Home and ContentsQuestions and Answers A to ZBuying a horseBehaviour & psychologyHorse and Pony CareTraining HorsesHelping Hands HorsemanshipSchool Your Horse Help DeskSafety with horsesCompetition PageHorse & Pony StoreHoofbeats - The BlogAbout Us and Contact

Worms, parasites, parrot mouth, fly sprays and repellents ... (on this page)

← ... Back                                                                                       Next page (Horse and Pony Care in Autumn and Winter)

Worming horses and ponies on a regular basis is very important. Ask your local stockist for advice on the most effective wormers and change type (not brand name) every six months to help prevent parasites building up resistance to the chemicals in the wormers.

Strongylids or redworm are dangerous for foals so worm regularly

Parasites in horses

Regular worming of horses and ponies is the key to controlling internal parasites. Work out a worming schedule for the year or ask your vet to help you. Staff in stores selling wormers should know the correct chemical pastes to use at certain times of the year.

Red worms or blood worms (Strongylids)

These are the most dangerous of all parasites found in horses and appear a reddish colour due to the blood which they suck. Redworms can be up to 1cm long and there are large and small redworms. It is the small redworms which cause the most damage to intestinal organs. These worms build up in areas where many horses are grazing together. If they are left untreated, the horse will eventually become so thin and debilitated that it will be unable to stand. Impaction from redworms can also cause serious colic. Regular worming with a suitable worm dose is essential.  Foals are particularly at risk so need to be wormed regularly.

Round worms (Ascarids)

Round worms can be up to 30cms in length and are thick and white. Large numbers of them can cause loss of condition and bouts of colic. Foals are most at risk.


Pinworms are long and thin, up to 4.5cm in length. The horse will rub his tail and there may be an anal discharge.


Tapeworms in horses are much smaller than one would imagine, up to 3 cm in length, and are white and flat. They attach themselves to the lining of the intestines. Sometimes there are no symptoms of tapeworms or the horse may lose weight or suffer bouts of colic. A double dose (twice the normal dose) of Strongid or another suitable wormer is recommended once a year.

Stomach bots

Gadflys lay small yellow eggs which stick to the skin of horses in summer. The horse licks them off his coat and they pass into his digestive system and end up in the stomach and intestine where they can stay for almost a year before being passed out with the droppings. Adult gadflys then emerge from the pupal cases in the soil and the whole cycle starts over again. Ask your vet for the latest chemical pastes used against bots or use ivermectin in the Autumn after the first frost (around November) to stop the bots staying inside horses over the winter. The yellow eggs laid on horses in Summer can be picked off or rubbed off with a cloth.

Fly Sprays recommended by Readers

Commercial Fly Repellents:

  • Power Phaser  Fly Spray (approx €16.50 or £15 for 500ml).
  •  Coopers Fly Repellent  Plus (approx €25 or £23)
  •  NAF Deet Fly Repellent
  •  Sol-U-Mel
  • Avon Skin So Soft (blue one) (approx €3 to €7 or £5 for 250ml)
  • Lincoln Fly Stoppa
  • Mark Todd
  • Lincoln Ditch the Itch
  • Barrier Super Plus Fly Spray (from €10 or £8.50)
  • Deosect Fly Repellent (approx €36 or £34) (recommended also for fleas and lice).

Homemade fly sprays and repellents:

  • 1 cup of cold tea, 2 tablespoons of vinegar, 20ish drops of citronella (can be brought cheaply from your local chemist) top up with water. Apply with garden spray bottle.
  • Cider, Tea Tree and vinegar
  • Garlic in feed may help but not everyone agreed this works.
  • Baby oil, tea, fairy liquid and citronella oil (not advised on grey horses as tea stains)
  • 10 drops of Tea Tree oil, 10 drops of Lavender oil,  10 drops of Eucalyptus oil and 20 drops of Citronella oil in 100mls of Sweet Almond oil. Brush this onto the body and apply extra into the tail and mane. Wash the horse first time round and apply when the horse is dry. This mixture can also be used to kill fleas.
  • Vinegar and water, i.e. 2 parts vinegar to one part water. Add vanilla essence to make it smell better. Also works as an anti-inflammatory on fly bites.
  • Marmite in feed.

(Contributors: Fiona Forbes, Rosie Allen, Emmalene Knowles, Ashleigh Thornton, Emma Wade, Megan Rogers, Melissa Lawrence,  Nell-Elizabeth Best Power, Justine Gallagher,  Laura McCann,  Anna Palmer, Annie Worsley, Amber Coleman, Nic Evans,  Sally Nicholson, Claire Blenkinsop, Emma Louise French, Bernice Wade , Lindsay Carthy, Mandy Sampson.)

Taking off rugs in Spring

One of the easiest ways to deal with hardening off horses at this time of year is to have a lightweight turn out rug which can be put on during the day time to protect against wind and rain but will not make the horse sweat like he would in the winter heavyweight rug. You can put the heavier rug back on at night. This is also a great help if your horse has been clipped over the winter and you want to harden him off to go out to grass, i.e. hunters. Continue this for about a week and then start taking the lighter rug off. Allow 10 to 14 days to let the horse get used to not having a rug during the day before taking off altogether, depending on the weather.

We don't have lightweight rugs for all our horses and ponies so will wait a little longer until temperatures are in the early teens (13 degrees or over) before removing the winter rugs for the day. You need to harden the horse or pony off gradually to give him time to adjust to not having a rug. It's difficult to say how long this will take as it depends on the weather. In Ireland we have snow or heat waves in April so one never knows what's coming next.

The most important thing is not to allow horses to sweat under rugs because this can cause a lot more problems than coping without a rug. Skin infections and itching with rashes are caused by overheating under rugs. If you ask your vet about this, he or she will be more likely to advise you not to molly coddle the horse too much.

Parrot mouth - why you need to look in a horse's mouth 

Parrot mouth can't be spotted in a newborn foal but appears between one and six months of age. It is definitely something to look out for if you are buying a horse or pony as a parrot mouth can affect the way an equine eats and it is also considered a defect when you come to sell the horse. Like windsucking, cribbing, weaving and sweet itch, it affects the price.

So what is parrot mouth exactly? It is when the top incisor teeth of a horse come out over the bottom incisors, much the same as buck teeth in humans. Apparently it is relatively common and occurs in 2-3% of horses, so 2 or 3 in every hundred horses have this defect. The reason why parrot mouth is a bad thing in a horse is because it affects the way the horse grinds his food and how he digests it. A severe case will prevent the horse putting on condition and also cause problems with a bit in his mouth. It can make it hard for him to graze.

Mild cases are easy enough to treat with dental floating (rasping) and severe cases benefit from dental procedures, such as braces, believe it or not! Mild cases are where the top teeth protrude slightly over the bottom incisors but still meet the bottom ones and a severe case is where the top teeth protrude so far over the bottom ones that they do not meet. In all cases of parrot mouth, consult your equine dentist for advice.


When to worm horses and ponies

Worm every two to three months. Worm foals more often. Ask your vet or local equestrian suppliers for advice on the correct wormers to use during the year.


Building up a foal or young horse after a worm infestation 

Always speak to an expert about this first, such as your vet or a nutritionist attached to a reputable feed company. They will be only too happy to help you. A redworm infestation is very serious and needs to be treated correctly. Specialists in this area will advise you on what feed and supplements to use. 

Equine sarcoids can affect all breeds worldwide

A sarcoid is the most common form of skin cancer in equines and is often not malignant. Three of my horses and ponies have had a sarcoid at some stage. In all three cases they were non maligant and, I'm glad to report, have now gone. Some sarcoids can be difficult to treat and can spread. They are also very nasty when near a vulnerable part of the body, such as the eye, and I would recommend veterinary advice early on. Different horses react in different ways to them and they are a worldwide problem affecting all types of breeds.

My first experience of a sarcoid was many years ago when a thoroughbred developed one on his sheath. It was a small, hard lump and grew quite quickly to about the size of a cherry. I called the vet and she suggested surgery. She removed the sarcoid and sent it to the Equine Laboratory where they examined it and prepared a vaccine which was then given to the horse in two stages. I have read more recently that vaccines against sarcoids are not supposed to work but something worked in this thoroughbred's case as the sarcoid never regrew. The horse lived to be 30 and never had another one.

An Irish Sports Horse had an enormous sarcoid under his hind leg when a young horse, before I bought him. I know this because I got him from a neighbour next door. This sarcoid was about the size of a tennis ball and was raw and bleeding at times. I don't know whether the sarcoid was removed by a vet or whether it fell off but it was gone by the time he came to my stables. There is, however, still a scar where it used to be so perhaps it was surgically removed. I've had the horse 14 years and he still hasn't produced another one.

My third sarcoid case was last year when one appeared on a 24 year old pony. At first I thought it might be a melanoma because he is a grey and greys are particularly prone to melanomas but the round hard lump on his sheath grew very rapidly over the summer months and became raw in one place where he rubbed it when lying down. It was about the size of a cherry when I asked the vet about it and she did not recommend surgery because of his age. Vets are reluctant to put older horses and ponies under general anaesthetic unless absolutely necessary. She suggested leaving it alone and said it might fall off. The sarcoid was still there in the winter but not so raw because the flies weren't irritating it. One day after the winter was over I noticed that it had gone. I was lucky in this case because the sarcoid had fallen off and his sheath is now perfect with no scarring.