Autumn Tips For Horse Owners
In Autumn the nutrient levels in grass dramatically decrease meaning that grazing paddocks lose their nutritional value. If your horse is still grazing at this time of year, we recommend providing them with supplementary forage to ensure their nutrient requirements are being met. As a minimum, horses should consume 1.5% of their body weight in forage on a dry matter basis daily to satisfy their appetite requirements.
Older horses may begin to lose condition in the colder months. Some will have dental issues and a limited appetite, which can adequate forage consumption and make weight maintenance very difficult. These horses may benefit from a forage replacement that can be more easily digested. Soaked beet products make a great alternative to hay and haylage due to their high fibre and slow release energy content. If you are concerned about your horse's condition and dietary requirements we recommend contacting a vet or nutritionist who can make suitable recommendations for your horse's individual needs.
Managing Your Horse's Coat in Colder Weather
Your horse's coat will begin to get longer and thicker, this is their winter coat growing as a response to the drop in environmental temperatures. The purpose of a winter coat is to trap warm air against the skin to prevent the horse from getting cold. However this often means that horses will quickly become sweaty when being exercised. When sweating horses are more likely to become fatigued faster, as well as losing essential electrolytes. This is the time of year where many owners consider clipping as a means to prevent their horses from over heating during exercise. How much hair is removed will depend on factors including age, condition, temperament and workload.
As it gets colder many owners will consider rugging their horses. There is a vast range of rugs available on the market and knowing what rugs to use is important. The rugs you use will depend on a range of factors including age, build, health status, whether or not your horse is stabled and whether or not your horse is clipped. No two horses are the same and all horses should be rugged according to individual needs.
Over rugging can also have negative implications on your horse's welfare causing overheating and discomfort. Horses are extremely good at thermoregulating having a thermoneutral zone of between 5-25C. However, an unclipped horse with a good health status, will be able to maintain an appropriate body temperature in colder conditions if allowed to acclimatise.
Importance of Paddock Maintenance in Winter
It is important that paddocks are correctly maintained to ensure they remain usable throughout the winter months. We recommend that daily checks are made on paddocks. Regularly removing droppings and avoiding over stocking can prevent the ground from becoming poached. Soil that has become compacted as a result of poaching will lose some of its nutrient value.
Many invasive plant species such as ragwort favour poor soil conditions. Ensuring your paddocks are maintained correctly allows for better soil conditions and decreases the likelihood of invasive plant species growing. Fields that are correctly maintained throughout the winter months will be more prosperous come the Spring and Summer.
Testing Your Horse for Worms
It is also a good idea to have a faecal egg count conducted at this time of year as red worms are more prevalent. Tape worms are also common during the Autumn months and the only way to determine the presence of tape worms is through the use of a saliva test. Worm testing allows for owners to make more informed choices regarding use of wormers. By testing, you can minimise the use of wormers, saving money and decreasing the risk of parasites becoming ‘wormer resistant’.
Increased Health Risks When Stabling Your Horse
Increased stabling in the Autumn and Winter months can be associated with a number of health concerns for horses. Some horses may suffer from stiffened joints or limb swelling as a result of limited movement.
It is important that these horses get daily turn out to help manage these conditions. Horses who suffer from filled legs can also benefit from having their legs bandaged overnight to prevent fluid accumulation.
Horses who suffer from stiff, swollen joints and arthritis may benefit from being fed a joint supplement to help promote joint mobility and function.
Dietary supplements can also be fed to promote immune competence and lymphatic system function to help promote improved fluid distribution and prevent cases of filled legs.