Ten Tips for Winter Horse Care

Winter Horse Care

You may have heard – WINTER IS COMING. The horses are puffing their coats out, a blanket of frost on the pasture greets us in the chilly mornings, and evening rides are cut short as the sun retreats earlier and earlier. Winter is inevitable – it’s best to be ready! Here’s a refresher on winter horse care to keep things running smoothly at the barn until spring comes again.

 

  1. Keep the hay coming. Making sure your horse is well-fed during the winter months is top priority. The green grass he enjoyed through the warm months has disappeared, and he’ll need something to keep his jaw moving and belly full. The average 1,000 lb. horse should be consuming about 2% of his body weight per day in forage. Increasing hay intake during the especially cold days is beneficial because it fuels your horse’s inner furnace – the digestion of fiber keeps him warm. Hay digests slowly, so constantly providing him with plenty of good hay will keep him generating heat longer. Slow feeders can be an excellent solution here, allowing your horse to eat a controlled amount of hay all day long.

 

  1. Ice bucket challenge. It’s real. Battling icy water buckets in freezing temperatures may feel like an impossible job sometimes, but it’s an important one. Fortunately, many effective, safe options for heating water are available these days. Insulated bucket covers, heated buckets, and coil heaters are just some of the choices out there. Once you’ve solved the ice problem, getting your horse to drink is crucial. In the winter horses may be reluctant to seek water than they would be during the warm months when a cool drink is more appealing. Provide water close to room temperature, or even lukewarm if you can, and keep a free-choice salt block accessible to get him thirsty and drinking.

 

  1. Blanket – or don’t! Blanketing is a personal decision you should make based on your climate as well as your horse’s age, breed, coat thickness, and activity level. If you do blanket, make sure blankets are clean and properly fitted, with straps well-adjusted. If you don’t blanket, let your horse’s coat grow to its fullest and make sure he has access to shelter when he’s out in the elements.

 

  1. Check under blankets regularly. If your horse is sporting a blanket through the winter, you’ll want to remove it regularly to see what’s going on under there. First, check out his weight. Winter is a time horses can easily drop weight, and you won’t notice as easily if he’s hiding under a blanket. Second, groom him! Keeping your horse clean through the winter isn’t just for looks; it’s essential to his health. Left unaddressed, a dirty coat can lead to bacterial and fungal infections. Spritz some ShowSheen® on there as you brush and you’ll not only get a clean, shiny coat, but also a reduction in the ouchy static electricity that blankets can cause.

 

  1. Shelter from the storm. It’s tempting to want to shut your horse up tight in the warm barn through the winter, but horses want to be outside. They are built to withstand the elements, and as long as their turn-out areas are kept safe, they should be allowed to venture out as much as possible. Providing shelter is your ultimate defense against the wind, snow, sleet, and rain. A run-in shed out in the pasture will allow your horse to take cover when he needs it and offer protection from the elements. A run-out paddock that allows him access to his stall is the dream set up, because it gives your horse the freedom to go out in the weather, or stay in and stay dry.

 

  1. Keep sand on hand. Footing around the barn and in pastures should always be safe. Horses do well in the snow, but ice can be very dangerous. Keep a big bucket of sand in an easily accessible area for when things get slippery. Manage ice where it tends to form by breaking it up and sprinkling with the sand. If a particular area in a pasture gets slick often, fencing it off to keep horses out is the best solution for safe winter horse care.

 

  1. Keep the air flowing. When your horse is closed up in the barn, resist the urge to shutter up and plug every crack a frigid draft may find. Fresh, cool air is critical to your horse’s health, and they don’t mind it one bit. Stale, humid air in a closed barn can cause respiratory issues due to the buildup of dust, and ammonia from urine. Horses throw a lot of heat, and will warm themselves as they chow on hay – keep air circulating and let them breathe!

 

  1. Manage stiff, creaky joints. Keeping your horse limber and fit during winter weather can be challenging, especially if you don’t have an indoor arena. Even so, it’s important to encourage movement for muscle and joint health maintenance. If you are not able to ride as you normally would, lunging is a good alternative if the footing is safe to do so. Even hand walking around the farm is better than no exercise at all. Keep the horses moving at turnout by creating paths through deep snow and spreading piles of hay around the pasture to keep them moving from one to the other. Feeding a joint supplement throughout the winter is a great way to maintain mobility from the inside, whether your horse is in his prime working hard, or battling arthritis in his old age – check out Flex+Max® or Bute-Less®! Additionally, applying some Absorbine® Veterinary Liniment regularly can soothe muscles, and remove the chill from his bones.

 

  1. Check under foot. Hoof care is very important, too. Take care to pick your horse’s hooves daily, removing debris and any ice and snow that accumulates. Also keep an eye out for thrush, an infection common in the winter. Applying Hooflex® Thrush Remedy to the sole for a few days should quickly eliminate this common winter horse care challenge.

 

  1. Wear good socks. Don’t forget to care for yourself this winter! Keep your sock drawer well-stocked with fleecy thermal socks that will keep your toes toasty when you head to the barn come snow, sleet, and freezing temps – we know nothing will keep you away!

 

 

2 comments on “Ten Tips for Winter Horse Care”

  1. Donna Johnson says:

    I enjoyed meeting and having a quick chat with the Absorbine exhibit crew. I told them you are my fav company for both product and philosophy.
    I am so disappointed to hear from them you are going to drop Ultra Shield flea & tick collars. They are the only product I have ever used that has kept them 100% tick free since I put them on 6 mos. ago. Living on a lake with never less than 2 – 3 dogs I’ve tried a lot of products before using yours. I hope I can scoop up a few seasons in advance now or you will offer them online in plainer packaging. The market is overrun with poorer products. Please don’t give up on your quality collars.

    1. Sean says:

      Hi Donna,
      Thank you so much for your endorsement and for using our UltraShield Flea & Tick collars! We feel the same way as you do about them – they work really well! You will still be able to find them in the marketplace for some time to come.

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