Spring Management Tips for Horses
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Spring is a time of transition and getting outside more. Here are few seasonal tips to help the horse owner transition his or her horse from winter to spring.
Review health records with your veterinarian. A vaccination, deworming and dental assessment are routine for health maintenance. Check teeth for uneven wear and sharp edges as well as for gum inflammation or soreness. Dental issues will contribute to chewing difficulties, weight loss, colic and may cause bit challenges as well. Check their hooves and legs. Consult with a veterinarian and/or farrier who can objectively evaluate your horse and address issues if necessary.
Evaluate body condition score (BCS). Determine if the horse needs to gain or lose weight. Aim for a BCS 5 to 6 depending on how the horse will be used. Adjust feeding amounts based on BCS and activity level. If you do not weigh your horse’s feed… start! Flakes, scoops, coffee cans are only useful once the weight of each has been determined. 15 lbs. of baled hay is not equivalent to 15 lbs. of hay pellets. Guessing costs $$.
After a long winter, it is tempting to turn horses out on spring pastures at the first sight of green grass. However, spring grazing is succulent, horses tend to overindulge so they should be allowed to acclimate slowly. Start with one to three hours per day with increases of 15 – 30 minutes every other day. If possible, delay grazing until grass growth reaches 6 to 8 inches in height to optimize both the health of the horse and pasture. Cease grazing forages when they are grazed down to 3 to 4 inches. Move to another lot until grass returns to 6 to 8 inches. Use a sacrifice lot/paddock for turnout to limit your horse’s time on pasture and to prevent pasture damage during wet or muddy conditions.
Easy keepers that tend to deposit fat along the crest of his neck, abdomen, and tail head might be more susceptible to issues from overgrazing. To reduce grass consumption, you can keep him confined to a stall or dry lot for part of the day. Section off a small part of a pasture to limit his access to grass. Use a grazing muzzle to slow down consumption. Supplement your horses with hay to ensure adequate fiber intake and to slow down pasture consumption during grazing times. Graze in the early morning when sugar content is usually lower.
If you have not ridden much over the winter, your riding partner will not be in shape and will need a slow return to work to avoid soreness. Allow adequate time for acclimation and adjustment to the new routine. Check tack and equipment for worn or cracked leather, broken pieces, rusted bits, etc. Nothing is worse than getting ready to ride, only to discover your tack is missing or broken. Before heading down the road, be sure to test your trailer’s lights, brakes, and floor as damage or corrosion from the winter weather might have occurred.
The most important thing is to enjoy your horse and this beautiful time of year!
As seen in 2021 Spring Home and Garden issue of The Yadkin Ripple