Ask Horse Journal: 06/04

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Feeding Bread
My 34-year-old mare has begun to lose molars. She’s always had a taste for breads, notably donuts, but lately can’t eat the hard horse treats I use. As a substitute, I’ve been giving her bread, and she’s up to a loaf a day of wheat bread. Is there any problem with this'

You really shouldn’t feed your horse bread. The highly refined flours can cause large blood sugar spikes and/or too acid a pH in the hind gut. Feed your mare things that can be soaked for easier chewing such as hay pellets or cubes, pelleted feeds, beet pulp, brans.

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Calcium Deficiencies
I found your comment about the mare who bunny hopped (October 2003) interesting. I wondered if a nutritional aspect, like calcium deficiency, could also be a possibility. What problems can a lack of calcium cause'

Calcium deficiency won’t cause bunny hopping per se. In young horses, developmental problems with bones and joints may result. Older horses are more resistant to negative effects of calcium deficiencies but over time could be predisposed to weakened bones and bone pain.

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Loose Stools
My horse gets loose stools for no reason, except when he’s ridden. I wondered if the horse might be “buggy,” and if mineral oil would cure that.

Mineral oil is most likely to have an effect on the numbers of protozoa in the colon, both good and bad. One of the chronic diarrhea theories a while back was that there were pathogenic protozoa involved. It’s never been proven. Mineral oil might have an effect on some harmful organisms in the colon (the “bugs” here wouldn’t be parasites but rather bacteria and protozoa), but it probably wouldn’t be permanent and there’s no guarantee it would help. A better long-term solution would be to try to get the population of organisms in the colon as normal as possible, by getting rid of any parasites, feeding a high-fiber diet with limited grain and feeding Ration Plus.

Other possible causes would be nervousness or a sensitivity/allergy to something in the diet. Ration Plus also helps to some extent with diarrhea during shipping. You might also consider supplementing magnesium, too. To check for diet sensitivities, try putting the horse on a grass hay or grass hay cubes, from the same source, for about six weeks, with no grain. If he improves, try adding in individual whole grains one at a time, starting with oats.

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Corn And Colic
I thought feeding whole corn kernels would put your horse at risk for colic, which is why you should try to feed cracked corn only. Is this true'

It’s not true that cracked corn is less likely to cause colic. In fact, too much cracked corn is more likely to cause colonic upset if fed in large amounts since the starch is more easily available to digestive bacteria.

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Hangs Out Tongue
I have a five-year-old Quarter Horse-Percheron cross. He is out with his buddies during the day. When we put them in the arena to play, he almost immediately sticks his tongue out and turns it upside down. He will run and play with it this way and lets me hang onto it. Is this normal'

Some horses amuse themselves by playing with their tongues, including hanging it out of their mouth and inviting people or other animals to play with it. If the horse has no other symptoms of being ill, it’s probably just a quirk of his.

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White Line Supplements
There are several supplements now on the market that claim to fight onychomycosis of the hoof wall, commonly called white-line disease. Both my horses have white-line disease in all four feet. I feel the cause is environmental because our septic field is located under the corral area.

I’ve been told to eliminate alfalfa in white-line disease diets as it’s too high in protein and that when mixed with body fluids has a high ammonia output and changes the pH level of the ground.

Is using lime on urine spots effective in disinfecting for white-line disease and if so how much should be used and how often' Is lime safe to broadcast in the stalls where the horses often eat fallen hay off of the ground and if so at what rate for an average-sized stall'

White-line disease involves an infection of the white line with bacteria and/or fungi. The infection per se is only part of the cause, though. Both overly wet and overly dry ground conditions can predispose to white-line infection, the first by oversoftening and the second by drying out the white line and causing it to crumble at ground surface. Anything that interferes with production of a healthy hoof in general (nutritional deficiencies) and results in poor hoof quality can predispose to white-line disease.

Effective treatment strategies must address all factors simultaneously. When the infection has extended far enough up the white line that a hollow sound can be heard on tapping the hoof wall, resection of the hoof over the affected areas is usually advisable, from ground surface up to the level of normal, healthy attachments. This exposes the infectious organisms to air and light, making it far easier to treat. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on this.

Overfeeding of protein does cause more ammonia production. If your horse’s level of alfalfa intake is problematic, you’ll notice a strong odor to the wet spots and a high level of water consumption. If you’re not seeing this, there’s no need to stop the alfalfa. Ammonia per se has not been directly incriminated in white line disease. It could be a factor but isn’t a necessary one for white-line disease to be a problem.

Lime itself can also irritate hoof tissues so don’t overdo it and only use a light layer on areas that are heavily urine soaked, after removing all urine soaked bedding and raking the ground down to as close to dry as you can get it. Bedding should be reapplied over the limed ground surface.

Some keys to controlling and eliminating white-line disease are:

• Avoid both overly wet and overly dry ground conditions

• Avoid going too long between trims, especially letting the toes get too long and/or heels underrun, both of which put the white lines under considerable stress/stretch

• Feed a mineral-balanced diet with adequate, but not excessive, protein and make sure the horse is getting enough lysine and methionine essential amino acids.

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Hot Horse
I’ve owned my 10-year-old Quarter Horse gelding since he was four. Every year between July and August, he gets sick, with temperatures as high as 105.9 and a loss of appetite. We have done a lot of blood work, and it comes back fine. Do you have any suggestions'

If your blood work included complete blood counts, with white blood cell counts and differentials, and the white counts are normal in every way, that pretty much rules out an infectious problem or disease.

If his only symptoms are fever and loss of appetite, it sounds like he has a temperature regulatory problem that’s only really obvious at the hottest time of the year. Heavily muscled or overweight horses have more trouble keeping cool, as do black and brown horses. He also could be partially anhidrotic, meaning he doesn’t sweat normally. If your horse has ever had muscular symptoms that might mean he has HYPP, you should have him tested for that, too. Muscles that are in spasm generate a considerable amount of heat.

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Salt Consumption
When I moved my horse to his new barn, he started devouring his salt blocks. He would literally eat a brick-sized salt block in 1 to 2 days, when he never touched the one in the old barn. This caused him to drink huge amounts of water and excessively soil his stall.

My vet recommended that I feed him one teaspoon of salt per day in his feed instead of allowing him free access to a block. I know H orse Journal says horses should get two tablespoons of salt per day. Should I supplement at that level instead'

My horse is working harder than he was when we first moved and temperatures are rising. Would it be better to add electrolytes instead of more salt' This is a 1,500-pound, 15.2-hand draft-type horse in low-level dressage training. He overheats quite easily and sweats a reasonable amount when he works.

Either the block holder in your other barn had a bad taste (usually rust) and he’s catching up, or he’s eating excessive salt out of some nervousness in adjusting to his new environment, maybe even the loss of some buddies.

If it’s been less than a month or so since the move, you might want to just give him some time. Try to arrange for more turn out time and a chance to socialize with the new horses. If the behavior persists, restricting his salt is certainly an option but you still need to make sure he consumes enough for his health.

A horse this size needs at least 1.5 ounces of salt a day (3 tablespoons) in cool weather and probably twice as much in warm weather. This is just baseline intake, and he will need more when he exercises and sweats. Try adding his baseline amount to his feed and putting out an extra 2 to 3 ounces/day in a small feeder???either loose table salt or salt chunks (ask at your feed store, as cattlemen buy a lot of this salt for their animals).

As long as he’s getting plenty of hay and/or grass, you won’t need to worry about electrolyte mixes per se. unless he’s working over an hour a day. Salt is the major electrolyte in sweat, and the hay/grass provides plenty of potassium.

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In-Foal Mare In Hot Summer Weather
I have a 16-year-old Thoroughbred mare in foal. She is in a five-acre pasture with another unbred mare that I keep with her as a friend and pasture mate. I feed Strategy twice a day according to directions. They each get 1 flake of alfalfa with each meal. They have free access to pasture that is a mix of coastal and common Bermuda in summer and winter rye and clover in winter.

I took her off the daily dewormer, because I thought her coat wasn’t shiny and have gone back to a paste deworming schedule. She doesn’t like either salt or mineral blocks, and I worry about this in our 100-degree Texas summers, although her previous foals have been healthy. Do I need to be supplementing anything'

It’s hard to say with certainty if all her mineral needs, especially phosphorus and trace minerals, are being met without knowing details of her weight, how much alfalfa by weight and the mineral profile of your pasture, but your feeding program is basically sound and likely does not contain any deficiencies. You could opt to boost them a bit by using a half dose of a supplement that is a good match for alfalfa-based diets (see September 2001). Dehydration can lead to uterine muscular irritability and interfere with adequate milk production. You should add iodized table salt, one to two ounces per day, to her feed when she’s pregnant and lactating.

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Stop The Clumps
During a humid summer, your minerals, rice bran or other supplement may start clumping badly long before you’re done with it.?? This is caused by moisture from the air getting into the container every time you open it.????The humidity changes the weight/volume measure of the product and could lead to incorrect dosing.??Plus, with more perishable ingredients, the higher moisture level can result in quicker spoilage.

To stop this, try making a super-size moisture-absorbent bag by putting uncooked rice into either a plastic or paper bag with many small holes poked in it, or use a fine net if you can find one.?? You can also use the instant rice that comes in submersible cooking bags. The rice will absorb the moisture, and the whole assembly can be economically replaced as needed.??You’ve probably seen this trick used in kitchens, too, but it works just as well in the??barn.

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Soaking Up The Sun’s Goodness
If the cautions about sun exposure have you wondering if you should avoid as much of it as possible for your horse, think again. Sun also brings important health benefits:

• Exposure to sun triggers the conversion of plant precursors to active vitamin D by skin cells.

• Low-level exposures to UVA waves of natural sunlight suppress the release of histamine from circulating white blood cells, which are an important part of autoimmune reactions, contact allergies and skin hypersensitivities.

• Ultraviolet light rays activate “suppressor” T cells, which tone down inflammatory and immune reactions. With heavy exposures on light skin, this may be part of the method by which sun can cause cancers, but in reasonable doses with sensitive skin protected, it’s a plus.

• Sunlight triggers the brain to release more serotonin, the calming and relaxing neurotransmitter.

• Areas of the world with the highest intensity of sunlight have much lower levels of autoimmune diseases, an effect that cannot be explained by other factors.

Always protect pink-skinned areas with a sun blocker, such as zinc oxide, and be sure horses have shade available and plenty of water.