Tips to maintain a healthy horse

Horses are excellent companions, but they have special needs that require an emotional and financial commitment, according to veterinarian Tricia Pugh, who shares 10 tips for protecting equine health. An enriching and safe environment, proper nutrition and adequate exercise, along with regular veterinary care, are important aspects of maintaining a horse’s health, writes Dr. Pugh. The Press-News (Minerva, Ohio)


Tricia M. Pugh, DVM, who provides veterinary services in Louisville, Ohio and  has provided “top 10 hints to keep your horse happy and healthy.

Dr. Pugh says, “Owning a horse can be a relaxing and enjoyable experience that most of us have dreamed about since we were young. We either grew up with horses or finally fulfilled that lifelong dream of being a horse owner. Like any investment, both economical and emotional, we want to protect it as much as possible. This involves following general guidelines to help assure your horse is happy and healthy!

“The guidelines are as follows:

1. Environment:   A healthy environment is very important to your horse. Providing your horse shelter with a stall, run-in shed, or thick group of trees allows them the opportunity to protect themselves from severe weather elements, such as intense hot sunshine or cold freezing rain. Dry footing, such as grass, dirt, rubber mats, saw dust, or straw ,provides good footing and a healthy environment for their hooves.

2. Wellness Physical Exams:  Physical examinations performed by a veterinarian are the cornerstone of any health care program. Even if the horse is not experiencing any problems, baseline information can be vital when determining if there are subtle changes. This data can be critical for diagnosing diseases that are just beginning or are intermittent and sometimes can be difficult to detect by owners who see the horse on a daily basis.

3. Human Interaction and Handling:  Routine handling of your horse is essential to their physical and mental health. Human interaction with your horse prepares it for a relationship with other humans and releases the tension when it comes time for the veterinarian to examine your horse for routine physical examinations or emergency situations.

4. Exercise: Just as Mother Nature designed the horse to eat on a nearly constant basis, she also built the horse for lots of constant movement. For horses housed in stalls, it is important that daily exercise is available. Adequate exercise leads to muscle development and gives the horse an outlet for energy to be released.

5. Hoof Care:  Regular trimming and/or shoeing by a qualified farrier are the keys to good hoof care. Horses have different rates of hoof growth, so the frequency between trimmings varies from horse to horse. Generally the time range is four to eight weeks for hoof trimming. Daily hoof care consists of picking out the hooves and monitoring for any signs of disease such as cracks or thrush.

6. VCPR:  Through a Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship, your veterinarian is able to examine your horse and make recommendations related to specific disease prevention and health management needs. This is a value-added benefit for you as a horse owner and your horse. In the absence of a VCPR, you may be relying on advice from catalogs, feeds stores, internet blogs, or other sources who may not be familiar with the specific medical condition of your horse. Your veterinarian is an expert and is the most capable person to consult on the appropriate health care. The important relationship that your veterinarian has with you and your horse allows them to diagnose subtle changes in your horse’s physical condition. If left undiagnosed, these subtle changes, may progress to more serious problems, which could be difficult and costly to treat successfully. Preventative measures are generally more economical than paying for treatment for conditions that could have been prevented. Choose a veterinarian before  you find yourself in an emergency situation. A veterinarian already familiar with your horse can be a huge plus during an emergency.

7. Nutrition:  The equine digestive system is designed to constantly process large quantities of fibrous foods. Hay or grass is crucial to provide roughage for the horse’s digestive system. Grain may also be supplemented to provide additional energy if needed. Minerals should be provided via mineral blocks, loose mineral, or mixed in commercially available complete grain concentrates. Plenty of fresh water is crucial to your horse’s health as well. Consult your veterinarian or equine nutritionist for more specific individualized feeding recommendations for your horse.

8. Parasite Control:  Parasites have been and continue to be a problem for horses. When left untreated, these pesky worm parasites can cause everything from weight loss to a poor hair coat and can even lead to colic. Many dewormers have now become resistant to the worms in the pasture. With the help of your veterinarian, you can analyze your horse’s unique parasite risk profile to create an individualized deworming plan that fits their needs. The start of this program begins with a fecal egg count analysis to determine what level of parasitism exists in your horse before you administer the treatment.

9. Vaccinations:  Properly administered vaccinations are simply the safest, easiest, and most economical tools available to help prevent infectious diseases. Illness can take an enormous toll on you horse’s well-being and performance, and may even jeopardize its life. Vaccinating your horse at the right time, well before exposure to viral and bacterial disease, is extremely important. The core vaccinations that are recommended are Equine Eastern and Western Encephalomyelitis, influenza, Rhinopneumonitis, West Nile Virus, tetanus and rabies. Some of the risk-based vaccines including Strangles and Potomac Horse Fever should be considered if the horses are exposed to new horses frequently or high risk environments.

10. Dental Care:  Teeth are a unique concern to horses. An oral examination should be an essential part of the annual wellness examination. Their teeth continue to grow unless worn down by opposing teeth. The horse’s top row of teeth naturally sit wider than the bottom so floating needs to be done to eliminate the points that develop. Occlusal equilibration (floating) refers to the routine maintenance of a horse’s mouth. This includes smoothing enamel points, correcting malocclusion (faulty meeting of the upper and lower teeth), balancing the dental arcades, and correcting other dental problems that can interfere with your horse’s ability to chew and subsequently digest his food. Your equine veterinarian will check for abnormalities in the mouth such as oral infections, masses, gum disease, tooth abscesses, etc., that can also affect the overall health and performance of the horse. Without treatment, dental and oral issues can lead to more serious conditions like gastrointestinal disturbances such as choke and colic.  Your equine veterinarian has the knowledge to understand and treat a dental condition that may affect your horse’s overall health.

At her practice, Dr. Pugh offers veterinary services for all patients large and small, with the focus being on large animals. She primarily cares for horses with a focus on equine dentistry, alpacas and llamas, goats and a few beef cows, sheep and pigsAppointments can be made for an ambulatory farm call or for the haul-in clinic. There is also a  haul-in large animal clinic which offers a clean facility, safe handling equipment such as horse stocks and a full working cattle runway and chute, a temperature-regulated setting, a comfortable waiting area, grass and dry lots for animals, a convenient location and a very large parking area for trailer maneuvering.Dr. Pugh was born into an active animal loving and raising family in Stark County. Dr. Trish (as she is often called) showed cattle, sheep and hogs in both 4-H and open shows and trail-rode horses during her childhood. She attended The Ohio State University, where she completed her bachelor of agricultural science degree in animal sciences. For her, it was an essential and logical step to obtain a veterinary education as a Buckeye at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

One Response to “Tips to maintain a healthy horse”

  1. Madelyn says:

    this is a great article for understanding the basic of horse ownership and responsibility Horses are wonderful animals. thanks for posting it Madelyn

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