With the drop in temperature and less than ideal riding conditions on the horizon, tending to your horse’s every need can become more of a chore. Obviously, this is something every horse lover is prepared to endure in order to make sure that their equine companion is happy and healthy all year round. Understandably, the utmost priority is to ensure that your horse is content with whatever the weather throws at us each month and that your horse is at full health through the colder winter months as well. Depending on where you live, the extent of this chill factor will differ massively, but naturally you always want to prepare for the worst conditions.
Often there may be an absence of knowledge of how to maintain physical strength and health during colder months, especially if you are new to owning and grooming a horse full-time. Being aware of what sort of equipment is required and how to alter your horse’s diet are both vital pieces of information, which you will acquire with time, and for those who already have this understanding, it is always great to share the specifics such as the following:
Winter is actually a very calorie draining period for your horse even with the absence of an intensive exercise regime, which is routine in the warmer months. With your horse burning more calories to maintain their normal core temperature and generating as much body heat as they can, you will need to supplement this somehow. Food digestion is a chief source of warmth for your horse, which means their calorie intake needs to bulk up during the winter months. Switch to high quality forage combined with grain if you don’t already use it, as adding this to your horse’s diet can sustain warmth and maintain a high intake of calories.
Another important thing to remember is how vital hydration is, even during the winter months. When the cold weather approaches, horse owners will notice a greater frequency of impaction colic. One of the main causes of this can be dehydration from reduced water consumption, insufficient water accessibility, and eating hay (which only contains 10% water) rather than grass, which contains 80% water. If there is snow on the ground, it is fine for your horse to eat that, but saying this, their fresh water intake should not be neglected. A supply of non-frozen water, which is ideally above 45 degrees Fahrenheit, is of the utmost importance to aid the digestion for your horse, and to keep them hydrated.
A maintenance program is vital. An even higher level of care is required during the winter months. A question which may be on your mind is whether to keep your horse on horse supplements or not. Sometimes it is a good idea to keep the program similar to their summer routine as winter draws in. Their joints and digestive system have grown accustomed to the diet, and as their bodies are working overtime to generate heat, they are more susceptible to illness when the temperature is lower, so supplements are encouraged during the winter months more than ever.
Leaving Your Saddle at Home
Riding bareback can help share body heat and produce a comfortable body temperature for both you and your horse when you are out and about. Additionally, there is a real benefit and ease of skipping the 15 minutes it usually takes to ‘tack up’. Don't wait until the temperatures plummet to the minuses or the snow stacks up to three feet high: Begin your winter nutrition program as early as you can and give your horse sufficient time to build up the reserves he needs to see him through the winter.
(Photo Credit: Zdenko Zivkovic)