Equine - Wellness Exams - The Ins and Outs of Horse Wellness Exams

How does a horse's wellness impact their performance on and off the arena?

You want your horse to feel as good as possible when he goes into the show arena. They need to be free of parasites, and you don't want them to be sick, have a fever, or feel bad. Some of the things we do to make sure a horse feels good from a health perspective is making sure they're dewormed properly and make sure they're vaccinated properly.

If you take a horse to a horse show, you expose them to horses from all over the area, potentially a greater area too. It's similar to when you take a child to school; you get exposure to all different kinds of pathogens. Because of this exposure, we have a plan and some vaccines to help strengthen the horse's immune system to keep them from being affected by the different viruses and bacterial organisms in the environment.

Dr. Matthew DeLisle
Tennessee Equine Hospital

How often should our horses be seen for a wellness exam?

Ideally, a horse should have a wellness exam twice a year. That way, we can check-in and make sure our horse is healthy and ensure that physical parameters are normal. Vaccines should be given once to twice a year, depending on the degree of travel and exposure.

Will my horse receive any additional testing other than a wellness exam?

It depends on your horse. If your horse doesn't fit the description of what they need to be—they're too thin or too heavy or doesn't look healthy—then we may recommend some blood tests or some tests based on the physical parameters that may give us a better idea what's going on with your horse.

What are some wellness recommendations that my vet is likely to make during a wellness exam?

So obviously, vaccines. We want to vaccinate one or two times a year. We want to vaccinate with vaccines that are important for the geographical area that we're in. So that may be different from Southern Tennessee to Northern Tennessee or West Tennessee to Northern Alabama.

It depends on where you are and what your horse is exposed to. We also have conversations about feeding, such as the best food and how much to feed, depending on your horse. We do an oral exam, look at the horse's teeth and make sure the teeth are properly floated and the horse's mouth is comfortable.

Are there some environmental factors that can affect my horse's wellness?

Living conditions will affect your horse's wellness, such as the bedding in the stall, pasture. The big thing we see right now, we're in the middle of the summer, and it's been a beautiful July, with a lot of rain. These horses that live outside in the grass have wet feet all the time, so we see feet trouble. We want to know if the horse has a dry environment, a damp environment, and good bedding. It depends on where you are and where your horses live and thus the recommendations we're going to make.

Why is early detection of some of these health issues so important for our horses?

If your horse is headed in the wrong direction, the quicker you can get them going in the right direction, the better they're going to be. And you want to catch a problem before it becomes a permanent problem. And our goal is early detection and prevention.

For our older horse population, what may be included in some wellness care for geriatric horses?

The first thing that comes to mind is teeth, making sure their teeth are good and there are no loose teeth or sharp teeth. We also look at parasite control. Older horses may have seen every dewormer under the sun, so there may be a little resistance there. Their immune system may be a little bit lower, so they may be more susceptible to the parasites and not able to clear them. And then you have some older horse common diseases, one of which is Cushing's disease and some metabolic diseases that we'll check for and make sure that we've got normal levels. Those diseases are easily treated if they're detected early on.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (615) 591-1232, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.