Category Archives: Horse Care

Webinar Series – Equine Deworming

Big Dee’s Webinar Series

Dr. Ken Keckler from Buckeye Veterinary Services in Burton, OH, spoke during Big Dee’s Anniversary Event about the importance of equine deworming and keeping a healthy routine for your horses. Dr. Keckler is a graduate from The Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture in 1987 and a DVM in 1991. Whether you have been caring for horses for years, or are just starting in the world of equine ownership; Dr. Keckler’s guide into the simple steps you can take for the well-being of your horse are invaluable.

Where do I start?
Dr. Keckler recommends regular fecal exams to determine how much your horse sheds parasite eggs. Horses range from heavy, to moderate and light shedders. Some horses have greater immunities to the parasites and may not need to be dewormed as often.

What types of parasites should I be deworming for?
• Bots
• Ascarids (roundworms/bloodworms)
• Tapeworms (a common problem with yearling horses)
• Stronglyes
• Pinworms (very common and can be identified by horses scratching their butts)

How often should I deworm?
If fecal tests come back clean, generally every three months with the appropriate dewormer is accepted. Over-deworming can build a resistance in the parasite to dewormers and may be harder to get rid of them. Dr. Keckler recommends a rotation of dewormers:
• Spring – Use a Fenbendazole, like Panacure
• Summer – Use an Ivermectin/Praziquantel, like Equimax
• Fall – Use a Pyrantel, like Strongid
• Winter – Use an Ivermectin/Praziquantel, like Equimax
If problems persist with parasites, using a Moxidectin, like Quest, will kill most parasites due to them having a low resistance to it.

What else can I do?
As often as possible, clean manure from pastures, paddocks and everywhere your horse has access to. Be sure to use the appropriate dewormer for your horse and keep an eye on any changing or concerning symptoms. Keep in mind the age, condition and well-being of your horse; older horses may have resistance to some parasites, but their immune systems can be weaker and require regular deworming. Foals and pregnant mares also have a different routine than the average horse.

Disclaimer: This seminar was given at Big Dee’s Anniversary Event. All content provided by Dr. Keckler on Big Dee’s blog is for informational purposes only. Big Dee’s will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

Horse Saddles: What the Fit is Telling You

March is an excellent time to take a look at the fit of your horse saddles with a critical eye. With our Northern Ohio winters, it is very typical to see changes in weight and fitness in our equine athletes and this can have a dramatic affect on the fit of this very important piece of training equipment.

Some tell tale signs that you might have an issue include changes in your horse’s attitude about grooming or tacking:

  • Is your normally docile horse getting a little gnarly when you are grooming – especially along the spine or girth area?
  • Do you see friction rubs or bare patches where the saddle panels make contact?
  • Does this grouchy behavior continue under saddle…pinned ears especially in upward transitions, “cold back” or a refusal to stand at the mounting block?
  • Are you experiencing difficulty picking up the canter or with lead changes?
  • Does your instructor more frequently mention that you are sitting off to one side or do you feel that your balance is “a bit off”?
  • Is your normally symmetrical lateral work now more difficult in one direction over the other?

Another typical cause of saddle fitting issues is seasonal changes in weight.  People tend to gain a pound or three over the winter, but your horse can have swings either up or down, or changes in muscle tone, especially over the back. Have you noticed that you have gone up or down a hole or two when girthing your saddle? Have you noticed that the surcingles on the winter blanket have required adjustment since the start of the season?

Once you have determined that you have an issue, how can you determine what and how serious the issue might be?  The following few easy steps will provide a wealth of information…

1. Check your horse’s weight with a weight tape or centimeter tape.  Place the tape around the heart girth and snug up the tape gently. If you can get into a habit of doing this a couple of times a year, note that it is most important to be consistent in tape placement and degree of snugness, as you are really watching for a change in the number more than the actual weight or centimeter reading.

Saddle Fit | Big Dee's Horse Tack

2. Examine the surface bearing area of the saddle panels on your horse’s back. Are there any sub-surface swellings, particularly along the sides of the withers?


3. Are there rubs on the withers or friction hair rubs on the back? Is your horse sensitive to palpation with moderate pressure of your finger tip (be careful if you have long finger nails as your horse may give you “false positive” reactions).

Horse Friction Hairs | Big Dee's Horse Tack

This is a classic example of a friction rub caused by a saddle that is out of balance – check the tree width and condition of the panels if flocked. If the rub mark looks suspiciously like the binding edge of your saddle pad, possible culprits are that your pad is too small and the end of the saddle panels sit over the outside edge of the pad; your laundry detergent or washing frequency isn’t keeping up with the increased demands of winter skin conditions ; your horse’s coat is dry and in need of a good coat conditioning spray at the end of a really good grooming.

4. Pull out your last set of pictures to compare the view from the side and over the back (to see muscling and symmetry of the shoulder area). If you have attended one of our talks on saddle fitting, you know already the importance I place on these shots taken periodically throughout your horse’s career or certainly when you are starting the process of saddle shopping.

Horse Muscle | Big Dee's Horse Tack  Horse Muscle Symmetry

Of course if you have a saddle with a changeable gullet, it is a good idea to also look at the gauge and snap a photo that you can date and keep in your horse health file.

Gullet Guage | Big Dee's Horse Tack

If your saddle is flocked, examine the panels to check for asymmetry in the panel shape, softness or lumps and bumps within the flocking material itself. The panels should be symmetrical (I prefer to address asymmetry that your horse may suffer with therapeutic pads rather than adjusting the actual panels). When the saddle (without pads) is placed on the horse’s back, you should feel consistent contact as you run your hand along the panel from the pommel to the cantle. Bridging (absence of contact) or tight spots are indications that your saddle fitter is due for a visit.

This is a good time to examine the condition of stitching and your billets as well!

Western Saddle Stitching | Western Tack

Taking a small amount of time to look over your saddle fit now can pay off big in preventing both lost training time and potential bills later to bring your horse back into good training condition when the weather finally breaks. As always, I recommend you maintain and encourage open communication with all members of your horse’s health care team: Vet, Nutritionist, Farrier, Physio, Dentist, Trainer and Saddle Fitter in order nip possible problems in the bud and keep your horse ready for whatever is your riding pleasure!

Remember: Think Spring!

Before and After: The Benefits of Cocosoya Horse Supplement

Fabio’s Story:

Fabio Fabulous is a 13 year old miniature horse gelding that is owned and loved by Big Dee’s employee, Mary. His events include halter, showmanship, in-hand trail, jumping, being spoiled and snuggled. Mary has used Cocosoya as a supplement for various horses over the years, but has been giving it to Fabio a year and a half. As you can see in the pictures below, Cocosoya has greatly improved Fabio’s mane, tail, coat and overall body condition.

Fabio Before Cocosoya

Fabio After Cocosoya

Cocosoya, manufactured by Uckele Health & Nutrition is a fatty acid horse supplement. This supplement provides Omega 3, Omega 6 and Omega 9 essential fatty acids. Horses, as well as humans, that are deficient in essential fatty acids may show hair loss, skins problems, and impaired immunity and reproduction issues. This supplement helps with coat, hair and hoof strength and shine. The increase fat in the horse’s diet may also help build and maintain weight. Cocosoya is also highly palatable – which is great for a picky eater or if you want to mask the taste of other supplements or medications. Cocosoya horse supplement is recommended for all ages, breeds and disciplines of horses.

What are essential fatty acids?

Omega 3

  • Alpha-linolenic acid, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
  • Improved skin and hair coat quality
  • Decreased joint pain in arthritic individuals
  • Improved bone formation
  • Reproductive benefits
  • Prevention of gastric ulcers
  • Anti-inflammatory effects

Omega 6

  • Linolenic acid
  • Pro-inflammatory (needed to fight infection and repair tissue)
  • Produce steroids & hormones
  • Regulating pressure in body fluids, cell division and smooth muscle activity

Omega 9

  • Oleic acid and Erucic acid
  • Supports the function of Omega 3 and Omega 6
  • Nonessential fatty acid because the horse can produce it

Enter to win a gallon of Cocosoya! A $23.00 value.

Enter here:

Vaccine Guidelines

Thank you Dr. Corey Paradine for the following information:Vaccine Guidelines

These guidelines are based on the American Association of Equine Practitioners vaccine recommendations for core vaccines (aka vaccines pretty much everyone should have).  Vaccine guidelines are different for foals/weanlings and pregnant mares – these are for adult (greater than one year) non-breeding animals. Vaccines for other diseases certainly exist and may or may not be recommended depending on the individual and the location/intended location of the horse. As always, if you have any questions regarding your horse(s), contact your vet.



Tetanus is caused by the toxin of the bacteria Clostridium tetani. The bacteria lives in the environment and most animals contract it via wounds.  The toxin causes severe persistent body-wide muscle contractions.  Most horses that develop tetanus are euthanized for humane reasons, though the disease itself may be fatal.  Horses should be vaccinated annually. Horses that sustain a wound or undergo surgery 6 or more months after their previous tetanus booster should be re-vaccinated with tetanus toxoid immediately at the time of injury or surgery.

Note: The severity of the wound does not predict the risk for development of tetanus. Superficial wounds have resulted in clinical tetanus in horses.


EEE/WEE are mosquito-transmitted viral based neurological diseases that are generally very severe and have a high fatality rate.  Annual re-vaccination should be completed prior to mosquito season in the spring. In areas where mosquitoes are active year-round, many veterinarians elect to vaccinate horses at 6-month intervals to ensure uniform protection throughout the year, although this practice is not specifically recommended by manufacturers of vaccines.

West Nile Virus

West Nile virus causes a neurological disease of varying severity. Like EEE/WEE West Nile is transmitted by mosquitoes.  Horses should be vaccinated annually in the spring, prior to the onset of the mosquito season.

Booster vaccinations are warranted according to local disease or exposure risk.


Rabies is a rare cause of a neurological disease in horses.  While the incidence of rabies in horses is low, the disease is invariably fatal and has considerable public health significance.  By the time a horse is diagnosed with Rabies often numerous people have been exposed.  It is recommended that rabies vaccine be a core vaccine for all horses and should be given yearly.

EHV (Herpes virus)

With the exception of pregnant mares, it is recommended that the following horses be re-vaccinated at 6-month intervals:

• Less than 5 years of age.

• Horses on breeding farms or in contact with pregnant mares.

• Horses housed at facilities with frequent equine movement on and off the premises, thus resulting in an increased risk of exposure.

• Performance or show horses in high-risk areas, such as racetracks. More frequent vaccination may be required as a criterion for entry to certain facilities.

Flu (Influenza)

This virus is sporadically introduced by an infected horse. All horses should be vaccinated against equine influenza unless they live in a closed and isolated facility.

Mature performance, show, or pleasure horses constantly at risk of exposure should be re-vaccinated at 6-month intervals. Other adult horses can be vaccinated as infrequently as once a year.


Hoof Health: A Case of “Seedy Toe Woes!”

Beating the “Seedy Toe Woes” can be a challenge, but it can be done, especially if it is caught early!What is seedy toe?In layman’s terms, it is a species of fungi or bacteria, or even a combination of both, that forages on and destroys the keratin of a horse’s inner hoof wall.So why is treating seedy toe important?Well for starters, seedy toe can cause vertical cracks that travel upwards in the hoof wall. If left untreated, those cracks could spread to the coronary band, resulting in permanent damage. Seedy Toe can also abscess, cause acute lameness, and in severe cases, cause infection that could spread into the bone.

A tale of my “Seedy Toe Woes:”

Last week my farrier sent me a text message that said, “someone has not been painting their horse’s feet! That’s a little bit of seedy toe!” along with the above picture.

Now, normally, my friends would tell you I am a pretty conscientious horse owner. My horse has been through a lot the last few years so I’m usually right on top of his health and well being. But I had been slacking the last couple of weeks and I knew it, too. Naturally, I felt a ashamed, because he was right! I had not painted my horses feet in nearly two weeks! Luckily, my farrier reassured me that the little area was the very beginning of Seedy Toe and I could easily get it under control and healed quickly. Each day after I pick my horse’s hooves, I apply the special paint that my farrier told me about (see recipe below) and now the Seedy Toe is almost gone. Once it is gone, I will resume using the paint 3 times a week, like I had previously been doing before I became a slacker! LOL!





The hoof in the photo on the left is of a horse that went untreated for a bit too long. Thank you to Dustin Whidden of Bar W Farrier Services for use of this photo and the banner photo. Dustin had to cut a significant chuck of hoof away to free the horse from the disease section of hoof wall.

If you want to try out the hoof paint recipe that my farrier, Dusty Whidden, told me about, here is his Hoof Paint recipe:

1 empty hoof oil can

1 bottle Birdsall’s Farrier Barrier

1 can Enticer

In the hoof oil can, pour Farrier Barrier until can is 3/4 filled, then fill the last quarter with Enticer. Put cap back on and shake well. This can will last about 30 days if painting your horse’s hooves daily.

Prior to switching farriers, my horse had chronic thrush and white line issues. The scary part is I knew about the thrush, but had no idea about the white line disease until my new farrier said something! Anyways, I was constantly trying different products trying to get the thrush under control and I spent a small fortune on different products. Nothing ever got rid of it completely. Until I started using this paint. I admittedly was skeptical at first, but this paint mixture is truly awesome stuff! Even though we had a slight hiccup with seedy toe (completely and admittedly my fault for being a slacker), this is the first issue we’ve had in nearly a year since I started using this paint!

Additionally, if you would like to learn more about fighting other hoof diseases here is a link to a great article on the Save-A-Hoof products

BTW, if you are going to Equine Affaire in Ohio this April, be sure to stop by and see us in the Bricker Building and be sure to enter for your chance to win our raffle basket, which includes a few Save-A-Hoof Products!

Disclaimer: Every horse is different and products will effect them differently. Be sure to always check with your vet or farrier before using new products.


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Cold Weather Considerations For Your Horse



We are very pleased to bring to our readers a blog series from Dr. Corey Paradine, a local veterinarian here in northeast Ohio. If there is a specific topic you would like her to discuss, you can email it to me,, and I will pass your ideas along to Dr. Corey OR you can place it in the comment section of this blog.”Polar Vortex,” that is what our local Meteorologist have been calling our recent run of extreme cold weather here in northeast Ohio. With daytime highs in the single or negative digits, not including wind chill factors, we need to remember our horses comfort levels.

Dr. Corey has put together the following blog as a friendly reminder of some of the important things horse owners should consider in these frigid temperatures.

Cold Weather Considerations:

Cold weather has set in and there are some important things to keep in mind in regards to our equine friends.

1) Monitor water intake. Cold temperatures can lead to frozen water buckets and water troughs. Many horses don’t drink as well when it’s cold, which puts them at a higher risk for dehydration, and as consequence impaction colic. It’s important to make sure there is continual access to water.

2) Remove blankets on a regular basis to check for sores, rubs, and weight loss/weight gain.

3) Pay particular attention to your horses’ skin/legs, as long hair can cover wounds/injuries.

4) Make sure your horse has access to shelter (both from precipitation and from wind).  A long hair coat can be enough to keep a horse warm in cold temperatures but wind will inhibit the effectiveness of a thick coat, as will heavy precipitation.  Snow will generally not affect a horses’ ability to stay warm if they have a thick winter coat.

5) In extreme cold, an increase in forage (hay) is often necessary to help horses maintain adequate body temperature.

6) If your horse has shoes, check often for snow build up within the shoes or consider asking your farrier to put snow pads in.  These pads help push snow out of the foot so it does not build up and create an uneven surface for the horse.  The uneven snow buildup that occurs in shod horses (not a concern for barefoot horses) can make them unbalanced and put them at risk for injury.

7) Just as with people exercising in cold weather, your horse needs a longer warm-up and cool down than in warmer weather.  The actual time varies depending on temperature, wind chill, location (inside vs outside), hair coat, fitness, expected level of activity (for warm up), and actual amount of work (for cool down), but the colder it is the more time you’ll need for warm up and cool down.

As with anything, if you have any questions or concerns regarding your horse, please contact your veterinarian.



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Does My Horse Need Fall Shots?


The following blog was written by Dr. Corey Paradine of the Cleveland Equine Clinic. If you have any questions regarding this topic please feel free to ask by leaving us a comment below. We will be sure to submit them to Dr. Paradine and post her reply back in a timely manner.

Does My Horse Need Fall Shots?

The answers is it depends. And of course, contact your veterinarian for their recommendations for your specific horse.

1) Does your horse go to shows, clinics, or anywhere it will come into contact with other horses?

Then yes – your horse would benefit from a flu/rhino booster in the fall.

2) Does your horse live at a boarding facility, or barn where other horses travel/come into contact with others?

Yes again, for a flu/rhino booster

3) Did your horse get a rabies vaccine in the spring?

If the answer is no, then a rabies vaccine in the fall is advised.  The rabies vaccine should be given yearly, but is not season dependent. Some prefer to give the rabies vaccine separately from the other routine spring vaccines.

4) Did your horse get a tetanus vaccine in the spring?

As with the rabies vaccine, tetanus should be given yearly but is not season dependent.

5) Will your horse travel to a warmer climate for the winter?

Then yes, a flu/rhino booster is advised as well as a booster for the mosquito-borne viruses (West Nile, EEE, WEE).

6) Does your horse live in a barn with a closed herd (none of them ever leave and no new horses are added) and doesn’t travel and received all yearly vaccines in the spring?

Then no, your horse does not need a booster for flu/rhino.

Deworming Dilemma? New Protocol for Deworming Horses

We would like to thank the folks at Merck for providing us with this article to pass along to our customers. With the most recent studies in deworming horses, it is important that all horse owners become aware of the new deworming protocols and WHY they are so important! This article was written by:

MERCK – SAFE-GUARD / Stewart & Associates





Deworming Dilemma?

Three Things You Must Know

Ever felt that every other dewormer ad you see offers different or conflicting advice about how best to deworm your horse, leaving you more confused than ever? Or that the media is jammed with warnings about parasite resistance to equine dewormers that is impossible to understand?

Well, the truth is that since research studies turned up evidence of dewormer resistance, horse owners are left wondering where to go from here. Horse owners and managers can no longer blindly rotate dewormers, nor can they rely on a one-product-fits-all program. When parasites get tough, or the science starts to baffle us, horse owners need to get tougher – and smarter.  We got our horses into this. Now, we need to get them out.

Three Simple Steps

The good news is that there is a relatively simple, three-step solution to the deworming dilemma, and it starts with knowing the enemy – those tiny thieves that steal your horse’s health. From there, you can create a custom program that promises optimum health and reins in resistance.

Also remember that your veterinarian is an excellent source for instruction and guidance when you have questions regarding your deworming program.


As any smart strategist knows, your best offense is a defense based on understanding the enemy – in this case, parasites – in order to mount a successful assault.

The Criminal Line-up – A basic understanding of these tiny thieves, their life cycles and their preferred modes of attack, is vital. That’s where both timing and the right choice of deworming compounds join the fight.

The main culprits include small strongyles (particularly encysted small strongyles), ascarids, large strongyles, pinworms, threadworms, bots and tapeworms. Each has a unique life cycle and is more threatening at various times of the year, or to different horses, depending upon age, environment and climate. But we’ll try to keep it simple.

encystedsmstronglyesEncysted Small Strongyles

Perhaps the sneakiest invaders are encysted small strongyles, larvae that, once they are embedded in the intestines, pose a severe health risk.  The presence of large numbers of larvae can cause weight loss and poor overall condition. Even worse, the possibility of a mass emergence of hungry adults from the intestinal walls – all at the same time – can cause a potentially fatal case of colic or severe diarrhea. Young and old horses are more vulnerable, while most healthy adult horses are fairly resistant. (About 20% of adults are more susceptible that the rest and are classified as “high shedders,” but more on that later.) Not all dewormers are effective against these parasites, particularly in the encysted stage. Only two drugs can kill off encysted small strongyles: a five-day larvicidal dose of fenbendazole (Safe-guard Power-Dose or Panacur Powerpac) or moxidectin.


Also known as roundworms, ascarids are most dangerous to foals and young horses under age two. Infected foals may develop respiratory disease associated with larval migration through the lungs and intestinal disease from juvenile and adult parasites in the small intestines. Once on the pasture, ascarid eggs are like impenetrable fortresses and can survive hot summers and freezing winters. And, because on many breeding farms certain compounds like ivermectin and moxidectin are not longer effective due to overuse and increased resistance, a special deworming program using a two-day dose of Safe-Guard is recommended for foals. Those details are shared below.

largestronglyesLarge Strongyles

Commonly called bloodworms, large strongyles are extremely dangerous if left unchecked. Larvae weaken abdominal artery walls, causing problematic blood clots, and some species migrate to other organs, wrecking havoc wherever they trudge. Symptoms range from diarrhea and weight loss to potentially fatal colic due to obstruction of blood flow to entire segments of the  intestines. All compounds are effective against adult stages, and if little or no resistance is detected, it is best to use an established dewormer and save newer compounds from resistance build-up for as long as possible. Only macrocyclic lactones and larvicidal dosages of fenbendazole are effective against the damaging larval stage.


Although relatively harmless to overall health, pinworms can be irritating when they cause severe itching around the rectum and tailhead. As a horse scratches there may be tail hair loss and skin patches rubbed raw. Dewormers used for other parasites usually destroy pinworms at the same time, although there are reports of pinworm infections that appear to be resistant to some dewormers.

Threadworms – These guys target young foals under six months of age.  Adult threadworms that live in the intestinal tract can cause weakness, diarrhea and emaciation. Controlling threadworms in adult horses, particularly broodmares, is important to protect nearby youngsters. All three drug classes can blast away threadworms.


Those irritating botflies buzzing around each autumn lay yellow eggs on your horse’s hair, mainly on the legs. The horse licks the eggs, the eggs hatch and the larvae are swallowed. These little  squatters take up residence in the stomach for a year, eventually turning into grubs and passing out in the animal’s feces. While in the stomach, they can cause digestive problems, weight loss, poor condition and poor feed conversion. Remove any visible eggs on the hair coat and administer a macrocyclic lactone compound, such as ivermectin. An ideal time to treat for bots, in temperate climates, is after fly season is over and cold weather arrives.


These guys enjoy a category all their own. Tapeworms attach to the intestinal walls and absorb any food that happens to pass by, while disrupting motility in surrounding segments of the intestines.  A heavy infestation can cause dangerous blockages. Praziquantel is effective against tapeworms, but has no effect on any other parasites. A double dose of pyrantel can also be used to treat tapeworm infections.

An educational, entertaining, and easy-to-follow barn chart  is provided with this article, courtesy of  Safe-Guard(R), or from that describes the life cycles and threats of each parasite, as well as the compounds known to work best to treat  specific infestations.


It used to be enough to just know the worms. Scientific research, however, suggests that there is much more to know today, as horses vary in their susceptibility to parasites, and some worms have become resistant to certain classes of dewormers.

Each individual horse faces a  unique parasitic challenge, beginning with age and adding in life circumstances. By factoring age in with geographic region, living conditions, and the results of properly-timed fecal egg counts, a straightforward deworming program can be devised. Your veterinarian is a great resource to assist you.

Age Groups

In general, horses fall into four age groups: 1) foals; 2) adolescents – yearlings through age two; 3) adults; and 4) seniors over age 15. Each has specific challenges. Again, the provided chart is helpful.


Unlike older horses, foals are dangerously susceptible to roundworms (ascarids). Unfortunately, resistance to ivermectin and other macrocyclic lactones exists in some regions and these compounds may no longer be effective to use in foals to treat ascarids. Therefore, a double-dose of a fenbendazole product is recommended at eight weeks of age or older. From there, young foals through weaning age benefit from deworming at two-month intervals to help prevent ascarids from maturing into egg-laying adults that lay eggs in pastures, waiting to infect the next generation of foals. Since foals and weanlings are more susceptible to most parasites, they require more frequent deworming. The chart provides helpful guidelines about which compounds to consider and when to treat.


Young horses from yearlings through age two, with their immature immune systems, also require more frequent dewormings using a variety of compounds over that time. These treatments are usually administered during the grazing seasons.  Again, the handy chart is helpful here.


Each adult horse, on the other hand, may need a slightly different program, depending upon living conditions and whether each is a high shedder or a low shedder, based on the number of strongyle eggs in their fecals. Most horses over age two have developed varying degrees of immunity to parasites, and, as a general rule, are only mildly affected by their presence – unless infestations become heavy.

Shedding status is most likely a genetic or inherited trait. High shedders (about five to 20 percent of mature horses) can look just fine, but secretly go about contaminating pastures and infecting everyone around them. Determining, via fecal egg count tests, which of your horses are high shedders can and should affect management and stocking practices. High shedders may need to be treated for parasites more often and compounds used may vary, while low shedders may not need to be dewormed as often, or with different products.


 Horses over age 15 are similar to adults, unless they have developed health conditions, such as Cushing’s Disease, that affect their aging immune systems. If a senior’s immune system is compromised, that individual may require a customized deworming program.

New Horses

Also keep in mind that when a new individual of unknown background is introduced, it is important – and safest for the horse – to administer a larvicidal dose of fenbendazole over the first five days it is in residence and prior to turnout on pasture.


Once you know which enemies specifically threaten each of your horses, it is time to set up the right rotational deworming plan for each individual. This program should span one year’s time, at the end of which a new plan for the following year may or may not be warranted.

Choose Your Weapons (Carefully!)

No new deworming molecule has been developed in more than 20 years and resistance to the existing compounds is growing. In addition, there are no new compounds on the near horizon, although research is progressing. Therefore, just as with antibiotics, it is best to use the right dewormer at the right time against the parasites of concern. Save a “big gun” dewormer for use only when other drug classes fail.

Each of the three primary drug classes, plus one specific to tapeworms only, has its place in most rotation programs. They include:

1)      Benzimidazoles – Fenbendazole, Example: Safe-guard, Panacur; Larvicidal fenbendazole, Example: Safe-guard Power-dose, Panacur Powerpac;

2)      Macrocyclic lactones – Ivermectin, Example: Zimecterin, Eqvalan, or Moxidectin, Example: Quest;

3)      Pyrimidines – Pyrantel, Example: Strongid C, Pyrantel Paste; and

4)      Praziquantel (for tapeworms only), offered in combination with a macrocyclic compound. Example: Zimecterin Gold (combination), Quest Plus (combination).

The attached chart offers a basic, easy-to-follow rotational outline to help you get started developing a program for each horse in your care. Look at age first, then read through the suggested compounds and treatment times, making adjustments that better fit your program based on living conditions, climate, and fecal egg count test results.

It is important to note that all three classes of deworming compounds are effective against adult small strongyles, when resistance build-up is minimal. However, only a larvicidal dose of fenbendazole can safely destroy all larval stages (EL3 and LL3) of encysted small strongyles where they hide out, killing them before a disastrous adult mass emergence through intestinal walls. The macrocylic lactone Moxidectin (a deworming compound to consider reserving for cases of resistance) is also effective against later stages of these encysted small strongyle larvae (LL3), but this drug is not recommended for young foals and thin, debilitated horses of any age.

Geography & Management

It is smart to know the unique parasitic challenges of the farm where your horse resides. For example, in some regions of the country, macrocyclic lactone dewormers, such as ivermectin, no longer are effective against roundworms, due to overuse and increased resistance to this molecule. This can especially be detrimental to foals and, instead, a double-dose treatment of fenbendazole is advised at approximately eight weeks of age. Weather and climate also affect the life cycles of some parasites, so taking into consideration  wet versus dry conditions, amount of sunshine, and hard frost events is helpful.

Another powerful weapon against parasites is adopting good environmental management practices. These include, but aren’t limited to, daily manure removal in stalls and twice weekly removal from pastures and paddocks; pasture rotation; inter-species grazing (sheep, cattle, goats, etc. rotated through horse pastures); providing any supplemental grain or hay in raised containers off the ground; and  keeping overcrowding to a minimum.

Customized Rotation Programs

The analysis of a fecal egg count (FEC) test can help you understand the parasitic challenges of a particular horse, especially when trying to determining which adult horses are high shedders and therefore may need a tougher deworming program, and which are low shedders, and don’t require treatment as often (saving money and slowing resistance build-up). You may even decide to house horses differently when shed rates are known. FEC tests also can be used to confirm that the drugs you are using are still effective.(Please see sidebar for easy tips on how to gather samples.)

Those Three Things You Must Know?

Once you know (1) which parasitic enemies are a threat, and (2) you factor in your horse’s age, environment and deworming history, you can (3) create the right rotational deworming program for each horse in your care. Although the complete, 100% elimination of those little bandits is impossible, no matter what the circumstances, the proper use of available compounds will thin their ranks and ensure your horse’s long-term health.

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Understanding Equine Cushings & Equine Metobolic Syndrome



Cushings (Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction)

Cushings in horses is a disease of the pituitary gland, specifically the pars intermedia. This is unlike Cushings disease in other species in which either the pituitary gland or the adrenal gland may be affected.  Due to this species difference, experts prefer to call this disease Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID).  This area of the pituitary becomes hyperplastic (enlarged; often on a microscopic level) and causes the body to secrete excess of certain hormones.  This leads to a variety of symptoms, such as a long hair coat, failure to shed out in the spring, a cresty neck, abnormal fat deposits, wasting of the topline, chronic infection, and laminitis. 

Testing for PPID usually involves a blood test, either an endogenous ACTH test or a low-dose dexamethasone suppression test.  Both tests should be done in a low-stress situation as stress can artificially raise the levels and give a false positive result to the test.  When testing from August – November a higher reference range for these tests must be used as all horses have natural increase in these levels during the fall months

The Good: 

For most horses PPID is very manageable.  The drug Pergolide is the mainstay of treatment, but sometimes the drug Cyproheptadine is also used.  Cyproheptadine is generally not as effective in managing PPID when used alone but when used is often in conjunction with pergolide.

The Bad: 

Though PPID is treatable it is not curable and these horses need daily treatment to manage the disease. Horses with PPID will often then need years of treatment which can be a financial strain.  The disease in some horses will become resistant to treatment, requiring an increased dose of pergolide or pergolide + cyproheptadine to control symptoms, which then further increases the cost of treatment.

The Ugly:

The worst consequence of PPID (particularly in uncontrolled PPID) is laminitis.  Laminitis is a disease involving severe inflammation within the feet.  It can range in severity and each case is different, but it is the number one reason horses with PPID are euthanized. 

Equine Metabolic Syndrome

Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) is a condition in horses involving obesity and insulin resistance.  These horses are the classic “easy keeper”, maintaining or even gaining weight with fairly little food.  Insulin resistance is a condition in which the horses’ insulin receptors are no longer sensitized to insulin and the horse therefore must make more and more insulin in order to get the same response by cells.  Symptoms include obesity, abnormal fat deposits (termed by specialists as “regional adiposity”) and laminitis, which can range in severity. 

Testing includes a fasting insulin blood test.  For this test the horse is fasted for 10-12 hours prior to blood collection.  Insulin levels can be altered by feed, in particular grains, which is why most clinicians prefer fasting prior to the test.  Since the symptoms of EMS can be similar to those of PPID, often testing for both is done at the same time.

The Good: 

This condition is treatable with diet and exercise and occasionally medications, such as thyroid medication.  While true hypothyroidism is rare in horses, thyroid medications can improve glucose utilization and insulin sensitivity and can encourage weight loss, particularly those that are not able to be exercised.

The Bad:

Getting these horses to lose a significant amount of weight can be very frustrating and takes perseverance.  Most of these horse require a strict low-carbohydrate/low sugar diet, which usually means little to no grass.  These horses often need to be on this strict diet for life, as they gain weight easily and are at an increased risk for laminitis.  A consistent exercise program is also essential in maintaining these horses.  Exercise is a key factor in achieving weight loss, and it increases the sensitivity of the insulin receptors as well.

The Ugly:

 Like PPID, this disease can lead to laminitis.  EMS horses with laminitis are in the proverbial “between a rock and a hard place” – they need to lose weight to improve their insulin sensitivity, but they are too lame to get the needed exercise to help their condition.

Bugging OUT: The Battle of the Bugs!


Have you ever felt like a warrior or wizard when you are trying to protect your horse(s) from biting flies, gnats, deerflies and mosquitoes? Have you ever declared war on the flies in your barn? I do, have, and will continue too, but I wonder if I am alone?

The following steps may or may not be top secret, but one thing is for sure, every summer, horse people do wage war on bugs and there is sufficient evidence that these steps work!

Step 1: Becoming the wizard; preparing your horse for chemical warfare.

Of course, by chemical warfare, what I mean is suiting up in an invisible layer of “under-armor.” To do this, envision you are a wizard and you are concocting a very special potion.  Using three different fly sprays (ones that might have worked for your horse), spray your horse all over his body, thoroughly coating him in a fine mist of each. Next apply a magical salve (a.k.a. some kind of repellent cream), being sure to target his belly, ears, eyes, muzzle, armpits, and in his sheath area.

When both are applied correctly, your horse will be thoroughly drenched, possibly even dripping wet.   The theory behind this “slightly excessive” tactic, is that at least one of the four products might be a useful defense in making the bugs  fly away, fearing for their life. However, it is not likely, UNLESS of course, ALL four are used together! This might be defense enough for the thickest-skinned horses, but why take any chances? Please proceed to step two.

Step 2: Preparing the warrior; introducing Captain Bug-buster!

WARNING: Captain Bug-buster has been known to cause the stable staff, boarders, and neighbors to fall down in fits of laughter. Seriously, your other horse friends might laugh at you and your horse, but pay no attention to that. Instead, prepared to be WOW’d! Once your horse transforms into Captain Bug-Buster, watch and be amazed at his effective abomination of bugs. You will see them bounce off him several times but don’t be alarmed. Simply the sight of Captain Bug-Buster grips them in such a way that they fly blindly, fearing for their lives. After the first few bounces, you will notice them fly off, never to be seen again (that is, of course, until tomorrow).

To turn your horse into Captain Bug-buster, he will first need a mask to protect his identity. We suggest this because there is a theory that bugs cannot tell one Captain Bug-buster from another provided the horse is wearing a mask! Next, you will need a cape which will also act as a shield. What better then a high neck fitted fly sheet? Even better would be one that is infused with bug repellent!  That would be a bugs triple “Whammy!”


So for a recap, we’ve got under-armor, then our Captain Bug-buster costume, and if you do not have a bug repellent infused fly sheet, no worries, you can always spritz one more layer of fly spray all over Captain Bug-buster!

Not into chemical warfare? There are other all natural products out there that are effective to varying degrees. One new product that is getting 5-star reviews is the BugPellent Pest Control system. It contains only natural essential oils and organic waxes. It can be used in a number of areas including in a barn, garage, patio deck, and even hang it from trees in the pastures! If you’re looking for something topical, I have also discovered that several homesteading blogs have instructions on how to make your own all natural bug repellents! Finally, one can look into biological warfare such as using harmless (to human and horses alike), gnat-sized wasps and fly parasites which are known  natural enemies of flies.

Does any of this sound remotely familiar to what you might do? If so PLEASE let me know, so that I know I am not alone! Also by leaving a comment about this blog, you will automatically be entered into a drawing to win a free BugPellent Pest Control starter kit!


Winner will be selected from those that leave a comment or a question between 6/11/2013 & 6/25/2013. Winner must have a valid US mailing address!