With Autumn now upon us and the nights are drawing in, make sure you and your horse are ready for the colder months with our seasonal guide.
Teach your horse in the stable
If it is dark then why not try practising your horse’s reactions to your commands and touch in the stable. Does he move away from the door when you ask him to? Can you ask him to move over so that you can get around the side? Does he back up when you ask? These are all things you can practice in the stable and if you can teach your horse to react to a voice command then it is often easier to teach them to move when you are on too e.g. for gates!
Spend extra time giving him a really good groom
As he is losing the summer coat and growing a long thick one he will appreciate this. If your horse is clipped and/or rugged up then this is even more important as he won’t be able to access his itchy bits so well! It is often more difficult to spot new lumps, bumps and wounds in the darker months so spending a bit more time checking is a good idea. It will give you a chance to improve your relationship too.
Look back on the year
Look back on the year and think about what went well and what you would like to improve. This might be your jumping, your dressage or your horses reaction to plastic bags. Then you can make a plan for the coming weeks to tackle these. You can make sure that the more limited opportunities to ride are useful and that you achieve something. You can practise things in the stable too e.g. voice commands or getting your horse used to plastic bags.
Wash summer rugs and fly sheets
If you get these done hopefully you will catch a good day to hang them outside to dry. If they need fixing then get that sorted so when you get them out next spring/summer they are all ready to go!
Try some indoor shows
There are lots on around the country over the autumn / winter. If it is your first time jumping indoors you might want to try smaller classes to start with as there is generally less space than when jumping outdoors. The great advantage is that the going is usually pretty good and you don’t have to worry about hard ground or slippery surfaces.
Jobs you can do for your horse this Autumn
Putting hardcore down in gateways before the winter will help these areas stay compact, and prevent them from becoming too muddy and slippery.
If you didn’t get your winter rugs cleaned and repaired in the spring, now is the time to do it. Or if you need new rugs, it’s time to go shopping!
Get your clippers serviced and the blades sharpened by a specialist so you are ready to tackle those winter woollies.
Autumn is the ideal time to test and treat horses for tapeworm, while vets recommend all horses should be wormed for encysted small redworm during November / December. So now is the time to get organised and order your worming supplies, checking that the active ingredients are the right ones for the types of worms you are targeting.
Choose bedding wisely if your horse is to be stabled in the coming colder months. If your horse suffers from respiratory problems consider using a dust-free bedding combined with rubber matting. You may find you can save yourself money by buying in bulk.
If your horse is overweight the next few months is the ideal time to slim him down, or if he is inclined to lose weight now is the time to start thinking about his autumn / winter feeding regime before any weight loss occurs. Remember that good quality forage is important before turning to cereal feeds. Feeding oil will also help maintain condition.
Mud fever can start in autumn if conditions are wet and muddy. Avoid long periods of exposure to these conditions, as bacteria from the soil can enter the horse’s body through damaged skin or cuts.
Check if your horse’s vaccinations are due. It’s easy to allow them to slip and costly if you have to restart the full course. Consult your vet if you are unsure what vaccinations your horse needs.
Get your vet or equine dental technician to check your horse’s teeth before winter, to ensure they are able to make the most of their feed. This is particularly important for youngsters and older horses.
Laminitis is most commonly associated with spring grass, but cool nights lead to an increased accumulation of sugars in grass. If you own a laminitis-prone horse consider whether you need to restrict their grass intake.
Clean your fly sheets and masks and store them ready for use in the spring. Bring all your fly sprays, shampoos and other liquids indoors to prevent freezing and thawing, which may make them less effective.
‘Winterise’ your yard
After the ground has frozen you won’t be able to sink new fence posts, so make sure they are all secure now. Check gutters and downpipes are in good condition and clear of debris. Insulate your pipes and unhook hoses when not in use, especially during the night when it may drop below freezing.
If your horse works up a sweat while being ridden, have a wool or fleece cooler to hand to throw over him while he’s cooling down to prevent him from becoming chilled.
If you live in an area where deer stalking or shooting may occur, it is best to avoid riding out at peak times. Outfit yourself and your horse in bright colours or talk to your fellow riders to make sure you can be seen and heard.
(Article source: Horse and Hound)