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Parasite Management

Until recently, the common method of reducing parasite infections in horses was to rigorously deworm horses every 6 to 8 weeks.

Penn State Extension is currently conducting a project "Managing Parasite on Equine Operations - A Whole Farm Approach." Interest in the latest information and studies on parasite control is very high.

A grant from the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture and Education program is enabling the Penn State Equine Extension team to travel across the state educating horse owners on targeted deworming and non-drug based parasite control methods such as pasture management and composting of manure.

Those attending the course will have an option to be involved as an Equine Team Parasite Research Partner. This year-long involvement will help you make educated decisions concerning parasite management on your own farm based on record keeping and fecal egg counts.

During the project, data will be collected concerning current deworming practices, occurrences of resistance to types of dewormers, and any benefits to the farms as a result of switching to targeted deworming. All of this information will be published so that the findings are available to horse owners and veterinarians across the state. In order to facilitate collection of data, multiple sites across the state will be established where participating farm owners/ managers can be trained to perform the large number of fecal exams necessary for this project. Horses are a big commitment in time, money and emotions. We want to do the best for our horses.

Since there are only three major classes of deworming agents available, resistance to drug classes is increasing and cases of resistant parasites are now being reported worldwide. Deworming agents do not create resistance, but as more and more of the parasites with resistance genes survive, treatment of the horses with that deworming agent will fail. Horses move frequently from state to state and internationally as well and may move resistant parasites to new farms. Many horse owners, who have been faithfully deworming their horses every six weeks and rotating products, now realize that this is no longer the recommended procedure and need information to develop a better plan.

Understanding the Basics of Parasite Resistance and Developing a Deworming Program