If you have horses, you may be wondering what you need to do to keep them safe this winter. Do they need more or less food? What about water? Are they able to keep themselves warm when the temperature drops? We have compiled some tips to help answer the questions we hear the most.
Water requirements may increase during the winter months. During the warmer climate, most horses graze on pasture which has a higher moisture content. During the winter your horse will consume more grain and hay which has less moisture. Make sure to keep their water full and don't assume they can get enough from ice or snow. An adult horse requires about 10-12 gallons of water each day.
As the weather gets colder, a horse's energy needs increase. It takes more food to maintain their core body temperature. Increasing calories is especially important for a young horse, because their energy may be diverted from growing to staying warm which can cause stunted growth.
If your horse is accustomed to having a block of salt, you may want to replace it with loose salt for the winter. Salt blocks can become very cold, which might make them less appealing.
Having free access to shelters is essential to protect your horse from wind, sleet, and rain. They will be able to tolerate lower temperatures if they are not being bombarded by the elements.
Another way to protect your horse is by blanketing. Their coat is a big factor in how they handle the cold, but sometimes their winter coat is not enough. Here are some reasons you may need to think about blanketing your horse:
- No shelter during turnouts
- They might get wet from rain, snow, or sleet
- The horse's coat has been clipped
- Young or old horses are more vulnerable to cold
- The horse is not used to cold weather
- The horse has a low body condition score (3 or less)
During the winter months, your horse will still need exercise. Confining a horse during the cold weather can lead to "stocking up," a condition where fluid builds up in the lower legs. During exercise try to avoid walking on ice for both rider and horse safety.
Caring for your horse's hooves in winter is important. Although hooves grow slower this time of year, they can still cause problems. Ice and snow can become packed into the hoof causing pain, increased pressure on joints and tendons, and increasing the risk of slipping. Hooves should be picked clean every day and trimmed every 6-12 weeks.