It is good to make sure your horse is up to date on its routine vaccines before showing season is in full swing. We recommend that all horses be vaccinated against tetanus, regardless of whether they go out lots or are a homebody. For horses that interact with other horses regularly (i.e. shows, hacking in groups, etc.), we also recommend vaccinating against Strangles yearly. There is also a vaccine available for equine herpesvirus, and this is recommended on a case by case basis.
We recommend regular fecal egg counts for all horses. Horses with high parasite burdens don’t always look “wormy”. Fecal egg counts are important to identify which horses are high, medium, or low shedders, which can reflect your horse’s natural immunity to worms and determine how often they should be dewormed. It can also help identify if your horse has worms that are resistant to a particular drench product. Pasture management such as cross grazing, rotating and resting pastures, and harrowing on a hot dry day are also important in parasite management.
A thorough dental exam is recommended at least once a year for all horses. Horses can have subtle signs of dental disease that exist long before they show signs of dropping feed or losing weight. These can cause pain that manifests as behaviour issues under saddle, and it is important to identify and treat any problems early.
The grass starts growing again in the springtime. Ponies are especially prone to laminitis so it’s a good idea to limit their pasture time or let them graze at night when the grass isn’t as rich. Horses can also get grass affected so it might be beneficial to still feed hay regardless of how much grass is around.
A soundness exam at the start of the season is helpful to keep your horse in top shape and help pick up on things before it becomes a problem. A soundness exam might include watching your horse in hand and under saddle, physical exam (a large number of performance issues are related to the heart or lungs and have no easily noticeable clinical signs), consulting thoroughly about your history (supplements, vaccinations, deworming, etc), bloodwork if necessary, discussing your goals and any other concerns you might have. Waiting until a horse is lame can be too late as you are then having to play catch up, and rehabilitation can be a tedious process. Franklin Vets also has qualified veterinarians that offer acupuncture and chiropractic services for your horses.
If you are thinking of breeding your mare, schedule a breeding soundness exam for her to make sure everything is well before breeding her. This could include an ultrasound of her reproductive tract, an exam of the cervix and external reproductive organs, and making a plan around breeding. If you are having a foal this year, make sure to schedule a pre-foaling exam about 1 month before your foal’s due date to check that everything is in order. This could include pre-foaling vaccines, deworming, opening caslicks, or discussion of nutrition and what to expect around foaling.
Dr Melissa Sim DVM