Day 1: On the first day of Christmas, you find a rusty nail protruding from the centre of one of your horse’s frogs. What’s the best course of action — before checking he is up to date with his tetanus vaccination?
a) Leave the nail in place and call your vet immediately — this requires expert treatment.
b) Remove the nail carefully with pliers, before calling your vet.
c) Pull the nail out straight away and soak the hoof in salt water. A squirt of purple spray should keep infection at bay, so there’s no need to call the vet.
Day 2: You’ve bought a nice youngster to produce — and he arrives today! After unloading him, should you:
a) Avoid direct contact with other horses for a week, even though he looks healthy and his jabs are up to date.
b) Let him meet his field-mates, but in adjoining paddocks to reduce fighting and infection risk.
c) Isolate him for three weeks, using separate equipment and tack.
Day 3: The sun is shining and the frost is crisp and even. It’s a great morning to give your veteran some grazing time, but a friend advises against turning out a laminitis-prone horse like him in these conditions. Is there any truth in this?
a) Yes — laminitis is a year-round threat.
b) No — spring grass is the real danger.
Day 4: Temperatures plummet and the field water trough freezes solid. How much water should an average-sized adult horse drinkin winter?
a) More than usual, to aid the hindgut fermentation process.
b) Roughly the same amount as any other day of the year — around 30 litres.
c) He’ll drink less in the colder weather, especially if he’s not working up a sweat.
Day 5: It’s still bitterly cold and you wonder whether your trace-clipped warmblood mare will be warm enough in her stable overnight. She’s in a decent stable rug, but snorting clouds of breath as she eats her hay and her ears are cool to the touch. What should you do?
a) Close the stable windows to keep out drafts.
b) Pop on an extra layer — better to be safe than sorry.
c) Stop worrying — horses cope with colder temperatures better than we do.
Day 6: A blistering gallop blows the cobwebs away and leaves your eventer plastered in mud and sweat. You walk him home, wash him with warm water and scrape him down. Time is ticking, though, and Christmas shopping beckons. What should you NOT do?
a) Put his stable rug straight on — he’s partly clipped, so his body heat will dry him off.
b) Leave him indoors, in a wicking fleece or cooler rug, so you can brush and re-rug him later when he’s fully dry.
c) Stand him under heat lamps or in the solarium to speed up the drying process.
Day 7: As the new year approaches, you start planning routine healthcare for the yard. You pin your Horse & Hound wallplanner on the feed room wall and get to work with coloured pens, but what should you NOT do?
a) Highlight a date each month to give wormers to every horse and pony on site, to keep them all in line with regular treatment.
b) Include the new foals and OAPs when you schedule tetanus vaccinations and boosters, even though they never leave the yard.
c) Mark reminders for six-monthly flu boosters, to meet affiliated competition requirements.
Day 8: You’re running short of phenylbutazone (often referred to as bute) for your old pony, to ease his arthritis. What should you do?
a) Borrow some sachets from another owner — it’s the same medicine, so will do no harm.
b) Book a call-out visit. You’re on good terms with your vet, but she’ll have to visit your pony before she can issue a repeat prescription.
c) Buy the drugs online. You don’t want to bother your vet during the holidays for something so trivial.
Day 9: Your ex-racehorse is prone to puffy legs, so you leave him in stable bandages overnight. What’s the correct way to apply them?
c) Either direction, as long as the bandage is secure and applied evenly, over padding, to prevent pressure points.
Day 10: After a big party last night, you’re up and mucking out at 7am. Your horse has scuffed his bedding up but has produced far fewer piles of droppings than usual. What should you do?
a) Count your blessings — after a quick tidy-up, you can head back to bed.
b) Dose him with paraffin oil to clear any constipation.
c) Keep a close eye on him. This sudden digestive change could signal impaction colic, which can become a veterinary emergency.
Day 11: You check your retired at-grass hunter and notice his left eye is weepy and partially closed. Your vet is probably enjoying the festivities. Can this wait?
a) Yes — the chilly wind is probably to blame. Bathing it with cold tea should help.
b) No — the other eye is fine, so something must be amiss.
Day 12: Your cob’s girth won’t tighten to its usual notch as you tack him up for schooling. He does seem plumper around the middle and the weightape confirms what you suspect. Should you be concerned?
a) Yes — winter weight gain should be monitored and addressed, to avoid carrying unhealthy excess weight into spring.
b) No — it’s natural for a horse to fatten up a bit in winter. It’s good insulation against the cold, and he’ll slim down as summer approaches.
1) a. Any sole penetration can result in infection, but a sharp object in the middle third of the frog may enter the synovial structures (the coffin joint and navicular bursa) or damage the deep digital flexor tendon — with life-threatening consequences. Veterinary removal is safest. Taping small wooden blocks to the sole will prevent further penetration. If you must remove the nail, retain it to show the vet and note the entry point, angle and depth.
2) c. A new horse is a common cause of infection outbreak, so plan a 21-day isolation period.
3) a. It’s thought that bright, sunny conditions and cold temperatures can trigger laminitis, maybe due to the changing sugar content in the grass. Laminitis can strike at any time, so discuss winter turnout with your vet if your horse is susceptible.
4) b. A typical winter diet has a moisture content of just 15%, compared with the 60-80% content of summer pasture grazing — so a horse is more reliant in winter on the amount of water he drinks.
5) c. Stabled horses are frequently over-rugged, while reducing ventilation will worsen air quality. Cold ears are an unreliable guide. If she feels warm under her rug at the withers, it’s unlikely that she needs extra layers.
6) a. Keep a damp horse warm, but avoid heavy layers that encourage bacterial skin infections. Use a suitable cooler or dry him first.
7) a. Targeted worm control based on faecal egg count results is more effective than blanket dosing — and lessens the chance of parasitic resistance.
8) b. Even if your pony has been on medication long-term for a chronic condition, your vet may be legally required to give him a check-up before issuing a repeat prescription.
10) c. Know what’s normal for your horse. Monitor him for other colic signs such as restlessness, rolling, stomach pawing or sweating, acting fast if you suspect a problem. Paraffin oil won’t help and may cause harm.
11) b. Call your vet to discuss. An eye that appears painful, is partially closed, or has obvious discharge or discolouration needs prompt veterinary attention. Boiled water is better for bathing.
12) a. In nature, horses fatten up ahead of winter before losing weight as they mobilise stored fat in the coldest months. With a stabled horse, aim for moderate condition year-round.
Ref Horse & Hound; 19 December 2019