21 July, 2014 | Posted in category: Care & Management
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Pot bellies can afflict virtually any horse, not just ponies or senior pasture pets. When your gelding is looking more and more like he’s pregnant your first inclination may be to cut back his feed to encourage him to shed a few pounds.
But it’s a myth that reducing feed is the best remedy, or even a necessary one, for a pot bellied horse. A pot belly isn’t a fat problem, it’s actually a conditioning issue.
The Real Reason Horses Get “Pot-Bellied”
“Pot belly” is a commonly used term among horse people for a horse that looks bloated and full through the bottom half of its barrel. It makes the horse look a bit pear-shaped: narrow on top and wide underneath.
But when a horse starts to gain too much weight, fat is typically deposited along the crest of the neck, behind the shoulders, over the ribs, and around the tail-head and croup – not its underline.
A pot belly is not a sign of excess fat. Rather, it occurs as a result of two contributing factors:
- Lack of condition, particularly along the top line.
- A diet with lots of forage.
Because high-fiber forage like grass and hay is fermented in the horse’s hindgut for several days, a diet high in those may cause the horse’s belly to expand and look pot-bellied. This is not necessarily a bad thing! As we have discussed ad nauseum, a high-fiber diet is ideal for digestive health, nutrition, and overall health in horses. A pot belly is NOT a reason to cut back on a horse’s hay or pasture time.
However, when a horse lacks muscle tone, especially along its topline, it then loses the necessary strength to support the lower belly. A pot belly actually reflects a lack of muscle conditioning in the horse.
That’s why you tend to see pot bellies in very young horses or mature out-of-work horses – but rarely in racehorses (and other high performance horses) who are in top condition yet consume much larger diets.
Exercise to Reduce a Horse’s Pot Belly
While a pot belly is primarily cosmetic, it signals a lack of muscle conditioning along a horse’s topline that could lead to other health and lameness issues. The best way to get rid of a pot belly is good old fashioned exercise.
Here are a few ways to concentrate on strengthening a horse’s topline in particular:
- walking and trotting up hills
- working over ground poles, flat and elevated
- transitions, transitions, transitions
- encourage your horse to move forward, engaging the hind end, and lifting the belly
- doing belly lifting exercises by pressing gently upward under the belly
Keep in mind that if you are still concerned about your horse’s weight and digestive health, it’s almost always a good policy to reduce grain-based feeds and maximize forage. And of course, support your horse’s total gut health with SUCCEED.
In conclusion, a pot belly on a horse doesn’t reflect a weight issue, it represents a lack of conditioning. Before cutting back on your horse’s feed, get him into a regular exercise program to strengthen the topline muscles and support the belly.
Flickr Creative Commons Photo Credit: radsaq
11 July, 2014 | Posted in category: SUCCEED® News & Events
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Thanks to Dr. John Buford for this update on the first week of the Vets with Horsepower European Ride 2014.
The Vets with Horsepower event has SUCCEEDed in reaching St Petersburg, Russia. The first week has been fantastically well supported and successful, despite some challenges along the way.
We departed in two groups on July 2, with the southerly group enjoying a rousing and enthusiastic send-off from the delegates of the Seventh International Working Horse Colloquium at Royal Holloway in London. Both groups met at the house of one of our close supporters of the Horsepower venture in Utrecht before heading off the following day in the direction of Germany.
Our first talk was in Hanover, although we had to stick tightly to our time schedule to ensure we were finished in time for the World Cup quarter final between Germany and France.
The following day we headed for Berlin to break up the longest leg between our venues. Despite an early start, we eventually arrived in Warsaw late in the afternoon. After a very enjoyable surprise evening meal in a local biker bar we gave the second of our talks at the lecture theatre of the veterinary faculty to a large and extremely welcoming audience.
Our route then took us to an overnight stop near to the eastern Polish border. The following day we headed through Lithuania towards Riga in Latvia. The team had an opportunity to have a very brief look around the beautiful city centre before another early start in order to make the relatively short journey through to Tartu in Estonia. We were scheduled to begin talks late in the morning, but needed plenty of time for the challenges imposed by the Russian border checkpoint.
We congregated at 5am to complete some of the customs forms with the help of two Russian-speaking Estonians, Anton and Jaak, who would be accompanying us as far as Helsinki in Finland. We set off as a united team of 11 bikers including our guides, along with three members in our support vehicle, but by the end of the day only six bikes reached St Petersburg with the car. We lost the first two of the team at the Russian border as they were denied entry due to problems with their paperwork. I was only able to enter due to some fantastic Estonian diplomacy courtesy of Anton.
Undeterred, we set off towards St Petersburg whilst Caroline and David sadly set off to travel almost the length of Estonia towards Tallinn with the aim of catching a ferry to Helsinki where the entire team is due to speak on Monday.
Russian roads carry a number of challenges: they are distinctly monotonous as they are largely straight and bordered by mixed birch and pine forests; there is the threat of large fines or 14 days in jail for traveling faster than the speed limit of 54mph; and there are the Russian drivers themselves.
Then there are the potholes, which can be quite large. Large enough to dent rims and hard enough to completely flatten a tyre – as Edmund unfortunately found out. Despite a relatively heroic and successful attempt to bend the rim back into shape using a concrete block, some two by fours, and hammers borrowed from a construction worker, the tyre failed to remain inflated due to a small crack near the valve. We had to continue on, this time leaving Anton and Trevor with Edmund whilst awaiting the recovery vehicle. I am delighted to report that they safely made it to St Petersburg in the early hours of this morning.
So the team, minus two, have safely made it to St Petersburg, where I think it is fair to say we are entirely looking forward to our one rest day tomorrow morning.
It has certainly been an eventful week, but we have been overwhelmed by the response of the audiences, and also the organisation and enthusiasm of the local organisers without whom we couldn’t have done this project.
Currently we are well on our way towards achieving our target of £75,000. This will make a fantastic difference to small children in India and the developing world who would otherwise suffer the completely avoidable consequences of being born with a simple birth defect. Also, the Gambian Horse and Donkey Trust will be able to open a second clinic, expanding their fantastic work improving animal health and welfare as well as providing positive benefits to the families reliant on working animals for their livelihood. Donations to these charities may be made through Vets with Horsepower’s fundraising page.
07 July, 2014 | Posted in category: SUCCEED® News & Events
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Twelve veterinarians with motorbikes. 2,700 miles and 10 European countries in 16 days. Eight educational talks for up to 600 vets. Two charities reaping the benefits. That about sums up the fourth annual Vets with Horsepower event, sponsored by SUCCEED, which kicked off from the UK on July 2.
These senior-level academic and practicing specialist vets gathered in Utrecht, Netherlands and are currently riding motorbikes to St. Petersburg, Russia and back again. Along the way, they will be giving day-long collaborative professional development talks for practicing veterinarians. Stops along the way include Hannover, Berlin, Warsaw, and Tartu before a 2-day respite in St. Peterburg, followed by Helsinki, Skovde, Larvik, and Copenhagen on the return trip. And if that weren’t enough, they hope to raise at least £100,000 to donate to the Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust and SmileTrain.
Vets with Horsepower is coordinated by Derek Knottenbelt, OBE, BVM&S, DipECEIM, MRCVS and Professor of Equine Medicine at the University of Liverpool. In addition to coordinating and participating in the event, Professor Knottenbelt is also heading up several independent research projects utilizing SUCCEED products through the University of Glasgow.
Professor Knottenbelt believes that SUCCEED, equine gut health, and Vets with Horsepower are a natural fit:
“We KNOW that internal health is a fundamental part of being healthy and able to survive the rigors of life, just as we know that the gut is a vital part of the overall health and longevity of the horse,” Knottenbelt says.
“The motorbike is only a collection of metal bits connected in a suitable way; the gut of the horse is a highly complex structure that the horse has to rely on. It’s no good having a healthy stomach (fuel tank) if the power converter (engine/large gut) downstream is fouled up and horrible! I believe SUCCEED helps to maintain hind gut function, giving the horse its healthy power.”
Freedom Health is pleased to be a part of this unique event supporting veterinarians and horses around the globe.
Be sure to follow our Vets with Horsepower updates on the SUCCEED blog as well as our Facebook and Twitter pages.
30 June, 2014 | Posted in category: Care & Management
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Many horse owners have a daily routine that looks something like this: Feed one scoop of grain and two flakes of hay at 6 am. Ride at 8. Turn out from 2-4 pm (if it’s nice weather). Feed one scoop of grain and two flakes of hay at 5 pm. Leave the barn feeling confident that your horse’s nutritional needs have been met. Repeat indefinitely.
This schedule of feeding is pretty common, but it’s a myth that your horse’s nutritional needs — including its need for fiber — have been met through two scoops of feed and a few flakes of hay. The two-hour turnout in the above example helps boost fiber (if there’s quality grass to graze on) — but two flakes and two hours aren’t nearly enough for optimal digestive health.
Why Horses Need Fiber
Fiber is essential for herbivores like horses. For proof, look at the horse’s natural diet: slow, constant grazing on grass that provides a steady supply of nutrients and lots of fiber. Ultimately, all of us should strive to emulate that model for our horses. Instead, we’ve adjusted what we think of as a “normal” horse diet primarily to meet our own needs. Most of us have found that it’s easier to feed a horse twice a day and be done with it — but this new “normal” isn’t healthy for your horse.
Forage isn’t optional in a horse’s diet: horses depend on fiber for up to 70 percent of their energy needs. Horses don’t have any natural enzymes for digesting plant fiber, so they rely on a significant population of bacteria in their cecum to ferment fiber. The product of this fermentation process is volatile fatty acids, along with micronutrients, that give horses energy for riding, jumping, driving — or just plain being horses! In addition, horses require fiber to keep their digestive systems functioning properly.
When fiber is replaced by concentrates (feed), it passes too quickly through the stomach and reaches the hindgut, where the simple carbohydrates (sugars and starches) are fermented into lactic acid — leading to an inefficient or compromised digestive system.
How Much Fiber Do Horses Need?
Fiber should make up between 50-100 percent of the equine diet, and horses should consume at least 1.5% to 2% of their body weight in forage daily. Horses that are not in active training can often thrive on a diet that’s 100 percent forage; growing horses or those in strenuous training will probably need additional fuel from feed. Most horses in light training get all of the fiber they need simply by grazing slowly and steadily in a pasture filled with high-quality grasses.
How Horses Get Fiber
Pasture grasses and hay are the best sources of fiber for horses. The fiber content of hay fluctuates according to the environment, time of year, soil and stage of growth. Hay that’s gone to seed is at the very bottom of the nutritional chart. A hay analysis is available through your local agricultural extension and can provide the most thorough analysis of nutrition.
What to Do if Your Horse isn’t Turned Out All Day
In an ideal world, our horses would be turned out on top-quality pasture grasses 24/7 — but that isn’t realistic for most of us. Instead, try feeding free-choice hay to increase fiber, and try feeding beet pulp in shredded or pellet form. Feeding chaff —chopped hay — is another way to increase fiber. And yes, feeding chopped hay is essentially the same as feeding a flake of hay, but replacing some (or all!) of a horse’s grain ration with chaff is an excellent way to increase saliva, slow the intake of grain, and improve digestion. Grain hulls, the exterior shell from cereal grains, are another option to help bulk up a horse’s fiber intake, but are no real substitution for the kind of fiber found in pasture grasses and other roughage.
SUCCEED can also help horses that can’t be turned out for adequate time each day, or that require grain-based feed. One serving of SUCCEED once a day with your horse’s regular feed supports key components of your horse’s digestive system to promote good digestive health, thanks to a unique nutrient blend designed to support the entire digestive tract. Sign up for the SUCCEED Challenge to give it a try.
Fiber Isn’t Optional
Horses can’t survive without fiber — and lots of it. Need proof? Look at their broad, flat teeth. They’re perfectly suited to grinding fibrous materials. Need further proof? We can bet you’ve never met a horse that lives out in the pasture constantly who overdosed on grass.
Forage is horses’ best source of energy, so it’s a MYTH that two small flakes of hay alone can provide enough fiber to keep a 1,000-lb-plus animal going.
21 May, 2014 | Posted in category: Care & Management
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“We absolutely love what SUCCEED did for Santa Fe and we believe whole-heartedly in the product, but the real answer is to understand what causes digestive issues. If people understand what causes problems, then maybe they will change the way they are training or approaching their horses. You’ve got to change the lifestyle.”
—Eitan Beth-Halachmy SUCCEED sponsored rider.
Supporting the Performance Horse Lifestyle
For Eitan Beth-Halachmy, the founder of what has become known as “Cowboy Dressage”, and his wife, Debbie, digestive health was always a significant concern. At their barn in Grass Valley, California they struggled at maintaining good GI health, especially with Santa Fe Renegade, their World Equestrian Games performer. The stallion’s digestive health appeared to be random, but they also noticed behavioral issues — like pacing up and down the fence whenever he was turned out.
Eitan and Debbie suspected that the horse may have been reacting to the rigors of international travel and training, but as Eitan’s top performance horse, they couldn’t afford to turn Santa Fe out to pasture completely. Instead, they turned to SUCCEED after learning that it might help counter some of the challenging aspects of a performance horse’s lifestyle.
Debbie and Eitan started the stallion on a 60-day course of SUCCEED after the 2010 World Equestrian Games. According to Eitan, the stallion’s coat gained a shine, he put on weight and started performing better than he ever had before. Santa Fe’s digestive health became more consistent, a win-win situation for both horse and owners.
Benefits of Living Like a Retired Horse
While Eitan was thrilled at the role SUCCEED played in keeping Santa Fe healthy, he says that these days, the Morgan stallion looks even better than he did then. That’s because Santa Fe is retired, and spends nearly all of his time out in the pasture. Now that he’s no longer coping with frequent training and travel, Eitan says Santa Fe is a different horse. He doesn’t pace in the pasture anymore, and instead grazes slowly and happily with his new pasture mates.
“Now I don’t care if the sun bleaches out his coat or he rolls in the mud — those compromises are so easy to deal with because he’s a happy horse now,” Eitan says. “When he was competing, I relied so much on SUCCEED to do what I can do now just by providing him a more relaxed lifestyle. He still gets SUCCEED, but now I do everything I can to make sure he is happy in retirement.”
Digestive Health for Competitors and Retired Horses
When Santa Fe was in active training and traveled around the world to exhibit, the Beth-Halachmys were only able to control certain aspects of his digestive health. Turnout was often limited, and the stallion was frequently asked to perform to his top ability level, which required a certain feeding regimen. Prior to feeding SUCCEED, maintaining Santa Fe’s digestive health could be a struggle.
While it was impossible to eliminate those factors from Santa Fe’s life, SUCCEED helped alleviate some of the challenges, including:
Horses in retirement that are primarily turned out have many fewer challenges to overcome. Most horses can get all of the nutrition they need from grass, hay and other forage, eliminating the need for high-starch, sugary processed feeds. Eating primarily forage allows the gut to function the way that it’s supposed to, leading to a happier, healthier horse.
Even though retirement was the perfect situation for Santa Fe and the Beth-Halachmys, turning out a prize horse isn’t realistic for most of us. For those cases, it’s best to focus on what we can control, like what you’re feeding your horses, and how. As Eitan demonstrated with Santa Fe, it’s possible to turn around the digestive health of a horse facing these challenges, with SUCCEED, relying on the supplement to help support digestive health and overall wellness.
“We still rely absolutely on SUCCEED now that Santa Fe is retired — but now we’re fortunate to be able to give him the lifestyle to go along with it!” Eitan says.
Have a horse that’s struggling with digestive health? Try the SUCCEED Challenge for 60 days risk-free.
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