As we head into the autumn, we share 5 autumn hazards for your horse to help keep them safe, happy and healthy this season.
Beautiful oak trees are part of the British countryside, but their leaves, bark, and acorns pose a toxic threat if eaten in large quantities for horses. Acorns contain tannic acid, which can cause liver and kidney damage. Acorns themselves are bitter tasting, so if the pasture is rich, it is unlikely that horses choose to eat them. However, some horses can develop an acquired taste for them, and if the grazing is poor, they can end up foraging and eating them. Avoid using a field until all the acorns have been raked away, and use electric fencing surrounding the hanging branches so that any acorn fall cannot be accessed.
With the strange British weather we have had this summer, laminitis cases are not exclusive to the spring and autumn months but certainly worth mentioning in autumn hazards for your horse. Laminitis affects the sensitive laminae tissue found in the horse’s hoof, which holds the pedal bone in place. Laminitis causes this tissue to stretch and weaken, which can cause the pedal bone to move, rotate and drop through the sole of the hoof. Several factors can cause this potentially life-threatening condition, but being mindful of their weight, diet and grass intake is essential. Restricting grass intake by strip grazing and limiting grazing time can help reduce the risks. If the grass is rich or frosty, it is advisable not to turn out if there is a risk of laminitis. Exercise your horse regularly and maintain a good shoeing/trimming routine.
Sycamores are one of the five autumn hazards for horses highlighted in this article, as they can be fatal to your horse. Typically thought of as a seasonal issue because the helicopter-like seeds that land on the grass in the autumn can be attractive to horses in overgrazed fields. To avoid, section off areas where the trees are positioned and gather up the leaf fall. Ensure that hay is supplied if grazing is poor or limited.
Box Elder is a UK nationwide disease and can be fatal in horses. Also known as Ash Leafed Maple, this tree, like the Sycamore, causes Atypical Myopathy caused by the toxin Hypoglycin A. This toxin damages muscle cells, and signs can include muscle stiffness, sweating, trembling, and reluctance to walk. Removing Box Elder trees, saplings and seeds and ensuring that your horse has plenty of forage in their fields should cut down the risks.
Mud fever is a broad term for pastern dermatitis and is more common in wet conditions and is one of our five autumn hazards for your horse. Standing for prolonged spells in wet, muddy conditions can lead to a mud fever attack. A tiny scratch can be all that is needed for the bacteria to invade and cause mud fever. Good stable management includes allowing the mud to dry before gently brushing off and giving them a dry stable area for lengthened periods. If you wish to ride a muddy horse, then wash the legs off with warm water and diluted hibiscus and gently towel drying the legs is the best option, rather than trying to brush off wet mud or allowing it to settle underneath brushing boots. Barrier creams are not entirely effective against protecting against mud fever. These can allow bacteria to build up between the waterlogged skin and the cream. Prevention is better than cure. Keep a close eye on your horses’ legs and tackle the first signs of mud fever. Creating hard standing or well-drained gate areas (where horses may congregate) is also a good idea for the long winter months ahead.
This article is not designed to replace the advice of a professional veterinary surgeon. If you are concerned about your horses’ health or well-being, always consult your vet immediately.
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