Horse Care, Alternative Therapies

June 16, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Horses

Horse Care for a healthy equineCaring for horses has come a long way!
World War I poster in the Library of Congress.
Photo Wikimedia Commons, Courtesy chreck, Horst, 1885, Public domain

Alternative Therapies: Good for You, Great for Your Horse!

There is little doubt that alternative therapies are on-trend and what these can do for human health has also opened up a wealth of possibilities and opportunities to provide equine alternative therapies in the form of acupuncture, Rolfing, herbal remedies and homeopathic solutions, amongst an ever-widening range of options.

Here is a look at some of the alternative therapies that you may want to consider for your horse and remember to take proper veterinary advice, especially when you consider that many of these treatments are designed to complement veterinary care rather than replace it entirely.

Acupuncture

The Chinese have been practicing acupuncture on humans and horses for thousands of years and the premise is that by stimulating specific points on the body, you can generate beneficial effects by tapping into the currents of energy that flow through the body pathways that are called meridians.

The conventional Western view of this alternative therapy is that acupuncture stimulates the nervous system and causes the release of body chemicals including endorphins, which help to ease pain, improve circulation and promote the reduction of muscle spasms.

It should always be remembered that if your horse is sick or badly injured then your medical priority is to seek veterinary help first and foremost, but treatment using acupuncture may well produce some noticeable improvements in the recovery process and ease the level of pain being felt.

Look to see if there is a noticeable improvement in the horse’s condition after about four sessions of acupuncture and review your position at this point to see whether you want to continue with this particular alternative therapy or look at other options if you are not noticing any benefits.

Rolfing

If you are not familiar with Rolfing, it can also be referred to as structural integration and is in many ways, a fusion of massage and chiropractic methods which is performed by a certified Rolfer and licensed equine massage therapist.

The process involves manual manipulation of soft tissue with the aim of seeking to rebalance the horse’s structure, working with the tissues that pull on bones and joints, which is where the focus is different from a Chiropractic approach.

Rolfing was a method developed for people about 50 years ago and works on the theory that the body compensates for tension and injuries in a way that pulls the natural physical structure out of line, and using various parts of their hand and even their elbows, the Rolfer aims to free the connective tissue and allow the body to align.

You can actually see physical signs of the horse responding to this treatment as they may chew, yawn, shake their head or jiggle around during the session, which are all positive signs of tension release. Between three and five sessions of Rolfing should be sufficient in order to address most issues and if you are unsure, perhaps ask the practitioner whether you can watch a session before booking treatment for your horse.

Alternative medicine

The key to using alternative medicine in addition to things like Natural Horse Supplements is to consider the health of the animal in its entirety rather than focusing attention on one specific area such as an injured limb.

Alternative medicine is a wide-ranging term that describes holistic practices that rely on medications and the use of syringes and will involve treatments using chiropractic methods, acupuncture, herbalism and homeopathy amongst various different modes of treatment.

A common issue with horses is lameness and this condition is a good example of how alternative medicine can be used to help the animal back to a full recovery in a more natural way. There are many different facets of lameness and it can often have a domino effect in triggering other ailments as a result of the original problem causing pain and discomfort. For example, if a horse is found to have arthritis in the hock, this will cause a change in movement that then becomes muscle soreness in the lower back, which in turn can cause the horse to shift its weight unnaturally which will further compound the injuries that they are suffering from.

Many of the horse owners and practitioners who advocate the use of alternative medicine and view a holistic approach to healing in a positive way, also understand and adopt the principle that conventional medicine or alternative medicine could fix the problem eventually on their own, but when the two forces are combined, this makes for a potentially powerful force that can help your horse quickly and efficiently return to full health.

Contributing author Misty Easley is a highly experienced veterinarian. When not treating her patients, she spends her time researching emerging research and trends in the vet medicine.

The Holsteiner

September 23, 2013 by  
Filed under All Posts, Featured Pets, Horses

Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The Holsteiner!

If you are a horse person and really enjoy showing and competing, the Holsteiner horse breed is definitely worth checking out. These are considered to be very athletic horses and are an excellent breed to use in Equestrian Olympics. Show jumping, hunting, combined driving, and dressage are all events in which the Holsteiner is competitive. Many people who are serious about athletic horse events vouch for this breed. On top of this, another great benefit is these guys are known to have a nice, gentle temperament. Usually they are easy going, quiet, and sometimes even a little lazy!

Holsteiner History

The Holsteiner, originally from Germany, is an older warmblood breed of horse. It is believed that they date back to the 13th century and a monastery was the driving force in developing this breed. In the Schleswig-Holstein area of Germany, there is a written record of the local Count of Holstein and Storman giving the Monastery permission to graze their horses on their land. These are believed to be the first Holsteiner horses.

To keep the breeding of these horses going and to ensure their quality, many incentives and laws were passed. Eventually the rest of Europe started importing this breed in large quantities. France especially, imported thousands of these horses in the 1770’s.

In the 1800’s the Holsteiner breed declined somewhat. This was due to the economy, wars, weather, and over-breeding. Up and downs continued and by 1960 there were only around 1300 Holsteiner horses left. At this time The Germany Verband Association took it into their hands to start breeding and bringing the breed back up in numbers. The American Holsteiner Association came into existence in 1978, and also began trying to accomplish the same goals. It is because of these efforts that this breed has definitely stayed strong.

The Holsteiner

Being powerful and carrying themselves well, Holsteiners are very elegant horses. In general they are graceful, muscular, and flexible. All great athletic qualities. Most people who are serious about these horses want them for competition reasons. Breeding them can be difficult because the only horses eligible to be bred have to adhere to a strict set of standards in order to ensure quality within the breed. These are large horses, usually between 16 and 17 hands tall, with two recognized types. The classic type Holsteiners are heavy and large boned while the modern type is not quite as heavy and has more refined features.

Competitive Holsteiner Activities

Jumping is the strongest trait Holsteiners possess. Many people use them exclusively in this sport. Flaws were decreased and eliminated by selectively breeding a few horses, and they are now known for Olympic-caliber jumping internationally. In fact, they make up a large number of successful show jumpers even though they only represent 6% of all horses in Europe. In addition to jumping, Holsteiners are known internationally for combined driving, dressage, and eventing. In North America they also hold their own as show hunters and hunt seat equitation horses.

Holsteiner Care and Health Conditions

Caring for a Holsteiner is not overly difficult. You can easily keep them in either a pasture or in a stall area with other horses. They can be fed hay, grain, and alfalfa as well as a mineral supplement. All other normal maintenance activities should be done as well, such as grooming, bathing, keeping their hooves cleaned and trimmed, etc.

In general, Holsteiners are strong horses and well-adapted to harsh conditions. However because they are used heavily in competitions, they are prone to problems. Becoming lame because of extreme tendon extensions is a problem they are more prone to. Using leg protection while jumping and boots or foot wraps for dressage work can go a long way in helping to prevent leg problems with these horses.

Holsteiner Availability

If you are serious about a Holsteiner, they can be found. Commonly bred in the state of California, that is a good place to start if you are located in the United States. They can also be found across Europe from various breeders. You can expect to pay at least $15,000 for a foal or yearling. But it is well worth it in the show business!

Holsteiners are no doubt a specialty horse. If you own one or have experience with one we would love to hear your stories! Please share!

Jasmine Hinesley is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Different Horse Breeds for Various Equine Disciplines

April 29, 2013 by  
Filed under All Posts, Horses

Submitted by Andres Ong, Content Writer

Horse Breeds
A Beautiful Arabian Horse!

The sport involving the equine is truly a science. What was once a sport that relied on gut instinct and sheer stamina alone has now evolved into an arena where numerous variables must be accounted for. Proper training and nutrition are essential to maintain optimum performance while the particular breed of horse can affect many individual traits and help determine the qualities of a champion. In races for example, both riders and thoroughbred racing enthusiasts alike pay particular attention to the type of breed. Individuals who have a keen eye for this sport will follow websites like online horse racing at Kentuckyderbybetting.com, which will usually take the breed into account in effective sports betting strategies. While there are different horse breeds in general, here’s a quick look at the breeds of horses mainly used for two of the major equine disciplines: Racing and Dressage/Show Jumping.

Racing

Arabian

This breed is considered one of the most famous in the racing community. They are characterized by a refined, wedge-shaped head and large eyes. An interesting characteristic is that the Arabian breeds tend to have a large bump on the center of their forehead. This is said to have aided them in the dry desert climates by increasing their sinus capacity. Gray and chestnut colors are the most common and Arabians are not as large as some of their other racing counterparts. They exhibit an excellent temperament and endurance.

Trakehner

Originally bred in East Prussia, these fairly large horses are known as some of the most handsome of the breeds as well as excellent jumpers. Although they have particularly large bones, they display an elegance rarely seen in horses of such size. Generally black or chestnut in color, they are both intelligent and eager to please; lending them a personality ideally suited for the racetrack. While bred as both dressage horses and show jumpers, they also are well known as being powerful competitors in the horse racing circuit.

Thoroughbred

This particular horse breed is arguably the most popular among racehorses. Thoroughbreds are hot blooded horses who are famous for their speed and competitive spirit. Though Thoroughbreds are mostly known for horse racing, they can also be trained for various equine disciplines such as polo, show jumping, dressage and more.

Dressage/Show jumping

American Saddlebred

These horses are well-known for their “can do” attitude and their fiery, albeit gentle disposition. They are well-proportioned animals and have wide-set eyes and a large head atop a notably long neck. Thus, this breed is one of the most photogenic. They come in all colors and are between 15 and 17 hands in height. These are superb riding horses, as they are said to have both the intelligence and temperament to get along well with their human riders.

Oldenburg

This horse was originally used as a work horse and trained to pull coaches, but has been adapted for dressage competition since the late 19th century. This rather tall breed is usually colored black, brown or gray. The strong body and hindquarters make the Oldenburg a notably powerful horse. Their powerful hind quarters and pronounced strength also make this breed ideal for jumping as well as endurance competition. An example of the Oldenburg as well as similar breeds of light horse can be found in this website.

American Warmblood

This breed has often been called one of the most well-rounded of horses. They are known for their powerful musculature as well as a flexible gait. Breeding stock is a bit more stringent for this animal; requiring the respective mares and stallions to meet numerous requirements and thus lending to its superior performance. Their temperament is complimented by an energetic and alert presence. Therefore, the warmblood is particularly suited for dressage and show jumping.

It is easy to see that there are particular breeds suited for specific equine disciplines. This is the primary reason that horse race bets are often partially determined by the breed of the horse as well as the rider and a host of other qualities. Websites such as ESPN likewise note the breed of the horse in posting statistics, which is an invaluable tool to help understand and appreciate the intricacies involved in various equine disciplines and competitions such as the Kentucky Derby.

Knowing what particular horse breed is used for a specific discipline is important if you are planning to own a horse. By learning this important information, you can make the right decision as to what type of horse to get. Just keep in mind that raising a horse is an enormous responsibility that requires patience and dedication.

Attending to the Changing Needs of an Older Horse

December 5, 2012 by  
Filed under All Posts, Horses

Older Horse Needs

Guest Author: Melissa Hathaway

Although horses can live active lives well into their twenties, with life expectancies of 30 years or more not uncommon, as they age horses’ needs change and they require more care and attention to keep them in good health. Some horse breeds do fare better in old age, with certain medical conditions more commonly affecting others. But here we consider a few care adjustments that can make the difference to your horse as they get older no matter which breed they are.

Preventing Weight Loss

Weight loss is a common sign of old age in horses. After the age of 20 many horses have difficulty digesting and absorbing sufficient food, and as a consequence their energy intake is insufficient to maintain their weight; this is often not helped by poor dentition. Horses will always appear visibly thinner as they age due to a loss of muscle mass, but a sagging abdomen – so often seen in older age – can give the impression that they are not losing weight. Rather than relying on eyesight alone, the best thing that owners can do is to feel their horse with their hands for signs of weight loss. If you feel that your horse has lost significant weight, having the vet check him over is a good idea. A number of medical conditions, particularly those of the liver and kidneys, can be a cause of weight loss.

Dental Problems

Years of grazing can considerably wear a horse’s teeth. While they can usually manage to still eat with teeth wear, uneven wear or gaps can cause bigger problems, such as abscesses and infection. If horses are unable to chew their feed it will pass through their gut without being digested. This can hinder absorption and increase their risk of colic. After the age of 15 horses should have their teeth examined every 6 months to prevent small changes to teeth developing into problems. Corrections can easily be made at this stage; leave it though and teeth will need to be extracted.

Changing Feeds

With age a horse’s energy and nutrient requirements change. Typically an older horse will require around 20,000 kcal to support a 1,000 lb body. A fibrous feed delivering one to two thousand calories per pound is ideal; grass is well suited in view of its ease to chew and digest, but obviously not if your horse is prone to laminitis. Grass hay, which is cut and baled prior to seed head formation, is preferable over mature grass and alfalfa; the latter is additionally high in calcium which can put strain on an older horse’s kidneys. Protein requirements rise to around 12 to 14% of their dietary intake due to inefficient digestion. However, “senior feeds” for horses make the process of providing the correct nutrition for an aging horse easier. When changing your horse’s diet it is best practice to do so gradually to prevent any digestive upset.

Feeding Environment

If older horses are kept with younger counterparts, they can miss out at feeding time. They tend to eat for a shorter time and bolt their food, which increases their risk of choking and can further interfere with digestion. It is therefore best to separate older horses at mealtimes to provide them with some peace to take in sufficient food and to eat at their own pace.

Maintaining Comfort

Whilst aging can’t be stopped, you can help ensure that your horse is comfortable. Aspects of care, grazing, and exercise can be adjusted depending on your horse’s physical condition. Older horses are at increased risk of skin conditions, including infections and damage. With age their immune system is thought to deteriorate, putting horses at increased risk from attack by fungi and bacteria. Wounds also tend to heal less well. Regular grooming and examination can help you to identify skin problems early. A Vitamin C supplement may also strengthen their immune system. Like people, older horses struggle to regulate their temperature, particularly at the extremes. Make sure they have sufficient blankets and are stabled if necessary in the winter. Adequate dietary intake is also crucial for maintaining body temperature when it is cold. Equally it is particularly essential that older horses have access to shade in the summer and additional measures may be needed to keep them cool enough. Company is a must for older horses, but bossy youngsters may deny them what they need. Ponies and donkeys can therefore make better field mates for an aging horse. Regular exercise can help keep your horse in good shape and spirits. Though in view of their changing physical condition, this should be at a lower intensity than previously and their health should be continuously monitored. Two or three times a week take them for a ride at a walk, trot, and short periods of slow canter would be ideal.

Maintaining Mobility

Wear and tear over the years can build up, making it more difficult to maintain good mobility in advancing years. While orthopedic problems can’t be cured at this stage, their symptoms can certainly be alleviated. Arthritis, which manifests itself as stiffness and pain in the joints, produces permanent changes to the bones. This is a result of wear, reduced joint fluid, and breakdown of cartilage. Agents that you apply to the joint and medications can both be prescribed by a vet; they will advise what your horse will benefit most from. Even when your horse has joint problems exercise shouldn’t stop; in fact it can aid their management. A horse that exercises regularly tends to see better results from prescribed treatments than one that doesn’t. However, a little and often approach to exercise is best employed; a few laps around the yard or ring will be enough at a time. Hoof growth slows with age due to reduced blood flow to the extremities and although this will mean that trimming and shoeing won’t be required as often, they may be in discomfort, so it is important that the farrier still regularly inspects their hooves.

Treating Diseases of Old Age

Some of the diseases that affect horses in their elderly years can also affect those at a younger age. While these conditions are often not fatal and can be managed to an extent through appropriate care, medications are often required in conjunction. It might be possible to obtain pet insurance for your horse that covers pre-existing conditions to help with the cost of treatment. Horses can develop a lung disorder called heaves, which worsens with age; dust and mold trigger inflammation in the lungs causing wheezing and shortness of breath. Removal of horses from an allergenic environment can sometimes cure heaves, while others require medication to control the lung inflammation. Glandular problems occur more commonly in older horses. Signs to look out for include a coarse coat that is not shed in summer, weight loss, excessive thirst, urination and sweating; these can all signal a problem with the pituitary gland in the brain, which controls other glands and many body processes. Pituitary tumors are a common cause of Cushing’s disease, which is characterized by abnormalities in fat and glucose metabolism, an imbalance of calcium and phosphate and enlarged adrenal glands. The latter is responsible for the trait appearance and behavior in Cushing’s disease. Horses with Cushing’s disease are also more prone to laminitis, infections and infestation with parasites. Keeping their coat short and keeping them away from lush grass can help prevent these. A variety of drugs are available, which can control pituitary secretions to help manage symptoms in Cushing’s disease.

Being vigilant for signs of disease in your horse, adapting their diet, changing their care, grazing and exercise routines, can all help to keep them comfortable and healthy in old age, allowing you to enjoy many more years together.

Animal-World has more on general horse care and horse health.

About the Author: Melissa Hathaway is a freelance writer involved with putting together helpful guides for pet owners. She owns two older horses herself!

Pet Ownership: Buying a Horse

January 4, 2012 by  
Filed under All Posts, Horses

Buying a Horse

Horses are strong animals who have beautiful coats. Used for everything from war to work, horses have been loyal companions to the human race over the years. Are you considering buying a horse? Here are some particulars on going about the process.

They are great to watch in action. If you’ve never been to an equestrian show, then you are missing a treat. Horses learn to gracefully jump hurdles, perform fantastic feats and show off their individual character. These large animals are incredibly well behaved when trained.

But, is a horse right for you? Maybe your son or daughter is asking for one. Or, you think it would be nice to own one. The process is not like buying a cat or a dog. It is a bit more involved. Here are some points to consider first.

Horse Buying Tips

1. Learn as much as you can about horses – You will likely have questions like: What type of horse is best for me? How can I tell a healthy horse from a sick one? What does a horse need? Will I like riding them? Believe it or not, people will buy a horse when they don’t even know if they like riding it or not. That’s an expensive pet if you find that you don’t like the feel of the animal!

2. Take a horse for a test drive – Before purchasing any pet, find out how you will like it. Take horse riding lessons. Lease a horse and see if you like dealing with him on a full time basis. Through lessons, you will get a feel for what equipment is needed for riding a horse and how to care for him.

3. Talk to other horse owners – Join a horse club or an online community for horse owners. You can get information on the cost of feeding, the type of housing, transportation, veterinary requirements, exercise, training and the like. There is a lot involved with caring for such a large animal.

4. Take your time – It can take months or even longer to find just the right horse at the right price. During this time investigate if you have the money to maintain a horse and the right facility to house him. Some find ways to board at the farm of a friend or in stables for a fee.

5. Get a clean bill of health – You may find that buying a horse can be cheaper from a private owner instead of a breeder. But, be sure that you are getting what you pay for. Get a qualified medical assessment from a veterinarian who can examine the horse before you sign on the dotted line. Also, consult a trainer to check the horse’s temperament.

Do you want to buy a horse? Buying a horse is not a process that should be rushed into. Read the above tips to be sure you are ready.