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Health&Nutrition Guide Veto the Mosquito!

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| 2018 Health & Nutrition Guide

A healthy mind is just about as important as a healthy body, for both humans and horses alike. For better or for worse, our horses depend on us for their happiness and their health. In this year’s Health and Nutrition Guide, we have features on how to take care of the horse’s body, to help ease a stressful caretaker's mind. If you’re considering getting a rescue, we suggest that you take a look at “Second Chances.” Kelley Roche shares the stories of four horses who were saved by patient rescuers. Mosquitoes can be tough to fend off, especially during the humid summer months we tend to face in the Northeast. Kandace York’s “Mosquitoes in the Mist” supplies information on the damage of these pests and how to keep them at bay. Like children, each horse develops differently as they age. By taking tips from Kathleen Labonville’s “Equine Timeline,” horse owners can keep their four-legged friends on the right track.

Contents: 9 Points of Interest 14 Equine Timeline

From foal to senior, see how a horse’s body evolves over time. By Kathleen Labonville

18 Mosquitoes in the Mist

A look at prevention and treatment of mosquito-borne diseases. By Kandace York

24 Second Chances

Rehabilitators retell their stories of saving rescue horses. By Kelley Roche

The information provided herein is intended for general reference only. Always be sure to contact your veterinarian when a question arises regarding your horse's health.

2018 Health & Nutrition Guide





Elisabeth Prouty-Gilbride OPERATIONS MANAGER







Sonny Williams



Megan Thomas


Karen Fralick Sherry R. Brown


Cher Wheeler


Emily Trupiano

Equine Journal 175 Main St. | P.O. Box 386, Oxford, MA 01540 phone: 508-987-5886 subscription questions: 1-800-414-9101 affiliate subscription questions: 1-800-742-9171 international callers: 1-386-246-0102 A Publication of MCC Magazines, LLC A Division of Morris Communications Company, LLC 643 Broad St., Augusta, GA 30901 PRESIDENT Donna Kessler REGIONAL VICE PRESIDENT Patty Tiberg CONTROLLER Scott Ferguson DIRECTOR OF MANUFACTURING Donald Horton

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William S. Morris III Will S. Morris IV


© 2018 by MCC Magazines, LLC. All rights reserved. Printed in U.S.A.



| 2018 Health & Nutrition Guide

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2018 Health & Nutrition Guide

points of interest Featured Photo

Generally it is a good rule to not let horses eat with a bit in their mouth, but this cutie snuck a snack while his rider wasn’t looking!


2018 Health & Nutrition Guide



bits & pieces POINTS OF INTEREST


VACCINATION STATION Unsure about what exactly to vaccinate your horse for each year? Dr. Kevin Hankins, DVM, MBA, senior technical services veterinarian for Zoetis, has a few helpful guidelines: • Protect your horse from rabies by ensuring they are vaccinated annually. Horses can be exposed to rabies through the bite of infected animals. Rabies is a fatal disease for your horse and is also a risk to you and your family as it is a zoonotic disease.

[ BOOK ]

• Vaccinate once a year against Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis, West-

KINESIOLOGY TAPING FOR HORSES: THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO TAPING FOR EQUINE HEALTH, FITNESS, AND PERFORMANCE by Katja BredlauMorich, 147 pages, paperback, Trafalgar Square Books; 2017, $21.95

As horse people, whenever we hear about new technology for health purposes, we wonder if it can transfer over to our four-legged friends. Kinesiology taping has become more and more popular in the horse world, and this book is the guide to everything you need to know; how it works, the effects, selecting the right tape, proper application practices, case studies, and more. The easy-to-read book also includes photos for application, making it easier to follow along for the do-it-yourselfer.

ern Equine Encephalomyelitis, and West Nile Virus. Should mosquitoes be a problem in the area, consider vaccinating twice a year. • Vaccinate annually for tetanus unless the horse is wounded or undergoes surgery more than six months after receiving the initial tetanus vaccination. In this case, revaccinate immediately at the time of injury or surgery. • Discuss additional risk-based vaccination needs annually with your veterinarian for protection against equine influenza, equine herpesvirus, strangles, leptospirosis, and more. Dr. Hankins also suggests horse owners discuss with their veterinarian their horse’s age, lifestyle, and their vaccine and nutritional needs to develop the best possible preventive health care plan.


BOTTOM LINE: Whether you want to start using Kinesiology Tape, make sure you’re doing it right, or are simply interested in the practice, this book will answer all your questions. 10


| 2018 Health & Nutrition Guide

Bug Barrier 52%


20% 52%: Yes. 28%: No.


20%: I don’t know.

Want to be included in our polls? Visit us on Facebook by scanning the QR Code with your smartphone.



SmartPak’s Colic Resource Center will light the way for you to help reduce your horse’s colic risk.



V I S I T T H E C O L I C R E S O U R C E C E N T E R AT S M A R T PA K . C O M / C O L I C

2018 Health & Nutrition Guide


bits & pieces POINTS OF INTEREST

Taste Test Researchers at the University of Life Sciences in Lublin, Poland, performed a study to determine the taste preferences of horses in relation to their breed and sex. Forty-eight adult mares and stallions were offered grain and treats with different flavors, and it was found that mares more willingly consume molasses-flavored pellets, food with the addition of apples or carrots were the favorite treats of all tested breeds, and the greatest variation of preference was in Arabian horses.



On average, seven cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) are reported in humans each year.

In horses, EEE symptoms will appear within five days of being bit by a pathogencarrying mosquito.




EEE was first recognized in 1831 in Massachusetts.



| 2018 Health & Nutrition Guide


By Kathleen Labonville



| 2018 Health & Nutrition Guide


A look at the horse’s development, from birth through old age.

A horse’s body is an amazing, complex creation. While you ride, you think about how the horse can feel your aids through its skin and nervous system. The horse’s body, meanwhile, is busily working its multitude of systems, from digestive and endocrine to muscular and skeletal. Maintaining optimal health in such a complex animal is a tall task, one that every horse owner faces. And just when you think you have it all figured out, the horse changes and your management plan needs to change with it. In this article, we investigate how the horse’s body changes and develops from birth through old age. FOALS The moment a foal enters the world, big changes start happening. There is so much to see, hear, smell and feel. “It’s a whole new world for them,” says Dr. Jen Sula of Blackwater Veterinary Services in Salisbury, NH. “They’re learning and exploring on a daily basis.” The horse’s senses develop quickly. Generally, the foal will stand within an hour of birth and will nurse within two hours. These early nursings in the first day of life provide the foal with the “liquid gold” that is colostrum. Colostrum provides the foal with essential antibodies that will keep him safe until he develops his own antibodies at about two months of age (foals are not born with antibodies in their bloodstream like humans are). After the first 12-24 hours postpartum, the colostrum is used up and the mare’s milk comes in. The foal will feed frequently, as often as 30 times per day. As the foal grows, he will start nibbling on grass and hay. First attempts to graze will be feeble, as the foal’s long legs and short neck keep him from easily reaching the ground. By two or three months of age, the foal will graze much more easily and he will get more nutrition this way. Foals will stay with their mother, nursing, until they are weaned between four and six months of age. By this stage, the foal’s digestive system has developed sufficiently to allow the horse to get all of its nutrition from grass, hay, and grain. The newborn foal will have a natural inclination to test his long wobbly legs, and he will quickly become steadier and more nimble every day. As the foal grows, his skeletal and muscular systems strengthen and grow. It is ideal for the foal to grow slowly and steadily, rather than quickly as a result of too much food. Growth that is forced or comes too quickly can cause a host of skeletal problems. At this early stage of life, turnout for exercise is important for proper development. Some breeders like to

practice imprinting at this life stage to get the foals accustomed to human handling. Dr. Sula agrees that handling of the foal is important. “Start them with consistent, firm, and kind handling, and keep the sessions short,” she advises. The same advice applies to yearlings and two-year-olds, which we look at next.

YOUNG HORSES Young horses, particularly yearlings and two-year-olds, are akin to human teenagers: they are not quite done growing yet, but they are nearing their full height, their bodies are lanky and awkward, they have minds of their own and they can act rebellious. Experienced, calm, knowledgeable handling is essential at this age so the horse learns that humans are to be trusted and respected. If you are new to raising your horses, Dr. Sula advises it is wise to have someone knowledgeable helping you, someone who can help you understand the horse’s behavior and body. She explains, “Maybe the horse has a growth spurt and is [croup] high all of a sudden and shouldn’t be asked to do much. Have someone knowledgeable looking at the horse who will recognize these changes.” Horses at this stage continue to require thoughtful nutrition management so that they have the fuel to grow correctly without being overfed and risking developmental problems. A rule of thumb is to keep the horse healthy but on the lean side. Adequate exercise (via turnout) is crucial to strengthening bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. Some veterinarians advise against controlled exercise (such as work in a round pen or longeing) at this age, to avoid placing undue stress on the horse’s growing systems. Depending on what the horse’s intended career is, management will have different goals at this age. A racehorse, for example, might be backed at age two in preparation for racing, whereas most show horses won’t be backed until age three, with

formal training starting at age four. Larger horses like drafts can continue growing through age eight, and warmbloods usually grow until age five or six. These slowermaturing horses require a later start to work to avoid complications. A young horse’s workload should start out very small and can be gradually increased as the horse becomes more fit and conditioned. As Dr. Sula advises, “Keep it short and sweet and to the point.” This helps the horse mentally and physically. Regular veterinary visits will help with the management of a young horse’s health and career. While your vet is out, discuss whether supplements (for joint health or nutritional purposes) may be needed for optimal health and longevity.

ADULT HORSES By standard definition, adult horses are those that have reached the age of four. These years bring about some of the best riding years (barring injury or illness) as the horse is physically at his prime over this decade or so. During these years, he becomes mentally settled, bonds with his caretaker/rider, and is physically able to handle the job. Training has helped the horse develop strength and cardiovascular fitness. You have figured out what nutrition works well for him, from grain to forage to supplements. He is on a deworming program and receives regular visits from the farrier and the dentist. These are the years that require exceptional management. Reduce the risk of colic and lameness by giving your horse the best care that you can. That doesn’t mean you have to spend a small fortune on everything from ice boots to magnetic blankets (though you can and they may help), but it does mean that you need to assess your horse every day. Does he feel well? Are his eyes clear and alert? Is his nose free of discharge? Is his body sore? Lethargic? Does he have a mild lameness? Catching

2018 Health & Nutrition Guide


any of these symptoms early will help in the treatment and care of your partner. A horse only has so many rides or drives in him, and your management of him will either help or hinder.

SENIOR HORSES As your horse enters his late teens and twenties, he is now entering his senior years. (The majority of horses live between 25-30 years. This varies, of course, with some of the oldest living into their 50s.) “Some horses are old at 18, some are 25,” says Dr. Sula. No matter when old age seems to set in, the senior horse faces a myriad of management changes, from exercise to feed to environment. When it comes to exercise, the sound senior horse does best when kept going. Continue working your horse as you always have, but when you notice he is tired, give him an extra break. Spend more time at a walk, just moving and

loosening his body. Exercise will keep his circulation healthy and will keep his body flexible and strong. If your horse is at a point where riding is no longer comfortable for him, do him a favor and put him in good turnout for at least several hours each day. Standing in a stall all the time is not good for a senior horse. Regular attention from a veterinarian is especially important for our senior horses. “I recommend bi-annual visits,” explains Dr. Sula. “That way you catch metabolic conditions early and get fresh eyes on the horse.” This will help you notice any changes that haven’t been obvious when seen on a daily basis. Pay particular attention to the senior horse’s teeth. Continue with regular dental visits and make sure your horse is on a feed that is easy for him to chew and digest. Research and discuss with your vet which supplements can help your aging partner. Give the horse a soft, comfortable surface on which to

rest, such as a matted stall with good bedding. Keep dust to a minimum by wetting hay and, if necessary, bedding. Consider if your horse needs blanketing in the chilly weather, even if he never did before. Lastly, if the horse appears sore and uncomfortable more often than not despite management enhancements, talk with your vet about whether a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug given daily is a good idea, or whether there are other treatments that can help with comfort. Your horse has worked hard for you in his lifetime, and it is your duty to ensure his senior years are comfortable and healthy. By working closely with your vet, farrier, and dentist, you can give your horse a happy and comfortable retirement. Our thanks to Dr. Jen Sula for her input on this article. For more information on Blackwater Veterinary Services, visit or call 603-648-2447.

The senior horse faces a myriad of management changes, from exercise to feed to environment.



| 2018 Health & Nutrition Guide


Adequate exercise via turnout is crucial to strengthening bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles in yearlings.

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MOSQUITOES in the Mist



| 2018 Health & Nutrition Guide


Mosquitoes do more than annoy; they spread dangerous pathogens. Here’s why you want to know more about the risks your horse faces and what you can do to decrease them.

A Deadly Duo Mosquitoes are vectors, or carriers, of four key equine diseases: West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Western Equine Encephalitis, and Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis. Often they are referred to respectively as WNV, EEE, WEE, and VEE. Of the four, WNV and EEE are the most dangerous because of their fast transmission, high mortality rates, and lack of effective cures. Throughout the Northeast and Midwest, these two diseases peak in late summer, mirroring peak mosquito and bird populations. In 2017, the United States Department of Agriculture reported 307 cases of WNV among horses, and the disease has a mortality rate of about 33%. Once a horse is infected, symptoms appear within five to 15 days. The most common symptom is a lack of coordination and stumbling, along with any of the following: depression, weakness, muscle tremors in the neck and muzzle, fever, paralyzed or drooping lip, muzzle twitches, and blindness. Even among horses who survive, about 40% will have lingering effects. By comparison, only 86 cases of EEE were reported in 2017, but it has a mortality rate near 90%. Once a horse is infected, symptoms appear within a few days and include fever; a sleepy appearance; muscle twitches of the head, neck, shoulder and flank; and a weak, staggering gait. There’s no effective treatment, and the horse usually dies within three days. The other two mosquito-borne diseases—Western Equine

Encephalitis and Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis—are of lower concern to horse owners. WEE has a mortality rate of about 50% according to the American Association of Equine Practitioners, but it is uncommon in the U.S., and VEE hasn’t been reported in the country for more than 40 years. Your horse’s risk of exposure depends on your geography, your farm’s ecology, and weather, along with your horse’s age, immune system strength, and vaccination status. But more than anything, it depends on a tiny animal that you need to know more about.

The Mighty Little Mosquito Mosquitoes are overachievers in the disease vector department. That’s because of five main characteristics, Dr. Becky Trout Fryxell says. In her role as assistant professor at the University of Tennessee–Knoxville, she researches entomology to improve human and animal health and welfare, with a special focus on livestock health and comfort. The five characteristics come easily to her. “First, mosquitoes wouldn't be a vector if they couldn't blood-feed,” she says. “That blood-feeding behavior is essential to their survival because they need blood for egg production. Second, they are small-winged animals that produce many offspring.” A third factor makes them especially difficult to control; their life stages are physically separated. During their immature stages, they live in water, but they spend their adult stage on

2018 Health & Nutrition Guide


Birds are a large carrier of mosquito-borne diseases, as the insects will bite an infected bird and then bite a horse, transmitting the pathogens.



sources, which increases feeding opportunities for adult mosquitoes. Even small day-to-day changes affect mosquito populations. “My lab has recently shown that a change in temperature—fluctuations from a warm day to a cool day back to a warm day in a single week—also affect mosquito populations,” she adds.

Decrease Breeding Sites Mosquitoes need water to reproduce, but they don’t need much. Simple, ongoing efforts like emptying water troughs every couple days and recycling old tires (a favorite breeding ground) will help decrease their breeding sites on your property. Zach Cohen, vice president of Summit Chemical Company, a business that formulates mosquito and pest control products, explains the value of supplemental products in lowering the spread of disease. “The only way these diseases are transmitted is through mosquito bites, and the best way to prevent large populations of mosquitoes is to kill them in the larval stage, commonly referred to as ‘larviciding.’” By contrast, urban areas often spray insecticides through the summer months, but that targets only adult mosquitoes. “At that point it is too late to totally prevent the disease

| 2018 Health & Nutrition Guide

and harder to kill the adults because they spread out,” Zach says. “Through pinpointing where there are larvae and treating effectively using [a product that kills mosquitos as they develop into adults], you can actively prevent disease transmission.” Dry weather is no guarantee of low mosquito populations, Zach adds. “Often you see more mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile because there are less water sources for birds to congregate around. These birds are bitten by mosquitoes, they lay eggs, and the cycle amplifies.”

Vaccinate Hosts Just as important as decreasing breeding populations is an additional step: decreasing the number of infected or susceptible hosts that are available to mosquitoes. Horses are terminal hosts for mosquito-borne diseases; they get sick when mosquitoes bite other infected animals, often birds, and then pass the disease along to healthy horses that they bite next. But horse people are fortunate to have effective EEE, WEE, and WNV vaccines that offer disease protection when properly used. Although the Association of American Equine Practitioners recommends that you vaccinate your horse in the spring,


land. That means that controlling their populations requires a dual land/water effort. “Fourth, their reproductive potential permits for rapid development of insecticide resistance,” she says. “And fifth is their ability to detect a host and feed on it without being detected. I can probably write a book on why they are great vectors!” Mosquitoes do need a few things to thrive, though: water for their immature stage, warmth for continued development, land for their adult stage, hosts to feed from, and lack of strong winds. Dr. Trout Fryxell’s team calls these factors “predictors” because they help predict when and where mosquitoes and their pathogens will occur. “This varies by region, though,” she says. “In Tennessee, the predictors include rainfall, temperature, mosquito access to infected reservoirs (corvids), mosquito access to uninfected hosts (horses), and immunity (use of vaccines, previous exposures, etc.).” The long-held wisdom is that rain and heat produce more mosquitoes, but the research Dr. Trout Fryxell cites indicates that it’s not that simple. A hard rain, for example, may flush mosquito eggs and larvae from oviposition sites. A drought may cause hosts—including horses—to gather in larger numbers at fewer water



| 2018 Health & Nutrition Guide

In areas where mosquitoes are active yearround, veterinarians may recommend more than a single annual vaccination.


before mosquitoes appear, it’s more complex than that. Your veterinarian knows the best protocol for your horse and your region. In areas where mosquitoes are active year-round, for example, veterinarians may recommend more than a single annual vaccination. Horses with unknown vaccination history may also require two doses, four to six weeks apart. Foals, broodmares, and other special cases may require extra support as well. Rarely, horses that contracted and survived previous EEE, WEE, or WNV infections may have already developed lifelong immunity. But some medications can change that immunity, as can advancing age. In general, horses younger than five years old, older than 15 years, or with an unknown vaccination history are the most vulnerable. Dr. Kateryn Rochon, assistant professor of veterinary entomology at the University of Manitoba, cautions against the mistake that some horse owners make in northern climates; they think vaccinations are less important in cooler areas. “Even if the vaccine is recommended, owners sometimes don't vaccinate against West Nile Virus, for example, unless they think it's going to be ‘a bad mosquito year.’” The problem with that logic, she says, is that no one can accurately predict weather that far in advance, “and by the time we have the indicators to show it's likely to be ‘a bad mosquito year’ or ‘a bad West Nile year,’ it's too late: the vaccine must be administered many weeks prior to exposure. By the time the virus arrives, it's too late to vaccinate.” Even among vaccinated horses, with practices in place to decrease mosquito breeding sites, it’s a good idea to further protect your horse by turning out during non-peak mosquito times (dawn and dusk), considering scrim sheets as physical barriers, and using fans to create a breeze that makes it harder for mosquitoes to reach your horse. As mosquito-borne diseases affect society more through Zika, Chikungunya, Dengue fever, and other issues, it’s critical to be involved in preventing the spread of disease. You are protecting more than your horse, your pets, or wild bird populations; you are protecting yourself and your family as well. “Managing and controlling a mosquito population benefits everyone,” Dr. Trout Fryxell says, “except the mosquitoes and their pathogens.”

2018 Health & Nutrition Guide



At only Frankie 864 pounds , alert a still appear n e found d curious w d . hen

Frankie after being saved by the Horse Protection Agency of Florida.




| 2018 Health & Nutrition Guide

Across the news and social media, we see and hear horror stories of horses being neglected, mistreated, and abandoned. Bringing a horse practically back to life can be a scary and difficult feat, but it is possible and rewarding. Here are a few stories of rescue horses given a second chance.



Woody was saved by his current owner, Leslie, who now rides him in Third Level dressage.



Woody is now a 15-year-old sport pony registered with the United States Equestrian Federation and United States Dressage Federation. When owner Leslie Ann Guilbault of Double A Equestrians and Linden Wood Farms in Durham, NH, found him in July 2014, he was 11 and very skinny. “He was very afraid of people, you could barely touch or catch him,” says Leslie. “We kept his halter on at all times, and he even still wears his halter in turnout.” Initially, Woody just spent a couple of months putting weight back on and being comfortable in his new home. As for feed, Leslie still has Woody on a 14% low fat grain and an allaround complete supplement. “He gets good quality hay and lots of love,” Leslie says. At first, Woody would go out all day and would be groomed, but no exercise was introduced quite yet. “At some point I started just doing some ground work, lightly longing him, and spending time getting him used to a saddle,” shares

Leslie. Woody was saved by his current owner, Leslie, who now rides him in Third Level dressage. “I had no idea whether he had been ridden or not, so we just took it one step at a time.” Leslie spent the next six months doing ground work and desensitizing Woody. “I took it very slow with him, often with steps forward and then steps back,” Leslie shares. Riding was not introduced until the winter. Leslie worked with him all season and eventually took him to a schooling show the following summer. Woody moved on to being a school horse, though mostly on the longe line, to be safe. “He had a bit of a set back with a student while mounting him. She kind of panicked for no reason then he jumped and he was a little difficult to mount for a while after that,” Leslie shares. Woody took some time off until Leslie returned from Florida in January of 2017, when she had some spare time to start working with him again. By working with Woody four to five days a week, Leslie helped rebuild his confidence and strength, and since the two have been working to compete more aggressively in the dressage ring. “Since then, I ride him five days a week, compete him, and plan to take him up the levels,” says Leslie. Woody’s biggest challenge, according to Leslie, is that he's very afraid of people and being touched. “We still struggle with that,” shares Leslie. “If you move the wrong way, too quickly, or he misreads your intentions, he backs away.” Though he breaks the crossties and runs away in the paddock, Leslie knows he does not mean to harm anyone and that his trust in her will grow.. “He is not afraid of things, just people, and gaining his trust has been the hardest part,” she adds.

Frankie Frankie is a Thoroughbred gelding who, when he was found by the Horse Protection Association of Florida (HPAF) in Micanopy, FL, was guessed to be approximately 24 years old, weighed 864 pounds, had a Henneke body scale rating of one, and was severely emaciated. Initially, Frankie received half a pound of senior feed and half a pound of alfalfa hay every three hours from 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., free choice grass, salt, and minerals. When found, he had diarrhea, likely caused by sand ingestion, which was resolved in one day with feeding only. After this, Frankie coliced three times, on day 10, 12, and 13. “We usually begin new arrivals on ranitidine from day one, but Frankie was already being fed six quarts of grain twice daily by his new owner of three days with no ill effects, so we did not think he needed the ulcer medication,” states HPAF Executive 2018 Health & Nutrition Guide


Underweight and pregnant, Zera was in bad shape when rescued.

condition score of five. Being a senior, Frankie did not need a lot of exercise. So, like all rescues at HPAF, he lives out in a grass paddock for free choice exercise. Morgan updates us on modern-day Frankie, “He now trots and gallops around daily and is a whole new horse, looking more like a spry teenager than the weary old horse we first met.”

Zera, saved by the Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society, recovered and was able to be ridden.

Director Morgan Silver. After the third colic, he was started on ranitidine and given a mineral gastric drench, which alleviated the colic episodes. By day 30, Frankie had gained 79 pounds and was taken off of ulcer medication. Sixty days after his arrival at HPAF, Frankie had gained 181 pounds and had a body 26


| 2018 Health & Nutrition Guide

The Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society in College Station, TX, acquired Zera at the age of 15, with a body condition on the Henneke scale of about two, and pregnant. She is guessed to be a Quarter Horse, according to President Dr. Jennifer Williams. Zera came to the rescue from a law enforcement case where she, along with another mare and a gelding, were all removed from negligent owners. “We did not know Zera was pregnant when she arrived,” shares Dr. Williams. “She came in with a gelding and there was no mention of a stallion on the property, however as she gained weight, she began to look pregnant and we had her pregnancy checked about a month and a half after she arrived.” The vet could not get a good ultrasound image but estimated, based on palpation, that she was due in March or April. For Zera, the biggest challenge was finding out she was pregnant about six weeks after she arrived. When a horse is pregnant, their dietary needs are much different. “We moved her (slowly) to a higher protein feed and carefully monitored her health and development of her foal,” states Dr. Williams. We really wanted to have her at a healthy weight before he was born, but we had to balance that with the need to avoid re-feeding syndrome.” Re-feeding syndrome can occur when there is a quick introduction of large amounts of concentrates that causes organ failure. Bluebonnet has an uncommon approach to feed and supplements. “For feed, we generally find the type of feed less important than the amount and the care taken when introducing feed,” states Dr. Williams. And as for supplements, they hardly use any at all, a course of action that was approved by their vets. Since Zera was pregnant, Bluebonnet felt she did not need to be forced exercise. “We kept her in pasture with a submissive horse; we did not want her kicked while pregnant and we wanted to make sure she had access to food,” Dr. Williams shares. When her pregnancy became more advanced, she was moved into a stall with a paddock, so she could move around freely but was not pushed to exercise. Zera gave birth successfully to a small, but otherwise healthy colt, who is now a yearling. Dr. Williams shares, “We were lucky to get her weight up before her foal was born in early February.” Once her foal was born, Zera and the colt were moved out to pasture together, again, giving her the opportunity to exercise freely. After her foal was old enough to wean, short exercise sessions on a longe line began. She moved up to line driving,



2018 Health & Nutrition Guide


With Sugar’s age and overall physical condition, Massacusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals did not see her as a riding prospect.

Rehabilitators' Thoughts

and then saddle work. “This gave us a chance to build her strength and bring her back into shape while also learning what training she had,” says Dr. Williams. “I realize that pregnant mares are often worked and ridden. We did not do that with Zera since she was also very underweight and out of shape.”




| 2018 Health & Nutrition Guide


Sugar was surrendered through law enforcement as a 13-year-old Quarter Horse mare in December of 2017 to the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) at Nevins Farm in Methuen, MA. The owner suffered from severe dementia and continually forgot to feed her horse that was living in her backyard. After veterinary examination, it is actually believed Sugar is closer to 25 years old. Her body score on the Henneke scale was a one out of nine. “In Sugar's case, since her age and overall health did not make her a suitable riding candidate, our biggest concern was getting her weight back,” shares Elizabeth Monteith, manager of the Equine and Farm Animal Program at MSPCA at Nevins Farm. This meant working closely with the veterinarians to get her stabilized and gaining weight without throwing too much at her. She was primarily given hay for a few weeks to get something in her system and slowly integrated a high fat grain, supplemented with caloric additives like oil. She eventually was mowing down two full scoops of grain each morning and night and four flakes of hay, first and second cut combined, three times a day. “It was incredible to watch her spirit grow as she felt better and better,” says Elizabeth. “She ended up gaining hundreds of pounds and left us at an ideal body score!” As for exercise, Sugar got daily turnout plus hand-grazing and walking. She was not a riding prospect, but a great pasture pal to many horses who came through the property in her tenure there. She ended up becoming very close with Dolly, a Percheron mare seized by law enforcement in July 2017. The duo ended up finding a home together at Dog Tales Rescue/ Sanctuary in Ontario, Canada.

When it comes to the biggest concerns for rehabilitating a rescue horse, our interviewees had a few notes. “It is important to give them time,” states Leslie.” They need time to put weight on, to get the nutrients they need back in their system, and to get healthy.” After they are physically recovering, then the mental health needs to be focused on as well. “They need time to trust and to understand what will be expected of them,” says Leslie. “It takes time for them to trust you, to settle in to their routine, and to be comfortable with their environment.” Morgan brings up how stress of the horse can play a part. “Ulcers can cause colic, resulting in the horse going down, stressing themselves from the pain, and the possibility of being unable to rise due to weakness,” Morgan shares. “All debilitated horses should be placed on ulcer medication immediately before being loaded onto a trailer for initial transport as their stomachs can rupture from the stress of transport.” “In my experience, re-feeding syndrome is the biggest concern for horses in body condition less than two, but it can still happen with horses in other horses,” shares Dr. Williams. “Because of this, our horses are fed small amounts of feed in the beginning, often three to four times (or more) per day.” Other than that, Dr. Williams adds that the expected overall health is concerning, not just body weight. “Most horses who come to us from neglect cases have not had routine veterinary care in years, so they’re not immunized against preventable diseases,” she says. She also mentions that dental care is a high priority, as it can prevent horses from being able to eat properly. If you are considering taking in a rescue, there are a few things you need to know and need to expect. “Before taking in a rescue, you have to be prepared to be patient,” Leslie says. “You have to let the horse dictate what they are ready for, when they need you to slow down and explain things better.” Leslie stresses the need for patience as well. “You have to be willing to give them the time they need, it could be months, it could be years, you can’t rush anything, that’s when things will go badly.” Dr. Williams and Morgan remind us of the obvious, the cost. “Re-feeding can be very expensive, while in the beginning the horses are getting small meals, eventually you work up to larger meals of good quality food,” Dr. Williams says. “In the case of older horses, those with other health problems, and pregnant and nursing mares, the cost of feed can be several hundred dollars a month and rehab may be as short as two or three months or as long as more than seven.” Elizabeth adds on that there is no fast way to recover a horse, “Every horse's needs vary based on their mental and physical state and the damage may not be as obvious as severe starvation,” she states. “It's important to work closely with an experienced veterinarian when rehabilitating an animal and enlist the help of trustworthy behaviorists and trainers.”

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2018 Health & Nutrition Guide  

Published by Equine Journal

2018 Health & Nutrition Guide  

Published by Equine Journal