Archive for the ‘Horse’ Category

Seasonal Diet Changes for Horses

Tuesday, November 8th, 2022

Seasonal Diet Changes for HorsesSeasonal Diet Changes for Horses: Pasture quality fluctuates with every season, but the shift in quality from summer to fall is significant.

During the fall, there are often warm, sunny days and cool nights. Pasture plants manufacture sugars in the presence of water, carbon dioxide and sunshine. They then use those sugars to fuel growth during the night. However, when nighttime temperatures drop in the autumn, it becomes too chilly for plants to grow and the sugars are stored for later use.  This leads to a concentration of stored sugars in the plants. In turn, it may increase the risk of digestive upset or laminitis in some horses.

Horses at most risk are those that are significantly overweight or those that have trouble managing normal blood sugar levels and are sensitive to sugar content in the diet.

Changing seasons also mean drastic swings in weather conditions and temperatures.  This, combined with a major diet adjustment of moving from pasture to hay, can increase the chance of digestive disturbances.

While not scientifically proven, many horse owners and veterinarians have experienced what appears to be an association between changes in barometric pressure and the incidence of colic episodes in horses. A dramatic drop in temperature often causes horses to drink less water. At the same time, horse owners will often increase the amount of hay fed to help horses stay warm.  More hay and less water consumption together may lead to impaction colic.

Hay:

As we move into fall and winter, hay becomes the major forage source for many horses.  Switching from pasture to hay or getting a new supply of hay represents as big a change to the horse as a change in grain. These significant dietary adjustments should ideally be made gradually to decrease the risk of digestive upset.

Horses should be fed good-quality hay to maximize nutrition and minimize potential digestive problems. Good-quality hay, of any variety, will be clean and have a high leaf-to-stem ratio, small-diameter stems. In addition, few seed heads or blooms, a fresh smell and appearance, and a bright color (faded, yellow or brown color may indicate aged hay or poor storage conditions). The maturity of the plant at harvest determines the hay quality more than any other factor. Young, leafy, immature plants contain more protein, energy, and minerals than older plants with thicker stems.  Also, as a plant matures, it contains more indigestible fiber (lignin). This reduces nutrient availability. Lower-quality hay must be supplemented with higher-quality feed to maintain horses’ good condition and health.

Fall is a season of transition and an important time to evaluate the quality of forage available for your horse and whether the grain ration is appropriate and adequate to meet your horse’s nutrient requirements. When winter arrives, horses must be in good condition to be able to withstand colder temperatures. Adjusting grain rations in the early fall will prevent weight loss due to lower-quality forage and, if horses need to gain weight, there is still time for a thinner horse to gain some before the cold weather really sets in.

For help dealing with Seasonal Diet Changes for Horses, visit Kissimmee Valley Feed!

Fall Maintenance for Healthy Winter Horses

Monday, October 31st, 2022

For example, here are some steps to take around the barn:

  • Stock up on quality hay and store it in a dry place
  • Outdoor hoses and water lines need to be drained or winterized
  • Installed and check water tank heaters
  • Fences and gates should be repaired, and high-traffic areas might need to be rebuilt or topped off to help manage mud in the coming months
  • Move all medications, chemicals, and other liquids to a frost-proof area
  • Give all barn areas a thorough cleaning
  • Check over winter blankets and make any needed repairs or replacements
  • Clean and store any sheets, flymasks, or tack that won’t be used
  • Have your horse trailer serviced and park it out of the way

In conclusion, Kissimmee Valley Feed has a wonderful selection of horse hay, feeds and supplements to keep them at their best, no matter the season.

Article Source: Fall Maintenance for Healthy Winter Horses from Kentucky Equine Research

July 4th Pet Safety Tips

Thursday, June 23rd, 2022

Follow these July 4th Pet Safety Tips for a safe and successful holiday celebration. Did you know that more pets go missing over the Fourth of July weekend than any other time of the year?

 July 4th Pet Safety Tips

Cats

  • Keep your cat indoors.
    Close all windows and curtains and switch on music or the television to drown out the noise.
  • Leave your cat to take refuge in a corner if it wishes. Do not try to tempt it out as this could cause more stress.
  • Microchip your cat. Ensure it can be returned to you.

Dogs

  • Exercise your dog during the day.
  • Never walk your dog during fireworks.
  • Keep your dog indoors, close the curtains and play music to drown out the noise.
  • Let your dog hide if it wants to take refuge under furniture or in a corner.
  • Make sure your dog is wearing a collar and tag and is microchipped. In addition, they are wearing identification tags in case it bolts and becomes lost.
  • Keep dogs leashed if you take them outside the home.
  • Use caution when in or around crowds or people your dog doesn’t know
  • Remember, dogs get very excited during horseplay in and out of the water and have a tendency to bite when excited.
  • Use caution when picnicking and barbecuing. Many small children are bitten while walking around with food in their hands.
  • Protect your dog from other dogs that may be loose, keep them at a distance, many bites occur while animal owners are trying to break up a dog fight.
  • If it is hot, give your pet lots of water – indoors or out
  • Never leave your dog locked in cars – the hot summer sun can raise temperatures to 120 degrees inside your car, even with windows rolled down.
  • Prevent sunburns – keep four-legged friends out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., peak skin damaging hours. Otherwise rub sunblock on unprotected areas such as the skin around lips and tips of noses and ears, especially on fair-colored pets.
  • Provide plenty of shelter. Do not leave animals alone outside on hot days, even in the shade. Shade moves throughout the day. Keep pets under a cool shelter or inside during peak hours when possible.
  • Watch out for heatstroke – symptoms of pet heatstroke include panting, staring, high fever, rapid heartbeat, vomiting, collapse, and disobedience, among others. Call a veterinarian immediately. Apply water-soaked towels to hairless areas of the animal’s body to lower its temperature.
  • If you go hiking, pack supplies for your dog as you would for yourself on long hikes – bring extra food and water for your dog on long walks as well as an emergency first aid kit.
  • Keep your pets on their normal diet. Any change, even for one meal, can give your pet severe indigestion and diarrhea.
  • Use caution with open flames and fireworks as pets may be burned or could chase the fireworks and become injured.
  • A simple plug-in diffuser that dispenses a dog appeasing pheromone into the room is available at some veterinary practices.
  • Vets prescribe sedatives.
  • Never leave alcoholic drinks unattended where pets can reach them.
  • Do not put glow jewelry on your pets, or allow them to play with it.

Small animals

  • Small animals – such as rabbits and guinea pigs – living outside should not be forgotten. They can also become very stressed by the loud noise. Bring small animals indoors or into an outhouse or garden shed to give them extra protection
  • Where the hutch must remain outside cover it in an old thick blanket. This will block out a lot of the light and sound.
  • Whether indoors or outdoors ensure your pets have plenty of extra bedding material to hide in and feel more secure.

Horses

  • Play the radio for them three days BEFORE firework night. Leave the radio on to distract them on the night itself.
  • If you have stable lights, leave them on and they’ll make the firework flashes less extreme.
  • Don’t even think of riding out – yes, people do!
  • If you leave them out, check fences and gates first. Then keep out of the way and just watch from a distance.
  • Try putting cotton wool balls in your horse’s ears but again practice in advance. It’s no good waiting until the bangs start to decide to give it a try.
  • If you do stable your horse, arrange for him/her to be brought in before the end of the school day when bangs are likely to start. You don’t want to be leading when they get a fright.
  • Make sure they have plenty of hay to keep them occupied.
  • If you can keep calm during the bangs and flashes then hang around the stables or go regularly to check them. If you’re likely to be scared/angry, etc yourself, be in the immediate area by all means but keep away from the horses or you’ll only make them worse.
  • DON’T go in the stable with a horse once the fireworks start. I don’t care how calm they seem to be – it just takes an instant for them to change from your cuddly horse to a wild animal that has reverted to survival mode.
  • Never light fireworks near barns or fields, as it is an extreme fire hazard. Fireworks frighten horses. They’ll sometimes run through fences and become lost or injured. They can also injure people when they are startled by the lights and noise.

We hope these July 4th Pet Safety Tips are helpful! Please visit Kissimmee Valley Feed for all your pet needs.

Springtime Weight Gain in Horses

Friday, March 11th, 2022

Horses in SpringtimeSpringtime Weight Gain in Horses: Winter can be hard on horses. When spring arrives, it is not unusual to find that a horse has dropped weight during the coldest months. When the mercury drops, a horse requires more energy to maintain body temperature. Winter is especially challenging for senior horses and young horses, who have a harder time maintaining body temperature. A sound nutrition program and suitable exercise can help remedy loss of condition as winter turns to spring.

Cold increases energy needs:

Horses have an estimated lower critical temperature (LCT) between 30-50○ F (-17-10○ C), depending on general body condition and thickness of haircoat. If the temperature falls below the LCT, a horse needs to burn energy to keep warm. For every 10○ F (5.5○ C) the temperature drops below LCT, a horse needs an estimated additional 2,000 kilocalories (kcal) to maintain body temperature. Often, this can be achieved with an extra 3 lb (1.4 kg) of hay.

“Hay is the best option for helping a horse create its own warmth,” said Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research. “Hay is fermented in a part of the hindgut called the cecum. Because internal heat is a byproduct of fermentation, consuming and processing hay keeps a horse warm.”

However, when rain and wind become factors, increases in energy needs can quickly escalate beyond what can be satisfied by hay alone, Crandell explained. In this case, concentrates and fat supplements are valuable in supplying calories. In regard to fat supplements, for example, one-half cup (4 oz or 120 ml) of vegetable oil provides approximately 2,000 kcal.

Body condition as a tool for weight management:

Assessing body condition year-round is the best management tool to identify changes in weight. The most familiar body condition scoring system features a scale from 1 to 9 that gauges fat cover and distribution. A score of 1 or 2 denotes an emaciated horse (veterinary intervention may be necessary), 3 or 4 is thin, 5 or 6 is ideal, and 7, 8, or 9 is overweight or obese.

Keeping track of weight, as well as body condition, is also important. A weight tape, placed around the horse’s barrel, directly behind the shoulders as the horse stands square, is an excellent tool for estimating weight and monitoring change. Measuring is important, as horse owners often notice changes in a measurement before noticing weight fluctuations visually. Weigh at a regular time every four to six weeks. For example, the first day of every month or each time the horse is visited by the farrier. Keep a log to track weight, pinpoint fluctuations, and adjust the diet accordingly.

If a horse is thin after winter, it is important to ask why. Is it related to a health problem (teeth, soundness, pain)? Is the horse stressed in some way (evolving herd dynamics, limited feeding stations)? Have your veterinarian conduct a wellness exam at least once per year. Take stock of the horse’s environment and behavior. What changed, if anything?

Concocting diets for weight gain:

Simply put, to gain weight a horse needs to consume more calories than it burns. Weight gain should be slow and controlled. Avoid rapid weight gain. Forage alone may not have enough calories for significant weight gain. Concentrates and fat supplements can help in these situations. To achieve an increase of one body condition score (e.g., from a 3 to 4), the average 1,100-lb (500-kg) adult horse needs to gain 44-50 lb (20-23 kg). That gain can take 30-60 days. Be patient. The amount of increased feed in the diet will depend on the individual horse, overall health, and activity level. Slowly make changes and increases in feed intake. Offering several small meals of grain is preferable to one or two larger meals.

Do not underestimate the caloric value of pasture. “Horses on pasture may benefit from the increase in calories with the improved quality of the spring grasses,” noted Crandell. “Fresh spring grass is high in digestible fiber, from which the horse can derive lots of energy.”

Forage should make up no less than 50% of the horse’s diet and ideally more (70-100%, depending on the horse’s needs). For horses with dental concerns that may not be able to chew hay properly, forage substitutes like soaked hay cubes, chopped forage, and soaked beet pulp often work well.

A high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet is recommended for horses with metabolic concerns. For example, horses with Cushing’s syndrome or metabolic syndrome, that also need to gain weight. Limit pasture grazing with a grazing muzzle or drylot turnout. Hay can be soaked to reduce dietary carbohydrates as well. “A combination of soaked hay, a high-fat, low-carbohydrate concentrate, and a fat supplement, if added calories are needed, often suits these horses well,” Crandell recommended.

Resources:

In conclusion, do you have questions about Springtime Weight Gain in Horses? Visit us at Kissimmee Valley Feed and check out our horse feeds!

Article Sources: Kentucky Equine Research

Watch Out For Toxic Plants in Hays, Pastures

Monday, March 7th, 2022

Watch Out For Toxic Plants in Hays, PasturesWatch Out For Toxic Plants in Hays, Pastures: Aren’t horses smart enough to know what they can and cannot eat?

Generally speaking, it is true that horses will usually avoid ingesting harmful plants or other toxins when offered high-quality forage options. But as highlighted in an article* by veterinarians from the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Oklahoma State University, horses can—and often do—consume plants they shouldn’t.

As reviewed in this article, horses were offered Bermuda grass hay that was later found to contain large quantities of mature caley pea (Lathyrus hirsutus). In that case, 22 out of 25 young horses developed signs of intoxication. Signs included incoordination, lethargy, and changes in gait.

“There are a great many toxins that can sneak into bales of legumes and grasses, which highlights the importance of routinely inspecting your horse’s hay for more than just dust and mold,” relays Bryan M. Waldridge, D.V.M., head veterinarian for Kentucky Equine Research.

In addition to classic examples of endophyte-infested tall fescue and blister beetles in alfalfa, owners should familiarize themselves with other toxins in their area. Pastures and paddocks also need to be monitored for toxic plants. For example, trees (e.g., maple, black walnut) and ornamentals (e.g., oleander, foxglove, tulips, daylilies, hydrangea, morning glory, iris, daffodil, etc.).

Toxic Plants in your Area:

For information on toxic plants in your area, seek the assistance of an equine extension specialist or plant pathologist. Plant descriptions and photos are available online. We found an article outlining some of the toxic plants present in Florida here.

Do you have questions about Toxic Plants in Hays, Pastures? Swing by Kissimmee Valley Feed! We are equipped with knowledgeable staff and supplies.

Article Sources: Kentucky Equine Research

*Holbrook, T.C., L.L. Gilliam, F.P. Stein, et al. Lathyrus hirsutus (caley pea) intoxication in a herd of horses. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. In press.

 

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