Quick Tips for Preparing Your Horse and Stable for Winter
Hydration is an absolute priority
Make clean, fresh water available 24-7 as this will keep them hydrated and aid in proper digestion. It is ideal to have water in the 45–65-degree range and this can be accomplished with the use of a heated bucket for example. Just be sure to test all heating devices before first use and always follow operating procedures listed on the device.
Depending on what your horse does for a living, calorie requirements tend to increase during the winter months. The digestive process is a significant source of warmth for the horse. It is important to provide an ample supply of quality forage for the horse in combination with a fortified grain ration.
Try to provide shelter or some form of windbreak for horses outside during cold weather. Wind, rain and snow can sometimes make it challenging for a horse to keep warm so any shelter you can provide to keep them dry and out of the wind will be beneficial. Also, clean and inspect your horse blankets. Look for any loose straps or excessive wear and tear.
Air Flow in Facility
Evaluate air flow in stables and entire facility. Proper ventilation is very important during the winter months to help promote proper respiratory function. Even though it may be cold outside, you still need to have fresh air flow through the barn in some fashion.
These are just a few quick tips to think about as we move closer to winter to help keep your horses happy and healthy.
Thrush prevention and treatment
When you are in a rush…you get thrush.
Thrush is a bacterial and fungal infection of the frog. It creates a black, foul smelling substance that is a result of the infection. You may find this black smelly crud in the grooves on either side of the frog (commissures) or in the small groove in the middle of the frog (central sulcus).
Thrush is usually attributed to horses being kept in dirty, wet, muddy, and mucky conditions. While these conditions are conducive to thrush, and usually the culprit, it can also be found in horses kept in super clean stalls or in one hoof and not the other.
The first step in treatment of thrush in good hoof care. Set up an appointment with your farrier and explain the situation and get on a schedule. It is nothing they have not seen before.
After your consultation with your farrier, it is up to us as the horse owner to keep the foot and the horses living conditions extremely clean.
This is where I failed…and why I say when you are in a rush, you get thrush. I was not diligent enough when it came to simply using a hoof pick. I would always check hooves, but I got out of the habit, needed to get to work or whatever the reason and now I have a horse with a case of thrush. Both back feet and he is not in mud or muck or wet conditions. His stall is cleaned twice a day every day, but I did not pick them properly and now I am reminded why it is an important part of a daily care routine. Plus, I would have caught it earlier!
With that said, be very diligent in picking hooves and cleaning all the gunk out of the area around the frog. Be sure to use care until you can judge the level of discomfort the horse may be feeling because of the infection.
It is also important to treat thrush with a germ-killing product that contains iodine or use a bleach-water mix, diluted 50-50.
There are also several over-the-counter type treatments available for purchase at most any horse feed or supply store that are very effective when used according to the directions on the label.
As always, when in doubt, please contact your farrier or veterinarian. They will be more than happy to help you keep your horses happy and healthy.
Fly Control: Prevention and Management
Fly control around the horse barn is not a one and done type of situation. It is an ongoing process that requires continuous effort to keep fly populations in check. Here are a few tips to remember to help fight the good fight against these pests. This is not a complete list of everything you can do, so if you have products or practices that work best for you in your situation, keep doing it! We all want to keep our horses happy and healthy.
Keep the area around the barn free of debris, especially anything that can hold water and allow water to become stagnant. This creates a very attractive set up for flies.
Do what you can to have good drainage around your barn and/or confinement area (dry lot). This includes your pasture area also. Again, the purpose is to reduce the opportunity for standing water.
Keep pastures clipped and areas around the barn free of overgrown weeds and other vegetation.
Regular cleaning of feed pans and water buckets as well as automatic waterers.
Although it takes time, regular thorough mucking and cleaning of stalls is a must, which leads us to the next point…
Managing manure is another integral part of fly control. Flies breed in manure. If you are not able to haul and spread manure daily, create an area as far away from the barn and horses as possible until you are able to remove it. If applying on fields and pastures, be sure to apply at an agronomic rate to keep soil and forage conditions in balance.
Use a premise spray around the perimeter of the barn and/or confinement area. This is very effective when used according to directions on the label.
Utilize any one of the many sprays, wipes, sticks and roll-ons available on the market today. Most all are very effective when used according to their product label. They are most all available in conventional or all - natural formulas.
Create a physical barrier between your horse and flies using fly masks and/or fly sheets. These are readily available at most equine supply outlets and vary in size, design, and price.
Spring Pasture Forage Tips
Now that Spring is finally here, I am looking forward to longer days, warming temperatures, and green grass.
So, about that green, lush growing grass we are all looking forward to…it can be a mixed blessing for a lot of horse owners. As we know, horses are built to consume forage as most of their diet in the form of hay and/or pasture. Some horses can be turned out all day and all night once spring pastures begin to grow and have no issues at all. Other horses either gain too much weight or have other health concerns that do not allow for unrestricted pasture time. Also, this time of year here in the North, where we must still provide/purchase hay, perhaps it is an opportunity to begin to utilize pasture and help stretch that hay supply a little further. Other horses are out 7 days a week, 365 and say “no thanks” to being in a stall.
Whatever the scenario may be, I believe it is safe to say that everyone’s situation is a little different. Regardless, we all want what is best for our horses. As horse owners, most of us are aware that any changes made to the horse’s diet need to be made over a period, somewhere around 7-10 days is ideal. We want to avoid abrupt changes and keep the digestive system as “balanced” as we can. It is important for the acidity level (pH) of the hindgut (cecum and colon) to remain as balanced or constant as possible. We want to continue to provide a heathy, stable home for all those hard-working little microbes in that hindgut and avoid any disruption.
With all of this in mind, here are a few general tips to remember as we move closer to Spring:
If possible, introduce horses to fresh pasture slowly then increase the amount of time spent in pasture a little more each day. By doing this, it will allow for an adjustment period for the horse to become acclimated to the change.
Be consistent with turn out. If you are able, allow horses access to pasture for a consistent amount of time every week. Try to allow access to pasture for a few hours every day rather than a few hours a couple times during the week.
Continue to offer their current “regular” hay along with pasture. This will allow you to maintain some consistency but also allow for introduction to fresh pasture.
If necessary, a grazing muzzle can be utilized to limit the consumption of fresh pasture when turned out.
Regarding hay and feed, if you are planning on changing feed or bringing in a new load of hay, be sure to keep enough of the “old” supply to allow a steady transition to the “new” supply. This strategy applies for later in the summer months as new crop hay is harvested and introduced to the animal.
Equine De-worming Schedule
One of the annual rituals of Spring (and Fall) for horse owners is working in vaccinations along with de-worming. It is not uncommon for most all horses to have a low level of parasites in their gastrointestinal tract. What we need to do as horse owners, is work closely with our veterinarians to keep that level low and not allow proliferation of these little monsters to the point of causing a real problem.
One way to accomplish this is to ask your veterinarian to perform a Fecal Egg Count (FEC) annually in the Spring before de-worming. A Fecal Egg Count will allow your veterinarian to determine how many worms your individual horse carries and how to treat then effectively. The FEC will help identify which deworming treatment is needed for each horse. The fecal test ensures that the types and timing of de-wormers for each horse are based on actual need and not a generic national chart.
Horses are usually placed in 3 Egg Shedding Categories:
Low Shedder: < 200 eggs per gram
Moderate Shedder: 200-400 eggs per gram
High Shedder: > 400 eggs per gram
For example, a horse that is a low shedder could be placed on a schedule such as:
April/May (Spring): Quest (moxidectin)
October/November (Fall): Zimectrin Gold or EquiMax (moxidectin w/praziquantel)
Again, it is so very important to establish a relationship with your veterinarian and work with them to develop a schedule and plan of attack that suits your horse’s individual needs.
Catch them prior to appointment and give the horse time to relax and remain calm.
Clean horse. Run a brush over them, knock mud off legs and feet but try not to use hose and water, this will only make the farrier wet and therefore more difficult to handle legs/feet.
Be honest with farrier about behavior. It your horse does not stand for the farrier in a calm manner, let them know. It probably isn’t the first or the last horse that won’t stand but it will allow farrier to make adjustment to their approach.
Try to have a covered, dry, and level area to work with good lighting.
Clear work area of all obstacles and/or debris.
Eliminate as much people and pet traffic as possible.
Use fly spray on the animal and the immediate area when conditions call for.
Offer any type of refreshments.
Ask for their preferences when handling your horses. Ask where they prefer you stand and hold the horse, where to set up in the barn or shed area, etc…