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Ask the Vet

Our in-house vet Dr Annie Ashman answers your questions.

Dr Annie Ashman MA Vet MB MRCVS

Annie qualified as a vet in 1984 at the Cambridge university Veterinary School, in 1987 Annie joined the Royal Army Veterinary Corps as a veterinary officer. Here Annie ran the Army veterinary hospital at Melton Mowbray for 3 years, gaining valuable experience in both medicine and surgery. 

From here Annie joined an equine and small animal practice in Wiltshire before having children and moving to work part-time at an equine practice in South Gloucestershire. In 2000 Annie set up her my own practice from home, concentrating mainly on competition animals and enabling me to pursue an interest in rehabilitation from injury, closely working with chartered physiotherapists, registered osteopaths and remedial farriers, ensuring a holistic approach.

Back at the beginning of 2016 Annie joined forces with another veterinary surgeon in Warminster as well as joined KBIS as a veterinary advisor.

Question: My horse has mud fever, should I wash his legs off after coming in from the field or not?

Annie’s Answer: If he has got mud fever at the moment he must be kept in the dry until it clears up. Recent research shows that cold can increase the risk of mud fever so we don’t advise hosing, rather let the mud dry naturally. If he is soaking wet you can apply wraps to help dry the legs off.


Question: My horse headshakes but only occasionally in the summer and I can’t work out the trigger, other than bringing him in to his stable what would you suggest I can do? It would be nice to ride him whenever I want to in the summer.

Annie’s Answer: I suggest you try a nose net as these can be very successful in early cases. More serious headshakers may require veterinary attention, I used to treat these with acupuncture and interestingly there is good research using needle stimulation at the moment.


Question: Thoughts on worming? Dung analysis & treat when needed or regular worming - prevention better than cure?

Annie's Answer: There is a massive resistance to wormers developing and as no new types of wormers are becoming available I would advise anyone to test the horse first and then only worm if necessary.


Question: My boy hangs on the right rein when I’m schooling him, I have had his teeth looked at and a physio out is there anything else I can do?

Annie’s Answer: I think you have done the right thing here with the EDT and physio. Has your instructor seen you ride him in case this is a schooling issue? You do not say how old your horse is. If it is not due to schooling I suspect he may be hurting somewhere so I would contact your vet.


Question: Not quite sure what to do! My horse came up in lumps one day after hunting, the lumps then went down and he lost his hair where they were. I am not sure if I washed him off in water that was too hot or it was something else, what would be the best cream to put on them?

Annie’s Answer: It is difficult to know what caused the lumps or what they were, but I suspect some sort of infection if the hair came off. It is unlikely to be directly due to hot water, but heat can cause inflammation to be worse as a rule. I would bathe any rash with diluted salt water before putting a proprietary antiseptic cream on. If it did not heal within a couple of days call your vet, just in case it’s ringworm.

Remember any horse with a rash should not share tack or a grooming kit with others.


Question: Is my horse more likely to get mud fever if barefoot? He's usually shod. 

Annie's Answer: No it won't make any difference if he is shod or not.


Question: I have a mare who is very tricky when she comes in toseason, this is really frustrating over the summer when I am competing, is there anything I can do about this?

Annie’s Answer: Your mare can be prescribed Regumate from your veterinary surgeon. This prevents the season and she can compete under affiliated rules on this but you must have a form from your vet in case she is drug tested. If Regumate works you will know for definite that her behaviour is hormonal. There are several supplements claiming to help if this is the case, but you have to be careful with any supplements if competing under rules.


Question: My horse is very stressed in the stable; I am thinking of trying a magnesium calmer, do you think they work?

Annie's Answer: Over the years I have personally owned a lot of stressy horses! One in particular responded very well to magnesium and there is some science behind this. However, others did not do as well on magnesium based calmers but did respond to other calmers. Each horse is an individual and I am afraid it is just trial and error to find a suitable supplement.

If you have an electrical socket near your stable you might like to try one of the new plug in pheromone calmers, they can often help. Good Luck!


Question: My horse often comes in from the field with little knicks and cuts on his legs, they are never swollen and always seem to heal quickly once washed and cream is applied. Someone has suggested I put boots on him when turned out but I always think they will get mud and other things stuck inside the boots and rubbed. What should I do?

Annie's Answer: That’s a difficult one! There is of course the difficulty of getting mud etc under the boot and causing more problems, and of course it is not good for the skin to be covered at all times. Personally I only use boots on the hooligans who go crazy when turned out! If he has never made more than a tiny cut and never lamed himself I think best to leave them off as he may become less careful if he does not hurt when he knocks himself.


Question: Now the midges are just starting to come out, do you have any advice on managing sweet itch at this time of year?

Annie's Answer: I have not seen any midges yet- but now is a good time to prepare if your horse is a sufferer.

We all know that midges breed in water, but what we do not always appreciate is where that water might be!. A pond is obvious, but midges tend to like stagnant areas- the bottom of a bucket that has not been tipped out, the muddy puddles under the hose pipe  and down pipe for guttering are all ideal breeding grounds for midges. Also when it is wet, the run off from the muck heap can quite often produce suitable, soft boggy ground.

If possible stable your horse away from the muck heap, turn off all taps and turn all empty containers upside down so rain cannot collect in them.

Midges are very poor fliers so a well ventilated stable is ideal- they will not be able to reach your horse in a breeze. Some people have found installing fans in the stable can make a huge difference.  I would always recommend a good fly repellent suited to midges- the permethrin ones are best as they last longer, stable your horse at dawn and dusk and keep him well covered up.


Question: I am about to buy a new horse, what’s your opinion on getting a 2 or 5 stage vetting?

Annie's Answer: I would always have a five stage examination for purchase, even as this is inevitably more expensive. Clinically significant findings do not always show up without the period of strenuous exercise followed by rest, and low grade heart murmurs or dropped beats audible at rest are deemed insignificant if they disappear on exercise. If you opt for a 2 stage your vet will ask you to sign a letter stating that you understand these limitations before the vetting takes place.


Question: My new horse had a comment on his vetting that he has sickle hocks, I am only going to be hacking him. Do you think I will have any problems in the future?

Annie's Answer: Sickle hocks are a conformational defect and as such the hock will not be as mechanically efficient as those with normal conformation. I doubt whether your vet would have recommended purchase had he/she considered this a problem for your intended use of hacking. This might have been different had you wanted to compete, and of course your insurance company will probably exclude the hocks for at least the first year as this is obviously and increased risk.


Question: My mare has got cast twice now, what can I do to stop this?

Annie's Answer: Have you tried big banks in the stable? Another trick is not to bed down the whole floor- just the back of the stable which would discourage your horse from rolling but just give her enough to lie on. Some stable manufacturers produce a rail which can be installed inside the wall which help and give the horse some purchase if it does roll. Personally I am not a huge fan of anti-cast rollers as they can lead to bad backs, but they could be a measure of last resort. If all else fails then there is always 24/7 turn out!!


Question: My horse is prone to tieing up, what management tips do you have?

Annie's Answer: Very definitely cut out the carbohydrates from the diet. Horses, contrary to popular opinion do not need grains to get their calories.  Several years ago I dealt with a top class Arab endurance mare who performed on alphalpha and oil. Horses can quite easily digest 500ml of vegetable oil a day- introduce this slowly at first to avoid digestive upsets. Good quality forage is a must as horses digest fibre very efficiently  There are commercially available feeds nowadays specifically for horses suffering from this condition which may be worth a try. A steady level of exercise is important- do not leave your horse in if you cannot ride him,, rather turn him out so that he can exercise himself.

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