Cooler weather

Cooler weather

Tuesdays with Tony

I sure am loving these cooler temperatures, aren’t you? The horses seem to be enjoying them as well. I’ve even noticed that some horses are starting to get their winter coats. Personally, I’m not ready for my minions to break out my flannel. In fact, if that thing were to go missing, I would not be upset.

Every year about this time my docs start to see a rise in the number of colics and I get numerous questions about how to best prepare for the cooler weather ahead. The best way to prepare is to spend as much time as possible napping in the warm sunshine, soak it all up and you will be one happy cat. Preparing your horses for the cooler temperatures is a little more involved, from clipping to blanketing to preventing the dreaded colic.

Clipping

Once, and only once, did I allow the humans to clip me. Granted, it was just my belly for some diagnostics but still, don’t think that I will ever let that happen again. Horses, on the other hand, tend to require clipping more frequently than us cats. I suppose that’s because they don’t spend hours a day grooming themselves. Here in Florida, horses like to blow their winter coat long before it’s actually cold. The days get shorter, so horses think it’s time to grow a thick coat to prepare for the colder weather. What they don’t seem to realize is that we live in Florida where the highs are still well into the 80s even in October and November, and the humidity is, well, suffocating at times. This is really when clipping becomes important.

While clipping for a horse show is all well and good, clipping for function can prevent problems from arising. A long coat and a hot, humid day are recipe for skin funk. Not only is dermatitis a pain to get rid of, it can also be painful and irritating to your horse.  By clipping your horse’s body and legs you can help prevent moisture from getting trapped in that thick coat, thus preventing the development of the dreaded skin funk. If you do find yourself with a horse with rain rot or other skin issues, just reach for your handy-dandy CK shampoo and salve.

Sometimes a full body clip is not always what is best for your horse.  Trace clips come in super handy in these situations.  There are about a million different types of trace clips, just pick one you like and that works for you and off you go. That being said, a trace clip still leaves your horse prone to developing dermatitis over his back. Be sure to dry your horse thoroughly after every ride.

Horses with full winter coats are at an increased risk of overheating when the days get up into the 80s. Horses with Cushings and/or anhidrosis (non-sweaters) are at even more risk during hot days when their coats are very thick. Overheated horses are prone to many illnesses including laminitis, organ failure, and even death. Keeping that heavy winter coat off of them can certainly help reduce the risk of overheating.

Blanketing

Now that you’ve clipped your horse, it’s probably going to get unbearably cold. You know and I know that if it dips below 50 in Florida, we’re all freezing. The humans break out the winter coats and even I stick to the indoors. Just because you’re cold does not mean your horse is cold. And every horse is different in their tolerance of cold. There are a few guidelines to follow when it comes to blanketing your horse. If your horse has been fully body clipped, a stable sheet below 50 degrees and a stable blanket below 40 degrees should suffice. On those nights when it gets down to the 30s you can double up and put both stable sheet and stable blanket on.

If your horse has a trace clip you shouldn’t need more than a stable sheet below 40 and a blanket if it gets into the 30s. Most horses who have not been clipped don’t require any blanketing. Instead, just feed them a little extra hay and that will help them regulate their temperatures. It is also important to consider what environment your horse is in. If he is in his stall, a stable sheet and blanket will do, but if he stays outside, always make sure he is in a weatherproof sheet or blanket. No one likes to be wet under a blanket. If you have more questions on blanketing, just ask my docs what they recommend for your horse. In the meantime, I will be hiding my flannel somewhere where they can’t find it.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Colic

Every time the weather changes, there’s an uptick in the number of colics my docs see. More often than not, this is because horses tend to decrease the amount of water they drink when the weather gets cooler. Therefore, they become prone to impactions and dehydration. The best way to prevent this from happening is to make sure your horse drinks plenty of water. If I have learnt nothing else in my time around horses, it is that the saying “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink” is the most true statement ever. That being said, you can force water into your horse in round-about ways.

One such way is soaking their feed. Of course, there are some horses who refuse to eat soaked feed. Your second option is to soak their hay. They inadvertently get water even if they don’t want it.  I also highly recommend adding salt to their diet. You do not need any of those fancy electrolytes or pink salts, just regular old table salt will do. About a tablespoon a day top dressed on their feed will increase your horse’s water consumption. Of course, there are those picky horses out there who just refuse to eat their feed if there is salt present in it. Alternatively, you can have free choice salt blocks around for them to decide they would like it. Even still, sometimes these tricks don’t work.

For really tough horses, you can make a “sweet tea” water. No, I do not recommend actually giving your horse sweet tea. What I do recommend is adding a handful of sweet feed, senior feed, or a bit of molasses to one water bucket so that it becomes sweet tea colored. If you choose this route, remember you MUST dump and rinse the bucket daily as the feed can ferment, mold and just get overall nasty. Also, make sure to have fresh, clean, plain water available at all times.  For other tricks and tips to increase water consumption when the temperatures drop, give the docs a call. They are always happy to discuss these things with you.

Until next time, stay warm, and hide in your flannel.
~Tony

 

P.S. As always, if want to really get your horse nerd on, be sure to check out my docs podcast page, right here. It has everything you want to know and more! 

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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The Young Horse Myth

The Young Horse Myth

Tuesdays with Tony

Ah Horse People. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from lounging on the bench at the clinic, it’s that horse people hold on to a myth as if it was a rule written into the very fabric of the universe. I’ve covered many a myth, tale, legend, and even a few quackeries in my time writing this blog. Today I’m going to cover a biggie: exercise and the young horse. If you’ve ever been to a horse event of any sort or visited the internet then you know there are feelings out there about exercise and the young horse. Let’s talk about those feelings.

The Closure of Growth Plates

Seems obvious to me. A baby. Well, with horses it’s not quite so obvious, and then add in breed differences and it gets all crazy. In general, science calls a horse “young” if there’s still growing to do. For most horses, this occurs by around 24-26 months. Yep, even you guys over there in the Arabian crowd. In fact, in a 2011 study of horse growth plates, the arabians closed the earliest! There is a study on Icelandic horses showing their growth plates closing a little later at closer to 32-36 months. For the purposes of an exercise discussion, unless your horse is an Icelandic horse, things are good at around 2 years of age as far as bones go. You will see many, many, many memes on the internet regarding time of closure of growth plates in horses. I have no idea where the information for these memes came from. Mine came from peer-reviewed journal articles and textbooks on equine anatomy. I’m a resourceful cat like that. 

But tendons and things

As a smart cat, I know there’s more than just bones in a body. There’s tendons, ligaments, muscles, and all kinds of things. What about these things in the young horse? In the wild, baby horses must be born, learn to walk, and be ready to travel miles on day one. The soft tissues come out ready to go. That’s how you survive as a prey species. Now, if you’re a topline predator like yours truly, you can come out cute as a button with your eyes sealed shut, and an inability to move more than 6” on your own. You’ve got time to figure these things out. Horses, not so much. 

But the brain

This one you can have! Of all the reasons out there for not training young horses, mental immaturity is the only valid one. It is true that some horses can’t mentally handle a job until they’ve had some time to mature. I’m about to talk about all the other reasons humans put forth. None of those are valid. This one is. If your horse isn’t handling the stress of training, back off to low level work (you’re about to find out why some work is good) that doesn’t ask as many tough questions, but don’t stop work altogether.

Racehorses fall apart because they are started too young (myth)

Just plain nope. Not true. Really false. Not discounting the racehorses falling apart thing, just the age part. That’s a whole different blog topic, and we’re not getting into that today. What I will talk about today is the plethora of research looking at young thoroughbreds and exercise. There have been several studies looking specifically at 18-month-old thoroughbreds. One group of these horses is left out in pasture to do as they please. One group is exercised 30% more than the group in pasture. Guess who didn’t suffer any injuries? Yep, the one exercised.

Next let’s talk about studies looking at bone quality and tendon and ligament strength. Horses who were exercised at young age (18-24 months) had better bone, tendon, and ligament quality than horses who only received at-will pasture exercise. The notion of exercising them young causing breakdowns just isn’t backed up by science. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Exercise the right way

Do you finally believe the cat that simply being young isn’t a reason not to exercise? Good, because I’m right. Now let’s talk about what that exercise looks like. And here’s where this wise cat thinks the myth of young horse exercise started.

You can’t hop on a 2 year old and head off to race 1 ½ miles, or jump 1.60m, or slide 35 feet. Just like anything starting any exercise, you have to gradually increase the load until the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones can support what you are asking for. Doing this at a young age has some supreme advantages. Young tissues are primed for change. Ask any orthopedic surgeon about fractures in young animals, and they will tell you as long as you keep the bones in the same room, they will heal. That’s because young bones are in a high turnover phase. So are young tendons and ligaments.

By applying workloads to young horses you are setting the system up to succeed later in life. You’re telling all those structures where forces are going to be coming from now, so they can build good foundations. Again, this doesn’t mean hop on Day 1 and work for three hours. It does mean that 15-20 minutes of work gives all the growing structures great feedback about how they’re doing and what changes they need to make. In fact, there are papers on racehorses showing horses who enter training or racing as two-year-olds race longer than those who start as three-year-olds. That’s because the system got a chance to prep for the real work of long races earlier. 

Think about what horses were designed to do in the wild. Now, I realize your horse isn’t wild. Heck, they get mad when breakfast is 10 minutes late. However, understanding evolution can help us figure out a reasonable plan for baby horses. Got a youngster and not sure what to do for work? Give my Docs a call. They will help evaluate your horse’s fitness level, and tailor a plan for good work to create good growth. 

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. Don’t forget to check out my human’s podcast. They have so many topics to pick from, they update them every 2 weeks! You can find it right here.

 

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Sand Colic

Sand Colic

Tuesdays with Tony

You know I’m a Florida cat, and what would Florida be without sand? That may have you thinking of a day at the beach with a cool drink in your hand, but my friend, if you’re a horse owner, you had better start thinking of your horse’s intestines as well! Why, you ask, would I ruin your beach daydream? Sand colic! Let’s talk about it now so you can decrease the chance you’ll have to see my docs with a sand colic emergency.

 What is sand colic?

Much of Florida’s ground is composed of sand. Horses pick up sand inadvertently as they graze, or as they search for food where there is no grass. When horses run out of grass to eat, or when the grass gets very short, this becomes even more of a problem. Sand can also be consumed if horses are fed on the ground, as they pick up their pellets of grain or stems of hay. If your horse is a messy eater, he may also drop a fair bit of grain onto the sand as he eats, and then scoop up mouthfuls of sand as he tries to pick up every last crumb.

Because sand is heavy, it will sink to the lowest part of the abdomen – that’s usually the horse’s large intestine. As the sand enters the large intestine, it generally settles flat on the bottom, taking the shape of the folds of the colon. Other intestinal contents may pass above the sand, making their way out while the sand just sits there. Sand accumulation can continue without any external signs for months to years. Eventually, it will start to cause problems. The sand will irritate the lining of the intestine, like sandpaper on the delicate tissue. Your horse may have warning signs like chronic diarrhea, weight loss, or subtle mild colic. But even worse, if enough sand is ingested, it will form a partial or complete GI obstruction, blocking the whole intestine. The sand in this case can compact and become as hard as a rock. Food can’t move around the sand impaction and gas builds up, making your horse colic. If the impaction is bad enough, sand colic can be extremely severe and require surgery to correct. Don’t wait for the warning signs of sand accumulation to occur and definitely don’t wait until he is colicky to do something about it!

 How do you know if your horse has sand?

If your horse lives in Florida, you can almost guarantee he will have picked up some sand. The question is, how much is in there? There is a rough check my docs do, and you can do at home, called a sand sediment test. It sounds fancy but it’s simple. Putting a few fecal balls into a zip lock bag (my docs use a clear plastic glove) with some water, seal the bag, and mix it up. After a few minutes, check if sand has settled to the bottom of the bag. Interpreting this test is tricky though. If there is a lot of sand in the bag, it’s a pretty good indicator that something needs to be done, but if there’s not a lot, it could still be that your horse has a belly full that’s just not making its way out in the manure. My doc may also listen to the bottom of your horse’s belly with her stethoscope. In some cases, she can hear the sand moving – unsurprisingly, it kind of sounds like the beach. Like the sand sediment test though, it’s not always a crystal-clear answer. If she does hear sand, it’s a good bet your horse needs to be treated for sand accumulation. But in about 80% of cases, that sand can’t be heard, so if she doesn’t hear it, there could still be some there.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

If your horse is showing signs that might indicate sand is already irritating the intestines, my doc may recommend an x-ray of your horse’s abdomen. Sand often shows up on an x-ray lining the bottom of the intestines, and if there is a lot, it’s a clear indication that your horse needs to be treated.

How to prevent sand accumulation?

 Don’t wait until your horse colics to start thinking about sand. The best thing for your horse (and your wallet) is to prevent the emergency before it happens.

Focus on your pastures. Figure out a way to fertilize, rotate grazing, plant grass seed, irrigate your pastures, or otherwise work on getting some grass to grow! If your horses have long, healthy grass to eat, they are far less likely to pick up sand, because they won’t be grubbing for dead roots in the dirt.

  1. Feed hay. Hay is one of the best preventatives for sand accumulation. As hay travels through the GI tract, it picks up sand and drags it out in the manure. It’s especially important to feed enough hay if the grass in your pastures is short. The average adult horse should eat 1-2% of their body weight in hay daily. That’s about 10-20 pounds of hay for an average 1000 lb Quarter Horse.
  2. Feed your horses off the ground. Ideally, hay should be fed in a hanging hay net or hay feeder. Grain should be fed in elevated feed buckets with mats underneath for the crumbs that are dropped. This simple step can drastically decrease the amount of sand your horse ingests every day. You can also bring your horses into stalls for their grain meals.
  3. Give your horses SandClear daily for one week every month. If you know your property is sandy, or you don’t have the best pasture situation around, this is a great idea. SandClear is a pelleted form of psyllium that is designed as a feed-through. While it won’t fix a complete sand obstruction, it can help to carry small amounts of sand out of the intestine so it doesn’t build up and turn into a bigger problem.

 Getting rid of sand

 If your horse has consumed enough sand, he may show signs of colic, weight loss, diarrhea, or fever. You’ll definitely need to get my doc involved at this point. She may pass a tube into his stomach and give him psyllium, magnesium sulfate, or mineral oil to help drag the sand out of the intestine and lubricate the lining of the gut to protect it. More severe cases may require hospitalization and IV fluids. A heavy sand accumulation can be life threatening and may require surgery under general anesthesia to correct.

Do yourself a favor, and don’t let it get to this stage. Horses may throw a lot of surprises at you, but at least this is something you can prepare for. If you live in Florida, work on your pastures and your feeding plan to avoid a sand problem as much as possible. Talk to my docs if you want more specific advice. Then relax, make yourself an umbrella drink, and enjoy Florida life! As for me, there’s a nice sandy spot in the Springhill parking lot where I will be surveying my domain.

Until next week,

 Tony

P.S. Are you looking for more information on colics and other common, and some not so common horse issues? Take a listen to Dr. Lacher & Justin talking about colics and so much more on their podcast..Straight From the Horse Doctors Mouth!

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Lipomas

Lipomas

Tuesdays with Tony

Ugh what a weekend. I like my peace and quiet on a normal weekend. My staff tends to my care, and then it’s rest and relaxation for Teenie and I so we’re refreshed and ready to tackle our supervisory duties on Monday. This weekend was nothing like that, thanks to a colic that had my Docs and techs in here multiple times throughout the night. I hate these kinds of colics. They disrupt my carefully crafted schedule. However, my Docs hate them more, especially the kind we had this weekend. Let’s talk lipomas and older horses and why they send a wrecking ball through my sleep.

What is a lipoma?

Fat. Yep, good ol’ fat like I carry around on my belly. Lipomas are tumors made up of fat. Instead of forming a nice soft, cushy layer like my belly, these are firm balls of fat. They’re pretty common under the skin of dogs, and if you’ve got a dog, you may have felt one. They’re usually two to three inches in size, and readily move with the skin. They don’t hurt, and the skin over the top of them looks pretty normal. Sometimes on dogs (and humans, by the way) they form in areas like armpits that affect movement of a limb, or become very large, and cause issues because of their size. Overall though, these are pretty boring tumors. 

Horses don’t work that way. I mean, of course they don’t! They’re horses, so they have to do it better, and by better, I mean worse for their health. In horses, lipomas often form from the mesentery of the small intestine. What the what, Tony? you say. The small intestine hangs from a giant curtain suspended from the spinal column. It’s a thin, nearly see-through tissue that carries blood, lymph, and nerves to the intestine below.  Lining those vessels and nerves is fat. Most mammals use mesentery as a place to store fat. If that’s all that happened, this would be fine. However, over time, in horses, that fat turns into a ball, that ball pulls on it’s attachment turning it into a string, and soon you have something resembling a tetherball. Remember that super fun game from your childhood with the ball on a string attached to the top of a pole? Yep, it looks like that, only hanging off the mesentery. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

When fat goes wrong

So, we’ve got a fat ball hanging from a string sitting in the abdomen. Sounds fine. That fat ball isn’t doing anything bad…..yet. But, and it’s a really, really big but, one day the stars align, the horse moves everything just right and that string with a ball on the end goes flying around in just the right way to wrap up a piece of small intestine. When it does, the string tightens around the intestine and the mesentery. This causes blood flow to the area to stop, and keeps food from passing through the affected small intestine. It also puts pressure on those nerves, and as anyone who has whacked their funny bone knows, that hurts! These horses become very painful as the pressure increases on the nerves from backed up food, swelling, and dying small intestine. This is when you, the owner, get your first hint things are going wrong. You’ve got a painful, rolling, I daresay thrashing, horse.

Now what??

When my Docs arrive on the scene, they evaluate your horse for the telltale things that point to a lipoma: scrapes around the eyes and head, evidence of rolling, and a horse over 15 years of age. No one is quite sure why small intestinal colics cause the most scrapes on heads, but they sure do. Whenever my Docs see this, they start a full-on small intestine investigation. The rolling is because these guys are pretty darn painful, and the age is since it seems to take quite a few years for these dastardly fat balls to grow. 

The first thing my Docs are going to do is get a heart rate. This is a very important number. If it’s over 60, chances are very high the colic is going to need surgery to fix. Once heart rate is established, pain and sedative medications can be given (if these are given first, my Docs can’t get an accurate heart rate). Next, some blood will be drawn to run a quick test called lactate. This test is another indicator of how bad things are. If that number is over 3.0, that’s another point towards surgery. Next step is a palpation. They’ll glove up and head in for a feel of what’s going on. Distended small intestine will feel like a tube about 5-6” in diameter. 

The ultrasound comes out next. Ultrasounds allow them to look at what that distended small intestine looks like on cross-section. A few things they look for are thickened walls, and food settled on the bottom since that indicates things haven’t been moving for a while. If there’s extra fluid in the abdomen, they can see that, too. The body puts that excess fluid in the abdomen as a way to deal with the unhappy small intestine. If it’s there, my Docs can take a sample of it. They’ll look at what color that sample is first. It should be clear and yellow. If it’s red, there’s definitely very unhappy intestine in there. Next they’ll run a lactate test on the fluid. This is the same lactate they ran on the blood. Ideally they are close to the same number. If the belly fluid is greater than 1.5-2 times what the blood has, that’s yet another indication that surgery is needed. 

Can you fix it?

Yes, but. The only way to fix these guys is surgery. At surgery the string will be cut, and the lipoma taken out. Usually these guys have a few extra lipomas hanging around, and they’ll be taken out as well. The small intestine will get checked to see if it’s okay to leave in there, or if it will need to be removed too. Older horses can handle the surgery just fine. What gets tough is all the toxins involved if the small intestine is in rough shape. These toxins do a number on the body. They can cause laminitis, along with just plain feeling like crap. And that’s the tough part. Not only is this one of the more expensive colic surgeries, but the recovery can be rough. Which brings me back to my weekend. 

We had an old guy (31 years old!!!) in the clinic this weekend. Turns out he had a lipoma. I know his owner agonized over the right decision to make for his well being. In the end, surgery wasn’t the right answer for her and she let him go. I hate that this is always a tough decision for owners. Thinking about what you would do in the same scenario and having a plan makes it easier when one of my Docs has to ask the hard question of if surgery is an option. Sometimes the answer is no, and while that’s okay, it’s never easy.

As a cat, I’m not really wired for compassion, but even I can see that being a horse comes with a lot of challenges. Some of them we can impact with good diet and foot care, and some of them we just have to deal with when they happen, like lipomas and skimpy forelocks. But the good news is that you don’t have to go it alone. My docs are here for you, and that’s a pretty good team to have in your corner.

 

Until next week,

~Tony

 P.S. If you want to learn more about all the different things that make horses colic, I have a variety of blogs on the topic. If you’d rather listen to my docs explain it, they have a couple of podcasts that take a really deep dive into the horse gut. You can find them over on my Podcast Page.

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Rain, Rain Go Away….

Rain, Rain Go Away….

Tuesdays with Tony

I hate rain. I know we need some, but I prefer it to happen during the night, otherwise known as my inside time. During the day I like to occupy the parking space right in front of the clinic and refuse to move when anyone pulls in, or wander across the verdant fields around my spacious property, or any of a number of other top secret outdoor cat activities. For me, rain throws a large wrench in my plans. For horses, it’s a way bigger deal. We’ve had a whole lot of rain lately, so let’s talk about what that has meant for my Docs and the horses they care for.

The Incredibly Soggy Foot

Horses evolved on the steppes of Mongolia. It’s basically a colder, drier version of the United States Midwest. Not a lot of swampland or rain. This means their feet did not evolve with a water management system.  Add shoes to this lack of evolutionary pre-planning and you’ve got a mess. The repeated wet-dry cycle we have here, or sometimes just wet, causes the tubules that make up the hoof wall to suck up water and swell. When they release that water, the tubules shrink again leaving empty space between the inter-tubular material and the tubules. This repeated cycle causes hoof walls to crack and split, and the soles to erode away. If your horse has shoes on, it makes those pesky nails get loose way before the next scheduled farrier visit. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Treat the Feet

Veterinarians in drier areas of the country look at Docs from the Gulf Coast like they’re crazy when they want to keep moisture out of a foot. The obvious solution to wet feet is to keep your horse inside unless it’s dry out. This will work, but it will also cause your grass to grow even faster, and your horse to do all their pooping where you have to micromanage it daily, if not more often. There are treatments that help to form a water barrier for the foot. Durasole is great on the bottom of the foot. Durasole should be applied every day until you can no longer easily move the sole with just thumb pressure. After that, 2-3 times per week will keep the soles in tip top shape. Venice Turpentine works well here, too. My Docs have found it doesn’t work once horses are foot sore, but if you start early in the season it will prevent mushy feet. 

For hoof walls, products that are oil-based like Fiebings, and Dr. Lacher’s personal favorite, Pendray’s ProCare Plus, will help form a barrier to moisture. ProCare also contains copper which helps kill bacteria and fungus that love to eat wet feet. Keratex Hoof Hardener works great on wet hoof wall as well. These products should be applied right before turnout, and before hosing off. The more you can protect the hoof wall from water, the better you will do! 

The Always Lovely Thrush

Moisture makes thrush. Do not beat yourself up if your horse has developed thrush during the rainy season. It can be incredibly difficult to keep horse thrush-free when it’s raining 1”-2” daily. Treatment can be straightforward if you can locate Tomorrow Mastitis ointment. Do not ask me why an ointment made for cow udders fixes thrush. Cats know a lot, but they don’t know the answer to this. Trust me here though, this stuff works. Now for the bummer: it’s almost impossible to find right now. If you do locate a secret stash, apply a small amount to the affected areas of the foot after a good cleaning. Spraying a little hydrogen peroxide on the area first will help clean the cracks and crevices. If you can’t find Tomorrow, go with copper sulfate crystals. These can be procured where all things can be found, Amazon, or often at your local pool supply store. You will also need a toilet bowl wax ring. Also available on Amazon, or at any hardware store. Mix a small amount of wax, and copper sulfate together. Smoosh into the affected area. Viola!! Thrush treatment extraordinaire.

Even more foot stuff

This is my miscellaneous paragraph. Abscesses are common this time of year thanks to all those soft, mushy feet. A sudden onset of severe lameness is the most common presentation. Definitely worth a chat with one of my awesome Docs, but also check out their YouTube video on how to bandage a foot with a diaper so you’re prepared to manage this common problem. 

Can’t keep shoes on? Ask your farrier about glue-on options. These can be really great during wet season to keep you and your farrier from visiting every 2-3 days when those shoes are getting loose. And once again, before you go yelling at your farrier, this is a wet weather problem, not a farrier problem. Be nice to your farrier! 

The Skin Funk

I have extensive tomes on rain rot, and the general Florida state of skin funk. It’s a constant battle here, even for this clean fanatic cat. Once again, attempt to keep your horse dry. HaHaHa!!! I’m a funny cat. Who can do that??? Anyway, Equishield CK shampoo, salve, and spray are your friends here. Trust me. The entire clinic has seen every product, lotion, potion, and crazy concoction your mother’s uncle’s friend’s neighbor has suggested. The CK line works every time. Once you have skin funk under control, once or twice weekly spritzes with CK spray will keep that skin looking perfect. Adding some omega fatty acids to your horse’s diet will also help the skin form a better barrier. This can be done with flax seed, or there are a few omega supplements out there. My feelings on supplements are notoriously poor so I’d recommend checking with my Docs to make sure you got a supplement worth feeding.

Until next week,

Tony

P.S. Starbucks has Pumpkin Spice Latte so I’m sure drier weather will be coming soon. I know cooler weather isn’t coming. This is Florida, after all! Need help with your horse’s wet weather problems? Give my Docs a call. They have loads of experience handling the hot, wet Florida weather. Or, looking for a great learning podcast while enjoying your warm (or cold) beverage, be sure to check out my docs podcast, Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Preventing Fall Colic

Preventing Fall Colic

Tuesdays with Tony

Preventing Colic as the weather changes

Have you noticed it’s a bit nicer to be outside lately? It’s almost autumn in Florida and I’m enjoying my cat naps on the Springhill porch even more. And while Florida’s autumn has more to do with the changing of license plates colors than it does with leaves, there are still some seasonal effects you’ll notice around your farm. While it’s still pretty hot out, those shorter fall days are already creeping up on us, and with them will come slower growing grass, and hay season. I know it’s hard to imagine when the grass is still green and it’s still hot out, but now is the time to prepare for the autumn. You know how sensitive horses are, and so you’ll want to help your horse through the seasonal transition to reduce the chance of colic.

 Go Slow

You’ll want to make your autumn plan now, while it still feels like summer out – because changes involving a horse’s GI tract must be done very sloooooowwwwly. Their bellies are delicate systems and making feed changes quickly is certain to throw them off balance. You’ll want to start slowly introducing hay long before the last of the grass is eaten. Even if you have already been feeding hay, increasing the amount to compensate for less grass must also be done very gradually.

If your horse has only been eating pasture, begin by adding 5-7 pounds of hay per feeding. Coastal hay especially should be started slowly. Throwing a bunch of hay at a GI tract that’s been used to green grass is a recipe for an unscheduled visit from my docs. Add an additional 2-3 pounds of hay every 4-5 days until your horse is leaving some hay behind. Absolutely DO NOT put a roll of coastal hay out and let your horse gorge on it when he hasn’t been acclimatized to it. There is no better recipe for a type of colic called an ileal impaction.

You’ll also want to plan ahead to make sure you find a good source of QUALITY hay. My docs see a lot of colics caused by feeding poor quality hay. Let me tell you, one emergency visit to treat a colic is a lot more expensive than feeding a better quality hay to start with.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

 Add some legumes

Since your horse will be consuming more dry feed, like hay, as autumn progresses, there is more risk of an impaction colic. Coastal hay is an especially common cause, and if your horse eats this type of hay, you should plan on supplementing him with another type of hay to reduce the risk. Legume hays, like alfalfa and peanut, are salty, which helps remind your horse to drink. They also have a laxative effect on the GI tract. Both hays bring water into the gut, which helps prevent impactions. Small amounts of these hays do wonders and can dramatically reduce the colic risk. Take care that your horse doesn’t become overweight on legume hays though – they are calorie dense.

 Get water into your horse

If your horse is well hydrated, he is at less risk for an impaction colic. An average sized horse should drink approximately 10 gallons of water a day. Regularly clean out your horse’s buckets and troughs and make sure to change the water in the buckets before refilling. (I’ve seen horses poop in their buckets, haven’t you?) Keep an eye on his manure. Does it look moist and slightly shiny, or is it dry and crumbly-looking, or packed into hard fecal balls?

Get your horse used to eating soaked feed. Adding water to your horse’s grain to make it into a soup can get extra water into their system. You can even wet down his hay to increase its water content. Water consumption is especially important when the weather changes or you get a new shipment of hay. Some horses will need some time to get used to the soupy consistency of soaked feed, so introduce it ahead of time. Some horses will drink flavored water. A great way to encourage drinking is to put a few handfuls of your horse’s favorite grain into a bucket of water to make a “sweet tea”. Other horses are partial to water flavored with apple juice or Gatorade. Of course, you should continue to offer plain water as well.

We often talk about electrolytes in the summer to help replenish what is lost in sweat, but in autumn and winter, adding loose salt or electrolytes to your horse’s diet can also help to stimulate thirst and encourage water consumption.

 Other stuff to avoid colic

Provide your horse as much turnout as possible. Horses evolved to be moving around constantly. Horses that are stalled with limited turnout have an increased risk of colic. Moving around the pasture promotes gastrointestinal motility, which promotes the normal transit of food through the gut.

Make sure your horse’s dental exam is up to date. Feed that isn’t adequately chewed is harder to digest, resulting in yet another risk factor for impaction colic. The dental float should be performed once a year, so call my doc if your horse is due!

These tips apply at any time of the year to help reduce the chance that your horse will colic, but during times of weather change it’s especially important to plan ahead. Go source your good quality hay, make a feeding plan, and feel prepared for autumn to arrive! It’s still almost 90 degrees, but I hear my Springhill staff talking about pumpkin spice lattes, so I’m out of here in case they go looking for that ridiculous plaid cat sweater they offend me with every year.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. Looking for more information on colic? Make sure you head on over to the podcast page; my docs have even more indepth talks about this. You can find the podcast by clicking here. Also, just a reminder, we are having our first in house seminar this week! It’s on Equine Asthma & Allergies. We are limiting the attendance to 20 people. You can call the office at 352-472-1620 to get your name on our guest list!

 

 

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Untreated Asthma

Untreated Asthma

Tuesdays with Tony

In preparation for my upcoming seminar this month, lets discuss asthma. Not only is asthma extremely frustrating, it can actually lead to life threatening situations for your horse. You all have read my previous blogs and watched my docs’ seminars about asthma and allergies. I know you are already familiar with the ins and outs of the causes, symptoms and treatments for asthma. So, let’s focus today on what can happen if symptoms are left untreated.

Asthma

Asthma, or heaves, is a disease that typically affects middle-aged to older horses, but it does not discriminate and can affect young horses as well. Asthma is an all-encompassing term that actually refers to disease processes such as heaves and inflammatory airway disease. For the sake of today’s topic, we will use the umbrella term Asthma and all that it means. As a refresher, asthma is inflammation of your horse’s airways that can lead to cough, nasal discharge, labored breathing, and exercise intolerance. Asthma can be caused by a number of different factors like dust, mold, pollen, and heat and humidity. Horses in Florida are very often affected by asthma in the summer months when it’s hot, sticky and steamy out. That doesn’t mean that horses won’t develop asthma in the colder months. As you all know, horses do whatever they want, whenever they want, and however they want. Inconsiderate creatures, if you ask me.

Treatment

Treatment for asthma can be as simple as antihistamines or as complicated at hospitalization with oxygen supplementation. The key to treating asthma is to catch the signs early, have your veterinarian examine your horse and start treatment as soon as possible. More often than not, asthma becomes a chronic condition that requires lifelong treatment when symptoms arise. Environmental management is also key to keeping symptoms under control. Where my docs often run into trouble with treating asthmatic patients is when the symptoms have been left untreated for a long time or when acute, severe flare-ups occur.  When asthma symptoms are left untreated, horses can end up in respiratory distress. From what I have heard this is very scary for owners. The sounds their horses are making have been described as anything from a lion growl to a dinosaur roar. Horses often seem to be out of sorts and may appear to be neurologic since they can’t get enough oxygen. Similarly, horses may show signs of colic resulting from pain induced from abdominal musculature contraction. They may go off feed, and signs of choke have also been reported.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Once a horse is in respiratory distress resulting from asthma, treatment becomes increasingly complicated and is more time consuming that primary treatment for asthma. My docs may have to reach for what they call ‘rescue medications’ including Ventipulmin, Butorphanol and Buscopan which are all aimed at opening your horse’s airways and reducing inflammation. The really fun part about these treatments is, Ventipulmin is on indefinite backorder, so your veterinarian may not even be able to supply your horse with this medication. They may also decide to treat your horse with a very high dose of steroid to reduce inflammation in the airways or start your horse on anti-histamines to combat the allergic component of asthma. So now we are up to 5 medications that your horse is receiving to help regulate his breathing.

The Next Level

If these treatments do not relieve your horse, further steps to get him out of respiratory distress include treatments with an inhaler or nebulizer. An inhaler for your horse delivers a unique steroid directly to his airway. Nebulizers allow horses to inhale medications directly to their airways, including anti-inflammatory medications, bronchodilators and antibiotics. I don’t know about you, but all I can see right now is dollar signs. It seems like all these treatments could really add up quickly. Unfortunately, treatment may not end here. What if your horse does not respond? Then what do you do?

The next step is hospitalization. Hospitalization which will likely include oxygen supplementation and frequent nebulizer treatments. If your horse is unresponsive to treatments on the farm and requires hospitalization, the reality of the situation is, your horse is very sick and may not recover. Sadly, horses that do not respond to the rescue medications often can’t survive the stress of a trailer ride to the hospital, and euthanasia becomes the most humane option.

Risk vs. Reward

These treatments are not without risk. High dose systemic steroids increase your horse’s risk of developing laminitis. Frequent doses of Ventipulmin may decrease your horse’s response to the medication and decrease its efficacy. Nebulizers and inhalers lower the risk of systemic medications, but they are expensive, and medications for them are not always readily available. 

The take home message I want you all to get from this is to call your veterinarian at the first sign of asthma. At that first cough, or any change in your horse’s normal attitude towards work, call your veterinarian. You’ll thank me later, I promise. Treatment of early onset asthma is significantly easier and may just involve environmental changes and anti-histamines. At times, my docs will turn to systemic steroids as treatment, but when treatment is started early they are often able to get your horse on a lower dose which reduces the risks. Alternatively, there are some holistic options that can help your horse when asthma has been detected early including acupuncture treatments along with Chinese herbal therapy. With early treatment it is possible to control asthma symptoms and still be able to enjoy riding and/or competing on your horse. A horse who has developed respiratory distress may never be able to work again as their lung capacity may be comprised due to scar tissue formation. So trust this old cat and call your veterinarian early before a little cough turns into a career ending, life-threatening situation.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. Don’t forget to tune in to my Facebook for details on the seminar on September 16th on Asthma and Allergies.

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Equine Health Care for Newbies

Equine Health Care for Newbies

Tuesdays with Tony

Whether you are a first-time horse owner, getting back into horses after some time away, or just want to make sure you’re not missing anything important in your horse care, it’s important to understand the preventative healthcare your horse needs every year. So listen up, horse people, and get ready to make sure you are checking all these boxes, because this is the stuff that’s necessary for every single horse out there to stay healthy. There are few things worse than a sick horse and an expensive bill that could have been avoided. If you’re missing out on any of these critical healthcare needs, give my doc a call…the time is Meow!

Vaccines

My docs break vaccines down into two major categories – “core” vaccines and “risk-based” vaccines. The core vaccines are the ones that all horses need, regardless of what they do for a living. There are 4 reasons a disease makes this list: 1) the disease is severe or deadly; 2) it’s difficult or impossible to treat; 3) every horse can be exposed to it, even if he never leaves home; 4) the vaccine is safe and effective. In Florida, those diseases are Eastern/Western encephalitis, West Nile Virus, Tetanus, and Rabies. The rabies vaccine is once a year and the EWT-West Nile vaccine is every 6 months in our region. (Don’t thank me, thank the mosquitoes that never disappear.) Don’t be lax on the timing, my docs have seen horses get encephalitis when they are only a couple months overdue for their vaccine. The risk-based vaccines (for example, influenza and strangles) are optional and are recommended if your horse will be exposed to those diseases. Best way to figure that out is to talk to my doc about your individual situation. For more info on core vaccines and why some common misconceptions don’t hold water, see my recent blog https://springhillequine.com/vaccines/

Deworming

Horses pick up internal parasites, aka “worms” through grazing in the pasture, mare’s milk, flying insects, and contact with manure.  They need to be dewormed on a routine basis to avoid the worm level rising high enough to cause weight loss, diarrhea, colic, or even death. Years ago, the way we did this was to grab a different brand of dewormer from the store every 6 weeks and give it to our horse. It was called rotational deworming and it was a terrible idea! Why? We caused the worms to become resistant to the dewormers so nowadays many of them don’t work anymore. Here’s how my docs recommend deworming most adult horses: A fecal egg count, a simple and inexpensive lab test, is performed in the spring and the horse is only dewormed if there is a high level of parasite eggs. Then once a year, horses are dewormed with a product containing either ivermectin or moxidectin and also praziquantel. The praziquantel works against tapeworms, which don’t show up well on the fecal egg count. Examples of these products are Equimax, Zimectrin gold, and Quest plus. The majority of horses only need to dewormed once a year and my docs usually do it in the autumn. Foals and young horses are on a different schedule and require different products, so talk to my doc to make a plan.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Dentistry

Horses have a different kind of teeth than you humans and we cats have. Once we get our adult teeth, we basically have the same teeth in our mouths throughout our adult lives. On the other hand, a horse’s teeth are constantly erupting, or pushing out from his jaw into his mouth, throughout most of his life. As he chews, the portion of the tooth inside his mouth is being ground down. As a result, sharp points or hooks on the teeth, uneven teeth, and mouth ulcers often result from this wear and tear. Every horse needs a dental exam at least once a year. A complete dental exam requires a dental speculum to gently open the horse’s mouth, sedation to allow him to relax his jaw, a bright light to check all the way in the back of the mouth, and a veterinarian to perform the exam, since it’s a medical procedure. There is a big difference between a dental exam performed by my doc, and a “float” by a lay dentist. If you want to learn more about this read my blog https://springhillequine.com/we-are-professional-grade/ My docs will correct sharp, uneven, or overgrown teeth and check for infections or fractured teeth. Don’t wait until your horse is showing signs of major problems like dropping feed, losing weight, having problems chewing, or fighting the bit when ridden! You want to prevent these issues before they happen. A yearly dental exam can extend your horse’s lifespan and keep him in good weight into his senior years.

Coggins test

A Coggins test is a blood test to check for the Equine Infectious Anemia virus. EIA is a very serious disease, causing fever, decreased appetite, anemia, swelling, death. There is unfortunately no treatment or cure, so it is very important that EIA is not spread to other horses. A negative Coggins test is necessary for interstate travel, bringing your horse to an equine facility or showground, and getting a health certificate from your vet. Even if you don’t plan to travel often, you should make sure your Coggins is up to date in case you have to move barns or evacuate your horse from a natural disaster. A Coggins test result is provided to you as a paper or electronic certificate, and it usually expires in 1 year.

Hoof care

Find a great farrier and get on a regular schedule for trims! Your horse’s hooves should be trimmed every 4-6 weeks. Letting them grow too long between trims is very detrimental to the health of his feet and legs and can cause serious lameness problems. Hoof hygiene is also important to prevent hoof diseases. Keep his feet picked out regularly and keep his environment clean. Stalls and paddocks should be kept picked out, so his feet aren’t constantly exposed to urine and manure that degrade hoof tissue. If the weather is wet and his field is muddy, provide a way for the feet to dry for at least part of each day. Know how to recognize thrush, white line disease, hoof cracks, and other common hoof disorders. Remember the saying “No hoof, no horse”!

Be prepared for problems

If you’re new to horses, you’ll soon learn that they are accident prone creatures. Of course, you’ll do your best with your horse’s feed and housing to avoid issues, but sooner or later, you’ll need a vet for an emergency visit. Build a relationship with your vet ahead of time, don’t wait until a serious problem happens to look for a vet to come out! The best time to establish that relationship is during routine preventative healthcare, not during an emergency. Not all vet clinics take emergencies if you are not a current client, so the best way to ensure you will have help when you need it is to establish a client relationship ahead of time. Call your vet early if there is a problem. Attempting to wait it out or treat it yourself often makes the problem more difficult and expensive to treat later on. Ask your vet lots of questions! My docs love to help horse owners learn how to take the best possible care of their horses. Prepare a first aid kit and learn to take your horse’s vital signs. Don’t worry, I’ve covered both of those topics in my previous blogs.

If that all seems a bit overwhelming, don’t worry. Horses do require a few necessities to stay healthy, but my docs are always there to guide you through. They have Wellness Plans designed to cover all your horse’s required healthcare for the year, at a discounted price. My Springhill office humans can even take care of remembering when your horse is due for his next visit. And don’t fur-get about my blogs  – they’ll have you feline informed about most any horse care topic you can imagine!

 

Until next week,

Tony

 

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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What do horses see?

What do horses see?

Tuesdays with Tony

I get asked all the time about what horses can see. I am a cat of the people. I do as you ask. Okay, not really, but we can pretend. This week I have taken a deep dive into what horses can and can’t see. There’s also a link to a really cool video in this blog. Read on to find it!

The Eyes

To discuss horse vision, we have to start with the basics: the eyeballs. We’ve all got ‘em, but we’re all different. I’ve got pupils that turn into a vertical slit when constricted, and big, huge circles when dilated. You humans are all circles, all the time. It just gets bigger or smaller depending on the amount of light coming in. Horses have a horizontal slit that stays some version of a horizontal oval until they are really, really, really dilated. We’ve also got our eyes in different places on our heads. Cats and humans both have their eyes facing forward. I like to think this denotes us as the superior creatures we are. Horses have them on the side of their head. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Cats and horses share something called a reflective tapetum. This is the bright shiny thing you see when you take pictures of us in the dark, using the flash. What difference does it all make? Well let me tell you, a lot! Cat eyes are designed to get maximum use out of minimum light. When we don’t have properly trained human staff, we are a nocturnal creature. We have to be able to see our prey moving in the pitch black of night. Those vertical slit pupils, combined with forward facing eyes allow us to see movement, and target that movement precisely. The tapetum allows light entering our eyes to reflect back around, allowing us to get more bang per light beam than you humans. Horses can do some of the same things with light, but are generally not as great at seeing in the dark as cats, but better than humans. 

What horses do really, really, really well is see movement along the horizon. That’s what that horizontal pupil gets them. Doubt me? How many times has your horse seen what you thought was an imaginary dragon in the woods, only to have a deer wander out? Trust me, they can see movement way better than you and I can. This ability keeps wild horses alive. They have lions and tigers and plastic bags trying to eat them, and those guys know how to stalk! With their eyes on the side of their head, they are able to see that movement almost anywhere on their horizon. What they give up is high level spatial awareness. You and I can judge very closely how near or far we are from an object. Horses can’t do this with vision alone. They need their whiskers, sense of smell, and tactile clues from their limbs to help them know just how close they really are to something. 

The Colors

Okay, the color thing is pretty cool. Well, not for horses. They see some pretty boring colors. The differences between horses and humans though, that part is cool. I found this article while perusing the trustworthy side of Google: Google Scholar. It had this handy graphic showing the difference. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Photopigment basis for dichromatic color vision in the horse, Joseph Carrol, et all, Journal of Vision October 2001, Vol.1, 2.

These muted colors help explain why horses don’t worry about that very bright pink thing, but do often take a hard look at black things. Jump course designers will use this to draw a horse’s vision to a black rail or gate, making it easier or harder for the horse to determine what to jump depending on where the black component is placed. It doesn’t explain why they love that particular patch of grass versus another. They must use something other than visual clues there. As a very limited connoisseur of grass, I’m not sure what they use to decide. One of life’s great mysteries. 

Miscellaneous horse vision facts

The left and right eye do communicate. Cover your left eye, look at an object. Now cover your right eye. Your left eye wasn’t “surprised” by what it saw, was it? Yeah, it doesn’t work that way for horses either. Yeah, yeah, I know they spook at something they just saw when they see it with the other eye. It’s not because the object is somehow new on this side. It’s because they’re a horse. Actually, it’s probably because of the spatial awareness thing I talked about earlier. Researchers don’t have a concrete answer on this one. 

They are slower to adapt to light changes than humans, and way slower than cats. This is why they will sometimes balk at moving from a light area to a dark one. They can’t see. Give them a sec, and things will smooth out. 

They really can’t see directly in front of them. They do a pretty great job with the rest of their senses filling in this tiny gap. As you know, nothing stops a horse from finding the treat in your hand!

And finally, the link I promised, which is a really neat video showing what things look like from your horse’s perspective::

https://www.agdaily.com/video/simulation-shows-horse-eye-view/

That was a fun dive into horse vision! I might even admit I enjoyed researching this one. Next time you see my Docs, ask them to show you some of the vision tests we use in horses. It’s not a chart with a large E on it, but it does help them determine how well your horse can see things. 

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. In case you haven’t heard yet, we are having a New Horse Owner Seminar on Facebook Live. It will be happening this Thursday, August 26th at 6:30 PM on our FB page. Be sure to look for the event and click “going” or “interested” to be notified when we go Live!

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Trailering

Trailering

Tuesdays with Tony

Horses are such trusting creatures. They willingly follow you humans into the dark black boxes you call trailers. Try putting me in a dark box (you call them cat carriers) and claws will fly, that I promise! There’s much protest when my minions ask me to get into a carrier, and often blood is drawn, but horses, horses just follow you humans into their horse carriers. I’ve seen a few protests, but with a little encouragement and some food, they comply and walk right on.

Since your horse trusts you as much as it does, there are some very important trailering safety tips we must go over to maintain that trust. From loading to unloading and everything in between, there are opportunities for things to go wrong. When things go wrong there is risk for injury, or even the death of your beloved horse. You’ll hear all kinds of differing opinions about trailering, and I’ll try to touch on many of these opinions, but it’s important to remember that you have to do what’s best for you and your horse.

 Training

As you know, horses like to injure themselves or colic at the most inopportune times. It’s often necessary to transport your horse to a clinic or hospital for treatment. During an emergency is not the time to be teaching your horse how to load or unload. Spend time in your usual day-to-day training teaching your horse to load and unload calmly and quietly. Take time to make sure that your horse is comfortable loading and unloading in all different conditions. Weather and time of day/night can affect your horse’s willingness to get on the trailer. Practicing trailer loading/unloading in normal circumstances will help to ensure your horse remains calm while loading in times of urgency.

 Maintenance

Maybe you and your horse are weekend warriors, maybe you go somewhere new every day, or maybe you haven’t left home in years. Whatever the situation, maintaining the functionality of your trailer is essential to the ease and safety of transport. Inspecting the floor of your trailer is an essential part of trailer ownership. Pull the mats up and check for wood rot, rust, holes, and broken welds. Areas of weakness increase the risk of your horse falling through the floor. As you can imagine, a leg through the floor can result is severe injury which could even be career or life ending.

Lights are one of my biggest cat peeves. Why would you put your horse, which you dearly love, in a trailer with no brake lights, or no turn signals? That increases the risk of getting rear-ended by about 1,000%. If you don’t think that’s a big deal, do a Google image search for “horse trailer accidents” and look at what has happened to other people and their horses. It’s not pretty.

The Florida sun is one of my favorite things. I love basking in it while taking my morning, midday and afternoon naps. However, the sun is not always good. For example, it causes dry rot of tires, even brand-new tires. Air pressure is also vitally important. Low air pressure is the number one cause of tire failure, and the easiest thing to avoid. A small air compressor is a lot cheaper than new tires!

Checking tires should be part of your trailer hook-up routine. A blowout can leave you stranded on the side of the road. It puts your horse at risk for overheating, colic, and dehydration, not to mention it just sounds miserable in the heat. Blow-outs can also cause accidents.

I also highly recommend yearly maintenance by trailer professionals. They can look at all the ins and outs of your trailer, repack wheel bearings, and make sure everything stays in tip top condition. Maintaining a safe trailer in good working condition will most certainly reduce the risk of accidents and make for smoother hauling of your most precious cargo.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

 To tie or not to tie?

That really is the question, isn’t it? My docs get asked this question all the time. And even my docs are split on their answer.  Some say yes, tie your horse up while hauling, while others say not to tie. I feel like this is one of those personal preference kind of things. However, whichever way you chose, please do so with your horse’s safety in mind.

When your horse is loose in the trailer, they have the ability to maneuver and stabilize themselves in whichever way they feel safest. They are also able to lower their head and neck more easily which allows them to rest while on a long ride, and sneeze to clear dust in their nostrils and lungs.  Similarly, if choosing to ship your horse loose in a box stall, they have the choice to lay down if they are on a particularly long trip.  Some very small horses or ponies might be at risk of turning around in the straight stall of a trailer if they are left loose, or they may find themselves under a bar or panel where they could get injured by another horse. However, most horses find comfort in a bag of hay in front of them and the ability to move around as necessary.

Alternatively, you may choose to tie your horse up in the trailer. This is a feasible option as well, but there are some very important points that we must address.  First of all, if you choose to tie, please make sure you are using functional safety release cross-ties that will let go if your horse were to get itself in a compromising position. You may also choose to use a quick release knot when tying your horse. Whichever method you decide on, make sure the lead rope and any extra equipment is secured safely out of the reach of your horse.

Possibly the most important thing to remember when tying your horse in the trailer is what type of halter you use. Please, listen to this old cat on this one. Please, please, please put your horse in a leather halter, or at the very least, a break-away halter. Halters that don’t break, including rope halters, are incredibly dangerous whether your horse is tied or not. If a horse slips and falls or there is an accident, and your horse is tied with a rope halter or one that doesn’t break, you risk him breaking his back or neck. Similarly, if your horse is in the trailer and has a halter on that is not breakable, you risk him getting caught on a part of the trailer, panicking and injuring himself. And if your trailer is on its side or upside down, it can be nearly impossible to get them out if they are too securely attached. The longer it takes to get them out, the more they will suffer, and the less likely they are to survive. Trust me, this is something that is so easy and can prevent CATastrophe.

 Other Tips

By no means have I even begun to touch on everything that’s involved in trailering your horse safely. And these are just a few other tips and tricks I have learned along the way. Before we get to them though, I just want to remind you that my docs are more than happy to discuss your trailering routine with you and help you develop the safest plan for you and your horse.

Over the years, I have learned that lead ropes like to grow legs and walk off. You’d think that in a horse trailer they wouldn’t go missing, but they do. For this reason, and others, keep an extra lead rope or two in your vehicle. If you’re in an accident, for example, you may need a new one when your horse gets out.

We’ve already talked about the Florida sun and how hot it can get out there. A trailer on the side of the road full of horses can get dangerously hot very quickly. I recommend always carrying extra water with you while you are shipping your horse. You may be going five minutes away or five hours away, but either way, extra water is very important. I’ve found that a five-gallon jug from those office water dispensers works well. They fill easily with a hose, and while they are heavy, they’re fairly easy to maneuver and you can recap them, preventing a mess. Just don’t forget a bucket to pour the water into. I haven’t met a horse yet who can drink out of one of those things.

Last, but definitely not least, let’s talk about your first aid kit. First of all, make sure it’s in a safe, easily accessible place. In your kit, have the phone numbers of your veterinarians handy. That way anyone who may need to use the kit knows exactly who to call if for some reason you are not around. You also want to make sure you have plenty of bandage material. Baby diapers, vet wrap, and duct tape will do just fine. Baby diapers are super absorbent, vet wrap will help you apply pressure to any wounds, and, well, duct tape fixes just about anything.

Veterinary prescribed banamine or bute is also an asset to any first aid kit. As always though, please make sure to check with your veterinarian before administering any medications. A stethoscope and thermometer are useful to have on hand as well. While you wait for assistance you’ll be able to monitor your horse’s vitals and provide your veterinarian with accurate information. There are several other items that can go into your first aid kit, and if you are wondering more about this, check out our video on first aid (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzdQHrRyJxk) or give my clinic a call. They will chat with you about what all is in our very own Springhill Equine First Aid Kit, which you can purchase directly from us.

I know you all love taking your horses with you. Just remember your horse is trusting you to keep it safe every single time it steps on that trailer. So please take the time to check out your trailer and do whatever you can to keep your horse safe and happy while traveling. As always, my docs are ready, willing, and able to chat with you any time about your trailering questions.

Until next week,
~Tony

P.S. If you want a really deep dive into trailering, check out the Trailering episode of our podcast! You can find it over on the Podcast Page, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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