Horses may find winter difficult to adapt to. Feeding could become a challenge and so body condition may deteriorate too. We have some tips for making life a little easier for both you and your horse as we brace the colder months.
The quality of grazing in paddocks may change during the winter and so additional hay may be required. Horses eat ±2% of their body weight in grazing and hay per day! (1). More grains may be introduced to the diet too for sustained energy, but we recommend you consult your veterinarian before making such adjustments to feeding programs.
Check water troughs or buckets regularly
In freezing temperatures, the water buckets may in all likeliness freeze over too. The average horse drinks 25L of water a day (2). It is extremely important to ensure your horse always has access to lots of clean drinking water.
While most horses are safe inside their stables away from the wind and rain during the evening, always ensure they have a dry, sheltered area to go to during the day too which will protect them from the elements.
Help keep horses warm and only use blanket when necessary
Believe it or not but horses can withstand colder temperatures far better than us humans can. Horses can regulate their body temperature in weather between 5 and 25 degrees Celsius, if it’s not wet and raining, and if their body condition is good (3). Anything below 5 degrees Celsius calls for a waterproof blanket/rug or waterproof shelter from wind and rain and increased forage for extra energy and heating. Remember to remove the blanket daily to check for any chaffing or irritation. It is also essential to groom the horse daily to keep the coat clean and make the horse more comfortable when wearing the blanket. A fit and healthy horse will grow a thick winter coat which helps to insulate their heat better too. Keep in mind that a generous supply of good quality hay will also help to regulate their body temperature and maintain energy (4).
Ensure your horse is dry after riding
Do not put a horse out in the cold while they are wet from sweating. Either towel dry and allow extra time in the stable after riding before letting the horse out so that the coat can dry, or consider clipping a heavy winter coat. Keep in mind that a clipped horse may require more stable time or blanketing to keep warm.
Continue with dentistry, farrier and deworming programs
Maintaining the condition, health and parasite control of your horse is as important in winter as it is in summer. Ensure your equine dentist and farriers visit regularly for the upkeep of teeth and hooves. Deworm your horse as recommended by your vet.
Keep a close watch for any signs of colic
The winter months typically have higher risks of colic in horses. A horse’s digestive system is extremely sensitive to any changes in their diet. While we feed more hay and grain in the colder months, the digestive system needs to work harder to process all of this. If you notice any signs of colic including pawing or scratching at the ground, turning their faces to the stomach area and repeatedly lying down and/or rolling, it is advised to call the vet immediately. While you are waiting for the vet to arrive, put your horse on a lead and keep walking, they should not lie down or roll which in this case, makes matters worse. Keep your horse’s active during the winter and gradually adjust feeding programs to allow for their digestive systems to adapt slowly and properly (1). Supplement their diet with extra nutrients
More often than not winter causes for luscious green grass to die and one cannot rely only on hay for a healthy forage. The horse’s diet needs to be supplemented to compensate for these lost minerals and vitamins. Equi-Strath is a fantastic nutrient rich elixir which not only provides the body with over 60 different vitamins, minerals, trace elements and building substances, but also enhances and optimizes immunity. Good immunity is vital especially during winter to help the body fend off any viruses or diseases. Equi-Strath is proven to dramatically reduce recovery time, assist with stressful situations and maintain health and wellbeing. Better yet, the product helps the body absorb dietary micronutrients by 6 – 9 times better, ensuring your horse is absorbing all the goodness from their food too (5).
If you have any questions about your horse’s management during the winter, ask your veterinarian for tailored advice best suited to your climate and breed of horse.
- Tips, 2., 2021. 20 Best Winter Horse Care Tips. [online] Equine Helper | Horseback Riding, Training, & Care. Available at: https://equinehelper.com/20-best-winter-horse-care-tips/.
- The Horse. 2021. Horse Hydration: Your Questions Answered – The Horse. [online] Available at: [https://thehorse.com/149081/horse-hydration-your-questions-answered/] Accessed 25 May 2021.
- World Horse Welfare. 2021. Winter horse care tips - World Horse Welfare. [online] Available at: https://www.worldhorsewelfare.org/advice/management/winter-welfare.
- The Spruce Pets. 2021. 14 Winter Care Tips for Horses and Ponies. [online] Available at: https://www.thesprucepets.com/winter-horse-and-pony-care-tips-1887259.
- Equi-strath.co.za. 2021. Equi-Strath | South Africa. [online] Available at: https://equi-strath.co.za.