|General Equine Care
Horses evolved in the wild for thousands of years before they were domesticated by humans. In the wild, a horse typically spends as much as 18 hours per day (or more) eating vegetation (such as grass). Their digestive tract, therefore, has evolved to handle small quantities of easily digestible feed over a long period of time. Nowadays, the typical horse owner will give their horse a bolus of feed (such as hay or grain) in the morning before they go to work and a second bolus at night when they get home. Obviously, this increases the horses risk for the development of gastrointestinal problems. We recommend the following:
- Feed small amounts of feed as frequently as possible. This is how horses are designed to eat.
- Feed as much fresh grass as possible during the entire year. Grass is very easily digestible and acts as a natural laxative. Be careful about putting horses out on fresh spring pasture for an extended time.
- Try to match the horses energy intake with his/her energy expenditure. Overweight horses are more prone to development of problems such as certain types of colic, laminitis, decreased performance, etc. An easy way to determine the horses normal weight is to use the ribs as a guideline:
Normal horses: the ribs are not visible but are easily palpable (felt with fingers).
Overweight horses: the ribs are not visible and are not palpable.
Underweight horses: the ribs are always visible.
- Note that the level of protein intake is not necessarily proportional to the amount of energy intake. In fact, fat provides much more energy per gram than protein.
- Use caution when feeding Bermuda Coastal Grass hay. This hay is very palatable and is an excellent source of nutrition. However, it has been associated with the development of distal ileal (small intestinal) impactions, which often warrant surgical correction (i.e. colic surgery). Therefore, we recommend physically mixing the hay with another hay (such as alfalfa, Timothy, Oat, etc.) at a proportion of Bermuda Grass less than or equal to 50%:other greater than or equal to 50%. This will drastically reduce the chance of developing ileal impactions.
- Administer grain only to those horses that require increased energy intake (are unthrifty or are performing on a regular basis).
- Administer electrolyte salts or a salt block on a daily basis. This will provide essential macro minerals, improve general hydration (which improves performance), and soften ingesta (which helps prevent colic).
- Monitor the water temperature. Many horses wont drink very cold water. Pregnant mares frequently require special consideration in regard to feeding during and after pregnancy. If you have any questions regarding a feeding program for a pregnant mare, please dont hesitate to contact one of our staff.
Nowadays problems which occur as a result of parasites are few and far between. This is because we have very effective anthelmintic medications available. We recommend the following:
- Worm your horses a minimum of every 2 months year round.
- Rotate the class of wormer during each administration. This is done to prevent the parasite(s) from developing resistance to the medication. There are several classes of wormers. A class of wormer is not synonymous with a brand of wormer. For example, Strongid and Panacur are two brands of wormers in the same class (Fenbendazoles). Therefore, the worms dont know the difference between Strongid and Panacur and rotating these brands will not prevent resistance.
An example of a typical (and effective) worming program is as follows:
- Ivermectin in January, May, and September
- Panacur or Strongid in March, July, and November
- Moxidectin (Quest®) is a new wormer on the market that is very effective and is in a separate class from the others. Therefore it may be used to replace Ivermectin/ Fenbendazole or may be added into a program that rotates 3 classes of wormers. Disadvantages of Quest are increased cost and an apparent association with episodes of colic (according to some clients).
- Strongid C and Strongid C 2X are daily wormers that are administered orally with the feed. Advantages include better weight gain/weight maintenance and improved look (shiny coat, soft coat, etc.) in many horses. However, the administration of Strongid C (which is a Fenbendazole) does not eliminate the need for administration of another class of wormer (such as Ivermectin) every 2-4 months.
- Preventicare® is a worming program designed by Pfizer, the company that manufactures Strongid C products. If your horse requires colic surgery while on the Preventicare program, Pfizer will pay for a portion of the surgical expenses. Please ask our staff for details.
There is certainly no set rule for vaccination programs. Each horse is presented with a different set of circumstances and ongoing research with vaccines frequently results in new and different approaches. Currently, The Atlanta Equine Clinic recommends the following:
- Administer a 3-way vaccine (which includes Eastern Encephalitis, Western Encephalitis, and Tetanus Toxoid) once every 6 months.
- Administer a 2-way vaccine (which includes Influenza and Rhinopneumonitis) a minimum of once every 6 months. If your horse is traveling or showing frequently, or is in a barn with horses that are traveling or showing frequently, we suggest vaccinating every 2-4 months (depending on the situation).
- Administer Rabies vaccine once every 12 months.
- Do not administer Tetanus Antitoxin to a normal horse. This is a therapeutic vaccine that should be administered to horses that have contracted tetanus. Tetanus Toxoid is a prophylactic vaccine that is administered every 6 months to normal horses.
- Horses can sometimes feel "under the weather" for several days following administration of the Influenza/Rhinopneumonitis vaccine. The Atlanta Equine Clinic uses the Prestige® brand of this vaccine which was developed to prevent the "post-vaccination blues".
- Equine fetuses are sensitive to the standard Rhinopneumonitis vaccine. A different preparation of this vaccine,called Pneumobort K®, was developed for administration to pregnant mares. This vaccine should be administered at months 5, 7, and 9 of gestation.
- ORAL CARE: Since horses' teeth continually grow throughout their lifetime, they rely on dental occlusion to wear their teeth and prevent excessive tooth length. Each horse, of course, has different oral anatomy and therefore wears their teeth differently. Many horses will develop dental points, hooks, waves, etc. as a result of malocclusion. Horses with one or more teeth missing should receive special attention to the occluding teeth. We recommend comprehensive oral examination for each horse. This service is performed by The Atlanta Equine Clinic at no charge. The examination will reveal information that is needed to formulate an effective dental care program for each horse.
- SHEATH CLEANING: (Geldings Only): Again, every horse is different. We recommend inspecting your horses sheath once every 4 weeks for a period of 6 months. The urethral orifice should always be checked for the presence of a "bean". Doing this will give you an idea of how much secretion your horse produces and about how often he will require cleaning. Some horses require sheath cleaning once a month, others require it once every 4 months. If we can provide any assistance (such as cleaning your horses sheath with you), please dont hesitate to ask.
- FOOT CARE: Most horses require trimming at least every 6-8 weeks. Not every horse requires shoes on all (or any) feet. Some horses require corrective trimming/shoeing to improve performance and/or maintain soundness. Ask your farrier to develop a foot care program for your horse. We would be more than happy to provide assistance in any way that we can.