Regardless of the weather or temperature outside, caring for your horse is a year-round obligation. Winter horse care is particularly crucial in the northern US, when winter lows can reach 0°F and even lower. To keep your horse secure and content, you must still be ready for the winter where we live in the South.
The greatest techniques to keep your horse happy and healthy over the winter, no matter where you are, are discussed in this post along with what you need to do to winterize your horse and your barn.
Winterizing Your Horse
There are many things you can do to get your horse ready for winter, whether you reside in a moderate or freezing environment. First, by deworming him, you can make the transition to the winter months easier for your horse. As winter approaches, perform a fecal analysis to determine the best course of treatment and confirm that he is in good physical condition overall.
The optimum time to assist your horse in gaining weight is before winter sets in since horses may need more energy to maintain body warmth in the cooler months. Generally speaking, your horse will require more extra energy the lower his body temperature falls below his lower critical temperature (41°F for summer coats or 18°F for thick winter coats).
Winterizing Your Barn
No matter where in the nation you live, horses may spend more time in the barn during bad winter weather. Examine your barn’s state before the onset of winter. If you see any movement in the trusses and joints, cracking, or dry rot, have it checked out by an expert. Make any necessary repairs to ensure that it is stable and capable of withstanding the next winter weather. Make sure your barn has enough airflow as well.
Sand will provide your horse more traction if you live somewhere with snow and ice. Typically, using salt for this is a bad idea because your horse might lick it and consume the sand as well. In addition, applying excessive amounts of salt to manage snow and ice may harm the horse’s hooves.
Even if your horse usually stays in the pasture, make sure they have adequate access to shelter. Some horses require shelter during bad weather even when they can’t stand being in a stable for health or behavioral reasons. A run-in shelter, which is a compact, three-sided barn-like building intended to protect a horse from bad weather when necessary, should be present if your horse is pastured. The majority of horses can withstand temperatures as low as -40°F if they have access to some sort of shelter. However, they typically like temperatures over 18°F, and for certain horses, anything below that might be harmful, particularly if there is no shelter available.
If you live in a snowy or icy climate, be sure to quickly clear snow from paddocks so horses have easy access to food, shelter, and water. To avoid contaminating nearby drinking water and the surrounding region, avoid moving the snow to low areas, close to drinking sources, or near septic tanks. In the spring, clearing the snow will also help your paddock dry up more quickly.
Additionally, make sure to routinely check the ventilation and the state of the barn. Make sure your horse always has access to fresh, unfrozen water by keeping an eye on their water consumption. Horses in the summer obtain a large portion of their water requirements from grazing in the pasture. Therefore, it’s crucial that they have access to pure water that isn’t made of snow and ice during the winter. The best option when temps decrease is a stock tank de-icer and hot water buckets. Finally, pay attention to your horse’s weight and general health. Under your horse’s heavier winter coat, weight loss symptoms may be overlooked. Don’t ignore pasture quality; if pasture grass is exhausted, you’ll need a strategy for obtaining hay.
Winter Horse Care: Dos and Don’ts
Let’s go over some tips for taking care of your horse in the chilly winter months.
Despite what might seem counterintuitive, it’s important to give your horse enough water during the winter. Ensure your horse has access to plenty of water throughout the day (at least 1 gallon per hundred pounds body weight). To lower the risk of colic, dehydration, or intestinal blockage, make sure water is always available and not frozen. Warm the water if the temperature is below 45 °F to prevent it from freezing.
Exercise your horse—Even throughout the cold, horses require frequent exercise. If it’s dangerous to turn out your horse, think about riding or hand-walking instead.
Watch your horse for weight changes – To make sure your horse isn’t losing weight, keep an eye on their body condition score and weight. If they are, change the feed to ensure that their weight doesn’t fluctuate. The essential temperature for horses is normally approximately 18°F, and for each degree below that, they require an additional 1% of energy in their food. During exceptionally cold temperatures (below 18°F), give out more hay.
Fresh air should be available because dusty barn air can impair a horse’s immune system and create respiratory problems. If the weather necessitates keeping your horse inside for an extended period of time, check to be that the barn has adequate ventilation. Use blankets and open windows and doors as necessary. Ceiling fans might be added, and daily removal of damp bedding and manure is a must.
Exercise too much – Horses can develop arthritis and stiffness, which is worse in the winter, just like humans. Take it gradually at first to get your horse warmed up before beginning to exercise them. If you experience stiffness, think about taking joint supplements. Give your horse some time to cool off after riding if you are exercising in the winter months, and then towel off any perspiration to prevent them from being chilly in the stable.
Keep drugs away from heat sources since many medicines are sensitive to cold and might lose their effectiveness or possibly cause injury if they freeze. Instead, keep them inside the house or in a climate-controlled portion of the barn.
Feed block salt—During the winter, some horses might not want to lick cold block salt. If you reside somewhere colder, you might want to feed loose salt instead.
Neglecting to take care of your horse’s feet is essential to ensuring their health. A daily task that is crucial in the winter is inspecting your horse’s feet.
Winter Horse Care Matters
Depending on your location in the country and the weather you experience, different areas may have different wintertime horse care requirements. Make careful to get your horse and barn ready well before the colder months arrive. To make sure you don’t forget anything and to make sure your horse is happy, healthy, and safe throughout the winter, it’s a good idea to start by developing a care plan.
Learn more: 6 Best Winter Riding Breeches