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Impact of COVID-19 on our Horses

10 Aug | Jenna Tranter

Barn Manager and Horse Trainer at 4 Corners Equestrian

If you’re a horse person in North America, it’s likely that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted your life in a big way. Many horse owners were cut off from their horses completely as horse barns were not considered ‘essential services’ and so access was denied. State & Provincial government measures hit the vast majority of us hard and fast. What was once our worst nightmare - the idea that we wouldn’t be able to see our equine best friend, for many, became a sudden reality.

 

During this time, horse owners were forced to trust in boarding facilities and staff to provide care for their horses as they would themselves. Owners no longer had access to assess their horses body condition, adjust feed accordingly, provide exercise as needed and make general decisions based on their horses specific needs. At the same time, many facilities experienced reduced services like riding lessons and therefore experienced a decline in revenue. In an effort to save costs and stay afloat, many facilities had to reduce staff. Less staff and more direct responsibilities for the horses meant some adjustments had to be made to make this work – it was triage mode. These adjustments came in many forms: less exercise for our equine partners (if any), reduced feed programs to save costs, reduced grain for performance horses who were not working and required less calories, to name a few. All of these measures had a direct impact on our horses. Some became underweight (less feed), some became overweight (same feed, less exercise), reduced muscling and lost topline was not uncommon, and anxiety and frustration crept up with the limit of exercise. Our horses were showing the effects of the pandemic.

Thankfully access has returned and owners have been reunited with their equine friends. Now we face the issue of getting our horses back into their proper form. Pre shutdown health and condition. What does this mean? Nutrition and exercise are key components. Here are some tips to help get them back on track:

 

Underweight horse:

Add 10% more grain to the diet and whenever possible offer ‘free-choice’ hay. We all know that hay is the basis for our horses' diet and is the most important piece. It’s a cornerstone for healthy horses. Additionally you can supplement with up to 3 oz daily of camelina oil until desired weight is achieved. At this time, reduce your grain program back to a maintenance level and cut camelina back to 1-2oz/day. Maintain a moderate exercise program to ensure fitness is retained but do not provide high levels while adding weight. In extreme cases, and in the case of rescue horses do not begin an exercise regime without first having clearance from your vet.

 

Overweight horse:

 

Cut back on grain by 10% for the first 2 weeks, and if no weight loss is seen reduce the grain by an additional 10%. Add 1 oz camelina per day to the diet as it has been shown to assist with digestion and fat burning as well as help with recovery due to increased exercise. If your horse is on lush pasture consider moving them to a dry lot for portions of their turnout or using a grazing muzzle. Remember that horses are supposed to consume small amounts of forage regularly throughout the day and shouldn’t eat just one big meal. Feeding large amounts at once increases your risk of gastrointestinal issues including ulcers. For hay we suggest using a slow feeder net so they don’t ‘gorge’ on their ration and go without access to forage for long periods of time. Gradually increase exercise by 10% for the first 2 weeks and then add an additional 10% for the remaining schedule. Maintain this (total 20% increase) until appropriate body condition is met. Much like us we cannot expect our horses to go from a low level of activity to higher intensity over night. Gradually increasing the exercise intensity and duration gives your horse time to ‘fit up’ and reduces the risk of tendon and joint injuries.

 

Anxiety/frustration:

 

Routine, routine, routine! Our horses thrive on routines and schedules and are creatures of habit! Gradually increase the amount of exercise and ensure a turn out schedule with the maximum amount of time you can for them to just go out and be a horse. Horses are social creatures who enjoy time to forage and hang out with their buddies as much as we do. Add camelina oil 1-2oz/day as this has been shown to have a positive impact on mood. It may take 6-8 weeks for any mood change to be seen from the oil. Earlier changes should be seen from the environmental and exercise adjustments. Make sure if your horse has been stressed that you consider speaking to your veterinarian- stressed, anxious and frustrated horses are prone to gastric ulcers in both the foregut and the hindgut. Camelina oil will help coat their stomachs and reduce GI upset, however it is not a replacement treatment for active ulcers. Active ulcers almost always require medical treatment and a specialized feed program to resolve.

 

You’ll notice that fatty acids are recommended in each of the conditions mentioned. Fatty acid deficiency and also fatty acid imbalance are very common problems that can lead to a multitude of issues both physical and mood related. We recommend our Smart Earth Camelina because it is different than canola, flax or fish in many key ways. These include providing an ideal balance/ratio of omega 3 to 6 (1.6:1-1:8:1) while adding a high amount of omega 3 (36%) and also providing meaningful levels of vitamin E – all in one dose. With fish oil use its recommended that you also add vitamin E to protect against the inflammatory concerns of oxidation (fish oil is very fragile). Camelina is very stable and does not easily oxidize…and has the vitamin E built in. Omega 3 supplementation is a key element to optimal health by aiding the reduction of inflammation in the body. Horses only require 1-2oz of Smart Earth per day, making it an affordable option.

 

As we get back to the ‘new normal’ we are facing new challenges and managing impacts from the quick and severe shut down we all experienced. This was a very challenging time for most of us and some hard decisions were made. Sadly, some horses were lost and many others endured restrictive conditions as we’ve discussed here. Gratefully this is behind us and we can focus on recovery.

 

Onward and upward with happy, healthy horses!

The Smart Earth Team

Impact of Covid 19 On Our Horses

10 Aug - Jenna Tranter
Barn Manager and Horse Trainer at 4 Corners Equestrian

If you’re a horse person in North America, it’s likely that the COVID-19 Pandemic has impacted your life in a big way. Many horse owners were cut off from their horses completely as horse barns were not considered ‘essential services’ and so access was denied. State & Provincial government measures hit the vast majority of us hard and fast. What was once our worst nightmare - the idea that we wouldn’t be able to see our equine best friend, for many, became a sudden reality.

 

During this time, horse owners were forced to trust in boarding facilities and staff to provide care for their horses as they would themselves. Owners no longer had access to assess their horses body condition, adjust feed accordingly, provide exercise as needed and make general decisions based on their horses specific needs. At the same time, many facilities experienced reduced services like riding lessons and therefore experienced a decline in revenue. In an effort to save costs and stay afloat, many facilities had to reduce staff. Less staff and more direct responsibilities for the horses meant some adjustments had to be made to make this work – it was triage mode. These adjustments came in many forms: less exercise for our equine partners (if any), reduced feed programs to save costs, reduced grain for performance horses who were not working and required less calories, to name a few. All of these measures had a direct impact on our horses. Some became underweight (less feed), some became overweight (same feed, less exercise), reduced muscling and lost topline was not uncommon, and anxiety and frustration crept up with the limit of exercise. Our horses were showing the effects of the pandemic.

Thankfully access has returned and owners have been reunited with their equine friends. Now we face the issue of getting our horses back into their proper form. Pre shutdown health and condition. What does this mean? Nutrition and exercise are key components. Here are some tips to help get them back on track:

 

Underweight horse:

Add 10% more grain to the diet and whenever possible offer ‘free-choice’ hay. We all know that hay is the basis for our horses' diet and is the most important piece. It’s a cornerstone for healthy horses. Additionally you can supplement with up to 3 oz daily of camelina oil until desired weight is achieved. At this time, reduce your grain program back to a maintenance level and cut camelina back to 1-2oz/day. Maintain a moderate exercise program to ensure fitness is retained but do not provide high levels while adding weight. In extreme cases, and in the case of rescue horses do not begin an exercise regime without first having clearance from your vet.

 

Overweight horse:

 

Cut back on grain by 10% for the first 2 weeks, and if no weight loss is seen reduce the grain by an additional 10%. Add 1 oz camelina per day to the diet as it has been shown to assist with digestion and fat burning as well as help with recovery due to increased exercise. If your horse is on lush pasture consider moving them to a dry lot for portions of their turnout or using a grazing muzzle. Remember that horses are supposed to consume small amounts of forage regularly throughout the day and shouldn’t eat just one big meal. Feeding large amounts at once increases your risk of gastrointestinal issues including ulcers. For hay we suggest using a slow feeder net so they don’t ‘gorge’ on their ration and go without access to forage for long periods of time. Gradually increase exercise by 10% for the first 2 weeks and then add an additional 10% for the remaining schedule. Maintain this (total 20% increase) until appropriate body condition is met. Much like us we cannot expect our horses to go from a low level of activity to higher intensity over night. Gradually increasing the exercise intensity and duration gives your horse time to ‘fit up’ and reduces the risk of tendon and joint injuries.

 

Anxiety/frustration:

 

Routine, routine, routine! Our horses thrive on routines and schedules and are creatures of habit! Gradually increase the amount of exercise and ensure a turn out schedule with the maximum amount of time you can for them to just go out and be a horse. Horses are social creatures who enjoy time to forage and hang out with their buddies as much as we do. Add camelina oil 1-2oz/day as this has been shown to have a positive impact on mood. It may take 6-8 weeks for any mood change to be seen from the oil. Earlier changes should be seen from the environmental and exercise adjustments. Make sure if your horse has been stressed that you consider speaking to your veterinarian- stressed, anxious and frustrated horses are prone to gastric ulcers in both the foregut and the hindgut. Camelina oil will help coat their stomachs and reduce GI upset, however it is not a replacement treatment for active ulcers. Active ulcers almost always require medical treatment and a specialized feed program to resolve.

 

You’ll notice that fatty acids are recommended in each of the conditions mentioned. Fatty acid deficiency and also fatty acid imbalance are very common problems that can lead to a multitude of issues both physical and mood related. We recommend our Smart Earth Camelina because it is different than canola, flax or fish in many key ways. These include providing an ideal balance/ratio of omega 3 to 6 (1.6:1-1:8:1) while adding a high amount of omega 3 (36%) and also providing meaningful levels of vitamin E – all in one dose. With fish oil use its recommended that you also add vitamin E to protect against the inflammatory concerns of oxidation (fish oil is very fragile). Camelina is very stable and does not easily oxidize…and has the vitamin E built in. Omega 3 supplementation is a key element to optimal health by aiding the reduction of inflammation in the body. Horses only require 1-2oz of Smart Earth per day, making it an affordable option.

 

As we get back to the ‘new normal’ we are facing new challenges and managing impacts from the quick and severe shut down we all experienced. This was a very challenging time for most of us and some hard decisions were made. Sadly, some horses were lost and many others endured restrictive conditions as we’ve discussed here. Gratefully this is behind us and we can focus on recovery.

 

Onward and upward with happy, healthy horses!

The Smart Earth Team :)