Now that the snow has melted and the winter blankets have gone back to the storage shed, it's time to get your horse ready for spring. Here's what you can do to keep your horse healthy as you prepare them for those long rides in the sun.
Conditioning Your Horse For Spring
If you have not been riding your horse as much over the winter, you may be excited to get back on the saddle. Before you can resume your horse's usual spring riding schedule, however, you'll want to slowly condition them to get them back in shape. Conditioning prevents over-exhaustion and injury.
The first few weeks of conditioning should consist of short, easy sessions on flat terrain. As your horse's endurance picks up again, you can gradually add short sessions of trotting or calisthenics. Begin each session with a warm-up, and end with a cool-down to prevent injury and to help stimulate blood flow to the muscles to speed up muscle recovery.
Parasite Control Prep For Spring
Even if you have been diligently following a deworming and parasite control regime through the winter, you'll want to submit a fecal sample to your veterinarian for a fecal egg count. That's the only way to know whether or not your horse's dewormer has been working properly or if the parasites have developed resistance to it.
Spring is also the perfect time to get up to date on vaccinations, especially for illnesses that are transmitted via mosquitoes, including West Nile Virus encephalitis. Talk to your veterinarian about other vaccine boosters your horse will need to prepare for spring.
Watch Out For Spring Grass Founder
Finally, your horse will get access to fresh, green grass to graze on after a frosty, muddy winter. Not so fast; as the spring grass shoots up, it builds up energy reserves of sugar fructans to help it continue to grow in suboptimal conditions.
When your horse gobbles up too much of that fresh, sugary spring grass, the sugars stimulate an overgrowth of bacteria in their large intestine. In turn, this can lead to colic and founder (laminitis).
To keep your horse safe, limit their access to spring grass, especially if they're overweight or prone to colic or laminitis, or have Cushing's disease. You can start your horse on as little as an hour of turnout time per day, then gradually turn them out for more time each day as their digestive system adjusts. You can use a muzzle to limit your horse's grass consumption while allowing them to exercise.