Fall is here and this means it’s time to check-in with the essentials to fall horse care. This time of the year is one highlighted by schedule changes, shortened days, and cooler weather.
Your horse relies on you for every aspect of their health and wellness. And because of this we want you to be prepared as possible for the fall and giving your horse everything, they need to thrive.
Keep reading to learn about the 7 essentials to get your horse and barn ready for the fall.
Fall Horse Care Checklist in a Nutshell
Keep these 7 fall horse care essentials in mind as you plan your trips to the barn, veterinarian and farrier visits, and nutritional needs.
- Monitor your horse’s caloric intake
- Ensure they’re up to date on deworming
- Add more hay to their diet
- Ensure they have a clean bill of health
- Keep an eye out for laminitis
- Check for drafts
- Make gradual exercise changes
1. Monitor Your Horse’s Caloric Intake
Fall is a transition period for your horse’s diet. If you’re riding more than you did in the sweltering summer, you’ll need to increase your horse’s calories to compensate for it.
However, many horse owners reach a point during the fall when cold weather makes it unpleasant for riding. When that happens, you’ll need to reduce your horse’s feed to prevent them from gaining too much weight.
Autumn is also an excellent opportunity to assess the type of horse feed you give your horse. Choosing feed that is kind rich in vitamins, minerals, fats, and proteins is critical since grass quality decreases in the fall.
2. Ensure Your Horse is Up to Date on Deworming
Out of sight, out of mind isn’t the kind of attitude you should adopt when it comes to horses and parasites, especially during the fall. Parasites have a relentless lifecycle, and their eggs often thrive in feces when the weather cools down.
Since pasture grass usually becomes sparse in the fall, this could cause your horse’s lips to come in contact with feces more frequently than they do during the summer.
If your horse has a parasite infection, they eventually may display symptoms such as:
- Skin sores
- Weight loss
Talk to your veterinarian if your horse is showing signs of a parasite infection.
3. Add More Hay to Your Horse’s Diet
Increasing hay to your horse’s diet is critical during the fall since they have less fresh grass to eat. Furthermore, because there’s less fresh grass, your horse might try eating plants that could upset their stomach.
If you’re trying to keep your horse’s weight down, make sure to increase their hay by using grass hay. Otherwise, legume hay like alfalfa has a higher calorie content that could undo weight loss efforts.
The American Association of Equine Practitioners recommends that horses consume 2 – 2.5% of their body weight in food per day. That means you should provide a 1,500-pound horse with 15 pounds of hay.
4. Ensure Your Horse Has a Clean Bill of Health
Your horse is adept at hiding any signs of discomfort or illness – so being in tune with any changes to their coat, teeth, hooves, habits, and mood are important.
Make sure you put these care and maintenance must-do’s on your list:
- Sheath cleaning
- Teeth floating
- Pulling your horse’s shoes
Work with your veterinarian, trainer, and farrier to ensure the best care strategies for your horse and their unique needs. Based on the age, health, and fitness level of your horse, you should customize this list to meet your horse’s needs.
5. Keep an Eye Out for Laminitis
The American Association of Equine Practitioners explains laminitis:
Laminitis results from the disruption (constant, intermittent or short-term) of blood flow to the sensitive and insensitive laminae. These laminae structures within the foot secure the coffin bone (the wedge-shaped bone within the foot) to the hoof wall. Inflammation often permanently weakens the laminae and interferes with the wall/bone bond. In severe cases, the bone and the hoof wall can separate. In these situations, the coffin bone may rotate within the foot, be displaced downward (“sink”) and eventually penetrate the sole. Laminitis can affect one or all feet, but it is most often seen in the front feet concurrently.
Laminitis can happen any time of year, but horses in the early stages of Cushing’s Disease or with insulin resistance have an increased chance of getting this inflammatory disease in the fall.
In fact as veterinarians know, ACTH, a hormone that increases the likelihood of laminitis, naturally increases in horses during the fall.
Signs that there’s an issue with your horse’s hooves due to laminitis include:
- Frequently laying down
- Rings around the horse’s hoof
- A bulge in the hoof sole
- Moving pressure onto their back legs
Keep an eye on your horse’s feet, hooves, and behavior for any early signs of laminitis. Talk to your veterinarian and farrier about how to treat and prevent laminitis.
6. Check for Drafts
You know how uncomfortable a slight draft in the bathroom can be when you’re showering, so can you imagine spending cool fall evenings and cold winter days with a constant draft?
Autumn is the ideal time for you check your barn and outdoor sheds for drafty areas. Make sure you check these draft-prone areas:
Although eliminating drafts is crucial for your horse’s comfort, avoid making your barn or shed too airtight. Otherwise, your horse won’t have access to fresh air, and it could cause respiratory problems.
7. Make Gradual Exercise Changes
As with so many areas of horse care, it’s critical for your horse’s health to make changes gradually. Since autumn usually comes with changes in exercise for your horse—whether because you’re riding more or less often—making gradual changes to the intensity and duration is critical for your horse’s wellbeing.
Pay attention to how your horse responds to any changes in exercise and scheduling. If your horse shows signs of not wanting to ride or seems agitated, these can be indicators your horse is not adjusting to schedule changes. Remember, like us, horses are creatures of habit – go slow with any changes.
Regardless of how often you ride your horse, ensuring they have access to some form of daily exercise is critical for the following reasons:
- Supports bone and muscle development
- Keeps them flexible
- Aids with digestion
- Improves their circulation
- Promotes joint health by keeping their joints limber
We want you to get the most out of the fall riding season. Fall is a special time of the year with the cooler temperatures, changing colors, and a chance to slow down a bit. Here’s to a happy and healthy fall riding season for you and your horse.
Finally, if you live in northern areas where winter weather encroaches on the fall season, our guide on winter horse care is a useful read.
As always, contact us with any questions you have about Grand Meadows and our horse health supplements.