PRE­PAR­ING OLD HORSES FOR WIN­TER

EQUUS - - Eq Handson -

Cold weather may still be weeks away, but now’s the time to look ahead and pre­dict how your older horse might fare through the sea­son. Here are the key points to con­sider:

• His weight. An older horse may have trou­ble hold­ing his weight dur­ing cold weather. If he’s on the thin side al­ready, now’s the time to up his ra­tion---start­ing by adding for­age first ---to en­sure he goes into win­ter in a healthy con­di­tion.

• His teeth. Di­gest­ing for­age helps a horse stay warm dur­ing the win­ter months, but an older horse who can’t suf­fi­ciently chew hay won’t get that ben­e­fit and may be more prone to choke0. If he hasn’t had one re­cently, sched­ule a den­tal checkup for your horse to ad­dress any is­sues now.

• His par­a­site bur­den. A fe­cal0 egg count be­fore win­ter ar­rives is a good idea to check that your de­worm­ing pro­gram worked well through the sum­mer. In cold cli­mates, par­a­sites are not ac­tive over the win­ter months, so you will likely be able to take a break from mon­i­tor­ing or treat­ment. In milder cli­mates, how­ever, you’ll want to stay vig­i­lant against par­a­sites through­out the sea­son. Your vet­eri­nar­ian can help you de­vise a plan based on your horse’s needs and en­vi­ron­ment.

• His mo­bil­ity. Colder weather can make sore, arthritic0 joints that much more achy. An older horse might move slowly or even have trou­ble ris­ing dur­ing the cold months. If your horse has a his­tory of arthri­tis and isn’t on a joint sup­ple­ment al­ready, now might

be the time to start him on one. If you think he needs more help stay­ing mo­bile, talk to your vet­eri­nar­ian about try­ing in­jec­tions of hyaluronic­0 acid or poly­sul­fated0 gly­cosamino­gly­cans in trou­ble­some joints.

• His hooves. Win­ter is not the ideal time to ad­dress se­ri­ous hoof is­sues. Not only do hooves grow more slowly in the colder months---mean­ing it will take longer to make any ad­just­ments in their shape or an­gle---but frozen foot­ing, mud, ice and snow present ex­tra chal­lenges to hoof health. Have a chat with your far­rier about what you can do now to send your horse into win­ter on solid, healthy hooves.

BE­FORE THE SNOW FLIES: Au­tumn is the time to pre­pare your aged horse for the chal­lenges of cold weather.

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