Winter Horse Care

With winter approaching fast, take this time to equipped to care for your horse during the winter months. Winter horse care can be challenging, especially if you are not ready to properly care for your horse. 

Horse’s require a bit of extra attention when it is cold out, and if you are prepared, your horse will be more comfortable. Read this article to find out a little bit more about how you can be better equipped and to find out about our winter horse care practices at Riverside Farm. 

Caring for your horse during the cold months isn’t harder than other times, but there are a few things to watch out for. Factors like ice, snow, and freezing temperatures are not uncommon during the winter so let’s find out how to be more prepared for when they come. 

Phase One of Winter Horse Care: How to Prepare for Cold Temperatures

Preparation is essential in everything, and that is no different here. Begin preparing now so that you won’t be caught off guard.

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Horse Blankets: If you need to purchase a horse blanket, make sure you buy the right one depending upon certain conditions.

  • If you plan on having your horse stabled most of the winter months, then a stable blanket will be the right decision.
  • If your horse is going to be outside some of the time, choose the right blanket carefully. If it is frigid, choose a heavy, waterproof blanket. If the winter temperatures are not too cold, a lightweight blanket will work. 
  • If your horse is in and out in the winter weather, then purchase a waterproof blanket. A stable blanket will not help and may even make conditions worse if it gets wet.

Remove the blanket and groom your horse regularly during the snowy winter months. Keep the lush coat of winter hair in tip-top shape, and when spring comes, your horse will be in good health!

Feed: Your horse will eat more during the winter months, so make sure you provide extra food throughout the winter. Typically, a horse will consume 2% of its weight in food daily—an average 1,000 pound horse will consume 20 pounds of hay, but that rate could increase to 3% (30 lbs.) each day during the winter. 

Phase Two of Winter Horse Care: When Winter Comes

It’s not cold right now, but if you follow this article you’ll be ready when it does start to get cold and snowy.

Start the winter season off right with these six practices every day:

  1. Provide your horse with warm water. (45˚ to 65˚ F.)
  2. Feed additional hay during extreme cold.
  3. Make sure there is access to shelter.
  4. Perform regular hoof care.
  5. Assess your horse’s body condition regularly.
  6. Evaluate your stable’s stability and ventilation. 
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Water

As you begin the cold season, provide your horse with warm water every day. The water should be between 45˚ and 65˚ F. Check your water supply throughout the day to make sure it hasn’t iced over or become too cold. 

Clean the ice out of the water trough regularly to ensure that your horse has all the drinking water it needs. 

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Food

As we mentioned earlier, a horse will eat more food during the winter months. The cause isn’t boredom as a horse will eat to stay warm, so make sure your horse has enough hay or grass to provide for its appetite and warmth. 

To recap what we said earlier (so that you don’t need to look back), a horse eats typically 2% of its weight in food. If a horse weighs 1,000 lbs, then it will consume 20 lbs. of food a day during the warmer period of the year. However, during the winter, the rate of food needed can increase to 3% for most horses (25-30 lbs.).

Blankets

In addition to a shelter or stable helping to keep your horse warm, blankets will also be a big help. Choosing the right blanket is essential; read more about that here.

Choose the right blanket for the situation. Winter horse care is all about making sure your horse has the right atmosphere to provide for its needs and continue to thrive in its environment. If your horse is outdoors, choose a waterproof horse blanket because a stable blanket (which isn’t waterproof) when wet is worse than not having a blanket.

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If you decide to blanket your horse, indoors or outdoors, take proper care of the lush coat of winter hair your horse develops. Remove the blanket and groom your horse regularly. Take the blanket off when you can; if it is a warmer, sunny day, remove the blanket and allow your horse to enjoy the sunshine.

Only blanket a horse that is clean and dry. Problems can develop when a horse is wet and covered. Bacteria can begin to grow, and that isn’t good. 

Hoof Care

Provide regular hoof care to your horse. If your horse is out in the pasture all day, check its hooves several times a day to make sure no ice or snow clumps are building up. Lumps can cause significant pain and damage to a horse’s hoof. 

Ask your veterinarian if you should keep your horse shod during the cold weather. 

Grooming

Groom your horse regularly throughout the winter. There are four reasons why you should do this.

  1. Better circulation: Grooming your horse daily can help to improve its circulation; think of getting a massage. 
  2. Removal of mud, ice, snow, and dirt: When mud and snow are given the change, they can latch onto a horse’s coat and “clump” up. These pieces can get hard and irritate the skin and possibly lead to infections. Be very diligent about removing these pieces, especially when it is snowy. 
  3. Warming up your horse: Again, think about a massage. By giving your horse a vigorous grooming session, you can help warm him or her up by getting the circulation going correctly. 
  4. Daily contact with your horse: Grooming your horse every day helps to strengthen the relationship between you and your horse.
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Phase 3: Springtime

Springtime is a while away as we are only beginning the colder months of the year. However, proper winter preparation can make the cold months better and a make for a healthier horse in the spring.