Winter Horse Care
The yucky, sopping wet from snow, and freezing cold from the wind months are just downright not fun. They’re especially not fun when you must take care of horses out in that weather too. Read on for tips that will help make caring for your horse in the winter much easier.
VET CHECKS FOR HORSES IN WINTER
As the winter months approach, it is a good idea to have a veterinarian check the horse’s teeth and make sure all floating procedures are done before the winter season begins. If a horse can’t chew or grind its feed down properly, the horse won’t be able to get all the nutrients it needs, especially when the horse needs those nutrients and energy the most during colder temperatures.
You should also have a veterinarian check the horse over to determine their body condition score and if any changes need to occur with the horse’s care to improve their body condition score. The horse should have an adequate layer of fat to help insulate their bodies. Hey, some fat IS good!
FEEDING HORSES IN WINTER
During the colder months, the nutritional quality in grass may decrease which means the horse would have to eat more of it to receive adequate nutrients and energy. When grass is covered by snow or stops growing, horses need to be provided additional feed such as increasing hay and feeding concentrates. Concentrates include sweet feed, pelleted feeds, beet pulp, cracked corn, hay cubes, and hay pellets.
Horses kept in pastures need to eat more hay. A horse’s body produces heat during digestion, but it produces the most heat when digesting hay. Generous supplies of hay will help horses keep them warm in cold temperatures.
WATER SUPPLY FOR HORSES IN WINTER
Water buckets should be kept clean and free of any ice or debris even if the horse is stabled inside. Plastic buckets can shatter after they are frozen — which could be awfully expensive after enough of them break, not to mention absolutely maddening. Heated water buckets and heated water troughs are your best bet for heated options. Rubber buckets do not break when they are frozen and are much easier to handle, too.
SHELTER FOR HORSES IN WINTER
We go into our homes to be warm and dry so horses should have a place that keeps them warm and dry too. Horses kept in pastures should always have access to a three-sided shelter. All shelters should keep the horse dry and out of the wind regardless of if they are inside or outside. What would be the point of a shelter if it didn’t keep them dry and out of the wind?
BLANKETING HORSES IN WINTER
In wet, very windy, or extremely cold conditions, consider blanketing your horse. When their coat gets wet, it loses its loft and is not able to hold body heat. Windy weather pulls their body heat away from them. Some horses are comfortable during very cold weather and others are not and need a blanket. If your horse has been body clipped or has very short hair, they should have a blanket on as well even if they are stabled inside.
When your horse wears a blanket, you should regularly take it off and groom the horse. This allows you to check for chafing or irritation from the blanket, damage or tears in the blanket, and keeps the horse’s coat healthier underneath the blanket. If a blanket is chafing or rubbing your horse, you may need a larger blanket or a liner under the blanket.
These tips are simple yet vital to keeping your horse happy, warm, and healthy all winter long.
Jody Miller is a professional photographer specializing in Horse Photography, Equine Photography, and Equestrian photography. Her work can be viewed online here in her gallery section, and she is also featured at these Arizona Galleries: Van Gogh’s Ear Gallery on Whiskey Row in Prescott, AZ, Hart of AZ Gallery in Cottonwood and Coops Coffee House at Talking Rock Ranch.