Health Guidance
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Health Guidance

Equine Health Checklist
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Purchasing a horse or pony

Before you buy, think carefully about what type of horse or pony you are looking for. When you acquire a horse it becomes your responsibility 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, depending on you for its health, comfort and safety. There are four main points to consider when purchasing a horse or pony:

  • What you are using it for
  • The facilities you have available
  • The amount of time you have to exercise and look after it
  • The cost of both buying and keeping it

Take a knowledgeable friend with you when viewing prospective purchases. Not only will they be able to give you a second opinion on suitability but they may also be able to spot any potential problems.

Pre-purchase examinations

When you’ve found your ideal horse or pony, it is advisable to have a pre-purchase veterinary examination carried out (or vet’s certificate as it is commonly known). The Five Stage Veterinary Examination for Purchase is carried out following guidelines laid down by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) in conjunction with the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA). The examination should be carried out by an experienced veterinary surgeon who will report on whether it is advisable to go ahead with the purchase. Try to use your own veterinary surgeon, who will appreciate and advise on your requirements. Having a horse examined prior to purchase is not cheap, but it may well save you money in the long run. If the horse passes the examination, then a certificate will be completed by the veterinary surgeon, which may be used for insuring the horse or pony when the sale is completed.

You may also be interested in viewing the BEVA/RCVS Guidance Notes on the Examination of a Horse which has been produced jointly by the British Equine Veterinary Association and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (and is Supported by the Veterinary Council of Ireland and Veterinary Ireland) and is intended to provide general guidance for both the veterinary surgeons and prospective purchasers on what is to be expected of pre-purchase examinations of horses. The term “horse” is meant to include ponies and foals.

Vendor's certificate

A vendor’s certificate is sometimes issued by the vendor or by the vendor’s veterinary surgeon prior to selling the horse. It is not, nor should it be regarded as, a substitute for a pre-purchase veterinary examination.

Horse Passports

Since 30th June 2004, all horses, ponies and donkeys in England are required to have a passport. They can be obtained from a large number of Passport Issuing Organisations (PIOs) for a small fee. A full list of PIOs can be found on the DEFRA website. The passport will contain a section where the owner declares whether the animal is ultimately intended for human consumption. This is to ensure that certain veterinary medicines do not inadvertently end up in the human food chain. Vendors of horses are required to possess an up-to-date passport at the time the horse is offered for sale and a prospective purchaser should ask to view it before purchasing the horse.

Getting and using a horse passport.

Dentistry

Choosing who to provide routine dental care for your horse can seem daunting with the huge diversity of both good and bad dental care providers available. These choices can include your equine vet and both qualified or unqualified equine dental technicians. The term ‘dentist’ is a protected term only to be used by human dentists; there is no such thing as an equine dentist.

Routine dentistry in the horse is not just about the rasping the teeth – in fact that part is the straightforward part. The examination of the mouth is by far the most important feature of equine dentistry, just as it is in human dentistry. Equine vets are trained not only to look at the whole of horse’s mouth but also the horse as a whole; remember that the mouth is just the beginning of the horse’s digestive tract. Appropriate knowledge of dental anatomy and disorders allows early diagnosis of problems and subsequent treatment to be performed before a serious problem develops. Under the Veterinary Surgeons Act (1966) a “diagnosis” can ONLY be reached by a qualified veterinary surgeon.

As the examination of the mouth is the most important part of dentistry, the more detailed it can be, the better. For the most thorough examination to be performed this should involve sedation in all but the best-behaved horses. Horses suffering from oral pain or those who have an existing dental problem should be sedated for both a complete examination and subsequent treatment. For painful procedures such as wolf tooth removal or removal of food between cheek teeth, your equine vet will be able to provide pain relief and local anaesthetic to make the procedure as pain-free as possible.

Other ancillary aids such as radiography may be required to reach a diagnosis which can only be performed by veterinary surgeons. And remember that ONLY veterinary surgeons can administer treatments such as antibiotics and anti-inflammatories and dispense oral sedatives.

There are now many equine vets who have undertaken further qualifications in equine dentistry. The most qualified of these are RCVS Specialists who have undergone rigorous Diploma examinations and are members of either the European or American Veterinary Dental Colleges. The Specialist list is tightly controlled and members must continue to show high levels of expertise in equine dentistry and re-accredit with both their parent college and the RCVS. Your equine vet can refer both routine or advanced cases to one of these specialists. These are the only group of people who can call themselves Equine Dental Specialists.

There are also equine vets who have undergone post-graduate training in equine dentistry and passed rigorous examinations set by the RCVS to attain Advanced Practitioner Status in Equine Dentistry. Vets on this list have demonstrated knowledge and experience in equine dentistry beyond their veterinary degree, but who have also confirmed that they continue to be up to date in their field over and above the RCVS requirements for continuing professional development (CPD).

There are also vets who have sat and passed the BEVA BVDA Equine Dental Technician Exam. A list of BEVA members who have passed this exam can be found here.

If you choose to use an equine dental technician to provide routine dental care for your horse, BEVA would recommend only using those who are members of the British Association of Equine Dental Technicians (BAEDT) or category 2 members of the World Wide Association of Equine Dentists (WWAED). These technicians have undergone approved examinations to attain their qualifications, have to maintain their continuing professional development and abide by the association code of conduct; those that don’t will often be removed from their societies membership. As such some veterinary practices will only provide sedation for those on the lists.

There is tight control over procedures that equine dental technicians may perform. The list in full can be accessed here. In summary Category 1 procedures can be performed by everyone including unqualified dental technicians; Category 2 procedures may only be performed by qualified dental technicians and vets; Category 3 procedures can only be performed by veterinary surgeons.

Stable management

Stabling

Loose boxes are the most common form of stabling. Each horse must have room to lie down, stand up and be able to turn in comfort. The recommended minimum box size for horses is 3.66m x 3.66m (12ft x 12ft) and 3.05m x 3.05m (10ft x 10ft) for ponies. These are minimums and must take into consideration the size of the horse or pony.

Bedding

Bedding is essential to provide warmth, comfort and protection against cold weather and injury. It should be non-toxic and provide effective drainage to maintain a dry bed, and should consist of straw, wood shavings (or mixes), paper or chopped cardboard. Other less favoured alternatives include peat and sawdust, but these options are not ideal. Bedding must be dry and free of dust and mould, so ensure you have a good quality supplier.

Stable Hygiene

Droppings and wet bedding should be removed at least twice a day. Loose hay and feed should be swept out of the stable and both the stable and yard should be kept clean and tidy.

Fire Hazards

All electrical wires and light switches should be out of reach of both horses and rodents and be properly earthed. Piles of used bedding should be stored well away from the stable yard and smoking should not be allowed in the yard area. All fire extinguishers and fire alarms should be checked regularly and fire exits should be kept clear.

Breeding

The successful reproductive care of your mare involves disease control, ultrasound scanning, the detection and treatment of any problems and pregnancy diagnosis. Only a qualified Veterinarian can provide this full service.

The BEVA Approved AI list features Veterinary Practices that have met BEVA’s high standards. We recommend using a practice from the BEVA Approved AI list to maximise your mare’s chances of delivering a healthy foal.

Breeding Guidance

  • You should not breed indiscriminately.
  • Both the mare and stallion should be proven in their field and have good conformation and temperaments.
  • Ideally, breed from registered stock.
  • Consider carefully what you will do with the horses you breed.
  • Bear in mind that it will cost a minimum of £1,000 per year to raise a young horse. Seek advice from your veterinary surgeon and well-established breeders before you embark on breeding a foal.

Responsible Horse Owner Booklets

The KBHH responsible horse owner booklets have been approved by BEVA and provide guidance on different topics to help you keep your horses healthy.

Download the resources