Winter Horse Care Tips
DEALING WITH ICE
One of the biggest concerns is whether they are drinking enough water. The past few days everyone has been dealing with frozen water in the buckets. One trick I have found that avoids a build up of ice chunks around the water bucket is to have two water buckets and rotate them. The frozen one goes inside to thaw and the warm one that was inside goes out to the horse. This way the horse has a chance to drink room temperature wate which may be more attractive than ice water.
You may feel that if it’s not hot out the concern shouldn’t be so great, but if they are not drinking enough because of the cold conditions and icy water at hand, they are very susceptible to impaction colic.
Something as simple as throwing in a small handful of loose salt into their feed will help ensure that they get thirsty enough to drink the required water for their system…keeping things flowing smoothly!
COLD WEATHER FEEDING
Spending more time in the stall and less riding usually means that a horse will need fewer calories. Then again, in colder weather, a horse burns more calories to generate body heat and maintain its normal core temperature. It’s important to know, however, that in all but the most extreme weather, a horse’s caloric needs generally rise only ten to twenty percent. Replacing some of the horse’s grain concentrate with hay can help it to more easily maintain its body temperature.
One way to do this is to substitute two pounds of hay for each reduced pound of grain fed daily. When less than half a percent of the horse’s body weight is fed daily in grain, consider supplementing with a specialty feed. This ensures that the horse is still receiving the right amounts of vitamins and minerals at the reduced feeding rate. For instance, a good winter ration for a mostly idle horse might be seventeen pounds of quality grass hay and two pounds of specialized feed. This combination meets 110% of a mature horse’s caloric needs, as well as ensuring it receives the right protein, mineral, and vitamins.
DRESSING FOR THE COLD
Poorly fitting winter blankets can severely chafe or cut a horse’s skin. If winter blankets aren’t made of breathable fabrics, the horse can sweat underneath and become uncomfortably wet. Likewise, horses left blanketed when the weather turns mild will be uncomfortable.
And those wonderful winter blankets…. perfect for the cold soggy west coast winters, but don’t forget to take them off once in a while to check thoroughly over their bodies, keeping tabs on skin issues and weight maintenance. If you don’t look frequently sores can develop or the horse could slowly be loosing weight without you realizing.
Watch out for changes in footing with the sub-zero temperatures. Ice can be slippery and cause falls, whereas uneven and hard ground can cause sprains or bruising. Even a riding ring with sand or hog fuel can be affected. Any ground that was damp and soft will now probably be hard and lumpy. Please be careful out there. Your horse may feel like a good romp in the crisp weather but make sure the footing is safe.
Article courtesy of Dr. Hermen Geertsema
Hermen Geertsema Equine Services Inc.
‘Striving for excellence in veterinary care’
P.O. Box 1495 Aldergrove, BC, V4W 2V1
Office: 604-857-5432 / 1-888-858-5432
Cell: 604-729-2970 Pg: 604-918-1079