By Dr. Melody Campbell, D.V.M April 2021
Finally, the snow is gone and the rainy days have arrived heralding Spring. We all welcome the change as it promises warmer sunny days to come. If we look at horses, like the PARD boys, there are potential problems that can arise with the wet weather. Like many horses, four of our boys live outside year-round. Only our smallest horse, Bobby, lives indoors at night as a treasured guest of Wendon Hills Equestrian Centre. The remaining four boys are protected from the snow and cold during the Winter with their winter blankets. When everything melts and the rains arrive, we can protect their bodies with “rain sheets” (like rain coats for people), but we cannot protect their feet and legs. That can lead to some health problems.
What we know as “mud fever” is part of a complex syndrome called Equine Pastern Dermatitis. This condition can develop when the skin of the lower leg is exposed to continuing wet conditions. It can also be related to allergies to biting insects or contact irritants. Even sunburn damage of white areas involving the lower leg can lead to this condition. There are many complicating factors such as bacterial and fungal organisms, and even mites (they look like little tiny crabs under the microscope!) that can make the problem worse.
Prevention starts with pasture and paddock management. It is very important to have horses in pastures or paddocks that have well-drained soil, not on wetlands or in boggy areas that are continuously wet. In areas where horses congregate, like at feeders or watering troughs or at entrances and exits from fields it can be helpful to stabilize the area with a layer of crusher-run gravel, shale or other aggregate. It can also be helpful to raise these areas slightly to encourage drainage. As they say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”!
Management during the wet seasons, which are Spring and Fall, involves keeping the lower leg areas clean and dry. This is where good grooming techniques come in. We all brush our horses at PARD before we ride, but there is a lot of time in between when we are not riding. The boys are checked regularly and they are groomed, and even ridden or exercised, by our wonderful PARD volunteers. Due to Covid-19 restrictions this has been done primarily by Board members and a very small number of select volunteers who are allowed to be on the property. During our program season, usually from June to September, our boys are looked after by many more volunteers and even some of the riders. We cannot thank our dedicated horse lovers enough!
Mud fever can start with tiny scabs on the skin that have pus under them. There can sometimes be patchy hair loss as well. When it progresses, there can be larger areas of thickened infected skin that can be more difficult to treat. Early diagnosis and treatment is very important.
Treatment of Equine Pastern Dermatitis (mud fever) involves sorting out the cause and treating appropriately. The PARD boys have an excellent veterinarian who comes to the farm when they need preventive health care, and also if they have any medical problems. We even have two veterinarians on the Board of Directors! The health of our boys is important to all of us. Treating mud fever involves cleaning & drying the affected areas, and applying topical therapy to deal with infection and inflammation. In severe cases there is sometimes a need to use injectable medications such as antibiotics and medications to deal with inflammation or allergy. Our PARD veterinarian can sort out the best treatment plan.
There are also conditions that can affect the foot in wet environments, like Thrush, but we will deal with those when we take a closer look at the foot and associated problems that can occur in a future newsletter.
By Dr. Melody Campbell February 2021
Have you ever wondered why we love the PARD boys so much? We even love Doc despite the number of ruined blankets that we have to purchase for Stormy over the winter! The human-horse bond has a very long and varied history. Horses have served humanity as a means of transportation during war and peace times. They have partnered with humans to compete in a variety of disciplines, like endurance, stadium jumping, dressage and more. And now, they are helping people heal from trauma, assisting children with learning, and supplying many therapeutic benefits for people of all ages.
Did you know that people who love horses are called ‘hippophiles’? Have you ever thought about the reasons why we love horses? We can come up with some of the reasons why everyone at PARD loves horses.
Horses have large hearts and they can provide a calming, peaceful presence just by being there for us.
There is a therapeutic benefit when you are around horses, either on the ground or in the saddle. They can reduce a person’s blood pressure and heart rate which can calm physical symptoms such as anxiety and stress. When you are in the saddle the motion of the horse walking mimics the way our muscles work when we walk on the ground. The PARD boys are experts at providing therapeutic benefits to our riders!
Horses are beautiful and majestic whether they are standing still or moving.
Our Pard boys are sensitive and kind. They are also patient and gentle. Horses are naturally empathetic. Because they are a prey animal and typically live in groups or herds, they instantly pick up on emotions within the group so they can react appropriately to avoid being attacked by predators. This means they also know exactly how we are feeling. Can you imagine how powerful that is within the human-horse bond? No wonder we love them!
Horses teach us how to ride and they show us their goodness and inspire the best in the people who they share their lives with. Take a moment to think about your last contact with a horse and how that contact made you feel. Hold onto that feeling until we can all be together again.
Each of our PARD horses has a unique personality, just like people! Doc likes to shred Stormy’s blankets and Bobby loves to have the door of his stall decorated for special holidays. When they line up at the fence to be tacked up, Frank has to be the first one in the line. Stormy obviously likes to have his blankets removed during the winter as he does not object when Doc starts to pull them off. What a pair!! NuBuck is sturdy and calm and willing to do whatever is asked of him. He never talks back!
Some people have difficulty saying why they love horses and will tell you that horses are just in their blood!!
On Valentine’s Day we recognize the people in our lives that we love. Take a few moments on Valentine’s Day and think about Doc, Stormy, Frank, Bobby and NuBuck. Send them your love and good wishes for all that they do for us!
By Dr. Melody Campbell January 30, 2021
Brrrrrr! It is cold outside right now but we have the horses well protected! They are all outside during the day, eating of course. Horses are designed to eat small amounts of grass or hay all day long. This is called ‘trickle feeding’. Bobby, our smallest boy, has a stall in the barn where he stays all night. Doc, NuBuck, Stormy, and Frank are outside all night.
Did you know that our horses have clothes? When they are outside all the time without clothes on, some horses can grow a very thick coat of hair that helps protect them in the winter months. Some horse breeds don’t grow very thick coats. The Thoroughbred and the Arabian (Bobby) come to mind. In order to protect horses in the cold, and even rain, there are a variety of blankets (called “rugs” in Britain) and sheets that can be layered one on top of another depending on the weather. It can be a challenge to figure out which blankets and sheets to put on a horse each day as the weather can be so changeable!
Just like a pair of tights, the strength of a horse blanket can be determined by its ‘denier’. This term applies to the outer shell of a blanket that is worn outside in the open air. It is a measure of the thickness of the individual thread used in the yarn weave. The higher the denier number the stronger and thicker the blanket. Some horses can be ‘blanket wreckers’ or a ‘rug Houdini’ in that they don’t tolerate having a blanket on and so they are very skillful at damaging or removing their blankets. At PARD we have a different problem, with Doc destroying any blanket that Stormy is wearing. He pulls the blanket off and shreds it!! As you can imagine, horse blankets can be fairly expensive, particularly when you have someone like Doc in the herd. We have not figured out why he does this, and he isn’t talking.
Lighter weight blankets or sheets can be used in the stable. Rain sheets often serve as the outer layer of blankets when there is wet weather. This keeps the blankets underneath dry and warm. That means that each horse needs to have blankets or sheets for every type of weather, and for wet weather there is a need for more than one of each type of blanket or sheet. When blankets get soaked through, they need to be hung for a period of time to dry. This can be challenging when there is cold, wet weather as the blankets or sheets do not dry quickly in a barn or arena environment.
There are Coolers which are lightweight and made of fabrics that wick away any sweat that has developed during heavy workouts. Horses can be protected from the bugs with lightweight Fly Sheets. Lightweight sheets are also used to protect horses from the sun. Grey and white horses are particularly prone to skin damage when exposed to too much sun. This includes Bobby who looks white but is actually a grey horse. Quarter, Half or Exercise Sheets are used to keep the hindquarters of a working horse warm. They can be under the saddle at the front, or around the rider to provide some protection for them as well. Horses which are ridden in indoor arenas in the winter can be clipped to allow them to cool off more quickly after heavy workouts. Then, if they are going outside into cold or wet weather, they need suitable clothes to protect them from the elements, including Neck Blankets!
Just like in the human fashion world, there are a multitude of styles, colours, designs and bling available to adorn a horse. The PARD boys are in a country setting with weather that can range from very hot to very cold as the seasons change. Their attire is on the practical side, as they have an image to uphold! Handsome, smart, gentle, strong and patient are just a few of the requirements needed for the job they do at PARD. In their more lighthearted moments they do, however, enjoy dressing up for events like costume classes at horse shows, Santa Claus Parades, and Halloween!
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