The Problems with Grass Grazing

We are now into winter after a very good summer for grass growth. That means it’s time to put some of the horses and ponies back to their original fields after being kept in on limited grazing for the last 6 months.

This is always a very exciting affair for both us and them to enjoy. Being cooped up this long is unusual given the good weather we have enjoyed this year – good for the grass to grow at least. It was wet and warm for long periods, which is ideal for the fields.

Unfortunately for a lot of our individuals, this flush of grass brings about laminitis, a serious health concern which can ultimately, if left unmanaged, lead to severe pain and even death

Laminitis is defined as ‘Inflammation of the laminae of the hooves causing lameness, often severe’. This inflammation is caused by the increased sugar levels in the grass which some individuals’ bodies can’t deal with. It therefore becomes damaging in the bloodstream, especially around the pedal bone in the foot, which in severe cases can rotate and penetrate downwards through the hoof at the bottom.

To avoid these problems during the spring months when the grass becomes very lush and high in sugar, we take all of our problem horses off these pastures and move them to areas of poor grass growth or bare paddocks that are coated with woodchip. We then carefully control their diet with hay to supplement the grazing they are losing and monitor them closely over the next few months.

Find out more about laminitis and visit our website for some winter advice for you and your animals when coping with snow, frost and ice.

If you’re able to help with a donation for our running costs during these difficult winter months, please visit: www.remussanctuary.org/donate

Winter Coughs and What to Look Out For

Winter often brings with it its fair share of coughs and colds, even without an international pandemic! But it’s not just the NHS under pressure. Studies have shown that the cold air and dark nights also have an impact on the health of our four-legged friends. With an increased risk of horses developing respiratory issues throughout the winter months, there are a few things you can do to help ward-off coughs and act quickly if more significant problems occur.

Environment is a huge factor. Whilst it might be tempting to warm up the stable and create a cosy sanctuary, ventilation is key! Increasing turnout time and ensuring good air circulation in your stable can counteract the effects of altered air hygiene, caused by the winter months. Low-level feeding and soaking or steaming your feed are also great ways of preventing dust and spore inhalation.

But a dust-aggravated cough is different from a virus. In fact, there are four different causes of equine respiratory issues: fungus spores, allergens and contaminants, bacteria, and viruses. Often, the increased time indoors gives infections the opportunity to spread around the yard. If you suspect your horse might be affected by something more than dust inhalation, you should cease ridden exercise, increase turnout, and contact your vet immediately. Your vet will be able to conduct a number of tests to help diagnose the issue.

You can read more about the causes of equine coughs, and what to do if your horse has symptoms on this Horse and Rider article here.

Our online shop has a number of new items for Christmas 2021 including, of course our new wall calendar for 2022 which features unique images of our animals throughout the 12 months. Visit our online shop.

Turn up the Turnout

With the long nights drawing in, and a sudden shift to the colder weather, it’s easy to see how we might be tempted to reduce turnout time for our beloved horses and ponies – particularly in favour of a warm and cosy stable! But a recent study has shown that longer turnout could actually reduce the risk of equine injury.

The benefits of turnout have long been recognised. Not only does the constant roaming contribute to good health and fitness, excellent circulation, and reduce the risk of Colic, but the companionship associated with being outdoors and part of a herd is said to prevent boredom and reduce stress-related behaviour.

Our Remus residents spend much of their days wandering the pastures with their pals, as well as being supported by our environmental enrichment programme. We have always recognised the importance of providing our horses with the opportunity to behave as naturally as possible.

But now a six-year study from Centenary University Equestrian Center in New Jersey, has shown that horses turned-out for more than 12 hours per day, had a massive 25% lower instance of soft tissue injuries. The research across 146 non-elite performance horses was inspired by the lead researcher’s own veterinary practice observations. Jesslyn Bryk-Lucy noticed that horses who had a more natural, outdoor lifestyle seemed to require less veterinary care.

Scientists believe there could be a number of reasons behind the findings of this research. Horses may have benefited from increased conditioning of the tendons and ligaments from simply being in a more natural environment, or it could be related to change in behaviour caused by longer turnout.

There is undoubtedly further research to be done in this area, but this study goes one step further in demonstrating that horses are happiest and healthiest outdoors!

You can read more about the findings on Horse & Hound here.

As you can imagine, our costs for the animals increase significantly during the winter. If you are able to make a donation or perhaps purchase a treat for one of them, it would be massively appreciated!

Winter is here: let’s get ready for spring!

As we find ourselves in another Lockdown here in England, you’ll probably have noticed all the attention has swiftly turned back to exercise and keeping fit! Cue the return of Joe Wicks, online yoga and home gyms being dusted off once again. One key difference between the last lockdown and this one is the unlimited exercise allowed outdoors.

While some restrictions remain on what we can do with our horses, this is also the time of year that experts warn about spring obesity. It may seem a long way off, but we’ll be back to too much grass in no time. What we do now to keep our horses in good shape throughout winter will help them to go into spring at a healthy weight.

One of these actions is, of course, regular exercise, but for those non-ridden and retired equines just like ours here at Remus, sensible feeding is also very important to help them shed any unnecessary pounds.

A recent article in Horse & Hound outlines some important points; from understanding that winter grass does still contain calories and should be rationed if appropriate, to soaking hay to reduce sugar content.

Winter is tough for everyone but making small tweaks to your horse’s routine and management will help him stay safe and healthy into the new year.

Read Horse & Hound’s article in full here.

If you’d like to help with our animals food over winter, please visit our online shop or make a donation.

Keeping our horses and ponies safe this winter

The New Year generally brings colder weather and, as well as giving top class care to our Sanctuary residents, there are many more horses and ponies out there who are not so lucky and who we also need to keep an eye on.

The horse welfare crisis in the UK has been escalating for many years and our countrywide Welfare Watch aims to deliver assistance to horses in crisis in and around Essex and the South East of England. At this time of year, we struggle to respond to all of the reports we receive from members of the public; we just cannot physically be everywhere we are needed – and it comes at great cost! Will you donate to our Winter Feed Appeal?

We’ve put together this simple five-step checklist, designed for everyone to refer to before contacting us, so that we can all work together to help more horses and ponies at this time of year. Why not print a copy and save it to hand?

  1. Keep safe yourself. This is the most important thing: first of all, horses can be unpredictable and so you must always put your own safety first, secondly if you don’t know the owner of the land, you could be trespassing.
  2. Make yourself aware of the Five Freedoms (see below) to help you decide the nature of the problem.
  3. Collect information about the horse(s) you are concerned about and fill in our online form. The form will ask you for:
    • The nature of the problem in line with the Five Freedoms
    • Supporting photographs, if possible, to demonstrate the nature and scale of the problem and so that we can prioritise the visits
    • Horse(s) details including how many, gender, breed, colour and age (if known) and also horse(s) owner’s details, if known
    • The landowner’s details, if known
    • The location of the horses
    • Your contact details
  4. If it is an emergency situation, contact the RSPCA immediately on 0300 1234 999.
  5. If it is safe to do so, take the horse(s) some hay and water until further help is sought.

The Five Freedoms

There are many reasons why a horse may be distressed or need assistance. We’ve chosen to align our Welfare Watch with the ‘Five Freedoms’ identified by The Animal Welfare Act 2006, which enshrines the animal owner’s ‘Duty of Care’ in British Law:

  • Freedom from hunger or thirst – the animal has little or no access to fresh water and/or food.
  • Freedom from discomfort – the animal does not have somewhere to lie down or gain shelter or is exposed to extreme weather conditions.
  • Freedom from pain, injury or disease – the animal clearly shows disease, an untreated injury or perhaps severely overgrown hooves.
  • Freedom to express (most) normal behaviour – the animal is tethered incorrectly and/or does not have sufficient space or proper facilities and living conditions.
  • Freedom from fear and distress – abandoned animals, those subject to dog attacks, low flying aircraft, or similar, or those suffering from any of the above.

Remember, it is really important that you send us photographs of the horses, ponies or donkeys in need so that we can prioritise our visits and their care.

Download the form here.

Coping with fireworks

For any horse owner, Fireworks Night is a worry. However, celebrations now tend to go on for two or even three weeks and are certainly not restricted to the one night. Here at Remus, our residents are kept as calm as possible during any nearby displays. They’re no doubt helped by the holistic care and therapies we provide all year round, but of course nothing can really prepare any animal for the noise or flashing lights.

Thankfully, following more than 307,000 people signing one petition, change is happening and a report by the Petitions Committee was released on 5th November. This report comes after an inquiry into the impact of fireworks on humans and animals, and calls on the government to limit the number of displays through a system of permits, review noise levels and promote the responsible use of fireworks.

Meanwhile, an owner’s video of a firework display over her stable yard went viral online last week with what she described as sounding like a “war zone”, and there have been other stories in the press of shocking injuries to distressed horses and ponies.

Hopefully for our horses, ponies and all other animals who are affected, change will come. In the meantime, try to keep your horses’ routines as familiar as you can to reduce stress and make sure their stable and field environments are safe. If you know fireworks are going to be set off, you should stay with your horse, but always be aware of your own safety.

You can read more about the Petitions Committee report at: https://www.yourhorse.co.uk/news/articles/bang-out-of-order-rspca-welcomes-new-fireworks-report

Keeping Your Horse’s Teeth Healthy

We’ve all heard the expression, ‘getting a little long in the tooth’. Of course, it’s an alternative way of saying someone’s getting old! Horses’ teeth grow for much of their life, and wear between 2mm and 3mm a year, as a result of them happily chewing and grinding their food. It’s important that food is broken down properly in the horse’s mouth, as it allows the gut to digest it fully and therefore avoid problems such as weight loss or colic.

Horses are natural trickle feeders, typically eating for up to 18 hours a day, but with modern day winter stabling, this isn’t always the case and we need to be aware of problems that may arise.

The team here at Remus dealt with a lovely pony called Prince, who died within days of us taking him in. We found him in a field rugged up and with food but emaciated and with a huge tooth abscess. His owner loved him but was not aware that, despite feeding him, he was quidding (dropping) most of it back out. She didn’t realise that as he got older his teeth needed more attention.

As well as dropping food, horses with problem teeth might show facial swellings, head shaking or potentially nothing obvious at all. This article from Your Horse magazine sets out the importance of maintaining healthy teeth and what you should be looking out for.

If you would like to receive more news from us, directly to your inbox, please sign up on our website here.

The Importance of Winter Turnout

Hartpury College have recently released some research indicating that 20 minutes on a ‘horsewalker’ is equivalent exercise to one hour of turnout. The research showed that the horses travelled the same distance in both scenarios, but the heart rates of the turned-out horses were higher, due to periods of trot and canter.

With winter fast approaching, many horse owners’ thoughts will be turning to the inevitable turnout woes, and ways to get around them!

However, as the researchers were keen to point out, a ‘horsewalker’ is not a replacement for daily turnout. If you’re lucky enough to have one, it simply provides additional exercise during times of limited turnout or limited daylight for ridden exercise.

The psychological benefits of being out in the field, at least for part of the day, are huge. Here at Remus our horses enjoy daily turnout, as well as environmental enrichment to enhance their physical, social and mental environment. This is through various means including music, mirrors, toys and, of course, regular grooming. You can read more on our enrichment programme here.

Turnout is also important to allow horses to behave as naturally as possible in social groups. All of our residents love spending time with their pals out in the field – come rain or shine!

You can read more about the research in this recent Horse & Hound article.

Our last Open Day of the 2019 season will be taking place on Sunday 6 October. This is the last time that we will be open to visitors this year, so don’t miss out! You can find all the information you need on our website.

Snug as a bug?

There has been a lot of talk and debate online over the last few months about rugging our horses. Some think horses should be kept naturally while others wouldn’t dream of not using a rug, but for many owners it causes a daily headache and unwanted addiction to our preferred weather app! The general consensus is that we will do what is best for our own horses, but do we fully consider all of the contributing factors?

With milder winters (last year’s Beast from the East excluded!) and different daily routines for different horses, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach and the old temptation to dig out the heavyweight in December and leave him in it until March will not do!

This article from Horse & Hound helpfully sets out all the main points that owners need to consider. It suggests that “most horses will not need rugging until temperatures dip to 5-10°C.” Of course, older horses like we have here at Remus may need rugging sooner to help them keep warm, while those suffering from conditions such as Cushings will get too hot in the lightest of rugs due to their very thick coats.

Whilst we’re talking about keeping horses warm, please do take a look at our Winter Feed Appeal. Your support would be greatly appreciated!

Food for Thought

Many of the horses and ponies that find their way to us here at Remus arrive underweight and hungry. One of the ‘five freedoms’ that we choose to align our Horse Welfare Watch with is, of course, freedom from hunger or thirst. With us, these horses and ponies are free to live a safe, happy life and regularly enjoy a bucket of their favourite dinner!

We all know the way to our horses’ hearts is through their stomachs, but sometimes it’s tricky to know what we should be feeding, how much and how often. With winter more or less upon us, you may have started to reassess your horse’s diet in preparation for the colder weather. This article from Horse & Hound looks at how to feed your horse what he needs, while keeping an eye on what you’re spending.

You may also like to take a look at our winter feed appeal, which will help us to feed the horses and ponies that have no one to care for them.

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