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Wrangling on the Range #114

Spring Health Check-list



Limitirig your horses` access to lush grass is one of the
important items on your spring health checklist.


Spring fever? Time to get your horses ready for action. Let this
checklist be your guide.

For most of us, April marks the clear beginning of spring and the
start of stepped-up horse activities. To make sure your horses
are ready to go, use our handy to-do checklist.

* Check for condition. Evaluate each horse's body condition to
see if his feeding regimen needs adjustment as work begins. (Find
an illustrated, nine-point guide to assessing a horse's
weight/condition by entering body condition score system into the
search box at

* Limit grazing. Spring grass often contains high levels of
fructan, a sugar that can trigger laminitis - especially in
horses with equine metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance). As
with any change in diet, make the switch to grass gradually over
time. Start with less than 30 minutes per day, increasing by five
to 10 minutes more each day. If any of your horses is an easy
keeper and/or is laminitis-prone, consider using a grazing muzzle
to further limit grass intake. (For guidance in doing so, enter
how to fit o grazing muzzle into the search box at

* Get grooming. Help your horses finish shedding their hair coats
with liberal use of a curry comb, a body brush, and elbow grease.
Tip: Special tools, such as a shedding blade or comb, are
particularly helpful in this task. As you attend to each part of
your horse's body, be on the lookout for injuries or skin
conditions (such as ringworm or rain rot) needing treatment.

* Deworm as needed. If you haven't kept your horses on a regular
winter deworming program, now's the time for a good, broad-
spectrum dewormer before you turn them out on pasture - where
parasite eggs could infest your forage. Or, for best results, ask
your vet to do a fecal-egg count from manure samples, to pinpoint
your horses' specific parasite infection. (You can add this task
to your springtime vet visit - see below. For more information on
new deworming strategies, enter parasite control old and new into
the search box at

* Schedule vet visit. Spring is a great time for a yearly health
exam. Ask your veterinarian about deworming and any
allergy-control needs for each of your horses. Also have your vet
update your horses' vaccinations and check their teeth

(rough dental surfaces can interfere with chewing and/or make the
action of a bit painful). If you have geldings and haven't
cleaned their sheaths lately, ask your vet if cleanings are
needed. (He or she can perform this task for you, if you prefer.)

* Tend to hooves. Check for moisture-related conditions such as
thrush. Schedule a visit from your hoof-care practitioner for
trimming and/or shoeing as needed.

* Leg up gradually. To avoid injury to joints, tendons, and
ligaments, bring idle horses back to work slowly, gradually
increasing the duration of workouts. Tip: Start with groundwork,
building from the easiest exercises to the more strenuous, to
tune up your horses' minds as you prepare their bodies. If your
horses are still a little hairy when work in earnest begins, be
extra-careful to provide an adequate cooldown and dry-out period
after exercise, as well.


As you gear up to have springtime fun with your horses, follow
these tips to safeguard your own health and safety.

* Dress right. Wear riding boots, long-sleeved shirts, riding
gloves, and an ASTM-approved helmet for best protection every
time you ride and especially out on the trait.

* Slather sunscreen. Even small amounts of UV light accumulated
over a lifetime can up your risk of skin cancer, so wear a
broad-spectrum sunscreen on exposed skin whenever you're outside.
Use sunglasses to protect your eyes (UV exposure increases the
risk of cataracts).

* Leg-up gradually. Just as with your horse, doing too much too
soon can result in injury. Get yourself back into riding shape in
stages. Use gentle stretches for all major muscle groups before
and after riding to minimize soreness.

* Get the 'fresh' out. Make sure your horse is mentally ready to
be ridden, using plenty of groundwork and even a lesson or two
from a local pro to get your riding off on the right foot. 

* Be trail-savvy. Brush up on trail-riding safety before your
first outing of the season. (For help here, type trail ride tips,
tricks into the search box at


To be continued from time to time

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