We are very pleased to see horses for annual or half-yearly health checks because routine monitoring allows us to identify any niggles before they become serious problems which are more difficult to treat. Comfortable horses also give the most and are the best company.
We prefer to carry out these checks at our clinic in Stedham where we have everything to hand and can therefore offer the best service for the best price. Our checks are modular, meaning that you can choose which parts you want to have. If you cannot bring your horse to the clinic, talk to us and we will of course try to help. Our ‘Trot-up and lunge’ assessment is always available at your own premises as a regular check of your horse’s current soundness. Blood samples can be taken at your premises too if necessary.
Basic clinical examination and weight check Every health check includes a clinical examination, which is also an opportunity to chat about your horse’s health and how they are performing. The examination includes listening to heart and lungs.
Weight is as much of a health issue with horses as it is with people. Sometimes a horse losing weight can be a sign of discomfort. Heavy horses and ponies are at risk of lameness, diabetes, liver problems and Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS), which can trigger laminitis. Weighing your horse on our weigh-bridge is always a part of our health check and means you can compare changes in weight over time.
Trot up and lunge This is a key part of any health check. We need our horses to be sound and up for the job but they are of course made of flesh and blood like ourselves and, as with human athletes, there are constant niggles that lead to wear and tear. Spotting these early signs of trouble and treating them as they appear is the only way to give our horses the maximum athletic life and the most successful career. We will see your horse trotted up on a hard surface and lunged in the school to identify anything unusual in your horse’s gait or action. For more information about this service click here.
Eye examination Monitoring eyesight is always important because - as with us - there are several ways that your horse’s eyesight can deteriorate with passing years. This can include cataracts or retinal problems. Horses with deteriorating eyesight can be spooky and awkward, or even possibly dangerous. Yearly eye examinations allow the early detection of many problems including those with the cornea, (the outer surface of the eye) - which are quite common - and cancerous changes around the eye, which can readily be treated if caught early. We will give your horse some drops to dilate their pupils for the examination.
Blood test and liver blood test A routine blood sample from your horse can readily confirm that there is no anaemia, and that white blood cells are within normal limits. Liver disease is unfortunately quite common in the horse, and can be a serious problem causing weight loss, poor health and colic. We can run a liver assessment from a blood sample taken during the examination to confirm that your horse’s liver continues in good health.
Tapeworm blood test Horses pick up tapeworm at pasture and also from hay cut from pasture used to graze horses. Tapeworm is associated with colic in horses and needs to be taken seriously. Tapeworm is also an all-year-round problem rather than just in the Autumn. If tapeworm control is not adequate pasture can become a reservoir of tapeworm infection. Tapeworm does not show up on faecal worm egg counts, meaning that a zero worm egg count does not mean that your horse is not suffering from tapeworm. Tapeworm infection can however be assessed by a simple yearly blood test which provides a reliable measure of tapeworm exposure in your horse.
Teeth We are always happy to check and rasp your horse’s teeth, which should be done at least once a year. If your horse does not like having teeth done we can always give a little sedation while your horse is with us.
Laminitis, PPID (Cushings) and EMS tests While your horse is with us we can also take a blood sample for Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) and Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID). The EMS test is best done on a horse which has not eaten for a number of hours as we can then give some glucose before the test and get a more accurate result. These tests screen for the causes of the vast majority of laminitics, and horses do not have to be old to suffer from them. We recommend a yearly PPID test from the age of twelve as this particular condition is common in all types of horses and ponies and can cause sudden onset and fatal laminitis.
Gastroscopy It is estimated that one in three horses suffer from gastric (stomach) ulcers during their lives. The fact that they are common does not mean that they are part of normal Equine life and do not matter. Horses produce about a litre of acid in their stomach every hour throughout their lives, which works fine for horses grazing quietly in a natural environment. But for working horses this constant acid production often leads to trouble, which can be complicated by stress, even in sound animals. Gastroscopy involves passing a camera down the throat to visualise the stomach. It is a simple procedure which can be done at any time under light sedation. It is important for your horse’s welfare and performance to know if ulcers are present as the symptoms are varied but treatment is straightforward. If your horse is having gastroscopy you will need to withdraw everything edible after the evening feed the night before so that there is nothing in its stomach when the procedure is carried out.
Foot X-rays Farriers often say they would like a simple set of side-on shots of each foot once a year. This allows certainty in foot balance and the positioning of the pedal bone in the horn of the hoof. Some horses have a tendency to grow too much horn at the toe, which forces the bone and coffin joint into an uncomfortable ‘negative plane’. Similarly, horses and ponies that have been laminitic have a tendency to grow too much heel, which forces the pedal bone and coffin joint into the opposite direction. We offer these farrier X-rays at a greatly discounted rate.
Next steps / How to book a health check If you would like one of our excellent and well-designed health checks at any time of the year, please phone to make an appointment. John Dunsford is happy to chat through which checks would be most useful for your individual horse and we will email our prices to you. You do not have to have all the checks, however, we would recommend that each horse has a basic clinical examination and weigh, together with a trot-up and lunge, a teeth and an eye examination, a routine blood sample and a tapeworm blood test. Any other component you want can be added on by giving us prior notice.
For more information or to book your health check please call:01730 810742