Ask Horse Journal: 10/05

Debris In Grain
I feed whole grains to my horses, but there appears to be an across-the-board problem with quality control. I’ve tried several commercial feeds, but they all have debris mixed into the sealed packages. One company is worse than the others, but they’re all guilty. The debris I’m finding includes feathers, baling twine, candy wrappers and rocks. The first time I noticed the rocks was when I heard one of my horses playing with them in the feed tub.??I thought she picked them up and put them into her feed tub, but I found them in the grain bin.?? ??

I mentioned the stones to a friend who worked at a mill in his youth and he said, “Don’t you know that’s the old trick to try to get the tare weight up’ Add stones.”?? I purposely chose whole grains so I knew what I was feeding my horses. I can’t imagine what’s mixed into pre-mixed grains.

My attempts to talk with the feed companies about these problems have failed. I’m now sifting through everything before feeding it, and it’s driving me crazy. Can you tell me why this is happening and how to put pressure on a feed company to take drastically improved measures to ensure consistent high-quality feed that all of us??can trust’

For the best quality in plain, whole grains, ask the mill if the grain is graded. Use only graded grains, grade 1 or 2. Double or even triple cleaning is also desirable and will be specified on the bag if it was done because this increases the price.

If you go to the trouble of locating and paying for what should be a premium grain, but get it home only to find problems like you’ve described, take it back to the store for a refund.


Strangles Immunity
My four-year-old mare was diagnosed with strangles four weeks after receiving the second of two strangles vaccines. She has not been away from our barn, and no new horses were brought into the barn. No other horses tested positive for strangles, but several had new “halter rub” marks on their throats that persisted for about two weeks and didn’t respond to topical treatments. I’m reluctant to vaccinate next year. Was this reaction normal’ If she did have strangles, does that mean she’s now immune’

There have been isolated reports of the intranasal strangles vaccine, which uses a live organism, actually causing symptoms of disease in some horses.

The intramuscular vaccine doesn’t contain live organisms, so it couldn’t actually “give” the horse strangles. However, with either vaccine it’s possible that a horse that is a carrier for strangles could be pushed over the edge into showing actual symptoms by the stress of the vaccine and the vaccine tying up available antibodies. However, if none of the horses had been exposed to other horses within the previous year it’s highly unlikely there were strangles organisms in any of them and the reaction you saw was most likely to the vaccine.

It’s reasonable to base your decision on whether to vaccinate for any disease upon the risk of exposure rather than the fact the vaccine just happens to be available. If you basically have a closed barn, meaning no traffic on and off, and take precautions to isolate any new horses for a few weeks, strangles vaccine might be of little potential benefit, especially in a horse that might have had an adverse reaction.

Horses that have had strangles once are generally immune for life. However, this immunity might apply only to the specific strain, and new strains may develop that are different from the initial exposure and also different from what is contained in the vaccines.


Dirty Sheath
My 23-year-old gelding has a sheath problem. It’s apparently itchy, and I have to clean him once a month to keep the itching down somewhat. It also has a milky white substance inside the sheath that smells like rotten peaches. He isn’t having problems urinating. None of the vets I’ve consulted has an answer. Have you ever heard of this problem and do you know of anyway of treating it’ Would Spirulina help’

To take care of the problem, you have to find out what’s causing it. Insect irritation/sensitivity is a common cause of sheath itching and swelling but not odor or discharge.??That milky white substance sounds like either pus from bacterial infection or even possibly a fungal infection. Older horses have weaker immune responses, and this is compounded by the increasing risk of Cushing’s syndrome with increasing age.

Your horse needs a careful inspection/examination of his penis and sheath under the effects of a tranquilizer. A sample of the white material can be cultured for bacteria and fungi and microscope slides made to check for the types of cells in the discharge and stain for bacteria and fungi. The sheath isn’t sterile normally, so “positive” cultures would be expected, but when there is an overgrowth of a specific organism or yeast it’s obvious. Treatment will depend on what is found, but a thorough cleaning followed by gentle irrigation of the sheath with something like a dilute Betadine solution for a few days should clear up any infection problem.?? If the problem recurs, more frequent sheath cleaning than usual may be needed to keep him comfortable and a check for Cushing’s would be in order. As for the Spirulina, it’s not likely to help unless there is an element of allergy/hypersensitivity to insects.


Vitamins For Turnout
My three horses are on constant turnout with lots of grass and orchard grass hay when needed. They get two pounds of Triple Crown Senior per day. Do they need extra vitamins’

Although they probably don’t need any extra vitamins, they but may have mineral deficiencies/imbalances. Depending on the type of grasses in your pasture, you should add 1/2 to 3/4 pound of Triple Crown 12 to the Senior. Double check this recommendation with your state agricultural department, an extension agent or an equine nutritionist/vet. They’ll need to know the types of grasses to help you.


Color Enhancers
My horse is a pale palomino and, due to her conformation, she soils her back legs. I’ve seen ads for products that darken a palomino coat, and I wondered if this would help. I want to be sure they’re safe and effective before using one.

Your horse’s coat color is primarily a product of genetics, which in turn determines the type of melanin the pigment-producing cells manufacture.??

If there is a deficiency of key vitamins, minerals (especially copper and zinc) or amino acids in her diet, the coat color may be altered because the cells don’t have the raw materials they need to operate at maximal production, but more is not better and won’t change the genetic programming in the cells or force the cells to produce more of the pigment.??

If your horse seems paler than she should be for her breeding and her age (palominos, like blonds, tend to darken with age), consult an equine nutritionist to see if there are any imbalances in your diet.


Vaccine Reactions
Where should I report vaccine reactions, or should I simply assume my vet will do so’ We had a number of reactions this year.

Vaccine reactions should definitely be reported. Print out the form on the USDA’s site: and take it to your veterinarian’s office to get the lot number, etc. information and ask your vet sign it, too.

Vaccine reactions can be caused by a bad lot of vaccine or by horses reacting to either the adjuvants (nonspecific immune stimulants/irritants) or the actual organisms in the vaccine. Vaccine reactions may also occur if the horse already has an active infecti on with the same organism.

The horse can have the organism in his body and not show any symptoms as long as his immune system is doing a good job of fighting it. When that’s the case, the vaccine could actually push the horse over the edge into showing symptoms of the disease itself.