How To Take Care of a Horse

Horses are strong, large animals. They are enjoyable and hardy companions, but it doesn’t come without frequent attention as they need constant maintenance and care. They also require loads of interaction with you, attention, and various activities to ensure they don’t get bored.

Keeping a horse requires a commitment of both money and time. You will need to have an exercise area and adequate shelter along with a wide range of horse supplies as well as the time to ensure everything is clean and well maintained. Basic horse care will include daily watering and feeding, regular medical attention, and daily exercise.

Horse Habitat

Horses will need shelter in order to protect them from various elements. They require shade during the summer and need to be protected from cold and wind during winter. This can be achieved with trees, horse stalls, a barn, or a simple shade cover which will greatly depend on the climate. Should you decide on a small stall, ensure it is not smaller than 12×12 inches and make sure that they get daily exercise.

You will also need to ensure that your fences are in good order. It’s best to avoid using barbed wire as horses often get caught in them. You will also need to regularly check for poisonous plants to ensure they don’t ingest them. The gates also need to be secured with a chain as most horses quickly learn how to open them.

Horse Feeding

You should always supply your horse with fresh water along with mineral lick or salt. Horses are grazing animals, and therefore they are used to all day eating, so ensure you feed them quite often. You can feed your horse two a day, once in the morning and again in the evening. The primary component in a diet of a horse is hay or roughage. If there’s grass around, there’s no need to supply them with hay when the pastures are green.

You should also be careful not to give them too much hay that consists of high protein as it will create hoof problems when they don’t get enough exercise. You also need to ensure that you don’t feed them after or before their exercise as it can cause problems and discomfort with digestion.

Horse Grooming

You will need to groom your horse quite frequently to ensure their coats are in good condition. This is also the best opportunity for you to check your horse for general health, ticks, and cuts. The hooves of your horse should also be checked quite regularly to ensure there’s nothing stuck underneath the hoof.

Should the bottom of the hoof look pasty and white in several places, there’s a high chance that your horse has a fungus. This is usually caused when your horse stands in mud. Moving your horse to a dry place will often get rid of the fungus, but it is better to treat it yourself with anti-fungal medicine that you can get over-the-counter.

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Why to Microchip Your Horses

This blog post is a big jump from colour genetics to horse identification. I follow several horse groups such as; do people recognize a horse they own or do people now where a former horse they owned now is. I also follow Stolen Horse International/Net Posse where an alarming stolen and missing horses are reported each year. This has encouraged me to make this post about microchips and why you should microchip your horses.

Registration papers serve as a very helpful form of identification and tracking the whereabouts with horses. However, papers get lost, not transfer, not sold with the horse, etc. Hot and freeze brands a great forms of identification however they do not give much information and it can be near impossible to find the owner of a brand years down the line. Microchipping horses gives horses an identification method that does not require people to properly keep track of such as with papers and more in depth information then branding.

Microchips serve as an excellent source of identification. Microchips can assist identification in several different scenario such as stolen horse, lost horse, displaced horse from a disaster, purchased a horse with unknown history, etc.

A microchip is a Radio Frequency Identification device that when scanned with a microchip reader it relays back a number. This is a non-duplicated number that is usually 10-15 numbers long, the first few numbers generally indicate what country the chip is from and what organization the chip is registered with. The microchip is very small and it is injection into the horse’s neck. Specifically it is injected into the horse’s nuchal ligament. Being in the nuchal ligament it is less likely to migrate as is known in smaller animals where the chip is merely placed under the skin. The injection is not considered painful as horses rarely react when the chip is implanted. There is a form to be filled out with owner and horse information to go along with the microchip number. This form is sent into the organisation that registers the microchip attaching information about the horse with the chip number. The chip is not helpful if the number is not associated with any information.

Currently, when a microchip is read all that is read is the number. You then must use a website to pull up the horse’s information connected to the microchip number. The Thoroughbred industry in the UK and soon to be US (new Jockey Club rule for mandatory microchips in 2017) are working/planning on improving microchip reading and the information connected to microchips. The goal is to be able to read the chip and automatically pull up the horse’s profile on a computer connected, linked or synced to the scanner. The hope is to have a high information profile all linked to the microchip such as health records, training records, sales records, etc. The microchip has the potential to become a huge wealth of knowledge and information about the horse. Imagine buying a horse with an unknown background to scan the chip and have years of history right at your fingertips!

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DNA Testing Lab – Etalon Diagnostics

DNA testing can be an expensive endeavour if you are testing a large amount of genes. Some labs will offer group packages at a discount. Some registries will also offer you discounts for DNA packages. There is now a lab that offers a huge package of equine DNA testing for a very reasonable price. This lab is called Etalon Diagnostics.

Etalon offers a package they call the Mini Panel. The Mini Panel is very far from being Mini! The Mini Panel is a work in progress for the lab where they are adding new genes very quickly. There are also genes that are being studied that are on the panel. Currently, horses that have their DNA sent in may have their DNA studied in future studies (exciting to be a part of future studies!).

Etalon only starts to run tests on the 1st and the 15th of every month. This leads to a larger wait time for the results compared to other labs. My wait time was about a month and a half (the holidays no doubt added to this wait). The results are emailed to you in a fantastic package including a summary of the test results, the test results, a few charts and a little section helping to explain the lingo used in the results.

The summary page of DNA testing.

The Mini Panel currently tests the following:
Extension (Red/Black factor)
Agouti (just black and bay)
Dominant White 1 – 21
SW 1 – 5 (including Macchiato)
Incontinencia Pigmenti (genetic disease Brindle)

Glycogen Branching Enzyme Deficiency (GBED)
Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis (HYPP)
Hereditary Equine Regional Dermal Asthenia (HERDA)
Malignant Hyperthermia (MH)
Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy – Type 1 (PSSM1)
Junctional Epidermolysis Bullosa 1 (JEB1)
Junctional Epidermolysis Bullosa 2 (JEB2)
Cerebellar Abiotrophy (CA)
Lavender Foal Syndrome (LFS)
Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID)
Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS)
Equine Arteritus Virus Resistance
Foal Immunodeficiency Syndrome (FIS)
Impaired Acrosomal Reaction
West Nile Resistance


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Cerebellar Abiotrophy

Cerebellar Abiotrophy is a genetic disease found in Arabians. It is recessive, meaning carriers of the disease show no symptoms. However, in homozygous form the disease presents itself with neurological symptoms. It is especially important to DNA test for recessive and lethal genetic diseases before breeding. The following video is brought to you by Cerebellar

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Pattern 1 Gene Testing Available to the Public

The Leopard spotted horse is one that catches that attention of horse people and non-horse people alike. However, it has taken some time for the genes responsible for the coat to be genetically discovered. This is in part due to there being multiple genes at work: the LP Complex and Pattern genes. The LP Complex puts white hairs onto the horse’s coat, this is called Varnish Roan generally when no Pattern genes are present. Pattern genes rearrange the white hairs put onto the horse’s coat into different patterns. Note that some horses still do varnish out even when Pattern genes are present.

As the geneticists were in the process of discovering PATN 1 genetically it was theorized that PATN 1 resulted in Leopard and Few Spots coats. The theory was that a horse heterozygous for the LP Complex and for the PATN 1 gene the horse would be a Near Leopard. A horse heterozygous for the LP Complex however homozygous for PATN 1 the horse would be a Nose to Toes Leopard. A horse homozygous for LP Complex with the PATN 1 gene present will result in a Few Spots coat.

In March 2015 the PATN 1 test was announced as being available to the public for DNA testing. This is a very exciting test for colour enthusiast and breeders alike. UC Davis offers the PATN 1 test, which can be found here, for only $25 USD alone or a package deal for the LP Complex plus the PATN 1 test for only $40 USD. Breeders striving for the Leopard spotted coats can have their breeding programs greatly benefited by DNA testing for the PATN 1 test. Colour enthusiasts can enjoy PATN 1 testing to help see what breeds the PATN 1 gene may be found in by testing their non-PATN 1 horses. With many people testing, we may be able to find PATN 1 present in unexpected breeds, hidden without the LP Complex to bring it to light.

As more people are DNA testing their horses for PATN 1, it is becoming apparent that the previous theory of LP Complex + PATN 1 is not completely true. Horses that are testing heterozygous and homozygous for PATN 1 are not always appearing to be Near Leopard or Nose to Toes Leopard horses. This is showing that there are still other factors involved when it comes to breeding Leopard spotted coats. The LP Complex coats are staying true to their name and are proving to be very complicated.

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New Addition to the W Series: W21

The W series is referring to mutations on the KIT locus known as Dominant White, White, or White Spotting. There are now 21 genetically discovered mutations for the W series. W21 is found in an Icelandic horse with a Sabino-like phenotype. The Icelandic tested negative for Frame and Splash white and tested heterozygous for the new W21 mutation. The horse and the study can be seen here.

There are many known mutations on the KIT locus, including Tobaino, Classic Roan, Sabino 1 and W1-21.

The W series currently:

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allbreed Genetics – A Website Focusing on DNA Status of Horses

Want to look up more information then just a pedigree? Want to know what the DNA tested status is for a prospect stallion or possible purchase? Or do you just want to investigate the DNA statuses in a bloodline? And …

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Agouti DNA Testing

Agouti testing is one of the staples of DNA testing your horse, the other being testing the Extension (also called the red/black factor). The main reason to this is because every horse has mutations at the Extension and at the …

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Gaited Horses

Gaited horses are not natural! This is a statement I have heard numerous times over the years while discussing gaited horses. Although training is part of teaching a horse to gait. The fact of the matter is, gaited horses are …

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W20 DNA Testing Available to the Public

Initially there was only one lab who was offering the W20 test. This testing was open for only a short time. You can read the first blog post about the first round of testing called Dominant White 20 DNA Testing Available for a Limited Time. Due to the small timeline of the test being available few people were able to get their horses tested for W20, including myself.

There is now a second lab offering the W20 test, it is currently the only lab who has W20 testing open and available to the public. This lab is called Practical Horse Genetics located in Australia. Sending hair samples to Australia from North America is a bit costly and the shipping does add time. However, once the samples arrive at the lab the testing is quick and the results can be emailed to you. The testing for W20 from the Practical Horse Genetics lab is well worth the time and money for any horse breeder as well as any horse owner who is curious about horse colour genetics.

Tuf Hollywood Lady tested negative for the W20 mutation.

I sent in hair samples for my mare, aka the Tawny Horse. It seemed from a visual prospective that a positive W20 result was possible. Tawny had white markings matching the described phenotype of small amount of white markings for heterozygous W20: a blaze, partial white lower lip, sock and cornet band on the rear legs. Tawny’s dam had white markings which matched the described phenotype of a larger amount of white markings for homozygous W20: large blaze, white lower lip, chin and white under the jaw, high whites on all four legs and a small white belly spot. The DNA test results were emailed from Practical Horse Genetics and reviled Tawny to be negative for the W20 mutation. The test results are posted below:

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