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Canker In Horses: An In Depth Look

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What is Canker?

In a nutshell Canker is a disease that causes the tissues in and around a horse’s frog to grow excessively. In more technical terms canker is:

Canker is a chronic hypertrophy and apparent suppuration of the horn-producing tissues of the foot, involving the frog and the sole.



The name canker comes from the early belief that the conditions was cancerous in nature. However, current knowledge is that canker is an anaerobic (grows in the absence of oxygen) infection in the superficial tissues which produce the horn of the hoof.


Currently the cause is unknown. It is only briefly discussed in veterinary textbooks. Most books suggest that it is caused from housing a horse in unsanitary conditions but farms with both the best of stable management and the worst can both have horses with the disease. In attempts to recreate the disease, Dr. Tracy A. Turner, DVM, have packed a horse’s frog with manure after injecting it with what they believe are the causative bacteria. To date is has not been possible to prove that canker is due to unsanitary conditions. Another theory as to the cause of canker is that development might instead be influenced by how the horse is used. Corralled horses will little exercise seem to be more predisposed to the disease than horses that are active and kept outdoors. The causative bacteria is unknown, but some researchers have suggested that the organism is part of the Bacteroides species, which is similar to what causes “foot rot” in sheep. In a study that was completed more recently, researchers found spirochete (spiral shaped) bacteria in the epithelium, which was similar to what they found in cows and sheep with digital dermatitis. Dr David Wilson, professor of large animal surgery at the University of Saskatchewan, explains that when the horse’s hooves are wet for an extended period of time, the keratin in the foot structure softens, making it easier for bacteria to enter. Because the bacteria found in hoof canker cases lives in the soil, the best way to prevent the condition is to keep the hoof clean and dry.

“Daily picking out of the horse’s hooves will likely prevent the condition from developing, and this may be especially important for horses in wetter environments”

In the end nobody knows exactly what causes the conditions. What I have presented here are the theories that may vets and researchers have formed over the years. I hope that soon they will be able to figure out exactly what causes this terrible disease and can then focus on finding a way to cure it without fail.

Where is Canker Found

Typically equine canker cases are found in the southeastern United States due to its higher moisture content and heat. However, there have been diagnosed cases of canker all over the country. The reason it is more common through the Southeastern United States is due to the widely held belief that moisture is a contributing factor to the cause of the disease.

What does Canker Do

The microorganism that is associated with canker causes abnormal keratin production, or overgrowth of the horn. This excessive growth occurs underneath the horn, as the infection spreads throughout the epithelial layer. Commonly, an affected horse will have white or gray matter that is spongy and moist appearing in the sulci region (grooves on either side and in the center of the frog) of the hoof. This growth’s appearance has been described as looking similar to wet cauliflower with cottage cheese like emission. If an extreme infection is present then heat may be felt in the hoof, but this is only in extreme situations. I noticed when my wife had her horse treated that the growth itself was extremely fibrous. When the vet was cutting through the grown you could hear each cut as it was made. The growth itself felt a lot like a piece of grizzle from a steak. In the early stages canker can appear to be thrush or abscesses that will not go away.

Is Canker Like Thrush?

Not really. Unlike thrush, which is a necrotic or tissue-destroying process, canker creates abnormal tissue grown and is described as a hypertrophic pododermatitis. Thrush and canker are both found in the same region of the foot but thrush is more of a tar like substance. While thrush eats at tissue, the inner tissues of the foot are protected until bacteria get deep enough to deteriorate the more sensitive structures. Canker, on the other hand, spreads in live tissue, without the help of oxygen.

Is there treatment for canker?

Treating canker can be a challenge as most of us who have experienced it know first hand. Many Vets have suggested a variety of medications and treatments but the most successful therapy is based on the following:

  1. Superficial Debridement (cutting away abnormal tissue) over the entire affected area. This process can be done by putting the horse to sleep with the use of anesthesia or by using a nerve block. Only the superficial layer of the infected tissue is usually removed because excising too deeply can slow down healing and also drive the infection into deeper tissues. Some vets follow the debridement process with two or three superficial freezes of the affected area to further kill off the diseased tissue.
  2. Canker prefers moist conditions, so make sure you keep the treated area very clean and dry.
  3. Topical Treatments. Veterinarians have suggested several treatments but two of the most effective topical therapies are the antimicrobial drug metronidazole and 10% benzyl peroxide solution. Metronidazole is usually ground into a powder and spread over the affected area. Benzyl peroxide is a potent astringent commonly found in acne medicine. It is soaked into gauze sponges and applies as a wound dressing. Although, no medicine will cure canker if superficial debridement is not performed.

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After applying the topical medications, you want to apply a clean, dry, waterproof bandage. A number of Vets recommend using shoes with treatment plates, which are more convenient than bandaging the entire hoof. Dr. David Wilson says he has never seen a case of canker recur in a horse that has been successfully treated. A large number of people have reported success in treating their horses for canker by using a product called “Purple Mush”. This product is from but is not available on their website. It is a salve made from plant resin and is supposedly easy to apply and affordable. I have not tried it but my wife has been trying to find it for a while. I managed to find it yesterday so I’ll post the information for anyone else who may be interested in trying it. Please let me know if you have success with it so I can update this article with the information so more people can benefit from it.

How do horses respond to treatment?

Every horse is different so there isn’t a sure answer. Some horses will heal within a week or 10 days and some cases last for months. With good, aggressive treatment, a week to 10 days of intensive therapy should be enough to get the canker under control. Once the tissue has healed, it is very rare for the disease to reoccur. However, the canker can return before the healing is complete. This is what led many to believe that canker was a cancerous disease.

How can I identify Canker?

In the early stages canker may present itself as a focal area of granulation tissue in the frog the bleeds easily when cut. If you look closer you will typically see a light brown or gray tissue that will surround this focal area. If it is not treated, the disease will become more distributed and involve the frog, bars, sole and the stratum medium of the hoof wall in the plantar aspect of the foot. The infection itself results in abnormal keratin production, which is seen as filamentous fronds of hypertrophic horn. Canker is characterized by a number of small, finger-like protruding growth of soft off-white material that appears like cauliflower. This condition is often, but not always, accompanies by a foul odor and is covered with a caseous white emission that resembles cottage cheese. The frog itself is often undermined with the horny frog covering the bulk of the disease. The affected tissue will bleed very easily if cut and may be extremely painful when touched. Varying degrees of lameness will be present depending on the extent and the depth of the infection. Most horses are not lame when the disease is first recognized and treated early. If the horse is lame it indicates that the disease involved more than just the superficial horny frog and needs an aggressive approach to resolving the problem.


An early diagnosis of canker is based on the general appearance of the affected horny tissue along with a rancid odor. However, a definitive diagnosis may be confirmed with a biopsy. Biopsy is the most useful in recurrent cases or when the lesions do not have the signature appearance or they appear in unusual locations of the foot. Caution must be used when removing the superficial necrotic tissue before the biopsy is taken from the margin of the lesion. The biopsy should include both normal and abnormal tissue. A 6 mm biopsy punch works well for this purpose. Histologically, the lesion is read as a chronic, hypertrophic, moist pododermatitis of the frog. It is characterized by a proliferative papillary hyperplasia of the epidermis with dyskeratosis, keratolysis and ballooning degeneration of the outer layers of the epidermis. A mixed population of bacterial organisms are observed in the stratum germinativum layer of the epidermis of the frog. Normally cultures are useless as they produce an assortment of environmental organisms, bacteroids sp. and Fusobacterium necrophorum. Benzyl Peroxide is easily purchased at places such as Wal-Mart or your local drug store.


The treatment of equine canker has always presented problems for veterinarians and the farriers due to the poor prognosis. The cause of canker remains unknown; however, the disease as seen by authors differs in some respects from the disease that was described in the old surgical texts. It does not appear to be a disease that only effects poorly kept horses. Many studies have shown that horses that are in very well kept conditions and receive routine hoof care can still be affected. While the hind legs seem to be more frequently affected, front leg involvement is common. In the majority of cases, the condition starts on the frog near the heel lateral or medial to the sulcus. From there, it can extend anywhere on the foot and even break through the hoof capsule. In 1997, one author began using a topical therapy reported by a Texas farrier consisting of benzyl peroxide in acetone and metronidazole. Since that time all horses have been managed with surgical debridement followed by this combination of topical therapy with excellent success. The combination of careful debridement along with topical benzyl peroxide in acetone and metronidazole have yielded consistent predicable results in 56 cases. Even though the cause of canker is still unknown, there are several principles of therapy for the condition for which authors consider to be important. Thorough debridement of the lesion is essential. The method used to achieve this is probably of less importance. Electrocautery or cold steel excision followed by cryotherapy both cause tissue necrosis away from the surgical margins ensuring complete resection of the growth. It is critical that the growth is followed to is root and that the entire growth is removed. Finally, methodical topical treatment is important. Cleaning the affected area with an antiseptic solution daily removes the surface bacteria and provides and environment where the wound can heal properly. 10% benzyl peroxide in acetone is an excellent astringent and keeps the tissue dry with no caustic effect and finally the bacteria cultured from canker cases are usually anaerobic making metronidazole a good choice as a topical antibiotic. Attention must be placed on keeping the surgical wound clean and dry until the wound begins to heal. The horse owner’s compliance to perform the daily foot care is another essential element in the treatment of equine canker.

Our Canker Story

Canker is pretty rare in Arizona so when my wife’s thoroughbred came up with it about 2 years ago we had no idea what it was. It started as thrush then abscesses which we were unable to get rid of. Eventually our farrier pulled a horseshoe nail out of Tiz’s frog (which had to have been there for a long time due to the condition of it) which we believe is what gave the canker a path to follow out of the frog.

When we first saw it we had no idea what it was so we immediately started researching it and finally was able to figure out what it was. We decided to hit it aggressively right from the start so had our vet do a debridement on his hind foot. To get the entire growth removed involved our vet following the growth all the way to the coffin bone and hollowing out our boy’s hoof. It literally looked like a bowl. After that we used crushed up metronidazole mixed with 10% benzyl peroxide on cotton and packed his foot with it.

This process went on for months. Our farrier at the time had no experience with this disease and had no idea how to treat it so we ended up contacting a specialist in Scottsdale. The specialist came up and evaluated Tiz and explained to us what we were dealing with in better detail than what we had been able to find. At this point we knew he was the guy to help Tiz if anyone was so we immediately swapped farriers. Tiz has this issue where he doesn’t like to pick his feet up.

When you do finally get them up you have to really keep a close eye on him because he will try and lay down on you. So dealing with his feet in any capacity takes two people, one to deal with his feet, and one to keep him standing. The first time this farrier came out he spent the better part of 8 hours treating the canker and dealing with abscesses that Tiz had in his front. This is the first thoroughbred we have owned and probably the last from what we’ve been hearing. They are amazing horses but do tend to have tons of feet issues. After the Farrier was done that first time he suggested we keep Tiz on a schedule to get trimmed every 4 weeks and deal with the canker as it returns. Now it’s been over a year and every four weeks the farrier is out taking care of Tiz’s feet and removing the canker as it returns. While doing research for this article I have found that we may not have handled the after-care of his surgery properly and now are going to be trying some other techniques to try and eliminate the canker. Since we made the switch to the farrier we are currently using, Tiz has made improvements by leaps and bounds. He has very little issues with his back feet which is where the canker first popped up. Since that time it has appeared in one of his front feet as well but the farrier caught it immediately and we were able to get it dealt with. The current issue with him is abscesses which we believe to be the sign of canker. Much of the information I found while researching this article says that canker usually starts off like thrush. In our case it was more abscesses that we couldn’t get rid of so we believe this is one of the signs that canker is present.

Canker is pretty rare in Arizona so when my wife’s thoroughbred came up with it about 2 years ago we had no idea what it was. It started as thrush then abscesses which we were unable to get rid of. Eventually our farrier pulled a horseshoe nail out of Tiz’s frog (which had to have been there for a long time due to the condition of it) which we believe is what gave the canker a path to follow out of the frog. When we first saw it we had no idea what it was so we immediately started researching it and finally was able to figure out what it was.

We decided to hit it aggressively right from the start so had our vet do a debridement on his hind foot. To get the entire growth removed involved our vet following the growth all the way to the coffin bone and hollowing out our boy’s hoof. It literally looked like a bowl. After that we used crushed up metronidazole mixed with 10% benzyl peroxide on cotton and packed his foot with it.

This process went on for months. Our farrier at the time had no experience with this disease and had no idea how to treat it so we ended up contacting a specialist in Scottsdale. The specialist came up and evaluated Tiz and explained to us what we were dealing with in better detail than what we had been able to find. At this point we knew he was the guy to help Tiz if anyone was so we immediately swapped farriers. Tiz has this issue where he doesn’t like to pick his feet up. When you do finally get them up you have to really keep a close eye on him because he will try and lay down on you. So dealing with his feet in any capacity takes two people, one to deal with his feet, and one to keep him standing.

The first time this farrier came out he spent the better part of 8 hours treating the canker and dealing with abscesses that Tiz had in his front. This is the first thoroughbred we have owned and probably the last from what we’ve been hearing. They are amazing horses but do tend to have tons of feet issues. After the Farrier was done that first time he suggested we keep Tiz on a schedule to get trimmed every 4 weeks and deal with the canker as it returns.

Now it’s been over a year and every four weeks the farrier is out taking care of Tiz’s feet and removing the canker as it returns. While doing research for this article I have found that we may not have handled the after-care of his surgery properly and now are going to be trying some other techniques to try and eliminate the canker. Since we made the switch to the farrier we are currently using, Tiz has made improvements by leaps and bounds. He has very little issues with his back feet which is where the canker first popped up.

Since that time it has appeared in one of his front feet as well but the farrier caught it immediately and we were able to get it dealt with. The current issue with him is abscesses which we believe to be the sign of canker. Much of the information I found while researching this article says that canker usually starts off like thrush. In our case it was more abscesses that we couldn’t get rid of so we believe this is one of the signs that canker is present.

The specialist came up and evaluated Tiz and explained to us what we were dealing with in better detail than what we had been able to find. At this point we knew he was the guy to help Tiz if anyone was so we immediately swapped farriers. Tiz has this issue where he doesn’t like to pick his feet up. When you do finally get them up you have to really keep a close eye on him because he will try and lay down on you. So dealing with his feet in any capacity takes two people, one to deal with his feet, and one to keep him standing.

The first time this farrier came out he spent the better part of 8 hours treating the canker and dealing with abscesses that Tiz had in his front. This is the first thoroughbred we have owned and probably the last from what we’ve been hearing. They are amazing horses but do tend to have tons of feet issues. After the Farrier was done that first time he suggested we keep Tiz on a schedule to get trimmed every 4 weeks and deal with the canker as it returns.

Now it’s been over a year and every four weeks the farrier is out taking care of Tiz’s feet and removing the canker as it returns. While doing research for this article I have found that we may not have handled the after-care of his surgery properly and now are going to be trying some other techniques to try and eliminate the canker. Since we made the switch to the farrier we are currently using, Tiz has made improvements by leaps and bounds. He has very little issues with his back feet which is where the canker first popped up.

Since that time it has appeared in one of his front feet as well but the farrier caught it immediately and we were able to get it dealt with. The current issue with him is abscesses which we believe to be the sign of canker. Much of the information I found while researching this article says that canker usually starts off like thrush. In our case it was more abscesses that we couldn’t get rid of so we believe this is one of the signs that canker is present.

Another Quick Theory

My wife was telling just this morning how two friends of hers had horses they couldn’t get rid of thrush in. The boarding facility they were at had cattle grazing nearby when the thrush popped up. They tried all the equine thrush medications with no luck. Eventually they picked up some thrush medicine for cattle and used that which effectively got rid of the thrush.

This story leads me to believe the theory that I stated earlier in this article that the bacteria that causes thrush and foot rot in cattle and sheep may have something to do with the cause of canker. I still have plenty of questions that I haven’t been able to find answers to yet but hope to in the near future. As I am able to obtain more information I will post more articles on this topic. I have reached out to a vet in New York who is currently researching canker to see if she can shed some more light on the subject and maybe somebody, somewhere can finally find a lasting cure for this disease.

There are a large number of people from all walks of life who have had to deal with this disease in their horses. Some of these stories have happy endings and some of them do not. I am reaching out to a number of people to share their experiences with this horrible disease. If you have ever had to deal with it or have more information about this disease please use the Contact Us form at the bottom of the page to let us know. By sending us your story you authorize us to use your name and the contents of your canker related email to publish on our site.

I hope this article was helpful to you. If it was I would be appreciative if you would share it with your friends and on your favorite social media pages. Leave a comment in the section below and let me know hat you thought.

1) Moyer, W.A., Colohan, P.T.: Canker. In Equine Medicine & Surgery, 5th edition, Mosby, St. Louis (1999); 1544-1546.
2) Reeves, M.J., Yovich, J.V., Turner, A.S. Miscellaneous Conditions of the Equine Foot. In Veterinary Clinics of North America – equine practice. Vol 5 (1) (1989); 236-237.
3) Wilson, D.G.: Equine Canker. In Current Therapy in Equine Medicine 4. Edited by Robinson, N.E., W.B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia (1997); 127-128.
4) Steckel, R.R.: Puncture Wounds, Abscesses, Thrush, and Canker. In Current Therapy in Equine Medicine 2. Edited by Robinson, N.E., W.B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia (1987); 271.
5) Turner, T.A.: Treatment of equine canker. Proc 34th Annu Conv Am Assoc Equine Pract, 1988, pp 307-310.

Categories: Canker


Thrush in Horses

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So what is thrush? Simply put, thrush is a fungal infection in a horses hoof. It erodes the tissues of the frog which leaves a black ooze on the surface. This infection thrives in areas where horses are confined to corrals or a very small pasture.

What is Thrush

Thrush itself is a fungal infection in a horses hoof that slowly erodes the tissues of the frog. This leaves a blackish ooze on the surface. Thrush thrives much more in areas where horses are kept in a corral or a very small pasture. A horse who normally stands in urine soaked, manure filled mud will be more susceptible to thrush than a horse who stands in a corral with dry, clean ground. Also, horses who wear pads have over-grown hooves, or who get little exercise tend to me more susceptible to thrush. In other words, if your horse is standing in a moist or damp corral it can help thrush develop. Hooves need to be cleaned and picked out on a regular basis to ensure there is nothing lodged or rubbing against the frog. Even if a horse is in a spotless environment they can still get thrush. Keeping the hoof clean can help keep them healthy and strong.

What are the symptoms of thrush

There can be a number of symptoms that will help you identify if your horse has thrush. These can include:

  • Reaction to probing around the area indicating the hoof is tender.
  • Dark or black ooze showing up on the underside of their hoof.
  • Severe infection may eventually cause lameness in some horses.
  • Rotting odor emanating from the bottom of the hoof.
  • Very strong pungent smelling feet
  • Pasty discharge from the hoof.

If your horse is showing any of these symptoms there is a chance that thrush is present in the hoof. Don’t worry though, thrush is common in horses who live in moist conditions. Horses with poor conformation of the hoof (i.e. long narrow feet) are more likely to develop thrush. Because of the different shape of the foot it causes the animal to move more awkward than other horses. This allows sand and debris to get lodged in the hoof which can allow bacteria to enter.

How do you get rid of thrush in horses

Once you have found that your horse has thrush you can take measures to clean your horse’s environment. You want to make sure that their stall is cleaned out twice per day, replace any wet bedding and keep them away from pastures with high moisture. You will also want to pick their feet every day to help keep the infection from getting any worse. In some cases, a vet or farrier will need to come out to trim away the infected tissues. Sometimes, a topical treatment or disinfectant will be prescribed that you will need to apply per your vet’s instructions to allow the hoof to heal properly.

If severe thrush is found, antibiotics may also be prescribed. Until the thrush is dealt with and removed you will want to limit how often you ride because the feet can be tender and your horse may not be as sure-footed as normal. This can make riding more dangerous for you and your horse. Some treatments can be picked up at your local feed store such as Kopertox and Thrush buster, which work well for treating thrush. Also some Iodine-based products such as Povidone are also very effective treatments.

Is thrush in horses contagious

Because thrush is an anaerobic bacteria, it is not contagious. However, chances are your other horses are probably in the same type of conditions which can lead to them contracting thrush.

Will bleach kill thrush in horses

Absolutely bleach will kill thrush in horses. Bleach is a super treatment for thrush or as a general disinfectant for the bottom of your horse’s hoof. You will want to dilute it though to about 1 cup of bleach per 1 gallon of water. Clean your horse’s hoof out very well then pour on some of the mixed bleach solution. Usually a couple applications is enough to kill all the bacteria that form thrush.

Are there any homemade thrush treatments for horses?

There are some such as bacon grease, bleach, or turpentine, but these types of treatments are generally highly discouraged by vets due to the other issues they can cause.

Avoid Caustic Chemicals

There are treatments you can do at home such as bleach but many vets discourage the use of these types of chemicals for a number of reasons. Bleach for example, can cause discomfort if the deeper sensitive tissue of the frog is affected from moderate to severe thrush. In time many horses will begin to associate any kind of chemical treatment with pain which can cause your horse to become more of a handful during regular hoof maintenance and create unneeded problems for you or your farrier. In some cases your horse may just refuse to even pick up their feet at all. Many horse owners may associate this as “bad behavior”, when the truth is it is not bad behavior at all but merely a fear of pain. To avoid causing unnecessary pain, the rule of thumb is to never put anything on your horse’s hooves that you would not put on your own skin.

Examples of unsafe Caustic Chemicals: Copper Sulfate, Bleach, Turpentine, Formaldehyde

Don’t use Oxygen Blocking Materials

I quickly mentioned that caustic chemicals will damage the proteins of the hoof and reduce the ability of the hoof to breathe. Oxygen can also be blocked to the hoof from packed debris or the application of grease and various oils to the sole and the frog. The microbes that cause thrush tend to thrive in areas with very low oxygen. To prevent and treat thrush, we want to make sure that we are not giving it a better area to thrive in by cutting off the supply of oxygen. This is why it is so important to ensure that you are picking your horse’s feet every day and make sure you are maintaining a clean environment for your horse to live in. Many of the greases and oils that are “home remedies” will restrict the amount of oxygen to the tissue, which creates a perfect environment for thrush and other hoof related diseases. Because the low oxygen environment not only creates a perfect place for thrush, it also encourages “hoof eating” microbes to invade defects in the hoof wall which can lead to additional defects and even collapsing of the hoof horn.

Examples of Oxygen Blocking Chemicals: Petroleum Based Tar, Motor Oil, Axle Grease, Pine Tar, bacon Grease

Bacon grease not only blocks the oxygen flow to the hoof but the salt causes the sole and hoof wall to decrease in flexibility due to the high amount of salt. This can increase the chances of cracks and other defects occurring. Also note that wrapping a foot with plastic wrap or other non-breathable materials has the same effect.

So how do I find the right treatment?

I encourage you to avoid “home remedies” as much as possible since many of them are caustic, will block the oxygen flow to the hoof, are untested, or just flat out have no impact on the health of the hoof. There are a ton of remedies and treatments for thrush on the market but many of them are still using the harmful ingredients I mentioned above. When you are looking for the right treatment for your horse, pay attention to the ingredients and ensure they do not contain any material that could be harmful to your horses hoof. Make sure that it is safe to use on your own skin and contains natural ingredients. Here are a few tips to help you find the best and safest treatment for your horse:

  • Contains non-caustic ingredients
  • Does not block oxygen flow to the hoof
  • Contains safe anti-microbial ingredients such as tea-tree oil and/or low levels of iodine
  • Contains anti-microbial ingredients that penetrate into tissue
  • A product that stays in the sulci for extended periods of time

Thrush can lead to some serious issue for your horse and finding the right treatment can be hard. If you begin to see signs of thrush make sure you address it immediately using the correct treatments before it leads to lameness.

Can thrush make a horse lame?

Usually thrush will not lame a horse as long as the disease stays in the external and non-sensitive area of the frog. However, if not treated promptly or correctly, the disease can extend into the sensitive tissue of the frog and make them quite sore. Thrush can progress to a severe lameness that can be seen at a walk, much like an abscess. The infection itself leads to degradation of the frog and can cause enough damage that portions of the structure have to be removed by your vet or farrier.

How can I prevent thrush?

Simply put, keep your horse’s feet clean. Every time you groom your horse or before every ride, you should always pick their feet. Remember to clean the frog and the sulci. Don’t just remove the shavings or dirt that are trapped inside the sole. This is a good habit to get into not only for checking thrush but also for checking to ensure that no objects have found their way into your horse’s hoof such as nails or rocks. A single picking of the hoof can help prevent several possible problems.

You also want to keep your horse’s corral as clean and as dry as you possibly can. In some situations you are unable to make sure that no mud is in the corral. In these cases make sure you clean their feet daily to help minimize the chances of thrush growing.

If you do find signs of thrush in your horse’s feet then you will want to begin by cleaning the feet. Make sure you have removed as much of the black discharge as you possibly can. Then, allow their feet to dry. Use products such as the ones listed above (Kopertox, Thrush buster, etc) to begin treatment of the affected hoof.

Does my horse have thrush or canker?

This is a question that really hits home for me. My wife’s thoroughbred has canker and originally we thought it was thrush and abscesses. Canker is another disease of the hoof that causes the tissue in and around the frog to grow excessively. The cause is unknown and unfortunately there is no known cure at the present time. Although there are some treatments that can make the horse much more comfortable. I am currently working on a series just on canker since it is something that really hits home for me.

Categories: Health


46 Facts About Horses You Didn’t Know

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For centuries horses have been called the noblest of creatures and it’s not very hard to see why. Depending on which theories you believe, they have been man’s original best friend since between 4000 to 2000 B.C. They have taken us wherever we have asked them too including the battlefields of old.

But here we are in the 21st Century, and there are still a ton of those noble creatures you still don’t know. Don’t believe me? Well here is my list of 45 Facts about horses you didn’t know.

1. Horses have the largest eyes of any land mammal – Scientists have discovered that this is partly do to a mammal’s maximum running speed. Horses eyes can work individually and provide monocular vision. This gives them a greater field of view for spotting predators. (Source: Horseswithaime)

2. Horses can actually run within hours after birth (Source: ScienceKids)

3. Flehmen – Horses are not actually smiling when their upper lip is lifted. This is a technique known as “flehmen” which they use to determine if a smell is good or bad. (Source: Dictionary)

4. Horse are not color blind – At one time people thought they were but scientists have found that they actually are not. However, they are better at seeing yellows and greens than purples and violets.

5. Their teeth take up more space in their head than their brains – This does not mean they are stupid though. Horses are highly intelligent animals.

6. Males have more teeth – Generally you can tell the difference between a male and a female by the number of teeth they have. Males have 40 while females have 36.

7. Hooves are fingernails? – A horses hooves are made from the same protein that makes up human hair and fingernails. (Source: HorsesWithAime)

8. Horse Trailer – The Horse trailer was invented by Lord George Bentinck, a man from the U.K. who needed a better way to transport his horses from one racetrack to another.

9. Horses can “fly” – In 1872, Leland Stanford made a bet that at some point during the gallop of a horse, all for feet were off the ground at the same time. Eadweard Muybridge proved him right by using a series of 24 cameras and photographing a racehorse named Sallie Gardner (Source: HorsesWithAime)

10. Horse Comfort in Trailer – A horse is more secure and comfortable when trailering if they can face the rear, but they prefer openings. (Source: Animal People News )

11. Horses can sleep laying down and standing up – Although usually the older horses and young ones sleep laying down.

12. 62 – A 19th century horse named “old billy” reportedly lived 62 years. (Source: Manchester Museum)

13. More Horses – Between 1867 to 1920 the number of horses skyrocketed from 7.8 million to 25 million. Experts believe this was due to the rise of the automobile (Source: HorsesWithAmie)

14. Almost 360 degree vision – Because a horse’s eyes are on the side of their head they can see almost 360 degrees.

15. Fastest Horse – The fastest recorded sprinting speed of a horse was 55 MPH. Most horses gallop at around 27 MPH. (Source: PurelyFacts)

16. Only true wild horse – The Przewalski’s horse is the only true wild horse species still in existence. The only wild population is in Mongolia. There are however numerous populations across the world of feral horses (i.e. Mustangs in North America). (Source: OneKind)

17. Horse use their ears, eyes and nostrils to express their mood – They also communicate their feelings through facial expressions. (Source: OneKind)

18. Lookout – Horses will not all lie down simultaneously because at least one will act as a look-out to alert the rest of the herd of potential dangers. (Source: OneKind)

19. Horse are very vocal – Vocalizations are highly important to horses. For example: Whinnying and neighing sounds are elicited when horses meet or leave each other. Stallions (Adult, Un-castrated male horses) perform loud roars as mating calls, and all horses will use snorts to alert others of potential danger. (Source: OneKind)

20. Big Industry – Approximately 4.6 million Americans work in the equine industry in some capacity. The US Horse Industry has an economic effect of $39 billion annually on just nine million American horses. There are about 58 million horses in the world and the vast majority are cared for my humans. (Source: HorseCouncil)

21. Small Brain – An adult horse’s brain weighs only 22 oz. That is about half of the weight of a human brain. (Source: TheEquinest)

22. Honorable – Horses still hold a place of honor in a number of cultures. They are often linked to acts of heroism, mostly during wars. (Source: NationalGeographic)

23. Keep it down – Horses are unable to vomit (Source: TheEquinest)

24. One Species – There is only one species of domestic horse, but around 400 different breeds that have a number of specialties. (Source: NationalGeographic)

25. Amazing Vision – A horse can see better at night that a human. But this comes at a cost as their eyes need more time to adjust from light to dark and vise versa than a human. (Source: CowboyWay)

26. Cloned – The first cloned horse was a Haflinger mare in Italy in 2003. (Source: TheEquinest)

27. Horses love sweets – Horses like sweet flavors and will usually refuse anything sour or bitter. (Source: TheEquinest)

28. Rule – Wild horses generally gather in herds of 3 to 20 horses. A stallion protects the group, which consists of mares (females) and young foals. A Mare runs the herd. When young males become colts, at around 2 years old, the stallion drives them away. The colts then roam with other young males until they form a herd of their own. (Source: NationalGeographic)

29. Crazy Eyes – A horses ears will point at what they are looking at. If their ears are pointed at in two directions at the same time then the horse is looking at two different things at the same time. (Source: TrainingHorsesNaturally)

30. Lots of spit – Horses produce about 10 gallons of saliva every day. (Source: EquineNews)

31. Frog – On the bottom of a horses hoof is a triangle shaped area that’s called the “frog”. This acts as a shock absorber for a horse’s leg and also helps to pump the blood back up the leg. (Source: PawNation)

32. Horses Have Hands (Kinda) – A horse’s height is measured in units known as “hands”. One hand is equal to 4 inches. The tallest horse on record was a shire hnamed Sampson. He was 21.2 hands (7 feet, 2 inches) tall. He was born in 1846 in Toddington Mills, England. (Source: CowboyWay)

33. Huge Heart – The average horse’s heart weights about 9 or 10 pounds (Source: SteinbeckEquine)

34. Long Jump Champion – The record for the longest jump over water is held by a horse named Something who jumped 27 feet, 6 and ¾ inches on April 25, 1975 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Source: EquineLifeSolutions)

35. High Jump Champion – The record for the highest jump made by a horse is held by a horse named Huaso who jumped 8 feet, 1 and ¼ inches on February 5th, 1949 in Vina del Mar, Chile. (Source: YouTube)

36. Very Old Animal – Scientists believe that the first known ancestor of the horse lived about 50 million years ago. This prehistoric horse is called Eohippus and had four padded toes on the front legs and three padded toes on the back legs. (Source: Chronozoom)

37. Nose Breathers – Horses with typical anatomy are “obligate nasal breathers” which means they must breathe through their nostrils and are unable to breathe through their mouths. (Source: TheHorse)

38. Drink like fish – Horses drink at least 25 gallons of water a day (More in hotter climates). (Source: TheEquinest )

39. Slow Growth Nails – It takes 9 to 12 months to re-grow and entire horse hoof. (Source: TheEquinest)

40. Sunburns – Horses with pink skin can get sunburned. (Source: TheEquinest)

41. Zebroid – A zebroid is a cross betwee a zebra and any other member of the family Equidae (which besides zebras, includes donkeys, ponies, and horses). A “zonky” is a cross between a zebra and a donkey. A “zony” is a cross between a zebra and a pony. And a “zorse” is a cross between a zebra and a horse. (Source: CowboyWay)

42. Cold Spots – You can tell if a horse is cold by feeling behind their ears. If behind their ears is cold then so is the horse. (Source: ChronOfHorse)

43. Muscular – Horses have 16 muscles in each ear, allowing them to rotate their ears 180 degrees. (Source: UMN)

44. Kicking Banners – If a horse has a red ribbon on it’s tail, it will kick. (Source: EquineTips)

45. Social Butterflies – Horses are very social animals and will get lonely if kept alone. They will also mourn the passing of a companion. (Source: TheEquinest)

46. Cattle Rockstars – Horses are the most popular way to herd cattle.

I Hope you found this article helpful or that you learned something from it. If you did, it would be awesome if you would share it on your favorite social media pages or leave a comment with your thoughts below.

Categories: General Information

Why Do Horses Crib?

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To start with let’s define what cribbing actually is. Cribbing is when a horse chews on various items. In many cases their corral panels. This behavior can be rather destructive and there are a number of questions that people have about it.

Why Horses Crib

To start with lets discuss why horses crib. Traditionally cribbing has been chalked up to a vice or bad habit in horses. New information indicates that a horse may crib in response to a digestive upset. Because cribbing actually produces an excess of saliva, this can help to alleviate the pain of things like ulcers and other digestive problems that may be present.

If your horse is cribbing the first step you may want to take would be to investigate the reason why. Don’t just chalk it up to boredom and let it go. There could be some serious medial conditions as the underlying cause. With horses who are diagnosed with ulcers, the behavior often stops or is reduced when those ulcers are treated.

Cribbing can be caused by extreme boredom and is usually seen in horses who spend most of their time in a stall. As far back as 1888, researchers theorized that horses cribbed because of an upset stomach. Back then they would treat them with blocks of salt and chalk in their feed and add magnesium and ground oak bark on the feed.

Dr. Mills has investigated this theory more in depth. He has treated cribbing horses with antacids and found that it may significantly reduce the behavior. However, his team’s research is still ongoing. Another research team has said that they haven’t been able to determine whether cribbing causes any issues in the stomach or whether the behavior is caused by stomach issues.

Can Cribbing Be Harmful

Yes it can, Cribbing is a great way to cause a horse to colic (and tear up property), because of this any steps you can take to end this practice the better. This behavior can also cause a horse to wear their teeth down to nubs. This can make eating more difficult.

Other horses will crib rather than eat which can cause large amounts of weight loss. In some cases horses will build their neck muscles so much that it’s difficult for them to get their head turned properly when being ridden.

The practice can very much damage a barn or a wood stall and in many cases completely destroy it. One horse has torn down numerous feed buckets that were bolted to the wall of the stall and has even broken a wheelbarrow that was within reach. Dr Houpt states:

“They pull so hard, it’s like exerting 125 pounds of force every time they flex their necks.”

Dr. Houpt has not found a direct relationship between the frequency of cribbing and the risk of colic, although she has lost one-third of the cribbing horses she has studied due to colic.

Is Cribbing a Learned Behavior in Horses

No it’s not. Horses do not start cribbing just because they may see other horses around them doing it. In cases where a large number of horses begin to crib at the same time, it can be caused by management practices that lead to some type of gastric distress. Some of the practices that can lead to cribbing are:

  • Not enough long-stemmed forage
  • Feeding large grain meals at a single time
  • No providing a diet that is balanced properly
  • Horses not having enough access to salt
  • Not enough time turned out to run

There is a theory that there is a genetic component to cribbing. Some theories believe that if a mare or sire is a cribber then their offspring will have an increased chance of cribbing even if it has never seen another horse doing it. Personally this leads me to believe that cribbing may have a hereditary component that could be due to another issue.

I would love to see this angle researched more in depth to see if it’s actually the case. Current research shows that horses start cribbing at weaning or when there is a chance in their diet. Researchers are still unsure what role sweet feed plays into triggering cribbing. Although they have seen that feeding straight oats, seems to decrease the frequency of cribbing.

Another Vet believes that half of all the horses that crib begin the habit within 20 weeks of age (the typical weaning period). It’s hard to pinpoint an exact cause because there are so many variables in play such as feed types, change in feeding routine, change in environment, and stress. The practice has not been reported in wild horses, increasing the idea that humans’ management of horses may be to blame for the behavior.

Researchers also believe that anxiousness and stress could be a predisposition for cribbing. They have found that the behavior is least often found in cold-blooded horses like ponies and draft breeds which do tend to be less worrisome. However, there is some disagreement among researchers over whether a horse receives any physical or mental benefit from cribbing.

Can I Stop My Horse From Cribbing?

Actually, sometimes you can. You see, as a horse bites down on the wood and inhales, endorphins are released that can give the horse a kind of “high”. That is why it can be hard to stop once it has begun but by treating the underlying cause you can get it to stop. Once the underlying cause is found and addressed you can start to reduce the practice. There are some steps that you can take that will also help to reduce the habit. These things are:

  • Plenty of long-stemmed forage throughout the day
  • Enough turn out time with the chance to play and interact with other horses
  • Placing toys in the stalls to reduce boredom
  • Ensuring that your horse is getting a balanced diet
  • Covering wooden surfaces with anti-chew paint
  • Ensuring that the horse has plenty of access to loose white salt
  • Feeding grain based meals in small amounts several times per day rather than all at once

It can be a challenge to treat a cribbing horse, but remember that the first step is to figure out why the behavior began in the first place. There is a chance that your horse cribbing could be him telling you that he’s in pain and needs help.

Dr. Houpt says:

“The only horses I could cure were the horses that had just started, that was by letting the horses out of their stalls and putting them back on pasture. Once it has been going on, it’s very hard to stop even if you make the environment perfect, although the rate at which horses become cribbers will be less when they’re on pasture. If you feed them nothing but hay and oats, they will crib at the lowest rate.”

There are also a number of options for enriching the environment of a cribbing horse and managing his behavior:

  • Forage Horses kept on pasture and those that free feed may crib less
  • Antacids – If cribbing actually is related to ulcers, providing an antacid in a horse’s diet could be helpful
  • Cribbing Collars – Dr. Houpt says that these popular neck collars do seem to work but “you have to make it so tight that often the horse develops lesions.” Fitted around the horse’s jowl at the throatlatch, a cribbing collar doesn’t affect a horses breathing, eating, or drinking when he isn’t attempting to crib. However, when the horse does try and crib, the collar applies pressure to the throatlatch so he can’t arch his neck and suck air.
  • Shock Collars – Just don’t, they are all viewed as cruel and there is debate about whether they are even effective at all.
  • Cribbing Muzzles – Muzzles do work, but horses will try their hardest to remove them. A metal and nylon muzzle clips to the horses halter and allows the horse to eat and drink, but the horse can’t get his mouth open to crib. This also leads to other potential dangers of leaving a horse in a stall with a halter on.
  • Premises Paint – Several wood coatings are produced with the purpose of preventing cribbing. Some people swear by using hot sauce but they may not always do the job. One researcher found that pepper sauce made absolutely no difference.

There are a load more things that are supposed to discourage a horse from cribbing but we won’t go over those.

Right now there are a lot of researchers world-wide trying to figure out exactly what causes cribbing. Dr. Houpt says:

“I’m sure that within the next three to five years, we’re going to find the gene for cribbing.”

So far medications have not been found to be a successful method for control. However, by finding the gene responsible for cribbing, the proper protocol should be more clear.

“I think there are some exciting developments, and with the right investment, we could gain much greater insight,”

says Dr. mills.

“If it was a physical disease that was affecting 5% of the population, you could be sure people would see the welfare significance. But because it is thought of as an endemic problem of the horse rather than a welfare problem, there is very little funding. And what research has been done has largely been done by self-funding, dedicated individuals.”

Are There other Ideas on the Cause of Cribbing?

Actually there are. Some scientists believe that Genetics, diet, personality and weaning methods seem to play strong roles in whether a horse will crib or not. They also believe that is is not a learned behavior from other horses. And, as I previously stated, it can lead to an increased risk of colic. Current research is underway to try and understand more about this behavior and why a horse does it. However, Dr. Houpt suggests that horses may not actually crib because of the endorphins; but that the endorphins are already present from another source such as feed and that may be a cause for the action.

Ultimately, when raising a horse from birth, owners should pay extra close attention to the environment and management surrounding the foal’s weaning experience to reduce the likelihood that such stereotypical behaviors as cribbing because an issue.

Dr. Katherine Houpt is a professor of behavioral medicine at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Daniel Mills is a well-known equine behaviorist who is researching stereotypes at the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in the United Kingdom.

I hope this article was a big help to you. If it was I would be very appreciative if you would leave a comment below and share it on your favorite social media pages.

Categories: Health

Do You Know Livestock Fence? You Do Now.

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Have you bought a new ranch? Have you decided to drop some livestock on your existing parcel of property? Well whichever one your doing you have found the right place. I remember when I was growing up I had no idea how much actually went into getting a ranch set up so you can be in a better position to be profitable. Keep reading and we’ll start with one of the first things you’ll probably want to do and that’s getting your fencing in place.

What kind of posts should I use?

This depends on you, I personally like wood posts concreted in the ground for cattle. Now there are a large number of people who love to use T-Posts and there is nothing wrong with that. The next question that tends to come up is how to measure t-posts for length. Now I did a quick Google search on this and wasn’t able to find much of any information on this. Some people think they measure from the flanges on the bottom of the t-post and some think it’s measured top to bottom. Well here I’ll answer that question. A t-posts length is measured from top of the post to the very bottom of the post. So, what length of post should you use? Well I prefer to use 8 foot posts buried 3 feet in the ground. This gives me 5 feet above ground to run my barbed wire. Now this is personal preference. Some people want their fence at 6 feet tall or 4 feet tall.

Benefits of each post type

Now your probably wondering why should I choose one post over another? Again, this comes down to personal preference and use. T-Posts can be great to use for many purposes. They can be driven into the ground and can hold very well for a long period of time. Wood posts tend to rot due to the moisture in the ground. When that happens those posts have to be replaced which can be a real pain. So to sum it up here is a break down of the benefits of each type:

  1. T-Post Benefits
    1. Can be stronger than wood posts
    2. Won’t rot due to elements
  2. T-Post Drawbacks
    1. While stronger they can be dangerous to livestock
    2. Can rust and eventually break leaving a rusted piece of metal sticking out of the ground
    3. Can be very dangerous if horses rear up and land on them.
  3. Wood Post Benefits
    1. Can be much safer for livestock than t-posts
    2. Typically they won’t bend.
  4. Wood Post Drawbacks
    1. They can rot due to moisture in the ground
    2. Can be more expensive than t-posts

As you can see each one has its benefits and drawbacks. Granted this is only a handful of the benefits and drawbacks but it’s enough to give you a general idea.

So, have you decided which post to use? Great! Now lets dig into the type of fencing that is appropriate for each type of livestock.

Horse Fencing

There are a ton of fencing available for horses from the no-climb fencing to barbed wire so it can be a little confusing to figure out which type is best. Horses as very accident prone animals. I know a few people who have said if they knew how sensitive horses were they never would have bought any. This can be true but having proper fencing can save you a ton of money and headaches. So what kind of fencing should you use? Well for horses I would avoid barbed wire at all costs. They sometimes like to rub their hind quarters against the fence and I personally wouldn’t want barbed wire cutting them up. They can also get their feet caught up in it which can cause a lot of damage and in some cases result in having to put that horse down. Straight Wire is very popular for horses because it minimizes a lot of those risks. Typically for horses I will use 4 strands of straight wire with my posts 10 feet apart. Halfway between the posts I’ll use a fence stay which can either be metal or wood. I’ve found that just cutting some branches off of a nearby tree can work great for fence stays. Using straight wire is much easier to work with since the risk of you cutting yourself and having to deal with tetanus. Remember: stretching any kind of wire can be dangerous if it breaks. Please be careful no matter what kind of fence you decide to use.

Cattle Fencing

Cattle aren’t nearly as accident prone as horses can be so fence selection can be much easier. I still use the same distance between posts of 10 feet and then use stays at 5 foot intervals. But in this case you can easily use barbed wire. There are a number of different types of barbed wire so we’ll cover those in a little bit. Typically for cattle most people use either 5 strand or 4 strand (4 pieces of wire or 5 pieces of wire). You especially want to make sure that you use barbed wire on the very bottom strand to help lower the risk of predators getting through your fence. It is also pretty common for people to use hot wire (Electric Fence) for the very top strand. Cattle will test a fence to see if they can get through it and the use of hot wire can show them very quickly that they don’t want to push on it.

So As I said there are a number of types of barbed wire. Which one you choose is mostly up to you but let’s go through them real quick so you have an idea of what they are.

Types of Barbed Wire

Typically barbed wire is made with a high quality, low carbon steel wire in a automatic twist machine. There are three common twist types that are in use today. These are:

  • Single Twist barbed Wire
  • Double Twist Barbed Wire
  • Traditional Twist Barbed Wire

So Let’s start at the top

Single Twist barbed Wire

Single Twist Barbed Wire

Single barbed wire is a kind of security fence with sharp edges and high-tensile wire. It is normally made out of galvanized steel wire, low carbon steel wire, stainless steel wire, and PVC coated iron wire in various colors. The barbs on this type of wire are typically 1.96” to 5.90” apart with a length of 3 to 4 inches.

Applications: This type of wire has been used widely in military, prison, government buildings or other high security applications. Some people do use it for society or home fencing.

Double Twist Barbed Wire

Double Twist Barbed Wire

This type of fencing has two wires twisted together with barbs attached. Normally this type is attached to wooden fence posts using a fence staple or curved nail. Because of the two wires this type of fencing can be much safer than single barbed wire. The materials this type of wire can be created from is hot-dipped galvanized wire, electro-galvanized wire, or PVC coated wire. The barbs are normally spaced 3” to 6” apart. The wire diameter ranges from 1mm to 3.5 mm and it is a great selection for cattle and for the top wire of a traditional stock fence. It is also suitable for farm fencing.

Traditional Barbed Wire

Traditional barbed Wire

This type of barbed wire is generally made from a low carbon steel wire or galvanized wire with the twisting being done by barbed wire machines. Compared to the previous two types, this fence is more generally used for security. It is made from low carbon steel wire, PVC coated wire, zinc coated wire, or iron wire. It has a number of applications that can be beneficial such as land fencing and protection, animal cages, home and business security fence and it can be used a fencing with chain link or welded wire mesh fence. There are a number of benefits to this type of wire such as it doesn’t need to be stretched when it’s installed and the barbs are fixed between the wires.

Hog Fencing

Now on to the last topic and that’s hog fencing. This one is actually pretty simple to deal with for the simple face you can use almost anything that is strong enough. Just remember pigs are very strong animals. So, I personally use corral panels that are concreted in the ground and use no climb fence on the outside of the panels. This actually works pretty well and in many cases can be made from spare materials you may have around the ranch. But, you can actually use barbed wire if you decide that’s a good idea for yourself. With this you typically would use a traditional wire with posts 10 feet apart and stays at 5 foot increments. This also depends on the hog since some hogs will push on fencing a lot while others will not. In this use case it’s a good idea to keep the fence about 5 feet high. T-Posts can be great for use here but you have to keep an eye on them since hogs will rub against them and can sometimes bend them. Obviously for piglets you would want to keep them in something other than barbed wire since they can, and in many cases, will slip through the barbed wire and take off.

So now that you have an idea of what type of fence to use and what you’ll need there is one more topic that we will end up going over in more detail in a later post but that is stretching your new fence.

Stretching Barbed Wire Fence

Barbed wire fence is made by stringing rows of barbed wire between fence posts. Each row is hung individually and to make that fence effective the wire has to be stretched. A loose barbed wire fence can be dangerous to any livestock that are supposed to be penned up. Each strand of wire is stretched as it is hung and not all at the end. Because this is a quick overview you won’t see step by step instructions. I’ll either do that in a later post or as a video on our YouTube Channel. As a general overview though, you start in the corner of the fence at a brace assembly that you put into place. Then as each strand is ran you stretch the wire using a come-along or other mechanism. You attach one end of the wire to your bracing post then the other end to either your corner brace or another bracing post. Then from this point you use the come-along to stretch the wire until it’s tight. Once the wire is stretched you then attach it to the posts in between your two bracing posts. Then continue on repeating this process until you have your fence erected. You always want to start with the top strand and work your way down. Any strands that need to be added to the fence should be added to the middle post of a corner assembly or brace assembly and stretched with the com-along before it is secured to the brace post so it doesn’t make a weak spot in the fence.

I hope this article at least gives you a high level, general overview of the type of fence you want to install for your livestock. I will be writing a detailed post on how to stretch barbed wire within the next few days but for now I hope this helps.

If you found this article helpful I would be very thankful if you would leave a comment below and share it on your favorite social media channels.

Categories: Set up

Where are Horses Indigenous Too?

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In 1493, on Columbus’s second voyage to the Americas, Spanish horses, representing E. caballus, were brought back to North America, first in the Virgin Islands and, in 1519, they were reintroduced on the continent. These Spanish and European horses were smaller because of the space constraints on ships, but through breeding with larger horses eventually developed into bigger breeds. Horses were often lost or stolen as well, becoming wild or feral horses, eventually evolving into today’s wild mustangs.

Wait, Isn’t mustang a breed?

You may have heard that a mustang is a breed. This is false. A mustang is nothing more than a wild horse. In Fact, I have two of them myself. Now, Just because a horse is a mustang does not mean that all of their offspring is also a mustang. Mustang only goes down one generation. So If my little mustang mare has a foal, then that baby would be a mustang. However, if that foal has offspring, that horse would not be a mustang.

Are there still Mustangs in the Wild?

Absolutely there are and seeing them running free is one of the most beautiful you could ever watch. There are a large number of herds that are all over the world. Granted, most of the wild horses nowadays are actually decedents of domesticated horses that have not been tamed. They are still very hardy horses and one of the most sure-footed of all horses.

So are there a lot of Mustangs still around?

There are still a lot of mustangs running around but that number is dwindling quickly. At the moment the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is tasked with upholding the 1971 legislation written to protect these amazing animals. Unfortunately, their strategy are far from effective and are considered inhumane by a large number of people. The issue can be very complicated and has a number of conflicting interests. These interests range from those who want to see wild horses stay free, to those who object to the way various entities are limiting herd growth, to ranchers to graze on public lands and view the mustangs as competition.

In late July 2017, a Congressional Committe voted to reverse a ban on euthanizing healthy wild horses and donkeys. Now, if this becomes law it would give the BLM the right to kill horses that they consider un-adoptable that are in holding pens or still roaming public lands.

Here are a few facts about mustangs:

  • The population of Mustangs is currently strained. There are a record around 67,000 wild horses on roughly 27 million acres of federally managed land while millions of privately owned cattle graze across about 155 million acres of public lands.
  • Mustangs and wild burros can be found mainly on government-designated Herd Management Areas in 10 western states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming. The BLM has reduced designated mustang habitats by more than 15 million acres since 1971.

Recently here in Arizona there have been a number of Mustangs that have been shot by random individuals. Some of this has made a huge splash in the equine world because the herd in Heber, Arizona is a protected herd. It’s amazing driving down the highway and looking out the window and seeing mustangs grazing as they have done for centuries.

So All Horses Come from Europe?

Not quite, there were similar equine species on the North American Contenent before the european and Spanish horses came. However, these species went extinct along with some other ancient mammals around the time of the Ice Age. Each breed typically comes from somewhere different in the world. Arabians come from the Arabian Peninsula, Tennessee Walker comes from the Southern United States. So as you can see, even though horses were brought to North America from Europe, that doesn’t mean that every breed comes from somewhere outside the United States.

So Since Horses Came from Europe are they all the same?

Nope, Not at all. There are over 400 different breeds of horses in the world. Some are much more popular than other due to movies or sporting events. For instance, many people know what a Thoroughbred is because of horse racing. That’s great but did you know that a Quarter horse is more common for working cattle? Or that an Arabian is very common in the show arenas? Now I’m sure that this bought up another question in your head right? Well if it brought up the question it did for me when I first heard that then Let’s move on and get that answered.

So What Breeds are Good for What?


Well lets start with the Arabian. This horse has been a favorite all over the world. Originally this breed comes from the Arabian Peninsula (Makes sense doesn’t it?), this breed is very easy to spot with its distinctive head shape, high tail, and the proud way it carries its tail. It is thought to be one of the oldest breeds and is normally known for its spirit and endurance. Nowadays this breed is used a lot in the dressage and endurance trail competitions.

Quarter Horse

Next up is probably the most popular breed in the United States, the quarter horse. The largest breed registry in the world is the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA). The Quarter horse is mostly known for western pleasure riding or events such as barrel racing, roping, and cutting. Although they can also make great hunting mounts.


This is probably one of these most widely known breeds due to its participation in horse racing. The Thoroughbred was originally developed in England in the 17th and 18th century. The breed is generally known for its high spirit and especially its heart. The thoroughbred that we have has so much heart it’s crazy to see. The thoroughbred also make great sport horses and are used as hunters and jumpers and also as mounts in dressage, polo and fox hunting.

Tennessee Walker

This breed is what’s known as a gaited horse. Basically a “gaited” horse is a horse that has been bred that has the ability to perform one of the smooth to ride, intermediate speed, four-beat horse gaits. Now the Tennessee Walker was developed in the Southern United States during the 18th century for use on farms and plantations. Because of its gait it was one of the most popular breeds during the Civil War for Generals because of it’s comfort over long distances. It is widely believed that Robert E. Lee’s mount, traveler, was part Tennessee Walker.


This one tends to spark a lot of discussion. The Paint. The American Paint Horse is a unique and in many cases quite a beautiful horse. Up until a few years ago the Paint was not recognized as a breed. It was recognized as a color. This is where the heated discussion can come in. Anyway, the paint typically is a combination of the conformation characteristics of the western stock horse and the colors of a pinto. The American Paint Horse Association (APHA) does consider them a true breed and states that they have strict bloodline requirements and distinctive characteristics of the breed.


The Appaloosa or Appy as many people call it, was originally developed by the Nez Perce Native American tribe in the Pacific Northwest. They are best known for their colorful spotted coat pattern. Appy’s are considered tough, independent, hardy and very sure footed. They have large bodies and sparse manes and tails. Often they are used as stock horses and pleasure mounts but also make great trail horses.


Now, to start with Warmbloods are not a breed but it is a grouping of a few breeds such as the thoroughbred, Clydesdale, Belgian, etc. They are characterized by open stud book policies and are known for being great sport horses. They excel in jumping and dressage.

That by far does not encompass all of the various breeds of horses the list itself is absolutely massive.

So now we come to the part where you may ask yourself

“If horses aren’t generally indigenous too the United States, and they were brought from Europe, then all horses are European right?”

In short, no, some breeds were developed in the United States by mixing existing breeds.

I hope this article help you find what you were looking for. If you found it helpful please share it on your favorite social media channel, I would really appreciate it.

Categories: General Information

Why Do Pigs Root?

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Why Do Pigs Root?

Simply put pigs root to look for food and to get iron. Pigs are naturally iron deficient so rooting gets them the iron they need.

What Is Rooting

Rooting is a natural behavior of pigs where they use their snout to push or nudge into something repeatedly. It gets its name from one of the reasons they do it. The are looking for roots and other food items that are underground. Rooting is a behavior that many people who are just starting with their pigs may not expect. You do not want to discourage this practice as it can lead to a dangerous situation. Pigs will root and there isn’t really anything short of using hog rings to stop it. If pigs aren’t allowed to root they will begin to root at your ankles which can cause serious injury and in some cases death.

Why Do Pigs Do it

Pigs typically root to search for things they can eat such as roots or insects. Feral hogs will actually do it in search of acorns that were left over from the previous year.

Why Are Pigs Iron Deficient

When pigs are born they have no access to iron other than the sows’ milk (which is deficient in itself) until it starts to eat creep feed. A shortage of iron results in lowered levels of haemoglobin in the red cells, (anaemia), a lowered capacity for the carriage of oxygen around the body and increases their chances for disease. This brings up another question:

Do I have to give my baby pigs shots?

In short, yes, Because pigs are born iron deficient and the sows’ milk is also iron deficient, you want to ensure that your new baby pigs are given iron injections when they are 3 or 4 days old. This will help boost their immune system and make it slightly harder for them to end up with various diseases. It will also help their blood to carry oxygen around their bodies more efficiently. Injections are the preferred method of ensuring piglets get the exact dose of iron that they need. Oral supplementation depends on the amount of food or water the piglet consumes, so there is a risk of the piglet receiving too much or too little iron.

How do I give my piglet an iron injection?

How do I know how much to give my piglet you ask? Well it is recommended best practice to give your pig a full 200 mg dose in a 1 ml iron supplement injection. This means that you only have to give your piglet a single dose which saves you time and minimizes the risk of leakage which have been seen in 2 ml injections. By minimizing leakage we can insure that no iron is wasted, and that each piglet gets the full dose of iron it needs to grow and be healthy. So now you know how much to give but where do you actually give the injection? Well there are 3 places that are normally recommended and those are:

  1. Behind the Ear
  2. In the hind limb/ham muscle*
  3. In the inguinal fold

*This is not recommended by some vets due to the risk of damaging the ham

There are two ways to actually give the injection: intramuscularly (im) or subcutaneously (sc or sq).

  • Intramuscular injections are given deep into the muscle with a relatively long needle – up to 20 mm.
  • Subcutaneous injections are given just under the skin with a shorter needle, normally 10mm.

**Disclaimer:Please note that the recommended injection site can vary by countryare national variations of recommended injection site. Before administering any injection to your piglet consult your veterinarian for advice.**

To keep your piglets safe you want to check and ensure that the injection site is clean and dry before actually administering the injection. If the piglet’s skin is dirty or wet, then you should wipe the site clean and dry before injection.

What is the inguinal fold?

You probably had the same reaction I did when I first saw the term inguinal fold. I had never heard the term and it drove me crazy until I finally asked someone (this was before Google was so big). The inguinal region is nothing more than the groin. Basically you hold the piglet by its hind legs so its head is towards the floor. Then insert the needle right in front of the hind leg where the skin from the ham attaches to the body.

Convenience of collapsible plastic vials

First of all the plastic vials are quite a bit lighter than the glass vials, something that people love about them after a large number of injections in one day. Second, as the iron supplement is injected the vial slowly collapses which helps prevent air and bacteria from getting sucked into the iron solution. So this gives you a little piece of mind knowing that your piglet will not be exposed to any bacteria-contaminated iron solution. And lastly, the plastic vials are non-breakable, so if you drop them on the floor they won’t break.

Disposable syringes and needles

Disposable automatic syringes and needles tend to be the best option for giving iron injections to your herd. These usually come ready to use in sterile packages and you can discard them after one or multiple uses. If a syringe is used for more than 1 injection then it needs to be rinsed in hot water after each use. Disposable needles should be changed after each litter or after 10 different injections.

The right needles

Needles can sometimes break off in the injection site which can cause distress on the animal and lets face it, that has to hurt. So I recommend using traceable needles to ensure that the pieces of metal will be detected at the slaughterhouse before the meat reaches the consumer. I also recommend that you use a 20 GA x 3.8-1.2” needle for newborn piglets.

Are there other ways pigs can get iron

Rooting is the big one. Baby pigs that are born outside can root in the soil and get their iron that way. The only option pigs born inside have is the sows’ milk which is itself iron deficient. In this case injections are the only way to go. If you keep your pigs in a pen and are worried about about them depleting the soil of iron you can throw some pieces of steel just outside the fence. This will allow the steel to rust and oxidize the soil in a more natural manner. Make sure you place this steel on the outside of the fence to the pigs can’t cut themselves on it since they can have issues with tetanus as well.

If pigs need iron injections, what other shots should they get?

Well ultimately, that depends on where you live. However, the vaccination schedule usually begins at about a week old. This includes shots to fight against rhinitis (bordetella), erysipelas, mycoplasma and pneumonia. Pneumonia and Mycoplasma go hand in hand since both are deadly and infect the respiratory system.

So what vaccination schedule should I follow?

Questions such as this can be hard to answer. Ultimately, you want to consult your vet to determine exactly what injections and when your pigs should get them. recommends that pigs should be vaccinated for the following:

3 Weeks of Age

  • Circovirus – A common swine virus found in pigs all over the world that can lead to death.

4 Weeks of Age

  • Boosters for rhinitis
  • Boosters for erysipelas
  • Vaccinations against Mycoplasma, pneumonia and Actinobacillus

8 Weeks of Age

  • Vaccine against the parasite that causes Glasser’s disease
  • Vaccine against polyserositis – This vaccine protects piglets against Actinobacillus and pleuropneumonia as well.

As I previously said, the type and amount of vaccines varies on several factors, including where exactly you live. Because of this it is always best to consult your vet before administering any vaccines to your pigs.

Can a Pig be kept from rooting?

It is possible but it is highly discouraged. You can use hog rings attached to their snout which will create an uncomfortable feeling every time they root. Eventually they will stop rooting. However, this practice is frowned upon in many places and illegal in some countries. You can also give them toys that simulate rooting and the use of their snouts. Things like bowling balls, Kongs, or puzzle blocks provide a digging and foraging area where they can dig. You can even hide treats in a small sandbox inside their pen. Ultimately, while you can keep them from rooting you really don’t want too. You want to focus more on giving them non-destructive ways to root.

What is a Rooting Box?

A rooting box is nothing more than an area that is surrounded with wood or some other medium to keep it enclosed. This box is used to keep their natural behavior of rooting to a specific area. This box should be filled with something such as newspaper and some type of treat. You can even use a sandbox or other similar play item to let them root in.

How Do I Make A Rooting Box?

Making a rooting box is a very simple process. You can take pieces of wood (2×4, 4×8, etc) and make a box. This box should be at least two inches high and should be filled with treats, toys, newspapers, or other “safe” items for your pig to find. You should cover these items with dirt or bark to help them find the treats easier.

How Can I stop Rooting if it becomes Violent?

Some pigs do become quite forceful when it comes to rooting. Naturally, pigs root on their mothers for food so they may end up doing the same thing to you. In many cases, individual bring about this issue by hand feeding their pigs.

To end this behavior it’s important that you stop hand feeding and correct your pig if they root against you buy pushing them away and sternly telling them “NO!”. Doing so is the most effective way to end the behavior.

Are there different types of rooting?

Absolutely there are. Pigs will root for a number of different reasons. They can root in search of food which I’ve already mentioned. But, they can also root for comfort, to communicate, or to cool off. This probably raises the big question that I had when I first started with pigs. That question is “how the heck does rooting help a pig cool off?” There is actually a very simple answer to this. By rooting a pig will turn up the soil. The soil under the surface is cooler since the sun isn’t beating down on it nearly as much. Then they will lay in the hole they just dug up and keep the cooler soil against them.

Wow, we really dug in deep to this topic so I hope that I was able to answer any questions that you may have had. Please remember I am not a vet. These are things that I have researched over the years. Before I decide on any injection for my hogs I always discuss them with my vet since different things can come up at random times as far as diseases go. Please do not just go out and start vaccinating your pigs based on the contents of this article. Use this information to consult with your vet and find out what the best vaccinations and vaccination schedule would be for your specific situation.

I hope I was able to give you a little more insight into this topic without confusing you. If you have any questions please leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer your question.

If you found this article helpful please share it on your favorite social media channels. The more we can get this information out the better prepared people can be for their next litter. You can also watch our YouTube Video about why pigs root below if you want to see more.

Categories: General Info & Tips

Why Do Pigs Have Nose Rings?

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Many people have no idea why pigs have nose rings. You may be surprised to find out that it’s not for looks. There is actually a real purpose for them.

It keeps them from rooting

Now this is a practice that I personally do not believe is right. Yes, while it may be true that it keeps them from rooting and helps keep them in their pen, it just seems unusually cruel to me. It can be a real pain trying to keep them contained sometimes but there is a simple solution to that, build a better fence. Here on the ranch we typically just pour a concrete footer around the perimeter of the pig pen then set the legs of the panels in the concrete. That way when it sets the panels are held firmly in place and there is a concrete wall underneath that the pigs cannot dig out of. They are still allowed to do their natural thing, which is to root, but it’s much harder for them to escape their pens. Some people also use them when their pigs are kept on a hard surface such as concrete. Even on concrete pigs will try and root and they can seriously injure themselves because of it.

Why are they called hog rings?

This question tends to come up fairly often when I’m explaining to people what hog rings are used for. Hog rings are U-shaped metal rings that are bent in a circle that are applied to the snout of a hog. This ring is applied to a hogs snout in order to keep them from rooting. The ring is pressed through the skin of the snout with a tool known as “hog ring pliers”. This holds it in place so it is unable to move. Think of it like an ear piercing except in a hogs nose. No sedatives are used when rings are applied to a hog so I can only imagine that it hurts.

How Are Hog Rings Measured?

Typically there are 3 sizes of hog rings ranging from #1 to #3. Each size has a specific use:

  • #1 Pig Rings are used for animals up to 25 lbs.
  • #2 Shoat Rings are used for animals up to 100 lbs.
  • #3 Hog rings are for animals over 100 lbs.

Are There Different Types of Hog Rings?

Yes there are actually, Typically there are two types: Hog Rings and Shoat Rings. Hog rings are used for adult hogs so they are larger and thicker than shoat rings. Shoat rings are used for young pigs so they are made smaller and thinner. Within the last couple years a new style has been released that is supposed to be more humane to the animal. Those type of rings are called humane hog rings. Most hog rings stainless steel with a large number being copper-plated.

Humane Hog Rings

Humane Hog rings are a fairly recent development. They are developed so that when they are applied to the animal is causes less stress and pain. The shape is different as well. Instead of just being round they have a dip in the metal to fit around the hogs nose better without pulling on the ends. In my mind you are still shoving a piece of metal through a pigs nose so I’m not sure just how much more humane they are.

How to Remove Hog Rings

There is a tool called a “hog ring cutter” that is used to cut through the hog ring so it can be removed in two separate pieces. This causes much less pain for the animal since removing the ring won’t cause it to twist and turn inside the snout.

What are Hog Rings Used For?

Hog rings are used in the Pig industry to keep the pigs from doing what they naturally do and that’s rooting. Pigs love to root and will dig up a pasture or a pen pretty quickly. They will also dig under a fence and escape their pen at times as well. The use of pig rings prevents this activity by applying pressure to their snout when they root. This is uncomfortable for them and discourages them from continuing. Some farms keep their pigs on concrete slabs to make cleaning much easier. Pigs will still try and root through the concrete and can seriously injure themselves when doing so. A hog ring will discourage this practice and ultimately keep the pigs safer.

Hog Ring Uses

There are a ton of uses for hog rings ranging from fixing chain linked fence to reinforcing wire mesh on chicken coops to even fixing upholstery. Pig rings are definitely something that are useful to have around in a pinch and can work wonders for fixing your truck seats. They are very popular for upholstery because they have a much less chance to tear free like staples or nails. Some designs are more suitable for meat packing use such as closing the ends of sausage casings. The ends of the rings are placed through the material being fastened together and then bent into a round shape. This creates a very secure hold on the two fabrics.


Because hog rings are bent into a round object they provide a very secure hold that isn’t likely to work its way loose. Unlike other popular items such as nails or staples, hog rings are bent into shape so that they maintain and iron-like grip on the objects. You can view hog rings as large staples.

So at the end of the day hog rings by themselves aren’t a bad thing. They have plenty of great uses for everyday life and you don’t have to live on a farm or ranch to make good use of them. So now if your trying to decide if you want to raise hogs or if you just brought home your first one we hope this answered you question.

What are your thoughts about hog rings? Do you use them for hogs or other uses? Let me know in the comments below.

Categories: General Info & Tips

What are the Benefits of Raising Pigs?

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I always have people ask me the same question, “Why do you raise pigs?” This can be a hard question to answer. I can’t use the response “because they’re awesome” because that won’t answer their question. So I’ve sat down and taken the time to write out a number of the reasons I love raising pigs to give you an idea if it’s something you should consider doing.

Pigs are social animals

Pigs are very social animals. Every day when I head down to their pen they get excited to see me. Not just because they want to be fed but also because they love the social interaction that they get when I’m there. I like to spend as much time with them as I can because it keeps them happy. Just a simple scratch behind the ear (which they love by the way) can do wonders for your relationship with them. While it is true that they are raised for meat I’m still a firm believer that a happy pig is a flavorful pig.

Pigs Love to Play

Pigs love to run around and play almost as much as they love to eat. It’s not uncommon to see them chasing each other around or playing tug-of-war with their favorite feed barrel. You have to be careful though because they can play pretty rough. If you are in the pen with them they can and will knock you over and trample you. This is one of the reasons I don’t allow children around the pigs. Right now my pigs are around 300 pounds and I bet you can image what that feels like when they run into you.

Farm Raised Pigs taste so much better

The flavor from farm raised pork is so much better than anything you can buy in the store. It doesn’t just look better but the taste is amazing. There are many different things you can feed your pig but my favorite is a mix of various grains. This allows them to put the weight on and ensures that they are getting the Vitamins and Minerals that they need to be healthy.

Should I Raise Pigs?

By now your probably asking yourself if you should raise pigs. The short answer to that question is, it depends. There are a lot of things to consider before taking on this responsibility. One of the first things you should do is make sure you are ready for the level of commitment that goes into it. Because pigs are as social as they are they require a lot of time to truly be happy. This involved playing with them, taking to them, petting and scratching them, etc. For a lot of people this time commitment can be too much. Another thing to take into consideration is the laws where you live. In most large cities you aren’t allowed to raise pigs within city limits. Obviously you want to look into this before you go out and buy a piglet. Next up is Fencing.


Pigs are very strong animals and it can take quite a lot to keep them penned up. Regular wood slatted fencing isn’t going to do the job. I personally use horse panels with a “no-climb” fence around the outside. This gives them a simple structure that will not only keep them in, but help protect them from outside threats such as coyotes. The stronger the fence the better off you will be.

Feed Bill

to get 1 pig from weaning to market weight (285 lbs). That’s an expense that can be a problem to some people. Let’s say, for example, that you go to your closest feed store and a 50 lb bag of hog feed is $15.99. That doesn’t seem to bad right? Well let’s do the math real quick:

50 / 900 = 18   

So it takes 18 of those 50lb bags of feed to get them to market weight. Now, let’s figure out how much that costs exactly:

18 x $15.99 = $287.82

Wow! That’s a lot of money to feed one animal for 5 or 6 months. Granted you get a lot of that back in pork come butcher time (which is another big expense).


So now you know about how much in feed it costs you to raise a pig from the time it’s weaned to market weight. So let’s add up all the costs and see just how much your paying for your pork.

First off lets get the numbers sorted out:

Feed: 287.82

Water: $100 (It can vary depending on where you are but for this example we’ll figure $100)

Processing Costs: $250 (Most processors charge on a per pound basis which usually comes out around $250)

So adding those costs together comes out to:

287.872+ 100 + 250 = $637.82

So we now have a total cost of $637.82 to raise that 1 pig to market weight. Now to figure out how much your paying per pound you need to know how many pounds of meat you actually have. So a pig’s hanging weight will usually be about 65% of its live weight. So for a 285lb hog that is about 185.25 lbs hanging weight. Now you can subtract roughly another 40 lbs for bone, skin, etc. So your left with about 145.25 lbs of usable meat. So Lets see what our per pound price is:

$637.82 / 145.25 = $4.39 per pound

That means that the pork you just put in your freezer cost you about $4.39 per pound. That is honestly why farm raised meats tend to cost more than what you can get in the store. So the question you have to ask yourself is this: Do I want to put all the work and time into raising a pig and still end up paying over $4 per pound? That’s a decision only you can make.

Was this article helpful? If so leave your comments and thoughts in the comments below.

Categories: General Info & Tips

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Why Does Farm Raised Meat Cost More?

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There are a number of reasons farm raised meat costs more than store bought. In many cases it boils down to your location. Keep reading and we will dive into some of the reasons why this is.

Feed Costs

Imagine for a minute that you own a small farm and are raising animals for meat. Do you think you could get the same price buying a few hundred pounds of feed as someone who is buying a few thousand pounds? Of course not. This is a large part of the reason farm raised meats are higher.


This is one of the biggest reasons farm fresh meat is costs more. Large operations don’t care nearly as much about the quality of the meat that they are producing. A small farm relies on that quality to sustain themselves. They spend more time selecting a better quality feed that will outperform the mass produced stuff.

Closer Care

large producers rush the production to get the animals to market weight as quickly as possible. Small producers typically take their time and allow the animals to take the time to reach maturity. Doing this incurs extra costs because the animals are there a lot longer.

There are a ton more reasons why farm raised meats are more expensive but, at the end of the day it boils down to quality. If you compare store bought meat to farm raised meat you can physically see the difference in the coloring, marbling, etc.

Categories: General Info & Tips