Senior Horses

A Matter of Color – Why does Zesterra darken with age?

By Brood Mares, Foals, Horses, Performance/Competition Horses, Senior Horses No Comments

At least a few times a week we get this inquiry — why did my Zesterra® darken since I bought it? This is a perfectly valid question — after all, in most cases, when the color of food or even things like toiletries shifts, it can be a sign of spoilage.

So, does a deeper shade of amber in Zesterra® herald its imminent demise? Luckily, no.

The reason behind that color change comes down to plain chemistry. Because we don’t use preservatives, the all-natural apple flavoring starts to go through a process known as oxidation. Just like when you cut open an apple and it immediately starts to take on a brown hue, so too does the apple flavor in Zesterra®.

But how? Apples contain an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase (also known as PPO), which, when released by damage to the tissue and consequent oxygen exposure, oxidize the polyphenols.

The other part to these inquiries usually involves shelf life. Zesterra has a 5-year shelf life and is incredibly stable — most of us keep a bottle in our trucks or trailers, our tack rooms and in our houses. If it freezes overnight because you forgot it out on the porch, that shouldn’t be a problem. Nor should leaving it in the hot truck for a few days.

Obviously, as with anything, we suggest you exercise common sense. If your Zesterra smells “off” or has become particularly thick or gloppy, it may be time to retire it. These problems are usually associated with contamination so it really shouldn’t be used anyway.

While this is just a quick overview, as always, please don’t ever hesitate to contact us with questions. We pride ourselves on being able to offer you solid answers based on facts and our own personal experiences with our products.

Five Ways to Prepare Your Horse for Summer

By Brood Mares, Foals, Horses, Performance/Competition Horses, Senior Horses No Comments

Summer is THE season of the horse — longer days, warmer weather and a couple of long holiday weekends. What’s not to love? It’s important to remember, despite the seemingly more temperate weather, your horse will need just as much (if not more) care and attention than they receive during the winter months. Here are five tips for keeping your horse in top shape throughout the summer months.

5 Ways To Prepare Your Horse For SummerClean, plentiful water 24/7

Your horse depends on water for not only keeping their muscles and tissues properly hydrated but also to support proper gut function. A horse that isn’t receiving enough water during the summer months is just as at risk for colic as during the winter months. Be sure that your horse has access to clean water 24 hours a day. This includes times at shows, events, on the road or on the trail.

If your horse refuses water from outside sources, such as at events, be sure to bring an adequate amount of water from their regular source to ensure that they will more readily drink. If this isn’t possible, consider adding a flavor enhancing supplement that will encourage water consumption.

Keep Up-to-Date

Summer is rife with all kinds of pests and diseases making the rounds. Intestinal parasites and other pests can take their toll on your horse quickly. Make sure you keep up with vaccinations to help protect your horse against diseases such as West Nile virus. Your veterinarian can advise you on the appropriate vaccines to administer for your region and those that would be necessary for any areas you may be traveling to.

Additionally, regular worming is essential in areas where intestinal parasites linger in the soil. If you’re unsure whether or not you need to be worming your horse on a regular rotation, consider having your veterinarian run a fecal test to look for parasites and their eggs.

Muck Out Regularly and Use Fly Protection

For obvious reasons such as hoof health, it is best not to let your horses stand around in manure. Thrush and other hoof problems such as abscesses can develop due to the prolonged exposure of the hoof to feces and wet ground. During the summer this is doubly true, as the heat and moisture can increase the growth of bacteria and fungi.

During the summer it is doubly important to clean your horse’s stall or pen regularly, as flies love to multiply at an alarming rate in manure. Nonetheless, even the cleanest of horse facilities will see an increase in fly populations during the warm months. Horses can insure themselves kicking, stomping or biting at flies. They can also experience allergic reactions to the bites or rub themselves raw trying to relieve the itching and discomfort.

In addition to good cleaning and sanitation practices, using fly sprays and protective wear such as fly masks, fly boots and fly sheets can go a long way towards keeping your horses protected. Other options such as fly traps and strips can also help reduce the number of pests. Many people swear by the parasitic fly wasps. Whatever your fly prevention regimen, be sure it is keeping your horse adequately protected.

Provide Shade

It’s not uncommon to see horses standing in pens without shelter from the sun and other elements. This can be downright cruel in areas where the temperatures climb into the 80’s, 90’s and even 100’s. Horses, just like people, can suffer from heat stroke or other heat-related problems. If your horse is stabled but turned out to pasture without shelter, make sure it’s during the cooler parts of the day.

Relentless sunshine isn’t the only issue during the summer months. In many areas, hail or aggressive rain can also be a problem. If you’ve ever seen a car dented up by hail, you can only imagine how badly that could hurt a horse if it doesn’t have any way to get out of the weather. The same goes for driving downpours — the speed and velocity at which the rain is traveling can be painful and even injure a horse that is left out in it.

If your horse doesn’t have shelter, consider a lean-to. Lean-tos are an inexpensive way to provide shade and shelter from the elements.

Work Wisely

Just like people, many horses come out of winter a little out-of-shape. It’s important to not push your horse too hard right away. Work up to helping them build their stamina. Just like you wouldn’t run a marathon after a long winter spent indoors, nor should you expect your horse to be able to handle a full workload right away. If they have been on pasture and seem thin, make sure they’re receiving adequate food to regain any weight lost. Not sure if they’re not in optimal condition? Check out the Body Condition Scoring presentation here.

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How to Minimize Travel-Related Ulcers in Horses

By Brood Mares, Foals, Horses, Performance/Competition Horses, Senior Horses No Comments

If you’re planning a big getaway with your horses this coming holiday weekend, remember that traveling can be stressful for them. Even though you’re itching to get out and go, they may need a little help from you to be in top form for your weekend’s adventures. Ulcers can be present, even when you don’t know they’re there.

Understanding Ulcers

A horse’s gut is a complex system of checks and balances. They are constantly secreting gastric acid to help break down food, however, a low pH (higher acidity) can take its toll on the lining of your horse’s stomach if it remains too low for too long.

When horses become stressed or move around excessively, their stomachs contract, forcing the stomach acid up into the upper sections. You can think of it kind of like having a balloon half-full of water. When you squeeze the lower portion the liquid travels into the upper areas of the balloon, including the neck. A horse’s stomach works somewhat the same way. When you compound this with no forage or other buffers within this part of the gut, the pH continues to drop, creating an increasingly acidic environment. This acid then begins to erode the mucosal lining of the gut and can even creep up into the esophagus. The discomfort created by these ulcers can manifest in many different ways, but some of the more common signs can include diarrhea, a lack of appetite, lethargy or acting antsy or “hot”, being “cinchy” and unwilling to have something around their girths, hunching of the back, kicking at the belly with their hind legs, tail swishing, and neck stretching.  The list goes on, but these are several that are indicative of possible ulcers.

How Ulcers Affect Hauling

Horses are creatures of habit (aren’t we all?) and become distressed when taken away from familiar surroundings. Many horses learn to cope well with these changes and will outwardly appear as though they’re fine or only mildly unsettled, but inside a storm can be brewing. Hauling can bring on internal stress responses in the calmest of horses.

As mentioned above, when a horse becomes active, either through stress or activity, their stomachs “shrink”, pushing acid upward. This rapidly lowers the pH. If they’ve had ulcers developing for some time — even mild ones — this acid further erodes those areas and causes pain and irritation. Many people experience the “trailering monster” phenomenon with their horses — full-on tantrums to avoid having to get into the trailer. This may not be so much behavioral as a physiological response to the acid washing over the linings of their stomachs.

How to Help Support Your Horse

None of this is to say that you shouldn’t be hauling your horse. There are, however, some things you can do to help minimize the impact it has on their overall well-being.

  • Always feed and allow them to eat before you head out. An empty stomach is more prone to acid damage, as there’s nothing in it to mix with and buffer the acids. If possible, avoid concentrated feeds such as grains, as this can lower the pH and create a more acidic gastric environment.
  • Provide adequate hay while traveling — even shorter distances. Horses are designed to be foraging and grazing all day long; as such, having access to feed will allow them to self-regulate their gut pH.
  • Administer a specialized buffering supplement prior to loading. This will keep the pH more neutral and help avoid the irritation that can cause your horse to “act up.”
  • Always make sure your horse receives adequate water stops while on the road and if needed, a chance to get off the trailer and walk around.
  • If you have a particularly sensitive horse, consider giving them another dose of buffering supplement upon arrival (as long as it’s indicated on the label that you can do so). The same goes for when you’re getting ready to leave and head back — they don’t know they’re going home. They just know they’re having to get in the trailer again.

With just a few small changes you can make traveling more comfortable for you AND your horse!


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Understanding EHV-1

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Understanding EHV-1

By Horses, Senior Horses No Comments

EHV-1 is one of the most contagious of the infectious equine diseases. Knowing how it’s spread and what to watch for are two of the key elements in helping prevent an outbreak amongst your herd.

An EHV Overview

The science of EHV virus strains is fairly complex. They consist of what are called “enveloped double-stranded DNA viruses.” There are five equine herpesvirus strains, with EHV-1 and EHV-4 being the most damaging.

Both of the aforementioned are common in the Americas and abroad. The nature of this disease allows it to be spread quite readily, making it possible for large outbreaks to occur with exposure originating from only one carrier. The incubation time for EHV-1 can last anywhere from 2 – 10 days, meaning a horse can be infected and asymptomatic for more than a week.

EHV-1 is sometimes still referred to as the “equine abortion virus,” as it can cause spontaneous abortion of in-utero foals. EHV-4, on the other hand, tends to show up in foals and yearlings as a respiratory illness often referred to as “equine rhinopneumonitis virus.” It’s important to note that EHV-1 can present with respiratory signs and EHV-4 can also cause abortion. Both of these strains have also been known to cause neurological disease. Because EHV-1 is more prominent and tends to be more devastating, it will be the focus of this article.

Signs and Symptoms of EHV-1

EHV-1 can cause respiratory, reproductive and neurological disease in adult horses, yearlings and foals. Some symptoms are easier to detect than others, making it difficult to diagnose in some cases.

Respiratory Symptoms

Horses suffering from respiratory EHV-1 will display a number of different symptoms. They can be mild to severe. Signs and symptoms for respiratory EHV-1 include:

  • Coughing
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fever between 102° and 107° F that persists for anywhere from 1 day to 1 week
  • Depression
  • Nasal Discharge

Neurological Signs

Horses with the neurological form of EHV-1 will display a handful of symptoms that can include:

  • Hindlimb weakness or paralysis
  • Lack of coordination
  • Inability to control the bladder or tail
  • Numbness throughout the skin of the tail and hindlimb area
  • Inability to rise from a recumbent position

Abortion Symptoms

Unfortunately, there are no obvious signs that a mare is going to abort a pregnancy due to the EHV-1 virus. It can happen in conjunction with respiratory or neurological EHV-1, or without any outward signs that something is amiss.

Diagnosing and Treating EHV-1

If a veterinarian suspects EVH-1, depending on the state they are practicing in, they may or may not be required to report their suspicion of infection to the state’s veterinary governing body. Regardless of reporting requirements, a veterinarian should test for the virus to aid in treatment and help prevent a widespread outbreak.

Diagnosis and Testing

Subjective and objective observation and examination of a horse displaying symptoms will allow a veterinarian to determine if EVH-1 is suspected. If it is, EVH-1 can be tested for via a nose/throat swab from the sick horse (and any horses that may share common areas or facilities with it). Other means of testing can include tissue samples from an aborted fetus or blood tests from the diseased horse. These may also include paired blood samples that will allow for detection of antibody levels.

It is important to note that asymptomatic horses can still be carriers and shed the virus. If a symptomatic horse is suspected of EHV-1, it would be prudent to test all horses that may have come into contact with that horse, or shared common areas. Horses that have recovered from EHV-1 can still be carriers; the virus can be latent for years, but re-triggered when the horse is stressed or otherwise immunocompromised.

EHV-1 Treatment

Because EVH-1 is a virus, supportive care is essential. Antibiotics will not be effective against the virus; most horses do not experience secondary infections as a result of EVH-1, which would negate the need for antibiotic therapy altogether.

  • Horses that are experiencing symptoms of EVH-1 may benefit from the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to lessen inflammation and pain while helping reduce fever. Nutritional support may also be warranted for horses displaying inappetence.
  • In the case of horses with neurological symptoms, it is important to try and keep them from lying down for prolonged periods of time. If a lack of coordination/balance is an issue, keeping them in a well-padded space, such as a stall with thick shavings can help prevent injury.
  • Recovery for uncomplicated cases may be achieved in as little as a few weeks, whereas, more complicated or compromised horses have a prolonged recovery time and a higher rate of mortality. Horses that are suffering from the neurological form and are unable to stand have a much poorer prognosis than those that are able to stand and move around.

How EHV-1 is Transmitted

The highly contagious nature of EHV-1 makes it difficult to control in crowded or regularly frequented facilities. The most common means of transmission from one horse to another include:

  • Indirect contact with the infected horse(s) through communal buckets, troughs or waterers are a major source of infection. Small bodies of water such as puddles or ponds could also harbor EHV-1 easily. Nasal discharges on handlers’ clothing or through tack or turn-out sheets and blankets can also pose a risk to uninfected horses.
  • Direct contact between infected and uninfected horses poses the greatest risk. This can occur through nose-to-nose contact or through nasal secretions being introduced to the mucosal tissues of an uninfected horse via other direct contacts.
  • Aerosolized viruses pose a threat when an infected horse sneezes or snorts within close proximity to an uninfected horse.
  • The possibility of transmission through aborted fetuses, placental material or associated fluids is also a risk. If a fetus is aborted, it is advisable to move pen mates to another enclosure and properly clean the area, removing all expelled tissues and fluids and using approved solutions to kill the virus.

EHV-1 Prevention

There is no absolute way to completely prevent exposure or infection from EHV-1. There are, however, methods that can greatly reduce the possibility of horses being exposed to or contracting the disease from infected animals.

  • Vaccinating healthy horses can reduce disease risk. While vaccinations are never an absolute means for preventing any disease, they can reduce the possibility of a horse contracting EHV-1, or at least lessen symptoms and virus shedding if infected, when used properly.
  • Quarantine of new horses for 3 – 4 weeks is essential in helping prevent infection from not only horses carrying EHV-1, but other contagious diseases, as well.
  • Keep compromised or pregnant mares well away from new arrivals or any horse suspected of possible exposure.
  • Reduce stress when possible – latent viruses can become active if the immune system becomes taxed due to stress or other illnesses or injuries.
  • All facilities with a horse testing positive for EHV-1 should remain in quarantine for at least three weeks. This includes all horses – not just symptomatic animals.
  • Good husbandry should be practiced. Washing hands thoroughly after each horse, using an approved antimicrobial footbath and changing out of contaminated clothing before working with healthy animals is essential.
  • Remove bedding and uneaten hay; it’s recommended that this material be burned to avoid accidental exposure of healthy horses.
  • Clean all stalls, fences, alleys and other areas the infected horse(s) have come in contact with using a phenol-based disinfectant. Follow labeling directions to ensure maximum efficacy.

EHV-1 is highly infectious, but with careful handling practices, it may be avoided.

For information on current outbreaks of infectious equine diseases including EHV-1, check out . This comprehensive listing shares all outbreaks and status, in addition to the origin of disease, if known.  

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