Natural worming part 2

After so many questions from my from my original post on “Natural Worming” I have decided to address the questions with a new blog post.

De-worming= USA term.

Worming= Irish term, which means the same thing.

For me to take a truly natural approach to worming my horses, I had to develop an herbal worming programme, excellent pasture management, improve my horses immune system, build a solid raw wholefood/sprouted seed feeding programme without the addition of inorganic synthetic minerals & cooked highly processed bagged feed, and by using multiple fecal counts to detect which of my horses was the biggest shedder.




Big Shedders & Poo.

Shedding= the amount of worm eggs that are present in your horses manure, this is done by fecal worm egg counts. Fecal counts are samples of fresh manure that are analyzed by your vet or someone/company who specialises in this. I pay €5 per fecal sample which is the same price as two cups of coffee; please feel free to contact me for information on fecal testing.  

Firstly let me say that fecal eggs counts are by no means 100% accurate, they do not accurately reflect the amount of worms that a horse may be harbouring, they can help identify which worm you are dealing with but you must remember they only show up eggs from worms that lay eggs on part of their lifecycle. I use fecal counts to determine the shedding status of each horse at the time of sampling.

Low shedder less than 200 eggs per gram of manure

Medium shedder 200-500 eggs per gram of manure

High shedder more than 500 eggs per gram

Horses that consistently have a low (EPG) eggs per gram aka low shedders do not require an aggressive worming programme and can be managed on a natural herbal worming product. You can use the recipe from my blog or purchase a natural worming product. 3-4 months after using natural product redo fecal counts this will give you a good idea of how well the product worked and if your horse is still classed as a low shedder.

Keep performing fecal counts 2-3 times per year in spring, fall and winter as we are striving for a constant low EPG. Of course the more natural steps you take the better including good pasture management and boosting the immune system etc.

fecal count

Medium and high shedders can be managed holistically they may need a few extra days of the herbal worming product and will need extra fecal samples throughout the year. The first year of an herbal worming programme is probably the most expensive, but you should be seeing lower egg counts. As each horse is an individual, they should be wormed as an individual. If a chemical wormer is needed, well then its needed use a probiotics before and after and incorporate more natural steps into the horse’s environment.



Pasture Management.

During grazing season 80% of the parasites are outside the horse, in their environment /pasture. So if you can do something to reduce the parasite burden in your fields you will be reducing the amount of eggs on the pasture that will contaminate your horse. I have mentioned this in part one of the article but feel I can’t stress the importance of this enough. So if your horse is in Constant contact with parasites herbal worming will not work.





Immune System.

One of the best defences against high egg counts is a healthy immune system via proper nutrition & natural horse keeping. I find with all disease it’s attracted to the “weaken host”.

What does the immune system need? 60-70% of your horses immune system is located in the gut so what you are feeding your horse will have a big impact on health. Real minerals are vital from sprouted/wholefood sources, live enzymes from living forage or sprouted seeds, less stress, and less use of chemicals & GMO’s.

Antioxidants also called phytonutrients are natural compounds found in plants, fruits and vegetables which have shown tremendous value in controlling inflammation and reversing negative health issues. They support the body’s immune system, aid digestion; help the respiratory system repair and the cardiovascular system. Sprouted seeds provide the best and most natural form of antioxidants excellent sources for your horse are whole sprouted oats, sprouted alfalfa, wheatgrass & barleygrass (unsprouted grains are acidic to the body) , soaked hemp, chia seeds, Spirulina, nettles in a dried or tea from, chamomile tea. For much more information on sprouting your own antioxidants go to my blog at  or purchase my book “Seeds to feed” the most comprehensive guide to sprouting seeds for your horse available from my wed site. Also check out my FREE E-BOOK TO DOWNLAOD “Food therapy for horses” available from my website.


fodder for horses




Prevention is better than cure; boosting the immune system and some environmentally strategies can greatly help with bots. Natural worming is more labour intensive and time consuming so if this is something you may not have time for, natural worming may not be for you.

Remove eggs daily using a bot knife, this greatly helps or

Fly socks can be used

Fly spray

Fly sheet

Grazing only at night



Encysted the New Nightmare.

This article is from earth song ranch (long but worth it)

Earth song ranch provide a excellent selection of natural horse products

Is Your Horse at Risk for Encysted Small Strongyles?

Can You Naturally Prevent Encysted Small Strongyles?


An Interview with Dr. Gerald Wessner, Holistic Vet

By Jessica Lynn, Earth Song Ranch, Published in Natural Horse Magazine

All horses to some degree, and from time to time may be infested with the tiny parasite known as “Small Strongyles”, as many of them have become resistant to the widely used chemical de-wormer’s over the years, just as there are now penicillin resistant diseases from the over use of that drug in humans. 

Many chemical de-worming programs that worked a decade or more ago are not as effective today, and horse owner’s need to change their strategy in regards to not only this parasite but all parasites, taking a preventative and holistic approach as opposed to a chemical shot gun approach monthly or bi-monthly.

If your horse is infected, the seasonal emergence of this encysted parasite varies as to the part of the country in which you live.  The small strongyles larva emerges in the late winter and early spring in the northern parts of the country and in fall and winter in the southern parts.   When the emergence occurs it shows up most often as non-specific colic like symptoms, and can lead to a very sick horse.  The key is prevention!

Thank you Dr. Wessner for taking the time today to answer some questions about Encysted Small Strongyles, they are something we have been hearing a lot about from the equine pharmaceutical companies as being a wide spread problem and we thought we would ask your opinion as to what risk they may pose, if any,  to holistically and naturally kept horses.

What are encysted larvae?

The small strongyle is a blood sucker that infests the large intestine.  This parasite

has several stages to its life cycle, with the stage 3 & 4 which attach themselves to the wall of the intestine.  It is the seasonal mass emergence of this larval stage of parasite (L-3, L-4) from the intestinal wall (the encyst-ment), if a horse is infected, that causes the most problems. 

These parasites are smaller then the blood worm (large strongyle) and do not migrate through the tissues and arteries like the blood worm, but do their damage by attaching to and then ulcerating the mucus lining of the intestinal tract. 

Are they a problem to horses?  If so, why and how?

In my practice over the years I have not seen any horses with this problem.   A holistically kept horse is one who has access to fresh clean water, clean hay, preservative free and chemical free feed stuff/bag feed are used; Nosodes are used in place of vaccines, herbal wormers are used in place of chemical de-wormers, fecal counts are done to determine when or if a chemical wormer may in fact be needed. 

The horses are kept in large clean paddocks or clean pastures with “friends” , or have plenty of turn out time, and  lots of room to move, and they have regular bare foot trims no shoes.  Couple that with environmentally responsible fly control practices in place on the property, and non-chemical fly sprays are used in place of insecticides and pesticides.

I think that holistically kept horses are by far healthier, less stressed, have owner’s who are more responsible in their care and do not over use chemical wormers, or over-vaccination as part of their health programs, both of which compromise the horses intestinal tract health and make them more susceptible to parasitic invasions/infestations.  

The adult small strongly is a small white worm that resides primarily in the large colon of the horse and does not typically cause the horse any problems when their numbers are low.  However, if not controlled, or kept in check, it is the larval stage of the parasite which can cause the problems of diarrhea, inflammation of the bowel with non-specific colic like symptoms, weight loss, and in some cases anemia, as they burrow in to the intestinal wall then are seasonally released in to the intestinal tract.

There is a five stage life cycle to the small strongyles as documented by Dr. D. Craig Barnett, DVM (U of Penn), in his paper Encysted Small Strongyles, it is in the stage L-3 to L-4 when they emerge that could be a problem to the horse when they begin to emerge from the lining of the colon leaving ulcerations in their wake. 

Where in the body do they invade/encyst? 

The small strongyle larvae attaches itself to the intestinal lining, mainly in the large intestine and the cecum, ulcerating the mucous lining.  The adult strongyle is not a problem, it is the eggs they lay and that go through their various stages that can cause the problem once they reach the larva stage, if left untreated, and found at that stage in the gut of an immune compromised horse is where the encystment will happen.

How can one determine if a horse has encysted larvae?

The presence of these immature “worms” (in their larvae stage) can be a little tricky to detect because they are not as yet laying eggs, they are imbedded in the intestinal wall of the horse and do not for the most part show up in regular fecal counts until they emerge. If there is not an active adult population laying the eggs small strongyles cannot be found in a fecal count, only the eggs from the active adults can be found.   There is no test that can confirm if your horse in fact has the encysted larvae.

Some of the symptoms of larval cyathostomisis may show up as a subtle decrease in performance, the horse may be slow in shedding a winter coat, and he may have diarrhea (intermittent to chronic), mild colic, or re-occurring non-specific colic, ulcer like symptoms or the horse may be anemic and/or have rapid weight loss.


Are all horses susceptible? What factors may contribute to/cause an encysted larvae problem?

The majority of horses if kept holistically will not be affected by the encysted larvae, as the healthy gut and healthy immune system of a holistically kept horse will naturally repel these invaders.  However, all horses are or can be susceptible, from time to time, due to many factors, and depending on where you live can also make a difference.  Horses that live in herds in unclean pastures are at risk from an infected carrier horse.  Horses that live in the desert would pretty much be immune as the larvae and eggs stay in the pasture grasses, which the desert does not have.  In areas of extreme summer heat such as Florida, Texas and Arizona, the larvae are naturally killed off by that heat.  In areas with extreme winter conditions such New Hampshire, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, with bitter cold, freezing temperatures and snow the eggs and any larvae left in the pastures are also killed off.

Factors that contribute to your horse being susceptible include a compromised immune system which could have been caused by over vaccination or the over use of chemical wormers, but may also be caused by artificial ingredients in horse feeds, treated hays, pesticides and insecticides, including many of those used in horse fly spray; horses being fed or having been fed in the past daily feed through chemical wormers, or monthly wormers because they do not address the horse’s own immune system that has the ability to naturally prevent parasitic infestations, instead the chemical wormers do not allow the horse to develop its own immunity. 

In addition horses that are stressed out due to training, showing, stallion’s during breeding season, or mares that are pregnant, may also have a higher susceptibility.  Moving your horse to an area of known infestation where he would have the availability of ingesting the eggs and or the larvae from un-clean pasture condition,  or ingesting manure from other horses kept in a pasture condition that were infected.

Because your fecal counts show the presence of small strongyles does not automatically mean that your horse has encysted strongyles, it means that there are adults laying eggs, and preventative approaches should be employed.

How can one help prevent an encysted larvae problem?


The number one key to preventing any parasite problem is a healthy immune system which comes from a health “gut” (intestinal tract), along with the monthly or bi-monthly use of herbal wormers which tend to slow down the stag 3 and 4 larvae process, coupled with regular use of a horse friendly, high potency, probiotic blend to maintain the horses intestinal health, especially from spring through late fall in most of the country, it should pass them through so they will not encyst. 

What I have found is that herbal wormer blends tend to boost the horse’s intestinal immune system, naturally and help to prevent parasitic infestation.  Some of the ingredients in these herbal blends also expel some of the parasites, and some kill them off.  Garlic is one of those ingredients.

Use of equine friendly digestive enzymes are also helpful in a natural parasite prevention program.

Chemical wormers are only effective and only eliminate the stage 5 small strongyle once they have emerged and the damage to the intestinal tract has been done.  So one must ask, if chemical wormers are so good then why do they not totally eliminate the 1st and 2nd stage larvae and stop the process entirely?  And why do they not work on the  stages 3 and 4 which are the encysted larvae, or prevent the possibility of encystment?

How can one help a horse naturally eliminate encysted larvae?


One homeopathic product I recommend is Paratox, it will eliminate the parasites by cleaning the intestinal environment; when you clean the environment you clean out the parasites, parasites love to live in “the sewer” if you will, and if you clean that you eliminate their environment, thereby stopping the cycle.  Added pro-Biotics and digestive enzymes also help to maintain a clean and healthy gut environment.

The homeopathic Granadum is a vermifuge and will expel tape worms and other worms in horses and is also used for dogs.


Another homeopathic Gaertner Bach is also a remedy for parasites, which can help to expel them.

Diatomaceous earth has been used by some successfully, but may not work for all cases, if it is coupled with good pasture management, clean hay, a healthy intestinal environment, and the regular use of herbal wormers as well as probiotics it can be an intrical part of an overall parasite management program.

What problems do the typical chemical de-worming regimens pose to the infested and the non-infested horse?  To the environment?


The typical chemical de-worming regimens are compromising the immune systems of healthy horses, as well as horses who are non-infested, and also preventing all horses from developing their own resistance to the parasites in their own environments.  From their over use, especially the daily wormers, it is also creating “super parasites” in that they are becoming drug resistant, and in the moment there are no new chemical wormers to my knowledge that are able to take up the slack.  Ivermectin has been around for at least 20 years and is now being found to be ineffective for some of the small strongyles due to its over use.


In my opinion the daily wormer’s are the worst in regards to the environment as they are affecting the birds and small animals who pick through the manure, who are becoming more toxic with their lives being shortened by the chemicals used in the wormers.   I have to also believe that in areas of rain and moisture, or near the oceans that some of these chemicals may be getting in to the streams, lakes and rivers, maybe in small amounts but when it all adds up, I am sure it is polluting not only the soil but the water we all drink as well, and making the fish we eat more toxic.


Thank you Dr. Wessner for helping us to better understand what we all need to do as holistic horse caretakers to keep our horses healthier, to prevent parasitic invasions and infestations, as well as letting us know there are some alternatives to the chemical wormers!


Summary Prevention Is the Key:

The only sure way is prevention  through proper pasture management and properly maintaining a healthy gut (intestinal environment).

This parasites eggs/larvae is not killed by frost; that is one of those old wives tales, and can be ingested by horses who graze in pastures which are not regularly cleaned.  They are killed by extreme heat and frigid winter conditions in parts of the country.

Frequent harrowing and or at least manure pick up a minimum of three times weekly, or more frequent in a pasture/ paddock environment, depending on the space and number of horses is a MUST. 

Over crowded pastures and irregular feeding has the effect of setting  up a feast-famine situation;  feeding off the ground greatly increase the risk of picking up the eggs passed through the manure which will hatch in the intestinal tract.  (Horses prefer not to graze around feces but are forced to when in an overcrowded pasture.) 

The horses' water supply must be clean and free of feces or run off from infected pastures.

The quarantine and proper management of new arrivals to any ranch or boarding facility, including fecal counts on new horse, can not be taken lightly. 

Taking a fecal counts, before introducing new horses to the herd, is critical in controlling this parasite from outside sources.  If a new horse is found to be with a high egg count then various natural herbal worming methods or homeopathic remedies available that could be used to reduce that count, and or coupled with a chemical de-wormer in cases of very high counts can in most case eradicate them. At this time Panacure is the only chemical de-wormer that seems to work on the seasonal release of the encysted larvae.

Avoid creating "super" worms by not chemically de-worming unless absolutely necessary.  Then follow the de-worming with atleast a month of high potency probiotics.  The small strongyle is one parasite that is said to always be one step ahead of drug company scientists. 

The majority of horses are not likely to be affected/effected, depending on where they have been stabled and if proper stable management practices (including feeding, cleaning, et al) are employed.

There may seem to be no rhyme or reason as to why horses can have the same exposure yet never have this happen to them.   However, I suspect it is because holistically kept horses are healthier in general, have developed a natural resistance to most frequently occurring parasites, and have a health gut and immune system which is a hostile environment to parasites where they do not want to set up housekeeping!

Dr. Gerald Wessner of the Holistic Veterinary Clinic, Summerfield, Fl. has his degree from the University of Pennsylvania and he has been practicing holistic veterinary medicine for the past 10 years.  He was probably the first vet in the country to have a cold laser and was one of the first to learn acupuncture, even before there was an organized course, and used magnetic therapy  early on for healing.  He learned about homeopathy, from different sources including the teachings of Dr. Richard Pitcairn and Dr. George McLeod.  His inquiring mind also had him discover a holistic heartworm treatment, a homeopathic treatment for EPM (Equine Protozoan Myelitis), homeopathic detoxifiers for vaccines, viruses, chemicals and parasites.  He is available to everyone all over the country and internationally by phone consultation. 

For further information, please call: 352-245-2025

Snail Mail Holistic Vet Clinic, P.O. Box 1749, Summerfield, FL 34492

Jessica Lynn is a regular contributor to Natural Horse magazine.  She is also the creatrix and owner of Earth Song Ranch.  Earth Song Ranch has been in business for the past 10 years and is a licensed natural supplement manufacturer.   Jessica has been involved in alternative health care, homeopathy, herbs, and nutrition for almost 45 years, using it for her human (2 now adult children) and animal family members (3 horses, 4 Border Collies and 5 cats). She has consulted with Dr. Wessner for the past 6 years regarding her own animal family and has referred many of her clients whose animals had health challenges requiring holistic intervention.  Jessica personally researches and formulates all of the Earth Song Ranch nutritional products, and works with a team of holistic practitioners, holistic vets, barefoot trimmers, and others.  She is based in San Diego County, CA, although her clients are world wide.  Jessica may be contacted via phone at 951-514-9700 or 760-749-6377 via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and also via “Snail Mail” at P.O. Box 2616, San Marcos, CA 92079-2616. The Earth Song Ranch web site is dedicated to natural health and includes informational articles, links to like minded individuals and companies



This information is not to replace veterinary advice. 

Rachel Kelly Equine Herbalist - Graney Road - Lower Plunketstown - Castledermot , Co Kildare, Ireland
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