Ask Horse Journal: 12/03

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Using Nutraceuticals As A Preventative
My seven-year-old fourth-level dressage horse has no problems except minor/expected navicular changes. I am interested in using joint nutraceuticals as a preventative for arthritis. Is this a waste of money' I supplement United Vet’s MegaMag, Enreco Flaxseed, plus some rice bran.

-Suzanne Grimshaw
Pennsylvania

There are no studies that actually prove joint-nutraceutical ingredients have a preventative effect with respect to arthritis, however, their use in hard-working horses is certainly reasonable. Maintenance of a good omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, and supplementation with antioxidant nutrients are also important, especially for a horse that does not have access to fresh grass as a source. Studies confirm an anti-inflammatory effect of omega-3 fatty acids in horses. If you’re feeding grain, your horse is already getting more omega-6 than omega-3 acids, so the flaxseed is a good idea. Go light on the rice bran, which is high in omega-6. You might also consider adding vitamin E and C to boost the antioxidants.

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Bucket Games
My three-year-old loves to play in his feed. He flings the feed around with his nose, spilling much of it, and then starts pawing. He’ll even pick up the tub and throw it, depending upon the container. I’ve tried different solutions, he’s always been an energetic eater, but it’s getting worse. I’m concerned he’s not getting all his feed. I have had his teeth checked regularly, and there do not appear to be any problems there. Am I missing something'

-Dana Critz Lock
Tennessee

Some horses flip their feed because they don’t like it; others to pick out the tastiest pieces first and others seem to just to sort through it to make sure there isn’t some hidden goodie. Mouth pain, including teeth, will sometimes make a horse do this, too, so the dental exam was a wise move. However, since it’s not a tooth problem, you’ve basically got to continue experimenting with feed-tub options. You’re not alone in this problem, and many manufacturers make tubs that are designed to help limit grain tossing. Some have wide lips at the top. Others have a metal rim built into the interior of the bucket that allows the muzzle to fit through but doesn’t have enough room to toss it around and fling the feed.You need to persist because, as you suspect, he’s not getting all the feed you’re giving him.

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Preventing Impaction
Horse Journal is the first reference material I turn to when researching a problem with my horse. I was wondering about the benefits of bran mashes for intestinal health. I have a horse that has a tendency toward impaction colic. I’ve used psyllium (HorseTech’s Sand Trap), but I can’t figure out if I can use it daily as opposed to one week a month as the label directions state. Do you have any research to suggest the benefits or detriments of psyllium use as part of my horse’s regular diet' He is a five-year-old Thoroughbred. He’s also getting 2 to 3 oz. salt per day in his food, three buckets of water, well-soaked beet pulp and pellets three times a day, plus more.

-Chris Crawford
New York

It sounds like you’re doing a good job of getting soluble fiber into him (beet pulp, psyllium), as well as water. The instructions for feeding psyllium recommend intermittent use with the rationale that the organisms in the horse’s gut will become accustomed to the psyllium and digest it. However, the horse’s large intestine is well populated with organisms that efficiently digest soluble fiber.

It’s really not clear whether daily feeding of psyllium decreases its effectiveness in removing sand, which is what those instructions are geared toward. When it comes to regulating intestinal activity and reducing bloating we have found that daily feeding does not reduce the effect. Remember, too, that the horse needs plenty of long fiber/loose hay to keep the intestines stimulated. You should feed a minimum of 1% of his body weight in hay every day. It might be a good idea to avoid coastal Bermuda hay if you’re having impaction problems as some horses seem to be more prone on the fine coastal Bermuda. Adequate exercise is also important for good intestinal motility.

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Feeding Yearlings
I have a yearling colt I would like to put on oats. I plan to also give him Triple Crown 30. I also give him Horse Shine. Will this be giving him too much minerals' Should I give a lower dose of Triple Crown 30 or Horse Shine' I’m a firm user of Horse Shine, and all my horses have shiny coats. He receives good-quality grass hay free choice. He’s on a dry lot, but I’ll move him to grass in the spring. Will that change what I’m feeding'

-T.L. Ayres
Pennsylvania

To answer your question, we would need to know exactly how much oats, Triple Crown 30, HorseShine and hay or pasture the horse is eating, his weight, rate of growth and also the mineral profile of the hay. The mineral levels in Horse Shine aren’t terribly high, so if you’re feeding this at the usual recommended rate, say 2.5 ounces per day, it won’t have a major impact on his mineral profiles.

Triple Crown 30 is formulated to complement a variety of grass hays (not alfalfa), and there’s enough flexiblity in the Ca:P ratio to allow feeding some oats as well. Follow the label directions for this age group (1.5 lbs./day), with free choice hay plus oats as needed to maintain good growth and body condition.

Spring grass tends to be lower in mineral concentrations than later growth stages or hay, so you should maintain the same level of Triple Crown 30 when on pasture, or consider switching to Triple Crown 12 at that time because of the higher protein in young grasses.

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Biotin And Skin Tags
One of my friends started using the high-biotin supplement I feed my mare. Her gelding started getting skin tags, and she thinks it may be the supplement. I find it hard to believe.

-E. McIvor
California

We know of no evidence that biotin intake even at extremely high levels causes any toxicity. However, it’s theoretically possible that biotin could be “feeding” the organism or abnormal cellular activity that’s causing the lesions. The best way to find out if the supplement is involved is simply to stop using it.

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Unexpected Swim
Two wild mares and a two-year-old colt took a long swim thanks to Hurricane Isabel in September. The horses apparently were swept from their Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve in North Carolina, across Back Sound for more than a mile, to Shackleford Banks. The three horses were found by Cape Lookout National Seashore herd managers and in good condition after their ordeal. They were tranquilized by dart gun and then returned to their home island by boat.

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Industry News: Iowa Supplements Threatened
Iowa is on the verge of prohibiting the sale of animal feeds and supplements that include ingredients without GRAS status by the FDA or in association with AAFCO (Association of Feed Control Officials) guidelines. GRAS is the acronym used for ingredients generally recognized as safe by these groups.

According to a letter from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship to companies distributing pet food in Iowa, animal-feed manufacturers will not be allowed to include “unapproved” feed additives, including antioxidants, probiotics, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, in their products. Supplement labels of allowed products will be monitored for statements that could be considered a “drug claim” or other “label discrepancies.”

The state’s ban is slated to take effect on Dec. 1, 2003, according to the letter. Manufacturers not in compliance after that date are being threatened with “stop sale” action by the state.

We urge readers to join the National Animal Supplement Council’s effort to stop Iowa from taking this action. More information can be obtained at their website www.nasc.cc or by calling 760-751-3360. The website also contains sample letters you can use to contact Iowa state officials. For more information on state bans and the legality issues on animal supplements, see our March 2002 issue.

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Wilsun Blankets Sold
Horse blankets you knew as being made by Wilsun, including DryHorse, Sweatless and Equirobe sheets and blankets, and those previously recommended by Horse Journal, are now being manufactured by KR’s Customs, Inc. 866-639-9892, www.krscustoms.com.

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Twins Linked To Drug Use
Avoiding twin pregnancies in mares is highly desirable, as two surviving strong twin foals are rare. Even if your mare gives birth to both foals, there’s less than a 5% chance either foal will survive.

It’s most likely that a mare carrying twins will lose one fetus spontaneously by the 60-day mark of pregnancy. Even so, the surviving foal tends to be small and weak upon birth. About a third of the mares lose both fetuses. This is why it’s often considered wise to have twin pregnancies detected by ultrasound study within a few weeks of breeding and one of the fetuses eliminated.

Commonly known risk factors for twin pregnancies include a higher rate in Thoroughbreds and draft breeds, more twinning in the six- to 10-year-old age group than younger mares, and a higher risk if the mare is rebred within 80 days of foaling. Now, however, the very drugs used to help get mares pregnant are also considered a possible cause.

A study done in Italy at the University of Milan has implicated Prostaglanding F2alpha drugs and hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) in more twin pregnancies. Both drugs are widely used in broodmares, particularly when using artificial insemination where it is important to correlate ovulation with timing of insemination as closely as possible. The prostaglandins are used to “short cycle” mares and induce estrus in a predictable time frame. The hCG is the injection commonly given within 24 hours of insemination to induce the mare to ovulate. Both drugs are useful in improving conception rates, but you may pay a price.

The study looked at the rate of twin pregnancies in 680 Thoroughbred mares, 356 of which had been treated with prostaglandin alone, hCH alone, or a combination of the two. The prostaglandin used in this study was cloprostenol. The rate of twin pregnancies was significantly higher in the treated group, with 16.6% vs. 6.5% in the untreated. The weakest correlation was found in mares receiving hCG only, next highest for prostaglandin only and the strongest link with twinning found in mares that had received both drugs.

Since the greatest risk of conceiving twins was associated with the use of prostaglandin, either alone for short cycling or in combination with hCG, it’s wise to avoid this drug and just wait the few more days it will take for your mare to come into season on her own. If you aren’t already getting ultrasound studies of your mare soon after breeding, this should be done if drugs are used and/or other risk factors are also present. It’s easier for the veterinarian to handle a twin pregnancy when detected early.

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Winter Work Tips
• Spot-Bathing: There’s no reason to live with winter manure stains until spring. Spot bathing isn’t difficult if you have the right product at hand. We like Miracle Groom (www.miraclegroom.com 800-628-9653) best for quick clean-ups. It effectively eliminates stains and deodorizes your horse’s coat, leaving it silky and clean with no residue. However, you do have to wet the horse’s spot, so it may not be your best bet in frigid temperatures.

For those times, we suggest you try the only truly dry shampoo we know: Radiance (www.nickint.com 800-642-5377). This vegetable-fiber-based powder works surprisingly well removing stains, especially manure. The only drawback is that its fine powder can be messy to work with (see December 2001 for more waterless-bathing products).

• Cold Bits And Ointments: Warming your horse’s bit with your hand before placing it in your horse’s mouth is a winter basic. However, the same system can work for ointments or creams you need to apply in the winter. If the tube is small enough, place it inside your glove while you do your barn work. By the time you’re ready to use it, it will be warm enough to flow easily. If you’ve got a larger container, like a small Corona tube, place it inside your jacket, tucking it into an inner pocket or under your belt.

• Draft Protection: A hammer and nails and heavy sheet plastic can turn almost any barn into a cozy environment for your horse. To get the plastic to stay in place, roll the plastic over several times so the plastic is thicker where the nails hold it. If you nail through one layer of plastic, the wind will rip it out. The plastic lets light in, but effectively stops drafts, snow and rain.

This can even turn a shed-row barn into a barn with an enclosed aisle when you nail the plastic to the posts that support the shed-row roof.

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