Katie Hennessy

Horse Care During the Rainy Season

Here in Central Florida, we are preparing to enter the wetter part of the year. While this is great for our pasture grass, we usually have excess water remaining in the low lying/swamp areas. Extended periods of heavy rain can lead to soggy paddocks and pastures. If there isn’t appropriate drainage, horses can be left with wet feet the majority of the time. The ability to manage your horse’s dry areas has its challenges. How do you decide whether your horse should stay indoors in their stall or go outdoors? 


Most horses prefer to be outdoors, for at least some part of each day and this is good for their health, both mentally and physically. Focusing specifically on wet ground and rain, there are some concerns with turnout. Chronically damp hooves can cause them to become soft and more prone to bruising/abscesses and bacterial infections such as white line disease. Hair coats that remain wet can develop a bacterial infection called rain rot. 


Stalling your horse is an option especially when the ground is extremely wet. If you make the decision to keep your horse in a stall, it is important to make sure the stall has appropriate ventilation and the bedding is cleaned daily.  Make sure the stall is dry and any manure/urine is removed regularly. A buildup of waste is not only bad for your horses’ lungs but it also will create more problems for the feet than turnout on a wet pasture. 


What about inclement weather – when should you stall your horse? The weather’s severity, the construction of your barn, and your horse’s temperament can help determine if your horse should be inside or outdoors. Can your horse cope with high winds and noises? If there are severe winds or hurricane warnings, then your barn may or may not be safe for your horse due to the damage often inflicted on the structures. In some cases, it’s often safer to just let them out. Horses can be amazingly resilient and capable of avoiding injury in bad weather when given freedom. 


In an ideal situation, most horses should be turned out the majority of the day. Turnouts/pastures should be dry and the horses should have access to clean water, shade and shelter. If pastures/turnouts are wet, then your horse should be kept in a clean/dry stall for eight to 12 hours a day. Cleaning the horse’s feet daily is recommended to remove wet manure and debris. If you have concerns about your horses’ skin or hooves, talk with your veterinarian or farrier. 


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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