Tuning Up Your Horse for Warmer Weather
It's that lovely time of year again where the mild spring transitions into a warm summer. Just like humans, horses also adapt their lifestyles to the warm summer months. Summer elicits a variety of changes in horses: from weight loss, to increased conditioning, to shedding their winter coat. It's important to evaluate your horse's body condition score and overall health as the seasons change. Dr. Bray, Star Milling's equine nutritionist, offers the following tips to help you with this process.
- Be sure your horse is current with vaccinations.
- Evaluate your deworming program.
- Horses that are shown or transported will likely need a negative Coggins test.
- Hooves should be trimmed every six to eight weeks.
- If the horse is barefoot during the winter and you decide to put shoes on during the summer, allow your horse a couple of days to adjust to the new footwear.
Grooming & Shedding
- Groom, bathe, and brush your horse more frequently during the warmer months. This will remove dirt and mud, while reducing the bacteria and insects that can reside in hair. It also improves circulation and stimulates oil production by the skin.
- Horses shed their winter coat as the days get longer and warmer. Lower protein and fat diets can hinder coat shedding. Horses that are fed balanced diets, in good health, and good body weight year round will properly shed their coats. You are welcome to Contact Us if you need help determining the right diet for your horse(s).
- Adding 1/4 cup of Integrity Rice Bran per day to the ration will help maintain a shiny coat and improve shedding.
Working horses usually begin preparing for show season and pleasure riding in early spring. The horsses' diet should adjust along with their changing workload. Changes to hay, concentrate, and oil should gradually be introduced to their diet.
Horses that have been managed on hay during the winter need to be introduced to spring pasture gradually. The bacteria that reside in the horse's gut play a major role in the digestive process, and require time to acclimate to dietary changes. Some horses adapt more quickly than others. Your experience with your horse should help you determine the right pace. The recommendation below is a conservative approach to minimize the risk of colic.
- Grazing time is best in the morning when fructan levels are lower. Fructan concentrations in the spring grasses are higher in the afternoon, particularly on warm and sunny afternoons. Minimal or no afternoon grazing is recommended.
- Introduction Protocol
- Day 1 - 30 minutes
- Day 2-7 - Increase by 15 minutes per day
- Day 7-10 - Increase by 30 minutes until maximize at 4 hours of grazing time
- Maintain 4 hours grazing time for 2 more weeks
Keep an eye on your horses during the hot summer months. They should be well-groomed, vaccinated, and eased into any feeding changes. This will ensure they enjoy the summer as much as you!