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Chestnut: Not Just a Coat Color

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   March 28, 2011 16:35


By Kentucky Equine Research Staff · March 9, 2011

Chestnuts—those patches of rough tissue on the inside surfaces of the front legs just above the knees—are structures that remind us of the horse’s origin as a creature with more than one toe on each foot. Horses also have chestnuts on the insides of the hind legs; these are found just below the hocks. Often explained as toenail remnants from previous eons, chestnuts are actually vestiges of foot pads, the tough-fibered cushions that animals walk on. Think of cat or dog feet, and visualize the hairless toe pads found on the bottoms of the feet. These are foot pads.

Like human fingerprints, the basic outlines of the chestnuts are unique for each horse.

 At this point, we need a quick review of general anatomic terms that apply to many animals, although the structure of a horse’s leg is actually quite different from this simplified explanation. “Digital” refers to fingers or toes; “carpal/tarsal” refers to the area of the wrist/ankle in the front and rear limbs, respectively; and “metacarpal/metatarsal” refers to the area of the hand/foot in the front and rear limbs, respectively. Animals like bears that walk on the entire foot with the heel touching the ground have digital, metacarpal/metatarsal, and carpal/tarsal pads on each foot, while animals that walk more on their toes without touching the heel down (cats and dogs) have digital and metacarpal/metatarsal pads, with small or absent carpal/tarsal pads.

 In today’s horses, vestigial carpal and tarsal pads are seen as chestnuts, while rudimentary metacarpal and metatarsal pads are seen in the front and hind feet, respectively, as the ergots. These small knobs of tough tissue protrude from each lower leg at the back of the pastern, where they are obscured by the hairs of the fetlock but can easily be felt. The only functional foot pad seen in the modern horse is the frog, a structure found in the rear section of each hoof and extending into the bulbs of the heels. Sweat glands in the frog produce secretions that may have functioned as trail or territorial markers in prehistoric times. Canids (dogs, wolves, foxes) and pigs share this trait. 

 Like human fingerprints, the basic outlines of the chestnuts are unique for each horse and are recognized by the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), the governing body of international equine competition, and other organizations as identifying marks. The FEI horse identification manual states, “The shape of a chestnut should be drawn in outline and related to the vertical.”

 Chestnuts grow out slowly and can be peeled or trimmed back if they become excessively long. Chestnuts that are very hard and dry can be softened by applying petroleum jelly or baby oil for several days. There is living tissue at the base of each chestnut, and the area will bleed if too much of the dry layer is pulled off. Don’t try to twist the chestnuts off, as this will pull the surrounding skin and cause pain. Occasionally, horses that are very ill can actually shed their chestnuts.

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Cartier Equine Center, Academy of Equine Assisted Learning

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   March 14, 2011 15:05

 We Welcome this opportunity to introduce you to the Cartier Equine Learning Center’s BuildingBlock™ Learning Program Series© and the certified Equine-Assisted Learning (EAL) courses.  The program series is specially designed to facilitate the building of personal development skills, while using ‘Horse Sense’.  The Learning Center’s instructors and facilitation experts will show you how to increase your businesses’ marketability and income potential by incorporating equine-assisted learning into your business by:

 • providing you with an opportunity to expand your knowledge of the horse industry;

 • teach you how to develop your own equine-assisted facility/business;

 • and/or compliment your existing social service/counseling business.


Learning how to become a competent, certified EAL facilitator with the help of horses is not only a fun and exciting career choice but is now available and affordable through the Cartier Equine Learning Center.  In the past, horse handlers, human behavior specialists and equine facilities interested in offering equine-assisted learning experiences have struggled with curriculum development that can adequately service their clients needs since there has been little to no educational guides available.  Individual experimentation has been the most common approach, leaving an up and coming industry wondering where and how to start.


Equine-Assisted Learning: 

Cartier Equine Learning Center’s BuildingBlock™ Learning Program Series© not only offers the first nationally recognized certified BuildingBlock™ Equine-Assisted Learning Course© in the nation but the first standardized educational equine-assisted learning format. 


The Learning Center also provides a complete educational curriculum for immediate implementation upon graduation.  This interactive educational guide is designed to lead you through to successfully facilitating a wide range of different sized groups, varying in age and abilities.


"Learning to Lead Through Horses©", "A Healing Through Horses©" and "Individual Skills Development Through Horses©" are three equine-assisted learning curriculum that have been designed to focus on developing leadership skills in some, life-skills in those at-risk and special skills in participants with special needs.  These series of exercises are delivered through a “building-block interactive format’, that have been developed with the express intent of assisting horses with identifying particular outcomes.


Why Horses? 

Horses are extremely sensitive, aware of their surroundings and quick to react.  For their mere survival, a wild horse, must constantly be on his guard.  Through herd training, they learn the value of trust and respect.  Nature provides them with instincts and senses that are very astute.  They watch for the slightest movement and look for threatening body posture.  Horses have the innate ability to discern the difference between a calm non-threatening approach as opposed to perceived anxious nervous energy.  If one can understand how and why horses have this ability to be aware of our every movement — one will come to understand how these unique programs positively effect individuals facing challenges in their lives.  This astute sensitivity of the horse acts as a mirror to reflect the difficulties an individual may have.  Proper facilitation provides an opportunity to direct the individual how to succeed long term.


How does equine-assisted learning affect individual participants?


Equine-Assisted Learning has proven to be a practical approach to teaching participants alternative skills to draw from when faced with difficult challenges in an effort to overcome negative influences. 


Cartier Equine Learning Center’s BuildingBlock™ Equine-Assisted Learning Course© is designed to bring out the best in those who participate while using ‘Horse Sense’.  The Learning Center has customized progressive learning experiences that focus on enhancing skills to help groups and individuals develop relationships; accept responsibility and accountability; overcome barriers and find change; encourage creative and innovative thinking; find opportunity in working together; realize the benefits associated with effective communication; and recognize the value of mutual trust, respect, and personal integrity.


Join Us on this powerful journey of teaching, learning and understanding; explore the integrating feedback from horses while we teach you how to develop your professional facilitation skills. 


  Equine Assisted Learning quite simply . . . It works


Strangles Test Developed

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   March 13, 2011 13:41

 by Kentucky Equine Research Staff

Strangles is a bacterial disease that affects the upper respiratory tract and the lymph nodes in the head and neck. Common signs are fever, nasal discharge, and the formation of abscesses in the lymph nodes. These abscesses, which occur most often in the throatlatch or jaw areas, eventually burst and drain thick pus. Though the horse can appear quite ill, strangles is usually not fatal. However, strangles sometime moves into other areas of the horse’s body where it is generally much more serious and can cause death. The disease is highly contagious and is easily spread to other horses that come in contact with pus or nasal discharge.

A rapid diagnostic test for strangles has been perfected by a team of researchers from the University of Maine, Tufts University, and the University of Kentucky. Unlike previous tests that took several days to confirm a diagnosis of strangles, the new test produces results in a few hours. The test detects a specific protein on the bacterium Streptococcus equi subsp. equi, the cause of strangles....continue reading http://www.equinews.com/article/strangles-test-developed


Cold Weather Adaptations Keep Horses Comfortable

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   March 10, 2011 18:05


By Kentucky Equine Research Staff · February 17, 2011

“It’s really cold outside, it’s starting to snow again, and the wind is howling. Is my pasture-kept horse all right?” In all but the most extreme winter weather, the answer is “Yes.” Most horses are well-suited for staying healthy and comfortable in cold weather as long as owners provide them with proper care.  Some horses may need additional help staying warm in bitterly cold, wet, windy weather.

The equine hindgut acts as an enormous furnace where the digestion of hay and other fibrous feeds produces a constant supply of heat from microbial fermentation. Owners need to be sure horses have an adequate supply of hay, increasing the amount as the temperature drops.

More heat can be produced by activity, including shivering. Pastured horses can be seen playing, bucking, and running from time to time, and this muscular exertion helps to keep body temperature stable. Short bouts of shivering do the same thing. Horses that shiver continuously in cold, wet weather probably need more hay, possibly a bit more grain, and access to shelter.

The horse’s winter coat is thick and dense. As long as it stays dry, it provides superior insulation. Natural oil tends to let rain and snow slide off, keeping moisture from penetrating deep into the coat. If you see snow building up on your horse’s back or rump, you are looking at proof that his body heat is not escaping through the hair to melt the snow.

When rain or wet snow manages to soak through to the horse’s skin, heat will be lost as the coat’s insulating ability decreases. Under these conditions, horses may need to wear a well-fitting waterproof blanket or have access to a windbreak or covered shelter.

Though horses sometimes stand in deep snow, their lower limbs and hooves almost never suffer damage from the cold. This is because the legs below the knees and hocks are made up mostly of bones and tendons, tissues that don’t freeze easily. In extreme cold temperatures, blood-shunting mechanisms in the hooves alter circulation patterns to preserve body warmth. 

Regardless of the adaptations mentioned above, some horses may need additional help staying warm in bitterly cold, wet, windy weather. Very old, very young, sick, or extremely thin horses may need to be blanketed or brought into deep-bedded stalls to keep them from becoming dangerously chilled.

to read further:  http://www.equinews.com/article/

Scratches, Ringworm and Moose Ticks-Western Canada’s most common (and not so common) skin conditions.

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   March 2, 2011 21:30
Western Canada’s most common (and not so common) skin conditions.

         Dr. Sue Ashburner still shudders when she describes the sight of one of her equine patients covered with thousands of bloodsucking ticks last winter. “We occasionally see wood ticks on horses during May and June, but I didn’t know what kind of ticks would be on horses in February,” admits Ashburner, a veterinary clinician at WCVM’s Large Animal Clinic in Saskatoon, Sask.
               Dr. Lydden Polley, a parasitologist at the College, soon solved the mystery: he identified the parasites as Dermacentor albipictus (Acari: Ixodidae), more commonly known as moose ticks.
                “It was the first time I ever saw a horse in this area covered in moose ticks,” says Ashburner. “That’s what I like about working on dermatology cases. There are always new things, and those cases challenge you to find out what you’re dealing with. Sometimes we never know the cause, but we usually know how to treat what we see.”
               At least once a week, Ashburner gets a chance to use her dermatological know-how on equine patients living around Saskatoon — an area that’s populated with horses of all breeds and disciplines. The clinic’s number of dermatology cases usually rises in the spring after horses shed their coats and owners suddenly notice lumps, bumps, growths or parasites that have shown up during the winter.
               Thanks to advances in diagnosing and treating equine skin conditions, veterinarians can offer clients more effective therapies and more understanding of what causes skin problems to develop. Most clients call for advice or to arrange for a veterinary visit, but some still insist on using their own home remedies that often makes Ashburner’s job tougher. “After they’ve scraped it, treated it or used ointments that burn the skin, it doesn’t look anything like it originally did. These remedies usually just make things worse.”
               While Ashburner isn’t expecting another moose tick infestation case soon, here are some common skin conditions that she and veterinary pathologist Dr. Ted Clark regularly see out in the field and in the pathology laboratory. Their comments accompany some additional information gleaned from the text, Equine Dermatology, co-authored by Drs. Danny Scott and William Miller Jr. 
• Dermatophytosis or ringworm is a fungal infection that’s transmitted by contact with infected hair, bedding, tack and grooming equipment. Ashburner often diagnoses multiple cases of ringworm in young horses living in close quarters throughout the winter months: the infection often goes unnoticed until horses shed their winter coats.
               The most consistent clinical sign is one or many circular patches of alopecia (hair loss) with variable scaling and crusting. But horses may also develop the classic ring lesion with a healed centre and fine follicular papules and crusts on the ring’s edges. Lesions are usually multiple, and they’re most commonly found on the face, neck, the sides and girth. The lesions usually go away within three months, but veterinarians often use topical and systemic treatments to help their patients’ response to the infection, to reduce the spread of the fungus and to speed up the healing process.
• Sarcoids are the most common skin tumour of horses around the world. Veterinary researchers believe the cause of sarcoids is viral, and research has shown that bovine papillomaviruses (BVP) are commonly involved in sarcoid development. Lesions frequently show up in areas of a horse’s body after a wound or trauma, or they may also spread to other areas of the same horse or to other horses through biting, rubbing, tack, equipment and insects. Sarcoids occur anywhere on a horse’s body, but most lesions are found on the head, neck and ventral body surface. The lesions’ appearance can be verrucous (wart-like), fibroblastic (proud flesh-like), mixed verrucous and fibroblastic, and occult (flat).
               Sarcoids do not metastasize, and some tumours may disappear after several years. Depending on available resources, veterinarians can choose from surgical excision, cryosurgery, radio-frequency hyperthermia, laser therapy, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy or combinations of treatments. 
• Papillomas present in two different forms: as warts (viral papillomatosis) or as aural plaque (ear papillomas). Viral papillomas spread through direct contact or indirectly through contact with contaminated equipment or housing. Young horses often develop clusters of warts, usually on their muzzles or lips. “They bother the owner much more than horses,” says Ashburner. “If left alone, they tend to go away and you can’t rush them. People always buys potions and lotions, but they usually make no difference.”
               Aural plaques — white-greyish crusts commonly found in horses’ inner ears — don’t respond very well to topical treatments, and they rarely go away. Fortunately, these lesions are only a cosmetic problem.
• Eosinophilic granuloma or nodular necrobiosis is an equine dermatosis most commonly seen in the spring and summer. These nodules are round, elevated, and occur as single or multiple lesions on the back, withers and neck. The lesions aren’t painful or itchy, and the overlying skin and hair coat are normal. Veterinarians can surgically remove one or several lesions, or treat multiple lesions with systemic glucocorticoids over several weeks. Some lesions undergo spontaneous remission in three to six months, while older or larger lesions must be surgically removed.
• Allergic reactions show up as anything from bumps and wheals in all shapes and patterns to angioedema (swelling) involving the muzzle, eyelids, under the belly, legs or the entire body. These reactions result from insect bites, plants, drugs or vaccines, a change in feed, bedding or the horse’s environment.
               Gathering a thorough medical history is how veterinarians usually track down the source, says Ashburner. “It could be caused by a minor environmental change, a sudden hatch of bugs in the area. It really pays off to ask a lot of questions.”
               Ashburner and her colleagues usually try to eliminate the source of hypersensitivity or generally treat the horse to try and decrease its immune response. “One treatment that has worked quite well is to feed the horse raw linseed oil: its Omega 3 fatty acids help to decrease the animal’s hypersensitive response in the skin. That seems to calm things down and it helps to make the other treatments work better.”
• Scratches or pastern dermatitis most commonly affects one or both hind limbs with varying levels of pain and itchiness. The condition initially shows up as erythema (dew poisoning), swelling and scaling on the pastern, then progresses to discharge, matting of hair and crusting.
               Veterinarians usually diagnose this problem when there’s abrasive mud in corrals, or when ice crystals are mixed in the snow and dirt. “We think the moisture content has something to do with it: something seems to set up the right environmental conditions to induce scratches, particularly in the spring,” says Ashburner, adding that the condition usually shows up on a white leg. 
               “It responds very well if treated early, but it’s often missed by the owners until the horse’s pastern is very sore or very swollen. And the longer they have it, the harder it is to treat.” Severe cases of scratches can also lead to a longstanding, immune-mediated infection called vasculitis that can take months to cure.
               If diagnosed early, the ideal treatment is to clean the area very well with mild soap (no abrasive cleaners) then remove as much of the scabby debris as possible. Clipping the hair can help to remove the scabs. “We keep the area dry and use a topical cream — a combination of antibiotic and steroid cream — to fight the mixed infection,” explains Ashburner.
               Clark adds that it’s important for veterinarians to be aware that scratches isn’t “one specific disease with one specific cause.” If certain horses or horse herds continue to be plagued by this type of dermatitis, practitioners need to look at the animals’ environment, their habits and what they’re used for to learn more about probable causes.
• Rain scald (dermatophilosis) is a bacterial skin infection that causes superficial, pustular and crusting dermatitis in horses. These lesions are most commonly found on horses’ rumps, saddle area, face and neck — or on pasterns, coronets and heels (in the form of scratches).
               The two most important factors that lead to rain scald are skin damage and moisture. The condition is often diagnosed in horses after intense rain, and when temperatures and humidity are high. Veterinarians on the Prairies don’t often see rain rot, but it’s a common problem in B.C. 
               While most cases of rain rot go away within a month, the best treatments include keeping the animal dry, removing crusts, and using topical treatments and using systemic therapy if the infection is chronic or severe. 
• Melanomas are malignant skin tumours that are most commonly — but not exclusively — found in grey or white horses over six years of age. Arabians, Percherons and Lippizaners commonly develop these tumours that are often found on the undersurface of the tail and the perianal region. Tumours can also be found on the lips, base of the ear, on the legs, or anywhere else on the horse’s body. The melanomas are usually firm, nodular to plaque-like, and they may or may not be alopecic (hair loss), hyperpigmented or ulcerated.
               Veterinarians can use surgical excision or cryotherapy to remove solitary tumours, but in most cases, the tumours require no treatment.
• Insect hypersensitivity: Western Canadian horse owners and veterinarians deal with fewer parasitic problems than in other parts of the world because of the region’s cooler climate, but insect hypersensitivity is still a common problem in the spring and summer months. Controlling insects and using anti-itching agents can help to manage insect hypersensitivity. The use of ivermectin, moxidectin and other dewormers has also helped to reduce the occurrence of conditions like sweet itch, says Ashburner.
               - Sweet itch or Summer Seasonal Recurrent Dermatitis (SSRD): The most important cause of equine insect hypersensitivity is Culicoides gnats (sandflies, no-see-ums, biting midges). Affected horses develop itchy, crusted papules on the top of their tails, along their mane, neck, withers, hips, ears and forehead. The disease’s itchy nature causes horses to scratch and chew at themselves, or they may rub against stalls or fences. That can lead to hair loss, ulcer development and damage to the animals’ manes and tails.
               - Mange is caused by mite infestations in horses’ coats. Owners and veterinarians usually see these infestations during the late winter and early spring, and contributing factors include crowding, prolonged stabling, and poor nutrition.
               - Lice infestations are commonly found in horses during the winter when the animals’ coats are longer and they may be in close contact with their herd mates. Biting lice are usually found on the horses’ dorsolateral trunk, while sucking lice prefer the animals’ mane, tail and fetlocks. Clinical signs include scaling, a dishevelled coat, hair loss and mild to moderate itchiness.
 Reprinted with permission of Horse Health Lines, news publication for the Western College of Veterinary Medicine's Equine Health Research Fund. Sign up for the Horse Health Lines e-newsletter at www.ehrf.usask.ca