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Commercial intro read by Christine: This episode of the 3 Things podcast is brought to you by Farnam.
Laurie: Welcome to the May edition of 3 Things from Equus Magazine, the podcast that helps you focus your horse-keeping efforts for the month ahead. I'm EQUUS editor, Laurie Prinz.
Christine: And I'm managing editor, Christine Barakat. May is the month when horse activities really start to ramp up. And after last year, when COVID canceled all of our plans, most of us are really itching to get back on the show circuit, attend some clinics or just meet up with friends for trail rides. Before we get busy, though, let's take a few moments to talk about some important considerations for the month ahead.
The first thing we want to talk about is hoof care. Spring, and eventually summer, weather will bring some new hoof care challenges. First of all, don't let your busy schedule interfere with farrier visits. Your horse's hooves grow quickly this time of year, fueled by the good nutrition and pastures and increased activity.
It's easy to put off a trim or reset, but the consequences of a lost shoe or an unbalanced hoof can disrupt your plans. One way to prevent this is to schedule your horse's next few farrier visits now. Schedule all the way through summer, if you can and if your farrier is flexible enough to do that. Then once you have these appointments scheduled, pledge to keep them, even as you get busier. Regular hoof care is a priority if you want to keep riding throughout the spring and summer. So if you have a choice between doing something or keeping your farrier appointment, keep the farrier appointment.
Laurie: And speaking of which, another thing you can do in May to protect your horse's hooves is to keep an eye on your footing. Deep mud is notorious for pulling shoes off horses. It's not just a problem of suction, either. Horses tend to take large, uneven steps when negotiating deep footing, and when they do, their front shoes could be pulled off by their hind feet. And we all know that a pulled shoe can take chunks of hoof with it, causing major problems. Keeping shod horses out of deep mud is easier said than done, but do your best in these last wet days of spring.
Christine: And then once drier weather arrives, you'll need to be on alert for footing that's been baked hard by the sun. Hard ground, particularly after the grass has died back, can be really unforgiving—almost like concrete to hooves—and lead to things like hoof bruises and other concussive injuries. Shoes, hoof pads and hoof boots can protect hooves from the hard ground somewhat, but you still need to be aware and cautious.
One way to detect dangerously hard ground is to listen carefully as you ride. When the ground is very hard, hoof beats make a ringing sound, as opposed to that “clip-clop” sound, particularly at faster gaits. If you hear that ringing sound, stick to a walk until rain softens up the footing once again, or move to an arena that has groomed footing that's always going to be soft.
Laurie: Shifting gears now, let's talk about flies. It may seem a bit early to be worried about these annoying pests, but unfortunately, it's not. They'll be here soon. So go ahead and pull the fly masks out of storage or splurge on some new ones. Also, pick up a bottle of fly spray while you're shopping. You have plenty of special formulations to choose from. Some are sweatproof, for example, and others are formulated for horses with sensitive skin. Just read the labels to see which ones might be best for your horse. Many people stick with the same product year after year. And that's fine, but you may want to switch it up periodically. With so many formulations out there, you could discover one that is especially well-suited for your situation.
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Christine: May is also the perfect month to help horses who may get anxious when you apply fly spray. I've known a few horses with significant fly spray phobia and the resulting skirmishes can really stress out the horses and humans involved. I think it may be the noise of the sprayer more than the sensation of being sprayed, but whatever it is, some horses don't like it one little bit. The trick to dealing with this, according to veterinarians and behavior experts we've talked to, is to slowly desensitize the horse to being sprayed.
All you need to do this training is a spray bottle filled with water and lots of empathy and patience. We've got a great article on how to go about this on our website, www.equusmagazine.com. If you go there and search for “fly spray fear” in the search bar, it should come up as the first result.
Laurie: The last thing we want to talk about is salt, which becomes very important to your horse's health in warm weather. If a horse doesn't ingest enough salt, his body compensates by retaining less water to balance his blood sodium levels. This can lead to dehydration, especially when electrolytes are lost through sweating. Fortunately, it's easy to make sure your horse is getting enough salt. Just put out a salt block.
The kind of block you use really doesn't matter. You can get a standard white block, a red block fortified with minerals or even one made of pink Himalayan salt. Just be sure to put it up before the weather gets hot.
Christine: Now, there are a few unusual horses for whom salt blocks just don't work well. Some of these horses don't like licking them or they lick them so much they'll get sores on their tongues. Some really quirky horses will chew on them rather than lick. And they can break down huge blocks in a matter of days, which is frustrating and expensive and it could possibly damage their teeth. In these cases, loose salt is an option, but you'll want to consult with your veterinarian to determine how much to give and how to give it. Many commercial feeds already include salt, so that needs to be considered in calculating your horse's needs. Putting loose salt in grain is easy, but some horses don't like that and then won't eat the grain. In these cases, mix the salt with applesauce or yogurt and deliver it like a dewormer with a syringe. Again, though, your vet is a great resource for figuring all that out.
Laurie: Yeah, and with something like salt, you don't want to guess. You want to make sure your horse is getting the right amount, but not too much.
Well, we've covered a lot of ground, from hoof care to fly control to salt.
Christine: Well, there's a lot to think about in May and I hope people have gotten a tip or two from this episode.
Have a great month, everyone!
Laurie: We'll meet back here in June.
Commercial outro, read by Christine: This episode of the 3 Things podcast was brought to you by Farnam.
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Christine Barakat: Help spread the word about the EQUUS 3 Things podcast, head over to iTunes to subscribe rate, and leave us a review. The EQUUS 3 Things podcast is a production of the Equine Podcast Network, an entity of the Equine Network.
Looking for more great horse-centric podcasts? Check out the other offerings from the Equine Podcast Network.