Showing posts with label EQUUS Magazine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label EQUUS Magazine. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

EQUUS Consultants: Proud Flesh

How to prevent proud flesh.

Question: What is the best way to prevent proud flesh from forming in wounds below the knee? I've been told by some people not to use water on wounds below the knee, but others tell me it is the best thing. Also, my gelding has been licking a wound on my filly. Do you think that might promote proud flesh?

Answer: Proud flesh is the excessive growth of granulation tissue within a wound that inhibits closure of the skin. In severe cases, proud flesh can protrude well beyond the original wound and become a target of parasites and infection.

Proud flesh is a common complication of wounds at or below the knee and hock, but most heal without incident if they are handled properly at the beginning. This means thoroughly cleaning the wound, taking care to remove irritants such as metal particles, rope fibers and dead tissue (especially bone, tendon or ligament). Beyond that, you can reduce the chances that proud flesh will develop by keeping the wound clean and protecting it from

  • rubbing, licking, biting and contact with pasture vegetation, sand or gravel; 
  • disturbance caused by motion that opens and closes the gap in the skin; 
  • flies and other creatures that will attempt to feed on or infect the site.Clean water will not cause or worsen proud flesh. In fact, hosing may be the best way to remove surface debris and reduce local wound swelling. Bandaging helps reduce adverse influences but does not speed the healing process or prevent the formation of proud flesh. The best way to prevent proud flesh is to ensure that all of the above criteria are met and if you do notice it forming, call your veterinarian right away to assess the situation before it gets a half-inch or more above the wound edges.If another horse is attracted to a wound as you describe, it usually indicates the presence of aromatic exudate produced in response to a foreign body, dead tissue or parasites. The licking itself is not a big problem, but the reason behind it most certainly is. In most cases, licking indicates the presence of the "summer sore" organism, Cutaneous Habronemiasis. Flies deposit these worm larvae in wounds on the head and lower extremities. They prevent healing, causing the wound to become round in shape and bulge slightly above the surrounding skin. I would suggest having your veterinarian take a look at your filly's wound and then keeping her in a stall or corral until it has healed.


Matthew Mackay-Smith, DVM, is the EQUUS Medical EditorThis article first appeared in EQUUS, issue 289.


This article is copyrighted and first appeared in EQUUS Magazine. It is reprinted here by permission.



Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Marilyn Heath: What A Dressage Judge Wants to See

By Marilyn Heath
USEF “S” judge offers her view on what she wants to see from dressage riders and their horses

I wish I knew when I was competing what I now know as a judge. The judge’s perspective puts a whole new light on the way a rider presents her horse. Competitors often make the mistake of thinking that because they can do the “tricks” of the level, then that’s where they should show. The judge, however, wants to see a horse ridden with correct basics for each level according to the purpose as written on the test. Just because you can do a flying change doesn’t necessarily mean you have a Third Level horse. For example, I sometimes see horses doing a flying change who are not on the bit—a basic requirement. There should be evidence that the Training Scale is being followed in the training of the horse.

The judge appreciates the rider who understands the geometry of the arena, uses the corners correctly and rides transitions and figures accurately. Thoughtful and proper preparation for movements and transitions is also appreciated. I am always amazed at the unnecessary waste of points due to careless use of the arena and attention to detail.

It is interesting to sit in the judge’s box and observe how different horse-and-rider combinations ride each movement. Some riders execute the basics more correctly and fulfill the criteria of each movement more fully than others. The judge observes whether the criteria of each movement are being met.

For instance, in the shoulder-in, the quality and cadence of the collected trot should be maintained. Judges want to see that the angle is correct and that the shoulder-in doesn’t appear more like a leg yield. A judge will also look to make sure the horse is fulfilling the purpose of the shoulder-in. This means he will become more engaged, step under the midline of his body with the inside hind leg and bend the joints of his inside hind leg, lowering his hip. The horse should be correctly bent away from the direction of travel and appear to be uniformly bent around the inside leg of the rider. He shouldn’t be over bent in his neck or falling out through his outside shoulder. Overall, the horse needs to be in a balance that is appropriate to the level.

Tempi changes must be in balance and rhythmic, and the quality of the canter and the impulsion must be maintained. The horse must be in self-carriage, straight, obedient and sensitive to the aids. The quality of the changes will also be in question, with judges looking to see if there are mistakes in either the count or the changes themselves and making sure the changes are centered on X.

In the canter pirouette, the gait quality and cadence should be maintained. The hindquarters of the horse should be well-engaged, lowered and show good flexion of the joints. The horse must remain on the bit with a light contact with the poll at the highest point, and he must be slightly bent in the direction in which he is turning. The pirouette (or half pirouette) must be the correct size for the level, and the horse must take the correct number of steps. In preparation for the pirouette, the judge will look to see if there is increased activity and collection. Additionally, the balance must be maintained during the pirouette and as the horse proceeds at the completion.

Above all, the judge would like to see a harmonious combination. It should look easy. It should look like the horse is performing of his own accord the wishes of the rider. Are the aids obvious or discreet? The judge should feel like he or she would just love to ride that horse.

Over and over as I judge, my scribes or judge candidates sitting in the box with me tell me what an eye-opener it is to be in the judge’s box and learn what it looks like through the judge’s eyes. The USDF “L” Education Program is a great educational opportunity. It teaches riders who aspire to become judges the intricacies and demands of judging. It educates riders to know how the judge thinks, what the judge is looking at and is looking for as well as how judges are taught to arrive at the correct score and formulate constructive and helpful comments. I often hear “L” graduates comment that they are recommending that all their students at least audit the USDF “L” Education Program. They feel that by understanding the judge’s point of view, their students will become more successful competitors.

Just imagine how much better riders could present their horses if they were more conscious of the judge’s perspective. It is a perspective I could have benefited from during my competitive career.


Marilyn Heath is a USEF “S” judge. She earned her USDF bronze, silver and gold medals and has trained and competed through Grand Prix. She was long-listed by the U.S. Equestrian Team (USET) in the 1980s and competed for the USET at the World Championships in 1986. Dedicated to educating future judges, she has been chair of the USDF “L” Education Program for nine years.



This article is copyrighted and first appeared in EQUUS Magazine. It is reprinted here by permission.


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

EQUUS Consultants: Heaves & Nosebleeds

EQUUS magazine's stable of experts has answers to readers' tough questions on heaves and nosebleeds. 

Question: My 11-year-old gelding had been prescribed prednisone to control his heaves, but I found that -- as you reported in the March 2001 issue (see "Hold the Prednisone," EQUUS 282) -- that it did not help much and that environmental changes were much more effective. I wet down his hay and keep him outdoors as much as possible, which has really helped. However, he still suffers from signs such as nasal discharge, especially after trailering. I'm taking extra care in making the trailer as clean as possible and I wet down his hay before putting it in the trailer. Is there anything else I can do for him?

Answer: It sounds as if you are taking the right steps to protect your horse's respiratory health. The best management for the majority of "heavey" horses--the exceptions being those whose heaves is associated with pasture--is fulltime turnout with access to an open shelter. This strategy is healthy and humane even where winters are severe and prolonged.

Your horse's nasal discharge probably does not reflect any current or new disease in his lungs. Extra mucus is produced by the lung in response to inflammation. If an allergy, irritation or infection is prolonged, the hypersecretion of mucus persists for months or years--and may even last a lifetime. The extra mucus is sometimes cleared by a few wet coughs early in exercise or after a play session in the field, and most of the fluid drains away as the horse lowers his head to graze.

However, when a heavey horse is trailered for more than a few minutes, these secretions tend to pool at the point where the windpipe divides into the two large bronchi that enter the lungs. This accumulation provokes little, if any, coughing during the trip, but when the horse is unloaded and either allow to graze or asked to move about, the mucus either drains or gets coughed out, appearing at the nostril. After a road trip, I recommend giving horses with heaves an opportunity to graze before being bridled or put to work so that their lung secretions can be cleared rather than sucked deeper into the airways.

So, in answer to your question, there are a few more things you can do for your horse. For starters, keep him out on pasture full time. And to help clear his airways during transport, unload him from the trailer and allow him to graze at least every two hours. Better still, haul in him with two feet of slack in the tie so he can put his head down and cough. You might also try withholding hay when trailering and, instead, allowing him to graze 10 to 30 minutes after you arrive at your destination.

Why the Nosebleed?

Question: Two days ago, I came home to find my 29-year-old Standardbred mare hot and sweaty with blood trickling from one of her nostrils. My mule (who was out with her) was also a little sweaty and warm to the touch. Shortly afterwards, my mare cooled down and has seemed fine since. What would have made her nose bleed? I don't believe my mule kicked her, as she is definitely the alpha of the two. She had no visible bites nor was any swelling evident on her face, neck or anywhere else. She has never bled before but I wondered whether I should be worried about this episode.

Answer: Keep an eye on your mare but don't worry: Most nasal trickles are harmless, isolated occurrences, not harbingers of horrors to come. A routine case of bleeding from one nostril, especially after exertion, could have any of a dozen causes, the most innocent being a poke inside the nose with a sharp twig or hay stem. Exercise can also cause an equine nosebleed by raising the blood pressure enough to rupture already-weakened vessels near the surface.

On the other hand, recurrent bleeding from the same nostril is rarely innocent. Such bleeding has three primary causes:
  • a tumor in the nasal cavity or sinus 
  • an ethmoid hematoma, a pocket of blood in the mucosal lining of the nasal passages that develops for unknown reasons
  • a fungal infection in the guttural pouch that has weakened a wall of the carotid arteryEndoscopic examinations of all these chambers and passageways, together with radiographs of any suspicious areas, are necessary for a definitive diagnosis. However, from your description, I doubt any of these more serious conditions caused your mare's nosebleed. The more time that passes before a second episode, the less likely that anything serious has happened.


This article first appeared in the October, 2001 issue of EQUUS magazine.



This article is copyrighted and first appeared in EQUUS Magazine. It is reprinted here by permission.


Friday, January 8, 2016

EQUUS Consultants: Eye Lumps & Bumps

Medical Editor Matthew Mackay-Smith answers an EQUUS reader's question about lumps around the eye and discusses careful management of sarcoids and melanomas.


By Matthew Mackay-Smith, DVM


Question: A small bump recently appeared near my 1 1/2-year-old gelding's left eye. It doesn't seem to bother him when I touch it. What is it, and could it pose a problem in the future?

Answer: Three sorts of small, firm, painless lumps commonly appear near the eye:

  • Foreign body reactions (usually from a splinter or thorn tip). Tiny penetrating objects can get trapped in the skin. Because of the abundant circulation near the eye, they may get "sterilized" by body defenses without the usual infection and pus such items can cause elsewhere. The penetrant usually leaves a faint mark where it pierced the skin.
  • Sarcoid. This viral tumor is slightly contagious. It often seats near the eye, perhaps inoculated by a fly or into a fly bite or slight abrasion. Most are hair covered and slow growing and pose little problem for several years, at least. A few grow or multiply enough to need treatment, which may include freezing, radiation, surgery or immune stimulants, alone or in combination.
  • Melanoma. This black-cell tumor is common near the body openings of gray horses, less so in other colors. Like a sarcoid, it usually grows slowly and needs one or more treatment approaches when and if it starts enlarging significantly.

The key to small lumps is to watch them carefully, measure them with a ruler or caliper once or twice a year and record the size. Then, if you notice a growth spurt, you can get timely treatment to avoid disfigurement.


This article is copyrighted and first appeared in EQUUS Magazine. It is reprinted here by permission.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Causes of Back Pain in Horses

By Vanessa Craft

Consider the causes of equine back pain and how you can help relieve it.

Horse acting a little testy lately? Sidesteps out from under you when you try to mount? Reaches around to snap at you as you curry along his topline? Refuses to back up or get his haunches under him for a really good spin? Looks like some cranky old geezer shuffling along the riding ring? Flat out refuses to jump anything more; even cavalletti stop him cold? You better listen up because he's not just being difficult; he could be telling you point-blank that his back is bothering him, maybe a little, maybe a lot.

For as common as they may be, sore backs are often confounding to diagnose and treat. The "back," the most complex and expansive locomotor structure of the horse's body, includes

  • a total of 23 or 24 thoracic and lumbar vertebrae between withers and tail head 


  • the spinal cord running through them

  • the muscles and ligaments that hold the vertebrae in alignment

  • the joints between them the multiple muscles anchored to them, connecting the spinal column to the appendages.


Unlike limb pain, which is usually reflected in identifiable lamenesses, back discomfort frequently lacks a readily discernable focal point and characteristic gait effects. A painful front fetlock produces this kind of limp, a strained stifle produces that kind of gait alteration, but what happens when a horse has discomfort in his topline? "The most common symptom of back problems is behavior problems," says Joyce Harman, DVM, of Harmany Equine Clinic in Washington, Virginia. With only these vague indications to go on, you can easily misinterpret manifestations of a sore back as signs of leg lameness or of a training problem.

Even after you are fairly certain that your horse is reacting to back pain, determining whether it's muscles, ligaments, vertebrae or multiple structures that are strained, injured or inflamed isn't easy. Identifying the cause of the soreness may or may not be possible; sometimes even sophisticated diagnostics aren't able to visualize an abnormality hidden under thick muscle or within dense bone. Yet as uncertain as diagnostics may be, a methodical, commonsense approach can help you eliminate hurtful influences and ease back discomfort that may be making your horse crabbier than he wants to be.

Behavioral clues


  • A horse with severe back pain usually makes strong behavioral statements about his distress, including

  • evading contact during grooming

  • pinning his ears or biting as you saddle him

  • sinking, bucking or rearing when you mount

  • restricting his rolling and lying down or rolling more violently than previously

  • regularly rearranging his stall bedding to he can stand in a more comfortable position. Minor back soreness is often reflected in generalized behavioral changes that can indicate other orthopedic pain as well as back soreness. Hock lameness, in particular, is easily confused with signs of back discomfort. Still, consider back soreness as the underlying reason a horse becomes difficult to catch

  • develops annoying under-saddle habits, such as tail swishing

  • resists backing up

  • resents lateral work, often in one direction

  • acts stiff behind and seems reluctant to fully engage his hindquarters

  • is fidgety, tense and unable to concentrate


  • becomes less responsive to your aids as a riding session progresses. Certain activities may put the back into position to suffer painful pressures, causing horses to resist performing specific maneuvers. For instance,


  • a roping horse may begin to stop too soon or too late to avoid sudden jarring of the saddle


  • a reining horse may be reluctant to sit down in his slides because it hurts to round his back a sore-backed jumper may produce less thrust, jump with a fixed, hollow back, rush to or away from fences or refuse to jump combinations


  • a trail horse may rush up and down hills or try to go downhill sideways to escape his back pain.


When you examine performance problems as possible expressions of back discomfort, consider the point in the maneuver that triggers the horse's resistance. Is it when the horse has to bring his hindquarters under him, move laterally, bear weight on a particular limb or reach forward with his head and neck? Noticing a pattern in his objections can tip you off that a physical problem is a factor in his behavior. Now you're ready to try to localize the pain, first by palpating the back, then by watching the horse move.

Search for soreness

Examine your horse's back by running your fingers along the muscles that parallel the spine, noting their tone. We may use the term "hard body" for an extremely fit, muscular person, but hardness is not what you hope to find during your examination. Hard muscles are tense and probably sore. Harman describes the feel of healthy muscles as "like Jello."

Once you've completed the superficial examination, gradually increase your finger pressure to press more deeply into the muscles. Avoid sharp, sudden jabs, which will cause the horse to flinch, whether or not his back is sore. Instead, work your way along the muscles at hand-width intervals, repeating fingerpad pressure that gradually increases to a consistent moderate level. If your horse sidesteps or drops away, you may have hit on a sore spot. Lack of response to even significant pressure may not mean that all is well, however; the horse, instead, may be protecting his back from your poking by tightening his muscles. The difference in feel between resistant-hard and Jello-healthy muscles should be evident. Next, go down the back's midline, firmly pressing on the top (dorsal spinous process) of each vertebra. If the horse drops away from the pressure, it may indicate soreness in either the spinal bones themselves or the supraspinous ligament running along the vertebral tips. Finally, check the back's ability to flex and extend. Place your fingertips under his belly and push up firmly: If he doesn't raise his back, he may be sore. Usually, vertebral or ligament pain is accompanied by muscle pain, but the reverse isn't true: A horse with sore back muscles won't necessarily have spinal pain.

Watch him move

Now that you have some physical clues to work from, the next step is for you or a qualified expert to study the horse's movement. Enlist a capable handler who can get the horse to jog out as freely as possible in hand, and watch the horse's general posture and the extent of his back action. A healthy back swings in rhythm with movement; a sore back remains rigid to guard against further pain. Continue to observe the trotting horse, looking for gait irregularities that might originate in his limbs. Head bobbing at the jog is characteristic of a horse who's trying to unweight a painful limb.

If your horse is trained to longe, watch him move in large circles in both directions at all three gaits. Again, note any back rigidity and uneven movement. You're not trying to distinguish between causes and effects: Subtle leg lameness might be making the back sore, or back pain could be affecting the horse's rhythm enough to make him appear "off" in one leg. Next, tack up your horse and, depending upon your abilities, ride him yourself or have a skilled, quiet rider take the reins so the horse can be observed for any differences in his way of going under saddle versus on the longe line. The rider needs to make every effort to "follow" the horse's motion with a relaxed back and seat, allowing the horse to move as freely as he can. Aboard a pain-free back, a rider can sense a pendular swing in the back and symmetry through all stride phases; conversely, he'll feel stiffness and unevenness if the horse is hurting. Weight bearing is a surefire way to trigger or amplify painful vertebral, muscle and ligament conditions. If ill-fitting tack pokes, pinches or rubs, the horse will exhibit more pain while working under saddle than bareback. The observer can also note if rider stiffness or imbalance might be evoking signs of back pain in the horse.


This article is copyrighted and first appeared in EQUUS Magazine. It is reprinted here by permission.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Control Flies with Pest Management Program

By Christina Keim With Laurie Bonner for EQUUS magazine

Repellents and insecticides pack more of a punch when used as part of an integrated pest management program.

Warm weather plus horses unfortunately equals flies -- nasty, biting flies that irritate horses and aggravate their owners. And they're more than a nuisance; flies can spread parasites and the viruses and bacteria that cause several equine diseases.

Repellents and insecticides provide quick and effective relief, but if you want to control flies over the long term you'll need a comprehensive strategy. Here are 12 suggestions to keep your horses more comfortable, and make your facility less hospitable -- and even downright hostile -- to winged pests.


1. Keep up with your waste removal program. It takes house and stable flies 10 to 21 days to go from egg to adulthood, so breaking their breeding cycle means getting fresh manure out of their reach weekly. Removing manure from the property would be ideal, but composting also works. In addition to manure, a compost pile can dispose of wood scraps, fallen leaves, grass clippings and other organic waste.

2. Spread manure selectively. Avoid spreading fresh manure over pastures that will be in use during fly season; when manure is spread, apply it in as thin a layer as possible so it dries out quickly. When spreading over crop fields, disk fresh manure under the surface of the ground to kill any eggs and larvae.

3. Repair leaking plumbing. Dripping water creates a moist environment ideal for fly eggs. Periodically check faucets, pipes and waterers for leaks, and when you repair them, fill in any puddles they've caused.

4. Keep stalls dry. Stable flies are attracted to the smell of urine, and they lay their eggs in urine-soaked bedding as well as manure. Remove wet bedding from stalls at least once, preferably twice, a day. Sprinkling a little hydrated lime over wet spots on the stall floor can help deodorize and dry them out -- reducing their appeal to egg-layers.

5. Eliminate puddles and standing water. Stagnant water is an ideal breeding ground for several species of biting flies. Fill in potholes in your driveway, level areas where puddles routinely appear, and remove any debris, such as old tires, that collect rainwater. Make sure drainage and runoff systems around the barn are free of clogs.

6. Keep drinking water fresh. Rinse and refill water buckets daily; dump old water in an area where it won't create puddles, preferably outside the barn or into a sink or drain. If a stall is vacant for more than a day, empty the water bucket and place it upside down to dry. Skim algae and floating debris from troughs daily and top them off with fresh water. One easy way of keeping troughs of 100 gallons or more clean is to add fish that eat algae, insects or larvae. Ask at your local aquarium store for recommendations about types of species and the number of fish that might work for you.

7. Set fly traps. Traps are an effective way of reducing the adult insect populations, but in general they work best in smaller, enclosed areas -- and in conjunction with other methods of fly control.


  • Baited traps. Baited traps can attract large numbers of house and stable flies, which are drawn into an inescapable chamber by the scent of an attractant, such as a sugary food.


  • Tapes and glue traps. These strips, covered with an aromatic, sticky glue, catch curious house- and stableflies. They also catch dust and other airborne contaminants and need to be replaced every few weeks or as soon as they lose their stickiness.


  • Physical traps. Bait-less traps rely on the fact that horseflies are attracted to dark objects. A large round black ball attracts flies to land on it; when they do, they crawl upward to the top of the sphere; when they discover there is nothing here to eat, they fly up -- and into netting that forms a cone above the ball; attracted by the clear space at the top of the cone, they continue to fly or climb upward, until they are trapped in the collection chamber.


8. Bug zappers. These familiar blue-light devices delivering a satisfying sizzle when flying insects hit the electric grid; one drawback is that they also attract beneficial bugs. As with any electrical appliance used in the barn, make sure the zapper is plugged in, grounded and secured where it can't be knocked over. It's also important to keep the trap clean to avoid a buildup of flammable dried bodies.

9. Outfit your horse with protective garments. A variety of products can prevent flies from reaching your horse's sensitive skin. For turnout, try to discern which species of flies are bothering your horse. Ear nets protect against blackflies, while mesh leg wraps keep stable flies at bay. Masks protect against face flies, which like to congregate around the eyes. Light-colored fly sheets offer double protection: They are a barrier when flies land, and their brightness deters horseflies, which are attracted to dark colors.

10. Retreat from the midday sun. Many biting flies are most active in bright daylight, so keeping your horse stabled during when the sun's at its highest can protect him from these pests. If you prefer to leave your horses in the pasture, make sure they have access to a deep, shady run-in shed. For added protection, hang long strips of burlap, carpet remnants, sheets or other fabrics in the doorway, to within two feet of ground level.

11. Apply repellents. Many effective commercial repellents are on the market as are numerous essential oils (including citronella, cedar oil, neem seed oil, eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil and lavender oil) which are common ingredients in repellents, both commercial and homemade. The first time you use any substance, be sure to check your horse for sensitivity; apply a small amount to a small area of your horse's skin that doesn't come in contact with tack and wait a few hours to see if a reaction occurs.

12. Harness the power of garlic. Ever notice how a distinct smell will stay on your breath and skin for hours or days after a garlicky meal? The strong oils in garlic are excreted through the skin and lungs, providing a potent scent that can repel insects. Fresh garlic can be tricky to feed to horses, but powdered garlic can easily be added to the feed. Start with a very small amount, until the horses get used to the new flavor and slowly increase the dose to a tablespoon or two each day.

This excerpt is from the article "25 Ways to Bolster Your Fly Control Program" which originally appeared in the May 2001 issue of EQUUS magazine.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

When to use Hot vs. Cold Therapy on Equine Injuries

By the editors of EQUUS

Deciding whether to use ice or heat on an equine injury depends on many factors. Here's a quick guide to when and why each therapy is most effective.


Cold Therapy

  • When it's needed: Use when an injury is fresh--less than 36 hours old.

  • Why it helps: During this time, damaged blood vessels beneath the skin are hemorrhaging, leading to inflammation and bruising. You'll know you're in that window because the injury site is tender and shows diffuse swelling. During this time, cold therapy will decrease the permeability of the blood vessel walls, slowing the leaks and keeping healthy, undamaged tissues from "drowning" in excess fluids. Water may be the easiest option for cooling an injury site, but it will not be cold enough on its own. You'll need to use ice, a commercial cold pack or another cooling system.

  • Schedule: Apply cold therapy for 10 to 20 minutes at a time and allow at least 30 minutes between treatments to prevent damage to tissues. Repeat the cycle as often as you can, but you'll need four or more sessions per day to really see results. Continue cold therapy until the area no longer swells between treatments.

Alternating Hot and Cold Therapy

  • When it's needed: When a healing injury is less painful to the touch and the swelling has more distinct edges. At this stage, any palpable lump will be firmer, feeling like a peeled hard-boiled egg.

  • Why it helps: Alternating hot and cold therapy encourages the body's natural "cleanup crew" of white blood cells and natural chemicals that engulf and destroy dead cells and other physiological debris. The application of heat speeds circulation to the area, while cold will restrict it. Alternating the two creates a "pumping" action that speeds healing. Too much hot therapy, however, can cause hemorrhaging to begin again, so hold off on moving to this therapy for a day or two if you're unsure of the wound's status.

  • Schedule: Begin by applying heat, 10 minutes at a time increasing to 20 minutes over a few days. After each heat session, apply cold therapy for 20 minutes. Repeat this at least four times a day until there is no localized swelling around the injury.

Hot Therapy


  • When it's needed: When there is no pain associated with the injury and only minor swelling remains.

  • Why it helps: Heat supports the final stage of healing, when the body is actively replacing cells and repairing tissues with specialized cells delivered via the bloodstream. Applying heat at this point boosts circulation to the area, speeding the cleanup.

  • Schedule: Apply heat therapy for 20 minutes at a time, with at least 20 minutes of rest between treatments. Of course, never apply anything to your horse's skin that is uncomfortably hot to your own touch.

This article is copyrighted and first appeared in EQUUS Magazine. It is reprinted here by permission.



Sunday, May 31, 2015

Scratches, Rainrot and Other Equine Skin Conditions

Here's how to recognize and treat some common equine winter skin conditions.

Winter can be rough on your horse's skin. Moisture from rain and snow encourages bacteria and other pathogens to grow. And thick winter coats---plus layers of blankets---can allow conditions to go unnoticed for days or even weeks as they worsen. Treating established skin problems can be difficult when bathing isn't an option. Your best bet for keeping your horse's skin in good shape this winter is watching out for the conditions most likely to develop so you can begin treatment as early as possible.

Scratches. One of the easiest skin problems to identify and treat, scratches is a bacterial infection affecting the skin at a horse's pastern. The bacteria take hold when repeated exposure to wet conditions strips away the skin's protective oils, causing chapping and cracking. The earliest sign of scratches is formation of a crust on the back of the pastern, so do an inspection daily as you pick out your horse's hooves. If you see signs of scratches, wash the affected area with an anti-bacterial shampoo, then rinse and dry it completely. Drying the area is extremely important and will probably require a hair dryer in winter months. Finally, trim the longer pastern hairs and slather the area with an antibiotic ointment followed by a layer of Desitin or ich-tham-mol to provide a barrier to further moisture. (If it's too cold to wash the leg, skip directly to the trimming and ointment steps.) Avoid picking off tightly attached scabs because that can be painful to the horse. Instead, use a clean cloth to wipe the ointment from the leg every other day. The softened crusts will slide off easily. Then reapply the ointment.


Rainrot. The bacterium that causes rainrot, Dermatophilus congolensis, normally lives on the skin with no adverse effects. However, a rain followed by humid conditions can allow the bacteria to multiply and irritate hair follicles, leading to painful crusting and hair loss on the top of the rump and along "runoff" lines of the flanks. Older horses and those with compromised immune systems are most likely to develop rainrot. The earliest signs are ruffled-looking patches of coat---caused by hair follicles standing on end slightly---combined with warm and possibly sensitive skin.

A daily grooming session or at least a peek under the blankets is necessary to notice these changes. A course of anti-biotics at the earliest stages can head off rainrot, so consider calling your veterinarian if you see signs of the condition.

If scabs have already developed and bathing isn't possible, slather the spots with mineral oil to loosen the crusts and allow them to slide off easily. With the scabs gone, you can treat the bacteria beneath them with an antiseptic wash. When the weather warms up, a full bath with a medicated, antidandruff shampoo followed by a long spell in the warm sun will help clear up rain rot.

This article is copyrighted and first appeared in EQUUS Magazine. It is reprinted here by permission.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Manage spring grazing to reduce laminitis risk

By the Editors of EQUUS magazine

New pasture growth poses risks for horses prone to laminitis. Here are some precautions to take as fields go from winter brown to spring green.

Most horses are eager to chow down on the first green shoots of spring grass. But new pasture growth poses some risks, particularly for laminitis-prone horses, who may develop the devastating inflammation of the hoof's soft tissues after ingesting too much sugar-rich early growth grass.

Here are some precautions you can take as your pastures are transformed from winter brown to spring green.


  • Restrict grazing time if necessary. When introducing your horse to a lush pasture in the spring, turn him out on it for only 10 to 15 minutes on the first day, then increase the time by five or 10 minutes per day, to give his intestinal flora time to adjust to the new, richer food source.

  • Feed hay prior to turnout. Offer your horse his normal hay ration before turning him out. If he's already eaten his fill, he'll be less?likely to overindulge on grass.

  • Use a grazing muzzle. These devices, which fit over the muzzle and restrict the amount of grass a horse can bite off at once, can reduce the amount he can graze during his turnout time. Grazing muzzles are especially useful for controlling the calorie intake of obese horses as well as protecting the health of those prone to laminitis. If your horse is at risk for laminitis, ask your veterinarian how much grazing and turnout might be acceptable, given your local conditions. For some, especially those adept at getting their muzzles off, year-round turnout in a dry lot might be the only option.

Even after you've started turning them out on pasture for longer stretches, horses may still need supplemental hay to get all the nutrients they need. Many toxic weeds grow quickly in the early season, before the grass is well established. If your horse is getting all the nutrition he needs from grass and hay, he'll be less likely to sample different types of plants.


This article is copyrighted and first appeared in EQUUS Magazine. It is reprinted here by permission.