Mirror KB Appaloosa Horse Ranch & Photography Logo, professional equine photography and online gifts for the equestrian

Mirror KB Articles
about horses & horse care

by Kim and Kari Baker

Year Round Care of your Horse

Mirror KB Equine Article Series


Seasonal Care of your Horse

Kim and Kari Baker

Just as Mother Nature transforms her wardrobe each season, you too must accommodate your horse’s seasonal needs by making the necessary changes in his care.

Just because winter rolls around and you find that you aren’t riding as often as you did during the summer doesn’t mean that your horse’s care and needs has diminished. In fact, as each season arrives, you’ll probably find that you’ll even need to modify many of your regular daily care routines – such as feed and grooming for example.

So what health-care practices does your horse actually need and in what season should you expect to arrange it? First of all, all horses need to be kept up to date on vaccinations, hoof care, parasite control, and dentistry, but also must be provided proper nutrition, exercise, and general health care. However, every horse is different, due to various circumstances, and should be evaluated individually.

To assess your horse’s specific needs you’ll have to take into consideration the horse’s sex, age, how the horse is housed – pastured or stalled, as well as what your horse is to be used for – work, show, breeding, trail, pleasure, or maybe he’s simply just a family pet.

Now you can begin to layout a daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal health-care plan for each horse. Though this might seem like an overwhelming task it is really quite simple and easily handled, and can be accomplished by organizing your horse’s needs into a manageable timetable. Start off by listing your horse’s needs on a daily basis.& Follow this with a task list of which your horse requires periodically, those things that need to be done ever so often and as needed.  Lastly, arrange a calendar for the regularly scheduled tasks that usually come around each month to once a year.

* Daily Care

Your horse’s daily care begins with a physical inspection of each horse you own. What is the first impression you have of your horse as you fill his morning feed bucket? Does he appear happy and alert, or did he react to your arrival at the barn with indifference and somewhat aloof? Did he devour his ration of feed with the same enthusiasm he normally does?

Take a few moments to lead him at the walk and trot to note any sign of lameness or stiffness.  As you brush his coat free of dirt or stall shavings take note of his posture and how he reacts to being brushed.  It may be an indication of pain or illness if any of his responses to your regular daily routine are out of the ordinary.

A daily once over is usually adequate for most horses, however, broodmares that are near foaling need to be checked several times through the day as well as on throughout the night. Young foals should also be inspected two or three times a day.  A certain amount of experience is necessary to read the many varied responses that you might observe, however, an owner that is familiar with his horse should be able to note any subtle changes in his horse.

Grooming is the perfect time to give your horse the once over as you inspect his eyes, ears and nose for any unusual discharge or appearance. Next examine his hooves.   Do they appear dry and brittle? While picking out the bottom of the hoof, look for bruising or anything other sign that may indicate a wound. Are you aware of any foul odors that may indicate an infection or fungal problem? If deemed necessary finish up with an application of hoof dressing or other form of treatment. Horses that are being worked should receive the previously state routine before and following managed exercise, while pastured horses and foals should get the same attention on a daily basis.

Once you’ve given your horse his daily grooming and casual physical it’s time to apply an insect repellent if required, then devote time to some form of managed or free exercise. Thirty minutes of exercise, three to four times a week is the bare minimum that you will want to give your average pleasure or trail horse. Depending on fitness requirements, working horses will get most of their exercise through some form of training, but will also benefit from free turn out in a pasture or paddock. Time turned out at liberty, not only adds to his physical comfort but also his mental well-being, and thus allows your horse a chance to “be a horse.” This is especially important for younger, growing horses.

* Periodic Tasks

Ever so often you will need to include other activities in your horse’s care that need be done only as needed. Bathing, clipping, sheath cleaning and mane pulling can be included in this list. If you show your horse, the expectation of an up coming event will help you determine when such tasks are required, but if you do not show, you will have more flexibility as to when to tackle a particular job.  You might elect to undertake just one task in any given week, or you may choose to undertake a combination of two or more of the jobs at any one time.

The bath

Bathing frequency will depend on a handful concerns. The seasonal temperature along with your horse’s personal hygienic needs will help you determine when you’ll need to undertake this chore. While some horses need only an occasional bath, others seem to require bathing on a regular basis.

Geldings and stallions will periodically need to have their sheaths cleaned due to the build up of smegma, an oily cheese-like matter that is secreted by the sebaceous glands located within the sheath. If this substance is not removed a copious build up can easily become a cause of great irritation to the horse.

The frequency in which your gelding will need to be cleaned will again depend on the individual animal, but usually once or twice a year is adequate. Many horses won’t “drop” and stand quietly for a thorough cleaning, while others are quite comfortable with the procedure. If your horse is particularly uncomfortable with sheath cleaning you might want to schedule this task during a visit with your veterinarian.

It might surprise you to know that mares also build up smegma, but their nuisance area is between their teats, thus making them easier to clean than the male horse.  However, just as in the gelding and stallion, if the mare is not kept clean, the build up smegma may cause irritation, which often leads to tail rubbing.

Mane Pulling and clipping

Your horse’s breed, his age, the discipline in which you ride or use your horse, as well as weighing in your personal preferences will determine whether or not, or how you pull his mane and/or clip him.

Some breeds such as the Arabian and Tennessee Walking Horse are shown in long flowing manes, while others require the mane to be pulled to approximately 4 inches then braided or banded.  If the breed or discipline you are involved in prefers a pulled mane, you may want to set aside a couple of days to pull the mane, rather than do the entire job in one session. To save wear and tear on your fingers use a grooming tool that is designed for pulling manes. Another good mane pulling strategy it to pull the mane immediately following a strenuous workout, when your horse’s pores are open.

Basic clipping usually involves the removal of muzzle whiskers, the long guard hairs above and below each eye, a bridle path, along the jaw line, around the coronary band of the hooves and excess fetlock hair, as well as all that fuzz poking out of the ears.  It can also entail clipping shorter the white areas on the head and legs.

If you aren’t showing your horse, but still like the clean look of a clipped head, you may opt to only remove hair from the bridle path and muzzle, leaving the guard hairs, fetlock hair, and ear fuzz. Maintaining the hair in these areas offers your horse protection from flies as well as in climate weather.

Carry out a clipper check prior to clipping your horse. A clean quiet clipper that is sharp and properly oiled will make the chore much easier on you and more comfortable for the horse. A clipper inspection is also important before undertaking a full or partial body clip. A body clip is usually used on horses that are ridden in specific disciplines, such as fox hunting and cross country jumping, and then only clipped once or twice a year.

Weight watcher

Too some extent you’ve been watching your horse’s weight during your daily grooming sessions.  If there were an abrupt, major gain or loss in weight, without question you would have noticed it. However, a slow change in weight isn’t quite so easy to detect. While running your hand over your horse’s body and ribs each day is a useful method of staying aware of his body condition, you might find the use of a weight tape or large animal scale ever so often – say, once a month, a helpful tool in documenting a more accurate weight record.

A good time to record your horse’s weight is each time you deworm him. This not only will equip you with the proper amount of dewormer to administer, but will also signal any change in your horse’s weight that you might have missed with your hands on sessions.

* Scheduled Tasks

Vaccinations, deworming, dentistry, hoof trimming and shoeing are all tasks that are usually carried out at particular times throughout the year. While you have the option of handling many of these scheduled tasks yourself, you will more than likely not be able to manage all of them on your own and will have to enroll in the help of a farrier, veterinarian, and possibly even a specialist in equine dentistry. Should you tackle these jobs on your own, be sure that you have the vast knowledge of the procedures and are aware of the requirements of each animal. The age of the horse and how it is used, are important concerns, as well as is the climate and your geographic location.

Hoof Care

The best way to avert hoof problems is to keep your horse’s hooves correctly trimmed year round.  To prevent strain on their developing bone structure, young growing horses often require a light trim every month in order to keep the hoof in balance. On the other hand, many older horses that are turned out on large pastures might not require a trim for nine weeks or more. However, a six to eight week trim and/or reset schedule usually works quite well for most horses. But, not all horses grow the same kind of hoof or perform the same kind of work, so ask your farrier to help you decide what is best for your horse.

Parasite Control

To control the internal parasite load in your horse and minimize re-infestation, takes a persistent and well thought out deworming program.  Your horse’s age, the climate, the number of horses, the condition of the pasture or stable area, as well as fecal test results will influence your decision as to the type of anthelmintic you will need to use and how frequent your horse will need to be dewormed. As with all drugs be sure to check the label to be sure that it is the right choice for your horse.  This is particularly important when deworming broodmares and foals. When in doubt as to what your horse requires, ask your veterinarian. He will be able to help you develop a deworming schedule tailored to your horse’s specific needs.

Vaccination Schedule

The probability of transmittable disease intensifies as warm weather increases, so you’ll want to set up a vaccination schedule in order to make sure that your horse will receive an annual booster in early spring before the biting insects invade.  For those states that require it, a coggins test for Equine Infectious Anemia, can be scheduled with your veterinarian to be taken care of at the same time as your horse’s annual vaccinations.

Broodmares and foals present the horse owner with special vaccination concerns. Broodmares should receive their annual boosters during their tenth month of gestation in order for their foals to receive adequate passive immunity through their dam’s colostrum. A foal’s passive immunity will need a boost of protection somewhere between 3 and 4 months of age, at which time they should receive their first vaccination.

Compared to the prospect of treating a horse infected with a disease, a good vaccination program is very inexpensive. Tetanus Toxoid and Eastern and Western Encephalomyelitis are the basic immunizations that should be given to all horses. In addition to these you may want to inoculate against West Nile Encephalomyelitis, Venezuelan Encephalomyelitis, Influenza, Strangles, Rhinopneumonitis, Potomac Horse Fever and Rabies. Discuss with your own veterinarian to determine which vaccines are recommended for your area and circumstances.


Though a vital part of your horse’s health program, equine dentistry is often overlooked or neglected all together. Besides performing an oral exam whenever a dental problem is suspected, your veterinarian or equine dentist should be scheduled to check your horse’s teeth on a regular basis.

The age of your horse will affect the level of dental attention he requires. Due to dental maturation, horses aged two to five tend to require more frequent oral exams than other age groups. Whether or not they show signs of a problem or not, they should have their teeth examined twice a year. Mature horses usually get away with a yearly maintenance exam, while the geriatric horse may again need to see a dentist twice a year.

While horse ownership often proves to be a challenge, with a little organization you’ll find that you are able to carry out all of those day to day responsibilities without a hitch, and even realize that you’ve actually looked after all of your horse’s individual needs an entire year. Are you ready to do it all again?

If you'd like to read more interesting articles click on the following drop down link:

Choose which Article you want to ride down, then click on the Let's Ride button.

Mirror KB Photography & Gifts

1132 Arabian Lane

Libby, MT 59923-7982


Phone: (406) 293-6586

Got questions? Contact us at: wranglers@mirrorkbranch.com


Trailhead | About Us | On the Trail | Raising an Orphan Filly | Tales of the Twin Wranglers
Training Philosophy | Photography | Promotional Photography

Gallery 1 | Gallery 2 | Gallery 3 | Gallery 4 | Gallery 5
  Gallery 6 | Gallery 7 | Gallery 8 | Gallery 9 | Gallery 10  | Gallery 11
Just Text Horse T-shirts | Just Text Mule T-shirts

Montana T-shirts and more | Clothes an' more with Robert Fuller

Design your own | Product Information

Equine Articles | Twin Wranglers | Ol' Bake

Equine Hangman | Product Order Form | Links
Our Privacy Policy
Send an E-greeting | order Greeting Cards

© Copyright 1998 Mirror KB. All Rights Reserved. Duplication of all photos or images, for any reason, without the expressed permission by us is strictly prohibited under the law.