1. Before you buy
It is ideal that you request your Veterinarian, or an Equine Vet local to the horses location, to perform a Pre-purchase Veterinary Examination (PPE). To find a local equine veterinarian you can search the website of the Australian Equine Veterinary Association.
Horses are prey animals and prefer a herd environment. Their natural instinct is to flee danger. Injuries occur when horses are spooked suddenly and paddock boundaries are flimsy, equipment / objects are left in paddocks or when there is overcrowding. Be sure to erect safe fencing and gates for your horse or pony and allow at least 1 acre per horse. “Horse management on small properties” by Jane Myers is recommended reading. website link is www.equiculture.com.au
Horses are grazing herbivores with a large hindgut/colon that ferments the fibrous grasses that cannot be absorbed when passing through the small intestine. They need an almost constant flow of food material through the digestive tract to keep the large intestinal bacteria happy ( and because they do not have a gall bladder). As a basic guide, horses need to eat 1 – 2% of their body weight in food as dry matter ie the weight of the food when the moisture is removed. Therefore a 500kg horse may require 5 – 10kg of hay per day (especially if the paddock has little grass) If strenuous exercise is being undertaken then a grain or pellet concentrate is added as hay and grass alone may not be consumed in enough quantities to meet energy demands.
Please ensure you are supplying a balanced trace mineral and electrolyte (salts) to your horses daily diet. Clean water is essential and must be available at all times to avoid illness.
Horses and ponies have 36-40 teeth in their mouths that unlike ours are continually erupting/ emerging. Due to this and the fact that the upper arcade of molar teeth have a wider space between them compared to the lower arcade of the jawbone, regular (usually yearly) dental treatments are required to address tooth growth imbalances and sharp molar enamel points. At BFP Equine Vets we use a combination of the Powerfloat dental machine and hand tools to care for your best friends teeth.
5. Hoof Care.
There is a saying that goes “No hoof, no horse” and it is a mantra that every horse owner should adopt if they wish to have their horse ready to play at any time of the year. Trimming or shoeing is conducted every 4 – 6 weeks as most horses that are paddocked or stabled need assistance to keep their hooves healthly.
To shoe or not to shoe and what is a farrier?
A farrier is a person who has the skills to accurately nail a custom shaped metal shoe to each foot on your horse or pony to provide protection from stone bruising. Some breeds can get by without shoes and some like the thoroughbred, usually need shoeing on a regular basis.
Vaccinations are required in horses to reinforce their immunity against infections. Most vaccinations in horses are for infections that are contagious but some, like Tetanus, are not considered contagious. Horse vaccines are usually given by injection into muscle tissue. Some vaccines require a prescription, some do not then others such as for Hendra virus require a qualified Veterinarian to administer.
Tetanus: This is a rare but lethal disease caused by the toxin produced by the soil borne bacteria Clostridium tetani. Prevention is through vaccinations and diligent treatment of wounds especially deep wounds. Use Equivac 2 in 1 (tetanus/strangles) or Equivac T (tetanus only) at 12 then 16 weeks of age for foals or 4 – 6 weeks apart for adults then boosters every years is ideal. In pregnant mares a booster can be given 6 weeks prior to foaling.
Strangles: This is a contagious bacterial infection of horses caused by Streptococcus equi. It is transmitted by direct contact between horses or on fomites (equipment and clothing). It causes abscessation of lymph nodes of the head, neck, chest and abdomen a fever and usually thick nasal discharge. Vaccines are given from 12 weeks of age with three doses given 2 weeks apart. Boosters every 6 – 12 months.
Hendra Virus: This is deadly virus carried by bats and transmitted by bat body fluids to horses then to people from infected horses. Symptoms are varied and may include: Fever, malaise, coughing, nasal discharge with or without blood, uncoordinated gait, collapse and even colic. Infection can be hard to diagnose by your Vet initially so vaccinations are the best method to reduce the public health hazard of Hendra Virus. Vet only administration from 4 months of age. Starting course is two vaccines given 3 – 5 weeks apart then 6 monthly boosters. If 12 months has lapsed between boosters then the initial 2 doses will need to be repeated.
Rotavirus: This is a highly contagious virus especially of foals causing watery diarrhoea, severe dehydration death if not treated. A vaccine is available in pregnant mares who then pass immunity to their newborn foal. Mares are vaccinated at 8, 9 and 10 months of pregnancy.
Herpes virus: This is a contagious virus that can cause respiratory symptoms, abortion in mares, neurological symptoms in foals and fading newborn foal syndrome. Vaccinate from 5 months of age. A second vaccine is given 4 weeks after the initial then booster every 6 months after this. Pregnant mares can be vaccinated at 5, 7 then at 9 months of pregnancy.
Salmonella: This bacteria invades via the gastrointestinal tract often causing depression, inappetance and colic before the onset of diarrhoea which can be watery and lead to septicaemia and death. Vaccinate foals at 12 weeks then 16 weeks of age then a booster 6 months later then annually. Mares are given 2 vaccines 4 weeks apart then a booster 6 weeks before foaling.