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Corro Stories

Keep Your Horse Healthy During Changing Seasons

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By Jessica Konopinski

Moving into the end of one season and preparing for the beginning of another can be exciting but stressful, especially when caring for horses. As most of us know, horses are some of the most sensitive animals on the planet. So even the slightest change in weather can cause issues.

The positive thing about caring for horses is that it forces us to stay organized and plan ahead to avoid unwanted surprises. However, when planning for the changing seasons, things can become a bit overwhelming and confusing. Some common questions horse lovers are faced with moving into the new season include:

Is it okay that my horse is drinking less water in colder weather?

Should I be feeding my horse more hay in winter?

Does my horse need a blanket, or can I leave him naked?

We put together a list of points to consider to ensure your horse is healthy, happy, and well prepared going into the new season.

 

Hydration is Key

A dehydrated horse is a common denominator in many horse health emergencies, including colic. Unfortunately, moving into a new season can make it even harder to get your horse to drink consistently enough. In the warmer months, horses prefer drinking cooler water, and in the colder months, horses prefer drinking warm water.

With this in mind, you can plan to make sure your horse is well equipped for the new season by providing them with what encourages them to drink most. You should also always remember to stay on top of checking the temperature of your horses' water and cleaning their water bucket frequently. Buckets can build up unwanted bacteria in the summer months, and in the winter months, the water can freeze.

If your horse consistently struggles to drink enough water, it may be time to start adding some salt or electrolytes to your horse's diet. Always consult your veterinarian before introducing anything new into your horse’s routine. There are many electrolyte options to choose from, so picking one that best suits your horse’s needs is vital.

Evaluate Your Horse's Body Condition

When it comes to managing your horse’s weight, it’s crucial to understand how changing seasons play a huge part in maintaining consistency. Moving into a new season can also mean changing their activity level, forage, and dramatic temperature swings.

It’s a great idea to take pictures highlighting your horse’s body condition quarterly to note any drastic changes in your horse. You can use these pictures to reference what months your horse may need some extra care and where exactly your horse may need it.

For example, your older horse may struggle to keep on weight during the winter months due to the pasture's lack of lush, quality grass. Consider maximizing your horse’s hay intake and consulting a veterinarian about weight gain supplement options.

Check Your Horse’s Forage

A change in the weather also means a difference in forage quality. Your horse should consume at least 1-2% of his weight in forage every day. In the summer months, your pasture may be full and lush, but in the winter months, it may be scarce.

You may be able to feed less hay in the summer while your horse is on pasture. But during the winter months, you need to prioritize giving your horse more since there is little to no grass. Horses with limited access to grass may also benefit from Vitamin E supplementation.

Whatever the situation, it’s essential to pay attention to your horse’s forage intake and body condition to make sure they are getting an adequate amount of forage for their weight.

Another vital thing to consider during the changing of seasons is the quality of your hay. Just like pasture, hay can undergo seasons where it may not be as optimal or consistent for your horse. Be sure to check for mold, dust, and other imperfections before feeding it to your horse.

Acclimate to Weather Conditions

One of the best things about going into a new season is the temperature change. Whatever your favorite season may be, it’s essential to keep your horse comfortable and well prepared for the temperature to come.

Your horse’s coat should adjust and shed out in the spring and summer months unless your horse has an underlying condition such as Cushing's. In this type of situation, it’s essential to make the best decision for your horse. Whether that means spending a lot of extra time currying to help their coat shed out or body clipping them, making sure they are kept at a comfortable temperature is crucial.

Horse coats will typically become more thick and dense in the winter months, preparing for the colder weather. Deciding whether to blanket, not to blanket, clip, or not to clip can be confusing, but choosing one and sticking to it is vital in keeping a consistently healthy and happy horse. Be sure to abide by blanketing temperature guidelines if you do decide to clip your horse, and remember to change blankets accordingly depending on the weather.

Consider Supplements

No matter how well managed your horse’s diet is, sometimes it’s just not enough. Whether your horse is struggling to lose or gain weight or needs specific support for coat, joint, or hoof health, supplements might be able to help. Many horses also need deworming in the spring and fall.

However, consulting with your veterinarian before making drastic changes to your horse’s feeding plan is always a good idea. Your vet can help you identify any areas of concern that supplements may help support your horse during changing seasons.

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