Associations of health status and conformation with longevity and lifetime competition performance in young Swedish Warmblood riding horses: 8,238 cases ( 1983-2005)

Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
June 15, 2014, Vol. 244, No. 12, Pages 1449-1461

Lina Jönsson, PhD; Agneta Egenvall, DVM, PhD; Lars Roepstorff, DVM

Design—Cohort study and genetic analysis.

Animals—8,238 horses.

Procedures—Horses were examined for health, conformation, and performance from 1983 to 2005, when they were 4 to 5 years old, and competition results from 1983 to 2012 were evaluated. Associations between conformation, health, and talent scores of young horses and longevity (years in competition) and lifetime performance were analyzed. Odds ratios of competing later in life among horses with joint flexion test reactions were determined. Genetic correlations between young horse health, conformation, and talent scores and longevity and lifetime performance were determined.

Results—Good overall 4- to 5-year-old health, conformation, and talent scores for performance were phenotypically and genetically associated with greater longevity and lifetime performance. Good health was genetically correlated (rg = 0.3) to longevity and lifetime performance. Among conformation traits, body type and movements in the trot were most strongly associated with future longevity; these were genetically correlated (rg = 0.2 to 0.3) to longevity and lifetime performance. Intermediate-sized horses were associated with highest longevity and lifetime performance. Positive flexion test results were associated with lower ORs (OR, 0.59 for moderate to severe and 0.76 for minor reactions) of competing later in life, compared with no reaction, and were associated with lower longevity (0.4 years).

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Horses with good health and conformation at a young age had better longevity in competitions than the mean. Positive correlations suggested that improvement of health and conformation of young horses will enhance their future athletic talent and performance.

The effect of hay net design on rate and amount of forage consumed by adult horses

K. Martinson, E. Glunk and W. Weber
Description of the problem

Horses have evolved to consume several small forage-based meals throughout the day, often spending greater than 14.5 hours grazing each day. However, many of today’s horses are housed in boxstalls or drylots, fed two large meals each day, and have limited opportunity to forage. To mimic a more natural feeding pattern many horse owners provide unlimited access to hay. In many cases, this results in obesity because the horses tend to consume hay in excess of their energy requirement. Therefore, it is of interest to identify feeding methods that reduce excess intake, but extend the foraging period beyond a few hours around meal time.

To investigate the effect of hay net design on the rate and amount of forage consumed by adult horses.
Materials and methods

Eight adult horses in were fed in individual boxstalls. Horses were fed hay off the boxstall floor (control), or from one of three hay nets: large net (6 inch openings), medium net (1.75 inches) and small net (1.0 inch). Horses were acclimated to their assigned treatment for 2 days, followed by 3 days of data collection, and a wash-out period of 2 days. Horses had access to hay inside the nets for two 4hour periods: 7:00 to 11:00 am and 4:00 to 8:00 pm each day. Throughout the trial, grass hay was fed at 1% body weight twice each day. To determine forage consumption rate, stopwatches were started once horses began eating, and stopped once horses either finished all offered hay, were no longer interested in eating, or the 4 hour time period had expired. All refuse hay was collected and weighed. Total forage consumed was calculated by subtracting amount of refuse from hay offered.

Mean consumption rates were 3.3, 2.9, 2.4, and 1.9 pounds per hour for the control, large net, medium net and small net respectively. Horses were able to consume all hay from the control and large during the 4hour feeding period, but not all horses finished the hay meal when fed from the medium and small nets. Mean percentage of offered hay consumed was 95, 95, 89 and 72% for the control, large net, medium net and small net, respectively. A second study revealed that horse feeding from the medium net took just over 5 hours to consume the hay meal, while horses eating from the small nets took 6.5 hours to consume the meal. Both the control and large net resulted in consumption times of 3.2 and 3.4 hours, respectively.
Benefits to the equine industry

These results demonstrate that the small or medium nets were effective in decreasing rate and amount of forage consumed and increasing the total time of forage consumption by adult horses. If small or medium hay nets were used for twice daily feedings in a boxstall setting, the anticipated amount of time horses would spend foraging would be 10 to 13 hours each day; more closely mimicking a horse’s natural grazing behavior. Small and medium hay nets represent simple and affordable management tools for extending foraging time when meal feeding horses. However, use of the small and medium hay nets is not likely practical for all horses and it does take time (usually 4 to 5 feedings) for horses to acclimate to feeding from the nets.

Equine-assisted activities and the impact on perceived social support, self-esteem and self-efficacy among adolescents – an intervention

In this project, we examined the effect of a 4-month intervention with horses on perceived social support, self-esteem and general self-efficacy among Norwegian adolescents aged 12-15 years. The intervention took place at farm-based stables and included work with the horses and riding. A waiting-list crossover design was used and the participants answered questionnaires at three time periods. Study I (N = 49) examined the effect of the intervention compared with the control group. Study II (N = 41) examined the relationship between the same psychological variables and change in mastering skills with horse. The intervention group reported a significant increase in perceived social support compared with the control group. There were no differences in self-esteem and general self-efficacy between the groups. The results from study II showed that a lower level of perceived social support prior to the intervention predicted an increase in mastering skills with the horse during the intervention.
adolescents; equine-assisted activities; horses; intervention; social support.

Purchase Exam Notes

Equine Purchase Exam Notes for Buyers and Sellers

What it is a purchase exam?
-Extensive examination that takes 1-6 hours to perform, for the purpose of determining suitability of a horse for the intended purpose.
-A internationally recognized and organized process that generates legal documents often used by attorneys, insurance companies and breed registries.
-Goal of the purchase emamination is for the veterinarian to discover all possble physical, physiological, psychological and historical information on the subject horse and present those findings to the prospective buyer or agent to make an informed decsion.

What a purchase exam is not?
-An exam to establish and provide warranty.
-A pass/fail test.

Core Components of Purchase Exam at Rogue Equine Hospital.
-Clear identification/description of the horse, including of brands, tattoos, markings and color, sex and breed.
-Current diet and specific components
-Current housing and variations
-Medication history
-Medical history
-Preventative health care history
-Eyes and glands and skin/coat
-Mouth and teeth
-Heart and lungs
-Brain and spinal cord
-Neck, back and hips
-Upper and Lower limbs, including joints
-Objective data – heart and respiratory rate and temperature

Moving Evaluation
-Walk, trot and canter
-Passive flexion stress tests
-Physical response to work/exercise (heart rate and respiratory rate + quality)

Occasionally Added Componenets
-Uphill/Downhill walk/trot
-Walking side pull
-Limb placement/obstacle course
-Under saddle work

Exam May Include/Optional
-Blood work – complete scan – chemistry, complete blood count and fibrinogen
-Drug test – blood or urine
-Reproductive evaluation – if indicated
-Diagnostic procedures – radiography and ultrasound
-Gait Analysis – Equinosis System
-Genetic testing – see below:
–Parentage/Genetic Marker Report
–Cerebellar Abiotrophy Screening Test (CA) Lavender Foal Syndrome
–Coat Color:  Red Factor + Agouti Package –  Appaloosa Spotting- Red Factor – Agouti – Camarillo White W4 – Champagne – Cream – Dun – Pearl Silver – Lethal White Overo – Sabino1 Splashed White – Tobiano – Dominant White W10 Gray
–Glycogen Branching Enzyme Deficiency (GBED)
–Hereditary Equine Regional Dermal Asthenia (HERDA)
–Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis (HYPP)
–Horse Embryo Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis
–SynchroGait TM
–Horse Embryo Clone Validation – DNA + Mitochondrial
–Junctional Epidermolysis Bullosa (JEB)

Important points for the buyer
-If possible, and an under-saddle prospect, ride or have appointed agent ride more than once.
-Consulting an equine professional with experience in the discipline for which a horse is being considered is highly recommended.  This fact will increase the probability of a successful outcome.
-Engage Vet who is familiar with intended use of the horse
-It is okay to use the regularly attending veterinarian for the horse, however it is legally and ethically a standard for the veterinarian to do a complete record search on the horse and fully disclose that record in its entirety.  Partial disclosures should not be requested and so disclosed.
-Ask cost of procedure and additional tests.  Request estimates.
-Discuss experience and knowledge of the horse, with veterinarian,  in private prior to exam.
-Know shoeing schedule, vaccination schedule so exam is not influenced negatively by timing
-Discuss findings in private after the exam
-Enter into the process expecting findings that may surprise you and the seller.  Carefully handle the situation considering the seller, trainer or representative is possibly embarrassed to unknowingly present under the conditions.  Diplomacy is important for the sake of everyone present.
-If owner or direct person responsible is not present,  explore why?  Be careful with questions.
-Remain opened minded through the exam and wait for open discussion with veterinarian regarding findings.
-All working horses will require a degree of management.  The question will be:  Is the the potential cost of maintenance acceptable in the big picture.

**Study:  Top level jumping horses pulled aside and  radiographed as they left show ring from successful showing.  Nearly all horses had significant findings. 
-Lame horses should not be summarily rejected without knowing adequate information as to why the horse is lame.
-Buyer should respect the reputation of the horse, seller or representative by not discussing the findings of the exam, whether accepted or rejected, with third parties.  Seller could claim defamation if false statements made.

Important notes for the seller
-It is okay to use the regularly attending veterinarian for the horse, however it is legally and ethically a standard for the veterinarian to do a record search on the horse and fully disclose that record in its entirety.  Partial disclosures should not be requested and so disclosed.  This is an extreme legal risk for the veterinarian and seller if not done correctly.
-Present well groomed animal.  Good impression, well cared for.
-Consider shoeing and vaccination schedule.  Optimum is 2 weeks out for best presentation (hooves/shoeing)
-Have written vaccination and de-worming schedule.  Not only convenient but gives buyer a degree if confidence in health care. 
-Disclose health care history.  Understood that possible negative response, however, injured reputation or at worst – lawsuit may be avoided.
-Practice and establish in hand trot and lunge as it makes for good presentation.  Poor presentation leaves many holes in data collection.  Lack of information prevents ability to offer opinion on suitability.  Lack of information often leads to poor suitability or many questions that cannot be answered.
-Give space to the veterinarian and buyer to have a frank discussion in private.  The conversation needs to be private to allow full disclosure.  Legally this is required (disclosure). 
-It is better that a horse be rejected based on a through exam and complete process.  There is an end.
-Even though Seller owns or has legal interest in the horse, information collected on the horse is owned and controlled by the buyer.  The buyer may release a portion or all documents (example – radiographs, but no written report).  Until that time, the veterinarian cannot discuss findings with anyone other than the buyer or the appointed agent.


This document in no way is to be used or construed as legal advice or acted upon solely.  For current and accurate legal advice, you must consult an attorney who is specifically trained in contract  and equine law.   

Effect of different head-neck positions on physical and psychological stress parameters in the ridden horse.

Effect of different head-neck positions on physical and psychological stress parameters in the ridden horse.

J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr (Berl). 2013 Dec 13;

Authors: Zebisch A, May A, Reese S, Gehlen H

Different head-neck positions (HNPs) are used in equestrian sports and are regarded as desirable for training and competition by riders, judges and trainers. Even though some studies have been indicative of hyperflexion having negative effects on horses, this unnatural position is frequently used. In the present study, the influence of different HNPs on physical and psychological stress parameters in the ridden horse was investigated. Heart rate (HR), heart rate variability (HRV) and blood cortisol levels were measured in 18 horses. Low frequency (LF) and high frequency (HF) are power components in the frequency domain measurement of HRV which show the activity of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Values were recorded at rest, while riding with a working HNP and while riding with hyperflexion of the horse’s head, neck and poll. In addition, rideability and behaviour during the different investigation stages were evaluated by the rider and by an observer. Neither the HR nor the HRV showed a significant difference between working HNP (HR = 105 ± 22/min; LF/HF = 3.89 ± 5.68; LF = 37.28 ± 10.77%) and hyperflexion (HR = 110 ± 18; LF/HF = 1.94 ± 2.21; LF = 38.39 ± 13.01%). Blood cortisol levels revealed a significant increase comparing working HNP (158 ± 60 nm) and hyperflexion (176 ± 64 nm, p = 0.01). The evaluation of rider and observer resulted in clear changes of rideability and behavioural changes for the worse in all parameters collected between a working HNP and hyperflexion. In conclusion, changes of the cortisol blood level as a physical parameter led to the assumption that hyperflexion of head, neck and poll effects a stress reaction in the horse, and observation of the behaviour illustrates adverse effects on the well-being of horses during hyperflexion.
PMID: 24329719 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

“Nutritional Management of Insulin Resistance in Horses”

Nutritional Management of Insulin Resistance in Horses

By Alexandra Beckstett, The Horse

Managing Editor December 9, 2013 8:00

When it comes to caring for insulin-resistant (IR) horses, diet plays a very important role in managing insulin levels and preventing associated diseases such laminitis. Insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia are key features of equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) and can also occur in horses with pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (or equine Cushing’s disease). These animals often need to lose weight and consume fewer carbs.

To that end, Ray Geor, BVSc, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, a professor and researcher at Michigan State University’s department of large animal clinical sciences, shared best feeding practices for IR horses at the 2013 International Equine Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot, held Nov. 1-3 in West Palm Beach, Fla. He first discussed weight loss, then carbohydrate consumption.

Managing Obesity

Geor explained that dietary restriction and exercise are two key components to curbing obesity in IR horses. “Dietary restriction is not rocket science,” he said. “But it requires owner/trainer compliance and patience and sticking to the program (to be successful). Diet changes are likely a lifelong pursuit, especially for horses with EMS that are easy keepers and have a tendency to become obese.”

Geor recommended owners of affected horses institute a weight loss program with the goal of improving the animal’s metabolism to reduce his risk of developing associated laminitis. He offered the following guidelines for developing a program:

Base your horse’s diet on forage or a forage substitute, and eliminate grain and calorie-dense feeds (e.g., sweet feeds) if possible. – Feed a lower-quality, low-energy forage, such as late-maturity hay, at between 60 and 80% of your horse’s daily energy requirements based on his body weight.
When feeding a low-quality forage, add a ration balancer to help your horse meet his vitamin E, copper, zinc, and other requirements. “Alternatively, forage-based, low-calorie feeds that contain added vitamins and minerals are now available commercially,” Geor said. “This type of feed offers convenience and may be used as a substitute for hay or fed as a component of the ration along with hay.”
Although all weight loss programs need to be individually tailored, as a general guide start by restricting your horse’s daily dry matter intake (DMI) to 1.5% of his body weight in total feed. The rate of weight loss will vary between horses but in general at least six to eight weeks of dietary restriction is needed for noticeable weight loss to occur, Geor said. If your horse’s weight loss response is less than desired, you might need to restrict his DMI to 1.25% body weight. If he still doesn’t lose weight after another six to eight weeks, you can restrict his DMI even further to 1% body weight, but Geor recommended never feeding lower amounts than that for health and behavior reasons. “Hay feeders and slow feeders (e.g., hay nets with multiple small holes) are one way to extend your horse’s hay supply if you’re not feeding much,” he said.
Restrict or eliminate pasture grazing using a grazing muzzle or a drylot for turnout. “It should be noted that simply restricting the time allowed for grazing may not be an effective strategy for weight loss,” Geor cautioned. “Ponies have been observed to consume up to 1% of body weight within three hours of pasture turnout.”
And as with any diet changes, make feed changes gradually and avoiding withholding food from your horse for long periods. Divide rations into three to four small meals, and do not bed a dieting horse on straw or shavings to reduce the risk of him eating them and potentially suffering an impaction, Geor said.
Geor encouraged owners to use a number of simple tools to monitor their horses’ weight loss, including body condition scoring and measurements of girth and abdominal (‘belly’) circumference. “Body condition score is not always a sensitive indicator of weight loss,” he added. “However, girth and belly circumference measurements will decrease with weight loss, and I recommend recording these measurements at three- to four-week intervals.”

But once your horse meets his targeted weight and condition, you can’t just stop there: “Develop and continually update an appropriate weight maintenance program,” Geor said. “It should include monthly assessment of body weight and BCS to ensure that the feeding program is appropriate for the current level of physical activity and other environmental influences on energy requirements.”

Controlling Carbohydrates

Veterinarians and researchers have long associated laminitis with increased nonstructural carbohydrate (NSC) intake—especially in pastured horses. And because NSCs can contribute to exaggerated insulin responses, it’s particularly important to restrict their intake in IR horses.

Geor offered suggestions for controlling NSC intake:

Feed a forage-based diet with a low NSC content (less than 12%). “Soaking hay can help lower NSC levels, but it’s not a panacea,” he said.
Eliminate grain and sweet feed (both high in NSCs) from the diet.
Restrict or eliminate pasture access. At certain times of year (e.g., during spring and early summer growth periods, after summer or fall rains, or after drought or frost) pasture forages’ NSC content is quite high, so Geor advised keeping IR horses off pasture during these periods to reduce the risk of developing laminitis. He said a grazing muzzle might be the best way to safely restrict grass consumption (studies show it can decrease pasture intake by about 80%), as simply providing a smaller space to graze can lead to an overgrazed area, which will still have high NSC content due to stress. Also, “beware the ‘Hoover’ pony,” Geor said. “They can adapt and consume around 40% of their daily DMI in just two to three hours.”
In conclusion, Geor said correcting obesity and restricting NSCs are not a cure for insulin resistance but these strategies can help to prevent laminitis in affected horses.

Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.

August 2012 Summer Sore Alert

Recent outbreaks of ‘summer sores’ on horses have prompted us to issue this alert to let horse owners know how to recognize this alarming condition.

Summer sores, also known as Habronemiasis, are seen in the summer during fly season, and are the results of infected flies depositing the larvae of the equine stomach worm Habronema on wounds and moist areas of a horse’s body.Commonly affected areas are the eyelids, the sheath, the corners of the mouth and skin wounds.Infected tissues become inflamed and swell suddenly, with affected skin wounds producing excessive granulation tissue which protrudes above the surrounding skin.Severe itching is often seen.Infected wounds often have characteristic yellow granules which can be seen in the reddish wound surface that are about the size of a grain of rice.These are the dead larvae surrounded by inflammatory debris.

During fly season if your horse has a minor skin wound that suddenly looks much worse, or suddenly develops swelling of the eyelid, lips or sheath it may be Habronemiasis.Have your veterinarian examine your horse.

The treatment of Habronemiasis involves administering an avermectin dewormer (ivermectin or moxidectin), as well as topical treatment of the area.Systemic medications may also be given to control the severe inflammation which can result.

If caught early, summer sores are easily treated.In all cases treatment needs to be aggressive.In severe cases treatment may need to continue until fly season ends in the fall.

Life Cycle

The life cycle of the stomach worm is dependent on house and stable flies.Adult stomach worms live in the lining of the stomach and lay eggs which are shed in the feces.House and stable flies then lay their eggs in the same feces and the developing fly maggots ingest the Habronema larvae which develop within the growing fly maggots.The maggots then pupate into adult flies which then deposit the Habronema larvae on the lips of horses.The horses swallow the Habronema larvae which develop into adults in the stomach, and the life cycle is complete.