Horses and spring-time management
Horses and all things spring
Spring has sprung and, from an equine point of view, there are some key things to consider. These include vaccinations, dentals, feeding, worming and, for some, foaling.
Ensure vaccinations are up-to-date. The main two are:
- Tetanus - caused by Clostridium tetani, an anaerobic bacteria found in the soil which can contaminate wounds and cause tetanus. If your horse gets wounded and is not vaccinated we can administer an antitoxin that will prevent tetanus, however prevention is a lot more effective.
- Strangles - caused by Streptococcus equi and presents intermittently, often when the herd vaccination status lowers. It results in abscessation of the lymph nodes around the head and spreads very quickly via respiratory secretions.
- Other potential vaccinations to consider include Equine Herpes virus and Salmonella.
Dental examinations are required every six to twelve months depending on your horse's age, conformation and their oral history/existing problems. Signs of dental disease are often very non-specific but can include head shaking/tossing, problems during riding, and difficulty eating. Potential issues should be checked immediately as lesions can progress rapidly and result in things such as facial swelling, oral ulcers and tooth root abscesses - all of which can be extremely painful.
As the weather changes so do the metabolic requirements of horses, therefore their feed needs to alter accordingly. During winter decreased grass growth may mean their diet requires supplementing with fibre (such as hay, chaff or bailage) and additional energy (especially for older horses), or less energy for those which are exercising less or "easy doers". Horses require at least two percent of their body weight as fibre daily which equates to 10kg of hay for a 500kg horse so, if their grass intake is low, additional fibre may be required.
Hay is also a valuable substitute for grass when horses are suffering from laminitis. Laminitis is often the result of metabolic disease and, with the "spring flush" of grass, intakes (particularly of ponies!) need to be managed to ensure excess sugar intake doesn't result in an acute laminitic episode.
It is also important to ensure horses are receiving enough vitamins and minerals, especially selenium. Contact your nearest clinic for more advice on selenium blood testing, feed options and prevention of metabolic disease.
In spring all horses need to be wormed with a drench containing moxidectin (such as ULTRA·MOXTM) as they are at risk of cyathostomosis which occurs as the larvae emerge in response to stress and warmer weather. For more information and/or to plan an individualised annual worming regime appropriate for your horse(s) don't hesitate to talk with your vet.
It is an exciting time of year and planning is required, for both mare and foal, to reduce the likelihood of any problems. Aim to have pregnant mares in their foaling paddock one month prior to the event, ensure they are appropriately vaccinated and are fed well - use a product containing enough calcium and energy. Post-foaling colostrum intake, umbilical cord care and a general health check for both the mare and foal are important. Contact your vet for more information.