Risks in a rugged land­scape

EQUUS - - Eq Tack & Gear -

Aus­tralia may be known for its koala bears and spi­ders the size of a man’s hand, but it’s home to plenty of horses as well. From race­horses to plea­sure horses to work­ing ranch horses, the Land Down Un­der sup­ports a thriv­ing equine in­dus­try. Feed­ing pro­grams for Aus­tralian horses are sim­i­lar to those in the United States but are shaped by chal­lenges spe­cific to the is­land na­tion’s of­ten-dif­fi­cult phys­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment. “[Equine di­ets] are vari­able from owner to owner,” says Mick McCluskey, BVSc, MACVS, a vet­eri­nar­ian in Vic­to­ria. “Rye grass/clover or lucerne (al­falfa) are the main two hays. Oaten and lucerne chaff are com­monly used as well. Hay pel­lets are avail­able, but they are not very com­monly used.” In­creas­ingly, Aus­tralian horses re­ceive com­mer­cial feed mixes. “Ease of feed­ing and low­er­ing of costs have made pre­mixed feeds more pop­u­lar, es­pe­cially in the rac­ing in­dus­try,” says McCluskey. “A large and ever-ex­pand­ing va­ri­ety of pre­mixed ra­tions is avail­able, in­clud­ing a num­ber of se­nior feeds.”

With plenty of land avail­able, turnout is easy to pro­vide to the horses of Aus­tralia. “Most plea­sure horses are housed in pad­docks of vary­ing size, usu­ally with pas­ture,” says McCluskey. “Full-time sta­bling or yard­ing [with­out turnout] is un­com­mon.” How­ever, graz­ing in Aus­tralia car­ries cer­tain risks. Nearly 1,000 poi­sonous plants have been iden­ti­fied in the coun­try, so “the main chal­lenge in some re­gions is ac­cess to toxic weeds be­cause so many horses are kept on pas­ture,” says McCluskey. “Other re­gions have is­sues with sand con­sump­tion and as­so­ci­ated health prob­lems like sand colic and di­ar­rhea be­cause of feed­ing di­rectly off the ground.”

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