A New Year of Horse Health
By Kim Miller | Equestrian Writer
The New Year is a great time to make resolutions about our horse’s health. Toward that end, here’s five management tips based on how our horses’ bodies are affected by aspects of their management routine and environment.
Feed Slowly: Because Mother Nature designed horses as grazing animals, their digestive systems are designed to process small quantities of forage over several hours of the day. They secrete acids to ferment fibrous plant material whether there is fibrous plant material in the tract or not. While it’s convenient to feed twice or thrice daily, that means most horses spend only about two-and-a-half hours of their day eating. It should be at least eight to 10 hours.
Encouraging our horses to eat as nature intended is a great way to prevent those acids from causing ulcers that affect a huge percentage of the equine population. More time eating also lessens boredom and related behaviours like stall weaving and cribbing. The Forager Slow Feeder enables horses to eat slowly and without frustration.
Be Nosy: A meticulously raked barn aisle and a neatly organized tack room are nice indicators of a well-kept yard, but neither impact on our horse’s health. Better to spend time on our hands and knees, sticking our nose where our horse’s nose is and inhaling deeply. Is something tickling my throat? Do I feel a sneeze coming on? Weird as we might feel doing this, it’s a great way to monitor for respiratory risks in our horse’s breathing zone.
As we said above, it’s ideal that horses spend much of their day eating forage. The catch is that even freshly harvested hay of top nutrient quality can be loaded with respirable particles. The particles we can’t see are the most harmful to our horses. At under 5 microns in size, they can slip past his respiratory defences to infiltrate and inflame the lining of the airways and lungs.
Reducing the respirable irritants in hay is a savvy, simple step toward maintaining respiratory health. Haygain Hay Steaming reduces up to 99% of the respirable irritants commonly found in hay.
Clean Underneath: By the time we can smell ammonia odours, there’s already an unhealthy accumulation of this caustic gas in the stable. Even in a well-maintained barn, ammonia accumulates when urine and other fluids seep through cracks in the flooring material and pool at the sub floor. Along with ammonia that irritates sensitive tissue in the eyes, respiratory tract and elsewhere, these pools of fluid are bacteria breeding grounds. ComfortStall Sealed Orthopaedic Flooring prevents such accumulation because its one-piece durable TopCover™ is sealed to the stall wall.
Encourage Rest & Sleep: The importance of physical and mental recovery is well documented in human sports medicine and deep sleep and rest are critical to that. While research on sleep and rest’s effect on equine performance and well-being is light, common sense suggests it’s equally beneficial.
Yes, horses can rest and sleep while standing, but they can only achieve deep REM sleep while lying down with their nose resting on the floor. The average adult horse needs at least an hour of REM sleep every day. ComfortStall’s layer of orthopaedic foam provides cushion and comfort that encourages lying down to get that restorative rest. Horse owners regularly report their horses spending more time napping and lying down on the unique flooring.
For the many hours horses stand in their stable, ComfortStall’s unique combination of traction, give and cushion supports joints, provides energy rebound and prompts blood flow that has a natural healing effect.
Hydrate: As with people, adequate hydration is critical to every aspect of physiological function in the horse, especially digestion and thermoregulation. According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners, an idle 500-kg horse in a cool environment will drink 23 to 38 litres of water every day. There are many variables, including external temperature, exertion level and how much water is in their food source.
Horses on good quality pasture grass, for example, can drink less water because of the moisture in the grass. Conversely, a diet of dry hay provides little moisture and requires more moisture to help with digestion. Haygain Steamed Hay has up to 3X the moisture content of dry forage. Its proven palatability helps ensure our horses get enough of this critical nutrient.
Here’s to a happy, healthy 2022 for all our horses!