Running Horse First Aid Courses I have met so many lovely owners, and many horsey members of the public. One thing that has struck me is how many misconceptions we have around horse care. Myth busting is something that features heavily in our courses, and I love challenging some of our long held ideas about horses. With that in mind here is a run down of my favourite horse care myths.
One both of our Horse First Aid Courses we have a section on preventative health care, and talk about the importance of Equine Influenza and Tetanus vaccinations. The Animal Health Trust estimate that only 35-40% of horses vaccinate their horses, and I have heard a variety of ‘myths’ around vaccinations at our courses. You can read more of these here in this article, but my favorite vaccination myth is the idea that it is ok to only vaccinate one horse (usually the competition horse) and not worry about the younger or older animals.
Some owners are under the (wrong) impression that vaccinating one horse will somehow offer immunity or protection to their other horses. Whilst there is some validity to the idea that protecting the horse who is out and about will help the others this is a rather flawed argument.
Firstly this idea could only be applied to an infectious disease, and secondly it is not a safe, or reliable way to protect horses as a vaccinated horse can still get ‘flu. Thirdly just think about humans, who is offered a free flu vaccination? The young and the elderly because these groups of people (and horses) often have a reduced immunity. Finally this idea cannot be applied to tetanus vaccinations, as this is not an infectious disease which is passed from horse to horse. I’m sure you don’t need any further convincing but just in case have a read of this article.
Often horse owners are surprised when we explain that any eye condition should be taken as seriously as colic. Owners shouldn’t ‘wait and see’, or try and open their horse’s eye if it is closed or swollen. A popular myth is that applying cold tea to a swollen eye will cure it, and I have certainly met more than one owner who has swore blind that this ‘fixed’ their horse. Did it, or did the owner get extremely lucky and the horse’s eye got better on it’s own? Well we obviously can’t prove this, but it should be noted that horses commonly suffer from corneal ulcers and uveitis and that these require different treatments. As an owner we literally have no idea which one is causing our horse to have a sore eye, so if we are trying to self medicate our horses with cold tea or any other old eye medication we have a 50 : 50 chance of getting it right (or wrong). It is certainly a safer option to call your vet, after all they are the ones with the training and the correct products.
Sudocrem is an owner favourite, and many riders are under the impression that it will fix any cut or wound that your horse picks up. There are several reasons that sudocrem is not a sensible choice for a wound (namely it clogs up the wound, can delay healing and stops it the wound breathing). Whilst sudocrem can be a useful barrier product, helpful for mud fever prevention we have much better products available now, and we have a much better understanding of how wounds heal.
On a similar note there are many myths around cleaning a wound. We discuss this on our Horse First Aid Course and it is often a surprise to owners that we don’t recommend hibiscrub to clean wounds. You can read more about hibiscrub here but in a nutshell it is too strong, it kills good and bad cells, it can delay wound healing and often owners are using it at the wrong concentration. If you wish to use hibiscrub it should barely colour the water, and it is certainly not a case of the more the better.
You are better to keep the hibiscrub for washing your own hands, and perhaps use it for very dirty wounds on the advice of your vet.
Sadly some older horses (but by no means all) don’t get the individualised care that they need, because there are many misconceptions around older horses. For instance an ‘older horse’ (and how you define ‘older’ is of course very open to interpretation) should not necessarily lose weight. This has been a long held idea, and it was based on research suggesting that older horses had parasite damage to their digestive system which resulted in decreased digestive efficiency. It is now thought that poor dentition, Cushing disease or reduced hepatic or renal function is a more likely cause of weight loss in the veteran horse. With good dental care, appropriate forage and suitable feed an ‘older horse’ can maintain condition really well.
Do you have a favourite horse care myth? I would love to hear the myths that you have encountered in the horse world. If you’d like to update your horse first aid knowledge you can attend a course, or learn flexibility with our digital horse first aid course.