Ask Horse Journal: 06/00

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Fly Sheets Or Not'
Please settle a disagreement between a friend and myself. I board my two horses, an 18-year-old grade mare and a nine-year-old Paint mare, just west of Milwaukee. My horses are turned out on a dry lot with a run-in shed between eight to nine hours a day, weather permitting. If the owner feels it’s too hot, the horses stay in the barn. The horses don’t seem sensitive to bugs and their bites, but I don’t like seeing all the welts they get. The summers are hot, high 80s to low 100s, with 80 to 95% humidity.

I would like to put fly sheets on my horses, but my friend who runs the boarding stable feels that when it gets hot and humid the horses are uncomfortable with sheets on. I think fly sheets would be beneficial because the mosquitoes and other bugs are quite numerous.

Also, if my horses have had sheets on for quite some time and if for any reason they should go without would they be less able to handle the bugs' I plan to buy two sheets per horse, one for wear and one for repair.

-Roxann Zielinski
New Berlin, WI

First, you’re smart to purchase two sheets, and this goes for winter blankets, too. One always seems to need repair or cleaning, so it’s wise to have a spare. As for horse comfort, in general horses don’t seem to mind sheets, and many horses have found relief through fly sheets and masks.

The major concern is overheating, but it’s a matter of common sense. If you find they are sweating more with the sheet on, don’t use it. Most fly sheets are extremely lightweight, even loose-weave — some so light and loose many biting insects have no trouble biting right through them.

As for whether or not the bugs would bother them more if they become accustomed to protection from a sheet, that’s hard to predict. However, since you said they didn’t seem particularly distressed by them before, and since the bugs will still be trying to get at their legs, necks and belly, there probably won’t be much difference. For more information on fly-protection products, see March 2000 fly masks, February 2000 fly sprays, and February 1998 and March 1996 fly sheets.

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Sweet Feed Search
Do you have knowledge of any sweet feed (or other) that offers the following characteristics:

• 7% molasses or less.
• Washed (hopefully at least twice) oats, etc.
• Source of protein, fat, etc. guaranteed from bag to bag.
• All grains in the feed crimped or similar processing, if possible.
• Corn not the primary ingredient by percentage or volume (I prefer oats).
• Contains peas.

I know there is a feed from the United Kingdom that has peas, but does it have all the other above components'

-Carey A. Bauknecht
Locust Grove, VA

Spiller’s Seminole High Performance feed (352/732-4143) is the closest to your request, but it is available only in the southeast. Barley replaces oats as the major grain in the mix, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It is fixed formula (constant sources/percentages of supplemental protein, etc.) and grains are well cleaned.

Cleaning is actually a process of sending the grains through a series of screens that sifts out small particles of dirt, dust, husk, etc., often with equipment that sucks out suspended dust in the air as well. We’re not sure about the actual percentage of molasses, but it is available in the United States. Check with the company directly about information for the grain distributed in your area.

You may also want to contact your local feed mill to see if they are willing to custom mix the feed you’re looking for. It sometimes depends on the availability of ingredients and the size of your order or number of horses you have to feed.

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Slobbers And More
Two of my horses have slobbers. There is little grass in the paddocks and no clover or weeds to speak of. They are getting about 12 to 15 pounds of hay daily plus about a quart and a half of their oats/barley/corn/pellet mix, plus P55, Strongid C, Vitabiotin, Bioquench, 1 teaspoon of malic acid, Synoflex, and an ounce or so of CocoSoya Oil. Their grass/alfalfa hay is grown by our neighbor. Sometimes there is some clover in it, depending on the cutting/field.

They are turned out about 18 hours a day. They both slobber most in the morning when I bring them in. The slobber is watery, not frothy or full or mucous, and pours intermittently out of their mouths, as if someone turned on a faucet for a moment.

The weather has been odd: 85?° one day, then 45 to 60 degrees in the night the next. I noticed on one of our first cooler mornings, when I pulled the gelding out of his stall to ride him that he was shivering. I figured he was cold. I started to ride him and the shivers went away. Since then I have noticed many mornings when I bring him in, he is shivering slightly, although temps are in the low 60s. He shivers more when I put him in his stall where it is cooler. I blanket him in the stall, and he seems fine. He also seems fine out in the sunshine.

The obvious conclusion is that without much pasture, he’s cold. I probably should up the hay ration and get him a turn-out blanket. He is not excessively fat, nor thin, and always has been thin-skinned. Nevertheless I have never had to blanket him before even in the winter.

Do you think the malic acid is playing a role here' What about the excessive salivation' Any chance rabies is a suspect' In July, I picked up a stray cat and nursed it back to health (had the vet give it a rabies shot about 10 days after I got it). Could the bats and oppossums that pass through the barn transmit rabies' Would shivering and salivation be symptoms' What about small sores' I have combed my books for clues. They otherwise eat and act normally, except maybe drinking a little more water.

Should I worry about moldy corn' I checked with my supplier, and the corn is grown locally, but they don’t test for mold. Should I and how' Or is it apparent' If I up the feed corn ration, how can I be sure that it is mold-free'

-Sue Barter
Harrodsburg, KY

A number of plants can cause excessive salivation including lupines, mountain laurel/heath family, horse chestnuts. The alkaloids that cause them to salivate would probably produce other symptoms, too, mostly gastrointestinal, but you could check to see if their pupils are dilated.

There are also some rough weeds/grasses that can cause a physical irritation in the mouth, as could nibbling on bark or treated fences. With the timing of worse in the morning, after a long turnout time, we would put this possibility first, figuring they ate something. Check to see if anything was applied to the fields adjacent their turn out.

Rabies can never be excluded, but the horse would show signs of difficulty swallowing and definite neurological signs within three to five days.

Another remote possibility is vesicular stomatitis. They get little blisters on the tongue and occasionally blisters on the coronary band. If this has been going on for five days or longer, check inside their mouths for blisters or ulcers/sores. If you find them, get the vet out. VS is a reportable disease.

The problem may also be in your hay. Insecticides, especially organophosphates or carbamates, can cause this problem. Small thorns or “prickles” or plant material will cut the lining of the mouth, as can thick, hard stems. Some forages, especially clovers, may be infected with a fungus called Rhizoctonia leguminicola, which produces a toxic chemical called slaframine. Slaframine classically produces excessive salivation like you describe. In extremely high amounts (unlikely if the amount of clover is low), tearing from the eyes and excessive urination/defecation may also be seen. Signs disappear when you stop feeding the hay.

You can try more hay to keep the gelding’s core temperature high but, like you pointed out, he shouldn&rsq uo;t be having problems with feeling chilled in this weather. We wouldn’t rule out hypothyroidism. You could try getting a T4 and T3 test run (T4 alone is pretty worthless). Problem is, he could be clinically hypothyroid even with normal values if a toxic metal or compound is mimicking thyroid hormone in the body. Take his temperature twice a day for three days. If it is subnormal or fluctuates widely, suspect a thyroid problem and call your veterinarian.

And, yes, you absolutely should be worried about moldy corn poisoning in a drought year. It only takes microscopic amounts to kill a horse, so visual inspection won’t help. There is a chemical test, though, and we feel the feed mill should be doing it. We suggest either switching to a big-name brand commercial mix (after calling to make sure they test) or leave the corn out of your local grain mix. Barley would be a good substitute. The calories are almost the same. The protein is better but still not excessive (11% vs. 9% protein).

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Correction
A typographical error occurred in the price of the LTU-904H unit (April 2000). Monthly rental is $300.

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Orchard Grass And Your Horse’s Diet
Orchard-grass hay is light, sweet, usually well accepted and reasonably priced. Even late-bloom hay contains enough energy and protein to be the sole diet for an adult horse at maintenance, and the calcium and phosphorus amounts and ratios are ideal. However, there are real problems on the trace-mineral front. Zinc and copper are close to but below minimums recommended by the NRC. Iodine comes in at 10 times the recommended daily intake, which is definitely in the potentially toxic-to-thyroid-function zone. Manganese is also quite high, at least 400% above the requirement, which throws the trace-mineral ratios off balance, possibly making the low-to-borderline zinc and copper status even worse. Short-term feeding or a small amount in a mixed hay won’t cause obvious problems. However, if you want to make orchard grass the cornerstone of your horse’s diet you, should have the hay analyzed to find out the precise trace mineral levels for your local crops then have a mineral supplement custom formulated to match it.

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Quick Twitch
If your horse won’t stand for a necessary procedure and there’s no twitch available to help, you can make one out of 22" baling twine and a double-end snap. Tie the twine in a loop and attach it to the snap. Then twist the twine on the horse’s nose, like a twitch, and put the snap on the side halter ring. Be extremely careful not to leave the makeshift twitch on the horse too long (it’s easy to do) or place this on a horse known to throw twitch fits.

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Salt Reminder
The most important part of maintaining your horse’s hydration and electrolyte balance in warmer weather is plain salt. Intake should be between 1 ounce (maintenance/cool) to 3 to 4 ounces (performance/hot) per day. Record when you put out blocks and licks. If intake from these is not adequate, offer a loose form as well.

Coarse granular salt (like the salt on pretzels or rock salt) may be better accepted than fine salt. We recommend either loose Harvest Salt from Buckeye (330/828-2251) or MoorMan’s GroStrong salt blocks (800/680-8254). Horses in work will benefit the most from a formula balanced to replace sweat losses. We especially like Exer-Lyte (Mobile Milling 800/217-4076) and Buckeye’s Perform N’ Win (see August 1999).

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Disinfecting
For general disinfecting of trailers, buckets, walls, grooming tools, even bits, a 10% solution of Clorox works well, has a wide range of antimicrobial activity and is safe. It will degrade completely to harmless substances — even if there is a slight residue. Of course, it also helps take out stains, too!

If dealing with a skin problem spreading between horses, dispose of your sponges and use all new ones after disinfecting buckets. No disinfectant can adequately disinfect the recesses of a sponge.

If you have an infectious disease, get advice from your vet about what solution to use, as bacteria and viruses vary in how sensitive they are to any particular disinfectant.