Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Colic Prevention


Tout le cheval est dans son intestin. 

We know the health if our horses by observing their eliminations.
 By now everyone knows a horse should never be without a bite of forage unless it is troubled horses we are looking for. We know that cribbers and windsuckers were without a bite of forage one time too often. Horses need to chew and move most all the time. If we take chewing and moving away from horses, they find unwelcome ways to chew and move. Stereotypies develop. 
 Of course, we all know now that locomotion is essential for proper digestion, as well as for proper respiration and metabolism. Everything horse is dependent on their near-constant movement. If we keep horses from moving, they find other ways to move. 
The color of poop and pee, the smell, volume, consistency, all critical, all things every horse guardian should know about their horse. To know a horse's bowel and bladder habits is to know your horse's health status. Colic does not appear without notice. Nor do gastric ulcers. In equine behavior we learn to read horses, and that means constant and daily observations of their eliminations, please. 
Locomotion is essential to digestive elimination. As you all know, when a horse moves, they most often eliminate. Colic is most often caused by deprivations of movement and forage. So there you have it. The leading cause of death in stabled horses is colic, and colic is caused by nutritional mismanagement. We know the cause of colic, and it is in inappropriate stabling and feeding practices. Horses need to move about miles each day, my friends, so get out there and move those horses standing about, please. 
We know where our horses have been. In natural settings, horses had miles and miles of prairie and they took care not to soil their range. When horses are confined, they have no choice but to eliminate where we have put them. With limited space, their pastures become soured by manure and urine, rendering the grass unfit to graze. Pasture management is a huge factor in maintaining appopriate grass to graze. As well, stalls need to be cleaned several times a day to re-create natural. Locomotion is essential to digestion, respiration, metablism, and hoof health. Everything about the horse is dependent on abundant locomotion and near-constant chewing.
The accumulation of manure can be massive when space is limited, not to mention unhealthy. Digestion is a constant process oft impaired by stabling, as colic surgeons attest. Often the quality of stables can be determined by the efficiency and tidiness of manure management. Manure harbors bloodworms, nemesis of the stabled horse. Manure sours the grass. Manure deteriorates hoof health. Get that manure out of the stable please, unless you like veterinary bills.
Colic is seldom, if ever, noted in natural settings, where horses take great care to avoid grazing where they have eliminated. One thing I have noticed, is that farms where I am called to deal with colic sure have a lot of horsepoop around. Piled-up manure usually means the horses aren't moving much. The accumulation of manure correlates directly with the accumulation of veterinary bills. The more manure allowed to accumulate, the more horse unthriftiness. 
24/7 forage, friends, and locomotion are what keep horses healthy.
Of course as we all know by now 24/7 forage provides consistency. With 24/7 forage there is no digestive change, my friends, and often no colic, as feral horses attest.  All systems in the horse are interdependent and interrelated. When the digestive system fails due to horsefolk changing  diet inappropriately, the other systems follow suit quickly. With horses, death comes fast, a compassionate survival characteristic. 
Speaking of interrupting vital digestive flow, always let your horse eliminate when he or she wants to eliminate, please, especially when riding. Horsefolk should seldom if ever interrupt the flow of the digestive tract, as the digestive tract of a horse is something that operates non-stop. To move a horse is to stimulate the bowel. Riding stimulates the bowel and woe be you to interfere. If you do not want your horse to eliminate in the ring, then properly train and feed and prepare your horse to avoid that indiscretion. Remember, horses use elimination to communicate to people, as well. Horses reflect what they think of you and your horsemanship by pooping, you know.
A constant monitoring of the feces production and urination is required to monitor and assure the health of our stabled steeds. Horsefolk know road apples inside and out. Road apples reflect health and illness for those able to see, smell, and count.
Digestive disturbances are best addressed early, and this requires keen observation of what our horses are eating, when and in what quantities and quality, and the outcome. You all should know how many times each day your stabled horse eliminates. It behooves you to recognize any change in your horse's elimination pattern immediately. Very important, as well, is your constant monitoring of your horse's borborygmi and respiration, especially with horses taken out of their routine to attend competitions. Remember salt. Do not forget water. Horse need their vibrissae to properly handle changes in feed and water, so please do not deprive them of those critical sensory structures, por favor. I hear repeated reports that a horse will not eat or drink for three days after their vibrissae are clipped. Colic surgeons have flourished. Have you seen the cars their kids drive?
Although we have little use for our eliminations, the survivalist horse utilizes manure to communicate with other horses. Horses use their acts of elimination as well as the scents of their manure and urine to enhance their survival in ways in which we can only sit back and wonder.

DrSid

Dr Gustafson is an equine veterinarian, veterinary behaviorist, and novelist. He helps refine horse and dog training methods to accommodate the inherent nature and behavior of horses and dogs. Applied veterinary behavior enhances optimum health, performance, soundness, contentment, and longevity in animal athletes. Natural approaches to development, training, nutrition, and conditioning sustain equine health and enhance performance. Behavioral and nutritional enrichment strategies enhance the lives of stabled horses. Training and husbandry from the horse's perspective result in content, cooperative, competitive horses.
Doctor Gustafson provides equine behavior consultations to help re-create the needs and preferences of horses in training and competition to achieve medication-free winning performances.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Grooming, the art and science of pair-bonding with horses

Grooming
To pair bond and establish familiarity, one must brush their horse, often and regular. Massage is essential to maintain health in stabled horses, full body massage, por favor. Massage is diagnostic and therapeutic. Rub your stabled horses, please, rub them everywhere, do not forget to rub the coronary bands. Rub them before tacking up, rub to make sure they are sound. Rub, rub, rub, as rubbing creates winners. Forget the bute, and rub. 
 Brushing and grooming stimulate digestive and circulatory functions, as well as create social pair bonding between horse and horsefolker. Brushing enhances nutrition, circulation, and many physiological functions. If you are confused about rubbing, watch horses rub one another and watch horses rub themselves.
Stalled horses need a good hour or two of brushing a day to feel enriched. I have seen people train horses to ride by simply brushing them everywhere everyday. That is it, brushing, which apparently can involve and incorporate pressure and release and reward, creating the establishment of boundaries and yields. Mutual benificence. 

When in doubt with the training, brush, is what I learned from that little girl, and what I hope you to all learn from this unit.
When a horse becomes troubled, stop the training and brush and rub, please.

Troubled horses do not learn, while brushed horses learn well, oh yes. To brush your horse is to train your horse. Forget about showing your horse who is boss, show your horse who cares about them.
Brush your stabled horses, often, please. Rub and brush. Lunge them, too. The word lunge comes from lung, it seems, and to lunge is to enhance and maintain pulmonary health. The key to prevent bleeding (EIPH) in racehorses is abundant locomotion. Some believe drugs keep horses from bleeding, but the preferred method is abundant locomotion. Bleeding during a race prevented by abundant locomotion between races.
Notice how often horses self-groom their lower legs. Rub the legs all up and down before tacking up. Flex all the joints, please. Get the digital pulse, por favor.
Remember to rub your horse's fetlocks, pasterns, and coronets with your bare hands before and after riding each day for winning results. To know your horse, rub your horse.
Horses are physical beings. They need friendly touching, often. And clean: I dare proclaim horses are the cleanest creatures on the planet in open country.
Stabled horses, well, they get quite dirty when forced to live in a stall or stable. Open range horses seldom need bathed, but stabled horses may, so dirty and soiled a regularly unmaintained stall or small paddock is compared to the open range, where horses stay quite clean, but will sometimes show up very muddy or dirt-caked in insect season.
At racetracks, many horses are bathed daily, others less so. Many horses learn to enjoy the process, which involves extensive grooming and brushing and close physical contact. Other horses are quite aggravated by water, and many despise water squirted near their ears, eyes, and nose. 
Sometimes water is applied to cool horses off. The place to cool hot horses off, and the place they most accept water on the head, seems to be directly on their forehead, above the eyes, below the ears, straight on, right over the brain. This forehead area is where the most heat is dissipated in the least amount of surface area.
Horses in competitive training who get hot often come to appreciate head cooling, which is physiologically effective in lowering body temperature.
Watch the nozzle-squirting devices, and use a soft stream when habituating and desensitizing your horses to water. Hose the hot horse's body and up into the groin, as well. Get your horses habituated to water carefully over time, especially at first. 
Make your horse's first experience with water a good experience.
In some cultures, horses are not bathed with water so much as with brushing.
Rubbing a horse brings one into an awareness of the horse's soundness, health, and demeanor.
Rubbing simulates movement. If you cannot provide locomotion, you best get in there and rub. 
Stall-rested horses need rubbed and passively flexed for at least two hours a day to maintain health.
Friends, forage, locomotion, and rubbing.
Get in touch with your horses with your hands.
Cheers,
DrSid  


Dr Gustafson is an equine veterinarian, veterinary behaviorist, and novelist. He helps refine horse and dog training methods to accommodate the inherent nature and behavior of horses and dogs. Applied veterinary behavior enhances optimum health, performance, soundness, contentment, and longevity in animal athletes. Natural approaches to development, training, nutrition, and conditioning sustain equine health and enhance performance. Behavioral and nutritional enrichment strategies enhance the lives of stabled horses. Training and husbandry from the horse's perspective result in content, cooperative horses. DrSid provides equine behavior consultations to help recreate the needs and preferences of horses in training and competition.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Appropriate Training of Horses and Dogs

In the training or operant conditioning of domestic animals, horses and dogs, reinforcement is the primary method of successful training, be it positive or negative. While often utilized, punishment is seldom necessary and is often counterproductive in the long term, as it devalues the relationship between man and animal form the animal's perspective. As the class continues, we will see that group survival trumps individual survival in many social species. It is survival of the fittest group rather than the fittest individual that often drives natural selection in social species. 

Most domestic species are social species, sharing a variety of social survival constructs with humans, group survival foremost among those shared characteristics. Group survival entails communication and cooperation. It is not the toughest, meanest individual that survives in a group, but the most effectively communicative, cooperative, and appeasing individual, it seems. This concept has diminished the 'dominance theory' of training which often uses punishment. With dogs and horses, more and more people these days seek willing partnerships rather than indentured servitude of their dog and horse, and indeed, it is the willing partnerships with animals that create the most desirable relationships between man and dog, and man and horse. For training of dogs and horses to be most effective, the training has to be a pleasurable situation for the horse and dog, and the science of learning and animal behaviour has helped humans make great positive strides in the development of mutually beneficial relationships with these domestic species. 
There were 300-400 potential domesticates, but only a dozen or so animals shared enough learning, group survival, communication, and social constructs with humans to actually become successful domesticates that allowed a successful merger with humans. In a sense, domestic species have merged with humans to accomplish a shared group survival construct. In the teaching of domestication science, I use the metaphor 'sugars' to describe these shared characteristics. Some of the domestication sugars include shared methods of learning, shared communication modalities, shared group survival constructs, shared appeasement of others. Dominance has little to do with any of these domestication sugars. Humans and domestic animals best respond to reinforcement in the development of mutual relationships. Reinforcement, be it positive or negative, increases or strengthens natural behavior. While the punishment often associated with dominance decreases or weakens the natural tendencies or behaviors of the animal. Allowance and encouragement of natural behaviors creates the strongest bonds between humans and domestic animals, you know.


Dr Gustafson is an equine veterinarian, veterinary behaviorist, and novelist. He helps refine horse and dog training methods to accommodate the inherent nature and behavior of horses and dogs. Applied veterinary behavior enhances optimum health, performance, soundness, contentment, and longevity in animal athletes. Natural approaches to development, training, nutrition, and conditioning sustain equine health and enhance performance. Behavioral and nutritional enrichment strategies enhance the lives of stabled horses. Training and husbandry from the horse's perspective result in content, cooperative horses. DrSid provides equine behavior consultations to help recreate the needs and preferences of horses in training and competition.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Solution to Horseracing's Medication Troubles

http://nyti.ms/1kGbh3Y

Link to the New York Times article by Dr. Gustafson outlining a potential solution to better manage racehorse doping in America to improve the health and safety of racehorses and riders.

Dr Gustafson is an equine veterinarian, veterinary behaviorist, and novelist. Dr Gustafson provides equine behavior and welfare consultations to help recreate the needs and preferences of horses in training and competition.

Dr Gustafson's novels, books, and stories