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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Page 35 of 51 THE HORSE October 2017 36 This proves that small ruminants can be used for time-efficient cleanup to re- claim once-established equine pastures. Do Obese Horses Spend More Time Eating Than Lean Ones? Do you ever think your overweight horse is gobbling up way more of his free- choice forage than your ribby one? Jennifer Moore, a PhD student at North Carolina State University working under Shannon Pratt-Phillips, MSc, PhD, aimed to find out whether obese horses eat more than their lean counterparts do. Several undergraduate students, including Bridget Gillaspie, analyzed and presented some of the data. The team studied 10 mature geldings of various breeds, classified as either lean (average BCS of 4.5 on a 10-point scale) or obese (average BCS of 7.5), housed in individual pens and fed grass hay in a haynet twice daily at a rate to ensure horses always had forage access. The horses also had constant access to an automatic watering system and a trace- mineral salt block. The team measured each horse's dry matter intake (DMI) daily. Team mem- bers also observed the horses at 5-minute intervals for 24 hours. They found that lean horses spent more time than obese horses eating; however, DMI wasn't significantly different between groups, suggesting the horses consumed roughly the same amount of grass hay. The obese horses spent more time rest- ing and more time active than lean horses. Both groups spent most of their days eat- ing and most of their nights resting. Moore said the weight differences seem to be related to factors other than intake, such as genetics or metabolism. Study Pans Muzzled Horse Behavior While grazing muzzles are effective for weight control, they can have other ef- fects, such as altering horse behavior. Ashley Fowler, MS, and colleagues at UK compared the behavior of 12 pastured horses when muzzled and unmuzzled over five weeks. They found that: ■ When unmuzzled, horses foraged 52% of the time, stood 41% of the time, and walked 6% of the time; and ■ When muzzled, horses stood 81% of the time and moved the rest of the time. The team also observed that horses rubbed their grazing muzzles and pawed more frequently during the first two weeks of muzzling than in the last two. She noted muzzles altered drinking behavior, increasing the number of water trough visits during the first week of wear. "While we didn't measure water consump- tion, we suspect that instead of drink- ing, horses were playing in the water or attempting to remove their muzzles in the trough because we didn't see an increase in the frequency of urination with the increase in water trough visits," she said. Finally, Fowler said the team observed more social interactions when horses were muzzled than when unmuzzled. "Because horses aren't able to graze anymore, they must fill their day up with other behaviors, and increasing social in- teractions is one way to do so," she said. Fowler encouraged owners to wait out the horse's acclimatization period, even if he develops new behaviors. She said it's likely these behaviors will diminish in a couple of weeks. h COURTESY JENNIFER MOORE Practical Science When offered free-choice forage, obese and lean horses tend to consume the same amount of dry matter. Good Vibrations? Many equestrians report improved performance and injury healing when their horses stand on vibrating platforms regularly. Still, research on the topic is in its infancy, and sci- entists haven't confirmed whether time spent on these devices has any impact on horses. Chelsea Nowlin, a veterinary student at Michigan State University (MSU) working under the direction of Brian Nielsen, PhD, PAS, Dipl. ACAN, professor of exercise physiology in MSU's Department of Animal Science, hypothesized that horses that underwent vibration platform treatment would have different physiologic parameters than those that did not. In the study two sports medicine veterinarians conducted lameness exams on six Arabi- ans. The team pair-matched the horses and assigned one horse from each pair to stand on a vibrating platform and the other to stand on such a platform that was not turned on. The researchers evaluated short- and long-term effects of one 30-minute vibration session and of 30- minute sessions five days a week for three weeks. The same blinded veterinarians performed lameness exams following both phases. Ultimately, the team found "no differences pre- and post-treatment between the vibra- tion therapy and control groups in any of the parameters measured," Nowlin said. However, they did observe behavioral differences. "It was consistently noted that behavior improved throughout the three-week phase," she said. "All vibration therapy horses stood better and appeared to relax with each treatment, while control horses were restless." Nowlin said this could help explain why so many equestrians believe in vibration thera- py's positive effects. Another reason owners might report an improvement in their horses' conditions following long-term vibration plate use is, quite simply, the tincture of time. Ultimately, said Nielsen, "regardless of the reason for horses appearing more sedate when standing on a vibrating platform, we saw no differences in lameness between those that were treated and those that were untreated."—Erica Larson

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