It’s safe to say that horse owners across Canada are passionate about their horses and their industry. Whether they are pleasure riders, competitors, or those who breed or train horses for a living, Canadian horse owners are invested in the equine industry both emotionally and financially. We read, we research, and we invest in them in the hopes of having the satisfaction of seeing a healthy horse in our barn or a successful one in the arena. Sometimes we are faced with making decisions about the welfare of our horses, and although social media is filled with opinions on what is the “best” thing to do for them, it isn’t always obvious as to what is the “right” thing to do for them.
The disappointing news of fitness is that we cannot keep repeating the same thing to get results. After a while, we need to modify exercises in order to keep gaining conditioning adaptations from them. Otherwise, the body becomes so efficient and habituated at performing movements that it recruits fewer muscle fibres to do them and operates with less involvement from the nervous system. Movements become robotic, a state in which no conditioning gains occur.
Equine botulism occurs when horses are exposed to botulinum neurotoxin, an incredibly powerful toxin produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. The most common way a horse becomes exposed to this toxin is by eating feed that has been contaminated with bacterial spores and subsequently having conditions that allowed for growth of those bacteria and release of the toxin. Clostridium botulinum spores can be found in soil almost anywhere, making contamination with these spores extremely common. High risk feeds for equine botulism include haylage, silage, and round bales. Any feed, however, can become contaminated and reports of equine botulism caused by square bales, pelleted feeds, sweet feeds, and even pasture clippings have been received.
Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEE), also known as sleeping sickness, and Western Equine Encephalitis (WEE) are viral diseases that cause inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. Wild birds are a natural reservoir for EEE and WEE viruses, and mosquitoes that feed on these birds can transmit the virus to mammals, including horses and humans.
West Nile virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne virus that affects humans and other animals, of which horses represent 96.9 percent of reported non-human cases. Introduced to the United States in 1999, WNV is now found in all of the contiguous 48 states.