Successful barefooting; thinking about spring (in midwinter)

Lucy by river
I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking about getting my horse ready for lots of fun next year. But as I was picking our her very muddy and slightly thrushy feet today I got thinking about what I need to do to get her ready for spring.
Spring means longer days and more riding. But it can also mean gut discomfort and footiness as the spring grass comes through and it can end up being a frustrating time to be a barefoot horse owner!   So heres some thoughts about what you can do to help....  
  • Bring your horse into work ahead of spring. Progressive exercise of the slow steady calorie burning type is most effective.  Experts recommend AT LEAST 30 minutes a day.  Exercise;

– improves the horses glucose metabolism particularly its insulin responsivity

– enables the horse’s lymphatic system to work which removes toxins and excess fluids from the horse’s body.  In the small enclosed space that is the horse’s foot, less excess fluid can really help foot comfort.

  • If your horse is overweight, then you’ve no time to lose.  Excess weight is a significant contributor towards laminitis – you want your horses to come into spring slightly underweight as they would if we humans weren’t taking care of them. A reasonable weight loss goal for a horse is approx 0.7% bodyweight per week; from today you’ve got 12 weeks until daylight savings so you can realistically get about 8% off your horse’s current weight off before spring hits.  Get the rugs off, and the weight tape out!
  • Keep up your hoof hygiene regime – particularly against thrush in the frogs. It can be hard in the deep mud of midwinter, but if you can keep on top of it now, then you can come into spring with hooves that are ready to work.  I routinely recommend thorough cleaning your horses feet, soaking in a weak milton solution (capful to half a bucket) and then drying and treating with Red Horse Field paste or hoof stuff, depending on the situation.
  • Have a set of boots and pads fitted and ready to go, so if your horse does develop footiness you can still exercise them in comfort.  Given how important exercise is for hoof health, keeping it going is one of your best tools!
  • Get in the habit of checking your horses feet regularly for heat and pulses so you can monitor what is happening day by day.
  • Have a plan to get your horse off the grass if you need to. On the first nice weekend of spring establish a perimeter track on your pasture (making most use of natural shade) so that you can turn your horse out whilst reducing grass intake.

Don’t let spring take you by surprise this year; be prepared and have a plan.

If you’ve any other thoughts on preparing for spring – I’d love to hear them 😉

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