Many of us have gone up against the horse that’s nearly impossible to deworm, and it isn’t fun. You stealthily approach with the tube of dewormer hidden behind your back, reassuringly stroke your horse’s neck and say some soothing words to him. But as soon as you flash that white tube, his lightning-fast reflexes do you one better and he lifts his head out of reach or throws the afterburners into reverse. A battle of wills ensues, and nobody wins.
“Start out by sticking treats in the corner of your horse’s mouth as a distraction technique,” says Friend. This will get him munching happily and focusing on you as a treat-giver so you can slide the dewormer tube into his mouth while he’s preoccupied.
“If that doesn’t work, the horse needs to gradually learn to get more ‘friendly’ with his head when the syringe comes out,” continues Friend. “Try filling an empty deworming syringe with corn syrup so he associates it with being a treat. Once he’s friendly with the syringe from the corn syrup treat, switch to dewormer.” You’ll need to periodically switch back to corn syrup so your horse doesn’t become resentful again.
One product specifically designed to facilitate deworming a difficult horse is the Easy Wormer made by Miracle Corp. This bit applicator and headstall allows you to insert the deworming paste into his mouth through the hollow side opening (see slideshow). This may be a good alternative if the other methods aren’t working.
Some dewormers also feature ergonomically designed applicators that are easier to grip and administer.
General Deworming Tips
Assuming your horse now calmly accepts dewormer, some general tips apply. To make sure your horse is being properly dosed, find out his approximate weight by using a weight tape. This should give you a number within 100 pounds or so, which is sufficient enough for setting the dose on the deworming tube. According to most syringes, horses weighing over 1,250 pounds will need part of a second tube to get the appropriate dose.
If you have a problem with your horse spitting out his dewormer after you administer it, try thoroughly flushing his mouth out with a hose first. Dewormer can easily adhere to bits of hay and grass that remain in the back of his mouth, even long after a meal. Most deworming products adhere very well to the tongue and mouth as long as there isn’t loose food to help expel the paste.
Working on your horse’s behavior and involving your vet are the two best ways to ensure your horse is dewormed effectively. Keeping him parasite-free will help prevent health problems, such as colic, that can result from a heavy worm burden.
Work With Your Vet
Recent advances in deworming research emphasize how big of a problem parasite resistance to deworming drugs has become. Since there are only a finite number of deworming chemicals available, it’s critical that horse owners do everything possible to avoid making resistance worse.
The new research recommends a strategic deworming approach tailored to each individual horse. To determine the most appropriate deworming schedule, ask your vet about fecal egg counts (FECs) and fecal egg count reduction tests (FECRTs). These help to identify which horses on the farm need deworming, which products to use, and how often to use them.
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