Winter’s just around the corner, and as much as we might like to fantasize about our horses frolicking freely in the snow, it’s time to get real about cold weather care. Yes, the season calls for a little extra TLC to make sure our horses are comfy and healthy. So, let’s talk about how to keep your horse feeling like a champ when the temperatures dip.
1. Creating a Cozy Haven
As the temperatures drop, it is crucial to provide your horse with adequate shelter to protect them from the harsh elements. A well-designed and insulated shelter will shield your horse from chilling winds, rain, and snow. Additionally, it will help maintain their body temperature and prevent them from expending excessive energy to stay warm. According to research from the University of Pennsylvania, horses left out in the cold and wet are more prone to respiratory issues and even colic. So yeah, shelters are non-negotiable.
2. Is your horse’s diet cold weather-ready?
Cold weather requires horses to expend more energy to generate body heat, making nutrition a critical aspect of winter care. Horses require approximately 2% of their body weight in forage daily to maintain optimal health, especially during cold weather. Adjusting their diet to include high-quality forage and increasing caloric intake can help meet their increased energy requirements. Feeding frequent small meals and providing access to clean, unfrozen water are also essential. Consider adding oil or fat supplements to your horse’s diet to provide extra calories and help maintain a healthy body condition during the cold months.
3. Blanketing Basics
Blanketing can be a useful tool in managing your horse’s comfort during the colder months. Choosing the right blanket based on your horse’s individual needs, such as age, body condition, and activity level, is crucial. A well-fitting blanket can provide insulation, protect against moisture, and prevent the horse’s natural coat from becoming excessively dirty or matted. Regularly check the fit of the blanket to ensure it is not causing any discomfort or rubbing, and remove and dry the blanket if it becomes wet or soiled.
4. Exercise and Mental Stimulation
Cold weather should not be an excuse to neglect your horse’s exercise routine. Regular exercise not only helps maintain their physical fitness but also provides mental stimulation, preventing boredom and behavioral issues. Even short sessions of lunging, hand-walking, or light riding can go a long way in promoting your horse’s overall well-being. Be mindful of the footing conditions and adjust the intensity and duration of exercise accordingly to prevent injuries.
5. Hoof and Health Care
The winter months can pose unique challenges to your horse’s hoof health. Regularly inspecting and cleaning hooves can help identify and address any issues promptly. Scheduling routine farrier visits, ensuring proper hoof moisture balance, and providing appropriate hoof protection can prevent common winter problems like cracked hooves and thrush. Consider using hoof boots or applying hoof oils or balms to protect and moisturize the hooves during cold and dry weather.
As the chill lingers in the air, let’s not forget our horses need a bit more from us during this time. enjoy the season, knowing you and your horse are winter-ready! Keep riding, Bay Area!