By Dr. John Byrd
This is written due to the time of year and the fact I have felt the desire to do so.
In the past most of our posts and articles that I have written were either about worms and their detection and control or answers to questions our clients have asked. This article will be about my thoughts and feelings over the years since I came up with the idea about starting Horsemen’s Laboratory. My life was changed dramatically a couple of years after I graduated from the University of Illinois school of Veterinary Medicine because I was not sure what path I should follow. This caused a severe problem in my personal life that I had to call on a higher power that I had recognized in other areas of my life years earlier, to solve the problem. The solution greatly improved my personal life as well as my professional life. What was the solution you ask? I will be happy to share the solution with you if you personally contact me.
This is about pursuing my dream of doing something I felt like was worthwhile in helping horse owners. After graduating I started a general equine veterinary practice, but soon found that I wanted to do more than deworm horses, vaccinate, float teeth, and examine horses for general problems such as colic, lameness, wounds, and respiratory problems. Shortly after I started my practice I realized what I was doing was rewarding, but did not feel fulfilling and so I sought to seek more information about keeping horses healthy and was fortunate enough to get a residency position at the University of Florida in the large animal clinic. During the time spent there I realized I wanted to specialize in some area of veterinary care that applied to horses. Upon completion of my residency at Florida I had hoped to get a job at the University of Illinois, but that did not occur.
My next stop was California where after a short stent in a group equine practice I again started another general practice. After several more years of doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing even though I still did not feel fulfilled. Again I sought more education and took the International Veterinary Acupuncture course. It was during the time that I was taking the acupuncture course that daily dewormer became available. The fact many of my clients started asking for the daily dewormer and a statement I heard during the acupuncture course made me think someone should study how many horses really needed daily dewormer. The statement was that many endurance riders felt they saw a longer recover time in their horses following deworming for up to 2 weeks. After consulting with several parasitologists that mainly studied worms in horses I decided to check horses for worm eggs before I dewormed them every 2 months. I found that less than 1 out of 20 horses were passing eggs to indicate that the horses in my practice were having a worm problem and needed the daily dewormer.
Horsemen’s Laboratory was born as a result of a question that I asked myself and the parasite experts who had consulted with previously. The question was why hasn’t someone started a laboratory to check horses for parasites instead of just deworming every 2 months and feeding daily dewormer if it is not needed. The next question I asked myself was why not me? Therefore, I began to visualize how such a laboratory service would work. The most important aspects were that the service must be convenient for owners to use, reasonably priced, and the results available in a timely fashion. After 25 years in business Horsemen’s Laboratory continues to work to improve these aspects of our service.
For the first 15 years we received very few samples; however, we had some loyal clients that encouraged us to continue and many of these clients are still clients today. I would like to take this opportunity to thank those clients as well as the clients that have just started using Horsemen’s Laboratory to evaluate their horses’ worm control programs. I cannot deny I thought that I should just quit, but I continued to have this feeling that I was doing the right thing and knew this is what I should be doing. Someone once said that if you do something you enjoy for a living you won’t work another day in your life. I have found this to be so very true over the last 5-6 years. I feel that the information we provide our clients about their horses’ worm control program is very important. I also deeply enjoy visiting with our clients throughout The United States and Canada and giving them advice about their horses’ worm control program.
I have written this because I would like to encourage my clients to seek fulfillment of their dreams and to encourage them to set goals in order to reach that point in their life where they never have to work another day.
Throughout my life I have had many clients and other people who have encouraged me and gave me advice and I deeply appreciate it and hope in some way this may help to repay them by passing it on so to speak.
By Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D.
The horse world is cluttered with feeds, supplements, and remedies all promising a better, “new and improved” horse. While many such products do in fact improve horses’ health and condition, there are certain basics that every horse needs, regardless of breed, age, condition, or purpose. Even seasonal or regional changes do not alter these foundational principles.
Water is the most important nutrient
It must be plentiful, clean, and of the right temperature to encourage horses to drink. A horse at maintenance, living in a temperate climate will require a minimum of ½ to 1 gallon per hundred pounds of body weight. For the 1100 lb (500 kg) horse, that equates to 5.5 to 11 gallons (21 to 42 liters) per day.[i] However, his demand for water will increase with activity and warmer temperatures. Here are some factors to consider:
Salt is required daily, regardless of the season
In cold seasons, salt helps promote that all-important water consumption. In warm seasons, supplemented salt replaces what is lost from perspiration. A full-sized horse requires at least one ounce (two level tablespoons or 30 ml) of salt each day for maintenance -- this much provides 12 grams of sodium. Heat, humidity, and exercise increase the horse’s need. There are several ways to accomplish this:
Forage is the foundation of the diet – it must flow through the digestive tract 24/7
Horses are grazing animals and are designed to consume forage virtually all day and night, only taking a few minutes here and there to rest; this also includes ponies, minis, donkeys, and mules. There are many reasons why your horse must always have hay and/or pasture:
Don’t let anyone scare you into thinking that feeding hay free-choice will damage your horse. Please read “Equine Digestion – It’s Decidedly Different” to empower you with the knowledge needed to help your horses.[iv] Hay testing and commercially available “slow feeders” are worthwhile for many horses.[v]
Replace what hay is missing
Many horses rely entirely on hay for their forage needs. Is hay nutritious? Not very. Hay is dead grass; it no longer contains many of the vitamins, omega 3s and omega 6s it once had as living pasture. It does, however, contain protein, carbohydrates, and minerals, and is a significant source of energy. Consider the following to fill in the nutritional gaps:
Movement, companionship and shelter are vital necessities
Horses need to move and have the protection of a buddy. Standing in a small area for hours on end (even if part of it is outdoors) takes its toll on your horse’s mental and physical health. So does being isolated from buddies. The stress can be so great that it dramatically diminishes your horse’s quality and length of life by compromising his immune system and hormonal responses. We see the effect in a vast variety of health issues:
Horses also need shelter from harsh weather. This can best be accomplished by offering your horse the option to make choices. Barn stalls that can be entered and left at will through open gates allow your horse to decide what is most comfortable.
Horses are individuals and may need additional nutrients and care, but covering the basics of water, salt, forage, necessary supplementation, movement, stress reduction, and shelter will optimize your horse’s foundation for a lifetime of vibrant health.
Permission to reprint this article is granted, provided attribution is given to Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. No editorial changes may be made without her permission. Dr. Getty appreciates being notified of any publication.
Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. is an independent equine nutritionist with a wide U.S. and international following. Her research-based approach optimizes equine health by aligning physiology and instincts with correct feeding and nutrition practices.
Dr. Getty’s comprehensive resource book, Feed Your Horse Like a Horse, is available at www.GettyEquineNutrition.com -- buy it there and have it inscribed by the author, or get it at Amazon (www.Amazon.com) or other online retail bookstores. The seven separate volumes in Dr. Getty’s topic-centered Spotlight on Equine Nutrition series are available with special package pricing at her website, and also at Amazon in print and Kindle versions. Dr. Getty’s books make ideal gifts—check her website for holiday specials.
Find a world of useful information for the horseperson at www.GettyEquineNutrition.com: Sign up for Dr. Getty’s informative, free e-newsletter, Forage for Thought; browse her library of reference articles; search her nutrition forum; and purchase recordings of her educational teleseminars. Reach Dr. Getty directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is available for private consultations and speaking engagements.
[i] Chastine, M.N., 2009. You can lead a horse to water… The University of Montana Western Equine Studies Program. http://www.aaep.org/info/horse-health?publication=867
[ii] University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment. 2015. Blue-green algae poisoning in horses. The Horse. http://www.thehorse.com/articles/29469/blue-green-algae-poisoning-in-horses
[iii] Please read articles related to insulin resistance, overweight, and leptin resistance found by clicking on “Library” at www.gettyequinenutrition.com
[iv] Getty, J.M. 2013. Equine Nutrition – It’s Decidedly Different. Available at www.gettyequinenutrition.com or online bookstores.
[v] A variety of slow feeders is available at Dr. Getty’s Free Shipping Store: http://horsesupplements.gettyequinenutrition.biz/slowfeeders.html
[vi] Nutra Flax and U.S. Chia can be found at Dr. Getty’s Free Shipping Store. Other sources such as high-DHA algae from a vegetarian source and Camelina oil are also available. http://horsesupplements.gettyequinenutrition.biz
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