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Don’t Skip the Purchase Exam
Owning a horse can be a big investment in time, money and emotion.  Unfortunately, horses seldom come with a money-back guarantee.  That’s why it is so important to investigate the horse’s overall health and condition through a purchase exam conducted by an equine veterinarian.  Whether you want a horse as a family pet, a pleasure mount, a breeding animal, or a high performance athlete, you stand the best chance of getting one that meets your needs by investing in a purchase exam.

Purchase examinations may vary, depending on the intended use of the horse and the veterinarian who is doing the examination.  Deciding exactly what should be included in the purchase examination requires good communication between you and your veterinarian.  The following guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) will help ensure a custom-tailored exam:

· Choose a veterinarian who is familiar with the breed, sport or use for which the horse is being purchased.
· Explain to your veterinarian your expectations and primary uses for the horse, including short- and long-term goals (e.g., showing, then breeding).
· Ask your veterinarian to outline the procedures that he or she feels should be included in the exam and why.
· Establish the costs for these procedures.
· Be present during the purchase exam.  The seller or agent should also be present.
· Discuss with your veterinarian his or her findings in private.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions or request further information about your veterinarian’s findings in private.
The veterinarian’s job is neither to pass or fail an animal.  Rather, it is to provide you with information regarding any existing medical problems and to discuss those problems with you so that you can make an informed purchase decision.  Your veterinarian can advise you about the horse’s current physical condition, but he or she cannot predict the future.  The decision to buy is yours alone to make.  But your equine veterinarian can be a valuable partner in the process of providing you with objective, health-related information.
Reprinted with permission from the American Association of Equine Practitioners.
 10 Tips for Choosing the Best Hay for Your Horse
High-quality hay can be an important source of essential nutrients in your horse’s diet. A horse’s protein and energy requirements depend on age, stage of development, metabolism and workload. A mature horse will eat 2 to 2.5% of its body weight a day, and for optimum health, nutritionists recommend that at least half of this should be roughage such as hay.  For a 1000-pound horse, that means at least 10 pounds of roughage each day. 
Hay generally falls into one of two categories – grasses or legumes.  Legume hay is higher in protein, energy, calcium and vitamin A than grass hays. While hay alone may not meet the total dietary requirements of young, growing horses or those used for high levels of performance, high-quality hay may supply ample nutrition for less active adult horses.
             Once you’ve determined the best category of hay for your horse, most people select hay based on how it looks, smells and feels.  Use the following tips from the American Association of Equine Practitioners to select the best hay for your horse:
1. It’s what’s inside that counts.  Ask that one or several bales are opened so you can evaluate the hay inside the bales.  Do not worry about slight discoloration on the outside, especially in stacked hay.
2. Choose hay that is as fine-stemmed, green and leafy as possible, and is soft to the touch.
3. Avoid hay that is overcured, excessively sun-bleached, or smells moldy, musty, dusty or fermented. 
4. Select hay that has been harvested when the plants are in early bloom for legume hay or before seed heads have formed in grasses.  Examine the leaves, stems and flowers or seed pods to determine the level of maturity.
5. Avoid hay that contains significant amounts of weeds, dirt, trash or debris.
6. Examine hay for signs of insect infestation or disease.  Be especially careful to check for blister beetles in alfalfa.  Ask the grower about any potential problems in the region.
7. Reject bales that seem excessively heavy for their size of feel warm to the touch, as they could contain excess moisture that could cause mold, or worse, spontaneous combustion.
8. When possible, purchase and feed hay within a year of harvest to preserve its nutritional value.
9. Store hay in a dry, sheltered area out of the rain, snow and sun, or cover in the stack to protect it from the elements.
10. When buying in quantity, have the hay analyzed by a certified forage laboratory to determine its actual nutrient content.
Remember that horses at different ages and stages of growth, development and activity have different dietary requirements.  Consult your veterinarian or a qualified equine nutritionist when formulating your horse’s ration.  He or she can help you put together a balanced diet that is safe, nutritious and cost-effective.
Reprinted with permission from the American Association of Equine Practitioners.
10 Tips for Caring for the Older Horse
Because of advances in nutrition, management and health care, horses are living longer, more useful lives. It’s not uncommon to find horses and ponies living well into their 20s and 30s.  While genetics play a role in determining life span, you too, can have an impact.
             You may think that turning your old-timer out to pasture is the kindest form of retirement. But horses are individuals.  Some enjoy being idle; others prefer to be a part of the action.  Whatever you do, don’t ignore the horse.  Proper nutrition, care and exercise will help the animal thrive. Follow these guidelines to develop a total management plan for your older horse:

1. Observe your horse on a regular basis.  Watch for changes in body condition, behavior and attitude. Address problems, even seemingly minor ones, right away.
2. Feed a high quality diet.  Avoid dusty and moldy feeds.
3. Feed your older horse away from younger, more aggressive ones so it won’t have to compete for feed.
4. Feed at more frequent intervals so as not to upset the digestive system. Two-three times daily is best.
5. Provide plenty of fresh, clean, tepid water.  Excessively cold water reduces consumption which can lead to colic and other problems.
6. Adjust and balance rations to maintain proper body conditions.  A good rule of thumb is to be able to feel the ribs but not see them.
7. Provide adequate, appropriate exercise to maintain muscle tone, flexibility and mobility.
8. Groom your horse frequently to promote circulation and skin health.
9. Be aware that older horses are prone to tumors.  Look for any unusual lumps or growths from head to tail as well as beneath the tail (especially on gray horses).
10. Schedule routine checkups with your equine veterinarian.  Call immediately if you suspect a problem.
A quick response to ailments, injuries or a decline in fitness can keep your older horse from having a serious or prolonged setback.  That means less worry for you and a better quality of life for your old friend. 
Reprinted with permission from the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

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