Month-By-Month Tips for Maximizing Horse HealthBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · January 5, 2018
For many of us, ripping the plastic from a new calendar arouses feelings of fresh hope and opportunity. Maybe you didn’t make traditional New Year’s resolutions, but shaking things up, trying new routines, and giving old habits the heave-ho might invigorate the daily grind. Consider some of these suggestions, combined with classic reminders, to help you on this year’s journey for optimal horse health and happiness.
January: Take the plunge and evaluate all components of your horse’s diet to ensure no nutrient excesses or deficiencies exist. This also provides the perfect opportunity to critically assess the horse’s current weight and to assign an appropriate body condition score (BCS). Regardless of whether your horse is an elite athlete, weekend warrior, broodmare, or pasture pet, being underweight or overweight poses multiple health problems.
“To fully appreciate and evaluate a horse’s nutritional needs, consult with an equine nutritionist,” recommended Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., of Kentucky Equine Research (KER). “Remember that vitamin E levels in dry forages at this time of the year are low. Many horses, especially breeding animals, may benefit from supplementation with Nano•E.”
February: Oh, baby, it’s cold outside! Make sure horses have access to shelter. Wet horses seek shelter even in mild temperatures more often than dry horses, and clipping and blanketing, beneficial in some cases, can potentially interfere in their natural ability to adapt to winter conditions.
When stabled during inclement weather, don’t forget to consider your horse’s respiratory health, protecting the “breathing zone” from dust, molds, and other small respiratory particles. If extended stabling can’t be avoided, consider the anti-inflammatory supplement EO•3, a palatable oil top-dressed on feed to provide a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Studies show the omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA support respiratory health.
March: Ah, the big countdown to spring! Don’t forget that horses ingesting red clover contaminated with the fungus Rhizoctonia leguminicola causes hypersalivation in horses (this usually occurs in the summer and early fall). As long as horses have access to fresh water, the condition doesn’t tend to be a problem. But this is spring, so what’s the concern? Baled forage with affected red clover can cause slobbers. Don’t forget that many other weeds and decorative plants can be problematic, and even toxic, if ingested.
“Consult with a local extension specialist to help identify problematic plants in your region,” Crandell advised.
April and May: April showers bring May flowers and pastures chock-full of nonstructural carbohydrates. As excited as your horse may be to gorge on this lush offering, avoid the spring fling, especially when managing easy keepers and those with chronic laminitis, insulin resistance, or metabolic syndrome. Use pasture rotation, grazing muzzles, or even drylots to avoid feeding frenzies, founder, and even colic. “EquiShure helps stabilize the pH in the hindgut when horses ingest high levels of fructans and nonstructural carbohydrates, protecting them from hindgut acidosis,” said Crandell.
June: Adequately acclimating horses to compete at specific athletic levels requires consideration of multiple body systems, especially the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal apparatuses. Allow enough time to prepare your horse for the show season, taking breaks when necessary, and try new trainings strategies if your horse becomes bored with routine. Help exercising muscles repair using supplements such as the antioxidant blend in Preserve PS. Australian horse owners should look for Preserve.
July and August: In certain geographical areas, keeping cool in the summer is as important as keeping warm in the winter, especially in athletic horses, to avoid heat stroke. Salt, either loose salt or a block, and other electrolyte supplements such as Restore SR (Restore in Australia) to replenish electrolytes lost in sweat.
Don’t forget that athletic horses tend to be prone to gastric ulceration. “Support gastrointestinal health with RiteTrac to quickly neutralize excessive gastric acid, protect the stomach lining, and restore the normal gastric environment,” suggested Crandell. In Australia, look for products that help with gastric comfort.
September: The wear and tear of competition can catch up on even the fittest, most successful athlete. If your horse feels the strain of training and competition, consider one or more joint supplements, including glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate (available in KER•Flex), hyaluronic acid (Synovate HA), and omega-3 fatty acids (EO•3). In Australia, look for these products.
“As always, consider every component of your horse’s ration, including all nutritional supplements, when making any diet adjustments. Not all supplements and feeds work well together,” Crandell warned.
October: Breathe after a busy year and reassess your successes. Take a moment and identify where changes and improvements need to be made. Consider your horse’s body condition that you tracked all year to ensure it remained steadily in the 5-6 range on the nine-point Henneke scale. Did time get away from you, resulting in lapses in routine preventive care, including vaccines, farriery, and dentistry? If so, now is the perfect time to play catch-up.
November and December: Time to get those broodmares ready! Ensuring optimal health, including body condition score and hoof health, and appropriate use of lights (in the Northern Hemisphere) to advance the breeding season all need to be considered this time of the year. Don’t forget about the array of benefits broodmares achieve from omega-3 fatty acid supplements such as EO•3. Fish oil also supports the foal health. Finally, don’t forget about Nano•E when considering the overall and reproductive health of breeding stock.