Winter can be pretty harsh on our horses, depending on where you live. Horses naturally adapt to seasons and know how to protect themselves from elements if given the proper environment. A healthy horse should have no problem getting through the winter months without much use of blanket or stalling. However, there are those horses that need a little more care, such as the very young, old, injured, and sick.
To prepare your horse for Winter, several things should be considered. A healthy horse can withstand elements much better than an ailing horse. Keeping horses up on their immunizations and worming schedules ensures a strong immune system. A horses coat is his best defender going into the Winter Season. Providing him with plenty of Water, Hay and Blankets (if needed) will keep him more comfortable when it gets bitter cold.
Prepare Your Horse for the Winter
When allowed to grow a longer and thicker, a horses coat has the natural ability to act as an insulator against the cold winter temperatures. Horses need adequate shelter to shield them from freezing wind gusts, rain and snow. A wet horse will get chilled very easily. It is not difficult to prepare your horse for the winter. It just takes a little time to prepare and check on every day.
Horses Nature to Prepare for the Cold Season
A horse has the ability to fluff up his coat and entrap air, which creates a natural insulation against the cold. Horses that are kept outside should not be blanketed as doing so will prevent their coat to grow thick enough to stay warm. Adding a few pounds to your horse will also help to guard him against the elements, as the extra layer of fat acts like an additional insulator. The oils in the horses coat help to keep the coat dry to a certain point. In severe weather however, rain and heavy snow can wash away that oily protection, and even the hardiest of horses may get chilled.
Horses, especially when kept on Pastures day and night, should have plenty of hay to feed on (roughly 1% of his body weight or more). Since roughage supplies calories and calories equals energy for heat production, a good supply of high quality hay helps keep your horse warm. Pasture horses need to be able to find cover in a sheltered area, protecting them from harsh North Winds, Rain and Snow. Blanketing a Pasture horse should be done under close supervision. Using a waterproof not water resistant blanket, checking often for dampness, adjusting blanket, and taking off the blanket periodically when temperatures warm or to groom the coat is important. Please note: Even waterproof blankets will eventually get damp!
Stabled Horses may need blanketing when turned out in cold weather, especially when they have been clipped. Their coat usually does not grow as long and thick as coats of horses living on the pastures, since they are sheltered from the wind and cold. When clipped, horses have no natural barrier against the cold and must be blanketed. Horses need to be provided with plenty of fresh, clean water. In freezing temperatures the water supply needs to be checked constantly to make sure that it is not frozen over. Using heated Water Buckets will ensure more water intake , since horses tend to drink less when the water is cold. Providing Salt Blocks is another way to get horses to drink more water. Equine colic is more prevalent in winter time, since horses may not have adequate water intake.
Hoof Care in Winter
Don’t skip on hoof care. Keep horses feet in supreme condition with a daily cleaning routine and regular blacksmith visits. Cleaning hoofs every day and keeping them trimmed on regular basis can avoid bacterial, fungal, and yeast infections. The most common hoof problem arising in wet weather is thrush. Thrush is a bacterial infection of the spongy, triangular shaped part of a horses hoof called the frog. Equine thrush is caused by anaerobic bacteria that, when trapped in moisture, can create a fungal infection that slowly eats away at the horse’s hoof tissue, particularly the frog area. Once exposed to air it almost instantly dies. Thrush is encouraged by improper hoof care, not keeping the packed mud, manure, etc. out of the hoof, thereby giving the bacteria that causes thrush the perfect dark, dirty environment to grow.
Take care of your horse! A Healthy Horse is a Happy Horse!