WRANGLING ON THE RANGE #151
HORSE CARE - QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
From "Northern Horse Review" - August 2005
FROTHY = FASTER?
"I have read about 'milkshakes' that are fed to racehorses. What
do they do to help the horses run faster?"
- B. White, MB
Dr. Mike Lindinger is an Associate Professor at the University of
Guelph, ON, and is one of the developers and instructors of the
Equine Exercise Physiology course at the University.
A 'milkshake' is a concocted solution of one to four liters, that
is typically given to horses via nasogastric tube. It is called a
milkshake because of its appearance - white and somewhat, frothy.
Milkshakes typically contain two main ingredients; icing sugar
and a blood alkalinizing agent such as bicarbonate. There are
many different alkalinizing agents that may be used including
sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), potassium bicarbonate, sodium
citrate, sodium acetate and sodium phosphate.
The idea behind using an alkalinizing agent is to make the PH of
the horse's blood higher (thus less acidic or more basic). During
high intensity exercise, like in a horse race, the contracting
muscles become very acidic and some of the acid moves into the
blood, acidfying the blood. Muscle acidity is one of the
contributors to muscle fatigue - a slowing of contraction and a
reduced ability of the muscles to produce force. By making the
blood more basic, it is hoped that the speed at which acid moves
from contracting muscles into blood will increase, thus keeping
the muscles less acidic.
There is evidence in lab studies of isolated muscles that this
theory holds, but evidence in living horses and humans is varied.
Some studies show a performance enhancing effect, while an equal
number do not.
Large amounts of these electrolyte chemicals must be given to a
horse in order to obtain a performance enhancing effect.
Typically, these are given without adequate water. This results
in electrolyte and acid, base imbalances that may contribute to
poor performance and well-being. It is a practice that should be
banned. Indeed, the Ontario Racing Commission performs blood
total carbon dioxide (TCO2) testing to try and determine if a
horse has been administered an alkalinizing substance.
Unfortunately, this test is not definitive and some horses appear
to be falsely tested high, while others that have been
administered alkalizing substances falsely test low. Improved
testing procedures need to be implemented to prevent this form of
horse and racing abuse.
AND YES THERE SHOULD BE A LAW IN PLACE TO BAN ALL SUCH STUPID AND
GREEDY PEOPLE WHO WILL TRY TO DO ANYTHING TO WIN - Keith Hunt
IF THE SHOE FITS
What are the different sizes of horse shoes?
Donna Collins is the founding owner of Hoof & Nail Farrier
Supplies in Calgary, AB.
Basically, horse shoe sizes range from #000 up to a size #5
(North Ameri steel shoes). The most common shoe size used #0 and
#1 and the dimensions of shoes vary between European sizing and
North American sizing. Draft sizes start at a #4 and go to a #10.
Aluminum race plates are sizes #3 to #9. Specialty shoes are
different and come in every shape and size for various reasons -
vets and farriers will sometimes work together to develop new
types of shoes to accommodate pads, wedges or health needs. Shoes
are made in a variety of materials such as steel, aluminum, cast
iron, rubber and plastic.
Shoes are additionally sized according to the overall length of
steel. For example, a basic size #0 has a heel to heel
circumference of 13" in North American shoes, but a circumference
of 13.5" in European shoes. They also come in different
sicknesses and steel widths.
For measuring purposes however, the easiest is to measure the
widest part of a hoof and the length from toe to heel.
The type of shoe used most often depends on what the horse is
being used for and whether the animal has any hoof or leg
problems. Plain shoes have a crease for the nails but otherwise
are flat and provide basic protection from rocks etc. Plain shoes
come in different widths, for example, a 'wideweb' plain shoe
will cover more of the foot. A 'rim' shoe provides more traction
and is made of concave steel. 'Toe and Heel' shoes are used
primarily by outfitters for traction and longer wear. From these
basic shoes, we then go to specialty shoes. There are specialty
shoes designed for all disciplines; jumpers, eventers, reiners,
working cow horses, barrel horses, polo ponies, American
Saddlebreds, Tennessee Walkers, trotters, pacers, race horses,
and the list goes on.
TRAINING CARTE DU JOUR
I am sending my horse to a trainer for cutting and reining
training. What are the nutritional requirements of a
three-year-old in heavy training? She is fit but never an easy
keeper. - Jocelyn Hawkins, Burnaby, BC
Dr. John Burton is a Professor at the University of Guelph, ON,
who specializes in Nutrition.
Alfalfa cubes are fine for a horse in these circumstances. Cubes
tend to be high in protein but in a young horse, that isn't a
problem as long as the animal consumes sufficient water
(to get rid of the excess nitrogen it cannot store).
I would say that at least half of your horse's daily diet could
consist of cubes if the horse will consume them. The other half
should consist of roughage. Total intake of feed on a daily basis
for a horse that is in heavy training and weighs about 900 to
1,000 lbs., will range between 20 and 28 lbs. So if the horse is
eating a total of 24 1bs. per day (for example), he may well
consume 12 lbs of cubes.
Energy is what is likely to be limited in a diet of only cubes,
(your horse will lose weight if this is the case.) Energy can
come most readily from grains or commercial mixed feeds (and
flax, if available.) Any good commercial mixed feed will be
satisfactory - it may be in pellet-form or a coarse mix, whatever
the horse is used to. If large amounts of feed are being fed (12
lbs. or more), it should be delivered in at least three meals per
day (more frequently if possible).
Flax is an excellent supplement for horses. It should be cooked
before feeding to allow the horse to get maximum nutrition from
the seeds. Due to the oil content in a flax seed, it is a very
good source of energy as well as other nutrients.
If a commercial feed is fed, it doesn't need to have a protein
content above 12% as the alfalfa cubes will supply much of the
protein the horse requires. Flax is another good source of
protein. With the cubes and a commercial grain mix, it is not
likely that the horse will need any mineral supplement apart from
salt. Make certain the horse has lots of clean water at all
DEALING WITH WHITE LINE DISEASE
My farrier has suggested that my horse has White Line Disease.
What is that and how is it treated?
Myron McLane is a Certified Journeyman Farrier from Somerset, MA
who was a presenter this past February at the Western Canadian
Association of Equine Practitioners held at Spruce Meadows in
White Line Disease is not necessarily a disease; it affects the
hoof wall, and does not affect live tissue or anything with a
viable blood supply. Antibiotics in the bloodstream will not cure
this ailment because there is no blood supply to the area
affected by White Line Disease (WLD).
The good news is that most horses with it are sound. If a horse
is lame due to WLD, then the disease is usually at an advanced
stage. It can affect a tremendous amount of the hoof wall without
No one knows what WLD really is, but we can see what it does and
we know how to fix it. Basically, it is a separation of the hoof
wall from the foot and can be described as a "hollow hoof."
Topical treatments are a waste of time. You cannot see the cause
of WLD and therefore, you cannot see where to put a topical cream
on to get rid of it. Resection of the hoof wall is the most
effective form of treatment.
Resection is the cutting back of the outer hoof wall - everything
you are removing is already necrotic and dead, there is no need
to touch healthy tissue. WLD does not progress any higher than
where the coronary groove lies, because that's where healthy
It is important during resection to debride the hoof properly,
(remove the dead material.) What is left is the hardened laminae
- for example, the result of what would happen to your fingernail
if your dead fingernail was removed.
Debriding should be done by an experienced farrier or
veterinarian only. The resected area of the hoof is stained with
a special liquid, and then the area is debrided with the dremel
tool. Only the resected area is debrided - do not debride the
part of the laminae that is stained because WLD is not a
'disease' of the laminae. Your farrier should restain the area
each week on the resected part and debride it again with the
dremel tool during the shoe reset.
Once the entire portion of affected hoof is removed, you need to
shoe the horse properly - because now, the animal is walking on
its soles. A Heart Bar shoe is needed for proper frog support or
a shoe with a Myron McLane Full Support pad. It is important that
your farrier does not put a patch on a resection or else the WLD
will grow once again and eat away at the rest of the foot.
Ensure that your farrier has had training in fitting a shoe to a
horse with a resection. You don't want a shoe nailed on where
you've done a resection, but it must be glued on with glue tabs
and attached directly to the laminae, instead. Nails can be
hammered in where the farrier didn't have to resect.
No one knows the exact cause of WLD. Culturing something in a
horse's foot is very difficult because the foot is a dirty thing!
Some horses are more susceptible than others. As a point of
interest, more donkeys and mules have WLD than horses.
Send in your questions or a brief description of a problem you
have encountered. We'll pass your query on to the experts and
publish the answer. Write to us at:
Northern Horse Review - Bay 114, 3907 3A St. N. E., Calgary, AB,
T2E 6S7 Fax: