Riding

Is Your Horse Ready for Spring?

Prepare now for horseback-riding adventures later.

From AQHA Corporate Partner Nutrena

Although it may be hard to believe in some parts of the country (especially this year!), spring will eventually arrive. But until then, the cold weather – particularly, below-freezing temps -- require that horse owners pay careful attention to horse health. And not just for safety’s sake. A healthier horse is better prepared for the spring thaw, when both of you are eager to enjoy the weather. Here are three quick tips to help your horse to warmer days:

First, make certain the horses are in good body condition. Aim for a body condition score of at least 5 or 6, meaning that the horses are carrying some fat cover over their ribs. This is particularly important for older horses and pregnant mares. Winter hair coats can create the illusion of adequate body condition, so some hands-on checking is in order. If broodmares lose body condition and are below a BCS of 5 at foaling, they may be more difficult to rebreed after they foal. Now is a good time to check body condition in case horses are losing weight due to weather and forage conditions. If you’re not already doing so, consider a high-quality feed like the Nutrena® SafeChoice® line of proven, controlled starch feeds, which includes SafeChoice Senior and SafeChoice® Mare & Foal.

We've all got spring fever. Be ready in case you encounter an actual equine illness this season. Download AQHA's Common Horse Health Issues report to learn what problems to look for as you start riding your equine friend again.

Second, adequate water, preferably between 45 and 65 degrees F, should be available. Owners should not rely on horses eating snow for their water supply. A 1,200-pound horse will require 12 to 15 gallons of water per day during cold weather. Having inadequate water available or water that is too cold for horses to drink comfortably may contribute to impaction colic. A horse that does not have adequate water available may also decrease feed intake, which may lead to loss of body condition. Horses who have to consume snow as a water source consume less water than desired and also use up a great deal of energy melting the snow as it is consumed. Salt should be available free choice, preferably loose salt rather than a salt block during cold weather.

Third, adjust feeding according to temperature and body condition. A horse’s energy requirement increases about 0.7 percent for each degree the air temperature is below 18 degrees F, depending on the horse’s hair coat and body condition. Wind chill increases the energy requirement also. Hay or high-fiber products produce more heat during digestion than do straight cereal grains, so adding extra roughage to the diet is a good option. Grain intake can also be adjusted to maintain the desired body condition, but it needs to be adjusted gradually. Sudden increases in grain intake due to changes in temperature should be avoided.

As your horse activities ramp up with warmer weather, be ready to combat any issues by educating yourself. Download AQHA's Common Horse Health Issues report to aid in your pursuit of a healthy, injury-free horse!

For additional feeding guidelines, special offers and complete details on SafeChoice® horse feed, visit SafeChoiceFeed.com. You can also visit HorseFeedBlog.com, an informative community platform that covers a wide range of topics, including horse feed, feeding tips, digestive health and management tips.

Proper winter care and feeding will help ensure that the horses are ready for spring when it finally arrives!