Tag Archive: horses

4-H Alumnae Reconnect through Love of Horses

Russell and Julie McMillian, Gulf County 4-H Alumnae and 4-H Leaders

Russell and Julie McMillian both grew up in Gulf County and together have established a thriving business based on their love of horses.  They now own a small farm in Dalkeith, just south of Wewahitchka, and their business Rockin’ M Ranch, consists of horseback riding lessons for beginners and beach rides for tourists and locals alike along the beautiful beaches of Cape San Blas.

How did this all begin?  Russell and Julie both grew up as Gulf County 4-H members of the Big River Riders 4-H Club.  They both participated in a variety of 4-H programs; including Horse Camp, Camp Timpoochee, Congress (now known as 4-H University), District Events, North Florida Fair Ag Judging, Area A and State 4-H Horse Shows, etc.  They both learned the values of 4-H through learning how to raise and compete with their animals, agricultural commodities, leadership skills, public speaking, community service, good decision making skills, and much more…

As adults, they both went in separate directions, but still maintained their love of horses and the farm life.  Russell began his career in flooring and tile work, while Julie received her education degree and taught Kindergarten at Wewahitchka Elementary School.  After reconnecting as adults, they married on September 25, 2010 and turned their passion for horses into a full-time love by creating their own business, Rockin’ M Ranch.  Russell still does flooring, tile work on the side, and helps his grandparents with their hay business.  Julie decided to leave the teaching field, and she manages their business full time.  She began giving beach rides on the Cape at the age of 14 and still loves it as much today.

Julie and Russell McMillian pictured with daughers, Brooke (left) and Hayleigh

Russell began his time with 4-H at the age of 12 and Julie was 8 years old.  As members of the Big River Riders 4-H Club, they adored their 4-H leaders, Mr. Jesse Eubanks and Ms. Jean McMillian (Russell’s grandmother), and the Gulf County Extension Director, Roy L. Carter (now retired), whose passion for horses was contagious.  Julie explained that she was a very shy child and that participating in public speaking for District Events really helped her come out of her shell.  They both loved learning the values of the four H’s: Head, Heart, Hands, and Health.  They feel 4-H has helped them develop into productive adults with good decision-making skills and in-stilled in them the importance of giving back to their community.  They have served as 4-H volunteers for the Big River Rider’s 4-H Club since Russell’s daughters joined 4-H years ago.  Their daughters, Brooke (17) and Hayleigh (15) also ride horses and have competed in a variety of Gulf County 4-H programs throughout the years. Russell and Julie have also taught a variety of horse riding classes at multiple Gulf County 4-H day camps.

As 4-H and community leaders, their most important goal is to give back to the community that gave to them as 4-Hers growing up here. They really love introducing new riders to the love of horses and 4-H.  On any day, Russell and Julie can be found throughout the county at various events supporting their daughters, 4-H members and any youth for that matter.

When asked what advice she has for someone thinking about becoming a 4-H volunteer she said, “Do not have regrets…just do it. Do not be scared off by the fingerprinting and application process.  It is quick and easy, and maintains the safety for you and the children.  Get started! 4-H is a great opportunity for youth and adults.”

“As a 4-H extension agent, you can only hope to find 4-H volunteers as dedicated as Russell and Julie McMillian.  Their passion and love of 4-H is infectious and draws in youth looking for a place to belong.”  -Melanie Taylor, Gulf County 4-H Agent

For more information about Rockin’ M Ranch, please go to http://www.therockinmranch.com/.  For more information about how to become involved in 4-H, either as a youth member or adult volunteer, visit florida4h.org or contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office.  4-H offers a variety of roles for volunteers to share their passions, skills and interests.



Author: Melanie Taylor – metaylor@ufl.edu

Melanie Taylor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/04/24/4-h-alumnae-reconnect-through-love-of-horses/

Are Flies Bugging your Horses?

Are Flies Bugging your Horses?

There are many external parasites that effect horses. Some are just annoying but some transmit deadly diseases.  The world’s deadliest creature is also a menace to horses.  These creatures transmit Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis, Western Equine Encephalomyelitis, Venezuelan Equine Encephalomyelitis and West Nile viruses.  This deadly creature is the mosquito.  Our best defense against these deadly diseases is vaccination.  The most effective mosquito control measure is reducing breeding sites (standing water).  Clean water troughs, buckets, or other structures that hold water regularly, since mosquitoes will lay eggs in shallow, standing waters.  Mosquito control sprays can help to reduce populations, but must be reapplied frequently.

Horse fly feeding. Photo by Jennifer Bearden.

Horse fly feeding. Photo by Jennifer Bearden.

There are many biting flies that can also transmit diseases such as anthrax, equine infectious anemia, and anaplasmosis. Horse, deer, and stable flies are vicious biters and strong flyers.  Like mosquitoes, horse and deer fly females are the biters, while both stable fly sexes bite.  The use of repellents can be effective for decreasing bites on horses but should be applied daily.

Another annoying pest are biting midges, also called “no-see-ums.” These pests cause horses to lose their hair where they are bit.  Often this is on the neck, head, tail, and belly.  There are no effective control measures for these pests.  No-see-ums are most active at dusk and dawn, and prefer to be active in calm winds.  An effective strategy for horse owners is to stable horses before dusk until after dawn.

There are non-biting flies that cause problems as well. These include house flies, eye gnats and blow flies.  House flies can transmit diseases and internal parasites.  Control includes removing manure from the stable area and applying larvicide to the manure.  Also, space sprays are effective, but must be reapplied frequently.  Eye gnats are annoying and cannot be effectively controlled.  Blow flies are problematic for open wounds, so control focuses on proper wound care and disposal of soiled wound dressing.

Another fly that buzzes around your horse is the bot fly. This fly is both an external and internal parasite.  The adult bot fly lays its eggs on the hairs of the horse.  The egg hatches and the larvae enters the horse when the horse licks or chews the area where the eggs are attached to hairs.  The larvae burrows into the lining of the mouth and lives there for 3-4 weeks.  It then migrates to the stomach and intestine where it remains until the next summer.  It then is passed in the manure and burrows into the soil.  In 1-2 months, the adult fly emerges and begins immediately laying eggs.  Control of this pest involves breaking the life cycle.  Use a warm water wash (110-120°F) with an insecticide to remove bot eggs.  The warm water signals the bot egg to hatch and the larvae is killed when it contacts the insecticide.  Only use insecticides that are labeled for external treatment of horses.  Treatments should be applied weekly during August and September.  Also, dewormers containing ivermectin and moxidectin are effective against internal bot larvae.

Controlling external parasites on horses can be a challenge but is important. They transmit diseases and internal parasites.  They can also make horses sick or weak due to blood loss.  They can cause horses to lose weight and hair due to irritation from the flies.  The use of repellents applied daily to your horse is helpful against horse, deer and stable flies.  Proper manure management and the use of a larvicide will reduce house fly populations.  Breaking the bot fly life cycle will help control this external and internal parasite.

Use the following links for more information on external parasites:

External Parasites on Horses

External Parasites around Animal Facilities



Author: Jennifer Bearden – bearden@ufl.edu

Agriculture Agent Okaloosa County

Jennifer Bearden

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/07/01/are-flies-bugging-your-horses/

Monensin Toxicity in Horses: What to Look For

dressage horseSeveral cases of monensin toxicity in horses have been reported in the Southeastern U.S. over that last few months.  Monensin is an ionophore antibiotic that is commonly added to livestock feeds such as poultry and cattle feeds.  This is a safe feed additive for ruminants and poultry, but horses are very sensitive to monensin.  Sometimes this additive can accidentally get mixed into equine feeds and the results can be deadly.  A lethal dose for horses is only about 1 gram for an average size horse.

Symptoms of monensin toxicity include poor appetite, colic, diarrhea, intermittent sweating, stiffness, and muscle weakness that progress to an abnormal gait.  Horses affected will also have increased heart and respiratory rates, low blood pressure, and increased urination.  Horses that ingest large amounts at one time can die within a few hours of eating contaminated feeds.  Monensin toxicity can cause damage to the heart that most often is permanent.

If you notice these symptoms in your horses, contact your local veterinarian immediately.  Suspected feed sources should be immediately removed,  and a sample collected to be sent to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Diagnostic Testing Lab for analysis.  Positive diagnosis is only possible through feed analysis or post-mortem examination.  There is no specific antidote for monensin toxicity, so prevention is key.

For more information about Monensin Toxicity, refer to Monensin and Lasalocid Toxicity in Horses by Dr. Amanda House, University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine.



Author: Jennifer Bearden – bearden@ufl.edu

Agriculture Agent Okaloosa County

Jennifer Bearden

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/02/07/monensin-toxicity-in-horses-what-to-look-for/

Are your horses immunized against EEE & WNV?

Almost every summer in Florida, horses die due to diseases spread by mosquitos.  Eastern equine encephalomyelitis (EEE) takes the lives of several horses in the Panhandle each year.  West Nile Virus (WNV) is also a concern, but is not as common as EEE.   Both can be prevented with vaccination, but if you have not already, it is time for a booster vaccine.  Both EEE and WNV affect the nervous systems of horses.

As you can see in the following graph, we are headed into the time of year when the most cases are reported in Florida.  The blue curve is the average number of cases reported by month over the past seven years.  Three cases of EEE have already been reported in North Central Florida horses this year, and both diseases have been confirmed in sentinel chickens around the state this year.

Recommended Vaccinations for Adult Horses in Florida
Eastern & Western Equine Encephalitis 2-3 times per year
West Nile Virus Once annually
Rabbies Once annually
Tetanus Once annually
Equine Influenza 2-4 times per year
Equine herpesvirus (rhinopneumonitis) 2 times per year
Booster shots are required if horses have not been previously vaccinated to provide immunity. 



Doug Mayo

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2012/05/25/are-your-horses-immunized-against-eee-wnv/