This time of year can make you question if you’re really cut out for horse ownership, especially if you’re battling extreme cold or wet weather. There’s nothing like busting ice in water buckets or getting your boots sucked off in the mud to make you rethink the decision to own a horse. If you’re like the majority of true horse lovers out there you’ll still suck it up and do what needs to be done. After all, the horses have to be taken care of and they can’t do it by themselves.
The two main necessities to maintain a horse’s health in extreme wet or cold are a plentiful supply of water and hay. Without those two things your horse’s health can deteriorate quickly.
Water is critical to keep horses hydrated and to maintain an electrolyte balance. It also helps to keep the gut moving and healthy. Water also acts as an insulator to help keep horses warm during the winter.
Before extreme weather hits, it’s important to already know your horse’s daily water intake. Most horses drink less water when the temperatures drop. If you already know how much your horse drinks you’ll notice when he’s drinking less and can be proactive in his care.
If you notice your horse isn’t drinking as much water as usual, periodically offer warm water for them to drink. If the temperatures have dropped drastically so that you’re constantly having to bust ice off of the water trough, warmed water can be a treat in the extreme cold.
Wetting down the feed is a good way to make sure your horse is getting enough water into their digestive system. If your horse is drinking less water due to the cold, you will definitely want to add water to their feed. Not only is this a good way to avoid issues like choke, but it’s also a good preventative for colic, which happens more frequently during extreme cold weather.
Make sure your horse has access to unfrozen water at all times. If you don’t have a tank heater or some other way to keep the water thawed out, you may have to break the ice on top of the trough or bucket several times a day.
One tip to keep water from freezing as easily is to use the black rubber water tanks instead of metal or the green rubber tubs. These tend to draw heat from the sun and will warm up much quicker than other types of tubs.
Another tip to keep your water tank thawed out is to place them in an area where there is plenty of sunlight. If your water tank is in the shade it will stay much cooler than if it’s in direct sunlight. If the temperatures are just below freezing the heat from the sunlight can melt the ice in the water trough in just a few hours.
As with water, make sure you offer plenty of hay during cold or wet weather. The fermentation process that occurs during digestion of forages produces heat. This is why it’s so important for horses to have access to plenty of hay in extreme weather.
An average thousand pound horse will consume between fifteen to twenty pounds of hay or grass per day. During extreme weather, it’s a good idea to offer twenty five to thirty pounds per day as their bodies burn more calories from conserving body heat. If you’re not sure how much hay to feed you can always feed hay free-choice. Feeding free choice is actually the best option because it allows them to eat for a longer period of time which means they will be generating heat for a longer period time as well.
Maintaining horses during the winter is always tough. Providing plenty of fresh water and hay is the most important thing you can do to keep your horse healthy and warm.
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