Spring Horse Care Tips
Spring Horse Care Tips
Horseshoe
Spring Horse Care Tips
Equine expert and book author shares her springtime advice for horse owners across the country
By Lainey Cullen-McConkey
Lainey Cullen-McConkey is the author of “The Ultimate Guide to Horse Health & Care: The Novice Owner’s Guide to Horsekeeping” and the upcoming “Foal Breeding for Beginners: A Step-by-Step Guide for the First-Time Horse Breeder,” both published by Skyhorse Publishing.
The 19th century British poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote, “In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” If that young man is a horse owner, that love may be less romantic, and instead focused on their hooved companions.

Now, exactly what those thoughts are depends on a few things, like where the owner is located and exactly what they and their horse do. Some places and activities will involve your horse working fairly hard over the winter months. In warm climates, such as Florida, for example, the busiest stretch of horse show season falls in the winter because summertime is too hot and humid for hard riding. Or if you participate in hunting, which tends to be a fall and wintertime activity, your horse has also likely worked hard over the cold months. As spring arrives, horse owners in these situations may be looking to reduce their horse’s workload and “let them down.”

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On the other hand, if you are getting your horse fit and ready for competition, the weeks ahead are likely the heaviest work period for your horse.
While some horses work year-round—competing in northern states during the summer and relocating to places like Florida for cooler months—the advice shared here will focus on maintenance for equine with distinct working and resting seasons.
Horse Maintence
For Horses that Have Worked All Winter and Now Have the Summer Off
If you’re going the full traditional route of letting your horse have the summer off to just be a horse, you can’t just whip off the saddle and bridle after your final ride and turn your horse loose in the pasture. Some forethought needs to be put into what is known as “roughing off” your horse.
Going into Vacation Mode
Going into
Vacation Mode
Your horse’s work should be tapered off over a few weeks until they are basically not being worked at all. During this period, their pasture time should also be increased. The goal is to avoid turning a hyper-fit horse loose into a field where they may run excessively and therefore risk injury.

For show horses, the frequency and thoroughness of grooming can also be reduced. This will allow natural oils to build up, which will provide their coat a layer of waterproofing. You may also want to remove your horse’s shoes for their vacation, but this will depend on your horse’s hoof quality and their individual needs.

Feed Needs:
Less Grain
Along with reducing your horse’s workload, you should lower their grain intake. Feed level should always be reduced ahead of exercise reduction, so your horse isn’t being overfed. And as the grain is reduced, the forage intake should increase to keep the total weight the same.
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Feed Needs: Less Grain
For Horses that Took the Winter Off and Are Getting Back Into Shape
Some horses spend their winter playing in the mud, rain, or snow. Spring is the time to bring them back into work mode. If you’re leading up to a specific date, such as your first show of the season, then you should work backwards from that date to develop a fittening program. If your horse is in completely “soft” condition, i.e., totally out of shape and not having been ridden in months, then it’s a good idea to allow for an eight- to 10-week fittening period. That may seem like a long time, but it will provide some leeway in case you encounter any setbacks in the horse’s conditioning process.
Getting in Shape
Getting in Shape
Fittening a horse correctly takes time and patience, but the end result is a horse that is ready to work and who’s less likely to sustain unnecessary injuries from being pushed too fast. Start with short sessions, say 15 minutes of walk, and building up to 30 minutes or so before introducing trot work and gradually increasing the workload.

As your horse is ridden more frequently, they’ll likely be getting groomed more often. This is the time to take care of mane pulling, trimming hairy legs, and other major cleanup.

Feed Needs:
Adjust Gradually
Increase the grain ration and decrease the forage a little more slowly than you ramp up the workload. You don’t want your horse filled with so much energy that they’re difficult to work with and thus risk injuring themselves (or you!).
Feed Needs: Adjust Gradually
The spring season is a transitional time of year, and you’ll likely need to start preparing your horse for what’s ahead. Whether your horse is setting up to take the summer off or you’re bringing them back into work mode, it is important to keep in mind your climate and these tips.
To learn more about caring for horses, read Lainey’s book, “The Ultimate Guide to Horse Health & Care: The Novice Owner’s Guide to Horsekeeping.
About the Writer
Lainey Cullen-McConkey has more than thirty years of experience as a horse owner, trainer, and caretaker.

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