With spring now upon us, Kristina Hiney, PhD, Omega Fields equine nutrition advisor, has prepared a series of seasonal tips to help the horse owner in transitioning his or her horses and property from winter to spring:

  • Schedule your horses' spring check-ups with your veterinarian to have your horses vaccinated before mosquito season. Many diseases in horses are transmitted by mosquitoes, including Eastern, Western, and Venezuelan encephalomyelitis, as well as West Nile virus.
  • Have your horse's Coggins test performed, especially if you plan to travel. Coggins tests should be done annually to test for carriers of equine infectious anemia.
  • Check all of your fences for winter damage. Freezing and thawing of the ground can cause posts to "heave," possibly resulting in downed rails, loose mesh, or high tensile fences no longer having high tension. Be sure to restretch any fences that might have become loose as these can be extremely dangerous. Horses can tangle themselves quite easily in loose wires.
  • If you use electric fences, check your chargers to ensure they're still functioning properly. As the grass begins to grow, the horses' temptation to leave the fenced in area for greener pastures might intensify.
  • Now is the time to clean and check your tack for wear, potential weak spots, rotting, and breaks before riding season gets into full swing.
  • Before heading down the road, be sure to test your trailer's lights, brakes, and floors as damage or corrosion from snow and salt might have occurred.
  • Avoid sudden turnout to lush, green pastures. Use a slow adaptation to grazing, introducing your horse to pastures a few hours at a time. Be especially careful if your horse is an easy keeper that tends to deposit fat along the crest of his neck, abdomen, and tailhead. He might have equine metabolic syndrome and thus be susceptible to laminitis with too much exposure to spring grasses.
  • Consider building a sacrifice area or having a paddock for turnout. Use this area to limit your horse's time on pasture or to prevent pasture damage during wet or muddy conditions.
  • Begin your exercise program slowly. 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.
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