Horse exercise

Breeding Success: Is Your Mare or Stallion Fit for Breeding?

The reality is not every mare or stallion is fit for breeding. A fertility evaluation is the first step when deciding if you should breed your mare or stallion, and could potentially save you financial and emotional stress. A breeding soundness examination is carried out by a veterinarian to determine the breeding potential of your mare or stallion, and flag any physiological issues that may hinder breeding success, such as musculoskeletal problems. Not only does a breeding soundness examination protect your mare or stallion from potential risks, but it also ensures your breeding stock is in good condition for the rigours of breeding and producing a live, healthy foal. What’s Involved The first step in a breeding soundness examination is a physical examination of your mare or stallion by a veterinarian. Your veterinarian will check the horse’s history, and body condition and look for any signs of ill health. Diet, worming, vaccinations, dental, and hoof care should be up to date. The second step is an evaluation of the mare and stallion’s ability to reproduce successfully. For stallions, this will involve semen collection and testing to check sperm count, quality, and motility. For mares, this will involve an ultrasound of the reproductive tract. A breeding soundness examination also protects your mare or stallion from potentially passing on any sexually transmitted infections if they’re present. What’s Next If your mare or stallion is deemed fit for breeding, then you can start to consider your options and whether you intend to pursue live mating or insemination. If the outcome isn’t as successful as you hoped, then you may choose to breed another horse. The choice to breed, for any reason, should not be entered into lightly. With the high numbers of unwanted horses available, it’s important you carefully consider your reasons for producing a new foal and put the health and well-being of your breeding stock first at all times. Also Read: Preparing Your Stallion for Breeding Season Preparing Your Mare for Breeding Season

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How do I plan my horse’s feeding regime?

There is no ‘one size fits all’ answer to this question, so it’s important you assess your horse’s nutritive requirements as an individual. Formulating a balanced diet that supports their precise needs starts by asking the right questions…  How old is your horse?  As your horse ages, their needs for energy, caloric intake and digestibility will change, so formulating your horses’s diet is not a ‘set and forget’ activity, and should be discussed in consultation with a nutritionist or veterinarian. At a young age, horse feeds are designed to support growth, with higher levels of protein for weanlings and yearlings. As your horse enters their senior years or is considered ‘nutritionally senior’, they require a feed that’s high in fibre, easy to chew and delivers readily available nutrients.  How much does your horse weigh?  At different stages of life, you may also need to feed for weight loss or weight gain. For example, you may need to consider diet changes during the transition from Winter to Spring, as your horse may have lost condition over the cooler months. Using a weight tape or body condition scoring, you can easily determine if your horse is underweight, over-weight or in peak condition. When doing this, don’t forget to consider your horse’s breed as ideal body condition is categorised differently for certain breeds.  How often is your horse exercised?  Every horse, no matter their workload, should eat approximately 2% of their bodyweight in dry feed per day and forage sources, such as pasture and hay, should make up the bulk of this ration. For those easy keepers, pasture and added supplements may be enough to maintain their condition. However, if your horse has a moderate to heavy workload, or pasture is scare and deficient in vital nutrients, their diet will need to incorporate commercial feeds. When considering your horse’s workload, ensure that you don’t over- or under-estimate their activity level.  Does your horse require additional nutrients? Likewise, if your horse is a stallion, pregnant or lactating mare, their nutritive requirements are higher. A breeding stallion will require a daily feed ration, balanced by forage, that provides him with energy, vitamins and minerals to maintain his performance and sperm motility. During the stages of pregnancy, your mare’s requirements will vary, with late gestation and lactation being the most demanding stages on her condition. Her daily feed ration will need to supply her with energy, vitamins and minerals to assist in foal growth, repair and milk production. Does your horse have any pre-existing health problems influenced by nutrition? Finally, if your horse suffers from any health condition that is exacerbated by incorrect feeding, then you need to approach their diet with caution. A veterinarian should be involved to ensure your horse is diagnosed correctly, so an appropriate feeding plan can be put in place. 

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5 Tips for Managing the Laminitic Horse in Spring

If you own a horse susceptible to grass-induced laminitis, Spring can make you feel increasingly nervous. However, with knowledge and support, you can provide your laminitic horse with the level of care they need to live comfortably.  Tip 1: Book a Vet Consultation A thorough health check by your veterinarian is highly recommended for the laminitic horse, especially to prevent the symptoms of laminitis recurring this season. With the support of your vet, be sure to check: Your horse’s health and set steps to improve their overall health if needed Your horse’s weight and insulin levels, and set goals to reduce these if they’re too high Your horse’s vaccination and de-worming program to ensure they’re fully protected  Tip 2: Assess Your Horse’s Diet  Careful diet management is crucial to the health of the laminitic horse. A high-fibre, low-carbohydrate diet, comprised mostly of hay, will support your horse’s caloric needs, without overloading on sugar. Tip 3: Manage Turnout Time Pasture, especially during Spring, can pose a high health risk to laminitic horses. Depending on the severity of your horse’s condition, closely monitored turnout during the night or early morning when fructan levels are lowest may be acceptable. Tip 4: Provide Supportive Hoof Care Laminitic horses have unique needs when it comes to hoof care. Shoeing should be avoided for as long as possible in Spring, except where corrective shoeing is required. Trimming should be done by a competent farrier with prior laminitis experience. Tip 5: Support Your Horse’s Wellbeing All horses thrive on freedom of movement, access to pasture and interaction with other horses. Provide your horse with unlimited access to water and hay containing less than 10% sugar, and utilise grazing muzzles or a dirt path system to encourage happy, healthy behaviour.

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Exercising Your Horse During Winter

During Winter, the cooler conditions are an ideal time to maintain your horse’s fitness, improve any problems under saddle and prepare for the competition season. To ensure a safe Winter workout, we share our top three tips.  Even in Winter, active movement is essential to your horse’s health and wellbeing. Regular turnout and exercise is vital to healthy circulation, bone, soft tissue and hooves, and aids in preventing lameness and injury.  Warm up and cool down  Before starting your Winter workouts, 10-15 minutes of warm up is crucial to loosen stiff muscles and joints. Warm up with a mixture of exercises in walk and trot, using bends, circles, gait changes and lateral movements to add variety. Post-workout, you need to cool your horse with another 10-15 minutes of gentle exercises. Walking for 10 minutes will help to dry any sweat and clear the byproducts of exercise. If your horse is kept stabled or clipped during Winter, be sure to factor in their needs to your training regime. Vary the type of exercise  Tailor your Winter workouts to your chosen discipline. A dressage horse will benefit from refining their lateral work on level ground to maintain their strength and balance. Whereas a show jumper will require higher intensity cardiovascular fitness, with jumping training several times per week. However, there are a number of exercises that all horses, regardless of discipline, will benefit from. Hill work, in particular walking hills, is ideal for building the hindquarters. You should also strive to hack out at least once a week. Hacking out gives your horse mental stimulation, while improving their condition. Nutrition and hydration  Finally, a well balanced diet will give your horse the energy requirements they need for athletic ability, stamina and strength, along with keeping them warm during Winter. Your horse’s ration should include low-sugar high-fibre feed and unlimited access to forage sources, such as hay or pasture, every day. In Winter, your horse may drink less water, which can leave them dehydrated and at risk of impaction colic. Cold water can lower their body temperature, so warming water may assist in encouraging your horse to drink. To ensure a healthy water intake, your horse should be offered water before and after training.

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