Some Autumn Checks
- Has winter housing been cleaned and disinfected (with virucidal, fungicidal, bactericidal disinfectant)?
- Are the guttering, downpipes, and drains functioning as they should – clean and without leaks?
- Have underground tanks been emptied?
- Is the manure pit clean and ready for the winter or must additional capacity be provided?
- Check housing for drafts. Horses require good ventilation, not drafts.
- Has the feed room been cleaned and rodent proofed?
- Is there adequate forage in store until springtime, with some in reserve should return to grazing be delayed. It may also be prudent to stock up on bedding.
- Are all lights working and any electrical cabling checked for signs of fraying, corrosion or rodent damage; and any fire extinguishers checked
- House pregnant mares in a separate airspace to young stock or competition stock or stock that mix or have recently mixed with other horses off the farm
- Ensure all water drinkers are working effectively and clean.
- Keep a well-stocked first aid kit on hand
- Schedule annual check of teeth to ensure maximum value from feeding regime and with youngsters being started in their ‘breaking/training’ programme ensure these have maximum comfort when ‘bitting’ by having any wolf teeth or sharp edges addressed beforehand.
- Schedule a check and trim of feet, particularly stock at pasture for the summer. Appraise the condition of the hooves and feet - dry conditions can dehydrate hooves, while excessive mud can cause mud fever, thrush, abscesses/ stone bruises, and other problems. Stay on the lookout for these problems as winter grows nearer and discuss with the farrier. Some horses can benefit from the application of barrier creams before turnout; and washing and drying off of lower limbs when returning to stables, particularly those with white feet/limbs.
- Pasture parasite loads tend to increase with autumn’s shorter, more thoroughly grazed paddocks; give attention to rotation of paddocks and removal of dung; where possible graze paddocks with sheep before closing for the winter; Undertake faecal egg count tests , consult with the vet regarding results and the most appropriate treatment plan Read more
- Schedule annual vaccinations flu/tetanus; and discuss other possible vaccination requirements with the vet i.e. Equine Herpes Virus for pregnant broodmares 5th , 7th and 9th months of pregnancy; Rotavirus 8th, 9th, and 10th months of pregnancy; also a good time for a general health review when the vet is on site. Read more
- Be cautious and monitor for laminitis attacks in stock that are susceptible to laminitis as autumn precipitation can increase the sugar content of grass making it too lush for laminitis prone horses or ponies (obese/ have Cushing’s disease/ had a laminitis attack in the past, for example). Control access to grazing/ use a grazing muzzle if concerned. Equally remain vigilant for EMS
- Stay alert for sycamore seed poisoning. Equines that develop Atypical Myoglobinuria are usually kept on sparse pastures with an accumulation of dead leaves, dead wood, and trees in or around the pastures. In cases where the trees can’t be removed, it is recommended decreasing turnout time on affected pastures from October through mid-December and in the early spring. Remember that even paddocks free of sycamore trees may still be at risk from seeds being blown on to the pasture. Read more
- Autumn can be a good time to geld colts with cooler temperatures and fewer flies making recovery easier and reducing the likelihood of infection.
- Know the Signs of Colic, the #1 cause of death in horses (aside from old age). Many cases of colic occur in autumn and winter. Often, changing management practices are to blame. Make any diet changes very slowly to avoid upsetting the horse’s sensitive digestive system, and always have water available.
Broodmares and Young Stock
- Can be a good time to schedule a soundness and health check review of any youngstock that are to remain on the farm; where the plan is to invest in a youngsters education/competition development are you making a fully informed decision?
- Where a mare remains barren these mares warrant further investigations with the vet to ascertain why and set them up for next season.
- Review all mares in the herd and decide if all should stay or one / some should go. Costs of production are increasing. Are you happy with the quality of offspring produced to date? Can you afford to keep all mares in the herd? Are you producing what the market wants?
- Autumn is also a time for weaning foals from their dams. Ensure that foals are handled before weaning, accustomed to hard feed, and in a safe environment for weaning with good observation of both foals and mares afterwards to monitor for any signs of ill health as a result of stress; and for signs of mastitis in the mare.
Reassess Nutrition Requirements
- Weigh (or use a weigh tape) and condition score all horses (weight also required pre anthelmintic/wormer use)
- Make any changes to diet gradually, including the change from fully at pasture to housed to help prevent stress and conditions like colic.
- Pregnant mares shouldn’t need additional feeding just yet, but plan ahead for the final trimester of their pregnancy and talk to the vet / an equine nutritionist about the suitability of her feeding programme
- Youngstock are growing and should be given suitable hard feed/ balancer (discuss with vet/ nutritionist if unsure).
- If winding down the exercise regime coming into the autumn/winter after an active summer adjust hard feed dietary intake accordingly and provide increased forage.
- Have you analysed the forage that is being provided to ensure an appropriately balanced diet?
Even if horses on the farm are not usually rugged, it is a good idea to have a rug or two to hand in case an animal becomes ill for example. Where rugs are regularly used:
- Have rugs been cleaned and checked for holes, rips, or tears? Either replace, patch or mend rugs, checking also for broken buckles, straps or signs of excessive wear.
- Double check fit of rugs, especially if a horse has lost or gained weight.
- Caution the use of rugs on broodmares, particularly those due early in 2023 as if they start foaling unassisted a foal can smother if caught up in a rug.
- Any stock wearing rugs must be checked daily; and rugs removed regularly to check body condition or development of any sores underneath the rug