It's spring and your horse is raring to go!
If you live in a colder climate you have probably put your horse out to pasture for the winter months while keeping the care and maintenance at a minimum and limited to just feeding and watering with an occasional check up to make sure he is doing well. If you are lucky enough to live in a warm climate you have probably been riding through the winter but the suggestions on getting your horse ready might remind you to do a few things you have forgotten for your favorite animal friend.
When you bring your horse in from the pasture you will want to take a few minutes to do a complete “hands on” check. Run your hands up and down on his legs to check for swelling or cuts and check his girth and saddle area. Check under his tail to make sure he is not scouring or have other problems. Check his ears, eyes, and nose for discharges, or other issues. Once you have determined that your horse is generally healthy, it’s time to concentrate on other areas to get him in tiptop shape for spring.
A major problem for most cold-weather horse owners in the spring is how the horse will get “haired up” to keep them warm and protected from the cold during the winter months. Being “haired up” means that their hide or coat grows a little longer and thicker. In the spring they start to shed their winter coat and it can be a mess. They also don’t look their best while going through this process of shedding off. You can help them shed their hair a little quicker by covering your horse with a thick horse blanket for a couple of weeks. Their warmth will help them shed the hair. After removing the blanket you can use a metal shedding blade and good metal curry comb and spend some time each day shedding and brushing out their coat. Use the curry comb in circular motions to dislodge the hair completely. You can also use a good rubber, spiky, curry comb for good results.
Make sure you wear old clothes while doing this, because it is a messy job and you will end up with hair all over yourself. Some people will sponge their horse down with baby oil to help with this process. Make sure you use a clean, wet sponge to wipe off their face and ears after you have used the shedding blade or curry comb. Your horse will also shed off quicker just by riding him every day. They work up a good sweat and this helps dislodge the hair. I don’t recommend shaving or body clipping your horse. It is extremely hard to do a good job and isn’t good on your horse if it turns cold.
Most people will take the shoes off of their horses during the winter months, so now it’s time to call your favorite farrier and schedule an appointment. A farrier is the person who puts shoes on a horse and is also called a horse-shoer. You might want to do this well before the spring months come as most farriers can get very busy during the spring with their customers demanding service so they can get out and ride their horses. Choose a farrier that comes highly recommended by other horse owners because a bad horse-shoer can damage a horse for life. When the farrier comes to put on the shoes make sure he checks for hoof cracks that might have occurred during the winter. You might not want to put shoes on your horse just yet, but you still need to have your farrier trim his hooves as they grow about a quarter of an inch each month. It’s important to your horses’ balance and health to have his hooves in good shape.
Now is the time to schedule a check up with your veterinarian.
Horses should be dewormed every six to eight months but horse owners will often neglect this during the winter if the horse has been turned out to pasture and they don’t have easy access to him. You can deworm your own horse without a veterinarian but it is important that you consult your vet so you are using the correct product in the right dosage. You will also want to change brands of wormer on a regular basis because the worms will build up immunity to the chemicals in each brand if they are used too long. It is extremely important to be consistent with your deworming program as this is the most effective way to control parasites that attack your equine friend.
Now is the time to have your equine veterinarian check out your horse’s teeth. Having good teeth is as important to your horse as it is to you. If available, take your horse to an Equine Dental Technician. A true Equine Dental Technician will have the letters "EqDT" after his or her name. They can identify horse teeth cavities, decay or gum disease and will be ideally placed to diagnose such matters with a minimum of delay. They can also “float” your horses’ teeth. This means rasping or smoothing out the rough edges so they can eat properly. If your horse is losing weight and he has been dewormed, he might need his teeth floated. Many problems with a horse health and his behavior may be related to poor teeth so it is important to have them checked regularly, especially in the spring.
While at the vet in the spring, you will want to make sure your horse is up on all of his vaccinations. Some of the core vaccinations that are needed include:
- Eastern and Western Equine Encephalomyelitis – Annual booster but if the mosquito population is high you might need a booster.
- West Nile - Annual booster but if the mosquito population is high you might need a booster.
- Tetanus – Annually unless an injury has occurred.
- Rabies – Annually
Additional Vaccinations (especially if you travel with your horse)
- Rhinopneumonitis (herpes 1 & 4)
- Equine Viral Arteritis
In the spring it is also important to make sure your horse has a fresh, clean habitat to live in. Now is the time to clean out pens, repair fences, and do everything else that is needed to insure that your horse is living in a healthy environment.