Horse owners are familiar with the tragic pictures shared on social media of the emaciated horse rescued by the authorities, or the one that could not be saved due to its poor condition. Malnourished horses are a reality even in our affluent Western world. Sometimes these horses are the result of well-intentioned people trying to “save” unwanted horses, only to find they are unable to do so because of cost or scarcity of feed.
The goal: To safely transport my newly-purchased five-month-old colt 1,000 kilometres to his new home. Recently, I went to Alberta to pick up my next equine partner – a Quarter Horse weanling raised by my friend, Ida Newell, in Innisfail, Alberta.
Equine Cushing’s Disease, more correctly called Pars Pituitary Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), is a non-cancerous but progressive enlargement of the pituitary gland in the horse. It is estimated that 20 percent of horses over the age of 15 will develop PPID. Note that Cushing’s Syndrome in humans and dogs (when not due to giving too much steroidal medication) involves an actual tumour of either the pituitary or the adrenal glands, (either benign or malignant), whereas Cushing’s Disease in horses has a different cause.
Whether or not to blanket a horse is an often-debated question and there are many logical and justifiable reasons to go either way. In normal weather conditions, many horses do not need a blanket, especially if they have access to food and shelter and have grown a healthy, thick winter coat. But for horses with special needs such as older or geriatric horses, pregnant mares, horses with compromised health conditions, or horses that have been clipped, blankets are certainly appropriate. Consideration should also be given to the horse’s breed, hair coat quality, feeding routine, and its acclimatization to the existing conditions.
Time was, people dumped sand or hog fuel in a contained area, spread it out, and an arena was made. Today, the roll-out arena is long gone. Riding arenas are now construction projects based on sound engineering, state-of-the-art materials set down in critical layers, and building protocols, all with the horse’s safety and soundness uppermost in mind.