Seasonal Care

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There are a vast number of plants located throughout Canada that are toxic to horses in some respect. Many need to be eaten in large doses to cause much of an effect, while others require only a few mouthfuls. There are a variety of resources on plants toxic to livestock, but the Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System seems to be the most comprehensive. It lists over 250 poisonous plants found in Canada, their lethal dose (if known), and symptoms of poisoning.

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When Pasture is Too Much of a Good Thing - The horse has evolved as a grazing animal, hence, pasture plays a pivotal role in equine nutrition. Reported intakes of fresh pasture by horses can range from 1.5 to 5.2 percent of body weight per day. With such a large intake of pasture possible, can horses overconsume? What components of pasture grass can cause problems if taken in at excessive levels?

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“Hydration is everything. The correct balance of water and body salts controls everything from the brain to the gut. As dehydration develops we risk our horse’s health and welfare by stressing their hearts, kidneys, and gut function. From the polished show horse to the race horse to the beloved pasture horse, we must ensure access to clean drinking water and CORRECT replacement of electrolytes lost through sweating.”

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Laminitis and insulin-resistance (IR) are troublesome conditions in and of themselves, so it is all the more frustrating that they tend to travel together. So while fresh, rich springtime grass beckons winter-weary horses, the insulin-resistant ones must stand resigned and glum on the wrong side of the fence as their well-intentioned owners toss them last year’s browning hay.

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In general, domestic horses are very well-adapted to keeping themselves warm in cold climates. If they are permitted to grow a natural winter hair coat, and provided with free access to shelter, forage, and fresh water, healthy adult horses are usually able to regulate their body temperature quite comfortably.

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Common Conditions, Challenges and Pain Recognition - Keeping a horse comfortable into their senior years requires an attentive caretaker backed by a knowledgeable team. It is important to seek the input from your veterinarian and farrier to help maintain the health of an elderly equine and to spot conditions that will need special treatment sooner rather than later. Recognizing changes and not just dismissing them as “old age setting in” is a large part of the responsibility assumed when caring for the senior horse.

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“The stable environment invariably presents challenges of dust, mould and proper ventilation,” says Susan Raymond, instructor of Equine Guelph’s Management of the Equine Environment online course. “Most horses are well equipped for living outdoors and thrive, provided certain provisions are met.” Dr. Raymond completed her PhD in investigating the effects of exposure of horses to mycotoxins. She has also been involved in air quality research, which provided practical recommendations to the horse industry on stable design and management.

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