What do I need to do for my horse in the spring?
Think of this like spring cleaning for your horse buddy. It’s definitely a lot more fun that spring cleaning the barn or house. I really have no idea where the term spring cleaning comes from, but as it relates to horses, spring is a great time to get a few things done for the comfort and health of your horse.
Here’s a handy checklist of to-do’s for your horse:
- Spring vaccinations. Nothing says “I love you” more than vaccinations against fatal diseases. And also non-fatal (but still horrible) diseases. Learn more about EEE, WEE, and WNV here, although there are others to vaccinate for as well.
- Fecal egg count. This give a snap shot of some of your horse’s parasite load. It’s convenient to do at the time of vaccinations because the Vet is standing right there. (Too snarky?) And it’s also likely that there’s horse manure in the vicinity. More on fecal egg counts here.
- Your Veterinarian can also do a quick check of your horse’s teeth during the vaccination visit. Lots of info on your horse's chompers can be found here.
All of this winter fuzz isn't going to shed itself.
- A shedding plan. You may want to pick up a pair of grooming gloves or a shedding blade to help you out on this. You can also consider clipping your horse in the spring. Yes, he will still shed, but the hairs will be much shorter, and the warm weather won’t be uncomfortable.
- Have a grazing muzzle handy. Maybe you need to buy one or switch styles, but once that spring grass comes in, the risk of laminitis can go up for some horses. Muzzles are also great for the easy keeper who gets heavier just thinking about food. More on muzzles here.
- Going hand in hand with the new spring grass, pay extra attention to his hooves. They may start growing a bit faster, and you will want to check them daily for heat and tenderness, the first signs of laminitis. This article has a nice list of how to spot laminitis early.
- Make sure your horse’s diet is appropriate. Perhaps he had extra everything in the winter to stay warm. Or perhaps he’s an easy keeper and he gained weight in the winter anyway. Dietary adjustments should always be done over weeks, and with the help of slow feeders if you can make that happen.
- Speaking of diet - check pastures for dandelions and buttercups. These flowers are generally ignored by horses, but they can cause problems for some horses.
Pretty, and also pretty bad for horses.
- Make adjustments to the exercise routine. Ramp up his work slowly if he had the winter off.
- Is it time for new fly gear? Fly boots, masks, and sheets are great for battling the bugs. And it’s time to stock up on fly sprays.
Gross, Gross, Gross, Gross, Gross....
- What about tick prevention? I started using a spray on tick killer from my Vet (Frontline) that I apply about every three weeks. I found lots of dead ticks on my horse last year before they had a chance to feed. Your climate and tendency for ticks will dictate when it’s time to get going on tick control. More on ticks here.