Horse Care – Especially for Spring!

by Scott A. McKay, DVM on February 8, 2012

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Attention equine enthusiasts! Spring is just around the corner. With it comes the opportunity of trail rides, horse shows and county fairs. It’s time to start thinking about the things you need to do to get ready for the up-coming season. But before you load the trailer and head down the road or saddle up and head down the trail, there are a few things you may want to consider.

Horse Supplies

First, I would recommend a visit from your veterinarian. Your veterinarian is a great resource of information regarding the health of your horse and his readiness to perform. Here is a partial list of horse care issues to discuss with your veterinarian.

A complete physical examination including:

  • Temperature, pulse, respiration
  • Body condition
  • Feet, legs and lameness issues
  • Eyes
  • Teeth and oral cavity
  • Skin and coat

Discuss and review the proper diet for your horse. If your horse will be switching from a hay/grain diet to grass pasture, be sure to introduce the pasture grass gradually. Avoid any rapid change in your horse’s diet.

Will you be deworming your horse(s)? Discuss this with your veterinarian as well. There is some new information available surrounding the use of horse deworming products. It turns out that not all horses may need to be dewormed as often as we used to think. You may want to consider having a fecal exam performed on your horses to see which ones are shedding parasite eggs and concentrate the medications on these horses. The horses that are not shedding will need to be treated; just not as often. This is a much more strategic approach to deworming which should save you money in the long run and help the deworming product that we have remain effective.

Springtime is a good time to consider which vaccines your horse should receive. Some of the viral diseases that affect horses are transported by biting insects common during the summer months. Targeting vaccination so the antibody levels in your horse are at their highest level during the time of the year when these insects are most prevalent is a solid plan. Of course, there are other vaccines your horse may need. Discuss this with your veterinarian. (See the Drs. Foster & Smith Horse Vaccination Center.)

Don’t forget your horse’s feet. Do you need the farrier to visit and get your horse’s feet ready for action?

Will your horse need any blood testing? Many organizations require a current Coggin’s test to allow horses to participate in an activity involving horses from different farms. The Coggin’s test is a blood test for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) or swamp fever. There is no vaccine or treatment for this viral disease. Testing and documenting the results of the test is the preferred method of minimizing the risk of an outbreak of EIA. Consult your veterinarian for your state’s current policies regarding Coggin’s testing.

Winter is a good time to inspect your tack and make needed repairs and/or up-grades. (See the Drs. Foster & Smith Hoof Care Essentials.)

As spring approaches, it may be a good idea to inspect your horse trailer. Make sure the trailer is sound and that the axles, wheel bearings and tires are ready for travel. Do the trailer lights still work and is the license up to date?

A little planning now may help you have an enjoyable season with your horse.

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About the author: Dr. Scott McKay received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Michigan State University. He has worked with large and small animals in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Some of Dr. McKay's interests include educating clients on how to best care for their animals and the human-animal bond. He has a special interest in wildlife. Dr. McKay is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association. See more articles by Dr. Scott McKay.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Lena April 24, 2012 at 9:38 am

It is great advice here. I am sure me and many other equine enthusiasts would appreciate this. But it is quite unfortunate that in regions and countries where horses and donkeys are not only pets but a means to livelihood there is not enough animal care is being provided.
I believe equine enthusiasts and other animal welfare organisations should make an effort to address the situation of working animals across the third world.

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