Health & Development
"Now, with this foal at my side, each high step I take is done with gentle dignity and modest pride."
Horses of the Sun
HealthThe appearance of a healthy horse is unmistakable and so is the appearance of an unhealthy one. The state of health is apparent through the skin, muscle tone and eye expression as well as the manure. It can be further ascertained by the animal's temperature, pulse and respiration. There are several principles to follow to keep your horse in good condition. A primary factor is a regular and sufficient diet incorporating, in proper proportion, the constituents of a balanced food intake and corresponding to the type of work that is required of the horse. In addition, a domestic horse should have access to shelter against the worst of the weather, a system of parasite control and the animal should be protected against a variety of diseases through vaccines. The teeth and hooves should be attended regularly. Finally, the animal should be constantly supervised. In health, the eye is big and the membranes under the lids and those of the nostril are an even pink color. Redness denotes inflammation, white suggests debility, yellow is symptomatic of liver disorders and bright purple is indicative of blood aeration problems. The coat of a healthy horse lies flat and has a glossy sheen. A dry, staring coat can mean malnutrition and/or a heavy parasite infestation. If the hair can be pulled easily from the mane, other symptoms of ill-health will be found. The skin should be clean and loose. Tightness may be due to the onset of disease, a parasite infestation or malnutrition. Lice may be found on horses in poor condition and will cause skin to tighten. A lice-ridden horse rubs continually and its coat appears blotched. The limbs should be cool and free from swelling. Puffiness indicates sprains, poor circulation, parasitic irritation or a possible heart condition. Manure varies in color and texture according to the state of health, although loose bowel movements are a normal occurrence when horses are on new grass. The droppings should be well formed, slightly moist and without any strong smell. The presence of mucus is the result of a digestive disorder. Strongly smelling, yellow droppings may be connected with a liver condition and/or indicate the presence of red worms. The urine should be nearly colorless. If thick and highly colored, there may be kidney trouble. Bloody urine points to an inflammatory condition of that organ. Excessive urine flow can mean diabetes, and an obvious dribble accompanies bladder inflammation. The horse in bad condition can be recognized by the poor covering of flesh over the pelvis. The bone structure can be clearly seen, the flanks are hollow, there is a deep cavity under the tail and no muscle between the hind legs. There are grooves in the quarters either side of the tail. The backbone is visible and the base of the neck lacks muscle on both sides,feeling narrow and slack. The neck itself is soft and without flesh. The normal temperature of the horse is 100-101.5. Above this, one may suspect some general infection. However, horses vary in their temperature and the normal, healthy temperature of your horse should be taken and noted for future comparison. The temperature is taken by inserting a clinical thermometer in the rectum. Temperatures vary through the day, so it is necessary to take two or three readings at different times. A normal pulse rate is 32-44 beats per minute. An increase when at rest and calm usually signifies some form of fever. The horse is in distress if the pulse rate reaches 50 beats per minute at rest. The pulse can be felt on the inner surface of the lower jaw, just behind the elbow and behind the eye. Obtain the pulse rate by counting the number of beats in 20 seconds on a stopwatch and then multiply by three. Respiration is normally 8 to 15 breaths a minute when the horse is at rest. A faster rate while a rest indicates pain and probably rise in temperature. Check to respiration by standing behind the horse and counting how often the flanks rise and fall in 60 seconds, or use a stopwatch in the manner suggested for pulse rate measurement. Each rise and fall is equal to one breath.
Brood MaresMares usually reach puberty between 15 and 24 months but, occasionally, it may be later. It is possible to breed some 2 and 3 year olds, but 4 is more acceptable. From early spring through autumn, mares come into season at regular intervals between 18 and 21 days. Each heat lasts five to seven days. During heat, a mare will accept a stallion. There are a number of unmistakable signs that indicate a mare is in season, although they do not all occur simultaneously. Mares may appear irritable and unsettled, and will seek the company of other horses more than usual. The tail is swished fairly constantly and the clitoris is protruded. Urine is passed frequently in small quantities and mucus is present around the lips of the vagina. It is possible to establish the phase of the mare's cycle by internal examination, but the most certain way of finding out whether she is ready to be mated is by trying her with a stallion - a practice known as "teasing". At stud farms, it is usual to have the mare brought to one side of a padded partition and the stallion to the other. The partition prevents either animal from being injured. If the mare is ready, she will adopt the mating posture and hold her tail to one side. If she is not, she will bare her teeth at the stallion and attempt to bite or kick him. The average gestation period of the brood mare is 11 months and a few days. Obviously there are variations but, as a rule, a colt foal is carried longer than a filly. The term for colts is approximately 334 days and for fillies 332 1/2, but there is a possible variant of 9 1/2 days either way. When full term is reached, horses like the Thoroughbred, require more attention than the self-reliant pony breeds. It is usual for highly bred mares to foal in a foaling stall with attendants keeping watch on closed-circuit television. Pony stock are nearly always allowed to foal outside and problems rarely occur. The pony mares give birth quickly, as they would under feral conditions where a protracted birth might attract the unwelcome attention of predators. After the waters break, the mare lies down and strains as the labor pangs increase in strength. She will often grunt loudly and will sweat noticeably as the birth sequence approaches its climax. In a normal presentation, the front hooves of the foal are the first to appear between the distended lips of the vulva. They are covered in transparent membranes, the caul, which burst as the birth progresses. The head lies on the extended forelegs and appears after the hooves. Once the shoulders appear, the heaviest part has been delivered and the rest follows swiftly. As this happens, the membranes over the nose break and breathing starts. The foal kicks free from the mare, at which point the umbilical cord may be broken off. Nature's "blood valve" will close, precluding the exit of blood from the foal while allowing an inward flow from the placenta. Within a short time of birth, the mare will have gotten to her feet, breaking the umbilical cord if it has not already been severed. Within half an hour or so, the mare will lick the foal. By doing so, she warms her new offspring. After half an hour, the foal will muzzle the mare. The colostrum, the first milk the foal receives, is essential to its well-being. It acts as an antibiotic and ensures the passing of the meconium from the system in the first bowel movement.
For Further Information See : Foals and The Nursery
Al & Niki Oliver 517/ 263-1267