Take the short Parasite Pop Quiz and test your parasite IQ! Knowing the answers to these 11 true or false questions could save your horse's life!
QUESTIONS: TRUE OR FALSE
1. Large Strongyles are the most dangerous parasite for horses. False
Almost all dewormers effectively kill large strongyles. Therefore they are quite rare and pose little threat to regularly dewormed horses.
2. There is a single wormer that kills all equine parasites. False
Moxidectin plus praziquantel (Quest Plus) works well against encysted small strongyles, large strongyles and tapeworms. However, it does not work well against ascarids in foals and should not be used on foals less than six months old. It is also important to switch classes of wormer to prevent resistant worms from developing on your property.
3. There are no negative ramifications if I underdose my horse on dewormer. False
Underdosing horses leads to resistance by only killing the most susceptible parasites and leaving the strongest ones to reproduce.
4. Horses naturally acquire immunity to ascarids after 18 months of age. True
Young horses are very susceptible to ascarid impactions, and should be wormed regularly with fenbendazole (panacur) at a 10 mg/kg dose for 5 days in a row to kill them.
5. The best way to manage pastures is to spread manure on them. False
Spreading manure on your pastures can actually increase the parasite burden on your farm, unless the weather is hot and dry enough to effectively kill all the eggs.
6. Hot dry weather kills parasite eggs better than freezing temperatures. True
More parasite eggs are killed in hot dry weather then freezing temps.
7. Small strongyles are becoming resistant to all available dewormers. True
The adult version of small strongyles are fairly easy to kill while the encysted form are only susceptible to moxidectin for the time being
8. All horses on the same property will have the same parasite burden. False
Younger horses often have higher worm burdens because they have less immunity, and just like people, some horses have less immunity and some have more.
9. A negative fecal exam means I never need to deworm my horse. False
Fecal egg counts can quite often have false negative results, meaning that they come back negative but testing a different fecal ball or a different pile of manure from your horse would actually have a positive result. Knowing that, all horses should be wormed a minimum of twice per year.
10. I’ve always used the same product. It works, so I don’t need to change it. False
Using the same product over and over breeds resistance in your parasite population. It also doesn’t kill all stages and types of parasite. Rotating wormers and using the appropriate one for the age of your horse is important.
11. Moxidectin (Quest) should not be used on foals less than 6 months. True
Horses less than 6 months of age have a higher incidence of adverse reactions, including ataxia, depression/lethargy and recumbency. Very old and very thin or sick horses should also avoid moxidectin.
How did you do on the pop quiz? What did you learn? What worming products and protocol do you use on your horse? Join the conversation and share your insights and ideas on the Stretch Your Horse Facebook page.
This Parasite Pop Quiz was developed by a staff veterinarian at Oakhurst Equine Veterinary Services. Contact Dr. Jack Root or Dr. Sylvia Ouellette (pronounced Wool-lette) at Oakhurst Equine if you have questions or need assistance devising an effective worming protocol for your horse. (503) 554-0227.
Why Sea Salt Is A Rock Star....
Everyone could use a rejuvenating spa treatment and stretches for their own legs. Now you can do this for your horse! Here’s how….
You don’t have to search hard on the web to find many articles and a study by the National Institutes of Health singing the praises of Sea Salt Therapy in humans. In fact, it is one of the hottest spa trends. Even the mainstream media is reporting on the benefits of sea salt therapy including: relief of muscle cramps, anti-inflammatory properties leading to decreased arthritis symptoms, skin and dental benefits, and asthma relief just to name a few. Guess what?? Hippocrates (the father of medicine) discovered the benefits of sea salt back in 460 BC. (NOTE: There is a big difference between organic sea salt and processed white table salt. Processed white table salt has almost no beneficial minerals left in it. Do NOT use it for the treatment discussed below.)
So, what does this have to do with horses? A lot! Read on….
Did you know that 65-70% of your horse’s weight is carried by the front legs? Have you ever stopped and thought about how amazing all 4 of your horse’s relatively small legs are? They carry around 1000-1400 pounds on average (horse + rider) and jump, navigate obstacles, do sliding stops and spins, cow sort, navigate hills and trails, perform dressage moves and so much more! That’s pretty impressive! All this hard work and stress can cause the legs to have small (or not so small) amounts of inflammation, become tired and build up toxins. The legs are also prone to injury.
Give your horse's hard working legs the TLC and special attention they deserve! Say THANK YOU to your horse. Here’s an easy Do-It-Yourself Deluxe Leg "sea salt spa treatment” designed especially for horses!
**Use sea salt for even more benefit than the rock salt mentioned in the article
In addition to the deluxe sea salt leg treatment, stretching you horse's front and back legs (and their entire body) is critical to maintain good muscle health, flexibilty and avoid injury.
Check out my Stretch Your Horse Video Tutorial Library. It contains a total of 25 horse stretching video tutorials! There are 3 stretches for the front legs and 4 stretches for the back legs.
Front Leg Stretches
#3 Bent Front Leg
#4 Circling and Stationary Bent Front Leg
#7 Straight Front Leg Low and High
Back Leg Stretches
#12 Farrier Low and High
#13 Farrier Advanced Variations
#14 Forward Farrier Low and High
#15 Forward Farrier Advanced Variations
You can easily learn to do these stretches like a pro!
Take it slowly and learn 3 at a time. Once you learn them all, varying which 3 or 4 stretches you do after riding is the best way to ensure you stretch all the major muscles of your horse's front and back legs!
My Stretch Your Horse Coach 25 video tutorial collection is on sale now! 71% off! Check it out!!
Questions? Contact us anytime!
It is time for your horse’s vaccinations. A vet is coming to the barn in the morning to vaccinate your horse and many others in the barn. You plan to go out to the barn in the evening knowing your horse may be a bit under the weather, but not expecting anything serious. When you arrive, you find your horse standing in the corner with his head hung low. When he turns around, you see a white stringy substance oozing from his eyes, and they are bloodshot and glassy. He is hot to the touch and just looks generally miserable. You decide to take his temperature. It is 102.9 degrees F (Fahrenheit). Since horses can have a normal resting temperature range of 99-101 degrees F, is this a high fever?
You go out to the pasture to get your horse and bring her in for the evening. As you approach, you notice a cut on your horse’s chest and a fair amount of blood though the wound does not appear to be bleeding too much at the moment. Your horse does not really want to move, but eventually she starts to walk back to the barn with you. You call the vet. She asks: What is your horse’s heart rate? Do you know why your vet asked what your horse’s heart rate is? Do you know how check your horse’s heart rate? (Technically pulse and heart rate are two related but different vital signs, but for most people they are referring to the same thing.)
In Scenario #1, you will only know if this is a high fever if you have previously taken your horse’s temperature at rest when he/she was healthy. If your horse’s normal resting temperature is 99 F, then 102.9 F is a lot more cause for concern than if your horse’s normal resting temperature is 101 F.
In Scenario #2, the answer is your vet is concerned about shock. Shock essentially means that something is preventing your horse’s body from delivering adequate blood supply to the tissues. This can be the result of an acute trauma and resultant blood loss. Also, a horse that has been sick for several days can go into shock. While the signs and symptoms of shock can vary, a rapid heart rate is usually present.
These scenarios are unfortunately not uncommon. There are many more common scenarios as well such as colic, getting a limb stuck in a fence, equine influenza, and trailering related accidents, including loading and unloading, just to name a few. Also, for some reason, things often seem to happen at 10pm in the evening, so your call to the vet starts with, “I am so sorry to bother you this late at night, but my horse…..”
It is extremely helpful to your vet when your description of the situation includes your horse’s vital signs. It can help him or her assess the severity and urgency of the situation, and potentially literally save your horse's life!
In short, I believe it is essential that every horse owner, including teenagers, know how to take their horse’s temperature, heart rate (pulse), and respiration rate as well as know how to listen for gut sounds and assess their horse’s mucous membranes to look for additional signs of shock and/or illness.
Here is free downloadable chart of the common equine vital signs and how to take them. Holistic Horse Bodyworks/Stretch Your Horse Helpful Links page.
Common Mistakes in Taking Vital Signs
Be aware of these common errors that can occur when taking your horse's vitals.
Practice taking your horse’s vital signs often so you know what is normal and so that taking them becomes second nature to you. Doing so can literally save your horse’s life!
Top 5 Signs of Horse Heatstroke
It is hot (or getting hot) in many parts of the world, and riders are out and about enjoying riding their horse. Whether riding in shows and competitions, enjoying trail rides, taking lessons in an arena, sorting cows, racing at the track or feeling the thrill of a fast canter along the beach, there is no better time to own a horse!
However, high temperatures can pose a serious, sometimes deadly, risk to your horse. Heatstroke aka overheating or heat stress can occur not just from riding, but also from trailering, being in a hot stuffy stall or even being out in the field with the sun blaring down and no shade. I believe every rider should know the 5 key signs of heatstroke and what to do if this occurs. Equally important, every rider should know how to prevent it!
What is Heatstroke? What Can It Cause?
Heatstroke is not a stroke in the conventional sense of how you may think about a human having a stroke. Rather, it is the horse’s inability to cool him or herself down and get rid of excess heat. Like humans, horses have a natural cooling process in their body. This involves sweating and purging heat from nasal breathing/respiration (much like a dog may pant). But, in some cases of exposure to high heat levels, the horse may be unable to cool themselves. To try and compensate, the horse may sweat excessively, increase its respiration rate, and even redirect blood flow closer to the skin to aid in the cooling process. However, excess sweating can cause dehydration and loss of electrolytes, and redistributing blood flow closer to the skin can cause the brain and other organs to receive less oxygen. Left untreated, this can cause colic, seizures, severe muscle cramps and even death.
What Are the Signs of Heatstroke?
Here are 5 key signs.
What are the Treatments for Heatstroke?
The best treatment is actually not a treatment. It is prevention. Here are some prevention tips.
Have you ever dealt with a horse that suffered from heatstroke? What happened? Share your story on our Stretch Your Horse Facebook page.
Last Friday night, my horse, Rex, got very sick. We all dread making the Friday night phone call to our vet, but in this case, it was absolutely necessary.
A few days earlier, Rex had broken out in hives. There wasn't one square inch of him that did not have hives. It had been many years since he last had hives, but "dex" (dexamethasone, a prescription corticosteroid) usually took care of it in 2 or 3 days. It was now day 3, and he still had massive hives. He also had bug bites on his tummy and in between his front and back legs, (probably from culicoides), which I had been battling for the past 2 weeks.
I took him up to the barn to cold hose him. I put my hand on the inside of his hing leg, and his skin felt like it was on fire. He did not want to be touched, and I completely understood why. Then I took his temperature and discovered he had a fever. It was almost 3 degrees above what is normal for him.
As an aside, I believe every horse owner should know their horse's vital signs including temperature. Generally speaking, a horse's temperature range is between 99 and 101. It's important to know what's normal for your horse so you can determine the severity of a fever. Here's a link to My Helpful Links page where you can download a free chart I put together many years ago summarizing how to check your horse's vitals.
Ok....Back to the Rex story....
At that point, I called my vet. She said she would be there as soon as she finished up her current call. When she arrived approximately 90 minutes later, she asked detailed questions about the current situation and took Rex's vitals. His temperature had gone up another whole degree in 90 minutes. Quite frankly, Rex looked miserable.
After discussing various options, we decided to give Rex a Serum Amyloid A test.
Do You Know What a Serum Amyloid A (SAA) Test Is?
Give Me the Short Story....
SAA is a biomarker protein produced in the liver and secreted into the bloodstream when there is inflammation caused by an infection, trauma etc. In a normal healthy horse, SAA is found in very very low quantities and is not secreted until inflammation occurs. The normal SAA range is below 20 mg/L. (milligrams per liter) New devices enable your vet to test your horse's blood for the presence of SAA stall-side and get the results in about 8-10 minutes. This is in contrast to sending blood off to the lab to be tested for other infection markers that can take longer to show up. Research is ongoing to determine if and when SAA testing will supplant some forms of more traditional blood testing and when each is appropriate.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words....
SAA Production and Response (image by Tridelta Development Ltd)
Give Me The SAA Geeky (but not too geeky) Details....
SAA is a member of a group of proteins called Acute Phase Proteins which are thought to be part of the body’s basic first line defense against infection, disease or trauma. In response to a challenge by, for example, an infection, the body sends chemical messengers to the liver which then produces and releases SAA into the bloodstream to help fight off the challenge.¹ Researchers have discovered that when there is an infection or challenge to the immune system, SAA levels begin to rise almost immediately... and they can rise to levels hundreds of times above normal. SAA is extremely sensitive to the onset, duration, and end of the disease process.
The SAA test is a simple blood test performed stall-side with a reader that is about the size of a smartphone. The device is pictured above. It takes about 8-10 minutes to get the results. That means your vet will have additional valuable information about what is going on in your horse's body very quickly and can start treatment immediately. SAA is normally present only in very low levels. As mentioned above, in a healthy horse, the normal range of SAA is below 20 mg/L (milligrams per liter.) In response to a challenge, however, SAA is produced in very high levels often 600, 800 or even 1000 mg/L.
So, What Were the Results of Rex's SAA Test?
2150!! (Yes, I did say below 20 was normal.) In case you're wondering, I'm not missing a decimal place in the 2150. It was two thousand one hundred and fifty. Needless to say, we started treatment immediately! By the following morning, Rex had improved greatly. I am happy to report that 10 days later, Rex is feeling almost 100%. Phew!!
The Bottom Line.....
There is still much to be learned about SAA and its potential uses in identifying various diseases and medical conditions much earlier than was previously possible. Research is ongoing to determine if and when SAA testing (in horses, humans and other animals) will supplant some forms of more traditional blood testing and when each is appropriate.
Since this blog is personal, I want to say a BIG thank you to my vet for coming out on a Friday night and to my two good friends and barnmates who stayed with Rex and I and provided excellent support! I also want to thank the barn owner and the barn manager who helped me care for Rex and were my eyes and ears in between my multiple visits per day taking his temperature and monitoring him. I owe all of you big time! It truly takes a village!!
Reference 1: Tridelta Development Ltd website
Is Your Posture Impeding Your Horse's Performance? Top 3 Rider Posture Challenges, Impacts and Fixes
“Sit up straight.” “Roll your shoulders back.” “Don’t drop or round your shoulders.” “Arch your back just a tiny bit.” “Don’t arch your back so much.” “Lengthen the front of your body from your rib cage to your hips.”
We have all heard these directions from our trainers, from friends trying to help us, and/or read about the need to start or stop doing these things. Often they are easier said than done! But what is common thread among these things, and why are they important? Is it just to look professional or “pretty” when we ride?
The answer is good posture. This blog post will explore why correct rider posture is a very important aspect of helping your horse perform to best of their ability in a safe and comfortable manner. Correct rider posture can also reduce rider back and neck pain.
Horse Movement Fundamentals
Let's take a step back and look at a few fundamentals regarding how a healthy horse moves. The horse moves from back to front. With each step taken by the hind legs, energy is transmitted up the horse’s legs, through the horse’s back and the ring of muscles, and toward the horse's front end including the neck and head.
This forward energy can be blocked by the horse themselves simply due to the lateral (side to side) motion of their ribcage or the degree to which their back is not lifted (hollow) or feet issues. Other things such as poor saddle fit can also block this energy.
But, did you know that incorrect or poor rider posture is one of the major causes of blocked forward energy? Poor posture will impede your horse's performance and can cause back, neck, ribcage, and TMJ pain and tightness in your horse.
My good friend and excellent trainer Rebekah Larimer summed it up best, "It is the rider’s responsibility to learn how to get out of their horse’s way, not block their forward energy, and be able to properly influence them and work in partnership."
What is Correct Posture?
As seen on the right above, correct rider posture requires sitting with a neutral spine so your back is neither overarched nor completely flat but rather has a slight natural concavity. The shoulders, hips and heels are all aligned on the vertical. This means that if a vertical line was drawn between these three areas, it would intersect all 3 areas. The head, neck, shoulder and back are in a neutral position. They are not tipped back or slouched forward. The rider feels “solid from the base” and has relaxed hands, arms and fingers. Correct posture enables the horse’s natural back to front motion to be transmitted through its body in a relaxed manner.
In case you are panicking, don’t. This is easier said than done, but with practice and the correct stretching and strengthening exercises, you can make great strides (no pun intended) toward achieving correct posture.
Three Common Postural Challenges .... and Some Remedies
1) The Base: Let's Talk Pelvis
The first two common posture issues are a pelvis that is tipped too far forward (image A above) or too far backward (image B above). To test your pelvis, stand up (on level ground), and place your hands on your hip bones. Tilt your hips backward so the top of your hip bones move back toward your spine. You should feel your back flatten and your hips tuck under you. Then do the opposite. Move your hips forward so the top of the hip bones move toward the front of your body and your back arches. Do this several times and then find your natural resting position. Is your back overarched or too flat?
Do the same thing next time you are sitting in your saddle getting ready to ride. Is your pelvis in neutral, tipped forward or tipped back?
Another way to assess your pelvis is to do a rudimentary test of the curvature in your spine. Stand with your back up against a wall making sure your heels and upper back are firmly touching the wall. Assess the position of your lower back. Is it flat against the wall? Is there a pronounced arch? Is your spine in a neutral position with a just a slight curvature? Can you push your shoulders against the wall without arching your lower back?
Impact to Your Horse of Overarched Back/Pelvis Tipped Forward (anterior)
If your back if overarched, this means your seat bones point backwards toward the horse’s back legs. Rider’s with overarched backs tend to appear stiff or tense and tend to have stiff or locked hip joints making it hard to follow the horse’s motion. So, guess where the horse’s energy is sent in this scenario? Yup. You got it. Toward the hind end. An overarched back makes your horse work extra hard to keep the forward energy moving forward. It is like a salmon swimming upstream. It can also cause your horse to hollow their back. As you may recall, at the very beginning of this blog post, we said that a horse with a hollow back blocks the flow of energy forward. So, this is sort of double whammy!
I will discuss the impact of the backward (posterior) tipped pelvis in the next section since that is often accompanied by rounded shoulders.
2) Rounded Shoulders/Jutting Chin
This is the third common postural challenge many rider’s struggle with.
Many of us work at computers all day. Some of us like myself work on horses. Both of these activities can cause posture problems. Specifically, it can cause your shoulders to round forward, your neck to curve excessively when looking up and your head to be forward with a jutting chin. This is often accompanied by a pelvis that is tipped backward (posterior.)
Impact to Your Horse of Round Shoulders/ Jutting Chin/ Pelvis Tipped Back
Rounded shoulders are often accompanied by pelvis tipped toward the back of the body. This causes the rider’s weight to be distributed unevenly. The top of the rider’s body is usually slightly forward, the upper back is back behind the vertical, and the bottom of the rider’s body pushes down on the last third of the horse’s thoracic spine. The leg usually also moves forward. This causes the rider to be behind the motion, and imbalance in the horse. It pushes the horse onto the forehand and blocks the forward energy.
The other interesting thing that often happens to the round shouldered/ backward (posterior) tipped pelvis rider is that when rider tries to move their leg back into the correct position, it can cause the knee and ankle to hike up. This can cause loss of the stirrup (my own personal nemesis) and/or result in less effective leg aids.
In order to select the correct remedy for your posture problem, it is important to get an accurate evaluation of all of the aspects of your posture including your feet, legs, hips, pelvis, back, shoulders, ribs, chest, neck and head position. I suggest you see a physical therapist or chiropractor who is specifically skilled in postural assessment and treatment. Familiarity with riding is a big plus! Be sure they do not just treat you, but also teach you how to do the specific exercises to address your posture challenge.
That said, there are many do-it-yourselfers out there. Here are a few stretches and exercises that can potentially be beneficial. (Here comes the legal disclaimer.) These exercises are being provided for informational purposes only. This should not be construed as any type of medical advice. These exercises may or may not be appropriate for your individual situation and could cause harm if done incorrectly or if contraindicated. This is why I suggest seeking professional medical assistance as a first step.
For those who are round-shouldered like myself because I work on horses and at computer so I am in terrible ergonomic positions most of the day every day, lying over a roll with your arms in “stick ‘em up” is a great stretch for the pecs, upper back and neck muscles and the spine.
This stretch stretches the pectoral muscles in the front of your body which have become shortened due to being constricted and helps relieve the tension in the muscles in your upper back that have become overstretched.
I prefer to keep my legs straight when doing this stretch. However, then you must be careful that your back does not 'hollow out. " Start out with a rolled up towel under your back horizontally and gradually increase the size of the roll.
Here is a link that has great illustrations of the muscles the stick ‘em up stretch targets as well as more detailed instructions such as making sure you keep your chin slightly tucked so you are not arching your neck.
If your back is overarched, that means the muscles in front of your hips, aka the hip flexors, are probably tight. The hip flexors can also become tight from doing a lot of sitting in front of a computer all day. Tight hip flexors and an overarched back can also cause lower back pain.
This article provides a detailed explanation of the relationship between an overarched back and tight hip flexors as well as some stretching exercises to release the tension. Also, here is a link to a “brutal stretch” for the hip flexors.
There are pluses and minuses to doing “brutal stretches” versus more gentle, gradual stretches. I leave that choice to you and your health care professional.
The Bottom Line….
There is a direct correlation between your posture and your horse’s movement and performance. Correcting your posture challenges is not easy and takes dedication. However, if you commit to an improvement program, both you and your horse will enjoy even greater success and a more relaxed ride no matter what your riding discipline.
What is your posture challenge? What are you doing to correct it? Share your story here or on our Facebook page.
We all know that our leg is a key method of communication with our horse. Our seat, hands and fingers are very important too.
....But what about the bit? Can this key communication method cause neck, behavioral, dental, tongue and other issues?? Yes it can!
Check out this informative article by My Horse Daily that demystifies bit basics and provides easy to understand information to help riders make an informed bit choice.
The Horse.com also published an article regarding how bits can affect the horse's mouth. The article suggests that if behavioral problems arise with your horse, checking the mouth is a good step to take.
As a bodyworker, I wholeheartedly agree. I always ask about dental issues and when the last dental was done when I am working on a horse.
A few years back, I was working on a rescue horse that was doing "crop circles" in his stall. The owners loved this horse and were doing a great job rehabilitating him. But, they overlooked the mouth. When I checked out the teeth, there were sharp points everywhere and cheek sores. No wonder this horse was having bit issues and was doing crop circles! The vet came and did a dental. Voila! The improvement was dramatic and instantaneous. After the dental, we could then make a proper determination about the bit.
The wrong bit, incorrect bit fit, or using the bit incorrectly with too much hand, fingers, or other riding error can also cause neck problems such as sore muscles, lack of cervical vertebrae (the bones in the neck) alignment, as well as dental, mouth and tongue problems and other issues. These issues can then have a ripple affect throughout the horse's body. Moreover, what we classify as a behavioral issue may in fact be a bit issue.
The decision regarding whether to use a bit, what bit to use or to go bitless can be complex. Many factors come into play, and the answer is different for every horse/rider team. Hopefully this post will give readers some more information about bits to enable them to make the best choice for their horse and assist in providing a potential solution for physical and behavioral challenges.
Tell us a bit about your bit....or are you going bitless?
Did you know stretching can prevent musculoskeletal aging and injury? Yup, it is true!
When a muscle is overused or underused, it responds by shrinking or tightening which can cause stiffness. As explained by Dr. Ava Frick, DVM, "Stiffness can result in injury, leading to inactivity, and eventually speed up the aging of the musculoskeletal system. To remain supple, the connective tissue and muscles need regular stretching. Stretching helps resist the gradual shortening and tightening of tissue that otherwise sets in from both underuse and overuse, reducing discomfort and slowing the progressive loss of capacity that accompanies tightening." See Stretching Exercises for Horses: Are They Effective?, Dr. Ava Frick, DVM, Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, Vol. 30 No.1 (2010).
Stretch Your Horse Coach contains 25 horse stretching video tutorials. The stretches are great for horses and riders of all disciplines and riding abilities. There are stretches for the:
Check out Stretch Your Horse video tutorials now!
Questions? Email us!
Ulcers? Tummy Troubles? New Medical Research.... and A Natural Approach Using Papaya
Did you know studies indicate....
Additionally, many horses and dogs have "mystery tummy or digestive troubles." This could be hind gut issues in horses, diarrhea in horses and dogs or any number of problems.
This newsletter will focus on the use of papaya (for horses and dogs) for ulcers and "mystery tummy troubles" as well as new and surprising medical research on the use and efficacy of Omeprazole, long considered the "gold standard" for treatment of equine gastric ulcers.
OK.... Let's get to it!
Key Facts About Gastric Ulcers
First, here is an excellent infographic by Hygain presenting key facts about the prevalence, causes, signs and some treatment options for equine gastric ulcers. In addition to the signs mentioned on the infographic, mild colic, lying down more than normal, girthiness (not caused by a girth issue, poor saddle fit or a rib movement restriction (aka a "rib out") can also be signs of equine gastric ulcers.
H2 Blockers and Proton Pump Inhibitors....In Plain English
Typical treatment for equine, canine (and human) gastric ulcers involves the use of either Histamine 2 (H2) blockers or Proton Pump Inhibitors to reduce stomach acid. H2 blockers, (medicines such as Cimetidine and Ranitidine), work by blocking a chemical in the body called histamine that stimulates stomach acid pumps. Proton pump inhibitors, (medicine such as Omeprazole), work by "blocking" (inhibiting) the pumps in the stomach that produce acid.
As reported by TheHorse.com, new research from a team in Australia showed that "in some horses on certain diets, the duration of acid suppression of oral omeprazole....could be inadequate for ulcer healing. While omeprazole did a great job raising intragastric pH in horses on high-grain/low-fiber diets, it didn’t perform so well in horses on hay-only diets."
The researchers also discovered that under some conditions there was a cumulative effect of dosing—meaning the longer the treatment regimen (measured up to five days), the higher the pH, which is a new finding. In the end, the researchers determined using a cookie-cutter dosing recommendation for all horses might not be appropriate. Veterinarians should consider the diet and management of horses when making dosing recommendations. "A hay-only diet might be a bad idea in the therapeutic stage, at least in some animals," according to the researchers.
These results led the research team to investigate other treatment approaches, specifically oral esomeprazole and a long-acting injectable omeprazole formulation. Both show significant promise. Check out the full article here for more details.
In summary, each horse's situation is unique. Cookie-cutter approaches do not always work. More research on oral and injectable omeprazole as well as oral esomeprazole is needed. Collaborate closely with your vet when considering ulcer medications and be sure to tell your vet about your horse's diet, turn out and other living conditions...all of which can potentially affect how well any medication works.
Can Papaya Each Day Help Keep Ulcers and Tummy Troubles Away?
Here is an article written by Gillian Clissold, an Advanced Level Eventer, regarding the use of papaya in horses. By the way, dogs can eat papaya too (in smaller quantities than a horse of course!) The seeds should not be ingested.
Papaya aids digestion, in part, by increasing mucous secretion in the mouth, esophagus and stomach. In some cases, a horse that has been turning its nose up at food starts eating within moments of the administration of papaya. There seems to be what could be called a “reverse Pavlovian response”. The horse’s mouth waters so it feels the urge to eat.
Even more importantly, papaya initiates a thickening of the horse’s natural stomach lining which provides protection against excess acid. It gives damaged tissues a chance to heal, and helps prevent new ulcers. In horses moving vigorously (race horses, eventers, endurance horses) the esophageal mucous protection can help keep reflux from damaging the esophagus. In an ulcer study published in the March 2005 issue of The Horse Journal, “rapid relief within three to five days” was reported. The same study reported that other major natural products for digestive problems worked considerably more slowly.
In one case, a weanling with severe ulcers and a bloated stomach did not respond to expensive pharmaceuticals but did recover with papaya. A race horse that had such severe ulcers it could not race, even after many weeks on an acid reducing pharmaceutical, had a clear endoscopic exam after three weeks on papaya, and then won a stakes race.
Unlike most of the conventional anti-ulcer treatments, papaya is safe for long-term use. The calcium/magnesium antacid type products work by neutralizing acid and coating the stomach wall with a chalky protective layer. However, if they are used over an extended period, resulting high levels of magnesium can interfere with the absorption of calcium. Low calcium levels can cause nervousness, bone changes, weak and aching muscles and abnormal heart rhythms. The pharmaceuticals which reduce acid production are great for most acute ulcer symptoms. However, acid is needed to control and modify bacteria in the gut. If the acid levels are low for many months, “bad” bacteria, particularly Salmonella, can overpopulate the digestive tract and create conditions for colic. Furthermore, prolonged low acid levels can cause poor absorption of vitamin B12, inefficient utilization of dietary protein, food allergies, bloating and foul manure.
Papaya is also useful in conjunction with administration of certain medicines. Many people “prep” the horse with a half dose of papaya to trigger extra mucous in the digestive tract lining just before they administer an anti-inflammatory capable of damaging the stomach lining. They then administer the anti-inflammatory, and follow up with another half dose of papaya to wash away the foul taste of the medicine.
Similarly, endurance riders and eventers who give electrolytes to their mounts mix the powder with papaya before administering. The extra mucous triggered by the papaya protects the mouth, esophagus and stomach from the burn of frequent electrolyte administrations.
The mucous producing characteristic of papaya is complemented by the enzyme it contains called papain. Papain is the main active ingredient in meat tenderizer. It closely resembles the digestive enzyme pepsin. Old horses benefit from papaya because its enzyme breaks down what their less efficient digestive tract can’t, and they gain weight.
Papaya also helps foals who get “scours” when the hormones in their mother’s milk changes during the first heat which presents the foal’s digestive tract with a new challenge for which it does not have the appropriate microbe population. The papain enzyme picks up where the foal’s own system is insufficient.
Weaning is a stressful time, too. Not only are foals anxious (creating conditions for an ulcer), but they must deal with a change in diet, for which they may not have the correct balance of gut “bugs”. In addition to the papaya induced ulcer-preventative mucous secretion, the papain helps weanlings digest new diets while their gut microbes are adjusting.
Cribbing often decreases when horses have papaya daily. Cribbing incidence at weaning is drastically reduced, and about half of adult cribbers also reduce or cease the habit. While most positive effects of papaya are evident in a week, in the case of a confirmed cribber, it can take up to a month for improvement. (Cribbing associated with stomach pain or missing nutrients is most responsive to papaya.)
Similarly, when antibiotics kill good gut bacteria, leaving the digestive tract unable to sufficiently break down food, diarrhea results. Papaya picks up where the bacteria leave off, and antibiotic-induced diarrhea can improve.
When horses get diarrhea during trailering, it can, in part, be due to anxiety-induced changes in gut motility not allowing absorption. The papain enzyme helps break down the food in the limited time it is in the gut and may reduce the diarrhea.
A final important characteristic of papaya is its taste and consistency. It has the viscosity of tomato ketchup, and is extremely sweet. This makes it ideal for camouflaging unpleasant medicines. One race horse trainer spent several hundred dollars for expensive antibiotics which his horse spit out on the walls before he realized the horse would happily swallow the dose if it were mixed with papaya. Horses who need extra salt in hot weather, but refuse it in their food, often lap it up if it’s mixed with papaya.
Papaya apparently tasted so good to one horse that he grabbed a bottle left close to his stall, chewed off the cap and licked up the resulting spill. Another owner found that if he approached the fence with a dosing syringe full of the fruit, his horse would immediately gallop over.
Papaya is also a mild “blood thinner”. The increased circulation associated with the slight anticoagulant effect may account for the very shiny coats and high incidence of dapples that many horses on papaya enjoy. Some caretakers also report an improvement in joint health as well. Papaya should not be administered to a horse that is on an anticoagulant already, as there may be an additive affect. Some stages of pregnancy can be complicated by bleeding, so it is unwise to administer papaya to a mare who is pregnant or who is about to be bred.
Where the Heck Do I Get Papaya??
So, you are intrigued. You will probably Google papaya use in horses or dogs and come across a bunch of information. You will also discover papaya may help humans with heart health, diabetes, inflammation, digestion and a whole host of other things. But then it hits you.... where do I get papaya? Do I have to give my horse or dog fresh papaya each day? Is that practical? Is that in my budget? Good questions!!
You can certainly do that, but you can also try papaya puree or even papaya enzyme tablets. Both are less expensive, easier to administer and can be found online or in most health food stores.
If you use fresh papaya, be sure to remove the seeds and skin as that can be toxic for some horses. 2-4 ounces per day is the dosage for fresh papaya. If you go the papaya puree route (not the nectar), give 2 ounces twice a day. Be sure your puree does not have added sugar. You may have to treat with Gastorguard or Alimend first and then maintain things with papaya.
The Bottom Line....
There are many causes of equine and canine ulcers as well as other types of digestive disorders and "mystery tummy troubles." Sometimes traditional medications can provide relief. Sometimes "going the natural route" with papaya (or other items such as aloe vera juice) may be the answer. Each horse and dog is individual and care should be taken to evaluate the situation carefully, including understanding all side effects of medications and papaya.
Have you had any experience treating your horse or dog for ulcers, other digestive disorders or "mystery tummy troubles?" Share your experience on the Stretch Your Horse Facebook page.
Selenium and Vitamin E: The Dynamic Duo All Horses Must Have For Proper Muscle Function and Suppleness
"I love my horse...... but........."
"OMG.... My horse is always so stiff. They feel like cement." "My horse has so much trouble bending." "My horse has muscle spasms." "My horse always seem sore." "My horse just does not want to move, but they don't appear to be lame."
I hear these comments many times every week! Why??
If I had a dollar for every time I had the "selenium/vitamin E conversation" with horse owners, I would be a rich woman. This dynamic duo is not an optional or "nice to have" mineral/vitamin combo for horses. Many horse owners are not aware this duo in the correct amount is critical for normal muscle and cell function. Your horse will be stiff as a board without it! If they do not get the correct amount on a daily basis, you are literally wasting your time stretching, training, having proper saddle fit, getting your horse's feet done and seeing the vet. Here's why.....
Give Me The Short Story (no complex chemistry please)
Selenium and vitamin E work in partnership to play the role of antioxidant aka "free radical neutralizer" and support the immune system. Oxidation is the process by which fats, carbohydrates and proteins are converted into carbon dioxide, water and the energy needed for the horse's body to function. However, as part of the normal oxidation process, a by-product called free radicals is created. If free radicals are not neutralized, they can damage and destroy the cell structures.
This often results in the horse's muscles feeling hard like cement, muscle spams, soreness and tightness throughout the horse's body and even poor coat quality or loss. The horse has a very difficult time doing their job regardless of their discipline because the cells and muscles are not able to function properly. Sometimes the horse even appears to be lame. Often times riders mistakenly think there is a saddle fit issue, behavioral issue, or injury. While any of these items can also be present, ensuring the horse is getting the required amount of organic selenium and vitamin E daily is a critical step in problem solving.
How Much Selenium and Vitamin E Does a Horse Need Each Day?
The US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has recommended that the average 1000 lb adult horse needs 3 mg of organic selenium and 500 IU (international units) of vitamin E daily. Some horses even need a bit more selenium and vitamin E. For example, I know some horses that need 4 mg of selenium and 3000 IU of vitamin E each day. Also, some horses who have been deficient for a long period of time may need a selenium booster shot in addition to their daily dose.
Since every horse is an individual, it is best to work with your vet and/or equine nutritionist to determine your horse's needs. Doing a blood test for both selenium and vitamin E is an option to consider if you think your horse may be deficient. Too little or too much selenium and vitamin E can have equally bad consequences.
How to Calculate Your Horse's Selenium and Vitamin E Intake
While vitamin E is found naturally in fresh grass, levels begin to drop the moment grass is cut for hay. In addition, many soils around the world (including my home state of Oregon in the US) are deficient in selenium, so the hay or pasture grass does not have enough selenium content. Therefore, supplementation is necessary. If you do need to supplement, I strongly recommend organic selenium as it is more easily absorbed by the horse. I have clients who thought they were doing the right thing and giving their horse additional selenium, but it was inorganic and not very effective due to lack of absorption. Also, your horse must have the proper amount of both selenium and vitamin E. They work in partnership, so one without the other in the proper amount will not yield great results.
In order to calculate how much selenium and vitamin E supplementation is necessary (If any) for your horse, look at all the feed tags and other supplements your horse receives and add up the selenium and E amount in each dose. You may even want to test your hay. Unfortunately, most grain and supplement manufacturers provide the selenium level in their products in ppm (parts per million) per pound. So, you have to do a bit of math to determine how many milligrams your horse is receiving in each dose. Don't worry....Help doing this calculation is close at hand!
On the Helpful Links page on my website, the two links on the left side of the page (underneath the equine vital signs link) lead to articles containing more detailed information about selenium and vitamin E and a step by step guide explaining how to calculate your horse's current selenium intake. You can also click here for the selenium calculation formula.
I hope you find this important horse health information helpful. Do you provide additional vitamin E and selenium to your horse? Do you have any questions about selenium and vitamin E? Let us know by posting a comment on our blog or our Facebook page
Ilene Nessenson, Certified Equine Bodyworker, is the creator of Stretch Your Horse, a 25 horse stretching video tutorial collection.