Wellness At Home
Many diseases in horses can be serious and even life threatening. They can be expensive to treat and may require significant convalescent periods, during which the horse cannot be shown, transported, bred, or ridden.
Vaccination is a relatively inexpensive and effective way of helping protect equine health. Thankfully, effective vaccines are available for many of the infectious diseases affecting horses. While they may not prevent all infectious disease, they can help minimize clinical signs and the severity of infection.
On many farms, indicated vaccines are typically administered seasonally, in the spring and the fall. Vaccines can be administered as an individual dose for diseases or in combination doses for multiple diseases, this allows your veterinarian to customize a vaccination program for your horse.
Core vaccines are those that the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) considers being essential to maintaining the health and well-being of the average horse; in addition, some are necessary to help safeguard human health.
The core vaccines are Tetanus, Eastern and Western Equine Encephalomyelitis, West Nile, and Rabies.
Grooming does more than make your horse look good. Brushing, bathing and clipping help keep your horse’s skin and hair coat healthy. Ideally, you should groom your horse daily and after exercise.
Although daily grooming is time consuming, the effort benefits both you and your horse by strengthening the bond between you and keeping you aware of your horse’s overall health.
Groom your horse in an area that allows easy access to all parts of your horse. For bathing, choose an area that will not get muddy or slippery. Use a leather halter and/or quick release cross ties while grooming your horse so that if he panics, you are both less likely to be hurt.
One of the first questions you must answer after getting your first horse is: “Does he need shoes?” The answer depends on the quality of your horse’s feet and the type of surfaces on which your horse will be kept.
Horses working on hard or rough surfaces require shoes for protection, as do horses with bruised or tender feet. Some horses have very thin soles and shoes protect their feet from bruising.
Many hoof problems can be avoided by properly evaluating the feet and taking the appropriate precautions. When you evaluate your horse’s feet, consider the following.
First, examine the hoof wall for cracks. A brittle wall can allow entry of dirt, bacteria, and fungi, which can lead to abscesses (pus-filled swellings), seedy toe and white line disease, all of which cause lameness. A brittle cracked wall is primarily a genetic problem. If your horse has this problem, shoeing will help because the horseshoe holds the hoof together, reducing chipping. Adding biotin and methionine to a horse’s diet also helps to produce a better, thicker hoof wall. These additives are inexpensive and easy to find.
The second consideration is the shape of the hoof. Is there too much toe? Is the heel too far under the hoof, indicating under-run heel? Is the sole of the hoof too close to the ground, indicating flat footedness? Shape abnormalities predispose horses to lameness. Corrective shoeing can help minimize these problems.
It has become commonplace to trailer horses everywhere: a short trip to the park for a trail ride, a lesson across town, or an appointment at the veterinary hospital.
Traveling three states away for a horse show or field trip or traveling south for the winter used to be a big deal, but not anymore. Because horses are traveling more, it’s easy to forget that trailering can be very stressful for them.
It is stressful for horses to enter a small, enclosed trailer and then speed down the highway at 65 mph. Horses prefer open spaces, where their instinctive flight response can be lifesaving.
Everything you can do to reduce this stress will be a benefit to your horse. Horse owners should take precautions to be sure the trailer is safe and comfortable, so their horses do not harm themselves or others. Also, after long distance trailering, horses need several days to recover and regain full immune function.
Many horses maintain a good body condition if offered a sufficient quality and quantity of pasture and free-choice hay (as needed).
Younger horses or horses in work require additional food, such as high energy feeds or concentrates to meet their nutritional needs; older horses often require a senior or complete feed because they lack adequate teeth. If your horse suddenly loses weight, it is important to assess your horse’s health and any changes in how your horse is managed.
Horses can suddenly lose weight due to underlying health problems.
The following can help to determine the cause of weight loss and to minimize potential problems:
- If your horse suddenly loses weight and/or your horse’s body condition worsens, contact your veterinarian. Offer adequate pasture and/or free-choice hay and feeds.
- Minimize your horse’s exposure to sudden environmental changes and slowly acclimate your horse to other changes, such as changes in feed and companions.
- If high energy feeds such as grain or concentrates are needed to maintain your horse’s body condition, you can avoid problems such as gastric ulcers by feeding small, frequent meals rather than one or two large meals of grain daily.
While horses have been domesticated by people for a long time, it is important to remember that they are still animals with a very strong instinct for “fight or flight” when danger is present.
When presented with a threat, many horses will try to run away; however, some horses will choose to fight against the danger and may kick, rear, or bite in response to the threat.
It is important to follow certain safety guidelines when working with horses to avoid injury for you and your horse. Remember, an adult horse often weighs 1,000 pounds or more and can easily injure a person with minimal effort.
Common steps to avoid injury include using proper restraint. This can vary depending on the horse, but at minimum a strong halter in good condition and lead rope with a chain should be used.
Separating certain horses such as stallions or mares with foals from other horses on the property and using separate barns or pastures/enclosures is important. This will avoid exposing stallions to mares in heat and potential problems associated with their interaction.
Mares with foals are often very protective and may injure a person trying to interact with their foals. In addition, only experienced people should handle stallions or mares with foals.
It is also important to approach horses when they are facing you and not approach them from the rear. They are not able to see the area near their tails and will often kick when they feel threatened by someone approaching their hind end.
It is also imperative to wear protective clothing around horses, such as sturdy shoes or boots, and avoid loose fitting clothing that may become caught on their halters or lead ropes.