Spring is almost upon us: there’ll soon be more hours of sunlight for you to enjoy in the saddle, and it won’t be long before show season starts up again. During the winter months, horses’ routines tend to be disturbed, and they spend less time outdoors. So, now is a great time to think about how you’re going to ensure your horse looks and feels its best throughout spring and summer.
To help you out, I’m going to talk you through just some of the steps that you should incorporate into your spring care routine. Read on to learn more.
Arrange a health check
Of course, you should check on your horse every day to spot any physical signs or changes in behaviour that indicate something is wrong. But, in spring, it’s a good idea to arrange a thorough health check and ensure you’re on top of everything. For example, you should make sure you’re up to date with worming. It’s also a good idea to start egg counts around March time to determine what you might need to worm for.
There are other health checks you’ll need to carry out. If your horse’s teeth haven’t been checked in the last 12 months, you should arrange for a dentist to visit. You also need to ensure that your horse’s vaccinations are up to date.
Healthy Horse have a handy horse health checklist that can help you make sure you’re carrying out the right checks at the right time. They outline what needs to be monitored on a daily basis, as well as what checks you should arrange once a year.
Build up to more strenuous exercise
The amount of time you spend riding your horse is likely to decline in the winter months. So, when spring rolls around, it’s important you start slow and build their fitness up gradually. This will help to prevent injuries, and ensure that you aren’t putting unnecessary strain on your horse.
While you’re trying to restore your horse’s fitness levels to what they were before winter, you should pay close attention to how they’re responding. If you have the slightest inkling they’re in pain, or they’re getting tired unusually quickly, you should stop immediately and reduce the amount of exercise they’re getting.
It’s also important that you don’t mistaken their eagerness for fitness. Horses that have spent a lot of time indoors over the winter might be very excited to get outside, so may seem just as strong and capable as you remember. But, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re in shape, and it’s unlikely they’ll be able to sustain this.
Monitor their grass intake
If your horse has been stabled for the colder months, you should be very careful when turning them back out. Spring grass is especially rich in sugar, so eating too much can trigger laminitis in horses and ponies that are prone to the condition. But, for any horse, a sudden change in diet can cause digestive problems and colic. As a result, if you have horses or ponies that tend to overeat, using a grazing muzzle might be a good idea.
Review their diet
When your horse starts to spend more time outside and begins to get more exercise, it’s wise to review your feeding programme to ensure they’re getting all of the nutrients they need to maintain their peak condition.
If you’re bringing your horse back into work, it’s likely that their nutrient requirements will increase. But, native types and good-doers might need to have their calories restricted in response to them being released into richer pastures. In this situation, low calorie balancers are great for overweight or lami-prone horses and ponies, as they’ll help you to meet the necessary requirements without the extra calories.
Manage the moult
Every horse owner knows that spring means shedding! Specialist de-shedding tools, such as those from EquiGroomer, are perfect for getting rid of the dead coat during moulting season, and topical applications like Leovet No Rub can be very helpful if your horse starts to itch or develops a build-up of dandruff. They can even help with regrowth.
Don’t forget that you need to be keeping an eye on your horse’s hooves, too. They tend to grow more slowly during the colder months, and this will accelerate during spring and summer. The change in growth pattern, as well as the fact that your horse will be dealing with different ground conditions, could result in their hooves becoming dry and cracked. So, you should invest in a high-quality hoof oil to help prevent this from happening.
Taking these tips on board will help you to ensure your horse remains happy and healthy throughout summer. You’ll be able to make sure that they aren’t suffering from any major health problems and help them to regain their pre-winter fitness levels. So, when it comes to riding them and taking them along to horse shows, they’ll perform at their best.