As summer begins to fade and fall emerges, the weather can change from hot to cold or cold to hot quickly, then switch back again. Such weather swings can make horse management a little challenging. Here are some tips and reminders to help keep everyone healthy and happy.
Here are four key areas to monitor and manage:
Keeping your horse properly hydrated is key to his health. Besides clean and fresh water. stay aware of the temperature of your horse’s water; too warm or too cold may discourage your horse from drinking. If you suspect your horse is not drinking enough water, try a little apple juice or Gatorade in a small bucket of water. It is not a bad idea to test out different additives that your horse likes in his water before you are trying to get him to drink more water. While on the subject of water, is your horse urinating more than usual or less than usual? If there is a change in his urination ‘habits,’ contact your veterinarian immediately.
Pasture changes with the season: quality, texture and quantity. Horses need forage for their digestive systems and to manage their internal temperature. For horses that get the majority of their forage from pasture, the seasonal differences, coupled with the weather, make pasture inconsistent. Gradually supplementing with more hay/forage before the pasture starts to ‘drop off’ will help your horse’s digestive system ease into the changes. Older horses and ‘hard keepers’ may need to begin that transition even earlier.
The forage content is essential with regard to the amount of protein it contains; higher protein feeds generate more heat in your horse when he consumes and digests it. So, in the higher weather temperatures, you may need to decrease the amount of protein in your horse’s feed and increase it in the cold. Again, transitioning slowly with the changing seasons is recommended. And, if the weather is making drastic changes, you may be able to help your horse handle the differences more easily with subtle feed adjustments by changing the ratios of feeds he is already getting. For example, on an unexpectedly hot day perhaps feed a bit less of his alfalfa hay and more of his orchard grass hay, or find that bale with a bit less alfalfa in it.
Access to shelter helps when the outside temperatures are high, providing shade and lower temperatures, and providing a wind block. For horses that live outside full time or part-time, a run-in shed, stall, or a heavily treed area will allow them to go where they are most comfortable. Airflow is essential with your horse’s shelter environment; your horse needs fresh air for his health. Avoid the urge to blanket when the weather is going to swing heavily. On those really chilly nights with really warm days, if you cannot be there to pull the blanket before the temperatures rise, then just do not blanket. Overheating from the blanket with warm or hot outside temperatures can cause your horse to colic or suffer from a heat issue.
When the temperature outside drops suddenly, there is no better way to warm your horse up than grooming. Currying stimulates your horse’s skin and gets things circulating. Your horse warms up, and you get a great arm workout! Win-Win!
Rinsing or bathing to cool your horses is effective IF you scrape the water off your horse. Even cold water on a hot horse will heat up when it makes contact with his hot skin and not cool him. Hosing (or sponging) and scraping, hosing and scraping, etc. is the method, not just hosing and leave. For a particularly hot horse, perhaps one that is overheating, cold hosing the jugular area and up beneath his back legs can help lower his body temperature. Again, it is essential to scrape the water off as you are hosing. And before you need to know, take your horse’s temperature so that you know what is normal for him. A horse’s normal body temperature can range from 99-101 F; 37.2-38.3 C; what is your horse’s normal body temperature?
If you clip your horse, clipping him when the weather is on a warming trend can help him adjust more easily. When you cannot do that, be sure to have natural fiber or high-tech fiber blanketing options available if the temperature drops. Natural fibers like wool and high-tech fiber blankets will wick the moisture away from your horse’s coat and allow air to circulate. Blankets made from materials like poly-fibers do not breath well and hold in heat like in a plastic box.
Are travels on your schedule? Travel north to south, south to north, or wherever your journey takes you – check the weather forecast and start the transition for your horse well before you depart. Is it colder where you are going? Or is it warmer? Go back through the various areas of horse management that you can use to help your horse travel and adjust well.
With these weather transitioning times of the year, you may be dealing with summer and winter skin issues at the same time. Have Banixx on hand! No need for different products for different areas of your horse. Banixx products are anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, so a solution you can use all over your horse for wounds, fungus, rain rot, thrush, white line disease, sweet itch, abrasions, and more!
Knowing your horse’s ‘normal’ body temperature and habits, along with your learning how to get him to drink more water, are measures you can take to keep your horse more healthy and reduce the risks of colic. Lessening the effects of weather and temperature swings are key to helping your horse stay happy and healthy so you can enjoy your time with him. Happy riding & happy horses!