12 Christmas Wishes for Horses, Owners from Veterinary Experts

Veterinarians work with horse owners to provide the best possible care from snip to tail. This holiday season, consider the following "wishes" your equine experts made to help maximize your horses' quality of life.

12 Drummers Drumming: Cardiology

"I wish for all owners to be able to take their horses heart rates and know their horse's range of normal rates," said Kim McGurrin, DVM, DVSc, Dipl. ACVIM, from the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Canada.

All horse owners are encouraged to own and know how to use a stethoscope to assess their horse's heart rates as needed. Horses with colic, injuries, lameness, laminitis, chronic pain, and even foaling can have elevated heart rates. The normal heart rate for an average adult horse can range from 28-44 beats per minute. Knowing your horse's "normal" heart rate is an asset in advance of an emergency.

11 Pipers Piping: Respiration

Ed Robinson, BVetMed, MRCVS, PhD, the Matilda R. Wilson Chair in Large Animal Clinical Sciences at the Michigan State University (MSU) College of Veterinary Medicine and the director of the Equine Pulmonary Research Laboratory, has wished for years, as reported in numerous articles on TheHorse.com, that owners would "... focus on the horse's breathing zone--a 2-foot sphere around the horse's nose from where he draws his breath."

10 Lords-a-Leaping: Lameness (Skeletal)

Mike W. Ross, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, a professor of surgery at the University of Pennsylvania's school of veterinary medicine said, "I wish horse owners would think about alternatives to longeing. Constant turning places forces of torsion on the distal limbs, exacerbates lameness, and may potentially lead to chronic arthritic conditions later in life."

He philosophized, "Each step while turning is worth two steps in a straightaway." Alternatives to longeing include long reining, in-hand work, and even "advance-retreat" work with a loose horse (through obstacle courses, etc). All of these techniques will help keep you fit as well.

9 Ladies Dancing: Lameness (Soft Tissue)

"Know what your horse's legs look and feel like to best detect tendon or ligament injury," wished Sue Dyson, MA, VetMB, PhD, DEO, FRCVS, head of clinical orthopedics at the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket, England.

Dyson relayed an additional wish in the form of a haiku:

Well-meaning owners
bandage. Be warned! Don't apply
bandage/boot too tight.

8 Maids-a-Milking: Neonatology

During this year's American Association of Equine Practitioners' Annual Convention, Ahmed Tibary, DMV, PhD, Dipl. ACT, from Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, wished for breeders "to call for veterinary examinations ... within 12 to 18 hours of foaling, even when everything seems to be normal."

7 Swans-a-Swimming: Physical Therapy

"I wish that owners would use more cross training to keep their horses fit and interested in work," revealed Hilary Clayton, BVMS, PhD, MRCVS, the Mary Anne McPhail Dressage Chair in Equine Sports Medicine at MSU and Vice President of the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Cross training refers to a change of scenery or routine to avoid boredom. If you have a dressage horse, for instance, get out of the arena, go for a hack, try some hill work--anything that will keep him fit and interested.

6 Geese-a-Laying: Reproduction

"I wish horse owners were more aware of different ways to prevent abortion/miscarriage due common causes such as placentitis," said Kristina Lu, VMD, Dipl. ACT, an associate at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington, Ky.

Lu also wished for expedited research in this field.

5 Gold Rings: Farriery

To help keep horses' toes in gleaming good health, focus some attention on the hoof walls. "Help maintain good-quality (hoof) walls. Apply a water-repelling hoof dressing such as pine tar before each bath," advised Scott Morrison, DVM, of Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky. 

4 Calling Birds: Welfare

James Yeates, BVSc, BSc, DWEL, PhD, MRCVS, chief veterinary officer and head of companion animals at the The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, in the United Kingdom, said, "We (at the RSPCA) wish that all owners will give their horses the right company, environment, diet, and health care." He also wished that horse owners would call their local humane society if other horse owners are not meeting their horses' needs.

3 French Hens: Nutrition

While a french hen might appreciate a bed of soft hay, most horses appreciate forage as the main portion of their diet. Attention to diet is a major aspect of horse ownership, and equine nutritionist Kathleen Crandell, PhD, from Kentucky Equine Research wished "for owners to understand how important forage is in their horse's diet, and that the diet should be balanced relative to the forage."

2 Turtle Doves: Internal Medicine

Published reports indicate doves are hardy birds and rarely fall ill if they're properly cared for. On the other hand, horses can develop medical problems even if owners spare no expense in their care. Simply wishing for it won't keep your horse healthy. It takes regular veterinary examinations, vaccinations, good nutrition, and, of course, a little TLC.

"I wish for all horses to have a warm and dry winter ... and a regular mash, topped with a carrot (on Christmas)," shared Nicola Pusterla, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, associate professor at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine.

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree: Parasitology

"I wish all owners and veterinarians would embrace change," said Craig Reinemeyer, DVM, PhD, from East Tennessee Clinical Research Inc., in Rockwood, Tenn. Referring not only to changing deworming protocols, Reinemeyer reminds everyone of a famous quote from Charles Darwin, "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change."

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