Winter Care Checklist
Winter is in full swing! Despite the cold weather, horses can live comfortably outside year round if provided a few amenities by their owners. Take a look at these great tips to ensure your horse stays happy this winter season!
- On average, a horse needs to consume 2% of his body weight per day to maintain condition and the bulk of your horse’s diet should consist of forage. In the winter, however, due to temperatures dropping, a horse might require more forage to maintain warmth. The fiber in the horses feed is what helps maintain their body heat, so keep this in mind on especially cold days as you may have to feed your horse additional meals throughout the day to make sure he/she can produce enough energy to stay warm.
Water source and salt
- Increased hay consumption in winter months to maintain heat can easily cause horses to become impacted if your horse is not consuming enough water. This can lead to colic and in severe cases a veterinary visit or a trip to a veterinary clinic. Make sure to remove any ice forming in water buckets or provide a bucket heater or safe tank. Your horse may prefer slightly warmer water in the winter and they may drink more if the water is kept free from ice. Always provide a source of minerals and salt throughout the cold season. This should also help to increase water consumption.
- Remove mud from your horse’s legs on a regular basis to keep infections from taking hold. If an infection does develop, make sure to remove your horse from the muddy environment and treat and clean the areas regularly until the infection heals. The best way to avoid infections is to make sure there is always somewhere in the pasture where the horses can get reprieve from the mud. If there is no such area, it is worth looking in to creating a mud-free pad where you feed and water the horses to prevent mud and erosion.
Ice and snow management
- Make sure to remove ice and snow from your horse’s feet to prevent injuries. When picking out your horses feet, also make sure to check for lacerations that may have been caused by sharp ice. Make sure to address any icy areas around barns and fields and sprinkle them with sand or break them up. If your paddock contains ponds, it is wise to fence these off during the winter months to prevent accidents.
- Make sure your paddocks have shelters and/or wind barriers and make sure it is big enough to accommodate all horses in the herd and allow for even the lowest horse in the hierarchy to fit comfortably in the shelter.
Attention to detail
- Plan for time for proper care of your horse before and after riding. Make sure to dry your horse completely after riding and fluff up the coat before turning the horse out. This will help improve the insulating effectiveness of the coat. Body clipping may be an option for horses that will be worked through the winter months as it will reduce moisture trapped in the coat. If you do body clip your horse make sure to use proper blanketing to keep them warm.
- For safe blanketing of your horses, apply blankets only to clean and dry horses. Use a blanket most appropriate for your horses needs and for the weather conditions and change the blankets as the conditions change. Ensure the blanket is the proper fit to avoid injuries and accidents.