Worming is one of those horse care tasks we’d all rather avoid, but for your horse’s health (and even to save their life), you need to carry out a regular de-worming program.
Why use chemical de-wormers
Most of us trying to keep our horses as naturally as possible, would rather not use chemical wormers, but if you avoid them altogether, you are risking your horse’s life.
Some herbal wormers can be effective but please use regular testing to see if they are effective or need worming.
Knowing what wormer (chemical) to use and when is the basis of a good worming program.
Chemical worm resistance can be reduced by the use of fecal egg counts, and a worming program that targets the 20% of the horses that generally carry 80% of the worms. It pays to know all you can about the worms you’re trying to control so watch these videos by Equine Parasitologist Martin Nielsen.
There is now a new option to reduce roundworm burdens by feeding a biological control product that seeds the pasture with a natural strain of ‘worm-eating’ fungus called Duddingtonia flagrans (abbreviated to D.flagrans).
Bioworma is combined with a well-known supplement called Livamol and fed with a horse’s regular diet. Spores pass through the gut and are then expelled in the manure.
When the infective nematode/roundworm larvae become active within the manure, the fungus sporulates and forms a fungal web that captures, paralyzes, and consumes infective larvae.
This natural alternative is best used when weather conditions (above 5 degrees C) favor the spread of worm larvae.
Taking a holistic approach by ensuring we use harrowing and resting pastures along with cross-species grazing are some of the best ways to reduce worm infestations.
Picking up manure and composting it can be time-consuming but is a good solution for smaller areas like tracks, yards, and sacrifice areas.
Larger areas are best divided into smaller pastures to enable a system of grazing and resting after harrowing. The Equicentral system of horse-keeping or a combination of a track with access to several smaller grazing areas is an ideal way to achieve this.
However, to exclude all chemical wormers puts your horse at risk of colic and/or peritonitis due to the encysted small strongyle being the problem worm of today.
Neck Threadworms (Onchocerca) is a problem that needs regular worming treatments to stay on top of the itching that is caused by larvae being shed from the adult worms. This in turn attracts little biting flies called culicoides that feed on the larvae and then spread the worm by biting the next horse.
Apparently, most horses have this worm ensconced in the nuchal ligament of the neck so if you want to know how to get on top of the itching it causes, read this in-depth page by Jane Clothier on “The Disturbing Truth About Neck Threadworms and Your Itchy Horse.”
The following articles will explain why, and to get the latest information and methods for worming read Ann Nyland’s book ‘What You Don’t Know About Worms Will Surprise You!’
To have your horse accept worming without fuss, teach them with positive reinforcement and practice this between each worming session. This video shows what that would look like.