The snows, the cold, the horses prancing through the freshly fallen snow. Yes, winter is full of wonder and excitement. Let us explore 10 cold weather tips for horses outside.
Winter is an exhilarating time for horse owners. The season brings with it a sense of wonder every year, as every year is different. As the days grow shorter and the temperatures drop, horses need extra care and attention.
The harsh conditions of winter can take a toll on a horse’s health and well-being. So it’s important to pay close attention to them when the cold weather arrives.
1. Increase The Calorie Intake:
Horses that live outside in colder climates need to eat extra food during the chilly months. Increased calories are the most effective way to ensure enough energy to keep the body warm. Stave off cold stress. When the horse’s caloric intake increases, the internal heat buildup is increased due to more digestion.
It also helps them maintain their body temperature without decreasing their weight or developing other conditions with inadequate nutrition. It’s common for a horse to need 25% more energy during the coldest months.
2. Prepare The Horse Feet:
The optimal hoof-growth season is the warmer months —but your horse’s feet still need care! Cleansing the feet regularly is a good way to remove packed ice or mud that could harm them. In addition, if you live in a snowy region and the horse will be living outside, it needs to have its shoes pulled before the precipitation becomes too heavy.
For horses that need shoes, we suggest that you have the farrier add snow pads to their shoes to prevent snow and ice from building beneath their feet. And for horses with sliders, the best solution is to have the farrier add clogs to their shoes so they can be screwed in and out as required.
3. Include Hay In The Diet:
As the weather gets colder, one of the ways to keep your horse happy, healthy, and well-fed is to ensure that its diet is balanced. Hay is a cornerstone of a healthy diet for your horse. By increasing the hay ration in the winter, you’re providing additional nutrients to your horses.
For senior horses who are incapable of consuming their calories from hay, feeding them corn oil is an alternative method. If you believe your horse is undernourished, please consult with an equine veterinarian about appropriate feeding amounts.
4. Provide Extra Water:
Horses need lots of water to stay healthy, but the cold weather means that you’ll need to provide your horse with more water than usual. This is because, in the summer, green pastures with over 60% moisture levels can contribute to your horse’s water requirement.
In contrast, winter rations such as grain and hay contain less than 20% moisture, significantly increasing your horse’s daily need for water. Proper hydration is also important in the winter to prevent dehydration and colic. During the winter, a 1000-pound horse requires at least 10 to 12 gallons of water daily.
Ensure that it has access to water at all times to avoid health problems. Also, monitor its drinking habits as less water consumption can lead to less eating, decreasing the energy needed to keep them warm, and can also cause constipation over weeks.
5. Don’t Miss Exercise:
In harsh winter weather, horses’ access to outdoor exercise may be limited. While owners might have planned to ride their horses often throughout the winter, snowstorms can interfere with those plans.
In this case, horses may suffer from lower leg swelling and hoof issues due to being confined too long inside a barn or stable. In addition, without regular access to outdoor exercise, the animal’s joints may swell due to lack of use, making movement difficult and painful.
To minimize this problem, provide your horse with the turnout as often as possible. Also, be cautious when riding in deep, heavy, or wet snow — these conditions are hard work for a weak horse and can lead to tendon injuries.
6. Don’t Neglect Dental Hygiene:
A horse’s teeth need regular attention, and you must take great care of your horse’s teeth by taking them to an equine dentist. Poorly cared for teeth can damage the mouth and affect eating habits, putting more stress on the body and preventing horses from getting all of the nutrients they need.
This is especially important during the winter when horses are required to eat more food to keep up with their high energy intake.
7. Add Multivitamin Supplements To The Diet:
Lower-quality hay is often fed in the wintertime, as it’s easier to store, can be less expensive than high-quality alfalfa, and often be substituted for greater access to food, but that should come with the warning that you might be sacrificing nutritional value.
Antioxidant vitamins A, E, and C are lost in prolonged storage and mineral intake by growing horses, and that stays outdoors most of the time can be imbalanced or lower. So make sure you supplement your horse’s diet with a balanced multi-vitamin and mineral supplement.
It can optimize the nutrition of horses whose diets are lower in mineral content. These products are specially formulated to enhance the nutritional content of your horse’s foot, resulting in better overall growth and skin and coat health.
8. Dry Them After A Workout or Riding Session:
Just like humans, horses sweat when they exercise. Horses can become soaked in sweat during working activities, even during the winter, due to their thick coats. While this is not dangerous, it will make the horse uncomfortable if left outside to dry naturally. If you want to clean your horse after a workout:
- Take him back into the warm barn and hose him off.
- Leave plenty of extra time for a horse to dry out before turning it out.
- You can also blow them with a leaf blower to help speed things along.
You can also try clipping a heavy hair coat as it can help wick away the moisture. But if the horse is clipped, leave them in an indoors stable or put them under blankets at night to keep them warm.
9. Look For Lumps & Bumps Under The Blanket:
Blanketing your horse or pony may keep him warm during the winter, but it can sometimes hide things beneath. If blankets are left on horses throughout winter, they can prevent owners from noticing new lumps or bumps that may appear.
When you’re with your horse every day, it’s easy to become complacent about daily grooming. Removing the blanket is an important step in preventing lumps, bumps, skin irritation, and the onset of infections. It’s something that should be done weekly.
Bringing them in for weekly grooming sessions, you can stay on top of their overall health and detect any illnesses or issues before they become serious problems.
10. Provide Regular Medical Care:
Horse keeping is important, no matter what time of the year. However, in the winter, your horse’s care becomes even more paramount. The elements can be unforgiving, and your horse may suffer if it isn’t properly taken care of.
During the cold months, make sure to schedule maintenance for your horses. To ensure that your horses are safe and healthy, it is important to deworm, get the teeth checked, and provide supplements.
Vaccinations should be administered to protect against disease. Injections or Bute for arthritic senior horses also play a vital role — keeping horses comfortable and preventing overuse of painkillers.
Winter is a fun and pretty time of the year in all climates. Special considerations need to be acknowledged in colder and more severe climates. These tips will hopefully give you a little help and guidance living in the cold. Some of these suggestions may fit your situation and weather conditions.