How To Keep Your Horse Safe During Spring Turnout
Welcome to our checklist designed to give your horse the safest spring turnout possible now that the weather is starting to improve. If your horse has had restricted turnout over winter then you’ll be as happy as we are to see the arrival of spring. We’ve pulled together some advice to help you make the most of this year’s spring turnout. Let’s take a look…
Check The Area
First things first, you want your horse to be safe. You need to check that all fencing is secure and not damaged. You also need to check the entire field for debris or rubbish that your horse could injure themselves on or try to eat. It is also important to remove any poisonous plants and recheck for these on a regular basis as spring heads into summer. It is extremely important that your horse has access to fresh clean water at all times. You will also need to offer your horse some form of shelter from spring showers and summer sunshine. This may come in the form of a physical building or alternatively large trees and shrubbery. Often, in spring, paddocks can become very muddy. This is due to the unavoidable spring showers that come with living in Britain. You may want to consider sectioning off particularly bad areas or rotating paddocks throughout the year. For more information on muddy fields and preventing mud fever, read our dedicated blog post here.
Quality Of Grazing
Horses are of course grazing animals and will have their heads down munching the majority of the time they are turned out. If the paddock has been used heavily over winter you will need to assess if there is still enough grass for your horse to eat. If not you will need to supply hay/haylage to top up their diet. You may also need to consider the opposite, is the grass growing in abundance or particularly rich? Horses who are good doers, who are carrying a bit of excess weight or who are prone to laminitis may need to be restricted on how much grass they can eat. For these horses you may want to invest in a grazing muzzle. These don’t stop grazing altogether but slow them down, limiting how much they can eat over the day. You can also use electric fencing to section off areas of grass. Another fantastic idea is to encourage your horse to move more whilst turned out. You can do this by spacing out their water containers and feed so they have to walk between them.
To Rug Or Not To Rug?
Although we’d all love to think that once spring hits all we’ll have is sunshine and blue skies, unfortunately that’s normally not the case! A lightweight turnout rug can offer great protection from showers and also offer a little bit of warmth when the sun doesn’t want to show its face. Some horses, however, are hardier and have plenty of hair. You don’t want your horse to over heat so in particularly warm weather or for particularly hairy horses you may opt to turn them out rug-less. The next issue you’ll face as the weather gets nicer is insects. Flies and other bugs can bite your horse causing irritation to the skin. This is annoying in itself but can also lead to problems with sweet itch. Fly rugs are very lightweight and extremely breathable and so are perfect for use in warm weather. They act as a physical barrier against your horses skin and pesky insects. Read on to find out more about preventing fly bites.
As mentioned above, flies and other insects can be a real nuisance to horses during spring turnout and then into summer. As well as using a fly rug, there are other handy tools that can keep your horse fly free. One is to use fly repellents. The most common form is a spray but you can also get gels for horses who aren’t keen on being sprayed. You may also want to invest in a fly mask if your horse is often irritated by flies around their ears and eyes and some also have nose coverings too. Another fantastic idea is to use fly turnout boots. These are made from lightweight, breathable materials like fly rugs and protect the lower legs. As mentioned earlier, bites can lead to sweet itch which is very uncomfortable for horses. It can involve intense itching, hair loss, thickened flaky skin and painful crusty sores. If your horse develops sweet itch you may need to purchase some lotions and potions to help calm the inflamed skin.