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4 Handy Horse Hints

P O P U L A R  H A N D Y H I N T S  A N D  P R A C T I C A L  A D V I C E  
F R O M  K O H N K E ’ S  O W N 

Check out some of the great tips from one of Australia’s most popular and knowledgeable veterinarian – Dr John Kohnke BVSCRDA

1. Feeding the pregnant mare

Pregnant white Welsh wild mountain pony in a field in spring.

A mare requires a well-balanced diet with the correct amount of nutrients throughout her pregnancy to ensure the foal grows nice and strong and healthy. During the first eight months of pregnancy, the mare does not require any more feed than a dry mare. It is during the last three months that her needs increase. Energy needs will increase by 10% and protein by 22% as well as increase in mineral requirements during the 9th month. During the 10th month, there is a steady incline in nutritional requirements as the foal continues to grow. It is during the last month of pregnancy when requirements increase significantly as the foal is still growing as well as building up its own store ready for birth. The mare is also now starting to produce colostrum which is very nutrient rich. During this last month, the mare’s energy and protein needs increase by a further 10% and mineral requirements also increase. It is equally important not to over feed your mares as it can lead to increased risk of foaling problems. Ideal condition score for a mare is around 2.5 and up to 3.5 during the last month.

2. Hay types and substitutes

During extended dry conditions throughout Australia, specific hay types can be harder to find. Lucerne hay seems to be the most popular choice for most horse owners, but it can become quite expensive as supply becomes shorter. There are many other hay types that can be used for roughage in the horse’s diet. Cereal hays such as oaten, wheaten or barley are quite good. Pasture hay is also good particularly if it has a legume in the mix. Grass hayhays that contain native species are suitable, as well as Rhodes grass. Straw can even be used to make up the roughage in the diet. Some hay types may not be as high in energy, protein and other nutrients but a concentrate can always be added to the diet to balance this. Consider whatever is grown locally as it will probably be the cheapest choice. Things like sugar beet pulp, Speedi beet or Maxisoy type fibres can be used to substitute some of the fibre needs; they do digest quite easily though so it is still important to add some type of hay to keep the large intestine happy and healthy as it ferments the hay. As hay supplies decrease, it is ok to use lower quality grades as long as they do not contain any mould or weather damage that may encourage mould growth.

3. Greasy heel and how to avoid it

greasy heelGreasy heel is a type of dermatitis that affects the back of the pasterns and the heels. Horses with white socks are at a higher risk of developing the condition. Greasy heel can start to develop with exposure of the white areas to UV light. This causes mild sunburn or a form of ‘solar dermatitis’. This area can then be scratched by abrasive dead and dry pastures. The moist conditions during winter allow the soil borne bacteria to enter the skin and thrive. There are ways to avoid the condition developing such as applying sunscreen or a zinc cream to the white pasterns will help to avoid sunburn. Try to avoid muddy areas, pasture that contains abrasive stubble, or damp stables. Washing the pasterns of horses that are prone to the condition daily after exercise or when conditions are wet and muddy with a 10% Iodine solution and then drying thoroughly will help to reduce the colonisation of the microbes in this area.

4.  The importance of dental health for your horse

A horse’s teeth are the first part of the digestive system and a very important part. The teeth need to be able to chew and grind the food into small enough pieces so that when horse teeththe food enters the stomach, it can be broken down by the gastric secretions and enzymes. A horse’s teeth will develop sharp edges which will dig into the gums when they chew causing pain. This is a particular problem with horses that are fed diets high in chaff and concentrate feeds as they do not require as much chewing as high quantities of hay and pasture. A horse that drops their feed when eating is an indication of a dental problem. Chewing is also important for the production of saliva which helps to lubricate the digestive system as well as buffer the stomach acid. Therefore, it is very important that you have your horse’s teeth checked on a regular basis by a qualified person that can ensure the sharp edges are filed off. Typically a check-up once a year is recommended.