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Horse Vaccine News

AAEP* Guidelines for Vaccinations of Horses:




Performance Horses

Pleasure Horses



West Nile Virus

First dose:  3 to 4 months.

Second does:  1 month later (plus 3rd dose at 6 months in endemic areas.)

Annual booster, prior to expected risk.  Vaccinate semi-annually or more frequently (every 4 months), depending on risk. Annual booster, prior to expected risk.  Vaccinate semi-annually or more frequently (every 4  months), depending on risk. Annual booster, prior to expected risk.  Vaccinate semi-annually or more frequently (every 4  months), depending on risk. Annual, 4 to 6 weeks prepartum (see full text in guidelines). Annual booster is after primary series.  In endemic areas, booster as required or warranted due to local conditions conducive to disease risk.  Vaccinate semi-annually or more frequently (every 4 months), depending on risk.
Tetanus toxoid

From nonvaccinated mare:  First dose:  3 to 4 months.  Second dose:  4 to 5 months.

From vaccinated mare:  First dose:  6 months.  Second dose:  7 months.  Third dose:  8 to 9 months.

Annual. Annual. Annual. Annual, 4 to 6 weeks prepartum. Booster at time of penetrating injury or surgery if last dose not administered within 6 months.



EEE (in high-risk areas):  First dose:  3 to 4 months.  Second dose:  4 to 5 months.  Third dose:  5 to 6 months.

WEE, EEE (in low-risk areas) and VEE:  From nonvaccinated mare:  First dose:  3 to 4 months.  Second dose:  4 to 5 months.  Third dose:  5 to 6 months.
From vaccinated mare:  First dose:  6 months.  Second dose:  7 months.  Third dose:  8 months.

Annual, spring.

Annual, spring.

Annual, spring.

Annual, spring.

Annual, spring.

Annual, spring.

Annual, 4 to 6 weeks prepartum.

Annual, 4 to 6 weeks prepartum.

In endemic areas booster EEE and WEE every 6 months, VEE only needed when threat of exposure;  VEE may only be available as a combination vaccine with EEE and WEE.

Inactivated injectable:  From nonvaccinated mare:  First dose:  6 months.  Second dose:  7 months.  Third dose:  8 months.  Then at 3-month intervals.
From vaccinated mare:  First dose:  9 months.  Second dose:  10 months.  Third dose:  11 to 12 months.  Then at 3-month intervals.
Intranasal modified live virus:  First dose:  11 months;   has been safely administered to foals less than 11 months - see comments.

Every 3 to 4 months.

Every 6 months.

Every 3 to 4 months.

Every 6 months.

Annual with added boosters prior to likely exposure, every 6 months. At least semi-annual, with 1 booster 4 to 6 weeks prepartum.
Annual before breeding (see comments).
A series of at least 3 doses is recommended for primary immunization of foals.  Not recommended for pregnant mares until data available.  Use inactivated vaccine for prepartum booster.  If first dose is administered to foals less than 11 months of age, administer 2nd dose at or after 11 months of age.


(EHV-1 and EHV-4)

First dose:  4 to 6 months.  Second dose:  5 to 7 months.  Third dose:  6 to 8 months.  Then at 3-month intervals. Booster every 3 to 4 months, up to annually. Booster every 3 to 4 months, up to annually. Optional:  semi-annual if elected. Fifth, seventh, ninth month of gestation (inactivated EHV-1 vaccine);  optional dose at third month of gestation. Vaccination of mares before breeding and 4 to 6 weeks prepartum is suggested.  Breeding stallions should be vaccinated before the breeding season and semi-annually.
Strangles Injectable:  First dose:  4 to 6 months.  Second dose:  5 to 7 months.  Third dose:  7 to 8 months (depending on the product used).  Fourth dose:  12 months.

Intranasal:  First dose:  6 to 9 months.  Second dose:  3 weeks later.
Semi-annual. Optional:  semi-annual, if risk is high. Optional:  semi-annual, if risk is high. Semi-annual with 1 dose of inactivated M-protein vaccine 4 to 6 weeks prepartum. Vaccines containing M-protein extract may be less reactive than whole-cell vaccines.  Use when endemic conditions exist or risk is high.  Foals as young as 6 weeks of age may safely receive the intranasal product.  A third dose should be administered 2 to 4 weeks prior to weaning.
Rabies Foals born to non-vaccinated mares:  First dose:  3 to 4 months.  Second dose:  12 months.
Foals born to vaccinated mares:  First dose 6 months.  Second dose:  7 months.  Third dose:  12 months.
Annual. Annual. Annual. Annual, before breeding. Vaccination recommended in endemic areas.  Do not use modified-live-virus vaccines in horses.
Potomac Horse Fever First dose:  5 to 6 months.  Second dose:  6 to 7 months. Semi-annual. Semi-annual. Semi-annual. Semi-annual with 1 dose 4 to 6 weeks prepartum. Booster during May to June in endemic areas.

*American Association of Equine Practitioners

Horse owners can still vaccinate animals against West Nile virus
Filed under Research, Florida, Veterinary on Wednesday, November 15, 2006.GAINESVILLE, Fla.

Although cooler temperatures have arrived in Florida, horses in the Sunshine State are still at risk for contracting potentially fatal mosquito-borne diseases, such as West Nile virus, University of Florida veterinarians and state officials warn.

“The National Weather Service is projecting a warmer than normal winter, so horse owners should not become complacent and make sure they vaccinate their horse,” said Michael Short, equine programs manager for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Division of Animal Industry.

While state officials report no equine cases yet this year, a new single-dose vaccine recently tested in horses by a University of Florida infectious disease specialist may reduce the overall occurrence of the cyclical virus because the product can be administered any time of year, with almost immediate protection. Known as PreveNile, the vaccine began reaching veterinarians in late September.

“Horse owners who have not vaccinated their animals already should do so as soon as possible,” said Maureen Long, an associate professor of equine medicine at UF’s College of Veterinary Medicine and a nationally recognized expert on West Nile virus. “We want horse owners to vaccinate if they haven’t, because since there is no cure for West Nile Virus, prevention is really the only tool we have for controlling this ongoing threat.”

As of Oct. 31, the disease has been reported in 3,752 people nationwide and in 939 horses this year. In its most serious manifestation, West Nile virus causes fatal inflammation of the brain, and it also occurs in a variety of domestic and wild birds, including crows. Nationwide, more than 23,000 cases have been reported in horses since its initial appearance in 1999, with more than a third of these animals dying, including more than 1,000 in Florida.

West Nile virus cycles between birds and mosquitoes, and mosquito bites are the only way a horse can become infected. Horses and humans infected with the disease cannot infect other horses and humans, experts say. Compared with most states, Florida has a year-round mosquito season, but the insects are most active in the summer and fall.

“Vaccination is a very important component of horses’ health, and the arboviruses, West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis, are two diseases we strongly urge horse owners to have their horses vaccinated for,” Short said. “Many horses die every year from these two diseases and those we report are just confirmed cases. There probably are a lot more out there that we don’t hear about.”

PreveNile is marketed by Intervet Inc. and received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for commercial use in July. Long and her staff provided immune protection studies for the product, the first live-virus vaccine to prevent West Nile virus in horses.

PreveNile provides 12 months of immunity and may be used even if other products have been administered within the past year. Other vaccines previously on the market required two doses before becoming effective.

“The other vaccines are labeled only for protection against viremia, or the presence of virus in the blood,” Long said. “This is the only market vaccine that is labeled for protection against disease itself because of the way in which we tested the product in horses.”

Some 19,000 humans have been infected with the virus, and nearly 800 people have died from it, according to the USDA’s animal and plant health industry surveillance program.

“There is intense interest in developing vaccination strategies for humans,” Long said. “A similar product is currently being tested in humans by Acambis Inc., the human vaccine company that constructed this product originally. Work in horses is invaluable for assessment of this type of vaccine for use in humans.”

Herpesvirus Vaccination Recommendations
by: Kimberly S. Brown, Editor
December 27 2006 Article # 8492,

The following vaccination recommendations for equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) were made by Julia Wilson, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, associate professor of Veterinary Population Medicine at the University of Minnesota. There is some debate among researchers and veterinarians on which vaccine (modified live or killed) is best. Wilson reminds horse owners that no vaccine completely prevents disease, and vaccinated animals can still transmit the disease to others, so other disease prevention strategies (such as quarantine and good hygiene) should always be employed.

EHV vaccines currently on the U.S. market are: Calvenza EHV and CalvenzaEIV/EHV (killed virus, aka inactivated, from Boehringer Ingelheim); Pneumabort K (inactivated from Fort Dodge); Prodigy with Havlogen, Prestige, Prestige II, and Prestige V with Havlogen (all inactivated from Intervet); Fluvac Innovator EHV-4/1 and Fluvac Innovator Triple-E FT+EHV (inactivated from Ft. Dodge); and Rhinomune (modified live virus from Pfizer). No vaccines are labeled against the neurologic form of EHV-1. Zylexis (Parapox Ovis virus vector) from Pfizer is an immunomodulator licensed to diminish clinical illness, particularly respiratory signs, from EHV-1 and -4 infections when administered prior to exposure and during disease incubation.Following are some of the points to the debate:

1. In the case of EHV-1, data from Cornell University suggests that horses vaccinated with Rhinomune will have significantly lower nasal shedding of EHV-1 virus after being infected with EHV-1 than horses vaccinated with an inactivated vaccine. This mighty be important in limiting the spread of the virus.

2. Modified live vaccines generate two types of immunity--humoral (just antibody) and cell mediated (lymphocytes). (The recombinant vaccines using vectors also stimulate both types of immunity.) Killed vaccines generate antibody only, which might not offer enough protection when the horse is faced with a strong challenge.

3. Modified live vaccines tend to create a stronger reaction by the vaccinated animal, so some individuals might have a greater risk of vaccine reactions (not disease) when a modified live vaccine is used. This risk has made some veterinarians and horse owners leery of modified live vaccines when a high risk of that particular disease is not anticipated. Timing is also important to avoid having signs of mild illness right before shipping or a major event.

4. Duration of measurable immunity in challenge studies tends to be longer with vaccines that create cell mediated immunity (modified live and vector).

5. Vaccination of animals in the face of exposure is very controversial and should be made on a case-by-case basis.For exposed horses that might be incubating the disease, it is probably too late to vaccinate or booster. The vaccine doesn't have enough time to give protection before the virus replicates. Minimizing stress and possibly using immunomodulators might make more sense. Zylexis (from Pfizer) has a label claim for EHV-1 and -4 respiratory disease, but it is intended for pre-exposure use.If the farm is such that there is clear division between exposed and unexposed populations, then more veterinarians will consider vaccinating the unexposed animals on the same farm.

Guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners for outbreak control suggest perimeters of biosecurity precautions, vigilance over the already exposed, and vaccination of those that are not exposed, but at risk. That being said, all of the vaccines take a while to ramp up the immune system. One should not expect a single dose of vaccine to be as efficacious as two doses of vaccine given at the appropriate interval.

6. Sick horses should not be vaccinated, in my opinion. Vaccination data from the Findlay, Ohio, outbreak showed a trend that suggests horses given frequent vaccination with the killed vaccine could have increased risk of becoming a neurologic case, but it was not statistically significant.

Horses Removed from Georgia Farm Moved to State Facilities
by: Edited Press Release
April 06 2007 Article # 9338

The horses impounded by the Georgia Department of Agriculture in February from a property in Pike County have been relocated from their emergency impound facility. All remain under quarantine.
"Although some of the animals are not fully recovered, we are pleased with the progress the majority have made under our care," said Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin.

Irvin said that the animals have been moved from an Atlanta private stable, owned by Horsetown Western Stores, to two equine facilities operated by the state.

An auction of rehabilitated horses and the recovery progress of the Pike County horses made the move possible.

"We want to thank the owners of Horsetown Western Stores for allowing us to use the facility for almost eight weeks," Irvin said. "We had no room in our facilities or any place to quarantine that many animals."

"We are indebted to the many volunteers who have given time, money, feed, and other materials to keep these horses on the road to recovery," Irvin said. "I also want to thank my staff for their dedication in feeding and caring for this unprecedented number of equine. The Georgia Equine Rescue League (GERL) will continue to manage the logistics of hay and other feed. Monetary donations are still needed to assist in the large bills."

For more information on the horses see or

For more information on this case see

Parasiticidal Resistance Reported in New Study
by: Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc
June 19 2008, Article # 12105

Kentucky researchers report that roundworms and small strongyles, two common equine intestinal parasites, are developing resistance against most of the commercially available worming products. What's worse, no new drugs against either of these parasites are forthcoming on the market.

"Since drug resistance by small strongyles and roundworms has been increasing since the late 1950s, the purpose of this study was to obtain field data regarding the efficacy of commercial wormers to obtain more information on the development of drug resistance," explained Eugene Lyons, PhD, from the University of Kentucky's Gluck Equine Research Center.

Drug resistance by small strongyles and roundworms has been increasing since the late 1950s.

Between June 1 and December 20, 2007, foals on five farms located in Central Kentucky were monitored in this field study. Efficacy of fenbendazole, oxibendazole, pyrantel pamoate, and ivermectin were evaluated by calculating the reduction in the number of foals with roundworm eggs or small strongyle eggs in their feces before versus after treatment.

"Our results showed that there was a significant reduction in roundworm eggs after treatment with fenbendazole and oxibendazole, but not ivermectin or pyrantel pamoate," summarized Lyons. "In addition, only ivermectin reduced the number of small strongyle eggs--the remaining three drugs were ineffective."

Lyons explained that while ivermectin still appears to be effective against small strongyles, research using worm count data in addition to egg count data needs to be done in order to evaluate why eggs of these parasites are returning more quickly than previously after treatment.

"In this study, we calculated eggs counts only one to two weeks post-worming. This might have been too early and providing misleading information because other studies have suggested that small strongyle eggs counts are returning more quickly than they used to post-treatment," said Lyons. (See Study: Small Strongyles Developing Resistance to Ivermectin for more on this.)

Parasite resistance to these drugs is a serious concern for horse owners, veterinarians, and the scientific community in general.

The study, "Evaluation of parasiticidal activity of fenbendazole, ivermectin, oxibendazole, and pyrantel pamoate in horse foals with emphasis on ascarids (Parascaris equorum) in field studies on five farms in Central Kentucky in 2007," was published in the July 2008 edition of Parasitology Research.

Thoroughbred Adoption Service Launched for FREE Horses
by: Kimberly S. Brown, Editor
November 01 2008, Article # 13006

Thoroughbreds are great athletes, and they also are great pleasure and companion animals for those who love horses. and are teaming up to bring Thoroughbreds in need of homes to the attention of hundreds of thousands of horse owners across the United States. Creating this database was the brainchild of Antony Beck of Gainesway Farm.

With the Thoroughbred Adoption Services, any registered Thoroughbred, of any age, is eligible to be placed on this database of FREE horses. The database will be housed on and will be promoted in the Thoroughbred industry by The Blood-Horse and and in the pleasure horse and sport horse industries by The Horse and

In these tough economic times some Thoroughbreds need to find other homes and careers. This database allows Thoroughbred owners, breeders, and trainers to place a description of a Thoroughbred in front of horse industry participants with the objective of finding a good home for that horse. Any transactions will be the responsibility of the owner of the horse, who will be contacted directly by those interested in adopting that horse.

If you--or someone you know--has a Thoroughbred in need of a new home, please visit Links to the database will be on the home page starting Friday, Oct. 31.

Or you can visit Add A Horse to add a horse or Horses Available to view horses seeking new homes.

We recommend anyone giving away a horse, whether to a private individual or a welfare/rescue organization, learn as much as possible about that person or group prior to giving the horse away. There have been unscrupulous individuals and groups who take horses under the pretense of giving them good homes, then sell them for slaughter. (See article "Rescue Highlights Danger of Free Horses".)

The article "Horse Rescue Organizations: Questions to Ask" offers some tips on making sure the person or group who takes your horse has good intentions.

There also are some very good organizations that are recognized throughout the Thoroughbred and horse industries as being legitimate places to donate your horses, especially the sound horses looking for other careers. The article "Options for Ex-Racehorses" will give you the names and contact information for some of these groups whether you are interested in donating or adopting a Thoroughbred. offers an online directory of welfare and rescue organizations, as does the Unwanted horse Coalition.

Please spread the word to help Thoroughbreds find new homes and careers

Form and Function of Joints
by: Les Sellnow
June 01 2001, Article # 36 ,

There is a definite correlation between joint angle, hoof flight pattern, and weight bearing. One might even wax a bit poetic and declare that as the joint angles, so flies and lands the hoof. That's where the poetry ends, however, because if there are improper joint and/or hoof angles during weight bearing, there can be lameness problems.

There are three types of joints--fibrous, cartilaginous, and synovial. While all three are highly important, the synovial joints are more apt to affect hoof flight if they are out of alignment.

Fibrous joints are pretty much immovable and are united by fibrous tissue. Those fibrous joints are found in the skull and between the shafts of some long bones.

Cartilaginous joints have a bit more movement, but their range is still limited. Included in these types of joints are the pelvic and spinal joints.

The synovial joints are the most active in the horse's body and, as mentioned above, are the ones that will normally have a strong bearing on hoof flight pattern. One can say that these joints serve as the horse's ball bearings. They consist of two bone ends covered by articular cartilage. This cartilage is smooth and resilient, which allows for frictionless movement of the joint when properly lubricated with synovial fluid.

Joint stability is maintained by a fibrous joint capsule, which attaches to both bones, and collateral ligaments. The collateral ligaments are located on either side of most joints. They are important in maintaining stability in joints such as the fetlock, knee, elbow, hock, and stifle. Other ligaments surrounding the joint capsule also play a supporting role--a prime example involves the distal sesamoidean ligaments and suspensory ligaments that, together with the sesamoid bones, make up the suspensory apparatus and hold the fetlock in position.

Other ligaments within the joint, such as the cruciate ligaments, also help with stability. These ligaments provide important support.

While ball bearings are designed to provide frictionless movement in vehicles, they can only continue to do so if they are lubricated. It is the same with the joints. The joint capsule contains an inner lining known as the synovial membrane. Its function is to secrete synovial fluid, which lubricates the joint.

It becomes immediately obvious that a sophisticated structure like the joint needs proper alignment if it is to remain healthy. A joint that is not aligned correctly bears inappropriate strain throughout the entire structure. Not only is proper hoof flight altered by misalignment, but the potential for injury and disease from improper weight bearing is magnified.

Before discussing just how joint angle affects locomotion and weight bearing, let's take a quick look at the various movements that occur when a horse travels. Our tutor is Hilary M. Clayton, BVMS, PhD, MRCVS, holder of the Mary Anne McPhail Chair in Equine Sports Medicine at Michigan State University. Although she has spoken and written at great length on this subject, we will capsulize her work here.

The swing phase, when the horse's hoof is not in contact with the ground, does not result in great stress on poorly aligned joints. In the swing phase, the limb is first pulled forward, then pulled backward in the final movement prior to ground contact. "The forces on tendons and ligaments of the joints during the swing phase are very small," Clayton says.
Any damage usually occurs from misalignment trauma during the stance or weight-bearing phase, which describes that period when the hoof is in contact with the ground. The phase is divided into ground contact, impact, loading, and breakover.

Ground Contact--The first contact is either heel first, flat-footed, or toe first, depending on gait, speed, farriery, and/or lameness.
Impact Phase--The impact phase occupies the first 50 milliseconds (one-twentieth of a second) after the hoof contacts the ground. During this time, the limb undergoes rapid deceleration that causes a shock wave to travel up the horse's limb. Important shock absorbers at this point are the joints. During the impact phase, the bones receive their maximum amount of shock, so this is the phase when most bone and joint injuries occur.
Loading Phase--Loading and unloading occupy the period from the end of the impact phase until breakover. During this phase, forces are applied more gradually than during impact, and it is during this phase that ligaments and tendons are maximally loaded. Naturally, this is the phase when most soft tissue injuries occur.
Breakover--The breakover phase begins when the heels leave the ground and begin to rotate around the toe of the hoof, which is still in contact with the ground.
Aligning the Front End

Let's start with the front end, because this is where the horse carries 60-65% of its weight. As a result of this "heavier" front end, a horse is more apt to have joint problems in the front legs than in the rear.

If the hoof flight is to be straight and true, all parts of the moving leg must be aligned, beginning with the shoulder. When we look at a horse from in front, we should see a straight line down the forearm, through the knee, and into the pastern and hoof. The distance between the legs at the chest should be the same as the distance between the feet on the ground. Few horses have perfect conformation, and the amount of deviation has a strong bearing on hoof flight abnormality and the potential for injury and joint disease.

Proper alignment in the front end begins in the shoulder. What this means is that the slope of the shoulder should match the slope of the pastern and hoof, with forearm and cannon bones forming a straight line through the knee until reaching the pastern. This alignment has all of the bones fitting neatly together with properly aligned joints.

One of the most troublesome abnormalities in front limb joint conformation is toeing out. These horses have pastern, knee, and/or shoulder joints out of alignment, with the toes pointing out instead of forward. There's not a big problem as long as the horse remains still, but when he moves, particularly at the trot, the abnormality causes serious hoof flight problems. The hooves will wing inward, sometimes striking the opposite leg during the flight phase. Injury, accompanied by lameness, is often the result.

The reverse problem of toeing out is toeing in. Here the toes point inward instead of straight ahead during the ground contact phase. As the horse travels, the hooves will swing outward during the flight phase--this is known among horsemen as paddling. While this abnormal hoof flight pattern puts undue strain on joints, there is at least a bit of good news involved--the horse doesn't strike itself.

Base-wide horses (those that stand with their hooves farther apart than the legs are at the chest) often have narrow chests, and often toe out as well. Base-narrow horses stand with their hooves closer together than the legs are at the chest, and usually have wide chests. They tend to toe in.

The pasterns are key shock-absorbing joints, and as a result must be strong, yet pliable. The pastern is made up of two bones between the fetlock joint and the hoof, and the joint between those two bones. Long pasterns tend to have these two bones longer than normal, and the pasterns tend to drop more horizontally especially during high-stress disciplines such as racing and jumping. This increased range of motion can put more stress on the suspensory apparatus.

Pasterns that are too short remain fairly upright even with high stress. This results in too much concussion traveling up the leg because these less flexible pasterns are less efficient shock absorbers.

Other joint alignment problems originate in the knee or carpal joint. One that was previously thought to be quite serious is bench knee. This means that the forearm and cannon bone are not properly aligned. The bench-kneed horse will have the forearm entering the knee on the inside or medial aspect, while the cannon bone below the knee joint will exit on the outside or lateral aspect. Though it has commonly been thought that bench knees put a horse at serious risk for injury especially in high-stress disciplines, recent research suggests that this might not be the case.

Two other conditions of the knee joint that can alter normal hoof flight and weight bearing and raise the injury potential are being over at the knee (with the forearm ahead of the cannon bone viewed from the side, also known as bucked knee), or being behind at the knee (the reverse of over at the knee, also called calf knee). Of the two, calf knee is the more serious because of the stress on tendons and ligaments that run down the back of the leg, and because of the predisposition to chip fractures from overextension of the joint.

Knees can be misaligned laterally or medially as well. These conditions are known as bow legs and knock knees, respectively. See the table on page 108 for more information on these.

Rear End Alignment

Deviations in joint angles of the rear limbs can also have a profound effect on hoof flight and weight bearing. As with the front end, we want to see proper alignment down through the bones and joints of the rear limbs.

When the joints of the hind limbs are not correctly aligned, the horse will often not be a good athlete because it is unable to make proper use of muscle power either in propelling itself forward or in putting on the brakes for a sliding stop (when it will have difficulty keeping the feet parallel).

One fairly common stance in horses is being base narrow; when the base-narrow horse is at rest, its rear hooves are closer together than its hocks and hip joints. Mild base-narrow conformation behind does not usually cause problems. If a base-narrow horse has a tendency to wing in, however, the horse might interfere and cut or bruise the opposite leg. The opposite condition, which is much less common, is being base-wide. This means that the hooves, when on the ground, are wider apart than the hocks and stifles.

In the hind limbs, toeing out is common and less of a problem than in the front end--in fact, a recent study found that roughly 70% of horses naturally toe out behind.

Joint abnormalities in rear legs can also influence the length of a horse's stride. Generally speaking, horses with more angulation to their joints can have a longer stride than horses with straighter joints, much like the actual length of a tightly coiled spring versus a loosely coiled one.

An example is the sickle-hocked horse, where the rear cannon bone is angled forward from a vertical line. Such a horse might be able to reach well under itself. Conversely, the horse that is straight behind--where there is very little angulation between the thigh bone (femur) and the tibia--will be unable to reach as far forward with the rear legs and show very little engagement of the hind limbs for collection.

Several hock misalignments can cause lameness problems as well; see the table on pages 110-111 for diagrams of, and stresses associated with, these problems.

Proper alignment in the lower limbs means that the slope of the pastern should be the same as or very similar to the slope of the foot so that the long pastern bone, short pastern bone, and coffin bone all fit smoothly and neatly together.

The problem involving improper joint alignment, with resultant alteration of hoof flight and weight bearing, is that very little can be done to correct the problem.

"By the time the horse is mature, the limb structures have adapted to the misalignment," Clayton says. "If the horse is still sound and performing well, alterations in foot balance should be made carefully if at all, because any change at this point may ruin the horse's adaptation to his problem."

Hoof trimming to encourage proper alignment can be done, but only during the very early formative stages in a foal, and must be approached with great skill and care.

Once the horse reaches maturity, what you see is what you get. By attempting corrective trimming at that stage, one is merely adding additional stress and pressure on the joint.

AAEP 2008: Deworming--To Rotate or Not to Rotate?
by: Christy West, Webmaster
March 01 2009, Article # 13695

Rotational deworming--dosing horses with different classes of dewormers in rotation--is often recommended for controlling equine internal parasites. The theory is that by using all of the available effective deworming drug classes, we combine their benefits into a maximally effective program. However, some researchers say rotation isn't a good idea because it contributes to parasite resistance and will reduce the effectiveness of available deworming drugs.

At the 2008 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Dec. 6-10 in San Diego, Calif., two different viewpoints on rotational deworming were presented. We've included both here so you can see the evidence for both sides and make your own choices.

Presentation 1: Evaluation of Anthelmintic Rotational Regimens on a Previously Documented Fenbendazole-Resistant Farm

Wade Nichols, PhD, a senior technical services specialist at Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health, presented the results of a multiyear Texas Tech University study evaluating the efficacy of various parasite control strategies in a closed herd with documented resistance to fenbendazole.

"Parasite resistance is a real area of concern worldwide," he began. "It was first reported in 1960, and the main problem (in horses) is cyathostomes (small strongyles). Currently there are no new deworming drug classes on the horizon, so it's important that we preserve the use of all of our current drug classes.

"This series of experiments was conducted due to the fact that there is virtually no data concerning the use of anthelmintic (deworming) strategies in the equine animal and their effects on anthelmintic resistance by parasites," he said.

The herd in question included 28 Quarter Horses of mixed gender and age (from weanlings to adult mares when the study began in September 2003). They were initially dewormed with fenbendazole (FBZ) every 90 days for 18 months, after which time cyathostome resistance was documented (as expected). Next, Experiment 1 evaluated the efficacy of three dose levels of FBZ: 5 mg/kg, 10 mg/kg, and the larvicidal dose of 50 mg/kg (10 mg/kg given daily for five days) given every 28 days. Fecal egg count reduction tests (FECRT) showed resistance at all doses for the entire 140-day experiment, with only about 80% fecal egg count reduction (FECR) at even the highest larvicidal initial dose (the 100% target means no eggs after treatment and, thus, few worms left alive). He also noted that resistance was easier to detect in younger horses (which have less natural exposure and immunity to parasites); this group had higher parasite loads before and after treatment than mature horses.

"Regardless of dosage level, there was still some resistance," Nichols summarized. "So we can't get rid of resistant parasites just by using more drug or using it more often."

After three months, Experiment 2 on the same horses (in re-randomized groups) compared the 50 mg/kg larvicidal FBZ dose to moxidectin (0.4 mg/kg) and ivermectin (200 mcg/kg). Moxidectin and ivermectin significantly outperformed FBZ, with FECRs of 99.9% and 98.7%, compared to 84.3% for FBZ. Again, age was a significant factor; adult horses had at least 98.7% FECR even with FBZ, while young horses' FECR was lower, especially with FBZ (only 69.9% FECR).

"The performances of moxidectin and ivermectin were not significantly different from each other, but both were significantly more effective than fenbendazole," Nichols reported.

After another three-month break, the entire Texas Tech farm's equine population went onto a fast quarterly rotational deworming program for Experiment 3 (pyrantel pamoate in June, ivermectin+praziquantel in September, fenbendazole at the larvicidal dose in December, and moxidectin in March).

"Mean FECR in the first year was 95.8% with pyrantel, 100% with ivermectin, 97.8% with fenbendazole, and 100% with moxidectin," Nichols reported. "The majority of horses in 2006 had no or negligible egg counts after every treatment, in contrast to very high loads before. So resistance to fenbendazole can be overcome or drastically reduced by rotation of other classes.

In yet another rotation experiment (Experiment 4) with a six time per year rotation (larvicidal fenbendazole in January, moxidectin in March, pyrantel pamoate in May, fenbendazole in June, moxidectin in September, and ivermectin+praziquantel in November) at the same facility, it was further demonstrated that the use of FBZ was effective when used twice in this rotation. All anthelmintics were effective in reducing FEC in the horses with any parasite burdens. The facility and most horses were basically clean by this point in time. In Experiment 4, this rotational program was implemented in combination with good management practices, including pasture rotation, planting annuals such as winter wheat, rotation of species within pastures, as well as quarantine and anthelmintic treatment of all new horses. Currently they're on Year 6 and parasite loads continue to be very negligible.

"Contrary to other reports, this series says you can go back to fenbendazole after prior resistance," he concluded. "There are limited (dewormer) classes available; we need to use all classes of anthelmintics (deworming drugs) to help preserve their efficacy."

Further, it was stressed that more field and clinical trials need to be conducted on farms and ranches where parasite resistance exists, and that there is an important need in the industry to test various theories of parasite control programs in varied environmental and management conditions.

Presentation 2: Rotation Creates Resistance

Cyprianna Swiderski, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, assistant professor of veterinary medicine at Mississippi State University, discussed resistance in small strongyles. She stated that studies of anthelmintic resistance confirm that rotating dewormers without documenting that the drug being used is truly efficacious actually propagates resistance to all drugs in the program. "In such a scenario, the more effective drugs in the rotation mask resistance for a time," she said. "The most powerful way to minimize anthelmintic resistance is to minimize the frequency of anthelmintic use, and therefore reduce the selection pressure placed upon parasites to develop resistance. It is now clear that anthelmintic use can be minimized by capitalizing on seasonal changes in the prevalence of small strongyles as well as differences in parasite immunity among individual horses."

Swiderski presented a review of literature on equine parasite control and recommended new paradigms for small strongyle control in adult horses based on several concepts.

First, the concept of zero tolerance for small strongyles should be abandoned, as some degree of parasitism is necessary to stimulate an immune response. Horses that lack such exposure tend to have more severe health problems when parasite exposure eventually occurs, which is assured in an animal whose optimal health depends upon grazing.
Preserving refugia--parasite populations that are still susceptible to common deworming drugs--is of paramount importance. Refugia are critical because they lack resistance genes. This "resistance-free" population effectively dilutes the pool of resistance genes contributed by anthelmintic-resistant parasites.
Anthelmintic overuse depletes refugia to a greater degree than it depletes the resistant worm population, which accelerates the development of resistance. Thus, we should minimize anthelmintic use wherever possible, such as by strategically deworming horses only when infective small strongyle larvae are plentiful on pasture (spring to fall in cooler regions, and fall to spring in warmer regions).
Individual horses vary greatly in their susceptibility to internal parasites; some limit infection almost entirely even without deworming drugs, while others carry very high parasite loads even with regular deworming (Swiderski cited reports that found approximately 35% of horses account for 85% of pasture contamination). Thus, we can also reduce anthelmintic use by only deworming the horses that really need it.
Fecal egg counts are used to identify individuals needing anthelmintic therapy. Current recommendations are to deworm horses with at least 150-300 parasite eggs per gram (epg) of feces. Horses managed with this threshold for treatment have not shown ill thrift or an increase in colic. (More information on FEC testing, including how to do it.)
Anthelmintic class (determined active by the ingredient in the dewormer) influences the interval between deworming times (or FEC testing to determine if deworming is necessary), because the time it takes for worms to reinfect horses and produce eggs that are detectable in the feces (egg reappearance period, ERP) after deworming varies by anthelmintic class. When you are identifying horses for deworming treatment, use FEC tests done after the previous anthelmintic's efficacy has completely waned. Your veterinarian can help you determine how long this takes for your deworming program and can help interpret your FEC tests to see if resistance is appearing (for example, if the ERP is shortening). Typical ERPs for common dewormers are as follows: eight weeks for ivermectin, 12 weeks for moxidectin, four to six weeks for pyrantel, and four weeks for benzimidazoles.
Anthelmintics are not the only control measures for internal parasites, nor are they even the most effective ones. For example, removing feces from the environment every few days can be even more effective than deworming. Consider that once they leave the horse in feces, small strongyles must live outside the horse for a few days (depending on the temperature) before they can reinfect him or infect other horses. Thus, removing feces from the environment every few days ensures that only noninfective larvae are available on pasture to be eaten. This practice also increases the grazing area as much as 50%, as it removes the manure piles horses tend to avoid when grazing. This technique should be employed to reduce the need for deworming drugs.
Though small strongyles are the major parasite concern of the adult horse, they're not the only ones. Anthelmintic drugs should be selected based on the parasites found on the premises. For example, macrocyclic lactones such as ivermectin/moxidectin are critical for controlling large strongyles and Gasterophilus (bots), while praziquantel is necessary for controlling Anoplocephala (tapeworms).
The new paradigm for parasite control Swiderski recommended relies on three basic principles: Preserving refugia, deworming only those horses responsible for significant pasture contamination, and restricting anthelmintic therapy to seasons in which horses can become infected from pasture.

"Preventing anthelmintic resistance will require a more integral role for veterinarians in the planning and monitoring of anthelmintic therapy," she concluded. "We must stop looking at deworming as a formula and start recognizing that parasites are living, changing creatures. We need to employ strategies that can change since the parasites themselves can. We can establish guidelines, but we have to be flexible and always look for the worms to change."

Despite the costs of routine FEC tests, she noted that this approach has been proven effective in controlling both cost and parasites.

Points of Agreement

Regardless of their positions on anthelmintic rotation, Swiderski and Nichols agree that sound management practices should be an integral part of equine parasite control programs. Several recommended practices include the following:

Keep pens and pastures as free of feces as possible.
Swiderski recommends the following strategy for new arrivals to the herd: If a horse will be staying less than six weeks, deworm him with ivermectin because it takes six to eight weeks for eggs to reappear in the feces after using this drug, and resistance is rare. If a horse will be staying six weeks or longer, quarantine him and use high-dose fenbendazole to kill encysted small strongyle larvae, followed by ivermectin or moxidectin after two weeks. Release him from quarantine if comparisons of FEC testing from before and two weeks after deworming confirm appropriate reduction in egg counts (at least 80-90% FECR for all nonmacrocyclic lactones, and greater than 98% for the macrocylic lactones).
Swiderski also recommended singling out horses with high fecal egg counts at the beginning of the deworming season (>500 epg) for treatment with either moxidectin or larvicidal fenbendazole therapy (10 mg/kg once daily for five days), because these individuals tend to mount poor immune responses to small strongyles and harbor large numbers of encysted small strongyle larvae. These are also the individuals primarily responsible for contaminating pastures with parasites.
Avoid ground feeding.
Don't overcrowd pastures (avoids forcing horses to graze close to infected manure piles, where worms are usually plentiful) or spread manure on them.
Disc pastures only when climatic conditions (hot summer temperatures) will kill eggs and when pastures can be left unoccupied for two weeks in warm Southern climates or four weeks in cooler Northern climates. Pastures should not be harrowed after Oct. 1 in the United States because parasite larvae dispersed by harrowing will not undergo the climate extremes required to kill them.
Rotate livestock species in pastures when possible.
Leave pastures vacant for at least two months during the warm season when possible, or allow horses to graze fields that have recently produced hay.
Use scales/weight tapes to prevent inaccurate horse weight estimation and, thereby, underdosing when anthelmintics are used.
Run FEC and FECR tests; as Nichols commented, "If you can't measure what you're doing, you can't measure improvement."

Vigilance Key in Managing for PHF
by: Elise LeQuire
November 26 2006 Article # 8231, Magazine

Tennessee Cases Increase

Potomac horse fever (PHF) probably has been endemic in the Western Hemisphere as long as horses have inhabited the region—perhaps even since the prehistoric era--and it's here to stay. As awareness of the disease increases, so does the need to remain vigilant in managing horses to reduce the incidence, and severity, of cases.

PHF is also quite likely under diagnosed. In summer and fall of 2006, the University of Tennessee (UT) College of Veterinary Medicine tested 55 horses with clinical signs of PHF and found the incidence of cases to be 20% for the area, which includes most of East Tennessee. "It's likely that many more horses had PHF in our area, but had mild signs or were not tested and just treated by our local veterinarians," said UT's Frank M. Andrews, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, professor and section chief of Large Animal Medicine.

Understanding the nature of Neorickettsia risticii--the organism that causes PHF--is key to managing the disease said Yasuko Rikihisa, PhD, a professor in the Department of Veterinary Biosciences at The Ohio State University (OSU).

Potomac horse fever was first identified in the horse industry in the mid-1980s with an outbreak in the Potomac River area of Maryland. Researchers were able to link the causative agent (a bacteria named Ehrlichia risticii, which has been re-named Neoriketssia risticii) to parasites of freshwater snails. Scientists at the University of California, Davis, were able to complete the natural transmission cycle of PHF in 2000 when they found that the bacteria infects the larvae of mayflies and caddis flies in fresh water. The larvae then mature into adult flies and are ingested by horses when they inadvertently consume the insects while grazing or in feed. Horses kept near fresh-water streams or ponds are more likely to be at risk for getting the disease.

Dead-End Host
The horse is considered a dead-end host of the organism when it becomes infected by the flies. "The flies that bear the organism, including mayflies, caddis flies, dragonflies, and damsel flies, can fly or be swept by the wind long distances," Rikihisa said. The common stable fly is not considered a vector.

N. risticii lives symbiotically in the trematode, a fluke-like organism that infests aquatic snails. A study performed at OSU and published in Environmental Microbiology in 2005 showed the trematode Acanthatrium oregonense as a natural reservoir and probable vector of N. risticii. The study was conducted on big and little brown bats, another dead-end host of the bacteria, collected in Pennsylvania. These are insectivorous (eats insects) bats, not blood-sucking bats, and direct transmission between dead-end hosts is not possible, says Rikihisa.

"When the trematode eggs are released into the water, they hatch and enter into aquatic snails. Bacteria get a free ride to the next stage, aquatic insects," she said. As the flies mature into adults, "thousands of them come out from the water (fly hatch), and they carry the trematode in their tissues. When the flies die, they drop on the grass and the water, all over the place."

Management Challenges
Multiple strains of the bacteria also make protection and treatment a challenge. Rikihisa and colleagues have isolated different strains of N. risticii in the blood of horses and in flies from different geographical areas in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and California. Not all strains are protected against by the available vaccine or respond to the tetracycline class of antibiotics used to treat PHF.

"Isolating the strains and studying the genetic differences and immuno-protection mechanism of the bacterial infection is the first step toward finding a more effective vaccine," she said. "We don't know if the organism is changing, or if it has always been diverse."

Early diagnosis is critical in managing the disease. "The mortality rate is fairly low with this disease, but the laminitis and diarrhea we see in about 40% of cases can be fatal," said Andrews. Lethargy, depression, and high fever that do not respond to the usual analgesics should raise suspicion. "The first thing to do is take the horse's temperature," he said. In fact, it's important to take the horse's temperature on a regular basis, "so you get to know what is normal in your horse at different environmental temperatures."

Vaccination, fencing horses out of streams and ponds, cleaning water buckets and troughs frequently, and eliminating standing water are important, but the organism is so prevalent and the clinical signs so variable that vigilance in noticing early clinical signs (such as a higher temperature) is essential.

Early Diagnosis Crucial
If a horse has even vague symptoms, and the temperature is between 101 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit for more than one day, it's time to call the veterinarian, who can draw blood and send it to any of a number of labs that perform a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test for the presence of Neorickettsia risticii DNA and for the presence of antibodies.

Cindy Backus, MS, DVM, PhD, with Countryside Veterinary Service in the metropolitan Knoxville region, treated five horses all within a month, some on a farm near a major river. "If we get to them early, they don't get the diarrhea and the founder," she said. If you live by a creek, a pond, or a river, you should vaccinate with two doses initially and a booster every six months. On one farm with multiple cases, she gives the booster four times a year. "If anything has diarrhea, it's PHF until proven otherwise," she said.


One dose of PreveNile West Nile Virus vaccine is all it takes to protect your horse

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PreveNile is the only one-dose WNV vaccine available for primary immunization. One-dose protection makes PreveNile the perfect choice for foals, horses with unknown vaccination history and as a booster for horses previously vaccinated with other West Nile vaccines.

Ask your veterinarian today about PreveNile - the superior, one-dose solution for WNV.

Study on Acupuncture with Drugs as Equine Sedation Option by: Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc
October 28 2008, Article #

Acupuncture is not a new technique, but clinical studies proving that this treatment modality works in horses are relatively few and far between. In the journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Brazilian scientists studying alternatives to conventional drug administration for achieving sedation in horses reported that combining low-dose drug administration with acupuncture is a viable option. These findings confirm anecdotal reports from veterinary acupuncturists on this subject.

Being able to use lower drug doses in horses is desirable as it reduces side effects, drug residues, and treatment costs.

Previous research in this field has shown that injecting subclinical doses of certain drugs, such as hormones, at various acupuncture points is safe and effective in horses and cows.

In the study, "Comparison of pharmacopuncture, aquapuncture and acepromazine for sedation in horses," researchers from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Sao Paulo State University evaluated the effect of injecting either saline (aquapuncture) or the sedative acepromazine (pharmacopuncture) at the acupuncture point Governing Vessel (GV) 1. This point is located between the tail and anus and reportedly has a sedative effect.

Eight horses were included in the study and were randomly assigned to receive one of four different treatment protocols at one week intervals:

The positive control treatment (subcutaneous injection of acepromazine);
The negative control treatment (subcutaneous injection of saline);
The aquapuncture treatment (injection of a small volume of saline at GV1), and;
The pharmacopuncture treatment (injection of a small volume of acepromazine at GV1).
Signs of sedation were observed in all horses thirty minutes following aquapuncture, pharmacopuncture, or the positive control but only horses in the pharmacopuncture group were still sedated 60 minutes after treatment.

While pharmacopuncture treatment resulted in only a mild sedation (albeit longer lasting) compared to the subcutaneous administration of acepromazine, the research group is pleased with these preliminary findings supporting the use of pharmacopuncture in horses.

Rhonda Rathgeber, DVM, PhD from Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington, Ky, a certified equine acupuncturist, "Administration of drugs at acupuncture points for sedation is not a new technique. Acupuncturists have been doing this for years."

"I have observed horses sedated with pharmacopuncture for major surgeries such as a cesarean section in a mare when the mare or foal are compromised. It is a very useful and beneficial technique in numerous situations," said Rathgeber.

Veterinarians can learn to perform acupuncture, aquapuncture, and pharmacopuncture through acupuncture courses (e.g., the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society or the Chi Institute).

As described in the study, the next step is to determine the best doses, drugs, and acupoints to achieve optimal effects. Rathgeber agreed that additional research studies in this field published in peer-reviewed medical journals are needed.

Possible EHV-1 Cases Have Tracks On-Guard
by: Stephanie L. Church, News Editor
October 2006 Article # 795, Magazine

The racing industry is safeguarding against equine herpesvirus-1 in light of a possible equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) outbreak at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J., where several horses have developed fevers and are being tested for the illness. New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority's (NJSEA) track officials, who oversee Monmouth and Meadowlands racetracks, have placed restrictions on horses stabled at Monmouth and on horses shipping into the Meadowlands (in Rutherford, N.J.) Several racetracks around the country have issued statements that horses that have been stabled at Monmouth will not be permitted on their grounds.

Horses at Monmouth cannot be moved off the premises, with the exception of horses that will be shipped to the Meadowlands for racing. "Horses that ship into the Meadowlands for racing will need to ship to Monmouth after they have raced and remain with the general population of horses there for 12 days (the incubation period for the virus is six to 10 days)," said a statement from NJSEA officials.

Dennis Dowd, NJSEA's senior vice president, said in the statement, "It is an unconfirmed case, but nonetheless it requires the most restrictive and diligent course of action possible. After meeting with veterinarians and horsemen today it was agreed that this course of action was the most optimal in ensuring the protection of everyone who could be affected."

Two horses from Canada arrived late last week in Monmouth's stable area with all required veterinary certificates for entry. However, one horse spiked a fever after arrival and was treated accordingly. Five horses in that barn all developed a fever, and the barn was quarantined. Dowd reported that Monmouth and Meadowlands staff have disinfected "all areas from the starting gate to individual stalls."

Dowd underscored that the case remains unconfirmed and tests on the five horses with fevers will be returned this week. "None of the horses that were tested showed outward symptoms of the equine herpesvirus," he continued. "We are just taking every precautionary measure possible and until we have definitive results we don't want to place any unnecessary restrictions on horsemen that intend on running here."

Meadowlands racing will proceed as scheduled tomorrow afternoon, and there are no restrictions on Monmouth training, with exception of the quarantined horses.

EHV-1 can cause respiratory or neurologic signs in all ages, breeds, and sexes of horses and abortion in pregnant mares. The neurologic form can debilitate the horse until it is unable to stand, and many times it must be euthanatized. Herpes can be spread through nose-to-nose contact by nasal secretions, but also via shared buckets, equipment, and handlers.

EHV-1 often causes respiratory disease that makes the horse spike a fever. With the neurologic form, the fever is often very high, but the horse might not show many, if any, clinical signs of respiratory disease. The horse can seem to be fine for a week, but the horse spikes another fever, followed by onset of neurologic signs. Sometimes a neurologic EHV-1 horse shows clinical signs of respiratory disease leading up to the neurologic signs, and sometimes he doesn't.

The neurologic form of equine herpesvirus type 1 (EHV-1) was diagnosed in at least five different states in January and February of this year. While many of the cases were detected at racetracks, it is important to note that this not a disease limited to the racing industry--any horse facility can be affected by this illness. Using stringent biosecurity measures is the best way to help ensure that the virus does not emerge or spread at a facility or farm.

For more information on EHV-1, click here for a free PDF library of related articles including images, or click here for all archived EHV-1 articles on this web site.

Other Tracks Take Precautions
Penn National Race Course, in Grantville, Pa., which encountered EHV-1 in January of this year, is one track that has announced it's protecting its population. A memorandum released by Penn National officials this morning (Oct. 23) said, "Based on a report that several horses stabled at Monmouth Park are being tested for possible cases of EHV 1, Penn National Race Course will not accept entries from any horses stabled at Monmouth Park effective Monday, October 23." The track was also restricting horses racing at the Meadowlands race meet in Rutherford, N.J. from returning to the Penn National stables.

Penn National officials recommended that trainers who have raced at Meadowlands in the past two weeks watch their horses closely

Calder Race Course in Miami, Fla., has enacted a policy that requires incoming horses to be accompanied by and listed on a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) that has been signed and dated by a veterinarian within 72 hours of arrival at the track. The CVI must assure that the horse has not "originated from, nor been stabled on, a premises which has had herpes virus (EHV-1)" diagnosed in the previous 30-day period. Arriving horses also must be vaccinated against EHV-1 within 14 days and a maximum of 90 days prior to entry into the track's stable area.

Calder's veterinarian, Mary Scollay, DVM, said in a release from Calder that the measures were intended to protect the health of horses in Florida and those that are Florida-bound for the winter. Calder's sister racetrack, Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., and Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla., and its training center in Boynton Beach, Palm Meadows, have each adopted these restrictions.

Philadelphia Park has shut its gates to New Jersey shippers, and any horses that leave Philly Park to run at Meadowlands will not be allowed back in. The same restrictions apply to Delaware Park.

World Champion Barrel Horse Gelding Cloned
by: Stephanie L. Church, Copy/Features Editor
November 15 2006 Article # 8156, magazine

The genes of another champion gelding will be available in just a few years for producing future generations of equine athletes. Scientists have produced a clone from the cells of legendary barrel racing horse Scamper. A colt that has matching DNA--and thus the same genetic potential for excellence as the 29-year-old veteran athlete--was born on Aug. 8 in Boerne, Texas. The colt joins several other clones of champion geldings that have been born since April 2005 and are intended to pass on the genetic material of their donor horses.

Scamper's owner and rider, Charmayne James, met the horse when she was 11 and the horse was considered unrideable. But she worked with Scamper, and in 1984 at the age of 14, she rode him to barrel racing's World Championship title. The pair won the next nine World Championship titles. As Scamper advanced in age, James wanted to find a way to extend his influence on the barrel racing discipline. She had been researching the idea of cloning Scamper for about six years before hiring ViaGen, an Austin-based commercial cloning company, to perform the procedure, which cost $150,000.

"For any horse to stay at the top of their game for 10 years is absolutely amazing," said James. "I wanted to get in and save his genetics, because if they were ever able to clone a horse, Scamper would be the horse to clone. Scamper's conformation was balanced and great feet, great legs. He had some injures, but he had such a strong will and high pain tolerance that we hope that these are things will be carried through.

"We're headed into uncharted waters with this," she added, "but if there was ever a horse to be cloned to help promote the sport of barrel racing (then he's it)...and that's where my goal in life is, is to help promote barrel racing and help people get some better, sounder, quality horses out there."

James says the foal, which she named Clayton after the New Mexico town where she grew up and she and Scamper got their start, has conformation almost identical to Scamper's. When she saw the colt in the stall for the first time she said, "The hair on the back of my neck just stood up. It was just an amazing feeling, and he was trying to kick at the mare and just was ornery."

The colt also appears to express many of the gelding's behavioral tendencies, such as a particularly sensitive place on the colt's neck behind his ears that neither horse likes to have touched. The colt also conveys a "ornery" attitude and a strength and confidence that mirrors Scamper's tendencies.

Clayton has a splash of white on his face that Scamper lacks, but such pigment variations are often seen in cloning. Irina Polejaeva, PhD, chief scientific officer for ViaGen, said how colors are distributed depends on the uterine environment. "The reason that you can see or might see the difference between the markings of the horse is because of their fetal development, (the pigments) they migrate around the fetus," she said.

James thinks the markings will be helpful in distinguishing Clayton from Scamper, so people won't be "thinking of the science fiction thing," and will perceive the horse as a new animal.

Process Improving With Time
Polejaeva said to obtain Clayton, cloned embryos were transferred into five mares. "Not all of them got pregnant," she said.

But cloning procedures continue to advance with each new project. "I believe that ViaGen has made such a strong investment in developing our cloning capabilities that we are having better and better efficiency in the cloning field," said Polejaeva. "And we are working in different areas, because the cloning process involves so many different steps from the very first step when we obtain biopsy tissue."

To produce a clone, a veterinarian takes a small tissue biopsy from the donor horse. He ships the cells to ViaGen, whose scientists grow the cells in culture before performing nuclear transfer, where they take DNA from the donor cells and insert it into enucleated eggs (eggs from which the genetic material has been removed). The resulting embryos are grown in an incubator for several days, then a veterinarian places the embryos into recipient females as he would with any embryo transfer. Dr. Mario Zerlotti was the veterinarian who performed the biopsy and embryo transfer procedures.

The culture process is something ViaGen has been working very hard on advancing, said Polejaeva.

ViaGen President Mark Walton, PhD, added, "As far as the technology itself, even though there have been a number of horse born over the last two years, really it's still a very small number. And while we believe that the technology is very robust and we are very confident in the technology, I would say that there's still a lot to learn, so we approach every one as though it was our first one and it was brand new."

Looking Ahead
James doesn't plan to barrel race Clayton, but she is excited about what the colt will pass on to progeny when he is breeding age. "You know the capability," she said. "When you start out with a regular young horse, you don't always know if they can stop the clock (indicating that the horse has great speed for barrels). You know that that capability is there," along with the quirks and tendencies that the donor horse had.

James will break Clayton to ride, believing that will make him easier to handle as a breeding stallion.

As for registration, the colt currently could not be considered for acceptance into the American Quarter Horse Association. However, James said, "The AQHA and the other registries are likely to revisit this just like they did with the embryo (transfer) and the other assisted reproductive procedures. I'm almost positive they'll be revisiting it."

Horse Slaughter Bill on Hold
by: Amanda Duckworth
September 2006 Article # 7719

A bill in the U.S. Senate that aims to end horse slaughter for human consumption will most likely be put on hold until next year.

"With an abbreviated schedule in this session before we adjourn for elections and the recess, it doesn't look like we are going to have the time to get to it," said Jack Finn, communications director for Nevada Sen. John Ensign. "You never know, but it probably will not be until next year."

The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act was passed by the House Sept. 7 by a vote of 263-146. Identical legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Ensign, who is a veterinarian, and Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu.

If the bill becomes a law, it would shut the three horse slaughter plants in the country. The plants in Forth Worth and Kaufman, Texas, and DeKalb, Ill., slaughtered more than 90,000 horses last year.

Because of a clerical error, the wrong version of the bill was delivered to the Senate. The error was discovered the week of Sept. 10, and the House requested the bill be returned so the correct version could be sent.

The bill has been a volatile issue due to the horse's place in American culture. One of the main concerns of those who oppose the bill is what will happen to horses previously headed for slaughter.


Diagnosis Treatment and Prevention

Etiology and Epidemiology:

Equine influenza is highly contagious and spreads rapidly among susceptible horses. Two immunologically distinct influenza viruses have been found in horse populations worldwide except in Australia and New Zealand. Orthomyxovirus A/Equi-1 has not been isolated since 1980. Orthomyxovirus A/Equi-2 was first recognized in 1963 as a cause of widespread epidemics and has subsequently become endemic in many countries. Endemicity is maintained by sporadic clinical cases and by inapparent infection in susceptible horses that are introduced into the population by birth, through waning immunity, or after movement from other areas or countries. A carrier state is not recognized for equine influenza. The clinical outcome after viral exposure largely depends on immune status; clinical disease varies from a mild, inapparent infection to severe disease in susceptible animals. Influenza is rarely fatal except in donkeys, zebras, and debilitated horses. Transmission occurs by inhalation of respiratory secretions. Epidemics arise when one or more acutely infected horses are introduced into a susceptible group. The epidemiologic outcome depends on the antigenic characteristics of the circulating virus and the immune status of a given population of horses at time of exposure. Frequent natural exposure or regular vaccination may contribute to the degree of antigenic drift observed with specific strains of A/Equi-2 virus in some parts of the world.

Clinical Findings and Lesions:

The incubation period of influenza is ~1-3 days. Clinical signs begin abruptly and include high fever (up to 106°F [41.1°C]), serous nasal discharge, submandibular lymphadenopathy, and coughing that is dry, harsh, and nonproductive. Depression, anorexia, and weakness are frequently observed. Clinical signs usually last <3 days in uncomplicated cases. Influenza virus replicates within respiratory epithelial cells, resulting in destruction of tracheal and bronchial epithelium and cilia. Cough develops early in the course of infection and may persist for several weeks. Nasal discharge, although scant and serous initially, may become mucopurulent due to secondary bacterial infection. Mildly affected horses recover uneventfully in 2-3 wk; severely affected horses may convalesce for up to 6 mo. Recovery may be hastened by complete restriction of strenuous physical activity. Respiratory tract epithelium takes ~21 days to regenerate; during this time, horses are susceptible to development of secondary bacterial complications such as pneumonia, pleuropneumonia, and chronic bronchitis. Complications are minimized by restricting exercise, controlling dust, providing superior ventilation, and practicing good stable hygiene. Primary complications of vasculitis, myositis, and myocarditis are observed infrequently.


The presence of a rapidly spread respiratory infection in a group of horses characterized by rapid onset, high fever, depression, and cough is presumptive evidence of equine influenza. Definitive diagnosis can be determined by virus isolation, influenza A antigen detection, or paired serology (hemagglutination inhibition). Nasopharyngeal swabs are obtained for virus isolation and antigen detection. These samples should be obtained as soon as possible after the onset of illness. Virus isolation in chick embryos is highly specific, but less sensitive for detection of influenza due to bacterial contamination of the sample. Antigen detection is performed using a human influenza A kit, which provides immediate results that are not affected by bacterial contamination.

Treatment and Prevention:

Horses that do not develop complications require rest and supportive care. Horses should be rested 1 wk for every day of fever with a minimum of 3 wk rest (to allow regeneration of the mucociliary apparatus). NSAID are recommended for horses with a fever of >104°F (40C). Antibiotics are indicated when fever persists beyond 3-4 days or when purulent nasal discharge or pneumonia are present.
Prevention of influenza requires hygienic management practices and vaccination. Exposure can be reduced by isolation of newly introduced horses for 2 wk. Numerous vaccines are commercially available for prevention of equine influenza. An intranasal modified live influenza vaccine, designed to induce mucosal (local) antibody protection, has demonstrated protection against natural challenge. This vaccine is temperature sensitive and is not capable of replicating beyond the nasal passages. The majority of commercially available influenza vaccines are inactivated, adjuvanted vaccines recommended primarily for IM administration. Because the duration of protection provided by current vaccines is limited, booster injections probably should be administered often, eg, every 3-6 mo. Vaccine manufacturers monitor continuously to ensure influenza strain content reflects, as closely as possible, the antigenicity of current strains of field virus.


Gretchen Jackson: It's Still Day to Day, But Barbaro 'Starting to Blossom'
by: Deirdre Biles
September 2006 Article # 7609,

Roy and Gretchen Jackson were at Keeneland Sunday looking at September sale yearlings. But their Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro wasn't far from their minds.

Gretchen Jackson talked about the ups and downs with Barbaro, who continues to recuperate at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center from the shattered hind leg he suffered in the Preakness.

THE BLOOD-HORSE: We get regular reports on Barbaro from the New Bolton Center. From your standpoint, how is he doing?

GRETCHEN JACKSON: "You're naturally guarded. But for a not medically-educated person such as me, in the last month since his crisis with laminitis, he seems to have gone so much in the right direction. He seems to use all four legs better to equal his weight, to spread his weight amongst four legs, to stand more. And he has never ceased from eating up a storm. Arms and legs included. He would like to grab your arm or leg or hand. He just is doing it all remarkably well. He's just phenomenal.

"For me, who is madly in love with this horse, it's increased my awe for him since his injury. He has just carried that look throughout that 'I can deal.' He's just told us more than our brains have told us. We've just responded more to him and how he's been than going by the medical books.

"We were like that (close), at least I was, (to not) putting him through any more hoops when he got the laminitis. I was really upset; is this fair to keep him (alive)? Dean Richardson said, 'I'd like to try a few things. I will not keep going if there is (no way to control) pain.' It was pretty dire straits there. And we all agreed (to keep going) because there's Barbaro, looking out his stall door, saying, 'Hey, can't I vote, too? I want to be given every chance' They've done a super job at New Bolton."

TBH: Following Barbaro's injury, you could have limited the information released about him. Why didn't you?

JACKSON: "When he won the Kentucky Derby, I thought we lost our horse. He was the world's horse; he was everybody's horse. Everybody knew him. He started getting fan mail and all that stuff that happens to a Kentucky Derby winner, I suppose. And we just thought we owed it to the public, all those people who sent him notes, flowers, carrots, sugar, mints. I mean you should see what the public has done."

TBH: How do you approach Barbaro's situation now. Is it still day to day?

JACKSON: "Yes, it's day to day. I never have asked Dean (Richardson) when is he going to get out of here. I have never asked him. Maybe Dean doesn't either. It (Barbaro's recovery) doesn't seem to have gone back. We haven't had a crisis since the laminitis. His coat is shiny. He lost a lot of his tail. Did you know that? (It's from) balancing him coming out from operations; I don't know if it's hands on him or what. But he lost a lot of his tail. But that's all coming back. Everything is just starting to blossom, and you want to see light at the end of the tunnel. We haven't had Dean say there is light is at the end of the tunnel."

TBH: What are you doing here today at Keeneland?

JACKSON: "We come down here every year, and if we can pick up something that we like -- breeding, conformation, and the price is right -- we get it."

Walking Horse Trainers, Veterinarians React to Celebration Flap
by: Erin Ryder, Editorial Assistant
October 2006 Article # 7802 , Health Newsletter

According to Walking Horse trainers and veterinarians, the issues leading to the early closure of the National Celebration show were but another example of a lack of consistency in the interpretation of the Horse Protection Act (HPA).

The HPA is designed to eliminate the practice of soring, which is the use of pain-inducing means to enhance the horse's gait. The legislation was passed in 1970 and amended in 1976. To ensure compliance with the regulations, USDA-appointed officials inspect horses at shows.

At this year's Celebration, inspectors granted 225 violations. The show was cancelled after disqualifications and protests leading up to the World Grand Championship class left only three horses ready to compete out of the eight entries expected for the class.

Many within the Walking Horse industry feel that the inspectors were overzealous in their scrutiny of horses. "They've interpreted (the HPA) several different ways in the last couple years," says trainer Bill Bobo of Shelbyville, Tenn., who was one of the three approved and ready to ride for the World Grand Championship. "They tighten it down just a little more every year.

"One night they let a horse in, the next night it'll be fined," Bobo said. "Same horse. It's sort of ridiculous."

John Bennett, DVM, of Bell Buckle, Tenn., said that one of his clients showed a horse six times in the 10-day show. The horse passed inspections before and after every class (11 times), but failed the post inspection after the final class.

Mickey McCormick of Shelbyville, Tenn., who has trained Walking Horses for 28 years, said one of the key issues inspectors and trainers differed on was the interpretation of calluses as scars. The calluses are caused by the use of action devices (boots, chains, or rollers placed around the horse's ankles). These are allowed in certain classes, but cannot weigh more than six ounces. For comparison, McCormick says a man's Rolex watch weighs approximately eight ounces.

"That's what it all boils down to," said McCormick. "There's some thickening of that tissue behind (the pastern). The regulations say you can have a minimal thickening of tissue, as long as it can be flattened out with the thumbs. As long as it's soft and pliable, then that's not supposed to be a violation."

The majority of Bennett's clients own Walking Horses. He attended this year's Celebration to check his clients' horses before they were seen by the government inspectors.

As horses were found to be in violation, Bennett and his colleagues would examine them and record their opinion. When there is a difference of opinion, the case can go to conflict resolution at a later date, but that horse remains unable to show.

"One particular horse I was involved with was turned down by a government VMO (Veterinary Medical Officer). I asked another VMO to inspect it for me, so I could see it, and he refused," Bennett said. "(The government VMOs) are the judge and the jury, and we didn't have any recourse, other than to try and play the game according to their rules."

"I'm all for anything that will protect any animal, I think all of us are. I don't think anybody wants to see any abuse done. But I think for it to be such a subjective evaluation, that's the part that we as veterinarians in this area, along with the trainers, owners, and breeders, have such a hard time grasping-is that it's such a subjective test," Bennett said.

"When you've got human beings doing it, it's a subjective thing, and it's tough" Bennett added. "I'm not saying they didn't do a good job, but when it's subjective, you know how that can go. "

While the cancellation of the biggest show of the year was a disappointment, the negative press generated by the action came as a secondary blow.

Bennett says that many people's opinions on the Walking Horse industry are based on information that is decades old.

"I think what's happened is everyone's mindset outside of the Walking Horse world is pre-1970s-era, when there was animal cruelty in some respects, and that's what everyone remembers," Bennett said. "I deal with these horses on a daily basis, I'm in the barns on a daily basis, and I can assure you that these horses are well taken care of, and every year you can see great improvement."

McCormick says that the entire Walking Horse industry is suffering because of the actions of a few. "Ninety-five percent of us run our businesses very ethically, and try to do everything in our power to present a nice image of a horse, because we love these horses, and that's how we make a living," McCormick said. "Somebody's always going to find a shortcut if they can, but you catch those ones and deal with them.

"The general public doesn't understand the pads on their feet and the action devices," McCormick continued. "But once they come and see for themselves what it is and the purpose it serves, as a general rule, they have a totally different outlook on Walking Horses."

Because of the early cancellation of the National Celebration, a World Grand Champion was not chosen for the first time in the show's 68-year history. The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association (TWHBEA) will be hosting a special Invitational show over Thanksgiving weekend to crown a champion.

Jerrold Pedigo, president of the TWHBEA, said he felt it was important to honor a horse as the breed champion.

"The World Grand Champion is the face of our industry for 12 months," says Pedigo. "Certainly, we're a lot more than just show horses, we're trail, versatility, and pleasure horses, in all types of disciplines. But we felt it was important not to let a year go by without the ability--and the effort--to have a horse we could recognize as our champion."

However, for some, having a surrogate show will never be the same.

Link Webb, last year's Walking Horse trainer of the year, who was approved and ready for the class at the Celebration, says a World Grand Championship awarded anywhere else just isn't the same.

"We've crowned a World Grand Champion in Shelbyville for 68 years," Webb said. "We can't recreate it. Most trainers want to win it in Shelbyville. It's tradition more than anything else."

Richardson Continues to be Pleased With Barbaro's Progress; Cast Changed
by: The Associated Press
October 2006 Article # 7854,

Veterinarians changed Barbaro's cast Monday, officials at the George D. Widener Hospital said today (Oct.10).
"We placed Barbaro under general anesthesia to remove the old cast on his right hind limb and took new radiographs to assess the continued healing of the original injuries," said Dean Richardson, DVM, Dipl. ACVS. "I was pleased with the continued progression of healing and the overall condition of this leg."

Barbaro, who was injured in the Preakness Stakes two weeks after his impressive performance in winning the Kentucky Derby, recovered from sedation in a pool and was resting comfortably in his stall after the procedure. In addition to replacing the cast, doctors trimmed his hooves and applied a new shoe on the right hind foot. A few hours after recovery, he was taken back outside to graze and was comfortable on both hind legs.

"There are no signs of infection and the primary incisions have healed surprisingly well," said Richardson, chief of surgery at the New Bolton Center. "Because he has had a cast on for so long, there are a few cast sores, but nothing serious."

Barbaro's left hind foot, which had laminitis, continues to gradually improve. "There is good growth along the quarters [closer to the heel] but there will need to be much more healing along the front of the hoof," said Richardson, who cautioned that "we still have many months of healing ahead of us."

Suggested Vaccinations For Horses

Disease Type Vaccine
Administration Earliest Age Of Initial vaccine 2nd Vaccine Interval Revaccination Interval
Tetanus killed bacterin toxoid intramuscular
(in the muscle) 3 months 1 to 2 months later yearly
Eastern/Western killed virus intramuscular 3 months 1 to 2 months later yearly, before insect season
Influenza killed virus intramuscular 3 months 1 to 2 moths later every 3 months during epidemic/before shipping
Rhinopneumonitis* killed virus intramuscular 3 months 1 to 2 months later every 3 months during epidemic/before shipping

Equine Distemper killed bacterin intramuscular 3 months 1 month later every 3 months during epidemic/before shipping
Rabies killed virus intramuscular 3 months 1 time per year yearly
Potomac Horse Fever killed bacterin intramuscular 3 months 3 weeks later yearly

*Pregnant mares should be vaccinated for Rhinopneumonitis during
the 5th, 7th and 9th months of gestation.
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Equine Disease Symptoms
Disease General Signs Spread
Tetanus Difficulty eating or walking, overreaction to noise, stiffness, elevation of the 3rd eyelid.
Not contagious; caused by punctures and wound infection.

Encephalomyelitis Often fatal; fever, staggering, circling, head pressing, depression and sleepiness.
Not contagious, but spread by mosquitoes.

Equine Influenza Rarely fatal; cough, loss of appetite, fever, depression, muscle soreness, discharge from the eyes & nose. Very contagious; keep affected animals isolated.

Rhinopneumonitis Respiratory distress; nasal discharge, cough, fever; causes abortion in pregnant mares. Very contagious; keep affected animals isolated.

Strangles Fever, swollen jaw glands, loss of appetite, cough, nasal discharge, can cause abortion in pregnant mares. Very contagious; keep affected animals isolated.

Potomac Horse Fever Lethargy, anorexia, fever, colic, laminitis, colitis, and diarrhea. Spread during insect season, vector unknown.

West Nile Virus

Signs of West Nile virus in horses: These symptoms can be confused with rabies, EPM ("Possum Disease), equine encephalitis, and other serious neurological diseases. If you see any of these signs in your horse, please see your veterinarian immediately. Stumbling or tripping ~ Muscle weakness or twitching ~ Partial paralysis ~ Loss of appetite ~ Depression or lethargy ~ Head pressing or tilt ~ Impaired vision ~ Wandering or circling ~ Inability to swallow ~ Inability to stand up ~ Fever ~ Convulsions ~ Coma.

ACVIM 2006: Diagnosing Chronic Colic with Ultrasound
by: Stephanie L. Church, News Editor
September 15,2006 Article # 7647. OnLine News:

Evaluating and treating prolonged cases of colic--those lasting three days or more--can be problematic. Horses with prolonged colic generally aren't in enough pain for surgery, and they respond temporarily to medicines. But the condition persists, many times puzzling the clinician attempting to resolve it. Abby M. Sage, VMD, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, of the University of Minnesota (UM), described the use of ultrasound to help diagnose chronic colic cases at the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum in Louisville, Ky., on June 2.

A detailed history of the animal, physical examination, and rectal palpation provide the most useful information in determining the cause of colic. Veterinarians can also use hematology (blood profile), serum biochemistry, radiographs, abdominocentisis, endoscopy, laparascopy, and exploratory laparotomy to learn more about the case. However, ultrasonographic examination can also give a window into abdomen, and it is rapid and non-invasive.

Sage explained that all veterinarians are trained to ultrasound colic cases. "We do it on all the colics," she said. "We do it on the standing horses when at all possible. You can perform an accurate and adequate ultrasound in 10 minutes. It isn't perfect, and there are limitations, but we've found it to be extremely valuable...there are a lot of things we can do right away to help the horse (if we know what's amiss in the digestive system)."

The technique involves using ultrasound on the entire abdomen, "paralumbar (in the flank area, just down from the lumbar vertebrae) to the sixth intercostal space (between the sixth and seventh rib) dorsal to ventral (top to bottom) in a longitudinal plane," she explained. "It's important to cover the whole abdomen and go all the way forward."

Sage and her colleagues mapped the normal viscera (large internal organs) and looked at the effects of fasting and sedation on the appearance of the digestive tract. She described these features to the veterinarians in attendance at the meeting.

"It's very important to have the knowledge of normal viscera," Sage noted. Before making a diagnosis of chronic colic via ultrasound, "It's also important to know whether the horse has been fed or not," because certain structures will be visible in the fasted horse in a different area of the abdomen than if the horse had been fed. This could be misleading when making a diagnosis.

"Ultrasound is an invaluable tool in assessing chronic colic," she concluded. "Further studies to explore normal and abnormal findings will expand the ability of the veterinarian to interpret it more accurately."

Soring Controversy Shuts Down Show
by: Pat Raia
September 2006 Article # 7701,

In the wake of controversy over soring violations at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, Tenn., in August, the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association (TWHBEA) is aggressively pitching its plan to promote consistency in USDA inspections at horse shows.

Friction over interpretations of USDA scarring rules have plagued Tennessee Walking Horse events all season, but came to a head at the National Celebration when USDA issued 225 violations/disqualifications under Horse Protection Act rules that prohibit soring. The "noncompliance" findings resulted in heated exchanges between trainers and inspectors.

Event organizers temporarily halted competition and postponed preliminary classes at the event on Friday, Aug. 25, until the evening of Aug. 26 at the request of trainers who complained that "inspections were getting out of hand," according to Chip Walters, Celebration public and media relations director.

The show resumed on Saturday evening, with preliminary, pleasure and amateur classes, Walters said, but since several horses and trainers at the event were barred from championship completion, there were too few exhibitors to compete in the championship class.

"Initially, we thought we would have five of eight competitors in the championship class, then we learned three had left and weren't coming, so there was no class," Walters said.

As a result no national champion was chosen for the first time in the event's 68-year history.

"The situation was that the DQPs (designated qualified professionals) were seeing some of these horses for the very first time," said USDA Horse Protection Coordinator Todd Behre, DVM.

That's because, said Behre, many National Celebration exhibitors whose horses were likely to show soring signs had opted out of earlier shows where USDA inspectors were present, rather than risk becoming suspended or banned from competition earlier in the season. According to Behre, trainers did not expect inspectors to be so strict in their rule enforcement at the Celebration.

"One trainer told a DQP 'Your job is to get this horse into the ring'," Behre said.

TWHBEA President Jerrold Pedigo said his organization has been working with Tennessee Walking Horse industry organizations nationwide on its Horse Industry Organization (HIO) Sanctioning Plan for more than a year to standardize training procedures and establish a standardized rulebook for certified DQPs who carry out USDA inspections at horse shows.

"It's not that the law is vague," said Pedigo. "It's all about interpretation."

Outlawed with the passage of the Horse Protection Ace in 1970, soring is a practice whereby horses are subjected to deliberate skin lacerations around their hooves or the application of caustic chemicals such as diesel fuel, kerosene, or lighter fluid to irritate their forelegs, thereby achieving higher stepping animation.

The HIO Sanctioning Plan establishes a committee of representatives from sanctioned horse industry organizations headed by a certified veterinarian to establish standardized training procedures for inspectors. The plan also calls for clear and consistent guidelines for interpreting the results of inspections under USDA regulations.

"There are as many as 100 DQPs who receive training and certification through the USDA over a single weekend in various locations each year," Pedigo said. "Often it's difficult to have that many people understand the process and--perhaps more importantly--understand the inspectors' conclusions. We want to make training available so that no matter what the region, inspections will be carried out consistently."

While Behre says the TWHBEA effort is laudable, it's not enough to eradicate the soring practice completely.

"What it takes is pressure from the associations to change members' minds about soring," he said. "That's not going to happen overnight."

Meanwhile, the Kentucky Walking Horse Association has cancelled its annual Kentucky Walking Horse Celebration on Sept. 20-23 in Liberty, Ky.

"It's not a protest, really," Kentucky Walking Horse Association President Earl Rogers Jr. said. "It's that we felt we couldn't make any money. Many of the competitors could not come because they're either suspended or banned from the shows."

What you need to know about..FLU for Horses and People

What is the Flu?
Influenza, or flu, is primarily a respiratory disease caused by the influenza virus. There are three types of influenza virus – influenza A, influenza B and influenza C. Humans are susceptible to all three types, with influenza A causing most cases of human flu.

Can animals get the flu?
Influenza B and C only infect humans. Some types of influenza A virus can infect animals, especially birds. In general, most types of influenza A viruses can cause disease in only one type of animal but occasionally can cross over to infect and cause illness in another animal species. Birds, especially water birds such as ducks and geese, are the natural reservoir of influenza A viruses in nature. Influenza A infections in birds are often called “bird flu” or “avian influenza.” Most wild birds do not become ill when infected with influenza A. They can pass it to domestic poultry such as chickens and turkeys and to pet birds that can become severely ill and die. With rare exceptions, avian strains of influenza A do not infect other types of animals or people.

For the past several years, however, a dangerous strain of avian influenza A has been spreading in wild birds and poultry throughout parts of Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa. This particular strain, known as H5N1, has caused some human infections and deaths and has infected several types of animals including domestic and wild cats. But this strain has not shown the ability to go from person to person effectively.

Horses and other equines are susceptible to infection with some types of influenza A. These infections in horses are often referred to as “equine flu.” Younger animals are the most susceptible to the disease, and some may require veterinary care. Vaccines are available for horses and other equines through veterinarians.

Recently, a strain of equine flu has been able to infect dogs. This strain of flu has been seen only in a few states and has been almost exclusively associated with dog race tracks and animal shelters where large numbers of animals are housed together in close contact. Symptoms range from a mild respiratory illness to severe disease that may result in death. At this time, no vaccine is available for dogs. In general, cats are not susceptible to influenza infection, with the exception of the H5N1 avian influenza.

Pigs are highly susceptible to some types of influenza A and may become infected with some human and avian strains in addition to strains that circulate mainly in pigs. There are vaccines available for pigs through veterinarians.

Influenza A viruses also have been isolated from a variety of wild mammals, particularly marine mammals such as seals and whales.

How is flu treated in animals?
Treatment of animals with influenza consists generally of supportive care by a veterinarian. Except for domestic birds, the disease usually will run its course in a week or two, although some animals might become very ill and die. Antiviral drugs generally are not used for treating influenza infections in animals. With the exception of horses, pigs and birds, no vaccines are available commercially for animals.


What should be done with animals that die of the flu?
Your veterinarian can tell you about safe disposal of animals that die from flu infection. In most cases, no special burial is required. However, if you suspect influenza infection in domestic poultry, do not move the birds anywhere, even to a veterinarian. Do not attempt to dispose of dead birds yourself. Contact the Texas Animal Health Commission immediately at 1-800-550-8242 for assistance.

West Nile shot for horses is first licensed DNA vaccine

Jul 21, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – Federal officials say a new West Nile virus (WNV) vaccine for horses, licensed this week, represents a breakthrough that may lead to important benefits for human vaccine development.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the vaccine is the world's first licensed DNA vaccine—one that uses small pieces of the target virus's genetic material instead of using a weakened or killed form of the whole virus.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said it issued a license for the vaccine to Fort Dodge Laboratories, Fort Dodge, Iowa. The CDC helped the company develop the vaccine.

"This is truly an exciting innovation and an incredible scientific breakthrough that has potential benefits far beyond preventing West Nile virus in horses," CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said in a news release. "This science will allow for the development of safer and more effective human and animal vaccines more quickly."

The way the USDA explained it, "Traditional vaccine development involves either passing a disease-producing virus through a different species or cell type until it no longer causes disease but does create immunity, or by killing the virus in such a manner that allows it to produce immunity but no disease in the recipient. DNA vaccines, by contrast, use specific fragments of a pathogen's unique genetic material to stimulate a targeted immune response from the host."

The CDC said DNA vaccines offer important advantages over traditional vaccines:

Once a vaccine model for an organism is developed, it can be adapted fairly quickly for similar organisms, which can be a major advantage in an emerging epidemic.
DNA vaccines are less vulnerable to changes in temperature, a major asset for vaccination campaigns in developing countries.
In addition, horses that have received a DNA vaccine can be distinguished from those that have been naturally infected, which is helpful for disease surveillance, the CDC said.

Work on the new vaccine began about 5 years ago at the CDC's branch in Fort Collins, Colo. In clinical studies, the vaccine protected horses from WNV-related illness without causing any major side effects. The USDA's Center for Veterinary Biologics determined that the vaccine's safety and efficacy have been satisfactorily demonstrated.

Fort Dodge expects to make the vaccine commercially available to veterinarians early in 2006, the CDC reported. The USDA said researchers are continuing to assess how long the protection afforded by the vaccine lasts.

The DNA technology used to develop the vaccine is serving as the foundation for an experimental human WNV vaccine, the CDC said. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) announced the launch of a small clinical trial of the vaccine in April of this year. The NIAID is developing the vaccine in collaboration with Vical Inc. of San Diego.

More than 22,600 cases of WNV in horses were reported between 1999, when the virus first surfaced in North America, and the end of 2004, the USDA said. About a third of horses that fall ill with the mosquito-borne virus die or must be euthanized.

Two other WNV vaccines for horses are licensed and commercially available now, according to the Center for Equine Health at the University of California, Davis. Fort Dodge Animal Health makes an inactivated (killed virus) vaccine, while Merial makes a live vaccine based on a canarypox virus.

Keeping Barns Clean
by: Toby Raymond
May 2006 Article # 6961,

Keeping a barn clean is paramount to your horse's health, and your own, especially when you consider that a 1,000-pound horse produces roughly 50 pounds of manure and anywhere from six to 10 gallons of urine a day. Between the manure and the soiled bedding, the resulting waste is estimated at 20 tons a year. And, when you include the accompanying pests--from stable flies to parasite larvae--it's a sure bet that you need to keep your barn clean to keep your horse healthy.

Effects of Waste
The daily accumulation of waste from horses living in a stabled environment opens the way for bacteria and parasites to do their worst. And, if horses are left to stand in urine-soaked bedding and manure, the adverse affects can wreak havoc with delicate lungs and seemingly tough hooves.

Betsy Greene, PhD, an equine specialist at the University of Vermont's (UVM) Extension Service, explains, "Urine contains urea and hippuric acid, which as it breaks down, produces a volatile gas containing ammonia that can irritate sensitive tissues in both the eyes and lungs of horses and people alike."

She emphasizes the importance of keeping the barn well ventilated to minimize ammonia buildup. "If you walk into a barn and feel comfortably warm, chances are you'll also feel a sharp stinging in your eyes and nose from the by-products of ammonia and manure--that's what your horse is living with all the time," Greene says. "As a consequence, it's not surprising he may experience a host of health issues."

Greene recommends keeping fresh air circulating, even in the winter, but she cautions against creating drafts. "The idea is to establish cross-ventilation that will get rid or odors and stale air, not create a drafty environment, which can kick up dust that can contribute to eye and respiratory irritations," she says. "Two methods of air exchange include ridge vents and soffit vents, for example."

There are products on the market especially designed to eliminate odors and control moisture in horse stalls. One in particular is made from minerals known as zeolites which effectively absorb ammonia and associated gases by "locking up" the offending molecules, as well as de-moisturizing manure to arrest the development of insect larvae. "The benefits far outweigh the costs," remarks Greene. "On top of having an odor-free barn, you will also be inhibiting the fly population with a non-toxic, economical, environmentally friendly product."

On the other hand, hydrated lime is effective, but should be applied with caution. Greene points out that its caustic nature, which aids in the decomposition of urine and manure, can cause irritation to soft hoof tissue if it isn't covered up with adequate bedding.

Bob Coleman, PhD, with the University of Kentucky Extension Program, adds that horses should not be in the stall or barn when it is being cleaned and re-bedded. He says time is needed to allow the dust to settle and for the air to clear away any noxious fumes that have been released during cleaning.

Manure Management
If properly handled, the nutrients passed out in manure and urine can be recycled into the pasture to become viable nourishment. In fact, horse manure is considered to be a valuable farm commodity. For instance, a ton of horse manure not only provides organic matter and important trace minerals, it is equivalent to 100 pounds of 14-5-11 fertilizer (14% nitrogen/5% phosphorus/11% potash). But, regardless of whether you plan to use manure in your pasture or not, it must be removed from the stable area.

Manure removal- Daily collection is vital to maintaining a healthy stable environment, but what you do with it is arbitrary. If you don't have pasture space or choose not to spread or compost it, you can create a temporary stockpile until it can be hauled away. There are collection services that specialize in manure removal, or you can make arrangements with a waste management company to take the manure along with your other garbage. If this is the route you decide to go, make sure you choose a holding site far from the barn or paddocks and away from running water. Regardless of where you live, check the rules before you dump manure. For example, according to the Vermont Agency of Agriculture's Accepted Agricultural Practice Conditions and Restrictions, "Manure stacking sites and storage of fertilizer and other nutrient sources shall not be located within 100 feet of wells or property boundaries."

Spreading- Another option is to spread the manure daily. To do this properly, you need to distribute it in a thin layer, which then needs to be harrowed in order to promote quick drying. It is this drying process that helps impede hatching of parasite eggs and larvae growth. As a cautionary note, while Coleman reluctantly accepts the custom of spreading fresh manure on an established grass pasture, he maintains that horses shouldn't be allowed to graze on it during that season to make sure the parasites have been eliminated.

"I've seen too many cases where owners have been tempted to disregard safe management practices by putting their horses on the pasture before it has had a chance to cure," says Coleman. "Even if it looks like the manure has been absorbed, the ground could still be harboring larvae and eggs. It's like feeding your horse a dose of parasites." He goes on to say that the other reason he doesn't look favorably upon spreading manure has to do with the idea of encouraging good neighbor relations. "As farms continue to be broken up and pasture land gives way to housing developments, having close non-horse neighbors is almost a certain reality in most states. Therefore, to keep everyone on cordial terms, it's important to respect the fact that they might not like the smell of manure drifting into their homes."

Greene also makes a point that you should check your state agricultural statutes with regard to your area's spreading season, as you will be held accountable should there be a complaint. In Vermont, for example, the Agency of Agriculture states, "Manure shall not be spread between Dec. 15 and April 1 unless the Secretary grants an exemption because of an emergency situation, such as, but not limited to, the structural failure of a manure storage system or for other specific management needs. In granting an exemption, the Secretary shall determine that the manure will be spread on fields with the least likelihood of generating runoff to the adjoining surface waters. Being granted an exemption does not relieve persons from complying with the Vermont Water Quality Standards." These standards are as follows: "Barnyards, manure storage areas, animal holding areas, and production areas shall be managed or controlled to prevent runoff of wastes to adjoining waters, groundwater, or across property boundaries."

Composting- This is considered the most convenient and cost-effective approach to staying on top of the situation. With proper collection and management, the manure should transform into the darkly rich organic matter that is so highly prized as a soil conditioner and nutrient additive. There are three phases through which manure will go before the decomposition process is complete, and can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months to mature depending on the nutrient values present in the manure.
"While composting is a great idea and should be considered, you would do well to contact your Extension service to learn the particulars of composting in your area," maintains Coleman. "It takes effort and time, but it's worth it in the end," he concludes.

Following are the phases of composting.
Phase I is when manure is composed of undigested food mixed with digestive juices and bacteria that when combined with urine--which is most often collected in some sort of organically based bedding--becomes the medium that begins the decomposition process. At this stage, as the ammonia begins to form, it is recommended to turn over the manure and pack it down to create the right environment for bacterial fermentation. Be sure that the pile is moist, but not soggy.

Phase II is when the insoluble nitrogen in the feces is broken down to produce more ammonia that in turn feeds the bacteria, which furthers the conversion process. The degree to which the manure becomes bio-available depends on the amount and type of feed given in addition to the age and health of the horses that have processed it. A 30:1 ratio of carbon to nitrogen is the goal, so if the compost pile is generating a strong ammonia smell, for example, chances are the carbon to nitrogen ration is too low--a result of feed that is exceptionally high in protein or from having too little soiled bedding added to the mix.

Phase III, the last phase, is when the bacteria release their remaining nitrogen while the fiber part of the compost (which has also finally decomposed) releases carbon dioxide and water to create the desired finished product. If done correctly, parasite eggs or larvae should have been eliminated along with what was once the breeding ground for flies. Plus, the manure pile has now become about half its original size, is odor-free, and is ready to be used as fertilizer.

The optimum conditions for composting would include constructing a three-sided cement or wooden containment area that can be covered with a roof, plastic tarp, or soil to protect it from the elements, which can burn or leach away nutrients. If this is not an option, prepare a six-foot by six-foot open pile in an area that will allow enough room to be enlarged length wise until such time as spreading becomes convenient.

Greene emphasizes checking local zoning regulations. You want to be sure that the pile is sufficiently enough far away from your neighbors, as well as from the barn and house; however, you also want it to be easily accessible for daily use and seasonal hauling. She suggests that for additional information on how to get started with composting, check out The Horse Owner's Guide to Composting, an excellent reference that can be accessed through UVM's Extension Service (

Insect Control
Insects such as stable flies, horseflies, deerflies, horn flies, and mosquitoes can be more than just a nuisance; they can be responsible for a range of problems ranging from leg or hoof concussion caused by repeated stomping, to increased stress levels leading to weight loss, allergic reactions in the form of eosinophilic granulomas (a series of raised bumps usually occurring on the chest, back, or belly), as well as being carriers for a host of serious diseases, including West Nile virus.
When you consider that just one female stable fly, who is estimated to produce 20 batches of 40 to 80 eggs each that typically hatch within 21 to 25 days, will ultimately foster millions of offspring, it is a given that keeping the fly population under control is essential to maintaining the health and welfare of your horse.

Control insect breeding areas Since manure and soiled bedding provide the ideal breeding ground for flies, it is yet another reason to keep your horse's stall as clean as possible. The rest of the barn needs to be kept clean and dry, especially the areas around the water buckets and water tanks. Be sure to fix leaky drains or faucets as soon as possible, as these areas can become prime breeding sites.

Chemical use There are a variety of products designed to control insects, but be sure when using a chemical--either with insecticides intended to kill pests, or repellents developed to keep them away--you follow the directions carefully. Also be careful you don't overdo applications since insects can develop resistance, and the vapors from sprays or mists can irritate your horse's respiratory system.

Here are several insecticide options from which to choose; remember, prevention is still the best means of control:
• Long-term insecticides are applied to areas in which flies tend to congregate, i.e., around feeders, water sources, or flat beams, and, depending upon the specific product, can be effective for up to six weeks.
• Fogs and mists are intended for daily use, and they can be regulated automatically through a designated system.
• Chemical larvicides can be administered orally to horses on a daily basis or on a rotation schedule to kill larvae in fresh manure.
• Baits such as fly strips and sex attractants are useful in high-traffic areas.

Rodent Control
As with insects, rodent control is also a problem that must be addressed in order to maintain a clean barn. Rodents are carriers of disease, and they are resourceful scavengers that can cause significant damage and health problems. Again, prevention is the key, although there are professional exterminators or a number of poisons or traps that will do the job if you already have a problem. Coleman says, "By storing all grain products in impenetrable containers, and by getting a barn cat--your greatest secret weapon--you'll be ahead of the game."

Take-Home Message
Keeping a barn clean is not rocket science; it's a matter of combining common sense with good habits. A barn is a horse's home; his stall is his bed. Make it every day as you would your own. He'll thank you for it every time he feels comfortable enough to lie down for a good night's rest.


House Votes to Ban Horse Slaughter
by: Chad Mendell, Staff Writer
September 13, 2006 Article # 7590,, Horse Health E Newsletter

In an act that went against the recommendations of the Secretary of Agriculture and two prominent veterinary groups, on Sept. 7 Congress voted 263-146 to end horse slaughter in the United States. House members also defeated two amendments that were added to the bill by members of the Agricultural Subcommittee.

“Americans have long had a love affair with horses, both domesticated and wild,” said Ed Sayres, president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, in a press release. “The recent public and media interest in the recovery of Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro is a clear indication of the fascination, awe, and empathy we feel for these magnificent animals. The history of our nation is indelibly linked to these great creatures and, with the passage of this bill, we are one step closer to treating horses as we should—as valued members of our humane community.”

The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (H.R. 503), if signed into law, would "prohibit the shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donation of horses and other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption, and for other purposes." A similar bill (S. 1915) awaits a hearing in the Senate, where if passed it would then go to the President for his signature before becoming a law.

The USDA has expressed its opposition for H.R. 503. In a letter addressed to Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chair of Agricultural Subcommittee, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said, "We have serious concerns that the welfare of these horses would be negatively impacted by a ban on slaughter."

The bill, which had more than 200 co-sponsors in the House, has been a volatile issue because of the horse's place in American culture. One of the main concerns from those who oppose the bill is what will happen to horses intended for slaughter if plants are closed.

Two veterinary groups--the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) and the American Veterinary Medical Association--strongly opposed the ban, stating that it would solve few problems, and create others.

"This bill will negatively impact the health and welfare of horses across the country and offers no solution to the current problem of what to do with horses that are no longer needed or useful to their owners," said Tom R. Lenz, DVM, MS, AAEP past president and chairman of that group’s Equine Welfare Committee. "Horses processed at USDA-regulated facilities under the supervision of federal veterinarians are treated with dignity and euthanized humanely."

Kellye Fondy, manager of communications for the American Quarter Horse Association, said, "We are disappointed in the outcome of the vote. We really feel like emotion won over common sense. We have not changed our position on the bill, and we will continue our efforts to deal with unwanted horses."

The two amendments, one that would require certification of equine rescue groups before implementing a ban to ensure they could handle in the increased load, and another that would exempt people who eat horsemeat as part of their culture (such as the Sioux Indians) and would allow them to continue to slaughter horses commercially, were both defeated 229-177 and 256-149, respectively.

Goodlatte expressed his disappointment in the amendment's defeat, "The amendments were created to correct some of these problems created by this bill."

Those who oppose the bill say that horses will be shipped to countries where there are fewer regulations for humane treatment. More than 90,000 horses were slaughtered in the United States last year, and another 21,000 horses were shipped to Canada, and another 11,000 were exported to Mexico for slaughter, according to the USDA.

At least one country, Japan, would be unaffected by a U.S. ban on horse slaughter, according to a DNA World article.

"Japanese imports of horse meat are unaffected by the U.S. vote because first of all, Japan does not import that much from the United States," Agriculture Ministry official Hidetoshi Akinaga said in the article.

"Japan's main trade partners for horse meat are Canada, Brazil, and Argentina," Akinaga said. “These three countries account for 82% of Japan's horsemeat imports."

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association and the Humane Society of the United States supported the passage of H.R. 503. John Sweeney, R-N.Y., a cosponsor of the bill, said, "Since 1979, there have been efforts and attempts to bring this piece of legislations to the floor for debate. Horse slaughter is one of the most inhumane, brutal, shady practices going on in the U.S. This is a piece of legislation that is long overdue."

Goodlatte stated, "A responsible horse owner should have the right to choose. Make no mistake about it; H.R. 503 provides no solutions, it only creates more problems

West Nile Virus in 31 States

by: Stephanie L. Church, News Editor, The Horse Magazine
September 2006 Article # 7459

Thirty-one states have reported detecting West Nile virus (WNV) in 2006, according to the latest data reported on the U.S. Geological Survey web site (last updated July 25). The disease has infected horses in 10 states: Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, North Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Human cases have been reported in California, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas, and Utah. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one human fatality due to WNV has been reported this year (Mississippi).

Officials have found WNV in birds and mosquitoes in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin

Feeding to Prevent and Control Disease
by: Nancy S. Loving, DVM
August 2006 Article # 7207

Horse owners often search for a magic feedstuff that will enable horses to go farther, run faster, be healthier, and move sounder. Often, a variety of oral supplements are added to the diet, with unknown results. Some feed additives can cause more harm than good, or at the very least, put a large hole in your wallet. In many cases, performance improvements are best accomplished with conditioning, training, and stable management rather than through some oral potion given in the feed. Yet, that being said, dietary management can work like magic for specific equine diseases.

Muscular, joint, intestinal, and metabolic problems can be created by a horse's intake of inappropriate or imbalanced nutrition. These same problems can be solved with proper dietary management. With careful consideration of how best to feed, there might be a simple solution at hand that relies only on inexpensive modifications to your horse's nutritional routine.

Equine Metabolic Syndrome

One disease that has come into the spotlight in recent years is equine metabolic syndrome (EMS). In most cases, a horse with EMS is obese due to breed predisposition, body type, and management considerations such as overfeeding and restricted exercise. Because fat stores in abdominal locations do not just store fat, but also exert hormonal effects, these horses are often insulin resistant and prone to laminitis.

The most logical and effective means to prevent and/or manage obese horses is with exercise; dietary controls are second. Philip Johnson, BVSc, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, MRCVS, and colleagues Nat Messer, DVM, Dipl. ABVP, and V. K. Ganjam, BVSc, PhD, at the University of Missouri, have been instrumental in defining the physiology of equine metabolic syndrome.

"Overfeeding is a common malnutritional practice in Western society," says Johnson. "Horses evolved to eat native grass and stay healthy. Nowadays, we feed horses like food animals--using improved grassland species and grain. Horses are confined and often precluded from exercise by constraints imposed by the needs of human management systems. In evolutionary terms, wild horses were supposed to acquire some 'obesity' in readiness for winter that would be lost by the end of winter. Nowadays, our horses are fed too much energy using highly glycemic (high sugar and starch content) rations, and obesity not only develops, it persists."

Additionally, in the context of today's culture, an obese appearance has become the accepted "norm" in horses, although it is actually an unhealthy state.

"To improve metabolic health, a philosophical shift is necessary such that a fit and trim horse is a body condition that is acceptable and desirable," says Johnson.

His treatment for obesity is based on common sense and dietary management. First, an owner must recognize that a horse is overweight. Johnson suggests, "The ideal body weight and body condition score of the horse should be ascertained with actual measurements (see Body Condition Score on page 41). All unnecessary grain and supplements, including complete or senior feeds containing high starch or sugar, should be removed from the ration, in consultation with the veterinarian. The forage intake should be decreased accordingly at a rate of 10% per week, yet forage intake should not be less than 1.25% of body weight per day.

"If the roughage proportion of the ration is reduced too much, the horse tends to become 'stir crazy' and will try to eat the wood in the stall walls and develop stable vices, in addition to being more prone to colic and gastric ulcers," he adds.

Additionally, Johnson says, "Affected horses should not be 'starved' to reduce weight/obesity because starvation will lead to further insulin resistance. It is reasonable to eliminate grain and anything else that might contribute to sugar and starch in the ration, such as molasses or sweet feed. Some grass hays and pastures are high in sugar and starch (non-structural carbohydrates or NSC) and should be avoided. For reasons that are incompletely understood, alfalfa should be avoided--it appears to be a risk factor for laminitis in and of itself."

In general, Johnson suggests feeding low NSC grass hay, such as timothy, but he urges owners to run a lab analysis to certify the hay is safe. He says beet pulp is a good supplement, provided it does not contain molasses. When feeding more than a pound of beet pulp (dry weight) per day, for each pound of beet pulp fed, 1.5 pounds of hay should be removed from the diet.

According to Kathryn Watts of Rocky Mountain Research and Consulting (, soaking hay in hot water an hour before feeding can also help reduce NSC content.

Your horse might have access to abundant pasture, yet grazing is problematic due to the high sugar content of pasture grass, especially in periods of high growth or when the plants are stressed with frost, drought, or overgrazing. While turnout is one way to achieve light exercise, a fat horse should wear a grazing muzzle to control forage intake.

The obese horse that has developed laminitis can be a challenge.

Johnson explains, "Laminitis is a problem from the perspective of increasing exercise--there is not an easy way around this problem. Theoretically (albeit not particularly practical), use of a swimming pool could get around this impediment. Certainly,

increasing exercise is a logical approach, as is anything to reduce 'stress' since stress is associated with elevated levels of glucocorticoids (any group of corticosteroids involved in metabolism) that promote insulin resistance."

Johnson emphasizes that equine metabolic syndrome and obesity are all about feeding beyond normal requirements, particularly when owners provide nutritionally improved grass species, grain, and "enhanced" grain feeds.

Developmental Orthopedic Disease

A common disease complex that occurs in foals and youngsters is known as developmental orthopedic disease or DOD. This complex is inclusive of a variety of musculoskeletal disorders including epiphysitis (inflammation in the growth plates), osteochondrosis dessicans (OCD), flexural tendon contractures, angular limb deformities, and cervical vertebral stenosis (wobbler syndrome). While the problems often originate from multi-factorial causes such as heredity and exercise, diet and nutrition play a key role in their inception and can go a long way in prevention.

Sarah Ralston, VMD, PhD, Dipl. ACVN, who specializes in equine nutrition at Rutgers University, is passionate about educating horse owners to avoid DOD. It is known that overfeeding of carbohydrate energy sources (grains, starches, sugars)--especially in the face of mineral imbalances--is a primary cause of DOD.

"Excess energy, carbohydrate, and mineral imbalances cause abnormal and improper mineralization of bone, which translates into legs that are prone to develop defects," Ralston says. "Protein used to be considered a culprit in this nutritional imbalance scheme, but it is not the protein, which is a good thing, considering that many pastures provide over 20% protein dry matter."

Ralston emphasizes that a diet must be balanced to achieve musculoskeletal health. "Malnutrition includes both underfeeding and overfeeding nutrients," she says. "Underfeeding will stunt a growing horse and increase risk of disease, yet if minerals are lacking, will still cause DOD. Overfeeding, especially calories and supplements, potentially causes permanent damage to the limbs and has possible metabolic repercussions. There is speculation that the increased incidence of insulin resistance may be, in part, due to overfeeding carbohydrate-rich grains."

One of the big upsets to equine metabolism is the tendency of humans to feed as a matter of convenience rather than focusing on evolutionary adaptation of the equine digestive tract.

Ralston explains, "Even when forage is scarce, horses do not 'fast;' they'll eat anything they can get their teeth on. One main change in domestic conditions is the abundance of grain and carbohydrates year-round, although even 'dead,' dry grass in winter can have a fair amount of sugar in it. Another change is restriction of exercise along with diurnal feeding and fasting cycles (feed available only twice a day)."

For a young horse, such feeding practices can exacerbate DOD. Many DOD problems for a foal begin in the uterus, with insufficient or imbalanced nutrients provided to the pregnant mare.

"In the last trimester of pregnancy, the mare should be on a 'growth- type' feed formula," advises Ralston. "The foal should be given access to growth-formula feed from Day 1 on, so it is available when he begins to eat solid food. Remember that if the mare is on straight oats (not balanced), and the foal steals from her, he then eats an unbalanced ration. To avoid this, a mare should be fed the same formula you want for the foal, even though it will probably exceed her actual mineral requirements."

She also points out the importance of mineral balance, and cautions that regional differences are significant mainly in the microminerals, such as selenium, copper, zinc, and magnesium. Therefore, rations must be balanced relative to your geographic area and feed availability.

Ralston emphasizes, "Growth formulas are becoming increasingly sophisticated, with increased protein and minerals that complement the average hays, and many are designed specifically for legume versus grass hays, so this must be taken into account. A horse under 18 months old should receive a concentrate only if it is formulated specifically for growth. I prefer the newer formulas that are pelleted or extruded, with little or no molasses added. Fat is a helpful supplement to provide calories, but rations with more than 10% total fat may interfere with calcium absorption in a growing horse."

DOD is usually an insidious disease, not showing up clinically until after the damage has occurred. Ralston says while no breed is immune, it seems to be more prevalent in horses selected for large body size and early performance, although that might have something to do with their management, since they tend to be "pushed" harder.

However, Ralston adds, not all DOD is irreparable.

"Epiphysitis and flexural and angular limb deformities are evident immediately with dietary imbalances, usually appearing at three to six months when the foals start drinking less milk and eating more of whatever feed is available," she says. "These DOD issues generally resolve quickly once the imbalances are corrected, along with corrective hoof trimming for the latter two syndromes.

"New data shows that constant, unrestricted turnout exercise results in better bone density and reduced DOD," she says.

Equine Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy

As research unfolds, previously elusive muscle syndromes are better explained. One such ailment, equine polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM), causes a variety of performance issues.

Beth Valentine, DVM, PhD, associate professor at Oregon State University, has devoted her research efforts to this disease. "I consider 'tying-up' to be the tip of the iceberg as relates to clinical signs of PSSM," she says. "Other, more subtle problems--such as exercise intolerance, mysterious abnormal hind limb gait, back soreness, poor muscling or symmetrical muscle atrophy, stiff gait, shivers, and attitude problems--are probably as common, if not more common, than tying-up."

Although primarily identified in draft and draft-related breeds, Quarter Horses, and Warmbloods. PSSM is also recognized in a variety of other breeds.

The muscles of horses afflicted with this disease is related to an abnormal accumulation of glycogen and glycogen-related polysaccharide (sugars) in skeletal muscle. There seems to be some abnormality with carbohydrate metabolism that might be heritable; to date researchers haven't defined the defect.

The recommended diet for managing PSSM is to reduce sugars and starches (grains, molasses) from the diet, put the emphasis on providing quality forage, and supplement with fat, as much as two cups per day (equivalent to a pound of oil) for a 1,000-pound horse.

"We don't really know exactly what is happening when we change to a high-fat and low-starch and low-sugar diet," says Valentine. "This type of diet was originally designed to bypass what we assumed was an enzyme defect leading to defective carbohydrate metabolism. As yet, we have found that there is no enzyme defect involving carbohydrate metabolism, and yet this high-fat and low-starch and low-sugar diet works wonders on most affected horses. I suspect that we are providing fat calories that are needed for effective muscle energy metabolism in these horses."

Fat comes in many forms, such as vegetable oil, powdered animal fat, and rice bran. Vegetable oil is 100% fat, whereas rice bran products only contain 20% fat and are combined with other nutrients. Although somewhat messy to handle, vegetable oil is the preferred choice to offer as a fat supplement for a PSSM horse.

In addition to the fat, Valentine suggests feeding at least 1 international unit (IU) vitamin E per pound of horse per day.

Valentine counsels that it takes approximately four months for full-fat adaptation in PSSM horses, and in the best case a favorable response can occur within one to two months of dietary change. "Positive signs of managing PSSM horses include increased energy, better attitude, and improvement in gaits," she says. "Improved muscling is often seen within two to four months of diet change."

Because these horses are fed high amounts of fat, you might wonder how this strategy can be applied to an already-fat horse.

Valentine clarifies, "For managing obese horses that are candidates for developing laminitis, or have already done so, we provide a diet supplement that is close to forage, but with fat added at an amount the horse will accept. Feeding a forage-based product such as timothy/alfalfa pellets or cubes, other hay products, or beet pulp will provide the least unwanted calories, and fat can be added to that. An owner should reduce the pounds of hay fed by the pounds of forage-based feed (pellets or cubes or beet pulp) fed with added oil. Just don't reduce total forage intake to less than 1% of the horse's total body weight per day--10 pounds of fiber fed per 1,000-pound horse.

Other management strategies must be implemented for an overweight PSSM horse. "For horses on pasture, a grazing muzzle may be necessary to reduce intake of grass," she says. "I'd rather see a horse out on pasture with a grazing muzzle, moving around, than in a stall. If the horse feels better on the high-fat diet, he may exercise himself more and actually build muscle rather than fat. And, of course, if the horse is older it is important to check for pituitary dysfunction, as these horses could benefit from medical therapy to manage Cushing's disease."

White Muscle Disease

Another nutritionally related muscle disease is due to a selenium deficiency. White muscle disease occurs in foals; a related muscle problem can occur in adults.

Valentine says, "The most common sign in foals is difficulty eating due to degeneration of masticatory (chewing) muscles, causing bilateral swelling or atrophy with difficulty in chewing and swallowing. In areas with soils that contain virtually no selenium, selenium deficiency myopathy has been documented in horses of all ages. Too often, this gets interpreted as something else, such as equine protozoal myelitis (EPM).

"Adults with selenium deficiency myopathy may present in recumbency due to severe, diffuse, acute muscle degeneration. Blood tests denote very high muscle enzyme levels associated with selenium deficiency myopathy."

Selenium deficiency is fairly easy to rectify. Valentine suggests feeding 1-2 mg of selenium per 1,000-pound horse each day. However, before supplementing with selenium, a feed analysis and/or blood test should confirm its need.

She says, "Selenium testing I've done on horses receiving only selenium salt blocks indicates that most do not get nearly enough. Horses fed vitamin E/selenium products with 1 mg selenium per day for a 1,000-pound horse have good blood levels of selenium. For pregnant mares, it might be necessary to double the selenium supplementation to ensure adequate passage of selenium across the placenta to the fetus. Milk is very low in selenium, so a foal needs internal stores to draw on."

However, too much selenium supplementation, especially at early stages of pregnancy, can cause birth defects. Other signs of toxicity include loss of mane and tail hair, and eventually the hooves can slough in conjunction with an advanced case of laminitis.

Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis

Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP) is a muscle disease related to a genetic defect that alters function of the sodium channel within the membrane of muscle cells. This defect causes the channel to "leak," with accumulation of excess sodium ions within the muscle cells and excess potassium ions in the bloodstream (hyperkalemia). The alteration of the ionic balance in the muscles decreases the threshold required for muscle contraction and allows convulsive muscular contractions.

As an attack begins, an affected horse experiences sustained muscular contractions visible as uncontrollable muscle twitching especially noted over the thorax, shoulders, hips, and flanks. The nostrils flare, the third eyelid prolapses across the eye, and facial muscles wrinkle to create an anxious expression. Partial muscle paralysis or weakness results in swaying, staggering, and buckling at the knees; episodes can progress to collapse and death.

Sharon Spier, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, of the University of California, Davis, has pioneered research into HYPP and the effect of dietary potassium on episodes.

Spier emphasizes, "It is best to select hays that have been tested for potassium content, and try to feed diets that are less than 1.5% potassium. Many horses are maintained well on timothy or bermuda hay and oats, with free access to a salt block. Research has shown that over time, there can be adaptation to slightly higher potassium-containing diets, so these horses can be fed diets higher in potassium, provided the diet is consistent.

"Pasture and paddock turnout are best since exercise stimulates uptake of potassium by muscles. Pasture access also allows a horse to graze to prevent harmful periods of fasting that cause fluctuations in insulin; this helps stabilize potassium concentrations."

Low-potassium feeds are the goal, and these include pasture grasses that have been verified to have low potassium, beet pulp without molasses (0.3%); fats and oils (0%); and oats, corn, or barley (up to 0.5%). Water-soaked beet pulp can be combined half-and-half with grass hay to meet normal roughage needs while minimizing potassium intake. Soaking the hay in warm water for up to an hour before feeding will reduce its potassium content.

Spier adds, "Electrolyte supplements are particularly high in potassium since most contain potassium chloride salt. Also check labels on commercial feed and vitamin supplements to ensure minimum potassium content."

As stress can precipitate an attack of HYPP, stress control related to transport, stabling, illness, and herd relationships is important in minimizing disease. The most sensible feeding recommendations for managing a horse with HYPP are consistent with good standard nutritional practices.

Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome

In recent years, great advances have been made in the understanding of equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS), particularly in its relationship to diet. Frank Andrews, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, of the University of Tennessee, is one of the pioneers of EGUS research.

"Soluble carbohydrates (found in grain) are fermented by bacteria living in the stomach to produce volatile fatty acids (VFAs), which have a low pH and are lipid soluble," Andrews says. "The lower the pH in the stomach, particularly when less than pH 4.0, the more likely VFAs can penetrate cells lining the stomach and cause damage. VFAs inhibit normal sodium transport functions in the cells, allowing an influx of physiologic water, with resultant cellular swelling and death. Affected mucosa (stomach lining) sloughs away to form ulcers. The more acidic the stomach contents, and the less mucous barrier available, the more the mucosal lining is at risk for injury."

Overfeeding of highly soluble carbohydrates leads to ulcers and hindgut problems along with overgrowth of damaging bacterial flora in the bowel.

Andrews says studies have shown that, "When a horse must be fed grain, a protective diet relies on restricting the amount of grain fed to less than one pound of sweet feed per 220 pounds body weight. If higher levels of grain are needed, then do not feed this amount any more frequently than every five hours. This keeps the horse's stomach beneath a 'threshold level' of VFAs."

He says adding calcium carbonate in the form of calcium supplements or calcium-containing feed (alfalfa hay) might hasten the recovery of cellular sodium transport systems in gastric mucosa of horses by increasing the pH of gastric contents and stimulating sodium transport in tissues.

"This could reverse acid injury caused by VFAs and hydrochloric acid (HCl) secreted in the process of digestion," he says. "Such mucosal injury is pH and VFA concentration-dependent and may be a reason why diets high in fermentable carbohydrates have been implicated in the development of gastric ulcers in horses."

According to Andrews, even a flake of alfalfa hay fed every five hours achieves some benefit by buffering acid in the stomach.

There is a bit of concern about the correlation of alfalfa in the diet and the problem of developing enteroliths (mineral stones in the GI tract), particularly in the western United States.

Andrews says, "A mixture of grass hay and alfalfa might decrease the incidence of enteroliths. While alfalfa provides its buffering capacity, grass hay minimizes the amount of calcium and magnesium that contribute to enterolith formation."

It is possible that the feeding of acetic acid (vinegar) as a strategy to thwart enterolith formation in horses could exacerbate the risk for developing EGUS.

Colonic Ulcers

On the other end of the digestive tract in the hindgut, intestinal ulcers also occur secondary to such things as the administration of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), parasites, and Salmonella bacteria. Affected horses typically present with mild or recurrent colic, decreased appetite, lethargy, and/or weight loss. There can be associated diarrhea and fever.

Certain abnormal parameters seen on bloodwork give a high index of suspicion for this problem, including decreased protein levels, increased fibrinogen, and increased white blood cell count.

Initially, gastric ulcers should be ruled out with an endoscopic exam, and parasite problems or Salmonella should also be considered.

Andrews says feeding strategies differ vastly from those used to prevent or treat gastric ulcers, so it is important to pin down the diagnosis.

He recommends, "Wean the horse off hay over a two-week period, changing over to complete feed pellets that are 20–30% dietary fiber. The horse can be allowed to graze for 15–20 minutes a session for four to six times per day. Small amounts of pasture offered at short intervals is best for providing rest to the intestinal tract affected with colonic ulcers. The pelleted feed diet decreases the bulk in the diet and decreases the actual work of the large intestine."

This low-fiber diet is fed for three to four months until the horse is healed and blood protein levels return to normal.

Andrews also adds psyllium products to improve transit time of the intestinal feed matter. He says psyllium increases the concentration of short-chain fatty acids in the colon, which decrease inflammation, while it also helps coat the digestive tract and hydrates the feed contents to achieve a laxative effect.

In addition, he recommends feeding one cup of vegetable oil twice a day, particularly corn or safflower oil. "These are useful to provide omega-rich fatty acids, which inhibit the production of an enzyme that produces prostaglandins, and thereby indirectly decreases inflammation," he says. (Read more on omegas on page 51.)

Take-Home Message

There are some general trends in feeding your horse that can help him be healthier, and detailed nutritional management regimens to control specific diseases. If you have questions about your individual horse's nutritional management, discuss them with your veterinarian or an equine nutrition consultant.



As you read through the nutritional recommendations for many of the ailments that plague horses, you might notice common threads used to manage or prevent many problems. One of the primary considerations mentioned by all these experts is the danger of overfeeding, particularly a diet rich in carbohydrates or grain. To best keep your horse “as healthy as a horse,” dietary strategies should follow some basic and simple rules:

Feed at least 1–2% of the diet as fiber (hay and/or pasture), that is 10–20 pounds per day for a 1,000-pound horse.
Feed small amounts at frequent intervals or free-choice forage rather than relying on twice-a-day feeding with long intervals of fasting.
Feed primarily grass hay and supplement with small amounts of alfalfa only when necessary.
Integrate fat supplements and/or high-fat feeds to substitute for calories previously provided in grain.
Limit grain to as little as possible, not exceeding four pounds per feeding for a 1,000-pound horse, but better yet, use substitute feeds (fat, alfalfa) instead of grains.
Minimize extraneous feed additives and minerals so you feed only what is necessary to constitute a balanced ration.
Have feed analysis done at a lab to obtain specific nutrient content if in doubt.
Consult with an equine nutritional specialist to tailor a diet specifically for each individual horse.
Exercise the horse or provide regular turnout as often as possible.
With these dietary practices, you really will possess the magic elixir to cure many equine ills and to achieve the best performance your horse has to offer. —Nancy S. Loving, DVM

Care of the geriatric horse

Article donated by the mane points horse resource center.

The old gray mare ain't what she used to be ... but with today's advanced technology and superior feeds, horses in their late twenties and thirties are more common than ever.

It is estimated that about 20% of the horse population in the United State's are horses over 15 years old. Most of these equine senior citizens can remain productive and useful for most of their lifespan with proper diet and lifestyle.

One year of a horse's life is equal to an average of three years of a human's life; thus a 15-year-old horse is equivalent to a 45-year-old person.

If either regular health care or a nutritious diet are lacking, serious problems may occur in the older horse. As they age, horses become more susceptible to infectious diseases, climatic changes, and the detrimental effects of parasitism. Body systems function less effectively, teeth wear out or are lost, and aging-related disorders begin to occur. The old horse needs regular attention to prevent stress and minimize these effects.

Loss of body condition is one of the most common causes of complaint from owners of older horses, particularly of the harder-keeping breeds, such as Thoroughbreds. Aged horses cannot readily replace weight losses and become more susceptible to stress and disease.

On the other hand, the older horse should not be allowed to become too fat, as obesity can aggravate arthritis, lead to laminitis (founder), and stress the cardiovascular system.

Causes of Loss of Condition

The two main causes of loss of condition are poor teeth and reduced digestive ability. These two factors are linked, as the horse must be able to thoroughly chew his feed for proper digestion to proceed in the intestinal tract. An examination of the manure will tell you if your horse has a digestive problem; the presence of noticeable amounts of grain and much unchewed hay in manure is a clue that much of the horse's feed is passing through underutilized.

As the horse ages, his teeth become progressively worn, and once the hard enamel wears off, the softer dentin inside the teeth erodes faster and more unevenly. Teeth will be lost as the rooted portions become shorter and weakened from years of grinding feed. Broken teeth and root abscesses are also more common in older horses.

Older horses should have their teeth checked regularly -- every 6 to 12 months-by a veterinarian competent in dental care. The cost of good dental care is easily recouped in improved health and savings in feed costs.

Good Nutrition

Nutrition is the key factor in maintaining the health of the aged horse. As mentioned before, it is linked to the ability to chew and digest, but the older horse is also prone to decreased digestive efficiency in the intestinal tract. One needs to choose feeds that are easy to chew, highly digestible and made with top-quality ingredients.

There are few geriatric commercial feeds available, but one can select from the many readily available products to prepare a ration which meets the needs of the aged horse. It is extremely important that the best quality of feeds be used, saving a few cents on each bag of feed is false economy as more of the proper product will have to be fed to meet nutritional needs.

Older horses require a higher amount and a higher quality of protein. Also, a readily digestible source of energy that does not overload their hindgut with too much starch, and slightly higher levels of certain vitamins and minerals are also needed.

One can readily meet these needs by feeding the concentrate part of the ration in the form of broodmare or growth feeds. The other half can be made up of pelleted concentrates of "complete feeds," or beef-pulp added feeds. Beet pulp is a good source of energy and protein, but should not make up more than 30% of the total ration.

Three additives useful to the older horse ration are water-retention laxatives, probiotic digestive enhancer and corn oil.

Bran and psyllium seed are two feed products which help retain water in the large intestine and these facilitate the proper flow of feed through the gut. If the fluid balance in the hindgut is not maintained, the gut contents dry out and can cause impaction, resulting in life-threatening colic. Feeding bran mashes, adding a pound of bran to daily feed or feeding psyllium seed (one teaspoon daily), will help prevent impactions, especially in the winter when horses often drink less water.

Probiotic digestive enhancers include various products which contain lactobacillus or other "digestive" bacterial cultures, yeast cultures, or digestive enzymes. These enhance the intestines' ability to digest feeds,, often improving weight gain, reducing feed intake and making the horse more energetic.

Corn oil has 2.225 times the energy of an equivalent weight of corn. Oil is almost totally digestible from the small intestine, so it does not promote colic or make the horse "high" as heavy grain diets can do. One cup of corn oil can replace two pounds of sweet feed in a ration, and horses generally find it very palatable. It also puts a gloss on the horse's coat.

To formulate a proper ration for your aged horse, consult with your feed nutritionist or your veterinarian. Every horse is an individual and needs an individual ration plan.

Good care of your aging horse will ensure many more years of active companionship and reward him for all the years and miles already given you.

Dr. N. Lee Newman has been involved with horses for over 30 years. She received her veterinarian degree from the University of Georgia in 1976, then practiced for 12 years on the Hopi Indians Reservation and in ranching country in Northern Arizona. She returned to Virginia in 1988 to practice equine medicine and teach equine science at Lord Halifax Community College, two months of which are geriatrics.

Needs of the Older Horse

Adequate shelter from weather.
Regular deworming every 60 days.
Regular vaccinations.
Supply of fresh, clean water.
Access to hay.
Freedom from stress.
Annual health exam by veterinarian.
Regular examination hoof trimming and care.
Daily examination and love.

Signs of teeth problems are when the horse:
holds head sideways while chewing
drops feed from the mouth
hay wads drop from mouth
exhibits pain when drinking cold water
has foul odor from mouth
develops "bit-fighting" head-tossing or other behavioral irregularities


A possible cure? An article by Nina Arbella

Equine Cushing’s disease is caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland, which is responsible for the production and regulation of hormones. Symptoms include a long, shaggy coat that does not shed, excessive drinking and urination, laminitis, a tendency for recurring infections in the hoof (foot abscesses), and a loss of muscle mass, especially along the topline and rump. At Eye of the Storm Equine Rescue, we’ve discovered what appears to be a cure for Cushing’s disease in horses. We’re not licensed nor are we doctors, but we know what has worked for our horses and for lots of others, so we wanted to share our experiences in case it helps cure your own horse of equine Cushing’s disease.

While looking through a nutritional healing book at Debra’s Natural Gourmet in West Concord, Mass., I came across a sentence that said “Chasteberry feeds the pituitary gland.” Chasteberry in recent times has been used mainly for “women’s complaints.” I know it works because it beats the crap out of PMS, you feel better in 20 minutes. “Hmm,” I say, “I like chasteberry, let’s see what it can do for our two Cushing’s horses.” Bess, our 26 year old Shetland had obvious symptoms: long hair that didn’t shed and she was a sway back. Not as bad as some, but still obvious. I couldn’t wait for the vet to take some blood to find out her “numbers.” The results were positive for Cushing’s. I put her on one teaspoon twice a day, three weeks on and one week off. Though she began to shed her coat of “buffalo” hair almost immediately, she never was a very slick pony. But I was determined to keep her on the chasteberry one year before testing her blood again. If I saw results then, I would tell the world.

One year later, after Bess’ test results came back, the vet said, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but keep on doing it.”
Bess’ numbers were down 33 points! I don’t know exactly what these numbers represent, but evidently this never happens in real life! After one year of feeding her pituitary gland, had I managed to reverse her Cushing’s disease? I was very excited as this ailment affects the lives of millions of old (and not so old) horses in so many negative ways. This disease is more common now than it has ever been in the past. No one really knows why, though I have my theories. That is another tale for another day.

I was getting whole chasteberry in one pound bulk bags from Natural Gourmet and running it through a coffee grinder. The seeds are very hard and I figured it would come out the other end the same way they went in, unless we knocked the shells off them. You run the grinder until most of the pinging of hard berries can’t be heard anymore. You cannot grind them up completely, but that’s okay. Horses are made to digest roughage.
They handle the chunks just fine. You should have a grinder for this purpose only, as your coffee might taste funny if you use the grinder for both.

Right around the time I was ready to tell the world about this cure, another product came on the market called Hormonize. It is a liquid and costs around $45 per liter and lasts two weeks for your average size horse. That’s $90 per month to treat the horse. The developers of this product found it to be effective not only on mares in heat, but it also did some impressive things for Cushing’s horses, too. It is sold for this purpose as well. It is an all natural herbal remedy. A bit pricey, though.

I checked out the ingredients. It is a tincture of chasteberry! I think they call it vitex or monks pepper on the back. I’m not sure. It greatly saddens me that the treatment for such a devastating disease sells for so much.

Horses don’t need herbal tinctures. They can and do digest some pretty coarse stuff (have you ever tried to eat dry timothy hay?). They can not only digest the herb, but utilize it in that form beautifully.

Bess, unfortunately, died at age 28 when she decided her mission was accomplished, so we never got a third blood test from her. We have two other Cushing’s horses, and all of our older mares are on chasteberry as well. Junebug, who is 8 years old, was tested last year and we’ll test her again soon to see where her numbers are. Snowdrop was never tested, but all her symptoms have disappeared and she is doing well at 24 years old.

If any of you out there would like to try chasteberry, here’s what to do. Go to your local health food store and special order one pound bulk bag whole chastetree berry from the Frontier herb company (please mention Eye of the Storm Equine Rescue when you do). You might want to order more than one bag so that when you’re down to one you can reorder. One bag will cost you less than $20 and will last a couple of months per horse.

Run the berries through your coffee grinder and feed one teaspoon twice a day with feed. We give the same amount to horses and ponies. It works on both mares and geldings. Give it to them three weeks on and one week off all year round. It will even keep the mares from being quite so crabby in the spring.

We also give them all vitamin E in the evening, vitamin C in the morning, and MSM. No sugars or carbohydrates (not even a carrot). There are feeds out there that are low in both, such as Blue Seal Racer and some of the senior feeds (do some research). All in all, chasteberry is the answer. Even our two 30-year old mares don’t have Cushings, only Bess, Junebug, and Snowdrop, who came to us with the disease and it appears to be reversed. I
never had horses of my own get Cushing’s. I have every horse in town that has Cushing’s on chasteberry and they’re all doing great! This is a cheap, easy, healthy remedy for Cushing’s disease.

About the author:
Nina Arbella is founder and president of Eye of the Storm Equine Rescue of Stow, Massachuetts. Contact Nina and visit the rescue center’s website at

Vaccination Indications

by Written by: Robert Holland, DVM, Ph.D.

The world is getting smaller every day. People and horses travel across the country and around the planet at rates never seen before. It has opened up huge opportunities for competition, growth, and learning. Unfortunately, it has also given us increased opportunities to be exposed to a growing number of diseases. Never before has it been so important to connect with your veterinarian to focus on preventive actions for the health of your horse. The number one way to do this is through an effective vaccination program. It is so easy to forget those annual vaccines, but they can and do keep horses healthier, and in some cases, alive. Who wants to see their horses suffer with a disease?

So how do you begin to decide what vaccines to give? Get together with your veterinarian. Your vet can help you assess the risk factors in your area, when the best time to vaccinate would be, and what is right for your specific animals on your farm, ranch, or stable. It is not as easy as it sounds; when I was on the task force for the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to develop vaccination guidelines, one of our biggest issues was how to account for variations in individual circumstances. For example, the ideal time of year to vaccinate might change due to the geographic area. Using the AAEP guidelines as a starting point, talk with your veterinarian about developing an individual plan for your horses.

Vaccinations aren’t your only defense, however: Preventive management on your farm is another important key. Quarantine any incoming horses away from the rest of your herd for at least two weeks. This should cover any incubation period. That way, if your new horse is sick, you don’t get all of the others sick as well. Make sure to keep your water sources cleaned regularly, wash your hands between horses, and always deal with a sick horse at the end of the day to avoid spreading his disease. If a horse has a respiratory problem, ask your vet to swab his nose to get a sample to test for what specific disease is affecting your horse. That way, the appropriate antibiotic and treatments can be applied.

A starting point in developing a vaccination program for your horses is first to determine the risk of infection for your animals with your local vet, who will know the diseases and risk factors common to your area. Are your horses farm-bound, or are they out at a new show every weekend? The process of shipping stresses horses in and of itself. So, if shipped horses are also exposed to many other animals that might be carrying disease, they might need a more aggressive vaccination program to give them the best protection possible in these increased risk circumstances.

How old are your horses? Young horses, like children, tend to pick up passing diseases very easily, as they are still building up their immunity to many diseases. And immunity to any disease isn’t instant, even with vaccine administration. According to the AAEP guidelines, “Protection is not afforded to the horse immediately after administration of a vaccine that is designed to induce active immunity. In most instances, a series of multiple doses of inactivated vaccine must be administered initially for the vaccine to induce protective active immunity.”

The next question to ask is: What are the environmental risk factors? Do you live in an area where there is a high risk of certain diseases? If so, you might need to vaccinate more often for those diseases. For example, someone living in Florida might want to vaccinate more often for West Nile virus because the mosquitoes are active year-round. The type of weather can also impact your vaccination decisions; for example, this year has been unusually wet through many parts of the country. This could potentially increase the risk of your horse getting a disease such as Potomac horse fever.

Vaccination Strategies
By Toni McAllister

Toni McAllister is an associate editor for Horse Illustrated

Vaccinating your horse against disease is such a simple task. It’s not terribly time consuming, and it’s relatively inexpensive when you consider the alternative. But some people don’t vaccinate. Lack of concern regarding disease risk, and skepticism about vaccine safety and efficacy are among the reasons given.

We’ve asked veterinarians who work for leading vaccine manufacturers to explain vaccination protocols, and to address safety and efficacy issues. Their responses are surprisingly candid and may have you rethinking your horse’s healthcare schedule.

A Case for Safety
America’s Healthy Horse

Even though the vaccine manufacturing process is filled with quality control measures to help ensure safe vaccines, it’s important for horse owners to recognize that vaccines are foreign substances, and that adverse reactions may occur. This is a good reason why it’s best to let your veterinarian vaccinate—he or she has the knowledge and the appropriate medications to treat an allergic reaction should it occur. During vaccination your veterinarian can examine your horse, which is part of a good disease prevention strategy.

There is an extensive amount of time, money and resources involved in the research and development of a vaccine. Generally speaking, it takes three to four years of time and millions of dollars spent before a vaccine gets licensing from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (if it ever does).

"I have never had anyone explain to me scientifically why you would not vaccinate a horse," says Tom Lenz, DVM, vice president, Professional and Technical Services, Fort Dodge Animal Health. "Occasionally, you may have a horse that reacts to a vaccine systemically—has an anaphylactic reaction [a severe and rapid allergic reaction that requires immediate veterinary attention], or hives, or you may have a horse that has a local injection site reaction, but those are fairly rare."

Dr. Lenz feels the risk of disease is just too high if you don’t vaccinate. "If your horse develops tetanus, the odds of him dying are about 99 percent. The fatality rate for West Nile virus, based on statistics over the last three years, is at least 30 to 40 percent. The fatality rate for rabies is 100 percent."

"I think it’s important that horse owners recognize that licensed vaccines go through extensive purity, safety and efficacy testing prior to being released for sale," says D. Craig Barnett, DVM, senior equine technical services specialist of veterinary services at Intervet Inc. "Every serial [batch] of vaccine has to pass certain standardized potency and safety tests." Dr. Barnett says that the vaccine production process is "extensive, complex, scientific and judicious."

Vaccine Efficacy
Even if you trust the safety and efficacy standards, and you follow a strict vaccination schedule for your horse, he may not be protected against disease.

"Vaccination does not equal immunization," Dr. Barnett says. "A horse has to mount an immunological response—produce antibodies or other immune responses to the vaccine—following vaccination. This response will vary depending upon the vaccine used and the horse’s own immunity. Not all horses will mount an immune response to vaccination—approximately 10 percent don’t—and those that do respond differently," he says. "Some respond well, some middle of the road, some poorly." A horse’s general health plays a large role in this factor. Stressed horses, malnourished horses or those that are otherwise unhealthy may not mount a good immunological response to vaccination.

A horse’s age is also critical to vaccine efficacy. In most situations, vaccinations for healthy foals from vaccinated mares, for example, shouldn’t be given until the youngster is at least 3 months of age. Some veterinarians prefer to wait even longer. Foals that receive adequate colostrum from their properly vaccinated dams (vaccinated four to six weeks prior to foaling) should have sufficient immunity from the diseases the mare is immunized against. Vaccinating these foals too soon may possibly compromise their natural ability to fight disease.

Efficacy is also dependent on when you vaccinate. Dr. Barnett recommends vaccinating while your horse is healthy and before potential disease exposure or high-risk periods (before going to shows, trail rides, parades, et cetera). "We need to consider that there is a lag time between vaccination and development of an immune response." Lag time, along with the fact that disease can compromise a horse’s immune system, is why many veterinarians recommend not vaccinating for certain diseases in the face of an outbreak.

Vaccination is only an aid in prevention of infectious disease, and won’t succeed without appropriate management practices. Dr. Barnett explains that you have to reduce your horse’s exposure to disease by following basic horsekeeping practices:
> Avoid contact with sick horses.

Quarantine new incoming horses. Without a quarantine system, there is a very serious threat for bringing in infectious disease to an established herd or group of horses.
Avoid contact with outside horses—on trail rides, horse shows, et cetera.
Avoid using universal waterers or feed sources.
Reduce or eliminate stress, because it has a negative effect on the immune system.
Vaccinate all horses in a herd or on a farm on the same schedule whenever possible.
"As horse owners, we must take responsibility for the management part of infectious disease control," Dr. Barnett says.

Vaccination Protocols
What are the most important points horse owners should consider regarding their vaccination strategies? "It’s very important to realize that ‘one size does not fit all’ when it comes to vaccination protocols and schedules," Dr. Barnett says. "Universal vaccination recommendations are impossible to make." They vary depending upon many factors, including age of horse, incidence of disease in the area, geographic location, number of horses on the premises, exposure to other horses, use of the horse (broodmare, show horse, et cetera).

Vaccination programs should be tailored to each individual horse and farm. Dr. Barnett says horse owners should assess the need to vaccinate for each disease based on:

Risk—What risk does this disease pose to the horse? Keep in mind that disease risk can vary between types of horses—pleasure horses, broodmares, foals, performance horses.
Consequences of the disease—Is the disease life threatening? What is the mortality rate? Is there potential for human exposure (as with rabies)?

Efficacy of the vaccine and the potential for adverse reactions to vaccination.
Most veterinarians agree that even if the risk of a particular disease is moderate to low, but the consequence of the disease is deadly, you should vaccinate as long as the vaccine is safe and efficacious. However, if the risk of a disease is moderate to low, the disease mortality rate is low, and the vaccine for it has marginal efficacy and safety, then you probably won’t vaccinate unless risk increases.

"I think every horse ought to be vaccinated against tetanus, Eastern equine encephalomyelitis, Western equine encephalomyelitis, West Nile virus and rabies," Dr. Lenz says. Most veterinarians agree with this opinion. "Whether or not horses receive rhino [equine herpes virus], flu, strangles, Potomac horse fever or some of the other vaccines, depends on the part of the country they live in and what their veterinarians think," Dr. Lenz continues.

You also have to consider vaccination frequency. "In some parts of the country you may give rhino and flu once a year, in some areas it’s more frequently,"

Dr. Lenz says. "West Nile virus—we used to vaccinate once a year, now the general consensus is to vaccinate spring and fall. In some areas, like the South, you may need to vaccinate against it even more frequently. So it depends on the exposure rate."

Dr. Barnett says many horses are undervaccinated, but some are overvaccinated. Robert Holland, DVM, Ph.D., agrees. As a practicing veterinarian in Lexington, Ky., and a senior technical service veterinarian with Pfizer Animal Health, Equine Division, he says, "If you are giving a flu/rhino vaccine every two months, you’re possibly overvaccinating. Sometimes we think more is better, but sometimes it’s better to let the horse’s immune system wax and wane, so when you give the vaccine you get a much better response."

All the experts agree that your veterinarian is the best source of information when designing and implementing a vaccination program best suited to the needs of your horse. Your vet is familiar with the risk of disease in your area, risk of disease to your farm and/or individual horses on that farm, knows the consequences of diseases, and is familiar with the efficacy and safety of different vaccines.

*This article was featured in Horse Illustrated - March 2006

Administering Medication
By Sue Weaver

You’re watching your vet head down your driveway. He’s examined and diagnosed your horse—now it’s up to you. You’re clutching a large plastic bottle filled with pills that need to be administered twice a day. Unscrewing the cap, you shake some pills into your hand—they’re enormous! How will you get them into your horse?

Fortunately, there are many ways to help the medicine go down. Here are some resourceful techniques, but before you try these or any other methods, always ask your vet if the pills can be crushed, or dissolved in a small amount of water, or if they must be administered whole. Don’t assume you can grind or dissolve your horse’s meds and add them to his feed; time-release pills sometimes have to be delivered to his digestive system intact. Find out before you proceed.

If powdering the pills or dissolving them is acceptable, ask if there are safety factors you should know about. Some horse medications can be toxic to humans when inhaled or absorbed through bare skin, especially over prolonged periods of time. It’s always wise to wear latex gloves while processing medication, but your vet may suggest more stringent measures depending on the potential toxicity of the medication involved.

If your vet prescribed a powder medication, or you’re grinding up pills, you will want to mix it with feed or dose it from a syringe.

To efficiently reduce horse pills to granules or powder, use a mortar and pestle (available at kitchen supply or import shops and from food co-ops selling herbs) or a small electric coffee grinder. Whichever you choose, reserve your pill powdering apparatus for veterinary use only. Clean it by scrubbing it in hot, soapy water.

To break up large, hard pills before grinding, tuck them in a small paper envelope, stick that inside a plastic sandwich bag and whack the pills with a hammer. Powder only enough pills for a single dose and process them just before dosing.

Feeding Powdered Pills Make Your Own Balling Gun

A few years ago when we were faced with the sad task of dosing our laminitis-stricken mare with daily bute, our vet showed us how to make and use this homemade PVC pipe balling gun. Its components can be purchased at any hardware store. Here’s how the tool is constructed:

One 12” piece of 3/4” inner dimension PVC pipe
One 3/4” wooden dowel rod
One 1” washer with a 1/8” hole
One 1” long #6 screw
Use coarse sandpaper or a file to smooth both ends of the PVC pipe. Insert the #6 screw through the washer and screw it into the end of the dowel rod. Drop the rod inside of the PVC pipe. That’s it!

To keep the rod from falling out, hold onto the dowel rod and PVC pipe simultaneously, and proceed as recommended under “Shoot it Down.”

Anyone who’s medicated horses knows how frustratingly fussy some are about accepting doctored feed. Still, yours can probably be conned into doing it. The trick lies in discovering a carrier food he likes. Try blending his powdered medication with mashed, cooked carrots or with applesauce and stir the mix into his grain. He has a sweet tooth? Add powdered pills to crushed after-dinner mints, pancake or corn syrup, molasses (or molasses whipped with brown sugar) or honey. Powdered fruit-flavored Kool-Aid that’s premixed with sugar tempts many horses. So does yogurt in fruity flavors. And many horses adore peanut butter.

Does your horse greedily chomp hand-fed treats? Quarter an apple and set three of the quarters aside. Cut a deep slash in the fourth quarter, pack it with the crushed or powdered pill and press the edges shut. Feed your horse two of the plain quarters, then slip him the doctored piece, rapidly chased by the third unadulterated quarter. It works nearly every time.

If you feed your horse sweet goodies, try this messy but effective trick: Stir powdered medication into a glop of canned cake frosting and let him lick it off of a flat surface, like a portable cutting board. It’s safer than hand feeding.

Medicated carriers blend well with sweet feed, and the sweetness helps mask bitter flavors, as does alfalfa molasses. Unless you’re positive your horse will accept doctored feed, only add a dollop of medication/carrier mixture to just a moderate amount of feed—don’t overwhelm him. Be sure to thoroughly blend whatever you use into the feed, rather than drizzling it on top. After your horse cleans up the spiked feed, you can give him the rest of his ration. Allow him three hours to consume medication-laced feed. Then, if a significant amount remains, remove it and try a different carrier. If you’re not certain whether his medicated feed is being consumed or scattered, consider feeding it from a nosebag.

Syringe Dosing Hot Tip!

If your horse resists paste deworming but you want to syringe dose medication, rehearse using tasty, unadulterated carrier. You’ll perfect your technique and he might just decide being dosed tastes pretty darned good.

If your horse rejects medicated feed, try dosing ground pills or powdered medication through a syringe. To do so, blend the powder into no more than two ounces of runny, goopy carrier. Good ones include finely pureed baby foods like carrots or applesauce, fat-free yogurt (it’s stickier than the low-fat kind; smooth vanilla, lemon or coffee flavors work well), sugary syrups or molasses, or smooth peanut butter liberally thinned with vegetable oil.

Load the spiked carrier into a catheter-tip irrigation syringe (get it from your vet or local tack and feed store) or an empty large-volume, single-dose paste deworming tube you’ve scrubbed in steaming, sudsy water and rinsed thoroughly. Administer the dose as though you were paste deworming your horse, taking care to squirt all medication well back on his tongue. As soon as you’ve emptied the syringe, grasp your horse’s jaw and elevate his head. Hold it up until he swallows.

Dosing By Hand
If your horse is willing, you can give an intact pill by hand when necessary. However, if your horse is on medication for the long term, he may eventually begin to refuse this method. To dose a horse by hand, stand alongside him, facing him. Insert your fingers into the bars of his mouth. When he opens his mouth, reach in and grasp a fistful of tongue.

Hold tight. Coax the tongue down and out the side of his mouth. His mouth will gape open. Place the pill as far back on his tongue as you can, taking care not to snag yourself on his teeth. Now quickly release the tongue. This will carry the pill to the back of his throat where he’ll gulp it down.

Shoot It Down
Not crazy about sticking your arm inside a horse’s mouth? Neither was the soul who invented the balling gun. This plunger-fitted tubular implement is often used to propel pills down large animals’ throats, particularly cattle. Ready-made metal or plastic balling guns can be purchased from veterinary supply catalogs, but you can easily make your own (see “Make Your Own Balling Gun” pg. 95). To use any of these tools, draw back the plunger and insert a pill in its open end. Hold it so the pill doesn’t slide out. Elevate your horse’s head and with or without extracting his tongue, insert the implement into his mouth up to the base of the tongue and zap the pill down his throat. (Never insert a balling gun farther than the base of your horse’s tongue. Ramming it into his throat can cause serious, permanent damage. And never administer large, whole pills or halved pills to Minis or foals.)

It may take some trial and error to find the best method of getting the medicine to go down, but with a little creativity—it can be done.

This article first appeared in the February 2004 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine

Vaccination Tips
By Marcia King

While vaccinations can prevent of minimize disease, the effectiveness of vaccines also relies, in part, on the effectiveness of the vaccination program. Follow the guidelines below to help strengthen your program.

Vaccinate the whole herd. "If you just immunize one horse in a group," says Dr. Philip Johnson, "the other horses that are not immunized could generate up the virus as they get sick to the extent that the virus will overcome the effects of the vaccine in the protected horse."

Protect foals by vaccinating pregnant mares. As Dr. Johnson explains, this is the smartest tack a breeder can take because "a foal acquires its immunity for the first three or four months of its life from the mare and its first milk."

Adhere to a professionally administered routine. When you first start a horse on a vaccination program, you usually have to give two shots four to eight weeks apart in order for the horse to acquire immunity. Stick to the initial vaccine and booster schedule and leave the vaccinations to your veterinarian. "Vaccine failures can often be attributed to a vaccine that hasn't been properly stored, is over-date, and so forth," says Dr. Johnson. "Additionally, there is the very rare risk of an allergic reaction; if a horse does develop a reaction to the vaccine given by a horse owner, the horse might die from it." A veterinarian at the scene could counteract that potential tragedy.

Keep vaccination records. These should detail what vaccines were given and how often. It can be extremely difficult - and risky - to treat a horse for certain diseases if the animal's vaccination history isn't known. Tetanus, for example, requires the potentially perilous anti-serum if no tetanus history is available.

Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA) Outbreak Reported in New Mexico

Posted: Monday, July 3, 2006
Media Advisary from AQHA

On Monday, June 26, 2006, the Office International des Epizooties (O.I.E.) Reference Laboratory for Equine Viral Arteritis at the University of Kentucky College of AgricultureÕs Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center, confirmed an outbreak of equine arteritis virus infection involving fetal losses among mares on an American Quarter Horse breeding farm in New Mexico.

This was based on the widespread prevalence of high antibody levels to the virus in both mares and stallions, plus virus isolation from the semen of two stallions. On the same day, the outbreak was reported to the New Mexico Livestock Board in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which is now investigating the potential for spread of the infection to other premises.

The EVA Reference Laboratory is interested in receiving samples from suspected clinical cases of EVA or from animals very recently exposed to semen from either of the virus-shedding stallions. Veterinarians are requested to contact the Gluck Center at (859) 257-4757 before submitting samples. For more information about this outbreak or about EVA, the following resources are available:

What is EVA / How is it diagnosed?

AAEP Guidelines for breeding a mare to an equine arteritis virus-shedding stallion:

Other Resources:
The New Mexico Livestock Board has information regarding this outbreak on its Web site, which can be accessed at under "critical events."

Information about EVA is available on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Web site at

Detailed information about EVA from the USDA, including history, transmission, symptoms, clinical signs, treatment, prevention and control is available at:

An article entitled "Equine Viral Arteritis: Is the Disease a Cause for Industry Concern?" by Dr. Peter Timoney, Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center, is available in a pdf format from This article was written for the Spring and Summer 2005 issues of Impulsion, the official newsletter of The American Holsteiner Horse Association Inc. and is reproduced with permission.


Posted: Friday, May 12, 2006
The National Animal Identification System (NAIS) is designed to provide the capacity to rapidly identify all animals and premises (sites) that have had direct contact with a disease. NAIS consists of three components:
1. Premises (or site) identification
2. Animal identification
3. Animal tracking.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has set "benchmarks" for completing each component of the program. By January 2007, 25 percent of the country's premises are to be registered. By January 2008--70 percent of the premises are to be signed up, and by January 2009, the three components are to be fully functioning.

Premises Identification

The program is national, but each state is responsible for implementing premises identification. Premises are locations where livestock or fowl are handled, managed, housed, or processed.

The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), as of May 2006, has implemented premises identification on a voluntary basis. Proposed regulations for mandatory identification were "tabled" until at least 2007.

Identifying a premises involves obtaining a seven-character alpha-numeric "identifier" for the farm, ranch, veterinary clinic or other site where livestock or fowl are handled, housed, managed or processed. Signing up can be accomplished on the TAHC web site or by mail.

Information requested includes the contact person's name, phone number, the premisesâ physical address, and a list of species raised on the site. Acreage or herd or flock size is not requested.

Animal Identification
This component of the NAIS will "come on line" gradually, and will involve identifying livestock and fowl that are moved from their premises of origin (place of birth). Depending on the species of animal, the identification may be accomplished with a tag, band, microchip, radio frequency identification device (RFID tag) or other form of identification.

Animal Tracking
Animal tracking databases, approved by the USDA and operated by companies, associations or other entities, will hold livestock and fowl movement information. This data will be accessed by animal health regulatory agencies for disease control purposes.

Dispelling Rumors, Myths & Misinformation

I've got only one animal, so why do I need to have my premises identified?
Your one animal may be as susceptible to disease as the herd or flock with hundreds. In the event of disease, state and federal animal health veterinarians and inspectors must ensure that all disease is stamped out. Going door-to-door to locate susceptible animals that must be tested or vaccinated is inefficient and costly!

Wouldn't you want to know if a disease incident occurs in your area, so you can take proper precautions? Identifying all premises enables an efficient and effective response to disease.

I read that dogs and cats are included.
No. The NAIS involves livestock, fowl and poultry. Some of the species included are cattle, horses, swine, sheep, goats, exotic hoof stock, chickens, turkeys.

All chickens will be microchipped!
NAIS does not include plans for microchipping chickens. When animal identification goes into effect, an identifying wing band or leg band would suffice for movement of birds, or for commingling birds from different flocks.

Someone said I have to register my premises, because I have a parakeet.
No. Persons who owns birds kept as house pets do not need to register their premises, if they do not propagate birds for sale or trade. In a bird disease situation, these birds may be tested and may come under the same movement restrictions as other fowl.

Owners of aviaries and bird breeders or sellers should register their premises.

Rhino or Pneumabort-K?
By Dr. Mike Lowder -Posted October 21, 2000
University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine

Dear Dr. Mike,
We just purchased a 7 yr. old mare 5 months into pregnacy and they started her on the 5,7,9 month shots but they said just the rhino shot is what they give. My vet said she needs the pneumabort-k shots at 5,7,9 . Is that the same shot or need to be given also.
Thanks Nyla

Both your vet and the seller are correct in regards to vaccinating your mare for Equine Herpesvirus (Rhinopneumonitis) of which Pneumabort-K is just one product on the market that veterinarians use. The vaccine is for use in vaccinating healthy horses (at 5,7,9 months of gestation) to aid in the prevention of both the respiratory form of the virus (Herpesvirus 1p & 1b) and abortion in pregnant mares.

Thanks, Dr. Lowder

The author cannot be responsible if this information is misunderstood or misconstrued because it has been taken out of context. The concepts and techniques discussed in this answer are meant for experienced horsemen. Because of the nature of electronically transferred information, the integrity or security of this message cannot be guaranteed. No valid patient client relationship is implied or inferred and always consult with you local veterinarian.

Equine Herpes Virus
By Michael Lowder, DVM, MS, Posted Feburary 3, 2003

Just as a new horse often introduces new hope to a barn, the same horse can be a harbor of disease and yes, death. Equine herpes virus infection is a highly contagious disease that many owners often forget about until the disease strikes as it did in Ohio this past month.
There are five herpes viruses that affect horses with an additional three that affect donkeys. Of these, two types cause the most significant disease. These are equine herpes virus type 1 (EHV-1) and type 4 (EHV-4). Both of these cause the disease known as rhinopneumonitis.

Three disease forms of the equine herpes virus infection may be identified: respiratory, abortion, and neurological. Of these, you can only vaccinate for the respiratory and abortion form of the disease. The neurological form of the disease cannot be vaccinated against.

Both EHV-1 & EHV-4 can affect the respiratory system. Infection is frequently complicated by secondary bacterial invasion. EHV-4 is mainly a respiratory pathogen, whereas EHV-1 can cause multiple diseases.

In addition to respiratory form, EHV-1 infection may also result in:
* late term abortion of virus-infected fetuses by infected gravid mares
* birth of weak nonviable foals
* neurologic disease (usually paralytic)
* myeloencephalopathy secondary to vasculitis that develops in the spinal cord and brain

The disease outbreak at the University of Findlay English Riding farm is a frightful event that could happen at any stable. A preventive medicine plan was in place at the University, and all incoming horses were required to be vaccinated a minimum of two weeks prior to their arrival. All horses at the University English facility (there are over a hundred equines stabled there) had been vaccinated for the herpes virus infection (rhinopneumonitis) prior to this terrible event.

Most of the outside horses were introduced about a week before the horses at the school became sick. It is estimated that approximately 85% of the horses developed a fever, became depressed and went off feed. Fevers as high as 106(F (41(C) were observed. The clinical signs, in addition to the above, varied among horses with some showing nasal discharge, edema of the lower limbs, lethargy, coughing and hives.

The fist horse with neurological signs showed up about four to six days after the general illness set in. Several other horses quickly followed over the next few days with about 40 horses eventually showing neurological signs. The disease was confirmed to be the neurological form of rhinopneumonitis via nasopharyngeal swabs and histopathology from a fatality.

The severity of neurological symptoms may vary. Clinical signs may include altered gait, head tilt, and weakness of the hind limbs so great that the horse goes down and cannot rise. Some horses may have difficulty passing urine and manure.

So how is the disease spread? Inhaling the virus in aerosolized secretions from infected coughing horses is one way. Exposure to nasal secretions via direct and indirect contact by contaminated equipment, feed and water can also infect others. In the case of abortions due to EHV-1, the aborted fetus, fetal fluids, and placenta may transmit the virus.

Respiratory infections are common in young horses due to EHV-1 & EHV-4 when they are stressed, i.e., weaning, yearling sales, entering training, etc. This is why we see outbreaks in closed horse populations (those which no outside horses have been allowed in). Because the virus is endemic in the horse population, most of our mature horses have developed some form of immunity to the respiratory form of the disease.

Horses do not develop immunity to the neurological and abortion forms of the disease; thus, the need for vaccinating our horses. The horseman should use a vaccine that contains both the EHV-1 & EHV-4 virus strains. However, it should be noted that the vaccines are not 100% protective.

The unique thing about equine herpes virus infection is that the virus can remain dormant in chronic carrier horses that do not show clinical signs of the disease. Some older horses may acquire the respiratory form of the disease and remain subclinical. These horses may shed the virus only when they (or their immune system) are stressed. The incubation period of the virus varies between two to ten days. It has also been shown that cattle and donkeys can serve as reservoirs of the EHV-1 virus.

Treatment is limited at best as there is no specific treatment to cure viral infections. In cases with the respiratory form of the disease, supportive care is the main therapy. Most horses are put on antibiotics to prevent secondary infections, and occasionally non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications are administered.

Treatment of horses showing neurological signs includes steroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide) and the anti-viral drug acyclovir. Acyclovir is an anti-herpes drug that is used in humans but is experimental in horses. It has shown some promise in previous equine herpes outbreaks.

How does the horseman reduce their risk of farm out breaks?

* Quarantine all newly arrived horses for a minimum of three weeks
* Vaccinate all farm horses
* foals (starting about 4 months of age) should receive two doses of a modified-live vaccine 4 to 6 weeks apart. Immunity is short lived and young horses should be re-vaccinated every three months.
* Mature horses that are not leaving the farm may get by without the vaccine, but if the farm is open to outside horses, then they should be vaccinated every three months.
* Performance & show horses should be vaccinated every three months.

* Require all new arrivals to be vaccinated a minimum of three weeks prior to arrival. Have owners show proof of vaccination from their veterinarian.
* Vaccinate pregnant mares at 5, 7, and 9 months of gestation with a killed vaccine.

Remember, although the horseman can reduce risk from the respiratory and abortion forms via a correct vaccination schedule, there is no protection against the neurological form of EHV-1.

Rutgers Equine Research Updates
Horse Park of NJ Calendar of Events
Lyme disease: Q & A

In the last issue of the NJ Horse Health News two horse diseases were reviewed: Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) and Rabies. In this issue, two diseases of horses are again featured: Equine Encephalomyelitis and Lyme disease.

Many owners are now asking the question: "With such a mild winter, what diseases do I need to watch out for in 1998? The two diseases featured in this issue are high on our list for possible increased prevalence in NJ this year. The insects which spread encephalomyelitis (mosquitos) and Lyme disease (ticks) have been seen in our state virtually throughout the 1997-98"winter" months. NJ horse owners should immediately plan on aggressive preventive measures to control mosquito and tick exposure to their horses and make sure that all of their horses have been adequately vaccinated for encephalitis.

~ A Viral Disease Spread by Mosquitos ~
Viral encephalomyelitis (or encephalitis) is a potentially fatal disease of New Jersey horses. The eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus is usually first found in our local mosquito population in July of each year. This virus infects horses by way of a bite from an EEE-carrying mosquito. Mosquitos pick up this virus by taking a blood meal from a wild bird that has the virus circulating in its blood. Wild birds are nature's reservoir for this virus.

Unvaccinated horses exposed to the EEE virus by infected mosquitos will develop neurological signs of disease. People may also become infected if a mosquito carrying the EEE virus bites a human instead of a horse. Once infected, a horse or human cannot directly spread the disease to other hosts. An infected mosquito is always the cause of the spread of this disease!

Disease Surveillance: The identification of an encephalitis positive horse means that there are mosquitos carrying the virus in the vicinity of the sick animal. Regulations in NJ require that veterinarians report any suspect equine encephalitis cases immediately to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA). In this way, the NJDA can work with the reporting veterinarian to ensure that all necessary diagnostic tests are conducted. If a positive horse is then identified, the NJDA will provide information to the New Jersey Department of Health so that a disease alert can be issued to area residents.

Disease in Horses: Horses infected with the eastern equine encephalomyelitis virus develop neurological disease when the virus reaches the brain tissue (encephalo-) and/or spinal cord (-myelitis). Horses may be depressed, weak, develop a fever and head press. Symptomatic treatment with appropriate drugs will have no effect on these signs of disease. In general, infected horses progressively appear to be blind, go down, thrash and kick or paddle, and convulse. The course of this disease is fast and heartbreaking to watch. Most owners elect euthanasia before there is a final diagnosis due to the severe suffering of the animal and extremely poor prognosis for survival.

Disease Diagnosis in the Horse: While examination of the blood for antibodies to the encephalomyelitis virus may sometimes provide a diagnosis of infection, examination of the brain tissue for virus isolation is the only definitive method of diagnosing this disease. Sick horses suspected to have viral encephalomyelitis should always have blood taken for lab analysis of antibody levels. Horses which die or are euthanized should have brain tissue tested for the presence of encephalomyelitis virus and rabies. Other diseases which may affect the brain and/or spinal cord of the horse and mimic encephalomyelitis and rabies disease may include: leukoencephalomalacia (moldy corn poisoning), meningitis, herpes virus, protozoa, aberrant worm migrations, abscesses, and poisoning.

Human Health Concerns: Following identification of a positive equine encephalitis case in our state, the New Jersey Department of Health issues public health alerts (newspaper, radio) warning residents to minimize their exposure to mosquitos. Preventive measures which are recommended for NJ residents include:

>keep skin covered
>WQear insect repellent when outside
>Avoid exposure after dark when mosquitos are active
Vaccination is the first line of defense to prevent viral encephalomyelitis disease in NJ horses. After that, these same preventive measures should apply to the horse... as well as the owner!

The New Jersey Association of Equine Practitioners (NJAEP) recommends that all horses, ponies, donkeys and mules be vaccinated for at least the eastern and western strains of equine encephalitis. Both viral strains are found in the US. The eastern US has the eastern strain of virus, the western US has the western strain and the Midwestern US has both. One additional strain of encephalomyelitis virus occasionally comes north into the US from Mexico and Central America: Venezuelan. NJ horses which do extensive traveling around the US should be vaccinated for all three strains of virus!

Annual vaccination of adult horses in NJ for viral encephalomyelitis should be performed in the Spring of each year: late March or early April. Adult horses being vaccinated for the first time will need to be given a booster vaccine two to four weeks after the first vaccination. Horses with only one initial vaccination will not be adequately protected against infection by the virus. A two-shot series is required initially to stimulate a protective immune response.

NJ foals born in the late Spring to vaccinated pregnant mares should be vaccinated minimally at three, four and six months of age, and again at one year. (In Florida, where mosquitos are found year-round, the State Veterinarian recommends that all foals be vaccinated at two months of age, followed by monthly vaccines until six months of age, and then every six months thereafter!) Although most companies which manufacture encephalomyelitis vaccines recommend annual boosters after the first two-shot series, most companies also recommend re-vaccination of horses in the face of a disease outbreak. Some manufacturers recommend vaccination every six months in areas where mosquitos are found year-round. (Keep this in mind!)

Equine practitioners keep track of equine encephalomyelitis reports in NJ and surrounding states. When a positive horse is identified in a practice area, veterinarians alert their clients and recommend immediate vaccine boosters. Remember, the cost of a vaccination is far less than the cost of trying to save an infected horse. As a matter of fact, over 90% of encephalomyelitis horses will die. Of those horses which are intensively treated and do survive, there is no guarantee that they will return to full use or "come back to normal".

Rutgers Equine Research Updates
Researchers at Rutgers University support the equine industry of New Jersey through research projects and outreach programs as part of their land-grant school mission. This past February, the Annual Horse Management Seminar was held on the Cook College Campus, sponsored by Rutgers Cooperative Extension, the NJ Horse Council and the Equine Advisory Board of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. The day-long seminar attracted horse breeders, trainers, and owners from across the state. Seminar topics included Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM): Epidemiology, Diagnosis and Treatment and Alternative Therapies for General Horse Care and Management. Researchers from The Ohio State University and Neogen Corp. reviewed the evolution of information and current thinking on EPM, while members of the New Jersey Association of Equine Practitioners (NJAEP) lectured on alternative medical therapies including acupuncture, chiropractics, and homeopathy. The Rutgers 1999 Horse Management Seminar is tentatively scheduled for February 21st. Mark your calendars now!

Two scientists in the Department of Animal Sciences at Rutgers, Professor Karyn Malinowski and Assoc. Professor Ken McKeever, have provided an update on their equine research projects for the NJ Horse Health News (see below). Dr. Malinowski has been studying the effects of somatotropin (growth hormone) on horses of different ages and uses, while Dr. McKeever has been working on the effects and detection methods in horses of another hormone, erythropoietin. Here's a capsule report onsome ongoing work:

Application for Use in Horses

In recent years there has been much interest by scientists, and the general public, in the use of somatotropin (growth hormone) for use in both animals and humans. Currently, many farmers are using bovine somatotropin (bST) to increase milk production in dairy cows. Also, human medicine has used somatotropin supplements in children deficient in growth hormone and as a supplement for geriatric patients to improve their quality of life.

Dr. Malinowski and her colleagues at Rutgers have been working with a pharmaceutical company to evaluate the use of a recombinant equine somatotropin (reST) in geriatric horses. In one study, 16 mares between the ages of 20 to 26 years, were given a daily injection of reST as either a low dose, high dose, or placebo (control). After six weeks of treatment, it was found that the horses receiving the reST showed an increase in feed efficiency and the potential of having higher numbers of white blood cells to fight infection. Although there was no significant weight gain in the treated mares, researchers reported an appearance of increased muscle definition which was supported in a second twelve-week study using reST injections.

To date, the results of research done at Rutgers show the potential for beneficial effects of somatotropin on the immune system of the horse. Further studies are planned by Dr. Malinowski, including testing an orally active somatotropin and its application for use in horses to speed healing after illness, surgery or injury. Dr. Malinowski also plans on studying the effects of this drug on geriatric horses to improve their quality of life.

For more information, readers may contact Dr. Malinowski c/o Dept. of Animal Science, Cook College, 84 Lipman Dr., New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8725 or

Misuse and Detection in Horses

Erythropoietin is a naturally occurring hormone produced by the kidneys in response to low blood oxygen caused by illnesses such as anemia, hemorrhage, or high altitude. This hormone stimulates the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow, thus increasing the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood. Currently, there are synthetic injectable forms of this hormone used in human medicine, referred to as EPO. While EPO is used to treat life-threatening cases of anemia in humans, it has found its way into the horse industry and has been used illegally as a performance enhancer. This is a major concern to horse owners, veterinarians, and racing officials interested in maintaining the integrity of racing as a sport.

Misuse of this drug has become a major health concern in the horse industry. Many reports and publications have warned of life-threatening side effects following the use of EPO in horses. Most prominent of the observed side effects is a severe anemia which may develop in 30 to 40% of horses treated with EPO... the exact opposite of the desired outcome! This anemia is the result of production of antibodies to both the drug and the horse's own erythropoietin. The probability of this reaction occurring in the horse even appears to increase with each administration of EPO!

Dr. McKeever is currently working with the NJ State Police Racing Commission Laboratory to develop a test to detect the illegal use of erythropoietin in horses.

Product Spotlight: Equine Vacations
by: Karen Briggs,

A full-color catalogue of exotic destinations where you can gallop a horse through the surf, trot through fields of lavender, or Paso up a mountainside to catch your first glimpse of Macchu's fantasy-inducing. There's virtually no horse person who doesn't have a secret yearning to experience a distant land from horseback. What better way to get off the beaten track, escape the tourists, and immerse oneself in another culture?
It's no wonder that thousands of horse people each year decide to fulfill their fantasies by booking equestrian vacations, and that dozens of horsey holiday outfitters exist solely to make these dreams come true.

But since dream fulfillment doesn't come cheap, it's a good idea to come back down to earth for a moment before you hand over your credit card and make sure you're buying into the right fantasy for you. Here are some tips on what to look for.

What's Available?

The range and variety of equestrian vacations now available is truly staggering. Perhaps you just have a hankering to escape the city for a few days and try your hand at rounding up cattle in Wyoming. Or perhaps you've always dreamed of galloping across the high veldt in South Africa, leaving wildebeest and giraffes in your dust. Maybe you want to get a taste of piaffe and passage aboard a Portuguese Lusitano. Or it could be that you hear the call of the hounds and the horn and want to pelt over some five-foot stone walls aboard a fearless Irish hunter. Or perhaps you want to brush up on your endurance riding skills under the tutelage of a Tevis Cup winner.

Whatever your taste, whatever your destination, from the Rockies to Morocco, there's a company that can get you there, put you on a horse, and give you the experience of a lifetime. So many, in fact, that you might have considerable trouble narrowing it down to just one trip! To help sort it all out, ask yourself:

What is your riding skill and your fitness level? Are you looking for an extreme experience or are your muscles and joints happier at a slower pace on less-demanding terrain? Are you comfortable riding in company and confident you can control a strange horse outside of a ring, or would you prefer a more controlled environment and an instructional atmosphere?
Do you want riding or driving to be the sole focus of your vacation, or would you prefer a variety of activities that perhaps includes horses for just a day or two?

Do you like to "rough it," or is a five-star chateau with 1,500-thread Egyptian cotton sheets the only way to travel? Depending on the trip and the destination, accommodations and dining might be anything from rustic to regal. If breaking a nail is a personal disaster, signing up for anything that houses you in a tent and advises you to bring your own toilet paper might be a mistake.

Do you want to improve your riding or acquire a new skill? "Boot camp" instructional vacations mean you'll work hard, but their intensity is something you generally can't get at home. You'll return with sore muscles, a head full of knowledge, and a newfound sense of confidence you'll transfer to your riding at home.

Karen Lancaster, who 18 years ago founded Cross Country International (CCI), an agency specializing in riding holidays in 14 countries around the world, says, "An equestrian vacation is something that people dream about, but sometimes they can't bring themselves to take that first step. If you take the plunge, you'll find the experience is life-changing. After all, it's what you love most in life--to be around horses!"

Although CCI vacations can be researched online, you'll still hear from one of their representatives on the phone before you surrender your credit card number.

"We call each client," says Lancaster. "Making sure their expectations are more than met is a process of finding out what their interests and skill levels are. Most of our trail riding vacations require that you can walk, trot, and canter with confidence outside of an arena. If you can do that, you can enjoy almost all of our destinations. But describing yourself as an "intermediate" rider, for example, doesn't tell us enough about you, so we follow up to get more specifics, so we can recommend the best experience for you."

Likewise, Nigel Harvey of England's Ride World Wide equestrian vacations says, "Each of our clients completes a booking form, which has a section inquiring about riding ability. Then we discuss their skill level further before booking to make sure they are going on a ride that is correct for them. People are usually very honest about their skill level--these are expensive holidays and there is no point saying you are a good rider if you can't cope!"

What to Expect

Julie Heintzman of Tryon, N.C., fulfilled one of her lifelong fantasies a few years ago by galloping on an Irish beach during a trekking vacation. But an unexpected opportunity to stay at a riding resort in Pattaya, Thailand, proved just as delightful, she says. "It was a place called Horseshoe Point Resort, with the stables and indoor arenas built right into the hotel complex so that you could watch people ride from the window in your room. It was amazing."

The resort offered various packages of dressage or jumping instruction, or supervised trail rides through jungles and pineapple plantations, and Heintzman decided to mix and match during her stay. A preliminary lesson with a local instructor was too basic for her taste, she says, but subsequent lessons with the facility's head instructor, who had trained with the legendary dressage rider/instructor Nuno Oliviera, were more her speed and allowed her to practice some high-school movements on a Lipizzan schoolmaster.

The only snag, she reports, is that the management was somewhat disorganized and the language barrier meant she wasn't always able to make herself understood as well as she would have liked. She booked the trip independently; agencies that specialize in riding holidays set situations up so this will not be a problem. And while the horses were well cared for, she found some of the tack less so.

"I had a stirrup leather snap on me during one trail ride," she recalls. "It wasn't a big deal for me as I ride without stirrups all the time, but it might have been for a more novice rider."

Those minor stumbling blocks were more than made up for, Heintzman says, by what she experienced in Thailand, including riding an elephant. Relaxing Thai massages, for about $6 an hour, were also "fantastic after a long day's ride," she says. While she was traveling alone, Heintzman says she felt quite safe, although the resort provided an escort when she ventured into downtown Pattaya.

It's common for women to travel alone on equestrian vacations, Lancaster says. To address that trend her agency offers tours for women only, or for singles only. Those who fear being on their own in a strange land can find camaraderie in a group of like-minded horse people. Another trend is mother/daughter trips, where female family members can bond without worrying about bored husbands and fathers!

Many people, however, seek a vacation to please everyone. So what does one do when one has a non-riding spouse in tow? Lancaster says to look for an equestrian vacation company offering trips with activities for family members who don't ride--from golf and fly-fishing to wine-tasting or cooking lessons. The demand for these split-personality vacations is so strong that Cross Country International offers a division specializing in walking tours, many of which coincide with the riding tours. "You can set off on one trail on horseback in the morning while your spouse sets off on a hiking trail. You can meet up at the end of the day, or even at lunchtime, and compare your experiences," Lancaster says.

Another solution is an all-in-one resort, such as Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic. Polo enthusiast Hallie McEvoy found the gated resort offered plenty for her husband to do while she practiced her stick-and-ball skills on the polo pitch. "There was golf, tennis, skeet shooting, all sorts of water sports, and seven different pools as well as the beach," she recalls.

McEvoy notes that whenever you're traveling in a foreign country, you should be prepared to go with the flow. "The standards of horse care might not be what you're used to, but that doesn't mean they're wrong," she says. "Keep an open mind and you might learn something. You're going to encounter horses who aren't trained the way you're used to, tack that's different…be prepared to enjoy those differences."

Health and Welfare

One of the primary concerns of any compassionate horse person is that the horses are well cared for and fit for the job. This is where an equestrian vacation specialist can be a real asset. Reputable companies will have checked out each outfitter with whom they book tours by visiting regularly and riding along with their clients.

"Quality control is essential, and we recognize that things can change rapidly," says Lancaster. "But any outfitter who isn't maintaining his horses in a responsible way isn't going to have my business for long. If clients have concerns about the welfare of the horses and the quality of the tack, we encourage them to call or e-mail the outfitter directly before booking and ask questions. We also refer new clients to clients who've taken that trip recently. People are always happy to share their experiences."

In addition, Lancaster suggests clients check with the local tourist board and visit a website called Trip Advisor (, where travelers post reviews of their vacations. A bad outfitter will be revealed quickly, she says.

Safety is another concern where horses are involved, which is why Lancaster requires her outfitters and guides to be certified as trail guides in their native country, carry liability insurance, and take a basic first-aid course. Where appropriate, she prefers that instructors be certified by the British Horse Society.

Because nothing spoils a vacation like a concussion or a broken arm, McEvoy advises, "Do not assume that your tack is going to be in pristine condition--check it every single day, and don't hesitate to point out anything that needs fixing."

In addition, protect yourself by bringing your own correctly fitting riding helmet. Don't expect the outfitter to have a good-quality helmet in your size. Solid footwear with a low heel is a must; many riders find paddock boots and half-chaps are a more compact and comfortable option than tall boots. Other equipment might vary depending on the type of vacation; ask the booking agent for a list of things you should bring.

Life is Short

"If you define yourself as a rider, then do this for yourself," says Lancaster. "Do it on your own, with your family, or with a bunch of friends from the barn. (An equestrian vacation) is such an amazing experience. It will stay with you forever."

With 35% of her clients booking another trip within a year of the first, it's clear that thousands of horse people agree.

Signs of West Nile virus
How do horses get West Nile virus?

Mosquito Control Tips

These symptoms can be confused with rabies, EPM ("Possum Disease),
equine encephalitis, and other serious neurological diseases. If you see
these signs in your horse, see your veterinarian immediately.
>Stumbling or tripping
>Muscle weakness or twitching
>Partial paralysis
>Loss of appetite
>Depression or lethargy
>Head pressing or tilt
>Impaired vision
>Wandering or circling
>Inability to swallow
>Inability to stand up

The West Nile-Innovator vaccine from Fort Dodge Animal Health
is the first and only vaccine fully-licensed by the USDA to prevent
West Nile virus in horses. Millions of doses have been safely
administered to horses throughout the U.S. during the current
epidemic. The vaccine is administered in two
doses, 3-6 weeks apart. Horses need up to four weeks to develop immunity,
so vaccine well in advance of mosquito season.

It is important to remember that vaccines that protect your horse against
Western, Eastern and Venezuelan equine encephalitis do not protect against
encephalitis caused by West Nile virus. If you vaccinate against Western,
Eastern and/or Venezuelan encephalitis, you should vaccinate against
West Nile virus as well.



How many doses of the vaccine are required?
It is absolutely essential that a previously unvaccinated horse receive two doses
of the vaccine at 3-6 week intervals. The equine population in the US has been
virtually naive to this virus until 1999. Therefore, we are starting from "scratch"
in regards to protecting our horses against West Nile virus by vaccination.

What if I exceed the 3-6 week vaccination interval?
Serology data obtained on the vaccine and its immune response was obtained
from horses vaccinated at a 3-6 week interval. We have no serological data
supporting an extended vaccination interval. While one would assume the
horse's immune "memory" would extend beyond that, there has been no
serological testing to support that. While it is the practitioner's discretion,
Fort Dodge Animal Health suggests that horses receive an additional booster
(a 3rd dose) 3-6 weeks after the second booster, if the initial 3-6 week
booster interval has been exceeded.

When can I expect immunity after the second dose of vaccine?
In serological studies, the majority of the horses seroconverted within two weeks
after the booster dose of vaccine. There were some who seroconverted at three
to four weeks. Therefore, it would be ideal to have the first and second dose of
vaccine completed at least one month prior to exposure to the mosquito vectors.

Can I use the West Nile - Innovator vaccine in a pregnant mare?
Currently, the West Nile - Innovator vaccine does not carry a claim for vaccination
of pregnant mares. However, in pre-release safety trials, 32 of 649 horses were
pregnant mares which were closely monitored following vaccination. There were
no ill effects demonstrated in the mares, their pregnancies or their subsequent

Since its release, thousands of doses have been administered to pregnant
mares. A low number of undiagnosed abortions have been reported from the
field following use; these reports appear to be associated with individual animal
responses due to stress, which can occur with any vaccine administered to
pregnant animals. The safety of West Nile - Innovator vaccine is similar to that
of other routinely used killed virus vaccines such as the sleeping sickness
combination products.

Routine Equine Care by Kim and Kari Baker

The horse requires a considerable amount of special attention throughout the year. From grooming and bathing to vaccinations and dewormings, it seems like an awful lot of work. Even keeping track of just when each duty must be taken care of can be a headache. It all may make you wonder if you can possibly keep up with your equine friend’s upkeep. But you can, the actual key to a happy, healthy horse is routine day to day attention with a small number of days set aside for scheduled procedures.

A Physical a Day
The immediate general impression you have of your horse when you first see it each day is a good gauge on how he is fairing. If turned out to pasture when you arrived, was he happily interacting with his pasture mates or was he standing alone? Was his reaction to you remote and apathetic when you greeted him? Did he readily eat his rations or show interest in the treat you offered him?

Take note of his posture and behavior while you sweep the dirt and grit from his coat. How does he respond to stimuli such as the stroke of the grooming tool? If any of his responses are out of the ordinary, it may indicate pain or illness. A certain amount of experience is required to correctly interpret the varied responses you might notice, but an owner that is thoroughly familiar with their horse should be able to read these fine nuances.

An intimate inspection done while grooming will likely tip you off to possibly serious conditions in time to arrange for prompt veterinary diagnosis and treatment. While grooming, be sure to clean around the eyes, ears and nose and examine each for any unusual appearance or discharge. This is an often-neglected area of routine grooming so be sure not to skip it. You’ll also want to work your way down each leg with bare-hands, examining each for slight swellings or irregularities that would have gone undetected when using only a grooming tool.

After you’ve given him a good once-over, you’ll want to do the same for his hooves. Examine the outer wall. Do they look dry and brittle as if chapped? This may indicate that his feet have been too wet and need to be kept drier. While picking out each hoof take a moment to examine it for wounds and bruising. Do you detect a foul odor symptomatic of thrush? Follow up with an application of hoof dressing or other treatment if determined necessary.

Once you’ve given your horse a good brushing and his daily physical it’s time to apply an insect repellent if needed, and devote some time to managed or free exercise. As a rule, a bare minimum of thirty minutes, three to four times a week is vital for the average pleasure or trail horse. Working horses will require more depending on fitness requirements. Additionally, allowing your horse plenty of turn out time is beneficial, especially for the young, growing horse.

Periodic Tasks

Aside from the regular daily tasks, you may every-so-often include other activities that only need to be done occasionally such as bathing, clipping, and mane pulling. Each week you could perhaps pick one to do so that you don’t end up tackling too many periodic duties all at once.

The bath

The frequency of bathing will depend on a couple of factors. You will have to take into account the seasonal temperature as well as your horse’s personal hygienic needs. Some horses require bathing on a regular basis, while others only occasionally. If your horse requires frequent baths be sure to use one of the gentler shampoos and follow with a conditioner or moisturizer. In colder weather, try a dry shampoo or spot clean.

Male horses build up smegma, an oily cheese-like matter secreted by the sebaceous glands located within the sheath. If this substance is not periodically removed, it can become a great source of irritation to the stallion or gelding. The cleaning frequency necessary will depend on the animal, but usually once or twice a year is sufficient. Many horses won’t “drop” and stand quietly for a thorough cleaning, so you might want to include this undertaking with a scheduled task.

Mane pulling and clipping

Clipping entails the removal of the muzzle whiskers, the longer guard hairs above and below the eye, as well as the fuzz poking out of the ears and along the jaw-line. If you aren’t showing, you may not wish to remove hair from all of these areas but only from chosen sites. A clean quiet clipper that is sharp and properly oiled makes this chore much easier so be sure to carry out a clipper check before you start this task. A clipper inspection is required before tackling a full or partial body clip as well. A body clip is usually a one or two-time a year task, and only for those who are willing to accept the responsibility of daily blanketing.

Some breeds are shown with short manes, others prefer a long flowing mane. If the breed or discipline you are involved with prefers a short mane you will want to set aside some time over a period of several days to pull the mane. Mane pulling is best accomplished immediately following a workout when the pores are open and always use a grooming tool designed for pulling manes

Weight watching

You probably suspect that you’ve been watching your horse’s weight just by studying its appearance everyday, and you have too. If there were a sudden gain or drop in weight, you would certainly have seen it, but a slow change isn’t quite so easy to spot. The use of a scale or weight tape is more accurate and makes it much easier to track slight weight fluctuations.

Scheduled Tasks

Scheduled tasks include vaccinations, deworming, trimming and shoeing, and dentistry care. Many of these you will not be able to manage on your own and will need to enlist the help of a veterinarian, farrier and possibly even a specialist such as an equine dentist. You do have the option of handling many of these tasks yourself if you have vast knowledge of the procedures and are aware of the requirements of each animal you own, as use and age of the horse will be important considerations as well as geographic location and climate.

Vaccination schedule

As warm weather increases, the probability of transmittable disease also intensifies, so you’ll want to set up your vaccination schedule so that the horse receives its annual boosters in the early spring. For those states that require it, a coggins test for Equine Infectious Anemia can also be scheduled at the same time as the annual vaccinations.

A good vaccination program is very inexpensive compared to the treatment of the disease once the horse is infected. Tetanus Toxoid and Eastern and Western Encephalomyelitis are the basic immunizations that should be given to all horses. In addition to these, you may want to inoculate against Venezuelan Encephalomyelitis, West Nile Encephalomyelitis, Influenza, Strangles, Rhinopneumonitis, Rabies, and Potomac Horse Fever. Talk to your vet to find out which vaccines are recommended for your area and circumstances.


A good persistent deworming program is based on the intelligent use of anthelmintics to control the internal parasite load in the horse and minimize reinfestation that will inevitably occur. The concentration of horses, their age and use, as well as the condition of the pasture or stable area where the horse is kept, climate, and results of fecal tests all have some impact on the frequency and type of anthelmintic is needed to reduce the parasite load. With the help of your veterinarian you can develop a schedule that will keep the parasite load to a minimum.

Hoof Care

Keeping the hooves trimmed properly year round is the best way to prevent hoof problems. The majority of trims and/or resets fit well into a six to eight week schedule, but all horses do not grow the same kind of hoof or perform the same kind of work.

Often young growing horses need a light trim every month to keep the hoof in balance to prevent strain on developing bone structure, while older barefoot horses turned out on large pastures may not need a trim for 9 weeks or more. With your farrier’s assistance, you will be able to work out a schedule that is suitable for your horse.

Dental Care

Equine dentistry is often neglected but should be a vital part of your horse’s health program. Your veterinarian or equine dentist should perform oral exams on a routine basis and when ever a dental problem is suspected.

Age of the horse affects the level of attention required and the frequency of dental visits. Horses aged two to five often require frequent oral exams due to dental maturation during this period. Horses in this age group should have their teeth examined at least twice a year whether they show signs of a problem or not. Mature horses need to have a thorough dental exam at least once a year for maintenance work, and geriatric horses should again have a visit with the dentist twice a year.

No matter how challenging horse ownership can be, with a little organization you can carry out all the day to day responsibilities, and in no time at all, you’ll realize that you’ve looked after all of your horse’s special demands an entire year and are ready to do it again.

Two More WNV Cases in Kentucky
by: Stephanie L. Church, News Editor
September 2006 Article # 7605

West Nile virus (WNV) remains on the radar of Kentucky agriculture officials; two new equine cases were confirmed Friday (Sept. 8). Nine horses have been infected with the disease in 2006.

A 4-year-old Rocky Mountain Horse mare in Adair County showed signs of the disease on Sept. 2 and was subsequently euthanatized. She had no WNV vaccination history. The second horse, a 1-year-old Quarter Horse filly with no vaccination history, had a disease onset date of Sept. 9 and is still alive in Hardin County.

Disease confirmation was based on the horses' clinical signs and the WNV IgM diagnostic test.

Rusty Ford, staff assistant and equine programs manager in the office of the state veterinarian, reports all WNV cases seen in Kentucky this year have involved young horses. Seven horses were less than three years of age, one was four, and one was six. None of the horses had been vaccinated for WNV.

For more information on WNV in Kentucky visit

Equine Disease By Marcia King

Coming to a horse farm near you: a handful of familiar and not so-familiar diseases claiming greater numbers of victims. West Nile virus continues its westward spread, eastern equine encephalitis increased at astounding rates in the southeast and Midwest, and outbreaks of equine herpes virus 1 erupted in the Midwest. Unconfined to particular regions are the rising, less familiar diseases, equine metabolic syndrome and hereditary equine regional dermal asthenia.

Less Familiar
Equine metabolic syndrome (EMS), also known as peripheral Cushing's syndrome, hypothyroidism, or insulin resistance, refers to a condition in which chronic laminitis sufferers typically do not test positive for Cushing's syndrome, yet display some similar clinical signs. Notes Judy Marteniuk, DVM, associate professor, Equine Medicine and Extension, Michigan State University, "Typically, horses are overweight, have a cresty neck, excessive fat deposits behind the shoulder or on either side of the tail head, and often have laminitis."

At risk are the easy keepers; some of the more commonly affected equids are include ponies, donkeys, Peruvian Pasos, Paso Finos, Morgans, Icelandic horses and certain Arabian lines. "Pasturing on lush grass high in soluble sugars and feeding grain rather than a roughage diet also predispose these types of horses to EMS," Dr. Marteniuk said.

Diagnosis is based on the horse's body condition, diet factors, normal pituitary gland function, and elevated serum insulin concentrations.

Treatment consists of diet correction (no grain, no molasses, no sweet feed, limited to no grazing on lush grass), exercise (if sound enough), and addressing the laminitis via corrective trimming and shoeing and NSAIDs.

"Prognosis depends on how bad the laminitis is," Dr. Marteniuk warns, "and the owner's willingness to invest the time, dollars and effort in dealing with the frustrations accompany the often roller coaster progress of recovery." Healing and replacement of the hoof, if the laminitis is severe will take at least a year.

The local practitioner can best serve his or her clients through prevention. Recommends Dr. Marteniuk, "Note the horse's body condition and diet, and discuss management concerns with these owners."

Hereditary equine regional dermal asthenia (HERDA), also known as hyperelastosis cutis (HC), is a usually devastating disease in which the skin splits, separates, or tears off. Due to a collagen defect, the dermis fails to hold firmly together. As a result, saddles, slight traumas, and sunburn can cause the skin to split and slough off. "Inches of skin can be torn away from the body on some of these animals," Dr. Marteniuk reports. "Damaged skin heals slowly, scars, usually doesn't heal solidly, and may fail to heal at all." Thought to be confined to quarter horse lines related to Poco Bueno, the recessive genetic disease used to be considered rare, but is now becoming more prominent.

The disease may show up in youngsters or with the advent of training and the pressure, weight, and movement of a saddle. Dr. Marteniuk says diagnosis is based on breed predilection, clinical signs (local or generalized loose skin over the body that is very easily torn, skin biopsy (thinning of the dermis and collagen fragmentation), and pedigree evaluation (Poco Bueno).

There is no treatment other than trying to promote skin healing and minimizing risk of trauma. "It doesn't take much for the skin to tear," warns Dr. Marteniuk. "Being with other horses, running into things, being saddled. These horses are unridable and will never get better. According to literature, the majority don't live past a few years; that may relate to owner compliance and owning a horse that is of no benefit."

Back Again
Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) topped over 300 cases last year. Florida normally sees about 20 or cases per year, compared to the 174 cases documented in 2003.

"EEE HAS really spread," says Frank M. Andrews, DVM, DACVIM, professor and section chief, Large Animal Medicine, University of Tennessee. "We haven't had one positive case in our hospital in the 16 years I've been here, and we had two in 2003." Florida, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia and Maryland reported cases of EEE in horses while West Virginia and Indiana detected EEE in birds. "A lot of cases go undiagnosed as about 90 percent of the horses don't show much in clinical signs. Only 10 percent come down with full-blown disease, and of those, about 66% die or are euthanized. Of the 33 percent that do recover, almost 100 percent will have residual neurologic signs."

Those signs include fever, depression, anorexia, stiffness, excitability, continuous chewing movement in eating, weakness, incoordination, somnolence, and abnormal behavior (walking in circles, head-pressing against a wall).

"Diagnosis is based on clinical and neurologic signs with an increased IgM antibody titer on capture ELISA," says Dr. Andrews. Treatment is supportive: nursing care, prevention of self-trauma, NSAIDs, antibiotics to prevent secondary infection, replacement of fluids and electrolyte deficits.

"Veterinarians need to remind clients to keep up with EEE and Western equine encephalitis (WEE)," warns Dr. Andrews. "Owners and veterinarians are so keyed in to WNV, they forget the need to vaccinate against EEE (AND WEE), but fatality rates are higher with EEE than WNV."

West Nile virus (WNV) continues its rise. Notes Simon F. Peek, BVSc, MRCVS, PhD, DACVIM, clinical assistant professor, Large Animal Internal Medicine, University of Wisconsin, "Five years ago, there had never been any cases of West Nile virus in North America; over 18,000 cases have now occurred in horses across the entire continental US and into the Canadian provinces."

According to CDC predictions, California is destined to be the next epicenter, says Dr. Andrews. He notes that Harvard University studies found that viral-born, mosquito-transmitted disease rises sharply after a drought, and California has had some drought conditions.

Local veterinarians should be aware of the clinical signs--predominantly neurologic, most commonly hind limb or forelimb/hind limb proprioceptive deficits. "Facial twitching and muscle fasciculation appear to be quite common even in milder cases," Dr. Peek states. "Diagnosis is via IgM capture ELISA performed on serum sample, a very useful test as it distinguishes between antibody produced due to clinical disease rather than that produced by vaccination."

In recent months, the USDA granted conditional licenses for WNV treatments to Lake Immunogenics (plasma product) and Novartis Animal Vaccines (antiserum product), both of which raise antibodies against WNV. Beyond that, supportive treatment consists of aggressive anti-inflammatory therapy, fluid support and physical support if neurologic deficits progress to recumbency, Dr. Peek says. "Severely ataxic horses and those with encephalopathic signs are best treated within a hospital. Approximately two-thirds of clinically affected horses will survive if they remain standing; the prognosis for recumbent or encephalopathic horses is significantly poorer. The prognosis for a complete return to prior use appears to be a little poorer than was first thought."

Veterinarians should emphasize to clients that prevention is the key to control. "Vaccinations should be viewed as mandatory," states Dr. Peek. "Recommend mosquito control during appropriate times of year."

Equine herpes virus 1 (EHV1) recently became a renewed concern due to outbreaks in the Midwest, Peek said. "EHV1 can be economically devastating when it occurs in outbreak form in breeding operations or boarding facilities/training barns. It spreads from horse to horse in respiratory aerosols, fetal fluids, and aborted fetuses. High-density horse populations with close contact (breeding farms, training facilities) appear to be at greatest risk."

A cause of late-term abortion in pregnant mares, EHV1 is also a neurologic disease most commonly characterized by hind limb proprioceptive deficits, loss of tail and anal tone, dysuria, and respiratory disease, Peek says. "It's also a potential cause of high mortality viral pneumonia and hepatitis in newborn foals."
Definitive diagnosis can be challenging, Peek said. "Diagnostics include immunohistochemistry or virus isolation from aborted fetuses, serology in adult horse or viral isolation, or viral nucleic acid amplification from pharyngeal swabs from neurologic or respiratory cases.

"Treatment for the neurologic form includes antiinflammatories (specifically corticosteroids) and supportive therapy, specific nucleoside analogue therapy (acyclovir), manual rectal evacuation and bladder catheterization. For respiratory form — non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, nucleoside analogue and supportive therapy."

Complete recovery from neurologic forms is possible, but many horses are left with some residual deficits that impair future performance, Peek said. "For reproductive loss cases, prognosis is good to excellent for life and future use. For respiratory form, medium- to long-term prognosis for return to performance is good to excellent. For neonatal foals, prognosis is poor to grave. Treatment for all but the severer neurologic cases (those that progress to recumbency or that develop encephalopathic or severe tetraparesis) can usually be done in the field."

Although current vaccinations don't provide absolute protection they can reduce incidence of abortion and the severity of illness but the degree of protection afforded by vaccination against EVH1 induced neurologic disease is uncertain.

Head's Up
Although local equine practitioners may have seen few or none of the above diseases in recent years, they should emphasize prevention through vaccination and mosquito control against the encephalitic diseases, and maintain an awareness of EMS and HERDA in order to achieve a prompter diagnosis and implementation of appropriate therapies.

Marcia King is a frequent contributor to Veterinary Practice News.

This article first appeared in the May 2004 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Click Here to subscribe to VPN if you are not already a subscriber.

Boot on Barbaro's Laminitic Hoof Replaced With Bandage
by: Press Release
September 2006 Article # 7693,

According to veterinarians at Penn's George D. Widener Hospital, Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro continues to gradually improve. "He had an excellent week," said Dean Richardson, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, chief of surgery. "We replaced the boot on his left hind foot with a bandage because the hoof is doing well."

In addition, Barbaro continues to be comfortable in the cast that has been on his right hind leg for the past three weeks. "We won't change it unless there is a reason to do so, and we will continue to monitor his comfort closely before deciding when to replace or remove this cast," said Richardson. "He is enjoying his daily excursions outside to graze, and his appetite is excellent."

Barbaro remains in the intensive care unit of the University of Pennsylvania's George D. Widener Hospital, where he is recovering from injuries suffered at the Preakness on May 20.

The next update will be posted on Tuesday, September 26, unless there is a significant change in Barbaro's condition.

For more information on Barbaro, please see

Irish Officials Working to Control EIA Outbreak
by: Erin Ryder, Editorial Assistant
September 13, 2006 Article # 7636,, Horse Health E Newsletter

Since equine infectious anemia (EIA) was first identified in Ireland in mid-June, animal health officials have been working to contain the outbreak that has now resulted in 21 confirmed cases and surveillance of around 1,000 horses.

According to Paddy Rogan, MVB, MRCVS, chief veterinary officer for Ireland's Department of Agriculture and Food, surveillance and containment have been the major focuses of the effort to stop the spread of the disease, which has no prevention, treatment, or cure. A horse infected with EIA remains contagious for life and must either be quarantined or euthanatized.

The virus is spread through bodily fluids, and it can be carried by blood-sucking insects such as horseflies. Additionally, infected horses can incubate and spread the virus for weeks before showing clinical signs, which can include anemia, muscle weakness, fever, depression, and a lack of appetite.

A cornerstone of the Irish effort to control the disease is identification of all exposed animals. This includes all horses on restricted farms and animals from these premises that have been moved for veterinary treatment or breeding. Veterinary visits on restricted farms, and the transport vehicles used to move horses from restricted premises, are also being closely monitored.

Horses on restricted farms are being tested for the disease frequently, with the animals considered to be at the highest risk tested every 10 days.

The Irish Equine Centre (IEC) has processed more than 4,000 tests for EIA since the outbreak began. In order to help horse owners with the financial aspect of the frequent testing, the Department of Agriculture and Food is providing €50 ($63) for each veterinary visit required for testing, and it is paying the IEC for the cost of testing.

"Throughout the EIA outbreak, we have been very fortunate that the industry has demonstrated continuing support for the disease control program," Rogan said. "In addition, the very valuable contribution made by the Irish Equine Centre, both in terms of the provision of advice to individual horse owners and its testing facilities, must be acknowledged."

More information on the EIA outbreak from the Department of Agriculture and Food can be found at

Pilot Study Shows Bee Pollen Product Increases Appetite
by: Stephanie L. Church, News Editor
October 2006 Article # 7869,

Keeping weight on a horse that's in intense training can be difficult; his appetite can fall off just as soon as you think he's reaching his athletic peak. Researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) have reported in a pilot study that a bee pollen-based product shows promise in improving athletic horses' feed intake, and it could be applicable in this type of scenario.

Brian Nielsen, PhD, PAS, Dipl. ACAN, associate professor in Equine Exercise Physiology at MSU, says, "I was as big of a skeptic on bee pollen as the world has ever found, but these owners of the company (WINNERS Bee Pollen Co.) were willing to put their money where their mouth was," notes Nielsen, and he says this quality is rare among supplement product companies.

Nielsen and his colleagues investigated the efficacy of supplementing Dynamic Trio 50/50 on several different variables. Their results were published in the Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition. "Our main goal was to see if it would improve exercise performance," he says. "People were also saying how it helped with nutrient absorption, so we wanted to take a look."

Ten Arabians underwent a standardized exercise test in a gate walker and were pair-matched by sex and fitness, and they were randomly assigned to either a bee pollen group (receiving 118 g of Dynamic Trio 50/50 daily) or a control group (receiving a placebo) for 42 days. The horses received identical amounts of grain and were given free choice hay. The researchers collected urine from six geldings on days 18 to 21 (it was too difficult to get a clean sample from the four mares) that they used to determine how well the horses digested the fiber and retained nutrients.

According to Nielsen, all of the horses became more fit than he and his co-authors had expected, so they weren't able to pick out any exercise differences between the control and bee pollen groups. They were unable to draw any conclusions about immunological effects other than there was a trend for lymphocyte (type of white blood cell that fights infection) counts to be lower in the bee pollen horses than the control horses on Day 42 of the study. This reflects and refutes what has been found in other horse and human studies. "The occurrence of conflicting results between this study and other studies is a common finding when comparing studies with exercise and immune function," the researchers say in the paper. "It's difficult to conclude that such modest effects on lymphocyte numbers altered the horses' overall health or well-being."

What really surprised Nielsen was the bee pollen groups' hay intake. "What we were seeing was that the fiber digestibility on the treatment horses decreased a little bit, but their total amount of fiber digestion went up," he says. "But all of the treatment horses ate more hay (free choice) than any of the control horses on any of the days (an average of 9.4 kg/day consumed as compared to 6.3 kg/day in the control group). That explains it--they were just eating so much more." Horses that consume more dry matter intake have faster rates of passage through digestive tracts and therefore lower fiber digestibilities.

But why were the horses eating more? Nielsen suggests two thoughts: "It is stated or believed that bee pollen has high amounts of vitamins, particularly B-vitamins such as thiamin," he says. "Normally horses synthesize all the B-vitamins that they need. In theory, if you have a heavily stressed horse, he might not be able at times to synthesize enough B-vitamins and therefore might need thiamin, which is one of the reasons why horses conceivably go off feed. One of the difficulties we often have with hard working horses is keeping their appetite up." Thiamin supplementation has been shown to increase feed intake in chickens, so thiamin could be the reason for the horses' hunger, Nielsen says.

"After (the current) paper was accepted for publication," he continues, "I read some interesting information about bees, synthetic pollen, and phagostimulants (substances that encourage feeding), how bees prefer natural bee pollen to synthetic, and how the natural bee pollen increased diet consumption in the bees. This could be what's going on with the horses."

Additionally, the bee pollen-supplemented horses showed more retention of nitrogen and phosphorus, which could be encouraging, but this could have been simply because they were taking in more nutrients than the control horses, says Nielsen.

The study is considered a pilot study because of its group size. "A reviewer would love for you to repeat this," Nielsen explains. "One reviewer even made the suggestion to feed it to six horses for a week and see if it makes a difference in feed intake. But I don't think you're going to see these differences in just your regular old school horses...I think they have to be working pretty hard. In order to repeat this study, it would be costly, so my work with bee pollen is probably done. But I'd love to see more studies on it get completed.

"The people that have their horses in heavy duty training really seem to like using bee pollen in their horses," Nielsen continues. "I talk to a lot of trainers who swear by it. I'm not going to swear by it, but I'll at least say that the results of the controlled study showed some big differences there between the two groups."

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