Top 5 Horse Health Resolutions to Keep in 2012

With another holiday season in the bag, wrapped up with the turkey giblets and excessive toy packaging, we can now turn and face the impending New Year. After the ball drops approximately 50% of us will yet again vow to make some important changes in our lives, but will we actually follow through?

Experts say that one reason many of us fail to keep our resolutions is because our goals aren't defined well enough. To combat this challenge, TheHorse.com has compiled five specific New Year's resolutions to help horse owners either maintain or improve their horses' health and longevity in 2012.

Resolution #1: Resolve to respect your horse's breathing zone.

The breathing zone is the two-foot sphere around your horse's nose from where he draws his breath. According to N. Edward Robinson, BVetMed, PhD, MRCVS, Matilda R. Wilson Chair in Large Animal Clinical Sciences at Michigan State University, horse owners often forget about preventing chronic disease such as heaves, inflammatory airway disease, and low-grade cough.

"These are all due to life-long dust inhalation and can be prevented by respecting the 'breathing zone,' " Robinson advised. "Aim to give your horse a dust-free 'breathing zone.' Provide as much pasture time as possible, remove the horse from its stable during clean out, use low dust bedding, and most importantly, use feeds with the least dust, such as pasture, leafy new hay, or pelleted complete feed."

Resolution #2: Resolve to discuss appropriate vaccination and deworming strategies with your veterinarian.

The number of infections and medical problems that can be either minimized or avoided entirely by appropriate basic horse health care is astounding. For example, in 2011 there were at least 125 cases of West Nile virus (WNV) and 43 cases of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) in the United States, according to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Both WNV and EEE are almost 100% preventable by vaccinating at-risk horses.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners' list of core vaccines should be on every owner's mind as he or she decides which inoculation a horse will receive. Additionally, talk with your veterinarian to see which--if any--additional at-risk vaccines he or she recommends, such as botulism, Potomac horse fever, or strangles vaccines.

Also consult a veterinarian about which deworming regimen he or she recommends for specific horses. For example, a horse in a closed herd that does not leave the farm will likely have slightly different deworming requirements than a show horse that travels the nation or the world. Resolve to ensure the ideal deworming protocol is used for each individual horse.

Resolution #3: Resolve to create and maintain a proper first aid kit.

A proper first aid kit cannot-and should not--be created in an emergency. In addition to the medical supplies, knowledge of how to use your first aid kit's contents (do you know how to measure pulse and respiratory rate?) and important and up-to-date information such as age, breed, use of horse, and vaccination status are also needed in emergencies and can be copied and included in the kit. Create a proper first aid kit, with help from Roberta Dwyer, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVPM, professor at the University of Kentucky's Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center, via this video on TheHorse.com.

Resolution #4: Resolve to manage your horse's weight.

As if that resolution isn't challenging enough, Nicholas Frank, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, professor and department chair of clinical sciences at Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, challenges horse owners to take this task one step further. Frank suggests the resolution should actually be, "To better understand how my horse's diet affects his or health; how diseases such as developmental orthopedic disease and laminitis can be prevented by recognizing relationships between genetics and diet."

Several articles have been posted on TheHorse.com over the past year covering these topics. In addition, an article on epigenetics featured in the January edition of The Horse magazine touches on how diet can impact genes during early foal development. While perusing these stories, don't forget to calculate your horse's weight using the weight calculator (a step in the right direction).

Resolution #5: Resolve to recognize all aspects of the equine community.

Consider donating some time or money to the many horse rescue organizations or to facilities that offer equine-related services (equine therapy) to disabled children, for example. If you prefer, you can donate instead to organizations that support research or educate veterinarians, students, or owners. There are also organizations in need of donations to help horses in developing countries where vaccines and medications are not widely available.

TheHorse.com recently caught up with three equine rescues to find out what their most desired items were this holiday season. Take a read to find out which items are most useful before you decide what to donate.

Finally, remember to spend lots of quality time with your four-legged family members in the New Year. As Sir Winston Churchill once said, "There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man."

Happy New Year

Happy New Year from all of us here at The Horse.

Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.

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