Spring: Tips for Healthy Horses

It's a great time of year for horse owners. The spring in the air means it's almost time to get back into riding, really riding, again. The great weather means more time outside, and less time at the computer, reading horse articles or chatting with other horse owners. So, what I thought I'd do is start a list of things I think are important to think about before it gets too nice and you're outside with your horse.

Grass again!

I know that Odin is more than ready to have something other than that old, dry hay to munch on all day. I've noticed he's out scrounging around for anything green more often than not nowadays. Oh, that new grass is so sweet! Yes, it is sweet, and packed with carbs. That means a sudden sugar rush that will cause flaky behavior, and very rapid weight gain. While a horse's body can usually adjust, sometimes it's too much too fast. Some horses can develop mild founder every spring, while other horses, especially ponies, will founder completely. It all depends on the horse. During the winter of 2006-2007, there was no hay in my area, and I had to give alfalfa cubes. Odin gained so much weight that he was too fat going into the spring, and when spring grass was added, I was lucky that he didn't founder. Very lucky. It took all year to get his weight back down to almost normal. He was fat!

Time to trim.

This year, it surprises me to see that Odin's hooves have grown so much already. His feet are in very good shape with no cracks or chips, yet they are too long already. I'd rather he get those feet trimmed way before I start doing anything with him so that he's well adjusted to the new length beforehand.

Time for Coggins and vaccinations.

I know there's a debate about whether the Coggins test is worth doing, but I believe the purpose of testing every year (some states require tests more often) is to prevent the spread of a fatal disease. I'll go ahead and have it done along with vaccinations this year. There's a debate about the efficacy and frequency of vaccinations too, but I'd rather be safe than sorry. I expect a lot of mosquitoes this year, and it is far less expensive to vaccinate than it is to treat a neurological virus. It's a good idea to have teeth checked too.


You can't forget the wormer. Do you remember the last kind you used? If you used Strongid or Safegard, it's time for Zimectrin, or visa versa. Odin's about due now.

Clean, oil and check your tack.

I hate to say it, but my saddle is pretty dusty right now. I felt my headstall the other day, and it was stiff and dry feeling. It's time to drag everything out, give it a good cleaning and then a good layer of Neatsfoot Oil. While cleaning, I'll check everything for dry, cracking leather to make sure that nothing will break at the wrong time.

Start gradually!

No matter how nice it is, no matter how great it would be to head out for a full day trail ride, think about it first. If you're anything like me, you're not in the shape you were in last fall. I'm not even close! Well, neither is your horse. Start out slow and build up. I plan on doing at least a week of half hour rides, then increasing the time the next week. I might even saddle up and just lead Odin out, and when it's time to come back is when I'll get on him. That way, we're both getting in shape. I don't want either of us to be sore.

Time to itch and itch and itch and....

Odin is already shedding his guard hairs, if that's what you call the long hair on top on horses. I saw an Icelandic pony last week with thick white hair, and when I ran my hand down its neck, it was completely covered in white. I don't know why, but Odin has never shed out like that. It seems to take him at least a few weeks of twice daily brushing and a lot of scratching sessions. I can feel my arms getting tired just thinking about it!

That's all I can think of right now. I'm sure more ideas will pop into my head as soon as I hit that "publish" button! Do you have things you do to get ready for riding?


  1. Great tips Theresa!

    I think we're going to have to get the pressure washer out and clean the barn with it, it's so full of dust from this winter.


  2. When you're done with your barn, can I borrow it... for my house?