There is a lot of snow out there. Temperatures have dropped tremendously. Cold weather has already set in and Winter is here to stay. Now, what can you do to keep your horse safe and healthy during the ongoing icy days of winter? Check out our six important tips below:
1) Adequate Shelter
Although most healthy, well-calorized horses will do just fine living in the open during winter by developing a nice winter fur coat and being sheltered appropriately, a waterproof and breathable blanket can help in safeguarding against rain or driving wind. Horses will generally tolerate cold temperatures but you need to protect them from wind and moisture using a structural shelter.
2) Sufficient Calories
Ever heard of the common phrase “bulking up for winter” used by many horse owners? Since horses utilize a lot more calories to generate heat to keep their bodies warm during winter, ensure that high-quality hay is the key staple ingredient of any winter diet, especially if you turn out your horse more often. For older horses or those with dental problems that hinder them from eating hay well, use high-calorized alternatives like senior feeds.
3) Give Him Water, Not Ice
Inadequate water intake is a major cause for colic in the winter due to the resulting impaction. However, with modern technology and electricity, it is possible to employ non-freezing automatic watering systems and heated water tubs even in the fields. The cost is a bit high but nevertheless worth it to provide your horse with a constant flow of fresh water.
4) Consistent Blanketing & Checking
Regular blanketing is crucial in winter, and so is frequent checking. These two go hand-in-hand to ensure that your horse is kept warm, dry and comfortable during the entire cold season. Checking regularly helps in the early detection of anything that may lurk under the blanket and create problems later. For instance, if a thick-hair-coated horse is repeatedly sweating and subsequently drying under its blanket, the bacterial skin disease rain rot may result. Removing the blanket frequently also helps detect any other changes in body condition like rapid weight loss or suspect lumps and bumps.
5) Smart Clipping
Whenever you want to clip some of your horse’s heavy hair to help him dry much quicker after a ride in winter, you need to be smart and cautious about the clipping. Thereafter, you will need to be very diligent about his blanketing, especially if the horse lives outside during the cold. In case you have also clipped his head and ears, you may need to keep him inside when there are excessively low temperatures since frostbite may occur.
6) Pay Close Attention to Footing
Although most horses will be fine with any amounts of snow, ice is a different story altogether. You should be very careful about ice accumulating on surfaces where your horse walk on. Dicey footing may cause fracturing of bones or even down the horse. If you live in a snowy region and your horse is shod, you will find it beneficial to ask your farrier to apply a special pad so as to safeguard his hoofs from snow balling up inside his shoes.
Image source: flickr.com
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