Article by Morgan Hartmann
March 2, 2017
Transitioning your horse from season to season can present many challenges, adjusting everything from feed to workouts. The tasks seem never ending! Changing temperatures can throw us and our horses for a loop. It can be tough for horses to adjust to the differences in temperatures, weather, and hours of sunlight. Some of the most common problems that occur when seasons change are colic, skin issues, and hoof ailments. Below are some helpful tips to help you transition your four-legged friend from winter to spring.
Healthy Hay = Healthy Horse
Colic is a common digestive problem for horses during seasonal changes and can cause abdominal pain and discomfort. Common signs to look for include the horse dropping down to roll repeatedly, constipation, pawing, or biting at their stomach. Big swings in climate can trigger colic.
Depending on where you live, there could be extreme temperature differences between winter and spring. When the temperature rises, you might want to ditch your Huntley Equestrian bomber jacket early. And while your horse can feel the temperature rise too, they can’t shed their winter coat as easily. The warm temperature may make them feel uncomfortable. Discomfort may cause a horse to eat less. Horses are hind gut animals and need to graze to keep their digestive system happy. To ensure that a horse keeps eating, one of the best things you can do is make sure you have good quality hay. If someone handed you a moldy piece of toast, would you want to eat it? We guess no, and your horse does not want moldy hay. Check your hay for mold, especially after a wet winter. Check the color of the hay, too. If it is yellow and looks like straw, it is lacking essential nutrients.
If you want to know more about colic, talk to your veterinarian. They can explain the common signs and symptoms of colic. If you suspect your horse may have colic, call your vet immediately.
Gatorade - for your horse!
Help your horse transition during temperature changes by keeping them hydrated. Make sure your horse has plenty of clean water. Consider adding electrolytes to your horse’s grain to encourage them to drink more water. Don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated, too! Like our horses, we can get dehydrated as well.
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Get those steps in.
Movement is an important factor in your horse's health. It is key in keeping your horse's gut moving. Horses are nomads and are made to keep moving. Walking or exercising helps muscle contractions of the gut. If it is hot outside, give your horse a turnout or go for a trail ride. In turn, if spring brings April showers, your horse may be confined to his stall more than normal. Easy fix: take your horse for a stroll up and down a dry barn aisle or wait or a break in the rain and go for a hand walk. Your horse will thank you and it is a great way to make it to 10,000 steps a day on the FitBit!
“Hair so healthy, it shines!”
Your horse’s skin and coat condition is extra susceptible to changing seasons. As we transition from winter to spring, skin issues may surface. Horses have fewer baths in the winter because of the cold, causing dirt and grime to build up on their skin. Some horses insist on standing out in the rain instead of in their dry, bedded stalls. Skin issues may become more apparent as horse’s shed. With longer days come more shedding. More sunlight = more laundry!
Rain Rot, Go Away… Don’t come back some other day.
One of the most common skin problems, caused by damp weather, is rain rot. Rain rot happens when an area on a horse staying wet for too long. Bacteria causes crusty scabs that fall off, taking the horse’s hair with it. Typically, we treat rain rot with waterproof blankets, shelter, and thoroughly cleaning anything your horses infected skin may have come into contact with (grooming brushes, your Huntley Equestrian saddle pad, etc.).
Curry, curry, curry!
Grooming your horse daily keeps their coat healthy. There is nothing better for your horse’s skin and coat than a good, thorough curry. Not only are you are removing excess dirt and grime, you will also be aware of any skin issues. Don’t forget to curry and brush the hard to reach areas such as ears and legs. The backs of your horse’s ears and legs are prime areas for fungus to grow (gross!). Grooming prevents fungus from forming altogether.
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Manis and pedis are fun for you, and your horse!
Hoof issues are common during seasonal changes. The most common spring hoof issue is thrush. Thrush happens when there is too much moisture in the hoof. During the rainy seasons you may see thrush forming in one or all of your horse’s feet. Thrush is easy to identify. When you pick your horses feet, look for black, smelly discharge in the frog. Thrush is easy to treat and there are many different thrush remedies to choose from.
More Moisture, More Problems
White line disease is another common, but more alarming, hoof problem. White line occurs when the horses hoof wall separates from the inner layer. White line is more likely to occur in locations with lots of moisture and humidity. It’s treatable and mostly preventable. To prevent it, make sure your horse has a dry place to stand. Take any wet bedding or muck out of the horse’s stall. The good news is, even though our horses don’t always want to stand in the perfectly dry shavings, there are lots of great products to treat white line.
Picky About Hoof Picks
The best way to prevent any seasonal related hoof issues is good hoof care. Start by picking out your horse’s feet regularly! Pick before and after every ride, turnout, hand walk, graze session, or anything other adventures. This practice helps stop these issues before they start. If you suspect your horse may have thrush or white line, ask your vet or farrier to take a look. The vet and farrier can recommend the best treatment for your horses feet.
The best line of offense is a good defense.
As equestrians, we all try out hardest to keep our horse partners happy and healthy. No matter how hard you try, horses throw you curve balls. Prepare to face any issues you may come across by researching and asking questions. Transitioning your horse from winter to spring is easy! Keep your horse hydrated and well fed, curry and groom your horse as often as you can, and keep their feet picked. If you have any questions, ask your trainer, farrier, or vet for help. Happy horsekeeping!