Winter often upsets our riding schedules. Bad weather prevents folks from being able to ride and the inevitable hustle and bustle of the holidays steals away our barn time. Here are some things to do to keep your horse healthy and happy during those months:
1. Reevaluate feed rations.
Horses who are worked regularly often require additional calories in the form of grain and other concentrates to maintain their condition. During the times when your horse is laid off, adjust his feed accordingly. A horse who is not working, but is still receiving the same amount of feed will likely gain weight and may have too much energy. Excessive fat and obesity in horses can cause a number of health problems. A horse with a lot of energy and no way to expend it will not only be somewhat of a pain to handle and have around the barn, but makes for an unhappy animal. Cut back the ration to fit your horse's needs when he is not being ridden. Grain may not even be necessary for some horses who are out of work and are offered adequate amounts of good quality forage.
2. Allow more turn out time.
People have a tendency to stall their horses during the cold winter months. Unfortunately, we also slack off from riding for the same reason, which prevents our horses from getting the exercise and stimulation they need. Horses are designed to roam in herds over large spaces, foraging. When you don't have time to ride or the weather is not quite pleasant, try to get your horse out in the pasture for some self exercise and to reduce boredom. We think a lot about our horse's physical health by providing good feed and regular vet checks, but often times we neglect their mental health.
3. Consider adding lunging to your routine.
Even if it's a bit cold or you're pressed for time you can still try running through fifteen minutes or so of work on the lunge line or even a roundpen session a few times a week to help keep your horse in shape and provide some stimulation during the mundane schedule of winter. Especially if you can't get your horse out to pasture, some lunging can really aid in keeping your horse fit and engaged. Plus, you'll probably get a kick out of his antics in the roundpen, without the hassle of tacking up!
4. Provide plenty of good quality forage.
We mentioned earlier that horses were designed to roam and forage all day. Their systems were created to constantly move long stemmed fiber through the digestive tract. Avoid feeding large portions of grain and other concentrates. If they must be fed, try splitting the ration into two or three separate feedings throughout the day. Horses were not made to digest large amounts of concentrates at one time, instead they need small frequent meals. Horses were made to constantly chew and digest fiber. Provide adequate amounts of good quality hay for your horse. Several problems can result from an insufficient supply of long stemmed fiber in your horse's diet such as ulcers and cribbing. The stomach will coat itself in acid as it tries to digest what is not there. This acid can be damaging and can cause ulcers. Horses have an instinct to chew. If this chewing action is not fulfilled through hay or other types of forage, horses have a tendency to chew on other things. Like stall doors and fences. The digestion process generates heat and keeps horses warm. It is important in the winter that your horse has access to forage for this reason as well.
Folks, try to stay warm this winter and use these tips to keep your horse balanced and content during these long months.
Disclaimer: Of Horse! and sponsors do not endorse nor validate the accuracy of a blog post. Each article is the opinion of the blogger.