Keep Horses Healthy All Winter | Living the Country Life

Keep Horses Healthy All Winter

Be sure to remember your horses' hooves, warmth, and feeding regimens during cold weather.
  • Cold Weather Care

    Horses need around one percent more energy for every degree the temperature drops below 30. This can be easily made up by feeding horses more, particularly a grassy hay that is stored in the hind gut. Food stored there will provide more heat for the horse. If the temperature drops from 30 degrees to 20, a horse will need two to four extra pounds of hay. Also make sure that heated water is available at 45 to 65 degrees to accomodate the ten gallons horses typically drink a day.

    To maintain horse health and avoid respiratory problems, keep horses cooled down and make sure their chests are cool to the touch. This means sometimes they will need to be cooled down by going on a walk or ride. Also, after working a horse avoid putting them away when they are still hot or breathing heavily. Remember to clean off any mud or snow from the legs to avoid soreness and ulcerations, as well. 


    Date Published: November 26, 2013
    Date Updated: November 16, 2018
  • Blanketing horses

    To compensate for the cold weather, horses grow extra hair for a thicker coat. However, blankets are helpful too! If your horse is thin or older and lacking the body fat cover it previously had, a heavier blanket may be the option for you. For a younger horse with a healthy fat cover, consider a thinner blanket of a lower weight. That layer of body fat acts as somewhat of an insulating layer, itself. 

    Blankets flatten horse hair and diminish its ability to insulate properly, so expect to leave the blanket on for the bulk of the winter season. Be sure to remove the blanket at least once a week to check skin and hair conditions. When doing this, take note of whether or not the horse is sweating. If yes, consider a lower blanket weight. 

    To prevent rubbing and sores on the skin, make sure the blanket fits properly. Measure from the chest of the horse to the middle of its thigh next to the tail to get an accurate number for purchasing a properly fitted blanket. If riding often during the winter, consider trimming your horse's coat to accomodate sweating.

    Date Published: November 26, 2013
    Date Updated: November 16, 2018
  • Supplement nutrients

    It's common in winter to find yourself feeding horses hay that looks more like straw than nutrient-rich hay. When that becomes the case, especially, it is important to supplement horses with the vitamins and minerals they are lacking. 

    Try supplements that help with joint pain. Vitamins E and C are great antioxidant supplements, but beware of Vitamin A and its toxicity in excess.

    Be sure to mix the supplements into the animal's feed to be sure they are ingesting it and not in excess, which can happen with a salt or mineral block. Give horses supplemental vitamins and minerals daily to ensure their bodies are building up the nutrients. Look for results in three to four months.

    Date Published: November 26, 2013
    Date Updated: November 16, 2018
  • Prepare hooves for winter

    Horses are prone to slipping and to getting snow packed into a painful ball in their hooves, which proves that winter is an important time for attentiveness to horse hooves. Like any other season, hooves need to be trimmed, but not as frequently since hooves grow more slowly in winter. 

    If using horseshoes, be sure to have some sort of traction whether that's through applied snow pads or horseshoes with special kinds of studs or roughened surfaces. Horses without shoes are more susceptible to bruised soles and hoof issues like cracking or chipping. We suggest keeping a hoof pick on hand to remove mud, rocks, and snow.


    Date Published: November 26, 2013
    Date Updated: November 16, 2018
  • Minimize stall walking

    Horses weren't made to be cooped up in a stall, so when they are bored or nervous they may be found wasting energy walking in circles and pacing back and forth. Once a horse makes a habit of stall walking, it is hard to get them to stop.

    Unfortunately, stall walking can not only cause tendon and joint issues in horses, but it can also be very hard on the horse stalls. Unless you have a concrete floor with mats, horses will cause ruts in any type of stall base and ruin bedding much more quickly than a horse who hasn't acquired the stall walking habit. 

    To distract them from the movement, try hanging toys from the ceiling of the stall to keep their attention. Milk jugs, scented apples, and jolly balls are all good options to distract the animal but not harm them. Keeping food available is another good option in moderation.

    Date Published: November 26, 2013
    Date Updated: November 16, 2018
  • Prevent heaves

    Horses in stalls with limited air circulation or around dusty or moldy hay are at a higher risk of obtaining heaves, also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (broken wind). A persistent cough and nasal discharge are early signs of heaves, which eventually will turn into a struggle to exercise without stopping and breathing very hard. There is no cure, so make sure to take steps to prevent heaves.

    Let horses be outside as much as possible and keep them in very well ventilated stalls if they must be inside. Also try using chopped paper bedding, not storing hay in the loft, using pellets instead of grain, and feeding horses quality hay free of dust or mold. 

    Date Published: November 26, 2013
    Date Updated: November 16, 2018

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