By Dr. Lydia Gray, SmartPak Medical Director/Staff Veterinarian
Horses need care year-round, but special attention during the changing of the seasons can help ease horses into the different environments with their unique challenges, one of those changes is Fall. It’s tempting to be distracted by Halloween and Thanksgiving, but if your horse is coming off a busy summer of lessons and shows, he may need some TLC before winter arrives.
Depending on where you live, pasture may be dwindling as a forage source so it’s probably time to start upping the hay amount. While you’re in the hay barn, make sure you’ve got enough hay and also that it’s not dusty, moldy, or weedy. With green grass declining, it may be time to add back in omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamins E and A, and other nutrients. At the same time, most insect products can probably be discontinued. Consider swapping out electrolytes (to replace minerals lost in sweat) for plain salt (to meet daily sodium needs and promote drinking). If your horse does better on a joint supplement, a hoof supplement, or a digestive supplement, continue to support his systems but be practical and dial things down a notch without stopping altogether if the workload, travel, or other stress begins to lessen. For example, 20 grams of biotin may be sufficient in the off-season instead of 30 grams.
Speaking of workload, fall can be a great time to ride because of cooler temps and fewer bugs! As always, make any changes to your horse’s exercise program gradually, whether you’re adding to the intensity/duration or subtracting from it. So if show season is ending, develop a plan to keep your horse’s joints, muscles and other soft tissues, heart and lungs, and his mind active and engaged.
Nearly every horse needs dewormed in the fall, either because the grazing season is ending OR because it’s just beginning. Either way, fall is a great time to ask your veterinarian to give your horse a once-over for any unsoundness that may have developed, for sharp points on his teeth, for his body condition score and weight going into winter, and other issues. Use this time to chat about what vaccinations your horse might benefit from this time of year, what plants and trees become toxic in the fall, and at what temperature sheets and blankets might be a good idea. Save plenty of time to rake those leaves!