February 18, 2014
- The best way to prepare for winter horse care is in the fall. Make sure that you have plenty hay to last until the spring, allowing for extra storms and a potential late first cutting of hay. Pull out those blankets that have been washed, waterproofed and mended. Take care of all repairs to run in sheds, barns, electric, and spigots. Is your horse up to date on his dentistry, vaccines, and worming?
- Decide if you are going to use heated water troughs, and or buckets. Is there electric accessible? Do the water troughs heaters from last year still work? How will you keep your hoses from freezing? Access to clean warm water is essential since it will encourage them to drink in the cold. It will help keep your horse’s digestive system moving when the risk of impaction colic is high and there are higher caloric needs.
- Stock up on the bedding material of your choice. If you are using shavings/ sawdust take in mind that saw mills may not have as much of a readily available supply. If the weather is bad then it is hard to get the logs out of the forest to the saw mill. Obviously the wheat is no longer growing so there will be no more straw until spring so stock up.
- Once the cold sets in you will have to alter your horse’s diet. As the temperature drops your horse will need to use more energy to maintain body temperature. The best way to start is with feeding extra hay. This will do 2 things: increase calories consumed and help keep your horse warm from the gases that are generated in the digestive system. If you horse has a low body weight you can also gradually increase grain and add a fat supplement (ex. corn oil). Look at the feed label and talk with your nutritionist. You will need less of a higher quality more expensive grain which may actually end up saving you money and it will be better for your horse.
- Allow your horse to have free choice access to a salt mineral block. Gatorade or electrolytes can be used in cases of dehydration.
- Check your horse’s hooves routinely. Horse with shoes can develop snow balls. If possible pull shoes for the winter, or have your farrier put snow pads to prevent this (they can be reused). The frozen ground can be hard on their hooves. Hoof oil with turpentine will harden hooves to help prevent bruising and chipping.
- Check your horse’s body weight routinely either take off the blanket and see if you can see your horse ribs. A good weight it that you can’t see the ribs but you can easily feel them. Even check horses that do not have blankets since a thick fluffy winter coat can be deceiving.
- Be creative! Sometimes it may not be possible to ride everyday so take advantage of it and work on ground work, your relationship with the horse, stretching, and any other manners that your horse can improve on (standing still, proper leading, mane pulling, clipping etc.) It is worth the investment in proper winter riding attire- insulated breeches, layered shirts, coat, gloves, warm water proof tall boot, much boots etc. You wouldn’t go on a ski trip without warm gear, the same goes for the barn. Happy riding!