Signs of Health & Soundness of a Horse

6063 words (24 pages) Essay in Biology

23/09/19 Biology Reference this

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Equine Anatomy & Physiology

 

Outline the general signs of health & soundness of the horse including practical evidence

 

Contents

Page

  1. Introduction                                                                                                                    3
  2. Temperature                                                                                                                    4
  3. Pulse                                                                                                                               5
  4. Respiration Rate                                                                                                             6
  5. Condition                                                                                                                        7
  6. Coat                                                                                                                                8
  7. Mucus Membrane                                                                                                           9

    1. Capillary Refill
  8. Feed & Water                                                                                                               10

    1. Droppings
    2. Rules of Feeding                                                                                                     11
  9. Feet/Legs                                                                                                                      12
  10. Soundness                                                                                                                     13
  11. Health Record over 6 weeks                                                                                         14
  12. Bibliography                                                                                                                 20

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Introduction

In this piece of work I aim to explain and discuss the main outward signs of health in a horse, including soundness. I will explain how a healthy horse should look and act, and I will also explain what an unhealthy horse might look like, or what signs a horse might show if it’s not feeling one hundred percent. I will explain how lameness can be recognised and I will be doing practical work, which will include temperature, respiration and pulse. I will be recording these signs of health over a six week period.

  1. Temperature

The average temperature for a horse when it is in good health is 38 degrees Celsius or 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit. A temperature higher than that may indicate an infection. You can take your horse’s rectal temperature by using a digital thermometer. The horse should be tied or held still by someone. Lubricate the tip of the thermometer with vaseline or saliva. Move the horse’s tail to the side and out of the way and insert the thermometer into the horse’s rectum. Do not stand directly behind the horse, because some horses don’t like this.

A horse’s temperature can vary by 3 degrees depending. Horses tend to have a higher temperature in warm weather and during/after exercise. A high temperature doesn’t always indicate that the horse might be ill, but it is a good idea to take your horse’s temperature often and if his temperature is over 38 degrees Celsius, you should call your vet.

  1. Pulse

A horse’s average heart beats per minute should be between 36-42. You can take the pulse underneath the head, or underneath the tail. I first took a horse’s pulse recently and I found it hard to find as it was weak and the horse’s head kept moving. My tutor said she finds it clearer to feel in the tail but that you are better off learning how to find it in the head as it is a lot safer, especially if you are working with young horses. After I got the hang of taking the pulse, I found that whenever the horse heard or saw something from the corner of its eye the heart rate would rise. I knew that a horse’s heart rate would rise when alert but it is a lot different from saying it to feeling it. A horse’s heart rate would rise due to a fright, exercise or if it’s in pain.

  1. Respiration Rate

A horse’s respiration rate at rest should be between 8 to 12 breaths per minute. A horse’s respiration rate increases with exercise, temperature or pain. Watch or feel your horse’s belly for one minute. Each breath is fairly slow. If you are having difficulty seeing the ribcage move, try watching the horse’s nostrils.

  1. Condition

Condition scoring your horse is a visual assessment of his current body condition. The level of fat cover is visually assessed using a number scoring system. 

There are different factors to consider when condition scoring a horse, for example;

        Feed in-take

        Fitness

        Age

        Pregnancy

        General health

Condition scoring needs to be hands-on in order to feel the relevant areas of the horse. The areas where horses store fat are;

        Neck

        Shoulders

        Ribs

        Backbone

        Pelvis area

        Top of the tail

The best way to condition score your horse is to divide it into three sections, condition score each area (0-5) and then divide your score by three to give an average score.

Condition Score

Pelvis

Back & Ribs

Neck

0 – Emaciated

Angular, skin tight. Deep cavity under tail

Skin tight over ribs. Sharp backbone

Marked ewe neck. Narrow and slack at base

1 – Poor

Prominent pelvis. Sunken rump

Ribs easily visible

Ewe neck, narrow and slack base

2 – Moderate

Croup well defined, slight cavity under tail

Ribs just visible, backbone covered but spine can be felt

Narrow but firm

3 – Good

Covered by fat and rounded gut

Ribs just covered. Backbone well covered

No crest (except for stallions) firm neck

4 – Fat

Pelvis covered by fat

Ribs well covered – need pressure to feel

Wide and firm

5 – Obese

Pelvis buried, cannot be felt

Ribs buried. Back broad and flat

Marked crest very wide and firm. Fold of fat

  1. Coat

A healthy horse will have a shiny coat with the degree of shine depending on the time of year and grooming practices. During colder months, the coat will appear fluffier and less shiny than during warmer months. Older horses will maintain longer, less shiny coats even during the warm months. Younger, well-nourished, active horses usually have naturally shiny coats. Draught-type horses will have coarser, less glossy coats at any age.

Exposure to sun will cause the colour of the horse’s coat to fade. Salt from sweat will dull the hair coat and may irritate the skin of the horse if not groomed properly over a period of time. Keeping the hair clipped makes the horse less susceptible to becoming chilled and possibly ill, and makes grooming easier and more effective.

  1. Mucus Membrane

The mucus membranes are the lining of a horse’s eyelids, his gums and the inside of his nostrils. Your horse’s eyes should be clear, bright and free from discharge and there shouldn’t be anything coming out of the nostrils.

7.1 Capillary Refill

Capillary Refill Time (CRT) is the time it takes for blood to return to tissues in the gums. This is an indicator of blood circulation. Normal refill time is 1 to 2 seconds. Lift your horse’s upper lip up and firmly press your thumb against his gums for 2 seconds to create a white mark. This white mark should return to the normal pink colour within 1-2 seconds after releasing the pressure. A healthy horse’s gums are salmon in colour. If a horse’s gums are very pale, bright red, greyish blue or bright yellow, call a vet immediately.

        Moist Pink: Healthy normal circulation.

        Very Pale Pink: Capillaries contracted, indicates temperature, blood loss or anaemia.

        Bright Red: Capillaries enlarged, indicates mild shock.

        Grey or Blue: Severe shock or illness.

        Bright Yellow: Associated with liver problems.

  1. Feed & Water

To be able to judge if there’s something wrong with the way your horse is eating you would have to be around it a lot to see the difference. Every horse is different with the amount they eat, it all depends on individual metabolism, current condition, size, work load, age, temperament and the ability of the rider.

Larger horses need more food than small ones. A horse’s appetite is always 2.5% of the body weight, to find the appetite in kg you need to divide the body weight by 100 and multiply it by two point 5. Body weight can be determined in several ways;

        A weigh bridge

        Weigh tape

        Table of weights

Work

Concentrates %

Roughage %

Maintenance

0

100

Light work

20

80

Medium work

30

70

Hard work

35

65

Hard fast work

40

60

For example;

        A 13.2hh pony doing hard work

        It would weigh about 290kg

        290 divide by 100 multiply by 2.5 = 7.25kg total ration

        7.25 divide by 100 multiply by 35 = 2.53kg total concentrate

        7.25 – 2.53 = 4.72kg total roughage

8.1 Droppings

Droppings may be an indication of his health. They should be well-formed balls without any massive chunks of undigested feed, have a subtle odour, a fairly uniform colour and no mucus covering.

8.2 The rules of feeding are as follows;

  1. Feed little and often

        The horse is a trickle feeder

        Little and often complements the horses digestive process

        The stomach is relatively small

  1. Do not work fast immediately after feeding

        Leave 2 hours after feeding before doing any fast work

        Blood needed for digestion will be diverted to muscles

        A full stomach will restrict lung expansion

  1. Feed plenty of roughage

        Fibre is essential for a healthy gut

        Fibre should be the largest part of the ration

        Too little fibre and too much concentrates can lead to diet related disorders

  1. Make changes in the diet gradually

        A sudden change in diet will lead to a change in Volatile Fatty Acids (VFA’s)

        If bacteria are not present in enough quantity to convert lactic acid to VFA’s then serious metabolic problems can result

  1. Always feed good quality feeds

        Poor feed causes poor performance

        Dusty or mouldy feed can cause respiratory disorders

        Tainted feed may be rejected

  1. Keep all feeding utensils and feed stored clean

        Warmth and moisture allow stale feed to be contaminated with microorganisms

        Cross contamination of medicines or supplements in sporting animals

  1. Feed succulent daily

        Grazing or fresh cut grass is a succulent

        Carrots, apples or sugar beat

  1. Water before feeding

        Horses should have clean fresh water available, if acces is limited then water every 2 hours

        A horse that has been deprived of water and allows to eat a hard feed first is likely to wash undigested food out of the stomach

  1. Keep to same feeding routine daily

        Horses are creatures of habit

        Stress has an adverse effect on the horse

        Feeds should be spread out as evenly as possible

  1. Feet/legs

In your horses hooves make sure they aren’t cracked or dry. Healthy hooves may look different depending on the terrain or environment. To keep your horses hooves healthy you should clean them out between 2-4 times daily. Before riding out, before you untack and when you bring him in from the field.

If you don’t clean out your horses hooves daily they could end up getting Thrush. This is a bacterial condition, it has a horrible smell and usually there would be some sort of ooze coming out of the hoof. You would usually find Thrush around the frog area of the hoof. If your horse gets this you should call your farrier and get him to pare down the frog to take away any damaged tissue. You can treat Thrush by scrubbing out the foot regularly and apply one of several substances suitable for treatment of Thrush, these include; honey, eucalyptus oil, peroxide and copper sulphate.

You should also look out for bruised or punctured soles. These could be caused from work on hard ground, poor shoeing or some sort of puncture wound. To ease bruising you should poultice it or use the method of tubbing. For a punctured sole to relieve the pain you should call your farrier to cut out the infected area. This should be followed up by poulticing and tubbing to draw out any remaining infection.

If your horse’s foot feels warmer than usual he could possibly have an abscess inside the hoof from a badly placed shoeing nail, bruise or puncture.

Your horse’s legs shouldn’t feel warm to touch. A rise in your horse’s leg temperature could be from wearing boots or from an injury. Make sure you never tie your boots too tight and always warm up your horse properly before workout and when finished always make sure to hose down the legs with cool water.

  1.  Soundness

A sound horse is one that has no lameness or illness. When purchasing a horse it is a good idea to have a vet check the animal’s soundness.

Head

Look for right-left symmetry. For example, the flat muscles at the cheeks should be equally developed, a bulge might indicate a dental problem.

Check the jaws grinding motion. It should slide easily before your horse opens its mouth. Resistance might be a sign of discomfort from a dental issue or problem with the jaw itself.

Neck & Back

Use the flats of your fingers to press lightly along the neck, withers and muscles along the back. Look for asymmetrical muscle development or signs of soreness.

Test the range of movement in the neck. For example; get a piece of apple, put it below your horse’s nose and slowly lower it towards to floor. This will get the horse to stretch its neck. Difficulty doing this could indicate neck stiffness.

Legs & feet

Assess each leg from knee/hock to hoof. Look for swelling or other signs of asymmetry between left and right legs. Always note your horse’s reactions as you apply pressure to the areas.

Pick up each leg and gently move the joints of the lower limb.

Stand back and look at your horse’s feet. They should be symmetrical and balanced. Ideally, each coronary band is parallel to the ground when viewed from the front.

Look for cracks in the hoof wall and sole. Feel around the coronary bands and heels for sensitivity or swelling.

  1.  Health Record over 6 weeks

 

Health Record

Week 1

Temperature

37.8 degrees Celsius

Pulse

33 beats per min while at rest

Respiration Rate

6 breaths per min while at rest

Condition Score

3.5-4, he has a round belly but his quarters don’t look as round as that that’s why I put 3.5-4

Skin/Coat/Feet

Good shiny coat, nails looked higher up than usual in hoof but this might be normal for this horse, small cut on shoulder

Mucus Membrane

Good capillary refill, salmon colour in both eyes and gums

Stance

Normal, weight bearing evenly on all four legs

Limbs

Normal, no heat, pain or swelling

Behaviour

Good, alert look about him when I entered the stable and whenever he heard a noise

Droppings

They looked a little too moist for my liking, also a bit greenish in colour which is a sign that he must be on a mostly grass diet

Feed & Water

His hay was eaten, so I assume he his feeding good

Coughing & Breathing

Normal, no cough

Ears

He had growths in his ears so it has left a lot of scar tissue, due to this Buddy doesn’t like anyone at his ears. When applying the bridle you have to take it fully apart. He has 2 sores in his left ear and 6 in the right

Health Record

Week 2

Temperature 

37.9 degrees Celsius

Pulse 

30 beats per min while at rest

Respiration Rate

7 breaths per min while at rest

Condition Score

4

Skin/Coat/Feet

Shiny coat, in my opinion his hooves are a bit long. Cut on shoulder is healing

Mucus Membrane

Normal

Stance

Even stance

Limbs

Normal, no heat

Behaviour

Good, reacting to sounds in the yard

Droppings

A bit dark and moist, slight greenish colour

Feed & Water

No hay leftover

Coughing & Breathing

Normal, no cough

Health Record

Week 3

Temperature 

37.8 degrees Celsius

Pulse 

30 beats per min while at rest

Respiration Rate

8 breaths per min while at rest

Condition Score

4

Skin/Coat/Feet

Normal, cut on shoulder healed

Mucus Membrane

Normal

Stance

Good

Limbs

Normal

Behaviour

Good, alert and eating

Droppings

Lighter in colour, liquid running down legs

Feed & Water

Change to haylage (reason for liquid)

Coughing & Breathing

Normal

Health Record

Week 4

Temperature 

37.7 degrees Celsius

Pulse

32 beats per min while at rest

Respiration Rate

9 breaths per min while at rest

Condition Score

4

Skin/Coat/Feet

Sweat from a few days ago not brushed off

Mucus Membrane

Can see nose was running

Stance

Normal

Limbs

No heat or pain

Behaviour

Normal for this horse, small bit more alert today

Droppings

Better than last week, no runs

Feed & Water

Eating and drinking normally

Coughing & Breathing

No coughing, breathing normal

Health Record

Week 5

Temperature 

37.9 degrees Celsius

Pulse

32 beats per min while at rest

Respiration Rate

8 breaths per min while at rest

Condition Score

4

Skin/Coat/Feet

Cut underneath right eye

Mucus Membrane

Normal, 2 sec capillary refill

Stance

Good

Limbs

Normal

Behaviour

Good, reacting normally to everything going on around him

Droppings

Normal

Feed & Water

Good, all hay eaten

Coughing & Breathing

Normal

Health Record

Week 6

Temperature 

37.8 degrees Celsius

Pulse 

31 beats per min while at rest

Respiration Rate

8 breaths per min while at rest

Condition Score

4

Skin/Coat/Feet

Good, cut under eye healed

Mucus Membrane

Normal

Stance

Good

Limbs

Good, no heat

Behaviour

Normal, reacting to everything going on around him

Droppings

Normal

Feed & Water

Good

Coughing & Breathing

Normal

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