from the Vet Corner Archives

Part of Horse Previews Magazine website. Posted on 10/08/99; 2:00:00PM.

Veterinary Corner 10/99: Preparing for the Coming Winter

by Sylvia Miller, DVM
Edgecliff Equine Hospital
S. 1322 Park Road, Spokane, WA 99212 * 509/924-6069

As the daylight hours get shorter and the air feels brisker, it's the time of year to think about preparations for the coming winter. Some questions you may consider about your horse and the environment he lives in are: Has he had a physical exam in the last SIX months? Is he adequately vaccinated? Has he been dewormed recently? Which product has been used? What is his general body condition? Is his hair sleek and shiny yet, and how much fat is present over his back, ribs, hips, and behind his shoulders? Is he chewing well? Has his mouth been properly evaluated, does he need dental work?

  • What stage of life and concurrent feeding plan is he on?

  • Will he be ridden this winter, or will he have the winter off?

  • Does he have any problems that should be taken care of now, like a subtle chronic weight loss?

  • If he is staying outside, does he have adequate shelter from inclement weather?

  • Are the fences and paddocks in good shape? Will they be visible in the snow?

  • If he has a loafing shed or barn stall, are there loose boards or protruding nails, or any sharp edges?

  • If he will be in a group, where is his place in the pecking order? Is the area large enough to escape being pinned in a corner by a dominant horse?

  • Will the footing be adequate once the snow, rain, sleet, and ice accumulate?

  • Where is the water located and is it warm enough to drink? Have you tested the tank/bucket heater to ensure that it is not conducting electricity through the water? Are the electric cords out of reach of the horse?

These questions are simply a guideline and it is best to do a walkabout of the areas the horse will inhabit.

Wind can place large energy demands on a horse in winter, as can disease. Parasites can cause clinical signs varying from none to weight loss to colic. (Tis the season for bot eggs to appear. For a great picture of bots, see Prudent use of dewormers, per your veterinarian's consultation and pre- and post-deworming fecal testing, should control the internal parasite levels in your particular horse population.

The goal for most horse owners is to keep a horse In good condition through the winter on a diet consisting of mostly hay and/or grain/pelleted rations. This can be accomplished by placing the horse on an adequate nutritional plane, adjusted for his age, use, and body condition. Information on feeds and nutrition is available on several websites, but a good place to start is for articles such as July 1999: Ration Balancing and Dec 1998: Winter Nutrition. And don't forget your veterinarian!

Here's wishing you a mild winter with plentiful hay!

Sylvia Miller

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