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Horse Care Hints & Tips

Horse Health

In this Section:

+ Vaccinations

After purchasing your horse, advice from your vet should be sought on an effective veterinary programme. Your horse should be routinely vaccinated by your vet against tetanus, equine influenza and if possible equine herpes virus.

Horses can suffer from numerous health problems as a result of bacterial, viral or fungal infections. Ensuring that your horse is healthy and has the right vaccinations will help to protect them against these kinds of infections. Your horse will also have a higher chance of being able to fight and minimise the effects of an infection if they have the right protection.

Keeping an accurate record of what vaccinations your horse has had will enable you to keep up to date. If entering shows, races or competitions your horse will need to be vaccinated against influenza, this will need to be proved by showing a vaccination certificate signed by a veterinary surgeon.

+ Hygiene

Routine hygiene procedures should form an essential part of looking after your horse, this will help prevent disease and minimise the potential spread of infection.

Stables or shelters should be cleaned at least twice a day and cleared off all droppings and wet bedding. The stable and the yard should be kept clean and tidy and muck should not be left nearby to accumulate. This is especially important during the summer months when flies are more abundant. You can also further protect your horse by using fly sheets and fringes.

Storing horse feed in vermin-proof containers will help to reduce any flies or mice that may venture into the stable looking for a tasty snack. This will reduce the risk of these vermin breeding and causing health problems for your horse.

+ Colic

Colic in horses is defined as abdominal pain. If you have any doubts that your horse may have colic then immediate veterinary advice should be sought. There are a number of different causes of colic, some of which can prove fatal.

It is important that you as a horse owner recognise the symptoms of colic as it is important to have it treated as soon as possible.

There are a number of signs of colic to look out for:-

  • The horse is reluctant or refuses to eat
  • If your horse is restless and pawing at the ground or trying to roll over excessively.
  • If he has unexplained sweating or his breathing is noticeably fast or he is finding it difficult to breathe.
  • If he is irritable and trying to kick his stomach.
  • If he is stretching as if to urinate or pass dung but without result.
  • If his pulse rate or temperature is elevated.

+ Laminitis

Laminitis, also known as 'Fever in the Feet' is a disease of the foot in a horse; it literally means inflammation on the laminae. Inflammation will occur in the inside lining of the foot and heat can be felt. The horse will more likely move with short pottering steps and is reluctant to put weight onto the front feet. Other symptoms the horse may display are a temperature and increased pulse and respiration rate.

Veterinary advice should be sought immediately if there is any doubt that your horse may have this disease. Effective treatment can ease the condition; however there is no total cure.

If your horse does develop laminitis they are more likely to develop the disease again, however a horse can live with this disease for many years. With good management and prompt treatment, it doesn't have to be the disaster that many think it will be.

+ Vital Signs

It is important to know how to tell if your horse is feeling unwell or if it is in need of veterinary attention. Horse's vital signs should be checked regularly, at least once a week by you to see if there have been any changes. Changes in your horse's vital signs may mean your horse has ill health or is in distress.

Your horse's temperature should be 99 - 101 degrees Fahrenheit, if it is any higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit then your veterinary surgeon should be contacted.

When your horse is resting its pulse should be 36-48 beats per minute. If your horse's pulse rate is greater than 60 when he is resting, or if he has a weak pulse, then contact your veterinary surgeon.

Respiration should be 8-16 breaths per minute. This will depend on your horse's activity level, but you should alert your veterinary surgeon if there is an unusual flaring of nostrils and quick, shallow breaths.

A healthy horse should drink a minimum of five gallons of water per day, it is important to check that your horse is not dehydrated. If your horse is refusing to drink then you should contact your veterinary surgeon.

Intestinal sounds - there should be a variety of gurgles, squeaks and rasps coming from your horse's stomach area, and if there are no gut sounds then it is important to alert your veterinary surgeon.

+ First Aid

Horses are more susceptible to many different types of accidents and injuries so it's worthwhile being prepared to enable you to provide emergency care for your injured horse. ?Finding out that your horse is ill or injured can be distressing, if you can identify the problem this can ease the distress.

Creating a first aid kit that is easily accessible would be beneficial. It would be advisable to have items in your kit that enable you to provide both emergency care and for treating minor cuts and scrapes.

The kit should be placed in an accessible and practical place within the stable and you should familiarise yourself with the contents and know how to use them. Creating a smaller version of the first aid-kit would be useful to be able to take out when you are going riding or to keep in your horse trailer, this kit should contain emergency items that could help in the event of a minor injury.

The following items would be useful in your horse first-aid kit:-

  1. Bath and hand towels for applying pressure to slow or stop heavy bleeding
  2. Rolls of gauze bandage and gauze squares for dressings
  3. Surgical tape and duct tape
  4. Scissors
  5. Wrapping bandages
  6. Leg wraps
  7. Spray bottle
  8. Petroleum jelly
  9. Ointment
  10. Large syringe for wound flushing
  11. Sterile saline solution
  12. Betadine or other disinfectant
  13. Tweezers
  14. Cotton buds
  15. Mercury or digital thermometer

It is useful to keep a list of the contents contained within the box so as items are used they can be replaced. Also include useful numbers such as your vet, horse transporter and insurance company in case of an emergency.

If your horse does become injured and you are not sure what to do, contact your veterinary surgeon. They will be able to give you advice depending on the symptoms, and be experienced at administering any medications that may be required as a result.

It would be useful to purchase a good veterinary first aid book and read it before an emergency happens. This way you will be more prepared in case something does happen.

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