From "ALBERTA BITS" - Fall 2015
Other than the obvious task of gettingyour winter hay supply in order, there are several things horse owners can do to prepare their properties and horses for winter
Story by JENN WEBSTER
Autumn is the gateway to the most challenging season in a Canadian year: winter. Hence, it's crucial to begin preparing both your barn and your horses for the chilly weather ahead. Additionally, the cold and wet weather autumn typically sees in the province of Alberta, can sometimes present the most bone-chilling conditions your equine may face throughout the course of the year. One ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of cure, so while the thermometer still boasts plus numbers, now is the time to work away on that to-do list.
Surprisingly enough, now is the time of year to do some planning to promote the longevity of your pastures. Horses are hard on land and pastures grazed too severely in the fall season are more subject to winter damage - plus, a slow start to growth in the spring. If you have the good fortune of space to create "sacrifice areas," you may want to pen your horses there during the wet/rainy days of autumn to prevent their hooves from trampling pasture plants and doing even more damage to heavily saturated places.
Plus, it is often suggested that owners allow a pasture to "rest" prior to the winter season by removing horses when the grass plants still have a good amount of leaf growth on them. Since pasture plants become dormant in winter and no longer have the ability to grow, leaving grasses with some substance to them may help pastures better withstand a winter with horses above.
Autumn is a great time to check the gutters and downspouts of your barn and arena. Ensure they are not clogged up with leaves or debris and make any necessary repairs or replacements to your runoff system, before the snow flies and later subsequently, melts off your roof. Divert rainwater away from paddocks or high traffic areas, thus cutting down on your chore time when mud management is a big concern.
Analyze your barn ventilation. It's a well-known fact that completely enclosed barns with little ventilation have significantly higher particle and ammonia concentrations than open-sided stables. Plus, many Canadian stables must keep doors and windows tightly closed during colder weather.
Fans are a good way to allow for more air exchange, and a proper air exchange should occur four to eight times in an hour during winter. Ventilation that exchanges stale air for fresh air is essential (especially in winter), therefore a barn should have openings on each end of the building. The absence of such air escapes will cause condensation to build up inside the barn and mildew the roof, walls and structure. High levels of humidity can cause the barn to feel cold. Fans throughout a barn might serve to push air around, including heated air. You may also want to scrutinize your barn lighting requirements. If there's a place that has inadequate lighting - especially during the short days of winter - now is the time to bring an electrician out. Put proper ventilation in place and illuminate dark spaces before the freezing temperatures arrive.
Incidences of colic sometimes increase during the fall season, simply due to freezing temperatures affecting automatic waterers. Although colic can be caused by a number of different reasons, ensure your auto-waterers are in good working order before frost hits. On occasion, horses may drink less in cooler temperatures but ensure this doesn't happen because of ice-covered water by checking your waterers carefully each morning after a freeze. Pasture animals are also likely changing over from high moisture content grasses to diets of low moisture dried hay. Prevent colic from happening in autumn by monitoring a horse's water intake and by staying on top of your parasite prevention program. Fecal egg counts and targeted deworming is now the preferred method of choice by most certified veterinarians.
You can additionally help your horse endure the rigors of winter by ensuring his teeth are in good shape. In the winter a horse needs more its body temperatures warm. On that note, some owners may also choose to blanket a horse during the winter season. Although blankets are not necessary for every horse, animals that are malnourished, ill or without a proper natural hair coat may benefit from a blanket. If you do choose to blanket your horse, make sure all blankets and hoods are clean, mended and fit individuals properly. Blanketed horses must also be monitored and groomed regularly to confirm the health of its skin and confirm that the animal is not sweating unnecessarily underneath.