Posts Tagged ‘Horse Health’

Horse Care: Supplements for Horses

Horse Care

As the age-old saying has taught, the measure of true hunger is one’s ability to eat an entire horse. But what does a horse eat when it is starving? Well, hopefully your equine friend will never experience such need. If you are up on your horse care knowledge, then you can rest easy that your horse will be healthy and happy. And if you have any doubts, perhaps you can read a bit about how to supplement the diet so that your horse health knowledge is top-notch.

Horses are front digestive animals who must graze all day long in order to obtain the nutrients and calories for optimum performance and maintaining high health. You are certainly aware that your horse requires a specific diet. According to the University of Kentucky and the department of equine sciences, your horse requires a diet high in protein, minerals, vitamins, and fat. A horse’s diet is crucial for daily functions, a healthy appearance, and a strong immune system. Dr. Clair Thunes, an animal scientist who researches equine nutrition, claims that a horse’s dietary needs will be particular to the specific animal with large influences on the breed, size, and duties of the animal. She claims that forage should be sufficient (and is the best source of most nutritional requirements) for most horses. There are instances when horse supplements may be a necessary, or ideal, addition to your horse’s dietBrisbane.

When should I give my horse supplements?

Some horse owners may be unsure if or which supplements are ideal for horse health. The first step in diagnosing the appropriateness of horse supplements is to complete a dietary assessment of your animal. Horse supplements can be an ideal way to introduce particular deficiencies to your horse so that your horse’s diet can match the horse’s needs. (You do not want to rely on horse supplements to correct large dietary deficiencies.) In general, you want to add horse supplements after consulting an equine professional who can rule out alternative issues and match the correct horse supplements to your horse’s diet.

Are horse supplements safe?

The general consensus regard horse supplements as generally safe for horses as most of these dietary supplements mirror naturally occurring components of a horse’s diet and improve horse health. The National Academy of Science, the Institute of Medicine, the National Research Council, and the Food and Drug Administration have all conducted research on the safety of horse (and dog and cat) supplements and concluded that if used properly then these can be harmless (and beneficial) additions to your horse care.

The important consideration in the safety of horse supplements is in the proper introduction and selection of the particular type. Dr. Clair Thunes argues that you want to consult an expert because a horse supplement can mask or obscure additional or larger health concerns. For example, a hoof supplement will provide zinc while masking deficiencies with copper and Vitamin E that will sometimes accompany a diet low in zinc. An equine professional will be able to develop a proper dietary plan (with appropriate horse supplements) to improve horse health.

Types of horse supplements:

There a number of different horse supplements on the market. You will want to study the conditions (or more ideally consult a professional before altering your horse’s diet) for the use of any of these horse supplements with your horse. Below is a brief description of just some of the horse supplements available to improve horse health:

Horse Joint Supplements. This is the most controversial class of horse supplements so you will want to consult a professional before introducing a horse joint supplement to your horse’s diet. (Particularly because these supplements can contain substances banned from some equine competitions.) Horse joint supplements typically rely on a mix of naturally occurring sources (e.g., Yucca or devil’s claw) with targeted ingredients (e.g., glucosamine, hyaluronic acid, or Methylsulfonylmethane). Horse joint supplements are also controversial in terms of the extent to which they are effective. You will want to consult an expert when deciding if and which horse joint supplement to use.

Horse Hoof Supplements. This can be an ideal supplement if your horse is experiencing hoof issues even on an optimal diet. These supplements are typically a blend of zinc (for keratin formation…the protein responsible for hoof hardness), Methionine (or some other idea sulfur containing amino acid to help with water content and hoof pliability), and biotin (a long-term supplement for hoof care). You will need to be patient as most horse hoof supplements take a considerable amount of time before improvements will be observable.

Iron Horse Supplements. If correctly diagnosed, horse supplements for iron deficiencies (such as anemia) can be quite effective. You will want to consult an equine expert because anemia is more often misdiagnosed than properly concluded according to experts at the Rutgers University Equine Science Center. A diagnosis of anemia can actually be any number of alternative issues, including parasites, poor exercise regimen, or improper testing. Iron horse supplements pose no danger when taken unnecessary, but in order to save money and energy, you will want to consult with a veterinarian before adding this horse supplement to your horse’s diet.

Horse Vitamin Supplements. In most instances, a horse will receive all of the necessary vitamins in normal grazing. There are instances when a particular horse vitamin may be needed. Because vitamins and minerals are so crucial to your horse’s daily functions, you do not want to assume that your horse is getting all of the recommended in-take of vitamins. For example, Dr. Frederick Harper identifies that your horse may have seasonal declines in vitamin A which can be linked to night blindness, respiratory infections, poor growth, and rough hair coats. A seasonal horse vitamin supplement could be the fix for this problem.

Biotin Horse Supplements. The addition of biotin to your horse’s diet (to supplement the naturally produced biotin in the stomach of the animal) can be important beyond hoof repair. Extensive research shows that biotin can also help with Vitamin B deficiencies and the improvement of a horse’s coat. Rutgers University’s Equine Science Center argues that biotin poses no threat for a horse, even in surplus, because biotin is water soluble and any excess is flushed from the body. An equine expert can help you identify the appropriate type and amount of biotin for your animal.

Horse Calming Supplements. This is an increasingly common horse supplement typically made of: magnesium, tryptophan, and thiamin. There also herbal substitutes for the traditional horse calming supplements, such as valerian or red raspberry. These supplements are good (when they do not other caloric inputs in the horse’s diet) for combatting nervousness or anxiety. You would want to consult a professional or veterinarian before using one of these horse supplements to make sure that the addition is appropriate for the diet and to rule out alternative anxiety appearing issues such as poorly fitting tack, joint pain, or ulcers.

Horse supplements can be the ideal ingredient to your horse’s diet to improve horse health and guarantee strong horse care. You care about your animal. You care about your investment. And you care about your equine friend. For all of those reasons, you should consult a professional about which horse supplements are ideal for your horse…so that he or she does not get so hungry that (s)he could eat a whole horse.

Winter Hoof Health

For horse owners, winter is often a time of hibernation. Apart from keeping an abundant hay supply available for your horse (digestion of hay is what keeps up the animal’s internal temperature), there really is very little maintenance involved in winter care. After all, the show season has stopped, the diet and exercise routine is scaled back, and riding loses its appeal (I, for one, can rarely motivate myself to put on the eight layers of clothing it takes to keep comfortable on a winter ride!).

Hoof health, however, is a recurring concern in the wintertime. In colder temperatures, the animal’s hooves can become bruised and dry, while warmer temperatures bring lots of moisture that can lead to hoof infection. Both conditions should be watched for, as they can produce lameness and lasting damage to your horse’s anatomy.

Dry, Bruised Hooves

For my family living in Iowa, winter brings sub-zero temperatures that freeze everything over and make the ground hard as concrete. Hard ground and lack of moisture produces two problems: bruised hooves and dry, cracked, brittle hooves.

When your horse has bruised hooves, his movements will be ginger and he may try to lay down more than usual. The remedy for this is simple: move your horse indoors to an amply-bedded stall, and do not ride him until he appears to be moving around better.

When your horse’s hooves are too dry, they will begin to peel back layer by layer much like a dry, brittle human nail. In general this condition will not affect the health or movement of your horse, but there is the risk that your horse will move suddenly and a huge section of hoof will break off, leading to lameness and poor hoof growth. To treat dry hooves, soak them with warm water once or twice a day and apply petroleum jelly or a commercial hoof dressing to lock in the moisture.

If these topical treatments do not yield results in a week or two, you may need to adjust your horse’s diet. Weak, brittle hooves are caused by a lack of of biotin and methionine, so look for supplements that carry these ingredients such as Farrier’s Formula. In general, though, a good all-around mineral block (which your horse should always have available anyways) should do the trick.

Wet, Infected Hooves

Winter in Iowa isn’t always predictable, and some years we experience mild, wet weather or a lot of fluctuation between freezing and above-freezing temperatures. Wet environments increase the risk for the bacterial infection known as thrush, and an alternating dry/wet environment can create an opportunity for a hoof abscess.


Thrush is a foul-smelling infection of the hoof caused by the anaerobic bacterium spherophorus necrophorus. In addition to the smell (similar to athlete’s foot), thrush breaks down the tissue of the frog, turning it into a cheesy, crumbly mess that is often accompanied by a slimy black discharge. Thrush doesn’t usually cause lameness, so the only way to watch for it is with regular hoof cleaning.

“Anaerobic” means the bacteria that causes thrush lives without oxygen, so simply moving your horse to a dry environment is sometimes enough to kill off a mild infection. Often, however, this is not the case. To begin the treatment routine, dig out the crumbling parts of the frog with a hoofpick. Then sponge the frog with an antibacterial solution (we always used a 1 part bleach/1 part water solution, but a diluted Lysol solution, antibacterial soaps, and iodine all work well), and repeat this process once or twice a day until the infection is cleared up. Application of a commercial thrush-killing ointment often helps to speed up the disinfection process.


Hoof abscesses are bacterial infections that result from a breach in the hoof tissue, often caused by a puncture wound or a nefarious, wheedling rock. However, alternating dry-wet conditions (as caused by fluctuation between freezing and above-freezing temperatures), means that the hoof is constantly expanding and contracting, and this can lead to a breakdown in the hoof tissue and an opportunity for bacteria to enter and infect.

Abscesses are easily noticeable because your horse will suddenly become lame. The hoof will be warm to the touch and and the animal’s digital pulse (taken from right above the coronary band or higher up on the pastern) will be noticeably strong. Like thrush, abscesses also produce a bad smell. If you notice these symptoms in your horse, please be advised that this is an emergency. Abscesses usually must be drained, requiring cutting of the tissue that only a professional is truly equipped to handle. After the drainage cut is made, an epsom salt poultice is used to draw the wound. The hoof is then packed and wrapped with an antibacterial dressing, and this process is repeated for some weeks until the infection is gone. Every abscess is a little different, however, and your veterinarian will know the most appropriate method of treatment.

Shoeing in Winter
I would like to offer a final thought on shoeing in wintertime. Because your horse will most likely be off his performance schedule, the hooves are not wearing down as quickly and there is no immediate need for shoes. Shoes might help to prevent bruising on hard ground, but they are more likely to increase the risk of slipping and falling. Furthermore, the hoof contracts in freezing winters, meaning that the shoe nails are likely to fall out or halfway out. Loose shoes are extremely dangerous, for the horse can trip and fall or get the loose shoe stuck somewhere, panic, and then rip the shoe out along with a large part of the hoof. Since there is not a huge need for shoes in winter, I encourage you to allow your animal to go barefoot, get fat, and enjoy his season off.

Health Hazards that Can Hide in Your Horse Feeders

You spend time and money investing in your horse’s health but if your horse’s feeder is a feeding ground for germs, dirt and debris, your efforts might be a counterproductive. Below are a few red flags to look for in your horse’s stall.

Single Piece, Wall Mounted Feeders

red, plastic feeder

An affordable route that many horse owners take is to install plastic feeders. Plastic feeders can be a nice solution, however, it’s durability can often cost you. As you can see in the picture above or perhaps in your own stall, the plastic can get jarred around and produce cracks or breaks that should signal replacement. But if you’re like so many who want maximum shelf life out of their products, you could introduce some hidden health problems by continuing to use them. Cracks can often collect dirt, spoiled food or new areas for bacteria to collect. These can fall back into the bucket or continue to live in the cracks while your horse feeds.

It’s also important that your feeders be cleaned regularly. Ingesting old or dirty food can have health implications on your horse. Wall mounted feeders like the one pictured above make it difficult to clean and remove food, dirt and debris. When shopping for horse feeders look for ones that can be removed for cleaning, have a removable bowl, or are shallow enough (without corners) to rinse out.

Shallow Feeders for Ground Feeding

shallow ground feeder

Shallow feeders setting on the ground is another scenerio we often see in stalls. A considerable amount of research concludes, having your horse’s food on the ground near the dirt, debris, manure, and everything else that has walked into your horse’s stall, can lead to health problems. The shallow, wide open feeder pictured above can easily be stepped in or become laden with sand (which can lead to sand colic), bacteria (that can be found in old food, manure, around urine,etc…), dirt, mud, and the list goes on.

Use these bowls as a temporary solution for shows and traveling (hookover buckets are also an option) but keep your horse’s regular feeder up off the ground at a natural stance height.

Wooden Feeding Troughs

wooden trough feeder

Wooden troughs like the one pictured above are really not a good idea for storing feed or for letting your horses feed from. Wood absorbs moisture, be it your horse’s saliva or from climate conditions. Constant expanding and contracting of fibers from year-round temperatures can trap or release growing bacteria and mold spores increasing risk to your horse’s health. Small and medium size pests may also take to larger feeding spaces adding to the feed, potential disease and feces that your horse may then ingest. Mounted troughs like the one pictured above have no way of dumping out contents except to scoop it out. Even then, washing it out would not be very feasible.

A Better Solution: Durable, Wall Mounted Feeders, with Removable Features.

durable, easy to clean horse feeder

Durable, plastic or steal horse feeders that are easy to clean are your best option for keeping bacteria and debris away from your horse’s feeder. Mounting in this case, keeps the food up off the ground and is an easy reach for the horse. Providing a clean, well-kept container for your horse’s food will go a long way in keeping your horses healthy.

Horse Health: Hydration During Long-Distance Shipping

Hydration for horses during shipping is extremely important, especially on long trips. Many people in the Northeast ship their horses to Florida for the winter months. On a drive that is typically more than 24 hours long, it is crucial to make your horse as comfortable as possible. Horses can easily become dehydrated while traveling long distances so there are certain measures you can take before and during shipping to help avoid this problem.

Before shipping, you can give your horse electrolytes in their food to help with proper hydration. You can also add mineral oil to their food to ensure regular bowel movements. These two nutritional additives plus plenty of water will help keep your horse properly hydrated even if they tend to get stressed out during long trips. It is also a good idea to take your horse’s temperature before the trip so you can monitor it throughout the long journey.

During shipping, it is important to check on your horse. You should look to see how much water they have been drinking, and how many bowel movements they have had. You should also look to see how their overall attitude is. If a typically calm horse seems stressed, then you should monitor them closely in order to avoid the chance of colic.

Upon arrival, allow your horse to get off the trailer and stretch. Also consider taking your horse’s temperature so you can gauge how much stress the trip may have caused your horse. Make sure when you put your horse in their stall that they have a bucket filled with fresh water.

Giving your horse water, before, during, and after shipping is essential to good hydration. By hydrating your horse, you avoid dangerous conditions, such as colic. Hydration throughout a long trip will ensure you a happy and healthy horse when you arrive at your destination.


Horse Health: Hydrating Your Horse after Running or Racing

It is important to properly cool down your horse after a hard workout such as jumping or racing. Like all athletes, horses need to cool down to avoid getting sick. A horse could start to colic without enough cool down time between a workout and going back in their stall. To ensure your horse is completely cooled down, here are a few tips to remember:

After working your horse, feel their chest to see how hot they are and look to see how heavy they are breathing. If your horse is hot or breathing heavy, they need to walk around until they cool down. You can either get off your horse and remove their tack and walk them or you can stay on them and leisurely walk around until they feel cool and their heavy breathing subsides.

When you get off your horse and they are still sweaty, consider putting a cooler over them. Depending on how sweaty they are, you may want to hose them off first. Once they dry, give them a good brushing. Your horse’s coat should look like it did before you started riding them and their breathing should be back to normal.

Once your horse is cooled out, allow them to go in their stall and have a drink from their waterer. They can drink as much as they want after they are cool, it is when they are still hot and take a long drink that problems may occur. Hydration is essential to the well-being of any athlete, including horses. Always take the time to cool out and hydrate your horse.

Effects of Horse Dehydration

Horse Drinking from Nelson's Automatic Waterer

Good hydration is crucial to your horse’s health year round (yes – wintertime too). When well hydrated, your horse performs better and digests easier. So a lack of fluid, as you can guess, has adverse effects. Muscle damage, colic, laminitis and exhaustion are all common issues that can stem from dehydration. Left too long and it can threaten the life of your horse. When the weather’s hot or your horse is running, it’s easy for their fluid levels to deplete quickly. As many as 10 gallons of fluid can be sweated out on a good run – that’s a full days-worth of drinking (and that takes time to replenish). Just the same, winter may not seem like an important time to worry about hydration (to you or your horse) but it is. Your horse may not like drinking as much during the winter but it’s crucial to their digestive tract.

Providing your horse with frequent opportunities to hydrate is important. Here are a few insights:

  • A horse’s normal body temperature is 99-101 degrees Farenheit. Because horses have larger bodies but less areas to sweat, it’s harder for them to cool down once they’ve heated up.
  • Horse’s heat faster than humans in part because their body is designed with 40% contracting muscles (used for running) as opposed to a human’s 20%.
  • Horses won’t always drink when they should. Unlike humans, horses sweat equal parts salt and water and therefore do not have the spike in salt levels to trigger their thirst for water.
  • Dehydration can set in with a loss of more than 5 percent of a horse’s body fluid. 12-15% can be life threatening.

Be proactive. Minimize the chances of serious dehydration by learning to recognize and check for these behaviors or symptoms:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Decreased manure production or dryer manure
  • Changes in behavior
  • Depressed or Lethargic
  • Loss of energy
  • Sticky Saliva
  • Impaction colic

On average, a horse should drink a minimum of 10 gallons of water per day. This can double or triple on hot days or with heavy activity. Check out Nelson’s Automatic Horse Waterer with optional water consumption meter to keep your horse hydrated and track their intake.

Keeping Your Stalls Clean and Your Horses Healthy

It’s finally fall and a perfect time to step up your cleaning regimen in the stable. As your horses begin to spend more time indoors their health is dependent on their stall’s cleanliness. We’ve targeted 3 key areas to minimize health risks for your horses and stable.

clean horse stalls

  • Housekeeping
    Muck twice a day. Staying on top of waste in your stalls, reduces chances of bacteria growth in the air your horse breaths and reduces the risk of infection. Clean bedding by removing soiled pieces and replacing with new. Scan for safety hazards regularly, including any open nails, bucket handles or other items near the floor that your horse could step on or get tangled in, and anything up high that could easily fall and injure your horse.  Sweep and disinfect mats weekly to minimize bacteria growth.
  • Barn Ventilation and Stall Deodorizers
    Ventilation and stall deodorizers not only make a stall’s smell less invasive, they also reduce the risk of respiratory issues in your horses. Ammonia levels found in a horse’s urine spreads bacteria and potent gases into the air you and your horse breathes. Neutralize the smell and bacteria, by sprinking odor absorbers like Stall DRY onto wet areas and remove wet spots daily. There are a number of deodorizes and home remedies available, doing your research will provide you with a solution that fits your horse’s environment and your budget. Proper ventilation is also key to reducing pathogens in the air. Replace stale air with fresh whenever possible.
  • Water and Feed
    Keep food and water off the ground and away from bacteria. When your horse’s feed is low to the ground it’s closer to their waste, mud and germs brought in from outdoors and can easily become laden with contaminants. By keeping food and water up higher, you reduce the risk of other materials mixing in and affecting their nutrition. If your horse has a tendancy to spill buckets or splash water, try installing wall-mounted feeders and waterers to stabilze your horse’s food source and reduce loss. Providing fresh food and water while maintaining clean containers should also be done often.

Seems like fairly common practice, right? Here are a few reasons why it’s important to stay on top of this:

  • Laying in soiled bedding can increase chances of thrush, fungal diseases, respiratory issues and skin infections among others.
  • Amonia levels over time from your horse’s urine cause respiratory problems that can lead to pneumonia, heaves and a higher susceptibility to pathogens. Young foals are even more susceptible to these issues as they are closer to the fumes and do not have fully developed respiratory systems.
  • Poor food and water preservation can introduce parasites, intestinal bacteria, and materials that are difficult for your horse to digest into their systems and can lead to issues like colic.

These three key areas will greatly help in maintaining your horse’s health. So remember, a healthy horse is a happy horse — keep your stalls clean and your horses healthy.

Keep Your Horses Hydrated and Their Waterer Clean

This summer was a hot one and your horses likely felt it. No doubt, you stayed on top of hydrating your horse’s supply of water and making sure they were well cared for. But did the water container that your horse drank from receive the same care and attention?

If you can’t muster up the courage to drink from your horse’s water source, chances are your horse is feeling the same way. As part of a horse’s daily diet, they consume the largest amount from water. This not only keeps them hydrated but also aids with digestion. By drinking contaminated or stagnant water, your horse may be ingesting parasites and additional bacteria that can lead to serious health problems.

Rinse and wash out your horse’s waterer weekly (or more frequently if necessary) to keep deposits and algae from accumulating.

Note: Some waterers are harder to keep clean than others (check out our Nelson Stainless Steel Automatic Horse Waterer for an easy to clean solution with electric heater and water consumption monitor). You might also consider adding a splash of apple cider vinegar and mix into your horse’s water. ACV not only keeps algae build-up down but also promotes horse health. Learn the benefits ACV can have on your horse.

Remember, these hot temperatures will change soon enough and so should your horse’s water. Clean your tank regularly to stay on top algae build up. Your horse will thank you.

Reduce the Risk of Colic in Horses with Healthy Feeding Practices

Colic, described as abdominal pain, is a common, serious health risk for horses and in severe cases can even lead to death. Contributing factors that increase the risk of colic include sudden changes in feed and quality, lack of water and the ingestion of certain parasites among others. Keep your food and water sources clean and in reasonable quantity (factoring in seasonal climate changes) and maintain a regular deworming program to help prevent the growth of parasites in your horse’s system.

As a horse owner, there are actions you can take to help minimize the risk of colic in your horses. According to an article by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture,  there are 7 practical tips to reduce the incidence of colic. We’ve shared their findings below :

1.  Do not overgraze pastures and paddocks.
2.  Provide a  clean, adequate and abundant source of fresh water daily.
3.  Feed on a regular schedule from day to day.
4.  Check and remove moldy, spoiled grain or hay.
5.  Provide adequate long stem roughage in the diet.
6.  Keep stalls and paddock areas free from foreign objects that the horse might ingest.
7.  Put all horses on a regular, properly designed deworming program. (This one is imperative!)

Read the full article on Colic in Horses.

A clean eating surface is key element to keeping your horse healthy. Plastic horse feeders get scratched, trapping dirt and harmful bacteria. Painted steel feeders chip and rust, also making them very difficult to clean and sterilize.  A Nelson wall-mounted horse feeder is an excellent solution to keep your horse’s food cleaner and off the ground, and the stainless steel feed bowl removes from horse feeder for easy cleaning and disinfecting.  To ensure your horse is receiving an adequate and abundant supply of fresh water, consider Nelson’s automatic horse waterer.

Your horse’s health is important. Keep them healthy by adopting good feeding practices to minimize the risk of colic and other health problems. Happy feeding!

Can You Recognize the Signs of Dehydration in Your Animals?

"You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink"

“There is no more terrible sight than ignorance in action.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If you think your animal is suffering from dehydration experts say the signs to look for are:

Lethargy (Lack of energy), irritability, listlessness, loss of appetite, decrease in the production of urine, the urine becomes darker and stronger smelling.  The animals eyes may appear sunken in and lusterless (dull or lack of pigmentation).

To test for dehydration:

Try the “Pinch test”, grab with your thumb and forefinger and pull the animals skin away from their body, a well hydrated animal’s skin will return to a normal position within 1 second and an animal suffering from dehydration will have skin that will lack elasticity and stay in that peak position longer.

Check the animal’s gums by applying pressure to the gums, the color will fade and return quickly in a well hydrated animal and in an animal suffering from dehydration the color may take more than 2-3 seconds to return to normal and the gums may appear dry and lack mucous.

Things you can do to prevent dehydration:

Provide proper shelter out of the sun and heat, provide water at a temperature that is relative to the environment some animals prefer warmer water in the winter and cooler water in the summer, provide fresh water regularly and electrolytes as needed.   One of the most important things you can do is monitor your animal’s water intake daily (WCI – Water Consumption Indicator).

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In layman’s terms; ”Something that you say which means, it’s better to stop something bad from  happening than it is to deal with it after it has happened”.