At this time of year, many horses and ponies have had their summer break and are now coming back in to their stables. It is important at this time to remember a few management points that may prevent health problems later on.
1. The stable should be dry and well-ventilated. The bedding should be dust-free and deep enough for the size and weight of the horse or pony, so that his hocks and elbows are protected from contact with the floor. It is worth noting that it is very difficult in Ireland to find straw that is clean. Straw is often a source of aspergillus, which is seriously detrimental to a horse’s respiratory system. Probably the best source of bedding here is dust- and toxin- free shavings.
2. Horses and ponies that have been out, grazing for anything up to 16 or 18 hours per day, need careful consideration as their diet changes from grass to processed feedstuff. The bacteria, particularly in the hind gut, need to change gradually from being suitable only for the digestion of grasses and herbage to being able to break down hard feed and forage. We can aid this process by feeding commercially produced prebiotics and probiotics during the period of adaptation.
3. Always make sure the stabled animal has a ready supply of forage as this will help prevent ulcers from developing. It has been assessed that 80% of stabled horses and ponies develop ulcers if their forage intake is restricted. Remember that a horse or pony produces up to 1½ litres of hydrochloric acid in the stomach every hour, which is a major cause of stomach ulcers in stabled horses. This acid can be partly neutralised by the production of saliva when the horse eats, and by the gradual trickle of forage passing through the stomach. As with the bedding, pay careful attention to the quality of the forage. Hay and haylage are also frequent carriers of mycotoxins, especially aspergillus, aflatoxin, etc; apart from serious respiratory problems, these toxins can cause pain and inflammation in the kidneys, and in severe cases can ultimately attack the liver and compromise the horse’s entire health and performance.
4. Given that in our climate it is virtually impossible to eliminate entirely such toxins, and that mycotoxins also proliferate in many manufactured ‘hard feeds’, Stonebridge Premium Feeds has developed a feed containing mycotoxin neutralisers to help prevent these problems from arising, and to keep your horses and ponies in tip-top condition.