Ask Horse Journal: Back Support, Diarrhea, Regu-Mate

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Looking For Back Support

Have you done anything on shoulders/back support/systems or braces' I have rolled shoulder issues and thought maybe this is the way to go. I hate to drop $40 or more if I don't need to. Are there exercises I should do instead'

Associate Editor Margaret Freeman responds: Back in 2006 we test-rode the Shoulders Back ($45) and Unisit ($179) systems with lukewarm results.? Our tester?s posture improved while riding with the products, but she didn't retain that improvement on her own.? We did feel they had value in helping the rider realize how much a better position, with a quieter seat and straighter posture, can positively affect the horse's performance.?

We believe that long-term improvement in posture takes both motivation and close attention to physical exercises?cross-training for the rider. The devices above might give you that motivation, as could two books We've reviewed over the past couple years and can highly recommend:? ?The Rider?s Pain-Free Back? and ?Rider & Horse Back to Back? (both $29.95, published by Trafalgar Square Books and available through www.horsebooksetc.com, 800-952-5813).

We wish that better posture could happen as easily as putting on a strap system.? Whatever might inspire you to aim for a better (and healthier!) posture, we feel work on the longe line and on the exercise mat will give you better long-term results.? Pilates, in particular, can provide improvement because it concentrates on stronger abdominal muscles that in turn stabilize your posture. There are a number of good books and DVDs on Pilates, both rider-specific and in general, but it pays to also get some help from a capable Pilates instructor to at least get you started.? Group Pilates mat classes are now often available at local community centers and most gyms at reasonable rates.

DIARRHEA PROBLEM

My horse's problem is ?drippage.? His stools have never been firm, but now tHere's a dribble of green water that follows a bowel movement. He soils his legs and rump, so I have to wash him often. Please, can you tell me how to fix this problem'

Contributing Veterinary Editor Dr. Grant Miller responds: The problem of excessive liquid in a horse's feces is unnerving, not only because it makes a mess, but also because it's a reminder that something must be wrong.?Some of the common issues that I've encountered that can cause runny feces include:

1)? Small strongyle L3 stage larva can encyst in the wall of the colon and periodically emerge to carry out their lifecycle.? Conventional dewormers can't kill them, and their presence in the colon wall causes it to become damaged and inflamed, resulting in watery feces in some cases.? If you deworm with QuestPlus, and the runny feces cease within a week or two, you likely have some component of encysted L3 strongyle larva contributing to the problem.

2)? Sand in the colon can cause chronic irritation to the wall and watery feces.? The? best way to deal with sand is to stop a horse from ingesting it, feeding horses off the ground, or at least on a rubber mat where their sand ingestion is limited.? Giving a fiber supplement (such as psyllium) may be beneficial since it draws water into the colon to assist with sand removal.

3)? Colonic ulceration (due to stress, the use of NSAIDs like bute) can cause watery feces.? Colonic ulcers can be difficult to effectively treat, so this diagnosis and treatment should be made by vet.

4)? Gastric ulcers can result in runny feces.? Hundreds of horse owners have reported that watery feces stopped once the ulcers were under control.

5)?Cushing?s disease.? If your horse is 17 or older, testing for Cushing?s disease with a simple blood test may be a good idea, even if there are no symptoms.?This disease taxes all the organ systems in the body and can cause colon issues.

6)? Bacterial flora imbalances can result in chronic, runny feces.? If you?ve ruled out other causes through testing or trial-and-error, your veterinarian may decide to run a course of antibiotics.? Sometimes, the runny feces stop.? If this is the case, you will need to work on your horse's colonic health, perhaps adding a yeast supplement. Yeast is a powerful, robust organism that ?muscles out? a lot of bacteria in the colon.? Many owners use Saccharomyces spp. (aka brewer?s yeast) in their grain.

7)? An allergy to the hay may cause the upset.? Completely switching (over the course of seven days) to a different hay will help? determine if your horse may be sensitive to feed.?Many horses can't tolerate grass hay or oat hay.?Fewer have problems with peanut hay or alfalfa hay, although some do.

I hope this helps, but please remember: You must consult with your veterinarian about how to proceed with your horse.

REGUMATE AND SOY

I give my mare Merck?s Regu-Mate.? I have supplemented her diet with soybean meal to add protein. I was told that soy has hormonal effects, and I was wondering if supplementing with soy meal is counter-indicated for a mare on Regu-Mate.

Contributing Veterinary Editor Dr. Deb Eldredge responds: You?ve raised an interesting question, and I consulted with both a veterinarian at Merck and a nutritionist at Purina. Many mares have been on feeds with soybean meal and/or soy supplements with no problem with Regu-Mate interactions, and there have been no official studies looking at that interaction yet.

Purina nutritionist Karen E. Davison, Ph.D., said, ?In general, the isoflavones (the primary phytoestrogen sources in soy) in soybean meal have been reported to have 1/1,200 the potency of endogenous estrogen. There are phytoestrogens in wheat, corn, oats, alfalfa, corn gluten meal, flax seeds, rice, brewer?s yeast . . . a whole host of ingredients common in horse feeds. Soybean meal would contain the highest concentration, reportedly an average of 1,400 ppm total isoflavones compared with alfalfa meal at 36 ppm. The inclusion of soybean meal in most horse diets would be 20% on the high end, most being lower than that. A horse feed with 20% soybean meal, fed at 6 pounds per day, would supply around 760 mg of isoflavones. A horse diet of 6 pounds of oats and 20 lbs of alfalfa would supply around 360 mg of isoflavones per day.?

So, virtually all mares on Reg-Mate are receiving a fair amount of phytoestrogens from their diet no matter what they are fed. As long as your mare seems to be responding properly to her Regu-Mate regimen, you should be fine with your current diet.