Kate Hore RNutr(Animal). R.Anim.Technol.
Now more than ever we are looking forward to getting out and about and enjoying our horses. Lessons, clinics and, yes, even competition are opening up again – and we can’t wait! However as we come out of lockdown, it’s worth thinking about the challenges faced, particularly at this time of year, and how we can help our horses stay fit and well, and ready for the challenge ahead.
While we’re enjoying the longer days and, hopefully, warmer weather, for those sensitive horses Spring is not necessarily all good news. High pollen counts bring challenges that may be seen as respiratory stress, and inconsistencies in your horse’s work.
It’s worth also being aware that respiratory challenge often goes unseen in horses, so look out for those subtle signs such as drops in stamina or poor performance. Studies in equine athletes have shown that sub-clinical respiratory stress is evident in over 80% of horses*, which may be linked to management, as well as environmental stress, such as pollen.
Therefore, whether signs of respiratory stress are evident, or it is simply that you wish to maintain your horses’ respiratory capacity to maximize their performance potential, we advise putting a clean air policy in place.
- Turn horses out as much as possible for access to fresh air. However, if pollen is recognized as an issue, you may find stabling during peak times, with turnout overnight, is preferable.
- Soak or steam to control dust and fungal spores, but take care not to oversoak which can leach nutrients and impact on quality.
- Keep a weather and hacking diary, which can help identify the issues. For example, if one hacking route always elicits a response, then look out for blossoming trees, or crops such as bright yellow rapeseed along that way.
- Provide targeted supplementary support throughout the season.
With the lack of work throughout the lockdown period, we now have to establish and fine-tune their programmes to get them back to fitness.