By Nikki Alvin-Smith
Like many busy horse owners I do my best to stay on track with my horse herd’s needs when it comes to an effective worm control program. While best intentions are certainly not enough when it comes to taking care of the health of your horse(s), I do confess to sometimes overlooking what my Google calendar has popped up to remind me to do! Repeat test my horses’ manure for a worm egg count. How about you?
When you make the smart decision to switch from random administration of a rotation of paste dewormers every 6-8 weeks and take control of your horse’s worm control program by testing (Fecal Egg Count Test) the shedding worm egg count in each horse to target the right paste dewormer on the right schedule for the right outcome, it is so easy to forget to repeat test your animals. Most of us will do the first test and treat the horse as needs indicate, and then repeat the test after a couple of weeks to ensure we have reduced the worm egg count, hopefully by at least 90%. Happy with that result it is tempting to put off the suggested schedule for a repeat test, whether that be in 2 or 3 months or longer. Perhaps not the smartest move, particularly if you run a busy boarding, breeding or training operation.
An advantage of working with a dedicated team such as the folks at Horsemen’s Laboratory, is that the task of keeping track of your horse worm egg count testing schedule is made easy with diligent reminders via email, automatic mail outs of testing kits on your account if you so request, and for larger horse farm operations, a complete list of horses by name and suggested timelines for retesting.
When a new horse arrives on your property doing a fecal worm egg count is a logical decision so that you are aware of whether the new resident is likely to infect your pastures and hence your other horses with worms, and can be treated as needed. The repeat test will tell you if the horse is shedding worm eggs that are resistant to the paste dewormer used and you can address that issue with advice from a veterinarian, preferably one that is a specialist in equine parasitology. If the new arrival belongs to a boarder or other client, it is imperative that you keep them on track with the worm egg count program, to prevent infective larvae from gaining a hold on your fields.
Similarly, it is sincerely important if you buy a new horse to find out its history in terms of its internal parasite control program if at all possible. This will give you confidence that the horse is in good health and additionally from a list of previous reports of worm egg counts on the horse you will have a great indicator as to what is a normal shedding rate for that particular horse. Not all horses operate in the low worm egg count range of less than 200 eggs/mg. Some horses have been shown to be quite fine shedding at much higher rates and this is normal for them. These horses may require more frequent deworming to protect the rest of your horse population. You need to know who they are and you need to keep on top of their worm control program or even separate these high shedders from more vulnerable stock such as pregnant mares, foals, weanlings and elderly horses whose immune systems are not yet developed or are suppressed due to age or condition.
Horsemen’s Laboratory can provide a report detailing the pertinent history of your targeted worm control program for your horse(s). You can provide this report to the new owner when the horse is sold. This is a valuable sales tool, as folks like to know as much about the horse’s medical history as possible. It also demonstrates your high standard of care for horses in your hands.
As a horse breeder and a professional advanced level dressage competitor/clinician for more than 25 years, I have seen my share of unthrifty horses, poorly managed pastures, and pot bellied foals. However, you simply cannot tell whether a horse is hosting a high worm population simply by looking at it. Even the shiniest and most perfectly fit looking horses can harbor dewormer resistant parasites or be high count worm egg shedders.
So next time your Google calendar pops up a reminder, or you glance at the barn blackboard and see today is the designated day to retest horses for a fecal worm egg count check, don’t ignore it. I’ve found the best way to keep on track is to have a supply of equine fecal worm egg count kits handy, and just grab a sample and pop it in the mail (Fecal Egg Count Test). With horses that arrive at our farm for training, it is easy to immediately test, treat and repeat test those horses. I don’t have to chase down clients to ask if they have completed the process. I include in their training/boarding contracts that they agree to allow me to complete this service and to bill them for it. Folks are quite happy in the knowledge that I take their horse’s health seriously and that I am protecting all the horses on my farm including their own, by following this protocol with no allowance for exceptions.
About the author: Nikki Alvin-Smith is a professional freelance writer and content creator, who works with a variety of publications and manufacturers worldwide. She is a British international Grand Prix dressage trainer/clinician who has competed in Europe at the Grand Prix level earning scores of over 72%. Together with her husband Paul, who is also a Grand Prix rider, they operate Willowview Hill Farm, a private horse breeding/training farm in Stamford, NY. Please visit her website at https:/www.NikkiAlvinSmithStudio.com to learn more.