Winter Tips for Your Horse
by siteadmin | Thu, Jul 09, 2015
In many parts of the country it is bitterly cold this year. Here are some tips to help your equine friend make it through.
Although normally cold weather planning begins earlier in the year, especially the fall, there are still some cold weather management tips that can be put into practice now.
There are two types of cold to consider. Acute cold weather is the type that comes on suddenly, like in a cold snap. Chronic cold weather stays in a locality for a long period of time. Often it is the acute weather that is the most hazardous because the horses are not used to it and owners are not as prepared.
No matter which type you are experiencing this winter season you need to make sure that your horse has suitable shelter, dry bedding, good quality feed, and access to clean water. During the cold winter season your horse should eat between 1.5 to 2 percent of his or her body weight daily in order to maintain a good weight. What is known as the lower critical temperature is the point at which a mature horse, having had time to acclimate to the cold, can tolerate a drop to 5 degrees fahrenheit. Anything below this, the horse must increase calories in order to produce more heat or reduce heat loss to retain their core body temperature. A good rule of thumb is that when the temps drop to minus 5 degrees add another 2 to 3 more pounds of hay per day. Extra forage is great for those cold snaps; however, if the hay is limited, a concentrated feed may be gradually added to their diet.
Horses going through an acute cold weather condition need to be watched carefully. Remember it is always easier to add some weight to a horse to help them get through those cold winter months earlier in the season, such as the fall, rather than try to keep their weight up when the cold weather hits and the calories start dropping off of them. This practice is known as “bulking up for winter.” If you have any questions about doing this, contact your veterinarian.
If you choose to blanket your horse during the long winter months, be sure that the blanket is both waterproof and windproof. A blanket that allows your horse to get wet and cold can greatly affect their ability to maintain their core body temperature, so be sure to repair any small holes with tape used for repairing tents and other heavily used outdoor equipment. This kind of tape can often be found at sporting goods stores. It’s always a good idea to keep an extra blanket on hand in case your horse rips his blanket so badly that it cannot be repaired. Once you start blanketing during the cold weather it is important to continue doing so until the weather warms up.
If possible, keep a heater in your horses’ water, and add some loose salt to their diet. Most feed stores sell loose salt; it is relatively inexpensive, and even a small amount of table salt will do. These things will encourage your horse to drink and thus stave off the dreaded cold weather colic.
Using some of these tips to help your equine friend during the cold winter months will give you peace of mind and keep your horse happy and healthy.