Transporting Mares & Foals

Published in the April 2008, edition of the Western Horse Review.


Photo by Jenn Webster

Due to the advent of shipped semen, it is not as necessary to transport mares along with their foals to stallions for breeding, as it once was. Instead of mares enduring shipping for miles, we can simply pick up the phone and have a stallion meet breeding requirements right in the backyard. Still, there are instances where it might be necessary for a mare and foal to hit the road for long hauls. Re-breds for example, often require that the mare come straight to the stallion farm to eliminate any further complications of getting her into foal for the following year. Or arriving at a new home following sale at an auction.

Hauling is stressful for adult horses, so it only makes sense that it would take a toll on foals as well. With a young horse’s immature immune system and inexperience of being confined for transportation, hauling can subject them to shipping fever, colic, dehydration, fatigue. The stress factors horses must endure during transport include noise, trailer motion, changes in air temperature, changes in eating and drinking patterns and fatigue from constantly having to balance themselves. As such there are several things you can do to help eliminate the risks.

1. Always transport a mare together with her foal, in a box stall compartment, so the duo can move freely.

2. Give the mare hay to eat. The box stall will allow her to put her head down, giving her more opportunity to expel foreign particles that may enter her nasal cavity. Horses get tired from having their heads tied high for too long. As such, lowering their heads offers the chance to balance themselves and rest up from fatigue.

3. A box stall on the road might also mean you can hang a water bucket in for the mare. But use caution! While the opportunity for free choice water is ideal for a lactating mare, it is possible for the foal to bump into the bucket or for the mare to get her mane or tail stuck in the handle clasp or hanging device. Ensure you have foal-proofed and duct-taped any place where they might get caught.

4. If you cannot give the horses free choice hay and water, stop frequently (every four hours) to feed and water them. This also allows you to look in often and see if a mishap has occurred, monitor water consumption, or discover if one horse seems to be poor-doing.

5. Monitor body temperature often. A highly recommended practice for long trips. Slight changes in temperatures can alert you of a potential illness.

6. Be sure to halter break the youngster before he/she is loaded into a trailer. The mare and foal should also be taught to load and unload, to help eliminate stress. In the event you have to unload enroute, you will be prepared without the risk factor of a free-roaming foal.

7. Ensure the trailer has good ventilation and fresh bedding.

8. Monitor attitude, appetite and the development of a cough following arrival at your destination. Recovery time from travel depends on the animal and ailments such as shipping fever and pneumonia, might not cause classical symptoms for two to three days afterwards. While other clinical signs (depression, lack of appetite, coughing or nasal discharge) may be more readily apparent.

Q & A – Deworming Demystified

Deworming Geriatric Horses

The April Issue

Photo cover credit: Natalie Jackman –

That’s right! It’s out. March came in like a lion and April is showing promise so far. I think I even observed a fat, little gopher today…

If you want a tiny sneak peek of the Western Horse Review issue about to hit your mailbox, or if you need a reason to pick it up off the shelves, read on! Here are some of the stories behind the headline stories of April.

This month features 75 pieces of Horsekeeping Advice from the Alberta Horse Owners and Breeders Conference. Which is of course, a serious event…


All kidding aside, this annual event for horse owners and breeders is a great way to get yourself up-to-date on the latest in the industry. However, if you weren’t able to attend – we’ve got you covered with our extensive coverage from each of the seminars!

Photo credit: Victoria Ann Photography


Next in the issue we have a 10 Things You Didn’t Know piece about the sport of Reining. For instance, did you know that a legend in car racing has now taken a liking to sliding plates? It’s true! Michael Schumacher, a seven-time Formula One World Champion rode Smart Spook in a celebrity event at last year’s National Reining Horse Association Futurity. Read all about it, plus 9 other morsels of reining particulars that even die-hards might be surprised to learn!


Photo courtesy of the NRHA.

The in-depth health section this month also focuses attention on a rare disease, called neonatal isoerythrolysis (N I foals). This condition can occur when the mare’s colostrum actually possesses antibodies against the foal’s blood type – NI is similar to the human Rh-Factor, whereby a pregnant Rh-negative woman’s body begins producing antibodies that begin to attack the baby’s red blood cells.

A foal in ICU. Photo courtesy of Deb Carroll of West Wind Vet Hospital.

Once the foal absorbs these antibodies, they result in lysis of the foal’s red blood cells within 24 to 36 hours after birth. This red blood cell destruction is widespread throughout the foal’s body and can lead to life-threatening anemia and/or jaundice.

Jaundice can be seen around this foal’s eye. Photo courtesy of Deb Carroll of West Wind Vet Hospital.

For an N I foal to happen, the mare must have had previous exposure to blood that contained these particular antibodies to the foal’s blood (such as through a blood transfusion or a previous foaling). Unfortunately, Arabians and Standardbreds have a higher incidence of N I foals. Read this month’s WHR to find out more about whether or not your horses are at risk.

April is the perfect time to get your horses caught up on their annual vaccines. Since there is no one-size-fits-all policy, this issue’s full legnth vaccine feature will help you understand how you can help your horse stimulate antibodies to defend against today’s diseases.



In an effort to try and explain Antigens and Antibodies for the Vaccines piece, I was feeling particularly inspired… by my children’s crayons. And while I ended up being pretty happy about the finished product – a diagram you can find on page 47 – this tired Mommy then later forgot to put those same crayons away…



…my daughter found them and used them to draw me a lovely picture on the back of our leather couch.


Speaking of little ones, if you or your youngster are looking for some great advice about maintaining soft hands on the reins, Pat Ross of Cochrane, Alberta, is one of the best. Ross is an accomplished trainer, teacher and mentor to many. Be sure to catch her full-length feature about creating softness.

“It is the rider’s responsibility to monitor the horse’s movement through feel and guide him with proper cues. Clearly, the rider’s body has much to do with this. However, the fact is that most problems in effective communication with horses stem from the rider’s hands,” says the trainer.

In this comprehensive editorial Ross explains why her pursuit of soft hands has been an educational journey, with some mistakes and an extensive injury taking place along the way. In the April issue, you can find out how she bounced back and reap her advice for obtaining softness in a simple, safe manner that all levels of riders can master.


Happy Reading!

Q & A – Signs of a Tail Pyoderma Infection

Published in the May 2008, edition of the Western Horse Review.

Tail Pyoderma bacteria Infection

Photo by Deanna Buschert

Pyoderma is a skin infection, that can also effect the tail of a horse. Here Robert Tremblay, DVM, DVSc, Diplomat ACVIM, answers our reader’s question on a this type of infection, which sadly effected their horse. Tremblay, is a Technical Services veterinarian with Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd. He graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College in 1982 and worked in large animal practice in New Brunswick. After receiving a DVSc degree in 1988, he remained at OVC as a faculty member in the large animal clinic until 1992. He spends much of his time working on the control of infectious diseases of horses and cattle.

Question: Our Quarter Horse mare lost about half her tail last year when it started to flake and then had little sores exhibiting pus on it. Eventually it resolved with daily Betadine washes. Now she’s in heat and it’s back. This time, her tail looks like a candle, all white and waxy and big clumps of greasy waxy white stuff comes off. Underneath there are little open sores. I think it must be a fungus or parasite, in which case the Betadine won’t do anything. Anybody seen anything like this?

Answer: It sounds like your horse has a condition called tail pyoderma. This disease is a bacterial infection of the hair follicles. It can occur anywhere on the horse but the tail and pasterns are common sites. The infected follicles are the “small pusy sores” that you describe in your letter. This bacterial infection may improve or even resolve with the Betadine treatment, but as you found out, it is likely to come back. It comes back because the infection of the follicles, called pyoderma, happens when there is some other problem that disrupts the normal skin. The disrupted skin allows the bacterial infection to take hold. Finding out what the original problem might be and then preventing it usually gives the best long-term solution.

Taking A Horse's Temperature

Published in the November 2007, edition of the Western Horse Review


Taking A Horse's Temperature

Photo by Elizabeth Hak

The ability to take your horse’s body temperature is a vital horsemanship skill. As horses are warm-blooded creatures, their temperature should remain at a constant level, regardless of the ambient environment. This means, the range of normal body temperature is 37°C to 38.3°C, or 99°F to 101°F for the horse.

Monitoring body temperature is extremely useful in determining if the horse is ill or has an infection – or if the animal is on the road to recovery – and also for insurance or pre-purchase exams.


1. In the age of technology, using a digital thermometer is the easiest way to take a horse’s temperature. However, if you are required to utilize an old-fashioned mercury thermometer, ensure you shake the mercury line down below 36°C before proceeding. Attach a string with a clip securely to the end of the thermometer.

2. Lubricate the thermometer with water, saliva, Vaseline or KY Jelly lubricant. (2a, 2b)

3. Position yourself close in against the horse’s rear leg, just in front of the stifle.

4. Reach around the horse’s rear and lift up the horse’s tail.

5. Insert the bulb of the thermometer gently into the horse’s rectum and advance it at least two to three inches.

6. Clip the thermometer to the horse’s tail hairs and leave in place for one to three minutes. If the thermometer breaks or is swallowed by the rectum, it will likely come out with the next defecation. A swallowed, broken glass, mercury thermometer is an emergency situation – a string securely attached to the thermometer can help prevent this situation. Digital thermometers often ‘beep’ to signal they are finished taking the reading.

7. Remove gently.

8. Wipe the thermometer clean and note the reading.


If your horse’s temperature seems abnormal and the animal otherwise appears healthy, consider if there was an error made in the temperature reading. Air in the rectum during the time of thermometer insertion, a faulty thermometer, or failure to place it inside long enough can result in false readings. It’s also possible to inadvertently lock the bulb of the thermometer into a fecal ball, or neglect to shake the mercury line down far enough for the thermometer to take a correct reading.

Equine Cushing's Disease Explained

Q & A – Recognizing Ringworm

Published in the August 2008, edition of the Western Horse Review.

Ring Worm

Photo by Christina Handley

Recognizing ringworm, explained by Dr. James Carmalt is an associate professor of equine surgery in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. He is

a Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, a Diplomate of the American Board.

Question: I am a race horse owner, and recently I noticed balding in the “arm pits” of my horse’s front legs. It is spreading down to her knees and the hair can be pulled right out in a clump! It looks like a molting bird. I noticed one of my other horses has two spots at the top of her tail in the rump area, and another owner’s horse has it on his neck. What is it, and how can it be cured? Is it contagious to humans?
Answer: Dermatitis in the horse is usually a case of pattern recognition (in most cases), and it’s difficult to determine a diagnosis from a written description. However, assuming that the skin underneath these spots is completely undamaged and that the horse is not rubbing or itching excessively, the most likely diagnosis is ringworm – a common fungal skin infection.

The horse should be bathed with an anti-fungal medication. Unfortunately, ringworm is incredibly contagious to other horses. Strict measures should be taken to ensure that feed and water buckets, tack, grooming equipment, etc., are not shared. The horse’s caregiver should wear gloves to ensure that the fungal infection isn’t inadvertently transferred to another horse.

Ringworm is a self-limiting disease, meaning that the horse will get over it in time. While the fungal infection isn’t usually transmissible to humans (unlike other species), it can occur and precautions should be taken.

Q & A – Milking Mares

Published in the March 2008, edition of the Western Horse Review.

Dr. David Ramey, DVM, is a graduate of Colorado State University. After completing an internship in equine medicine and surgery at Iowa State University, he entered a private equine practice in southern California in 1984. Dr. Ramey is a noted author and lecturer. Here he answers our reader’s question on their brood mare. Visit him online at

Question: I have an open mare that milks up every spring and summer. She is older and has carried several foals to term, but has also lost a couple. Can you tell me why this happens and if there is any way to stop it?
Answer: The mammary glands of the mare are under the control of various hormones secreted by glands in the horse’s body. Older horses may develop benign growths of their pituitary glands, causing a condition called pars pituitary intermedia dysfunction (PPID), which is more commonly known as Cushing’s Disease. Older mares with PPID may have hormonal abnormalities that result in abnormal lactation. It’s something that your veterinarian can test for, although probably not until the spring (research indicates that tests for Cushing’s Disease may not be accurate at the end of the year).If your horse is confirmed with Cushing’s Disease, the most commonly prescribed treatment is a drug called pergolide, which helps one of the horse’s own hormones, dopamine, do its job. It’s given orally, so it’s easy to administer. In fact, I’ve treated a couple of mares that have acted just like yours that stopped their mammary development when on the drug.