HANDS ON

EQUUS - - Contents -

• What slow shed­ding might mean • Barn spring-clean­ing tips • Graz­ing muzzle check

For­get blue­birds and daf­fodils---a sure sign of spring around the barn is horse hair on ev­ery­thing. Don’t just curse the lay­ers of hair cov­er­ing your sad­dle pads and truck seats, how­ever. Pay at­ten­tion to it. How your horse loses his win­ter coat can re­veal im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion about his health.

Hair growth and shed­ding is gov­erned by pho­tope­ri­ods --- the length of sun­light in each day---as op­posed to tem­per­a­ture. This means that no mat­ter where you live in the coun­try and no mat­ter how warm it has been, by now your horse will have be­gun drop­ping his win­ter coat.

Slow shed­ding can be a sign of Cush­ing’s dis­ease (pi­tu­itary pars in­ter­me­dia dys­func­tion), a hor­monal im­bal­ance com­mon in older horses that can lead to lamini­tis. If your horse isn’t shed­ding as read­ily as he has in the past, or if he’s still sig­nif­i­cantly more hairy than his barn mates, call your vet­eri­nar­ian to dis­cuss testing for Cush­ing’s. If your horse has al­ready been di­ag­nosed with the con­di­tion, still make the call: His med­i­ca­tion may need to be ad­justed. In the mean­time, con­sider a body clip to en­sure he doesn’t get over­heated dur­ing the first warm stretch of the year.

On the other hand, patchy shed­ding can be nor­mal, par­tic­u­larly if the horse does it year af­ter year. It’s not un­com­mon, for ex­am­ple, for a horse to lose hair from his neck first, then his belly and fi­nally his rump. You don’t need to do any­thing to help a patchy shed­der, but if his looks are just too awk­ward for you, con­sider a full body clip.

BARN SPRING­CLEAN­ING TIPS

If you dread or­ga­niz­ing clos­ets and mop­ping be­hind the re­frig­er­a­tor this spring, you’re not alone. Most of us would rather spend our time and en­ergy clean­ing the barn in­stead. For horsepeo­ple, spring-clean­ing is about more than tidy­ing up the tack room, though. As you tackle the job this year, don’t over­look th­ese im­por­tant tasks:

• Empty and sweep the hayloft or shed. Your hay sup­plies are likely at their low­est of the year right now,

which means it’s a good time to tend to that space. Re­move the re­main­ing bales and sweep the floor thor­oughly. Look for signs of ro­dents. If you find any, de­vise a plan to evict them. Also check for wet spots on the floor, which prob­a­bly in­di­cate a roof leak that could lead to moldy bales. Re­move cob­webs and bird’s nests, then put back the hay, mak­ing sure you stack it near the door so the old­est will be used first af­ter a new load is de­liv­ered.

• De­clut­ter the aisle. A pas­sage­way filled with tack trunks, rakes and other items is an ac­ci­dent wait­ing to hap­pen. Des­ig­nate a new space, in a low-traf­fic area, to store stall-clean­ing tools. Then, move as many tack trunks and con­tain­ers as pos­si­ble to a room or stall set aside for that pur­pose. If blan­kets and sheets are reg­u­larly tossed on the ground, in­vest in blan­ket racks. Ide­ally, the aisle will be free of ev­ery­thing but the oc­ca­sional horse.

• Scrub troughs, tubs and buck­ets. Scrub­bing troughs and tubs isn’t a once-a-year job, but win­ter cold can keep you from do­ing as thor­ough a job as you would like. Spring is a good time to attack them with a stiff brush and el­bow grease. If you need a bit more “oomph,” sprin­kle the sur­face with bak­ing soda as you work. It’s abra­sive enough to re­move grime but won’t leave a chem­i­cal residue if your rins­ing is less than per­fect. While you’re at it, en­sure that any au­to­matic wa­ter­ers are in good work­ing or­der with no signs of leak­age or cor­ro­sion.

• In­spect the stalls. Strip the bed­ding from your stalls, and give ev­ery inch of the space a close look. Start at the floor level and work your way up, look­ing for frayed or curl­ing mats, rot­ting wood, pro­trud­ing nails, man­gled salt-block hold­ers and the like. If you can’t fix a prob­lem on the spot, keep your horse in an­other space un­til you can re­pair the dam­age or re­place the item en­tirely.

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