Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Show Registration and Awards

Show associations and awards in a nut shell (Friesian Focus) 
Horse registration – to show in the below your horse has to be registered with papers of some kind. Can be KFPS/FHANA or one of the many other Friesian or part Friesian associations. But start with having registration papers.

USEF  - United States Equestrian Federation https://www.usef.org
This is the show governing body, makes the rules for all the breeds and disciplines.
The rider, owner, trainer AND horse will need a membership or you pay an additional fee at the show. To get points you need to have the active membership, but paying the non member fee at the show will not get you points. So if you go to more than 2 shows it’s worth paying for the active membership because the fees are similar.
Human  - To compete you’ll need a Competing Membership. Membership is for one year from the date that you started your membership. The competition year is 12/1 of each year to the next,  but your membership is for 12 months from the day you sign up.
As of 2018 Active is $80 and Life is $2500 Fees can and will go up from time to time so check the link to make sure you get the current year membership form/prices. You can register online. But the form has the prices clearly laid out.
This is where you declare if you are a professional (makes $ for shows/training) or Amateur (no compensation for shows/training)
Horse – a horse ID is free but you are not eligible for USEF qualifying points. This is enough to have for showing if you don’t care about USEF points or year end awards for that horse.
IF your horse is born that year and you register them for life it’s $35 (as of 2018) so if you plan on ever showing don’t miss out on this discount because the next price for horse life is $300 for life (as of 2018). The annual recording fee as of 2018 is $95 and this will qualify the horse for year end points. If they have the lifetime Recording then you do not have to renew the horse annually.
Awards - For awards the horse, rider, owner and trainer have to be members if the owner, rider and trainer are all the same person then that is covered under the 1 owner membership. For USEF they record the points for you on the web page. You can see the points that your horse has earned by logging in, going to My USEF, clicking on the horse that you are interested in, Scroll down to a Cup symbol “view details and results” click there and you’ll see the points for that horse. The shows can take 4 weeks to be loaded into the system.

USEF Breed specific for Friesians
IFSHA (International Friesian Show Horse Association) https://www.friesianshowhorse.com
                This is the Friesian based USEF organization. If you don’t have a membership to this organization you will only have to pay an additional fee at USEF shows that are recognized by IFSHA and USEF. Your horse will also have to have a membership at IFSHA recognized shows. Fees https://www.friesianshowhorse.com/Fees.htm
                 Human membership - https://www.friesianshowhorse.com/cgi-bin/Members/NewMember.pl
                For showing you will need an Annual membership (Jr, Adult, open) or Lifetime. As of 2018 the fees were $35/year Jr $50/year Adult/Open and $1000 lifetime.
                Horse annual is $35 BUT if you get your horse signed up as a weanling it’s $35 for life. It goes up incrementally after that but see fees link above to get the most current pricing. (as of 2018)
Awards- This organization has an awards point system for showing. You can submit your show information online prior to a certain date that is close to the regional shows. After that you have to email them to the IFSHA office for them to enter the scores. They will record IFSHA regional and national shows results for you. You can see the points online at any time and the rankings of each division at any time. It’s a little delayed if you have to email the scores in because a human has to enter them, but the year end is November 30th of each year so you’ll have your ranking by then.

USDF – United States Dressage Federation https://www.usdf.org/
                This is the Dressage organization.
Dressage tests
Here is a link to the tests offered by USDF https://www.usdf.org/competitions/competitors/tests.asp  USDF does not have the Training level and above on their web page because those are actually USEF tests and can be found here https://www.usef.org/compete/disciplines/dressage/2015-2018-dressage-tests. The USEF tests change every 4 years so please make sure the year is correct on what you are learning. The USDF page also does not have the tests for Western Dressage because that is through the WDAA https://westerndressageassociation.org/wdaa-tests/ .
Human - To have points count towards year end awards the rider must be a Participating Member of the USDF ($90 in 2019) Here is a link to the forms https://www.usdf.org/downloads/forms/index.asp?TypePass=Membership
You can also compete through a Group membership by joining your regional Group. https://www.usdf.org/clubs/gmo/  For example I’m in Colorado RMDS (Rocky Mountain Dressage Society) is my group. By joining them for $60 (2019) I can show USDF, but not qualify for USDF yearend awards only RMDS yearend awards. The Group also has a sub chapters. My area is AVDA (Arkansas Valley Dressage Association) the group membership includes that chapter level also. Chapters usually have schooling shows but may also have recognized shows. The RMDS shows usually are recognized by USDF.
                Horse – Your horse needs to have a membership also. A Horse ID (HID) is $35 (2019) and a lifetime horse registration (LHR) is $115 (2019). It doesn’t matter what age the horse is this is a flat fee. The LHR makes the horse eligible for awards and points. The HID allows them to participate.
                My RMDS local group requires the horse also be registered with them for a 1 time lifetime fee of $40 (2018), so make sure that you check your group membership requirements for the horse also.
                AWARDS - USDF horse awards program is very tricky and if you miss the dates is very costly so don’t miss this one. By August you have to pay the $35 (2019) annual fee if you miss that there is a $100 late fee for 30 days then a fee of $300 and absolutely no acceptance past Sept 30th of that year so watch out for this one. The first time you send in the application you have to send in registration papers for your horse for the registry that you specify as the PO for your horse. The form has the list of participating organizations (PO) for the year end awards program. FHANA is listed as well as a few others.  To get most of these awards you need to look at the class requirements for each class. I know USDF awards usually require 3 shows.
                RMDS also requires volunteer hours for the year to get yearend awards so be aware of what your group requires for you to get yearend awards.

With the USDF awards most registries have their own awards programs. FHANA has a list of awards that they offer if you submit your scores http://www.fhana.com/sport/performance-awards . For the USDF All breed award for FHANA you don’t have to submit anything, that is already calculated and relayed back to the organization.

Summary for weanlings that you may show get a USEF and IFSHA membership the year they are born so you can save money. Even if you never use it it’s still a good just in case. And when you sell the horse it’s on the transfer fee not the full registration amount. For all other ages IFSHA the younger they are the better to get a life discount.  USDF is not horse age specific so you can do that when you are ready to show. BUT watch out for the awards points application deadline. The late fees are huge.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Frozen Semen and Friesians

I get really frustrated when I hear a lot of people say Friesians are not good with Frozen semen. So many people and steps are involved in getting a pregnancy from frozen semen. The stallion semen quality at ejaculation, the handler's ability to follow the freezing process properly, the right extender at collection and for freezing, the right concentration in the straw, the temperature used to thaw and time in the water bath, the proper instruments (no rubber), maintaining the freezing temperatures, post thaw protocol being followed, the timing of the mare's ovulation, the mare's reproductive health, mare's physical health, mare's follicle viability, mare uterine reaction vs deep horn for insemination, the mare clearing her uterus prior to the cervix closing, a good cervix, and ultimately the embryo retention.... and a few more things inbetween...... so is it the mare...the stallion... vet.... yes and no.... a lot can go wrong at any of the steps for the process to fail

The Stallion side

It's true not all stallion's semen recovers from the freezing process the same and some don't recover at all, but that is a man/semen thing not a breed thing. Currently Post Thaw Motility is the industry indicator for evaluating semen. Obviously if you can get ahold of fertility rate with frozen semen that is most ideal. But when dealing with frozen fertility there is also a lot of error on the side of the insemination.

So lets start with what is normal. Right now 30% + post thaw motility or better is considered acceptable. You can get conceptions with lower motility but this is the industry lower number for now. Each dose should have a minimum of  250 million sperm. The stallion collection site, on the day they do the freezing, will determine the number of straws for the dose. The person packaging the semen in the 1/2 cc straws will know how many million sperm are in each 1/2 cc
So if you need 250 million progressively motile sperm for a dose and the post thaw motility is only 30% you will need to start with 833 million sperm. If each 1/2 cc straw has 200 million sperm then you would need 8.3 straws (8 or 9) if the post thaw motility is 50% then you would need 500 million sperm to start or 5 straws for that dose.
The stallion side will also know what extender is used and would have tested a few to see which is best for that stallion and which freezing method is best for that stallion. And remember motility does not = fertility, it's just the current best indicator because if it can't swim it can't get there.

Mare side

You will get the semen frozen. It should be in liquid nitrogen from the time it is frozen till right before it's put into the mare. If the semen thawed out at any time during travel the semen will not survive and will likely infect your mare with a bacteria or fungus.

your mare may or may not respond properly to hormones so the ultimate best way to handle a frozen insemination is to ultrasound the mare every 4-6 hours to make sure you are getting the ovulation and insemination timed close together. Ideally just before ovulation is best, but post ovulation is ok.

when the vet is ready to do the insemination they need to follow the instructions provided by the stallion side. If there are no instructions the industry standard is 8 straws in uterine body, 37'c water bath for 30 seconds, use a NON-rubber syringe and inseminate just the contents of the straws after it's thawed. Testing for post thaw motility at 10 minutes post thaw.  The only time the vet should stray from these instructions is if the stallion side sent different instructions. For example Botucrio is optimal at 46'c for 20 seconds. Some stallions need 15 min post thaw to be evaluated because they are slow to wake. There is only one acceptable deviation to the norm and that is doing 1/2 dose insemination pre ovulation and 1/2 post ovulation. This is used incase the mare holds her follicle (I have seen some 55mm's held for 5 days before ovulating)
common mistakes -
             1. adding extender to the thawed semen. Do not do this unless instructed to by the stallion sender and only using their instructions. Different semen handles different antibiotics and proteins differently and mixing extenders or using the wrong one can cost the pregnancy. if antibiotics are needed for the mare's protection the vet should administer them 4 hours post insemination in the uterine body. If the vet is worried that high sperm concentration will irritate the mare's uterus or she has a history reactions to frozen semen then use deep horn.
              2. incorrectly doing a deep horn insemination a. not getting to the deepest part of the horn so essentially doing a deep body insemination. b. putting too much volume in a deep horn insemination - 1-3 straws deep horn is sufficient there is limited space. There are single straw insemination pipettes that can be used.
              3. using too many hormones with a Friesian to get them to work on the vets schedule. Friesian mares commonly have lower fertility on the cycle after leutalize is used. Friesians tend to have larger follicles so ovulation timing drugs (even combos) that say to use at 35mm+ actually for a Friesian would be 50mm+ follicle. BUT not all Friesians get oversized follicles so it can work from time to time, or have no effect on timing the ovulation, or worse, delay ovulation
              4 not confirming ovulation. as mentioned above if the vet gives a 24 or 36hr shot to a mare that tends to have a larger follicle it could actually ovulate 5 days after they see it as a 35mm. Some Friesian mares are not even in heat with a 35mm and we have seen follicles over 65mm.

There are many more points and tips to breeding Friesians but

Monday, July 10, 2017

Locking Stifles- upper fixation of the patella

upper fixation of the patella is not a Friesian specific issue, but we talk about everything and it's come up a lot. People have tried to say that Frisians are more prone to it because they have such flexible tendons.... but they also say Friesians foals are prone to lax tendons and prone to hyper flexed tendons. In all the years of having Friesians I have only had 1 horse get upper fixation of the patella, she was in a small area for an extended period of quarantine time while in a critical growth phase. Once we could exercise her she was symptom free and had no issues in years to come. We have also never had a foal with contracted or lax tendons, so don't feel that it's only a Friesian thing.

What is upper fixation of the patella
The patella in a horse is also called the stifle. This part is located on the front of the hind leg at the top just before it gets to the main body. If you feel it on the horse it will feel a lot like a human knee cap, it's very similar. Horses have a locking or stay apparatus built into their stifle so that they can effortlessly sleep standing up. So it is very natural for any and all horses regardless of breed or age to "lock" their patella. The problems are when this happens in exercise or does not release normally.  There are various severities, from a slight catching as they stride, to locking before they stride out and have to "step it out" to needing human assistance to unlock it.

Causes for locking stifles
- Lack of fitness and exercise - get those horses out, trot them over poles, up and down hills, do transition work.
- Longer than normal distal patellar ligaments - these can be tightened with exercise, but it should also be pointed out that growing phases can affect tendon lengths.
- Strait or upright pelvic limb conformation - not normally in Friesians, more seen in halter quarter horses, but it's important to breed for good leg angles.
- Negative plantar angle - seen on the back feet where the coffin bone is tipping upward and the heel is dropped. This directly affects the function of the stifle joint. So make sure your hoofs get proper trimming, x ray if needed. Like in humans if the feet are off or shoes are off it will affect everything up to your hips, spine and neck. No hoof, no horse.

If you horse exhibits any locking, trot to canter resistance, lameness that doesn't respond to anti-inflammatories, drag their toes, difficulties backing and with hills, lameness when coming out of stall rest that gets better with moving. Or if they have outright visible locking of the stifle, please have them checked out.  

The most effective way to treat/prevent this situation is to have a horse that is conformational correct, in regular exercise and able to move regularly.

Other more significant treatments if the horse is chronic include corrective shoes (to fix the coffin bone angle). Also estrogen therapy has been known to help as well as ligament injections. In sever cases it can be addressed surgically to restrict locking.

I do not have a video of this as the horse was in quarantine when she was affected. But if you search on Youtube.com for "locking stifle" you will see many videos showing affected horses. If you have a youtube video link that you would like me to use for this blog feel free to send it to me, but please leave it online indefinitely so that I do not post a dead link.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Importing a Friesian from Holland

Some of this information can work for importing from other countries but you have to look into the specifics for each country to know for sure with the USDA. Also pricing and locations may change, this is accurate as of 1/2017 and most of it applied back in 2014 and 2011.

Things to consider before putting money down on a horse.
Put your hands on the horse, ride it if that is what you will do with it when you get it home. This is a live animal with feelings and personality and it would be a shame to spend 20k+ to find out that you don't get along, their stride doesn't suit you, or that the horse is more horse than you can or want to handle. So budget money for a flight and hotel/car rental to get out there to meet the horses that make your top choice list.

Vet check the horse
In Holland if they sell a horse as a sport horse then they will usually provide leg x rays. Make sure you have your vet examine them or the University Vet hospital. Make sure someone that you trust is giving you the analysis of the x rays and take more if there are any questions. They will most likely not let you x ray a pregnant horse so if it's a mare that you plan to ride and need sound make sure that is examined before breeding, or in between breedings.

Female horses sold for breeding will not usually come with leg x rays because it's implied that they are not riding horses that they are for breeding and long term soundness is not as much of a concern. It's highly recommended that you have the vet check done for yourself. If pregnant include ultrasounds of the foal. Insemination records so you know how many inseminations it took for her to get pregnant and what date she actually took.

For stallions if you are planning on breeding them make sure you do a semen analysis. Have some frozen and test the frozen. Do your own test of the semen. They may provide you semen results, but it's up to you to know for sure. Ask how often the stallion is collected. When he was last collected. How many mares did he cover (broken down by year). How many confirmed pregnancies, live foals (they are not the same, so ask for both). Ask for previous years evaluations on semen. EVA tests or vaccinations (vaccinations are not common in NL). Can the stallion ship chilled semen. What were those test results. Can they Freeze, again test results. Also with Frozen and Chilled make sure that you get conception rates as well as progressive motility (not just total, but also progressive). Consider the volume of semen and concentration.

Scan the Microchip to make sure it matches the papers. Also review any markings that are listed on the papers vs what the horse actually has. I have seen horses that on the papers say no markings and they poses a larger than allowed star or leg marking. If you see a leg marking that looks like it's an injury make sure you have the vet reports because at the US keurings they will want to know why the horse has a white marking that is not allowed. Accidents do happen that leave white hairs, but vet reports will tell the judge that the marking was acquired and not present at birth.

DNA test the horse, hair DNA is random in Holland (taken at foal registration in the US). So if you are buying for pedigree/breeding make sure that the horse you buy is the horse on the papers.

Price depends on the horse and the papers, training, ranking at the keuring. Make sure that you do your research and don't pay more than you have to. Paying more drives up the market. As of early 2017 it was more affordable to purchase a horse already in the US than it was to buy one in Holland and pay import fees on top of the purchase price.

Make sure that you have reviewed the importing requirements for the USDA/APHIS EQUINE as well as your state requirements for import STATE (links may change but you can always Google USDA equine import requirements and find the current link)

As of early 2017 the estimated total costs are 10k for a mare, 8k + CEM (6-12k) for a stallion and 8k for a gelding or horse under 2 years of age. If something is found in quarantine and more tests are needed then costs can be higher. But these are realistic estimates. If you can get it for less, check every line item and make sure nothing is missing. You may have less expense in ground travel or have a lower air plane fuel cost for that time of year. But realistically set aside the above amounts and factor them into the total price you will pay for your imported horse.

There are many import shipping companies that will handle the cost break down for you and manage how to get your horse door to door. There are a few ways to save money but Holland Export quarantine is not one of them, that is very standard and strait forward. And your export broker will manage the details.

The broker will also handle the export permit from Holland, but please confirm with them that they will help with the US import permit. If not go to the USDA link to get the paperwork and make sure that it's submitted properly. You do not want your horse to arrive without this being processed. The import permit application (if simple as of 1/2017) is around $150, amendments are more.

The flight portion of the travel has to be handled by a broker of some kind because special containers are needed for horses to travel on the airplane, and a groom is required to join the horses on the plane. I had the rare chance of being the groom on our Australia to US flight with our horses but that was because they were only my horses and a 2nd groom was needed. There are rare cases where people get to fly with the horse, but don't count on it because they are liable for all the other horses on the flight also. The air cost will depend on what port you bring your horse into. The horse box will hold 3 horses, or 5 foals. Each box costs about 15k per box, so 5k per horse or 3k per foal (varies on location, but this is a reasonable figure to keep in your head).

 LAX, New York, and Florida are the most commonly used. Chicago and New Jersey have the capability but NY is the most cost effective since they have the most flights. LAX is also good for the west coast. When picking your broker make sure that they handle the export from your preferred port (Amsterdam for Holland) and your Import port in the USA. I know Florida's company has a monopoly on the import to FL so the exporting company would have to work with them.

Quarantine for horses coming into the US from Holland (as of 1/2017)  is about 3 days (other countries have other lengths of quarantine). Currently USDA/APHIS fees (as of 1/2017) is about $430 per DAY but can be up to $2500 min for the 3 days. If the horse is under 731 days or 2 years old or a gelding they will be cleared through import quarantine and be able to go home from there.

If the horse is over 2 years old and Mare or Stallion then they must go to CEM quarantine after regular import quarantine. Mares stay for an avg. of 3 weeks and stallions for an avg of 5 weeks.  Make sure that the broker factors in transport from the import quarantine facility to the CEM quarantine facility. You will not be allowed to do this. The trailer picking them up will be locked by USDA when picked up and checked and unlocked by USDA on arrival at the CEM facility. It will then be disinfected per the quarantine requirements. Be aware that Florida has the highest rate for CEM quarantine prices (about 2500 more per horse) so driving a distance may be cheaper than doing CEM in Florida.
As you can quickly see prices vary A LOT. Your broker will have the most current list and prices and locations to know what is your cheapest and best option.
UC Davis CEM isolation prices (about 3400 for mares 12,200 for stallions. This said 15 days, but it's usually 21 days....) So do your homework where you want your horse to go to CEM. The broker can help. Sometimes it's cheaper to drive further then it is to have your horse quarantined close to home. NC CEM location (Stallions: $5,365 total. Length of stay is 35 to 40 days.* Mares: $2,262 total (with or without foal). Length of stay is 19 to 21 days)
Sky Coast in KY estimates 6500 for stallion CEM, mare was not posted online.

Other fees to look out for
You will have a US customs import fee based on the value of the horse
(more fees to come, after all, it's the Government we are talking about. They love adding fees)

If you use a broker door to door then you should be ok, but knowing all the above information will help you avoid having a broker miss something and have problems with your import. There are some companies that are used more than others and I'm not advertising for any of them or vouching for any of them but if you use the search Holland horse flight you'll find listings. Some other searches didn't pull up the broker sites. Horse 2 fly and IRT are ones that we have used. But get quotes from people and ask forums if they are trusted companies.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Gelding or Stallion

I seem to get this question a lot so I'm going to put it on the blog.

My go to answer is always.... YOU have to live with the horse so if you are not enjoying a horse with testicles, then geld. Testicles must be earned.

In Europe the stallions are shown, the mares have babies. Some ride the mares and show them but it's not as common as riding stallions. So having a bunch of stallions in a ring is not uncommon. But in the US the trend is Geld or buy mares.

Stallions are fantastic to ride. You don't have to breed a stallion for them to stay a stallion you can just ride them and enjoy the macho that comes with the extra testosterone. HOWEVER, you should have them properly housed and fenced so that no accidental pregnancies occur. Or accidental visitors that would get the stallion in trouble. At our farm our stallions have an extra rope or halter tied

around the door. Not because the stallion is doing anything wrong, but because people who don't know that horse is a stallion will have one extra step to get in their pen, or ask why that horse has a tie on the gate. Almost all our horses are solid black no white, so who's who to the lay person. Well I took the guessing game for them away. Our stallion pens also have hot wire and they are double fenced from the outside world. Our whole property if fenced, then they are fenced again inside that. It makes sure that our neighbors don't turn their mare loose in heat on the fence line and tease my stallion into getting hurt and tangled in the fence. so 10-20 ft between the careless neighbors and my stallions is one extra step to make sure my boys don't get hurt and we don't have accidental babies.
On the farm the stallions can come within a few ft of the mares as long as they behave. But that is up to you with your horses. Some people give the stallion a companion, mare, gelding, other stallion. That is your choice but please have a plan for the foal if you use a companion mare. I have one stallion that likes living with a mini donkey stud. I have 2 other stallions that live together and have grown up playing and loving on eachother.  But please be responsible, we all know where babies come from at this point, so please don't make one's that will end up at auction, or dog food. Have a purpose if you have a foal.

Other considerations, not many boarding facilities allow stallions and some shows have age restrictions on who can handle stallions. I know in Australia there were even shows that didn't allow stallions and extra rules for stallions if they did. Like green tags on the bridles (made for ugly show photos, but warned the unaware mare owners you were there). Also Stallions had to be double tied, these were outside trailer tied shows so it was not set up for stabling a stallion like some US shows. I know some US shows have trailer tying, some have stalls in barns. Each show is different. One suggestion if you want to alert people to the presence of a stallion in this gelding/mare show world. I have gone out and bought normal saddle tress, or saw horses from the hardware store (home depot or lowes et all) painted them bright colors and wrote stallion across them. When I set them up on either side of the stallion or alley way it makes people look before just walking up on him with their in heat mare, or just flat out not paying attention. It's not that my stallion will do anything wrong, it's that it's rude to tease him if he's standing there getting tacked up or waiting on his class.

Now if you do decide the time has come where you want a gelding instead of a stallion then that is great. Don't feel bad, you are the one that has to live with them. If he's so absolutely genetically important for the breed to survive and excel then it might be an option to sell him or lease him out. Or even collect, freeze and then geld to preserve the genetics. BUT most of the time they are amazing to you, and your special friend. you can still preserve his DNA, but not every stallion needs offspring. There are plenty of horses in the slaughter sales that you don't need to be adding more. If you have a purpose and destination for the offspring great, but if that stallion is a terror to be around.... will the offspring also be the same way... so is it worth it.

Timing for gelding. There are vets that geld when the foal is born. I personally don't recommend doing it that early since there is so much growth associated with reproduction hormones.  But if you can see both then they can be removed. I also don't like to put foals through such trauma, they already have such a hard time in the first 6 months of life. I would wait till after 6 months of age at min. because horses have immunity from their dam's colostrum, that has to last them till they are about 6 mo and can start forming their own immune system. If they use up that immunity fighting castration, then you'll likely have to do a plasma transfusion to get them through till they are 6 mo. Also I like my colts to have tetanus and some vaccinations before they go under the knife. 6 mo is usually when vaccinations are affective, and depending on the label on the vaccination might be the soonest the vaccine can be given.

You can wait till they are 2 or 3 to see what kind of man they turn into. I have stallions that don't even know they are studs, so they don't bother me to stay studs even if not breeding. I also have some that turn into studs on steroids and need their egos checked all the time. I don't mind it, but I know it would be a lot more than some could handle. If they get violent or untrustworthy, game over, jewels are gone.

Stallions that get into their teens and are not gelded will have more chrest development and larger testicles. They can be gelded, but it's at a risk of the chrest falling. But if a stallion comes to me that is not breeding quality, is not quiet to be around and is not safe then there is no reason to cry over a crest, bye by jewels.

Stallions that are in their 20's, now that is a riskier surgery because of their age, it can be done, but if they are safe and can be stabled properly and they don't have anything wrong with their testicles I would just leave them. But even a 20 yo jerk can have his jewels removed.

So long story short. What are you willing to live with, put up with, how do you want your time spent with your horse. Make sure your decision is for your sanity. You can always collect and freeze if DNA preservation is necessary (some don't freeze or don't have conceptions with frozen so have that tested prior to removal, but most have some ability to make a foal if needed). And if you choose to keep your stallion make sure that you only breed with a purpose and plan for that foal.


Megaesophagus in Friesians is on the talk boards a lot lately.  It's common in dogs and has been seen in other breeds. But with the Friesians there are unique traits associated with the disorder.

Symptoms include chronic choke and swelling/deformation of the area where the esophagus is on the neck. Loss of weight (because of the swallowing complications) Some horses have nasal discharge from the backup of feed. (See photo).

This is a lot more than just a choking disorder, it's actually on the cellular level of the esophageal structure. The malformation results in impaired function of the esophagus which then results in choke and debris collecting in the esophagus. Some horses have mild cases and can be managed with moist food, frequent small mash meals, elevated eating and lifestyle adjustments. Decreased exercise can also help. This disorder is degenerative and develops as the horse ages so there is not cure, just treatment. Some have sever enough deterioration that they have to be put to sleep so evaluation of your horses situation and quality of life is very important.
The best tool for diagnosis is to have contrast radiographs or endoscope. When scoped there is a clear difference in a unaffected horse vs a horse with megaesophagus. On Autopsy Friesians with Megaesophagus usually have thickened esophageal walls and not much sign of food pockets or tissue degeneration from obstructions fermenting. Further examination of the tissue also shows decreased elastin, and disorganized collagen. Where other breeds tended to have a fold or pocket that deteriorated or other degradation to the tissue.

There is some belief that because in Friesians the megaesophagus is related to abnormal collagen that it could be hereditary, there are no genetic tests in place to prove or disprove this but it's something that should be addressed. So if you have a horse with Megaesophagus and want to share their pedigree that would be appreciated. The more information we have the better chance we have at helping our horses. Fenway Foundation is trying to research  Megaesophagus and it's link to the collagen disorder, they even believe it can be linked with CPL and Aortic Rupture. They are not disclosing blood lines, but if you would like to share that information either privately with me or publicly on the blog I'm happy to share whatever information I can.

Here is a postmortem of a torn esophagus.

This is a video of Freerk, a Friesian with Megaesophagus. The information in the video was provided by the owner, Thank you. It is to help other owners with similar situations, however your veterinarian needs to be consulted for your specific case. If you have any information to share about your success or struggles please share that with us so that we can help more people through this situation
VIDEO - Freerk

Research Gate A
Slide show with some information, independent source
Article C
Fenway Info

Gay recently had a 16yo gelding diagnosed with ME- here is a helpful status update from her Facebook post
Status update- 11mo since diagnosis. What has worked/made him feel the best - short/medium grass in the field. He ❤️It and seems very happy/normal with a field of grass to eat. Long not mowed grass, eating dry hay (too much too quick) or (too much too quick) soaked(watery soup) triple crown senior all have the same affect- he will stand, not want to move, waits until it passes, if it doesn’t pass in under 5 min he will also put his nose to the ground and back up, flemen intermittently . He does not like you touching the underside of his neck nor making him move during this -hoofs are glued to ground. He lost some weight but look in good flesh still. Now that we are going into winter, he is eating more hay from his 1” hay nets/bags inside/outside I am starting to see the signs above again ☹️ . It is amazing how much hay this horse can empty from 1” hole hay net 😏. Last week for the first time I saw him slam his hay net in anger after it looked like he ate too much and he was standing there waiting for it to pass, feel better. I wish there was grass for him to eat year round. He is boarded so no option for wet hay. IMO wet hay would be hard to get out of a 1” hay net and I am sure he would eat too much too soon if free choice . I give him 90% standlee Timothy, some soft alfalfa mixed in, recently adding small amount of triple crown alfalfa-lox. In his triple crown soup he gets 3/4 cup senior and 3/4 cup complete soaked plus (all powder) supplements, cosequin, slippery elm, Smartpak digest ultra , u guard 7. No dry pellets or dry treats, no apples, no carrots etc- cannot beat these even if chopped up

Sunday, February 5, 2017

CPL - Chronic Progressive Lymphedema

It's very common for people on the chat groups to post about scratches, greasy heel, dermatitis on the fetlocks and pasterns. Most of the time it can be treated with the appropriate antidote. Scrapings can help you determine if it's being caused by mites, fungus, bacteria. You can also evaluate your horses immune system to see if they are not defending themselves. This will not be a post on the million ways to treat scratches/greasy heel because if the test shows X then you treat with Y... so talk with your vet.....

But what about the times when NOTHING works. you treat all the fungus, bacteria and have your diet in check, feathers cleaned and dried, footing/bedding dry, moved locations, but the horse is still chronic. They even seem a little swollen in the lower legs. ......

They might have CPL. Many draft and feathered breeds suffer from CPL. Fenway Foundation and a few other research parties are trying to figure out why it happens a lot in Friesians LINK. There is no solid research results to support the claims that it's genetic or that it's environmental or that it's a collagen disorder. But  there are some blood lines that are believed to be more susceptible to chronic dermatitis on the lower legs. They have not actually compared affected horses in a lineage and documented the environment that the horses are in to determine if it's environmental. They are working on documenting affected bloodlines. UC Davis has some information online about it LINK

There is also no easy way to document the severity or to know if it's truly CPL or just scratches. For example we had a mare that we bought that was very scaled in her feathers, had giant lumps that were hard on her fetlocks. She came from a humid climate and was moved to a dry climate. We shaved the feathers, treated with bleach for 1 week and let the hair grow back. She never had scales again even when we moved to the beach in Australia. The lumps took a very very long time to go down and never went away completely. But exercise seemed to soften them and reduce them. So was that scratches or had she stayed in her original environment would she have been classified as having CPL. The lumps that would normally be classified as CPL, were they from chronic scratches in the form of scar tissue, or was it truly CPL that sent her in that direction in the first place. There is no real way to analyze this situation with so many horses in so many different locations.

With the very narrow breeding pool for the Friesians, it could also be a type of allergy that has not been figured out yet. Many inbreeding programs (human or animal) result in decreased immunity and an increase in allergies and insect hypersensitivity.

It's likely that a horse that has CPL tendencies will develop varying levels of CPL. Can be from periodic scratches (1) to inflamed legs that need pressure wraps with chronic dermatitis (10). Environment could take a horse that is a 2 and make it a 7, or vise versa. Or it could be that they are destined to be a certain severity. It's also likely that as the horse gets older they will be more affected. The lymph system is not as strong as they age. Their environment will continue to enable their secondary infections. Scar tissue will form and not heal.

There have been correlations with feathering density and tendency towards CPL, you also may notice that the KFPS stallion selection program is getting less and less feathering....

I would love to say that there is a cure or an answer but as of yet there is not. All you can do is treat the secondary infections and symptoms and hope that you can keep the horse comfortable. Some people have moved their horses to drier environments and some have had to stay on top of treatments regularly.


Hydrocephalus means water on the brain. I'm not going to get into the medical reasons why it happens in fetal development because it's passed on genetically and can be avoided completely.

This genetic disorder is something to take very seriously because A. there is a test for it     B. it's lethal to the foal and C. birthing a Hydrocephalus affected baby can be traumatic or terminal for your mare.

Cure: Test your mare before breeding and If you have a carrier mare avoid breeding with a carrier stallion. Problem is solved.

As you probably guessed from above Hydrocephalus is a genetically transferred disorder. It's recessive so the only way to get an affected foal is to breed 2 carriers together. You'll have a 25% chance of an affected/dead foal and 50% chance of a carrier foal. It's not worth the risk that you'll get the 25% chance of a non affected non carrier foal. It's irresponsible to take that risk.

The reason the birthing is so traumatic to the mare, possibly causing dystocia, c section or death to the dam, is because the cranium of a hydrocephalus foal can be enlarged significantly
As you can see in the next photo the brain cavity was opened up to show it's not formed completely and the fluid in that cavity was drained.

The KFPS/FHANA has started testing the all approved stallions and posting the results. I have compiled the published and known carriers on the stallion pages. If you have a positive mare and have picked a stallion that you want to breed to that is missing information please contact the KFPS directly to see if your positive mare is a risky match with the desired stallion. I believe they will not give out any stallion information if your mare is not tested, so please get your mare tested.
Here is the form for the FHANA horses to be tested FORM (email me if the link doesn't work or fhana@fhana.com)
to contact the KFPS directly for all other books (bb1,2, C and D books) please go to www.kfps.nl and contact them directly
IF you do not want to go through the KFPS or you do not have a pure Friesian this is a company that will test for Hydrocephalus cariers regardless of breed.
Scientific article that you can look at for more detailed information.

Thursday, February 2, 2017


Equine Viral Arteritis

There are a few Friesian stallions that are currently positive for EVA. They can be positive in blood, and/or Semen. It's important to know about because one of the side affects it that it can cause abortions in mares or death in young foals. That is the part I'm going to focus on. Symptoms of an infected horse are in this article HERE

The virus is carried by the stallion, usually for life once they have it. It lives in Frozen, chilled and fresh semen. Mares that are inseminated with the affected stallion  (or horses exposed to the + semen) will shed the virus for about 21 days after contact with the affected semen. They will spread it through respiratory secretions to any horse within range.

Unvaccinated mares in early term are likely to abort the foal. A late term pregnant mare may abort or may give birth to an infected foal that shows symptoms of pneumonia.

There is a vaccination for mares. They should be tested for their existing resistance (serology), then vaccinated appropriately. After being vaccinated they should be isolated for the 21 days/3 weeks that they are shedding the virus. The vaccine is not for pregnant mares, it's for pre insemination.

Colts can be vaccinated after 6mo of age, but this may affect their ability to get into other countries. I know Australia will not allow vaccinated stallions into the country or positive stallions in (as was in 2011, may change in the future)

For Embryo transfer it's recommended that the recipient also be tested and vaccinated if the stallion is EVA +.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Red Gene

A lot of people worry about the red gene factor in Friesians. As it's well known it's not fatal for a Friesian to be born chestnut (double red factor). They are allowed to be registered with the KFPS. As of now they are not allowed to be advanced from the foalbook, however if a chestnut mare has a black foal, that foal will be allowed to show at the keuring to try to advance out of the foalbook.

The historical red gene carriers include

Jillis 301
Wicher 334
Abe 346
Atse 342
Diedert 288
Laes 278
Ijsbrand 238
Freark 218

For about 8 years the KFPS would not approve any stallions that carried the red gene. At this point they are allowing red gene carriers to be approved. As of #483 they have started posting the test results for stallions that carry red, dwarfism and Hydrocephalus genes, but since that time none have been red carriers.

There is a Fire Friesian or Fox Friesian registry that is trying to create a gene pool to expand the number of horses with the red gene. As mentioned it's not fatal, it's just not part of the breed standard for the KFPS for advancement in the registry. If you know your mare or stallion is a carrier you can contact them to have your horse on record as a carrier. Breeding 2 carriers can give a 25% chance of producing a chestnut offspring. but would give a 50% chance of having the offspring be a red gene carrier thus keeping the recessive red gene still available in the population.

If you would like to post your horse here as a carrier I'm happy to do that just PM me with their name, sire and dam's 2 sires and that they are carriers or homozygous (chestnut hair).

Aortic Rupture

Aortic rupture has been in the discussion groups a lot recently. It's not that it's not in other breeds, but the Friesians have a unique location to where their heart failure takes place.
Here is an article about all breeds Aortic Rupture

The more specific information that applies to the Friesian is located on the Phryso article

There are currently no tests available to determine risk. Please see the article to learn about symptoms and diagnosis. As the name implies it's a very serious and fatal condition. ***Update, at Utrecht they have successfully used a small ultrasound scope passed through the esophagus near the heart to view the area of the heart that could potentially have the defect. The beauty of this is that it's non invasive and the horse doesn't have to be asleep!! I am not sure the availability of this technology in the US but calling around to major equine universities or clinics should get you some answers.

Also please note that there is a specific way to autopsy a Friesian to determine if they died of Aortic Ruptor so please contact Fenway Foundation.
Here is a Form that helps with some information from Fenway Foundation, if this link does not work please contact them directly FORM . They may have special instructions for you based on your horses symptoms so please work with them to help identify the source of the problem.

If you have had or know of a horse that died of Aortic rupture please share stories and information with us so that we can help other owners. Knowing their lineage will also help, but it is not yet determined that it's genetic. It could be fetal development or post birthing complications. Any information you have could help.

If links stop working please contact me and I can Email you a PDF

Research gate article A
Research gate article B

BMC Article



Neonatal Isoerythrolysis

 basically a blood incompatibility in horses, just like humans get when a mom and baby have different gene types. The big difference is that a human will need treatment during pregnancy, where foals need help just after birth. So this is not just a Friesian thing, it's a horse thing. But it's very much talked about on the breeding pages and Friesian chat groups so it's important that I post it here.

Simple summary -
The foal gets it's immunity from the first 24 hours of milk from mom, called colostrum. If the mom is producing enzymes that "fight" the blood type of the foal it's carrying, then when the foal drinks the colostrum, the colostrum will "fight the foal".  It's FATAL so take it very seriously and don't take your eyes off the foal. That is about as basic as it comes for an explanation.

It's a red blood cell disorder where the mares antibodies to attack the foals red bloodcells, causing oxygen deprivation, decreased immunity and ultimately organ failure.

The quick fix is early identification that the foal is getting weaker after ingesting the colostrum. Then remove them from that situation. Either muzzle the foal or put them in a foal holding box, or anything you can to keep that foal from nursing for the first 36 (48 to be safe) hours after birth. In the meantime feed the foal colostrum from another mare, powder, and consider a plasma transfusion. For that 36-48 hours that you are keeping the foal off the dam, milk her like crazy, get that colostrum out of her and make sure she's running white milk before the foal is back on the dam. At 48 hours the foals gut will stop absorbing the colostrum.

Symptoms to be on the watch for in the first 3 days
             decreased suckling, weakness, increased heart rate, increased respiration, white or yellowing gums, lethargy and weakness, decreased flight response (a baby should have some fight even when imprinted)

IF you didn't catch it quickly you will likely need a plasma transfusion for the foal. IV fluids and serious vet care to make sure that the foals organs are not damaged. Even if you caught it early it's always important to have the vet check them.
Before putting the foal back with the mare you will want to get a Jaundice Foal Agglutination (JFA) test done to make sure that the foals blood and the Mare's colostrum/milk are combatable.

The foal shown below has jaundice from being compromised from NI. At this point the foal has been in full vet care, it's 5 days old in this photo.
You can do blood tests with in 2 weeks of foaling to see if the mare's antibodies are increased. If the mare is positive for the antibodies make sure you have a muzzle handy, and all the supplies to feed a foal. You'll need colostrum (1-2 pints min, more if possible) it can be powder or frozen (NI neg mares). You'll also need milk (for foals, not cows) follow the instructions or see our post on orphaned foals. They will likely need 12 oz every 2 hrs. Also get the mare some Domperidone (milk stimulator) so you can get her milked out faster. Keep milking her often so that her milk let down keeps up with the volume you are feeding the foal so when they are put back together she's not too dry for the foal. UC Davis Blood Test for NI  UK blood test for NI (we are not affiliated with any testing facility this is just to help because so few places do blood typing now that DNA has replaced blood type for parent verification)

In summary you can test for NI, it's not breed specific, it's easy to treat if you know you have a positive mare, and it's fatal if you don't catch it in time and give the foal proper treatment.

more posts on NI
 NI Posting
NI posting 2


One of the disorders associated with horses is Dwarfism. Right now it's a hot topic of conversation with the Friesians because the KFPS has developed a test that is about 98% accurate to determine if a Friesian is a carrier. Because the test is not 100% conclusive and is based on gene markers, not a single gene it's not a widely used test. But 98% is better than not knowing. The KFPS will test any pure Friesian horse (even if it's not mainbook/fhana) as long as it's pure Friesian (b- book 1 or 2 or D or C books, out of non approved sires) they will test it for you for a small fee.

Here is the form for the FHANA horses to be tested FORM (email me if the link doesn't work)
to contact the KFPS directly for non approved stallion offspring (bb1,2, C and D books) please go to www.kfps.nl and contact them.

Dwarfism is not a new thing or a Friesian only thing. Miniature horses have had several Dwarf genes and they were selected for to create the breed. Here is a general article on Dwarfism in horses, including mini's, so not specific to Friesians but there is a Dwarf Friesian photographed on that page so worth a look for information Dwarfism in Horses. Friesians have a specific type called Diastrophia Phenotye.

Breeding and why you should know if your mare is a carrier before picking a stallion for her to mate with
Dwarfism is a recessive gene meaning that the affected horse has to have both Dwarf genes to exhibit symptoms.
Genetically speaking if you breed a non carrier (BB) to a carrier (Bd) each offspring can get 1 of the 2 genes from each parent. So with BB x Bd  you have the ability to get offspring that are BB, Bd, BB, and Bd. So 50/50 chance of having a carrier (Bd) offspring and 50/50 chance of a non carrier (BB).

If you breed 2 carriers (Bd) x (Bd) you have a chance of getting BB, Bd, dB,dd  so you would have a 25% chance of non carrier (BB) 50% chance of carrier (Bd), and 25% chance of affected (dd). It's never recommended to breed carrier to carrier because you have that 25% risk of having an affected/symptomatic offspring. But it's not to say it has never been done, or that it's not going on right now. Testing is very recent and with only a %25 chance of affected foal there is also a chance that 75% of the time the foals were born appearing to be healthy. The only 100 % positive test to know if a Dam and Sire are carriers is to produce an affected (dd) foal.

Dwarfism is not lethal to the horse, it is more inconvenient to that horse. They have shorter limbs with tendon laxity that gets worse with age, rather than getting better after birth. They appear to have larger heads, but they are similar in size to a full grown horse, just on a smaller body. They sometimes have issues with the abdominal cavity sizing and shape that can cause problems as the horse grows to a mature age.  The growth plates of dwarf horses are also affected so they don't achieve full height. The breed standard for a Friesian is 154 min for a mare and have been at and above 170 for some. There are some friesians that are 150cm without carrying the dwarf gene, but a dwarf affected foal will be about 110cm (can vary, records are not kept very well on dwarf average heights). But full expected height will not be achieved by a dwarf affected horse, and other physical abnormalities stated above will also be present.

There is a photo of a 7yo dwarf mare that has a regular size foal at foot as recent as 1995 (there may be other cases of breeding dwarf mares).  So they can grow to be adult horses and as the photo implies, carry foals to term. If breeding  dwarf mare she would be (dd) affected, so you would want to make sure 100% that the stallion is (BB) non carrier. All the offspring would be Bd, so 100% carriers with no affected foals. So mathematically speaking it's possible to breed, but very questionable ethically and scientifically given the rib cage abnormalities, the tendon laxity of the limbs and all the stress of adding the extra weight of a full sized foal.

Here is a link to an article about the gene mapping of the Dwarf gene and some added information about Dwarf Friesians. If the link no longer works please e-mail me for a pdf, I can't upload pdf's to the blog??  ARTICLE

Firstly, approved stallions are given #'s after their name indicating the order that they were approved in. Friesians are from a very small gene pool that in recent times can trace back to 3 stallions. Tetman 205, Age 168, Ritske 202 P so the gene pool is very small.
But lets go back a bit further and focus on Darfism, the topic of this converstaion.  The following stallions have been known to have produced 1 or more dwarf foals. Prins 109,  Alva 113, Friso 117, Paulus 121, President 123, Nemo 51, Frits, Cramer 136, Elvis 138, Corbus 248, Remmelt 323, Lukas 324.

Some non approved stallions and pure Mares that have produced Dwarf foals but it's un known if the gene comes from their sire or their dam line so it's not conclusive if their sire carries or their dam, but they got the gene from one of them and have produced 1 or more dwarf offspring -  Lyckle B (son of Ulrik 168) and Maurits Friso (son of Dagho 247), 4 mares (by Yjsbrand 238). 2 Mares (by Jochem 259) If you have information on any dwarf offspring or positive mares or stallions please help us share that information.

Current stallions (starting with # 483) have all been tested and reported. Stallions before that are not being reported unless the stallion owner posts it. Mostly because of the EU privacy laws, but also because the last big dna reveal, Red Gene, caused 1000's of loosed breedings for carrier stallions so there is a lot of fear of repercussions of public posting. The tested approved stallions are on my blog pages by stallion #, not all are tested. .

The KFPS IS, yes IS, still approving carrier stallions. It's up to the mare owners to also test so that they know what their breeding risk is. Check out the STALLION LIST to see who of the 483# and higher carries and who doesn't.

 I'm also putting together a list of carrier horses. SO if you have a carrier horse please message me a copy of the papers and what they are carriers for. I will not post the papers just the lineage. Or send the Sire, Dam sire, grand dam's sire, and great grand dam's sire. There is still a small chance the gene came from further back but statistically the carrier would be in that list. For example there is a Carrier A, he's a Sape 381(-) x Thomas 327 x Djurre 284 x Corbus 248. Sape is negative for dwarf, so we know the gene had to come from one of the others. It just so happens that history shows Corbus 248 as a carrier, but that doesn't mean that Thomas and Djurre are not the one's that gave it to the dam. So it would be important for people with mares with Corbus, Thomas and Djurre to get tested. It is still important to test all breeding horses, however some people who are sitting on the fence about testing may get the push when they see their mare's lineage on the list.

The only true + test is a dwarf foal. I would love for people to share those results with us also, but I also hope there are not many out there. If anyone has any first hand photos of a dwarf Friesian horse please share that with me, so we can share as much information as we can. The new tests are great, but the only 100% proof of being a carrier is producing and affected offspring.

Non KFPS dwarf information -
Here is another page with more information on Dwarfism. The one main thing that I would point out is that they state that by crossing Friesians with other breeds we are "spreading" the dwarf risk HOWEVER, other breeds are carriers of the dwarf genes. We just have more people talking about the Friesian's right now. A Friesian x TB produced a Dwarf foal, that is only possible because the TB was a carrier of the same gene disorder as the Friesian. so it will not "spread" it's already out there. PAGE
Even the American Morgan Horse Association is working on Dwarfism testing, showing it's a concern in that breed also LINK

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

CSU hay test explained

For starters horses need a minimum of 1% forage but in reality a horse will want to, and naturally, consume 1.5-2% of their diet in forage to meet their energy needs. Hay is your forage.  So if your horse weights 1200 lbs you should not give them less than 12lbs of forage a day with 18-24lbs/day being more realistic to their natural and desired consumption.

If you have a horse that is susceptible to obesity do not reduce the volume of hay, reduce the quality of hay. By that I do not mean get moldy cow hay. I mean get lower energy, lower protein hay that the horse can eat all day long without gaining. A full gut round the clock is a happy gut.

The below information is based on the factors tested by Colorado State University standard forage test. In 2016 it was a $35 test. There are more tests for minerals available but the below information is just for the basic test that they provide for the hay test. The test from Colorado State University was selected for this post because they are well known. Other institutions may give other reports with other components.

Moisture -  Ideal is 10-17%, when it reaches 18% it’s at high risk of mold. Hay over 25% poses a huge heat and fire risk.

Crude protein (CP) --  Is actually an estimation of total protein based on the amount of nitrogen in the hay. So areas with high nitrogen may falsely read high protein.  It does not tell you anything about the amino acid composition or the protein quality.
High quality proteins are usually found in legumes, like Alfalfa. Combining the two makes a more balanced protein diet for the horse.
Ideally a horse needs around 10% protein (Lactating, Pregnant and Growing foals need more)
Grain hays (oat, rye) generally have a lower CP than grass hay
grass hay contains 8 to 10%
legumes  (alfalfa, clover, perennial peanut) can range from 17-20+%.

Neutral Detergent fiber (NDF) – Measures insoluble fibers. Since fibers are digested by the microbes living in the hindgut (cecum and large colon), a healthy microbial population is important for your horse to derive calories from fiber. This figure is a good indicator of Net Energy (NEL, NEM, NEG see below) they are inversely related so when NDF goes down NE_ increases. This measurement is also the best indicator of how much forage a horse will eat. The lower the # the more the horse will eat. Legumes (alfalfa) are lower in NDF so horse will want to eat more legume than grass. But as most people know high alfalfa diets can risk founder, bloating and other issues. So just because they like Legumes doesn’t mean that is what they should eat 24/7.
40-50% are good
65% the horses may not want to consume them

Acid detergent fiber (ADF) ADF is composed of cellulose, lignin (not digestable), and other poorly digested components. The lower the ADF value, the more digestible the nutrients in the hay. Lignin increases in mature plants and more hay will end up in the manure.
30-35% is desirable
45% and above you will have to feed more hay

Equine Total Digestible Nutrients (Equine TDN): This is a measure of the hays energy value, TDN is rarely used in evaluating horse hay, which is ironic because it’s the digestible nutrients. TDN is very closely related to Net Energy (NE) below. As TDN (DM% increases so does the NE for Lactation, Growth and Maintenance. It is a measurement that is also directly correlated to Digestible Energy (DE) and Metabolizable Energy (ME) below.
 40 to 55% is desired.

Equine Digestible energy (DE): Measure of the digestible energy in the hay. Horses in light work should get about 20 Mcal/day. So if hay is DE 1 Mcal/lb you need to feed 20lbs to that horse. Horses usually have a loss of 35-40% DE in feces, so don’t be stingy on feeding hay to your horses.
Most hays are 0.76 to 0.94 Mcal/lb of DE.
The DE requirements for a 1,102 lb  horse (500kg) can range from 15.2 Mcals to 34.5 Mcals

Net Energy (NE):  There are 3 types of Net Energy
Maintenance (NEm) –maintenance of the animal
Gain (NEg) – Growth and gain for that animal
Lactation (NEL) – Lactation (mainly dairy cattle)
This is highly dependent on the animals actual intake of the forage.
Estimated Net Energy (ENE) A term expressing available energy in a forage. The higher the number, the greater the energy to the animal.

Net Energy Lactation (NEL) this is usually used for cattle to help determine if the forage will meet the needs for lactation. Mostly used for the dairy industry but it can also be helpful for horses.
An average NE Lactation is 0.5-0.95
When TDN is 50 (DM%) NEL is around 0.5
When TDN is 90 (DM%) NEL is around 0.95
So very closely related

Net Energy Maintenance (NEm)
This is the energy available for maintaining the animal
An average alfalfa maintenance is around 0.4-1.02
When TDN is about 50 (DM%) NEm is around 0.44
When TDN is about 90 (DM%) NEm is around 1.02

Net Energy Gain (NEg)
This is the energy available for the horse to gain.
An average around 0.19-0.7
When TDN is about 50 (DM%) NEg is around 0.19
When TDN is about 90 (DM%) NEg is around 0.7

Metabolizable Energy (ME)
Range from 0.82 – 1.48
when TND (DM%) is around 50 ME will be around 0.82,
when TND (DM%) is around 90 ME will be around 1.48


Relative Feed Value (RFV)- Combines ADF and NDF to estimate consumption of the hay. So in theory it’s the expected consumption, or the animals want to consume the hay . As ADF and NDF increase, RFV decreases.  It’s mostly used for Cattle. There is no formula for horses yet for RFV because this formula is based on fiber and cattle have a better fiber conversion because of the rumen digestive system. But it’s a number CSU gives for their hay evaluation so it’s one that we are going to explain.  

Average RFV for alfalfa is 100 (ADF 41, NDF 53). The higher the # the better the quality

Alfalfa can be up above 150, 185+ is considered Supreme quality. Low quality alfalfa will be around 70.


Keep in mind that horses do not need the higher quality forages that a dairy or meat cattle need. And horses digestive systems are not equipped to handle the higher levels of RFV and CP. Feeding strait Alfalfa with a  100 RFV could risk obesity, founder and other health issues, So please consider other values that are more tailored for horse feed to base your feed choice on. If you pick a lower TDN grass hay you could supplement with Alfalfa to meet your horse’s needs, or free choice the grass hay so the horse has a full gut (much more healthy for them than sporadic feeding)


But when in doubt test your hay, soil and water. Take those results with your current grains and supplements to an equine nutritionist to balance your ration. You may find that a few simple changes could reduce your feed cost and ultimately have a healthier horse. Do not grain your horses blindly, know what they are eating so you don’t throw them off balance.