Climate Change and Horse Keeping: Managing the Uncertainty

How has climate change affected horse husbandry and disease in your area?
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The effects of climate change are surrounding us and undoubtedly are effecting our horse’s health. While it is an uneasy feeling, there are ways we can manage the uncertainty. | Photo: Alayne Blickle, Horses for Clean Water

A little more than a year ago I was invited to travel to Australia to be the keynote speaker at a conference on horses and land management. One of the other speakers at that event presented material that changed some of my thinking on horse care. His presentation was on the link between climate change and infectious disease risk for horses. Dr. Gary Muscatello, a microbiologist and faculty at the University of Sydney Veterinary Science Department, was the presenter. Let me summarize key points from his presentation.

Worldwide when there are new disease outbreaks (human or horse), there seems to be a link between climate change and infectious disease risk. General principles of a warmer environment and changing weather patterns influence many factors which encourage disease outbreaks, disease transmission and the emergence of new diseases. Warmer temperatures enable disease-carrying organisms to extend their ranges, have a longer breeding season and generally become more virulent. Animals (both domestic and wild) which are already stressed by changes (less water, hotter temps, less food availability, etc.) are now more susceptible to diseases, particularly to new diseases, moving into the areas. This interaction of stressed animals and new pathogens, along with animals which are immunologically na•ve, causes new disease outbreaks in horses.

Connecting the Climate Change Dots with Disease

An example in the human world is Lyme disease, which previously did not occur in Canada, but now does. Birds and ticks, the carriers of Lyme disease, never survived in these colder areas but with warmer temperatures they are traveling further North and the pathogens are surviving.

Climate Change and Equine Disease

In Kentucky in 2001 eastern tent caterpillars were found to be the cause of abortions in Thoroughbred mares, called mare reproductive loss syndrome. The caterpillars, when accidentally ingested by pregnant mares, produced abortions. These caterpillars are associated with drought conditions, part of the climate change model

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Written by:

Alayne Blickle, a lifelong equestrian and ranch riding competitor, is the creator/director of Horses for Clean Water, an award-winning, internationally acclaimed environmental education program for horse owners. Well-known for her enthusiastic, down-to-earth approach, Blickle is an educator and photojournalist who has worked with horse and livestock owners since 1990 teaching manure composting, pasture management, mud and dust control, water conservation, chemical use reduction, firewise, and wildlife enhancement. She teaches and travels North America and writes for horse publications. Blickle and her husband raise and train their mustangs and quarter horses at their eco-sensitive guest ranch, Sweet Pepper Ranch, in sunny Nampa, Idaho.

8 Responses

  1. re: Climate Change and Horse Keeping: Managing the Uncertainty

    From the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto, May 16, 2014:

    Here, from National Review’s Patrick Brennan, is the latest reason to distrust the authority of "consensus" climate scientists:

    On May 8, Lennart Bengtsson, a Swedish c

  2. re: Climate Change and Horse Keeping: Managing the Uncertainty

    The "Environmental-Nazis" used to call it "Global Warming," but now, like a chameleon, they’ve changed their colors to read "climate change."

    The malarkey has been shown to be a total HOAX.

    Weather is weather

  3. re: Climate Change and Horse Keeping: Managing the Uncertainty

    "Nice" to know Kathy can insult others personally while she shares her "facts". So mature.

    “All truth passes through three stages: First, it is ridiculed; Second, it is violently opposed; and Third, it is accepted as self-evi

  4. re: Climate Change and Horse Keeping: Managing the Uncertainty

    You’re welcome, Laura, but I’m not asking you to "have it". You do realize that the IPCC is a political organization and not a scientific one – it’s distinctions like that that are indeed laughable when you cite that as scientific proof. Did

  5. re: Climate Change and Horse Keeping: Managing the Uncertainty

    Good morning!  Happy Earth Day!  Again, I just want to thank the conference organizers for pulling together such a wonderful event.  I imagine your attendees will have a wonderful day of scholarship and then a chance to tour a Emerald Do

  6. re: Climate Change and Horse Keeping: Managing the Uncertainty

    Complete rubbish!  I remember in the 70’s when all the environmental crowd was preaching that we were heading into another ice age!  Weather and climate is cyclical.  Period.  

  7. re: Climate Change and Horse Keeping: Managing the Uncertainty

    Hello, Kathy. Congratulations on your water chemistry degree. I’m not sure why you need to consider this sort of conference to be a form of scaremongering and to call these people prognosticators who are "proved laughable."  I’m a horse

  8. re: Climate Change and Horse Keeping: Managing the Uncertainty

    The scaremongering in this article is disappointing. Horses have adapted (as have all existing species) to  the changes in climate for as long as there have been horses. Interestingly, Australia has backed off on many ‘climate’ initiatives as supp

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