Researchers Evaluate Parasite Patterns in Feral Horses

Overall horses coped well with parasites. But the heavier the parasite load, the lower the horse’s body condition score.

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It’s no secret: We’re not dealing with the same parasites in horses’ intestines as we were decades ago. As parasites adapt to their surroundings—sometimes becoming resistant to treatment—they can become more difficult to eliminate, meaning researchers are seeking new ways to effectively manage these tiny terrors.

To better understand the situation, one research team recently took a close look at wild horses and their parasite burdens.

“Studying wild horses allows us to better understand the interaction between horses and their parasites without human intervention and especially without the use of deworming treatment,” said Lucie Debeffe, PhD, of the Department of Biology at the University of Saskatchewan, in Saskatoon, Canada. “Because parasites are evolving and adapting (sometimes making them resistant to treatment), it is of a primary interest to understand how wild populations of horses interact with their parasites.”

In their recent study, Debeffe and her colleagues studied 477 feral horses on Sable Island, in Nova Scotia, Canada. They found that, for the most part, horses coped well with parasite loads, although the heavier the load, the lower the horse’s body condition score

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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