An important part of your horse’s health care needs is for you to develop a partnership with a veterinarian prior to an emergency. You can begin developing a partnership by consulting your veterinarian for your horse’s routine and preventive health care.  

Your horse should be vaccinated at least once a year.  The type of vaccinations your horse requires is determined by age and overall health.  Your veterinarian can recommend what vaccinations your horse needs.

In the U.S., you may want to help protect your horse by vaccinating for the West Nile Virus.  Contact your veterinarian if you see any of these signs in your horse; loss of appetite, depression, fever, stumbling or tripping, weakness in the legs, impaired vision, wandering or circling, inability to swallow, partial paralysis, head pressing or tilt, inability to stand up, convulsions.

De-worm your horse several times each year.  It is recommended to alternate de-worming products and different de-worming classifications (mebendazole, organosphosphate, avermectine, etc.).  Most de-wormers must be used every 60 days.  Paste de-worming is as effective as tube de-worming.  It is best to consult with your veterinarian when establishing a de-worming program.

The old de-worming tubes come in handy to dispense tablets to your horse.  Crush the tablets and put into the tube.  Add a little bit of water and shake until a paste forms. Then administer it like you would a de-wormer.

Teeth should also be checked once a year. Your horse’s teeth may need to be filed due to uneven wear. Symptoms of improper chewing include feed falling from your horse’s mouth while chewing, your horse holds its head to one side to chew, wasted feed, excessive slobbering, indigestion, and large amounts of whole grain in the feces. Your horse’s teeth may need to be checked if it is starting to take longer to eat its feed.  Strong, sour odors from the mouth can be indications of tooth cavities or food particles lodged in the mouth.  If you horse eats, but seems to be losing weight, or maybe is not handling as well while riding anymore, then floating (filing) the teeth may be necessary to remove sharp edges that are causing discomfort or making it difficult to grind food.

Keep a first aid kit handy containing items such as diluted iodine solution, hydrogen peroxide, Neosporin, sterile gauze sponges and rolls, self-adhesive tape (vet wrap), blunt-tipped bandage scissors, topical eye ointment, sedative and pain killer.  Consult with your veterinarian on what is appropriate to have in the first aid kit. Contact your veterinarian any time your horse appears sick, disoriented, or has been injured.

Many types of mineral and vitamin supplements are on the market.  Use commercially prepared supplements and never exceed the recommended levels. If feeding your horse a grain concentrate, check the ingredients. Often the concentrate will provide all the necessary vitamins and minerals your horse needs without needing to add any additional supplement.

Clean your horse’s hooves before and after you ride. Examine all hooves frequently for problems. Hooves need to be trimmed regularly. Most horses need to have their hooves trimmed, or shoes reset every six to eight weeks.  A qualified farrier can make recommendations for your horse.

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