Winter is upon us once more and its just as freezing, dark and gloomy as ever. Although our winter conditions aren’t as harsh as some other countries here in Australia it can still get pretty cold! Your horse needs to be looked after appropriately through the colder months and so do you so we compiled this list of tips regarding winter equine care.
Provide Adequate Shelter
Horses are able to be healthy and live outside during winter as long as they are healthy, develop a thick winter coat and have appropriate shelter. Many horses do not need to have blankets but waterproof/breathable blankets can help with keeping out driving wind and rain.
The cold temperatures aren’t so much the issue for horses in winter, but wind and moisture does bother them. They should have a shelter big enough to allow the horses to get safely out of the weather when needed. If you have more than one horse together, keep in mind that horses can differ in personality and one horse with a dominant personality may refuse to let more submissive horses into the shelter.
Provide Adequate Calories
Horses need a significant increase of calories to keep warm in the winter months. They should have high quality hay as the staple of their diet, with dry, fresh hay being available at all times. Aged horses or those with dental diseases, meaning they are unable to eat hay productively, need to receive calories more frequently in an alternative form that they are able to use.
Water Not Ice
This may not be so much of an issue for those of us in Down Under, however water still freezes over in some of the colder parts of the country. Colic in winter is often caused by dehydration of horses, so it is important that you ensure your horse has access to enough unfrozen water. These days there are many solutions for this problem so do some research and decide on what is the best product for you and your horse.
Blanket Consistently & Checked
Putting a blanket on your horses that live outside can be necessary to keep them warm and dry. However if the blanket is not checked frequently your horse could be susceptible to bacterial skin disease known as rain rot. Changes in body condition such as loss or gain of weight can be missed if a blanket it kept on a horse all the time.
Be Smart With Clipping
Horses have a thick winter coat that is meant to protect them and keep them warm. A lot of people make the decision to clip their horses to remove the heavy hair that slows drying time after riding. If you choose to do this make sure your horse is appropriately blanketed if he is living outside. Owners who clip their horses in winter should be careful and ensure they are blanketed sufficiently at all times outside to prevent frostbite in colder temperatures.
Pay Attention To Footing
Horses generally are fine with any amount of snow, however ice they are not. It is necessary to be very careful about ice on where horses walk. If a horse slips and fractures a bone we all know the sad consequences of this.
Horses that live in snowy regions could benefit from having a farrier apply a special pad to prevent balling-up of snow inside their shoes. These snowballs can create stiletto like platforms that are very unstable and could also lead to injury.