Piecing Together the Parasite Puzzle
A short course that will feature some of the top specialists and researchers in the field who will explain the types of parasites and their life cycles and discuss the effects of temperature, rainfall, pasture rotation and manure composting on parasite development, movement and density. Participants will also learn to perform fecal egg counts and will develop a plan to manage parasites based on their own farm conditions and management strategies.
Date: February 4, 2012
Time: 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM
Location: Eden Resort and Conference Center, Lancaster PA
Contact: Donna Foulk 610-746-1970
Caring for the Aging Horse
A short course that will present the latest information on nutrition for geriatric and underweight horses, equine metabolic disease, pain management, enhancing equine mobility, vaccination and deworming programs and managing successful non-profit equine operations.
Date: March 10, 2012
Time: 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM
Location: Best Western, Bethlehem, PA
Contact: Donna Foulk 610-746-1970
Equine Environmental Stewardship Short Course
A four night short course that will enable participants to adopt environmentally sound farm management practices. The course will cover pasture management and renovation, forage growth and development, forage species selection, managing weeds and toxic plants, soil fertility and health, nutrient and manure management regulations and storing, composting and utilizing manure on farms.
Time: 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM in March 2012
Location: Lehigh and Berks County
Contact: Donna Foulk 610-746-1970
Due to restructuring within Penn State Extension, we’re making the move to statewide teams instead of regional teams to improve the quality of programming available. Therefore, our Regional Animal Science Team is disbanding. Since The Equine Envelope was a project of our regional team, this will be the final issue of The Equine Envelope. We will be merging this newsletter into the Penn State Horse Newsletter. We’ll be working closely with Dr. Ann Swinker, editor of the Penn State Horse Newsletter, to provide her with some of the same great articles you’ve come to know and expect. The Penn State Horse Newsletter is strictly an online publication, so those who receive The Equine Envelope via email currently will continue to get newsletter notifications. The Penn State Horse Newsletter can be found at http://www.das.psu.edu/research-extension/equine/penn-state-horse-newsletter.
It’s been almost a year, and your big bellied mare is ready to burst. Know how to distinguish a normal delivery from an abnormal one, and a healthy foal from a neonate in danger. It could be a matter of life and death.
Patricia Sertich, VMD, Associate Professor of Reproduction at University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center describes a normal delivery, while her colleague Jon Palmer, VMD, Chief, Neonatal Intensive Care Service, paints a picture of a normal newborn foal.
About a month before she is expecting, your mare is enjoying plenty of turnout and a well-ventilated stall of at least 12’ x 12’, bedded with straw. She’s also building up antibodies to pathogens in the environment, which she’ll pass on to the foal via her first milk, colostrum. Two to three days out, her mammary glands look distended, and six to forty-eight hours before delivery a waxy material is noticeable on each teat. Watch her carefully now.
Restless behavior alerts you that the big moment is near. One to four hours before delivery, sweat may appear on her flanks and behind her elbows. The fetus has been lying on its back throughout pregnancy and must now assume a diver’s position; therefore the mare may roll to help the fetus turn over. It’s time to wrap her tail, and then wash the vulva and surrounding area.
The second stage of delivery begins when her “water breaks” as the fetus pushes into the pelvic canal rupturing the fetal membranes. Abdominal contractions begin, three or four together with a period of rest in between. The mare is probably on her side, but may roll or even get up and down. Within 15 minutes a white bubble containing a tiny hoof appears, followed by the other hoof, head, chest, hips and hind legs. If the amnion hasn’t been ruptured, tear the membrane from over the foal’s head so he can breathe. “Normal delivery is explosive” says Dr. Sertich. Once the water breaks, it takes just 15-30 minutes; much more than that is indicative of a problem.
In stage three of delivery the fetal membranes are expelled, usually within an hour. If they have not passed by three hours, oxytocin can aid their passage. If they have not completely passed by eight hours, contact your vet.
“The first 24-48 hours in the foal’s life are critical,” says Palmer. Anything abnormal is a sign for concern.
A normal foal starts breathing within one minute of birth, and is moving onto his chest to sit up within three. Don’t be surprised to see a steady drip from the foal’s nose. This normal drainage of fluid from the lungs can last an hour or more. Within 30 minutes he is trying to stand on wobbly legs, a feat which most foals accomplish within an hour. Within 90 minutes he is seeking the udder.
Some foals get up and start nursing more slowly than others. Says Palmer, “I prefer not to intervene initially and simply observe, so I can be sure that the foal is acting normally. However, if he is not up within three hours, even with help, medical intervention is necessary.”
Within the first hour, the foal passes meconium, a black to dark greenish manure, but may not urinate the first time for 12 hours. After beginning to nurse, expect the foal to sleep, waking up every 20 minutes or so to nurse. Palpate the mare’s udder; if the foal is nursing properly, it should feel nearly empty.
Alert your vet to be on standby should a problem arise, and, even if everything looks great, schedule a healthy foal check. The vet will do a complete exam and check for transfer of colostrum antibodies. “I like to do this within 8-12 hours,” says Palmer, “That way if the antibodies are low, you can always feed the foal more colostrum during that critical first 18 hours.”
A Word About Nutrition
Colostrum transfers immune factors and growth stimulants essential for protection of the foal from infection, but only during the first 18 hours of life. It also helps the foal pass his meconium. Produced before the actual milk, it is almost as thick as heavy cream, and off-white to yellow. Should the mare lose her colostrum because of early lactation, your vet or a nearby breeding farm may have some available. There are also commercial sources. If the mare is unable to nurse the foal for any reason, you’ll need to provide not only colostrum but milk as well. Arrange for a nurse mare, or sustain the foal with commercial milk replacers. “If you are using a milk replacer,” advises Palmer, “find the foal a pasturemate for socialization.”
If your mare has had difficulties with foaling in the past, you may want to move her to a facility where veterinary observation will be provided for the entire delivery.
If mare or foal are in serious danger, an equine clinic can provide the supportive care necessary, and run a number of laboratory tests in-house. In special cases, you and your vet may agree that a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), such as the Graham French Neonatal Section in the Connelly Intensive Care Unit atNewBoltonCenterwill be a better choice. A NICU can provide the most thorough care, with neonatal and obstetrical specialists, intensive monitoring, nursing capabilities and an onsite lab that can run tests on a 24 hour basis. They also have a fully-staffed surgery in the event the mare or foal should need it.
Problems at Delivery
Most problematic deliveries occur when the foal is not in the proper position. A normal foal comes out head first with its neck and both front legs extended. Signs that the mare is having difficulties delivering the foal are:
- white membrane is not visible at the vulvar lips within 15 minutes of water breaking;
- white membrane appears but the feet and nose are not visible;
- a red ball of fetal membranes appears at the vulva indicating that the placenta has separated and the fetus is being expelled within the whole membrane;
- The mare is straining, or was straining and has stopped straining and no foal has been expelled;
- The placenta has not been expelled.
An at-risk foal is one who
- is not standing within an hour of delivery;
- is not nursing within three hours of delivery;
- seems weak, or has a temperature that is below 99◦ or over 102◦ before activity;
- wanders around searching everything but the mare for the udder, or finds the udder but doesn’t stay on the teat or appears not to be swallowing;
- vocalizes abnormally (barks or squeals);
- has milk run out his nose after nursing;
- has a very soft haircoat, floppy ears and is unusually small, signs of prematurity;
- is straining to defecate or fails to pass any meconium within an hour or two, or becomes colicky;
- is not passing urine within 24 hours.
-Patricia Sertich, VMD, Associate Professor of Reproduction at University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center and Jon Palmer, VMD, Chief, Neonatal Intensive Care Service
I have talked about having a disaster plan for your farm in the past, but with the most recent storms that brought flooding, wind damage, snow and power outages, the time to write those plans is here. We all think we have enough supplies to get by in an emergency, but when you begin to write your plan you may find you have concerns you never thought about. A new resource is available to assist you with writing your disaster plan. READY AG is found at http://readyag.psu.edu/ and though not specific to equine, it provides you with the ground work you need to write a thorough disaster plan.
Having a disaster plan in place goes far beyond having permission from your neighbor to put your horse in his pasture should the need arise. A good disaster plan has written information that every person who accesses the farm regularly has read and understands. This includes employees, horse boarders and residents on the property. All important phone numbers should be clearly posted in several places on the farm. List your ICE (In Case of Emergency) number in your cell phone so that if you are injured, a responder can first find your ICE number for your family and then for your animals. List your veterinarian’s phone number and the person who can trailer your animals if you are not available. Make sure that your farm is well marked with street numbers that can be read in any light. Responders driving around looking for your address are not doing you much good. The 911 address plates are an excellent investment and are equally visible during the day or nighttime.
Each plan should also include a drawing of your property that includes fences, buildings, electric shut offs, gas shut offs, chemical storage areas and most importantly, water access. Water access does not mean the closest water faucet; that won’t put a dent in a fire. Water access means the closest body of water such a pond, lake or large creek. If you have a pond, consider investing in the installation of a dry hydrant. A dry hydrant will allow firefighters to draw water without clogging intake pipes. If you install a dry hydrant, be sure to mark it on your farm map. Your map should show fenced pasture areas away from the barn where animals could be relocated to in event of a fire.
There is some resistance from farm owners when asked to mark chemical storage location on the farm map. When the first fire truck rolls up to a burning barn, they will not make entry until they are sure there is nothing in the burning building that might potentially injure or kill a firefighter. Fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides, propane, even grooming supplies can make a bad situation worse. If your farm map indicates all chemicals are located in a building that is not on fire, responders can immediately begin to attack the fire. If it is necessary for responders to call the Hazmat (hazardous materials) Team, chances are good that your building will be a complete loss due to the unnecessary delay in response time. Be sure to include in your plan the buildings that may be locked, such as chemical storage buildings or equipment sheds.
Each barn should have a generator to run water pumps or fans if the electric is out for extended periods of time. If you do not want to invest in a generator, check with local fire departments or your local emergency planner to see if there is a generator available for you to use if it is needed. If you have a generator and it is hooked up to start automatically after an outage, be sure to note that on your farm map. Responders have been killed thinking they had shut off the electric to a barn only to have an automatic backup kick on and electrocute them.
You should plan to have enough water stored to last your horses for a week. In some cases this is a considerable amount of water. If you plan to store it in a building will it freeze when the temperatures plummet? Often companies that use premixes for ice creams or pastries will have large plastic barrels with locking lids. They can be filled and stored in a location convenient where they can be easily accessed when needed. Water is the one item no living thing can be without, so assuring you have water available for an emergency should be a priority.
Note in your plan how your horses are identified. I would encourage all equine owners to consider a permanent tattoo or microchip in their horses. In emergencies, horse halters are often lost or placed on another horse, so a name on the halter may not get your horse returned to you. Take pictures of your horse, being sure to capture on film any brands, swirled hair, scars or other identifying marks that may help identify the horse as yours. Keep a set of pictures in your trailer, a set in your barn and a set in a separate area.
If you board horses on your farm, you should have a list of all your clients. The list should include names and emergency phone numbers. If your boarders use a different vet, be sure that is noted. Keep one list in the barn and a separate list in a location away from the barn, but that is easily accessible by many people. You should also have your insurance agent’s name and number in your plan. Include any other names and phone numbers of people who are familiar with your operation. You may want to include your feed store number and the number of the person who supplies your hay and straw if you don’t produce your own. If you do produce your own, have a telephone number in case you lose your current supply in a disaster. In an emergency, people with clear plans that include contacts who can answer responder questions are invaluable. In many cases, farms with written disaster plans have received a decrease in their insurance premium, but the peace of mind is worth more. When your plan is written, drop by your local fire department and share it with them. I can’t stress enough that the more open the communication is between you and your local responders, the more efficiently they can respond to your emergency.
Sixty of the 67 Counties in Pennsylvania have CART (County Animal Response Teams) either in place or under construction. You can offer your farm for a training session for the local fire company and the local CART. Local fire companies can help you with your emergency plan and give you tips for reducing the potentials for fire in your barns. If you need more help writing a plan please feel free to contact me at the York County Extension Office, (717) 840-7145.
Be safe out there!
- Linda Spahr, Extension Educator
If you could help your horse relax more, be more supple and trust you more, wouldn’t you do it? What if there was a way to improve your canter departs or your lead changes without ever getting on your horse?
There are a couple of exercises that seem very simple but have big payoffs. These exercises can be done in a barn aisle if the weather’s bad. But you’ll want to have these in your repertoire even on a sunny day.
In the barn aisle, you can work on lateral flexions with your horse in a halter and lead rope, or in a snaffle-bit bridle. To begin, stand a little way behind the withers. If your horse has a saddle on, stand toward the cantle, rather than at the saddle horn. That way, as the horse moves his head around, you’re not blocking him. When you ask for his head, do it very gently. Instead of pulling on the rein or lead rope, just let your hand tremble, and don’t increase the pressure or the vibrations if you don’t get a response; just wait. The horse has to think about moving the head before he can move it. If his ears are straight ahead, not focusing on you, tremble the rein until one of his ears rolls back to you, then the nose will follow. After he flexes his neck, wait until his eye rolls around and looks at you before you release his head.
When your horse is able to flex softly in both directions, you can begin working his hindquarters. Flex his head to the left, for example, by reaching softly down the left rein, and then put the back of your hand or your thumb where your stirrup would be. If your horse is saddled, you can use the stirrup. Rhythmically bump, bump, bump. Get in time with the hind foot nearest you. When it’s about to leave the ground, bump with the stirrup or your hand so he’ll step farther with that inside hind. This is a great exercise for young horses, but it’s also a good tune-up for older horses. You’ve got to have control of the hindquarters in order to get good canter departs, lead changes, or haunches-in. As your lateral flexions get nice and soft, you can use those to ask for vertical flexion. Flex your horse to the left, giving with your right rein so that he can move his head around. Then flex to the right, giving with your left rein. Gradually, you’ll start giving less with the outside rein, so that the horse ends up staying straight and flexing vertically.
Make the Most of It
Whether you’re working on the ground or on your horse’s back, there are a lot of things you can work on. Sometimes, we get in our minds, “OK, I’ve got to get a ride in, and I’ve got to ride for X amount of time.” But with exercises like these, you can get a lot of work done in five minutes. Get your five minutes in with your horse, then go inside and warm up. With what little time you’ve got, make it quality time, and you can get a lot accomplished.
-Bethany Bickel, Equine Extension Associate, Eastern Region
Hey equine lovers! Take this fun quiz and test your knowledge about the noble animals we love.
1. This breed of pony is one of the rarest of all equine breeds. It originated in Majorca and usually stands around 14 hands high. Its main uses are riding and agricultural work.
A. Bhotia B.Balearic C.Brumby D.Barb
2. This breed originates in France. There are three different types of horses within this breed, the Postier, Draft and Small Draft. This breed is considered a coldblood.
A. Burma B.Bosnian C.Brenton D.Boulonnais
3. This breed originated from Calabria in Italy. It is descended from the Neapolotan horse and is usually used as a riding horse.
A. Calabrese B. Camargue C. Carthusian D. Cheju
4. The Knabstrup is generally found in which color?
A. Spotted B. Black C. Albino D. Chestnut
5. Which of the following is true about the temperament of the konik Pony?
A. Kind and willing to learn B. Independent and good tempered C. Indepandant and bad tempered D.Wild and difficult
6. This breed originated in the Basque region Spain and France. Over the years, it has had a variety of uses including mining, riding and driving.
A. Peruvian B. Pasofino C. Percheron D. Pottok
7. This warmblood originated in the USSR. It is known for being bold and courageous. It is descended from the Orlov Trotter and the Standardbred.
A. Russian Trotter B.Salerno c. Sanhe D. Standard Trotter
8. The Skyros Pony is now almost extinct. Where does this breed originate from?
A. France B. Spain C. Greece D. Africa
9. The Przewalski horse is believed to be the only breed of wild horse remaining today. What other name does this breed have?
A. African Wild Horse B. European Wild Horse C. Murakosi Mongolian Wild Horse
10. This pony breed originates in Ireland and almost became extinct. Originally these ponies were used to transport turf (peat) from the bogs. Which breed am I talking about?
A. Kerry Bog Pony B. Connemara Pony C. Cork Bog Pony D. Bog Trotter
Answers are in the comment section.
We started the Helpful Horse Hints section of the newsletter this year following a suggestion from a reader. In this section, we’ll be highlighting helpful hints that offer more cost effective, easier or quicker ways to do something related to horses or your barn. Below are all Helpful Horse Hints to date.
March 2011 Hint: Does your hand get tired of pumping your fly spray bottle? Try mixing or pouring your fly spray into a gallon hand garden sprayer. Select your desired spray setting, squeeze the handle and you’re ready to go without getting a cramped hand! For an added bonus—it’s quieter than a normal hand sprayer! Just remember to use a clean garden sprayer that’s never had any chemicals in it.
May 2011 Hint: Always keep a couple pool noodles around your barn and in your trailer in case rough edges become exposed. Slit the pool noodle and use it as a protective cover! It also makes a great cover to prevent rope burn if you have a horse you can’t get on the trailer. Pool noodles are inexpensive and the possibilities are endless!
September 2011 Hint: Trying to brighten up the color on your dark coated horses? Try some white brightening shampoo. Not only does it brighten gray horses and white spots, it’ll brighten your dark colored horses too!
Have a hint you’d like to share? Please email it to Lisa Jones at email@example.com. All submitted hints will be subject to approval.