How can I prepare my horse for the winter?
As the weather starts to get cooler and the days are becoming shorter, it is time to start thinking about preparing our horses for the winter ahead.
Now is the time to evaluate your horse’s body condition. Remember, their ribs should not be visibly distinguished but easily felt. If your horse is one of those “tough keepers,” this time of year is a good time to put a bit of extra weight on them.
Did you know that horses should consume 1-2% of their body weight in forages daily? The amount only increases with exercise. Consumption of forages can also help to increase internal body temperature with the heat created through fermentation.
Water consumption often decreases with colder weather which can cause impaction colic. Most horses actually prefer drinking warm water instead of icy cold water, so you can help increase the amount they drink by offering warm water, putting electrolytes in their feed, or using products such as Horse Quencher (see our previous post!).
As always, it is important to make sure that your horses are adequately vaccinated and dewormed. Appropriate dental care is needed to make sure that horses can properly consume and digest the nutrients you give them, and this is particularly important in older horses.
Wet and muddy conditions predispose horses to thrush and pastern dermatitis, so avoid this by providing a dry area available to them. In areas with more snowy and icy conditions, consider whether shoes are necessary as they can cause a horse to slip more easily.
Colder weather often exacerbates stiffness causes by arthritis in our older horses. Addressing these problems should be done before winter arrives. Some older horses benefit from the use of Equioxx which is a non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that is less likely to cause issues with their stomach and kidneys and can be used more long term than phenylbutazone.
If allowed to grow a good coat on their own, most horses of adequate body condition do not need a blanket. Hair growth is stimulated by decreasing daylight, and some people avoid thicker winter coats by providing artificial lighting and blanketing. However, if you start the season by providing a blanket to your horses, please remember that you cannot abruptly stop. Sometimes heavy exercise causes sweating, and long hair inhibits the cooling down and drying off process. Often these horses are body clipped and blanketing is a must!