Preparing Your Horse for Spring

Check off all the items on this list to be ready for a healthy, successful riding season

Springtime—a season we look forward to as equestrians. Riding arenas emerge from their snowy blankets. The sun shines longer and brighter every day. Much-awaited shows and competitions are right around the corner, and we’re eager to shift things into the next gear.

Full of potential, the spring months set the tone for the rest of the year. The key with transitioning from winter to spring is to have a plan in place to tackle your horse’s various seasonal needs. You should think about vaccinating and deworming, of course, but also about rebuilding your equine athlete’s fitness after a winter hiatus. There’s a lot to accomplish transitioning into spring, so let’s get organized with a checklist:

  • Physical exam;
  • Bloodwork (if recommended by your veterinarian);
  • Dental exam;
  • Fecal egg count;
  • Deworming;
  • Spring vaccines—core and risk-based;
  • Body clipping (if applicable);
  • Sheath cleaning;
  • Blanket and tack maintenance/repair;
  • Saddle fit evaluation;
  • Diet evaluation;
  • Spring cleaning and sanitizing;
  • Coggins test; and
  • Health certificate (aka certificate of veterinary inspection, or CVI) if your horse travels.

The Essentials

Physical and dental exam

“Springtime is a great time to get your equine partner all checked out and ready to roll for the summer,” says Sarah Cohen, DVM, owner of Equity Performance Equine, an ambulatory veterinary practice based in Wellington, Florida. “During a routine annual physical exam, your veterinarian can look for any unnoticed issues in your horse’s heart, eyes, feet, or gastrointestinal tract. This is also an excellent time to perform an oral exam to assess the need for teeth floating as well as identify any fractured teeth or other oral health issues.”

Vaccines

Spring vaccines are a routine part of wellness exams. All horses in the United States should receive the four core vaccines—rabies, tetanus, West Nile virus (WNV), and Eastern/Western equine encephalomyelitis (EEE/WEE)—and then get boosted annually. These boosters are generally given in the spring to maximize protection against WNV/EEE/WEE when mosquitoes, which spread these diseases, emerge in early summer.

Beyond these four, different geographical areas present different equine infectious disease challenges and, therefore, require different immunization protocols. “Veterinary practitioners in your specific areas will know best how to advise you regarding risk-based vaccines and guide you with respect to the needed frequency of vaccination,” Cohen says.

Regions with year-round hot and humid climates—Cohen’s Florida being a prime example—have the added challenge of persisting mosquito populations, warranting biannual vaccination against WNV and EEE/WEE.

In addition to geographic risks, you must consider farm-specific risks. Facilities housing broodmares or frequently traveling show horses, for example, need to provide their horses additional protection (immunization) against influenza and equine herpesvirus (EHV).

Parting words from Cohen about vaccines: “They are safe and inexpensive. Treating a vaccine-preventable disease is both costly and

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