Understanding the Lameness Exam Utilizing the Reining Performance Horse
10 Tips for Choosing the Best Hay for Your Horse
Wage War on Equine Parasites
10 Tips for Weight Reduction in the Overweight Horse
10 Tips for Caring for the Older Horse
10 Tips for Reducing Your Horse's West Nile Risk
10 Tips for Preventing Colic
Be Prepared for an Equine Health Emergency
Don't Skip the Purchase Exam
Help your Foal Grow with Proper Nutrition
Learn to Recognize your Horse's Dental Problems
Reduce Your Horse's Gastric Ulcer Risk
Protect your Horse from EIA
Learn to Recognize the Symptoms of EPM
Help Your Mare Have a Safe Delivery

Understanding the Lameness Exam Utilizing the Reining Performance Horse

Prepared by Max Wilcox DVM of EXACT Equine of Lakeside California: www.exact-equine.com

The lameness exam is a combination of horsemanship, science and deductive reasoning aimed at elucidating the inciting cause of a gait abnormality. Lameness in the reining performance horse is often subtle and cannot be easily observed as a gait abnormality but nevertheless can exist as a performance limiting ache, discomfort or pain. Identification of a primary source of lameness can allow for introduction of appropriate therapies available to equine sports medicine. The lameness exam may be supported by ancillary diagnostics such as radiography, ultrasound and MRI. However these diagnostics can be misleading if not interpreted along with a thorough lameness exam. In short, the lameness exam is the key element as experienced hands and eyes provide a more accurate portrayal of lameness than diagnosis' relying on radiology, ultrasound and MRI. Components of the lameness exam include history, gait analysis, palpation, flexion tests and diagnostic analgesia.

A relevant history may avoid time spent pursuing unrewarding avenues of diagnosis. For instance, shoeing may be implicated in lameness the week following application. Similarly, kicking a barrier, perhaps due to a change in neighbor, often results in trauma to a hind limb that may be misinterpreted as a chronic repetitive use injury at the time of examination. Knowing a horse's age and occupation is also important. For example, young age in conjunction with joint effusion may suggest the presence of an OCD. In the case of the reining performance horse, knowledge that hind limb lameness is more prevalent than with other disciplines, may serve to focus the lameness exam.

Gait analysis entails the observation of changes of gait away from normal that a horse implements to avoid discomfort during its stride. Sophisticated tools for gait analysis exist such as slow motion videography and force plate analysis. However, observation of gait as needed on hard or soft surfaces, before and after limb flexion, under saddle or in hand and following diagnostic analgesia, serves to elucidate the majority of lameness. Classically gait analysis relies on observation of vertical movement of a horse's poll in timing with a front limb. Front end lameness will result in elevation of the poll as the affected limb passes under the horse. In this fashion, the lame horse uses its head and neck as a lever to shift its weight backwards off the affected limb. With the reining horse this interpretation of lameness occasionally leads to misdiagnosis as some hind end lameness may appear as subtle front end lameness. This occurs as a horse with hind end lameness may lower its head to shift weight forward away from an affected hind limb. Subsequent elevation of the head and poll to restore balance is then misinterpreted as lameness originating from a front limb.

Palpation is the use of the examiners hands to detect changes in contour and sensitivity to pressure of vertebrae, muscles, tendons and joints that may help identify a source of lameness. Once again sophisticated tools exist such as thermography and nuclear medicine, to aide or augment what an examiner might suspect by feel. However, findings from palpation efficiently and quickly locate inciting causes of lameness in most instances where these technologies might be used. Some examples of palpation include applying pressure along either side of the cervical spine, flattening the front of the inter-carpal joint with a palm then feeling for translocation of joint fluid to the back of the carpus (front "knee"), or squeezing the suspensory origin and sliding the flexor tendons between thumb and forefinger to gather information concerning their integrity. Findings from palpation may be primary or secondary. Primary findings indicate a principle source of lameness, whereas secondary findings identify a source of pain resulting from compensation by the horse, to protect itself from pain originating from a principle source of lameness. Utilizing the reining performance horse as an example, pain originating from palpation at the origin of the front suspensory ligaments is often secondary to a hind end lameness, which results in the horse shifting a disproportionate portion or its weight forward over its front end. Conversely, pain resulting from palpation of the body of the hind suspensory ligaments is often indicative of a primary source of lameness in the reining performance horse. Effective treatment of a primary source of lameness results in a sound horse where secondary lameness often resolves spontaneously following treatment of its related primary lameness.

A flexion test is utilized to selectively stress a horse's joint with for the purpose of elucidating a source of lameness. Typically, a clinician will first observe a horse's gait prior to flexing a joint. Subsequently, for a short time period, he or she will bend the limb of a horse in a fashion that applies greater stress to an individual joint. Finally, the limb will be released and the clinician will again observe the gait of the horse. If a flexion test results in a change of gait that does not quickly resolve then the test can be considered positive and a contributing source of lameness may be identified. Care must be taken however, when interpreting the significance of a positive flexion test. For example, over vigorous flexion of a joint may elucidate a painful response in a horse that practically speaking is a sound performer. In the case of the reining performance horse, rigors associated with performance often result in discomfort associated with the hock and stifle joints. Due to anatomical considerations the hock and stifle of the horse may not be flexed individually (the hock and stifle flex and extend together). The best that may be done is to stress one joint more than the other. Nevertheless, performing a hock flexion will simultaneously stress the stifle joint on the same limb. Consequently, a positive hind limb flexion may at times be misinterpreted as hock pain when the more significant source of lameness originates from the stifle region.

Diagnostic analgesia is used to localize, confirm or rule out a suspected source of lameness. When performed as a "nerve block" a numbing agent, such as lidocaine or carbocain, is generally deposited via syringe and needle in the pathway of a sensory nerve to the lower limb. Sensory nerves to the lower limb pass in the back of the limb (where they are protected by the bony column) and are paired with an inside (medial) and outside (lateral) constituent. When successfully executed, the portion of the limb closer to the ground than (distal to) the site of deposition will no longer have sensation. In this fashion a source of lameness may be confirmed if a diagnostic block results in an improvement of gait. For example, on examination a left front lameness in a horse is easily observed (pronounced elevation of the head and neck as the left front limb bears weight). Further examination fails to reveal effusion in the carpal and fetlock joints, sensitivity to palpation of suspensory and flexor tendons or significant response to joint flexion. In the absence of signs of lameness higher up the limb pain originating from the foot is suspected. A palmar digital (heel) block is performed and the horse's gait is reevaluated with little appreciable improvement. Subsequently, a basi-sesmoid block is performed (just below the fetlock) and the gait again reevaluated revealing a significant improvement in comfort. The positive exam finding may be interpreted as lameness originating from structures in the forward portion of the left hoof (the heel portion of the foot is ruled out by the negative heel block).

The lameness exam is akin to an investigation and although with numbers, patterns of lameness will appear, it is still easy to misinterpret or over interpret clinical signs. Ancillary diagnostics are ideally used to characterize findings during the lameness exam in terms of severity and prognosis. An example is ultrasound examination of a tendon sensitive to palpation or; radiographs of an effusive hock in a young horse. Treatment itself may confirm a preliminary diagnosis when a favorable response coincides with therapy.

The reining performance horse presents unique challenges in diagnosis, management and prevention of lameness. Similar, to related equine athletes, the cutting and reined cow horse, performance limiting and overt lameness often originates from the hind limbs. Hind end lameness is more difficult to visualize than front end lameness and the lameness exam must differentiate between front end and hind end lameness, between left and right hind end lameness, lameness originating low on the limb from lameness originating high on the limb and from single and multiple contributing sources of lameness.

In general lameness in the reining performance horse may be precipitated by lack of conditioning, fatigue, maximal performance and poor environmental conditions (poor ground). Providing adequate daily exercise, resting the fatigued horse, sparing the horse of hard stops and turns when possible and maintaining appropriate arena conditions are all strategies that will contribute to the longevity of this equine athlete. Nevertheless, even among horses that have been trained with care in the best of circumstances, it is uncommon to examine closely an individual that has been subjected to the rigors of reining performance competition without appreciating multiple sources of discomfort originating from joints, tendons and ligaments. This is not significantly different than with other equine disciplines such as dressage, show jumping, barrel racing, cutting horses, reined cow horses or many endeavors in human athletics for that matter. Consequently, the lameness exam should also be interpreted in light of a horse's recent performance. A positive stifle flexion on an individual that is a willing hard stopper is not as significant as a positive stifle flexion on a horse that has recently refused to stop. Similarly, a horse's stage of training should be taken into account. The modern day reining horse is an incredible expression of horsemanship and athletics. A horse that has evolved through the rigors of training and willingly performs the varied maneuvers required; is deserving of every consideration.

10 Tips for Choosing the Best Hay for Your Horse

High-quality hay can be an important source of essential nutrients in your horse's diet. A horse's protein and energy requirements depend on age, stage of development, metabolism and workload. A mature horse will eat 2 to 2.5% of its body weight a day, and for optimum health, nutritionists recommend that at least half of this should be roughage such as hay. For a 1000-pound horse, that means at least 10 pounds of roughage each day.
Hay generally falls into one of two categories - grasses or legumes. Legume hay is higher in protein, energy, calcium and vitamin A than grass hays. While hay alone may not meet the total dietary requirements of young, growing horses or those used for high levels of performance, high-quality hay may supply ample nutrition for less active adult horses.
Once you've determined the best category of hay for your horse, most people select hay based on how it looks, smells and feels. Use the following tips from the American Association of Equine Practitioners to select the best hay for your horse:

1. It's what's inside that counts. Ask that one or several bales are opened so you can evaluate the hay inside the bales. Do not worry about slight discoloration on the outside, especially in stacked hay.
2. Choose hay that is as fine-stemmed, green and leafy as possible, and is soft to the touch.
3. Avoid hay that is overcured, excessively sun-bleached, or smells moldy, musty, dusty or fermented.
4. Select hay that has been harvested when the plants are in early bloom for legume hay or before seed heads have formed in grasses. Examine the leaves, stems and flowers or seed pods to
determine the level of maturity.
5. Avoid hay that contains significant amounts of weeds, dirt, trash or debris.
6. Examine hay for signs of insect infestation or disease. Be especially careful to check for blister beetles in alfalfa. Ask the grower about any potential problems in the region.
7. Reject bales that seem excessively heavy for their size of feel warm to the touch, as they could contain excess moisture that could cause mold, or worse, spontaneous combustion.
8. When possible, purchase and feed hay within a year of harvest to preserve its nutritional value.
9. Store hay in a dry, sheltered area out of the rain, snow and sun, or cover in the stack to protect it from the elements.
10. When buying in quantity, have the hay analyzed by a certified forage laboratory to determine its actual nutrient content.

Remember that horses at different ages and stages of growth, development and activity have different dietary requirements. Consult your veterinarian or a qualified equine nutritionist when formulating your horse's ration. He or she can help you put together a balanced diet that is safe, nutritious and cost-effective.

Wage War on Equine Parasites

Internal parasites are silent killers. They can cause extensive internal damage, and you may not even realize your horses are heavily infected. At the very least, parasites can lower resistance, rob the horse of valuable nutrients, and cause gastrointestinal irritation and unthriftiness. At their worst, they can lead to colic, intestinal ruptures, and death.
Using deworming agents on a regular schedule in combination with good management procedures is critical to relieving your horse of most parasites. Since parasites are primarily transferred through manure, good management is key. In terms of management priorities, establishing a parasite control program is probably second only to supplying the horse with clean, plentiful water and high quality feed.
To get rid of parasites before they attack your horse, follow these suggestions from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP):

1. Pick up and dispose of manure droppings in the pasture at least twice weekly.
2. Mow and harrow pastures regularly to break up manure piles and expose parasite eggs and larvae to the elements.
3. Rotate pastures by allowing other livestock, such as sheep or cattle, to graze them, thereby interrupting the life cycles of parasites.
4. Group horses by age to reduce exposure to certain parasites and maximize the deworming program geared to that group.
5. Keep the number of horses per acre to a minimum to prevent overgrazing and reduce the fecal contamination per acre.
6. Use a feeder for hay and grain rather than feeding on the ground.
7. Remove bot eggs quickly and regularly from the horse's haircoat to prevent ingestion.
8. Rotate deworming agents, not just brand names, to prevent chemical resistance.
9. Consult your veterinarian to set up an effective and regular deworming schedule.

With the many safe, convenient products available today, establishing an effective deworming program is easy. Discuss a plan with your veterinarian and implement it without delay. A good parasite control program will go a long way toward maximizing your horse's appearance, performance and comfort. The net result will be an animal that is as healthy on the inside as it appears on the outside.

10 Tips for Weight Reduction in the Overweight Horse

As a horse owner, you play an important role in controlling your equine companion's weight. Sound nutrition management, a regular exercise program and veterinary care are key to keeping your horse fit and healthy. Maintaining the ideal weight is not always easy, however.
When implementing a weight loss program for the overweight horse, it's important to do it gradually and under the supervision of an equine veterinarian. Follow these guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to get you started:

1. Be patient. Weight reduction should be a slow, steady process so not to stress the horse or create metabolic upsets.
2. Make changes in both the type and amount of feed gradually. Reduce rations by no more than 10% over a 7- to 10-day period.
3. Track your horse's progress by using a weight tape. When the horse's weight plateaus, gradually cut back its ration again.
4. Step up the horse's exercise regimen. Gradually build time and intensity as the horse's fitness improves.
5. Provide plenty of clean, fresh water so the horse's digestive and other systems function as efficiently as possible and rid the body of metabolic and other wastes.
6. Select feeds that provide plenty of high quality fiber but are low in total energy. Measure feeds by weight rather than by volume to determine appropriate rations.
7. Select feeds that are lower in fat since fat is an energy-dense nutrient source.
8. Switch or reduce the amount of alfalfa hay feed. Replace with a mature grass or oat hay to reduce caloric intake.
9. Feed separate from other horses so the overweight horse doesn't have a chance to eat his portion and his neighbor's too. In extreme cases of obesity, caloric intake may also need to be controlled by limiting pasture intake.
10. Balance the horse's diet based on age and activity level. Make sure the horse's vitamin, mineral and protein requirements continue to be met.

Once your horse has reached its ideal body condition, maintaining the proper weight is a gentle balancing act. You will probably need to readjust your horse's ration to stabilize its weight. Exercise will continue to be a key component in keeping the horse fit. Because obesity can affect a horse's health, communicate regularly with your veterinarian. Schedule regular check-ups, especially during the weight reduction process.

10 Tips for Caring for the Older Horse

Because of advances in nutrition, management and health care, horses are living longer, more useful lives. It's not uncommon to find horses and ponies living well into their 20s and 30s. While genetics play a role in determining life span, you too, can have an impact.
You may think that turning your old-timer out to pasture is the kindest form of retirement. But horses are individuals. Some enjoy being idle; others prefer to be a part of the action. Whatever you do, don't ignore the horse. Proper nutrition, care and exercise will help the animal thrive. Follow these guidelines to develop a total management plan for your older horse:

1. Observe your horse on a regular basis. Watch for changes in body condition, behavior and attitude. Address problems, even seemingly minor ones, right away.
2. Feed a high quality diet. Avoid dusty and moldy feeds.
3. Feed your older horse away from younger, more aggressive ones so it won't have to compete for feed.
4. Feed at more frequent intervals so as not to upset the digestive system. Two-three times daily is best.
5. Provide plenty of fresh, clean, tepid water. Excessively cold water reduces consumption which can lead to colic and other problems.
6. Adjust and balance rations to maintain proper body conditions. A good rule of thumb is to be
able to feel the ribs but not see them.
7. Provide adequate, appropriate exercise to maintain muscle tone, flexibility and mobility.
8. Groom your horse frequently to promote circulation and skin health.
9. Be aware that older horses are prone to tumors. Look for any unusual lumps or growths from head to tail as well as beneath the tail (especially on gray horses).
10. Schedule routine checkups with your equine veterinarian. Call immediately if you suspect a problem.

A quick response to ailments, injuries or a decline in fitness can keep your older horse from having a serious or prolonged setback. That means less worry for you and a better quality of life for your old friend.

10 Tips for Reducing Your Horse's West Nile Risk

Since first being recognized in the United States in 1999, West Nile virus (WNV) has posed
a serious threat to horses and humans alike. In the equine population, the virus is transmitted when a mosquito takes a blood meal from a bird infected with WNV, then feeds on a horse. While many horses exposed to WNV experience no signs of illness, the virus can cause inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. In some cases, especially in older horses, WNV can be fatal.
As a horse owner, prevention is the key to reducing your horse's risk of contracting WNV. Follow these guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to protect your horse against WNV:

1. Consider vaccinating your horse against the disease. In February 2003, a vaccine was licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture's Center for Veterinary Biologics for use in healthy horses as an aid in the prevention of the disease. Talk with your veterinarian about the most appropriate vaccination schedule for your horse.
2. Eliminate potential mosquito breeding sites. Dispose of old receptacles, tires and containers and eliminate areas of standing water.
3. Thoroughly clean livestock watering troughs at least monthly.
4. Use larvicides to control mosquito populations when it is not possible to eliminate particular breeding sites. Such action should only be taken, however, in consultation with your local mosquito control authority.
5. Keep your horse indoors during the peak mosquito activity periods of dusk to dawn.
6. Screen stalls if possible or at least install fans over your horse to help deter mosquitoes.
7. Avoid turning on lights inside the stable during the evening or overnight.
8. Using insect repellants on your horse that are designed to repel mosquitoes can help reduce the chance of being bitten.
9. Remove any birds, including chickens, located in or close to a stable.
10. Don't forget to protect yourself as well. When outdoors in the evening, wear clothing that covers your skin and apply plenty of mosquito repellent.

10 Tips for Preventing Colic

The number one killer of horses is colic. Colic is not a disease, but rather a combination of signs that alert us to abdominal pain in the horse. Colic can range from mild to severe, but it should never be ignored. Many of the conditions that cause colic can become life threatening in a relatively short period of time. Only by quickly and accurately recognizing colic - and seeking qualified veterinary help - can the chance for recovery be maximized.
While horses seem predisposed to colic due to the anatomy and function of their digestive tracts, management can play a key role in prevention. Although not every case is avoidable, the following guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) can maximize the horse's health and reduce the risk of colic:

1. Establish a daily routine - include feeding and exercise schedules - and stick to it.
2. Feed a high quality diet comprised primarily of roughage.
3. Avoid feeding excessive grain and energy-dense supplements. (At least half the horse's energy should be supplied through hay or forage. A better guide is that twice as much energy should be supplied from a roughage source than from concentrates.)
4. Divide daily concentrate rations into two or more smaller feedings rather than one large one to avoid overloading the horse's digestive tract. Hay is best fed free-choice.
5. Set up a regular parasite control program with the help of your equine practitioner.
6. Provide exercise and/or turnout on a daily basis. Change the intensity and duration of an exercise regimen gradually.
7. Provide fresh, clean water at all times. (The only exception is when the horse is excessively hot, and then it should be given small sips of luke-warm water until it has recovered.)
8. Avoid putting feed on the ground, especially in sandy soils.
9. Check hay, bedding, pasture, and environment for potentially toxic substances, such as blister beetles, noxious weeds, and other ingestible foreign matter.
10. Reduce stress. Horses experiencing changes in environment or workloads are at high risk of intestinal dysfunction. Pay special attention to horses when transporting them or changing their surroundings, such as at shows.

Virtually any horse is susceptible to colic. Age, sex, and breed differences in susceptibility seem to be relatively minor. The type of colic seen appears to relate to geographic or regional differences, probably due to environmental factors such as sandy soil or climatic stress. Importantly, what this tells us is that, with conscientious care and management, we have the potential to reduce and control colic, the number one killer of horses.

Be Prepared for an Equine Health Emergency

If you own horses long enough, sooner or later you are likely to confront a medical emergency. From lacerations to colic to foaling difficulties, there are many emergencies that a horse owner may encounter. You must know how to recognize serious problems and respond promptly, taking appropriate action while awaiting the arrival of your veterinarian.
Preparation is vital when confronted with a medical emergency. No matter the situation you may face, mentally rehearse the steps you will take to avoid letting panic take control. Follow these guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to help you prepare for an equine emergency:

1. Keep your veterinarian's number by each phone, including how the practitioner can be reached after hours.
2. Consult with your regular veterinarian regarding a back-up or referring veterinarian's number in case you cannot reach your regular veterinarian quickly enough.
3. Know in advance the most direct route to an equine surgery center in case you need to transport the horse.
4. Post the names and phone numbers of nearby friends and neighbors who can assist you in an emergency while you wait for the veterinarian.
5. Prepare a first aid kit and store it in a clean, dry, readily accessible place. Make sure that family members and other barn users know where the kit is. Also keep a first aid kit in your horse trailer or towing vehicle, and a pared-down version to carry on the trail.

First aid kits can be simple or elaborate. Here is a short list of essential items:
1. Cotton roll
2. Cling wrap
3. Gauze pads, in assorted sizes
4. Sharp scissors
5. Cup or container
6. Rectal thermometer with string and clip attached
7. Surgical scrub and antiseptic solution
8. Latex gloves
9. Saline solution
10. Stethoscope
11. Clippers

Many accidents can be prevented by taking the time to evaluate your horse's environment and removing potential hazards. Mentally rehearse your emergency action plan. In an emergency, time is critical. Don't be concerned with overreacting or annoying your veterinarian. By acting quickly and promptly, you can minimize the consequences of an injury or illness.

Don't Skip the Purchase Exam

Owning a horse can be a big investment in time, money and emotion. Unfortunately, horses seldom come with a money-back guarantee. That's why it is so important to investigate the horse's overall health and condition through a purchase exam conducted by an equine veterinarian. Whether you want a horse as a family pet, a pleasure mount, a breeding animal, or a high performance athlete, you stand the best chance of getting one that meets your needs by investing in a purchase exam.
Purchase examinations may vary, depending on the intended use of the horse and the veterinarian who is doing the examination. Deciding exactly what should be included in the purchase examination requires good communication between you and your veterinarian. The following guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) will help ensure a custom-tailored exam:

1. Choose a veterinarian who is familiar with the breed, sport or use for which the horse is being purchased.
2. Explain to your veterinarian your expectations and primary uses for the horse, including short- and long-term goals (e.g., showing, then breeding).
3. Ask your veterinarian to outline the procedures that he or she feels should be included in the exam and why.
4. Establish the costs for these procedures.
5. Be present during the purchase exam. The seller or agent should also be present.
6. Discuss with your veterinarian his or her findings in private.
7. Don't be afraid to ask questions or request further information about your veterinarian's findings in private.

The veterinarian's job is neither to pass or fail an animal. Rather, it is to provide you with information regarding any existing medical problems and to discuss those problems with you so that you can make an informed purchase decision. Your veterinarian can advise you about the horse's current physical condition, but he or she cannot predict the future. The decision to buy is yours alone to make. But your equine veterinarian can be a valuable partner in the process of providing you with objective, health-related information.

Help your Foal Grow with Proper Nutrition

A healthy foal will grow rapidly, gaining in height, weight and strength almost before your eyes. From birth to age two, a young horse can achieve 90 percent or more of its full adult size, sometimes putting on as many as three pounds per day. Feeding young horses is a balancing act, as the nutritional start a foal gets can have a profound affect on its health and soundness for the rest of its life.
At eight to ten weeks of age, mare's milk alone may not adequately meet the foal's nutritional needs, depending on the desired growth rate and owner wants for a foal. As the foal's dietary requirements shift from milk to feed and forage, your role in providing the proper nutrition gains in importance. Following are guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to help you meet the young horse's nutritional needs:

1. Provide high quality roughage (hay and pasture) free choice.
2. Supplement with a high quality, properly balanced grain concentrate at weaning, or earlier if more rapid rates of gain are desired.
3. Start by feeding one percent on a foal's body weight per day (i.e., one pound of feed for each 100 pounds of body weight), or one pound of feed per month of age.
4. Weigh and adjust the feed ration based on growth and fitness. A weight tape can help you approximate a foal's size.
5. Foals have small stomachs so divide the daily ration into two to three feedings.
6. Make sure feeds contain the proper balance of vitamins, minerals, energy and protein.
7. Use a creep feeder or feed the foal separate from the mare so it can eat its own ration. Try
to avoid group creep feeding situations.
8. Remove uneaten portions between feedings.
9. Do not overfeed. Overweight foals are more prone to developmental orthopedic disease (DOD).
10. Provide unlimited fresh, clean water.
11. Provide opportunity for abundant exercise.

The reward for providing excellent nutrition and conscientious care will be a healthy foal that grows into a sound and useful horse.

Learn to Recognize your Horse's Dental Problems

Horses with dental problems may show obvious signs, such as pain or irritation, or they may show no noticeable signs at all. This is because some horses simply adapt to their discomfort. For this reason, periodic dental examinations are essential to your horse's health.
It is important to catch dental problems early. If a horse starts behaving abnormally, dental problems should be considered as a potential cause. Waiting too long may increase the difficulty of remedying certain conditions or may even make remedy impossible. Look for the following indicators of dental problems from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to know when to seek veterinary attention for your horse:

1. Loss of feed from mouth while eating, difficulty with chewing, or excessive salivation.
2. Loss of body condition.
3. Large or undigested feed particles (long stems or whole grain) in manure.
4. Head tilting or tossing, bit chewing, tongue lolling, fighting the bit, or resisting bridling.
5. Poor performance, such as lugging on the bridle, failing to turn or stop, even bucking.
6. Foul odor from mouth or nostrils, or traces of blood from the mouth.
7. Nasal discharge or swelling of the face, jaw or mouth tissues.

Oral exams should be an essential part of an annual physical examination by a veterinarian. Every dental exam provides the opportunity to perform routine preventative dental maintenance. Mature horses should get a thorough dental exam at least once a year, and horses 2 -5 years old should be examined twice yearly.

Reduce Your Horse's Gastric Ulcer Risk

Ulcers are a man-made disease, affecting up to 90 percent of racehorses and 60 percent of show horses. Stall confinement alone can lead to the development of ulcers. A horse's feeding schedule also can be a factor. When horses are fed just twice a day, the stomach is subjected to a prolonged period without feed to neutralize its naturally produced acid. In addition, high-grain diets produce volatile fatty acids that can also contribute to the development of ulcers.
Stress, both environmental and physical, can increase the likelihood of ulcers, as can hauling, training and mixing groups of horses. Strenuous exercise can decrease the emptying of the stomach and the blood flow to the stomach, thus contributing to the problem.
The treatment and prevention of gastric ulcers is directed at removing these predisposing factors, thus decreasing acid production within the horse's stomach. Follow these tips from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to properly treat your horse's ulcers:

1. Allow free-choice access to grass or hay. Horses are designed to be grazers with a regular intake of roughage.
2. If the horse must be stalled, arrange for the horse to see the horses he socializes with. Consider offering a ball or other object that the horse can enjoy in his stall.
3. Feed the horse more frequently to help buffer the acid in the stomach.
4. Decrease grains that form volatile fatty acids.
5. Medications that decrease acid production are available, but are only necessary in horses showing signs of clinical disease or when the predisposing factors, such as stress, cannot be removed.

The prevention of ulcers is the key. Limiting stressful situations along with frequent feeding or free-choice access to grass or hay is imperative. Neutralizing the production of stomach acid is nature's best antacid.

Protect your Horse from EIA

Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) is a potentially fatal disease that threatens the world's horse, donkey and mule populations. The virus that causes EIA reproduces in the white blood cells that circulate throughout the body. The immune system, via antibodies, may attack and destroy red blood cells, leading to anemia. Infected horses may die from the direct effects of the virus or from secondary infections. Despite testing and measures to eradicate the equine infectious anemia virus, EIAV, more than 500 new cases are identified each year in the U.S.
There is no cure for EIA. Although most horses show no symptoms, they remain contagious for life, endangering the health of other horses. For this reason, the United States Department of Agriculture and state animal health regulatory agencies require euthanasia or strict lifelong quarantine for horses testing positive for EIA.
Your horse's only protection against EIA is prevention. Good management practices can reduce the potential of infection. The following guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) will help:

1. Use disposable needles and syringes, one per horse, when administering vaccines and medications.
2. Sterilize dental tools and other instruments before using them on another horse.
3.Test all horses for EIA at least annually.
4.Test horses at the time of purchase examination.
5. Stable owners, horse show and event managers should require and verify current negative Coggins certificates for all horses entering the premises.
6. New horses should be quarantined for 45 days and observed for any signs of illness, including elevated temperatures, before introducing them to the herd. They should be retested if exposure to EIA is suspected at a 45-day interval.
7. All stable areas should be kept clean, dry and waste-free. Good pasture management techniques should also be practiced. Remove manure and provide adequate drainage to discourage breeding sites for pests.
8. Horses at greater risk, such as those in frequent contact with outside horses or who live or travel in geographic regions known for EIA outbreaks, should be tested more frequently, every 4 - 6 months.

Learn to Recognize the Symptoms of EPM

Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM) is a master of disguise. This serious disease, which attacks the horse's central nervous system, can be difficult to diagnose because its signs often mimic other health problems in the horse and signs can range from mild to severe. More than 50 percent of all U.S. horses have been exposed to the parasite that causes EPM. Horses can come into contact with the parasite while grazing or eating feed or drinking water contaminated by opossum feces. Fortunately, not all horses exposed to the parasite develop the disease.
The clinical signs of EPM can be quite varied. Clinical signs are usually asymmetrical (not the same on both sides of the horse). Actual signs may depend on the severity and location of the lesions that develop in the brain, brain stem or spinal cord.
If left undiagnosed and untreated, EPM can cause devastating and lasting neurological damage. Use this checklist of symptoms from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) when assessing your horse's condition for the possibility of EPM:

1. Ataxia (incoordination), spasticity (stiff, stilted movements), abnormal gait or lameness.
2.Incoordination and weakness which worsens when going up or down slopes or when head is elevated.
3. Muscle atrophy, most noticeable along the topline or in the large muscles of the hindquarters, but can sometimes involve the muscles of the face or front limbs.
4. Paralysis of muscles of the eyes, face or mouth, evident by drooping eyes, ears or lips.
5. Difficulty swallowing.
6. Seizures or collapse.
7. Abnormal sweating.
8. Loss of sensation along the face, neck or body.
9. Head tilt with poor balance; horse may assume a splay-footed stance or lean against stall walls for support.

Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your horse has developed EPM. The sooner treatment begins, the better the horse's chances for recovery.

Help Your Mare Have a Safe Delivery

If your mare has made it through 11 months of pregnancy, you're almost home free. Labor and delivery, while momentous, are generally uneventful. In most cases, you will simply need to be a quiet observer - if, that is, you are lucky enough to witness the birth. Mares seem to prefer to foal at night in privacy, and apparently have some control over their delivery. Because most mares foal without difficulty, it is usually best to allow the mare to foal undisturbed and unassisted.
What you can do, however, is prepare your mare for a safe and successful delivery. Follow these suggestions from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to help the new mother and baby get off to a great start:

1. Write down your veterinarian's phone number well in advance of the birth and keep it by all phones.
2. Keep a watch or clock on hand so you can time each stage of labor. When you're worried or anxious, your perception of time becomes distorted. The watch will help you keep accurate track of the mare's progress during labor.
3. Wrap the mare's tail with a clean wrap when you observe the first stage of labor. Be sure that the wrap is not applied too tightly or left on too long, as it can cut off circulation and permanently damage the tail.
4. Wash the mare's vulva and hindquarters with a mild soap and rinse thoroughly.
5. Clean and disinfect the stall area as thoroughly as possible and provide adequate bedding.
6. Consider using test strips that measure calcium in mammary secretions to help predict when
the mare will foal. Sudden increases in calcium are associated with imminent foaling.
If a mare is taking longer than 30 minutes to deliver the foal, call your veterinarian immediately.

Preceding articles reprinted with permission from the American Association of Equine Practitioners.