Horses are part of an ever growing industry, with over 600,000 horses in the UK, 1.4 million riders and 5 million people with an active interest in the equine industry*. Most people acquire a horse out of choice, so if you make this decision you should think carefully before going ahead. A horse needs lots of love and care, including regular worming, vaccinations and dental care. Owning a horse is time consuming and can be costly; not only will you will need to consider where you will keep your horse, you must also consider the ongoing costs of owning a horse which include accommodation, bedding, feed and healthcare.

In the unlikely event that your horse goes missing it is going to be very difficult for anyone to know who it belongs to, unless your horse carries some form of permanent identification. It is wise to get your horse microchipped or freezemarked, this will avoid heartache in the long run, should your horse go missing or is stolen.

Horses are herd animals, and thrive on being together with other horses. Don’t forget that your horse will need somewhere to graze, a stable for warmth in the winter time, a constant supply of water, feeding daily and regular exercise. It can cost hundreds of pounds a month to care for a horse, including accommodation, food, veterinary care and insurance; there will be other costs, including buying tack and rugs and extra livery charges when you go on holiday.

Horses can live into their thirties, over this time your horse will need lots of care and attention. Being able to provide all of this will ensure you and your horse make the most of your time together.

* Research conducted in 2004 by the Henley Centre for DEFRA and the British Horse Industry Confederation.

Anaplasma phagocytophilum infection

Also known as equine granulocytic anaplasmosis (EGA) or equine anaplasmosis. A relatively new disease first described in the United States in 1969, but now increasingly recognised both in the US and Europe.

What is A. phagocytophilum infection?

Anaplasmosis is an infection caused by the bacterium A. phagocytophilum.

A. phagocytophilum infection is tick-borne, spread by Ixodes ricinus (a sheep tick), and often occurs from spring to autumn due to increased tick activity at this time of year.

How do I know if my horse is infected?

Following an incubation period of 10 days, signs of infection may include loss of appetite, a fever, depression, reluctance to move, oedema (filled legs) and incoordination. The disease is self-limiting and clinical signs only last approximately 7-14 days.

Prompt diagnosis and treatment of A. phagocytophilum infection can speed recovery, so your horse develops these signs, call your vet as soon as possible.

How is the disease diagnosed?

The clinical sings associated with the disease are not specific; therefore clinical signs alone cannot be used to diagnose the condition. Infection with other pathogens such as Borrelia burgdorferi, Babesia caballi, Theileria equi, equine herpes virus, equine infectious anaemia virus and equine arteritis virus can all cause similar clinical signs.

Your vet will need to take some blood samples to test in the laboratory, as well as taking a skin biopsy and looking at any ticks that may be found on your horse.

Can my horse be treated?

Most horses recover spontaneously after infection, but antibiotics may be necessary; these may be given orally (by mouth) or intravenously (injected into a vein). Anti-inflammatories may also be prescribed to improve your horse's comfort and help with appetite.

Occasionally, horses develop this disease again after treatment has finished and may require treatment for a longer period of time with a different antibiotic. Once the infection has resolved, horses are often immune to this disease for a few years.

How can I prevent infection?

Tick control is the best method of prevention!

Ensure quick removal of attached ticks and avoid keeping your horse in areas with high tick burdens, such as bushes and overhanging tree branches, and maintain a short pasture.

In addition, the use of tick repellents that contain the drug permethrin can be useful.