Winter can be a great time as loved ones gather together and bask in the warmth of each other’s presence despite the cold weather. But winter might be a different experience for other members of your family – members like your beloved horses. So while you’re enjoying time by the fireplace and warm cider, don’t forget to check on old Nelly. Here’s a few ways to care for your horse during the winter:
DO increase water intake
An average 1,000 pound horse needs around 10-12 gallons of water per day – and eating snow doesn’t count! The special winter feed your horse eats contains less moisture than the pasture and feed they consume in the summer. For this reason, you must increase your horse’s water intake. If you’re increasing their salt intake, you should also give them more water to prevent dehydration. With this simple task, you will be able to keep your horse happy and healthy despite the chill.
DO feed them fiber
Fiber in the form of hay is essential for the wellbeing of your horse during the winter. It helps keep their digestive system in check while warming up their body in the cold winter months. The digestion of hay produces heat to maintain a healthy body temperature that grain alone cannot do. Feeding them hay also helps prevent the number one problem horses have during the winter – weight loss. The perfect amount to give them is 1.5% of their body weight. In addition to fiber, your horse may need some extra nutrients to increase energy and support their immune system. Extra nutrients can be found through horse feed; Nutrena’s SafeChoice Horse Feed is a great and organic choice. Good quality hay and nutrients will keep your horse happy all through winter.
DO keep exercising
Just because you might be in hibernation mode doesn’t mean your horse should be! So keep on riding and exercising them as you would normally. Unfortunately, winter is known to bring slippery and icy areas. You’ll want to avoid these areas as much as possible, and by trying to avoid these areas, regular riding may be out of the question. So if this is the case, try turning your horse out daily in a pasture or paddock to keep him/her moving. Another precaution to take is to change your horse’s shoes to help with their traction in the snow and rain. Keeping up their exercise is a must because it can prevent joint and muscle damage while increasing the overall health of your horse. Don’t let winter become an excuse for laziness!
DO keep your horse dry
Could you imagine your hair being constantly damp and cold from rain water throughout a whole season? No? Well, don’t let your horse suffer through that either! Make sure to cool and dry off your horse from the rain, snow, and sweat that collects on their coat to prevent illness and ensure maximum comfort. If their long winter coat retains a lot of water and it’s difficult to get them dry because of it – it’s okay to trim their winter coat. If you do end up trimming their winter coat, blanketing them is a good way to go. Blanketing isn’t always necessary during the winter but it’s very helpful for when your horse doesn’t have a shelter to keep out of the rain or snow. It can also keep horses comfortable especially if they aren’t used to the intense weather or are very old or young. However, remember that if you do blanket your horse you must continue to do so throughout the winter – the blanket will stop them from growing a winter coat, so be sure to stay consistent. Whether you decide to blanket or not, keeping them dry is a must.
DO regular grooming and hoof care
Just like you must maintain exercising in the winter, grooming consistently is a must! Groom daily or weekly to keep them in good health and to check for early signs of illness or disease. Hoof care is also very important to do for their health. In the winter, your horse is more prone to getting snow/ice in their hooves, so try cleaning these out daily when you check in on them. The easiest way to clean these out is by using a hoof pick. Choose a stainless steel pick that will not break under pressure for situations like these. Be sure to look for potential bacteria build-up or illnesses in the form of punctures, abscesses, cracks or odors when cleaning the hooves. Spray Wound & Hoof Care on the hooves to prevent bacteria and fungus or help with the recovery from wounds. Keep up with your farrier appointments during the winter – the wet ground can cause issues that may not be as noticeable to you as your farrier!
Your horses have a unique spot in your heart just like a close friend or member of your family. You want them to be comfortable, healthy and happy throughout the winter. We at Big R want that exact same thing! Stop by Big R for friendly advice on horse care and to grab essential horse care items for every season.