Tag Archives: Horse Care

A P Valentine, Son of A. P. Indy, Euthanized at 20

A P Valentine © Laura Battles.

GEORGETOWN, KY – SEPTEMBER 3, 2018 – A P Valentine, a Gr. 1 winner, was euthanized due to complications from colic on September 1 at Park Equine Hospital in Woodford County. The 20-year-old son of A. P. Indy had been pensioned at Old Friends, the Thoroughbred Retirement farm in Georgetown, KY.

Campaigned by Rick Pitino’s Ol’ Memorial Stable (formerly Celtic Pride Stables) and trainer Nick Zito, A P Valentine (out of the Alydar mare Twenty Eight Carat) was a leading 2-year-old of 2000 having captured that year’s Gr. 1 Champagne Stakes.

The following year the colt broke the 1/16 miles track record at an optional claiming race for 3-year-olds and upwards at Hialeah Park before embarking on the Triple Crown trail, where he placed second to Point Given in the 2001 Preakness Stakes.

A P Valentine was retired from racing in 2001 to Ashford/Coolmore Stud but was soon pensioned due to unresolvable fertility problems.

In 2004, A P Valentine was pensioned with veterinarian Dr. William C. Day, a stallion reproductive specialist based in in Brenham, TX.  While preparing to sell his farm, Dr. Day retired the horse to Old Friends earlier this year.

“I loved that horse. He was very kind, very gentle,” said Dr. Day. “I have about 30 stallions on the farm, and he was by far the most affectionate. He didn’t have an evil bone in his body.”

“I first noticed A P Valentine before his Preakness Stakes because his silks were white with a green shamrock and he raced for Rick Pitino’s Celtic Pride Stable,” said Old Friends founder and President Michael Blowen. “As a longtime Celtics fan, I rooted for him as if he was Larry Bird. When he came here to Old Friends, it was love at first sight for virtually all of our volunteers and employees.”

For more information, please call (502) 863-1775 or visit the website at www.oldfriendsequine.org.

MEDIA CONTACT: Cynthia Grisolia, (347) 423-7322, cindy@oldfriendsequine.org; Michael Blowen (502) 863-1775, michael@oldfriendsequine.org

Old Friends August Newsletter

Green Mask (Photo: Laura Battles)

News from Michael Blowen:

Our visit to Saratoga Springs in New York was really great. The support for Old Friends, in general, and Old Friends at Cabin Creek, specifically, has never been better.

Joanne’s party at the Saratoga National Golf Club and Joe Bokan’s soiree at Anne’s Washington Inn were both enthusiastically attended and raised a lot of awareness and funds. Many owners and trainers who retired Thoroughbreds with us inquired about their horses, and others asked about eventually sending their horses to Old Friends.

The reception from fans was over the top, and it was great spending time with Lorita and Anthony and Jack Knowlton, in particular. It’s helped us re-double efforts to expand our facilities to meet the demand for all these amazing athletes.

The demand for Dagmar’s beautiful book, The Art of Old Friends, has been justifiably frenetic. The office has been working hard to get them packaged and sent to all that have placed orders, so if you have not received yours already, know that they are on their way soon. And if you have not ordered a copy yet, call the office today. They will also be on sale in our gift shop.

Green Mask is doing great. The efforts spearheaded by Dr. Bryan Waldridge and Park Equine Hospital in Woodford County has led to a marvelous recovery by this flashy turf sprinter. Special thanks to all who helped, especially Kirsten Johnson at KESMARC, Sallee Vans, the New Bolton Center Veterinary Hospital at Penn, and Dr. Dean Richardson, who performed Green Mask’s surgery.

We expect a huge crowd for our post-Breeders’ Cup Party on Sunday November 4th at the farm. Look for information about tickets on our Facebook page, Twitter feed, and on our website. Tickets are on sale now ($30; $15 for 2018 membership holders).

The Breeders’ Cup / Maker’s Mark Champions for Charity is excited to have once again been named the charity beneficiary for the new bottle honoring trainer D. Wayne Lukas. They are available now via the Breeders’ Cup Champions for Charity website. CLICK HERE

Once again, thanks to all of you for making Old Friends home to so many deserving athletes.

For more information: (502) 863-1775; www.oldfriendsequine.org; michael@oldfriendsequine.org

NHS 5k Run to Benefit the Kentucky Equine Humane Center

Lexington, KY – August 23, 2018 – The National Horse Show is pleased to announce the Kentucky Equine Humane Center as the official charity partner for the 2018 National Horse Show 5k, held Saturday, November 3rd at 5:00pm outside of the Alltech Arena. A portion of the proceeds that are generated through the annual National Horse Show 5k will benefit this Lexington-based nonprofit organization dedicated to providing a safe haven for horses in need.

The National Horse Show 5k event will kick off an evening of family-friendly entertainment and is open to participants of all ages. At the conclusion of the race, participants are invited in to the Alltech Arena for the National Horse Show Breeders’ Cup Viewing Party and Craft Beer Garden, followed by international show jumping competition. The premier event, the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Qualifier, will begin promptly at 7:00pm. This world-class event features Olympic level competition from athletes that represent countries all over the world. Each horse and rider combination will be vying for the opportunity to qualify for Longines FEI World Cup™ Finals held the following spring in Gothenburg, Sweden.

All registered participants in the NHS 5k receive complimentary access to the National Horse Show festivities after the race. Children 12 and under are always admitted free!

The Kentucky Equine Humane Center is a 70+ acre facility that is best known as a safe haven for horses in need. The sanctuary takes in horses from any background and offers them a place to rest and rehabilitate before matching them with their perfect forever home. To ensure the best foundational support for these horses, the Kentucky Equine Humane Center collaborates with highly experienced veterinarians, farriers, and training professionals. The center also takes it upon itself to educate the public on the responsibility of equine stewardship to help prevent further horse crisis situations.

“We are excited that this year we are the beneficiary of the NHS 5k,” said Karen Gustin, Executive Director of the Kentucky Equine Humane Society. “We rescue horses from the entire state of Kentucky that have been abused, abandoned, neglected, or are owner surrendered and adopt them out nationally, so to be partnered with an event with the recognition of the National Horse Show is invaluable to our cause.”

To learn more about the Kentucky Equine Humane Center, click here.

Click here to register for the NHS 5k.

To learn more about the National Horse Show, click here.

Genuine Reward, Son of Genuine Risk, Euthanized at 25

Genuine Reward © Laura Battles.

GEORGETOWN, KY – AUGUST 16, 2018 – Genuine Reward, one of the only living offspring of Kentucky Derby winning-filly Genuine Risk, was euthanized at Old Friends, the Thoroughbred Retirement facility in Georgetown, KY, where he had been pensioned since 2015.   The stallion was 25.

Genuine Reward never raced due to numerous health issues, but began a stud career at Meadowville Farm in The Plains, VA and later at Eagle Point Farm in Ashland, VA before eventually heading west to Sheridan, WY, where he stood as a polo stallion with the American Polo Horse Association run by owner Perk Connell.

The chestnut son of Rahy was retired and discovered for sale by acclaimed author Laura Hillenbrand (Seabiscuit, Unbroken), who promptly sponsored his placement at Old Friends.

Genuine Risk, campaigned by Bert and Diana Firestone, was only the second filly in history to win the Kentucky Derby. She finished second in a controversial edition of the Preakness Stakes behind Codex and was also second in the Belmont Stakes.

Retired in 1982, Genuine Risk had difficulty carrying a foal. After numerous attempts, she finally, in 1993, delivered Genuine Reward to great fanfare. But the colt’s anticipated racing career was never to be. He underwent colic surgery as a foal, had breathing problems as a yearling, and bucked his shins multiple times.

“He was such a sweet horse, and a tremendous fan favorite, as you might imagine,” said Old Friends president Michael Blowen. “We were so honored to add him to our roster. Our thanks go out to Laura Hillenbrand and Perk Connell for letting Genuine Reward spend his last years with us.”

For more information, please call (502) 863-1775 or visit the website at www.oldfriendsequine.org.

MEDIA CONTACT: Cynthia Grisolia, (347) 423-7322, cindy@oldfriendsequine.org; Michael Blowen (502) 863-1775, michael@oldfriendsequine.org

What Causes Racehorse Lungs to Bleed?

Photo: Gun Runner. Keith Luke @lukephotography.

Ever heard of a horse that collapsed after a thirty-minute race? Exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhage could be one of the reasons behind such a tragedy. EIPH is common in most racehorses and those used in equine sports like barrel racing or polo. The term EIPH is a term for an equine who experiences blood moving into the lungs and airways during an extended period of exertion like racing.

Types of Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage

EIPH is divided into two categories, mainly bleeding from the nose and bleeding from the lungs. The bleeding from the nose involves blood vessels in the nasal airways. Approximately 5% of horses experience this type of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage.  Bleeding from the lungs occurs when blood flows from the capillaries in the lungs. You might notice blood coming from the nostrils when your horse has this type of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. Estimates indicate that bleeding from the lungs affects over 70% of racehorses.

Causes of Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage in Horses

Although there is no definitive cause for pulmonary hemorrhage condition, experts believe that specific processes inside the lungs could be the reason for the bleeding. For the horse to get maximum strength and endurance for a race, it requires an increase in blood volume and in the pumping function of the heart. The increased pumping creates pressure within the blood vessels, which in turn raises the horse’s blood pressure. There’s an assumption that the extra pressure could cause the capillaries to burst, allowing hemorrhages to get into the air sacs, which gets into the airways, and further into nasal passages. All these responses are due to the circularity response of the stress exerted during extreme exercise.

Treatment of Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage in Horses

Reducing the recurrent episodes is the best way to treat exercise-induced hemorrhage in horses. The more times the bleeding occurs, the higher the chances of scarring which could interfere with the horse’s productivity and performance. A qualified vet may give Lasix, which is a diuretic used before a race, which helps to lower the blood pressure. You might need to allow plenty of rest for your horse and avoid keeping the horse in a stall for many days.

While there isn’t a single treatment for exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, it’s a condition that can be managed. Speak to an experienced vet to find out what other measures could help reduce these recurrences.

What are the Symptoms of EIPH in Horses?

Your horse may exhibit certain symptoms if he has exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. The symptoms may be auditory and visual. Some of the symptoms to watch out for include weird choking sounds after exercising for long periods, mucous tinged with blood, abnormal breathing noises like whistling or roaring, the flow of blood from one or both nostrils, and recurrent swallowing within 30 minutes after finishing a race. You’ll also notice how uneasy and distressed the horse looks.  Also, you might notice some other things that could indicate the presence of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. You’ll notice that the horse may fall back and may not be able to sustain higher speeds like before. Furthermore, you may notice a hesitation to engage in regular activities. During this time, the horse will display extreme exertion, and you may notice unusual stride rhythms.

Tap into a Healthier Horse Foot with D.E. Hoof Taps

D.E. Hoof Taps were inserted into wall separations in this hoof after the shoe had been hot fit to the foot. The farrier will now nail the shoe on over the taps. (Ernest Woodward/Southern California Equine Podiatry Center photo)

New easy-to-use inserts improve hoof wall health, growth, and attachment

CHESTER, NEW YORK (June 14, 2018): Hoof trimmers and farriers have a new option for equine foot problems like white line disease, wall separations, excessive wear, uneven growth and cracks. If ignored, wall problems can affect a horse’s performance, accelerate lameness or lead to expensive hoof repair procedures.

Preventing and treating hoof wall problems has been a challenge to professionals and owners alike. The D.E. HOOF TAP is practically invisible once installed but the hoof responds with tighter new wall growth and a healthier white line.

Zinc-coated D.E. HOOF TAPS insert into the hoof wall and are lightly hammer-tapped until flush with the wall’s bearing surface; they may be covered by a shoe or boot or left exposed on an unshod hoof. When the trimmer or farrier returns, the tap is removed with a standard farrier’s nail puller tool, and results are evaluated.

D.E. HOOF TAPS are a patented invention of New York farrier Doug Ehrmann, who experimented with an anti-bacterial zinc-coated insert to help grow out hoof defects from within; he was encouraged when he saw improved growth.

D.E. HOOF TAPS do not impede natural foot flexion and expansion in a barefoot horse. Under a shoe, they are a non-chemical asset to encourage healthy growth. Taps are also an alternative to shoes on hind feet for some horses, and are useful in horses transitioning to barefoot, when appropriate. Some horses wear only one tap at a time; others wear several. Any kind of shoe can be used with hoof taps.

Hoof taps are manufactured in England and were tested in the farrier school at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in New York, where instructor Steve Kraus, CJF described D.E. HOOF TAPS as “a less costly way to keep barefoot hooves from falling apart, or to help grow out cracks.”

Hoof Taps are in use by New Jersey equine veterinarians Brendan Furlong, longtime Team Veterinarian for the Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team, and Wendy Leich, USET veterinarian at four Olympic Games; they were early adopters of D.E. HOOF TAPS for their own sport horses. One of their young otherwise-barefoot dressage horses scored 80% in Wellington, Florida this winter wearing taps. This spring, they opted to install taps in their horses’ feet in lieu of shoes.

Sold in containers of 25, each steel tap has an anti-bacterial zinc coating and three shallow anchors that hold the tap in the wall just outside the white line.

Please consult your hoof care professional to decide if D.E. Hoof Taps are appropriate for your horse. Order Hoof Taps from major farrier and tack distributors, including Jacks Inc., equinepodiatry.com, or check the DE Hoof Taps Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/hoofprofessional.

Contact Doug Ehrmann directly: dehrmann.soundequine@gmail.com, or call +1 (845) 469-2553. Distributor, retail and international inquiries are welcome.

Additional helpful statements from well-known professionals who have used D.E. Hoof Taps:

Farrier Ernest Woodward of the Southern California Equine Podiatry Center in Rancho Santa Fe works on hoof problems in upper level sport horses and has documented practical and innovative uses for hoof taps, including stimulating wall growth for toe cracks on slow-growing hooves. “I’ve been using them on barefoot dressage horses here in Southern California,” Woodward said. “One horse in particular was wearing his toes off at a barn that is all pavers and asphalt; it had been serious for six months because wear was exceeding growth. The shoes were taken off by the vet’s orders and the Hoof Taps went in. Then the client called after a few weeks to report that the horse was showing so much growth it needed to be trimmed ahead of schedule!”

Florida farrier Curtis Burns works on hoof problems in high-profile sport horses, often using his Polyflex glue-on shoes. Burns reported positive results in his trial use of hoof taps in two show horses that suffered from heel separations. He reported, “When there’s a wall cavity at the heel, I can’t glue without filler under the shoe. For these horses, I added a tap. It was packed with Keratex and copper sulfate as I normally would do under the shoes. I came back to find the separation under the shoe hard and dry. They look promising; the rest of the box of Hoof Taps will be used!”

K. C. LaPierre, barefoot hoof care educator and alternative hoof protection innovator, recently added D.E. Hoof Taps to the curriculum of his courses in the US and Europe. “Hoof Taps show great promise in rehabilitation podiatry,” La Pierre said. Among his uses for hoof taps is with his Perfect Wear casting tape for repair cases and taps alone in hooves with asymmetric growth.

 

FEI Tribunal Issues Final Decisions on Autumn Crocus Cases

The FEI Tribunal has issued Final Decisions in two cases involving the prohibited substance Demecolcine after hearing that the presence of this substance can be the result of contamination due to the ingestion of the flower Colchicum Autumnale, commonly known as autumn crocus.

These cases involve the horses Inception 2 (FEI ID 105CF31) ridden by German athlete Felix Etzel (FEI ID 10031843) at the CCI1* in Wiener Neustadt, Milak (AUT) and Finest Quality V&K (FEI ID 105DG03) ridden by Lebanese athlete Emile Karim Fares (FEI ID 10005907) at the CSI3* in Eindhoven (NED). Samples were taken from both horses in May 2017.

Demecolcine, which was previously a Banned Substance* on the FEI Equine Prohibited Substances List, was reclassified as a Specified Substances** on 1 January 2018. There is no known use for Demecolcine in veterinary medicine and the alkaloids of the autumn crocus are all highly toxic.

The athletes were able to prove to the FEI Tribunal that the substance had entered the horses’ systems through ingesting hay that had been contaminated by autumn crocus.

The athletes also established that they bore no fault or negligence for the rule violation and, as a result, the Tribunal ruled that no further sanctions should be imposed, other than the automatic disqualification of the horse and athlete from the competitions.

The athletes have 21 days to appeal these decisions to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) from the date of notification, 20 July 2018.

FEI Prohibited Substances

The FEI’s Prohibited Substances List is divided into two sections – Controlled Medication and *Banned Substances. Controlled Medication substances are those that are regularly used to treat horses, but which must have been cleared from the horse’s system by the time of competition.

Banned (doping) Substances should never be found in the body of the horse. In the case of an adverse analytical finding for a Banned Substance, the Person Responsible (PR) is automatically provisionally suspended from the date of notification. The horse is suspended for two months.

**Specified Substances

The FEI introduced the concept of Specified Substances in 2016. Specified Substances should not in any way be considered less important or less dangerous than other Prohibited Substances. Rather, they are simply substances which are more likely to have been ingested by horses for a purpose other than the enhancement of sport performance, for example, through a contaminated food substance. In the case of a positive for a Specified Substance, provisional suspension is not automatic.

FEI Media Contacts:

Grania Willis
Director Press Relations
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 787 506 142

Ruth Grundy
Manager Press Relations
Email: ruth.grundy@fei.org
Tel: +41 787 506 145

Arredondo Dressage Society to Host Horses Helping Horses Benefit for Horse Protection Assoc. of Fl.

Peter Atkins, one of the clinicians for this year’s Horses Helping Horses Benefit for the Horse Protection Association of Florida. (Photo courtesy of Samantha Clark)

Newberry, Florida (April 9, 2018) – The Arredondo Dressage Society will host the 9th annual Horses Helping Horses benefit on Saturday April 21st at the Canterbury Equestrian Showplace in Newberry, Florida. Several of the region’s most talented dressage instructors will they donate their time and skills to perform a benefit clinic for Horse Protection Association of Florida (HPAF).  The Dressage Society website lists the clinicians, ride times and instructions for bidding on the clinics: www.arredondodressage.org.

The day is a day all about horses, and a day to raise awareness about equine rescues and sanctuaries and the lifesaving work they do year-round to care for the at-risk horses in their communities who have often been abused or neglected.  “Horses are majestic, loving animals, and we encourage our local and loyal supporters will come out so that we can continue our lifesaving efforts for years to come,” explains, Karen Curran the volunteer coordinator for the event.

To support this cause, Arredondo Dressage Society will sponsor events throughout the day.  The clinics offer riders and spectators a chance to see actual dressage training and work. The event will take place rain or shine in the Canterbury Showplace covered arena. In addition, the Arredondo Dressage Society will sponsor bake sales, used tack sale and raffles throughout the day. Equine companies such as Vita Flex, Triple Crown Feed, Omega Alpha, Transformer Equine and others have donated raffles prizes to support the cause.  The clinics offer rider and spectators a chance to see actual dressage training and work.  In addition, Arredondo Dressage Society has an online auction on its website, which will be finalized at the 5:00 pm Wine and Cheese Reception, with a live auction and bidding and a wine tasting sponsored by PRP Wines.

The Horse Protection Association of Florida (HPAF) staff will showcase some of the rescued animals and demonstrate some Parelli work with these horses, and they will be on-hand to answer questions and to educate the public about the work being done on behalf of the equines of Florida.

The following day, Sunday, April 22nd, Arredondo Dressage will sponsor a Schooling Show at the Canterbury Equestrian Showplace.  Interested riders can sign up on its website.

Horse enthusiasts are invited to come for a fun day and support a most worthy cause and the schooling show on Sunday is also open to the public.

For more information, contact Karen Curran, Volunteer Coordinator, at 561-542-4448 or email her at kcurranlaw@aol.com.

www.arredondodressage.org

Decomplexicating Equine Nutrition: Carbohydrate Dependency, by Geoff Tucker DVM

When I enter any convenience store in the United States and walk through all the aisles of food available, I discover just how dependent we are on carbohydrates. After eliminating all items containing grain (corn, wheat, rice and others), grain fed meat (jerky, hard boiled eggs, dairy products), inflammatory oils (vegetable, grain, seed, soy), non-nuts (peanuts and cashews) and artificial sweeteners, I am left with water and pistachios. That’s it!

When I enter a feed store for all animals (horses, swine, cattle, goats, sheep, poultry, fish) I see bag after bag of grains, grain byproducts and inflammatory oils. This leaves stacks of hay which is the preserved staple of all equines and ruminants. Poultry should be eating grubs but instead are fed grain. The fish don’t eat grain except when farm raised where they do.

What Is Hay?

Hay is made of carbohydrates called non-structural carbohydrates (NSCs). This is a fancy way of saying starch which is how sugar is stored in plants.

Click here to read the full article.

Geoff Tucker
www.TheEquinePractice.com

The Basics of Botulism

Basic management measures, combined with vaccination, will reduce your horse’s risk of contracting this deadly form of poisoning.

Clostridium botulinum bacteria produce the deadliest biological toxin known to man. When ingested, botulinum toxin causes botulism, a fast-acting, often fatal form of food poisoning. Horses who consume feed tainted with botulinum toxin may die within hours or days unless they receive fast, appropriate treatment.

And then there’s the really bad news: The types of C. botulinum most dangerous to horses are present in the soil and in the grasses and hays that they eat. Especially if you live in or purchase forage grown in a region where C. botulinum is endemic, eliminating the bacteria from a horse’s environment is impossible.

But the news isn’t all bad. C. botulinum proliferates and produces botulinum toxin only under specific conditions, which can be prevented with basic management precautions, and vaccination of at-risk horses offers an additional layer of protection. So botulism is fairly rare in horses, and with a few basic steps to keep your horse’s food and water fresh and clean, you can greatly reduce the risk that he will ever have a problem with this disease. Here’s what you need to know.

Profile of a killer

Clostridium botulinum is an anaerobe, which means it thrives in the absence of oxygen. And, when environmental conditions aren’t right for it — when it is in a dry, oxygen-rich atmosphere, for example — it goes dormant, encasing itself in a tough, protective outer membrane called an endospore. In this form, the bacteria do little harm to a horse.

But when external conditions change in its favor — that is, in anaerobic conditions with the right amount of moisture — C. botulinum emerges from its dormant state and multiplies rapidly. As each individual bacterium matures and dies, it releases its deadly toxin.

Seven distinct types of botulinum toxin have been identified — designated by letters from type A through G — but only types A, B and C are likely to produce illness in horses in the United States. Types A and B both reside in soil, but your risk of encountering them depends largely on where you live. Type A is more common in the West, and type B is seen more frequently east of the Mississippi River, especially in Kentucky and the Mid-Atlantic States. Type C is found in animal carcasses and bird droppings, which can be anywhere. However, up to 85 percent of all cases of equine botulism are caused by type B, which means that the risks are highest for horses in the eastern United States.

Botulinum toxin can cause illness in three ways:

  • Food poisoning (botulism). Botulism is most likely to occur in horses who eat forage stored in a moist, anaerobic environment that encourages the proliferation of C. botulinum. This might occur, for example, if hay is baled while still moist or stored improperly; the wetness at the center of the bale causes spoilage and creates the ideal conditions for C. botulinum. Improperly processed haylage or silage — fermented forages normally fed to cattle — may also cause botulism in horses, as can clumps of grass clippings left by mowers. A far less common threat is feed or forage that has been contaminated by bird droppings or an animal carcass.
  • Toxicoinfectious botulism (“shaker foal” syndrome). Foals are vulnerable to this form of botulism when they ingest the endospores as they nibble on grass or other things in their environment. The bacteria may activate and form colonies in gastric ulcers or the intestines.
  • Wound botulism. Dirt and contaminants can carry endospores into a wound; if the surface heals over, an anaerobic environment may be created that allows the bacteria to gain a foothold within the surrounding tissues. This is more likely to occur with punctures and other deeper wounds.

A deadly threat

No matter how the botulinum toxin gets into the horse’s body, the effects are the same. The toxin binds to the synapses of the nerves that control the muscles, blocking the transmission of nerve impulses to the muscles. With no source of input, the muscles go flaccid, causing paralysis. Signs may appear within hours or days and often begin with the inability to swallow. A foal might have difficulty nursing.

As the toxin spreads, the effects begin to appear throughout the body, with signs such as muscle tremors, generalized weakness, a limp tail and gait issues. The severity and extent of the paralysis depends upon the amount of the toxin that a horse consumes. If he ingested only a little, he may just become less active and eat less before recovering after several days. A large dose of botulinum toxin will likely cause a horse to become recumbent. In the most serious cases, the cause of death is often suffocation, as the toxin paralyzes the muscles that facilitate breathing.

The early signs of botulism — difficulty swallowing, lack of eating, lying down, flaccid muscles — can look like other conditions, such as choke, colic or neurological disorders. Signs more specific to botulism include muscle tremors and weakness in the tongue; if you gently pull the horse’s tongue out of his mouth, he won’t be able to retract it. Even if you’re not sure it’s botulism, it’s best to call your veterinarian right away if you notice any of these signs, however subtle they might be.

If you suspect botulism, remove all food from all animals on your farm, including cattle and other livestock, as you wait for the veterinarian to arrive. Botulism often occurs in outbreaks when multiple animals are fed the same tainted forage. You’ll also want to keep the horse quiet and still to avoid exhausting his weakened muscles.

The only effective treatment for botulism is to administer an antitoxin, which must be done as soon as possible. The antitoxin works by binding with botulinum toxin that is still in circulation in the bloodstream, preventing the toxin molecules from binding with nerve cells and preventing the disease from progressing. Nothing can be done to treat neurons that have already been blocked. If treatment is delayed, the horse may be beyond help. If multiple horses have been fed from the same source, your veterinarian may suggest administering the antitoxin to all of them, in case others have ingested the toxin but are not yet showing signs of illness.

If the affected horse can be kept alive, the damaged nerves will heal within a few weeks, and he can make a full recovery. In the meantime, depending on the severity of his signs, he may require extensive supportive care, including nutrition and fluids via intubation.

Vaccinate “at risk” horses

Currently, only one vaccine against C. botulinum is approved for use in horses in the United States. The vaccine, which works against C. botulinum type B, is about 95 percent effective, and though it may not prevent all cases of botulism, it can reduce the severity of the illness and increase a horse’s chances for survival. The vaccine does not provide cross protection against C. botulinum types A or C.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) includes botulism on its list of “risk-based” vaccines, which means it is recommended for those horses most likely to come in contact with the bacteria or toxin. However, according to the AAEP, “Vaccination is warranted for all horses, as C. botulinum type B can be found in soil samples from many areas of the country and movement of horses or forage from non-endemic to endemic regions occurs frequently.”

What that means, says Amy Johnson, DVM, DACVIM, of the University of Pennsylvania, is that “it would be reasonable to vaccinate any horse for botulism, even though certain areas of the country are very low-risk. Since horses move around so much these days, it is possible that the horse would end up in an area of the country where botulism is more common. Likewise, hay and other forages can be shipped long distances, so it is possible that a horse in a low-risk geographic region could be exposed if fed hay from a high-risk geographic region.”

In Kentucky and the Mid-Atlantic States where botulin type B is most common, veterinarians may recommend the vaccine for all horses. “That is because the organism is so prevalent in the soil that sporadic botulism cases occur even in adult horses who are not fed high-risk feedstuffs, such as fermented feeds or large bale hay,” says Johnson. “Also, any horse fed high-risk feeds should be vaccinated.”

Vaccination is also recommended for pregnant mares, especially in endemic areas, to protect their foals against toxicoinfectious botulism. Foals can receive a three-dose series at four-week intervals, beginning at the age of 2 to 3 months, if the dam was vaccinated, or as early as 2 weeks of age if she was not.

Ask your veterinarian whether vaccinating against botulism might be advisable for your horse. If there’s any doubt, consider vaccinating anyway. “The vaccine is not that expensive and almost never causes adverse effects,” says Johnson.

Other preventive measures

  • Discard damp or moldy hay. If a hay bale gets moist, the anaerobic conditions at the center create ideal conditions for the growth of C. botulinum. Large round bales are especially susceptible to retaining moisture at their centers. Even if your hay is dry now, any previous dampness may have harbored bacterial growth, and the toxins left behind will still be present. The toxin itself will not detectable by color or smell, but the damp conditions that fostered the bacteria will leave hay smelling musty or moldy. Examine each flake as you peel it off the bale, and discard any hay that is moist or smells funky.
  • Protect stored hay from the elements. Periodically check for leaks in the roof and walls of your hay storage area. Stacking hay on wooden pallets will help air circulate and prevent moisture from accumulating underneath.
  • Offer hay in feeders. Hay dropped on the ground can easily become contaminated, and rain and mud will help foster the growth of bacteria. Instead, provide hay in a commercial or homemade feeder that keeps the forage dry. Especially if you live in a wetter climate, consider investing in an enclosed feeder that will keep out the rain and snow. Clean up dropped hay regularly. If your horse has a condition, such as heaves, that requires you to soak his hay, do not soak more than he can eat in one meal.
  • Avoid high-risk forages. Haylage — grass that is baled with a higher moisture content and sealed in plastic — is typically meant for cattle or sheep, which are less susceptible to botulism than horses. Some people do feed haylage to horses, especially if they need a low-dust alternative to dry hays, and haylage that has been properly processed and sealed ought to be safe, but the risk of botulism remains, even when the forage seems fresh. Definitely do not feed horses any haylage from bags that have been torn open or that look or smell spoiled. Also, don’t let your horse graze in areas where clumps of cut grass remain from a recent mowing, and warn your neighbors against tossing grass clippings over the fence as “treats” for your herd.
  • Watch out for dead animals and bird droppings. Botulism type C is fairly rare, but you do want to avoid feed or water that has been tainted by carcasses or droppings. Discard any hay or bagged feeds if you discover body parts from dead animals, and routinely check water buckets or troughs for drowning victims. (A mesh escape ramp built into the side of a large trough can help small animals who fall in to climb out safely.) Prevent birds from nesting in areas where a lot of droppings would fall onto feeders or stored hay, and do not use poultry manure as fertilizer on hayfields or pastures.

This article first appeared in the October 2017 issue of EQUUS (Volume #481).

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