Keeping your Horse Healthy During the Winter Season

The grime that builds up on grooming brushes and
other tools is more than just unsightly; it may harbor bacteria and fungi that
can cause a number of diseases. Any tools that come in contact with your horse
or his wastes—including muck buckets, shovels, wheelbarrows and hoof
picks—ought to be sanitized with a disinfectant periodically. It’s especially
important to sanitize any tools you’ve used caring for a sick horse. Here are
the basic steps:

Scrape or knock off any hair or caked-on dirt and

Clean with a squirt or two of dish or laundry
detergent in a gallon or more of water. Scrub your grooming brushes against
each other to remove all dirt; use scrub brushes on larger tools and buckets.

Rinse thoroughly with clean water.

For extra disinfection, soak the tools in a
commercial sanitizer, such as phenol, quaternary ammonium, accelerated hydrogen
peroxide or a peroxygen-based product, or a mild bleach solution for at least
10 minutes as recommended by your veterinarian. The type of disinfectant needed
will vary with the targeted micro-organism and the surface of the material
being cleaned. Read the labels for handling instructions and safety
precautions; use rubber gloves and safety goggles to protect your skin and

Rinse feed and water buckets thoroughly, making sure
no soap or chemical residue remains.

Set the items out in bright sunlight to dry—the
ultraviolet light will kill more pathogens.

Seasonal Mare Behavior

   If your other wise cranky mare mellows out this winter, shorter days may be the reason. A mare's reproductive cycle is controlled by her hormones, which in turn are influenced by exposure to sunlight. From early spring to late fall, she is in the estrus phase of her cycle, during which eggs mature and are released every 19-22 days.

   So-called "marish" behavior aggressiveness, impatience and general grumpiness is more common during estrus because of increased hormone levels. As days become shorter, the mare's body produces the hormone melatonin, which shifts her into anestrus. During this period, no eggs are released. The transition to anestrus begins in late fall. By winter solstice, a mare will be in the deepest part of the phase and may seem more calm and easygoing.

   Not all behavior changes in mares are hormone related, however, and it's wise to investigate them even if you think you know the cause. If your mare's personality seems different this winter, start recording your observations, including checks of her vital signs, in a daily journal. Call your veterinarian if she shows any other signs of illness. Continue the journal through the spring and summer, noting her reaction in various environments and situations, such as being in the pasture with other horses or being tacked up for riding. Comparing her attitudes during the winter and summer can help you identify possible hormone related behaviors.