Not Horsin’ Around
Published March 17, 2012 @ midnight
How many of us remember asking for a pony at some point growing up? Did you repeatedly beg your mom & dad while solemnly swearing you’d feed it everyday, take good care of it, and clean up after it? So what happens when you actually achieve that dream and get your own horse? Most horse owners will tell you it “ain’t all love & roses”. There are several important aspects that may be overlooked, or just not thought of, on a regular basis when owning a horse. Shockingly, most of these areas pertain to basic horse care. I’ve seen these issues repeatedly throughout my career. Horse lover gets a horse. Horse lover has no clue on how to take care of their horse.
Let me stop right here and say I’m not trying to ridicule the backyard horse owner or offend anyone who loves horses. With any animal, basic care is essential. As a veterinarian, my primary job description is educating my clients. It’s what led me to this career choice in the first place. I’ll never forget being a kid at a horse show needing a vet. This vet not only helped my horse, but took a few minutes out of his day to really educate me about my horse. That one conversation changed my life forever. Enough about mushy old me…let’s get back on subject.
The first issue we are going to discuss is the importance of routine teeth care. No, I’m not talking about brushing your horse’s teeth. Can you imagine the size of toothbrush & amount of toothpaste for one horse? Probably cost a fortune even WITH coupons. Yup, my wife would be proud I thought of that! My mind wanders. Sorry. A horse’s teeth continue to erupt (grow, get longer) throughout its life. This can cause several problems throughout the years. Most horses need their teeth floated (aka filed down) once a year. Believe it or not, younger horses need their teeth floated more often than older horses since their teeth are softer and develop points faster. These sharp points can cut the tongue or cheeks and cause ulcers. Some horses develop wave mouths (where the teeth wear unevenly) and need corrective work done to level the mouth. Just like with most health issues it’s easier to prevent dental problems rather than correct them.
As far as yearly vaccinations go, I recommend Encephalomyelitis (Eastern, Western & Venezuelan), West Nile, Tetanus Toxoid, Rhinopneumonitis, Influenza, Strangles, and Rabies. That’s a lot of big words, isn’t it? Vaccines can be confusing. Here’s where your vet comes in the picture to answer questions, educate about these diseases, and offer advice on how to protect your pet. I consider vaccines to be cheap insurance for protecting your horse from something which could have been easily prevented. I have several clients ask me which vaccines I consider to be the most important. Aside from me recommending ALL of the vaccines mentioned above, if I had to choose, there are two crucial vaccines I recommend for every horse owner…Rabies and West Nile. Both of these diseases can have devastating, if not lethal, effects on a horse. Depending on what you use your horse for determines whether your horse needs yearly vaccines or vaccines every 6 months.
One of the most overlooked aspects of the horse health is de-worming. Horses need to be de-wormed every 3 months and its recommend you alternate de-wormer each time. When I say ‘alternating’ de-wormers, I’m talking about alternating the active ingredient not the name of the de-wormer. There are four main de-wormers out on the market. Active ingredients are ivermectin, moxidectin, fenbendazole, and pyrantel pamoate. By alternating the ingredients every time you de-worm, you reduce the resistance of the worms to that ingredient. Meaning if you use the same de-wormer every time, intestinal worms will eventually become resistant to that de-wormer. Aka ‘No Worky’. Most de-wormers come in paste form; however, there is also a daily de-wormer in powder form which can be added to the horse’s feed.
Last, but not certainly NOT least, is foot care. Most horses need their feet trimmed every 6-8 weeks. Just like us trimming our finger nails when they are too long, same for a horse. Most horses need to have regular trimmings or shoes, especially those horses kept in pens. These horses do not have the terrain to wear their feet down naturally. The health of its hooves is essential for a horse to be able to move correctly. Some lameness can be prevented with proper foot care. I have seen several horses over the past year that have been neglected from foot care. Again…I’m not judging! I’m happy the owners took it upon themselves to ask for help and correct the problem. That’s my job. That’s what I do. Reminds me of an old country song. If you have any questions or need more information on any of these equine matters, give me a call at Garza County Animal Hospital, (806) 495-3726.