Saturday 5th September, 2015
Any horse owner knows the importance of their equine companion having regular access to pasture for grazing and exercise, however many may not realise the importance of maintaining this pasture to prevent their horse from worm infestations. The damage caused by parasitic worms such as small redworms, large redworms, roundworms, tapeworms, lung worms, threadworms, pinworms and bots should not be underestimated. They can not only make your horse or pony lose body condition, but can lead to irreversible damage to the lining of the gut and other organs, resulting in colic and even death.
Regular worming has long been implemented to combat parasitic infestations in equines, however a large amount of the parasites life cycle is actually spent outside its equine host, primarily in their pasture. Eggs and larvae of common parasites such as small and large redworms, roundworms, tapeworms and many more can pass out through the droppings and survive in the stable or soil for many years, therefore a good stable cleaning routine and pasture management plan along with regular worming are imperative to avoid repeated infestations.
When turning horses out into a field, it is important not to overgraze the area, and the general rule of thumb is one acre of grassland per horse. Overstocking pastures with horses will lead to a high concentration of droppings which in turn results in the high likelihood of repeat infestation within the herd. Ideally yard owners and horse owners should remove droppings from the fields at least once a week to prevent the potential to infect other grazing horses.
If there are large numbers of horses grazing together, it is vital that the field is subdivided with suitable field shelter structures to accommodate the numbers in each paddock. The horses can then be rotated throughout the pastures with one paddock being left empty to ‘rest’ before restocking. It is preferable for fields to be harrowed during the rest period if the weather is fine as this will expose any larvae within the droppings and they will dry out and die. Many horse owners choose to graze their horses alongside cattle or sheep which is incredibly useful in pasture management as these companions will ingest the equine specific parasites, which will then die, therefore halting the parasitic life cycle and subsequent spread through droppings.
If you own or are part of a busy livery yard or stud where new arrivals are regularly coming in and out, it is important to worm them on arrival then stable them for 48 hours prior to turning out with the other horses. For horses that must be kept stabled it is vital that droppings are removed from the stable on a daily basis and the stable should be regularly deep cleaned, ideally at least once a month, including removal of all bedding and disinfecting the area. Easy to clean rubber matting in stables can assist with the maintenance of a spotless stable, particularly if they will be home to several different residents each month.