Winter will soon be upon us and there are some things that, as horse/pony owners we all need to be aware of.
Acorns – This is a bumper year for acorns which if eaten by horses can cause colic (Stomach Ache). Often signified by sweating, kicking the stomach and in severe cases rolling. If in doubt call your vet as colic is a serious condition that can be fatal. The best and least time-consuming way of dealing with them is to either move fields (if this is an option) or electric fence around the trees branch perimeter allowing for the wind blowing them too. The most time consuming way is to go and pick them up, daily! Acorns should be clear by the beginning of December.
Sycamore – Atypical Myopathy is caused by eating sycamore seedling in the spring and “helicopter” seeds in the autumn. This is a VERY severe and usually fatal poisoning. Visible symptoms are stiff/reluctant to walk, depressed/sedated demeanour, sweating/trembling and racing pulse (average resting pulse is 35 – 45bpm). This is not one to wait before calling a vet. As with acorns, the best way of dealing with these seedlings is to change fields or fence around the trees. Because of the shape of the seeds they can be carried a good distance if it’s windy.
Ragwort – Although the main ragwort season is past, the ones that remain are now dying back. As the plant dies it not only becomes more palatable but more toxic as well. The easiest removal technique is to put on a pair of gloves, and dig them up before burning them.
Laminitis – This year has been a particularly good year for grass growth and has resulted in great number of laminitis cases. There is a grass growth flush in October where the sugar levels in the grass are as high as they are in the spring so it’s worth keeping a continued eye on your pony’s weight and condition. Restricting grazing and keeping the exercise levels up
will help to minimise the risk of developing laminitis which is many cases will need veterinary intervention and a large amount of aftercare. Prevention is easier than cure especially as once they’ve had it, they are likely to be prone to get it again.
Hay/Haylage – Whether your horse/pony lives in or out through the winter they will need extra food in the form of hay or haylage. Hay is available locally and can be fed to most. Some ponies will need to have it damped/soaked if they have a dust allergy to help alleviate the symptoms. Haylage is easily available and whilst in many ways is easier to deal with and less messy is also not suitable to be fed to ponies. Haylage has a much higher sugar level than hay due to when and how it is produced which can in turn not only give ponies LOTS of energy(!) but can also encourage weight gain, laminitis (especially in ponies with Equine Metabolic Syndrome) It also can’t be fed in the same quantities as for the same reasons. Whilst a pony can quite go without food for up to 8hrs it’s not recommended due to the risk of colic and stomach ulcers so if you’re unsure go for hay. Remember to buy the best quality you can. Good hay should smell sweet and fresh NOT musty, damp and dusty. If you want to know suppliers of hay or haylage please do ask.
Water – As with people, horses need constant access to water so if it’s frozen or frosty the water buckets/ drinkers need to have their ice layer broken and removed every day. Don’t forget to insulate pipes so they don’t freeze and then burst.
Shelter/rugs – whilst they don’t need to live in, ponies do need to have some form of shelter out of the elements whether this is a big hedge, tree or man-made shelter. Likewise for rugs, many don’t need to wear a rug but with the weather we are now experiencing it is often useful to have a lightweight rug available. However once you’ve started using a rug you will probably have to continue using it, as the coat is no longer such a good insulator once it’s been flattened and smoothed out by the rug, so the pony will feel the cold more.
If you have any questions about winter care, please don’t hesitate to ask one of us!