As one calendar year draws to a close and another begins, many people resolve to take steps to improve their lives. And while the wisdom of some resolutions remains questionable—such as paying off your credit card in full every month … with another credit card—others likely do have a positive impact on peoples’ lives.
According to USA.gov, some of the most common resolutions Americans make each year focus on improving their health or maintaining a healthy lifestyle, such as eating and drinking healthier, exercising more, and quitting smoking. So why not resolve to do the same for your horse? Here are five resolutions to help your horse stay healthy and happy through the New Year.
Keep a Close Eye on Carbs
Ah, those soluble carbohydrates! They’re the bane of some peoples’ existences (think hot, freshly baked white bread … yum!). Like humans, many horses love their easily digestible carbohydrates, which can be problematic for some—especially easy keepers or those with metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and/or chronic laminitis.
So, resolve to keep a close eye on the nonstructural carbohydrate (NSC) concentrations of your hay and grain with feed analyses. And if you’re concerned your horse is getting too many NSCs, consider soaking his hay or using a grazing muzzle. And, as always, consult your veterinarian or equine nutritionist if you have any questions about your horse’s diet.
Optimize Body Condition
Sigh! Yes, that again. There is a growing proportion of horses that just can’t seem to keep a lean figure.
Obesity truly has become a welfare issue and yet, “overweight horses are so common now that this has become ‘normal,’ making it very difficult for owners to know what the correct condition for their horse really is,” said Sam Chubbock, BSc (Hons), Right Weight manager at World Horse Welfare, in Norfolk, U.K. “Most people readily recognize a thin horse and assume it is ill or has health risks, but not so many owners are aware of the health risks associated with fat in horses.”
If your horse could stand to shed a few pounds, resolve to help him do so. Don’t hesitate to ask your veterinarian or equine nutritionist for advice if you’re unsure how to proceed.
Get Fit and Stay Sound Year-Round
To keep a horse sound, look beyond just tight joints and healthy feet. Nutrition plays a key role in maximizing soundness and fitness and minimizing injuries, as well. And consider all of the bones, joints, tendons, and ligaments in the body, including those in the neck and back.
Condition your horse properly, ensure he stays at an optimum body weight, avoid overworking him, and consult your veterinarian at the first sign of a problem to keep him in top shape.
Optimize Respiratory Health
If he’s said it once, he’s said it a million times: Respect the two-foot sphere around your horse’s nose.
“It is critical for horse owners to focus on the horse’s breathing zone—a two-foot sphere around the horse’s nose from where he draws his breath,” said Ed Robinson, BVetMed, MRCVS, PhD, the Matilda R. Wilson Chair in Large Animal Clinical Sciences at the Michigan State University of Veterinary Medicine and the director of the Equine Pulmonary Research Laboratory.
Achieve good respiratory health by:
Providing as much pasture time as possible;
Removing the horse from his stall during mucking;
Ensuring adequate ventilation in barns and stalls;
Using low-dust bedding; and,
Using low-dust feeds, such as pasture; leafy, fresh hay; pelleted complete feed; and/or soaked or steamed hay.
Maintain an All-Around Healthy Lifestyle
Finally, remember to address all aspects of your horse’s health—don’t focus so much on one aspect that you forget the others. Dental and hoof care, pest control, vaccination, and deworming are all crucial to maintaining a horse’s health. Resolve to have at least annual veterinary examinations to help identify any areas of concern and ensure your horse is leading the healthiest life possible.
About the Author
Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc
Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she’s worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.