Tuesday, July 30, 2013

American Quarter Horse

 In the colonial era, many people wanted a tough, sturdy horse that could work all day, everyday during the week and still be able race on weekends. They seemed to love match races that were a quarter mile long, so they began to develop a hardy sprinter. Among the breeds they used to create this breed were Thoroughbreds, English Pacers, Chickasaws, and French stock.
 One of the most influential Thoroughbred stallions used as a stud horse between 1746 and 1800 was Janus, who was directly related to Godolphin Barb, one of the foundation stallions of the Thoroughbred breed. Unlike most Thoroughbreds, however, he was stocky and had short legs, with a body that was not quite as long as is expected of Thoroughbreds. Today, you can clearly see his influence in the Quarter Horse---the strength, athleticism, and even conformation. It all traces back to a single stallion. In fact, nine of the eleven foundation stallions all trace to Janus. 

 Everybody loved the quarter mile races, but when they increased to half miles and miles, a new breed stepped into the racing spotlight: the Thoroughbred. Consequently, when pioneers headed West in the early 1800s, the Quarter Horse came with them. Quarter Horses seemed to have an natural ability, called cow sense, to read a cow's body language, so they became a cowboy's preferred mount. Today, they are still cowboy horses, and are used in many western disciplines, including reining, cutting, teaming penning and sorting, and just as a pleasure horse. Even some rural ranches still use them while working with cattle. 

 With 4 million registered worldwide, the Quarter Horse is today's most popular horse breed.

This chestnut Quarter Horse, whose name is Streakin' Six, was
inducted into the AQHA Hall of Fame in 2011. He entered in
nineteen races, winning ten, coming second in five of them, and
place third once. (Credit)
 Quarter Horse's usually range from 14.2 hands high to 15.3 hands high. Their head is compact, with wide-set eyes, small ears, large nostrils, and large cheekbones. Also, their shoulders are sloping, their barrels are deep, and their chests are wide, and many people say that their muscular hindquarters, which can easily thrust them forward, are remarkable. 

 They come in many colors, although sorrel, which looks like a burnished chestnut, is very common.


 In 1789, a logging horse named Figure was born in West Springfield, Massachusetts. No one knew who his parents were, although some suspect the sire to be True Briton, a Thoroughbred, and believe that Friesians, Welsh Cobs, Norfolk Trotters, or even Canadian Horses to be somewhere in his lineage. Then again, these are just speculations. No one really knows for certain. 

 As a yearling, Figure was sold to Justin Morgan, a schoolteacher from Vermont, who lent the young horse to neighboring farmers to be used as a plow horse and a logging horse. It turns out that the small, 14 hands high colt was also good at racing. He would beat the fastest Thoroughbreds in match races, win trotting races, and could even out-pull heavy draft horses in log-pulling races, always winning, no matter how much extra weight was put on.

Morgans are usually found in bay,
black, and dark chestnut. They
can be used in many disciplines,
including western pleasure, like the one
 It wasn't long before villagers asked for Figures stud services, breeding him mainly to Thoroughbred and Norfolk Trotter mares, although he successfully made his mark upon generations of horses, which became to be known as "Morgan's horse." Later, the name was shortened to "Morgan," which is used to this day. 

 The Morgan has large, intelligent eyes; a slightly dished profile; a crested neck, which flows smoothly into high withers; a short back, sturdy legs, powerful haunches, and stands between 14.1 and 15.2 hands high. Also, the breed is divided into two different types: the powerful, compact Morgan, which closely resembles the breed's base stallion, Figure, and the elegant, more refined type, developed more recently than he other type. Despite their physical differences, the two have three traits in common: liveliness, endurance, and a good-natured temperament. 

 Just like the Thoroughbred, the Morgan excels in many disciplines, including dressage, driving, endurance racing, eventing, show jumping, and just about any other discipline, English or Western. The fact that it is an all-round horse most likely goes back to the early development of the breed, when a farmer needed to have it ready to do harness work or another man had to use it for different purposes. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tennessee Walking Horse

 In the late 1800s, settlers of central Tennessee began breeding Morgans, Narragansett Pacers, and Canadian Horses, the breeds they had brought with them when they had first settled there, one with another. The outcome were several fine, elegant saddle horses with many of the good qualities from each breed. However, the one characteristic that set it apart from most other breeds was its unique gaits.

 Most people remember the Walker by its running walk, which resembles a smooth trot that is much easier to ride than other breeds' bouncy trots. Because of that, many people, such as farmers, who would spend long hours in the saddle preferred the Walker over any other breed. Tennessee Walkers are born with the unique smooth trot, and no other breed can replicate it. As the Walker does the swift running walk, which can reach up to 20 miles an hour, he would slide smoothly across the ground, his head bobbing while his hind legs overstepped, leaving prints in front of his forelegs. The running walk is a four-beat gait and the Walker can do it for miles without tiring.

Illustration of the Walker's three special gaits, the flat walk,
the running walk, and the canter.
 Another one of their special gaits is the flat walk. The flat walk is a fast, four-beat gait in which the Walker would overstride, a trait unique to the Walker. His left rear would step in front of his left front and his right rear would step over his right front. Two factors are taken into account when this gait is judged: whether the horse bobs his head to the rhythm of his footsteps and whether he overstrides, both of which are unique qualities of the Walker. 

  The final gait is a canter that resembles that of a rocking horse. The Walker steps one foot at a time, moving either to the right or to the left. For example, if he starts with a right lead, he should continue with the left hind, the right hind, the left fore, and the the right fore again, always moving his legs in a diagonal motion. This gait usually has a lot of spring to it, rising and falling much in he manner of a rocking horse. Therefore, the gait is known as the "rocking horse" or the "rocking chair" gait.
According to the illustration above, this Walker is cantering.
Notice in the illustration that the horse in the bottom right corner
is in the same position as the horse in this picture.

 Walkers are commonly dark in color, usually bay or black, though they can be chestnut, grey, palomino, or almost every other color. Their head is very intelligent looking, with bright eyes and large nostrils; their neck is arched, with sloped shoulders beneath it; their haunches are powerful; and their legs are long, coming complete with hardy hooves. 

 Walkers are show in both western and English competitions and are judged on how well they perform their distinctive gaits. Also, they are used in both leisure and trail riding. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Causes of Laminitis(Grass Founder)

 For many horse owners, watching their horse grazing in a lush, green pasture can be an ideal image, but any horse with equine metabolic syndrome(EMS) or Cushing's disease(pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction, aka PPID) are at risk for laminitis, also known as grass founder.

 If a horse or pony with EMS will often show telltale symptoms, including being slightly obese, insulin resistant, or having recurrent laminitis. Even if they are not fat they may have fat deposits along the crest of the neck, dock and eyes. This condition most often occurs in horses and ponies that developed under harsh climates and are usually easy keepers.

 Horses with PPID, a condition that occurs mostly in horses over fifteen, have patchy deposits and insulin resistance, just like EMS horses, but also have additional symptons. These include loss of topline muscle and a thick coat that sheds later than usual, or even never at all.

 If your horse has any of these conditions, keep a careful eye on them to make sure they don't develop laminitis.

Carbohydrates play a major role in causing laminitis. Grazing in a pasture that is high in non-structural carbohydrates(NSCs), meaning fructan, sugar, and starch, is dangerous and can cause laminitis. On the other hand, structural carbohydrates, the fibrous part of the cell wall that gives a plant rigidity, are digested differently NSCs.

 Most pople believe that fructan is the sole cause for laminitis, but that is simply not true. Fructan is not found in springtime grass, when many horses are known to founder, and further study can prove that conditions that create high fructan concentrations in forage also raise sugar and starch level. This means that NSCs in general can be attributed to grass founder.

Conditions to Watch Out For

Even if you don't have any high-risk horses, it is best to watch out for founder-causing conditions.

Temperature: Kathryn Watts, a researcher specializing in pasture grass and laminitis-prone horse once said that if it is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit( approximately 4.4 Celsius) the enzymes that help plants grow simply won't function. As a result, sugar, caused by photosynthesis, continues to build up. NSCs can double or even triple if those conditions(sunny and below 40 degrees) last for several weeks. Since that happens in the fall and spring in many parts of the country, those seasons are associated with grass founder.

Lack of Fertilizer: Lack of fertilizer(nitrogen) can also cause laminitis. Even though the plant may have plenty of sugar stored up in it, without nitrogen it cannot use the excess sugar, which continues to pile up. Watts said, "I use the analogy of an assembly line: If the plant does not have all of the elements it needs to grow, the line shuts down and the other raw materials pile."
 Because lack of nitrogen can be potentially dangerous, make sure that the pasture is properly fertilized. Watts suggests using a fertilizer with moderate fertility, not maximum.

This may be your dream pasture for your horse, but you should
always watch out for signs of founder. (credit)
Drought: Right now, in the middle of summer, drought can be the biggest cause of founder, especially because of the heatwave that has been striking most of the country. Drought also causes sugar to build up in grass. In Texas, summer is founder season. Fructan in cool-season grasses turns to sugar during a drought, "increasing the chances of metabolically driven laminitis."(Watts)

Mature Grass: You should always mow the pasture before the sugary, starchy seed head appears. Horses will often pick around other grass to eat the heads off the mature grass, which can cause founder.

Weeds: Most pastures are filled with weeds, which often contain more sugar than grass. The weeds containing the most NSCs are dandelion, thistle, and plantain. Often, killing off the broadleaf weeds, such as dandelions, with herbicide is enough to reduce the risk of founder.
 While having thick, healthy grass may be enough to reduce weeds and the amount of sugar per mouth full of grass, there may still be more grass per acre, which also means more sugar per acre. When a pasture has been previously overgrazed and now has an abundance of grass, you may want to limit grazing time.
 Weeds can also grow in dry lots, where horses and ponies are housed to keep them out of the pasture. Since horses can still founder of the small amount of weeds, your best bet is to through there with a weed-wacker, knocking down every single weed.
Next week I will continue to write about grass founder, next time featuring how to prevent it and how to treat its early stages.

This post has been linked to: The Home Acre Hop

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Horse of the Sea

 The Camargue, also known as the "horse of the sea," lives near the delta of the Rhône River in the Camargue region of southern France, which is recognized by its saltwater marshes and lagoons, sandbars, coarse reeds, scorching summers, and harsh, bitter winters. Because of the salty, swampy environment, manades(herds) of the free-roaming Camargue must survive on a sparse diet tough grass. Their living conditions may seem tough, but they have had many years to adapt. Many people believe that the Camargue originates from either the long-extinct Soutre horse, which had lived over 17,000 years ago, or the Arabian, or even the Saracen horses, a breed that came to southern France in the eighth century with barbaric invaders. Some invaders from Celtic and Roman regions later found the Camargues on the Iberian Peninsula. As a result, the Camargue bloodlines became mixed with that of Spanish horses that lived nearby. 

 Because of many years out in tough environment, Camargues have become well-adpated to many difficult living conditions, including biting pests, humid summers, bitter winters, and though, salty forage, which even then is usually sparse. Even their robust exterior and wide hooves is a result of the wetlands where they have lived for centuries. 
Camargues have been toughened by the rough environment they live in.
Some distinct features are: the large head, the short neck
the stocky, compact body; the wide hooves, the thick legs,
and the heavy mane and tail. Their teeth are also adapted for eating
tough marsh grass, which most horses cannot digest. (credit)

 Even though the Camargue still runs wild in the marshes of the Camargue Regional Park in the early part of its life, their breeding is overseen by the Biological Research Station of the Tour du Valat. In 1976, the French government  began to register the main breeders and set standards for breeding. Two years later, the breed's studbook was set up. In order to be registered, a foal must fit the following criteria: it must be born outside, not in a stable, and it must be seen suckling from a registered mare. Foal are either labelled as sous berceau(in birthplace), meaning that they were born in the Camargue region, or hors berceau(out of birthplace), meaning that they were not born in the Camargue region. 

Camargue foals are born dark and lighten as they age, finally
becoming grey, like the one above.(credit)
 When the foals are finally weaned, they are exposed to humans for the first time. They are branded with  the symbol of their herd, a letter representing the year they were born, and an identification number. Many Camargues are saddled and trained when they are old enough and begin a lifelong career in herding Camargue bulls, which are used fro meat, bullfighting, and bull running and are also allowed to roam free in the marshes. 

 They are also ridden in parades and regional gardian races and are used in dressage, long-distance racing, driving, games(such as gymkhana) and other equestrian pursuits.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Przewalski Horse

  Over the centuries and millennia, hundreds of horse breeds have resulted from mankind's influence. Some of these horses have escaped and are the ancestors of so-called "wild" horses. However, an animal is only truly wild if it has never been domesticated, or never has had any domesticated ancestors, unlike todays "wild" mustangs. Far away in Mongolia lies the only horse that fits the criteria: the Przewalski(sheh-VAL-skee).

 Scientists believe that it may even be another species of equine since it resembles the prehistoric eohippus than any other horse today. In fact, since it has remained untainted by human influence for millennia, or longer, they think it may even be a direct descendant of the ancient multi-toed equine.

  Around the year 1900, an animal trader gathered lots of Przewalski foals, shipping them to Europe. Many died along the way, leaving only 53 alive. After that, they were sent to zoos all over the continent. It was actually very fortunate that the breed was taken to Europe. About sixty years later, with the increase of agriculture, the horses were forced to retreat to the desert, where they became extinct due to inhospitable weather.

 In the seventies, Przewalski breed advocate became outrage at the breeding practices in zoos. Facilities rarely exchanged horses, so they began inbreeding the horses, which caused genetic diseases and a high foal mortality rate.

 Three people from the Netherlands made a huge effort to save the breed, establishing the Foundation for Preservation and Protection of the Przewalski Horse, hoping that someday they could reintroduce the breed into the wild. They started a studbook before strategically crossbreeding horses from different zoos prevent inbreeding.

 With the help from the WWF-Netherlands, they purchased several horses and released them into reserves in Germany and the Netherlands. Every year mares would foal and raise their own offspring, and the mortality rate decreased significantly.

 In 1992, the Przewalskis from different preservations were released into a 50,000 acre nature reserve in Mongolia, called Hustain Nuruu, where they have been ever since. Twenty years have passed, yet there are only 300 horses in the reserve, which is now a national park, and efforts to save the breed continue in other preserves in Mongolia and China.
Notice the markings on the legs and the
black hair on the ears. These are both
signs that Przewalski horses are much more like
their ancestor, the Eohippus, than other horses,
like Thoroughbreds, Paints, and Quarter Horses
are. They also have low-set tails, like donkeys.

 The Przewalski has fox colored coat with a light belly a mealy colored hair around the eyes and on the muzzle. It also has several primitive markings, such as black rimmed ears, a dorsal stripe, and zebra stripes on the legs. They stand 13 to 14 hands high. Przewalskis differ from today's horse by having 66 chromosomes, rather than 64. When mated with a horse, a Przewalski produces fertile offspring with 65 chromosomes, while a horse mated with a donkey(62 chromosomes) produces sterile offspring with 63 chromosomes.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Snakes and Horses

 Summer is here, and almost everyone is ready to enjoy some time with their horse during the long days. However, snakes pose a great hazard, especially if you live in a hot, dry climate with long grass. People living in Western and Eastern states are on the lookout for rattlesnakes, the most common type in the area. In the Southeast, you are most likely watching for water moccasins and copperheads, who live in humid climates. No matter where you live, though, snakes are most likely a major concern during the summer for both you and your horse.

Always watch for venomous snakes, such as this
rattler. (credit)
 Snake bites in horses most often occur when a horse is grazing and is bitten on the muzzle by a resting snake. When that happens, the horse's muzzle will quickly begin to swell, possibly blocking his airways. He may begin to appear depressed before the swelling even begins. If you see a pair punctures in the horse's muzzle, tell-tale signs that he has been bitten, phone the veterinarian immediately.

 While you wait, keep a close eye on the horse, making sure that he doesn't show any signs of respiratory distress. If he does, insert a syringe case, a segment of a garden hose, or another tubular item as far as you can into his nostrils so that he can breathe as his face continues to swell.

 Be warned that snake bites can become infected with bacteria from the Clostridia family, which can cause infections such as tetanus or sepsis.

 Fortunately, no venom is injected in almost 20% of rattlesnakes, and most adult horses survive, even if venom is injected. However, bites are most deadly when inflicted to one of the horse's lower limbs. As the wound swells, the blood flow into the limb can become restricted, and a near fatal crisis can occur.

 Veterinary treatment for snake bites uses anti-inflammatory medications and antibiotics since antivenin is expensive and most horse respond well to other treatments for snake bites anyways.

 While waiting for the vet to arrive, try spraying the wound with Melrose and Purification to reduce infection. Clove can also be helpful to fight infection.

 Make sure to closely monitor any horse that has been bitten, even if medical treatment has already been administered. Ensure that he is able to breathe, eat, and drink properly. Also, keeping him in a stable until he is well is advised because some cases can cause altered liver function, which photosensitivity. Keeping a photosensitive horse in the sun can have adverse effects to his body and skin.

 One way to prevent snake bites is to make sure no rodents get in the stable. Store food where rodents can't get to them, preferably in a rodent-proof container, thus attracting less snakes. Also, if you live in an area where snakes such as water moccasins and cottonmouths regularly patrol the waterways, check for them before leading your horse in to drink.

This post is linked to: The Home Acre Hop

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Caspian Horse

 In the late 1950s, Louise Firouz moved to Tehran, Iran with her husband, establishing a children's riding school in Norouzabad once she got there. However, since only large hot-blooded horses were available to her, and she believed that such horses were not suitable for young riders, she decided to hunt for a smaller, more cool-headed breed.  For years she searched for the perfect mount for children riders. Finally, in 1965, while exploring the densely forested Elburz Mountains near the Caspian Sea, she found what she was looking for: a small, calm, Arabain-like horse. 

 She purchased one of the horses from a nearby villager, naming the breed Caspian since it had no other name. Then she collected some feral horses of the same breed. She had a feeling that she had found something important that day, as if she had rediscovered an ancient breed. Later, zoologists performed DNA, bone, and blood tests, proving that Caspians were direct descendants of Horse Type 4, an ancestor of the Arabian and other hot-blooded horses that was thought to be extinct for over 1,300 years. They believed that the Caspian had survived all these years because their homeland had been secluded from the rest of the world, blocked by Elburz Mountains on one side and the Caspian Sea on the other.

 After discovering breed, Firouz founded a breeding program to preserve the almost extinct horse breed.   However, in 1974, when war and political turmoil tormented the country, the breed almost became extinct. During that time, Firouz tried to export many of the horses as she could, but she was only able to export 33 mares and stallions. From those 33 horses, the breed began thrive in the UK, Australia, Scandinavia, North America, and the rest for Europe. 

 In the '90s, after the all the trouble in her country ended, Firouz began another breeding program, this time at Persicus Farm, which is currently overseen by the Iranian government.

Caspians, like the one above, resemble Arabians with
high-set tails, a dished face, and a prominent forehead.
Visit Equus Callabus for credit.
 The Caspian horse, unlike most other horses, quickly reaches full height of around 9 to 12 hands at the young age of 18 months. They resemble the Arabian in many aspects, with a dished face, a high-set tail, large eyes, a long neck, and prominent forehead. Their hooves a tough so they seldom are in need of shoeing. Although many people consider the Caspian a pony, they are incorrect since their skeletal structure is just like that of their full-sized cousins. In reality, they are small, well-bred horses.

Today, they are often used by children for gymkhana, dressage, jumping, and driving because of their athleticism and versatility, as well as their intelligent and willing nature.

 An interesting fact about the Caspian is that their genes seem to be dominant. Even if a mare has very little Caspian blood in her, she can throwback a foal with Caspian features. 

 Even after over thirty years of breeding, the Caspian is still considered a rare breed with critical status by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, The international registrar states that there are only about 450 left in the U.S. and 1,200 worlwide. Since 1965, only about 2000 have been registered.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Insect-Borne Illnesses and Horses

Insect-Borne Diseases

  It's summer, and bugs, ranging from flies to mosquitoes, can be found everywhere. Besides being irritating for both you and your horse, they can carry all manners of diseases. Fortunately, horses are vaccinated against Equine encephalitis and West Nile Virus, two of the most common ones for mosquitoes to spread.

 Flies, too, can spread diseases. Among them are Equine infectious anemia(similar to HIV), which causes the body to waste away. Horses are vaccinated against EIA and are annually tested(Coggins test).

 Furthermore, flies can carry parasites. Bot flies lay their yellow eggs on a horse's leg, where he is most likely to lick them off, continuing their life cycle in the horse's stomach. Black flies spread onchocerca cervicals, a hair-loss causing parasite.If Onchocerca spreads to the eye, it can cause anterior uveitis, also known as moon blindness. Face flies are known to transmit thelazia and stable flies(habronema) lay larvae in the horse's eyes and mouth, causing ulcers. Another fly, the warble fly(hypoderma), cause swollen nodules. Warble flies usually go for cattle, so check horses that are pastured near cows often.

 Fortunately, if a horse gets any of these parasites, they can just be dewormed by your vet.

 Some biting flies can carry pigeon fever, a disease found in hot, dry climates. Pigeon fever causes swelling in the abdomen and chest. It comes from the bacteria Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis. Unfortunately, a vaccine is not yet available, but scientists are currently studying one.

 Another common disease-causing insect is the tick, which is known for causing ehrlichiosis, Lyme, and piroplasmosis. Deer ticks most commonly cause Lyme since the carry the organism know as Borrelia burgdorferi. Lyme commonly causes shifting lameness, arthritis, stiffness, muscle pain, fever, behavioral changes, uveitis, weight loss, and neurological problems. Blood tests can identify what sort of treatment is necessary.

Fly sheets can minimize the number of flies that land
on your horse(credit).
 Insect Repellant

 There are many essential oils that can repel insects, including ticks, and boost the horse's immune system to decrease his chances of developing Lyme. Try anti-viral, anti-infectious, immune-system boosting oils. Many people recommend using pure, therapeutic grade essential oils. The more drops of oil you use, the better because you may need something stronger for horses, but keep in mind that some of these oils can burn if you use too much. I recommend putting several drops of the following into a spritz bottle filled with clean water(leave a little bit of room):

  • Geranium has been to repel insects and help good for skin problems
  • Palo Santo is said to be very effective in removing ticks.
  • Rosewood oil is used for fungal skin conditions, infections, and works well against parasites.
  • Thyme is anti-fungal, anti-infectious, and anti-viral. It is used to prevent infection and boost the immune system. be warned, though, that Thyme is strong, so be careful using it undiluted.
  • Myrrh is said to be anti-infectious, anti-parasitic, and antiseptic. It is commonly used for ticks.
  • Peppermint is also said to work well against ticks.

Directions: Spray on your horse at least once a day, especially before you let him out. The more often you spray, the better.

Tick Removal Regimen

Never pull a tick off the horse. A good tick-fighting oil is said to be Palo Santo, so put a drop of pure oil on a tick and wait for it to let go. Afterwards, spray the wound with the insect repellant I talked about earlier to prevent infection. Tea tree is known to work great to prevent infection.

Prevention is the Best 

  Grooming your horse daily is a good way to watch for ticks and keep insects away. Also, keeping the stable and paddock area clean can reduce the number of insects that pester you and your horse.