Understanding and Managing Worming for your Horse

Understanding and Managing Worming for your Horse

Most equestrians are familiar with worms – a term which describes a wide variety of parasites, all of which reproduce inside a horse’s gut, but understanding and managing worming for your horse is a big subject. In sufficiently large numbers, they can pose a severe risk to their host; an infested horse will likely suffer from a variety of digestive problems – which unfortunately in some cases, can even prove fatal.

Guarding against worms however, is a tricky business – while treatments are available, they should be used only sparingly for reasons which will become clear. Read more

Breeding Series: How to Deal with Abortion in Mares

Abortion in mares is defined as the expulsion of a foetus and its membranes at less than 300 days gestation. When it occurs it may be potentially life-threatening for the mare and emotionally distressing for the owner. The costs involved can be significant and can involve lost stud fees, loss of the foal and veterinary costs for treating the mare. In a 2008 survey, the percentage of UK and Thoroughbred mares that aborted was 2.1%. Read more

Your Horse and Treats

Your Horse and Treats

It is good to eat well and this is as true for horses as it is for humans; their bodies require a variety of different nutrients in order to function healthily and so their diets must reflect this. This means that a horses must spend most of its life eating vast quantities of grass and hay.

If we humans were committed to subsisting ourselves entirely on a few different types of food we’d quickly go mad. For this reason, we occasionally reward ourselves by eating and drinking things that we know aren’t good for us but that we enjoy all the same. For example, after a stressful week, you may have some alcohol to celebrate the end of it. If we’re feeling glum, we might be tempted to forgo celery in favour of donuts. Read more

Effective equine worm control is more than just worming

Equine Worm ControlEquine Worm control is essential for good horse health, but it is important to consider all the factors involved when you plan your worm control strategy.

A ‘one size fits all’ solution can never be ideal. We need to manage the worm burden in every horse differently because they are individuals and every situation is unique. It is also important for us to use wormers responsibly. If we use wormers too frequently or unnecessarily, we could eventually reduce their effectiveness in controlling parasites (known as resistance). This is why the experts advocate more sustainable worm control, using a targeted approach to tackle a specific worm burden at any given point, rather than the old-fashioned ‘catch all’ method of routine worming every horse every 6-13 weeks.

Manage the worm challenge on the pasture

Reducing the number of worms on the pasture will help to keep the re-infection challenge to a minimum. This in turn reduces our reliance on wormers, slowing the drive for wormer resistance.

Test the worm burden

Regular faecal worm egg counts play a major role in allowing you to target your worming treatment effectively. They can also be used to check that your existing worming programme is working.

Plan your worm control programme

A thorough history of your horse’s health and worming regime, together with an assessment of his living environment and field companions, will help you to build the best possible worming programme.

Dose with the right active

When you have identified that a wormer is needed you should always select the one most appropriate for the parasite you are targeting. You must also make sure you treat your horse accurately according to weight. This will help to maintain the effectiveness of the wormers currently available to us.

Worming your new horse and being a responsible owner

New horses and wormingA new horse can bring any number of infections into your yard – including worms. It’s up to you as his owner to think about your new horse’s welfare, the other horses on the yard and how to reduce the potential risks with worming. A new horse could bring high levels of worms with them, with the added issue that these may be worms that are resistant to one or more of the worming treatments currently available. This means they may be tougher to get rid of and they could cause ongoing problems for the entire yard!

Unless you have a very clear and trustworthy history of worming for your new horse, it is always best to err on the side of caution. Treating soon after arrival with a wormer that is licensed to control benzimidazole resistant worms and one that will kill all stages of worm in the horse is advisable in most situations – tapeworm should also be included for the same reasons. This will ensure that your new horse is as worm free as possible and reduces the risk of bringing resistant worms onto the yard. It also means that the horse can be quickly integrated into the yard’s worm management system – which is hopefully a balanced approach with pasture management and testing aligned with strategic treatments.

The other thing to consider is that it can be useful to have your new horse tested to assess their current worm burden before any treatment. A faecal worm egg count (FWEC) will give you an indication of the adult redworm and roundworm parasites in your horse by measuring the number of worm eggs in a dung sample, reported as eggs per gram (epg). With a new horse it may not change the decision as to whether to worm or not, but it does start to build a picture of the worm burden that they carry and how their worming regime can be best integrated onto the yard’s general worm management.

Keep them in

Viable eggs may continue to be passed in the faeces for around a couple of days after you have wormed your new horse so it’s important that you keep them off pasture for this period (~48hrs) to avoid the contamination of your grazing. Even if they are going to be out on their own, it is still worthwhile to keep them off the field as they will still shed worm eggs onto the pasture and may re-infect themselves when the worm larvae have matured.

Remember ongoing pasture management

Once your new horse has been integrated into your worming programme with the other horses on the yard, the importance of ongoing pasture management should never be under-estimated – it is inexorably linked to worm control strategy. Low stocking densities, the daily collection of droppings, the grazing of other stock such as sheep or cattle on the land and the rotation and resting of pasture will reduce contamination and the exposure of the horses to infective larvae. Clearly a good worm control strategy will also result in less pasture contamination.

In addition, an FWEC from your new horse 6-13 weeks post arrival (depending on the wormer used) will be a useful guide as to how they are coping initially with their new environment and the worm challenge. The other thing to remember is that a new horse will always change the dynamic in the yard, whether with field pecking order or worm control! The new horse may well shed more over the first few months and they may cause horses that have previously coped well on the yard, to pick up an increasing burden and need treating more frequently.

What You Need to Know Before Buying a Horse

Owning a horse is one of the most rewarding and pleasurable experiences in life. These amazing creatures offer companionship, love and trust in addition to the enjoyment of riding and experiencing the great outdoors. However there is a great deal of responsibility and effort required to owning a horse much more than just offering them a field and a stable. In addition to the daily chores of mucking out, turning out, and pasture management, there is also regular grooming, feeding, shoeing, inoculations and worming to consider.

Before You Look

Before you start to browse the many internet sites for your perfect horse, do some research first. How are you going to keep your horse, in livery or at home? If you are going to stable your horse at a livery yard, ring round local stables and ask to go and see their facilities.

If you are going to keep your horse at home, ensure that you have prepared a suitable paddock, which is securely fenced, has natural shelter and a source of water. You may also want to consider the need for a stable or field shelter. Although it is true that many horses can and do live out in both the summer and winter months, there are some times when you need to put them in a warm place, for example in bad weather, or if your horse gets an injury and requires box rest.

Choose Your Horse Carefully

Don’t buy the first horse you see (unless you really fall in love with it). When you go to view a potential horse, although it is extremely important to put it through its paces in the school, don’t overlook other aspects of the horse, such as its health. For a relatively small fee, you can have a ‘vetting’ completed by an Equine Vet, which will uncover any potential health problems. In addition to a vetting, ask the current owners plenty of questions about their current care strategy. When did they last have dental care? What worming programme to they follow? Etc.

Bringing Your New Horse Home
When you bring the horse home for the first time, put them in the stable and let them relax after having travelled in a tight space in the horsebox; it is imperative that you give them time to rest, recuperate and to get comfortable with their new surroundings. After a day you can then release them into their field and let him or her have a good look around. Remember this is a potentially stressful time for your horse, so don’t overdo it just yet even though you are probably dying to hop on and go riding into the sunset.

The best way to bond with your horse during the first week is to spend time grooming it. Horses are herd animals, and love to be groomed so use this is an opportunity to get to know your horse and them to get to know you.

Care Plan
It may be a good idea to speak to your local equine vet and discuss implementing a suitable care plan for your horse. One of the most important health issues with a new horse is worming. When a horse is moved to a new yard or home you should worm them with a good broad spectrum wormer such as Equest Pramox Horse Wormer.  Despite where your horse it up to with its existing worming programme, it is advisable to use Equest Pramox  as your horse is more vulnerable to a worm infection when moving to new surroundings. You should then discuss with your vet or a trained SQP (our staff) about a suitable long term worming programme. Worming programmes involve more than just using an oral wormer every 8 weeks, and can be tailored specifically to your horse, so you can keep them in the best of health.

How to Manage Your Pasture Effectively to Keep Your Horse Healthy

The fields your horses are turned out in are the main source of their nutrition; however they can also be the main source of parasites, particularly roundworms. Regular maintenance of your fields is therefore essential not only to provide your horse with adequate grazing and nutrition throughout the year, but to also reduce the risk of worm re-infestation.

The domestication of horses has challenged the ambient worm/horse relationship. In the wild, horses are free to graze and wander over many acres, which naturally reduces the chance of re-infestation with worms. In comparison our domesticated horses are  limited to one or two paddocks, so it is our responsibility as horse owners to try to replicate ‘natures’ way of controlling worm populations to ensure our horses stay fit and healthy.

Rest the Paddock

By resting each paddock for at least three months between grazing, this could help to reduce the worm egg and larvae population in the field. Resting is more advantageous during certain times of year, for example, hard frost and cold temperatures help to break the life cycle of certain worms. Resting also allows for the grass to recover and grow maintaining suitable levels of forage for the horse.

Regularly Remove Horse Droppings

An average horse can produce approximately 24kg of droppings a day – that’s a lot of poo! And unfortunately allowing droppings to accumulate in the field just increases the chances of your horse getting re-infected with worms. If your horse has worms, these worms will lay eggs which are passed in the horse’s dung. The eggs in the dung then hatch into larvae and spread into the field, where they can be ingested easily when your horse is grazing. This process creates a viscous circle, and as horse owners it is important to try and break this cycle. Removing horse droppings from the paddock may be back breaking work, however if done regularly can really help to reduce the egg burden in your field.

Cross Graze

This option may be more difficult for some, however if you have the opportunity to cross graze with other animals such as cows and sheep, this is an excellent form of worm control. Most worms are specific to one host, which means they are unable to survive if ingested by another animal. If you are considering this method, ensure that your field is stock proof and that your horse is gradually introduced to the animals.

 Don’t Overstock Paddocks

Unfortunately more horses, means more dung, which means potentially a greater worm burden in a relatively small area. In addition to risking your horse in a field with a potentially high worm population, the quality of the forage can also be reduced.

 General Maintenance

Although not every horse owner is responsible for the upkeep of the field their horse is kept, it is important for you to be aware that all paddocks should be sustained to an adequate level to ensure your horse is in the best possible health. Harrowing, fertilisation and weed management (ragwort) are all very important factors in establishing and maintaining a good field. If your horse is kept at livery, discuss with the yard manager how they maintain your horses paddock. Alternatively if you have your own land, it may be useful to contact a local farmer or contractor.

 It may not be possible to put all of these actions into place, however the more you can do to help control the worms in your paddock, the better. Pasture management is just one important factor in the battle against worms, for more information about other worm control measures such de-worming medications see our other blogs.