There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man. ~Winston Churchill
Horses are generally hardy in winters cold temperatures. They grow a thick winter coat for additional warmth, but they still need some extra TLC from you. Caring for your horse wisely through the winter months will help to ensure that they get through the cold weather with few or no real problems.
Even though the temperature outside is cold does not mean your horse does not need cooled down after a ride.Make sure they are not exposed to drafts and that they are being fed properly.
One of the most important steps is to make sure your horse has proper housing.When preparing the stable or barn for winter, ensure that the horse's quarters are clean, warm, well ventilated and free from drafts. Make sure your horse has clean bedding and that the bedding is regularly changed.
Riding in the pristine winter snow can be delightful, but does bring up two major issues.; preparing your horse for the ride and then cooling your hot horse down safely.
Also remember that it is immensely important to take good care of your horse's hooves in the winter. Mud can cause serious thrush,. Remember too that well trimmed hooves have a better grip on icy surfaces.
Always prepare your horse for riding. Be sure to check the area where you will be riding. Look for ice or deep mud hazards that could cause your horse to slip or trip. Try adding de-icing agents such as salt or sawdust to slippery zones around the stable and tacking areas, gateways and doorways, etc.
Warm the bit before you tack up. Run hot water over it, or use a non-toxic hand warmer gel.
Be sure to clean out your horse's hooves. You can add a layer of non-stick cooking spray or petroleum jelly to your horse's hooves; this will prevent balls of ice and snow from forming inside the hooves.
Groom your horse. This is a good way to warm your horse's muscles.
Be sure to find a clear, clean spot to tack up. Find a spot that is not muddy or icy and has good footing.
During riding, take care about where you choose to ride. Pitfalls for riding during winter are varied depending on whether you're riding in snow or in more temperate muddy, cold temperatures. Here are a few things to keep an eye out for;
Deep snow, especially where it conceals holes, tree wells, and crevices where your horse could slip down. Ice. Any ice is potentially dangerous as your horse has no grip or traction. Mud. While a little mud is fine, a lot of mud can cause the horse to become bogged, or to trip. Mud can also conceal objects that might harm your horse. Wet slopes. Take care riding a horse down a wet slope, as it is easy to lose grip, especially when going fast. Never canter or gallop your horse in snowy, muddy, icy, or any slick terrain. After your ride be sure to cool down your horse properly. During winter months your horse can get a chill, moving from being very hot and sweaty, to being cold.
If your horses ears are hot, walk him around a bit. Feel his ears again. They should be cool, not cold nor hot. Cold ears mean a cold horse. Dry your horse. A wet horse should be dried after riding in winter Take a towel in each hand and rub the towels over his coat in circular motions. Clean the hooves out and apply another layer of non-stick cooking spray or petroleum jelly to the hooves. Brush or curry your horse once he is dry. This will separate the hairs and help to keep him warm, as body heat warms the air between the coat and skin. If adding a blanket, make sure it is a breathable blanket that allows water vapor to pass through.
When you return your horse to the pasture or stable make sure that they have sufficient food and water. Never forget to check to see if your horses water has frozen over. Remember also that a horse will drink more water if it is warmed and this will help reduce the risk of colic brought on by dehydration.
Make sure your horse gets lots of exercise to keep them warm.
It is vital that you are aware of possible winter illnesses. just like us horses get sick in the winter. Horses are susceptible to respiratory illnesses during winter. The ammonia build-up, mold, and dust inside barns and stables can bring on a variety of respiratory illnesses. Do your best to prevent this by ensuring adequate ventilation and ensure that they get outside plenty for fresh air. Horses are also susceptible to skin conditions during winter. Often they will suffer rain-rot, bed itch, ringworm and lice.Keep the horse clean, groomed, and medicated properly.Never blanket a wet horse or to use blankets that do not breathe but cause moisture build-up.
Lastly please remember to spend time with your horse during winter.Take the time to talk to them, sit with them in their shelter and groom them. It helps to keep you connected and you'll find it makes you yearn for warm weather and more riding time.
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