Ask Horse Journal: 08/03

Bute Before A Show
I give my seven-year-old mare that I barrel race once a week one gram of bute on the day of the show. Is this bad for her’ She runs so much better when I give it to her.

-Name Withheld

One gram of bute once a week isn’t likely to do any significant harm, but you might want to give some thought as to why she needs it and try to work on that. In addition, we’re sure you’ve checked that this is considered legal, according to your competition rules.

Is she getting stiff between barrel races because she doesn’t get enough formal exercise in between’ Has she been conditioned well enough that she doesn’t get fatigued when racing and hurt herself’ Does her shoeing work for her to get the best balance between too much traction/twist and not enough’ Does she have chronic joint problems that could be treated with periodic joint injections and/or joint supplements’ These changes could improve her enough that she wouldn’t need the bute, which should be the best way to go.


Wheat Germ Oil
Why, with all the articles concerning feeding oil to horses, is there no mention of the old standby of unprocessed wheat-germ oil’ Where does it stand in all this discussion’ Isn’t it a really good source of natural vitamin E’ Is there a downside to it I am unaware of’

-Jane Russell

Cold-processed, expellers wheat germ oil, unrefined, is a good natural oil choice but usually more expensive than other options. It’s high in the omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFAs) needed especially for healthy skin/coat/hooves and a robust immune response, low in the harder-to-come- by anti-inflammatory omega-3 EFAs. It’s a good source of natural vitamin E at 65 IU per tablespoon and associated anti-inflammatory compounds. The deep yellow/orange color comes from high levels of beta-carotenes, precursors to vitamin A.


Uterine Marbles
My daughter owns a 12-year-old Welsh/Thoroughbred mare. She is a wonderful show horse, but she has a very “pony” attitude and is the barn’s alpha mare.

In the past three years, we have noticed changes in her behavior during her season cycle. She’s increasingly aggressive with the mares in her paddock. She displays “herding behavior” where she picks one or two mares and chases them for the entire time that they’re out. When she is in a herding rage, she will also chase away people, which has gotten her turnout time severely reduced. She is now a voracious cribber.

When she is in season, she will stop and “urinate” once every lap around the ring. She is not happy during flat classes surrounded by many “new” horses or even in the ring at home with the horses that she knows. When this mare is not in season, she is very obedient. She’s never aggressive toward me or toward my daughter.

My vet and trainer have already tried hormone shots to alter her cycle. This mare had a horrible reaction to them. Her neck and chest swelled up, and she could not raise her head above her knees for days after receiving the shot.

My vet has now suggested a technique where a marble is placed in the mare’s uterus to mimic the symptoms of pregnancy and hopefully stop her cycle.

Have you ever heard of anyone using this technique successfully to control the behavior of an aggressive mare and, if so, what side effects might there be’ Infection’

-Linda Merlo

Uterine marbles are used as a form of an IUD (intra-uterine device). When they work — and they don’t always — they mimic a pregnancy and will prevent the mare from cycling, just like oral (Regumate) or injectable/pellet forms of progesterone. Infection isn’t a problem when proper technique is used to place them. IUD use in people often causes cramping. Whether this occurs in mares or not we don’t know, but it’s possible.

Although her alpha-mare behavior may well increase in intensity at certain times of her cycle, you aren’t going to eliminate it entirely by preventing her from cycling.

As an alternative to the marbles, or if the marbles fail to stop cycling or do not influence behavior enough, you might try her on vitex agnus-castus, aka chasteberry or monk’s pepper, either 1/2 ounce per day of crushed whole berries, four to six times the recommended dose of a human supplement, or 30 cc/day of the equine product Hormonise from EquiNatural, 972-784-7106. Note: At this time, we understand that EquiNatural is the only U.S. distributor of the Hormonise produced by Equine Health and Herbal in the United Kingdom, which is the product used in our field trials. We can’t comment on how other products might compare.


Soaking Hay
Does soaking hay cause you to lose some of the nutrients in that hay’

-Gayle Schroeder
South Carolina

Yes, soaking can result in simple carbohydrates (sugars) and potassium leaching out from the hay and into the water. However, this has little impact on calories unless it was a high-sugar hay (young cuttings and hays dried rapidly are higher in sugars). Hay contains plenty of potassium, so losing a little isn’t a concern. How much you lose depends on the temperature of the water (losses are greater with warm water) and also on how long it’s soaked. If you’re just dunking the hay to settle dust, there’s little loss. It takes 15 to 30 minutes before significant drops occur.


Odd Swellings
I have a 2 1/2-year-old Thoroughbred who passed his vet check a month ago. The vet said on the inside of one leg, near the hock, there was a slight swelling or bubble in the tendon area. It seemed more between the tendons as opposed to on them. The horse showed no sensitivity, and the vet thought that perhaps there was some swelling in the tendon sheath. There are other smaller bubbles in his front legs also that appear and disappear at random on his other legs. The horse is sound. Splint boots and cold water reduce them. Should I worry’

-Shea Ruggles

Young horses just starting in work can develop some mild fillings in their tendon sheaths. Your vet may be able to determine if these outpouchings are located in areas immediately above where a tendon or ligament may cross the leg, putting some pressure on the tendon sheath so that fluid tends to back up above them. They’re most commonly found just above the annular ligament at the fetlock (“wind puffs”). If the swellings aren’t located in the usual locations, we suggest an ultrasound study to make sure there is no pathology present. Your vet may also draw some fluid for lab analysis. Otherwise, if these are wind puffs, you should avoid increasing his work intensity until they resolve and try to make sure he gets as much turnout as possible to encourage circulation.

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