Winter Horse Care
"With proper winter horse care your horse will be safe and stay healthy throughout the coldest of winter months..."
Horses adapt well to cold, but may need a little help.
You pull back your curtains to reveal old man winter's masterpiece. The ground is shimmering in the sunlight. Before you or your family dares to venture out into this extraordinary white world, you bundle up in your best gear; snow boots, gloves, scarves, carry hand warmers, eat a good breakfast, and brew hot chocolate upon your return. You might bring a water bottle with you if a snowball fight is on your mind, or a shovel to clear the driveway. The point is that if we do these things for our family, why not for our horses too? There are many problems that can occur for a horse due to winter's harsh conditions. With proper winter horse care and a bit of extra effort these problems can be easily avoided.
Most horses adapt well to cold weather so stabling is not necessary. What is necessary is somewhere they can get away from the elements. A small lean-to or timberline works well for this. Many horse owners, whose horses spend the majority of time inside, invest in a horse blanket. Horses that spend more time outside, develop thick winter coats and will be more comfortable without a blanket. Horse blankets vary greatly from thickness to materials used. It is important to find a blanket that suits your horse's needs and your budget.
Rubber VS. Plastic
One of the hardest tasks winter brings is water trough maintenance. If you live in an area that frequently dips below freezing, a soccer ball floating in the trough will prevent the water from becoming a giant ice cube. Stores also carry water trough heaters for areas prone to extreme thick ice. While rubber buckets cost more than plastic ones, it's well worth your money to invest in a rubber trough. Ice can easily be removed from rubber troughs by turning the bucket upside down. Plastic troughs will freeze and crack open. Clean, available water is essential.
A winter horse feeding program should be established before winter's first snow. Just like any other animal, a horse needs time to adjust to changes in food. One thought to consider is during the last summer months weaning your horse off pasture grass, which will be covered during the winter months, and slowly introduce more fodder into their diet. Feeding your companion more fodder during the winter months will help them to maintain a healthy body temperature. As horses digest, heat is produced. This heat produced by the digestive system is what keeps the horse warm.
Proper horse hoof care is crucial! If a horse's hoofs are allowed to grow the chances of them cracking or chipping increases greatly. Keeping them trim will prevent any damage and give the horse better traction. Another less obvious step in hoof care is to check your horse regularly for packed ice within the hoof. When ice builds up under the hoof it is a gateway to sole bruises, which can develop into abscesses. Ice build up can be prevented by Vaseline, cooking spray or pads on the bottom of the hoof installed by your farrier.
Remove any obstacles, fix gates and fences, fill holes, and take away manure. Make sure your gates are high enough to allow them to easily pass over any snow that might build up. It is also nice to have a firm area for yourself to stand while grooming or working your horse. Winter can be brutal but with the proper horse care any horse can be safe and stay healthy throughout even the coldest of winter months.