Before winter comes, make sure your older horses are ready for the cold season. Here is a checklist for any horse over 15 years old:
- Establish a healthy body weight. Your horse will need to burn extra calories to stay warm when the temperature drops, so make sure that he has sufficient fat reserves, but be careful he does not become overweight. If your horse is slightly underweight, talk to our veterinarians for safe ways to add calories to his diet.
- Have the teeth checked. A horse needs to be able to chew properly to benefit from all the nutrients his feed can supply. The ability to chew hay is particularly important in winter because fiber provides a metabolic “slow burn,” which will help keep him warm. If an older horse’s teeth have not been examined within the past six months, give us a call to set up an appointment now so they can check your horse’s teeth.
- Address arthritis. With an aging horse, a touch of arthritis is likely to feel sore as the temperature drops. Arthritis can make it very difficult for your horse to access hay and water. If your have a horse that is slightly arthritic and is not on a daily joint supplement, talk to one of our veterinarians to see what would be a good joint supplement for your horse.
- Ensure vaccinations are up-to-date. Research suggests that the immune system needs extra support as a horse ages and they do not develop immunity. Horses typically live in closer quarters during the winter, which increase the risk of spreading influenza or other contagious illnesses.
- Keep an eye on the turnout area. Make sure that the footing is going to be ok even when the weather is bad. If the footing is deep, slick, or has an extreme slope, it may be too hard on some older horses, especially when you add some rain, ice, or snow. Also make sure you provide enough shelter for them to get out of wind and precipitation.
If you have any questions regarding this or any other issues your horse may be having, please contact our office at 505-869-2627.