It’s that time of year again- hot weather! And that means more danger for our equine friends. Shirley put together this quick guide on what you need to be aware of when it comes to keeping your horse happy, healthy and not too hot this summer.
Summer is a great time to ride. Kids are out of school and trails are clear of ice but summer can also be much harder on our horses. In order for them to reach their full potential in terms of performance, they need to be properly taken care of, especially in an area like Colorado. Many people not from here don’t realize just how hot it can get. Sure, the Denver metro area gets warm but it gets blazing hot across the state during the summer.
The first thing to remember is that in hot environments (and especially one as dry as ours) horses can sweat out as much as 1-4 gallons in a little over an hour. Still, water should be given in quick bursts and not all at once as that can cause other unwanted issues. In addition, horse metabolism levels decrease and heat stress causes less intake of food which can result in drastic weight loss especially muscle protein. Keeping track of a horse’s feeding pattern during hot weather is crucial for you to notice any slight change that needs to be rectified. If your horse doesn’t perk up and start eating after some time to cool off or after you offer them their favorite snack you should contact your veterinarian immediately.
Horses do adapt to hot areas after some time, but this does not rule out the need to monitor them and provide the required environment for their welfare. To reduce the effects of electrolyte imbalance you could provide loose salt to them to encourage them to drink water. You can also clip horses with long hair coats to enhance cooling, let them work at cooler times of the day such as early in the morning, late in the afternoon and at night and avoid riding them as much as possible to prevent heat stress.
If you really want to ride this Colorado summer, adjust your schedule such that you ride it at cool times of the day, ride the horse in shade, do not overwork the horse beyond its fitness rate and allow breaks so it can regain its respiratory rate, provide cool and clean water to it frequently as it works. For horses to survive in the dry Colorado climate and keep healthy, they should constantly be exposed to water. Spray or sponge their head, back, neck, legs and rump with cool water and scrape it off. Scraping is important because if left on the horse, the water might increase its body temperature by creating an insulating layer. Repeat until they are cool.
Adding ice to the drinking and bathing water has been proven to be safe and beneficial to horses since it lowers body temperatures and heart rates after heavy exercise. Symptoms of a horse experiencing heat stroke include muscle weakness, collapse, dry mucous membranes and whining, and distress. The best cure is immediate cooling. Allowing a horse a few swallows of cold water after every few minutes cures the stroke and heat stress as well. Summer is a hectic time in Colorado, but you can make it a safe time for your horses.
As many of you know, Shirley has been a veterinary technician for years- 25 years to be exact! While that doesn’t make her a veterinarian (and she doesn’t pretend to be one!) it does mean she knows her way around a clinic or stable. Shirley has worked with small animal veterinarians and equine veterinarians (in fact, that’s how she met Frankie) and one of the most overlooked medical concerns she sees in horses, cats, dogs and people are internal parasites. Shirley worked with her favorite small animal veterinarian, Dr. Thompson, from Parkside Animal Hospital to put together this quick guide to internal parasites.
Why Should We Worry About Internal Parasites?
Most stables, barns or ranches have more than one animal. I think that’s fair to say. At Neversweat we have up to 15 horses at any one time, 4 resident dogs with frequent visitors, 7 barn cats, 2 donkeys, 2 goats and 10 chickens! And that’s just what I can remember! Needless to say, caring for all those critters is a full time job. The big risk with so many living creatures is that if a zoonotic disease affects one animal, it can quickly spread to other animals. Or even worse, people! That’s why at Neversweat, we make deworming a regular part of what we do. We don’t want parasites likes giardia (very common in Colorado), coccidia, tapeworms or whipworms affecting our animals and we certainly don’t want them ourselves!
What people forget is just how many of these parasites can be transmittable between species. Let’s go over the top three that I think everyone should know about.
And remember, you don’t have to a be a veterinarian to administer dewormers. You do have to be a veterinarian to diagnose a disease. The difference is when you provide a dewormer you providing preventative maintenance care while if you diagnose a treat a disease, you have a crossed a line. The majority of deworming products can be purchased online or at any feed store. Our favorite is the Golden Mill Country Store located in Golden. We’ve worked with them for years and they’re great about answering questions about which deworming products you need. I also want to give a big thank you to Dr. Thompson of Parkside Animal Hospital. She reviewed the work written here to make sure I didn’t cross any lines or leave anything out.
Also, this article is not intended to act as medical advice. For that, we highly recommend visiting Dr. Thompson at her Aurora clinic (it’s worth the drive) for any small animal needs. Check out Dr. Thompson and Parkside’s website here.
Giardia is a well known Colorado disease and is a big enough deal that the Colorado state government has put out a variety of warnings and literature in regards to avoiding and preventing the disease. While the prevalence in Colorado may be a bit overblown, it is certainly not uncommon to see in animals and people. The tricky part is that there are several variations of the giardia organism. Some of these affect dogs, cats or horses more than others. And some effect primarily humans. Transmission is via fecal consumption. Yuck! But before you start to say that it can’t happen to you, realize how prevalent fecal material actually is on a ranch. Regardless of how clean you are (and we’re pretty darn clean at Neversweat) you will end up with fecal matter on your shoes, gloves, and clothes. If this comes inside with you it then ends up in your food and water.
But even more likely is that your friendly dog had a nice romp in the stables and is now ready to be pet. That sounds like fecal matter on your hands!
We regularly deworm are pets and livestock with panacur. This will knock out the giardia in one dose. It comes in an easy to administer granule formula as well as a liquid. We like the granules as they’re easier to store and way easier to administer.
Coccidia is another common Colorado internal parasite. The tricky thing with coccidia is that nothing will just knock out the organism. With this puppy, you have to focus on stopping the reproduction of the organism. Most often, we use ponazuril to a preventative drug. It is often sold over the counter (including at Golden Mill’s) as marquis paste. This stuff can be hard to handle and for small animals, you will need to dilute it quite a bit.
Coccidia is a little more severe than giardia in that diarrhea can get so bad that it can kill young animals through dehydration. We really have to make sure our barn cats are up to date on dewormers since mousers can coccidia but ingesting a mouse.
Tapeworms are a very common type of internal parasite. Unlike the previous two, tapeworms are visible to the naked eye. They also have a different route of transmission. Tapeworm infections are most often caused by ingesting fleas that carry the larva of a tapeworm. When cats or dogs groom themselves or itch at fleas, they also often ingest the little buggers and contract tapeworms. While horses are much less likely to do this, they can still ingest the small tapeworm eggs if their food or water is exposed to the stool of a tapeworm infected animal. Which on the farm or ranch can be quite easy.
The good thing is, tapeworms can be treated with the same drug used for coccidia. This is not an uncommon occurrence when it comes to dewormers. One or two dewormers can often cover your pets from a long list of internal parasites.
At the end of the day, there’s really no reason not to spend the extra money and invest in some proper dewormers. Untreated internal parasites can have huge effects on your pets, livestock and your family!
Colorado winters can be brutal for your horses. Luckily, at Neversweat, we aren’t too far out from the protection of the Denver metro area. Golden sees tough winters but like the ones experienced on the fringes of the Colorado border. Still, every horse owner needs to have some basic knowledge on how to keep your horse warm and healthy during winter.
1. A Blanket Is Simple But Effective!
Horses do well in different climates; you just need to leave them some time to accommodate. In general, it will take them two or three weeks to adapt to a climate change. So, in this case, blanketing is a necessity. But, there are also a lot of factors which can determine in which way you should blanket your horse. For example, was your horse moved from a warmer climate, is it trimmed or it has a full coat, is it young or older horse. All these factors will determine its ability to fight cold.
2. Consider the Breed of Your Horse
When we look at different breeds, size plays an important role. Horses with large bodies, such as Draft tend to behave better in a harsher climate. Also, Icelandic ponies have an excellent resistance on cold. They have smaller bodies, compared to their weight. A larger surface area means greater heat loss. These breeds which have a thinner coat might experience some troubles with cold weather during the winter months.
3. Warm Foods Can Help Manage Body Temperature
You can try a variety of standard foods but simply warmed up. It may take your horse some time to get used to the change in diet but eventually they will learn to love warm apples! We also feed our horses warm bran mash, and this is another way to give them extra water. But, high-quality hay plays a vital role.
4. Water Must Be Fresh!
During the winter months, your horse needs to receive enough water. Otherwise, you will see a colicky horse because they aren’t drinking enough water. Another thing to consider is a frostbite. It happens to all horses, regardless of age and condition. The first spot you notice are the top of their ears. The horse pumps the blood away from extremities to keep its core warm. If you notice signs of frostbites, such as redness and change of color contact your veterinarian immediately.
A professional training stable has a team of experts which take care of horses, day to day. Ensuring they have all the necessary conditions and health care to provide their best performance on the field. But, if you’re a small or medium size breeder you may not have the funds to keep a veterinarian or other professionals on staff. In that case, you need to be able to identify conditions that require veterinary care. Before we had a veterinarian on staff, we would tell staff that they don’t need to know what’s wrong but they need to know that something isn’t right.
In other words, don’t try to be a veterinarian but do try to arm yourself with some basic knowledge that will help you know when you need to bring on a professional.
Be Aware of Serious Illnesses
If you have a horse which is showing sudden lethargy or laziness, you need to be very careful and take all the necessary precautions. It could be a sign of a more dangerous, and possibly infectious condition. Diseases can quickly spread through a stable and create serious problems. In this case, it is imperative to call your vet and avoid fixing problems on your own. Horses are delicate animals; it doesn’t matter how ferocious they may seem at the race tracks.
Get To Know Your Veterinarian
The stable will function properly if you have an experienced vet helping you. This occupation can be expensive, especially if you keep racehorses. You as an owner need to ensure their best performance on the field, only in this way, they will be able to bring you money. A veterinarian who has a lot of experience and knowledge and visits horse stable regularly will keep your horses healthy and in the best condition. From time to time, he might implement some need dietary habits, vitamins, and supplement.
But treat it as a learning experience for you too. You can implement many of the things your veterinarian provides.
Know What Healthy Looks Like
There are some signs which can help you determine your horse health condition and avoid unnecessary costs. For example, a good and healthy horse has a good appetite, it is alert, and it has a sleek and shiny coat. Food consumption is an important factor and a strong indicator that something is wrong. If you notice sudden changes in appetite, you should call your vet immediately. In this way, you will avoid any major problems from occurring.