Spring Tune-Up for the Natural Horse

by Yvonne Welz ©2007, as published in Issue 11 of The Horse's Hoof Magazine (2003)

Every spring, many horse owners bring the vet out for a yearly, thorough health check-up. This is a good practice. However, often the focus turns to certain traditional procedures that are sometimes performed without individual consideration.

Many people have been wondering if there might even be a connection between spring shots, and the rise in laminitis cases in the spring.

Too Many Things at Once?

It is not uncommon for horses to receive a full repertoire of vaccinations (which, these days, could include Eastern and Western Encephalitis, Tetanus, Influenza, Rhino, EPM, Strangles, Potomac Horse Fever, Rabies, and West Nile Virus), along with perhaps tube worming and sedation for teeth floating/sheath cleaning, all in one day.

Please avoid this all-too-common scenario of performing every procedure that your horse needs done, all at one time. You wouldn’t do this to yourself, why do it to your horse? This is especially crucial for a foundered or metabolically challenged horse! We’ve heard way too many reports of horses being sent over the edge and foundering after a vet visit that involved too many things done in one day.

Caution is the Best Policy

Proceed cautiously and insist that your horse be treated as an individual, as you and your vet plan out your horse’s healthcare strategy. Space out all procedures and vaccinations—don’t give them all at the same time. Rather than give a vaccination or drug automatically, choose the cautious route and perform any tests that could help you avoid the chemicals, if possible. This includes titre testing (blood test) for antibodies from the last vaccine, that may help you extend the time between re-vaccinations, and fecal testing to identify if there are any parasites present, and what they are, before you de-worm, so that you can then choose the appropriate de-wormer. Research and discuss what vaccinations are even truly necessary.


Many holistic vets believe that a vaccination can last for perhaps even 10 years or longer, so yearly re-vaccinations can actually be an assault on the immune system, and lead to chronic illness. Even many conventional vets feel that we are over-vaccinating our horses. It is imperative that every horse owner thoroughly research the issue of vaccination. Many horse owners are opting to be extra cautious, and vaccinating very minimally.

It is very important to be aware of the risk of side effects of vaccinations, versus the risk of the disease you are vaccinating for. Many natural-care horse owners are asking: will this disease endanger my horse’s life? If not, they won’t vaccinate for that disease. It is also important to research the factual effectiveness of a vaccine, as many horse vaccines do not yet have significant scientific proof that they actually prevent the disease they are intended for.

If you do choose to vaccinate, it is best to use single vaccines (no multiples!), spaced 4 weeks between each separate vaccine. Treat vaccination day as one of severe stress on your horse, and take extra care of him. Space all vaccines far away from shows or events, or anything stressful. Dental care and all other procedures should be scheduled far away from a vaccine day. Holistic vets recommend a dose of homeopathic Thuja at the same time as any vaccination, to help eliminate side effects and the possibility of vaccinosis (long term problems from vaccination).


Parasite control isn’t something to think about only in the spring, but getting a fecal test done at that time should be standard procedure. Fecal testing will help you evaluate the effectiveness of your own parasite control program, and should be performed several times per year.

The most effective means of controlling worms naturally is to regularly remove manure from your horse’s living area. Optimizing your horse’s health and balancing mineral intake is also vital for worm control. When fecal tests reveal a parasite load that is taxing on your horse, use the safest chemical de-wormer for that class of worms.

How to avoid chemical de-worming? There are quite a few “natural” parasite control products out on the market now, including herbal mixtures, homeopathic de-wormers and natural paste products in tubes that resemble traditional de-wormers. Many people have home recipes that they feel are effective, such as human grade Diatomaceous Earth, pumpkin seeds, and garlic or other herbs, but fecal testing is always the bottom line.

Tooth Care

Don’t neglect your horse’s dental care! While there are some vets who are well trained in dentistry, horse owners are frequently seeking out the services of certified equine dentists. Research tooth care just as thoroughly as you researched hoof care.

A few web links to help you in your own research:

Why You May Not Want to Vaccinate -
Making An Informed Choice

Vaccinosis - Dr. Richard Pitcairn

The Natural Horse Vet
Offers a low cost fecal test with results in 3 days, and a natural paste de-wormer (Worm Check)

Riva’s Remedies
Natural products, including Pro-Dygest, a “Dewormer & Detoxifier”

Directory of Equine Dentistry

As published in Issue 11 of The Horse's Hoof Magazine (2003)

©2007 by The Horse's Hoof. All rights reserved. No part of these publications may be reproduced by any means whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher and/or authors. The information contained within these articles is intended for educational purposes only, and not for diagnosing or medicinally prescribing in any way. Readers are cautioned to seek expert advice from a qualified health professional before pursuing any form of treatment on their animals. Opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher.

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