HANDS ON

EQUUS - - Contents -

• Slip and fall in­juries • Fes­cue alert • Per­for­mance boot safety

I keep an in­ex­pen­sive pair of ny­lon pants and a ny­lon jacket at the barn this time of year. I put them on when I groom. Hair from my shed­ding horse slides right off the fab­ric and stays out of my clothes, my car and ev­ery­thing else I own.— Brooke Fran­cis, Columbia, Missouri

Send your sug­ges­tions for in­ex­pen­sive horse­care sub­sti­tutes as well as hints for sav­ing ef­fort and time to Hands On, EQUUS, P.O. Box 7510, Falls Church, Vir­ginia 22040; email: EQLet­[email protected]­me­dia.com. Senders of pub­lished items will re­ceive se­lected EQUUS mer­chan­dise. Few of us pay much at­ten­tion to the species of grasses in our pas­tures. But if your mare is preg­nant, it’s cru­cial to look out for one type of grass---tall fes­cue---found through­out the coun­try.

The grass it­self isn’t a prob­lem; what makes tall fes­cue a haz­ard is that it is of­ten in­fected with a mi­cro­scopic en­do­phytic fun­gus called Neo­ty­phodium coenophial­um, which pro­duces a chem­i­cal called er­go­v­a­line that can cause fes­cue tox­i­co­sis in horses.

In the gen­eral equine pop­u­la­tion, fes­cue tox­i­co­sis causes fairly mi­nor prob­lems such as loose ma­nure and pro­fuse sweat­ing. In preg­nant mares, how­ever, the con­di­tion can be cat­a­strophic, lead­ing to lack of milk pro­duc­tion, pro­longed ges­ta­tion, dif­fi­cult births, thick or re­tained pla­cen­tas, and the death of un­born and new­born foals.

You can­not see or smell the fun­gus on tall fes­cue; the only way to de­tect it is through lab­o­ra­tory anal­y­sis, and the sta­tus may dif­fer from year to year. Fields with as lit­tle at 5 to 10 per­cent in­fec­tion have been known to cause prob­lems for brood­mares. It is pos­si­ble to ren­o­vate pas­tures by killing all the prob­lem­atic grass and re­plant­ing the pas­ture with en­do­phyte-re­sis­tant species, but the field could be over­run again in a few years.

The eas­i­est way to avoid fes­cue tox­i­co­sis is to remove brood­mares from en­do­phyte-in­fected pas­tures 90 days prior to foal­ing. If that’s not pos­si­ble, or if you’re un­sure of the sta­tus of your pas­ture, talk to your vet­eri­nar­ian about treat­ing brood­mares with the drug dom­peri­done in the weeks lead­ing up to foal­ing. The ex­act dos­ing sched­ule will vary with each sit­u­a­tion, but the drug has been shown to re­li­ably pre­vent and even re­verse the signs of fes­cue tox­i­co­sis.

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