Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM)
Polysaccharide Storage myopathy (PSSM1) –
Animal Genetics has been working with several breeders of Gypsy horses to better understand the effects of PSSM1 in the breed.

The work was specifically focused on several key factors including whether or not PSSM1 existed in the breed, if the genetic test being offered is valid, what additional factors may influence PSSM1 in the breed, and can the condition be managed.

We now have several examples of horses that have tested positive genetically with 2 copies of the mutated gene and have had episodes of tying up, muscle stiffness, sweating, and reluctance or inability to move. Muscle biopsies of these horses were collected during these episodes by veterinarians for further testing. In all cases, muscle biopsy results of affected horses showed a dramatic accumulation of excess glycogen and abnormal polysaccharides. All symptomatic horses were homozygous for the genetic variant. In this relatively small study (roughly 50 horses) all horses with one copy of the mutated gene did not exhibit any clear symptoms. However, several horses did show elevated levels of glycogen in muscle tissue samples compared to those horse that tested negative for the genetic mutation.

In each case the symptomatic horse was properly managed through restricted diets and increased regular physical activity. Symptoms related to PSSM1 in all horses decreased or went away completely with in a relatively short period of time. We hope to be able to continue to evaluate all effected horses in the future to help us better understand the condition.

Further work and more details will be published in the future but Animal Genetics wanted to get this out to people who have been waiting for information about PSSM1 in Draft breeds like the Gypsy horse as soon as we could. It is our opinion that in all most all cases the effects of PSSM1 in Gypsy horses can be manage if the condition is identified properly.

Animal Genetics will continue to work with breeders and veterinarians to better understand the condition and identify additional genetic factors that may influence a horse with two copies of the mutated gene.

Foal Immunodeficiency Syndrome (FIS) in Gypsy Horses

Foal Immunodeficiency Syndrome (FIS) – is a recessive genetic disease that primarily affects two relatively rare native UK pony breeds, the Dales and the Fell pony. FIS is caused by a single mutation in the sodium/myo-inositol cotransporter gene (SLC5A3).

This gene plays a vital role in the regulatory response in many tissues including lymphoid tissues. As much as 10% of all Fell ponies born each year suffer from FIS. This has put a strain on the long-term survival of this breed as well as the likely spread of FIS into other breeds. Most recently Animal Genetics has found the mutation that causes FIS in approximately 9% of Gypsy horse breeds in the US and Europe.

Foals must have two copies of the mutated gene in order to be affected with FIS. Therefore, each parent must be a carrier of the mutated gene in order to have an affected foal. Affected foals appear healthy and normal at birth but begin to show signs of weakness, dull coat and anorexia at 2-3 weeks. The first clinical signs of this disease include diarrhoea, nasal discharge, poor growth, pale gums and decreased appetite. Vision may be affected, presumably due to secondary bacterial infections. Mortality rate for foal affected by FIS is 100% despite intensive treatment. All FIS affected foals generally die or are euthanized before they reach the age of 3 months.

Outbreak Alert – EHV-1

A case of Neurologic Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) was recently reported in Gaithersburg, Maryland. EHV-1 is one of the most common strains of equine herpes virus and is known to cause respiratory disease, as well as outbreaks of abortions and neurologic disease.1

EHV-1 is usually spread through coughing or sneezing.2 Direct horse-to-horse contact, as well as contact with contaminated feed, equipment, clothing and tack, can also spread the disease.2 In addition, once a horse is infected, the virus can become latent for the rest of the horse’s life.2,3 Then, often during times of stress, the virus emerges and the horse begins silently shedding, which puts other horses at risk for infection.1,2,3

Given that there is no vaccine to protect against the neurologic form of EHV-1,3 taking appropriate biosecurity measures can help prevent exposure the spread of the disease.3 Preventive measures include:3
Don’t share tack,
Clean and disinfect your horse trailer after transporting horses other than your own,
Provide appropriate food, water and shelter to minimize stress on your horses,
Quarantine new horses for at least 30 days before introducing them to your existing herd, and
If your horse exhibits any neurologic signs, contact your veterinarian immediately.

For more information about equine diseases, talk with your veterinarian and go to www.outbreak-alert.com sponsored by Merial.

©2011 Merial Limited, Duluth, GA. All rights reserved. EQUIBGN1115-G (03/11)

1 Facts About Equine Herpes Virus. University of Saskatchewan. Western College of Veterinary Medicine. Available at: http://blogs.usask.ca/wcvm_news/EHV.FACT.SHEET.APR.9.FINAL.pdf. Accessed March 20, 2011.
2 Lenz TR. EHV-1 Outbreaks. 2003. Available at: http://www.aaep.org.health_articles_view.php?id=222. Accessed March 20, 2011.
3 Rood KA, Rogers LE. Neurologic Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1). Cooperative Extension. Utah State University. 2008. Available at: https://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/publication/AG_Equine_2008-03pr.pdf. Access March 20, 2011.

Dear Starland Equine Clients,

Well, as I am writing this “Spring” Newsletter, it is a balmy 3oF… But, despite what it feels like right now, Spring and Summer will indeed come! We know your horses are eager to get out and enjoy the warmer weather, and we want to help you all get ready.

Once again, it is time for the extremely important yearly examination and vaccines. It’s hard to imagine that any living organisms (mosquitoes, ticks, bacteria) survived this winter, but we can assure you they did, and they are ready as ever to spread disease!

We are proud to continue offering our high quality, low cost annual exam that includes a full physical exam, brief dental exam, nutrition consult, deworming consult, soundness exam, and addressing any other questions you might have about your horse! We will also discuss which vaccines are necessary for your particular situation. We are happy to perform fecal parasite tests, Coggins tests and Cushing’s disease tests at the time of vaccination.
Our vaccine recommendations are available on our website at

Equine Vaccinations


We also offer extra label Lyme disease vaccination, which can be discussed at your appointment.
Sometimes it can be easy to become complacent regarding vaccines that have been administered year after year. We often hear, “Is it really necessary?” In 2014, there were 12 confirmed equine cases of EEE, one confirmed equine case of WNV, and one confirmed equine case of Rabies (all in horses with no or questionable vaccination histories) in New York State. Our core vaccines protect against all of these!

In order to better serve you and to remain on the cutting edge of equine practice, we have attended several continuing education meetings this past year and have more scheduled this year. Julia is completing her 6-month acupuncture training course though the Chi Institute in Florida. She already has implemented acupuncture into the practice with great success! Annie will attend the Northeast Equine Practitioners meeting in September, and Pam plans to attend the AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners) annual meeting in December.

Last summer, we had a successful client education meeting at Cornell’s Oxley Equestrian Center. There, we discussed forage analysis and common equine emergencies. Our live horse demonstration to show you how to perform a basic physical exam was very popular and useful!

On a personal note, this year was a big one for the Starland Family! We re-welcomed Gina Gasparro as our office assistant. Gina had worked for Starland many moons ago. We are thrilled to have her back on board. Julia delivered a healthy baby boy on November 21. Eli Robert Gray made a grand entrance at a whopping 9 lb 10 oz and thus far is a very happy fellow. Julia is extremely thankful for all the support she continues to receive and is happy to be back at work. Pam continues to compete, vet, and manage rides in the endurance community! The Hector Half Hundred was a great success, despite the mud, this past year. She looks forward to 2015’s ride in October. As for her own competitions, she and her horse Clunk were ranked 1st in the Northeast Featherweight Division and 10th overall. This year was filled with both successes as trials for Annie. Her horse, Front, suffered several bouts of colic and underwent laparoscopic surgery. Thankfully, he has recovered well. She hopes to compete him this year, but remembers to see every ride with him as a gift (even vets are not immune to horse issues!).

In closing, our not-so-new mailing address is at the top of the page, our website is www.starlandvet.com, our phone numbers are the same and, as usual, you should always call the main line first (607) 209-8033 in case of emergency or to schedule an appointment. If you have a NON URGENT question, you can email us at starlandvetsvs@gmail.com but we only check this once every day or so, so please call if you need a quick reply! Please remember to stock up on emergency drugs at your Spring appointment. Most importantly, remember, these drugs, when used properly, often thwart the need for an emergency appointment, but are to be used only after speaking with one of the vets.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

Sincerely,
Pam, Annie, and Julia

As of October 2nd, we have 11 confirmed cases of EEE in NY State. The fatality rate is close to 100%.

Vaccination with EEE and WNV are part of the core vaccination program recommended by Starland and the AAEP(American Association of Equine Practitioners).  If your horses are vaccinated correctly (see Starland vaccination recommendations under the Equine tab) you have virtually nothing to worry about!

Here is a report from the Agriculture commissioner regarding EEE:    http://www.nytbreeders.org/news/2014/09/16/ag-commissioner-reports-eee/
 

All of our veterinarians work collaboratively but each have their areas of special interest!  READ BELOW TO FIND OUT ABOUT US!

Dr Madison:  “No mouth, no horse”.  Every spring and fall we remind you of the importance of maintaining your horse’s dental health. Dr Madison has advanced expertise in equine dentistry .  It is IMPORTANT to remember that dental alignment sets the stage for the entire spinal column and thus the balance and alignment of the entire horse! All horses should have a thorough exam at least once per year.

Dr Gray:  Dr Gray is studying acupuncture at the world renown Chi Institute. She is already successfully utilizing her skills to treat horses in our practice including Dr Madison’s endurance horse, Front Runner! Acupuncture is used as another tool to treat and diagnose animals.  It is often used in combination with traditional western medicine. Some of the conditions that it is commonly used for are: musculoskeletal, neurologic, gastrointestinal, chronic recurring conditions such as colic and uveitis, even behavioral and attitude problems. The following link is an informational video that PBS produced.  http://www.tcvm.com/Resources/ChiTV.aspx

Dr Karner:  The importance of proper nutrition for ALL horses, from the pasture pet through the elite athlete, is often neglected or under appreciated. This is Dr Karner’s special interest.  Horses have basic maintenance needs for specific amino acids(protein), carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water.  We OFTEN see these not being met, especially in the winter. There are a  variety of very good commercial feeds and additives available but choosing the right ones and feeding the correct amount to match your forage source and horse’s level of activity can be tricky.  Add in special metabolic needs like the “foundered” horse and it can get quite difficult.

 

Dear Starland Equine Clients,

Despite the low temperatures and arctic wasteland outside, winter is almost gone! We know your horses are eager to get out and enjoy the summer with you, and we want to help you all get ready.

Once again, it is time for the extremely important yearly examination and vaccines. It’s hard to imagine that any living organisms (mosquitoes, ticks, bacteria) survived this winter, but we can assure you they did and they are ready as ever to spread disease!

We are proud to continue offering our high quality low cost annual exam that includes a full physical exam, brief dental exam, nutrition consult, deworming consult, brief lameness exam, and any other questions you might have about your horse! We will also discuss which vaccines are necessary for your particular situation. We are also happy to perform fecal parasite tests, coggins tests and Cushings disease tests at the time of vaccination. If you know your horse will need dental work and you would like to do it at the same appointment, please let us know so we can plan accordingly. Our vaccine recommendations are available on our website at http://www.starlandvet.com/equine-vaccinations/ We also offer extra label lyme disease vaccination which can be discussed at your appointment.

In order to better serve you and remain on the cutting edge of equine practice, we have attended several continuing educations meetings this year. Annie spent a week in Las Vegas learning new dental techniques and procedures. Julia plans to begin a 6-month acupuncture training course this year though the Chi Institute in Florida. Pam and Julia attended an Equine Nutrition meeting focusing on hay analysis (Very cool and practical! Ask us about it!). Pam continues to be very involved in the endurance community and is sending Annie to the Spring AERC meeting in Atlanta specifically for endurance horse veterinarians.

Last summer we had a successful client education meeting at Taughannock State Park. We are planning another similar meeting this summer, JUST FOR YOU! It will be held on May 15th at Cornell’s Oxley Equestrian Center at 7PM. Merck Animal Health will cosponsor this meeting. There will be dinner, a lecture from Nutrena Feeds on Hay Analysis, followed by a talk on common equine emergencies. We also plan to have a live horse demonstration to show you how to perform a basic physical exam.

On a personal note we are all horsing around more than ever. Before Pam left for Australia, Julia had her first taste of endurance when all three vets successfully completed a 50-mile race in New Jersey! Julia’s not so new mare is doing well and will hopefully learn to jump this year. Pam started her new horse Clunk here in NY before heading down under.  She sweated her socks off in Australia (while we froze here) and spent lots of time riding and keeping a virtual eye on the practice. Annie completed a whopping 5 endurance rides on her wonderful gelding Front, and is now starting training with her new horse from Colorado!

In closing, our not so new mailing address is at the top of the page. Our website is www.starlandvet.com and you can subscribe to the RSS feed to get updates when we make new posts. Our phone numbers are the same and as usual you should always call the main line first (607) 209-8033 in case of emergency or to schedule an appointment. If you have a NON URGENT question, you can email us at starlandvetsvs at gmail.com but we only check this once ever day or so, so please call if you need a quick reply!

We look forward to seeing you soon!

Sincerely Pam, Annie, and Julia

PRO-DAIRY e-Alert:
OSHA Compliance Update

OSHA is planning to target New York State Dairy Farms with Random, Unannounced Inspections in 2014. By: Curt Gooch and Karl Czymmek

BackgroundIn August 2013, we learned from an OSHA official that the Syracuse office of the US Department of Labor, OSHA Division, is developing a “Local Emphasis Program” that will focus on random, unannounced compliance inspections at New York State dairy farms starting sometime in 2014.  At the time of this writing, it is unclear if the LEP will be conducted statewide or regionally.OSHA can inspect certain businesses based on four priorities:

  1. Imminent danger
  2. Catastrophes and fatal accidents
  3. Complaints and referrals
  4. Programmed inspections

While regulated farms can be inspected under any one of these OSHA priorities, the upcoming focus on NYS dairy farms is related to item 4: Programmed inspections.  Farms that are subject to a Programmed inspection have:

  • have had more than 10 full-time employees, not including immediate family members, at any time in the past 12 months preceding the day an inspector shows up; and/or
  • provided housing to temporary labor (employees hired for a specific period of time and are not full-time, permanent staff) at any time in the past 12 months preceding the day an inspector shows up, even if the housing was only for just one person.  There are several tests for this provision and producers should evaluate further.

Though safety should be a priority at any farm operation, farms that do not fall into the above categories are not subject to OSHA activities.

We understand that the first task of an OSHA inspector during a visit is to determine if the farm is eligible for inspection activity.  If the farm is exempt, inspectors depart the farm immediately.  Therefore, it is important for a dairy producer and staff to know if the farm meets the OSHA exemption.  This is likely to generate some questions, and there will be regional meetings this fall to help sort out these issues.  OSHA has also been very clear that inspectors will NOT be asking about employee immigration status.

What’s being done?

Since the OSHA notification, PRO-DAIRY and the following organizations have formed the “OSHA Work Group”: NY Farm Bureau (NYFB), Northeast Dairy Producers Association (NEDPA), NY Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health (NYCAMH), and Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE).  Our goal is to help the NYS dairy farm community prepare for OSHA inspections.  The OSHA Work Group cooperated with Farm Credit East to develop and record two informational webinars on what to expect in an OSHA inspection (link provided below).

The OSHA Work Group has determined that due to OSHA inspection issues covering a broad range of topics, currently, there does not appear to be a comprehensive, up to date program for compliance education/training in NYS.  However, over time, NYCAMH has developed numerous materials and trainings that cover health and safety programs relating to OSHA compliance topics.  The Work Group is cooperating closely with NYCAMH to identify gaps as well as add to and update their materials and build on the excellent foundation already established.

Many aspects of health and safety requirements are FARM SPECIFIC; each farm has different chemicals, machinery and facilities and this means managers must develop a customized health and safety program for their conditions.

There appears to be few cookie cutter approaches to OSHA compliance and a successful inspection will require thoughtful preparation and ongoing commitment by farm managers and employees.  Compliance will require farm-specific analysis and planning, safety equipment purchases, training and periodic updates for staff (this is not a once-and-done process), routine self-inspections to find hazards, recordkeeping and efforts to maintain equipment and systems once compliant.

The OSHA Work Group is cooperating with OSHA regional compliance assistance staff to confirm the areas of emphasis for inspections, to identify and correct gaps in training materials, to identify conflicts with other rules and to make sure that existing training materials are consistent with what OSHA inspectors will be evaluating on dairy farms.  Our goal is that farm managers get the right information the first time.  The Work Group is also developing a compliance checklist.  These and other materials will be widely circulated as soon as they are available.

What can I do now?

If you have not already done so, watch the two OSHA related webinars on the Farm Credit East website:https://www.farmcrediteast.com/en/Webinars/2013SeptOSHA.aspx.

There are a few areas that non-exempt farms can work on right away as part of preparing for an OSHA inspection by implementing the following items:

 

  • PTO drive units and shafts are properly shielded and protected (same for belts, chains and rotating shafts on other equipment and machinery around the operation);
  • Slow moving vehicle emblems are clean, bright and not faded and equipment safety lighting is in good working order;
  • Farm tractors manufactured after October 25, 1976 are equipped with a Roll Over Protection Structure (ROPS) and a seat belt in good working order (there are two exceptions:  low profile tractors and tractors when used with mounted equipment that is not compatible with ROPS);
  • Develop an inventory list of all chemicals, create a file with MSDSs (in Spanish where appropriate) for each chemical and make sure all chemical containers are labeled.  MSDSs can be obtained directly from the manufacturer.

In the coming weeks, the OSHA Work Group will provide a farm safety checklist and we will hold OSHA informational meetings and farm safety walks around NYS; further information on these items will be released as soon as details are finalized.

 

Online Webinars:

If you have not already done so, watch the two OSHA related webinars on the Farm Credit East Web site:

https://www.farmcrediteast.com/en/Webinars/
2013SeptOSHA.aspx
.

Authors:

ATTENTION.  There have been 8 confirmed West Nile Cases and one confirmed Eastern Encephalomyelitis case in New York so far this fall.  All of these horses were unvaccinated. Please contact us immediately to vaccinate your horse if they are not up to date.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do we handle horses returning from events where they may have been exposed to this infection?

For horses that may have been exposed to the risk of infection, there are some steps to take to mitigate the risk at their home facility. Even if these horses are returning home from events at which no disease was reported, and even if these horses appear healthy, precautions are needed at this time as these horses could bring it home and spread it at their home farm – this is the classic way this disease spreads:

  • These horses should be isolated from any other horses when they return to their home facility. Isolation requires housing them away from other horses, using different equipment to feed, clean and work with them that is used with any other horses, and rigorous hygiene procedures for horse handlers (hand hygiene, wearing separate clothes when contacting the horses, etc.). Please discuss this with your veterinarian.
  • We strongly advise owners to call their vets to discuss how long to keep the horses isolated at home, but even if they don’t develop fevers this should be at least 14 -21 days.
  • These horses should have their temperature taken twice a day, as temperature is typically the first and most common sign of infection – horses with elevated temperatures (101.5 F or greater) should be swabbed by your vet to find out whether they are shedding EHV-1.
  • If a horse develops a fever and is found to be shedding EHV-1 then the level of risk to other horses on the premises increases significantly. Those affected farms should work closely with their veterinarian to manage that situation, if it develops.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) has an extensive set of Equine Herpesvirus (EHV) Control Guidelines that serve well as a resource for practitioners.

2. What do we do if we already have a potentially exposed horse on a farm?

  • It still makes sense to isolate this horse from other horses, even though it may have already been in contact with them, start isolation procedures to stop further exposure. It is very important to not mix horses from different groups to accomplish this. Try and isolate the suspect horse without moving other horses from one group to another – segregation of horse groups is the key, because this will help you reduce spread if an outbreak starts.
  • Check temperatures of all horses on the farm twice daily (fever spikes can be missed if you check once daily). If fevers are detected, then test for EHV-1.
  • The value of starting healthy horses on anti-viral treatment when there is no evidence of disease on the farm is questionable. The treatment is expensive, the drug (ValtrexTM – valacyclovir) may have limited availability, and prophylactic therapy against EHM will only work while drug is being administered. Therefore it is more likely to be effective if administered when fever is first detected.

3. What anti-viral treatments can I use against EHM on a farm?

  • If EHM is present on a farm, then the risk to other horses at that farm is greatly increased. Stringent quarantine and biosecurity procedures must be implemented immediately.
  • Treatment of horses with clinical neurological disease (EHM) is largely supportive – the use of anti-viral drugs is not known to be of value at this stage. Use of anti-inflammatory drugs is recommended: flunixin meglumine (0.5 to 1 mg/kg, IV, q 24 hours).
  • For horses on the farm that develop fever, test EHV-1 positive, or have a high risk of exposure, anti-viral drugs may decrease the chance of developing EHM.
  • Currently, the treatment of choice in a febrile EHV-1 infected horse to prevent the development of EHM is Valacyclovir (ValtrexTM), given orally. The use of oral acyclovir is unlikely to be of any value, as it is not absorbed from the GI tract.
  • We currently recommend Valacyclovir (ValtrexTM) for prophylactic therapy at a dose of 30 mg/kg q 8 hr for two days, then 20 mg/kg q 12 hr for 1-2 weeks. Maintain on higher dose rate if the horse is still febrile. This is an expensive drug, and daily treatment costs can typically be $20-300 per day. Generic forms of Valacyclovir may be available, and may be marginally cheaper.
  • The use of Valacyclovir in horses that have already developed signs of EHM is questionable at this time, in that circumstance the use of intravenous Ganciclovir is preferable as it may have greater potency against the disease. The dose of Ganciclovir is 2.5 mg/kg q 8 hr IV for one day then 2.5 mg/kg q 12 hr IV for one week.

4. Is there any value to using booster vaccination against EHV-1 at this time?

  • Unfortunately, there is not a licensed EHV product with a label claim for prevention or control of EHM.
  • The more potent EHV-1 vaccines have been shown to reduce nasal shedding and in some cases reduce viremia. These products may therefore have some theoretical value against EHM (by reducing viremia), and certainly against spread of the virus.
  • The more potent EHV-1 vaccines include: Rhinomune®, or Calvenza® EHV, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc.; Pneumabort-K®, Zoetis; Prodigy®, Merck Animal Health.
  • If horses on the farm are previously vaccinated against EHV-1 then booster vaccination should quickly increase immunity, and perhaps reduce spread of EHV-1 if it is present.
  • Vaccination in these circumstances is controversial, as some authorities speculate that immunity to EHV-1 may play a role in the development of EHM. While this is unproven, it remains a possibility. The use of vaccination is therefore a risk-based decision.

Protect your Practice & HospitalProtect your own practice and hospital from becoming part of the problem. Right now is a good time to just have emergencies come in, not elective procedures, if you have a clinic. Plus, you need to heighten your biosecurity, as mentioned in the AAEP EHV Control Guidelines.

Additional sources of information can be found online here. Until we know more about this outbreak, caution is recommended at all times to reduce spread of infection. Movement of horses on and off farms should be limited whenever possible. Reducing stressful activity of the at-risk horse can assist control methods as well.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: http://www.aaep.org/ehv_resources.htm     http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/nahss/equine/ehv/

Download a brochure on Herpesvirus (EHV) Myeloencephalopathy: A Guide To Understanding the Neurologic Form of EHV Infection 

High-quality hay can be an important source of essential nutrients in your horse’s diet. A horse’s protein and energy requirements depend on age, stage of development, metabolism and workload. A mature horse will eat 2 to 2.5% of its body weight a day, and for optimum health, nutritionists recommend that at least half of this should be roughage such as hay. For a 1000-pound horse, that means at least 10 pounds of roughage each day.

Hay generally falls into one of two categories— grasses or legumes. Legume hay is higher in protein, energy, calcium and vitamin A than grass hays. While hay alone may not meet the total dietary requirements of young, growing horses or those used for high levels of performance, high-quality hay may supply ample nutrition for less active adult horses.

Once you’ve determined the best category of hay for your horse, most people select hay based on how it looks, smells and feels. Use the following tips from the American Association of Equine Practitioners to select the best hay for your horse:

1. It’s what’s inside that counts. Ask that one or several bales are opened so you can evaluate the hay inside the bales. Do not worry about slight discoloration on the outside, especially in stacked hay.

2. Choose hay that is as fine-stemmed, green and leafy as possible, and is soft to the touch.

3. Avoid hay that is overcured, excessively sun-bleached, or smells moldy, musty, dusty or fermented.

4. Select hay that has been harvested when the plants are in early bloom for legume hay or before seed heads have formed in grasses. Examine the leaves, stems and flowers or seed pods to determine the level of maturity.

5. Avoid hay that contains significant amounts of weeds, dirt, trash or debris.

6. Examine hay for signs of insect infestation or disease. Be especially careful to check for blister beetles in alfalfa. Ask the grower about any potential problems in the region.

7. Reject bales that seem excessively heavy for their size of feel warm to the touch, as they could contain excess moisture that could cause mold, or worse, spontaneous combustion.

8. When possible, purchase and feed hay within a year of harvest to preserve its nutritional value.

9. Store hay in a dry, sheltered area out of the rain, snow and sun, or cover in the stack to protect it from the elements.

10. When buying in quantity, have the hay analyzed by a certified forage laboratory to determine its actual nutrient content.

Remember that horses at different ages and stages of growth, development and activity have different dietary requirements. Consult your veterinarian or a qualified equine nutritionist when formulating your horse’s ration. He or she can help you put together a balanced diet that is safe, nutritious and cost-effective.

For more information about choosing hay, ask your equine veterinarian for the “Hay Quality and Horse Nutrition” brochure, provided by the AAEP in partnership with Educational Partners Bayer Animal Health and Purina Mills, Inc. More information about nutrition also can be found online on the AAEP’s website, www.aaep.org/horseowner

Reprinted with permission from the American Association of Equine Practitioners.