Worming Horses

It’s the time of year that we all have to start thinking about worming our horses for tapeworm. But isn’t it all a logistical nightmare?

There are so many trains of thought; natural worming, strategic worming, getting faecal egg counts, tactical worming, poo picking … I could go on.

When we were younger the yard owner used to come down onto the yard with a list of horses and her large bottle of wormer around her neck, wielding a gun in her hand. The very large worming syringe, obviously. She would make her way around the yard and fields, ticking off horses as she dosed them – one squirt for the ponies, two squirts for the middlies, and three squirts for the big horses.

There was very little calculating in this approach, which was very blanketed, but at least you knew all the animals were wormed at the same time. 

Of course we didn’t poo pick the forty acre fields, and I don’t suppose the chemical in the wormer changed year on year, but we all survived and our ponies did too.

I got such a shock when I went to college and learned about different worms!

For example, you should worm against bot fly eggs after the first hard frost using ivermectin or moxidectin… I thought bot flies were just large, annoying hovercrafts that deposited eggs into the skin; the fact that horses could ingest them by licking themselves didn’t occur to me.

Getting back on subject; when you look at all the different types of worms horses can have, the chemicals that target them, and the time of year in which to effectively worm against them, you could end up worming your horse once a month! This is called the strategic worming approach because you are worming against worms that are active at that time of year.

Then of course comes the criticism that by over worming you create super worms, who are resistant to all wormers, and that you are flooding the environment with too many chemicals, as well as clocking up a huge bill.

So what on earth is the answer?

At the moment, the answer seems to be to have a faecel worm count done and then worm according to the results. But tapeworms don’t show up on worm counts so you either need to have a blood test done or worm with pyrantel in April and October regardless.

It’s all very complicated though; particularly if you have more than one horse.

I was mulling all of this over this morning and came up with this.

Currently I have two geldings of a similar age in the same paddock which I poo pick daily. So I worm every six months for tapeworm (that’s coming up which is why I was thinking about it) and I have decided to have a worm count done on one of the horses this time. Then I can make sure the wormer I choose also has the correct chemical to target whatever other worms they have.

Both mine are in the low risk category I think because they are not youngsters or veterans, and have limited opportunities for contamination from other horses and they have a clean field. Plus the fact that the sheep and goats wander through the field, hopefully ingesting some worms and removing them from the cycle.

However, after some thought I decided that if I owned a livery yard I would enforce a yard policy, where horses had egg counts taken twice a year – spring and autumn, and then everything was wormed simultaneously, but I think I would also offer a more intense worming programme for younger horses, or those with a history or worm burdens, where they could have further worming treatments. I feel this wouldn’t be guilty of over worming horses, yet I don’t think the horses’ worming would be neglected and you could be sure that you weren’t wasting diligent owners time and money, whilst promoting the more forgetful owners.

I think I would also require paddocks to be poo picked weekly, as a minimum, to help manage the land and manage the worms. It would then be easier when it comes to field rotation because all the paddocks would be clean and the horses on a similar worming regime. That’s the biggest risk to those who have to pay close attention to their horse’s worming programme as some people aren’t as conscientious over cleaning paddocks and some horses may be due treatment, whereas others have had it in the last month, which can lead to cross contamination when rotating fields.

It can be really difficult to effectively and economically worm a large herd of horses, but the blanket approach isn’t necessarily the best as horses are individuals. You could almost break the horses up into small groups depending on their risk category, field companions, and field management  technique and then create programmes for each group. I do tend to feel that it’s best for yards to adopt a programme as it is easy for private horse owners to forget, or delay worming their horse; as well as the fact that a yard can buy in bulk and benefit from any discounts which can be passed onto the livery owners.

It would be interesting to know what other yards have as their policy, and also whether horses have to be wormed upon arrival, as well as I’m unsure of the value of that at the moment.

14 thoughts on “Worming Horses

  1. horse and human Sep 21, 2015 / 6:58 pm

    Encysted red worms do not show up on wec either. You need a blood test also, though I believe they have introduced a saliva test.

    Why are you only thinking of worm counting one? I would do both, if you own both. They could be totally different.

    My lass nearly died from a worm burden, she was given a 20% chance of making it, the other horse didn’t survive. She spent 13 days at the hospital. Even when she came home she had another three months on box rest. It was 50/50 by then as she had peritonitis. I was told not to look that up as most horses didn’t make it.

    She did 🙂

    Mine is now on a target worming programme that is tailored just for her needs. My vet isn’t concerned what others do because all horses even in the same field are all individuals.
    The weather plays a big partying this, a wet mild winter isn’t what you want to kill them off. Worms can lay dormant in your land for up to ten years!

    • therubbercurrycomb Sep 21, 2015 / 9:00 pm

      I’m glad your mare survived 🙂
      I alternate which horse gets the worm count so they both get done at least annually.
      I also thought the saliva test was for tape worm? I may be wrong though as I’ve always just wormed for them anyway. I think you’re right too that encrusted redworm won’t show up as they are actually hibernating larvae in the stomach lining – you’re supposed to worm against them in early spring with ivermectin I think it is.
      I’m sure that encysted redworm cause most problems to horses with worm burdens because either they all wake up at the same time and severely weaken their host, or people give a large dose against encysted redworm and they all come away from the stomach lining and die, causing colic.
      Isn’t it five day panacur guard which is the best treatment?

      • horse and human Sep 22, 2015 / 8:37 pm

        She was on a drip and was at risk of colic from having to worm her again. I can’t recall what they treated her with, we became familiar with Liverpool because they were involved in her care.
        They had eaten into her intestines and created holes so her food was leaking protein. I think they agreed to treat because she was still standing up. She had that fight look about her.

        I scratch my head everytime I hear people comment about the cost of worming, the cost of egg counting or the cost of the vet. I know my horse is worth more than the £20 it’s going to cost me to check this week. My vet practically moved onto my yard once she was home! I had a nice £3000 bill-get insured 😉

  2. Laura Fiddaman Sep 21, 2015 / 7:45 pm

    I have just had wec back and been advised that his burden of redworm is high, so they do show up on them! I checked in with my fellow yardies before ordering my wormer though, and was a bit disappointed that half of them had already sorted themselves out without seeing if anybody else was in need – those couple of pounds you can save can make the difference when it comes to the growing monthly bills! Maybe that’s just me though…

    • therubbercurrycomb Sep 21, 2015 / 9:01 pm

      I agree! It would be great if the yard coordinated themselves and bought in bulk – feed, wormer, bedding, everything! 🙂

    • horse and human Sep 22, 2015 / 8:13 pm

      The encysted redworm stages do not show up on the wec. This is what people get confused with. Encysted, it’s an egg attached to the lining of your horse and they can sit there for up to two years in your horse and then erupt.

  3. Sparrowgrass Sep 22, 2015 / 5:49 am

    Our yard runs a monthly egg count for each of the 30ish horses on the yard and worms (and charges us) accordingly. It is not optional. Fields are picked daily. By taking it out of the liveries hands they ensure all horses and fields get the same treatment.

    • therubbercurrycomb Sep 22, 2015 / 6:06 am

      I think that’s the best policy; although is monthly wec not a bit excessive?
      Who does the poo picking by the way? I find that most people who advocate it do it daily but I also understand that some who work long hours can only blitz the fields once or twice a week. One yard I go to which is part livery Monday-Friday guarantees that the fields will be done at least twice a working week which I guess covers their backs for staff shortages or busy periods.

      • Sparrowgrass Sep 22, 2015 / 7:38 am

        Staff poo pick. Our fields are tiny so it doesn’t take too long. Perhaps I’m wrong about it being monthly. I get a monthly charge for it on my bill though, and then billing for specific wormers as and when needed.

      • therubbercurrycomb Sep 24, 2015 / 4:34 pm

        Ah okay, I like hearing what other yards policies are … When I get my own I’ll have the perfect part livery deal! Ha 🙂

  4. firnhyde Sep 22, 2015 / 7:38 am

    I would love to have fecal egg counts done on everything, but unfortunately that’s just not in the budget right now. So my poor creatures are subjected to the old blanket system. Everything gets dewormed once every three months, and I alternate between active ingredients. They all look quite happy and non-wormy, so I think it kind of works, but first prize would absolutely be to take the routine egg counts and only do what’s necessary.
    Horses that are only with me for eight weeks’ training generally don’t get dewormed at all, unless they look like they need it, or are underweight. Mostly because they usually come from the kind of people who are already hiccuping at the sight of my (diminutive) livery bill.

    • therubbercurrycomb Sep 24, 2015 / 4:36 pm

      I’m sure you can spot the horses who look wormy though 🙂 like anything I think we can over think it all, after all our ponies all survived as kids!
      Interesting that you don’t work your temporary liveries; are they in a separate paddock? A lot of yards I know insist on worming upon arrival and then they don’t really care what you do…
      It’s so hard balancing bills between covering your costs and not being seen as “pricey”!

      • firnhyde Sep 24, 2015 / 6:05 pm

        I also think we sometimes underestimate the ability we have to spot problems with our horses, especially as professional horsepeople that are hands-on with them every day. If my horse looks extremely well, has a shiny coat, and stays fat on air, I don’t need to do an egg count to know he’s not suffering from a tremendous worm burden!
        Yes, the temporary liveries live alone (or with another horse from the same owner). They are in a paddock next to the other horses but not where they can graze near each others’ droppings.
        Unfortunately as a young, unknown trainer, I have to keep my prices ridiculously low to find any form of business. Like everyone else I have to start at the bottom breaking in cow horses and backyard ponies with a monetary value of about two months’ stabling when they arrive!

  5. Tracy - Fly On Over Sep 24, 2015 / 4:04 pm

    I always just do a fecal egg count and deworm based on that. But I just have one horse, hah!

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