no advantage to a mare having a very high score (being very fat), if she has a score of 6 in late fall she will have a small reserve of fat during winter when she will be burning extra calories to stay warm.

Horses with body condition scores between 5 and 6 have ribs that can be felt easily, but that are not visible. In addition, these horses have enough fat cover over their topline that the loin area is relatively flat. Their necks are not thin and blend smoothly into the shoulder. A horse with a score higher than 7 has ribs that are difficult to feel and so much fat along the spine that there is a deep crease in the loin area. On the other hand, if the spine is visible along the loin area and the ribs are also visible, then the body condition score would be closer to a 4. If more of the mare's bony structures are visible (e.g., the shoulder or hip bones are prominent) then the body condition score would be below a 4.

Many mares that nursed a foal during the summer and early fall as well as mares used for strenuous competitive activities during the summer (racing, endurance competition, polo, etc.) often enter the fall with condition scores below 5. These horses will need to consume extra calories in the fall to ensure they are in good body condition for the next breeding and foaling season.

Mares that have been grazing abundant, high-quality pasture all summer and fall might have body condition scores above 7. Although high condition scores have not been shown to negatively affect reproduction, they might increase a mare's risk for limb and hoof problems, including laminitis. If a horse is overweight, winter is a good time for weight loss because the pasture is less nutritious and the cold weather increases calorie use.

Pasture and Hay

As pasture quality and quantity decline in late fall, owners should supplement mares' forage intake with hay. Some horse managers in Central Kentucky begin feeding hay to pastured mares beginning Nov. 1, but make a decision based on the condition of your individual mares and pasture. If the mares are losing body condition, the nutrients available to them are likely insufficient. Even if the mares seem to be maintaining body condition but the pasture is showing signs of overgrazing, it is probably time to offer hay. Providing hay in the fall will serve two purposes: First, it ensures mares will have enough to eat; and second, it might reduce overgrazing of the pasture. Overgrazing in the fall can weaken the plants, thus reducing their vigor the next spring and summer. Overgrazing can also allow more weeds to invade the pasture.

The best way to evaluate whether pastured mares need hay is to put some in the pasture. If the horses ignore the hay, then the pasture is probably meeting their forage needs. If they eat some but not all of the hay, then the amount of hay fed can be reduced until the amount that remains at the next feeding is small. If the horses devour the hay rapidly, the pasture quality is clearly declining and the horses need hay.

Many types of hay are acceptable for broodmares, but the main selection characteristics should be safety and nutrition. Most tall fescue in the southeastern United States is infected with a fungal endophyte that can negatively affect mares in late gestation. Unless tall fescue hay has been tested and is known to be endophyte-free, it should not be used for mares, especially pregnant mares. Any hay that is fed to horses should also be free of toxic weeds, dust, and mold.

Legume hays (e.g., alfalfa and clover) are higher in nutrients than most grass hays (timothy, orchardgrass, etc.). In a recent study conducted at the University of Kentucky (UK), Thoroughbred mares in mid and late gestation were able to eat enough good-quality alfalfa hay to meet their protein requirements. Mares fed timothy hay were able to eat enough hay to meet their protein requirements in mid-gestation, but not in late gestation. When applied to practical feeding situations, these results mean horses fed good-quality alfalfa hay will require less concentrate (sweet feed or pellets) than horses fed timothy hay.

In addition to considering the type of hay to use, a broodmare owner might want to estimate how much hay he or she will need to provide during the fall and winter. In the UK study mares consumed about 2-2.25 pounds of hay for each 100 pounds of body weight. So a medium-sized Thoroughbred mare (1,250 pounds) would consume about 25-28 pounds of hay daily. Remember that this figure represents the amount of hay consumed, not the amount fed. There will always be some wasted hay, so the amount fed should be slightly greater than the amount to be consumed. However, the mares in the study received only a small amount of concentrate each day, and mares fed greater amounts of concentrate would need less hay. If hay is fed at 30 pounds/horse/day from Nov. 1 through March 30, then a little more than two tons of hay will be needed to feed the medium-sized mare over this period. If the hay feeding period is longer or shorter, or the mare is expected to eat more or less hay, then the total amount of hay would change.

Concentrates and Supplement Pellets

In addition to pasture and/or hay, broodmares are usually fed either a commercially manufactured concentrate or supplement pellet (sometimes called a balancer pellet). The term "concentrate" refers to a feed that is a concentrated source of calories. Common concentrates such as oats, corn, and other cereal grains are good sources of calories but they are low in calcium and other necessary nutrients. Commercially manufactured concentrates usually include cereal grains, but they also contain additional nutrients. If a concentrate is formulated for a broodmare, the level of nutrient supplementation will be targeted to meet her needs. Concentrates are added when the forage portion of the diet does not provide enough calories to meet a mare's needs. Most Thoroughbred-type mares should receive 5-10 pounds of concentrate in late gestation. Mares from small, thrifty breeds will usually be fed less concentrate in late gestation.

Supplement pellets are concentrated sources of vitamins, minerals, and sometimes protein. They are fed in small amounts (usually 1-2 pounds per day) when the pasture or hay provides all the calories a mare needs. For example, if a mare can maintain a condition score of 6 on pasture or hay alone, then she does not need the extra calories provided by a concentrate. But, she does need many of the minerals provided in the supplement pellet. Supplement pellets are not needed if a mare is getting at least 4 pounds of a commercially manufactured broodmare concentrate. However, a supplement pellet can be combined with a plain cereal grain (such as oats) if an owner prefers not to use a commercially manufactured feed.

Laurie Lawrence, PhD, a professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences at the University of Kentucky, provided this information.

Transitioning the Retired Race Horse

Since there are a lot of race horses in our area being retired from the tracks this time of year we thought it was a good idea to post some helpful guidelines for a smooth transition.
American Association of Equine Practitioners

Racehorses can be very useful in other careers after retiring from racing. Many are donated 
to retirement facilities that provide permanent sanctuary or provide retraining and 
adoption to suitable homes. These horses’ uses may range from non‐ridden, companion 
animals to athletic sport horses. As in most equine endeavors, the intended use of the horse 
has a large bearing on its rehoming potential. The equine practitioner can assist, both at the 
track and at the retirement facility, with the potential use of these horses after they retire 
from racing. There are many variables that must be considered in this determination. While 
there are no absolutes, there are conditions associated with physical limitations which will 
likely prevent a horse from future athletic endeavors.  Foremost for the equine practitioner 
are the soundness of the individual animal and the identification of various conditions that 
may affect future usability. 
Based on their professional experience, most veterinarians will have a personal 
perspective regarding which medical conditions can be consistent with various uses. These 
guidelines will outline the common health issues encountered and offer opinions based on 
the committee’s collective expertise. There is minimal scientific data on which to base these 
prognostic decisions and ultimately recommendations may be founded solely on 
professional veterinary opinion.  As improved documentation of experience with injury 
rehabilitation becomes available, more accurate prognostic decisions will be possible.  The 
veterinarian advising or making recommendations as to the future use of a horse should be 
familiar with the demands and health requirements of that use, and it is recommended that 
the veterinarian’s prognosis for athletic ability in a specific horse be conservative in order 
to avoid situations where failed expectations result in a horse becoming unwanted. 
The first step in determining the prognosis for a racehorse to be transitioned to another 
use is a comprehensive evaluation. This should include as detailed a medical history as is 
available and a thorough musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiac and ophthalmic 
examination.  Because many horses that are to be examined have had recent medication for 
various infirmities, it may be necessary to examine an animal more than once to assess its 
accurate health status.  Arrival exams are standard procedure for most of the major 
retirement organizations. Good records of these exams are necessary. Often these exams 
are the responsibility of the facility to which the animal is donated, at which time a medical 
history is likely unavailable.  The AAEP recommends that responsibility for the horse’s 
evaluation be borne by the horse’s donor, thus saving the facility funds and allowing them
to more effectively triage the animal.
Many retirement facilities have very limited capacity and lack resources to support animals 
for a long period. Therefore, it is in the interest of both the horse and the facility to make 
prudent and efficient decisions regarding individual animals in order to responsibly 
manage financial resources. Humane euthanasia is a legitimate consideration for animals 
that have chronic unsoundness that renders them unsuitable candidates for adoption, or 
for animals that are uncomfortable to the extent they cannot humanely live out their days 
in a field. 
Physical Assessment
For the purpose of these guidelines, the following definitions are used to describe the levels 
of recommended use for the transitioned horse. 
• Level I:  Pasture turnout, non‐ridden. 
• Level II:  Light use, to include trail riding at the walk and occasional trot on good 
• Level III: Moderate use such as flat work at the walk, trot, canter and varied terrain. 
Occasional jumping in good conditions generally with fences less than two feet. 
• Level IV:  Full athletic work; no exclusions. 
In addition to physical condition, temperament is a critical factor in determining successful 
placement of these horses. Most retirement facilities are managed by experienced horse 
people whose assessment of a horse’s temperament, demeanor, socialization (human and 
equine) and tractability will be important. Such evaluation requires a good history and 
regular monitoring by experienced observers. While the veterinarian may have input as to 
an animal’s temperament for a specific purpose, such decisions should be made in consultation with management. Stallions and colts should be castrated before transitioning.
The following is a listing of conditions commonly seen in retiring racehorses and the 
prognosis for these animals for various uses. 
Musculoskeletal Conditions:
Lameness due to chronic osteoarthritis is common in retiring racehorses and may 
often be the precipitating cause of the horse’s retirement. The degree of lameness 
can be highly variable, and is not always consistent with radiographic findings.  
However, it is unlikely that a horse demonstrating grade 2/5 lameness due to 
fetlock disease will be serviceable as a performance horse. These horses may be able 
to be used for Level II activities, but should still be expected to require an increased 
level of care to maintain their existing level of soundness. Horses with a significant 
decrease in fetlock flexion even if not exhibiting lameness may be compromised for 
significant athletic use (Level III‐IV).  If the adopting agency or person is willing to 
institute therapy to mediate osteoarthritis of the fetlock, the costs should be 
outlined as well as prognosis. Intra‐articular therapies and / or surgery will render 
a number of these animals useful at lower levels (Level I‐III). In general, if a horse 
cannot be maintained for racing with appropriate therapy, it will be difficult to 
maintain that animal for any use other than very low level work in other capacities. 
In particular, these animals will be unlikely to be able to be sound enough for 
jumping or dressage. 
Small osteochrondral fragments should have minimal impact on future soundness if 
the animal is given appropriate therapy and time to recover. Fractures of the 
proximal sesamoids vary greatly and must be individually assessed. In general, 
small apical fractures and basilar fractures without extensive degenerative joint 
disease and marked suspensory disease will be serviceable for moderate level use 
(Level I‐III). Full body fractures often render an animal unsound for any athletic 
The degree of damage to the carpus can dictate future usefulness. If the damage to 
the joint surfaces is not extensive, the horse will be able to transition to low and 
moderate sport horse use including jumping.  If there is extensive osteoarthritis 
involving any of the joint surfaces, the prognosis is quite guarded. Chip fractures can 
be removed and improve the athletic prognosis in many cases. Palmar fractures 
generally carry a less favorable prognosis for any use other than very light pleasure. 
“No foot, no horse” is a universal truth that crosses all equine disciplines.  Foot 
conditions are often managed on the racetrack with therapeutic shoeing and 
medication and without a specific diagnosis. 
Poorly conformed feet that have to perform on harder surfaces than the track will 
often lead to lameness. Good farriery over time can remedy many hoof conditions, 
and if the adopting group is willing to invest the time, these horses may transition to 
many uses. Chronic quarter cracks can often be healed and corrected. Horses with 
chronic foot pain are poor candidates for use on hard surfaces.  Animals that have 
had laminitis also may be poor candidates for use over firm surfaces. Such horses 
require detailed examination to assess potential serviceability. Since there are many 
causes of foot pain, establishing a diagnosis is key to identifying reasonable athletic 
expectations.  Animals that have been treated with a palmar digital neurectomy will 
require open documentation and careful placement by the adopting group. Wing 
fractures of the third phalanx (coffin bone) often have a good prognosis for other 
uses but should be documented.  Coffin bone fractures involving the joint surface have a poor prognosis for riding soundness. Solar margin fractures generally have a 
favorable prognosis and feet with chronic inflammatory changes may be able to be managed. 
Hock lameness is common and often manageable in both the racing and sport horse. 
Chronic osteoarthritis of the lower joint spaces of the hock will limit usefulness as a 
jumping or dressage horse but may not be inhibiting for lighter work. Many 
appropriate therapies may extend the usefulness of these horses if the adopting 
group is willing to invest in such. In most of these cases, rest alone is not adequate 
for returning a horse to serviceable soundness. 
Chronic stifle lameness will prevent most racehorses from transitioning to moderate 
or intense sport use. Osteochrondral fragments (in the absence of osteoarthritic 
changes) typically respond well to surgery, which coupled with appropriate 
intraarticular therapies, will return many of these horses to usefulness for low or 
moderate level activities.  Meniscal or ligamentous damage will limit use to low 
levels of activity. 
Tendon and Ligamentous Injury
Tendonitis of the superficial flexor tendon is a common cause of retirement from 
racing.  The severity of this injury will determine the prognosis for other uses. The 
majority of “bowed” tendons, if treated appropriately and given enough time, will 
transition to most uses other than racing. Most cases will require 10‐12 months to 
be serviceable. 
Suspensory ligament injuries may range from a mild strain to complete failure.  The 
latter is not amenable to transition, and unless extensive treatment is instituted, is a 
life‐threatening injury with a poor prognosis for survival. Chronic severe 
suspensory desmitis will prevent transition to Level III or IV activity. Horses with 
mild to moderate desmitis, if treated appropriately and given considerable rest, may 
be useful for low‐level activity. 
The external appearance of soft tissue structures (tendons and ligaments) may not 
reveal the extent of an injury and it is advisable that ultrasonography be used as an 
adjunct to physical examination to document the degree of injury in cases where 
soft tissue injury is of concern. 
Respiratory Conditions:

Upper Airway Conditions
Laryngeal hemiplegia (“roaring”) is a common cause for racing retirement. 
Although the degree of obstruction will determine future usefulness for other 
purposes, affected horses are very useful as long as speed isn’t required. Horses 
experiencing soft palate problems while racing may not show the same 
symptoms at slower speeds and may be useful for exercise at Levels I‐III.  
Arytenoid chondritis may severely limit a horse’s athletic potential.  Although 
medical and surgical treatments for each of these respiratory conditions may 
improve airway function, a well documented history and endoscopic 
examination prior to referral to the retirement facility is appropriate to help 
clarify the athletic potential of affected horses. 
Lower Airway Disease
Inflammatory airway disease is not uncommon and must be managed if the 
horse is to be transitioned at all. Many horses with an undiagnosed chronic 
cough may transition to lower level uses but should be properly diagnosed for 
the best prognosis.  Horses with exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhage in 
racing will rarely experience bleeding at other uses unless speed is required 
such as eventing or barrel racing. 
Gastrointestinal Conditions:

A thorough physical examination may define the cause of a lower body condition 
score (<2/9).  Adequate nutrition and good general care will reverse most 
underweight conditions.  Horses may also lose condition after leaving the 
racetrack, particularly if managed in groups and fed together.  An aggressive, 
competitive race horse may still end up at the bottom of the social hierarchy 
when transferred to a new facility. Intact males are often a management problem 
and should be castrated. 
Gastric Ulcers
Gastric ulcers are a common cause of a lower body condition score and may 
require gastroscopy for accurate diagnosis. Elimination of the stress of 
competition may improve this condition but some horses will require 
appropriate therapy. Alternatively, the horse may be treated empirically for 
ulcers and its response to therapy evaluated 
Chronic diarrhea is a serious condition and will require extensive workup and 
The cost of housing, retraining and rehoming retired race horses can be considerable. 
These costs are increased if the horse requires significant veterinary medical care. We have 
discussed many of the common problems associated with this transition. There is little 
national data to reference the costs of veterinary care for these animals.  Many adoption 
facilities enjoy close relationships with veterinary practices that render care at significantly 
reduced costs. These practices see this care as a service to the horse and the facilities 
providing care.  




Should I Blanket? How and When?

This is a question many people start asking themselves as fall rolls around. The cooler weather rolls in, you start putting on an extra layer yourself before going out to do chores or ride, and you wonder if your horse needs an extra layer as well.

Most horses naturally grow a fluffy winter coat as the days begin getting shorter, after shedding out their summer coat, and blanketing a horse too early or too heavily may leave you piling the layers on to a chilly horse when the weather gets really cold. The average horse has in its digestive system a 24-36 gallon fermentation vat (the hindgut – cecum and large intestine). This is where the majority of their feed digestion takes place. This fermentation produces large quantities of energy in the form of heat, which helps to keep them warm even in the coldest weather. 

But he just looks cold! Even with their insulating coat and personal internal heater, some horses just like people just don’t like the cold. Very young horses and older horses can be particularly susceptible to the cold, as they are using more energy to grow or maintain body condition. Horses with increased energy demands, such as high levels of work, growth, or age, can often benefit from a blanket to decrease the energy they put towards keeping themselves warm.
Clipped horses in the winter should always have some type of blanket or sheet, depending on the amount of clipping, as you have removed their natural protection from the weather. 

Fire had a wonderful winter coat, but needed a clip to stay cool while working

So if you’ve decided to blanket, when to start? And what type?

Guidelines for body clipped horses and hard keepers:

40-50 degrees

  • A lightweight turnout sheet
  • Protection from wind and rain

20-40 degrees

  • A midweight blanket
  • Warmth
  • Blocks wind and rain 
  • Good for almost all winter weather

 Teens and below

  • Heavy weight blanket
  • Extreme cold
  • Or horses not adjusted to cold weather (shipped from the south in the winter)

Healthy young adult to adult horses with normal haircoat:

20-40 degrees

  • Consider a lightweight blanket or sheet for turn out if stabled for long periods in a warm >45degree barn

Teens and below

  • Light to midweight blanket for turnout if not adjusted to temperature (stabled in warm barn or normally wears stable sheet)

Don’t forget if you decide to blanket, to regularly remove the blanket and check for wear spots, any rubs on the horse, and make sure the straps are in good condition.

10 Tips for Equine Weight Reduction (ie. Diet Blog for Horses)

As we go into September 2013, the green grass in Western NY has been growing like crazy, and our horses have been loving the extra groceries.  For our hard keepers thats great news, however if you've been a little busy and your horse's excersize program has been lacking, or you have one of those ponies that gets fat on air, these tips are for you and the health of your horse!


10 Tips for Weight Reduction in the Overweight Horse


As a horse owner, you play an important role in controlling your equine companion’s weight. Sound nutrition management, a regular exercise program and veterinary care are key to keeping your horse fit and healthy. Maintaining the ideal weight is not always easy, however. 

When implementing a weight loss program for the overweight horse, it’s important to do it gradually and under the supervision of an equine veterinarian. 

  1. Be patient.  Weight reduction should be a slow, steady process so as to not stress the horse or create metabolic upsets
  2. Make changes in both the type and amount of feed gradually.  Reduce rations by no more than 10% over a 7- to 10-day period.
  3. Track your horse’s progress by using a weight tape.  When the horse’s weight plateaus, gradually cut back its ration again.
  4. Step up the horse’s exercise regimen.  Gradually build time and intensity as the horse’s fitness improves.
  5. Provide plenty of clean, fresh water so the horse’s digestive and other systems function as efficiently as possible and rid the body of metabolic and other wastes.
  6. Select feeds that provide plenty of high quality fiber but are low in total energy.  Measure feeds by weight rather than by volume to determine appropriate rations.
  7. Select feeds that are lower in fat since fat is an energy-dense nutrient source.
  8. Switch or reduce the amount of alfalfa hay fed.  Replace with a mature grass or oat hay to reduce caloric intake.
  9. Feed separate from other horses so the overweight horse doesn’t have a chance to eat his portion and his neighbor’s too.  Caloric intake may also need to be controlled by limiting pasture intake.
  10. Balance the horse’s diet based on age and activity level.  Make sure the horse’s vitamin, mineral and protein requirements continue to be met.

Once your horse has reached its ideal body condition, maintaining the proper weight is a gentle balancing act. You will probably need to readjust your horse’s ration to stabilize its weight.  Exercise will continue to be a key component in keeping the horse fit.  Because obesity can affect a horse’s health, communicate regularly with your veterinarian.  Schedule regular check-ups, especially during the weight reduction process.



Reprinted with permission from the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

Equine Parasites!

Wage War on Equine Parasites

Internal parasites are silent killers. They can cause extensive internal damage, and you may not even realize your horses are heavily infected. At the very least, parasites can lower disease resistance, rob the horse of valuable nutrients, and cause gastrointestinal irritation and unthriftiness. At their worst, they can lead to colic, intestinal ruptures, and death.

Using deworming agents on a regular schedule in combination with good management procedures is critical to relieving your horse of most parasites. Since parasites are primarily transferred through manure, good manure management is key. Establishing a parasite control program is probably second only to supplying the horse with clean, plentiful water and high quality feed.

To get rid of intestinal parasites before they attack your horse, follow these suggestions from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP):

  1. Pick up and dispose of manure in pastures at least twice weekly.

  2. Mow and harrow pastures regularly to break up manure piles and expose parasite eggs and larvae to the elements.

  3. Rotate pastures by allowing other livestock, such as sheep, cattle, or chickens to graze them, thereby interrupting the life cycles of parasites.

  4. Group horses by age to reduce exposure to certain parasites and maximize the deworming program geared to that group.

  5. Keep the number of horses per acre to a minimum to prevent overgrazing and reduce the fecal contamination per acre.

  6. Use a feeder for hay and grain rather than feeding on the ground.

  7. Remove bot eggs quickly and regularly from the horse’s haircoat to prevent ingestion.

  8. Perform regular Fecal Egg Counts to monitor your horse for internal parasites and help plan an effective deworming schedule.

  9. Consult your veterinarian to set up an effective and regular deworming schedule.

Establishing an effective deworming program based around regular Fecal Egg Counts is easy. Discuss a plan with your veterinarian and implement it without delay. A good parasite control program will go a long way toward maximizing your horse’s appearance, performance and comfort. The net result will be an animal that is as healthy on the inside as it appears on the outside.


Sections reprinted with permission from the American Association of Equine Practitioners.


Osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of chronic, low grade lameness in the horse, and one of the most common diseases treated by veterinarians. Osteoarthritis is generally seen as bony changes, and/or degeneration of the bone and cartilage of the joint surface (arthritis). As a result, there are many treatment and supportive care options currently marketed to horse owners. A few commonly asked questions are, “What is the difference between Legend and Adequan?” “Between Polyglycan and Pentosan?” “What is shock wave therapy?” This guide is intended to help answer some of those questions, however, a discussion with your veterinarian will help put together the best treatment or management plan for your horse.


Hyaluron, Hyaluronic Acid (HA), and Hyaluronate Sodium all refer to the same component of joint fluid in slightly different forms. Healthy joint (synovial) fluid is viscous, and Hyaluron is the substance that provides the cushion/viscosity to joint fluid. It is produced by the cartilage and cells within the joint fluid, and also helps decrease inflammation.


The effectiveness of an HA product is directly associated to is concentration and molecular weight. In general, products with higher concentrations of heavier weight molecules are more effective and have longer lasting results.



Legend is Hyaluronate Sodium, a natural glycosaminoglycan (GAG) component of joint fluid. It can be administered intravenously (IV) or intra-articularly (in the joint). When given IV, treatment consists of a once a week injection for three weeks. When given IV, Legend decreases inflammation in the joint fluid, and helps decrease inflammation in the vessels surrounding the joint.

When injected in a joint to treat inflammation or synovitis, a full label treatment is a series of three joint injections spaced every 3 to 6 weeks. There is no period of rest needed post joint injection with an HA product. HA products injected into the joint act to lubricate the joint cartilage, and support lower quality joint fluid.

The concentration of Hyaluronate sodium in Legend is 10mg/mL.



Hyvisc is a Hyaluronate Sodium product labeled for intra articular injection for treating joint inflammation (synovitis) and osteoarthritis. It has a high concentration of a high molecular weight hyaluronate sodium (11mg/ml).



Marketed as a joint fluid replacement for use during orthopedic surgery, “Poly” is a combination product that contains Hyaluronic acid and Chondroitin Sulfates A and C. It can be given orally or intra-articularly. Its concentration of HA is 5mg/mL, (significantly less than that of Legend or Hyvisc) and it also contains10mg of sodium chondroitin sulfate and 10mg of N-acetyl-D-glucosamine per mL.

Its efficacy and longevity is considered less than other products, due to lower concentrations of HA, though it is also less expensive than Legend or Hyvisc, and some clients have reported positive results from Polyglycan administration.



A beech wood derived polymer, Pentosan functions as an anti-clotting agent, as well as an anti-inflammatory. Pentosan can be used intravenously, intra-muscularly, intra-articularly, or orally. Pentosan stimulates new cartilage formation, as well as to block inflammatory mediators and to inhibit degredative enzymes. However research has shown that normal blood clotting time was effected 24hrs post administration, and up to 48hrs with large amounts given. Caution should be excersised in choosing to use Pentosan in horses with documented EIPH or within 48hrs of strenuous excersize.

Some university studies have shown similar effects at the cellular level to Adequan, clinical effects have not been proven.



Adequan is Polysulfated Glycosaminoglycan (PSGAG). It inhibits inflammatory enzymes in joint fluid, which decreases protein levels and increases HA levels. It is administered IM or IA. A full course of intra-muscular Adequan involves 7 treatments given once every 4 days for 28 days. It is often then continued once monthly if necessary. It has been shown to increase the level of HA in joint fluid for 4 days post administration.



Intra-articular corticosteroid injections, in combination with non-steroidal anti inflammatories, are a common treatment for osteoarthritis. Corticosteroids have potent anti-inflammatory actions, however when injected in joints they are also destructive to the cartilage. Due to this corticosteroids are commonly combined with an HA product when injected into a joint, to help counteract the chondro-destructive effects.


Not all corticosteroids are as damaging to the joint surface. Triamcinalone acetonide (Vetalog) is slightly protective to the cartilage and has fewer negative effects on cartilage as other corticosteroids. Methylprednisolone acetate (Depo-Medrol) tends to have a longer period of action than Vetalog, but does degrade cartilage when injected into a joint.


Shock Wave Therapy:

ESWT refers to Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy. “Shock Wave” has been used for many years in sports medicine. It uses a hand held wand to deliver high intensity pressure waves to the horse’s body in pulses. Shock wave therapy has been shown to reduce inflammation within the joint, and stimulate new bone growth and soft tissue healing, as well as reducing pain.

Shock wave therapy is intended to be used in addition to a period of rest and healing. Since it provides pain reduction to potentially damaged areas, immediate work/training may cause increased damage. Two to four weeks of rest is required post treatment, depending on the condition being treated and its location.

Shock wave therapy can reduce osteoarthritis associated inflammation and clinical lameness, but it does not change the underlying problem, when utilized on sites of osteoarthritis (specifically joints). Thus chondroprotective treatments (HA product, Adequan, etc) are often added when shock wave therapy is utilized.

Mosquito and Fly Control Measures.

As you all know it has been a very wet summer so far.

Here are a few tips to control mosquitoes and flies.

- Eliminate mosquito breeding sites (standing water). fill pot holes, clean ditches so they drain, fix leaking plumbing, empty and turn over any unused water vats or pales. Remove or drill holes in containers that collect water such as old tires. Insure that building gutters are not retaining water.

-Clean water vats on a regular cycle such as weekly or monthly.

-Place water vats on a hard surface or crushed stone surface to minimize any mud.

-Clean stalls daily and pick the manure from the paddocks that are close to the barn.

-Keep grain and feed room clean.

-Keep compost and manure piles at least 100 feet from the barn.

-Use fans in the barn to provide ventilation

-Use fly traps and strips in enclosed areas.

-Keep lights off in the barn at night.

-Use fly masks, sheets, or insect repellants designed to repel mosquitoes.

-Consider using predators or larvicides when it is difficult to eliminate particular breeding sites.

These tips were "borrowed" from Bonny's textbook: Equine Health and Emergency Management


Lyme Disease (a Timely Tick Topic)

What is Lyme Disease?
     Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a spirochete transmitted by Ixodes ticks.  Deer and mice are the normal mammals in the Lyme disease cycle, and other species such as horses and humans are "aberrant" or unintentional hosts of the disease.
How does a horse contract Lyme Disease?
     An adult tick that is infected with Borrelia burgdorferi must attach and feed for longer than 24hrs to infect a horse with Lyme disease.  The bacteria lives in the "gut" of the tick and is transferred to the animal as the tick feeds.
What are the Clinical Signs of Lyme Disease?
     Fever, diffuse muscle soreness and generalized joint stiffness are the most commonly seen clinical signs.  The presenting signs can be vague, and many clinical signs can be caused by a combinations of other factors such as age, level of work, orthopedic problems, or other infections.  
How is Lyme Disease Diagnosed?
     Diagnosing lyme disease is complicated by the fact that many horses have been exposed to Lyme disease and will have detectable antibodies to Borrelia burgdorferi but may not actually be infected.  Immunofluorescent Antibody (IFA) testing is the optimal testing method, but only diagnoses exposure as many healthy horses may have antibody titers.  
A new "multi-plex" test available through Cornell Animal Health Diagnostic Lab, identifies antibody titers to three seperate Borrelia antigens, and can be used to distinguish between acute (new infections), chronic (or exposure), and vaccine related titers.
     Response to treatment is often used to diagnose Lyme disease, but is also complicated as the antibiotics used to treat (tetracylcines) also have anti-inflammatory properties which may reduce muscle and joint pain, even without an infection to treat.  
     For a definitive diagnosis of Lyme disease, an IFA test should be performed before and after starting treatment, and a notable decrease in the level of antibodies should be seen.
Is there Treatment for Lyme Disease?
     As mentioned above, Lyme disease can be treated with tetracycline antibiotics (oxytetracycline or doxycycline).  Oxytetracycline is used most commonly in horses and is administered intravenously (IV).  Treatment is typically continued for 3 weeks and titers should be retested to document a decrease below "normal" exposure levels before treatment is stopped.
How can I Prevent Lyme Disease?
     Tick control is key to preventing lyme disease.  Regular grooming and checking under mane/forelock and around the base of tail during tick season (mid spring through late fall), with quick removal of any ticks is the most important form of prevention.  In some areas a topical tick preventative may need to be used, and your veterinarian may be able to recommend what has worked best in that area.
     Although a vaccine is available for Lyme disease, it is not commonly used in horses, and vaccination will create elevated antibody levels, which can create difficulties in diagnosing infection.  This is less of a concern with the new "multi-plex" test through Cornell.


Helping Your Foal Grow

A healthy foal will grow rapidly, gaining in height, weight and strength almost before your eyes.  From birth to age two, a young horse can achieve 90 percent or more of its full adult size, sometimes putting on as many as three pounds per day.  Feeding young horses is a balancing act, as the nutritional start a foal gets can have a profound affect on its health and soundness for the rest of its life.

At eight to ten weeks of age, mare’s milk alone may not adequately meet the foal’s nutritional needs, depending on the desired growth rate and owner wants for a foal.  As the foal’s dietary requirements shift from milk to feed and forage, your role in providing the proper nutrition gains in importance.  Following are guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to help you meet the young horse’s nutritional needs:


  1. Provide high quality roughage (hay and pasture) free choice.
  2. Supplement with a high quality, properly balanced grain concentrate at weaning, or earlier if more rapid rates of gain are desired.
  3. Start by feeding one percent on a foal’s body weight per day (i.e., one pound of feed for each 100 pounds of body weight), or one pound of feed per month of age.
  4. Weigh and adjust the feed ration based on growth and fitness.  A weight tape can help you approximate a foal’s size.
  5. Foals have small stomachs so divide the daily ration into two to three feedings.
  6. Make sure feeds contain the proper balance of vitamins, minerals, energy and protein.
  7. Use a creep feeder or feed the foal separate from the mare so it can eat its own ration.  Try

to avoid group creep feeding situations.

  1. Remove uneaten portions between feedings.
  2. Do not overfeed.  Overweight foals are more prone to developmental orthopedic disease (DOD).
  3. Provide unlimited fresh, clean water.
  4. Provide opportunity for abundant exercise.

The reward for providing excellent nutrition and conscientious care will be a healthy foal that grows into a sound and useful horse.  For more information about providing proper nutrition for your foal, talk with your equine veterinarian.  Additional information about foal nutrition can also be found on the AAEP’s website


Reprinted with permission from the American Association of Equine Practitioners.


Equine Metabolic Syndrome

(What do I about my cresty necked horse?)

Equine metabolic syndrome made up of a variety of metabolic and inflammatory conditions, some of which can be prevented with management and some which require veterinary intervention.  The most common conditions associated with Equine Metabolic Syndrome are obesity or irregular fat deposits, particularly in the neck and tailhead, insulin resistance, and laminitis (founder). 


Certain breeds or genetic lines of horses and ponies tend to have a predisposition for EMS and are often the horses called “easy keepers.”  These tend to be the pony breeds, Morgans, Paso Finos, and Fjords or crosses and breeds developed from these breeds, though any breed of horse may have or develop equine metabolic syndrome.  EMS susceptible horses tend to be more efficient at utilizing calories than the average horse, and may be described as “able to get fat on air.”  They often deposit excess fat in the crest of their neck and around their tailhead, and this fat may persist even when the horse is fit and otherwise in a healthy body condition.


Laminitis or founder is often the first reason a veterinarian is asked to examine a horse who may have developed EMS.  These horses are generally noticed to be “foot sore” in mid to late spring/early summer, and if not identified quickly can be devastating.  Laminitis is a painful disease of the laminae in the hoof (the soft tissue holding the coffin bone to the hoof wall).  Horses are described as acting like they are walking on eggshells.  Many times severe changes such as rotation and dropping of the coffin bone have already occurred before the horse is recognized to be having a laminitic episode.  Any unexplained lameness or increased digital pulses, especially in a potentially overweight or cresty horse should be reported to your veterinarian as soon as possible. 


There are many causes of laminitis, though the cause most associated with EMS is green grass.  The excess sugars in young, tender green grass aggravate the metabolic conditions associated with EMS and cause inflammation in the laminae.  Caught quickly enough, permanent changes may be prevented, but the predisposition to laminitis will continue.


The third condition associated with EMS is insulin resistance (IR).  A horse’s body normally produces insulin in response to an elevated blood sugar from consuming carbohydrates (especially simple carbohydrates/starches).  In an insulin resistant horse the body does not respond to the spike of insulin by utilizing the glucose, so the pancreas continues to produce more insulin trying to lower its blood glucose levels.  This can be a permanent condition, or something an EMS predisposed horse develops in response to a high intake of simple starches and sugars.


So I noticed my horse is a bit chubby and has a cresty neck, what should I do?

Horses predisposed to EMS should have their grain intake reduced significantly, and many do not need any grain supplementation.  If you feel the need to feed grain you should discuss this with your veterinarian and a small amount of a “low carb” balancer formula may be your best choice. Treats such as apples, carrots, and most horse cookies should also be restricted as they have high sugar content. Green, lush grass and lush hay are high in simple starches and sugars and intake should be significantly restricted.  If turned out on pasture, a grazing muzzle is highly recommended, especially during high risk times (periods of fast grass growth, often most of spring/summer/fall in our area). 

The easiest way to determine if your pasture based EMS prone horse still needs to wear a muzzle is to offer some 1st cutting hay.  If it is politely turned down, there is still enough “candy” out on pasture to require restricted intake.

For horses that grazing muzzles are not an option, restricting access to lush pasture to 1-2hrs per day is very important.  “Dry lot” paddocks with low sugar 1st cutting hay, a vitamin/mineral supplement and minimal grass can help an EMS prone horse to have turnout without access to high risk pasture. 

Exercise is also a very important part of reducing the risk of EMS.  Regular exercise will help reduce body weight and fat deposits, and has also been shown to increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin.  For some horses and ponies, it may be necessary to hand walk or lunge on a daily basis, as they rarely will exercise themselves enough while turned out.


If caught early most EMS prone horses can be managed with restricted sugar and regular exercise.  Testing can be performed to determine whether a horse has developed insulin resistance, and radiographs can be taken to determine whether a laminitic episode has caused rotation and permanent damage to the hoof.  If a horse is at high risk for additional or serious laminitic episodes, or is physically unable to lose weight, certain medications may help accelerate weight loss, and return to a normal insulin status. 


There are many feed supplements that claim to assist in treating or prevent the development of Equine Metabolic Syndrome.  Supplementation with antioxidants such as naturally occurring Vitamin E, and Omega 3 Fatty Acids, or minerals generally associated with healthy skin and hoof growth such as magnesium and chromium, can in general due no harm, and may be helpful.  All supplementation should be discussed with your veterinarian, to ensure that they will not react with any prescribed medications, are appropriate for your horse, and especially to make sure that a sugar source is not used as filler or to increase palatability.



For more information on Insulin Resistance keep an eye out for our blog post on IR coming soon!


If you have any questions about Equine Metabolic Syndrome, cresty necks, Insulin Resistance, or how to manage your overweight horse, please do not hesitate to call your veterinarian.


Safe Equine Fencing Review

Every year we see and treat horses that are injured in their pastures. We would like to take this time to review some safety tips for horse fencing.

Fencing review:   Horse fencing is not a “one size fits all” product and your individual needs and preferences should be considered when building fencing. There are many fencing options available today made from a variety of materials in many shapes, sizes and colors. While we are not going to mention all fencing types we will comment on some of the more popular fencing options.

 With all types of fencing we recommend routine maintenance and visual inspection. All fencing should be either professionally installed or installed using manufacturer’s recommendations.  We recommend never using metal posts as they are a serious laceration hazard. Care should be taken to acclimate your horses to new fencing and never just put them into a new paddock without showing the fencing to them.

 High Tensile Fences:High Tensile Fencing should never be used for horses of any kind. One of the many problems with this type of fencing is visibility in that horses can have a hard time seeing the fencing even though there are many strands of it. Common horse injuries with this type of fencing happen when a horse gets its leg through the fence. Since the fencing is so tight the horse often severely cuts its leg when it pulls it back through the fence. It reminds me of a cheese slicer in that it is common for the fence to go to bone and peel everything away from the bone. These are very serious injuries that can be avoided by never using High Tensile Fencing with horses.  Another common injury that we see with High Tensile Fencing is that horses can get it wrapped around one of their legs. This can also be very catastrophic as the caught horse often panics and makes the injury much worse. High Tensile Fencing should never be used for horses.

 Barbed Wire Fences:Barbed Wire Fencing should never be used for horse fencing. One of the many problems with this type of fencing is visibility in that horses can have a hard time seeing the fencing even though there are many strands of it. Common horse injuries with this type of fencing happen when a horse gets its leg through the fence. Since the fencing is tight the horse often severely cuts its leg when it pulls it back through the fence. These cuts are often magnified by the “barbs” that do a lot more tissue damage to the legs. These are very serious injuries that can be avoided by never using Barbed Wire Fencing with horses.  Another common injury that we see with Barbed Wire Fencing is that horses can get it wrapped around one of their legs. This can also be very catastrophic as the caught horse often panics and makes the injury much worse. Barbed Wire Fencing is sometimes used along the top of other fencing products to keep the horses from reaching over the top of the fence to reach the greener grass on the other side. Barbed wire on the top of fencing can be the cause of cuts and lacerations to the face, head, and neck of horses.

 Electric Fences:Electric Fences can be very versatile and much easier on the pocketbook than some of the other types of fencing. Visibility is a common problem with electric fences. Strands of wire either smooth or barbed should never be used as it is hard for horses to see. Braided or coated electric fence is much easier for the horses to see.  Never use metal posts with electric fencing even if you use the safety caps. Coated fencing can cause lacerations if the coating becomes stripped from the wire.

 Wooden Fences:Wood fencing is very durable and has great visibility. Wood and Board fencing can be a problem if you have a horse that cribs or likes to chew wood. Wood fencing can also cause a problem if your horse becomes board and leans on the fence.  In general wood fencing is very safe and sturdy.

 PVC Fences:PVC fencing looks great but is not recommended for equine fencing. It is very visible but is not very sturdy. If a horse runs into it or leans on it will bend and then break. When PVC fencing breaks it usually splinters and can cause puncture wounds.

 Wire Mesh Fences:Wire Mesh Fencing can be very safe and visible. It has low maintenance and can be very durable.  Problems can occur when the fencing becomes loose from stretching and sagging. Feet and leg injuries can occur if a horse gets its leg through the fence. It is recommended to put a board or strand of electric on the top of the fence to keep horses from reaching over and leaning on the fence.

 Flexible Fencing:Flexible Fencing is the type of fencing that we have installed at Fowlerville Road. We picked this fencing as it is very durable and has great visibility. This type of fencing is very sturdy and yet is forgiving. This type of fencing has 3 wires that are coated inside of the fencing. The fencing should be kept tight and have a yearly inspection to look for bare or exposed wires.

 As always if you have any questions about fencing please feel free to call the office at 585 243-5560.

Don't Skip the Pre-Purchase Exam

Owning a horse can be a huge investment in time, money and emotion.  Unfortunately, horses seldom come with a money-back guarantee.  That’s why it is so important to investigate the horse’s overall health and condition through a pre-purchase exam conducted by an equine veterinarian.  Whether you want a horse as a family pet, a pleasure mount, a breeding animal, or a high performance athlete, you stand the best chance of getting one that meets your needs by investing in a pre-purchase exam.

Pre-purchase examinations may vary, depending on the intended use of the horse and the veterinarian who is doing the examination.  Deciding exactly what should be included in the purchase examination requires good communication between you and your veterinarian.  The following guidelines will help ensure a custom-tailored exam:

  • Choose a veterinarian who is familiar with the breed, sport or use for which the horse is being purchased.
  • Explain to your veterinarian your expectations and primary uses for the horse, including short- and long-term goals (e.g., showing, then breeding).
  • Ask your veterinarian to outline the procedures that he or she feels should be included in the exam and why.
  • Establish the costs for these procedures.
  • Be present during the purchase exam.  The seller or agent should also be present.
  • Discuss with your veterinarian his or her findings in private.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions or request further information about your veterinarian’s findings in private.


The veterinarian’s job is not to pass or fail an animal.  Rather, it is to provide you with information regarding any existing medical problems and to discuss those problems with you so that you can make an informed purchase decision.  Your veterinarian can advise you about the horse’s current physical condition, but he or she cannot predict the future.  The decision to buy is yours alone to make.  However your veterinarian can be a valuable partner in the process of providing you with objective, health-related information.


Reprinted with permission from the American Association of Equine Practitioners. 

Learn to Recognize your Horse’s Dental Problems

Horses with dental problems may show obvious signs, such as pain or irritation, or they may show no noticeable signs at all.  This is because some horses simply adapt to their discomfort.  For this reason, periodic dental examinations are essential to your horse’s health. 

            It is important to catch dental problems early.  If a horse starts behaving abnormally, dental problems should be considered as a potential cause.  Waiting too long may increase the difficulty of remedying certain conditions or may even make remedy impossible.  Look for the following indicators of dental problems from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to know when to seek veterinary attention for your horse:


  1. Loss of feed from mouth while eating, difficulty with chewing, or excessive salivation.
  2. Loss of body condition.
  3. Large or undigested feed particles (long stems or whole grain) in manure.
  4. Head tilting or tossing, bit chewing, tongue lolling, fighting the bit, or resisting bridling.
  5. Poor performance, such as lugging on the bridle, failing to turn or stop, even bucking.
  6. Foul odor from mouth or nostrils, or traces of blood from the mouth.
  7. Nasal discharge or swelling of the face, jaw or mouth tissues.


Oral exams should be an essential part of an annual physical examination by a veterinarian.  Every dental exam provides the opportunity to perform routine preventative dental maintenance. Mature horses should get a thorough dental exam at least once a year, and horses 2 –5 years old should be examined twice yearly.

Early and regular examination of your horse's mouth will decrease the chances of broken teeth, requiring extractions. or pain and oral ulcers.  


Additional information is available on the AAEP’s website


Sections reprinted with permission from the American Association of Equine Practitioners. 

Flu/Rhino Season

“Equine herpes outbreak quarantines Florida show grounds” February/March 2013

“Gloucester, Cape May county farms (NJ)quarantined after reports of horse herpes, ag department reports” February 22, 2013

“Single EHV-1 Case Reported in Tennessee” March 7, 2013

“EHV-1 Confirmed at Illinois Boarding Stable” March 6, 2013

Utah EHV-1: Case Count Stands at Seven” March 6, 2013

“Neurologic EHV-1 Identified in Quebec Horse” February 28, 2013


The start of spring show season also brings with it the start of Flu/Rhino season.  And this year, we are seeing a HUGE increase in the prevalence of wild type EHV-1 or neurologic type EHV-1 cases across the country.  Most of these cases I’ve posted above have not been connected and are thought to be random outbreaks, though they are working on typing the viruses to make sure. 


Equine Herpes Virus types 1 and 4 are what are commonly vaccinated against in horses as “rhino or rhinopneumonitis.”   Foals are typically infected by the virus in the first few months of life, and develop a variable immunity to the virus, assisted by the antibodies they receive from their dam’s colostrum, and by vaccinations.  This immunity keeps the virus from causing disease (normally a respiratory disease that varies in severity from sub-clinical to severe and is characterized by fever, lethargy, anorexia, nasal discharge, and cough), but does not prevent infection.  The virus becomes a part of the horse’s respiratory tract, and may be shed normally and in increasing levels during stress. 


This can make EHV difficult to prevent even in closed herds and farms as a stressful event such as severe weather changes, shipping, introducing new animals, or showing, can increase shedding of the virus and cause disease.  Vaccination for Equine Herpes Virus at regular intervals will help booster the horse’s immune system and keep the virus in check during periods of stress. 


Equine Herpes Virus type 1 can also mutate and become “wild type EHV-1” or “neuroEHV-1” which can cause Equine Herpes Myelitis.  This is a disease that causes an inflammation of the nervous system and spinal cord secondary to inflammation of the blood vessels. This strain of the virus is what we are currently seeing outbreaks of across the country.  Unfortunately there are no vaccines specific for wild type EHV-1, as there a number of different mutations that may occur.  Regular vaccination for EHV can help decrease the amount of virus that is being shed by the body, and will booster the animals overall immune response to the herpes viruses.


The American Association of Equine Practitioners states:

            All available vaccines make no label claim to prevent the myeloencephalitic form of EHV-1 (EHM) infection. Vaccines may assist in limiting the spread of outbreaks of EHM by limiting nasal shedding EHV-1 and dissemination of infection. For this reason some experts hold the opinion that there may be an advantage to vaccinating in the face of an outbreak, but in advance of EHV-1 infection occurring in the group of horses to be vaccinated. The vaccines with the greatest ability to limit nasal shedding include the 2 high-antigen load, inactivated vaccines licensed for control of abortion (Pneumabort-K®: Pfizer; & Prodigy® Merck), a MLV vaccine (Rhinomune®, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica) and an inactivated vaccine, (Calvenza®, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica).”


We are offering the Calvenza Influenza/Rhinopneumonitis vaccine for our clients this year.  We highly recommend vaccinating all animals who will be shipping, showing, or having regular contact with new animals.  This includes trail riding, fox hunting, and any stabling situation where contact with new horses may occur.


Vaccination and instituting basic bio-security procedures such as quarantining if possible and monitoring temperatures on any new arrivals, or post shipping/showing are the best possible methods of prevention and early identification of Equine Herpes Virus (neurologic or respiratory form).  Obviously avoiding contact with horses which have come from areas with known outbreaks decreases the risk of infection as well.


Any horses which are showing potential neurologic signs (dragging a toe, stumbling, difficulty getting up or down, apparent difficulty urinating, or dribbling urine) or which are found to have a temperature of 103 or greater, should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian.  Early identification of this potentially fatal and reportable disease is key in increasing the success of supportive care and treatment. 

To Blanket or Not to Blanket,

That is the Question.

This is a question many people start asking themselves as fall rolls around. The cooler weather rolls in, you start putting on an extra layer yourself before going out to do chores or ride, and you wonder if your horse needs an extra layer as well.

Most horses naturally grow a fluffy winter coat as the days begin getting shorter, after shedding out their summer coat, and blanketing a horse too early or too heavily may leave you piling the layers on to a chilly horse when the weather gets really cold. The average horse has in its digestive system a 24-36 gallon fermentation vat (the hindgut – cecum and large intestine). This is where the majority of their feed digestion takes place. This fermentation produces large quantities of energy in the form of heat, which helps to keep them warm even in the coldest weather.

But he just looks cold! Even with their insulating coat and personal internal heater, some horses just like people just don’t like the cold. Very young horses and older horses can be particularly susceptible to the cold, as they are using more energy to grow or maintain body condition. Horses with increased energy demands, such as high levels of work, growth, or age, can often benefit from a blanket to decrease the energy they put towards keeping themselves warm.
Clipped horses in the winter should always have some type of blanket or sheet, depending on the amount of clipping, as you have removed their natural protection from the weather.

So if you’ve decided to blanket, when to start? And what type?
Guidelines for body clipped horses and hard keepers:

40-50 degrees

  • A lightweight turnout sheet
  • Protection from wind and rain

20-40 degrees

  • A midweight blanket
  • Warmth
  • Blocks wind and rain 
  • Good for almost all winter weather

 Teens and below

  • Heavy weight blanket
  • Extreme cold
  • Or horses not adjusted to cold weather (shipped from the south in the winter)

Healthy young adult to adult horses with normal haircoat:

20-40 degrees

  • Consider a lightweight blanket or sheet for turn out if stabled for long periods in a warm >45degree barn

Teens and below

  • Light to midweight blanket for turnout if not adjusted to temperature (stabled in warm barn or normally wears stable sheet)

Don’t forget if you decide to blanket, to regularly remove the blanket and check for wear spots, any rubs on the horse, and make sure the straps are in good condition.


I thought I would take a little time and explain Acupuncture.

 Acupuncture is an ancient art that was developed thousands of years ago in the Orient.  Acupuncture uses the examination of the whole patient to identify patterns within specific organ systems that allow disease to develop.  Once a pattern is identified, treatment to balance the system and return it to health is applied at localized points along channels that run throughout the patient, connecting the multiple systems together.  These points are called acupuncture points and are located on meridians or channels of energy, blood and nutrient flow throughout the body.  Treatment of these points improves the flow of these substances throughout the body, allowing it to fight off the infection, heal the injury or correct the imbalance or disease state within it.

 While western medicine was developed through dissection (looking and seeing) and laboratory studies; the eastern art of acupuncture was developed through identifying associations between related systems, symptoms and treatments.  The eastern belief system shied away from dissection and instead used the massive human resource in the orient.  In an attempt to identify the best treatment for a condition the emperor was suffering from, they would gather people with the same condition and treat each one based upon the patterns identified and associations made.  The treatments that resulted in the best outcomes were then used to treat the emperor, and added to the system, symptom, and treatment associations. 

While many eastern and western medical terms are the same, their meaning is different.  For example, the western medical term kidney refers to the actual organ and its function in liquid waste removal.  In acupuncture terms, the kidney refers to the system that handles waste fluid elimination, and also bone and marrow health, congenital health, hearing, brain activity and long body hair (the mane and tail).  In addition, the kidney system is prone to developing specific problems within the patient such as arthritis, back problems, and congenital malformations.  On top of that, these conditions will often surface when the system is over worked or stressed by cold conditions such as winter.  These associations have been studied empirically and refined for thousands of years and the patterns within the organ systems and between them do correlate with disease processes and proper treatment choices can be reliably based upon them.   


Only recently has research started to provide the physiological reasons for the success of acupuncture.  Acupuncture points are often located in areas with a high density of nerve endings, arterioles, lymphatic vessels and mast cells.  Often times these points are located where the nerve enters a muscle, bifurcates or penetrates a body fascia; has a superficial nerve plexus; are over a neurovascular bundle or is where muscles and tendons join. The points themselves have a high degree of electrical conductivity and low electrical resistance.   Research has also shown that stimulating an acupuncture point provides pain relief by stimulating the release of endogenous opioids, Beta-endorphins, serotonin, and norepinephrine.  It also regulates the immune system by raising the white blood cell, T cell, and interleukin-2 levels, as well as decreasing inflammation.  As research continues to reveal the physiological actions of stimulating acupuncture points, more information will be discovered to explain the mechanisms of acupunctures success. 

 Acupuncture is helpful for painful conditions such as lameness’s, arthritis, navicular disease, laminitis, etc.  It also helps immune system conditions such as allergies, hives, insect hypersensitivity and heaves.  Reproductive problems with uterine clearance and endometritis also respond well to acupuncture. Cycle regulation and infertility, both male and female also respond, although they are not related to immune regulation.   Gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea or constipation as well as fevers, swelling and any condition in need of improved circulation will also benefit from acupuncture treatments.  Nerve dysfunction may also be helped, including laryngeal hemiplegia (roaring), wobblers and other ataxic conditions. 

 Although all of the mechanisms of actions are not fully understood, acupuncture is an extremely helpful adjunctive therapy in many conditions.  An acupuncture treatment will involve an evaluation of the patients system and an evaluation of many of the acupuncture points for sensitivity.  A disease pattern will be identified and then specific points will be chosen for treatment.  This may involve placing a needle, injecting B-12 solution, or applying heat or electrical stimulation to the point.  Acupuncture can be used in all animals.  If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment please call the clinic at (585)243-5560.

For want of a hoof...

Dear readers, it’s been a busy spring – I apologize for the lapse in this blog, but foaling emergencies, colics and horses with sore feet sometimes have to take priority.  

Speaking of horses with sore feet… let’s talk about laminitis.  I know, it’s a scary word.  Right up there with colic.  And we’ve had a run of it this year, probably because we’re having such a lush grass bloom after all that rain this spring.  But it’s a confusing syndrome, and one that many horse owners don’t entirely understand.  Don’t worry!  I’ll try to clear things up a bit…

Laminitis is known by a few names, usually “founder” (which comes from the way these horses walk when their feet are very sore) or “fever in the feet” (because the hooves can become quite hot).  To break it down, laminitis means “inflammation of the lamina”.  Great, you say.  What in the world is a “lamina”??  Stay with me…  

The hoof of a horse is comprised of a few layers.  The deepest layer is the coffin bone, or the third phalanx.  Wrapped around the coffin bone is a connective tissue layer called the “sensitive lamina”, and wrapped around that is another connective tissue layer called the “insensitive lamina”.  The insensitive layer is firmly attached to the inside of the hoof wall.  The two layers of lamina – sensitive and insensitive – hold on to each through lots of little projections which “interdigitate”, kind of like Velcro.  So basically, the coffin bone is being held inside the hoof by these Velcro-like attachments of the two layers of lamina.  Kind of crazy, huh?  

When the lamina becomes inflamed, the attachments between the two layers start to loosen.  The deep digital flexor tendon, which attaches at the bottom of the coffin bone, then begins to pull the front (or “toe”) of the coffin bone downward, towards the sole of the hoof.  This creates “rotation” of the coffin bone within the hoof capsule.  The other type of “movement” that can be caused by this loosening of the lamina is “sinking” of the bony column.  This means that the whole coffin bone (and everything above it) sinks down into the hoof.  Both types of movement can happen in the same horse, often at the same time.  We can measure both rotation and sinking on radiographs.  

The signs of laminitis are hoof soreness (usually in both front feet or all 4 feet at once), elevated digital pulses, warm/hot feet, reluctance to move, rocking back on the haunches (to reduce weight on the toes), and shifting weight from side to side (in the front limbs).  If you notice these signs in your horse, you need to call a veterinarian immediately.  

But why, oh why does this happen?  There are many, many, causes which have been linked to laminitis.  Concussion (“road founder”) is the easiest to understand – riding for long stretches at high speeds over hard ground can cause concussive trauma to the feet, damaging the lamina.  Similarly, “support limb laminitis” is a familiar story to anyone who followed Barbaro’s case… if one leg cannot withstand full weight bearing, the opposite limb often becomes overloaded, causing laminitis.

But generally there is a “systemic” cause – meaning an insult to the entire body which is manifested in the feet.  The lamina are easily affected by any fever, toxin or metabolic disease…likely because they are such a delicate, intricate system which supports such a huge weight.  This time of year, we get concerned about the horses with metabolic diseases – Cushings, Equine Metabolic Syndrome, Insulin Resistance, etc.  We consider these horses as more prone to laminitis, even if they have never experienced the disease before.  Okay, some of you may have followed me up until this point and are now scratching your heads.  Bear with me, I’ll try to explain.

We tend to think of the lamina as a “stress organ”, meaning, it is easily affected by stress on the body.  In the case of Cushings disease, the body is producing too much stress hormone due to a malfunctioning (overactive) pituitary gland.  Horses with EMS or IR have a high circulating level of glucose and insulin, which can increase stress hormones as well as just causing damage (or “stress”) by themselves.  So in these cases the feet are bathed in a constant low level of “stress”.  This tends to lower the threshold necessary for some other insult to cause laminitis.  For example (and relevant to this time of year), these horses can develop laminitis if they eat too much lush grass out at pasture.  The lush grass, when eaten, releases a lot of simple sugars, which can increase the “stress” on the feet… and tipping the balance in a horse that was already on the edge of developing the syndrome.  

Clear as mud, right?  So what do you do about it?  The most important thing is to prevent the causes of laminitis, and if signs occur, to REMOVE the cause (if known).  In the case of horses with metabolic issues, treating the metabolic disease is often the first step in prevention and/or treatment.  Your veterinarian can help you in the diagnosis and treatment of these diseases/syndromes.  And be aware of when the grass is most lush (sugary) – spring is a common culprit, but fall can also be dangerous, especially when the grass goes through a few “freeze-thaw” cycles.  Grazing muzzles can help decrease the amount of grass your horse can take in.  Some horses with severe metabolic disease cannot tolerate any fresh grass, and must be kept on a “dirt lot” to prevent grazing.  Be aware that some types of hay are more “sugary” than others; alfalfa hay is commonly quite rich, but some very “green” regular grass hay can be very rich as well.  If you’re worried that your hay is too rich for your horse, soaking it in cool water for 30 minutes prior to feeding may leach out some of the simple sugars, making it safer to feed to at-risk horses.

Hopefully I’ve made some sense out of this confusing syndrome!  As always, if you have questions about your particular horse, feel free to call or email us.  

How do I tell if my horse is overweight/underweight (or gaining/losing weight)?

The best way to determine the ideal weight of a horse is to evaluate the Body Condition Score (BCS). Weight tapes are good for measuring trends or estimating weight for a drug dosage, but not for telling how much a horse should weigh. We grade BCS from 1-9, 1 being emaciated, 9 being extremely fat. Ideally, pleasure or show horses should fall around 5 – 6.5 ("racing fit" horses are generally in the 4-5 range). This means the ribs will not be visible, but will be felt easily by pressing through a thin padding of fat. There should be a bit of fat around the tailhead which is a little spongy but not soft or bulging. The withers should appear rounded; a small amount of fat deposited on either side is acceptable. The back should be flat (no ridge), but a slight crease down the middle is acceptable.
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