With warmer weather approaching (and already here in some parts of the country), it’s a good time to check out the overall health of your horse and ensure they are ready for spring and summer activities. It’s time to get their shots and a checkup from the vet, so be prepared with a list of your observations of your horse’s overall health.
It’s also a great time to think about the year’s activities. Is your horse going to be traveling quite a bit this year competing in shows? Will they be out of the trail frequently or lazily grazing in a field? All of these activities will mean different needs for their health, and it’s a good idea to be prepared ahead of time and get them in the best shape possible.
Here are a few items for your spring checkup:
As your horse begins to shed his winter coat, this is a great time to give your horse a good cleaning and spa treatment (horse pedicures, anyone?). Springtime grooming is great for muscle tone and shiny coats, but also a great time to check for any health issues that may have developed over the winter. And your horse’s overall health depends on a regular, year-round grooming schedule with slight adjustments as the seasons change.
Be sure you watch out for any signs of skin allergies if you start using new products. Allergic reactions can range from mild to severe, and a severe reaction could cause issues with their breathing.
Daily brushing to bring out their natural skin oils and wiping down the coat is great for a shiny coat. You can let your horse shed his winter coat naturally or help it along with a good comb and shedding blade and some elbow grease. Some horse owners go the fancy route with full body clippers and precision trimmers.
Before grooming, ensure a safe environment for your horse and you, with a proper halter and quick-release cross tie.
Do you notice they are a bit stiff or favoring a leg? Point out these issues so your vet can check for mobility and joint issues and take care of them early on. Ask your vet to check their gait and joints to ensure there aren’t any soundness issues.
If the vet notices something, they can run additional tests to make sure the horse isn’t suffering from underlying issues which will only exacerbate health conditions like arthritis when they begin working this spring. It’s a excellent opportunity to start them on a supplement regimen to help them keep their bones and joints strong.
Do you notice any scabbing or crusting? Is there any discoloration in their skin? There are many signs to watch out for that can mean a much more serious issue that may need medical treatment, or it might be something less severe that can be treated at home with a special bathing routine. Skin ailments can be bacteria, viral, fungal or allergies, so it’s best to get a good look and understand what you are dealing with.
Grooming daily, brushing and regularly checking under blankets is necessary to assess the overall condition of your horse's’ coat and skin. Check out this list of 8 Common Horse Skin Issues on Equus.
Watch for Rainrot during rainy months
We anticipate many rainy days in the springtime so it’s crucial to watch your horse’s skin health for another condition: rainrot. The bacteria that causes rainrot is always present on their skin but thrives when the conditions are more humid and wet, leading to crusting of the hair follicles and hair loss.
By continuing to groom your horse daily, you can watch for signs of rainrot, and contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice the early stages. If your horse has been sick recently or has developed a chronic illness, you’ll need to be more watchful of the signs of rainrot as a compromised immune system can make them more susceptible. Often a simple bath with dandruff shampoo can alleviate and treat the symptoms of rainrot.
Now that the sun is coming out more often and the weather is warming up, it’s pretty common for horses to get sunburn - yeah, that’s right! Just like us, horses can get a sunburn. Protecting your horse’s skin from the sun is important. And if your horse has access to plants that can cause photosensitivity like St. John’s Wart, they’ll be especially susceptible to skin burns and blisters.
To prevent sunburn and photosensitivity, offer ample shade in his turnout area, like in the barn and tree cover. And do a sweep of your pastures to eradicate plants that will cause photosensitivity. If your horse has pink skin, which has less melanin and can burn more easily, apply sunblock (like zinc oxide) to prevent sunburn.
Stay in communication with your vet about any sunburns that look especially painful or growths that look like squamous cell carcinomas. If your horse develops a carcinoma, early detection and treatment are crucial.
Protect against bugs
Oh, it’s springtime, and now the mosquitoes are in full force! And so are the flies and other pests that will irritate or harm your horses. Bugs usually are merely pests, but they can cause severe irritations or infections without intervention. It’s important to keep an eye out to ensure your horse doesn’t develop “sweet itch,” which is an itchy and awful ailment that your horse can end up rubbing themselves raw trying to alleviate the itchiness.
Share with us!
We’d love to hear your grooming tips for springtime. If you have any tips for getting ready for the warmer months, reach out to us or share with us on Instagram using #ARROWHEADPETS.