courtesy of America’s Horse Daily
This time of year, many of us are indoors more than we like. We long for sunny spring days to prepare for the riding season.
But now is the time to do something important to help your horse: Schedule basic veterinary-care services so that when spring arrives, you can hit the ground running.
Heading into spring is an important time for vaccination and routine dental care to help keep your horse healthy. An exam before spring can help protect your horse’s health, comfort, productivity and longevity.
All horses should receive core vaccinations at least annually according to the American Association of Equine Practitioners, while risk-based vaccinations are recommended for horses with particular risk profiles depending on age, geography, housing or function.
With annual vaccination, the risk of your horse contracting West Nile virus can be up to 30 times lower. For this reason, it’s important to vaccinate your horse before mosquitoes, which transmit the virus, are at their peak.
Some horses might be at risk for equine influenza, too. As one of the most common infectious diseases of the respiratory tract, it can spread quickly among groups of horses. The most commonly affected horses are ages 1 to 5. Older horses that may have weakened immune systems are susceptible, as well. Help provide your horse with demonstrated protection against equine influenza virus and other viruses that may lead to disease.
Based on your horse’s risk for disease, it’s important to consider not only the core vaccinations that every horse needs to help protect against diseases such as West Nile, but also vaccinations for some common risk-based diseases, such as equine influenza. Work with a veterinarian to develop the right vaccination program for your horses.
Parasites can cause weight loss, poor condition and colic. The AAEP parasite control guidelines suggest that not all horses need the traditional “one size fits all” rotational deworming every six to eight weeks.
With the help of your veterinarian, you can analyze your horse’s parasite risk profile to create an Individualized Deworming (ID) plan that fits your horse’s life. Risk factors can vary greatly from farm to farm or horse to horse. They can include the horse’s age, local climate cycle, manure removal, pasture rotation, problem parasites, transportation and stocking density. The type of pasture, farm management, feeding and use of the horse also may factor into a typical risk assessment. For instance, younger horses have different risk factors than older horses, and horses that travel frequently for competition have different risk factors altogether.
But parasite control is not just about treatment. Reduce the risk of parasite infection by properly cleaning barns, stables and lots. Reduce the parasite burden by mowing and/or rotating large pastures. With an individualized deworming plan and proper barn and pasture management, you control parasites and keep your horse performing at his best.
Early detection of dental problems also can help improve horse health this spring. If your horse’s teeth are regularly examined and cared for, you should be able to avoid most dental or health complications. Despite this, about 56 percent of horse owners do not provide regular dental care for their horses. Regular oral examinations and treatment help promote longevity of the teeth and the ability to maintain athletic performance. The frequency of providing complete dental exams depends on many factors since each horse and situation may vary. Generally, AAEP recommends brief dental exams biannually until the horse reaches 5 years of age, a minimum yearly dental exam from ages 5 to 15 years and biannual exams past 15 years of age.