By Dr Alex Leander BVSc MPhil
At Waikato Equine Veterinary Centre, we work closely with our clients to ensure the optimal health and wellness of their horses. Ongoing communication and preventative medicine is a far better model than dealing with disease and complications due to uneducated or poor management.
One of the most overseen preventative measures is to vaccinate your horses. We recommend as a minimum to vaccinate for tetanus and strangles (Strep. equi equi). However, if you are out competing at shows, the equine flu vaccination is also recommended. Please see the full guidelines at www.equinevaccineguide.co.nz
An easy to remember date to vaccinate each year is to do it on all horses "birthday", the 1st of August. Then you know your horse will be protected when the competition season start. We recommend insurance for your horse as this will be of great advantage if disaster struck. Surgical colics can cost around NZD10,000 sometimes more, and most policies will cover this. Several different companies are offering competitive packages in New Zealand and will provide a quote that is tailored to your horse.
The key to a healthy and sound horse starts with proper day to day management. Keeping your horses in paddocks with no debris and safe fencing will minimise risk of injuries. Stocking density, cross grazing and quality of forage is important not only from a nutritional point of view but also for parasite control. We recommend doing regular faecal egg counts (every 3months) to identify horses with a worm burden, then treat these animals. This will help prevent resistance building up as well as unnecessary use of drugs and also save some money.
Horse body condition can be affected by several factors; age, breed, level of nutrition (quantity and quality of feed), dental health, gastro-intestinal malfunction or disturbances, other systemic disease and also level of exercise. In general horses and ponies with problems related to their weight are overweight. Obesity can have very serious follow on effects; laminitis for example is a difficult disease to treat. It is important to discuss your feeding program with your veterinarian or a qualified equine nutritionist to ensure all levels of nutrients are met to optimise your horses performance.
If your horse is in a poor condition despite adequate nutrition, it is recommended to do a general veterinary exam including a dental exam. Horses with dental disease often don't display any direct signs of pain but may head-flick or object to the bit or perhaps drop feed when eating. However, we know that dental conditions are painful and by doing a yearly dental examination you are improving your horses' health and wellbeing.
Soundness of your horse starts with a good foundation. "No hoof no horse" is a common saying. Most lameness issues (approx. 80%) we see at the clinic are directly related to hoof problems. A good relationship with a qualified and experienced farrier, that works together with your veterinarian, is very important. We can perform hoof balance radiographs, which is a very useful check-up. A balanced foot will reduce strain on tendons and ligaments and prevent injury. We have several resources available to us should your horse show signs of lameness. A lameness work up can include; flexion tests, nerve blocks, ultrasound scanning of tendons and ligaments, radiographs of bones and joints. The Equinosis lameness locator is a very useful tool that can objectively measure lameness by identify push-off and impact of each of the horses' legs hitting the ground.
Scintigraphy (bone scan) is another diagnostic tool that can help identify diffuse problems related to joints and bones. Supplements like 4cyte, Platinum ortho-chon II and also pentosan injections can be a useful management tool for competition horses that has a lot of strain put on their joints. If you have any concerns regarding lameness check it out promptly as some conditions can be aggravated by continuing exercise.
Competition schedules are pretty intense over spring and summer months and it is important to start out with a fit and healthy horse. Get all the basics right and we hope you have a safe and successful season.
Dr Alex Leander BVSc MPhil
Waikato Equine Veterinary Centre - www.wevc.co.nz