Every horse owner knows the dietary dangers of grazing horses on lush, spring pastures, but many forget the other dangers that come with warm weather. Here are a few other issues lurking around the farm during the spring months.
If you live in an area that doesn’t see ticks often, count yourself lucky! Ticks are the bane of most horse farm owner’s existence and can transmit a number of serious diseases. These parasites can also create skin and tissue irritation, causing an increase in rubbing and scratching resulting in coat damage. Ticks reside in shady, moist areas, preferring taller grass and unkempt locations around your farm. While they are most active in spring (March to mid-May) and fall (late August to November), ticks can be active any time when temperatures are above freezing.
Staying vigilant and checking for ticks during warm weather is key to preventing the transmission of tick-borne illnesses. Ticks that are infected with serious diseases don’t transmit those pathogens right away, they often need to feed for a length of time before passing on the disease. Conducting routine tick checks, removing ticks from your horse as soon as possible, and removing tick habitat when possible, can all help reduce the chances your horse will be plagued by tick-borne illness.
Known by most horse owners as scratches, pastern dermatitis is a common springtime issue for horses living in areas where spring rain creates mud and wet grass. This condition is often caused when bacteria or fungi invades cracks in the skin that are created when a horse is in a cycle of wet and dry conditions. Scratches appears most commonly on the lower legs and can be seen as small scabs, crusty flaking skin, and can occasionally include pus or serum.
Keeping your horse’s legs clean and dry is the best way to prevent this issue from occurring. Once you notice the condition on your horse, you should trim away longer hair to reduce moisture getting trapped close to the skin, thoroughly clean the area with an antiseptic wash, dry the legs and apply antibiotic ointment. Repeat this treatment every couple or days until the area has healed. If the area isn’t healing, continues to worsen, or there is any swelling, call your vet to take a look.
With warmer weather unfortunately comes hoards of insects that love our horses. While insects are irritating to most animals, for horses who are allergic and suffer hypersensitivity to certain insect bites, this time of year can be extremely difficult. If your horse is scratching himself more than usual and creating hairless, inflamed areas on his body, he may be suffering from insect bite induced allergies.
Once your veterinarian diagnoses the issue, there are several treatment and prevention options. Use topical treatment recommended by your vet to soothe your horse’s skin and use insect repellents throughout the day. When possible, keep your horse inside during the parts of the day when insects are at their worst in your area, and use netting to prevent them from getting in your barn. Use fans to circulate air and blow insects away from your horse. Invest in fly sheets, boots and masks.
Hauling water to your troughs in the winter is frustrating, but at least you aren’t combating algae! Unfortunately, once temperatures warm up conditions become optimal for algae growth in water troughs. Algae needs water, sunlight and a nutrient source in order to thrive, which unfortunately are all present in the troughs around your farm! While some algaes are okay for your horse to consume, others can be toxic, so it’s important to reduce growth when possible.
Placing your troughs in the shade and adding certain horse-safe chemicals can slow down algae growth, but the best way to keep your troughs algae-free is to routinely dump them out, scrub out the grime, and refill with fresh water!
Hooves that are constantly wet lose their shape and begin to flatten, which means horses standing in muddy fields may struggle with hoof health during the wettest parts of the year. Not only do saturated feet bring a risk of the structure collapsing, but it can also put a horse at risk for issues such as:
Providing your horse with a dry area to stand out in the field can be tricky, but is key to keeping hooves healthy. If you can’t maintain dry conditions outside in your fields, consider using a dry arena for turnout during the wettest parts of spring and give your horse ample time inside a dry stall for hooves to dry out.
Spring is a busy time, and it’s easy for barn managers to get overwhelmed transitioning to a new season. There are fans to hang, a show season to plan, pastures to seed, and a to-do list that is continually evolving. It’s easy to forget when vaccinations are due or which horses need a visit from the equine dentist if everyone in your barn is on a different schedule.
Incorporating a horse management tool into your farm management strategy can save you stress and time. With StableSecretary, you can set important reminders, quickly see who is due for a vet visit and so much more!
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