Monday, August 10, 2009

Horse health

One point first prior to getting to the real meat and potatoes of this post:

I recently learned that electric prod use on the Thoroughbreds at our local (A and B rated) Alberta tracks is common - not even simply a rare event. I did not realise it had such a high incidence. I have no idea how I missed it as a pony rider, but to be truthful, there is so much that goes on at the track and that is carried out in clandestine fashion, that it would take a lifetime to learn of all of it. I just wanted to point out yet another abuse of horses in the horse industry - it is literally everywhere, sad as it is to say.

So, back to the topic, courtesy of Cathy of FHOTD once again (sorry, just she keeps providing me so much fodder).

To her credit, her post today did feature horses who were clearly, for the most part, skinny and in need of some good feed. I have to admit though that I wish Cathy would simply feature horses and use them as an example for an informative post, rather than featuring ads, bashing the sellers, and then allowing her readers, even inadvertently encouraging them to, contact the sellers. I contacted one such seller featured one day (to encourage them in the face of the incoming pile of snarky and harsh emails I was sure would come - and did) to find a very knowledgeable, intelligent, and caring horseperson! As I have said before, there is always two sides to a story. But, back to the topic at hand, Cathy seems to feature a lot of horses she claims too skinny when they are in fact within a healthy weight. I think perhaps I may have finally gotten down to why she - and so many others - do/does so. The following are a few lines that Cathy posted (in purple):

I know a lot of people who are happy as soon as a horse is fat, but a round butt alone doesn't mean perfect health.

Your horse might be hog fat and shiny, but if his feet look like this, he's not healthy.

Since when is "hog fat" healthy for a horse??!! It seems there is a growing trend to keep our dogs, our horses, our cats, ourselves even, fat. Whenever I bring our pup in to the vet each year for her checkups, the techs and vets always nearly lose their marbles in excitement. All I hear for the entire short stay is how healthy our dog looks and how they rarely see dogs so fit. Yet I garnish complaints from passerby's out walking that she's too thin. My goodness, have people lost all concept of what a fit animal looks like?? Please refer to a body condition scoring system to check out what your horse/animal should look like. For humans, we've got our BMI's. The following are two examples of fit horses. The first is of our OTTB Link's Secret - at the time in a stall at the track. He'd been on the track a number of months by that point and was at a pretty fit weight - race weight. The latter photo is of our Quarab Silver - the photo was taken after he had spent a month working on the track.

"Hog fat" leads to conditions such as Insulin Resistance - Diabetes, or Cushing's Syndrome. And for the record, the two conditions are not the same, as Cathy seems to imply in her blog. Here are two sites to get you up-to-date on the info:

Cushing's Syndrome - Recovery Eq

Your Horse and Diabetes -

From the latter site:
Not all horses with Cushing’s disease are insulin resistant, at least initially, but that condition does put them at high risk.

Neither condition are something you want to deal with.

Keeping our horses healthy is not about keeping them fat, it is about keeping them at as healthy a weight as possible. Most beneficial to a horse is not only to be at a healthy weight, but to be muscled accordingly as well (such as the two above photos). This only comes through use and conditioning (or through large pastures - though this only works for horses who will naturally roam a lot). These animals are here because of us, so we owe it to them to at least keep them as healthy as we possibly can.

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