Archive for the ‘Horse Health’ Category

A Look at Equine Assisted Therapy

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

We all know the impact that horseback riding can have on a life, and many riders joke that their horses are their four-legged therapists. But in the world of therapeutic riding, the horses truly DO become therapists, and they accomplish incredible feats.

Therapeutic riding

Therapeutic riding first gained popularity in the 1950’s, with the first riding centers in North America opening in the 1960’s. The North American Riding for the Handicapped Association, which governed the therapeutic riding organizations, opened in 1969. Since then, therapeutic riding has become a widely recognized powerful therapy.

Today, therapeutic riding schools operate all over the country. Therapeutic riding horses are carefully selected; they must be strong and sound enough to carry a rider who may be unbalanced, but they must also be quiet and gentle, taking distractions in stride and always looking out for the rider on their backs. Depending on the individual rider’s needs, a horse handler may lead the horse during lessons, and one or two side walkers may walk alongside the rider to assist him if they are needed. Many therapeutic riding schools rely on volunteers to act as horse handlers and side walkers.

therapy

Therapeutic riding is based on the idea that the motion of the horse can stimulate the rider’s body, mimicking the movement that would normally occur as a human walks. As the horse sways, he shifts the rider’s pelvis from side to side, stretching and strengthening the rider’s muscles. Riders must constantly balance to keep up with the changing movement of the horse, so through riding the rider develops strength, coordination, and balance.

Riding, and even just interacting with horses provides riders with many additional benefits. Activities such as grooming develop rider flexibility and confidence. Cognitive awareness is also required in working with horses, as is problem solving and empathy. Social skill and communication development occur as the rider interacts with the riding instructor, assistants, and horse.

Riding develops multiple muscles at once, and has the added benefit of increasing rider cognitive function and confidence. While more traditional therapies serve only as just that – therapy – riding is an activity which riders often enjoy, making them eager to return and continue. Therapeutic riding gives riders a sense of accomplishment and empowerment that they might not find elsewhere, and competitions, such as the Special Olympics, allow therapeutic riding program participants to compete.

girl-and-pony_n_opt

Today therapeutic riding serves riders with a wide range of disabilities, including cerebral palsy, downs syndrome, arthritis, traumatic brain injuries, autism, behavioral issues, spinal cord injuries, and muscular dystrophy, among many others. The benefits of therapeutic riding are many, and riding can have a significant impact on a rider’s life. For additional information on therapeutic riding, visit the Professional Association of Therapeutic Riding (PATH) at their website.

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Keeping Your Horse Cool in the Summer

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

The summer heat can make staying cool a challenge for anyone, and chances are you don’t have the luxury of an air conditioned barn.  Your horse will thank you if you take some steps to keep him cool and comfortable.

Cover the Basics

Shelter and access to clean water become even more important during the summer.  Your horse will drink more water, so be sure to check his buckets regularly and keep the supply fresh and appealing.  If your horse is a heavy sweater, consider adding electrolytes to his diet to encourage him to drink and replenish those lost through sweat.

Provide your barn with as much ventilation as possible to keep temperatures down.  Open any doors and windows available, and consider installing fans if you haven’t already done so.  Be sure to use only fans which are barn-safe; household fans not intended for barn use are serious fire hazards.  Classic Equine Equipment offers multiple fans safe for barn use which will keep your horse cool and comfortable.

fans

Learn to Love the Dark

Change your turnout and riding schedule to take advantage of the cooler weather that comes in at nighttime.  If possible, turn your horse out at night instead of during the day.  Ride at times when the sun isn’t at its strongest – early in the morning or late in the afternoon are better times to ride, though waiting until even later on into the evening can mean a cooler, more enjoyable ride for you and your horse.

Know Your Horse

On extremely hot, humid days, it might be best – and safest – to forego riding altogether.  Some horses handle heat better than others, so familiarize yourself with your horse’s individual limits, and stay well within them.  Watch for signs that the heat is getting to be too much for your horse – these signs include a slowed pace, lack of impulsion, lowered head, labored breathing, and listless ears.  If you observe any of these signs while you’re riding, immediately dismount, untack, and cool your horse.

Cool Him Down – Correctly

keepingyourhorsecool

While hosing off horses is a popular way to cool them down, many riders hose the horse off once, scrape off the excess water, and leave it at that, but doing so actually leaves warm water to sit on your horse’s skin, which doesn’t offer much in the means of cooling.  To effectively cool your horse you need to continuously hose him down, scrape off the excess water, and then repeat the process until your horse is cooled.  Focus on the large muscles, such as the hindquarters, neck, and shoulders, since these produce lots of heat.

horse

Hot summer days are certainly ahead of us, but with a little preparation you can manage them so that your horse is as comfortable as possible.

 

 

 

Abscesses: Their Prevention and Treatment

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Have you ever gone out to the barn to find that your horse is suddenly lame, and reluctant to put weight down on one hoof?  There’s no heat or swelling in his legs, but it’s evident he’s in serious pain?  Chances are your horse could be suffering from a hoof abscess.

What is an Abscess?

An abscess is a bacterial infection in your horse’s hoof.  There’s debate over exactly what causes abscesses, but most theories state that abscesses are caused when bacteria works its way into the hoof through a puncture wound.  According to Kentucky Equine Research, bruised soles can lead to abscesses, as can nails driven too far into a hoof by a farrier.

hoof-abscess

Once the bacteria has entered the hoof, it grows and creates a painful pocket.  Heat may be present in the hoof, and some abscesses can even cause the horse’s lower leg to swell.  The bacteria will take whatever route provides the least resistance and will travel out of the hoof, relieving the pressure and pain that the horse feels.  Often abscesses burst through the coronary band.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Abscesses can fester for quite a while without your horse feeling any sensitivity, but when they grow and put pressure on the sensitive lamina of the hoof, your horse will suddenly go lame.  An increased digital pulse sometimes accompanies an abscess, and testing your horse’s hoof with hoof testers will usually reveal the painful area.  Horses with abscesses may be reluctant to put weight on the affected hoof, or they may walk without allowing their heel to touch the ground.

Abscesses do heal on their own without treatment, but the process is a long and painful one for your horse.  It’s best to call your veterinarian to verify that what you’re seeing is an abscess and not another injury which could require different treatment.  If your horse is wearing shoes, your veterinarian might pull them.  Depending on the positioning of the abscess, your veterinarian might trim away some of the hoof to burst the abscess and relieve the pressure (and pain) in your horse’s hoof.  If the abscess is buried deep within the hoof, your vet may decide that too much hoof would need to be trimmed, so he or she may instruct you to draw it out.soaking

Your vet will advise you about the best way to draw out an abscess.  Soaking the hoof in a solution of warm water and Epsom salt is a popular method, though there are a number of different approaches.  Once the abscess has burst it is important to keep the area clean, dry, and covered until the hoof has time to heal.  A hoof boot or creating a bandage out of a baby diaper, vetwrap, and duct tape will provide the hoof the protection it needs to heal.

Prevention

Wet, muddy paddocks soften your horse’s hooves and create prime conditions for bacteria growth, so keep your paddocks well maintained and dry, if at all possible.  Pick out your horse’s feet on a daily basis, and keep him on a regular farrier schedule to prevent cracking or unhealthy hooves.  Hopefully you won’t have to battle abscesses often.

Original Source:http://www.besthorsestalls.com/2013/04/abscesses-their-prevention-and-treatment
 

Ticks and Horses

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Ticks and horses don’t go well together. Depending on your location, you’ll probably have to battle ticks at some point. Ticks bring with them Lyme disease, and an infection can mean a sick and uncomfortable horse.

Understanding Lyme Disease

tickLyme disease is transferred through tick bites, and can affect horses, humans, dogs, and cats. It’s caused by the Borellia burgdorferia bacteria, and is common in the United States. According to Kentucky Equine Research (KER), generally the tick must be embedded in the victim for at least 12 to 24 hours to transfer the bacteria which causes Lyme disease.

Lyme disease presents in horses in a number of ways, so blood tests are often used to verify its diagnosis. Common signs of Lyme disease in horses include unusual irritability, changes in behavior, a low energy level, weight loss, pain in the muscles and joints, and lameness that travels from joint to joint.

While there are currently no vaccines to prevent Lyme disease in horses, it is treatable through a long course of antibiotics. Although some horses respond well to antibiotics, others may show symptoms again a few months after treatment. According to KER, “whether this is due to reinfection or resurfacing of the original bacterial population is not known, but the same scenario is seen in infected humans. This pattern seems to be more common in individuals, whether equine or human, where the infection was established for several months before treatment was started.”

Prevention

Keeping ticks off of your horse is your number one defense against Lyme disease. Ticks can easily transfer to your horse when he walks through tall grass, so keep pastures mowed down low and don’t stray from the path when trail riding.

After riding or when your horse comes in from turnout, groom him carefully and go over his mane, stomach, legs, and tail to check for ticks. Remove the ticks immediately and put them into a sealed bottle or container to dispose of. Always wash your hands after handling ticks – you might find it helpful to have a “tick remover” (available at pet stores and hardware stores) on hand for the task.

If you do find that a tick has bitten your horse, try to determine its breed. A tick identification chart can be helpful in this, and is a great resource to have in your tack room. If you suspect your horse has been bitten and the tick has been on him for a long period of time, it’s probably worth it putting in a call to your vet for advice.

TickIdentification

Some fly sprays are effective against ticks, and there are also tick repellents which you apply directly to your horse. Keep your pastures clear of excess brush, keep grass levels to a minimum, and check your horse closely and frequently to lessen the chance of his contracting Lyme disease.

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First Aid Basics – Wound Care

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

horsewoundAfter a day of turnout, your horse comes in with a few scrapes on his legs. The bleeding’s stopped, but the wounds are open. What do you do? Brush up on your first-aid basics for wound care now, before you need to put them to test in the barn.

Evaluate the Wound

While you can treat minor wounds on your own, there are some kinds of wounds for which you should immediately call the vet. Wounds in or near the eye require veterinary attention, as do wounds on the joints of the legs, especially if they’re punctures. Wounds on the leg joints may mean that the joint capsule has been compromised, making infection a serious concern. If you ever see clear joint capsule fluid oozing from a joint wound, call your vet immediately and do not treat the wound yourself.

Other wounds may be so large that they require stitching. If there is a foreign object embedded in the wound, or if you cannot stop the bleeding, veterinary assistance will be needed. If your horse is showing signs of shock, including unresponsiveness, a low pulse, or difficulty breathing, call your vet.

Protect Yourself

Wear disposable latex gloves when you’re dealing with a wound. Be sure to monitor your horse’s tolerance to your touching the wound, especially when working with leg wounds. If the wound is especially painful your horse may need to be sedated or twitched for the initial treatments. Be sure to enlist help if you think you might need it.

Clean the Wound

The first step to caring for a wound is to make sure that it’s clean and clear of all debris. If possible, move your horse to a well-lit area where you can clearly see the wound. Remove any debris present by hand, and attempt to save it if possible so that you’ll have it to refer to in case the wound does not heal correctly.

Wash the wound with water or a saline solution. Another option is to combine Betadine with warm water to cleanse the wound. Whatever you use, try to wash the wound as gently as you can; if you use a hose, then reduce the pressure as much as possible.

Once you’ve washed out the wound, use clean gauze to scrub gently at it to remove any leftover debris or dirt. Pour water or solution directly onto the gauze, then discard it after having used each piece. Repeat the process until the wound is thoroughly cleaned.

Apply Ointment

Select an antibiotic ointment to treat and protect the wound with. If you’re treating a horse during the summer, then it’s a good idea to use an ointment that repels flies. Some ointments slide right off of latex gloves, so you might apply it to a clean piece of gauze and use that to wipe it onto the wound.

Consider a Bandage

bandagewounds

Depending on the severity of the wound and its location on your horse, you might choose to bandage it. Wounds on the lower legs generally benefit from bandaging because they’re so prone to contamination by dirt and mud. Generally wounds higher up on your horse’s body won’t need bandaging. If you bandage a wound, use a clean gauze pad and apply Vetrap and a layer of duct tape to keep it in place. Change the bandage at least once, if not twice, every 24 hours.

Monitor

Monitor the wound for signs of infection, which include heat, swelling, and discharge. Call your veterinarian if the wound becomes infected or doesn’t show signs of healing within a few days. Be sure to check and change bandages regularly, and depending on the wound you may need to perform additional cleanings.

With some TLC you can help your horse recover from many wounds. Be sure to keep a fully stocked first-aid kit on hand so you’re prepared for any injuries you might encounter.

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A Look at Poultices and Liniments

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Do you poultice your horse after a hard workout? What about liniment? Here’s some information about poultices and liniments and why you might consider them for your horse.

What’s a poultice?

A poultice is a soft material that’s applied directly to your horse’s body – usually his legs or hooves – to relieve soreness and to reduce or prevent inflammation. Poultices can provide both cold therapy and heat therapy, depending on what type of poultice you use. If your horse will be in his stall during the night then a poultice can be left on overnight to provide longer-term heat or cold treatments.

bandage

Cold poultices are best for new injuries or strains. Cold poultices are usually made of clay and are frequently used to reduce swelling. The use of cold therapy minimizes inflammation and can help reduce pain associated with an injury. Cold poultices are popular for use on the lower legs, especially after a hard workout or show.

Warm poultices, or liniments, intended to heat up the muscles come in gel or liquid form and often include ingredients like menthol, mint, and capsaicin. Never use a liniment over an open sore or wound, though, as its ingredients will sting. Heat therapy in the form of liniments can be used before a workout to warm up muscles, or after a workout to ease sore and tired muscles. The use of heat can also help to keep arthritic joints mobile.

Poulticing legs

To poultice a horse’s leg after a workout to minimize inflammation, purchase a clay-based poultice which has a cooling effect. Apply the poultice liberally to the horse’s leg, then cover it with a layer of wet heavy brown paper – cutting up brown paper grocery bags works well. Some grooms prefer to use a layer of saran wrap to help the poultice retain its moisture, but be aware that saran wrap has the potential to shift and bind around the horse’s leg during the night. The poultice should be covered with a quilted bandage and a standing wrap.

You will need to remove the dried poultice from your horse’s legs in the morning. Removing the bandages and letting the poultice air dry can make it easier to remove, and much of it may flake off on its own. Following up with a soft curry comb and a damp towel can help to remove the remnants.

Poulticing hooves

Poulticing hooves is a popular technique to draw out an abscess. Generally such poultices are salt-based, but you might speak with your farrier about what he or she recommends. Pack the poultice into the sole of your horse’s foot, then cover it with cotton padding, vetrap, and a layer of duct tape.

Liniment as a body brace

Liniment can serve as a nice after-exercise treat for your horse to help cool down and soothe his tired muscles. After riding, give your horse a wipe-down or rinse with warm water. Towel him off a bit and then rub liquid liniment over large areas of his body, including his neck, shoulders, and hips. Be cautious about using liniment over the saddle area, as some liniments caution not to. Read the directions carefully, and be sure to dilute the product properly if it is in a concentrated form.

Liniment to set up a horse

Setting up a horse refers to applying liniment to all four legs and then wrapping them overnight. The thought is that the heat provided by the liniment prevents stiffness that a horse may feel after having been exercised heavily.

Poultices and liniments can help prevent soreness and stiffness in your horse, and can reduce swelling and inflammation. They’re great to apply after workouts and can help with your horse’s recovery. Wearing gloves during their application may make the task a bit less messy for you, while allowing your horse to enjoy the benefits of liniments and poultices.

Original Source: http://blog.classic-equine.com/2013/04/a-look-at-poultices-and-liniments/

 

Hoof Care: A Look at Hoof Trimming

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Hooves are (literally) the foundation upon which your horse stands, and as such it’s vital to keep them well maintained and healthy. Regular trimmings are a necessity for healthy hooves, and it’s important to use a skilled farrier whom you trust. But what should you look for to make sure that your horse’s hooves are balanced and healthy?

Structure

The structure of your horse’s hooves is complex, but below are a few basics which will help you to understand your horse’s conformation. This article by Kentucky Equine Research (KER) provides a great detailed reference on the complete construction of horse hooves if you’re looking to learn more.

The exterior wall of your horse’s hoof is made of keratin and has a hard, horny covering. The wall’s main purpose is to bear weight and stabilize the hoof. The wall is made of three layers, the innermost of which serve to attach the wall to the inner horse’s hoof.

The sole of the hoof is hard as well, and it serves to protect the inner tissues of your horse’s hoof. According to KER, the sole of the horse’s hoof “is not meant to be a primary weight-bearing surface,” but “serves as a support structure for the wall.” The sole of the hoof should be slightly concave, especially that of the back hooves.

Trimmed Hoof

The frog is a flexible, triangular mass in the center of your horse’s foot which serves to absorb shock. According to KER, the frog “should not be trimmed, except to remove flaking pieces after trimming the rest of the hoof. The frog should be level with the ground surface of the walls of the heels.”

Angles

The angles of your horse’s hooves greatly affect how he travels, and if he’s trimmed at improper angles it can greatly affect the chances of his being injured or going lame. KER states that when you view a horse from the side, you should be able to visualize a line dividing the front leg into equal parts. This line should travel “from the spinous process of the shoulder blade down through the center of the leg to a point just behind the heel.”

The angles of your horse’s back leg should allow you to draw a line “from the point of the pelvis to touch the point of the hock, run down the rear aspect of the cannon and touch the ground about three to five inches behind the heel. The hoof wall should slope at the same angle as the pastern, which in turn should mirror the slope of the shoulder.”

trim

KER states that the angle for the hoof in an average horse should be between 45 and 55 degrees. This allows “for the stride to be a symmetrical arc from the point of takeoff to landing.” The objective in trimming should be to avoid impeding the horse’s natural movement. Although these angles hold true for many horses, farriers need to be able to take each individual horse’s natural conformation into account when trimming, and adjust the angles to what will work best for each horse.

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Original Source:http://blog.classic-equine.com/2013/03/hoof-care-a-look-at-hoof-trimming/

Cribbing: What It Is and How to Deal With It

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Have you ever walked into the barn to hear a strange grunting noise coming from one of the stalls? Do you know a horse who’s slowly eating through the fencing, his feed buckets, his stall doors? Perhaps your own horse has a cribbing habit. Horses who crib, a common issue, are not only destructive, but they’re also at risk for a number of health issues.

What is cribbing?

Cribbing, sometimes referred to as “windsucking,” is a behavior where horses latch onto a piece of wood, arch their necks, pull backwards, and let out a loud grunting noise. They’ll repeat this behavior again and again, sometimes for hours on end.

cribbing-horse

Cribbers can vary in degrees of severity; some horses crib only when stalled, whereas others will actively search out fences while in turnout for the sole purpose of cribbing. The behavior can be hard on barns; repeated cribbing will wear down wood edges, fences can be destroyed, and a cribber may even pull feed tubs from the walls.

What’s the effect of cribbing?

Besides the negative effect on the barn, cribbing takes a toll on the horse’s body as well. Cribbers may grind down their teeth from the repeated motion, making grazing more difficult and leaving them more prone to choke. Severe cribbers may prefer to crib instead of eating, so weight maintenance can become a serious issue. Cribbers may be prone to colic, and they repeatedly stress the muscles in their necks and backs. Potential buyers may be wary of purchasing a horse who cribs, so the behavior can have a negative effect on the horse’s value, as well.

Why does my horse crib?

The cause for cribbing is still up for debate among equine professionals. Cribbing is often attributed to stress or boredom, as it frequently manifests in horses who spend a great deal of time in their stalls, such as racehorses or show horses. Some veterinarians have proposed that a horse may crib to alleviate pain; the act of cribbing releases endorphins, the same feel-good chemical that the human body produces during exercise. Another theory is that horses who crib may be doing so to ease the pain of stomach ulcers.

What can I do about cribbing?

If your horse cribs, try to maximize the amount of time that he’s outside in a pasture. Providing cribbers with 24-hour access to hay can help to reduce the behavior. Treating him for ulcers (or having him scoped to diagnose ulcers) might also improve the problem, if ulcers are, in fact, the cause.

cribbingstrapConsider trying a cribbing strap to see if that makes a difference. Cribbing straps are available in a number of different styles, but they operate by pressing against the horse’s throatlatch when he pulls back to crib. Collars need to be tight to work and may rub the horse’s neck, so some owners turn to cribbing muzzles, which allow the horse to eat and drink freely but prevent him from latching onto a board to crib.

There’s also a wide variety of wood sprays and paints which are intended to deter cribbers. While applying these to a stall area might stop a mild cribber, more determined horses tend to continue the habit despite the nasty taste of the paints. If your horse will be turned out in a paddock, wood paints and sprays aren’t very feasible because of the great area to be covered.

In extreme cases surgery may be an option. The muscles of the horse’s neck are cut some are removed to make it more difficult for the horse to crib. Surgery is generally only used in cases where cribbing is putting the horse’s health into serious jeopardy.

Cribbing is an annoying, destructive behavior, but it can also do serious damage to the horse’s body. You may need to try a few different cribbing prevention techniques before you find the one that is right for your individual horse.

Original Source:http://blog.classic-equine.com/2013/03/cribbing-what-it-is-and-how-to-deal-with-it/

 

Biosecurity at Horse Shows

Friday, March 15th, 2013

With the recent outbreak of Equine herpesvirus 1 (EHV-1) at the Horse Shows in the Sun show in Ocala, Florida, the fear of your horse contracting this (or other) contagious diseases while at shows is justifiable. In addition to staying up to date on the most recent quarantine information, there are many measures you can take to lessen the chance of your horse contracting a contagious disease while away at a show.

Your Horse

Before you make the decision to attend a show, be sure that your horse is in good health and current on all of his vaccinations. If he’s at all under the weather, not only should you reconsider riding him, but you should realize that such a condition will make him more susceptible to contracting additional illnesses. You’ll also be exposing other competitors to any illness he’s suffering from. If your horse isn’t 100%, make the decision to stay home.

Shipping

HorseTrailer

Be sure that the trailer in which you haul your horse has been well cleaned and disinfected. Ideally, use your own trailer. If you choose to have a shipping company haul your horse, then research them carefully and only select a company which disinfects its trailers between uses.

Stalls

Clean and disinfect the showground stall before allowing your horse near it. Scrub the walls and floor with a soapy detergent, and then spray it thoroughly with a disinfectant before adding shavings. If the floors are dirt, then scrubbing them might not be possible – but apply disinfectant liberally.

Limit Exposure

Don’t allow your horse to come into contact with other horses. If you choose to graze him, do so far away from other competitors. Don’t allow him to socialize with horses – a good safety point and courtesy to other competitors, in general. Keep other people from patting your own horse – and if they question your decision, politely explain that you’re worried about the potential spread of infectious equine diseases.

Don’t forget, you need to limit your own exposure to other horses, as well. As tempting as it may be, don’t pat noses of other horses as you walk through the barns – and if possible, avoid walking through other barns altogether.

Bring Your Own Supplies

Bring your own supplies for stall cleaning, and use only them. Bring your own water buckets and scrub brush; don’t pour water from other horses’ buckets into your own horse’s buckets, and only use the scrub brush that you’ve brought.

Wash Up

Bring soap, hand sanitizer, and plenty of paper towels with you. Wash your hands before handling your horse or anything in the barn, and make sure that other people in your barn do, too. Keep disinfectant hand wipes available, and keep cleansing your hands.

biosecurity

Disinfect your footwear regularly, especially after having walked across the showgrounds. Rubber slip-on muck boots can be perfect for this, as you can easily disinfect them.

Be Alert

Monitor your horse closely both during and after the show. Take his temperature multiple times a day – any increase above his normal temperature is cause for concern. Watch him for coughing, nasal discharge, and runny eyes. Also keep an eye on neighboring horses for such symptoms.

By taking measures to limit your horse’s exposure to other competitors you can lessen his chance of contracting an illness while competing.

Original Source: http://blog.classic-equine.com/2013/03/biosecurity-at-horse-shows/

Examining Deworming Programs

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Worms are a huge problem in horses. If present long enough, worms can damage a horse’s internal organs and intestinal lining, result in a dull coat and poor nutrition, and cause weight loss and muscle wasting in addition to many other symptoms. There are a number of ways to combat worms, but take some time to learn about all of them to determine what’s right for your horse.

deworming

Daily Deworming

Daily deworming consists of adding a product such as Strongid to your horse’s daily grain. The daily dewormer continuously kills any worms in your horse’s system, so theoretically the worms are never present long enough to do damage to your horse’s internal organs. With daily dewormers you will still need to deworm your horse with a paste product twice a year to kill species of worms that daily dewormers do not affect.

Rotational Deworming

Rotational deworming refers to the use of paste dewormers at certain intervals throughout the year. You rotate the products with each dose to make sure that you target all varieties of worms. Each paste dewormer is only effective during the dosing – in other words, if you deworm a horse in January, he could potentially contract worms and carry those worms until he’s next dewormed again, typically 30 to 90 days later. When you deworm rotationally it’s important to make sure that all horses are dewormed within the same day or two of each other, so that they can’t continuously re-infect each other with worms.

The Case for Strategic Deworming

Parasite resistance to dewormers is a growing concern in the horse industry. In each type of parasites, a small percentage of the population is resistant to the dewormer chemicals and survives the deworming. Because the rest of the population of worms is killed by the dewormer, the dewormer-resistant parasites live on to reproduce, creating more parasites with the ability to survive the next round of dewormer. Using deworming products when they’re not actually needed contributes to the parasite resistance, and could cause a major problem for horses down the line as our current deworming products are rendered ineffective.

Testing for the presence of eggs in your horse’s manure (getting a fecal egg count, or FEC), can allow you to deworm your horse only when absolutely necessary. According to Kentucky Equine Research’s Dr. Bryan Waldridge, fecal eggs per gram (EPG) counts are “the best source of information to tailor a deworming program that is best for your farm.”

In conducting an EPG count, your horse’s manure is weighed, floated in a solution, and worm eggs are then counted under a microscope. The test can determine what types, if any, of parasite eggs are present, indicating what type of dewormer your horse would need to be treated with.  When a fecal egg count results in less than 200 EPG, a horse is considered to be a low level worm shedder, meaning that he passes relatively few worm eggs through his manure, and a pasture mate would face a low risk of worm infestation by being exposed to that horse’s manure. On the other hand, if a horse’s test reveals a count above 200 EPG, then he’s considered to be a high shedder. A high shedding horse has high volumes of worm eggs in his manure and infestation for pasture mates is a definite risk.

If your horse is a low level shedder, then he probably only needs to be dewormed twice a year, greatly reducing the amount of chemicals to which you will need to expose him. High level shedders need more frequent deworming.

The benefit of having a fecal egg count conducted on your horse is that it may reveal that you can do much less deworming than you were doing before, saving you in both money and trouble. According to Dr. Waldridge, a study from Denmark revealed that horses “tend to be consistent in the amount of worm eggs shed in their manure,” meaning that if your horse is a low shedder, he will likely continue to be a low shedder, and vice-versa.

If you’ve never had a FEC done on your horse, talk to your veterinarian. Your vet can help you decide what’s best for your horse and can help to tailor an appropriate deworming program to your situation. Factors such as pasture maintenance, climate, exposure to other horses, and general barn up keep all affect your horse’s exposure risk, so have a discussion with your vet about the best and most effective deworming strategy for your horse.

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