Winter time can bring up a number of niggles with his health. Vet Charlotte Fenn BVetMed MRCVS from Tyrrells Equine Clinic shares how you can tackle three of the most common: thrush, coughing and stiffness.
Protect him against thrush
To tackle thrush, it’s essential to keep your horse in an environment that’s as clean and dry as possible. Standing for long periods of time in wet bedding or being turned out in constantly wet pastures can lead to thrush, as it provides the perfect environment for the thrush-causing bacteria to take hold.
Using paper or shavings as bedding may benefit your horse if he’s prone to thrush, as well as making sure his stable is cleaned daily. If he has to be stood in for periods, banking the sides of the bed to allow him to stand on clean, dry concrete for a few hours may help.
If your horse is turned out, try and keep him in pastures that are reasonably well drained or sectioning off any areas of the field that are very muddy and that he’s likely to stand in i.e. around gates.
Good foo trimming and shoeing is also essential in reducing the incidence, as is daily picking out and cleaning of the feet.
Stop winter coughs
Winter is a common time for horses to develop a cough as they spend more time in their stables rather than being in the fresh air. The most likely reason for your horse to regularly develop a cough during the winter is an inflammatory airway condition, caused by dust particles in his environment or spores in hay getting into his lungs.
> Ease his coughs and splutters
There are many things you can do to help reduce his cough, including soaking hay and feeding it from the floor to allow drainage or any mucus build-up.
Also, make sure your stable is as ventilated as possible and remove as many cobwebs from the ceiling as you can. Using rubber matting and low-dust bedding rather than straw can also help.
Along with environmental causes, if your horse is stabled in a barn with multiple horses, they’re sharing the same air space for longer periods of time. In this instance, it’s easier for bacterial or viral particles to spread between coughing horses that are stabled for a large part of the day.
Keeping your horse’s joints active
Arthritis is a common diagnosis, and cold weather or standing in his stable for longer can make him stiffer. It means that chronic inflammation within one or multiple joints has caused damage to the cartilage lining. There are various treatment options that may be suited to your horse, depending on the degree of damage present. Your vet can advise you on the most appropriate options, which may include injecting medication directly into the joints, possibly alongside the use of oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS).
Supplements including glucosamine and chondroitin may also be beneficial and there are many things you can do at home in your general management that’ll help your horse live comfortably with arthritis for years.
> Everyday management tips
Keeping him moving is essential, so continue riding if possible. Little and often is ideal, as it turning him out as much as possible. Good hoof management, such as having his feet trimmed regularly, reduces joint strain, as is choosing appropriate shoes to allow cushioning without being too soft.
Finally, managing his weight is essential. If his workload is reducing compared to what it used to be, you may have to alter his diet as extra weight puts strain on his joints.
Meet the expert: Charlotte Fenn BVetMed MRCVS is an equine vet from Hertfordshire. She works at Tyrrells Equine Clinic and particularly enjoys internal medicine and acupuncture.