Five spring horse care must-dos.
Spring! Sunshine! Flowers! Grass!
Spring thaws mean equal parts happiness and despair for many horse owners. You are thrilled with the warmth and the returning grazing. You are disheartened by the mud.
Your horses feel much the same way. Well, they probably don’t mind the broken barn door where the snow-pack pushed its way through. Or the Serengeti watering-hole that has appeared where the pasture gate used to be, complete with fetlock-deep mud. More mud, more rolling, that’s most horses’ motto.
Either way, it’s time for everyone to get back to work. Here are five must-dos for your spring horse care regimen — you can do them as soon as you get all that mud off your horse.
1. Get your feed program on the spring track. Hard keepers probably needed more grain and hay to get them through the winter. Now the parameters are changing: you have warmer temperatures, more grazing, and more work. Your feeding program should reflect that: it might mean adding fat for long-term energy during work, changing feeds to something more seasonal (pellets, instead of sweet feed, during the summer can dissuade flies around the farm and provide “cooler” energy), and maybe cutting back on the alfalfa if the grass is coming in nice and green.
2. Watch that grazing! If you’re lucky enough to have green in your paddocks, you’re lucky enough — isn’t that how the saying goes? But sugary spring grass can hit horses with metabolic problems really hard. Limit grazing on the new growth for horses with these sort of concerns, at least until the grass has grown in maturely and the spring frenzy is over.
3. Do a full-body evaluation. Sometimes, horses are barely seen during the winter — under rugs, in the dark, just long enough to feed. Body condition can be hidden under a shaggy coat. Check your horse from head to toe, pressing against the rib-cage and spine to make sure there’s a healthy layer of fat under all that winter fur. Do a thorough hoof check as well. Damp, muddy conditions encourage all sorts of bacterial growth which might get missed during the winter, especially with horses living outdoors.
4. Prep your horse’s health for enhanced training schedules: that means a spring check-up from tooth to tail. Spring is the perfect time to get everything up-to-date: a dental float, immunizations, a parasite check and treatment, and, of course, hoof-care. Don’t leave out hair-care! If the coat isn’t coming off as quickly as the temperatures are warming up, a good clipping will save grooming and cooling times, plus keep your horse comfortable in training. On unseasonably warm days, shaggy horses might be susceptible to tying-up or overheating.
5. Start slow! Both you and your horse probably need some conditioning time to get back in the swing of things. Easy rides and low-key goals are the way to get started with your training season. Get a conditioning schedule that might include trot sets or hill-work, and use it — and don’t forget, you might need one for yourself, too!
6. After all that, and some rest, reread my blog post on mud control and ways to prevent it, equinefacilitydesign.com/misc/spring-risks-horses.htm.
Above all, enjoy spring! Stay healthy, stay happy, and appreciate the green growing world around you. In a few months, you’ll be asking when summer will be over!