Equine Care Transitions: A Seasonal Guide for Fall and Winter

As the seasons slowly shift and the air becomes crisper, it’s a signal for horse owners to re-evaluate their daily care routines. While the temperature fluctuations in Florida might not be as extreme as in colder regions, it’s crucial to adapt your equine care practices to the changing needs of your horses. This seasonal shift is an opportunity to ensure the well-being of your equine companions, so we’ve put together a comprehensive checklist to guide you through it.

1. Prepare Your Barn for Fall and Winter

While Florida horses may not be bracing against bone-chilling cold, they will be seeking shelter and warmth more frequently. To prevent accidents and mishaps during these seasons, focus on barn maintenance:

Electrical Safety: Start by thoroughly inspecting your barn’s electrical systems. Call a qualified electrician promptly to address frayed cords, corrosion, or rodent damage. Most barn fires occur during the fall and winter, making this step essential for both horse and barn safety.

2. Secure and Properly Store Horse Food

Fall and winter invite unwelcome guests like rodents and pests to seek shelter in your barn. Protect your horse’s food supply by storing it correctly:

Rodent-Proof Storage: Use rodent-proof and moisture-proof containers for grain storage, such as metal trash cans or chest freezers. Seal up any significant holes in feed rooms to keep rodents out.

3. Prioritize Vaccinations and Deworming

The changing seasons offer a great opportunity to address health concerns:

Vaccinations: Consult your veterinarian for advice on vaccination and deworming schedules that are best suited for your horse. 

4. Maintain Pastures and Fencing

Horses spend a lot of time grazing in the pasture, so it’s essential to ensure a safe environment, cooler weather makes this task much more bearable:

Fence Maintenance: Confirm that fence posts are secure and there are no potential hazards in the pasture, such as loose boards or wires. 

5. Address Nutritional Needs

Preparing for winter means considering your horse’s nutritional requirements:

Ideal Weight: It’s better to head into winter with your horse slightly overweight than underweight. If your horse falls on the leaner side, consider providing additional nutrition, such as incorporating alfalfa into their diet.

6. Ready for the Cold 

Although Florida winters are mild compared to other regions, it’s wise to be prepared:

Blanket Maintenance: Wash and mend your horse blankets to ensure they are ready for use when needed.

While it may be cooler, make sure to allow for adequate ventilation in barns (don’t close all the windows and doors). 

Gathering these materials and addressing these seasonal care steps will help you and your horses stay prepared for the cooler temperatures ahead. Remember, it’s always a good idea to consult with your veterinarian to determine the best course of action for your horses as the seasons change.

Embrace the changing seasons with confidence, knowing that you’ve taken the necessary steps to ensure your equine friends are healthy, happy, and comfortable.

This column is sponsored by Polk Equine, and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of CFAN or of its advertisers.

BIO: Dr. Katie Hennessy graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 2008 with a degree in large animal health and equine medicine. She completed an advanced internship at The Equine Medical Center of Ocala and is currently the owner and practicing veterinarian at Polk Equine.  She specializes in equine medicine.

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