Autumn Considerations for Horses
It seems we’re always more than ready to welcome each new change of season. This past summer wasn’t bad—I think we only had one or two one hundred degree days here in NE Oklahoma—but nonetheless, I’m happy to see the first signs of fall finally making their appearance. The grass is changing, and I’m getting ready to transfer my horses to their “winter” pasture. It’ll be the first year we’ve made this transition without Kady, which makes me sad, but the rest of my small herd seem to be doing well.
I’m already feeding some hay to make up for nutrient losses in the grass, and soon, I’ll be increasing that amount. But as we all adjust to autumn, I thought I’d share a few things to consider when it comes to our equine friends.
1.) This is the time of year when some horses (especially older ones) will start to “fall off” or lose body condition. If you haven’t already, increase the amount of good-quality forage first, and concentrates second. Hershey’s always been on the thinner side, but at 25, he doesn’t utilize forage like he once did. I now have to rely on senior feed to get him through the winters.
2.) Have your horse’s teeth checked. Since hay is a little tougher to chew than grass, it’s important to get this done before you can no longer rely on pasture for forage needs.
3.) As I noted above, grass is already losing nutrients in many climates. Start increasing the amount of hay slowly, which will give your horses’ digestive systems a chance to adjust before they are solely relying on hay for forage.
4.) It’s a good do fecal egg counts in the fall, and deworm medium/high shedders after the first hard freeze. Whatever deworming method you choose, do a repeat FEC two weeks after deworming to make sure it was effective.
5.) Prepare for colder weather ahead. Make sure your shelter/barn is up to snuff, you have a method for warming frozen water (personally, I love the heated buckets), and plenty of hay.
6.) Add Omega-3’s (like ground flaxseed or chia seeds) and Vitamin E to your horse’s diet, especially if he’s not on a complete feed or supplement. These are two supplements that hay won’t provide. Adding Vitamin C for older horses is also a good idea.
7.) If you have a variety of trees in your pasture, two to be aware of in autumn, especially, are persimmons and red maple trees. Ripe persimmon fruits fall to the ground this time of year, and if your horse ingests too many, it could cause serious and possibly fatal digestive issues. Fallen or wilted maple leaves are toxic to horses and can also be deadly.
8.) If you can’t rotate pastures, consider creating a track system or sacrifice area to keep your horses on throughout the coming winter and early spring. By keeping horses off grass for a period of time (especially during the wet, cold seasons), this will help maintain the overall health of your pasture.
Wishing you and your horses a happy autumn season!