Whether your horse is an easy keeper or not, Winter is definitely a time to where he or she will need a little more TLC in order to stay healthy and happy.
Water is just as important in Winter as in Summer and a proper water supply in winter will help to prevent health problems such as weight loss and impact colic.
Continue to provide access to salt block or add a small amount of salt to feed to encourage water consumption.
It's commonly understood that availability to forage (hay) will help to provide energy and warmth during the cold months. Forage may also help to combat boredom as well.
The colder the weather, the more feed your horse will require (especially seniors) and the safest way to meet this is to increase their hay consumption. Age, metabolism, amount of work they're doing, and how much time they're spending outdoors will all factor in to how much you should feed.
Feed Little and Feed Often.
Be sure to keep tabs on your horse's body weight by checking frequently under blankets or woolly fur to make sure ribs and hips aren't becoming more defined. If 24/7 hay doesn't seem to be enough you may need to consider supplementing. There are many feeds and supplements designed to increase weight. One post I read even recommended Coconut Oil.
Shelter doesn't have to be elaborate, but some kind of shelter against winter weather is needed. Shelter can be natural such as trees or low-lying areas to act as a barrier against wind and precipitation.
A simple three-sided constructed shelter will provide the best protection from winter precipitation for pastured horses.
It is important to ensure that your shelter offers adequate space for your animals and allows for their natural behavior and accommodates their hierarchy so that even the lowest horse in the pecking order can benefit from the shelter. In larger herds more than one shelter might be required.
As discussed in previous posts, the decision to blanket your horse should be based on:
- You horse's health - A Horse that are unhealthy or under weight cannot regulate their body temperature as well as a healthy horse.
- Have you clipped your horse? Clipped horses do not have the necessary winter coat to stay warm, so blankets are a necessity
- Access to forage (hay)
- Age of your horse? Foals and Senior horses have a more difficult time staying warm.
Here are some additional blanketing tips found on Thehorse.com Website.
- Only apply blankets to clean, dry horses.
- Use the appropriate blanket for the appropriate use. A stable blanket is for use in a stable and it is not waterproof. Therefore a horse should not wear a stable blanket when he is in the field or pasture. A turnout blanket is for use during turnout and is designed to be waterproof. Horses that live out in the elements wearing blankets should wear waterproof and breathable turnout rugs. A blanket that isn't waterproof will quickly become saturated make your horse cold, which is the opposite of the desired effect of blanket use.
- Use the blanket that is most appropriate for your horse's needs and the weather conditions. If it's 40 degrees your horse probably only needs a lightweight blanket. If it's -10 degrees he might prefer a heavy weight blanket.
- Remove or change blankets as weather appropriate. Sweating in a blanket on a hot day can be just as problematic as wearing a stable blanket in wet weather.
- Ensure the blanket properly fits your horse and that the straps and surcingles are appropriately fitted.
- Check horses wearing blankets at least twice daily. Check the shoulder area for rubs and sores caused by the blanket. Also check to ensure that the straps and surcingles are all safely and securely in place.
- Repair rips as soon as possible.
- Remove your horse's blanket and groom him on a regular basis.
- When removing the blanket for any length of time be sure to fluff up the horse's hair to allow it to work to properly insulate.
Savvyhorsewoman.com, 5 Winter Horse Care Tips, http://www.savvyhorsewoman.com/2015/10/5-winter-horse-care-tips.html, Retrieved Dec 5, 2017.
TheHorse.com, Kentucky Horse Council, Winter Horse Care Tips for Owners, http://www.thehorse.com/articles/30899/winter-horse-care-tips-for-owners, Retrieved Dec 5, 2017