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Keeping horses comfy in the cold

A horse enjoys a rub in the snow
A horse enjoys a rub in the snow

This winter has been brutally cold and the hardship is not only on humans, but on our four-legged friends as well. Here are a few tips for seeing that horses remain healthy despite Chicago’s unusually cold temperatures.

Horses need a higher caloric intact in cold weather—not garnered from grain, but from high-quality roughage. Giving your horse more hay in frigid temps is the best option rather than throwing more grain his way. Also, to help keep body temperatures up, add a handful or two of crimped corn to their diet if you don’t normally feed corn, or conversely, you can add a cup of corn oil to their diet.

Water is the most important resource for your horse in the cold. It is imperative to check your horse’s water buckets or tanks (if he’s housed outside) to make sure they offer fresh, clean water at all times. A frozen bucket in the middle of the night isn’t doing the job.

You might prefer a nice, heated barn, but that’s not great for your horse’s lungs. The best thing for him is fresh air, even if it’s chilly. A well-ventilated stable is way healthier for your equine friend than a stuffy, warm barn. This can lead to the heaves or a troubled airway, and once afflicted, these non-infectious diseases can cause horse problems throughout his life.

Blanket your horse. In the wild, horses huddle together for heat in the elements. In a stable, where horses are housed in individual stalls, they are not afforded the luxury of close companionship. Use a proper-fitting blanket that gives your horse’s hair some breathing room and allows for freedom of movement.