Horse Care


Controlling Parasites in your Horses

There are three groups of internal parasite which can damage the gut and cause disease in the horse. The information below will hopefully explain the importance of developing a good worming regime, using the appropriate products at the correct time:

ROUNDWORMS are grazed of f the pasture as microscopic larvae which bury their way through the gut and over many months migrate around certain organs of the body. They then return in the larval form to the wall of the intestine where they live for a while before bursting out into the gut to form adult worms which produce eggs to contaminate your pasture.

TAPEWORMS have an interesting life cycle which cannot be completed without an ‘intermediate host’ known as the harvest mite found on the pasture during the summer and autumn and to a lesser degree in hay. When the horse ingests the mite, the tapeworm is liberated in an immature form and over many weeks, changes into an adult tapeworm.

BOTS are a bee-like fly. Eggs are laid by the fly on the horse, mainly on the legs, which are ingested when the horse’s mouth comes into contact with the eggs. The eggs hatch by this process, the larvae bury their way through the back of the tongue and all the way down to the stomach, where they erupt and form masses of large grubs which cling to the stomach wall.

There are many different horse worming products on the market. We believe that EQUEST & EQUEST PRAMOX will provide the spectrum of ant parasitic cover necessary to protect your horse’s health.

Your worm control will only be as good as your management. Using the appropriate wormer, picking up droppings in the field, rotating your grazing fields, and ploughing, liming and reseeding every few years will help prevent worm infestation on the pasture. Any new horse introduced to a yard should be wormed with EQUEST and kept in a box or restricted paddock for a couple of days with collection and disposal of droppings prior to any introduction to communally grazed pasture. The following worming protocol is advised:

  • Winter/Summer: EQUEST (Adult and encysted roundworms / Bots)
  • Autumn/Spring: EQUEST PRAMOX (Adult and encysted roundworms / Bots/Tapeworms)

Remember to either keep the horse in for 24hours after worming or to make sure that ALL droppings are picked up ASAP. No worm product kills 100% of worms, hence the necessity to follow the above protocol.

Equine Metabolic Syndrome – Feeding

What should I feed my horse with Equine Metabolic Syndrome

The goals of treatment are:

  • Induce weight loss in obese horses
  • Improve insulin sensitivity through weight loss, diet and exercise
  • Avoid dietary triggers for laminitis

Help your horse lose weight

Main methods of weight loss are:

  1. Calorie control/ reduction
  2. Reduce dietary glucose
  3. Increase exercise if possible

A weight loss of 500-700g a day and a loss of 1-2 Body Condition Score points over 12 weeks can be expected with a reasonable weight loss program.

Firstly, eliminate or greatly reduce pasture access. Turning out horses during early morning, on cloudy days, shady paddocks or using a grazing muzzle can help reduce their carbohydrate intake.  However, access to pasture is risky for metabolic horses so it may be safer to remove all grazing while on a weight loss program.

Without any access to grazing, metabolic horses should be fed no less than 1.2% of their bodyweight of a moderate quality grass hay divided into multiple meals.

Soaking grass hay for 30 minutes in hot water or 60 minutes in cold water can reduce the soluble carbohydrate levels further. However it should be noted that this can also remove other nutrients from the hay which should be replaced with a supplement or small amount of low starch hard feed.

Even without soaking their hay, a mineral supplement or low starch ration balancer may still be of benefit while on a reduced feed ration to ensure all your horses’ nutritional requirements are met. Our Multi Vitamin Supplement was designed with this scenario in mind.

You should monitor their weight loss closely using Body Condition Scoring (BCS) and a weigh tape so you can adjust the diet accordingly. (See BCS post)

For metabolic horses you should aim for a final BCS between 4-5, with the more chronically laminitic horses being maintained closer to 4. Some ponies may never reach a 5 or less making 6 acceptable.

Once this target is reached the forage portion of their diet can increased to 1.5-2 percent of their bodyweight to maintain their weight and prevent any gains or further loses.

Once a metabolic horse has been stabilised they may tolerate some grazing, providing they are monitored closely for signs of EMS.

Gaining Weight

If your metabolic horse needs to gain weight, the extra calories should come from an increase in dietary fibre and fat. This can be done by increasing their hay ration or adding in a low starch hard feed.  The addition of oil (such as canola/corn oil) can be a great way to increase the calories from fat within your horses’ diet, starting with a quarter cup and slowly increasing it to around one cup a day.

If you have any questions regarding your horse and metabolic disease or any other topics please call us today.



Eye Injuries

The prominent location of your horses eyes leave them very exposed to injury. Even minor damage to the eye can worsen rapidly and put their sight at risk in as quickly as a few hours to days in some cases. Combined with the fact that injury, infection or inflammation of the eye can be extremely painful for your horse it important to identify injury and seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.

Signs of a Painful Eye

  • Excessive tear production
  • Squinting or closing of the eye
  • Swelling/ redness
  • Discolouration of the eye
  • Avoiding bright light
  • Constriction of the pupil
  • Discharge from the eye

What to do

If you suspect your horse has an injured eye:

  • Move them to a darkened stable
  • Remove any objects that they could rub their eye on (rugs, tack etc)
  • Call your vet



Euthanasia is a way of providing a quick and painless death for your horse to avoid unnecessary suffering.  It is never an easy decision to make but this post will provide you with some basic information regarding the whole process.

Reasons for Euthanaisa

  1. A horse is elderly and can no longer maintain a good quality of life
  2. A horse is suffering due to a incurable condition
  3. A horse has become a danger to people, itself or other animals


Familiar surroundings will cause the least stress for your horse but vehicle access is vital so they can be taken away after the procedure.

Do you need to be there?

If you are able to stay calm, your presence will often help to relax your horse. However if you do not wish to be there you may have someone there to help in place of you. We advise you are not present while your horse is being loaded to be taken away following euthanasia.


If the situation permits, you should discuss the claim with your insurance company.  They will usually require a veterinary certificate regarding your horse and the reason for euthanasia. They may also request a post-mortem examination.

The Euthanasia Procedure by Lethal Injection

Your horse will be given a large overdose of anaesthetic via intravenous injection. This will cause them to lose consciousness and collapse.  Different veterinarians have slightly different methods of administering the anaesthetic, some prefer to place an intravenous catheter to facilitate drug administration whereas some give the anaesthetic through a needle.  Some may sedate your horse prior to euthanasia where some may not.  The heart can take a few minutes to stop and a few deep breaths may be noticed, however your horse will be completely anaesthetised and unaware during this time.


The disposal options available are affected by the health of your horse at euthanasia and the method chosen


This is the most frequently used option. It is available in all situations and you may request to have the ashes returned to you if you wish at further cost.

Hunt Kennels

The hunt kennels will collect your horse but it must be fit for consumption by the hounds. This option is not available after lethal injection or if your horse suffered from certain diseases.


Burial on your own land is an option but you will need to check the current regulations with the Environment Agency and DEFRA prior to burial.


Equine Metabolic Syndrome

What is Equine Metabolic Syndrome

Equine metabolic syndrome can be defined as a collection of risk factors that are associated with an increased susceptibility to laminitis. Characteristically these are obesity, patchy accumulation of fat, laminitis and insulin resistance.

Diagnosis of Insulin resistance is difficult because insulin levels are affected by a huge number of factors including diet, exercise, pain, stress, illness or Cushings. The gold standard method is not practical for regular use but there are a number of other methods available.  The most commonly used for practical reasons is a single blood sample taken after an overnight fast to test for high resting insulin (Resting hyperinsulinaemia).

However, a normal or low resting insulin does not necessarily rule out insulin resistance.  If a horse is displaying a number of other signs of EMS a glucose challenge test can be performed. A measured amount of glucose is fed following a 12 hour fast and a blood sample is taken 2 hours later.  Horses with IR are likely to have an excessively high insulin level and/or a delayed return to normal blood glucose levels.

If EMS is identified in your horse it is very manageable with dietry changes with or without the addition of medicines such as levothyroxine sodium or metformin to increase insulin sensitivity.

The goals of treatment and management are:

  • Induce weight loss in obese horses
  • Improve insulin sensitivity through weight loss, diet and exercise
  • Avoid dietary triggers for laminitis



Colts are generally castrated for ease of management. The main concern in any scenario is the risk of unwanted coverings, resulting in the pregnancy of young mares, or competition horses not intend for breeding at that time. Most intact colts are difficult to keep in company with other mares, geldings or stallions, especially as they get older and the male hormones increase. They can become difficult to handle, and in some cases become dangerous to handlers and other horses around them. Occasionally some of these dangerous traits do not all disappear after castration, as they become learned, so we often encourage castration before these behaviours are learned, to reduce the risk of them remaining.

People often worry about the loss of breeding potential, should their horse turn out to be a high achiever. In most cases I believe the horse would have never achieved such high achievements if remaining intact, and being constantly distracted by the sights and smells of other horses around them.


At Shotter and Byers we aim to perform as many castrations standing, under heavy sedation and local anaesthetic as possible. This method reduces the cost, the time taken and the risk of a general anaesthetic to the horse. The other method, under a general anaesthetic is useful in very small ponies where simply getting in under the abdomen while the pony is standing is impossible, or where a very fractious horse means standing sedation remains too dangerous for the surgeon. There are many factors to consider when making this choice, and they are best discussed with one of our vets when they arrive at the castration.


A colt can be castrated at any age, as long as both testicles are descended sufficiently. There is a body of opinion that castration should be left as late as possible, in order to allow the horse to ‘mature’. However there is no evidence that foals left entire develop any differently from those castrated early. Indeed, on the continent it is common place for colt foals unsuitable to be kept for breeding purposes to be castrated when still suckling from the mare. There is evidence to suggest that those foals castrated at such a young age recover from the operation faster and with fewer complications than their older counterparts.


Colts can be castrated at any time of year; however they should ideally be castrated either in the spring or autumn, in order to avoid the flies and heat of the summer and the deep mud of winter, both of which can increase the risk of post-operative complications. We like to organise castrations for the morning time if possible, so the horse can wake up and be monitored through the afternoon, and any required checks or follow-ups can be done by the vet during normal hours.


If possible, and if safe to do so, it is best to visualise, if not indeed feel two testicles in the scrotum, before booking castration, so as to confirm the surgery is possible. All our vets will do this before being the procedure anyway, but it is best to check in advance. On the day of the procedure we prefer a well-lit, dry and clean straw bedded quiet stable if possible. This is because shavings, sawdust or chopped straw all makes its way into a wound easier, and is best avoided if possible. Castration can be performed outside in a yard or a field if necessary. The only other things the vet will want are a bucket of warm clean water, and a competent handler for the horse.


Most horses will be turned out in a small paddock soon after surgery, depending on the size and age of the horse. The vet will confirm the plan at the time of castration. Complete box rest is not encouraged, as exercise will promote drainage and minimise swelling at the surgical site. The colt may be prescribed a short course of antibiotics and painkillers following surgery. It is best if your colt has received its primary course of tetanus vaccinations at least four weeks before the procedure, but if not, let the attending vet know, and tetanus anti-toxin will be given at the time of surgery. The surgical site will need to be inspected on a daily basis for rapid detection of any possible complications. If there are no post-operative complications the incisions should be completely healed within ten days.

A small amount of blood dripping from the wound in the first twenty-four hours after castration is normal, but if it ever exceeds a fast drip, please ring Shotter and Byer Practice, or the castrating vet immediately. A small amount of swelling after the procedure is also normal, the scrotum may return to the size it was pre-surgery for a few days, but this is normal, and will reduce over a few days if exercise levels are maintained. If swollen more than this, or anything is seen hanging from the incision site, please feel free to contact the vet direct, or please send a picture through to the vet for further advice.

Colt can remain fertile for up to two months after being gelded, so should not be turned out with mares for at least two months following castration.

If you are considering castrating a colt, please feel free to ring our practice, or one of our vets direct to discuss logistics, and costings in advance. We can get it organised and booked in to suit you.


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