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Choosing a livery yard with good worm control: A guide for horse owners


From turnout options to arena surfaces there are many factors to consider when choosing

the right livery yard for your horse. Whether it’s DIY, part or full livery and whatever your

budget you want to ensure that the facilities and care will support you in keeping your horse as happy and healthy as possible.


The more horses that live together in one place, the more important parasite control

becomes. Good worm control is fundamental to the management of a larger yard and this

aspect of horse healthcare should be an important consideration for anyone choosing a

livery yard.


Parasite risk covers a range of factors. Here are some potential questions to pose so you

can ensure you have it covered:


Do you have a worm control programme?


First and foremost, you’re looking for reassurance that someone understands the importance of parasite control and which horse worms to target at which time of year. Ideally this means a strategic test-based programme for redworm, ascarid and tapeworm, an appropriate intervention for possible encysted stages of the small redworm and knowledge of other parasites such as bots and pinworm and how to deal with them.


The lifecycle of the worms and the age/risk factors of the horses dictate the frequency of

testing but most horses can follow a simple plan of worm egg counts every 8-12 weeks,

Equisal testing for tapeworm every 6 months and a test or treatment for the possibility of

encysted stages of small redworm in the late autumn/winter.


Blanket worming programmes that rely on treating all horses, every time, irrespective of test results, are now considered irresponsible and outdated. Every time we use a wormer it

speeds up the development of wormer resistance, a real and imminent danger to horse

health. Resistance means we can no longer give a wormer and expect it to work, and

research shows that most equestrian properties will have some level of resistance.


Conversely a yard with no worming programme could expose your horse to unchecked

parasite challenges and make life much more difficult for you to manage your own horse’s

parasite burden. At worst it could put your horse at risk from serious illness and even death.


Regular monitoring using worm counts and tests targets the wormers to only those that need them, reducing the need to treat by up to 80%. They ensure our parasite control

programmes are being effective and bring peace of mind to protect horses from potential

disease caused by parasite infection.


Who manages the worming programme?


Ideally one person should be in charge of coordinating a programme so that everyone is

doing the same thing, and all horses are covered. The testing and treatment programme can then be managed hand in hand with field changes and pasture management to maximise its effectiveness. Streamlining control in this way reduces the risk of parasite challenge and also the amount of proactive treatment you might need to give. It usually works out cheaper too!


How do they manage the grazing?


In addition to a worming protocol, any pasture management techniques that break the

lifecycle of the worms mechanically, rather than relying on chemicals is a huge bonus. Poo

picking at least twice a week is the single best thing to reduce parasite infection as it

removes worm eggs in the dung before they hatch. Add in resting, rotating, and cross

grazing of paddocks with other animals and this will play a big part in minimising parasite

challenge on the pasture.


Look for stable herds of horses on well-maintained fields that are not over grazed.

Muckheaps should be located at least three metres from adjacent fields (to prevent the tiny

worm larvae from wriggling onto any next-door grazing and infecting pasture). Yes that is a thing!


Good husbandry can play a big part in helping to reduce the number of chemical worming

doses you need to give.


What about new horses coming on to the yard?


We need to think of parasites as transmissible disease – just like other pathogens such as

viruses and bacteria, horses can pick worms up out and about. New horses coming into a

herd are a particular disease risk. All new arrivals coming on to the yard with an unknown

history should be quarantined, tested for parasites with a worm egg count and Equisal test

for tapeworm and potentially treated before being allowed on to the main fields with other

horses.


If the yard is perfect in every other way then don’t be shy about giving this feedback.

Express your concerns and explain how Westgate Labs could support them in moving to

targeted worm control! With some simple steps we can help to protect our horses from the

threat of parasite disease now, and our ability to keep them healthy in the future, as well as

our livery yards and the places we keep horses.


Anyone looking for guidance on the parasite control of their horses will find lots of

information at www.westgatelabs.co.uk or if you have specifying questions call or email

Westgate Labs’ dedicated helpline on 01670 791994 or info@westgatelabs.co.uk and their

friendly team will be happy to help.

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