Horse Health Must-Haves for Spring

With the winter months in the past, you know that spring has finally arrived when your horse starts shedding their coat. With spring comes warmer temperatures, muddy pastures, preparation for horse shows, and often an adjustment in your horse’s health and nutrition needs. This helpful guide will give you the top horse health must haves for spring to ensure you are covering all the essentials when it comes to spring nutrition, deworming, grooming, hoof care, and general health tips for springtime horse care.

How to Keep Your Horse Healthy in the Spring

Warm weather is an exciting time for horse owners, as warmer weather leads to more time enjoying your horse, time away at horse shows or trail riding with friends, and putting away the winter horse blankets for storage. After a long winter, there are some important things to be mindful of when making sure your horse is healthy in the spring. Checking their skin for wounds, cuts, and fungus such as mud-fever, scratches, or rain-rot, that can develop from wet conditions, or from wearing blankets all winter. Having your vet do a wellness checkup, spring vaccines, dental float, and observe their body condition for either an increase in nutrition or limiting their grazing on spring pasture, are all ways to ensure your horse is healthy this spring.

How Do You Feed Horses in the Spring?

Many horses are more idle in the winter months, some even taking a complete break from exercise, training, or competition. Turnout situations may be different in the winter months, particularly if you keep your horse in a smaller sacrifice area to prevent pastures from being torn up during wet weather. This results in horses not being as fit and losing muscle in the winter. For some horses, such as older horses or hard-keepers, they can lose weight and muscle during the cold weather as well, even if they are still being ridden. Winters can be tough on horses, just like us as humans.

So how do you feed a horse in the spring? Like people, every horse is different, and they all require different feeding programs. Some horses require extra grain or hay in the winter to maintain their body weight, while others can maintain the same diet year-round. It all depends on the horse’s body condition, health issues, and workload.

Spring Nutrition and Diet for Horses

Spring Nutrition and Diet Products

As spring grass begins to grow, all horses should be slowly introduced to pasture grass over several weeks, to prevent health issues such as laminitis or founder. Many horse owners start out by hand-grazing for short periods of time, then slowly increasing the length before they monitor how long a horse is turned out on fresh pasture, gradually building up to longer periods. Horses that are overweight, have insulin issues, or are more prone to laminitis or founder, should be especially limited to spring grazing while sugars are high.

Using a grazing muzzle, such as the Dura-Tech® Grazing Muzzle, can slow down the amount of grass your horse or pony consumes, allowing them to still enjoy their turnout without the increased risk of over-indulging on lush grass and the health risks that can come as a result.

Having your veterinarian help guide you to a proper diet is the best way to be sure your horse is at an ideal body condition. If your horse comes out of winter looking a bit dull, thin, or not at the body condition you would like, they may benefit from added concentrates (grain), hay, and Horse Supplements designed to cover all their nutrition needs, such as weight or muscle builders, coat and hoof supplements, and digestive or ulcer supplements.

Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s are important nutrients for horses, benefitting everything from reduced joint and tissue inflammation, promoting optimal health, building bone density and cell development, and even helping regulate insulin production. Products like, Equine Omega Complete have the recommended ratio for Omega 3:6 for horses, which makes it easy to know that your horse’s spring nutrition needs are being met.

Spring Vaccines and General Health for Horses

Vaccines are one of the most important ways to make sure your horse is healthy each year. Starting out the year with vaccines in the spring can help protect your horse as the temperatures warm up, more horse owners travel with their horses from shows or clinics, and insects or other animals that could be carrying disease may be in closer contact with your horse in the coming spring and summer months.

Annual vaccines such at Tetanus Toxoid, Equine Encephalomyelitis, Influenza, Equine Herpesvirus/Rhino (EHV-1 and EHV-4), Rabies and West Nile Virus are all very important core vaccines that should be done annually. Depending on the area you live in, there may be other vaccines that your veterinarian recommends, or having some of these done more than once a year.

Getting an annual Coggins test is another important part of the spring-time routine. If you will travel to events, clinics, shows, or even boarding facilities, it is likely that your horse will be required to show proof of a negative Coggins test within the last twelve-months.

Many horse owners like to plan their spring vaccines and Coggins test with having a dental float and, if your horse is a male, having their sheath cleaned. Sheath cleaning is important for removing a build-up of dirt and skin that can be very uncomfortable for male horses, and the “bean”, which is a small cluster of dirt and smegma that forms into a small pebble-shape cluster, in the skin fold near their urethra. Checking for melanomas around the sheath area each year is equally as important, especially if your horse is grey or light-colored. Having your veterinarian examine your horse, is a great way to make sure nothing is missed that may have been overlooked in the winter months.

Protecting Your Horse from Flies and Insects During Spring Weather

To help keep those pesky flies, ticks, and biting insects, such as mosquitos, that can carry diseases like West Nile Virus, using a combination of Fly Sprays, Fly Sheets, and Fly Masks, work well at reducing the exposure to those bugs, while also keeping your horse happier and more relaxed when they are outside. There are many types of fly spray repellents for horses, and many horse owners wonder which fly spray works the best on horses. UltraShield® EX is a very popular fly spray with horse owners, as it can last over two-weeks once applied to your horse’s coat. Schneiders has a wide range of the best fly sprays and fly sheets designed for all types of horses, ponies, miniatures, and even draft horses, ensuring they are always covered!

What Dewormer Do You Give Horses in the Spring?

Horse Dewormer Products

With spring weather comes flies, mosquitos, and parasites, both external and internal. It’s a great idea to have your horse checked for parasites by having your veterinarian do a fecal test, to find out the “worm-load” of what type of internal parasites they may have, and how many.

Parasite resistance is an on-going problem where horses are being dewormed too often or with the wrong product, resulting in parasites being resistant when you need to treat your horse. Getting a fecal test can tell you exactly what kind of parasites, or worms, your horse may have, and what deworming product is needed to get rid of them. Deworming a horse not only helps keep them healthier, but by keeping parasite loads under control, you can keep your horse healthier internally by reducing the risk of colic or impaction from high worm loads, rubbing their tails, poor coats, just to name a few of the benefits of deworming a horse.

A product like Zimecterin® Gold is commonly used in the spring and fall, as it is made from a combination of ivermectin and praziquantel, which together, can help control various parasites, such as large strongyles, pinworms, ascarids, bots, threadworms, summer sores, and even tapeworms. Then, in May/June using just Ivermectin can be beneficial. Panacur® is another popular dewormer that contains Fenbendazole, which treats large and small strongyles, encysted strongyles pinworms, and ascarids, and tends to be given around March/April.

Proper Hoof Care During Spring Weather

Hoof Care Products

Spring tends to bring a lot of rain resulting in wet, muddy pastures. The excess moisture can cause a variety of issues when it comes to your horse’s hooves. Using a hoof pick daily to clean out your horse’s hooves will help keep mud, rocks, and debris out of their feet. Removing this wet mud is important in preventing thrush, which can be caused from prolonged periods of a horse standing in a wet or damp environment, with excess bacteria. Thrush can be prevented or treated with a variety of products for treating thrush, such as Thrush Buster®, which are very helpful during spring weather when horses are out in wet terrain for long periods of time.

Deep mud can cause horses to lose their shoes. Bell Boots can be used during turnout to help prevent a horse from overreaching and pulling off shoes, but sometimes just being in a mucky, muddy, pasture or sliding in mud can cause a horse to lose their shoe.

Checking your horse daily to make sure their shoes are on tight and that none are missing can help prevent other issues, such as bruises or damaged soles, sore feet, stone-bruises, or abscesses. It is also important to make sure their shoes have not slid or shifted, also referred to as “springing a shoe”, which is when a shoe doesn’t fully come off but shifts or bends while still being partially attached to the hoof. This can be dangerous for the horse, so removing the rest of the shoe or having a farrier come fix it as quickly as possible is important.

Hoof hardening products like Keratex Hoof Hardener can be used to strengthen weak, cracked hooves, helping shoes stay on tight or allowing barefoot horses to have a stronger, more sturdy hoof. Venice Turpentine is another product that can be painted to the sole of hooves to help harden them.

Tips for Grooming and De-Shedding Horses in the Spring

Horse Deshedding Products

With shedding coats one of the first signs of spring, knowing the best tips and tricks for de-shedding winter horse coats can speed up the process for that beautiful, show-ring shine! Shedding blades are one of the most used grooming tools for removing winter hair from a horse. Today, there are quite a few options available for de-shedding, but knowing which route is the best for de-shedding a winter coat, depends on your horse, environment, and how fast you want to remove their winter hair.

A shedding blade will help speed up the time it takes for a horse to shed out their winter hair. Most shedding blades are made from a strip of metal with short, sharp teeth, that pull out loose hair while dragging the blade in the direction of the hair growth, along their coat. You only need to apply light pressure in smooth, sweeping motions almost like brushing your own hair, and before you know it you will have big handfuls of that winter hair coming off! The SleekEZ Shedding Block is a popular grooming tool for de-shedding horse hair, with a comfortable wooden handle and patented blade design, that makes removing mud and loose hair, a breeze.

Body clipping is one of the fastest ways to remove a thick, scruffy winter coat on a horse, eliminating the weeks of shedding during spring. Horses will still shed, but the hairs will be short and fine, leaving a smooth, more polished coat while their summer coat grows in. Body Clippers and Trimmers are designed to cut through hair quickly, but prepping your horse with a bath to remove dirt before being clipped is important for preventing clipping lines, pulling the hair, dulling the clipper blades, or having an uneven clip job. Cordless clippers are a great way to trim around your horse’s face, ears, and legs, especially for quick touch-ups. You can read more on our blog, Tips & Tricks for Clipping Your Horse.

With these helpful tips on all the horse health must haves for spring, you can rest assured that your horse will be healthy as the warm weather starts to stick around!