If you are responsible for looking after a number of horses and making sure that they have an adequate amount of food and shelter throughout each season, you should take additional precautions when the weather starts to turn colder. If you live in a part of the country that is particularly vulnerable to frost, then you may need to take action when the first frost of the winter arrives, as it can have a detrimental effect on the quality of their grazing pasture. What can go wrong here and what should you do?
When Grass Can Be Dangerous – and What to Do
When a sharp frost hits and the temperature goes beyond the freezing point for several hours, this can adversely affect the very nature of the grass. It can lead to a higher concentration of a nonstructural carbohydrate, and in certain horses, this can mean the outbreak of illness such as colic, especially if they happen to suffer from metabolic syndrome.
Can You Trust the Conditions?
While horses would be housed under cover during such a cold event, it is not uncommon for the owner to turn them back out as the temperature starts to rise again. However, it's best to leave them inside for seven days or more before the coast is really clear.
Moving Over to Stock Feed
Furthermore, horses should be taken away from pasture altogether if the grass has begun to hibernate, and they may need to be housed in a dry lot from then on. You will need to decide when to transition these horses over to stock feed, rather than relying on hay, and should take advice from your vet or nutritionist to make sure.
Be Careful with Maple Trees
You also need to keep them away from maple trees once they start to lose their leaves, as decomposing leaves can be toxic when ingested. Some horses may suffer from cell damage if they eat a lot of these wilted maple leaves, and this can have serious repercussions if you're not careful. In fact, this can lead to loss of weight, lethargy, depression and, in the worst-case scenario, difficulties with breathing and even death.
Are You Ready for That Frost?
Make sure that you keep a close eye on all of your horses during this crucial time of year and stock up on your feed right now, so you are well prepared.