Horse Pasture Management Practices for Parasite Prevention

In the first of our series on internal parasites, we discussed the major parasites that can be found in our horses. In addition to an effective deworming program, observing great pasture and barn management practices will help minimize the exposure of the horse to the eggs and larvae of common equine parasites, thus reducing the likelihood of infestation. Our second installment will give you some fantastic hints on parasite prevention and how to

Managing pasture is important for horse health

manage your barn to minimize the likelihood of parasites infecting your four-legged friend!

  1. Remove droppings from the stall and the field daily. Composting manure can produce heat that kills parasite eggs and larvae but should be covered over to prevent fly breeding.
  2. If you have a large area for your horses to graze, then it is recommended you chain harrow or screen drag regularly to spread the droppings and expose the eggs and larvae to the elements, which in turn will kill them. Harrow before forecast rain to maximize egg disposal. This does not need to be fancy. A simple drag made from two metal fence poles front and rear with a 4-6 foot long section of chain link fence in between, connected with a strong rope or steel cable to your tractor or ATV can work.
  3. Try not to over graze your fields or over stock them with horses. If you have a larger number of horses together you may need to increase the frequency with which you collect droppings to ensure there is no parasite build up.
  4. With their weaker immune systems, foals are more susceptible to certain intruders and therefore may shed larvae and eggs from different parasites. It is recommended that foals and young horses graze separately to prevent cross-contamination and limit the spread of the less common parasites.
  5. Rotate grazing as often as possible to reduce parasite build up and extend the time frame in which parasite eggs and larvae can die out. Ideally, changing grazing seasonally is best practice for effective parasite prevention.
  6. Be mindful of the other species with which the horse shares pasture. It is not ideal to share with donkeys, owing to the risk of lungworm unless the farm has a good worming program. Try to graze horses alternately with cattle and sheep. Generally, parasites of ruminants do not infect horses and vice versa.
  7. Do not feed from the ground. If feeding hay in the field, use racks, haynets on trees or fences or make troughs – feeding from the ground will risk the horse ingesting worm eggs within their food. Whether in the field or stall, always feed grain in a bucket as eggs can be present in bedding from droppings in the stall.
  8. When horses are kept in barns or stalls, remove droppings and wet bedding daily. Consider using wood shavings, which are very hygienic and easy to muck out, as worm eggs are unlikely to stick to the treated shavings.
  9. Always provide a clean water supply free from contamination. Consider investing in self-filling water troughs in the field and in the stall as this guarantees a fresh flow of water and many horses are not keen to drink still, discolored water or that which is warm from the sun.
  10. Speak to your veterinarian about fecal egg counts. Depending upon your location, climate and pasture, you may need fecal examination annually or twice yearly to check the parasite status of your horse and whether there is a need for a change of dewormer active ingredient. Regional variations are common due to climate and environmental extremes.
  11. It is important to alternate anthelmintic classes (drugs that expel parasitic worms (helminths) from the body, by either stunning or killing them) to decrease the risk of resistance – speak to your veterinarian about the right dewormer for your horse and the time of year.
  12. Ensure you have an effective fly prevention program in place. Flies can spread parasitic eggs and larvae so adopting a great fly management system early in the season can minimize outbreaks. Spalding Fly Predators are a chemical free, totally natural way to get rid of flies. They burrow into the pest fly larvae and destroy them before they can emerge as adults, thus controlling your fly population, naturally. Fly Predators are used by highly respected horse trainers including Pat Parelli and Julie Goodnight.

Check back here at soon for the third and final article on horse related parasites. In the final segment, we will cover the active ingredients that make modern dewormers both safe and effective.

*Image courtesy of Dollar Photo Club