Keeping your Horse Healthy as the Seasons Change
Keeping your horse healthy: It’s usually around this time of year that horse ownership doesn’t seem quite so appealing. The heavens have opened, the days are getting shorter and if something is going to go wrong with your horse, it’s almost guaranteed to happen in October! Not to mention wading through mud every time you want to give your beloved pony a carrot.
While you might feel like hibernating for the next few months, October is actually the perfect time of year to start making little changes to your horse’s routine and management in order to keep them healthy in the winter. Stay one step ahead of the cold weather and get your horse ready before the worst of it really hits.
Unsure what we’re talking about? Here’s how to keep your horse healthy as the seasons start to change.
Stay One Step Ahead
Weight fluctuations are common throughout the year, and many owners try to prepare for the inevitable winter weight loss by overfeeding their horses in autumn. This often isn’t necessary and instead, owners should aim to have their horses heading into the winter in good condition – neither too thin nor too fat.
Using a weight tape regularly can help you recognise early weight gain or loss that you may not notice if you’re seeing your horse everyday. If you do notice any changes, autumn is a great time to make small and gradual adjustments to your horse’s feed.
Allow them Time to Adjust to a New Routine
Any change in routine can make a horse anxious and stressed. Many owners start bringing their horses in at night around this time of year, and even this can trigger anxiety in a stressy horse. If this is the case, ensure you keep everything else the same until they are settled, including feed and exercise time. Try to change just one thing at a time, and give your horse a few weeks to get used to their new routine.
Allow them a Break if Necessary
If you’ve been out at competitions all summer, your horse might benefit from a break. After a long season, horses need time to rest and reset – just the same as humans. Whether it’s a month or even just a week, a break can be great for your horse both physically and mentally. Of course, this isn’t appropriate for some horses, but even spending a few weeks doing more hacking and less schooling can give them the respite they need.
Provide Hay if Needed
In the winter, the grass loses a lot of its nutritional quality, plus there will be less grass for your horse to eat in the first place! Ensure your horse is supplemented with another forage like hay or haylage, as well as a hard feed if necessary.
Overrugging is a huge issue around this time of year, usually because horse owners themselves start to feel cold! In the autumn, the middle of the day is usually quite warm, with the beginning and end of the day chillier. Horses with too thick rugs can overheat during the warmest part of the day – and even get heatstroke.
Use your horse’s weight and condition as a guide to rugging, and not how cold you feel! If your horse is lean and needs to put on weight before the winter, a turnout rug will be appropriate. Obese horses on the other hand, will be unable to lose weight if they are too hot.
By taking the necessary steps to prepare your horse for the cold weather, you can make winter easier for both you and your horse. Stay on top of field maintenance and keep an eye on your horse’s condition over the next few months – and we’ll be moaning about the heat and the flies in no time at all!
Provide Adequate Shelter
We’re always talking about the importance of a good mobile field shelter, and whether it’s summer or winter, your horse will appreciate a safe and sheltered area.
While a good rug will keep them dry, a field shelter will protect them from horizontal rain and harsh winds, and it saves you having to bring them into their stable every time the weather turns.
If you’ve already got a field shelter, now is a good time to do some general maintenance. You might want to consider giving it another waterproof coating if you haven’t already, as well as checking there’s been no damage.
Look for spoiled hay, debris or evidence of leaks. If you’ve got more than once horse turned out together, it’s worth checking that one isn’t getting bullied out of the shelter and that the entrance is big enough for them both.