Horse Owner’s Spring Notebook
A roundup of seasonal tips, checklists, and guides — including information on health care, grooming, footing, pest control, and trailer prep — to help you keep your horse healthy and safe this spring.
Springtime means scheduling a veterinary examination for your horse.
The time and money you spend on equine-veterinarian visits are well worth it. Here’s a checklist of what you can expect.
■ Hands-on care. By seeing your horse in the flesh, your vet can better detect and address any problems. He or she can also offer you management advice (including optimal nutrition and exercise programs) for your horse’s particular needs.
■ Complete physical exam. Your vet will give your horse a complete physical exam, including a lameness check. Any problems can then be addressed immediately. He or she will also likely take your horse’s vital signs (temperature, heart rate, respiration, gut sounds, gum color, and capillary refill time). Knowing your healthy horse’s vital signs will help alert you to any deviations from the norm — and thus help you and your vet detect potential problems down the road.
■ Vaccinations. Your vet will give your horse the necessary vaccinations and boosters to help ward off infectious diseases. He or she will design an upto-date vaccination program specific to your horse, your equine activities, and where you live.
■ Deworming. Your vet will place your horse on an optimal deworming program. He or she will take into account your horse’s age, overall health, health history, environment, activities (such as travel), and where you live. By minimizing the parasites in your horse’s system, you’ll enhance his overall health and reduce the chance that he’ll suffer colic (a potentially life-threatening digestive disorder).
■ Testing. As part of your horse’s physical exam, your vet will likely draw blood for a Coggins test to check for equine infectious anemia, a highly contagious, potentially fatal blood-borne viral disease for which there’s no vaccine or treatment. You’ll need proof of a negative Coggins test to take your horse to most equine events, overnight-stabling facilities, and organized trail rides, as well as across state lines. Your vet might recommend other diagnostic tests.
■ Dental care. Also as part of the physical exam, your vet will examine your horse’s teeth — and again, take care of any problems immediately. Proper dental care enhances your horse’s health and comfort. For instance, the better he can chew, the better he’ll derive optimal nutrition from his feed. He’ll also be happier on trail rides if his mouth can hold a bit without pain.
■ Senior care. Do you have an older horse? With twice-yearly visits, your vet can fill you in on the latest senior-horse research, management, and products. Such advice can help you enhance your horse’s quality of life and extend your time in the saddle. Your vet can also recommend the best diet for your horse, such as easy-to-chew pellets designed for older horses, rather than hay. — Jessica Jahiel, PhD (www.jessicajahiel.com), an internationally recognized clinician and lecturer, and an awardwinning author of books on horses, riding, and training. Her e-mail newsletter (www.horse-sense.org) is a popular worldwide resource.
A roundup of seasonal tips, checklists, and guides — on health care, grooming, footing, pest control, and trailer prep — to help you keep your horse healthy and safe this spring.
The time and money you spend on equine-veterinarian visits are well worth it. By seeing your horse in the flesh, your vet can better detect and address any problems.