SPRING HORSE HEALTH CHECKLIST
How To Prepare Your Horse For Spring
Spring is definitely here with the warmer breeze and more sunshine over the meadows! Spring is known as the busy season in the equestrian community because show preparations get accelerated and everybody gets in the competition spirit. Everyone is overwhelmed with care programs, lessons, and competition schedules. If you are planning to compete this year and want to help your horse reach their highest potential, stay with us through our spring preparation checklist!
1. Coat Condition and Shedding
We, equestrians, know the spring is here when our horses start shedding their hair. Whether you prefer clipping the long hair in winter or not, each horse needs a detailed skin condition check in spring. Certain skin problems can hinder under the blanket or the long winter coat. If your horse has started shedding, make sure to groom at least once every day, you can groom twice if possible. As the dead hair comes off, check the skin carefully to see if there is any soreness, rash, wound, ringworm, rain rot, or any other serious issue. Get help if you notice any of these problems. Try to wash your horse once or twice a week to keep the skin clean and breathing.
2. Body Condition Score and Veterinarian Appointment
Once you take off the blankets and your horse starts shedding the extra fluff, you might notice some weight loss. Therefore, a body condition check will help you establish a new feeding program for the upcoming show season. You should assess your horse’s Body Condition Score. Body Condition Score is a number between 1-9 which indicates the horse’s weight and body fat level. According to Dr. Bob Coleman of the University of Kentucky, a healthy horse should have a BCS of 5 or close to 5.
Don’t forget to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. You can ask your veterinarian to check the current BCS of your horse before making spring&summer care plans. Also, consider the horse’s age, recent performance, any recent injury, and mental state. Consult your veterinarian about your future training and competition plans.
3. Dental Check
After eating dry hay during the winter, you should make sure to check your horse’s dental condition. Call your equine dentist and get an appointment. An unnoticed dental sore or extremely sharp teeth can cause injuries within the oral cavity, weight loss, uneasiness, ulcer, and losing the tooth in long term. Ideally, horses need dental checks twice a year. You can schedule one in spring and one in fall.
4. Hoof Check and Shoeing
After a snowy and muddy winter, it is a must to check your horse’s hooves thoroughly. There might be some problems lurking under the shoes. Plan a farrier appointment and get all the hooves checked. Horses need to get their hooves trimmed every 6-8 weeks. Regular trimming helps with their posture and performance in training and competitions. After a harsh season like winter, you may also want to change the shoes completely and get new ones.
Proper vaccination is the best way to keep your horse happy and healthy throughout the year. Certain equine viruses can appear and spread quickly in humid seasons like spring. These can also be a major problem if you are planning to compete and take your horse to other barns. Reach out to your veterinarian and get their opinion on which vaccinations your horse will need. This can change according to age, riding and training intensity, exposure to other horses, etc. Tetanus, encephalomyelitis, influenza, West Nile virus, and rotavirus can be some of the vaccinations that your veterinarian will recommend.
Regular deworming is essential for the horse care routine. Particularly, stabled horses that live among others need to be dewormed every 2-3 months depending on their overall condition, turnout duration, etc. If not dewormed regularly, gastrointestinal parasites can cause severe digestive system problems such as colic. You can get help from your barn manager and veterinarian to check your horse’s condition and tailor a deworming schedule to meet their needs.
7. Training and Competing
After all the necessary health and condition checks, you can finally create a training plan and decide if you want to attend any shows this year. Setting goals for the show season can help you see your future clearly and progress faster. Keep in mind to start with smaller goals and move onto bigger ones as you and your horse improve together. Contact your trainer and seek help in setting goals and creating training plans. Learn and practice as much as possible!
Finally, go over your tack box. Remember that your horse needs breathable tack to avoid sweating under the saddle. For this reason, your saddle pads should be as breathable as possible. If you use protection boots or polo wraps, check them as well to avoid heating your horse’s tendons unnecessarily.
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