Horses have a history of helping mankind in all types of weather, proving that they can withstand more than most seasons dish out. However, it's important to take precautionary measures to ensure the health and happiness of your horse. Fall is an important season to take action, as certain weather conditions and pesky visitors at this time of year can possibly cause harm to your horse's health.

Leslie Easterwood, DVM, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, says the first thing to remember after the first freeze is to vaccinate your horse. Vaccinations for the following viruses and diseases are important to maintain your horse's good:

Deworming should also take place year-round. It is good to have a deworming schedule similar with your vaccination schedule to ensure that all necessary precautions are taken care of, Easterwood suggested.

Another important factor to keep in mind as the colder weather approaches is supplying appealing drinking water. The colder weather makes the cold drinking water less attractive to horses. Less water intake can lead to dehydration and colic. To avoid these side effects, owners can add electrolyte powder to the horse's daily grain ration.

"Increased water intake, can also be accomplished by heating the water that is offered, but this option is rarely practical for most horse owners," Easterwood added. "Electric water bucket warming devices are commercially available."

The weather does not start to take a drastic drop in temperature until the winter months, however starting protection plans in the fall is a good idea in case a freeze happens early. Easterwood recommends a wind break for the horses and a place to keep them dry when the weather is wet and cold.

Blankets are another popular option for horse owners. However, Easterwood notes that blankets are not necessary for every horse.

"For the vast majority of horses, it will never be too cold for them to live outside with no blanket," Easterwood said. "Horses survive in very harsh winter environments with their natural hair coat. Those horses that would benefit from blanketing are those that are thin, debilitated, ill, or have (a light) natural hair coat.

"We artificially keep our show horses thin haired in the winter," Easterwood added. "Show horses definitely benefit from blanketing in the winter, but most horses who are allowed to grow a natural hair coat do not need to be blanketed at all."

Easterwood points out horses can actually sweat and overheat under blankets that are left on during the day when the temperature warms up. Especially in Texas, where the temperature varies significantly throughout the day, it is often best to refrain from blanketing healthy nonshow horses, she said.

One last recommendation in the fall is to have a trained veterinarian check your horse's teeth to ensure they are healthy.

"Horses are going to need more energy to function in the rigors of winter weather," Easterwood said. "They will need more energy and fiber in order to keep their body temperatures warm. For this reason, having the teeth in good shape is essential."

Fall preparation is necessary for a healthy and happy life in the winter. If you follow these simple guidelines and listen to the advice of your veterinarian your horse should be in tip top shape for the winter months.

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