Horse Weighing Services
We weigh horses & ponies up to 3,300 lbs. Our scale is actually a “weigh bridge” that the animal walks onto and off of. It’s only 4″ high and has a gently sloping on ramp & off ramp. The surface of the scale is heavy-duty black rubber matting so your horse or pony experiences a secure grip and steady footing while being weighed.
The weighing process takes only a few seconds and is completely silent.
To ensure your horse is calm, we like to have the regular handler (owner, rider, trainer or groom) lead it up and over the scale. Some horses will balk at the scale, like they do most everything else (including trailers!) and having a person that the horse knows can make all the difference. We will use apples, carrots and grain buckets but never brute force.
We charge $20 per horse/pony and appointments are MANDATORY. We weigh right in our barn where our scale “lives.” For a large number of horses needing to be weighed, we will bring the scale to you. Please call for more information on this service.
About our scale & weighing system
The YARD Sport Horse Center owns the finest large animal weighbridge made. Intelligently designed & manufactured in Great Britain, our scale makes possible the quick, safe and accurate weighing of your horse(s)….anytime, anywhere. Our heavy-duty scale employs state of the art electronic weighing technology from New Zealand and we guarantee an accurate weigh to within +/- 1%.
Features & benefits:
• Weight registers in less than 3 seconds
• Horses do not need to stand still
Our scale is the weighbridge of choice for the finest equine organizations in the world including Her Majesty The Queen of England’s Royal Studs at Sandringham & Polhampton, the President’s Stables in Abu Dhabi, the Shadwell Estate Co. Ltd (UK & Dubai), Derrinstown Stud, Ireland as well as many highly respected equine clinics around the world.
World-class equestrians such as William Fox-Pitt, Polly Stockton, Will Connell & Yogi Breisner as well as competitors at the 2009 Badminton & Burghley horse trials weighed their horses on the same scales we use. Our scale’s manufacturer also provided the scales used for horses at the 2008 Olympics in Hong Kong.
Correct dosing of medications
One of the first questions an equine vet asks when called to consult during any well-horse exam, injury or illness is: how much does he/she weigh? Most of us rely on a number provided at purchase (accurate or not) or arrived at by guessing or using the antiquated method of reading tape measurements which, because they cannot factor in a horse’s bone density, are intrinsically inaccurate.
Vets routinely under-dose for obvious reasons, the main one being “better safe than sorry.” Owners, trainers and grooms often over-dose due to poorly designed applicators (how many of us have fumed when, despite our best efforts to give 1 dose in the back of the mouth, we give 2 or even more from a slippery, “push-pull” injector?) and because we “think” the horse weighs much more than it actually does.
There is no upside to inaccurate dosing.
There are many downsides. These range from ineffective intervention (not enough medication), to the waste of often very expensive drugs (not enough medication to harm the horse but more than was necessary to help it) to the frustrating downside of overdosing that not only doesn’t help the horse, it actually flattens the wellness curve by setting up an internal environment that makes the illness worse than doing nothing at all (worming is the prime example!) to the ultimate downside of over-dosing: injury to or death of the animal.
Most horse people are also dog people. We routinely dose our dogs with heartworm and flea/tick preventatives and we do so based solely on the dog’s weight. It doesn’t matter if you’re medicating a working border collie or a couch-potato dachshund…the drugs are administered based on weight.
The time has come to take this approach to the stable.
Feed & Forage
Correct amount of feed & forage
Horse owners’ knowledge of nutrition is likely to affect their feeding practices. A recent large study to survey feeding practices among horse owners, dietary supplement use, and knowledge about equine nutrition resulted in the following findings:
All owners reported feeding hay, with the majority feeding grass or timothy hay.
Most owners (96%) reported feeding a concentrate in addition to hay.
Approximately 84% of owners reported including at least one dietary supplement in their horse’s daily feeding. The most commonly used supplements were chondroprotectives, electrolytes, and multivitamins.
Less than 50% knew the daily water and hay requirements for their horse.
69% lacked knowledge about the proper use of concentrates in a diet.
Equine practitioners, vets & researchers all say the same thing: You will need to know your horses’ weight to determine his feeding needs.
The YARD’s goal is for every horse owner to know that by having us weigh their horse, they have established a very important baseline number around which they can make a healthy “Care & Feeding” plan.
Once you have your horse’s weight, there’s a simple rule of thumb you can use to determine how much feed your horse should be getting each day:
Adult horses, per day, should consume between 1.5% and 3% of their body weight in hay. Example: a 1,000 lb. horse should eat 15 to 30 lb. of hay per day.
Every horse should be fed as an individual. There are three questions every horse owner must have the answers to in order to calculate the correct amount (and type) of feed for their animal.
What’s His Current Weight?
What’s His Age & What Does He Do?
What’s His Condition?
You know his age & work and The YARD will tell you his weight. Body condition (degree of fat cover) has its own Assessment Scale Standard developed by vets & caregivers. The body condition score (BCS) system to assess subcutaneous fat deposition is a useful tool for making feeding management decisions. The system includes assessing fat deposition at six body areas (neck, withers, shoulders, ribs, loin, and tail head).
The most accurate assessment of body condition is done through feeling the condition over the horse’s ribs, plus visual inspection of overall condition. Note* A thick winter coat can easily hide weight loss so it’s important to use hands as well as eyes to monitor winter weight. Your horse should be at such a weight that you cannot see the ribs but can feel them if you run your ringers over the rib cage applying slight pressure.
The table below gives you a range of percentages of body weight that you should use to calculate feed (concentrate) & forage (hay, etc.). Use your horse’s condition to help decide where he belongs in that range. For example, if you can see his ribs, he may be too thin; up his feed. If you can’t feel his ribs, it may be time to cut back.
1. Examples: horses used in pleasure, equitation, or working 1-3 hours per day.
2. Examples: horses in ranch work, roping, barrel racing, jumping, etc., or working 3-5 hours per day.
3. Examples: horses in race training, polo, etc., or working more than 5 hours per day.
Healthy horses love to eat. They are programmed to eat steadily, all day. As many MD’s tell their human patients with weight problems, “Eat small meals, several times a day.” This is called “grazing” and large animal non-ruminates, such as horses, invented it.
“Horses are non-ruminant herbivores of a type known as a “hind-gut fermentor.” This means that horses have only one stomach, as do humans. However, unlike humans, they also have to digest plant fiber (largely cellulose) that comes from grass and hay. Therefore, unlike ruminants, who digest fiber in plant matter by use of a multichambered stomach (such as cows), horses use microbial fermentation in a part of the digestive system known as the cecum (or caecum) to break down the cellulose.
In practical terms, horses prefer to eat small amounts of food steadily throughout the day, as they do in nature when grazing on pasture. Although this is not always possible with modern stabling practices and human schedules that favor feeding horses twice a day, it is important to remember the underlying biology of the animal when determining what to feed, how often, and in what quantities.
The digestive system of the horse is somewhat delicate. Horses are unable to regurgitate food, except from the esophagus. Thus, if they overeat or eat something poisonous, vomiting is not an option. They also have a long, complex large intestine and a balance of beneficial microbes in their cecum that can be upset by rapid changes in feed. Because of these factors, they are very susceptible to colic, which is a leading cause of death in horses. Therefore, horses require clean, high-quality feed, provided at regular intervals, and may become ill if subjected to abrupt changes in their diets. Horses are also sensitive to molds and toxins. For this reason, they must never be fed contaminated fermentable materials such as lawn clippings. Fermented silage or “haylage” is fed to horses in some places; however, contamination or failure of the fermentation process that allows any mold or spoilage may be toxic.”
Knowing your horse or pony’s ideal weight and monitoring that weight regularly keeps you from having either a “skinny” horse or a “fat” one; neither is good.
Correct Hydration/Energy Use
Correct amount of Hydration (water)
The proverb “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink,” is a metaphor for a lot of things. Taken literally, however, it is also an absolute truth.
Horses drink about 4 gallons per 1,000 lbs. of body weight daily.
This amount varies, naturally, on their work and the weather but, once again, you see the importance of knowing your horse’s baseline weight.
WHAT WATER DOES: a horse’s blood plasma alone is 90 percent water. Lymph nodes, gastric juices, joint fluid, spinal fluid, saliva…it’s all water. Water is responsible for balance, sight, hearing and temperature regulation. From a metabolic standpoint, water dissolves nutrients and aids in digestion. Electrolytes and water-soluble B and C vitamins are dissolved, diluted and distributed with water. And what the body doesn’t use is excreted as waste using.water. Horses produce up to 12 gallons of saliva every day to aid in the digestion of hay.
WHY HYDRATE BASED ON BODY WEIGHT?
By knowing your horse’s weight, you know roughly how much water he should be drinking each day.
Only a properly hydrated horse is in a position to maintain good health. If a horse’s body loses 5% of its water content, urination and defecation amounts decrease. Insufficient intake means the horse can’t chew and moisten food properly, leading to choke, constipation or colic. Without enough water, your horse can colic within 48 hours.
If a horse’s body loses 10% of its water content, the blood volume decreases dramatically. Diarrhea begins, sweating stops and the heart and respiratory rates go up.
If a horse’s body loses 20% of its water content the horse dies.
Hot weather causes a horse to sweat more. Different breeds dissipate heat more easily than others. What you feed your horse also affects how much the horse drinks; lush grass has more water content than hay.
Lactating mares need more water to make milk for their foals (up to 3 times as much!) and foals also drink a lot of water.
Daily Checks to Assure Proper Hydration
Measure Capillary Refill Time
1. Use both hands to part the horse’s lips and expose the gums.
2. Press gently and briefly on the gum of the upper jaw with the index finger or thumb of one hand. This will force the blood from the capillaries, “blanching” the gum.
3. Watch and count how long it takes for the gum to return to its natural pink color after removing your finger. If the count is longer than 2 seconds, your horse may be dehydrated or have a circulatory problem.
Your horse’s eyes should appear moist and shiny, not dry.
Check Skin Turgor
1. Pinch the skin on the horse’s neck in front of the shoulder, using your thumb and forefinger.
2. Note whether the skin snaps back to its normal position quickly or responds slowly and remains “tented up.” A slow response can indicate dehydration.
Don’t forget the obvious:
Make sure your horse’s water is clean, not too hot & not too cold. When pastured with others, some horses get bullied away from a water trough/tank and may not be getting enough.
Correct weight gain progress in pregnant mares & in foals
The 11 months spent waiting for a new foal is never easy. Many things can go wrong despite our best efforts.
Nutrition, exercise, parasite load, vaccinations, and pregnancy monitoring are a handful of factors that, when managed carefully, can improve your chances for a healthy pregnancy and equally healthy newborn.Knowing your mare’s body weight at conception will enable you to accurately monitor her gain as the pregnancy progresses.
If a mare begins her pregnancy in moderate body condition, her total gestational weight gain is estimated to be between 12% and 15% of her weight at conception.
Through her 11-month pregnancy, the typical 1,200-pound mare gains between 175 and 225 pounds. Fluids, placental tissue and the fetus itself (120 pounds is a typical weight for a newborn foal) account for most of that weight, along with fat reserves the mare will need when she begins producing milk.
The average mare will consume about 1.5% to 2.0% of her body weight each day in quality feed. When quality feed is provided, additional vitamins and feed additives are usually not necessary.
Nutritional research has dispelled many myths about weight gain during pregnancy and about feeding pregnant mares. For example, unlike lactating mares whose calorie needs are enormous, nutritionists recommend that during the first trimester of pregnancy, mares without foals at their sides be fed according to their work level, as with any other mature horse. At this stage, the fetus weighs less than 5 pounds and makes the fewest demands on the mare’s body. In fact, overfeeding the mare with a vitamin/mineral-fortified grain mix, the best alfalfa hay and three or four vitamin/mineral supplements as “insurance” may actually harm the fetus’s early development by getting nutrients out of balance. A pregnant mare in light work that does not have a nursing foal needs a total daily ration (hay plus grain) equivalent to only 1.5 to 2 percent of her body weight during the first trimester, compared to the lactating mare, which requires a total daily ration equivalent to 3 percent of her body weight.
Recent research indicates that there is more fetal growth in the second trimester than previously thought. This means that the 100- to 150-pound weight surge once thought to occur late in the mare’s pregnancy may actually occur sooner or over a longer period of time. During the second trimester, the mare needs a daily ration equal to 2 to 2.25 percent of her body weight to help her start building the critical fat reserves she will draw on when she begins nursing.
Crude protein, vitamin and trace mineral levels need to be increased about midway through the second trimester to feed fetal tissue growth. Pay particular attention to the levels of calcium, phosphorous, copper, zinc, manganese and selenium. If the mare is fed alfalfa hay, be sure her diet is balanced for calcium and phosphorous, since the calcium:phosphorous ratio of alfalfa can be as high as 10:1. The mare’s total diet should contain at least .4 percent calcium and .3 percent phosphorous.
Excessive weight gain or loss should be avoided. Though you should be able to palpate the ribs, they should not be visible on a well-conditioned horse. Exercise can keep the excess weight gain down. Moderate riding and work is usually safe up to 5 months gestation; moderate activity and free exercise are encouraged throughout pregnancy.
There is less concern today than in the past about excessive weight gain in mares during late pregnancy. While surplus fat can stress the mare’s cardiovascular system, ligaments and joints, recent research indicates that excess weight is not necessarily harmful to the mare or fetus. Research has disproved long-held beliefs that excess fat affects rebreeding success or fetal weight.
There is actually more potential harm in bringing a mare into late pregnancy in thin condition. Thin mares have a higher incidence of embryonic death and lower foal birth rates. They also have no energy reserves for themselves or the birth process. They may have lower resistance to infection and therefore fewer antibodies to pass on to their foals. Their milk production will be scanty, and their suckling foals will be hungrier. Conception rates for thinner mares at rebreeding are also lower. If a mare enters the last trimester of her pregnancy in thin condition, this is one time to pour on the grain to achieve a large weight gain before foaling. Add to 1 pound of a grain mix fortified for pregnant mares to her total ration every fourth day, but do not let grain exceed 40 percent of her total daily ration.
The mare coming into late pregnancy in good flesh needs 2.25 to 2.5 percent of her body weight daily in feed, plus more protein, vitamins and minerals than she did during the first two trimesters. Look for grain mixes specially designed for pregnant mares that have high-quality protein sources, such as milk or soybean products, and fortification with extra calcium, phosphorous and trace minerals.
The foal in utero
Good nutrition for foals starts with good nutrition for their dams. During the average 340 days between conception and foaling, the mare provides 100 percent of the nutrition needed by the growing fetus. The lactating mare then provides 100 percent of her suckling foal’s nutritional needs up to approximately 2 months of age. Adequate amounts of protein, energy (calories), vitamins and trace minerals are needed in the mare’s diet for both mare and baby to thrive.
Last 3 Months of Gestation
The fetus increases its weight by 1 lb/day during the last 3 months of gestation, accounting for 2/3 of fetal growth. Therefore, requirements for energy, protein, calcium and phosphorus increase greatly. Recent research suggests that mares fed to gain weight during pregnancy will do a better job of raising a foal and have enhanced rebreeding efficiency. This effect may be because post-partum weight loss is minimized, which results in higher conception rates in lactating mares. However, if the mare is overweight, do not give her any additional feed beyond what she needs for maintenance during this period.
How heavy will the foal be at birth and what does this weight really mean?
Assuming the mare has been weighed regularly during her pregnancy and has gained adequate weight, the best way to determine the expected foal’s weight and eventual height, is, of course, to look at his lineage. What are the weights & heights of his sire, his dam and his siblings? Is his sire a large horse and does he throw large babies? How dominant are the sire’s physical characteristics based on the genetic proof: foals on the ground?
As much as genetics determine outcome, don’t forget the non-genetic factors that will have a lot to do with how the foal has developed in utero and will thrive (or not) once born.
“The major non-genetic factor determining the size of the fetus at term is maternal constraint. This term refers to a set of poorly defined processes by which maternal and uteroplacental factors act to limit the growth of the fetus, presumably by limiting nutrient availability and/or the metabolic-hormonal drive to grow. Maternal constraint can be divided into supply-limited constraint (e.g. maternal size) and demand-driven constraint (e.g. twinning).
Maternal constraint acts in all pregnancies, but is greater in some situations, particularly those involving young maternal age, small maternal size, nulliparous (being a “maiden” mare) and multiple pregnancies. Maternal constraint is an important physiological cause of the variation in birth size, but is not without longer-term consequences. There is increasing evidence that maternal constraint is an important factor in determining the increased risk of adult diseases in those who have poor fetal growth due to pathophysiological factors.”
From birth to 2 years of age, a young horse reaches about 90 percent of his eventual adult weight and height. Also during a horse’s first two years, he develops the muscles, tendons, organs and bone he’ll need for a lifetime of activity. Good nutrition is critical during this growth phase of a horse’s life for the animal to reach his full genetic potential. This critical growth phase begins while the foal is developing in his dam’s uterus. Without it, growth may be stunted or orthopedic problems may result.
Nursing makes the greatest nutritional demands on a mare in any phase in the reproductive cycle, and many mares are underfed while nursing. Lactating mares need as much or more energy in their diets as hardworking performance horses. However, compared to a performance horse whose energy needs increase gradually throughout his training regime, the lactating mare’s energy needs increase literally overnight.
For the first four months of their lives, foals gain between 3 and 5 pounds daily, and in the first two months, a foal depends on its dam for 100 percent of his nutrition. The mare’s energy needs are double what they were in her second trimester and three times what they were in the first. Her protein, vitamin and mineral needs are at least 25 percent higher, too. Without sufficient calories in her diet, a lactating mare’s hipbones and ribs sometime seem to appear overnight. When that happens, it means she is breaking down her own body reserves to produce milk. This not only hurts the mare, but it can also jeopardize any new fetus she may be carrying if she was rebred.
Give the lactating mare 3 percent of her body weight daily in feed. Since she can only eat a certain amount of hay daily, the best way to increase her calories is by increasing her grain intake. To avoid colic, begin switching to post-foaling grain levels about a week to 10 days before the mare’s expected foaling date, adding from .5 to 1 pound of grain every fourth day until reaching her new feeding level. Feed a grain mix fortified especially for broodmares to supply her protein, vitamin and mineral needs. This is also the time to splurge on the best-quality grass hay or alfalfa you can find so that the mare gets maximum nutrition from her forage.
The quality of the forage is extremely important and regular weighings of both mare & foal are probably the best indicator of nutritional adequacy.
While it is difficult to influence the composition of a mare’s milk through her diet, the quantity of milk a mare produces can be influenced by her feeding level. More grain (increased calories) produces more milk. The size of a mare’s bag is a poor indicator of her overall milk production, but if the mare has a small udder and the foal is nursing constantly, the foal is probably hungry. If feeding the mare more calories does not increase her milk supply enough to satisfy the foal’s needs, the foal may need supplemental creep feeding.
Milk is 98 percent water, and at peak lactation a mare produces about 4 gallons of milk daily. Lactating mares need ample supplies of water, about three times what a non-lactating mare requires. A 5-gallon bucket filled twice daily will not supply her needs. Because grass contains 80 to 90 percent water, the pastured lactating mare can supply much of her increased water needs through grazing, although fresh water should always be available.
Because of their small digestive tracts, foals eat many small, frequent meals. It is normal for suckling foals to nurse for one to two minutes three to seven times an hour. Excessive bouts of nursing, a foal that is constantly butting the mare’s udder, a mare that is antagonistic because the foal is continually trying to nurse or below-normal weight gains all point to poor milk production.
Before he is 2 or 3 months old, the foal’s immature digestive tract cannot break down and utilize grain-based creep feeds. His teeth are not equipped for chewing grains well, and his gut does not yet have a full complement of microbes and enzymes to process grain. Offering creep feeds based on high-quality milk-protein sources can help the suckling whose dam is not a good milker. On the whole, however, nutritionists advise creep feeding cautiously because excessive creep feeding pushes growth and risks developmental orthopedic disease (DOD).
The rule is to creep feed conservatively. At various times, nutritionists have implicated high protein levels, excess calories and various minerals as the culprits responsible for various orthopedic problems in young, growing horses. Current research indicates the problem is not any one of these factors but rather the balance among them. For example, if high protein levels push growth but the minerals necessary for sound bone development are missing from the diet, DOD can result. Foals being pushed on high-protein creep feeds with low mineral levels are not the only ones at risk. However, weanlings on low-protein grass pastures that receive high-energy grain mixes that are not balanced for minerals can have problems, too.
When creep feeding a nursing foal is necessary, the foal should get no more than .5 to .75 pound of creep feed per 100 pounds of body weight daily, plus top-quality hay fed free choice. Look for a creep feed especially blended for foals that is about 16 percent protein, .8 percent calcium and .6 percent phosphorous. The calcium:phosphorous ratio should be around 1:1 and never more than 3:1. Check the ingredients listing for high-quality protein sources, such as dried milk products or soybean meal, which provide the amino acids needed for growth.
A 16-percent crude-protein grain mix intended for hardworking adult horses will not be suitable for creep feeding because the balance of its protein, energy and minerals may be unsuitable for good growth. While protein sources such as cottonseed meal, linseed meal or corn gluten meal may be acceptable in adult horse diets, they do not provide the amino acids needed for good growth in young horses.
Weaning and Beyond
By the time the foal is 4 to 5 months old, his digestive tract has developed sufficiently to process grain and he is psychologically ready to leave his dam. Start the weaning process by cutting the mare’s calories to reduce her milk production. About a week prior to weaning, cut calorie intake about 20 percent by halving the mare’s grain ration. Three days before weaning, cut calories about 20 percent again by removing all grain. This gradual tapering of the mare’s feed intake helps her begin drying up so she will be less likely to have problems with a swollen udder or mastitis at weaning time. Secondly, less milk means a hungrier foal that will become more interested in other sources of food and water.
After the mare and foal are separated, keep the mare off grain for about three more days to help dry her udder. If she is carrying a new fetus, do not keep her off grain any more than a week after weaning, or the new foal she is carrying may suffer nutritionally. Add grain back into her diet at the rate of about ½ pound every three or four days until she is back at the desired maintenance level.
The weanling needs about 3 percent of his body weight daily in feed. While some of this should be supplied by a 14- to 16percent crude-protein grain mix, do not feed grain free choice to weanlings. Foals easily overeat with the result being enterotoxemia or DOD. Good-quality hay, on the other hand, should be available free choice. Remember that the minerals in the grain mix or supplements fed should complement the grass or alfalfa hay offered so that overall protein, calories and minerals stay balanced in the total ration.
A slim, energetic and inquisitive foal is the ideal. Once weaned, foals grow very quickly and go through a “spurt” at about 6-7 months of age. During this time they develop extra bone and muscle and this requires a significant dietary input.
The enormous daily weight gain during the foal’s first six months gradually tapers off as he approaches a year old. Continue to feed good-quality hay supplemented with a grain mix formulated to balance the minerals in the hay, but drop the crude protein level in the grain mix to 10 to 12 percent. As the yearling approaches 2 years of age, he will have gained more than 90 percent of his adult weight and height and, instead of growth, the animal’s work level will become the major determinant of his ideal feeding progress.
Regular and accurate weighing is the only way to be sure a foal is progressing as he should; not too quickly and not too slowly as each have their problems.
Underfeeding foals results in a whole host of deficiency problems and calcium/phosphate ratios.
Overfeeding foals can result in osteochondrosis, physitis/physeal dysplasia, cervical instability syndromes/wobbler foals and contracted tendons.
“Weighing on a digital weigh-bridge (scale) is an essential part of Shadwell’s monitoring techniques. Aberrant weights enable us to pick up potential problems before they are apparent to the naked eye, and before they become more serious. Weight loss can be the sign of the onset of viral problems, but just as important to us is controlling weight gain. If a foal picks up more than 1.5kg a day, then extra burden on its young joints can lead to development problems.”
Stud Manager Shadwell Estate Co. Ltd, UK
Insufficient intake of fat calories
Don’t forget the obvious! Make sure your horse is being offered proper, adequate nutrition in the form of hay and (perhaps) grain. His age, general health and exercise regime will determine what you feed him.
If he is eating well but still loosing weight, start boosting the fat calories in his feed. Grain is high in soluble carbohydrates-a great source of calories, but one with risks. You worry that increasing your horse’s grain will put him at risk for laminitis (which has been linked to excessive amounts of soluble carbohydrates) and colic (caused by eating big grain meals and too little forage).
Why fat helps: Ounce for ounce, fat contains more than twice as many calories (that is, twice as much energy) as either carbohydrates or protein. So, fat gives you a way to increase your horse’s caloric intake without increasing his grain ration to potentially dangerous levels.
As it does for weight gain, fat gives you a way to boost your horse’s energy intake without the risk of feeding him excessive quantities of grain. Fat may also help your horse do more work and be less fatigued. In research studies, racehorses and cutting horses on a fat-supplemented diet were able to work longer and at a higher performance level than horses that hadn’t been given a fat supplement.
One of the most common reasons for weight loss in horses is dental tooth/teeth problems. Even a small misalignment, unnatural pressure when chewing or pain from a gum sore or decaying tooth will make your horse eat less or chew less thus decreasing the nutrient he gets from his feed.
Even if you have his teeth examined annually as part of his well-horse check-up, dental problems can happen suddenly.
Because of the nature of a horse’s diet (mainly tough fibrous material), which requires a lot of chewing and grinding, which wears down the teeth, proper dentition is essential. If the horse’s ability to grind down the food sufficiently is compromised for any reason, the enzymes and microbes of the gastrointestinal tract have a hard time continuing the digestive process and the result is a drop in condition.
The most common problem with the teeth of horses is the formation of sharp points through normal wear and tear along the outside or inside edge of the jaw causing laceration of the cheeks, gums or tongue. Chewing becomes very painful and the horse may reduce the amount of feed he consumes or eat more slowly. This problem can be alleviated by having your horses teeth rasped at least once yearly, but sometimes more often if your horse has a particularly bad problem or is old.
Horses have two sets of teeth in their lifetime, the milk teeth, present at birth are gradually replaced by permanent teeth as the horse reaches maturity. Sometimes, as the milk teeth are pushed out, a small fragment remains forming a kind of ‘cap’ over the new tooth. This can make chewing difficult and if noticed, should be removed.
Mouth infections, cracked, broken teeth or poor mouth conformation (e.g. parrot mouth) can also lead to reduced feed intake. Older horses have problems with lost or very worn molars and incisors leading to a reduced ability to crop grass and chew feed. This can be a major cause of weight loss in older horses. Some senior feeds are marketed as complete diets including forage, with small particle sizes. These feeds can also be moistened and made into a gruel, which does not require chewing.
Simply watching your horse while he eats can tell you much about his dentition. Slow eating, reluctance to drink cold water, tilting the head whilst chewing, wallowing food around in the mouth before swallowing, balling up food in the mouth and dropping food may all be indications of poor dental health in horses and should be investigated. It is also worth remembering that some horses with chronic dental problems causing weight loss show no outward symptoms at all, and in cases of gradual loss of condition bad teeth should still be investigated as a possible cause.
Worm & parasite infection
Worm & parasite infection
Deworming your horse must be a part of his regular care. Doing anything less is abusive.
Deworming must not only be done on a routine schedule, the medication must be given in an adequate amount. Giving too much is wasteful and potentially toxic. Giving too little not only doesn’t get rid of the worms, it sets up an environment in the horse’s gut that allows the worms to multiply faster & become resistant to the worming medication. So, administering too little is worse than doing nothing!
The only accurate way to determine your horse’s worming medication needs (1 tube, 2 tubes.maybe 1.5 tubes???) is to weigh him.
Horses should be dewormed after the first heavy frost to kill bots and decrease the parasite burden prior to winter.
Internal parasites can be a major contributing factor to weight loss or inability to put on weight. Severe cases of parasitism are rare these days due to the wide use of new and improved de-wormers but where a horse is suffering from a large worm burden, the results on the digestive tract and the horse’s ability to absorb and digest feed can be disastrous.
Parasites not only compete with the horse for the nutrients, they also cause damage to the digestive tract itself, reducing the surface area of the healthy gut thus reducing the guts’ production of enzymes which are needed to prepare the food particles for absorption. Some nutrients are dependent on proteins in the diet to transport them across the stomach lining. As parasites compete with these nutrients for protein, the availability of those nutrients to the horse is also reduced. Damage by parasites can cause the intestinal lining to become swollen and inflamed. This draws water, electrolytes, sugars and amino acids (the building blocks of protein) out of the bloodstream and back into the gut, where they are passed through the digestive system and out in the manure.
With excessive worm damage, muscle wastage may be evident as the body begins to break down its own protein stores (muscles) to support vital body systems. An effective program of de-worming, which should be designed by your vet who will know the area and specific problems of the region should keep parasites at bay and prevent weight loss problems associated with a worm burden. To test the efficacy of your worming program, talk to your vet about taking fecal samples and examining them for worm larvae throughout the year.
The Fat Horse/Pony
Perhaps because seeing a horse’s hip bones protruding or its ribs sticking out sends a chill down any horse lover’s spine whereas a round, “eager eater” animal seems healthy, Obesity is more of a problem in the horse world than starvation. EquineObesity is a more and more common problem often because owners over-feed and under-work their horse. Currently, there are no defined methods for calculating the “correct weight for a particular horse”, so body condition scoring is widely used.
The importance of Obesity lies in the metabolic consequences on the health of your horse. Many grossly overweight horses look very well – the coat is shiny and they are often “winners” in show classes. Of course the former is good but when Obesity is a pre-requisite for winning a show class or attracting a good price at a sale then the long-term health of the horse is surely being sacrificed for financial gain.
Obesity has consequences on performance that are usually easily understood – although they are often overlooked. No matter how shiny your horse’s coat is, if he is fat, he will perform less well than a fit horse carrying only enough weight to ensure his own health! Overweight horses are less efficient athletes. Often, in a desire to present a full, rounded horse in the show ring, some heavy horse breeds are being overfed to compensate for inadequate conditioning which leads to exercise intolerance and increased stress on soft tissue support structures. Injuries are more common in the short-term and arthritis is often the long-term outcome.
Overweight horses have increased body mass and alterations in blood flow. These factors lead to an increased need for oxygen, especially during exercise, but overweight horses have more difficulty taking in oxygen because their increased body mass restricts chest wall motion. Heart problems can reasonably be expected.
The increased fat layer also makes thermoregulation more difficult and fat horses are more prone to overheating during hot summer months. Increased heart rate, due to blood flow restrictions, and increased respiratory rate, due to elevated oxygen need, can cause increased levels of blood lactate, which can lead to tying up or exertional myopathy. Additionally, increased fat storage in the liver can decrease this organ’s functional ability. Obesity decreases immune system function and can make some horses more susceptible to certain diseases.
Overweight mares are more infertile than mares in good condition. Also, high fat scores have been associated with increased duration of pregnancy, increased placental weight and decreased milk production. An unfit fat mare is likely to have greater difficulty with foaling than a slimmer fit mare.
Links between Obesity (even when this is for a relatively short duration in the life of a horse) and certain metabolic diseases are being investigated worldwide. Scientific studies are beginning to probe fat associated problems in horses but the current thinking is that equine Obesity is itself a potential cause or factor in some of the most difficult diseases of horses and that treatingObesity may be as important as any other treatments that your vet can offer. The main thrust of the research effort is related to the suggested link between laminitis and Obesity. Many owners will recognize that the fat under-exercised pony is a strong candidate for laminitis.
Because Obesity in horses is associated with an increased risk of laminitis or founder, which results in separation of the laminae and downward rotation of the coffin bone in the hoof, it is very important to do regular weighings which helps you keep your horse at his ideal body weight. This is a common problem in overweight broodmares and stallions. Excess weight carried byobese horses dramatically increases the risk of rotation of the pedal bone following a bout of laminitis. This damage is irreversible and difficult to manage, plus these horses are more inclined to suffer subsequent episodes of laminitis.
Equine veterinarians have long recognized an association between metabolic abnormalities, notably Obesity and insulin resistance (IR), and increased risk for laminitis in horses and ponies. Recent observational studies have provided evidence that an insulin-resistant phenotype is strongly linked with a predisposition to laminitis. Laminitis may be triggered in a chronically insulin-resistant horse or pony under conditions that exacerbate IR or hyperinsulinemia, for example, the grazing of pasture with high nonstructural carbohydrate content (e.g., during spring or when pastures are stressed by drought or frost), consumption of other feeds rich in starch and sugars (grains, sweet feeds), overfeeding that induces or worsens Obesity, and the administration of corticosteroids.
Obesity has also been linked with alteration of the pituitary gland at the base of the brain and the resultant condition known as Peripheral Cushing’s Disease or Obesity-related Metabolic Disease.** The resultant clinical effects include laminitis that develops in horses that are not necessarily fat or obese at the time. However, previous Obesity may be a significant factor. You need to be aware that even a single episode of Obesity may have long-term consequences on your horse, therefore from foal-hood to old age, horses should be regularly weighed and condition scored.
**Equine Metabolic Syndrome typically affects horses earlier in life, when they are between the ages of 8 and 18. Pony breeds, domesticated Spanish mustangs, Morgans, Peruvian Pasos, Paso Finos and some warmblood breeds seem especially prone. The main signs of this syndrome are Obesity, laminitis and fat deposits.
Equine Obesity is on the rise in the United States. A large percentage of these horses are insulin resistant, and as such are at a higher risk for laminitis: a debilitating condition responsible for thousands of deaths each year. According to the USDA National Health Monitoring System, laminitis is the second most common reason for horses and ponies to present for veterinary care, yet 50% of these episodes can be prevented with effective nutritional management.
Obese horses have significantly higher rates of joint and ligament disease, tendon strains, birthing difficulties, and laminitis or founder compared to normal horses. A recently recognized condition known as Equine Metabolic Syndrome or Insulin Resistance is gaining a great deal of publicity. It is a disorder of carbohydrate metabolism that is typically seen in overweight middle-aged horses and ponies. It is often associated with severe laminitis. Sugar in the bloodstream from grain or high carbohydrate hay feeding appears to interfere with blood circulation in the lamina of the foot causing inflammation and laminitis. Metabolic Syndrome can only be managed through diet and exercise. No drugs have been conclusively shown to improve the condition.
Just like in human medicine, regular exercise and proper nutrition are crucial in preventing Obesity and all of the problems that go with it. One of the first things horse owners must understand is that most horses do not need grain to survive and thrive. They require only good grass hay, plenty of clean water, and a mineral supplement. Young and growing horses, horses in training, and older horses with special energy needs are the exception and will probably need some grain supplementation.
It is suspected that “insulin resistance” may be due to the cumulative effects of years of glucose “spikes” in the bloodstream following heavy grain feedings offered only once or twice a day. This high carbohydrate meal causes a release of insulin that signals tissues to absorb and clear the excess glucose. After years of this unnatural insulin cycle, the tissues begin to ignore the insulin signals just as in Type II diabetes in humans. Persistent high blood glucose can lead to laminitis. So it appears that this “new problem” may be the result of years of good eating and easy living. It can be prevented.
Acute pain is the easiest to detect – the horse is limping, has a gaping wound, an altered stance or refuses to stand. The change is immediately recognizable.
Chronic or transient pain is harder to assess. There may be only subtle changes in the animal. Like dogs and other animals, horses can’t talk to us when they hurt. Dogs, though, will whine or whimper to indicate distress. Horses, being prey animals, don’t normally make any sounds to show they hurt.
Has the horse become more temperamental or sullen recently? Have their eating or drinking habits changed? Has their athletic performance changed – such as refusing jumps or preferring to take one lead over the other?
A horse that has started defecating in its water bucket may be sitting on the bucket in an attempt to take weight off its hind end. A horse that stops lying down may be having trouble getting up – indicating arthritic joint issues. Is the horse always resting or pointing one foot? Horses with caudal heel syndrome (navicular) mound shavings or dirt to stand on which they use to elevate their heels to take the pressure off the digital flexor tendons. Horses are very good at compensating for a leg injury by modifying their way of going to put more weight on the other three good legs.
Chronic pain and unsoundness leads to weight loss, and general malaise. Conversely, in some patients, chronic pain leads to weight gain.
Chronic or debilitating pain is considered pathologic, or having the characteristics of a diseased state. It often is unrelenting, may have no identifiable cause, may spread beyond the original site of an injury or insult and serves no biological function.
SIGNS OF CHRONIC PAIN
2. Licking of area affected
3. Licking of other areas if the painful part cannot be reached
4. Reluctance to move
5. Loss of appetite
6. Change in personality
7. Changes in eye brightness
Horses suffering chronic pain show reduced food and water intake, often accompanied with weight loss; changes in sleeping habits and increased periods of recumbency; and changes in social behavior, such as irritability or aggressiveness toward people and other horses.
Horses experiencing chronic pain due to long standing conditions such as laminitis, severe osteoarthritis, or an undiagnosed fracture, for example, can be recognized by weight loss, changes in eating and drinking patterns, alterations in time spent sleeping or recumbent, modified social behaviors, and a decreased responsiveness to external stimuli. These signs are much different than those described for horses experiencing acute pain, which include restlessness, an anxious appearance, dilated pupils and glassy eyes, flared nostrils, muscle tremors, profuse sweating, and increased respiratory and heart rates.
Chronic pain is often overlooked but can be a cause of chronic weight loss in horses. Discomfort not only reduces appetite, but also causes the body to release adrenaline (epinephrine) which puts the body in a state of catabolism. Catabolism causes the break down of body energy stores, resulting in weight loss. The presence and cause of low grade chronic pain is often hard to diagnose. If discovered, remedying the problem may solve the poor condition problem.
One of the most common sources of chronic pain in horses is from degenerative joint disease, more commonly called arthritis. The ends of the bones that form joints are covered with a hard, glassy covering called hyaline cartilage. This cartilage acts like a Teflon coating to protect the underlying bone from wear and tear. Cartilage has no nerve endings, so as long as it is in tact, there should be no pain from cartilage on cartilage contact. Due to trauma, joint deformities (crooked legs) or just long term repeated activities, the cartilage can become damaged and torn or chipped away. Once the cartilage is no longer protecting the bone endings, there will be bone on bone contact. Bone, which does have nerve endings, becomes painful and inflammation sets in. Arthritis can be diagnosed through physical examination, radiographs (x-rays), and nerve blocking.
Due to increased production of excitatory neurotransmitters, peripheral and spinal-chord sensitization, chronic pain often is associated with musculoskeletal injury or disease (e.g., laminitis, osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease). It requires complex treatment strategies and typically has a poor prognosis.
Digestive tract problems
Weight problems may be caused by a physiological problem, which prevents food from reaching the intestines for digestion. Pain caused by nerve damage from equine protozoal myelitis, obstructions from strangles, abscesses or muscle weakness caused by hyperkalemic periodic paralysis or botulism can seriously alter a horses’ eating habits and reduce appetite and feed intake.
Physical blockages such as abnormal growths in the oesophagus, scar tissue from past episodes of choking or foreign bodies lodged in the throat all narrow the passageway for food, making it difficult for the horse to swallow and may even cause chronic choke. The only way to effectively diagnose these problems is to perform an endoscopic examination or X-ray. If there is no way to clear the obstruction, special dietary arrangements should be made to allow the horse to swallow with more ease.
Gastric ulcers can cause reduced appetite as they cause pain and discomfort in the stomach. The incidence of ulcers in horses is quite high; studies have shown that approximately 80% of racehorses in training and 50% of other types of horses have ulcers. Horses that live on pasture for most of the day rarely develop ulcers. Ulcers are caused by excessive acid in the stomach usually associated with a high grain/low forage intake, meal feeding instead of continuous availability of forage and overtraining or stress of work. Symptoms of ulcers include irritability, picky eating, chronic colic, diarrhea and inability to gain weight. Symptoms vary from horse to horse, with some showing one or two symptoms, others showing all and others no outward signs.
In the small intestine, large intestine and caecum clinical conditions can alter the horse’s ability to digest and utilize food. If nutrients move too quickly through the digestive system, as with diarrhea, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly. There are a number of causes of diarrhea in the horse including upsets in the balance of bacteria in the hindgut. There are many species of bacteria in the equine hindgut and if the population is disturbed the whole ecosystem of the hindgut can be affected. If bacteria are not functioning correctly, particles of food may not be sufficiently broken down for absorption, leading to diarrhea. Another possible cause is viruses. These can cause sloughing of the intestinal lining and loosening of the faeces in the bodies attempt to flush out the pathogen.
Probiotics have been suggested to help treat diarrhea caused by bacterial upset. They work by repopulating the hindgut with a number of species of good bacteria and are given through a nasogastric tube. Some endurance people have been known to use live yoghurt in horses feed as a natural probiotic. There are many commercially available lactobacillus and streptococcus faceum preparations as well as yeast products designed for daily use. Sometimes, when there is no apparent reason for a horse to be losing weight, a probiotic supplement can help to turn him around. They are also useful when horses are stressed after traveling or competition or after an illness requiring antibiotics.
Chronic Back Pain
Back pain is a source of poor performance and many different types of horses suffer from back problems. Early recognition of back pain is important, since damage may be cumulative.
Causes of Back Pain
- Improperly fitting tack – A saddle that is too narrow will feel uncomfortable to the horse, pinching its withers and back. A saddle that is too wide places the weight of the rider directly on the backbone rather than properly distributing the weight. Saddle pads can help provide protection for this problem, but should not be considered an alternative to properly fitting tack.
- A rider who sits unevenly in the saddle – This may cause the least serious type of back pain, resulting in bruising of the muscle and skin. It concentrates excess weight on one part of the horse’s back, squeezing capillaries, decreasing circulation to the area, and causing muscles to become painfully inflamed. If the problem is chronic, the muscle and skin can be injured permanently. A patch of white hair or a bald spot due to damaged hair follicles is the most common evidence of this type of back pain. Learning to ride by taking lessons with a qualified instructor may help prevent this type of back pain from developing.
- Fatigue, poor condition, an accident (such as slipping in mud), or poorly executed jumping can cause excessive strain to the longissimus dorsi muscles – These muscles extend and flex the spine. This pain is similar to what we feel between our shoulders or in the small of our back when we overexert ourselves.
- Straining of the horse’s supraspinous ligament – This muscle running along the middle of the horse’s back, can be strained when galloping and jumping but will take longer to heal than a muscle injury. Once strained, this may cause the horse to be prone to this type of injury.
- “Kissing spines,” or impingement of the dorsal spinous processes, occur due to repetitive undulations in jumping horses Basculing, or rounding over a vertical fence, overextending upon landing or stretching out and hollowing the back over a wide oxer can cause this problem. The result is that the individual spinous projections are pushed together tightly. This generally occurs from the end of the withers to the beginning of the loin (10th -18th thoracic vertebrae).
- Back pain may develop secondary to chronic leg lameness – Hind and forelimbs may both be affected by problems such as bone spavin, resulting in complex multiple limb lameness. Secondary back pain may result from abnormal posture and use of the thoracolumbar soft tissues when the horse attempts to compensate for the lameness.
- Overloading your horse’s back with excessive weight – this may seem so obvious that it hardly bears mentioning but the fact remains that often a horse (and even more often a pony) is regularly asked to carry more weight than its musculoskeletal system can manage without long-term damage.
Some equines such as donkeys & burros and certain ponies bred for thick cannon bones & wide pelvises can accommodate far larger weight loads in relation to their height & weight.
But for the average horse or pony, the Rule of Thumb is: never load your horse (combined weight of tack & rider) more than 20% of the animal’s body weight.
For example: a 1200 lb. horse should carry no more than 240 lbs. of rider & tack. A 700 lb. pony, no more than 140 lbs.
This figure is a maximum and most horses will perform better, the lighter their load. 100 lb. jockeys on 1300 lb. Thoroughbreds is the most obvious example. These horses are carrying less than half what they could.
The usual reason a young rider “out grows” their pony is because they have grown in height and “look funny” on the smaller equine. But the more important “number” is their weight not their height. Knowing your pony’s body weight will enable a young rider to know undeniably when it’s time to get a larger mount.
Our horses and ponies will always try their best to do what we ask of them. A horse will carry an overweight rider until it drops from exhaustion. It’s the long-term consequences of overloading your animal that may not be obvious. These include muscle soreness & tightness, increased heart rates, lameness and hoof problems and, of course, a sore back.
A recent study of 8 mature saddle horses, loaded sequentially with 15%, 20%, 25% and 30% of their body weight, yielded the following results:
“Heart rates remained significantly higher when the horses carried 25 and 30% of their body weight. Plasma lactate concentrations immediately and 10 minutes after exercise differed when horses carried 30% of their body weight compared with 15, 20, and 25% weight carriage. Horses tended to have a greater change in muscle soreness and muscle tightness when carrying 25% of their body weight, and a significant change in soreness and tightness scores was found in horses carrying 30% of their body weight.”
Some common behaviors that indicate back pain are listed below:
- bucking during upward transitions, especially to the canter/lope from the trot – the push and lift required for a smooth transition may be too hard for a strained back, especially if the rider is sitting a bit heavier.
- refusing to stand during mounting – when a once mannerly horse abruptly begins walking off or sidestepping when mounted, this may be a sign of back pain. The horse will most likely resent tightening of the girth as well. A mounting block may help, but won’t cure the back pain.
- sinking when a rider mounts, a saddle is placed on the back, or the girth is tightened
- jumping mistakes or refusals – Jumping, particularly over fences 3 feet or higher, necessitates rounding of the back and thrusting from the hindquarters which can increase back pain.
- difficulty in negotiating hills – A horse must engage its hind end and use its back muscles to climb or descend hills, so a horse with a sore back might not want to climb or descend hills, will slow down considerably or take the hill sideways to decrease stress.
- reluctant sliding stops – The extreme rounding of the back required for sliding stops might be intolerable for a horse with back pain.
- lack of impulsion and suppleness in the dressage ring – In the dressage ring, a horse with back pain will most likely show decreased performance due to lack of impulsion and suppleness because this requires hind end engagement and rounding.
- a poor general gait, stiffness and abnormal movement of the pelvis and back. The horse may have a shorter stride and lower foot flight arc in the hind legs, decreased flexion at the hock and stifle, a “bunny hopping” gait or a very stiff, flat-backed gait where the whole back and pelvis are very flat and rigid due to overflexion or extension of the sacroiliac back/pelvis) or lumbosacral (back) area.
- reluctance to trot or canter
- reluctance to pick up and maintain one lead of the canter
- changing jumping style
- vigorous tail movements
- grinding teeth
- dragging one or more hind feet
- reluctance to back
If your horse consistently shows one or more of these pain indicators, you should schedule a visit with your veterinarian.
How To Prevent A Sore Back:
- Keep your horse in proper condition – an unfit, poorly muscled horse is more likely to injure his soft tissue and less able to work under saddle
- Be sure that your saddle fits properly and is not too wide or too narrow
- Sit balanced in the saddle to prevent back problems from developing by taking riding lessons from a qualified instructor
- Know your horse’s body weight and do not overload him!
Abaxial (fracture): see sesamoids.
Abscess: an infection around which the body has constructed a wall of fibrous tissue, to isolate it. Treatment with antibiotics is more likely to be effective if drainage of the abscess can be established, eliminating accumulated pus and debris.
Action: a horse’s manner of moving.
Acupressure: utilizing stimulation on acupuncture points to treat an animal.
Acupuncture: a centuries-old means of treating an animal or human through se of needles, electrical current, or moxibustion (heat and herbs) to stimulate or realign the body’s electrical fields.
Acute: referring to a disease: An acute disease is a disease of short, sharp course.
Age: many breeds, including Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, celebrate a common birthday on Jan 1.
Agent: a person empowered to transact business for a stable owner or jockey, or empowered to sell or buy horses for an owner or breeder.
AHS: African Horse Sickness.
AHS: American Hanoverian Society
All out: when a horse extends itself to the utmost.
Alternative therapy: a group of therapies (acupuncture, chiropractic, physical therapy, herbology, naturopathy) that help maintain the horse’s health and performance but without using medication.
Angular limb deformities: a limb that is crooked because of developmental problems in the angles of the joints. A problem of young horses, often present immediately after birth.
Anhydrosis: inability to sweat in response to work or an increase in body temperature. Also known as a “non-sweater.” Athletic horses are affected most frequently, though the condition also appears in pastured horses that are not being ridden. Most commonly occurs when both temperature and humidity are high. Horses raised in temperate regions and then transported to hot climates are most prone to develop the condition, but even acclimated horses can be at risk. Clinical signs include inability to sweat, increased respiratory rate, elevated body temperature and decreased exercise tolerance. The condition can be reversed if the horse is moved to a more temperate climate.
Anterior enteritis: acute inflammation of the small intestine producing signs of abdominal distress such as colic and diarrhea.
Anterior: toward the front of the horse’s body.
Aortic rupture: bursting of the aorta (artery coming from the left ventricle of the heart that distributes blood to nearly all of the body).
Apical (fracture): see sesamoids.
Arthritis: inflammation of a joint. An increase in the amount of synovial fluid in the joint is a result of the inflammation. Accumulation of synovial fluid in the fetlock joint is called a “wind puff” or “wind gall.” See also “green osselet.”
Arthroscope: a tiny tube of lenses used for viewing areas inside a joint. Usually attached to a small video camera.
Arthroscopic surgery: surgery performed through the use of an arthroscope which eliminates the need to open the joint with a large incision in order to view the damaged area.
Articular cartilage: cartilage that covers the ends of bones where they meet in a joint.
Artificial breeding: includes artificial insemination or embryo transfer (transplant).
Arytenoid cartilages: triangular cartilages in the upper part of the entrance to the larynx. Movements of the arytenoids cartilages control the diameter of the laryngeal opening.
Ataxia: loss or failure of muscular coordination.
Atrophy: to waste away, usually used in describing muscles.
AV: artificial vagina. Rubber sleeve usually incased in a leather holding pouch designed to hold hot/warm water that simulates a real mare so the stallion may be collected.
Avermectin: a class of dewormer products. The equine product ivermectin is a member of this class.
Back at the knee: a leg that looks like it has a backward arc with its center at the knee when viewed from the side.
Bad doer: a horse with a poor appetite, a condition that may be due to nervous-ness or other causes. Also called a “hard keeper.”
Bandage: bandages used on horses’ legs are 3 to 6 inches wide and are made of a variety of materials. In a competition, they are used for support or protection against injury. A horse may also wear “standing bandages,”thick cotton wraps used during shipping and while in the stall to prevent swelling and/or injury.
Bar: the interdental area of a horse’s mouth (gums) where there are no teeth. The place where the bit rests.
Bar shoe: a horseshoe closed at the back to help support the frog and heel of the hoof. It is often worn by horses with quarter cracks or bruised feet.
Barren: used to describe a filly or mare that was bred and did not conceive during the last breeding season.
Basilar (fracture): see sesamoids.
Bay: a horse color that varies from a yellow-tan to a bright auburn. The mane, tail and lower portion of the legs are always black, except where white markings are present.
Bean: an industry term for the smegma that hardens and collects at the tip of a stallion’s penis.
Benign: referring to a cancerous growth: Not invasive or destructive, and not tending to spread to other areas of the body.
Bit: mouthpiece made of variety of materials, including stainless steel, rubber or aluminum, jointed or unjointed, and attached to the bridle. It is one of the means by which a rider exerts guidance and control. Three common types of bits are the snaffle, Pelham and curb.
Black walnut shavings toxicosis: an as-yet unexplained poisoning from skin contact with wood shavings made from the black walnut tree, most often the consequence of unknowingly using them to bed a stall. (Anecdotal evidence suggests that other walnut varieties may also be toxic.) Vasculitis and laminitis are virtually guaranteed and usually severe.
Black: a horse color which is black, including the muzzle, flanks, mane, tail and legs unless white markings are present.
Blaze: a generic term describing a large, white vertical marking of medium width running the length of the horse’s face.
Bleeder (see exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage): a horse that bleeds from the lungs when small capillaries rupture into the air sacs. The medical term is Exercise-Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage (EIPH). Blood may be seen coming out of the horse’s nostrils. This is termed epistaxis. Diagnosis of EIPH is typically made during a post-exercise veterinary examination using a fiberoptic endoscope. The procedure is referred to as an endoscopic examination. Less than one bleeder in 20 shows signs of epistaxis (blood at the nostrils). Hot, humid weather and cold weather are known to exacerbate the problem. The most common preventive treatment currently available is the use of the diuretic furosemide (SalixT).
Blister beetle poisoning: poisoning due to ingestion of a beetle, typically 1/2 inch long, solid black or black with yellow stripes. It inhabits some alfalfa fields and other forages, and contains a powerful stomach irritant called canthardin. Most poisonings occur when the beetle is killed and baled into your horse’s hay, then ingested. The toxin can cause severe colic due to burning of the stomach lining. Ingestion of only a few beetles can be fatal to a full-grown horse and treatment is symptomatic and supportive. Prognosis is guarded: As many as half of all patients die despite vigorous therapy.
Blister: counter-irritant causing acute inflammation. Used to increase blood supply and blood flow, and to promote healing in the leg.
Blood stock agent: a person who advises and/or represents a buyer or seller of horses at a public auction or a private sale. A bloodstock agent usually works on commission, often five percent of the purchase price, and can also prepare a horse for sale.
Blue roan: in Quarter horses, a more or less uniform mixture of white with black hairs over a large portion of the body, but usually darker on head and lower legs; can have a few red hairs in the mixture.
Bog spavin: a soft swelling caused by excess synovial fluid of the largest joint of the hock called the “tibiotarsal joint.”
Bone grafts: utilizing bone taken from one part of the body to promote formation of bone in another region.
Bone spavin: bone spavin is arthritis of the lower portion of the hock. Most commonly, bone spavin appears as a hard swelling on the inner (joint) surface, where the hock meets the cannon bone. It also can occur in the lower aspect of your horse’s hock joint without visible enlargement. Lameness is common but can be difficult to detect because both hind limbs are often affected. Pain is often associated with flexing and advancing the affected the affected limb(s), causing your horse to carry the leg(s) abnormally and/or drag his toe, as revealed by unusual wear patterns there.
Boots: any of a number of devices strapped to a horse’s legs and coronets designed to offer protection from injury.
Bottom line: a horse’s breeding on the female side. The lower half of an extended pedigree diagram.
Bottom: 1) stamina in a horse. 2) subsurface of a racing strip.
Botulism, forage poisoning: disease caused by the nerve-poisoning toxin of the bacteria Clostridium botulinum which live in certain soils, wounds and in decaying organic matter. The first signs in adult horses can include loss of tongue, tail and eyelid tone, resulting in subtle changes in the face and tail carriage that often go unnoticed. As the disease progresses, swallowing can become difficult, resulting in quidding, drooling, tongue lolling and/or bad breath, followed by weakness, gait instability, collapse and death by respiratory paralysis. Intensive-care treatment, including administration of botulism antitoxin, is successful in approximately 70 percent of cases.
Bowed tendon: tendonitis. The most common injury to the tendons is a strain or “bowed tendon” so named because of the appearance of a bow shape due to swelling. The most common site of injury is in the superficial digital flexor tendon between the knee and the ankle behind the cannon bone. Despite aggressive treatment with anti-flammatory drugs, physical therapy and rest, horses frequently re-injure the tendon when they go back into competition. Two surgeries are felt to aid horses to comeback to competition: tendon splitting at the lesion site to release accumulated fluid and blood, and superior check ligament desmotomy (dissection of the ligament). The latter surgery, which involves severing one of the upper attachments of the tendon, is designed to reduce forces on the tendon when the horse returns to training and competing. Diagnostic ultrasound is the most common method of diagnosing this condition and monitoring the healing process.
Brace or bracer: rubdown liniment used on a horse after a workout.
Breakdown: when a horse experiences a potentially career-ending injury, usually to the leg involving a fracture. Some can be repaired with surgery and physical therapy.
Breastplate: piece of tack that fits across the horse’s chest and is attached to the saddle in order to prevent the saddle from slipping backward.
Breather: easing off a horse for a short distance in a speed effort to conserve or renew its strength.
Bred: 1) a horse is considered to have been bred in the state or country of its birth: Secretariat was a Virginia-bred. 2) the past tense of “breed.”
Breed: 1) a sort or type of horse. 2) to reproduce.
Breeder: owner of the dam at time of foaling unless the dam was under a lease or foal-sharing arrangement at the time of foaling. In that case, the person(s) specified by the terms of the agreement is (are) the breeder(s) of the foal.
Breeding fund: a state fund set up to provide bonuses for state-breds.
Breeze (breezing): working a horse at a moderate speed, less effort than handily.
Bridle: a piece of equipment, usually made of leather or nylon, which fits on a horse’s head and to which other equipment, such as a bit and the reins, are attached.
Broken wind: see chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Brush: injury that occurs when one hoof strikes the inside of the opposite limb.
Bucked shins: inflammation of the covering of the bone (periosteum) of the front surface of the cannon bone. Usually seen in two-to three-year-old Thoroughbreds. See periostitis.
Bulbs of the heel: the two areas on either side of the back of the foot, similar to the heel of the hand.
Bursa: a sac containing synovial fluid (a natural lubricant). Acts as a pad or cushion to facilitate motion between soft tissue and bone. Most commonly found where tendons pass over bones.
Bursitis: inflammation in a bursa that results in swelling due to accumulation of synovial fluid. Capped elbow is inflammation of the bursa over the point of elbow (olecranon process of the ulna). Capped hock is inflammation of the bursa over the point of the hock (tuber calcis).
Bute: short for enylbutazone, a non-steroidal anti-flammatory medication.
Buy-back: a horse in a public auction that did not reach a minimum (reserve) price set by the consignor and so was retained. The consignor must pay a fee to the auction company based on a percentage of the reserve, to cover the auction company’s marketing, advertising and other costs.
BVMS: Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery. Equivalent to DVM. Awarded in the United Kingdom.
BVSc: Bachelor of Veterinary Science. Equivalent to DVM. Common veterinary degree description outside the United States.
C.N.S.: central nervous system.
Calk or caulk: a projection on the heels of a horseshoe, similar to a cleat, to prevent slipping, especially on wet turf.
Canker: an infection of the frog that can spread to the adjacent sole and hoof wall. The affected frog grows thick folds and ridges, and a foul-smelling, cottage-cheese like exudate oozes from the crevices. Affected feet are usually lame. Canker is most often caused by long term hoof neglect and wet, filthy footing. Because infection is often quite deep, successful treatment might require surgical debridement and systemic antibiotics.
Cannon bone: the third metacarpal (front leg) or metatarsal (rear leg), also referred to as the shin bone. The largest bone between the knee and fetlock (ankle) joints.
Canthardin poisoning: see “blister beetle” poisoning.
Capillary refill time: the amount of time it takes for blood to return to capillaries after it has been forced out, normally two seconds. It is usually assessed by pressing the thumb against the horse’s gums; when the pressure is removed the gum looks white, but the normal pink color returns within two seconds as blood flows into the capillaries. A delayed capillary refill time is an indication of dehydration.
Capped elbow: inflammation of the bursa over the point of elbow (olecranon process of the ulna). Also known as “shoe boil.” See bursitis.
Capped hock: inflammation of the bursa over the point of the hock (tuber calcis). See bursitis.
Carpus: a collection of three joints halfway up the horse’s front leg, more commonly referred to as the knee. However, the carpus is actually equivalent to the human wrist.
Cast: 1) a horse positioned on its side or back with its legs wedged against a wall such that it can not get up. 2) A fiberglass cast that is applied to a horse’s leg to protect it in the event of a fracture or injury.
Cataract: loss of transparency of an eye lens. Once a lens becomes clouded, there is no treatment to restore it. If the cataract is large enough to block vision, the lens may be removed surgically, which permits the horse to see, but not to focus.
Cathartic: a laxative given to quickly purge your horse’s bowels of their contents. Examples include epsom salt solution, mineral oil or psyllium.
Caudal: toward the tail of the horse.
CBC: Complete Blood Count.
Cellulitis: inflammation of cells and connective tissue, usually associated with deep skin conditions such as scratches or greasy heel.
Chestnut: 1) a horse color which may vary from a red-yellow to golden-yellow. The mane, tail and legs are usually variations of coat color, except where white markings are present. 2) horny growth on the inner side of the legs. On the forelegs, they are just above the knees. On the hind legs, they are just below the hocks. No two horses have been found to have the same chestnuts and so they may be used for identification. Also called “night eyes.”
Chiropractic: use of bone alignment by veterinarians or under a veterinarian’s direction to treat malalignment problems.
Choke: an object or wad of feed lodged in your horse’s esophagus. Muscles around the obstruction clench in response, prolonging the choke and increasing the odds of damage to esophageal lining, which can lead to narrowing of the esophagus due to scar tissue. (A narrowed esophagus is prone to repeated chokes.) During a choke, food, water and saliva are regurgitated through one or both nostrils and your horse may cough and/or retch. Encouraging the choked horse to keep his head lowered can help prevent regurgitated material from spilling into the windpipe (trachea), which can cause aspiration pneumonia. Treatment can include: gentle irrigation and suction of impacted feed with warm water or saline through a stomach tube, removal of any lodged foreign matter with an operating endoscope or by surgery (a last resort) if it can’t be removed endoscopically, and/or diagnosis and treatment of any underlying problem that caused the choke. Anti-inflammatory medications usually are given to soothe tissues inflamed by the choke and treatment. Treatment for aspiration pneumonia is administered, if necessary.
Choking down: see dorsal displacement of the soft palate.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: commonly known as “COPD,” a hyperallergenic response of the respiratory system that involves damage to the lung tissue, similar in many ways to human asthma. Affected horses may cough, develop a nasal discharge and have a reduced exercise tolerance. Respiratory rate is increased and lung elasticity is diminished.
Chronic osselet: permanent build-up of synovial fluid in a joint, characterized by inflammation and thickening of the joint capsule over the damaged area. Usually attended by changes in the bone and cartilage. See arthritis.
Chronic: a disease or condition of long duration.
CL: corpus luteum. A progesterone secreting gland in the ovary formed from the wall of an ovarian follicle.
Clerk of scales: an official whose chief duty is to weigh the riders and tack after a race or competition to ensure proper weight is (was) carried.
Climbing: when a horse lifts its front legs abnormally high as it gallops, causing it to run inefficiently.
Closed knees: a condition where the cartilaginous growth plate above the knee (distal radial physis) has turned to bone. Indicates completion of long bone growth and is one sign of maturity.
Coffin bone fracture: a fracture that usually is associated with a misstep or fall; commonly seen on the inside (and more consistently stressed) leg of racehorses. Symptoms usually include sudden onset lameness, heat that can be felt on the hoof wall and increased digital pulse. Treatment depends on the fracture’s location and on how unstable it is. Some cases heal well with 12 months’ rest and application of a bar shoe to limit hoof flexion. Others require surgery and stabilization of the fracture with bone screws.
Coffin bone: the third phalanx (P3). The major bone within the confines of the hoof. Also called the “pedal [PEE-dal] bone.”
Coggins test: a blood test to detect infection with the virus that causes Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA). The disease is spread by biting insects that feed on infected horses, then carry the virus to other horses. Many events such as shows and rodeos require recent (6 to 12 months) negative Coggins tests on all participants, and most states require negative Coggins test in horses crossing their borders. Horses testing positive become subject to state law that requires quarantine away from biting insects and other horses, or euthanasia. There is no known cure and no vaccine.
Collect: 1) riding term; the bringing together of both ends of the horse for the purpose of lifting and lightening the forehand. 2) to collect a stallion; the process of using an AV to receive the ejaculate for artificial insemination.
Colic: refers to abdominal pain, usually due to intestinal problems and/or gas build-up. The most common cause of colic in the horse is termed spasmodic colic. The intestines become over-active resulting in painful spasms. In serious cases, the intestines can become twisted or impacted, requiring medical or surgical intervention.
Colitis: inflammation of the colon, usually due to infection. Diarrhea, colic pain and rapidly progressing dehydration are usually the result. Treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and preventing dehydration and shock while identifying and treating the underlying cause, if possible.
Colors (horse): include bay, black, chestnut, dark bay or brown, dun, gray, palomino, roan, sorrel, white.
Colt: an ungelded (entire) male horse four years old or younger.
Comminuted (fracture): a fracture with more than two fragments.
Compound (fracture): a fracture where damaged bone breaks through the skin. Also known as an “open” fracture.
Condylar (fracture): a fracture in the lower knobby end (condyle) of a long bone, such as the cannon bone or humerous.
Conformation: the physical make-up and bodily proportions of a horse; how it is put together.
Congential: present at birth.
Conjunctivitis: inflammation and/or infection of the tissues around the eye. Symptoms can include reddening, itching, watering and swelling. Causes can include irritants such as dust or flies; trauma and infection. Treatment usually includes gently cleaning, addressing the underlying cause and medicating with ointments containing appropriate antibiotics and/or anti-inflammatory medication.
Cooling out: reducing a horse’s temperature after exercise, usually by walking. All horses that are exercised are cooled out. Horses that work hard in hot, humid weather have difficulty cooling out. Under these circumstances cold water may be applied to their bodies and the excess water scraped off to assist cooling.
COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heaves: see Heaves, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD.
Corn: a bruise on the sole of the foot, toward the heel as a result of pressure from the shoe.
Cornea: the transparent, domed portion
Corneal abscess: an infection between the onion-like layers of the cornea, most associated with a penetrating wound. The condition is painful and, if unresolved, can result in blindness. Treament is challenging since the location of the infection between corneal layers makes it difficult for topical or systemic medications to penetrate to the site. Treatment usually is similar to that of a corneal ulcer; in nonresponsive cases, surgery may be needed to remove corneal layers and expose the abscess. (If the infection is resolved, the cornea will heal.)
Corneal ulcer: a defect in the cornea, most often associated with injury and subsequent infection. The condition is painful and, if unresolved, can result in blindness. Treatment usually includes antibiotics and other medications to combat infection, inflammation and pain and facilitate repair of the damaged cornea. In most cases, topical treatment is used.
Coronary band: where the hoof meets the skin of the leg.
Corticosteriods: hormones that are either naturally produced by the adrenal gland or manmade. Perform an anti-inflammatory function and regulate the chemical stability (homeostasis of the body).
Cough: to expel air from the lungs in a spasmodic manner. Can be a result of inflammation or irritation to the upper airways (pharynx, larynx or trachea) or may involve the lower airways of the lungs (deep cough).
Cover: 1) a single breeding of a stallion to a mare. 2) in race-driving, the horse racing immediately in front of another is said to be the “cover” of the trailering horse. The horse behind the cover has a horse cutting the wind, but, obviously, trails by at least a length.
Cow hocks: abnormal conformation in which the points of the hocks turn in when viewed from behind.
Cracked hoof wall: a vertical split of the hoof wall. Cracks may extend upward from the bearing surface of the wall or downward from the coronary band, as the result of an injury to the band. Varying in degrees of severity, cracks can result from injuries or concussion. Hooves that are dry and/or thin (shelly) or improperly shod are susceptible to cracking upon concussion. Corrective trimming and shoeing may remedy mild cracks, but in severe cases when the crack extends inward to the sensitive laminae, more extensive treatment is required, such as using screws and wires to stabilize the sides of the crack.
Cranial: toward the head of the horse.
Creep feeder: a feeding device designed to allow a foal to eat but keep its dam out. Otherwise, the mare will eat the foal’s food.
Cribber (wind sucker): horse who clings to objects with his teeth and sucks air into his stomach. Also known as a “wind sucker” when a horse sucks air without grasping an object between his teeth.
Crop: 1) the number of foals by a sire in a given year. 2) a group of horses born in the same year. 3) a jockey’s whip.
Cryptorchid: a “unilateral cryptorchid” is a male horse of any age that has one testicle undescended. A “bilateral cryptorchid” is male horse of any age that has both testicles undescended.
Cup: concavity in the occlusal surface of the tooth (the surfaces that meet when a horse closes its mouth) in young horses. It is used as a visual aid in determining the age in a horse. Also known as the infundibulum.
Curb: 1) a thickening (strain) of the plantar ligament of the hock that causes an enlargement on the back of the hind cannon region just below the point of the hock. 2) Also, a type of bit.
Cushing’s disease: a hormonal disease due to a pituitary gland tumor. It causes a variety of problems which can include diabetes-like syndrome; weight loss; chronic laminitis and a long, shaggy, curly hair coat that fails to shed. There is no cure, but in some cases the signs can be lessened by administration of medications to suppress overproduction of certain hormones, and stimulate production of the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Cut down: horse suffering from injuries from being struck by the shoes of another horse. Or, due to a faulty stride, a horse may cut itself down.
Cyst: an enclosed, smooth lump with a solid or liquid center produced by the cells lining the cyst’s wall. Cysts generally do not cause problems unless their location and size are in the path of tack or interfere with function of adjacent parts. Treatment options may include surgical removal, cryosurgery, cauterization or obiteration by laser. When a fluid-filled cyst is simply drained, it usually refills within a few days.
Dam: the female parent of a foal.
Dam’s sire (broodmare sire): the sire of a broodmare. Used in reference to the maternal grandsire foal.
Dark bay or brown: a horse color that ranges from brown with areas of tan on the shoulders, head and flanks, to a dark brown, with tan areas seen only in the flanks and/or muzzle. The mane, tail and lower portions of the legs are always black unless white markings are present.
Deep digital flexor tendon: present in all four legs, but injuries most commonly affect the front legs. Located on the back (posterior) of the front leg between the knee and the foot and between the hock and the foot on the rear leg. The function is to flex the digit and fetlock and support the lower limb as part of the suspensory apparatus. In the front limb it also flexes the knee (carpus) and extends the elbow. On the rear leg, it also extends the hock. Functions in tandem with the superficial flexor tendon.
Degenerative joint disease : any joint problem that has progressive degeneration of joint cartilage and the underlying (subchondral) bone. Also called osteoarthritis, a severe form of arthritis that has a progressive degeneration of joint cartilage. Occurs most frequently in the joints below the radius in the foreleg and the femur in the hind leg. Some of the more common causes include repeated trauma, conformation faults, blood disease, traumatic joint injury, subchondral bone defects (OCD-osteochondritis dessicans-lesions) and repeated intra-articular corticosteroid injections.
Desmitis: inflammation of a ligament. Involves tearing of ligament fibrils. The number of torn fibrils determines the severity of the injury.
Deworming: the use of drugs (anthelmintics) to kill internal parasites, often performed by administration of oral paste or by passing a nasogastric tube into the horse’s stomach.
Digestible energy: the amount of energy the horse is able to digest from feedstuff.
Digit: the part of the limb below the fetlock (ankle) joint. Includes the long and short pastern bones, the coffin bone and the navicular bone.
Digital cushion: thick elastic tissue lying under the frog and separating it from the coffin bone. It serves as a shock absorber.
Distaff: a female horse.
Distal sesamoidean ligaments: attach the bottom of the sesamoid bones to the long and short pastern bones.
Distal: away from the center of the body. Usually refers to the limbs. The injury was distal to (below) the hock .
DMSO: dimethyl sulfoxide, a topical anti-flammatory.
Dorsal displacement of the soft palate: a condition in which the soft palate, located on the floor of the airway near the larynx, moves up into the airway. A minor displacement causes a gurgling sound during exercise while in more serious cases the palate can block the airway. This is sometimes known as “choking down” or “swallowing the tongue” but the tongue does not actually block the airway. The base of the tongue is connected to the larynx, of which the epiglottis is a part. When the epiglottis is retracted, the soft palate can move up into the airway (dorsal displacement). This condition can sometimes be managed with equipment such a figure eight noseband or a tongue-tie. In more extreme cases, surgery might be required, most commonly a “myectomy” (excision of the muscles that retract the larynx).
Dorsal: toward the back or spine of the horse (upwards). Also, used to describe the front surface of the lower limb below the knee (front limb) or hock (rear limb).
Drench: liquid (usually medication) administered through the mouth.
Driving: a horse that is all out to win and under strong urging from its rider.
DVM: Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.
Dysphagia: difficulty swallowing, which can be due to pain, obstruction (choke) or a problem with the nerves that govern throat muscles. The most common signs of dysphagia are slobbering of food from the mouth and/or drainage of chewed food and saliva from nostrils. Treatment usually is aimed at identifying and resolving the underlying cause and adjusting feeding methods (e.g. feeding by stomach tube) to avoid aspiration pneumonia.
Ear mites: infestation by parasites that have invaded the horse’s ear canal, causing inflammation, itching and increased wax formation. Signs can include head shaking and holding the ear drooped to one side. Treatment is generally aimed at killing the mites with insecticides and cleaning the ear of wax and debris that resulted from inflammation. (Sedation usually is needed to accomplish this).
Earmuffs: a piece of equipment that covers a horse’s ears to prevent it from hearing distracting sounds or having insects bother its ears.
Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE): viral infection of the horse’s brain and spinal cord, which can infect horses, humans and selected birds, transmitted by mosquitoes. Signs can include behavioral changes, loss of appetite and fever. These can progress in 12 to 24 hours to dementia with head pressing, teeth grinding, circling and often blindness. The disease is fatal in up to 90 percent of cases. Surviving horses often have residual mental dullness. Treatment is generally supportive.
EEE (Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis): one of several contagious types of encephalomyelitis that causes sickness and death in horses by affecting the central nervous system. EEE is spread by mosquitoes and can affect humans. Can be prevented through annual vaccinations.
EIA: Equine Infectious Anemia. A contagious disease characterized by an initial acute attack of fever, weakness to the point of incoordination and jaundice, as well as other signs. Ensuing attacks result in anemia, emaciation and cardiac insufficiency. It is spread by biting flies and mosquitoes.
EIPH: Exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. See bleeder.
ELISA: Enzyme Linked Immunosorbant Assay. A form of testing to determine levels of medication existent in the fluids of horses.
Encephalitis: inflammation of the brain, usually due to infection.
Endometritis: inflammation of the uterine lining, usually due to infection.
Endoscope: an instrument used for direct visual inspection of a hollow organ or body cavity such as the upper airway or stomach. A “fiberoptic endoscope” is comprised of a long, flexible tube that has a series of lenses and a light at the end to allow the veterinarian to view and photograph the respiratory system by insertion through the nostrils and air passageways. Other internal organs may be viewed by inserting the endoscope through a surgical opening. A “video endoscope” has a small camera at the tip of the instrument.
Endotoxemia: blood poisoning that can occur with such serious conditions as Potomac horse fever, colitis, grain overload, severe colic, Salmonella infection, respiratory tract infection or uterine infection. As bacteria die a natural death, they release a miniscule amount of toxin that has no effect on the horse unless the bacteria are present in larger-than-usual numbers. In such a case, the dose of toxin the horse absorbs can cause endotoxemia. This condition is the biggest killer of horses from non-traumatic causes, and is the cause of death in most fatal colics.
Endotoxin: a substance produced by bacteria that, when absorbed into the horse’s body, can cause endotoxic shock.
Enterolith: a “stone” in the horse’s intestinal tract, made of minerals present in the feed and/or intestinal secretions, and usually formed around a foreign body, such as a small piece of debris. Small, pebble-like enteroliths can be swept out with the manure, or can remain in the intestinal tract where they grow larger, later interfering with manure passage. Treatment often includes removal by surgery. If enteroliths are small enough, removal by regular administration of a bulk laxative can be used. Dietary changes may also be prescribed.
Entire: an ungelded horse.
Entrapped epiglottis: a condition in which the thin membrane lying below the epiglottis moves up and covers the epiglottis. The abnormality may obstruct breathing. Usually treated by surgery to cut the membrane if it impairs respiratory function.
Epiglottis: a triangular-shaped cartilage that lies at the base of the airway just in front of the arytenoids cartilages. It covers the airway during swallowing to prevent the entry of foreign bodies. It is normally located above (dorsal to) the soft palate.
Epistaxis: see bleeder.
EPM: infection of the brain and spinal cord by a protozoan called Sarcocystis neurona.The protozoa are spread by the definitive host the opossum, which aquires the organism from scavenging carcasses of cats, raccoons, skunks, armadillos and possibly even from harbor seals and sea otters. Horses become infected by eating on contaminated areas where opossums droppings are present. Signs can vary widely and may include weakness, staggering, head tilt, dysphagia and/or seizures. Diagnosis is based on symptoms and spinal tap of the horse.
Equine influenza: a contagious viral disease of the upper respiratory tract. Symptoms may include cough, fever, muscle soreness and nasal discharge. Treatment is generally supportive. Rest until at least two weeks after the cough has resolved is an important component of successful treatment, since premature return to work can prolong the cough. Vaccination is the most effective means of prevention.
Equine viral arteritis (EVA): a contagious viral disease spread by casual contact or by breeding with a previously infected mate. If mares are infected while pregnant, they will usually abort. Affected horses are sick and contagious for a week to 10 days with flu-like symptoms. Most victims recover completely with proper nursing care (but can spread the disease to others after recovery, via sexual contact).
Equipment: see bandage; bar shoe; bit; blinkers; bridle; earmuffs; halter; hood; nose band; overgirth; reins; saddle cloth; saddle pad; shadow roll; shank; stirrups, breast plate; foregirth; martingale.
Estrous cycle: the length of time between consecutive ovulations.
Estrus (heat): associated with ovulation; a mare usually is receptive to breeding during estrus. The mare’s behavior at this time is referred to as “horsing.”
Euthanasia: elective termination of the horse’s life for humane reasons.
EVA (equine viral arteritis): a highly contagious disease that is characterized by swelling in the legs of all horses and swelling in the scrotum of stallions; can cause abortion in mares and can be shed in the semen of stallions for years after infection.
Extensor tendon: tendon of a muscle that extends the knee (carpus) joint.
Fetlock (joint): joint located between the cannon bone and the long pastern bone, equivalent to the human knuckle but often referred to as the “ankle.”
Fiber optic endoscope: see endoscope.
Figure-eight noseband: see noseband.
Filly: female horse four years old or younger. The age in Quarter horses is three years old and younger.
Firing: see pin firing.
Firm (track): a condition of a turf course corresponding to fast on a dirt track. A firm, resilient surface.
Fissure (fracture): longitudinal crack through only one surface of a bone.
Fistulous withers: a deep infection at the withers, possibly due to a contusion-type injury from poor-fitting tack, followed by a break in the skin through which damaged tissues become contaminated. Signs may include swelling, heat, pain and discharge of pus and debris through draining tracts. Treatment, which is done cautiously to avoid human infection, generally focuses on debridement and disinfection of contaminated tissues. In some cases, administration of systemic antibiotics is performed.
Flack jacket: similar to a jacket worn by a quarterback, the rider’s flak jacket protects the ribs, kidneys and back.
Flat race: contested on a level ground without a jumping component as opposed to a steeplechase. Often used in the term, on the flat.
Float: 1) v. an equine dental procedure in which sharp points on the teeth are filed down. 2) n. the instrument in which the above procedure is performed.
Foal: 1) a horse of either sex in its first year of life. 2) as a verb, to give birth.
Footing: the surface upon which the horse performs.
Founder: see laminitis.
Fracture: a break in a bone. See comminuted; compound; condylar;fissure; metacarpal;oblique;saucer; sesamoid; slab; spiral; simple; stress.
Frog: the V-shaped, pliable support structure on the bottom of the foot.
Full brother, full sister: horses that share the same sire and dam.
Furlong: one-eighth of a mile; 220 yards; 660 feet.
Furosemide: a medication for the treatment of bleeders, commonly known under the trade name Salix. Furosemide is primarily a diuretic, but has also been shown to reduce hypertension (high blood pressure) in the horse’s lung.
“Grab a quarter”: injury to the back of the hoof or foot caused when the hind hoof steps on the front hoof. Also known as “overreaching.”
Gait: the characteristic footfall pattern of a horse in motion. Four natural gaits are performed by all horses: walk, trot, canter and gallop. Some horses also perform other gaits, such as the pace, running walk, rack, etc.
Gastric ulcer: ulceration of a horse’s stomach. Often causes symptoms of abdominal distress (colic)
Gelding: a male horse of any age that has been neutered by having both testicles removed (“gelded”).
Get: progeny of sire.
Girth: an elastic and/or leather band, sometimes covered with sheepskin, that passes under a horse’s belly and is connected to both sides of the saddle.
Granddam: see second dam.
Grandsire: the grandfather of a horse; father (sire) of the horse’s dam or sire.
Gravel: infection of the hoof resulting from a crack in the white line (the border between the insensitive and sensitive laminae). An abscess usually forms in the sensitive structures, and may eventually break at the coronet as a result of the infection.
Gray: a horse color where the majority of the coat is a mixture of black and white hairs. The mane, tail and legs may be either black or gray unless white markings are present.
Greasy heel, grease heel: a severe, deep skin infection on the backs of the horse’s pasterns. The bubbly-looking skin growth creates deep crevices for the infective organism to escape topical treatments. This condition usually involves two or more feet, most often the hind feet. Successful treatment typically requires aggressive debridement, with twice daily cleansing and disinfection of remaining tissues. The horse should be housed in an area that’s dry and clean. Systemic antibiotics may be warranted if the specific infective bacteria are identified via culture.
Green osselet: in young horses, a swelling in the fetlock joint, particularly on the front of the joint where the cannon and long pastern bones meet. This swelling is a result of inflammation and reactive changes of the front edges of these two bones. If the green osselet does not heal, a “chronic osselet” might develop with a permanent build-up of synovial fluid in the joint and inflammation and thickening of the joint capsule over the damaged area, with secondary bone changes following the initial inflammation.
Groom: a person who cares for a horse in a stable.
Growth plates: located near the end of long bones where they grow in length. See physis.
Grullo: body color in American Quarter horses smoky or mouse-colored (not a mixture of black and white hairs, but each hair mouse colored); mane and tail black; usually has black dorsal stripe and black on lower legs.
Guttural pouch: an air-filled pouch in the throat region that may become infected. The pouch is part of the Eustachian tube, a passage between the pharynx and the middle ear, and is unique to the horse.
Half-brother, half sister: horses out of the same dam but by different sires. Horses with the same sire and different dams are not considered half-siblings.
Halter: like a bridle, but lacking a bit. Used in handling horses around the stable and when they are not being ridden.
Hand gallop: a gallop of moderate speed.
Hand ride: urging a horse with the hands and not using the whip.
Hand: four inches. A horse’s height is measured in hands and inches from the top of the shoulder (withers) to the ground, e.g. 15.2 hands high is 15 hands 2 inches. Thoroughbreds typically range from 15 to 17 hands. Anything under 14.2 when mature is usually considered to be a pony.
Harrow: implement or unit with pulling teeth or tines used to rake and loosen the footing in an area.
Heaves: emphysema.See chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Heel crack: a crack on the heel of the hoof. Also called a “sand crack.”
Helmet: shock-absorbing head gear worn by riders to prevent head injuries.
Hematoma: a blood-filled area resulting from injury.
Hock: a large joint just above the cannon bone in the rear leg that corresponds to the level of the knee of the front leg. Equivalent to the human ankle joint.
Homebred: a horse bred by his owner.
Hoof: the foot of the horse. Consists of several parts that play an integral role in supporting the weight of the horse.
Horse: when reference is made to sex, a “horse” is an ungelded male five years old or older (i.e., a stallion).
Horsing: behavior of a mare in heat (in season). See estrus.
Hyaluronic acid: a normal component of joint fluid. Also can be manmade intra-articular medication used to relieve joint inflammation (AdequanT or LegendT).
Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP): an inherited disorder of certain lines of Quarter horses, most noticeably those related to the late halter stallion Impressive. Affected horses seem normal between attacks. These can be mild or severe, and last from a few minutes to several hours, and seem to be triggered by work stress, anxiety, cold, and/or eating a diet high in potassium. Signs may include occasional skin rippling, localized muscle twitching, violent body-wide tremors, sweating, panting, passing loose manure, hindlimb weakness and collapse. Sever episodes can be fatal due to heart failure. Diagnosis is confirmed through genetic blood testing. There is no cure, but frequency and severity of attacks can be reduced with careful management and diet adjustment to reduce potassium levels.
Icing: 1) a physical therapy procedure, properly known as “cryotherapy.” 2) when a horse stands in a tub of ice or when ice packs are applied to the legs to reduce pain and/or swelling.
Icterus: yellow discoloration of skin and mucus membranes (gums, eyelid rims, inner surface of vulva) due to accumulation of pigments normally metabolized by the horse’s liver. Causes can include liver disease, hemolytic anemia, snakebite, ingestion of certain potential toxins such as red maple leaves, onions, or phenothiazine drugs and fasting. Treatment usually is focused on addressing the underlying problem.
Identification: involves a system of recognition of several types of markings by the horse identifier. Marking’s are noted on an animal’s breed registry papers and usually range from coat color, lip tattoos, hair whorls, cowlicks, white markings, night eyes, scars and brands.
IM: abbreviation for intramuscular, an injection given in a muscle.
Impaction: a type of colic caused by a blockage of the intestines by ingested material. Constipation.
In foal: pregnant mare.
In the bridle: see on the bit.
Inferior check ligament: a ligament that runs from the back of the knee or the hock to the deep digital flexor tendon.
Influenza: a viral infection that causes a highly contagious upper-respiratory disease. Signs can include fever, dry cough, watery nasal discharge, decreased appetite, muscle soreness, enlarged lymph nodes and swollen legs. The rule of thumb is to rest a minimum of three weeks, or one full week for every day the horse had a fever, whichever is longer. Influenza vaccine is usually recommended up to four times per year, depending on the incidence of the disease and the horse’s exposure to other horses.
Insensitive laminae: the layer just under the wall of the hoof; similar to the human fingernail. It is an integral structure that helps to attach the hoof wall to the underlying coffin bone.
Intra-articular: within a joint.
Irons: see stirrups.
Ischemia: a deficiency of blood supply that may be temporary or permanent. Caused by shutting down of the blood vessels.
Isolation barn: a facility used to separate sick horses from healthy ones.
IV: abbreviation for intravenous; an injection given in the vein.
Jack spavin: see bone spavin.
Jog: slow, easy trot.
Joint capsule: the structure that encloses the joint space.
Joint: see musculoskeletal system.
Jump Mare: the mare used when collecting a stallion artificially. The stallion is allowed to mount the mare, but he is collected in an AV.
Jumper: steeplechase or hurdle horse.
Juvenile warts: pink or brown, fleshy, hairless growths, usually on the muzzle or elsewhere on the face of young (less than 3-years-old) horses. Believed to be caused by a contagious virus, juvenile warts tend to run their course and disappear suddenly after being present a few weeks to several months. It’s believed that the positive response to various home remedies is merely coincidence – the warts were going to resolve anyway.
Juvenile: two-year-old horse.
Kissing spines, overriding dorsal spinous processes: a touching or overriding of the vertical (dorsal) spinous processes of the vertebrae. The primary sign generally is pain on palpation over the backbone and the long muscles beside it. Depending on the location and extent of the problem, the horse’s gait may be restricted. Treatment options may include rest, injection of the area with medication to block inflammation and pain, acupuncture, ultrasound or surgery.
Lactic acid: organic acid normally present in small amounts in muscle tissue, produced by anaerobic muscle metabolism as a by-product of exercise. An increase in lactic acid occurs during exercise. A large accumulation causes muscle fatigue, inflammation and pain.
Lameness: a deviation from a normal gait due to pain in a limb or its supporting structure.
Laminae: a part of the hoof. See insensitive laminae and sensitive laminae.
Laminitis: an inflammation of the sensitive laminae of the foot. Many factors are involved, including changes in the blood flow through the capillaries of the foot. Causes include ingesting toxic levels of grain, eating lush grass, systemic disease problems, high temperature, toxemia, retained placenta, excessive weight-bearing as occurs when the opposite limb is injured, and the administration of some drugs. Laminitis usually manifests itself in the front feet, develops rapidly, and is life threatening, although in mild cases a horse can resume a certain amount of athletic activity. Laminitis caused the death of Secretariat. laser (or cold laser): a low-intensity focused beam of light used to reduce inflammation and promote circulation.
Lateral: toward the side and farther from the center. Pertains to a side.
Lathered (up): see washed out.
Lead: 1) see shank. 2) the front leg that is last to hit the ground during a gallop or canter stride.
Left laryngeal hemiparesis: when the vocal fold or arytenoids cartilage on the left side of the airway becomes partially or totally paralyzed and interferes with air flow. Causes a whistling or “roaring” noise during inspiration when the horse exercises. See roaring.
Ligament: a band of fibrous tissue connecting bones that supports and strengthens the joint and limits the range of motion.
Lunge: a method of exercising a horse on a tether (“lunge line”).
Lyme disease: infection with the spiral-shaped bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, spread by the bite of an infected tick. Signs may vary widely and can include recurrent lameness that shifts from one leg to another and for which no other cause can be found, arthritis, stiffness and reluctance to move. Treatment is usually administration of antibiotics from the penicillin or tetracycline family.
Magnetic therapy: physical therapy technique using magnetic fields to create a low energy electrical field. It causes dilation of the blood vessels (vasodilation) and tissue stimulation. Magnetic therapy may be used on soft tissue to treat such injuries as tendonitis or bony (skeletal) injuries such as bucked shins.
Maiden: 1) a horse or rider that has not won a race. 2) a female horse that has never been bred.
Malignant: referring to a cancerous growth: locally invasive and destructive, and/or tending to spread to other areas of the body.
Mare: female horse five years old or older. In American Quarter horses, four and older.
Martingale: piece of tack used to help the rider maintain control in horses that evade the action of the bit by raising their head.
Mash: soft, moist mixture, hot or cold, of bran, grain and other feed that is easily digested by horses.
Massage: rubbing of various parts of the anatomy to stimulate healing or relaxation.
Medial: pertaining to the middle in anatomy, nearer the media plane (the vertical plane that bisects the center) of the body when viewed from in front or behind.
Melanoma: usually firm, smooth, hairless black nodules relatively common in gray horses, most often found under a horse’s tail, around his ear and on his face near the main joint of his jaw. Some can grow aggressively, causing erosions and spreading to adjacent lymph nodes and lungs. Most melanomas grow slowly and are benign (don’t tend to spread to other organs). Treatment is seldom recommended, as external melanomas often return after surgical removal.
Metacarpal: usually refers to a fracture of the cannon bone, located between the knee and the fetlock joint in the front leg. Also, may refer to a fracture of the splint bone.
Mid-body (fracture): see sesamoids.
Midges, no-see-ums: tiny flies of the Culicoides family, considered responsible for the warm-weather skin allergy called Sweet itch.
Monorchid: a male horse of any age that has only one testicle in his scrotum; the other testicle was either removed or is undescended. See cryptorchid; ridgling.
Moon blindness: a disease of the uvea (the colored iris) inside the eyeball. The uvea becomes inflamed (uveitis), which causes its muscles to spasm, thereby constricting the pupil. Eye pain from uveitis is severe and can cause squinting, tearing, excessive blinking and dangerous eye rubbing (increasing the risk of eye trauma). If not resolved, uveitis can result in permanent blindness. Treatment can include topical and systemic medication to relieve pain and inflammation, relax the spasming and combat possible infection.
Musculoskeletal system: consisting of the bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints of the head, vertebral column and limbs, together with the associated muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints.
Muzzle: 1) nose and lips of a horse. 2) a guard placed over a horse’s mouth to prevent it from biting or eating.
Nasogastric tube: a long tube that is capable of reaching from the nose to the stomach used to administer medications.
Navicular bone: a small, flat bone within the hoof that helps, along with the short pastern bone and the coffin bone, to make up the coffin joint.
Navicular disease: a degenerative disease that affects the navicular bone (small bone in the back of the foot), navicular bursa and deep digital flexor tendon. Generally considered a disease of the front feet. Both front feet are often affected, but one will usually be more noticeable than the other.
Near side: left side of a horse; side on which a horse is mounted.
Nerve block: injection of local anesthetic in the vicinity of a specific nerve to deaden the region for which that nerve provides sensation and motor function. Nerve blocks are used to diagnose lameness, to allow pain-free surgery on an awake patient, to paralyze specific body parts (e.g. to paralyze a wounded eyelid so it will hold for repair) and to relax internal muscles. Depending on the local anesthetic used, effects can last from 20 minutes to eight hours.
Neurectomy: a surgical procedure in which the nerve supply to the navicular area is removed. The toe and remainder of the foot have feeling. Also referred to as “posterior digital neurectomy” or “heel nerve.”
Night blindness: an inherited vision problem that, although present at birth, might not be noticed until later in life. Signs can include reluctance to move when it’s dark, head cocking as though trying to hear what can’t be seen, star gazing and a cross-eyed appearance when viewed from the front. There is no known treatment.
Night eyes: see chestnuts.
Non-sweater: see anhydrosis.
Noseband: a leather strap that goes over the bridge of a horse’s nose to help secure the bridle. A dropped noseband, flash noseband and figure-eight (or grackle) noseband have a strap that fits under the rings of the bit to prevent the horse from resisting the action of the bit by opening its mouth. This keeps the tongue from sliding over the bit.
Oblique (fracture): fracture at an angle to the shaft of the bone.
OCD (osteochondritis desicans) lesion: a cartilaginous or bony lesion that is the result of a failure in development.
Off side: right side of horse.
Oiled (oiling): administering mineral oil via nasogastric tube to help relieve gas or pass blockage. Preventive procedure commonly used in long van rides to prevent impaction colics. See colic.
On the bit: refers to carriage of the horse in which the neck and back are rounded, the hind legs are well engaged and the horse is obedient to the action of the bit. Also known as “in the bridle”.
On the muscle: denotes a fit horse.
Open fracture: see compound fracture.
Osselets: see arthritis.
Osteoarthritis: a severe form of arthritis that has a progressive degeneration of joint cartilage. Occurs most frequently in the joints below the radius in the foreleg and the femur in the hind leg. Some of the more common causes include repeated trauma, conformation faults, blood disease, traumatic joint injury, subchondral bone defects (OCD) lesions and repeated intra-articular corticosteroid injections. A permanent form of arthritis with progressive loss of the articular cartilage in a joint. See degenerative joint disease.
Over at the knee: type of conformation in which the front leg looks like it has a forward arc with the center at the knee when viewed from the slide.
Overcheck: a strap that holds the bit up in the horse’s mouth.
Overgirth: an elasticated strap that goes completely around a horse over the saddle, to keep the saddle from slipping.
Over-reaching: toe of hind shoe striking the forefoot or foreleg.
P3: third phalanx. See coffin bone.
Paddle: type of movement in which the lower front leg swings outward. Often associated with toe-in conformation.
Paint: counter-irritant used to increase blood supply and blood flow and to promote healing in the leg. A mild form of blistering.
Palmar: back of front limb from knee down.
Parrot mouth: an extreme overbite.
Pastern: the area between fetlock joint and hoof. It comprises the long (P1) and short (P2) pastern bones and the pastern joint.
Pedal bone: Pronounced Pee-dal; see coffin bone.
Pemphigus foliaceus: a skin disorder caused by the body’s immune system mistakenly attacking some of its own cells involved in skin production. Signs may include the formation of blisters and pustules that break open and form crusted sores. Lesions generally start on the horse’s face and limbs, eventually spreading to the rest of the body. There is no cure, but treatment can control the lesions and cause the disorder to go into remission. Treatment may involve suppression of the immune system by administration of systemic corticosteroids.
Periostitis: inflammation of tissue (periosteum) that overlies bone. Periostitis of the cannon bone is referred to as bucked shins, while periostitis of the splint bone is called a splint. May be heard in the expression “Popped a splint.”
Phenylbutazolidan: see bute.
Phenylbutazone: see bute.
Physis (plural, physes): the “growth plate” at the end of the long bones (such as the cannon bone) that lets the bone grow.
Physitis: an inflammation in the growth plate (physis) at the ends of the long bones (such as the cannon bone) in young animals. Symptoms include swelling, tenderness and heat. Although the exact cause is unknown, contributing factors seem to be high caloric intake (either from grain or a heavily lactating mare) and a fast growth rate.
Pigeon fever: bacterial infection causing one or more lumps beneath the skin the horse’s brisket and lower abdominal area. Treatment may include the application of hot packs and/or poultices to draw out infection and/or lancing the abscesses. Antibiotics may also be prescribed after abscesses have been lanced.
Pin firing: thermocautery used to increase blood flow to leg, thereby promoting healing.
Pinhooker: a person who buys horses, cattle, etc. with the specific intention of re-selling it at a profit.
Pipe-opener: exercise at brisk speed.
Piroplasmosis (or equine babesiosis, “piro” or horse tick fever): a tick-borne disease caused by blood parasites. Acute signs include fever, anemia, jaundice and swelling of the legs, chest and abdomen. The disease is ultimately resolved through treatment, natural body defenses or death. Horses in the United States are largely unexposed and are therefore susceptible to the disease, while many European horses are symptomatic carriers.
Plantar: back of the hind limb from the hock down.
Poll: the top of the head, between the ears.
Polysulfated glycosaminoglycan (PSGAG): an anti-inflammatory agent used by intra-articular injection in the therapy of traumatic and degenerative arthritis in horses.
Popped a splint: see periostitis.
Posterior: situated toward the rear of the horse’s body.
Potomac Horse Fever (PHF): protozoal infection of the intestinal tract usually causing diarrhea, fever, depression and colic. Treatment is generally supportive and administration of appropriate antibiotics, along with preventive measures to avoid the development of laminitis, a common sequel to PHF.
Poultice: a soft, mushy dressing, made of a mixture of dry, absorbent substances with liquid or oil, applied to wounds or swellings to soften, relax or stimulate the tissues or reduce swelling.
Prep: a workout used to prepare a horse for a competition.
Prop: when a horse suddenly stops moving by digging its front feet in to the ground.
Proud flesh: an overgrowth of pink, bubbly-looking tissue during healing of certain flesh wounds. It can protrude from the injury site like a tumor, preventing new skin from covering the wound. Treatment depends on location and severity, and will usually include one or more of the following: topical application of various medications designed to melt away the excessive tissue, pressure bandages and/or surgical removal of proud flesh.
Pull up: to stop or slow a horse during a workout.
Pulled suspensory: strain of the suspensory ligament (suspensory desmitis) in which some portion of the fibers of the ligament have been disrupted. Depending on severity, there may be loss of support of the fetlock joint.
Quarantine barn: 1) a U.S. Department of Agriculture structure used to isolate foreign horses for a short period of time to ensure they are not carrying any disease. The structure may be at a racetrack, airport or specially designated facility. Horses must be cleared by a federal veterinarian before being released from quarantine. 2) any facility used to keep infected horses away from the general equine population.
Quarter crack: a vertical crack in the hoof wall between the toe and heel of the hoof, usually extending into coronary band.
Quarter Horse: American Quarter Horse, preferred terminology of the American Quarter Horse Association, the registering body. Descended from Thoroughbreds and Spanish Barb bloodlines, the quarter horse is the most popular breed in the world with more than three million horses registered. It excels at virtually every equestrian sport and is known for its innate “cow sense,” making it the ideal ranch horse.
Quicked: a horse is “quicked” when a hoof is trimmed too short or when a horseshoe nail is driven into the quick or sensitive lamina of the hoof. In many cases, the horse flinches or pulls back when the quick occurs. Within a few days, some cases develop tenderness and mild to moderate lameness due to developing infection in the area. Treatment involves removal of the offending nail, if applicable, cleansing the hole and application of a poultice to draw out remaining contamination.
Quidding: the spitting out of partially chewed wads of food. Quidding is a sign of a dental problem and/or difficulty swallowing.
Radiograph: the picture or image on film generated by X-rays.
Rainrot: a crusting skin disorder affecting your horse’s saddle area, with tufts of crusted-together hair easily pulled out, leaving a raw crater. The causative organism, which has characteristics of both bacteria and fungi, tends to thrive in wet weather when the skin is waterlogged and less capable of fighting infection. It can spread to other horses by the use of contaminated grooming tools. Treatment usually is softening and removal of scabs, disinfection of affected area with iodine or chlorhexidine-based shampoos or rinses, strict hygiene and provision of dry shelter and disinfection of grooming tools. Severe or persistent cases might also be treated with systemic antibiotics.
RBC: Red Blood Cell Count
Recumbent: lying down, reclining.
Red roan: more or less uniform mixture of white with red hairs on a large portion of the body of the American Quarter horse, but usually darker on head and lower legs; can have red, black or flaxen mane and tail.
Reins: long straps, usually made from leather, that are connected to the bit and used by the rider to control the horse.
Reserve: a minimum price, set by the consignor, for a horse in a public auction.
Respiratory system: organ system responsible for transporting air from nostrils to lungs and for absorption of oxygen and excretion of carbon dioxide.
Ride short: using short stirrups.
Ridgling (“rig”): a term describing either a cryptorchid or a monorchid. Also spelled “ridgeling.”
Ring bone: osteoarthritis of joints between the pastern bones (“high ring bone”) or just above the coronet (“low ring bone”).
Ringworm: a fungal infection of the horse’s skin, contagious to other horses and to other animals (including humans). The main sign of ringworm is patchy hair loss without itching. Treatment can include clipping hair from affected areas, daily bathing with iodine-based shampoo, possible application of topical antifungal preparations after each bath, strict maintenance of dry shelter and exposure to sunlight whenever possible. For severe cases, oral administration of anti-fungal medications may be necessary.
Roan: a horse color where the majority of the coat of the horse is a mixture of red and white hairs or brown and white hairs. The mane, tail and legs may be black, chestnut or roan unless white markings are present.
Roaring (laryngeal hemiplegia): a whistling sound made by a horse during inhalation while exercising. It is caused by a partial or total paralysis of the nerves controlling the muscles that elevate the larynx. In severe cases, a surgical procedure known as laryngoplasty or “tie back surgery” is performed, in which a suture is inserted through the cartilage to hold it out of the airway permanently. Paralysis almost exclusively occurs on the left side, most frequently in horses over 16 hands high.
Rogue: ill-tempered horse.
Run down: abrasions of the heel.
Saddle pad: a piece of felt, sheepskin, foam rubber, or cotton, used as a base for the saddle.
Salmonellosis, salmonella infection: a contagious intestinal infection, causing severe acute diarrhea or chronic diarrhea. Acute diarrhea is usually accompanied by fever and abdominal pain, horses that recover often fall victim to laminitis. Treatment usually requires aggressive intensive care, qurantine, pain management, stress management and may include antibiotics and transfaunation.
Sand crack: see heal crack.
Sarcoid: a skin condition caused by an invasion of skin tissues by unidentified virus. Lesions usually are tumor like, sometimes ulcerated, spreading locally or to other areas of the horse’s body. For each case, optimal treatment usually is chosen on the basis of individual characteristics, such as location, aesthetics and aggressive growth. It is not uncommon for sarcoids to return after removal.
Savage: when a horse bites another horse or person.
Scintigraphy (nuclear scintigraphy): a diagnostic imaging technique particularly well suited to the equine athlete. To image the horse’s musculoskeletal system, a bone-seeking radiopharmaceutical, usually Technectium – 99M, is injected intravenously and an image is subsequently produced using a gamma camera. The bone-seeking radiopharmaceutical will be deposited where the bone is more metabotically active, such as at stress fractures or other abnormal inflammatory conditions.
Scratches: a hot, swollen, raw, painful inflammation of the skin on the back’s of the horse’s pasterns, usually involving two or more feet. Treatment requires diligence and strict hygiene, and generally includes gentle daily or twice daily cleansing of the area, removal of scabs, application of an antiseptic dressing and housing in an area that is dry and clean. Treatment failure occurs when the inflammation and/or infection are too deep to be reached topically, requiring systemic medication and/or surgery to remove affected tissue.
Screw fixation: a procedure in which steel alloy screws are surgically inserted to hold together a fractured bone.
Sensitive laminae: sensitive tissue beneath the hoof wall that contains nerves and vessels.
Septicemia: blood poisoning due to bacteria and their toxins in the horse’s bloodstream. Symptoms may include loss of appetite, fever and depression. Treatment generally includes support and administration of antibiotics to which the causative bacteria are sensitive.
Sequestrum: a loose, dead fragment of broken bone, often causing local infection.
Sesamoid bones: two small bones (medial and lateral sesamoids) located above at the back of the fetlock joint.
Sesamoid fracture: fracture of sesamoid bone. Fractures can be small chips or involve the entire bone. According to their location, fractures are described as apical, abaxial or basilar. Surgical repair is often done by arthroscopy.
Sesamoiditis: inflammation of the sesamoid bones.
Shadow roll: a (usually sheepskin) roll that is secured over the bridge of a horse’s nose to keep it from seeing shadows on the ground and shying away from or jumping them.
Shank: rope or strap attached to a halter or bridle by which a horse is led.
Sheath: the tube of skin that protects the penis of a stallion or gelding.
Shedrow: stable area; a row of barns.
Shivers: a trembling disorder of the hind limbs and, in severe cases, other body parts. Signs are seen most often when the horse is at rest, backing or when asked to pick up a hind foot. Trembling can also occur in the tail, forelimbs, eyes and ears. In some cases, shivers has occurred after recovery from general anesthesia; in other cases, particularly in draft horses, it appears when a horse is worked strenuously enough to become rapidly fatigued. The condition tends to worsen over time, and there is no specific treatment. Some cases respond well to anti-inflammatory medication.
Shoe boil: see capped elbow.
Simple fracture: a fracture along a single line.
Sinker: in laminitis, when the coffin bone becomes detached from the hoof wall, sinks downward and pushes through the sole of the foot.
Sire: 1) the male parent. 2) to beget foals.
Slab fracture: a fracture in a bone in a joint that extends from one articular surface to another. Most often seen in the third carpal bone of the knee.
Slipped: a breeding term meaning spontaneous abortion.
Snaffle bit: see bit.
Snip: small patch of white hairs on the nose or lips of a horse.
Socks: solid white markings on the legs extending from the top of the hoof to the fetlock.
Solid horse: contender.
Spavin: see bog and bone spavin.
Speedy cut: injury to inside of the knee or hock caused by a strike from another foot.
Spiral fracture: fracture which spirals around the bone.
Spit the bit: a term referring to a tired horse that begins to run less aggressively, backing off on the “pull” a rider normally feels on the reins from an eager horse. Also used as a generic term for an exhausted horse.
Splint: 1) either of the two small bones that lie along the side of the cannon bone. 2) the condition where calcification occurs on the splint bone causing a bump. This can result from a fracture or in response to trauma to the splint bone. See periostitis.
Sprain: mild tearing of a ligament.
Stall walker: horse that moves about its stall constantly and frets rather than rests.
Stallion season: the right to breed one mare to a particular stallion during one breeding season.
Stallion share: a lifetime breeding right to a stallion; one mare per season per share.
Stallion: an intact male horse.
Standing bandages: see bandages.
Star: any number of white markings on the forehead, (the forehead defined as being above an imaginary line connecting the tops of the eyes.)
Steeplechase: jumping a series of brush fences at a gallop.
Steward: officials responsible for monitoring adherence to rules during competition.
Sticker: see calk.
Stifle: joint above the hock which is made up by the femur, the patella and the tibia. Inflammation of the stifle is often called gonitis. Equivalent to the human knee.
Stirrups: metal d-shaped rings that support the rider’s feet. They are suspended from the saddle by the stirrup leathers. The length of the leathers is adjusted to accommodate the rider’s leg length and riding style.
Stockings: solid white markings on the legs extending from the top of the hoof to the knee or hock. Strain: tearing of a tendon.
Strangles: contagious upper respiratory tract infection that can cause fever, loss of appetite, watery-to-thick nasal discharge, cough and swelling and eventual drainage of pus from the lymph nodes under the horse’s lower jaw. Treatment is generally supportive. Hot packs and/or poultices are used to encourage drainage of abscessed lymph nodes. Administration of systemic antibiotics may be indicated. stress fracture: a fracture produced by the stress created by repetitive loading of the bone during locomotion. May occur as a consequence of athletic training.
Stride: a complete cycle of limb movements at any gait. Stride length is the distance covered between successive imprints of the same hoof. stringhalt: a muscle and/or nerve disorder, affecting one or both hind limbs. The affected horse often lift his affected hind limb(s) too high, sometimes so high that he kicks himself in the belly, holds the leg elevated for a moment, then slaps it sharply down. This condition can develop at any age and the cause is unknown. Stringhalt is usually treated with muscle relaxants and/or surgical removal of a section of the culprit muscle and its tendon, the lateral digital extensor. Without treatment, the condition rarely improves.
Stripe: a white marking running down a horse’s face, starting under the forehead, an imaginary line connecting the tops of the eyes.
Stud fee: the fee paid for the breeding services of a stallion. Can range from a couple hundred dollars to tens of thousands.
Stud: 1) male horse used for breeding. 2) a breeding farm.
Studs: removable metal projections of various shapes and sizes that are used on the bottom of the horse’s shoes to provide additional traction on a grass surface.
Suckling: a foal in its first year of life, while it is still nursing.
Sulk: when a horse refuses to extend itself.
Superficial digital flexor tendon: located on the back of the leg between the knee (front leg) or hock (rear leg) and the pastern. The function is to flex the digit, and aid in support of the lower limb or digit (coffin, pastern and fetlock joints) in all four limbs. In the front leg it also flexes the knee (carpus) and extends the elbow, while in the rear leg it extends the hock. Functions in tandem with the deep digital flexor tendon. Injuries more often affect the front legs.
Superior check ligament: fibrous band of tissue that originates above the knee and attaches to the superficial flexor tendon. Primary function is support of the tendon. Also known as the accessory ligament of the superficial flexor tendon.
Suspensory ligament: originates from the top part of the cannon bone and runs down the back of the leg. Just above the fetlock, it divides into two branches that attach to the sesamoid bones, then passes around to the front of the pastern where it joins the extensor tendon. Its function is to support the fetlock.
Swayback: horse with a prominent concave shape of the backbone, usually just behind the withers (saddle area).
Sweet itch, queensland itch: hypersensitivity to the bites of tiny members of the Culicoides fly family called midges or no-see-ums. An affected horse rubs the crest of the neck until mane hairs break off and the skin becomes thickened. There is no cure. Treatment can include increasing pest control efforts, and, in severe cases, administration of systemic corticosteroids to soothe inflamed tissues.
Swipe: a groom.
Synchronous diaphragmatic flutter (thumps): a contraction of the diaphragm in synchrony with the heart beat after prolonged exercise. Affected horses have a noticeable twitch or spasm in the flank area, which may cause an audible thumping sound, hence the term “thumps.” Most commonly seen in electrolyte-depleted/exhausted horses. Usually, the condition resolves spontaneously with rest and appropriate therapy.
Synovial fluid: lubricating fluid within a joint, tendon sheath or bursa.
Synovial joint: a moveable joint that consists of articulating bone ends covered by articular cartilage held together with a joint capsule and ligaments. The joint capsule contains synovial fluid.
Synovial sheath: the inner lining of a tendon sheath that produces
Synovial fluid. Allows ease of motion for the tendons as they cross joints.
Synovitis: inflammation of a synovial structure, typically a synovial sheath.
Tack: 1) a rider’s equipment. 2) As a verb, including his/her equipment as in: He tacks his horse each day.
TagametT: trade name for the drug cimetidine, a medication used to treat ulcers.
Tattoo: a permanent, indelible mark on the inside of the upper lip used to identify racehorses.
Teaser: a male horse used at breeding farms to determine whether a mare is ready to receive a stallion or in estrus.
Tease Mare: a mare in estrus that is used to arouse a stallion before he is collected for artificial insemination. Once aroused, the stallion mounts a “dummy” and ejaculates into an artificial vagina (AV).
Tendinitis: inflammation of a tendon, usually due to injury. Signs generally include swelling and heat over affected tendon, pain on finger pressure, lameness and a protective stance to limit tendon stress. Treatment may include aggressive first aid to limit swelling and hemorrhage between tendon fibers, enforced rest, immobilization of the tendon, administration of anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy to limit formation of adhesions.
Tendon sheath: sheath containing synovial fluid that surrounds a tendon in a high-friction area, usually where a tendon runs over a bone.
Tendon: cords of strong, white, collagen fibers that connect a muscle to a bone or other structure and transmit the forces generated by muscular contraction to the bones.
Tendonitis: inflammation of a tendon usually due to tendon fiber disruption.
Tetanus antitoxin: antitoxin is a product made from blood serum containing antibodies against a specific toxic (poison). Tetanus antitoxin is made of equine serum and contains antibodies against the tetanus toxin.
Tetanus toxoid: a toxoid is a vaccine made of toxin (poison) that has been altered chemically so that it has no toxic effects, but is able to stimulate immune response. Tetanus toxoid is a vaccine that stimulates the horse’s body’s production of antibodies against the toxins that cause tetanus.
Tetanus: a disease resulting from toxins produced by bacteria, usually resulting when they infect a wound, particularly a deep puncture wound, where oxygen is scarce. Because this bacteria is present in the horse’s manure, they are ubiquitous in the soil on a horse property. Signs of tetanus may include elevation of both nictitating membranes when the horse’s face is tapped gently below the eye, spasms of the muscles in the jaw, making it difficult or impossible to eat or drink, a “sawhorse” stance with rigid legs, convulsions triggered by noise or other stimuli, profuse sweating and death. Treatment is usually aggressive debridement of the infected wound to prevent further toxin absorption, intravenous administration of tetanus antitoxin, administration of anti-seizure medications, sedatives and muscle relaxants and intensive supportive care including intravenous fluids and feeding a gruel via stomach tube.
Therapeutic ultrasound: a therapy to create heat and stimulate healing.
Thermography: diagnostic technique utilizing instrumentation that measures temperature differences. Records the surface temperature of a horse. Unusually hot or cold areas may be indicative of some underlying pathology (deviation from the normal.)
Third phalanx(P3): see coffin bone.
Thoroughbred: A horse whose parentage traces to any of three “founding sires” (the Darley Arabian, Byerly Turk or Godolphin Barb) and who satisfies the rules and requirements of The Jockey Club and is registered in “The American Stud Book” or in a foreign stud book recognized by The Jockey Club and the International Stud Book Committee.
Thoroughpin: swelling in the tendon sheath of the deep digital flexor tendon above the hock.
Thrush: a bacterial infection of the frog and/or adjacent crevices of the foot’s sole, causing a blackish discharge and foul odor. Treatment generally includes trimming and debridement of affected tissues, disinfection with copper sulfate, tincture of iodine (7 percent), or merthiolate, provision of dry clean environment, good hygiene and daily foot care.
Thumps: see synchronous diaphragmatic flutter.
Tie-back surgery: a procedure used to suture the arytenoids cartilage out of the airway as a treatment for roaring. Referred to as laryngoplasty. See roaring
Tightener: a leg brace.
Toe crack: a vertical crack in the hoof wall near the front of the foot.
Toe-in: a conformation flaw in which the front of the foot is rotated inward and looks pigeon-toed. Often causes the leg to swing outward during locomotion (paddle).
Toe-out: a conformation flaw in which the front of the foot is rotated outward. Often causes the leg to swing inward during locomotion (winging). Tongue tie: strip of cloth-type material used to stabilize a horse’s tongue to prevent it from “choking down” in a race or workout or to keep the tongue from sliding over the bit, rendering the horse uncontrollable. Also know as a “tongue strap.”
Top line: 1) A horse’s breeding on its sire’s side 2) The visual line presented by the horse’s back.
Torsion: a twist in the intestine.
Toxemia: a poisoning sometimes due to the absorption of bacterial products (endotoxins) formed at a local source of infection.
TPR: Temperature, Pulse, Respiration.
Tracheotomy: an artificial opening made in the windpipe (trachea) when a problem in the horse’s nasal cavity or throat has blocked the passage of air, making it impossible to breathe. Usually an emergency procedure. transfaunation: administration of beneficial bacteria to a horse suspected of intestinal disease due, at least in part, by disruption of the normal bacterial population in the gut.
Trapped epiglottis: see entrapped epiglottis.
Trot: a gait in which the legs on the same side of the horse’s body work in opposition; often described as the same motion a child makes when crawling on the floor.
Tubing: inserting a nasogastric tube through a horse’s nostril and into its stomach for the purpose of providing oral medication.
Twitch: a restraining device usually consisting of a stick with a loop of rope or chain at one end, which is placed around a horse’s upper lip and twisted. It causes a release of endorphins that relax a horse and curb its fractiousness while it is being handled.
Tying up (acute rhabdomyolsis): a form of muscle cramps that range in severity from mild stiffness to a life-threatening disease. A generalized condition of muscle fiber breakdown usually associated with exercise. The cause of the muscle fiber breakdown is uncertain. Signs include sweating, reluctance to move, stiffness, and general distress.
Ulcer: irritation in the lining of the horse’s stomach or intestine.
Ultrasound: 1) a technique which uses ultrasonic waves to image internal structures such as soft tissues (tendons or ligaments).
Untried: 1) not raced or tested for speed. 2) a stallion that has not been bred.
Unwind: gradually withdraw a horse from intensive training. Let down.
Upward fixation of the patella: locking of the hind limb in an extended, stretched-out position due to the medial patellar ligament (which holds the kneecap in place) getting hung on a notch at the end of the thigh bone (femur). In affected horses, the locking occurs suddenly and without warning. Intial treatment may include anti-inflammatory medication on the assumption that the ligament and/or adjacent tissues are inflamed and swollen. Muscle-building exercise such as hill work is often recommended to improve strength, and dietary adjustment is used if necessary to improve body condition. If these measures fail, stifle injections can be considered or surgery.
Uveitis: inflammation and/or infection of the uvea, the colored iris of the horse’s eye. Signs may include constricted pupil, watery eye, squinting and rubbing. If allowed to progress, uveitis can lead to breakdown of the eye’s internal structures, detachment of the retina and blindness. Treatment includes frequent application of pupil-dilating ophthalmic medications as well as anti-inflammatory preparations such as dexamethasone or prednisone on the eye and/or systemically, systemic administration of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications and detection and treatment of the underlying problem, if possible.
Vasculitis: inflammation of small blood vessels and capillaries which, because of damage to their walls, leak serum into the tissues and cause swelling, most often in the horse’s lower legs. Treatment is generally aimed at cooling and soothing the swollen legs with gentle cold-water irrigation, and supporting the skin with padded compression bandaging to prevent splitting of the skin. If the skin has already split, the affected area usually is treated as a laceration.
VEE (Venezuelan Equine Encephalomyelitis): a highly contagious disease affecting the central nervous system. Can cause illness or death in horses and humans. Refer to EEE.
Ventral: down; toward the belly or lower part of the body.
Vesicular Stomatitis: an acute viral disease that affects horses, cattle, swine, sheep, goats and wild animals. Humans who come in contact with fluids from infected animals’ blisters may also be affected. Human symptoms resemble the flu, including fever and muscle aches, and self-limiting blisters may appear on the hands and in the mouth. In animals, the first sign of VS is excessive salivation, followed by a fever and the appearance of blisters and/or whitened and raised vesicles in and around the mouth, nose, hooves and teats.
Veterinarian: 1) Head of Veterinary Commission; 2) Veterinary Delegate; 3) Associate Veterinarian.
Video endoscope: see endoscope.
Vocal folds: the membranes attached to the arytenoids cartilages in the larynx. Vibration produces vocalization, i.e., whinny.
Warmblood: genetic term used to describe distinct breeds usually named according to the region in which the breed was developed (e.g., Dutch Warmbloods from The Netherlands). Generally large, well-muscled horses with calm temperaments, making them suitable for dressage and show jumping.
Washed out: a horse that becomes so nervous that it sweats profusely. Also known as “washy” or “lathered up.”
Wave mouth: undulating surface of the grinder teeth due to uneven wear.
WBC: White Blood Cell Count.
Weanling: a foal less than one year old that has been separated from its dam.
WEE: Western Equine Encephalomyelitis. Refer to EEE.
White line: when looking at the sole of the foot, the thin area between the insensitive outer hoof wall (insensitive laminae) and inner sensitive laminae.
White: a horse color, extremely rare, in which all the hairs are white. The horse’s eyes are brown, not pink, as would be the case for an albino.
Wind gall: see arthritis. accumulation of synovial fluid in the fetlock joint or windgall in the tendon sheath of the digital flexor tendons just above the fetlock joint.
Wind puff: see wind gall.
Wind sucker: see cribber.
Wind puffs: synovial effusion, with or without involvement of the adjacent tendon sheath, in the fetlock joint. This causes puffiness of the joint that might extend partway up the horse’s cannon bone. Windpuffs may or may not be associated with lameness. Causes can include excessive stress on joint soft tissues and tendons due to poor conformation, poorly balanced farriery, heavy training and/or sudden stall confinement after a period of regular training. Treatment generally focuses on identifying and correcting the underlying cause, rest, ice and pressure wraps to limit inflammation and swelling.
Withers: 1) area above the shoulder where the neck meets the back. 2) the horse’s height is measured at the highest point of the withers.
Wobbler syndrome: 1) neurological disease associated with general incoordination and muscle weakness. 2) can be caused by injury to spinal cord in area of cervical (neck) vertebrae or is associated with malformation of the cervical vertebrae.
Wolf teeth: the first premolars, located toward the back of the space between the horse’s front teeth and the grinders. When present on the lower jaw, wolf teeth are small and needle-like. When the presence, position and/or size of wolf teeth interfere with acceptance of the bit, the teeth are removed, usually with the horse awake and sedated.
X-ray: see radiograph.
Xeroradiography: a costly type of x-ray procedure using specially sensitized screens that give higher resolution on the edges of bone and better visualization of soft tissue structures.
Yearling: a horse in its second calendar year of life.
ZantacT: trade name for drug ranitidine, medication used to treat stomach ulcers.
Copyright © 1996-2009 American Association of Equine Practitioners.
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