Managing the Health of Your Horse and Wallet

Parasite control is an element of horse management that often gets neglected when discussing proper care. . Lack of proper parasite control is the second most frequently seen issue related to the overall inability to thrive. You can fix this issue simply with a calendar. Frequency of treatment will vary by region and potential exposure to infestation.  If your horse eats off of a pasture, you will likely need to treat more often. During the spring and summer, I deworm more frequently than winter months, mostly because of West Coast pastures. This is one job that seems easy to forget, so write it down. Doing fecal checks can be of value. Here is a place where money paid to your vet is money well spent. I am going to avoid giving specific de-wormer product recommendations here. Different regions of the country have different parasite profiles and seasons. Therefore, a plan outlined by your vet and followed religiously should be put in place. Doing so can save you a lot in the long run. Ask your vet about fecal checks, do them, and follow a plan on the calendar.

While you are working with your vet on a parasite program it is a good time to discuss annual vaccinations. Many horse owners forgo these altogether. You ignore these at your own peril, especially if you haul your horses to events away from home. While doing shots every year may seem expensive, it only takes the expense of one significant illness for the vet bill to equal the cost of a lifetime of shots. West Nile is on the rise in many areas again this year and you need to consider this when looking at your annual horse budget.

That brings us to sand.  This can be a significant problem in much of the Southern and Western US, and regionally in many other areas. An impaction due to sand  colic is both dangerous and expensive to treat.  Minimizing the problem of the ingestion of sand can be accomplished by simply giving some thought to how your horse is fed. If you throw a flake of hay over the fence onto sandy ground, you can expect your horse to consume some sand while it eats. If you prefer to feed on the ground, and many people do, put out some stall mats to put the hay on so the horse is not eating directly on the ground, and sweep them off on a regular basis.  If your horse is on sandy pasture, it will get some sand while grazing. This happens when the horse pulls up on the plant and the light sandy soil allows the plant to be pulled entirely out of the ground rather than being torn off from the root crown. When this happens, some sand always sticks to the root of the plant and is then swallowed by the horse. You may also be buying sand in your bailed hay. When hay is cut on sandy soil, some of the plant can be pulled up rather than cut off if the swather blades are worn, bringing sand with it. I have seen hay feeders with an inch of sand in the tray under the hay racks. Be aware of this situation and change suppliers if necessary to avoid this potential source of trouble.   If any of this sounds like your situation, your horse may well be a candidate for a monthly phylum treatment.  I feel that loose phylum can be a little more effective than pelleted phylum if you can trick your horses into eating it. Many horses don’t care for the taste and you may have to hide it in something that it will readily eat. Try this test to see if you are being effective in taking sand out of your horse. Wash off a place on a paved area. Place some manure on the cleaned off spot, and turn a hose on it until it is dissolved. If there is a significant amount of sand in the manure it will remain after the rest of the manure is washed away. If you try this before and after phylum treatments, you will see if the product you are using is removing sand from the hind gut or not. Again, it is better not to get the sand in there in the first place. Feed on a clean surface if you feed on the ground, or place a stall mat under the hay net if you hang hay to catch what falls.