Horse Care Calendar Part 3
- May 11, 2017
- Heather Smith Thomas
Your horse care calendar for the fall and winter months should look something like this:
SEPTEMBER – OCTOBER – If you ride in the fall or plan to go hunting horseback, you will have your horse re-shod again. “As a farrier, I sit down with clients to figure out their year’s shoeing schedule,” says Nelson. “Many riders use their horses for showing and then do trail riding and some hunting in the fall. Appointments for the year reflect the strategy for what kind of trimming/shoeing will be needed through various seasons. If horse owners plan to go hunting or keep riding during winter, they may want a different type of shoe. In slippery conditions (mud, ice, snow) the horse might need more traction. “If we’ll be dealing with ice/snow, we may use borium on shoes and snowball pads to keep snow from building up in the feet and creating ice balls,” says Nelson.
Dental care can be important in the fall, before horses go into winter and might have trouble chewing hay. “Many veterinary clinics schedule dental checks in the fall, partly because it tends to be a time they are less busy,” says Hammer. “It doesn’t necessary need to be done in the spring, but it should be done annually, whenever it works out for your veterinarian to do it—and some horses need their teeth checked twice a year. Dental care in the spring and fall is often done, or even more often if a horse has a severe tooth problem,” she says.
“Occasionally we also recommend re-boostering West Nile vaccines in the fall if weather stays warm and mosquitos are still out. On average, the vaccine protects horses for about 6 months. If you have a nice long Indian summer, your horses may be at risk again in the fall,” says Hammer.
NOVEMBER – DECEMBER – Horses at pasture pick up worms through spring/summer and may need deworming periodically, but late fall/early winter is a time when every horse should be dewormed for tapeworms and bots. “Once a year, regardless of the horse’s living quarters, there should be a deworming aimed at tapeworms and bots. Ivermectin won’t kill tapeworms so we recommend a product that contains praziquantel. We generally don’t check for tapeworms with a fecal float because they are difficult to find,” says Nelson. “I usually recommend one deworming annually for tapeworms in November, because the product that kills them will also kill everything else, including bots. After several hard freezes the bot flies are gone, so this is a good time to deworm. I do this once a year will all my horses, even if their fecal floats are clean.”
Winter feeding becomes an issue for some horses, and some have special needs. Old horses with bad teeth or painful joints may need senior feeds or joint supplements. Some owners choose a feed that contains a joint supplement. “One problem with someold horses is that their owners put a blanket on them for winter, and then can’t see the horse losing weight. I recommend checking teeth again in the fall, to make sure there are no problems that interfere with the horse’s ability to eat.”
She recently looked at a 26-year- old gelding that suddenly lost a lot of weight and the owner was afraid he had cancer. “We looked at things that most commonly cause weight loss: parasites, dental problems, and inadequate calories. The feed was adequate and the gelding had been dewormed, with no worm eggs showing up in the fecal float, so we opened his mouth to check his teeth and discovered a fractured tooth. Half of it was just hanging there. He had quit eating because of the painful tooth. We removed it and two weeks later he had regained almost all the weight he had lost. Paying attention to body condition is important, and adjusting feed as needed,” she says. This is especially important as horses go into winter.
Monitoring body condition through the year allows the owner to make any needed changes if a horse is getting too fat or too thin. Flexibility is necessary, depending on the needs of the horse.
For broodmares, the month you wean a foal will vary, depending on when the foal was born, and how well the mare and foal are doing. For some mares you’ll need to wean a foal early if she’s losing too much weight while lactating, and others you might leave together until late fall or early winter.