March 5, 1999 | By: Ellen Brightwell

It probably has been a while since many horse owners have enjoyed going riding on a regular basis.

What should owners do to prepare for activities in the next few weeks?

Check the horse's body condition and adjust the feeding program when necessary to improve the animal's condition. It's also important to inspect the horse's teeth and hooves and be sure its medical schedules are current, according to Bob Coleman, Extension horse specialist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

"A long winter hair coat can give a false impression of the animal's body condition," Coleman said. "Feel along the horse's neck, withers, shoulders, rib cage, back and croup. Careful palpation over these areas will give you a good idea of its body condition.

"If you can feel individual ribs easily now, the horse needs more energy each day. This feeding adjustment will improve the animal's body condition to the point that you barely feel ribs but can't see them when the winter hair comes off. If you cannot feel ribs when applying pressure, the horse may be on the fat side."

Depending on the quality of hay and pasture available this past winter, some horses

may be a little thin now. Ideally, horses should have come through the winter season with a body condition score of at least five, according to Coleman.

"If your horse has a body condition score of less than five and is on pasture, you may need to feed four to five pounds of commercial feed with 10-percent protein or some oats," he said. "If the hay you have available is of poor quality and pasture is limited, you may need to feed five to seven pounds of a 12-percent protein commercial feed or buy a higher quality hay.

"If your horse has a body condition score of seven and one half, you need to reduce its grain intake and maybe even feed less hay. Horses that are too fat take longer to get into proper physical condition for serious riding."

In addition to adjusting the feeding program, Coleman said now is a good time to check the horse's teeth and take care of any dental problems. Also check the horse's deworming and vaccination schedules. If these are not up to date, a visit with the veterinarian is in order.

Owners also should inspect horse's hooves to see if these need trimming, or if the animal will need shoes to protect its feet during routine spring and summer activities.

"Remember, a good relationship with your farrier is also good for your horses," he said.

"Checking your horse's body condition and overall health now will give ample time to prepare the horse for spring and summer," Coleman said. "Remember, your horse has been off all winter so it will take time to regain the condition it had last fall. By taking the time to get your horse ready now, you can have an enjoyable summer activities with your horse."

Looking ahead to next winter, Coleman said horse owners should keep an eye on the horse's body condition throughout the winter.

Contact: 

Writer: Ellen Brightwell
(606) 257-1376

Source: Bob Coleman
(606) 257-9451