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Common Horse Ailments: Colic

Considered to be the most deadly of conditions that can affect horses, colic is believed to affect around ten percent of horses within their lifetime. 

What is Colic?

Colic is a stomach ailment that may be caused from a variety of different factors, including intestinal impaction, sand ingestion, parasite infection, overeating grain and even just gas. 

How is Colic Treated and Prevented?

In some cases, colic cannot be prevented. In order to reduce the risk of your horse developing colic, however, you can take several steps. These include ensuring that water is always available to your horse, turning your horse out to pasture as frequently as possible and keeping your horse’s teeth floated. You should also avoid feeding hay on sandy ground and you should not feed grain to your horse unless it needs the extra energy. If you are going to make changes to your horse’s diet, you should make those changes gradually and you should also have a good insect control program in place. 

If you suspect that your horse has colic, you should contact your vet immediately and you should not allow your horse to eat or drink until after the vet has said it is okay. The treatment plan for colic will depend on the cause of the condition and can range from using medication to undergoing surgery.

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Common Horse Ailments: Streptococcus Equi

Many conditions can negatively affect the health of your horse. One of these conditions is streptococcus equi, which is also known as strangles. 

What is Strangles?

Strangles is a type of bacterial infection that affects the lymph nodes in a horse’s throat. With this condition, the infected nodes may actually burst. When this happens, the nodes release puss that then drains into the horse’s nose and beneath the jaw. The resulting swelling can lead to choking, hence the name of “strangles.”

How is Streptococcus Equi Treated and Prevented?

Streptococcus equ is easily transmitted between horses and the bacteria can live outside of the body for many days in the barn and on tack. Therefore, good hygiene is essential to prevent the spread of the bacteria. Horses also should not share the same water source or tack. Vaccinations are also available to help prevent the disease, but the vaccine does have adverse effects that may make it undesirable.

Treatment of the condition involves removing the puss from the lymph glands with a scope and then treating the area with a topical antibiotic. Anti-inflammatory medication may also be prescribed to help reduce fever and make your horse feel healthy enough to eat properly.

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Common Horse Ailments: Equine Herpesvirus

Properly caring for your horse means knowing about various ailments that may affect it. In this first of an ongoing series, we will take a closer look at some common ailments and the signs to look for, with the first condition being the equine herpesviruses.

What are Equine Herpesviruses?

There are several varieties of equine herpesvirus, with equine herpesvirus-4 being the most common equine virus in the world. The condition typically causes respiratory ailments and, on occasion, neurologic disorders. Equine herpesvirus-1 is also common and can lead to the same types of health conditions. Both strains are most commonly found in yearlings and weanlings. It is believed that older horses may be carriers without showing signs or symptoms. 

How is Equine Herpesvirus Treated and Prevented?

Prevention of equine herpesvirus includes vaccination, the use of hand sanitizers and the use of isolation when dealing with infected horses, and disinfecting common areas shared by your horses. You also should not share tack. 

If your horse becomes infected with equine herpesvirus, it will need to take medication to reduce the symptoms and antibiotics to prevent a secondary infection. If neurological deficits develop, a sling may be needed to keep the horse upright. In extreme situations, food and water may need to be given intravenously. 

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Understanding the Age of Your Horse

Have you ever wondered how old your horse is in human years?

While there is no perfect method for matching horse years to human years, it is important to note that horses do age at a different rate than humans. And, while you can’t directly correlate your horse’s age to that of a human, having an idea of where your horse falls within the various stages of aging will help you to better determine the proper care for your horse. 

When considering the stage of aging in which your horse is in, there are a number of factors that play a role. These include your horse’s genetics, overall health, size and basic care that it has received. In addition, while a pony may mature faster than a larger horse, it may also live longer. 

If your horse is under one year of age, there is no real comparison to human age.

While a human infant may take more than a year to learn to walk, for example, a horse will generally begin to start walking within one hour of being born. In addition, whereas a human baby may start to eat solids at around six months of age, a baby horse may begin to nibble on grass within a few days of being born. Overall, horses that are about one year of age may typically be more equivalent to a human child who is about six-years-old.

By the time your horse if five years old, it likely will have reached full physical maturity, making it comparable to a human adult. By the age of 13, your horse may be considered to be middle age. Just 7 years later, it may be considered to be a senior horse. If it makes it to 30 years old, that is considered to be extreme old age. 

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Tips for Feeding Hay to Your Horse

Nearly everyone is aware that horses eat hay, but what else do you know about horses and their need to eat hay?

How much is the right amount of hay? And how is it properly fed to your horse to keep it healthy and happy?

Determining How Much to Feed

Determining how much hay to feed your horse depends on its weight. Most experts agree that a full grown horse should eat between 12 to 15 pounds of hay each day, which amounts to about 1.5 to 3 percent of its body weight if the horse weighs around 1000 pounds. Of course, this is a very rough average and your horse may require more or less than this amount depending on its workload, the time of the year, its health, its metabolism and whatever else it may be eating. 

How to Feed Hay to Your Horse

To feed hay to your horse, you should offer small amounts frequently throughout the day. In this way, the feeding will more closely match the natural grazing habits of your horse. In doing so, you will be offering the healthiest option for your horse’s body as well as for its mental health. Furthermore, if you try to feed your horse the full day’s allotment all at one time, it will likely eat only the best parts and will leave behind the parts that it finds to be the least tasty, which will be a waste of valuable hay. If your horse is able to self-regulate, however, it may be possible to simply leave the hay out all day for your horse to graze upon it whenever it desires. 

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Keep Your Horse Happy with Companionship

A horse without a companion can be a very unhappy horse.

As herd animals, horses typically feel safer when they have more of their own kind to live with and to interact with on a daily basis. In the wild, for example, horses tend to live in small herds with an actual social ladder where every horse has a place within the herd. If you have only one horse and you have noticed that it is chewing on wood, walking the stalls or engaging in other abnormal repetitive behaviors, it may be a sign that you need to find a companion. 

If you cannot afford to buy another horse to be a companion to your horse, you may want to consider the following options: 

  • Offer Boarding: If you have the space and time to take care of another horse, you may want to consider offering boarding. Not only is this a great way to give your horse a companion, but it can also help you to generate a little extra income too! Just be sure to choose carefully and to ensure that the two horses will get along. 
  • Get a Companion Horse: You may be able to obtain a free companion horse by simply contacting a horse rescue or looking around in the classifieds or within the horse community. The companion horse may be older or otherwise one that cannot be ridden, but it can still serve as a good companion to your horse. Before taking on a companion horse, be sure to find out about any special needs that it may have.
  • Consider Other Types of Companions: If these two options don’t work, perhaps a miniature horse or even a donkey, goat, alpaca or llama may serve as a proper companion for your horse.

Whichever route you choose to go, your horse will be sure to be happy to have a companion to enjoy!

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Keeping Your Horse Happy with Ample Social Time

As we continue to deal with the pandemic and stay at home orders, many are fully realizing just how important it is to be able to maintain a social life. Just as with humans, the same is true for your horse! In fact, if you want your horse to stay happy and healthy, it is absolutely essential that you find opportunity for it to enjoy a social life.

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