Horse Health

Include Horse Health as a Consideration in Show Prep

January 11, 2014

Vaccinations can help keep your horses performing at their best.

At a show, your horse is exposed to several other horses who may have horse health issues.

At a show, your horse is exposed to several other horses who may have horse health issues.

From AQHA Corporate Partner Zoetis

Looking ahead to spring shows, you should expect to bring home only one thing – the grand prize, not a sick horse. Unfortunately, shows can be a breeding ground for disease transfer.

Whenever you expose your horses to other horses, you pose a risk to their health. But there are things you can do to help protect your horse from disease – most important, vaccinations. For the control of infectious diseases, vaccinations are an integral part of good equine management to help maximize the health, productivity and performance of horses.1 Read the rest of this entry »

Winter Horse Health Care

December 19, 2013

Tips to ensure that your horses stay healthy in colder weather.


Winters can be harsh, but if you are prepared, your horses can withstand even the toughest conditions. Journal photo.

From AQHA Corporate Partner Zoetis

Depending on where you live, your horses may have harsh winter conditions heading their way. Whether your horse is kept at an indoor facility or pastured, take some simple steps to maintain a healthy horse during winter.

Before winter hits, work with a veterinarian to create a wellness program that incorporates parasite control, vaccinations, routine veterinary care, dental exams, nutritional guidance and barn hygiene. Based on your geographic location and level of activity and travel, your veterinarian can recommend any additional vaccines you might need before winter.

An AQHA membership is the Christmas present that keeps on giving all year long. Join now or purchase for the horse-lover in your family to receive savings on your favorite brands and products, a subscription to America’s Horse magazine, and access to all of AQHA’s resources and rewards programs. Join now!

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Examining Form to Function

December 12, 2013

Hind-end conformation can affect horse health and performance.

Conformation can play a major role in horse health, possibly preventing future unsoundness and pain. Journal photo.

Conformation can play a major role in horse health, possibly preventing future unsoundness and pain. Journal photo.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal.

When a horse’s bone structure differs from the ideal, it’s called a structural deviation. Although a conformation fault is not inherently problematic, it can cause major issues if unsoundness, lameness or other health concerns develop as a result.

Jim Heird is the Executive Professor and Coordinator at Texas A&M University’s Equine Program. He along with Don Topliff, Ph.D., and AQHA Professional Horseman Jeffrey Pait, are responsible for instructing fellow AQHA judges on conformation evaluation. Here they explain the common structural deviations in hind limbs.

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Why Routine Dental Care Matters

December 5, 2013

Early detection of problems can help improve horse health this winter.

Journal photo.

Proper dental care is essential for great horse health. Journal illustration.

From AQHA Corporate Partner Zoetis

Winter can be a difficult time for horses to keep weight on, so don’t wait until your horse is showing signs of weight loss to discover that routine dental care is the solution. Along with scheduling comprehensive dental exams, knowing the signs of when your horse is experiencing problems is just as vital.

Catching dental problems early is a central part of your horse’s oral health. Indications that horses are having problems can include dropping of feed while chewing, nasal discharge, foul-smelling breath, weight loss and facial swellings. These all call for immediate attention.1 You might see clear signs of pain or irritation in your horse, such as fighting the bit or tossing his or her head. Early detection of these potential problems allows for faster intervention, which can minimize the impact of the problem for your companion.1 Read the rest of this entry »

Wound First Aid

November 21, 2013

Horse-health tips to ensure that wounds heal as quickly as possible.

Some essential items for wound first aid. Journal photo.

Some essential items for wound first aid. Journal photo.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal.

The cut was a small, seemingly minor scrape that most horse owners would treat themselves. In fact, the owners treated the wound themselves. They cleaned the wound and administered penicillin and phenylbutazone. Four days later, the horse became lame.

The condition worsened, and three days later, they were referred to Dr. Ted Stashak, who at that time, was at Colorado State University’s Vet Teaching Hospital. The horse was diagnosed with septic arthritis of the coffin joint and also suffered laminitis in his other forefoot from uneven weight bearing.

“It was a case that could have been managed with a high degree of success with less cost had it been brought in shortly after the injury to have it examined,” Dr. Stashak says.

Horses have a way of sustaining injuries, no matter how alert their owners are. Knowledge and preparedness are a horseman’s best first aid.

Read the rest of this entry »

Calculate Your Horse’s Risk of Equine Influenza

November 15, 2013

Zoetis’ app helps horse owners assess danger to horse health.

The economic risk calculator can help horse owners make important decisions about the horses health. Journal photo.

The economic risk calculator can help horse owners make important decisions about the horses health.
Photo courtesy of AQHA Corporate Sponsor Zoetis.

From AQHA Corporate Partner Zoetis.

Trips to shows, training sessions and other events can put horse health to the test this fall and winter.  Zoetis has developed an app for mobile devices that lets horse owners assess environmental risks that can compromise horse health, costing time and money.

The app prompts users for the approximate cost of vaccination, as well as the potential cost of treatment and the number of days off training in the case of an equine influenza infection. Using this information, the app calculates individual risk based o economic and environmental factors of each horse owner. The Equine Influenza Calculator app is available for free in the Apple App Store.

Read the rest of this entry »

Feeding for Healthy Hooves

November 7, 2013

Hoof nutrition is an important component of horse health.


As competitors, we expect our horses to perform at their peaks at every show, rodeo or race. A performance horse’s hoof quality is important to consider when trying to reach the winner’s circle. Journal photo.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

The pickup and trailer are hooked up, filled with diesel and tires checked. Clothes are pressed, and entry fees are paid. Practice went well this week, and Sheila King is anxious to get to the next rodeo. The last thing to do before heading down the road is to catch her American Quarter Horse, “Skippy.” There’s only one problem: Skippy lost a shoe that was put on three days earlier. The bare foot is cracked and beginning to break off. Knowing she can’t compete now, Sheila turns him loose and goes to the house to call the farrier.

This is an all-too-common scenario for many horse owners. Hoof nutrition is often overshadowed in the normal feeding regimen but should not be forgotten. Without strong, healthy hooves, horses can’t perform at their full potential. Dr. Jim Ward, an equine management consultant for AQHA Corporate Partner Nutrena, gave the Journal these tips for hoof health:

Read the rest of this entry »

Horse Leg Deformities

October 31, 2013

Flexural limb deformities of the coffin joint are not career-ending horse health concerns if they are managed early.

In Type II deformity, the hoof wall is angled beyond perpendicular (90 degrees), and the hoof buckles forward with the heels off the ground. Photo courtesy of Nathaniel White.

In Type II deformity, the hoof wall is angled beyond perpendicular (90 degrees), and the hoof buckles forward with the heels off the ground. Photo courtesy of Nathaniel White.

From The Quarter Horse Racing Journal.

Hopes and dreams are pinned inside the foaling stall. But a foal that stands on its tiptoes, its front legs unable to function well enough for a proper walk, can dash the dreams of a breeder set on a performance career.

The good news is that flexural limb deformities – which can occur in the knee, fetlock and coffin joint – won’t necessarily end an athletic career before it can even begin. Experts say they can be treated successfully, especially if addressed early.

There are two conditions that may develop to cause deformities in the coffin bone. Read the rest of this entry »

Take the Stress out of Grooming and Basic Horse Health Care

October 24, 2013

Mild sedation is safer and easier than ever with DORMOSEDAN GEL® (detomidine hydrochloride).

Journal photo.

A mild sedative can make horse health tasks such as grooming, trimming and shoeing an easier and safer experience. Journal photo.

From AQHA Corporate Partner Zoetis.

Some horses simply don’t like some procedures, and if they don’t like it, their sheer size and power can make it difficult and often unsafe for them and anyone around them.  Mane pulling, sheath cleaning, body clipping, hoof trimming and changing a bandage can all be troublesome at times.

DORMOSEDAN GEL® (detomidine hydrochloride) can make one or all of these standard horse care procedures easier and safer for you and your horse. Prescribed by a veterinarian, DORMOSEDAN GEL is a mild sedative in an oral dose-adjustable applicator similar to a deworming tube that is easy and safe enough for horse owners to administer themselves.

Read the rest of this entry »

Chronic Colic May Mean Enteroliths

October 17, 2013

Intestinal stones can have a huge impact on horse health.

Enteroliths can range in dimension from small pebbles to softball-size stones. Journal photo.

Enteroliths can range in dimension from small pebbles to softball-size stones. Journal photo.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal.

“You’ve got to see this,” the stallion manager said.

He stepped into the mare barn office and came out with what looked like a rock in his hand.

“Wow, a geode,” I said.

“Nope,” he said with a smile. “That’s an ‘enterolith.’”

Enteroliths, which look like rocks, can occur in a horse’s intestine and cause blockage, colic or worse. Dr. Diana Hassel, who spent years researching equine enteroliths at the University of California-Davis shares the symptoms and factors that contribute to enterolith formation. Learn to recognize the signs to improve your horse’s health.

What Is an Enterolith?

The term comes from two greek root words: “enthro,” referring to the intestine, and “lith,” meaning stone; literally, a stone found in the intestine.

They are made up of a variety of minerals and elements, but primarily magnesium ammonium and phosphate. The stones form around a small foreign object such as a piece of wood, metal, plastic or even a small pebble that has found its way into the intestine.

Order AQHA’s “Common Horse Health Issues” report to learn more about colic, strangles, allergies and other health problems horse owners may face. Not only is this a great learning resource, but it could mean catching something detrimental early and saving your horse.

Diet is the largest contributing factor to their formation. A high mineral content within the large colon and a high, or alkaline, pH can create the ideal conditions. Feeds and hays that create that kind of intestinal environment in a horse link directly to the risk of enterolith growth.

“Alfalfa hay is the biggest risk factor for the disease in the studies we’ve done,” Dr. Hassel says. “It not only provides the mineral content for producing the stone, but also contributes to creating the appropriate pH in the intestine through its buffering capacity.”

However, Dr. Hassel is far from discouraging horse owners from feeding alfalfa to their horses. The richness and mineral content of the hay varies region-to-region, which may make forage testing even more important.

“It all stems originally from the actual soil and water in the area. Those minerals leach into the hay from the soil and water, contributing to the content of the hay. It may be more a function of that, combined with the way horses are managed, than the alfalfa hay itself.” A horse’s water supply may also play a role, as it allows for more impaction.

Certain management conditions – such as limited turnout, stall confinement, infrequent feeding or feeding low-fiber feedstuffs – appear to be the greatest factors. They reduce the movement of bulk feed material through the large intestine, providing a good environment for stones to grow.

“I suspect that there’s a genetic component to the disease, as well,” Dr. Hassel says.

“Not that there’s one horse’s genes that led to this disease,” she clarifies. “I mean differences in those genes that affect the physiology of the intestine.”

How easily enteroliths form in a horse’s intestine might be linked to how a horse’s intestine has been genetically programmed to process particular minerals.

It is unlikely that a horse that may be genetically predisposed will develop stones without the other environmental conditions.

How Do I Know if My Horse Has Enteroliths?

The problem often surfaces as colic, often chronic, of varying degrees of pain that have no apparent explanation.

Do you know how to recognize when a colicking horse? Do you know how to manage a strangles outbreak? These health issues affect horses around the world on a daily basis. Order AQHA’s “Common Horse Health Issues” report to brush up on your equine health knowledge or just to have on hand in the barn.

The kind of colic usually depends on the size of the stones.

“The softball size, or slightly smaller, are the most dangerous, because they can get into the small colon,” Dr. Hassel says. “They get irreversibly lodged there, cause necrosis and rupture.

Horses with one larger enterolith in the large colon often have a history of chronic colic.

“The larger stones act as a hinge valve,” Dr. Hassel says. “They roll up into place and cause an obstruction, and then roll back away with gravity.”

Unfortunately, the only sure way to tell your horse has enteroliths is to find them, either in manure, via X-ray, or in the intestine after abdominal surgery or necropsy.

Keep in mind that it takes a combination of factors for a horse to form enteroliths: a diet that fosters a high intestinal mineral content and pH, lack of daily pasture turnout, geographic location and sometimes a genetic predisposition to forming them.

Enteroliths have the potential to become very harmful to a horse’s health. If you find one of these out in the pasture or in a manure pile, or if a horse experiences chronic colic that can’t be explained, it may be time to visit the vet.

A Horse Health App

September 26, 2013

Zoetis introduces new tool to help guide vaccination-purchase decisions.


This app from Zoetis will help horse owners calculate the cost of vaccinating, or not. Photo courtesy of Zoetis.

From AQHA Corporate Partner Zoetis.

Vaccinations are important for horse health and are worth the investment, especially when considering the cost of disease and treatment. With a new WEST NILE-INNOVATOR app available from Zoetis, horse owners can now use the Equine Encephalomyelitis Calculator to see this investment for themselves by evaluating the economic risk and expense of not vaccinating against certain mosquito-borne illnesses.

The WEST NILE-INNOVATOR app is available for free in the Apple® App Store®. Its customizable Equine Encephalomyelitis Calculator allows horse owners to estimate the risks and costs associated with certain mosquito-borne viral diseases – including West Nile and eastern, western and Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis in both vaccinated* and unvaccinated horses** – based on the value of their horse. As a default, the calculator factors an average horse valued at approximately $2,500. The calculator predicts that, if left unvaccinated, this horse can have up to a 12.9 percent risk of clinical disease if West Nile virus affects the premises or barn. The calculator estimates costs to be up to $614.86 for a horse unvaccinated and just $47.91 for a horse vaccinated annually. With annual vaccination with WEST-NILE INNOVATOR, this horse can have up to a 30 times lower risk of West Nile.

Read the rest of this entry »

Riding Easy

September 19, 2013

Protect your horse’s health with these five tips to reduce trailering stress.

Before loading your horse into the trailer, keep these five steps in mind to keep him safe and minimize stress.

From AQHA corporate partner Merial

Traveling, training and showing horses can all cause stress, and potentially, ulcers.

One result from these stressors may be equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS), a disease prevalent across all breeds, disciplines and ages.

In fact, EGUS can develop quickly, sometimes in as little as five days. Read the rest of this entry »