Author Archives: Olivia Colton

Happy horse, happy owner – keeping you and your horse content over winter!

Winter often means that horses are confined to their stables for longer than usual, and in periods of bad weather, some horses may have to be stabled for days on end.

While some horses don’t seem to mind living in, for other horses it can be very hard to adjust to 24 hour stabling, and they can become very stressed- which in turn can lead to health and behavioural problems.

To help to reduce your horse’s stress levels, make sure they always have hay or haylage available, as this keeps this reduces the risk of gastric disturbance, the internal fermentation of forage helps to keeps them warm, and eating keeps them occupied. If your horse is a very good doer, use doubled up net small holed haynets to reduce intake, or feed little and often if that is possible.

Try to keep your horse exercised as much as possible, and if your horse is not being ridden as much as usual reduce the amount of concentrate feed they receive, so they are not consuming quick release energy that they can’t utilise. Continue with high fibre and high oil feeds, as these will help with gut fill and satisfaction.

Feedmark’s Nutritionist Olivia shares:

“When the weather means that my horses must stay in, I mpi_FeedmarkFibreBlocksoak a Feedmark Fibre Block in 5 litres of warm water for them- the warm water helps it to smell lovely, and it keeps me happy knowing that it is helping them to stay hydrated- especially as my older mare doesn’t always drink much during cold snaps. My other horse is a stressy type, so she gets Steady-Up Advance over the winter, which really helps to keep her ridden work more focused.”

It can help some horses if they can see a friend nearby, and stable mirrors may also help where this is not possible. If your horse enjoys spending time with you, extra grooming time may be enjoyable for them, and if they use a horse ball or a similar stable toy, let them play with it to help ease boredom.

If your horse is of a nervy disposition, is having to live in, or their behaviour gets worse over the winter we recommend adding our fantastic calmative Steady-Up Advance to their daily feed to help keep them calm and settled.

Try new Fennel Seeds to help keep the digestive system comfortable, encourage milk production and support the upper respiratory tract.

fennels-seedsFennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a herb traditionally used to soothe the digestive tract. Feeding these seeds to your horse can help to keep the digestive system correctly functioning and may also reduce excessive flatulence, keeping you comfortable.

The small greenish-yellow seeds have a warming aroma and aniseed like flavour that is generally very pleasant to horses, and feeding this herb can help to stimulate the appetite of picky eaters. Adding these to your horse’s diet also supports the health of the kidneys, liver and spleen, and can help to maintain clear upper airways.

Fed to lactating mares Fennel Seeds may encourage milk production, and they are often consumed by women expressing milk to aid to keep their babies satisfied. It is not recommended to feed Fennel seeds to pregnant mares, but instead feed immediately following parturition to aid the stimulation of milk flow.

To find out more about Feedmark Fennel Seeds click here 

Sweet Itch

SKIN CONDITION CAUSED BY ALLERGY TO FLY AND MIDGE BITES THEN AGGREVATED BY RUBBING AND SCRATCHING TO ALLEVIATE SYMPTOMS. DERMATITUS SORES ITCH SCRATCH BALD

One of the most common problems we get asked about over the spring and summer months is Sweet Itch- a skin allergy triggered by saliva from the Culicoides midge. Once an allergic horse has been exposed to this allergen, a reaction causes histamine to be produced, resulting in swelling and itchy skin. The horse will have an intense desire to rub, scratch or bite the area, which is upsetting for them and you, and often leads to broken skin and open wounds that can become infected. Some horses can be driven mad by sweet itch over the spring and summer, which will can have a detrimental effect on their quality of life, and so their temperament and rideability.

Luckily, there are various management techniques that can be adopted to help your horse. The most important thing is to keep up the preventative measures, as even one bite can trigger the reaction.

  • Midges are most active at dawn and dusk, so stabling your horse between 4pm and 8am can often help to reduce the risk of being bitten
  • Midges love to breed on damp, wet land, so ideally turn your horse out away from water
  • Midges can’t fly against winds, so chose the windiest field possible, and consider using a fan in the stable too
  • Using a sweet-itch rug that includes neck and stomach protection will help stop midges biting when horses are turned out
  • Lotions and fly repellents may also help to keep the midges at bay
  • Feeding skin health supplements can helps soothe the skin and keep it healthy- high inclusions of linseed have been shown to be especially beneficial to those suffering from Sweet Itch, and can reduce the size of the lesion caused by the midge, and work as an anti-inflammatory (O’Neill et al. 2002). Start feeding at least a month before midges start to appear to ensure skin is in prime condition before it gets assailed.

If you would like any further advice please don’t hesitate to contact our help and advice line 0800 585525 or www.feedmark.com.

 

Spring coat changes

As we leave winter behind and the promise of sunny days is beckoning, you may well notice that your horse is starting to shed their thick coat, revealing a sleek and smart summer outfit.

This shedding is mainly caused by longer hours of daylight. The increase and decrease in daylight hours triggers the production of hormones responsible for hair growth and shedding. This change of coats over the course of the year is mainly to help the horse with thermoregulation: during the winter a longer and thicker coat is required, and when cold weather hits these hairs are erected, so trapping a layer of warm air next to the skin. In the summer, a finer coat is needed so the coat can lie flat, allowing air flow across the skin, and a shiny, smooth coat will also reflect some heat from the sun.

In order for skin and coat to stay healthy and for effective shedding to take place, the horse must receive a balanced diet, with the correct levels of dietary fat (especially omega-3, which must be supplied in the diet and is essential for skin condition), protein, and vitamins and minerals, notably vitamin A, zinc, iodine, copper, biotin, and other b-vitamins. Too much seleniuiStock_000011938719Smallm, iodine or vitamin A is also detrimental, so don’t over feed these nutrients. Providing you are feeding either recommended amounts of a complete food or balancer, or toping up a fibre-based diet using a vitamin and mineral supplement, your horses should be receiving the necessary vitamins and minerals for healthy skin and coat.

To complement an already balanced diet, we suggest adding vital omega oils, additional B-vitamins and useful herbs into the diet. Chamomile is well known as a skin soother and helps to reduce irritation, while Burdock root helps to keep skin scurf-free. Clivers are also included for their high levels of silica, which strengthens skin and hair, and nettles promote coat dappling, and also have tonic properties, cleansing the blood.

By helping to keep your horse’s coat shiny and scurf free, and the skin healthy you can reduce the risk of problems such as sweet itch and mud fever, and keep your horse looking great- ideal for the show or sales ring!

 

Help your horse shed!

Groom regularly to help remove excess hair, and if desired use specialised shedding tools

Anecdotally those who are exercised regularly lose their hair more quickly, possibly to do with increased blood flow to the skin stimulating hair follicles

Feed supplements aimed at boosting skin and coat health to make sure that the skin and coat are in prime condition for shedding

Ensure your worming programme is up to date, as parasite burdens can affect coat quality

Wearing overalls can help you stay less hairy when grooming shedding horses- the hair will get everywhere, and fleece and wool jumpers can be particularly hard to remove hairs from!

 

FOLLOWING THE TIPS ABOVE AND YOUR HORSE IS STILL NOT SHEDDING?

If your horse is not shedding as normal, or the summer coat does not look as expected, especially if they are an older horse, take note: Delayed shedding, or growth of a long, wavy, thick coat is one sign that your horse may be developing Cushing’s disease. This coat growth is known as ‘hirsutism’ – and occurs due to enlargement of the pars intermedia in the pituitary gland, which in turn compresses the hypothalamus, the section of the brain which regulates body temperature, appetite and seasonal shedding. If you think your horse may have Cushing’s, consult with your vet, and for help regarding dietary changes that may be necessary please call one of our Nutritional advisors on 0800 585525.

Olivia Colton MSc

Nutritional and Technical Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

Have you got a moody mare?

Normally good natured, obedient and willing, changes in hormone levels can turn your darling horse into an unpredictable, grouchy nightmare! While some mares barely change during their season and are able to be ridden and handled as normal, others really suffer, showing signs of discomfort and changes in personality. Some of these issues, such as raising the tail, urinating frequently, and ‘winking’, represent the mares desire to breed, showing the males that she is receptive to their advances. These behaviours are usually coupled with a lack of concentration, and your mare being less willing to co-operate: her mind is on other things!

Horse eating some hay and grass in a field.

Moody Mare?

The mare is typically in season for 5-7 days, and behavioural issues will become worse as the ovarian follicles increase in size and higher levels of oestrogen are produced. The raise in oestrogen levels triggers the mares to release an egg, which usually happens during the last 2 days of oestrus.  Once the egg is released, the mare starts producing more progesterone, the hormone which prepares the uterus for pregnancy. This stage is known as diestrus. At this point, the mare will no longer be receptive to the stallion.

If the mare is not covered, or is covered unsuccessfully, hormonal changes reverse the changes to the uterus, and start the cycle again.

 

Why don’t mares cycle all year round (and why some do!)?

The gestation time (period that the female is pregnant) for a horse is 11 months, so the mare will not usually cycle over the winter in order to avoid having a foal during the months where weather is likely to be bad. Most mares will start cycling in the early spring, typically in March/April, and this will continue throughout the summer until October or November. This cycling is largely dependent on daylight hours, and mares can also be affected by artificial lighting- which can be used to bring them into season.

 

Top tips when your mare is in season:

  • If your mare gets sensitive when she is in season, try to plan competitions, lessons or outings avoiding these few days.
  • For the couple of days where your mare’s behaviour is worst, it may be worth giving her a couple of days off, or doing low stress work- neither of you will enjoy a constant battle.
  • Feeding certain herbs can help to control oestrus-related behaviour during the spring and summer, providing a natural way of maintaining hormonal balance, and keeping both you and your mare safe and happy!

 

My mare is a pain all year round- and it doesn’t seem to be affected by seasons, what should I give to her?

To check to see if your mare’s behaviour is dictated by season, try keeping a diary to show you any patterns. If the behaviour is worse on similar days during her season, and this occurs on a 3-weekly basis, it is likely that hormones are causing the bad behaviour, and you should follow the tips above.

If the behaviour doesn’t seem to be cyclical, we recommend you look for another cause- checking to see if your horse is in pain, if their diet needs adjusting or if you could handle them differently to help them to cooperate.

Olivia Colton MSc

Nutritional and Technical Coordinator

At Feedmark all of our nutritional advisors are horse owners (though I am currently the only one silly enough to have mares!) and we are here to offer you feeding and supplement advice- either e-mail us at [email protected], or to have a chat to someone call the office on 0800 585525.

 

 

Woohoo- Spring Grass!

The wet and cold of winter is finally coming to an end and you have been given permission to turn your horse out onto their summer grazing paddocks, which are full of glorious green grass, what could be better?

229794_540593516993_2963931_nWell, while grass can be a fantastic nutrient source for your horse, lush spring grass can cause problems for some, especially those with metabolic disorders or horses that have had restricted grazing over the winter:

 

 

In warm, damp and sunny weather, spring grasses are able to accumulate high levels of non-structural carbohydrates, otherwise known as NSCs. NSCs found in grass can be split into sugars (fructose, sucrose and glucose), starches and fructans (chains of fructose). NSC levels will vary due to environmental and soil conditions, and the stage of plant growth. Eating large amount of these NSCs can be a risk factor for several digestive and metabolic problems.

NSCs are produced through photosynthesis- the process by which plants use sunlight energy to produce sugars. This can only occur during daylight hours, and then is used to fuel growth of the plants overnight. Usually NSC levels are at their highest at 3-4pm, having accumulated throughout the day, and are lowest early in the morning.

However, if temperatures are below 4.5 degrees at night, the plant is unable to utilise these NSCs for growth, and so they accumulate. The young spring grass is likely to contain high levels of NSCs, and contains less fibre than older grass, which makes it very easily palatable, and the horse is likely to eat a lot!

Consuming a high number of NSCs, especially if the digestive system is not used to it, can lead to many issues, including upsetting the delicate balance of gut flora, which can result in colic or laminitis. In addition to this, due to the high palatability of the grass, good doers are likely to put on weight!

Spring grass can be a particular problem for those who have suffered from laminitis previously, horses with PPID (Cushing’s disease) and EMS, good doers, and those who have gone from a predominately hay diet onto grass, so these horses may need special management when the spring grass flushes.

Even if your horse is not predisposed to laminitis, make any changes to the diet slowly, so if your horse has been on limited grazing all winter, make the change to being on lush pasture gradual. If necessary, restrict grazing, using muzzles, strip graze, or only turn your horse out for a few hours a day until they are used to the grass in their diet.

Field Grazing Muzzle

SPRING GRAZING CHECK LIST:

  • Slowly introduce your horse to spring grazing
  • Monitor your horses weight carefully
  • Provide your horse with supplements to help their digestive system cope with the change, such as pre and probiotics, which will support the good bacteria in the hind gut
  • Be particularly careful with horses/ponies predisposed to laminitis, including horses with Cushing’s disease (PPID) and IR and EMS:

o   If the temperature is below 5 ˚C at night, you may want to consider an alternative option to grass turnout (such as extra exercise, turning out in a sand school/ ménage, horse walker)

o   On bright and sunny days, where temperature is warm, consider turning out for a couple of hours in the morning only, where NSC levels in grass are lower. Wearing a muzzle during this time may also be recommended

o   Monitor your horse for any early signs of laminitis- it is a common misconception that only fat native ponies will suffer from this, in fact any age or breed of horse may be affected

 

Olivia Colton MSc

Nutritional and Technical Coordinator

If you would like any more information about how to feed your horse or pony or if any supplements can help them please call one of our experienced team members on 0800 585525, or look at our website www.feedmark.com.

Help to keep your stabled horse breathing clearly!

haynetIn the winter, adverse weather conditions often mean that horses have to live in more, stabled for the majority or even all of the day. Horses that spend so much time in the stable have greater exposure to dust particles, which are present in forage, bedding, dried mud, and scurfy coats. These particles are inhaled, and in a healthy environment they will be trapped by cilia and mucous in the upper respiratory tract, and removed. If the stable environment is too dusty, the respiratory system is overloaded, which impairs usual function causing irritation and inflammation, which in turn restricts the airways, increasing the risk of coughs or respiratory issues. If ventilation in stables is poor or bedding/forage is dusty this risk of respiratory problems is much higher!

If your horse has to be stabled more frequently over the winter, following these tips can help your stabled horse to maintain optimum respiratory health:

  • The Stable: ensure your stable is well ventilated and keep top stable doors, windows and any vents open. Horses do not worry about draughts, and providing they are adequately rugged they will cope well even during bouts of bad weather. If you are worried about snow or rain blowing in, use turnout rugs to keep your horse warm and dry.
  • Forage: a lot of hay is too dusty to feed to horses dry. Soaking hay reduces dust particles, but will also reduce the nutritional value of hay as nutrients are leeched out into the water, notably sugars and water soluble vitamins. While this is ideal for very good doers and those needing low-sugar diets, for horses in a lot of work and poor doers this is not such a good thing- and soaking is also time consuming and can be messy. Another option is to feed steamed hay, which reduces the amount of dust particles without the nutrient losses, or you could consider feeding a good quality haylage.
  • Supplement: feeding a respiratory supplement can benefit horses that are stabled often through the winter by helping to expel excess mucous and dust particles.
  • Bedding: sealed rubber matting in a well-draining stable will help to minimise build-up of ammonia and also help to reduce the amount of bedding needed. Choose a low-dust bedding which is also absorbent- there are various options available, so pick one that suits you and your horse, whether it is good quality straw, shavings or wood chips.
  • Mucking out: muck out without your horse in the stable, and leave the dust to settle before bringing your horse back in. If you use strong disinfectants in the stable, follow manufacturer’s instructions, as incorrectly used these can also be a respiratory irritant.
  • Grooming: when grooming and rug changing, it is advisable to do so out of the stable.
  • Turn out: turn out is very important to help maintain respiratory mental health for your horse, so whenever possible get them out of the stable!

For any more helpful advice or feeding tips for horses that are stabled over the winter call one of our Nutritional Advisors on 0800585525, email us at [email protected], or use our online chat service available at www.feedmark.com.

Helping your horse cope with confinement

Bad weather, sodden fields and shorter daylight hours often mean that horses are confined to their stables for longer than usual over the winter months, and ensuring the horse has access to ample forage is essential to keep your horse happy and healthy through this.

Horses are designed to trickle feed, ideally needing ad-lib forage, or at least to be fed every 4-5 hours, so if they are stabled they need to be regularly supplied with fibrous food throughout the day to ensure that gastric or other digestive problems don’t occur. Access to forage is also important to keep your horse occupied and content, and in cold weather forage is vital to help keep your horse warm, as the fermentation of forage within the digestive tract acts as your horses own internal central heating system.

 

Here are some of the best ways to ensure your horse stays content through long periods in the stable:

  • Feeding from a haynet, as opposed to off the floor or from a haybar, has been shown to increase the amount of time it takes to eat the same amount of hay- one study showed that horses fed a certain amount of hay from the ground took an average 120 minutes to eat it, but those fed the same amount in a haynet took 193 minutes- suggesting that using a hay net will make hay last over 50% longer: ideal if you need to ensure that hay lasts as long as possible.
  • For slim horses, provide forage ad-lib, and for tubbier horses, feed little and often, making sure they get 1.5% of their body weight of hay daily. For good-doers soaking hay is advisable, as this reduces the sugar content of the hay, making it a cheap and easy way to help control your horse’s calorie intake.
  • Providing your horse with a pre and probiotic supplement, such as BioPro, helps to ensure that the microorganisms in the hind gut are healthy, especially when their routines or diets are being changed. Keeping the hind gut fully functioning ensures that the fibre you are feeding is being well utilised, and reduces the risk of digestive upsets.
  • If your horse is confined or not being ridden as much as usual, reduce the amount of hard feed they are getting to help reduce the likelihood of digestive problems, and hopefully help to limit excess energy!
  • Feeding Feedmark Fibre Blocks is also a great way to keep your horse busy – feed soaked with 5 litres of water to help keep your horse hydrated (cold water is known to put horses off drinking) or feed dry as a boredom breaker!
  • Encourage your horse to drink by supplying a rock salt lick and providing warm water, as equines have been shown to prefer warm water during cold snaps.
  • Try to exercise your horse as much as you can – if you can’t turnout or ride walk in hand, lunge, or use horse walkers to keep your horse moving as much as possible.

If you would like to talk to a nutritional advisor about any concerns you have with your horse, we are open 7 days a week. Call us on freephone 0800 585 525 or contact us via live chat at www.feedmark.com.

 

 

Has your horse got the winter blues?

Has your horse got the winter blues?

Horse Yawn

Wet, muddy conditions, lack of daylight hours and often less exercise can make the winter a difficult time for your horse, and just like humans, if their immune system gets compromised, they will end up feeling under the weather.

The immune system is there to help protect the body against infections and toxins. Many factors can affect the immune system including age, genetics, body weight, and many other reasons. In general, correct management and diet can help your horse to stay healthy, but in times of additional stress, such as winter weather conditions, they can need an extra nutritional boost to help them stay happy and healthy over the winter.

To ensure your horse stays as healthy as possible over the winter months:

  • Make sure your horse has enough forage- if at grass, they may need additional hay, and cold weather will also increase forage demands. Where possible, provide forage ad-lib throughout the winter
  • Vitamins and minerals are lost during the process of making hay and haylage, so if your horse is not receiving full rations of a mix, cube, supplement or balancer consider adding these in to your horse’s diet
  • If your horse is losing weight use oils or high fat supplements to add extra calories to the diet
  • Try to stick to normal routines wherever possible to reduce stress
  • Maximise turn out- horses are not designed to live in 12×12 boxes, so this can be stressful and increase the risk of digestive problems
  • Try to keep your horse exercised- if riding is not possible, walking in hand, horse walkers and lunging are all good options to keep your horse active and stimulated
  • Health check daily- keep an eye out for skin problems such as mud fever, which are common in wet and muddy conditions. Respiratory issues are also prevalent over the winter, as horses are in more, so watch for coughs and discharge, and optimise turnout and ensure regular exercise to help stiffness in older horses
  • Feed a supplement that offers antioxidant and immune support during times of additional stress