As the leaves change from green to yellow-orange-red, autumn makes for an excellent time to ride. Insects are few, footing is great and our horses start to change a little with the seasons too. For the most part, your horse has some pretty cool built-in mechanisms to sustain weather changes, but there are a few considerations to help him or her transition from hot to cool to cold as best as he or she can.
First of all, remember that your horse is going to need more feed when it gets colder – this serves both immediate and long-term reasons. Right after feeding, your horse immediately starts using that energy to warm himself. As for the long term, a little bit of weight gain serves to insulate your horse in the cold. Offering more feed more often serves to meet both of these needs.
Educate yourself on proper blanketing. We humans have a tendency to think that since we’re cold, our horses are cold too. This is rarely the case, especially in the fall. Remember that horses grow their own blankets, and they’ll very often do the warming job just fine.
Keeping a blanket on your horse might cause him to sweat too much. A wet sweaty blanket won’t trap heat, and he’ll shiver and burn important calories meant to keep him warm. For this same reason, remember to cool down and walk with your horse after taking him for exercise to allow sweat to dry.
If you do put a blanket on your horse, take it off regularly to make sure there aren’t any covered-up problems, like weight loss. Slide your hand underneath often to make sure he isn’t sweating underneath it as well.
Talk to your veterinarian or other specialists for their recommendations. Horses in the cold and wet can be subject to more illness, like colic and scratches. Make sure they are up to date on vaccinations, checkups and teeth care.
Remember that your horse might require his own special cold-weather regimen. Body-clipped horses need different blanketing considerations. Aging horses need extra care too.
Lastly, don’t forget to take care of yourself. While your horse is loving a crisp morning trail ride, be sure to layer up and wear comfortable, warm socks and gloves so you can enjoy it too.