Q: Thanks for your article. I
have moved to cold weather country this past summer and have two gaited horses.
They have been doing fine this winter. But today I am a little concerned. I
found them laying down this afternoon...unusual....and one was reluctant to get
up. Once up they seemed to move fine. However their front hooves were quite
warm. Later I attributed to this to having them tucked underneath themselves
while laying down. The hooves did cool off. Heart rate seems normal as does
respiration...coats aren't damp. They aren't parked out or camped out. I have
seen them eating this afternoon again. Activity might be reduced.
My question is this...when I rechecked them this evening...their hooves...front
more than back...feel warm to me..(.warmer than their coat is to the touch). But
frankly I'm not used to feeling horses hooves in freezing weather....no snow.
Maybe their hooves always feel warm in contrast to the air....and maybe their
coats don't because they are so thick. Do you know if this is true?
I have recently changed their grain in take......they were on about 1 to 1 1/2
quarts of an equine senior (had some grain in it) and I switched them to a grain
mix of the same amount a few days ago when the weather started getting colder.
I'm thinking that was too abrupt...but the quantities seem unlikely to case a
problem. do you know anything about that either.
Of course if anything further develops I will call my vet...someone suggested I
give them some bute...any thoughts.
A: Your reference to MY
ARTICLE causes me to wonder if you have read everything on my web pages
concerning laminitis. To be sure that they are available to you, I am going to
give you my current web page URL. There are several articles, Q&As and a
laminitis update that should be of interest to you.
From reading your e-mail, I would say that your horses are probably not
foundering. However, let's go over some of the things that you stated and that
you have concerns about.
It is not unusual for horses to lie down in extremely cold weather, and you are
correct in that their hoofs would feel warmer if they are lying on them, as they
sometimes do. In feeling horse's hoofs, whether you are experienced or not, you
should compare one foot to the other 3, and one horse to another. Generally
speaking, if determining heat is so difficult as to leave you feeling unsure,
chances are that they are normal.
You stated that the front hoofs felt warmer than the back ones. That would be
normal. The front hoofs are closer to the heart, and the circulation would be
better and therefore the feet would feel warmer.
If the horses are not blanketed, just feeling the surface of the coats would
make it difficult to detect warmth. However, if you dig your fingers into the
coat, getting below the surface of the hair, I think you would find it to be a
You mentioned that your horses were getting Equine Senior with some grain in it.
This causes me to wonder how old these horses are. Of course Equine Senior is
sometimes fed because it is more palatable to some horses and digests more
easily than whole, rolled or crushed grain. If your horses are seniors, they
should stay on Equine Senior, with a sweet feed added to it. The molasses in a
sweet feed adds calories for the horses to burn, and therefore adds warmth.
One and a half quarts of grain is not a large amount of grain. How much grain a
horse should be fed really needs to be determined by the eye of the owner,
taking into consideration the horse's health, condition and activities. If you
believe or your vet has stated that your horses are healthy and in proper flesh,
then you are obviously feeding them enough. When a horse has a heavy winter coat
it can be difficult to tell when he begins to loose weight. Be sure to actually
feel the rib and hip area to determine how well covered the bones are, because
looks can be deceiving.
For most horses a quart and a half of grain, even abruptly changed, is not
enough to trigger laminitis or colic. In the future, however, I would recommend
you make changes to feed more gradually.
I assume your horses also have free choice to good hay and/or pasture. Grain
will supply calories to keep your horses weight and strength up, but digesting
roughage keeps him warm.
For many years now I have recommended that any horse ten years old or older be
fed a daily allowance (read the label) of MSM. I recommend Vita Flex brand
because I have found it to be of good quality and purity. The reluctance of your
horse to rise could be because he has some arthritic problems, especially if he
is a senior. MSM could help.
Also, since you are asking me for my two cents worth…I would recommend a good
waterproof turnout blanket. It keeps the horse dry and warm, and doesn't force
him to burn his calories to stay warm, thus making it easier to keep weight on
the horse. By keeping the cold off his joints and muscles, a blanket can help
keep an older horse from getting so stiff. If you do blanket, be sure to take
the blankets off and give the horses a good grooming and examination at least
every couple days before putting the blankets back on.
Your horses should also have access to a run-in shed when they are in the
pasture. They will sometimes need to seek shelter from wind and cold rain.
When in doubt, call the vet. I can only do so much by answering your e-mail. I
can not see your horse, nor am I a doctor. A good relationship with a local
veterinarian can be invaluable. It is best to establish this relationship BEFORE
an emergency occurs.
Note: A day later I received the following response from
the horse owner:
Thank you for your kind response. All turned out well, my horses are fine. I
definitely am a little jumpy...this is our first winter...but their weight has
been great. I agree with all your advice ...MSM...shelter...blankets...and
appreciate your taking the time to contact me.
I do have a vet, but am not yet real comfortable. That will take time. You'd be
surprised how many people told me a quart and a half was way too much...and on
and on. But the feedback from my tried and true horseman friends agreed with
you. Thanks again.