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Controlling Horse's Sand, Insect, and Parasitic Ingestion
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Controlling Horse's Sand, Insect, and Parasitic Ingestion

Horses that are fed hay on the ground inevitably consume things they shouldn't, especially when eating small alfalfa leaves. Bored horses without access to free-choice hay might even eat harmful substances intentionally.

Sand Control:

To minimize sand ingestion—which can be harmful to a horse's health—feed hay from large plastic or metal water tanks rather than from hanging feeders, where horses often pull hay onto the ground as they eat. Another option is to place rubber mats in the feeding areas. The mats can be swept or hosed off prior to feeding to minimize contamination of hay with sand.

You can also use tractor tires that have been turned inside out as feeding stations. Even with these practices, it is safer to use a psyllium-based supplement to help move sand through the digestive tract. Consuming hay offered free-choice can also help move sand and dirt through the intestines while giving the horse something to occupy his time and satisfy his need to chew.

Parasite Control:

Most equine internal parasites spend part of their life cycle developing on forage plants, where they get ingested by grazing horses. Horses kept in stalls and drylots experience less exposure to these infective stages and, therefore, likely require less frequent deworming. But based on regular fecal egg counts, your veterinarian can recommend deworming protocols for your specific drylot environment.

On top of twice-weekly manure pickup and a tailored deworming schedule, manure management is recommended to kill insect and internal parasite larvae. A good composting program is the best method to deal with manure and shaving waste and to cut down on insect proliferation. Your local county extension agent can offer ideas for systems that work well in your area, as well as provide information about local regulations that might influence your manure management plan.

Insect Control:

In any environment, insects are nuisances to horses and people alike. The best approach to insect control is good sanitation as the foundational strategy. Minimize the presence of standing water and moist organic matter (e.g., soiled bedding, wet waste, and feed) where insects like to breed. At least every three days remove and compost manure to break the life cycle of fly reproduction. Apply insecticide per manufacturers directions.

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