Friday, January 26, 2024

Effect of gut supplement on cribbing

Cribbing, also known as crib-biting or wind-sucking, involves the horse grasping a solid object with its incisor teeth, arching its neck, and swallowing air, resulting in a distinct grunting or gulping sound.

Research has linked cribbing to lower gastric pH in adult horses and gastric ulceration in foals. To address this concern, various supplements have been developed to neutralize acid and promote normal stomach activity in horses.


A randomised crossover study conducted by researchers from the University of Florida and the University of Costa Rica investigated the impact of a gastrointestinal support supplement on both cribbing and non-cribbing horses. 


A full report of the work conducted by Ana M. Arias-Esquivel and colleagues at the. Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) Equine Sciences Center in Ocala, Florida, is published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science.  


The study, involved eight adult horses, with four showing cribbing behaviour matched with four non-cribbing horses of similar age and sex. These horses grazed on a Bermuda grass paddock during the day and were housed in individual box stalls overnight with visibility to other horses.


The researchers randomly assigned the horses to receive either the gut health supplement or a placebo of alfalfa / timothy hay pellets. Both the supplement and placebo were mixed with a concentrate feed and fed to the horses twice daily. The study spanned a 74-day period, including 14 days of acclimation, two 21-day feeding trials, and a 14-day washout period.


Throughout the study, various assessments such as blood samples, gastric endoscopy, video recordings, faecal samples, and behavioural observations were conducted to gather comprehensive data on the horses' response to the supplement or placebo.


The researchers found that the addition of a gastrointestinal support supplement had minimal impact on various factors, including concentrations of serum cortisol and gastrin, faecal and gastric pH, crib-bite counts, and the duration of cribbing bouts, according to the researchers.


Levels of cortisol, an indicator of stress in horses, showed no significant differences between the two treatments (supplement vs placebo) or among horses exhibiting cribbing behavior. Interestingly, among cribbing horses, those given the supplement exhibited more severe squamous (upper stomach) ulcers compared to horses receiving the placebo. Both faecal and stomach pH were simiilaracross horses and treatments, and 


Non-cribbing horses did not display cribbing behaviour throughout the study.


Notably, for all cribbing horses, cribbing behaviour was most frequent around feeding time. However, the number of bites per cribbing bout and the duration of cribbing bouts were similar between the supplemented and placebo groups. 


In summary, the researchers did not observe significant changes in gut physiology or cribbing behaviour among horses receiving the gut health supplement. 

They conclude: “The findings challenge some prevailing assumptions and emphasize the need for comprehensive, longitudinal research in this field.”



For more details, see:


Ana M. Arias-Esquivel, Ana C. Cerqueira de Melo Vasco, Jill Lance, Lori K Warren, Luis A Rodriguez-Campos, Megan C. Lee, Christina N. Rodriguez, Carissa L Wickens,

Investigating the gastrointestinal physiology of mature horses with and without a history of cribbing behavior in response to feeding a digestive support supplement,

Journal of Equine Veterinary Science (2024) vol 132, 104964

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Investigating horse hair whorls

Is it possible to gain insights into a horse's character merely by examining its facial features? 

Hair whorls, also referred to as cowlicks or trichoglyphs, are described as variations in hair patterns, and can manifest as circular or linear forms. They are commonly observed on the horse's face, neck, and body.


Whorls are hereditary traits in horses and may be linked to temperament and coat colour. 


The number and placement of hair whorls have been the subject of numerous superstitions. For instance, whorls on the neck and pectoral region are often considered lucky, while those on the lower part of the thigh, jaw, back, and shoulders are looked upon less favourably.


Although the idea that whorl position is linked to temperament might initially seem far-fetched, it becomes less implausible when considering that these features are attributed to the same layer of cells in the embryo as the nervous system, suggesting a connection to early foetal brain development.


Some people associate specific whorl patterns with calm and trainable temperaments, and other patterns with more spirited or challenging behaviour. 


Ana Encina and colleagues conducted research on whorls in the Pura Raza Española (PRE) horse, the chief native Spanish equine breed. Their study looked at the frequency and genetic parameters, including heritability and genetic correlations, of circular and linear hair whorls on the head, body, neck, and limbs of PRE horses. Factors such as gender, level of inbreeding, birth period, and coat colour were also considered in their investigation.


They found that circular hair whorls were more prevalent than linear ones. Linear whorls were less common, with over 90% of horses lacking them on their head and limbs, although more than half display them on their body and neck. Conversely, a majority of horses, especially those with a grey coat, had circular hair whorls below the central line of the eyes. 


They conclude that, considering previous correlations between hair whorl position and temperament in cattle, the findings could support a potential link between hair whorl position and a more docile, calm temperament in horses, particularly within the PRE breed and the specific grey coat colour. However, additional research is necessary to substantiate this hypothesis.




For more details, see:


Phenotypic and Genetic Study of the Presence of Hair Whorls in Pura Raza Español Horses. 

Encina A, Ligero M, Sánchez-Guerrero MJ, Rodríguez-Sainz de los Terreros A, Bartolomé E, Valera M. 

Animals. 2023; 13(18):2943.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Palatabilty of hemp

 As feed expenses escalate in the horse industry and hemp becomes more accessible,
researchers are examining hemp as a potential substitute for horse feed. 

 A recent American study examined the palatability and acceptability of hempseed meal pellets, comparing them to other commonly used horse feed options.


Ryon W. Springer and co-workers conducted the research at the Tarleton State University Equine Center, Stephenville, Texas. A full report is published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science.


During an initial experiment, horses were provided with soybean meal pellets (SBM), rice bran pellets (RBP), or beet pulp pellets (BPP) in one bucket (500 g) and hempseed meal (HSM) in a second bucket (500 g) twice daily for three days. The feeding regimen involved rotating the treatments so that each group of horses received every type of feed during the trial. Horses had a 10-minute window for eating during each feeding session. 


Horses consumed significantly more hempseed meal pellets compared to soybean meal pellets and beet pulp pellets. The quantities of HSM  and RBP consumed were similar. A gradual increase in hempseed meal consumption was observed as the study progressed.

In a subsequent experiment, six geldings were presented with 1 kg of hempseed meal pellets over two 5-minute intervals, separated by 1 hour each day. Coastal Bermudagrass hay (1kg) was provided between these offerings. The results revealed that horses exhibited increased consumption of hempseed meal pellets on days 5 and 6 in contrast to days 1 to 3. 


Notably, the consumption of HSM pellets did not show any correlation with hay intake.


The researchers conclude that HSM may be similar in palatability to RBP and more palatable than SBM and BPP. Consumption of HSM increases over time but is not impacted by hay consumption. They suggest that hempseed meal may serve as an acceptable replacement to more common feedstuffs in equine rations.


For more details, see:


Ryon W. Springer, A. Cheyenne Mason, Teighlor D. Cross, Kimberly A. Guay, Randel H. Raub, Kimberly B. Wellmann, Trinette N. Jones,

Assessment of the Palatability and Acceptability of Hempseed Meal Pellets in Horses Compared to Mainstream Feedstuffs,

Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, (2023) vol 131, 104929,

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Last few places for Horses Inside Out conference

 Time is running out to secure your spot at the 2024 Horses Inside Out Conference. 

 Having attended several conferences in the past, I can vouch for the valuable experience it offers. This year's event promises a wide range of topics, all backed by evidence-based insights.


Featuring speakers who are experts in their respective fields, the conference attracts individuals from various equine disciplines and interests. It's not limited to scientists; the Horses Inside Out conference is accessible to everyone, providing a great opportunity to hear specialists and researchers share the latest information in an easily understandable manner.


This complements Equine Science Update's mission to bring the latest scientific discoveries to the attention of the interested horse owner.


I understand there are still a few tickets left. Don't miss out on this chance to immerse yourself in a wealth of knowledge and connect with fellow enthusiasts. Secure your spot for the 2024 Horses Inside Out Conference before time runs out!

For more details, see:

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Considerations for Matching Riders and Horses/Ponies

 Determining the appropriate rider for a horse involves a nuanced evaluation of various factors such as the horse's size, breed, conformation, fitness, and overall health. While rider weight is often the initial focal point, it's essential to broaden the perspective to encompass additional critical considerations.

Overloading a horse can result in discomfort, fatigue, and potential health issues, underscoring the need for a comprehensive approach to rider-horse compatibility.


Beyond rider weight, it's crucial to consider factors like the age of the horse, the type of exercise it engages in, and the skill level of the rider.


The Suitably Mounted Group, comprising experts such as Dr. David Marlin, Dr. Tamzin Furtado, Dr. Jane Williams, and Lorna Cameron, has initiated a survey to gather insights on the most crucial factors when matching riders with horses. 


In the ongoing discussion about suitable rider-horse matches, the Suitably Mounted Group seeks to expand the conversation beyond rider weight. Dr. Tamzin Furtado, one of the group's founders, emphasizes the importance of considering various factors, including equine conformation, condition, and fitness.


The Suitably Mounted Group invites participation in a short, anonymous survey designed to capture opinions on the essential factors in rider-horse matching. The survey, accessible to equestrians over 18, consists of 14 questions and takes approximately 8 minutes to complete.


Have your say in shaping the conversation on rider-horse compatibility. Share your views and insights by participating in the Suitably Mounted Group's survey: