Michigan State Lecture Focuses on Preparing Horses for Winter

Each spring it's the same scenario: your horse comes out of winter overweight and out of shape. You spent the previous year riding, training, showing, and your horse enjoyed plenty of exercise while out to pasture. But after a few cold months of layoff, you are back at square one. What do you do?

Rob van Wessum, DVM, MS, equine clinician at the MSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, will address this problem in a lecture, "How to Winterize Your Horse," on Saturday, October 11, 2008 at 10 a.m.

"Many Michigan equestrians are faced with the problem of not being able to ride their horses very often during the winter," explained van Wessum. "Michigan has such different seasons, from hot, humid summers to frigid, icy, and snowy winters. This wide variation in weather presents horse owners with the challenge of keeping their horses healthy."

It is important for owners to learn how to gradually slow down from the busy summer training schedule when cold weather arrives."

Down-training the horse in the fall will help prevent injuries during the winter and the following spring. Plus proper diet changes from summer to winter will help prevent the horse from becoming overweight," van Wessum said.

A native of The Netherlands (which is known for its cool summers and mild winters), active dressage rider van Wessum has learned the challenges of Michigan's extreme seasonal variations first-hand. "It's good to realize that your horse gets completely different work in the winter than in the summer. During the summer, horses are generally ridden a lot and enjoy more turnout in pasture and paddocks. But in the winter, it's a totally different situation with less exercise and generally more confinement."

However, he said it is possible for horse owners to adapt their training schedule to the changing environment of less riding, less training, and less turnout for the horse. Van Wessum will focus on what equestrians should do to down-train their horses in preparation for the winter layoff.

He will also address issues of winter riding and what to do in order to prevent injuries when working horses during cold temperatures, and he will describe what kind of exercises should be done to keep horses flexible and strong. He will also discuss the difference between arena footing in warm and cold weather, how to deal with arthritis in cold temperatures, and he will provide deworming and dietary advice.

The seminar will be held in E-100 Veterinary Medical Center, East Lansing, Mich., 48824, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission is free, but please RSVP to Denise Bennington 517/353-3182 or Judy Lessard 517/355-0001.

The Veterinary Medical Center is located at the intersection of Wilson Road and Bogue Street on the MSU campus. Maps and directions can be found at Msu.edu/maps/index.html. Guests should park in the north section of the Wharton Center parking ramp, accessible from East Shaw Lane. Walk south out of the ramp to Wilson Road, and cross the street. The entrance to E-100 is to the right of the Small Animal Clinic (do not use the Small Animal Clinic entrance).

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