Seasonal care for horses: Winter

June 15th, 2017

Winter is a great time of year for throwing on some warm clothes, grabbing a rug and sitting around a warm fire. However without the right equipment to keep you warm, it can be excruciatingly cold! This is the same for most animals during winter and horses are no exception.

Below are some suggestions from Petplan on how to prepare your horse for the winter months…

Nutrition

The biggest responsibility during the colder months is making sure that your horse is eating enough feed and receiving the nutrients needed to keep them in shape and maintaining the much needed weight. As horses burn calories to stay warm, their feed may need to be increased as the weather drops.  Increasing the amount of hay fed is the best way to keep weight on horses during the winter, as the fermentation process generates internal heat.

Even though it may be cold, horses still need to consume water to stay hydrated. Research has proven that by only providing warm water to horses, they will drink a lot more than they would if they only had icy water available. By having a tank or bucket heater, you can encourage your horse to drink more and therefore stay healthy and warm during the cold weather.

Rugging

When it comes to whether or not your horse should be wearing a rug depends on a couple of factors. In general most horses should be wearing rugs during extremely cold temperatures, however if a horse has a thick coat, adequate shape and enough shelter from the weather, a rug may not be necessary.

If you do feel the need to rug your horse, a waterproof/winter rug is the best way to go. This will need to be checked regularly though to see if it is rubbing on the horse as well as to check the horse’s body condition and whether or not it is at a healthy weight.

Exercise

Just like humans, horses still need some exercise even when it’s chilly outside. If conditions are still not terrible, keep riding your horse during the winter months, however if the weather is severe allow your horse to roam in a paddock daily if it safe to do so.

An indoor arena is your best option for daily exercise, although they can become quite dusty in winter – seek out a binding agent that will hold water and try to water as frequently as possible to hold the base down and reduce the dust. Try to spend more time than normal warming up your horse and cooling down as the cold weather tends to seize up their limbs.

Continue to keep a close eye on all your horses as the weather drops, check their body weight, whether or not they are eating properly and continue to give them options for shelter from the weather. If you take all the precautions over these colder months, you and your horses will be safe and healthy ready for spring!

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