By Moira Clune and Noreen Girao
Horses usually adapt easily and quickly to winter’s challenges. But it’s important to provide them with the extra care they need to stay safe and healthy when the cold winds blow.
1. As pasture quality or accessibility decreases, increase hay. The best heat source for your horse is extra hay. During the cold weather, it’s best to increase the amount of hay, not concentrated feeds. Hay is digested in the cecum and colon which results in heat production by bacterial fermentation.
2. Get a pre-winter dental checkup. If your horse isn’t grinding up her food properly, she may not be getting all the nutrients and energy out of it. Food is energy and energy creates warmth!
3. Even if your horses are stabled over night, make sure they have a windbreak or shelter. This doesn’t have to be an elaborate structure. Dense shrubbery or a stand of trees may be enough.
4. Consider blanketing during wet, very windy, or frigid weather. Like a wet down jacket, your horse’s haircoat looses loft and won’t hold body heat when it’s wet. Older horses, horses unused to the cold or clipped horses may need blanketing.
5. Remove the blanket every day. Brush your horse and check for chafing and irritation from the blanket. Don’t neglect grooming during the winter. A dirty, matted coat loses much of its ability to insulate.
6. If you put your horse in a stall during very cold weather, keep in mind she may still need blanketing. In the wild, horses forage, move continually and huddle together during cold weather to keep body temperatures up. These options are not be available to a stalled horse and body temperatures can decline.
7. Inside the barn, be sure there is adequate ventilation but no direct drafts. Consider weather stripping the stalls. If your stall floors are cement, add rubber matting or extra bedding for insulation.
8. Be sure to provide adequate water during the winter. Horses may not drink enough if the water is very cold. Try to keep the water temperatures as far above freezing to increase water consumption and avoid dehydration.
9. Watch for frozen puddles around the water troughs. These can be really dangerous to your horse. Sprinkle alfalfa meal on the icy spots. Alfalfa contains nitrogen to promote melting and has a texture to provide traction. Non-toxic and cheap! Fireplace ashes and plain old dirt can provide traction, too.
10. Keep hooves in good condition. Well trimmed hooves will chip less, hold less snow, and provide better grip on slippery ground.
In the wild, horses acclimate very easily to cold weather. In a domestic setting, we may need to provide a little extra care to ensure our horse’s safety and heath. Learn to balance your horses needs with her current environment for the best possible horse health!
Found at EZINE Articles