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Spring Pasture Forage Tips

 

Now that Spring is finally here, I am looking forward to longer days, warming temperatures, and green grass.

So, about that green, lush growing grass we are all looking forward to…it can be a mixed blessing for a lot of horse owners.  As we know, horses are built to consume forage as most of their diet in the form of hay and/or pasture.  Some horses can be turned out all day and all night once spring pastures begin to grow and have no issues at all.  Other horses either gain too much weight or have other health concerns that do not allow for unrestricted pasture time. Also, this time of year here in the North, where we must still provide/purchase hay, perhaps it is an opportunity to begin to utilize pasture and help stretch that hay supply a little further. Other horses are out 7 days a week, 365 and say “no thanks” to being in a stall.

Whatever the scenario may be, I believe it is safe to say that everyone’s situation is a little different. Regardless, we all want what is best for our horses. As horse owners, most of us are aware that any changes made to the horse’s diet need to be made over a period, somewhere around 7-10 days is ideal. We want to avoid abrupt changes and keep the digestive system as “balanced” as we can.  It is important for the acidity level (pH) of the hindgut (cecum and colon) to remain as balanced or constant as possible.  We want to continue to provide a heathy, stable home for all those hard-working little microbes in that hindgut and avoid any disruption.

With all of this in mind, here are a few general tips to remember as we move closer to Spring:

  • If possible, introduce horses to fresh pasture slowly then increase the amount of time spent in pasture a little more each day. By doing this, it will allow for an adjustment period for the horse to become acclimated to the change.

  • Be consistent with turn out.  If you are able, allow horses access to pasture for a consistent amount of time every week. Try to allow access to pasture for a few hours every day rather than a few hours a couple times during the week.

  • Continue to offer their current “regular” hay along with pasture.  This will allow you to maintain some consistency but also allow for introduction to fresh pasture.

  • If necessary, a grazing muzzle can be utilized to limit the consumption of fresh pasture when turned out.

  • Regarding hay and feed, if you are planning on changing feed or bringing in a new load of hay, be sure to keep enough of the “old” supply to allow a steady transition to the “new” supply.  This strategy applies for later in the summer months as new crop hay is harvested and introduced to the animal.

Equine De-worming Schedule

 

One of the annual rituals of Spring (and Fall) for horse owners is working in vaccinations along with de-worming. It is not uncommon for most all horses to have a low level of parasites in their gastrointestinal tract.  What we need to do as horse owners, is work closely with our veterinarians to keep that level low and not allow proliferation of these little monsters to the point of causing a real problem. 

One way to accomplish this is to ask your veterinarian to perform a Fecal Egg Count (FEC) annually in the Spring before de-worming. A Fecal Egg Count will allow your veterinarian to determine how many worms your individual horse carries and how to treat then effectively.  The FEC will help identify which deworming treatment is needed for each horse.  The fecal test ensures that the types and timing of de-wormers for each horse are based on actual need and not a generic national chart.

 

Horses are usually placed in 3 Egg Shedding Categories:

  • Low Shedder: < 200 eggs per gram

  • Moderate Shedder: 200-400 eggs per gram

  • High Shedder: > 400 eggs per gram

 

For example, a horse that is a low shedder could be placed on a schedule such as:

  • April/May (Spring): Quest (moxidectin)

  • October/November (Fall): Zimectrin Gold or EquiMax (moxidectin w/praziquantel)

 

Again, it is so very important to establish a relationship with your veterinarian and work with them to develop a schedule and plan of attack that suits your horse’s individual needs.

Farrier Etiquette

 

  • Catch them prior to appointment and give the horse time to relax and remain calm.

  • Clean horse. Run a brush over them, knock mud off legs and feet but try not to use hose and water, this will only make the farrier wet and therefore more difficult to handle legs/feet.

  • Be honest with farrier about behavior. It your horse does not stand for the farrier in a calm manner, let them know. It probably isn’t the first or the last horse that won’t stand but it will allow farrier to make adjustment to their approach.

  • Try to have a covered, dry, and level area to work with good lighting.

  • Clear work area of all obstacles and/or debris.

  • Eliminate as much people and pet traffic as possible.

  • Use fly spray on the animal and the immediate area when conditions call for.

  • Offer any type of refreshments.

  • Ask for their preferences when handling your horses. Ask where they prefer you stand and hold the horse, where to set up in the barn or shed area, etc…