Winter Horse Care

Published on Thu, 11/20/2014 - 12:22pm

With cold weather upon us, it’s a good time to review horses’ special winter needs to make sure they remain healthy and in good condition, no matter how cold it is. Here are a few basic guidelines to follow to keep your equine friends happy:

1.Always keep fresh water available.

Do not depend on horses eating enough snow to meet their water needs. Mature horses will drink approximately ten gallons of water per day. By preference, horses prefer a water temperature of 40°F. Maintaining water at this temperature should encourage normal intake. If you are using buckets, the water should be replaced at least twice per day. If you use float heaters, automatic waterers, or heated water buckets, be sure to check them to insure the heater is not shorting out and shocking the water. Do not depend on horses eating enough snow to meet their water needs.

2. Feed each horse as an individual.

Do not depend on horses eating enough snow to meet their water needs. Mature horses will drink approximately ten gallons of water per day. By preference, horses prefer a water temperature of 40°F. Maintaining water at this temperature should encourage normal intake. If you are using buckets, the water should be replaced at least twice per day. If you use float heaters, automatic waterers, or heated water buckets, be sure to check them to insure the heater is not shorting out and shocking the water. Do not depend on horses eating enough snow to meet their water needs.

3.Losing pasture time increases boredom in horses.

Stemmy, lower-quality, non-moldy hay can offer horses something to pass the time. Feeding small amounts often throughout the day is best.

4. Provide shelter.

Horses do not necessarily need an enclosed barn, but they should have access to a three-sided shelter with a roof. Show horses with short hair coats should not be turned outside in the bitter cold unless they have the protection of a blanket and windbreak

5.Maintain both good dental and parasite control programs.

Teeth should be checked for wear and floated if necessary. Sharp edges can cut the tongue and prevent proper chewing, resulting in wasted feed and poor feed utilization.

6.Keep legs clean.

Mud and snow will accumulate on long hair (feathers) of the fetlock and cannon—keep them trimmed and remove caked mud, snow, and manure. Soreness and ulceration can develop if cleanliness is not maintained.

7.Pull shoes unless you plan to ride on rough surfaces. Observe proper winter cool-down after working your horse.

If you work your horse during cold weather, cool them off properly. Never put a horse up when it is still hot to the touch or breathing hard. Improper cooling may cause the horse to founder. Feel the horse between its forelegs, if it is “hot,” the skin will feel hot to your hand. Slowly cool down by rubbing down and walking—a horse may need to be walked for up to 45 minutes after an intense workout. After the horse has worked, remove the tack. Place a halter on the horse and tie or crosstie the horse to the stall wall. With a warm, damp sponge, sponge off the head, saddle area, girth area, and legs. Never put cold water on the back or hindquarters of a hot horse because it could cause tie-up. While walking the horse, place a heavy woolen cooler on the horse. If windy, place a surcingle around the cooler to prevent drafts. During the cooling down period, do not allow the horse to drink water too quickly—just a few gulps if they are not blowing or breathing hard. Pull shoes unless you plan to ride on rough surfaces.