Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Feeding High-Performance Horses - Full Article

by: Sharon Biggs
April 01 2007, Article # 9307

Sometimes the difference between winning and losing is only a fraction of a second. High-performance equine trainers are well aware of this little margin, and as a result, they are always trying to find that one thing that will help their horses increase their speed. But this is not always an easy endeavor.

Brian Nielsen, PhD, PAS, Dipl. ACAN, professor and researcher in equine exercise physiology and nutrition at Michigan State University, says that you can never improve on an animal's genetic potential, but you can hope to maximize it. One way to do that is with nutrition.

"It's important to have enough calories in the fast athlete because it gives him that cutting edge," he says. "You're typically not going to lose a race because the protein wasn't exactly right or the vitamins or minerals weren't exactly right, but calories can really impact the result because they fine-tune a performance. Inadequate energy intake can quickly result in an animal that fatigues prematurely and fails to perform at its top potential."


Saturday, October 25, 2008

The long awaited custom Skito pad has arrived!

My lovely Skito has arrived... The pad is shaped like my saddle, with just enough extra to keep the underfleece from getting dirty. It has the little tie strings to attach it to your saddle to hold in place, and loops for my billets to go through. The underside is soft real wool, the topside is black duck fabric. There is no padding under the flaps for better contact, and 1/2 dense foam panels on both sides of the spine to give the saddle a little lift. It is a very nice saddle pad. This is my third Skito pad.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Preventing Equine Ulcers, Info for Endurance Riders - Karen Chaton


In layman’s terms

by Karen Chaton

August 2005


There is one thing about the topic of equine gastric ulcers that I am clear on – the more I learn about it, the more I realize we don’t know. Most of the studies that have been done have been to show the effectiveness of omeprazole, an effective drug for curing and preventing ulcers. For a horse with severe ulcers, omeprazole does work extremely well and should be used as a treatment. However, there are downsides; daily treatment with omeprazole is not only costly, but there are a lot of other questions that arise with its use, such as whether or not a horse receiving omeprazole daily is in violation of the AERC Drug Policy if you stop giving it within 24 hours of a ride.

Omeprazole works by stopping stomach acid – an important function of the stomach that aids in destroying bacteria that could cause intestinal tract infections such as salmonella. The altered pH of the stomach may not kill viruses and fungi. Stomach acid is necessary to digest protein. The undigested protein moves thru the cecum and large bowel, where fermentation can cause bloating, discomfort and foul smelling manure. Prolonged acid suppression in humans causes vitamin B12 mal-absorption. Further human studies have shown an increase in acid production following treatment. Omeprazole has been shown to significantly delay gastric emptying in humans, and there are several other potentially serious side effects that have been documented in humans, rats, and dogs (1). Long-term use in rats has shown thickening of the stomach lining which may or may not predispose for gastric cancer.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Physiological Basis for Intravenous fluids following travel in horses.

James Bryant DVM, Diplomate ACVS

In the sport of endurance there is some controversy surrounding the pre-ride use of intravenous fluids. I think it is very important to define the purpose of the fluids because there are both appropriate and inappropriate uses of fluids. First, the use of intravenous fluids as a pre-race supplement has remained and should remain controversial for years. The use of so-called jugs (IV fluids and vitamins and electrolytes) once a staple on the race track and through the recent years while still performed by some the physiologic benefits have been proven to be less and less important. In addition the kidneys are designed to remove excessive fluid from the body, therefore if you give fluids to a well hydrated horse they are likely to urinate the extra and therefore not expand the pre-race blood volume. Therefore unless you are starting a ride with a dehydrated horse (which none of us would ever advocate) the benefit of fluids in the 24 hours prior to a ride is likely non-existent.

Second, the use of intravenous fluids following travel seems to have some controversy around it which I find as completely inappropriate. When people travel long distances in planes it is recommended that you drink plenty of fluids (water) and when you arrive at your destination continue do so for the first 24 hours. We all know that after long travels we feel tired, dehydrated, run down and take 1 to 3 days to feel like ourselves again. To assume that horses are somehow different and have no ill effects systemically with travel makes no sense. When blood work is performed on horses that have traveled wether 10 hours or more by trailer and/or over 6 hours by plane we find that over 80% of the horses have an elevation in there PCV (packed cell volume) and TP (Total protein) these values are indicators of the amount of fluid (water) in the blood stream. These elevations are consistently above the well above the normal for the individual horse and some times very elevated consistent with sever dehydration. Therefore the overall effect of the travel results in some form of dehydration even with access to water throughout the trip.

In particular to endurance horses that travel long distances by ground or plane we have great concern over starting an event (or even training) a horse that is dehydrated. We know for a fact that on a 100 mile ride an endurance horse can be expected to lose at least 3 to 5% of its body weight in water during the event by the finish. Horse that are in metabolic trouble can lose over 10% and can be in severe danger of colic, exhaustion, dehydration, laminitis and even death. From past experiences we have learned t (sometimes the hard way) that horses can tie-up after long travel. Part of what occurs here is the dehydration from travel has contributed to a lower blood volume and therefore the muscles are not perfused as well and basically starve of oxygen in the first or second workout and then these cells die and release the muscles enzymes and you have a tied up horse. In addition if they tie-up and are dehydrated now you have created an environment that the kidneys can fail from the lack of fluid and large accumulation of the myoglobin from the muscle breakdown. In this scenario not only will the horse not be able to compete but may die from the renal failure. More commonly however the question is can the horse recover in time to compete or do they compete but compete poorly due to the subsequent issues. When you travel with your horse long distance to an important race you want to have them in peak form with no lingering issues from travel.

Lastly, how is it best to rehydrate a horse after travel. Consider three possibilities, 1) Let them drink and feed food that is as wet as possible with as much water as they will eat. In this scenario I would also recommend blood work to ascertain if the PCV and TP are back to normal and would not exercise the horse until they are normalized. 2) Use oral fluids given through an nasogastric tube. This is an appropriate way to administer fluids, however water absorption from the GI tract may be slowed in the first 24 hours due to ileus (slowing of gut motility) from travel and may require 1 to 2 days of administration. 3) Intravenous fluids are a direct way to restore vascular volume. Typically volumes of 10 to 20 liters of physiologic fluid (saline) are recommended for horses that are 3 to 5% dehydrated. The body is a very powerful tool and will eliminate the excessive fluid when appropriate and distribute what is needed to the body. Blood work is extremely helpful to assess the effects of the IV fluids and to decide how much is needed. In addition the color and volume of urine can assist in gauging the needed volumes.

In the horses traveling to Malaysia for the World Endurance Championships it was deemed of the utmost importance of the veterinary staff and Chef d’quipe that the horses be as metabolically stable as possible from the travel and as ready for training and acclimation to the hot and humid environment. We have been rewarded by our forward thinking with blood work upon arrival in Malaysia that indicated that 3 of the 6 horses were moderately dehydrated (33% elevation from there normal PCV) and 3 of the 6 were mildly dehydrated (10 to 12 %). The day after the second leg of there flight the horses clinically appear well hydrated and blood work revealed a return to normal ranges. The horses continue to walk at this point but they are physiologically prepared to train now rather than 1 week from now with limited time for preparation.

To assume that horses that travel over 24 hours in a plane plus 6 hours of time in the pallet prior to loading and unloading are prepared to bounce back and perform at their best quickly does not consider what the effect of the same travel would be to us. In addition we are not here to just compete we are here to show how good our horses and riders are to the rest of the world. Not taking advantage of all the things we as professional veterinarian (or better yet sports medicine clinicians) have to offer in preparing for such an event at the peak performance of the athlete is like saying we are traveling to lose. Remember we are asking these wonderful equine athletes to perform at the very edge of maximum exercise, if we can why should we not help them be at their best physiologically. We owe that much to them.

Endurance Flying?
Small bird leaves scientists gobsmacked
By MICHAEL FIELD - Fairfax Media | Thursday, 23 October 2008

Scientists are marvelling over a small female bar-tailed godwit somewhere in New Zealand who has a world record for non-stop flying – an epic 11,200 kilometres.

A major international study into the birds has been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B and it offers an explanation as to why the godwits fly so far from Alaska to New Zealand in a single bound.

The birds flew non-stop for up to and covered more than 11,200km. The flight path shows the birds did not feed en route and would be unlikely to sleep.

The study, which involved scientists from around the world, electronically tagged godwits and tracked them, both from New Zealand to Alaska, via Asia and, more recently, from Alaska back to New Zealaqnd direct.

One of the birds, a female called E7, set the record of flying the furthest in eight days across the Pacific.

"These extraordinary non-stop flights establish new extremes for avian flight performance and have profound implications for understanding the physiological capabilities of vertebrates," the report said.

The international media have hailed the achievement.

In Britain’s Guardian quoted Theunis Piersma, a biologist at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands.

"There is something special going on here. For a vertebrate this kind of endurance is just extraordinary."

Piersma said the birds would have flapped their wings non-stop for the entire journey, and that the resulting energy requirement was the greatest in the animal kingdom.

The birds would have gobbled up energy at some eight times their resting basic metabolic rate (BMR) during their week-long exertion, he said.

Professional cyclists an only manage about five times BMR for a few hours.

"Lance Armstrong would be no competition for these birds," he said.

The Washington Post quoted Robert F Gill, a biologist with the US Geological Survey, who headed the study.

"The human species doesn't work at these levels. So you just have to sit back in awe of it all," he said.

Said Kimberly A. Hammond, a physiological ecologist at the University of California: "What this suggests to me is that we haven't yet mined the depths, we really don't know what the extremes are."

The nonstop, over-water route is free of predators and substantially shorter than a hop-scotching route down the eastern coast of Asia, which is the alternative.

Landing and eating would expose the birds to disease and parasites when they are probably somewhat immune-suppressed.

Flying non stop – north to south – across the Pacific was the safest thing to do.

The death rate during the migration is unknown but presumably low, as the population of bar-tailed godwits, estimated at 100,000, has been stable and long-lasting.

"This system would not have perpetuated itself if mortality were a big problem," said Gill

The Post said a major mystery is how high the birds fly.

Gill said that since word of his research has spread, researchers on boats in the Pacific have told him of seeing godwits 1000 metres high and "smoking by at deck level."