With horses, nothing is guaranteed. Own them long enough and you will likely be forced to cope with your share of illnesses and injuries that are anything but routine. The good news is we can often mitigate the risk of these unwanted surprises by ensuring our horse’s routine maintenance needs are always met.
Hoof care: Trimming and or shoeing should be a rotating item on your schedule every six to eight weeks. The schedule will vary from horse to horse and depending on the environment in which they live. Horses in dry conditions can sometimes go a little longer than those in wet or muddy conditions. The environment doesn’t affect the rate of hoof growth, but it does impact the shape of the hoof (in wet conditions the feet can flatten and splay out more) and how well shoes stay on. Some horses’ feet simply grow faster than others, too. Deworming: Historically veterinarians recommended seasonal deworming four to six times per year depending on the region where your horse lives, using different medications to target specific parasites. More recently, concerns have developed about the potential for over-deworming horses and actually making parasites resistant to the various medications we use. Many equine practitioners are now recommending that horse owners take fecal samples from horses four times per year and have them analyzed before administering a dewormer. Horses under three years old should be analyzed every two months. As horses age, they become more resistant to parasites and if the fecal count is low enough, they may not need to be dewormed at all. Companies like Parascreen (www.parascreen.com) and SmartPak Equine (https://www.smartpakequine.com/equine-fecal-test-kit-10409p) offer fecal test kits that can be used to collect a sample and mail to a lap for analysis. Dental care: This is a very important part of equine health and one that often goes neglected. It is rare that we get a good look inside our horse’s mouth, after all. But the truth is horses should begin receiving dental exams and care at the age of two, preferably before training begins, as issues with teeth and sore mouths can cause a number of unwanted habits under saddle. After their first “teeth floating,” they should be checked and treated for any issues annually. Vaccinations: The most commonly recommended vaccination schedule is a “5-way” vaccine along with West Nile, annually. The 5-way vaccine includes EHV-1, EHV-4, Rhino, Flu, and Tetanus. The first year West Nile is given, two doses are required. Every year after, only an annual booster must be given.
Keeping it all together: There are a variety of tools available to help you track your horse’s maintenance. In addition to the standard day planner or Google calendar, iPhone users can download an app called Horse Keeper that allows owners to enter the details of each horse in their care and track important training, showing and appointment dates. For large operations, there are a variety of software options available including Equine Max, Equisoft and Paddock Pro. Do you have any special tricks for tracking your horse’s routine maintenance? Leave us a comment below!