Equine News, February 2022
Thursday, February 10, 2022
Each month we provide tips for horse owners, the latest research on horse health, as well as updates on current events and workshops for horse owners.
This month's newsletter features:
- The reluctant stallion
- Exercise frequency impacts nocturnal activity
- Ground handling Part 7:Short lunging
- Tack Box Talk podcasts: Strategic deworming and breeding season tips
- Free fecal egg count reduction tests
- Ice management for equine facilities
- Horse Owners Workshop
- Upcoming events
The Reluctant Stallion
Longer daylight and warmer temperatures herald the advent of breeding season, and with that, it is worth some time to think about stallion behavior. A successful breeding program depends on having a happy, healthy stallion who is willing to do his job. Good stallion managers have mastered the art of keeping their horses happy, confident and well behaved, which may involve considering each horse as an individual.
Weight: Simple consideration of body condition is important. Breeding season typically brings more activity for the stallion, not just in the breeding shed, but also more time running, vocalizing and overall showing off. Ideally the stallion enters the breeding season in a BCS (Body Condition Score) of 5 or 6 to help support his energy demands. Monitor his weight throughout the season and adjust feed intake accordingly.
Soundness: Pain or discomfort can manifest itself in undesirable behaviors as the stallion experiences frustration between something that he finds desirable but elicits pain. If your stallion starts to exhibit either aggressive behaviors or disinterest, it is important to first rule out pain, before starting any other behavioral management strategies.
Housing: How we typically house and handle stallions is a far cry from how they would interact with other horses in a natural setting. Typically stallions are often isolated from other horses in order to ensure theirs and others safety. This often means stallions are kept in barns away from mares and geldings. This may decrease libido in some stallions. In nature, stallions which congregate together are known as bachelor stallions, in contrast to the stallion with access to mares, known as the harem stallion. Stallions around only other stallions show decreased testicular size and thus lower libido which allows them to live together with less conflict. Therefore, housing stallions around mares may help horses who are disinterested or reluctant breeders.
Handling: Some stallions may not show interest in mares due to their past handling. It is common in performance stallions to discourage or punish them from showing sexual interest during their careers. Stallions are often punished from “dropping” the penis or performing masturbation activities. While stallion managers may not have control over a horse’s past experiences, this practice should be discouraged in horses which are intended to be breeding stallions. Stallions should be allowed to exhibit normal behaviors.
Mare preference: The mare used for breeding should also be considered for a stallion which is a reluctant breeder. While some stallions may do quite well with an ovariectomized mare (one with ovaries removed and provided synthetic estrogen) used for semen collection, most stallions do prefer a mare in natural estrus. A reluctant stallion may be more interested in mare closer to ovulation versus early estrus. In addition, allowing mares to exhibit the most natural behavior that is safely allowed will encourage a reluctant or novice breeder. For example, mares that are hobbled and twitched will not be able to show the same posture which shows acceptance to the stallion. Some stallions may even have color preferences in mares. Paying close attention to stallion preference can lead to success in the breeding shed.
Breeding shed environment: Some stallions can be distracted by any extra noise or movement which may occur. I used to work with a stallion that would easily be distracted and often have an “Oh look a butterfly” approach to life. If using a phantom or breeding dummy, check that it is firmly in place and does not rattle or make other sounds when mounting. Only have the personnel needed for safe handling of the mare and stallion.
Handlers: Selection and or training of stallion and mare handlers is extremely important. Sexual behavior in horses can often be intimidating to novice handlers which can quickly lead to poor handling decisions. Overly timid behavior or excessive punishment for what is actually normal behavior is likely to cause an increase in bad behavior. Vocalization, nipping and striking are all normal behavior for stallions. Good stallion handlers remain calm and do not overly punish or act punitively to punish the stallion for even adverse frustration behaviors.
Overall, remember to pay attention to your stallion and what he needs for success. Normal sexual behavior should be allowed and provide him the most predictable, comfortable routine possible.
Strategic Deworming: The story of when it is okay to say no!
Dr. Saundra TenBroek, from the University of Florida, and first time guest to the show, shares her advice on deworming horses with science and biology in mind. We've learned a lot over the years, and your parasite control program may look a bit different than it did a few years ago. Find out which horses may not need to be dewormed as much as we used to, and how to find out for yourself!
Researchers at OSU are interested in determining the incidence of anthelmintic resistance in Oklahoma horses and what management practices may influence resistance. If you wish to take part, please read below and contact us for more information.
It's Breeding Season!: The story of getting mares and stallions in the mood
Dr. Saundra Tenbroek, of the University of Florida, shares tips on handling the spring breeding season. We take a bit of a dive into hormones, share some odd stallion quirks and decides when it works to breed on foal heat. Plus, the very important need for Casanova stallions.
For more information and articles on breeding management.
Ground Handling Skills
Sending a horse around you to either side is an essential skill for ground handling. Here is a short introduction.
Well, I thought this might be timely. And you will be prepared for next February, which is apparently snow and ice month in Oklahoma.
Horse Owners Workshop:
March 5, 2022
Totusek and Cline Arenas,
Horse Owners Workshop is back, live and in person and bigger then ever!
Speakers this year will provide essential equine management information valuable for experienced horse owners, or those just getting started. Topics this year include:
- Farm equipment needs for small acreage
- Performing your own fecal egg count reduction test - Yes, bring your samples!
- Starting a 4-H horse project group - it's not that hard!
- Biosecurity for the horse owner - hands on!
- Wound care
- Donkey nutrition and management
- Adding service to 4-H clubs
- Adaptive riding
- Physical exams
- Year round veterinary care
Cost of attendance is $45 and includes lunch.
For more information contact Dr. Kris Hiney: email@example.com
Latest Research on Equine Health
Can the training regimen influence night time physical activity in racehorses?
The best training and housing systems for horses for optimal horse welfare is often hotly debated. The normal physical activity patterns of free-range horses equates to 46-66% of their time feeding. In contrast, horses which are stabled spent much shorter periods of time eating and the remaining time is made up in standing, sleeping, observing their environment or in other undesirable behaviors such as stall walking, cribbing, and even apathy or depression. Horses that have been subjected to confinement typically show more locomotor behaviors when let out, believed to be in response to the restriction of exercise. The type and frequency of training and therefore exercise, may impact the behaviors seen in horses confined to stalls. The influence of training frequency on stall behavior was tested using accelerometers on 10 thoroughbred racehorses which were trained daily, versus 10 horses from the same stable that were trained intermittently. Horses that trained continuously were exercised every day except Sunday while intermittently trained horses were trained every other day, and hand walked on non-training days. Diets were primarily concentrate based (8 kg alfalfa, 5 kg pelleted feed and 16 kg oat groats) and feed consumption time was not noted. Time out of the stalls was approximately 5 minutes when hand walked, and 32 minutes on training days. Stalls had double Dutch doors which were open in the daytime but closed with no windows from 7 pm until 5 am. Horses were fitted with accelerometers to monitor nighttime activity when stall doors were closed and were monitored for three days.
Horses which were trained continuously had less physical activity in the stalls compared to intermittently trained horses. Continuously trained horses were more often sedentary (85% of time budget) compared to intermittent horses (77%) and had more moderate and vigorous activity. While sleep quality was not assessed, it would appear greater restfulness at night can be improved by training/exercising horses on a daily basis.
Rumpel et al., Veterinary and Animal Science, Volume 14,2021,ISSN 2451-943X, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.vas.2021.100208.
Bits and Pieces
Upcoming Events and Industry Updates
Horse Owners Workshop - March 5, 2022
Horse Owners Workshop will return to its in person format in 2022. Three educational tracts will be offered, basic horse management, advanced/in depth topics and youth education. Attendees may choose which seminars to attend. Complete schedule TBD. Registration now open. Cost to attend is $45 and includes light breakfast and lunch!
Oklahoma 4-H Horse Communication Contest - February 5, 2022
OSU Animal Science Building, Stillwater, OK
Oklahoma 4-H and Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association youth horsemanship clinic - March 29, 2022
Clinic with AQHA Professional Leonard and Leigh Berryhill, and Rich Chayer. Contact Dr. Hiney for registration information. This clinic is limited to 40 participants.
Oklahoma State 4-H and FFA Judging Contest - April 30, 2022
Totusek Arena, Stillwater, OK