Katie Hennessy

Fall Preparations for your Horse

Fall is coming, and while the weather won’t be dramatically different from summer, the nights may be cooler. Here are some horse care items that need to be on your fall preparation checklist.

1. Shelter and Feeding

Fall is a great time to repair any damage to fencing, stalls, and paddocks, and to inspect wiring maintenance and ventilation. Barn fires can occur from faulty wiring or damaged outlets, so pay special attention to wiring since horses may be indoors more often. 

Pasture grass will become limited as winter approaches, so you may need to offer supplementary forage (hay) to maintain their body weight. With inadequate grass, you may also need to rotate pastures or have a dry paddock so the available grass is not overgrazed. 

2. Blankets

Carefully check clean blankets for rips and tears, loose and broken buckles or excessively worn straps. Make sure to have any tears mended and hardware replaced. Don’t forget to check that it still fits your horse, too! This is especially important if your horse has had major weight changes in the past year.

3. Water Requirement 

Horses tend to drink less water in cooler weather. You can encourage drinking by adding Gatorade or electrolytes to their water. Make sure to always provide a regular bucket of water, just in case your horse doesn’t like the flavor. You may need to experiment with flavors to find something your horse likes. It doesn’t happen very often in Florida, but insulated water buckets or submersible heaters prevent freezing and ensure your horse has access to water at all times. 

4. General Health Checks

Fall is a good time to get a fecal parasite count and deworm your horse if required. Make sure they’re also up-to-date on vaccines such as equine influenza and have a current coggins test, particularly if they will be traveling during the fall and winter months. 

Colic is probably one of the most common ailments we see in fall/winter due to the changing management and weather. To prevent these episodes make changes to the diet slowly over 1-2 weeks and always have fresh, clean water available to drink.  Know the signs of colic and have a plan in place to assess their vitals (heart rate and temperature) and any medication you might need until your veterinarian arrives. Have a chat with your vet about what’s best for you and your horse.

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. Her expertise ranges from small and exotic creatures to large animals, specializing in equine medicine.

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