When temperatures dip below freezing for extended periods of time, it is important to remember your horse’s daily needs may increase. Make sure you are taking precautions to ensure your horse remains heathy and safe during the cold days of winter. We’ve come up with 5 steps to a successful winter for your horse:
Provide plenty of fresh water.
Dehydration can cause serious problems in the winter, including colic. It is important to make sure you horse always has access to fresh, relatively warm (between 45 to 65°F) water at all times to maximize consumption. According to theUniversity of Minnesota, an adult horse weighing 1,000 pounds require a minimum of 10 to 12 gallons of water each day! It is a smart idea to make “checking water” part of your daily chore routine to ensure your horse never goes without. Water tanks should also be cleaned regularly and don’t forget to inspect water heaters for any damage or worn wires.
Provide enough calories.
Horse’s require more calories during the winter to stay warm in frigid temperatures. The average inactive horse needs to eat 1.5 to 2% of its body weight in food per day to just maintain weight without any other energy demands. This means an average horse needs at least 20lbs of hay daily during normal weather, but may require up to double that amount in frigid weather. During extremely cold weather, free choice hay is strongly encouraged as it will generate more energy and comfort versus increasing grain intake. Slow feed hay nets are a great option to promote free choice feeding, while also reducing hay waste.
Don’t forget about the importance of Gastric Health.
The challenges of winter can cause damage on your horse’s GI tract and increase risk of colic. In an effort to encourage water intake, add one to two ounces of salt to grain per day to stimulate a horse to drink more. It is also important to make any changes to your horse’s feed gradual, as sudden changes can cause gastric upset. Consider adding a gastric support supplement to support healthy digestive function throughout winter. Gastro-Plex pellets provides a daily dose of high level gut support plus probiotic/prebiotics for optimal digestion; so, you know your horse has what he needs to maintain a healthy gut.
Shelter offers horses protection against wind, sleet, and storms during cold winter months. Free access to a stable or open-sided lean-to works great, as do trees for windbreak if a building is not an option. Remember that even with a blanket, a horse still requires some sort of shelter to escape the elements when inclement weather prevails.
Check blankets frequently.
Whether or not your horse needs a blanket will depend on their age, body condition, weather exposure, and whether they’ve been clipped or has a winter coat already. If you do blanket, it is important to remove and check over your horse’s body frequently. Watch for sweating, changes in body condition, and any other abnormal bumps or conditions. It is also important to watch for any blanket tears or broken straps to reduce chances of injury.
Keep paddocks and footing clean and safe.
Ice can be a big hazard in paddocks, putting your horse at risk for slips and falls. Although the best solution would be to remove your horse from the area until the snow melts, it isn’t the most realistic solution. When ice is present, add sand or salt to help with footing. If your horses are shod, inquire to your farrier about adding a pad to prevent the balling-up of snow inside their hooves. These “snow stilettos” are harmful and dangerous for your horse and should be checked for daily. It is also important to have a regular cleaning schedule to remove manure from paddocks. This will help keep your horse’s paddocks footing safe and sanitary.
Keeping your horse comfortable and healthy when winter weather hits can be a challenge, but taking precautions and making a few of these steps a part of your daily chore routine will make the job much easier!