As the leaves change and the air turns crisp, it’s time for us horse owners to start planning for the fall and winter months with our horses. Now, I don’t know about you – but I love fall.
This is my most favorite time of the year. And fall does bring its own set of challenges and opportunities for equine care, just like every other season, right? So let me share with you some tips and hacks to help you get prepared for fall. So let’s go over fall prep for horse owners, shall we?
1. Inspect and Repair Shelter
Before the cooler weather sets in, thoroughly inspect your barn and shelters. Check for leaks, loose boards, and any signs of wear and tear. Make necessary repairs to ensure your horses have a cozy and weatherproof space for sudden changes in temperature, along with precipitation.
My little barn is not what I would love to have, but it’s what I got. So I make sure that everything is in good repair now, before the cold sets in. One thing I did recently add is this light strand. I don’t have electricity in my barn, but having lights helps so much. Especially when I am typically feeding in the dark. This 12-light strand was an affordable choice that I upgraded my former light strand with.
2. Adjust Feeding Regimen
As temperatures drop, horses may require more calories to maintain their body condition and stay warm. Consult your veterinarian regarding adjusting their feeding regimen, ensuring they receive the right amount of nutrients and energy.
For example, for my horses, I increase the amount of beet pulp I give them, and depending on the temperature, I will also increase their hay ration, especially if there is a cold snap on the way.
Fall Prep for Horse Owners
I am lucky that my horses aren’t picky when it comes to food. They will eat any type of hay that I put in front of them. I have been feeding a brome hay. Brome hay is very leafy and does not contain coarse or hard stems. This is good for horses that may have dental issues. The Leaf blades are broad, so, unlike Bermuda or Bahia, brome is unlikely to cause impactions. Brome hay is highly digestible, with relative feed values typically around 90-100 and a good balance of minerals.
I can also feed a little more of it during a cold period without worrying that my horses are getting too much of a good thing. When the weather turns really cold, it’s a good idea to plan for extra hay.
3. Stock Up on Forage
Fall pastures may not provide sufficient forage, so stock up on hay to supplement your horses’ diet. Make sure you have a clean and dry storage area to keep your hay.
And if you can afford to – buy extra hay. If there is one thing I have learned over the years, is that it is better to have more hay than you will need for the winter leading into spring. Because even when spring comes- the grass for the hay still needs to grow and then be processed. So, if you can, stock up on hay. And have a plan of how to stock up on all of your concentrated feed if you can.
4. Blanketing Strategy
If you plan to blanket your horse this winter, you should develop a blanket plan based on your horse’s needs. Some may require lightweight sheets to protect from chill and rain, while others might need heavier blankets for colder nights.
For my horses, I have several different blankets for the different weather that can happen from October through April.
I make sure each blanket is in good repair and ready for use. I keep them hung up and ready to be used. This year, it is a little different because I have a teeny tiny horse and a medium-sized horse to prepare for, making it fun to do a little shopping and buy new blankets.
I love Horseware Blankets. They have all sorts of blankets, and they are sturdy. I’m not sure if Timon has ever worn a blanket before. So, I want to make sure his blanket is tough and can withstand a little horseplay.
Fall Prep for Horse Owners
Keep in mind that not all horses need to be blanketed throughout the winter. As long as they are able to stay dry and out of the wind, most horses do just fine without a blanket. I think it’s also important to mention that if you decide to blanket your horse for the winter, you really need to stay consistent with it for your horse’s sake.
5. Foot Care Focus
Wet fall conditions can lead to muddy paddocks and an increased risk of hoof issues. Regularly clean and inspect your horses’ hooves, and consider using hoof boots to provide extra protection during muddy days.
My favorite hoof pick to use for the fall and winter is this style:
And not all hoof picks are created equal! There are some cheaper versions of this hoof pick, but they are not the same! You have to get this one because of the ‘pick’ itself. It is strong and does not bend, no matter how hard you work. And the brush on the end is fantastic to brush away debris.
6. Pasture Management
Rotate pastures, if you have that ability, and consider using grazing muzzles to prevent overconsumption of fall grass, which can be high in sugars. This helps avoid potential health issues like laminitis.
For my horses and my pasture’s sake, I only turn my horses out for short periods of time. With my pasture being super small, it can’t take the constant feeding if I turn my horses out every day.
I also reseed it in the late fall and early spring to help keep it as full as possible. I have had really good luck with a dryland pasture mix. This stuff works so well, and the grass grows! It is pretty incredible.
7. Emergency Preparedness
Fall can bring unpredictable weather. Create an emergency kit that includes essentials like first aid supplies, flashlights, batteries, and enough feed and water for a few days in case of power outages or other emergencies.
I made a video of my first aid kit and wrote an extensive article sharing everything inside. In my opinion, you can never be too prepared when it comes to horses.
I also have a complete list of everything I keep in my barn first aid kit that I think is really worth a look when you have the time.
8. Winterize Water Sources
Prevent water sources from freezing by installing heated water buckets or using insulated water heaters. Hydration is crucial even in colder months.
Again, from experience, I have learned that when the days start getting shorter, I start getting ready for winter. You never know when a freak snowstorm or an extended cold period could occur. So, when the days start getting shorter and the temperature starts to drop a bit, I plan ahead and have my water tank heater already in place.
Fall Prep for Horse Owners
If I don’t need it, great. But if the weather gets cold and the temperature drops below freezing, I am ready because my tank heater is already in the tank, and all I have to do is plug it in. The floating stock tank heater from Farm Innovators has been incredible for me.
I have it plugged into a really long extension cord that goes to my power source in my feed barn.
I also use the water bucket insulators in their stalls. I finally figured out that I can keep the water ice-free overnight by adding in hot water when I feed in the evening. These bucket insulators really do work when used correctly. The High Country Plastics Bucket Insulator is not cheap. But it is sturdy, and it lasts. It also is a great way to keep a water bucket in your horse’s stall.
Another thing I like to do is to make sure they are getting a little extra water by adding water to their pelleted feed. Sure, it adds a little time to get their meals ready. But to me, it’s really worth it to make sure they are getting the water they need – especially in the wintertime when they may not drink as much as they need.
9. Health Check-Up
Fall is an excellent time to make sure your horse is up to date on his vaccinations and a check-up from your vet. This is a great time to talk to your vet about your horse’s weight and any recommendations they may have to help keep the weight on over the winter months. Schedule a fall veterinary check-up to address any health concerns before winter arrives. This is also an ideal time for dental exams and vaccinations.
10. Grooming for Comfort
Regular grooming sessions help maintain healthy coats and skin. And in the fall, your horse’s coat will probably get longer as his body prepares him for the cold that will be coming.
Did you know that horses actually start getting ready for winter in the summertime by prepping their winter coat? Kind of cool huh? I am not sure how much of a winter coat Timon is going to get. Today is October 1st, and Pumbaa has a pretty solid fluff going on. Timon, on the other hand…
Which will be nice for winter riding for sure. But I hope he will be able to stay warm this winter. Who knows, maybe he will get fuzzier as the days continue to shorten.
I have several grooming kits in my barn for my horses, and the winter kit includes tools that make it easier to manage the longer hair of the season. I still have my posture prep curry in there ( I love this thing), a few stiff-bristled brushes, and some Shapley’s light oil. The light oil is wonderful to help prevent the static from building up on my horses because I have never seen a horse that likes to get a zap from static!
11. Planning for Snow with Barriers
If you live in an area that gets a lot of wind and snow, you may want to think about putting up a barrier for your horses.
I discovered this trick a few years ago after dealing with back-to-back blizzards. I bought some privacy screens and attached them to the coral panels for my horses’ outdoor pens. They really do help to decrease the wind and the snow from piling up in their pens and even their stalls.
I don’t have the luxury of having fully enclosed stalls for my horses, but these privacy panels seem to help control how much snow comes into their stalls.
And by putting up the privacy panels now, I don’t have to do it when the temperatures drop and the wind is already kicking up.
Then, when the days start getting longer and warmer, I can remove the privacy screens, fold them up, and put them back on a shelf in my tack room. This will be the third year I have used this same set of screens, and they have held up better than anything I have ever tried before.
12. Invest in Gloves
This should really be number one. Find a good pair of gloves to use during the colder weather. I cannot stress this enough.
I cannot even count how many pairs of gloves I have owned over the years having horses. And I have yet to find a pair that will last for years. Right now, I am wearing Wells Lamont women’s 7808 Winter Gloves, and they seem to be pretty good. They are warm and tough. They are also a lot more affordable than true ‘equestrian’ barn gloves.
I got mine in a size larger than I typically wear, so I can add a second layer if it is below zero. But so far, these gloves have been great for wearing. And I still feel like I have a good grip and control of whatever it is I am doing while wearing them.
Fall Prep for Horse Owners
Fall is a season of change, and by implementing these tips, you can ensure a seamless transition for you and your equine companions. From adjusting feeding regimens to safeguarding shelters and managing pastures, these strategies will help you prepare for the unique challenges that fall brings. With careful planning and attention to detail, you’ll create a comfortable and nurturing environment supporting your horses’ well-being throughout autumn and well into the winter!