University of Vermont AAHS


Drought Related Problems and Other Matters

Jan Dawson
President, AAHS

[reproduced from Fall 2000 Caution:Horses Volume 5, No. 3]

We have experienced a drought in south Texas that has stressed the industry in ways one wouldn’t expect. We expect the price of hay and feed to go up. What we fail to think about are the actual effects on the horses (and other equines) themselves. We give them their regular grain, hay, and water. We forget the dry environment that causes their hooves to harden unless we make a wet place around their tank. Pastured horses in clay soil areas have their noses in dust all day with detrimental effects to their upper respiratory tracts. They might as well be in dusty stalls.

In the pastures, the horses that have no choice and little to graze make due, many with round bales. The problem is that in bad weather only the bad weeds survive. Grazing animals will not usually choose the toxic weed over good pasture other than out of curiosity. In time of drought they will eat anything causing another problem altogether. At least it is easier to spot the toxic weeds in a sparse pasture. There are many areas in the Southwest where horses are kept out in large pastures. This can make checking for toxic weeds difficult unless there is clump of them together.

With hay and pasture so dear, many horsemen are forced to feed hay replacement pellets, which can bring digestive problems unless they are managed very carefully. Some who feed pellets and cubes soak them in water as they would do with beets and some other feeds. It does seem to take care of the problems.

We had a half inch of rain day the third week of September. It was the first measurable rain we have had since late June. What a relief!

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