Spring Cleaning for Horses Too!

— Written By Barbara Linder and last updated by Dawn Stone

Spring is here, although the temperatures and weather might lead us to think otherwise. While we are beginning spring-cleaning around our homes, we must not forget the important “spring cleaning” tasks that should take place out in the barn too. Spring is the perfect time to get ready for a great season of riding. Although you have been keeping a watchful eye on your horse’s health all winter, it is at this time that certain steps can be taken to get ready for the warmer months.

The wet weather that has been plaguing us for weeks creates the perfect scenario for mosquitos to breed when the weather gets warmer. Take time to eliminate standing water on your property and allow horses to graze the higher, dryer areas first while the wet areas are given time to dry out. If you walk in to your pasture or paddock and leave a footprint in the wet grass, then your horses are definitely going to damage the fresh foliage with the suffocating weight of their hooves.

Be sure not to let your horses graze too much if they have been stalled all winter and accustomed to a hay and concentrate diet. Ingesting too much fresh grass too quickly can leave to digestive upset, colic, founder, or obesity issues. Also, horses with metabolic issues such as Cushings should be carefully guarded due to high Nonstructural carbohydrate (NSC) levels in young spring grasses. Initially limit grazing time for horses without metabolic issues, and offer hay prior to and along with grazing.

Spring vaccinations are of utmost importance with show seasons starting and insects breeding. West Nile Virus, Eastern and Western Encephalomyelitis, Rabies, and tetanus should be given annually, with other vaccinations such as Strangles and Equine Influenza given based on your individual situation and veterinarian’s recommendations. Also, check and make sure your horse’s Coggins test is up-to-date, which is necessary for travel and showing.

An oral examination is in order for spring as well. Not all horses need their teeth floated each year, but a check-up will indicated if sharp points (malocclusions) have formed that can interfere with riding and food consumption.

As the weather gets warmer, take time to walk fence lines, check pastures for toxic weeds, and clean the cobwebs from your stalls and barn aisles. Look for any other hazards that could cause an issue with you or your horses. Taking some time for spring-cleaning for your horse will lead to a happier season of warm riding.