Gastric Ulcers account for many unhappy horses with equally unhappy owners who experience the behavioural problems that not surprisingly go with them. Now we're told that a high percentage of horses have gastric ulcers which can be brought on by stress, intensive training, medication and diet (particularly prolonged periods without forage) so we can only guess at how many of their expressions of pain have been misunderstood! Which means we welcome any research that helps us combat this painful problem in our equine partners.
The latest diet related research presented at the International Colic Symposium looked into whether a certain diet could help prevent the reoccurrence of ulcers after veterinary treatment. The 32 horses used in this study were all in hard work and had been diagnosed with significant gastric ulcers. These horses were divided into pairs according to the severity of their ulcers, workload, management and original diet. Then, during and after treatment, one horse in each pair was kept on their original diet and the other fed on a fibre-based, low starch diet of forage plus a restricted starch, high fibre, high energy cube (as they were in hard work) and a high oil, low starch, chopped alfalfa based feed.
The results showed that the horses whose diet didn't change improved significantly with veterinary treatment but many regressed once it had stopped. The horses whose diet had been changed on the other hand, showed significant improvement not only with the treatment but also maintained this improvement after the treatment had stopped. Therefore it was shown that the right diet can maintain the benefits of veterinary treatment.
For more info go to http://www.equinescienceupdate.com/articles/dchmgu.html?
If you're wondering if your horse is suffering with ulcers then you may find this video helpful https://troton.com/32603trot-on/videos/video/3306-equine-ulcer-diagnosis-by-mark-depaolo-dvm
The competitive season for numerous disciplines is well underway and I thought I’d share my favourite/most needed products to get my horses gleaming and catching everyone’s eyes.
I love using the solocomb to pull my horse’s mane, it’s very simple to use and is totally pain and hassle free for the horses. It produces an equal length although is pretty time consuming!
If you are in need of a brush for cleaning EVERYTHING this is the one… it is such good quality and is much bigger than most body brushes. It is also great at creating quarter marks.
Everyone loves a bit of shine… right?! I love keeping my horses coats in a healthy condition and for the added shine on show days I rely on NAF shiny coat spray or the Carr, Day&Martin coat shine conditioner.
This is a game changer in terms of cleaning greys! I have never seen shampoo more effective at removing every possible stain and leaving your horse glowing. They also do a lavender shampoo which can work on any colour coat with added insect repellent due to the lavender scent.
Definitely the way to get extra heads turning and the judges loving you is with sparkly clean tack. My personal go to favourites for softening the tack and keeping it moisturised is the NAF sheer luxe leather balsam and the Carr, Day&Martin Neatsfoot compound oil, which makes my tack gleam!
Hoof oil is not only a really important conditioner for horses hooves to stop them getting dry and cracked especially in the summer months but it also creates a polished look in competition. I love the Effol black hoof oil it applies well and lasts and even works on white hooves.
My absolute favourite for wash downs or simply cleaning. The added advantage of the brush around the sponge means sweat and dirt can easily be wiped away without endlessly scrubbing. A MUST buy for everyone, I guarantee you’ll love it!
This is also a pulling comb however I don’t pull my horses mane, but this comb is gives the perfect amount of hair to plait a mane. It’s a must for any travel bag or home grooming kit and retails at £1.65 – bargain!
There’s nothing worse than having a perfectly cleaned tail but it being ruined on the journey ending up a lovely shade of brown… but Premier Equine have produced the perfect must have solution. I love how easy these are, honestly a must buy.
The summer is here at last and coming to a horse near you is the return of that irritating little horror - The Fly (horsefly to be precise).
Of course horses do have their own natural defences, such as tail swishing, biting, kicking and head shaking, but that can be very inconvenient when riding a dressage test, not to mention those itchy lumps and bumps and the fact flies can spread equine diseases. Did you know that it’s now believed flies can spread Sarcoids?
So if you want to keep these pesky critters at bay it’s time to bring out the repellent. Now for the science bit-even though it’s called a repellent, fly sprays actually work by confusing the fly, which relies heavily on it sense of smell. Scent molecules are released mixed in the horses own smell creating a "fog" making it difficult for the fly to find its victim. Aha, so now you know!
There are many forms of repellent available, from the age old sprig of elder in the browband, to cider vinegar, lavender and garlic (which is the base oil used in the aptly named NAFOFF range of topical sprays). Or you can opt for a product that many horse owners rave about (once only available through vets) called Deosect by Deosan. One application lasts for up to 2 weeks (some people say more) making it an efficient and cost effective choice, especially for owners of horses turned out 24/7 or those who don’t take kindly to too much fuss.
As with all repellents care must be taken when applying them (even with natural products) and always read the label.
If you have any tips on how stop flies spoiling the summer fun for horse and rider why not post them in our Everything Horse Care group. Consuming vast amounts of garlic bread is supposed to work wonders, not only does it keeps flies away but most of your friends too!!
First published in 2012.
Many equestrians wouldn’t think twice about trimming the whiskers around their horse's eyes and nose thinking they look scruffy and spoil the appearance of an otherwise immaculately turned out pony. It's particularly common practice in the showing world where they are completely removed in order make the horse look as smart as possible. And I freely admit I’ve trimmed my horses’ whiskers in the past for the same reasons and because there’s nothing better than the feeling of a lovely, soft, whisker-free muzzle, right?!
Except I've come to realise that rather than just being scruffy bits of hair, whiskers serve a really important purpose. Because of the way horses’ eyes are positioned on their head, they have a blind spot directly in front of them and immediately below their noses; as a result, they rely a great deal on their whiskers to help them to ‘see’!
As equine vet Dr Joyce Harman points out, whiskers actually function as a kind of ‘third eye’ for our horses. For example, when doing everyday activities like grazing or being in their stables, horses rely a great deal on their whiskers to help guide their muzzles, telling them how far away things are. Whiskers around the eyes are also particularly important for helping to prevent the horse from bumping into objects like a twig sticking out a bush. As a result, by trimming our horses’ whiskers we actually impair them, removing their ability to judge distances for objects that fall into their blind spots!
Another equine vet, Dr Marty Becker, says, these whiskers are the product of years of evolution of horses adapting to their environment – by removing them, we humans interfere with our horses’ natural way of being and put them more at risk of bumping into things!
As a result, countries such as Germany and Switzerland have actually banned the trimming of whiskers. Whilst this may seem like a bizarre law to some, it becomes more understandable when we realise just how important these bits of hair really are. Germany has banned the trimming of whiskers since 1998 in accordance with their Animal Welfare Law, with adherence to this law being tightly monitored by authorities. These countries suggest that the trimming of whiskers is in fact a form of animal cruelty due to the negative impact it can place on the horse.
Currently, there is no such law in the UK, and it is a regular sight to see immaculately turned out horses at shows with not a whisker in sight. Do you think trimming whiskers should be banned? Is it animal cruelty, or is it just another method of grooming? This also made me think about other animals too – some dog groomers trim dogs’ whiskers too, but surely they serve the same purpose, so should we stop trimming animals’ whiskers full stop?!
I’d love to hear what you think. My horse Teddy doesn’t like his whiskers being trimmed, but maybe that’s just his way of telling me, “Mum, I need these!”
Grey horses must be magical as they somehow always weasel their way into your heart, even when you are insistent that you want an easy-to-keep-clean bay horse. From my study of grey horse owners it seems to be that once you go grey you never go back, and so in order to survive a lifetime of grey horses it becomes necessary to learn the tricks of the trade early on.
Longstanding grey owners know all the best shampoos (human and horse), leg whiteners and chalks, plus all the weird things like putting ketchup on a stained tail (whoever tried that out the first time was braver than me!). They have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the different types of lycra hoods and they somehow always manage to turn their horses out absolutely spotless. My personal experience is that no matter what I do Archie is always yellow somewhere come the following morning and even the covered bits managed to get stained. It probably doesn’t help that he is incredibly lazy and will find the one and only spot of wet straw in his stable to sleep in. No matter how many layers and wraps you put on, when you’ve got a 5am start and you need to get on the road pronto you can guarantee the stains will be gigantic.
The summer show season is replaced in the winter by endless battle against the mud. This winter I gave up trying to groom the copious amounts off on a daily basis, and after two weeks of eating dinner at 10pm having got back from the yard so late I decided we needed a turnout hood. The Snuggy Hoods Boxing Day sale was an fantastic excuse to purchase probably be best bit of kit I have ever bought! He still manages to get mud underneath it, but now it takes 5 minutes to remove rather than 50.
My best tactics for keeping Archie vaguely clean involve; combing through and conditioning his tail daily and then plaiting up, a turnout hood in the field and show hood in the stable the night before an event, and a new trick of wearing waterproof turnout rugs in the stable to stop the wee getting through! Most importantly and often the hardest thing to do is not stress about it on a normal day and instead save that for the days that really matter. Despite the awkward and time consuming colour, they really are a gorgeous bunch. Let me know any of your top tips, they are always gratefully received!
As it says on the tin, this is a personal blog about the journey Archie and I are taking in discovering the world of eventing. Archie is a 6 year old Irish gelding, and I am a 26 year old horse addict. I didn’t grow up in a family with horses, and Archie was the first horse I ever owned, having loaned for over 20 years. I hope that we can show other riders who perhaps don’t feel that they can achieve their dreams, that anything is possible!
Re-published by kind permission of Journey of an Amateur Eventer|Blog
Chestnut Hanoverian horses have a reputation for being sensitive. Kylie Heitman didn't know that when she purchased her mare Lena, who is trained for a form of competition riding known as dressage.
"She is quite sensitive and high-strung," Heitman says, adding that it was a challenge to keep the horse calm when she tried introducing her to new objects or skills. "She's quite opinionated, too."
Heitman, a biology student at Albion College, wondered if lavender oil, known for its calming properties in humans, could help relax horses during stressful events, such as when they're transported in trailers to performance events. To find out, she conducted a research study, and presented the results in a poster session at the 2017 Experimental Biology conference. Some of her findings fall in line with a handful of previous experiments that show that lavender oil reduces stress in animals, including dogs, sheep, mice, cats and also humans.
"There is a biological pathway for lavender to affect the part of the brain that is the primary modulator of stress in an animal," says Edward Ferguson, assistant professor of animal sciences at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
In 2012, Ferguson published a small study showing that lavender oil decreased the heart and respiratory rates of seven horses, following a period of high stress... READ MORE
Facial expressions research at the Animal Health Trust will help vets and owners recognise pain in ridden horses before it’s too late.
Experts at the Animal Health Trust (AHT) Equine Clinic are on a mission to help vets and owners recognise pain in ridden horses, so that they can get help before it’s too late. Owners, riders, trainers and some vets are known to struggle with recognising when a horse is lame from looking at horse’s gait alone, and some lameness is so subtle that only an expert eye can see it. Owners, riders and trainers also have a poor ability to recognise signs of pain seen when horses are ridden. As a result, problems are often labelled as training-related or behavioural (the horse is just being naughty), or deemed ‘normal’ for that horse because ‘that’s how he’s always gone’. Unfortunately that means pain-related problems are often disregarded, the horse continues in work, and the problem gets progressively worse. If pain goes unrecognised and is not referred to a lameness specialist early enough, problems become too advanced to be resolved, or managed as well as they might have been if spotted sooner.
Many people will have heard to be wary of a horse when he puts his ears back, or would see a horse is spooked if he flares his nostrils and shows the whites of his eyes. So if spotting pain and lameness itself is a specialist art, perhaps it would be better to educate people to recognise changes in facial expressions. That’s why Dr Sue Dyson, Head of Clinical Orthopaedics at the AHT, and her team have developed an ethogram to help them identify signs of pain from a horse’s facial expressions when being ridden.
The ethogram is a catalogue of facial expressions including the ears, eyes, nose, muzzle, mouth and head position. Each body part can display an expression which may be normal, or reflect pain, conflict behaviour or distress. In its first stage of testing, the ethogram was successfully applied by a variety of people from different backgrounds, to a selection of photographs of horses’ heads while they were ridden. Using the ethogram these individuals could identify different expressions in each horse, such as positions of the ears, changes in the eyes, and tightness in the muzzle. The results were highly repeatable among the analysts proving that, with guidance from the ethogram, owners could potentially reliably recognise different expressions in their horse’s face.
Stage two has now been successfully completed, testing if the ethogram could be used to distinguish between sound and lame horses. During this phase a pain score from 0 - 3 was applied to each of the facial expressions (mouth, eyes, ears etc.), and then totalled to determine an overall pain score for each horse. 519 photos of horses which had been categorised by Sue to be lame or sound were assessed. An amazing total of 27,407 facial markers were recorded, with results showing that there was a scientifically significant difference in pain scores given by the assessor for clinically lame and sound horses. The facial markers showing the greatest significant difference between lame and sound horses included ears back, tipping the head, eyes partially or fully closed, tension around the eye, an intense stare, an open mouth with exposed teeth and being severely above the bit. To further prove the effectiveness of assessing pain in a horse with the facial expressions ethogram, a selection of lame horses underwent lameness assessment and nerve blocking (using local anaesthetic solution), to alleviate the pain causing them discomfort when ridden. Comparison of their facial expressions before and after using local analgesia showed a significantly lower pain score once the pain causing lameness had been removed.
By focusing on the face, Sue has proved not only that it is a clear indicator or pain, but also that owners, riders and trainers could successfully apply this to horses they see on a daily basis. Recognition of changes in facial expression could potentially save horses from needless suffering and chronic injuries, by enabling owners and trainers to recognise pain sooner, and get these horses the veterinary care that they need. Developing a practical tool for recognising facial expressions, similar to that of a body condition score chart (identifying if a horse is under or over weight), could dramatically improve the health and welfare of all horses – which is something Sue and her team at the Animal Health Trust continue to work towards. For Sue and her team the study does not end here, with the next exciting stage of the project already underway with the development of a whole horse ethogram.
Source: Animal Health Trust UK
The ability of riders and trainers to recognise or acknowledge pain-related gait abnormalities in horses appears to be limited, says equine orthopaedics specialist Dr Sue Dyson.
Dyson, who is head of clinical orthopaedics with the Centre for Equine Studies at Britain’s Animal Health Trust, cites several studies in a just-published review that highlight shortcomings among owners and trainers in the recognition of these problems.
“There appears to be a perception among riders and trainers that horses can have ‘a lazy hind limb’, whereas in reality most of these horses are lame,” Dyson writes in the latest issue of Applied Animal Behaviour Science.
Dyson, who examines clinical issues around equine performance and the application of equine science in her review, cited a 2014 study of 506 sport horses in normal work that were perceived by their owners to be sound. However, 47% were assessed to have pain-related gait abnormalities. Some of these were apparent in-hand and in straight lines, but most were detected only when ridden.
In another study of 23 horses presumed sound by their owners, 14 showed fore-limb lameness in straight lines.
In yet another study, 57 dressage and showjumping horses in normal work and considered sound by their owners were then assessed in hand, after flexion tests, on the lunge on both soft and firm surfaces, and ridden. Only 14 were sound under all circumstances, with the rest showing some lameness.
A British study has raised the uneasy possibility that many riders may not be sitting well in the saddle, with the potential to cause problems for their mount.
The Animal Health Trust pilot study set out to investigate some basic aspects of rider position and saddle fit.
Side-on photographs of 34 randomly selected horses and riders were evaluated by 12 assessors, comprising four equine veterinarians, an equine veterinary nurse, five equine technicians, and two office staff, both of whom had previously been horse owners.
The riders included a mix of pleasure riders and those who competed at amateur and professional levels.
The dozen assessors were asked to determine if the rider sat correctly, with the shoulder, hip and heel in alignment. They were also asked to assess whether they felt the rider was too large for the seat of the saddle or for the saddle in general; whether the rider sat too far towards the back of the saddle; whether the fit of the saddle to the rider was likely to adversely affect their position; and whether the rider was too big for the horse.
There was generally good agreement among the assessors, but the consensus was rather disturbing... READ MORE
At last research has been carried out into the hotly debated practice of twitching horses. Whilst many horse owners already think that it is cruel to twitch the ears of a horse, lip twitching is more widely accepted. Hopefully this research will lead to an advancement in horse welfare...
The study recorded the response of 12 geldings divided into two groups; one group receiving a lip twitch and the other an ear twitch. Each horse was monitored for heart rate (HR), heart rate variability (HRV) and salivary cortisol levels.
The lip twitch which is the most commonly used form of twitching was shown to significantly decrease HR and HRV for the first 5 minutes, whilst also reducing salivary cortisol levels. However, when the lip twitch was left on for more than 5 minutes, the HR increased and HRV decreased. They also noted that the horses didn't seem to indicate any long term behavioural reaction to having been twitched in this way.
'Initially, the lip twitch increases parasympathetic nervous system activity, reduces stress levels, and has no effect on a horse's behaviour. This suggests that it subdues through a calming, probably analgesic effect. However, after the first five minutes of application, the lip twitch appears to significantly raise sympathetic tone, which raises questions about its suitability for periods longer than just a few minutes.'
Ear twitching on the other hand significantly raised HR, decreased HRV, and also increased cortisol levels, indicating that this method is highly stressful for horses and they are immobilised as a result of fear and/or pain. And not surprisingly 4 out of the 6 horses who had been ear twitched did not want to have their ear touched even four weeks later.
The researchers concluded that the ear twitch 'significantly raises sympathetic nervous system activity and stress levels and makes horses harder to handle both directly after application of the twitch and over time.'
From these findings they advise that ear twitching should not be used on horses and lip twitches should only be applied for a few minutes. If a horse needs to be subdued for a longer period, then a vet should sedate the horse instead.
Source: Equine Science Update.
Let us know your thoughts on twitching. Has this research supported or changed your opinion?