Preparing for winter: is your horse ready?

It’s never too early to start preparing for winter! Whether that means bundling up to bear the snowy winter up North or shipping down to the sunny South, we want your horse to be in tip-top shape! Here is a checklist of key points to consider as you prepare…


  • Body Condition Score
    • Veterinarians use the body condition score as a means to monitor a horse’s weight without the use of a scale or weight tape. A body condition score is obtained by visual and manual evaluation of the amount of fat covering six key areas of the horse’s body: the neck, withers, back, tailhead, ribs, and just behind the shoulder at the girth. Scores range from 1-9 (poor to extremely fat), with 5-6 being ideal. It is important to monitor body condition throughout winter and make any necessary adjustments to your horse’s feeding plan in order to maintain an ideal weight.
  • Dentistry
    • The way horses eat has changed through domestication as we have replaced 24 hour grazing with scattered meals of grain and hay. This has also changed the way horses “wear” their teeth. As a result, horses develop sharp enamel points, ramps, and hooks of the teeth that can often cause pain, ulceration, and malocclusion. These sharp angles can make the normally fluid movements of the jaw challenging. Problems with the last few molars at the back of the horse’s mouth are most frequently associated with pain and reluctance to perform many bending and flexing exercises. A thorough oral exam under light sedation allows the veterinarian to visualize and access these important teeth while minimizing stress to the equine patient.
  • Soundness
    • A sound horse is a happy horse! Whether your horse is headed to the show ring, riding at home, or enjoying some seasonal time off this winter, let us help you make sure he gets there feeling his best. Be sure to schedule a soundness evaluation with your veterinarian to pinpoint any soundness or performance issues that may be affecting your horse.
  • Travel Documents
    • Depending on where you’re traveling, you may need several important travel documents including a health certificate, negative Coggins Test, and vaccine records. Legally, a current health certificate must accompany a horse when it crosses state lines. Your veterinarian will come to examine your horse to ensure that he is in good health. The information required for the Health Certificate is: an up-to-date Coggins report (for most states a Coggins test is up to date for one year), the address of the destination, and the details of who is shipping the horse. Schedule an appointment to have a veterinarian inspect your horse within 30 days of departure in New Jersey (this time frame varies in each state). Be sure to have the Coggins report and all of the required information available for your veterinarian at the time of your scheduled exam. The certificate and a Coggins report will need to accompany the shipment. In addition, it is recommended you check your horse’s temperature just prior to departure to ensure that he still in good health. If his temperature is over 101.5 F prior to travel or you have any other medical concerns, he should be examined by your veterinarian prior to shipment.
  • Stress Relief
    • Travel can be stressful for horses and their owners! For horses with a history of stomach ulcers or very “stressed” horses, the use of an ulcer protectant, such as Ulcergard or Gastrogard, is recommended. It is suggested to start treatment several days prior to travel, continuing during travel and continuing a couple of days following arrival at your destination. Your veterinarian can assist you in determining if your horse is at risk for ulcers and developing a treatment plan. Immune system function during travel is very important to keeping your horse healthy on his trip. Several medications and therapies can alter the horse’s immune system. Vaccines or steroids (joint injections or oral) should be avoided in the two weeks prior to travel and within the first week of arriving from a trip over 20 hours. Be sure to discuss your travel plan with your veterinarian when treating horses for any illness or injury around your scheduled trip.

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