This time of year, it's good to be a horse vet. The weather is delightful, and we get to see lots of healthy patients for routine things - vaccines, dentistry, reproductive work. Foals have been arriving for a few months now, and you have to admit, there is not much cuter than a newborn foal. Cuteness aside, however, deciding to breed horses is a big decision, and not one to be taken lightly. If this is something you have been considering for your mare or stallion, read on.
A pregnant mare with Cushings disease
The first consideration, when it comes to breeding any animal should be the quality of the individual. You must be as objective as possible about this. Having a lovely personality is great, but remember that each parent passes on 50% of his or her genetic material to the next generation. Take a critical look at conformation, hoof quality, metabolic condition... are there outstanding characteristics which will improve the breed, or be likely to create a foal with great potential? Or are there potential genetic characteristics that we would rather not pass on to any offspring? If you are considering breeding a mare because she is not able to be ridden, be very honest with yourself about why she is not ridable. Did a random injury occur? Or does she have an underlying conformational problem which has predisposed her to injury? Has she been unridable because of a behavioral issue? If you are not sure, a complete veterinary examination may help you decide.
The next consideration needs to be your goal for the offspring. What is the plan for this new foal? Are you looking to create your next riding horse? Will this foal be up for sale? Be very sure about what your intent is. It's a sad fact, but we must remember that we have a surplus of unwanted horses in this country - many of the foals produced end up at auction or worse. To avoid contributing to that problem, it's crucial to only breed animals with great potential, and only when there is a "future" in mind for the prospective foal. Breeding "just because" foals are adorable, or you want to experience a newborn, or you're not doing anything else with the mare, are not good reasons to breed. (This should go without saying, but we've heard it before.)
Dr. Leighton inseminating a mare
So, let's assume you have an award-winning mare with excellent conformation and pedigree, you've selected an equally outstanding stallion which will complement her genetics, and you have several people clamoring for the prospective foal. Excellent. On to the next thing to consider. Is the mare sound to be bred? Even if the mare has successfully been bred and produced healthy foals before, if it has been a while or she is new to you, it never hurts to have a breeding soundness exam performed prior to trying to breed her. (The same goes for a stallion.) If the mare has had foaling difficulties in the past, it is essential to have her fully examined before trying again.
We could go on and on, but you get the idea. Breeding horses (or any species!) is a much bigger consideration than just finding two individuals with the required parts. Responsible breeding requires time and patience, but can be very rewarding when done correctly. A healthy foal with a good future for a long happy life is a goal we can all strive for.
Feeding off of our last post on nutrition (pun intended), we thought we would talk briefly about the amount that horses are fed. When talking to clients about nutrition, we often ask "How much are you feeding your horse?" Usually the answer is something along the lines of "A half a scoop twice a day." But what exactly is a scoop and is it an appropriate amount to be feeding?
Scoops come in a variety of sizes, and we use the term pretty loosely. It can be applied to anything from a 1/2 cup measuring cup, to a #10 coffee can, or even a shovel! That can make it difficult to communicate to your vet exactly how much you're feeding. Knowing the volume of your scoop can be helpful, however different feeds have different densities. One scoop of sweet feed does not necessarily equal one scoop of pellets.
Nutrition is an extremely important aspect of equine health. We have many discussions with clients regarding this topic and decided we should write down our thoughts to share with everyone else. (If you are one of our clients reading this, you've probably heard it before! We did do a newsletter on it last year.) This can be a confusing subject, so we'll try to simplify things to make bit of sense out of all of the options that are available. So let's get started. Bon appetit!
As the show season starts to come into view, there's a lot to prepare for. Training your horse, getting your registration in , finding time to sleep. In the middle of all of these preparations, it's important to consider the safety of you, your horse and any travelling companions you may have. Here are some things to keep in mind as you hit the road again this spring.
Trailering a horse can be a difficult task. It can be even more difficult when you don't have the right equipment! Before you pull out of your driveway, make sure that you have taken a close look at your trailer, hitch and wiring. Do you have the right size ball on your truck? Can you hitching mechanism handle the load which you are about to haul? All tires on the towing vehicle and trailer should be checked to be sure the air pressure is appropriate. If you have a dually, check the inside tires and always remember the spare! Also, make sure the flooring of the trailer is in good condition. Pull up any mats and look under them - floorboards can rot through and you may not even know. The bearings should be checked and greased annually, as well. For a full checklist of important things to bring with you on your trip, click here.
Sometimes it seems that the horse's gastrointestinal tract is just looking for a way to cause problems for everyone. If it's not impaction colic, it's gastric ulcers. If it's not colic, it's choke. Most people know what "choke" is in horses, but it can be a little confusing. Afterall, when people are choking, they can't breathe, right? So why don't horses who are "choking" need the Heimlich?
This year's annual conference of the American Association of Equine Practitioners was held in not-so-sunny Anaheim, CA. (Unfortunately it rained the whole time we were there!). Both Drs. Leighton and Kornatowski were able to travel this year and not only were we able to glean some new information, we got involved and we picked up some new equipment as well! (For a description on what goes on at these meetings, please see last year's post on the AAEP Convention Wrap-up.)
There is a lot that can go wrong inside a horse's abdomen. When something does go wrong, and we start seeing symptoms, we refer to it as "colic". If you've worked around horses for long enough, you've seen the signs - inappetance, pawing at the ground, lifting the upper lip, rolling... it can be pretty scary. Colic just means "abdminal pain", however most often we use it to refer to a problem with the gastrointestinal tract. The horse's intestinal tract, like ours, is made up of the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. In this blog post, we are going to discuss a specific disorder that affects the small intestine - "anterior enteritis". This is a complex disorder, which can be confusing - we'll try our best to keep things as simple and clear as possible, and try to make sense of this dangerous disease.
While writing October's newsletter, we decided that we needed to split the information up a little. Since the newsletter is speaking more about the acute injury and management of those wounds, we thought it would be best to write a quick note about dealing with more chronic wounds. The newsletter will be out on Monday - if you're not subscribed, click here!
One of the primary goals of wound management is to not allow it to become chronic. For whatever reason (sometimes a decreased immune system - older horses, Cushing's disease, or chronic steroid use), this isn't always possible. When wounds do become chronic, we have to keep a few things in mind and may need to treat them a bit differently than acute wounds.
Our final installment is finally here! (I know, it's a sad day for us, too). This post is going to focus on those things in the pasture that don't usually cause major problems, but can prove to be annoying or concerning until the cause can be found. For the most part, no action is really required for any of these plants other than removing the horse from the source (or removing the source from the horse, of course!)
Buttercups: These bright yellow colored flowers are most commonly found in the spring. They come in several varieties including tall, creeping, meadow and celery leafed. There are usually five leaves, but there can be six and they have a shiny luster which attracts pollen spreading insects.
The toxic principle of buttercups is called "ranunculin" as the weed is part of the Ranunculus genus. When eaten fresh, the toxin has an irritating effect on mucus membranes. Blisters are often seen along with oral ulcerations and possibly drooling. The acrid taste usually makes them unpalatable, however animals residing in overgrazed fields may eat them out of desperation. Continued ingestion may cause further GI damage and lead to colic or diarrhea, however animals quickly learn to leave buttercups alone and it rarely progresses beyond oral irritation. Once dried, the toxin becomes neutralized, so don't worry if you see it in your hay.
In our last post, we talked about ornamental plants that could pose a problem to your horse. This time around, we're going to discuss some weeds that you might find in your pasture that can cause serious issues if ingested. So let's jump right into it!
Yellow Star Thistle: This brightly colored invasive species is more common in the west, but it does show up in areas along the east coast. While the flower does not seem very palatable, if grasses are sparse, horses may ingest this plant. It may also accidentally be ingested during general grazing.
After chronic ingestion (meaning they have to eat a lot of it over a period of time), signs may begin to appear. The toxins in yellow star thistle affect a specific area of the brain which affects the horse's ability to take in food. They are able to use their incisors to pull food into their mouth, but they cannot move it back to their molars. They will show difficulty when trying to drink and may progress to further neurologic signs, such as depression, ataxia and circling. No specific treatment is available other than supportive care. Affected horses do not recover, however they may be able to learn how to deal with their difficulty.