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5 Steps OF
Spring Horse Care
By Lauren MacLeod For a horse owner, there are few sights more welcome than the first signs of spring. As the snow melts away and the pastures begin to turn green, horse owners are glad to see the end of short days, frozen water buckets, and woolly coats. Springtime means longer, warmer days to spend working in the arena or hitting the trails. The season is also an ideal time to catch up on your horse’s healthcare needs. By ensuring that your horse is in tip-top shape coming out of the winter, you will be able to make the most of the upcoming riding, showing, and breeding season.
Vaccines are a fundamental part of keeping your horse healthy. The beginning of springtime is a perfect time of year to book your horse’s annual vaccination appointment. By having your horse’s vaccinations done in the early spring, his immune system will be primed and ready to protect him from dangerous viruses or bacteria to which he may be exposed during the spring and summer months. Some of these diseases are passed from horse to
PHOTO: CANSTOCK/KIEP PHOTO: CLIX PHOTOGRAPHY
Consult with your veterinarian to determine the vaccinations your horse should receive based on his risk of exposure.
The horse should be sedated to allow a safe and thorough oral examination, during which the veterinarian will use a dental speculum to hold the mouth open and a file or float to level sharp points and overgrown teeth.
horse (such as at a horse show), and others are passed from mosquitoes to horses. In both of these circumstances, the likelihood of exposure to equine infectious disease increases in the spring and summer. When deciding which vaccines should be given to a particular horse, each case must be assessed individually. Your veterinarian will consider factors such as geographical region, lifestyle and use of the horse, and current or previous medical issues. The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) recommends that all horses in North America be vaccinated against five diseases: tetanus, West Nile virus, Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis, and rabies. Each of these diseases are endemic in many geographical areas of North America, and each has the ability to cause fatal neurological disease in horses. Because of the prevalence and severity of these diseases, the AAEP has deemed them to be core vaccinations for horses and there is a high likelihood that these vaccines will be recommended for your horse. There are many other vaccines
available, and your veterinarian may recommend them depending on your horse’s risk of exposure. Two common examples are Equine Influenza virus and Equine Herpesvirus-1 and -4. These viruses can cause fever and respiratory symptoms and result in an extensive recovery period for your horse. They are often spread when groups of horses come together at racetracks, horse shows, or boarding stables. If your horse will be in any of these situations, your veterinarian may recommend vaccination against these viruses in addition to the core vaccines. It is important to remember that there is no single protocol for vaccinating horses and many factors at play when designing a vaccination schedule for the individual horse.
2 Dental Care Before the riding season is in full swing, it is advisable to have your horse’s teeth checked. Dental abnormalities can greatly affect your horse’s comfort, performance, and ability to maintain a healthy weight. If dental issues are addressed before work begins, the horse will be happier in the bridle and better able to progress
through his training. An equine dental appointment is so much more than just floating teeth. The entire oral cavity must first be assessed with a thorough oral examination. In order to safely examine the whole mouth and each individual tooth, the horse should be sedated for the procedure. The veterinarian will use a dental speculum and various instruments such as mirrors, probes, and a light source. A sedated oral examination is the only way to reliably detect problems such as sharp points, fractured or loose teeth, and abnormalities of the horse’s occlusion (bite). Other less common findings include foreign material, oral abscesses, or tumours. A quick glance in the mouth of an awake horse is simply not sufficient to detect all of these potential problems. After the oral examination, the veterinarian will use a file or a float to level out sharp points and overgrown teeth. This is always done carefully to prevent damaging the teeth or exposing the sensitive pulp cavity inside. Other dental treatments include removing feed caught in abnormal gaps between SPRING 2019
CANADIAN HORSE JOURNAL
HOW MUCH DOES YOUR HORSE
How to assess your horse’s condition and body weight without a scale By Shelagh Niblock, PAS If you have ever evaluated your horse’s ration or tried to calculate an appropriate dose of dewormer for a growing horse, you will know that accurate estimation of your horse’s body weight is important for meaningful results. While we all know that a mechanical or digital scale is probably the best way to evaluate the weight of your horse, not many of us have convenient access to one. Horse owners do have access to other tools for estimating the body weight of their horses. Weight tapes, for example, are inexpensive and readily obtainable at most feed stores. A soft cloth tape measure used for sewing is also easy to 18
source and not expensive. The use of a tape measure can give you the information you need to utilize any one of several formulas available to calculate a horse’s body weight using body measurements.
Body Condition Scoring – Henneke Scale
When determining the body weight of your horse for ration balancing purposes, it’s important to know the difference between the horse’s current body weight and his preferred body weight. Often the reason we embark upon a ration balancing exercise for our horses is because they are
Assess your horse’s body condition on a regular basis and take photos to allow you to observe changes over time.
PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK/VERA ZINKOVA
Estimate the weight of your horse using a weight tape by taking a measurement of the heart girth from about two inches behind the elbow, over the highest point of the withers, and hold it snugly straight up and down.
carrying more condition than is healthy. The goal of the ration evaluation may be to limit their intake in order to get their body weight to a place where they are healthier and can do their jobs better and be at a lower risk of metabolic diseases. In order to make an objective assessment of whether your horse is carrying excessive condition, it is useful to evaluate their body condition using the Henneke Scale. The Henneke Scale is an equine body condition scoring system developed in the early 1980s at Texas A&M University in the US. It utilizes a numerical scale of 1 to 9 (with 1 being emaciated and 9 being obese) to evaluate body fat both visually and by palpation on six sites on the animal’s body. The Henneke Scale has become standardized for use throughout the world, including in legal cases involving starving horses. A body condition score in the range of 4.5 to 6.5 is considered to be healthy for most horses. Body condition scoring your horse provides you with an estimation of trends in his body condition and fitness. This can be helpful in establishing an ongoing management program for your horse’s ration and fitness; however, evaluating your horse with the Henneke scale can be very subjective. When you first start to use this management tool, it may be helpful for you to enlist the help of your veterinarian or an equine nutritionist to give you a second
opinion. We all have a perception of “the ideal body weight” though, so don’t be concerned if your evaluation of the horse is a little different than an evaluation done by someone else, especially if the horse is in those mid-range condition scores.
An evaluation of your horse using the Henneke scale can be backed up with timely photos. Try to get into the habit of assessing the body condition of your horse on a regular basis, and take pictures each time. A record of body condition scores and photos can provide invaluable information for you to evaluate if your ration plan is actually working for your horse.
Assessing the Weight of Your Horse
Once you have evaluated the body condition score of your horse, you can calculate his weight. If you don’t have access to a scale, then you will need to choose either a weight tape or a formula to calculate his weight. The tool you choose to achieve this should be determined by the kind of horse you have.
Using a Weight Tape
Assessing your horse’s weight with a weight tape is easy and reasonably accurate if your horse is a light build breed whose body weight is normally in the 1,000 lb (450 kg) range. Weight tapes work best if the horse is not obese, thin, or a smaller breed with a draft-like build, such as a Fjord or SPRING 2019
CANADIAN HORSE JOURNAL
ASTHMA FREQUENTLY ASKED
Equine asthma, commonly known as recurrent airway obstruction (RAO) or heaves, is a respiratory disease caused by hypersensitivity in the lungs to airborne dusts and molds. Horses can develop equine asthma when they’re exposed to airborne organic dust that can found anywhere — in a dirt paddock, on a gravel road, or in an indoor arena. But the most common culprit is dusty, moldy hay. Round bales can be particularly problematic as horses tend to tunnel their muzzles into the bales and inhale dust and mold. The disease affects horses of any breed, typically when they are middle-aged and older. Experts now suggest that veterinarians use the term equine asthma instead of RAO to describe this disease. RAO will be considered severe equine asthma. Less chronic airway inflammation, such as inflammatory airway disease that is commonly found in young race horses, will be termed mild to moderate equine asthma.
1 What are the clinical signs of equine asthma?
Affected horses usually have a chronic cough that may occur randomly or while eating or exercising. In addition, they’re often intolerant of exercise, have nasal discharge, and have more laboured breathing. More severely affected horses may have a “heave line,” a ridge of muscle along the abdomen that develops because of the overuse of respiratory muscles.
2 How is equine asthma diagnosed?
The veterinarian listens to the horse’s lungs using a
stethoscope and a re-breathing bag (a plastic bag placed over the horse’s muzzle). Some abnormal sounds that may be present in the lungs of a horse with equine asthma include harsher, louder lung sounds, wheezes, crackles, and a tracheal rattle. To accentuate these abnormal sounds, your veterinarian may place a re-breathing bag over the horse’s muzzle and allow it to breathe into the bag for a minute or two. Re-breathing the expired air encourages the horse to breathe deeper. In some cases, the history of the horse’s problem and physical exam can be enough for the veterinarian to start treating the horse for equine asthma. However, to make a definitive diagnosis, it’s necessary to perform a bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL). The BAL procedure, which is very safe for the horse, allows the veterinarian to determine the severity of the inflammation in the lungs. It also provides baseline information that can help clinicians determine if your horse is improving with treatment. It may also be necessary to perform a tracheal wash to rule out pneumonia, an infection in the lungs.
3 How important is an early diagnosis?
If the disease is identified before any permanent damage is done to the lungs, your horse can continue to breathe easy with proper treatment and management. However, once changes occur in the lung, there is irreversible damage.
Horses with asthma should live in a low dust environment and outdoors as much as possible.
4 How do veterinarians treat equine asthma?
Veterinarians often use drug therapy — a combination of corticosteroids and bronchodilators — to treat horses during acute episodes of respiratory difficulty. Corticosteroids decrease inflammation by suppressing the horse’s immune system, while bronchodilators act in the lung to open up the airways of horses experiencing respiratory distress. Both steroids and bronchodilators come in oral and inhaled formulations. Oral and inhaled formulations are effective but have different benefits. Oral medications are usually tried as the initial course of treatment and are preferred in severe cases. The inhaled formulations are administered to the horse using a mask. Once the horse inhales the drugs into its lungs, the medication acts directly at the site of inflammation. The result is a faster response to therapy and fewer side effects as the drug isn’t distributed to the whole body.
6 Do these drugs cause any side effects?
High doses of corticosteroids over a prolonged period can potentially cause laminitis, particularly in horses that are overweight or otherwise predisposed to laminitis. Other side effects of steroid use include worsening of infections that are already present or the development of new infections while being treated. It’s uncommon for side effects to occur with bronchodilator therapy, but it’s still important to use these drugs judiciously.
PHOTO: PAM MACKENZIE
5 How are the drugs given to the horse?
Symptoms of equine asthma commonly include frequent coughing spells and nasal discharge. A diagnosis of equine asthma may seem daunting to horse owners, but most people can successfully adapt their management regimes to ensure their horse’s continued health and wellbeing, although it can end a high-performance animal’s career.
CANADIAN HORSE JOURNAL
Happy Ride OPEN the THORACIC CAGE By Alexa Linton, Equine Sports Therapist Today, we get to hang out in one of the most thrilling, complex and well-built skeletal structures in the body, the thoracic cage. While thrilling might be a stretch unless you’re an anatomy geek like me, suffice it to say that this region and its resilient, flexible function has potential implications in respiration, saddle fit, behaviour, body control, bending, collection, energy levels, the ability to be symmetrical and free in movement, and more. And I’m not just talking about your horse. If you, the rider, cannot move well through your thoracic cage, you’re going to be impacting your time in the saddle more than you realize. The main function of this incredible feat of nature that is the thoracic spine and cage is to protect the heart, lungs, spinal cord, and the many essential vessels moving through this region. There are a few key things we need to highlight before we dive into the anatomy of this region.
First, the healthy functioning of the thoracic diaphragm is dependent on the mobility of the thoracic cage. The thoracic
diaphragm is a large structure of muscle that separates the abdomen and thorax and connects to the ribs, thoracic vertebrae and sternum, and is crucial in thoracic respiration, drainage, pressure regulation, digestion, and overall vitality. Second, our equine friends have no clavicles (collarbones), but humans have two, and these bones have a very special function in our ability to exist in verticality. And third, when we ride our horses, we’re on top of and potentially compressing this whole unit — it is all interconnected. The mobility (or lack thereof) of the thoracic spine will impact the mobility of the rib cage, and will impact the mobility of the sternum, and will have an effect on the heart and the lungs, on breathing, on the surrounding muscles, and on all the many places this region attaches via fascia, dura, and circulation, including the pelvis, cervical spine, and cranium. So yep, we’re in big territory here, especially if things aren’t moving. Now on to the geeky stuff! Horses have a lot of ribs, 18 to be exact compared to our 12, with most articulating
The Equine Thoracic Skeleton Thoracic Vertebrae Spinous process Costotransverse joint Transverse process
Costovertebral joints Pulmonary groove Joint of head of rib
Cranial thoracic aperture Cartilage of manubrium
Caudal thoracic aperture
Manubrium of sternum Sternal crest
False ribs [asternal]
Costal cartilage Thoracic cavity
Body of sternum Sternal synchondroses
Sternocostal Costochondral Xiphoid joints joints process
(connecting) at the head of the rib with two thoracic vertebrae, once with the rib tubercle at the transverse process of the vertebrae (the costotransverse joint), and once at the meeting of the two vertebrae (the costovertebral joint). The sympathetic ganglion chain sits in front of the rib heads. The ganglia of the sympathetic nervous system deliver information to the body about stress and impending danger and are responsible for the fight-or-fight response, meaning that a well-functioning thoracic cage contributes to a relaxed and resilient horse. In horses, the ribs vary in shape and size depending on function, lengthening and shortening, and the curve increasing and decreasing. The shape of a horse’s barrel, or even how the saddle fits, depends largely on rib shape. If there is a rib issue, such as a subluxation or an embedded rib, the side-bending and rotation mobility of the cage will be impacted, breathing will be affected, and compression of the ribs, even during saddling, will generally be quite uncomfortable. Let’s not forget about the sternum, which is technically one bone made up of seven separate bones called
True ribs [sternal] Sternum
sternabrae, which connect by cartilage and then fuse. Because of the clavicle, the human sternum also includes the manubrium (the long, flat bone that forms the front of the rib cage). In horses, the lack of clavicle means the connection between their front legs and torso is muscular, with the serratus ventralis thoracis, pectorals assisted by the external obliques, and brachiocephalicus, acting like a sling and suspending the chest between the front legs and lifting the thoracic cage. If this mechanism is not working well, the result can be a dropping of the torso and a sense of the horse being downhill on the forehand. Getting back to the sternum, it can, not surprisingly, be negatively affected by pressure from a tight girth. The first eight ribs are attached by the costal cartilage to the sternum, with the cartilage of the remaining ribs attached together to form the costal arch and connected to the cartilage of the eighth rib and therefore, the sternum. In humans, our last two ribs tend to be “floating” ribs, with no cartilaginous attachments to the sternum, but this tends not to be the case in horses and can be a source of discomfort. SPRING 2019
CANADIAN HORSE JOURNAL
The right contractor makes all the difference. 32
Barn PHOTO: ISTOCK/PURPLE QUEUE
Consider your long-term plans. Will you need one or more stalls with removeable walls so that two stalls can be converted if necessary into a single large foaling stall, or a draft horse stall?
By Margaret Evans If building a barn is on your horizon, the first step is to make your wish list.Whether it’s a perfect four-stall barn with walk-out paddocks, or a large training and boarding facility, your dream barn will be a major construction project that should create a safe and comfortable home for your horses and their people, both at work and at play. Start by defining your short and long-term goals for your barn and property, and setting your priorities. Make a list of everything you want, then prioritize for essentials and most important features. Do some research on whether your must-haves are realistic, which items would be nice to have if your budget allows, and get rid of the things you don’t really need. This process should not be rushed, as time spent exploring all aspects of the project will save money and disappointment later on.
Refine Your Vision One of the most important first steps is establishing where the barn can be situated. Check your local zoning and bylaws to determine location, including setbacks from property lines and roadways, and from other buildings and services including wells and riparian areas. Your local government office will be able to give advice on permits required, how to apply, how long the process takes, associated costs, and inspections. There may be environmental factors that could impact the barn’s location, and drainage issues such as a low area that is SPRING 2019
CANADIAN HORSE JOURNAL
PROTECT Your Horse from
By Barbara Sheridan
orse owners often feel their beloved equines are simply a magnet for injuries. Being accident prone just seems to be in their nature, most times brought on by their instinctive fight-or-flight response, their need to establish herd hierarchy, and in some cases, their sense of natural curiosity. By spending time minimizing the various hazards found on your property through identification and removal, you’ll be one step closer to making your barn and property safer for your horse.
“There is no such thing as an accident, they are only incidents,” says Dr. Rebecca Gimenez, Primary Instructor and President of Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue Inc. (TLAER), based in Georgia. “No matter how unfortunate the situation, looking back, something somewhere probably could have prevented it from happening in the first place.” Gimenez provides training in technical animal rescue techniques, procedures, and methodologies across the United States and internationally. In addition to publishing numerous
HAZARDS on the
A nightmare for horse owners, barn fires are one of the most common emergencies affecting horses.
CANADIAN HORSE JOURNAL
HOLIDAYS ON HORSEBACK
BISON ON A QUEST TO RIDE WITH
in Canada’s National Parks
By Tania Millen
ow, that’s a huge head! I thought, as a massive bison bull ambled toward me. He stopped 1.5 metres away, swaying his head back and forth, snuffling, seemingly undecided about what to do. Knowing
that bison can weigh up to 1,000 kg and charge if provoked, I felt distinctly uncomfortable. The bull shuffled forward a few more steps and extended his nose to sniff the truck mirror, mere inches from where I sat in the driver’s seat. His almost metre-long nose and whopping shoulders were intimidating and I leaned away from the closed window, feeling unnerved. I was parked in the bison paddock at Waterton National Park in southwest Alberta, trying to get a feel for this species, which was eradicated from the Canadian prairies over 100 years ago. Canada’s prairie country always seems barren to me, as though something is missing and the ecosystem is incomplete. Probably because it is. For tens of thousands of years, as many as 30 million bison formed the cornerstone of a complex
ecosystem, which dominated the Great Plains. In 1890, bison were perilously close to extinction, with less than 1,000 animals scattered across the continent. Today, largely due to conservation efforts by Parks Canada, bison thrive in parks and
private herds, worldwide. During my prairie travels, scenes of horseback riders galloping across the prairie in clouds of dust alongside herds of thundering bison endlessly paraded through my imagination. Knowing those days are long gone, I
At one time as many as 30 million bison roamed the Great Plains, but by 1890 the population had shrunk to less than 1,000 animals. This photograph from the mid-1870s shows a pile of bison skulls waiting to be ground for fertilizer.
PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/CHICK BOWEN
The author’s horse, tied to the sturdy bison fence at Grasslands National Park, ready to go bison hunting.
was nevertheless enthralled by the notion of riding with bison. However, I’d dismissed the idea as a pipe dream. Impossible today. But eventually, I figured out that unpenned bison range in three of Canada’s national parks where horseback riding is permitted: Grasslands National Park in southwest Saskatchewan, Prince Albert National Park in northern Saskatchewan, and Banff National Park in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. Excited to live my dreams, I promptly committed to what would become a multi-year quest to ride with bison.
Due to its easy access, long views, and horse-friendly campsites,
PHOTO: TANIA MILLEN
PHOTO: BANFF NATIONAL PARK
CANADIAN HORSE JOURNAL
HOLIDAYS ON HORSEBACK
Cuba FROM THE
Ali poses with her horse and an old American car at the beach Playa Este (east beach).
By Shawn Hamilton The words Finally a Horse Back Ride in Cuba jumped out at me when searching through the Unicorn Trails website. The Tabaqueros Ride going right through Valle ViĂąales, my favourite part of the island, sparked visions of oxen-powered carts, tobacco fields, and memories of watching the sun burn off the mist in the valley of limestone mounds. Having lived in Cuba for just over two years in the mid-1990s, I had a strong desire to revisit the country to see how it had changed. My passion for the people who have endured continual hard times, having next to nothing but willing to give you half of it, drove me to return occasionally with my family for Christmas, yet it had been just over ten years since my last visit. 62
Cubaâ€™s unique heritage, beautiful beaches, and simple lifestyle draws tourists from all parts of the world, yet since the Revolution in 1959 when Fidel Castro took over, changes have come slowly. Always wanting to return and see for myself if parts of this region still remained timeless, I could not resist the opportunity to do so from the back of a native Criollo horse. I packed my helmet, half chaps, and camera, and headed off with high hopes that this place would be just as beautiful as I remembered. As all good Cuban adventures should start, sipping mojitos in a lobby bar, we meet the riding group in the Hotel Presidente outside the city center of Havana. From Belgium, France, Spain, and Mexico, four languages are spoken among us.
The author poses with her guide at Finca la Guabina.
The lush vegetation on the ride in Finca Charco Azul.
The morning sunrise view of Valle Vinales.
CANADIAN HORSE JOURNAL
PHOTO: ISTOCK/JOHNNY GREIG
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