A full fecal check is a good preventative measure to take. With cold weather coming, your horse will be shifting from mostly being outside to more hours indoors in a stall. Even with frequent stall cleanings, parasites can build up. An appropriate deworming done before winter will help cut down on parasites. It is unrealistic to try and remove all parasites from your horse. Your goal is to keep the numbers down so that your horse has some immunity but is not losing nutrients. A qualitative fecal examination will show what types of parasites are present in your horse. This will guide you as to what type of horse deworming product to use for the parasites that are present.
In addition, it is a good idea to consider a quantitative fecal count. This fecal exam looks at the overall numbers of parasites present. Some horses naturally throw off parasites using their own immune system. These horses need less frequent treatments than horses that tend to have a large number of parasites.
Be aware that there are some equine internal parasites that don’t show up in fecal exams. Bots are one example. These fly larvae hatch from eggs laid on your horse’s legs, mane and neck areas, as well as by the muzzle in some species. If you have seen bot eggs on your horse, be sure to choose a dewormer that will kill these parasites.
Next, take an objective look at your horse’s weight and body condition. If your horse is thin heading into the winter months, you may need to do a hay analysis. You can then balance the rations around the hay. Look into supplements that will complement the primary diet. If your horse is overweight, you will also need to make adjustments. Look into cutting back on rich and high calorie parts of the diet – generally grain products.
If your horse will be outside in the bad weather, you may want to look into protective outerwear, especially if you plan to ride over the winter. Some horse blankets are only designed for inside wear during cold days and nights. Others are meant to be worn outside and will help to keep your horse warm and dry. Check that all your horse’s equipment is clean, any rips are repaired and buckles and snaps are in good working order.
While the weather is still reasonable, this is also a good time to do a thorough cleaning of your horse’s stall and buckets. Don’t forget to clean grooming equipment such as brushes and curry combs. Do a careful inspection of the stall to check that windows are intact, any drafts covered, and that there are safe ways to hang buckets and hay nets. With some preparation, you and your horse can head into the late fall and winter months fully prepared for any challenges ahead.