Monday, September 17

Feeding for Weaning: Advice for Breeders and Owners

Emma Short B.Sc (Hons) Equine Nutritionist advises on the correct nutritional support for foals at this critical time:   Laying Good Foundations Now the futurity evaluations have come to an end for another year many of you will be beginning to think about weaning as we progress into autumn/winter. The key to successful weaning lies in good preparation and correct nutrition is one aspect of that preparation which can start whilst the foal is still suckling and which is not only important for the general well-being of the foal, but can have particular implications for its future.   Foals are dependent on milk for the first three months of life, but as the foal matures its digestive system evolves and with the milk supply and quality dwindling as he approaches weaning his dietary requirements change. Horses, like other mammals, are dependent on enzymes to breakdown certain nutrients. Enzymes are specific to different nutrients and ingredients and so their levels in the digestive tract will vary according to the horse’s diet. Young mammals start with increased levels of lactase, the enzyme that digests milk, which gradually declines as levels of other enzymes increase.    At around 3 to 4 months of age the foal is beginning to digest cereal grains and other protein sources such as legumes (soya) more efficiently, as levels of amylase and protease enzymes are increasing. The foal is therefore no longer dependant on a milk-based diet and this is the ideal time to introduce the foal to his own specific stud ration.     The hindgut and its bacterial population should also not be forgotten and since the adult horse is so reliant on bacteria in the hindgut to ferment and release the nutrients from fibre in forage, these must also become established in the developing digestive tract of the young foal. Many are ingested naturally as the foal’s interest in foraging and eating grass increases rapidly from 1 to 6 months of age and it is not unusual for a foal to consume some of its mother’s faeces as a direct source of fibre-fermenting bacteria.   Weaning The stress of weaning combined with a change of diet can result in a significant drop in condition, when the milk supply is removed. To ease the foal’s transition to a concentrate ration and to try and minimise the loss of condition, it is advisable to get the foal established on concentrate feeds well before weaning. Introducing a stud ration from 3 to 4 months of age is the ideal time increasing gradually so that by the time the foal is weaned at 6 to 8 months he is receiving the full amount of concentrates required. The quantity and type of stud ration will then be determined by age and condition but a stud ration will be required until maturity.     Supporting Growth There is often a reluctance to feed foals, particularly those who are naturally good-doers, for fear of causing growth problems, with protein wrongly labelled as the culprit. It is now recognised that it is a high energy (calorie) intake with insufficient minerals which can lead to these problems, as this creates an increased rate of growth without the nutrients required to build the tissues to support the growth.    Keep it Steady Maintaining a steady rate of growth is essential to try to avoid the dangers of growth problems, which affect the growing skeleton and associated tissues and which could ultimately have an effect on a foal’s soundness and ability to perform as an adult.  So, for foals who hold their condition well both before and during the weaning process, a specially formulated stud balancer is ideal, as this will provide essential protein, vitamins and minerals to support growth but with a minimal calorie content. They can also be used for individuals experiencing developmental problems.   For those who require some help in maintaining condition, a traditional stud mix or cube will provide additional calories but must be fed at recommended rates to supply the necessary supporting nutrients required. At the time of weaning, the foal should be receiving sufficient nutrients from a stud ration to maintain weight and consistent growth once the mare and foal are separated.    Whatever feed you choose it’s very important to feed it at the manufacturer’s recommended levels to ensure that the foal receives all the nutrients required for correct growth and development. Underfeeding is likely to cause an imbalance just as overfeeding will provide too many of one or more nutrients creating an excess, neither of which are ideal and could predispose your foal to growth problems.     Feed as many small feeds as you can over the day so you are not overloading your foal’s digestive system.   Forage Portion of the Diet Getting the bucket feed right is only part of the consideration and the type and quality of the forage your foal has available can make a big difference in his development but also what concentrate feed you choose.   If you have an abundance of good quality grass it is likely that it will be high in calories. Don’t be mistaken that plenty of good grass also means adequate nutrients will be provided as this is often not the case. In this instance your foal may be receiving plenty of calories (energy) from the grass so maintaining weight but insufficient protein, vitamins and minerals, thus the diet is unbalanced and not fully able to support correct development. Therefore it would be prudent to consider a lower calorie stud balancer to ensure vitamins and minerals are provided and counteracting any shortfalls within the pasture to ensure that his diet is fully balanced.   On the other hand later cut fibrous hay is less digestible and likely to sit undigested in the gut increasing the risk of ‘hay belly’ but also will provide fewer nutrients as well as calories. If you can source it opt for soft early cut forages to increase digestibility as well as provide more valuable nutrients. It may be the case that for those who do no maintain weight as well that a higher calorie stud cube or mix ration will be required. It is also worth bearing in mind that if you cannot source a better quality forage then alfalfa chaff can be fed alongside the concentrate feed to help raise the overall protein and fibre content of the diet.    Supporting the Gut So, before the foal is finally separated from its dam it should be well established on its own concentrate diet and should also be eating grass and any other forage source which it will remain on after weaning. The fibre digesting, and other hind gut bacteria, of any horse can be disrupted by stressful situations with associated reductions in gut efficiency and potential digestive upsets like loose droppings. Feeding a digestive enhancer, such as a prebiotic, before, during and after the weaning process can help both the mare and the foal through the stressful time by supporting the beneficial bacterial populations and helping maintain a healthy balance in the gut.    What About the Mare? Having focussed very much on getting things right for the weanling, the welfare and nutrition of the mare should not be forgotten. Once removed from the foal, the calorie content of her diet should be reduced until her milk supply has dried up, although it is preferable to keep a vitamin and mineral source available, like a specially formulated block or lick, or continue to feed a low calorie balancer.    Her diet will then depend on whether she is in foal again, returning to work or simply remaining roughed off and also on how well she has maintained condition through lactation and weaning.  If she is in foal again it is vital to feed to support the growing foetus so a stud mix or cube should be fed at recommended rates, or a stud balancer if fewer calories are required.  Ensuring she receives a fully balanced diet at all times will help her replace the body reserves which have been drawn on by having a foal and help her return to work or prepare for the next covering.   Healthy Future How you wean your foal will depend on your particular circumstances and how mare and foal cope with separation will depend on them as individuals. However, by taking care beforehand, you can help reduce the stress and help ensure that both foal and dam have a strong and healthy future.

Latest news
Saturday, August 18

Equine Health Tips from our Lead Veterinarian, Dr Jane Nixon - Biosecurity

Ahead of the final week of the 2018 Futurity Series, Dr Jane Nixon advises on some important biosecurity issues. Feel free to contact Jane directly if you would like further advice on specific issues: British Breeding Futurity 2018 Health Tips from Lead Vet , Dr Jane Nixon British Breeding is looking for all people and horses to enjoy the Futurity Scheme and to protect our horses and ponies from infectious & contagious diseases. Infectious diseases are those transmitted through the environment whilst contagious diseases are transmitted by direct contact. Biosecurity  refers to the  methods  that are used to  stop  a  disease  or  infection  from  spreading  from one  person ,  animal , or  place  to  others . Our Lead Vet, Dr Jane Nixon, has some important advice for everybody planning to attend a Futurity event: To keep our youngsters healthy we should take care : - Not to take any animal harbouring  infectious or contagious disease to a Futurity & To avoid picking up such a disease away from home.   INFORMATION ON SOME COMMON DISEASES The main diseases of relevance to youngsters attending the Futurity, known as  endemic – i.e. found regularly in horses and ponies in the UK – are:  EHV There is, as I write , concern regarding the increased incidence of Equine Herpes Virus[EHV] including Neurological Disease in Devon, Somerset, East Anglia, Gloucestershire & Europe generally. Strangles Please note the Strangles update in the April 2018 Equine Veterinary Journal :- Environmental survival of Streptococcus equi bacterium is far longer than has been previously reported: Survival in warm & dry conditions was detected for only up to 2 days, however in wet & cold conditions , S. Equi may remain viable for more than 30 days There is therefore the possibility that similarly prolonged survival could occur following outbreaks of clinical disease, thus having a knock on effect on control strategies. Equine Influenza : for information about this common disease, please go to Above all, these diseases are all, always, preceded by an elevated temperature even of a short duration 1 to 4 days before clinical signs appear. Check your foal’s or young horse’s temperature, particularly if he or she appears dull , lethargic or displays any metabolic changes or any unusual signs including coughing, nasal discharge, reduced appetite, swellings etc. PLEASE DO NOT ATTEND YOUR PLANNED FUTURITY IF THIS IS THE SITUATION WITH YOUR YOUNGSTER Guidelines for minimising risk of spread of infectious disease Sensible and simple biosecurity steps for horse owners and competitors attending Futurities Actions to take at home before attending an event  · It is good practice to routinely take the rectal temperature of all horses twice daily and record these in a diary, along with any other abnormal health signs (e.g. coughing, nasal discharge, reduced appetite, swellings etc).  It should then be obvious when an animal ‘spikes’ an abnormally increased rectal temperature (usually ≥38.5°C/101.3°C).   A horse ‘with a temperature’ (also referred to as fever or pyrexia) should be promptly isolated away from other animals and a veterinary examination requested.  It is an important responsibility not to move horses off premises where infectious disease has been recently diagnosed as it is possible that seemingly healthy animals may be incubating the disease. If these horses are taken to events, they could spread infection to other horses Even if a specific infection has not been identified, where there is evidence of possible spread through a group of animals, horses from those premises or those that have been recently exposed to other horses with an infection should  absolutely not be taken to events. Actions to be taken while attending the event · ·Infections such as EHV-1 spread most easily through close direct contact between horses, indirect contact arising from sharing of feed/water buckets and tack such as bits/bridles or humans going between horses without applying appropriate hand hygiene measures · Unlike equine influenza, EHV-1 does not spread readily through the air between horses that are physically separated by more than 5-10m · With these two considerations in mind, the risk of transmission of EHV-1 whilst at an event can be greatly reduced by horse owners and competitors ‘keeping themselves and their horses to themselves’ and avoiding direct and indirect contact with others. Click on this link to see if any diseases are identified in your area Please do not hesitate to contact  Futurity Lead Vet, Dr Jane Nixon 07713342416, for advice.
Monday, July 9

Youngstock and the Heat Wave: Advice from our Veterinarian and Nutritionist Experts

We had some great advice from Dr Jane Nixon, our senior veterinarian advisor, about caring for your foals and horses in the current weather conditions and ensuring their best preparation for the Futurity series: The current excessive hot weather may affect the performance of your youngsters at the Futurity at the end of this month and at the end of August.  The ground has become so hard that many youngsters, particularly foals are beginning to suffer from sore feet and jarred up joints. The feet are becoming sore at the toes and the foals if they are at all flat. Inflammation of the epiphyses [growth plates] is occurring due to jarring of the limbs and beginning to cause limb problems. We advise care re the length of time your youngsters are turned out, avoid aggressive trimming , continue with careful balanced trimming at regular intervals:   How to look after your youngster’s feet Have your youngsters feet trimmed 7-10 days prior to the Futurity. Over the years about 5% foals arrive footsore and withdraw due to hoof trimming too close to the Futurity date and then travelling.   How to avoid dehydration The second and far more serious problem is dehydration due to water and electrolyte imbalance. Foals in particular have a high surface area to volume ratio and rapidly suffer fluid loss , especially in overheated transport vehicles , insufficient suckling, stress of a new experience, This is not only a serious welfare issue , but also the youngsters’ body condition score and hence veterinary mark [20% total] will be adversely affected. We advise : make sure the mare and foal are hydrated before the journey travel when it is cooler use main roads to reduce excessive requirement for balancing allow regular breaks for drinking/suckling/sucking   If you have any concerns please contact :- Dr Jane Nixon , Futurity Lead Vet on 07713342416 or     GIVING YOUR HORSE ELECTROLYTES Nutritionist Emma Short from Baileys Horsefeeds explains the importance of body salts (electrolytes) and how you can ensure your horse/youngster gets all they need in this hot weather. When horses sweat they lose vital water and body salts (electrolytes) and prolonged sweating, whether during exercise, traveling or just hot and humid summer days, can result in dehydration, reduce performance, fatigue, muscle cramping and other problems. Therefore maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance is essential.  Sweating rate can be as high as 10-15 litres per hour which can equate to a significant loss of fluid during a long journey in the horse box and competing. Horses can lose around 10-15g of electrolytes per litre of sweat.  The main electrolytes lost in sweat are sodium, chloride and potassium. Measurable amounts of calcium and magnesium are also found in sweat. Although forage as well as your bucket feed will provide electrolytes there will only be sufficient to support those at maintenance and more will need to be provided for those who are sweating.  The body monitors the levels of sodium in body fluids so, when water is lost, the concentration of sodium increases and triggers the horse’s thirst mechanism.  Providing the horse with water alone to replace that lost through sweating can lead to further problems, since the water will be absorbed and dilute the existing levels of sodium.  This then stops the desire to drink, even though the body may still need more water (be dehydrated), and at the same time the kidneys are triggered to excrete water until the sodium concentration is back to normal, compounding the problem still further.  The most effective way to help replace fluid losses therefore is to provide a solution of water and electrolytes mixed to a concentration which is the same as body fluids (isotonic). This helps the body recover from dehydration by providing fluid without unbalancing sodium levels and thus suppressing the thirst response.  Supplementing the diet with table salt (sodium chloride) is acceptable on a daily basis as forage should be able to support sufficient potassium intake. As a general rule of thumb supplementing with 10-12g of salt per 100kg of bodyweight should be adequate. However, for those who are sweating excessively or having to travel for lengths of time to your event then it may be preferable to replace table salt with a specific electrolyte supplement.  Salt can be added in the feed, although if using this method the feed must be made slushy by using water or sugar beet, and water must be offered so as to replace fluids sufficiently. Ideally electrolyte supplements should be offered in water if the horse will drink them, palatability can be improved by adding flavourings such as apple, blackcurrant and peppermint juice/cordial which helps to disguise the taste, although ensure that the horse is used to drinking the solution before the event. Although salt can be added to a bucket of water it is unlikely to mix into a solution effectively and you may find that it sinks to the bottom and not get eaten. It is also important that a bucket of fresh plain water is also offered so that your horse has a choice.  Please do note that any that have been sick or who have had diarrhoea that care should be taken and an electrolytes specific for sick horses should be fed along with advice from your vet.  Emma Short B.Sc (Hons) Equine Nutritionist at Baileys Horse Feeds Contact 01371 850 247 (option 2) or  
Tuesday, May 15

British Breeding Announces 2018 Futurity Venues

British Breeding, the new management company in charge of the former BEF Equine Development Programme, is delighted to announce the dates and plans for its 2018 British Breeding Baileys Futurity evaluations.   This highly regarded series for foals and young stock   aims to identify talented horses that will go on to compete successfully in the future. A Wider Choice of Locations and Dates In order to make the Futurity accessible to a wide range of breeders, the popular series will be held over two separate weeks this year, one in late July and one in late August, to give breeders a choice to present foals and young stock at the peak of their development. As in previous years, the Futurity will be open to foals, yearlings, 2 and 3 year olds in the disciplines of Dressage, Endurance, Eventing and Show Jumping.  The 2018 series will take place across 11 locations: 23.07. - Xanstorm Equestrian, Lanarkshire, Scotland 24.07. - Richmond Equestrian, North Yorkshire 25.07. - Derby College Equestrian Centre, Derbyshire 26.07. - Kings EC, Herefordshire 27.07. - Catherston Stud, Hampshire 28.07. - Tall Trees Arena, Cornwall   20.08. - Writtle College, Essex 21.08. - The College EC, Keysoe, Bedfordshire 22.08. - Swallowfield EC, The Midlands 23.08. - Tushingham Arena, Cheshire 24.08. - Northcote Stud, Lancashire   This marks an increase in the number of Futurity venues from last year in order to make the series attractive and accessible to more breeders. Familiar venues have been joined by some new locations, and all offer a safe, indoor environment that breeders have come to expect at Futurity evaluations.     Enhanced Benefits  While maintaining a similar entry price for the Futurity, the team are working on numerous added benefits to breeders, to ensure that the Futurity provides not only excellent value for money, but also a great return on the time and effort invested by participants.  In addition to the team of senior veterinarians carrying out the futurity assessment, veterinary practices local to each venue will be invited to offer additional veterinary services on the day, including marking sheets and microchipping, which breeders can then send to their relevant breed societies for registration of their foals. Studbooks are also invited to use the Futurity events as an opportunity to connect with their breeders. Rachael Holdsworth explains: "The Futurity has always been a great vehicle for public recognition for British breeders, as Futurity reports are picked up widely by regional, national and international media. There will be an opportunity to expand this by using the Futurity website and the presence of excellent professional photographers and videographers to provide additional sales and marketing opportunities to our breeders in form of online classifieds and social media exposure.”  By enhancing the sales and marketing potential of the Futurity, the team wants to attract larger audiences to become interested in British breeding. The series offers anybody an ideal opportunity to enjoy a great day of looking at beautiful horses and meeting their breeders. Anybody looking to buy a young horse can use the series as an opportunity to see a wide range of horses. The added benefit to buyers is the reassurance that each foal and horse has been seen and assessed by a reputable veterinarian and by a panel of highly qualified judges, making it a go-to place to find future talent.  The Futurity is also a great opportunity for young breeders and riders to come and learn about young horse development. The team aims to work with the British Young Breeders and equine students and apprentices to widen participation and accessibility of breeding.  British Breeding are also collaborating with the British Breeders Network to organise an end-of-season Futurity Championship, which will provide a great opportunity for celebration and recognition of the outstanding achievements of British breeders across the country.  World-Leading Evaluation System The Futurity provides excellent continuity in a consistently high level of integrity and quality of its assessment systems. The team is investing in state-of-the-art systems and inviting world-leading experts to fulfil the Futurity’s potential as a vehicle for national and global recognition for the achievements of British breeders. Eva-Maria Broomer explains: "Above all, the Futurity offers what no other evaluation system can, and this is what makes it unique across the world: An objective and detailed feedback system based on performance potential for everyone in Britain breeding sport horses and ponies from licensed or approved stallions, irrespective of studbook or breed.” The team will maintain the holistic approach of the Futurity evaluation system, including a specialist veterinary assessment and a linear description by highly respected evaluators with international experience.  New for 2018 will be an enhancement of the linear score sheets to make them easier to understand and more meaningful as a useful feedback mechanism for the breeders, with a physical copy available for breeders to take home on the day.  The Futurity will be going back to the system of having all evaluators together in the ring, so that each horse is assessed by the full panel.  The panel will also include highly regarded international judges, which will give a wider perspective and help to fulfil the remit of the Futurity as a way of identifying future FEI prospects. The veterinary assessment at the Futurity evaluations is a strategic lynchpin for providing confidence in the quality of British bred young stock and presents a highly useful feedback for the breeder. It covers key indicators of long term soundness and suitability for the sport, as well as giving valuable guidance on the correct management of young horses. We are delighted to announce that we have secured the support of some of the UK's most experienced and senior veterinary experts. This team is led by Dr. Jane V. M. Hastie nee Nixon, M.A., Vet. M.B., B.Sc., MRCVS.  Jane Nixon explains: "The Futurity is an invaluable vehicle for assessing the conformation and soundness of foals and young horses in their formative stages, which will significantly influence their long term prospects. The veterinary evaluation provides feedback about the correctness of limbs and paces that will enable breeders to continue to improve, focusing on sustainable conformation, foot balance and correct limb loading. It provides important guidance at a stage in a horse's or pony's development where certain key issues can still be addressed by correct management. The Futurity upholds the highest standards in veterinary evaluation, and I am delighted to be part of the new team that is taking it forward." Central to the correct management of young horses is also the assessment of their body condition, which is why the Futurity continues to work with expert nutritionists working with the veterinarians  to support the breeders.  Rachael Holdsworth:  “The correct management of broodmares, foals, and young horses is crucial to ensuring the best long-term outcomes for British bred horses. We are therefore delighted that the Futurity continues to be supported by Baileys Horse Feeds who will be our headline sponsor again for 2018, and who will continue to provide - in liaison with the veterinary experts - their highly valued and popular nutritional advice to all participants. ”   The company is putting in place a veterinary advisory panel of national and international experts in the field to ensure the quality and consistency of the assessments. The panel will be headed up by Jane Nixon and will provide advise on the continued development of linear scoring methodology and analysis Beyond the Futurity: The Equine Bridge British Breeding recognises the importance of the Equine Bridge as a pathway for British bred horses into the sport. With representation in its board from the three Olympic disciplines, it will foster a greater connection between breeder, riders, and owners, and offer a new and far reaching approach to making the Equine Bridge an integral part of the sport and a mechanism for the discovery and recruitment of talent. This requires a fresh approach, and the British Breeding Futurity Bridge will therefore be re-launched in 2019. Horses that have already qualified for 2018 will be able to join the programme next year.  How to get in Touch: British Breeding are setting up an online entry system for the series, links to which will be provided in due course via the  website.  In the meantime, anybody interested in the Futurity is warmly invited to get in touch via email with Eva or Rachael: Eva: 07834 194821, Rachael:  07850 017587,
Wednesday, April 11

New Future for Futurity

The British Equestrian Federation (BEF) is pleased to announce the continuation of its Equine Development programme, following its handover to a new company formed by a partnership of industry experts. The group came together in a bid to take on the running of the activities, which consist of a stallion show, breeding magazine and the young stock evaluations known as the Futurity and Equine Bridge.  The new organisation will take on the name British Breeding. The company will be co-directed by Jane Skepper of Horse IT; Rachael Holdsworth of Holdsworth PR; Sacha Shaw of Breeding British; Joris van den Oetelaar who is a director of the Anglo European Studbook; and Dr Eva-Maria Broomer of Horsepower Creative. The CEOs of the three Olympic Disciplines, British Dressage, British Eventing and British Showjumping - and Sandy Senior representing the British Breeders Network, will each have a non-executive director seat on its board, in order to promote closer cooperation between British breeders and the sport and to ensure inclusivity and a wide reach of the programmes.  The company will have an independent non-executive chair, Jan Rogers, director of Research and Policy at The Horse Trust and the former head of Equine Development at the BEF. In adopting the holistic approach of joining up the breeding world with the sport, the company has a strong business plan to secure the future of all elements of the programmes for the continued benefit of breeders and horse sport alike.  Says Iain Graham, chief executive of British Showjumping: “We are pleased to be involved in the continued development of young British-bred sport horses through the activities of the new group. The importance of strong links between breeders and the sport cannot be underestimated, and with the diversity of people participating in showjumping, there is a need to produce good quality horses that have the potential to compete at all levels”. Chief Executive of British Dressage, Jason Brautigam added: “These programmes are invaluable in continuing to develop and nurture equine talent. Strategically it is a vital component for the future of equestrian sport and British Dressage is fully committed to supporting this process. The Futurity evaluation and veterinary assessment identifies horses that may go on to compete successfully at all levels by cultivating soundness and longevity, not only for the welfare of the horse but also for the benefit of our sport as a whole”. “This is an exciting opportunity for us to work together to increase the chances of the many talented British-bred horses going to British riders who will maximise their potential”, adds David Holmes, chief executive of British Eventing. “British-bred horses and their breeders need the recognition they deserve, and we need to work to stem the tide of buyers going abroad”. Nick Fellows, chief executive of the BEF concludes: “Our equine development programme has been fundamental to the future of British breeding and it has been our main aim, over these last few months, to find a safe set of hands to take it forward.  The new organisation has exciting plans that will ensure the continuation of the integrity and standards the BEF created”. “These are exciting times and we are all eager to move forward with our plans”, says Rachael Holdsworth. “The hard work starts now, but we are already well advanced with plans for the Futurity evaluations and a new marketing strategy. We look forward to working with breeders and providing the infrastructure to allow their horses to gain the recognition and reputation they so richly deserve”. An announcement on Futurity dates will be made soon, along with entry details. Anyone wishing to register their interest this year should email
In cooperation with: