Looking After Your Winter Horse
Horses can feel the cold especially if they’ve been clipped so here are some tips for keeping your horse safe and warm during the winter months.
Horses should be able to cope quite well during the winter months as long as they have the necessary shelter to protect them.
When a horse grows its winter coat body heat gets trapped, this provides your horse with the warmth it needs. What a horse struggles with is the wind and rain, so you must provide your horse with good shelter. If you have quite a few horses in the field then you must make sure that the shelter is big enough to accommodate all of them. Research shows that three-sided field shelters can reduce heat loss.
Check black spots and make sure there’s no ice on any surfaces where your horse walks. Ice is dangerous and can quickly cause injuries, the force of your horse slipping on ice can result in broken bones. Sprinkle sand or non-clumping cat litter to treat troublesome areas; a lot of people steer clear of salt because it can burn the paws of small animals.
Never walk a horse over any iced ground that you yourself having trouble walking on.
Even us humans pad out for winter and horses are no different so make sure they have plenty of calories to provide that extra padding. The grass isn’t so readily available as it gets colder so horses should have access to high quality calorific fresh hay at all times. As your horse eats the hay, the breaking down of it in the digestive system creates vital heat. If horses are sharing a field then make sure there are a few hay piles with a good distance between them so all the horses can get a fair share.
Make sure your horse’s drinking water hasn’t frozen over. During the cold months, horses tend to drink less water but you must try to encourage your horse to drink to avoid winter colic. Research shows that horses prefer to drink warm water during the cold months so help them to drink more by warming the water up, there are lots of ways to do this including heated buckets.
It’s not fair to clip your horse then turn him out without the right rug on to keep him warm.
Clipped horses lose natural insulation so whatever turnout rug you choose for your horse make sure it makes up for the insulation it has lost.
Make sure the rug fits around the withers and shoulders neatly, and the seam between tail flap and rug sits at the point of the tail, that way your horse can move freely and not feel restricted. If your horse is between rug sizes go for one slightly larger as one too tight could cause rubbing.
If your horse is turned out full time during the cold months then get a turnout rug with a neck cover for extra protection.
It goes without saying that you need to constantly check on your horse and that means going into the field a couple of times a day and giving a once over. Check their rugs, their water, their weight, the shelter, the ground and so on.