After a long winter, and I do mean long, probably nowhere else in the country but northeast Ohio can you have an 80-degree day followed by tornados the next day to a snowstorm all in 72 hours in April! Perhaps our neighbor to the south will see a dry Kentucky Derby this year but only Mother Nature truly knows. Then again horse people are hearty and resilient and we persevere!
Scheduling spring training, and turnout on new grass can be challenging. Have you seen the iconic photo of a horse grazing in green, green grass up to its belly, on a spring morning with the sunbeams shining through the dew and thought how great? I have seen a similar image or two but have a different dream crushing thought. Not to be an alarmist but YIKES, that horse is going to develop laminitis or colic if he is not brought in soon! Hoof inflammation after excess grazing may damage the hoof laminae, which is the sensitive portion of the hoof. Inflammation causes a painful debilitating condition called laminitis. Inside the hoof, the laminae suspend and attach the coffin bone to the hoof wall. Two-thirds of a horse’s body weight is carried up front. Put in context a 1200-pound horse will carry roughly 800-pounds of their weight on the front legs. Imagine standing and supporting that weight when your hooves are inflamed and painful.
Monitor your equine partner’s pasture time
Use a graduated turnout schedule to avoid initial extended turnout time on new lush spring grasses. Spring grass contains higher sugar content and over-doing it may cause changes in your horse’s metabolism compromising hooves to laminitis. Gradually offering spring grass intake may curtail the chances of laminitis or colic. Many factors will determine the length of turnout time such as the size of the pasture, how lush the grass, size of your horse and the herd he is turned out with. Using a grazing muzzle can be useful to allow your horse to acclimate more slowly.
Wet pastures and exercise areas create a problem for turnout and training. Conditions of racetracks and outdoor training areas may be less than ideal for morning breezing and workouts. This creates a watchful situation as you manage spring turnout and training schedules. Take precautions to add bell boots for turnout as horses may overreach running and playing during pasture time. If you are riding outside, consider using splint and tendon boots. Muddy pastures can be a magnet for horseshoes. If your horse is shod it may be wise to keep an easy boot on hand for use when your horse comes in from pasture shoeless!
Begin legging up your horse slowly
Tendon injuries and muscle pulls can be common in the spring. If you have not ridden much this winter give your horse a chance to build endurance and leg strength slowly and avoid associated soreness. Injury therapy has come a long way. As technology improves, so do equine injury treatment options. Traditional injury solutions might be used alongside new treatment apparatuses such as ice wraps, whirlpool therapy boots and tubs, leg soakers, laser wraps and ceramic and magnetic therapies. If injuries occur, discuss treatment options with your veterinarian. Save your veterinarians number in your phone and post it in your barn for quick access.
These tips will get you started on a great showing, trail riding, fox hunting or racing season! Make a trip to Big Dee’s or order online to stock up on liniment and leg care items, polo wraps, leg quilts, wound care and vet wrap. It is also a good time to check your tack for serviceability and wear and tear. Give your tack a thorough cleaning before your riding season begins. Enjoy your chosen equine sport and be safe!
This article was written by Kathy Kilbane – Big Dee’s Web Products Specialist