Tag Archives: Horse Care

Twenty-Five Dollars Could Save a Horse’s Life

Photo by Jump Media.

Wellington, FL – Several regions across the U.S. have reached the peak of the winter show season, and with the increase in equine travel, as well as large populations of horses in close contact with one another, proper vaccination protocols are as important as ever.

Dr. Kathleen Timmins of Palm Beach Equine Clinic in Wellington, FL is often asked why proper equine vaccination protocols are imperative for all horses, and her answer voices directly to the welfare of the horse.

“You could save your horse’s life!” she said. “It is really important from an infectious disease standpoint, but also for mosquito-borne diseases or rabies; these are diseases that are life-threatening for lack of a $25 vaccine.”

Vaccinations: When, What, and How

According to Dr. Timmins, recommended vaccination protocols vary by vaccine and by the location of the horse, but the core group of vaccines is relatively standardized. As a rule, horses should receive vaccines to prevent against mosquito-borne diseases like Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), Western Equine Encephalitis (WEE), and West Nile Virus twice a year. Equine Encephalitis is characterized by the swelling of the brain in an infected horse, while West Nile Virus infects the central nervous system and may cause signs of Encephalitis, including those ranging from fever to weakness and paralysis of the hind limbs.

“Vaccinations against mosquito-borne diseases become very important in south Florida because we have mosquitoes year-round,” said Dr. Timmins. “As you go further north, owners may sometimes choose to only vaccinate against those once a year.”

Included in the twice-a-year vaccination program is a Flu/Rhino dose. The Flu vaccination prevents the illness in horses much the same way it does in humans, while the Rhino vaccine is key in helping to prevent the Equine Herpesvirus (Rhinopneumonitis). Equine herpesvirus type 1 (EHV-1) and Equine herpesvirus type 4 (EHV-4) most commonly result in respiratory disease in horses and can progress to neurological disease.

East and West Equine Encephalitis, West Nile, and Flu/Rhino can all be administered as a combination vaccine requiring only one injection.

In addition to vaccinations given twice a year, annual vaccinations include those to prevent Potomac horse fever, a potentially-fatal illness that affects the digestive system and is caused by the intracellular bacterium Neorickettsia risticii; Strangles, a bacterial infection of the upper respiratory tract; and Tetanus, an acute, often fatal disease caused by the bacteria Clostridium tetani found in soil.

Much like the vaccinations administered to humans, the companies that produce the vaccines are in constant transition, adapting each vaccine to the most common strains to ensure the most accurate prevention of disease.

The Role of the Horse Show

To combat the rise of infectious disease outbreaks, many horse show organizers have taken a proactive step to reduce the spread of disease by developing vaccination requirements for the show grounds. This is a step towards preventing disease as an organized community, according to Dr. Timmins.

“No one wants sick horses,” she said. “All horse show organizers can do is put the requirements out there and hope that people comply and that they understand why vaccinations are so important.

“When a horse pops with a fever at a show everyone is alarmed,” continued Dr. Timmins. “If proper vaccination protocols are followed, it is easier for us to figure out why that horse has a fever and treat them quickly and appropriately.”

Negative Reactions

There are occasional cases of horses reacting negatively to certain vaccinations, making a regular schedule difficult. After receiving a vaccine intramuscularly, some horses experience local muscular swelling and soreness or signs including fever, anorexia, and lethargy. Severe reactions such as anaphylaxis can also occur in rare, extreme cases.

According to Dr. Timmins, there are procedures in place to help keep horses that suffer reactions on a systematic vaccination plan without threatening their health or competition schedules.

“What I will do first is break up the vaccinations so we can figure out which one is bothering the horse,” said Dr. Timmins. “Then sometimes all it takes is a change in the vaccine company because the particular horse is reacting to their preservative or their carrier. Veterinarians can also pretreat with a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug to avoid really bad reactions. Finally, there is always an option to administer intranasal vaccines rather than using an injectable.

“Very few horses have severe reactions to vaccines and for the most part, the horses traveling to shows are part of young and healthy populations,” continued Dr. Timmins.

As the winter horse show season continues throughout the U.S., horse health must be a priority and vaccinations are a simple way for the equine community to do their part.

“Vaccinations are an easy and relatively inexpensive way to prevent infectious disease outbreaks, and keep our horses healthy and safe,” she said. “There’s just no reason not to vaccinate.”

More about Dr. Timmins

Dr. Kathleen A. Timmins is a 1993 graduate of the Ohio State University School of Veterinary Medicine. She completed her internship in equine medicine and surgery at the Illinois Equine Hospital near Chicago. Prior to coming to Florida, Dr. Timmins practiced in Aiken, South Carolina, where she met her husband, John, who plays polo professionally. Growing up in Central Ohio, Dr. Timmins began her relationship with horses as a child on the hunter/jumper circuit. She continues to ride and show as much as possible. She and her husband are enjoying parenthood with their daughter Schuyler.

About Palm Beach Equine Clinic

The veterinarians and staff of PBEC are respected throughout the industry for their advanced level of care and steadfast commitment to horses and owners. With 28 skilled veterinarians on staff, including three board-certified surgeons, internal medicine specialists, and one of very few board-certified equine radiologists in the country, PBEC leads the way in new, innovative diagnostic imaging and treatments. Palm Beach Equine Clinic provides experience, knowledge, availability, and the very best care for its clients. To find out more, please visit www.equineclinic.com or call 561-793-1599.

Contact: Lauren Fisher
Jump Media
lauren@jumpmediallc.com

FEI Sec’y General Provides Overview of Measures to Address Horse Welfare Issues in Endurance

Lausanne (SUI), 3 February 2017 – The FEI Secretary General has provided an overview of a series of measures to be implemented by both the FEI and the United Arab Emirates Equestrian Federation to address serious horse welfare issues in UAE Endurance.

In view of the deaths of seven horses in the UAE in the last four weeks, six at national Endurance competitions and one at an FEI event, and news of seven adverse analytical findings, the FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez requested immediate action from the UAE National Federation (NF).

“I asked the UAE National Federation to urgently put in place measures that would specifically address the situation in the UAE and we welcome the speed with which they have responded to these very serious issues,” the FEI Secretary General said. “We have already expressed our concerns that the fatal bone fractures we are seeing in the UAE are possibly the result of over-training and are likely to be pre-existing injuries that haven’t been given sufficient time to heal.

“The studies that the FEI is undertaking and which will be first presented to the Sports Forum and then in more depth during the Endurance Forum in Barcelona on 23 and 24 May will help determine the causes so that actions can be taken to prevent similar tragedies in the future.”

A session dedicated to risk factors and bone injuries in Endurance will be held on the second day (11 April) of the FEI Sports Forum in Lausanne (SUI). Initial findings of the Global Injuries Endurance Study, conducted by Dr Tim Parkin and Dr Euan Bennet of Glasgow University, will be presented and Dr Chris Whitton from the University of Melbourne will present on bone fatigue.

“If, following presentation of the scientific data, there is a clear consensus on immediate actions to be taken, I will propose the use of emergency procedures to speed up the implementation of new rules, as we have done previously when faced with similar issues,” the FEI Secretary General said.

In addition, the FEI will host a series of meetings with trainers and team veterinarians in the UAE specifically to address the high level of catastrophic injuries in the region.

In response to the demand for action from the FEI, the UAE NF has outlined measures that have now been put in place to reduce equine fatalities. These include:

  • Requirement for stables involved in equine fatalities to provide full medical history for each horse and any medication administered; details of the horses’ nutritional programmes and training schedules, including the methods used, the hours of training and distances covered, the timing and venue conditions
  • A study of each Endurance course in the region, including a detailed assessment of track conditions
  • Inspections at all remaining Endurance events in the 2017 UAE season conducted by an expert panel of Endurance course specialists and experienced veterinarians, including the FEI Veterinary Director
  • Working directly with local organising committees to investigate equine injuries at their venue
  • Increased sanctions for those responsible for injury to horses, including imposing maximum permissible fines (€15,000 per offence) and penalty points
  • Expanded scope of individuals that can be held accountable, in addition to trainers and veterinarians

“The new senior management at the UAE National Federation, who met with the FEI President last month, is far more engaged and transparent than the previous administration,” Sabrina Ibáñez said.

“We are hopeful that, through their continuing cooperation with the FEI, together we will make dramatic improvements in addressing the causes of these injuries and the high levels of positives. This is something that needs to be done from the inside out and, while we can and will help from an educational perspective, there needs to be a willingness to improve from within and that now seems to be the case.”

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

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Saves Horse Owners Time and Money through Early Diagnosis

The Equine Standing MRI produces highly detailed images in several different planes to capture a complete image of a desired area. Photo by Jump Media.

Wellington, FL – Palm Beach Equine Clinic (PBEC) in Wellington, FL has the most advanced state-of-the-art surgical and diagnostic imaging equipment available. With board-certified Radiologist Dr. Sarah Puchalski, PBEC uses their Equine Standing MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and a Nuclear Scintigraphy camera to quickly and accurately diagnose injuries for their clients.

Every horse owner dreads seeing signs of lameness or discomfort in any horse, whether it is a backyard companion or a top-caliber sport horse. For performance horses, however, one of the first questions many owners ask upon contacting a veterinarian about a problem is: ‘Can the horse safely and comfortably return to work?’ Using PBEC’s cutting-edge technology, Dr. Puchalski can quickly and accurately answer that question.

The Equine Standing MRI produces highly detailed images in several different planes to capture a complete image of a desired area. An MRI is best used to further define a specific area of both bony or soft tissue that has been pinpointed as the origin of lameness. The process can be completed while the horse is in a standing position and requires only light sedation.

Similarly, the process of a Nuclear Scintigraphy is a bone scan that begins with the injection of a radioactive isotope, specifically named Technetium 99. The isotope attaches to the phosphorous proteins localized within the bone and is absorbed over a few hours’ time. A specialized nuclear isotope gamma ray camera is used to capture images of the skeletal anatomy with a 360-degree view. Points of interest “light up” on the image to indicate increased metabolic activity and the site of injury.

Lameness or performance problems are most frequently approached through routine x-rays and ultrasounds, which can appear normal. Thus, it is difficult to diagnose subtle problems because the most common tools are not sensitive enough to diagnose in every case. At PBEC, the Equine Standing MRI and Nuclear Scintigraphy equip veterinarians with an advantage when troubleshooting a lameness issue and helps them to determine a correct diagnosis in a timely manner.

Coupled with advanced technology, PBEC is also one of very few equine practices in the U.S. with a Board Certified Radiologist on staff, and thanks to Dr. Puchalski, hundreds of MRI and bone scans are read each year at PBEC. In addition to being state-of-the art diagnostic tools, the technology also affords economic benefits to owners.

“MRIs can give a definitive diagnosis, and that saves time and money in the long run,” said Dr. Puchalski. “For example, if a horse goes lame and is examined and treated empirically, which is a diagnosis based on likely problems through common diagnostic procedures, it either stays sound or it becomes lame again or even non-functional in three to six months. This method sets back the commencement of the appropriate therapy.

“What the MRI does is allow the horse to be treated early and correctly,” continued Dr. Puchalski. “Otherwise, you may not be treating the correct issue, and the horse could end up lame again very soon.”

Nuclear Scintigraphy does not produce a scan that is as specific, but it gives Dr. Puchalski the opportunity to procure a concrete diagnosis, as well as evaluate the whole horse for secondary problems.

“Oftentimes the primary problem in one place is making a horse sore in other places,” she said. “Owners like to know the root problem, but to also quickly diagnose secondary problems so the entire horse can be treated at once.”

As the official veterinary hospital of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) and the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF), PBEC sees a high concentration of sport horses in need of care. In turn, owners of those horses are eager to see their horses quickly and happily return to competition.

“The biggest benefit to PBEC and the Wellington community as a result of these MRI and Nuclear Scintigraphy scans is accessibility,” concluded Puchalski. “Anyone can call from the horse show to the clinic, get a scan scheduled quickly, in and out, get results fast, and then their training program can be changed immediately.”

About Dr. Sarah Puchalski
Dr. Puchalski is from Davis, CA, where she was an associate professor at the University of California in their Department of Surgical and Radiological Sciences. In 1995, she received her BS in biology from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, and in 1999 earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, where she received the ACVS Outstanding Large Animal Surgery Student award that same year. Dr. Puchalski interned in Field Service and Sports Medicine at New Bolton Center at the University of Pennsylvania in 2001, and completed her residency in radiology at UC Davis in 2005.

Dr. Puchalski has devoted her career to teaching and improving equine health through the development and refinement of diagnostic techniques. In 2011, she contributed to two books on the topic of equine lameness. Her recent contributions include chapters in “Diagnosis and Management of Lameness in the Horse,” edited by Ross and Dyson, as well as in “Veterinary Computed Tomography and the Clinical Veterinary Advisor: The Horse, Equine Colic and Veterinary Clinics of North America.” She also has contributed close to 50 scientific articles concerning the diagnosis of equine lameness to many periodic journals, including Veterinary Radiology & Ultrasound: the official journal of the American College of Veterinary Radiology and the International Veterinary Radiology Association; Veterinary Pathology; Equine Veterinary Journal; the American Journal of Veterinary Research; Equine Veterinary Education; Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association; and Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

About Palm Beach Equine Clinic
The veterinarians and staff of PBEC are respected throughout the industry for their advanced level of care and steadfast commitment to horses and owners. With 28 skilled veterinarians on staff, including three board-certified surgeons, internal medicine specialists, and one of very few board-certified equine radiologists in the country, PBEC leads the way in new, innovative diagnostic imaging and treatments. Palm Beach Equine Clinic provides experience, knowledge, availability, and the very best care for its clients. To find out more, please visit www.equineclinic.com or call 561-793-1599.

Contact: Lauren Fisher
Jump Media
lauren@jumpmediallc.com

8th Annual “Hats Off to the Horses: The Road to the Derby” Kicks Off with “The Alphabet Soup” Chapeau

Old Friends retiree Alphabet Soup poses with Krystal Court.

For the eighth consecutive year, MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® and Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement are teaming up for an unparalleled shopping experience: “Hats Off to the Horses: The Road to the Derby”.

This unique fundraiser features an online auction of one-of-a-kind couture hats created by MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS®, with the 100 percent of proceeds benefiting Old Friends.

The first hat up for bid in our auction series, which kicked off January 1st, honors Old Friends retiree Alphabet Soup, winner of the 1996 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Bidding in this online auction will be available through January 11, 8:00 pm (EST). To bid, CLICK HERE.

Sally Faith Steinmann, who owns the Massachusetts-based Maggie Mae Designs®, will donate four magnificent millinery creations in 2017 to raise funds for Old Friends, the 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization that cares for over 165 retired racehorses.  Each hat is inspired by one of the retirees at Old Friends, and will be auctioned the first of each month through April 1st, 2017. Each will be ready to wear at this year’s Run for the Roses.

To date, Steinmann has raised over $26,000 for Old Friends.

ABOUT THE HAT

A very special hat was needed to honor this charming retiree. The resulting design reflects Alphabet Soup’s pearl-white coat, his familiar racing silk colors of orange-red and sage green, and his proud spirit and athleticism.

The foundation of the heat features a curved, wide-brim created out of pearl-white dupioni silk. A fancy grey braiding was hand stitched to the under brim to reflect the stallion’s darker mane and tail when he was a colt.

Yards of shimmering white and grey tulle were swirled together and layered around the crown to provide a wispy bed for a cluster of roses, each made with alternating layers of red China silk and silk organza. The rose clusters are framed with a medley of tarragon-green organza leaves. And for the finishing touch, a large pewter pebble button adorns the back seam.

The finished “Alphabet Soup” hat design measures over 23 inches across inclusive of the tulle.

Old Friends, Inc. 1841 Paynes Depot Rd., Georgetown, KY 40324
502-863-1775 www.oldfriendsequine.org   michael@oldfriendsequine.org

Old Friends at Cabin Creek   483 Sandhill Rd., Greenfield Center, NY 12833
518-698-2377   www.oldfriendsatcabincreek.com   cabincreek4@hotmail.com

Old Friends Holiday Charity Challenge

2002 Kentucky Derby Winner War Emblem. © Laura Battles.

The Crowd Rise Holiday Challenge *Final Week*

Great news: We have reached 77 percent of our goal on the Crowd Rise Holiday Charity Challenge. Our deepest thanks to all who have supported the cause.

You can still donate to our hay drive — the Challenge Tower stays live until January 5th. Help us reach our final goal by visiting this link.

We have 165 retirees — including three Kentucky Derby winners! That’s a lot of mouths to feed, and winter is our hardest time. It might be lovely weather for a sleigh ride together but it’s tough on horses braving the elements. They need a constant food source to stay warm, and your tax-deductible donation can keep our retired athletes carbo loading until April showers bring May flowers.

Old Friends, Inc. 1841 Paynes Depot Rd., Georgetown, KY 40324
502-863-1775 www.oldfriendsequine.org   michael@oldfriendsequine.org

Happy Holidays from Old Friends

Charismatic © Laura Battles.

From Michael Blowen:

Sincere thanks to everyone who has ever stepped foot on the farm, sent us a kind letter or donated a dollar to Old Friends. Thanks to everyone who works here and our irreplaceable tour guides. But mostly, thanks to our great retirees. From Charismatic to I’m Charismatic and Afternoon Deelites to Popcorn Deelites, we are so grateful to wake up every morning and see these great retirees enjoying themselves. As we enter our 14th year, we’ve been able to secure more acreage to provide a quality retirement to more of our deserving athletes. Selfishly, on the cusp of my 70th birthday, I’m extremely happy and gratified that you’ve allowed me to have the most fulfilling retirement in the world. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and to all a good night.

GoodGiving Challenge

The GoodGiving Guide Challenge is an online giving campaign designed to engage the entire community and to make charitable giving easy and fun. Now in its sixth year, the Challenge is a partnership between Blue Grass Community Foundation and Smiley Pete Publishing. The 2015 GoodGiving Guide Challenge raised over $1.3 million for outstanding nonprofits in Central and Eastern Kentucky. Please consider a donation to Old Friends via this amazing annual campaign. Many many thanks as always to our supporters!  CLICK HERE TO DONATE.

The Old Friends Twelve Days of Christmas Wish List

On the 12th day of Christmas my true fans gave to me
12 post-it pads
11 rolls of Vet-Wrap
10 reams of paper
Nine bubble mailers
Eight horse-size fly masks
Seven Quest Plus DeWormers
Six rolls of shipping tape
Five baaaaales of hay
Four books of stamps
Three gift cards
Two toner cartridges
And a horse blanket under the tree

Click here for the entire list with easy shopping info.

Happy Holidays Everyone, and thanks for your continued support.

Old Friends, Inc. 1841 Paynes Depot Rd., Georgetown, KY 40324
502-863-1775 www.oldfriendsequine.org   michael@oldfriendsequine.org

Old Friends at Cabin Creek   483 Sandhill Rd., Greenfield Center, NY 12833
518-698-2377   www.oldfriendsatcabincreek.com   cabincreek4@hotmail.com

Giving Tuesday. Can We Count on You?

Giving Tuesday, November 29, 2016, is a day designated to honor and support nonprofits on following Black Friday and Cyber Monday. America’s Wild Horse Families count on the Cloud Foundation, a recognized leader in the fight to protect and preserve them on our western public lands.  Can we count on you?

The Cloud Foundation
info@thecloudfoundation.org

Spendthrift Farm Shows Support for Old Friends

Old Friends’ Michael Blowen (left) accepts donation from Spendthrift Farm  General Manager Ned Toffey.

GEORGETOWN, KY – NOVEMBER 25, 2016 – Spendthrift Farm, one of the Thoroughbred industry’s leading breeding farms, has made a generous donation of $30,000 to Old Friends, the Thoroughbred Retirement Facility in Georgetown, KY.

Spendthrift, owned by B. Wayne Hughes and located in Lexington, is donating the purse earned by a third-place finish in the inaugural “Spendthrift Stallion Stakes,” which was run at Churchill Downs on October 30.

Earlier this year, Spendthrift Farm partnered with Churchill Downs to create the Spendthrift Stallion Stakes, a $300,000-guaranteed stakes race to be run in the fall for 2-year-olds that are sired exclusively by Spendthrift stallions.

The inaugural running in 2016 was part of Churchill Downs’ 12th annual “Stars of Tomorrow” program, which is entirely devoted to 2-year-old racing.

Third-place finisher Lawton is the 2-year-old son of Archarcharch.

Spendthrift is home to many other prominent stallions including Into Mischief, Dominus, Malibu Moon, Warrior’s Reward, Temple City, Tizway, and Wicked Strong.

“What Michael Blowen has done with Old Friends has been a great service to the industry,” said Ned Toffey, Spendthrift General Manager, who presented Blowen with a check this week. “It’s a great cause; it’s good for owners, breeders, and also for the fans and so we were very happy to do this.” Toffey added. “We as an industry need to provide for these horses.”

“We are grateful to Mr. Hughes, Ned, and everyone at Spendthrift, and can’t thank them enough for this show of support,” said Michael Blowen, president and founder of Old Friends. “Such a contribution will go a long way in providing for our retired horses.”

For more information about Spendthrift, visit the website at www.spendthriftfarm.com.

Old Friends is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that cares for more than 165 retired racehorses. Its Dream Chase Farm, located in Georgetown, KY, is open to tourists daily by appointment. Old Friends also has a satellite facility in Greenfield Center, New York, Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division, which is also open to visitors. For more information on tours or to make a donation, contact the main farm at (502) 863-1775 or see their website at www.oldfriendsequine.org.

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

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Warns Fla. Horse Owners to Check Pastures for Toxic Creeping Indigo

Wellington, Florida – The veterinarians at Palm Beach Equine Clinic in Wellington, FL caution horse owners of recent toxicity cases that have arisen in South Florida suspected by the low growing weed, Creeping Indigo. Although Creeping Indigo is not native to Florida and has been reportedly growing in the state since the 1920s, the plant has recently spread from the past summer’s humid conditions. Most toxic plants are not palatable to horses and therefore do not pose as much risk; however, it appears that horses are eating Creeping Indigo with suspected fatal effects. The only real treatment is to recognize and remove the poisonous plant from all grazing areas.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s Dr. Kathleen Timmins explained that veterinarians in South Florida are suspecting Creeping Indigo cases more often and in more places than ever before. Many people are unaware of the problems this toxic plant can cause.

“Toxicity from Creeping Indigo can present itself through a number of different symptoms, which can make it difficult to recognize and definitively diagnose,” Dr. Timmins noted. “There is no test or treatment, and the damage that it causes can be irreversible. The only true treatment is limiting their exposure to it.”

The most important step to avoid illness is to eradicate the plant from all pastures and grazing areas. Horse owners should walk through their property and review grass areas for the plant. Creeping Indigo is a prostrate plant that is commonly found in high traffic areas of grass, such as parking lots, turf, roadsides, medians, and overgrazed pastures. Flowers arise from the base of the leaves and are pink to salmon in color. It often grows under the grass, and when it is not flowering, it can be difficult to see. It also has a very deep root, so it is not easy to pull up.

Both neurologic and non-neurologic signs are documented, and researchers are uncertain how much Creeping Indigo a horse needs to consume before clinical signs appear.

The most notable signs are neurologic; horses may seem lethargic or have less energy than usual. Head carriage is often low, and there may be rhythmic blinking and jerking eye movements. An abnormal gait may be noticed, characterized by incoordination and weakness in all limbs.

Non-neurologic signs may include high heart and respiratory rates, high temperature, watery discharge from the eyes, discoloration of the cornea or corneal ulceration, or ulceration of the tongue and gums.

“There are so many varied symptoms that it is often not the first diagnosis you would think of,” Dr. Timmins explained. “There are also many other toxic plants, but if horses have access to good quality feed or grazing, they will not usually eat the toxic plants. The best solution is to find the plant, get rid of it, and not have to find out if it has been consumed.”

Horses that are quickly removed from the plants may recover completely, but there is no effective treatment, and symptoms may persist. The best way to prevent poisoning is to stop access to paddocks where Creeping Indigo is present and to remove plants by physical means or herbicide application.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic suggests that horse owners check their paddocks and grazing areas prior to use. For more information, call PBEC at 561-793-1599.

About Palm Beach Equine Clinic
The veterinarians and staff of PBEC are respected throughout the industry for their advanced level of care and steadfast commitment to horses and owners. With 28 skilled veterinarians on staff, including three board-certified surgeons, internal medicine specialists, and one of very few board-certified equine radiologists in the country, PBEC leads the way in new, innovative diagnostic imaging and treatments. Palm Beach Equine Clinic provides experience, knowledge, availability, and the very best care for its clients. To find out more, please visit www.equineclinic.com.

Contact: Lauren Fisher
Jump Media
lauren@jumpmediallc.com

Chronic Protein Deficiency in Horses, by Geoff Tucker DVM

The basics of proteins

Look at this sentence. It is made up of words and each of those words are made up of letters. There are 26 letters from which all the words are made and all the written thoughts in the books of our world are ideas expressed by the combinations of these words. 26 letters, enormous vocabulary, infinite written ideas.

Taking this one step further, look at the variety of books, magazines and newspapers in the world. All appear different and are made of different materials, yet all have sentences, words and letters. This is how all the things on this planet are made if you think about it – even you and your horse.

Books, magazines and newspapers are made up of a few basic parts: paper, cardboard, ink and glue or staples. Our body and the body of our horses are made up of 6 basic parts too: gas (air), water, minerals, carbohydrate (sugar), fat and protein. Of these, protein is the most interesting because all proteins are made up of only 20 building blocks called amino acids. Consider these the letters. These amino acids make up all of the proteins of the body. Proteins are like the words in a dictionary made of a finite number of letters, yet an enormous amount of information can still be expressed through unique sentences depending on how many words are used and where we place them.

Letters make words that in turn make sentences that create unlimited thoughts. Amino acids make proteins that in turn make structures that create unlimited living things on our planet.

Proteins basically provide the structure that makes us and every living animal we know into their unique shapes through the connective tissue of bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscle. They also make up a lot of other things in our bodies including defense mechanisms, sensors, and hair. I know this is basic, but I really want to get a few points across about protein in our horses.

Our alphabet is divided into two groups: the vowels (a e i o u) and the consonants (all the other letters). The amino acids in your horse are also divided into basically 2 types: non-essential amino acids (NEAA) and essential amino acids (EAA). This is VERY IMPORTANT. The difference between them is that NEAAs can be made by the horse but the EAAs need to be consumed pre-made in the meal. Imagine your book had only consonants (NEAAs) but was missing some but not all of the vowels (EAAs). The result would be a book that was hard to impossible to read.

If the diet of a horse doesn’t contain enough of the EAAs then the horse will be deficient in many things such as connective tissue and immune function leading to lameness and skin conditions. Like a book missing some of the vowels, the horse may look like a horse but he will not work properly.

NEAAs can be made from carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, sulfur and nitrogen consumed in the normal foods and the air we breathe. With this in mind, have you ever wondered why cattle can graze on poor land or be fed poor hay (”cow hay”) and still do well? Did you ever see a picture of a goat on top of a pile of garbage with a tin can in his mouth looking fat and happy? The answer is because ruminants like goats, cattle, sheep, and deer can manufacture almost all of their amino acids thus they have a low requirement for EAAs. In essence, they can build most of their proteins from the molecules they consume. Ruminants still need all the amino acids a horse does but can manufacture most of them (the NEAAs) while their need for consuming the EAAs is low.

However, you and you horse cannot manufacture about half of the amino acids we need to grow and maintain our bodies. These 10 or so amino acids need to be consumed in their complete form and are therefore are essential to maintaining life.

Remember, the wall of our digestive tract (stomach and intestines) is solid to large molecules such as proteins. Every protein we eat is broken down into their smaller amino acid building blocks or small groups of amino acids called peptides (like syllables of words) and these are absorbed through the intestines into the body. These amino acids and peptides are transported to individual cells and assembled into the proteins required by the cell. [As a side note, think of this the next time you buy an expensive joint supplement. What you are really feeding is a high quality protein high in EAAs that is broken down by digestion into the basic amino acids and peptides and reassembled into what the horse needs. It would be just as good to feed your horse a less expensive high quality protein source.]

Here is an interesting fact about EAAs. This fact I am about to describe occurs in humans and horses and, once understood, will change the way you look at protein in both you and your horses.

When the minimum amount required in daily intake of just one EAA is less than 100% of what is needed on a daily basis, then none of the other EAAs will be absorbed at 100% even when there is an abundance of the other EAAs. Another way to look at this is to say that if there is not enough of the individual amino acids to build the protein, that protein won’t be made.

For example, EAA #1 requires 100 units a day and EAA #2 requires 500 units and EAA #3 requires 1000 units and so forth for all of the 10 EAAs required by your horse in a day of eating. Pretend that your horse consumes 200 units of EAA #1, 500 units of EAA #2, and 800 units of EAA #3. In this example, the horse is consuming 200% of what he needs of EAA #1, 100% of EAA #2, and 80% of EAA #3.

At first glance, you would assume that your horse is deficient in only EAA #3. In reality mammals have a system where if one EAA is at 80% of what they need, then ALL of the EAAs are at 80%. In this example, because EAA #3 is only being consumed at 80%, then every EAA this horse consumes is at 80% effectiveness no matter how much is eaten.

Enough good quality protein

It is important that your horse consumes enough protein, but it has to be of good quality (high in EAAs) and it all needs to be absorbed from the gut into the body.

Crude protein is the absolute amount of protein in the feed. Unfortunately, some countries add urea to the feed to increase the crude protein value making the crude protein value suspect on any product. Many countries and the UN have started to use “True protein” or to list the individual amino acids as a way to see the protein content of food. This value does NOT tell you the quality or the availability of the protein for your horse. What is needed is the biological value of the protein which is the amount of protein that will be available for absorption past the wall of the intestines and used by the horse.

Not all proteins eaten are absorbed and used equally. Some have a tougher time breaking down and being absorbed ESPECIALLY if the intestines are inflamed by consuming inflammatory feed such as grain. The percent of protein absorbed is sometimes called their biologic value (BV). For example, egg whites are completely absorbed, whey protein is about 96%, soybeans about 80% and grass and hay is about 50% to 65%. Also, some sources of protein also have limited amounts of EAAs making these proteins poor sources of protein for horses.

The quality of the protein is based on the amount of EAAs in the protein. The more EAAs in the protein, the better quality it is.

The quality of protein can’t really be measured in hay or grass because every batch of hay has a different amount. In fact, the only way to measure the total protein being fed is to measure the actual protein of the animal consuming it. Unfortunately this measurement is not a test you want to do on your horse. A rule of thumb holds though that the better the quality of hay or grass, the higher the quality of protein consumed and the reduced chance of a protein deficiency in your horse. The more stalk in the hay, the higher the fiber and the lower the available protein. Therefore, if your pasture and hay is of poor quality and your pasture and hay is limited in quantity, your horse is probably not getting enough good quality protein. They ingest enough protein to live, but not live well enough to become athletes.

The simple solution is to add good quality protein to your horse’s diet.

Proteins in mammals don’t last long. The average life span of a protein is about 1 to 2 days. They degrade into parts and are recycled or are destroyed and excreted. They can live for a while, such as through the winter, without consuming good quality protein but at some point, they need to replenish what has been lost. Otherwise a chronic deficiency will occur which is the main thrust of my message here.

Horses in the wild consume a lot of good quality, live forage with good quality protein in the natural habitat during seasons when it is available. When winter comes and forage becomes dead or scarce or covered by snow then the recycled proteins are used. It holds them over until the spring grass returns. The protein shortage in the wild has a backup plan that gets them through tough times until good protein can return to the diet.

In my experience with horses kept by humans, they usually don’t have access to a lot of pasture. Worse, access to good quality hay is limited by many factors including age of the hay, the way it was harvested, and the distance from the source. In fact, most barns have poor quality hay and it gets worse in the spring just before the new harvest is cut. If the horse can’t get access to good quality sources of protein year after of year, then your horse could be suffering from a chronic protein deficiency, specifically a deficiency in the proteins requiring the EAAs.

It is a chronic deficiency because I have been with horses since 1973 and today I see more horses having so many medical issues that did not occur 40 plus years ago. Lame horses are at an epidemic level now followed by skin issues and pituitary dysfunction. While vets now have tests and diagnostic equipment for these issues, no one is looking deeply for an answer to why they are occurring in the first place. Only superficial answers are given such as the intense show schedule, poor footing, genetics of today’s horses, poor training, etc. While all of these have a factor, I still believe there is a deeper underlying cause for all of it.

If the body is constantly breaking down protein just from the process of living (called entropy), it needs the building materials to repair itself. Add to entropy the additional wear and tear from movement and work such as jumping, galloping, collection, explosive starts and stops, endurance, and more. Where are the building blocks for repairing bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles? Where are the proteins necessary for hormone and receptor creation, immune system charging, systems processing, and more? Proteins are essential for everything in you and your horse’s lives and if you don’t get enough protein and their EAAs and the reserves are used up, my hypothesis is that the horse will become sick, lame or both.

Another analogy may help explain this. If I delivered to you all the lumber you need to build a house, what house would you be able to build if I didn’t supply the nails? In essence, every horse being used for work or sport is stressing the muscles and other connective tissue in the process. To build this stronger structure is called conditioning the horse but requires the horse to have the materials to repair and strengthen the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. This material requires all the amino acids and especially the EAAs.

My solution is simple and I would love to get everyone to start and then record their results. Add good quality protein to the horse’s daily intake, record all your observations, and be patient. Adding protein will require between 4 and 6 months to see the beginning results with maximum results in a year. You are basically rebuilding every cell in your horse’s body. And by supplying the necessary building blocks in the EAAs, then everything will be repaired and strengthened.

An interesting fact here is that one bacteria cell has about 2 million proteins. A human has about 1 to 3 BILLION proteins in EACH CELL. A protein in a yeast cell is made of about 466 amino acids but some muscle proteins in humans are called titan proteins because they are made of almost 27,000 amino acids EACH. Next to water, proteins are the most abundant molecule in the body. Are you starting to see the enormity of the situation?

Is my horse consuming enough good quality protein?

The best indicator of good quality protein consumption is the top line because this is made of muscle only, which is almost all protein. There should be enough muscle on both sides of the spine to fill in the hollow otherwise seen in a poor top line. The Nutrena® company has created a “Top Line Score” – TLS. The back is divided into 4 sections and labeled with the letters A, B, C and D. It is interesting to note that the loss of top line in a horse always starts at the withers and progresses towards the croup (hips). Conversely, the withers is the last area to be filled in after increasing protein consumption.

The TLS goes like this –
A – all the top line is filled with muscle.
B – All the top line is filled with muscle except for the withers.
C – The croup and loin is filled with muscle but the saddle area and withers are not.
D – Only the area over the hips has muscle and the rest of the top line is absent.

Old horses often have a TLS of D with or without a sway back that I believe is predominately a chronic deficiency in protein. I am suspicious of the painful condition of kissing spine as a sequela of a poor and weak top line due to chronic protein deficiency and collapse of the spine tips upon one another.

The Body Condition Score – BCS – was created to judge the fat on horses. BCS 1 is a walking skeleton and BCS 9 is fat enough to float in water. A BCS of 5 is ideal but is not descriptive enough. For example, if a pasture horse has a BCS of 5 and a TLS of C, the owner would be told by others that the horse is underfed and encouraged to add weight. But a race horse with a BCS of 5 AND a TLS of A would be called an athlete just like our human counterparts.

Most trainers exercise the horse to improve the TLS but think again of the barn building analogy. The lumber is there (the horse) and there are plenty of carpenters ready to pound nails and build the barn (a training or conditioning system). But without the nails (EAAs), no barn is built (the horse breaks down).

If excessive poor quality protein (without the EAAs) is consumed, then the production of required protein in the body is curtailed. However, the protein not used in the diet is then consumed for energy creating urea, a byproduct from the nitrogen in all the amino acids. If you smell ammonia in the urine, it is because your horse is consuming excessive amounts of poor quality protein, is inadequately making the proteins necessary for body maintenance and growth, has a poor hair coat and hoof, has a poor TLS, may be lame, may have skin conditions or is unthrifty and the urine and barn smell like ammonia.

Where do horses get good quality protein and what exactly should they be eating?

Horses in the wild consume a variety of forage (grass, leaves, and other vegetation) and they consume it throughout the day. This is not the case with horses in captivity on poor or little pasture and suspect quality hay. With this in mind, I want to go deeper into the discussion of amino acids because there is more to understand before you can help your horses. Stay with me.

I said that there are about 10 EAAs but you might say, so what? Horses in the wild must get them so why not just turn them out in a big field? You might also say that your horses basically look good and are performing well enough. In essence, you would be right – for most horses. Because of the sub-clinical effect of chronic protein deficiency, you often won’t see its effect until it is too late (lameness) or the horse ages and the top line is lost. Because this deficiency is possible in most horses fed by humans, it is necessary to learn about the 3 “Limiting Amino Acids” (LAAs).

The LAAs are the EAAs that are found in limited supplies in nature. They are lysine, methionine and threonine. Looking at the 3 limiting EAAs and what they do in the horse will help you understand why it is important to give enough of a high quality protein to your horses every day.

  • Lysine – promotes bone growth in foals and maintenance of the connective tissue (bones, joints, tendons, ligaments, etc.) in mature horses. A deficiency may cause a variety of developmental orthopedic diseases in the legs of young horses and in adults may cause the breakdown of suspensory ligaments, tendons, joints and other structural components.
  • Methionine – growth and maintenance of hair coat and hoof structures. A deficiency often causes a poor hair coat and poor hoof quality (cracks, crumbles). See more below.
  • Threonine – overall growth, muscle mass maintenance, production of adrenaline and other important hormones. A deficiency often causes poor body condition, a poor TLS and lack of energy.

You might recognize methionine because it is often added to hoof supplement such as biotin. It is one of 2 EAAs that have sulfur in it. Sulfur has the ability to attach to the sulfur of another amino acid with a sulfur molecule and this is called a disulfide bond. This bond causes the amino acid to fold upon itself and become structurally stronger.

Now that I told you this, let me say that methionine doesn’t create disulfide bonds. Confusing, I know; however, methionine is converted into cysteine that is converted into cystine that not only has strengthening disulfide bonds, but makes up about 24% of the protein in the hoof. Without methionine, cystine cannot be made. It is considered by some that the inflammation in the laminae (laminitis) causes the breakdown of the disulfide bonds which causes the coffin bone to separate from the hoof wall. Another hypothesis would suggest that providing enough protein, specifically methionine, would help prevent laminitis as well as hoof cracks and poor hoof quality. This is why methionine is added to hoof supplements. However, to be effective, there must be enough of all the EAA to create, maintain and repair all the proteins of the hoof. Remember that while 24% of keratin is cystine, the remaining 76% is still protein. However, with a deficiency in the limiting amino acid methionine in the natural diet, and subsequent deficiency in cystine available with their disulfide bonds PLUS the deficiency in other EAAs, the hoof will struggle to maintain itself against the rigors of shoeing and training.

If your horse is prone to laminitis or has poor quality hooves, it may be valuable to add a good quality protein source. While I can see no downside, it must be remembered that it takes a year to grow a new hoof so adding protein won’t fix a deficiency right away. But the sooner you start, the better off the horse will be.

Lysine is critical for almost every protein in the horse (and you) because it helps to make the other proteins available for use. Without lysine, the remaining amino acids and proteins just aren’t as abundant to do their jobs. Lysine is the number 1 limiting EAA and it is often not available in large enough quantities in grass and hay. Lysine is the FIRST key to unlocking protein efficiency and supplementation and is essential for horses kept in our care today.

What protein should I feed and how much?

The simple answer is from ½ to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight depending on the needs of the horse.

Let’s do some math. If you are feeding a pound of grain with 10% crude protein in it then how much protein is your horse getting? 1 pound = 454 grams. 10% of 454g is 45.4g of protein. Because this is crude protein, we need to determine the true protein source. If it is alfalfa meal, oat hulls, and other assorted vegetable protein sources (read: “by-products”), then we need to divide 45.4 by 2 (50% availability) which equals about 23g. Even with this knowledge, if you can’t determine exactly what amino acids are in this, then this 23g could be deficient in the LAAs and other EAAs.

Your 1000 pound horse is also consuming protein in the hay and pasture, but how much and of what quality? If a horse eats about ½ of a 40 pound bale of grass hay a day, then he is consuming 20 pounds or 9080g. Good quality grass hay has about 10% to 16% crude protein – let’s use 16%. 16% of 9080g is 1453g. Now crude protein needs to be digested and the biological value of grass hay is about 50%, so half of 1453g is about 725g. If the goal is to consume 0.5g to 1g of protein per pound of horse per day (500g to 1000g per 1000 pound horse), then you are right in the middle at 725g from hay plus 23g from the pound of grain (748g).

But are you really? Remember the 3 limiting EAAs that are often missing in a natural diet? Add to this that you are using your horse for athletic purposes requiring conditioning that is building connective tissue? Then is 748g of suspect quality protein enough? In my mind, every horse needs to have added to this diet an additional source of good quality protein that is found in soy beans and whey because they add the missing EAAs, and specifically the LAAs.

Continuing with this horse, let’s increase his requirement to 1g of protein per pound so we want 1000g of protein. He is about 250g shy which can be achieved by adding 266g (0.59 pound) of whey protein (94% absorbed). You will need 312g (0.69 pounds) of soy bean meal at 80% availability to also achieve this goal. From this additional protein you should have enough EAAs and LAAs to prevent the consumption of fed protein for energy (urea production) and to build the proteins necessary to prevent the problems of chronic protein deficiency.

There are several commercial products containing soy or whey in combination with minerals, vitamins and a carrier base. Be careful of the carrier base as it is often corn though in most horses this small amount won’t be a problem. When I started working with horses in the early 1970s, we had a bag of straight soy bean meal which we added a scoop (I can’t remember how big but maybe a quarter cup) once a day. Now I recommend either Manna Pro’s Calf Manna with corn or Nutrena’s ProAdd Ultimate without corn. There are others but beware of protein products that have “various vegetable proteins” as a source combined with soy bean oil (may be inflammatory), corn (inflammatory) and molasses (unnecessary and inflammatory).

Summary

First of all, I am not affiliated with any company nor do I sell any supplements or protein products. I only want to create a conversation and develop thoughts that will inspire you to think and start making better decisions in keeping your horses.

Second, if your horse has any health issues, especially kidney problems, then consult with your veterinarian first.

My recommendation is to 1) stop feeding sugar (grain and all supplements, including treats, carrots, sugar cubes, apples, etc.), 2) increase grass and good quality hay consumption, and 3) add from 0.25 to 0.75 pounds of whey, soy, or a whey/soy combo protein with vitamins and minerals to the daily intake for your horses. Of course have unlimited access to water and pure salt (rock salt or Himalayan). Further, I highly recommend starting a diary to record every possible observation and commit to this diet and chart for a year. If you feel capable, after a year write a summary of your observations and send it to me with permission to post and help me get the message out.

Remember, if you don’t like the results you are getting, you can always return to your original diet. No harm done.

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