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Common Springtime Woes for Michigan Horses

With the longer days and warmer temperatures arriving, there may be a downside to spring issues that could affect your equine.

Conditioning yourself and your horse is likely to become a high priority in the coming warm months. For those of us who haven’t been able to keep our equine friends in top shape this winter, planning an effective conditioning regimen for spring is crucial. Be sure to pace yourself as you begin this new workout plan. Remember that you and your horse need to build your strength and endurance over time, not overnight.

Shedding is something that all Michigan horse owners will be quite familiar with in the coming months. So how do you go about helping your horse shed out his winter coat? It is important to recognize what causes your horse to shed. The addition of blankets can encourage your horse to shed. Be sure to use only enough blankets to keep the horse comfortably warm, never sweating. Not only the warmer temperatures, but even more importantly, the increased length of day is signaling your horse’s body to release all of that hair. If you’re feeling antsy, you can help your horse shed their coat faster by using artificial light, increasing total light exposure to 14-16 hours a day. Using artificial light to help a horse shed will not occur overnight, it will take a month or longer to initiate shedding of the hair coat. Additionally, this light doesn’t have to be extremely bright, just enough to read a newspaper comfortably. 

Thrush is the destruction of the frog by anaerobic bacteria that is not contagious. This infection is usually black in color and strong smelling. If the thrush infection is severe enough, it may penetrate the sensitive structure in the hoof and form an abscess. The best control for thrush is proper sanitation. Be sure that the horse’s hooves and stall are being cleaned daily with removal of wet spots and manure. If the horse is kept in a run-in shed, the area should be cleaned weekly to help minimize the buildup of organic matter. Proper sanitation can help prevent this common issue. Copper tox and thrush buster can work well for treating thrush. Dr. Morrison identifies and talks about treating thrush in horses in the linked video, Identifying and Treating Thrush in Horses.

Colic and laminitis are common ailments year-round for our equine friends, however the springtime weather can bring new challenges to the fight against these serious problems. It is important to remember that as the weather changes, our pastures are also changing. Be sure to transition your horses slowly onto this new, green pasture and allow their diet to adapt as you let them munch on the yummy green. For more information on horse care read “The Role of Nutrition in Horse Colic and Laminitis.”

For more on prepping your horse for spring read “Conditioning Horses for Performance.”

(This article was written by Taylor Fabus, Michigan State University Extension)

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