Category: Horse Health

Mare Abortions And Caterpillars - Processionary Caterpillars

Processionary Caterpillars
Photo: Arturo Reina Sánchez

Mare owners have long agonised over why their healthy mares have unexpectedly, and seemlingly without cause, aborted their foals at either 15-45 days or at 9-10 months.

Researchers in Lexington, Kentucky, have attributed these abortions to caterpillars, specifically Malacosoma americanum (eastern tent caterpillar) in America and Ochrogaster lunifer (processionary caterpillar) and Leptocneria reducta (white cedar moth caterpillar) in Australia. They have compiled a data base containing information about the problem, now known as Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome (MRLS) in the USA and Equine Amnionitis and Foetal Loss (EAFL) in Australia. Equivet Australia reports:

“During 2005/2006 studies at the University of Queensland (Australia) showed that exposure to preparations made from the processionary caterpillars (or their shed exoskeletons) were responsible for causing pregnancy loss in the mare or deficits in the newborn foal. Shed exoskeletons accumulate in the nests as the caterpillars pupate. When the caterpillars leave the nest to migrate, the nest frequently disintegrates and falls onto the ground … The exoskeleton is light and fragile and as it falls can easily drift onto surrounding pasture where it can be picked up by grazing horses.

The results of this Queensland study indicate that the barbed fragments from the setae (small hairs) of the exoskeleton may penetrate the intestinal wall and allow bacteria into the bloodstream thereby causing infection of the placenta and subsequent abortion.”

Eastern Tent - Caterpillars after hatching

Eastern Tent Caterpillars after hatching

Read the rest of the article from Equivet Australia. It discusses the caterpillars’ behavior, what it is that is so harmful to the mare as to potentially cause her to abort, and offers some simple recommendations to reduce the threat to your mares.

Although this is an Australian article, the problem is not exclusive to Australia. As mentioned above, there are caterpillars in America that pose a similar threat, and they can also be found in the UK and throughout northern, central and southern Europe. Read more about the European caterpillars and the threat to trees in this article by Sarah Shailes, The Oak Processionary Moth: A New Pest To UK Oak Trees

Both articles also point out how dangerous the caterpillars can also be to humans “because of a toxin called thaumetopoein contained in tiny hairs on their bodies. Contact or inhalation of the hairs can lead to skin irritation and allergic reactions.” (Sarah Shailes). The Australian report also notes that “some horses grazing under trees populated with caterpillars displayed skin reactions.”

Mares will always abort for one reason or another. However, repeated and multiple abortions are not only heartbreaking, but can be an economic disaster, especially on very large thoroughbred studs.

If you live in an area where there are processionary, eastern tent or white cedar moth caterpillars, you need to read these articles and educate yourself so you can reduce or at least minimize the risk to your mares and their unborn foals.

How To Diagnose Stomach Ulcers In Your Horse - Stomach ullcerDoes your horse kick at you, or turn to bite you, when you tighten the girth? Is he sensitive around his withers? If so, he could have stomach ulcers.

Gastro-intestinal erosions – stomach ulcers – are the most common cause of intermittent colic, gas and diarrhea. Studies have shown that a horse can progress from having no gastric irritation to having a perforated ulcer in as little as 5 days. This progression will occur even faster if the horse is being treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as bute. Stomach ulcers are the single most preventable syndrome that are treated by vets.

Endoscopy is commonly used to diagnose ulcers. However, scoping can only identify ulcerated tissue in the esophagus and stomach and can’t get down into the intestine and cecum.

A less invasive diagnostic method, and one which you can learn to do yourself, uses palpation of acupuncture points that are closely associated with digestion. This can be a great indication of the presence of painful and debilitating ulcers.

In the video below, Mark DePaulo DVM, demonstrates how to find these acupressure points – it could explain why your horse is so cranky!

If you want to know more about stomach ulcers and how to treat them, here is a link to Dr. DePaulo’s website.

Tips For A Shiny Coat - Shiny coatHave you every watched other people’s horses and wondered how they got their horses’ coats so shiny?

We all know that a shiny coat is the outward sign of a healthy horse, and the article below explains in great detail how you, too, can achieve that bright and shiny coat with your horse.

Learn how a shiny coat comes from knowing about the following:

  • Grooming – equipment and technique
  • Dull coat – reasons for and solutions
  • Oils – for a health shine
  • Infections, Fungus & Hygiene – common problems and how to deal with them
  • Winter grooming – the long hair horses grow for warmth in winter can also lead to skin problems
  • Rug hygiene – why you need to keep your rugs clean
  • Tails – how to look after your horse’s tail so it stays long and shiny
  • Washing your horse – tips for best results
  • Tail rubbing – what can cause it and how to handle it
  • Feeding for colour – tips to enhance your horse’s colour and what to avoid
  • Stain removal on white markings – helpful hints
  • Insect protection – simple solutions


Published on Wednesday, July 31, 2013
From the July Issue of The Stable Magazine

A shiny coat is a sign of a healthy horse – every horse owner wants to see their horses happy and healthy, so a bright and shiny coat is extremely desirable. Here are our top tips on achieving a shiny coat –and recommended products to make your horse glow with health!


Achieving a shiny coat starts with the basics.

Your brushes and combs need to be clean to be able to clean your horse effectively. Keep your brushes together and ensure you clean them regularly.  Keep your brushes in good condition. Replace your brushes when needed. If your brush has missing or flattened bristles it will be much less effective in giving a good end result. Always buy the best quality grooming tools you can afford – and get stuck in with the elbow grease! Regular grooming is one key element to a shiny coat. Grooming thoroughly at least a few times a week will assist in keeping the coat clean and healthy. Regular grooming will also help to remove dead hair from the coat, and as an added bonus, the very action of grooming will stimulate the horse’s circulation.

The most effective way to groom your horse is to [article continues here …]

[Source:  Horse Zone]

Here is an informative video that demonstrates a basic grooming routine:

Do you know why dark horses look shinier than grey horses?
The shine on your horse is the coat (and hair’s!) ability to reflect light. Horses of solid dark colors – like blacks and bays – can shine brilliantly, but it’s much more difficult to see the shine on the coat of a grey horse!

It is important not to be rough with your horse’s tail – it can take two years to grow right out, so you don’t want to damage it when you groom your horse:

What Are The Instinctual Needs Of Your Horse? - Meeting instinctual needsTo have a Healthy, Happy Horse, we need to meet his instinctual needs as well as his physical needs.  In the wild, the herd teaches him how to fill these needs.

Unfortunately, today we usually place the horse in an environment that is of our own making and that is convenient for us, and often this environment is nothing like the natural environment that the horse’s body and mind is programmed for.  If his emotional needs are not met in this artificial environment, many physical problems and emotional behaviors are manifested.

So what can we do about it?

Marijke de Jong has written a thoughtful article in which she discusses the following issues in great detail, supported by explanatory photos and illustrations:

  • the needs of the horse
  • what happens when these needs are limited or even absent
  • what problems result from this, and
  • how to avoid them.

By Marijke de Jong


To be successful with straightness training we have to meet the instinctual needs of your horse first.

Given their characteristics, horses have a number of needs. These are:

  • Certainty and safety, because the horse is a prey animal with a flight instinct
  • Routine, because the horse is a creature of habit, so require a regular routine of eating, resting, grooming etc
  • Grass and roughage, because they are herbivores
  • To eat small amounts throughout the day, because with a full belly it’s not easy to flee
  • Variety, because it’s boring and frustrating to be 23 hours in a stable
  • Constant movement, because they are steppe animals
  • Connection with other horses, because they are social animals
  • The nead for leadership, because they are herd animals and like to follow a confident leader

Limitation of horse needs

Understanding how horses behave in nature can help us to better fulfill their needs. In the domesticated world, most horses are limited in their ability to fulfill their natural horse needs because of the way they are kept. The overview displays the differences:

Collecting food Horses spend 60% of their time on feeding (14 to 15 hours per day). This leads to 55,000 chewing movements. Sometimes horses spend 2 x 5 minutes eating pellets and 3x 1 hour eating hay. This leads to 7,000 to 10,000 chewing movements.
Amount of food Little bits throughout the day 3 times a day a lot at one time
Movement 5 to 10 km spread over the whole day Sometimes only 1 hour a day
Rest 30% of their time (7 hours per day). The horse can lay five minutes per day completely flat out Sometimes 23 hours in the stall. Laying down completely is sometimes not possible at all
Social contact A lot of contact with other horses. Sometimes the only contact is with humans. Many horses (especially stallions) are kept alone in the pasture and alone in the stable.
Foals Foals spend half of their time playing with other foals.Weaning: Separation at 9 months. Sometimes the foal’s only companion in the pasture is the mother. Weaning: Separation at 4 months.
Young horses Living together with other horses. Developing friendships. Education provided by counterparts. Behavioral rules, learning horse language. Developing social skills. Sometimes alone or with only one other horse. Often in a socially inadequate living environment. Education provided by human.
Young adults Stallion: bachelor band. Mare: first foal when she is 5 years old. Stallion: often castrated. Mare: frustrated oestrous cycle
Protection Coat, strong legs, good natural immunity. Less immunity, often ill because of the stable climate; too humid, too dark, too dusty, blankets and bandages.
Grooming Mutual care. Rolling. Humans brush the horse. Rolling sometimes not possible.
Hooves Hooves wear out naturally. Farrier takes care of trimming the hooves. Because the horse is not able to move sufficiently in a stable which is too dry or too wet, hoof and leg problems can develop.

Problems by not fulfilling the natural horse needs

By not fulfilling the natural needs of the domesticated horse, physical and psychological problems can arise:  [Read more here …]



The more you fulfill the natural needs of your horse, the better you will be able to connect with your horse and the more smoothly your training process will be.

You will succeed the most when you work with Mother Nature.

The Correct Way To Trim Barefoot Hooves - Fancy horseshoes

Fancy horseshoes.Photo Courtesy

A lot of people would like to try letting their horses go barefoot but have reservations because they know or have heard of many horses that have had tender feet or even gone lame once their shoes were taken off. And that’s not good, whether your horse is a serious or semi-serious competition horse or just a buddy that you like to do trail rides with.

In this informative and detailed article, Maureen Tierney discusses the real reason that horses can be sore and need boots when they go barefoot  – they have either been incorrectly trimmed, or simply over-trimmed.

Drawing on her intensive research of the horse in his natural state, she reveals that the culprit is the person who trims the horse’s hooves and their lack of knowledge as to how the hoof, in its natural state, works differently than when it is shod.

Read the article to learn the correct way a barefoot horse should be trimmed …

One of the main reasons people quickly give up on barefoot, or don’t even try it, is due to the infamous “transition period” which follows taking a horse’s shoes off. The other major reason that people give up on barefoot is because their horses remain ouchy – for years. This is great for boot companies, but not for owners and certainly not for the horses themselves.

The sad truth is that neither the uncomfortable “transition period”, nor the prolonged ouchiness are necessary. Both are the result of over trimming. Over trimming is the removal of any material from the hoof which should not be removed. After 12 years of being a barefoot trimmer, and seeing lame and over trimmed horses, I still do not understand why trimmers continue to over trim. Why do they continue – year after year!!! – to accept lack of soundness as normal? To view it as acceptable?

If you were to survey trimmers you would hear how successful they are – how all the horses they trim are doing well (though many need boots). However if you were to survey the owners of barefoot horses you would hear that many are not happy or satisfied with their horse’s level of soundness. There is clearly a huge disconnect.

Let me put it in black and white. If a horse is ouchy and needs boots, and has not been diagnosed with founder, navicular, or some other real hoof issue, and has been out of shoes longer than 3 months, the odds are that he or she is being over trimmed.  [Read the rest of the article here]


Also, be sure to check out Maureen’s excellent and thorough book, “Natural Barefoot Trimming: The Hoof Guided Method“.

Does Manuka Honey Really Heal Wounds?

Manuka honey heals injuriesHoney was a conventional therapy in fighting infection up until the early 20th century, at which time its use slowly vanished with the discovery of penicillin.

Now the use of honey in wound care is gaining popularity again, as researchers are determining exactly how honey can help fight serious skin infections.

According to their findings, certain types of honey might be more effective than antibiotics!

Researchers are now finding that honey not only helps fight serious skin infections, but certain types of honey, such as manuka honey, might be more effective than antibiotics.

“In lab tests, just a bit of the honey killed off the majority of bacterial cells — and cut down dramatically on the stubborn biofilms they formed.

It could also be used to prevent wounds from becoming infected in the first place.” (Scientific American January 31, 2012)

Read more about the amazing manuka honey in this article from

NZ Manuka Honey Shown To Speed Healing Of Horse Wounds

The simple use of New Zealand-made manuka honey on horses’ leg wounds results in smaller wound sizes and faster healing times, Sydney researchers have found.

Honey has been used to treat wounds in humans since ancient Egypt, but the study at the University of Sydney, using manuka honey from New Zealand, is the first time a clinical trial has been conducted in horses. [article continues here …]

~ Source:

The honey’s exact healing mechanism is still unclear but the studies show clearly that treating wounds with manuka honey leads to healthier tissue regrowth. 

“Wounds treated with manuka also showed improved new blood vessel and skin surface growth compared to control wounds.”

I don’t need convincing.  I’ve personally used manuka honey on horse’s wounds with wonderful results. The most hideous wound I’ve used it on was a huge 5” x 5” open wound that took over 4 weeks to close over – and, using only manuka honey, it didn’t get infected in all that time. You can’t even see a scar now.

If you can’t get medicinal manuka honey at your local health store, here are some links where you can buy it online:

Manuka honey heals woundsWedderspoon Raw Organic Manuka Honey Active 16+, 17.6-Ounce Jar


Manuka honey heals woundsActive MGO 400+ (Old 20+) Manuka Honey 100% Pure by Manuka Health New Zealand Ltd. – 8.8oz jar


Manuka Honey Heals WoundsActive Manuka Honey 16+, Manuka Oil and Aloe Vera Healing Gel

Horses Need Sunlight For Vitamin D

Horses need sunlight for Vit D - Photo by Stefan GustafssonHorses, like us, need sufficient sunlight for vitamin D production and bone formation. Pastured horses, or those turned out to graze every day, receive enough sunlight for their needs.

However, horses that constantly rugged during the day as protection against insects and coat fading, or are stabled during the day including due to injury or illness, can suffer from vitamin D deficiency over time. Even the shorter amount of daylight such as in winter in the northern hemisphere, especially when accompanied by prolonged bad weather, can result in the horse becoming Vitamin D deficient.

Healing For Horses“Horses need some free time in daylight every day for optimum health and a fully balanced energy field.If your horse is confined because of veterinary treatment/instruction, see if you can use a stable where the horse can put its head over the door into good bright light and use a light airy stable. Check with your vet in case of contraindications.”
~ (from Healing for Horses by Margrit Coates)

It is also important to remember to provide shade for horses that are turned out so they can get out of the sun if they want to cool down.