Routine grooming, exercise, hoof care, nutrition and environmental housekeeping are key steps in maintaining the health of your horse. Horses are, by nature, social animals and interaction and company from other horses will ensure their mental well-being. Veterinary checks are important for general maintenance, but especially if you suspect illness or injury. If you suspect a problem with your horse’s health you must contact a veterinarian immediately.
Equine teeth are designed to keep growing and changing throughout a horse’s life, but if they do not wear properly in the process, they can cause the horse pain, illness and malnutrition.
Horses should have their teeth checked once a year particularly after reaching the age of four. If your horse has problems you should discuss them with your veterinarian and arrange for him to examine your horse.
Your horse’s feet are of paramount importance to its health and overall comfort. A horse’s foot has three parts:
Wall: this is the part you see when the foot is on the ground;
Sole: this protects the foot from injury from below. It isn’t very thick and riding over stones will cause lameness due to bruising of the sole;
Frog: this is important in pumping blood back up the leg.
Regular care and attention is essential when it comes to your horse’s feet. Hooves can become overgrown and packed with mud, manure and dirt. This may cause your horse excruciating pain. Every time a horse is handled its feet should be inspected for damage or soreness, and particularly for stones embedded in the frog.
A farrier will help maintain the health of your horse’s hooves by keeping them properly trimmed and shod. As a guide, horses that are ridden on roads or rough ground should be reshot every 6-8 weeks. Laminitis, a painful inflammation of the sensitive structures which line the inside of the wall of the foot, can be caused by excessive feeding and fast trotting on hard roads.
Colic in horses can be caused by a severe worm infestation, feeding irregularities, sudden diet changes, chronic indigestion or the ingestion of sand.
The signs of colic are unmistakable: general uneasiness, no interest in food, restless, looking around at the flanks, kicking at the belly, getting up and down and rolling. A horse with colic is an emergency and you should contact your veterinary surgeon immediately. While waiting for your vet to arrive you should keep your horse warm and walk it slowly.
All horses should be vaccinated for tetanus and for some horses a vaccination for strangles is also advised. For further information please contact your veterinarian.
Whilst it is virtually impossible to prevent your horse catching worms it is possible to keep the infestation under control by instituting a sound deworming programme. The frequency of deworming treatments will depend on where you live and the types of worms prevelant there. Horses will need to be wormed three to six times per year depending on paddock size and the stocking rate. Your veterinarian will be able to provide you will advice and a proper deworming schedule.