It was a long, muddy winter, but this weekend spring seems to have sprung and we have reached the light at the end of the tunnel! Plenty of sunshine has raised our spirits – and that of our horses too – but it’s probably also served to highlight what grubby, hairy monsters our equine friends have turned into over the past few months!
Time for a make-over, so here’s a run-down on how to transform your winter horse or pony into a sleek, shiny summer-ready show-stopper.
If they haven’t started already it won’t be long before your horses are actively shedding their winter coats. That horsehair will be sticking to everything in sight. Probably a good time to use that Covid face covering to help keep your mouth and nostrils clear of hair!
It’s not warmer weather that triggers shedding – but rather the increasing hours of daylight give nature the signal to loosen and shed that thick winter coat. Some hold on to their coats longer than others – but each individual horse will generally stick to his or her own consistent shedding schedule each year. You can help him/her along by using a good quality curry comb – the Oster Coarse Curry Comb works well on a heavily shedding coat.
Spring Bath Day
Once you’re confident it’s warm enough, pick a good sunny spring day and set to work to achieve a thorough pamper bath, which may well take you a few hours.
A good wash and scrub from head to hoof will not only get your horse clean, but give you a chance to inspect his skin for any issues that may have developed over the winter. Even if you have kept up a grooming routine you may have missed a problem under his thick coat. If you spot something worrying, get it treated – with fly season on the way a minor wound could become a big infected problem.Look out for things like scratches, sores and ringworm.
Use a gentle medicated horse shampoo with a soft sponge, and a curry comb for more stubborn ingrained dirt and grime, then rinse him off and give him a scraping to help along the drying process.
Spring Hoof Care
Very often winter can take its toll on hoof integrity, because horses spend longer periods stabled or moving less with reduced work. Movement is needed to get nutrient rich blood pumped to the hoofs.
Many horses also suffer nutritional stresses during winter, such as reduction in sulphur, which can impact on the keratin in the hoof. Standing in muddy fields or a lot of time spent standing on shavings and sand doesn’t help hoofs either.
So to get hoofs ship-shape spring is the time to feed a good quality hoof supplement – preferably containing all the good things like biotin, sulphur (MSM), zinc, manganese, antioxidents like rosehip and turmeric, and vitamins E or C. A hoof health check from the farrier is also a wise move to check that the frog and sole have weathered winter well.
Warmer weather results in quicker hoof growth, but spring showers can soften and weaken the hoof wall, so this is a combination of factors to keep an eye on when it comes to spring hoof health.
Vaccinations & Dental Check
Make sure your horse’s vaccinations are up to date before you head off to those group rides. Spring immunizations should be done in March and early April as the warmer weather brings with it the season for disease spreading biting insects.
After a winter of chewing haylage, your horse’s teeth may well need some attention – it’s worth scheduling a dental inspection and a float.
Spring is traditionally time for a good clear-out and a deep clean. So go ahead and sort through all that tack and equipment, investing some time and money on making sure everything is ship-shape for the summer ahead. Oil up that dry leather, sanitise saddle pads and repair rugs.
Why not go whole hog and give the stable a make-over too? While he’s turned out in the sunshine freshen up his bedroom with a good scrub. A clean habitat will discourage flies and other annoying and potentially harmful pests in the coming months.
Here at Totally Tack we’ve got all you need to get you going for a summer to remember. If you need advice, we’re happy to help.