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.