10 Tips As We Transition to Spring
I don’t know about you guys, but the weather has been pretty weird around here lately. One day, it’ll be in the seventies and the next, down near freezing. I went camping this past weekend, and we actually had snow and sleet coming down. Crazy! But the further we get into April, I’m hoping the colder temperatures will disappear for good.
There’s no doubt that we horse people love spring, but it’s definitely a time of transition for our horses. The temperatures are rising, rain is often abundant, and green grass starts to grow like crazy. Spring can be wonderful time a year, but there are a few problems which can arise if we’re not careful.
In order to help you and your horse successfully transition to Spring, I’ve compiled a list of ten tips:
1.) Spring is a great time to perform fecal egg counts, deworm, if necessary, and make a plan for parasite control for the coming grassy season. Fecal egg counts are the best tool we have to determine if deworming is necessary (and to tell us if our current program is working), but they are not completely foolproof. Encysted strongyles, tapeworms, and pinworms (as well as a few other parasites) don’t show up on FEC’s, so if your horse is showing signs of high infestation such as slow to shed, a dull, patchy coat, pot belly, or guard hairs beneath the belly, it’s probably a good idea to deworm.
2.) Make all grazing transitions slowly. Whether you’re moving your horses to a different pasture (like I’m about to do), or just letting them out to graze for the first time this year, do it slowly. Increase grazing time on green grass by about 30 minutes per day until you’ve worked up to a period of 4-5 hours. This will give their digestive systems a chance to acclimate. Feeding a probiotic is also a good idea during times of transition such as this.
3.) Spring is a good time to have your horse’s teeth checked by a vet or equine dentist you trust. Ensuring the teeth are balanced will not only make your horse more comfortable, but will allow him to better chew and utilize the nutrients from pasture. Older horses may have damaged teeth which need to be removed, so don’t forget about your seniors either.
4.) Make sure your horses have a dry place to hang out during the rainy season. Horses standing in mud for long periods of time will be much more prone to thrush and other hoof problems, as well as issues like scratches (aka Mud Fever).
5.) Consider adding some detoxifying supplements during the Spring. Dandelion root or leaves, milk thistle, bentonite clay, and burdock are all examples of natural detoxification ingredients.
6.) Re-evaluate your horse’s diet. If feeding concentrates, you may be able to reduce or even eliminate them for horses on good pasture. As long as your horse is holding his weight well and minerals are provided in some manner, your horse may not need any concentrates at all.
7.) Supplement magnesium for horses on spring pasture. Quickly growing grasses are deficient in magnesium and many horses may suffer from muscle spasms, anxiety, irritability or other problems as a result. Here are a couple posts I’ve done in the past on magnesium:
8.) Vaccinate wisely. There’s no doubt in my mind that many horses are over-vaccinated. Younger horses who are being hauled to shows or trail rides can benefit from the protection of vaccines, but many are not necessary every year. Titer tests can indicate if your horse is still protected from certain diseases and homeopathic nosodes are an alternative option which are gaining in popularity. Older horses who stay home may not need many (if any) vaccines at all. I quit vaccinating my older horses after several adverse reactions, and I’m very judicial in how I vaccinate my younger ones now. For more information on vaccinating, I recommend this post from holistic vet, Dr. Madalyn Ward.
9.) For riding horses who’ve had the winter off, start an exercise program (3-4 days per week at least) and make sure your horse is physically fit before embarking on those weekend trail rides or attending play days or other events. When I was an avid trail rider, I saw many a horse tie up after a long trail ride they simply weren’t physically prepared for. We wouldn’t expect an out-of-shape person to walk/ jog ten miles, so please don’t do that to your horse!
10.) Now is also a good time to check over your horse trailer. Make sure the floor is still sturdy and your brakes and hitch are in good working order. Checking and replacing tires, if necessary, is also wise.
Hope these tips help. Happy Spring!