We have rounded up some top tips for caring for your horse during the cold winter months. There are a huge amount of resources available online, so do make use of them and make sure that you are giving your horse or pony the best winter care that you can provide.
The overriding matter should be the health and well- being of your horse, so if you are unsure if you winter care is appropriate, have a word with you vet to ensure that you are on the right track.
There are several issues to consider:
• Hoof care
As the days get shorter and nights get longer, the temperatures start to drop and all of us need adequate shelter from the elements.
Consider what sort of shelter your horse needs, if any. It may be stabling is not necessary, as horses can acclimatise well, but this needs to be evaluated for each horse individually. Maybe consider a three-sided shelter, making sure that the open side is opposite the direction of the wind. Make sure that there is decent ventilation and drainage and a decent overhang to stop the rain and snow from blowing in.
If your horse is to be kept in a stable all winter make sure you clean it out daily and that your horse has dry bedding.
If you blanket your horse, do not leave it out in the rain. A horse can catch a chill very easily, so any blanket used must be water repellent.
Make sure that your horse has company, especially if you are exercising less during the winter months. They are sociable animals and respond to company rather than being left alone, which can lead to stress and abnormal behaviour. Make sure that you still spend time with your horse, remember your horse needs you and needs extra care when the weather is cold.
Your horses dietary needs may change between late autumn and early Spring, so make sure you consult your vet and make sure that your horse is getting the right balance of pasture, hard feed and forage to maintain their body weight.
Their water consumption will reduce during the winter months, but still make sure there is an adequate supply. Check it at least twice daily and ensure that the temperature of the water is between 8c and18c and remove all ice crystals. Your horse will burn a huge amount of much needed calories, needed for body warmth, if they have to eat snow, so ensure there is always plenty of clean water available.
A horse’s heavy winter coat protects them from the cold. If your horse is going to be left outside make sure that you let him or her grow a long coat and don’t clip the hair within the ears or round the fetlocks.
If the weather is harsh your horse may be stabled for days on end. Some horses can handle this, but others can be prone to lower leg edema, and some also become agitated in the stall. Try to turn your horse out for exercise as often as possible, even if it is for hand walking or even an indoor arena. Exercise in the snow can be good resistance training, but be cautious in heavy or damp snow as this could cause tendons injuries.
Make sure you continue with your hoof care routine during the winter. If you are doing little riding then pull the shoes, and certainly pull them if your horse is going to be left outside all winter. Make sure the hooves are trimmed every six to eight weeks to prevent cracks and breakage and consider using a supplement like Hoof 100, which helps repair damaged hooves and provides the right nutrients for the growth and maintenance of healthy hooves. The ingredients are 100% natural and have no side effects. As an extra bonus, Hoof 100 also helps keeping the coat and skin in optimum healthy shining condition.
Good luck with your winter horse care, do please share any other tips with us.
See you next time!