What on earth could I mean by that?
For your horses, spring began when the days started getting longer. Hormonal changes are triggered by the sun shining later into the day. This is subtle at first but as the year progresses we begin to see the things we associate with spring – shedding, sometimes allergies to gnats and – uh oh, the grass is growing.
If you have a young, high-metabolism type horse, the grass coming in is the happiest time of the year! However, if you have older horses, fat or metabolic horses (horses with crusty necks and fat pads) or PONIES, this means you need to be considering how to manage your equine friends now – NOT when the grass shows up. Your horse is already gearing up for breeding season! WHAT, you say? My gelding can’t breed and I have no intentions of breeding my mare! It doesn’t matter. Your horses hormones pay no attention to what we want to do and continue to act accordingly. This is even true for geldings – not all hormones are affected by gelding. Ask your vet for more information if you are curious.
This means it’s time for you to consider what your horse has been eating all winter. Often we have upped feed sources to accommodate cold weather burning calories and a lack of grass. Please take off the blankets and reassess your horses body condition now. Consult a body scoring chart and be honest. Does your horse have a cresty neck? Does he have fat pads over his withers, ribs or tail head? Is he just plain FAT? Or alternatively, was winter tough on him? Can you see ribs and does his neck look thin? Step behind him *carefully* and assess his topline from behind. Does he fall off from the croup?
Whatever the situation is, if it’s not perfect, the time to deal with it is now. Horses and ponies who are metabolic or overweight need changes made to their diets immediately. Often a truly easy keeper can do perfectly well on a high quality vitamin/mineral supplement such as those made by Uckele and hay, with some sort of omega 3/6 supplement. The horse coming out of winter thin needs accessible protein, attention paid to possible worm-load and careful calories and high nutritional value feed stuffs. The metabolic horse needs a customized program that may include special supplements to help regulate insulin and decrease the inflammatory process present in these horses. Extreme care needs to be taken in vaccinating this group of horses, please discuss this with your veterinarian. If they are not aware of this, do some research on your own before vaccinating so you can make a plan with your vet.
Whatever the situation is, there is an answer. I hope you’ll consider contacting me if you are not confident in how to handle what you find when the blankets come off. Here at Dry Creek farm we have a pony who is one diet, a metabolic horse who is on another and two middle of the road TB’s who have yet another diet. I know that processed feeds say you can feed that one feed to all horses – but I feel sure that common sense tells you there’s something not right about that concept as all horses are not the same!
I look forward to hearing about you and your horse.