Tag Archive: Horse

The Nature of the Beast – Understanding Horse Behavior

The Nature of the Beast – Understanding Horse Behavior

By Saundra TenBroeck, Ph.D.
Associate Professor/Extension Horse Specialist
Department of Animal Sciences, University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida

A Florida wild horse at Paynes Prairie State Park. UF/IFAS Photo: Sally Lanigan.

If you examined the horse from a design engineering perspective, you would quickly realize they have been created to live in circumstances very different than most horse owners provide.  Limited ability to interact socially, meals provided on a schedule convenient to the owner, forced exercise with little or no planned conditioning program are but a few of the adaptations modern day horses must routinely make.  Most horses seem to adjust well but in some cases, the horse adapts by developing stable vices.  Horse owners often follow routines robotically without considering the “nature of the beast.”  As we develop management strategies, consideration should be given to the way the horse was designed.

Understanding normal behavior allows us to recognize abnormal behavior which can help us head off disease or dysfunction before it becomes serious. Observation of horses will give you a lot of information about what they are doing, how they are feeling and, often, their intentions. Horses are very expressive with their ears and their tails, much like a cat. Consider what your horse is “telling” you about their emotions like boredom, sadness, pain, sleepy, etc.

Horses are naturally designed to live in small groups, and to eat and move throughout the day and night. These are horses at the University of Florida Horse Teaching Unit. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

What you may call emotions are actually classical behaviors of horses. One key driver of natural behaviors of horses is that the species is designed to live in small groups, and to eat and move throughout the day and night.  Given the opportunity, they will graze more than 60 percent of the day.  Horses pass through three phases of sleep: 1) drowsy (standing at rest), 2) slow wave (sleep of the mind but standing, or lying sternally on their chest), and REM (Rapid Eye Movement during which the horse must lay down as there is no muscle tone). The bouts are relatively short and REM almost always happens at night. Horses do yawn, too

Because of their “nature,” horses can easily become bored. Boredom often is the result of lack of sufficient forage/roughage and insufficient activity. Some horses will develop vices or stereotypes when they are bored, such as wood chewing, weaving, stall or fence walking, wind sucking, etc. There is an old saying, “A horse by himself is in bad company.” Plenty of hay or grass, exercise, and a pasture buddy are the primary “happiness” promoters for horses.

Owners should focus on meeting a horse’s NEEDS. Animal Welfare experts call this the Five Freedoms.

  1. Freedom from hunger or thirst
  2. Freedom from discomfort
  3. Freedom from pain, injury and disease
  4. Freedom to express normal behavior
  5. Freedom from fear and distress

Horses are wired for fight or flight. Put in a scary situation, their natural tendency would be to react. We can “habituate” horses to situations that are not necessarily normal, by training. Horses do well with routine and normalcy. Much of what we think we know about horses is colored by our limited life experience.  If we take the time to truly observe horses in their natural environment, we can begin to understand how horses “budget” their day into various maintenance and social activities.  How much of what we do with and for our horses is what they need and how much is what we think they need?   Are there management strategies that can be used to accommodate the needs of the horse and still allow us to operate within the limitations of our farm settings? Taking time to develop an understanding of classical equine behaviors, equine communication and how the horse senses their environment are a worthy investment.  Armed with this knowledge, horse owners can explore and investigate natural horse behaviors, helping them develop powers of observation that are crucial to becoming better horsemen.

Suggested reading on this topic:





Author: Saundra TenBroeck – sht@ufl.edu

Saundra TenBroeck

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/07/07/the-nature-of-the-beast-understanding-horse-behavior/

4-H Horse Health Clinic Scheduled for June 13th

The Area A 4-H Horse Advisory Committee is pleased to welcome Dr. Bess Darrow, DVM and Mr. Billy Blackman, Professional Farrier to our first Area A 4-H Equine Clinic.  Our focus will be on overall equine health, as well as dental and hoof concerns.  There is no fee for this clinic but you must register on Eventbrite by June 5th. Lunch is provided for current 4-H members.

After the workshop, participants may make appointments and bring their horses to have dental and hoof work done.  *Fees will apply. To make appointments you will need to contact Dr. Darrow or Mr. Blackman personally (see flyer for contact information.)

The Area A Horse Advisory Committee is planning a series of both educational and competitive events for youth enrolled in the 4-H Horse and “Horse-less” Horse Projects this coming 4-H year!  For more information about the Florida 4-H Horse Program, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office or visit one of these links:

Florida 4-H Horse Project Page

Florida 4-H Horse Events (UF IFAS Animal Sciences)


Author: amgranger – amgranger@ufl.edu


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/05/04/4-h-horse-health-clinic-scheduled-for-june-13th/

Anhidrosis: When Your Horse Stops Sweating

Anhidrosis:  When Your Horse Stops Sweating

While one horse is sweating profusely, the pasturemate is almost totally dry. Photo credit: Rebecca TenBroeck

Horses Should Sweat Like a Horse

Unlike cows, pigs and dogs which primarily use respiration to dissipate heat, the primary way horses, and of course humans, stay cool in hot weather is through evaporation of sweat. In environments with high humidity, sweat does not evaporate very well so horses may sweat more, and for a longer period of time than in dry conditions. If the horse is being worked, heat is produced as a by-product of muscle contraction, and must also be compensated for through both respiration and sweating.  Stress and/or pain, will also trigger the sweating mechanism.

A horse that is unable to sweat is in grave danger because they cannot dissipate heat and are at serious risk for heat stroke. The inability to sweat or not sweating in appropriate situations is a condition called ANHIDROSIS.  Florida’s hot, humid climate seems to be a perfect place for this poorly understood disorder to develop. Some believe that overstimulation of the sweating mechanism over time causes the system to shut down.

Factors that may contribute to a horse becoming anhidrotic:

  • Heredity
  • Environment
  • Exercise stress
  • Metabolic issues
Flared nostrils/labored breathing, even at rest. Photo credit: Rebecca TenBroeck

Flared nostrils/labored breathing, even at rest. Photo credit: Rebecca TenBroeck

How can you tell if your horse is anhidrotic?

Do they have a dry coat in warm weather and/or after exercise?  Do they have abnormally labored breathing in warm weather and/or after exercise?  Does your horse become exhausted more quickly than normal or resist work altogether?  Over time, does your horse’s hair coat becomes dull and thin (especially on the face and chest)?


If your horse is showing signs of being anhidrotic, you can pursue a more definitive diagnosis through a “sweat test” conducted by a veterinarian. They can inject a small amount of terbutaline under the skin.  A normal horse will sweat in response, while anhidrotic horses will show little or no response.


If you have a non-sweater, there is no cure. The horse must be managed in a way that prevents heat build-up and/or helps him dissipate heat in the absence of sweat.

  1. Photo by: Laura Patterson

    Photo credit: Laura Patterson

    Move to a cooler climate for a period of time.

  2. Exercise the horse at cooler times of the day or only during cool seasons.
  3. Allow more frequent breaks in exercise and cool the horse out aggressively after work.
  4. Use misters and fans in the horse’s lounging area.
  5. Provide shade and access to a pond if possible.
  6. Turn out at night and leave up in a well ventilated barn in the hottest part of the day.
  7. Some horses respond to supplements like One AC (Miracle Powder Co.)
  8. Acupuncture treatments have helped some anhidrotic horses begin sweating for a time.

Do you have a horse that is Anhidrotic?

Searching for Answers: Dr. Samantha Brooks, and her Ph.D. student Dr. Laura Patterson-Rosa are conducting a study to identify the genetic components contributing to Equine Anhidrosis at the University of Florida.  If you have a an anhidrotic horse, and would be willing to participate in their research project:

Download the project flyer to share with other horse owners who might also be wiling to participate:



Author: Saundra TenBroeck – sht@ufl.edu

Saundra TenBroeck

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/07/15/anhidrosis-when-your-horse-stops-sweating/

Horse Genetics Online Extension Course begins June 27

Equine genetics course headerIntroducing a new Extension Course:  Horse Genetics

Location: 100% Internet based course

Certificate of completion awarded at the conclusion of the course!

Instructor: Dr. Samantha Brooks

Teaching Assistant: Laura Patterson Rosa, DVM

Cost: $ 200.00

Course Description: The art of horse breeding has shaped equine genetics since domestication, yet most horse professionals have little understanding of the fundamentals of genetics. In this six-week, online extension course we will examine the underlying mechanisms and inheritance of a number of traits in the horse. Concepts covered will include coat color, genetic disease, parentage testing and some insights on complex traits of performance and behavior.

Target Audience: Horse breeders, equestrian enthusiasts, people working in the field of Veterinary, Animal Sciences or Biology, horse trainers and equestrian professionals. Anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of the horse genetics field.

Class Dates: June 27 to August 5, 2016

Course Objectives: This short extension course focuses on making recent developments in horse genetics accessible and applicable for the everyday horse person. Although some prior knowledge in basic genetics is helpful, it’s not essential for completing this course. At the conclusion of this course students will have the ability to:

  • Use the principles of inheritance to predict phenotype, based on genotype.
  • Evaluate pedigree records for genetic health as well as marketability.
  • Describe the symptoms and implications of genetic disease in the horse.
  • Understand the complexity of genetic diversity, breeds and registries.
  • Advantageously utilize available genetic tests to plan a breeding program.

This equine genetics course is 100% online, with weekly modules that can be fulfilled according to the student’s personal time schedule. Each week, a new subject in equine genetics will be approached, for a total of SIX modules. In each module, the student will find pages with suggested reading and instructions, two narrated slideshows, comprehension tests and activities. The subjects covered in this course will include basic Mendelian genetics, equine genome, coat color and patterns of white, parentage testing, genetic diseases, gait and other subjects of common interest.

Register for the Equine Genetics Course:

UF Horse Genetics Course Registration

Print and share the course flyer with others who might be interested:

Horse Genetics Course Flyer

Instructor Background:  Dr. Samantha Brooks

Samantha BrooksA lifelong horse woman, Dr. Samantha Brooks was diverted from vet school by a budding passion for equine research. Following a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Biotechnology, Dr. Brooks remained at the University of Kentucky to study at the Gluck Equine Research Center. While there she earned her PhD in Veterinary Science, specializing in Equine Genetics under the mentorship of Dr. Ernest Bailey. Following her PhD she was awarded the Paul Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship to study the expression of inflammatory genes in horses affected with laminitis. At Cornell University she was responsible for the Equine Biology and Management course for six years. Her research program explores a variety of topics relevant to horse health ranging from gene expression studies to mapping of genetic disorders in the horse. Previously her research group discovered genetic mutations and markers for coat colors, height, sarcoid tumors and two neurological conditions.  Ongoing work targets variation in gait, susceptibility to infectious disease, metabolic syndrome and skeletal defects using genome wide association, genome re-sequencing and transcriptomics.



Author: Jennifer Bearden – bearden@ufl.edu

Agriculture Agent Okaloosa County

Jennifer Bearden

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/06/18/horse-genetics-online-extension-course-begins-june-27/

Horse Owners Urged to Vaccinate against Eastern Equine Encephalitis

Horse Owners Urged to Vaccinate against Eastern Equine Encephalitis

Horses at the University of Florida Horse Teaching Unit. Horse, domesticated Equines, hoofed mammals UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

Mature horses should receive an EEE booster vaccine every spring and fall.  Photo by Tyler Jones.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is a disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes. EEE most often infects horses but can also infect humans.  There is no vaccine for humans and approximately 1/3 of those infected die of the disease. The majority of those who survive, suffer brain damage.  The mortality rate in horses is 70-90%, with most cases succumbing or being euthanized due to disease severity.  Fortunately for horses, there are vaccines available to help protect against infection.

Dr. Amanda House, University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine Clinical Associate Professor, advises, “It is critical that every horse in Florida be vaccinated for EEE at least twice a year.  Horses under 4 years of age, or those new to the state should be vaccinated three times a year.  EEE is a deadly disease that vaccination can help reduce or eliminate.”

Mosquito control on the farm is also critical for decreasing the incidence of disease in both animals and humans. Dr. Carissa Wickens, University of Florida State Extension Horse Specialist, has this to say about mosquito control, “Management strategies that can help reduce exposure of horses to mosquitoes include: eliminating standing water around barns, paddocks, and pastures (e.g. cleaning water troughs regularly, emptying plastic wading pools, etc.) as removing standing water reduces mosquito breeding sites, housing horses indoors during peak mosquito activity (dusk to dawn), placing fans in the barn, and keeping barn lights turned off during the evening and overnight hours.”

Both horses and humans are “dead end” hosts, meaning the disease is not transmitted from an infected horse or human to another horse or human. Instead, birds serve as the main vector of the virus.  A mosquito feeds on an infected bird and then feeds on a human or horse to transmit the disease.  Mosquitoes also transmit other diseases such as West Nile Virus (WNV).  This virus is similar to EEE, but has a lower mortality rate (approximately 33% in horses).  A vaccine is also available to protect horses against WNV and should be administered once or twice per year in Florida.

Two additional core vaccines for horses are tetanus, which are often combined with the EEE vaccine, and rabies. Performance horses should also be vaccinated against influenza and equine herpesvirus.  A good rule of thumb is to vaccinate for EEE, tetanus, WNV, and rabies in the spring, and to re-vaccinate for EEE and WNV in the early fall, for most adult horses.  It is recommended that you consult your veterinarian to design a vaccination schedule that best suits your situation.

For more information on EEE, go to the UF/IFAS publication entitled:

Eastern Equine Encephalitis



Author: Jennifer Bearden – bearden@ufl.edu

Agriculture Agent Okaloosa County

Jennifer Bearden

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/04/23/horse-owners-urged-to-vaccinate-against-eastern-equine-encephalitis/

East Meets West: Alternative Horse Therapy

This stallion at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences horse teaching unit in Gainesville, gets an acupuncture treatment from Fluisheng Xie, Wednesday (9/25). Xie, of Beijing, China, and a Ph.D. candidate at UF/IFAS's animal sciences department, brings an eastern medical treatment to a western patient. "The treatments relieve muscular tension and relax stiff joints which can cause severe discomfort to a horse," Xie said.

This stallion at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences horse teaching unit in Gainesville, gets an acupuncture treatment from Dr. Fluisheng Xie. “The treatments relieve muscular tension and relax stiff joints which can cause severe discomfort to a horse,” Dr. Xie said.

Since we call western medicine “conventional” medicine, it follows that Complementary and Alternative Medicine would be considered unconventional medicine. In recent years, more and more doctors and veterinarians are embracing alternative therapies as an adjunct to traditional treatment modalities. Though adoption has been gradual, as more practitioners and clients experience positive outcomes, they become advocates, even promoters. With increased interest and case loads, opportunities for research arise which, in turn, bring greater understanding and acceptance of the applications of various therapies.

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) is based on the idea that the individual parts of the animal work in concert, and healing is best accomplished when the whole body system is brought into balance. Both eastern and western medicine rely on medical history and examination for diagnosis. While western practitioners may recommend surgery and pharmaceuticals, the TCVM practitioner may recommend acupuncture, herbs, or management changes. Ultimately, both eastern and western medicine have as their goals; promoting animal health and preventing disease.

The most widely known alternative therapy is acupuncture. In acupuncture, specific points on the body called acupoints are stimulated resulting in endorphin release, increased blood flow, improved immune function and blood pressure regulation. Stimulation of acupoints may be accomplished with tiny needles, pressure, low level electricity, warmth, laser, fluid, or air. Veterinary acupuncture is most commonly used for pain management, geriatric medicine, and sports medicine. A lesser known value of acupoints is their use in diagnostics. In the hands of a certified veterinarian, acupuncture can provide horses with chronic conditions much improved quality of life.

Herbal medicine is an integral component of TCVM, often used in conjunction with acupuncture. Most herb blends are developed for the specific needs of the individual based on the properties of the plants and actions in the body. Herbal medicine utilizes the whole plant or defined portions of a plant compared to a single, isolated active ingredient as in western pharmacology. There are risks associated with inappropriate use of herbs so erring on the side of caution and seeking expert advice is warranted.

Chiropractic care involves manipulations of joints of the spine to treat biomechanically related musculoskeletal disorders. It is particularly helpful as an adjunct treatment for lameness and is intended to correct vertebral alignment and restore full nervous function so the animal can heal.

Massage therapy for horses is similar to massage in humans. The therapist is not providing a diagnosis but rather providing relief of muscle tension and spasms. Massage therapy can improve muscle tone, increase range of motion, relieve pain and increase circulation for more rapid healing of injuries.

Tui-Na is a manual therapy that combines chiropractic and massage to prevent and treat disease. Manipulations applied to acu-points and meridians or limb-stretching movements are employed to soothe joints, promote circulation and strengthen the body’s resistance. These techniques are particularly effective in treatment of musculoskeletal conditions.

Energy medicine is based on the concept that life relies on energy and disease occurs when there is an imbalance of a bio-energetic field. Some types of energy used therapeutically are electric, magnetic, sonic, acoustic, microwave, and infrared.

Environmental medicine advocates improvement in the environmental conditions that are contributing to disease. Factors may include mold, dust, chemicals and certain foods. Heaves is a prime example of a disease in which environmental modifications might bring relief.

Nutrition and diet are another major component of holistic medicine (treating the whole animal rather that the disease). Classical nutritional requirements are based on the average of a whole population, not the individual. Additionally, certain types of feeds can serve to promote wellness and provide adjunct therapy for other forms of treatment. Nutraceuticals are nutritional supplements used as therapeutic agents.

Homeopathy is based on the concept of like heals like. Homeopathic remedies are extreme dilutions of substances that are known to cause disease symptoms. Conceptually, dilutions of these substances promote healing. Little research has been done in horses treated with homeopathy.

Alternative therapies are not intended to replace conventional medicine for diagnosis and treatment of acute conditions.  The use of eastern medicine in concert with western medicine, however, enhances quality of life and provides a more whole-animal approach to health and well-being. Alternative and complementary medicine is becoming an integral part of veterinary training and is requested by an increasing number of horse owners.



Author: Saundra TenBroeck – sht@ufl.edu

Saundra TenBroeck

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/03/05/east-meets-west-alternative-horse-therapy/

Preparation for Horse Training Begins in the Mouth

Equine Dentist

Hiring an experienced professional to perform routine dentistry prior to the bitting process may be one of your best training techniques. Adam Johnson, Equine Dental Care demonstrated how professionals care for teeth at the Horse Expo held in Marianna. Photo credit: Doug Mayo

Lame in the mouth

Head bob is a widely recognized indicator of lameness as a horse will lift the head in order to shift weight off a lame foreleg as it strikes the ground. A horse with a loose tooth or retained cap may show a similar behavior, raising the head in rhythm while jogging in response to pain elicited from a tooth being jarred. Though most observers would agree that the head bobbing horse is lame, few would consider that the horse might actually be lame in the mouth.

Resistance may be pain response

Similarly, when bitting a horse, excessive head tossing is often interpreted as the horse being unwilling to accept the bit. Consider, however, that the time frame when the horse is shedding baby teeth (deciduous) and permanent teeth are erupting coincides with the time we are placing a bit in the horse’s mouth, and asking the horse to submit to pressure. Head tossing might be explained as a pain response to bit pressure applied over a small, sharp tooth just below the surface of the gum.

Significance of eruption patterns

It is helpful to understand eruption patterns of consequence to the young horse going into training. Horses have both temporary and permanent incisors (6 pairs top and bottom, front) and premolars (3 on each side top and bottom, cheek). Deciduous incisors erupt around 6 days (centers), 6 weeks (intermediate), and 6 months (corners) and are successively shed around 2 ½, 3 ½, and 4 ½ years old, starting with the centers and moving outward to the corners. Premolars come in by 2 weeks of age and are replaced front to rear between 2 and 4 years of age. Molars (3 rear cheek teeth on each side, top and bottom) occur only in the permanent form and erupt at 1, 2 and 3 ½ to 4 years of age front to rear.

Baby teeth are pushed out by the erupting permanent teeth. Some baby teeth are slow to fall out and are referred to as retained caps. It is not uncommon to see lumps develop on the lower jaw of 3 year olds because pressure from retained premolar caps causes bone remodeling. When the caps are lost and the permanent tooth breaks through the gum, the lumps typically go away. A retained but loose cap can cause significant irritation to the surrounding gum which can be exaggerated as the horse is asked to work. In addition, inflamed gums can lead to secondary sinus inflammation that could be mistaken for an infectious respiratory disease. Like small children cutting teeth, a young horse with teeth erupting may simply not feel well.

Another concern is wolf teeth, which are technically the first premolars. Wolf teeth are typically quite small, occurring on the upper jaw of some horses and more rarely on the lower jaw between 6 months and 3 years of age. Wolf teeth can cause a number of problems for the horse that is beginning to carry a bit.

What should be done?

Before putting a horse into training, it is wise to prepare the mouth with some fundamental dentistry practices. If the horse has wolf teeth, they should be extracted. This is a fairly simple process in young horses, even if the tooth is still below the gum. After removing the wolf teeth, a “bit seat” should be created on the front edge of the first cheek teeth. A bit seat is simply a rounding or contouring of the edge of the tooth to prevent pinching of the cheek or tongue by the bit. Retained caps should be taken off so that the permanent teeth can come in unimpeded. Because the upper jaw is wider than the lower jaw, sharp edges often develop on the outer edge of upper teeth and the inner edge of lower teeth. These should be filed so that they do not cut the tongue or cheeks and so the horse can chew more efficiently. Filing the teeth is referred to as floating, because the traditional hand tool used is called a float. Horses that receive dental care early on are much less likely to develop dental problems like wave mouth later in life. The equine dentist is much like a skilled farrier who balances a horse’s foot, allowing for more even weight distribution and wear.

Who can do the work?

Some confusion exists over who is allowed to perform dentistry. Because human dentistry requires a professional degree, many would assume equine dentistry would require the same. Though equine dental schools do exist, they differ from human dental schools in that they are trade schools, not professional schools. Certainly dentistry is taught in the curriculum of veterinary schools but the broad scope of veterinary training does not afford students time to perfect the skills necessary to be proficient right out of school. Most veterinarians who specialize in dentistry seek additional training in certification programs or intern with veterinarians who specialize.

There are people who perform basic dentistry practices called Lay Dentists. They are not licensed veterinarians so they cannot sedate horses, use controlled substances nor diagnose diseases and/or prescribe antibiotics. Some work under the direct supervision of veterinarians and some work as independent contractors.

In understanding what is legal, it is good to look at current Florida Statutes. The Veterinary Practices Act provides some clarity:

474.202 Definitions

(13) “Veterinary medicine” includes, with respect to animals, surgery, acupuncture, obstetrics, dentistry, physical therapy, radiology, theriogenology, and other branches or specialties of veterinary medicine.

474.203. Exemptions

(b) A person hired on a part-time or temporary basis, or as an independent contractor, by an owner to assist with herd management and animal husbandry tasks for herd and flock animals, including castration, dehorning, parasite control, and debeaking, or a person hired on a part-time or temporary basis, or as an independent contractor, by an owner to provide farriery and manual hand floating of teeth on equines.

Services available

Historically, the floating of teeth was done exclusively with hand tools, many of which were fabricated by the dentist himself. Using hand tools is extremely physically demanding and time consuming. Excellent horsemanship skills, strength and stamina as well as being ambidextrous are hallmarks of the person using hand tools. Most veterinarians were happy to have lay dentists perform routine dental care, when hand tools were the only option. Today, with the advent of power tools, more veterinarians are working in this specialty field. In order to use power tools, the horse must be sedated and fitted with a mouth speculum so the dentist can view the teeth and file with an electric dremel. On the positive side, the process is more rapid and the mouth is easier to view. On the negative side, sedation is required, heat generation from the tool could damage the pulp of the tooth and over- zealous practitioners could take off more tooth than necessary.

Bottom Line

For the young horse, performing routine dentistry prior to the bitting process may be one of your best training techniques. Hiring an experienced professional is crucial. As in so many aspects of the business world, let the buyer beware. Price and value are not synonymous. The lowest price may not be the best value and the highest price does not assure the best quality.



Author: Saundra TenBroeck – sht@ufl.edu

Saundra TenBroeck

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/10/17/preparation-for-horse-training-begins-in-the-mouth/

To Breed or Not to Breed? Each Decision Affects an Increasing Horse Population

Horses at the University of Florida Horse Teaching Unit. Horse, domesticated Equines, hoofed mammals UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

Horses at the University of Florida Horse Teaching Unit.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

Saundra TenBroeck, Department of Animal Sciences, University of Florida

One of the indices of the health of the horse industry has been foal registration data. When we study trends over the last 30 years we see a classic “Economics 101” Supply and Demand curve. Some of the supply-demand inclines and declines can be attributed to the repeal of favorable equine tax laws in 1980, increased fuel prices in 1981 and 2007, lower fuel prices in 1988, 1994 and 1998, high stock market prices in the late 90’s to 2007 and the closing of US slaughter plants in 2007. Other factors affecting supply and demand might include on-line wagering and casino gambling’s effects on pari-mutuel wagering, changes in breeders’ fees and incentive funds, registration rule changes allowing embryo transfer, cooled and frozen semen, and repeal of the white rule for quarter horses. Few would fail to recognize that the US economic downturn that began in 2008 caused more than a little consternation for the horse industry.

Still, to some extent, a healthy horse industry begins with the breeder. Stallions have been bred to mares for centuries but in recent decades, enhanced reproductive technologies have given breeders more options as well as access to genetics not previously available to them with live cover. Artificial insemination through fresh/extended, shipped cooled (AQHA approved in 1997), or frozen allows stallions to be marketed to more mares in a given season, and mares to be bred without having to travel. Embryo transfer allows mare owners to register more than one foal per year per mare and/or allow a mare to continue to compete while producing an offspring, though the cost for most mare owners is prohibitive. Gamete Inter Fallopian Tube Transfer (GIFT) is a process where eggs are aspirated from follicles of donor mares, placed in a recipient mare’s oviduct and the recipient mare is inseminated. Again, expensive but makes pregnancy from an infertile mare possible. When counting the cost for these “enhancements,” you generally have lower pregnancy rates while requiring more expertise, more intensive management and more dollars to produce a foal. Breeding decisions should be made after a full analysis of the economics, your production goals and your marketing options.

As we consider economic trends and their effects on choices we make regarding breeding, we have to also consider ramifications to the overall horse population. One of the biggest challenges facing our horse industry today is the growing numbers of unwanted horses. Simply put, there are more horses than people who want them. There has never been a time when breeding for mediocrity with no marketing plan for the foal was a good idea. Today more than ever, breeders must carefully examine their production goals and strive to breed responsibly.

Though well-intentioned, the efforts of many animal activists to force the closing of horse processing facilities resulted in many negative consequences for the horse industry. The base market price for sale horses was eliminated. The inability to market a horse that was unsuitable, or not serviceable for salvage value coupled with the high cost of veterinary euthanasia and carcass disposal were contributing factors in many horses being abandoned and/or neglected. With no market for unusable horses, those that choose to keep the horses in retirement cannot afford a younger replacement, thereby increasing the surplus of horses and driving sale prices down even more. Similarly, with so many horses available, adoption of Bureau of land Management (BLM) horses has also seen a sharp decline. Since wild horses are protected and they have no natural predators, herd size can double every four years. When adoption rate does not meet the rate at which the animals are removed from the plains to protect the environment, they must go to holding corrals and pastures. As of July 2015, nearly 47,000 wild horses and burros were in holding, costing the BLM 43.235 million of their 77.245 million dollar budget.

Wherever you fall on the ethical debates surrounding the fate of unwanted horses, as a horse breeder/owner you must consider both ends of the continuum. End of life issues are as important to consider as the breeding options. Horses live a long time (20 – 30 years). The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) estimates the annual cost of horse ownership to be $ 1895 – $ 5000. A tough economy, shrinking markets, horse owners with limited skills, knowledge and resources, rescue/retirement facilities maxed out, these are contributing factors to the growing number of unwanted horses and the real possibility of abandonment or neglect. Before breeding consider: can I buy one cheaper than I can raise one? If I produce a foal and can’t sell it, can I keep it? Make informed decisions and be a thoughtful breeder.

Free to Roam? The Mustang Debate



Author: Saundra TenBroeck – sht@ufl.edu

Saundra TenBroeck

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/10/02/to-breed-or-not-to-breed-each-decision-affects-an-increasing-horse-population/

Horse Volunteers with Heart

4-H horse volunteers are dedicated to helping youth learn lifelong leadership and horsemanship skills.



Last year, more than 4,000 youth participated in the Florida 4-H Horse Project. These youth would have never had the opportunity to learn horsemanship and leadership skills without horse project volunteers. Project leaders not only work with 4-H clubs, they often serve on committees to help plan and implement shows and other horse related events. In the Florida panhandle, twenty-three volunteers comprise the Area A 4-H Horse Advisory Committee. These volunteers plan and execute our district qualifying show (coming up this weekend in Marianna) as well as assist with the state horse show in Tampa. They also plan other horse project related events such as horse judging, showmanship clinics, nutrition seminars, 4-H Hippology and Horse Quiz Bowl.

“The Area A Horse Committee Volunteers are some of the most dedicated volunteers I have ever met,” shares Heather Kent, the regional 4-H agent.  “Many of them have witnessed first-hand the potential of the 4-H horse program to help youth learn lifelong leadership and communication skills and they share a legacy of caring and compassion that influences every youth they work with.”

Terry Stout is one of those volunteers.  Terry states, “I grew up in 4-H and FFA and when my daughters were old enough, they joined the Eglin Riding Stables 4-H Club to learn how to groom and care for their horses.  4-H was a large influence on them and now that they are alumni, they give back by teaching and helping the next generation of horse kids.  I have learned a lot as a volunteer, and I am involved on many advisory boards because I know I can help most by being a voice for youth and other volunteers.”

4-H volunteers plan and implement educational events at the club, county, district and even state levels.

4-H volunteers plan and implement educational events at the club, county, district and even state levels. Escambia County 4-H Photo

Anne Peterson, a 4-H volunteer from Escambia County, says “I became involved with 4-H when my daughter was 10 years old.  I have always wanted to protect our youth and see that they receive the best instruction possible for their horse project.  In order to see this happen, I became involved in the local, area, and state horse program.  Today I still see the need for volunteers to continue making the best better and as long as there is a need I want to help any way I can.”  Anne was inducted to the Florida 4-H Hall of Fame in 2013 for her service as a volunteer.

Barry Hoffman, a Leon County volunteer, got involved in 1997 with the Trailblazers 4-H Club.  Seeing a need for funds to help youth attend 4-H horse camp, Barry led a committee to organize a Horse Expo at the North Florida Fairgrounds to teach others about riding techniques, horse management, tack sales, and more.  “Barry is always available to help with whatever is needed- which has even included helping me when by car broke down on the interstate on the way to a horse committee meeting.  He continues to serve at the district level eleven years after his youngest son graduated from 4-H.  Barry plays a major role in both the area and state horse shows, and is an incredibly valuable resource for us,” says Marcus Boston, the Leon County 4-H Agent.

Jean McMillian, a Gulf County volunteer, has been involved for more than 40 years.  Roy Carter, the Gulf County Extension Director says, “Mrs. McMullian has led three generations of 4-H youth through the 4-H horse program.  Her club, the Big River Riders 4-H Club, holds the county record for the longest running 4-H club and she is one of the strongest leaders we have ever had the pleasure to work with.  She has been the backbone of our horse program and is always willing to help in any capacity.”  Her son Russell is continuing the family tradition by being involved as the co-chair for the speed events for the area qualifying show.

Terry Harris has volunteered in both Jackson and Gadsden counties since the early 90’s, helping hundreds of youth with their horse projects.  Angel Granger, the Jackson County 4-H Agent shares, “Even though his nephews are grown now, Terry continues to work tirelessly with 4-H and is a wonderful advocate for the program.  We are very fortunate to have someone like him working at both the club level and serving as a member of the 4-H Area A Horse Advisory Committee.”

Lucy Notestine has been a volunteer for the last 8 years, and currently serves as the Area A Horse Advisory President. She, her daughter Shane Kenny and Dara Strickland raise over $ 2,000.00 each year to provide incentive awards for area horse show participants.  Their 4-H Agent, Dr. Paula Davis says, “They realize that many youth are too young to advance to the state show therefore they work really hard to make the Area A Show a special event to encourage further participation and help the program grow.”

These stories have one very important thing in common- each of these volunteers has a heart for helping young people succeed.  If you have a similar passion, consider becoming a 4-H volunteer.  To find out how, contact your local Extension Office or visit  http://florida4h.org/volunteers.  If you are a parent or volunteer new to the 4-H Horse Project, Angel Granger,y, has developed a  handy checklist to help you prepare for your next show. You can download the checklist and keep it in your show box or horse trailer so that you are always prepared to do your very best. If you laminate the list, you can use a dry-erase marker to check items off each time you pack your trailer.

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Author: Heather Kent – hckent@ufl.edu

Heather Kent is the Regional Specialized 4-H Agent in the Northwest Extension District.

Heather Kent

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/04/15/horse-volunteers-with-heart/

Make Sure EEE and WNV Horse Vaccinations are Up to Date

FloridaMosquitoAdvisoryMap Aug 2013With all of the rain Florida has received the last two months, the mosquito population has increased dramatically.  Mosquitoes are the vector or carrier for viruses that can be transmitted from wild birds to humans and horses.  Through August there have not been any cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) or West Nile Virus (WNV) reported in horses in the Panhandle.  The Florida Department of Health has sentinel chickens it uses to survey for the disease and tracks reported cases of human and horse disease.

Twenty-eight positive equine for Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus and two equine positive for West Nile virus have been reported for 2013. Sixty-five sentinel chickens tested positive for antibodies to West Nile virus, one hundred-twenty four to Eastern Equine Encephalitis and two to St. Louis Encephalitis virus in 2013.
Florida Department of Health

Horse & mosquitoFrom the map above you can see that these diseases are present in the Panhandle.  Horses in peninsular Florida have contracted these disease this year.  Make sure your horses are current on their EEE and WNV vaccinations.  If it has been more than six months since they received a EEE shot, or more than a year since the last WNV shot, then it is time for a booster.  These viral diseases affect the nervous system of horses, and in many cases, infected horses die or must be euthanized.

Even though summer is winding down, the mosquitoes are still buzzing and these viral diseases are present in our area.  These viral diseases are preventable, as long as we booster frequently enough to continuously stimulate the immune system against them.  Horses don’t have a choice, they must live in the same environment as the mosquitoes.  There are no human vaccines, so we must use common sense and repellents and do our best to minimize exposure to mosquito bites that might carry diseases.



Author: Doug Mayo – demayo@ufl.edu

Jackson County Extension Director, & Livestock & Forages Agent

My true expertise is with beef cattle and pasture management, but I can assist with information on other livestock species, as well as recreational fish ponds.

Doug Mayo

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/09/13/make-sure-eee-and-wnv-horse-vaccinations-are-up-to-date/

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