Winter Tips for Horse Owners
The colder Winter months can bring challenges for many horse owners. We’ve summarised our key tips to help your horse through the colder weather.
Clean Drinking Water
It is essential that horses always have a clean, fresh supply of drinking water. In winter time water drinkers and pipes can freeze, meaning that your horse is left without access to water. Ensure that drinkers and buckets are checked regularly, break any ice that forms, and always have water buckets on standby in the event of pipes freezing.
Horses are less inclined to drink water in the cold weather and are therefore more susceptible to impaction colic, which can be fatal. Encourage your horse to drink by adding electrolytes to their diet, warming their water source if necessary or adding a small amount of sugar free fruit juice to their water buckets. Always have your vet’s contact details on hand, incase of emergency.
Horses produce body heat through the process of digesting fibre in the hind gut. Therefore, in cold weather it is a good idea to provide your horse with unlimited access to forage. If weight gain is a concern, forage can be soaked prior to feeding, to reduce the nutrient content.
Many older horses often lose condition in the winter months. If your horse is a poor doer, has a limited appetite or struggles to consume adequate quantities of forage, they may benefit from supplementary feeding in the Winter months. An un-molassed soaked beet product such as speedibeet is ideal, as it has a high fibre content and is a great source of slow release energy, whilst also being low in sugar and starch.
High quality oils such as linseed oil are also great for horses who lack condition. Linseed oil is a very dense source of ‘cool’ energy and only needs to be fed in small quantities making it ideal for horses who have a more limited appetite.
Regularly monitor your horse’s body condition score and monitor their weight if possible. If you do not have access to a weigh bridge, a weigh tape makes a great alternative.
Rugging in the Winter
If turned out, ensure your horse has access to a safe and secure shelter to provide protection against the elements. Field shelters should be spacious to accommodate the required number of horses comfortably.
Rug your horse according to their individual needs. Factors that will influence the type of rug your horse will need include age, breed, temperament, health status and whether or not they are clipped. It is important to remember that horses have a much broader thermoneutral zone than humans - just because we can feel the cold, doesn’t mean that our horses can. Over rugging your horse can cause discomfort and lead to overheating. If turned out ensure your horse’s rug is waterproof, to provide protection against rain showers.
Owners should have several spare rugs. This allows for wet drugs to be removed and dried out before further use. Keep rugs in good condition by having them cleaned, repaired and re-waterproofed regularly.
Take extra care in adverse weather conditions. Ice can make the ground very slippery, posing as a hazard to both you and your horse. Strong winds, rain storms and snow storms can cause horses to be more on edge, making them more likely to display spooky and reactive behaviours.
In winter months, horses are more likely to need respiratory support due to dust inhalation. Always ensure that stables have adequate ventilation, use dust extracted bedding where possible and soak forage if necessary to reduce dust content. Some horses may benefit from being fed a specially formulated respiratory supplement to support their airways. Breathe Rite respiratory supplement works to maintain clear and healthy airways, allowing your horse to breathe with ease.
Increased stabling and limited access to turn out in the Winter can be associated with other health concerns. Being confined to a stable with restricted mobility can result in fluid accumulation and swelling in the limbs and stiffened joints. Horse’s who suffer from filled legs may benefit from a dietary supplement that promotes healthy fluid distribution, whilst those with stiffened joints may benefit from a joint supplement to support and promote optimum mobility.
If your horse is doing less work in the winter months it is a good idea to review their diet and cut back on unnecessary energy. Excess energy in the diet can quickly result in unnecessary weight gain which can lead to several other negative health implications. Most horses in light to moderate work can have their energy requirements met from a fibre based diet. If you have any concerns about your horse’s diet or weight we recommend consulting a vet or nutritionist who will be able to advise. We are also more than happy to offer nutritional advice to owners. Send any queries to firstname.lastname@example.org and a member of our expert team will be on hand to help.