Getting Ready for Autumn – Ten Top Tips for Horse Owners
We may be enjoying an Indian summer but autumn and winter are just around the corner. It’s the ideal time to get ready for the changing seasons, as the good weather makes all the tasks that much easier. Completing a few simple jobs now will ensure you and your horse enjoy autumn that much more!
- Prepare your fields
Your fields tend to get a battering as autumn turns to winter, but some careful planning now will see them staying in good condition.
- Now is the last opportunity to have the hedges cut, leaving them tidy until spring.
- Put down plenty of hardcore in gate ways and around areas where horses congregate, such as the water trough, hay racks and shelter. This will stop the mud from taking over.
- Check your shelter is in good condition.
- Clean out your watering system and ensure it is working well.
- Mend any broken fencing.
- Deal with any poisonous plants.
- If you have an oak tree in your field, now is the time to fence it off before the acorns fall to the ground. These are poisonous, and also very tasty to horses, so it is important to to block their access.
- If your grass is looking a little stemmy, consider having it topped so the fresh grass has a chance to grow. There is a second flush of growth during September.
- If possible, rest a portion of your grazing in preparation for winter.
- Be careful with horses prone to laminitis at this timeof year, as the grass is still growing well, and the fructans are higher due to cool nights and warm days.
- Muck heap
- Clear your old muck heap out – it should be nicely rotted by now. Make sure any drainage is clear, and it is in good condition for the new muck heap.
- Treat according to your annual worming programme but ensure you worm for tapeworm at this time of year.
- Don’t be tempted to rug too early, as research has shown that this interferes with the horse’s inbuilt thermo-regulation system. Horses cope well with the cold and sometimes human interference can cause additional problems later on. However, do make sure they have access to plenty of good shelter, so they can choose to take cover.
- If you have not done so already, check your rugs and get them washed, mended and waterproofed in preparation for inclement weather to come.
- Unless your horse suffers from a condition that causes them to have a long coat, such as Cushings, don’t clip until their new winter cost has completely grown through. Clipping too early will interfere with their natural coat development.
- Have your clippers serviced and clipper blades sharpened in readiness.
- Give your horse an MOT
- Your horse’s routine is likely to change as daylight decreases, so take the opportunity to give him a full MOT. Have his teeth and back checked, and ensure his vaccinations are up to date
- Property maintenance
- Do all those little tasks around the yard that you have been putting off.
- Lag any water taps to keep them working well in freezing weather.
- Get some bagged salt in ready to thaw about frozen patches.
- Clean out and disinfect the stables.
- Clean out gutters and drainage.
- If you have plenty of storage room, consider buying bedding in bulk – it’s much cheaper this way.
- Shop around and find the most cost effective feed merchants.
- Make sure you have a good hay or haylage supplier – have a look at the forage and book a certain amount with your supplier to see you through the autumn and winter.
- Make any changes to your horse’s diet gradually and be careful not to overfeed.
- Tack and equipment
- Have you tack checked and mend if required
- Check your mucking out equipment – make sure you mend any punctures in wheelbarrows and have a decent yard brush ready.
- Winter wardrobe
- Make sure you have a good pair of wellies, decent yard coat and warm gloves ready!
Autumn is a beautiful time of year, and with plenty of competitions still running, make the most of the season with your horse. Remember though that winter is on its’ way and use your time wisely now to prepare.
Do you have any extra tips to add? As usual, we would love to hear from you!