The Horse

OCT 2017

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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35 October 2017 THE HORSE TheHorse.com student at the University of Kentucky (UK) working under the direction of Amanda Adams, PhD, an associate professor at UK's Gluck Equine Research Center; and colleagues including Suzanne Schindler, a veterinary student at Lincoln Memorial University, in Harrogate, Ten- nessee, set to finding out. "Senior horses, comprising a signifi- cant percentage of the equine population, travel frequently … which is of concern for two reasons," Campana-Emard said. "First, it has been shown that, with in- creasing age, there is a decline in immune function and an increased production of inflammatory cytokines (molecules by which immune system cells signal and instruct one another)," which results in a chronic, low-grade state of inflammation known as inflamm-aging. "Second, it is imperative to understand the impact of age and traveling stress on immune function to determine if the transportation of older horses may increase their susceptibility to infection and, if so, for how long," she said. The team collected baseline blood samples from and evaluated clinical parameters in 16 horses with an average age of 25 a week before a 1.5-hour trip. They repeated the process before and after transport. Key findings included: ■ Horses produced less interferon- gamma (IFN-γ, an inflammatory mediator produced by white blood cells called lymphocytes) starting 15 min- utes after travel and through Day 21; ■ After transport, lymphocyte gene ex- pression showed reduced IFN-γ, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α, a cyto- kine involved in mediating systemic in- flammation), and interleukin-10 (IL-10, another anti-inflammatory cytokine) levels—together, these decreases sug- gest diminished immune fuction; ■ Cortisol (stress hormone) levels in- creased 15 minutes after travel; and ■ Horses weighed less on Day 3 post- transport. In a nutshell, immune function decreased and stress levels increased in transported senior horses. Campana- Emard said it could take more than a month for these values to normalize. Given these results, "It is important to ensure recovery time for horses after being transported and to watch for any signs of illness, including decreased ap- petite, temperature, or nasal discharge," said Adams. Implement biosecurity measures to reduce exposure or introduc- tion of disease, because the horse might not be able to combat disease as efficient- ly after travel. Avoid transporting a horse that is sick or even slightly sick, especially horses with respiratory illness. Adams recommended owners adhere to general recommendations for reducing transport stress when trailering senior horses, including limiting travel dura- tion, offering dust-free hay, and providing clean water every three to six hours. Unwelcome Pasture Plants Got Your Goat? Get a Goat! There's an easy and effective solution for overgrown pastures that need renova- tion: goats. Last year, Michigan horse farm owner Bess Ohlgren-Miller recognized that inva- sive plants were reducing forage available in her pastures and turned to Michigan State University (MSU) Extension agents for help. Mechanical and chemical plant removal were ill-advised due to water- quality concerns or too costly, so agents suggested a biological option—goats. MSU Extension agent Thomas Guthrie, MS, shared what happened when 15 year- ling Boer-cross goats set to work brows- ing (feeding on leaves, soft shoots, and/or fruits of high-growing, generally woody, plants such as shrubs) and defoliating undesirable plant species. A nine-day acclimation period "served the purpose to ensure goats, residing equids, farm owner, and farm business clientele had the opportunity to adjust to one another," Guthrie said. During an 11-day transition period, the researchers assessed the goats' browsing skills and behavior. Throughout a 93-day reclamation period, the goats browsed and grazed a 3-acre plot that included 50% invasive, undesirable plant species and 10% desir- able forages for 12 hours per day. They remained in a smaller pen for the remain- ing 12 hours, where they consumed grass hay and corn as supplemental feed. The goats proved highly effective at reducing unwelcome pasture plants— Guthrie said they consumed 90% of the available undesirable browse. To boot, their average weight stayed about the same. Yearling Boer-cross goats cleared 90% of undesirable plants from one property owner's pasture. COURTESY THOMAS GUTHRIE DAY 0 DAY 90

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