Newsflash 4th Quarter 2010 - little girl leading horse

Moshé Feldenkrais

"My contention is that the unity of mind and body is an objective reality, that they are not entities related to each other in one fashion or another, but an inseparable whole while functioning. " Moshe Feldenkrais

(relayed by William Leigh in his book 'Bodytherapy')


Greetings to all to my fourth quarter newsflash as the days quickly shorten and the temperatures dip. For those of you that are thinking "what happened to the summer newsflash" I found in my first year at my new farm the call of the outdoors was oh so strong. Watching the hundreds of birds that came nightly to dance over the pond as the sun set over Mt. Rainier with my horses munching grass and my cats happily pouncing about the deep green grass was far more healing and nurturing than sitting at the computer. I hope each and every one of you enjoyed the longer days and warmer temps while they were here. I can’t hardly believe in just over a month (on Thanksgiving Day) it will have been a year since I moved onto my little piece of "Heaven on Earth". It seems like only a few short months. Hardly a week goes by when I don’t experience a rainbow or two – as the song says "Somewhere over the Rainbow Dreams do Come True". In 2011, as many of you have asked, I will open my home to individual and group mentoring and teaching with my equine teachers to help you make your dreams come true.

It was great to see all of you that joined me at Celebrate the Horse the first weekend of October in Lynden, WA. where I spoke on "The Healing Power of Touch" and "The Plasticity of Conformation". I continually am amazed that when you bring the body back to balance, physically, mentally and emotionally the ideal healing machine, the body, heals itself of everything! Muscle tension, tissue memory and anticipation of pain, are some of the biggest factors that prevent the spine from coming into alignment. The spine can be thought of as a long road with many crossroads (each vertebra) from which nerves, circulation and lymphatics run to all parts of the body. When there become kinks to some of the crossroads then compensation occurs and continues until systems break down and disease occurs.

"Look well to the spine for the cause of disease"
Hippocrates (father of modern medicine)

Healing is an art and the hands are the artist’s tools. You have the same tools I do and can do all I do and more. Gain knowledge (there is a wonderful reading list on my web site), free yourself of agendas, and expectations, leave your emotions at the door (you can pick them up when you leave) and get your hands on your horse (and dog and cat) and let them teach you. Listen to their input and when you don't clearly understand, pause and clear your mind, don't try to analyze, that gets in the way, just be open to what comes no matter how simple or illogical it seems. Then let the magic happen!

We have all heard of people who have their computer's hard drive crash and lose everything. But it's always someone else, not us. Last summer I patted myself on the back for being proactive and installing a new state of the art hard drive with 3 year warranty before anything happened to mine. As this newsflash was about to go to print the first of October my hard drive crashed and wiped my past clean. After the first couple hour panic, I relaxed, had a good laugh at myself – as I tell my clients and patients – you have to let go of the past to get to the future. So I was getting my own little life lesson from the universe! At first I wanted to patch everything back together and get my past back, then I thought better of it and decided this was a great opportunity to try new things and have some great learning experiences along the way. In fact I so enjoyed not having internet after 10 days that when the shop called to say come get my computer (they were able to rescue my documents but all else was gone, including all installed software) I waited an additional day to retrieve it. So good bye past, future here I come! Enjoy the knowledge and laughter in this newsflash. If I can be of service to you in any way please feel free to call or e-mail.

We have tried a different distribution service for this newsflash and have run into several glitches. If you have problems with your copy (can't view pictures,script looks funny,etc) please let me know.

Dr. Suzan


My radio interviews on the Dr. Pat Show and Talk With Your Animals with Joy Turner are now uploaded to the web site for your listening pleasure.

I will not be scheduling appointments in Jan and Feb 2011 so as to turn my full attention to finishing my book "The Courage to Heal" which I started over a year ago and don't quite seem to be able to make the time to complete. Now is the time to plan ahead and schedule your horse's bodywork treatments in Nov and Dec.

Anita Curtis, internationally acclaimed animal communicator, author, radio and TV personality, and dear friend who has helped expand my reality hugely will be coming next April 16/17 to offer “How to Hear the Animals level I and II”. I will be hosting Anita for this two day workshop at my house in Yelm and it will be open to the first 18 people to sign up. More details coming in January. E-mail me directly for more information or if you are interested in attending.

Horse and Rider Highlights

What horse will benefit from bodywork? I have invited 2 clients with very diverse riding backgrounds and goals to share their stories in this issue to help show how integrative, corrective alignment bodywork benefits all equines no matter what they are used for. Release of tension mentally, physically, and emotionally reaps huge benefits.

Laura Laney and Big Red

Big RedPatience Pays Off
I first met Big Red in March 2008, one month after he was seized by Animal Control in King County along with 16 others. One horse had already starved to death; Red would have likely been next. One had a broken leg that had already healed, incorrectly of course.

The legalities involved with seizing animals can be mind boggling and in this particular case all of the horses had to stay together as evidence. Quite a feat considering most rescues have a capacity of about 20 and no boarding facility would have touched the emaciated, lice infested, terrified animals at any price. People Helping Horses was the only facility in Western Washington with the experience and room for that many horses.

On that fateful day two and a half years ago when I met Red for the first time I knew that I was the person for him. At the time I didn’t know how I would make it happen but the right things happened at the right time and I adopted Red in September 2008. We have worked with 4 different trainers and taken 7 clinics since then to find the right path for us.

Red was not only starved within days of his life but beaten as well. He has always tolerated being haltered and led but in retrospect I know how hard that was for him. Bridling has always been an issue. So much so that I just ride in the halter now.

If you have ever rescued an animal, or person even, you have days when you want to throw up your hands and quit and others that make it all worth it. Today was one of those days that make all those frustrating ones worth it.

Today I went to the pasture and haltered Red like any other day. Everyone had left for the day and we had the arena to ourselves. I turned him loose for his always needed roll and stepped back to assess his mood and form a game plan for our time together.

Working with the rescue horses has taught me a lot of patience, flexibility and creativity. Knowing we were to have a private lesson the next day with local trainer and clinician Sus Kellogg I wanted to touch on some things we had not practiced in a while. Taking advantage of the full arena I opted to work at liberty on the ground, no ropes, no halter.

As usual my plan was thwarted when after a bit of warm up I got the feeling he could use a nice stretch. We have been working with Dr. Suzan Seelye for over a year now and I have quite a repertoire of bodywork I can do between session so I chose one and got started.

It wasn’t long before Red relaxed and his eyes, along with his head, started to droop. I paused with him and just stroked him on the shoulder. Unprompted he took two steps back, putting his face right where my hand had been. After two and a half years for the first time he was telling me he was ready for me to help him through the anxiety associated with his face and ears.

I don’t know how long I stood with him gently stroking his face before feeling the need to move to his ears. He even lowered his head a little more so they were easier to reach. When Red, as Dr. Seelye would say, “went inside” to process I stepped away. He normally follows as if on auto pilot when I step away but not this time. So I quietly went to the mounting block and took up residence while he worked things out.

After a while he walked up to my shoulder from the side and put his nose to my cheek. He shook his head, blew his nose and let out 5 huge yawns; something he reserves for very special occasions. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring but in the end it will be worth it.

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Duschka Fowler-Dunning and Legacy

Duschka's comments following her first competition after a Quantum bodywork session:
"Best dressage test ever by far, we usually get 4’s on our counter canters and we got 8’s this time."
"Excellent dressage most relaxed and focused and mentally calm that he has ever been."

My Radiant Dream - Horse and Dramatic SkyI like to look at tension in two ways. Good tension is tension that tenses and releases in a healthy rhythmical way, and bad tension is tension that tenses and holds. Bad tension prevents progress and causes injuries over time, while good tension (rhythm) creates suppleness, relaxation and makes improvement and training happen at a much faster rate, while also keeping the horse and rider physically and mentally healthy.

So, the question becomes how do we get rid of bad holding tension and create rhythm, suppleness and relaxation? For starters, a person has to learn how to relax, and a horse has to be taught how to relax, but, you can’t teach a horse how to be relaxed if you are not relaxed yourself. Horses follow emotional and physical leads that we show them. If we come to the barn tense and in a bad mood our horses are often the same or if we come relaxed and happy then our horse usually follows suit.

Ideally we have the ability to use our brain to relax ourselves and it’s no problem, but it is rare to meet someone who can automatically relax themselves. In general we try to relax ourselves and our muscles, and we feel that we have blocks that prevent us from doing it. Our horses are usually blocked from releasing their tension either by their rider’s tension or from past bad experiences that they are emotionally stuck in. In general horses are much more willing and able to release their tension than humans are.

I have found it very beneficial to incorporate body work into my program for horse and rider. When you are helped to release bad tension and become more relaxed, you can experience what it feels like, and then it is easier to train yourself to get back to that place of relaxation on your own.

I remember years ago I would be trying to do right shoulder-in, and I would keep putting my right hip forward and my right hip would keep jerking back. After my first Rolfing session I remember putting my right hip forward while asking for shoulder in and it stayed there down the whole long side of the arena. I was shocked! and thrilled.

I realized that bodywork was very beneficial to my improvement as a rider as it simply sped up my improvement. I didn’t have to fight with my body so much to get it to do what I wanted, it was much much easier to be in the position I wanted to be in and stay there. It also does the same for a horse, it speeds up their improvement and training (if the rider is on the same path).

For years now I and my horses have had different kinds of regular bodywork, Rolfing, Acupunture, Hellerwork, Massage etc. They all have had profound impacts and I use bodywork as an integral part of my program for horses and riders.

The first thing that really stood out from Dr. Seelye's work is that my horse Legacy was greatly improved in his Self-Carriage. He carried himself straighter, higher in his withers and overall with much better balance and poise. He had been a horse that always felt "all over the place", but he became a horse that carried himself well (in good posture) and held it! He was also more confident in himself and became much easier to ride. I can't say enough about the benefits!

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Book Reviews - Empower Yourself with Knowledge

The Equine Psoas Manual by Joanne A Greenfield - Hot off the press from the UK! A unique, insightful one-of-a-kind book that helps put many of the missing pieces of the puzzle together. Filled with pearls of wisdom gained through personal experience, this talented new author gives us a wonderful formula to maximize our horse’s health, mind, body, and soul.

Gallop to Freedom by Magali Delgado and Frederic Pignon – A truly inspirational book of the magic that can exist between horse and human when we see and treat them with mutual respect. This book details two talented world class trainers' and riders' rewarding journey of endless discovery just as ours can be when we allow ourselves to be open to a deeper level of learning from our horses.

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Faith — An Inspirational, Uplifting, Real Life Story of Overcoming Extreme Adversity

Amazing how we complain about the little things until we see something like this… we can overcome anything, if we want to.

This dog was born on Christmas Eve in the year 2002. He was born with 2 legs. He of course could not walk when he was born. Even his mother did not want him.

His first owner also did not think that he could survive and he was thinking of 'putting him to sleep'. But then, his present owner, Jude Stringfellow, met him and wanted to take care of him. She became determined to teach and train this little dog to walk by himself. She named him 'Faith'.

In the beginning, she put Faith on a surfboard to let him feel the movement. Later she used peanut butter on a spoon as a lure and reward for him for standing up and jumping around. Even the other dog at home encouraged him to walk. Amazingly, only after 6 months, like a miracle, Faith learned to balance on his hind legs and to jump to move forward. After further training in the snow, he could now walk like a human being. Faith loves to walk around now.

No matter where he goes, he attracts people to him. He is fast becoming famous on the international scene and has appeared on various newspapers and TV shows. There is now a book entitled 'With a Little Faith' being published about him. He was even considered to appear in one of Harry Potter movies.

His present owner Jude Stringfellew has given up her teaching post and plans to take him around the world,To preach that even 'without a perfect body, one can have a perfect soul'. In life there are always undesirable things, so in order to feel better, you just need to look at life from another direction.

I hope this message will bring fresh new ways of thinking to everyone, and that everyone will appreciate and be thankful for each beautiful day. Faith is the continual demonstration of the strength and wonder of life.

A small request: All you are asked to do is keep this story circulating.

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Love those L.A. Pomeroy Articles

Reprinted with permission of L.A. Pomeroy & BAC e-news.

Poultice: Getting Down and Dirty
by L.A. Pomeroy

August 2010 Newsletter

Healing clays have been used by indigenous cultures since before recorded history. Easily accessible and even more easily applied, mud served a dual purpose as personal adornment, and protection, like a second skin, against harsh elements and biting insects.

Our forebears also discovered that mud not only offered protection but relief, probably revealing its topical healing properties after inadvertently soothing a painful bee sting or swelling. A plain old dirt mudpack will still work in a pinch if you, or your horse, are stung on the trail, but as the art of poulticing was refined, the search for materials with even higher water-holding capacity began.

The solution was clay.

Two common choices are Kaolin (white clay) and Bentonite (clay from volcanic ash). For example, Arenus’s SORE NO-MORE® Cooling Clay Poultice combines Bentonite clay with its award-winning arnica based liniment for a silky smooth consistency that is easily applied and washed off. No added chemical or drugs, just herbs that have been used for centuries.

The benefits of poultice lie in its efficient combination of water/hydrotherapy and absorption. Modern sports fabrics tout their ability to wick moisture from the skin’s surface and, as a poultice dries, it does much the same thing: pulling, or “wicking” fluids from the tissue underneath and into the clay.

Moist clay also has a cooling effect, encouraging heat from inflamed tissue or infection to equilibrate with the clay’s lower temperature; as water in a poultice evaporates, heat goes with it, creating a “cooling” as well as soothing treatment.

When To Use It

Poultice is one of the safest and surest proactive steps a horse owner can take to stop problems before they start. After a hard workout, it can be applied to cool down legs, i.e. tendons and soft tissue, especially when liniment has been added in lieu of plain water. It’s an excellent choice to ease minor sprains/strains, target aching muscles, and draw out bacteria and toxins from puncture wounds and similar infections.

If it’s a fresh injury, i.e. one that is still “hot,” you’ll want to cool it down. For maximum cooling effect, poultices can even be chilled before applying, using ice water.

For old tendon/ligament injuries, sore feet in winter, or for reducing muscle tension and/or joints that tend to stiffen after hard work or from arthritis, a poultice using warm water is an option. Warmed plain, or liniment-enriched poultices also draw out hoof abscesses quicker.

During the warmer seasons, a poultice can also offer relief from irritating bites and insect stings, act as a buffer against further assaults, and protect sensitive skin from the damaging effects of sunlight (especially on light-colored horses prone to burns). Just remember that poultices are most effective when wet, and can irritate skin if they dry out too much before they are removed.

How To Use It

Applying poultice to legs or hooves is as easy as (mud) pie. First, always ensure that the surface you are treating is clean and wet (remember the importance of "hydrotherapy"). Next, scoop an “egg”-sized dollop of poultice into your hand. Using the egg analogy, the size depends on the length/diameter of the horse’s leg or size of hoof. A big sport horse might need a goose-sized application; a pony might require a quail.

Using one, smooth stroke with the palm of your hand (not fingers), spread the poultice evenly down the leg and to the top of the fetlock. Keep some water handy if you need to smooth things out. If it’s your first time applying a poultice, wrap with plain brown paper that has been allowed to soak in a bucket of water. Use only paper unless you’re experienced with how plastic wrap impacts/increases the heat exchange process and can recognize signs of over-irritation or scurfing.

Wrap the wet paper over the poultice (it will stick). Then place a clean, standing wrap, i.e. quilt, over the wet paper. Quickly wrap over the quilt with a clean bandage/leg wrap. Be certain the wrap lies smoothly and evenly and is completely secure.

It’s A Wrap

Never poultice more than once every six to 12 hours, and thoroughly remove the poultice once it has dried, either brushing the dried clay off, or hosing it with water. Evaluate its progress. Is there more or less swelling, heat, or infection? Are you seeing the desired result?

As important as knowing when to poultice is when to stop. Between applications, let the leg or hoof “stabilize.” This offers a base line to work from before assessing the next round of treatment.

This “base line” can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, after which you can determine what the next step in treatment should be. These steps might include:

  • Hosing the leg with cold water to counter the effects of inflammation by cooling the leg.
  • Wrapping the leg with a mild to moderate support to create a gentle “pressure bandage” (this deters accumulation of, or helps dissipate, edema)
  • Checking with your veterinarian for a second opinion
  • Taking a wait-and-see approach for another 24 hours
  • Reapplying poultice

Under absolutely no circumstances should a leg or hoof be poulticed more than twice in any 24-hour period.

When infection, inflammation, or the strains/sprains of competition and daily horse life need relief, before turning to medication, consider the ages-old tradition of poultice. Never has the adage “older than dirt” rung more true.

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Ready, Set, Shampoo
by L.A. Pomeroy

We talk about the importance of a good immune system in fending off disease but have you ever stopped to consider the role healthy skin plays in equine health?

A horse’s skin is its largest organ and keeping it clean not only makes your horse look good, it offers them the best chance to perform at their optimum best. A clean coat is less prone to harbor infection or parasites, and strong, nourished skin is better at keeping such threats outside the horse’s system.

Baths and braces help remove old hair and oils, and allow the coat to ‘breathe,’ while the massaging action behind shampooing your horse will stimulate circulation, enervate blood flow and lymphatic tissues, and oxygenate muscles.

Since anti-inflammatory medication, like cortisone, may actually promote skin tissue degeneration, using gentle, nourishing equine bath products can be especially important to a horse’s overall comfort.

Choosing the right shampoo or brace isn’t just about looking good. It’s about getting stronger.

Go Veg, Not Chem

Rich, glistening coats, note professional grooms for Olympic and FEI-level equestrian teams, not only look beautiful, they indicate wellbeing.

Staying healthy starts with avoiding commercial shampoos that, while producing satisfying suds, may contain ingredients with long-term deleterious effects, such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS), or Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). Although common and effective cleaners, they have been identified as hazardous eye and skin irritants, with at least moderately hazardous carcinogenic properties.

Plant-based shampoos and vegetable cleansers may not offer as much lather but will still deliver shine. Using common herbal ingredients, they successfully clean and leave even the most sensitive-skinned horse with soft, shiny, and easy to comb manes, tails, and coats.

Some of the common herbs to look for that assist in good coat health are witch hazel (a mild astringent), Arnica (which stimulates circulation and helps with bruises, strains and sore muscles), Rosemary (an antibacterial that aids circulation), Lobelia (good for relaxing muscles), and Lavendar (an anti-bacterial that enhances circulation).

To keep skin soft and strong, look for oils. Some of the most nutritious are extra virgin cocoa butter, vegetable protein oil, and amide cocoa fat (which is also a terrific foaming agent).

The pH (acidity or alkalinity) of your water is also important when you’re talking about suds and foam. ‘Soft’ water creates more suds while ‘hard’ water creates less.

Brace For It

When liniment is added to bath water, the result is a brace. Braces are refreshing rinses that help increase circulation and stimulate healing in swollen legs or sore muscles.

Long Lasting Shine

A clean horse is a healthy horse. Bath time, like grooming, gives you a chance to check for bumps, scrapes, or sore spots, and a good, hands-on scrubbing will massage muscles, increase oxygen, and improve circulation.

Standing right in front of us, it’s easy to overlook that yes, our horse’s skin is its largest organ, and it comes with a big responsibility. Choosing the right shampoo gets you and your horse off on the right lead.

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Laughter the Best Medicine

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Five Plants Toxic to Horses

Watch for these common plants that could be deadly to horses.

By: Lynn Hovda, RPH, DVM, MS, DACVIM
Pet Poison Helpline

Alan Copson/Getty Images

Maple (Acer spp.)


Where it's found: Thirteen species of maple trees are found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, with a larger distribution in the eastern United States and Canada. The red maple (Acer rubrum) is among the most common, as are the sugar maple (Acer saccharum), silver maple (Acer saccharinum), and box elder (Acer negundo). Only a few species have been associated with the development of clinical signs.

The toxin and how it works: The toxin is unknown but it damages the red blood cells, making them unable to carry oxygen.

Threat to horses:

  • Most of the case reports and experimental studies are specific to the red maple tree. Other species, especially hybrid species with Acer rubrum in the lineage, may be associated with intoxication. Silver and sugar maples also have been implicated by some research scientists; box elder has not.
  • Ingestion of dry or wilted leaves causes signs; ingestion of fresh leaves does not.
  • Dry and wilted leaves may remain toxic for up to four weeks, but generally do not retain their toxicity over the winter.
  • Generally, leaves dropped after Sept. 15 are considered more toxic, but wilted leaves from branches dropped during summer storms may be just as harmful.
  • It takes about 1.5 to 2 lbs of dried or wilted leaves per 1,000 lbs of a horse’s body weight to cause clinical signs. All organ systems in a horse’s body are affected by the blood cells’ lack of oxygen. The kidneys and liver may be harmed by the red blood cell breakdown products.

Signs: These can occur as early as a few hours after ingestion or be delayed for four to five days. Depression, lethargy, and anorexia usually occur first and are followed by reddish-brown urine and pale yellowish gums and mucous membranes. Later signs include dark-brown muddy gums and mucous membranes, difficulty breathing, inability to rise, and death.

Treatment: Use activated charcoal and mineral oil to decontaminate. Aggressive IV fluids to correct dehydration and protect the kidneys as well as blood transfusions, ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and corticosteroids may all be necessary.

Prognosis: Good if animals are treated before signs begin. Once evidence of red blood cell damage occurs, aggressive in-hospital treatment will be needed for survival.

Darlyne A. Murawsk/Michele Constantini/Pete Saloutos/Getty Images

Foxglove (Digitalis spp.), oleander (Nerium oleander), rhododendron (Rhododendron spp.)

Where they're found: Each of these plants is found to some extent throughout the United States. Different cultivars of foxglove and rhododendron grow and overwinter in just about every state. Oleander is not hardy enough to overwinter in northern climates, but it's often found as a houseplant or ornamental container-grown plant.

The toxin and how it works: Foxglove, oleander, and rhododendron contain toxins known as cardenolides or cardiac glycosides. Cardenolides interfere with the electrical conductivity of the heart, resulting in irregularities in heart rate and rhythm.

Threat to horses:

  • Ingestion of any of these plants is associated with death in horses.
  • Cardenolide concentrations are found in all parts of the plant but are highest in the fruit, flowers, and immature leaves. Dried leaves retain their toxicity.
  • Oleander: Ingestion of 30 to 40 leaves is deadly.
  • Foxglove: Ingestion of an estimated 100 to 120 g (3 to 4 oz) of fresh leaves results in clinical signs and death.
  • Rhododendron: Toxic dose in horses is not well established, but ingestion of 1 to 2 lbs of green leaves has resulted in signs.

Signs: Signs generally begin just a few hours after ingestion, and most horses are simply found dead. Other early signs include weakness; edema of the head, neck, and eyes; and a slow heart rate that progresses to irregularity. Seizures and inability to rise often occur before death.

Treatment: Rapid development of illness and signs generally make treatment impossible. Veterinarians can use activated charcoal and mineral oil to decontaminate if done so early after ingestion. Other drugs such as atropine and lidocaine that focus on specific cardiac conduction abnormalities may be useful in hospitalized cases. Digoxin-specific Fab fragments have been used successfully in small animals but are cost-prohibitive in horses.

Prognosis: Very poor once signs have developed. Early and aggressive therapy before the appearance of clinical signs improves the prognosis.

Tony Sweet/Getty Images

Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum)

Where it's found: Bracken fern is found throughout the United States in open pastures and woodlands. It prefers moist, acidic soils.

The toxin and how it works: Bracken fern contains a type I thiaminase enzyme. It works by degrading or destroying thiamine (Vitamin B1) and creating a thiamine analog (fake thiamine) that interferes with nerve function and other bodily processes.

Threat to horses:

  • Thiamine is necessary for nerve function. Low thiamine can cause the development of neurological disease.
  • Both fresh and dried bracken fern is toxic if ingested.
  • Some horses develop a taste for bracken fern and seek it out in the pasture and hay.
  • Horses must consume large amounts of bracken fern for days to weeks before signs develop. If the plant comprises 20% to 25% of their diet, signs develop in about three weeks. If it comprises 100% of their diet, signs occur in seven to 10 days.

Signs: Signs are related to neurological dysfunction and include depression, blindness, gait abnormalities, muscle twitching, and seizures.

Treatment: Administer IV or IM thiamine for days to weeks. Other treatment is primarily supportive and includes NSAIDs, IV fluids, and drugs to prevent seizures.

Prognosis: Generally very good if treatment is begun before neurological problems develop. The onset of seizures and blindness is associated with a poor prognosis.

Matthew Ward/Getty Images

Black walnut (Juglans nigra)

Where it's found: Black walnut trees have been cultivated in the United States since 1868. They are commonly found in the eastern half of the United States except the northernmost border.

The toxin and how it works: The toxin is unknown. Many believe that juglone, present in black walnut roots and leaves, is the culprit, but scientists are unable to reproduce toxicosis by oral or dermal exposure to juglone.

Threat to horses:

  • Black walnut shavings are harmful if ingested; leaves, bark, flowers, and nuts are not.
  • Black walnut shavings, often purchased from furniture manufacturers, should not be used as bedding for horses. Examine new bedding that comes from an unknown source for the presence of black walnut shavings, which are much blacker in color than pine shavings.
  • Horses placed on bedding composed of as little as 20% fresh black walnut shavings made from either new or old wood develop laminitis (founder) within just a few hours.
  • Early removal of the horse from the bedding generally results in cessation of signs, but laminitis may continue unabated.


  • Early: Depression, limb edema, stiff gait, laminitis
  • Mid: Colic, increased body temperature
  • Late: Rotation of coffin bone (severe laminitis)

Treatment: Removal of the horses from the shavings as soon as signs are noticed often stops the progression of laminitis. Wash the horse’s feet and limbs with cold water to remove any remaining shavings and help decrease signs of laminitis. Further treatment is based on the signs and generally includes an NSAID—such as flunixin or phenylbutazone—as well as mineral oil and good farrier care.

Prognosis: Generally very good if horse is removed within a few hours of exposure. Once laminitis develops, the prognosis for a full recovery decreases.

Robert and Jean Polluck/Getty Images

Tansy ragwort (Senecio spp.)

Where it's found: More than 70 different species of Senecio are present in the United States. This daisy-like weed is found in hay fields, pastures, ditches, and other unimproved areas.

What is the toxin and how does it work? Senecio species plants contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are metabolized to pyrroles in the liver. Pyrroles inhibit cellular division, resulting in production of abnormal liver cells (megalocytes). As the megalocytes die, they are replaced with fibrotic tissue. Not all Senecio species have the same amount of toxin but all contain at least some concentration of pyrrolizidine alkaloids and all are considered harmful.

Threat to horses:

  • Both fresh and dried plants are toxic if ingested.
  • The plant is not particularly palatable, and most cases occur on overgrazed pastures or in the spring when green grass is scarce.
  • Pyrrolizidine alkaloids are most harmful to a horse’s liver.
  • Damage to the liver accumulates over time and is irreversible.
  • Signs generally develop after a total ingestion of 50 to 150 lbs, or about 1% to 5% of a horse’s body weight, for several weeks.

Signs: Generally aren’t present until the liver has failed. Once the liver fails, anorexia, weight loss, photosensitization, depression, blindness, unusual behaviors, and jaundice swiftly follow.

Treatment: There is no treatment once signs are present. If ingestion is suspected and complete liver failure has not developed, supportive care is recommended, but the horse may never return to its previous healthy state. Electrolytes, IV fluids, glucose, and B vitamins are useful, as is protecting the horse from the sun.

Prognosis: Very poor to fatal once liver failure has occurred. Poor for cases of suspected ingestion that are caught earlier.

Dr. Hovda is director of veterinary services at SafetyCall International and Pet Poison Helpline in Bloomington, Minn.

Pet Poison Helpline is a service available 24 hours, seven days a week for pet owners and veterinary team members who require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet and can provide treatment advice for poisoning cases of all species, including dogs, cats, birds, small mammals, large animals, and exotic species. As the most cost-effective option for animal poison control care, Pet Poison Helpline’s fee of $35 per incident includes follow-up consultation for the duration of the poisoning case. It is available in North America by calling 800-213-6680. Click here for additional information.

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Equine Parasites - Bots

This article is reprinted with permission from the April 2010 issue of Worm Control News (WCNews), a monthly e-newsletter from Horsemen’s Laboratory. H-Lab is dedicated to helping horse owners develop successful worm control strategies through mail-order fecal egg count testing, targeted use of dewormers, and effective pasture and herd management practices. To learn more or read other issues of WCNews in our Archive, visit

Bots are a serious threat to your horse’s stomach health and ability to digest, since the larvae attach themselves with sharp teeth to the stomach’s lining for an 8-10 month period, and can both ulcerate and inflame the stomach lining. The good news is that with a little strategy and the right dewormer, you can keep bots at bay within your herd.

Bots aren’t worms; instead they’re the larvae of the horse botfly, which resembles a bee but has no stinger. The eggs resemble small yellow or light tan specks of paint on your horse's hair.

  • Once licked or eaten by the horse during scratching or grooming, the mouth and saliva provide an ideal environment for hatching the eggs.
  • Once they emerge from the eggs, the tiny larvae then burrow into the tongue and gum tissues, hanging out for about a month before they migrate to the stomach and attach themselves in clumps to the stomach lining. They’ve also been shown to attach to the upper part of the small intestine.
  • After the 8-10 months, the bot larvae releases its hold on the stomach lining and is passed out with the manure, where it burrows into the ground and incubates until hatching as an adult fly during the summer months. Bot larvae are reddish-orange and round, and approximately 1 centimeter in length. They can sometimes be seen in the manure.

Small breeds and young horses are particularly at risk of developing problems, since their digestive system tissues might be thinner and more easily damaged; both ulcers and stomach wall penetrations have been known to occur with bot infestations.


Did you know… a single female botfly can lay
between 300 and 1,000 eggs?

There are three different species of bots that target horses, including the common horse bot (Gastrophilus intestinalis), which lays its eggs on the horse’s legs, sides, and flanks; the nose bot (Gastrophilus haemorrhoidalis), which lays eggs on the muzzle; and the throat bot (Gastrophilus nasalis), which lays eggs underneath the head, neck, and mane.

Bot eggs must be removed from your horse’s hair; typically a small safety razor can be used to lightly and carefully shave the eggs off. It’s important to do so in an area where the horses will never graze or eat, and to dispose of the tiny specks in the trash instead of throwing them on the ground. If you kill a female botfly, be sure to dispose of it in the trash, since if he accidentally consumes the fly your horse will effectively have eaten all the fly’s unlaid eggs.

Ivermectin is an effective dewormer for bots, however timing is crucial:

  1. After the autumn’s first killing frost, immediately remove all visible bot eggs from your horse; the adult flies will have been killed by the cold temperatures.
  2. Then, wait 30 days to allow any ingested bots to migrate from the mouth tissues to the stomach; at that point, deworming with ivermectin will kill off the bot population and interrupt the reproductive cycle for that year.

Since bots are an airborne problem, it’s also a good idea to work together with your neighbors to reduce bot populations in the area. With a little planning and action, your horse and his stomach can remain relatively bot-free.

Copyright 2010 Horsemen's Laboratory. Please contact us at for reprint permission.

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This article is reprinted with permission from the September 2010 issue of Worm Control News (WCNews), a monthly e-newsletter from Horsemen’s Laboratory. H-Lab is dedicated to helping horse owners develop successful worm control strategies through mail-order fecal egg count testing, targeted use of dewormers, and effective pasture and herd management practices. To learn more or read other issues of WCNews in our Archive, visit

‘Fall’ Back On These Worm Control Tips

Climate is a significant factor when it comes to equine parasite management. Although we’re all approaching the autumn season, the weather will be different in Florida or Arizona than it will be in Minnesota or Maine. This means worm control practices, and their timing, will vary, but this time of year still offers opportunities to reduce your horse's parasite load.


A ‘clean out’ deworming at this time of year helps interrupt the reproductive cycle and eliminate bots in your horse until next year.

  • After the first killing frost, remove all visible bot eggs from your horse and dispose of them carefully in the garbage; the adult botflies will have been killed off by the cold temps.
  • Keep in mind that bots have been known to infect the human eye, so when removing bots with a bot knife don’t touch your face until after you’ve washed your hands thoroughly with soap and water!
  • Wait 30 days to allow for any bots to migrate to the stomach, then deworm with either ivermectin or moxidectin.
  • This process might happen in October or November if you’re in a colder climate, or in January if you’re in warmer regions.


While tapeworm infestations can occur at any time of the year, periods of prolonged grazing (such as during the summer months) allow the greatest chances of infection. Autumn is a good time to check manure for tapeworm segments, and to deworm with pyrantel or praziquantel if needed.

Small strongyles

Also referred to as redworms or bloodworms, small strongyles tend to ‘encyst’ in the horse’s gut wall and hibernate over the winter; in the spring, they can hatch en-masse in the late winter or early spring, resulting in diarrhea, colic, and rapid/severe weight loss. It’s a serious issue, since this large-scale emergence can potentially be fatal, with a documented 50% mortality rate.


Horses less than two years of age are more susceptible to ascarid, or roundworm, infections than mature horses; if deworming a foal for the first time, keep in mind that those older than three months at their first deworming are more prone to colic.

If you have specific questions about autumn parasite protocols in your region, you can check with your veterinarian or your local extension office. If we can be of help, please email us at or call us at 800-544-0599. Check our Archive for Worm of the Month articles on specific types of parasites.

Copyright 2010 Horsemen's Laboratory. Please contact us at for reprint permission.

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