Monthly Newsletter

TFB Equine Newsletter

TFB Equine

The veterinarians and staff at the TFB Equine are pleased to provide you with an online newsletter. This fun and fact-filled newsletter is updated on a regular basis.

Included in the newsletter are articles pertaining to pet care, information on our animal hospital, as well as news on the latest trends and discoveries in veterinary medicine.

Please enjoy the newsletter!

Current Newsletter Topics

R&R is the Best Medicine: Horses with Tendon and Ligament Injuries

It's no secret that horses are big, heavy animals who are on their feet often. Because of this, injuries to tendons and ligaments are quite common. Injury to the superficial digital flexor tendon (aka "bowed tendon") or the suspensory ligament apparatus is the most common as both are involved with the major load-bearing joint in a horse. Causes can range from inherent conformational faults to fatigue and lameness which result in overload. If a horse experiences pain in one area, he or she may then overuse other muscles and limbs to compensate. This can lead to injury of soft tissue tendons and ligaments.

The Three Stages of Healing

It's important to consider your horse's natural healing process as he or she recovers. Although there is no shortage of "tricks and treatments" to speed along recovery, none of them speed up the process itself. These techniques can provide functional movement, but overuse – rather than R&R – will lead to incomplete healing and greater potential for future injury.

Stage One

When your horse sustains a tendon or ligament injury, the natural protective response of the body is to produce inflammation. This puffiness is actually the body's way of stimulating tissue regeneration and it lasts for about three to four weeks. Concurrently, new capillaries will be formed to provide the area with needed blood supply.

During this stage, you should stall your horse, hand walk him or her, and only gradually increase exercise. Your veterinarian will have unique recommendations for your individual horse and its lifestyle.

Stage Two

From week four through week 16, type III collagen fibrils will form as part of continued healing. These structural proteins will link together, forming collagen fibers, then fascicles, and groups of those will form new tendon or ligament.

During this stage, you should walk your horse under tack and increase time spent walking on a free exerciser.

Stage Three

From weeks 16 to 32, type I collagen is at work replacing the weaker type III collagen that previously formed. This is the collagen found in normal tendon and ligament tissues and it will increase the overall strength of the injured tissue.

During the first part of this stage, owners can walk and trot their horses under tack either mounted or unmounted or on a free exerciser. Some veterinarians may allow cantering and small paddock turnout given ultrasound results that show improvement. From weeks 24 to 32, cantering can typically be increased and free-canter can be allowed after about a week of work under saddle.

Again, your veterinarian will be able to design the best rehabilitation program for your unique animal and the severity of its injury.

Keeping Your Senior Horse’s Winter Blues at Bay

Tips for Cold-Weather Equine Care

Horses are hardy animals, but just like any other creature their lives often get a bit more tough during the harsh winter months. From the frigid cold temperatures, to the sleet, snow and icy ground, the right balance of care and support will help your aging horse weather yet another winter.

With average lifespans of 25 to 33 years, a horse is considered a senior only once it starts to show signs of aging that slow him or her down. For some, this may happen at 15; for others, aging might not start to take its toll until 20 or order. Signs of an aging equine include stiffness, difficulty maintaining a healthy weight and decreased immune response.

To best help your lifelong companion during the winter, consider the following:

Hydration - Water buckets can quickly freeze over once the temperature drops, so be sure your horse has access to fresh, non-frozen water at all times. Many horses drink less during the winter because of frozen sources. Heated water buckets and feed with an extra dash of salt will help encourage drinking. Hydration is important in temperature regulation, proper digestion and many metabolic functions.

Nutrition - Nutritional needs can change as a horse ages and many senior horses will become noticeably thinner and less toned during the winter. It is important to monitor your horse's weight and seek the advice of a veterinarian if he or she appears to be shedding to much mass. In addition to a steady supply of quality hay, supplements with healthy fats and amino acids can be added to the diet.

Dental Health - A horse's teeth are always crucial in ensuring he or she is able to eat and receive proper nutrition. If a senior is experiencing a sore mouth, this could lead to further winter weight loss and other associated health concerns.

Hoof Health - Standing on cold, frozen ground can lead to hoof troubles. However, it's not just that – ground conditions can change daily from dry to wet, icy to snow-packed. These fluctuations would be unkind to anyone's feet. Keep an eye on your horse's hooves and utilize a farrier to ensure his or her utmost comfort.

Skin & Coat Health - Just as elderly people are more cold, more often than younger folks, aging horses are also apt to catch a chill more easily. In addition to being more susceptible to skin infections during the coldest months of the year, older horses aren't able to regulate their body temperatures as easily and will need extra blanketing and protection from winter conditions. Just make sure your horse is clean and dry before blanketing.

Immune Function - As horses age, their immune function begins to decrease, meaning they may be more prone to illness or slower to recover from injury. Because of this, it's recommended that your veterinarian examines your senior horse annually and administer the appropriate vaccines to help boost their immunity.

Caring for Horses in Quarantine

Introducing a new horse to your farm or stable is an exciting time. Before you allow your horses to co-mingle, it is important to set aside a period of time to observe any potential illness your new equine may be afflicted with. Quarantine is also appropriate when one or more horses become ill or are potentially contagious after returning from any environment where they may have picked up something that you don’t want spreading.

By following these tips, you can reduce disease spread – saving yourself time and money spent caring on sick animals and ensuring a higher quality of health for your trusted steeds.

For starters:

• Keep horses current on necessary vaccines

• Maintain cleanliness of all stalls, equipment and feed/water receptacles

• Minimize rodent and insect populations

• Keep show and young horses separate from those who do not travel or are old

• Take the temperature of show horses for a week after returning from competition

Caring for Horses in Quarantine

When it comes to quarantine, a separate, isolated barn is always best. When this isn't possible, a spacious trailer, paddock or portable pen with shelter and water will do the trick. Once you've chosen the spot and moved your horse, make sure everyone is aware of the quarantine by both telling them and posting signs. You should be able to determine if a horse is sick within 10 days, but three weeks is often recommended for added assurance.

If possible, the person caring for the sick horse(s) shouldn't also be caring for healthy horses as disease can easily be spread on hands and clothing. If you're a one-man/woman operation, care for horses in their order of health: healthiest first, potentially exposed second and sick last. Use disposable gloves, plastic coverings over your shoes and aprons or coveralls. Dispose of these items carefully after each visit with the quarantined animal and wash your hands often.

Avoid Cross-Contamination

Even when your horse is quarantined, illness can be spread easily if you aren't careful. Be sure to avoid:

• Communal water (don't submerge hoses)

• Spreading fecal matter via equipment/tires

• Placing contaminated bedding/food in open-air piles or in pastures

• Using the wrong disinfectants (organic matter inactivates bleach)

Catching Illness Before it Spreads

Viruses and bacteria can live for varying amounts of time inside the body, as well as outside or in water sources. It is important to educate yourself on the different illnesses your horse may be exposed to. Horses with fevers or nasal discharge should prompt a call to your veterinarian. Having a quarantine plan in place will allow you to be proactive when it comes to controlling and preventing disease and virus spread.

About "Sleeping Disease" or Equine Encephalomyelitis

Equine Encephalomyelitis, or “sleeping sickness,” is a disease most often transmitted by mosquitoes that have acquired the virus from rodents or birds. The virus attacks the brain and spinal cord and can lead to muscle twitching, incoordination, erratic behavior and paralysis. There are three main strains, Eastern (EEE), Western (WEE), and Venezuelan (VEE) – with EEE being the most harmful and deadly to horses. Humans are susceptible to all when bitten by an infected mosquito, but often experience little in the way of symptoms. Direct transmission from an infected horse to a human is very rare.


Although it isn’t known exactly how long equine encephalomyelitis has existed, EEE was first recognized in 1831 when more than 75 horses suddenly fell ill and died in Massachusetts. The disease was named in 1933 following another major outbreak in coastal areas of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia. During the next two years, outbreaks occurred in Virginia and North Carolina. Mosquitoes were determined to be potential carriers in 1934 and birds were identified as possible hosts in 1935. By 1938, a vaccine had been developed to protect horses from the disease.


• Abnormal sensitivity to light and sound

• Blindness

• Chewing movements

• Circling

• Convulsions

• Depression

• Excitability

• Fever

• Head pressing

• Irritability and aggressiveness

• Lack of coordination

• Loss of appetite

• Paddling motion of limbs

• "Sawhorse stance”

• Staggering

• Weakness


Risk of exposure to EEE and WEE vary from year-to-year. EEE is still reported on the East Coast and inland variants that cause the disease have been detected. Although there have been few cases of WEE in the last two decades, the virus continues to be detected in mosquitoes and birds throughout Western states.

As horses are constantly swarmed by pesky, biting mosquitoes, all should receive an annual EEE and WEE vaccine. It is best to vaccinate a month prior to peak mosquito season and for southern equines, it is often necessary to administer a booster shot every several months to ensure extra protection year-round. Pregnant mares and foals may also require additional vaccinations. The vaccine is highly effective in prevention and may also provide partial protection against VEE (which occurs in South and Central America, but has not been seen in the U.S. for more than 35 years).

Horse owners should try to eliminate standing water since it is conducive to mosquito breeding. The amount of time horses spend outdoors during early morning and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active, should be limited.

Treatment & Prognosis

As there is no cure for encephalomyelitis, treatment is primarily supportive. Horses infected with WEE stand a 50 to 80 percent chance of survival, while the death rate for EEE ranges from 75 to 90 percent. Those who do survive often suffer from permanent brain and nervous system damage that can completely compromise their ability to perform and/or reproduce.

Brrr, it’s Cold Outside! Does Your Horse Need to be Blanketed?

Winter blanketing is a topic of much confusion for many horse owners. Although healthy horses are well-equipped to withstand frigid temperatures, some may still benefit – or enjoy – a little added protection from those harsh winter winds and dropping temperatures.

As the season shifts from autumn to winter and the nights begin to get colder, a horse's coat will naturally thicken and grow. Horses, like any animal, adapt to their environments. Coats will thicken on horses who are accustomed to colder weather. Provided the proper cold season feed and roughage, they should be just fine in environments that don't routinely dip below 10-degrees Fahrenheit. They will need to be stalled during the coldest times and provided protective shelter or a windbreak. Show horses who have their coats clipped require more protection, as their natural barrier from the cold has been removed.

    Horse Blanketing Guidelines
Temperature Unclipped Clipped
> 50℉ No Blanket No Blanket or Sheet
40-50℉ No Blanket Sheet or Lightweight
30-40℉ No Blanket or Lightweight Mid- to Heavyweight
20-30℉ No Blanket or Light/Midweight Heavyweight
10-20℉ Mid- to Heavyweight Heavyweight & Sheet/Liner
< 10℉ Heavyweight Heavyweight w/Liner & Neck Cover

Blankets should only ever be put on clean, dry horses and must be of the appropriate type and size to be effective. For example, turnout blankets are waterproof and breathable because they're made for outdoor use. If a non-waterproof blanket gets wet, it will only make your horse more cold. Sweating is just as bad when a blanket is too warm for the conditions. Remove your horse's blanket daily to observe his or her body condition and ensure that rub marks aren't forming from poor fit.

If you begin a season with blanketing, plan to carry it out until warmer temperatures return. It is also crucial to remember that digestion generates body heat. Providing your horse with enough calories (especially in the form of forage/hay) will help keep his or her body temperature up!

Benefits of Blanketing

• Assists with acclimation

• Keeps horses clean and dry, ready for riding

• Maintains short-haired show coats

• Provides added warmth