Equitana 1999

The third annual Equitana USA, held June 10-13 in Louisville, Ky., included an array of presentations, exhibits, clinics, and demonstrations, ranging from horse health to training methods to how to become a better rider. Following are some of the highlights from Equitana.

Behavior

You want your horse to feel good, but you don’t want your horse to feel so good that he is difficult to control. Melyni Worth, PhD, emphasized the relationship between nutrition and behavior in her workshop presentation at Equitana. If he does "act up," she said, it might be in what you are or are not feeding him. If he has too much energy and he is very fit, he might be getting too many soluble carbohydrates in the form of starch and sugar, or it might be a case of his getting too little magnesium or exercise.

Worth encouraged looking for other sources of behavioral problems and ruling them out, such as pain or discomfort. Then check for sources of fear, such as overaggressive handling. Increasing his exercise and/or turnout time might prove beneficial.

If these methods fail, then his diet might be responsible. In performance horses, it is not always possible to reduce feed intake, but there are alternatives to grain. Vegetable fats in the form of corn oil or soybean oil can be used. It is not wise to feed animal fat. (For more on feeding performance horses see page 61 in this issue or The Horse of August 1998.)

Airway Disease

According to N. Edward Robinson, BVet Med, MRCVS, PhD, of Michigan State University, the most common cause of equine airway disease (heaves/COPD) is a poor environment. Robinson said poor-quality hay and dusty housing conditions are precursors to many airway problems in horses. In an effort to reduce airway problems, it would benefit the horse if hay were soaked in water before being fed to reduce the amount of dust present. The use of pelleted feed or haylage also can reduce dust in feedstuffs.

According to Robinson, poor-quality straw has the most dust of any bedding. Wood chips are a better bedding option, but clay is the best.

Good barn ventilation is necessary to remove as much dust as possible from the air. Do not keep barns closed up, even in the winter. It is important to have several air exchanges per day in a barn.

In horses already affected by airway disease, the use of corticosteroids to reduce inflammation in the airways often is required. The drug will work faster and more effectively if administered via inhalation. After the airway inflammation has been reduced, it might be necessary to administer a bronchodilator, such as Ventipulmin Syrup. The bronchodilator relaxes the smooth muscles of the airway, opening the airway and increasing mucocilliary clearance. For more information on airway disease in horses go to www.cvm.msu.edu/research/pulmon or see The Horse of August 1998.

Welfare Forum

New this year at Equitana USA was the Welfare Forum.

Livestock Vs. Companion Animal Status: At the root of this concern is the tax status of horses, according to panelist Randy Catanese. Another concern in classifying the horse is liability laws. In most cases, equine liability laws refer to horses as livestock, and if their status is changed to companion animals, then the laws would have to change accordingly or be lost.

Lee Myers, DVM, Georgia’s state veterinarian, said if horses are classified as companion animals, then monies currently spent on equine research could be jeopardized. The panel urged the audience to think carefully about how changing the classification of horses from livestock to companion animals would affect owners and their horses.

PMU Farming: The drug derived from pregnant mare urine, Premarin, is widely prescribed by physicians to offset the deleterious effects in post-menopausal women. There are approximately 35,000 mares producing urine for Wyeth-Ayerst, the only pharmaceutical company that manufactures the drug. Audience members mentioned several times that there are alternative drugs to urine-based Premarin, including a plant-based drug. However, a pharmacologist in the audience stated that not all women respond to the plant variant of the drug. The pharmacologist also said that Premarin is more potent and direct than the plant version of the drug.

According to Doug Freeman, DVM, of the University of Massachusetts and a consultant for Wyeth-Ayerst, horses on PMU farms are checked by a veterinarian three times in six months, which is much more than the average horse. He also pointed out that horses are in production six months, then off six months. While the mares are in production, they are turned out as scheduled, or as needed.

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