3 Tips for Better Horse Photos

Article by: Shelley Paulson, Equestrian Photographer

We all love our horses and want to remember them forever, so we take lots and lots of photos of them! But the truth is, horses are not easy to photograph! Their long faces and bodies are prone to distortion, they don’t stand very still, and getting their ears up can be a challenge.

Here are 3 simple tips to help you make better photos of your horse. I’ll be sharing example photos I’ve taken of my own horse, Fritzie, a 10 year old solid paint bred mare.

Tip One: Find the Light

Light is everything in photography. In fact, even the word photography means “drawing with light”. Without enough light, your photos will be grainy. Horses don’t stand very still, so we need ample light so the camera can capture their movement.

I recommend photographing horses outdoors whenever possible. Put the sun behind you and the horse in front of you to capture colorful, sharp photos of your beautiful animal. Wait for “golden hour” just before sunset, and you will get a golden glow to the light.

Tip Two: Find a Flattering Angle

Photographer Chase Jarvis coined the phrase, “The best camera is the one you have with you.” He was, of course, referring to our cell phones.

But the big challenge in photographing horses with a cell phone cameras is that the built in cell phone lens is considered “wide angle.” Wide angle lenses make near things large and far things small. This means that when you photograph a horse straight on, he will have a large head and small body, especially if you are close.

The easiest way to solve this problem, is to turn your horse sideways, the wide angle distortion is minimized and your horse can look like a horse and not a bobble-head-giraffe.

If you are using a DSLR, or camera with a built in zoom lens, you simply need to step back and zoom in to solve the distortion problem. I generally recommend photographing horses at 100mm or more to keep their bodies in proportion.

Tip Three: Get the Ears Up

Let’s face it, horses look better with their ears forward – it’s like the equivalent of a smile in humans. But you can exhaust yourself dancing around with treats and buckets of grain, trying to get your horse to put their ears up. I have a simple technique that works for virtually every horse – playing the sound of horse whinnies!

An equine photographer has even created a clever cell phone App called “All Ears Selfie” that plays various horse sounds (dog sounds too!) while also allowing you to be in camera mode! But be ready, some horses get excited when they hear the whinny of a stranger! http://www.allearsapp.com

Now that you have some fresh ideas how to take better photos of your horse, get out there and do it! We can never take too many photos of the ones we love!

Shelley Paulson is a Minnesota-Based Equestrian photographer, specializing in creating meaningful images that capture the emotional bond between people and their horses. http://www.shelleypaulson.com

The Best Time of the Year, Pregnant Mares – The Chance for a Champion!

Many broodmares are in the last one third of gestation at this time of the year and some have already foaled. The latter part of gestation is one of the most important development periods in the life of a foal when the foal is developing in the uterus of the mare. The importance of this period was recognized in the Nutrient Requirements of Horses, Sixth Edition, when the Committee established that the nutrient requirements of the mare start increasing at the 6th month of gestation, earlier than previously believed.  During the last three months of gestation, the foal may be gaining a pound per day.

The key elements of managing the pregnant mare are the following:

  1. Maintain appropriate body condition score. Mares should be at about a body condition score 6 when they foal so that they have sufficient energy reserves for early lactation as well as to maintain condition for re-breeding.  We are already thinking about re-breeding before she foals!
  2. Adequate protein/amino acid intake. Lysine, methionine and threonine, the first 3 limiting essential amino acids, need to sufficient in the diet for placental and fetal development.
  3. Adequate macro mineral, trace mineral and Vitamin intake. The mare needs to be receiving adequate calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, zinc, manganese and selenium to provide minerals for the development of the foal and to build the foals own trace mineral reserves. Trace minerals are also critical for immune support. Vitamins A, D, E and B-Vitamins are all essential and should be included in a balanced diet.
  4. Vaccinations and deworming. A regular vaccination program should be developed in conjunction with a veterinarian so the mare is protected herself and can also produce the appropriate antibodies to protect the foal when it nurses and receives the colostrum that contains maternal antibodies. This is what protects the foal until it can be vaccinated and develop its own antibodies. The mare should also be dewormed as needed prior to foaling to make certain the environment of the foal is as “clean” as possible to reduce parasite contamination. Selective worming based on fecal count monitoring is becoming more and more important to reduce the risk of parasite resistance developing.

Good quality pasture or forage may provide sufficient energy thru late gestation, but may NOT provide adequate amino acids and minerals for optimal fetal development. A well designed ration balancer product may be used from month 5 to about month 10 or 11 of gestation to provide the missing nutrients. A well designed feed for broodmares and foals should be introduced prior to foaling so that the mare is on the feed before she foals to avoid the need for a sudden change in feed at foaling. This feed can then be increased after foaling to provide both the increased energy and the increased nutrients that are required for lactation, as well as providing nutrition for the foal when it starts to nibble on feed. Fresh clean water and free choice salt should also be available at all times.

Feeding the broodmare properly can help reduce the risk of developmental problems for the foal and help insure that the mare can be rebred in a timely manner to produce another foal the following year.

Ask the Expert: When to Start Grazing

Question:  I’ve heard conflicting recommendations on when to start grazing my horses.   Is April 1st too early to start grazing?
 
Answer:  Spring grazing should be introduced slowly and delayed until grasses reach 6 to 8″ to optimize both the health of the horse and pasture.  Calendar date is not important as weather conditions and grass growth can very greatly from year to year.

When pastures reach 6 to 8″, begin grazing for 15 minutes, increasing the grazing time each day by 15 minutes until 4 to 5 hours of consecutive grazing is reached. After that, unrestricted or continuous grazing can resume.

We also recommend feeding horses their normal hay diet before turning them out to pasture during the first several grazing events of the year.  This strategy should help avoid rapid intake of pasture grasses.

Even though hay and pasture are both forms of forages, there are significant differences. A gradual change from one feedstuff to another provides enough time for the microbial populations to adjust, reducing the chance of colic and laminitis.

This article is reprinted with permission from Krishona Martinson, PhD, University of Minnesota. This and other horse nutrition articles can be found at http://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/horse/nutrition/.

Heat Stress in Horses

Riding your horse can be a thing of beauty as a graceful gallop around the track can show off the muscular majesty of a horse. Even the most athletic horse however, can suffer from heat stress. It’s especially common in hot weather, and can be extremely dangerous health issue to your horse.

If your horse is showing signs of heat stress, this should be treated immediately using some of the cooling techniques providing in the guide below. If not treated properly and the symptoms continue or worsen, it can lead to damage in the heart, central nervous system, respiratory system, kidneys and liver.

The guide below presents information on the things that can cause heat stress, along with signs to look for, suggestions on treatment, and steps to prevent potential heat stress from occurring in the future.

Heat Stress Guide created by: The Best Ever Pads

Exercise and Its Role in Your Horse’s Topline

A common misperception about topline is that it can be improved through exercise alone. Lack of exercise – or the wrong type of exercise is often blamed for a poor topline. While exercise alters existing muscles, building new muscles is a different story. The nutritional building blocks of muscle (essential amino acids) must be present in sufficient quantities and balanced with adequate calories to rebuild or augment muscle tissue. In fact, if a horse is worked hard but his diet lacks sufficient amino acids, existing muscle mass can shrink. This can be a slippery slope in some situations, and as muscle atrophy sets in, the belief is that the horse needs to work even harder when in fact the fuel is not present (in the form of nutrition) to help support and repair tissue that is broken down with exercise. Just like human athletes, athletic equine partners need more essential amino acids than maintenance horses to maximize the effects of training and allow the horse to look and feel its best.

Certain exercises are thought to improve topline include hill work, backing exercises, and those that encourage the horse to collect and arc the body. These exercises can help condition muscles, but only if the diet is supporting the muscles through proper nutrition.

To learn more, visit ToplineBalance.com.

How Horse Muscles are Built and Maintained

Q: What are the Building Blocks of topline muscles?

A) Vitamins and Minerals
B) Fresh Air and Water
C) Amino Acids
D) Exercise

If you answered C (amino acids) you are correct! One of the most common misperceptions about topline is that it can be improved through exercise alone. Research shows that horse owners are more likely to believe they can influence their horse’s topline through exercise more than any other method. Additionally, lack of or incorrect exercise is often mistakenly attributed to poor topline development and definition.

While exercise will condition and train existing muscles, it can only help build topline if the nutritional building blocks of muscles—amino acids—are available in the diet. In fact, if a horse is worked hard enough, and significant amino acids are not present in the diet to build and develop the muscles being trained, muscle mass can be reduced. Just like human athletes, equine athletic partners need more amino acids than the sedentary horse to allow training to be fully utilized and allow the horse look its best.

Horse owners should combine a feed that contains guaranteed levels of the right amino acids (fed at the right amounts per the feed tag) with a healthy exercise program for best topline results.

To learn more, visit ToplineBalance.com.

Costs and Considerations When Rescuing a Horse

On occasion, the horse industry relies on well‐intentioned horse owners to rescue horses and other equids from negative situations. These horses rarely come with a history of their breed, age, training level, health, temperament, or disposition. Many times, rescuing or fostering these horses takes a skilled horse person with monetary resources. The goal of this article is to outline some of the common needs and costs of rescuing a horse.

Adoption or Purchase Fee

It is common for horse rescues to request an adoption fee which can range from $100 to over $1,000. This fee rarely covers the rescue’s investment in the horse, but does provide the new owner some history of the horse. When rescuing a horse from a kill pen, it is common for the new owner to purchase or bail‐out the horse; this fee can range from $100 to $1,000.

Transportation

Rescue horses likely need to be transported to their new location. If using a privately owned trailer, the trailer should be cleaned and disinfected after transporting the horse. Commercial haulers commonly charge $1 to $2 per loaded mile.

Housing

All rescue horses will need to be quarantined in a private area for 30 days. Although it is difficult to attach a price for horse care at a privately owned farm, quarantine board at a public boarding facility can range from $200 to over $1,000 each month.

Basic Veterinary Care

A veterinary assessment prior to rescuing a horse is rarely possible. Most rescued horses will need vaccinations, a Coggins test, and a fecal egg count and deworming. Additional care may include an examination and treatment for ulcers, castration, dental work, and delousing. Prices for veterinary care vary greatly and depend on the condition of the horse. Average costs for basic care include: initial veterinary examination ($100), five core vaccinations ($75), Coggins ($30), fecal egg count ($25), annual deworming ($60), ulcer examination and treatment ($500), castration ($250), basic dental examination ($250), delousing ($25 for product). 

Specialty Veterinary Care

Horses in need of being rescued can suffer from a number of diseases and conditions, including lameness, laminitis, pregnancy, lacerations, broken bones, unveitis, and skin diseases, which may result in the need for medications, ultrasounds, radiographs, or even euthanasia and rendering. Some lameness issues can be resolved, while others may be long‐term, untreatable, or surpass the owner’s economic and management ability to treat. A recent survey determined the average costs for euthanasia and rendering in Minnesota was $237 and $168, respectively.

Nutrition

Many times, rescue horses are underweight. These horses will require high‐quality forage and a grain concentrate. On a monthly basis, these costs can average $75 for hay, $150 for commercial grain products, and $50 for additional supplements. The horse should slowly, over the course of two weeks, be introduced to the new diet. Horses that are emaciated will require a special and longer-term re‐feeding program. In this case, please consult with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist.

Hoof Care

The cost of hoof care is largely dependent on the condition of the animal’s hoof and the amount of prior hoof care. Costs differ greatly, but can range from a regular trim (average cost of $40) to corrective and specialty shoes that can cost thousands of dollars.

Training and Demeanor

Usually, the level of prior handling and training is unknown and may be limited. It is important to understand one’s own abilities as an owner and handler and to seek out a reputable and knowledgeable trainer when needed. Monthly training (excluding board) can range from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars with the investment lasting months to years. Care should be taken if a horse displays an aggressive or overly fearful demeanor or has a known history of biting, bucking, rearing, bolting, or kicking. Even with extensive training, some horses will not be ridable or safe to be around. 

Disease

The most commonly observed disease in rescued horses is Strangles. If treated quickly, horses can recover from Strangles but costs will skyrocket if an affected horse requires hospitalization. Infectious diseases are the primary reason a 30 day quarantine period is recommended for all incoming horses. When rescuing a horse, keep in mind your long‐term goal. If an owner’s goal is to rescue a horse with the intent of allowing it to live out its natural life as a pet or companion, then most horses with a kind demeanor who lack major health issues or who have minor, treatable diseases would be acceptable. If an owner’s goal is to have a ridable horse with the ability to perform, then a sound, trainable, younger horse that is free of major health issues is best.

This information is not meant to deter horse owners from rescuing horses, but to better equip them with knowledge of what financial resources are needed to rescue a horse and conditions that can arise.

This article is reprinted with permission from Krishona Martinson, University of Minnesota. This and other horse nutrition articles can be found at http://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/horse/nutrition/.

Is Your Horse Displaying Self-Mutilation Traits?

A characteristic that is often times difficult to pin-point, self-mutilation is sometimes an overlooked concern. The challenge lies in determining whether it’s truly a self-mutilation concern, or a behavior caused by colic or other health concerns.

So what is self-mutilation in horses? Generally, it’s much more common in males (often stallions) than in females. The pattern can develop as a colt, where they may begin to nip at their chest or flank. It is often brought by the on-set of sexual maturity. It can start as missing patches in the hair coat, and progress to more prevalent wounds.

It is important, if your horse is displaying signs of self-mutilation, to consult your veterinarian to rule out internal or external sources of pain. This can often times be the reason for the self-mutilation, so it’s important to troubleshoot these issues with your veterinarian.

Eliminating the pain (if present) is the first step in combating the problem. Other options could include a ridged neck cradle, providing more time out of confinement, adding a stall-mate or increasing work or exercise.

Like with cribbing, feed management can also play a factor. Providing free-choice hay, with a slow feeding haynet can sometimes ease that boredom that can be associated with the cause of self-mutilation. Again, consult your veterinarian on a treatment plan that will best fit you and your horse.

Ask the Expert: Red Urine in Snow

Question: My horse’s urine appears red in the snow. My horse seems healthy, but should I be concerned (see photo)?
Response: Horse urine can change color after being voided due to the presence of plant metabolites (pyrocatechines) in the urine that turn a red or orange color when mixed with oxygen. This can happen year around, but is especially noticeable in snow. This can also be noticeable in new, light-colored shavings. Normal horse urine appears colorless to yellow to dark yellow when voided. If the urine appears red, brown, or orange as it is being voided that can indicate a serious problem and your veterinarian should be called immediately.
Bottom line, if horse urine is an abnormal color as it is being voided or you observe frequent urination or straining to urinate call your veterinarian immediately. If your horse is passing normal colored urine that turns red or orange in the snow, that is normal.

This article is reprinted with permission from Krishona Martinson, University of Minnesota. This and other horse nutrition articles can be found at http://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/horse/nutrition/.

Biosecurity for Cabin Fever Candidates

In cooler seasons, such as winter, often horse owners travel to warmer climates with their Equine companions. Many important considerations should be made prior to traveling. One of the most important is biosecurity. To better understand biosecurity, it is important to understand the meaning: “Bio” means life, “security” means protection. As horse owners it is important to prevent horses from contagious diseases. These diseases can be transmitted from place to place by other horses, people, insects, equipment, and trailers. Good biosecurity is an excellent habit to make at home and take on the road.

Prepare

Talk to your veterinarian about your travel plans and considerations for a vaccination protocol well in advance of travel, giving your horse’s immune system time to build up protection. Many veterinarians will suggest a herd health program appropriate to your specific lifestyle needs, including travel and awareness of geographical diseases to be aware of. If your horse will be transitioning to different forage or feed, it is helpful to pack enough “transition forage and feed” to last the duration of the trip and enough to transition once you arrive at your destination. Forages vary between geographical regions, it may also be helpful to get a forage analysis ahead of time to be prepared with your transition feeding program.

Transportation

If possible transport your horses in your own trailer. You will be more aware of what kind of exposures exist in your own trailer. If you must transport in a shared trailer or with other horses, be sure to clean and disinfect prior to loading your horse. It may also be helpful to request proof of health records of horses traveling with your own or a reputable transporter who requires proof of vaccination and health certificates for all horses being transported. Some horses are more stressed by travel, be sure to pack plenty transition forage and feed for the duration of the trip and for transition. Hydration and enough periodic rest is beneficial. Once you arrive at your destination, inspect the location for hazards. Do not unload your horse until you are comfortable with the biosecurity and safety of the location. Some things to consider: Are other horses healthy? Have there been any recent health issues on the property or nearby? Are there any insects or pest issued to control prior to your horse unloading? Clean and sanitize all buckets, ensure water sources are in clean and working order, fencing is safe and appropriate and hand washing before handling your horse.

Prevention

If a horse is sick, isolation and a stall notice or special collar will help others know not to handle the sick animal to avoid disease transmission. Basic hand washing is important between handling more than one horse even if the horses are healthy. It is best to have equipment for each individual horse, however if some equipment must be shared it is important to wash and sanitize between horses to prevent disease transmission. Clean footwear is important. After walking in pastures, alleyways, and yards it is important to wash the bottoms of your footwear prior to getting into your vehicle, trailer or stalls/pastures when traveling from farm to farm or any animal environment. Keep weeds and grass cut to prevent insects and pests. Prevent and remove any standing water from puddles, buckets, or old equipment. Use of equine safe fly control program will help control fly populations. Store horse feed and supplements in a cool, dry, well lit, rodent proof, limited access area. Inspect water access daily, clean and empty any water buckets or troughs at least once weekly.