5 Horse Health Concerns NOT to Worry About

You have plenty to stress about as a horse owner. These five things don't need to be on that list.

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Attention horse owners: in general, you’re doing great and your horse is lovely, trust us. But, also in general, you worry too much. We get it—worrying is a sign that you care. Like an anxiety-ridden parent, you likely stress about a multitude of things related to your horse. But take heart—we have some good news. There really are some things that you don’t need to fret about anymore. Read on to ease those worries.

Gray pony grazing

1. Rotating Dewormers

It feels a bit nostalgic now to think back on those old school eight-week rotational deworming plans, doesn’t it? Did you hang your deworming calendar in the feed room? In recent years, equine researchers focusing on parasite resistance have determined that regular rotational deworming without monitoring fecal egg counts does not necessarily benefit your horse. In fact, it may constitute overuse, which helps parasites become resistant to deworming drugs.

If you’re still worrying about which dewormer to use, when to use it, and what to rotate it with next time: Stop. Now’s the time to have a frank discussion with your veterinarian about your horse’s parasite control program and visit the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ (AAEP) website for their comprehensive and current deworming guidelines.

In general, for healthy horses over the age of 3 that have been deemed low egg shedders based on a fecal egg count, this means deworming once in the spring and once in the fall. Talk about a load off your mind!

However, before you make changes to your horse’s parasite control program, have your vet do a fecal egg count test. Use the results to determine what deworming frequency and chemical class best fits your horse’s health needs, also taking into account his environment and herd mates.

2. A Well-Balanced Diet

Supplements, complete feeds, fortified grains, and more—the world of equine nutrition is ever-growing as research and consumer demands challenge the industry to produce higher-quality feeds for horses.

While it may sometimes feel like you have too many choices, fear not. Twenty years ago, it was a challenge to feed a Cushing’s horse, keep weight on a senior horse with poor teeth, or to reduce weight in a horse with insulin resistance. Now, there’s a feed out there for almost every horse.

If you’re concerned about what to feed, talk to your vet. Chances are there’s a worry-free solution to ensure the best dietary balance for your horse’s individual needs. Agricultural university extension agents are also a great livestock nutrition resource.

Girl with dog and horse
Older dogs may suffer cognitive decline similar to Alzheimer’s disease, but fortunately, horses do not.

3. Cognitive Disorders

Horses live a long time compared to our other common companion animals. Senior equines reaching the 30+ milestone are on the rise as advances in veterinary science and care have arrived to meet their medical needs.

In other good news, a horse’s mind tends to stay relatively sharp as he ages. As new research emerges about brain diseases such as canine cognitive dysfunction, sometimes colloquially termed “dog dementia” due to its similarities to Alzheimer’s disease, horses have been mostly spared from similar conditions. And that’s a huge weight off a horse’s mind, not to mention the horse owner’s.

Closeup of a senior horse's face
The equine mind stays relatively sharp in old age.

4. Anesthesia

Laying a 1,000-pound animal down for any length of time and then getting that animal back up again safely has historically been a tricky business in the veterinary field. Respiratory and circulatory complications, not to mention nerve and muscle damage, were high among the worries of equine veterinarians during surgical procedures using general anesthesia. This understandably also resulted in considerable stress for the horse’s owner.

But over the past few decades, safer anesthesia protocols, advances in anesthesia monitoring technology, and improved recovery methods have better protected our horses throughout surgery and during recovery.

Pain management in the equine species has come a long way, too. With newer non-steroidal anti-inflammatories that are gentler on a horse’s kidneys and stomach, and many more options to create a personalized pain control plan for each individual, equine surgical patients today have a more comfortable and safer journey than their previous counterparts. And that’s something to really ease your worries.

Woman with horse and phone
Evaluate online advice with a healthy dose of common sense.

5. Dr. Google’s Maladies & Miracle Cures

It’s great to be an informed horse owner and vet client. But please don’t let misinformation on the internet freak you out or potentially delay the treatment your horse needs. Look for reliable sources when researching online, and discuss your horse’s particular case with your vet. If you’re concerned about something that might be an emergency situation (colic, trouble foaling, et cetera), please call us ASAP instead of crowdsourcing.

However, while history and human nature have proved that the internet is not always the best place to search for advice (equine-related or otherwise), it can help you find a supportive community of like-minded horsey people who just may be dealing with exactly the same thing you are.

Whether it’s meeting local riders in your area, finding an equine rescue to support, or sharing photos and stories with a like-minded individual far away, the online equine community can offer horse owners solace by knowing there are others out there who care.

Whatever your equine hobbies and subsequent worries may be, chances are there is someone else out there who can empathize and help you through it, maybe with a little shared laughter and learning along the way.


This article originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!

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