As cooler weather comes on, horse health concerns can shift from heat-impact issues to handling the cold. Before wintry weather really sets in, horse owners must contend with frost and what that can mean for a horse's health. Pastures with frost on them have higher amounts of nonstructural carbohydrates, which can increase the risk for founder and colic, especially in horse that are obese or that are prone to laminitis.
It's recommended that horse owners and caretakers wait up to a week to turn horses out on fields that have been killed by frost to allow for a decrease in non-structural carbohydrates. In the fall, sugar builds and is stored higher in the plant in more-mature forage; horses often prefer the sweeter grasses that occurs after a frost, which is why they may need to be restricted from grazing for multiple hours a day.
In addition to pasture grasses, the leaves of some trees can cause harm when they begin to fall off in the fall. The leaves of most concern to horse owners are wilted maple, as well as cherry, chokecherry and ornamental almond. Horses should not have access to these fallen leaves for at least 30 days.
Read more at the University of Minnesota Extension.
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