Springtime Horse Tips

Spring in Kentucky means mares and foals for many farms. click here for larger
Spring in Kentucky means mares and foals for many farms.

It’s spring, finally! I’m based in Kentucky, so we’re starting to see better weather (although it snowed on the first day of spring). The grass is getting greener, the trees are budding, and there are flowers brave enough to show their faces. On the farm we’ve got our equipment checked out and ready for the mowing and growing season. The gates, waterers, hay feeders, and heavily trafficked areas got their update of rock dust to get rid of the quagmire that surrounds them.

Now let’s think of horses!

If you are a breeding farm, your barren and maiden mares that haven’t been bred are still under lights. However, on April 1, they don’t have to be under lights any more at night and they can go outside. That’s a huge reduction in time cleaning those stalls.

If you still have mares to foal, try to keep them natural while keeping them managed. I keep my pregnant mares outside as much as possible before they foal until a couple of months before their due date (unless they show signs otherwise). Then two months before they are due I have the personnel bring them into the barn each night so they can be watched more closely.

For my newborn foals in Kentucky, the first two weeks of their lives they stay up at night in the spring. That lets us watch them more closely, and they stay out of weather.

After two weeks I don’t mind keeping babies outside at night; the cold won’t hurt them. However, wet and cold is bad for foals. Keep them in if weather is bad.

I recommend all horses be brought into the barn for a couple of hours a day. Generally they are in during morning hours for veterinary work, and I want them handled and checked each day.

I prefer that yearlings be out all year round unless they are getting prepped for sale. They, too, will come in for two hours a day to be handled and fed.

If you have stallions, then how they are handled and their routine will vary with each farm. Generally in breeding season in Kentucky, stallions don’t have much turnout because they are so busy. Keep in mind that Thoroughbreds are one of the few remaining breeds that does not allow artificial insemination. That means all mares must have live covers, which keeps the stallions and their handlers busy.

One of the reasons Thoroughbred stallion managers will keep stallions inside during the winter is that they don’t want long hair growth prior to the breeding season. It’s hard on the stallions because it makes them hotter when they are working, and the farms want the stallions to look slick and shiny when prospective mare owners view them.

Feel free to send your questions to me at Ron@EquineManagement.com and I’ll try to address them in future blogs.