Tag Archives: Horse Information

Equine Herpes Virus (EHV) – The Facts



A recent outbreak of Neurological EHV-1 in Hampshire resulting in four fatalities to date, has led to multiple temporary yard closures in the area. As this disease affects all areas throughout the year, it seemed important to share the facts surrounding the disease. We sought advice from veterinary professionals to provide you with the most up-to-date information on the virus, its symptoms and the precautionary measures to take should you be concerned that your horse may have come into contact with the virus. 


Equine Herpes Virus is one of the most commonly diagnosed diseases in horses worldwide. Almost every horse will have been in contact with the virus at some stage in its life with no serious side effects, it can lay dormant in carrier horses without causing any problems. It is not yet understood what causes some infected horses to develop neurological forms which can be fatal. It is a highly contagious disease particularly affecting younger horses and in-foal mares. It is spread through both direct (nose to nose) contact, indirectly through tack, rugs, feed buckets, owners’ hands, through sharing drinking water where it can survive for up to one month, and airborne through coughing and sneezing. It is therefore vital that the correct bio security procedures are followed to prevent further spread. 


The Equine Herpes Virus is a family of different viruses that are closely linked to the viruses that cause cold sores, chicken pox and shingles in humans. The two most common species in horses are EHV-1, which can cause sudden abortion in in-foal mares, respiratory disease and occasionally neurologic disease; and EHV-4, which will cause respiratory disease but only rarely cause abortion and neurological disease where the infection has damaged the spinal cord, in the event of this occurring, its is generally advised that the horse is euthanized on a welfare basis.


Clinical signs of the disease will depend on the form of the disease but can include:

  • Fever
  • Nasal Discharge 
  • Depression
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abortion
  • Loss of bladder and tail function
  • Hind limb paralysis


‘If you are concerned that your horse may have come in contact with herpes virus it is extremely important that you place your horse in isolation immediately for 14 days. Stringent bio-security measures are paramount. These include regular disinfection of the surrounding environment and equipment, hand washing, disinfection of boots, removal of outer clothing after seeing your horse and visiting no other horses to avoid direct and indirect contact with other horses. You should notify your vet, who will recommend collection of a blood sample for herpes serum antibody at the beginning and near the end of the isolation period. It can take up to 14 days for a horse to develop antibodies which is why two samples are required for comparison. A nasal swab should also be collected at the end of the isolation period to ensure your horse is not shedding virus. During the isolation period regular monitoring including twice daily rectal temperature recording is essential. A fever is often one of the first signs of herpes infection.’

Beth Robinson

New Forest Equine Vets


It is important to let others know that you have a suspected case of EHV, these people include, other horse owners, vets, farriers and anyone likely to have come into contact with the horse.  Only through open communication will we  break the stigma surrounding the virus and help prevent the spread of the disease.


Treatment for the virus once confirmed is predominantly supportive care as many antiviral drugs used in humans aren’t effective in horses. The virus is allowed to run its course whilst keeping the horse as comfortable as possible, anti-inflammatory drugs such as bute are often administered and some horses might require intravenous fluids.


The best methods of prevention are the EHV-1 vaccination which is effective against the Respiratory form of the disease which prevents abortion and correct bio-security. There are currently no vaccinations that can prevent the Neurological form of infection. The vaccination is considered ‘risk based’ so for more information on the vaccine, seek veterinary advice. It is most commonly used in breeding mares, but it begs the question, should we be vaccinating against this virus as religiously as we do with flu and tetanus?




The British Equestrian Federation has issued the following statement regarding the recent outbreak 

‘The Federation supports the actions of the centre who have ceased all activity, including cancelling shows and hire bookings until further notice. The Animal Health Trust has issued advice stating that all horses who have recently visited the centre are immediately isolated for a period of 14 days and that owners seek veterinary advice regarding clinical monitoring and laboratory test clearance.’


British Show Jumping stated on 13th January 2020 

‘Following the recent outbreak of EHV-1 it is now a requirement that any horse or pony that has been on site at Crofton Manor, Hampshire since the 20th December 2019 is required to have a negative swab and blood test before competing at any British Showjumping show or organised event.’


British Dressage stated on 13th January 2020

In consultation with the Animal Health Trust and on the advice provided in today’s British Equestrian Federation updateBritish Dressage requires members with any horses or ponies who visited Crofton Manor EC between 20 December and 7 January for any reason (training or competition) have them tested by a veterinary surgeon for EHV-1. This is in addition to the originally recommended isolation period of 14 days and daily clinical monitoring. Owners of any horses or ponies who have been to Crofton EC in the specified should liaise directly with their veterinary surgeon on the testing process and advice.’


At this stage, there have been no confirmed cases in horses outside of Crofton Manor. It is only with complete transparency and strict bio security procedures that we can control the spread of this awful disease. 

Our thoughts go out to the Centre and the owners of the horses that were sadly euthanised. 


Are we building in redundancy ….. will wormers go on working?


Its hardly making headlines today but it should. We are helping build in redundancy of effective measures by arbitrarily worming horses rather than worming as and when necessary. So in the spring test your horses for Tapeworm and FEC for redworm and ascarids.

It is big news though that 81% of worming strategies not effective in fight against resistance. If you read this the other way round Horse Scout Blogger draws a conclusion that this means 81% of worming strategies are contributing to resistance to wormers.

According to research published on Country Wide Farmers showing that whilst 67% of horse owners believe they are protecting their horses from the rise of resistance, 81% of those asked are not conducting the adequate level of faecal egg counts (FEC) of which 47% had never conduced a FEC. It should be noted that experts say that FEC’s are the only way to prevent the build-up of resistance to wormers because worms are only targeted when necessary and therefore do not build a resistence.

The survey

Routine testing, not routine worming, is the advice given by experts involved in a survey conducted by Countrywide, a leading equestrian supplier of products and advice. This was in collaboration with Westgate Laboratories, Norbrook and BW Equine Vets. Nearly 1,000 horse owners were surveyed on their current worming practice and knowledge.

The aim of the research that will help build awareness and start to change attitudes and behaviour in the approach to effective worming strategies. The survey has brought out the disparities in current practice against best practice and how this is leading to the rise in resistance to wormers.

Routine testing, not routine worming

Parasitic worms can seriously undermine the health and wellbeing of horses. With worms becoming resistant to some worming drugs, simply dosing all horses with routine wormers is not adequate. With 80% of parasites being carried by only 20% of horses, a targeted approach, which considers each horse as an individual, is needed,” says Mark Hawkins.

Routine testing is simple and the results will help you to decide:

  1. Which horses do, and do not, require worming
  2. Which types of worms are present on your pastures
  3. Which are the appropriate worming products to use
  4. How to achieve the most cost-effective approach to worming
  5. How to reduce unnecessary treatments
  6. How to maintain the efficacy of wormers by only using them when needed

When asked about their current approach to worming practice 59% of respondents do so out of routine, interval dosing at set times of the year with only 31% conducting regular FEC tests. 59% of respondents do so out of routine.  These results show that the majority of horse owners are not updating their worming practice to match the increase in resistance and improvement in testing technology. Previous worming practices have led to the resistance problems we now have so it is vital that there is change.

For more information on Country wide farmers’website here


Horse Scout Fact Finding Mission: Eye Eye Captain: Horses have 20/30 vision, but if you cant see their eye, they cant see you.


The equine eye is the largest of all land mammals–whales, seals and the ostrich are the only other animals that have larger eyes. How well do horses see? Can they see colours, depth, motion and how well do they see in the dark? These are tricky questions to answer seeing as we can’t get this information straight from the horse’s mouth!

A horse’s eyes are located on either side of his head which is a big advantage for them as a prey animal as it offers a wide, circular view, meaning they can detect stalking animals sneaking up from behind. This panoramic vision is ‘monocular’ (‘mono’ meaning ‘one’) which enables them to view their surroundings on both sides, with either eye. Their ‘binocular’ vision (with both eyes) is directed down their nose and not straight ahead and the horse actually has a blind spot in front of its forehead. When a horse is grazing, his vision is directed at the ground in front of him and if he is relaxed, his monocular vision will be at work. Should he see something that warrants investigation, the horse will raise his head to bring the binocular vision into force. If the object was spotted in the horse’s side vision, he will turn and raise his head, or even whole body to look.

A horse’s large eye is an advantage as it enables him to detect the slightest motion which is why windy days make most horses uneasy…too many moving things! The horse moves its head in order to bring the object into its binocular field, which also gives better depth perception. This offers a better view, as while the horse has both monocular and binocular vision, he probably can’t utilize both at the same time, hence he raises his head to switch to both (binocular) eyes. Say you are riding along, your horse nice and relaxed…he is probably using his monocular vision. Suddenly he spots an unusual object ahead and instantly raises his head and pricks his ears. This allows him to look down his nose and employ his binocular vision. If the object is on the ground, the horse will lower his head, again in order to look down his nose and use both eyes for a clear view.

Another reason horses move their heads up and down is that their visual field is narrow so objects seen the clearest are the ones that fall within this narrow area–the horse tilts his head in order to get as much of an object as possible to cast an image onto the eye. So if a horse needs to look down his nose to see where he is going, what happens when he is ‘on the bit’ as in showing or dressage? A horse who is flexed at the poll will have his head vertical (at right angles) to the ground and cannot see straight in front of him, only down his nose towards the ground. Recent research found this blind spot in front of the horse is about the width of his body and a horse ‘on the bit’ must rely on the rider for direction as he is almost working blind! If you watch showjumpers negotiating a course, you will notice they lift their heads when approaching the fence to get a better idea of height and depth with their binocular vision. Try walking quickly towards a wall with one eye closed, then open both eyes and you will see that the view with both eyes gives you better depth perception.

Alison Harmon from the University of Western Australia, who has been involved in research on equine vision, once witnessed a nasty accident involving two dressage horses practising a freestyle routine. They were cantering around the arena, on the bit, and collided head on…their vision was directed down their noses towards the ground so they simply didn’t see each other! (this did make me wonder what the riders were doing!)

Horses were believed to have poor vision and be short sighted but they actually have very good binocular vision with a tendency towards long vision. It’s logical to think that given a horse’s wide vision range, they are able to see a rider on their backs however a rider is in the horse’s blind spot. If you can’t see either of the horse’s eyes when mounted, then he can’t see you!

How much detail can horses see?

Using a method of placing rewards behind a trapdoor, a reseach team tested how much detail a horse could see by placing stripes on the door. The horse was trained to choose the striped door over the plain one for the food reward. They varied the thickness of the stripes until they were so fine, the horses could not distinguish the striped door from the grey. From the results, they discovered that horses see as well as we do…perhaps better! Using the Snellen scale to compare horse vision with our own, indicates that horses actually see well at a distance. The Snellen scale for humans is 20/20, meaning that a person can read the same line on an eye chart from 20 feet that the ‘standard’ person reads from the same distance. Using this Snellen scale, horses rate 20/30 while as a matter of interest (and by comparison) a dog is 20/50, a cat 20/75 while rats rate 20/300.

Night Vision?

Horses are mostly day animals although they will continue to graze at night which suggests they do have some night vision. Horse’s eyes are sensitive to weak light, so they can see fairly well at dusk, but they don’t have the ability to adjust their eyes to darkness quickly, which is why they will often refuse to enter a dark building or float from bright sunshine. One cross country jump at the Sydney Olympics situated in dim shade caused some problems and a few falls.

Colour Vision

It was once commonly thought horses were colour blind but in fact they do have the ability to see some colour. The eyes contain light-sensitive cells and there are two types of cells called rods and cones. Humans have three different types of cones which means we can see all colours. Cats also have three types of cones but they are weak compared to ours so they can only see in pastel colours. To a cat, a green lawn appears as a whitish one. Dogs only have two types of cones and see colour similar to a human who is red-green colour blind. Horses have only two types of cones as well, so their ability to see colour is also limited.

To learn how horses saw various colours, the research team had to find a way to test how horses could tell the difference between actual colours rather than them just picking a colour that appeared bright, for example, red looks bright while blue looks dark. To do this, they asked the horse to select a colour on a grey background that they could vary from light to dark. They discovered horses could always pick out red and blue regardless of what the background was like. However, horses would only reliably select yellow and green when these were brighter than the background. If the brightness of the colours was equal to the grey background, some horses couldn’t pick these colours as easily. A few could tell the difference between green and yellow while others could not, so the results for these were mixed.

Given this information, maybe where some horses are concerned that old saying should be amended to, “the grass is always a wishy-washy greenish-grey on the other side of the fence”! Stallions in the wild have often been observed to prefer mares of a particular colour and it’s thought this is probably related to their mother’s coat colour. Knowing how a horse views his world makes a big difference when it comes to handling. And given how well horses usually perform when we are restricting their vision by riding ‘on the bit’ should instill a responsibility to ‘steer’ thoughtfully.

It also displays how much trust horses show by allowing us to sometimes be their eyes!

Information from: Horse vision and an explanation for the visual behaviour originally explained by the ‘ramp retina’. ALISON M. HARMAN. BSc PhD

How well your will your horse perform –  Get ahead – 7 pointers for a well made head.


What to look for in a well made head!

The ability to breathe deeply is critical to the success of a horse in any endeavor, so any conformation flaw that restricts breathing capacity is a fault across all breeds.

A horses head is proportional: the measurement from eye to eye is the same as the measurement from this line up to the top of the poll and the measurement from the same central point to the muzzle is 1 ½ times this measurement. Variations on this can occur because of breed types but generally speaking, like a human face, these are the ideals.

  1. Jaw size

The lower jaw should be clearly defined. The space between the two sides of the jawbone should be wide, with room for the larynx and muscle attachments. The width should be 7.2 cm, about the width of a fist.

The jaw is called narrow if the width is less than 7.2 cm.

The jaw is called large if it is greater than 7.2 cm. A large jaw gives head a false appearance of being short and adds weight to the head. Too large of a jaw can cause a reduction to the horse’s ability to flex at the poll to bring his head and neck into proper position for collection and to help balance.

  1. Muzzle

The muzzle should be well tapered, not coarse. Nostrils should be large and

able to flare to allow increased airflow in and out of the lungs. Mouth of the

horse should be such that the lips and front teeth meet evenly

  1. Jaw position

A parrot mouth is an overbite, where the upper jaw extends further out than the lower jaw. This can affect the horse’s ability to graze. Parrot mouth is common and can be managed with regular teeth floating by a veterinarian.

A monkey mouth, sow mouth, or bulldog mouth is an underbite, where the lower jaw extends further out than the upper jaw. This is less common than parrot mouth. This can affect the horse’s ability to graze. Monkey mouth is common and can be managed with regular teeth floating by a veterinarian.

  1. Throat latch

The ratio of the throat latch measurement in comparison to the length of the head is an important consideration. When looking at the horse’s neck is the ratio of the throatlatch to the length of the head. The throatlatch is measured from the poll to the windpipe and should be roughly half the length of the head as measured from the poll to the muzzle. If the throatlatch is longer and thicker than this, it restricts the horse from flexing at the poll. Horses with deep, coarse throatlatches can possibly have trouble breathing when asked to flex their head towards their chest.

  1. Forehead

A broad forehead provides increased sinus capacity, thus there is more room for air exchange through the air passages, and a large surface area for facial muscles that assist in opening the nostrils for good air flow. If the forehead is dished of looks dished it can indicate that vision may be restricted or that there is a dwarfism effect (particularly prevalent in miniature breeds).

  1. Eyes

The eyes should be large, bright, wide set and placed well to the outside of the head. They should be bright, clear and expressive with a good almond shape. Small or mis-set eyes will indicate a restriction to a horses sigh line.  Often horses with piggy eyes are dubbed bad tempered or stubborn but this is more than likely due to not being able to see as well as others horses.

  1. Ears

Ears are often said to indicate personality so a lop eared horse is generally thought to indicate a laid back attitude, very small ears are thought to indicate a sharp horse.  But just like any other part of a horses head the ears should be in proportion to the rest of the head and sit well on either side of the poll.  Most ears will conform to the breed standard, The only consideration with ears, apart from if they work properly is their affect on the way a bridle sits on the head, ears which are set back or bulbous at their base may get rubbed by the bridle.


Top Tips for a well structured Warm Up routine (part three)


Have you been reading my blogs on warming up.  By now you are well on the way to having a warmed up horse and now you’re warm, loose and breathing more heavily – At least your horse is!

Your horse is loose and warm and flexible and now you want to engage his brain and for him to engage his muscles. The next stage is to focus on getting every single joint in your horse’s body moving. Pole work is a great way to do this – by getting him to lift his legs up and over the poles, you’re stimulating and asking for movement in all of his joints. Walking over poles on the ground will raise his forehand and also helps to tone his thoracic sling muscles, these are between his front legs and play an important role in supporting his forehand between his front legs. As they contract, they lift and lighten they loosen the underside of the neck. Walking your horse over poles also helps to strengthen his core.

Core stability provides the strength and co-ordination to help with his control, balance, posture and carrying the weight of his rider. It can also improve self-carriage, enhance performance and reduce the risk of injury. The core muscles are vital in maintaining correct posture of his back.

Riding poles and bringing tone into his muscles with half-halts, will help with the engagement of his hind-quarters, encouraging him to collect and push from behind, hill work and riding over poles all help to tone and strengthen his core.

Finally, now your horse’s muscle and joints are warmed up, it’s time to make the transition from that long and low frame to the position you want him in for your working session or test. You need to make sure he’s switched on, in front of your aids, with plenty of activity and ready to work.

If you are having a lesson with your trainer or would like to arrange one with one of Horse Scouts listed trainers please build in time to get to this stage before your lesson starts if you can.  If you have a half hour session with your trainer and your horse is ready to start the hard work at the beginning of a session you can concentrate on working on particular problem areas.  Similarly, ensure that when your lesson is finished you can take the time to cool your horse down for 10 minutes in a low outline to allow him to stretch his muscles and reduce the lactic acid build up before returning to his stable and being sedentary.

In Germany we would often go for a hack down to the lake after a training session and stand in the stream which would cool the horses down too. That was particularly nice but a quiet hack around the school will suffice if you cannot go out.

It is a good thing to note that if your horse starts to fidget or tire during your workout, it’s important to return to a forward and down neck outline to give him a break. It is really important not to skimp on your warm-up! Following a plan similar to the one here will help your horse to perform at his best and lower the risk of injury.



Horses mutually groom each other…do you let your horse groom you?


Making your horse your best friend

Mutual grooming is an excellent way to bond with your horse.  Obviously you don’t need to use your teeth! You can use a dandy or body brush!

When horses are turned out together it is often possible to find two horses mutually grooming each other. This usually involves two horses standing in a way that they can both scratch each others withers at the same time. One horse generally starts the scratching and the other horse seems almost unable to resist the urge to return the favor. Is this where the expression, “I’ll scratch your back while you scratch mine” came from?

Horses living in the wild have a natural pecking order within their herd. Top horse is the stallion, closely followed by the alpha mare and so it goes all the way down to the least dominant mare, who tends to get picked on by everyone.

Domestic horses sharing a paddock will often show herd-like behaviour…there’s usually one or two dominant horses who boss the others around. If there’s some choice grazing or feed going, the dominant ones will grab it first, chasing the others away.

Bonds are often formed within the herd between pairs of horses. Feral horses tend to bond with others who are roughly their age and dominance rank, while domestic horses will bond with whoever they are sharing a paddock with, once they get to know them.

Horses often start by scratching each others withers but will move up and down each others body, not only rubbing with their strong upper lip but also using their teeth to both scratch and to gently nip.

It is always interesting to watch two horses scratching like this to observe how they interact. Many horses seem to both agree on the amount of pressure, while others will increase the pressure and nipping until offending the other horse who generally leaves.

So why do horses do it? What purpose does it serve?

It’s actually an important social aspect of a horse’s life, it helps develop bonds and has also been observed as an ‘appeasement’ gesture after two horses have been involved in a bit of an argument. In other words, it helps reduce the tension.

Often when a young horse is being groomed by a human the horse will also turn and try to groom the human back. I have seen some people who allow this, some who hold out their hand for the horse to scratch and others who teach the horse to enjoy the grooming without returning the favor to the human. Which do you encourage?



A Lot About Arabs – The Va Va Voom horse


Are you thinking that an Arab may be the horse for you?  Have you seen them performing in the show ring or out on endurance rides.  For the rider who has a certain va va voom Arabs make great riding horses.  They are spirited and fun and full of character.

Cross bred arabs make really lovely riding horses where their hot natures can be somewhat tempered by the nature of the cross, although any cross will still have that spirited element to his character. The Arab (generally) would not be my choice as a first horse nor for anyone who is a nervous rider.  Its not that they are bad, not at all, but they are “fun” to ride, they are not called Hot Bloods for nothing!

A picture of physical perfection with unparalleled endurance and strength, Arabian horses are uniquely tied to the history of humankind. In fact, these hearty horses have been a human companion for close to 5,000 years. Once the favored mount of historical figures such as Genghis Kahn, Napoleon, and George Washington, modern Arabians continually gain the favor of horse enthusiasts the world over. Despite their widespread popularity, however, Arabians remain sleek, well-muscled, and intelligent with a gentle disposition that keeps them poised to remain our trusted companion well into the future.

Interesting Facts:

History & Origins:    Arabians are believed to be the oldest breed of riding horse. It is thought that early desert nomads first domesticated these horses from the wilds of the Middle East as early as 2500 B.C.

Size:   The breed standard lists 14.1 to 15.1 hands (57″ to 61″) high with allowances for horses over or under this height. Many modern Arabians, however, have been bred to stand between 15 and 16 hands (60″ to 64″) high due to breeder and personal preferences.

Color & Markings:    The Arabian Horse Association recognizes five purebred horse coat colors. The most prominent is bay. Other colors include gray, chestnut, black, and roan. Half-Arabians, derived from the crossing of a purebred with other breeds, may have additional coat colors. Purebreds may exhibit a sabino spotting pattern, in which white markings dress the upper legs, belly, or face. All Arabians, regardless of coat color, have black skin except under any white markings. This dark skin historically helped protect the breed from the hot desert sun.

Physical Appearance:         Traditionally classified as a smaller horse, Arabians are built for endurance in the most inhospitable environments. Their strength and balance stem from compact bodies with short backs, dense bones, and sound hooves. Their refined appearance is derived from a dished body, wedge-shaped head, large eyes and nostrils set against a small muzzle, arched neck, high tail carriage, and long, level croup. Interestingly, some Arabians have seventeen rather than eighteen pairs of ribs and five as opposed to six lumbar vertebrae.

Temperament:         Arabian horses are traditionally bred for speed and spirit. Hence they are classified as “hot-blooded.” However, these intelligent horses also have a history of living in close quarters with human families and have carried their disposition and sensitivities with them over the centuries. As a result, Arabians learn quickly and are responsive to well-trained riders. It is little surprise that Arabian stallions are one of the few breeds allowed to be shown by children under the age of 18 in most shows endorsed by the United States Equestrian Federation.

Unique Characteristics:     The popularity of Arabians stretches around the world and throughout time for a reason. Their versatility, speed, courage, endurance, intelligence, and responsiveness suits them for pleasure, competitions, film work, law enforcement, ranch life, and more. Similarly, their sleek lines and majestic beauty attracts the eye of any horse enthusiast. However, it is their friendly disposition and continual companionship over centuries of human existence that helps add familiarity to the mystique and romance of horses.

Bite Sized Bits:- Walk-Out for 2 Hours and get a Mars Bar Free


Riding – Why is it good for you?

Mars Bar related weighting!

An hour’s riding burns about 120 calories at walking pace, 360 calories at trotting pace and 480 at galloping pace. Although it may seem that the horse is receiving all the exercise, this equates to the calories lost in a 30-minute jog or cycle ride carried out at a similar speed.

Less Strain on your joints (although that first turn round the gallops can have you wondering if this fact is true!)

The position taken when riding a horse works muscles in the dorsal and abdominal region that are seldom used in everyday life. It provides steady exercise without straining the knee and ankle joints.

Zen for the mind (well …. unless its a frosty day and your horse has just been clipped)

Riding is further recognised as possessing excellent therapeutic and stress relieving qualities due to the relationship developed between rider and horse.

…and last bite sized bit….Equestrian sports are enjoyed by people of all ages, as shown by German rider Reiner Klimke who won six Olympic gold medals between 1964 and 1988. Which is all very well but creaky joints is not a euphemism; having said that perhaps we all feel we would like one of those walkways you get in airports to go up and down from the field on occasions.