Common Autumn Equine Health Challenges

Horse at sunst

Fall is a beautiful and pleasant time of the year and there is so much that you can enjoy with your horse. Take your horse for a trail ride surrounded by the changing leaves and the sights of fall. Take advantage of the cooling temperatures, spend some more time outside with your horse and reward them with a sweet pumpkin treat. Along with a change in season, it is important to keep an eye on your horse’s health as new challenges appear. Keep reading to learn about some common autumn equine health challenges that you should watch for this season. 

Horse in pasture

Pastoral changes - During the late summer and early growing season of fall, pastures experience a growth spike caused by increased rain. Warm days followed by cool nights and increased moisture in the air caused pasture growth that was suppressed by the hot summer days. This increase in fresh, sweetgrass is a horse’s dream and makes them want to graze more than they did in the summer. This could cause over-eating and rapid weight gain as well as insulin spikes with the increased sugar in the grass. This can also be detrimental to your pasture and harder to sustain throughout the fall growing season. In order to combat this, try cutting back your pasture grasses to a height that won’t overfeed your horse and assist in maintaining the pasture throughout the season. Cutting back will also eliminate toxic weeds. 

Increase in bugs and bacteria - Bacteria and other insects thrive in moist, muddy areas and the increased rainfall at the beginning of the fall growing season means these areas are plentiful. Bacteria, flies, and mosquitos could live in these kinds of areas in your pasture and get to your horse and make them sick. Mosquitoes like to hang out in drinking troughs and puddles created by the increased rainfall, especially around gate entrances that rapidly get soggy and muddy. Try closing off areas that puddle with rainfall and constantly clean and check your troughs for mosquitos. Use Equine Medical’s RK Topic Spray to repel these mosquitoes, ticks, flies, gnats, and other pesky insects. 

Fall leaves

Ingestion of dried or wilted leaves - Although it can be beautiful to watch the leaves change and drop from the trees in the fall, these fallen leaves could be toxic for your horse. Ingestion of dried or wilted maple leaves has been connected with toxicosis in horses. Toxicosis symptoms include depression, anorexia, and discolored urine. If you are taking your horse on a trail ride that you are not familiar with, try to keep them from eating unknown leaves as a precaution. 

Increased risk of colic - As temperatures get cooler your horse may be spending less time outside and experience an irregular work schedule compared to what they were used to in the summer. A decrease in exercise and motion can cause a horse’s gastrointestinal tract to slow and increase its risk of colic. Water consumption also decreases in the winter as the horses do not feel the need for more water without the hot weather. Frozen water buckets and troughs also discourage horses from drinking water. Make sure that your horse is getting enough exercise, even in the colder weather, and consider adding warm water to their drinking water once a day to encourage drinking. 

Horse running through the mud

Mud Fever - This issue is more common in the autumn and the winter months because your horse’s legs are likely to be wet for longer periods of time. Signs of mud fever could be irritation and dermatitis in the lower limbs of the horse. Similar to protecting your horse against bacteria, consider closing off areas of your pasture that puddle after a lot of rain and avoid excessive washing of your horse’s legs. When you do wash their legs, use cold water and be sure to dry thoroughly. If you notice your horse’s limbs are swollen, hot, or appear to be painful, see your vet to get them checked out. 

Horse grazing in pasture

Seasonal Pasture Myopathy - This health complication is caused by the consumption of sycamore seeds. As the fall rolls in and sycamore trees begin to drop their seeds, keep an eye out for them in your pasture. Also, keep an eye on your horse when taking them on a trail with lots of trees and make sure they do not consume any sycamore seeds along the way. If ingested by your horse you may notice muscle weakness, fatigue, colic symptoms, and trembling. Call your vet if you notice any of these. 

Fall laminitis - The final health complication is one of the most common among horses in the fall. Laminitis is caused by the consumption of the fresh, sweeter grass that your horse eats during the fall. Increased rainfall makes this grass sweeter which leads to more grazing for your horse and the possibility of overeating. The increased sugar could also cause an insulin spike and laminitis. Look out for hoof inflammation and discomfort in your horse and consider taking insulin-controlling supplements. Try Equine Medical’s Heiro for insulin-resistant horses to get them back on track! You should also monitor your horse’s weight to track any spike in weight gain and keep your horse moving and active. 

Fall can be a fun season for you and your horse and also a season of prep for the winter months. Consistently monitor your horse’s health throughout the fall to check for any of the above issues. Check out Equine’s website for healthy supplements for all kinds of horses and for help with all kinds of problems. Check out some of our products here