The top three do’s & don’ts to prepare your horse for summer

Discover things you can do this spring to better prepare yourself and your horse for the summer months.

Now that spring is making its mark on Michigan,Horse in a spring field. I’ve noticed a few changes around the barn. Areas of the pastures have turned into spas for horses (places where the horses are compelled to take mud baths), every boarder at my barn has a pair of muck boots next to their saddle racks and of course, I have to visit my spoiled show-pony every morning before work to dress him appropriately for the day’s forecast. Okay, so maybe the last one is just because I’m an over-cautious mother, but still it’s quite obvious that spring has sprung! Michigan weather is at times frustrating and inconvenient, so what can be done to ease the pain a bit? Read on for some do’s and don’ts of dealing with springtime changes.

Visit and consult with your vet. If you haven’t already done so, now is the perfect time to have your horse’s annual Coggins test done. To learn more about the laws relating to the Coggins test visit You will also want to discuss your plans regarding your upcoming deworming and vaccination schedules.

  • Don’t ignore your horse’s health needs. Of course you are a responsible horse owner who is focused on providing the best care for your four-legged friend. Just be sure to not let things like vaccinations, dewormers, potential dental problems and other health needs go unnoticed. Additionally, pay close attention to your horse’s body condition score to be sure they are maintaining the ideal weight. For more information on how to assign the correct body condition score to your horse, read this Michigan State University Extension article Body Condition Scoring in horses. Lastly, keep your eye out for common springtime problems such as rain scald and thrush.

Grooming tips

  • Do brush before you tack-up. Be sure that you are not putting on tack until your horse is clean enough. Obviously, you’ll want to clear the saddle area of any muddy or wet spots, but additionally be sure that your horse’s legs are also dry and clean before applying equipment like splint boots or leg wraps, to prevent uncomfortable rubbing. Also, don’t forget the hooves! My hook pick gets a lot of attention, especially in the springtime. Mud is the perfect medium to help rocks and other debris becomes lodged in the hoofs sole. Clear out any debris before you mount up!
  • Don’t brush “wet” mud. Okay, yes all mud is wet, that’s why it’s mud and not dirt. But before you come wielding that curry comb or stiff brush, be sure you are not scrubbing wet mud! Brushing the wet mud out of shaggy hair coats is not only an extremely time consuming task, but will often tug and pull at your horses hair coat and could even cause them to be sore. Allow your horse to dry before you rid him of his muddy layer. Additionally, if your horse is heavily caked with a dirty brown layer, think about waiting for a warm, sunny day and give him a good soapy scrub down! Lastly, if you are more like me and your supply of elbow grease is running low, you could keep a light sheet on your horse and just let the laundry-mat do the work!

Start slowly

  • Do practice! Does anyone out there know how you get to the State 4-H Horse Show? Practice, practice, practice! Okay, that’s a lame joke that really sounds better in person (trust me!). The message however is still important. We cannot achieve our goals without first setting them. Be sure these goals are achievable and measureable.
  • Don’t over-do it! If you’ve opted for the couch more than the saddle over the winter then it is likely that both you and your horse need a bit of toning-up. Do not ignore your own fitness routine as you encounter the summer months, both you and your horse are athletes that need proper conditioning! Remember, if your horse is still sporting his shaggy winter hair coat, he will heat up faster when being exercised as well as take longer to cool down. Take this into consideration as you resume your riding regimen. Read about conditioning your horse for the summer.

Visit the Department of Animal Science youth Extension programs to see what 4-H horse activities are coming up on the calendar.

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