As the days grow shorter and the weather colder, it's time to start thinking about how to care for your horse during the winter months. Winter can be challenging for horse owners, requiring additional care and attention to keep their horses healthy and in good condition. With some basic knowledge of proper winter horse care, you can help your horse stay healthy and balanced throughout the season. Here are the most critical elements to consider when caring for your horse in cold weather.
A good diet is key to keeping your horse healthy and happy all winter long. Your horse needs to consume 2% of its body weight per day in order to maintain its body condition. However, when the weather gets colder, horses burn more calories to keep themselves warm. This means you will need to give your horse more food in the winter than in other seasons.
The best way to do this is by feeding them hay and grains. Good quality hay will help your horse keep its body warm as it has a high fibre ratio. If the horse is still working in winter, adding extra grains to their diet will also help him maintain their body condition score. After consulting with your veterinarian, you can also add mineral supplements to their diet.
Horses need more water in winter than at any other time of year. This is because they eat dry food such as hay and straw, which have a much lower water content than grass. Lack of hydration can lead to serious illnesses in horses, so it is vital to ensure they have enough water and that it does not freeze in cold weather. Some horses may not want to drink cold water, and if the water is too cold, this can also cause problems with digestion or the immune system. If horses only have warm water available in cold weather, they will drink more daily than if they only have icy cold water. Therefore, it is advisable to provide slightly warmer water for horses in winter.
Caring for Hooves and Teeth
In winter, checking your horse's hooves regularly is especially important. Excessively grown hooves or splits can harbour bacteria from the mud, which can lead to health problems for your horse. Whether shod or not, hooves should be trimmed on a regular basis, and the legs should be cleaned and dried after every workout. In addition, you can consult your farrier about the best shooing option if you will keep riding.
Another thing to be aware of in winter is your horse's diet. Horses get more dry food this season, which can cause problems with their dental health if they are unable to chew it properly. To be sure your horse's dental health is good, you should get regular checkups from an equine dentist.
As the winter weather sets in, it's essential to be aware of the dangers that mud can pose to your horse's health. Mud fever is a severe condition caused by bacteria that can infect a horse's legs when they are exposed to wet, muddy conditions. To avoid this, it's crucial to regularly clean your horse's legs and hooves, especially in areas where they are likely to come into contact with mud.
You can also create a dry, safe area for your horse to stand in by using small rocks or other materials that will allow water to drain away from their feet. By taking these precautions, you can help keep your horse healthy and safe all winter long.
Blanketing and Clipping
As an equestrian, you may find yourself wondering if your horse needs to be blanketed or clipped. The answer to this question depends on the horse's living conditions. If a horse is less worked, well-fed, and has access to shelter and an excellent coat, it likely won't need to be clipped or blanketed. However, if a horse is worked hard, it is recommended that they be clipped so it can cool down quickly after exercise. Blanketing is also a good idea after clipping for full or hunter clips. When you decide to rug your horse, ensure the fit is good and check regularly. Additionally, keep in mind that improper blanketing can cause skin problems.
Horses need a warm, dry place to shelter during the winter months. A three-sided run-in shelter provides the best overall protection from cold wind, rain, and snow. The size of the shelter should be large enough for the entire herd. If there is a hierarchy among the horses, you may need more than one run-in shelter so even the lowest horse in the pecking order can be protected.
Although giving your horse a break from exercise during the colder months may be tempting, it is crucial to keep up with their workout routine. Studies have shown that horses can lose muscle strength, fitness, and flexibility during the winter, even if they are able to go outside for turnout. This can make it more difficult for them to return to their normal form come springtime.
We advise regular exercise for your horse throughout the winter months, whether that means riding or lunging indoors if the weather is too cold or the ground is frozen. Always remember to properly care for your horse afterwards, cooling and drying them off before returning them to their stall or pasture.
Winter can be a tough time for horses. They are more likely to lose their condition and sometimes get sick during this cold season. If you're unsure about how to best care for your horse during winter, ask your veterinarian or an expert for help.