- Check your horse’s weight. If your horse is in good flesh, he’ll be more likely to do well foraging for food than if he’s underweight, or has been ill. If he’s underweight, follow your veterinarian’s guidelines for upping your horse’s weight now, before winter comes. Consider turning out your horse with a little extra fat to help keep him warm.
- Supplement his forage. If your horse is underweight, or prone to joint and arthritis problems that may limit his grazing range, supplement his forage with high-quality hay.
- Check his skin and haircoat. Healthy skin and a good haircoat will help your horse conserve heat. Ask your veterinarian to check for any problems.
- Assess the pasture’s physical shape. Assess the pasture’s fencing and terrain, and check for any potential hazards, with a walk-through with the pasture owner. If you see anything amiss, choose another pasture.
- Give him shelter. Most healthy horses have no problem wintering without a formal shelter, if they have access to natural shelter. If blizzard conditions will be a problem, invest in a sturdy run-in shed, with at least two walls and a roof.
Assess pecking order. Assess the personality of the other horses in the pasture for “pecking order”; timid horses have more trouble doing well than aggressive ones, and need close watching and extra feeding.
- Orient your horse. When you introduce your horse to his new pasture, lead him around. Show him the fence boundaries and any terrain variables.
- Check him daily. Don’t ignore your horse. Visit him every day. Halter him, groom him, clean his hooves, and check for injuries. Keep up regular farrier and veterinary appointments.
Barney Fleming, DVM, vets more than 60 endurance rides per year, gives endurance clinics and workshops, and is a professional lecturer on the sport of endurance riding and other equine subjects.