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4 Vital Tips to Help Your Horse Adjust After Winter

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IWith all the snow melting away, nothing sounds better than busting out of the house at full gallop. It's easy to forget that we're not the only ones that spend half the winter hibernating indoors. After the long break, getting your horse back into a regular exercise schedule needs to be done correctly. Here are 4 vital guidelines to ensure your horse stays healthy and happy during the transition from winter to spring.

Horse Runninng through a Sunny Field

Make Feeding Changes Gradually

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Ever tried a drastically different food for the first time in your life? Maybe you liked it, but your digestive system probably didn't enjoy the sudden change. Horses are no different. Their digestive tracts rely extensively on bacteria to be able to process forages. These bacteria are a mix of different organisms that work together to benefit your horse. A sudden change in feeding isn't just shocking your horse's system, but also the digestive system of every one of these little organisms. If the feed change is too sudden, bacteria populations do not have time to adjust. This can possibly lead to colic in your horse. Replace only about 20% to 25% of your horse's current feed every other day, so that it takes a week or more for a complete change.

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Don't Overwork Your Horse

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Chances are, your horse is just as eager for the sunshine as you are. After being cooped up for months, horses can hit their first day back exercising quite hard. However, don't mistake their eagerness for fitness. The problem is that muscular aches and pains are difficult to visually see with your horse. Instead, they manifest themselves as back and gait stiffness, sluggishness and a poor attitude toward work. They can also show up as vices and refusals. For instance, your horse might refuse to continue exercising. This can progress into sporadic episodes of tying up. The trick is to make sure you have a gradual exercise plan for getting your horse back into their warm weather routine. --

Shedding A Few Pounds

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With your horse's own unique personality comes a special body composition to match. This means that not all horses lose weight at the same rate. If you have multiple horses on the same exercise and diet plan, you shouldn't push them to lose weight at parallel rates. They key is to make sure that your horses or ponies are eating less and exercising more. As a guide, an effective weight loss regimen for a mature, light breed horse should result in dropping around 50 - 60 lbs. during a 4 to 6 week period. --

Increasing body weight

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On the other hand, your horse might be looking quite thin after a long break from the pasture grasses. If your horse has a body condition score of 1 or 2 at the end of winter, you should gradually increase their level of nutrition in order to restore their lost body weight. It takes 40 to 45 lbs. of weight gain to change a horse's body condition score by 1 unit (based on a 1000 lbs. horse). For instance, a horse with a body condition score of 2 would need to gain approximately 130 lbs. to increase their condition score to a 5. An increase in weight of that magnitude should take around 6 months to achieve safely. The best way to increase weight in a healthy manner is by using calorie sources like highly digestible fibers and high fat feeds.--

If anything, remember that getting your horse back up to speed is a gradual process which can be even more complicated by using forage with inconsistent nutrition levels. If you're looking to safely increase or decrease your horse's weight, you need forage with dependable, accurate nutritional values. This is why we carefully monitor all our forage to provide a level of consistency you can rely on. For more feeding tips or information about Standlee's products click the button below.

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