It's been lovely to have a little wet weather here in South-East Queensland, to help chase away the cold and dry winter, and welcome the warmer days of spring. While I am excited at the prospect of some lush green feed for our horses in their beautiful new pasture; I realise that for many horse owners, spring time brings more jitters than joy, with the concern and danger of colic, laminitis and other metabolic disorders, as well as behavioural issues that can present, or flare, in the springtime.
Fortunately there are plenty of options available to help horses through the hurdles of spring, and not only stay sound, but flourish; making the most of the natural rhythm of the season to nourish, tone and detoxify your horse's system; and optimise resilience to any potential health risks that may sneak through your radar.
A Balanced Diet is Key - from pasture, to premixes, to supplemental nutrition
Spring pick is naturally higher in sugars; if your horse struggles with sugar metabolism, keeping intake of spring pick within moderation may be necessary; but you shouldn't have to deny access altogether. Supplying your horse with supplemental salt (see HydraSol) and magnesium (see BioMag) will help to offset the imbalances created by a higher sugar intake, and your horse can still enjoy the benefits of chlorophyll-rich, fresh spring pick. If your horse is a 'fizzy' type, they may also benefit from the added support supplied by a b-complex rich behavioural support blend, like Halcyon. Halcyon contains an array of b vitamins, plus a botanical blend which is designed to help moderate blood sugar levels - which can help horses who really feel the effects of a sugar spike, and become a hazard to themselves, to stay more sane, and safe.
Research suggests that deficiencies in certain minerals can lead to higher than average sugar cravings, so using a good quality daily mineral supplement blend, like MacroMin, may help your horse to make better pasture choices, where there is a wide access to varying pasture types. MacroMin will also supply your horse with some base levels of sodium, magnesium, and digestive prebiotics, which help to foster a healthy gastrointestinal microbiome.
Poisonous weeds are a different pickle - they can cause all kinds of long-term damage to horses who, for whatever reason, have developed a taste for them. I believe that adequate mineral supplementation can assist with this issue. For example, some toxic weeds are very high in the essential mineral, copper. Coincidentally, many horses' diets are naturally quite lacking in copper. So, your horse's taste for weeds could be pointing to a mineral imbalance, which your horse is attempting to correct, to its detriment. At any rate it is a great idea to get to know your local weed hazards, monitor your horse's behaviour around these weeds, and remove them as much as is possible.
When supplementing pasture or hay, my preference is to keep things as simple as possible. I avoid premixes, preferring to use a little (well-soaked) copra meal, and lucerne chaff as a base to mix in my horses' dietary supplements. Copra is a low NSC feed containing 8% fat as coconut oil, a high quality oil which resists rancidity and assists with maintaining metabolic health, as well as providing other benefits associated with adequate oils in the diet (glossy coat, healthy skin, moist and flexible hoof wall, etc). I recommend steering clear of anything made from soy or cottonseed.
Spring Blend - Nourish, tone and detoxify
Medicine Tree's Seasonal (Spring) Blend is made with a variety of botanical ingredients which are traditionally used to nourish, tone and detoxify through the spring season. Being the season of renewal, with a focus on liver health; Spring is the optimal time to provide your horse with liver supportive herbs including Milk Thistle and Dandelion, and help your horse to 'take a load off' their liver, which will in turn set your horse up better to handle the extreme heat of summer. Mares and cushings sufferers who typically struggle through summer may find a spring tonic especially beneficial.
Spring Colic - too much of a good thing?
There may be times when your horse takes too much advantage of the new abundance. Keeping a bottle of Menthazan on hand is always a great idea, and spring is no exception. Menthazan is a mineral and botanical blend, designed to help soothe colicky pains, and normalise intestinal flow, where trapped gas or poor food choices may be causing issue.
Of course, every horse is a unique combination of genetic predispositions and lifetime experiences, and you will need to formulate your horse's diet according to his or her current condition/s, and whittle way at any imbalances currently present, and the correction of any conditions which have manifested.
If you would like any further assistance with choosing the best combination of dietary blends for your horse, please feel welcome to get in touch at any time, by whichever method suits you. With a little care and dietary adjustment, it should be entirely possible for you and your horses to enjoy all of the benefits of the spring season, and be well on your way to an even happier and healthier summer!