Horses are like dogs and require regular worming.
Years ago, horse owners had no other choice but to squirt a worming medicine into our horse’s mouths, which ended up with most of it down us and not in the horse, plus a resistance building up to the medicine (a little like us taking antibiotics when it’s not necessary, I guess).
A good worming programme is essential as parasitic infestation can do irreversible damage to the gut and other organs leading to poor condition, colic or even, sadly, fatalities.
In addition to this, good field management such as removing manure regularly and not putting too many horses together on pasture (so they are not forced to eat grass near manure) are just a few of the many things we can do to help. These days we can now do something rather technical called a ‘worm count’ rather than simply just using the worm medicine. So, what is a worm count? Well, quite simply it is a worm egg count of a small sample of manure to find out how many eggs are present in it. The results are shown as the number of eggs per gram. The lab I use let me know once they have tested the sample whether my mare has a low (under 200 eggs per gram), medium (200-1,200 eggs per gram) or a high count (over 1,200 eggs per count).
IS YOUR HORSE A PICTURE OF HEALTH ON THE INSIDE AS WELL AS THE OUTSIDE?
‘Think twice before using wormers’*
Worming advice has changed. Good worm control starts with using worm counts and tests, only adding wormer doses as they are needed.
Resistance to wormers
Horse worms are evolving to become resistant to some worming drugs, especially those which have been around for a long time. This means that we can no longer rely on keeping horses worm free purely by giving them wormers.
It’s much better to test first and target the wormers at the wormy horses and at specific seasonal problems like encysted redworms, bots and pinworm. Using wormers sparingly should also mean that they stay effective for those times when our horses really need them.
Using worm counts and tests
Whether you have a single horse kept on an individual turnout or run a busy yard with mixed turnout a targeted approach can work for you. Redworm, roundworm & tapeworm are the biggest pathological threats to horses and the parasites for which you should test regularly.