Arabian Problems

I have what I consider an odd problem with two of my horses. I am a 20 year old college student who owns three horses, a 9 year old Quarter Horse gelding, a 6 year old Saddlebred gelding and a 16 year old Arabian gelding.I have what I consider an odd problem with two of my horses. I am a 20 year old college student who owns three horses, a 9 year old Quarter Horse gelding, a 6 year old Saddlebred gelding and a 16 year old Arabian gelding.

Story originally posted by: Michael Lowder, DVM, MS

Dr. Lowder,

I have what I consider an odd problem with two of my horses. I am a 20 year old college student who owns three horses, a 9 year old Quarter Horse gelding, a 6 year old Saddlebred gelding and a 16 year old Arabian gelding.

I have owned the QH since he was five months old and have been very fortunate with his health. When I bought the Arabian 4 years ago problems started. The Arabian, Cass, does not keep weight on. He stays very thin and at times I have had to stop riding him until he regained the lost weight. I have had him checked out for any physical problem. His teeth are fine and there doesn’t appear to be anything internally to keep him from maintaining a healthy weight. He is wormed regularly and he gets Equine Senior twice a day along with a cup of the Purina Athlete added in the morning feeding because of the high fat content. I have read your previous articles on nutrition and plan to incorporate your advice into my feeding regiment.

Along with this weight problem is another issue. During the summer months he gets unusual sores and bumps on his head, just under the forelock and at the base of his mane. They are very raw and have a tendency to bleed or milk a yellowish substance which is very crusty when is dries. I have tried antibiotics on it, I clean it but it persists through the spring and summer and comes back year after year. I don’t know if it is related to the pasture they stay in or insects? I am hoping you know. The horses stay in a large lush pasture with a year round stream running through the pasture. They have a run in shed for bad weather, but I don’t keep them in stalls. Also, once or twice I had found a tick near the problem area on the neck, even though my fly spray is supposed to keep ticks away too.

The Saddlebred is a horse I have had for two years. He belonged to my grandfather, but when he passed away I took over the care of Fudge. The horse spent his first year with me at Berry College. He has always been exceptionally healthy and was while we were at school. After my first year I came home and turned Fudge into the pasture with my two other horses. We has problems acclimating them to each other, but eventually things worked out. Not long afterward Fudge began dropping weight and losing the shine on his coat. He now is too thin for his build. ( He is 16.3hh and weighed 1200#) He now weighs about 1,000 lbs. more or less. He lost the muscling he had and I worry about riding him b/c I don’t want to injure him. He also has been checked out and no health problems at all were found. He is very energetic just very thin. One vet suggested that the problem could be the other horses were running him off his food and for his size he wasn’t getting enough to eat. The vet also felt that since Fudge was raised in a barn he could be running his weight off in the pasture since he is only used to partial pasture time. Also he has developed a smaller version of what the Arabian has on his neck. It is an isolated area halfway up his neck. He has lost the hair around the area and his mane is very thin from the raw spot to his wither. He normally has a very thick mane so this was a signal to me that something was wrong. Where he lost the mane is not bloody or oozing, but very pink and looks raw as if it is irritated.

I am sorry this e-mail is so long, but I think many factors may contribute to my problem. If I haven’t explained anything clearly I would be glad to send pictures of them if that would help in anyway. I would really appreciate any information you could give. I just want my horses healthy again. Thank you very much for your time.

Sincerely,
Amber Patterson

Dear Amber,
First, since you replied that the teeth have been checked, I must ask if the oral exam was done using a full mouth speculum. Although a veterinarian can get a glimpse of the oral cavity by opening the mouth (and feeling for points), only with sedation and a speculum can one see the entire oral cavity. The teeth are very important in keeping weight on the horse, and there may be abnormalities "way back" that are missed otherwise. The skin conditions may be as you surmised…ticks. Under the mane and around the fetlock are prime places for ticks. Believe it or not, ticks can cause swelling and ulceration at the spot they attach, and if ticks are a problem in your area, you may be seeing the result of the hungry little critters. Attaching cattle strips (used to repel flies) to the mane can repel the ticks, however be sure that the strips don’t reach the eyes as the pyrethrins can irritate them if there is contact.

The saddlebred may indeed be losing weight due to his position in the heirarchy in the pasture. If all horses are fed together, he may be the "low man on the totem pole" and may be recieving less than his share of feed. Feed him separately if necessary.

Thank you,
Dr. Lowder