Horse Care – Fifteen Quick Tips for spring

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In most parts of the United States, we’re now enjoying warmer temperatures and budding plants. This is also a good time to take stock of your equine needs and issues. Consider how you might ensure a more successful season by attending to the following:

  1. This is the best time to do fecals to check for parasites. This is the time large numbers of eggs are shed and the best season to get a good read on which horses may need worming, particularly in the Northeast. Most contemporary thought leaders are now recommending horse owners move away from standardized and regular worming protocols in preference to individual treatment of only those horses identified as infested.
  2. Check vaccination records and ensure all are up-to-date. Four-way (or five-way) are the typical standard, but most are now also including West Nile Virus and, in any part of the country where it is a concern, rabies.
  3. If you’re going to be competing or travelling with your horse, get a Coggins test now so you have it when you need it.
  4. If you’re expecting foals that haven’t dropped yet, check to make sure your foal kit is complete and easily accessible.
  5. Examine pastures to check for broken boards, downed wire, holes from critters, nails exposed in run-in sheds, dangerous trash that may have blown in during winter or any other hazard your horse is likely to be sucked into if he can find it first.
  6. If turnout is a staple, now’s the time to plan a good rotational grazing program and ensure you have the forage to accommodate the numbers.
  7. Craft a plan for fly and other flying biters early to get a head-start on the pests. If a Fly Predator (Spalding) solution is your choice, it’s usually two to three years before you’re free of the buggers, but it’s a good idea to start thinking about breeding grounds to treat now (moist areas – think watering areas, manure build up locations, under the spreader, etc.
  8. Develop a plan (manual, tractor, vacuum) to break up or eliminate manure piles early and often along with a good pasture management plan to keep the herd healthy. This will reduce the likelihood of parasite re-infestation while reducing the breeding ground for annoying bugs.
  9. Be vigilant about checking, caring for and treating your horse’s feet. Wet ground and emerging rocks can create long-lasting problems if you fail to catch an issue early. Look for stone bruises (iodine is a great way to help toughen the feet and help prevent a stone bruise from becoming an abscess if caught early) and treat them quickly. Make sure the frog is healthy. Protect thin soles as you start a training or conditioning program to avoid lameness problems that tend to come at the worst time.
  10. Check the teeth. Have a skilled professional (contrary to some legislative decisions, some teeth specific professionals can provide a better read and treatment than an area vet who would prefer not to do teeth) look into each horse’s mouth to check for problems. You may find many need no treatment, but those that do will thank you. Don’t cut the budget here if money is tight – you’ll pay exponentially with the extra feed bill for lost and/or poorly digested grain/hay and could send your horse into a state he remembers for many years to come if mouth pain from bad teeth conditions becomes a memory of riding experiences.
  11. Check your tack and any other horse equipment. Make sure it’s safe, solid and fits the horse properly. Clean it too.
  12. Clean sheaths.
  13. Go over each horse to check for heat, swelling, weight loss, abrasions or any other change in appearance or heath to ensure you start the riding season right with a horse ready for the demands. With shedding coats, a keen eye may find issues that weren’t easily apparent under fuzzy coats. Discover and address them early and it may save you heartache later in the season.
  14. Careful with lush spring grass. If your horse isn’t used to it (or has health issues that make it dangerous to have access), you could wind up crying over founder or colic. Starting at and increasing a horse to a half-hour more each a day is a good rule of thumb for the normal horse who isn’t dealing with sugar, obesity or other issues.
  15. Start conditioning training easy. Better to go slow and short to ensure a happy, sound, healthy and engaged horse for the rest of the year.

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