Ask the Expert: Parasites and Pasture Management

Question: My two horses tested high in their fecal egg counts; I dewormed them regularly. We had a mild winter and they were still foraging on the pasture. I am wondering if I am managing their manure badly? We drag the manure piles in the pasture, but are we spreading out the parasite eggs and making it worse?

Answer:                                    Good pasture management can help reduce parasites, especially stronglyes. Strongyle larvae develop within the manure pile, migrate onto pasture forages during wet weather and wait to be ingested by horses. Rotational grazing, avoiding overgrazing and ideal stocking rate can help to reduce strongyles. We recommend initiating grazing when pasture grasses are between 6 to 8” tall and rotating horses to a new pasture (or a drylot) when most of the forage has been grazed down to 3 to 4” tall. A pasture where most of the forage is below 3” tall is considered over‐grazed. This is especially important when managing strongyles as larvae tend to inhabit the lower part of forage plants. Allowing your horses to graze a pasture during the winter months (when forage re‐growth is not possible) may have resulted in over‐grazing and ingestion of parasite eggs. We recommend a stocking rate of 2 acres of pasture per adult horse. If the pasture is well managed, this should result in not needing to supplement hay during the grazing season. Parasite populations tend to be greater if the pasture stocking rates are higher (less than 2 acres per horse), especially in over‐grazed pastures. Since you have two horses, ideally you would have at least 4 acres of pasture.

Dragging is a recommend pasture management activity. Dragging is necessary to disperse manure piles since horses will rarely graze near these areas. However, to help reduce the parasite load, dragging should be reserved for hot and dry periods of the summer. A few weeks of high temperatures and limited rainfall after dragging will help kill strongyle larvae. During this time, it’s important to remove the horses from the pasture. During wet periods, horse owners should remove the manure from the pasture weekly, if possible. This may not be practical in all situations, but may be necessary in high‐risk scenarios.

We suggest you continue to work with your veterinarian and use your fecal egg count results to strategically deworm your horses. Implementing a rotational grazing program, avoiding overgrazing, dragging manure piles during hot and dry periods and confining your horses to the drylot during the winter months should also help reduce the parasite load in your pasture and horses.

This article is reprinted with permission from Krishona Martinson, PhD, University of Minnesota. This and other horse nutrition articles can be found at http://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/horse/nutrition/.

Did Someone Say Mud Run?

Spring time can bring rain and muddy conditions which might be perfect if you are doing a Mud Runner 5K. However, less desirable when your horse comes in lame or worse yet, cannot get up from a slip and fall. There are many safety considerations when managing horses in muddy conditions.

Mud can lead to slippery surfaces including paddocks, pastures, and barn entrances. To help control excessively muddy areas of the barn or paddock entrances, direct water runoff away from the entrances/exits of walkways. This will help prevent accumulation of sand, clay, dirt, and water that contribute to a slippery surface. When pastures or paddocks have low areas where water may accumulate, many horses many get the urge to frolic in those slippery areas. Preventing access to or sectioning off those areas can be beneficial until safely dried out. If you have the resources, consulting a field or landscaping specialist, filling in or redirecting water to a safe runoff location is ideal. Horses housed in outdoor turnouts with a shelter or structure often spend time seeking cover out of the rain. A thorough inspection of the footing and drainage away from these areas are a necessary safety consideration as mud, water and waste can accumulate and lead to slippery conditions as horses head to covered areas to get out of the rain. Evaluating your facility for water runoff prior to or at the beginning of the rainy season will help prevent slippery conditions.

After turnout if conditions are muddy watch for signs of injury such as unequal gait, sidewinding or other signs of pain. If any abnormalities occur after muddy conditions consult your veterinarian for an examination.

Other considerations following rainy weather are increased awareness with hoof health. Thrush, which is involves an infection of the horse’s hoof. This condition can be caused by moist, damp, dirty ground or stable conditions. Canker or foot rot in horses is a condition that causes the foot to “rot” away, moist environments often lead to Canker conditions for horses. If you suspect a hoof infection or notice any foul hoof odor, consult your Veterinarian and farrier for treatment. To prevent hoof moisture issues, inspection of hooves daily, control standing water or excessively moist footing to prevent hoof issues.

Ask any reputable pest control specialist and their advice when trying to control mosquitos, roaches, insects or rodents is to control the environmental moisture. All living things rely upon water for survival. Pests often enjoy the soggy areas around buildings, vegetation and other areas that most humans do not spend meticulous effort to keep dry. Drainage systems, gutters, vapor barriers, ventilation and weed/lawn/pasture upkeep are key in pest prevention. Consult a pest control professional who is experienced in working in animal safe environments.

Why Topline is Not Just Important in Show Horses

Having a healthy topline is important for all horses whether they are pleasure horses, show horses or pets. If you go to the gym you will see everyone from the extreme athlete to people recovering from injuries to stay-at-home-moms and elderly people working toward a healthy and strong core for overall health. Horses are similar in that they need a strong core in order for the rest of their bodies to work to properly.

It’s been said that a healthy topline is the key to overall horse health and 7 out of 10 American Association of Equine Practitioners agree. The rest of your horse’s body can’t work to its maximum potential if his core isn’t strong. Even if you have an idle horse that’s recovering from injury or has had the winter off he will come back into work more safely and quickly if you keep up with a balanced diet that’s supportive of his topline health while he’s taking a break.

No matter what job your horse has, he will be feeling and/or performing his best if his overall health is the best it can be. That all starts with a diet that is supportive of his topline. Your lesson horses and trail horses may work just as hard as the elite show jumpers and you as their care taker want them feeling and looking their best no matter what their job is. Even the retired horse will age more gracefully and without compromising stature if their topline is maintained through diet.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein which provide for the building of muscle supporting the topline. Feeding a feed that is specifically formulated to support these muscles in the correct ratios for your horse is the best way to support his overall health. Nutrena has solutions for all types of horses; the senior, the athlete, the easy keeper, and the maintenance horse with our SafeChoice and ProForce lines as well as with our Empower Balance diet balancer. Talk with an equine specialist today to help determine the best feeding program for your horse to help support a strong and healthy topline.

To learn more, visit ToplineBalance.com.

3 Tips for Better Horse Photos

Article by: Shelley Paulson, Equestrian Photographer

We all love our horses and want to remember them forever, so we take lots and lots of photos of them! But the truth is, horses are not easy to photograph! Their long faces and bodies are prone to distortion, they don’t stand very still, and getting their ears up can be a challenge.

Here are 3 simple tips to help you make better photos of your horse. I’ll be sharing example photos I’ve taken of my own horse, Fritzie, a 10 year old solid paint bred mare.

Tip One: Find the Light

Light is everything in photography. In fact, even the word photography means “drawing with light”. Without enough light, your photos will be grainy. Horses don’t stand very still, so we need ample light so the camera can capture their movement.

I recommend photographing horses outdoors whenever possible. Put the sun behind you and the horse in front of you to capture colorful, sharp photos of your beautiful animal. Wait for “golden hour” just before sunset, and you will get a golden glow to the light.

Tip Two: Find a Flattering Angle

Photographer Chase Jarvis coined the phrase, “The best camera is the one you have with you.” He was, of course, referring to our cell phones.

But the big challenge in photographing horses with a cell phone cameras is that the built in cell phone lens is considered “wide angle.” Wide angle lenses make near things large and far things small. This means that when you photograph a horse straight on, he will have a large head and small body, especially if you are close.

The easiest way to solve this problem, is to turn your horse sideways, the wide angle distortion is minimized and your horse can look like a horse and not a bobble-head-giraffe.

If you are using a DSLR, or camera with a built in zoom lens, you simply need to step back and zoom in to solve the distortion problem. I generally recommend photographing horses at 100mm or more to keep their bodies in proportion.

Tip Three: Get the Ears Up

Let’s face it, horses look better with their ears forward – it’s like the equivalent of a smile in humans. But you can exhaust yourself dancing around with treats and buckets of grain, trying to get your horse to put their ears up. I have a simple technique that works for virtually every horse – playing the sound of horse whinnies!

An equine photographer has even created a clever cell phone App called “All Ears Selfie” that plays various horse sounds (dog sounds too!) while also allowing you to be in camera mode! But be ready, some horses get excited when they hear the whinny of a stranger! http://www.allearsapp.com

Now that you have some fresh ideas how to take better photos of your horse, get out there and do it! We can never take too many photos of the ones we love!

Shelley Paulson is a Minnesota-Based Equestrian photographer, specializing in creating meaningful images that capture the emotional bond between people and their horses. http://www.shelleypaulson.com

The Best Time of the Year, Pregnant Mares – The Chance for a Champion!

Many broodmares are in the last one third of gestation at this time of the year and some have already foaled. The latter part of gestation is one of the most important development periods in the life of a foal when the foal is developing in the uterus of the mare. The importance of this period was recognized in the Nutrient Requirements of Horses, Sixth Edition, when the Committee established that the nutrient requirements of the mare start increasing at the 6th month of gestation, earlier than previously believed.  During the last three months of gestation, the foal may be gaining a pound per day.

The key elements of managing the pregnant mare are the following:

  1. Maintain appropriate body condition score. Mares should be at about a body condition score 6 when they foal so that they have sufficient energy reserves for early lactation as well as to maintain condition for re-breeding.  We are already thinking about re-breeding before she foals!
  2. Adequate protein/amino acid intake. Lysine, methionine and threonine, the first 3 limiting essential amino acids, need to sufficient in the diet for placental and fetal development.
  3. Adequate macro mineral, trace mineral and Vitamin intake. The mare needs to be receiving adequate calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, zinc, manganese and selenium to provide minerals for the development of the foal and to build the foals own trace mineral reserves. Trace minerals are also critical for immune support. Vitamins A, D, E and B-Vitamins are all essential and should be included in a balanced diet.
  4. Vaccinations and deworming. A regular vaccination program should be developed in conjunction with a veterinarian so the mare is protected herself and can also produce the appropriate antibodies to protect the foal when it nurses and receives the colostrum that contains maternal antibodies. This is what protects the foal until it can be vaccinated and develop its own antibodies. The mare should also be dewormed as needed prior to foaling to make certain the environment of the foal is as “clean” as possible to reduce parasite contamination. Selective worming based on fecal count monitoring is becoming more and more important to reduce the risk of parasite resistance developing.

Good quality pasture or forage may provide sufficient energy thru late gestation, but may NOT provide adequate amino acids and minerals for optimal fetal development. A well designed ration balancer product may be used from month 5 to about month 10 or 11 of gestation to provide the missing nutrients. A well designed feed for broodmares and foals should be introduced prior to foaling so that the mare is on the feed before she foals to avoid the need for a sudden change in feed at foaling. This feed can then be increased after foaling to provide both the increased energy and the increased nutrients that are required for lactation, as well as providing nutrition for the foal when it starts to nibble on feed. Fresh clean water and free choice salt should also be available at all times.

Feeding the broodmare properly can help reduce the risk of developmental problems for the foal and help insure that the mare can be rebred in a timely manner to produce another foal the following year.

Ask the Expert: When to Start Grazing

Question:  I’ve heard conflicting recommendations on when to start grazing my horses.   Is April 1st too early to start grazing?
 
Answer:  Spring grazing should be introduced slowly and delayed until grasses reach 6 to 8″ to optimize both the health of the horse and pasture.  Calendar date is not important as weather conditions and grass growth can very greatly from year to year.

When pastures reach 6 to 8″, begin grazing for 15 minutes, increasing the grazing time each day by 15 minutes until 4 to 5 hours of consecutive grazing is reached. After that, unrestricted or continuous grazing can resume.

We also recommend feeding horses their normal hay diet before turning them out to pasture during the first several grazing events of the year.  This strategy should help avoid rapid intake of pasture grasses.

Even though hay and pasture are both forms of forages, there are significant differences. A gradual change from one feedstuff to another provides enough time for the microbial populations to adjust, reducing the chance of colic and laminitis.

This article is reprinted with permission from Krishona Martinson, PhD, University of Minnesota. This and other horse nutrition articles can be found at http://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/horse/nutrition/.

Heat Stress in Horses

Riding your horse can be a thing of beauty as a graceful gallop around the track can show off the muscular majesty of a horse. Even the most athletic horse however, can suffer from heat stress. It’s especially common in hot weather, and can be extremely dangerous health issue to your horse.

If your horse is showing signs of heat stress, this should be treated immediately using some of the cooling techniques providing in the guide below. If not treated properly and the symptoms continue or worsen, it can lead to damage in the heart, central nervous system, respiratory system, kidneys and liver.

The guide below presents information on the things that can cause heat stress, along with signs to look for, suggestions on treatment, and steps to prevent potential heat stress from occurring in the future.

Heat Stress Guide created by: The Best Ever Pads

Exercise and Its Role in Your Horse’s Topline

A common misperception about topline is that it can be improved through exercise alone. Lack of exercise – or the wrong type of exercise is often blamed for a poor topline. While exercise alters existing muscles, building new muscles is a different story. The nutritional building blocks of muscle (essential amino acids) must be present in sufficient quantities and balanced with adequate calories to rebuild or augment muscle tissue. In fact, if a horse is worked hard but his diet lacks sufficient amino acids, existing muscle mass can shrink. This can be a slippery slope in some situations, and as muscle atrophy sets in, the belief is that the horse needs to work even harder when in fact the fuel is not present (in the form of nutrition) to help support and repair tissue that is broken down with exercise. Just like human athletes, athletic equine partners need more essential amino acids than maintenance horses to maximize the effects of training and allow the horse to look and feel its best.

Certain exercises are thought to improve topline include hill work, backing exercises, and those that encourage the horse to collect and arc the body. These exercises can help condition muscles, but only if the diet is supporting the muscles through proper nutrition.

To learn more, visit ToplineBalance.com.

How Horse Muscles are Built and Maintained

Q: What are the Building Blocks of topline muscles?

A) Vitamins and Minerals
B) Fresh Air and Water
C) Amino Acids
D) Exercise

If you answered C (amino acids) you are correct! One of the most common misperceptions about topline is that it can be improved through exercise alone. Research shows that horse owners are more likely to believe they can influence their horse’s topline through exercise more than any other method. Additionally, lack of or incorrect exercise is often mistakenly attributed to poor topline development and definition.

While exercise will condition and train existing muscles, it can only help build topline if the nutritional building blocks of muscles—amino acids—are available in the diet. In fact, if a horse is worked hard enough, and significant amino acids are not present in the diet to build and develop the muscles being trained, muscle mass can be reduced. Just like human athletes, equine athletic partners need more amino acids than the sedentary horse to allow training to be fully utilized and allow the horse look its best.

Horse owners should combine a feed that contains guaranteed levels of the right amino acids (fed at the right amounts per the feed tag) with a healthy exercise program for best topline results.

To learn more, visit ToplineBalance.com.