Gressenhall Farm Diary: How horse health checks are done with dung

PUBLISHED: 10:30 15 July 2020 | UPDATED: 11:00 15 July 2020

Bowler having his teeth checked. Picture: Norfolk Museums Service

Bowler having his teeth checked. Picture: Norfolk Museums Service


As part of a weekly diary, curator EMILY PARKER from Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse talks about their horses regular health checkups.

A game of patience. Picture: Norfolk Museums ServiceA game of patience. Picture: Norfolk Museums Service

This week our farms team worked alongside two local vets to give our Suffolk Punch horses their regular health checks.

Whilst undertaking a health check, a vet will look at several things, including the way the horse walks, their teeth and even their dung!

Collecting a sample of fresh dung is a game of patience and one which can take some time. Their dung is used to determine if a horse needs worming or if their worming treatment is working. A sample from each horse is collected and is sent off to be analysed, where experts look for the presence of worm eggs in the dung.

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The number of eggs present indicates how many adult worms may be in the gut of the horse. If present, a worming treatment is used to help remove this parasite from the horse’s gut.

The next job of the day was to trim the chestnuts off Reggie. This is usually a job of a farrier, however, Reggie, being a little fearful, is sedated to allow this procedure to be carried out safely.

So, what are chestnuts? Chestnuts are a growth visible on a horse’s leg above the knee (front legs) or below the hock (back legs). They are completely normal, though as they are made up of living tissue they do continue to grow and occasionally it is required to remove them to prevent discomfort to the horse.

No one knows exactly why horses have them, however it is generally accepted to be vestigial toes from the early ancestor of the modern-day horse.

Checking Bowler’s teeth was the last job of the day. Once a year, all our horses will have their teeth checked for any signs of dental problems (exactly like popping to the dentist). Bowler’s teeth received a good clean and a gentle filling down (known as floating). Floating removes any sharp edges from a horse’s tooth, to create a flat surface needed by the horse to chew their food.

For one of our Large Black pigs, love is in the air. One of our boars is currently away on a romantic break at a local smallholder to meet some new sows. If he performs well, the sows will give birth to adorable piglets in three months’ time.

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