Tag Archives: horses

Project-work: Breeding & Feeding

Even though the horse course is officially finished by now, I would like to tell you a little bit about the project we have been working on during the course. It was introduced to us as followed: “In this project you will focus on a stud farm that you visit on your own in small groups. You will work with a breed from the list below. The breeds are chosen because they have different use and nutritional requirements. The project includes both breeding and feeding. When possible, a synthesis between the two parts shall be made.”. Our class was divided into four groups and the breeds we worked with were the Arabian horse, Gotland pony, the Swedish Ardenner and Pura Raza Española(PRE). My group had the Arabian breed and our study visit was absolutely fabulous, you can read all about it in this post.

“Although the breeds were very different, there were quite some similarities concerning the challenges.”

Working on the project took place alongside classes and practicals. Our group had decided to split the breeding and feeding parts initially and I ended up in breeding. The breeding part was divided once more into Arabian horse breeding on a national level and ‘on-farm level’. All chosen breeds are relatively small when it comes to the amount of horses in Sweden. Some of them have a large population when looking at a global level(PRE and Arabian horse) while others barely exist out of Sweden(Gotland pony, Swedish Ardenner). This strongly affects the orientation of the studbook and breeding strategies.

picture2cOur breeding scheme of Arabian horses on the National level

It was really interesting to compare the differences between the projects during the end presentations. Although the breeds were very different, there were quite some similarities concerning the challenges. Does the selection process match the breeding goal?  What genetic diseases could cause problems and how is dealt with the prevention of these?

“The nutrition part of the course has been very good and it was a great experience to put theory to practice.”

For the feeding evaluation we had taken feed samples on the farm to analyse the roughage. We had received all information on concentrates and supplements used and talked with the breeders about their pasture management. We calculated nutrition requirements for young horses, pregnant and lactating mares and compared these with the analysis of the feed provided. Combined with the results of the body condition scoring we ended up with a clear picture of the current situation and were able to come up with well founded recommendations. The nutrition part of the course has been very good and it was a great experience to put theory to practice.

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The main stables of Slängsboda studfarm

The most important part of the project was to analyse and evaluate the breeding and feeding practices on the farm, but other management aspects were also taken into consideration. For example our farm had one of the best stabling systems I have ever seen. Generally speaking it was spacious, light and clean. But it were the boxes that were outstanding. As most of them were without bars they allowed a wide range of social contact between the horses. The in between walls were removable, giving the opportunity to change box size and for example create a group-housing. However, this system was not only beneficial for the horses, it was also very ergonomic: Deep litter bedding required minimal daily workload and was easily removed mechanically by the end of the season.

All together I would say we learned a lot during the project. Also the teachers told us they were extremely pleased with the efforts the groups had made this year – Thank you all for well written reports! The best first versions we have read in many years!” – which was of course really nice to hear. If you have any more questions on the project or the horse course, please comment below.




That’s so lame.

Back to the fabulous horse-course. It’s going so fast, I wish I had more time to write about everything. Last week we’ve had some very well presented lectures, about gaits and locomotion, anatomy and other aspects combining the use and biology of the horse. One very common reason for horse owners to bring their horse to the veterinary clinic are problems related to the horse’s locomotion. The horse is lame. The horse keeps being lame. The horse is lame every now and then. The veterinarians have different opinions about on which leg the horse is lame… Long story short, lameness is often vague, the cause can be hard to find and it can easily turn into a chronic problem. To put it into perspective: Lameness is one of the most common reasons for horse euthanization.

“Lameness is one of the most common reasons for horse euthanization.”

No wonder that we should learn everything there is to know about horse legs. What is the anatomy? Where are the joints? Which genetic defects exist? What is the difference in locomotion between the gaits? We’ve spent a lot of classes on these topics. Lars Roepstorff, a veterinarian specialized in horse kinematics, was lecturing us and I think we were very lucky to have such an inspiring teacher. He is clearly very passionate about the topic and involved in some pioneering research. After theoretical classes we had some more practical hours to learn the anatomy of the horse legs from different models. Looking at real bones and actually feeling them was great preparation for this week…

One of the leg models during anatomy class. Photo by Jasmine Lindholm.

…when we were putting theory into practice! On tuesday we had a whole morning in the stables. We went palpating horse legs from four different horses. After a short demonstration it was time to see what we remembered from these bones. Some joints were easy to find, others were more challenging. Luckily the ‘school horses’ are very well behaved and were very patient with us while we were pushing around all over their bodies.

Palpation exercise on the horse legs

And after lunch we were invited to join another lecture about lameness. This was actually a bit of a special event as the class was organized for some top riding talents from Europe. The main topic here was on new techniques that have been developed to detect lameness. And hopefully not only to detect an already existing lameness, but to find asymmetries already in a much earlier stage. One of the fascinating new methods made use of sensors over the horse head, withers and back. By looking at the differences in swing movement deciding which leg was causing the problem suddenly becomes a simple equation instead of a vague puzzle. Modern technologies can be really great sometimes.

The movement sensors that can be simply ‘sticked on’ to the horse’s coat


Parasites in horses

As you may know I am currently following the course ‘The Use and Biology of the Horse’. This week we’ve had several fascinating lectures, the days were long, but satisfying 🙂 Monday we started off with a class at the Swedish National Veterinary Institute (SVA) about parasites in horses, given by researcher Giulio Grandi. The lecture was built up in different blocks; what parasites exist in horses, how to recognize infection and how to control parasites. And after the lecture we were invited to have a look at the lab.

I don’t want to go into nasty details about how exactly parasites damage a horse from the inside, but trust me when I say that some of these little creatures can be extremely harmful. Up to this day 41 different species of parasites have been described in the horse, however about ten species seem to be dominating and we don’t know why (yet?). Most parasites are very well adapted and some species’ eggs will survive even when it’s freezing, meaning pastures can stay infected for several years.

“Removal of faeces from pasture twice a week during summer is more effective than deworming.”

One of the parts that intrigued me most is about the control of parasites. Dr. Grandi told us that eradication of parasites seems impossible – we should accept that parasites will always be there. Management with the aim to protect horses from the negative effects is the way to go. And let it be clear: Control of parasites is not the same as deworming. Studies from England have shown that removal of faeces from pasture twice a week during summer is actually more effective than deworming. Though egg counts combined with selective deworming seems to gain popularity, it wasn’t that long ago that preventive deworming every 6-8 weeks was common practice. And as the ‘newest’ anthelmintic drugs were developed in the eighties, it is not strange that anthelmintic resistance has become such an issue these days. This resistance is even more problematic as in poor countries these same drugs are relied on for human parasite control.

I could keep talking about parasites for another hour, but it was my intention to try to make my posts a little shorter.  However if you have any thoughts on the subject, please leave a reply. And finally here a few photos from the lab (with permission). As they were made with my phone maybe not the best quality, but just to give you a small impression.

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Upper left: Incoming faecal samples. Upper right: Besides egg counts there are several tests to analyse the type and degree of infection even further. I think this was a larval culture. Under: My classmate Astrid taking a closer look at the actual (preserved) parasites.


Meet the forest-workers

Beautiful, strong, eager and friendly, that is how Hans Sidbäck describes his working horses.  Their jobs? Moving logs out of the forest, chopping grass in summer and plowing away snow in winter. And wedding transport – occasionally. Meet the North-Swedish drafthorses, some of the coolest guys in town.

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Hans Sidbäck whistling (left) for his young horses, which come by immediately (right)
My classmates Pauline and Frida saying hello to one of the youngsters

It was a great start of the horse-course, having a look at a horse business. Our class was divided into four groups, each visiting a different type of horse facility. Our group spent a couple of hours listening to Hans Sidbäck and his wife Raili, who own North-Swedish horses for breeding and draft purposes. We were extremely lucky with the weather and strolled over the farm while we discussed many things, such as housing, feeding, equipment and horse education. Not only do they have a lot of experience working with draft horses, Hans is also famous for writing several books about forestry work with horses.

“In some cases horses are just more suitable for the job compared to machines.”

Hans and his horses are mainly hired by municipalities, such as the one of Uppsala. You would think that in ‘our modern time’ all the work is done by machines. At least, that was what I thought. I was happily surprised to hear that in some cases horses are just more suitable for the job compared to machines. For example if trees have been cut and need to be removed out of the forest a machine might be able to get the job done, but will make a mess of the tracks. Horses may take a little bit more time – and therefore money – but will leave very few traces, which is highly appreciated in forests close to communities.


A fascinating illustration about driving on steep terrain
From ‘The Horse in the Forest’, author Hans Sidbäck, drawings by Sigurd Falk

Hans and Raili have shown us not only their horses, but explained about the different machinery they use as well. Which is a lot, as every job seems to require different types of equipment. Also it was very impressive to learn how much weight two of these guys can move – up to 4000 kg(!) of timber if the terrain allows. It is always nice to hear someone speak with much passion for their animals and work, but it is even nicer when it teaches you many things you didn’t know about before.


ps. one last goodbye kiss!DSC_0064