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Ask the Vet

Got a burning question about equine health? Dr. Lydia Gray is here to help.

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Lydia Gray, DVM
Dr. Lydia Gray is the Medical Director and Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak Equine in Plymouth, MA, where she directs the research and development of products and provides horse health and nutrition education to a wide variety of audiences. Dr. Gray’s work has appeared in more than a dozen general and trade publications and she speaks frequently around the country. She is the proud owner of a Trakehner gelding named "Newman” that she competes in dressage and combined driving, is president of her local driving club in Illinois and just graduated with distinction from the USDF "L" judges program. Heavily involved in organized veterinary medicine, she is a past president of the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association and has served on numerous committees for both the AAEP and the AVMA.
For emergencies, you call your own vet, but what if you have a general health question or want an explanation on an equine medical mystery? Submit your questions here, and Lydia Gray, DVM will answer selected submissions. Send your questions to and use subject line "Ask the Vet."

Upcoming Topics Include:

  • Foal/Young Horse Health
  • Health for High Performance
  • Equine Dentistry

Latest Question

Ask the Vet: Vaccinations for At-Home Horses
All of my horses are now retired from competing and I keep them at home where there aren’t other horses coming in and out of the barn. Do I need to continue to vaccinate them on the same schedule they had when they were competing, or can I scale it back now that they aren’t coming into contact with other horses?
Read Dr. Gray's answer here >>

Read More Ask the Vet Questions

Ask the Vet: DIY Vaccinations
I own two off-track Thoroughbreds that live at home. I have been considering self-vaccination for my mare and gelding. Can you share with me pros and cons of not having my veterinarian do this task?
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Ask the Vet: Recurrent Colic
My horse recently had a bout of colic. He recovered fully, but I’ve been told that once a horse colics, he’s more likely to colic again. Is that true? And if so, why?
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Ask the Vet: The Colic/Ulcer Connection
My horse has recently been diagnosed with ulcers, and I am treating him with probiotics, however, is there a connection between ulcers and colic? Do horses with ulcers have higher instances of colic episodes?
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Ask the Vet: The First Signs of Lameness
What’s the correct course of action if my horse suddenly comes up lame with no apparent injury? Do I always need to call the vet, or are there cases where it’s okay to wait and see? And what should I do to keep my horse comfortable in the meantime?
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Ask the Vet: Horse Eye Injuries
There are a lot of horror stories out there about horse eye injuries. So my question is, what should I do if my horse has an eye injury but the vet can’t come out immediately? How do I protect the eye while I wait for the vet?
Read Dr. Gray's answer here >>

Ask the Vet: Blankets and Shelter for Horses in Winter
I have two new horses this winter on 24/7 turnout. One is an athletic build and has the start of a nice fluffy coat. The other is more classic stock horse and if anything is a little on the heavy side, but has put on very little noticeable coat. I live in the upper Midwest and it gets very cold here. As the winter goes on, how do I evaluate these horses for their potential to need a blanket or to spend more time in the barn?
Read Dr. Gray's answer here >>

Ask the Vet: Monitoring a Horse's Weight in Winter
I have an 18-year-old off-track Thoroughbred who lives on pasture. His weight is normally pretty steady, but as he ages, I worry about him dropping weight. The problem is, he grows a super thick winter coat, and I have trouble assessing his weight. What can I do to keep track of his weight when it’s difficult to see—or even feel—his body condition under all that hair?
Read Dr. Gray's answer here >>

Ask the Vet: Senior Horse in a Herd
I keep my 30-year-old pony at a boarding stable where she’s turned out in a fairly large field with four other horses. Most of the time they seem to peacefully coexist, but when push comes to shove, my pony is at the bottom of the pecking order. I worry that the physical and mental stress of being chased will take a toll. Is there anything I can do to help her?
Read Dr. Gray's answer here >>

How can horse owners be proactive to reduce the risk of future joint problems?
My horse seems to have normal, healthy joints, but I know joint health becomes an issue for many horses as they get older. So my question is, how do I prevent joint degeneration in the first place?
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Does My Horse Need Hock Injections?
I’ve had my 10-year-old Quarter horse gelding for almost two years. A few months before I bought him, his previous owner gave him hock injections. He’s still a bit stiff in his back right hock. I don't want to jump right into x-rays and hock injections, so I was wondering if there was anything else I could do to help him?
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Forage for Senior Horses
I know senior feeds contain a forage replacer for horses with difficulty chewing and digesting hay, but it doesn't seem enough. What other forage options are there for the hard to keep senior horse?
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Help for a Horse with Sweet Itch
My 8-year-old gelding has a bad case of sweet itch. When I bought him three years ago, I was told he liked to scratch his stomach, but I eventually figured out that he's very allergic to the bite of midges. I've been buying fly blankets, neck covers, masks and the most powerful fly sprays available. He still itches. What else can I do?
Read Dr. Gray's answer here >>

How can I protect my horse's eyes from flies?
Is there a safe way to keep flies away from my horse’s eyes? He always manages to take off his fly mask, but it doesn’t seem safe to use fly spray near his eyes. Are there any other options?
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Is it bad to rotate my horse between barefoot and shod?
In the winter I usually pull the shoes off my horse and then come spring I put fronts on and then move back to shoes all the way around when summer approaches. I’ve heard this can be a bad thing. Is it really? And if it is, why?
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My horse recently recovered from laminitis. How do I prevent it from happening again?
I have a 22 year old quarter horse that recently experienced his first bout of laminitis. What are some key diet points to consider as he recovers from this episode and prevent relapses?
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My horse lives at a boarding barn. How can I updade my deworming routine?
I don't feel comfortable asking the other boarders to spend money on a fecal count. Any advice on making the switch from rotational dewormers to the fecal count method?
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How do I find out if my horse has tapeworms, and what do I do about it if he does?
I’ve been told that fecal testing will not indicate if my horse is infested with tapeworms. So how can I find out if he has them? And if he does, how do I treat them?
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Is it safe to work my horse on hills?
My Quarter Horse mare has done most of her training in arenas and flat areas. I’ve heard that hill work can be helpful for improving a horse’s condition, but I don’t want to cause an injury. Is it safe to ride her on hills? Are the benefits worth the risks?
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Does a horse get sufficient exercise from running and playing in the pasture?
My horse lives in a big pasture and runs around a lot with his friends in the winter. Does that mean he’s getting plenty of exercise, or should his spring conditioning routine still start as if he’s had no exercise at all?
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What kind of exercise is best for managing my horse's weight?
I have a 15-year-old mare who is a very easy keeper. I manage her diet pretty carefully, but I’m wondering how much of a role exercise can play in managing her weight. I usually ride four days a week for about an hour at low to moderate intensity. Is that enough to make a difference? If I need to add more exercise, is it better to ride her more often at the same level I work her now, or increase the intensity of our rides?
Read Dr. Gray's Answer here >> 


Could my horse's restricted diet cause a vitamin deficiency?
My horse is a very easy keeper. He wears a grazing muzzle in the spring and summer which seems to keep him from getting too fat, but is he getting all the nutrition he needs? Is there any chance he could have a vitamin or mineral deficiency when all he eats is limited pasture?
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Filling out in the Hip
My 8-year-old Quarter Horse is on high-quality grain and a regular deworming program, but he's just not filling out in the hip area. He's at a good weight otherwise, possibly even a bit overweight. He's started regular training and is about to be broke to saddle. Is there anything I can do to get him to fill out?
Read Dr. Gray's Answer here >>

Ulcers and the Hard Keeper
I have a 15-year-old gelding that I acquired last year.  When I first brought him home he was very underweight. Someone told me that it may be stomach ulcers and try to cure them first and he will put weight on. Is that a possibility? Is there anything else that could be preventing him from gaining weight?
Read Dr. Gray's Answer here >>

Exercising Horses in Cold Weather
It has been 20 degrees Fahrenheit or colder here for weeks. Is it safe to work my horse in these temperatures, or is it bad for his lungs? Should I scale back or stop riding completely?
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Leaving the Barn Open in Winter
My friend told me that it’s better to keep the windows open in the barn so fresh air circulates, even in the winter. Is that still true in the middle of a polar vortex? I hate to leave the barn open when the windchill is -40!
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