Seasonal Care

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For a horse owner, there are few sights more welcome than the first signs of spring. As the snow melts away and the pastures begin to turn green, horse owners are glad to see the end of short days, frozen water buckets, and woolly coats. Springtime means longer, warmer days to spend working in the arena or hitting the trails. The season is also an ideal time to catch up on your horse’s healthcare needs.

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Horses can develop equine asthma when they’re exposed to airborne organic dust that can found anywhere — in a dirt paddock, on a gravel road, or in an indoor arena. But the most common culprit is dusty, moldy hay. Round bales can be particularly problematic as horses tend to tunnel their muzzles into the bales and inhale dust and mold.

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Everyone knows the seasonal annoyance of flies. For horses they can be a real tail swatting, foot stomping, head shaking, skin twitching aggravation. But flying insects such as midges, gnats, horse flies, deer flies, black flies, face flies, house flies, mosquitos, and others are more than a nuisance – they can cause serious skin irritations and can also carry diseases.

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A worm-eating fungus brings new hope in the fight against parasitic gastrointestinal worms. Anthelmintic resistance is now a widespread and growing problem. It is becoming increasingly clear that we cannot rely on chemicals alone to control gastrointestinal parasites.

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Horse owners have been wetting or soaking hay as a feed management practice for many years. Soaking hay for horses can be invaluable when feeding a hay that is a little dusty as a result of soil contamination or where it was stored in the barn. Horses that have allergies and are sensitive to the natural dust and particles in hay can benefit significantly from wetting or soaking hay.

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When winter finally releases its icy grip, horse owners are eager to begin another riding season. While Canadians take national pride in fully embracing our cold snow-filled months, it’s hard to deny that springtime is a welcome sight, and horse owners are especially excited. Winter horse care can mean different things depending on your geographic location. Fluctuating temperatures in Eastern Canada create challenges for indoor housing. The Prairies cope with their incredibly frigid minus 40-degree C days (how you just “dress for it” I don’t know!). While in Western British Columbia there is constant rain from November to March. Dealing with any of those conditions makes both horse and human welcome the arrival of spring sunshine and open barn doors!

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Scientists learned in recent years why zebras have black and white stripes — to avoid biting flies. But a study published on February 20, 2019 in the journal PLOS ONE probes the question further: What is it about stripes that actually disrupts a biting fly’s ability to land on a zebra and suck its blood? Professor Tim Caro of the University of California, Davis, and University of Bristol’s Martin How led a series of new experiments to better understand how stripes manipulate the behaviour of biting flies as they attempt to come in to land on zebras.

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