(From a Veterinarian’s Point of View)
Each year, you make a New Year’s resolution for yourself, but what about what you could be doing for your horse? Your trainer wants you to work on half passes, sliding stops, higher jumps or whatever your discipline may be ... but what does your veterinarian want you to focus on?
- Weight: Maintaining your horse’s weight, whether you have an easy-keeper or thin horse, should be high on this year’s priority list. Overweight horses are predisposed to conditions such as equine metabolic syndrome and laminitis. Laminitis can be very difficult to manage and can be career-ending and potentially even life-threatening. For thin horses, the root cause of the problem can be even trickier to diagnose. Is it nutritional, dental or due to another serious disease such as pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (equine Cushing’s) or cancer?
- Dental care: On average, it is recommended that you have your horse’s mouth examined and floated once yearly. Skipping years of oral balancing, performed during the dental float, can potentially lead to serious misalignments such as creating jaw-locking steps, painful hooks and significant periodontal disease.
- Preventive care: The importance of vaccines cannot be stressed enough. Did you know that the best time of year to vaccinate for Eastern/Western encephalitis and West Nile is in the spring and early summer? These neurologic diseases are carried by mosquitoes, so it is best to boost your horse’s immunity to these prior to bug season. Another component of preventive care is parasite control. A vast majority of equine parasites are actually carried by a small percentage of horses. Fecal floats quantify how much an individual horse is affected by parasites and have completely changed deworming protocols. Now, deworming is tailored to the individual horse to prevent parasite resistance through unnecessary deworming.
- Senior care: Horses are frequently living longer, and our retirees start to require more medical care as they age. Common issues that need to be addressed include deteriorating ligaments and arthritis pain, loose teeth, weight/dietary management, and diseases such as Cushing’s and equine metabolic syndrome.
- Regular exercise: Busy schedules create horses that are “weekend warriors” – horses that are ridden hard on the weekends and do minimal work during the week. This makes it hard for horses to build up cardiovascular and muscle strength, and can also predispose them to injury in joints, ligaments and muscles. Could you get out to the barn for a longeing session in the middle of the week?
This year, make it your New Year’s resolution to improve your horse’s health. Buckle down on getting your fat horse trimmed down or your thin horse beefed up. Make it your mission to address dental and preventive care. Start a conversation with your veterinarian on how you can help your older horse’s arthritis or if you need to begin testing for diseases such as Cushing’s. Go the extra mile and put another workout in on your horse. Your equine friend will be sure to thank you later!