In the early 1990’s, I had an equine practice in southern California, this is where I initially came up with the idea of performing microscopic fecal egg counts on horses to determine whether or not they had worms instead of simply deworming them. Most of the horses I cared for were kept in clean box stalls 24 hours a day, except when they were being ridden and they were typically dewormed every 2 months. I was regularly asked two questions by my clients. First, how do you know if a horse has worms when you deworm them? And secondly, after you deworm a horse how do you know that you got rid of the worms? My answer was always the same, the drug companies tell us that the dewormers are effective at getting rid of parasites; however I was not 100% convinced.
In 1991, I took the International veterinarian acupuncture course, which peaked my interest in alternative, more natural methods of equine care. This ultimately led me to start performing microscopic fecal egg counts on the horses in my own practice before I dewormed them. What I found was that less than 1 out of 20 horses had any eggs in their stool sample to indicate they were infected before I dewormed them. So I decided to offer my clients microscopic fecal egg count tests on their horses rather than simply deworming them.
It soon became clear that if my clients appreciated having this additional option other horse owners would as well. I consulted several veterinarians in the field of equine parasitology who strongly encouraged me to take the next step and Horsemen’s Laboratory was officially born. A veterinarian at the University of Illinois expressed a desire to be part of Horsemen’s Laboratory so I left my practice in southern California and moved back to Mahomet, Illinois where I owned property. Soon after, we parted ways and for the next 18 years I struggled to keep Horsemen’s Laboratory open and operating. What kept me going was the positive feedback from our clients and the fact that I knew we were performing a much needed service for horse owners.
Then in 2009, two things happened that helped convince me that the work I was doing at Horsemen’s Laboratory was important and to keep going. First, I attended a veterinary conference where Dr. Craig Reinemeyer spoke on the topic of how parasites were becoming resistant to many deworming medications. Then, he invited me to a conference at the University of Kentucky that focused on parasite resistance where I met Dr. Martin K. Nielsen who has a wealth of knowledge about equine intestinal parasites. He and Dr. Reinemeyer have written the Handbook of Equine Parasite Control that I often quote in articles that I write.
Due to the growing concern about parasite resistance it has recently been the subject of many articles, lectures, seminars, and webinars. Also important to note is there are no new deworming medications for horses on the horizon. Therefore it is now highly recommended that other aspects of worm control must be followed, the most critical being performing microscopic fecal egg counts to determine which horses are spreading the most eggs in their environment and causing other horses to become infected as well as re-infecting themselves. It is also recommended to only deworm horses that are the most responsible for the contamination of the pastures and other areas where horses may be exposed to the infective eggs or larvae that are produced.
Finally because of the wealth of information supporting the growing trend of performing equine fecal egg counts more owners, veterinarians, and drug companies are starting to get involved in the movement to slow the development of resistance in parasites. The biggest factor involved with development of resistance is how often the worms are exposed to deworming medication. Each time a population of worms is exposed to a dewormer it causes the sensitive ones to be killed off leaving the resistant ones to flourish and multiply, increasing the percentage of that population of worms that are resistant. After several exposures the whole population becomes resistant.
Today I am thankful that Horsemen’s Laboratory is a thriving business and we are able to help more and more horse owners evaluate their horses’ worm control programs. Our clients recognize the part they can play in helping slow down the developing resistance by deworming only horses that need it. Horsemen’s Laboratory deeply appreciates their commitment to their horses’ health and their continued support of our business.