What do I have to do to get my horse ready for fall and winter?
SO MUCH TO DO! Just kidding. A few critical things, and a few non-critical things, but mostly it’s about getting ready for weather before it happens. Just get it done before it’s sub zero!
The totally important things for your horse:
No. Big. Deal.
Fall vaccines. Even if you don’t show and your horse never leaves the property - there are many horse diseases that are transmitted by other methods - and keeping your horse’s immunity up year round is his best defense against illness. I always have my Vet take care of these - reactions can be dangerous!
While the Veterinarian is there - fecal egg count and possible targeted deworming. You MAY be able to wait to deworm until after a hard freeze - depends on where you live. For example, bots are super common, but if you treat for them before a freeze, you may need to re-treat later. Details about fecal egg counts and fun poop stuff can be found here!
The dentist comes to you! And they won't give you a hard time about not flossing.
Also do a chompers-check - make sure your horse can chew comfortably, this will only help him digest his noms and pack in the calories for cold weather. For in depth and hard hitting reporting about chompers, this article will fascinate you.
For metabolically challenged horses - you may want to run a blood panel to monitor his levels. This will give you valuable information as to how to manage winter grazing, which can create problems as cold temps cause sugar spikes in pastures. Learn more about NSC values and pastures here.
For hard keepers, start stashing on the calories - but make any feeding changes slowly over a two week period or so. There are many reasons why horses are hard keepers, try and find the cause and you can do more to help. Ideas here.
For easy and hard keepers - start recording his weight as measured by a handy dandy tape. Winter blankets and fuzzy coats often mask weight loss or gain. Here's the formula and how to measure your horse's weight with a tape!
Some possible horse stuff to check off the list:
Deeply clean and thoroughly condition your horse’s tack. Even though we *always* clean our tack after every ride (I’m hysterical!), during the winter it seems we don’t always dig deep.
One last deep cleaning of your horse’s mane and tail! Use that nice warm fall air and really shampoo and condition his tail.
Make any shoeing adjustments! These pads help prevent snow balls.
Go from shod to barefoot or barefoot to shod - if this is something that you do. Many show horses have shoes pulled and time off in the winter. But, frozen ground is unforgiving and irregularities in the earth show up as frozen daggers - not so awesome for bare feet. You may also need some snow pads! For some guidance on pulling shoes, this article has tips for you.
Blanket repair and fit check! It’s typically best to do repairs and cleaning in the spring, but you know… stuff happens…. Blanket fit basics can be found here in this article.
Good bye fuzzy hair!
Get ready to clip! Gather your tools and prep your horse! Most horses in exercise or that live in warm climates benefit from being clipped. For more tips on how to make this easy and fast, read this gem on what to bring to the clipping show.
Don’t forget to make sure your own winter boots are in working order and your mittens and hat are ready!