Helping Your Horse Live a Healthy Life
At Florida Equine Veterinary Associates, our horse vets know that owning a horse can be fun and exciting but they want to remind you that they also come with great responsibility.
Your horse relies on you to provide everything they need to stay pain-free, healthy, and safe. Here are some of the ways that you can help keep your horse safe and healthy.
While horses do well when they have lots of time roaming free space and interacting with other horses, leaving them out indefinitely is never ideal. Typically, horses are allowed to graze throughout the day and at night they are brought and kept in a stall. If your horse is stalled it is essential to provide your equine friend with plenty of exercise, socialization and enrichment opportunities including daily turnout. If your horse lives outdoors be sure to provide them with access to safe shelter at all times.
Extreme Weather Protection
One thing to keep in mind is that horses are typically more comfortable in colder weather than they are in warmer temperatures.
If you are expecting warm weather you should be sure to reduce the amount of exercise they have or work they do and allow them an abundance of clean, cool water and shade.
On cold days be sure that your horse has adequate shelter to protect them from the cold, check that their water supply has not frozen, and protect your equine friend with a heavy or waterproof blanket. Your vet will be able to advise you on the right kinds of blankets to protect your horse in weather common to your area.
Exercise is an important part of keeping your horse strong and healthy. That said, you should always be sure to increase the amount of exercise gradually. While horses are capable of walking for miles and miles with short amounts of trotting thrown in, they rarely cantor or gallop. If you are working on building up your horse’s strength and conditioning, be sure to follow a sensible plan and do it gradually.
The Nutritional Needs of Your Horse
Taking care of horses well means providing a high-quality diet that meets all of your equine friend's nutritional needs. Each horse is a little different and it's always best to speak to your vet when it comes to feeding your horse just the right combination of hay and feed. That said, a basic guideline is that your horse should eat about 2-2.5% of their body weight in hay and high-quality feed each day.
When it comes to nutrients, grains can be a useful supplement, the bulk of your equine friend's diet should be roughage. Consult your vet to learn more about supplementing your horse's diet with grains.
Like all other animals, including humans, it is crucial for your horse to maintain a healthy weight. Being underweight or overweight can have a detrimental effect on their body and their health. If you have any concerns about your horse's weight you should contact your equine vet right away.
Routine Equine Veterinary Exams
Just as with any other animal in your home, your horse will also require routine veterinary care. Our equine vets in Ocala recommend that healthy adult horses have annual routine exams, while horses with medical conditions or older horses are seen by a horse vet twice a year to stay on top of any potential concerns.
The vaccinations that your horse needs will be based on a number of factors including the age of your horse, where you live and whether your horse will be traveling. Your vet will be able to recommend the vaccinations that best suit the needs of your horse.
Some of the conditions that vaccines are commonly used to protect against include:
- West Nile Virus
- Equine Herpes Virus Rhinopneumonitis
- Equine Distemper 'Strangles'
Worms can have a huge negative impact on the health of your equine companion, leading to weight loss, poor coat condition and even colic.
To prevent your horse from becoming sick due to worms have your vet regularly perform a fecal egg count test. This test allows your equine vet to know exactly which dewormers should be given to your horse throughout the year.
Other ways to help protect your horse against the negative impacts of parasites include not putting too many horses on too little land, rotating pastures if you are able to, and removing manure regularly.
Caring For Your Horse's Hooves
To help keep your horse comfortable and performing well your horse's hooves should be trimmed by a farrier every 6-8 weeks.
Some horses will require shoes depending on the environment, their body type, and their activity level. Your farrier will be able to advise you on how best to keep your horse's hooves balanced and strong.
Routine Horse Dental Care
Did you know that a horse's teeth grow continuously? Uneven wear can result in teeth that form sharp points that make chewing difficult and painful. To help your horse avoid painful dental issues your horse should have their teeth checked and filed ('floated') once or twice a year. Annual dental checkups for your horse allow your vet to check for a range of dental problems including decayed or broken teeth.
Signs that your horse may have a dental health condition include:
- Food falling from mouth while chewing
- Bad breath
- Undigested happy in stools
- Signs of discomfort around bit or noseband, refusal to take bit.
- Weight loss.
Coggins Testing For Your Horse
'Coggins' is the common name for an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) which is a blood test used to screen horses, donkeys and mules for the highly contagious and potentially fatal disease Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA).
There is no vaccine to protect against EIA which is why routine equine veterinary care including Coggins testing is important.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding equine or other animals. For an accurate diagnosis of your animal's condition, please make an appointment with your equine vet.