Internal parasites are transmitted between horses through contact with manure, such as grazing in a manure-contaminated pasture or sharing a manure-ridden paddock. Although a very diligent parasite control program might cover your horse and other horses on your farm, it is possible that your horse encounters exposure when off the farm. As your horse travels to events, how can you protect him from parasite infection?
This can feel like an insurmountable problem when everywhere you walk and everywhere you look, there are piles of horse manure spread around the show grounds. Some of it has been scattered, some sits in piles, and some is mixed in with piles of hay. Ironically, we are happy to see a horse defecate regularly since this indicates his intestines are moving things along as they should. But, you have no way of knowing what level of parasite contamination outside horses bring to the event grounds--each manure pile poses a hidden risk to your horse.
Simply put, the best advice is to keep your horse’s nose out of trouble:
- Don’t let him nibble at hay scattered around the show grounds, especially hay piles contaminated with fecal matter.
- If using stalls or paddocks at the show grounds, rake up all manure and bedding from the stall before stabling your horse in that area of confinement.
- When hand grazing your horse, avoid grassy areas littered with fecal matter.
As a consideration to others, clean up all manure that falls out of your horse trailer as your horse unloads. Leave your show stall spic and span; and when possible, wherever your horse drops manure on the grounds, pick it up. Check with show management about a composting site to deposit the manure.\
If everyone works toward better hygiene, the grounds will be more pristine and harbor fewer infectious possibilities.
A little bit of common sense can go a long ways toward avoiding parasite contamination at horse show grounds. Be sure to have your vet perform regular fecal egg counts, especially following periods when your horse has visited places off the farm.
Editor's Note: Some of these tips are also appropriate for those who are going on trail rides. Avoid cleaning out your trailer at the trail head, and encourage others to do the same.