Friday, 22 March 2013

Hooves and humans

It was a busy day yesterday with Vasaloppet for the children and that altered the writing schedule for me, but with that done, I can say that now it's finally spring!

Last spring a new horse came to my farm and she forced me to pay attention further down her legs to the hooves or more accurately to her feet. I have a good friend who dived into Jamie Jackson and Pete Ramey's wild horse model and one that focused on Applied Equine Podiatry (AEP). During the summer last year, I talked to both and juggled my thoughts about the new horse's hooves with them. For it soon became apparent that the traditional blacksmith could not come up with any solution that seemed sensible - or if I'll be completely honest, the farrier I contacted with a veterinarian referral was quote "so tired that he went home instead" end quote. After a response like that, it felt like I myself is my own best farmhand although I actually had big gaps in my knowledge.

At first I thought that my two friends had a similar vision of what was needed in terms of trimming, support and stimuli of the feet. I read about both their perspective and tried to insert my own horse's troubles in each framework. We struggeled on the horse and I, and although it was in small steps we progressed.

In September last year, the opportunity to immerse myselves in AEP came and I took it. After that I realized that what on the surface may seem alike can differ tremendously when you go in depth. AEP is a method of hoof care based on universal scientific principles that apply regardless of whether it's hooves, bow and arrow or cars being discussed. Wild Horse model is based on studies of wild horses in their respective environments such as Mustangs in the U.S. or Brumbies in Australia but it is not based on studies of domestic horses and their living conditions.

In Sweden there was a veterinarian who made headlines when he, in an article in an Equestrian Magazine, pointed out the area that created the most problems for horses in general. Can you guess where he was pointing?
In a place just behind the withers above the horse's back - man in the form of a rider.

When the horse went from being a prey animal to become a domestic animal the price it had to pay for food and protection was their lives and health. We have used them in war, to ride on long and arduous hardship and we have shaped them into different breeds to enhance properties that have been beneficial to us.

When farriery developed into the profession it is today, it was in response to the increased demands on the horse as transportation vehicles, a vehicle that would work more in one day and on surfaces that were more "hoof unfriendly" in the form of rough dirt roads, cobblestone, wet clay and so on. Horse managment changed, horses were more tied up in stalls with the consequence that they often stood in wet beds instead of roaming freely in pasture. The science was under construction, industrialization was still in its infancy. What they knew was static, ie load during quiet standing, pull, push and levers.

The farriery met the requirements that were on a hoof of a horse standing still. When the horses were predominantly started being shod long periods of the year, problems arose with ossification, white line disease etc. Everyone knew that it was because of the shoes, but they were seen as a necessary evil and a price you had to be willing to pay.

With industrialization came cars and the development of them brought dynamics, kinetic and now we have developed tools that enable accurate measurements of things that were previously hidden to the human eye.

The results of the scientific development is taken into consideration by AEP when the theory of the hoof and the horse's feet were designed. With the model that constitutes the AEP's basis for the work with horses' hooves and feet  I lcan earn to read a hoof at any time, wild or tame, and see if it is healthy or have defects in the structures. It's like a new world opening up!

Join course and get a new relationship with your horse's hooves!

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Winter can be a challenge to horse health

Winter is a time that can lead to an increased risk of colic. Colic is a general term for gastro-intestinal problems in horses and in a previous post, you can take a look at the horse's digestive system.

The increased risk of gastrointestinal problems comes from the quality of forage, feeding routines, including the way the horse is served water, and how much the horse moves.

A horse needs to eat 2.5 -3% of their body weight of dry matter ie fiber to keep the digestion working. Feeding routines are very important for the horses wellbeing. A horse has a need to chew, in the wild the horse eats around 14-18 a day. It is noticed that time spent to eat is slightly longer in the winter and it is explained by the fact that horses stay warm through the fermentation that occurs in the colon and therefor they need to eat and chew more. Horses do not keep warm by moving, if they have no reason to move (read: food or water) they are most likely to stand still. As in us humans movement promote intestinal activity and being still increases the risk of constipation.
One way to extend eating time is to feed the forage in hay net placed in various places in the paddock. This increases the time spent eating and chewing as well as movement. To fed the horses in the pasture with hay you have to spread it out in several small piles with a distance between the piles. It gives a slight increase in the time spent eating and when the hay is eaten the horses tend to wander around and look for any left overs. Giving all the hay in one or two large piles allows horses to eat faster and then they stand still and wait for the next feed.
A number of hay net or piles of hay makes the stress connected to feeding decreases. Horses with lower rank is chased by those with a higher rank, if there are plenty of net/piles to eat from the low ranked horse gets a chance to eat in peace.
Water is often a concern in the winter. Horses prefer luke warm water and in the winter it can be difficult to keep water ice-free and with a comfortable drinking temperature. Although the temperature is not perspiring in the winter, training with winter coat and drier feed increase the need for water. Nowadays, there are heated water troughs that will keep the water from freezing and warmer than ice cold. (You can get ideas of how to make those water troughs yourself on the internet.) Even in the winter you need to clean the water troughs, bacterias grow in luke warm water.  If you have many horses in the pasture you should have a couple of water troughs in order to ensure that even the low ranked individuals are getting enough water.
The access to food and water can affect both the horse's abdomen and the risk of injuries among horses. If horses gets stressed by shortage of food and water it increases the risk of conflict, if the horses are shod, they also have studs, and studs can cause major damage.
The origins of this post is a tragic loss that a friend of mine experienced when a gastrointestinal disorder were treated as constipation instead of a colon inflammation.
If you live in a horse-dense area, you may have access to veterinarians who are expert on horses but here where I live, most veterinarians have a general skills and their horse knowledge varies. This means that there is a standard procedure in gastrointestinal disorders in horses, giving paraffin and water to dissolve any constipation.
As a horse owners you need to do careful observations if the horse is showing signs of pain in the abdominal region. What about the horses droppings? When was the last time he defecated? How does it look? How does it smell?
If the horse does not defecate and have almost non-existent bowel sounds, it is most likely a form of constipation colic. But if the horse feces gets looser and looser and smell sour and acidic, it is an indication that there is a disturbance in the fermentation in the colon and then a treatment with praffin and water is akin to extinguish fire with gasoline.
Diarrhea is a sign of an ongoing faulty fermentation in the colon, the horse's natural bacterial flora is eliminated and it may be due to mold in roughage killing intestinal bacteria (penicillin is a mold). The faulty fermentation in turn leads to acidosis, a toxic condition and an increase of gases in the colon. The toxins formed in the colon, is transported via the blood into the body and may for example lead to laminitis. The gas that is formed in the colon can cause the colon to swell and actually prevent the diaphragm to move enough and thereby render in breathing difficulties.
If your horse have diarrhea, you should see it as a serious condition! One way to try to help the horse through the crisis is to give it analgesic and antispasmodic. In human health care any form of laxatives is prohibited unless you are absolutely sure it is an issue of constipation, instead you give fluid with electrolytes that will help to buffer against toxic substances in the intestines. That may be applied to horses and to aid the horse's intestinal bacterias you can give 0.5 kg normal yeast solved in water.
Now this winter is coming to an end but it'll return. Do what you can to prepare for the next winter. Buy forage of good quality, adjust your feeding routines and plan for a good solution for the supplie of water.