5 Ways to Get Ready for Winter

1. Protect Medication. Check the labels of all injectable, topical and oral medications for information about proper storage. Many cannot withstand cold temperatures and will become useless, if not harmful, if they freeze. Either store cold-sensitive products in a climate-controlled tack room, or take them to your house for the winter. Check expiration dates and replace any products that have gotten too old. If you're unsure whether one of your drugs is still safe, ask your veterinarian. He can also advise you on how to properly dispose of old or damaged products.

2. Mow and drag your pasture. Cutting weeds before they go to seed will help keep them under control next year, and especially if you're taking your horse off the grass for the winter, dragging the manure will give it plenty of time to decompose. But don't mow to less than four inches-the grass still needs reserves to help the roots survive the cold months.

3. Walk your fence lines. Shake the posts as you go, looking for loose boards or wires, protruding nails or fasteners, leaning or other signs of developing weakness. Carry a tool belt to make minor repairs as you go, as well as brightly colored tape to mark areas that will require more attention later.

4. Inspect your blankets. Even if you cleaned and stored your blankets properly at the end of last season, it's a good idea to take them out and have a look at them well before you'll need them again. Mold, insects or rodents may have gotten to them while they were in storage. Check for loose straps, frayed fabric, holes or foul smells, and repair or replace any blankets that need attention.

Also make sure each garment still fits properly. Youngsters, athletes, seniors or laid-up horses may have gained or lost a significant amount of weight over the summer and may not be able to wear the same blanket again. A properly fitting blanket allows a hand to fit snugly under and slide around along the shoulder, withers, and rump.

5. Adjust the airflow in each stall. Too little ventilation in a horse's stall means the airborne dust can accumulate quickly to unhealthy levels; too much airflow can mean bone-chilling drafts. Check how the air is moving in each stall with one of these two methods:

Scuff your boots in the bedding, enough to kick up dust. After five minutes use a flashlight or other light source to check the air. If you can still see floating particles, the air is too stagnant.

Hold a strip of toilet paper, about a foot or two long, at arm's length at different places in the stall. You want to see it waving gently, to indicate a gentle breeze. If it's either hanging motionless or flapping vigorously, the airflow is too low or too high. Open and close the doors and windows until you reach the ideal amount of ventilation. Usually, a few open windows on the leeward side of the barn, sheltered from snow and rain, provide a healthy supply of fresh air.