Keeping your horse in tip top condition requires the advice and input of professionals, and one of the most common questions asked by prospective horse owners is how often should I take my horse to the vet? In addition to regular visits from a farrier every 6-8 weeks, the second most common visitor to your yard will most likely be a veterinarian. The regularity of veterinary visits will vary greatly depending on the age and overall health of your horse and the costs associated with this must be a key consideration to anyone looking to buy their own horse.
Elderly horses, the very young or foaling mares and those with pre-existing conditions will all require frequent veterinary attention in order to monitor their progress and review any long term prescriptions. However, even the healthiest horses still need to be taken to your local equine vet on a regular basis and the most common veterinary request from horse owners is to update their horse’s vaccination record.
Vaccinations are not only a vital component of equine care, but many competition horses will need to provide proof of an up to date vaccination record prior to competing at affiliated level. Vaccinations are routinely given to protect horses against Equine Influenza and Tetanus, and boosters must be administered by a veterinarian, meaning that your horse will need a visit at the very least once a year.
Another common reason for a veterinary visit is teeth rasping which involves the filing down of sharp, overgrown teeth. This is a relatively straightforward procedure in horses of all ages, but is more common amongst older horses. Equine teeth grow continually throughout the life of the horse, and their length is usually kept down due to high fibre diets and grazing. However older horses can sometimes lose teeth, causing malocclusion which will result sharp, painful edges where the teeth have not worn down evenly.
Some horses will tolerate teeth rasping quite happily, but the majority will require sedation in order for a thorough job to be done to ensure longer durations between visits, and this will require a veterinary surgeon to administer the anaesthesia and/or perform the procedure. Equine teeth should be checked once a year, but horses who have fast growing teeth, misshapen or misaligned teeth may require more frequent visits to keep their teeth in check.
Sedation administration is not unusual for a variety of routine equine procedures, especially for young or nervous horses who do not enjoy being handled. Farrier visits may require a veterinary presence if sedation is required to calm him prior to having his feet trimmed or shod, as this will ensure a smoother and safer experience for all concerned.
If you are a horse dealer or trainer, then you can expect to require regular veterinary input over and above simply keeping on top of vaccinations and dentistry. Dealers and trainers will be very familiar with their local vet as each and every horse that is purchased or sold through them will require a ‘vetting’. A vetting is basically an equine MOT which involves checking confirmation, condition and gait as well as blood sampling to identify any possible infections or medical conditions that may be lying dormant and could affect the use of the horse, this ensures they are fit for racing, competing or breeding in the future.
It goes without saying that horse owners benefit greatly from the knowledge and expert advice from their equine vet, and whether you have a welsh cob who you hack out once a week or a warmblood competing at national level, a close working relationship with your vet is essential to your horse’s health and well-being.