Ask the Expert Equine > Maintaining Healthy Horses

Maintaining Healthy Horses

May 15, 2020

Tara Ellerman
Countryside Feed Sales & Nutrition Professional
 
We all want our horses to live long, healthy lives. Feeding quality forages and grains, as well as proper exercise are very important to maintaining a healthy horse, but these are only a few pieces of the puzzel. Other key pieces include: keeping vaccinations up to date, controling both internal and external parasites, getting regular dental checks, trimming hooves, and grooming.
 
Vaccinations
Vaccines are given to animals to help prevent diseases by stimulating an immune system response and creating antibodies to fight diseases before actually being exposed. A few diseases horses are commonly vaccinated for include tetanus, equine viral rhinopneumonitis, strangles, rabies, West Nile virus, etc. Discussing vaccines with your veterinarian will help ensure your horses are up to date on vaccines, and are receiving vaccines that are crutial in your area.
 
Parasites
Internal parasites in horses can cause gastrointestinal upsets, diarrhea, constipation, reduced growth, weight loss, and potential colic. Common parasites in horses include round worms, tape worms, pin worms, and stomach bots, with the most common being a round worm referred to as strongyles. These organisms start their life cycle as eggs laid in feces of an animal, as the eggs hatch and develop into larvae they are ingested by animals wile grazing. Once in the gastrointestinal tract they further develop into adult worms that attach to the intestinal walls, feed, and reek havoc on their host. Since the life cycle must include your horse ingesting the larvae, good pasture management practices should be excercised. Consulting your veterinarian about regular deworming programs is a other great preventative measure. If you suspect your horse has worms, you can collect a manure sample to have tested.
 
External parasites, such as flies and ticks, are also a nucence to your horse. Worrying about flies, irritation from bites, and diseases carried by biting insects are all concerns to horse health. Fly sprays, lotions, and salves are available to deture insects and help with irritation caused by bites. Other practices good for insect control include keeping stalls clean, reducing areas with standing water, using fly catchers, etc.
 
Dental Care
From growth to wear and tear, your horse’s teath are continuously changing. If your horse loses its apetite, drops feed as it chews, or is hesitant to take a treat it used to love, a good idea would be to have your veterinarian look at its teeth. This will identify if there is an infection of the teeth or gums, or if your horse’s teeth are wearing unevenly, then help you find the best treatment option to get your horse back to itself! If teeth are wearing unevenly your horse may need floated. This is a process where a veterinarian will feel the teeth for abnormal sharp points and edges that can make eating difficult or even painful, then these abnormal structures are ground down to make even chewing surfaces.
 
Hoof Care
Taking care of your horse’s hooves is an important part of health maintenance. Cleaning or picking hooves regularly allows you to remove rocks and check for punctures, bruising, and abscesses, among other abnormalities. If your horse is shoed, this is an opportunity to also check shoes for wear and be sure nails are tight. If there are any abnormalities in either the hooves or shoes, contact your veterinarian or farier to discuss how to treat your horse! Routine hoof trimmings every 6 weeks by an experienced farier is also recommended to keep hooves healthy and shoes fitting correctly.
 
Grooming
Brushing dirt and manure from a horse’s hair takes away a breeding ground for bacteria, and gives you a chance to pamper your horse! Daily grooming is also a great time to look over your horse to find and treat any sores, scrapes, bumps, or other skin abnormalities early.
 
Be sure to use the professionals available to you. Veterinarians, farriers, and the nutritionists at


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