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Caspian Horse
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Pauline Moore
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Joined: Fri Mar 23rd, 2007
Location: Crows Nest, Australia
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 Posted: Sun Jul 15th, 2007 04:07 am
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Hello Dr Deb - Recently I came across an article about the rediscovery of the Caspian Horse, a breed I had not heard of previously.  Said to be identical to the horses depicted on ancient stone carvings of some 3000 years ago, the article listed a few areas in which these horses are different from modern breeds - full molars in place of vestigial wolf teeth,  T1-T6 spinous processes longer than normal, proportionally longer metacarpals and metatarsals, scapula that are wide at the base and narrow at the top, some with 65 chromosomes instead of the usual 64.

These are gorgeous little horses of around 11 to 12 hh, fine boned and elegant like a miniature thoroughbred, with apparently floating movement.  If all this is true, I am intrigued by the different scapula shape but just can't visualise how this would articulate within a normal shoulder joint.  What differences in movement/function would be expected from this shape of scapula?

Have you seen these horses, or any skeleton specimen?  Do any other breeds have these skeletal differences?    The articles also maintain that these horses reach their full height very early, somewhere between 6 months and 18 months, with only minimal height growth after that.  I know you have stated previously that all horses mature at the same rate, so is this a misunderstanding by the Caspian enthusiasts?  I'd be interested in your thoughts.

Best wishes - Pauline

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Jul 15th, 2007 08:57 am
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Hey Pauline, good to hear from you. Well the business about the Caspian is sort of old news....you can look up facts on the breed in any of several recent compendia on "horse breeds of the world"; Bob Hoffmann and I considered them important in our review of Equus caballus, and we were aware of them from 1976 when we began that review (finally published in 1999 and posted here under "Knowledge Base").

The skeletal peculiarities you mention though -- I have no idea who put THAT blather on the Internet or wherever you read it. Caspians are members of the Afro-Turkic subspecies and closely related to the Akhal-Teke (but smaller). They do sometimes have 66 rather than 64 chromosomes, as does the Akhal-Teke (and also the occasional registered Arabian, due to influx of Tarpan somewhere in the wayback). But their shoulder blades, dorsal processes, limb bones, rate of skeletal maturation, etc., etc., are all within the same boundaries as for other domesticated horses.

The conformation of the Caspian is similar to the Arabian -- though they are ox-headed rather than camel-headed. And it is absolutely true that they are the remnant descendants of horses used during the Alexandrine conquests and during the height of the Persian Empire. This is their primary importance and value.

About twenty years ago I knew some people who were importing Caspians into the U.S. and Canada. This was soon after the dissolution of the old Soviet Union. I know they did bring a few horses over, but I do not know what happened to them afterwards or whether they have bred on or gone extinct on this side of the world.

How is the blood sugar monitoring project going? I confess that I have been WAY too busy to do thing one with it, but that doesn't mean I've forgotten. I thought that was a great idea and needs to be pursued -- and I will -- when I get time!!!!

Best wishes -- Dr. Deb

 

Pauline Moore
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Joined: Fri Mar 23rd, 2007
Location: Crows Nest, Australia
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 Posted: Mon Jul 16th, 2007 01:27 pm
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The 'blather' I fell for was repeated in several different spots on our modern Fount of All Knowledge, but the bit about being finished with growing northwards at 6 months was on the Oklahoma State University reference - still, I'm very glad I don't have to lose any sleep fretting about upside-down shoulderblades, so many thanks for the clarification.

Have spent the last few weeks figuring out best way to use the glucometer without seriously annoying my equine 'volunteers'.  Started out trying to use the lancing device that comes with the machine, taking samples from the coronet, as in people it is recommended to take peripheral bloodflow which gives a different reading from other sites.  The lance is really too fine to produce even one drop of blood from a horse so I switched to a small gauge needle instead.  This worked much better but I didn't want to make any horse wary of having his feet handled, and I didn't even bother trying to take samples from nostril or ear as was suggested on a Pet Diabetes' website!  It was Teeth Time for my horses a couple of weeks ago, so I organized for my vet to take to full samples for lab analysis of glucose and insulin, and also took glucometer samples from coronet and jugular at exactly the same time, for comparison.  There was no significant difference between the 3 samples for each of my 3 horses, so at least I feel reasonably confident that taking jugular samples will be OK and it is much easier for both handler and 'volunteer'.

I have sample readings now for a couple of dozen horses, all different ages, breeds, dietary & living conditions.   This part of Queensland is having it's coldest winter in 50 years (heaven) so on top of the drought, no-one has anything remotely green to feed their horses.   There is talk that La Nina is replacing El Nino, so we may get some spring rains which means September/October will be a good time to retest all these horses when they have had some access to new high sugar grass.  Meantime, I'm intending to find a friendly racetrainer who will let me test his grain fed charges.

Determining what is 'normal glucose' is not easy, especially at the low end of the scale.  There is a different reference range for TBs and 'all other breeds', which probably reflects what has commonly been found in tested horses rather than what it necessarily should be - still working on this one.  Think I'll have to do insulin as well, which is a nuisance as it is so expensive.

I know you are burning the midnight oil working on the 2nd half of IH and Poison Plants, so I really appreciate you even remembering, no hurry at all but I would be interested to know what you think of Dr Samra's ideas when you get a chance to look at it.

Best wishes - Pauline

 

 

Last edited on Mon Jul 16th, 2007 01:31 pm by Pauline Moore

Sam
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 Posted: Tue Jul 17th, 2007 04:23 am
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Hi Pauline,

Whats a glucometer? Is it the same thing that human diabetics have, that you prick your finger but a little card thing in a machine and it reads your blood sugar, is it all the same thing for horses? All sounds very interesing especially as an owner of small ponies.

Regards

Sam the first.

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Tue Jul 17th, 2007 12:26 pm
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Hello #1 Sam - Yes, the glucometer I'm fiddling around with is the same gadget that diabetics use to calculate their insulin needs. 

Truck loads of good research has been done on insulin resistance in horses, also Cushings disease, metabolic syndrome, and whatever the latest fashionable label might be, most of which inevitably result in laminitis or founder.  The jury is still out on the precise pathway that leads to degradation of the laminar connection, but a good many researchers are pointing a finger in the general direction of insulin.  These are the horses who are politely referred to as 'easy keepers' or 'good doers' depending on which side of the atlantic you reside, otherwise called downright fat, if not obese, most of the pony breeds being highly susceptible.  No great mystery here.

For many years I have been working with a different type of horse who is also footsore, but rarely goes on to full founder.   Mostly thoroughbred types or their outcrosses, these are the fit, hardworking athletes, hard to keep the weight on, and often with foot problems with or without shoes - the majority of racehorses and competitive dressage, jumping, showing, western horses, in other words most working horses that do not fall into the IR category.  As a step towards controlling the feet issues, changes in diet to remove all sugar and starch based feeds, nearly always produces a beneficial change in behaviour that comes as a complete surprise to the owner.  These owners never complained about difficult temperament, just took that as normal for their horse (and all horses), but were delighted to find that within a few days of diet change their horse was no longer spooky, flightly, cranky, lethargic, disinterested, unsociable etc etc etc. 

Late last year I came across some information about low blood sugar in people being the cause of a whole range of neurological symptoms such as depression, fatigue and anxiety - a long list that had an uncanny similarity to the exact same problems of these horses I regularly worked with.  This was when I started thinking about the possibility of low blood sugar in horses, and that what I had been referring to for a long time as a low-grade laminitis, may be something quite different, perhaps a weakening of the hoof lamellae due to an inconsistent distribution of glucose because of over-activity of insulin in response to dietary sugars.

I have not been able to find anyone who has looked at low blood sugars in horses so that's why I'm having to try to do it myself.  A friend who lives in a coastal area with high rainfall, planted with tropical grasses, has had soundness problems with her horses for years, frequently lame, yearly abscessing etc.  The blood glucose levels of her horses are consistently lower than any horses we have tested elsewhere.  It's early days yet, but I have a hunch that the low blood sugars of hypoglycemia are as damaging to hoof function as the high blood sugars of hyperglycemia.

Best wishes - Pauline

Adrienne
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Joined: Tue May 8th, 2007
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 Posted: Tue Jul 17th, 2007 02:36 pm
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Hello Pauline,

 Could you please tell me more or direct me to more information on horses with low-blood sugar levels?

 You siad
 "As a step towards controlling the feet issues, changes in diet to remove all sugar and starch based feeds, nearly always produces a beneficial change in behaviour that comes as a complete surprise to the owner."

 I myself have a TB and she has sore feet often which I've noticed has to do with her diet. She will maintian a body score of about 4- 4 1/2 (ideal being 5-6 ) while on grass but during the winter needs oats and oil to keep her wieght up.
 
 I have her on oats right now while she is on grass trying to get her up to a five on the scale.
 
 She is turned out with a small herd (9 other equines) and not worked. She abscesses every year or so.

 
 I would like to know what kind of diet would be best for her.


 Any help would be great!

  Thank you very much,
                     Adrienne

Pauline Moore
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Joined: Fri Mar 23rd, 2007
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 Posted: Wed Jul 18th, 2007 09:14 am
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Hello Adrienne - First of all I'd like to make clear that I am not a vet, dietician or nutritionist so do not feel comfortable giving dietary recommendations for a specific horse I have not seen.    In most cases, the horses I work with have first been checked out by a vet for any underlying pathologies that are not within the scope of my training or experience.  Having said that, if you would like to email me privately (address is on the members profile page) with more details of your horse's history and current living/dietary management, then I will be happy to do whatever I can to help you - she certainly sounds just like the type of horse I have been regularly working with.

In more general terms, I have yet to find any information on low blood glucose in equines so everything I'm thinking is an extension of what I have learned about human hypoglycemia - which may or may not be relevant to horses, I have still to prove the connection, hence the data collection using a glucometer.  If you want to know more about it, I would suggest you read up on anything you can find about the interaction of glucose and insulin - the principles are the same for all, and it's useful to know about insulin resistance and diabetes as well as hypoglycemia - they are all malfunctions of the pancreas in response to sugars in the diet, and bear in mind that grass sugars are probably the main culprits as far as horses are concerned.  This is a huge project to be attempting, so I need all the help I can get.  Have you ever had your mare tested for glucose/insulin?

Best wishes - Pauline


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