Equine Spring Transition Tips

Dr. Kristina Hiney, PhD, Omega Fields Equine Nutrition Advisor, has prepared a series of seasonal tips to help horse owners transitioning their horses from one season to another.

  • Schedule your spring check-up with your veterinarian to get your spring shots 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 are performed annually to test for carriers of equine infectious anemia. This is a disease that has no cure or vaccine available and is also transmitted by mosquitoes. The only route of control available is to identify carrier horses that can spread the disease to other horses via blood-sucking insects.
  • Check your fences for winter damage. Freezing and thawing of the ground can cause posts to “heave”. This may result in downed rails, loose mesh or high-tensile fences no longer having high tension. Be sure to re-stretch any fences that may have become loose as these are actually extremely dangerous. Horses can tangle themselves quite easily in loose wires.
  • If you use electric fences, check your chargers. As the grass begins to grow, the temptation to leave the fenced area for greener pastures may intensify.
  • Now is the time to clean and check your tack for wear, potential weak spots, rotting, etc., before theriding season gets into full swing.
  • Before heading down the road, be sure to test your trailer’s lights, brakes, and floors. Your wiring may be damaged or corroded from snow and salt. You do not want to find that out in mid-drive!
  • Avoid sudden turnout to lush, green pastures. Use a slow adaptation to grazing, introducing your horse a few hours at a time. Be especially careful if your horse is an easy keeper who tends to deposit fat along the crest of his neck, abdomen and tailhead. He may be a horse with metabolic syndrome, and thus be susceptible to laminitis with exposure to spring grasses.
  • Consider building a sacrifice area or having a paddock for turnout. Not only can you use this to limit your horse’s time on pasture, but also when it is wet and your horse’s hooves could tear up the sod in the pasture while bucking and playing in the fresh spring air!
  • Begin your exercise program slowly! If you have not done much riding over the winter, your riding partner will not be in shape. Remember what you feel like when hitting the gym after a long time away. Your horse gets sore too!
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