Preparing your older horse for winter

With the winter months not too far away, it is time to start thinking about preparing your horse for winter. For those older equines, a little extra support may be needed.

 

Nutrition

All horses' nutritional requirements increase over winter; older horses more so.  Checking your horse's body condition now allows enough time to add a few extra kilos, if required, before winter.  Generally your horse's ribs should be easily felt under a layer of fat but should not be visible.

The largest part of your horse's diet should be made up of forage or hay.  Hay is a great source of roughage and because it is digested in the large intestine by a bacterial fermentation process, it also produces heat.  Supplementation with concentrates may also be necessary in some horses.  Horses with worn or lost teeth may only be able to partially digest long-stemmed hay, resulting in weight loss and increasing the chance of colic and choke.  A high-fat, short-stemmed feed will be more easily digestible, as will feed softened with warm water. 

 

Shelter

Stalling is not necessary for all older horses but any clipped, sick or underweight horse will require warm blanketing and a place to shelter from the extremes of winter. 

 

Routine health care

Autumn and winter parasite control should include treatments for tapeworms, encysted small redworm larvae, lice and bots.  Remember that faecal egg counts provide information on the effectiveness of your drenching program, but will not detect encysted redworm larvae. 

Keeping vaccinations current is the cornerstone of disease prevention - boost now for tetanus and strangles if not already done.

Teeth should be checked for wear, sharp edges and loose teeth and floated as required. This will ensure maximum chewing efficiency, proper utilization of available forage and a pain-free mouth.

Long, wet winter grass and mud help promote conditions such as mud fever and thrush.  Regular hoof trimming, grooming and frequent picking out of feet will help to minimise these.  Horses with arthritic joints may have more pain in winter and benefit from joint supplements, anti-inflammatories and light exercise. 

Please speak to one of our veterinarians for more information.

 

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